Category Archives: Content Marketing

The Long Click – An Important Measure for Communicators

long clickAn indicator of content quality, the “long click” reveals whether or not audiences are truly engaging with your content. lil tweet bird

Digital communications are incredibly measurable.  Marketers know which websites refer the highest quality traffic to their own sites, and they know which pages on their websites do better job of converting visitors into customers. Many details about the behavior of visitor behavior before, during and after a website visit can be captured.  But the marketing team isn’t the only group keeping an eye on how audiences interact with a website.  Search engine spiders are paying attention, too.

Keeping the measurability of digital content in mind, let’s think about the new PR reality – the public relations team as publisher and story crafters, not simply spin doctors called upon to manage crises or crank out releases.

Developing a stream of quality, useful content that your audience uses is one of the most effective ways to build search rank for a web site, improve audience engagement and fill the organization’s pipeline with prospects.

Within all of these considerations is a golden opportunity for PR to produce a measurable and meaningful business impact from the content the organization is already publishing.

The “long click” – a golden opportunity for PR
Generally speaking, two things happen when a person visits a webpage: they either take a quick look and then immediately leave, or they stay for a good long time consuming the content on the page and possibly even clicking on some of the links on the page and further interacting with the website.

In web parlance, the former is a bounce, and it’s bad.  What’s the use in attracting visitors to your content, only to have them immediately leave? In reality, this kind of traffic can be damaging to a website’s overall rankings, because search engines consider bounces as a strong indicator of the presence of poor quality content on the site.

The opposite scenario is called a “long click.” If the content you publish is attracting people to your website stay on the page and read the press releases and watch the videos and click on the links, that’s good for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost, people who are spending that much time on your website are obviously consuming your messaging.  They are more likely to actually turn into customers, and along the way, they may take additional steps such as bookmarking or sharing content on your website or interacting with the brand successful media presences, developing further traction.

All of these behaviors are also positive signals that search engines notice indicating that the website is serving up high quality content that site visitors value.

Outcomes PR can measure 

Web analytics programs such as Site Catalyst and Google Analytics measure the time visitors spend on a page.  Additionally, it’s entirely possible to measure the traffic coming for specific sources (such as press releases, your online media room, etc.) and make some assumptions about the quality of those visitors by looking at their time on page data.  If it’s going up, generally, that’s a pretty good sign.

Digital PR teams that are publishing distributed content can embed short URLs within press releases, blog posts, articles and other content to measure traffic back to the destination page on your company website, providing a good measure of the traffic referred directly from the PR message. However, you can take it a step further by then asking the web team to analyze the time on page data for visitors to that page. In some cases, your analytics team may be able to even isolate visitors driven to the page by specific pieces of your content, and compare the time the PR-referred visitors spend on the page, compared to that spent by visitors from other sources.

This enables the PR team to establish a benchmark that they can use to measure this success in future campaigns, and also for setting overall objectives for the department.  Moving the needle on long clicks is actually reasonable PR outcome but more organizations should be adopting and measure.

Want more ideas for new ways to measure the business impact of your public relations campaigns?   This on-demand webinar archive offers first-hand examples on connecting  (and measuring!) PR to business outcomes.  Here’s the link: http://prn.to/1o4qblS 

sarah avatarAuthor Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of strategic communications, and is the author of  the ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Content We Love: Visual Storytelling Is the New Black

ContentWeLove

Click here to view the complete press release

Click here to view the complete press release

Did you know that an Emmy award exists for ads? For communicators who are still not convinced by the power visual storytelling, Budweiser is setting the record straight. The beer giant is proving the impact that branded videos are having on the mainstream after earning two Emmy nominations in the “Outstanding Commercial” category for their ads “Puppy Love” and “Hero’s Welcome.” The popularity of these videos skyrocketed after the massive exposure garnered from this year’s Super Bowl. To keep the momentum going, Budweiser announced the huge honor in a press release titled “Budweiser Super Bowl Ads Score Two Emmy Nominations.” It is currently among the most popular press releases viewed on PRNewswire.com.

This announcement serves as an additional content component of Budweiser’s major marketing campaign and leverages the targeting capabilities of press release distribution to seed awareness among new audiences. For example, this release becomes relevant to a number of industries with related interests including beers, wines and spirits, food & beverages, entertainment, television, and awards.

Highlights from the content of this release include:

  • Images that capture the most emotionally compelling moments of the ads attracts reader attention
  • High-quality copy written in the “inverted pyramid” style traditionally employed by journalists, the release leads with the most newsworthy information first, followed by supporting details, and closing with general information. Budweiser has essentially written the story that they want the media to tell.
  • A call-to-action to spark further social engagement around the ad campaign, and triggers increased visibility in search engines.  “Puppy Love’s” adorable canine star became so popular that he even has his own Twitter handle, hyperlinked mid-release.
  • Quotes from  executive leaders humanize the brand and further establishes Budweiser as a leader in creative communications.

Even with the ad campaign’s commercial success, Budweiser employs a multi-channel distribution effort including television, social media, and the wire to keep their story top of mind. Pay close attention marketers, now with the booming popularity of original programming streamed by sites such as Netflix and Hulu which are also earning Emmy nods, who knows if there is a potential opportunity for the branded videos being shared online to have a shot at earning a golden statue. A multi-channel distribution gives your content the additional visibility needed to drive discovery and continued awareness. Wouldn’t you like to be the first to break this barrier?

Congrats to Budweiser on their well-deserved Emmy nominations and on a great release!

ShannonAuthor Shannon Ramlochan is the Content Marketing Coordinator at PR Newswire. 

Copy Quality: New Imperatives for Communicators

New copy quality guidelines from PR Newswire to help improve press release content quality.

New copy quality guidelines from PR Newswire to help improve press release content quality.

How does one determine whether or not a piece of content is low quality?

Since we added copy quality to the guidelines against which we assess press releases and other content prior to distribution, we’ve counseled a number of clients on steps they can take to improve the value of their content for their audiences.

Understanding how to build/create quality content is a mandate for all communicators creating digital content.  Google started raising the bar on web content quality in early 2011, when the first Panda algorithm update was deployed.  Taking aim at link farms and websites created to propagate links and manipulate search rank but which offer little to no real use to human beings, the goal of the Panda update is to improve the relevance of the search results Google returned to internet searchers.

The new rules of content quality

Google has kept the pedal to the metal, rolling out changes and updates to its algorithms in an ongoing effort to improve the utility of its search engine by returning better and better results to users, and it’s safe to assume that this won’t change in the future.  Communicators of all stripes publishing digital content and seeking visibility in search engines will have to play by the rules.

So let’s look at those rules.  In a blog post on their Webmaster Central blog, Google offered insights into how, when building the Panda algorithm, they determined whether or not content was quality.

“Below are some questions that one could use to assess the “quality” of a page or an article. These are the kinds of questions we ask ourselves as we write algorithms that attempt to assess site quality. Think of it as our take at encoding what we think our users want.  

Would you trust the information presented in this article?

Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?

Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?

Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?

Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?

 Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?

Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?

Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?

How much quality control is done on content?

Does the article describe both sides of a story?

Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?

Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?

Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?

For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?

Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?

Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?

Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?

 Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?

Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?

Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?

Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?

Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?

Would users complain when they see pages from this site?”

- Google Webmaster Central, More guidance on building high-quality sites

Evaluating the content your brand produces through the lens of these questions will reveal with stark clarity whether or not the content makes the cut in Google’s eyes.   And even if the press releases you submit to PR Newswire adhere to the copy quality guidelines we’ve published, you can tighten the screws on your content by keeping this larger set of quality indicators from Google firmly in mind.

Messages that are useful and interesting to audiences generate results beyond search engine visibility.  They garner mentions, earn media and inspire social sharing – activities which drive brand messaging into new audiences and powering improved campaign results.    Some organizations will be challenged by this new reality but ultimately, overall marketing and communications objectives are well served by more engaging content.

sarah avatarAuthor Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of strategic communications, and is the author of  the ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

How HuffPo Creates Value With Communities

HuffPost Code recently hosted an event featuring HuffPo’s Director of Community, Tim McDonald, and a discussion of how to develop and maintain communities, offering brands valuable insight into one of the web’s most enthusiastic communities.

The Meaning Behind Community

It is not about what is a community, but more about who is community. Community is about people and having relationships with these people.

McDonald wants his community to be a bunch of “little monsters” that are passionate about his brand and what he does. If he is going to spend his time engaging with this community, then he wants them talking to their friends and their community about his brand. McDonald goes on to say that community management is about being a magnet. You want to draw in your community members and have them be stuck, and you don’t want them to leave once they get there.

Community is very emotional, because people have an emotional connection to your brand. On the other hand, marketing is very transactional — it is a like, a click, a retweet. Those people are not fans, but they are the crowd. Don’t spend your time talking to the crowd, but spend your time talking to your community. Loyalty is about having an emotional bond to something. It is not about getting a discount or frequent flyer card, but it about being a firm supporter of a brand that you don’t work for. But you need to remember to give that supporter something — never forget that. You need to make it about them before you make it about you.

You also need to have a community that is exclusive, which can be as specific as providing an email address, or filling out a survey, or needing people to take the initiative of asking to be part of the community. The exclusivity will depend on the different levels of different objectives.

Case Study One: Exclusive Community

Murph, a Huffington Post member, who frequently comments on the site provides a lot of value because of the way he interacts with other commenters on the site. Murph was given the status of Community Pundit, which allows his comments to be longer and get text formatting. This member really likes it, because nobody else has it.

Murph is very valuable to McDonald, especially, when the change on Huffington Post occured to Facebook verified identies to comment. Before this change occurred, McDonald took the time to let Murph know. Even though Murph wasn’t happy about it, he understand why it was being done. Murph was then going on to other sites where people were bashing Huffington Post and would explain to people why they should give Huffington Post a chance. This isn’t something you can buy or do alone as a brand.

Case Study Two: Connecting With Community Members

When they started HuffPost Live, McDonald met a woman named Tash through customer feedback. In a polite way, Tash asked why they don’t have a search function on HuffPost Live, so she could be alerted to the shows that she wanted to watch instead of needing to tune in and not know when the episodes would show. This search capability exists now, but back then it didn’t, so McDonald emailed her back. He didn’t use the standard email, but he wrote an email thanking her, apologizing to her about her frustration and explaining to her that he doesn’t have a timeline on it but wants to try to make it happen. He ended by saying that if she has any other questions or if he can help her get involved in any other way, to please let me him know, and he provided his phone number and email.

Tash emailed McDonald back. They got in a Google+ Hangout and started talking about what she does and her passions. He was very helpful and interested in her, and at the end of the conversation she asked what she could do for McDonald. Since HuffPost Live just launched, they didn’t have a huge existing database of guests they could call on. Right after that Hangout, Tash introduced McDonald to two or three people, and then the next day she introduced him to more people, etc. Most of the people she introduced him to ended up being guests on HuffPost Live. Tash also gave McDonald the idea to start a small private Facebook group where he could invite some of these guests in and tell them when the shows would come up, and then they could suggest guests for them and McDonald could give these suggestions to the producers.

Experiment

McDonald suggests to always be experimental, because he has realized that if he isn’t failing then he isn’t trying hard enough. Most of us start thinking that we don’t have the finances, resources, or time to do something, but those are all just excuses. He explains that you don’t need to build a huge project where you get everyone to sign off to experiment. McDonald has three rules for testing things: 1) He doesn’t have to ask for anybody’s permission. 2) He doesn’t have to ask for any budget. 3) He won’t get fired for it. He also thinks it may be helpful to find one of the stakeholders that you might be helping and tell them what you’re doing, and make sure they think it is a good idea.

Final Thoughts

McDonald mentions that many people forgot about one amazing tool out there: the telephone. It has helped him connect with many community members in a deeper way than ever before by them hearing his tone, and by him being able respond to questions in an immediate manner. Of course, he says, you don’t need to get on the phone with every single person, but with the people that are valuable to your community — that small group of passionate, raving fans.

 Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

Content We Love: Simple Visuals Break Down Big Data

ContentWeLove

Click here to view the press release on PRNewswire.com

Click here to view the press release on PRNewswire.com

Digital technology has given marketers more ways to collect and analyze data than ever before and as a result, glossy infographics have exploded as a favorite content type to make sense of the overabundance of information available. But infographics don’t have to be complex in order to share them with your audience; charts and graphs made with standard computer software are still a highly useful visual representation of data that tells your story in a clear and effective way.

A press release by mobile analytics company Mobidia Technology titled, “King Digital Entertainment Continues to Lead Game Publishers in Most Popular and Most Played Mobile Games,” caught my attention as a prime example.  King Digital is home to the popular Candy Crush app that is fueling procrastination everywhere, but other game developers are quickly on the rise as the next big player on the market. To illustrate this point, the release included photos of two simple graphs depicting highest game usage among the top mobile game publishers, which were subsequently republished in earned media and shared on social.

Other noteworthy aspects of this release that showcase a keen understanding of news distribution as a content marketing tool:

  • Interesting data points are appealing to readers and represented in a visually comprehensible
  • Bullet points break down key information for readers scanning the page, and offer different story angles for media
  • A quote from Mobidia’s Vice President of Marketing promotes the company’s thought-leadership
  • A restrained use of links directs readers to a call to action to download the related white paper

By using these tactics, Mobidia Technology generates more opportunities for raising brand awareness, earning media pickup, and generating leads. Kudos on a job well done!

Author Shannon Ramlochan is the Content Marketing Coordinator at PR Newswire.

The key to press release success: multiple visual elements [Study + infographic]

Press releases with multiple visual assets generate more views, a study by PR Newswire found.

Press releases with multiple visual assets generate more views, a study by PR Newswire found.

How can you get better results with your press releases?  The data is in, and the answer is clear.  Visual illustration of your message is a key driver of success.

PR Newswire’s analytics team recently updated – and significantly expanded – our analysis of press release types, and the results each produces in terms of online views.  For the most recent iteration of this ongoing analysis, we looked at every press release viewed on PRNewswire.com last year, regardless of when it was issued.  Well over one million press releases were measured. 

For the analysis, we broke the release types into the following buckets:

  • Text Only
  • Text + one visual asset, such as a single image or video
  • Text + multiple visuals
  • Fully loaded multimedia press releases and campaign microsites

The results are clear – visuals drive more content views, and adding multiple media assets to your content (press releases, and anything else you publish online, for that matter) generates even better results.

Why visuals improve results:  

One visual is good, more are better.   There are a few reasons why this is the case.

  • Each visual is distributed in its own right, and has its own potential for garnering attention.  In addition to the distribution of visual content the brand either pays for or executes on its own, each visual also has the potential to trigger social sharing, further expanding the audience for the message.
  • Visuals surface story elements that may be overlooked by readers, giving your messages second (and third) chances at connecting with readers.  It’s easy to overlook a theme that’s presented in the middle of the fourth paragraph. However, calling attention to that theme with a visual – a video snippet or image – can help connect that message with readers who care, and who might have glanced over the message initially.
  • Journalists and bloggers are also hunting for visuals to illustrate the digital media they create. While they may not use the visuals your brand provides in their original form,  they will often edit video to fit their stories or derive new works from infographics.  Additionally, including visuals communicates that the story is one that can (and should be) illustrated visually, which will increase the story’s appeal for many digital content creators.

Many communicators note they don’t have ready access to related images when asked why they don’t use more multimedia in their press releases.  Our new Media Studio tool – free for clients using the Online Member Center to upload content for distribution, enables you to store, organize, size, caption and tag images for use in digital content.

If you’d like to speak to someone on our team about adding visuals to your press releases, please contact us here: http://promotions.prnewswire.com/standout2014.html

sarah avatarAuthor Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of strategic communications, and is the author of  the ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Press Releases, PR Newswire and Panda

New copy quality guidelines from PR Newswire to help improve press release content quality.

New copy quality guidelines from PR Newswire are designed to help improve press release content quality.

In late May, Google rolled out an update to its Panda algorithm that targeted low quality content, affecting a variety of content distributors and press release websites, including PR Newswire.   By “low quality content,” we’re referring specifically to press releases that were used in efforts to manipulate search rankings.   These releases were of little-to-no redeeming value for readers.

In an ensuing audit of the content of our site, we identified the spam press  releases which had had been generating inordinately high inbound links and traffic due to the black hat SEO tactics their issuers employed.  Those releases have since been deleted, and we’ll be monitoring our site content for unusual levels of inbound links, traffic and other red flags on an ongoing basis.

Distribution is about more than just one web site

While we’re proud of the fact that our web site attracts millions of unique visitors each month, it’s important to remember that PR Newswire has also spent years building a comprehensive distribution network that reaches a vast global audience, including:

  • Thousands upon thousands of media outlets, via direct news feeds;
  • More than 30,000 credentialed journalists and bloggers, via PR Newswire for Journalists;
  • Information databases like Factiva and LexisNexis;
  • More than 10,000 websites worldwide, who display feeds of relevant news releases designed for their audiences;
  • The social web, via dozens of carefully curated, industry- and topic-specific presences on Twitter and Pinterest.

PR Newswire has cultivated an engaged and high-quality audience for press release content.

Our media relations and content syndication teams work one-on-one with media outlets, individual journalists and bloggers and website operators to create and deliver feeds of press releases germane to their areas of coverage, interest or beats.

New guidelines governing press release copy quality

To improve the content quality we distribute, we’ve started reviewing all press release submitted for distribution over the wire for content quality. As they review releases, our team will be looking at a variety of different message elements, including:

  • Inclusion of insightful analysis, original content (e.g. research, reporting or other interesting and useful information,)
  • The format of the releases, guarding against the repeated use of templated copy (except boilerplate,)
  • The length of the releases,  flagging very short, unsubstantial messages that are mere vehicles for links
  • Overuse of keywords and/or links within the message.

These new guidelines are additions to our already robust press release acceptance guidelines, which include verification of sources, authentication of the sender’s identity and attribution to the source, among other requirements that all messages must meet before distribution by PR Newswire.

Most PR Newswire customers, who write and distribute press releases with the primary intent of building awareness of key messages and earning media, will be unaffected by our new guidelines.

Press releases are about earned media, building awareness and acquiring audience

It has long been our stated position that press releases are chiefly about building awareness, and we don’t promote press releases as link building devices.   (See: Generate Awareness, Not Links, With Press Releases.)

We believe that the distribution of press releases plays a very useful role in driving content discovery, introducing new audiences to brand messages, seeding and encouraging social interaction, and, of course, earning media pick up.

sarah avatarAuthor Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of strategic communications, and is the author of  the ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.