Category Archives: Content PR & Marketing

Content PR and content marketing are redefining how brands communicate with audiences. Inbound tactics featuring content that answers audience needs attract attention and create gravitational pull for a brand.

Multi-channel distribution of multimedia content drives results

sodexo caseThe lines between marketing and PR are blurring, as social media and content marketing continue grow in importance. The reasons for these changes are many, including the evolution of the media environment, changes in how people find and consume information, how search engines index and serve up results and the swift adoption of mobile devices and tablets by both consumers and business decision makers.

“Shift your mindset from news-making to conversation-joining.” lil tweet

audinece at the centerCommunications tactics have evolved, and a great example of a blended approach that reaches audiences in new ways – and achieves new outcomes for the brand – is Sodexo’s use of PR Newswire’s ARC engagement platform to reposition the brand as a quality of life provider, reflecting the company’s expansive portfolio of services.

To capitalize upon the publication of the company’s annual “Workplace Trends Report,” the Sodexo team worked with PR Newswire’s MultiVu division to create and host a variety of content elements within an ARC.


sodexo case mnr

The ARC is essentially a custom microsite, albeit with an important twist.  Dynamic, multi-channel distribution of the content housed in the ARC is built into the platform.  The result?  The Sodexo ARC provided an in-bound microsite, designed specifically for the brand’s target audience.  But with content distribution built into the platform, the ARC also provided strong outbound traffic to Sodexo web properties.

“The ARC functioned much differently in this respect than our corporate web site,” noted Stacey Bowman-Hade, director of public relations for Sodexo. “I think the ARC is a great tool for combining your marketing and public relations efforts. If you have similar goals in marketing and public relations for pushing out different pieces of content, the ARC is a very good tool for the collaboration of those departments in achieving the same goals.”

And in an interesting twist, the company’s sales team found another application for the ARC, using it as a ‘mobile app’ enabling them to engage customers with highly visual thought-leadership content.

The ARC delivered a variety of results for the company, including increased awareness of the company’s new positioning, and even more importantly, engagement and conversation around those efforts, in addition to significant media visibility.

“To date, we’ve seen 56 million impressions that the ARC has given us just in content, and that is across many media outlets,” said Kevin Rettle, director of marketing at Sodexo. “I think more importantly, when you look at traditional strategies, the quality of the content that we’ve delivered is much higher; for us, it is so much more about the ability to stay top of mind with a client with research and true thought leadership rather than just flat and static advertising.”

Read the full case study, along with interviews of the Sodexo team and view Sodexo’s ARC here:  Using a Campaign Microsite Presence to Establish Industry Thought Leadership

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the newly-published ebooks  New School Press Release Tactics and Driving Content Discovery. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Your Audience Knows Best: Content Format

A conversation I had yesterday with a PR textbook author got me thinking about our habits and the tactics we employ to communicate with our audiences. We were talking about digital storytelling, and the conversation turned to multimedia.

What format should a multimedia press release take, he asked.   I think my answer may have surprised him — and wrecked his chapter outline, to boot.

The format of the content shouldn’t dictate the message.

My answer veered off the path of what I think he expected, because I said that the answer to that question depends upon the audience, and is informed by the assets you have at hand.

You won’t go wrong if  you start with your audience.  Where do they look for information?  Do they gravitate toward a particular social network or digital community?  If so, what sort of content does that audience prefer?   Asking these questions and allowing the answers to inform your content strategy will ensure more effective communications.

Some networks, like Instagram and Pinterest, are built on visuals.  However, visuals are also make messages more effective on networks like Twitter and Facebook. And they carry extra weight with search engines — and speaking of search engines, YouTube is the second largest.  Point is, incorporating visual elements – video, images, downloadable content such as presentation decks or white papers — will ensure your message is available to the denizens of those networks.  Making visual communications a habit will improve communications results.

I don’t like thinking in terms of formats, simply because they discourage people from incorporating multimedia elements if they perceive they don’t have all of the right content lined up.    Instead, allow your audience’s needs to guide development of your content. 

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the newly-published ebooks  New School Press Release Tactics and Driving Content Discovery. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

A 14-Tweet Press Release? Genius.

amazon tweets

Amazon created buzz yesterday among the denizens of Twitter (read: important target market)  when it issued 14 tweets about the new Kindle Fire HDX, earning themselves a lot of extra attention from high-influence, well-connected social media and marketing gurus.

The genius in this story isn’t in the tactic of issuing a spate of tweets.  The genius is in employing tweets in a way that earns the company extra coverage for their broad-appeal product.  lil tweet tweet it!

The approach got me thinking about other opportunities these sorts of tactics offer communicators, especially with respect to visuals. Personally, I would have liked to see more visuals loaded into the tweets.  A beautiful FlipBoard or Storify collection of the brand’s tweets, along with tweets about the resulting media coverage and enthusiastic response from the Twittersphere would make a compelling presentation and give the whole story more continuity, and longer legs.

Lessons for all press release writers from the Amazon Twitter release  

One of the most important lessons from Amazon’s example is how a focused press release should break down into crunchy bullet points.    If you can go through a release, and pull out a dozen pithy and interesting tweets as you skim it, I’d say your content is in pretty good shape.  However, if you find that in your inspect of the copy that you’re hamstrung by run-on sentences or myriad topics from easily extracting a coherent series of tweets that tell the story — well, I’d say that some editing is in order.    Thinking of a story as a series of tweets creates a great framework for press release writers, and builds discipline into the process.

There’s another reason why thinking of press releases in a series of tweets is a good idea – it surfaces information that appeals to niches.

amazon niches

Case in point: I’m not in need of scrolling music lyrics (the words of my favorite 80’s tunes play in my head and that’s almost all I listen to, I admit it) I am a frequent traveler, and I am always interested in smaller gadgets and better batteries.  I’m also tech support for my mom, and I won’t kid you – I looooove the idea of a “mayday” button.  Point is, while a tweet about the lyrics wouldn’t have elicited any notice from me, the others would have.  This is why it’s a good idea to tweet out different nuggets from your press releases (and white papers, and blog posts and ….) rather then just firing out the headline and calling it a day. 

A series of smart tweets derived from your press releases –  if your target audience is on Twitter – is a great way to earn additional visibility for your company messages.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the newly-published ebooks  New School Press Release Tactics and Driving Content Discovery. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Hashtags are #lame … on Facebook


On Twitter, the hashtag #rocks.  On Facebook, not so much.   In fact,   using hashtags is having a negative effect on the visibility of posts on Facebook according to a new study from EdgeRank Checker  (“Hashtags on Facebook Do Nothing to Help Additional Exposure.”)

The function of the hashtag on each social network is broadly similar – one can click on a hashtag to pull up other tweets and posts carrying the same marker.  However, the application of the hashtag differs between the two, which starts to explain why denizens of social networks embrace hashtags on Twitter, but deride them on Facebook.

Same hashtag, different results

On Twitter, generally speaking, hashtags are used as a way to categorize content, functioning almost as an old-school tag.  They provide taxonomy for tweets.  Example:  A search of #cloud pulls up tweets that (for the most part) are about cloud computing.

cloud tweets

Tweets carrying the #cloud hashtag are about cloud computing.

On Facebook – a much larger social network, where posts can be considerably longer than 140 characters, use of hashtags is much more freewheeling.  This probably has to do with the fact that Twitter users are used to using hashtags in a more disciplined way, for the purpose of organizing content, and is aware of the collective ‘whole’ a hashtag creates.  On Facebook, where hashtags are new, many use a hashtag to simply denote emotion or deliver an aside. Searching the same hashtag #cloud on Facebook generates entirely different results.

The #cloud hashtag on Facebook yields a mix of results.

The #cloud hashtag on Facebook yields a mix of results.

Understanding & respecting the differences between social networks

The networks are different, and people use them differently.    Communicators should respect those differences and plan their content accordingly.  Lumping them together is a recipe for wasting time, energy and resource – and diminishing your organizations’ stature in the eyes of your audience.    A savvy move on one network can open your brand to ridicule on another.

A response the EdgerankChecker study elicited from Facebook shed a little more light on hashtags in posts, and the fact that they don’t appear to be helping visibility, insinuating that the use of the hashtags hadn’t been terribly rigorous.

“Pages should not expect to get increased distribution simply by sticking irrelevant hashtags in their posts. The best thing for Pages (that want increased distribution) to do is focus on posting relevant, high quality-content – hashtags or not. Quality, not hashtags, is what our News Feed algorithms look for so that Pages can increase their reach. “(Via The Next Web)

3 ways to guard against being lame on social media 

First, understand nuances between Facebook, Twitter and any other social network your brand uses.  Look to your own behavior. For example – chances are pretty good that you’re active on both Facebook and Twitter.  Do you use the two networks interchangeably?  Probably not.  You’re probably connected to different people, and you use the two networks to share and consume different kinds of information.   In your professional PR or marketing capacity, it’s wise to let some of your personal experiences guide your approach to using social media.

In addition to developing your own savvy on different social networks, there are several other tactics you can employ to help ensure your brand against lameness  in social media, and even more importantly, glean real benefit for your organization across the social sphere, including:

  • Observe conversations.  What topics generate the most interaction?   What topics are being ignored?  As you study the top(ic)ography of your audiences’ online conversations, take note of which topics could be used as a context for brand messaging.
  • Observe content formats.  What kind of content gains the most traction on each network?  Pictures, video? Infographics?   Multimedia content draws and holds audience attention.  Understanding what kinds of content your audience most appreciates will help you create a more effective content strategy.
  • Study popular messages. What kinds of messages are most widely shared?  Tips? Humor? Advice?  This is particularly important, since amplification of messages is a primary benefit social media offers brands.

In retrospect, the advice offered by Facebook is really good guidance.  Don’t use hashtags (or any other mechanism) as an artificial means to garner attention for a message.  Relevance and utility are the foundations of successful digital and social messaging.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the newly-published ebooks  New School Press Release Tactics and Driving Content Discovery. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

7 Keys to Creating B2B Content that Converts

The results of Content Marketing Institute’s 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends shows that while marketers are expanding their efforts  to generate leads and increase conversions, many face the uncertainty of creating content that truly engages target audiences. Additionally, marketers agree that producing a sufficient volume of content is one of the greatest challenges they face. Content marketing experts Rachel Foster, CEO and B2B copywriter at Fresh Perspective Copywriting and Scott Armstrong, partner at BrainRider Inc. discussed their upcoming webinar “7 Keys for Creating Awesome B2B Content that Converts” with PR Newswire. b2c webcast

Utilizing their respective strengths in written B2B content and strategy development, the co-hosts will tackle how to discover what types of content appeal to target audiences and the secrets to engaging high-quality leads at any stage of the buying process.

Focus on customer needs

According to Foster, engaging content is defined by the needs of target audiences; finding out what they want and delivering that type of content. Armstrong adds that marketing companies need to focus on effectively communicating buyer needs and pains through customer language. “We need less Shakespearian content with cool titles and exciting introductions, and more practical, useful content described in terms that the customer would use,” he says. Focusing on audience needs and using buyer language ultimately builds a community around content marketing efforts and fosters loyal relationships among potential customers.

As The Huffington Post declared, “Content Marketing is the New Black.” Marketers are realizing that a content marketing strategy is necessary to be considered a strong competitor. Foster and Armstrong offer several helpful guidelines for creating compelling content that attracts and retains target audiences:

“Stop selling, start helping!”

Lengthy content focused primarily on selling the product is one of the most common errors that drive customers away. “Stop selling, start helping!” says Foster.  The content you produce should be used as an educational resource. Make the moment that you’re selling relevant to when your prospect wants to buy and inform the buying decision before it even takes place.

Be helpful in your subject area or level of expertise

Armstrong adds that some businesses “strategically have not connected what their customer wants to know with what they know as the brand with their value proposition.”  It is important to be helpful in a way that connects to how you are selling. A good example of a helpful business model is discussed in a recent webcast hosted by Jay Baer (@JayBaer) entitled, “Can Large Brands Be Genuinely Helpful (And Still Profitable?)”  Baer highlights a Twitter strategy implemented by Hilton Hotels which suggests local travel tips to Twitter users exploring new cities. The Twitter handle (@HiltonSuggests) is run by Hilton Hotel employees around the world who volunteer their time to monitor relevant social conversations and provide locally-informed advice.

Focus on relevance and findability

Armstrong believes that businesses which focus on length and quality rather than relevance and findability “invest too much in content development and not enough in effective content promotion.” If the objective of your content is to drive traffic, make sure it is written in an SEO friendly way using customer language, as well as promoted through channels that your customers are already engaged in such as press releases and social media. Using the “Content Pillar Approach,” marketers can curate their content in over 200 different ways that reach target viewers through a number of relevant channels and maximize findability.

Share and curate relevant content from outside sources

Foster emphasizes the unrecognized benefits of curating not only your own content, but content from other sources as well. “Curating other peoples content can not only help you build relationships with those people but can also help your own marketing efforts,” she explains. She adds that one of the best examples can be seen in the recent webinar “Curating High Conversion Content Without a Single Original Thought” which was produced entirely out of curating content from outside sources.

Content marketing is a field that continues to grow with the rapid adoption of marketing automation platforms. “B2B marketers now have better access to more useful performance measurement on content in their pipeline. They can ask questions like is my content attracting qualified prospects? Is my content valuable enough to get qualified prospects to opt in?” says Armstrong. The ability to measure the performance of content marketing efforts is a major advantage in an increasingly competitive atmosphere, which further emphasizes the importance of creating better content.

To learn more about generating leads and increasing conversions through effective content marketing, join Rachel Foster, Scott Armstrong, and PR Newswire on September 18th for the webinar “7 Keys for Creating Awesome B2B Content That Converts.” Register here:

3 Ways to Drive Content Discovery (#CMWorld recap + eBook)

In his keynote at Content Marketing World last week, Jay Baer, author of the popular Convince & Convert blog as well as the new book Youtility, made a salient point:  communicators are competing (via social media) with our audiences’ friends and family (not to mention cat videos!) for their attention. Attention is finite, but the amount of content available to our audiences is almost unlimited.

Free Download:  my new ebook, “Driving Content Discovery

In addition to the competition for attention, today’s buyers present communicators with another challenge.

“They’re secret-shopping your brand, all the time,” Baer noted in his keynote, noting that at the point B2B buyers contact vendors, 70% of the decision has been made.  Put another way, buyers eliminate numerous brands from contention without contacting them.  Online content is your brand’s sole representative for much of the buying process. lil tweet

For communicators seeking to connect with target audiences, context and timing are crucial.   But how do you get your message show up at the right place, and at the right time?  This is where content discovery comes into play.  

Context, credibility & timing are crucial 

Delivering content in context –  and with an additional layer of social credibility – tees up your brand in the buyer’s decision process.   Ensuring your content is surfaced continually among a specific constituency is another element of success, and there are a number of tactics communicators can use to achieve consistent, contextual visibility of content.

  • Capitalize on attention opportunities created by industry news trends, by tying messages to trending developments or synching your contnet calendar with the editorial calendars of key publications.
  • Atomize content and repackage it, emphasizing different angles or message elements, to increase audience attraction.
  • Distribute focused and specific content using a variety of platforms and channels.  As Baer noted, you have to put some effort behind the content you publish. Commercial newswires and free PR sites can provide important visibility for key messages.  (Here’s a free content distribution buyers guide you can use to arm yourself with questions to help you find the right vendor.)

The embedded slide deck and ebook download offer many more tactics for driving the discovery of your content, as well as numerous real-life examples.  And if I’ve overlooked your favorite tactic for ensuring your audience sees your message, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of the e-books Unlocking Social Media for PR and the newly-published  New School Press Release Tactics.  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Content is …. many things [Infographic]

We invited attendees at Content Marketing World to complete this sentence: “Content is ____ .”  Here are some of the answers we received.