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.

The Elusive Purchasing Time Horizon: Or Why Driving Content Discovery Really Matters

Source: Business.com’s Small Business Pulse Report: 2013 Lead Generation Insights

Source: Business.com’s Small Business Pulse Report:
2013 Lead Generation Insights

A recent report on B2B lead generation by Business.com doesn’t offer a lot of clarity on which content marketing tactics generate the most valuable leads.  Generally speaking, the survey respondents were fairly evenly split on which tactics were most – and least – valuable.  Some believed webinars were useful, but whitepapers weren’t, others relayed an opposing view.

The one standout stat is that most B2B lead buyers want – but don’t get – information on their buyers’ purchasing horizons.

It’s easy to overlook the overwhelming and significant fact this report reveals, because that fact isn’t expressed in numbers or charts.  Some tactics work really well, some of the time.

Mix it up.  Rather than relying on one tactic that’s worked well in the past, it’s crucial to keep experimenting with timing, channel and content format, for a few reasons:

-          Different people have different preferences.  Communicating via myriad channels and formats multiples your opportunity to connect with prospects in the method they prefer.

-          Each platform and network has its own audience.  While searches on SlideShare.com represent a small percentage of the total views to the content we published there received, we have to assume the people who got to the content via a deliberate search are well qualified. Skipping one network reduces visibility among people who are truly engaged, and that’s not a tradeoff I’d personally like to make with my brand’s content.

Be present, because your prospects are.   According to an interview published by eMarketer, a significant majority – 88 percent – of B2B decision makers research potential purchases online prior to the buy.  And according to another study, buyers are deep into the decision process before they contact vendors.  I believe that it’s safe to assume that marketers will never have access to batches of leads with ideal purchase timelines.  But the fact is we still have plenty of opportunity to communicate with prospects that are at crucial points in their buying journeys, simply by being present with the right content online.

Seed discovery – atomize and distribute content.    Driving discovery of the content your brand publishes requires its own strategy.  Break apart white papers, webinar transcripts and other big blocks of content, and surface interesting messages and facts.  Develop simple graphics, promote content via online press releases, and share the myriad facts, snippets and assets you’ve created in order to develop the maximum amount of awareness and interest in your messages – across multiple audiences and platforms.

Done well, content marketing will bring people to your brand, familiarizing them with what your organization has to offer well before they identify themselves, and well before they are swept into the nurture stream.    However, effective content strategies require brands to constantly test, experiment with and use a variety of platforms and channels to publish messages.

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.

Coming up at Content Marketing World:

Sarah is presenting on the topic of content discovery  at Content Marketing World, in session titled “10 Online Discovery Tips that Will Get Your Content Promoted.”   We hope to see you in Cleveland at the show!   In the meantime, follow the conversation on Twitter, hashtag #CMWorld.   She’ll be offering 19 (instead of the previously advertised 10) ways to build an element of discovery into your content strategy, and to drive the discovery of the information your brand publishes.  Here’s a sneak peek:

CMW session snippet

 

 

Fill in the blank: Content is ____ .

CMW_SocialNibbles-ContentIs-BLANK

You’re creating it.  You’re curating it.  You’re publishing, tracking and sharing it. It’s playing a central role in your communications strategy.

How do you define content? 

We’d like to hear your take.  Fill in the blank “Content is ___”  either by leaving a comment on this post, or tweeting with hashtag #ContentIs.   [Tweet this!]

CMW_SocialNibbles-ContentIs-Brand-builderWe’ll be selecting some of the answers (along with names or Twitter handles!) for a slick infographic, and will be displaying them on the screens in our booth at Content Marketing World.

And while you’re at it, enter our sweepstakes for a chance to win a multimedia news release from PR Newswire, and really show off that content you’ve worked so hard to develop.

Coming up at Content Marketing World:

Just because you’ve published your content doesn’t mean your target audience will see it.  Making content discoverable by the right people is a stumbling block all content marketers face.  I’ll be digging into how to drive content discovery next week at Content Marketing World, in a session titled “10 19 Online Discovery Tips that Will Get Your Content Promoted.

Learn how to surface your content so your target audiences can find it, using tactics and best practices derived from my own experiments, smart things I’ve seen others do, and what the data tells us is most effective.   Hope to see you there!

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.

The Kick-Ass Guide to Cleveland for Content Marketing World Attendees

PRN_Guide_ClevelandContent Marketing World Special Edition:  In the run up to Content Marketing World, we invited Amanda Hicken, our Cleveland-based manager of media relations and the author of the Clue into Cleveland Blog to recommend her favorite must- see (and must-eat and must-shop) places near the Cleveland Convention Center, especially for Content Marketing World attendees.  

Cleveland's lakefront, home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Goodtime III, Great Lakes Science Center, and FirstEnergy Stadium

Cleveland’s lakefront, home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Goodtime III, Great Lakes Science Center, and FirstEnergy Stadium

I didn’t believe in love at first sight; then I met Cleveland. The Forest City, The Northcoast, The Rock and Roll Capital of the World.

When I moved here in 2007, I got the same questions you may be asking yourself: “Cleveland?!? The Mistake by the Lake?” “Have you seen the Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video?” “Didn’t your river set itself on fire once?”

Although Cleveland has had a tough past, I love that Clevelanders don’t know the meaning of quit and always look for new ways to adapt, innovate, and succeed.

A few years ago I started the blog Clue Into Cleveland, and with the world’s largest content marketing conference returning to Cleveland this month, I’m here to share my and my coworkers’ picks on where to go when you’re in town for Content Marketing World 2013.  We’ve also summarized my picks into the infograpic you see at the top of this post, and have plotted them on an interactive map for you, too. 

cl map cmw

Click on the map to pull up an interactive guide we created for you.

Where to Eat

Fun Food Fact: It was in Cleveland that Ettore “Hector” Boiardi – better known as Chef Boyardee – opened his first restaurant and started bottling the spaghetti and meatballs that would soon launch an empire.

Stop by James Beard Awards Finalist Chef Jonathan Sawyer's Noodlecat for happy hour specials on noodles, steam buns and sake.

Stop by James Beard Awards Finalist Chef Jonathan Sawyer’s Noodlecat for happy hour specials on noodles, steam buns and sake.

Recently, Cleveland has been going through a dining renaissance.  Fans of the Food Network and The Chew will want to head to Lola (downtown, East 4th Street) or Lolita (a short ride to the Tremont neighborhood) to eat at nearby restaurants of Cleveland-son-turned-foodie-celebrity Chef Michael Symon.

Other downtown dining recommendations include:

“Go Fourth” to East 4th Street for your pick of 14+ restaurants like Greenhouse Tavern (adventurous eaters should share the Roasted Pig Head with a friend), Chinato, and La Strada.  Society Lounge is a must for cocktail lovers, where you can find well-crafted cocktails, tapas and sophisticated nostalgia. Erie Island Coffee, on the other hand, will give you that jolt of caffeine you need in the morning.

In addition to being the second largest theatre district in the U.S., PlayhouseSquare is a dining destination with Cowell and Hubbard, District, and Dynomite Burgers. After dinner, grab a pint at Parnell’s Pub.

Food truck fans can grab lunch from CLE food trucks like Umami Moto, an Asian Fusion truck voted best in Cleveland

Food truck fans can grab lunch from CLE food trucks like Umami Moto, an Asian Fusion truck voted best in Cleveland

Hodge’s is home to Food Network Star and Great Food Truck Race finalist Chris Hodgson, as well as 2-for-$40 Tuesdays featuring 1 starter, 2 entrees, and 1 bottle of wine for only $40.

Cleveland’s playful noodle house, Noodlecat, offers excellent happy hour specials on ramen, udon, and soba noodles, steam buns and exclusive sakes.  (This writer is particularly fond of the Japanese Fried Chicken Steam Bun, College Ramen Noodles, and Spicy Octopus Udon Stir-Fry.)

Looking for an excellent sandwich? Try Cleveland Pickle at 850 Euclid Ave. or take a short drive down St. Clair for the biggest and best corned beef at Slyman’s.  Flaming Ice Cube specializes in quality vegan cuisine, Blue Point Grille in fresh seafood, and Colossal Cupcakes in dessert (try a cupcake shake for something especially indulgent!).

If you’re short on time and need food on the go, check out Cleveland.com’s guide to 31 of the city’s food trucks.  Weekly food truck gatherings like Walnut Wednesdays and Lunch by the Lake Thursdays are popular with the PR Newswire Cleveland office.

What to Do

Downtown Cleveland is more than just a foodie paradise.  After you check out the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at CMWorld’s Opening Night Reception, squeeze in a little sightseeing.

If you arrive in Cleveland over the weekend, enjoy the best 360 degree view of the Cleveland skyline from the Terminal Tower Observation Deck

If you arrive in Cleveland over the weekend, enjoy the best 360 degree view of the Cleveland skyline from the Terminal Tower Observation Deck

At the lakefront, visit the Steamship William G. Mather, the Great Lakes Science Center, and the International Women’s Air and Space Museum.

If you arrive in Cleveland early, see Cleveland from above with a visit to the Terminal Tower Observation Deck or schedule a Lake Erie cruise on the Goodtime III.

Lolly the Trolley and Take a Hike offer weekday guided tours of the city, but if you’d prefer to sight see on your own, our picks include the Old Stone Church, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, PlayhouseSquare, the Cleveland Arcade, and the Cleveland Public Library’s magnificent Main Library Building.

Just need a few moments of peace and quiet? Cleveland is called The Forest City for good reason. Escape to over a dozen parks and green spaces in Downtown Cleveland, including three spacious green malls and Voinovich Park on Lake Erie. You can also take a drive around the Cleveland Metroparks (nicknamed the Emerald Necklace) or the Cuyahoga Valley National Park for scenic running and nature trails.

Take a tour, see a show, or enjoy dinner at Cleveland's PlayhouseSquare, the country's second largest performing arts center behind New York's Lincoln Center.

Take a tour, see a show, or enjoy dinner at Cleveland’s PlayhouseSquare, the country’s second largest performing arts center behind New York’s Lincoln Center.

Travel Tips

Get Around with RTA: The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority makes it easy to get around downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods. RTA’s trolley lines are your answer for convenient downtown travel, and you can hop on a bus or train to visit nearby West Side Market or University Circle’s world-class museums.

Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s City Visitor Guides: While Positively Cleveland is your go-to resource for all of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance focuses specifically on the neighborhoods you’ll be spending most of your time in at CMWorld.  Take a look at their Sensational Places, Historic Spaces guide or Downtown Navigator for more ideas.

Bring Home a Souvenir: When you get home from CMWorld, show off your love for Cleveland with a t-shirt, tote or other merchandise from CLE Clothing Co. Their store is a short walk to the corner of East 4th and Euclid or you can shop online.

We have one last recommendation for Content Marketing World attendees. Learn how to drive discovery of the content you’ve worked so hard to create in my c0lleague Sarah Skerik’s session.   Sarah is our vice president of content marketing, and she’ll be giving data-driven tips and proven tactics for improving the results content generated in the session titled “10 Online Discovery Tips that will Get Your Content Promoted.”

Content We Love: Curating Company Content & Keeping it Current

ContentWeLoveOver the last couple months, I’ve been talking a bit about the long life spans of press releases, as well as tactics to drive the discovery of the content our brands publish.

A fantastic example of using a press release to surface content, keeping it fresh and relevant to audiences, crossed the wire a few days ago.   Titled “FM Global Urges Property Owners to Avoid Complacency Following U.S. Presidential Task Force Report on Hurricane Resiliency,” and issued by FM Global, this press release about hurricane preparedness will deliver lasting value both readers and the brand over the coming months.

FM Global used a press release to tie existing content assets to a timely news story, driving discovery of the company's message.

FM Global used a press release to tie existing content assets to a timely news story, driving discovery of the company’s message.

What seems like a simple release initially is really a master class in framing the company’s message within the audience’s needs.

Using a Presidential report from the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force as a news hook, FM Global wrapped a variety of related content – ranging from basic hurricane prep to more sophisticated hurricane risk data – together for  their audiences, offering links to the content along with brief descriptions of the available information.

Pro tips: 

  • Using the title of the Presidential report in the headline improves the visibility, credibility and relevance of the story.
  • FM Global used trackable links to serve the related content within the press release, ensuring they will be able to see exactly how many people clicked on the links within the press release, and which pieces of content were most popular among readers.

Best of all, the communications team at FM Global has created a press release that will be useful to journalists covering the topic, as well as the individual seeking more information on hurricane preparations and insurance claims.

By curating their own content, bundling it together for easy consumption and then using a current news angle to create currency for the information, the FM Global team has done a great job of utilizing existing content assets, getting more out of those original investments while at the same time inserting the brand into the current news stream in a thoughtful, useful and relevant way.

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.

Coming up at Content Marketing World:

Sarah is presenting on the topic of content discovery next month at Content Marketing World, in session titled “10 Online Discovery Tips that Will Get Your Content Promoted.”   We hope to see you in Cleveland at the show!   In the meantime, follow the conversation on Twitter, hashtag #CMWorld.

Focused Content: Lessons from Profitable Publishers

Data excerpted from the Association of Magazine Media resources.

Data excerpted from the Association of Magazine Media resources.

It’s no secret that traditional media outlets are struggling to recalibrate their business models to fit today’s digital economy, and many are struggling.  On the other hand, there are some publications that are logging impressive growth, and I’m a big believer in following the money.  How have these publications managed to deliver strong growth in such tough times? It turns out they have a common secret sauce: niche content. [Tweet it!]

I took a look at data from the Association of Magazine Media that compared paid and verified magazine circulation for 2012 and 2011, and I spotted some common attributes that offer important lessons to communicators crafting communications and planning campaigns.

Demographics:  Five of the top fifteen high-growth magazines are lifestyle magazines catering to Hispanic audiences.  One can’t ignore this potent market signal – there is real demand for content tailored for American Hispanics.  If you represent a consumer brand, and your organization hasn’t developed a strategy for communicating with the Hispanic marketplace,  a fantastic opportunity is being left on the table.

Niche focus:  Urban Farm. Bowhunt America.  Haggerty Classic Cars.  Woodcraft Magazine.   These are some of the top-performing titles, and they are tightly-focused publications.   It’s not enough to simply create content for hunters, for example.   There are big differences in hunting waterfowl, upland fowl and deer.    General content for “hunters” wouldn’t resonate deeply within these niches.   As the top performing magazines show us, there is opportunity for content that is an inch wide and a mile deep.

More than 200,000 people have liked Eating Well's Facebook page, and it's a lively and active social presence that attracts new audience continually.

More than 200,000 people have liked Eating Well’s Facebook page, and it’s a lively and active social presence that attracts new audience continually.

 Multiple platforms:  Top performer Eating Well, which logged circulation growth of almost 60% year on year, is much more than a magazine.  It’s a multi-channel juggernaut, with lively and engaged social presences and assets that parent company Meredith Corp. describes as:

  •  A highly successful and award-winning bi-monthly magazine with a circulation of  almost 590,000;
  • A content-rich website featuring healthy recipes, cooking how-to, meal plans and shopping tips, as well as articles, numerous blogs and nutrition advice. EatingWell.com averaged more than 1.8 million unique monthly visitors and 16 million monthly page views in the first half of 2011, making it one of the top 25 food sites in terms of traffic according to comScore;
  • A robust content licensing and custom marketing program providing diet and nutrition articles, how-to cook information, healthy recipes and meal plans to over 75 clients including major consumer portals, healthcare, food and supermarket retail partners;
  • A Healthy-in-a-Hurry mobile recipe app rated as a top foodie app by the iTunes store and top health app by Consumer Reports Health Newsletter; and
  • A series of high-quality food and nutrition-related books and cookbooks.

We’ve all heard the adage, “All brands are publishers now.”  Taking a close look at the successful and profitable publishers within our industries and markets offers smart guidance for content marketers.  Developing content that resonates with a passionate niche audience will help drive discovery of that messaging among liked minded people (a.k.a. well qualified prospects!)

Need to get into your niches? You can find niche influencers and track emerging trends and conversations with MediaVantage, our potent media monitoring suite that pulls traditional media coverage and social media mentions relevant to your work into a single database, so you can extract valuable information about your coverage with speed and ease.  Learn more
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.

Coming up at Content Marketing World:

Sarah is presenting on the topic of content discovery next month at Content Marketing World, in session titled “10 Online Discovery Tips that Will Get Your Content Promoted.”   We hope to see you in Cleveland at the show!   In the meantime, follow the conversation on Twitter, hashtag #CMWorld.

79% of PR Pros Believe Video is Underutilized [Infographic]

According to a survey of PR professionals recently conducted by PR News and PR Newswire, the  use of visuals in public relations campaigns is poised for an increase: the overwhelming majority (76%) of people surveyed plan to use more visual storytelling elements in their communications in 2014.

An even larger majority of communications pros (79%) noted that video is underutilized in PR messaging.  However, the survey also revealed that PR has increasing control over the budget for the creation of multimedia content.

PRNewswire_PRNews_Multimedia_Survey_2013“It’s interesting that the budgets are now evenly split between PR and marketing,” Kevin West, PR Newswire/Multivu senior vice president of multimedia, said in the report published by PR News. “The fact is encouraging because there’s always been this perception that marketing always had control of budgets, so it presents an opportunity for PR people.”

Despite the relatively scant use of video in PR messaging, those surveyed noted that video content is effective at driving engagement in social channels, beating out infographics and articles.  Photos – which are much more commonly used in PR messaging – were the most engaging multimedia element.

According to the survey results, the primary barrier to creating more video isn’t budget – it’s resources, followed by time.  Developing the ability to create video (and other visuals) on the fly is a real challenge for most organizations, especially given the rapidly evolving communications landscape, which places ever-higher premiums on visual content – especially video.

“The role that the communicators can now play, with respect to visual storytelling, is explaining in detail the future possibilities of social capabilities and content creation and adding content to all of these new forms of storytelling, whether it’s Vine or Instagram,” West said in an in-depth article about the survey findings he penned for PR News titled “Lack of Resources is Cited as a Barrier to Multimedia Storytelling.”

If you are PR Newswire client, our new Media Studio is a free tool that simplifies your workflow and enables easy storage, organization & use of multimedia content in public relations and marketing distribution. Click here to learn more.

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.

eBook: New School Press Release Tactics That Grab Attention & Get Results

new school cover

According to Google’s Eric Schmidt, every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of recorded human history up to 2003.  For communicators, the implication is clear – there’s an infinite amount of information available, however, audience attention if finite.

We’ve been talking a lot this summer about new tactics for creating press releases that stand out in the sea of content, and garner the attention of the right people.  Today we’re announcing our new eBook, “New School Press Release Tactics,” which aggregates our research, learning and some great real-life examples.  

Download New School Press Release Tactics here!

 The content and structure of a press releases have a significant on the visibility of the message, and as competition for attention increases, the formula for a successful press release is changing.  Here are eleven ways to freshen the news releases your organization publishes, and get more results for your campaigns.  

Make generating social interaction a priority, because that triggers amplification.

  • Serve your audience first. Frame the brand message in the context the audience craves.
  • Content needs to do more than inform.  It has to be interesting and useful to the audience if they’re going to amplify your message by sharing it.

Re-think links.  Use them strategically to provide more information for journalists and potential customers.

  • Link the name of the person quoted in the press release to their bio or a related blog post they authored.
  • Embed a call to action for potential customers toward the top of the press release.  Real-world example:  PR Newswire client Jive Software, Inc. reported a 200% increase in web site traffic to a specific page when they moved a call to action for readers toward the top of the press release, embedding it right after the lead paragraph. 
  • Encourage on-the-spot social sharing.  Highlight the key message or best piece of advice in your press release, and then embed a Click-to-Tweet link within. [Tweet this!] (See? Pretty slick, eh?)

cliktweet

Format the press release to maximize sharing. 

  • Write a perfectly tweetable headline and keep it to 100 characters.   (Use a subhead to add more detail.)
  • Employ bullet points to highlight key points, and draw the readers’ eyes deeper into the copy.

Develop a visual communications habit.  

  • Including visuals can increase visibility (social networks and search engines both give visual content preference.)
  • Visuals extend the reach of your messages into channels like Pinterest, which requires a visual element and other visual-centric social networks.

Incorporate storytelling into press releases to make the messages more memorable and interesting.

  • Include a quote from someone other than an executive.  Quote a customer service person noting how a new product has reduced support calls, a happy customer or a member of the team that designed the product.
  • Break the formula for the press release, and dive into the value propositions, case studies and benefits that your audience really wants to know about.

More press release tips and a variety of mini-case studies are available the ebook.  It’s available for free download here:  http://promotions.prnewswire.com/LP_NewSchoolPR_ebook_201308_JTL_PRD.html .  We hope you enjoy it – please let us know what you think!

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.

Create Discoverable Stories Using Editorial Calendars

8 21 edcal

The MarketWatch/Wall St. Journal editorial calendar provides a great framework for content ideas.

Story timing plays a crucial role in determining whether or not your story is discovered by your audience.  For years and years, media outlets have been publishing their editorial calendars, to help brands manage ad buys and PR pitches.   Those same editorial calendars are a rich resource for content marketers, too.

Time = Opportunity

As you peruse editorial calendars, you’ll notice that the lead times are generally pretty long, even for daily newspapers.  Special sections are planned and “in the can” well in advance of publication. There is opportunity for smart content creators within these timeframes, including:

  • Earned media:  Reporters covering the space will be starting to develop story ideas.  If your brand’s content plans will generate newsworthy content, get your PR team involved.   Surveys, market research and tips/advice are examples of owned content that can earn media when pitched to the right outlets.
  • Accelerating audience interest: In the run up to an event or season, audience interest increases.   Savvy brands can tune into early conversations to identify hot-button topics, and build content around those topics.  A well-structured content plan can also help the brand get ‘out in front’ of the conversations as well.
  • Opportunity to trigger and shape discussion:  As audience interest swells, brands can also trigger and shape discussion with content derived from research, polls and surveys.   Trends pieces and related tips can surface new topic angles with audiences and trigger new conversations.
This smart press release from CCH includes a state-by-state list of tax holidays, making it relevant both in terms of timing and geography.  (Click the image to see the whole story.)

This smart press release from CCH includes a state-by-state list of tax holidays, making it relevant both in terms of timing and geography. (Click the image to see the whole story.)

Developing content that supports the brand’s key themes credibly can create the foundation for shaping the direction of the conversation. The relationship between timing and the ultimate discovery of brand messaging is clear.  There’s a lot to be gained for the brand that is prepared and catches the wave of attention around an event or topic as it’s developing, not waning. However, it’s also important to remember to seed discovery with distribution of message components.   Tactics you’ll want to have in your toolbox include:

  • Social and traditional media monitoring:  Keep tabs on conversations, stories, influencers, new trends, and new players.
  • PR savvy:  Don’t overlook the opportunity to generate valuable earned media.  Pitch relevant journalists newsworthy facts, data and trends.   Generate more visibility for assets you produce, such as surveys, white papers and infographics with a press release that outlines a few key points and offers readers a link to the rest of the information.
  • Visual development:  Don’t forget to develop visuals.  An infographic is more than just a great way to illustrate a trend or make data more tangible.  Multimedia assets attract more viewers, and can develop lives and audiences of their own.

One final note:  a strong social presence for the brand is especially helpful for capitalizing upon ultra-timely, news-driven topics.  Make building and bolstering your brand’s social presence and the relationship with the audience an ongoing priority – these are important assets that deliver tremendous value to the organization and provide ongoing visibility for the brand.

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 soon-to-be-published “New School PR Tactics.”  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik

Coming up at Content Marketing World:

Sarah is presenting on the topic of content discovery next month at Content Marketing World, in session titled “10 Online Discovery Tips that Will Get Your Content Promoted.”   Stop by the PR Newswire booth to see what’s new (and enter a great give away!) In the meantime, follow the conversation on Twitter, hashtag #CMWorld.

Sponsored Content Poses Opportunities for PR

Steve Rubel, chief content strategist at Edelman, and our guest this week on webinar titled “The Future of Sponsored Content for Communications Professionals.”

As brands spool up their publishing engines, many are seeking outlets for their messaging.  At the same time, traditional media outlets are continuing to re-engineer their business models, and are seeking new revenue opportunities.   The confluence of the two – brand content and availability of space on publisher platforms – is behind the increasing amount of sponsored content we’re seeing on media properties today.

Today’s forms of sponsored content often appear commingled with or in close proximity to editorial content.  Herein is an opportunity for PR professionals to add a new dimension to their long relationship with the news media. Centered in advertising, communicators can now combine paid and owned programming across a spectrum of publishers, and can earn some media while they’re at it.  With the exception of the last phrase, this doesn’t sound too much like traditional PR.  In advance of our webinar about the evolution of sponsored content and what it means for PR scheduled for Thursday of this week, I spoke with Steve Rubel, chief content strategist for Edelman and LinkedIn Influencer.

Source: Edelman

“The core work in PR remains earned media,” Rubel noted straight off the bat.  “That remains the primary purpose – to use earned media to develop a stronger relationship with stakeholders and consumers.”

However, he also noted that it’s increasingly difficult to ensure a story – even a great one – reaches its intended audience.  Against an overwhelming supply of content, demand remains finite.  The competition for attention is continually growing.

Enter sponsored content.

Sponsored enables you to amplify your content,” says Rubel. “It creates a launching pad for awareness and consideration – and this is helpful for changing minds and behaviors.  But it is not a replacement for earned media.  It is a way to amplify that which is either earned or owned.” [Tweet this!]

The earned – sponsored opportunity for PR

Sponsored content can generate newsworthy information that can ultimately spawn earned media elsewhere, Rubel noted, providing as an example the Economists’s intelligence Unit, which supplies a variety of forecasting, advisory and research services.  The Economist will never cover reports the EIU produces for a third party within their own editorial, but other outlets may do so.

“The campaign itself can generate paid or earned coverage that is the start of a conversation,” says Rubel. “There is that connection between that which is sponsored and that which is earned, and that is where the sweet spot happens. It gets you into orbit. The two are connected but not within the same locale.”

Governing ethics – a necessary framework

Edelman has created an ethical framework to guide and govern their firm’s work in sponsored content, and this excerpt nicely frames the role of PR in developing a sponsored content strategy:

The PR firms will use paid to accelerate or amplify earned or owned content, while the media buyer will have the paid content that is recommended and executed by the media company stand on its own. The PR industry will have journalistic sensibility on what makes a good story and how it fits into the earned stream, then to decide whether it merits further promotion.

There is an important caveat, however.  Transparency is crucial, and both brands and publishers need to clearly delineate between sponsored and editorial content.  Relevance, not deception, should drive consumption of sponsored content.  Rubel noted that Edelman evaluates each publisher’s approach to displaying sponsored content, and requires clear disclosure.

“Come at this with the reader in mind first,” he suggests.  “What is right for them?  What level of disclosure do they want? Does the media partner execute to satisfaction?”

Additionally, the processes around media buys and publicity need to be kept strictly separate.

“We advocated in the paper that the processes for negotiating sponsored buys and editorial pitching need to be done by separate people,” commented Rubel. “Ideation can be shared, but the process needs to be separate.”

We’ll be digging further into this topic on Thursday with Steve Rubel, in a webinar hosted by the Business Development Institute titled “The Future of Sponsored Content for Communications Professionals.” Attendance is free.

Webinar details:

Thursday, August 22

2:00 ET

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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 soon-to-be-published “New School PR Tactics.”  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik

4 Ways Newsroom Tactics Can Help Marketers Drive Content Discovery

One of the most significant changes today’s connected, digital information marketplace has wrought upon marketing and PR teams is in timing.  A few years ago, an organization’s communications calendar was dictated by the company, according its schedule of events, partnerships and product launches.    The audience consumed the messaging the company pushed, and the message was conveyed via specific channels, such as industry media or a big trade show.

Today, the audience has seized control of much of the timing.  They are able to select their information sources, and frequently tap friends and peers for information and opinion.   They research their purchases on their own timing, often tuning out brand messaging until they’re ready to engage.  In many cases, the brand doesn’t initiate the first touch with the prospect.  Instead, that first touch originates with the prospect, in a social network or via a search engine.  As a result, brands need to evolve to being ‘always on,’ rather than relying solely upon episodic campaigns.

Additionally, search and social are good relevancy filters, which creates another challenge for brands. In such a fluid environment, how does one gain credible attention that is relevant to audiences and can keep the brand top-of-mind?  Put another way, how does one drive ongoing discovery of a brand?

Content marketing, newsroom-style

Adopting a newsroom mentality can help you surface timely content opportunities for your brand (tweet this.) Simply put, it means allowing trending and timely news stories to inform your content calendar, and calibrating your organization to deliver responses in near real time.

To start, get cozy with your friendly neighborhood PR team, or pay attention to the stories you’re seeing in the same media your brand is targeting in media and ad campaigns.  In particular, note which stories are the most popular on those different web sites, and model your editorial calendar accordingly.  If the top stories are all trends or tactics pieces, that is a clear signal that you should steer clear of (or at least, de-emphasize) theory, for example.

In addition, you’ll find other sources of ‘breaking story ideas’ within other areas of your business.  Here are a few possible sources:

4 sources of ‘breaking’ content ideas

  • Responses to legislative or industry developments.   Monitor industry trends, pending legislation or regulatory developments.  Round up experts and issue your responses.  If you’ve taken a multi-channel approach toward publishing your responses, such as issuing the official response via a press release, publishing a thought piece on your blog, creating a video or infographic offering a look into specific details and supporting all of the above in social networks, it will be difficult for anyone searching for related information to miss seeing your message. Example: Bankrate: Mortgage Rates Post Mixed Results 
  • The story you wish that reporter would have told.  It’s happened to all of us.  You pick up a magazine or see an online article that is strongly related to the brand you represent – and yet, your brand is absent from the piece.  Once you’re done with the obligatory gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair, you can start to formulate your brand’s point of view, filling in the gaps you wish had been filled, and offering your brand’s point of view in the process.  Pro tip:  Interview a few socially connected industry influencers, to deliver additional credibility, and further amplify your message, as chances are good the quoted influencers will share the content.
  • Events and seasonal opportunities.   In the summer, corporate types start thinking about their budgets for next year.  Families wrap up vacations and start making back-to-school plans.  Football enthusiasts count the days until the first game.   These things happen each year, and can provide news hooks  and ideas for content that is relevant and useful at that moment.  A B2B company can survey customers, and release a report on trends, ahead of budgeting.   A company selling to families can find numerous angles for their back-to-school stories.  A fitness company could translate pro-football moves into a workout for fans at home.  Example: Hotwire Unveils Top 5 Sleeper Cities for Labor Day Weekend
  • Social conversations – a new barometer of public opinion, and a new way to inject “man on the street” perspective. We all know that we need to keep an eye on social channels.  However, instead of simply monitoring brand mentions, keep an eye on topics that are emerging (and growing legs) within your business segment, and which topics garner more attention amongst social network denizens.

These tried-and-true tactics are borrowed from the public relations playbook.  PR pros use them to fine-tune the relevance of the stories they pitch, according to media outlet and journalist preferences and beats.  Employing these tactics to inform a content strategy will similarly help marketers develop timely and relevant content that resonates with the audience and keeps the brand top of mind.

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 soon-to-be-published “New School PR Tactics.”  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik

Coming up at Content Marketing World:

Sarah is presenting on the topic of content discovery next month at Content Marketing World, in session titled “10 Online Discovery Tips that Will Get Your Content Promoted.”   We hope to see you in Cleveland at the show!   In the meantime, follow the conversation on Twitter, hashtag #CMWorld.

Peruse the Content Marketing World speaker line up – plus see top tips from each – right here: 

Related reading:  How to Become a Great Brand Journalist to Augment Your Content Marketing Strategy