Tag Archives: communications

Exploring the Convergence of Marketing and Communications

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Business Development Institute and PR Newswire co-hosted the final communications roundtable of 2013 featuring Bloomberg’s Head of Marketing Communications, Deirdre Bigley, as the guest of honor. Moderated by PR Newswire’s CEO, Ninan Chacko, the conversation explored how blurred lines between PR and marketing are impacting communications and what it means for the future of business. Ms. Bigley shared some of the ways that Bloomberg has sustained a successful brand by embracing the current convergence.

PR, marketing, and social media work together as a team

Bloomberg’s marketing department has existed for only four years, but quickly adapted to the new era of communications. Instead of differentiating between departments, PR, marketing, and social media have formed a committee that focuses on building an infrastructure for lesser-known Bloomberg subsidiaries. While the desire to take ownership of a campaign’s success can be a challenge, it is ultimately understood that overlapping expertise between units is the committee’s greatest strength.

View content from a journalist’s perspective

The Bloomberg communications committee has taken a unique approach to content by viewing themselves as publishers instead of marketers. To enhance this method, the committee enlists the expertise of freelance reporters to help create focused content. “You’re not producing content for all the same audience,” says Ms. Bigley, “it’s important to understand your segment and who wants to follow you on this topic.” Journalists can apply their deep understanding of industry topics to find storytelling opportunities for the brand.

Use analytics to support a content strategy

Ms. Bigley acknowledges that analytics is a coveted skillset at Bloomberg because it plays a key role in helping content stand out amongst the crowd. Monitoring the type of media coverage a major story has earned as well as the influencers sharing it on social channels are some of the metrics used to develop their communications strategy.  The goal of using analytics is to identify patterns among segmented groups and discover niche markets to inspire new and relevant content.

Engage with social audiences

When social networking emerged there was an initial resistance at Bloomberg to actively engage.  It wasn’t until popular demand urged Bloomberg to combine their Twitter feed with their traditional news feed that the company realized the potential of social media.  According to Ms. Bigley, Bloomberg’s social audience viewing videos online is three times larger than its television audience. This astonishing figure is influencing the company’s future communications plans, with Ms. Bigley declaring that “The future of Bloomberg is video.”

The convergence of PR and marketing has shifted the traditional talent structure of organizations from one that differentiates skill sets, to another that unifies them. The new wave of collaborative communications leverages the strengths of both PR and marketing to develop inventive strategies for reaching target audiences. Future communicators should focus on building skills such as analytics, marketing automation, and producing multimedia to further develop the PR and marketing relationship.

To learn more about the convergence of marketing and communications, you can access our free, on-demand webinar “Alignment for Engagement: Unifying Marketing and PR Departments for Content Marketing Success.”

Shannon Ramlochan is the Content Marketing Coordinator at PR Newswire. Follow her on Twitter: @sramloch

The Q&A Team: A Google Helpout Primer

Dear Q&A Team,

My marketing team wants to learn more about Google Helpouts. We want to get a better understanding of this service as well as how we can use it to promote any of our products and/or services. We also want to know whether we should charge for Helpouts, and if there are any legal issues we should take into consideration.

Help Me Out

_____________________

Dear Help Me Out,

It is always exciting to see whether you can integrate a new service into your marketing efforts. Here are four ProfNet experts who answer all your questions about Helpouts:

Explanation of Helpouts

Andy Abramson, CEO of Comunicano, says, “When someone needs help or assistance with a specific question or situation, they can now turn to Google Helpouts, a free or pay-as-you-go video help line where experts are available, or can be reserved, to assist with questions or needs by providing real-time advisory services face-to-face.”

The experts can provide advice on the following subjects: art/music, computers/electronics, cooking, educations/careers, fashion/beauty, fitness/nutrition, health, home/garden, adds Melanie Trudeau, digital strategist at Jaffe PR.

Sarah Hill, digital storyteller at Veterans United Home Loans, also explains that Helpouts are really Google+ Hangouts plus services plus financial transactions.

Hill says, “Helpouts are a new layer of e-commerce, ‘See-Commerce’ if you will. The difference between Helpouts and traditional Hangouts is there is a Google Wallet integration and customers have the ability now to pay for a service from within that Helpout.”

Marketing Using Helpouts

“Whether a marketing department should use Helpouts depends on the nature of the company’s core business. Marketing departments should ask themselves: What service about my product or business could I offer to the rest of the nation,” suggests Hill.

Trudeau thinks that marketing professionals need to look at Helpouts as another “channel” to reach their target audience. They first need to determine whether Helpouts will reach their intended audience, and then decide how they will “package” and price their offering.

In addition, “Helpouts are searchable, meaning, when you type in a search query in Google, you could see results pointing to Helpout sessions. My guess is that Google’s review ratings will play a strong role in ranking Helpout sessions in search results, i.e., the sessions with better reviews will raise to the top of search results. This is important for marketers,” says Trudeau.

Abramson believes that marketers can use Helpouts for remote pre-sales consultations and walk-throughs that can be conducted with groups where apps and services are shown off. It can bring the actual product owners closer to the potential users to gain real-time feedback and interaction.

He adds, “Helpouts are ideal for new product introductions as they allow prospects to discover more about the product or service in more complete ways. Prospects can ask questions, and the Helpouts can be recorded so others can view it later.”

“In admissions at Colgate, we are planning on using Helpouts to help parents and students understand the application process. Last year we did a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) about the admission’s process. This year, we plan to use Helpouts to help people in the same way,” says Matt Hames, manager of media communications at Colgate University.

To Charge or Not to Charge

Trudeau explains that a marketing department has three basic models to consider, they can: offer their expertise and charge for their services; offer free or paid support for their products; offer free information and advice that highlight their product(s).

If marketing decides to go with the first option, then they need to keep in mind that Google keeps 20 percent of their fees. Trudeau thinks that participants will be willing to pay for one-on-one attention to address their specific questions. But with free content readily available online, time will tell if personalized attention will command fee-based advice online.

If marketing goes with the second option, then people may be more inclined to purchase products knowing that they can get individualized support via Helpouts. Communicating this support option at purchase decision time will be crucial, warns Trudeau.

Last but not least, if marketing goes with the third option, it may give them the opportunity to connect with an audience that may seek out their product(s) and make a purchase after the Helpout.

Hill has another thing for marketers to consider. She says, “Offering your service for free can bombard your inbox with individuals wanting your service, so as a matter of supply and demand, you should seriously consider the consequences of offering a free Helpout as those sessions are indeed demands on your time. However, if your marketing department’s intent is simply to get individuals in the funnel and not as a money making endeavor, then a free Helpout is a great option.”

Abramson thinks, “Marketers should not charge for remote pre-sales consultations and walk-throughs. The idea is to service and support customers or prospective customers by being informational and demonstrative. Of course once it takes off, there can be a value added service offering based upon the same premise for more advanced discussions.”

Hames says, “We will never charge for Helpouts. Reddit, Hangouts and live chats are free, always will be.”

Legal Concerns

“Marketing should always be aware of legal and regulatory concerns as they always should avoid making false claims or misleading statements. The rule of thumb should be to never say or present anything that could come back to hurt you,” says Abramson.

Trudeau adds: “Certain professional services representatives may be excluded from using Helpouts due to state and federal laws. For instance, if lawyers want to charge for online advice, they must first contractually establish an attorney-client relationship, which would be impossible in Helpouts. If attorneys were to offer free advice online, they would need a fairly hefty disclaimer as dictated by the rules of their state bar. From a marketing standpoint, this may create a barrier to entry.”

“You must own the rights to the photos and videos used in the Helpout or the video trailer promoting your Helpout,” cautions Hill. “You have an option to decide whether to let your client record the Helpout. Both you and the client must agree to that recording and both of you get a copy of the video.”

Here are additional Terms of Service for Helpouts: bit.ly/18l0GoV

Have fun exploring Helpouts! Good luck!

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.

image via Flickr user emiliarossijewellery

3 Reasons Why Active Workforce Engagement is Good for Business

internal commsGallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace study finds that 70% of American employees are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work, costing the US $450-550 billion dollars annually. On the other hand, organizations in the top 25% of Gallup’s employee engagement database report significantly higher productivity, profitability, and customer ratings, than those in the bottom 25%. These startling results show that organizations need to improve the emotional connection between employees and their workplace through interactive communication.

Business Development Institute’s recent event “The Future of Internal Collaborations and Communications Summit” featured senior-level communications leaders who are challenging workforce disengagement. Their presentations offered creative, technology- driven solutions that enhance collaborative efforts among employees and improve business outcomes.

Active engagement enables collaboration around the globe

Trevor Loe, VP of compliance and investor services at Vintage Filings, explored the use of webcasting to communicate with internal stakeholders.  The ability to reach hundreds of employees anywhere in the world creates limitless possibilities for engagement. Webcasting can be especially effective for executive speeches with staff, employee training, and crisis management.

Active engagement increases an employee’s sense of worth and contribution

Patrick Durando, Principal at Enterprise Strategies, recognizes that employees are passionate about topics that may not be fitting for casual conversation. Internal company blogs are a valuable platform for expressing personal opinions about industry-related topics.

Nina Kelley-Rumpff, Program Manager and Knowledge Management at SAP, adds that enterprise social networks are a portal to the company’s skills and assets. “People want to be known for their expertise,” she says, “this gives them a vehicle to show what they know.”

Active engagement boosts performance outcomes

Jeff Corbin, Founder and CEO of theEMPLOYEEapp, believes that today’s costly apathy is due to the “struggle to communicate consistently and simultaneously with a workforce that is everywhere,” but the solution sits in the palm of our hand. As mobile engagement continues to rise at an astonishing rate, push notifications on apps cater to today’s on-the-go lifestyle and can reach target audiences at any time. Based on Gallup’s study, organizations that successfully engage employees and customers report a 240% boost in performance related business outcomes compared to organizations that don’t.

The discussions from “The Future of Internal Collaborations and Communications Summit” prove that there is a lot to be gained through active engagement in the workplace, and a lot to lose without it. Using social technology for internal collaboration can still have as much purpose in a professional setting as it does in our personal lives.  By fostering workplace engagement, companies are empowering their employees and creating a healthier work environment while driving business growth.

To learn more about the future of internal collaborations and communications, check out the presentation slides from the event’s remarkable speakers: http://www.cvent.com/events/the-future-of-collaboration-internal-communications-summit/event-summary-ca8eb79a547c42b6ac55955d22133e3f.aspx

Author Shannon Ramlochan is a proud Brooklyn native, a pop culture enthusiast, and a member of PR Newswire’s marketing team.

The Future of Collaboration and Internal Communications

Technology has drastically improved the way organizations communicate with internal stakeholders. The ability to transcend geographic boundaries through social channels has made collaboration more convenient and efficient than ever before. Business Development Institute’s upcoming event “The Future of Collaboration and Internal Communications  Summit” will explore how large organizations are incorporating technology to improve workforce productivity. Prior to the event, featured speaker Trevor Loe, VP of compliance and investor services at Vintage Filings, discussed the value of using social technology to strengthen internal communications.

Employees can share, receive, and digest information in a variety of ways

“Social channels allow people to pick the medium that works best for them, which is good because we all consume information in different ways,” says Mr. Loe. Webcasting, blogs, and Chatter are just a few of the channels that organizations are using to engage with internal audiences.

Social technologies are cost effective

Companies save substantially on travel costs by live-streaming presentations over the web. Additionally, the ability to share recorded presentations with employees overseas or out-of-office ensures that sensitive information is delivered in a timely manner.

Companies can customize social tools to meet their needs

Tools such as webcasting can be used for communicating new developments in a crisis, town hall meetings, or even continuing education courses. During his presentation, Mr. Loe will offer specific examples of companies that rely on social tools to communicate different messages.

Due to globalization and a rising number of home-based employees, technology has evolved to accommodate an increasingly virtual workforce. Large organizations can empower their employees by using social channels to improve internal communications. The variety of mediums available can be applied toward meeting specific needs such as real-time response to crises or career development. Sparking engagement amongst employees through social channels not only encourages productivity but also strengthens the employer brand.

Join us: 

To learn more about how social technology is improving internal communications, join PR Newswire and Business Development Institute for “The Future of Collaboration and Internal Communications Summit” on Tuesday, November 12th at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. Register here: http://www.cvent.com/events/internal-collaboration-social-communications-summit/event-summary-ca8eb79a547c42b6ac55955d22133e3f.aspx

3 Steps to Conquering the Challenges of Mergers and Acquisitions

Richard Funess of Finn Partners

Emerging technology has reinvented the way PR professionals approach visual storytelling, analytics, and events. Considering the rapid evolution of today’s media, Richard Funess, Senior Managing Partner at Finn Partners believes that “PR professionals have become more important to the corporate soul.”  lil tweet

Mr. Funess recently joined PR Newswire, the Business Development Institute, and an exclusive group of senior-level PR authorities for a Communications Roundtable discussion. The conversation focused on the impact of technology on mergers and acquisitions and how to overcome the challenges of a business in transition.

According to Mr. Funess, the most successful mergers and acquisitions occur within mid-sized firms whose revenues do not exceed $1 billion dollars. Smaller mergers can be a smoother adjustment for both employees and business development, but there are some inevitable challenges along the way. “The ability to create teams is the toughest part of acquisitions,” says Mr. Funess, “We are interested in the culture of the company we acquire. If they don’t see it in the same way, it is a tough part of a successful acquisition.” Several solutions were offered throughout the discussion to manage the impact of M&As on businesses:

1.       Assess the leadership integration and strength profile across organizations

Mr. Funess advises business leaders to have direct communication with key players of the rebranded organization. Discuss what makes them feel comfortable as employees and how their roles can be expanded. Additionally, arrange one-on-one meetings between employees of the same ranking to gauge what they can learn from each other and how to develop core messages together. Create an understanding that everyone is a vital part of the success of a new company culture.

2.       Bring in talent with skills you don’t have or who can improve the things you don’t do well

“Young people employed at Finn are opportunities to learn new technologies and work with employees to learn emerging parts of the business,” says Mr. Funess. Utilize the influx of advanced technical skills and creativity to bring in more opportunities for business growth.

3.       Build the brand reputation through media stories

Media stories are a legitimate source for communicating the company culture to stakeholders and the public. Mr. Funess strongly recommends participating in industry awards programs to help build the brand reputation. For example, Finn Partners was recently honored by the Holmes Report as the “Best Mid-Sized Agency to Work For,” which serves as a testament to their company values.

Internal and external communications should be repositioned to reflect the new company culture, which validates the role of PR as part of the “corporate soul.” Despite its obvious challenges, mergers and acquisitions are a valuable opportunity for organizations to connect with employees, re-evaluate their strengths, and apply newly acquired capabilities toward improvement.

Author Shannon Ramlochan is a proud Brooklyn native, a pop culture enthusiast, and a member of PR Newswire’s marketing team.

Data: The New Creative

What do you think of when you think CES? Gadgets, TVs, Cameras? Most of us do, but the panel assembled for the session on Contextual Media & Advertising was here to discuss the “now what?” of technology.

We have all of these screens, devices, and channels but how do we serve up what the audience wants? It became clear that these devices are giving communicators two things: a place to talk to us and a place to learn about us. Where we are, what we are doing, what price point is the threshold for an impulse purchase, what are we doing after we are served relevant content?

Harnessing that data to accurately communicate and serve up relevant and timely content is the holy grail. According to this panel, we are getting there, but haven’t cracked that code. We are no longer looking at the data as “good to know” historical information, but we are looking at that data to assist in more accurately guessing what comes next.

On a panel that was mostly media or media adjacent companies, there was a lone soldier of the “traditional” in Ellis Burgoyne, Chief Information Officer and Executive Vice President of the United States Postal Service.

It is with Burgoyne that I think the disruptive use of data in a creative way was most exemplified. He spoke of a world where the USPS could tell you what is in your mail box, a world where campaigns are hyper targeted to specific users at specific times in both digital and physical mediums. He also spoke about the ability to have print come to life.

Turns out that the USPS has partnered with Aurasma to create an augmented reality experience for direct mail, a true convergence of traditional and digital. (The video at the top of this post demonstrates some of the other augmented reality experiences Aurasma has developed.)

Burgoyne eloquently painted a picture of a person being alerted to a timely piece of mail that can be scanned to provide additional information revealing a time sensitive offer. Thus engaging with the consumer based on reliable data. The data telling when this person likes to shop, what type of device they use, what action was generated and ultimately how much that person spent. The consumer has a personalized experience and the marketer has a gold mine of information to help them accurately market to that individual.

A little creepy? Maybe, but how many of us get frustrated when we get served up irrelevant ads on our social sites? The only way to get accurate ads is to mine the data that we give when we are online and in store.

The conversation turned toward the success of data mining done by President Obama’s campaign. Joan Hogan Gillman, EVP, Time Warner Cable, Inc. and President, Time Warner Cable Media talked about the level of flexibility and creative pre-planning the campaign did so that they could adjust and adapt as the data streamed in.

Laura Caraccioli, EVP of Advertising at Electus, proposed why not share your data and insights with your creative team? Let them figure out how to design the campaign to adapt to how you want it to ebb and flow.

After sitting in that session it was apparent to me that if we aren’t contextualizing our data to the creative teams we are missing a huge opportunity.

May The Forces Be With You: Collaborative Communications

It’s not uncommon to hear about the difficulties communications silos create for an organization.  However, we don’t hear too much about the benefits derived from a collaborative communications environment. During a session with Nicole Ravlin of PMG Public Relations (@PMGNicole) at this year’s PRSA International Conference,  attendees heard about the importance she places on collaboration.

“It’s not about ownership any more but about collaboration,” she said.  By collaborating, you receive shared outcomes and shared rewards.    If the PR Deparment works with Marketing who works with whomever handles social media for your company, everyone will have a more unified message.  As a result, SEO increases, as does engagement.

Sometimes it is tough to convince management to do this since, they’re so used to traditional models, but taking baby steps may help.  After all, in today’s connected world, one department’s owned media can be the basis for generating another group’s earned media.

Speaking of engagement, Nicole reiterated the importance of all of us being publishers today.   I must agree that publishing intriguing content consistently has become important in today’s world of content marketing.  Nicole also suggested using customer engagement as content.  Consumers love to help in any way they can.  They like to get involved with a cause or watch a business grow.  Ask them what they want.

The bottom line, Nicole advised — listen to your customers and team up your internal resources to increase the effectiveness of your marketing and communications strategy.

Sara Whitner is a business development manager for PR Newswire.

Collaboration is key for modern PR.  What else characterizes our profession today?  Tell us what you think PR is by tweeting with the hashtag “#PRis.”