Tag Archives: content marketing

The Evolution of Digital Communications

Communications  Roundtable Brian CohenAs content marketing blossoms into a multi-billion dollar industry, the competition for standing out becomes even more of a struggle. Social media, the 24-hour news cycle, and mobile connectivity have all contributed to our shortened attention spans and frustrations with filtering the noise to find the information that is most relevant to us. So how is digital communications evolving to help organizations get their messages effectively heard by the audiences who want to hear them? Brian Cohen, co-founder of Launch.it sat down with PR Newswire’s SVP of Marketing, Ken Wincko, to discuss opportunities for innovation in PR and marketing.

PR journalism and the evolution of press releases

A recent study sponsored by InPowered and conducted by Nielsen, found that earned media provides more benefit to brands than user generated or branded content. Given the shift towards third party content as more credible and trustworthy, Cohen believes that PR is entering a new era which he refers to as, “PR Journalism.”

According to Cohen, while the authenticity and opportunities related to earned media are clear, journalists are simply unable to cover all the news that is available to them.  Therefore, press releases are becoming the trusted third party stories that reach consumers directly.  “The stories that are being read through news releases are written by great writers who are now comprised of roughly 40 percent ex-journalists,” says Cohen, “now PR folks are talking directly to the same people they were talking to before, just through a more direct medium.”

Content creation and the rise of event marketing  

Cohen believes that the greatest opportunities ahead lie within the events industry, which has grown more innovative and tech-savvy thanks to the accessibility of content on mobile devices. Now, events themselves are only the pique of year-long content marketing campaigns. “Event marketers are taking advantage of the lack of publications in their trade markets that have disappeared,” explains Cohen, “now, we’re seeing the event industry say ‘you know what? We’re going to be the publication.We don’t want it just to be January 3 to January 5, we want the event to be about the concept.’” Mobile devices and the content created around the event act as a guide to lead conference attendees to the information that is the most important to them.

The art of discovery

“I can’t boil the ocean, but I can try to do the best that I can to make sure that content is discovered, found, and shared“ says Cohen, “Google search is one thing, but what we’re actually involved in, in our world where there is so much information, is finding things you didn’t even know you were looking for.” Herein lies the importance of distributing content across a variety of channels, as discoverability essentially lays the groundwork for building trust. Cohen predicts that aiding discoverability is one of the strongest opportunities for innovating new products for integrated communications.

PR pros and marketers are admittedly still adapting to changes in technology and public media consumption behaviors, but one thing is certain: communicators should make driving discovery of content by new audiences a priority in order to build relationships for the brands they represent. Simply put, relying on your own blog, web site or social channels to share your messages can limit the audience for your brand’s content. However, ensuring that your messages reach the audiences that they are intended for, and are found by new prospects, is what will lead to measureable outcomes for your business.

ShannonAuthor Shannon Ramlochan is PR Newswire’s Content Marketing Coordinator.  

Content We Love: A Lesson in Education Reform and Press Release Writing

ContentWeLove

Click here to view the entire press release

Click here to view the entire press release

As public relations evolves from a segmented business practice into an integral tactic of marketing and sales strategies, press releases have advanced as a tool to support these new relationships. In a recent announcement titled, “BBVA Compass economists say U.S. should adopt national curriculum in education overhaul,” economic research company BBVA Compass aptly demonstrates what a modern day press release that gets results should look like; one that is written and formatted in a way that creates several opportunities for the audience to engage and interact with their content in order to drive ongoing visibility for their message and establish trust with the organization.

A hard hitting headline and lead instantly presents the story angle and demands attention. Education reform continues to be a hotly debated topic in the United States, and BBVA seizes the opportunity to share their expertise. They have immediately provided a strong story angle for journalists to cover and earn media attention for their cause.

Visuals explain a complex issue in an understandable and emotionally engaging way. In the embedded YouTube video, BBVA Compass economist, Kim Fraser, exercises her thought-leadership on the issue while bringing sincerity and humanity to the message.  Its hi-res quality makes it readily available for broadcast media pick up, while allowing the message to extend to all social media channels where audiences are engaging mostly with visual content.

A call to action in first paragraph quickly leads to reader towards the intended goal of the message, which is to showcase the findings of a study that sheds light on the current challenges of the public education system while establishing BBVA as a trusted source of economic research.

Finally, the release provides an additional opportunity for engagement by inviting interested audiences to a web conference and Q&A session, further driving the discoverability of BBVA Compass in search results and credibility of the organization among the public.

BBVA Compass showcases the dynamic capabilities of a press release to spread awareness of a message in all relevant spaces, fostering a direct and emotional connection to the audience, and building trust with the public. Congratulations to BBVA Compass on an excellent release!

ShannonAuthor Shannon Ramlochan is PR Newswire’s Content Marketing Coordinator. Follow her on Twitter @sramloch. 

Strategic PR Can Lead to Strong SEO

SEO has finally matured. It is no longer about tricks, games and hats of black and white. SEO is now about broader business strategies that take careful planning and time to execute. It’s about your PR approach and your content marketing. It is about excellent user experience and creating content people will want to share.

Conference organizers and former presidents of DFWSEM: @dansturdivant @marksbarrera @seanthinks @tonynwright

Conference organizers and former presidents of DFWSEM: @dansturdivant @marksbarrera @seanthinks @tonynwright

I recently attended the DFWSEM State of Search conference in Dallas, and what stood out most clearly at the end of the day was that wise PR strategies can have excellent effect on a site’s SEO.

“Make friends with PR,” said speaker Wil Reynolds. “Follow PR’s influencers and map the keywords that are important to them.”

Brand recognition and a keen understanding of a brand’s influencers can be leveraged for search optimization efforts, and that’s an area of expertise for PR professionals.

There’s no SEO bag of tricks any longer. Major search engines like Google and Bing are not favoring content that is keyword stuffed or optimized with hidden text.

Strategic branding and influencer engagement will pay off in the long run with quality links and social sharing that send strong signals to the search engines.

Relevant and timely content such as social posts, blog posts, multimedia and well-crafted press releases can lure and engage your audience.

Done well, “content brings them in , educates them, then keeps them engaged even after conversion,” said speaker John Doherty.

Just remember to make it super easy for your audience to share your content. “Social signals are expert signals to search engines,” according to Bing’s Duane Forrester.

And let us not forget about media pickup which can result in powerful earned links and quality traffic back to your site or product page. Concentrate on getting more buzz and authority for your brand.

“PR is how content marketing works,” said Sean Jackson. “Get your name out there!”

To sum things up, here are some action items for improved SEO (note that the top three were Duane Forrester’s top three focus recommendations):

  • Quality content: Create well-crafted content to lure quality traffic and social shares.
  • User experience (UX): Provide your audience with excellent user experience. Not only is it good for your visitors but it’s a signal search engines are watching.
  • Social Media: Create useful and sharable content to inspire tweets and other social posts that send strong positive signals to search engines.
  • Branding: Build brand awareness and authority.
  • Discoverability: Write content that people can find. Use keywords appropriately and make sure you distribute content to places where people will be seeking it.
  • Sharing: Make the sharing of your content super easy. This affects both traffic and SEO.
  • Media pick-up: Earning media pick-up can translate into very valuable links and quality traffic.

All of the above can and should involve the expertise of your PR department. To be sure, SEO is now a long game that requires strategic planning. No quick tricks, but lots of devotion put into building your brand, finding your audience and offering useful content people will want to share.

Victoria HarresVictoria Harres is VP, Audience Development & Social Media at PR Newswire and the original voice behind @PRNewswire. She speaks and writes about social media, PR and marketing…and occasionally SEO.

3 Ways Digital Communications Can Build Trust in Financial Services

Greg Matusky discusses the "5 C's of Trusted Content" at BDI's Future of Financial Services Communications event

Greg Matusky discusses the “5 C’s of Trusted Content”

The 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer reports that financial service is globally considered the least trustworthy industry. While the industry’s reputation is still in recovery from the 2008 economic crisis, digital communication is creating new opportunities for building credibility and authenticity. Business Development Institute’s recent event “The Future of Financial Services Communications” presented case studies from emerging financial leaders that prove the effectiveness of using technology to strengthen customer relationships. The discussions offered several communications tactics that financial institutions can incorporate to build trust and loyalty among existing and potential clients.

Employ social media as a targeting tool

A case study by Actiance Inc. found that LinkedIn is now the #1 sales pitching tool among top sales reps. Actively participating in social media gives sales reps a higher competitive advantage than those who don’t due to the high engagement levels and greater reach on these channels. The ability to leverage connections, research prospects, and participate in relevant group discussions has evolved the traditional “cold call” pitch and enforces customer loyalty. Social media engagement also humanizes the brand in a genuine way.

Build a sense of community between the business and clients

“Finance should be viewed more as a community than a commodity” says CommonBond Co-Founder David Klein, “what will distinguish the winners from the losers is not necessarily building a community, but a community people want to belong to.” Commonbond’s unique approach to student lending has made education more accessible to those who wish to pursue an MBA degree without the fear of loans with high interest rates. During a time when students are facing enormous debt, the company has established trust with their clients by providing attentive customer service and hosting professional networking events.

Noah Breslow, CEO at OnDeck, explains how embracing cutting edge technology helped OnDeck improve the relationship small business owners have with their lenders.  Traditional lending models that require customers to acquire a loan in person do not cater to business owners in remote geographic locations. OnDeck’s mobile and electronic payment system is revolutionizing the industry by providing access, convenience, speed and service to clients in all locations. While some customers still feel skeptical about electronic transactions, the company has built trust by creating an open dialogue with their audience’s preferred social networks, such as Yelp. Customer testimonials on these channels resonate more effectively than typical marketing tactics because as Breslow says, “Small business owners trust other small business owners more than you.”

Share consistent and relevant content

“Content bridges the digital divide between businesses and consumers” says Greg Matusky, President and Founder of Gregory FCA. Establishing the brand as a thought leader in financial services will build credibility among customers. In addition to credibility, Matusky’s “5 C’s of Trusted Content” also include compassion, creativity, contemporary, and compliance.

When it comes to digital communications, financial service providers face the unique struggle of maintaining relevant conversations while abiding by compliance laws. The lengthy approval process required for every tweet is incompatible with today’s demand for instant news. While it will take some time for financial services to adjust their approach to compliance, a more viable solution is to generate earned media as a method for creating trust with stakeholders. Developing high-quality resources that are shareable will accumulate audience attention over time and continuously spark conversation, thus building a community around your content and earning further credibility for your brand.

To learn more about developing content to build credibility among target audiences, check out the blog post “Creating an Effective Brand Experience on Social Networks.”

Shannon Ramlochan is PR Newswire’s Content Marketing Coordinator. Follow her on Twitter @sramloch.

PR Trends for 2014: Focused Content & Multiple Formats Appeal to Niche Audiences

pr trends 14It’s that time of year when we start to reflect upon the past and consider the future, and take stock of our personal skills and development. The significant changes in the digital media environment that are so instrumental in shaping public opinion today require us, as communicators, to continually update and refresh our strategies and tactics.

Here some PR trends we’re seeing for the coming year.

Niche amplification: As of this writing, Google’s revenues are greater than the US newspaper and magazine markets – combined – and their business is built on delivering niche information.   And social signals play an important role in how Google (and other search engines) categorize information – in fact, according to the latest data I could find, eight of the top ten factors Google uses to index information are derived from social interaction.

All that orange at the top of the graph signifies the role social media play in informing search results.

What does all this mean?  Simply put, it means that digital audiences are drivers of message visibility, and generating interaction around messages – likes, shares, tweets, pins and clicks on links – are crucial components of digital visibility today. lil tweet

To generate the authentic sort of interest among audiences who care, communicators are driving deep into niche interests.  They’re not targeting the top 100 food bloggers, for example, for a pitch about gluten-free ingredients.  Instead, they’re drilling into the gluten-free community, identifying and connecting with active and well-connected members of that group. Additionally, communicators are doing something else.  They are crafting increasingly ….

Focused content designed to engage audiences, not just media and influencers:  From Google’s emphasis on conversational search to the strength of niche magazine sales, one thing is clear: tightly focused content is eagerly consumed by audiences, especially when it offers unique insight or real utility.

What does this mean for PR pros?  Audiences are telling us what they’re interested in and what they value, and this intelligence creates an important contextual framework for a variety of communications, from the pitch to the press release.

new school banner

This means framing messaging in the context of the audiences’ interest, in the form of answers to their questions, solutions to their problems and advice that ultimately makes their lives better – whether it makes a job easier, a hobby more fulfilling or a cause more compelling.   This trend – the development of more focused content, is also having an impact more broadly as …

PR teams are publishers & creators of more owned content:  One could argue that the definition of newsworthiness has changed, as media outlets are changing up their model and chasing the digital golden rings – namely, larger audiences and more web site traffic.    In addition to emphasizing stories designed to grab public attention (such as CNN’s spectacularly comprehensive coverage of Miley Cyrus’ performance at the Video Music Awards), journalists and bloggers are actively curating content on social networks, working to bolster their own social media presences, as well as those of the outlets they represent.   As a result, the digital news hole is huge, and outlets are very willing to reference owned content, including market research or user surveys.   A few years, ago, a PR team probably would not have dreamed of pitching these kinds of content, but in reality, company data can offer insight and provide significant story opportunities.   Savvy PR teams can work with their marketing counterparts to acquire rich visuals they can repurpose to add richness to a pitch, and they also know content that may not make the cut for a column or show can still gain exposure if an influencer shares it with his or her followers.  To maximize a message’s potential; communicators are grasping another trend, which is …

Employing multiple message formats & content distribution channels: It’s a rare campaign that doesn’t have multiple news hooks or angles, and it’s a rare audience that is found in just one place.   To ensure maximum uptake of a message, public relations professionals are increasingly employing a variety of message formats, and they’re deploying this content across multiple channels.  Done well, this approach does two things – it acquires new audiences for the organization, and encourages deeper engagement from the audience.   Delivering content across multiple channels is a sure-fire way to bring messages to new audiences, as long as the communicators behind the message are sure to synch the content with each audience. And employing a variety of formats – short form video, long form text, illustrative infographics, snackable posts and pithy tweets – ensures that people will find content in the format that is most appealing to them – which is the first step in building engagement.

Measurement of outcomes not outputs It wouldn’t be a PR trends report without a reference to measurement, but this year, there’s a twist.  Marketers are growing more and more adept at measuring campaigns, channels, messages and outcomes, and that’s increasing the pressure on PR to tighten the screws on the key performance indicators we use to describe our work.   The nails are in the coffins of the equivalency metrics (such as ad value equivalencies, or worse, ad cost equivalencies) as communicators are learning to correlate message outcomes and interactions across channels, and are developing the ability to connect message reads and interactions directly with the marketing funnel and lead-generation databases within the organization.

PR is a bigger job than ever before, and the profession is growing in rigor.   What’s on your radar screen as you head into 2014?

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the newly-published ebook  Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Interest vs Attention. Which is Your Goal?

int attnA conversation I had with a peer yesterday got me thinking about press release outcomes, specifically, generating interest versus generating attention.

My colleague, a senior VP at an integrated communications agency, was telling me about a news release his PR team wrote, promoting a presentation he was giving at an industry event.  Instead of leading with his name, or some discussion around the topic, the lead sentence they employed was a jargon-heavy corporate positioning statement.

He pushed back, asking why the release was emphasizing a specific keyword phrase, rather than the topic of the presentation, which was strongly related to the agency’s business.  The answer – they were trying to seed awareness of that particular keyword phrase, in conjunction with the brand.

Generating attention means nothing if audience doesn’t take a next step lil tweet

Again he pushed back, arguing variously that the phrase was an obscure one nobody used (and thus, not useful from an SEO standpoint), the lead paragraph was fantastically boring and no one would read enough of the release to get to the core message, that they were missing the opportunity to connect with the people who were interested in the the timely topic his presentation was addressing and finally, by not highlighting involvement with the conference, the message was failing to leverage the significant attention the event was generating.  He didn’t win, and the team lost the opportunity to position the brand as a thought leader around a key industry topic, and to garner additional credibility on the subject through their involvement at a big industry confab.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Because the headline and lead paragraph didn’t reference the interesting topic, the content wasn’t indexed under that valuable key phrase in search engines. 

As a result the agency was absent from search results pertaining to that hot topic.

Which meant that people overlooking information on that topic didn’t consider that agency.

And that means they lost business.

Oh, and because the lead was boring, people wouldn’t continue to read past the first few words of the awful lead. 

Which means they wouldn’t share the content on social networks, thus hiding the message from view of all the people sharing content from the event.

Fewer people went to his session.  The agency saw its ROI diminish from its investment in the conference.

The focus of that press release should have been promoting the brand’s leadership on a key issue, using the presentation and the conference as the hook, not upon building association with an obscure term no one uses  for the brand name.

Words mean things, and nowhere is that more true than in the communications we craft for the brands and organizations we represent.   And more than meaning, words inform search engines and spark social conversation – the kind that can amplify messages and win new relevant and valuable attention for the company – the sort of attention that turns into active interest on the part of the audience.

Simply put, attention isn’t worth much if the audience isn’t inspired to take a next step.  “Seeding awareness” of a phrase in conjunction with a brand name is the kind of objective that is impossible to measure, and is frankly of dubious value.    As we craft press releases and other messages, we need to be deliberately building interest, and focusing on leveraging the attention we create into real benefit for our brands.

Turning attention into interest starts with driving the discovery of your brand’s content.  Join us Tuesday, November 19, for a webinar on the topic of content discovery.   You’ll learn how to craft messages that will resonate with new, relevant audiences and will generate better results for your campaigns.

Free webinar registration: Connecting Messages with Audiences: Tips & Tactics for Driving Content Discovery 

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

Content [Creators] We Love: LEVICK’s Peter LaMotte

ContentWeLoveAt PR Newswire, we are fortunate to be a part of some of the most cutting edge and engaging content creation programs being executed across any number of industries.   We are fascinated by the way these stories are changing the communications landscape and sharing them is another way we can give back to the industry professionals that we work with everyday day.

levick lamotteOne of the firms we’ve seen go through a major evolution in how they tell their personal brand story – and the stories of their clients – is longtime PR Newswire client, LEVICK.    We sat down with Levick’s Peter LaMotte, SVP and Chair, Digital Communications Practice to pick his brain on the changes that Levick has undergone over the last year and his mindset around content creation.

Q:  Peter, your background has been primarily in the start-ups and online firms – what brought you to Levick?

Peter LaMotte:  When Levick approached me, they gave me a great opportunity to not only drive, but to craft what the firm’s digital presence would be.  About a year ago, Levick went through a massive rebrand and I saw a phenomenal opportunity to work with a well-respected, traditional communications company as it evolved into a more digitally focused firm.  I couldn’t pass up the opportunity and I feel like my role still has an entrepreneurial feel to it.

levick

Q: Tell us a little bit about the Levick brand evolution and your approach to telling stories.

Peter: Coming from the start-up world where no one has heard of you, I had learned very quickly that it is about drawing people to your content, not just sticking yourself into the conversation.  All too often, no matter the medium -a digital advertising campaign or traditional communications outreach to influencers –  a traditional communications is simply pushing content that isn’t relevant.   We have to start by understanding the trends of what is engaging to the influencers and audience members to get them to come to us.

Levick has always focused on promoting not only our thought leadership, but also our clients’ thought leadership.   Levick has always done a good job of producing frequent, high-quality video around thought leadership and industry topics.   In the digital practice, we’ve focused on bringing these tactics to our clients.  This has helped us expand the Levick brand from just being the experts you want to have in the boardroom when there is a litigation or a crisis communications issue to make us a resource for getting the word out around issues and topics that matter to our clients.  It’s a step in helping us demonstrate that we are a well-rounded shop that can assist with any communications objective.

levick monthly

The new Levick Monthly is a rich-media, thought-leadership monthly publication launching in November.

Q:  What platforms are you using to tell these stories and how do you see these growing?

Peter:  From a digital perspective, we are using a lot of the usual platforms to tell our story and  engage with our stakeholders:  the usual social media channels, blogs, digital advertising and thought leadership – both in video and whitepaper forms.

We aggregate this content into our Levick Daily blog with the goal of creating a steady flow of content that will be of value to the readers as thought leadership.  Not all of the content on Levick Daily is created by us.  A lot of what we is content created by our clients or friends of the firm – but it remains relevant to the audience we’re trying to engage.   The medium is important as well – a good amount of the content is video in addition to text and other content.

While we’ve had great success and engagement from this approach, we also need to stay cutting edge in our delivery of the content.  That was the intention behind the development of our Levick Monthly E-Publication/Magazine, slated for November. No one else in the communications industry is doing a rich-media, thought-leadership monthly publication – and we’re excited to see how our audience engages and consumes it.

Q: Levick generates a metric ton of content.  What advice can you provide to help create content that generates engagement?

Peter:  The words “Content is King” have been thrown around every conference for some time now.  However, there is so much content out there now being produced by brands and agencies, that in order to stand out, the content has to be fresh and it has to be timely.

We subscribe to the idea of the “Urgency of Now”.  If there is an issue or a topic in the news, you have to be able to get that content out and to market immediately.  You have to get your content out there fast – if there is a topic that people care about today, don’t expect that they will be nearly as likely to care about it tomorrow.   There’s always an opportunity to attach more evergreen topics to that timely content – but if you lead about people care about today, you are more likely to find success.

There is also something to be said for simplicity.  Traditionally, thought leadership content was long form.  But more and more audiences are turning to short form videos and other mediums to get their information on a topic.  We see this trend with CEOs and executives and how they consume content. While lawyers and regulators might prefer exhaustive, longer-form content, minute long videos or other condensed versions likely will resonate better.

Q:  When your setting expectations on a project for a client how do you set expectations?

Peter:  When I’m working with clients, it really is about starting every project with a clear idea of what the client is trying to accomplish.  It’s really important for us to educate our clients on reaching out past the primary target audience especially in regard to journalists.   Good content should be targeted at the audience to be reached in order to meet their goals – but it won’t be limited to your target audience and can be used by any periphery audience in the future.  The content helps tell the organizational story once it is out there, and sometimes success can be found in different ways than the simple metrics of views and shares.

I think the biggest successes we have had with our clients are the times we’ve pushed them a little out of their comfort zone and taken on a project that has seemed ambitious to them.  Once we’re able to execute, these projects tend to turn into the type of results that allow us to deem a campaign or piece of content successful.

Q: What is your favorite part of your job?

Peter:  I love the pace of change in the digital marketing and communications field.  I don’t know if I could work in an industry that was the same as it was 2 years ago.  I love being able to learn every day and work with and hire people that can teach me.

You can follow Peter on twitter at @PeterLaMotte and check out the new Levick Monthly in the Insights section of the Levick web site.

Author Daniel Watson (@danielchwatson) is an account manager with PR Newswire, and is based in our DC office.