Tag Archives: content marketing

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.

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


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 

Turning Webinars into Real-Time Content & Market Intel

The 19 pieces of content you can wrest from a webinar, courtesy of Readytalk's Bo Bandy.

The 19 pieces of content you can wrest from a webinar, courtesy of Readytalk’s Bo Bandy.

Every content marketer has their favorite go-to tactics, and almost all will share one in common – deriving content from content.   In my hands, a simple blog post can spawn a press release, a slide deck and a host of tweets, posts, shares and updates.  However, I’ve got nothing on Bo Bandy, Readytalk’s manager of marketing communications.   I joined her on a webinar titled Maximizing the Impact of Webinars as a Lead Gen Channel  last week, and I think I learned as much as any of the attendees.

According to Bandy, a simple webinar can be the basis for as many as 19 subsequent pieces of content.


I’ll admit that I goggled a bit when I saw that number, and I wondered if she was spreading things a bit thin.  It turns out she wasn’t.  She has some great ideas for capturing and atomizing the content a webinar produces, many of which were new to me.

In particular, she offered some ideas I hadn’t considered, including:

  • Creating a short video snippet from the recorded webinar that captures some key segments, and posting that on YouTube
  • Editing the transcript, and turning it into an ebook (use slides and surveys to illustrate)
  • Survey attendees during the webinar, and create an infographic with that data (or even follow on discussion) after the event.

Propel Growth’s Candyce Edelen advises us to use every part of the buffalo” to cost-effectively create volumes of content to feed the “content beast.”

Bandy’s approach reminds me of the “Content Buffalo,” an idea propagated by Candyce Edelen , CEO of PropelGrowth, a content marketing firm specializing in the financial services sector, which encourages marketers to make use of every piece of the content and not let anything go to waste.

Adapting that mindset to the real-time opportunities and intelligence one can clean from a webinar presents the content marketer with a rich source of content ideas.

  • For every case of writer’s block, there’s probably a topic from the Q&A that deserves some expansion.
  • Mine the related Twitter stream. Notice which ideas gained traction, thoughtful feedback and (again) questions that can be answered.

In mapping out our plans for webinars here at PR Newswire, we’ve done a pretty good job of building in pre-event promotion (blog posts, press releases, social media mentions, speaker engagement) but admittedly, I’ve not been taking full advantage of the real-time, market intelligence webinars provide.    Many thanks to Bo and Candyce, two smart new friends with boundless good ideas!

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of the e-book “Unlocking Social Media for PR.”  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik

3 Imperatives for Healthcare Communicators Managing Industry Change (& Lessons for the Rest of Us)

Keynote speaker Paul Matsen of Cleveland Clinic.

Keynote speaker Paul Matsen of Cleveland Clinic.

The sold-out Future of Healthcare Communications Summit held last week in New York and jointly hosted by PR Newswire and the Business Development Institute focused on the major challenges posed by the Affordable Care Act to American healthcare providers.  According to Ray Kerins (@RayKerins), senior vice president and head of communications & public affairs at Bayer Corporation, the healthcare industry currently suffers from a lack of open dialogue and major distrust amongst patients towards healthcare systems. Three major recurring themes throughout the summit offered inventive solutions for mending fragmented relationships between healthcare providers and their patients:

1.       Reform negative public opinion toward healthcare systems

A troubling observation presented by Kerins showed that none of the top ten companies on Forbes’ 2013 List of the World’s Most Admired Companies is a healthcare provider. Kerins believes that in order for healthcare communicators to “recapture the brilliance of the industry,” they must re-examine mistakes made in the past to avoid repetition and engage with stakeholders.

Paul Matsen (@pgmat), chief marketing and communications officer at Cleveland Clinic, discussed five marketing strategies executed at Cleveland Clinic to help transform negative public opinion. While the clinic upheld a legacy as a prominent referral center, it was widely perceived as being inaccessible. In addition to the “Same-Day Appointments” program, Cleveland Clinic differentiates itself by helping physicians patent their intellectual property to build start-up companies and form alliances. Through access, alliances, targeting, engagement, and a branded patient experience, Cleveland Clinic was re-established as a leader in world class care. 

2.       Create content for multiple channels

David Blair (@drblair1), head of industry for health at Google, reported that

David Blair of Google delivered a look into the future of healthcare technology.

David Blair of Google delivered a look into the future of healthcare technology.

90% of all consumption is screen based, with 77% of consumers relying on screen technologies for health information. In fact, an astounding 7 billion searches on Google are specific to health conditions. According to Blair, the proliferation of screens has empowered patients, creating a need for branded experiences within multiple contexts. “We live in a constantly connected world of moments,” he explains, “Think of your brand message as liquid content; you want to flow to every device at any time.” A fascinating adoption of multi-channel health content occurred this year when UCLA live-tweeted a brain surgery for the first time using Twitter’s vine app.

Monique Levy (@monlevy), vice president of research at Manhattan Research, supports the notion of multi-format engagement. A Manhattan Research study concluded that the amount of time consumers spend searching for material depends on the type of device being used. While smartphones supply “quick hit information,” tablets and desktops are used for “lean back learning.” The results emphasize a need for appropriately formatted content for each type of communications device.


3. Personalize engagement with customers 

While some consider press releases to be old-fashioned, they are still regarded as a highly dependable source of information. Gil Bashe (@Gil_Bashe), EVP and health practice director at Makovsky, refers to a Makovsky-Kelton Health Info Study which found that company press releases have higher trust amongst patients than company websites or social media.

Mike Slone (@MikeSlone17), design director at Eliza Corporation, believes that disengaging marketing tactics like charts and brochures have steered patients away from building trust with healthcare providers. Instead, Eliza Corporation developed a vulnerability index (VI) which uses survey data to quantify the impact of everyday stress factors. A high VI score indicates an increased risk of developing health issues likes diabetes, depression, and heart disease. To promote healthy living, ad campaigns address daily anxieties with humor, such as “Exercise to Avoid Punching Your Boss in the Face.” Slone says that health communication is “not just about health, but about the quality of life you live.”

There’s no question the Affordable Care Act is changing access to and the delivery of health care in the US, and represents a sea-change for the industry.  The imperative for communicators as they navigate these changes is clear – brands and organizations must both listen and speak to their audiences.  Messaging needs to address the questions and concerns of the constituents, not paper them over with brochures.   The common thread in the advice from the speakers was the focus on the audience, a good guide for any marketing or PR professional steering message strategy through uncertain waters.

Author Shannon Ramlochan is a member of PR Newswire’s marketing team. 

5 PR Tactics You Can Use to Promote Events & Webinars

rt reg pageWhile live events and webinars are generally thought of as marketing activities, designed for the purpose of generating leads, the promotion of these events has some real similarities to launching a PR campaign.  By pulling a few pages from the PR playbook,  an organization can increase awareness of an interest in the event among a qualified audience.

A good way to frame promotional messaging – whether you’re creating a blog post or doing a press release about the event – is to focus on the who, what, where, when, why and how of the event.   Answering the following questions within your messaging will help you attract the right audience, and inspire them to action.

  • Who:     Who is the target audience?  Relevance matters in today’s environment.   Keep your target audience firmly in mind and draft your communications to appeal to them.  Trying to appeal to a very broad audience may water down your message to the point where it’s simply not interesting to anyone.
  • What:    What will the audience gain by participating?  In return for their time and attention, your event needs to deliver key information to the audience. Clearly describe what the participants will get from the event.  Tactical tips?   Exclusive access to a luminary?   This is a key component of the value proposition of the event.
  • Where & When & How:    These are easy and obvious – clearly, your audience needs to know when to show up.  Eliminate any confusion by listing all time zones, so it’s easy for your audience to check availability, and include links to the registration page toward the top of your message.   Saying “yes, I’ll sign up,” should be easy as pie.
  • Why:     Why should I bother taking an hour out of my busy day to listen?  As your event draws nearer, your potential audience’s days get more crowded.  Competition for their attention increases, even if they already had your event on their calendar.   Answering the “why” question will help  reinforce the decision the audience members made when they signed up for the event initially.

Are you charged with lead generation for your organization?  Do you need to up the “net new names” numbers in your dB?   We all know events are a great way to introduce your brand to new audiences, but in order to do so, word of the event has to spread far and wide, finding engaged niche groups.    Learn how to drive that essential discovery of your event messages, and how fully leverage the content your events generate, on a webinar titled “Maximizing the Impact of Webinars as a Lead Gen Channel,” Tuesday July 30,  at 1 ET/12 CT/ 11 MT/ 10 CT, with me and Readytalk’s manager of marketing communications Bo Bandy.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of the e-book “Unlocking Social Media for PR.”  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik