Tag Archives: content marketing

8 Ways Law Firms (& Other Professional Services Companies) Can Use the Internet to Attract New Clients

legal marketingBefore moving into my current role as Chief Commercial Officer for PR Newswire, I worked for seven years as an M&A associate at two multinational law firms and then spent six years dealing with law firms (small and large) in my role as General Counsel for a large media group.   I have a unique perspective, having been involved in every aspect of law firm marketing, including:

  • Marketing to clients
  • Being marketed to, and
  • Marketing to law firms as a vendor, encouraging use of PR Newswire’s marketing & communications services.

I am passionate about law firm marketing because on the whole, law firms do a poor job of leveraging the tools available to them to drive business.  So, without further ado, here are my eight tips aimed at helping law firms optimize their online marketing efforts:

Your Website

A law firm’s website serves two purposes. It enables clients and others to find information about the firm and it also is the hub of a firm’s marketing activities.  Any marketer will tell you that your target audiences will spend more time on your site and click more often if your site contains multimedia elements, such as videos, photos and charts. Sadly, many law firm sites do not contain any of these elements (other than pictures of lawyers).  Blending the About Us section of your website with your News & Events content enables the firm to engage in brandstreaming (i.e. developing an ongoing flow of useful information that attracts potential clients and ultimately differentiates your firm from competitors while at the same time building authority and goodwill for your brand with the audience.)

Content Marketing

It is critical that a firm, regardless of whether it is small or large, engage in thought leadership activities online.  This includes publishing articles, white papers, webinars, short videos, etc. that address the questions and concerns your potential customers may have, and thus building credibility with this audience.  Law firms do a decent job of this, but the problem is that a significant part of the universe to which the relevant firm is marketing itself will never see this content.  That is because a very large majority of the content that law firms creates is placed on their website and maybe distributed to their email lists (i.e. a known audience).  In order to successfully drive more leads and clients, firms need to amplify what they are doing to their known audiences by distributing their content throughout earned, paid and owned media. Email, broadcast and print advertising can be effective, but they are that much more effective when the relevant content is distributed to numerous other relevant sites online.  This makes the content more discoverable.

Influencer Engagement

Bloggers and journalists produce content for communities that follow them.  Each of these bloggers and journalists owns a small piece or real estate online that is trafficked by interested parties.  By engaging with influencers, a firm is able to rent a portion of this real estate so that it can establish itself with the relevant audience.  How can a firm do this?  Well clearly, using a credible third-party distribution service helps because journalists and bloggers need content and are more likely to use content from a reliable source.  Another tactic is to use platforms that get experts (i.e. attorneys) quoted by relevant journalists and bloggers.

Testing

One of the most popular tactics being used by marketing teams is A/B testing of their online environments.  This involves serving up two or three different treatments of a webpage to an audience and then determining which of these treatments is most likely to cause the relevant audience to take the action that the firm wants them to take (downloading a white paper, watching a video, attending a webinar, reaching out to a specific attorney, etc.).

Social Media

Like most lawyers, I have control issues.  Giving up control by posting something in social media can be scary.  That said, more and more firms are doing it, especially to establish their attorneys as thought leaders.  Your clients and potential clients are on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and social media is often the best way to engage with them and establish yourself as the go to person on a topic.  There are many ways to increase your followers on social networks.

Driving Traffic Through Distribution

The adage “If you build it, they will come,” doesn’t apply to your web site, and when it comes to delivering your message to new audiences, your email list won’t fill the bill.  So how do you get the message out to the broader universe?  In addition to the social media tactics above, positioning the firm as a credible media source and distributing press releases  announcing the availability of new studies, articles or other materials will put your content on the virtual information map, and ensure it’s seen by broader audience.  Keep in mind that you can also distribute other sorts of timely commentary, which leads us to the next tip:

Newsjacking

Whether it be a key Supreme Court decision or some other event, things are happening every day that provide an opportunity for a firm to share its perspective and expertise.  We have seen many firms jump in on issues such as Obamacare, new tax laws, the fiscal cliff, gun control, etc.  By engaging in newsjacking, the firm is able to draft off of an event to accelerate its Marketing efforts and drive more leads.  And the beauty of this is that so long as the quality of the content is high, a small firm can be just as effective as a large firm.

Search Engines

I saved this one for last, for a reason.  And no, I’m not talking about spending a fortune on targeted ad-word buys.  One of the biggest benefits of publishing the content and fostering the interactions mentioned above is the fact that these activities can have a powerful impact on your web site’s organic search rank.   Providing fresh and current information gives search engines incentive to come back to your site repeatedly, and social interactions send potent signals to the search engines indicating people are finding the content useful.  Because the majority of internet searchers choose to click on organic links rather than sponsored ads within their search results,  it is easy to see why getting your firm onto the first page of search results is important.

So if you want to increase your client base, a good place to start is your web site.  As you develop and publish content to your site, use social media, press releases and multimedia elements to drive discovery and reach new audiences.

PR Newswire will be exhibiting at the Lawyernmomics Conference, April 26-27. Tickets are still available and can be purchased here.

Scott Mozarsky

Author

As EVP – Global Chief Commercial Officer, Scott oversees PR Newswire’s commercial activities worldwide, spearheading the company’s efforts to meet the communications, marketing and investor relations needs of its customers. Scott and his team ensure that PR Newswire’s services align with industry demand by identifying and integrating new tools and technologies that mesh with the company’s core communications offerings and provide a platform for continued growth.

How to Increase Content & Messaging Visibility with a Multi-Channel Distribution Strategy

We’re all creating content today, but how do we do it right?  Jon Miller(@jonmiller), co-founder of Marketo, along with Michael Pranikoff, PR Newswire’s director of emerging media, seek to answer that question in this webinar.

Jon began the discussion by talking about how marketing has changed in recent years.  Back in the ‘Mad Men’ era of marketing, a buyer would have to talk to a sales person to obtain information on a product, but with the abundance of information available on the internet, the sales person is no longer needed until much further along in the buying cycle. According to Forrester Research, at least in a Business-to-Business setting, a buyer is 65% to 90% finished with their sales cycle before they actually connect with a salesperson.  This has profound implications for marketers.

3 Main Benefits of Content Marketing:

1)      Increased Brand Awareness – Buyers are online.  When someone shares your content on a social network, that action gives you free brand awareness in a more powerful way than purchased advertising.

2)      Better Brand Preference – People are more likely to choose the product from a company they feel they have a relationship with.

3)      Risk Reduction – In Business-to-Business purchases especially, avoidance risk and fear tend to be the most dominant motions in play.  A person may make decisions out of fear of losing their job.  To reduce fear for your buyers, your trusted content and thought leadership will help you gain trust from your buyers, which is important.

Creating content for the buying process:

To create an effective campaign, you need to create compelling content for the appropriate stage of the buying process.  You don’t want to give late stage content to an early stage customer because it’s not relevant to them at this point.

– Early Stage:  By far, the majority of content is early stage – usually educational or entertaining content. It’s all about appealing to the audience before they become a customer.

– Middle Stage: the tools that will help a buyer when they are already thinking about a purchase, such as  a buying guide, ROI calculator or analyst data.

– Late Stage:  is about the product or service specifically, such as pricing, demos and case-studies.

No matter what stage, the content must always be relevant and helpful to the buyer.

The power of visuals

best press release format tips multimedia news release

Press releases that offer readers a variety of multimedia options (e.g. video, images, downloads) generate almost 10 times more views than plain-text messages.

Another trend that Jon talks about is the rise of visual content.    Not only does adding multimedia give you more views, there is also better engagement in content with multimedia elements than plain text.  Marketers need to create content that people want to share.  Michael Pranikoff sited a PR Newswire Web Analytics study that showed syndicated content gets more views as more multimedia elements are added.

Customers want to have fun.  With early-stage content, the more you can do to entertain, the better off you will be.  Jon talks about the jingle created to promote ‘The Definitive Guide of Marketing Automation’, an e-book available on the Marketo website.

As I was watching this webinar, I pulled up Marketo’s youtube channel & watched the video Jon referred to, as well as some other fun & informative marketing videos, and I can see why these videos would be shared & re-shared.  Jon said he believes humor and personality are way underused in b-to-b sales.

Don’t panic – this isn’t as daunting as it may seem

You don’t have to have all your content on Day 1.  Just keep creating something new all the time.  Think big, start small, move quickly.

Think about how you can take the content you have and cut it in different ways – re-purpose your content.

  • Promote your content on different channels:  including paid,  owned (such as your own website or blog) and earned.  On social media, don’t promote too much of your own content.  Build an audience and a following, which will build your presence and will get more impact for the content that you do share.
  • Syndicate & Connect – Michael Pranikoff shared a story about a client of PR Newswire’s that issued a short news release to online publications with a link to their blog post.  After syndicating the release, they found a 54% increase in blog traffic and higher search result ratings.  A little content syndication can go a long way. 

Social media can give you a boost on every other type of campaign.  You don’t have to run a social campaign, but make every campaign that you do social.  Give people a reason to share your content.

If you missed the live webinar,  you can assess a recording here: Connecting the Content Dots

Author Jillian Courtright is a Senior Customer Content Specialist at PR Newswire.

There’s No Excuse for Bad Content

Image via Velocity Partners. Click to access a great deck about content quality.

Image via Velocity Partners. Click to access a great deck about content quality.

Content marketing is the outgrowth of a number of long-terms trends in the communications business.  The ability of anyone to be a publisher.  The shrinkage of traditional media.  The questionable effectiveness of online advertising.  The changes in search.

But ultimately it is about producing content that is exactly what your audience wants to read.  Exactly what they are looking for.  The answer to their search for information.

Commercially produced content has rarely been any of the above.  Traditionally it has garnered views by trying to be in the right place at the right time so that the viewer/reader sees it in spite of the fact that he or she is really looking for something else.

Sponsored content, advertorial, paid content, pre-roll, whatever you call the output of marketing  and PR it has no doubt been considered B-list, isolated from the somehow purer editorially-produced content or the presumedly more valuable organic search result.

So content marketing is about moving up to the A-list.  Not trying to hitch a ride on the coattails of the seemingly more popular.  It’s about being the destination, not hanging around in the same neighborhood.

Which brings us face-to-face with the issue of content quality.  It is the prerequisite, the precursor, the minimal requirement, the absolute starting point for content marketing.  Because, let’s face it, marketing content traditionally just hasn’t been that good, focusing as it has on tweaking the reader’s wallet rather than his or her interest.

I’ll be the first to admit that I think journalist-produced content written for independent publishers is going to be better and more interesting to me than something that comes out of any organization’s marketing or PR department, but there’s also no reason that has to be the case.  Good writers aren’t that hard to find, and neither the number of opportunities nor the salaries paid by the media are going to make them inaccessible.  Photos, videos, and other types of images are easier to produce than ever.

And when you have good writers, good photographers, good videographers, you have to turn them loose.  Carefully-crafted, on-point, closely controlled organizational messaging isn’t going to work in content marketing, just as it doesn’t work in social media.  Take advantage of the diversity of voices and styles within your organization, don’t squeeze them.

And finally, produce content for your reader, not for your boardroom or your attorneys or for the search robots.  Create stuff you’d want to read, want to see.  Or…go back to buying banner ads.

Author Ken Dowell is PR Newswire’s EVP of social media & audience development.

Got some good content?  We can help you do some interesting things with it.  (And if you don’t have any, we can help you with that, too.)

I Wanna See! Visuals are the Holy Grail of Storytelling

A 2 year old girl is being recorded on video by her father, and just as he’s almost done recording, she grabs for the camera.  Dad didn’t have time to stop recording, and a two year olds’ hands grasp the camera, you hear her immediate need for gratification, “I wanna see”.

This was the story being told and shown by Jim Lin, VP of Digital Strategy at Ketchum Public Relations in San Francisco and author of the BusyDadBlog, as he finished his workshop at the Visual Storytelling Workshop that was held last week in San Francisco.

The audience gathered to learn from Lou Hoffman – CEO and Founder of The Hoffman Agency; Jim Lin – VP & Digital Strategist at Ketchum PR; Brian Solis (via Skype) – Author and Principle Analyst at The Altimeter Group; and Lee Sherman – Co-Founder and Chief Content Officer at Visual.ly.

Lou Hoffman started the day talking about the importance of telling a good story and how visuals serve as the shortcut to the emotional touch points of the story.  In fact, he spoke about a study that The Hoffman Agency did on articles in the economist and how 17% of the stories over a 3 month period included anecdotes in them, yet less than 5% of press releases do so.   A good story has visuals to connect, and as an example, he offered this video from Caterpillar:

Storytelling today has a new process.  Online, good stories can take on a life of their own.   Lou showed his theory of the new Communicator’s Story Spike:

Jim Lin then spoke up about how visual storytelling can be the cure for the “common meh”.  Good visuals can bring the true emotion to the story.  Piggybacking on those emotional touch points, Jim spoke about how people don’t always remember the stories (facts and figures), but remember how they felt in that moment….yet too many brands leave passion on the table to settle for just the facts and text.   The importance that multimedia can bring to the table…good snackable content…and related the contents of a multimedia story to that of a good lunchable – short text, nice video, good visual all in one box ready to be lunch.  This is truly the way to make your story an experience for the consumer of that story.  At PR Newswire, we know this is true based on our own studies that have shown that visual stories get more views and generate more engagement.

Brian Solis then joined the crowd gather via Skype to bring his passion on the subject front forward.  In just launching his new book, WTF Business – What’s The Future of Business – Brian spoke about creating a business book that was more meant to be a visual experience.  (I know it’s the first business book that I’ve seen that is in a coffee table book format. )  His desire to present his content in this way was developed with his passion to try new things and break the rules of common convention.

When it comes to breaking common conventions today, Brian passionately spoke about this being the best time for PR & Marketing professionals to recreate all the rules.  The trends of content marketing are about “stitching together moments of truth” for the passionate consumer.   Brian explores this “ultimate moments of truth” in his new book, and finds that connecting visuals and stories lead people down the path to purchase because we are now connecting facts & figure to emotional connection.

Finally, Lee Sherman joined us from Visual.ly, one of the most visually exciting companies out there today.   Lee is passionate about connecting data to that visual story.   People are starting to suffer from I.F. – Infographic Fatigue.   So, now we need to be able to tell a better and more cohesive story, and visuals can help do that.  Just check out this video created by Visual.ly:

Visual Storytelling doesn’t have to be complex, but it does have to be emotional.   PR Newswire will be hosting another workshop on Visual Storytelling in Atlanta on April 24th.

Potent & Creative Content Earns Attention: See The EARNIES Winners!

agility_earnies-winners-announced

Earlier this month, we announced the winners of our 2nd earned media awards program, The Earnies.  The caliber of work was impressive and is testament to the fact that PR professionals and marketers are truly pushing creative boundaries and thinking outside the box to successfully connect with their audiences and drive business results.  And with thousands of votes cast by our community, this year’s winners can walk away knowing their work was admired not just by us, but by their peers.

The winners are:

The Earnies Grand Prix:   The Advertising Council

Campaign: “FWD Campaign” by the Ad Council and USAID

usaid mnr

A snapshot of the Multimedia News Release used to promote the FWD>> campaign. Click on the image to see the actual MNR.

 In an effort to raise national awareness about the famine, war and drought in the Horn of Africa, The Ad Council joined forces with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and created the FWD (Famine, War, Drought) campaign, encouraging Americans to FWD the facts about the crisis and support relief operations.  By leveraging a variety of social media channel and the influence of their partners, allies and agencies to spread the message, the Ad Council achieved astounding results – reaching millions of people, igniting incredible audience interaction and generating an impressive amount of content surrounding the campaign.

Best Use of Video in Social Media: LatentView Analytics

Campaign: Confessions of a Serial Analyst

In order to showcase their workplace culture, LatentView Analytics tested their filmmaking skills and also put their own in front of the camera. “Confessions of a Serial Analysts” was filmed in their India office and the result was a fun, short film that resulted in thousands of video views and Facebook likes – and gave viewers insight into the world of LatentView Analytics.

Best Connection to Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook Audience: New Media Strategies

Campaign: Engaging the casual wine buyer: The Wine Bar Facebook Community

wine tasting
Diageo Chateau & Estates needed help establishing a social presence for their Lifestyle Wines and attracting a younger demographic of wine drinkers.  After conducting thorough research of the audience, their behaviors, likes and wants, as well as of the competition, New Media Strategies strategically created an editorial calendar which focused on easily digestible and visual content and launched a new Facebook page to reach this audience. The Wine Bar Facebook page quickly became an online wine community that boasts a fan base of 31,000+ with extremely high interaction outpacing the competition

We Can’t Believe That Worked!:New Media Strategies

Campaign: ACCCE “Click-to-Call” Grassroots Advocacy

earnies12-believe-NewMediaACCCE, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, wanted rally online advocates to take offline action, increase the level of activism and increase online visibility in search and social.  In order to do so, New Media Strategies, needed to identify a way to do so quickly and easily, and motivate “an army of grassroots supporters into a quantifiable result.”  Using a two-fold approach, educate and activate, NMS developed a first-of-its-kind, a click-to-call campaign using Twitter, owned email lists and Facebook to connect local supporters directly to their  state senators.  With 3,300 calls and 41 hours of constituent-to-congressional-office talk time and promoted tweets, ACCCE saw a ~153 percent increase in followers. Furthermore, Twitter and Google used this campaign to create platform case studies, highlighting the success of this campaign as a first-of-its-kind in the advocacy space.

Best Use of Social Listening for Campaign Planning: General Electric

Campaign: HealthyShare: Surprise & Delight

ge tweetLooking to strengthen the public’s association of health and health-related subjects with the General Electric brand, GE developed a campaign that would allow them to have meaningful conversations about health, engage audiences that were interested in such subjects and grow brand enthusiasm.  By using a refined list of Twitter search terms and carefully listening to conversations taking place on Twitter, GE was able to identify a strong audience base to target, establish trust and share healthy gifts that helped generated earned media and new brand advocates.

Best Visual Campaign through Pinterest or Instagram: Fathom

ConsumerCrafts Back-to-School Crafter’s Challenge

consumercraft

It’s no surprise that the use of visual content is a necessity for ConsumerCrafts, an online craft store that sells affordable arts & craft supplies for jewelry making, scrapbooking, kid’s crafts and more.  So in order to increase Pinterest followers and pins, Fathom and ConsumerCrafts developed a contest that invited users to submit photos of creative kid’s craft projects using back-to-school items.  The winning entry was simply determined by the highest number of repins.  ConsumerCrafts saw a significant increase of blog and website referral traffic, engagement from bloggers promoting the contest, hundreds of repins and was able to identify new followers, as well.

Best Use of an Infographic: Cisco Systems

Campaign: The Internet of Things

earnies12-infographic-CiscoInternetArmed with the understanding that there are more devices tapping into the Internet than people on Earth to use them, Cisco set out to bring awareness that connections to the Internet go way beyond the obvious – computers, tablets and phones – and explain the impact this has on business.  Furthermore, Cisco sought to drive positive conversation around their brand and its role in bringing the network into its current, impressive state.  By creating an infographic and thoughtful messaging to support it, and then promoting it through multiple channels, Cisco’s campaign, “The Internet of Things,” was a huge success.  In fact, Cisco noticed a 30% increase in quantity of conversation and a 7% increase in sentiment; 100MM+ impressions, impressive media pick up and significant social conversation and tweets by thousands, including industry influencers.

Best Global Communications Campaign: Tourico Holidays, Inc

Campaign: Best Hotel Promotion Combined with a Worthy Cause!

earnies12-global-TourisoIn an effort to increase revenue during a one-month global promotion and also raise $40,000 for Give Kids the World Village, Tourico Holidays had to get creative.  By engaging contracted hotels and creating a system that encourages small donations, a match program, along with promotion of the campaign through email, social media, at events and on their website, Tourico was able to increase the number of bookings by 93% and increase revenue by an impressive $685,000.  Before all of the check-ins even occurred, they were able to donate the $40,000 to Give the Kids the World Village and hope to triple that once all hotel check-ins are made.

Best Integrated Campaign on a Shoestring Budget: Gutterglove

Campaign: Gutterglove Brings China Manufacturing Back to California

earnies12-grandprix-GuttergloveGutterglove wanted to bring awareness to the fact that bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. would improve the American economy and began to create the content to do so.  With just $3,000 to spend, Gutterglove was forced to think outside the box.  One of their employees, John Quincy Adams IV, was the descendant of our former presidents and leveraged this fact and incorporated it into messaging to spark additional interest in their story. That, along with a website dedicated to promoting the cause, helped Gutterglove see huge earned media success across broadcast, print and social media.

Best Piece of Branded Content: CSC

Campaign: Connected Consumer

With a new, major Leading Edge Forum (LEF) report, “Connected Consumer and the Future of Financial Services” in hand, CSC wanted to put this piece of content to work to stimulate conversation among the media, analysts and clients, enhance their reputation, promote themselves as thought leaders and generate leads.  By executing a thorough, targeted, multi-channel campaign that considered internal and external stakeholders and influencers, CSC’s campaign was able to do so. By implementing a number of tactics – including live-tweeting of a panel discussion, relevant, third-party blog posts, town halls, dedicated sales tools and more, CSC secured coverage in major financial services outlets,  received enthusiastic feedback from analysts,  garnered more than 40,000 Twitter impressions in just over a week and generated hundreds of leads through downloading of the report.

We were inspired (and a bit awed) by these winning entries, and the runners up.   Our congratulations to the winning entrants, and our hearty thanks to our judges:

And thanks also to YOU, our readers who cast their votes to determine the final winners!

How Content Distribution Drives Message Discovery (and Results!)

Like any business, sometimes our own story needs telling.  Earlier this year, we decided that we needed to do some PR for our MultiVu business, which focuses on the production and distribution of multimedia content.   It’s cutting edge stuff, with some truly unique aspects, and it sits right between PR and marketing, and we needed to offer some explanation and raise awareness of these services.

So what did we do?  We did the same thing any of you, our customers, would do.   First, our team brainstormed the messaging.  They outlined the key points we needed to convey from a brand standpoint, and then approached the messaging from the opposite context – the questions our audience often asks has about producing video and other multimedia content, and the various struggles that can complicate these projects.

“The hardest thing to do is to distill what you do into a short-form, engaging video,” noted Bev Yehuda, vice president of web engagement products for MultiVu.  “We had to apply what we tell our clients all the  time regarding developing a video: if you don’t take the time out during the process to determine what your elevator pitch is, you run the risk of creating irrelevant content.”

With the messaging drafted, it was time to determine the medium.   Since this was about MultiVu, we knew we needed to use multimedia messaging.   We wanted to show our expertise (and our personality!) in a fun and friendly way, so we went with an animated approach.

Upping exposure with distribution

Once our animated video was done, we packaged it into a multimedia news release (“MNR”,) which combines a variety of distribution strategies and channels.

mv mnr explainer

Here’s a snapshot of the MNR we created to promote the MultiVu video. Click on the image to see the whole thing.

 

Of course, we could have simply shared the video socially – and we did post it directly to a number of social sharing sites – but the distribution component that is built into an MNR is crucial, for a number of different reasons:

  • Distribution drives discovery, delivering content to relevant audiences across the web – on channels, via news web sites and in industry niches.
  • Discovery seeds social conversation, amplifying your message, and increasing exposure to relevant groups.
  • Social conversations deliver third party credibility that can spur people to take action.
  • Distribution increases the number of digital touch points for your brand, and if your audience values the content, it will gain visibility in search results.  Search engines are informed by user activity and interactions around a piece of content.

How Content Distribution Drives Social Interaction

Prior to the release of the MNR, we shared the video itself on PR Newswire’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages. More than 1,400 of our Facebook fans saw the video, and it was liked by 6 and shared by 3.   It fared better on LinkedIn, where it was seen by 1,983 people, generated 30 click-throughs and 8 shares.  Decent exposure for the two minutes (if that) required to share the video with PR Newswire followers.

mv distribution effect on social

However, if you need proof of how distribution drives social interaction with content, you needn’t look any further than the sharing numbers the MNR generated.  Readers of the MNR shared it with their Facebook friends 196 times (as of this writing.)

Distributed content reaches qualified, interested audiences.  And social shares have a strong viral effect, triggering more shares.

Overall Multimedia News Release Results

The social sharing was just one aspect of the visibility the MNR generated for MultiVu.  Over all, adding distribution paid off for this project, tallying thousands of reads of the press release — and tens of thousands of video views.

mv explainer Multimedia News Release Results

It’s very satisfying for us to put on a “customer” hat and use our own services to promote our messages, and witness first-hand how our networks deliver lasting results and visibility.  And based upon the results of this campaign, you can look for more from these animated characters created by MultiVu – several more videos are in the works!

Want to explore creating your own “explainer” video or learning about how multimedia distribution can increase discovery of your brand’s messages?  We’d love to hear your ideas, and help turn them into reality. Contact us for more information.

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

Common Themes from the Content & Distribution Track at SXSWi 2013

This year’s programming for South By Southwest featured an entire track devoted to the subjects of content and distribution.   The sessions in that track varied wildly from ultra-tactical (“How to Rank Better in Google and Bing,”) to the esoteric (“#CatVidFest: Is This the End of Art?”) Despite the wild array of subject matter and expertise that are the hallmarks of SxSW Interactive, common themes did emerge over the course of the conference, and communicators should take note.

Don’t forget we’re talking about human behavior.

In addition to the hundreds of panels devoted to the discussion of storytelling and other content tactis, the Interactive program also devoted considerable space to user experience design (“UXD”) and different aspects of psychology.  Why?  Because ultimately, marketing communications exist to influence human behavior.   Sitting in sessions that picked apart the psychology of habits, the social behaviors that drive the rapid spread of a meme across social channels or discussed how YouTube’s treatment of comments encourages troll-like behavior among those commenting on videos really drove this fact home.

The discussion of what makes media spread in the panel titled “Spreadable Media,” offers a profound example.  Think about it: we sit in front of our screens, and an avalanche of Tweets, Facebook posts, links in emails and other content floods our attention.  As human beings, we make specific choices about that content. What’s worth passing along, and to whom?  And in which channel?  And as part of what conversation?

UPDATE: The speakers have published a book titled (unsurprisingly) Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture. It sounds like a good read. 

“If we just think in terms of going viral, we’re not treating the audience as having social agency or cultural effect,” one of the panelists (I didn’t catch which, though I captured the quote verbatim) noted. “We strip away the politics of what goes viral.”  Simply referring to a piece of media as “viral” in nature glosses over the choices that went into mobilizing the material, which means that we overlook the very mechanics of the message, and what caused it to resonate with the audience.  And I think that any marketer can agree, that is stuff worth knowing.

Content needs to be quality.  Everything else is a waste of time, and can injure your brand.   

There are myriad reasons why it’s important to be selective about what you publish – and that message was emphasized in a variety of sessions.  Quality content that’s useful to the audience generates the kind of engagement signals (e.g. time on page, click-throughs, shares) that search engines notice.  The same sort of quality content is that that is most likely to spread and augment your brand’s image and credibility.

It turns out that the downside to publishing content that doesn’t make the grade with the audience isn’t simply a waste of time.   Lightweight content that doesn’t deliver value to the reader will cause visitors to “bounce” (immediately leave) from a web page, sending a negative signal to the ever-vigilant search engines.   Bad content can also result an active departure from the brand audience, by motivating people to disassociate from the brand by un-liking or un-following social presences, or unsubscribing from an email newsletter.   Content for content’s sake is a bad idea.  It won’t trigger the human behavior you’re after, which in turn won’t result in the search engine ranking the brand desires.

Now that you’re back home and have had a chance to unpack – both your luggage and your brain – what were the theme that stood out to you at South By this year?

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

Want to make your media spread?  PR Newswire can distribute your content — text, images, video and any combination thereof — to digital audiences both broad and narrow.

SXSW: Forget Stories. Your Brand Needs a Narrative.

If you’ve spent any time at all recently reading PR and marketing blogs, you know that storytelling is a top trend, and for good reason.  Building storytelling into the communications mix delivers the personable and engaging messaging that sticks with audiences and is effective fodder for social content consumption.

However, at SXSW yesterday, I learned where stories fall short in a brilliant presentation titled “Moving from Story to Narrative,” by John Hagel, author of “The Power of Pull” and co-chairman of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge.

The problem with stories, Hagel argued, stems from the fact that they’re not participatory.   Stories are told to the reader, from the vantage point of the teller.  This leads to the next problem.  Stories eventually end, and the reader moves on to other things.  Now, savvy marketers reading this will say to themselves that those other things can be influenced by providing compelling calls to action, streams of related nurturing content or the ability to participate an adjacent community.   Without a doubt, this is all true, but even the best CTAs don’t work all of the time.

Enter the narrative.

Narratives differ from stories in two important ways, according to Hagel.  First, narratives don’t have an end.  They are open ended, and the resolution is yet to be determined.  Secondly, narratives invite participation.   The inherent message isn’t “Listen” — it’s “Join.”

“Narratives motivate actions,” Hagel noted in his presentation.  “In some cases, they motivate life and death choices.  Stories don’t do this.  Every powerful movement that has impacted our world has been shaped and energized by a potent narrative.”

The “Think Different” slogan from Apple beautifully encapsulated the company’s narrative: how technology and intuitive design can enable people to achieve  more. As Hagel said, Apple founders Jobs and Wozniak thought differently from day one.

  • Apple:  Their charge to “Think Different” isn’t about Apple.  It’s about us, and how we can use technology to achieve more.  Apple is the catalyst.
  • Christianity:  People are born in sin, but have the opportunity to be saved.  How things turn out isn’t known, but it will be determined by people’s choices and actions.
  • The American dream — Anyone from anywhere can achieve anything:  This opportunity expressed in this narrative has drawn people from all over the world to America for hundreds of years.

“In a business context, if you can harness the power of narrative, you can derive competitive advantage,” said Hagel.  Narratives work because they don’t simply motivate employees, they can galvanize a broad swath of people, and inspire them to action.

From campaign to context

I took pages and pages of notes during Hagel’s presentation, even winning kudos for speed and thoroughness from the reporter sitting next to me in the audience.  For the last 24 hours, I’ve been noodling on what he said, thinking about how a brand might start to embrace narratives.  As Hagel mentioned in his presentation, narratives take root organically, growing from the actions of people, and they evolve over time.  They aren’t the product of a brainstorm session, so this post won’t contain Tips for Making Narratives Work for Your Brand or anything like that.

However, there are strong parallels between Hagel’s description of the narrative, and the move we’re seeing in marketing away from episodic campaigns, and toward living brand streams.  The clear message is that today’s audiences crave context, and communicators can derive more power for their brands by providing that important framework.

I’m going to go away and think about the narratives emerging within my company, and my industry, certainly. However, I’m also going to be thinking long and hard about the connective tissue content generates, and how that can be used to create context around opportunities.  If a narrative emerges, great.  But in the meantime, there are important lessons for communicators about what makes people tick in John Hagel’s work.

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

Is your interest in honing your brand’s content strategy piqued by today’s post?  Join PR Newswire and special guests Brian Solis,  Jim Lin and Lou Hoffman for a live event  in San Francisco titled  Tipping the Engagement Scale in Your Favor: How to Employ Multimedia Content for Compelling Storytelling

Related reading:

Create narratives, not stories – Moxie Interactive

Moving from Story to Narrative – @ItsDane

What Content Creators Can Learn from Tablet Design Pros

According to recent Adobe study, tablets are trumping smartphones in global website traffic.

Users of the internet prefer to use tablets for more in depth visits.  Whether they’re shopping, watching videos or just leisurely browsing the mobile web, tablet users tend to visit 70% more web pages than smartphone users do.

The experts on the panel titled “Lean Forward, Lean Back: Tablet News Experiences,” Dr. Mario Garcia of Garcia Media and Sarah Quinn of the Poynter Institute, discussed findings from the Poynter Eyetrack tablet research study, and some of those findings provide useful instruction for content creators seeking to reach tablet users.

You have about 10 seconds to keep readers from bailing out, according to the Poynter study.  Content publishers need to provide readers with what they panelists called “gold coins,” such as pulled quotes and visual elements to keep engaged. Dr. Garcia referred to this as the pop-up moment – something needs to happen to keep them reading more.

People consume content via the “media quartet”  — papers, the web, smartphones and tablets.  However, user behavior for each media type is different.  Papers and tablets are “lean back” media – readers put their feet up, and slow down.  Conversely, smartphones and the web are generally “lean forward” media – users are moving quickly and need to find information quickly.

Content publishers also need to keep these behaviors in mind when designing content, because one size doesn’t fit all.   In order to capture audience attention on each channel, the content needs to suit the users’ needs.

Related reading: a Storify collection from the session: Storytelling in the age of the tablet.

By Erika Kash, product manager, online services, MultiVu.

 

Want to make a viral video? Don’t forget the PR! #SXSW

Newsflash – brand videos don’t go viral.  According to the #ComedyTech panel yesterday at South by Southwest Interactive, viruses go viral; videos spread.  To simply describe that spread as “viral” implies an organic, infective power that simply doesn’t exist — and worse, it overlooks the mechanics of creating a video that successfully develops a life of its own online.

Whether or not a video spreads on the web and in social networks is largely predicated upon three things:

1) Whether or not the video is funny (seriously, when’s the last time you shared an inspirational video? Or a boring one?)

2) The video’s originality.

3) The PR push behind it.

According to the panel, the real driver behind the spread of videos online is getting “a big voice” behind the content.  That big voice can be a celebrity, or it can be generated by media coverage.  Enter the PR department.  Deliberate media research and engagement can deliver the credible media exposure that gives a video message the best shot at internet immortality.

Give your messages a boost with video and multimedia content distribution from MultiVu, a PR Newswire company.

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