Tag Archives: marketing strategy

The Future of Sponsored Content: 3 Scenarios for Success

According to this study, audiences are as likely to read sponsored content as they are to read editorial content.

According to this study, audiences are as likely to read sponsored content as they are to read editorial content.

Sponsored content appears to be undergoing a renaissance. Called native advertising, brand journalism, or whatever, it is back in the conversation for marketers and PR professionals.

Sponsored content is decades old, it’s just the tactics that are changing. lil tweet In the past, sponsored content may have taken the form of advertising sections in newspapers, infomercials on TV or custom publishing.  But with new names, new advocates and new tactics, we are going to see and hear a lot more about sponsored content in the near future. Will it stick? Will it become an increasingly important part of marketing? Or will it go the way of banner ads, a bandwagon everyone jumped on then decided it didn’t work?

At the heart of the issue is how marketing and advertising transitions from traditional outlets to digital outlets. While that migration, from print and broadcast to the Web happened, it didn’t happen at the revenue level the media wanted and it didn’t produce the response the advertiser wanted. Though one may question whether the widespread perception that the value of traditional forms of marketing and advertising has declined is a really a function of better measurement tools. Has the value declined or has it been meager all along and we just needed better visibility to realize it?

Native advertising is the latest handshake agreement between publishers, who need money, and content providers, who need visibility. The publisher offers access to its audience, the content provider pays for it and they both agree that the stuff won’t look too bad, won’t be blatantly commercial and will somehow fit with the other content. The party that is not privy to this handshake, though, is the reader and it is the audience that eventually will decide whether the sponsored content is welcome, whether they want to see it, or whether it is too blatantly commercial.

Publishers pursuing this path tend to be a little queasy about it. So you see pronouncements about how vigilant they are going to be in labeling sponsored content as just that. But in fact there is a prevailing air of deception about many forms of sponsored content. Ask for a definition of native advertising and you’ll usually hear something about how it is commercial content that looks like the “native” content of the outlet where it is published. What really matters though is not the look but whether the sponsored content is of the same level of interest to the outlet’s reader as its own originated content.

What sponsored content and display have in common is that they are both dependent on what I referred to in a previous blog post as “diverted eyeballs.” The reader isn’t looking for your content, he or she is looking for something else and by placing your content (or display ad) next to that something else, you are hoping that the readers’ eyeball get diverted to your content. I think this is an approach which is on the decline as most media properties are seeing their traffic coming more from search or social referrals rather than visitors browsing their site as a destination.

So who will be successful with the new wave of sponsored content and how do you put yourself among the winners? The simple answer, oft repeated as it is, is to create great content and put it on great sites. Sounds good but, sorry Google, the Web is full of great content on great sites that nobody ever sees.

Here are the three scenarios which I see as potentially successful for sponsored content.

  1.  As with all communications activity there will be an elite group that produces excellent content and buys space for it on premium properties. They will be the role models that all the advocates for sponsored content will point to. But as role models they will be deceptive because they will most likely represent a brand whose status and visibility is well beyond that of most and they will also likely have made an investment in the production and placement of content that is beyond the means of the average brand. If Apple for example could achieve success by placing content on the Wall Street Journal that’s all well and nice but doesn’t mean a thing for the rest of  us.
  2.  I think there is a real opportunity for sponsored content to be successful on niche media properties that have cultivated a very specialized audience. For example, you are likely to find a much, much larger audience on a consumer travel site than you are on a trade site about utilities. But how many travel sites are there? Tens of thousands? The utility news site might be lightly trafficked but it also might be the go to resource for the very limited audience that is interested. That audience will likely include individuals at utilities who make buying decisions so if you happen to be in that business, that’s your customers. Good content about changing technology in energy generation or the impact of government regulation is going to play really well on the site.
  3. Content providers who are experts at marketing their content, using search, social, distribution and media to drive traffic to the content. These folks may not really need to buy placement to drive an audience to their content but there are some advantages to the third party placement that will supplement the content providers own promotion efforts. For one thing, the media site that the content is placed on may have a better search ranking than the provider’s owned media properties, thus may bring in more search traffic. The domain name of the publication may be an advantage since it is likely to be perceived as a more authoritative source. And the media property may supplement your content marketing with its own efforts to drive traffic to its site. (Related reading:  Driving Content Discovery)

Sponsored content is not going to be the savior of media outlets trying to recover lost revenue. Nor will it to any large extent retire more traditional marketing and advertising activities. But under the right circumstances, it can be a pretty successful tactic.

Follow author Ken Dowell on Twitter at @kdowell.

Q&A: How to Incorporate Tumblr Into Your Marketing Campaigns

Dear Q&A Team,

My manager has assigned me the job of looking into new social media platforms that we can add to our marketing campaigns. I have been trying to learn about Tumblr and its capabilities. What type of content should we post onto Tumblr? What are some examples of successful Tumblr accounts run by businesses? Are there any legal issues we should be aware of when using Tumblr?

Stumbled Upon Tumblr

_____________________

Dear Stumbled Upon Tumblr,

It’s great that you are exploring other social media platforms. Here are three ProfNet experts who provide their expertise about Tumblr:

Reasons to Use Tumblr

Web marketing expert Lorrie Thomas Ross explains, “If an organization is looking to maximize awareness, information distribution, connections and service to support sales, then social media marketing needs to be part of the marketing mix. Tumblr is a blog platform that can help organizations harness the power of social media marketing.”

Christopher Penn, vice president of marketing technology for Shift Communications, agrees: “Tumbler is a rich content outpost, another blogging service that offers you an additional place to put content on the Web. Tumblr’s strength is its tremendous and active community that often re-blogs items that are worthy of attention and interest.”

Penn adds, “Tumblr’s secondary strength, especially for technologically less ambitious PR practitioners, is that it’s incredibly easy to use and quick to set up. You can begin on Tumblr in a matter of minutes, and its mobile apps make content creation simple and friendly.”

In addition, “platforms like Tumblr can be a great way to boost SEO,” says Ross. “Tumblr was architected to be search-friendly and help search visibility, so, if used effectively, it can help with a business’ SEO.”

However, you may want to disqualify Tumblr as a marketing medium if your company’s tolerance for risk is exceptionally low. It has an active adult content community, and many of its members enjoy blogging and re-blogging content they find, explains Penn. “For most brands, it shouldn’t be a significant problem — obscurity is a far greater risk than being discovered and re-blogged by someone whose content you might not agree with.”

Content to Include in Your Account

“People flock to Tumblr to be entertained and inspired, not to be pitched to,” says Francis Skipper, executive vice president of 451 Marketing. “Therefore, it is key to be very visual and to use humor on Tumblr. Pieces should be easy for your audience to digest and promote sharing. And try to provide evergreen content that will have a longer shelf life, so your content can be shared often.”

“Tumblr is also a great way to create a very human side of a brand by giving insights into the people and ideas behind your company,“ he adds.

Even though content needs to be engaging, it is important to remember that every organization has a different target audience. This is why it all starts with strategy – strategy first and execution second.

Ross suggests that marketing managers think about the content they have, their target audience, and what their target audience needs. Then they can decide what to post on Tumblr.

Once marketing managers are ready for the execution stage, it is important to know that the best content on Tumblr is graphical content — static images, graphics, animations, and video, says Penn.

Successful Examples

  • Comedy Central: This page is authentic, integrated and engaging. It supports the overall brand’s purpose. The purpose is very clear — to create viral clips, awareness and an audience.  –Ross
  • Capital One’s Bucket List and Art Institute of Technology:  Tumblr is a highly visual medium, and both these blogs maximize their use of imagery to make them eye-catching and appealing. –Penn
  • CNET:  They have been really smart about Tumblr posts, releasing “cliff notes” or abbreviated versions of their articles. They create a visual, multimedia headline that prompts the reader to click through to the full content on their site. -Skipper
  • General Mills: Their Tumblr focuses on whimsical content that taps into people’s inner child and even showcases some amazing DIY arts and crafts projects that were created from cereal boxes with tutorials. They create a fun lifestyle around their brands using Tumblr. –Skipper

Legal Issues & Tips

“As with any form of online content production, you will be held liable for intellectual property (IP) rights. Re-blogging something that falls afoul of IP rights can land you in serious, very hot water,” warns Penn. “For example, re-using an image from a licensed imaging service like Getty Images can cost you up to $60,000 per violation, even if the original content is not yours. By re-blogging it, you open yourself to the same liability as the creator.”

Also, remember to respect the FTC guidelines, says Ross. You can read more about them here: tinyurl.com/nxvvszl

Another thing to keep in mind is that companies need to commit to using Tumblr.

“Tools like Tumblr don’t make marketing magic,” cautions Ross. “It is how and why these tools are used that make marketing magic.”

Skipper reiterates Ross’ last statement: “First, have specific goals in mind before you start. Don’t just join Tumblr because ‘everyone else’ is doing it.” Some of these goals include: building brand awareness and identity, educating customers, and creating a brand persona.”

Last but not least, Penn cautions that “‘build it and they will come’ doesn’t work any better on Tumblr than it does on the Web. You still have to invest resources in outreach, awareness, advertising, and support of your initiatives there in order to make it successful.”

After deciding your Tumblr strategy with your company, I hope you have fun posting to this social media platform! Enjoy!

-The Q&A Team

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

Market Your Marketing

cmscribblesContent Marketing World kicked off this  morning with Jay Baer (@jaybaer), author of Youtility.  The top-rated speaker of CMW last year, Jay didn’t disappoint today.

Echoing the themes of his book, Jay insisted that the best marketing content is that which is so good people would pay for it.  However, the conversation took an intersting turn when Jay started to talk about promoting the content your brand publishes.

Content is crucial to buying decisions – the number of sources buyers rely upon has almost doubled over the last year. And according to Google, B2B buyers routinely complete 70% of their research before talking to a vendor rep.

Everyone is talking about content promotion at #CMWorld 13

Everyone is talking about content promotion at #CMWorld 13

Publishing isn’t enough

But publishing content isn’t enough.   Jay noted that the convergence of our personal and commercial lives means that marketers are competing against friends, family and cat videos for audience attention.

Wednesday at Content Marketing World – learn to drive discovery of YOUR content 

One way Jay suggests that brands create visibility for their content is to “make the story bigger” than just your products or services. Solve problems in your customers’ lives, not just around what you sell.

However, being dead useful to your audience is just part of the equation.  Driving discovery of your content is crucial too.

Marketing your messaging 

“Market your marketing, ” Jay encouraged the assembled faithul. “Put some effort behind it.  Advertising isn’t the competition – it’s an enabler.”

Both paid and social media should be part of the plan.

Social media:  Content is fire, says Jay.  And social media is gasoline. However, don’t make the mistake of treating tweets like the world’s shortest press releases.  Social posts still need to be useful.

Paid media: Advertising campaigns and PR can fuel significant visibility for the content your brand produces.  You may even earn some media along the way, which will launch your content into a different stratosphere.

Tomorrow at Content Marketing World I’ll be presenting on driving content discovery,  in a session titled “10 Online Discovery Tips that Will Get Your Content Promoted.

I’ll be offering 19 (instead of the previously advertised 10) ways to build an element of discovery into your content strategy, and to promote the discovery of the information your brand publishes.  Here’s a sneak peek:

CMW session snippet

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.

 

Storytelling: Persuasion That Moves & Engages

Last week, PR Newswire and CommPRO.biz hosted the second part of the Google+ Hangout On Air Storytelling Series. The discussion was led by Michael Pranikoff (@mpranikoff), global director of emerging media at PR Newswire. Ginny Pulos (@ginnypulos), founder and president of Ginny Pulos Communications, joined him to explain the results of successful storytelling for a business.

Pranikoff presented the following questions to Pulos:

Q: Why is storytelling so important on a personal and business basis?

Pulos: It is important for when you want to land/keep/move ahead with a job or client as well as when you want to be a persuader or leader. Storytelling is the most persuasive tool you can use, especially when you are in the same room as another party breathing the same air. Also, if you are a leader of an organization, you need to tell stories to motivate, inspire, and engage people. It is true stories that move people to act. It’s a sell.

Also, storytelling is really an untapped resource. We are all telling stories every day, but we just don’t know how to tell them as effectively as we could.

Q: What is the difference between position power vs. personal power?

Pulos: Position power is your title and all the privileges that are accorded to you because of your title. But how many people outside of the narrow definition of their job are able to tap into their personal power to move and persuade people? People have this unwritten taboo in corporations that you should not talk about anything personal, and that your personal life is personal and your professional life is public. But that is absolutely not true. It is the personal stories that we have inside us that are the things that drive business forward. We need to know how and when to tell stories, as well as how to tell them effectively.

Q: What is the difference between power and persuasion vs. influence?

Pulos: It is not your title, degree or expertise by which people listen to you, but it is because of who you are. Power is by right or by might — that is your title. Persuasion is twisting your arm gently or perhaps not so gently. Influence in the worst sense is manipulation, and in the best sense it is like all the heavenly choirs are singing your praises and the pearly gates open, and you walk in with a halo on your head. But we really need to use all three.

Q: Why is it important for people to tell their story in personal and business situations?

Pulos: We have established grooves in our brain that go back to our earliest times when our parents would read us stories, and those stories would begin with “once upon a time” and end with “happily ever after.” Those grooves are deeply entrenched. Sending communication down grooves in our brain that are already established makes it so much easier for people to take in. Also, stories have the capability of creating pictures for people, and those things stay with us and can easily be recalled. That is why, for me, stories are so powerful.

Q: What are some of the elements of a great story?

Pulos: A great story must include the following: 1) be brief, which means five minutes or less; 2) true; 3) about a person; 4) engage an emotion, and this can be done by slipping into present tense while telling the story; 5) end on a high note; 5) a little bit acted out.

Q: Can you tell us about someone who is a really great storyteller?

Pulos: The person I followed for many years was Steve Jobs, the CEO of the decade who transformed all kinds of businesses. The best story he ever told in business was when he introduced the iPhone and he said it was “having your life in your pocket.” It is only five words but it tells so much. His stories that I liked the best weren’t direct selling of a product, but were still driving business goals. My favorite was his commencement speech at Stanford. During his speech, he told just three stories. He was not very good at delivering, because he looked down, read from something, and spoke in past vs. present tense. However, he had a great moral in his stores, which was he trusted that everything would work out in the end. Many great stories lack a moral — the “what did I learn from it” or “how did that change my life ever after.”

Here is a little exercise you can use to start mining your own stories. Make four columns. In the first column put rites of passage (birth, death, graduation, divorces, achievements, defeats, etc.) and in the second column you briefly write out what happened. In the third column you will write how old you were when it happened, and in the last column you write what you learned from it. The last column is where the power lies in storytelling.

Q: Do you have examples of people who aren’t famous or CEOs who have developed great stories to help their business within their company, or just to help their business grow as a whole?

Pulos: One senior VP in human resources told a story about being a really tall gal and playing basketball in college. Everyone thought that because of her height she would be a great forward, but she hated using her elbows, etc., but one thing she was naturally flawless at was making free throws. She made the moral of her story that people are who they are and they should play to their strengths.

Another example I have is of a global marketer that I spoke to who is from China. She talked about the hardship she grew up in during the Cultural Revolution. Her father had been a teacher and they fled to the countryside. At four years of age she was left alone to take care of her infant brother. She had to find firewood and cook a meal every day. After the Cultural Revolution ended, they moved to a city and her father opened a school. Every morning she got up at four in the morning and bought food for all the children before she went to school. She made the moral of her story that life is like a delicious meal, and you have to use everything and every bit of your time.

Q: What are some of the bigger things people need to remember when they are preparing and telling their stories?

Pulos: You need to write out your story. You also need to know your opening and closing cold, so it comes out completely conversational. You then to memorize transitional phrases that get you from one part of your story to another part of your story. Remember that stories that have twists and turns, so you may heighten and mute things in your story for different audiences. One, two, or three good stories can get you a long way. Saying your stories out loud so you can hear your voice is important too.

Another thing to keep in mind is when you tell stories a lot you can reduce it to a “vignette.” If you are at a networking conference talking to someone who is unemployed and going through difficult times, you can tell them your short story, and if they want to know more they they will ask. Stories don’t have to be long, but they can be very short and humorous.

Q: How would you apply storytelling to drive business forward? How would you this to change mindsets or status quo?

Pulos: You have to look inside yourself and find that story of how you want to shake things up, and how something changed your mind about something big. It doesn’t matter when it happened, but it is the moral of the story that drives business goals. The best presentations I have seen are the ones that start with a great story and then circle back to that story in the end, because now you know why they told it in the beginning. This is really powerful in a business situation.

Q: What are some of your key takeaways?

Pulos: You need to tell a story when you are in the spotlight; when you can help, encourage, engage, teach or move someone; need to show what you stand for; overcome a sense of defeat. You are the hero of your own story. If you have no emotional contact, you will have no impact. Storytelling is an untapped resource. If you are proud of your work, life or team then talk about it!

Q: How do you assess your personal brand to use it in your storytelling?

Pulos: Here are the key things you can ask to figure out your brand: 1) What do you know me for? 2) What do you like me for? 3) What do you value me for? You ask these three questions of a boss, colleague on your same level, people who report to you, spouse/significant other, family member, or a good friend. They can respond to these questions with phrases. You can then lay out all these responses on a table and circle the words used more than once. Those circled words are key traits about you. If you don’t know the story behind the word then go back to those people and ask why they used that particular word, and they will tell you that story. It is up to you to perfect that story.

Q: How do you know if your story is good, strong enough to support your case?

Pulos: When I am formulating a story, what I do is tell it to a couple of close friends. You also really have to practice telling the story, because this isn’t something that will be achieved overnight. And keep the ideas that come to you on a notepad, so you don’t lose them. People that can communicate and connect are the people that get ahead.

Q: What if people don’t response to your story? How do you reel them in at the last chance?

Pulos: If people aren’t responding to your story then you have probably chosen the wrong time to tell it or don’t have the right story. If you have a moral to your story, then you can grab people at the last minute. There is something wrong with the way you structured the story if they aren’t hanging with you till the end.

Q: How can storytelling be utilized in the written word?

Pulos: I try to use a story in every blog post. The facts and statistics supported through a story can really come alive. I feel that writing is becoming a lot more conversational, especially because of social media. Nothing is more engaging then positive, genuine emotion. It is the most powerful and constructive force for persuasion.

We’ve been emphasizing storytelling tactics on the blog over the last few months.  If you missed the other storytelling posts, here’s a link to the full collection: http://blog.prnewswire.com/tag/storytelling/ 

If you’d like to explore new ways to tell your brand’s visual story, we’d be happy to chat with you about creating a video or a designing multimedia distribution strategy that will 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.

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

3 Approaches for Using Storytelling to Drive Business Results

Having the right stories and knowing when and how to tell them is crucial for anyone who aspires to lead or persuade. The second installment of our On-Air Storytelling Series “Power, Persuasion and Influence” focuses on tactical elements of communicating stories to drive business results. Led by storytelling expert Ginny Pulos (@ginnypulos), founder and president of Ginny Pulos Communications Inc., she discusses the upcoming presentation with PR Newswire as well as the ways that businesses can incorporate personal storytelling to build relationships, credibility, trust, and influence.

1.       Find your brand’s true voice

Storytelling creates a powerful opportunity to form genuine bonds with others. As Ms. Pulos says, even if you have a great marketing strategy, “To be a great leader you need to be able to tell stories that motivate, inspire, persuade, and move people to action.” Part two of the Google Hangout series will focus on the best way to communicate your brand’s “personal power” to connect with audiences.

2.       Share personal stories

According to Ms. Pulos, the unspoken aversion towards sharing personal stories in the workplace is misguided.  “You have to choose what you tell,” she says, “But very often the things where there was failure involved, what you learned from it, and how it changed your life are the things that inspire other people and motivate them when they are going through a dark time.” Personal stories also form relationships and allow others to understand your brand message with clarity.

3.       Utilize all company assets for effective storytelling

Ms. Pulos strongly believes that “Even people who are very inexperienced can be very powerful” with regards to effective storytelling. During the Google Hangout, Ms. Pulos will be joined by recent grad student, Danielle Hart, who has successfully employed storytelling tactics to land a new job, negotiate a promotion, and engage with clients. Ms. Pulos adds that no matter what age, “everyone can be powerful in building the focus, the brand, the persuasion, the sparkle, the team, and the client’s goals”

Using storytelling in a business strategy can be much more influential than mundane facts and figures. Not only does it rouse emotion, but storytelling is indicative of essential leadership qualities which build trust and credibility among potential clients.  It is vital for business stories to be truthful, personal, and persuasive in order to motive and inspire listeners. To learn more about how storytelling can drive business results, join Ginny Pulos and PR Newswire on August 8th for part two of our Storytelling Series, “Power Persuasion & Influence: Stand Above the Crowd by Learning to Develop True Stories to Drive Business Goals and Results.” Register here: http://www.commpro.biz/agile-engagement/power-persuasion-influence-stand-above-the-crowd-by-learning-to-develop-true-stories-to-drive-business-goals-results/

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

The Really New Rules of PR & Marketing

Worthwhile reading from David Meerman Scott

Listening to the webinar with David Meerman Scott (@dmscott) hosted by MarketingProfs today reinforced the speed of change in the PR and marketing arenas.  Over the course of the discussion, David offered his perspective on how the communications arena has changed since he published the first edition of  The New Rules of Marketing & PR in 2007 (and has since been updated numerous times,) and the opportunities available to PR and marketing pros today.

His advice is great, but here are the three messages that really resonated with me.

Developing a real-time mindset:  Future planning is necessary.  But too much focus on a future email campaign or upcoming product launch will result in opportunity passing you by.    Newsjacking, the  art of getting in front of a trending news story and inserting the brand POV into the conversation & coverage, is one way to capitalize.  For an organization that gets it right, speed and agility are decisive competitive advantages.   To get there, the organization needs to develop the ability to monitor social media and identify news opportunities and develop response quickly.   This takes some doing – the organization will need to up its clock speed, streamlining a host of processes. Organizations that are focused on the future and don’t cultivate fast-twitch communications muscle will miss out on myriad opportunities. 

Buyer Personas:  You have to understand your buyer personas.  While this has always been important, the personalization of information on the web today makes crafting content that speaks to specific personas crucial.    David challenges us to create content around your buyers, not your products.

Gamification:  Don’t be put off by the term ‘gamification.’  Put simply, gamification means giving your best customers – the people who are engaged with and have a strong affinity for your brand – incentive to stay engaged, and to talk about their engagement.   Digital acknowledgement, such a badge, as well as real-life recognition can work together to give your customers a reason to keep coming back, and to keep talking about their experiences.  If you’ve ever wondered how to identify and cultivate your brand’s advocates, this is where you start.

If you issue press releases, you have an immediate opportunity to ratchet up your organization’s visibility and the business results your messages generate.  We hosted a fantastic webinar last week on new school press release tactics, in which the panel gave examples of using press releases to drive customer conversions, manage online reputation, build executive thought leadership and create ongoing media coverage and follow-on earned media.  The recap, slide deck and a link to the replay are here: New School Press Release Tactics

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

 

The 4 Components of Effective Business Storytelling

With today’s advanced communication technologies, business leaders often neglect the importance of crafting a foundational business story. It has become easier than ever to lose sight of core marketing objectives by rushing into marketing tactics. Blair Caplinger (@blaircaplinger), founder of Telling Media Inc., is an expert in business story telling. He recently sat down with PR Newswire to discuss his upcoming Google+ Hangout “Using Storytelling to Drive Business Goals,” which examines storytelling as an essential component of any marketing strategy.

Though web technologies have great marketing potential, these tools often distract business leaders from effectively communicating what their central business values are about. “A story creation process should precede and inform the marketing and communications process,” says Caplinger. “There is a big difference between strategy and story; stories activate strategies, businesses can step back and make an assessment as to whether they’re telling the right story or not.” Without the proper narratives, businesses risk losing time and money if the marketing they produce does not deliver expected results. Caplinger’s client Ben Zenick, COO of Zencos, also joins the Google+ Hangout session to discuss how storytelling enhanced Zencos’ marketing objectives. Together they will define what a business story is, the different types of business stories, and where executives typically fail at creating stories.

According to Caplinger, a successful story must address four key components:

  • Emotion “Through our customer research we’ve discovered that even the most data driven people in the most analytic of industries still make purchase decisions based on emotional drivers” says Caplinger. Purchase decisions can be very personal experiences no matter what the industry.    Therefore, the customer should immediately understand how they will benefit from a purchase or product.
  • Why is it important? “Lead with your “Why”. It’s your purpose–your reason for being,” Caplinger explains, “because it is unique to your business.” In other words, a company must clearly state why their business is significant to the industry in order to stand out amongst competitors.
  • Audience Mindset According to Caplinger, “A customer’s mindset is the sphere that envelops their beliefs, their values, and their biases; if you don’t address these you can really cause disconnect.” Utilizing social media and traditional marketing research can provide valuable insight on the audience mindset.
  • Commonalities Caplinger believes that once business leaders narrow down why their business is important and what their audience mindset is, the commonalities between the two is “where you build empathy and understanding.” Shared experiences between the business and its audience should be the focus of a business story.

Storytelling is essential to every aspect of a business and can vary in purpose. While some stories aim to attract greater audiences or increase revenue, others can strengthen a company’s internal communications. Though Caplinger notes that a story cannot fix a flawed strategy, a good strategy can greatly benefit from an effective story. Visual elements such as infographics can help amplify the message in an engaging way, which Caplinger believes will be a trend in storytelling for many years to come.

To learn more about expanding your business through storytelling, join Blair Caplinger and PR Newswire on July 24th for part-one of our Storytelling Series, “Using Storytelling to Drive Business Goals.” Register here: http://www.commpro.biz/agile-engagement/impact-using-storytelling-to-drive-business-goals-google-hangout-on-air-series-hosted-by-pr-newswire/

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

The 3 Elements of Effective Brand Stories

Cartoon by Tom Fishburne, the Marketoonist.

Stories have a way of sticking with us.  They’re enjoyable, relatable, and understandable – and these qualities ultimately make them memorable.  The context of the story provides linkages and framework that connects information, enabling us to recall a full set of information that we’d be probably be unable to memorize by rote.

For these reasons, storytelling can be an immensely effective communications tool for brands.  To be effective, though, stories need to be enjoyable, relatable and understandable.   In fact, these three components are the keys to developing an effective brand story.

Enjoyable:  If the message doesn’t provide some sort of enjoyment to the person reading (or viewing or listening to) it, it won’t be effective.  However, enjoyment can take many forms.  Stories that touch, teach, empower and inform can all be enjoyable.  A good test for enjoyment is a positive answer to the questions “Am I glad I read that?”  And “Would I recommend that [content] to others?”    To deliver on enjoyment, a story has to give something of value to the reader in exchange for the reader’s attention.

Relatable:  Even the most out-of-the-world stories are relatable.  Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker were underdogs.   British fantasy writer Terry Pratchett grounds his copious work in satire we all recognize.   Enduring characters like Scarlett O’Hara speak to us across centuries because of their human weaknesses.   Within every successful story is an element or character that the reader feels connected with, and that connection is personal.   Those connections are found in effective business storytelling, as well.   As you craft your brand’s story, keep the target audience firmly in mind, and weave their point of view into the story.

Understandable:  If you’ve ever read or viewed a piece of content that has lost the thread and left you scratching your head, wondering that the whole point of that exercise was, the importance of “understandability” isn’t lost on you.   Simply put, brand stories need to have a point, and they need to be clear and focused.   If the central plot wanders down tangents or doesn’t arrive at a logical end, the audience won’t take the action the brand is hoping to inspire or arrive at the conclusion the brand hopes to convey.

Google+ Hangout On-Air Storytelling Series: Using Storytelling to Drive Business Goals

To learn more about developing impactful and effective stories for your organization, join our Google hangout next week on Wednesday, July 24 at 10:00 AM Pacific; 11:00 AM Mountain; 12:00 PM Central; 1:00 PM Eastern.

Join Blair Caplinger (@bcaplinger), founder and principal of Telling Media and Ginny Pulous (@ginnypulos), of Ginny Pulos Communications and PR Newswire for an interactive discussion on business storytelling.  In this Google+ hangout,  we’ll discuss how having the right story can positively impact the conversations you’re having with customers, prospects, and other key influencers. Learn why story is important to business, where business stories typically fail, and how to create and tell stories that drive your most important leadership, brand, sales, change management and PR objectives.

For more information and to register, click here:  Google+ On Air Storytelling Series

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

Social Influence on Business Strategy: Empathy is the Secret Sauce

This post originally appeared on the Business4Better Blog.

Ed note: Today is the second day of Business4Better, a new event produced by PR Newswire’s parent company, UBM plc., designed to foster partnerships between non-profits and corporations. As I was scanning the blog posts recapping the first day, I spotted the post below and decided to share it with you.  It’s an interesting illustration of the degree to which social influences have permeated business decision making and strategy, and the importance of empathy to an organization’s success.  - SSReconciling a balance sheet or analyzing data for the next great product is not the only metric that drives the success of great companies. Rather, the secret sauce has to do with empathy for the world around you.

It is not just business for better, it is better for business, says Dev Patnaik, CEO of Jump Associates and author of Wired to Care who opened up the Business4Better show here in Anaheim.

He implored businesses to reconnect with their humanity and gave examples of companies that are doing this today. “When we are fact-based and living our lives with PowerPoint data, we are only bringing in a part of our brains every day to work, says Patnaik. “You have to have that connection and get out beyond your walls and spend the time in the real world.”

Harley Davidson is a company that embraces these ideals. “The minute you walk into Harley Davidson headquarters, the parking lot is overflowing with Harleys, the building smells like leather and the company keeps the connection to the world around them. There is an authenticity. We are them and they are us,” said Patnaik.

Patnaik also compared the culture of Nike and Reebok. Nike is a culture of athletes and Reebok is a culture of MBAs that sell shoes. Great companies have a gut sense to know what is right, the passion to leap on something new and the courage to stick with something shaky; he added.

Some view empathy is a lovey-dovey word but Nike and Harley Davidson are hard charging places, he said. “When you care about people more than yourself, you will innovate and grow. You will have a sense of mission and reason to come into work every day.”

Kelley DamoreAuthor  is Chief Community Officer at UBM Tech. 

A New Way to Crowdsource a Campaign

The Social Media Club of New York City (SMCNYC) hosted an event last month  showcasing Ford Motor Co. on the floor of the New York International Auto show to reveal Ford’s fun, new marketing campaign for its fuel-efficient vehicle C-MAX.

Team Detroit, Ford’s agency, came up with print, TV and digital banners using the Italian “La Linea” character, but they needed social too. This is when the social group at Team Detroit stepped in to create a concept.

C-MAX Live Social Campaign

The group describes C-MAX Live by saying: “Imagine yourself in a live crowdsourced Instagram animation.” The concept they came up with integrates traditional, media, and social media in a way that hasn’t been done before by creating a live, crowdsourced animation, which is done through Instagram.

The Process Behind the Concept

Team Detroit needed to bring the “La Linea” character to life, so they decided to literally bring people into this character’s world. The group wanted to create an animation that would incorporate real people interacting with the character, but first they needed to create a story.

Team Detroit started storyboarding it out and seeing how many frames it would take to have people interacting and doing certain scenarios with the “La Linea” character. Shilo studios joined the project by doing the math that was necessary to figure out frame rates and make sure everything worked in size and scale. They had the line drawing put together into a storyboard. From that storyboard they pulled 68 individual frames that had people interacting with them. Those 68 frames were then used for traditional out-of-home buys, such as postings in malls, movie theaters, and events all over the country in their top C-MAX markets.

How People Can Interact With the C-MAX Live Boards

What they are asking people to do is to literally line their bodies up with the dotted line on the boards (see images below). Once you line yourself up with the “La Linea” character in the background, you take your picture through Instagram and apply the hashtag “C-MAX,” and through object recognition they are able to pull that animation and stitch it back together in real-time live.

You then go to a landing page and you opt-in through Instagram, and you can see yourself in the animation with people from all over the country in real-time. The animation is always dynamic and changing, so you will always see yourself but everyone else will change because it is pulling in those people from all over the country who are interacting with the boards. In addition, if you have an Instagram friend participating in a different city and at a completely different board, then you will see them in your animation.

This campaign launches on May 1 in various cities. Here is a list of the cities, along with a link to the animation: social.ford.com/cmaxlive

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Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources.  To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.