“It’s Friday.” That is arguably one of the sweetest phrases in the world. From finally being able to ‘dislike’ your crazy uncle’s political views to giving tweens yet another way to take photos of themselves (hands free, anyone?), we’ve got the rundown on the top tech and industry stories of the week:
To like or not to like – that is the question. This week Facebook announced a ‘dislike’ button is in the works, empowering grumpy users everywhere to share their distaste.
Are you kidding me right meow?! Apparently a Cisco employee accidentally sent an email to the entire staffing list of over 30,000 employees, and pictures of cats and memes were circulated to everyone for hours. Obviously, madness ensued.
Taking your selfies to new heights … forget having to carry around a stick or deal with that pesky arm of yours in the photo: Dronies can follow you around, taking in-action photos of you and your friends on command. Kind of like drones flying around at concerts and NFL games taking photos of everyone, except now it’s just you, doing your thing, looking cool. Right?
Happy Friday everyone! Though there was only one national holiday this week, the Apple event is well on its way to becoming a bank holiday itself! From channeling your inner child to channeling your inner serial dater, here’s a round up of some of the top industry stories from this week:
This week was all about the big Apple reveal! The Tech Elite flocked to Bill Graham Auditorium this Wednesday as the world was introduced to the new iPhone, Apple TV and…Apple Pencil? The Next Web’s roundup of the event can help you keep track of all the updates and innovations.
Is finding love really about selling yourself? Comedian Aziz Ansari’s book Modern Romance looks at dating in the digital age, but it actually gives some pretty sound marketing advice as well! Whoever said that PR wasn’t romantic?
In more somber news, today marks the fourteenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. WIRED takes a look at how the creators of the 9/11 museum took on the gargantuan task of creating a monument that would honor the memory of those who lost their lives and educate visitors about the tragic event.
That’s all folks! Tweet us your favorite stories of the week @BlancAndOtus.
In today’s marketing arena it isn’t unusual to see animals taking on roles as brand ambassadors. Some may even argue that it is more common to see animals acting as humans in commercials than their usual selves. It seems like the goal of many brands today is to capture consumers’ attention by making them say “aww.”
Many brands like Twitter (bird), MGM (lion), Meerkat (um, meerkat) and Disney (mouse) use animals as their logo, while the likes of Geico, Aflac and Bush’s Baked Beans use animals as their “spokesanimals” or brand ambassadors. Why? Because animals have the ability to tap into consumers’ emotions, and it makes them more inclined to pay attention to a brand’s message that might otherwise be unrelated to them.
Aflac’s duck is a great example of this. Even as a child, before I ever thought about or needing any type of personal insurance, I could identify the duck with the brand and what it offers. The same can be said for Geico’s gecko or its “hump day” camels (clearly insurance companies are on the animal bandwagon). These brands have mastered the art of catching people’s attention through association with our four-legged, two-legged, or no-legged friends.
Brands have also started going beyond simply using animals as their logos and voice. Many companies are now creating advertisements and commercials completely unrelated to their products to catch viewers’ attention. Most notable is Budweiser and its use of the Clydesdale horse in its recent Super Bowl commercials. The ads had virtually nothing to do with beer yet almost everyone I know can easily associate them with Budweiser due to the feelings they evoked in them. The emotional attraction people feel toward animals makes them far more likely to take notice of brands that utilize furry friends to sell their product.
Also, marketing videos become more captivating when they are viewed as stories rather than simple ads. Think about how Friskies’ “Dear Kitten” video series has gone viral and been shared all over the Internet. Animal videos have led to their own online video genre, and they have led the way for viral social media campaigns and prominent memes – Grumpy Cat, anyone?
So, next time you’re thinking about a new marketing campaign, don’t rule out the use of animals – clearly us humans can’t get enough of them.
An increasingly social and searchable web mixed with commercial pressures has seen online news publications with softer, more positive and humorous voices emerge. At the same time, brands now have the ability to complement media relations programs with content published on owned channels, making brand stories and content more discoverable and shareable that ever before.
As media look beyond traditional news values the amount of news articles featuring cat exploits and brands celebrating 4/20 will only increase. However, the craft of storytelling, journalistic inquiry and understanding of traditional news values remains an important core competency for the modern PR practitioner.
News values, as articulated by Galtung and Ruge (G&R), continue to form the backbone by which media judge the newsworthiness of a story, and should continue to be factored in when developing angles, pitches and media materials. This criteria is also great for keeping corporate blogs grounded, engaging and relevant – lest they become the home of shallow self-promotional waffle and puff pieces.
So if you’re producing content for a brand’s blog or developing a pitch for media, here are some of the modern news/content values you might what to consider:
Frequency: An event that occurs suddenly and fits neatly within the content schedule (think Haley’s comet) is more likely to be selected than a one that takes place over a long period of time – sorry, evolution. When it comes to your content calendar, don’t linger too long on a topic.
Threshold: According to G&R, events have to pass a threshold before they are news/content worthy – the greater the intensity (the bigger the acquisition or the greater Grumpy Cat’s book deal), the greater the impact.
Proximity: How close events are to an audience will have an impact. The smaller the intensity of the story, the closer the news has to be to the audience. From a content perspective, remember where your primary audience is located.
Unambiguity/Simplicity: The more clearly a story can be understood and interpreted without multiple meanings, the better. When it comes to content, you are always going to be able to say more, but is it really necessary?
Meaningfulness/Familiarity: News/content should be culturally familiar – be kind and keep your audience in mind.
Consonance/Predictability: Does the story align with media’s experience? If there are predictable elements they’ll be more prepared to cover the story. Similarly, what stories/content is your team in a good position to tell?
Unexpectedness/Unusualness: Unexpected, rare or unusual events/stories are more likely to pique media interest. At the same time, these stories make great blog click bait. Just kidding, but seriously.
Continuity: A story already in the news has a good chance of remaining in the news (even if its impact has been reduced) because it has become familiar and easier to interpret. A blog post on a hot topic is a great way to get a brand involved in a conversation where they may have expertise.
Composition: Editors often look to find balance – they don’t want too many Apple Watch follow-up stories. In the same vein, your brand’s blog should be mixing it up and adding some content diversity. Variety is the spice of life.
Reference to elite nations/people/companies: G&R are talking hard news so references to global superpowers will increase the newsworthiness of the story. From a PR perspective, the same could be said in terms of referencing elite companies. Is there a partnership with a large company you can mention to make your brand more interesting? How many blog posts can you name-drop Apple in?
Reference to persons: According to G&R, the best stories are presented in terms of individual people rather than abstractions. Bill Rundle agrees with this statement. Quote and profile customers and partners on your blog, and attribute posts to actual people.
Conflict/Negativity: Bad events are generally unambiguous and newsworthy, and opposition or viewpoints that conflict are more likely to hold the media’s ear. Similarly, a blog post with a contrarian perspective will often find favor with like-minded people.
Exclusivity/Niche-knowledge: Content that helps solve specific problems in an area that doesn’t receive much media coverage can quickly find an audience and drive search traffic to your blog/website. These posts can also build credibility and position a subject matter expert as an essential source of commentary.
Humor/Quirkiness: Newer digital publications are increasingly including funny and quirky stories, which often get widely shared on social channels. When it comes to owned channels, even corporations are allowed a sense of humor.
Kids/Animals: ‘Never work with kids and animals’ has become ‘Always work with kids and animals.’ The Internet loves this stuff; give it what it wants. What’s your misbehaving Llama strategy?
This list is by no means exhaustive, and every news publication and blog will give each of these a different weighting depending on the audience. We’re curious to hear from other PR pros and journalists – what are some other modern news / content values? Tweet us @BlancandOtus.
A few months ago, we discussed the optimal time for posting on social media. Here we are again to set the record straight: more content doesn’t always mean better content, and posting for the sake of posting should be avoided at all costs. Social media content should be aimed to delight, engage, educate and (sometimes) even create some controversy with your audience. Follow these tips to make sure you’re on track with your social content:
Facebook doesn’t make it easy for brand posts to be successful. In short, if you want promotional brand posts to appear, it won’t be free. However, this does not mean that all content goes unseen – Facebook is mainly filtering out posts they consider to be “promotional,” meaning that quality content will still be organically distributed. Now the questions remains, what is quality content?
Must contain a link: Research conducted by Facebook itself found that users prefer displayed links over photos with text displayed above.
This same research found that 80 percent of users preferred not to see “click-bait” headlines, but rather headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the story or not.
Keep it short: A study done by Buddy Media found that posts that contained 40 characters or less received 86 percent more engagement than longer posts.
Relevance is king: Guess what? People want to share real-time news with their friends! No surprise there, but you might not know that the Facebook algorithm boosts posts that are “trending” or being mentioned across the platform. Follow conversations and see what your audience is talking about to boost engagement.
What’s your content strategy? The most engaged-with brands on Facebook have a strategy when posting content. Consistence and frequency are crucial, though this doesn’t mean post five times a day. But make sure you have a regular cadence of content being shared with your audience.
LinkedIn has about 260 million users and leads the pack for professionals among the social networks listed. It can be both a way to connect with old colleagues, as well as a powerful tool for lead generation. Econsultancy found that LinkedIn sends four times more traffic to your company’s homepage than Twitter and Facebook. Additionally, the platform has the highest visitor-to-lead conversion rate at 2.74 percent. How do you make sure you’re maximizing this potential?
Let us repeat ourselves, consistency is crucial to the success of your profile. Whether it be a personal or brand page, consistent messaging ensures that your profile effectively conveys your message if a visitor decides to read one post or twenty.
Make sure your content is appropriate for the platform. LinkedIn members are professionals; they aren’t looking for cute cat videos (albeit, don’t hesitate to share these elsewhere). In fact, according to research from LinkedIn, 6 out of every 10 users are interested in reading industry insights, followed closely by company and product news (53 percent and 43 percent of users are interested in this type of content, respectively).
LinkedIn has two tools for marketers to determine what content is resonating best with their audience: Content Marketing Score and Trending Content. You can learn more about both tools here. These aim to arm you with the insights needed to post the most relevant and engaging content to both personal and brand pages.
Twitter is a bit like the Wild West of social media. Finding the best content to post often takes some experimenting to see what hashtags, articles, and voice resonates the best with your audience. Nick Lewis, PR and social media expert, compiled a list of the components of a good Tweet:
Don’t tweet with nothing to say: Does your Tweet serve a purpose? Does it warrant engagement from your audience? Over-posting without adding any value will likely result in reduced engagement, so the purpose of your content should be clear.
Link to associated sources: Due to Twitter’s character count, it’s sometimes tough to convey your whole message in a single tweet. This is where directing your audience to a related source (i.e. an article, blog post) comes in handy.
Include images: It’s simple. Tweets that include an image receive 150 percent more retweets than those that do not.
Instagram is the fastest growing major social media network in the world with over 300 million users, including more than half of all online young adults. It’s no secret that visual content is exponentially more engaging than written content, especially with millennials. What is the secret to Insta-fame? Let us explain:
Context and relevance are key: Think before you hit the ‘Share’ button. What value does this add to my customer’s life? How do they benefit? Why would they be interested? How can I make this relevant to my followers?
Hashtag brilliance: Branded hashtags are a great way to not only engage with your audience, but also a great way to curate photos to share on your brand’s account. The clothing brand, Aritizia is a great example of a successful, branded hashtag.
Regardless of the network, one piece advice rings true – know your audience before you say anything. What trends do they care about? What annoys them? What content are they seeking out on social media in the first place? And what are they posting?
Once you begin to answer these questions, you’re well on your way to posting engaging content.
We all know that tech communications is evolving rapidly. But amidst the constantly changing technology, workflow and communication challenges we all face on a daily basis, the really interesting thing is that a new norm is slowly forming. Strategy, execution and measurement are beginning to converge. Old myths are being challenged. And a new playbook is forming around creative destruction, co-creation and authentic omni-channel storytelling.
First, this convergence of strategy, execution and measurement has enormous implications for what the new norm looks like in technology marketing. Strategy and execution are merging as the stakes are raised for strategies to pay off quickly.
And they are not the only things. Measurement and strategy are converging, as well. We used to conduct marketing and communications measurement after the fact and ask ourselves, how did we do? What might we do differently next time? Realistically, we’d do this once a month, in some cases only once a quarter, just because we were so busy executing we had little time to measure. But now the data that’s available to us on the impact of our communications is everywhere, it’s instantaneous, and it’s imperative that we learn from it.
Meanwhile, execution and measurement are merging. Traditionally, measurement would rarely actually impact how we were executing, because we waited for the final results to show up before we bothered to look at the data. As we learn to filter out the signal from the noise and become more adept at reading data signals intelligently, we can stop doing marketing and communications in the rear-view mirror and start looking at our instrumentation as we’re driving forward, not after we’ve finished the trip. Then we can adjust both our strategy and our tactics in real time to change the outcomes we’re measuring.
And all this means that as a marketing and communications function, we have to converge, as well, and collaborate more closely and fearlessly than ever before. Drop the silos. Don’t let org charts and reporting structures get in the way. Strategists and planners, creative designers and developers, project managers, relationship managers, data analysts—the entire team needs to gather around the table and recognize that it’s all connected now, and sharing information and insights faster internally is more important than ever. All too often, it’s our own internal political and organizational friction that limits our success.
And when we do gather as a team and start thinking collectively, it becomes that much easier to see through some of the more unhelpful myths that are getting on our way:
Communication innovation isn’t always about inventing new words. Sometimes, technology companies get caught up in category creation and creating new must-haves and catch phrases that nobody has ever used before. This is actually a time-consuming and costly approach. With all the white noise that already plagues most technology categories, the wiser approach is to engage in a little creative destruction, rhetorically speaking. Challenge existing myths and hype, be the voice of reason in a crowded discussion, and create some space for new ways of thinking.
Thought leadership isn’t a dictatorship. The next myth is that thought leadership is all about educating an audience and telling them something. In fact, thought leadership is about curating a discussion and asking your audience to see a current problem or challenge from a new perspective. Once you’ve cleared your rhetorical space of the b.s. and hype that’s clouding people’s understanding, you can co-create a point of view with your audience through the use of viral questions and interactive content strategies across multiple channels.
It’s not all about gorgeous content and keywords.
Nobody will deny that brilliantly designed content and engaging form factors such as videos and apps work wonders to capture people’s attention and imagination. And clearly the right SEO strategy will boost visibility. But unless those eye-popping experiences and keywords lead to a measurable shift in sales, stock price, talent recruitment or some other KPI that the CEO cares about, it’s hard to justify even the most conservative of invoices on creative content. What’s really needed is for content creators to converge their thinking with the business strategists and data analysts around the table and come up with the omni-channel narratives and experiences that also lead to cash.
This the new norm that we see, and it’s just part of what we’ll be discussing in our upcoming series on The New Norm. There are many other PR myths to explore, and new ways for technology communicators to work together. We’ll be taking a look at them more closely in our upcoming series, and we invite you to share your ideas with us, as well.
Wait, what happened in tech media this week? For one, the FCC decided it will regulate broadband Internet as a public utility. But let’s skip the big picture stuff and dive into some random, less momentous stories:
Sometimes parody Twitter accounts do better than the brand’s official channels. Nihilist Arby’s totally gets capitalism and PR – consumers really only care about the BIG questions.
Speaking of solid social media campaigns, ever wondered what makes a truly baller PR campaign?
And once you’re done mulling over the meaning of PR and/or life, you should probably watch Slow Mo Lab’s video of a rubber ball exploding in slow motion. The company’s approach to online video content is not dumb.
Also, in case you were wondering about what is actually important in life, Hillary Clinton just did an interview on the future of the Internet with Re/code’s Kara Swisher.
Finally, Snapchat, possibly the newest media titan, is breaking into the music market. Jury’s still out about whether their newest endeavor will be as fleeting as their photos.
That covers it for this week’s top picks – thanks for stopping by. You’re free to return to House of Cards.
Have you ever searched your name on Google? If not, have you searched your favorite celebrity? Chances are you have, and what you may uncover is not always good. For example, my latest search of my favorite actor (Brad Pitt) brought up a whole host of articles about his relationship with Jen. Unless they’re hoping to profit off the old breakup story forever, Pitt’s PR team likely wants the ranking of those articles lowered.
During the past few years, Google has made multiple algorithm updates nicknamed Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird and, most recently, Pigeon. While these algorithms change the way paid SEO firms must operate, they do not significantly change the best practices. There are still ways that you can raise positive content or bury the not-so-pleasant articles about your product shortfall, or latest breakup!
Here are some tips to help raise the good content and hide the bad:
Issue a press release: Increase the number of press releases on the wire. While we don’t always encourage extra press releases, if you are not issuing at least one a month this is a simple solution to increase rankings.
Comment on news articles: Results coming from a domain like The New York Times are considered very credible by Google. While this doesn’t necessarily have the same impact as coverage in The New York Times, it’s better than negative articles.
Optimize brand videos: YouTube is often considered the second largest search engine, and promoting images and videos can help push negative content down further. Some experts say Google ranks your YouTube content higher than pages from your own website. This article also highlights more reasons for why videos are awesome for search.
Contribute content: Draft content for some of the most credible publications, such as Wired or Fast Company. To optimize reach you can also pay to promote, giving your content an extra boost.
Sponsor content: We’d recommend considering sponsored content or paid ads. There are a whole host of publications, such as VentureBeat, that allow you to publish advertorials while ensuring that it’s contextually relevant, and then of course you could try mastering AdWords.
Update/add online presence to search directories: Make sure directories, such as Crunchbase and BigSight are up to date with your latest messaging, as search engines consider these credible when it comes to your rankings.
Increase owned content: Continue a strong cadence of publishing to your brand’s blog and social media profiles. Also, investigate ways to republish content on other platforms such as SlideShare, Vimeo or Storify.
SEO consultant: If you have tried all of the above and want to try and fight Google’s algorithms, work with an SEO consultant to determine if your SEO is optimized appropriately.
What did you find when you searched your name or brand? Any other tips that have worked well for you? Let us know @BlancandOtus.
It’s a cliché that I personally dread, but in 2014, content certainly made a strong claim to the marketing throne. It was as if everyone that worked in any flavor of marketing job suddenly thought, we need more content in our lives. We need to produce more. And we need to talk about it more.
One problem. A lot of that content was…well, how can I put this? Not exactly worth sharing. This thing is, with so much content being produced by so many people every minute of every day – the stats are kind of crazy – the bar for what constitutes “good content” keeps rising. Mark Schaefer’s Content Shock concept analyzed the situation perfectly in what must have been one of the most talked about pieces of content on content of the year. And that post was from January 6, 2014.
Despite the obvious diminishing margins of return, marketers still wanted more. It was the key to unlocking the value of social media. It would transform SEO. It would engage audiences in new and exciting ways. It was very cool stuff and like Oliver Twist, all you needed was more. Except that wasn’t really the case.
Marketing content had already been increasing like crazy for years. It was just 2014 when it seemed to become vogue. But instead of looking for simply more content, brands should have been looking at things a different way. After all, simply writing more newsletters, automating social media feeds, producing more infographics or launching more company blogs/magazines/YouTube channels/LinkedIn profiles/Facebook pages/carrier pigeon programs (well, that one might work) was never going to be more than a very short-term solution.
So as we enter another content-full year, I wanted to share some thoughts on how we are helping our clients differentiate their content storytelling:
Targeted: Funny how we often miss the most obvious things. And while I know the obligatory goal of any piece of content is to go “viral,” you haven’t got a hope in hell if you start by targeting the masses. All too often sweeping statements are used to describe target audiences – “IT decision makers” and “the C-Suite” are classics – when in reality, we need to really invest the time to understand exactly who we are hoping to talk with. What are they interested in at work? What are their interests outside of work? Where do they go to find information? Who do they trust? What makes them laugh? By answering those kinds of questions, you suddenly have a wealth of information to inform your storytelling.
Real: I was going to call this authentic, but that in itself felt a little fake. As if the aim of your content is to engage an audience in some way or another (in other words, the aim of 99.999% of all content marketing), then it has to be like a real conversation. That means the content won’t have marketing messages masquerading as stories. It could reference interesting data/insights your competitors have shared. It will be designed for the real world rather than your executive suite and it may not even refer to your company, product or service at all. Crazy? Maybe. Interesting, different and shareable? Definitely.
Visual: I might be dipping back into clichés, but simply put, a picture tells a thousand words. You can no longer afford to ignore video and other visual assets. In an increasingly mobile and social world where your story might have a solid five inches of real estate, they are now the price of admission. And don’t just think infographics. Think instead about the cool content you share with your friends – everything from gifs and Vine/Instagram videos to video-embedded content and video storytelling. A couple of great examples are GE’s cool #6secondscience and #GravityDay campaigns and the YouTube Rewind series.
Integrated: Yes, it’s cheaper. Yes, it’s simpler. Yes, it’s faster. But just producing standalone pieces of content is, in most cases, a waste of time. Content now needs to not only integrate visual and written assets, but also be a fully integrated part of your social, SEO, PR and advertising strategies. Don’t just think in terms of “one-offs” and instead take a leaf out of the HBO or Showtime book and think of entire series. That gives your audience something they can rely on, a reason to come back. And what’s more, developing content should be a core part of your team’s skills, because with so much integration required, outsourcing content to separate departments or teams is counter intuitive at best.
Part of It: Don’t be the person that walks into the bar and immediately tries to change the conversation. Listen, watch, care and ask. We have talked a lot about the power of the right question, but great content is about more than just that. It needs to be in the right voice, be relevant to popular culture, timely and something that people not only find helpful, but also enjoy. A tough ask, but we now have the listening and measurement tools that give us unprecedented insights into our audience’s likes and dislikes. By using that information correctly, content can be constantly fine-tuned.
That’s right. It’s a lot of work. But when we get it right, the payback is huge. And of course, telling a story that gets people talking is the really fun part about our jobs, and with all the changes that have taken place in PR, we now have more opportunity to do that than ever before. So rather than just focusing on “more” content in 2015, think bigger and look at how you can produce “different” content. It will lead to a very different year.
Technology has had a profound impact on our profession. While the basic art and science of storytelling has remained relatively unchanged, the channels and content via which those stories are told have been transformed.
As a result of the changes to the different communication channels and the emergence of new forms of digital and social content, brand journalism has emerged as the new standard. In fact, an organization’s owned and earned channels are now becoming increasingly important outlets for news, content and ideas.
With increased focus on corporate publishing, modern PR teams need to be able to move beyond traditional programs that revolve around press releases and instead understand ever-evolving news values, have an eye for a story and always be exploring new ways to engage audiences.
In tandem, consumers are increasingly looking for relevant, timely content that offers insights into trends, as well as more granular content that provides answers to their specific questions.
PR has traditionally had high-level trends and thought leadership covered, but effective content strategies today go beyond traditional media angles to provide useful content that anticipates questions and pain points of customers.
For example, one of our clients (Oracle Marketing Cloud) recently shared an example of a customer that began posting answers to frequently asked questions from customer service emails on the blog. The company now ranks in the top 3 search results for 360 keywords, and now 70 percent of its revenue can be tied back to its online content.
Digital channels and the social Web have enhanced an organization’s ability to communicate directly with its audiences. At the same time, cross-channel marketing technology, social media management platforms and data services are enhancing customer understanding, and giving organizations the ability to engage their audiences with a whole new level of intimacy.
Contributed articles, blog posts, and a full range of digital and social content generated by PR and marketing teams can now be targeted at very specific audiences using a combination of internal and external data sources, and used to nurture prospects and mobilize brand advocates.
But the intimate communication that digital channels allow also demands a different style of communication. The modern consumer of media is a connoisseur of content, doesn’t respond well to the hard-sell or broadcast-style communication, and is looking for more of a dialogue with organizations.
The less-controlled, relationship-based communication of traditional PR placed the industry in a strong position to deliver on the promise of customer dialogue with the emergence of social media. As organizations build on this intimacy with new digital marketing tools, the PR department is again well-positioned to contribute content that drives discussion and fosters two-way communication between an organization and its audience.
Stop, Collaborate and Listen
With both marketing and PR pushing for more content, the ability for both groups to repurpose, reuse and recycle, makes collaboration and interdepartmental integration essential.
The content-savvy consumer expects message consistency at every touch point. In fact, according to a recent study by Accenture, 58 percent of consumers are frustrated with marketing inconsistency between channels.
While the trend toward content-driven marketing and PR cannot be ignored, the essence of PR hasn’t changed. Our goal is still to develop and share compelling stories, and to quote the PRSA, build “mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” However, digital communication platforms and changes to the media landscape are transforming the way we deliver on this goal.
To be effective in this modern era, PR programs can no longer rely on only traditional media channels. Instead, today’s successful communicators must work collaboratively to create a consistent voice across different channels and develop content tailored to specific audiences.