A few weeks back, I was on a panel at Philly Start-Up Leaders’ Founder Factory. I was asked what mistake entrepreneurs make when trying to acquire customers for the first time. It was an easy answer. Don’t think you’re going to put out a launch press release and suddenly a lot of people will start buying and using your products. I got a few laughs and some funny follow-up about my insistence that people “#stopdoingthat.” Of course, it’s not funny. But it is important.
Over the years, I’ve worked with a lot of PR professionals and clients that spend hours upon hours crafting the perfect press release. It can be a significant waste. Press releases are tools – they serve as a vehicle to put all the information you want the media and the public to know in one place exactly as you want it. The mistake is in thinking that if you write one and put it out via a wire service, reporters are going to banking down your door to do a story. It’s simply not the case.
The trouble with entrepreneurs and others that think a press release is going to be a magic bullet is not the tactic itself. It’s the mind set. Press releases are typically about the company and its products or services. But what the media cares about is the readers / viewers / listeners. Companies that really want to sell need to be more focused on understanding them than anything else. This means listening, reading, and viewing what they are.
The best media placements are made when you identify a reporter who is writing for an audience you share. You know what they’ve reported, what feedback they’ve received (check the comments and Twitter), and what makes your story truly different and relevant. If you can get all these things in place, then the press release can help you close the deal by making the reporter’s job easier. This is important because it changes the strategy of writing the release. The simpler and easier to understand your press release is, the more likely a reporter will be to “get it” and want to do the story.
A reporter friend of mine sometimes sends me the worst press releases he receives. Some are hilarious in how excessively they use over-the-top adjectives. Some are so verbose that an entire paragraph is made up of one sentence and six industry jargon terms. The best I saw recently was sent with all its redline corrections (it was a Word document). In any case, there is little to no chance that he will write a story based on a press release he receives without any previous relationship. Think of all the wasted time.
As I’ve said many times, some of the best media placements we’ve gotten for our clients were based on nothing more than a few sentences in an email. But it was an informed email sent to a reporter that we knew would care. So before you write a press release, ask yourself how much time you’ll spend and whether anyone will really care. If not, “#stopdoingthat.”
To say that we’re inundated with advertisements and meaningless messages on a daily basis would be the same as telling you that water is wet. Yet companies still feel the need to continue over-saturating the market with pop-ups, drop-downs, flash-bys, and so-and-so’s, hoping to catch enough eyes that will hopefully turn into customers. It’s like being in a classroom where everyone’s yelling at the top of their lungs but the teacher still expects you to learn something.
So what’s the point?
Conventional wisdom says that marketing is a numbers game. We’ve accepted the idea that if you advertise with enough frequency that you increase the chances of someone hearing, remembering and acting on your message. The problem with this thought process is that it implicitly frees marketers of the responsibility of really connecting with their customers. The best form of marketing is still word-of-mouth but since this is the least likely to predict and control, it seems like marketers have given up trying to harness its powers. Although it requires a little more work and creativity, the return from an effective word-of-mouth campaign are well worth the investment. Here are some tips to make the job much easier.
1. Be dependable and accessible.
It’s a lot easier to retain customers than it is to get new customers and it’s a lot more cost effective to turn current customers into brand ambassadors. Since much of the world is entrenched in some form of social media, it behooves companies to not only have social media accounts, but to also be active in solving problems through social media. No one wants to be put on hold by a customer-service line. And since most people have similar problems, answering them via Facebook or Twitter for everyone to see can be much more efficient than answering individual complaints via phone or email. Being active and consistent on these channels will do wonders for a company’s reputation as being dependable; a key factor in gaining the hearts of customers.
2. Be a human being.
Due to the recent economic fiasco caused in part by the negligence of large corporations, people look at large corporations as lifeless entities deserving of our suspicions. In a thirty-second TV ad, or a drop-down digital ad, it’s hard to shake those suspicions so it’s imperative that companies tell their stories. People still refer to magazines and news articles for unbiased opinions and insights so it’s beneficial for companies to take advantage of these outlets. Part of Apple’s success is due to the iconic stature that is Steve Jobs and the same is true for Richard Branson and The Virgin Group. When you introduce yourself to your customers, barriers begin to fall.
3. What really makes you so special?
Ego aside, what really makes your company so special? Very few companies have novel products and services so the key differentiator is really all about the customer experience. And part of that experience is the way they feel about each and every interaction they have with your company’s brand. What do you offer them outside of your products? Are you a source of information? Are you a source of entertainment? I’m not implying that you need to hire a news anchor or stand-up comedian, but it’s helpful if customers come to you even when they’re not in the process of making a purchase. Repetition builds habits and habits are contagious.
If companies adhere to these simple practices, spurring a word-of-mouth campaign won’t seem like such a conundrum.
In 2012, Thanksgiving may be more important for our country than ever before. Coming off the heels of an intensely bitter and divisive Presidential election, this Thanksgiving will provide America with a much-needed opportunity to collectively sit down and remember that we still have much to be thankful for. A day off for family, food, and football will do us all some good.
Slice Communications has so much to be thankful for this year. Our employees, clients, partners, friends and family continue to make 2012 an amazing year for our company and we want you to know how much you are appreciated. To all of us at Slice, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!
Megastorm Sandy walloped the Northeast coast of the United States last week causing widespread devastation from Virginia to Maine. Much of New Jersey and Long Island are still without power, approaching two weeks in the dark. As with most disastrous situations comes the opportunity for leaders to step up to the plate, going above and beyond to help those in need. Chris Matthews even went to the extreme by notoriously saying that Sandy was a good thing as it gave President Obama a chance to showcase his leadership prior to the election. While no one in their right mind could possibly think that Sandy was a GOOD thing, it does give the opportunity for businesses across the country to do good things; simultaneously helping their fellow citizens while putting their business in a positive light. On the contrary, unfortunately, companies can also make blunders in the way they portray or market themselves during and after tragic events (remember the Kenneth Cole/Cairo tweet?)
A variety of well-known brands made some pretty big errors in judgment with the way their marketing department decided to exploit the storm and those affected by it. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of these brands are fashion retailers such as American Apparel whom drew criticism for their “SANDYSALE” where shoppers received 20% off everything with the aforementioned coupon code (they were unapologetic). Similarly, GAP tweeted that they were “doing lots of Gap.com shopping” during the storm, encouraging customers to check in on their Foursquare “Frankenstorm Apocalypse – Hurricane Sandy.” Perhaps even more bizarre is that Living Social is selling discounted stays at hotels on Long Island that were badly damaged and may no longer exist.
To people whom weren’t directly affected by Sandy, these blunders may seem relatively harmless. However, companies cannot lose sight of the fact that this storm caused loss of life and livelihood for many and those that have witnessed the devastation don’t take kindly to such sales techniques. My family, friends, and myself were all personally affected by Sandy. I can say unequivocally that these companies further cement the idea that they are just after the next dollar. I don’t think Urban Outfitters is fooling anyone when they offer free shipping with the “ALL SOGGY” coupon code. In times of tragedy it would behoove companies to try and support their customers by holding food/clothing drives and fundraisers, not by gimmicky shipping deals that cost the company next-to-nothing. Believe it or not people have bigger and more important things to worry about than getting a t-shirt for $5 off.
You get an amazing placement or a mention in one of the most sought after publications in your industry. (Thanks in part to your agency.) Your quote is genius – a combination of wit and authority – and you look fantastic. All of that is great, but how do you measure that success beyond the clip itself?
The world of public relations has always been difficult in terms of measuring the ROI of media placements. Most PR professionals have had to brush up on their measuring skills at some point in their career in order to calculate the “black magic” of ad space.
Tom Kolesk of SLICE COMMUNICATIONS recently wrote an entry on using placements to measure ROI. He outlined goals that should be set into place in order to get everything you possibly can out of each media placement you receive. The use of Google Analytics helps us to take the measurement of ROI even further.
Google Analytics is a free service that, in part, helps analyze and evaluate website traffic. Whether or not your PR or social media effort is driving people to your website is critical to measuring its efficiency since visiting the website is often the first step a prospective customer will take.
Of course, web traffic generated is not the only metric of success, but there are some strategic insights that can be learned by reviewing and analyzing this data regularly.
If you don’t currently have Google Analytics or another analytics package installed on your website, correct that immediately. (I can help – just email me.) Once you do, below are some simple things you should be tracking and reviewing:
General website traffic – every time you have a media placement, check your Google Analytics for the next few days to see if you’ve had a spike in visitors to your website. This will tell you if the media placement was seen and compelling enough for people to take the action of visiting your website. Ideally, you’ll also be able to track incoming inquiries you’ve received as a result either through the website or over the phone.
Traffic sources – this should be reviewed at least monthly. As PR professionals, we look for news websites, aggregators, blogs, and other URLs where we know we’ve placed articles to see how many people clicked the link in the article and came to the website. (When we have our SM hats on we look for referral traffic from Facebook, Twitter, etc.) From there, we want to know how long those people stayed on the site, how many pages they visited, and how they exited. Then, we want to compare that to the general web traffic.
Pages Visited – again, our interest lies mostly with the pages on a company’s website where they post their news and press releases. We want to know how many people visited those pages compared to other pages on the website, how long they stayed, and whether they exited the site. If you are getting a lot of traffic and no one is leaving the site after viewing the news pages, your PR effort is likely helping to attract and sell to customers.
For tracking purposes it is extremely important that reporters link back to your website whenever there is an online media placement. This will make tracking even easier when looking at where website traffic is coming from.
The search for the Holy Grail of ROI measurement in PR is far from over. But as the world of communications and the Internet continues to evolve, we need to implement new ways of tracking the success of media placements and the impact on the overall business.
This article caught my eye today and I immediately had flash backs to conversations I’ve had with clients over and over again about contests and promotions.
The story is about a partnership between Bank of America and Susan G. Komen for a project called “Everyday Portraits.” It’s a cool concept. Basically, breast cancer survivors are asked to post their photos and tell short versions of their stories online.
The problem lies with the execution, as it often does.
Before starting any kind of contest promotion, companies need to ask, “Who is the audience and what will motivate them to take the action requested?” Then comes the more critical question, “Will participants perceive value in what they’re receiving in return?”
In this case, for every portrait that is uploaded Bank of America will donate $5 up to $25,000. That means the goal is to have 5000 people participate.
Again, execution is a problem. Instead of running this campaign through its Facebook page, it is being run through Bank of America’s website. This requires people to register with the site, find and manually upload a photo (with size limits), and then write out an essay about themselves (with character limits).
To date, there are only 580 portraits of the goal 5000 despite an online banking audience of 30 million.
It’s no surprise really. The promotion asks too much. The trade-off is not in the participants’ favor. Is all that work and time really worth $5? The answer is a pretty resounding “no.”
There are clearly better and easier ways to run this promotion so that less is required of the people who take part and the $5 trade-off makes sense. Technology, Facebook integration, and a different reward with better perceived value are all on the table. If Bank of America wants to succeed with this project, the “Portrait” will need to be painted differently.
We get these common Facebook questions a lot, so we thought we should share our answers with you. What other social media questions do you have?
1. Can I convert a person page to a business page on Facebook without losing my connections (friends)?
When you convert a personal page to a business page on Facebook, there are a lot of limitations and a lot of data lost. Here are the details:https://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=19691. That said, you could convert the person page to a business page and then merge the business pages. The problem is that your person page right now has more connections and the one with the most connections will be the acquirer. Here are the details: https://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=249601088403018.
What I would recommend in this case is that you spend some time and money getting more connections (Likes in this case) for the business page you want to use moving forward. You can do that in these ways:
Make the person page an admin on the business page
Have the person invite all her friends to like the business page
Have the person page post multiple times a day asking people to like the business page and say that the person page is being shut down
Send out non-Facebook communications through the school asking teachers, parents, students, etc. to like the page
Once you’ve gotten more connections there, convert the person page to a business page and merge the business pages. That should make sure you keep all the person page’s friends.
2. Is there a difference between a “like” and a “fan” or are they synonymous?
They are synonymous.
3. Can you communicate with your fans or likes the way you can with a personal profile?
No. You can only post to the business’s timeline, but you can respond to an individual if s/he reaches out directly on the timeline or in the private messages.
4. If you post something to a business page, does it go directly to the news feeds of all your fans or likes?
5. If someone “likes” your post on a business page, does it go directly to the news feed of all of that person’s friends?
The initial Like will show up. The business will not show up otherwise unless the person interacts with the business and then that interaction will show up. Also, if you purchase some sponsored ads, there will be little mentions of your members’ liking your business on the right of their friends’ pages.
As proud members of the Philadelphia Community, we were distraught at Philadelphia’s recent ranking as the 6th dirtiest city in America. We understand that often times these national designations from publications are often flawed, but having our hometown newspaper call out Love Park for its shoddy condition was a wake-up call that we need to do something.
Slice Communications is proud to support Philadelphia’s first Flash Clean-Up of Love Park on Monday, October 8th. CleanItSupply.com will be sponsoring the event and providing all of the necessary cleaning supplies to make our beloved landmark a place that we can be proud of. We hope you’ll join us at 5:30pm at Love Park, and for a free drink at Tir Na Nog afterwards on CleanItSupply.com!
More information about the clean up can be found here.
Your company has made the investment of hiring a Public Relations agency or made an in-house hire. You’ve outlined the strategy, goals, messaging, and potential news hooks. Within a few months, you have seen results in the form of placements – articles about the company in newspapers, magazines, online publications, and even blogs. If you are not doing everything possible to squeeze every inch out of these placements, you are selling your company short!
There are three primary goals on how to use a PR placement to maximize your return on investment:
1) Move prospects through the pipeline to close a sale
Has your conversation with a prospect stalled? Shoot them an email with a link to a quote from your company’s CEO in Reuters.
2) Engage in those in your network to move them into the sales pipeline
Make sure you are posting these clips on your social networks (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) and website. This will make your company top-of-mind and can generate easy sales. Placements in a major publication (think New York Times, Forbes) deserve to be highlighted in the company newsletter and posted to its blog.
3) Indentify those outside your networks to generate incoming queries
Distribute via vendors, partners, and associations. These clips are a great opportunity to familiarize your company with individuals who had not previously heard of it. Also, for articles that run online make sure your PR agency receives the reporter’s link to your website!
Internally, you can keep a clipbook (or ask your agency to keep a clipbook) of all of the placements to date. This will allow you to have tangible evidence of your investment. However, failure to leverage these clips into sales stunts the growth of the public relations process and leaves you with a lot of nice links and clips and many lost opportunities.
As Google continues to update its search engine technology, the requirements associated to gaining good keyword placement in search results, have become more difficult to attain. Industry relevance, influence, and brand trust all play a factor.
Social media has a greater impact on search engine optimization (SEO) as well, both on the website and pointing to the website. SEO professionals need to identify and network with key influencer’s in their client’s target markets, to develop trust, mentions, and links.
PR and marketing communications teams are key participants and often the owners of the messaging strategy for an organization. The best links, social media visibility, and relationships online, are won when PR and SEO combine forces.
In an effort to gain better perspective on this opportunity, I asked 12 PR and communications professionals on how B2B SEO can better support their effort. Here are some of their perspectives on this topic.
There shouldn’t be silos between the search and PR departments, and an open dialogue should exist for the most effective communication. For example, SEO shouldn’t be an after thought – when PR, marketing or social media is creating content for a campaign, SEOs should be actively involved in finding the best keywords and links to infuse, way before publishing deadlines.
SEO professionals can also suggest content strategies to create an overall more-rounded marketing strategy such as suggesting a blog post concept in association to a formal press release, or reminders to push certain social media posts harder than others because your site is close to ranking on Page 1 for a certain keyword.
It is also essential for B2B PR, marketing and communications teams to have a concrete understanding of SEO elements – it results in a much more harmonious process.
Stacey Acevero is the social media manager at Vocus. Stacey blogs at Vocus on influential marketing and social media while also blogging at PRWeb on public relations and SEO.
EO is about finding the right audience to read your message. The time is now to get more eyeballs on the both the content we create (such as a blog post or an infographic) and the content we earn (such as a news article or feature on Forbes.com, IndustryWeek, American Medical News or the like).
Whatever content we create must be optimized via SEO to reach its full potential. Keyword optimization of your content should be done whenever possible and appropriate, across all channels.
B2B SEO professionals offer several skills that can help PR teams work better. Through link building research (finding new opportunities and by analyzing competitors) they can provide PR teams with new places online to submit news, stories, opinions, and industry insights.
SEO pros can also identify types of stories that worked well for competitors, or gaps in the market which PR teams could then write about.
Likewise there’s a lot SEO pros can learn from PR teams. For example, getting a good quality link will take time, so patience is needed. PR teams understand it is better to focus on getting one great story on a high profile site than lots of other links, a great lesson for any SEO pro.
Mike Essex is the Online Marketing Manager at Koozai, a Digital Marketing Agency
The most important thing I do in today’s B2B world is develop and curate content. To do it effectively requires an understanding of how search and keywords work. That means bringing in your SEO right from the beginning, before you develop content.
Too many companies bring in their SEO afterward, and pay the price in lower search rankings. The conversation becomes “this is what you should have done” vs. “this is how we should do it.”
The B2B sales cycle can be long — and SEO can take a long time to show benefits as well. Keeping everyone on the same page early helps achieve common goals in a shorter period of time.
Robyn Federman is the Director of Communications for Catalyst Inc. and has been developing marketing communications, social media, advertising, promotion, and public relation programs that drive new business for more than 25 years. An award-winning copywriter and content developer, she offers both direct and digital marketing experience, both client-side and agency-side, and has worked on major B2B accounts that include American Express, Intuit, Xerox, IBM, Pitney Bowes, and Ziff-Davis.
I think we all agree that SEO and PR professionals have mastered press release content. And, while press releases drive visibility and search it can no longer stand on its own.
Communications campaigns are best served when SEO and PR incorporates keywords into a variety of content from blog posts to tweets to bylined articles. And campaigns that optimize key web destinations such as press rooms, microsites and social sites further drive discoverability.
By looking beyond the press release and leveraging all assets SEO professionals can strategically support communication campaigns to help raise awareness and ultimately drive sales.
Jennifer Hrycyszyn is a VP at Greenough and has more than 15 years strategic communications experience working with a variety of B2B and B2C companies.
As Google continues to fine tune its algorithm, non-contextual and low value links will continue to decrease in value and potentially may even become somewhat harmful. Rather than creating content for specifically for SEO it makes much more sense to SEO your content.
As PR is, and should be, the gatekeeper of content, communication teams should be working in tandem with the web teams, where keyword strategy often sits. More time and thought should be going into how all copy aligns with the overall keyword strategy as well as how it links back to specific pages on the company’s website.
By optimizing every piece of copy that goes online for SEO, you can continually increase the quality and diversity of your backlinks in an organic way, keeping you well in front of the curve when it comes to future algorithmic changes by Google.
Martin Jones, co-founder and managing partner, March Communications, is a technology PR and interactive specialist with 18 years’ experience developing new and creative ways to promote companies, brands and products
If the mantra for real estate is “location, location, location”, then the mantra for communications professionals should be “consistency, consistency, consistency.” The goal of any strategic PR program is to ensure you’re hitting the right audiences (journalists, analysts, bloggers, partners, customers) at the right times.
All communications materials that can be searched should be optimized – including press releases, online newsrooms, media kits, blogs, and other marketing materials such as white papers and newsletters. And in all of these documents, a B2B PR professional needs to understand the right keywords and topics that reflect their targeted audience and utilize these keywords consistently across all material.
Melissa Lane has more than a decade of experience working with high tech B2B companies. Currently she is communications manager at Neolane, where her primary responsibilities include generating customer content and analyst relations.
There is the potential for significant collaboration between PR and SEO professionals, both in terms of generating links and measuring success. The problem is, and always has been, that measuring PR is very difficult. That’s especially true for B2B, which tends to be a complex sale.
SEO professionals can provide data to prove the value of PR. For instance, a media placement that is online (pretty much always the case now) may help increase ranking for a targeted keyword. Of course, that works best when the PR and SEO people are in-sync around the keyword effort. And, the PR person must ask the reporter for a link in the media placement and help the SEOs in their link building effort.
Cassandra Oryl is a Principal at Slice Communications, developing creative, insightful, and relevant information that their clients to distribute to target markets in a variety of ways.
The biggest problem I often see between SEO and PR/communication teams is a lack of cohesiveness. This includes not working together – sometimes not even talking!
SEO and PR teams are always after the same goal: to improve their brand’s positioning online. The PR team excels at getting coverage on external sites, the SEO team wants this coverage to include links to boost rankings and, in turn, conversions.
If these two teams aren’t working together, the PR team will often be doing cool campaigns that get coverage, but no links, and the SEO team will be doing another campaign that gets links, but maybe not coverage on those big sites the PR team has contacts at. Thus, working together is essential in making the most of both teams’ expertise and capturing all the low hanging fruit possible.
Adria Saracino is the Head of Outreach at Distilled, a creative online marketing agency. When not consulting on content strategy or leading her team of outreach warriors, you can find her writing about style on her personal fashion blog, The Emerald Closet.
As with most things in life, it’s more important to have quality over quantity. Reviewing a blog with 10 hyperlinks included is unlikely to resonate with the reader and unlikely to produce much of a response.
Aligning the client’s strategic goals at the beginning of each project to establish a consistent look and feel of the brand throughout all of the company materials, and then enhancing the content with SEO and relevant keywords in a well thought-out manner, will make each communication user-friendly, simple to navigate, and will ultimately resonate with the target audience.
Meghan Schulte is an account executive with Morningstar Communications, with over six years’ experience in communications, marketing, public relations and non-profit fundraising.
Support between search marketers and PR/communications teams should be a two-way street. Search marketers can directly support public relations efforts by providing relevant keywords trends and ROI-driving insights to the team.
As the search team adjusts their efforts/tactics to achieve optimized results, they should proactively share the keywords that are driving success (and those that aren’t) with the PR team. These trends can directly influence PR word choice and messaging.
Francis Skipper, is the Vice President of Digital Media at 451 Marketing, a national communications agency specializing in public relations, social media, and search marketing.
You may not be a Sherlock Holmes fan, but you probably know that he couldn’t make it very far without his loyal wingman, Watson. B2B PR folks really need SEOs to help them solve mysteries for their clients.
PR folks are typically hired to develop an “earned” audience strategy. That strategy, or hypothesis, is built upon a foundation of clues. PR and SEO have to commit to doing some hard detective work together to find those clues.
We hope the SEO folks will tell us “where and why” a client’s “owned” web properties are failing, if there’s current sticky content and which keywords will help position the client properly. In return, PR can assess what actions and content are likely to engage the social web and drive more traffic and links to the website.
Together, we can solve the mysteries that are holding back the client’s business…without a dead body in sight!
Elizabeth Sosnow is a Managing Director at BlissPR and has 20 years’ experience in content strategy and marketing. She leads the firm’s Digital activities, including blogger outreach, influencer engagement, SEO benchmarking and social network analytics.