Welcome to the Content Marketing Revolution

Today’s post is courtesy of Edelman Digital and though the main focus of the piece is content marketing on social media (meaning it should fall under Social Media Wednesdays), it is important to view this new way of content marketing as a PR Tip necessary in order to adapt to the dynamic changes taking place in the world of public relations.

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keyboard

Posted by 

Edelman Digital, Melbourne

Follow on Twitter @trevoryoung

While corporate gets hung up on the tactical aspects of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, the real action is bubbling beneath the surface. For many it’s not as sexy as the social technology platforms we hear about and see in the media every day but it’s equally powerful. Indeed, it’s the ‘secret sauce’ – the fuel that keeps the social web cranking along at breakneck speed.

I’m talking about content and how it can be used to keep your brand connected to the people who matter most to your business, cause or issue – how it can help organisations to:

  • Attract Attention
  • Gain respect
  • Build trust

… with longer-term goal of generating leads and ultimately growing sales revenue. (And let’s face it, which brands don’t want to tick those boxes?).

Emerging from Social Shadows

While we’re (finally) starting to take the notion of social media more seriously here in Australia, in the US the concept of ‘content marketing’ has emerged from the social shadows and is set to explode.

The creation, sharing (and in some instances, curation) of content is becoming a cornerstone marketing activity for many major brands and fast-growth companies.

Strategic Intent

Content can include everything from videos, podcasts, e-books, white papers and case studies through to blog posts, infographics, webinars, microblogging (Twitter), online news releases, mobile phone apps and interactive newsrooms. Used effectively and with strategic intent, content marketing is a powerful means of reaching and engaging with current and potential customers, media and other influencers.

The irony, however, is that despite its huge growth, content marketing is not exactly new. Videos, hard-copy newsletters and custom-published magazines – all corporate communication tools that have been around for years – can be considered content.

Why the sudden interest in content as a cornerstone marketing strategy?

Blame (or more importantly, thank!) the emergence of the social web.

Distribution Channels

Today, any person, company or organisation can establish its own online TV show (vodcast), radio station (podcast) or web-based magazine (blog), while social networking tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook serve as effective and powerful two-way content distribution channels.

Think about it for a moment. Let the concept percolate a bit – swill it around in your mind.

At the risk of repeating myself, we can now communicate directly with the people who matter most to the success of our business – and we can do it with a degree of scale and intensity of connection we’ve not been able to do before. I might also add: cost-effectively and in real-time.

This presents massive opportunities for companies and organisations to bypass the traditional ‘gatekeepers’ – journalists and editors – and engage directly with their constituents.

Empathy and Respect

But this opportunity comes with a caveat – several, actually.

Content marketing is not a sales pitch. Have empathy for your audience. Treat them with respect.

Create compelling content that’s interesting, relevant and worthwhile to your audience: it’s about them, not you.

Solve problems experienced by your audience (add value); tap into the experts in your company (hidden assets); provide credible information (without selling); and shine the spotlight on your customers (take a back seat).

Content marketing can be a powerful strategy. Get involved, but use it cleverly and respectfully … and reap the benefits!

Image credit: Rafael Peñaloza

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What PR Courses Actually Need To Teach PR Undergraduates

Ed Zitron PROn today’s Monday PR Tips we have Ed Zitron, the founder of EZ-PR, a PR and Media Relations company based in New York City and Raleigh, North Carolina. He is also of the author of “This Is How You Pitch: How To Kick Ass In Your First Years of PR,” an Amazon bestseller in the PR category. He has worked with companies large and small, including Target and The Nature Publishing Group, as well as smaller startups and tech figureheads.

He was featured in PR in Your Pajamas and discussed the information gap between the PR taught in institutions of higher learning and what graduates need to know and actually experience in the industry.

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In 2005, I took a public relations course at a major state university – PR 101 – and remember the lesson plans clearly:

  • the history of PR
  • writing a “communications brief”
  • writing a press release
  • press conferences

Eventually, I moved on to further classes. They mostly covered press conferences and “advance communications,” a vague summary of different techniques that you might want to use in general PR… activities.

At no point did the courses actually address the media.

This was nearly a full year before Twitter would launch. Facebook wasn’t available outside of colleges. Jon Gruber had been writing for 3 years, and TechCrunch would launch not too long after. Thus we completely missed a chunk of the “social” aspect that makes up the new world of PR, or indeed the importance of bloggers.

Regardless, reading over current PR courses and many textbooks used in courses, it’s clear PR undergrads are being taught to do things that are not part of most PR people’s days. Yes, it’s very exciting to be taught that you’ll be handling big campaigns, or “handling webinars,” or how important AP Style is (which in the grand scheme of things is mostly irrelevant), or how to handle a press conference — one of the most irrelevant skills that you’ll find before a career in high-end corporate PR.

While it may not be deliberate, this is a horrible misrepresentation of the industry as a whole and is leading students down a dark, dark path. The reason behind the failure at the educational level is simple: Many of these teachers are either not active practitioners, or others are fundamentally not good at major parts of the current world of PR. It’s easy to become obsolete if you’re teaching but not practicing.

After some research, I’ve come up with what I believe are the core elements that need to be applied to just about every PR curriculum. They are:

The Realities of PR

PR is no longer about event management. It is not press conferences. It is not glitz and glamor and fancy parties. At least not initially. The world of PR they are entering is cold, over-staffed, over-worked drudgery. It is mostly behind a computer, and the salaries are lower than ever. It’s potentially immensely lucrative if you become well-connected. It does not start that way.

These core lessons need to be ingested immediately:

  • The best way to network is to be yourself. It is not to have a personal brand or “love the media.” It’s about being an interesting human being.
  • Read a lot more. Reading and knowing the news and the world around you is more valuable than being popular on Facebook or loving to party.
  • PR is not flashy, and you will probably not deal with flashy clients for a long time. Many PR agencies sell themselves as working on huge clients like P&G, Samsung, and Gucci. This is not what most will do initially. They will probably work in small tech firms or with restaurants or with non-profits – immensely demanding clients that will not educate them.
  • The first years of PR will be a lot of document-writing, package-stuffing and document work. This fact is for some reason completely hidden from new PR professionals.

Media Relations

Many PR professionals on many blogs say media relations isn’t the core of PR. It isn’t a thing that you “have” to do. I’m sorry, but it is. It always will be, especially for new PR people.

The core elements of media relations are:

  • Researching an outlet and a reporter. This should focus on how to read properly, how to understand and have a rapport with a reporter, and how to understand the structure of each news outlet.
  • Writing a pitch. This should be taught in such a way as to write a pitch that will work to get a response and what you want, under 150 words. This is a very specific skill that is almost totally diametric to how Public Relations courses are taught.
  • The difference between a blogger, a reporter and a producer. The first two parts are somewhat blurred these days – a reporter can blog at a newspaper and a blogger can be called a reporter. However these people are fundamentally different and need to be approached in different ways, especially TV and radio producers.
  • What things are truly newsworthy, and how to actually get reporters to care about them. If a teacher can’t teach this, and teach the reality that many stories are kind of boring, they are not worth their salt.
  • How to actually talk to a person whom you want to write a story. This is really about not talking to them about anything and getting to know what they want to hear about. Once you know that, you can send it to them. Or not, when you don’t have it.

The Reality of Social Media

Social media is taught in a critically dishonest manner by the education system. It’s really exciting to talk about social media in a way that suggests it’s the new golden goose — that a single tweet can spread your news faster than anything else, and that, you too, could have thousands or millions of followers who will share your news in the most passive and useful manner.

Social media classes need to teach:

  • How to use Twitter or Facebook or Instagram in a real sense. You should not just be tweeting out endless praise for your company, or how great you are. You should be an honest company or an honest person.
  • You don’t need always need Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. There is no actual need to have every company with a social presence. Conversely, for many brick and mortar businesses, such as Angie’s List and Houzz for contractors and service businesses, some social media platforms are incredibly important.
  • How a real social media following is built through trust and a reason to actually care. If a company or a restaurant or anyone is just spilling out fatuous nonsense about their lives or how great they are, very few people are going to care.
  • That a social media calendar or strategy can be a waste of time. Mapping out a bunch of tweets or Facebook updates or “special days” for many companies isn’t necessary unless they have an active Facebook or Twitter following.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of everything they should know, but the core problem with PR education is that a 101 class should give the basics — the groundwork from which a real PR professional should theoretically grow. In the same way that pre-med and med schools exist to give the factual and theoretical ideas that will be used in the actual workplace, PR courses need to provide the theoretical foundation and background knowledge today’s PR professionals will need in their day-to-day work.

Social Media: Facilitating County Progress

jamhurimagazine.com

jamhurimagazine.com

Here is an extract from an Internews article titled Social Media: How County Governments can Benefit by James Ratemo. 

“..gone are the days of one-way communication systems where governments were monopolies of information and only transmitted censored information to citizens. Today citizens have leeway to vent their frustrations on leadership via the social media and a government that cannot listen is doomed to lose touch with the grassroots. The social media even gives Kenyans in the Diaspora a chance to contribute to county governance debates, meaning the leadership is able to curate varied opinion that would enrich its decision-making process.

Already a section of governors have borrowed a leaf from corporates and are quite active on social media. The Nairobi County Governor Facebook page for instance had over 138,000 likes as at November 11 2013 [currently over 148,000]. The governor has used the platform to communicate the work of his office and to arouse debate among his followers.

Dr. Kidero has even gone a notch higher to use the Facebook page to announce all upcoming events of his office and sharing key recordings from past events. This has seen the governor garner more and more followers thus able to track what Nairobi residents or other stakeholders think about the county’s projects and activities. His therefore is an example of how county governments can engage Kenyans on social media.

A quick survey across Facebook, Twitter and other social networks indicate that most counties are yet to establish official presence on the platforms. The county pages littering Facebook are either being run unofficially by individuals and contain no meaningful updates from the counties.

With more and more Kenyans now able to access the Internet via mobile phones, it is easy to stay connected and engage county leaders around the clock. Since it is impossible for county leaders to meet all their subjects one-on-one, engaging a majority of them via  social media platforms would be a sure way of receiving useful feedback. It therefore means leaders should develop a mechanism of monitoring what their subjects are saying on the social media for clues on what should top the county priority list.

Just like corporates have taken to social media to enhance customer care, county governments, through their communication desks should develop social media monitoring tools and policies to ensure constant touch with their constituents. As county governments struggle to have working structures in place, they need input of the citizens to exactly know their needs and wants. Constant surveillance of the social media can partly tell what citizens think about projects or plans being implemented across the counties.

Travis Crayton, an American social media enthusiast says “it is not enough for county governments (or any governments, really) to simply have accounts and post press releases. The pertinent questions should be: What value does these tweets and posts add to government? How do these posts advance citizen engagement and how do they improve the lives of citizens and make government better?”

Current trends indicate that most frustrated citizens opt to unleash their anger online. It is therefore upon county leadership to address issues behind such anger after crosschecking with the offices concerned.”

For the full article, click here.

To add to James Ratemo’s words, it is empirical that counties start and run pages that allow full interaction with the public. It could break down all the sectors in the county and dedicate a set amount of time to give information, answer queries, enact suggestions from the public and give a full evaluation.

The public also needs to be educated on their right to information. With this in mind, people can put pressure on their governor to perform office duties as is expected of them. This can also work to reduce corruption and other inconsistencies that often present themselves in public office regarding projects and budgetary allocations.

Accountability and transparency should be the themes of each county page set up. It would make it easier for voters gauge the developmental progress their governor has brought about and decided whether or not he/she deserves a second term. 

From this list of best and worst performing governors, those in their respective categories can and should make use of social media to analyse the social landscape and work to improve less that satisfactory areas.

Just as all organizations post only the good aspects of their company for PR purposes, this bias is likely to present itself in many if not all of these county pages. A way to curb this is have a separate entity not affiliated with the governors’s office manage the page.

The challenge may arise when rogue Kenyans use the platforms provided to conduct a witch-hunt, post malicious or false/inaccurate comments or even use them as advertising platforms. Kenyans need to be educated on the need to use the pages as a means to facilitate development and not stir up controversies that would only hamper development.

Art of Presentation Making

Presentations are an effective way of relaying information to your audience as compared to speeches. There are certain elements in presentations that allow for audience engagement and the retaining of information long after the presentation is over. Here are eight things to keep in mind while creating your next corporate presentation.

1) Use Key Phrases

On your PowerPoint, Flash or Keynote presentation, use key phrases and add only essential information on the slides. Choose three or four important points regarding your topic and emphasize on them throughout the delivery. Limit the words on each slide and reduce the bullet points to three per slide; the surrounding ‘white’ space will make reading easier. Use simple language for quick reading.

2) Slide Layout

Slides need to be easy to follow. Put a title page where it should be and the remaining slides should have a coherent flow. Important information should be put near the top of a slide especially if you have a large audience. Those on the back rows are usually not able to see the bottom portions of slides. Pick slide designs that appeal to your target audience.

3) The writing

Punctuation clutters the slide while using all caps makes statements harder to read. It also causes you to lose the audience attention as they will feel they are being shouted at. Use simple and easy fonts such as Times New Roman, Arial or Verdana. Calligraphy will make statements almost impossible to read. Use a maximum of two different fonts; one for headings and the other for content. Fonts need to be large (24-30 pt) so that those at the back of the room can read easily.

4) Colours

Avoid white backgrounds and use lighter colours like beige because they are easier on the eyes. You can use a dark background if your main corporate colour is dark but remember to use a light text colour.  Experimenting with patterned or textured backgrounds is not advisable as it reduces readability. Also, keep the colour scheme consistent in all slides.

thevarguy.com

thevarguy.com

5) Slide Number

On average, a slide should be change every minute. Keep your slides to a minimum to avoid distracting your audience with constant changing of slides.

6) Visuals

Break up your presentation every ten minutes with demonstrations to re-engage the audience. Relevant photos, graphs and charts keep audiences interested in your presentation and provide another way for them to process information and keep them actively engaged. Use more pictures as they increase the retention of the message being conveyed. However, adding too many transitions and animations can be distracting.

7) Compatibility

You may not always have your machine with you so ensure your presentation can be viewed from any computer before you copy your presentation onto a flash disk or a CD.

8) Audience interaction

Ask for questions or feedback at the end of your presentation.

What does your website say about you?

What your website says about you is not limited to the content but rather the impression it gives your users. There are a lot of articles regarding this topic and after research, this article will reveal some of the most important aspects that companies should consider when creating a website. This may also serve as an evaluation sheet to better your company’s image.

melanieclarkcommunications.com

melanieclarkcommunications.com

Illustration

If you show up to a board meeting in jeans and a t-shirt while your colleagues are in business suits, the attitude that you convey (intentional or not) is that you do not care how those in the room perceive you. They in turn will be less inclined to have you participate in the meeting as they will deem you unprofessional and not trustworthy.

The design

Before a user reads your content, no matter how life changing it may be, they first notice the design then place a judgement on your company. If your presentation is simple and crisp (like Apple.com) then they will know your company is professional and high-end. If your information is cramped (little white space) then a user will assume your company unprofessional or inexperienced.

When choosing a look for your company, keep two things in mind: the essence of your business and your audience. The site of a company that offers services and that of a company that sells products will not have the same design. Once you have the design, be consistent. Also, value user satisfaction above all else; if your users need brain power when accessing your site then you have it all wrong. Lastly, do not forget to add your company logo to the design.

Visuals are also important but be mindful of how you arrange them on the page.

The content

However, do not focus too much on your design and forget the content. People do come to your website looking for content, not admire the design.

promobubble.com

promobubble.com

Content should be simple, clear and precise. Use headings and bullet lists to make your site more user-friendly. If you have bad grammar or are not confident in your ability to write good content, consider hiring a professional. That way they can use SEO (search engine optimization) to increase visibility on search engines. After all, you have to send money to make money.

The website and its accessibility

Invest in a good website. If your website looks cheap then people will view you as cheap and prone to shortcuts. If your content is out of date, people will wonder if you are still in business. Get someone with knowledge and skill in web design; people can tell when a site is not professionally done.

Make sure that the visitor can access information within the first few seconds: elements like introduction, products or services and contact details should be clearly indicated. If not, the visitor will go to other pages or links.

Some websites are accustomed to having pop-ups advertising a product or asking the user to sign up for newsletters. As a company you should avoid such as it tells the user that you are more inclined toward sales and traffic rather than user experience. This interruption or delay will put off a user and have them looking for another site that contains similar content. Also, websites that force you to log in using an app such as Facebook or Gmail should be reconsidered. Though a user may choose to do as asked, any design that obscures information or delays a users access to information takes away from the experience. Not unless your content is one of a kind, visitors will not be quick to return to your website.

Web designers should also consider web accessibility when designing a page. Many times we have to access a website through our phones. That said designers need to work to enable all users to access a website, not just those with expensive smartphones.

If your website resembles this site in any way, it is time for an upgrade.

world's worst website

http://www.theworldsworstwebsiteever.com/