The Changing Face of Communications 12 digital techniques for modern PR
Produced by LEWIS Communications Ltd. www.lewispr.com Printed by PollardsPrint using PEFC paper from a sustainable source. Printed and bound using renewable energy significantly reducing the carbon emissions of this document. Copyright LEWIS Communications Ltd. 2011 all rights reserved
Introduction 4 How to communicate in a real-time world
How to incorporate SEO into PR
How to evaluate a social media campaign
How to improve your corporate videos
How to get started in word-of-mouth marketing
How to make your corporate blog take off
How to use social media to enhance events
How to create sticky content
How to handle a social media crisis
How to optimize your web presence for conversions
How to make the case for social media
How to work with online influencers
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Welcome to The Changing Face of Communications
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In this book, we share advice on how to use digital marketing techniques and social media to boost your communications programs. Although this is a ‘how to’ book, many of you are still asking ‘why?’ Why care about social media? Why talk about digital PR? Typically, questions revolve around measurement, value, resources and control. We hope to answer some of these questions here. Social media is evolving fast. It is merging with journalism and Public Relations and hence the communications industry is undergoing seismic change. This process has been called disintermediation but it’s more like disintegration of the status quo. Communicators now need to be more technical, visual and responsive to the market. In practical terms, this means we need to master a wider range of skills and adopt a more agile approach. As brands start to become publishers in their own right, communications professionals start to act as curators of high-frequency digital assets. We’re using video, infographics, blog content and more to communicate and respond to opportunities almost in real-time. The battleground for these assets will be the Google search return. Whether you’re trying to reach a journalist, a customer, an employee or investor, this is where the fight for recognition begins. Social media also has a particular effect on crisis communications. Crisis monitoring is one of the prime uses of Twitter, for instance. Twitter indexes servers every 45 seconds, where Google takes over an hour. If you have an angry customer, you will find him there before anywhere else.
Social influence is another key factor here. If this angry customer is not connected or influential or mobile, you have been lucky. If they are all of these things then their news will spread rapidly. You cannot rely upon the traditional protectors of shareholder value here. Lawyers are there to defend against lies and to preserve truth. The problem with high-frequency digital assets is that truth is not an essential component. Entertainment, however, is. This accounts for one of the phenomena of our time – the urban myth. Arthur Andersen did not shred documents, the brakes did not fail on the Prius, it was not BP’s oil rig and there were no WMD. All these were potent stories that were subsequently disproved, if anyone cared. No one remembers the truth, only the entertainment. The digital communications halo is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ for customer service or advocacy, it has moved to the core of the marketing function. Of course, there are naysayers that, having had a cursory acquaintance with Twitter, Facebook or Foursquare, dismiss them as banal. In commercial history, this is nothing new. It is just the first stage of the grieving process for the loss of status quo. A note of caution here – organizations can only afford a limited number of luddites. Tomorrow belongs to those who embrace change and see it as their friend. My thanks to all who have contributed to this book and to the pioneers who dream of a better tomorrow.
Chris Lewis CEO & Founder, LEWIS PR
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How to communicate in a real-time world
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One of the most profound changes in communications is the growing importance of speed. Sure, we all know that stories can break and go global in minutes, not days. We’ve heard about the accelerating news cycle so many times that it’s almost a cliché. But very few marketing and PR departments have actually adapted their strategy and structure to suit the new real-time reality.
The fact is the media environment today requires a wholesale shift in approach, which must be underpinned with the right foundations. The organization must be ready to respond in ‘Twitter-time’ and to take advantage of the opportunities of this accelerated news cycle. So, how can brands evolve their PR and communications to ensure success in the fast-paced digital economy?
Have a strategy, not a plan Communications today is more like guerrilla, than conventional, warfare. It’s essential to have a clear goal in mind, and a strategy for achieving it, but detailed tactical plans are likely to be irrelevant as soon as you get underway. No plan can cover every eventuality in an environment where a single tweet can alter the day’s news agenda. Use project management tools to keep your team aligned during implementation but focus your planning efforts at the strategic level. So, what should a modern communications strategy include? Business goals – Know what impact you want to have on the business and how you will measure it.
Channel strategy – With so many channels to reach your audience, integration is essential. How will media, web, blog, social networks and email all work together and reinforce each other? What is the flow of information and traffic you want to achieve across all channels? You won’t be able to control where your audience goes but you do want to try and steer it. Content strategy – What type of content do you want your brand to be associated with? What are your people experts in? What topics do you and your customers care about? Create a flexible content framework so that new ideas and opportunities can be evaluated quickly. Editorial calendar – Any outbound communications program needs an editorial calendar, with room in it for reactive tactics based on the events of the day.
Give people responsibility for outcomes, not actions This is about more than good leadership – it’s essential for the success of your communications program. Your team needs to be able to identify opportunities that support the needs of the business – and act on them swiftly.
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It needs the skills to create good content with limited input, excellent judgment and an inherent understanding of your business goals. When building a team, look for people who instinctively ‘get it’ (your business, that is) as the real-time economy doesn’t allow time for long approval cycles and content created by committee.
Recognize your assets Every communications program needs assets. An asset could be a spokesperson, a product, a customer or an entire community. Work out what your assets are and ensure they can be deployed rapidly when the opportunity arises. Great spokespeople need to be trained to handle requests for comment on emerging topics. Happy customers should be prepared to answer relevant questions from their peers on Twitter. The key is to ensure you can use your strongest assets in the most time-sensitive moments.
Differentiate between process and bureaucracy Just because everything is moving fast, it doesn’t mean process should be skipped altogether. In fact, processes can make you
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operate more swiftly – as long as everyone understands and respects them. Design a simple process that focuses on ensuring you’re able to identify opportunities as they happen. Everyone knows what they are responsible for, what requires approval or input from others and how to gain/give that approval.
Don’t put all your digital eggs in one creative basket Forget the search for an all-consuming big idea. Trying to find that mythical piece of content which ‘goes viral’ is not a strategy, it’s a pipedream. Instead, focus on creating a constant stream of high quality content. Build a pattern of interesting, shareable material which your audience can rely upon. If you do that, sure, some of it might become popular, but you’re not counting on it. You are instead building a reputation as a thought leader, brick by brick. This works in a rapid news environment since the lifecycle of any content is so short. Today, speed, agility and ingenuity can overcome size. Whether you’re the large player looking to manage your reputation, or the small player looking to turn your size to your advantage, make sure you’re fully equipped for the ride.
How to incorporate SEO into PR
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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) should, ideally, be applied to all online marketing and PR initiatives. Itâ€™s in the interests of search engines to deliver relevant, useful content to users and of PR pros to publish content that answers consumer and media demand. In a world where every company is a media company, it is not a choice to take this approach; instead it is the future.
SEO is a win-win situation for companies and search engines, which is partly why (as well as for advertising purposes) the engines opensource search data. Companies can either use the data to answer consumer and media demand or their competitors will. It is as simple as that. Even with the proliferation of social, search demand holds steady: ComScore reports more than 16.7 billion explicit core searches conducted in June 2011. And with 100 per cent of journalists using Google to research stories, according to a Cision and GW University study, no PR pro can ignore search. The news for PR also keeps getting better: SEO as a stand-alone tactic is dying a slow death. Why? Because it is no longer just the domain of SEO professionals: all communications professionals need to be fluent in optimization. We all need to know what makes a technicallyfriendly website and how to market web content so that it will get passed on by users while concurrently improving search performance. The two activities do not happen in isolation. These are the basic steps to get started with integrating SEO with PR.
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Develop a customer/media-centric keyword glossary Start by building a list of keywords that are pain point-oriented for customers and media. But ensure that these keywords are not just terms you think are important: they must have search demand behind them. Free tools like the Google AdWords keyword tool or paid tools like SEM Rush provide the data necessary to help you make decisions when creating the glossary. Be sure to group your glossary into relevant categories to provide greater ease of use, and begin to matrix out web assets that are already optimized for each keyphrase. This way, you not only have a guide for how to title new content but also a record for referencing existing assets. After the glossary is created and approved, youâ€™ll need to do two things. The first is to socialize the glossary to your team members and existing marketing partners and ensure its use is enforced as part of content creation processes. The second is to treat the glossary as a living, breathing document that evolves over time â€“ after all, consumer and media demand is in constant flux.
The benefit of this goes beyond search rankings and traffic: by creating content following a keyword glossary that is research-based, you’ll always be creating material that is of interest to your target. One of the ways interest is expressed in our world is simple: search demand.
Conduct a technical (code-level) SEO audit of your website Today’s PR teams must be literate in modern web languages, able to analyze a content management system (CMS) and understand web usability. Without having an optimized home base on the web (in the form of a company website or blog) any signal you are generating that a search engine might want to reward you for could be accomplishing nothing. If your team is unable to assess websites or blogs from a code-level standpoint and make recommendations, it’s time to train your team, hire someone new or get help. Technical roadblocks should not be barriers to success at this point in your marketing.
Actually optimize your content: for users first, then search engines A lot of PR pros and marketers only go as far as talking about optimization but don’t actually
follow through with it. It is a fundamental shift for most communications professionals to think about how their content will be found. But flipping your team’s mindset from outbound to inbound is critical to scale SEO results. The key part of optimization is to understand it is not simply to create content for search engine spiders. Rather, it is to improve the usability of content for users first and then also be findable by search engines for terms that matter. At the end of the day, optimization is still people-driven as search demand is powered by humans, not robots.
And finally Other items you’ll need to consider as part of an SEO approach are creating a measurement process to show improvements and make data-driven decisions, as well as integration with other online marketing tactics like social media. But evolving your communications processes to play to a web-friendly world is something you can approach iteratively. Don’t feel overwhelmed or think that you need to do everything right now. Start by nailing down the basics and then incorporate them into a more holistic digital marketing process as you get more comfortable.
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How to evaluate a social media campaign
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One of mankind’s most alluring questions has always been ‘how far have we come?’ The tool for calculating distance – the odometer – is particularly interesting, as it has always been an instrument that accompanies success. In fact, Alexander the Great was among the first to use an odometer. He insisted that his mathematicians figure how far he’d gone as he conquered the world.
For too long, marketers have omitted the odometer altogether. Instead, they measured distance by putting their heads out the driver’s side window for the duration of the trip and then showing off their windswept hairstyles to their clients at the end. Then, for a while they tried to measure by squinting at only a tachometer, assuming that 8,000 RPM always eventually led to high speeds. Never mind that the car might have been in neutral. The good news is that today, you can not only install an odometer, but also a range of other gauges to create amazing social media campaign dashboards, from speedometers to engine temperature readouts to fuel indicators - and yes tachometers, too. Here are some tips for putting measurement in the driver’s seat:
First Gear: Get into your analytics On a bicycle, the spinning hub powering the speedometer and odometer is a small disc on the wheel. In social, it’s a rich analytics platform. Whether Google Analytics, Omniture or something else, get it going and get access to it immediately. URL shorteners like Goo.gl and Bit.ly add another mechanism providing direct
evidence that your outreach led web visitors to the right places. Both provide data structures that essentially ring a bell every time a customer enters the door.
Second Gear: Define outcomes and conversions Whether awareness, revenue or political action, what outcome does your social marketing seek? At minimum, programs should push people to areas of your web properties that advance them towards that outcome. This doesn’t mean social programs must necessarily directly lead to outcomes — but they should take the user to channels you control and in which you can continue the education or sales process without the din of competition for attention. These can be defined both conceptually and literally within analytics platforms as conversions — the areas of your web presence that, when visited, represent evidence that your message is creating action. Conversion sits at the top of the measurement pyramid and creating ways to define and measure it in the most relevant way for your specific organization is critical to using data for communications decisionmaking. Don’t lose sight of the business goal.
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Third Gear: Define KPIs in every channel Odometers track the distance traveled but a speedometer adds the concept of time, and the tachometer a measure of effort. Likewise, think across all channels while considering multiple dimensions of measurement. Volume measures that demonstrate effort might include number of unique visitors to your overall domain, number of inbound links and visits from search engines. Depth KPIs that demonstrate quality of audience could include number of blog RSS/ email subscribers, share of voice (percentage of online articles on your key topic that include your brand) or number of articles that include your organization’s key messages. Engagement metrics might include number of Facebook or blog comments, retweets and @ replies. Some organizations even want a gauge for sentiment, often using the KPI of proportion of positive or neutral reaction to content.
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To get the full picture, absolutely do define KPIs in every channel in which you market – but absolutely don’t create too many KPIs per channel! If you’re not certain how performance against a particular KPI will affect the business goals you are pursuing, you shouldn’t be using it to measure performance. And the more KPIs measured the less time there is left for teams to do the actual communicating.
Fourth Gear: Set goals for each KPI and each tactic Create a way to look into historical performance across the KPIs you’ve chosen and set expectations based on your organization’s size, reach, and level of adoption of social marketing tactics. Scrutinize competitor performance against these KPIs as well. Set your course with an intended speed, an estimated time of arrival and a desired destination that indicates your message has been received. And, don’t forget to keep an eye on that odometer as you conquer the world.
How to improve your corporate videos
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If a picture paints a thousand words then a video must paint over 25,000 words per second. Video is a powerful medium and, as it becomes an established part of the communications mix, quality becomes more important. If you are producing your own video there are several things you can do to ensure that it is the highest quality possible.
Choose a style Think about what you want to get from your video. Who is your audience? Do you want a slick corporate interview or a fun, engaging viral video? Can you make it hand-held or do you need a tripod? The style of your video sets the tone and will affect most other creative decisions.
Know your content Know exactly what you want to film. Draw up a storyboard. Print out your questions and know them well. If you’re interviewing someone and they address three of your questions in one answer you will want to be able to adapt on the move and adjust any further questions to fit.
Get your kit ready Whether you are using a high-end Sony Z5 HD camera, a consumer level camcorder or your iPhone, you need to know your kit. Make sure you know how to switch it on quickly and are aware of likely issues such as a particular mode button that can be easily knocked. When you’re busy filming you don’t want to have to
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be messing about with the menus. Doublecheck and triple-check that you have all the batteries charged, spare tapes/memory sticks etc before you leave the office. If your basic kit is 100% ready then that gives you more confidence. Keep these things ready all the time in case a filming opportunity comes up at the last minute.
Find a good location Location, location, location. A good location puts you in control. You need as much control over the lighting and background noise as you can. You also want the background scenery to look interesting without being distracting. If you’re filming at someone’s office then ensure they reserve a room in advance which is big enough for your needs, has decent lighting and, most importantly, does not have background noise. There are ways to handle small rooms or bring your own lighting, but background noise is one thing that you cannot remove in post-production.
Lighting Some people waste money on cameras or lenses which are superfluous to their needs. These are worth nothing unless you have good lighting.
A good lighting setup will improve your picture tenfold. Soft lights are better than hard lights as they don’t produce as much shadow. Direct sunlight can be quite harsh and if you rely on using natural light from a window just be watchful for cloudy periods during filming as that can make your shot look hugely different when you’re editing it later. A three-point lighting system is ideal, but if you have only one light point, soften it by lighting the subject from an angle or bouncing the light off a wall.
Put your subject at ease
Editing out the pauses
Good audio is extremely important. You can happily watch an in-flight movie on a small screen a few rows ahead of you as long as you have the audio at a nice level in your headphones, but, conversely, when you’re watching TV on your brand new 42” HDTV at home and the volume is too low, it can be very uncomfortable. The factor that makes the biggest difference in the quality of a final video is the quality of the audio. Bad audio screams ‘amateur’. Ideally use a boom mic, a radio lapel mic or even just get the camera’s internal mic as close as you can to the subject.
Try to minimize the awkward pauses at the beginning and end of takes. If you are having to cut between different takes of the same headshot, it’s handy to have shot some extra footage of the building, environment and related activities that you can cut away to during the transition. This way the audio of the speaker continues in the background and you don’t notice the jump cut.
Many people, even CEOs, melt in front of a camera. Be prepared for this. You may have to record segments several times and then edit the best takes together later. If they have to read text out, try to make sure they are familiar with the text in advance. Attempting to tape a makeshift autocue underneath the camera lens doesn’t work as the subject’s eyes will move. Help the spokesperson by ensuring they have someone to make eye contact with during the interview.
Your video content should be an extension of your brand, so paying the same attention to detail to video as to other elements of the marketing is an important investment of time.
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How to get started in word-of-mouth marketing
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Chatting with web strategist, Jeremiah Owyang, I asked: “You know how to get the attention of influencers?” “How?” he replied to the non-sequitur. “Be one.” Without a moment’s hesitation, Jeremiah countered: “You know a better way?” Pause. I said: “Create one.” That’s the most important lesson in influencer relations: Prepare to get schooled. Every industry is ruled, at least tacitly, by a handful of observers – consultants, analysts, authors, users, enthusiasts, bloggers, even vendors – whose opinions reach farther and dig deeper than the rest of the market’s voices. Their authority is earned, bestowed upon them by their hard-won following. If you think you are going to convert these opinion-shapers to your company’s worldview, think again. The best you can do is earn their consideration. Although influencer relations is no more algorithmic than the soft sciences of media and community relations, there are some practices that tend to work.
Tip 1: It’s not about the money Swapping cash for endorsement sends the wrong message to the person you are priming. It implies the influencer cares more about your money (or freebies) than his or her audience. Don’t make this mistake. Instead, think nonmonetary ways to create intimacy between your organization and the finite group of people you want to get to know you. For example, the 20 influencers (including LEWIS PR’s own Adam Singer) who contributed content to Eloqua’s Social Media ProBook received a custom avatar of themselves. Offering the illustration as a thank you sends a very different message than promising the cash value.
Tip 2: Don’t target. Involve Avoid targeting influencers in the way that you might pitch to the press. It’s more effective to imagine ways to involve influencers in your awarenessgenerating efforts. In other words, they are the means, not the end. Offer them a sneak preview of a new product – even before the analyst community. Give them unfettered access to your product development team for a day. Carve out one-on-one time with the CEO. Give them an exclusive all-access pass to your event. Let them pick your keynote. Create a ‘Board of Influencers’ that adds value to your organization and networking opportunities for one another. Ego, it turns out, is valuable currency.
Tip 3: Know when to move on You will never convert everyone. Know this at the onset. If you aren’t able to connect in a meaningful way with an influential figure, you need to determine the cause. Was the person too busy (possible) or is he/she uninterested in your story/company/ product (probable). Diagnose quickly and move on immediately. You can spin a lot of cycles trying to convert the unconvertible. I know I have. And I regret every moment wasted on the unwilling because it was time I could have spent nurturing those genuinely interested in getting to know my company. Follow these principles and you’ll be off to a good start.
Joe Chernov, VP of Content Marketing, Eloqua
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How to make a corporate blog take off
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Most corporate blogs fail to get off the ground. They only ever reach a paltry number of visitors per month and never achieve a consistent, sustainable amount of comments, subscribers, organic media attention, leads generated, talent attracted or other outcomes typical of a successful blog.
There are many tips for creating a great corporate blog floating around the web. You already are likely to be familiar with the basics. And you’re probably following them, or trying to. But even with all this, are you asking yourself why blogging is still not working for you? The following ten reasons are typical issues with corporate blogs that fail. Solve these problems and you’re well on your way to a more successful blog.
1. Lack of opinions or taking sides No one cares to read those who blindly agree with others or rehash what’s already been said. If you are doing this, you’re easily skip-able. It doesn’t matter if other people are telling you to ignore analysis/commentary/controversy because it is ‘risky’. That’s nonsense. It’s riskier to be invisible. In fact, arguably one of the largest dangers for any brand in the social web is obscurity. Further, prospects actually look to you to take a stand on things. No one wants to hire a consultant who sits on the fence, or purchase software from a company which refuses to have a vision for the industry. The whole point of participating in blogging is being confident and embedded enough to be involved in discussions.
2. Missing passion Hint: passion is a secret of the social web. Either your team members have passion for what they do or they don’t. It’s cut and dry. That’s one of the best aspects of blogging: anyone with a product or service who has raw belief in it can put that on display for the world to see. That’s disruptive to companies who are unable or unwilling to show emotion. If done right, this can be a huge reason to be chosen ahead of competitors who show no excitement for their category.
3. Lack of personality Who are the people/voices behind a blog? If you consider yourself an A-list company, your team members should likely be involved enough in the industry personally to have a known voice. If not, that’s okay (do try and get some if you can) but your own brand of media still shouldn’t mask the personality of your writers. For some of the best multi-author blogs, it is immediately obvious who drafted a certain piece even without reading the title of the author – and that’s powerful. It means we already trust what the writer is saying and will be far more likely to share as we’re a fan. It’s about people as much as the brand.
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4. Content fails the ‘so what?’ test
8. Fear of making enemies
All blog content needs to pass this. Your blog is really only as strong as your weakest post. Think about it, readers are likely visiting a blog for your ideas and if they come across one that isn’t worthwhile you may lose them forever. Your blog puts your thinking on display for the world to see. Always ask ‘so what?’ and think about what the reader takes away, where the benefit is and why they should listen to you.
The truth is most companies wouldn’t dare make enemies with another blogger or web personality. Oh, if only they understood basic psychology or how the social web actually works (enemies link to you, debate with you, hate turns to love much easier than indifference turns to love).
5. Not consistent enough This one speaks for itself, if you’re not updating what’s the reason people have to come back? This one is obvious (if un-followed) but so frequently missed.
6. Trying too hard Yes, it’s possible to try too hard. Natural dialog flows easily and effortlessly, like art. It’s less the product of a process and more the result of a flow of experience — improvisational, not mechanical. Process for some things like editorial calendars for example is important. But ensure it does not get in the way of creative content.
7. Lack of differentiation Corporate blogs are a dime a dozen. How, exactly, is your blog different from the competing companies in your category? Find this differentiation point, whether a unique voice, visually stunning content, creative post concepts or something that makes your blog stand out from the pack.
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9. Digital marketing strategy problems at the company level When there is no internal digital marketing strategy for the whole team to follow (or there are internal conflicts over who owns digital) it quickly becomes apparent in a corporate blog. A company needs its own online marketing approach agreed before engaging in a dialog with the web. Far too many (even large) businesses lack this.
10. No effort at forging connections Without actively connecting to others, you will never form a network of your own. Your content should be creating connections organically as part of your process. Doing something like making every post a ‘link post’ is a simple enough way to do this but you should be doing multiple things which forge connections on a consistent basis. Get creative; there are really no limits on how to do this.
How to use social media to enhance events
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Social media is an effective way to amplify your brand’s conference or event. It’s very easy to share and pass on content via social media channels. And, using networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and LinkedIn allows you to spread the message about your event to the right target audience. Since each network already has a built-in community, you can execute activities that will encourage interactions and quality engagement. Tip: the best way to start building your community is to get your own staff to participate. Send out an internal memo or an enablement email that trains your employees on exactly how they can get involved with social media to help promote your event.
So, how can social media support an event? Integrating social media tactics into your events allows you to complement other marketing efforts, increase visitor numbers and collect user-generated content from the community. It also means you can engage the community and foster loyalty.
Upload any sneak peek photos or videos onto the wall and use Facebook Notes to promote long form content.
Here are some ways to get started.
YouTube – Record and upload any marketing videos to create buzz about the event within your existing corporate channel.
Twitter – Start tweeting from an existing corporate Twitter channel as it will have an established community and profile. Create a content calendar and schedule tweets before, during and after the event. Messaging can be around current marketing campaigns, event updates, polls for feedback, contests to encourage interactions, etc. Create a conference hashtag and tag all tweets. Be sure to follow influencers, partners and attendees and interact with them. Facebook – Take over an existing corporate page for the event. Create an event invite so attendees can RSVP. Post polls to get fan feedback on topics related to the event.
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Blogs – Use your company’s blogging platform to produce new, original content to be promoted on all your other social channels.
LinkedIn – Start posting in your company’s corporate group. Create thoughtful LinkedIn discussions that ask for member feedback on relevant industry trends. The LinkedIn audience is different so you don’t want to only post selfpromotional messages. Foursquare – Set up geo-tagging applications or sites to allow attendees to check-in at various locations. Integrate with your Twitter handle: for example, @replies or interact with others already checked-in.
And, what about on-site activities at the event itself? There are lots of ways to boost engagement and enhance the experience for attendees and non-attendees alike. Roving reporter – Appoint an on-site social media ambassador to produce live tweets on all the happenings from the show room floor. This ambassador is responsible for providing real-time updates from keynotes and popular sessions. They will also provide photos and videos that will be posted to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Man on the street videos – The on-site ambassador will be tasked with filming quick videos: interviews with attendees, demos from the show floor, customer testimonials etc. These videos don’t have to be professional quality as they are meant to show a ‘behind the scenes’ style look at the event. Concierge program – This positions the event’s main Twitter feed as an online concierge that is available to all attendees should they have any event-related questions. The feed will promote its concierge capabilities and invite attendees to ask questions via @reply.
Twitter live Q&A – During a keynote or a session, you can execute a live Q&A session and collect questions from Twitter that are submitted via a hashtag. The on-site ambassador will monitor the questions and relay the best ones to the panel for discussion. Contests – Use Twitter to host a trivia question. Tweet easy questions with the first to @reply with your event hashtag winning a prize. Use Twitter to promote ‘flash mob’ type contests. Example tweet: ‘First 2 people to come find us at the keynote stage and mention Twitter will win XXX!’ Use a channel like Foursquare and have the first person to check-in at your event receive a reward. Events, such as user conferences or summits, are often major expenditures so it’s important to maximize the value they deliver. They’re also key opportunities to engage with your community so it makes sense to combine offline and online approaches to make the complete attendee experience as positive as possible.
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How to create sticky content
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Gone are the days when content was created by the few for the many, watched over by the gatekeepers. Social networks and platforms have made adept publishers of us all. IDC predicts that 1.8 zettabytes of information will be created on the Internet in 2011. You’d need 56.25 billion 32GB iPads to house this much data, which if stacked one on top of the other would reach the moon and make it around a third of the way back. In short, it’s harder than ever for brands to be heard and it’s going to become more difficult as social networks and search engines evolve from hosts into filters, both algorithmic and manual. So, what can you do to make your content stick?
Fives, tens and ‘how tos’ Readers love content when it’s neat, tidy and genuinely helpful. Providing advice and guidance step-by-step or grouping it in sets of five or ten, ensures the information is easily digestible and therefore more likely to be shared. It also makes the content more search-friendly and clickable. Headlines that start with ‘Ten ways to...’, for example, can attract more attention than obscure titles that don’t make it clear what the reader will learn.
Short and sweet People are time poor so keep content as short as possible. The less you ask of them, the more likely they are to use, consume and share your content. Try to keep Facebook posts below 300 characters, blog posts under 400 words and videos between 1-2 minutes.
Less is more Whether the contact point is on email, Facebook or Twitter, the main reasons people
leave a brand’s community are that content is coming too frequently or is too repetitive, according to Exact Target research. Make sure material is varied in tone, style and subject, while always remaining strategic and with purpose.
Don’t ask, don’t get Dan Zarrella from HubSpot analyzed some 10,000 tweets and found that those containing ‘Please RT’ or ‘Please ReTweet’ were 39% and 51% more likely to be passed on respectively. That said, it’s important not to alienate your community by asking too much from them, too often. Pick your moments.
Questions and calls to action Ask the community for its opinions but always be prepared to have a conversation. Interactions, shares and clicks are inextricably linked – if more people comment, more people will share and action the content. Just be clear on what you’re asking people to do, whether that be download, share, play, buy, or read.
Use the psychology of the unexpected Use the basic principles of news to ensure your content passes the ‘so what?’ test. ‘Dog bites man’ is not news. ‘Man bites dog’ is. Look for counter-trends, surprising data and unique insight. Nearly all major news stories are built around conflict, danger, hardship, scandal, celebrity or novelty. Remembering that these are the basic concepts that stimulate human interest will help your content stick.
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How to handle a social media crisis
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Social media has changed the nature of the crises faced by brands. Beyond the event-based crises, such as a product recall, brands also face far more informational crises. These involve misinformation or negative perceptions spreading about a brand, undermining its value. Social media increases the frequency of this type of crisis and the speed with which it breaks.
As a brand guardian, you’ve probably set up your listening post to monitor the discussion about your brand, products and industry. You are measuring the impact of the positive message you are communicating. Then boom – out of left field comes a major issue. But when a crisis breaks, what next?
It’s all about peace.
The context should help you decide the action plan. From a communications perspective, this includes decisions about the spokesperson, the content of the response and the channel. Consider whether parties outside the organization can respond on your behalf – that will be more credible.
The best crisis management happens before the issue breaks – knowing what might occur, preventing it if possible and determining the response process and materials. If you haven’t had a chance to do this, move it up the priority list.
Keep the crisis comms team small, and make sure everyone knows only that team is to comment on the topic to anyone outside the organization. The more people involved, the greater the chance the message gets confused.
Establish the facts. Your response needs to be commensurate with the potential impact of the issue. Within a social media landscape, there are plenty of tools to evaluate the impact of negative messages. An inappropriate response can eclipse the crisis itself, so use data, not emotion, to gauge the reaction.
React quickly. You have less time than you think. Delay may compound the problem since it makes it look like you don’t care. Post a holding comment if the issue will take time to research.
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Now that we’ve determined that a response is appropriate from the organization, what do we actually say? This can be the hardest part, so here are some pointers:
Clarify and substantiate
Belittle the problem
Admit fault, if due
Amplify the problem
Commit to actions
Keep it short
We’ve all seen organizations, break one of these guidelines and had sentiment turn against them. By contrast, a crisis can be an opportunity for a brand to build a reputation for being responsive and responsible. So, what are some of the emerging tactics which brands are using to handle issues in a social media environment? Since crises are breaking online, brands are preparing web content, which they can quickly post. This might be as simple as a range of crisisspecific blog posts, or extend into landing pages for the main site. By optimizing these landing pages with pain-oriented search
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terms, organizations can direct those affected to their own messages first. This can be reinforced with some tactical search engine advertising. We’ve also seen brands respond to crises using video of the key spokesperson. This has the advantage of being personal, hard to misinterpret or take out of context, and being quick to produce. Social media has increased both the speed and the frequency of crises. Issues can emerge from any quarter, reach a deafening climax and dissipate just as quickly. Organizations must learn to live with an ambient state of crisis, and know how to treat both cause and symptom. A mishandled crisis could undermine the value of the brand and all the marketing investment which supports it. The best organizations will adopt a comprehensive issues management process. The worst will ignore the risk and attempt to invent one mid-crisis. You don’t tend to hear about the first group, but the latter all have a story to tell. If you don’t want your own war story, opt for peace.
How to optimize your web presence for conversions
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Many brands and digital marketers are great at building web communities, traffic, email lists and other key performance indicators (KPIs). But, beyond KPIs, it’s important to be mindful of conversions.
If you are marketing a business online, you need to define a conversion from activities and measure against it. Not only does this provide accountability, it enables the ultimate in data analysis for marketers: the ability to know – rather than guess – which activities are producing a desired outcome. To quote Google’s Analytics evangelist, Avinash Kaushik: “If you ain’t got no goals, you ain’t got nothin’.” So how can you optimize your brand’s web presence for conversions?
Start with the end in mind Before you’re able to optimize conversions, you need to begin tracking them. Enterprise-class web analytics packages such as Google Analytics or Omniture will allow you to set up multiple conversion goals, so take advantage of that and assign different team members different goals so everyone can be accountable to specific outcomes from the web. For example: • Your demand generation team’s goal might be leads generated from PPC. • Your social media team might be
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accountable for growing high-engagement traffic from social networks and web communities. • Your PR team might be accountable for traffic to a press area on the website. The point is, know what each team is accountable for and establish a goal. This allows you to see the reverse funnel path and understand what led to that outcome. And don’t ignore KPIs – they’re important – but understand how they impact a goal so you’re viewing a metrics dashboard holistically.
Identify and replicate high-conversion content archetypes The beauty of self-publishing, email marketing and other methods of going direct to audience with content is that you get immediate and actionable quantitative data behind the success of that content. In other words: it’s now simple for companies to see what types of content are generating traffic that goes on to make a purchase or become a qualified sales lead. Identifying high-conversion archetypes (for example, you might discover that, for your category, trend-oriented content doesn’t
Learn to A/B test, and eventually multivariate test
and blog remain the best direct generators of conversions for a brand. On an owned channel, your marketing team is in full control of the templates, calls to action and user experience. On external platforms the highvalue, conversion-oriented real estate is controlled by someone else.
A/B testing is a simple way to dramatically improve conversion rates. Itâ€™s a method of marketing testing which involves using a baseline control sample compared to several single-variable test samples in order to improve conversion.
To improve this, conduct a click path analysis of your website templates using page overlay analytics to understand where and why people are clicking. Use this data to refine templates and improve the placement and CTR (click through rate) of calls to action.
All marketing teams should get comfortable with A/B testing text, images and web design in order to ensure youâ€™re not just generating awareness, but that awareness is leading to the highest possible number of outcomes. Sophisticated marketers will eventually move on to multivariate testing, which in simple terms is numerous A/B tests performed on one page at the same time.
A final noteâ€Ś
produce many leads but tips-oriented content does) allows you to use data to inform your editorial calendar to publish content you know will produce conversions.
Tweak templates to place emphasis on calls to action
Conversion optimization is an ongoing process that should be considered a recurring tactic within digital marketing programs. There are no silver bullets for immediately amplifying outcomes from your marketing, however, by being iterative with tactical execution, you can effectively trend up conversions produced and shift budgets to revenue-generating activities.
Despite the proliferation of social networks and stream-based platforms, a company website
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How to make the case for social media
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Marketers are becoming savvier, with good reason. The web creates marketing accountability at levels previously not possible, enabling sophisticated companies fluent in analytics to see marketing as a revenue generator, as opposed to a cost center. Further, as influence shifts to the web (for those of you who slept through it, the Internet eclipsed newspapers as a source for news in 2008) digital marketing tactics have become more than a ‘nice-to-have’, they’re becoming the new marketing engine.
And yet, even with 70 per cent of marketers planning to increase their social media budgets in 2011, there are still some organizations which are reticent about embracing modern marketing. In these cases, part of our role as marketers is helping decision-makers make a business case to move forward with new marketing tactics. Following are just a few approaches we’ve found are effective:
Educate your team on modern marketing If decision makers at your company still aren’t bought in to social (i.e. they don’t use it themselves or just don’t get it) it may be time to start at square one. Illustrate how social touches users at every point in the sales cycle, existing customers, partners and media. Share samples of how other brands, or better yet competitors, are taking advantage of social technologies to position themselves as more appealing, relevant and connected.
Make the case with data Showing success metrics of a competitor in social channels is a great initial motivator for any brand with a competitive spirit. But, go beyond
competitive metrics. Analyze your brand’s organic results from social. Now, run the numbers and forecast results based on how a managed effort from your brand would trend this up. And, not just KPIs: create a marketing forecast showing anticipated economic value of your efforts based on the projected resources available.
Illustrate how social impacts existing online marketing tactics If executives at your company historically shut down when they hear about social media, they might perk up when you’re able to show how social impacts the existing online marketing metrics they understand. For example, most brands see consistent valuable, high-conversion traffic from search engines. And, with the major engines continuing to integrate social with Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) as well as taking social signal into account when finding and ranking content, social is critical to all brands who value search visibility. A combination of the above may be necessary for companies with marketing mindsets of a previous generation. Overall, however, we see needing to ‘make the case’ for social decreasing as it’s not a question of if, but when a company gets involved in the social web.
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How to work with online influencers
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Research by LEWIS PR shows that 53% of marketers that actively use social media in their campaigns have approached online influencers over the last 12 months. But, 55% of them indicated they have little to no understanding of which of these online influencers are relevant to them. Clearly, there is groundwork to be done if marketers are to be successful in engaging with an online influencer. Before you begin the process, you have to clearly define the goals of why you’re looking to work together. An influencer is not a puppet or mouthpiece to echo high praise for your company. Influencers are important because they are reputable voices that can help spread your brand’s messaging and can connect your brand to new, relevant audiences by tapping into their targeted networks. So, how do you work with online influencers? Look for influencers internally first – Ask for recommendations from internal staff as they may already have company evangelists on the team. Look through any internal forums or online communities. Then, look externally – Identify influencers who have wide direct reach. Look for people who maintain high-traffic blogs, have large Twitter followings or manage popular LinkedIn groups. You can also work with a person who has a smaller online presence but still has an established reputation within a community because of their high level of expert knowledge. You can find these people through sites like Tweepz, Technorati, LinkedIn, Twitter Lists, Google blogs, and forums. Be original – Create an editorial strategy so you consistently have original content to promote and work with the influencers to brainstorm topics for their content such as long form content including blogs, videos, how-tos, tips and tricks, webinars and Q&As; and short content such as tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn discussions.
Create credibility by being authentic – Working with influencers helps build credibility in a specific community. This means the influencer needs to remain honest. Clearly communicate to the influencer that if they are ever approached by a community member and asked if they have a relationship with your company, they have to say yes. Make the offer of something good in return – You can look to ‘compensate’ the chosen influencer by offering information such as early access to a product or materials; access to people in the form of one-to-ones with executives, keynote speakers, meetups or product managers; social opportunities including happy hours, mixers or networking events; and recognition: feature them in your community and elevate their status on social media. Maintain a strong two-way relationship – If your influencer is writing content for you, find other ways you could promote them. This might include retweeting their content or mentioning their handle in tweets, tagging them in photos or wall posts on Facebook, or connecting them to other teams in your company that might be of interest to them. A successful influencer program will help amplify your message to a targeted audience. Spend some time at the beginning to craft a thoughtful outreach strategy and use the points above as a launching point. Once you establish initial contact and have developed a rapport with an influencer, stay on course and work on turning this into a mutually beneficial long-term working relationship.
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CONTRIBUTORS Lucy Allen | EVP & Chief Strategy Officer Lucy is responsible for LEWIS PR’s account servicing proposition, client service and global best practices. During 16 years with the agency, Lucy has developed many of the agency’s methodologies, including those for client management, measurement and social media and has also led its diversification into digital PR.
Chris Lewis, CEO & Founder Chris founded LEWIS PR in 1995 and is based at our global headquarters in London. Chris is a highly skilled media trainer, coaching senior politicians, business people and celebrities. He is a former journalist and has written two books - the Unemployables, a profile of 40 high achievers and Brilliant Minds, a satire on the global communications industry.
Susan Chang | Social Media Manager, LEWIS Pulse Susan is a specialist in B2B community management and social media, based in San Francisco. She has experience managing large social media campaigns for global technology companies such as SAP.
Ian Lipner | Vice President, Washington, D.C. Ian heads LEWIS PR’s Washington, D.C. office. He is also the driving force behind the agency’s product strategy, identifying and developing tools to enhance campaigns. Ian led the development of LSCORE, the agency’s own campaign evaluation tool.
Joe Chernov | VP of Content Marketing, Eloqua Joe is the vice president of content marketing for Eloqua, a revenue performance management SaaS company. He is responsible for imagining, creating, distributing and measuring Eloqua’s top-of-funnel marketing content. Joe also oversees public relations, analyst relations and social media.
Morgan McLintic | Executive Vice President, US & APAC Morgan is a senior partner and main board director. Experienced in leading strategy for technology brands, Morgan has handled media and social media crisis situations of all types. He is also a speaker at industry events including AlwaysOn, MIT / Stanford VLABs, OnHollywood, PRSA, Social Media World Forum and WITI.
Alex Clough | Digital Strategist Alex is a digital strategist in our London office. He is responsible for the creation and execution of creative digital campaigns for some of LEWIS PR’s flagship clients including Autoglass, Pret A Manger and salesforce.com.
Jurriaan de Reu | Head of Creative & Digital, Benelux Jurriaan is responsible for LEWIS’ Creative & Digital division in Benelux. Together with his team, he advises and supports companies such as Symantec, Kingston and Univé on social media and integrating digital media into PR campaigns.
Michael Hay | Head of New Media As Head of New Media, Michael looks after the digital services at LEWIS ranging from video production and web design through to Flash games and iPhone apps. His particular interest lies in researching the latest technologies including Augmented Reality and Stereoscopic 3D. He also blogs about new media, technology and retro gaming at http://www.michaelhay.com
Adam Singer | Social Media Practice Director, US Adam leads the agency’s social media practice in the US. He has developed and executed online marketing and PR strategy for top B2B and B2C brands, authors a popular marketing blog (TheFutureBuzz.com) and is a regular speaker at social media marketing conferences.
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About LEWIS PR
LEWIS was founded in 1995 by a former journalist and, since then, it has grown to over 300 employees based in more than 25 wholly-owned offices across the US, EMEA and Asia Pacific. Its regional headquarters are in London, San Francisco and Singapore. LEWIS is known for delivering bold digital communications campaigns that enhance revenue, value and reputation for global brands. Digital communications services span PR and media relations, social media marketing, search engine optimization and digital content production. To get in touch or learn more, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To keep updated on new tips and insight from LEWIS PR, visit blog.lewispr.com or visit the Resources section of the website at www.lewispr.com/resources.aspx (or scan the QR code to go straight there).