5 Ways to Battle Fake News and Maintain Brand Integrity

Fake news. The term has become almost overused this past year, as stories from less than legitimate news sources ran rampant during the 2016 presidential election.

How is fake news defined? “The word fake means not genuine—a forgery or a counterfeit. It implies an intent to deceive,” says a recent Slate article. It’s used to describe unsubstantiated stories or media sources.

Add to that Oxford Dictionaries word of the year, “post-truth,” an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.’

All this has the heads of many in PR spinning. Because we work with reporters on a regular basis (some of us even went to Journalism school), it’s difficult to see these false stories taking precedence over those of respected news sources.

It also brings up an important question for those in the public relations profession. Fake news reduces the public’s trust in the media, in turn affecting what we do as PR pros. If the public doesn’t trust the media, then what good does it do to secure earned media placements for clients? No trust equals no value.

So, how do we in PR manage to do our jobs when faced with the prospect of fake news? What can we do to combat false stories?

First, we ought not to panic. Public relations practitioners have long battled the issue of rumors or outright lies circulating about the clients or the brands we represent. While fake news has taken on a life of its own in recent months, it shouldn’t change our fundamental approach to our work.

“Stories, whether true or false, can go viral. Once that happens, it’s hard to stop the momentum,” said Martin Waxman, President, Martin Waxman Communications and social media professor. “But we in PR are trained to handle issues and crises, and that’s the approach we should take when fake news threatens our organization’s reputation.”

Here are some practical ways PR professionals can battle fake news in their day-to-day roles:

1. Build a community of loyal fans and followers: Fostering a community of fans can help your brand in many ways. One important benefit is that, if you consistently nurture it, it will be there for you if you need it.

“One way to prepare for the possibility of fake news about your company is to build a community before you need it,” says Waxman. “If you have loyal followers and fans, they’ll speak up on your behalf. If a brand tries to go on the defensive, it can sometimes have the opposite effect, but if a brand’s community defends it, it’s much more credible.”

2. Plan ahead for the worst: Planning is key to combatting fake news, as with any crisis. Add the scenario of false stories appearing about your brand or executives to your crisis preparedness plan. Be ready to wallop social media to fight back and influence public opinion in your favor, should someone attack your brand or CEO.  Using a media monitoring platform can help by notifying you whenever your brand is mentioned so you can immediately respond if necessary.

3. Verify and fact check: Of course, PR pros understand the importance of verifying and fact checking their work. The approach to a press release (or any piece of content) should be the same—don’t make claims you can’t backup.

4. Work with reputable outlets and journalists: While there may be more disreputable media outlets than there used to be, there are still plenty of reliable ones out there. Be sure to work with reporters and publications who have a reputation for and value their status as trusted truth-tellers.

5. Encourage audiences to vet what they share—and to share from reputable sources only: Whenever possible, encourage your audience to look closely before sharing news stories. And don’t share fake news yourself. “Look at a piece of content critically,” says Waxman. “Analytically approach media sources to identify which stories you should share.”

If we do our best to ensure we’re not part of the fake news epidemic by adhering to high standards and preparing in advance for the worst, we can help stop fabricated stories from taking over—and help our profession keep its credibility.

A Statement from Our CEO

I am an immigrant. Since 2005, I have been proud to call the US my home. I arrived in Silicon Valley and was struck by how little people paid attention to your race, religion, or history. The US is a country of immigrants and one of the world’s purest meritocracies. In the US, more than in any other place I know, you are judged by your talent, your hard work, and what you have to offer.

The willingness to give everyone a chance is an American value that has shaped its history, been the bedrock of one of the world’s most successful economies, and created an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit that has been the envy of the rest of the world.

That is what makes America great.

Trump’s ban on immigration last Friday from seven Muslim countries was a devastating blow to the America I have learned to love.

Federal courts have ruled the ban illegal and attorney generals in 15 states (California, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Virginia, Vermont, Oregon, Connecticut, New Mexico, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, and Illinois) and the District of Columbia condemn the ban as unlawful and in breach of the US Constitution.

In airports across the US, thousands of protesters have been demonstrating against this ban, which Trump himself called a Muslim ban when he launched it during his campaign trail.

In spite of court rulings and widespread protests from the public, and even from within the Republican party itself, Trump and his administration are pushing forward. As a result, students, parents, grandparents, and spouses have been denied entry and become stranded in US airports and, in the worst cases, even been sent back to where they came from.

This is not OK.

I am shocked that the US has become a country that targets people based on their religious beliefs and where they were born. I understand the need for protecting a country’s border, but any measures taken must be appropriate. The Muslim ban is like using a sledge hammer to fix a Swiss watch. It is a crude and blunt instrument with no obvious actual value (most terrorists entering the US from abroad have been from other countries), and in addition to being unlawful, this ban is unnecessary, insulting, and hurtful to millions of people across the world.

At Meltwater, we have colleagues that are personally affected by this. Many of our colleagues travel abroad for work constantly. The Department of Homeland Security practices are currently unclear, and many of us here in San Francisco cannot risk being stopped at the border on their way home to their children and family

Many people have to cancel their travel plans, vacations, and honeymoons. Before this ban, they could be visited by family members from abroad, but that is no longer the case. Trump’s ban is punishing innocent people and is hurting millions within the US and abroad.

I want to assure everyone at Meltwater who feels singled out by Trump’s ban that you are not alone. We will support you in any way we can. You can reach out to us to learn more about your situation. If needed, we can support you with legal advice. The person to reach out to for any inquiries regarding the Trump ban is Paty, our HR director. Please, reach out to her if you need to understand your situation better.

It saddens me to have to bring up political issues in a work setting. A workplace should not be a place for politics or religion. In the current situation, though, Trump is implementing policies that are chipping away at core American values and core beliefs upon which Meltwater was built. In this situation, I have chosen to speak up because I think it is a moral obligation to take a stand. When innocent people are targeted for no other reason than their religion or where they were born, we cannot watch in silence.

In a company as wide-reaching as Meltwater, we have people that voted for Trump and we have people who voted against him. My blog post today is not about supporting one camp or another. Everyone that voted for Trump did that because they wanted a better America. Everyone that voted for Hillary wanted the same. The election is long gone. There is no “us and them” anymore. We are no longer in two camps. Right now, all Americans are joined in one important mission: to make America better.

Whether you voted for Trump or Hillary, we have to work together to make sure that politicians, including the President, keep their promises, do good deeds, and move things in a net-positive direction. That is our right as free citizens in a free society. That is the beauty of a democracy.

Cheers,
jorn 🙂

Social Media Recap: January 2017

It’s been a busy month on social media. Many of our favorite social platforms have been finding ways to break the “fourth wall” and extend their reach into the real world. For PR pros this is an important step in connecting the dots between online and offline ROI for their clients. Here are five announcements that will resonate for PR this month:

1. New from Pinterest: Ad Groups for Paid Campaigns

If your clients have been advertising with Pinterest using campaigns and promoted pins, they now have more options for targeting their audience. Pinterest added the ability to target ad groups. Why is this valuable to PR pros? Control. Now each group can have its own targeting, budget, time frame, and analytics. This is fantastic if you want to A/B test your campaigns and hone in on what is most successful for your client.

2. Twitter Doubles down on Live Streaming in a New Partnership with Dick Clark Productions

Investing in new live streaming partnerships is at the top of the list for Twitter, as we saw with last year’s NFL partnership. Collaborating with Dick Clark Productions offers new audiences for Twitter and the brands who want to advertise there. PR pros should pay attention to this development as Twitter live streaming could provide a new kind of “TV” audience: connected, highly engaged, and data rich. The combination of online and offline real-time engagement is a giant opportunity for savvy pros, as Twitter has been selling ads similar in style to TV commercials spots during each live streamed event.

3. Snapchat Targeting Ads Based on What People Buy Away from Snapchat

In a surprising move using Oracle‘s Data Cloud, Snapchat is giving advertisers a way to target their users with ads that matter based on what they buy outside of the Snapchat app. Both companies assure users that the data is anonymized, and Snapchat gives users a way to opt out of the process on their Audience Match preference page. For PR pros representing brands that sell a product, not a service, this development is one to watch, as Snapchat audiences are in the coveted younger demographic. We file this under one to watch for PR pros, as it could successfully tie real-world purchases to Snapchat use.

4. Instagram Stories Has Begun Monetizing

If you use Instagram Stories, you may have noticed a new full-screen promoted post that lasts for five seconds. As this new feature rolls out, more users will see these five and fifteen-second video posts popping up between stories. According to statistics from Business Intelligence, Instagram has more users that follow a brand than Snapchat. In fact, 70% of Instagram users follow a brand–that’s huge! This means that a successful roll-out of these new promoted stories features could give PR pros a boost in the reach of their visual content.

5. Facebook Page Owners Can Now Use Their Desktop or Laptop To “Go Live”

Many Facebook Page managers couldn’t take advantage of some of Facebook’s cooler new features, like Live video streams, because they weren’t able to utilize their mobile devices for generating content. Facebook opened new doors for Page managers who want to try out Live video by enabling them to use their desktop or laptop to start a feed. Even more important for brands with PR pros, Facebook is now allowing Pages to designate “Live Contributors” – meaning you don’t have to be a Page admin to create content for a Live stream. PR pros will also appreciate the added Insights available with video streaming, including length of time their video was viewed.

All of these announcements give PR professionals a boost in 2017, expanding how their message can reach new people. These changes also reinforce campaign strategies that prioritize video and visual content. With this content shift, PR pros can also increase their audience satisfaction by using transcripts and subtitles. Remember, a significant portion of your audience still can’t watch your video with the sound on for a variety of reasons, so subtitles and transcripts give them a way to participate, even as you explore new mediums.

Measuring Every Aspect of PR’s Impact—Even Press Releases

You put a lot of work into crafting your press release. You hope it will become the source material for profiles and reviews of your brand. But the question about the effectiveness of a press release and who may be reading it (is anyone?) can be frustrating.

The wire service many of us have been using for years distributes your releases, and then? Was the effort a waste? Has anyone contacted you directly for additional information, quotes, an interview? Otherwise, your service might provide a simplified report with guesstimates around pageviews. But what you really want to know is which of outlets did your message resonate with and engage readers, rather than just quickly being eyeballed. Until now, it was hard to know if your “fire hose” approach was yielding any meaningful coverage, that you could take credit for.

In the age of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, we have become used to instant feedback. Social engagement leaves a data trail, including follower counts, likes, shares, retweets, re-grams, and comments, all available, as they happen. As we know, stats lend credibility to your efforts, help you spot trends, and enable you to refine your message and your approach. This type of data analytics wasn’t readily available for press releases, until now.

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The feedback loop of ongoing social dialog has made the traditional press release follow up outdated. At Meltwater, we designed Meltwater Impact to help companies include press releases in their results reports, to empower them to transition from stats to insights by leveraging social data With data driving more and more decision-making, we believe it’s time press releases to forge a data trail of their own.

Now you can see, not only how many articles originated from your original release, but also, how each article contributes to potential reach. You can now track the entirety of the press release’s social footprint.

By better understanding distribution and engagement, you can better plan for future media coverage. With its ability to track insights and statistics of your press release, as well as associated topics and keywords, Meltwater Impact surfaces new data sets that illustrate the reach of your work. Welcome to a truly new era of press release reporting.

This post was originally published on this site on October 16, 2016. 

10 CEOs Make Predictions for Marketers

What do firm leaders think will happen to marketing this year? To find out, I turned to CEOs who represent a variety of different industries and companies.

Marketers will begin focusing on PR tech: Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer, CEO, AirPR

We can’t talk about MarTech without talking about PRTech, the increasingly important public relations and brand awareness aspect given the onset of content marketing. In regards to PRTech advancements, I think AI will continue to replace repetitive tasks for public relations and communications professionals. This includes things like manually creating spreadsheets of press placements or charts that show coverage volume. Human brain power will be reserved for more high-level strategy, not the granular tasks.

Marketers will begin creating more sophisticated strategic plans to leverage video: Brad Jefferson, CEO, Animoto

Today, video consumption is at an all-time high and more marketers than ever have started using it. But in 2017, simply using video won’t be enough. Marketers and businesses of all sizes looking to stand out will need to become more adept at video strategy, understanding everything from what makes a video engaging to A/B testing and how to manage TrueView and Facebook video ad campaigns. Video strategy and creation will be an increasingly desirable skillset to have, and businesses are hiring for it.

The gig economy will provide CMOs with opportunities to work in multiple firms: Art Saxby, CEO, Chief Outsiders

The Gig Economy is spreading and growing–from hiring a car and driver for 10 minutes or a condo by the beach for 3 days to hiring a hyper-specialized executive resource 1-2 days a week.  Shifts in both technology and society now allow an accomplished senior executive to be an active member of the management team of two or three companies at once while living anywhere they want.  It also means that mid-size companies now have access to executive resources that they could never before afford or attract. This ability for companies and executives to work virtually is enabled by SaaS of all varieties.  This is a significant benefit to mid-market companies, giving them the ability to access talent and conduct business with an ever-increasing level of productivity as they add applications with zero effort and no IT overhead.

Voice-Related AI will take prominence in marketing discussions in 2017: Gregg Johnson, CEO, Invoca

Voice has always been central to how we communicate. With the spike in voice-related AI advancements this year, it’s poised to be even more essential in 2017. In 2016 alone, Google announced its own smart speaker and assistant, Apple opened Siri to third party developers, and Mary Meeker named voice a key trend in her annual internet trends report, saying that “voice-based interfaces are ramping quickly and creating a new paradigm for human-computer interaction.” People are already talking to Siri and Alexa about things they want to purchase — if they have questions in the decision making process, it is natural to continue that conversation with a robot or a human. Next year we will see voice capabilities move from a “nice to have” to the new killer feature, the new user interface.

E-Commerce will get a big boost from tech: Amit Sharma, Founder & CEO, Narvar

E-commerce companies need to think more like tech companies, using AI and machine learning to make shopping an organic part of how we experience daily life. Today, you can call an Uber with Amazon Echo and book a flight entirely through a Facebook Messenger bot. In 2017 brands will combine emerging tech like biometrics and location sensors with storytelling, design and predictive data to create truly individual experiences. By connecting data from multiple channels and building human-centered experiences, marketers will help you find products in your precise moment of need — and perhaps before you even perceive that need.”

Marketers will use AI to take the guesswork out of predictive modeling: Pini Yakuel, CEO, Optimove

AI-based bots and digital assistants will become essential in the creation of marketing insights. Marketers today have at their fingertips what ten years ago would have been considered an unimaginable amount of data. The real challenge has become separating the wheat from the chaff – recognizing significant data, forging insights and creating relevant actions, all in real time. Utilizing machine learning and predictive algorithms to take the guesswork out of marketing decision making is becoming essential for the perpetuation of creative, exciting, hearts-and-needle-moving campaigns. In an era where emotionally intelligent customer marketing is de facto the new branding, marketers will be automating insights through artificial intelligence.

Companies will be more discerning about where they deploy chatbots: Matt Gillin, CEO, Relay Network

In 2017, businesses will hesitate to use chatbots on Facebook. Chatbots have immense potential, and as they improve, more and more companies will adopt them to enhance their customer experience. But 2017 is when businesses will get smarter about the use of this technology: they will hesitate to use them on third-party properties like Facebook, instead, applying them on their own websites and private channels, as appropriate. This will be driven by a desire to secure customer data, especially in regulated industries like banking and healthcare, and prevent the Facebooks of the world from profiting from it. In an age where more than half of adults don’t trust Facebook with their data, the platform on which chatbots are used becomes even more important.

We will see the collapse of small-time ad networks: Peter Reinhardt, Cofounder & CEO of Segment

In 2017, I think we will see the collapse of the smaller ad networks. There are two forces working against them– the continued dominance of Facebook and Google, and the widespread blocking of third-party cookies. As Facebook and Google continue to pull ahead in market share, the smaller networks are not able to compete. Last quarter, Facebook and Google each grew their ad revenues around 20%, while the combined remainder of the digital advertising ecosystem revenues shrunk to 5%. In 2017, we will see an acceleration of this trend – the small-time ad networks will no longer be relevant part of the larger ecosystem.

Also, the recent privacy development that Apple and Mozilla have taken to block third-party cookies will drastically hurt these smaller ad-networks. These networks are so dependent on third-party cookies for better targeting and to share data between services that they need these doors to be open in order to survive. Google is poised to deliver the final blow if/when it updates Chrome to follow suit on cookie privacy. This move will shut down the rest of the small-time ad-network ecosystem that relies on third party cookies.

Competitive benchmarking will be key for advertisers: James Fennessy, CEO of Standard Media Index

From all of my discussions with leading brands, agencies and publishers it’s clear the biggest issue for 2017 is competitive bench-marking from an advertising and marketing effectiveness perspective. Companies have been able to look at their own return on advertising spend but it’s extremely rare that they have any information, let alone accurate and timely information, about their competitors. With evidence showing a diverse media-mix is more critical than ever, competitive bench-marking analysis is needed to help brands change course mid campaign and easily and quickly determine how their mix should evolve based on the media channels that are delivering the best ROI for their category.”

Marketers will be ‘in the moment’: Brett Caine, CEO of Urban Airship

Attention spans have shrunk by 50 percent since the advent of the smartphone and are now down to eight seconds for the average person. The only moment that matters to customers is what’s happening right now, and the number that respond to advertising has fallen by more than 100 percent in the last two years per Deloitte.

These changes in consumer behavior are happening even as more channels offer new ways to reach them including chat messaging services, smart home devices and in car displays. Experts predict that the next 10 years will generate an order of magnitude more change than we have seen in the last 10 years. To survive these changes, marketers have to undergo a seismic shift in their approach from blast promotions to real-time customer experience and in-the-moment utility. This will naturally be mobile-led, with its anywhere, anytime access, and requires open data and open systems to understand and respond in real-time throughout the entire customer experience. Personalization will become individualization as predictive machine learning and AI advance real-time automation and make this 1:1 future possible and scalable.

Ad blockers will become less effective: Russell Glass, VP Products, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions

Advertisers and publishers were caught off guard by ad blockers in 2015, when many underestimated the impact ads were having on the user experience. In 2016, we saw how popular ad blockers were with users, particularly on desktop. Next year, contrary to the conventional wisdom, we will see ad blocker usage rates stabilize — and possibly even decrease — as two advertising trends converge.

First, mobile usage will continue to grow and displace the time we spend on desktop computers, where ad blockers are most widely used. Desktops are quickly becoming “secondary touch points” for online activities such as e-commerce. Second, publishers will continue forcing users to shut off ad blockers (or whitelist their sites) to access content. Publications like Slate, Forbes, and The Huffington Post have jumped into the ad blocking conversation by marketing their “ad light” and subscription products to ad blocker users. Facebook has outright blocked the ad blockers. Since so many digital publications still rely on advertising for a majority of their revenue, users will be increasingly faced with a choice: whitelist the sites they care about or pay up. Combined with efforts like Facebook’s approach, ad blockers will become less effective and usage will diminish over time.

Join the Discussion: @KimWhitler

This article was written by Kimberly A. Whitler from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

How Social Media Went from Exciting to Ingrained in Our Lives

When social media first started to emerge in the mid-2000s as a popular way to connect online, marketers and consumers split into two camps. One camp boldly proclaimed that social media was the wave of the future. The other denounced social media as a fad (something people still occasionally insist today, more than 10 years later).

It’s clear that social media has had and continues to have a substantial impact on our daily lives—and it’s hard to imagine sites like Facebook ever going away, with more than 1 billion people currently using the platform. But when you look at the broad context of social media, and some of the recent developments shaping the industry, you have to wonder—are we heading to a post-social media world?

Coming and Going

For starters, let’s take a look at the rates of emergence and decay of social media platforms. In the early days of social media, and even as recently as a few years ago, new platforms would spring up constantly, looking for a piece of the social pie, and they’d die off just as quickly when their user bases wouldn’t grow to sustainable levels.

These days, that rate has substantially slowed, and people are gravitating only to a handful of apps—Facebook earns the attention of 79 percent of adults, with a cluster of other apps (WhatsApp, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter among them) hovering close to the 30 percent mark.

This slowdown means a couple of things that could indicate progress toward a post-social future:

  • Normalization of social media. With social platforms becoming more stable, less novel, and more intuitive, users aren’t focusing on social media as separate from their daily lives. They’re becoming more integrated, and over time may cease to be considered distinct entities.
  • Centralization of platforms. It’s also worth noting that single platforms are rising above the fold, giving them power to dictate the future of social media development in the same way that Google dictated the development of search for years. As this trend increases, social media platforms will likely start heading in newer, bolder directions that leave our old conceptions of “social media” in the dust.

Live Streams and Constant Interaction

Many platforms are also heading toward further integration with the “real” world; user interest in live video and other “in the moment” posts is enormous, especially when compared to reflective or retrospective posts. This is at least part of the reason why Snapchat has become as popular as it has; since messages are temporary and capture a specific moment in time, they’re a form of interacting with the live world.

The fact that most social apps cater to mobile users is another indication of this trend; mobile users are more likely to share things as they happen, rather than waiting to post about them at a later time. Social media apps run in the background, and users interact with each other on a constant basis. Already, social apps are becoming more like instant messaging platforms than a distinct entity on their own.

Wearable Tech and New Interfaces

As technology evolves, we’ll likely see new worlds of socialization emerge. Wearable technology and smart home systems like Google Home are encouraging users to decrease their reliance on screens and traditional interfaces. For technology like smartwatches, screens are too small or unnoticeable to present easy engagement. For smart home systems, hands-free communication and functionality is essential. That doesn’t leave any room for the world of social media as we’re used to it—a place to browse through the posts and photos of your friends and family and interact accordingly.

Augmented and virtual reality will make this trend escalate even faster, and given Facebook’s interest in the technology already, most social media platforms are clamoring to get to that next level. With integrated AR and VR, you can talk to people as if they’re in the same room as you, and you can even experience what they’re experiencing vicariously, complete with a full sensory experience and no need for the platforms of old.

What the Post-Social Media World Looks Like

Any social media interface you can imagine will be long gone. There might be buttons or menus that allow you to do things like call up a specific contact or stream a projection of your current line of sight, but online social interaction won’t exist the way we know it today.

Instead, social media companies will be focused on advanced forms of messaging and broadcasting, which will transcend our current limitations by a factor we can’t yet imagine. I imagine most interactions like “comments” and “likes” will disappear too, in favor or real-time feedback, and decades down the road, all this technology may become so minimalistic and so integrated that it doesn’t exist as an external device.

A Timeline

This projected reality of social media is exciting, and may sound a bit too sci-fi for your taste. That’s fine; I encourage you not to make any bold business or marketing decisions based around this far-off projection of what’s to come.

In reality, social media will likely evolve gradually, with no major revolutions over the next few years. But don’t write off these developments too far—if I had to nail down a date, I’d argue that we’ll start seeing a full transition away from traditional platforms within a decade.

But before that happens, if you have questions about setting up a social media program for your company, consider downloading our ebook, Social to Scale.

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This article was written by Jayson DeMers from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

How Millennials Are Changing Retail Patterns

Retail moves at the speed of culture, which means players sometimes quickly come and go. This speed is hastened by new technology and the group of shoppers using it the most – millennials.

The millennial generation is the largest in U.S. history, and as they reach their prime working and spending years, their impact on the economy will be significant. Millennials have come of age during a time of technological change, globalization, and economic disruption. These factors have given them a distinctly different set of behaviors and experiences.

This new generation is savvier and more educated. Millennials turn to handheld devices to meet all their needs. Whether it be hailing a ride through the Uber app or ordering a breakfast burrito through the Seamless app, technology is how they get things done. They are plugged into their devices and are disrupting traditional purchasing patterns.

Convenience And Flexibility

Millennials have grown up and matured with mobile technology and expect to be able to use it in every aspect of their life. They want to be able to make purchases, use social media, chat with friends, do online research and pay for products. The convenience of the mobile device is paramount to this group.

Improving the payment experience through self-checkout kiosks and advanced digital payment technologies is essential to keeping the millennial shopper. They use multiple devices to make purchases and have started turning their mobile device into a handheld wallet. The relentless focus on perfecting technology has set a new standard across the industry that millennials now accept as the norm. Retailers must be able to provide streamlined, user-friendly systems and processes to retain the millennial.

For example, retailers such as Starbucks are winning over millennial consumers with their mobile wallets – apps developed by stores which make it easier for customers to pay while delivering additional perks such as discounts or free drinks.

Personalized Experiences

To appeal to this generation, retailers need to provide a seamless customer-facing retail experience. Whether this is online or in-store, millennials seek customer service professionals who understand their preferences and make recommendations tailored to their specific needs.

Millennials want a customer-centric experience in which they feel wanted and valued. Whether it is in-store or through social media channels, showing interest in these shoppers creates loyalty. To do this, retailers need to examine what they’re currently doing with customer data and ensure this information is being utilized to deliver a more personalized in-store experience. This can include where customers shopped last, what was purchased, and their motivation to convert.

For the past few years, Nordstrom has been investing heavily in data-driven, personalized customer experiences. For example, the retailer tracks popular items pinned on social network Pinterest, which is then displayed in-stores and labeled as “top-pinned items” with a logo. By incorporating social feedback into the shopping experience, Nordstrom can take the lead from the customer, to ensure that merchandise in-stores are personalized and in better alignment with what shoppers want.

Experiences Over Items

Mobile devices and technology may be an integral piece of their life, but this young generation values traditional experiences. They shop, but they also want activities such as movies and dining. They demonstrated this over the holidays when they spent an average of $220 on these activities – more than Generation X or Baby Boomers.

Social interaction with brands is also important, especially for millennials. They utilize social media in real time, posting photos of their whereabouts and purchases, affording retailers instant social traction while sharing their experience with others.

To encourage consumers to spend, brands have gotten creative. For example, some fitness brands realize the importance of experience, including popular athleisure brand Lululemon, which offers complimentary in-store fitness classes. Stores are evolving into entertainment spots for millennials who share similar interests allowing them to spend time together, while also enabling consumers to engage with the brand.

This group of young people doesn’t turn to social media just to share their experience but to be engaged with as well. Retailers are capitalizing on this emerging trend, leveraging the consumer-generated content of photo shares and hashtags to create word of mouth marketing and appealing to a broader audience.

Millennials’ buying power will soon surpass that of the generations before them. Retailers will have to work harder to meet their demands as they influence trends and redefine buying habits. They will continue to utilize technology, and continue to expect that the world around them to adapt them quickly.

As with any consumer audience, listen and map content to all phases of your customers’ journeys and find the moments of inspiration.

This article was written by Tom McGee from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

[Infographic] PR and Marketing Reporting: Keys to Capturing KPIs

As PR and marketing reporting becomes essential in the modern comms department and folks move towards quantifying their efforts, wading through different aspects of reporting can get confusing fast. This uncertainty can particularly be true for those building a data-centric foundation for their PR and marketing departments. But becoming data-centric now will streamline the future reporting process. We understand the complexity surrounding data gathering and the decisions that need to be made to implement a rigorous reporting strategy; that’s why we’ve laid out what you need to get started in this handy infographic.

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Prepare for PR Crisis with These 6 Tactics

Preparing for a PR crisis requires getting out of the mindset that keeps us busy executing and measuring our tactical goals. Just because we have a social media manager who can push a message out in 140 characters or less several times a day doesn’t mean we have a mechanism in place to handle a full-blown PR crisis. That’s why being prepared for a crisis before it begins is the right strategy, here are 6 of the 10 steps. Access the other four steps, along with invaluable tips in our free ebook, Media Intelligence for Crisis Communications.

Step 1: Add Contingency Planning to Job Goals

Amidst your daily routine, you might not be able to design a protocol for every potential crisis right away. Pace yourself. Map out two or three crisis protocols per quarter. And make sure that accomplishing this goal is part of your performance review.

Step 2: Search for Early Warning Signs

A powerful media intelligence tool doesn’t just monitor your brand mentions. You can use it to set up searches on any number of topics and keep on top of them in all your channels.

Start by making a list of the kinds of messages you’ve already put out that have met resistance. At any point, this same resistance might come back, get amplified, and take on a life of its own. You’ll also want to talk with sales reps, customer support, and legal counsel on issues that they’ve encountered. Once you’ve made a list of crisis triggers, create news, and social searches for them.

To help you get started, here are some examples:

Executives: Journalists, analysts, and sometimes even customers pay attention to what high-ranking executives say and do. And so should you. Keep on top of their Twitter and Facebook feeds, what videos and blogs they post, and how everything they are putting out into the world is received and amplified.

Competitors: Pay as much attention to competitor brand mentions as you do your own. Their crisis could easily become yours. And if a competitor decides to come after you, you’ll want to know about it first and respond before others have a chance to amplify their message.

Industry news: Sometimes a PR crisis will hit you by association. By keeping track of how your industry is perceived and any events that might impact it (such as natural disasters or newly introduced legislation) you are prepared to address these issues as an industry leader.

Events: Keep track of trending topics related to the event to help prevent speakers and reps from getting caught with their guards down.

Controversy: A media intelligence tool enables you to keep track of any number of business and political keywords. You’ll know when hot-button topics are trending and get ready to explain your position on them before you are equated with the fallout they’ve generated. 

Complaints: Make a list of complaints and keep an eye out for them in your search results. Once an influencer amplifies customer concerns, they can be cemented as “expert opinion,” and your credibility can suffer longstanding damage.

Step 3: Create a Crisis Management Workflow

Start by outlining the internal steps you need to take before releasing a public statement. Then assign stakeholders where relevant. For example:

Assess the situation – Hopefully your company has got some feet on the street to report back on your crisis with first-hand insights, but use media intelligence to understand the full scope of the communications landscape and all of the points you’ll need to address.

Assign duties within your team – When you’re engaged on multiple fronts, you’ll need to man various stations. Decide who will manage influencers, keep the executive team informed, serve as liaison to other key stakeholders (including partners, customers, members, etc.), and record every detail, action taken, external response, and resolution.

Identify key advisors – A PR crisis may require technical information or strategic insight that you’ll need to get from leaders in IT, accounting, HR, or elsewhere. Identify all relevant functions specific to a given crisis and how to contact them quickly.

Draft your statement– The head of PR may be responsible for doing this, or it may fall to the agency that the head of PR should already have on speed dial.

Initial review – It’s always a good idea to have your CMO review your statement (or the agency’s), as he or she will undoubtedly be asked to defend it.

Legal review – Any statement you make during a time of crisis should be reviewed by counsel to assess its legal consequences and minimize damage should legal action be taken against the company.

CEO review – During a PR crisis, your CEO (likely your company’s primary spokesperson) must be kept in the loop.

Step 4: Establish a Notification System

Break down your audience, both internal and external, into key stakeholders and list the best channels to reach them. Chapter 3 explores in detail how to communicate with and engage your audience as you respond to a crisis.

Step 5: Have as Much Written Ahead of Time as Possible

Because social media moves so quickly, it can hurt your brand to wait for executive stakeholders to approve detailed statements. Having something preapproved that acknowledges your aware- ness of the problem without saying too much will go a long way in putting your audience at ease. Don’t forget that how long it takes for you to get your initial response out could be a detractor’s next headline.

Here is a fill-in-the-blank statement that can be used in any number of situations:

A ___________________ at ___________________ involving __________________ occurred today at _________________. The incident is under investigation and more information is forthcoming.

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Step 6: Finalize Key Messages and Update Corporate Talking Points

Once the worst is over—but before you reach for a beer and put it all behind you—you’ll want to craft a final word. Explain what your company learned from the crisis and how you’ve adapted processes, policies, or products accordingly. Remember, people will want to know you’ve taken action, not just paid lip service. You can then update any relevant company-wide talking points.

Once you prepare for PR crisis, you’ll be ready, if, when, and to what degree it may impact your company and brand. How your brand reacts to its community, audience, and detractors may have wide-encompassing repercussions. It’s hard to prepare for every contingency, so try to prepare for the ones you can by downloading our Media Intelligence for Crisis Communications ebook.

Media Intelligence for Crisis Comms

This post was originally published on this site on September 2, 2016.

Inbound Marketing Reporting: What to Report on Daily, Weekly, and Monthly

It’s the end of the month again, and every marketer knows what that means: end-of-month reporting. It feels like just yesterday we were knee-deep in numbers and charts and graphs trying to sort through the data and make sense of it all. Why is inbound marketing reporting so important, anyway? Why do we spend so much time analyzing? Because it connects the dots between our marketing activities and the goals we set out to accomplish. It can help us draw conclusions from our tests, learn from our mistakes, and spot opportunities to replicate success. Inbound marketing reporting can also help us prove the ROI of inbound marketing efforts and eliminate wasteful activity.

Simply put: Proper inbound marketing reporting gives us a blueprint for success when it comes to growing business through inbound marketing activity. But you don’t have to wait until the end of the month to start. Here are some ideas for breaking your reporting down into daily, weekly, and monthly analysis to help you keep better tabs on your inbound marketing activity.

For more information on the inbound methodology, how to apply it toward growing your business, and how to track your success, download The Growth Hacking Cheat Sheet: Plan, Execute, See Results.

In the meantime, here’s what you can be reporting on daily, weekly, and monthly to grow your business:

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While you shouldn’t get yourself tied up in too much reporting on a daily basis, it’s good to get in the habit of checking in on a few activities to make sure things are going smoothly. Set a few minutes aside every day to take a quick glance at the following items:

Website Traffic (Daily)

Website traffic is the lifeblood of inbound marketing for obvious reasons—you must attract your audience to your website before converting them into leads. Taking a glance at website traffic using a tool like HubSpot or Google Analytics on a daily basis can help you monitor sudden spikes or drops in traffic.

Social Media Engagement

Posting and interacting on your social media channels regularly will help you expand your marketing reach and attract visitors to your website. Research reveals that links shared on Facebook and Twitter have a shelf life of about three hours. So, generally speaking, when you post a link on social media, you’ll be able to determine how engaging that post was and how much traffic it sent to your website within 24 hours. Make checking up on your recent social media posts a morning or afternoon ritual. You can learn a lot from successful and unsuccessful posts.

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Monitoring activity on a weekly basis will help ensure there are no breakdowns in performance that will affect month-over-month progress. Here are a few things to report on each week:

Website Traffic (Weekly)

Glancing at website traffic on a daily basis will help you identify trends that you can circle back to weekly. Check back in to see if sudden drops in traffic have been resolved. Consider the week’s marketing activity and try to identify whether or not tactics are working like you planned. Which days performed better than others? It shouldn’t be surprising to see a bump in traffic on days when you post a blog article or send an email, but if that bump is higher than typical, make a note to yourself for monthly review.

Blog Traffic

Studies show that within one week of posting, a blog article’s traffic drops, on average, by 90 percent. When a blog article is optimized for SEO, it can build significant organic traffic over time, but check back on recent blog posts each week in the meantime to see how they performed. For articles that didn’t generate much traffic, consider the topic of the article and the audience that read the article. Does the topic speak to and help your desired audience? From the promotion strategies you used, were you able to reach the right audience?

Leads (Weekly)

Leads should be monitored frequently for the same reasons as traffic: to catch any drops in performance before they affect monthly goals. As your campaigns are running, check in on the number of leads you’re generating. When lead performance drops, consider your CTAs, emails, and landing pages.

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Monthly performance reports help ensure that you’re hitting your goals month over month and that your marketing activities are paying off—resulting in steady growth over time. They can also inform you where to shift focus in order to get better performance from your inbound marketing efforts. Here are a few things to take a look at monthly:

Website Traffic (Monthly)

Track overall website visits each month and expect to see an increase in month-over-month traffic. Track website traffic by channel to identify the activities that are working when it comes to attracting visitors. Here’s a breakdown of traffic to consider:

  • Organic Traffic – Organic visits from unpaid search results
  • Referral Traffic – Visits from another website that isn’t a search engine
  • Social Media Traffic – Visits from social media channels
  • Email Traffic – Visits from the emails that you send out
  • Direct Traffic – Visits from offline sources such as print advertisements or brand recognition
  • Paid Traffic – Visits that come from paid advertising

If month-over-month traffic happens to decrease from one month to another, you’ll be able to pinpoint the reason why by identifying channels that also decreased.

Page Performance

Take a look at your best and worst performing pages, including landing pages and blog articles. You’ll want to identify the pages that are not only getting the most views, but the ones that are converting well too. Make sure that the most viewed pages provide a next step for visitors to take, whether that step is to read or subscribe to the blog, download premium content, or to fill out a bottom-funnel form. Consider using prominent, action-oriented CTAs at or near the top of the page. Pinpointing traffic sources and successful CTAs for each of these pages can help you lay out a strategy to increase traffic and repeat success.

Campaigns

As you build out and execute marketing campaigns, don’t forget to check in monthly to see how they performed and what takeaways you can learn from. First, consider the number of campaign views, new contacts and new customers generated. Are these increasing or decreasing month-over-month? Break that performance down by channel to determine which activities had the biggest impact on recent campaign performance. This insight can help you decide where to spend most of your efforts and your budget.

Leads (Monthly)

Increases in website traffic month over month indicate that you’re attracting an audience. Increases in leads month over month indicate that you’re attracting the right audience and that they’re converting on your offers. Track your overall leads each month and, again, expect to see a steady increase over time.

Visitor-to-Lead Conversion (VTL)

This is the total number of visitors divided by the total number of leads. Keeping an eye on your VTL conversion rate helps you determine how effective your landing pages and offers are in converting visitors into contacts. When your VTL rate is low for the month, consider whether or not you’re bringing in the right audience to your website. Then consider how well your offers are resonating with them. A/B-test some variations to find out.

Cost per Lead

This is the total spend on marketing activities divided by the number of leads gained. Track cost per lead by channel (organic, referral, social media, email, direct, and paid) to determine which efforts are the most cost-effective and which ones could be scrapped altogether. Keep in mind that inbound marketing strategies require an investment of time and hard work before you start to see results, so measure monthly, but give it time to come to fruition.

Customers

Your inbound marketing efforts don’t truly pay off until you’ve turned your leads into customers for your business. So obviously you want to track your customers every month and (once again) which channels they’re coming from (organic, referral, social media, email, direct, and paid).

Lead-to-Customer Rate

This is the total number of customers for the month divided by the total number of leads (multiplied by 100 to get the percentage). This tells you how well your leads are converting into sales. When the lead-to-customer rate is low, consider ways to nurture leads a little longer before handing off to sales.

While this breakdown of reporting is sufficient for some, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.

This article originally appeared in The SmartBug Inbound Marketing Blog, was written by Mike Wolfe from Business2Community, and legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

2016’s Top Tweets (and What We Can Learn from Them for 2017)

As January hits its stride, many of us are breathing a sigh of relief. But before we get comfy with 2017, it’s worth taking a look back at last year’s highest engaging tweets to help inform this year’s social media strategy. There has to be something we can learn from 2016, right?

It’s been said that the lowest hanging fruit is juiciest, so without further delay, we give you… the top 3 tweets of 2016 (plus a bonus from us at the end)!

Top Tweets of 2016:

#1: @Rubiu5

Yes, Limonada is the Spanish word for lemonade. No, this is not a Spanish tribute to Queen Bey. It is, however, the tweet with more retweets than any other in 2016.

The Spanish gamer, Rubén Doblas Gundersen, better known by his alias—El Rubius or elrubiusOMG—mobilized his +8M followers with prizes for retweeting. Prizes promised included game download codes, game consoles, gamer headsets, and peripherals and even a telescope, making this example of retweeting a testament to the value of incentives and the power of influencers in vlogging and gaming. Further supporting the power of sports and competition on Twitter, two of the top tweeted topics of 2016 were the Rio Olympics and Pokemon Go. When it comes to the power of sports and gaming influencers, Twitter is twinkling with engagement gold.

TL;DR: Incentivize your audience to engage. Influencers in the e-sports and gaming industries are trending up.

#2: @Harry_Styles

The rules of engagement apply even if you’re a superstar or a millennial or both. Do it with a simple and celebratory shout-out.

What? Yes, a tweet as shout-out is made more powerful on a channel like Twitter, where a “throwaway” 140 characters can net you 15 words of fame (and nth more times engagement via retweets and likes).

Where the One Direction vocalist and actor really masters the art of 140 characters in this 2nd most retweeted tweet is not only by humble bragging “it’s my birthday” to his fans, but by getting some cross-pollinated love from quoting the lyrics of ex-girlfriend, Taylor Swift.

#FTW, his tweet is authentic, consistent, celebratory, and a satisfying clip of clever that leaves you wanting more. What does 22 feel like these days?

TL;DR: Influencers can tap into “inside” jokes with their audience. Cultural relevance is key to making a shout-out an engagement tool.

#3: @HillaryClinton

We couldn’t make this an entirely election-free list.

While we might expect somebody else notorious for his tweets might’ve made the most retweeted list, he didn’t. The fact that Hillary got more retweets and likes for this tweet than Trump has for any of his, shows us that being positive and celebratory on social media is what engages.

When you bring an audience together—especially with a genuine and heartfelt message—you win. The popularity of this tweet is also a testament to the value of feminism, girl power, and inclusive audiences.

TL;DR:  Feel good content rules. Understanding the pulse of your audience and their cultural touchpoints is key. The future is female.

Bonus: @Meltwater