Teaching Modern PR to Students

One of the challenging parts of teaching modern PR and social media is the fact the industry, along with the tools and specific channels, are constantly changing. Young public relations professionals are being asked to be experts overnight; skilled in the areas of monitoring, content creation, storytelling, and influencer relations. As a professor, it’s a challenge to keep up with the fast pace we are seeing in the industry.

With that being said, there are exercises to help prepare students for the workplace. There are a few assignments that I’ve given over the years at the University of Louisville that have been very well received, assignments that tie in both analytics as well as core principles in PR.

Personal Branding Audit

One of the challenges I hear from colleagues is the lack of access to business or client accounts on social media for their students to analyze for class. There’s a simple response to this: You already have access to social media business and client accounts, and that is your personal brand. One of my favorite projects to assign is to have students reflect on their personal brand, using metrics and platform analytics to evaluate their personal social media strategy.

The overall goal is to teach the students the importance of online presentation but it uses the audit of their social media accounts to reflect on how these tools can lead to professional opportunities or help foster relationships. Throughout this project, students use data analytics to evaluate the impact of their posts and where they stand in their communities of choice. It also helps them pinpoint their strengths and degree of influence. Students need to know where they currently stand online based on their overall presence, but also where they need to go. As they progress in their studies, they need to know how to build relationships with fellow professionals and brands, create content to engage influencers with, and be able to evaluate the effectiveness of certain types of updates and future content.

Situational Analysis Listening and Monitoring Audit of Client and Competitors

In order to be able to create great content for PR, we have to be able to determine the overall health and stability of our networks. We need to be able to answer questions about how well our content is performing, who are our biggest advocates, and both what and how competitors are doing on social media.

This is where benchmarking a brand and their competitors are very important. In my social media class this past spring, we had a chance to do this with Sysomos. Some of the features of the software are similar to other listening and measurement tools, but it allows students the opportunity to use data to draw conclusions about what is happening. The software highlights major takeaways, gaps to address immediately (e.g. challenges), and opportunities to act on (e.g. create content for influencers and build relationships).

The goal here is to allow students to not only talk about key performance indicators for their PR plan (e.g. engagement, etc…) but to actually calculate it with actionable intel. In a professional setting, they’ll need this knowledge to advise clients on what they need to consider when planning content and how their results can be evaluated.

I plan on adapting this assignment for the Fall 2017 semester with Meltwater for my graduate Public Relations and Crisis Communications class at the University of Louisville.

Buzzfeed Content Creation and Analytics Assignment

I wanted an assignment where students created content and evaluated the response based on data analytics. This is where fellow social media professor, Matt Kushin of Shepherd University shared his Buzzfeed assignment with me.

Students were asked to create a Buzzfeed-style post (this could be a quiz, listicle, or regular post), and then promote the piece of content on social media while also evaluating the associated metrics. I adapted this assignment to have students create content about Louisville with what tourists and others should know about the city before they arrive for the Kentucky Derby. Students had to create a post with additional images (citing them, of course) to tell a story while also providing links to resources such as videos, restaurants, and must go to places in the city.

Essentially, the students created a customized fact sheet about Louisville that was presented and tailored for a Buzzfeed audience. The students also had to decide how they would share this content with the community on social media. Along with outlining steps on how they would measure the success of these posts, and given the outcome, what lessons and action steps to take in the future.

The overall goal of this assignment was to teach students the importance of being able to write strong content relevant to a brand, company, or topic and be able to provide sound metrics that validate their efforts. It was interesting to see the sparks go off when students realized that a platform they have used for years could be adapted for professional opportunities. Seeing this shift in their perspective, using Buzzfeed as passive entertainment to a creative content hub that could resonate with communities, was illuminating.

In summary, there are a lot of great assignments, resources and opportunities out there for PR students and professors to take advantage of. The more opportunities we have to share resources and bounce around ideas, the better off we are going to be in preparing students for the growing expectations we are seeing in the PR field.

There are additional PR assignments listed in my teaching workbook along with rubrics and best practices. If you’re an intern or newbie to public relations, download our ebook to keep on track.

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The 7 Simple SEO Mistakes That Are Killing Your Content Marketing Strategy

High-quality, informative content is one of the most important success factors in B2B marketing.

In fact, research shows that 89% of B2B marketers are using content as the main channel in their marketing strategy. With that said only 19% rate their organization’s efforts as successful and only 41% are clear on what an effective or successful content marketing strategy even looks like.

Though there is indeed an impressive growth in the use of content as an essential tool in their marketing strategy, B2B companies and marketers are still making SEO mistakes that are simply killing their content quality and marketing efforts. This post will teach you the core SEO mistakes that are killing your content strategy.

SEO and B2B Content Marketing

The B2B space has its own unique requirements and considerations, and it differs from B2C in some core aspects:

  • Product/Service Value

Most B2B products/services usually cost more than B2C products (a pair of jeans profit potential in most cases is up to about $100 while a SaaS (Software As A Service) solution can be $1000 a month).

  • Decision Makers

In B2C, it’s usually a single shopper who makes the purchase decision. In a B2B company, there are various decision makers involved.

  • Buyer’s Journey/Buying Cycle

For both B2B and B2C, the buyer’s journey usually goes as follows:

  • Awareness Stage: Problem or need identification.
  • Consideration Stage: Possible solutions research, comparing between the different products available.
  • Decision Stage: Reaching a decision and making the purchase

A B2B content marketing strategy usually deals with many sets of keywords and search terms to target buyer personas who are decision makers at the different stages of their buyer’s journey.

Search engines are a great way to get in front of these prospects at earlier stages of their research process, but all too often, marketers themselves are the reason search engines hold your content back from prominent positions in their search results pages (SERPs).

Although they are usually treated separately, content marketing and SEO goes together like cereals and milk. SEO is all about keywords, backlinks, and great onsite optimization.

The best way to get backlinks is by publishing killer content and letting the masses link back to it.

Now that we’ve established the connection between B2B content marketing and SEO, we can start laying down the SEO mistakes that are killing your content marketing strategy:

1. Creating short content: Google loves long, in-depth, informative content that satisfies the searcher’s needs. Generally, the more in-depth the content is, the more likely it solves the searcher’s intent or question. As opposed to that, what Google hates the most is when searchers click a link on a SERP, sees that it’s not what they were looking for, and immediately bounces off by hitting the back button. This is called Pogo Sticking.

Pgo stick SEO Mistakes

This doesn’t mean you should be writing long for the sake of long (it also doesn’t grant you permission to be boring or paste large batches of text that are unscannable and tiring, but more on that later on). Do however make sure your content is comprehensive enough to answer searchers’ questions. A good strategy would be to determine the main keyword phrase and google it, to see how long the content in the 3 top SERPs is and make sure yours is longer, more concise and more in-depth. Make sure to add something to that content that others didn’t to make it more valuable to the readers (and the search engines).

2. Using too long paragraphs: Without refuting the above, a good way to lose your reader’s attention is using long paragraphs. Most people SCAN, not read. Short paragraphs encourage reading by being easier on the eyes and are easier to understand.

3. Not making content breaks: In the age of smartphones, the average reader’s attention span became even shorter than that of a goldfish. The importance of recapturing the reader’s attention continuously throughout an article became even bigger. Breaking up the text, using subheads, lists, and images will help you keep the readers on the page (and get noticed by search engines).

SEO Mistakes goldfish

4. Misspellings in content: According to Google’s Matt Cutts, while misspellings are not used as a direct signal in Google’s (over 200 different) rating factors, “reputable sites does tend to spell better than sites with low page rank”. While probably not hurting your ranking, misspellings can hurt your credibility in the eyes of the readers and chances of getting linked to.

5. Not doing optimization: Your content is part of your website. Like the latter, every single piece of content should be optimized both for search engines and readers. You can, and should, optimize your content’s meta information like you do for your site. Write unique meta titles and descriptions for each of your content. Same goes for optimizing images and using CTAs. This will increase visibility on SERP and shareability on social networks.

6. Not creating outbound links: The most unfortunate misconception in the SEO industry, is that a page/site will lose Authority/Page Rank/Trust if directing users to external sites with outbound links, this is utter BS. If your content is only “me talking” and does not link to other content, why would readers and search engines find it credible and authoritative enough to link to you (and rank you higher)? Content that is more well-researched usually cites sources by linking to it. Google also recognizes this as a signal for that site/page credibility and users will more likely trust and share (and link to) this content.

7. Not promoting your content: Your content being better than anyone else’s doesn’t mean it will instantly go viral and reach No. 1 ranking on SERPs. Though it’s a more cost-effective way of promoting your content, a great (white hat) SEO strategy takes time. Today, marketers can’t afford to neglect any type of owned, paid or earned media in their strategy. Combining the three will help you attract, convert, nurture and close leads. Find what mix works for you by focusing on your overall marketing goals. Each goal will require a different combination of media, finding the right mix and constantly evaluating and measuring it against set KPIs will help you reach your marketing goals.

Conclusion

Ensure your content marketing success by applying these SEO techniques in its implementation. Implementing these techniques properly will lower marketing costs and help boost the results of your content marketing efforts.

If you found this useful, learn more about leveraging your marketing efforts by implementing a rigorous SEO strategy.

This article originally appeared in Bold Digital, it was written by Barak Hajaj from Business2Community, and legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Writing Wrongs: The Power of the Apology

It’s not easy to admit to being in the wrong. You’d think that, with a mere two syllables, uttering the word sorry would cause few people any strain. But, as Elton John so accurately identified in his 1976 masterpiece, for many it seems to be the hardest word.

Imperfection is entirely human

At one time or another we’ve all been guilty of committing an act that, in hindsight, we would happily eradicate from our lives. You don’t get to be an adult without going through a few moments you’d rather forget; that’s just how life works. Mistakes happen, and learning from them is a crucial part of becoming a wiser, more rounded individual.

Of course, it’s one thing to acknowledge a mistake to oneself, but quite another to openly confess it to other people. Conceding fault or owning up to a blunder can be embarrassing, uncomfortable and, in some cases, distressing.

“At one time or another we’ve all been guilty of committing an act that, in hindsight, we would happily eradicate from our lives.”

Though doing so can often be awkward, saying sorry when an apology is genuinely warranted is an act of significance. Regardless of the circumstances that have deemed it necessary, declaring regret or remorse is a means of showing respect and empathy for the person, or persons, that have been wronged.

“Saying sorry when an apology is genuinely warranted is an act of significance.”

And it is for these reasons that companies, as well as people, must embrace transparency and admit fallibility when something goes wrong. Human beings run companies, all of whom are capable of miscalculation and mix-ups. Even with the best of intentions, inaccuracies can, and will, occur.

Oversights and errors

Sometimes, mistakes can find their way into a finished article, no matter how thoroughly it has been edited and proofread. Every content producer has been there, and I’m no exception.

During my very first stint as a journalist at a regional newspaper, I managed to spell a woman’s surname wrong. In retrospect, I can see it for what it truly was; an innocent mistake made by a nervous, and somewhat naïve, young writer. But, back then, it felt like the end of the world. It was the first time I’d ever scored a byline, and I couldn’t have been more disheartened when, on the day of the newspaper’s publication, the misnamed woman called up and made my editor aware of the cock-up.

Despite the associated humiliation and the feeling of having let everyone down, the situation turned out to be an incredibly valuable tutorial in not only dealing with setbacks but also in the value of assessing a situation from another person’s perspective.

“It’s very easy to become transfixed on an error and blow its significance out of all proportion.”

The editor issued an apology over the phone, but I was determined to face up to the error and say sorry in person. I bought a bunch of flowers, headed round to the lady’s house, and we had a cup of tea and a chat in her kitchen. The reason that brought me there was forgotten almost immediately, and we nattered on for a good half an hour about gardening, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and her love of Wimbledon.

I returned to the office with a smile on my face. I’d seen first-hand the real value of saying sorry and truly meaning it. I realized that not only does the recipient sincerely appreciate an authentic apology, but the act of issuing one can forge a bond of trust and mutual respect.

It’s very easy to become transfixed on an error and blow its significance out of all proportion. And, while sometimes it may seem tempting to ignore a gaffe and pray that it disappears without anyone noticing, rarely is this the most apposite response. Nobody is immune to the odd flub, and, while the magnitude and importance of an error will vary from situation to situation, reacting in a way that is sincere and earnest is nearly always the most beneficial course of action.

However, if you are a business owner or a spokesperson for your company, there may come a time when you find yourself forced to issue a response of some kind on behalf of an entire organization. Should this scenario arise, it’s even more essential that you take the time to carefully prepare and hone your reaction.

When to say sorry

If a company values its customers – as they all should – then openly and honestly recognizing mistakes, and suitably addressing the reasons that led to said mistake’s occurrence, is vital.

Remember when Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 phones starting catching fire? Or when Snapchat fell victim to a phishing scam that ended up revealing payroll information about some of the company’s employees? Or the Volkswagen emissions scandal in 2015?

In each of these instances, the need for the culpable party to say sorry was a no-brainer; they were clearly at fault, and any failure to accept responsibility would have caused them even greater reputational damage.

Sometimes, however, knowing whether or not to say sorry is far less straightforward.

There can be a very thin line between what some will deem harmlessly provocative, and what others will regard as offensive. Marketers, advertisers, and content creators are tasked with ensuring that which they produce stands out from the crowd, and one of the most effective ways of achieving this is to craft something that is somewhat confrontational. Attempting to engage the consumer without disillusioning them is a strategy many companies attempt, but one that is not without risks.

“There can be a very thin line between what some will deem harmlessly provocative, and what others will regard as offensive.”

In early 2016, Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) ran an advertising campaign which suggested that its burgers were so good, even vegetarians would not be able to resist them. I remember seeing this at the time and thinking that it was quite a nice angle. I’m a vegetarian and didn’t for a second consider it anything more than a concept aimed at grabbing people’s attention.

However, GBK was inundated with complaints from furious veggies, with many suggesting that the burger chain’s posters ‘alienated’ customers that had made a conscious decision to refrain from consuming meat. In fact, The Advertising Standards Authority revealed that it received close to 200 complaints about the ads, which prompted GBK to issue the following apology:

“Our intentions were light-hearted and not meant to cause any offense, but clearly we have, and for that, we apologize. While we’ve served beef at the core of our menu since 2001, we’ve always catered well to the veggies out there, and always will.”

In this wake of this statement, Jasmijn de Boo, the chief executive of The Vegan Society, lambasted GBK, calling the company ‘totally out of touch’, before adding that the incident was a ‘wonderful example of the power of people to change things when they spot an injustice’.

Whether the advertisements offend you or not, it’s clear to see that this is not a cut and dried case. While some individuals considered the campaign to be disrespectful, others clearly didn’t see it that way. It’s no secret that some people are far more easily offended than others. A situation that would see one individual shrug their shoulders and carry on with their day, could lead another to become irate, incensed and incredibly angry.

It can be difficult to accurately anticipate how sensitive people will be to a design, idea, or piece of writing, and it can be even trickier to know when an apology is compulsory. However, in the world of content creation, this is something you’ll likely be forced to confront at some point.

“It can be difficult to accurately anticipate how sensitive people will be to a design, idea or piece of writing.”

Using your own judgment and standing firm, both during a concept’s inception and following its publication, is essential. If you don’t believe an apology is necessary, then don’t give one. But be aware that you might be called upon to defend your stance, and may have to fight for what you believe is right. There is very little, if anything, that will not be considered offensive by someone, but that does not mean you must bow down and accept wrongdoing if you do not believe it’s justified.

In Conclusion

The long-term damage of appearing dishonest far outweighs the short-term unease associated with holding one’s hands up and taking ownership of a genuine slip-up. Saying sorry is something we’ve all had to do before, and will all likely have to do again.

However, sometimes you must be willing to stand up for your ideas, beliefs, and output. If companies or individuals meekly apologize every time someone decides they are affronted, then challenging and provoking content could conceivably become a thing of the past.

Knowing when to accept blame is not always simple, but being prepared to say sorry when the situation calls for it is a fundamental necessity, regardless of whether speaking on behalf of yourself, or as the voice of an organization.

Admitting fault can be a generous act, that’s why brands that understand the power of the apology can increase their brand capital in the face of a society that hates to say sorry. Sorry, needn’t be the hardest word.

This article originally appeared in Southerly, it was written by Joe Phelan from Business2Community, and legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Are Digital Assistants in PR’s Future?

We’re fascinated with the idea of mixing PR and voice assistant and voice automation technologies, especially after seeing the challenges faced by Burger King after its commercial “hijacked” several Google Home devices. Burger King’s advertisement brought to light some challenges that PR pros face as they start using AI, the most pressing are unpredictable consequences and punitive user retaliation.

In Burger King’s case, the unintended consequence of being called out by Google Home users on their YouTube page for “hacking” their voice-activated devices to insert an ad into their day without their consent. That wave of negative response could’ve been avoided by surveying their customer base on other platforms before diving head-first into ad triggering. More important for PR pros thinking of diving into the space to note, however, is the retaliatory aspect of this story. The campaign ad depended on triggering the first line of the Whopper’s Wikipedia page to work. Users logged into Wikipedia and began editing the first line to say derogatory things about the company and the burger, thus subverting the ad. Having a member of the company’s C-suite then log into Wikipedia to try and counter-edit the ad only compounds the bad press. Even if this didn’t work for Burger King, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t explore voice activation for PR.

PR pros can play in the audio chatbot space without raising the ire of their audience. When dipping your toes into using chatbots, remember that you’re marketing to people, not devices. One way to be successful is to see beyond “ads” and find ways to offer helpful or enhancing content instead. What might that entail? First, research the ways each of the devices, from Alexa and Google Home to Siri, Bixby, Cortana, and others are different. The Amazon Echo, for example, now has multiple trigger words and allows more than one user to activate the device. This makes it ideal for partner content that enhances something a user already enjoys. Consider partnering with Amazon to integrate companion content with the Fire Stick and Alexa that responds to what a user is watching or doing with facts or information that add value to that moment. Save the hard sell for another time.

Think of how music shows use social media right now. NBC’s The Voice does a great job integrating everything from singer bios to live voting into Facebook and Twitter already. Every week their audience is primed to be on a second screen to participate live. Now imagine if you wanted to add another layer to that experience, using the voice assistant as a “third screen” to talk to people watching The Voice. The assistant could tell viewers when a contestant is falling behind and encourage them to vote, it could offer a tidbit about the contestant’s backstory that’s not included in their bio, or it could direct the listener to download their song on Amazon Music, if a trigger indicates the volume on a device is increased.

If a brand offers content that enhances an experience rather than sells, users won’t feel invaded. They’ll see the additional content as a bonus experience. Another example would be food television. A partnership with Food Network might offer a tie-in to your grocery list, or offer to add a recipe to your Pepperplate App for you in response to raised volume of the TV. Pausing the show completely might trigger some fun facts about the episode or encourage people to talk to the chefs via social media during their break. By paying more attention to interests and activity, and linking with partners for content and promotions, PR pros have an opportunity to reach more people in new ways.

One last example centers around sporting events. Imagine if your PR efforts triggered the voice assistant to act more like an assistant–offering to schedule game recordings, or looking for local sports teams that are similar and triggering an offline experience by suggesting weekend trips? That could be a huge boon to the travel industry and would be useful for people who love sports but may not think to seek them out in person, or may assume the event is too expensive. Partnership with deal sites like Expedia or Hitlist App could put voice assisted travel within reach of the average consumer.

2017 is the year of further extending AI technology into voice automation, especially in the realm of digital assistants like Alexa, Siri, Echo, and Watson. PR pros should start thinking out of the box and exploring the possibility of integrating this technology into campaigns. Doing so with the idea of being helpful at the forefront of your efforts. If your user feels helped, not hacked, PR efforts can’t go wrong!

To reinforce the skills needed to keep on top of modern PR, download our ebook: 11 Lessons That PR Professionals Need to Learn in a Digital World.

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Most Important KPIs By Funnel Stage: Awareness

You’ve probably heard that your key performance indicators, or KPIs, should play a big role in the creation of your marketing budget. They tell you where to put your dollars to make the most impact— the biggest bang for your buck, so to speak. But. There’s SO MUCH DATA, it’s tough to tell what’s actually useful, and what you can ignore. How do you know which KPIs have the greatest value, and should be used to create that all-important budget?

Ok. You’re sifting to find the most important KPIs by funnel stage. Where do you start?

If you haven’t embraced the concept of “smarketing,” or the alignment of your sales and marketing teams, it’s time to get on board. It’s the best combo since chocolate and peanut butter, and it will help you generate the most revenue possible. Once you’ve brought the team together, break down the customer buying process into three stages:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Decision

diagram of the buyers journey, showing the Awareness, Consideration, and Decision stages

Buyer’s journey image credit: HubSpot

Why? Well, it’s a lot easier to break down the KPIs by stage; looking at all of them en masse can be overwhelming, and you might end up falling down a KPI rabbit hole, never to be heard from again. Nobody wants that.

Instead, examine the KPIs as they pertain to each stage in the process. Buyers at every stage have very different needs, and the KPIs should reflect that.

Today, we’ll look at the KPIs you need in the first stage of the buyer’s journey: Awareness. Over the next two articles, we’ll discuss the KPIs for the Consideration and Decision stages— we don’t want you to feel like you’re drinking from an information fire hose.

The Top of Your Funnel: Awareness

We’re going to break down the data into three questions:

  • What data should you be examining?
  • Where can you find it?
  • What can you do about it?

Ready to dive in? Good!

What to Look At and Where to Find It

Here’s the good news. You have a lot of excellent sources for data. And here’s the bad news. There are A LOT of excellent sources for data. How do you know what actually pertains to your specific needs? Here’s a quick primer.

Website Traffic

How many visitors do you get every month? Which pages are visited most frequently? These questions can help you get a good feel for the “hot spots” on your website. You can gather this information through tools such as Google Analytics or Hubspot; tools such as these are definitely worth exploring, as they make analytics a breeze.

Another factor to consider is the performance of your calls to action. Are they bringing folks to the pages they’re touting? And how long do people spend on those pages? What do they do while they’re there? Tools like Hotjar offer an in-depth analysis of how people use your website, and what their engagement behaviors look like. This tool is essentially a “heatmap” of your website, giving you a visual representation of the most popular places on your website.

Social Media

Social media isn’t just for cat videos and pictures of your high school sweetheart’s baby anymore. It’s a valuable (and cost-effective) marketing tool, but only if you track your success. It’s important that you answer these questions:

  • How many people see your posts every month?
  • What’s your social reach?
  • How many people engage with your channels?
  • Are there channels that are performing better than others?

How do you gather this data? Well, most social media platforms offer analytics for the curious, and your old friend HubSpot can get you the info you need through their Social Reports section, too.

Keywords/SEO

You probably know that nailing down the right keywords on your site can help drive traffic your way. A tool like Raven can do a site crawl to determine if your site suffers from SEO issues. You might also do a check to see if there are certain keywords or key phrases that are performing better than others. Again, HubSpot and Google Analytics can help you out with this.

Paid/Social Advertising

If you’ve taken the leap to paid or social advertising, such as AdWords or Facebook ads, there are analytics you should keep tabs on. For instance, what type of engagement are you getting? Is the paid advertising you’ve invested in actually resulting in more visitors to your site? Where do they go once they get there? HubSpot and Google Analytics can assist you in determining the answers to these questions.

What To Do With All That Data

So. You’ve got a big heap of data, all pertaining to the Awareness stage of the buyer’s journey. What now? What do you do with the information? Here are some helpful suggestions:

Spruce Up Your SEO— Take the info you’ve gleaned and fix any SEO errors that you found on your site. Implement best practices on high-value items, including headers and meta descriptions, to start.

Revive Low-Performing Pages— Did you find that some of your pages and CTAs aren’t quite up to snuff? That’s okay. Shake it off. Look at the pages that ARE performing well; what’s the common denominator? Find the information that’s speaking to your personas, and incorporate that into the pages that aren’t performing as well.

Create Keyword-Rich Content— This point is pretty self-explanatory. Just, you know, create content that has a lot of valuable keywords (in an organic manner, of course— it has to make sense). Whether it’s an article on your blog or just general web content, be mindful of the words you’re using.

MVPs (Most Valuable Platforms)— With your data, you’ve determined which of the social media platforms is performing best. With that in mind, beef up your posting on the channels that can be considered “high value,” and just automate any of the platforms that aren’t performing as well.

Improve your Ad Structure— How’s your paid/social advertising ad structure? If it’s not performing as well as you’d like, consider narrowing your audience and picking a very targeted pain point. Additionally, evaluate the ad’s CTA. Is there room for improvement? Well, then improve it.

Your KPIs are the backbone of your marketing strategies. They help you understand whether you’re putting your efforts in the right place, and if you’re not, they’ll help you find the right place. Pay attention to them, and you’ll be rewarded with a better marketing ROI.

Reporting

After you’ve settled on your KPIs and are ready to use that info for reporting, check out our on-demand webinar on reporting. To see this in a snapshot, check out our reporting infographic.

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This article originally appeared in The Whole Brain Group, it was written by Ben Jessup from Business2Community, and legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Are Niche Social Media Sites the Beginning of a New Trend?

Major League Baseball (LB) announced a new social media app on April 18, 2017. The app is called Infield Chatter. As is the custom with new social media apps, this one is only available for your Android and iPhone devices. You can download it from the corresponding app store.

As of this moment, there are five major social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Instagram. All of these platforms have one thing in common: you can discuss almost any topic on them. Therefore, people get together and form their own cliques or niches. They connect with people who share their same interests. You’ll find sports fans on every platform, but it was hard to find a sports-only social media platform.

The MLB changed all of that.

The purpose of Infield Chatter is to have a place where MLB players can talk to and connect with their fans. Although it’s true that they can do this on other social platforms, this one is strictly for baseball fans. That means this place can be a safe haven, especially for people who only get on social media to talk baseball.

One of the things that the app is unique for is no trolling. The app creators have a team in place of real people who actually browse the site and respond to reports. It’s not automated like it is on Facebook, or ignored like it is on Twitter. The MLB cares about the welfare of its players and the fans, in the sense that it won’t tolerate such behavior. If you’re caught engaging in this type of behavior, your account will be suspended.

That means you can’t run around saying derogatory things about any team, player, stadium, coach, staff member, or anything or anyone related to the MLB. Be respectful to other people on the app, or leave.

Twitter could take a few pointers from this app.

Another social app was announced by Tumblr called Cabana. The purpose of this app is to allow groups of friends to watch videos together. There are already about a dozen apps out there for this same purpose, but apparently, Tumblr felt like it was smart to jump into the game.

The co-founder of Shoes of Prey recently announced a social network app that allows strangers to have conversations with each other. It’s called Mottle. The funny thing about Mottle is you actually use Facebook to sign into it. The social network is geared around in-depth human connection, which is something you apparently don’t get on Facebook. That’s probably why you need it to sign in.

Three niche social media apps were announced within two days, and there are probably more to come. Social media isn’t going away, but having a network that appeals only to a certain group of people isn’t a bad idea.

The Benefit of Jumping on This New Trend

Like every other trend on this planet, when someone sees a good idea they want to copy it. What MLB did was genius, because their fans are very dedicated to the sport and their favorite team. They’ve gathered their target audience into one place. If they treat them right, people will continue to be enthusiastic about baseball, go to games, and buy their merchandise.

The point is to find a group of people who are very dedicated to something and bring them together. So a social network for gardening or anime may be a very big hit. A social network about polyps probably won’t fly with the general public.

If you’ve got big money like MLB or Tumblr, you can easily drop millions into developing a social app. If you don’t have the money, you can either start small (like a forum) or create a place to hang out with people who share an interest connected to your industry.

For example, an auto glass repair business may create a Facebook group about cars. People interested in trading stocks may join a general finance forum.

Once you’ve got your audience, you can start to get to know them—how they think, how they act, what they want out of life. The closer you get to your prospects, the more of a relationship you’re going to build with them. They’re going to trust you, which goes a very long way toward the health of your business.


Brian is an international speaker and coach. Say hi to Brian at connect@brianrashid.com

This article was written by Brian Rashid from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Spotting Trends in the PR Industry

Trend spotting in the PR industry is a bit like trying to capture lightning in a bottle. With the way things come and go, it can be a tough task.

What does it take to see what’s coming next? We asked a few public relations pros to weigh in with their views on the topic.

Is it important to stay up with the latest industry trends?

When asked this question, our PR pros shared that they thought it was “extremely” important.

“It’s vital that PR pros spot emerging patterns and make meaningful contributions at the right time – as conversations are picking up steam, not once they’ve peaked,” said Emily Mong, senior marketing analyst, Shift Communications.

“Understanding what the next Uber or Airbnb is, is a great way to differentiate yourself as a PR professional,” said Brandi Boatner, Digital Experience Manager, IBM.

But Carrie Morgan, author of Above The Noise: Creating Trust, Value & Reputation Using Basic Digital PR and a top PR consultant in Phoenix, Ariz., makes an important point. “If I had to choose deepening skills or staying on top of trends, I’d choose the first every time. Too many PR pros struggle with pitching, writing and measurement skills that are so essential to success.”

How exactly do they keep up with trends?

“The most useful way is talking regularly with other PR pros, especially those focused on fields that differ from mine,” said Matthew Maxey, PR coordinator for Visit Franklin. “Some of my most successful campaigns have come from ideas sparked by others far removed from the travel industry.”

Morgan says she spends a little time every day curating content from influencers, media, and trusted sources to see what’s new in the industry. “I try to test one new skill every week on my personal branding platforms or that of a client. Having a sense of curiosity and constantly learning is essential.”

“To me, staying on top of trends means staying connected to the world,” Mong says. “The interesting thing about trends is they often aren’t industry-specific, so you could be hurting yourself or your clients if you’re hyper-focused on monitoring one industry.” She recommends using Feedly to curate content and follow news from a variety of sources.

When is it advisable for a brand to associate itself with a trend versus staying away?

“A brand should only associate itself with a trend when it’s genuine,” said Mong. “If you don’t feel like you’re adding anything new and real to the conversation, stay away.”

Morgan says, “It’s easy to get caught up in the sparkle of something sexy and new, but it’s more important to watch and wait. Will it help you reach your target market? Does it fit your strategy and help you achieve successful outcomes for a client?”

“As the world’s largest IT provider, staying ahead of tech trends is essential for our business and our industry,” Boatner added. “We do try to make sure not to add to the conversation on negative trends that may emerge on social media that don’t align with our brand values.”

Maxey says his organization is open to tying itself to a trend, “Especially if it’s something nobody else in our industry is doing.”

Can trend spotting be learned?

So, is trend spotting a skill that can be learned, or does it require more of a “magic” touch? Most of our pros felt it could be learned, although Morgan feels it takes experience to separate the hype from what’s real. “You can only do it successfully if you have the experience to recognize what is a trend.”

“I think there’s an art and science to trend spotting,” Boatner said. “I can’t say there’s a magic bullet formula or algorithm for how to identify trends, but you should be able to compile and analyze data sets to extract insights that you can act on in your daily work.”

Have you ever seen a PR team succeed in creating a trend on behalf of its brand?

A recent campaign by Cheerios to help save bees, #BringBacktheBees has helped make this topic trendy again, Mong says. “Cheerios far exceeded its goal of giving away 100 million seeds – 10x over! – giving away 1.5 billion seeds.”

Boatner cites the example of the founder of modern PR, Ed Bernays, with the Torches of Freedom campaign. “The campaign was considered successful as cigarette sales to women increased afterward. Cigarette companies followed Bernays’s lead and created ad campaigns that targeted women.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Morgan points out, “United Airlines is certainly creating an interesting trend on behalf of its brand… a trend of memes, parodies and unleashed reputation-breaking customer stories! Ouch.”

Definitely a trend most aren’t anxious to follow.

Lastly, what trends are these four pros keeping an eye on right now?

Maxey is watching virtual reality to see how it makes its way into effective PR communications in a practical, affordable way.

Also on the tech side, Boatner is curious to see how chatbots like Alexa and Echo are being used in the enterprise. And, she is keen on reputation management issues.

“Given recent events in the news (e.g. United Airlines and Bill O’Reilly), I’m watching for lessons learned and opinions from PR practitioners,” Boatner shared.

Morgan says a trend she’s encouraged by is the shift from basic “how to” type of content in industry blog posts to more sophisticated topics like measurement and ROI—with data playing an increasingly important role.

“I’m tremendously encouraged by the shift,” says Morgan.

For Mong, content shock is top of mind.

“In the last two years, the amount of news stories has increased 36% every year. To cut through the noise, the content we produce on behalf of our clients must be three things: valuable, aimed at the right audience, and presented in a way our audience wants to receive it. Otherwise, our clients will get lost in the shuffle.”

By watching what trends in the PR industry are gaining traction, you can train your eyes and ears to stay open for the next big thing.

5 Steps to Successful Purpose-Driven PR

Customers aren’t just looking to buy something. They are looking to buy into something–and that something is your brand. But they need more than just a good product to develop brand loyalty: 64 percent of consumers point to shared values as their main reason for working with a brand, and 90 percent expect companies to operate responsibly to address social and environmental issues. Eighty-four percent of consumers say they purchase socially responsible products whenever possible.

As a result, many companies have executed purpose-driven PR campaigns. Some, like the ALS “ice bucket challenge,” were extremely well received. Others, like Wal-Mart’s food drive to feed its own (seemingly underpaid) employees or Kellogg’s “retweet for a breakfast for a vulnerable child” campaign fell flat and actually did harm to the brand.

In an effort to understand the nuances of purpose-driven marketing and PR, Adam Fridman, founder of Chicago-based digital media firm Mabbly, recently interviewed 500 companies over the past 14 months. From their responses he determined that execute successfully, purpose-driven PR campaigns are using the following steps to discover, believe, ignite, express, and improve the stories they tell.

Discover Who You Are

In his 2009 Ted Talk entitled “Start with Why”, motivational speaker and author Simon Sinek defined a concept he called the “Golden Circle.” Working from the outside in, the circle has three levels: what, how, and why. Sinek explained that every company knows what they do, and some companies even know how they do it. However, very few companies know why they are in business.

The “why” speaks volumes to your product and brand, and authentically discovering your purpose for existing is the fundamental step to executing a successful campaign. “Purpose-driven PR is kind of like going on a date,” Fridman said. “You want to build an authentic relationship with your audience, but how can you do that if you don’t even really know who you are?”

Believe in Your Purpose

Before you begin to tell your story, you must discover your purpose and believe that what you are providing can bring value to others’ lives. A mark of commitment is a readiness to communicate your company’s vision instead of a description of what your company is actually doing. “You have to make the conscious decision to communicate what you believe,” Fridman says. “If you are finding it hard to believe in it yourself, perhaps it’s time to go back to step one and discover a new purpose.” This strategy will not only tangentially sell your product, but it will help build long-lasting relationships with and earn trust from your customers.

Ignite Your Team

If the purpose is a candle, then company culture is the flame. To be able to execute a successful PR campaign, you must be able to ignite the talents and passion of your internal team. Companies with engaged employees outperform the competition by up to 202 percent; that’s an advantage you can’t afford to miss out on.

“It’s important to get your company—your tribe—on board with your purpose,” Fridman said. “If you can’t communicate your passion to your tribe, how can you communicate it to the public?”

Developing a culture of brand confidence is just another way to ensure that people associate quality and credibility with your company. Besides, if you can’t sell your own employees on the cause, how are you going to sell it to your audience?

Express Your Purpose

Once you and your tribe are aligned in purpose, you are ready to tell your company’s story and initiate a PR campaign. However, expression of purpose is a dead-end task if your message falls on deaf ears. You have to be aware of who’s listening to you and, more importantly, who wants to listen to you.

Aside from your baseline strategies, there are a few things you should ask before and after you run a PR campaign:

  • Are we approaching the right audience? Know who’s paying attention to your message and whether or not the message is right for them.
  • Are we communicating through the right channels? Identify the highest concentration of your target audience and where they are looking to get their information.
  • Are we communicating a message that is resonating? If you’ve identified the first two points but are still not producing results, your story may not be compelling enough.

The goal of all successful PR campaigns is to tell an innovative story that creates a human connection with your potential customers.

Improve Your Results

Actualizing your brand’s purpose is your ultimate key to success. But there is no finish line to this endeavor—maintaining belief in your purpose is a task that calls for continuous improvement. It’s a never-ending cycle of asking “Do I still believe?”

Throughout the course of business, you may even find yourself needing to tweak what your “why” is. It could be that your audience’s interest in what you have to say is waning. Perhaps you were never expressing it right in the first place. The challenge is to be constantly adapting to your environment, understanding where your customer’s values lie and then aligning your purpose or cause to those values.

Customers expect a great deal from the companies they support. This creates an opportunity to make your PR campaign wildly successful as you make a real difference in the world. “The way companies market themselves is completely different now,” Fridman says. “Today, the key is approaching how you shape the world to make a difference instead of how to sell the product.” Take the time to discover, believe, ignite, express, and improve your brand story, he says, and you will find that it eventually tells itself.

This article was written by Cheryl Conner from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Infographic: Is That All? What a Social Media Manager Does

Snap pics, shoot a video, and add 140 characters of clever. While you’re at it, like the likes that liked what your previous posts. At this rate, your energy will be zapped before you get into the office! After all, it’s only social media. While many outsiders find it hard to believe that you get paid to do something everybody is doing in their spare time, for free, you know the real deal.

Being a social media manager is the iceberg of marketing and communications. Your goals are set by the entire company, from HR to the CEO to the Sales team, and everyone in between. Your day is dictated by left and right brain demands, internal and external constituencies, creative campaigns and analytical assignments, simultaneously.

While your colleagues think you have it easy, more often than not, as a social media manager, your day is far from a day at the beach and more closely resembles the film, Groundhog Day.

With businesses now investing in a social business model, the social media manager is more important than ever. The scope of their work touches all aspect of what comprises a modern organization. This infographic details how much work social media managers contribute to the work of a company in their drive to fulfill business goals.

social media manager infographic

Share this infographic with your favorite social media manager. To learn more about what it takes to drive a social business, read our e-book, Social to Scale: How to Build a Serious Social Media Program.

Social Media Program

How-To: Setting KPIs for Your Team and Your Company

Most people who run a business or part of a large company struggle when it comes to setting KPIs–Key Performance Indicators.

Here Are Three Steps for Setting KPIs for Your Team:

1. Ask what the person is responsible for and what you want them to focus on.

  • Check their position description and adjust if necessary
  • If they don’t have a position description, write them a good position description
  • Identify 5-7 key areas of responsibility
  • Sum up the main reason why you have that role in your business
  • Do you have any initiatives for the year to focus on improving or developing key areas of your business? If any of those are relevant to a particular role, include it in your list of 5-7 key areas of responsibility
  • You should now know what KPIs you want the person to focus on. KPIs are about focus on key–important–outcomes.

2. You can also ask what are the most important of the person’s key responsibilities that will have the greatest impact on the business.

  • For example, for an Account Manager, it will be client retention and growth; it may specifically be retention of the largest clients in their portfolio
  • For an Operations Manager, it could be core process improvement to reduce cost of goods
  • For a Finance Manager, it is predominantly compliance and protection of the company from risk
  • For any employee, it may be responsibility for a special project or initiative that may be relevant to one year in particular and not part of their ongoing responsibilities
  • A key KPI may also relate to a problem that must be addressed and solved within a certain timeframe, for example, to successfully transition the company from one enterprise management system to a new one without any downtime

3. How many KPIs do you set?

  • Depending on the scope, difficulty and timeframe of the KPIs, and the person’s role, I usually set between 2-5 KPIs at the most.
  • I always set quantifiable and qualitative measures. KPIs MUST be able to be measured.
  • If a salesperson misses a KPI to achieve 1M in new business by 100K, that’s a call you will make as to whether they have achieved that KPI or not.
  • If a sales person has achieved 1.5M in new business on a KPI of 1M, BUT they are disruptive and have attitude and behavior issues with the rest of the team, they are unlikely to meet qualitative KPIs if you’ve set up the right measures.
  • Measures for behavior and attitude might include things like demonstrable collaboration with the rest of the team on XYZ, or, full attendance and contribution on all agenda items at the annual strategic retreat. The tighter the qualitative measures are the better, because it’s usually these issues that, when they arise, cause problems for the whole team and are the hardest to performance manage.

Converting Team KPIs to Company KPIs

I incorporate the most important KPIs from my direct reports into the company’s overall dashboard as indicators that we track, along with key financial indicators and marketing measures.

It’s a bit circular because knowing what the business needs to achieve and focus on, will translate to key indicators for the team members responsible, which then goes back into the management dashboard for the company overall.

The other great thing about KPIs for your team is that it makes one-on-ones easier as you have timelines and progress of key indicators to track and discuss, and it keeps your team focused on what MUST be done, even if you aren’t there.

As PR and marketing teams focus on their data analytics and delivering KPIs for their campaigns and marketing actions, delving into the right metrics becomes essential. Depending on what team members’ duties, their KPIs will emerge from those actions.To begin assessing the right data, take a look at our infographic for reporting.

The Keys to the Kingdom KPIs

This article originally appeared in Jenny Stilwell, was written by Jenny Stilwell from Business2Community, and legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.