Making a Case for More PR Budget

You’ve just finished up a PR campaign that was a success. The client was happy. Your boss was thrilled.

Now, you’d like to go bigger, with a campaign that requires more resources, more technology—and more money.

Queue the Debbie Downer music.

For many in PR, making a case to increase the budget can be a challenge. How will you overcome objections to your request for more dollars?

How to Overcome Objections

Sometimes, it’s about changing the perception of PR. If leaders view public relations efforts as expenditures versus investments, you may struggle to make a case for more budget. However, if you can change the way leaders think about PR, you may have a better chance of securing more funds.

One Way to Do This Is to Show ROI

“The old adage that we can’t manage what we don’t measure is doubly true when it comes to PR: We won’t fund what we can’t manage or measure,” says Christopher Penn, Vice President of Marketing Technology for SHIFT Communications. “Marketers and communicators looking for more budget need to be able to articulate what the increase will mean in terms of business impact.”

“When making the case, it’s important to communicate value, not just outputs or needs. The one thing to avoid is to try to justify budget increases on the basis of cost alone,” says Tim O’Brien, Principal, O’Brien Communications. “Your client doesn’t care if your costs have gone up, or even that you may have worked twice as long to get the results you originally promised. It’s best to put the focus on the future, the kind of reasonable results the client can expect, and the increased value to the client of those possible outcomes.”

Another consideration may be to take a look at what the competition is doing. Nothing gets the C-suite as fired up as talk about beating competitors. The argument could be that if you want to one-up the competition, you’re going to need more budget. Media monitoring can help here by giving you insight into who’s covering the competition and what they’re saying. It can also measure sentiment.

Building Your Case

This all sounds good. But, how do you actually build a case?

Determine what activities drive the business forward and what activities have positive ROI, says Penn. “If I put $1 into the PR machine, what comes out? If it’s not at least $1.01, then PR isn’t going to get more money.”

“Then, if we want to kick it up a notch, we start using advanced statistics and measurement to build models based on the ROI we generate,” continued Penn. “If I know that putting $1 into the PR machine on average makes $1.25 come out, then I want to know how to get to $1.30, $1.50, $2, $5. How much more return could we capture?”

This is where technologies like predictive analytics and machine learning come into play. Predictive analytics use data to forecast what’s likely to happen. “Once we know on average what our efforts yield, we augment those efforts with data science to know when to ramp spending up and when to cool things off,” says Penn.

Using predictive analytics to project needs in advance can be a winning formula when you’re trying to increase the budget. To do this, you need data.

These Data Sources Can Help

What sources of data can help you make the case?

  • Publication data from media monitoring systems, like Meltwater
  • Web analytics from systems like Google Analytics
  • Trend data from providers like Google
  • SEO data
  • Social media data

Penn stresses that you need to start with “clean” data. If your data is tainted from the start, your predictions will be wrong—which could throw off your entire campaign.

Also, use care in selecting which data is best for your needs. Data with too little detail can lead to inaccurate predictions, as can data with too much detail.

Move Forward

Of course, you’ll want to review and assess progress along the way. Be willing to make adjustments if the campaign is underperforming. And at the end, evaluate the results to see how it went overall—and hopefully to leverage your success into an even bigger budget request for your next public relations push.

 

5 Things PR Professionals Hear Too Often

Every B2B or consumer-facing organization wants exposure, increased credibility, third-party validation, and a leadership team that is the go-to resource for its industry. It’s a portion of the wish list that makes up the DNA for organizational success, and public relations is an obvious choice to do it. So, you enlist your agency to come up with a PR campaign so that it can get crackin’ on media outreach. When things get exciting, don’t forget your PR team is on your side. It is shooting for the moon and reaching for the stars. After all, if you look good, your PR team looks good. Remember that you hired your PR team for its expertise, its connections, and its ability to cut through the clutter. But your PR team members aren’t magicians. So, to save you from making your PR team cringe, here are five things that it, unfortunately, hears all the time and why you should (most likely) not ask:

1. We did an interview two days ago. Why hasn’t it been published yet?

We live in a world of immediate gratification. We know that many outlets have a 24/7 news cycle; therefore, if we give our expertise, it should show up an hour later, right? Wrong. Writers still have a review process and other articles in their pipeline. Additionally, because outlets have become so immediate, they often have to displace articles for a later time if newsworthy or trending topics take precedence. Teena Maddox, Senior Writer for TechRepublic, stated, “Publishing schedules often change, and stories that were slated for the next day are pushed to the next week or beyond.” She also reminds that “an interview is simply that – an interview. It’s not a promise of a published story.”

2. I’m not available for that interview. Can we do it next week?

The simple answer is no. Writers are under deadline. Sometimes there will be flexibility for an interview, but in the world of PR, if you have the request for an interview, you should probably take it or the requesting outlet will find a company that will. After all, you are on the media’s timeline, not vice versa.

3. Why wasn’t my quote at the top of the article?

Your PR team doesn’t know the answer to this. It is responsible for your PR strategy. It is responsible for media outreach. It is responsible for scheduling interviews and sending follow-up items, as well as ensuring that the media has everything they need after the interview and sending you the article once it is published. Your PR team doesn’t write the article, nor does it have a say in how many quotes you get, whether you are the feature or a mention or where your comments will fall within the article. Maddox says, “as a reporter, I use what I think works in the article” and that may be the most important thing to remember. The writer has full authority on where to put quotes within an article. So, it is important to focus on building that relationship rather than questioning why a quote fell where it did.

4. I see the author “covers” our area. Why weren’t we asked to be the expert source?

There are two things that you should know regarding this question:

  • You are right—it is your PR team’s responsibility to monitor the daily news and to bring potential opportunities to your attention. It is also in your PR team’s wheelhouse to talk with its media connections to keep a pulse on what may be on their horizon regarding upcoming articles. However, before asking your PR team this question, it is important to understand that, unless the writer posts his or her upcoming need on a public forum, like HARO, or the writer happens to be a “regular” media connection, a PR professional may not know what is being written until it is published. The reality is that there are tons of reporters and many companies that can comment on their topics. However, when the article posts, it is appropriate for your PR team to connect, to make an introduction regarding your expertise, and to see if there is a chance for a follow-up article.
  • The word “cover,” in and of itself, is a tricky word. In a news cycle where there is more writing than reporters, it is natural that a substantial portion would be written by thought leaders, people like you. When you see an article and wonder why you weren’t asked for comment, take a moment and look at the author’s bio. It is possible that it wasn’t written by a reporter at all. It may have been written by an expert, someone like you. If he or she is your competitor, he or she wouldn’t ask you for an interview. However, your PR team can reach out to the editor and mention the article. Maybe, because the outlet has interest in the topic, you can write an article, too. It’s time to make lemons into lemonade.

5. We want to be in The Wall Street Journal

Absolutely. You should shoot for the moon and so should your PR team. However, understand that the higher the outlet’s visibility, the more competition there is for expert comment. Your company isn’t the only company that wants to be there, and your PR team is fighting to gain attention over every other pitch that comes through the reporter’s inbox. And there are a lot. So, here is a question that you should ask yourself before putting this on your wish list: “Are we willing, and able, to offer comment on a specific current event? Do we have a solution to it? Were we involved in it? Do we have inside information that can shed new light on it?” If the answer is yes, then your PR team needs to know—and immediately. However, if you want to offer expertise but don’t want to be specific or relevant, this may just be a lofty wish, and a different outlet may be better served. After all, there is nothing wrong with working with smaller pubs, with a smaller but targeted audience, to get your feet wet. In the end, coverage breeds coverage.

You hired your PR team to help enhance your organizational objectives, and the team is burning the midnight oil, doing things behind the scenes that you aren’t even aware of to make the magic happen. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. But there are some things that just aren’t in the team members’ control. Give them a little room to pull the rabbit from the hat, be available when given an opportunity, don’t overthink the finished product, understand there is a lot of competition, and know that your idea of success is probably PR professionals’ idea of success too.

This article originally appeared in The SmartBug Inbound Marketing Blog, it was written by Doreen Clark from Business2Community, and legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

How Brands Should Apologize

2017 has brought us more than its share of communications disasters. Pepsi’s tone-deaf Black Lives Matter ad featuring Kendall Jenner. Adidas’s Boston Marathon email campaign (“Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon”). And of course, the granddaddy of them all, United Airlines, who made a series of missteps and then failed at multiple attempts to appropriately apologize. That’s just to mention a few.

When these misfires occur—and of course, they DO happen—it’s vital that brands are prepared to make amends. The first step in this process is the apology. And, it had better be a thoughtful apology. It’s not enough to simply apologize—it’s HOW you apologize that matters.

Apologies Shouldn’t Include Denials

“Companies need to think carefully about their policies and their crisis communications, so they can quickly move from a defensive crouch to honest, heartfelt apologies,” says Andrew Winston, author of The Big Pivot.

“The biggest mistake is for brands to hedge their apology with phrases such as, ‘We’re sorry to those who were offended,’” says Brad Phillips, president of Phillips Media Relations and author of the Mr. Media Training Blog and the Amazon PR best seller The Media Training Bible. “Such language places the burden on the offended person and stops short of accepting full responsibility.”

Brands should also avoid denying any wrongdoing when they apologize.

Denial is the simple thing to do, and people grasp wildly at the first straw to occur to them,” said William Benoit, Ohio University Communications professor, and author of Accounts, Excuses, Apologies: Image Repair Theory and Research.

Denial can hurt subsequent apologies. Sincerely owning the mistake is at the heart of an effective apology. There’s an appreciation for laying it all out there by simply saying, “We messed up—and we’re sorry.”

In the case of United, CEO Oscar Munoz did eventually offer a heartfelt apology. After his first two apologies created a backlash, he finally took full responsibility, promising to make it right with the passenger and pledging to put new procedures in place.

“The problem for Munoz is that he bungled the first two apologies, undermining the impact of his third one,” says Phillips. “Had he started with that apology, the incident would have played out far differently.”

The Situation Helps Determine the Tone of an Apology

Another factor to consider is the nature of the incident. “For example, it’s much easier to apologize in cases in which you, too, can be perceived as a victim,” Phillips said. “A medical supply company that couldn’t get vital medications to customers due to an unexpected snowstorm is unlikely to face long-term reputational damage, whereas that same company failing to make deliveries due to incompetence would.”

In some cases, explaining what exactly took place can help clear the air and help folks be more forgiving. For example, at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, PricewaterhouseCoopers made a mistake with the Best Picture envelope, causing the presenter to announce the wrong film. Because the company offered an immediate apology with an explanation of how the mix-up occurred, they were able to keep the client.

What Belongs in a Good Apology?

So, what exactly should be in an effective apology? According to Dr. Beth Polin, an assistant professor of management at Eastern Kentucky University and co-author of The Art of the Apology, an apology should include one or more of six components:

  • An expression of regret — this, usually, is the actual “I’m sorry.”
  • An explanation (but, importantly, not a justification).
  • An acknowledgment of responsibility.
  • A declaration of repentance.
  • An offer of repair.
  • A request for forgiveness.

And what words should you choose when you apologize? Simple language is best. No need for flowery prose. An example of this is Adidas, who immediately took responsibility for its insensitivity with this apology from spokeswoman Maria Culp: “We are incredibly sorry. There was no thought given to the insensitive email subject line we sent Tuesday. We deeply apologize for our mistake.”

Need more examples? On a site called SorryWatch, you can find examples of apologies that worked—and those that didn’t. The founders, Susan McCarthy and Marjorie Ingall, write a weekly post that reviews poorly handled public apologies, giving tips on structure and language.

Their best advice? In the end, don’t make excuses. “Apologizing well means acknowledging that, at that moment at least, you were not good,” says Ingall.

After all, even good people (and brands) can make mistakes. 2017 Has had more than its share of communications disasters and as big brands like Pepsi, United, and Uber make big missteps, a simple statement that brands should apologize becomes a loaded PR strategy. If you’d like to be prepared for the next time you need to apologize, download our crisis ebook.

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How Does Your Brand Affect Your Customers’ Personal Experiences?

Have you ever wondered how Coke became so synonymous with cola, Hoover with vacuuming, or Google with searching the internet?

“Emotional connectivity,” says former Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide CEO Kevin Roberts. “You want loyalty beyond reason and loyalty beyond recession.”

Emotional connectivity that becomes brand loyalty is what a true customer brand experience is all about. For every business seeking to thrive and create a lasting impact, emotional connectivity needs to be a mission-critical constant in their branding equation. Nowadays, customers no longer spend their money as a result of what they see and hear about brands; rather, they value brand and customer experience. Advertisers and brand managers are shifting their focus from creating simple brand messages towards building a lasting brand-customer relationship. Customers now equate brands with experiences, and they are willing to pay premium prices for excellent customer service and an outstanding retail experience. A single negative experience or unresolved issue is enough to make a client give up on a brand. Worse: a negative experience can easily become a negative review, and this can spread quicker than a wink online, thanks to social media and online review sites.

It’s vital for companies to connect with their customers on a deeper and more satisfying level – through positive customer experience. Here are five ways brands can create worthwhile and memorable customer experiences:

Make the Brand Stand out – in a Good Way

To customers, the uniqueness of a brand is what makes it stand out. The easiest way to do this is to create a memorable brand name. For instance, affixing the lowercase ‘i’ to its product offerings – like the iPhone, iMac, and iPad – has made each item a very recognizable Apple product.

Of course, Apple did not stop at brand recollection value; that alone would hardly make a customer use and keep using a new product or service. What makes the brand experience a meaningful one is when people use a product or service – and enjoy every minute of it.

In a fast-changing digital environment where each subsequent product tends to get more and more complicated, Apple went back to basics; the company decided to simplify everything. Apple built its brand by focusing not only on the features of each product but also on sleek and simple aesthetics – attributes that seemed like an afterthought to competitors. The strategy clearly worked; Apple has created a satisfactory customer experience that has morphed into a huge loyal brand following.

Adapt to the Changing Times

Staying current is a must for every brand that wants to endure over time. In the fast-paced Internet Age, doing so can be challenging, as evidenced by the many brands that have crashed and burned over the last few decades, like social media platform Friendster and mega-bookstore Borders. It seems like any brand that fails to stay relevant is signing its own death warrant.

Many businesses are finding ways to adapt to the changing times through social media, which has become an avenue for consistent, direct, and meaningful customer interaction. It provides tremendous insight into customer needs, wants, behavior, and engagement.

These days, having a website and a mobile app is pretty much non-negotiable, too. They provide information to consumers and help them not only to make informed purchasing decisions but also to resolve issues that could have a significant impact on how they perceive a brand.

Connect with Customers on a Personal Level

A personal touch can go a long way in strengthening a business’s branding. Gone are the days when one size fits all; customers now favor brands that offer and provide them with tailored experiences. ‘Tailoring’ can be as easy as having the customer’s name in an email newsletter. A ‘Dear Joe’, as opposed to a ‘Dear valued customer’, can be interpreted as solid customer engagement. Personalized email messages, in fact, increase their click-through rates by an average of 14%, according to a 2015 report by the Aberdeen Group. Conversion rates also increase by 10%. Furthermore, research by Experian has revealed that personalized emails increase transaction rate by up to six times.

Brands’ efforts to personalize their connection with their customers clear demonstrate gratitude and appreciation for their clients’ continuing patronage – and the gratitude and appreciation are reciprocal.

Be Transparent

Brand transparency has become a way of humanizing the business and showcasing a company’s positive corporate values. According to a study by Label Insight, brand transparency is the best way to build consumer trust, with more than half of the respondents saying that they would be loyal to a company if it showed itself to be fully transparent. An excellent example of such a marketing campaign is McDonald’s Canada’s ‘Our Food, Your Questions’ campaign. Trying to dispel misinformation and urban myths surrounding its food and ingredients, the fast food giant saw an opportunity to educate its consumers and still stand behind its products. The campaign has garnered over 42,000 questions since its launch in 2014. Even though it is widely known that McDonald’s is not the best choice when it comes to healthy eating, the campaign has satisfied its customers’ need to know everything about a product – no skeletons in the closet.

Consistency Is Key

Finally, the key to creating a brand that resonates with customers is consistency. This means keeping the brand in sync with its strategies so that every product and/or service always points back to the brand—distinctly and directly. Coca-Cola is considered to be one of the most widely recognized brands in the world. Although it continues to evolve, its classic script and font can be identified anywhere in the world, even when displayed in different languages. Consistent branding eliminates confusion and shapes how people perceive the business.

Consistency is also important when it comes to messaging; it should always be in keeping with a brand’s mission and values.

For instance, clothing company Patagonia has always been clear about its mission to inspire social change and protect the environment by advocating sustainability. It launched a Fair Trade campaign that led people to be more mindful of how their clothes were being manufactured, thereby leading to a stronger demand for products coming from Fair Trade Certified factories that pay higher wages to workers.

Ultimately, bridging the gap between brand and customers boils down to creating memorable customer experiences. Sure, the brand message is still important, but customers become more invested in a company when it walks its talk and prioritizes customer well-being and satisfaction above all else. An outstanding customer experience is by far the best way to encourage the type of brand loyalty that transcends both reason and recession.

If you’re a brand that wants to move towards cultural ubiquity with your intended audience, nailing down personal experiences as you brand build will be essential. To come prepared for other steps your customers are experiencing, download our ebook to meet and support your audience at whatever point they are on their customer journey.

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This article was originally published on this site on February 17, 2017, on Saturdays, we republish posts that our readers might’ve missed when they were initially posted. It was written by Matt Goldman from Business2Community, originally appeared in Tenfold, and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

The Changing Landscape of PR and How Companies Can Capitalize

The days of single-focus PR are gone, and Jerry Maguire-esque “Show me the money” slogans are just that: slogans. It was never that simple, and today’s PR has evolved, morphed, and merged. PR has gone beyond media outreach, and today it is much more than a subset of marketing. It is a partner. And with that…the times—they are a-changin’.

Some of the changes are due to technology, others stem from the need to create a strategy that is comprehensive, and yet others are from a media industry that has been turned upside down. In any event, PR professionals will lead you through the transition. Engage in the opportunities, embrace the potential, and evolve with your PR team. Change can be good. Below are seven ways to capitalize on the new PR frontier.

1. Desire for Show and Tell

PR is not just about the written word anymore. We live in a visually stimulated, multimedia, world. Therefore, your company must not only tell—you must show your product, showcase your thought leaders, and share your content in a way that will capture both your audience’s attention and that of the media. It’s not an either-or game. Create content and then talk about it through a video or turn your blog into a vlog. Your strategy should capture the potential that has come from technology, and your marketing team is fully capable to rise to the challenge. After all, if your audience is watching and the media are looking for interesting ways to get their point across, you need to create a platform that caters to how they want to engage. The media will appreciate the effort, and the visual will make an interesting addition to their articles.

2. Need for Senior Expertise

PR has evolved and so should the PR team. Social media, SEO, marketing automation, and the potential impact of brand recognition on the sales funnel have crossed the lines into the world of PR. The need for a comprehensive strategy has taken center stage, and it is not the task of an intern. Your organization needs to know that the PR agency has experts with a broad range of skills to meet the new demands and the experience to make it happen. Ideas are not enough—there must be people in place who can bring it to life.

3. Demand for Content

Remember when PR was all about connecting with an influencer? Though this is still important, it is not the be-all-end-all. As part of your PR strategy, your organization must promote its experts. It’s not enough to connect. The thought leader must become the influencer. The best way to do this is through content creation. As the PR landscape has shifted, opportunities have been created, and your company must use that to its advantage. Your PR team can coordinate with your inbound marketing team to promote your existing content. They should work to make your thought leaders the go-to experts via byline articles or by securing a spot, as a regular contributor, at an online industry publication. Add to the industry conversations by creating new content or share what already exists with the media—either way, content is king.

4. Shift for Digital

Everybody knows that there has been a large transition from print to digital. It has been years in the making. Print outlets today have an online presence, and some, which were traditionally print, have even moved to only providing content in a digital format. This has changed everything. It has had an impact on advertising—creating a trickle-down effect for marketing and PR as outlets have had to become creative with the way in which revenue is generated. It has also impacted the conversations with the media. In the past, your PR team could look at the editorial calendar to spur a conversation; however, those calendars showed a topic for each of the 12 months. With the transition to the 24/7 news cycle, the PR world has been impacted as the editorial calendar, for many outlets, is either a thing of the past, is only loosely followed, or is only imperative for those looking for advertising. So, as digital continues to take precedence, what can your company do to jump on the bandwagon? Be sure that your PR team has the connections that allow for a heavy focus on digital outlets. After all, you can always get a reprint if you desire. Be sure that your team is engaging with reporters through social media and use the editorial calendar, if the outlets have one, as an icebreaker for a digital article.

5. Embrace the Underdog

Staff writers used to be the main targets for your PR team’s media efforts. As the news cycle expanded, outlets were no longer able to generate enough in-house written content, creating the need for freelancers and bloggers. What used to be a second (or third) choice by PR professionals has skyrocketed to a new level of importance. After all, it is possible that there are fewer staff writers than there are freelancers, bloggers and industry thought leaders writing content. Therefore, there must be a mind shift. This audience must be considered—and seriously. There is a major opportunity here, and your PR team should be on top of it. PR is in the business of building relationships. When working with freelancers, if your team can become a go-to source, it is likely that you may have a multitude of opportunities, at numerous outlets, over time. Most freelancers write for many outlets, and this can give you more bang for your buck. With that being said, your PR team must pay even closer attention to the reporter’s area of coverage. It can change often, making it important to stay up to date on what they cover. Lastly, some blogs have a large audience; therefore, this is a target that can’t be ignored. Just keep in mind that, unlike traditional outlets, their opinions don’t have to reflect that of the outlet, making the writing less neutral.

6. Crave Personalized Measurement

Today strategic PR plans can include countless efforts—from expert sourcing to byline submissions to award submissions and speaking engagements to crisis communications, among others. PR plans cross boundaries working with marketing teams, web development teams, advertising teams, and social media teams. With everything available to companies today and the ability to collaborate across departments, it has become more important than ever to personalize the PR experience. It’s not a one-size-fits-all or a cookie-cutter plan. It is about your company’s organizational goals. It is about your company’s budget. It is about the market that you want to reach. Therefore, it is no surprise that measurement has followed suit, personalizing and tracking what is important to your goals. This is an opportunity for your PR team to not only report on its results but to dig deeper into the things that matter most to you from views to audience engagement to referral traffic.

7. Require Marketing Coordination

There can’t be enough stress on the idea that marketing and PR have merged. PR is no longer a subdivision of marketing. They both need each other to give the biggest bang for the buck. After all, social media, blogs, videos, infographics, eBooks, and white papers give PR a clear reason for interaction with the media, while PR can touch an audience and gain reach that marketing can’t attain alone. How can your company take advantage? Be sure that your PR team knows what is on the horizon for your marketing efforts. Consistency and cross-promotion are important for the success of any campaign. In other words, the right hand should know what the left is doing and vice versa. Get creative with your social strategy. If you become buzz-worthy, the media may take notice.

PR has changed. Marketing’s relationship with PR has changed, and the way your team interacts with the media has changed, bringing opportunities for increased visibility and recognition. One Jerry Maguire slogan still rings true: “Help me help you.” The more your organization embraces the new PR landscape, the more your company evolves with the new media and the more your team engages across platforms, the more you will be able to capitalize on what lies ahead.

The best way to keep up with the changing landscape of PR then is to consider evolving how you approach the work you do, even as the underlying principles of relationship building remain the same. To make sure you’re on track as a modern PR pro, download our free ebook.

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This article originally appeared in The SmartBug Inbound Marketing Blog, it was written by Doreen Clark from Business2Community, and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

5 Ways to Find Your Best Brand Advocates

Finding individuals, customers and non-customers alike, to refer your product or service may come quick — and even easy! However, identifying the cream of the crop, acknowledging them and finding more of those superstars, might not be as simple. We break down the best way to engage with this valuable audience and retain your best brand advocates.

Quality > Quantity

When you launch your advocate marketing program, you most likely cast a wide net to be able to create a critical mass for your research and testing purposes. Reaching such a large pool of possible ambassadors is definitely interesting in terms of data, but take what you’ve learned and identify your most valuable players. These MVPs fit into your target demographic and geographic location and have sizable audiences of their own. Take the time to properly groom campaigns for these specific audiences and tap into the “quality over quantity” mentality.

Always Be Optimizing

The goal of launching your advocate program is to gain referrals to your product. But what about referring ambassadors as well? Some of the highest quality advocates likely have a strong social presence, a healthy knack for marketing, innate sense of leadership — and probably, in really good company. As part of your overarching customer referral goal, use your advocate to not only refer you to potential new customers, but potential new advocates as well. Use your advocate marketing program to adapt your incentive structure to reflect this new referral goal.

Be Selective

Your product isn’t run of the mill or generic, so your ambassadors shouldn’t be either. Creating the right advocate marketing campaign is very similar to selecting a team for your business. A strong ambassador for your product should be knowledgeable and passionate in marketing, a relevant online presence, professionalism, leadership skills, the passion to connect and grow relationships, the ability to deduct insights. Your product deserves ambassadors that exemplify an extension of your brand. Don’t be afraid to seek out exactly those traits for your superstar ambassadors.

Get Social

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of your best advocates are uber-connected. However, you could potentially be missing out on those advocates that are connecting with you only on social. For example, a customer might be a huge fan of your service, but never opted into an email, or be in your database. They may however tag your service on Instagram and use your hashtag…all the time. Social media can be a goldmine for ambassador candidates. On top of identifying your potential advocates, you can see their style and voice first hand on their social channels. There’s definitely something special about connecting to potential customers and ambassadors on a personal channel such as social media. A study shows that 53% of marketers say ongoing, personalized communication with existing customers shows an impact in revenue growth.

Leverage Your Employees

At Ambassador, we tend to look at the pool of advocates as divided into two groups – external and internal. External advocates will be those referrers you seek out through email campaigns, using your advocate marketing tactics. However, internal advocates are cultivated through really strong company culture. Your employees are absolutely able to be your most valuable advocates!

Your best advocates might not always be exactly where you think they are, so it is important to create an advocate marketing campaign that is multidimensional and as interesting as your product. Keep your standards high and attract passionate, driven ambassadors.

This article originally appeared on The Ambassador Blog, it was written by Amity Kapadia from Business2Community, and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

6 Step Process to Amazing Infographic Design

By now, most of us are familiar with the term “infographic.” You have seen them populating your social media channels, you have read your fair share of them, and you know how engaging they can be for your audience. But what does it take to create one, from start to finish? Outlined in this blog post are the six key steps to amazing infographic design.



Step 1: Choose your topic and research your audience.

Before looking at your data, think about a topic and an audience with whom it can resonate. Who do you want to target? Who do you think would enjoy reading more about this topic? How does your audience engage with your content? You can also decide on the CTA at this point, as you will need to know the purpose of the infographic, and how you want to engage the reader.

Step 2: Take a look at your data and consolidate it.

What does your data tell you and how does this relate to your chosen topic? What are the most impressive statistics that you want to highlight? What is the main point that you are trying to prove? These are the things that are going to drive your infographic so it is important to figure out these points early on in the process.

Also, try looking for trends in your data and anything that immediately stands out. Highlight anything you see that could become key talking points of the infographic, as they can become the core building blocks of the entire piece. For example, if you are creating an infographic on “the best times to post on social media” then you will want to look for data around interactions, impressions, and shares. You could pull one impressive stat from here, such as “80 percent of professionals read Twitter between 12:00pm and 2:00pm,” then break it down further to tell a story (such as their locations, devices they are using, etc).

It would be impossible for you to take all the data that you have and put it into one cohesive infographic, so it’s definitely worth taking that time to sift through it all and pick out those eye-catching statistics and key talking points. These elements combined with your selected topic will become the cornerstone of your infographic.

Step 3: Craft the copy.

At this point, you are trucking along nicely. You have your data, you have your topic, and you know your audience. The next key component to any successful infographic is the copy. This is the step where all of that impressive data you have collected gets broken down into digestible chunks for the reader.



Crafting an engaging narrative is not only helpful to the reader, but it is also vital to the designer who will be constructing the infographic. If the designer can understand the data, then they can display that data in the same way for the reader, with a little polish!

Step 4: Design!

Your designer plays a crucial role in this entire process. Once the copy deck is handed off, they will begin to construct the infographic. They will do this by ensuring that there is structure, that there is a visual flow to the infographic, and that the data is represented in a clear and concise way. And those are just the basics!



The designer will first want to wireframe out a structure. This can be just a series of boxes that are placed where specific content will eventually go, but doing this enables them to create a visual flow in order to catch the reader’s eye and lead to that bottom-right CTA.

Deciding on a style for the infographic is also important. Taking the social media post times example mentioned above, they would craft the infographic using color palettes, impactful typography, and various illustrations that subtly tie into a specific style for that topic.

There is also choosing the right iconography and patterns/textures that not only catch the reader’s eye but also fit in well (or at least tie-in) with your brand. After all, you want the reader to know who is behind this impressive visual story, and as they approach that CTA at the end, you want them to be thinking about engaging with your company.

infographic design 4

Step 5: Review, review, review.

Once the designer has completed the design of the infographic, it should be reviewed multiple times by more than one person. This way any mistakes are likely to be caught, and it’s also a good way of giving the infographic a test run. How did it flow? This is particularly important for intricate infographics. Was the data well presented and easy to digest?



These are some of the things you should consider during the review process. It is quite common for infographics to go through two or three rounds of revisions before the final version is released, and this is usually just down to its intricacy. Once the final approved version is in, you are ready to roll it out to the masses!

Step 6: Publish and promote.

This is one part of the process that can be surprisingly overlooked (or undervalued). Quite often, an infographic is created and it either never sees the light of day, or it’s just simply put out onto the web without a clear plan and it gets lost in cyberspace. Your team should come up with a clear plan on how to maximize exposure, and how to reach the right people at the right time.

One aspect to consider here is choosing the right social media channels. For example, Pinterest is a great platform for infographics, but does your target audience use Pinterest? Look back at your research from step 1 and find out what social media channels your target audience engages with most.

It is also worth noting that because infographics are usually very long and sometimes don’t display correctly on social media, it’s a good idea to have the designer create social media-friendly thumbnails that provide a snapshot of the content. This gives the reader something to click on once it catches their eye in their feed.

The infographic should also be live on your blog page, accompanied by a short description and a CTA. This can be promoted by the entire team on each of their social media platforms, which should also increase traffic back to your website.

Conclusion

Infographics can be an incredible tool to have in your marketing arsenal, but they must be constructed in the right way in order to have the right effect on your campaigns. The structure must be right, the look should be eye-catching, and the copy should be crafted with care. And don’t forget—the key is in the data.

 

This article originally appeared in The SmartBug Inbound Marketing Blog, it was written by Andy Williams from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The Death Of Brand Loyalty: Cultural Shifts Mean It’s Gone Forever

In the old days, consumers would find a brand that did what it promised: perhaps Tide detergent to erase grass stains, Bounty paper towels to wipe up spills, or Frosted Flakes to start the school day right. In the absence of a particular brand failing or a dramatic price disparity from a branded competitor, consumers would continue to purchase the same brands week after week, month after month, year after year. In the busy, sometimes overwhelming lives of primary grocery shoppers, a brand earned its place in the pantry or laundry room or refrigerator, and consumer packaged goods manufacturers were rewarded with a consistent purchase.

If a café selling a $7 bowl of Frosted Flakes, or installation of a button to order toilet paper in every bathroom seems senseless and/or desperate, think about the implications of even slight erosion of loyalty to multibillion-dollar CPG concerns like Procter & Gamble, Unilever, General Mills and Kellogg’s. Among the top 100 CPG brands, 90 experienced share declines, according to a 2015 study by Catalina, a leading digital and consumer loyalty firm. Take a moment to let that soak in …90% of the leading household goods brands are losing market share on consistently low-growth categories.

The atrophy of certain segments of dusty categories like ready-to-eat cereal due to decreased relevance is understandable. Whereas cold cereal was once thought a quick breakfast that kids could prepare for themselves, it’s now an inconvenient, carb-heavy option that requires the presence of milk, generates dirty dishes, and can’t be transported out the front door.

But declining market share among 90% of the top brands can’t be explained away by a 20-year evolution in breakfast behavior. The erosion of consumer loyalty among the most esteemed brands represents a changed philosophy of buying. The standard for brand switching is no longer the failure of a brand to perform but rather its inability to seem like an entirely new and interesting option at every single purchase cycle.

brand loyalty

(AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

What Killed Brand Loyalty?

Consumers are not inclined to be loyal to brands as they once were because the underlying value of loyalty itself is no longer particularly relevant. In the old world, loyalty was good and something we aspired to give and receive across all aspects of life . . . with friends, family, employers, dentists, doctors, bankers, and maybe even the federal government. But generational experiences have made sticking with “tried and true” a sucker bet. Loyalty means remaining the same. Not exploring alternatives. Putting your head in the sand and maybe even missing a beach party.

Over the last three generations, major trends in marriage, religion, politics, and corporate America have reframed expectations for surviving and thriving in this world. The consistent theme is that change is not something to be feared or avoided. Change is inherently good. And the hankering for change is increasing at an accelerated rate.

The historical concept of loyalty as a value is hinged in the desire for long-term connections and mutual trust on both sides of the equation. The reasons we believed that loyalty was an important social value are no longer valid.

To wit, here are five trends where “new and different” are usurping “tried and true.”

Work

Generations ago, loyal employees were celebrated with gold watches and retirement parties. Then corporate layoffs became the more common method of exit. Both employers and employees learned that their relationship was more practical than sentimental. The labor force has gradually gotten more comfortable with a new standard. It would be tough to find a millennial today with the remotest interest in working for any company for 30 years. In the spirit of “you’re not the boss of me,” more people are self-employed than ever before. Today, 15.5 million people are currently self-employed as independent contractors, according to the latest report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The trend is projected to accelerate rapidly, with 60 million people (or 40% of the total workforce) working for themselves by 2020.

Religion

Many no longer feel the need to commit to a dogma. Spiritual beliefs are fluid, with “nothing in particular” as the most popular answer to a Pew Research Center survey on religion. Adults who say they are atheists or agnostic now constitute 23% of the population, up from 17% just 10 years ago. One-third of millennials say the same. On a practical level, this trend is not just about the beliefs themselves but about behaviors and connections associated with a particular place of worship. On an episode of the show 30 Rock, the character played by Tina Fey was once asked her religion. She answered, “I pretty much do whatever Oprah says.” Why go to a communal service when Super Soul Sunday is so readily available to view alone anytime?

Romance

More than 50% of millennials grew up with divorced parents, and 41% grew up with parents who were never married at all. Both they and their parents know firsthand that “happily ever after” is just for old Disney movies. But beyond the stats is the change in perceptions from viewing broken relationships as failures, instead of shared experiences on life’s journey. Families are blended and iterative. No need for judgment of the new normal.

Corporate America

We have all seen some fairly appalling behavior among once-revered corporate executives and politicians. Scandals in those arenas certainly aren’t new, but due to the 24-hour news cycle, more people know about more impropriety than was ever before possible. Millennials particularly tend to distrust the government (82%), the press (88%), and financial institutions and corporations (86%). The belief that big is bad is directly correlated to why long-established products and services are suspect compared to start-ups and innovators, and the endorsement of online strangers is more motivating than a corporate endorsement.

Thinking Itself

We are literally no longer wired to stick with what we know. Daily use of technology has actually changed the way brains work, disproportionately so among the generation that learned to think with it. David Levy, a professor at the Information School at the University of Washington, calls the phenomenon “popcorn brain,” describing brains so accustomed to the constant stimulation of electronic multitasking that consumers attempt to replicate the experience offline, where things “pop” at a much slower pace.

Change Wins

The theme of all of these trends could be characterized as distrust, but the reality is actually sanguine. “New” is better than “known.” This is where the rubber hits the road for established CPG players, who have long lead times, massive capital requirements, and public shareholders. Whipping up constant and meaningful news about 100-year-old products is not easy. So while initiatives like Kellogg’s Time Square Café, Tide’s direct-to-consumer detergent pods, and shampoo bottles with technology that liberates every last drop from the bottle may not be transformative, but they might still be worthwhile.

High Stakes

There is $6.2 trillion globally in near-constant play due to accelerated brand shifting according to a report from Accenture. Two-thirds of consumers surveyed said that the number of companies or brands they consider when making purchase decisions has increased significantly compared with 10 years ago.

The preference for “new and different” is well known to the Procter & Gambles, General Mills, and Kimberly-Clarks of the world that are making acquisitions, unloading what can’t be resuscitated, and funding their own VCs. They recognize that establishing and maintaining loyal connections between consumers and their brands is becoming less and less realistic. Instead, those companies must continue to transform their offerings to treat each and every purchase occasion as a victory and invest in innovation that meets a constant need for change. Lifetime consumer loyalty is no longer a valid goal in the world of CPG because as much as it suits manufacturers, it’s simply no longer relevant to consumers.

 


This article was originally published on this site on July 26, 2016, it was written by Kathleen Kusek from Forbes, and legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

6 Ways PR and Content Marketing Can Swap Tactics for Success

As a PR professional, you are spending your days tracking industry editorial trends, talking to journalists and editors about the content that their audiences want, and honing pitches to obtain coverage or place contributed articles for your business partners. PR is full of moments that create the exact kind of insight that would help your content team prioritize material that’s going to drive engagement and brand awareness. The benefits of integrating PR and content marketing aren’t only one-sided in PR’s favor. Content teams should have easy access to that knowledge to inform their content decisions and ensure message alignment across your organization.

Joy works with multiple decision-makers when crafting a comms calendar strategy that utilizes PR and content marketing teams.

3 Key Ways Content Marketing Can Benefit PR

1. Promote contributed content and earned media In addition to encouraging your brand ambassadors to share contributed content and earned media on their social channels, you can use a number of paid methods to further extend that content’s reach. For instance, you can use a content recommendation service such as Outbrain or Taboola to promote the article’s headline and URL on websites such as Fast Company, Mashable, USA Today, the Huffington Post, CNN, and NBC News that host their advertising modules. You can also use paid social advertising on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook to drive additional traffic to those hard won placements.

Shafqat encourages Newscred’s content team to work with the PR team to look for third parties to publish their content. They also collaborate on content creation for key brand announcements.

2. Write and place contributed articles Frustrated that great story idea you’re pitching just isn’t getting traction? Consider turning it into a contributed article under one of your executive’s byline and pitching it to a target publication that accepts them. Many popular online properties including Mashable, HBR, and Forbes have thriving guest contributor programs. And the opportunity isn’t limited to one-off placements either. If your piece is well received, you may find your exec will be offered the opportunity for a recurring column. These pieces are a great way to build your executive team’s thought leadership platform, with the added bonus of increased control compared to regular media interviews.

3. Draft SEO-optimized press releases That’s right, SEO optimization isn’t just for your static website content. With press releases being widely distributed on the Internet and Google having reversed their previous stance that devalued press release links, crafting a SEO-optimized press release has the potential to drive significant relevant traffic to your website. Not to mention position your well-crafted press release as the ultimate source for your story. For this reason, it’s important for PR to have a seat at the table when the digital team is defining SEO keywords, to ensure alignment between them and your messaging platform.

Shawna’s digital marketing team is creating more and more collaborations with the PR team.

3 Key Ways PR Can Benefit Content Marketing

1. Share your editorial insights The PR team understands what content is compelling from an editorial standpoint due to ongoing conversations with editors and journalists whose jobs depends on them getting it right. Put this information in the hands of your content Editor-in-Chief so they can create more informed editorial plans that will align with your messaging platform.

2. Connect your content team with customers Thanks to sourcing customers for interviews, you can foster relationships with a wide range of customers who have hands-on experience with your product and a range of unique use cases. By connecting your content team with relevant customers, you can significantly add to their understanding of your brand’s audience and provide them with a resource for authentic customer stories that will relate to that audience.

 

3. Amplify key content assets The content team invests significant resources in creating the many white papers, webinars, and other assets that fill your website’s content hub. A brief press release combined with some influencer outreach can significantly help key pieces of content extend their reach and increase their ROI.

This excerpt is from our free ebook, Unlocking PR’s Potential with Content Marketing. Download and read it for more ways PR and content marketing can partner cross-functionally within their company’s marketing organization and show the value they both bring to the organization.

PR and Content marketing

This post was originally published on our site on November 9, 2016. It was updated and republished for its timeliness.

Creating a Mutually-beneficial Relationship Between PR and Content Marketing

Content Marketing Institute (CMI) defines content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” That sounds a lot like what PR pros are charged with, doesn’t it? After all, modern public relations is focused on engaging with an audience of influencers in order to get your message heard and support your organization’s business objectives.

As a PR professional, you are spending your days tracking industry editorial trends, talking to journalists and editors about the content that their audiences want, and honing pitches to obtain coverage or place contributed articles for business partners. PR is full of moments that create the exact kind of insight that would help your content team prioritize material that’s going to drive engagement and brand awareness. Content teams should have easy access to that knowledge to inform their content decisions and ensure message alignment across your organization. Traditionally, this information can stay siloed within PR departments.


Margaret, who runs Monster’s blog, works with the PR team on every piece of content she produces.

Although public perception of the PR team is often one of being laser-focused on media relations, the modern PR professional has a much broader scope that also focuses on building influencer relationships. What’s the difference? The influencer umbrella includes a lot more than just journalists. Public relations outreach now includes bloggers, social media channel influencers, analysts, and celebrities in addition to traditional media outlets. I