How to Create an Effective PR and Marketing Strategy for 2018

How do you plan to market your business in 2018? How can you guarantee an effective PR strategy?

It’s now time to think about your PR and marketing plan for the coming year. What’s been working well? What hasn’t? What new strategies will you try for 2018?

Follow this convenient guide to set up your foundation for the new year.

How to Create Your 2018 Marketing Plan

Step 1: Review 2017

Before you can figure out where you’re going, take a look at where you are. What were your goals for this last year? Did you achieve them?

Also, think about the marketing strategies you used this past year. How did they work out?

If you didn’t have specific goals for this year, now is a great time to collect some baseline data, too:

  • Set up a Google Analytics account so you can measure your website traffic
  • Export and review analytics from your social media accounts so you have data saved showing your current numbers
  • Check your e-newsletter’s open rates and click-through rates to make note of where they are now

Step 2: Establish New Goals

After you’ve established how 2016 went, it’s time to look ahead to 2018. What goals do you want to achieve? Make sure that you set goals that are SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

It’s much better to have a few realistic, clear goals than a vague idea like, “I want more customers.” Instead, set goals like:

  • 50 new Facebook fans
  • 25% more website traffic
  • 5 new sales a month

Once you have SMART goals established, you can figure out how you’ll get there.

Step 3: Brainstorm Strategies to Achieve Your Goals

Did you take the time to brainstorm new ideas for your 2018 marketing plan?

This is the time you’ll come up with specific ways you’ll achieve your goals. For each goal, write down a couple of strategies you think will get you there (see below for a few suggestions).

For example, if one of your goals is to increase website traffic, you might want to include blogging regularly in your marketing plan. Or, if you want to see a certain amount of growth on your Facebook page, consider running a Facebook ad campaign.

In addition to thinking about strategies you think might work, take the time to do some research and write down ideas you want to try. Look at industry trends and strategies experts are predicting to be important in the coming year.

Step 4: Write Out a Marketing Plan

Once you’ve written down your ideas, it’s time to turn your thoughts into an actual plan. I suggest doing this by writing each month of the year on a piece of paper and then listing the strategies you plan to employ during the month underneath it. This helps you visually see how many different marketing activities you’re committing to taking on each month.

Of course, some strategies (such as blogging or social media) are ongoing, but some (such as pitching the media or running Facebook ads) can be done a couple of specific times during the year. This way you can plan extra activities in your marketing plan for the months you know tend to be a little slower.

Once you’ve drafted your plan, type it out month-by-month so it’s clear for you to see which activities you need to do when.

Step 5: Put it into Action

This is probably one of the most important steps! Your marketing plan is useless if you don’t follow it. Yes, things will come up that take over, but make sure you stay on track with the strategies you put in place so that you can tell if you’re successful by the end of the year. Actually write down which activities to do and when you plan to do them on your calendar or planner. Give yourself deadlines and stick to them!

Each month, go through your various points of data collection to take a quick look at how you’re doing. Check your Google Analytics, e-newsletter open and click-through rates, and social media data. If you see your e-newsletter isn’t getting many opens, maybe try a different approach to the subject lines, or if you see a certain blog post getting a lot of traffic or clicks, consider writing a follow-up to it.

Also, make a note to evaluate your plan toward the end of June. At that point, you can do a full review of your marketing plan to see what’s working well and what isn’t. It may be a good time to shift focus from one area that isn’t performing well to an area that is or to try a new strategy altogether instead.

Bonus: Common Strategies for Your Marketing Plan

It can be hard to know which strategies to use to achieve your marketing plan’s goals. Here are a few common tactics that we’ve seen work well across a wide variety of industries:

Strategy: Creating & Distributing Press Releases
Goals it Helps: Increased website traffic, editorial media coverage, name recognition and brand awareness

As long as you have something newsworthy to share, press releases can be used in a few ways. If you release them on the wires, they can provide hundreds of links back to your website, increasing your search engine optimization (SEO) and your traffic. If you send them to specific media contacts, and if the news truly is important to their readers, they can write about your company and introduce your business to even more possible customers.

Strategy: Event Creation & Promotion
Goals it Helps: Increased consumer engagement, editorial media coverage, website traffic, name recognition and brand awareness

Despite the growth of digital media, consumers crave connection. An event can be a fantastic way to interact with your customers face-to-face, and depending on the type of event you’re hosting, you might even be able to get some media coverage out of it. As you consider creating an event as a way to connect with your consumers, think about ways you can give them an unforgettable experience with your brand.

Strategy: Editorial Media Pitching
Goals it Helps: Increased name recognition, brand awareness and (sometimes) website traffic, in addition to establishing you as an expert in your field and providing a credible testimonial endorsement for your business, making consumers more likely to make a purchase

It can be exciting to see you your business’ name in the press! In addition to providing yet another way for potential consumers to see your company, editorial media coverage is a third-party endorsement from the journalist, telling their readers, viewers, and listeners why they should consider your business. This can carry a lot of weight! In addition, if the coverage runs online, the reporter will likely include a link to your website, which can make a positive difference for SEO and your website traffic.

Strategy: Social Media Ads
Goals it Helps: Increased consumer presence and engagement, website traffic, name recognition and brand awareness, in addition to establishing you as an expert in your field and showing followers why they should work with you

Advertising on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn can be a very affordable way to increase your reach across the platforms. In addition to the traditional ads you see on the sidebars of these websites, sponsored posts actually show up in users’ newsfeeds as any update would. As long as you target the ad correctly, write a compelling update and using an engaging image or two, they can greatly increase your visibility to new potential followers. In fact, Facebook’s algorithm actually weights posts from advertisers, so if you’re spending money on ads, chances are your organic posts will be more visible too.

Strategy: Organic Social Media
Goals it Helps: Increased consumer engagement, website traffic, name recognition and brand awareness in addition to showing followers why they should work with you or buy from your company, and providing a convenient way for customers to communicate with your business

Even if you don’t pay for social media advertising, maintaining a presence on the platforms your target consumers use can be extremely helpful. In addition to providing a forum for you to connect with users that are interested in your business and industry, your social channels are a fantastic opportunity to remind consumers about the services you offer, your expertise and that you care about them. They can be fantastic for increasing website traffic and SEO, as well as providing excellent and attentive customer care.

Strategy: Blogging
Goals it Helps: Increased website traffic, name recognition, and brand awareness, plus it gives you authority as an expert and shows visitors why they should work with you

The primary benefit of blogging for your business is that it can drive additional traffic to your website. By publishing quality, helpful posts at the same day and time each week, you show the search engines that your website is high quality and helpful for internet users, which can greatly increase your ranking in search results. Because the best way to write for search engines is to write quality posts, your content should already be helpful to your target consumers. Your blog can also establish you as an expert and provide a fantastic forum for customer care.

Strategy: Email marketing (or an e-newsletter)
Goals it Helps: Increased website traffic, credibility, name recognition and brand awareness, in addition to reminding contacts you already have that they should work with you

Email marketing continues to be an important component of a successful marketing plan. Research shows:

  • Email use worldwide will top 3 billion users by 2020.
  • Gmail has 1 billion active users worldwide.
  • 86% of consumers would like to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with at least monthly.

If you want to increase your website traffic and credibility with your consumers, as well as name recognition and brand awareness, a monthly e-newsletter can be a fantastic strategy. A brief email with helpful articles, links, etc. can be another helpful reminder for your target consumers to contact you and find out more about your products and services.


This article originally appeared in Three Girls Media, was written by Emily Sidley from Business2Community, and legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

5 Best Data Viz Tools of 2017

People process images much quicker than words. And in a world of ever-growing data sets and quantitative insights, there is so much information and data available. However, all the data in the world is useless, and can even be a liability, if you can’t understand it. Thus, visualizations can quickly transform data from unpalatable to digestible. No more fighting through the clutter of number heavy spreadsheets when third-party tools are ready to do the heavy lifting for you.

The term “data visualization” (data viz) may seem convoluted, but it just refers to any graphic that illustrates the significance of data visually rather than numerically—it’s all about how to present data for the best insights. For example, a simple bar chart that you can create in Microsoft Excel is considered data visualization. However, as technology rapidly improves and expands, along with it comes new types of data visualizations that are easier to use.

An overabundance of tools, coupled with a lack of understanding, has left many PR and communications professionals hesitant to get their feet wet. In response, I’ve assembled a list of free and easy-to-use data visualization tools that require absolutely no coding.

Accurate data visualization requires clean data, so before I get to that list, here’s a free bonus tool to help you get prepped:


Trifacta Wrangler is a tool that helps analysts clean, prepare, and extract useful data from JSON, Excel, and CSV files quickly and accurately. Trifacta automatically organizes and structures your data while also providing thorough examples and suggestions to guide nontechnical users through the “wrangling” process. Preparing data is a time-intensive process and can take longer than the actual analysis itself; however, tools like Trifacta can help cut the prep time in half, maybe even more.

With that in mind, here’s my run-down of the best free data viz tools of 2017:

tableau data viz tools

Tableau Public is Tableau’s free offering.

It allows anyone to see, understand, and interact with their data easily thanks to a user-friendly interface and drag and drop feature. The free version is essentially the same as the full version, with the exception of a private feature. Everything you create is public and is available on Tableau’s web galleryFrom there they can then be embedded, shared, and downloaded.

rawgraphs data viz tools

Raw converts complex data into high-quality vector-based visualizations.

An additional bonus is that Raw is compatible with tools like Adobe Sketch, Illustrator, and Inkscape, so if you want, you can have your graphic designer make your charts even sharper. Additionally, Raw has an intuitive interface geared toward all skill levels and they guarantee that your data remains safe since there are no server-side operations.

data viz tools

Datawrapper creates visually impactful charts that are interactive, responsive, and website embeddable.

There are absolutely no code or design skills required and you can easily go from raw data to beautiful chart in three easy steps. Datawrapper is also optimized for mobile, so charts are consistent on all devices—you can even preview mobile, tablet, and desktop versions of charts while designing them.

google data studio data viz

Google Data Studio is a data viz and reporting tool that turns your data into live, interactive dashboards and reports that are easy to read, share, and customize.

Data Studio has built-in connections to other Google properties to easily connect your other Google accounts such as Google Analytics and AdWords. Like most Google products, this tool is great for teams as it includes easy sharing and real-time collaboration.

Chart-Block data viz tools

ChartBlocks is an online chart builder that allows you to build basic charts quickly.

ChartBlocks has a limited number of charts but offers the ability to pull data from a variety of external sources such as external databases and spreadsheets. While it has a few more features, ChartBlocks is essentially a simple chart builder akin to Excel due to its streamlined process and limited chart options. Think of it as “Excel Plus.”

Of course, if you want to streamline your reporting and visualizations duties, we can help.

And, for even more data visualization tools, be sure to check out our 2016 list!

2018 Technology Trends: Custom Hardware Is Here to Stay

When it comes to AI technology trends, people love to talk about the impact on software and services. The not-too-far future promises digital assistants that speak in everyday vernacular. Having real conversations with AI is part of an aspirational future, but less discussed, though equally crucial, AI hardware is mostly ignored. The thing is, the AI hardware revolution is well underway.

AI Centric Hardware Is Here

The Hardware in Your Hand:

There’s a standing joke among AI researchers that as soon as a piece of AI research becomes part of an actual product, it’s no longer considered AI. Thus, the field of AI is a field where the finish line keeps mover toward the horizon of human-level intelligence. This scenario makes sense if you remember a time when speech synthesis was a challenge, machine vision was in the domain of labs, and even a game of chess was considered a topic worthy of AI research.

In 2017 we don’t even think about how our smartphone cameras focus, recognize smiles, exposure time, and add color corrections. It’s easy to forget that a “good” photograph has a large part of human subjectivity in it. The amount of HDR or bokeh our cameras produce are highly tuned, occurring in micro-fractions of a second. This is all possible with image processors.


The camera in the Pixel 2 is one such example.

But if you want to put on your AI researcher hat and say: “But hey, that’s not AI anymore, I want my AI to make my photos into works of art that are worthy of Van Gogh!” Then rest assured your phone is good at doing that as well. While it’s not always AI specific hardware, the use of mobile processors in the service to AI tasks is now standard. Mobile processors save companies computation power and time that otherwise would not have scaled with an increase of users or their profit margins.

Cloud and AI Centric Processors:

While your phones are not full of AI specific hardware (though they have a little of that), there are places where this specialized equipment is poised to make a considerable impact: cloud and data centers.

Google is one of many that want to leverage hardware to make AI calculations faster. This makes sense if you compare the price of services to the cost of the device. As the price of the equipment drops, the amount of profit that services will make starts to warrant the design of custom hardware. Here, each small improvement in power or speed will translate directly into money saved and earned. It’s no wonder the likes of Facebook and Google are spending so much effort in this arena. Facebook even wants the open source community to help out in its efforts.

Autonomous Cars (and Maybe Even the Car You’re Driving):

If we want to talk about personal consumer hardware, there are few things larger than cars.

Cars started out as more mechanical systems than electric, but modern cars are full of computers. Subsystems such as anti-lock brakes, fuel injection, and cruise control are all relatively conventional up until recently. As research into autonomous cars trickles down into safety features (e.g., forward collision detection, before the actual collision occurs) what goes inside your car is now designed specifically for AI algorithms.

Companies like Nvidia, let alone Google, Apple, Uber, and Tesla are now jumping head first into the booming autonomous car field. Figuring out a solution to autonomous (driverless) cars is a circumstance where decisions made “on-the-fly” is imperative to success. Using current algorithms of data, sending those to a server for calculations, and receiving results will not be a feasible solution. Reactions to road conditions need real-time assessment, and only onboard AI hardware can satisfy this requirement.

PR Takeaway

Get ready. In many ways, faster speed and the lower costs of hardware is helping AI come to the forefront of modern products and services. However, it isn’t only a story of better-faster-more; we are using it in novel ways that will tangibly improve our lives. The turnaround time for processor design is as fast as a few months compared the years it took during the booming PC era.

And with the prevalence of AI, so comes along with it an increase of data types to segment, interpret, and analyze for future business decisions. Whether that is investing in a data analyst, implementing PR reporting, or receiving a refresher course on your media monitoring platform, you’ll need to be prepared. Now is the time to move towards setting up your campaigns and team up for success.

2017 Best of Design: The Human Touch

In 2014, Dan Saffer wrote “The End of Design As We Know It,” in it he predicts a grim world in which humans are removed from the process of design, replaced by artificial intelligence and algorithms. Three years later, designers are pushing the boundaries of digital media into entirely new directions. What we’ve seen in 2017’s best of design trends is a move towards increased humanity as the design process becomes more detailed, editorial, and uninhibited. The current push in graphic design principles echos the best of our (messy, complicated, nostalgic) human nature. Here’s what we saw.


1. Louder, Brighter

Over the past few years, large tech companies have been playing it safe with neutral color schemes. The approach has trickled down from Apple’s minimalist design aesthetic and is undeniably clean. This once powerful effect is now overused as 2017 saw a shift away from a pallet of blacks, grays, and whites. An example is Spotify, who embraces bold colors to effectively capture a user’s attention. Spotify’s intense use of color is now instantly recognizable and shapes the brand’s overall identity. Additionally, using bold color is an effective way to stand out when fighting for real estate across social media feeds.


2. Illustration

While 2016 saw a dramatic shift towards in-house photography, in-house illustration has become one of the hottest trends of 2017. Using illustration can be a fun and light way to build brand identity. Some may be skeptical that this approach can come across as unprofessional or childish. However, illustration is rooted in the flat design aesthetic which has dominated tech over the past several years. Great examples of companies that have embraced illustration are Dropbox and Casper mattresses. Each uses illustration to build an identity that puts the user at ease and appeals to the child in all of us.


3. The Return of the GIF

Web users use GIFs to express emotion that text simply cannot. GIFs can be created using basic design software already in use and since they tell a story and are easily shareable, there wouldn’t be any reason to not include GIFs in your content strategy. GIFs have made a comeback in 2017 because load time is negligible and data usage isn’t a concern as it is with video. Branded GIFs are an easy way to stand out on social media, in the case of the gif, if you build it they will come.


4. Greenery

The Pantone 2017 Color of the Year, greenery, signaled a push towards environmentalism and plant life across the design world. Pantone describes greenery as a “fresh and zesty yellow-green shade that evokes the first days of spring.” The color of the year reaffirms a new trend in stimulating and reinvigorating users with breathing room and brightness. Greenery has also provided a gateway for using natural patterns in design such as marble, plants, and precious stones.


5. Color Transitions (a.k.a. Gradients/Ombre)

It’s clear that color transitions are one of the hottest trends right now. Gradients were a trend that started appearing in 2016 but the use has exploded this year. Apple, Instagram, and Spotify are all examples of large organizations embracing color transitions. Even with subtle use, the effect can add a richness to what would otherwise be bland blocks of color.


6. Modern Retro

A fusion of old and new, merging modern flair with a retro design is nothing new. However, 2017, saw a trend of simplifying elements from the past and showcasing them in a way that really stands out. For instance, neutral colors are removed from these elements and replaced within your face bolds. The trend is effective because it uses familiarity that reassures your users but, a modern twist is interpreted as innovative and fresh. While the effect has already taken over the print world, expect to see more of it in the digital sphere through 2018.


7. Cinemagraphs

Unlike GIFs, cinemagraphs are still images with secondary elements moving within them. They provide a way to capture an audience’s attention in a very short amount of time. The effect provides a realistic flare while bringing still images to life. As comms pros seek innovative ways to remain competitive, expect to see even more of this design trend in 2018.


8. Text Beyond Boundaries

The rules of web design are changing. Whereas allowing elements to cross planes in the past could go horribly wrong (and still can), designers are becoming more expressive, allowing text to be in two places at the same time. Text is crossing multiple containers and being layered over more than one box. Although this trend is occurring more and more, it may be wise to be cautious about implementing it. When text cross planes, it needs to do so consistently with the goal of establishing hierarchy.

best of design

9. Larger Than Life

2017 saw a push towards oversized objects. The idea is not new, but more and more designers are showcasing everyday objects in a giant fashion. Oversized objects are a striking way to break rules that require perfect imagery and an eye for detail. It can express a minimalist brand message in an unexpectedly fun way. To avoid a jarring effect, designers need to balance a large object with whitespace, bright colors, or fun typography. There should also be a focus on image quality since the resolution of oversized elements are not forgiving.

best of design

10. Millennial Art

Also known as absurdist humor or Neo-Dadaism, Millennial Art is the latest cultural movement that rejects the traditional and embraces the absurd. If you thought Millennial Art was only confusing memes, it is so much more. Millennial Art provides a medium for individuals to express their disillusionment with society. Like Dadaism after the First World War, the current crop of everyman (Millennials) are fed up with what the world has to offer. They’re fueled by a desire to address current events, so they’re embracing collage art with a specific bent that capitalizes on confusion and nonsense. What was first considered as just absurdist humor is now being acknowledged as a historic art movement.

There you have it, the top 10 web design trends of 2017. If you’re interested in revisiting 2016 or reading about the best infographics of 2017, the best social campaigns, and what PR Influencers think is in store for 2018, or looking for a media monitoring platform—we can help.

Social Sidekick January 2018: Social Holidays, Themes, and Noteworthy Events

The year is almost over. Time to get prepared for the next one, and get ready to celebrate all the social holidays that keep coming and coming. Sign up to receive monthly Sidekick emails sent straight to your inbox and keep filling in your content calendar!  


Cervical Health Awareness Month, National Birth Defects Prevention Month, National Glaucoma Awareness Month, National Radon Action Month, National Stalking Awareness Month, Thyroid Awareness Month

Bread Machine Baking Month, National Candy Month, National Egg Month, National Hot Tea Month, National Meat Month, National Oatmeal Month, National Soup Month, National Wheat Bread Month, Prune Breakfast Month


#ManCrushMonday or #MCM, #MondayBlues, #MotivationMonday, #MarketingMonday, #MeatlessMonday

#TransformationTuesday or #TT, #TravelTuesday, #TongueOutTuesday, #Tunesday, #TacoTuesday

#WomanCrushWednesday or #WCW, #WayBackWednesday or #WBW, #WineWednesday, #WellnessWednesday, #HumpDay, #WisdomWednesday

#TBT or #ThrowbackThursday, #Thursdate, #ThoughtfulThursday, #ThirstyThursday, #ThankfulThursday

#FollowFriday or #FF, #FlashbackFriday or #FBF, #FridayFeeling, #FriYay, #FridayReads

#Caturday, #SexySaturday

#SundayFunday, #SelfieSunday, #Sinday



New Year’s Day, Polar Bear Swim Day, Bloody Mary Day, Copyright Law Day

The Bachelor (ABC)

Rose Bowl Game, Peach Bowl, Sugar Bowl


Motivation and Inspiration Day, Science Fiction Day, Personal Awareness Trainer Day, Buffet Day, National Cream Puff Day


Festival of Sleep Day, Chocolate-Covered Cherry Day, Drinking Straw Day

9-1-1 (Fox)


World Braille Day, National Spaghetti Day, Trivia Day


National Whipped Cream Day, Bird Day

Molly’s Game, Insidious: The Last Key


Shortbread Day, Bean Day, Apple Tree Day, Cuddle Up Day, Sherlock Holmes’ Birthday


National Tempura Day, Bobblehead Day

75th Annual Golden Globe Awards (NBC)

Harlem Globetrotters Day



Clean Off Your Desk Day, Bubble Bath Day, Earth’s Rotation Day


Apricot Day, Static Electricity Day, Poetry at Work Day


Bittersweet Chocolate Day, Peculiar People Day, Cut Your Energy Costs Day


Milk Day, Hot Toddy Day

23rd Annual Critics Choice Awards (CW)

FRIDAY, 1/12

Pharmacist Day, Marzipan Day, Kiss a Ginger Day

The Post, The Commuter, Proud Mary, Paddington 2


Rubber Duckie Day, Skeptics Day, Public Radio Broadcast Day, Sticker Day, Make Your Dream Come True Day, National Gluten-Free Day

SUNDAY, 1/14

Dress Up Your Pet Day, International Kite Day, Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day

dressed up pet.gif

MONDAY, 1/15

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Strawberry Ice Cream Day, Hat Day

Start of the Australia Open (Tennis)


 Nothing Day, Appreciate A Dragon Day, International Hot and Spicy Food Day

Black Lightning (CW)


Kid Inventor’s Day, Cable Car Day 

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (FX)


Winnie the Pooh Day, Thesaurus Day, World Religion Day, Peking Duck Day

FRIDAY, 1/19

National Popcorn Day

Forever My Girl, 12 Strong, Den of Thieves


Cheese Lovers Day, Penguin Awareness Day, Disc Jockey Day

SUNDAY, 1/21

Hugging Day, Granola Bar Day, International Sweatpants Day, Squirrel Appreciation Day

24th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards (TBS/TNT)

Winnie the pooh.gif

MONDAY, 1/22

Hot Sauce Day, Celebration of Life Day


Handwriting Day, National Pie Day


Peanut Butter Day


Opposite Day, Irish Coffee Day

Start of the Winter X Games

FRIDAY, 1/26

Spouse’s Day, Australia Day, International Fun at Work Day, National Green Juice Day, Pistachio Day

Maze Runner: The Death Cure, Arctic Justice: Thunder Squad, Extinction, White Boy Rick


Chocolate Cake Day, National Geographic Day

SUNDAY, 1/28

Data Privacy Day, Blueberry Pancake Day

End of the Australia Open (Tennis), End of the Winter X Games, Pro Bowl

60th Annual Grammy Awards (CBS)


MONDAY, 1/29

Puzzle Day, Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day, Blue Monday, Cornchip Day, Freethinkers Day


Croissant Day


Gorilla Suit Day, Backwards Day