How Social Media Listening Tools Are a Trend Forecaster’s Best Friend

The greatest difference between trend spotting and forecasting is what the latter can do for your bottom line. If you were a restaurant owner ten years ago, wouldn’t you want to know that comfort food was set to become a staple in American cuisine for the better part of the next decade? And what apparel maker wouldn’t have been thrilled to learn early that yoga wear was destined to become streetwear? As LA trend guru Janna Stark establishes in the ebook Seeing into the Future: Trend spotting and Forecasting, the advantages of forecasting a trend easily eclipse those of simply recognizing that a trend has arrived.

 

Trend forecasting gives you a leg up on competitors, and social listening tools play a leading role in this. Managing and making sense of the billions of conversations occurring across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, forums, and more provides the scale and reach necessary to arrive at meaningful conclusions. In combination with reliable, real-time analytics, social listening tools help you see patterns unfold over specified periods of time within clearly defined parameters that include age groups, locations, and even events and attractions. Tools measuring volume and sentiment reveal whether a product, movement, or activity is generating buzz and appears on the verge of breaking out, and who or what is leading this.

 

“Archeology of the Future”

 

Trend expert Stark credits social media listening tools for their ability to assess macro trends and identify their origins down to an individual tweet or Instagram post, in some cases. The tools teach and encourage you to think and act like an “archeologist of the future,” sifting for clues. By examining the speed, geographic trajectory, and demographics by which a trend spreads, you can get an early read on whether the trend is destined to be a niche event only, or a global phenomenon. From a marketing perspective, the stakes are therefore global in scale.

Social listening tools allow you to filter and analyze conversations to learn what a particular audience really cares about and what inspires them to recommend a product or experience to their families and friends. Identifying influencers early helps you plug into the zeitgeist—the spirit of the time—and capitalize on where a trend is headed. When part of a greater platform, social listening tools allow you to monitor everything relevant to your brand in a single place and add forecasting to the mix.

 

Déjà Vu, Anyone?

 

Early in her ebook, Stark reminds readers that looking forward and setting strategy also involves looking at the past, because “what goes around comes around.” Consider the oft-maligned fanny pack, resurrected this past year as a fashion accessory must-have. Trends ebb and flow. History repeats itself, and yet each time is unique. Observing the nuances is where you find clues for forecasting the future. Social listening tools paired with traditional monitoring tools let you do a quick deep-dive into trends of the past and compare people’s past and current actions. This historical perspective plays a huge role in forecasting consumer behavior.

For further insight into how social media listening tools are a trend forecaster’s best friend, watch the webinar Secrets of a Trend Forecaster Revealed: How PR and Marketing Can Shape the Future.

6 Steps To Creating A List Of Journalists That Will Talk About You!

PR puts so much time into planning, implementing and then writing up the perfect press release. However, it can be a challenge to find the right journalists to talk about our story. ‘Spray & Pray’ pitching is often ineffective, partly due to the lack of personalization of the pitch, but also because we’re pitching one angle to a mass of different kinds of journalists.

Instead we need to create a list of journalists, ideally divided into different beats, and ensure we’re regularly updating it.

Here are 6 tips to create your dream journalist contact list.

# 1 Identify relevant media types

It can be easy to get caught up in reach figures. But is that where your target audience is? If your target audience isn’t where you’re being featured, then your PR efforts may be going to waste.

It’s good practice to build a detailed persona of our target audience. Not only should we be considering job title, demographics, preferred social networks, lifestyle, aspirations and more. But also what do they read? Do they prefer reading blogs, newspapers, trade magazines, forums etc.? Once we know the type of content that interests them, we can make our journalist list with this in mind.

# 2 Identify relevant journalists

For optimum success, select media according to what the journalist specializes in. For example, say we’re a whole foods store, adding a journalist who talks about organic superfoods is likely to see higher ROI than a journalist who talks about the food industry generically.

Meltwater’s influencer contact database allows clients to search journalists by beats, location, publication, but more importantly content they’ve previously written about, so we can be sure that our company will still be of interest to them.

Journalists move around a lot! The benefit of searching by keyword is that you can see what they’ve written about recently, indicating they are still interested in that topic. It’s worth using this method at least once a month, to ensure your list of journalists is up-to-date and that your target journalists haven’t moved on.

Meltwater's tool provides a list of journalists

# 3 Watch your market and competitors

Keep a close eye on the market and competitors on a regular basis, noting the publications and journalists that have already talked about subjects related to our company. These types of journalists are likely to warm more to our message since they have already shown a strong interest in our sector.

However, when we do pitch to these journalists, we should differentiate ourselves from our competitors. After all, if they have already talked about a product/sector similar to ours, they’re not going to want to cover the same story again.

# 4 Refine targeting

Keep your PR lists short and sweet. It’s more effective for us to have a handful of very relevant journalists with whom we have good relations than a long list of journalists who we rarely speak to.

Here are some criteria to pay attention to when refining your list:

  • Is the journalist a generalist or specialist?
  • Are they addressing the general public or are they experts in a specific area?
  • What’s their editorial line: critical, humorous, analytical?
  • Do they mind being contacted via social media?
  • Do they write chronicles, reports, articles, blogs etc?

By being aware of the above, we can adapt our messages to their way of processing information.

finding a list of journalists

# 5 Refine targeting (again!!)

We can’t emphasize this step enough. Journalists are overwhelmed by information, especially information that doesn’t concern them. All it takes is for us to send one irrelevant email to warrant them adding us to their little black book of blocked contacts.

It’s easy to think that the more people we pitch to, the higher chances of a PR hit landing. This isn’t the case. Quality is better than quantity. Personalization goes a long way. Even just addressing a journalist by their first name makes a difference!

# 6 Keep your list up to date

Creating a journalist list takes time, as does making sure the list is up-to-date. New opportunities may be presenting themselves and journalists move around. A list audit every now and then can’t hurt the ROI of journalist outreach.

A version of this article originally appeared on our UK blog.

PR in the Boardroom: How Comms and PR Can Play a Bigger Role with the C-Suite

Most comms and PR leaders only interact with top execs when there is a crisis. When a social media debacle erupts on Twitter, or if there’s a failure of a product or service, that’s when you’re called up to the boardroom. In fact, much of the work that comms does—such as media relations, influencer campaigns, and the reports surrounding them—doesn’t often get much visibility with senior company leadership. 

Sure, executives might interact with or appreciate PR when it pays off in the form of a big headline or company mention. However, comms is not usually thought of as a force that shapes the company on a higher strategic level.

Instead, PR/Comms departments should be given a full seat at the table in the C-suite. The trick is to get your C-level officers to see more clearly how vital a role Comms plays. 

How do you accomplish this shift in mindset? The answer is in making your department as indispensable as possible to other departments and the company as a whole. Comms and PR leaders can do this through the strategic use of data, changing the conversation around that data with execs, and others.

Share Your Data—and Insights—with Other Departments

PR pros use media intelligence tools all the time to keep track of their brand. Media monitoring uncovers data about the company, competitors, and industry that can be turned into key insights that inform company decisions. No one is more suited and ready to understand the market than PR pros. They’re not only aware of what’s going on, but how media, experts and customers perceive the company and what they want from it.

Often, PR and comms departments fall into the trap of reporting the same numbers and information to the same people, without any real innovation. Instead of using data to uncover opportunity and insight, they just count up how many times the brand is mentioned. However, with tools that combine monitoring and analytics—and analysts who can synthesize this information into patterns and trends—they could be offering competitive intel as well as insight into emerging market trends before anyone else does.

According to Dino Delic, Director of Solutions and Integration for Meltwater, focus on making your comms team a valuable resource to as many departments as possible. This, in turn, helps you demonstrate that value in concrete ways to executives in the C-suite.

“By making use of insights derived from data, packaged differently for other departments, PR makes itself a valuable resource within the company. By arming yourself with information about what other companies are doing in terms of their marketing and their positioning, you can arm sales with what customers and clients are doing or with what competitors are doing.”

Connect with Executives to Align Your Goals with Theirs

In addition to using media intelligence data to inform other departments, comms should also look for ways to cultivate a relationship with C-suite executives to better understand their decision-making needs and zero in on the types of data they appreciate most. For example, execs may be thinking far down the road, seeking information to help them make long-term strategic decisions. Maybe they need to know why a certain message worked when another one didn’t. PR should be aware of these signals and must be ready to deliver relevant insights. All too often they aren’t in the loop.

By cultivating a truly collaborative relationship based on useful data that helps executives shape and pursue corporate objectives, you can ensure comms doesn’t get left out in the cold.

“It’s a vicious cycle if you will,” Delic says, “where, because (comms isn’t) giving the board information they want, (comms isn’t) looking for the right information and they don’t provide that information. So then the C-Suite and the boardroom have less faith and trust in PR and comms.”

Don’t be afraid to ask executives what information they need most. Does the C-Suite want information on what competitors are doing so they can devise competitive strategies? Do they want to see the latest expert predictions in the space? Perhaps they want a deeper understanding of what a niche audience feels about a product or service. If you can deliver these things to company leaders on an ongoing basis, it’ll help them realize how essential your skills and services really are.

Measure Data That Truly Informs and Guides Corporate Decisions

Once you have a strong perception of the data signals that company leaders care about, you need to figure out how your data points can help bridge the gaps in their decision-making. This is better than just delivering the “same old” simple reports with data that illustrates reach, and little else—i.e., total number of mentions, number of new likes per week, etc.—with no clear notion of how to connect the data to an outcome.

“Try to find something that breaks that number down and tells your executives not only whether you’re doing a good job but also points the way to what you can do between reports to improve your performance and increase your effectiveness,” Delic says. “The more successful companies that we work with are the ones that are doing more of this.”

However, not every media intelligence tool will provide the same level of service. Delic says Meltwater analysts have been exploring the use of standard tests. They include “an innovation index, a reputation index, industry leadership index, risk index, all sorts of ‘off the shelf’ options that someone can choose and then tweak to fit a particular situation.”  

No matter what media intelligence service you use, the important step is to begin by collecting the data relevant to corporate objectives, then explore ways to use that data to assist other departments as well as the company’s executives in reaching those objectives.

For a comprehensive look at PR reporting—and aligning comms goals with the business as a whole—read our ebook on proving PR ROI.

Is 2019 the year of the vegan? Carl’s Jr and others are betting on it.

Across social media, trend hunters and animal enthusiasts alike are proclaiming 2019 the year of the vegan.

From Kind and Tyson, to Forbes and The Economist, to Taco Bell, McDonald’s, KFC and Carl’s Jr, experts are predicting – and perhaps willing – 2019 to be the undisputed Year of the Vegan.

According to The Economist’s report, “Where millennials lead, businesses and governments will follow.” And it is the millennials who are distinctively leading the charge toward plant-based living, followed closely by their rapidly-coming-of-age counterparts, Gen Z.

In America in 2015, according to one survey, 3.4% of the population were vegetarian and just 0.4% were vegan. Today, according to Gallup, 5% of the total population say they are vegetarian and 3% vegan, but “fully a quarter of 25- to 34-year-old Americans say they are vegans or vegetarians.”

Consumers appear to be making the commitment. According to The Guardian, record numbers of people have signed up for Veganuary, a movement designed to help meat-eaters pledge to go meat-free for the month of January – with 14,000 signing up in just one day. “Since the movement started five years ago, participant numbers have more than doubled each year and a total of more than 250,000 people in 193 countries have signed up.”

Fast and slow food brands alike are jumping on the bandwagon. McDonald’s has started selling vegan hamburgers. Taco Bell announced an all new, all-vegetarian menu. Waitrose in the UK launched a new line of vegan products. And according to The Economist, sales of vegan foods in America in the year to June 2018 rose ten times faster than food sales as a whole.

Celebrities and film producers continue to push the trend, not least of all professional athletes like NFL quarterbacks Aaron Rogers and Tom Brady, whose mostly plant-based diets have now become legendary, dispelling the myth that meat is necessary for protein and strength. Other US celebrities from Beyonce and Miley Cyrus to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Al Gore have spoken out in favor of plant-based diets.

Why the movement?

The slow and steady reign of veganism makes sense, as consumers collectively begin to grow more conscious of the dire effects of climate change and global farming on the planet. Last year, a group of scientists and researchers from the University of Oxford and LCA Research group released the most comprehensive study on food production’s environmental impact.

They noted that the single biggest thing we can do to reduce this impact is to consume less meat and dairy. The study showed that while meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, they occupy 83% of farmland and produce 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Guardian Graphic | Source: Poore and Nemecek, Science

Guardian Graphic | Source: Poore and Nemecek, Science

“A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use,” said Joseph Poore, at the University of Oxford, who led the research.

According to a 2019 snacking trend report from snack company Kind, the trend toward a more meatless lifestyle goes beyond concern for the environment: “The growing popularity of plant-based eating styles is driven by both health and sustainability concerns – along with a desire for new and diverse food options. We can expect to see more innovations highlighting nuts, extruded seeds, beans, water lentils and algae across categories such as snack bars, chips, meat-free burgers or sausages and dairy-free yogurts and cheeses in the year ahead.”

Other factors, like a general progression toward health consciousness and a healthier lifestyle, along with more affordable vegan options, have further prompted the movement.

Finally, firms are getting better at replicating the real look, feel and taste of meat with lab-grown varieties. Impossible Foods, the SF-based fake meat lab who has raised $400M in funding and whose wildly popular Impossible Burgers took the US market by storm, have announced development of a new meatless steak. Meanwhile, Dutch firm Vivera arrived on supermarket shelves in June, and 40,000 of its vegan steaks were sold within a week.

Case study: Carl’s Jr. makes a bet on the rise of the vegan

The “Year of the Vegan” began rising on social media and blogs around December, when trend predictions for 2019 started to pick up. Among major US fast food chains, mentions of veganism and plant-based meals over the last 100 days has risen significantly, with Carl’s Jr. standing out above the rest.

US Fast Food: % mentions of vegan-related topics (Oct 2018 – Jan 2019)

27.3% of all Carl’s Jr. posts on social media in the last 100 days spoke to vegan and veganism trends. This is in larger part due to the announcement of their new Beyond Meat Burger, a vegan addition to the menu that is being pushed hard in early 2019. Vegan eaters have caught on, as mentions of Carl’s Jr. overall began spiking significantly since the new option was announced.

Volume of social media posts mentioning Carl’s Jr. (Oct 2018 – Jan 2019)

Average sentiment score: social posts mentioning Carl’s Jr (Oct 2018 – Jan 2019)

Popular Carl’s Jr social media mentions (Oct 2018 – Jan 2019)

Source: Meltwater | Jan 2018

Key Takeaway

Incidence of conversation around “the year of the vegan” hit a major upswing as we ushered in 2019, while trend hunters from across industries contributed their 2019 forecast. Fast food chains from Subway to KFC are hopping on the bandwagon, led by Carl’s Jr. who announced in late December the release of their latest creation, the Beyond meat burger. We’ve dug into insights from social media which indicate reactions have been positive.

How to Level Up Your Contributed Content Game

Contributed articles have long been a staple in an effective PR plan. They establish your brand as an expert on a topic and fall under earned media, meaning the only cost is placing and writing the piece.

But as publications shift to more of a paid model in many cases, are the opportunities to contribute guest posts and articles dwindling?

Do Publications Still Accept Contributed Articles?

Some publications no longer accept any contributed articles. “Huffington Post, for example, shut down its op-ed section entirely,” said Natalie Stezovsky, vice president of Influence & Co. “Forbes has moved away from one-off contributors and just has their columns or councils that you have to be accepted into. Some require a paid membership.”

Why? As publishers shift to paid models, sponsorship packages can bring in more dollars than unpaid contributions.

While some are turning to paid contribution channels, many publications continue to welcome contributed content.

Which media outlets are offering contributed article opportunities? “Honestly, so many,” says Stezovsky. “Harvard Business Review, Inc., Entrepreneur, AdAge, Barron’s, Fortune, Business Insider, The Next Web, The Financial Times, VentureBeat, AdWeek, and Quartz to name a few.” 

Influence conducted a survey of 44 editors, only five of whom said they were decreasing guest-contributed content.

And if you don’t think your content is a fit for the big name publications, even less recognizable media outlets are a good target. Sometimes it’s the publications with a smaller audience that see the most engagement. For example, many industry vertical publications depend on contributed content to fill their pages. They may have fewer readers, but that audience can be highly engaged with content written by industry experts.

Contributed Content Brings Big Benefits to Brands

Whichever publication you choose, placing articles for clients can bring major benefits.

“You’ll enjoy better brand visibility, a more solid reputation in your industry, better web traffic, more online followers, an easier time recruiting talent, and possibly even interest from new investors,” said content marketing influencer Jeff Bullas.

In fact, 78 percent of customers prefer to get to know a company through articles rather than ads, while content marketing has six times higher conversion rates.

If 84% of marketers cite “brand awareness” as their most important content marketing goal, contributed content may be one of the best ways to help them get there.           

What Helps a Contributed Article Get Accepted for Publication?

To get your contributions published, here are some tips to follow:

  • It should offer a unique point of view: “It’s all about providing unique insights and angles and making sure that the piece of content you’re writing about hasn’t already been covered on the publication. Be sure you’re truly adding value to their readership,” says Stezovsky. Outside data is also often welcomed.
  • It should be professionally written: The piece should be well constructed and free of typos, poor grammar and spelling errors.
  • It should meet their editorial guidelines: Be sure to review these, as they usually include word count, format, style, image policy and so forth. 
  • It shouldn’t be blatantly promotional: “If you’re coming at it from a promotional perspective, don’t expect to get published,” says Stezovsky. Don’t mention your products in the piece. It is, however, acceptable to request a link, which many publications may provide.
  • It shouldn’t be too similar to other published pieces: “Editors are looking to contributors to tell the stories and give the advice that their staff doesn’t have the industry knowledge to cover on its own,” Stezovsky said.

And when you pitch an idea:

  • When you pitch your content, really sell why you are the expert on this topic, and what this article can bring to their publication.
  • Only pitch original content. Some publications will not accept a piece if it’s already been published somewhere else. You can review their submission guidelines – or ask if it’s unclear.
  • Ask if you have permission to republish the piece after it appears. Some publications allow this while others strictly forbid it.
  • Use a tool like Meltwater to help research publications and editors to contact in your efforts.

And don’t forget to share, share, share your article once it’s published. Share it on social media, share it in your newsletter and post it on your site to get the maximum benefit of any article that appears.

For a comprehensive look at media outreach today, read our ebook New Strategies in Media Relations, full of tips and tools on how to get more brand coverage.