77 Digital Marketing Terms and Stats for Business Professionals

Whether you are an executive, marketer or work in the financial department, chances are you’ve heard a coworker or peer use a digital marketing term you’re unfamiliar with. To help you in those times of need when you’re left saying, “Huh?”, here is a glossary of terms commonly use in digital marketing. In addition, a glossary can be pretty boring, so you’ll also find a fun and/or informative statistic related to each term.

Enjoy!

General Terms

  1. Closed-loop marketing: The use of analytics and data throughout a customer’s lifecycle to improve marketing and sales strategies. To “close the loop”, marketing and sales teams unify their reporting and strategies to generate higher ROI. Considering 69 percent of CEOs believe they are wasting money marketing initiatives, according to Forbes, the majority of marketers have adopted closed-loop marketing in one form or another.
  2. Content marketing: Similar to inbound marketing, content marketing is the use and distribution of content that provides valuable information to help a company grow and retain website visitors and customers. Altimater cites that 70 percent of marketers do not have a consistent or integrated content strategy.
  3. Contextual marketing: Contextual marketing refers to any advertising or tailored marketing messages that are based on the user’s demographic or behavioral data. When in-house marketers are able to quantify ROI and use a personalised website, they see a 19 percent increase in sales (Monetate/eConsultancy).
  4. Digital marketing: A comprehensive and loose term that refers to marketing that utilises various digital channels to build brand awareness and ultimately generate customers. Fifty percent of companies surveyed by Smart Insights and TFM&A say they use digital marketing, but lack a defined strategy.
  5. Email marketing: The use of email and email performance benchmarks to reach prospects, customers and evangelists. Email marketing leads are rated as high quality by 40 percent of B2B marketers (Software Advice Survey).
  6. Inbound marketing: A marketing strategy that builds interesting and valuable content to attract the attention of people to your company rather than seeking them out as is done with outbound marketing like purchasing lists, cold calling, trade shows and sending snail mail. According to Hubspot data, inbound practices produce 54 percent more leads than traditional outbound practices.
  7. Marketing automation: The use of software and technology to streamline various marketing channels and make them automated. Over 50 percent of top-performing companies have adopted marketing automation (Forrester).
  8. Marketing channel: A way of moving products or services from the producer to the consumer. Marketing channels can be direct, indirect or a combination of both. For example, a company may rely on distributors to sell their product but also use a company website to drive sales directly. According to a survey from 2014, 48 percent of marketers say search-optimised websites are the most effective channel for distributing their product or service (Statista).
  9. Native advertising: The placement of a brand, product, or service where the ad appears in the same context of the user interface. It’s almost like an ad in disguise because the marketing content blends with the content on the third-party application. A study published on Adweek found that 57 percent of millennials are OK with sponsored content, which is really another term for native advertising, but only if it is interesting.
  10. Search engine marketing: A marketing tactic that works to grow a website’s online presence through traffic from search engines. Nearly 100 percent (93 percent to be exact) of online experiences start with search engines (ImForza).
  11. Social media marketing: The use of social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and YouTube to grow traffic to a website or grow brand awareness. Social media has 100 percent higher lead-to-close rate compared to outbound leads (HubSpot).

Planning & Developing a Marketing Strategy Terms

  1. Buyer’s journey: The process and journey a prospective customer goes through to reach your company. It involves research and communication with your company, as well as within the buyer’s network of those involved in the buying process. According to Forrester Research, almost 75 percent of B2B buyers spend more than half of their buyer’s journey doing online and independent research before researching offline.
  2. Buyer/marketing persona: As defined by HubSpot, “A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.” Using a buyer/marketing persona makes 2 to 5 times more effective and easier to use by ideal users (HubSpot).
  3. Content and editorial calendar: Helps marketers to plan development, publish and distribute content of various types. A content and editorial calendar helps marketers to carry out their overall content marketing strategy. 84 percent of marketers who say they are ineffective at content marketing actually have no documented strategy (Content Marketing Institute).
  4. Content mapping: Allows marketers to be more personalised and timely in delivering content by mapping existing and required content needed to each buyer persona and buyer’s journey. As widely used as this tactic is, there isn’t much statistical evidence supporting or contradicting, but I couldn’t leave out a stat, so here it is . . . Americans spend 1 hour and 14 minutes everyday eating, which is less than any other country in this study by the OECD.
  5. SMART Goals: A common goal setting framework used in marketing. The acronym “SMART” stands for specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented and timely. 59 percent of content marketers say their number one goal is lead generation (LinkedIn).

Paid Channel Terms

  1. Bid: The total amount that you will pay for a keyword on paid search. Insurance industry keywords have been found to be the most expensive keywords (WordStream).
  2. Call extensions/ click-to-call: A feature of paid search ads that includes the business phone number on the add. With click-to-call, the user can click the phone number to make the call.
  3. Clicks: The total number of users who actually click the ad or paid search result. In the 2012 WordStream study, it was also found that 193.2 million clicks were generated per day on Google AdWords.
  4. Cost-per-click (CPC): The amount of money paid for each click-through to the company’s website that an advertisement generates on search engines or other publication websites. The average cost-per-click on the AdWords search network is between $1.38 and $2.76 (WordStream).
  5. Cost-per-conversions (CPA): This term, in relation to paid Facebook and Twitter ads, is the amount of money paid per converted event. The term, as it relates to Adwords, is the total cost of generating clicks or impressions divided by total amount of conversions. Since statistics vary widely on cost-per-conversion, I’m going to share a completely random statistic. There are 293 ways to make changes with a dollar.
  6. Cost-per-impression (CPI): The amount of money paid for each view of an advertisement rather than paying per click. This method of tracking ROI is most relevant to paid social promotions since Google AdWords calculates based on cost-per-thousand. The average cost-per-impression on Facebook is lowest at $2.12, while Twitter is $16.76 and LinkedIn is $38.46 (The Connected Business).
  7. Cost-per-thousand (CPM): A tracking metric only relevant to the Google AdWords display network, cost-per-thousand is the amount of money paid per thousand impressions with the maximum being a set bid. According to MontetizePros, the average cost-per-impression for technology companies is $7.24 in 2015.
  8. Display ads: A digital advertising method that uses rich media and banner images instead of text-only ads. 98 percent of advertisers are wasting their money on display ads (Unbounce).
  9. Display network: The display network is a channel on Google Ads that uses a collection of partner websites to present text and banner ads based on filtering partner sites relevant to the company, the user’s keywords and searches or past engagement with the company. There are over 1 million sites on the Google site network (Wishpond).
  10. Impressions: The total number of internet users who see your ad. In 2012, WordStream conducted a study that found that Google AdWords serves nearly 30 billion impressions per day.
  11. Paid Search: Paid search is the use of search engines or partner sites to pay for clicks or impressions of an ad on the search network. Google’s share of US paid search clicks is 79 percent (Search Engine Land), but the growth rate has recently slowed for Google as a result of more clicks going to Bing when Yahoo struck a deal with Firefox.
  12. Paid media: This is an umbrella term for any media attention that is paid for and includes marketing tactics such as social media ads, paid content promotion, pay per click, television ads, radio ads and direct mail. In 2014, $247.84 billion was spent on paid media in the US with digital accounting for 28.2% of ad investments (eMarketer).
  13. Remarketing: This is used to present targeted ads to website visitors or existing customers around the internet when they aren’t actively looking for your company. According to PPC Hero, a remarketing campaign has 22 percent lower average cost-per-click compared to search campaigns.
  14. View-through conversion: The number of visitors who saw a Google Adwords ad and did not click, but later visited the ad’s website. While there are no statistics on optimal view-through conversions, an article from Glew emphasis the importance of this metric. Reason being, only 0.1 percent of banner ads actually get clicked because humans just don’t click ads anymore; however, they may search the website on Google or type the URL directly into their browser. Thus, view-through conversion rate provides a more accurate measure of ad effectiveness.

Content Marketing Terms

  1. Blog: As a noun, a blog is a web page that is written to inform and educate readers. For many companies, it has become a source of business from digital channels. Marketers who make blogging a priority are 13X more likely to have positive ROI (HubSpot).
  2. Call-to-action (CTA): A message in the form of text-only or as a banner image that instructs the reader to take a next step. A personalised CTA converts 42 percent better than a general CTA (HubSpot).
  3. Conversion path: The path a user takes to convert into a lead or customer from the time they are referred to your website to the actual conversion on a landing page. Once again, there isn’t much data around this topic, so I thought I’d share that it’s estimated that at any given time 7 percent of the world’s population is drunk (are you a part of that 7 percent as you read this?).
  4. E-book: It is a book in the digital world. While the term originally only referred to book-length content in a digital format, it’s evolved to be a loose term for even short-form content that is packed as a book. Sixty percent of business decision makers say company content helps them make a better product decision (Content Marketing Institute).
  5. Evergreen content: Content that will remain relevant today and in the future to your readers. One case study published on MoZ showed that an evergreen piece of content helped was able to grow social shares of that article from 127 in the first year to 631 social shares a year later (MoZ).
  6. GIF: An image file that is animated. Seventy-one percent of GIF searches are from males (Heavy).
  7. Infographic: A visual representation of data or insights. Ninety percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual (Unbounce), which means that infographics are great at capturing the attention of users who already have a limited capacity for the amount of information they are presented with.
  8. Landing page:  A web page that is designed to help convert a website visitor into a lead or customer. Companies with over 40 landing pages got 7X more leads than those with 1 to 5 landing pages (HubSpot).
  9. Podcast: A series or single recording of an audio file that can be downloaded online. The percentage of Americans who have listened to a podcast in the last month increased from 9 percent in 2008 to 17 percent in 2015 (Journalism.org)
  10. Webinar: A meeting that takes place online. In a webinar, participants are able to share visuals or presentations. The average number of registrants who actually attend the webinar is between 40-50 percent (ReadyTalk).

Social Media Terms

  1. Facebook: Social networking site that allows users to connect and stay in touch with friends and family. There are over 1.23 billion active monthly users on Facebook (NextWeb).
  2. Followers: On social media sites, someone who opts in to receive your updates. With over 76 million followers to date, Katy Perry is the most followed person on Twitter (Twitter Counter).
  3. Google Plus: A social networking platform created by Google thats features overlap with many other social networks. It cost Google $806,379,362 to build Google Plus (Statistic Brain).
  4. Hashtags: A keyword or phrase on social media that begins with a hash (#) or pound sign. While a statistic on hashtags was hard to come by, one of the most popular and longest running hash tags of all time is #followfriday. This hashtag was used to give a shout out to those worthy of following. Anyone else remember the days of the #followfriday hashtag?
  5. Instagram: A social networking platform geared around sharing images and short videos. Instagram has 300 million active monthly users (eConsultancy).
  6. Likes: Basically, it is a thumbs up on Facebook. With over 100 million likes, Shakira is the most liked person on Facebook (Guinness World Records).
  7. LinkedIn: A social networking site designed for business professionals to connect, collaborate and share information. In February 2015, there were 3 million active job listings posted on LinkedIn (LinkedIn Report).
  8. Pinterest: A social networking site that allows users to pin and share images and other rich media to a board. Seventy-five percent of Pinterest usage happens on a mobile device (Sprout Social).
  9. Twitter: A network for information that is limited to 140 character messages. An average of 6,000 tweets are sent every second (Internet Live Stats).
  10. YouTube: A social networking and search engine site for videos. Every minute over 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube (CNBC).
  11. Reach: The exposure a brand gets across social media platforms. This is the total number of people actively following a brand through the various platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. From October 2013 to February 2014, organic reach on Facebook declined 49 percent as a result of changing algorithms in the platform (Social@Ogilvy).
  12. Retweet: A forwarded or reposted tweet. According to Buffersocial, tweets with hashtags get 2X more engagement.

Analytics & Reporting

  1. Click-through rate (CTR): The percentage of people who click an element or link in an email, ad or web page. It is also used interchangeably with view-to-click rate. The average click-through rate for emails sent by companies with over 50 employees is 2.98 percent (MailChimp).
  2. Bounce rate: A term found in Google Analytics, which is defined by Google as, “Bounce Rate is the percentage of single-page sessions (i.e. sessions in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page).” A good bounce rate for a website falls between 26 and 40 percent (RocketFuel).
  3. Direct traffic: Traffic that comes directly to your website, which means the user types your website URL directly into their browser. A word of caution is needed when defining this term, however, because experiments by Groupon showed that up to 60 percent of direct traffic was actually organic search traffic or an unclassified source of traffic.
  4. Entrances: A tracking metric on Google Analytics for the total number of website visitors who entered on a specific page. While I wasn’t able to source any statistics on entrances, a fact on entrances is that this metric was introduced in 2012 to Google Analytics (MarketingLand).
  5. Exit percentage: A tracking metric on Google Analytics for the percentage of people who exit your website through a particular page. It is different from bounce rate because exit rate calculates those who may have entered on any website page but excited on that particular page. There is no statistic to share here, but instead a tip. Exit percentage can be a good indicator of where website visitors drop off your site, so track and analyse your pages with the highest exit rates to optimise.
  6. Lead-to-customer rate: The percentage of leads that convert into a customer. Outbound leads have a close rate of 1.7 percent, while inbound leads convert at a much better rate of 14.6 percent (HubSpot).
  7. Marketing analytics: The measurement and analysis of marketing activities to help improve performance. Eight percent of marketing budgets are spent on marketing analytics (HubSpot).
  8. Open rate: The number of people that open an email campaign compared to the total number of recipients. The average open rate for companies with over 50 employees is 23.45 percent (MailChimp).
  9. Organic search traffic: Traffic that comes from a search engine, which means that the user typed in a search query and clicked on your website in the search results. According to a 2014 study by Search Engine Watch, organic search traffic accounts for 51 percent of overall website traffic.
  10. Referral traffic: Traffic that comes from a referring website outside of the company’s website domain and subdomains. If the New York Times writes an article about your company and links to your website, this is considered referral traffic. Referral traffic can help to improve your website’s overall search engine rankings when referral links are quality links. While some marketing analytic tools will differentiate social media and search engine traffic from referral sources, not all tools will. If you consider social and search traffic as referral, you may want to take into consideration the fact that social media referral traffic has actually surpassed search engine traffic for some major publishers in recent years (Marketing Land), so this may account for any spikes you see in referral traffic.
  11. Sources: The various avenues that bring website visitors, leads and customers to a company. A source can be online and from sources such as organic search or email marketing, but it can also come from an offline event such as a trade show or cold call. The term “sources” can be found in analytic tools such as HubSpot and Google Analytics. Today, mobile traffic accounts for almost 50 percent of total traffic for U.S. retailers (Marketing Land).
  12. Submission rate: The percentage of people who fill out a form on a landing page relative to the total people who view the page. The average submission rate for HubSpot customers is 20 percent (Nick Sal’s Inbound Blog).
  13. Visitor-to-lead rate: The percentage of website visitors that complete a target action. Typically, a web form is completed to turn a visitor into a lead. The top 10 percent of HubSpot customers achieve a 2.20 percent visit-to-lead conversion rate (HubSpot).

Technical Terms

  1. API: An application programming interface (API) is a set of rules or protocols developers must use when working with a service or application. Since there aren’t many juicy stats floating around on APIs, did you know there are about half a million pieces of space junk orbiting the earth?
  2. CMS: A content management system (CMS) is an application that allows marketers to edit, manage and publish content. WordPress CMS is used for 24.7 percent of all websites (W3Techs).
  3. CSS: Cascading style sheets (CSS) describes a code language that describes how HTML should be visually displayed. Here’s a fun statistic: 0.3 percent of all accidents in Canada involve a moose.
  4. Domain name: An identification that helps an entity or organisation be found on the Internet. It’s somewhat like a physical address on the Internet. There are 294 million domains and counting in 2015 (Enterprise Networking Planet).
  5. ISP: An ISP stands for Internet Service Provider. It is a company that provides access to the internet. There are around 2,000 ISP businesses (IBISWorld).
  6. Javascript: According to Mozilla, javascript is “a cross-platform, object-oriented scripting language.” Javascript is used by over 90 percent of websites (W3Techs).
  7. Registrar: In the Internet world, a registrar refers to the domain name registrar that manages Internet domains. An example would be GoDaddy. Another domain name registrar, Namecheap, cites they have over 3.000,000 domains.
  8. Site map: A list of crawlable website pages that helps search engines organise site content. An interesting statistic completely unrelated is that over 50 percent of jackpot lottery winners return to work.
  9. SSL: Secure sockets layer (SSL) is a security technology that encrypts links between the server and browser to keep data passed between the two private. Websites that are secure will have the HTTPs instead of HTTP. 36.4 percent of websites monitored by W3Techs do not use SSL.
  10. UX: The user experience (UX) is a combination of interactions with a product, website or app a user goes through, which may lead to positive or negative emotions and attitudes. If content is not optimised in the UX, 79 percent of users will search for another site (Experience Dynamics).
  11. Wireframe: A set of lines and images used to plan website structure and functionality. Although there isn’t a statistic readily available on a quantifiable benefit of using wireframes, they do help to save time and minimise revisions in the website design process.

 

This article was written by Amber Kemmis from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


Using Social Data to Uncover Your Most Valuable Customers

Not all customers are created equal. You’ve probably had your fair share of one-time customers, who engage on social media or make a purchase once, never to return. And while there are tactics you can use to encourage them to come back, why not focus your efforts on the customers that are most valuable to you instead?

Who are your most valuable customers?

The definition of a “valuable customer” may vary from industry to industry and from business to business. A valuable customer might be someone who:

  • Makes repeated purchases of your product
  • Shares your content frequently on social media
  • Advocates for your brand publicly
  • Recommends your product to their friends, family and colleagues
  • Contacts your customer service department with suggestions for improvement
  • Attends your events
  • Subscribes to your email newsletter and engages with the content
  • Visits your website regularly

Measuring the value of a customer can be difficult, but as you can see from the list above, it shouldn’t necessarily be measured only in dollars. If you are regularly tweeting back-and-forth with a handful of curious, engaged customers, they should be included in the “valuable” category alongside the big purchasers.

How can you identify your most valuable customers?

Now that you have some idea of who you’re looking for, it’s time to dig into data to pinpoint them.

Social data can provide an in-depth understanding of your audience as a whole, as well as individuals within it. And it’s these individuals that we want to identify.

For starters, you can use social data to determine which of your customers is in the right stage of the buyer’s journey. Those who are expressing buying intent might be more valuable, because they will be most receptive to your messages and ready to make a purchase.

You can also use social data to identify the customers that most frequently engage with your brand on social channels. These are the individuals who retweet, Like, share and comment on your content, and they have the potential to become brand advocates.

Social data is also useful when identifying the customers who are in the right demographic, psychographic and lifestyle group for your brand. These individuals will be more willing to purchase your product and recommend it to their peers.

Once identified, it’s a matter of creating the right content that will resonate with your audience, and rewarding your most valuable customers with deals, discounts, exclusive content and more.

The actions that individuals take on social media, and the content they share, can be gathered, analysed and used to assess how valuable they are to your brand. Do you know who your most valuable customers are? Share your own ideas for identifying them in the comments below.

This article was written by Pam McBride from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Online Reputation Management: The Basics

Reputation management was once only the concern of big corporations and household names who had a need to protect their public image. Fast forward to today’s world, where businesses are considered behind the times if they are not on social media, and reputation management is an industry in itself.

Some people think it’s just social media monitoring, while others believe it has something to do with public relations, but in reality, reputation management spans across your whole online strategy. Here’s a brief definition that attempts to sum up the practice:

“Online reputation management (or monitoring) is the practice of monitoring the Internet reputation of a person, brand or business, with the goal of suppressing negative mentions entirely, or pushing them lower on search engine results pages to decrease their visibility.

Wikipedia’s definition does cover the primary goal of reputation management—which is to suppress any negativity directed towards your company—however, with corporate transparency and user-generated content becoming an integral part of any business’ marketing efforts, it is no longer sufficient to just block spammy and hateful comments.

Long gone is the age of direct advertising where companies sell their products or services to a passive audience—now it is all about engaging with your customers, listening to what they have to say, and learning/growing as a result. Therefore, it’s important to manage what is being said about your business online.

Marketing Team by Infusionsoft, on Flickr

So what does reputation management actually involve?

  • Addressing criticism publicly
  • Publicly asking for feedback
  • Allowing employees to engage with your audience
  • Speaking with your audience directly

Opening up your business to be transparent may seem risky, but realistically, in the long run, not being transparent is riskier. That being said, an important part of reputation management is contingency planning. As a business, you must be ready to face criticism and be prepared for the worst case scenarios.

Here are just a few questions you will want to consider:

  • What if your product or service causes too much criticism?
  • What if you receive an extremely negative comment that is unfounded?
  • What is someone with power or influence online publishes a negative review of your product or service?
  • What if your employees act unreasonably or in a way that could harm your business?
  • What if your competitors take advantage of this?

Snitching Nestle Chocolate Morsels by Dave Dugdale, on Flickr

Thanks to companies who were unprepared, we have some prime examples of how not to deal with such instances.

A few years ago, Nestlé began to receive negative comments about their environmental practices. Unfortunately, they decided to ignore the comments and the public became aggressive—even posting altered versions of the Nestlé logo online. As a result, Nestlé were forced to take down their public page.

Main takeaway: Address public criticism as soon as possible in order to neutralise the situation and prevent it from growing into a major problem.

In an alternative approach, Amy’s Baking Company decided to respond to a one-star review of their company in what can only be described as a ferocious meltdown. Their insults were eventually picked up by the local media, and consequently their public image suffered a blow.

Main takeaway: Always look at problems as opportunities. One negative review is a chance to show how eager you are to please your customers and resolve any issues they may have experienced.

Online reputation management is not just about reacting well to what people say about your company, but knowing whether to react at all, and if so, when.

Learn how media intelligence tools can help you see a problem coming and take steps to get in front of it by reading our e-book Media Intelligence for Crisis Communications.

crisis-comm-ebook.png

 

This article was written by Gyles Seward from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


Boost Your Social Posts Without the Boost Button

We live in a world riddled with shiny objects to steal our attention — especially when it comes to all of the information available in our social networks. Even while reading a post, it’s not unusual to be interrupted by another. Notifications pop in at every second. Feeds update with a quick pull. How do you prevent your posts from being buried the minute you launch them? Don’t hit that boost button to pay for traffic just yet — the solutions are pretty straightforward.

Share great content

In order to gain and hold attention, your content needs to be worthy of your audience’s time. Producing thoughtless content and click bait simply to post something can actually do your brand more harm than good. Neil Patel recommends as many as 15 types of content that are sure to boost your traffic. His list includes infographics, memes, videos, guides and much more. The trade off? Most of them aren’t instant. They’ll take a little bit of time to produce, but will have an awesome payoff.

In addition to choosing the right type of content, aim to use high-quality graphics with entertaining, interesting and funny teasers and comments. Content that entertains and content with great images are among the top performing pieces on every network.

Use a call to action

A call to action can remind your audience to act and often boosts engagement significantly. Simply asking for retweets, shares, likes, and more guides your audience to act in the manner you’d prefer.

We’re gifting one physical copy of Adele’s new album ’25’ with three extra songs! Just retweet if you’d like to win. pic.twitter.com/S43sB86sIq

— Shady Music Facts (@musicnews_shade) November 2, 2015

Stay positive

In past studies, Facebook has found that users become less engaged when delivered negative content. Similar trends have also been seen on Twitter — users with higher follower counts tend to regularly post positive messages.

The fact of the matter is that being positive simply reflects better on your brand. You want your audience to experience your brand in a positive light and that can begin with a simple post. Besides, your social networks are never the place to badmouth, rant or argue with customers.

An example: my local animal shelter deals with pretty negative situations daily. However, their social media presence is delightfully positive — and they’re very proactive in keeping it so. While they may post an injured or abandoned animal regularly to ask for help, they always emphasise their joy to be able to help this animal. Even when animals are surrendered to the shelter, the team turns the conversation toward helping the animal and supporting the “right” decision to give the animal to a better home instead of letting audiences criticise the family that turned it in.

Perfect your timing

Timing is everything — and the old adage certainly rings true in social media. Each network has its own influx of great posting times, but it’s also important that you know what time of day is best for your audience. Using social posting tools can give you some data and insight into when your audience is most likely to engage. If you follow the trends in your data, you’ll be able to post efficiently while maximising your engagement.

 

This article was written by Laura Noll from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Ask Your PR Agency for a Story, Not a Press Release

Public relations, or more precisely media relations, can be a tricky business. The art of getting earned media coverage for a product, service, or business is not as easy as it sounds.

And while the degree of difficulty varies from brand to brand, the secret to securing editorial is NOT a media release. While many marketers and owners typically ask for one, a news release is neither essential nor needed … although it’s often helpful.

A release is useful in aligning a client team on key messages, spokesperson quotes, and the language the public relations professional should use when talking about the announcement with media. However, unless your company is publicly traded, and the announcement is material, the release is not required.

There are other, more critical elements for a successful earned media campaign: the right spokesperson, useful media assets including visuals, and, most importantly, an interesting narrative or story.

It’s no secret what makes news. Journalists consider timeliness, proximity, conflict, eminence and prominence, consequence, impact, and human interest to evaluate a potential story.

Yet sometimes these elements are difficult to find in brand marketing—or even non-existent. The trick is to dig deep to find the story, use seasonal opportunities to your advantage, or, when necessary, create a story of your own.

Find an Interesting Narrative to Secure Earned Media Coverage

#1 Dig Deep to Find the Story

If you dig deep enough, you often find your company has countless stories to tell. The challenge is to identify the “newsy” narrative, explain it without jargon, and package it to pique media interest.

One example is Vineland Research & Innovation Centre , an independent, not-for-profit research centre based in Niagara, Ontario. The Centre was seeking earned media coverage to support its goal of becoming a recognised centre of horticulture research and innovation excellence.

Initial interviews with their communications team revealed the Centre was up to some interesting things:

• How researchers are making plants more tolerant to drought
• The power of sensory traits to affect consumer choice
• Why technologies developed for space exploration impact growing practices on earth

We developed several “story starter” ideas for Vineland, short, 200-word narratives with catchy headlines and interesting background information explaining how the research benefits Canadians.

To give you a flavour of these “story starters,” here are the headlines:

• Drought tolerance: Perking up the Petunias: It’s all in the genes!
• Sensory traits: Give ‘em what they want: Filling the grocery shelves and garden centers of tomorrow
• Space technologies: Plants in space: how exploration is driving innovation here on earth

Local TV, radio, newspapers, and trade magazines all conducted interviews and ran stories in response to our ideas.

#2 Use Seasonal Opportunities to Your Advantage

There’s no one size fits all approach to securing earned media coverage. At times, it’s a matter of linking a brand to a seasonal opportunity.

Consider Crayola. Several years ago, they launched two new products into the Canadian market. Instead of pitching media on the products, we distributed a “creativity kit” for spring break, a time of the year when parents, grandparents, and caregivers are searching for projects to entertain their kids.

After receiving the package, many media commented they could easily build articles and stories around the content. PostMedia published a syndicated article through their network in Canada, TV stations ran March break contests, and interest spilled into other seasons including a Mother’s Day contest in the Toronto Sun, and coverage for back-to-school in Canadian Living and the Calgary Sun.

#3 Use Your Imagination to Create a Compelling Story

When it comes to earned media, the toughest situation is when a brand has nothing (or almost nothing) to help tell a story.

Hallmark Canada relied on earned media as its primary communications tool to build awareness at Valentine’s Day. This occasion presented an unusual challenge for the brand: it’s the one time of year when men purchase greeting cards. It’s also a time when moms and grandmothers buy cards for their school-age kids and grandchildren.

Apart from editors of gift guides, media have little interest in covering Valentine’s Day cards and gifts. While mom and grandma are likely to peruse these guides in the newspaper or a favourite magazine, men are not.

Our challenge was to create a communications program to reach multiple audiences and generate earned media to impact brand awareness.

The solution was crafting our own story called Pucker Up for Valentine’s Day, a hockey-themed communications campaign that appealed to Canadian men and women of all ages. The program focused on the fact that Valentine’s Day fell on a Saturday, the same night as Hockey Night in Canada.

Canadians, both men and women, faced a unique scheduling conflict: do they plan a romantic night out without hockey, celebrate early on Feb. 13th, or incorporate their love of hockey with romance on the 14th?

National research with 1,000 Canadians explored these questions. We discovered 40% of couples would choose to watch a hockey game, rather than celebrate the day in a more traditional and romantic way.

We distributed the survey results to media (and yes, we used a news release), provided them with additional regional results, gave them access to our company spokesperson, and developed an interesting visual for TV and print coverage.

Feature articles about the “dating dilemma” appeared in sports sections of major dailies, as well as in Valentine’s Day features and gift guides, reaching both men and women prior to Valentine’s Day. Significant earned media coverage across Canada also had a dramatic impact on brand awareness, consumer preference, and brand insistence.

No News Release Required—Really!

In all of these examples, we did not need a news release to secure earned media coverage. Instead, we focused on helping media tell an interesting story incorporating many of the criteria they use to decide what makes the editorial cut: timeliness or seasonality, conflict, consequence, and human interest.

Although media relations pros prefer to have breaking news to announce, brands don’t typically have it. And even when they do, it’s important to devote energy to developing the story, instead of focusing too much effort on the news release.

Whether you have lofty goals or modest ones for your brand, an interesting narrative is the only thing that matters when seeking earned media.

 

This article was written by Shelley Pringle from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.