Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Qualities and Questions to Consider When Searching for a Good Agency


Qualities and questions to consider when searching for a PR agency
By William Comcowich | Posted: July 29, 2014

If you have the budget to retain the services of a public relations agency, the payoff can be significant.

Of course, not every PR agency is a match for every company. When there’s a divergence between the agency’s services and the client’s goals and needs, the relationship may not deliver the expected benefits.

If you’re a PR manager or business owner searching for a PR agency to retain, consider the following tips.

How to start the search process

The first step to any PR strategy is to establish appropriate goals. The big question to ask is, what do you want to achieve from PR? It’s essential for you and your executives to understand this, and to be able to communicate it to prospective agencies.

You should also consider the areas of PR expertise you seek, whether they be media relations, crisis management, media training, social media management, community relations, or content marketing.

When you get that first step out of the way, consider the following tips from Stefan Pollack from his guide "How to Choose a PR Agency":

• Determine size. PR firms come in all shapes and sizes. Small firms promise direct, personal service, while larger firms usually operate as a team that offers more viewpoints, flexibility and manpower.
• Establish Criteria. What PR skills and capabilities are most important to you? Media relations? Crisis management? Social media? Industry knowledge? Measurement? Make a list of the experience and talents you need from an agency, and include your expectations on results you want to achieve.
• Ask around. There’s a reason consumers trust their peers more than any other type of recommendation. Friends will give you the straight facts. Ask friends and business colleagues which agencies they use or have used. You can also take advantage of the Public Relations Society of America’s “Find a Firm” function, which allows users to find PR firms and agencies by their name, location or specialization.
• See what your competitors are doing. Note strategies and techniques that you think you should be doing.
• Create a list of three to six agencies that fit your criteria. After you set your goals, establish needs and listen to recommendations, hash out a short list of agencies that fit the criteria.
• Get input from staff. Your PR agency may be working with multiple departments, including sales, marketing and customer service. Ask staff members which agency will mesh well with the company culture.
• Get bids. Prepare an overview of your criteria to send it to your list of chosen agencies so they can evaluate whether your requests are within their capabilities. Ask the agencies to also send you examples showing how they’ve solved similar problems that address the criteria.

Qualities to look for

Using agency case studies, testimonials and further research, consider the winning qualities that Beth Monaghan suggests companies look for in an agency. A successful agency is one that:

• Owns the process. You’ll want an agency comprised of “professional naggers,” says Monaghan. A good PR agency takes responsibility for building relationships with the media, developing and sending out stories, following up with journalists, and getting article placements in both traditional and social media.
• Recognizes priorities. Some of your goals will take priority over others. Your agency must be able to recognize the hierarchy of your goals and how they contribute to the company.
• Pushes back. The success of your PR program requires a team that can adamantly say "no" if they think something won’t work.
• Writes well. Looking at the agency’s past press releases will indicate how competent they are in writing emails, content marketing articles and social media posts.
• Understands the media landscape. This includes knowing which reporters require exclusivity, which outlets compete with each other, which angles will compel the publication’s audience.
• Understands your industry’s landscape. Trying to educate an agency about your industry wastes time and money. Choose a company that represents or has represented a non-competing company in your market or industry.
• Doesn’t promise media coverage. Media coverage is earned, not guaranteed. A successful PR firm knows this through experience.
• Measures results. Measurement is the only way for an agency to show you that your investments are making an impact.

Additional Questions to Ask Before you decide on an agency, review this list of questions to assure your top pick is what you’re looking for:

• What reporting methods does the firm use?
• How does it measure success?
• What does the team need from you?
• How will you be billed?
• Who will work directly on your account?
• Does the agency require a long-term contract?
• How, and how often, will the firm communicate with you?
• How will the firm integrate with other communications departments?

and most importantly…

• Do you respect the team's abilities and talents?
• How sympatico are you with the members of the agency team? How well do you get along with them? You’ll be spending a lot of time together. You should enjoy their company.

Bottom line: A PR agency is responsible for shaping the perception of your organization by the media and the marketplace. It’s a crucial role, and you must make sure in advance that your agency has got the “right stuff” to deliver superior results for your organization.

William J. Comcowich is the editor of Media Monitoring News and the CyberAlert Blog, where a version of the story originally appeared. He is also founder, president and CEO of CyberAlert, Inc.

(Image via)

Monday, July 21, 2014

3 Specific Ways to Tie PR Into Sales

3 Wise Ways to Tie Your PR to Sales



It’s the definitive question in C-suites, boardrooms and industry conferences: is there a correlation between PR and sales? It’s safe to say that, as a whole, communicators have not done a stellar job at demonstrating the link between PR and the top or bottom line.

While PR can sometimes directly be tied to sales, I am not espousing that it should always be tied to sales. Rather, your role as a valuable public relations practitioner includes demonstrating a return on investment from your PR efforts (refer to #3 in the Barcelona Principles). That “return” is not always about revenue; it’s about building awareness, improving reputation, informing stakeholders, and more.

There’s only so much you can control when it comes to the actual sales close. But you can be a part of ensuring there are processes in place to draw a correlation between your performance and that of your organization. Get familiar with your typical customer’s buying journey and understand that your sales team comes into the journey rather late in the game. Consultant Debbie Qaquish, in a column on prnewsonline, explains rather adeptly how PR can, and why it should, augment sales.

What’s missing in many organizations is a collaborative approach in which the marketing mix includes PR from start to finish: PR is not thrown into the mix half way for good measure. It’s not sprinkled onto the mix as a nice to have ingredient and it’s not heaped on at the end to give it flavor. Rather, PR is a formidable ingredient in an organization’s marketing mix. For this to happen, the leaders in an organization need to believe in the power of PR and you need to preach what you practice. Here are 3 ways to begin connecting your PR efforts to sales:

1. Talk to your sales team regularly. Do you know who the top salespeople are at your organization? Ask them what their clients are saying about your brand and products. Equip the salespeople with supporting data, materials and anything you think would help them sell more. Set up monthly meetings with your sales colleagues, with the goal being to give them the updates, trends, thought leadership pieces and other supporting materials that will set them apart from competitors. You can’t sell for them but you can sell with them.

“Run your communications team like a sales team,” advises Mark Stouse, vice president at BMC Software, in a recent Q&A with PR News. “Focus on aligning your marketing and communications efforts with the three legs of sales productivity — demand generation, deal expansion and deal velocity.”

2. Know SEO. Search engine optimization is not the sole domain of IT, Marketing or an outsourced firm. Optimize your content so it’s landing high in search results and attracting the right eyeballs. Whether you’re on WordPress or a custom content management system, you need to make your words sing louder and live longer online. There are countless tools available to learn the keywords your prospective customers are using (such as SEO Moz) and helpful PR/SEO workshops, but there’s no gaming the system. Produce fresh, relevant content and you’ll increase traffic, which should boost sales. Whether it’s Google Analytics or a premium tool, track your visitors’ conversion rate so you can prove that what your department is producing online results in positive, monetizable action.

3. Optimize social for sales. Understand your audience behavior on social. Work with your marketing team to drive traffic to your Pinterest board or your Facebook page and don’t be afraid to sell them something while they’re there. You might currently be investing in social promotions and advertising, so why not complement those efforts with direct selling on your own social pages? Additionally, if your press release is not optimized with multimedia and unique links to points of sales (where applicable) then you are wasting a good press release opportunity.

There will come a day when we stopping putting a question mark after PR’s role in the marketing mix and its tremendous value to organizational growth. But this will require an integrated communications approach and a collaborative spirit. Do you have it in you?

- Diane Schwartz

Thursday, July 17, 2014

8 signs of a bad pr firm


8 signs of a bad PR firm
A majority of PR agencies operate on the up-and-up, but there are a few bad actors out there. Watch out for these red flags.
By John Egan

Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO
 of marketing consulting firm Mavens & Moguls, was burned by a PR practitioner about five years ago. Arnof-Fenn said this person went behind her back to try to steal one of her clients. But the theft plot wound up backfiring: Arnof-Fenn kept the client.

“It was not a misunderstanding or miscommunication. It was a blatant unethical business practice, plain and simple,” Arnof-Fenn said.

Looking back, Arnof-Fenn regrets that she didn’t thoroughly vet the PR person she wound up hiring. For instance, Arnof-Fenn failed to check the person’s references; instead, she relied solely on the person’s word.

“The PR community is 
actually pretty small, and it turns out this person had a trail of lies and
 deception, so if I had done a better job of talking to people who we both 
knew, I could have been warned,” she said.

Certainly, Arnof-Fenn isn’t the only client who’s ever been duped by a PR practitioner or PR firm. But her experience underscores the need to put your trust in upstanding PR professionals. Fortunately, most PR folks are competent and talented. Yet to pretend as if bad apples don’t exist in PR would be shortsighted.

“I have done so much damage
 control with clients when stepping in and cleaning up after a bad PR 
agency has moved on. Not only does bad PR affect clients, it undermines 
the success of the entire profession,” PR consultant Julia Angelen Joy said.

Here are eight signs that you are—or could be—dealing with a bad PR outfit.

1. You’re being kept in the dark.

If a PR firm can’t tell you upfront what you’re paying for, doesn’t give a detailed account of the services it’s providing and doesn’t update you regularly progress being made on your account, then you might want to have a serious conversation with the firm or hunt for another agency.

“If they balk when you ask them to specifically show you what they’ve done as part of their contractual agreement with you, that means that they are likely not giving you the attention you are paying for,” PR consultant Holly Rodriguez said.

2. You’re being promised the moon and the stars.

All too often, PR firms guarantee results that they just can’t deliver, according to Emily Sidley, senior director of publicity at PR firm Three Girls Media. Don’t believe it if you’re told things like “We’ll get you into any 
magazine you want,” or, “You’ll be all over the news.”

3. You’re not getting solid results.

“If you’re not seeing any meaningful traction by the end of 120 days, you’ve likely
 made a bad hire,” said Michael Shepherd, president and CEO of
 The Shepherd Group, a PR and content marketing agency.

4. You’re only being told what you want to hear.

Rather than placating you, a PR firm should be advising you. For instance, a good PR firm will recommend against issuing a news release if it won’t benefit the client, Sidley said. If a PR firm isn’t truly being an adviser, “It might just do what you want without explaining why that might not be a good idea,” she said.

5. You’re a bait-and-switch victim.

In some cases, you may be under the impression that a senior-level executive is working on your account, when it’s actually being managed by a junior employee or even an intern.

“If you start noticing some red flags, I’d recommend voicing your concerns
 right away. If they don’t make the changes you’d like to see within a short
 period of time—maybe two weeks—it’s time to cut the cord,” Sidley said.

6. You’re seeing an over-dependence on social media.

Posts on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram do not constitute a PR campaign, publicist Alvin Lopez Woods said.

“A true PR agency knows that traditional
 public relations still matter when it comes to shaping influence. If you
want to connect your brand with consumers, be sure to work with an agency 
that knows how to connect with credible media outlets,” Woods said.

7. You’re unsure what’s being measured.

A PR firm should be accountable to you, and that includes providing meaningful statistics that track your account activity. This tracking should go well beyond telling you how many “impressions” a news release received online.

“If they talk a lot 
about what they do and use many buzzwords, without tying them to
 measurable business outcomes, then I would pause before deciding to move
 forward,” Joy said.

8. Your press releases and other materials are poorly written.

“Many agencies write releases full of techno-jargon and larded
 with windy, self-serving quotes from various executives,” PR and marketing professional Henry Stimpson said.

Press releases and other written materials should be checked against the Flesch-Kincaid 
reading scale, he said. If the results show you need a Ph.D. to grasp what’s in writing, then you’re in trouble.

“Job one is to write a compelling, newsworthy, well-focused story that people
 can read easily,” Stimpson said.

John Egan is editor in chief at Austin, Texas-based SpareFoot.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Body Language Mistakes That Make You Look Bad


Stop making these 15 body language mistakes
Do you break eye contact too soon? It makes you seem untrustworthy. Do you lean back in your seat when talking with someone? You'd better stop; you come across as arrogant.
By Bernard Marr
Until you get to know someone, your brain relies on snap judgments to categorize him, predict what he will do and anticipate how you should react.

You may have heard that a person only has a few seconds to make a first impression, but the truth is your brain makes up its mind about a person (so to speak) within milliseconds of meeting him.

According to research by a Princeton University psychologist, this is an evolutionary survival mechanism. Based on the information it has (how you look), your brain decides whether you are trustworthy, threatening, competent or likable, among other traits.

One way we can hack this split-second judgment is to be aware of our body language—especially in important situations. Whether you're applying for a job, asking for a raise or meeting a new client, being mindful of our body language can influence others' perceptions of us, as well as outcomes.

Here are 15 body language blunders to watch for:

1. Leaning back: You come off as lazy or arrogant.

2. Leaning: This can seem aggressive. Aim for a neutral posture.

3. Breaking eye contact too soon: Doing so can make you seem untrustworthy or overly nervous. Hold eye contact a hair longer—especially during a handshake.

4. Nodding too much: You look like a bobble-head doll. Even if you agree with what's being said, nod once, and then try to remain still.

5. Chopping or pointing with your hands: This feels aggressive.

6. Crossing your arms: Doing so makes you look defensive, especially when you're answering questions. Keep your arms at your sides.

7. Fidgeting: Fidgeting instantly telegraphs how nervous you are. Avoid it at all costs.

8. Holding your hands behind your back or firmly in your pockets: Doing so can look rigid and stiff. Aim for a natural, hands-at-your-sides posture.

9. Looking up or around: This is a natural cue that someone is lying or not being himself. Try to hold steady eye contact.

10. Staring: Staring can appear aggressive. There's a fine line between holding someone's gaze and staring him down.

11. Failing to smile: If you never smile, you can make people uncomfortable and wonder if you really want to be there. Flash a genuine smile, especially when you meet someone for the first time.

12. Stepping back when you ask for a decision: This move conveys fear or uncertainty. Stand your ground, or even take a slight step forward with conviction.

13. Steepling your fingers or holding your palms up: Both of these gestures look like begging positions and convey weakness.

14. Standing with hands on hips: This is an aggressive posture, like an animal puffing itself up to look bigger.

15. Checking your phone or watch: You're signaling that you want to be somewhere else. Plus, it's just bad manners.

So, what should you do?

Whether you're sitting or standing, aim for good posture in a neutral position. Stand with your arms at your sides, and sit with them at your sides or in your lap. Naturally hold eye contact, smile and be yourself.

If you have a particular problem with one of the gestures on this list, practice in front of a mirror or with a friend who can remind you every time you slip up. Do this until you become aware of the bad habit.

Can you recall a time when someone's body language made you uncomfortable? Are there any other body language blunders you would add? I'd love to hear your anecdotes and ideas in the comments.
Bernard Marr is a globally recognized expert in strategy, performance management, analytics, KPIs and big data. He helps companies and executive teams manage, measure and improve performance. A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Happy National Small Business Week!

Happy National Small Business Week! We are proud to support the work of small businesses like our clients who give so much to our country. We believe small business leaders should be able to focus on growing their business without getting bogged down in non core competency work. That’s why we provide smart, custom marketing solutions for small businesses, helping them be more efficient in their growth, lead generation and profitability.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Studies Continue to Prove Earned Media Far Trumps Paid and Branded Content: You Must Have a Media Relations Plan as Part of Your Marketing Mix

Earned media still most influential to consumers
Branded content may be all the rage, but endorsements from trusted, unbiased sources guide a vast majority of purchasing decisions, according to a Nielsen study.

Obviously, at The Eisen Agency, we have always believed an earned media strategy is critical, and that firms should employ a professional firm that can proactively pursue and fulfill these opportunities.

By Chad Pollitt
inShare


Expert content—credible, third-party articles (earned media)—is the most effective source of information for affecting consumers along all stages of the purchase process across product categories.

Such are the findings of a new in-lab study by Nielsen, commissioned by inPowered.

Specifically, when measured against owned media (branded content) it showed that earned media is 80 percent more effective at both the purchase consideration and affinity stages, and 38 percent more effective at the familiarity stage.

In other words, brands that actively engage in media outreach will probably see greater consumer impact at all stages than that of brands relying primarily on content marketing.



This in-lab, multi-month study exposed 900 consumers to three different types of content: expert content from credible sources (earned media), branded content (owned media), and user-generated content (such as reviews on Amazon).

[RELATED: Prepare your corporate communications for a content war! Register for Ragan's Corporate Communicators Conference in Chicago.]

Other important findings indicate that the credibility and unbiased nature of the content was crucial for consumers:

85 percent of consumers regularly or occasionally seek trusted expert content—credible, third-party articles and reviews—when considering a purchase.
69 percent of consumers like to read product reviews written by trusted experts before making a purchase.
67 percent of consumers agree that an endorsement from an unbiased expert makes them more likely to consider purchasing.
"With so many companies spending so much money on content marketing, we wanted to clarify what kind of content is actually impacting consumers and helping them make their decisions," said Peyman Nilforoush, co-founder and CEO of inPowered. "This isn't about disproving any particular type of content, it's about identifying the most effective blend of content types to help effectively educate and inform consumers."

Overall, the research showed that earned media coverage—articles from credible journalists—was the only content type to exhibit a strong boost at all three phases of the purchase cycle. It delivered the largest familiarity boost for seven of the nine products, the most significant affinity boost for five of the nine, and the greatest boost in purchase consideration for six products.

On average, earned media lifted brand familiarity 88 percent more than branded content and 50 percent more than user reviews.



"It became clear throughout the study that, while exposure to each type of content did provide a lift across different categories, credible content from experts was the only content type that performed consistently across all stages of the purchase process," said Tommy Cheng, vice president of Nielsen Content Innovation Solutions.

Based on the findings, inPowered recommends brands take a blended approach in their content strategy. More specifically it advises:

Build trust, cut through the noise: Begin with trusted content from credible, third-party experts to establish a foundation of trust with the consumer
Share your story: Once trust is established, use branded content to further connect and engage
Continually reinforce and stay above noise: Maintain your efforts by encouraging customers to generate user reviews, and continuously use more trusted content
"When it comes to determining which content to utilize to best educate consumers, it is not an either/or proposition," said Pirouz Nilforoush, co-founder and president of inPowered. "But by beginning with a solid foundation of trust built on trusted content from credible, third-party experts, all other content will have a greater impact."

A version of this article first appeared on LinkedIn.
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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Seven Professional Tips to a Rockin' Social Media Strategy

7 Tips For A Rocking Social Media Strategy

S

By Helen Nesterenko, Published April 1, 2014


7 Tips For A Rocking Social Media Strategy

An estimated 88% of brands today are using social media for marketing. If you’re not on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or other major platforms, you risk getting left behind. However, the truth is, it’s getting much harder to stand out. How can your organization differentiate, and build relationships on noisy platforms?

Whether you’re just starting out or trying to hack your low engagement or small fan base, we’ve compiled a highly tactical guide to building (or improving!) your social media strategy:

7 Tips For A Rocking Social Media Strategy image emarketer us social advertising 2014


1. Define Your Goals

As expert Jay Baer humorously puts it, “what’s the point?” What are you trying to do with social media, anyway? There is few right or wrong answers to this question, but the following chart lists some of the most common:

7 Tips For A Rocking Social Media Strategy image social media marketing goals



The study illustrated above indicates that today’s marketers are most likely to use social media for brand recognition, customer loyalty, driving sales, and improving their SEO. Once you’ve defined these objectives, it’s crucial to get tactical, and commit to ways you’ll make these goals a reality. If you hope to use social media to boost your SEO, these steps might look like the following:

Provide social media managers with training on social media optimization.
Ensure social media posts include the most important keywords.
Create incentives for my audience to share, like, and comment on my content.

While defining larger goals is certainly a start, it’s not enough. You’ve got to create implementable ways you’ll reach these objectives.
2. Research Your Audience

Most marketers are familiar with the idea of customer and prospect research, and many others have read up on buyer personas. However, do you understand the context of the platforms you’ll be using? Different types of consumers approach social media platforms in different ways. While your B2B buyers might view Facebook as a friends-and-family only platform, they might perform product research using LinkedIn company pages. Knowing how your buyers use social media is what Gary Vaynerchuk calls “respecting the rooms we tell stories in.”

To learn more about buyer personas, check out Building an Epic Buyer Persona: a Totally Comprehensive Guide.
3. Research Your Competitors

Competitive analysis isn’t a one-and-done deal. It’s important to not only work through this when you’re building a social media strategy, but also on an ongoing basis. There are a number of tools that can make this easier for you, like SimplyMeasured’s paid reports, or SocialBakers, which offers a paid trial. Your analysis should look at the following factors:

Followers
Engagement
Platforms Used
Keyword Strategy
Response Times
Percentage of Curated vs. Original Content
Visual content, and types

4. Map Your Topics

What is your brand’s unique value proposition? Why do your customers choose you instead of your competitors? Knowing the answer to this question is a crucial starting point to defining the topics that will fuel your social media. Choose one or two topics that fit your brand’s primary purpose, and 3 or 4 concepts that fit closely. For Writtent, this would probably look like the following:

Primary:

Content marketing
Small business content marketing

Secondary:

Content promotion
SEO and Keyword Research
Effective copywriting tactics
Smart social media

5. Prepare to Curate

7 Tips For A Rocking Social Media Strategy image percentage of marketers who curate content curata

Image credit

The majority of content marketers share curated content on a daily basis. It’s crucial to achieve the right balance of curated and create content on your social media channels. To make things easier for your social media team, define a list of approved, high-quality resources for content sharing. Optimally, these should be bloggers and brands with an audience that closely mirrors your own. Go beyond sharing to relationship building, so you can enjoy the benefits of having your gesture reciprocated.
6. Create an Editorial Calendar

Your editorial calendar should be much more than a list of dates, blog title ideas, and keywords. It should be a document that manages the flow of information between your content and social teams, increasing transparency and collaboration. Create a document that’s clear enough that your social team can incorporate keywords, themes, and campaigns.

For tips on picking the best tool for this task, I recommend The 15 Most Life-Changing Editorial Calendar Tools.
7. Measure and Improve

While you shouldn’t skip any step on this list, this one is undoubtedly the most important. Your social media strategy is a living document, so you’ve got to revisit it on a regular basis, and determine ways to improve. Reviewing your metrics with a tool like Sprout Social can reveal hard truths about what is and isn’t working. Want to do even better? An agile approach is at the core of what we do at Writtent, which is why we’re constantly reevaluating, typically on a weekly basis.

Read more at http://www.business2community.com/social-media/7-tips-rocking-social-media-strategy-0831028#ZYo3GTV3lmpcEWOv.99

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Google+ Just as Popular as Twitter


Google Plus Just as Popular as Twitter in U.S., Study Says
And has more visitors than Instagram, Pinterest By Garett Sloane

March 31, 2014, 11:04 AM EDT
Technology

Google Plus has the same number of U.S. users as Twitter and more opportunity for brands, according to a new survey from Forrester Research. Google Plus, the 2-year-old network that put social in the search giant, is far from a ghost town as some have called it, the survey said.

In fact, 22 percent of people in a 60,000-person survey said they visit Google Plus monthly, the same percentage as people who said they visit Twitter. Of course, 72 percent visit Facebook monthly. Google Plus visitors topped LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram.

Nate Elliott, the Forrester researcher who found that brands are having a tougher time reaching Facebook users without paid campaigns, did the study.

“Put simply, Google Plus isn’t the Facebook killer some hoped it would be,” Elliott wrote on his blog today. “But that doesn’t mean marketers should ignore Plus. Far from it: I believe every marketer should use Google Plus.”

Elliott found that top brands have about 90 percent as many Google Plus fans as they have Twitter followers, on average.

“The brands we studied have more followers on Google Plus than on YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram combined,” Elliott wrote.

The report also found that Google Plus fans engage more with brand posts than they do on Twitter. Google says it has more than 300 million monthly users, which is more than Twitter at 240 million, but Nielsen has found people spend little time on Google Plus.

A recent New York Times Article called it a "ghost town," but that was met by some passionate fans, who disagreed with the comparison. Still, most marketers advise brands to have a presence on Google Plus because it can affect search positions.

Monday, March 3, 2014

5 Common Content Mistakes


5 common content curation mistakes
Marketers have a lot on their plates, and creating all-original articles and blog posts requires a huge time investment. Here are missteps to avoid in feeding your hungry audience.
By Patricia Hume
inShare

It's impossible for marketers to create enough original, high-quality content for each channel every day, which is why many rely on content curation to help build brand awareness and generate leads via social media and email marketing.

Yet the ease of sharing links and stories has caused a flood of content across every channel, which means marketers are spending a lot of time curating information, but with little reward. The wrong content—or content that's already old news—can fall on deaf ears.

Here are five of the top content curation mistakes that B2B marketers must avoid if they want to offer their audiences real value, rather than noise.

1. Skimming the headline and sharing immediately.

In the rush to stay active across various social media networks, marketers sometimes share things too quickly. A good headline doesn't mean a good article. Sometimes, it doesn't even mean a relevant article. That's why it's important to read the entire article before sharing it.

Content curation is about showing thought leadership, too; so, if you don't engage with the article yourself, then you can't show your expertise about the topic. Likewise, you can't be sure whether there are competitors quoted or featured in it.

Worse, you may not know whether the source is reputable. You could inadvertently send followers to a dodgy website full of ads and irrelevant content.

2. Checking only the most-popular stories and sources for content.

On social media, people follow brands and publishers that are known for offering high-quality content and unique insights. However, with so many companies employing content marketing tactics, that's become much harder.

If you're only grabbing a story from Google News or finding something that's popular on Twitter, you're severely limiting your search for relevant content. Moreover, there's no telling how many competitors or peers have already shared the same story.

If your content curation is supposed to attract people to the brand for originality and thought leadership, depending on the most-visited sources and most-read articles is going to backfire. Your social media accounts won't stand out, and prospects and customers won't see value in following them.

3. Not personalizing for your audience.

In a world of almost infinite content, your audience is going to be interested only in the stories that are most relevant to their needs.

Carefully consider the target audience for each piece of curated content. What will the audience find engaging? What will encourage them to look to you as the authority on the subject?

[RELATED: Ragan's distance-learning site houses the most comprehensive video training library for corporate communicators.]

That process can be a constant juggling act if you have multiple buyer personas and just one corporate social media account, because you have to curate with the needs of different audiences in mind. But it's a challenge that has to be overcome. The competition for customer attention is fiercer than ever, and the way to win it is to offer highly relevant content that's shared in real time.

Personalizing the content you curate for audiences can be a big competitive advantage. According to the CMI/MarketingProfs research, just 19 percent of enterprises are customizing content based on audience preferences.

4. Promoting the same content across every channel.

One tactic that's employed by time-starved marketers is to share one link across a few different channels, all at once.

Ultimately, doing so undermines the purpose of content curation. If someone sees that a business is sharing the same thing on Twitter and Facebook, there's no added value to following the business on both channels.

Consequently, the business loses a potential touch point with the customer. In the noisy digital realm, every touch point is vital.

5. Spending too much time curating content.

It can take hours to create a blog post, and just a few minutes to curate content. So marketers may write blog posts a few days a week and fill the gaps in output with curated content very quickly.

Curating good content that effectively engages the audience-and making sure each piece is promoted and distributed in the context of each social environment—can take hours.

Marketers can't afford to spend all day curating content, but that's almost inevitable when companies are expected to be on at least three (if not more) social media networks, maintain an active blog, interact with fans and followers, and send strategic email campaigns.

However, content curation platforms can automate the gathering and distribution of content across social media networks and email newsletters. With the advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, these solutions can become powerful tools for marketers who are feeling overwhelmed by the demand for content, but know that the power of content marketing makes it worth it.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Love It, Don’t Leave It: 4 Facebook Tips to Attract More Likes on Valentine’s Day and Beyond

Love It, Don’t Leave It: 4 Facebook Tips to Attract More Likes on Valentine’s Day and Beyond

By Brian Pittman

As mentioned here last week, rumors of Facebook’s demise are vastly overstated. In fact, Facebook continues to play a key part of holiday celebrations for over 1 billion active users—and Valentine’s Day is no exception. Interestingly, Facebook reports over half of its users engaging in some sort of romantic venture during Valentine’s Day are 34 years old and below. And 1.9 million Facebook users will change their status to “In a Relationship” this week, with 150,000 changing their status to “engaged” this time last year, according to Valentine’s Day data here.

So what does this mean to PR pros and marketers? First, younger generations continue to engage on Facebook—and second, “The days after Valentine’s Day are a great chance to reach people with messages geared toward couples,” according to Facebook. Now that we’ve got your attention, here are some quick—and surprisingly old school—tips for “keeping the love alive” on Facebook. Read on to attract more fans and likes this amorous week and beyond:

Tickle with listicles. “Lists are very effective at driving likes,” says A.J. Mistretta, PR manager at the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We create and post a lot of lists on our Facebook page. Also, a numeric figure in your post or list drives engagement—it’s the whole Buzzfeed and Huffington Post model.” The following “10 Hot Must-Hit Stores for Valentine’s Day” post is a recent, seasonal example:

Pause with cause. When you push out so much content that you’re not taking time to “stop-pause-and-adjust,” chances are you’ll begin to see less engagement for your posts. That’s because you’ll continue to push out the same type of content, without analyzing what’s working and what’s not, says Marielle Covington, marketing manager at Autodesk. Her advice: “Instead, budget in time to step back and think about what you’re doing so you can adapt and change tactics.”
Get ahead with skeds. Covington also advises using a shorter-term content calendar. “Three years ago, we had a calendar that outlined our content for Facebook six months out,” she shares. “That doesn’t let you adjust, so now we do it monthly. This allows us to be more reactionary to what’s trending—and that drives likes and engagement.” Tools she uses to create content calendars and collaborate with team members on social media posts include: “Excel, Sharepoint, and SalesForce Buddy Media.”
Stick with pics. Similarly, Mistretta posts a “photo of the day” on Facebook at 10 a.m. daily. “Most PR and marketing people know visuals are critical do driving engagement,” he says. “But what’s also helpful is 1) sharing them at regular times so fans know when to look for them, and 2) crowdsourcing photos from your fans, community or even customers.” Not only does this take pressure off generating photos yourself, but contributors have added incentive to “share” and “like” photos.