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

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


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:

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:


Content marketing
Small business content marketing


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.


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

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

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.

In Public Relations? Here's a quick To Do List for 2014 and beyond

A to do list for the PR Industry

By Julia Sahin | Posted: February 12, 2014

To-do lists are usually divided into two categories: tasks that can be completed immediately and goals that will take longer to accomplish.The public relations industry’s to-do list is no different, and the long-term goals should be focused on improving the industry’s reputation. It’s a contradiction: We manage the reputation of our companies and clients but have difficulty managing our own.

Here’s a list of goals for the PR industry to put on its to-do list to advance the profession:

Define public relations. There has yet to be a comprehensive definition created for the industry that everyone can agree on, because PR involves many different functions. The Public Relations Society of America has one that is commonly referred to, but in my opinion, it doesn’t fully define what the profession can do. In order for people to understand what we do, we first must define it properly.

Go beyond communication and really understand companies/clients. PR professionals should understand the financials (yes, we have to be “numbers” people), operations, and inner workings of our companies or clients. Not only will this help develop better PR plans and media pitches, but it will also help eliminate frivolous efforts. If you know your company inside and out, you know the best way to do PR for it. Many professionals have already accomplished this, but if you haven’t, add it to your list.

Get public relations a seat at the table. As PR professionals, we must be part of ongoing business conversations, ensuring that company decisions are ethical. The value we bring is predicting stakeholder and media reactions. If that’s not a good enough argument, it’s also a way of preventing a crisis.

Keep ethics at our core. We’re no longer “spin masters,” but our industry’s reputation isn’t golden. If we’re not doing things ethically, our reputation and our company’s reputation will suffer. Ethical companies and professionals stay in business for the long run.

Work on our writing. We have to continue improving our writing and editing skills, but we also must master new(er) skills, such as writing for shared and owned media. If every company is now a media company, the PR pro is the storyteller.

[RELATED: Get advanced writing and editing tips from Mark Ragan and Jim Ylisela.]

Understand journalists and their profession better. The biggest mistake we make in media relations is that we pitch the wrong journalists. We all know this, so we have to work on our pitching skills, but we also must understand how their industry has changed and how we can adapt to the new state of journalism.

Plan based on objectives, think strategically, and act tactically. The best public relations campaigns combine creativity with strategy to meet a business objective. We have to keep the end goal in mind when we plan for our clients and companies. This should become a standard objective, not a lofty goal.

Help companies use social media properly. Most executives still don’t understand social media, why they should be on it, or the value of engagement. Because social media is in our territory, it’s now our job to educate them in their language: data and numbers.

Prove our tangible worth. Most companies know there’s a benefit in doing PR, and they can feel the results, but we, as PR pros, must develop a better way to identify and demonstrate the tangible benefits of what we do (or translate intangibles to tangibles).

Do more research. With the rise of big data and social media analytics, we must understand how to use these tools to further our roles and the industry as a whole. Researching and mining data can provide valuable insights to formulate new, more successful campaigns.

Julia Sahin is a PR and corporate communications graduate student at NYU and a PR consultant.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Five Reasons RFPs Are An Absurd Way to Go About Hiring a Marketing Firm

Five Reasons RFPs Are an Absurd Way to Go About Hiring a Marketing Firm
By Rodger Roeser

Truly, there are days when I wished that I owned a roofing company or perhaps a blacktop business – heck, even catering. The simple fact is, if you are a business or government entity or any company for that matter going through an RFP to find or hire a professional public relations or marketing firm, this is the wrong way to go about it – for a number of reasons.

For starters, most agencies are highly skeptical and wary of the RFP to begin with. Most don’t even believe work will even be awarded, let alone awarded to their firm. It’s often a crap shoot, with many organizations using the RFP process simply in an attempt to solicit free ideas or concepts. So, for this reason, many if not most agencies won’t even bother to go through the process, meaning the pool of “good agencies” is diminished. And 100 percent of the agencies hate the process, so most put as little effort into them as possible, because they know the chances of winning the work are slim (so, in most cases, you’re getting junk anyway – standard boilerplate on the firm, the people, their approach, rates, work product and references – all easily discovered in a simple meeting or online search).

So why is the RFP still so prevalent? Most prospects don’t know any other way. That’s how we hired the window company, must work for marketing, too, right? The RFP process is also insulting to many agencies who are not “vendors of a product,” but rather professionals who provide their expertise and thoughts and strategic insights based to properly address a given challenge. Typically, we sell “time and knowledge” not a physical “thing.”

I have seen RFPs where the “challenge” put forth and what ends up being contracted for bear no resemblance to one another. I have seen RFPs for complex and comprehensive marketing programs who in reality had only the intention of hiring a video production company. I have seen RFPs requesting work that would be literally hundreds of thousands of dollars, yet they are a very small business with no intention of investing that kind of money. I’ve been involved in the RFP process knowing full well there is no chance the client is changing firms, they just need to show “procurement” other prices so they can say it was “competitively” bid. There are hundreds if not thousands or horror stories surrounding the agency and RFP process. I’ve personally had work stolen (once by the winning agency, even). Here are four main reasons that if you’re soliciting a firm, you should never, ever go through an RFP and what you should do instead to conduct a professional agency search.

1. The Blind RFP

The vast majority of agencies are hired because of some professional relationship that has been built up over time between agency leadership and their client team. This has been cultivated by shared networking, background and a host of reasons why you “know” and trust someone. Most marketing firms understand that before there is ever a “buy” you must first know, then trust that someone can do the work.

Having a professional relationship with another professional is important because you will be working with them – a lot. You can’t answer that question in an RFP. What are you like to work with? On paper, the interpersonal skills can never truly come across. Calling references is of virtually no value – after all, what agency is going to give a reference that will say bad things. And think about this: The agency may not know you either, so why would they want to invest a lot of time crafting an RFP for someone or some organization they may not know let alone have a desire to work with. Working with a firm is not like hiring a contractor to do your roof. You will have (hopefully) a mutually beneficial and long lasting partnership with someone you need to rely upon and someone you need to trust – often. Marketing is a strategic and collaborative process, not square footage, labor costs and materials.

And, without a relationship, it is likely there is no intention of leaving the existing agency anyway – but rather beat them up on price, or get new ideas to provide to the incumbent agency. Even if you are indeed planning on changing firms, shouldn’t there be an effort made to get to know each other. Would you get married without ever meeting or knowing some history? Probably not.

2. The Ubiquitous Cost

If I ran a contracting company and you asked me how much it costs to put 10 windows of this exact style and type in my building, I could tell you. I know the cost of the windows and I know my labor costs. Solicit a few bids and badabing! – you have a proposal. The problem with that sort of thinking when it comes to marketing is “how much does a marketing program cost?” Sadly, that is a very common question – and in my opinion, shows an incredible level of ignorance and naivety on the part of a prospective client. A recent RFP sent to our firm was modeled after the RFP they sent out for a roofing job. One last year was modeled after the landscaping crew RFP.

If you need an exact price to craft and distribute a press release to a given “list,” I would say that most, if not all agencies could give you a price as long as you could answer a few basic questions, but agencies are smart and if you’re shopping around for the lowest price to send a release – I doubt they’re going to invest too much time or effort in that. Why, because agencies aren’t “products” they are a team of people looking to deliver ongoing value – putting out a single release will accomplish nothing, so why bother. It also speaks volumes about how the agency can expect to be “treated.” Low price vendor or strategic partner.

But, at least it is a specific project request and an actual price tag can likely be put against it -- just that no firm will likely bother to respond. Unfortunately, the question most often asked is “what should I do to market my company and how much does that cost.” That, my friend, is called strategic planning – and yes, there is a fee to develop a strategic plan. If you have a plan and you need an agency to execute a piece of it, again, likely they can give you an estimated scope of work and price. But when asking how much it costs to do a marketing program knowing that what we “could” do is virtually infinite and the corresponding costs likewise, it is virtually impossible and insulting to expect a firm to put this together at no charge. There are far too many unknowns. A strategic plan is collaborative between agency and client, takes time, research and creativity, and needs budgetary and timeline realities.

Most RFPs don’t even bother to put a budget in the RFP – leaving an already skeptical agency rolling their eyes. This is a big red flag that says “I don’t know what to do or how much anything costs, but maybe an agency will tell me the answers.” When we see no budget, it’s pretty clear the RFP is an even larger waste of time than normal. Recently, an RFP came through requesting a full plan, specs, research, comps, budgets and timelines. After they received zero responses, they called me and said they were actually just looking to do a few press releases about a new product they were in the process of developing. How much does that cost? I suggested they contact someone else.

3. Too Many Variables

When I get asked to develop an RFP that will help “increase brand awareness,” my first question is “what research do you have about your current brand awareness.” I’ve never had a single response to that one – because they’ve never tested. When asked about “taking their marketing to the next level” I ask to see all of their marketing work, their current plan, results and programming and again, I’ve never had one provide that. How on earth can an agency, through the RFP process, take your business to the next level without knowing exactly what you’re doing now? Or, how can they increase intangibles without the ability to know your current standing. Correct – it’s impossible in the RFP process. These are two strategic items in a good strategic plan that can create measurement KPIs and review what has worked, what hasn’t and how to make it better.

Without the ability for a good firm to perform a strategic audit of work, there is no way they can craft any type of response that is worth the paper it’s written on. All they would be able to do is put together a number of “creative ideas” and some tactics around them. And, many would look at that, say “we did that once, it didn’t work,” and the agency would have no idea. There are far too many variables to look at when crafting a program, and the agency is assuming you actually know what you need from the RFP process. Recently, we had an RFP from a business soliciting for local media relations work. It was obvious that a media relations strategy wouldn’t work for this type of business. Just a complete waste of time and, if they actually DO hire a firm, in this case, a waste of money and resources.

A good agency will be able to direct you to the best and proper marketing strategies and tactics – not “bid” on them because that’s what you think you need. Asking for bids to “do PR” with no context of what stories you “may” have is a genuine waste.

4. Failure to Do Basic Due Diligence

My favorite question in an RFP is “tell us about your firm’s history and your clients.” Again, major red flag. This says: “I haven’t even bothered to do the most basic research on that new fangled internet thingy.” Most agencies have volumes of copy to share with you how wonderful they are and the clients they serve(d). There’s this wacky thing out there called “LinkedIN” and even something called the “Facebook” that just might give you an idea of what the agency is all about. Why is this a problem? Because sending out RFPs to 20 agencies (or more) is a waste of time and effort because of those 20 agencies, chances are only 2 or 3 actually specialize or have experience in your specific business. Industry specific experience is not the only factor, but it is important.

As its your budget. If your budget is $20K, and you’re sending your RFP to the 10 largest firms in America, you’re going to be disappointed at the response. If you are B2B and you’re sending to agencies that provide marketing service to fast food franchises, you’re wasting everyone’s time. Understand the agency, even just a little bit. Ask about annual billings, that’s a fair question – because if you have an idea that your budget is $20K, you ARE going to be working with a small firm, a large one will likely not even bother to respond and if they do, do you want to be the client billing $20K annually with the firm that has $20M revenue annually? No, you don’t.

What To Do Instead

If you’ve gone through several agencies in the past few years, or have never had one, an RFP is not the way to go. Do some basic research on both some agencies that may fit, and on your own marketing efforts and communications and offer up a meaningful discussion of challenges you’d like to address. Identify a few firms (3 or 4, each should be somewhat similar because you know your challenges and have done some research to identify the firms that could address that challenge) through word of mouth, expertise you may admire, trusted colleagues who may know someone or even through a basic online search. Review the work, look at some information on the people and their processes and see if they indeed offer what you feel you need.

Then call them, have a conversation. Meet. Ask questions, lots and lots of questions – like a job interview. What are your billable rates? What are your annual agency billings? We’re thinking we need to do X, how would you go about that? How do you typically work with clients, and how do you feel that has been an advantage. If you have a strategic plan, share it. If not, that’s what you need to be hiring for first, and you should expect to pay between $10K -- $30K to craft one. Have the agency give a capabilities presentation. You should be dazzled and comfortable at the same time. Neither can come across in an RFP.

Like you, agency leaders have worked very hard to be where they are. We don’t want to be perceived as “vendors,” a very bad word often used in an RFP. A little mutual respect goes a long way, and actually sets the table for the future – a firm that really wants to work with you. Because if “we’re a vendor,” by definition that means “you’re the job.”

Get to know each other, see if there is a possible fit and that you indeed actually want to work together, then chat about work. Share your budget if you have one, so work can be prioritized. If you don’t know what to do, hire the agency to develop a plan, THEN execute it. Keep in mind, the lowest price provider may not be the best choice, again for a number of reasons. I can promise that someone with 2 years of experience working in their “home office” is less expensive than my firm – do your homework – but they may be a better choice.

Create a relationship. Share your goals and objectives and discuss some possible alternatives and ways to get there. What are your core challenges, and why do you feel they need fixed.

Developing a relationship will almost certainly ensure you have a better experience working with a strategic partner aligned with your strategic goals.

About the Author

Rodger Roeser is the CEO of Greater Cincinnati’s premier marketing and PR firm, The Eisen Agency. The 2013 Cincinnati PRSA Large Agency of the Year, Roeser’s firm specializes in providing marketing strategy, planning and executions in the professional services industry – healthcare, financial, legal, manufacturing, franchise, real estate, HR, and technology. Roeser can be reached at or via LinkedIn.

Friday, January 17, 2014

10 Habits of Expert Networkers

If you're in charge of business development, particularly in the professional services industry, networking is likely the single most important piece of marketing you can do.

10 habits of expert networkers

We know, we know. You hate networking. But it isn't so terrible when you see strangers as potential friends and try to make a genuine connection.
By Scott Dinsmore

I've noticed that the world's best connectors do things similarly.

We all know the people who meet others with ease, always seem to have the influencers in their corner and are constantly surrounded by passionate and inspiring people.

Whether they know it or not, these people all follow a certain set of habits. Let these habits serve as a guide for how to approach the people around you. Without these people, you're nowhere. With them, anything's possible.

Here are the 10 habits of people who can connect with anyone:

1. Smile.

This is by far the fastest way to create a connection. It's also a powerful show of confidence, which people respect and are drawn to. Smiles are contagious, and the simple act of smiling makes people feel better. Whether you're approaching a close friend, a bus driver, someone you're dying to meet or a room full of strangers, there is no stronger opener.

2. See friends, not strangers.

When you walk into a room, don't see the new people as strangers, but friends you have yet to meet. You see the world in a more similar way to others than you probably realize—especially if you're at the same event or part of the same communities. Approach accordingly.

3. Make friends.

This is the foundation. Making genuine connections is nothing more than making friends. When you're about to approach someone, ask yourself how you would treat this person if she was your close friend, or someone you wanted to be a close friend.

You put friends first. You listen to them. You hear their problems so you can help in any way you can. Act accordingly.

4. Be genuine.

If you're connecting just because you want to move up the ladder, you've already lost. There is only one type of connection—one you genuinely care about. Find someone you actually care to meet and want to get to know. Anything else is a waste of time.

5. Contribute.

Meeting people is about making their lives better. Whether you give them a smile, a new job or anything in between, there is a way to help everyone. Give like crazy, embrace generosity and make others more successful.

6. Pay attention.

The easiest way to be interesting is to be interested. Be excited about what you can learn from others. Hear what they say. Listen and learn about what matters to them not so you can say something back as soon as possible, but so you can peek into their worlds. People want to tell their stories. Be the person who is excited to hear them.

7. Make people a priority.

There is no more important task than surrounding yourself with the right people. It's part of every day, not something we do for an hour every week or two. It's a way of life.

8. Be open to conversation.

Embrace conversations with those around you. Everyone has something to offer, whether he is your server or the guy next to you on a plane. Even if you went to the coffee shop to read a book, realize the best part of your day might be learning about the person next to you.

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9. Know who you are and who you want in your life.

Know your passions, goals, talents, interests and the impact you want to have on the world. This will serve as your guiding light for how you can help and who you want to write into your story. Act with intention.

10. Be you.

Don't try to be someone you're not. Don't try to look and sound like someone else, and don't hold back. Be vulnerable and open. Share your real story and goals. Tell others about your wife, kids and parenting struggles. Talking about the weather doesn't build connections—being real does.

Remember that every maverick has a home team offering advice and encouragement, and every game changer has an inner circle of support. Yours is waiting.

Scott Dinsmore is an entrepreneur, career change strategist, travel photographer, ultra-runner and founder of Live Your Legend, a business and international community dedicated to helping you build a career around work that genuinely excites you - and surround yourself with the people who make it possible. The Live Your Legend Community's LOCAL event sites are non-commercial gatherings happening on January 7 in 140 cities in 44 countries around the U.S. and the world. Locations are available here.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What are the Most Stressful Jobs in America? CareerCast just listed it's Top 10

PR execs have the sixth-most-stressful job in America
By Matt Wilson
PR is stressful. If you work in the field, you know that. But now, for the fourth year in a row, you have statistical proof.

CareerCast’s list of the most stressful jobs in America for 2014 puts PR executive in the No. 6 most-stressful job slot, one spot below the No. 5 position it held last year. Maybe things got a little easier for PR execs in the past year, or perhaps it’s just that much harder to be an event coordinator. That job is in the No. 5 spot now. It didn’t even show up on last year’s list.

The top of the list is full of jobs which put people in actual, physical danger, with military jobs, firefighter, and airline pilot taking the top four spots.

Also on the list are newspaper reporters, at No. 8.

[RELATED: Prove the ROI of your digital efforts after hearing these top-rated case studies in March.]

What makes PR, event planning, and journalism so hard to handle? Here’s CareerCast’s explanation: “Jobs such as public relations executive, newspaper reporter and event coordinator are among the most stressful because of tight deadlines and scrutiny in the public eye.”

Here’s the full top 10:

1. Enlisted military personnel (84.72 stress score)
2. Military general (65.54)
3. Firefighter (60.45)
4. Airline pilot (60.28)
5. Event coordinator (49.93)
6. Public relations executive (48.52)
7. Corporate executive (47.46)
8. Newspaper reporter (46.75)
9. Police officer (46.66)
10. Taxi driver (46.18)

CareerCast also listed the 10 least-stressful jobs in America for 2014. Audiologist, the title for someone who diagnoses and treats hearing problems, topped that list. Last year, the least-stressful job was university professor. It dropped to No. 4 on the list this year.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Making an Online Media Kit

What's an online media kit?

An online media kit is a good way to share key information about your business with both prospects and the media. Create a press or media page on your website and include a company overview, bios of key personnel, and press releases. It should be a quick, easy way for people to get to know you and your business.

Want to know how to make one? Well, you can call The Eisen Agency and we'll do it for you, or, if you want to DIY, here are some basics: