Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Seattle Interactive Conference Day 2 Round-up for Comms Pros #SIC16

Seattle Interactive Conference 2016 is underway and there are many key takeaways for communication professionals. Below is a curated tweet stream of all the most important information shared at the conference. (As of 3:30 p.m. October 19, 2016)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Seattle Interactive Conference 2016 Roundup for Comms Pros

Seattle Interactive Conference 2016 is underway and there are many key takeaways for communication professionals. Below is a curated tweet stream of all the most important information shared at the conference.

(As of 4:30 p.m., 10/16/2016)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Don't forget the last mile

In telecommunications, the last mile refers to the portion of the network that physically connects service from the utility pole to the end users home or business. Historically, the last mile has been a speed bottleneck that has prevented telecom and content providers from improving service to customers.

I frequently see PR professionals ignoring the last mile in their service delivery – specifically, the connection point with journalists and other influencers. The most visible example of this is the press site on their web page. After working long, hard hours preparing for their announcement, many post their work to a web page that may be the least appealing on the Internet – a long list of linked headlines.

These sites deliver little value. Journalists and bloggers who are producing 4 to 6 pieces a day have little time to spend clicking through links, downloading press kits and finding imagery. If you can’t provide it to them in a consumable way, then they will go elsewhere to get it – either to competitors or to sources that you as a PR professional can’t control.

Increasingly, PR pros need building (or rebuilding) their press site to ensure the content is easy to digest and easy for influencers to incorporate into their stories. That means there needs to be a blog post that puts the news into context and can serve as a linked asset, images that can be quickly repurposed into stories and slideshows, infographics that are easy to digest, video that can be added to an influencer’s post and a social media stream that allows them to quickly reshare the news.

There are other ways to improve your press site and they all boil down to reducing the friction for reporters and influencers.

You’ve put in the hard work to attract the attention of a journalist or influencer; if you can speed them through the last mile it improves the chances that you will get future calls.

Some other favorite press sites:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

PR Needs to Measure Its "Beautiful Snowflakes"

Many PR people view the articles written about their organization like snowflakes - each one beautiful and unique. But, in many ways, that shouldn’t be true if they’ve done their job correctly. A journalist may take some license in how they present the information but you should be able to look across multiple articles and see some consistency in message, spokesperson, products, tone, etc.
Increasingly PR pros need to understand that articles need to be treated like data points that add up to something much greater than their “feel good” impact that comes from seeing the company's name in print.

The basis for good PR measurement comes from finding ways turn words into data. The modern PR team needs to get comfortable with topics like database management, meta tags and correlation if they want to show the business value they deliver.

Key to this effort is setting up strong systems and tools that allow teams to look at individual elements like message pick up, executive presence, tonality, performance on key competitive attributes and other elements of the earned coverage and correlate them to marketing and business data like web traffic, brand perception, net promoter score, MQL, AQL and even sales.

 Here's a couple ways to get started with that process:

  •  Database your and the competition’s coverage - every piece if possible but at the very least a representative sample from key publications, websites and other outlets. Only by looking at coverage in a consistent way over time will you be able to identify the factors that have the greatest impact on your business data. Capturing your competitors coverage gives you a way to benchmark yourself against industry performance.
    Databases can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet or a more complex online system but be careful to distinguish between content collection or monitoring systems and a measurement solution. Content collection systems can help you populate your database and may offer some services to meta tag that coverage with message pick-up, tonality, competitor mentions, etc. but unless you have customized your database to align with your communications goals, you’ll be overwhelmed with data that offers very little value.

  •  Meta tag based on how you are spending your PR program dollars. If you are spending money to drive product reviews or executive visibility or trade show briefings, you'll need a way to evaluate what coverage resulted and the quality of that coverage based on the goals of those programs. Your database should allow you to identify the factors that drove coverage so you can gauge how those programs are performing, not just in driving coverage but also where they contribute to business performance.
  • Start integrating your data into marketing reviews. Only by taking the time to review what you've collected against business data will you start to uncover the impact. It may take several review cycles before patterns emerge as you isolate various factors. Don’t over commit to how quickly you will be able to show value from the measurement program. You may need 6-9 months to get the database structured correctly and find correlations with other marketing and business data.
  • Value quality over quantity. Many measurement projects start as an attempt to perform a coverage census – namely, capture every single mention of the company or organization. Instead, look to perform a survey by capturing a representative sample of coverage and focus your resources on improving the quality of insights you are deriving from your database. That could mean improving the meta tag structure to allow for better correlations or spending more time teasing out insights or streamlining the project to focus on only the high value programs so you can better tie those results to the business impact.

While PR will continue to be an art, applying science to how we portray our results can help ensure that the winter wonderland our beautiful snowflakes create get just as many “oohs” and “aahs” from our colleagues as the coverage itself.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

4 Tips for Securing B2B PR's Holy Grail

For B2B PR pros, the customer case study is a bit like the Holy Grail - highly sought after but hard to find. As peer- and influencer-driven purchasing habits continue to rise, customer references are increasingly important to driving sales. And as PR pros know, customer references are usually a journalist's first request.

But getting customers to agree to provide a reference can be difficult for a number of reasons. Customers often cite the belief that your product or service offers them a competitive advantage, a desire to control how their brand is presented to the world or managing the volume of reference requests as factors preventing them for participating. For the individual who fields your reference request, it can also involve securing approvals from multiple layers within the company (departmental leads, the executive team, corporate communications, legal, etc.). At the end of the day, asking a customer to share their success story requires a significant effort and a whole lot of trust.

So, what can PR pros due to lower the barriers for the customer participation while establishing the strong relationship with the buyer necessary for securing a case study? By starting with small asks that are easier to fulfill, you can demonstrate your value while you build a relationship with them.

Here are 4 ways to get customers involved, starting with the ideas that take the least investment on their side:
  1. Ask for customers to participate in social media - Social media remains a simple way to get customers engaged and offers many opportunities to build stronger relationships. Start by asking customers to share your news. Often times this type of request significantly lowers the internal barriers that your buyer faces. They can use their personal social media channels vs. the company channels to promote your product or service which reduces the internal approvals required. They can also support you without having to share details about their specific implementation. You can amplify that support on your social channels and point reporters to it. Once a level of trust and participation is established, you can
  2. Write a guest blog post for them - This can be another easy ask of customers especially if you offer to ghost write it for them. If you make your buyer sound like an expert in their field while laying the foundation for future sales, you both benefit. Blog posts don't have to be about a customer's specific implementation, either. Your buyers can lend their credibility by establishing the need for your product or service; outlining key buying decision factors; or reviewing specific features and functionality.
  3. Logo usage - Asking a new customer to use their logo on your website and press materials might seem pretty straightforward but starting here can be risky. What if the customer says "no?" A company's logo is an extension of their brand and many like to keep tight control over its usage. Being told you can't use the customer logo makes all future requests for support more difficult. Some vendors don't ask at all, either in their haste to take advantage of the new customer win or as a deliberate strategy to avoid being told "no." For PR pros trying to decide how to move forward, it comes down to your organization's level of comfort with asking forgiveness vs. asking permission. If you use a customer's logo in presentations to media without asking, your sales and executive teams may end up having an uncomfortable conversation later when your customer discovers the unauthorized use. Work with your sales leaders, customer relationship teams and executives to develop an approach that best fits your organization's relationship with customers and appetite for risk. The best path forward may be some hybrid approach.
  4. Event participation - This can be a larger ask but if you are willing to invest to get the buyer to attend, it can yield tremendous benefits. Even if the customer doesn't participate directly in meetings with the press, video of stage presentations at the event can be repurposed with reporters without requiring additional participation of your buyer.
While it may take time to secure a full blown customer reference, this approach offers PR teams with numerous opportunities to take advantage of that new customer win. For more reading on how to create willing customer advocates, check out this great piece.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A contrarian approach to marketing

A great deal of marketing success depends on standing out from the crowd. Sometimes to do that requires a contrarian approach. When everyone is going this way, brands can stand out by going a different way.

Emerging digital media like Twitter, Facebook, Google Buzz are the rage among marketers these days and are quickly on their way to becoming prerequisites for any good campaign. Meanwhile, “real world” engagement – in-store promotions, POS displays, product sampling, etc. – seems to be out-of-fashion. It’s unclear whether it’s due to lack of consumer response or the perceived costs of establishing a physical presence and the relatively smaller audience that can be reached when compared to what the Web might allow.

But there is an opportunity for brands who go their own way. With thousands of brands trying to make their case through social media, a well-constructed and engaging face-to-face interaction with a brand can cut through the noise. In fact, if that physical presence is unique enough and it can actually reach a broader audience by compelling those you meet in person to reach out to their networks through social media.

Two small recent examples of this strategy. Emerald City Improv recently organized a goofy promotion by organizing a human choo choo train through downtown Seattle. The effort was covered by the Seattle P-I and caused a number of folks to tweet about their effort.

Second is my own personal experience. After attending a recent panel session on leveraging digital media, not only did I swap business cards and Twitter handles with those that I met but I also mailed each of them a note highlighting what I remembered about our conversation. I got replies from all of them including a few invites to follow-up meetings. In the past, I’ve performed the perfunctory “follow/follow back” dance on Twitter after these events and those engagements have never led to anything more.

Only by going against the grain did my “brand” stand out.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

10 ways you can measure PR's impact on the business

One of the major hurdles in adopting new forms of PR measurement is isolating the impact of PR activity on business metrics. Many PR professionals feel paralyzed when facing this issue, not having the resources or the know-how to tackle such a complex project. As a result, PR continues to get left out of the conversation of marketing’s impact on the business, a dangerous position when budget time comes. Last year’s market decline created a game changing shift. Accountability to business metrics is no longer optional.

Fortunately, this hurdle is easily overcome simply by shifting the premise of the conversation. The underlying assumption is that PR has to show its value independent of the other marketing functions. But this assumption really emanates from the internal structure of the business which assigns teams, budgets, etc. to distinct areas like PR, advertising, etc. Customers, however, don’t react to a company’s communications in this fashion. They may see an ad (placed by the ad team) that prompts them to search the web for more info (SEO team) and find an article in a trade publication (PR team) which convinces them to visit the company’s website (web team) where they download a case study (marketing team) and then pop over to a retailer or website where point of sale communications (channel team) seal the deal.

Since the ultimate marketing goal is to get the desired business result, it doesn’t make sense to start measuring by trying to isolate the impact of one function. PR simply needs to start integrating with other disciplines to better illustrate how our activity aligns with the broader goal. While we may not have direct insight into customer attitudes and behavior, these other disciplines do.

Search metrics, web site visits, post-purchase surveys, market research, even social media all provide clues to customer behavior. By creating ways to correlate PR activity to data captured by other groups, we start getting a more complete picture of how outbound communications are impacting customer behavior. We may not be able to isolate the specific contributions of PR vs. advertising, POS, etc. but we can point to the fact that PR activity aligns with the desired business outcome and even show how it is playing a role in moving the customer through the funnel from awareness to purchase.

Once PR results are integrated into the broader marketing mix, larger organizations may want to take the additional step of optimizing the marketing spend by determining which disciplines had the greatest impact on the result but that typically is an expensive and long term project. Companies need to have very large marketing expenditures to expect any benefit from this effort.

Below are ten ways to start correlating PR’s impact on customer and target audience behavior. Some can be executed solely by the PR team but most would benefit from tight alignment with the other outward-facing functions within the company. Consider these starting points for a larger conversation with other dataholders about how you can work together to mutual benefit.

10 ways you can measure business outcomes
- Use Google Insights to correlate the impact of launches and announcements on audience search activity
- Use PR-unique URLs to gauge traffic driven to a website from PR efforts
- Use a PR-unique variation on a promotion code to track online sales related to PR efforts
- Track downloads of white papers and case studies promoted through PR activity
- Conduct message recall and retention survey and correlate with message pick-up in the media
- Capture/measure favorability of blog comments, discussion groups and tweets as a proxy for consumer perception
- Use Crimson Hexagon to measure topics of conversation in online forums (Twitter, blogs, forums, etc.) as a proxy for consumer perception; correlate with message pick-up in the media
- Work with the sales team to identify marketing influences on the customer; correlate customer mentions of PR to PR activity
- Conduct a post-purchase survey to identify sources of information utilized by customers during consideration of product
- Work with your web team to track customer’s online activity after they visit your company blog (do they visit product/service information pages on your site? do they visit an e-commerce site?)