Specializing in social marketing and business communications training

8.5 Creative Ways to Grab People’s Attention

New research finds that we have just under 9 seconds—8.5 to be precise—to get someone’s attention. Our attention spans have decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8.5 seconds this year. No surprise here, but the culprit is external communication.

Video, of course, is the hot commodity these days. And short videos are ideal. This graph reminds us about the importance of snippets:










Based on our limited ability to focus, here are 8.5 things communicators, PR pros and entrepreneurs can do to grab—and hopefully keep—someone’s attention. Whether you’re trying to reach a reporter, your target audience or a social media connection, short form content reigns supreme.

  1. Record a Twitter video. To truly connect with your followers on Twitter, put in some extra (video) effort and you’ll both be amazed. True to his style of recording quick videos on the fly, entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, aka @GaryVee, takes us along on a cab ride in New York and shows how easy it is to use Twitter video. A 10 second clip can truly differentiate you from others, and if you’re pitching tech reporters, this will be impressive.
  2. Nail your headlines and email subject lines. No one will read your content unless the headline or subject line is so brief yet compelling that they simply can’t resist. Choose each word carefully with a focus on a benefit for the reader. Put yourself on the receiving end and be relevant. BuzzSumo can help.
  3. Use Periscope in the morning. Interact with your morning news anchors with Periscope. The early morning news is a fabulous time to use this technology because most people are half asleep and the news anchors are more apt to interact with the few who are engaging and interested in their programs. You’ll feel like old friends in no time.
  4. Read a journalist’s last five posts. Before you pitch a new contact or reporter, read —don’t skim—their last five posts or articles. When crafting your pitch, mention specifics from their previous work. We all appreciate when our efforts are recognized by others. Let reporters know you’re paying attention.
  5. Keep an eye on trending topics and hashtags. These hints can help dictate your content. Run with it while your competition is distracted with other external noise and nonsense.
  6. Incorporate easy tools that help with micro content. Less is more in our attention-starved world. Use memes, Inline Tweet Sharer, Canva and Facebook videos to keep things brief and interesting.
  7. Consider Snapchat. According to Social Media Examiner, Snapchat is one of the fastest growing social networks, with more than 100 million daily active users. Some 70 percent of Snapchat’s U.S. users are between the ages of 18 and 34. With Snapchat, you can create a video narrative with filters, emojis, music and text that will pique the attention of your audience. You can promote a contest or offer a glimpse behind the scenes of an event or conference.
  8. Look at new ways to encourage engagement with millennials. Are you familiar with Comment Bubble? It’s a free tool that allows people to react to videos. You can specify the type of feedback you would like to receive—text, audio, video, or by clicking instant feedback buttons. Here’s an example from SocialMediaSlant.com:










8.5. Repurpose longer content into micro content on Pinterest. If you have a tip sheet-style press release or valuable piece of advice, create a visually appealing image with one or two quick tips. Post it to Pinterest, with a link to the longer content. Many businesses generate a significant amount of revenue from Pinterest. Don’t miss this easy opportunity.

The bottom line: Be brief.









9 Ways to Benefit from Social Media

IMG_20150502_141223074[1]Most of us who are entrenched in social media are driven by the goal of growing our credibility, visibility and revenues. Yes, we’ve met wonderful new people and friends along the way. Had a few yucks online and maybe a few drinks in person.

However, the goal is business development.

When you think back on what you’ve learned since embarking on this technological journey, it’s quite amazing. Sometimes, I have to just pinch myself. Would you agree?

Here are the 9 Cs of social media that have had a significant impact on my professional and personal development.

  1. Clarity. 140 characters. Six second videos. Infographics. Data visualization. Memes. All of these require clarity in our communication.
  2. Community and curation. Was there life before #hashtags, groups, chats and hangouts? Now, we enjoy sites, apps and platforms such as Kik, ooVoo, Flipboard, 99U, the Skimm, Vice and more. By nature, human beings long to be accepted and be part of a group. There are plenty to choose from in the world of social media.
  3. Compelling. The most successful people in social media are the individuals and brand managers who realize they have something valuable and compelling to share. Their willingness to pass along relevant and timely information that piques the interest of others is magical. It leads to a curiosity that motivates people to want to learn more about you and your business. When your messages and content resonate with others, they’ll be compelled to reach out to you.
  4. Cultivate. Have you learned the lesson of patience? Social media is a fine teacher of patience. It takes time to cultivate relationships, friendships and business. If you’re looking for instant gratification, you’re in the wrong place. We can all benefit from slowing down a bit.
  5. Competency. You’ll be able to grow your business, community and yourself when you stick with your core skills and expertise. Social media demands transparency. You can’t fake competency; long-term anyway. Social media affords all of us the opportunity to commit to a life of learning and the development of new competencies.
  6. Communication. The cornerstone of success is communication. Haven’t your communication skills significantly improved since you began this online journey? Aren’t you savvier about your Tweets, posts and messages than when you first published your profiles and set up your accounts? You’ve likely dabbled in video and are getting more acclimated to different forms of communication. Never say never.
  7. Crisp. Our world and attention move at such warp speeds that we have to use crisp words, language, metaphors and images to connect and influence people. Twitter and texting have taught me to be much more selective about every single word and sentence I use, sans abbreviations and emoji’s.
  8. Charisma. You won’t build business if you’re a social media wallflower. Our new form of networking, blogging and chatting requires personality and allure. Boring doesn’t build business. Introverts are learning how to navigate in this environment, and when they do, they are enjoying it on their own terms.
  9. Comment. Yes, people want to know your opinion! How cool is that? The prerequisite to a meaningful comment (not “great post!”) dictates that I take the time to read someone else’s prose, think about it, consider my own opinion and insights, and try and add to the dialogue. When we comment on posts, we improve our outreach, writing and critical thinking skills. Above all, we invite differing opinions and may just open ourselves to new perspectives and ideas.

What would you add to this list of social media benefits? What have you learned?


5 Things Communicators Must Know About Social Media Marketing

Austin hiway rampsI think it’s safe to say we’re well past debating the relevance of fresh content, online etiquette, and building an engaged community. Would you agree?

Let’s take things to the next level. Here are critical areas communicators must grasp, and be able to apply in everyday business:

1. Understand social sales. Short sales are the name of the game in social media. Inbound marketing, calls to action, memberships and affiliate marketing should be part of your mix. Think: Multiple revenue streams.

The Science of Social Selling: 5 Studies that Prove the Power of Social

How to Find the Value of a Lead

12 Proven Ways Your Copy Can Get More Conversions

2. Start spreading the news. Frank Sinatra sang New York, New York decades before anyone muttered the word “Internet.” Today, we must all cross promote and use numerous platforms to spread content and news about our brands, products and services.

Infographic: 25 Tweaks to Capture Attention in Social Networks

14 Podcasts to Make You a Better Social Marketer in 2015

How to Choose the Right Social Media Networks for Your B2B Marketing

3. Think in images. Research has proven that the human brain thinks in pictures, not words. We are visual junkies craving something to look at. Straight text is dull and leaves readers wanting more. Give them more.

Infographic: 8 Ways to Use Instagram for Business

Visuals, Schmisuals: Here’s What Your Business Really Needs to Pop

Grab Consumer Attention with the Power of Images

Flipboard: The Next Big Thing in Public Relations

4. Include podcasting. Podcasts are easy to produce and are powerful because they can be used virtually anywhere. Unlike video, slide decks, or blogs, people can listen to podcasts while driving, exercising, doing chores and flying in an airplane. As a former radio news anchor and news director, podcasting resonates with me. Basic audio, an engaging conversation with a credible guest and a relevant topic are all you need. Use your voice!

How to Successfully Launch Your Own Podcast

How to Make a Good Podcast/Radio Show

Infographic: 21 Tips to Maximize Your Podcasting Results  

5. Concentrate on inbound marketing. Chasing money and potential clients is a waste of everyone’s time, energy and resources. Inbound marketing is not disruptive. It allows you to gather quality leads and interact with people who choose to engage with you based on your reputation and content. This means list building, opt-in boxes and segmentation. If your database includes people who never voluntarily signed up for your information, that’s called spam. Seth Godin says that if the receiver thinks it is spam, then it is spam.

3 Steps to Stellar List Building

6 Key Aspects to Inbound Marketing

Rethinking Today’s Inbound Marketing Mix 

Consider bookmarking and sharing this post, as these shortcuts to fresh ideas and resources can help you easily navigate our new world of marketing, sales, and communication.

PS: For hundreds of tips and ideas on social media and business communication, order my  e-book here.

The Agony of Delete: 3 Easy Ways to Clean Up Your Content

scales of justice edited

Here’s an unscientific poll about content that I want to share with you.

More than 80% of people who write press releases, blog posts, bylined articles, and white papers admit they struggle with how to edit content.

I’m happy to offer a few suggestions on how to approach the editing process:

1. Write the main purpose on the back of a business card. In one or two sentences, summarize the reason you are writing. This brings clarity, which (usually) leads to brevity. If your purpose is too long for the business card, rip it up and start again. It must be clear in your mind before you begin to write.

2. Dissect your words and sentences. Slowly read each sentence, one at a time. Then read the next one. If you removed one of the sentences, would your story change? Each sentence must build off of the previous one, adding value to your story. This practice can significantly shorten your content and change the flow of your message. Translation: Cut the crap.

3. Consider your reader. Your word count will drop when you remove self-serving information that will be irrelevant–or annoying–to your audience. And don’t bother with jargon or rhetoric. Write to offer solutions to your reader’s challenges. Solve, don’t sell.

Finally, the words ‘very’ and ‘that’ should be used sparingly, if at all.

4 Key Aspects of Today’s Content Strategy

itsy bitsy spiderWhat’s the future of content marketing? It depends who you ask, I suppose.

When I joined one my favorite online places to learn –Sunday night’s #blogchat on Twitter–I knew there would be plenty of takeaways on content strategy and marketing.

The guest expert was author and entrepreneur Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute.

Pulizzi shared tips on the importance of building an audience for your blog, and converting loyal followers. He also covered the future of content marketing.

On the purpose of your blog:

Once we know the why, we need to clearly focus on who the audience is for our blog.

There are three reasons to create a blog: to generate sales, to save costs, or to create more loyal customers.

Your blog needs to create an audience. We can’t do much good if we don’t have an audience.

The blog can be the center of our entire content marketing strategy. Think of it as home base.

On building loyalty with readers:

The blog is the place where we should be creating passionate subscribers…subscribers are key.

The most valuable part of your blog is the audience you have opt-in permission from to communicate with.

Remember, 80% of your web traffic will never come back again. We need to work very hard to get them to subscribe.

Think like a media company. The value of a media company is in their list (the audience). Convert traffic to subscribers.

On the six important aspects of your blog:

Your content must fill a need in the marketplace that is not being met.

You must be consistent. Blog at the same time and frequency every week (just like a newspaper would).

You need to tell stories like a human being would. Get rid of corporate speak.

You need to have a point of view. What is your take? Why are you the expert? Show it with your content.

Remove the sale. Never sell anything directly in the content of your blog.

Your goal should be best of breed. Strive to be the leading content creator for your content niche.

On the future of content marketing:

Podcasts are going to really break out very shortly. They will be more easily available and there is a lack of content now.

Sure, everyone is talking video. But I see opportunity in audio, print, and in-person events.

Google+ Hangouts are another way to market. I like that you can create a podcast out of a hangout.

Longer form content is making a comeback. We are seeing 1000+ word posts perform WAY better than shorter posts.

The founder and host of #Blogchat, @MackCollier, has a stellar lineup of guest experts for the coming weeks.

It’s a smart and most enjoyable group!

4 Letter Words for Creating New Content

Brooklyn it's where my story beginsI was born in Brooklyn, New York. I know a lot of four-letter words.

Sure there are a few that aren’t suitable for this space. But I learned a lot of positive four letter words when I was growing up, too. My parents and grandparents told me—and showed methe meaning of these words: give, help, and team.

When looking at my website analytics, I find that most of my visitors are searching for topics and ideas for their own content and articles.

With four-letter words in mind, here are ways to spark your creativity and develop fresh content:

1. Get a clue about what success means to your target audience.  Have you identified your target audience? Do you know the top five dreams or goals they have for their professional success? When you answer this question, you will have an endless pipeline of topics and content.  

2. Stay curious. Consider every minute, hour, and day a happy adventure in which you’ll discover tons of new things. Read magazines you’ve never picked up. Walk the long way to the office building. Strike up a conversation with someone who appears quite different than you. Read a section of the newspaper you always skip. Listen to a new talk radio show or podcast. Rent a really old movie.  Watch 10 Vine videos. Peruse a competitor’s boards on Pinterest.  Be open to learning.

3. Keep asking questions. When looking for fresh angles and topics, ask yourself the following: What else, what else, what else?  What else is this conference about? What else do people want to know? What else can someone read to learn more? What tips can make their jobs easier? What else did the speaker mention that’s relevant to my audience? There’s always more. Don’t scratch the surface. Keep asking questions.

4. Rage against inertia. Inertia flies in the face of the Internet and everything it represents. Static, stuck, still. Inactivity in social channels simply doesn’t work.

5. Plant the seed. Deepak Chopra wrote, “In every seed is the promise of thousands of forests.” What seeds are between your ears or hiding in social channels that can be planted in fertile soil, nurtured and cultivated? looking up at trees

6. Ramp up your efforts. Don’t take the pathetic road to ‘Pity City.’ I speak from experience in suggesting it won’t serve you well. Sporadic articles, posts, slide decks or videos won’t suffice in keeping people engaged. Commit to these four-letter words and you’ll soon find increased energy and momentum when developing content and ideas.

Need an added content boost? If you would like to brainstorm with me about topics that are relevant to your demographic, sign up now for a discounted one hour telephone coaching session.


5 Ways to Effectively Use Native Advertising

Riverwalk water shadows sept 2012Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Alicia Lawrence.

The phrase native advertising (NA) has been buzzing around ad agencies since 2012 but only a few communicators have truly grasped its benefits. It’s time to demystify NA.

Native advertising refers to the placement of ads that seamlessly blend in with the format and style of whatever platform they are on. Hence, the term “native” as it appears to originate from the site and not a third party.

What Makes NA So Popular Now?

If you’ve kept your eye on the effectiveness of online ads, you’ve seen it drop from 9 percent in 2000 to only .2 percent in 2012. People have developed ‘selective seeing.’ This is why 2012 experienced a spike of interest in NA. Native advertising became a viable option to solve the online ad problem.

Native advertising is focused around the user experience. Since it’s seamlessly woven into consumer content, it forces the eyes onto the brand. You’re not trying to put a mask on the ad so people read it. Instead, it’s about appealing to the needs of a particular audience.

It puts the consumer first by offering relevant content.

 5 Types of NA

Social NA: Social media platforms have caught on to the effectiveness of NA. Facebook created their promoted stories. Unlike many forms of native advertising, social NA is very affordable.

Branded Images: Creative original content is another form of NA when combined with a brand. For instance, Porsche sponsored an image-heavy post on The Atlantic that went viral. And there are branded web graphics like this one from Clarity Way.

-Sponsored Videos: Native video ads in particular have become increasingly popular on the web. While they may cost a pretty penny to create, the ROI companies are seeing from NA continues to make it an attractive choice. Native advertising is also a trendy pick for video games.

-Promoted Posts: Public relations professionals have created this form of NA for years. They write and pitch relevant articles that their audience would find educational and enjoyable. The only connection back to the business is a brief mention in a bio line at the end of the post. SEOs have recently picked up the power of promoted posts to further their cause of link building. The article is usually not marked as advertising and most times the owner of the blog has no idea it’s even taking place. How can that be? The anchor text and brand is seamlessly woven into the content.

-Creative NA: Due to its very nature, NA harbors the need for creative advertisers to innovate. This form of NA is open for interpretation because that is what makes NA so appealing to the consumer.

The Difficulties and Benefits of NA

Native advertising didn’t come without its challenges, which deter many agencies away. Since NA must match the website’s tone, style, and format in order to be effective, it requires tailored content for each site. The non-scalability of NA is a major turn-off for fast-paced agencies. This also means the creation and placement of NA is typically quite expensive.

Native advertising is still considered a gamble in the advertising world. We have seen great success with promotional stories on Facebook and natural product placement in videos. However, we’ve also seen great failures.

What is your experience with Native Advertising?

Alicia Lawrence is a content coordinator for WebpageFX and blogs in her free time at MarCom Land. Her work has been published by the Association for Business Communication, Yahoo! Small Business, and Spin Sucks.


9 Social Media Topics to Explore in 2014

Wide shot of 628Energy and Momentum. That’s the theme I’ve adopted for 2014.  

The following nine topics recently crossed my radar.

Are you ruminating on website designs, crowdsourcing, podcasts, or agile social media? This post may spark the energy you need to get off the dime.  Translation: Read this and take action!

If you’re like me and are committed to learning (and applying) new practices and tools on a regular basis, you’ll want to bookmark this and share it with your likeminded friends.

1. Code? Say What?

Do Non-Techies Need to Know How to Code?

2. Mumbo Jumbo

10 Words Your Graphic Designer Wishes You Knew

 7 Google+ Terms You Should Know

3. Show Me the Money!

5 Tips on Crowdsourcing Your Brand’s Influence

4. A New Website? Yikes! 

The Complete Guide to Launching a New Website

 What Should I Put on the Homepage?

5. Can You Hear Me Now?

Give Voice to Your Apps: Why Speech is Replacing Touch on Smartphones

6. Video Killed the Radio Star…Or Not

Tools to Make a Killer Online Podcast  

 The Beginner’s Guide to Vine

7 Reasons to Use Multimedia When Communicating  

7. Market, Market, Market

How to Write Call-To-Action Copy that Gets People Clicking  

Build Experiences Instead of Products

How to Use Psychographics in Your Marketing  (Why buyers buy)

Work Hard on Content, But Focus on the Audience First  

8. More Social Networks? Eureka!

Could Pheed and Line Become Major Social Networks in 2014?

 9. The Times They Are a’Changin’ aka Flexibility

Agility is the Key to Business Success in 2014

 Nos. 1, 2, and 7 (Psychographics) are where I am starting.

Where are you putting your energy?  


5 reasons to include Storify in your PR strategy

(Editor’s Note: This is a guest post provided by Alicia Lawrence)

20 years of DRAMAStorify is one of the new kids on the social media block, but it’s made a big impression. Founded in 2011, the website curates content from all over the Internet, eliminating the need to jump from one site to another for information.

You may have already seen the work of Storify in the news. The Washington Post, NPR, and other media outlets have started using the tool to build context around the biggest stories of the day.

If news editors are reaping the benefits of Storify, so can you.

Here are five ways you can use Storify in public relations.

The ‘About Us’ Section

Every company website has a page dedicated to how the company began, what it does, and how it does it. Why read it when you can see it? Use Storify to combine web content, a promotional video, slideshows, interviews, raves on social media and testimonials from your best customers. Turn your story into a multimedia experience and then share it! Storify even gives you an option after publishing to tweet the people you mentioned in the board letting them know you used their post.

Product Launch or Campaign

If your company is launching a new product or simply revitalizing an old one, you could issue a press release, a how-to video, and early buzz from thought leaders. However, you’ll get better results if you combine all those things into a Storify board. This board should give a full account of what you say about the new products and what others say, too. If it’s a versatile product, include tweets, pins, or videos of how others are using it.

What People Think

When it comes to reputation, consumers are more apt to listen to other consumers than to what the brand advertises about itself. Instead of pointing people to a dozen social media sites, put the raves on one Storify board. Add reviews from consumers and critics, award notices, and other high praise. Plus, when asking for comments and feedback, you can suggest that customers go to Storify to add their opinions to the chatter.

Event Recap

Event promotion is one of the main responsibilities of a PR manager. Storify can make it more immersive, especially for annual events. If you have a big event coming up, create a board around last year’s gathering. Include tweets, photos, videos and other content from speakers and participants that emphasize how fun – and valuable – it is to attend the event. In addition, don’t forget to promote the newest event – multiple tweets showing the excitement of attendees for this year.

storify image from Alicia 11-2013

How-to’s and Troubleshooting

When you search for tutorials on how to use a product or solve a problem, a lot of YouTube videos appear in the results. By pulling everything together in a Storify board, you can bring your listing to the top. Instead of creating different boards, combine the two. For example, I just created a board for Havahart with how-to videos and instruction manuals for setting up traps, as well as a few funny pictures and reviews for the product, into one single board.

Finally, what makes Storify different is that it lets you organize all the posts, tweets, videos and other feedback about your business into one convenient, interactive location.

Alicia Lawrence is a content coordinator for WebpageFX and blogs in her free time at MarCom Land. Her work has been published by the Association for Business Communication, Yahoo! Small Business, and Spin Sucks.

7 insights from Brian Solis on marketing to the new connected consumer

389One of the most impressive thought leaders in business and new media is Brian Solis. He’s the Principal Analyst at Altimeter Group. Solis is also an international best-selling author and speaker.

This week, Solis said that technology is changing the way people share experiences but businesses are merely trying to keep up, not get ahead.  He reminds us not to flood people with content every day, but to make them feel special with relevant information that they will want to share.

On Value:  “At the end of day, you’re not just competing for attention, you are competing for relevance. To earn relevance, you have to understand what the connected consumer values.”

On the Gifts of Technology:  “The gifts of technology are Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and all the others. These gifts help us better understand how to engage, how to understand what people want, and how they communicate. These gifts help us learn what it takes to be part of a community, and what it takes to lead a community. They are not just channels to market at people or to talk at people, or to do what we’ve always done, like try to drum up interest or drum up reactions. We now have to find the meaning within all this activity.”

On Attention: “Marketers have to try and penetrate attention, and then define what it is you want people to do next. We are redefining the experience we want people to have.”

On Creating Experiences: “Marketing is not a department, but a function of life, business, experience and engagement. When people are connected, they are constantly sharing what they love and hate; it’s an emotional landscape.”

On New Approaches: “We have to deliver a new approach with something a little bit more meaningful and valuable to the connected customer. One where you don’t justify your existence by the number of likes, shares, or views.”

On Generation Gaps: “Marketers must augment the traditional approach or philosophy and find new ways to understand who you are trying to reach and what pulls them through the sales funnel. Instead of creating the ‘Us versus Them’ mindset or feel, all we can do is better understand it and appreciate it and accept that this person is different than us. The only way to lead them rather than react to them is to learn from them. We have to be inspired and find new ways to steer their attention span for productive experiences and productive outcomes.”

On Change: “Consumer behavior is evolving, our technology is evolving, but our business processes, systems, services, and philosophies are not. Our methodologies and value systems are changing to adapt but they are not changing fast enough to lead. Everything I have learned about the future of marketing and branding is this:  Behavior first, technology second.”

Solis says everything starts with intention. What’s your intention when sharing information and content? You know the correct answer has something to do with conversion.