Specializing in social marketing and business communications training

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.

 

 

3 ways to write positive news headlines in a negatively charged world

A rainy September day at the George Washington Bridge in New York.

A rainy September day at the George Washington Bridge in New York.

It’s time to kill the ‘headline fear factor.’

Anyone who writes or produces content could be guilty of spewing fear throughout communities.  

Bright, well-educated, and good-intentioned people who are cognizant of the power of headlines and SEO have followed the media’s poor example of sharing negativity to get people’s attention.

I was a news reporter and news director for 10 years.  I have zero tolerance for newscasts and talk shows that work hard to drag us down.  

Last week, the TV weatherman declared: “More rain tomorrow means another dismal day in…”  It’s rain, not the damn plague.  

Yes, horrific things happen. Yes, headlines may sell. But the world just doesn’t need any more negative crap to digest.

If you don’t believe me, listen closer to what we’re being told. Remember the weatherman I just described. 

Flip This

Are you writing posts and titles with words such as “pitfalls” and “mistakes”?

Let’s flip things around. I encourage you to use language that reflects a positive and helpful attitude.

Set the tone with words that are upbeat and encouraging. Leave the blunders, mistakes, and failures for someone else.

Consider these examples:

1. “7 Mistakes Parents Make When Selecting Colleges” can be changed to “7 Tips to Selecting the Best College for Your Child”

2. “Common Missteps that Small Business Owners Make Their First Year” can be flipped to “Tips for Small Business Success.”

3. “10 Pitfalls of Social Media Campaigns” can be reworded to “10 Successful Social Media Strategies.”

The headlines and titles of your articles, blogs, and programs are the magnet to draw readers and potential business into your pipeline. 

Pique interest with emotional and positive words and phrases that speak directly to your readers and their success.

Using positive language and an upbeat tone instead of scare tactics and poison will have a subtle but important impact. We need more hope and less pessimism in our world. 

Today’s takeaway: Be the fountain, not the drain.

The guerrilla marketing genius of Jay Conrad Levinson

IMAG0387Many of you recall the old commercials and ads that turned Charlie the Tuna, the Pillsbury Doughboy, and the Marlboro Man into household names and brands. I remember watching the TV commercials, in the pre-remote days when people actually watched commercials.

The common thread behind each of these products was Jay Conrad Levinson, who worked on the creative teams that developed these brands.

In the early 1980s, Levinson coined the term “guerrilla marketing,” which sparked a revolution in business marketing, advertising, and PR. He would go on to author and co-author some 60 books, selling more than 20 million copies worldwide.

The “Father of Guerrilla Marketing” passed away on Thursday at the age of 80.

During the past three decades, Levinson was able to use his talents and genius to morph his guerrilla marketing brilliance to include technology and social media.

What exactly is guerrilla marketing? It started with three points, and over the years, has grown to 15.

This is how Levinson has described his concept. “I’m referring to the soul and essence of guerrilla marketing which remain as always — achieving conventional goals, such as profits and joy, with unconventional methods, such as investing energy instead of money.”

Entrepreneurs, myself included, can relate to the energy over money method, just as Gary Vaynerchuk writes in Crush It: “The best marketing strategy ever is to CARE.”

It is Levinson who encourages small business owners to “get back to basics” in marketing. On his list of 200 guerrilla marketing weapons, he includes:

  • A street banner
  • A landing page
  • A vanity phone number
  • Patience
  • Business  cards
  • A meme

 

According to Levinson’s official website, guerrilla marketing is needed because it gives small businesses a delightfully unfair advantage: certainty in an uncertain world, economy in a high-priced world, simplicity in a complicated world, marketing awareness in a clueless world.

Thank you, Jay Levinson, for sharing your clues and knowledge with generations of marketers and small business owners around the world.

7 ways to provide content from your association conference

Rocakabilly marquisIf you want to get more mileage and content from your association event, it’s important to strategize a plan beforehand.

All of the marketing buzz shouldn’t come pre-conference. There are plenty of opportunities for nonprofits and associations to share your story during and after the event.

The following tips will help pique the interest of those who aren’t attending and will offer value to those who are on-site but may have missed a few sessions or learning opportunities.

To implement these suggestions, you’ll need to designate a media team. This can be a few interns, staffers, or volunteers who will act as cub reporters.

Send them into different sessions, keynotes, and receptions, ensuring you have “team coverage” and valuable nuggets from a few different perspectives and angles.

The key: Think like a news reporter.

1. Create an online conference diary or blog. Write a few short paragraphs at the end of each day that offers highlights and builds excitement for the following day’s events. This can also be a video post, which can showcase the enthusiasm and excitement of an attendee or staffer.

2. Think in sound bites. Your team of reporters should be able to grab phrases, nuggets, and catchy messages from keynote speakers and presenters. These can be tweeted with your conference hashtag or compiled into a ‘Top 10’ list for post conference updates.

3. Interview a speaker. Using a basic cell phone camera, flip cam, or old-style tape recorder, have one of your reporters prepare questions in advance so they can do a one-on-one at the event. Request the interview in advance so the speaker will be prepared. Ask about trends and insights they may not have addressed in their talk. Keep in mind, the final piece does not have to be a video segment. The audio can be transcribed into a Q&A format.

4. Make lists. With all the distractions bombarding us, people appreciate brevity and reader-friendly messages. Here are some examples: Top 10 industry gems overheard at XXX Conference…. 10 Takeaways from Our Keynote….7 Best Practices for XXX.

5. Create a SlideShare deck. Using one of the lists you have from No. 4, create a SlideShare presentation with graphics. This can easily be produced in PowerPoint and uploaded to the web. Same content; different platform. Cross-promote it on your various social networks.

6. Record a podcast. A conference round-up of highlights, insights, and trends can be recorded by one or two people. It’s always good to do the “person on the street” interview rather than a staffer or board member. Testimonials and insights from everyday people are powerful.

7. Gather pictures. Share conference pictures on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and blogs so people can ‘see’ the action.

If you’re feeling like this may be difficult to implement, remember that your team will already be at the event.

Think of this as simply a better use of their time.

5 tech tools to build your brand

Oliver street(Editor’s Note: The following guest post has been provided by Alicia Lawrence)

Having a tool like the Internet at your disposal is a double-edged sword. While it offers you an incredibly unique chance to reach millions of people across the globe in the blink of an eye, the Web can make you feel like the proverbial small fish in a big pond.

There are many simple ways you can harness the power of the Internet to build your brand, even without big sponsorships or ads. Here are five ways to get started:

Google+

Google+ is a great way to increase your visibility. Besides its variety of features as a social site, Google+ is the biggest factor in developing your brands local online presence. Customer reviews, pictures and your company’s information will appear as part of Google Places on the first page of Google and, depending on your industry, on the recently updated search carousel. It’s important to build your score on the carousel by asking loyal customers to review your company. Keep all of your information, such as phone and address, updated.

Know your consumer

It’s impossible to build a successful brand without knowing who you are targeting and with which audience your product is most successful. Use tools like Compete and comScore to conduct an analysis of your core customers. Look deeply into the behavior of your audience to identify which techniques are effective with your consumers and which are not.

Among other data, you will be able to see information regarding your audience’s age demographic, gender, marital status, household income, and locale. Create detailed personas and list what your target audience likes and dislikes. This could range from TV shows to sports teams, to pizza shops.  With these pieces of data in mind, you can then personalize your messaging towards the people who are paying attention to you.

Twitter

Staying engaged with your audience, in real time, is perhaps the most important aspect of building your brand. Twitter allows you to reach all of your followers instantaneously and remain in a constant state of conversation with them. Tools like Followerwonk and Twellow will help you find possible brand mavens and influencers. Keep your brand persona in mind when interacting on all your social platforms.

Google Alerts

One of the best things about the Web is that it allows you to constantly monitor what’s being said about you. Google Alerts is key to keeping your eye on your brand’s reputation. You can seek out any good reviews written about your product and share it on your Twitter or Facebook page to improve your image. Also, you may want to contact people who have written bad reviews so you can provide them with great customer service. Another real-time tool is Topsy, which allows you to find information about a particular query on the Web including mentions on social media.

Great Content

Content is King. It’s more important than ever to create solid content to catch the ever-fleeting attention of your audience. Remember that your website and blog also convey your image and message. Be sure to remain consistent in your color scheme and style, which should match your  promotional material and logo. Use infogr.am to create graphics to help your audience understand aspects of what you do or interesting facts about your industry.

The blog should appeal to the different consumer personas you created earlier. Maxwell Systems is a construction software company that does a great job at creating infographics that both drive traffic to their site and strengthen their brand. For example, this recent graphic has been picked up by multiple high-end construction sites. Notice their color scheme is similar to their website and they’ve placed their logo at the bottom of the graphic giving their brand visibility.

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.