Ben Ready is Managing Director of RG Communications. He has been a journalist and communications professional for nearly 20 years.
Media publicity is not terribly difficult – in theory. In practice it is incredibly complex and nuanced, which is why their is now entire industry built around it. As I have explained previously, there is a vast difference between media publicity and public relations. While both attempt to influence awareness, understanding and perception, they serve a different purpose and require vastly different approaches. In it’s simplest form, a media publicity campaign is about getting your brand, product or service in front of potential customers. It has always been my experience that while many clients talk about wanting ‘public relations’, what they really want is to see their name in the paper (for doing good things). Public relations on the other hand is largely concerned with managing the perceptions of complex publics, of which media is just one. While entire books have been written on public relations theory, very few writers have definitively addressed effective publicity strategies. Over many years of developing, refining and implementing effective strategies I have learnt that the only three things that matter are your Content, Contacts and Cadence. To keep the alliterative theme going, it is the what, the who and when. Content (What) Your content is your story and is the starting point for any publicity strategy. Without an engaging story, your contacts and cadence are irrelevant. Developing a strong narrative (or narrative series) is where you need to invest the greatest amount of time and resources. Unfortunately it is more art than science, which is why developing a good narrative is largely intuitive and takes many years of experience to do effectively. In a newsroom it’s called ‘news sense’, in the content marketing space it is called ‘story telling’, we call them opportunities. The key to developing great opportunities for publicity is to take yourself out of the story and concentrate on the needs of your audience. Simply stacking up your marketing messages into a pile is not creating a story, that is advertising. Ask yourself some simple questions:
Why is this story interesting?
What value is there for the audience?
Is it ‘news’ or ‘marketing’?
Who does this impact?
Contacts (Who) Your contacts are your target audience. In media publicity, it is the journalists, influencers and gatekeepers who control what appears in the media. It can be contacts in the traditional sense of people you know and have established relationships with or it can be people you haven’t dealt with previously. It is important to have a clear understanding of who your target audience is and then work backwards to find they media they consume, and the gatekeepers who decide what they consume. The first priority should be to establish and build relationships with people who may be covering your company or organisation on a regular basis. The easiest way to build relationships is to provide contacts with a steady stream of good stories. The easiest way to break their trust is to pitch them crap (highlighting the importance of content). It is important to establish and maintain wide databases of RELEVANT media. Cadence (When) Cadence is the regularity by which you target the media. You can execute opportunities too often, or not often enough; getting the balance right is difficult. The regularity of opportunity execution should always depend on the quality of your content, not the schedule in your planner. Setting up a schedule to release something on the third Thursday of every month often leads to missing great opportunities which happen at other times while using content that is not suitable, just because it is in a schedule. The best news (content) should be released when it happens. The longer you wait the less newsworthy it becomes. be prepared to be flexible and responsive to opportunities as they emerge and don’t let yourself be restricted by an arbitrary schedule. There are many different names for each of these aspects of a media publicity strategy. Regardless of what you call them, understanding them and finding solutions is the only strategy you will ever ned for getting yourself in the paper.
Producing consistently good, readable content can often be overwhelming, especially if you don’t have any writing experience.
One way to ensure your writing is up scratch is to look to the experts: journalists. Every day, journalists must write interesting, enticing and engaging content. It’s their job to produce stories that will help sell their publication.
There is a lot that content marketers can learn from journalists in order to improve their writing skills. Here are three tips to take on board:
The inverted pyramid style
Early in their careers, journalists are taught that readers will only read the first three paragraphs of a news article before they get bored or distracted. As such, journalists learn to position the most important elements of a story at the beginning of the article, with the least important elements at the end. This is called the inverted pyramid style of writing and it’s a good habit for content marketers to pick up.
Newspapers and magazines regularly publish attention-grabbing headlines to attract more readers. Apart from the front cover image, the front cover headline is the only guaranteed way to stop a reader in their tracks.
Content marketing is no different. When faced with a sea of search results, a reader will always click on the article with a catch headline first.
Here are a few tips for writing a good headline.
Use verbs – an ‘active’ headline is far more interesting and compelling;
Use interesting adjectives;
Use numbers (i.e. Five Tips for Writing a Great Headline);
Use trigger words like ‘How’ or ‘Why’ (i.e. How To Write a Great Headline In Five Easy Steps)
Tell the truth
One of the key tenets of journalism is to write the truth and present the facts in a clear and unbiased fashion. It’s a great lesson for content marketers to take heed of. Unlike advertising, content marketing is about developing a relationship with your readers. Much of that relationship will be built on trust and honesty. So be up front with your readers and they will reward you with their loyalty and dollars.
When you develop a marketing and communications plan for your business, you’re likely to come across a common conundrum.
Do you focus on advertising or content marketing?
Although content marketing and advertising are both trying to sell a product, they take two very different paths to get to the same goal.
With advertising, a company will promote a product’s company and services through traditional forms of advertising on the television, radio, magazines, newspapers, billboards, brochures, trade fairs and so on.
The aim is to educate or excite a consumer about the product that is being sold and then convince them to visit the company’s website.
Advertising is essentially a one-way dialogue between the company and the consumer. The consumer will listen and then decide whether they will buy.
Content marketing, on the other hand, is subtler than advertising.
The aim is to convert a customer that has already visited the company website.
Content marketing isn’t about slapping the consumer over the head with stories about how amazing your product is. Rather, it’s about selling the ‘idea’ of a product.
It’s about creating and publishing consistent, relevant, valuable, interesting and engaging content to attract your key demographic.
For instance, if you manufacture running shoes, the content you publish might include topics like ‘How to Improve Your Running Style’, ‘The 10 Best Tracks For Your Running Playlist’ or ‘The Latest Fashion Trends for Runners’.
Content marketing may be more labour intensive, but if you do it right, your key target audience will keep coming back to your website again and again. The more they love your brand, the more likely that devotion will convert to sales.
Another year is underway and nothing’s more certain than the changing social media landscape. It’s important to keep updated with relevant changes to your social media accounts and initiatives.
Here’s a wrap of a few recent changes and trends which may impact your social media strategy:
News Feed Update Now Responding To Surveys
Facebook continues to tinker with its News Feed as it tries to improve the experience and show more relevant stories. This will of course assist with targeted marketing activities.
Facebook has traditionally used technology to hone the News Feed, tailoring the experience based on your likes, clicks, comments and shared posts. Facebook of course recognises that technology is not perfect in assessing your varied interests. It is now using qualitative research to have users rate their experience and assess posts in their feed. By surveying users and asking the question “how much did you want to see this story in your News Feed?”, Facebook is gaining a better understanding of what people are interested in seeing regardless of whether they interact with the post.
According to Facebook people are having a better News Feed experience when the stories they see at the top are stories they are both likely to rate highly and and likely to engage with.
Facebook is making an update to News Feed to incorporate this likelihood based on their research.
These changes will have a varying degree of impact depending upon the composition of your audience and posting activity. Facebook says that in general this update should not impact reach or referral traffic meaningfully for the majority of Pages.
Overall you should continue to post content that your audience finds meaningful and interesting.
Facebook provides some good information on News Feed Best Practices and also Page post best practices. Review these regularly and track the effectiveness of your posts to give you greater insight into your most valued content and best posting habits.
Facebook Sports Stadium
Facebook is clamouring to get a slice of the real-time chatter which goes on during big events, particularly big sporting match-ups.
Photo by Donald Miralle for Sports Illustrated
This has long been the domain for Twitter where people can instantly share news, scores, opinions and generally vent about the last score. Twitter registered 28 million tweets for Superbowl 49 – up from 24 million the previous year and is favoured because of its immediacy.
Facebook has responded by launching Facebook Sports Stadium aimed at their 650 million followers who like sports. It’s a place where you can see:
-posts from your friends and their comments on the game
-expert commentary and posts from those who cover the game and access to their Pages
-live scores and stats
-other game information like TV schedules.
Currently available for American football games it will soon cover other sports around the world. We’re bound to see it in Australia soon.
It apparently struggled to keep up though with traffic during the recent Superbowl 50 between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers and was a number of minutes behind with the scores.
It took 7 mins for Facebook Sports Stadium to update the score with the Panthers’ touchdown. Early days but Twitter is still winning. #sb50
Facebook will persevere and it will be hard to bet against them making an impact during these live events. Soccer and the Olympics will surely be a huge worldwide draw card.
Instagram Multiple Accounts One eagerly awaited Instagram feature, which has been a long time coming, is the ability to run multiple accounts on Instagram. Up to now, you had to log off Instagram and log in under another account if you were, for example, using a private account and also managing a corporate account.
Twitter and Facebook has had this capability for a while and finally it has come to iOS and Android in the latest Instagram version, 7.15.
You now have the ability to add up to five accounts and you will be able to see which account you have active from several points in the app.
This will be a huge time saver.
Podcasts are poised to become one of the fastest growing mediums for individuals and brands wishing to reach new audiences according to smk (social media knowledge).
Podcasts have been around for some time and were first mentioned back in 2004. The rise of smartphones and tablets has certainly boosted their popularity.
smk identifies a defining moment in the rise of Podcast being when ongoing true story Serial became the first to pass five million downloads in 2014.
Podcasts are great to consume whilst you’re on the move with most listeners loving to learn about new things.
Some of the most popular Podcasts in Australia currently include:
It used to be said that today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip wrappings. Meaning what was written today is gone forever tomorrow.
The rise of Google and search has changed all that. Today, the number of people who find your content days, months or even years later through search engines can far exceed the number who click on it initially through your direct or social channels. A well written piece of content with simple search engine optimisation can have value for many years.
That means it is vital to ensure that your content is well ranked by Google and other search engines and that it comes up when people are searching the right keywords. While there are now an incredible array of complex SEO strategies available and an entire industry dedicated to the skill, the basics can be understood and used by anybody capable of publishing on the web
Regardless of the number of times Google updates their indexing algorithm the five most important aspects of any article written for the web remain the same.
The first step is to choose which keywords you are targeting and include them in the title of your article.
SEO copywriting is not just about ranking. It’s also about what your content looks like on a search engine results page. The meta description of your content is the “snippet” for the search result below the title, and it influences whether or not you get the click.
Lead off your meta-description with the keyword phrase and briefly summarize the page as a reassurance to the searcher that your content will satisfy what they’re looking for. Try to keep it under 165 characters so the full description is shown.
For search optimization purposes your writing should be tightly on-topic and strongly centred on the subject matter of the keyword phrases. Very brief content will have a harder time ranking over a page with more substantial content so try to have a content body length of at least 300 words.
Keyword frequency is the number of times your targeted keyword phrase appears on the page. Keyword density is the ratio of those keywords to the rest of the words on the page. Keyword frequency affects ranking so try to use the word regularly, but be careful. If you keyword density is over 5.5 per cent, Google could think you are “keyword stuffing” and it will de-rank you.
Search engines want to know you’re sufficiently “connected” with other pages and content, so linking out to other pages matters when it comes to search engine optimization. It is best if you link to relevant content fairly early in the body copy. Ideally you should link every 120 words of content.
Ben Ready is Managing Director of RG Communications. He has been a journalist and communications professional for nearly 20 years.
How you say something can be just as important as what you say. Developing a unique voice for your brand helps your customers understand what your brand is all about. If they like your voice they are more likely to build an affinity with your brand and feel comfortable with the underlying messages of your content.
Email technology group MailChimp is one brand that has put a lot of thought into their voice and use it to help people understand their own writing. They explain their ‘voice’ as :
MailChimp’s voice is human. It’s familiar, friendly, and straightforward. Our priority is explaining our products and helping our users get their work done so they can get on with their lives. We want to educate people without patronizing or confusing them.
A well defined brand voice primarily serves the purpose of making your content more readable by your audience. Defining your brand’s voice can be as complex or a simple as you want. The process of finding your voice is appropriate can be done in a range of different ways:
Understand your brand’s ‘personality’
Your voice should be a reflection of your brand’s personality. One of the best ways to understand your brand’s personality is to use the same framework developed by psychologist Carl Jung to better understand humans. Jung defined 12 primary archetypes that symbolise basic human motivations. Each type has its own set of values, meanings and personality traits.
Many financial services companies often adopt a Sage archetype. Sages are driven by a desire to understand and know the world around them. They represent wisdom, asceticism and destiny. The Everyman demonstrates the virtues of simply being an ordinary person, just like others; they are unselfish, faithful, supportive and friendly. Everyman brands give people a sense of belonging or being part of a group, of friendship and care. Ikea is a great example of an Everyman brand.
See where your brand fits and develop a voice that reflects your personality.
10 minutes, three words
A simple way to develop and quantify your brand’s voice is to get your marketers and executives in a room for 10 minutes and agree the three words which accurately reflect your brand. Are you passionate, quirky and funny? Are you mature, stable and assured? Are you relaxed, comfortable and friendly?
If you have another ten minutes get the thesaurus out and add some flavor to each of your brand’s characteristics by further defining each one of your traits. You could end up with a brand voice something like this:
Culture – What does your company stand for? What makes you stand out from all the others who are after the same audience? Your unique qualities make your culture special, and these should be a pillar of developing your voice.
Community – Listening can reveal how your community speaks and can help you speak easier with them and to them. You can use their language and meet them on their terms.
Conversation – Personality and authenticity are key here. What do you want to add to the conversation? As you think about what you can offer, you’ll start to see a better picture of where your voice might fit.
Ultimately, how you develop your voice is not as important as having one. Once you have found your voice, it may also be worth considering your tone. What’s the difference?
It seems like everyone today says you need content marketing. But why?
Content marketing has proven to be effective because it educates rather than pushes products or services. It allows consumers to engage and learn, making their own informed decisions through the different forms of content your create.
When it comes to search rankings and having an online presence, the importance of developing solid, relevant content cannot be stressed enough.
If you’re still not convinced here are six reasons why you need to incorporate content marketing into your overall marketing strategy:
1. Positions your brand as a leader
Producing and curating great content will position your brand as a leader in its field, helping to push word-of-mouth recommendations. This is particularly important as consumers today are less likely to trust sales messages. Establishing your reputation as a leader through word-of-mouth is much more valuable than paid endorsements and advertising.
Creating content is largely about increasing brand awareness. The more real, relevant content you produce, the more likely it is to be shared online and gain exposure. When your content does get shared on social networks it’s going to rank higher in search engine results, helping to boost your business and brand’s visibility online.
One of the main reasons businesses invest in content marketing is to improve or increase sales. By aligning your content with your customer’s needs it encourages them to take action whether that means booking appointments, purchasing your product or hiring your services.
Traditional marketing tactics such as social media accounts, pay-per-click and digital banner advertisements don’t work well without any actual content to promote. To drive traffic to your website you need well produced content to advertise and click through to. This content is the reason consumers will come to your website and return in the future.
5.Keeps your website up to date
As your business’ website is usually the first point of call between you and your customer it’s important that it makes a strong first impression. A sparse, stale website is much less engaging than one with a wide range of interesting content and images. Customers who are researching their options will often visit numerous websites selling or offering the exact same thing. If your website stands out with new and relevant content, it’s more likely you’ll win the business over your competitors.
Building relationships with your target audience is key to growing your business. To build these relationships you must establish yourself as a reliable source, a place consumers come to find the best product or service. By offering customers engaging content you are successfully building these relationships. Once there your customers will return the favour through referrals and word-of-mouth recommendations.
Content marketing develops relationships with customers through each stage of the sales cycle. More sales convert when the customer trusts the brand. If you haven’t taken advantage of content marketing in your business strategy, what are you waiting for?
Every day people are being bombarded with messages, whether they are advertisements on the local bus, text messages on their smart phones or the latest posts on their Instagram, Twitter or Facebook feeds.
If you want to cut through the noise with your web content, your message needs to be on point. Here’s how:
1. Be Brief
Your web content should always be short and sweet. Why, you might ask? I don’t know about you, but my eyes tend to glaze over if I see a wall of text. In this day and age, it’s all too easy to click on a different story if you get bored. You need to grab the reader’s attention quickly and hold it. Be concise, but engaging.
2. Use Headings and Bullet Points
Remember what I said about text heavy content? No one likes it. Be kind to your readers and break up your content into easy, readable chunks. Use headings, subheadings and bullet points to draw attention to each section. Readers will appreciate this – they can quickly skim the content and determine if they want to read a particular section or skip it.
3. Condense Your Copy
One A4 page of content is more than enough to keep your readers engaged, but not too long that they will lose interest. An ideal word count is 250-400 words.
4. Images and Videos
As mentioned in points 1 and 2, readers are terrified of too much text. Keep their interest by interspersing your copy with interesting and relevant photos, graphs or videos. Hey presto! Your story instantly becomes more exciting.
5. Use Spell Check
So there you have it. These are just a couple of simple ideas for ensuring your web content is appealing and easy to read. Now go get ‘em!
When I was studying journalism at university, we were taught to write all news stories with impartiality and objectivity. At the time, impartiality was viewed as the cornerstone of high quality, credible journalism.
Our job was to deliver comprehensive coverage of news and current affairs without colouring the story with our own personal prejudices or biases. It was important; we were told, to report a wide range of options and perspectives fairly and accurately, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions.
Today, the value of an impartial or objective approach in contemporary journalism is increasingly being questioned.
New York University academic Jay Rosen is critical of impartial journalism, describing it as the “view from nowhere”. Rosen said: “If in doing the serious work of journalism–digging, reporting, verification, mastering a beat–you develop a view, expressing that view does not diminish your authority. It may even add to it.” 1
Transparency, it seems, is the new ‘black’. Silicon Valley CEO and academic at Berkley Journalism School Alan Mutter argues impartiality should be replaced with “a realistic and credible standard of transparency that requires journalists to forthrightly declare their personal predilections, financial entanglements and political allegiances so the public can evaluate the quality of the information it is getting”. 2
Others question if impartiality is even achievable. In his paper, Delivering Trust: Impartiality and Objectivity in the Digital Age, Cardiff University’s Professor of Journalism, Richard Sambook asks: “Does a neutral voice hold the same value today as it did a century ago? Is the emphasis on impartiality in news actually an impediment to a free market in ideas? And with technological convergence is?”
So is the decreasing relevance of impartiality in journalism purely an academic debate? Taking a look at recent newspapers headlines, it seems that the proof is in the pudding. We are continually bombarded with newspaper headlines that are proudly free of objectivity. One recent example is The Courier Mail’s coverage of the Gerard Baden-Murder trial in Queensland. The newspaper published a series of headlines objecting to Baden Clay’s successful appeal for his murder charge to be downgraded. One headline proclaimed: The Law is An Ass.
The Daily News in the United States has also taken a strong stance against the pro-gun lobby. Following a number of mass shooting in California, it has printed controversial and now infamous headlines such as Blood on Your Hands; Same Gun, Different Slay; Shame on U.S. and God Isn’t Fixing This.
Given the declining circulation of newspapers3 and the need to produce eye-catching and ultimately saleable headlines on a regular basis, it seems likely that impartiality in journalism will take a back seat for a while.
Navigating this new era of journalism will be tricky. Writing high-quality articles that deliver transparency over impartiality will require finesse; they will need to be built on a strong foundation of solid journalism. Facts will still need to be sourced, attributed and double-checked for accuracy. News articles featuring strong viewpoints may be the future of journalism – whether good or bad – but let’s avoid the trap of creating click-bait style headlines that are controversial for controversy’s sake.
Ben Ready is Managing Director of RG Communications. He has been a journalist and communications professional for nearly 20 years.
In the late noughties people and businesses began to grasp the power of content and its ability to drive brand awareness, customer engagement and sales.
The proliferation of mobile technology combined with the power of search engines and the reach of social media meant marketers had to fundamentally re-think everything they knew about engaging with their customers. The changes presented both challenges and opportunities for brands prepared to throw time and resources towards content.
Many of those who embraced content are now enjoying the benefits as their digital footprint grows, along with their audience and influence. These brands have discovered the benefits of the infinite publicity loop.
What is the infinite publicity loop?
For many smaller organisations, growing their brand reach (in a cost effective manner) is the greatest marketing challenge they have. Compared to paid media, using content to build reach is one of the most affordable and effective strategies available.
The infinite publicity loop is the holy grail of content marketing. It is when your content (even a single piece of content) delivers you an ongoing stream of value long after you have made the investment. Regardless of how you define ‘value’ it is the time aspect of the loop that is important.
The loop is all about creating content that delivers engagement, enquiry and sales well into the future. It is now feasible for a piece of content that you invest in today, to still be delivering value in five years with almosy immeasurable ROI.
The loop starts with great content which you distribute across multiple channels.If it is good enough, this content is consumed and shared by your audience, this consuming and sharing enhances its search value, which attracts new users who consume and share, improving its value for search.. and so on and so on, in an infinite loop of growing reach.
It all starts with valuable content
Creating great content that engages your audience and encourages social sharing is the starting point. Once you have done this it is important to work your distribution channels.
Earned media – make sure you have a solid PR campaign that is distributing content consistently to a broad range of media. Make sure you are sharing this content across your own social media platforms to maximise its reach and search-ability.
Owned media – publish your stories on your own platforms. If you don’t have a social and search friendly platform, get one (like WordPress). Make sure your content is SEO-friendly and is underpinned with high levels of sharing.
Influencer media – engage with your industry’s influencers and make sure they are using and sharing your content.
The loop only prospers when you feed it so regularly producing content and distributing it across your channels is fundamental to getting the loop spinning.
A little encouragement goes a long way
Sometimes the loop may need a little encouragement before it becomes self sustaining. There are a couple of ways you can give your content a little kick start.
Manufacture reach – SEO relies heavily on content usage so manufacturing a bit of usage to get the ball rolling is a good idea. One of the best ways to do this is ensure in your staff are sharing your content across their own social networks. Hit your family and friends up as well.
Pay for reach – if your content is gaining some traction it can be worth giving it a ‘boost’ with some paid promotion across Google AdWords or on social media.
The goal should be to have the content to develop an entirely organic process of reach as quickly as possible.
Thanks for reading and good luck with your publicity loop.