SHIFT Agency PR Blog and PR News

27 Jan 2015

The Future of Marketing: Paul Roetzer

Tell us the Future!

Back in September, we attended the FutureM and INBOUND Conferences in Boston. As you might expect at an event called “Future of Marketing,” we spent a lot of time talking about, well, the future of marketing.

We had a chance to interview some of the top thinkers driving innovation and transformation in the marketing world, and get their perspective on the Big Question: What IS the future of marketing?

Who is Paul Roetzer?

In this conversation, Paul discusses where he sees the future of marketing. Here are quick takeaways from his thoughts:

  • Marketers who can tap into the creative, right-side of their brain along with the data-focused left side of the brain will be the future CMO’s.
  • We’re just seeing the beginning of what algorithms are going to do in marketing. It’s going to change the way we build strategy and run campaigns. Imagine what Watson is doing or did on Jeopardy and what it’s doing in healthcare and financial services; apply that to marketing.
  • Personalization should be on marketers’ minds: creating a one-on-one marketing feel and making the consumer feel as though you created that piece of content just for them.
  • The creation of content is no longer enough. We have to move past storytelling. We have to figure out how to take that whole scientific approach to creation and distribution of content and then to actually get people engaging with it and taking action.
  • Traditionalists will get left behind if they refuse to evolve. Technology has changed. Consumers have changed. We have to embrace it and figure out how to do our jobs better as a result of it.

Work at SHIFT

26 Jan 2015

The Pros and Cons of Podcasting


Serial, the This American Life spin-off podcast phenomenon, debuted in October 2014 and went viral. People tuned in weekly to hear host Sarah Koenig discuss the infamous case of high school student Hae Min Lee’s 1999 murder and the conviction of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed.

The explosive popularity of the podcast was surprising to non-podcast listeners, but it shouldn’t have been. Edison Research’s Fall 2014 Share of Ear study shows that podcasting’s popularity continues to surge. Edison’s study found that total “share of ear” of podcasting, amongst all Americans, increased by 18 percent in 6 months.


Americans listen to approximately 21,117,000 hours of podcast audio every day. Podcasts also have an intimate relationship with listeners. Listeners invite podcasters into their earbuds during workouts, commutes, and other private spaces. That close relationship has many businesses wondering whether to add podcasting to their content marketing mix. Is it the right choice for your company? Let’s look at the pros and cons of podcasting.

Pros of Podcasting

Unlike other forms of media, listeners tend to give podcasts exclusive attention and time. Listeners tune in during workouts, commutes, and other slices of free time. Other forms of media, such as blog posts and video, are subject to many distractions.

Edison Research’s report also discovered that for those who listen to podcasts, they listen to podcasts more than any other form of audio, including AM/FM radio and owned music. What does that tell us as marketers? Create a quality podcast and you’ll build a loyal base of listeners that will keep coming back for more.

Podcasting’s exclusivity isn’t just limited to time. Unlike broadcast media, a listener of your podcast will not hear messages from your competitors. When they tune into your show, they’re tuning in to you only. For marketers in fiercely competitive industries, this can cement loyalty to your brand.

As a form of digital media, we are able to measure podcast listenership with more accuracy than non-digital audio. We can track the number of downloads of individual episodes as well as subscribership to our shows. This level of accuracy allows us to see the immediate impact of our efforts.

Cons of Podcasting

Podcasting has many benefits, but those benefits aren’t free. Putting together a podcast requires time, money, and significant labor.

As a form of media, you must deliver a podcast on a regular schedule. Mainstream media has conditioned listeners to expect content delivered on a predictable, frequent basis, as often as weekly. Your publication schedule must mirror those expectations, and podcast production demands time. For every minute of podcast audio that the listener hears, expect to spend between 5-15 minutes of your time producing it.

Podcasting needs more equipment and resources than other forms of content marketing. To produce a quality podcast, you’ll need a microphone, audio editing software, and podcast hosting services. That’s just for the production of the podcast; you’ll need marketing services on top of the production services.

For example, you’ll need to market your podcast like a product. That means you’ll need to:

  • Develop an editorial calendar and marketing plan
  • Put up a dedicated landing page or website
  • Create marketing collateral such as email newsletters promoting the show
  • Set up cross-promotion in App Stores and content networks such as Google Play, iTunes, and Stitcher Radio


Podcasting can be an amazing channel to reach your audiences. It can build loyalty and positive sentiment towards your brand. That said, podcasting isn’t without significant costs and tradeoffs. Be sure you weigh the pros and cons before jumping in.
What other pros and cons can you think of for podcasting? Did Serial give your company the podcasting bug? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Tori Sabourin
Marketing Analyst 

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23 Jan 2015

Play #PRBingo With Top 50 Most Used Words in Press Releases!

Every year, SHIFT Communications releases its Top 50 Most Used Words in Press Releases. We look at thousands of releases, analyze millions of words, and come up with the words that you use most when you write a press release.


This year, we wanted to add some fun to the list and encourage you to improve your writing. Rather than a static list of words, we turned our Top 50 list into a game: #PRBingo.

Here’s how you can play this game to improve your writing. First, turn on the timer on your smartphone or desktop computer. Next, grab a stack of your most recent press releases and get yourself a new #PRBingo card. Begin reading the press releases and checking off words as you find them. See how long it takes you to reach BINGO, and feel free to YELL BINGO when you do.

Your goal is to take longer and longer to hit BINGO. In fact, for any single press release, your goal is to never hit BINGO. Why? Never hitting BINGO means you’re using a wider variety of words to describe your products and services.

Want to add some fun to the game? Grab your competitor’s press releases and two colleagues. Start the timer, then have one colleague read your company’s press releases aloud. See how long it takes you to hit BINGO. After someone wins, switch to your competitor’s releases and play again. See how long it takes you to hit BINGO with your competitor’s content. This is a fun way to find out whose writing has more variety.

Bad Press RElease Bingo

Try your hand at #PRBingo today and play with your colleagues. There’s even a printable version if you want to go old school, and you’re welcome to embed it in your own website!

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

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22 Jan 2015

How often should you check SEO metrics?


MozCast ‘SEO Weather’ Chart; taller bars indicate more SEO volatility

SEO. Those three little letters are enough to make most marketers back away slowly. Search Engine Optimization sounds like a tricky thing to navigate and Google doesn’t make it easy.

In the past, the big G has dropped large algorithm changes with a rundown of how they will affect sites. These days, changes are done much more frequently and on a smaller scale, which makes it easier to tweak if the effect is too far beyond what they initially expected.

Because of this change, site owners won’t see huge drops like they did with Panda or Penguin, but they will see a steady fluctuation in search engine and keyword ranks. How well you rank for a topic depends on a variety of things, including your authority as seen by Google scanning the rest of your site to understand what you are about and the keywords you use in relation to that content.

Now the new way of doing SEO has its benefits for both the end user and for Google, but it also changes how you should look at your SEO data, what you shouldn’t do with SEO anymore and how often you should check on various pieces of data.

Just how often should you look? Set up a schedule that works for your site and the frequency of which your data changes. For those just getting started and who aren’t sure about well versed on Google’s algorithm updates, let’s make it easy: once a week, check in on Google Webmaster Tools, check a ranking report like the one you would get from Moz and have it emailed from Google Analytics specifically from the search section.

In addition, I’d highly recommend subscribing to a few blogs and reading them daily to help you stay well-versed on what changes are happening in the world of SEO. Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch, Matt Cutts’ blog and videos, and Moz’s blog category on Basic SEO will get you started. These will help you stay informed as to what changes have happened and how they affect your rank over time, and will also help you understand what to do to address any issues that may arise.

SEO doesn’t have to be scary, it can actually be downright fun to read the data and make small ongoing decisions that can help your site rank better and make you #smarter in the process. These are just a few easy ways to get started.

Chel Wolverton
Account Manager, Marketing Technology

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21 Jan 2015

Is Your Content Sharable?

sharing content

For many online publishers, getting your articles and stories shared on social media is your main (or maybe only) mode of distribution. From small blogs to major online publishers, Facebook drives 22.36% of overall traffic to websites, including both paid and organic referrals. That’s almost a quarter of ALL web traffic coming from Facebook alone.

With the rise in mobile consumption, online publishers are forced to create content, headlines and websites that are optimized for digital sharing; this is no easy feat. Although we can’t ensure your next post will go viral, incorporating these best practices will help users easily share and engage with your content, whether it be on mobile, social media or the web.

Share Buttons + Click-to-Tweet Links

People are busy. From planes, trains and automobiles to waiting rooms and conference rooms, your content is being read everywhere. For the audience on-the-go, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to share what they’ve read. Adding Share Buttons gives people a one-click option to get your content in front of their network.

Click To Tweet links are also an easy way to give users a one-click option to share your content. Simply set up a free account with Click to Tweet, and you’ll be able to link readers to a pre-written tweet. With one click, they can easily share the tweet you wrote with your content to their followers.

Mobile Optimization of Your Website

58% of American adults have a smartphone. 32% of American adults have an e-reader. 42% of American adults have a tablet. With those numbers, if you’re not optimized for these devices, you’re frustrating your visitors every time they come to your site. Again, make it easy. If you haven’t created a mobile version of your site, it’s beyond time to get on that.

Snappy Headlines (but no clickbait)

Your headline is the first thing people see when they get to your article, so make it snappy! As few as two people go on to read an article after reading a headline, so grabbing attention and keeping that interest is a must. This is where knowing your audience comes into play. Figure out who is reading your content and cater your headlines directly to them. Taking advantage of pop culture hot-topics or asking questions are two strategies that can make for interesting headlines.

Next time you publish a blog post or a new piece of content, think about integrating these practices into your strategy. Do you have other tactics to make your content sharable? Share them with us in a comment below!

Tori Sabourin
Marketing Analyst

Download our new eBook, How Social Broke PR

20 Jan 2015

The Future of Marketing: Sara Castellanos


Back in September, we attended the FutureM and INBOUND Conferences in Boston. As you might expect at an event called “Future of Marketing,” we spent a lot of time talking about, well, the future of marketing.

We had a chance to interview some of the top thinkers driving innovation and transformation in the marketing world, and get their perspective on the Big Question: What IS the future of marketing?

 Who is Sara Castellanos?

  • Currently a Technology reporter for the Boston Business Journal covering startups, venture capital and the tech sector. Her previous beats include everything from politics and health to science, business and crime
  • An award-winning journalist who has been honored for her coverage of the Aurora theater shooting, immigration stories, health features and city government
  • You can find her on Twitter @BosBizSara.

In her discussion with SHIFT VP of Marketing Technology, Christopher Penn, Sara offers these takeaways about the future of marketing:

  • The future of the industry is technology. In today’s data-driven world, marketers must not only understand how to tailor their messages to audiences via different channels, but be adept at measuring the effectiveness of these messages as well.
  • Newer trends like predictive analytics and big data are emerging and increasingly replacing traditional marketing tactics such as cold-calling and print advertising.
  • Further disruption in mobile technology and across industries like robotics will continue to present both challenges and opportunities for marketers.
  • There will likely be a greater awareness around privacy and security issues given growing consumer concerns and the rapid advancement of technology.

Zach Burrus
Marketing Analyst

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19 Jan 2015

Honoring a Dream

Take a little time on your holiday today to watch the entire speech that Martin Luther King, Jr. is so well known for. We’ve embedded the video below and you can read the entire transcript here.

Chel Wolverton
Account Manager, Marketing Technology

16 Jan 2015

Why People Don’t Hate Snapchat Ads

The early verdict is in: people don’t mind Snapchat ads. In fact, they actually kind of like them. And brands? They like ‘em quite a bit too.

After launching advertising options in October 2014, Snapchat partnered with Millward Brown Digital to provide analysis around the first six ad campaigns featured on the platform. The analysis looked at overall effectiveness of the ads. In one case, Universal found that its sponsored Brand Stories led to a 13% increase in ticket sales for the movies it was promoting.

AYour Ad Heremong Snapchat users, 44% of Brand Story viewers and 60% of Our Stories viewers said they enjoyed the ads. (We’ll get into the difference in a bit.) These numbers are particularly high considering only 17% of consumers have said they’re okay with ads on their smartphones.

Why is this? Well, it’s pretty simple: Snapchat ads are well received because they are minimally intrusive. They’re opt-in. They aren’t forced down your throat. They live within a user’s Recent Updates feed and blend in casually with updates from friends. If a user wants to view the ad, they can click on it. If not, that’s okay too; it’ll be gone within 24 hours like any other Story. There is a choice involved, and that alone is a lot easier to deal with than a pop-up ad or something interrupting regular usage of the app.

So now that Snapchat didn’t crash and burn after introducing ads, should your brand be participating? It’s important to first be sure it’s a platform your audience uses. I bring up ‘research’ all the time, but it’s that important. Snapchat tends to cater to a younger demographic and will often lend itself more to consumer-focused brands, like retail, sports, food, etc. People use it to share fun, impermanent experiences. If it turns out Snapchat would be the perfect fit for your company, there are two current ad options:

  • Brand Story Ads: Brand Story ads mirror regular Snapchat Stories. These ads can be up to 20 seconds long and feature both video and photos. They appear alongside regular user Stories and are marked as sponsored.
  • Our Stories Ads: these ads are made up of user-submitted photo and video that together form an over-arching look at particular events. For example, the Super Bowl could run this type of ad that featured content from NFL fans at the game. Advertisers are also able to contribute their own content within the Story. Overall, it’s a cool way to get your fans involved. These ads appear underneath standard Stories in its own section.

If advertising simply isn’t in the budget for your brand at the moment (and rumor has it you need a big budget to advertise on Snapchat), don’t let that stop you from using the platform. There are numerous ways you can use Snapchat to promote for free. (Get introduced to it all here.) However, you’ll have to build your audience on your own versus having Snapchat insert it into users’ updated feeds.

Will Snapchat ads always be opt-in? Who knows. At the end of the day, every company needs to make money, and Snapchat could adjust its model in ways that generate more revenue. But for now, it’s a serious place to consider promoting your brand if the shoe fits.

Amanda Grinavich
Senior Marketing Analyst

Work at SHIFT

15 Jan 2015

The Future of Marketing with David Meerman Scott

Blog_Graphic_v3Back in September, we attended the FutureM and INBOUND Conferences in Boston. As you might expect at an event called “Future of Marketing,” we spent a lot of time talking about, well, the future of marketing. 

We had a chance to interview some of the top thinkers who are driving innovation and transformation in the marketing world, and get their perspective on the Big Question: what is the future of marketing?

This next installment features a conversation with David Meerman Scott, marketing and sales strategist, bestselling author and keynote speaker.

Who is David?

  • Internationally acclaimed marketing strategist and advisor
  • Bestselling author
  • Renowned keynote speaker (Fun Fact: David has delivered presentations in 40 countries and on all seven continents…including Antarctica.)
  • Find him online @dmscott and com

In this conversation, David discusses where he sees the future of marketing, and where sales and marketing professionals need to pay attention:

  • Sales and marketing converge on the web, and it is content what drives them both. Consumers now have access to perfect information. In some cases, the consumer knows more than the salesperson. It’s important for sales and marketing to understand this and be a smart content curator by providing value to the consumer.
  • For companies to evolve and adapt to the new sales and marketing landscape (like relying on social networking to build a customer database rather than the traditional CRM), they have to set it up as an A/B test to make sure they’ve got the right people on board to make the transition. Slowly migrate small groups of salespeople to the new model and see how they perform against the norm.
  • On Real-Time Marketing: So few organizations are operating in real time. It can be as simple as responding to an email instantly. If you get back immediately, more people are likely to engage with you.

Tori Sabourin
Marketing Analyst

Download our new eBook, PAID EARNED OWNED SHARED

14 Jan 2015

Copyright 101: Basics of Avoiding Content Marketing Lawsuits

Before we begin, an important disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, and the following does not constitute legal advice. Seek legal counsel if your company is dealing with any kind of lawsuit.


“Hey, this was on the Internet, we can use it as long as we give credit, right?”

Few sentences in the English language have started more lawsuits or cost companies more money than this one. Copyright law governs content, and failing to understand copyright law can expose your company to significant legal damages. How much? At a former company I was at, an intern used a photo from a major stock photo service that they found via Google Images on the company website. We received a legal notice that said if we do not pay $60,000 in damages and remove the photo, we would be sued for significantly more and our Internet Service Provider would shut down our company website for piracy, which would cost millions of dollars in lost revenue.

All of that from one misused photo.

As content marketing becomes an ever-increasing part of marketing programs, the possibility of copyright violation increases. As more people enter the content marketing profession who do not have any legal background or understanding of copyright law, more content contains the potential for legal damage. For PR and marketing professionals that are agency-side, there’s an even bigger whammy: if you infringe on someone’s copyright, both you and your client may be sued for damages.

How do you avoid infringing copyright?

First, it’s important to understand the basics of copyright. In the United States and a fair part of the world, copyright is an automatic right. The moment you create something, copyright applies to it. The moment I finish writing this blog post, it is copyrighted, regardless of whether or not I submit it to a third party like the US Patent and Trademark Office. Even if I never published this blog post, it would still be copyrighted. Any piece of content is automatically copyrighted – an Instagram photo, a Pinterest Pin, a Facebook meme, etc. No matter what the source is, content is automatically copyrighted.

Under copyright, the owner of the copyright has 5 major rights.

They have the right to reproduction, which means they can say who can or cannot reproduce their work. If someone were to copy this blog post and paste it on their own blog without permission, that would be a copyright violation.

They have the right to derivation, which means they can say who can or cannot make derivative works. If you take a screenshot of only part of an image, or rewrite someone else’s blog post in your own words, and publish it without permission, that would be a copyright violation.

They have the right to distribution, which means they can say who can or cannot share their work, including sale, import/export, sharing, and commercial trade. If you share an eBook for lead generation purposes that has someone else’s material in it without permission, that would be a copyright violation.

They have the right to public display, which means they can say who can or cannot post their works publicly, including on the Internet. If you share someone else’s work without permission in public, including online, that would be a copyright violation.

They have the right to sell, transfer, or license their rights, which means that they can legally appoint someone else the copyright holder or grant permission to use the item. If you commit any of the above infringements and there’s more than one copyright holder, you may find yourself facing a massive lawsuit from a deep-pocketed corporate legal department.

So what content are you allowed to share?

First, if you secure written permission from the copyright holder, that trumps everything. “Without permission” is the key to all of the above copyright infringements. Ask, ask, ask! When in doubt, ask. If you secure permission, you’re in the clear.

Second, there are certain licenses a copyright holder can put on their content that make it safe to share:

Public domain: a copyright holder may choose to waive their rights and place a work in the public domain, which means anyone can use it without needing prior written permission. Look for a PD logo and/or a written statement that something is in the public domain.

Creative Commons: a copyright holder may choose to grant certain rights without requiring advance permission, such as sharing or making derivative works, even for commercial purposes. Look for a CC logo and a disclosure or link on the work that states what rights have been granted.

Additionally, some entities are exempt from copyright. Works produced by the United States government (but not contractors or private organizations) are generally exempt from copyright, so when you get charts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you can work with them without prior written permission.

Finally, there are limitations on copyright called Fair Use Doctrine. However, Fair Use Doctrine is enormously complicated and fraught with legal risk. If you have a choice between using an approved license above vs. pursuing content that you may believe is covered under Fair Use, use the licensed works first. If you choose to pursue re-use of someone else’s content under Fair Use, we strongly recommend that you seek the counsel of a qualified intellectual property attorney to guide you.

Just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s free or that you have permission to use it.

To summarize, before you use someone else’s content, ask yourself two questions:

  1. Is this already pre-licensed, and can I use it under the terms of the license? If the answer is yes to both, you’re good to go.
  2. Did I get advance permission in writing? If the answer is yes, you’re good to go.

Anything else may be treading on thin ice over an ocean of litigation, so step cautiously!

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

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