SHIFT Agency PR Blog and PR News

22 Oct 2014

Find your Brand’s Optimum Facebook Strategy

The Facebook news feed algorithm is in constant flux. It’s never a surprise when another ‘update’ materializes in the daily news scan, making the maintenance of a successful social media strategy difficult for marketers and communicators. One of the fundamental truths to Facebook in current environments, however, is that brands (in general) need to pay in order to be seen.

Thankfully Facebook presents brands with several options to increase the number of eyeballs on the content and engagements with the post. Among those options are things like Boosted Posts and Promoted Profiles. For those who aren’t as familiar with Facebook’s paid options, here are the differences:

  • Boosting Posts is an advertising strategy where you pay to have your post seen by a larger percentage of your audience (than with organic, unpaid reach alone).
  • Promoted Profile is an advertising strategy where you pay to have people discover your Facebook Page.
  • Note: There are several other paid strategies available on Facebook, but these two apply to most brands.

The question facing both our agency and our clients is: Of these two basic Facebook paid media strategies, which is more effective for actually getting your content seen?

To answer that question, we did our homework using our own data in a research experiment to determine what strategy worked best for our audience (i.e. if you want to replicate this for your own purposes, use your data, not our conclusions). If you want to keep up with Facebook’s changes and see what works for your brand or client, try our methods as a starting point.

Here’s what we did:

Our goal was to determine which of the two options above, a promoted profile or boosted posts, resulted in the highest engagement from our audience on Facebook. Over the course of the campaign, we invested a small amount of money ($10 a day) to see which strategy worked best with our audience and our posts.

We boosted one post a day – the post containing our daily blog content – to our target audience, determined through audience research.


We first ran the experiment over a three-week period in July, alternating between promoting SHIFT’s profile, boosting posts and a combination of both.

Week 1: Boosted Posts (no promoted account)

Week 2: Promoted Profile (no boosted posts)

Week 3: Promoted Profile AND Boosted Posts

In July, posts during Week 2 performed the best, resulting in some of the highest engagement across the board – with just a promoted profile campaign active.

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 8.32.12 AM

These results provided what we felt was a counterintuitive conclusion: in order for our content to be seen, it appeared the correct strategy was to promote our page, not our posts. While these results were certainly interesting, we knew there were a few outside factors that could be manipulating the results – particularly the fact that the month of July is very popular for vacations and time off from work (and your computer). We decided to wait a few weeks and test again in September, when vacations are ending and people’s schedules return to normal.

September + October

When September rolled around, we duplicated our July experiment – $10 a day, rotating strategy week by week for six weeks and found the results to be the exact opposite of what happened in July. Our posts performed best when they were boosted without a promoted profile campaign active. This is why it is so important to do your research, experiment and repeat!

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 8.30.01 AM


Overall, our experiment gave us nine weeks of data. We analyzed our findings and found that the best practice (for the time being, at least) for SHIFT to reach the Agency’s target audience is to only boost posts, forgoing the promoted profile campaigns, as summarized in the chart below:

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 3.47.53 PM

In the above chart, we can see that boosted posts with no promoted profile provided 12x increases in median paid reach of content over organic (unpaid) reach.

For the second category of campaign, where we boosted posts and promoted the profile, we saw only a 9x increase in paid reach and no significant difference in organic reach.

Finally, in the promoted page with no boosted posts, we saw half as much organic reach and no paid reach. For our Facebook audience, boosted posts without promoted profile advertising seems to be the way to go to achieve maximum reach… for now.

If you find yourself in a situation where your Facebook strategy has fallen flat and audience engagement is lagging, try this experiment for yourself. See if your audience reacts differently than ours, and most important, find the best paid social media strategy for your brand.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

Tori Sabourin
Marketing Analyst

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21 Oct 2014

Conquer Today’s Top B2B Content Marketing Challenges

This week I was reminded of a post I wrote back in March on jumpstarting your B2B content. The reminder? MarketingProfs’ latest B2B Content Marketing 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends report. The report provides some great insight into how B2B marketers are thinking about content and where they’re stuck. Though 70% of the marketers who responded are creating more content than they did a year ago, they are experiencing a number of challenges that still plague their efforts. Those challenges range from budget issues and lack of training to struggling with consistency and engagement. Today, I wanted to examine the top three challenges cited in the report and how to think about combating them.

B2B Marketing Challenges

Challenge #1: Producing Engaging Content.

Ah, yes. It can certainly be hard to find a way to be engaging if your company specializes in things like enterprise cloud storage and virtualization. But it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. First things first, make sure you’ve researched your audience. It’s likely you already know them from a sales perspective, but what do they find valuable from a human perspective? What do they read on a daily basis? What questions are they asking? Check out what they’re sharing and discussing on social media. Go through any recent customer FAQ’s. Once you get a feel for their interests and habits, you can start to create content that they’ll find interesting and informational. Become a resource for your audience — not just a resource on your individual company, but also a resource on the industry. Above all, make it a point to stay fresh and original. Copycats are boring.

One helpful tip: if your B2B brand is active on social media, you will be able to get additional insight on your audience through their proprietary analysis tools. For example, on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, you have the ability to see things like audience interests, seniority levels and more. This will help you further dictate and target your content.

Challenge #2: Producing Consistent Content.

There are plenty of excuses for not producing consistent content, “We don’t have time,” or “We don’t have enough to write about.” The bottom line is that if you want your content program to succeed, you absolutely have to be consistent, whether it’s daily, weekly or monthly. Choose a schedule and stick to it so your brand is providing a steady flow of content and your audience know what to expect and when.

Create a content calendar that will map out the topics you want to cover and the days you’ll focus on them. Documenting your strategy will help hold you accountable. As the report shows, those companies who said they had a documented strategy found themselves to be more efficient, more consistent and better at measuring their overall program’s effectiveness.

Write it down!

Challenge #3: Measuring content effectiveness.

Measurement can be a mystery for many content marketers. Only 21% say they are successful at tracking ROI, and there was a 10% year-over-year increase in those who found measuring content effectiveness to be challenging. There isn’t one magic metric that will tell you how your content is doing. What success means for you depends on what your goals are for the program. Is it to generate awareness or site traffic? Does your business need to generate leads? It’s important to know what your goals are so that you have something to measure against. If you want a deeper dive on the ways you can measure your content marketing, be sure to check out our webinar that will walk you through best practices and beyond.

What are your biggest B2B content marketing challenges?

Amanda Grinavich
Senior Marketing Analyst

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20 Oct 2014

The bedtime test of content marketing and PR

If you’ve ever had the opportunity, try to recall the last time you tucked in a child at bedtime.

You were probably asked to have the lights put a certain way.

Perhaps you were asked for a drink of water.

You were almost certainly not asked to read them a press release.

What do they want you to read?

Designed by Sarah Muscarella, click for big version

If you need an acid test for compelling content, show it to a literate child at bedtime. Offer to read them a white paper or press release, listen to a webinar, show them an infographic. If they manage to stay engaged for more than a minute, then you’ve clearly got the hang of good storytelling. If they’re immediately bored, then your storytelling isn’t compelling.

Think you can’t apply compelling storytelling to “boring industries”? You can. In 1999, my graduate thesis was on the deployment of a Microsoft Exchange server at a non-profit in order to improve collaboration. The story was presented as a Lord of the Rings-style adventure, in which a plucky band of adventurers fought dragons like technophobia on the way to the promised land of integrated communications.

Other great examples of this? Marketo Corporation released a B2B marketing coloring book:


B2B tag management vendor Tealium took it a step further and released an actual children’s Little Golden Book titled “Taming the Digital Marketing Beast”:


If you want a simple test for any content marketing or public relations communication, try reading it to a child at bedtime. The feedback you receive about your storytelling abilities will be instant and brutally honest. Then go back, sharpen your pencil, and try again until you create something that even a kid would like.

Oh, and the storytelling graphic above is available in poster-size, if you’d like to print it out and hang it in your office as a reminder.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

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17 Oct 2014

Agency Life 101: Nicole Bestard, Account Director

nicole_bestardFrom time to time, we like to open a window into what life is like here at SHIFT. We pride ourselves on our smart, dedicated (and who can forget ballsy) culture. This week, we check in with Nicole Bestard, an Account Director in our NYC office. Nicole gives us insight into the day-to-day as an AD and offers advice for those looking for a glimpse into the SHIFT life.

What are your main focuses as an AD? How do your day-to-day responsibilities play into this?

Very simply, I’m a problem solver. For my team, for my clients, for the Agency. No one day is alike. And rare is the day that actually matches up to what my calendar says.

My main focus: how to get more ink for our clients (and how we’d get ink for future clients). Ink, and the quality and quantity of it, is at core of most of the problems I’m trying to solve, and the core of every good PR practice.

My main concerns: client health and team health. This means sitting in on a lot of meetings, listening for needs and opportunities. But I can’t sit in on them all and be a good listener or a good helper, so I work in constant triage, jumping in where I’m needed most.

My main responsibility: cheering. It is absolutely the most important part of my job. You can’t be of service to anyone if you’re not taking the time to celebrate achievements and relish in tiny successes.

While the above doesn’t ever change, each day brings new challenges in each category.

What are some of the things you enjoy most about being an AD? What are some of the challenges?

I love the variety that comes with my job. With two teams, I get to work on both consumer and high-tech B2B accounts. One minute I’m participating in a brainstorm for ideas around a new lifestyle store opening, the next I’m editing a byline for a tech trade from the founder of an enterprise software company. It requires agility, and keeps me thinking creatively. And then throughout the day I’m checking in on email, monitoring client requests on multiple accounts, fielding new business requests, troubleshooting with the team, jumping in on impromptu discussions around a pitch strategy, media conversation or PR plan that I hear happening all around me. And cheering all the while because the wins are coming in throughout the day.

The great thing about being an AD is that every little win achieved by my team is multiplied. When I was in the AC, AE or even SAE role, each “win” just belonged to me. Now, as a director for two fairly large, awesome teams, if someone on my team gets a win, it’s multiplied, exponentially. There are so many wins, so many things to be happy about and so many things to be proud of each day.

Positive coverage for a client is always a win. But it’s not limited to that. Sometimes just getting a reply from a hard-to-reach journalist is a win. Drafting a well-written email to deliver candid feedback to a client is win. There’s a lot of cheering coming from my desk on good days.

The challenge is bandwidth. On busier days, there’s no cheering. And that’s not because the wins aren’t coming in. It’s because I’m running from call to meeting to call and so I don’t get a chance to witness, and to cheer, for the wins as they happen. I feel bad about that.

Also, while my focus is ink, I don’t actually get to talk to actual reporters very often. It’s important to stay connected to reporters. They are, in many ways, the “other” client. I try to ameliorate that by spending an hour every week with junior staff to pitch alongside them, or at least be present with them to offer prep/pep talk before calls, and then give instant feedback and support.

This dedicated group pitch time was intimidating for everyone at first, which is why I named it “Cliff Jumping”. The more you do it, the easier it is, and it helps to have peer pressure on your side to make the leap. It’s been a really successful program since I started making it a weekly practice, and it’s the one meeting I keep as an absolute constant each week. I like talking to reporters (I used to be one), and I think it’s really important to lead by example. It’s also important for junior staff to hear me make mistakes on the phone, too. It’s helped me re-connect with the core work of what we do in a tangible way, and it drives home that no matter what each person’s role or rank in the Agency, we all have something to learn from each other.

One of your primary duties is overseeing NYC’s account team. What’s your personal approach to management? What advice do you have for those newer to a management role?

LISTEN. To your clients. If we’re not getting results, it’s usually either a storytelling issue or a target issue. I’m constantly looking for ways to adjust the message or story, and to help the team hone in on the perfect target for that story. Listening to trends, reading, paying attention to the random news a client might drop in about the company and to things that are said by other teams is essential.

ASK QUESTIONS. Of your team. I cheer hard and loud. But I also push hard, and often. It’s usually in the form of lots of questions. I’m always asking, how can this be done better? What about this angle? Are you talking to the right person? What’s the plan for this? Where are you getting your data? Is this what the client asked for? What result do you want?

ASK FOR HELP. OFFER HELP. Getting the team involved not only helps you, it helps them learn, and ensures you have people trained for the job well in advance of emergencies. Delegating is a major challenge for new managers, as is knowing where you fit in. Asking for help encourages a team atmosphere at every level, and prevents feeling overwhelmed. Offering help to both junior staff and senior staff is great way to keep learning, and it ensures you go where you’re needed most.

You’ve been known to say that “No one walks alone” here at SHIFT. Would you talk about the importance of this in agency life, and how it connects to the larger culture at SHIFT?

I would not be able to do what I do, and be proud of the work I do, if it wasn’t for the support and hard work of my team and my superiors. NO is just not heard here very often.

I mention asking for help above. I wouldn’t recommend that if it didn’t actually lead somewhere. From our CEO to our interns, SHIFTers are genuinely service-oriented people. Many of us are probably capable of handling every situation on our own, but the truth is that smart people realize that working in a vacuum benefits no one. It’s service industry math. One is great, two is better, three is a team. PR can involve a LOT of rejection, a LOT of demands, a LOT of pressure. Likewise, it’s a super competitive world out there. The work we do — telling our clients’ stories and finding a place for them in the world — is competing against thousands, if not millions and billions of other stories trying to get told.

As such, we have to be incredibly competitive and aggressive in our tactics against the competition. If we had to compete against each other at the same time, it’d be an endless battle. At SHIFT, I’ve never felt that I was the one solely responsible for a win or a loss, a placement or a rejection. It’s nice knowing that you are not solely responsible for an outcome, good or bad. You are accountable to do your part. But if you’re surrounded by peers who do their part, you’re more likely to do everything you can to do right by them. It inspires everyone to do better work.

You’ve done your fair share of hiring over the years. For all the budding PR pros out there, what are some of the key things you look for in a new hire?

CURIOSITY. I believe that an open mind, creative mind, ability to roll with the punches and take on new challenges all stems from curiosity. If you’re not interested in random stuff, constantly reading, asking questions about what you don’t know, trying new things and approaches, then you’re going to miss opportunities. “Best practices” does not equal status quo, and curiosity is essential to that. A smart person has good answers, but without curiosity, they’re often limited to just a few answers. A curious person does not have all the answers. But they will leave no stone unturned to find a new contact or story angle or solution to a client problem. That’s far more valuable.

KINDNESS. Life is too short and our office is way too small to work with anyone who isn’t nice. Sure we all have bad days, but to paraphrase our EVP Cathy Allen about considering candidates: “If I were stuck in an airport overnight coming back from a business trip, would having this person by my side make it better or worse?”

Also, kind people tend to anticipate and consider the needs of others. PR is a service industry. We’ve got to anticipate and be cognizant of the needs of our clients and the media to be heard above the din of everyone else with a good story to tell. The tricky part about hiring nice, smart people is that they have a tendency to take on too much. Once they’re hired, it’s on us to train folks to anticipate—and communicate—their own needs in advance to avoid burnout or things falling through the cracks. I don’t want someone who can “do it all” on their own. That’s only great if you’re a one-person agency. And we’re not.

Finally, SENSE OF HUMOR. If a candidate has made it past the introductory round, it’s not unusual for me to drop on F-bomb or two somewhere in the interview process. I want to see how the candidate reacts. Can they handle the unexpected with grace? How do they try to win me over without stooping to my level? Despite the stress of the interview situation, can they still make me laugh?

Zach Burrus
Marketing Analyst

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16 Oct 2014

Nothing in Marketing is Unique

From the latest tool or piece of automation software to measurement or campaign tactics, very few things we come across in the communications industry are truly unique. Most “major” technological advancements are just that, advancements on an idea that has actually been around for a long time.

“[Insert New Invention Here], now that’s the greatest idea since sliced bread!” We’ve all heard it. But what was sliced bread? Manipulating an existing product (or idea) to solve a customer’s problem.

  • Problem 1: You’re hungry.
  • Solution 1: You bake a loaf of bread to eat.
  • Problem 2: The large loaf is very hard to eat because it is an odd shape and not proportioned for easy enjoyment of buttery delight.
  • Solution 2: Loaf of bread is sliced and sold in pieces, making it easy for customers to enjoy with butter or the condiment of their choosing.


The creator of Solution 2 didn’t reinvent the wheel; they didn’t create a new product that came in the optimal shape for the easy addition of butter. They just tweaked existing results to solve a problem.

At SHIFT Boston, we recently were given the opportunity to listen to David Rose, entrepreneur, author and instructor at the MIT Media Lab (disclosure: David is also a SHIFT client), about his new book “Enchanted Objects.” The premise of his talk was how future technologies will not blow our minds with their new abundance of abilities – they will simply integrate into our daily lives in ways we wouldn’t have even realize we needed them. A pill bottle cap that lights up when you forget to take your medicine. An umbrella that flashes its handle when it is forecasted to rain that day.

The takeaway? If you have a problem, don’t spend too much precious time looking for a completely new solution. Do your research. Chances are, someone else had a similar problem and already came up with a solution. It may not be exactly what you need, but it will put you on the track of success. A few tweaks and enhancements and you may just come up with the next ‘sliced bread.’

Tori Sabourin
Marketing Analyst

Photo Credit

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15 Oct 2014

Beginner’s Guide to Blogging 5/10: The Wheel

Blogging isn’t going out of style any time soon; with the ascent of content marketing, blogging, podcasting and video are on the minds of marketers and PR professionals all the time. In this 10-part Beginner’s Guide to Blogging series, we’re going to explore what makes a blog great and give you some structures and frameworks to help make blogging easier. Take from it what works and leave behind what doesn’t work!


The Wheel

The wheel is a blogging structure that comes from computer networking, from the idea of a hub-and-spoke network model. In the center of the wheel is the hub, or the main idea. Each connection to the main idea is a problem that the main idea solves.


To start a Wheel blog post, you start boldly with the central idea. The idea is the big picture, the thing that could solve a lot of problems. Once you’ve presented the idea, you immediately confront yourself with the first of many problems the wheel can solve.

By the end, the amount of proof you’ve provided of the efficacy of the main idea should be self-evident; the hub has addressed every problem on the spokes capably. You finish off your blog post briefly recapping how the problems brought up have all been solved by the main idea.


Let’s say you sell roasted coffee, as an example for a wheel post. As a disclaimer, LOLBeanz and Todd and Jim’s Roasted Beans Coffee Company do not exist. They’re for illustrative purposes only.

Main idea: This revolutionary new blend of coffee from Todd and Jim’s Roasted Beans can satisfy any coffee lover. LOLBeanz coffee blend is roasted extra bold for people who like a rich, satisfying flavor, but blended from very low acid beans that make it the perfect fit for sensitive stomachs.

Spoke 1: Some of you might say, “I don’t like a strong coffee.” LOLBeanz is ground finely, so you can throttle back on the amount of coffee you use without sacrificing flavor. If you do that with a regular coffee, you’ll get coffee-colored water at best.

Spoke 2: What if you have someone in the home or office who has a weak stomach? LOLBeanz is roasted from a proprietary blend of 23 different coffee varieties all selected for their low acid. LOLBeanz brews up a wonderful cup of flavor, but none of the stomach-upsetting acid.

Spoke 3: Some of you prefer a roast that can be used for espresso instead of regular coffee. LOLBeanz is roasted to a full city roast, which means that it’s a great fit for espresso lovers. Plus, if you only have an espresso machine, the blend is mild enough that you can add water to make an Americano so smooth, your friends will think you brewed a fresh pot of coffee just for them.

Spoke 4: If you’re eco-minded and love to throw your used coffee grinds in your garden, but you want to make sure you’re truly organic, not to worry. Every bean in LOLBeanz is certified organic, which means it’s good for your garden.

Spoke 5: Thinking about the rest of the world? LOLBeanz is not only certified organic, it’s also fair trade certified and certified carbon neutral. You can feel good about every cup, knowing that the farmers producing it have been paid fairly and that you’re not ruining the planet with a ton of carbon for a pound of beans.

Conclusion: If you want a rich, hearty cup of coffee every morning that does good for you, your stomach, your friends, and your world, pick up a bag of LOLBeanz today at any participating retailer or online.

If the wheel did its job, you should be wanting a cup of coffee right now, and if LOLBeanz were real, you’d ideally be clicking a Buy Now link.

Use Cases

The Wheel differs from structures like the Kennedy or the Franklin in that you’re expressly challenging your main idea over and over. Every possible objection is handled in advance, making it ideal for blog posts and pages that need to sell.

In the next post in this series, we’ll take a kid’s game and turn it into blog fodder.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

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14 Oct 2014

Harness the Power of Negativity Bias for Positive Marketing

Imagine this: You get a $2000 bonus from your employer for excellent work. The same day, your car’s transmission bites the dust and you have to shell out $2000 to get it repaired.

Which event sticks out in your mind a month later? If you’re like most humans, you’re agonizing over that $2000 repair bill long after you’ve forgotten the good feeling brought on by the bonus.

Negativity Bias

This is because of a psychological phenomenon called “negativity bias.” Our brains recall negative memories more vividly than positive ones, and negative associations tend to be much stronger than positive associations.

Research on the subject concludes not only that “bad is stronger than good” with very few exceptions, but that negativity easily overpowers positivity of seemingly equal value. Negativity bias has even been demonstrated in three-month olds.

As marketers and PR pros, we strive to create a brand message that’s “sticky.” We also want that message to be positive. Yet therein lies the challenge: if humans are naturally wired to remember the negative, what’s a marketer to do to craft a message that’s both memorable but positive?

Of course, every brand has the option to latch on to a negative emotion and build their brand on that. But as Scott Monty pointed out, it’s generally not a smart (or sustainable) strategy to couch your brand identity in negativity.

Why not instead approach negativity as an opportunity to showcase positivity?

Focus on what you do have, not what you don’t.

To reference Scott once more: think about how you actively provide value (positive association), rather than how you differ from a competitor (negative association). Your audience, being human, is more than capable of drawing those negative comparisons without your help – and you end up with the stickiness of negativity without tethering yourself to the negative trait itself.

Transform haters into fans.

Negative to Positive

Ekaterina Walters’ observation at this year’s FutureM conference rings true: it is far easier to convert haters into lovers than it is to turn an indifferent audience into fans.

Like or hate the term, real-time marketing represents a killer opportunity to jump on episodes of negativity and bring about positive outcomes. By providing a timely solution to an individual issue or offering clever commentary on a current event, brands can effectively win over negatively engaged audiences. Take KitKat’s recent #bendgate Twitter win, or any number of these examples of RTM done right.

Keep in mind the “magic ratio.”

Thumbs down, thumbs up

Okay, there isn’t just one magic positive-to-negative ratio. Depending on which study you reference, you need anywhere from 3-6 (Fredickson and Losada) to as high as 20 (Grossman) positives for every one negative in order to balance the equation. The point is, since negatives weigh heavier than positives in the human brain, there must be a higher frequency of positive episodes in order to obtain overall positivity.

For marketers and PR pros, this means landing more frequent favorable (or at least neutral) media mentions and inspiring more happy tweets than angry ones. Maximize positive coverage and let the flood of positive sentiment dissolve the impact of negativity in your audience’s mind.

Remember that as humans, consumers will latch onto negativity far sooner than they’ll independently notice something positive. Your ability to resonate with your audience is enhanced by the finesse with which you can identify negative sentiment and gracefully associate it with a positive message.

What is YOUR brand doing to lasso negativity and channel it into a positive brand image?

JJ Samp
Marketing Analyst

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10 Oct 2014

Google’s Primer App – Quick Lessons on PR and Marketing

With the advent of new technologies for the public relations, marketing and advertising industries, it can be hard for a new business or solo entrepreneur to know where to get started and what the current best practices should be. Yesterday, to combat that confusion for small businesses, Google released an iOS app with short lessons that school users on best practices for content marketing, PR & Media, and Search Advertising, called Primer.

primer start

We put the PR & Media section to the test because we wanted to know how useful the app could be and to what audience. Our initial take is that this is a straightforward explanation about how public relations and media outreach SHOULD work. While small businesses will find it useful, it’ll also be useful in teaching clients or their managers and/or stakeholders, who may not entirely understand what exactly a public relations firm does.

Lessons in depth

What are the lessons like you ask? In the Find Your Media Match section, the app walks a user through how to find the right reporters and outlets to pitch their story to by quizzing them on how they should first think about who should go on the list. The first piece of advice (love!):

Do your research


Industry pros will think to themselves, duh, of course that’s where you start. But clients may not realize that there isn’t an easy button or that it isn’t about blindly reaching out to every outlet and reporter we have in our “Rolodex.” There’s work that goes into successful programs and that success starts with research. There’s no magic wand that does the hard work for anyone.

While this is a great tool to demonstrate to clients how much work goes into marketing, public relations and advertising programs, it can also be helpful in refreshing the memory of PR pros about best practices in each of the areas offered.

We highly recommend downloading the app and giving it a try, even if you already know your stuff in the world of PR and marketing. Share it with your parents at Thanksgiving and Christmas this year (you do what again?). Share it with clients who have a difficult time explaining the value of programs to their managers. There’s at least a little bit of value in it for everyone.

Chel Wolverton
Account Manager, Marketing Technology

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09 Oct 2014

Simple Content Marketing Framework

Content Marketing Framework

Content marketing isn’t a panacea. For one thing, you need to re-measure its effectiveness frequently, if you don’t already automate the process of measurement.

More important, however, is that content marketing can hit diminishing returns very quickly, in a phenomenon first described by marketing expert Mark W. Schaefer. Earlier this year, Mark Schaefer proposed the idea of what he calls content shock. Put simply, everyone is creating content. Lots and lots of content. Here’s a fun infographic from the folks over at Domo about how much is happening in an Internet minute. In one minute, the equivalent of all 4 seasons of Game of Thrones is uploaded to YouTube. In one minute, 216,000 new photos are added to Instagram. In one internet minute, people share 2.4 million pieces of content on Facebook.

We are creating and sharing more and more content, but we aren’t gaining more hours in the day to absorb said content. There’s still 24 of them. We’re, by default, reaching a point where we must filter out most content. Facebook does this mechanistically, as those of you who operate Facebook Pages on behalf of your brand well know. Organic reach, the unpaid reach of your brand’s content on Facebook is probably close to zero. But we’re doing this naturally as human beings. With our limited 24 hours a day, we have to rely on friends, on influencers, and on media to only show us the good stuff and leave the rest behind.

As we create more and more content, those filters become more strict. The net effect is that our content is going to go unseen unless it’s truly top shelf, unless it’s truly worth talking about and sharing. Our ROI on content marketing will go down. Recently we had the opportunity to do some advanced analysis of Facebook’s impact on retail sales for a client, and the chart looked like a hockey stick in the wrong direction – just fell off a cliff.

This is what happens when the ROI of content marketing goes negative, when we spend more on content marketing than we make on it.

The way to combat content shock is, unsurprisingly, to create content that our audiences can’t ignore, and to make sure that we’re in front of the right audience. One of the best frameworks for combating content shock can be found all the way back in 1967, when direct marketing expert Bob Stone identified the things that make or break direct marketing campaigns.

Content Marketing Framework

Bob Stone’s framework is elegantly simple: list, offer, creative. Are you sending your postal mail to the right list? If the list is wrong, it doesn’t matter how good your direct marketing is. If we translate this to the realm of content marketing, this is our audience. Are we talking to the right audience? Understanding who your audience is should be the very first step in your content marketing plan – and even though we’re talking about B2B, we’re NOT talking about personas here. Personas are a sales tool and we are talking about audience strategy, not sales strategy.

The second step in a direct marketing program is the offer. Is the offer the right one, a compelling offer to get someone to take action? If we translate this to the content marketing realm, this is the content itself. Is the content high enough quality that it gets people to take the actions we want them to take, whether it’s sharing content socially, communicating and engaging with us, or converting as a lead. Are people doing what we want them to do with our content?

The third and final step in a direct marketing program is the creative. An unappealing creative in a direct mail program means that your postal mail goes straight into the trash bin in 1967. (Today, of course, we’d hope it would go into the recycling bin or the compost bin because we’re a little more progressive.) In the world of content marketing, this is the presentation of the content. Are we delivering our content in the right format, in a format that our audience wants to receive it in? Do they want video? Audio? Text? Very often we do what’s most convenient for us and not what’s most convenient or most desirable for our audience. Is the presentation good enough? For example, the subject line in your email marketing is effectively the envelope of a postal mail campaign. Do we open uninteresting postal mail? Of course not. Nor do we open uninteresting (nor unwanted) email, we flag it as spam.

This is how we can overcome content shock. Our content has to be aimed at the right audience, made compelling and valuable, and presented in a way that the audience wants to receive it. Are you creating content that others want to spend the little time that they have to consume?

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

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08 Oct 2014

What Beyoncé Can Teach Us About PR & Marketing

Full Disclosure: Anyone who knows me has a 0% chance of being surprised that I’m writing this post. I am a proud member of the Church of Beyoncé, so I may or may not be slightly biased.

She woke up like this.

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Beyoncé is doing something right. In the past year, she has completed two multi-national tours, released a surprise album, was named one of the most influential people by TIME and came in at #1 on Forbes’ Celebrity 100 list. And that’s just to name a few. How has she maintained her success with seemingly minimal backlash (on the scale of 1-to-celebrity, anyway)? And what can other brands learn from her?

She takes creative risks. Beyoncé is generally known as one of the hardest workers in the entertainment industry. She has a hand in nearly everything she does – whether it’s the aesthetics for her live performances or the artistic direction of her albums. She is always aiming to take things to the next level, and that means she’s not afraid to take creative risks.

Imagine preparing to launch a new product in a shroud of secrecy, where no one outside of the very select people working on it was able to know it even existed. No marketing plan. No PR outreach leading up to the launch. Just releasing it one random day in December. Beyoncé did this last year, surprising everyone as they woke up on December 13, 2013 with a 14-track album that featured a fully directed music video for each track. Despite no warning or early promotion, she managed to create more buzz than most artists do with a traditional album launch. She sold 828,773 copies in three days. And that’s just digital. It was a risk, and it paid off immensely.

In another example, Beyoncé was lined up to receive the MTV Video Vanguard Award at the Video Music Awards this year. When artists perform on award shows, they tend to sing their latest hit or other popular songs. Beyoncé decided to take a different approach. She put together a 16-minute medley of the entire track list from her latest album. This included lesser-known songs that could have fallen flat to an audience expecting something they’ve heard on the radio. It was one of the first times an artist had performed snippets from a full album. It raised the bar and gave viewers who hadn’t heard her full album a glimpse at what they were missing. It was, in effect, a full promotion for her album.

Lesson Learned: Risks are scary. You never know how people will respond. But for brands that are daring, the payoff can be huge. Make sure you don’t jump into something haphazardly. Plan it out, cover your bases and have a little fun. It can be a great way to separate your brand from competitors.

She built a loyal fan base to help tell her story. The Beyhive, as they’re known as, are some of the most loyal brand evangelists out there. They help spread the word about all things Beyoncé without even being asked. Beyoncé also makes it a constant point –whether through her blog, quick clips of beehives at her concert, or beehive inspired jewelry – to acknowledge her fans and let them know she is grateful.

Lesson Learned: Naturally, brands need customers to exist as a company. But there is a difference between a single advocate and a strong, loyal fan base. Building a loyal following can be a huge contributor to your success. But keep in mind that doing so is not a one-way street. Only those brands that make an effort to have a true relationship with customers will establish that loyalty factor. Be involved on a regular basis.Whether it’s something as simple as engaging with followers on social media or offering up special giveaways, show your customers that they’re a true part of your brand.

She tells her own story, her own way. One of the things Beyoncé is known for is her uncanny ability to keep the majority of her personal life private. In a TMZ-run entertainment world, that’s a lot easier said than done for current era celebrities. Despite this, she manages to maintain control over her image than most of her famous peers. When the occasional thing does slip out, Beyoncé responds in her own sly way via things like social media to set the record straight. For example, as rumors grew about marriage troubles with Jay-Z, she posted a series of pictures in a Mrs. Carter sweatshirt as well as a loving picture of Jay and their daughter Blue Ivy. It was a quietly loud way of saying, “We’re good, thanks.”

Lesson learned: As a public-facing brand, it’s hard to have full control over what is being said about you. The good news is that with social media, brands have the opportunity to respond directly to the public as appropriate. They no longer have to rely on gatekeepers to tell their side of the story for them. Be open and honest, and you’ll be able to gain more control over your image.

Who Run The World?

Love her or hate her, Beyoncé has proven to be not just a successful entertainer, but also a successful entrepreneur. She built a brand and business from the front lines; she didn’t step back and become a third-party to her own brand. There is a lot to be learned from the decisions she’s made to grow her career and have her own identity.

Amanda Grinavich
Senior Marketing Analyst

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