Two women experiencing confusing messaging

Cut the Confusion and Master Your Message

Ever browse a website and walk away even more confused about what the heck the company does or who they do it for? Does it seem like they try to cram as many trendy keywords or topics in, all while completely distracting visitors from how, or even if, they solve a problem? Or maybe they did a great job on one page, only to baffle or disorient you on another.

What if it’s your website that’s puzzling visitors?

If it takes seven seconds to make a first impression, you’ve lost your audience at the top of your sales funnel with little chance of recovery.

It may be time to step back and gain some clarity on your core messaging before cranking out another piece of content. It’s time to build a message framework.

6 Building Blocks to Harness LinkedIn for PR

Social media has brilliantly expanded the opportunities and reach of brands and businesses. The ability to control and manage your message at point of need is a welcome shift in traditional PR and marketing constraints. Maximizing the right platforms and tools available is now the challenge we face. Perhaps one of the more beneficial social channels for PR activities is mostly perceived to be a recruiting tool – LinkedIn.

According to the 2017 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends Report produced by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 89% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to distribute their content. This makes it the most often used, and reportedly the most effective, social platform of choice.

Part 2 | The Media Interview: Preparing the Expert

Last week I wrote about those things to consider before accepting a media opportunity. In this two-part series, I’d like to finish with what should happen after you agree to a media interview—preparing your spokesperson.

It is the responsibility of the spokesperson or subject matter expert to clearly, honestly, and succinctly articulate information bringing insight and clarity to an issue or topic. It is also their responsibility to do this in a way that positively supports the organization and brand represented.

If you have the ability to conduct formal media training with your experts, I strongly recommend this. While it can be costly depending on the sources you leverage and the time away from the normal business, it’s worth the investment. The experience of spending a focused day or more conducting deeper dives and interview simulations can make an enormous difference on the final outcome, the confidence of your spokespeople, as well as the long-term impact of your overall PR program.

Part 1 | The Media Interview: Smart Questions Before Accepting

You’ve worked hard to get your company name and services out there. Your subject matter experts are presenting at all the major events in your industry. Client success stories are beginning to emerge. And you’ve now begun to pique the interest of a few journalists.

Before you agree to that media interview, there are many things to consider ensuring it’s the right opportunity for your business.

The first thing to understand is that you don’t have to accept every interview request that comes through. If you pass on one that doesn’t fit well, another opportunity will come that is better suited. Just be patient.

Personal Branding in Corporations | The Brand Within a Brand

After many years working in large companies filled with bright and talented experts, I saw first-hand those that successfully built smart and enduring personal brands and those that simply fell short. Those that endured became sought-after thought leaders rapidly progressing in their careers, while those that fell short remained stagnant and irrelevant.

The real shame is that those that fell short could have taken greater advantage of the resources and opportunities afforded them through these big organizations. They either never made the time, or never made the connection to its value.

“Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.” — Tom Peters in Fast Company

Change is Inevitable; Good Communication Gives it Life

As they say, change is inevitable. And in business as in life, change is constant. It must be in order to stay relevant and competitive. Companies must evolve and grow to outpace themselves and the rest of the market more than ever before. This is how progress is made.

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” – Winston Churchill 

Change can be positive for the business, yet still challenging to key constituents. It can appear in the form of organizational and leadership changes, enterprise-wide system rollouts, and mergers and acquisitions. It can also stem from a crisis in the form of financial setbacks, employee layoffs, office closures, or public scandal.

For employees, clients, and key stakeholders change brings anxiety, fear, and negativity. Too much change in a short amount of time and you get resentment, anger, rebellion, and toxic behavior.

Brand Authenticity in an Online World

Authenticity in our online presence has been a hot topic for the past few years but seems to be gaining momentum as of late. Top of mind for a lot of brands, it’s been tossed about on webinars, conferences, blogs, discussion groups, and in numerous media articles. However, the ability to be “authentic” as we engage with our online audiences and in the content we share, dangerously comingles with the same advice on how we garner more attention, fame, and following from our social domains.

While being authentic is a noble pursuit, my fear is that most are far more concerned with going viral, getting retweets, or increasing their conversion rates than they are with what it really means to be authentic. In the same breath of discussions on authentic engagement and brand trust come questions on how to beat the crap out of the competition. This may be the intended end result, but hardly a driver for authenticity in its purest form.

For corporate or personal brands, simply defined, authenticity is consistently being true to what the brand stands for in every single interaction. This includes online and in person, with clients, consumers, employees, and vendors, in the work we do, and in the communities we live and serve.

8 Powerful Reasons to Promote Your CSR Efforts

Early in December is International Volunteer Day (IVD), an observance designated by the United Nations back in 1985. Individuals and organizations promote their volunteer efforts at local, national, and international levels.

In my past role at a large IT services organization, we marked the occasion by spearheading a mass global volunteer week. This included all employees, their friends and families, and even clients. Groups created and participated in local programs and initiatives designed to make a strong impact on their local communities.

As we mobilized teams across the organization, we strongly encouraged the capturing and posting of stories and images to the employee portal so that we could all join in the experience as a global community. We also published collective summaries and results across social media platforms to share the great initiatives and to highlight the various charitable organizations they supported.

Integrate PR and Marketing Leveraging the 4 Media Types

Anyone who has been in the PR profession for any length of time understands there are four media types to leverage in our strategic toolkit: Paid, Earned, Owned, and Shared. In some instances, others have included traded, promoted, and maybe a few others, but at the core, there are the four.

With the onset of social media, blogs, microsites, podcasts, and a ton of other publishing tools, companies have more control over their messaging and brand positioning than they ever had before. Both marketing and PR organizations are wrestling with how to command the attention of the market while eclipsing their competitors with a credible thought leadership position.

If we’re honest with ourselves, there is enormous overlap in the marketing and PR worlds. We’re all in the content business and continue to explore new ways of telling our corporate stories leveraging brand journalism. We have the shared goal of building brand visibility and market credibility, all with the intent of driving new business and increasing revenues.

Why not partner and tackle this beast together.

Leveraging Editorial Boards for Successful Brand Journalism

The proliferation of content marketing and brand journalism has raised the bar of mid- and large-sized brands and increased expectations from their clients and prospects. No longer are companies relying solely on traditional media and marketing tactics to elevate their position in the marketplace, but instead have taken an aggressive approach in publishing content via online newsrooms, blogs, and social media channels. As the recent survey report by TEKGROUP indicates, companies now have more control over their own messages and how and when they are shared.

At the same time, the imperative for marketing and PR departments to become more closely integrated is fundamental. Greater collaboration for modern brand management and corporate storytelling is undeniably a critical success factor. Producing new and relevant content consistently and across multiple mediums and platforms is paramount to the success of these brands and the joint functions responsible.

So how can we support our more ambitious brand goals and strategies? Establish a robust editorial board for content planning and storytelling.

Editorial Calendar | A Content Marketer’s Most Essential Tool

Next to having a smart content strategy in place, leveraging a robust editorial calendar is the most important thing you can do to ensure successful content execution.

Most organizations now publish a higher volume of content assets, have more individuals authoring content, and often these content developers are dispersed throughout a region or across the globe. Factor in complex business priorities, a wide array of industry trends and topics, enormous technological advances, and a rapidly evolving marketplace, and you have a massive web of variables of which to stay ahead.

Even if you’re managing the content strategy of a smaller organization, or as a one-woman show, leveraging an editorial calendar can support long-term scalability and minimize writer’s block.

But the real benefit is you have a holistic view into the events and activities of your organization for the entire year, providing a starting point in many cases, to the actions you need to take to support business priorities. You can share this with leadership to gain buy-in for where you will focus editorial time, and you can provide meaningful metrics showing how you’re impacting their priorities each quarter and by year’s end.

Crazy Content Ecosystem | What’s It All Mean?

I’ve recently come across several articles that define various components of the content creation and management community. As a long-time practitioner of content, knowledge, and communications strategies and management, I agree with many of them.  However,  based on my own experiences, I do have some slight variations in my personal definitions.

More and more, content is the basis of our marketing and PR efforts. Brand journalism, content marketing, storytelling, social media—at the core, there is content.  Getting the strategy, development, and distribution of our thought leadership right increases our chances of success.

In a few of my posts, I have shared elements that are important to a winning content program. So let me start by providing a baseline definition for each building block of what I call the content ecosystem.

Content Repurposing: It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

Imagine this rather typical scenario.

You’ve spent weeks developing what you believe will be a prominent article for your company blog. There’s a fascinating and unique success story to talk about, and you scored an awesome interview with the client to weave in a few pithy quotes supporting this banner project. Senior leadership is excited about the piece and has provided a great tie-in to strategic priorities—it’s in the company’s sweet spot. Early on, you engaged with key subject matter experts on the primary trends and innovations in the industry that align perfectly, and they even provided you a few nifty graphics and images to bring some visual life to your story. Final reviews are complete, you publish the story, and presto, you’re done.

Just to be certain the story gets some play, you send a note off to the business letting them know it’s there and ask them to share it with clients and prospects. You post a few tweets to your followers about this latest masterpiece, and maybe you even post it over to Facebook and LinkedIn to pick up anyone you’ve missed.

The high from the fruits of your labor is intoxicating, but maybe over the next day or two, it dissipates as you quickly move on to the next writing assignment or project. You review the metrics later and see that audience engagement was minimal and no new sales leads were tied to your story. All that hard work and that’s it—not much to show for it.

The Straight A’s of Successful Employee Town Halls

No matter the size of your organization, employee town halls are a fantastic way to bring the full workforce together to learn about the company, its projects and programs, and the clients it serves. Where young professionals just starting out, can mix and mingle with senior leadership and top experts. There’s a wealth of information to be shared during regularly scheduled employee town halls, and a great amount of value to be gained along the way.

As the head of communications, I have worked with many leaders to host numerous town halls – for the purpose of regularly scheduled communication checkpoints, for leaders regarding the state of our business, to make big company announcements, or to communicate during times of crisis. The town hall can be an effective tool for building connection, engagement, and credibility with employees.

Top 7 Skills for Tomorrow’s Communications Pro

Communications, and in particular public relations, have gone through significant changes over recent years and are continuing to evolve at a rapid pace. Technology, the way we share information, a growing virtual workforce, and the dramatic shift in traditional media–these are all contributing factors to this metamorphosis of the profession.

Successfully keeping up with the innovations and increased competition requires a heightened level of skill and expertise. Today’s communicator must actively build and evolve skills to stay relevant and to leap ahead of demand.

There are many important skills necessary to be a successful communicator, but I believe there is a core set that will differentiate the empowered master from the average communicator. These skills are important today but will be even more critical for tomorrow.