3 tips for getting your articles published

Nothing screams you’ve got authority and are an expert quite like being published. And these days the options are far greater then before; traditional publishing and self-publishing of books, feature columns, op-ed pieces and one off editorial contributions. Distribution has expanded from traditional print newspapers and magazines and their online counterparts, to new digital only news platforms such as the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed (Canadian edition just launched this week) and local news sources such as VanCityBuzz.com which are gaining traction. Add to that well-read blogs, and there’s no shortage of publishing options.

So how do you get ink?

1. Pitching the idea: You can pitch media on an article idea, but in my experience having written for BIV, Strategy, Marketing Magazine, the Toronto Star, Cottage Magazine and Zoomer, a pitch accompanied by a solid draft or even tightly edited piece has always been what got me in the door. Knowing the audience demographics of the publication and reader interests in critical. Also knowing typical article lengths, topics covered in the past, and writing style is helpful. If an editor wants 700 words, don’t give them 750 because you can’t edit it any shorter. They will, and guaranteed they’ll chop something you wouldn’t have!

Pitch based on the geographic area of the people who will benefit from your message and find it relevant. Also keep in mind seasonal factors and lead up times, especially if it’s a magazine. For example a lifestyle piece I did for Zoomer Magazine about mother/daughter hockey passion ran in October, but was written and pitched back in March.

Think strategically about your email subject line when sending a pitch. Editors are writers and email subject lines are like headlines to them. As they scan their inbox, be sure to give them something that will grab their attention. Clever can be good, but don’t over complicate things.

2. The content: The who, what, where, when and why of the story is important if you are writing a pitch. But pay particular attention to the “why now” piece. Connecting your article to something timely is key to getting an editors attention. For example, my blog piece about disruption and flipping the airline model to charging for carry on and making the first checked bag free tapped into a current hot topic of frustrated flyers dealing with carry on restrictions and the approaching heavy summer travel season. It proposed a simple innovative solution. It also tapped into the growing use of social media as a feedback tool and the need for corporations to manage their brand through active engagement of consumer complaints. After the piece garnered considerable discussion the last couple weeks online and off, I blasted off a pitch to the Huffington Post last week to see if I could get pick up. Today, June 18, that piece appeared in their business section!

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Be original and different. If you’re giving tips, make sure it’s not something that could just be Googled. Tap your expertise. Give the publication something they couldn’t otherwise get access to. General, generic vanilla won’t work. But sometimes being the contrarian can work – see above. Countering conventional viewpoints and backing up your argument can make for a solid piece.

3. Contacting media: While tagging media on Twitter can certainly get their attention and cut through the clutter, in my experience this is best if there is a pre-existing relationship. Otherwise email is a solid place to start. These days it’s pretty easy to scope out contacts online for the editorial desk and feature editors. Use the method of contact they list – some will list emails, some Twitter handles only. Do follow up. Just because you don’t hear back right away doesn’t mean they might not be interested. Their in boxes get jammed, but most diligently comb emails for content. It’s their job to find gems, and yours might be what they’re looking for. Don’t call them by phone unless they’ve contacted you already for a story. And know their deadlines if you are trying to reach them. Texting a reporters cell directly is likely one of the best ways to get an immediate response if they know you. But this should really be reserved for breaking news events where you are looking to be quoted, or helping them with a story, not trying to get your own piece published!

All these points apply to being a guest blogger as well. I’d suggest picking 3 or 4 well written and leading blogs in your area of interest. Follow them for a couple months and get a sense of content and readership through the comments. Make valuable (but not spammy promotional) comments to contribute to the conversation. Then consider contacting the blog host about guest posting in the future. I’d also recommend having a solid portfolio of written work on your own blog, so your content and style can be reviewed easily. The synergy of cross posting and guest blogging can be great, especially if the two blog audiences are well aligned and both parties have something to benefit from the relationship.

And what do you do when you score the big one and get ink? Be sure to share it on your digital platforms, put it out on social media, and in particular if it’s a publication with reputation such as the New York Times or Huffington Post, be sure to add the bi-line to your bio, and their logo to your promotional materials. Getting ink is about gaining recognition as an expert. Put it to good use.

 

Influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is the next big thing. Select businesses have already figured this out, but the vast majority is yet to put it on their radar.

We’ve all got our “go to” guy or gal. That expert, the one you immediately think of when you need an area of expertise. We also all have certain people we follow, perhaps see as mentors, or just those that we have a tremendous amount of respect for. Influencers cross all age boundaries. An influencer could be an IT guru, a respected business leader, an amazing chef, a great writer or musician, a “dope skateboarder” (my son’s term not mine!), a fashion goddess, or someone who has a great music playlist. Influencers are highly respected and garner clout in their circles. (Incidentally “dope” means good in teenager1) Influencers are tapped in. They have tribes that follow them.

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Influencers help take content to the next level. They lend credibility, and they help amplify reach and awareness, which in turn helps ensure the target audience, will consume the content.

Why are influencers so powerful? They have a pre-established audience that is receptive to their recommendations.

  1. Their followers trust them.
  2. They are a person, not a business or a brand, which makes them more personable and willingly received.
  3. Their voice cuts through the clutter of information overload, to their followers.

To get influencers onboard is to have their entire tribe working for you. And that’s pretty powerful stuff.

Consider this research into the power of influencers:

  • Offers shared by trusted advocates convert at a 3-10 times higher rate than offers sent by brands.
  • Customers referred by other customers have a 37% higher retention rate.
  • Brand advocates are 70% more likely to be seen as a good source of information by people around them.

So how do you harness the power of an influencer?

  1. Identify the primary goal of your marketing strategy. Are you building brand awareness? Wanting to achieve more engagement? Do you need to generate more leads? Or perhaps you’re more focused on retention and loyalty. Depending on your goal, some influencers might be more powerful in some areas then in others. Be clear on what you’re trying to achieve.
  1. Indentify influencer types. Influencers might be current customers, industry experts, bloggers, members of the media, business partners, or internal team members. It’s important to consider the types first, then move on to individuals. That will keep you focused.
  1. Within those types, select specific individuals. Consider their capacity to reach others through writing, speaking or broadcasting in some way. Consider their involvement in public or private groups, online and off. Look at their level of expertise in the chosen area. Consider their social media footprint, in particular on platforms and in channels where your target market spends the most time. Your initial list of influencers doesn’t have to be large to be powerful, but you do want to grow it over time.
  1. Create great content worth sharing. Stuff that’s authentic and not overly promotional. Something that keeps the trust between the influencer and their followers. Think one-to-one-to-many when creating content. Your content will not be blasted out to the masses. It will be shared to that one person first, who will then choose (or not) to share it with their many. Framed from this perspective it’s about them, not about you. Give them something that will make them look smart, funny, insightful or connected to an inner circle in some way.
  1. Nurture the relationship. Always acknowledge and thank those that share your content. Help them out in other ways. There doesn’t always have to be a personal pay off.

Many times influencers are already within your scope of contact, but further outreach is always good. How do you find them? Read blogs in your area of interest and see who publishes good content and who makes intelligent comments and contributions on other blogs. Follow folks on Twitter who tweet within a channel (or #hashtag) of interest, are employed in the industry of focus, or who keep popping up as active with something valuable to contribute. Comb LinkedIn for contacts. See who is active on Facebook or Instagram in your area of interest. Read industry publications for who is being written about and who is contributing. Old fashioned network, and get to know who the players are. Even pick up the phone! (How novel – yes you can still talk on those things)

So there you have it. Get out there and harness the power of that green goldfish leading the others. And get the influencers tribe swimming in your direction!

 

 

5 Public relations tips to get more INK and AIR

Getting ink and getting air is the ultimate goal in the “earned media” game of public relations and publicity. Whether it be print media such as newspapers and magazines, or broadcast media such as radio or TV, getting noticed, talked or written about in traditional media can go a long way in forging greater awareness of your business, brand or ideas.

Press_old_fashionedIn an era where it seems we are all fighting to be heard above the noise within social media, it is easy to dismiss the simple and massive reach of more traditional media methods. All successful print and broadcast channels these days are also amplifying that content via digital means online, which means you actually achieve even further clout should you get coverage. And, once that coverage is online, it is there for you to further broadcast it through your own channels. The magic of course being that it is third party endorsement, and you can attach your success to the media’s brand. Not bad when that media might be CBC, NBC, the Globe and Mail or the New York Times! But it could just as easily be local media such as your community newspaper or local radio station, that might have tremendous clout with your existing and potential customers.

Achieving media coverage is a pretty compelling value proposition and certainly one worth devoting some effort towards. So here are five tips to make the task simpler and increase the likelihood of success.

  1. Know a reporters expertise. Reporters are inundated with press releases and pitches daily. If it’s not related to their area of coverage, they will hit delete. Ideally you are familiar with a reporters beat and have read or heard their stuff. Over the long term this will also gain you a respectful relationship with them, so that when you do send them something well targeted, they are more likely to respond. If you’re always shouting to everyone, nobody will listen. If you selectively speak to some when it’s genuinely important, they will listen.
  1. Make the reporter look good and help them serve their audience. Your real job in writing the pitch is to make that reporter look good to their boss. The best way to do that is to help the reporter serve his/her audience. The reporter lives and dies by how they serve their audience. The media outlet is also in the rating and social sharing game. They are obsessed with going viral. They want a story that readers or viewers will share online. The bottom line here is: it’s about them, not about you. If you can frame your pitch from that perspective, you will be ahead of 95% of the pitches sitting in reporters email boxes right now.
  1. Send media a story they are hungry for. What is in the news right now that is hot? (NDP winning in Alberta? Tanker traffic and spills? Foreign ownership and real estate prices?) These are local Vancouver examples, but you should frame it from the geographic area where you are and where you want to achieve coverage. What are some trends of interest? Is there a celebration day that is relevant for timely coverage? (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, International Women’s Day forexample). Lists are hot. Browse the headlines of Buzzfeed or the Huffington Post and you’ll see lots of lists – The 5 things you need to know… How to get a promotion in 3 easy steps…) Lists are good because they are finite, organized, have a takeaway and are shareable. They’re also idea for a population conditioned to receive information in bite size nuggets, which is increasingly the case in our time-starved society. How to and personal memoir success stories are also popular. We can attribute that phenomena to the Opera effect, being conditioned to crave success, or overcoming obstacles stories. The key here is to look at the publication or station you would like to target and see what would fit with their editorial style and reader or viewer interest. This of course requires you to do some homework, but it is that work which will help you stand out from others.
  1. You absolutely, positively need a compelling subject line. I’m talking email subject line here, but it could also be a catchy headline on Twitter if you were tagging or personal messaging a reporter on Twitter. Make the subject line clever, but simple. Shorter is better, and if you’re not sure how it will display on mobile (which is where it is most likely to be previewed or deleted), send yourself a test to your mobile device. These days your subject line needs to be mobile friendly. You want that headline to display fully and grab the reporter to click and read more. Frankly it doesn’t matter what is in the email if the recipient never makes it past the headline. Do your research, and model the existing style for the particular media you are targeting with your pitch. Check what kind of headlines they write. Get creative and draft yours in a similar light. Just remember while clever is good, don’t over complicate it.
  1. Keep the pitch short, simple and tight. If your communication is written poorly or is unclear, a reporter won’t have time for you. Make sure you tell the reporter what is in it for them and their audience first right at the very beginning. Essentially respond to questions such as, why is this relevant, and why now? Try to make a human and emotional connection. Put a short bio and contact information at the end. The reporter will read the headline, if it captures their interest, they will skim the text. Keep all of this relatively short, and again, remember the context of mobile viewing. Send yourself a test copy. Did it grab you? How long did it take to skim the copy? Sometimes an image within the body of the email (no attachments!) can tell the story quickly and hit an emotional hot button. If you’ve got an image that tells the story in fewer words, by all means use it, but be sure to size it right for the email so it loads quickly and displays properly. Again, send yourself a test first to your mobile device.

Of course these points are just about how to get the reporters attention. There is a lot more to consider if you score coverage, especially if interviewed. Practice thinking and talking in sound bites, since your interview will likely be edited.

The bottom line here is this: getting media coverage is free, but it requires a lot of work, and frankly you have to earn it. But that’s what makes it so valuable. It’s certainly worth the time to pursue, especially for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

There are many great resources out there to help you with this (including a great marketing consultant that writes this fabulous marketing blog!) If you’d like to tap into fresh content and ideas about PR, www.prdaily.com is also a good place to start. They also have a great newsletter you can sign up to receive free tips.

 

Social media: Are all animals created equal, or are some more equal than others?

For anyone who read George Orwell’s 1949 book Animal Farm, you’ll likely recall this telling quote:

“All animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

This politically fueled satire featured animals organizing their farm and occupants not unlike a state and its people. The eventual downfall of the system rife with alliances and greed pointedly was Orwell’s comment on a distaste of socialist dictatorship society.

Animal_FarmBut viewed from a different context, this quote has a modern day meaning when applied to social media. While there are many platforms out there, and many of us tend to treat them as all deserving our attention in the competition for eyeballs and engagement, some platforms are indeed more deserving then others.

A frequently occurring conversation in business circles is how busy people have become, and how hard it is to keep up with all the emails and social media. Add to that an uncertainty about the effectiveness of that time spent on social, and it becomes a murky place to navigate.

I believe seeing all options and social media platforms as equal largely fuels this frustration. Indeed as Orwell noted, some are in fact more equal then others. But which ones are “more equal” and thus deserving of your time, really depends on your business, your audience and your objectives.

So here are some 2015 statistics courtesy of Pew Research about some of the major social media platforms.

Facebook

  • 71% of online adults use Facebook. Of those:
  • Women: 77%
  • Men: 66%
  • 18-29: 87%
  • 30-49: 73%
  • 50-64: 63%
  • 65+ 56%

Of relevance here is the broad cross population coverage of the platform, and particularly 18-49 with the highest concentration in the 18-29 year old bracket. While Google + has tried to break into this market, Facebook remains the dominant player for a broad based audience channel. It’s part of the reason they have been successful monetizing sponsored posts and getting companies to pay to boost their content. They have a huge repository of personal information and profiling, and for the time being, the cost to boost posts is relatively inexpensive if done well. It is however the 2015 equivalent to being a display ad in a paper people are reading, it’s just that you get to select who will see your ad buried in their news feed. For smaller companies or individuals perhaps using a personal account rather then a business page, the non-monetized options are actually not bad – if you post publically, have solid followers, and have enough clout to have your content rise in search.

Instagram

  • 26% of online adults use Instagram. Of those:
  • Women: 29%
  • Men: 22%
  • 18-29: 53%
  • 30-49: 25%
  • 50-64: 11%
  • 65+ 6%

Of relevance is the fact that it is not as broadly used as Facebook, but the heavy use by 18-29 group is relevant if that correlates well with your target market. It is also very visual and conversational, so if your content is visually oriented towards a younger audience and you want to build community this is a good one. Of frustration for business use is the limited ability to link to other stuff except through your home identity, so the key seems to be to change that URL when you have something relevant to link to (such as a blog post or offer) and refer to it in the post.

Twitter

  • 23% of online adults use Twitter. Of those:
  • Women: 21%
  • Men: 24%
  • 18-29: 37%
  • 30-49: 25%
  • 50-64: 12%
  • 65+ 10%

Of relevance is the profile of the 25-37% who do use it, as well as the heavier use by younger populations. Those that do use Twitter regularly are generally highly engaged in a topic or area of interest. Twitter is also heavily used by media to monitor stories and get tips on content. The nature of the medium in being able to follow and tag, can give easier access to journalists then email is some cases. Twitter is also becoming much more visual with the sharing of images and video. The bottom line is, Twitter will never have the broad uptake of Facebook, but it has strategic uses for growing the audience for your content and for getting media attention.

LinkedIn

  • 28% of online adults use LinkedIn. Of those:
  • Women: 27%
  • Men: 28%
  • 18-29: 23%
  • 30-49: 31%
  • 50-64: 30%
  • 65+ 21%

Of relevance is the broad use across age groups, the profile of who is using it being business oriented, the type of content shared also being business oriented. The 30-64 group has the highest use frequency. This makes it an excellent platform for B2B sharing and networking as well as personal brand building.

Pinterest

  • 28% of online adults use Pinterest. Of those:
  • Women: 42%
  • Men: 13%
  • 18-29: 34%
  • 30-49: 28%
  • 50-64: 27%
  • 65+ 17%

Of relevance is the high percentage of women who are engaged on the platform, in particular younger women 18-29 but the platform has solid uptake by women 30-64 as well. This platform is highly visual, so if you have a lot of visual content and women are your audience, this could be a good one to focus on.

My suggestion for those who find themselves time starved is to pick one or two to focus on with effort. Pick those that make the most sense for your business and audience. Only add others when time and effort allow, or put them in “maintenance mode.” Additionally using a platform such as Hootsuite, which is a dashboard that integrates all your social media and allows you to monitor and schedule posts, can make management easier. You then have a one stop shop to check once a day, or to set things up for the week and get back to work.

Really it comes down to good time management and having a strategic focus. In the end, while it may appear that all social media platforms are equal and deserving of your time, in fact some platforms are more equal then others!

Is it “time” for Apple to disrupt again?

Last week Apple launched the long anticipated and rumor rampant Apple Watch. As with all things Apple, product leaks and speculation had been swirling for some time. While not widely available for retail until April, CEO Tim Cook’s launch week was aimed squarely at building momentum and desire. Starting at $349 and spiraling upwards to over $1,000 with deluxe bells and whistles, and even available in a gold plated $10,000 model, this is obviously a product aimed at affluent early adopters in advanced economic regions of the globe.

Apple_watchThe question then begs, who is the target market? And will it be deemed a necessary addition to an Apple dedicated owners suite of products to compliment an iPhone and likely an iPad and Apple laptop or desktop?

The watch itself appears a slick marriage of technology, fashion and lifestyle. Christy Trulington Burns, an American model currently representing Calvin Klein’s Eternity campaign was chosen to launch the watch, no doubt for her fashion credentials. She is shown training for a half marathon in Africa using the watches fitness devices, highlighting her charity, Every Mother Counts, which works to combat maternal mortality. You can watch a video about how she uses the watch here. Given the watches personal trainer capabilities, Apple Pay system to tap and go like a wallet, and hands free messaging, being able to listen and dictate messages and emails, as well as general web browsing capabilities on a micro scale, my take is that the target market spans the fitness buff, the fashion forward, and the tech early adopter in general, and anyone who has already committed to other Apple products with fierce loyalty.

As such, the tap and go wallet or the hands free messaging capabilities on their own are enough to be a disruptive technology with significant uptake.

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If you’re curious to learn more about the Apple Watch, here’s a link with some features and video about it.

Apple has a history of disruptive technology.

Just think about what the iPod did to the music industry, disrupting CDs and retail music distribution with iTunes. Just think about what the iPad did to ebooks, book retailing and distribution, and the way we interact with printed matter in general spanning to newspapers and magazines. And consider what the iPhone did to cell phone communication in general, launching the mobile internet, and a litany of apps we arguably can’t live without now, as well as disrupting the camera industry. One could argue their latest technology is now even disrupting their earlier technology. Why would you buy an iPod when your smartphone can hold it all? Maybe you don’t need an iPad mini if you have an iPhone 6 plus.

So could the Apple Watch do the same thing?

Certainly it changes the competitive turf for watch manufacturers. That’s a direct hit. What about credit cards and payment services? What about fitness bands like Nike Fuel and other fitness product devices? And what about smart phones in general? Could wearable voice activation communication eliminate the need to type on a device? It’s starting to feel a little like a Star Trek episode. Too bad Spock didn’t live to see it! The watch certainly could change the issue with distracted drivers texting. And it represents interesting challenges for faculty supervising students during exams.

Only time will tell once the early adopters have gobbled it up. If there is significant uptake, it certainly could be disruptive. There seems to a lot of buzz about wearable tech and the Apple watch could well be the gateway drug for broader acceptance.

What’s the lesson is all this for marketers?

I think we need to accept disruption and look for opportunity in it. Rather then fear the threats that come with it, focus on the changes needed now to possibly capitalize on shifts that could be coming. What might that look like?

  • Apps with simple interfaces suitable for super small screens.
  • Voice activated Apps.
  • Voice activated mobile friendly websites. While such a thing may not exist now, it likely will in the future. Perhaps I’ve just given you your next $1 million dollar idea?
  • Medical monitor of fitness vitals and wireless, remote one on one personal training.
  • Hotel room key free entry.

Remember, many people were stumped initially as to why we would all need an iPad when we already had a laptop and iPhone. And what on earth would we do with all those album covers if we could fit over 2,000 songs on a little thing called an iPod?

The marketing lesson ultimately is this: Sometimes we don’t know what we need until it arrives. And when there is significant uptake of a new disruptive technology, business needs to anticipate and prepare for the permanent shift taking place.

 

5 Super Bowl spots that deserve acolades for creative or strategy

Super Bowl Sunday came and went with great fanfare, even if it was just for the half time show. Seriously, didn’t Katy Perry rock it? The game was filled with drama and tense moments, that can only be summed up as, “The Patriots won the game, but really Seattle lost it.” What a nail biter ending. Here on the South Coast, which is darn close to Seattle’s Pacific North West, it was generally Seahawks territory, so we’re all wandering around shaking our heads in shame this morning.

But how about those commercials, the other piece of entertainment on showcase Sunday?

In Canada, the CRTC prohibits commercials that air in the US from being shown during the Super Bowl on Canadian networks. We got our own mix, which were largely unmemorable, except for the Budweiser hockey goal light spot, which easily could have been a Tim Horton’s commercial with a logo switch at the end. It’s a bummer, but thanks to the internet, our largely outdated communications policy hasn’t yet caught up to technology, rendering the blockage irrelevant. Plus, pre-releasing ads has become part of the ad buy strategy. Paying $4.5 million for 30 seconds during Super Bowl certainly might garner attention from the 184 million estimated viewers, but it’s also the price of admission to online viewing before and after the game, media publicity coverage, word of mouth and social media chatter that goes with the whole package. So, for my Canadian friends, and those in the US who may have missed the Super Bowl, here is my pick of five that will give you something to talk about in the office this week.

Here are 5 spots that deserve creative strategy accolades:

Budweiser’s “Best Buds: Lost Puppy

BestBuds

Clydesdales and puppies have little to do with beer, except when they’re buddies, and your beer is a bud. Building on last years “Puppy love” this spot has already won viewers hearts in pre-release being posted and shared widely on social media and #BestBuds trending long before the big game started. It was at 17.5 million views BEFORE the game? Not bad. Expect this one to be the most talked about.

McDonalds Pay with Lovin’

McDonalds_lovinThis one hits the emotional hot button as well. McDonalds reveals during the spot that from Feb 2-14, they will randomly select customers to pay with lovin’. The spot sets up some beautiful moments of exchanges between loved ones, and will no doubt generate a build up of media coverage and online sharing approaching Valentines day. Well timed for maximum spin.

Carl JR’s All Natural Burger

CarlJRBefore I’m called out for promoting this over the top blatantly racy, raunchy and sexist ad, I think it’s important to remember the male audience that was largely watching the game, and how this ad was to stop them in their tracks. That was the intent. It is full of inappropriate innuendos to be sure, but the strategy was to cause a stir during pre-release and play directly to Carl JR’s 18-24 year old male target. They didn’t make a national buy, so it is only viewers on the west coast who saw it during the game, but by being controversial they were betting that it would attract media coverage and be viewed online nationally by their target market, which it was. This was accomplished at a fraction of the cost of a total national buy. Well played strategically but I think the creative rolls back feminism at least 40 years.

NFL’s PSA against domestic violence

NFL_911When this ad landed it left rooms silent. It’s a first for the NFL to air a Super Bowl commercial against domestic violence. This haunting spot pairs a women calling 911 pretending to order pizza, with images of a house in disarray. We never see the perpetrator or the victim, but we become engrossed in the audio. It’s a clever representation of a woman unable to leave an abusive situation. Of course the NFL had good reason to get onside with this cause after the regrettable behaviour of some of their players caused the whole league shame. This one is a chilling and emotional touch down.

Dove Men+Care “Real Strength”

Dove_Men_CareThe Dove Men+Care spot hits the mark in a subtle way for how it reinforces the role of caring Dad against the backdrop of the brute physical strength of football players, and some instances of family violence at the hand of players, that the NFL has battled this last year. Dove is getting onside in a positive way, with a message that resonated with the middle aged, middle America males who watched the Super Bowl. It was on brand and on target.

So as entrepreneurs or small business owners, without a spare $4.5 million to spend on a Super Bowl ad, what was the take away? A resounding theme was that “emotion sells.” Capturing and sharing human moments associated with your brand or business could be as easy as using your iPhone and a little creativity. Strategically leveraging publicity, media coverage, word of mouth and social sharing is another area these brands excelled in. Again, you don’t have to have a big budget to accomplish any of those. Something to think about as you go about your business this week! What was your favourite ad?

Top 10 online marketing trends for 2015

 

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1. Content will continue to be king
This trend will continue, simply because social media and mobile devices have provoked and enabled the growth in content available for consumption. Content can position a company or brand like nothing else, and it can drive prospects to points in the pipeline closer to becoming a customer. And creating content and leveraging it online through social media is largely low cost compared to traditional forms of advertising.

2. Visuals for short attention spans will dominate
Be it photos, video or infographics, visuals communicate a subject in a timely and simplified manner. In 2015 visuals will be hot. Just look to the explosion of Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Youtube and Vine. Visuals are also the perfect antidote for a perpetually time starved, attention deficit disorder society that we have quickly become while absorbing the content coming our way online. But the scientific reality is this: it’s human nature to respond quickly to visuals. Expect visuals to rule in 2015.

3. As Facebook matures – pay up or flee
The reach of Facebook Pages dramatically decreased in 2014, and we have now entered the era of “pay to play” on this platform. It’s really just the maturing of a media channel. Facebook is in the business of making money for shareholders. That said, of all the social media platforms, Facebook likely has the broadest demographic and geographic coverage of any, and if the selection of criteria to boost posts is done well, it can be a viable for some businesses. It’s just that you’re going to have to pay for it. Look for this trend to continue, at least for enhanced services, as social platforms mature.

4. Online communities and membership for exclusive content will grow
Niche communities already exist for the mundane to the obscure. Communities within blogs or more private groups such as subscribers to an e-newsletter or a course will be of great value to the business that hosts them, as well as participants. Expect to see more businesses harness and leverage the communities that they host through owned assets such as blogs, podcasts and e-newsletters. This will become especially important and prevalent as the reality of paying for access on social platforms becomes more accepted as those platforms mature.

5. Privacy concerns will remain high
In the age of social media, we’ve been conditioned to accept that the trading of personal information is the price to pay for free access. It still doesn’t mean we’re happy about it. And as more and more social platforms monetize the ability to broadcast, we will become even more guarded about having shared our information. Canadian Can-Spam legislation in response to email spammers was an attempt in 2014 to legislate. Expect more backlash in 2015 over privacy, and the possible growth of platforms such as Ello, that boast they will not collect or sell personal information – ever. Bottom line? Practice good ethics when it comes to privacy in 2015.

6. Leveraging influencers and brand ambassadors will be critical
Influencers and brand ambassadors are the folks online with tremendous klout within the circles that your customers travel. Having a third party endorse you has always been better than shouting from your own soapbox, but in the age of social media it carries even more weight within such a cluttered content space.

7. Think Mobile everything
Content is now consumed through the mobile internet and apps at a staggering pace. You need to consider that in planning your “real time” and “right time” marketing efforts in 2015. Think not only what should be put out, but when, and in which format.

8. Social listening will be key
Social listening involves monitoring and responding to conversations online, be it through websites, blogs, and social media or using hashtags to monitor channels of content. It could also mean monitoring competitors channels so a ready response can be made in a time of opportunity. Social listening means you are marketing in real time. Companies who get ahead of this curve will be served well in 2015.

9. #Hashtag your channel will be like claiming your URL
In 2015 brands that own hashtags will build community. Hashtags are a branding tool that cross all platforms and create a channel for those who tune in to see what is happening in their area of interest. In 2015 you want to dominate your chosen hashtag channels by consistently picking several that appear in all your online content.

10. Use digital to amplify an analogue message
And finally amidst all these digital trends, 2015 could be a year to stand out by tapping an analogue approach. I mentioned last week 2 campaigns that made my top 5 marketing wall of fame – simply because they poked fun in a clever way at how dependent we have become on technology. Both the Ikea “book book” spot and the Lululemon “give presence” campaigns held up a mirror that reflected a simpler time – when we actually read books, or put down our devices and spoke to people. They were both brilliant creative and I think they each illustrated our collective craving to occasionally escape this crazy digital world we have created for ourselves. That sentiment might we well worth remembering as an insight for 2015.

2014 Top 10 Marketing Wall of Fame & Wall of Shame

I was inspired to pull some thoughts together on this when I was approached by a producer at CBC TV to add a Vancouver spin to a national “Marketing Fails 2014″ piece they were airing by Dianne Buckner. If you’d like to view that segment, which aired Dec 29, 2014 you can link to it here.


CBC Vancouver Marketing Fails 2014: Rene Filiponne interviews marketing strategist, Mary Charleson – who comes on at the 2:39 minute mark to talk about Vancouver examples.

2014 Marketing wall of fame

1. Ikea’s Book Book
In a world of high tech, going low-tech or no-tech can be a way to stand out. Witness Ikea’s brilliant spoof on an Apple product release to preview their new catalog and its distinctly analogue features.  You can view the ad here or link to my original article about the campaign.

2. Lululemon Give Presence for the holidays
The #givepresence Christmas campaign from Lululemon gets top marks in my book for it’s simplicity of drawing attention to the obvious – our collective obsession with technology and multitasking at the expense of real connection with the person we are with. You can view the original ad here, now at over 3.5 million view or read more about it in a blog post I featured on it.

3. Westjet’s Christmas Miracle 2014
Quite simply it was the authenticity that the company can claim by supporting a community in the Dominican Republic that makes this true spirit of giving spot a winner. You can view it here or read about the campaign.

4. Sam Sung, former Apple employee auctions off his Apple gear on eBay for a cause
This isn’t a campaign you’ll find in the awards books, but it’s a winner from a personal branding standpoint as well as the simple gesture to help others. Read more about the campaign here.  Or you can get the original background story on how it is a guy from Vancouver with a real name of Sam Sung found himself working as a product specialist for Apple. You can’t make this stuff up!

5. Wren clothing’s “First Kiss” viral hit on a $1,500 budget
The idea of pairing up 10 couples, that did not know each other and filming their first kiss was edgy and original. Then toss in the fact that they just happened to be wearing Wren clothing, but that’s about as commercial as the spot gets. It was immensely shareable, tapping emotion, vulnerability and voyeurism and achieved over 69 million views in the first week, and substantial media coverage for doing so. You can watch the video here or read more about the campaign.

2014 Marketing wall of shame

And now for the ones that were memorable for all the wrong reasons…

1. Malaysia Airlines bucket list contest
A bucket list is generally accepted as a list of things one wants to do before they die. How seemingly inappropriate it was then, as a contest name for an airline that lost two planes this year. Did the term get lost in translation?  You can read more about it here. Old

2. Air Canada got #rouged
It’s never a good thing when your new discount carrier name “Rouge” becomes a trending negative hashtag on Twitter. But that’s exactly what happened when some Air Canada pre-booked seats were switched to Rouged flights and passengers were left with less leg room and no seat back entertainment. You can read the full story here.

3. Old Spice taps Moms insecurities to sell to teen boys but forgets who buys the product when they’re living at home
This is one of those ones where I actually think the creative is brilliant, but I’m just not sure it sold product. The crazy portrayal of pathetic Moms taps Freudian attachment theory and societal shifts as boys live at home longer. But while the target user may have loved it, Old Spice offended many of the actual buyers – Moms. View the spots here. And read more about the campaign.

4. Veet’s Don’t risk dudeness
While women may hate to shave their legs, they certainly don’t need their man to infer they’re a hairy beast, which is exactly the trap that this ad fell into. It was yanked promptly after consumer backlash on social media. You still view the spot here.  Or read about how a campaign that was supposedly tested got through.

5. Joan Rivers Tweets from the grave about her new iPhone 6
It wasn’t enough that Apple paid U2 a ton to be able to gift the new album to customers this year, and then had to promptly add a remove button for customers who were angered that it showed up without permission. Yes, Apple appears to have had a deal with Joan Rivers to Tweet about her new iPhone 6. Problem was, Joan died unexpectedly and the pre-scheduled tweet wasn’t deleted. Oops. Apparently Steve Jobs could not be reached for comment either…

And that wraps up the Top 10 list of marketing fame and shame for 2014. I’ll be back next week with some marketing trends and predictions for 2015. If you enjoyed this post and you’d like to receive my 5-Minute Marketing tips enewsletter directly weekly, you can subscribe here. I share lots of insider marketing knowledge and insights with content aimed at entrepreneurs and marketing managers.

Branding with emotion and giving presence this holiday season

Two much-loved global brands (with Canadian roots), Westjet and Lululemon, take the spirit of the season awards this week for marketing initiatives that stand out in a month traditionally fueled with excess and consumption madness. Hot on the heels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes Lululemon’s holiday campaign “Give presence,” as well as the third in a trilogy from Westjet’s holiday miracle series.

Lululemon holiday campaign values presence over presents

I received a link to the Lululemon video last Monday from a loyal newsletter reader Jill, who said it hit her like an emotional brick that morning. Jill notes, “I had spent the day at work in front of two computer screens and my cell phone. At home I found myself with the TV on, laptop open, iPad and iPhone in each hand, catching up on emails, social media, and grabbing up Cyber Monday deals online for Christmas. I went to bed feeling overwhelmed.” I wonder how many of us can relate? And when she woke, she found (yes somewhat ironically since it was shared on social media), this video from Lululemon about giving presence instead of presents. It was a mirror resonating truth.

Lululemon_give_presence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The #givepresence campaign features a number of yoga and meditation instructors and asserts that the greatest gift you can give this holiday season is your undivided attention. My favourite quote is by friend Daniel Laport, who states, “Everything that’s on your plate, you said yes to.” Isn’t that the truth? The video is currently sitting at 3.4 million views.

In a world of personal devices, and multi layered conversations online, it simply asks us to look up and give the moment you are in, your full presence. It seems like such a simple message, but one easily been forgotten in our busy and connected world. What makes it so powerful for the Lululemon brand, is that it is congruent with their existing brand values. Make no mistake, it is a marketing play, but they own the position with some authenticity, having wrapped the brand in their “Manifesto” of statements such as “Dance, sing, floss and travel” and “Friends are more important than money” since they launched. Individual stores are being given the freedom to envision how to embody the spirit of the campaign. That could be as grand as offering a customer a flight home for the holidays if they mentioned they weren’t seeing family this year, or something as simple as offering coffee to a guest on a cold day. They are also using unbranded hand addressed greeting cards to help spread the message of #givepresence.

Westjet:

After striking holiday gold with their Christmas miracle campaign last year, Westjet is back again for a third year, this time bringing presents to people in the Dominican Republic. But you could argue that they too were bringing presence, since the move is far from just a shallow marketing ploy. Westjet has been supporting the communities in the Dominican for some time building houses and giving back. Their “presence” in the country is genuine. Although I had spotted this one early in the week, once again a loyal newsletter reader, Victoria, had alerted me to it. Seems she had a soft spot for Westjet too, since the company supports the Global Initiatives program at Carson Graham, a high school in North Vancouver that has students participate in building homes in the Dominican Republic also.

If you somehow missed the 2013 Christmas Miracle, you can view it here. Last year, guest boarding a plane were given the opportunity to talk to Westjet’s blue Santa on screen in the departure lounge, and tell him what they would like for Christmas. Once the flight departed, Westjet employees at the destination city frantically shopped and wrapped the gifts, so they could be delivered down the baggage carrousel to the surprise and delight of passengers at the arrival city.

westjet-christmas-dominican_horseThis year they bestowed gifts to the people of Puerto Plata, one of the four destinations Westjet services in the Dominican Republic. Airline staffs have been visiting the community for several years to build houses in partnership with Live Different. This year they staged a beach party for locals, where after having talked to Santa electronically the previous day, they were treated to the arrival of gifts. What made the gifts so touching is how they differed so dramatically from the flat screens of last year (although I’m still getting over the guy who asked for socks in that campaign). This year, we see the arrival of a washing machine, a car engine, and a horse.

Westjet_Dominican_washingMachineThese are all items that arguably will benefit many, and in some cases fuel the well being of an entire community. At the end, blue Santa reveals one last gift, a playground for the community’s children. The campaign is centered on the company’s ties to the community. That is what makes it genuine. View the 2014 Dominican campaign here. It had posted over 2.5 million views within the first 5 days. It’s also interesting to hear the back-story on why they did it. View here: “Why we did it” video.

Three commons themes run through both of these campaigns:

  1. Both companies owned the positioning and values portrayed with authenticity. Their actions were congruent with their history, making it more than just a marketing ploy.
  2. The campaigns touched an emotional trigger. Share of mind is good, but share of heart is better.
  3. Both campaigns are about doing something for others, which inadvertently benefited them, but that wasn’t necessarily why they were doing it in the first place.

As increasingly businesses realize there is value in positioning around social responsibility or charity, I think it’s critical to note the importance of authenticity and actions being a reflection of existing company values. Well done Lululemon and Westjet, two Canadian global brands that can do us proud!

 

From creation to consumption, sharing, engagement, lead generation & sales

Our American neighbors have just celebrated Thanksgiving this weekend. In honor of that, during the week leading up to festivities, I shared a blog post through social media called  “What would the WKRP in Cincinnati Turkey Drop episode look like in the age of social media?” While I have blog readers from all over the globe, and 20% are Canadian, the largest group is from the US, representing 30% of site visits. I had written the piece back in October, originally for Canadian recipients of my newsletter, but I saved it for a blog post until last week because I knew it would resonate with a large portion of my audience the week leading up to American Thanksgiving. Read the original post here.

turkeys-awayAnd it made for an excellent example to illustrate the importance of the four pillars in building your media mogul empire.

The power of one-to-one-to-many
I have to admit, I initially thought the Turkey Drop in the age of social media piece was pretty fluffy. It was meant to be purely fun and entertaining, while positioning me as knowing something about social media. But that appears to have significantly contributed to why it was shared so widely. Simply put, I gave people something that they could turn around and share with their connections that would make them look insightful and funny. But the selection of the content was also somewhat strategic in that it self-selected itself with a certain age demographic that shared memories of the original episode in 1978.

The power of tagging and timing
The timing of the piece was critical. I knew that this past week would be full of Thanksgiving anticipation. I tagged the content with #thanksgiving #turkey and other social media and marketing words. That ensured it showed up in some major feeds on Twitter. I also knew that the days leading up to Thanksgiving in the US are typically full of travel time as folks try to spend time with family over the holiday. Tied to that assumption is the understanding that there would be time to kill waiting in airports, being a passenger in a car, train or bus, and the desire to read and share entertaining news on mobile devices.

How the four pillar plan unfolded
Last Monday I posted the piece to my blog, which is anchor media. I own the space. I then went in and used my social media outposts to broadcast the content. That’s where I “rent space” but don’t own it. Those properties are my broadcast network. There were single posts to Facebook and Google Plus. I made several scheduled posts through the week on LinkedIn with different headlines. And I made 4-5 scheduled Twitter posts per day with different rotating headlines throughout the week. Content was tagged on all platforms for hash tag search words. I went in and tagged Twitter handles of certain influencers on marketing and social media channels that I frequent hoping they would share the content with their followers, which most did. I monitored shares, retweets and comments on all platforms and responded to build engagement with anyone who had liked the content. I also monitored site visits, retweets, likes and shares throughout the week, and adjusted the final last two days with the most successful headlines used to date. Anchors and outposts were used exclusively in this initiative, but the content achieved earned media when a radio broadcaster south of the border shared it. There was no paid boosting of the content.

Twitter_WKRP_linkHow metrics measure success
There are a couple ways I measure the success of a media post: consumption, sharing, lead generation and ultimately sales. Think of it as a broad funnel at the top, which eventually leads to business.

  1. Consumption: The measurement of views, downloads, email opens.
  2. Sharing & engagement: The number of tweets, likes and shares. But also measuring engagement through interaction on comments, email or direct messaging. Engagement is not just a quantitative measure, it is also a qualitative one, since it leads to the next step.
  3. Lead generation: This is where the funnel usually starts to close in, but where the magic happens. A lot of companies never get past the first two metrics. And some try so hard at selling in this phase that they turn people off. This is where you measure things like online registration, browser cookies, email sign up, direct connection on other platforms like LinkedIn and direct messages, or phone leads.
  4. Sales: This is where you measure revenue or profit as the result of a lead generated.

As I’ve noted, a critical component within the sharing stage is engagement and the use of two way correspondence to build rapport and trust. A lot of companies get this wrong and either one way blast, or think that a simple like or share is engagement. What I’m really getting at here is being personable, authentic and yourself in replies and comments. As in dating and building a relationship, engagement requires a series of commitments and delivery. You’re getting to know each other. Ultimately we buy from those we know and trust. That’s how consumption, sharing and engagement turns into lead generation.

Back end analytics for “What would the WKRP in Cincinnati Turkey Drop episode look like in the age of social media?” indicate 2,040 views of which over 650 were from the US. There many tweets, likes and shares, and it generated several new email sign ups and requests to connect on LinkedIn. In one of those cases, a direct message resulted in the request to submit a proposal for an event in Tampa. Plus as mentioned before, it generated coverage from a radio station, which further fueled views of anchored content. The piece itself was pretty light and fun, but I could also see from back in analytics that numerous viewers had gone on to view other more meaty marketing content.

Overall, I’d call it a four-pillar media success, and a clear demonstration of how to leverage content creation for positioning and sales. If you’d like to go back and review the basics of becoming a media mogul through the four pillars of content, you can view it on my blog here.

Curious how this might work in your organization? Contact me mary@charleson.ca Maybe we can apply a structure to what you are currently doing to make it more effective.