Why you need to do a content audit ASAP

December is my favorite month. The holidays are on the horizon, we’re wrapping up website-audit-icon1many of our projects and everyone at work is feeling a little merrier. It’s a great time to set the tone for the new year. If you’re a content marketer, it’s also the perfect time to do a content audit, so you can start fresh in 2017 and work towards your objectives.

Here’s why you should begin your content audit today:

Take stock of what you have, what worked, what didn’t. There’s a whole lot of content on your site. Organizing it in a spreadsheet allows you to examine the subjects you have covered and evaluate each piece of content using various metrics. This can give you insights into what performed well and resonated with your audience, as well as which posts can be archived, scrapped or edited.

Assess content relevance. Go through your organization’s Web pages to see which ones are pertinent for each of your stakeholder groups. The photos of this year’s volunteer appreciation breakfast may be of interest to employees, but they are likely not useful to all your prospects. Think of moving this type of content to internal-facing pages or creating a company social media page, in favor of posting audience-relevant content on your company Website.

Better organize your site. Use taxonomies to classify your content and determine which pages to keep, which to modify and which to discard altogether. Taxonomies can also help you to create relevant links across your site.

Get rid of useless files that take up server space. Some of the content you produced may not have performed well or it may no longer be useful. A content audit can help you identify these pieces and delete them in order to free up space on your organization’s servers.

Re-purpose quality content. Be sure to keep pieces that performed extremely well and that could be re-purposed. Perhaps you have an article that could be turned into an FAQ, a social media post or even a video. Content that resonates well with your audience can be flagged and used as a foundation for other stories.

Use results to guide your content strategy.  Once you’ve inventoried all your content and completed your audit, the outcomes will allow you to produce a more complete content strategy. Start with a clean slate and set your objectives based on what you have learned.

Begin 2017 on the right foot. Think of your content audit as a closet cleanse. Get rid of old, outdated items, rediscover classics that you can accessorize differently, make room for new boxing-day purchases and completely re-think your style strategy.

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6 Reasons why your email efforts aren’t working

Email marketing is one of the best ways for organizations to communicate with their clients and prospects. It can be used to drive traffic to your website, share promotions, elicit feedback and share stories about your brand – the possibilities are endless. So why are your results nowhere near what you thought they’d be?

Here are a few reasons why your emails may not be working:

You are sending too many. A lot of marketers are guilty of this. We need to meet a target, promote a deal, or share some news. The result: our customers feel bombarded, which results in lower engagement and increased unsubscribes. Remember, your audience is receiving tons of messages each day, be selective in what you communicate via email.

Your emails are not on strategy. This is one is especially relevant for those who send out emails on behalf of their clients and senior management. They need to make an announcement or sell more units, so they ask you to send out an email that doesn’t fit in with the overall strategy. Re-evaluate your efforts and look at alternative options. If email is the right choice, make sure your messaging is engaging and that it complements your strategy.

Your customers are not using email as much. Audience preferences are changing as new mediums are introduced. Do a little research on your target market: Are they using emails? Perhaps they prefer social media? Which networks are they on? Maybe they even like to receive offers in the mail? Knowing your customer and how they like to communicate is important. Segmentation is a crucial part of your strategy, as not all of your customers and prospects use the same tools.

Your subject lines are weak. A subject line must entice your audience and give them a reason to open your email. Keep it short and sweet, use action verbs, give them a taste of what they will get in your email and create a sense of urgency. Check out these tips to help you write subject lines that get clicks.

Your content needs work. If your content does not add value to customers, your email efforts will fall flat. Interesting, well-crafted content is what will engage your customer and keep them coming back for more. Weave photos, success stories and tips into your emails. If you have a blog, use snippets from it to provide a variety of interesting content.

Your design isn’t helping you. Even if you have all the other elements, a poorly designed email will prevent your customers from reading it and taking action. When your customers click on the email, it needs to be readable, clean and responsive on different devices. This is crucial in order to get your message across.

There is no doubt that email is a great way to reach your audiences. When used effectively, as part of a larger strategy, it can engage your customers, drive traffic to your website, increase sales and ultimately grow your business.

 

6 Questions to help your clients think more strategically

We’ve all been subject to last-minute, one-off asks that don’t link back to specific 6e000ec02c7c93eef58146bcb1c63682.jpgobjectives and an overarching strategy. Clients get anxious that they are not meeting a target and decide that ‘something needs to go out’. Maybe they’re right; but whether that something is a news release, video, social media post or other tactic, it should definitely fit into the bigger picture. That’s where you come in.

Here are a few questions to spark strategic thinking:

(1) What are your objectives?

This may seem very basic, but it’s the most important thing. Ask your client what they are trying to achieve with this particular communication. Maybe they need a spike in sales before a particular deadline, or to sell out an event. Whatever the purpose, make sure it links back to your overall objectives.

(2) Why now?

Two weeks ago, after the ‘Brangelina’ breakup made headlines, Norwegian airlines came out with an ad that read ‘Brad is Single’, suggesting that customers hop on a flight to L.A to pursue Brad Pitt. Though some found the ad to be opportunistic and insensitive, others thought it was brilliant and funny. One thing is for sure – it was timely, and therefore got a lot of attention.

(3) How does it fit into the bigger picture?

This question stems from your objectives. If your client wants to send yet another email to all his/her prospects, you have to ask, how does this fit into the overall strategy? Will it lead to desired results, or will it just annoy people?

 (4) What is the key message and what does it say about your organization?

Whatever the tactic, your key message should integrate well with your brand’s identity. Every decision you make builds your customers’ perceptions, so if even you’re making one that’s not planned, its message should appear intentional and seamless.

(5) Is this the best way to achieve the desired result?

Make sure you consider all the alternatives. Will this move have the most impact? What are the costs and benefits?  If you and your client have asked all the questions and believe you need to take a leap, then you should. Now more than ever, quick thinking and off the cuff strategies are part of the communications game.

(6) How will you measure it?

Make sure your efforts are measurable and insist on evaluating the impact to see if it was worthwhile, how it could be improved and what could be done differently next time around.

One-offs happen and can sometimes be effective and crucial. However, a string of them can turn into decisions that don’t necessarily fit together or enhance your brand. Asking the right questions can help your client think strategically and make decisions that will work for them now and in the long run.

13 Things #PRlife and #momlife have in Common

Just over one year ago I became a parent. I think most new moms can agree that #momlife is definitely not what they expected. Little did I know that my new role as a mom would actually have a few things in common with my life as a PR pro:

 (1) Days start early. I used to set my alarm for 5:35am so that I could get a workout in before starting my work day. Now I don’t even need to set my alarm because my little tot wakes me up promptly at 6am –  when she sleeps in.

(2) Caffeine fixes. This one is a no-brainer. Morning and afternoon lattes are a must. As a PR pro, that first sip of coffee was always a moment of zen before I jumped into whatever I was working on. My caffeine fix continues to provide me with a fleeting moment of relaxation, only now a quick espresso is the only way to go!

(3) Great negotiating skills required. At the office you are constantly using these skills with clients, colleagues and reporters. At home, you realize they are becoming increasingly indispensable for naps, feedings and pretty much everything else!

(4) Prioritization. Lists, schedules, calendars, whiteboards. They make your desk and household run like a well-oiled machine.

(5) Running around. PR pros are always on a deadline: finding a story, meeting a client, running against the clock. Mom life is pretty much the same: play dates, classes, feedings, walks, naps, food prep and the like keep you constantly on your toes.

(6) Networking is key. Lunches, coffee chats, events and phone calls help you maintain your sanity and keep on top of your game in the PR world. As a mom, networking is just as valuable. Meeting with other parents allows you to learn about different ways of doing things, new programs for your little one and tips to juggle everything whilst enjoying parenthood. The added bonus: meeting awesome people who will have a great impact on your life.

(7) Evenings are the only time to catch up. My pre-parent evenings as a PR pro were sacred. I used them to check out my favorite industry Websites, social media feeds and magazines, do a little cooking and maybe watch some Netflix. As a mom, the 7:30-10:30pm timeframe is also incredibly valuable. Whether it’s used for reading, writing, planning activities for baby or simply chillin’ with my hubby, these 3 hours allow me to be better at everything I do during the day.

(8) Constantly amazed at your multitasking and juggling abilities. PR pros are master multitaskers. We live by lists and schedules that end up getting re-arranged due to some emergency or relevant breaking news item. Early on, I have learnt that mom-hood is similar. Carefully planning activities, naptimes, feedings, walks and playdates is necessary to get anything done. By the end of the day, there is a sense of pride in ticking things off ‘the list’.

(9) Can’t live without social media. As both a PR pro and a relatively new mom, my social media feeds are indispensable. Professionally, they are my go-to for news and information, as well as advice from experts in my field. They are also indispensable for my leisure activities and interests like running, cooking, yoga and fashion. Social media is a must for my #momlife as well. It provides me with information about playgroups, salsa babies and music classes, as well as advice on nursing, sleeping, making baby food and a plethora of other things I had no clue about one year ago.

(10) Your peeps are the best support system. My colleagues are the best. Whether its pulling together to meet a tight deadline, working through a crazy day, teaching each other new skills or simply sharing coffee and treats, the people I work with are a big part of why I love my job so much. Similarly, I have recently had the pleasure of spending time with several moms who have helped me face the tougher moments, and provided sage advice, company and loads of laughs. I can’t believe I ever lived without these individuals!

(11) Everyone has an opinion. At work it’s your boss, his/her boss, your team, your clients, their teams, etc. Sometimes the number of opinions you get on any given day is incredible. Well, that’s nothing compared to the amount of unsolicited advice you will get from family, friends and even complete strangers about what your child should do, eat, wear…

(12) Every now and then you have a “moment”. You know the one. A difficult client, several looming deadlines, a PR crisis and personal issue all surface at the same time. You feel like all the balls you are juggling are going to come crashing down. Ninety-nine percent of the time you are able to deal with it productively, professionally and efficiently, but sometimes, you just need to lock yourself in a room and scream. These “moments” occur now and then in #momlife as well.

(13) It really is THE BEST. At the end of a big project at work, I get a rush of excitement and a sense of accomplishment. It always makes me feel like, heck yes, this is what I was meant to do! I get that feeling times a million every time my daughter laughs or does something new.

I feel really fortunate to get to wear both hats and I think they complement each other very well. A shout out to all the other new PR moms out there – you’re doing great!

 

Stop predicting the death of content marketing

PR is Dead

Makes for a sexy headline, right?

Communications pros can be quick to declare the death of fields and approaches.

With the rise of digital media, marketing and PR were declared ‘dead’ on more than one occasion. Over the last decade, new technologies and communication processes have forced us to let go of traditional strategies and tactics in favor of increasingly interactive, customer-focused communication. As such, our efforts have evolved substantially, but the fields of marketing and PR remain intact.

Content marketing has emerged as an effective way to connect with our stakeholders using relevant and valuable content to drive traffic and sales. PR and marketing training sites have been abuzz identifying the best content marketing strategies, and organizations have created new positions or hired external consultants to address the growing need for good content

And yet, people are already starting to predict the demise of content marketing. That didn’t take long.

Here are a few reasons why content marketing is here for the long haul:

Content marketing has actually been around for ages. It may not have had a label, but people have been using content to elicit a call to action for years. Recently, we’ve had to step up our game to make it more interesting, funny, surprising or solution-oriented. This is largely due to the fact that audiences are inundated with so many messages – there is a greater need for content to stand out.

Good storytelling will always be important. People are always looking for good stories, funny photographs, interesting videos, etc. Whether you are a fashion company, a tech firm or a local business, your stories can make you more relatable to your followers.

Content is at the heart of social media. Your social media engine won’t run without good content. It gives your audience something to talk about and share with their networks.

The end objectives remain the same. In the end, you want people to feel connected to your brand or organization in a way that will stimulate them to choose you and share their positive experience with other people.

It’s audience-focused. If done right, content marketing is centered around your audience. They will always need information to make decisions, whether it’s buying a car, deciding where to go for dinner or choosing a charity to volunteer for. Engaging content that is focused on the needs and preferences of your target audience will help your brand thrive.

Content marketing is not a medium. VHS may no longer be around, but people still want to watch movies. You may not get the newspaper delivered to your door, but you are still check out the daily news on your smartphone. Technologies may disappear, but audiences’ thirst for stimulating information about products and services will not.

Evolution is natural. I think we need to stop predicting the ‘death’ of fields and processes. They are not extinct, just continuously evolving and taking on taking on different forms which may require new strategies and skill sets. This may be a less dramatic way of looking at things that makes for less sexy headlines, but it’s more realistic.

Content marketing is here to stay. So let’s keep doing our research, learning about our audiences, and re-inventing ourselves with the new technologies, tools and tactics that become available to us.

How content can help make your employees your best brand ambassadors

The HR sections of company websites have long cited people as their most important resource. After all, it is the sum of your employees’ dedication, collaboration and hard work that yields organizational success. When employees love and believe in their work they ultimately perform better.

Sharing.jpgIn the age of social media, the impact of employee satisfaction, engagement and love for your organization is even greater, because they can share it. Employees are your best brand ambassadors. They are friends with your customers, prospects and investors, and what they say about your brand in their news feeds will have more impact than the content that comes out of your corporate pages or paid ads.

Why? Because customers trust your employees more than your organization as an entity.

This is why you should leverage the power of your employees as influencers. Content can help you do this because it gives them something to talk about.

Here’s how you do it:

Collect awesome stories. It’s not enough that employees know your company’s mission, vision and brand story. They need to know about the everyday happenings that make your brand so special. Tales of stellar customer service, community outreach, or employee excellence need to be found and told, whether it’s through an internal portal, newsletter, social media site or a combination. These stories may not always be packaged impeccably like the ones told by the marketing team, but they are real – and people gravitate towards that.

Find the best way to share stories with your employees. Discover which channels your employees prefer using and share your stories there. Do your homework. Make sure you are offering news that interests them, in a format that doesn’t make them feel like they are doing extra work. This means nixing the 5000-word PDF newsletter in favor of short snappy lists, videos, quick facts, tweet chats or photos with captions.

Empower them to use social media. Encourage your people to be active on social media and trust that they will use it for good. Provide them with social media guidelines that highlight appropriate usage. Giving your employees the freedom to take mini social media breaks during the day allows them to relax a little, keep up with the news and connect with their contacts. The latter can have a positive impact on your brand when your employees share and endorse organizational content.

Ask your employees for feedback. Ask employees to share their own work stories and provide incentives to do so. Your people are in the trenches every day and often have the best story ideas – you just have to find them. Get their input on the storytelling and sharing process as well. You can do this through formal surveys, feedback forms and focus groups or informal chats with various team members.

Involving your employees in content production and dissemination makes them feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. It allows them to share their organizational pride with their personal networks while boosting your brand’s visibility. Your organization will greatly benefit from this more organic way of spreading news.

Why your content team is in a creative funk and how to snap out of it

One of the things I love about working in PR is the creative energy. The new approaches, cool ideas and interesting stories that colleagues bring to meetings or to the water cooler are what make this business so exciting. Snap out

Sometimes though, you experience a bit of a drought. Everyone at the office is a little quieter and it seems like people are just going through the motions. The stories pitched appear tired and the proposed angles boring. Everything is just a little – blah.

Creative funks can happen for a number of reasons. Here are just a few, paired with some suggestions to snap out of them.

(1) Stuck in the routine. Sometimes the daily grind gets to us. Somewhere during the process of strategize, research, pitch, write, post, monitor, repeat, people get caught up and forget that they need to venture outside the content producing machine to find new ideas, and more importantly, to keep their sanity.

Snap out of it: organize outings or activities to get people out of the office. Whether it’s for a walk or to grab a coffee, sometimes we just need a little distraction to get the creative juices flowing.

(2) Old school PR environment. Not everyone in PR works at a Fortune 500 company or a forward-thinking agency. A lot of content teams work for non-profits, government departments and industries that have not yet caught up with best practices in content marketing. Your team members may find that they have new ideas, but the context, budget or resources won’t allow these to come to fruition.

Snap out of it: Though you can’t change your organizational culture overnight, you can try to find projects that will give your team a creative outlet. Challenge them to find alternative ways of covering usual topics or formatting their pieces. Give them opportunities to research and pitch new ideas to senior management.

(3) Lack of team work. Although we work in an extremely collaborative field, we all have those times where we isolate ourselves and forget to use one of our most valuable resources – our colleagues. We think we are being more productive, when in reality we are spinning our wheels.

Snap out of it: Plan for structured brainstorming sessions where people bring forth what they are working on. Share ideas on content, angles, formats, photos etc. and encourage discussion. Make sure all team members have the opportunity to participate and that these creative sessions don’t turn into administrative discussions.

(4) Bad content. There is nothing content marketers hate more than producing puff pieces that we know no one will look at and that will yield poor results. Often though, internal politics force us to produce this type of content. Writing boring corporate-speak articles will make any creative feel like they are losing their edge.

Snap out of it: Find the hidden story. It may be difficult, but many times you can uncover something interesting about the corporate retreat, CSR report, or pancake breakfast. Encourage your employees to talk to different people involved and find an angle that will add some substance to a corporate announcement.

(5) Results fall short. When we put a lot of effort into a story or project and it doesn’t yield the expected results, our motivation can take a hit. We begin to doubt to ourselves and this has a negative impact our creativity.

Snap out of it: The essential takeaway here is that everyone goes through this. Sometimes it hits us a little harder and affects our creative mojo. Help your team members get to the other side by productively using their ‘doubt’. Look at what did not work and why. Map out an alternative plan.

(6) Too much or not enough competition. We’ve all heard it before: moderate competition in the workplace is healthy. However, it’s not always easy to achieve a balance. Some of us work on teams where there is a great deal of ‘die-hard’ competition. This type of environment can be toxic. On the other end of the spectrum is a lack of friendly competition, which can cause complacency.

Snap out of it: Fostering friendly competition by encouraging people to aim high will yield better results and keep people motivated. Make sure your employees know that their individual work is vital to your organization’s success by helping them set goals. Nurture a collaborative culture by showing how each individual’s contribution and their combined efforts will lead to the best results. Make sure to celebrate the victories along the way!

Creativity is such a crucial part of what we do. Let’s make sure we take the time to nurture it! What does your team do to foster creativity?