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.



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.

The in-house client: Common challenges and how to face them

Many PR pros who don’t work in agencies are part of in-house integrated communications teams that take on agency-like structures. Research has shown that this type of structure is one of the essential characteristics of the marketing organization of the future. 

If you are part of one of these teams, it usually means you are providing advice and production services to internal client groups. 

This type of work can be a lot of fun, as it involves cross-functional collaboration in the effort to reach common organizational goals. There are however, some challenges faced by the internal account executive in managing these important stakeholder groups—especially if the internal agency configuration is new to your organization.

Here are just a few common challenges:

1. Perception that you are a service provider, not a consultant. Often, internal clients see the communications department as the place that produces brochures, writes news releases, or posts social media updates. Some internal client groups will approach you with a specific request rather than seeking advice on an all-encompassing strategy.

How to face it: Close the gap between PR strategy and tactics. Educating your internal clients about the difference between strategy and tactics is essential. Show them successful examples of objectives and research-based communications and highlight the results. This will help them understand that campaigns work better than one-offs and that your department’s expertise goes beyond writing copy and designing email headers.

2. Perception that you don’t understand their needs. You may be a skilled PR pro, but this sometimes gets overlooked if you don’t have a great deal of knowledge regarding your internal clients’ field, product, or service. Your client might not trust your advice or approach if he or she feels that you don’t grasp their needs.

How to face it: Research and constant communication. If you don’t have experience with your clients’ portfolio, do your homework. Read up on their offerings, history, competitors, previous communication strategies, and market research—the works. Also, offer to have them give you a crash course to better understand their business. It will make things easier when the roles are reversed and you are providing them with advice. Plus, it will contribute to enhanced cross-functional collaboration and help you and your team do a better job. 

3. Endless back-and-forth on decisions. The absence of billable hours in an internal shop can mean your clients will repeatedly come back to you with changes in scope, suggestions, and modifications. This hinders the overall efficiency and effectiveness of your strategy and can hamper your ability to deliver a project on time. 

How to face it: Implement a proper workflow process. A structured workflow that takes your client from the research and strategy phase to building ideas, tactical plan development, implementation, and measurement will help guide your projects and create a sense of discipline and shared ownership. Putting a workflow in place requires you to identify the steps required to bring a given project to life, as well as the requisite timelines, accountabilities, approvers, and processes. Create a master milestone charter of all the steps, and get your client to sign off on it so that he/she knows that an extra round of corrections or a last-minute add-in will compromise your deadline or incur additional costs.

Internal communications shops are forever attached to their clients, which makes establishing a healthy relationship and process essential. Continuous internal education and workshops will help cross-functional teams to better understand each other’s work. 

As PR pros we should share examples of how agencies and other organizations do things to help our internal clients understand how we can help them achieve our shared organizational goals. 

This post first appeared on PR Daily.

Making the Case for Brand Journalism

The majority of PR and marketing pros are buzzing about brand journalism. Last week I attended a workshop hosted by

Making the case for-Brand-JournalismRagan Communications’ Mark Ragan (@MarkRaganCEO) and Jim Ylisela (@jpyjr) on The Company as Media – Your role in the age of Brand Journalism & Content Curation.

Here are just some of the insights from this workshop that can help us make the case for brand journalism in our organizations.

(1) A catalyst for integration. PR and marketing teams may have “beef” with brand journalism, because both functions think they should own it. Turning your site into a storytelling vehicle that provides content your customers actually want to read and share can have an impact on conversion. Why not use this as an opportunity for PR and marketing to collaborate more closely?

(2) Taking a balanced approach yields results. You are NOT talking about yourself; you are essentially becoming a trade publisher. Tell stories about your organization’s people and its area of expertise and pair this with content curation about the industry. Content marketing efforts should not be propaganda. Many companies hire journalists to act as internal reporters and take a more ‘unbiased’ stance and tone.

(3) Why write a news release when you could write a story? So many organizations are still tied to the news release. Some that have storytelling vehicles on their websites duplicate their efforts by using both. There is no need to do this with brand journalism. You can publish a story that resembles what a journalist would write on your site and then send a targeted pitch to your media contacts.

(4) Great content + engagement = success. Nowadays we have to make sure to get people to our site, but we also need to get our site “out there” (i.e. on social media platforms, via email, etc.) If you provide your customers with content that they find useful and interesting they will actually take the time to read it, and even comment on it or share it. By becoming a go-to source of trustworthy information you also drive them through the conversion funnel.

(5) Stories with impact. Your content should make your audience’s life better. It should be relevant, useful, entertaining, consistent, transparent, and targeted towards their needs.  It should practice what Mark Ragan refers to as ‘refrigerator journalism’ – so good that you want to post it on your fridge. Therefore, it should be free of jargon and corporate speak. Keep it crisp, brief and to the point – just like what you might see in your favourite magazine.

(6) The best way to showcase your expertise. Your organization’s brand journalism site is a vehicle to share the range of expertise you have that surrounds your brand. Mark and Jim use the example of Export Development Canada’s online magazine Export Wise that provides advice for Canadian exporters. The content looks like what you might see in The Economist. A brand journalism site can also be useful to your salesforce, as it allows them to easily share stories with clients or prospects.

(7) Creates brand ambassadors. Involve your employees in your brand journalism stories – they will be your best brand ambassadors. They have great stories to tell about your organization at the operational level. Content marketing begins from the inside: engage your employees and encourage them to share.

(8) Takes a strategic approach. Effective brand journalism begins with your strategy. Take a look at your objectives, resources, key messages. What are you trying to achieve? Start with a communications audit to take stock of what you are currently doing to connect with your stakeholders and how content marketing fits in. Build a content strategy, a news desk and an editorial process. Decide on which tools to use for your main site and social media. Determine how you will measure success on your brand journalism site and trace how it leads to conversion (leads, sales, relationships, etc.).

(9) Closes the gap between media sites and corporate websites. Your site doesn’t have to be dull, transactional and text-heavy. By turning it into media site, you can still provide the information and services that your audiences need, but keep them interested along the way. This means changing how we write stories and how we share on social to ensure that they are audience-centric, must-click pieces. Turn your press releases into features, convert expert evergreen interviews into blog posts and pull good stories from research and whitepapers.

Creating a good content marketing strategy and building a vehicle to carry it through is a lot of work. It requires rethinking the way organizations have done things for years and taking on a less me-centric approach to communicating your content. The workshop I attended really highlighted how brand journalism focuses less on corporate priorities and more on the audience. Often understanding that focus on the latter will benefit the former is half the battle.

Marketing is dead?!

The other day I was reading an article in the October issue of Canadian Business magazine on how we should not believe that advertising has become a perfect science. The author, Bruce Philp, emphasizes the potential pitfalls of relying on algorithms, analytics and statistics alone to determine what consumers want.

He makes reference to an article published in the Harvard Business Review blog this past August that made the bold proclamation, “Marketing is dead.” I have to agree with Philp when he says – “It’s not dead yet.” In fact, there are several aspects of marketing as a discipline that will never die.

The advent of social media has changed a lot of what marketers and communicators do and how they do it. Some organizations and brands have done a fantastic job of embracing these changes and creating improved, digitally enabled versions of themselves. Others have had a hard time letting go of traditional marketing and communications strategies, and have lagged behind as a result.

However, the establishment of new technologies, vehicles and strategies does not necessarily require us to completely let go of previous methods. Marketing after all is not just about advertising, sales and promotion. It is about research, consumer behaviour, branding and competition. I am pretty sure all of these aspects are still alive and crucial.

Marketing as a discipline is not dead – it has just evolved. It is taking on different forms, and requires different strategies and skills sets – but the end goal is still fundamentally the same.

As technology continues to evolve at what appears to be a warp speed, we will continue to hear similar assertions of the “demise” of different disciplines and vehicles (i.e. journalism, television, radio etc.). I prefer to think of it, moreover, as a natural selection process.

And although some of these deaths will be veritable and inevitable, others will simply represent new chapters in the lives of these areas.

I believe marketing as we know it has changed – but marketing as a discipline will live on in several forms.