The WII-FM factor: Do you know who your audience is?

Confusion2015 is now halfway over. How is your marketing program going so far? Are the people you are trying to reach – your audience – responding to your efforts to reach them?

The WII-FM factor, or “What’s in it for me,” is about the importance of communicating to your audience from their point-of-view.   If you are having difficulty reaching your audience, perhaps you haven’t correctly identified who they are and what they are interested in.

Spending time upfront identifying your audience is essential in deciding the best method of communication, as Lisa Dimond Vasquez explains here.homescreen_edited-1

 

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Writing with Personality

iStock_000018352153XSmallIn a world of texts, tweets and Instagram postings, does anyone really need to know how to write anymore? Yes! Good writing is still essential, especially in business.

Unfortunately, good writing – writing that is easy to read – is not all that common. Many people who communicate very well in person completely fail in written communication. The most vivacious, interesting people seem to change when they sit down to write; they become more formal, stiff and aloof. It’s as if they think the process of writing is a very serious business, one in which the writer must throw away his personality.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and here are three ways to make your writing as interesting as your in-person communication.

  1. Be Conversational. Writing and speaking should not be all that different, and writing at its best is a conversation with the reader. Use conversational language: “help” instead of “provide assistance,” “do our best” instead of “maximize efforts,” and “show” instead of “exemplify.” Read your work aloud to hear how it “sounds” to the reader.
  2. Use Active Voice. There is nothing more deadening to the written word than excessive use of the passive voice: “Mistakes were made” or “The job was completed,” instead of “I made mistakes” or “We completed the job.”   Whether it’s a way to avoid responsibility or sound humble doesn’t matter. When it comes to communicating, use of the passive voice can be as lively as watching grass grow.
  3. Eliminate Jargon. Every profession has jargon, and jargon often comes in the form of acronyms. When readers unfamiliar with an acronym see it, you’ve immediately lost their attention as they spend time trying to decipher its meaning. Don’t assume your reader understands the shorthand you use with peers. Unless it’s a commonly understood acronym, spell it out.

Try these three tips when you write – and let your personality shine through.

Posted by Margot Dimond

Content Marketing – Made to Order for Professional Services

Content MarketingPublic relations for professional services firms usually revolves around highlighting the expertise of the firm’s staff – as “thought leaders” – through published articles, expert interviews and speaking engagements, which are then reproduced or linked to for promotional purposes.

Now, however, these PR vehicles can be re-purposed to reach a much larger audience through a strong content marketing program.

What is content marketing? According to the Content Marketing Institute, “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

For the past few years, content marketing has been touted and flouted; it’s either the greatest marketing tool ever or a big waste of money, depending on the point-of-view of the person evaluating it.

In truth, no one marketing tactic is the answer for every business. Like every other tool in your marketing toolbox, it’s how you use it that counts.

Content marketing requires three main components to be successful. The first is obvious. You must have technological capabilities – either in-house or through an outside platform.  But if that were all there was to it, anyone could be successful at it, and surveys tell us they are not.

Two other requirements are essential:   a strategy and interesting content.

Strategy.  As with any PR program, you need to have a plan of action before you start.   This means:

  • Profiling your target audience and their primary areas of interest
  • Having a compelling message – in this case, producing content that addresses the interests and concerns of your target audience
  • Identifying the best ways to reach your target audience with your content

Interesting Content (and Lots of It).  It is really important to have one or more staff members whose sole job it is to produce well-written or well-produced content, including:

  • Content that appeals to the target audience
  • Content that is compelling and valuable to the reader
  • A variety of content: written, video, webinars, etc.

That’s a time-consuming job, especially if you don’t have a large in-house PR department. You may need to hire someone or bring in an outside firm to handle it.

Finally, as with any new marketing program, it takes a while to see measurable results. But content marketing seems to be made to order for professional services firms, and it’s worth considering.

Posted by Margot Dimond

New PR Tools Prove Effective

social-toolboxTo many business people, public relations is still defined in terms of the “news release,” but it’s always been more than that.  It’s about creating and managing the reputation of a company or nonprofit organization through a well-defined communications strategy.  The news release is just one communication tool, and many new ones are being incorporated into the discipline every day.

Here are some things to think about for your next marketing campaign:

  • The Rise of Visual Content.  In recent surveys by PR tech firms Cision and Isebox, nearly two-thirds of journalists said they want press releases to give them easy access to photos, videos and graphics.  That makes sense when you consider that YouTube is the second most-visited social website after Facebook and infographics and other graphic representations are becoming ever more prevalent in communications.
  • Customized Messaging.  Customizing messaging for different audiences has always been an essential part of promoting your company and its products or services.  But it’s increasingly important today as audiences become fragmented by interest.  People now have access to a wide range of information, and they choose what kind of information they want and how they want to receive it like never before.
  • Native Advertising.  Digital media has given rise to a growing trend:  advertisements that are in the same format as the content audiences are there to consume.  They have proven to be more effective in generating click rates than traditional banner ads.
  • Inbound Marketing.  Inbound marketing is the process of drawing the right people to you – the people who are already interested in the topic you are addressing – through providing quality content on your website, blog, newsletter or social media platforms.  The key to producing good content requires not only good ideas but the ability to write about them in a compelling way.
  • E-Mail News Blasts.  Your employees can be your greatest sales force, but your internal audience is composed of more than employees.  Current clients, business partners, members of organizations you belong to, volunteers and donors (if you have a nonprofit organization) – it’s important to regularly stay in touch with all of them.  And e-mail has made it easier than ever.  After a lull during which businesses flirted with various social media platforms, e-blasts and e-mail newsletters are back in style.  Less expensive and time-consuming than printed publications (and more likely to be read), e-blasts can be sent with the latest news literally in the same day.

Posted by Margot Dimond

Up Your Game for 2015

on his wayThe first month of 2015 is almost over, but it’s not too late to think about doing a better job of marketing your business this year. Here are five things that will make your efforts more productive.

1.  Do a strategic plan – and follow it. Take a fresh look at your last PR/marketing plan. Is it kind of dusty? Let’s face it, many plans are. Typically, a firm will host an end-of-year planning session, maybe at a retreat where the staff discusses goals for the year, strategies, marketing objectives, etc. Finally, someone is assigned to put all of the ideas into a written plan.  When finished, it’s passed around, and everyone feels good about having done it. But during the year, ideas get thrown around and tried out without any regard for the plan. How do we know a plan works if it isn’t put it into practice?

2.  Effectively incorporate social media into your marketing plan. The key word here is “effectively.” When it comes to social media marketing, there are two types of staff members: evangelists, who think it’s the answer to everything; and followers, who think social media marketing is complicated and should be left to the evangelists to implement. Our take? Social media is an important part of the overall marketing strategy when it fulfills the stated objectives, and since it involves communication, the public relations department should direct its strategy and implementation.

3.  Whether in traditional or new marketing, quality content trumps all. Keep in mind that everyone listens to the same radio station: WII-FM, or “What’s in it for me.” If your content – whether in a speech, article, or online – speaks to your audience from their point-of-view, you will be successful. If your communication is all about your firm and what you do, instead of about your audience and what you can do for them, you will struggle to succeed.

4.  Review your social media platforms. Video was 66% of internet traffic in 2013; by 2018, it is estimated to be 84%. Internet traffic draws people to your website, so you really can’t ignore online video. And you don’t have to hire a video crew and have an expensive production. Just start videotaping. With all of the new equipment around, you can make quick promotional or education videos and use an editing program to turn them into something people will want to watch.

5.  Print is not dead, but… As more publications publish digital editions, more people are comfortable getting their news that way. In fact, according to a Pew Research Center study, by 2012 more Americans got their news online than from radio or newspapers. That said, many people think that ads or articles are less likely to be seen if they are exclusively in the digital edition of a publication.  But keep in mind that your digitally published article or ad can be linked to and sent around the world.

Posted by Margot Dimond

Don’t Do a Marketing Program – Until You Can Answer These Questions

Maze 3Anyone who has ever been trapped in a traffic jam while desperately trying to get somewhere on time knows how confusing side streets can be.  Turning onto one to find a fast way to get out of the jam can bring you right back to where you originally went off the main highway.

It can be the same with marketing a business: A business owner can rush into the latest and greatest marketing idea, only to find that he or she has spent a lot of money going nowhere.  He hasn’t really moved the target market to buy his product or service.

Promoting a business today can be a maze of confusing options:  Besides traditional public relations, advertising and direct mail, a plethora of marketing options have been presented by Social Media, Inbound Marketing, Mobile Marketing, Content Marketing, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Twitter TV, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Paid Social Media and SEO.  And new possibilities keep arising every day.  It can be hard to keep up – even for seasoned marketers.

But there are some essentials to keep in mind when doing a marketing plan – and they never change.  Before committing to any long-term program, ask yourself these questions:

1.  What are you trying to sell?  Whether you are in a service business or producing a product, you are, after all, trying to sell something.  Be very clear about what that is.

2.  Who are the people likely to be interested in buying what you are selling? This is a question that should be easy to answer, since you probably fashioned your product or service around a perceived need in the first place.

3.  Where are these people likely to congregate?  What do they read or view, what organizations do they belong to, what are their buying habits?

Now you are ready to do some research on the different marketing options.  For instance, if you are selling a service to a high-income group, you will have a different set of choices than if you own a boutique clothing store.  In the latter case, you really want to be out there, with heavy SEO and Social Media Marketing.  If you are appealing to CEOs of major companies – not so much.

The point is not to start down the street until you know in what direction you should be headed.  And yes, all of this takes time upfront, but it can really pay off in long-term results.

Posted by Margot Dimond

WHAT’S YOUR “WIIFM” MESSAGE?

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Yes, but what’s in it for me?

By now, most business executives have heard of the “WIIFM” factor. If not, let’s specify that WIIFM is not a radio station; it’s a shortcut for “What’s in it for me” – the secret to all successful marketing.

When a new technology comes out, people aren’t as interested in hearing about the speed, design or internal workings of the product as they are about what it can do for them – how they can use it and how it will make their lives better, easier, or more efficient.

However, too often product marketers forget this, focusing on their product’s features rather than the buyers – their audience – and how it may fulfill their needs.   That’s a formula for failure.

It’s that way with all selling. Whether selling a product or service, it’s essential to consider the audience and how that product or service will benefit them.

Sales professionals know this. They usually spend a considerable amount of time profiling their audience to gauge what their needs are before they launch into a sales pitch. That way they have a better chance of having an attentive audience.

Keeping the WIIFM factor in mind, here are some guidelines for a more successful sales presentation:

  • Do some background research. Find out as much as you can about the person or company who will be the audience for your presentation, to determine their interests and needs.
  • Concentrate on your audience. At your first meeting, ask some questions to see what their current goals are and what challenges they face in achieving them.
  • Present your elevator message. Give a very brief introduction to your company and your product or service.
  • Present the benefits of buying from you. Using what you have learned from your research and conversation, present clearly and concisely the benefits of your product or service to your audience and how it can address their particular needs.

Of course, using the WIIFM factor does not guarantee success, but it can go a long way toward achieving it.

Posted by Margot Dimond

To PR or Not to PR? Startup Owners Get Lots of Advice

ribbon cuttingIf you are the owner of a startup company looking to promote your business, you may find a lot of conflicting information out there. Just enter “PR for startups” in a Google search and watch pages of articles loaded with advice come up.

There are articles with tips from PR pros and journalists, the business owners who proclaim you can – and should – do your own PR, and even a “virtual PR firm” that takes the place of an actual PR person. It’s all out there for you to choose from, if you have the time and the inclination to do it.

While it’s true that most startups don’t have a large budget for public relations, they also don’t have much time to do all of the recommended activities on their own.

We do not advocate spending money on a PR firm if it’s a struggle to do so; that just spells disappointment for everyone because effective public relations often takes time. What we do suggest is that you come up with a simple strategy and a clear message to identify your target markets and how you are likely to reach them.

Many people think that PR is synonymous with media relations, but there is so much more to it. Yes, public relations people do try to get their organizations media coverage, but media coverage is part of the overall strategy. A flurry of media coverage that doesn’t hit the target market is useless.

The most important things to think of when developing a strategy for a promoting a new business are:

  • Who am I? Remember, at first you are selling yourself, your credentials, your abilities and your record of success.
  • What is my product (or service) and why is it different? This is especially important in a crowded marketplace.
  • Who would be interested in what I’m selling? This is your target market.
  • How do I reach my target market? What tactics are likely to work?
  • What will move my target market to buy my product or service? This is your message – the “What’s in it for me” that your would-be customer wants to hear.

Only after you have answered these questions should you consider implementing a public relations program.

Posted by Margot Dimond

Gallup Survey Offers Wakeup Call to Social Media Marketers

Businessman with social media conceptsIn his 1982 book, Megatrends, futurist John Naisbitt discussed the concept that the more technology takes over our lives, the more we need human interaction. He writes: “What happens is that whenever new technology is introduced into society, there must be a counterbalancing human response – that is high touch – or the technology is rejected. The more high tech, the more high touch.”

An interesting new Gallup survey on the impact of social media marketing seems to confirm this, showing that 94% of consumers say they use social media to connect with friends and family and only 29% to follow trends and find product reviews and information. Fully 62% said that social media did not influence their purchasing decisions. In fact, the research showed that most people rely on their friends, family and experts when looking to buy.

This is obviously not a ready audience for traditional advertising. Why then do so many companies continue to treat social media as just another advertising venue – promoting themselves and their products on their Facebook and Twitter pages, hoping that “like” and “fan” numbers will generate sales?

It seems pretty clear that these companies are going to have to rethink their online marketing strategy if they want to make a real impact. They have to generate trust first, and trust is most often generated through two-way communication and transparency.

In reviewing the findings, The Gallup Blog suggested that companies could better utilize social media by being “authentic,” “responsive,” and “compelling.”   In other words, ditch the sales pitch and create an “open dialogue” with consumers; listen to what customers are saying and offer a timely response to negative feedback; and finally, create compelling content – that is, content that readers find valuable and not just promotional.

Conversation between people in an engaged community has always been the most effective type of communication in building a reputation or a brand. In order to be successful, social media marketing – indeed, all marketing – has to perform a similar function.  As Naisbitt wrote more than 30 years ago, “high tech” has to be counterbalanced with “high touch.”

Posted by Margot Dimond

Integrated marketing communications is dead — Here’s what’s next

Today’s post is by Paul Furiga, President and CEO of WordWrite Communications of Pittsburgh, a fellow member firm of PR Boutiques International.

Marketers are supposed to be hip — trendsetters, the first to buy the new gadget, to try the latest thing, the pop culture savants who drive everybody else to consume something new.

So then why are marketers so in love with a way of doing business that’s totally irrelevant today, as much a hangover of the 1980s as the Sony Walkman? I’m talking about “integrated marketing communications,” a way of organizing marketing activities that was supposed to bring together everything from print to broadcast (nobody except the government and Al Gore knew about the Internet back then). Now, not everything about the 1980s is bad. For instance, about half of the world’s biggest generation, the Millennials, was born in the 1980s.

RIP graphicBack when hair was big and glam metal was bigger, aspiring young communicators and marketers first learned this new discipline: Integrated Marketing Communications, or IMC. While practitioners have tried to sex up the definition of IMC in recent years to include social media, cell phones, the Internet, etc., the fact remains that when it was conceived, IMC contemplated one-way communication, primarily through advertising or direct mail, supported by a limited interpretation of public relations and a smattering of point of purchase or other marketing disciplines that barely resemble their descendants (such as guerrilla marketing or street marketing — there was no social media or Internet).

When IMC was conceived, MTV was in its infancy, CNN was still a toddler and Fox News hadn’t even been sketched out by Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch. The three over-the-air networks still ruled the marketing roost and the idea that an audience would talk back to someone practicing IMC with a response other than “Yes, yes, I will buy your product!” was a concept beyond imagining. Ah, the good old days. (Most of my nostalgia is directed at bands such as Queen or Poison, and not at one-way marketing).

As we hit the midpoint of the second decade of the 21st century, it’s time to retire Integrated Marketing Communications along with the bad hair and hair bands. Social media tools and inbound marketing have changed the game. It’s all about the conversation and engagement now.

It’s time for a new paradigm, one I call Integrated Digital Communications. Like its predecessor, IDC contemplates the seamless use of a variety of tools to achieve communication or marketing objectives. The difference is that today’s world demands different tools. For example, no one calls it “direct mail” any more, and fewer and fewer marketers use it. We have hundreds of cable channels with smaller audiences and thousands of cell phones with small screens and iPods and Chromebooks and SnapChat and on and on.

In the place of printed phone books, direct mail postcards, or a limited selection of one-way, bombastic network ad vehicles, this exploding universe of social media tools, when used best, really do support each other. They are best when they are integrated — Twitter twinned with Facebook or LinkedIn driving traffic to a company’s HR page, or a YouTube video to a contest, or in our practice of inbound marketing, the union of social media highways with remarkable content driving traffic to your website, to drive traffic, engagement and a relationship, often a sales relationship.

The common denominator for all of these 21st century tools is that they crave content by the bucket load, and not just any content — the kind that drives the conversation. This is what PR, and PR practitioners, have been doing for decades.

In this new universe, PR is the only discipline properly equipped to create, deliver and manage content in the new social media universe.

They call it public relations because it’s about relationships. Forget spin and all that other crap wannabe practitioners and charlatans peddle at the bottom of the PR food chain. True public relations begins with conversations, which can lead to deeper dialogue, which can lead to long-term relationships.

It doesn’t matter if it’s Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter or YouTube or whatever other social media tool you might name, it’s about creating community, and that’s built through relationships. This is what public relations does better than any other communication or marketing discipline.

So what’s the next step for public relations and integrated digital communications? The content gap, if anything, is only yawning wider. At WordWrite, we find more and more often that clients “get” the social media concept as an engine in their public relations and marketing efforts and they are asking us to help.

How will this shift toward communities of conversation affect the overall communication or marketing world? The battle is on. Ad shops are buying social media shops. “Interactive” shops are becoming social media shops. Direct mail has become direct marketing, and guess what, direct marketing is a form of social media!

None of these disciplines, whatever they may call themselves, understand conversations. They are pipe people, technologists rather than communicators, or they are communicators in love with one-way bombast.

So as the fight to rename or reclaim traditional marketing territory moves into cyberspace, the demand for content grows. And as the demand for content that feeds conversation grows, so does the need for public relations and public relations practitioners who understand Integrated Digital Communications. Welcome to the brave new world. May the best conversationalists win!