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

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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

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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

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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

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