If you’re wondering if all the time and expense it takes to produce free content to market your product or service works, this case study recently posted on Forbes.com should lay that to rest once and for all.
ProjectManager.com started in 2008, they now have 10,000 paying customers and they’re projected to own 80% of the market by 2015. I think it’s working!
What did they do right? CEO Jason Westland says it can be summed up in two words: content marketing.
“We gained 250,000 emails by giving away lots of free resources on our website,” says Westland. “We then built the largest “Project Management LinkedIn Group” in the World and pushed our social presence on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. We now have 500,000+ Project Managers follow us socially every day.”
His successful plan is no secret -
Establish a community/lay the foundation
Develop your content
Create a strategy to publish your content
Pull it all together to see how your content can lead to new sales
And of course never forget about your existing customers
And as brands realize the strength of content in the marketing mix, online newsrooms are becoming more than just a PR archive for press releases. You need a place to “pull it all together” and make it easy to find and share. A place to house whitepapers, webinars, videos, images, infographics, articles, tips, blog posts, tweets. A good newsroom will service more than just journalists today – it should meet also the needs of bloggers, investors, analysts, prospective customers and anyone interested in the latest content from your brand.
BotB companies are embracing content marketing. Curata’s “B2B Marketing Trends 2012 Report” found that 87% of US B2B marketers have used content marketing this year—the most popular tactic of any queried. That was up 5 percentage points from usage levels in 2011, impressive considering the already-high level of interest in content marketing.
Creating original content is number one on the list of content challenges, followed by the time to do it and then finding great content to curate.
A good online newsroom can alleviate some of these challenges. It saves time, makes posting and curating quick and easy and has Google analytics installed to help you track results.
“PR professionals have a natural aptitude for storytelling, but primarily their skills are more written-word than technologically based. Research we – and others – have recently conducted indicates strongly that brands are enthusiastically ramping up their content marketing initiatives. However PRs are competing with advertising agencies for this business, and agencies are proficient in technology, design, video and other forms of digital storytelling that matter a lot to marketers.
A study I conducted earlier this year demonstrates that brands are de-emphasizing the written word in favor of infographics, images, and video. In other words, visual storytelling.
This requires a skill shift in PR. Learn visual storytelling, which necessitates both tactical skills and understanding of graphic design and video.”
So as facile as we may be with the written-word – and many PR thought leaders still emphasize the need to be able to write well - if you’re keeping your PR eye on the technological ball you will also learn these new skills needed for visual storytelling.
Once you are producing visuals with your stories and news content make sure you have an online newsroom that can display it all in the format the media prefers and the public can easily share.
This year’s Content Marketing World conference was held last week in Columbus, OH and many of the socialmedia stars were there.
Here are some of the key takeaways:
From Jason Miller of Marketo:
Only 36% of businesses believe their content marketing is effective. Back in the day advertisers used to lament that they knew only 50% of their advertising was working, they just didn’t know which 50%. So while marketers are hot for content marketing, two thirds of them are flying blind.
I’d be prepared to bet that the 36% who are effective base their content on research and have a solid content strategy
CMI founder Joe Pulizzi went over the CMIs report highlights:
54% of businesses plan to increase spending on content marketing over the next 12 months. (Let’s hope they get a content strategy in place first, so that they have a plan in place before they spend the $$$)
Businesses are still struggling to find a process that works and to gain C-level buy in. (If they can show the ROI there will be no problem getting C-level buy-in. The C-suite wants to see’ beans for beans’)
The biggest challenge content marketers face is producing enough content, followed closely by producing the kind of content that engages. (Producing enough content can be resolved by finding an excellent and affordable resource to help you produce content. A sound content strategy based on listening to the right conversations will tell you what content will spark engagement)
It is surprising to me that no-one spoke about delivery and distribution of the content as a key takeaway. Looking at write ups about the speakers, I don’t see anything about delivery and distribution of the content there either. Producing content is obviously the first step. Then you have to deliver it. You can post it on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc. But putting all your content on a content hub on your own website is something that is being overlooked. The Washington Post listed not having a content hub as one of the top 10 mistakes companies make in social media.
Turn your online newsroom into a true content hub.
This is excellent advice from Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz. He gives 5 things you can do on your page to improve the SEO value of your content and what the search engines look for in your content.
All five are relevant to the content in your newsroom:
1. Semantic connectivity – are the words and phrases in your content related throughout the document. Search engines are getting very language-savvy. They can tell if a piece of content has a thread of closely connected terms.
2. Block level optimization. Search engines index the page from top to bottom and expects the entire page talk about the topic. Headline, subhead, first paragraph, middle section and last paragraph all have to be relevant and serve the visitors interests and the search query you are optimizing for.
3. Linking out to authoritative sites that are relevant to the content on the page.
4. Visitor Experience – usability. Never mind Big Brother – Google is watching! They know how people respond. Do they find what they want, do they come back, how long they stay on the page, do they complete actions on the page.
5. This one is particularly relevant for your news and blog content. Make it completely original and informative. Write great, unique content on every single page. Post Panda Google seems to like longer copy – but it has to have value. Use longer, in-depth content that has an experiential feel.
One digital PR tool every practitioner should be using is a dashboard that helps you track and monitor your online activity. If you are working in an agency or large firm you probably have access to a sophisticated subscription service.
If you are an independent practitioner, a small shop, or even a mid-sized business, you might find those fees too onerous and be looking at your more fortunate colleagues with more than just a hint of envy in your glance.
If that is the case, take a look at the new Netvibes dashboard. It is quick and easy to set up, they have a slew of new widgets that make it possible to display your Facebook and Twitter feeds in the dashboard, do searches on news, blogs and microblogs, and run your replies right from the dashboard. You can also connect and display your Google Analytics data, so you can keep track of how your content brings traffic back to your newsroom and your website. And best of all, it is completely free! Sweet!
Using this dashboard in conjunction with your online newsroom extends the value of your digital PR tools. The newsroom allows you to control your news and social content. You can post and publish without the need to learn to program, or have to wait for IT or a webmaster. And with the dashboard you can see where your social and news content is published, shared or commented on. You can see who re-tweets it. And you can reply right away from the dashboard.
At PRESSfeed we assist our newsroom clients to set up a customized dashboard that works for them and we show them how to use these digital PR tools to best advantage.
There’s a lot of buzz around the idea of a social news and content hub at the moment. And when there is social media buzz it’s reflected in the search engines -witness the BASF social media newsroom, which garnered so much attention on Twitter and blogs in the past few days. As a result it’s suddenly showing up on page one in Google for the phrase ‘social media newsroom’.
And while tactical actions like content production and mentions are important, remember the advice of SunTzu in The Art of War:
“All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.”
In 2011 we’re seeing content strategy take center stage. A social media newsroom creates a hub of content that has many advantages:
concentrates your content in one easy access area
makes it easy for reporters/bloggers to find and use your content
provides one URL for people to share
builds press kits for specific content
posts releases in social media format
adds video and images with source code
Journalists and bloggers are first and foremost people, in a hectically fast world where they are expected to deliver good stories for faster and faster news cycles. They don’t have time to search through your archives and download pesky PDF’s. Providing access to everything in a high quality, easily navigable and shareable form makes your reach into the social web, the media and communities stronger, cleaner and most importantly trackable.
Even as the experts exhort us to become media companies and produce more and more content, Google’s algorithm change this week reminded marketers to pay attention to the quality of their content.Being a media company, in addition to whatever business you are in, requires a new way of thinking and a platform that can house your content.
“Being a modern, relevant media company involves a pivot of your communications strategy to put an owned channel at the center. You don’t see popular media brands yielding their online presence 100% to the stream.” Adam Singer
WordCast offers these tips for producing good quality content
Write original content
If you use material from another site put it in bold and quotes with a link to that site
When you reference something add your own original comments with the link
Add original thoughts and perspective to links, videos, and photographs
Spend at least 2 hours writing a blog post rather than just blog ‘off the top of your head’
Create good “quick takes” that you can put in a Tweet
Creating excellent content is one part of this equation. Where you house the content is the other.
You do need to feed your content into the social web.
But it is just as important to also have that owned channel at the center of your content and communication strategy. Youcan build one with platforms like Drupal and Worpress, but it takes time adn expertise. (and that takes $$$)
Or you can use an online newsroom with social content features, as DoubleTree Hotels has done.
They chose to use PRESSfeed to do the heavy lifting and their owned channel was up and running in a few weeks.