Proven results that the press release is not dead

Some people may think the press release is dead and buried, but many of us believe it’s very much still alive.

In recent years industry professionals have declared that the press release is dead. Once seen as the most effective ways of PR communication, press releases have been criticised to spam up journalists emails with irrelevant content.

However, ongoing research and proven data has given us an insight into how press releases are being used and how they are performing.

The research proves it

Wildlife PR reviewed coverage from over 100 published releases and found that 98% of coverage included a company’s key messaging, 82% featured a direct quote from a company spokesperson and 46% provided a link back to the brand’s website. The quality of such coverage proves that releases are not dead, in addition results have shown that 61% of journalists had used the press release as the basis for a wider article, like a case study or thought leadership.

There are many reasons why the press release is still a major newsworthy service. To start with, they’re inexpensive! Press releases can provide your audience with a stream of news, this could be anything from product stories to contract wins. News is now available 24/7 via your mobile, tablet or a printed newsletter (or magazine) and journalists can learn about newsworthy topics that differentiate you from your competitors.

Press releases also present a great opportunity for brands to tell newsworthy stories in a variety of formats, including: video, infographics, case studies and blogs. By doing so these organisations can use content as a tool for building brand credibility and thought leadership, educating and entertaining their audiences and driving the business forward with a carefully considered earned media strategy.

Here are our three reasons that prove this theory that the press release is still alive and kicking.

  1. Used by journalists – the media still prefer to receive news through formatted press releases or story pitches. We’ve found that some media outlets like to run the story as-is and some like to build on them. Whichever way they prefer, they’re appreciative that they’re receiving the news.
  2. Credibility with the media – a well-written story implies that your company takes PR seriously, journalists appreciate the time and attention it’s taken you to produce the article.
  3. It opens up many doors – even when a publication covers a specific topic, the target market you’d like to have seen or heard it may have missed it. Posting your release to your company page, social media, email newsletter and apps shares your news with a much wider audience.

 

According to Forbes, even in the 21st century, brands have found that press releases can help with the following:

  • Increasing website traffic with keywords
  • Improving page rankings by earning quality links
  • Adding fresh content to your content marketing campaign
  • Creating shareable content for social media
  • Gaining referrals from other online outlets
  • Providing shareable content for journalists or anyone interested in your brand

We believe that press releases aren’t dead, but their delivery and content needs to keep up with the times and form a broader PR strategy using digital social media.

Simple tips for getting the most out of your LinkedIn page

The social platform has over 590 million members, 3.2 million company pages and infinite ways to connect. But if your profile isn’t robust and engaging, it might be a good time to revisit and refresh your presence!

If you’re a business professional, you can’t afford to miss out on the opportunity to build relationships with potential customers, clients, partners and associates – it’s a powerful audience for you to interact and influence others!

Try giving these five simple but essential tips for getting the most out of your LinkedIn page.

Write a compelling summary

When visitors first land on your LinkedIn profile, a box displaying your profile highlights fills the screen. Given the importance of first impressions, the information in your ‘profile’ should be complete, current and optimised.

In essence, your ‘pitch’ captures what value your company offers in only a few words. This is the boiling down of all of your brand’s benefits, identity, offerings, and capabilities into one statement.

Use a professional image

This is your very best opportunity to make a great first impression and is essential to attracting new connections. Your profile picture should be 400 by 400 pixels and your background should be 1400 by 425 pixels. No professional photo? No credibility.

Join and participate in LinkedIn groups

The ability to network with people in your industry is valuable, time saving and massively impactful to your potential reach – especially if you can do it at the comfort of your desk or mobile phone! LinkedIn groups are a great way to connect with people in your industry, share insights and build relationships that could grow your business.

Once you find a relevant group to join, start by introducing yourself, engaging in discussions and sharing your content and solutions where relevant. While building relationships and learning are obvious benefits of participating in LinkedIn groups, you also get the added perk that all groups you join are displayed on your profile.

List your work history

If you don’t list at least two past positions, your profile won’t be considered as ‘complete’, which can mean missed opportunities to be discovered by prospective clients. Make sure to detail each role in depth and use keywords that will resonate with your target markets.

Give and receive recommendations

This aspect of your profile is a great way to demonstrate competency through written referrals by past and present customers. Even if you’re new to LinkedIn you can request recommendations for any position listed on your profile!

Like skills and endorsements, you should also provide recommendations for others, but only for a small group of people who have earned them.

With these essential parts of your profile complete, you have started to build and maximise your presence all in a short amount of time. For additional tips on how to improve your LinkedIn profile, check out our ultimate LinkedIn profile success cheat sheet below!

 

Build your linkedin profile infographic

Smashing Search With Your Content Marketing And Digital PR For 2019

I am doing a review for some clients of the work we have done last year. This type of analysis is vital work, because it is essential that you know what is working and what isn’t, especially when it comes to online content and your search SEO and other results. It is only by having objectives and then intelligently measuring performance that you can plan for the results you want going forwards. Of course, the beauty of content marketing is that everything is measurable; and paradoxically, that is also part of the problem.

Making sense of the data

In this world of big data, the intelligence lies in knowing what to measure and then, more importantly, what sense to make of that. Only then can you smash your performance year on year, or at least keep ahead of the tricky algorithm changes that have contributed to the decline in organic reach.

So here are some results. For 2 days a month activity for a 50-employee strong business with ca 2 million GBP turnover:

Nearly 100 pieces of coverage in print and online magazines and newspapers, by issuing one press release a month
Half a million reach – impressions or opportunities to see across print and online/social media
Around a thousand social media posts and monthly blogs/web news and bimonthly videos, infographics and LinkedIn articles, creating 3,000 engagements and 262,000 impressions – an average of 10% engagement level (at least 300 per cent higher than average)
Between 82 per cent and 100 per cent increase in social media followers
Search rankings – 3rd on Google’s first page for local search, 4th on Google’s first page overall (bearing in mind the client’s website is not fully SEO optimised and they do no PPC (Adwords) at all

Content Marketing does selling differently

Clients don’t always understand these figures, but here is what this client (the MD and owner of the business) intuitively picks up:

“Thanks to you and your team I can honestly say that my firm’s brand and name is getting more recognition than ever. Prospect clients often know you before you know them. That’s the power of it.”

Indeed, that is the power of content marketing – that clients know you before you know them. That your brand has a relationship with your prospective new client even before you contact them overtly. This makes selling almost redundant. Imagine!

The decline of organic reach

We have all seen it perhaps? Your Facebook posts get less engagement and it is getting harder to build your follower base across most platforms. Organic reach is in decline as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even perhaps LinkedIn’s algorithms prioritise differently what appears in viewers streams.

So I think that if these numbers are important for you in 2019, you need to consider boosting your key posts. Last year we took one high performing Facebook post for a client (it had more than 5 likes) and boosted it with a budget of £20. This generated 6 new page likes, 423 clicks on the photo, 3 shares, 14 likes, 6 comments and a reach of 7,222. For this small budget we doubled the engagement rates and increased the reach five-fold.

Boosting your reach through social media advertising

There is an art to this. Typically this involves choosing which posts are going to perform best in the advertising and being clever about the targeting you apply.

Take another example: LinkedIn. I recently did a LinkedIn advertising campaign for a business client, largely centred around a recruitment drive. The boosted advert achieved a cost per click (CPC) of £1.11 (when was the last time you got that on Google Adwords?! Again a total budget of just over £80 in 8 days achieved a reach of 5,263, 183 clicks, 39 engagements and 21 leads (direct enquiries and email contacts), giving an overall cost per lead of £3.98. The increase in reach was at least seven-fold plus the campaign more than tripled engagement rates and generated a 6 per cent increase in new followers.

Similarly the overall recruitment campaign, achieved 52 quality applications, 758 views, a CPC of 63 pence for a cost of 9 GBP per application. The campaign ran over just 8 days.

Planning your content strategy for 2019

It goes without saying that you will get nowhere fast without a strategy, even if you have objectives. And you would be surprised how many businesses have neither in place, certainly when it comes to their content marketing and digital PR.

Boost your social to stay ahead

Here are some things to think about when planning a content marketing strategy that is clever, creative, and has enough muscle to smash your competitors, and for less budget!

Tip #1: Boost! Two thirds of businesses have acquired a customer through LinkedIn ads and with a CPC of up to 92 per cent lower than traditional AdWords, it’s a no brainer!

Tip #2: at least have a content marketing strategy. Review what content has got you results so far and plan for more. Remember what both Google and your audience need are essentially the same: quality content that has impact in that it educates, informs, entertains, and somehow makes their life better. But I urge you to also plan for a listening strategy and also an engagement strategy.

Tip #3: use tools. make good use of the new social media tools available to help you increase your success. Things like geo-targeting which allow you to target users based on their recent location – particularly important for businesses where local is key.

Tip #4: engage in conversations. There are also some great apps that you can integrate to help you find and engage with the right conversations. It’s just common sense on one level, that you cannot reasonably expect others to engage with your brand, if you are not proactively and regularly engaging with conversations yourself. The metrics are clear: by engaging in conversations you will boost your engagement rates.

Tip #5: make use of UTM tracking. UTM parameters allow you to add a custom UTM to each post, that you can then track in Google Analytics. This will help you to apply another level of intelligence to your metrics in order to refine what gets you results.

Tip #6: make video key. It seems that video is key for 2019. Video content is by far the most engaged type of content on social, so make sure you are doing it well.

Tip #7: don’t forget Twitter lists! This is a fabulous tool to not only help your listening strategy but also to benefit your reputation in more subtle ways. Whether it is your employees, journalists or customers; we all feel that bit more valued when we get put on a list!

SEO Warning: if you don’t know about PR backlinks you will be seriously damaging your search rankings

I know so many people who are paying a lot for pay per click (PPC). I am no expert at SEO and this is my opinion, but I do honestly believe that unless you are a serious player with even more serious money, or in a niche big enough to make a long tail SEO strategy work, PPC is not the best way to improve your search engine page rankings (SERPS). Backlinks are Google’s most important signal when it comes to ranking your site, yet many businesses I know have never used them.

Now more than ever Google wants trustworthy, quality, expert content. Google does not want social media ‘wallpaper’ – posting for the sake of posting can end up being vapid and empty (and actually damage your SEO) – it wants insightful, knowledgeable, well researched pieces. Quality definitely trumps quantity. Whether that content is an article, video, infographic, graph, graphic, collage, animated infographic (and so on), if it is well-planned and created with knowledge and insight, Google will see it as valuable and what Google sees as valuable will get you clicks.

The No.1 source of content for SEO that you might be missing

According to Google itself, the two most important signals used by the world’s number one search engine to rank your website for search are high quality content and backlinks.

So, over and above quality, the most valuable types of content, according to Google, is where you get published by an independent third party, with backlinks to your own site. It is these backlinks that are the gold dust of SEO. But it is the getting published that is the ever harder to do bit. This of course is the world of public relations (PR): the skill of crafting a great story, pitching a story to an editor, selling in a synopsis, and having that editor publish it (for no cost) on their publication. The story has to be interesting, relevant (to the publication’s readership) and written in the house style of course.

If backlinks are the holy grail of SEO, how can you get your share? Digital PR used with content marketing can not only exponentially power your search engine results by helping you get those valuable backlinks, but your business success too – see my recent case study below.

Tips for better search performance

Whilst I would always recommend getting a good digital PR/content marketing expert in to help you, here are some tips to help you reach this holy grail, based on my 25 plus years of doing it!

Rule #1 – Know thy readership

Second position your customers’ customer. I mean live, breathe, truly get into the readers’ heads. To do this you have to care about them (your potential readers). Be interested in them. What are their needs, concerns, issues? How can you educate, entertain or make their lives better?

Rule #2 – Know how to write

Get the basics right of course; spelling, punctuation, grammar and style are all givens. I believe any educated person can write an article and tick these boxes. But the talent lies in being able to write with flow, in a way that engages readers emotionally, and is memorable. I think that this is hard to learn, it is more of a trait, an inherent talent that is almost part of one’s personality. You have got it, or you haven’t. So perhaps, for some, it is about letting go of ego, owning weaker areas and getting an expert to write it for you.

Rule #3 – Be an expert

I believe that to write about something well you have to be something of an expert and be prepared to put those hours in to get there. Whether your content is financial, legal, IT, industrial equipment, it undoubtedly helps to be genuinely passionate about what you are writing about. In fact, I suggest that if you cannot get passionate about it, don’t write it. But passion on its own won’t cut it. Becoming expert is commitment and slog; putting the hours in. I believe that in this dynamic, competitive, high-information world we need to be expert at one or two things and know them in more detail than our contemporaries. But we also need breadth of knowledge. This balance between breadth and depth is important. We can ignite knowledge by approaching it from different perspectives, and working collaboratively with others who see it differently.

Rule #4 – Be curious

Much research seems to point to curiosity being a cluster trait, something inherently wrapped up in our personality: apparently a combination of intelligence, persistence and hunger for novelty. Some of us have more of it than others and when we do we naturally gravitate towards certain professions. Journalists and editors will have bags of it. Not all marketing people may. Public relations pros will have this tendency though. And maybe it is something you can develop more in yourself. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201407/seven-ways-be-more-curious)

Rule #5 – Now how to sell

Ok so we are are talking about public relations here, according to some, a sub-set of marketing. Whether that is true, we all now that most marketing people are not salespeople (if they were perhaps marketing and sales would be able to work closer together). Public relations people are certainly not natural salesmen either. So this may be a skill you need to learn. Because one thing is for sure, even if you have the best idea for a pitch (to an editor), if you cannot sell it in to him or her your success rate will suffer. I always feel that when you are passionate about what you do and driven to help others (in true content marketing fashion), it does not even feel like selling.

Rule #6 – Ask

Have you ever noticed how many people around you, including leaders, do not ask questions? Even the dumbest of questions can be very powerful (and I am good at those!). If you aren’t asking question you are missing out on all sorts of detail and mystery that will help with the quality of your content marketing. And you are probably letting your brain die slowly at the same time! Coming back to the theme of this article, remember to check that any backlinks to your own site have been included in the published piece and, if not, contact the editor and politely ask for them to be.

CASE STUDY – How digital PR and content marketing powers up Howards Chartered Accountants

In December 2018, my client, Howards Chartered Certified Accountants told me about a small business they were helping. The business was a barber shop and Mark Egerton, the owner, was a character. The story was interesting, so I suggested that we do a case study as a press release, together with a video and 4 social media posts on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. For a total cost of around £625 and coverage for my client and their client, it seemed a good idea. You can read some of the coverage here.

Here are the results:

Social media: average engagement rates of 4.3%, well over 1,000 impressions, and 46 engagements

Public relations: 166,800 audience opportunities to see (the number of people who would have been exposed to the article about my client); coverage in at least 4 regional newspapers with a value worth £54,868

Search rankings: powerful backlinks in 3 high profile regional newspaper websites, all with trusted content and strong domain authority; first item on the first page of Google news

Business results: this one story achieved an ROI of 8,800 per cent, or for every £1 my client spent on digital PR and content marketing they got an £88 return!; search rankings for client website: 3rd in local, 4th in google 1st page (bearing in mind the website is not fully SEO optimised). I have yet to find out about growth in business for either my client or their client, but both businesses have had a record finish to their years.

Why it could be better not to have a blog this year

I think by now we all know the benefits of blogging. Even the most SEO illiterate of us tell our web developer ‘I must have a blog section on my website’. But must you?

For sure blogging is about adding content to your site. Google likes content. The more content you have, the more traffic you will get, the more domain ‘authority’ you will build. It will get you search engine page rankings. But not necessarily.

Blogging can hurt your SEO

Ok even if you are posting on a regular basis, because everybody got a blog ‘because it was good for SEO’, that is precisely the reason why it is not good for SEO now. Google changed. In fact, in 2019 blogging can actually hurt your SEO (IMHO).

Get this: even if your content is well-written and grammatically correct (thought both the latter two, done poorly, will also contribute to your low rankings) it will hinder rather than support your page rankings. This is because content that is of low quality (for example, rather light, sales copy type content or simply a little vacuous), completely off topic of your site (which should have a clear purpose), or if the topics repeat or are spread too thinly throughout your site, blogging will damage your SEO! Imagine spending all that money on adwords to supplement your SEO and your blog takes it all away!

It’s all about the content

A blog is all about the content. You have probably heard that before, but do you truly understand it? In order to blog well, you need to have a strong desire to create something of value. Two important words here: creation and value. Creating something takes effort, understanding, experience, talent. But creating something of value is another thing. To offer value to your target audience – the individuals whom you hope will read your blog- you first and foremost need to understand, on a deep level, those individuals. What makes them tick? What makes them get out of bed in a morning? What do they share or talk about with their friends? What gets their attention? What will make their lives better?

If you have no desire or talent to create something of value, I propose that you should not be blogging in 2019. You will probably just end up creating weak pages with thin content on your site for Google to RANK YOU DOWN for!

How to blog well

However, if you want to do it well. Here are some simple tips to follow that might help for starters:

Have a clear purpose to your blog. Are you trying to entertain, educate, raise awareness, own a particular area of thinking? Ensure this fits with your overall content marketing strategy.
Be honest with yourself about what you are expert at. Or pay someone else, who can become that expert (someone with a talent for communicating and a passion for your topics). Tip: if your product or service is fairly technical, get a technical person (who can write) to do your blogging.
Think about using research to support great content. Market(ing) research has fallen out of favour lately, possibly because there is an expense involved with no (immediate) payback. But these days there are many ways to conduct insightful primary or secondary research, which will pay you back in terms of content strategy, for months if not years.
Think laterally when it comes to content. Psychologically we remember that which with we can get emotionally engaged, memory and emotion are implicitly linked. And if you can learn simple psychology to ensure that you engage as much as your audience as possible by tapping into different motivational styles (see my article on the Six Step Motivator). And if you can do this, with diverse, engaging content that taps into visual, kinaesthetic and auditory styles; you will be dearly loved by your audience, and therefore Google. So use words, images, infographics, graphs and graphics, video, podcasts, music to your content.
EVERY time you blog, have a simple aim in mind. Is it to enlighten? Attract links or backlinks? Generate traffic or about conversation? Some posts might be about your company (not many!) or your products (even fewer please!), but better if it is about giving back, or developing your reputation (don’t witter on about your company or products if you want to do this, most people do not give a damn, even those loyal to your brand).
Measure the metrics. You will hate me for this but forget traffic, and search engine positions. Measure subscribers. Have you heard of RSS? Do you use Flipbook, for instance? This is the true measure of a blog’s worth (in Google, and hence SEO, terms). Google loves what your subscribers love, as that is surely the very definition of the Google algorithm these days.
Engage with other bloggers. Link to their (expert) sites. Write for them. Have them write for you. If your only links are to your own internal pages, you are making it very hard for yourself. And you are being narrow minded.
Make blogging central to your social media strategy. Own your own blogging platform and make sure you can easily update it (I love WordPress and Joomla – the latter the most) with attractive content. Then use this to drive your other social media by driving all traffic back to your blog – then you own the value and drive up your organic search results.

Still with me? What is your decision then? To blog or not to blog in 2019? Call me if you want any help doing it well!

How to plan and structure effective communication

4-Mat System from Changeworks Communications on Vimeo.

Whether you are writing a blog, planning a sales meeting or telephone call, storyboarding a video, producing a report, giving a speech, or writing an email – in short, any piece of communication – there is a nice tool that will help you ensure that it is effective.

It is called the 4-mat system, from Neuro-linguistic programming, and it includes a four part structure: why; what; how and what if. But it can be helpful to start with a ‘mini-what’ to give a big picture and ensure that your communication has impact in the first few seconds of your piece. This outline tells them about what they are about to learn or take in. This part is important for those people who ‘chunk up’ in their thinking and like the helicopter view.

Once you have got your audience’s attention with opening impact, the next step is the ‘why’. This is where the focus is always on your audience? Why is it important to them and why should they continue to listen/read/watch? What are the benefits to them? This part helps people to relate to you and pulls them into your communication. It is here that you can appeal to hearts as well as minds.

Next is the ‘what’. This is the information for those who like to have detail, sensing types in Myers-Briggs. What has happened? what was involved? What are the details?

For the pragmatists, you will need to include the ‘how’. Hands on practical people, like to know how they can put it to use? And how it came about. More detail but outlined in a more practical way.

Finally, the ‘what if’ is for those of us who are future oriented, towards motivated, and allows for some thought and reflection on what else can be happening. What other ideas or concerns are involved? What does this look like in the future?

There you have it, a simple outline of this powerful tool. Contact me if you want to know more.

The Illusion of competence epidemic

At Changeworks we have an interest in psychology, so we’re familiar with the Dunning-Kruger effect – and you may be too – even if you haven’t heard the name. The effect is a type of cognitive bias, where people with minimal ability assume they actually have superior expertise or ability. This overestimation occurs specifically because they don’t have enough knowledge to know that they don’t have enough knowledge, which is an interesting paradox…

Is technology a problem?

Technology may exacerbate the problem. If you type a document in Word, the spell check function will alert you to spelling errors and some grammatical errors – but it won’t turn you into a persuasive and fluent writer; it will only give an illusion of competence – and having an iPhone won’t make you a photographer – or will it?

An iPhone prevents many of the classic photographic errors, it has automatic focussing and light metering; you can’t make a mistake loading or unloading a film, because it doesn’t use it. As you aren’t using up film, you can take a burst of six pictures and at least one of them should be OK (ish).

And what about weddings?

Weddings are events where many amateur photographs are taken. It wouldn’t be terribly susceptible to empirical validation, but it’s probably safe to say for most couples getting married in the autumn of 2018, the average standard of the photographs taken (and kept) by guests would be higher than the average standard of guest photographs at their parents’ wedding.

However, it’s also probably safe to suggest that at most weddings, the photographs taken by the professional photographer will still be better than those taken by most of the guests. The professional photographer will have superior kit, superior technical photographic expertise, more experience of getting wedding guests to pose: they will have done it all a hundred (or a thousand) times before: they are professional. That means they are engaged in a specialist activity as their main paid occupation, rather than as an amateur.

To be fair, some doctors are skilled amateur photographers and some photographers will be qualified in (and experienced in) first aid – but the more a doctor knows about photography, the more likely they are to be aware of their own limitations as a photographer.

Client side illusion – declining standards?

Not many experienced marketing managers would believe they could take a 30 second video on their iPhone that could be used in a TV ad., but there is a growing reluctance client side to accept the need for using professional specialists for photography, art direction, questionnaire design or copy writing.

Reading newspapers on line it’s always interesting to compare the clarity of the professional journalist’s copy with the incoherence of some of the readers’ comments below. The ability to compose clear, logical and grammatical copy is a skill which many people lack

“Democratisation of the means of creative production” sounds a positive concept – and in many ways it is. Half a generation ago in the UK, a handful of TV executives dictated what people could (and could not) see on their screens; those executives worked for BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky. Now with Facebook and You Tube, anyone with a smart phone can shoot and upload a short video- it may be exciting coverage of the last 100 meters of a bike race or it may be the back of another spectator’s head – but it can be uploaded.

That has led to the sad spectacle at some concerts, where half the audience spend their time watching the screens of their phones and making poor quality (and unauthorised) recordings, rather than experiencing the music.

This isn’t a lament for the days of manual typewriters and red phone boxes – life moves on, and overall for the better (as Steven Pinker demonstrates so effectively) – but it is a plea to respect hard won craft skills and experience (including, but not limited to, those in marketing services).

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