(this is for “premier” blog post content)
Successful Influencer Campaigns Aren’t Unicorns
PR has a number of tools in its tool belt, one of them is successful influencer campaigns & partnerships.
In consumer goods, influencer marketing is establishing a significant place in the mix. When we see some of these campaigns, a little part of our PR soul dies. Frankly, some of them are brand-damaging and unlikely to have an influence on sales. When working with influencers, you’re already taking a risk that there’s a past or future PR fiasco that could affect your brand reputation. Influencer marketing should be considered paid media and owned media and just like you wouldn’t put out an ad or other content that damages your brand, nor should you execute an influencer campaign without consideration. Some people seem to think so long as you’re getting your product in someone’s IG story that’s all that matters, we disagree.
We believe all consumer goods PR should be executed with strategy and thought. While influencer campaigns aren’t exactly the same as ads, we take insight from advertising research to inform our recommendations.
On average, it takes 21 brand exposures to bring someone to the purchase phase.
5-9 brand exposures to create brand awareness
more than 10 exposures during the consideration phase
While influencer campaigns are a paid opportunity (influencer rate range from product exchange to $1 million per post), there are public relations and brand opportunities and implications as well. While you might not be able to spend $1,500 per post, you should seriously balance the PR and brand implications.
Working with an influencer is NOT the same as placing an ad, so we also wanted to share our best practices for a influencer campaign.
Get Crystal Clear on Your KPIs BEFORE Reaching Out to Influencers
If your consumer goods influencer campaign objective is SEO value as opposed to brand awareness, those are actually very different campaigns. They are both relevant. Who you work with will be different. The number of influencers you work with will be different. How you CHOOSE the influencers might be different. But even if you’re doing an influencer campaign for SEO value, we beg you to consider the brand implications.
For many CPG brands, their brand may be their most valuable asset, so treating the brand with long-term implications in mind is essential to the longevity or value of the brand. From a brand building and cannabis PR perspective, for MOST brands, our perspective is to go deep, rather than wide with cannabis social media influencers. The biggest reason this is our typical approach is because of the importance of repeated exposure. This is PARTICULARLY important to emerging CPG brands whose other marketing initiatives are constrained.
Influencer Campaign Success #1: Choose Your Influencer Partners Carefully
No matter what strategy you apply to your influencer campaign, align with influencers who align with your brand. If you’re a wellness brand, maybe partnering with an influencer whose feed is about their last party isn’t natural synergy, the influencer’s audience may not receive your product well.
Why is a wellness driven product doing an influencer campaign with influencers aligned with party culture? Why not align with a nurse, a yogi, and a marathon runner? It’s jarring for customers to see inconsistent messages and creates brand confusion. Getting brand awareness is hard enough to do when you act with brand clarity, why make it harder on yourself?
Instead of looking at followers, look at engagement & reply rates. But dig a little deeper on those engagement rates, they should be consistent with typical engagement. If your influencer has 10,000 followers and 3,000 likes and 1,500 comments, that’s a red flag and suggests automation. On the other hand, if your influencer has 700 posts and 35 million followers, that’s disjointed as well. For context, as of this writing Kylie Jenner has 42M U.S. followers (164M globally), of which 1.2M are evaluated as authentic U.S. engagers, according to HypeAuditor. Is it POSSIBLE that they reached 35 million followers over 700 posts? Yes, but there must have been a viral trigger, so look to see what that could be.
Take a careful look at the other brands the influencer has worked with and see how they align with you. Have they worked with your competitors? Is that an advantage or a disadvantage?
Since this is likely a paid relationship, you should also be evaluating their overall professionalism. How thoughtful and eye-catching is the content, how professional is their response to your inquiry?
Ruthlessly review their past content for any red flags that could cause your brand problems, and also consider ways to mutually separate in case of a brand clash in the future.
If you follow the other steps below, this stage is incredibly important.
Build a Relationship with the Influencer Before Your Influencer Campaign
Note I keep referring to social media influencers as partners. Treat them as such, treat them as humans. Social media influencers will have an emotional response to how they are treated and no matter how professional they are, how you treat them impacts the outcome. That’s because the POWER of influencers is in the PERSONAL.
Why undermine the most valuable part of the partnership? Why not turn that influencer into an actual advocate?
By inspiring your cannabis influencer, you can bet they’ll have an easier time inspiring their followers and creating content that’s consistent for both brands. Meet with the influencer if you can, engage with them as they’re experiencing the product for the first time.
Explain your favorite aspects of the product/brand and discuss your brand values and vision, so the influencer can align their value systems and genuinely connect with the brand.
This more personal relationship approach is something 90% of influencer campaigns lack, and it shows.
Another reason to build a relationship with a brand influencer is to review how you’ll mutually handle it if the account is shut down during the campaign or afterward.
Allow The Influencer Creative Freedom & Voice
Effective influencers have their own style of content and voice, you’re likely attracted to that style and voice – let then keep it. Influencers are master content creators, they see the world through a lens that sparks enthusiasm by their followers. A great influencer will happily develop content ideas that meet your objectives, while also reinforcing both brands. This content will put a fresh spin on your brand.
Collaboration magic happens when two brands align in such a way that it seems absolutely natural. Collaborating WITH the influencer on content as opposed to directing or scripting the content enables to you leverage the influencer’s own brand while also enhancing yours.
Know FTC Guidelines
Make sure to review FTC guidelines on disclosure. This is especially important because it’s almost always the brand who the FTC investigates. The brand has more skin in the game, so the brand needs to be the enforcer.
There are only so executive speaking spots in a given year.
Securing an executive speaking engagement is an honor, so if your PR and marketing plan includes pitching trade show organizers, it’s never too early to get your house in order. Every conference opens calls for speakers differently and every conference accepts pitches differently, but if you get your house in order submitting for speaking engagements will become exciting and fun!
1. Do Your Homework
Before you submit your industry speaking pitch, take a look at the speaker FAQ page, if one doesn’t exist, send an email to the conference organizer asking what topics they’re seeking and what parameters you should consider before submitting. As a former conference organizer, it always surprised me how many questions we received which were readily available in the FAQ; alternatively, when I received questions, it was always a welcomed opportunity to hear what was unclear and how we could improve.
Review past speakers and talk to attendees at the conference, if you haven’t been yourself. Find out who the most successful presenters were and why the audience loved them so much. Review the conference hashtag and see who people talked about and why. Take a look at relevant magazine headlines, where are the emerging industry stories and can you tap into that in your presentation? Before you start pitching, do your travel budget because most executive speakers pay their own way.
Take a servant-leadership mentality and really think about who the audience is and how you can add real value to their business.
2. Consider the Organizer’s Needs
During your pitch, it’s not about you. It’s about how you can add value to the conference organizer and attendees. Take stock of your recent PR wins and use them as social proof. Conference organizers want to be sure their limited presentation spots are filled by people attendees want to hear from. The conference organizer’s job is to get people in the door, enough people to make exhibitors and sponsors thrilled by attendance – many people are so focused on promoting their key messages in the pitch they forget about the audience when they’re submitting for a speaking engagement.
Regardless, when you’re developing your pitch, don’t shy away from pointing out how your topic is timely and relevant to the specific audience the conference is trying to attract and why the attendees will be thrilled by your presentation. Articulating how you will drive traffic to the conference will also get an organizer’s attention.
Help the organizer visualize how you can help them, point out your strengths:
- Your presentation is interactive, has a distinct format, will get the audience energized or talking
- Recent press coverage on your and/or your brand
- Your large or highly engaged social media presence
- Previous blogs or speaking reels which articulate your communication style
- A great case study and a customer willing to present with you
- Industry memberships and associations
Conference organizers are also drowning in applications. Sifting through speaker applications is often like sifting through resumes, it’s monotonous, so speak directly to the conference organizer’s needs in your blurb. For this reason, some conferences are largely pay-to-play, speaker slots are primarily reserved for industry heavy hitters and sponsors or those willing to pay the conference organizer a fee. In that case, you have three choices: become an industry heavy-hitter by using the many PR and content avenues open to you, sponsor the conference, or blow them out of the water the other 4 tips presented here. Want to guarantee a speaker spot? Do all of it.
3. Develop Your Distinct Point of View
Be a Bold Thinker
Be bold, be current and don’t be afraid to take a strong stand on an industry or cultural topic. A strong point of view and a strong title will go along way. If you’re unwilling to take a bold stand, then think about sharing an insightful case study that transparently digs deep into what went right and what went wrong.
Be an Expert:
Share your distinct expertise, give the attendees something no one else can give them. Develop 1-2 memorable, quotable statements which you’ll use in your pitch and during your presentation that illustrates your distinct point of view. Show the conference organizers that you’ll have the attendees talking about your presentation.
4. Get Your Assets In Order
Because executive speaking engagements are competitive, make sure your house is in order. One key element is all your public-facing assets. You might say that you don’t have time for this, but if you look around, the conference speakers who always get the gig do these things – even CEOs.
For example, kick it into gear on social media. Many conference organizers will look at your personal and cannabis brand’s social media to get a sense of how engaged you are with the cannabis industry and whether the industry views your CEO or brand as leading in some way. Use your social media strategically and be sure to engage your audience.
Create a speaker’s page on your blog with sample topics and presentations you’re prepared to give. Social media is another straightforward way for conference organizers to differentiate executive speakers.
Make sure your headshot is professional, develop some industry blogs for your website that reflect your thought leadership. Use LinkedIn for those pieces as well. For these pieces, you can think of quality over quantity.
Do a Google search on your name so you know what the conference organizer will see when they look you up, take the necessary steps to improve the search in advance of your speaking pitches.
If you’re new to speaking at the conference, be prepared to submit a video of yourself presenting on your topic and a letter of recommendation from a communications professional or industry professional.
5. Be Human & Personalize
Speaking at industry conferences is an honor, and yes, a great opportunity. Remember to be authentic and genuine in your speaker pitch. Make your pitch empathetic and about the industry and the organizer, show that you really understand that it’s your job to make your presentation great, not the other way around.
Plan for public relations success with these critical 3 tips
A little advance planning can make all the difference between public relations success and public relations frustration. Public relations is increasingly important for companies and there’s nothing like a new year to give your brand and company a fresh image. PR firms are here to be your partners in success. As you pull levers for world domination next year, lean on your PR firm so that together you’re on the same page about how you mutually define success. Here are 3 tips for working with a PR firm or formulating your in-house PR plan.
1.Determine Your Measurable PR Goals for Public Relations Success
PR success comes when there’s absolute clarity about goals. Your PR goals should match your business goals; make sure your PR firm knows how you’re REALLY defining success. Don’t hide your perspective from your PR firm and expect that the results you want will magically appear. Make sure your PR goals align and support your activations, product launches, and partnerships.
PR and marketing goals and KPIs should be:
The two most important considerations when defining your goals is ensuring that they are measurable and ambitious enough to be significant, but attainable with your budgets and efforts.
Measuring your PR and marketing efforts should include a baseline so you can track improvement. If you don’t have a baseline, you may need to evaluate how you will measure success and it may require something like an industry average or an industry survey. At Avaans, we include a number of KPIs during our monthly reviews, these KPIs are tracked the same way every month, so over time, we can really pinpoint what works and what doesn’t for each brand. We’re completely transparent with our clients about how we came to those KPIs and why they’re important for us to track internally for cannabis PR success.
Attainability is an important KPI. If you’re shooting for the stars, make sure all your assets are in place to support that goal. Assets also include time and brainpower.
There should be KPIs for marketing and KPIs for PR that have crossover. For example, new website visitors, inbound links to your website, both of those metrics will be impacted by both PR and marketing initiatives. Sometimes we hear people say that they don’t want to give PR and Marketing joint KPIs because they feel it reduces responsibility, but when your KPIs are aligned with your overall business goals that encourages your PR firm and marketing agency to work together to accomplish the company’s mission-ultimately it’s not about pitting one set of KPIs against one another, it’s about achieving success and measuring respective impact.
2. Define Your Target Audiences
As a PR firm who works with highly ambitious brands, we often hear goals like “We want to be featured in XYZ publication.”
When a single piece of press helps secure millions of dollars in funding, throwing all your efforts at securing that press is worth almost any PR and activations fees. That’s a great goal, so consider who your ultimate audience really is for any given publication so you can set yourself up for public relations success. Many times, public relations success is defined by share of voice within a specific audience.
Your audiences may be in the B2B space, they may be consumers, they may be investors or partners. Be clear on who you’re trying to reach with each KPI and objectives-share your objectives with your PR firm, so they’re clear on where you REALLY want to be.
Sometimes earning national press even when you’re only in a few markets is strategic as the audience is potential investors or industry partners who like knowing that the brands they’re partnering with have enough clout to secure national coverage. Alternatively, you may want to show that your brand is well received by multiple consumer types, in which case you may wish to have press in particular interest verticals.
3. Plan for Public Relations Success and Budget Your Activities
Public relations is an incredibly broad level to pull. Within your budget, you should be allocating events, sponsorships, social media, media relations, and asset/owned media development.
Chances are, in order to reach your pr and cannabis marketing goals, you’ll need to execute on some initiatives.
And, you’ll need a corresponding budget for these activities. A good marketing and public relations firm can help you allocate your budget to match your objectives.
At the very least they can tell you how to best allocate an over-all budget or at least inform you of best practices and first steps. A great example of this is events – events can be held for all sorts of objectives, from customer appreciation to media awareness. While both of those objectives MIGHT turn into earned media, it’s important you consider what it will take to earn press coverage on an event, before you spend the money on an event. Sponsorships are another area where the activation is an important marketing objective, but PR may be able to help you define some ways to use your sponsorship in a way that improves your industry image or earns you media coverage.
Emerging or growing brands often find themselves asking should I hire in-house or use a PR agency?
They’re asking themselves this question against a wild backdrop and volatile marketplace. But even during corrections, thousands of businesses are finding their footing and growing. It truly is the wild, wild, west in right now. The reason executives are asking themselves this question is because regardless of lay-offs and investment size, what both these businesses also have in common are some enormous plans that require PR and marketing.
Many companies have concerns about hiring agencies, they worry about finding the right PR agency, they worry about disclosure to people outside the company; they worry about failure. Those are legitimate concerns, many of those same concerns can be an issue with employees, but with an agency, they can be addressed with strategic questions and planning, and taking a little time to get to know your potential pr agency. And the good news is that the best agencies seem to know one another. If you find a great marketing agency or a great branding agency, chances are, they know a PR firm they like and trust.
In-House PR Advantages
If you like having someone to bounce ideas off on a whim, in-house PR teams offer that flexibility more than PR agencies. PR agencies are typically a little more formal about meetings and goal-setting.
As companies and brands grow, it’s often great to have someone in-house who formalizes internal communications and ensures other departments are considering PR implications.
If you’re managing multiple agencies, like a marketing agency and a public relations agency, having an in-house point person is a great advantage. Agencies will often work together, but someone needs to ensure the brand’s objectives are always at the forefront.
But what are the practical business reasons for hiring an agency over an in-house team for brands?
A single hire’s salary can cost you more than an agency, and that single hire, because they are human, has limitations. Agencies specialize in providing you with the team of specialists you need when you need them. Add this to the fact that you won’t be paying benefits, payroll taxes, and health insurance, and it adds up to savings for both big brands and startups.
Think about it, in addition to your CMO and/or a Communications Officer, who will each need a manager and team, including a media relations specialist, a content writer, a social media manager, a graphic designer, and a multitude of marketing and listening tools which can all easily add up to $400,000 or more, plus benefits.
Plus, if something dramatic happens, it’s also usually less expensive to separate from an agency. Many PR agencies, including us, have a separation agreement in the contract that spells out the process if something radically changes, so it’s a reasonably straightforward process that brings peace of mind to executives in this volatile time.
The IRS Sees PR Agencies As an Expense
Agencies streamline payroll AND they are also a straight business expense. Talk to your CPA about what makes the most sense for your business.
PR Agency Superpower: Scaleability
Think of your agency as your expansion team. In addition to receiving top-notch strategy and planning, you’ll also have access to team members who are in the thick of it and can give a point of view from the front lines too. When you have a team of people, it’s easier to tap into insights and trends that you might otherwise miss. But it’s also important to note that when you hire a cannabis PR firm or a cannabis marketing firm you’ll get a team of professionals who can more easily scale up during launches or big campaigns.
Even if you do decide to take certain elements in-house, your agency continues to serve you with perspective and resources that support your in-house team. For example, many brands want a PR expert in-house for a multitude of reasons, especially corporate communications and investor relations. But your PR executive still needs a team to help execute, especially in the area of media relations. Few in-house communications executives are actively pitching and engaging with journalists as often as our team is, our media relations team is a top-notch time saver for in-house PR teams.
Seeing the Forest Through The Trees
It’s easy to lose perspective when there’s a lot going on. An agency can provide additional listening and strategy insights you might not have considered. Having a team that has your back and isn’t bogged down in your office politics can really keep things moving along.
In-house team members tend to be front-line advocates internally. And that’s a really important role, especially if you’re trying to build a culture as many brands are. But those day-to-day tasks, meetings, and internal cajoling tend to make consistent outward-looking perspectives difficult. Use your agency to bring you a consistent overall vision of the marketplace and strategies that will set you apart for the long run. Look for agencies with whom you can have open and collaborative dialogue to get the most out of your agency.
Get to Work Fast!
The right agency can get to work much faster than onboarding an employee. Agencies have a client on-boarding process that will be systematic and strategic because they want to get to work too. You won’t spend your time showing someone where the coffee maker is, you’ll spend your time reviewing strategy and goals.
Access To The Latest Technology & Tools
You pay a fair share for platforms and services that are critical to your business. So do agencies. We have top-notch monitoring, analytics, and communications platforms – you get access to those without adding those non-critical operating costs to your bottom line.
What Should You Really Be Look For In A PR Firm?
We know, hiring a PR firm can be daunting. With increasing frequency, we’re hearing stories from colleagues who have experienced “bad PR.” What should you ask before hiring a PR firm?
We truly believe many of these stories are due to client and agency were a mismatch, rather than a “bad PR firm”. Taking a deeper look at PR before hiring them can save you money, but most importantly, time. Much of this can be attributed to the vast distinctions with how PR agencies operate and handle their clients. The intention of this piece is to provide you with questions we would be asking OUR PR firm before we hired them, and why those questions are important. Also, consider these “6 great questions you can ask us before hiring Avvans PR”
6 Questions to Ask Before Hiring Your Next PR Firm
Do You Understand Our Product?
Ask yourself how important a baseline understanding of your product or industry is to your overall communications. We’ve heard story after story of people unhappy with their PR firm because their PR firm doesn’t understand an emerging industry’s regulations or a technology. Understanding the industry isn’t just important from a regulatory and technical perspective, it’s also the ability to monitor relevant news, understand what’s relevant (and what isn’t) and move quickly. Now, that’s not to say that a beauty PR can’t handle B2B PR for the industry, but expect to educate your firm.
What tradeshows and conferences has your team attended?
Does your PR firm understand what makes your product distinct within your industry?
What publications are writing about your vertical?
Before Hiring a PR Firm, Establish Clearly Defined Ways of Measuring Success for PR
Most companies today want consistent placement, strategic oversight, and outstanding communication. But what else? In a mature, less regulated industry, a PR firm typically works with multiple other firms from branding to experiential to an ad agency.
PR is THE leading brand trust and awareness tool.
In addition to earned media, companies should be looking at additional metrics for PR such as SEO value. Website traffic, brand mentions, brand name reach, and even share of voice are all KPIs that are relevant, depending on the overall strategy. Your PR firm should be ready and able to provide those kinds of metrics to you on a monthly basis. Changes in public perception or decreased sales cycle are also metrics with which PR can support. If you’re measuring your PR firm against KPIs like this, work with your PR firm to set a baseline and a reasonable timeframe.
Is the Fee Structure Fair & Does It Make Sense?
Most PR firms work on a retainer, so make sure you have an understanding of what’s included in your retainer?
Does the firm charge for wire releases?
Is branded content included, and if so, does that extend to graphic design?
Is there a markup on expenses incurred by the PR agency and if so, what is it?
Are off-site activations included?
How are hours tracked?
There’s no single way to manage a retainer, so asking questions like this upfront will give you a deeper understanding. Be fearless about asking these questions, after all, you’re the client. You should expect a rationale that isn’t arbitrary. While you may view this as a negotiation opportunity, be wary of cutting the budget to the point where your brand isn’t on the radar daily. You want your PR firm engaged with your brand on a daily basis – make sure you’re getting that because the alternative often provides unsatisfactory results. A great PR firm will be transparent about their billing methods. Financial terms form the foundation of your relationship with your PR firm. Get that right and find a balance that works for you and your PR firm.
Look for Good Personal Chemistry in Your PR Firm
While this one is tough to put on a spreadsheet, asking some tough questions will often reveal the quality of the chemistry. As an engaged client, you should be working with your cannabis PR experts regularly and you REALLY want that process to be enjoyable. Make sure your company culture meshes well with your cannabis PR firm’s value system. Teams who like one another, work better together. If you’re not gelling with someone in the first call, chances are, that’s not going to change.
Compatability breeds productivity and results.
Before Hiring Your Next PR Firm, Consider: Location, Location, Location
Before you start narrowing down your PR firms, decide how important location is to you. We think having account presence in major journalism markets is priority one, but if you’re the kind of person who needs to meet face-to-face once a week, acknowledge that and find a firm close to your base of operations and hire a PR firm that’s near by.
Flexibility AND Systems
Pay close attention to the systems your PR firm uses and also take notice of their flexibility.
For starters, there should also be a clearly defined exit clause in the contract.
Who owns content?
How will the PR firm handle future press inquires when/if the engagement ends?
What is the cancelation agreement?
Your PR should have systems and processes in place, but those systems and processes should also be nimble enough to manage the PR world. For example, getting a press release right is exceptionally important, but it shouldn’t take your PR firm a week to write it. You should be able to review the first draft within hours on an emergency or breaking news circumstance. On the other hand, there should be a consistent drum beat and strategy behind media relations. Which bring us to:
A Strategic Approach That Makes Sense
Before hiring, your PR firm should be able to articulate an approach and strategy that makes sense to you. While credible PR firms won’t reveal details about clients, they should be able to articulate some case studies of PR strategies and why they worked. For example, provide an experience that required a decision to respond to industry news. When, where and how you respond to breaking industry news is determined by your brand strategy, BUT your PR should be able to articulate a strategy and when/why it worked. Your PR firm should have some strategic storylines and outlines in mind for your brand, which proves they’ve done a little research. Even if they aren’t perfectly on-brand, at least you’re starting with a strategy which is better than starting from zero.
It’s no secret that social media applies to today’s brands. As I write this, Instagram is the social media darling of lifestyle, travel, and consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands. Subject to change pending finicky social media trends. In the meantime, I’d like to bring a fresh perspective to another social channel you probably AREN’T using because it’s coming up more and more these days.
Media Relations on Twitter
But if you’re wishing you had more media or are working with an agency like us, to garner earned media or free press, this tip is a great relationship builder with media outlets and journalists. Mostly when we look at the taskmaster that is social media, we consider the consumer’s journey. You probably even consider where the “hot” or most relevant influencers are spending their time. I bet when you think about influencers, you think of those magical unicorns appearing in so much news these days. But guess who is often more influential, both online AND in person than these folks?
Before I answer that question, please allow me to reacquaint you with a social platform you hear about every day, but probably don’t use much yourself these days: Twitter.
Today’s Twitter is a different than only a few years ago. The average person isn’t using Twitter much these days. But who ISN’T average? ACTUAL Influencers: journalists. Media relations on Twitter is different than approaching an influencer, but the platform has numerous opportunities for engaging journalists.
Moreover, Twitter users are above average in many ways. Further, the active Twitter user is hyper-engaged on Twitter.
According to the Pew Research Center (April 2019):
- Twitter users are much younger than the average U.S adult.
- Twitter users and are more likely than the average U.S. adult to have a college degree.
- “The most prolific tweeters – those in the top 10% by number of tweets – are responsible for 80% of all tweets created by U.S. adults.” And guess what else?
- The average Twitter user is younger than the average American, “Twitter users are nearly three times as likely to be younger than 50 (73%) as to be 50 or older (27%).”
- And for those of you courting females: The most prolific tweeters among U.S. adults are especially likely to be women. Among the most prolific tweeters – again, those in the top 10% by number of tweets – 65% are women. Women account for 48% of less prolific users.
- 60% of Twitter users reported that they definitely voted in 2018, compared with 55% of all U.S. adults.
WHY THIS MATTERS MOST IN MEDIA RELATIONS
When you look at the above statistics, who do you see?
I know who I see: journalists and freelance writers. Journalists are more trusted than influencers like Kim Kardashian, more connected than the average American, and open to new experiences. In short: journalists are more important than influencers.
According to News Media Alliance, Twitter is “now it is considered almost a requirement that writers and journalists have Twitter accounts and that they actively participate in conversations happening on the platform,”
Here at Avaans, we help bridge that gap between journalists and businesses and we’re here to say: if you’re interested in media coverage, you need to be on Twitter. There’s a reason PR firms call it “earned media” as opposed to “free press,” and that’s because media coverage isn’t free and relationships matter.
Look at journalists and the media as the people MAKING the news and this group of influencers is very active on Twitter as a group.
Journalists and writers are using Twitter to source stories, see if a brand is worthy of coverage and yes, talk amongst themselves. Twitter is useful in finding out about a journalist’s point of view, recent stories and personal interests all of which can be helpful when framing a conversation or suggesting a story idea.
3 WAYS TWITTER IS DIFFERENT FOR BRANDS
You can (and should) use Twitter differently than you use your other profiles, but do use Twitter for media relations. Consider it an opportunity to present your story and products to a group of highly engaged and influential community.
- Share news, branded content and yes, content from journalists and media outlets.
- Don’t worry too much about measuring engagement, because the average Twitter user is reading more than posting, liking or sharing, “The median user tweets just twice each month,” (Pew), but do be aware that the most engaged user is using Twitter A LOT.
- You may wish to share news and updates more than once and you may wish to stand out with others by actually engaging.
And if that’s not enough for you, keep in mind that the Twitter user skews younger than the average U.S. resident, younger than Facebook and open to new experiences, overall, sounds like the average cannabis user.
Fundamentally, our advice about social media is to pick the channels you can do well-and do them well. In the case of Twitter, it doesn’t take much to do it well and can be an outstanding place for your brand to be seen by real influencers.
Is the press release dead? For years now, that question has been hanging over the public relations/journalism world. And the question is a fair one – when millions of press releases are issued daily, often without consideration of the journalists receiving them, do press releases work anymore? And issuing a press release through a credible wire service costs $1,000 or more depending on variables like length, number of images or videos, and frequency.
Given their expense, is a press release worth it?
What we’re talking about here is legitimate company news that is appropriate for a wire service, but isn’t a securities and exchange or public shareholders requirement. So this legitimate news could be based on research, a new hire, a new product, it can even be a statement based on industry news, issued over a wire service like PR Newswire, Business Wire, Globe Newswire or similar.
A press release is but one tactic in the media relations tool kit. It’s extremely unusual that your news, even your most exciting news, (“We launched..! We bought…! We secured…!”), applies to every single national outlet, without customization about why it applies to the reader or journalist’s beat. There are plenty of occasions when direct outreach to the press will generate better quality and more tailored coverage. Plus, journalists aren’t really all that jazzed to receive the same (untailored) information as hundreds of thousands of other journalists; at that point, they view it as a status update instead of news. But then why do these services charge so much?
Well, most quality wire services reach thousands of outlets at once and most will get reprints of your press release in at least a few national online outlets. But that press release syndication can come in handy on the web.
The press release isn’t dead, it’s just viewed differently by both journalists and public relations professionals today. So when SHOULD you go through the expense, sometimes over $1,000 per release, of using a wire service? Here are 5 times issuing a press release over a wire service can serve your strategic interests.
It’s Still Got Social Proof:
When you search on a business name and the release appears under “news,” tell me that doesn’t impress you a little? Of course. That’s why earned media is so valuable. Vendors, customers, investors, they all like seeing that too. It shows you’re committed to your brand, your growth, and your reputation. If you’re positioning for acquisition, IPO, or investors, having a consistent history of press releases provides credibility and social proof.
Consistent (but not overwhelming) press releases are also a good way to stay in front of news outlets. When your brand is top of mind at the moment editors are assigning stories or looking for ideas, it allows your public relations budget to go even further. Press releases also offer background information for journalists writing today’s story; they serve as a good historical marker to your company’s achievements, which can get buried on a website.
You’ve Got Video on a Major News Item:
If you or your company has a unique point of view on a breaking news item, especially if it’s video, TV stations are always looking for high-quality video for of-the-moment topics, that’s a great opportunity to send out a well-timed press release. Make sure your video has a distinctive point of view and that it’s relevant to your key messaging. Make sure your video is high quality enough for TV and name your video using relevant and keyword researched words.
Help producers and journalists by using your press release to give context to your quote and be sure to show the speaker’s name clearly in the content.
You’re ABSOLUTELY Clear On Your Audience:
Most of the time your audience is the press, after all, those are the subscribers to wire services – to pretend there is any other primary audience is misleading. But given that most journalists aren’t responsive to press releases, there may be an opportunity to be a bit disruptive. There may be an occasion in which your release speaks directly to the consumer as opposed to the journalist with a jazzier (note: not promotional) lingo, maybe direct to consumer quotes, and direct to consumer ideas or recommendations that could also interest slow-news-day fodder. Note: we’re not really dealing with many slow news days these days.
Sometimes those press release reprints can give you enough legs to support other content initiatives and social proof initiatives.
Let me be clear: do not treat a press release like a blog post, they are complementary, not interchangeable. But, addressing to the consumer’s issues within the context of a newsworthy release may be a useful, if non-traditional, tactic occasionally.
You’ve Done Keyword Research:
If your website is new, or if you’re trying to build traffic, these consistent high-value links can contribute nicely to your SEO. Let’s be clear sending out press releases alone isn’t enough to radically change your SEO, but it can be part of your off-page tool kit that supports your overall SEO strategy.
Keep in mind, a press release jacked up with keywords isn’t effective AT ALL. Google’s got your number and generally, a press release written only for search engines is ineffective; it’s also considered spammy by journalists, so used wrong, it can discredit your company in the eyes of the press.
What you want to do is keyword research on ACTUAL news so you maximize the opportunity. Wire releases DO create high-value inbound links. Plus, wire service releases generally present well in search results, so it’s a double-win if you or your PR team have done their keyword research.
The Moment is Momentus
Using a press release to document a historic moment in your company’s history presents a timeline and momentum to your company and adds social proof. Also, going back to the keywords, press releases live in “news” for much, much longer than even an earned media story.
Press releases using this strategy also serve as a way to get press on track to watch for future announcements, clarify your business positioning, or get stakeholders on the same page.
Do we believe press releases are dead? No, we do not. We also don’t believe every announcement needs to come in the form of a press release. Use press releases strategically, and to compliment your media relations, and they will serve you well.
Social Media Is Your Partner in Travel Branding
It’s no secret that today more than ever, digital branding in travel and tourism matters.
According to Google, only 9% of travelers know the brand they want to book with when they start their digital travel search. This is both an opportunity and a challenge for hotels, airlines and even destinations.
Does this mean consumers have no loyalty? Well, yes and no. It’s well documented that increasingly, people want experiences over things and travelers today lead that trend. Today’s travelers need one of at least two things: a unique experience (for which they will usually pay more) and on-demand information about pricing. It’s more important than ever that your brand is front and center during all phases of research. It also means that your brand needs to reinforce the experience using digital.
Social Media Throughout The Customer Travel Experience
Social media is useful in all phases, but especially the exploratory phase. The exploratory phase is where initial budgets expand as experiences cement themselves. For example, a traveler may be thinking of going to Hawaii, and every airline flies there. But what airlines make the journey even more special? What location has the most unusual once-in-a-lifetime experiences? And how are real people experiencing those experiences? Integrating the day-to-day experience of the visitor on social media helps the travel shopper see themselves in the experience. Moreover, today’s traveler wants to see a blend of “glossy” travel pictures combined with unfiltered real life.
But it’s more than that. Once the experience is over, what is your brand doing to reinforce their experience? Do you have a program in place which allows them to easily share their experience via social media? Do YOU share their experience back to them? That’s the cementing of brand loyalty and word of mouth almost all travel brands miss. How are you engaging your customers using digital while they are on-site? What can you do to turn complaints into delightful experiences? How can you show you’re engaged with their entire experience?
The other reason this is important is that the mobile experience is front and center. eMarketer predicted that in 2017, mobile bookings would surpass 40% of digital travel sales. Mobile is social and social is mobile. According to Expedia, 27% of Millennials have posted a potential trip on social media to canvas opinions before booking! Obviously, your website needs to be mobile-friendly, but how on-par is your social branding and advertising?
Does it provide a direct experience for booking?
Are you using chatbots on social to improve customer service?
How can you radically improve the investigation and booking phases using digital?
Convenience is exceptionally important to today’s traveler, who have embraced single-site travel booking experiences. BUT, today’s traveler is ALSO looking for boutique experiences, something particularly unique and for that, it’s almost better if it isn’t on a single-site because it gives the air of uniqueness. So balancing the booking trends with experience demand is important, and social media leads in this regard, because you have the change to meet the consumer where they are.
Millennials Don’t “Own” Social Media Travel
These technologies, like chatbots and mobile-friendly booking, are no longer for just the largest brands. They accessible and important for today’s traveler of all ages. It’s easy to think only “millennial” travelers are using these tools, but it’s simply not true. Consider that GenX’ers are in their mid-to-late forties already and their perfectly comfortable on Instagram and Facebook as well. According to Nielsen, Adults 35 to 49 were found to spend an average of 6 hours 58 minutes a week on social media networks, compared with 6 hours 19 minutes for the younger group.
If you’re looking to engage your potential and current audience in social media and digital branding for travelers, please contact us. We have ideas and most importantly the resources, to step up your digital travel branding in every phase of the experience.
What exactly IS brand trust and how do we measure it?
Brand trust is measured in many ways, sometimes we use a metric like a net promoter score. Sometimes the value of a brand is incorporated into EBITA, and we infer higher brand-value equals trust.
But really, what IS brand trust? In a global environment where, according to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in institutions and media is at an all-time low, it’s more important than ever for brands of all sizes to keep ahead of the trust curve.
Neuroscientists have been researching the effects of our brains on trust with interesting results. Neuroscientists have been researching the effects of our brains on trust with interesting results. In the book Brand Seduction-How Neuroscience Can Help Marketers Build Memorable Brands, Daryl Weber reveals how the unconscious mind is constantly picking up cues from our environment, including cues from brands, most of us don’t even realize our brain is doing this monitoring on our behalf. What this means though, is that every single subtle brand cue sends a message.
So how should we interpret trust in everyday execution and metrics analysis?
THE BRAIN ON FEAR
Think about the last time something you saw on social media enraged you. Chance are, just reliving that moment has your blood pressure spiking. “Flight or fight” response, makes our brain neurons fire like mad. This, in turn, creates an emotional response. In contrast, our brain on trust is relaxed, open, I compare this state to homeostasis in the body. It’s the place our brain WANTS to be, but it’s also the place where triggers are not as emotional.
What this means is that emotional responses may NOT be positive for a brand trust. Take, for example, Facebook reactions. Content that triggers the most “viral” response is often content that creates anger, fear or other negative sentiments. But social media platforms (and their algorithms) aren’t yet evolved enough to understand that highly emotional reactions may not mean a piece of content is valuable for trust.The most viral content may do nothing to enhance trust. This does not mean that good never goes viral, but it DOES mean that computers don’t yet really grasp the difference, even if humans (subconsciously) do. But, humans are imperfect, and we’re often not even aware of our own reactions to messages.
This is to say, that in trust building, messages or ads that are viewed, but without huge emotional responses may actually be better for building trust. If you track reactions or sentiment on social, it might be disappointing at times to see that trust messages or messages built with trust intentions don’t get a lot of “lift.” But I would argue, that is exactly what you want from trust messaging.
LOW RESPONSE BUT MORE OF IT?
Imagine you’re making a special chocolate cake.
You create the first layer and ad the frosting.
It’s a good cake. It will taste good.
But it isn’t very impactful. So you add another layer. And another.
And before you know it, you have this impactful cake with layers of goodness inside. And when you finally EAT the cake, you enjoy it, even more, knowing there are multiple layers of goodness. Trust is like that. The first layer of trust is good. It’s acceptable. But multiple layers of trust are better. Multiple layers of trust take time. The emotional response to trust is not “at the moment,” trust building is a front-loaded proposition. The payoff comes at the end. The payoff comes when the brand’s experience matches the anticipated trust. The brain remembers THAT satisfaction. Perhaps more subtly than an outraged response. But the brain DOES remember it at buying time. When you ate your beautiful chocolate cake, you enjoyed it. The next time you make a cake you’re more likely to make a chocolate cake over say, vanilla. This is how brand trust works.
The thing is, you need to reinforce that positive experience and positive response over and over. The subtle cues build up over time. But they can be replaced by constantly good experiences of vanilla cake too – because, you know, vanilla is equally yummy. Consistency is the key.
Have you ever known a brand one way than seen an ad that completely shifts the message? It’s jarring. Just today I was watching a conversation about a brand whose messaging, packing, product and ads were all luxury-level classy. Then they ran an ad showing a woman in panties with a pretty vulgar statement written on the panties. WOW! It got the attention of everyone, but overwhelmingly, their current customers were outraged, they thought they “knew” the brand, in some cases, people actually expressed betrayal. These customers related to what they thought the brand was, a luxury-level classy product. The brand’s trust has been shattered in the eyes of some. This particular ad may get high virality, but will the sentiment be overwhelmingly positive? And even it works, with what I call “a sugar spike” of sales, will those new customers be as loyal as the old ones? Will the old ones stick around?
Consistency is key. In branding trust, slow and steady wins the race. Look for consistently growing results, not “sugar spikes.” Sugar spikes mean you’re appealing to a specific audience over a short period of time, but not building any loyalty. That’s an even more expensive proposition than branding.
HOW DOES THE BRAIN BUILD TRUST?
We’re conditioned to trust our tribes. Our brains attribute trust to brands who our tribe use. That’s why influencer marketing and customer reviews are so powerful. The person doesn’t even have to comment about using the product, they simply have to be seen using it.
One of the more brilliant examples of this is Jennifer Aniston’s water. This campaign works for two reasons: I KNOW Jennifer Aniston’s face already AND it’s consistent. If you read any of the “celebrity” publications at all, you have seen Jennifer Aniston leaving the gym, getting out of her car or shopping with a bottle of water in her hand. SmartWater (and it’s parent company Coca-Cola) tapped into the inherent trust that Jennifer Aniston brings and then they gave her enough water to last a lifetime. Yes, Jennifer Aniston also appears in ads for this water, but the most memorable (to me, at least) are the pictures of her going throughout her daily life using the water. Every single time I open a magazine and there is a picture of Jennifer Aniston going about her daily life, she has SmartWater. This has been going on since 2015. Every single time I’m at the airport, I grab SmartWater, and I’m not even a particularly huge fan of hers, but somewhere in my brain I say “if it’s good enough for Jennifer Aniston, it’s good enough for me.” It’s not a conscious thought – it’s the brain operating and choosing based on those many layers. My hand just reaches for SmartWater, I don’t even really think about it. That’s what I mean by trust being a front-loaded proposition.
Zappos is another great example of brand trust. When Tony Hsieh started Zappos, he didn’t double down on ads, he doubled down on customer service. When the company was acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion, 75% of its customers were returning customers.
BRAND ACTIONS OUTWEIGH ALL OTHER MESSAGES
If your water brand hires Jennifer Aniston and does all the same things as SmartWater did, but if it’s revealed that the water isn’t what it says it is, none of this will matter. Experience trumps all in trust. Worse, trust takes a long time to build, but it’s easily shattered. If you’re going to invest in trust, you must invest in an authentic way.
Above when I mentioned the jarring change of tone from classy to trashy, this also indicates that the brand isn’t clear on who it is and creates questions about the brand. “What other brand values are negotiable?” asks the brain. If this brand has built up trust with its existing customers, those customers now (even if subconsciously) question that trust.
An example of brand trust that does work is Red Bull. They’ve built their entire brand around adrenaline-fueled messaging. They went so far as to sponsor Felix Baumgartner when he jumped from space in 2012. While this kind of stunt is absolutely designed to attract your attention, it’s also building brand trust – Red Bull’s customers know exactly what Red Bull stands for and they love it. Brand trust doesn’t have to be boring.
IS BRAND TRUST WORTH THE INVESTMENT?
I suppose that depends on whether you’re in it for the long haul or not. Brand trust makes it easier for your customer to buy, creates triggers at the exact buying moment and that’s huge. But what else? Brand trust actually adds value to your company, makes it easier to attract talent and decreases costs because the product is easier for salespeople to sell. In the long run, brand trust saves money by also retaining customers.
In the end, brand trust is accessible to businesses of all sizes, but it takes commitment and consistency and yes, authenticity. You don’t need to be the biggest player on the block, just the most trusted.
In a world where trust in organizations is diminishing, building trust can be your most valuable asset – and because suspicion is so high for known brands, smaller niche brands who really do what they say and are consistent about it, have lots of room to develop that trust.
So what can you expect when you invest in brand trust? You might not see “sugar spikes,” and huge social media shares, instead you should see brand value reflected by consistent sales, repeat customers and even a stronger valuation that you’d have without it.
If you’re ready to invest in your brand, we are here to help you develop and execute your vision with aggressive elegance, contact us today.