CPG Lifestyle Case Study

TO ENHANCE PARTNERSHIP & INVESTOR OPPORTUNITIES THROUGH EARNED MEDIA COVERAGE

THE CHALLENGE

An ambitious CPG brand, previously unknown outside its local area, aims to secure expansion investment and distribution partnerships.

THE KUDOS

“Exactly what we were looking for in PR representation…smart, tough, persistent, and well connected… Consistently able to pitch us to the right outlets at the right times to get the coverage we were hoping for. Tara and her team are great and she came up with multiple really creative ways for us to stand out from the masses. I would highly recommend Tara and I would happily work with her again in the future.”


Ryan H.,
Marketing VP
CPG Marketing | Product Innovation | Lifestyle Branding

THE SOLUTION

Engage business, lifestyle, and vertical journalists on a weekly basis with timely, newsworthy storylines, tied in with announcements, conferences, and media calendars. Storylines encompassed purpose-driven, product-forward, and executive thought leadership,  Ensure national reputation management with media monitoring and on-going strategic counsel. Ensure key messaging consistency through internal training and on-going media training. Develop owned media assets, including video, press kit, and investor deck to stand out from the pack.

NATIONAL REPUTATION MANAGEMENT


Our national brand, competitor and category monitoring informs corporate decisions including partnerships, product development, and U.S. trends in the lifestyle and wellness category. We’re able to zero in on emerging trends before they happen and activate with strategic pitching.

ON-GOING COAST-TO-COAST MEDIA ENGAGEMENT


Activate media calendars with personalized review opportunities for selected journalists quarterly, which increased journalistic coverage as well as word of mouth.

OWNED CONTENT DEVELOPMENT


On-brand owned media, including branded video and regularly updated press kits and investor decks.

EXECUTIVE BRANDING


Reinforce executive thought leadership through media profiles, speaking engagements, and custom content development including paid, earned, and owned content.

WORD OF MOUTH CONFERENCE & TRADESHOW ACTIVATIONS


Ensure on-site coverage with journalists through activations of on-site journalists and sponsorships through engaging experiences and access.

AGENCY & PARTNER COLLABORATION


Work hand in hand with a branding firm to ensure consistent key messaging and partner PR agencies to ensure joint announcements are mutually beneficial.

THE RESULTS


Magazine cover featuring brand name and CEO

846 


Unique media mentions in 12 months.

10


Expansion to 10 additional U.S. states and 1 international destination

$7.4 million


Earned media value in 12 months

1


Clio nominated branded video

9% 


Share of voice against 5 aspirational, better funded, more established, national brands.

PR Firm California
Lifestyle PR Firm in California
Business PR Firm California
Reputation Management PR firm
Consumer Technology PR Firm
Consumer Technology PR Firms
Cannabis PR Agency California
MJ Biz
social media ads during COVID-19 case studies
successful social media influencer campaigns

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.

 

Cannabis CEOs have challenging jobs. You’re in the fast-moving cannabis business, so you’re also in the business of understanding trends and our industry. For that reason, we put together a shortlist of our favorite cannabis Twitter accounts, tailored for the time-constrained cannabis CEO and C-suite.

Twitter is an extremely useful listening tool, so we’ve curated the list intentionally for listening and we did throw in a few personal favorites as well because even cannabis CEOs need a breather now and then.  But overall, the list we’ve put together is highly curated and designed to give you what you need at the moment without overwhelming executives with chatter and nonsense. Hey, we love the nonsense too, but the point of a Twitter list is to create a curated experience and that’s what we’ve done.

We love Twitter because it’s such a great place to glean insights. We’ve already written about how we utilize Twitter for media relations. While we certainly use Twitter to engage our entire community, we do much more listening on Twitter than we do posting – and that’s intentional. With that perspective in mind, when we developed this Twitter List for cannabis CEOs, we thought about the Twitter uses who stay on topic, talk business, and keep chaos to a minimum. At it’s best, Twitter is a feed of quick snippets of insight, and we think these Twitter feeds embody that perspective.

Make things easy on yourself by subscribing to our Twitter list. In no particular order, here are our inclusions for 2020. 

 

Cannabis Journalists & News Twitter Accounts


Jeremy Berke @jberke

One of the first national business writers to cover the cannabis space from Business Insider, Jeremy’s feed is straightforward and no bull. From his Twitter profile, you can also subscribe to his weekly email newsletter which is a must-read of the week’s news.

Alan Brochstein, CFO @invest420
If industry analysis is what you crave, Alan Brochstein and his site, New Cannabis Ventures are on it. As the industry has changed, so has NCV. Today the NCV focuses mostly on cannabis’ publically traded businesses. But since so many of the industry cues and trends start there, it’s a great feed to watch. Alan’s distinct mix of business trends and insights are unbeatable. From his Twitter, you can also subscribe to his weekly newsletter, which is filled with investor insight and cannabis industry predictions. 

David George-Cosh @itsdgc
David primarily covers Canada’s legal cannabis market, which means he covers some of the world’s largest publically traded cannabis companies. Hailing from the Wall Street Journal, David gets to the heart of the matter with pertinent business issues from unionization to M&A.

AxisWire @axiswire
AxisWire is a newswire dedicated to the cannabis industry. It’s an easy to digest spot to catch up on the industry, by zeroing in on the latest press releases, from product announcements to industry events, it’s a good at-a-glance feed. 

WeedWeek @Weedweeknews
Hosted by Alex Halperin, a long-time cannabis journalist and Donny Alexander of public radio and ESPN, these two have a knack for being early adopters to industry trends, with a keen eye on what it means to consumers. Cannabis CEO and C-Suite executives will enjoy the thoughtful, no-drama approach of Halperin and Alexander while benefitting from their insightful guests. 

Cannabis Business & Thought Leader Twitter Accounts

By sparking your imagination, but these accounts are must-follows for cannabis industry CEOs for their broad perspectives on the overall health of the industry.

 

Andrew DeAngelo @Andrew_DeAngelo
Andrew might not be as well known as his brother, Steve, but these days he’s coming out from behind his operational role at the pioneering Oakland-based dispensary, Harborside, and sharing his opinions with his distinct rebellious flourish. Andrew’s thought-provoking perspective is cannabis industry-focused, with an emphasis on California and its regulatory environment. 

Emily Paxhia @empax1
As a woman in the VC world, Emily is already a notable follow, but as a cannabis VC, watching Emily’s tweets is interesting insight into the headspace of a cannabis VC. As co-founder of Poseidon Asset Management, Emily has been an active investor since 2014. Poseidon has invested in Pax, Juul and Canopy Growth. On Twitter, she’s a positive advocate for the industry, while maintaining a 360-degree view on the cannabis industry’s trends and future, including international expansion and legalization. 

Vangst @vangsttalent 
It’s always interesting to see who is hiring for what. Great CEOs can read between the lines when they see their competitors hiring – or not. Take a gander at the jobs posted and you’ll see a list of who’s growing and who isn’t. 

Cannabis Advocacy & Industry Twitter Accounts

We’ve come a long way, but we’re not finished. Both THC and CBD leaders should keep a close on the announcements from these accounts.

 

Norml @norml
From research to legislative initiatives, NORML is the OG of cannabis advocacy and consumer accessibility.  NORML’s Twitter feed is highly curated and includes information from state chapters too. A quick glance will get you immediately up to speed on today’s THC-related news. 

US Hemp Roundtable @HempRoundtable
The US Hemp Roundtable was formed to take a proactive role in hemp normalization and legislation. Many in the hemp industry credit the 2018 Farm Act to the US Hemp Roundtable. If you’re in the business of CBD or hemp, you’ve got to keep your eye on these tweets. 

National Cannabis Industry Association @NCIAorg 
As a cannabis industry representative at the federal legislative level, NCIA has a national presence and state chapters. The feed is filled with legislative updates affecting cannabis business owners as well as events, podcasts and blog posts written by the industry’s leading thought leaders.

Minority Cannabis @MinCannBusAssoc
If you’re looking for an inclusive perspective, and eh-em, you should be, then look no further than Minority Cannabis who share their perspectives and the latest diversity and inclusion news specific to the cannabis industry. As this movement continues within cannabis, this Twitter feed provides considerations and insights CEOs find helpful when developing diversity and inclusion policies and procedures. 

 

There’s no business like the cannabis business, we’re all in it together and despite (or maybe because of) the challenges, we love it. One of the areas with “challenges” is cannabis social media. 

Every cannabis brand knows that social media is an integral part of branding – and done right, it can play a pivotal role in press opportunities as well.  Yet, it can be a little disheartening to be on social media when just about every platform has become “pay to play.” But, never fear, there are solutions to the cannabis social media challenge. 

There are so many social media opportunities, I hope you’ll take a look at this and think about these issues within cannabis social media and how you can lead the industry with your social media. 

Product First, Second AND Third?

One of the issues I currently have with cannabis social media is that it’s so product forward, there’s so much opportunity to tell stories on social, and yet stream after stream is a picture of a plant or a bottle or a vape. OF course, it’s important to put your product out there, but who (besides a bot) stops to comment on a picture like that? The opportunity in cannabis social media is to create a passionate audience–very few people get really excited about product images. Think about the last visual ad you saw, I bet you remember the story in the ad better than the product hero shot. 

So what should we do about product/story balance? 

Consider including product within a mix of posts. Either find a way to tie together a series of posts that together, tell a story.  Your stories can be vignettes, values, people, anything that underscores your brand values and attributes. Within the context of these brand values, your goal is to make people pause long enough to look again, maybe even long enough to look at the rest of your feed. Now, I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t post product at all, I want you to post the product, especially in ways that highlight your customer’s experience. I WANT you to have products shots, but

Use the rule of thumb: product images for every 3rd or 4th image. 

Disruption: The Good, The Bad and The Amazing

First, I’d like to encourage all brands to consider the nascent stages we’re in and consider that it’s on all of us, as a community to improve our image. If you’re going to take risks on social (and not every brand is a “risk taking” brand), then be very clear about how other people perceive the message you’re putting out there. For example, if you’re marketing to women, be aware, women aren’t generally all that jazzed about hypersexualized images. But hey! If you’ve done the research and your cannabis brand is about disruption, and you’re using images like this strategically, I’m a huge fan of bold moves. But go into that kind of brand risk-taking with open eyes. You might just end up on the pages of a publication with an outraged journalist writing a missive about their disgust. And even if THAT doesn’t happen, you may forever alienate the people you thought would be interested in your product. Strong brands sometimes do alienate people, but that’s usually because they know their audience SO well, they know their audience will stand by them. Knowing your audience that well means you’ve done your research.

Maximize your payoff

On the other hand, recently I’ve seen some cannabis brands take a strong stand on controversial social justice issues. It’s a gutsy move, but when it’s consistent with the brand, it’s previous community building and presented well, it has the potential for huge pay-off. I’m personally really excited when I see brands taking a strong stand on issues, even when they aren’t MY issues, I’m excited to see brands stand for something. If you’re going to take a risk like this, lean into it, own it. Make sure the language and the imagery support the position in a strong, powerful way, and when you do this, leave out the product placement. Let your leadership shine, let the connectivity happen. Strong positions are much more memorable when they don’t feel like an advertisement. 



Disruption can be very good for a cannabis brand. The key for every brand to is to know their brand SO well, their audience SO intimately, the return outweighs the risk. 

Rethinking Social Media Influencers

When I Googled “cannabis influencers” today I got 4,530,000 hits, so clearly, it’s a thing. Most social media influencers know their value, and social media influencers are advertisements. Treat them as such. I’m not suggesting the relationship isn’t collaborative, because it is. What I’m telling you is keep your brand strong, You’d never let someone create a print ad for you without reviewing it. Insist on that same communication with your influencer.

But since you’re collaborating with your influencer anyway, why not invite their creative input for what the post(s) will look like. I’ve found that content creators are incredibly creative and they’re so excited when someone wants to hear THIER ideas, the collaborative outcome is much better than originally imagined.

The “thing” I wish cannabis brands realize is that you can pay big bucks per post for social reach and usually get really beautiful, custom content in return. Or you can do it for a less expensive per-post price and get a higher percentage of reach with a little grittier content. In either case, you’ll be managing the influencer, and the bigger the influencer, the bigger the personality, but also, the more professional. Really be thinking about what you expect from your cannabis influencer campaign and how you’ll evaluate success. 

Dig deep and make sure your influencer really matches your brand. Reach should not be your only consideration when you’re selecting your influencers – think holistically and you’ll get holistic results in return. 

One last word of advice about social media influencers: no cannabis brand has been publicly fined for lack of disclosure, YET. Don’t be the first. Brush up on the FTC’s disclosure rules about social media influencers and don’t assume you’re flying beneath the radar, because cannabis is never REALLY under the radar.

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media relations on twitter

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.

Sources:

https://www.pewinternet.org/2019/04/24/sizing-up-twitter-users/
https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/04/24/key-takeaways-from-our-new-study-of-how-americans-use-twitter/https://www.newsmediaalliance.org/how-to-twitter-for-journalists/

is a press release worth it?

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.

 

 

tourism social media agency los angeles

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.

brand trust in social media

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.