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Do the Unexpected

February 14th, 2020

As a communications professional, this is the wrong time to be careful and risk averse. Stand for something, put yourself on the line, communicate in unexpected ways. If you irritate some people, you’re doing something right.

These are central themes of a book published last year titled Persuasion: Convincing Others When Facts Don’t Seem to Matter. The author of the book, Lee Hartley Carter, is president of maslansky + partners, a language strategy company.

Book energizes your soul

For communications professionals who may have felt repressed in the past by editing processes that took the sizzle out of their prose and watered-down communications storylines before the prose got sent to potential customers, this book will energize your soul. And it will give you hope that it’s smart and effective to create bold and surprising communications storylines.

I especially resonated with these quotes from the book:

“Don’t try to blend in. What you need to do is be uniquely you by telling your story…You’re going to have to put your neck out, and when you put your neck out, not everybody is going to agree with you…The center of persuasion is showing something a little bit unexpected. It’s not about showing the perfect shiny object.”

The book continues: “Brands that don’t express a viewpoint, even on issues that have nothing to do with their product, can seem suspect now in the eyes of consumers…if you’re dealing with somebody who’s negative or a hater and you get some backlash, you’re probably doing something right. You’re taking a stand. And that is the future of communication. Being blandly in the background doesn’t work anymore.”

Pushing the boundaries to be heard above the noise

Whether you’re a media relations or marketing executive, you should feel inspired by these ideas. If it’s your instinct to stay more conservative in your approach to communications, you will likely be behind the times and not as effective. To be heard above all the other noise, you have to push communication boundaries far and wide.

This trend plays out in the world of resumes. Until recent years the resume tended to be a person’s personal branding statement. It told that person’s story and played a leading role in landing a person a job. But now the resume gets buried in the online piles of emails that recruiters have less time to review – and often never even look at.

The more important factors in landing a job have become a person’s LinkedIn page, the articles he or she has published, and the causes the person supports. The age of personal branding has taken over how people sell themselves to get jobs.

“Before, communication supported the brand,” the author writes. “Now communication is the brand. Before, the candidate sold a story; now the story sells the candidate. Before, your resume positioned you; now your position upstages your resume.”

And your position on issues, your views, your ability to deeply understand an employer and the specific needs and problems that a person you are interviewing with needs to have solved, the better chance you have of landing a job offer.

Must have a master narrative

All this ties in with the growing importance in communications of companies and individuals in business creating a simple, compelling, and unforgettable narrative about themselves that sticks in the minds of the people being sold to.

“Your master narrative is that one thing about you or your brand that expediently embodies the critical emotional need you are going to fulfill for your audience,” the author writes. “Everyone is telling a story. You want to have the shortest, most memorable one…Master stories are dead-simple one-sentence embodiments of who you are that turn your audience into your brand ambassadors.”

Big challenge: distillation into a short punchline

Frankly, one of the biggest challenges companies and individuals have is distilling down their master narrative into a punchline of only a few words. This is tough because there are so many possibilities to choose from that it becomes overwhelming to decide among a multitude of good narratives what your best one is.

It takes time and tons of effort to figure this out. But it’s so crucial to stand out and make yourself unforgettable to your customers. If they don’t remember what you’re all about, why would they want to do business with you?

“A master narrative is your singularly focused message that defines and differentiates you. It is a focused idea that lives in all communication about you. It takes different forms and words, but its spirit is always connected. Once you have found it, it becomes your true north, the criterion against which everything else aligns.”

Story must resonate with your target audience

Your master narrative must be more than just catchy, short and slick. Your customer must care and resonate with it as something they find of value and compels them to want to do business with you. All the coolness you can muster in cranking out a master narrative amounts to nothing if your customer doesn’t care or it’s not of value to them.

“Our target audience is the key to our success or failure,’ the author writes. “Without them, we are nothing. If our message doesn’t resonate with them – even if we have the best product, the best resume, the best action plan, the right policy position, the cutest dating profile – it lands flat.”

Your wants don’t matter

The author does a great job stressing how unimportant your desires and wants are compared with those of your target buyer. If you love your master narrative but they don’t, you lose. If you don’t love your master narrative but your customer does, you both win.

“There are two truths: yours and theirs. In persuasion, there is only one truth that matters: theirs. If you aren’t speaking to that truth, you aren’t engaging with them. And without that engagement, persuasion is impossible.”

I have been reading several communications books in recent weeks that keep hammering the same point: you must understand your customers deeply, in serious ways, with all your mind and heart. This takes tons of work. Tremendous amounts of thinking and organization logic are needed. You must connect the dots between what you provide and how that solves the buyer’s problem.

There are no shortcuts.

“You need to spend time doing a deep, honest evaluation of those you’re really talking to as human beings – their hopes, dreams, and fears – and then find an empathic connection with them…You can’t serve your audience until you fully understand who they are and how they want to be served. The brands that have mastered persuasion – like Nike, Apple, and Starbucks – are the ones that understand that service mind-set.

Repeat your story over and over and don’t abandon it quickly

For over 20 years I worked as a communications manager for corporations. We often crafted stories to share with the press. There were big events when we would meet with dozens or more reporters and tell each one the exact same story.

Our corporate spokespeople would get tired of telling the same story over and over. But I had to remind them that every reporter with whom we met was hearing it for the first time, so we had to be energized each time.

And we had to keep telling the story after the event. We had a message we had researched and committed to, and reporters and customers would only start remembering it if we told it to them not once or twice but five or six times. It just won’t stick without a large number of repeated instances in which they heard the same message.

“If you’re not bored to tears with your message, you haven’t even begun to penetrate…changing too frequently doesn’t give the message a change to penetrate or distribute. The value of repetition is that you’re speaking not just so people will hear you but so they’ll repeat your message for you. Studies show the person you’re trying to persuade needs to hear your message three to five times before that can happen.”

Don’t deluge customers with information; it confuses them

One of the biggest challenges I have faced in my communications career – in fact one of the hardest critical thinking skills to sharpen – is shortening a piece of writing. This blog is a great example. It’s too long. But I believe the value of content transcends the length so it will stay long.

Condensing a storyline for which we have dozens of pages of notes to a one or two sentence punchline takes enormous time and effort. But that’s what the listener, the customer, wants. They don’t want to think too hard. They just want you to get right to the point in an entertaining and powerful way.

Our jobs as communications professionals are not easy and having the discipline and tenacity to tighten our messages ranks among the most important and elusive skills that separate the good practitioners from the great ones.

“More information doesn’t necessarily make a stronger case when it comes to persuasion. More proof points don’t substantiate your pillar: they just overwhelm your audience…When people are presented with more information than they can comfortably remember, they feel confused. Studies have shown that we avoid what confuses us.”

Facts and figures don’t win over customers

People aren’t sold by logic and rational arguments. You can’t win them over by telling them your product is better than the rest of the competition or the way you make your product is shrewder than everybody else. Your customers don’t care nearly as much about that as they do about why you are in business and what your beliefs are.

“Facts alone don’t set us free. They won’t tell our story. And they won’t change hearts and minds. Decision-making is rarely a rational process. If you want to truly connect with others and shift their thinking, their behavior, their buying habits, or their voting practices, you must engage them in a process that goes far beyond hitting them with statistics and study results.”

Final thoughts

People matter most. Reach them emotionally to get them to buy from you. The brain is not the way to win them over.

Show them you understand what their problems are that you care about them, and that you can help solve their worst business problems, and you have a much better chance of making them loyal customers for life.

Be Flamboyant, Strange, and Unusual

When Writing Website Content

February 6th, 2020

Writing for the web – like so many other forms for writing – comes down to grabbing the reader’s attention right away.

Lynda Felder elaborates on this point in her inspirational book titled Writing for the Web. She suggests beginning website writing with a strange or unusual circumstance, a flamboyant setting, or a character in jeopardy.

“Start (your) story with something that demands their attention,” the author writes. “Jump in…Write with an attitude. Walk into it like it is Buckingham Palace and you own the place.”

In this book the author focuses on several aspects of this craft such as identifying your target audience, writing leads, being concise, linking photo concepts to text copy, and paying attention to nuances in punctuation, blogs, and podcasts.

The rest of this blog captures the book’s key ideas that will be especially helpful for content marketers wanting to write better website copy.

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Create brief sketches of buyer personas

Like so many aspects of content marketing, it’s all about targeting the content to a specific buyer or group of buyers. General audience approaches are “no nos.” Get granular. Often, the more specific you customize your content for a highly specific type of buyer, the more effective your web content will need to be.

Create brief sketches of target buyers with descriptive details about their website usage, likes and dislikes, age, occupations, and income levels.

An effective way to find out this information, the author writes, is to attend industry events, watch YouTube videos, and read blogs and news stories.

Use short words and sentences

Website readers browse for information fast and often scan web pages rather than read lots of words. As such, writers for the web need to be short and concise, use pithy sentences and phrases, and steer clear of long paragraphs.

The website reader “is in a hurry and is not prone to reflection or study,” the author writes. “The reader darts around on the page and only lands on each sentence for a moment…Your readers don’t have time to sort out complicated meanings.”

Choose photos and images that enhance the story

Website photos and images should be more than just a simple representation of the topic. For example, if the web content consists of a blog about avoiding keyword stuffing in blogs, a photo or image showing a blog or the word “blog” in some fancy lettering does not advance the story. It may look nice, but it doesn’t capture the slant of the blog content.

A better photo or graphic would show an image revealing how keyword stuffing in blogs makes the blog less appealing to view and read because the keywords create a herky jerky feel to the reading and viewing experience.

“The photo (or image) tells part of the story and without it the story is incomplete,” the author writes. Content marketers should take this advice to heart. Too often they settle for photos and images that don’t add to the story; they just repeat it.

Links: don’t send readers on “mystery tours”

The book makes a similar point about how to insert links into website copy. If writing a blog about avoiding use of keyword stuffing, you should link to a topic that the reader would naturally want to know about next such as a blog on effective ways to insert photos into blogs.

Don’t confuse the reader by providing a link to a blog too far afield logically from what they naturally would learn about next. Bad idea: Link to a blog on “famous website copywriters.” That doesn’t flow naturally from the blog on keyword stuffing. “Links should support, complement, or enhance the main topic,” the author writes.

Make call to action links clear

Call-to-action links should be clear about exactly what the reader will receive if they click on that link. “Show the reader clearly what they will get when they choose a link. You don’t want them to feel like they’re on a mystery tour.”

Links should be short, approximately two-to-three words. Don’t make links long strings of words or full sentences. It’s confusing and unappealing to the reader and makes them wonder which of the long string of words are most relevant to them.

Avoid semicolons, commas, and apostrophes

Semicolons, commas, and apostrophes are not easy to read on websites and therefore should be used sparingly. You want your readers to be able to read your punctuation. Use what they can see. Periods are also tough to read on websites. So, while you must use these when writing sentences, writers should minimize the amount of punctuation.

In a similar vein, when you type phone numbers on websites, it’s best not to use periods such as 917.908.xxxx. Better to use (917) 917 xxxx. These small nuances improve the reader experience, which is crucial.

Include author’s photo and bio in blogs

In the “About” section, include a photo of yourself, the author, along with your photo and text explaining the purpose of the blog, and the motivation for starting the blog. And include guidelines for readers to provide comments and ask the author questions.

Final thoughts

What makes this book special is not just the great insights about how to write effectively for websites. It’s also the inspirational and supportive tone for writers. The book offers this quote from the famous writer, Tony Morrison:

“If there is a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”

This advice applies to website writing.

And the author adds insights that help writers aspiring to write more compelling website content. “If you’re having fun composing the content, your audience will have fun reading it…When you’re having a blast researching and writing your blog, your readers will feel the excitement in your work.”



How CMOs Can Gain More Respect,

Job Security, and Success

January 31, 2020

The job of the modern-day chief marketing officer (CMO) is often tough, unforgiving, thankless, precarious, and short-lived.

I learned this recently while researching about the toughest challenges and best opportunities for CMOs to be more effective.

The challenges include a lack of credit from top management, such as CEOs, when the business does well. And CMOs frequently get blamed when they don’t. Many CEOs express dissatisfaction with their CMOs and don’t trust them.

Making all this worse, CMOs often end up not doing the job they expected to based on the job description. Misunderstandings and lack of clarity up front can cause major misalignment and disillusionment.

Demands for higher performance are intensifying for CMOs as resources and budgets shrink.

When the top executives at companies gather to make major strategic decisions, CMOs commonly aren’t invited. As a result, corporate and marketing strategies turn out to be disjointed and ineffective.

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Andy Lark’s insights

If you’re a CMO or aspire to be one, I realize this may be disheartening. But these are the insights that stood out when I listened to a podcast on Managing Marketing. The interviewee, marketing executive Andy Lark had a whole lot to say about what’s wrong with the CMO profession.

CMO indigestion

“All organizations have classically suffered from quite a high degree of CMO indigestion,” he said. “They love eating the new CMO but can’t digest what comes with the feast and so that’s been an age-old problem.

“There are not many CMOs who are genuinely happy in their role and feel safe and secure and feel like they’ve got a great future ahead of them in the business they’re in,” he adds. “Most of them feel under threat, challenged, and excluded.”

How to drive change has emerged as the most fundamental challenge CMO grapple with. Why is this so difficult? Because of the dilemma that a large percentage of the marketing budget routinely pays for employee salaries and retainer fees, and much of the rest gets allocated on habitual events the marketing team has led for years. This leaves few opportunities to innovate and make marketing changes that impact the business.

“I do think that the malaise that marketers suffer from today is that marketers don’t take the profession seriously because the businesses they work for don’t take it seriously,” added Lark.

Difficulties convincing CEOs to invest in unproven opportunities

Corporate executives tend to be risk averse. They want assurance and idea will work before investing. Of course, there are no certainties about business (or life).

I read a HubSpot article titled “What are the Biggest Challenges Facing CMOs Today?” that cited difficulties convincing top management to invest in yet unproven opportunities.

“Getting senior management to believe and invest in something that does not have a record is tricky because top management usually wants reassurance and historical figures to base their decisions on.”

Seven ways CMOs can improve their situations

With all these serious challenges in mind, CMOs still have opportunities to be successful. Consider these ideas:

One: When hunting for a job, make sure you get complete alignment and clarity about what your responsibilities will be. Often CMOs accept new positions but find out the job isn’t what they expected it to be. Being proactive in nailing down exactly what your job will be will help avoid this problem and contribute to your job fulfillment.

Two: Invest in a marketing educational course curriculum. This means actual academic institution courses and a plan of action to make sure you stay on the leading-edge of marketing thinking and strategies.

Sure, it’s a good idea to read online articles from reputable publications about marketing. But that’s not enough. You need to dial into the best thinking in the world about how to do marketing effectively. Academic courses can deliver on this.

“You go into the average CMO’s office and there’s no evidence that they’re studying modern marketing,” said Lark.

Three: Attach yourself to a CEO you get along with and invest heavily in this relationship. Sit next to him or her at social events. This person can make or break your success and happiness in the role and recommend you for future career moves. If you create a strong relationship with a CEO – your boss – ride that to the hilt.

Four: Take more credit for the work your marketing organization accomplishes. Show your CEO performance metrics that relate directly to the revenues and profits of the corporation. Infrequently well-versed in marketing, they need to be shown how marketing adds value because they really don’t know. Showing them will be worth your time.

Five: Make sure your marketing strategy aligns tightly with the overall business strategy. Whatever the business priorities are should be the marketing priorities. Otherwise, you won’t get credit for marketing achievements because the CEO won’t care much. He or she will only care if marketing moves the needle for the overall business growth and financial performance.

Six: If your CEO tells you what the goals of the business are, and you see that the marketing budget you are given is not enough to meet those goals, tell the CEO right away. Let them know that you don’t have enough resources and explain why.

The CEO would rather know this sooner so he or she can adjust the business goals, marketing budget, or both. What you don’t want is to stay quiet at the start, and after the business misses its goals communicate that your marketing budget wasn’t big enough to get the job done.

Seven: Insist on having a seat at the executive table when strategic decisions get made. According to an article in CMO Marketing titled “The Changing Role of the CMO: From Order Taker to Growth Driver,” a mere 16 percent of survey respondents noted they had a seat at the table with other executives to discuss global business strategy. The CMO Council and Deloitte conducted this survey with 200 CMOs.

Final thoughts

As I started this research and blog project, I didn’t expect to find so many difficult challenges facing CMOs. Sure, I knew these are complex, demanding jobs. But I didn’t anticipate learning that CEOs don’t tend to respect nor trust them. I thought CMOs had plenty of trust among the executive suite and that their voices get heard.

Evidently not so much. Many of these marketing executives apparently have difficulty aligning with what their CEOs want.

One inherent problem with marketing, it seems to me, is it has always been tough to measure its business impact. It can be tough for a CMO to draw a straight line between a marketing program and the sales leads and revenues it generates.

It’s just not that easy.

Taking all this into consideration, I believe CMOs should figure out the business priorities and align marketing programs and resources tightly around those. Surely this must be done. Or the first question the CEO will ask down the line is “why aren’t the marketing programs in sync with the business priorities?”

I would end with this. It’s normal for CEOs to be risk averse and not be predisposed to paying for a new program or idea that hasn’t proven to have worked before. The CMOs can get over this hurdle by bringing strong rationale arguing in favor of tackling the new project. But just as important is the CMO’s passionate belief that the initiative will work.

This passion will help tip the scale in favor of forging ahead. What’s more, that passion will likely be a strong force ensuring that the CMO makes the program successful.



To Break Through All the Noise, Marketers Need to “Scream”

January 26, 2020

Sandy Carter likes to scream. Seriously, IBM’s vice president of marketing admitted this in her insightful book about marketing titled The New Language of Marketing 2.0: How to Use ANGELS to Energize Your Market.

She wrote about screaming in the context of marketing. To cut through all the marketing noise and avalanche of information people are being bombarded with, marketers must scream something that can be heard well above all the other marketing being hurled at people.

“I tend to like to scream,” she writes. “They are short, to the point, and full of energy…A scream reflects the energy and the passion of the person’s inner being….After interviewing more than 50 people for this book, the common message from them was that you have to break through the noise.

“To me, this means companies need to learn how to embrace the energy of a scream in their marketing at the right time and to the right person…And it must be a scream that is relevant to the time and the place of the product or service that you want to bring to and sell in the marketplace.”

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Screaming: a bold and bedazzling marketing concept

The author’s emphasis on screaming a marketing storyline stands out in this fine book. No marketing book I’ve ever read has used the word “scream” as a successful strategy. Give credit to the author for the originality of the idea and the courage to use that word which some might feel is to aggressive.

There were several other key points in this book of use to marketers. I will summarize them here. Marketing should be about conducting conversations back and worth, not a one-way push of a message. Focus on the emotions of buyers. Storylines are key. To deliver great marketing messages, companies need skilled writers.

Influencers amplify your marketing

Marketers need to leverage influencers. What does this mean? It means you can get other people to say good things about your brand. For example, for my company, Carolina Content & Media Relations, I could give a briefing to an industry analyst who tracks media relations and content marketing companies. If impressed, this person may recommend that high-tech and sports companies consider using this company’s services. This analyst would be a helpful influencer for my business.

Other key points from the book: Buyers don’t just buy products and services. They also buy the personality of the human being selling them. Personality in this context should not be underestimated. It’s a feeling dynamic. If a buyer has a pleasurable experience when someone is trying to sell them something, the chances go up that the buyer will make a purchase.

In marketing books, you hear a lot about right brain and left-brain thinkers. The right brain controls creativity and intuition; the left brain manages logic and sequential thinking. This book makes the key point that about half of human beings are more right brained and the other half are more left brained. As a result, marketers better make sure you can sell to both; otherwise you cut your market opportunities by about 50 percent.

Now I will dive into these major points and few other main takeaways in a bit more detail.

Marketers and companies are not in control

Consumers have an abundance of information about your company and its products, as well as your competitors. As such, to a large extent marketers don’t really have control of the marketing and sales process.

“Largely because of the overwhelming power and influence of the Web and other electronic communications, consumers are not in control. They can easily research all available choices through dialogues with suppliers, vendors, experts, and other consumers; they can ignore your irrelevant communications and turn their attention elsewhere; and they can often quickly switch to the competition to get their needs met.

“Consequently, marketing is no longer about pushing messages to convince prospects to take action, but instead, it’s about conducting conversations to engage prospects with relevant content that will ultimately lead them to take the action you need for business impact.”

Marketing is about emotionally moving buyers

Marketing boils down to feelings and emotions. If your marketing storyline makes a potential buyer feel something positive and uplifting about your brand, you are on the right track. It’s not about specs and features and technical details. It’s about how the buyer feels.

“Innovation-centric marketing is about establishing the right strategy – one with sufficient focus – and then innovatively telling a story that matters…Marketing is affecting the emotions of the buyer.”

But connecting with buyers emotionally with a compelling story is not all that needs to happen. All this needs to be backed up with a product or service that delivers those emotional benefits.

“A story alone is not good enough,” the author writes. “The proof of the story must be real in your customers, partners, and offerings.”

Extend branding beyond your corporate walls

Marketing doesn’t have to all be done by your company through its own efforts. Influencers, third parties, and customers can speak favorably about your brand and its products and services, positive word of mouth can spread, and your company can grow. The key is to get these additional people energized enough to help you do this.

“The customer wants to play a role in your brand. Working with third parties, influencers, customers, and other market drivers, you can be a custodian of your brand. Make sure you extend your branding team outside your four walls.”

Make sure you your marketing considers entertainment and fun

It’s elementary: People like to have fun and be entertained. This has always been true and always will be. So marketing is bound to be more successful if it you give people pleasure, makes them laugh, and makes their lives more enjoyable.

“When you pull out your marketing plans, review them for their power of product value and fun,” the author writes. “With the amount of information people have to deal with today, they are looking for something that stands out and captures their attention and imagination…Review your plans for an entertainment value that is short and points to the value for your product or service.”

This is awesome. It should make any marketer excited. Our jobs are to make people have fun and enjoy themselves. And the more we do it the more successful we are likely to be.

Make your customers fans

Building on these ideas, marketers should make sure their brand reveals a personality that people can relate to and like and be inspired by.

“Know that clients will buy more than your product or service; they also buy your personality and your values…The point is to make them into fans, not just customers, and you create fans one at a time…Your company’s personality can come through in the form of a shared enthusiasm or a reflection of its values.”

Don’t focus on one side of the brain but not the other

Think about this. Roughly half the people in the world are right brained and the other half left brained. Why would you market to one type but not the other and cut off half your potential customers? You need to make sure your marketing gets customized for both types to maximize your sales opportunities.

“Your marketing can be twice as effective if you aim it at both right brained (emotional, aesthetic) and left-brained (logical, sequential) people…The North American population is about evenly divided, so if you use only one approach, half your marketing budget will go wasted.”

Your blog should reflect your personality

This is my blog. I am being authentic and showing my personality to you when I write that I am jazzed by inspiring marketing books that focus on peoples’ feelings and emotions and the importance of those, as opposed to a technical marketing book with lots of inspirations.

I am a feelings kind of guy. That’s my personality. I own it, embrace it, and accept it. It’s who I am.

Why am I writing this? Because I am illustrating another key point in this book the author makes: that blogs should reflect the personality, the human desires and biases and preferences of the brand.

“I view blogging as a part of a company’s personality,” the author writes. “Marketing’s job is to provide a lens for that personality, for the market to see the personality. The crucial part is to find someone who can make it personal, relevant, and true.”

Bloggers should be voracious readers

Bloggers must be voracious readers. There many reasons for this but a few of the major ones are to keep up on what’s going on the world so blogs they write sound in touch with the times, and to know what others are blogging about, and to create differentiated content not found on other blogs. Blogging is about adding new and fresh ideas, perspectives, and insights not found on other blogs.

“Blogging implies you must write and read,” the author writes. “You should spend a lot of your time on other blogs and reading what is of interest in the market. Blogging should not be boring…Distinguish yourself by not being boring, but instead by writing with a unique voice that is fun and interesting while also informative.”

Final thoughts

You may be familiar with a special study that began many decades ago about the graduates of Harvard University. The goal was to track the lives of these graduates through their entire lives, interview them regularly, ultimately identify which ones turned out to be the happiest and why. The one overwhelming insight was that the people who had the most and best interpersonal relationships were the happiest.

Other studies reveal this same truism.

I bring this up because the author of this book agrees with this idea in the context of marketing. Great marketing spawns fulfilling interpersonal relationships, and that’s what life is really all about.

“A great relationship is one built on honesty,” the author writes. “As I reviewed numerous books on relationships, the one thing the books and experts agree on was that authenticity was at the heart of all successful relationships. Think long-term transactions, not short-term transactions. As many can attest, a long-lasting relationship without honesty is no relationship at all. Finally, great relationships are those where the parties know each other, and their hopes, dreams, and plans. They understand who they are.”

In the end, marketing is about people connecting with people, enjoying one another, giving each other hope. It’s about hopes and faith and dreams.


When Blogging, Pour Out Your Emotions

January 20, 2020

Don’t be emotional in business. Don’t show your feelings. It’s a sign of weakness.

I heard this so many times during my professional public relations career. I never quite understood why emotions were a bad thing in business. Not being emotional stifles creativity and makes people feel repressed and unhappy with their jobs.

This is why I was so relieved and excited to read a book about the importance of showing your emotions and connecting with peoples’ feelings when working on communications projects such as blogging. The book that lit my fire is titled The Impact Equation by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, who are both bloggers, consultants, and speakers.

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Blog readers want to be moved emotionally

I have never read a book that emphasized nearly as much as this one the importance of connecting with people emotionally when creating content such as blogs. I believe they could not be more correct about this.

People don’t read blogs solely for intellectual purposes. They want to feel something. They want to be moved emotionally. They want to be inspired to do something, to take a chance with their own lives by pursuing their passions.

In other words, blogs can’t be boring, or they will never succeed. They can’t be all about rational arguments and dry step-by-step instructions. Readers of these blogs are human beings who care deeply about their own happiness and living fulfilling lives. Bloggers must tap into their hearts and make them feel something such as courage or inspiration or laughter or joy.

The book has several exceptionally uplifting passages that communicate these ideas.

“You get more from them by getting at their hearts”

“When you make people feel something whether it’s comfortable, powerful, or any other positive emotion, they associate that feeling, not just the information you’ve provided, with you or your brand,” the authors write. “You get more from them by getting at their hearts.

“Using emotion in your content is essential in creating a unique value, and you will need to learn how. This is because information alone rarely sways people. Only feelings do…If warmth, strength, love or any other emotion isn’t felt through what your channel produces, your audience will be left cold – the exact opposite of what you want.”

Surprise your readers

One way to touch people emotionally is to write a blog that surprises them, that takes a different slant on a topic than the rest of humanity.

“Instead of information, people largely react to emotion, and they feel an emotion when they are presented with something different and surprising.”

And I absolutely love the following passage because it frees me up, and hopefully you feel the same way, to write blogs that reveal what’s in my heart.

“Share your feelings,” the authors write. “This is certainly the opposite of most business advice you get. Feelings are somehow ugly things that should be hidden away. If you’re nervous, it is reasonable to express that. If you’re excited about something, why not admit it?

Full on excited

For PR professionals, this book gives you the keys to the hotrod. I have been wanting to drive this car my whole life. That hotrod I’m driving accelerates into emotional fast lanes where what I really think goes down on this page rather than some not totally honest version of what I think.

No more political correctness. No more worrying about what others will think if I write how I feel. This feels awesome.

“When you make people feel something whether it’s comfortable, powerful, or any other positive emotion, they associate that feeling, not just the information you’ve provided, with you or your brand,” the author’s write. “You get more from them by getting at their heart.

What are good ideas?

Building on this theme about opening to your feelings, the authors connect to the idea that a good idea has to have an emotional connection to human beings.

“Good ideas make you feel…something, anything! If any idea leaves you feeling flat, then it is flatlining. You can love it or hate, but it must make you feel something in order to make you finishing reading or watching it.”

But of course, it’s not only about connecting with people emotionally, touching their hearts. You must also make this emotional connection in a way that helps the person reading your blog.

“Good ideas fulfill a need. Highly efficient ideas help people fill a blank space in their head, whether they know it exists or not. Your opinions may be helpful and interesting, but unless they are specifically useful to your audience, you are not building something of significant or lasting value.

Be original

There are millions of blogs. There may be billions of blogs. Who knows? The point is if you are starting a blog, it better not be like any others out there.

What’s the point in writing a blog that someone can get somewhere else? You haven’t added any value. You haven’t given anyone a reason to read your blog. You must give them a reason, something compelling and daring and different and, above else, not boring.

“Be original,” the authors write. “As often as possible, share unique perspectives, ideas and information that come from far outside the typical source material for your company. Look for stories that are interesting and helpful but that come from far outside the normal channels. It’s easier than you think…it isn’t about money. It’s about how much you’re willing to work.”

This blog is a good example

This blog I am writing now is a good example. It’s original in the sense that it captures the best ideas from a book I read. It’s probably the case that no blogger has ever read this book and written a summary of the key ideas.

This is an original way to produce a blog that adds value to the reader. They don’t have to spend hours reading the book as I did. They can whiz through this blog in a few minutes and get the best ideas to use to help them with their lives such as writing better blogs if that’s what they do.

“Realize in business it’s what stands out that gets remembered…if the idea doesn’t stand out in a sea of other ideas and thoughts, then it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a great platform and a strong community.”

Get content from places no one else does

Do things differently. Add value in new ways. Find great content from places that no one else is serve it up to your readers in your blogs. Save them the trouble and time of having to find the book, read it, and glean the best ideas. Do that work for them.

You will help your readers save time and hopefully make more money. And by going through the research and writing project yourself, you can use the best ideas yourself to improve the content you create.

Create garbage in order to get to the good stuff

Content marketers need to face this tough truth: Every piece of content they create will not be great. Much of it won’t even be good. A lot of it could be just mundane, repetitive, and useless. But that bad stuff has to be created.

It’s the necessary part of the process to create better content. You will learn what’s bad and good based on your audience feedback.

Just get over yourself and worries about not producing great content every time. It’s not going to happen. Celebrate the fact that the more content you produce the higher percentage of it will be garbage. You will make more and more better stuff.

“If you personally want to create something amazing, the best strategy is to act like the Internet does,” the authors write. “You have to be comfortable with creating garbage in order to have some measure of awesome stuff.

“Your ability to be comfortable with less-than-perfect content will be directly proportionate to the amazing things you create…creating today’s garbage is an important aspect of creating tomorrow’s gold.”

Just create content, learn, improve, and create some more. Over and over and over.

Be helpful

Books about blogging consistently stress the importance of blogging regularly with helpful content. This tends to increase the number of people who read your content. You must be committed to blogging a lot for it to help your business grow. Be helpful. Be helpful. Be helpful.

“Everyone has faith in bloggers who post regular, amazing content…all other things being equal, they’re seen as givers, which means we feel a need to reciprocate.

“Help others first. Most people fail in getting the attention of others because they approach with their hands out long before they have done anything to earn a seat at the table. If you want attention, earn it.”

Be trustworthy

One of the most chilling parts of the book deals with the subject of how bloggers can be trusted. If they are not, their blogs will flop. Trust is a dicey thing. A person may read a blog and decide they don’t trust the blogger and never read their blogs again.

This could be just a feeling the person has while reading the blog that makes them uncomfortable. This person may not be able to explain why they don’t trust the blogger, they just don’t.

Be transparent about your motives

So, bloggers need to be aware of this trust factor. They must come across as people deserving of trust based on what and how they write blogs. This is like threading a needle, not easy and hard to explain. But it’s real. And my best advice is to be as transparent about your motives in writing a blog as you can.

Don’t try to deceive and manipulate. Just lay out your thoughts as candidly and authentically as you can. Have your heart in the right place. Be thinking of your readers and how they might interpret your ideas. Otherwise, you’re risking everything.

“You may be differentiated from your industry and highly visible,” the author’s write “But if you are not trusted, if you are not credible, you are nothing.”

Final thoughts

I think it’s important to take a step back and ask yourself why you are creating content such as a blog. What’s your purpose? You need to figure this out. What are your goals in life and how does your blog align with them?

I’ll ask a few more even most cosmic questions: why are you are and why am I here? What is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of your life and my life?

I imagine you write blogs to make a name for yourself, to contribute ideas to the world, to help other people be successful. You want to contribute, to leave a mark, to make your life mean something. Your blogging should be about something important to you in the largest sense.

Not about becoming rich and famous

And it shouldn’t be about becoming rich and famous. Even if that happens, it shouldn’t be your goal. You should realize that your blog is not going to make your famous, probably, and maybe not rich either. But it will be meaningful and helpful to many people, you hope, and that should be reason enough.

“There is never a curtain call and rarely a standing ovation,” the authors write. “Rather, when your work is done, the satisfaction lies in the act itself and the fact that you really made a difference. You had an impact on the world. Those who know and look closely will see your fingerprint in the places you labored and in the people you influenced. They’ll remember you.”



How to Generate Media Coverage and

Amplification on Social Media Channels

January 18, 2020

So how should people in business do media relations? What do they need to keep in mind? How do they get results that drive sales leads and help business growth? And how can social media be used to enhance media relations?

The answers to these questions are in this blog. You will learn about 10 ideas for generating media coverage and amplifying that coverage on social media channels.

One: The Story is the Strategy

Reporters care above all else about good stories. They care a lot less about corporate messages and corporate strategies – unless those involve great stories. They don’t want to write stories about corporate messages. You will rarely, if ever, receive this question from a reporter: “so what is your company’s key message?” A reporter has a straightforward strategy: they want to find and write great stories.

Two: Pitch Problems, Predictions, and Future Investments

Reporters gravitate towards problems, difficulties, challenges, things that aren’t going as planned, technologies that don’t work as advertised or are going to become obsolete because of some other newer and cooler technology. They want to know what’s wrong first, and then they may want to know how to fix it.

Reporters also have a predilection to cover people making predictions because predictions are daring. They peer into the future, tell you what’s around the corner, tip you off to where things are headed. Reporters want to know two things: what’s new and what’s next?

Reporter also are dialed into where money is going to be moving and how much. Usually the more money involved the bigger the story. Pitch them stories about investments being made, money being earned or lost, threats to market growth, and ignitors of market escalation. Pitch them stories about triumphs that speak to the shrewd investments of money and how peoples’ lives are better. Be specific about this.

Three: Shoot for the Moon

At the start of a media relations campaign about a new product, for example, think about the art of the possible, how big the story could be. Explore all angles. Dig and dig. Don’t immediately assume only the trade press will be interested and the business press won’t care. This happens too often. Dare to pursue the big story. Sometimes you will find it. Usually the more research you do the more interesting you will discover the story to be. Keep shooting for the moon. Aiming low is boring; aiming high is soaring.

Four: Write Aggressive First Drafts

Your first draft of a new release should push the envelope, maybe even get initial reviewers to sit up in their chairs to read what they think they read one more time to be sure they understand what’s being announced. Write the most exciting and leaning-forward draft you can. Write the story you think would interest the Wall Street Journal.

You can always dial back on the release to align with what’s appropriate. But if your first draft is written conservatively, it will, like most releases, get watered down and your story will have less punch. An aggressive first draft that gets toned down still could be strong. If you start with a conservative draft and it gets toned down, your story will likely end up weak.

Five: Focus on Problems, People and Emotion

Writing about technology is somewhat like translating Spanish language into English. You start with one language – jargon, technical abstractions, disorganized and obtuse ideas, and lots of scattered data points – and you must make it compelling and easy to understand. To expedite this translation process, focus like a laser on how the product or service solves problems for human beings. How would this product or service improve the life of a person, any person, your grandmother, Bob your neighbor?

Connect your prose with human emotions like joy, pleasure, excitement, aspirations, and wonder. Don’t write to the inanimate world. That is a feeling-less place. Write about what touches people emotionally. In the technology world, one of the best ways to help people to understand a story is to convey how the story affects them. Many technology stories have a smartphone angle to them or can be understood better by explaining them using a smartphone application or benefit or problem-solving capability.

Six: Write Only What You Understand

Write only sentences and words that are clear in your mind. Don’t try to fake like you understand something. If you try to write about technology that is fuzzy that you just don’t quite understand, it will be obvious to your readers – and you don’t want that. You will lose credibility with them and they may stop reading you. You will have lost their trust.

Often to make sure you understand, you will need to go back and talk to an expert again. Consider bouncing off them a hypothetical example involving a human being doing something or proposing analogies and whether they are accurate in conveying the concept and story you want to share. The mere act of suggesting an analogy often accelerates understanding because your expert will either agree with the analogy or offer a better one. Then you will be able to write better what you understand.

Seven: Rank Content and Eliminate Almost Everything

Let’s say you’re given 100 PowerPoint slides to find a story angle to pitch the press. As you go through, rank any content that really moves you viscerally as an A+. This would be content you think could be a compelling headline or story. Rank other content you feel to be slightly less compelling but still compelling as A.

Assign a grade of B+ to content slightly less compelling than A content. Don’t ever look again at any content that you didn’t give and A+, A or B+ ranking. That content didn’t strike you as compelling the first time, and it probably won’t if you consider it again.

Review the ranked content again. Double-check your A+, A and B+ content. If upon second reading A content strikes you as A+ -- this sometimes happens -- mark it as such. If A+ content strikes you as less than A+, give it an A ranking. Focus on how you can craft a story with you’re A+ content. Throw everything else to the side.

Eight: Social Media Amplification

One of the most effective ways to amplify your press coverage on social media is to write a byline article for a corporate client and, once published, have the client post a link to the article on his or her LinkedIn page. This often generates feedback from that person’s followers that can lead to business meetings, revenue generation, and brand enhancement. It’s a powerful and simple technique.

A second social media tactic that works is posting videos of your story ideas, such as predictions, on LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter. These postings often result in hundreds of views of the video. Keep them short, about one-to-two minutes in length. Shorter videos tend to generate more views.

A third technique is to pitch Tweets about embargoed story ideas to reporters on Twitter. They often respond by indicating they would like you to email them the embargoed story. This increases the chances they will read your pitch. And you will have started to build, or enhanced, a relationship with a reporter.

Fourth, when you Tweet about press coverage, be sure to use the @ symbol and the reporter’s Twitter handle so they know you’re amplifying the story. This will make them more likely to do business with you in the future because you will have helped them reach more readers.

Nine: Use Buckets to Organize Your Writing

Suppose you are given a 100-page white paper and asked to craft a press pitch from it. Mark the content by categories as you read such as “market data,” “background,” “technology,” “benefits,” “potential lead,” and “potential quotes.” When finished this step, group all the content together into mental buckets so that all your market data content is together in one bucket, the background content goes in a separate second bucket, and so on. Now you have organization. You are ready to structure your piece of writing, such as a news release or article, with information you might use grouped in a logical fashion. This will bring a smooth flow to your writing and pack similar information together.



Mission for Marketers and Public Relations Professionals: Be Enchanting

January 16, 2020

I have been enchanted by a book titled “Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions” by Guy Kawasaki, an entrepreneur and former chief evangelist with Apple Computer.

The book offers insights for how to enchant people whether you are an entrepreneur, media relations executive, chief marketing officer, executive of a technology company, or in any other business role.

The author starts with his definition of enchantment as “the process of delighting people with a product, service, organization, or idea. The outcome of enchantment is voluntary and long-lasting support that is mutually beneficial.”

“Enchanters don’t sell products…enchanters sell their dreams…”

What’s most inspiring about this book is the author’s description of what enchanters do and do not do. “Enchanters don’t sell products, services, or companies…Enchanters sell their dreams for a better future – cooler social interactions, a cleaner environment, a heart-stirring driving experience, or the future of publishing. This perspective is the foundation for a presentation that transforms people. It makes them think of what could be, not what is.”

One of the first human beings to leap to mind as a quintessential enchanter was Dr. Martin Luther King, who spoke often about his dream for a better world of equality and justice for all. Yes, people are enchanted by people who share their vision for how the world could be improved, how life could be easier, and when people would get along better. And that’s what this book is about: learning how to be enchanting so you can have people join you in your cause.

To me, I want people to believe in, share, and benefit from the experiences of my passion, which is to educate, inspire, and entertain people through writing and other forms of communications. This book inspired me with ideas for how to achieve that and provided valuable cautionary advice on how not to be enchanting.

“Enchantment causes a voluntary change of hearts and minds”

“Enchantment can occur in villages, stores, dealerships, offices, boardrooms, and on the Internet,” the author writes. “It causes a voluntary change of hearts and minds and therefore actions. It is more than manipulating people to help you get your way. Enchantment transforms situations and relationships. It converts hostility into civility. It reshapes civility into affinity. It changes skeptics and cynics into believers.”

In sync with these ideas, the author recommends that when people give presentations that they “create a presentation that moves peoples’ souls rather than beats them into submission and, more likely, boredom.”

My interpretation of the author’s words: Don’t be boring if you want to enchant people. Don’t be pushy. Get people to see how your vision can be shared by them and how they will benefit.

Start with being likeable

You can’t be enchanting if people don’t like you. “Step one is achieving likeability, because jerks seldom enchant people…Smile at people. What does it cost to smile? Nothing. What does it cost not to smile? Everything, if it prevents you from connecting with people.

Project your passions

Share with people know what you are passionate about and you will become more likeable and more enchanting. “Tell the word you love cooking, hockey, NASCAR, or knitting – whatever it is – because pursuing your passions makes you more interesting and interesting people are enchanting.”

No doubt about this. I am drawn to passionate people, those filled with and intensity for what they do and believe in.

Disclose your interests immediately

People tend to be wary and skeptical of others especially the first time they meet you. It’s best, therefore, to lay your cards on the table right away to let them your agenda and why you are pursuing it. This will build trust and accelerate the potential you may have in this relationship.

The author makes his point this way: “Immediate and complete disclosure of your interests is a key component of trustworthiness,” the author writes. “People will always wonder what your motivation is, so you should get this out of the way.”

It’s so true. People want to know what you’re up to and why. Just tell them. Get that issue off the table. It will save time, build trust, and get you moving fast to the next stage of enchantment. In the case of me writing this blog, I want to help you. I want my words to inspire you to achieve your goals. And I hope you appreciate my way of writing.

Provide value

People want to be helped, inspired, and entertained. They want their problems solved and want to be fulfilled and receive useful advice. So, give it to them. Don’t hold back. Be generous.

The author stresses the importance of providing three types of value:

  • pointing to useful, inspiring, and entertaining content;
  • providing personal insights, observations, or content; and
  • offering advice and assistance.

This idea of sharing what you know that is of value to others is a major theme in the marketing world. Hard selling is out. Educating and helping is in. People want to research on their own before making a buying decision. So, respect that. Meet them where they are and don’t push them too fast. Above all, be helpful.

Become aware of your limitations

The author points out that nobody can know everything and it’s important to be cognizant of this reality.

“Becoming aware of your limitations, the limitations of knowledge in general, and the outside perspective of a personal devil’s advocate will lead you to make sound, informed decisions.”

Too often people don’t want to reveal that they lack knowledge. They fear it’s a sign of weakness and incompetence. In truth, this recognition shows they have wisdom and perspective and will ask others for help in understanding what they don’t know.

Final thoughts

I have been scanning several business books seeking to find the ones that in the first few pages grab my attention and are therefore worth sitting down and reading to the end. This book pulled me in right away and kept my attention throughout. It’s easy to read, insightful, humorous, and helpful in its insights and recommendations for how to become a more enchanting person.

I learned that enchantment is not about selling. It’s about interacting with people in a way that brings joy and inspiration to them. Enchantment is also not about making money. Enchantment is living for a cause that drives you that is more important and sustainable than money or a big house.

To be enchanting is to be engaged and concerned about other people and their needs. To be enchanting you must arouse their imaginations and touch their hearts.



Counterintuitive Marketing Advice in

Business Book: “Top Salespeople Don’t Sell”

January 13, 2020

Don’t sell like typical salespeople. Work for a cause beyond yourself. Keep everything simple and consistent and don’t change often -- only when empirical evidence dictates you should.

Provide value -- differentiated value. But make sure it’s of value to your target customers. Otherwise, it’s meaningless. Be sure you sell something that people want.

These are a few of key takeaways from three business books I read recently: Mastering the Complex Sale by Jeff Thull, Running Lean by Ash Maurya, and Great by Choice by Jim Collins.

Key insights: solve buyers’ problems, simplify strategies

After reading these books I’ve come away with a few insights that I believe will be helpful for marketers. One is that selling is no longer about asking for the sale. It’s about helping solve buyers’ problems, giving solid advice to a person you care about. You should be invested in their success, truly interested in their well-being and not just yours.

A second insight: business strategies should be simple for your customer to understand. Anything that confuses them will reduce your chances of selling to them.

And the third idea is that value is only value if someone will buy it. So, it’s crucial to ensure you deliver that.

The rest of this write-up will dive deeper into some of the most compelling and useful quotes and recommendations in each of the books.

Sales – “do the opposite of what salespeople typically do”

It’s refreshing and intriguing how blunt Thull is in his book about Mastering the Complex Sale. “Stop selling in the conventional sense,” he writes. “Do the opposite of what salespeople typically do. Top salespeople don’t sell. The goal is not to close the sale but rather to maximize the buyer’s awareness of the value derived from your solution. Have an open, credible, and honest conversation.”

He takes this intriguing notion one step further by suggesting that instead of always being ready to close a sale, it’s better to “always be leaving.”

By this he implies that you should be ready to take the pressure off your potential buyer and have the mentality that you don’t need the sale, that you only want them to buy what will be of value to them. If they don’t want that or are hesitant, be ready to just stop the process and give the buyer space.

In Great By Choice, the authors builds on this idea: “Be passionate for a cause beyond yourself.” Selling is about giving. It’s not about aggressiveness; it’s about guidance, being trustworthy, providing useful advice.

Value

In this same book, the author offers useful recommendations for how to connect the value of your product or service to the target buyer’s problem.

“If there is no cost of the problem, there is no problem,” he writes. “If there is no difference among products, there is no value. Focus on high value. Clarify this for buyers.”

He urges businesspeople to figure out where their services are most needed and highly valued. “A value proposition is a description of value type you can bring to a specific set of customers.”

Building on this idea, in Running Lean the author warns about being sure the product or service you offer has value to someone else. “The big risk is building something nobody wants.”

“Be different but be sure differentiation matters”

He urges businesses to ask if they have a problem worth solving, whether customer wants it, will they pay for it, and can the problem be solved. And he notes that differentiation can’t be for its own sake. “Be different but be sure that differentiation matters. Start with a specific customer in mind. Have one ‘must have’ problem that your product or service solves.”

Success

In Great by Choice, the authors share several suggestions for achieving greatness. First, figure out what you do well and stick to it. “Do the same thing you do well and do it over and over,” they write. “Self-discipline is key. Keep discipline to adhere to your original recipe. Question your recipe but rarely change it.”

The author also writes “fire bullets, then cannonballs.” He means to invest in smaller amounts early on, such as testing a new product or service in a small market with minimal investments.

If the market takes off, then fire a cannonball. Translation: invest in a family of these new products or services and expand the marketing investment and group of target buyers. Start small, learn from that, and go in big if you learn from the bullets that a cannonball would boost your business more and faster.

Final thoughts

In Mastering the Complex Sale, the author offers this advice that summarizes well the notion that you should not be a salesperson in the traditional sense because buyers aren’t receptive to that.

He urges businesspeople to ask themselves this question when communicating with a potential customer: “If this buyer was my best friend, what would I advise?”

Collins, the author of “Great by Choice,” offered similarly inspiring words: “Resilience, not luck, is the signature of greatness.”

He believes companies become great not by being lucky but rather by taking advantage of luck better than inferior companies. They get lucky and make great use of that luck.

But ultimately, it’s not their luck but their consistency of purpose, ability to bounce back quickly from setbacks, and discipline to regain their momentum that sets them apart.



Uplifting News For Media Relations Pros – You're Not In a Dying Industry

January 10, 2020

For you media relations professionals out there worried you're part of a dying industry, that social media and blogging have taken over your world, and that reporters don't need you anymore, I have some good news to share.

Media relations skills remain in high demand. Reporters still need you and want to work with you. And social media and blogging have not replaced you.

These are a few of the uplifting key takeaways from Cision's 2018 Global State of the Media Report that interviewed reporters and editors from six countries, including the United States, about their perceptions of the media and communications industries.

Reporters are no longer obsessed with getting the story first

I found three of the most striking findings of relevance to media relations professions to be that reporters are no longer obsessed with getting and reporting the story first. This has long been one of their big preoccupations.

But with the growing distrust among the general public about what the media reports and what people say in the era of "fake news" accusations, reporters are more concerned with reporting stories accurately.

Their credibility exists under intense scrutiny. Consumers are gravitating more towards news sources they believe they can trust. Reporters know the survival of their careers and viability of their media outlets depends on people trusting what they report.

News Release: New Company, Carolina Content & Media Relations Corporation LLC, Launched to Help Companies Improve Communications Results, Press Coverage, and Business Opportunities

Blogs are not big story idea sources for reporters

The second "a ha" finding: Reporters are not big believers that blogs and websites provide good sources for news. With the rise in popularity and production of blogs, I had suspected reporters had been relying on reading blogs to find news leads and developing stories. Evidently not so much.

Reporters still, after all these years and warnings of the death and uselessness of news releases, trust news releases the most and want to continue to receive them from media relations professionals. I think reporters still trust and value releases because they know a corporate news release has been carefully reviewed by internal stakeholders.

They are aware a news release has a stamp of approval from many careful reviewers that the content is accurate and truthful about whatever story the release communicates.

Put another way, if a reporter gets information from a company that isn't in the form of a news release, such as a case study document or one-page summary report, they are less likely to trust it because they may suspect such a document has not been through the rigorous review process of a news release.

With these three takeaways in mind, I will dedicate the rest of this blog to sharing some of the most intriguing statistical findings from the survey.

More than three-fourths of respondents lost trust in media in past year

The reason why reporting accurately, as opposed to reporting first, has become so important for the media is this chilling statistic from the survey: 71 percent of respondents said people had lost trust in the media over the past year.

"Being first to publish, whether on social media or their outlet's website, is no longer the priority for most journalists," the survey finds. Ensuring that content is 100 percent accurate has always been important, but it's an even higher priority now.

Reporters don't use blogs much for news story ideas

Blogs are, to say the least, a hot growth industry. If you go to a company website, odds are they have a link to blogs or are planning to soon. The reason for this is, generally, that companies believe blogs helps them sell their products or services.

But even though there are more blogs, reporters are not going to them in big numbers for story leads. A remarkably low 3 percent of global survey respondents said a company blog is a trustworthy source of brand information for their stories. Reporters also don't rely much on corporate websites or even social media channels to generate coverage.

"Using owned channels, like a website or company blog, can provide some useful context and useful information, but it's not useful for reporting a story," the survey reveals. "Despite how much time journalists spend on social media, just three percent said they trust blog and social media channels."

Reporters want news releases and to work with PR people

When asked what they want from media relations contacts, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) said news announcements and news releases, "indicating that most reporters want to continue interacting with their PR professionals in the same way they been historically."

Nearly half (44 percent) said the news release remains their most trustworthy source of brand-related information. But only 30 percent trust a company spokespeople and one-fifth (20 percent) trust most a company's website.

"Journalists continue to love the press release," the report finds. "For three years in a row, media professionals have ranked press releases and news announcements as the most valuable type content they receive from their PR contacts. They've also once again chosen the press release as their most trusted brand source. This is nearly universal, with journalists from around the world citing press releases as their most trusted source of company information.

Reporters want original research on trends and market data

But reporters want more than just releases. Twenty-two percent reported that it's important for them to receive original research on trends and market data. And reporters want media relations pros to send them compelling news hooks – as usual.

"If there's one thing that PR professionals can do to help journalists do their jobs better, it's ensured that any press releases they do send out have a clearly stated news hook," the survey's report reveals. "That was something 45 percent of respondents said when asked how press releases can be more efficient. Also, write conversationally — 27 percent indicated that they dislike press releases that feel templated and include jargon. More quotes and multimedia elements would help, too."

Reporters want quick access to spokespeople

Journalists also are keen on getting media relations pros to help them connect with someone to speak with them directly rather than pointing them to the company's website. Content sent to journalists needs to be jargon-free, clearly explain how something works, and why it's relevant to journalists. In order, here is a list of what journalists want from media relations pros in order of priority:

  1. Press releases
  2. Original research reports
  3. Follow-up press releases
  4. Content marketing/advocacy releases
  5. Video clips/b-roll/livestream
  6. Blog posts

Final thoughts

So, media relations pros should be energized by these survey findings. The future continues to be bright for those who work hard and deliver to reporters what they need when they need it.

Despite all the hysteria and confusion about the "fake news" movement, take this to heart: Reporters say they still need media relations pros and that is not likely to change anytime soon – as long as these pros keep serving up compelling story ideas and are trustworthy.

"Journalism is dealing with several challenges these days, but the PR industry can help news outlets navigate these choppy waters. No matter what happens in the industry, eye-catching, fact-based storytelling is still paramount. The PR professionals who can help reporters and editors with their work — by providing accurate, information-rich press releases, and by giving journalists access to sources — will be the ones who will succeed the most.

Methodology

In February 2018, Cision's 2018 global State of the Media survey polled company 1,355 journalists from across six countries: The United States, Canada, UK, France, Germany and Sweden. The questions focused on their perceptions of the media and communications industries. This included responses from journalists from print, online, blog/freelance, broadcast, and social media outlets.