Resisting the urge to create content

An email from PR Week landed in my inbox over the weekend that really made me stop and take notice.

This is the quote that caught my eye. It’s from Lisa Jedan, Global Head of Brand PR at Bacardi-Martini:

When marketers say: ‘We need some content’ – you can just replace the word ‘content’ with ‘shit’ if people don’t know what they’re going to say.

Anyone who has ‘content creation’ as part of their job description is bound to have felt the pressure of filling a pipeline with great articles, videos, blogs and news to satisfy a hungry and demanding audience. But sometimes resisting the urge to churn out another piece of ‘content’ is the very best thing you can do.

Creating content for content’s sake, without having a clear idea of your message, aims and call to action will typically leave both you and your audience feeling uninspired, unenthusiastic and pretty darn disappointed. Putting out something mediocre or off-message can certainly do more damage than going quiet for a few hours.

I recently attended a fantastic CPD course about business storytelling which had this message (echoed by Lisa Jedan in PR Week) at its very heart:

“We need to find passion points for our audience.”

Taking the time to understand your audience then creating specific pieces of content designed to connect on an emotional level will ensure your work is actually adding value to someone’s day, and is not just created to put another tick in a ‘to do’ box.

So next time you feel the pressure to post “something” on social media to fill a gap, try taking a breath and really thinking about what you want to say before you start. If you don’t have anything specific to share, perhaps it’s better not to post at all. An alien concept for some, I’m sure.

Why you should include video in your next marketing plan

Video is no longer an “up-and-coming” marketing tactic — it’s here, and it’s a powerful way to communicate.

To start, here are three Insivia statistics that suggest why you should consider using video in your marketing campaigns:

  1. 1/3 of all online activity is spent watching video
  2. 92% of mobile video consumers share videos with others
  3. 87% of online marketers use video content

Live video

If you don’t want to invest in professionally filmed and edited videos, have you thought about trying live video to see if that works for your brand?

The key to the success of live streaming is its accessibility and unpredictability. It’s not staged or an advert; it’s a genuine experience. The things you see are actually happening, creating a transparent representation – QS Digital Solutions

While there are live streaming video services available from Twitter (Periscope) and YouTube, Facebook – with its 1.86billion active users – would be the place I’d start. You’ll get instant feedback on whether people like what you’re doing through likes, shares and comments.facebook-live-video

If you’re worried about your video looking less ‘authentic’ and more ‘amateur’, for around a £100 investment you can buy some basic tools such as a clip on mic and small tripod to improve the sound and picture quality, without compromising the authenticity of the film.

360-degree video

For something completely different, you could consider 360-degree video.

Incorporating 360-degree technology further immerses users in your world, creating a new layer of connectedness or giving them an ‘on the ground’ view that they might have been missing previously.

Ted Baker recently invested in a new 360-degree ‘shoppable film’ to increase shopper engagement and drive online purchases:

 

Ted Baker 360 video

A still from Ted Baker’s 360-degree ‘shoppable film’

 

Google suggests that 360-degree video typically results in a higher click through rate, as well as a greater amount of engagement in the form of social shares. 360 video can have a 3x times higher average watch time, too, (source: iProspect) and while this is all very persuasive, it is worth bearing in mind that virtual reality development can add approximately 40% of additional costs to video production.

So, will you be including video in your next marketing plan?

 

Video: The value of PR as part of your comms strategy

I was recently asked to talk to a group of school marketing and admissions colleagues about why PR should form part of their communications strategies.

Here are a couple of short clips on the value of PR as part of a wider strategy and how to identify a potential story. Enjoy!

Why should you do PR? from Rebecca Hills on Vimeo.

Three elements of a good PR story from Rebecca Hills on Vimeo.

The art of great content

I’m always on the lookout for great webinars and courses to continue my professional development so I was delighted when I spotted a tweet from Socialbakers about a free lunchtime webinar on The art of great content.Jonah book

Based primarily on concepts from the book Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger, here are my key takeaways for creating truly great social content:

1. Social currency

“You are what you share”. Focus on producing content that makes people look good when they share it.

Good examples of this are:

  • Behind the scenes photos and info – make followers feel like insiders
  • Put your fans in the spotlight – crowdsource content from your community. Engage with the user before you repost it to find out the story behind the image or video so that you can share that too and get even more engagement. This is a good example from GoPro who post a fan photo every day:

GoPRo2

2. Trigger

Celebrate events that are happening right now (you can use a content calendar to look ahead and plan your activity) but be part of it, rather than trying to make it all about you.

There are some great examples of brands doing just this at events like the Golden Globe Awards (L’Oréal) and World Cup (Orange).

Focus on your brand values not your brand products. Invite people to join the conversation with you.

3. Emotion

When we care, we share.

“Emotion is one factor that drives sharing. We see lots of funny stuff go viral on YouTube, but we also see angry political rants get shared,” Berger says. “Any emotion that fires us up–humor, awe and excitement, but also anger and anxiety–drives us to share.” – Jonah Berger

4. Public

Recognise the power of social influencers to spread your message.

How do you find those influencers?

  • Use social listening tools to monitor for keywords relevant to your brand or campaign
  • Identify the most active and the most engaging content creators for those keywords
  • Ensure their style and their values align with yours

social influencer

5. Practical value

Think about how you can be valuable to your fans. Package knowledge and expertise in your content so people can easily pass it along.

A good example is a supermarket (e.g. Lidl) sharing video recipes with its fans:

Lidl

6. Story

I’m a big believer in the value of storytelling in marketing communications. If you don’t believe me, check out this blog post on Storytelling: corporate buzzword or clever business?

When creating story-based content for social media, the key is to embed your brand into the plot so people cannot tell your story without mentioning your brand.

A good example of this comes from Adidas who told the story of the World Cup in Brazil from the ball’s perspective:

Brazuca 1Brazuca 2

 

 

Storytelling: corporate buzzword or clever business?

‘Today, one of the biggest corporate buzzwords is ‘storytelling’.’ – Snow

Strange, I thought. Do the two really go together? Surely storytelling and business inhabit two separate parts of our lives: one belongs at home, the other in the office…

But if you take a step back and consider that the people making big business decisions are the same that revel in stories at dinner parties, read fairytales to their children and devour the latest bestsellers on the beach, it makes sense that they’d enjoy an element of storytelling in their professional lives, too.

‘A social worker once said: There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.’ – Andrew Stanton, film director and screenwriter, Pixar Animation Studios

Even the ‘dullest’ business exists to solve a problem. If you can start with the story of how the product or service was born, who it has helped and the difference it has made, it will be much easier to convince a customer of its value than simply listing its features or benefits.

As an example, try re-writing the About Us page on your company’s website page using the  storytelling template below from Pixar. You don’t have to follow the format exactly. You could substitute “Once upon a time…” for “In 1999…”, for example, or “After the banking crisis of 2008…”.

pixarpixar-story-template

By thinking about how to evolve your marketing copy from sales fodder into stories, your writing will stand out from the crowd and you will start to engage with your customers on a deeper, more personal level. After all,

‘Those who tell stories rule society.’ – Plato

A huge thank you to the Berkeley Storytelling Academy for inspiring this blog and sourcing the quotes. I was fortunate to win a place on the Business Storytelling Programme by entering a Twitter competition. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to take their copywriting to the next level, improve their presentation skills or log some CPD hours in a fun and fulfilling way.

 

 

Heinz turns #BlueMonday bright red

I’ve written before about how celebration days, awareness days and national holidays can be used to build a Content Calendar that will help you plan your communications activity for the year ahead. They’re a great tool for identifying opportunities for a PR stunt, a bit of thought leadership or a timely social media campaign.

I spotted a great example of this being put into action by a big brand today when the team at Heinz delivered an effective PR stunt on what has become known as “Blue Monday”.

According to mathematicians, a combination of grey skies and failed New Year’s resolutions means Monday 16th January is officially #BlueMonday – the most depressing day of the year (source: Cheapflights.com)

The stunt was simple:

  1. Place cans of Heinz’s famous tomato soup in bright red, ‘In case of emergency – break glass’ boxes in highly photographic locations around London
  2. Send strong images – like the one featured by Secret London below – to the media with a compelling caption or two
  3. Encourage the spread of user-generated #BlueMonday content across social media
  4. Revel in the thanks of grateful soup eaters (and maybe a picture desk editor or two)

heinz-blue-monday

It’s a good case study for seizing an opportunity that provides a strong platform to communication your brand message. In this case, Heinz was keen for its tomato soup to be associated with warmth and comfort – everything that Blue Monday is not – so they presented their product as the solution to the most depressing day of the year.

Time for a nice warming bowl of soup, I think…

Top picks for 2017: Podcasts

Always looking for entertainment for my commute into London, I have recently expanded my library of podcasts.

For anyone who wants to try something new in 2017, is keen to make the most of their commute and learn simply by listening, I’d highly recommend you give these a go…

1. Answer Me This

My first (and probably still favourite) podcast is Answer Me This, a fun and informative podcast by friends Helen and Olly who answer a wide and sometimes weird selection of listeners’ questions. My husband got me into this one after I kept asking what was making him laugh so much and I’m grateful that he did.

From “Why do politicians refer to each other as ‘My Learned Friend’?” to “How do they make McDonalds fries all the same size?”, not a single episode has failed to keep me entertained, even on the longest of road trips.

amt

2. The Modern Mann

Next up is The Modern Mann (also by Olly from Answer Me This), a magazine-style show with regular features called The Zeitgeist (a round-up of current trends) and The Fox Hole (a sex questions feature). The middle feature – an interview with a different, very interesting person each time – tends to be my favourite. From ‘The Gentleman Bankrobber’ to a former British ISIS recruit, each one is unique and enlightening.

The Modern Mann is fast-paced, light and my go-to podcast when I’m commuting or out for a lunchtime walk.

3. Serial

Keen to try something new, I started listening to Serial while I was painting my house and needed something more engaging than background radio tunes. Hailed as the ‘number one podcast’ at the time, I had high hopes and I wasn’t disappointed by season one.

This podcast delves into criminal investigations, with the first season examining the case of an American man who had been convicted of murdering his girlfriend in 1999, even though there was no physical evidence tying him to the crime. One episode had me convinced that he was innocent and the next had me questioning everything I had previously heard. Addictive? Absolutely. I can’t count the number of times I’ve already recommended this as essential listening to friends and family.

Season two hasn’t quite been my cup of tea as they switched to a new case and a military investigation but I’m hoping there will be a season three soon and that it’ll be more like the first one that I so enjoyed.

4. Freakonomics

Recommended to me by a friend and included in an online list of podcasts to try, this is my most recent find. Discussing socionomic issues from tweeting and eating to the 10,000 hours rule for becoming an expert at anything, the content is varied and they don’t dumb things down, which I love.

Admittedly, I’ve only listened to two episodes so far but what I’ve heard I’ve liked and I’ll definitely be downloading a few more.