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.

How to create a content marketing strategy in five simple steps

Maintaining a steady stream of news and content is often priority number one for those of us working in communications roles. Most organisations have lots of content and most communications professionals have LOTS of ideas for more great content… but how do we make it work most effectively?

We could try to publish a new blog every day of the week to tell our story… but is that really possible with the resource we have? And is that much content really necessary?

Step 1 – Identify

What can we and do we want to talk about? Who are we talking to?

Think about the sector you’re operating in, which experts you have working in your organisation and what your customers’ interests are.

Step 2 – Decide

Make a judgement call on how much content you need/want and take stock of existing assets.

How many blog posts, social media posts, press releases and larger pieces of content (e.g. case studies, videos, whitepapers) do we want each week/month? How many do we already have and how many do we need to create?

Step 3 – Plan and review

Create a content calendar.

Content calendars prevent writers block, inspire and protect against content gaps. So long as you don’t over schedule, content calendars help maintain space for topical, ad hoc and breaking news stories.

Distribute the content you already have evenly across the year, ensure the right content is scheduled for the right time (relevance is key) and see where there are gaps. You can do this on an annual, monthly and/or even weekly basis, depending on the level of detail you want and your organisational needs.

Step 4 – Bolster and future-proof

Research national celebration days, holidays, announcement dates and so on to fill potential gaps ahead of time.

Today, for example, “National Lollipopper Day” is trending on Twitter with the rather lovely hashtag #Lollipoppers. If you work in the Education sector, this is an easy win as it lends itself so well to visual content (photos of happy kids with their ‘Lollipoppers’) and has a strong human interest angle.lollipoppers

There are loads of lists of national celebration days available online that will give you a great starting point then all it takes is a keen eye for relevance, a creative spin (so you’re not putting out the same content as everyone else) and plenty of forward-planning.

There are also lots of content calendar templates available online – or it’s very easy to build your own using Excel.

Step 5 – Review and improve

Finally, don’t forget to look back at your audience’s response to your content to see what really resonates and what doesn’t quite work.

Make measurement a priority. Collect data (automate where possible) and review regularly. Talk to and learn from industry peers. Be adaptable. Don’t be afraid of change.  And don’t forget to feed back to your contributors (saying “thank you” goes a long way).

Is taking a career break ever a good idea?

Am I brave enough to leave a good, stable job? How will it affect my career in the long term? Will future employers think I’m a flight risk?

These are all questions I agonised over before taking the plunge and embarking on a nine month career break earlier this year.

It was eight years into my career and things were going well. I had simply never taken any time out – having gone straight from school to Sixth Form to University to work – and I knew that if I didn’t do it soon, my dreams of travelling the world would never amount to more than that.

One thing that made the decision a huge amount easier was the guarantee of my husband’s pay and position to return to. A sabbatical is a wonderful thing if you can get one. Unfortunately that wasn’t an option for me but if it had been a case of leaving both jobs entirely and having no guaranteed way to pay our mortgage when we returned, I’m not sure we would have leaped quite so confidently.

But how have things been for me since we got back from our big adventure? Now that I am ready for a new professional challenge and stability, how have recruiters and potential employers reacted to the career break that will now forever feature on my CV?

I have to admit I’ve been pleasantly surprised. No-one has vocalised any concerns about it when we have been talking through my experience. Admittedly most people are very curious about what made me want to do it but the most common response is unbridled interest. “Where did you go? What was the best place you visited?” It’s an excellent conversation starter and I’m sure it makes you more memorable.

So my advice would be that if it’s something you’re considering but are too afraid of it harming your career to take the leap, think long and hard before dismissing your dreams. For me it turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made. I knew I didn’t want to live a ‘what if…’ life but I couldn’t have imagined how much strength, resourcefulness and pure joy the experience would bring me.

You never know, it might even open some very interesting new doors that you’d never noticed before.

How to turn non-news into social media gold

While the summer “Silly Season” (the slow news period when most people are on holiday) is notorious for gifting column inches to stories that wouldn’t normally warrant such attention, the 24/7 nature of social media sites means that small, silly stories have a whole new home.

The non-news story that caught my eye last week was about Iceland (the country) considering launching a lawsuit against Iceland (the supermarket) over its name. The key word in that sentence that makes it non-news is ‘considering’; Iceland (the country) hasn’t actually done anything yet.

“I can confirm that this is being looked into, but no decision has been made,” a spokesman for the ministry told the Press Association (source: theguardian.com)

This fact aside, Iceland (the supermarket) put its social media team to work, adding a healthy dose of hilarity to proceedings and grabbing quite a few more headlines at the same time:

iceland-tweets

They say there’s no such thing as a bad news story and while this lawsuit has the potential to do some real damage to the supermarket chain, its great to see they are capitalising on the media interest in such a humorous way to keep their name front of mind with shoppers – while they still have it – and boost engagement on their social media channels.