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Aug

11

2017

How to Write a Press Release [Free 2017 Press Release Template + Example]

Published by in category Daily, Popular, public relations | Comments are closed

When it comes to content, sometimes old school can be a good thing (namely, when it comes to old school rap or Throwback Thursday on Instagram). But when it comes to your company’s public relations strategy, being old school isn’t advantageous for your business or your brand. 

Ten years ago, people still relied on morning papers for news. Today, the vast majority of your company’s customers and prospects scan headlines on Twitter or see what’s trending in their Facebook feed.Download our free press release template here to learn how to write a  top-notch press release. 

People now have control over where, when, and how they consume information. As a result, public relations is no longer about feeding into a traditional news cycle; it’s about providing relevant content when, where, and how your prospects, influencers, and customers will consume it.

Sounds pretty hopeless, right? Wrong. While relationship-building still helps you get into popular publications, we now have the opportunity to quit playing the waiting game and generate our own buzz. By turning your PR strategy into an inbound one, you create opportunities that weren’t there before and carve out a place for your company, building meaningful mindshare with your target audiences in the process.

One of the most crucial updates to make to your PR strategy is to think of press releases as an opportunity to connect to the audiences you care about — including, but not limited to, reporters. 

What is a Press Release / News Release?

A press release is an official announcement (written or recorded) that an organization issues to the news media and beyond. Whether we call it a “press release,” a “press statement,” a “news release,” or a “media release,” we’re always talking about the same basic thing.

Most press releases are succinct at just a page long. Two pages tops. Ultimately, companies want to provide enough information so that news outlets have sufficient material for publishing their own stories about whatever the company is announcing in the release.

And while it may be tempting to craft a press release that embellishes your company’s accomplishments or twists the facts to make a story sound more intriguing to the media, remember: Press releases live in the public domain, which means your customers and prospective customers can see them. So instead of thinking of a press release solely as a ticket to earning news coverage, you should also think of it as a valuable piece of marketing content.

How to Write a Press Release [With Example]

You’ve got your announcement in mind, and now it’s time to get it down in words to share with your community, industry, and followers.

Take Catbrella Inc., a fictitious ad agency, which just gained its 10th Twitter follower after two years of paid social media efforts. To announce its achievement, Catbrella could issue a press release like the one we’ve dissected below.*

Sample Press Release Format:

*Disclaimer: HubSpot is entirely responsible for the silliness of this faux announcement. 

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Rule 1: Make Your Headline Irresistible 

Just like writing the perfect blog post title, setting up your press release for success starts with your headline. You only have one line to work with, which can seem scary, but consider diction carefully to make your headline captivating.

Use action verbs, clear, understandable language, and keep your headline simple and short — fortune (and search engines) reward the brief, so keep your title to one line to clearly focus people’s attention on your topline message. 

Most importantly, make it interesting: Keep in mind that reporters get dozens, if not hundreds, of releases each day, so invest the time to write a compelling headline. It’s worth the time and effort on your part. 

Rule 2: Don’t Play Hard to Get

For reporters, analysts, influencers, or followers to be inclined to share your announcement, you have to tell them upfront why they should care.

The first paragraph of your release should cover the who, what, why, where, and how of your new launch, update, or development. Reporters don’t have a ton of time to sift through details and fluffy background information — they just need the facts that’ll help them tell your story to someone else from a position of authority. 

There shouldn’t be any new, crucial information covered after this section that the reader could potentially miss. 

Rule 3: Offer a Tempting Quotable 

Once you’ve set the scene, it’s time to bring your details to life with a quote that reporters can use for context around your announcement and help paint a picture of how your news affects the given industry, customer base, and landscape.

Ideally, quotes will be from key stakeholders in your company including your executive team, project leads, or those directly impacted by your announcement. Quoting key figures and authorities underlines the importance of your development. The chosen quote should shape your narrative and emphasize the core of the announcement. Don’t ask everyone in your office for a comment or feel compelled to quote all 25 people included in the acquisition — pick one or two critical spokespeople and focus the quotes around their unique perspective. 

Rule 4: Provide Valuable Background Information

In this last paragraph, keep in mind that the reader already has all of the vital details and information they need to file a story or spread the word.

It can be tempting to provide superfluous facts and tidbits about your company or the development of your announcement — we sometimes think a piece of writing is lacking if it isn’t drawn-out and just shy of being a novella. However, a press release needs to be helpful and concise.

Offer details here that strengthen your narrative, like creative or noteworthy ways your company developed the project or announcement at hand. Or, when applicable, comment on future implications of your announcement. 

Rule 5: Make the “Who” and “What” Obvious 

Twitter is chock-full of reporters lamenting press releases or pitches that don’t clearly explain what the company does or what the announcement is actually about, so instead of being the butt of a joke, make your release incredibly easy to reference. 

Describe what your company does in clear, plain English, include a link to your company’s homepage early on, and make your boilerplate succinct and straightforward. If you cite data, include a reference link for the data source, and make sure every name in the release has an associated title and company as well.

To keep yourself honest on this front, ask a friend or colleague to read the release without context and ask if they can easily and readily explain why the announcement matters, what your company does, and why the executives included are quoted. If the answer to any of those questions is no, get back to the drawing board. 

The key to keeping your PR strategy new school is forgetting preconceived notions of what public relations is and instead focusing on creating highly remarkable content. Traditional press releases can still be really valuable when executed well, so instead of ditching releases as a tactic, give them a modern makeover to make them more useful for your marketing. 

Think about how you’ve used inbound methods to transform your marketing strategies to be more personalized, approachable, and build relationships. Those same principles apply to your PR strategy: Create content to craft your own story and use tactful outreach to get reporters and analysts familiar with your brand.

When Should I Distribute a Press Release?

While there’s no cut-and-dried formula for when a press release should be written (and distributed), here’s a few reasons when it’s a good idea:

  • New product launches
  • Updates to existing products
  • Opening a new office
  • Introducing a new partnership
  • Rebranding
  • Promoting/hiring a new executive
  • Receiving an award

A regular cadence of (meaningful) news can help a company stand out and build mindshare with journalists over time, so that’s where the press release (or news announcement) comes in. 

Press Releases Can Be a Viable Content Type

Many people think press releases have to be chock full of buzzwords and branded terms. Big data anyone? Five syllable words you have to look up on Thesaurus.com? Quotes from every executive on the planet that go on for pages? We’ve seen it all. Unfortunately, so have reporters — and they are not fans. 

So instead of stuffing your next release with jargon, take a page out of our book (okay, fine, ebook), The Newsworthy Guide to Inbound Public Relations, and brainstorm some creative approaches for your next announcement. Can you include new data? A remarkable graphic or video? A shareable SlideShare? If so, a creative angle will often help carry your content and increase the likelihood of social sharing. 

Even so, a press release can still be a really valuable medium for communicating news to your audiences. You just have to make it readable, relevant, and relatable.

We have crafted this comprehensive, easy-to-follow press release template complete with a promotional plan and considerations for your next announcement. We use these same guidelines when writing and formatting our releases here at HubSpot, and created a faux, sample release to illustrate what content goes where and why.

Tips for Publishing Press Releases

Writing a press release is really only half the battle. Once you’re finished with production, it’ll be time to focus on distribution.

Of course, we’re all familiar with the traditional distribution levers we can pull, which include publishing the press release on our website/blog, as well as sharing the press release with our followers/subscribers via social media and email. But for ensuring a press release gets the maximum amount of distribution possible, here are some tips you can follow.

1) Reach out to specific journalists.

Instead of blasting a press release out to every journalist you can find an email address for, focus on a few journalists who have experience covering your industry (and company, hopefully) and send them personalized messages. Connect the dots. Show why what you wrote connects to what they write.

2) Don’t be afraid to go offline.

Most journalists have mountains of emails (and press releases) to sort through. Try sending your release through snail mail or another offline channel to differentiate yourself.

3) Send the release to top journalists the day before.

Give journalists some time to craft a story around your press release by sending it to them — under embargo — the day before it officially goes live. (FYI “under embargo” just means they aren’t allowed to share the information in the press release until the time you specify.)

4) To avoid competition, don’t publish your release on the hour.

If you’re publishing your press release on a distribution service like PR Newswire or Business Wire, avoid publishing it on the hour (e.g., 1 p.m., or 3 p.m., or 5 p.m.). The reason? Most companies schedule their releases to go out on the hour, which means if your release goes out on the hour too, it’s more likely to get lost in the shuffle. Instead, try going with a more distinct time (e.g., 1:12 p.m., or 3:18 p.m., or 5:22 p.m.).

5) Share your media coverage.

If all goes according to plan, and your press release gets picked up by the media, your job still isn’t finished. To keep the buzz going, you can release a “second wave” of distribution by sharing the specific stories that news outlets write based on your press release.

What other best practices do you follow when writing press releases? Share your thoughts with us below, and don’t forget to download our free press release template here.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

hubspot blogging assessment

 
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Jun

10

2016

A Simple Guide to Navigating Trending Content

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The cultural landscape of the modern world is constantly changing. Internet celebrities are created in as little as six seconds. Viral videos can be viewed in every continent across the world in a matter of hours. There’s a lot going on.

As a result, there are also a lot of opportunities for brands to join the conversation — that is, if they can keep up. With things moving at such a fast pace, trends can disappear before we even have time to craft a meaningful message in response to them.

But what technology takes away in terms of time to prepare, it makes up for in ways to monitor and follow these (sometimes global) conversations. In fact, there are a ton of awesome tools and tricks of the trade out there that are designed to help brands make the most out of popular content and trends.

That’s why we put together the following guide on trending content: to help all of you figure out a plan for not only discovering and planning for trends and events, but also finding ways to connect your brand’s story to them in an interesting and relevant way.

A Simple Guide to Navigating Trending Content

Discovering Trending Content

1) BuzzSumo

Price: Free version available. Paid packages are broken down into three categories: Pro ($99/month), Agency ($299/month), and Enterprise ($999/month).

With the help of BuzzSumo’s “Most Shared” function, users can easily identify what content has worked well in the past. What’s more, the “Trending Now” function can display the most popular content being read across the internet within the last two hours.

The “Most Shared” function is perfect for mining ideas for your next content campaign, while the “Trending Now” function is ideal for tapping into articles and conversations that people have responded to in real time.

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2) Content Explorer by Ahrefs

Price: Free trial available. Paid packages are broken down into three categories: Lite ($99/month), Standard ($179/month), and Advanced ($399/month).

This is another great tool for finding the best performing content in a desired niche. Simply input your keyword — for example, let’s use “content marketing” — and filter down the timeframe you’d like to see results from. That’s it.

The tool simply lists the top pieces of content from the past month based on social shares. (Zazzle Media’s very own Simon Penson is actually featured in the number three spot … so it’s obviously a smart tool.)

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3) Google Trends

Price: Free.

Google Trends is a great resource for surfacing some of the biggest daily headlines, as well as stories on the rise.

It’s easy to use and, as a Google tool, is informed by more data than you can shake a stick at.

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Analysing a portion of Google searches, it examines the number of searches carried out for certain terms, against the total searches done on Google over the same time.

It then ranks the most popular stories trending in order of popularity. From there, simply click on the story to find more information on why it’s trending and where.

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4) EpicBeat

Price: Free version available. Paid packages are broken down into two categories: EpicBeat Plus ($39/month // $268/year) and EpicSuite ($249/month).

EpicBeat is a helpful tool designed to simplify trending content research. You can search for content by topic or website, or explore curated topics.

With each search, you’ll gain access to social sharing counts, as well as some insights behind these shares — for example, EpicBeat provides a list of people that have shared a specific piece of content in the last seven days. This information can be used to inform the audience you should be focusing on, while also providing a selection of influencers for you to seed your finished content out to.

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5) Reddit

Price: Free.

Commonly referred to as “the front page of the internet,” Reddit should be one of the first destinations you visit to find out exactly what people are buzzing out during the day.

From news and videos, to funny stories and conspiracy theories, the content on Reddit often reflects the things that people across the world are finding interesting … in real time.

To uncover some potentially undiscovered viral content, check out the “rising” tab. This will help you jump on trends early, so you can beat all your competitors to the chase.

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Creating a Calendar of Upcoming Events

Some events are always going to be massive. From the Oscars to the Olympics, the calendar is filled with world-famous events that will be latched onto by brands.

That’s why it’s so important to create a definitive calendar of upcoming events. With a calendar in place, you’ll be more prepared to create marketing campaigns in response to the events that align with your brand and your audience’s interests.

Twitters U.K.’s #OwnTheMoment Planner is a great starting point for this. The planner provides a calendar that comes fully equipped with cultural events to keep an eye on. (Think: Father’s Day, Summer Solstice, and Wimbledon.) The goal is to give you a sneak peak into the moments that Twitter believes will get people talking over social media.

(Note: Because this tool was created by folks from Twitter’s U.K. and Ireland team, many of the events are specific to that region.)

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Of course, this really is just a starting point, putting together an events calendar personalised with key events relevant to your industry and audience is the best way to get the most out of this exercise.

Working Popular Trends and Events Into Your PR Strategy

Now that we have our tools and a well-stocked calendar of events, it’s time to find out how these can help us with our PR campaigns.

Let’s walk through some of the most important things to consider when executing a trend-driven PR campaign.

General Opportunity

You’ve identified a trend that you may be able to leverage. That’s great. But before you shoot off to pitch the idea to your team or client, there are two questions to ask to ensure that you’re making the right move:

Is this trend worthwhile?

Have people just started talking about this? Or is the trend coming to the end of its shelf life? Using Google Trends, we can see exactly when the trend started, as well as the peak period of popularity for the story. Ideally we’re looking for a recurring trend that people are going to be actively searching for over and over.

Is there demand for content surrounding this trend?

Is there room for a new piece of content to add something to the story? Or has the market become saturated about the trend? Using Content Explorer, we can find the best performing pieces of content for this trend, as well as the sheer amount of content concerning the topic.

If there is opportunity to build on content for this trend, it’s time to see how we can create something better than everything else out there.

Inspiration and Direction

Researching successful campaigns from past years is always a great place to start when brainstorming new content ideas. There is no point in recreating something done in the past, however, building on an idea to make it stronger is definitely a way forward.

This is where BuzzSumo comes into its own. Simply find the best performing pieces of content created for the same (or similar) trend in the past, and use this as a platform to develop bigger and better ideas.

So now that we have our idea for a perfect piece of trending content, it’s time to find out who will be interested in sharing it.

Placement and Distribution Ideas

Another three questions for you to think about when planning to distribute your content:

  • Which outlets have written about this before?
  • Are there any specific journalists that typically cover events like this?
  • Is there anything we can give these outlets and journalists to ensure they get involved with our campaign?

To start answering these questions, look at the authorship of previous articles relating to the trend you’re working on and reach out to see if they’re still interested in this topic. Epicbeat’s influencer finder is also a great tool for identifying the key players interested in a particular trend or topic.

If the pitch is concerning a forthcoming event, remember to give them plenty of time before the date. This will make it easier for them to think about what they might need, and give you enough time to get this information to them.

As with any discussion of this type, referencing and taking an interest in an article a journalist has written before is the best way to show how invested you are in working with them. This could be the difference between a feature article online and being left on the cutting room floor.

Need Inspiration? Check Out These Examples

AO Christmas Dinner Project

The holiday season provides marketers with a great opportunity to hop on a popular trend and ride the wave. This guide to Christmas dinner from AO is a great example of how a brand can tap into a trending conversation, while providing people with unique value.

  • The Idea: To create a definitive interactive guide for preparing Christmas dinner.
  • The Goal: To increase brand awareness for AO.com and drive traffic to the guide.
  • The Result: Multiple pieces of coverage gained on both DailyMail.com and The Huffington Post, as well as an additional 20+ links to the portal and its contents.

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American Greeting’s #WorldsToughestJob

This Mother’s Day-themed campaign from American Greetings is another great example of how to leverage a trending holiday to create a really compelling piece of content.

  • The Idea: To create an emotional piece of content that reminds viewers just how hard it is to be a mom.
  • The Goal: To encourage viewers to show their moms some appreciation by creating a Mother’s Day card with American Greeting’s Cardstore.
  • The Result: Coverage on top sites such as Forbes, Adweek, and more.

Have I missed anything? Do you have any other tips for tracking down trending content? Let me know in the comments below.

free press release template

May

10

2016

7 Ways to Get More Value From Your PR Campaigns

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You’ve worked your socks off to get as much press coverage as possible. You’ve created blog posts, been included in news articles, and even made an appearance in a few features. A successful campaign is something to be proud of, so sit back for a minute and admire the fruits of your labour.

Done? Now it’s back to business.

Squeezing every bit of value out of a PR campaign is something very few of us actually do. It’s very easy to call a close on proceedings once the press grab hold of your campaign, but there are a still a few things you can do to turn your PR campaign from 90% to 100% effective.

Check out these seven helpful tips for becoming the ultimate PR completionist below.

7 Ways to Get More Value From Your PR Campaigns

1) Add extra SEO value to organic coverage.

If all goes to plan once you’ve sold your press release into the media, your story will gain traction — and consequently get picked up by more and more media outlets. Some of this you’ll be expecting, some you won’t. This is a happy side effect of a successful PR campaign. And to ensure you don’t miss any of this coverage, we suggest checking out Fresh Web Explorer and Google News.

Fresh Web Explorer is a tool created by Moz that lists any recent pages that feature a keyword you input into the search bar. Whilst it doesn’t track every mention, it’s a good barometer for how successful your initial campaign has been.

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It works best using a variety of keywords. The above graph displays the mentions for the keywords “Money Advice Service” and “moneyadviceservice.org.uk.” As you’ll notice, we can clearly see the date where the press release was sent. Following on from that, we can see a smattering of other mentions, which could be from publications a bit late on the up take.

Once you’ve looked at Fresh Web Explorer, look for any further authoritative mentions using Google News. This function shows articles featuring a keyword from a selected time scale from outlets judged to be “newsworthy.”

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Once you’ve sifted through and found coverage relating to your campaign, it’s time to see if you can help optimise this for SEO by getting any missing links added in.

Of course, some publications will have a no link policy, however the vast majority will, and all that’s necessary to get one added in is an email asking nicely — something like this …

***

“Good morning,

I hope you’re well. I’ve just finished reading one of your articles entitled [insert title here] — an interesting and enjoyable read!

I’ve noticed during the article you mentioned [insert campaign or company name here]. I was wondering if you could add a link to [insert link here]. Hopefully this will give your readers additional information if they wish to research them further.

Let me know if you can help!

Kind regards,

Alex Jones”

***

The trick is to make the link sound beneficial to their readers, if you don’t get that across, there’s little chance that a journalist will take the time to go back and add one in.

2) Ask the media outlet for a social share.

There’s never any harm in asking your contact for a quick post via social media to accompany an article surrounding your campaign. Unsurprisingly, top publications will have an impressive social media following — a sizeable percentage of which may not head to their main website for weeks at a time, and would miss an article just placed online with no social media support.

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The best time to do this is straight after the article is live. That’s when a quick request to your contact to ask their social media manager for a share could make all the difference to the viral ambitions of your campaign.

3) Share a PR success story through your company blog.

A big publication running a story about your campaign is a major boost to your credentials. Why not show it off? PR is not just about brand awareness. It’s also about proving to your existing customers that you are a premier company and a trusted source of information.

If you have a blog where you typically share company news, write up a quick article to highlight the accomplishment. For example, after motoring magazine Auto Express picked up a survey ran by one of Zazzle Media‘s clients — Jennings Motor Group — they decided to share this success to their users in the form of a blog post online.

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Not only does this give you a boost in the eyes of your existing customers, but for potential customers browsing the website, this creates a link between an editorial authority and your company. That can only be a good thing.

4) Turn national recognition into local coverage.

Local publications love installing pride into their communities. So when a business based in their area comes to national attention, it’s an opportunity to do just that.

All we have to do in PR is make the local journalists aware of the story, and make sure that local angle is emphasised. It’s a technique well utilised by some already, as the headlines below prove.

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5) Experiment with Facebook Ads.

Let’s face it: The Facebook Ads platform has become a vital addition to any marketer’s arsenal, which includes people working in PR. Putting a social advertising budget behind a new campaign is a well-covered area already, so I want to talk to you about using this platform in a slightly different way …

We’ve already talked about the benefits of sharing a great piece of coverage from your company blog, and Facebook Ads serve as a great way of building on that strategy. The simplest way of doing this is using the “boost” function on a regular Facebook update. There are three audience types you can target: people who Like your page, people who Like your page and their friends, and people you choose through targeting.

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Boosting to “people who Like your page” is a great way to reinforce your authority to your existing audience. Likewise, boosting to “people who Like your page and their friends” gives you a chance to reinforce your authority and build your audience through existing channels.

The third option, however, allows you to try something different. By selecting a new audience to target, based on a selection of criteria, you have the chance to introduce your brand to a new audience by showing them a great piece of PR.

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The idea behind this strategy is that a post including an article where a national publication talks kindly about your brand installs a sense of authority and creates a great first impression. And when you’re looking to introduce a new person to your brand, who doesn’t want to make a good first impression?

6) Explore Reddit and other related forums.

Internet forums can sometimes feel a bit outdated. However, there is still a lot of value to be gleaned from using these effectively — especially when it comes to Reddit.

Also known as the “front page of the internet,” Reddit is home to a variety of “subreddits” for almost every subject you can think of — from marketing to knitting

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If you find a thread that aligns with your campaign, you can craft a post to draw more attention to your content. However, it’s important your post isn’t seen as too much of a plug or an advert, otherwise moderators will take it down. It’s also important that you choose the right thread to post in. Uninteresting or irrelevant posts will be “voted down” by users and could generate negative feelings towards your brand.

Get your audience right, however, and the rewards are potentially massive: Reddit saw over 200 million unique visitors last month (April 2015). Well worth a quick post, right?

7) Leverage PPC.

We’ve touched on how your social media team can help boost your campaign using Facebook Ads, now let’s talk about how the online advertising and PPC guys can join in.

From split testing titles of campaigns to focusing on raising brand awareness rather than driving sales, there are many interesting PPC strategies to be explored. For the sake of this example, we’ll be focusing on raising further brand awareness for an ongoing campaign. And because our goals are not primarily sales driven, we can target non-commercial terms that are (for the most part) a lot cheaper — even though they still have substantial search volume attributed to them.

When planning this type of strategy, you should lean on a keyword research tool such as Google AdWords to get started. Using this tool, you can uncover variations of a specific word or phrase to target, the average monthly search volume, and the suggested bid price. For this example, we’ve used they key term “Mortgage Calculator” relating to a campaign we ran with the Money Advice Service.

PPC_Screen.pngOnce you’ve selected your keywords, it’s time to set a budget. As an example, I’ve set a relatively small budget of £50 (around $72) a day, which gives us the following daily forecast …

PPC_Forecast.pngBecause the average cost-per-click on our selected keywords is so low — £0.29 or 42 cents — our estimated daily costs come in a lot lower than our daily budget accommodates for. This means we can proceed to target further keywords and remain within our budget … or save the remainder for a later date.

Of course, how much you utilise PPC when working alongside PR depends on the budget available. For those with the means to do so, PPC can help you get your campaign in front of a highly targeted audience.

Have you got any more tips that can help optimise your PR efforts? Let me know in the comments below!

free press release template

Mar

14

2016

Is All Press Good Press? How PR Wins & Fails Impact SEO [Flipbook]

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In business, getting ahead often hinges on our ability to get noticed. We need people to pay attention to our brand if we want them to listen, complete an action, change a behavior, and so on.

Trouble is, there are two types of attention: good and bad. And the brands below know a thing or two about both. Remember the dress that broke the internet? What about the time REI boycotted Black Friday for its #OptOutside campaign? And we’ll certainly never forget the moment when Steve Harvey accidentally announced the wrong Miss Universe winner, right? 

But what happened to these brands after the fact? The folks at Fractl and Moz teamed up to explore the impact that these stunts — both planned and accidental — had on seven different companies that made big news in the past year. Armed with a handful of tools, they dug into the data to determine exactly how media coverage affects press mentions, organic traffic, and backlinks.

So is it true that all press is good press? Check out their findings by scrolling through the flipbook below.

free press release template

Dec

31

2015

How to Earn Free Press for Your Business When You Have No Connections

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“Is that guy wearing leggings?”

“We should start a business selling male leggings.”

That’s all it took. One week later my business partners and I stood freezing in London’s Brick Lane Market with 22 pairs of female leggings “branded” with our male leggings brand.

But after eight hours in the cold, we saw zero sales. 

Fast forward two years, and sTitch Leggings was being prominently featured on the Daily Mail — an article from which we’re still converting traffic.

So how do you build press for a startup when you have no connections? 

I’ll walk you through some tips and examples below to help you learn how to get started and earn some recognition for your product or service. 

How To Get Free Press For Your Startup When You Have No Connections

1) Be remarkable.

We’ve all heard people use the word “remarkable” before, but what does it really mean? According to Merriam-Webster, being remarkable means being “unusual or surprising” or “likely to be noticed.”

In modern day society, male leggings are remarkable.

The man who sold his life on eBay is remarkable:

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The Ryanair CEO announcing that they will introduce standing seats to charge for toilets is remarkable:

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“But what if my startup is inherently unremarkable?”

Great question. And a question that we were forced to ask ourselves in preparation for the upcoming launch of a startup that we are working on.

While preparing for the launch of Virtual Valley, software that connects entrepreneurs with virtual team members such as assistants, we found ourselves struggling to differentiate it from Upwork — a freelancing platform that operates very similarly.

Considering sources such as TechCrunch are unlikely to cover your startup launch if you don’t have some new, exciting technology (or one million dollars in funding), the odds that Virtual Valley would get featured were slim.

Sometimes, being remarkable doesn’t mean your product or service has to be truly unique. You can leverage remarkability to receive press by doing something remarkable. 

This could mean experimenting with a bold design on your website, developing a witty personality for your brand on Twitter, taking risks with your website copy, etc. These “outside-of-the-box” efforts might be received really well … or they might not. Either way, you’re getting people talking about your product or service. 

So what approach did I take to help Virtual Valley stand out? Well, that takes us to our next tip.

2) Piggyback on popular trends. 

Trends emerge is every industry that can help propel your search for free press without connections. Trouble is, you have to jump on them at the right time.

Fortunately for us, men wearing leggings had actually been covered by a number of popular sites — The Telegraph, Fashionista, etc. — prior to the launch of our company. 

When it came time to pitch journalists, we could reinforce the fact that “men wearing leggings” was newsworthy, as the topic had already been covered by other reputable sources.

So when deciding on an angle to pitch the press for our new startup Virtual Valley, we spent some time reviewing popular blogs in the startup world to spot any current trends.

One of which that really stood out was transparency:

During this time, we were also defining our company goals for the next two years, one of which being a seven-figure exit.

Would announcing this to the press be remarkable and connected to a recent trend? Would this story have a better chance of being published in TechCrunch than just writing a dull press release on the features of our product?

I guess we’ll find out

3) Consider different perspectives.

When approaching anyone that has something you want — in this case, a potential audience — you need to understand their perspective and incentives. This will help increase your chances of them actually taking the action that you want them to take. 

In the two sections above we have already been thinking from the perspective of the reporter. (Reporters are interested in remarkable stories connected to a relevant industry trend, right?) Now, you need to communicate your story in a way that speaks directly to the incentives of the reporter.

Here’s an example of an email I sent to The Daily Express, which ultimately lead to the Daily Mail article referenced above:

meggings_news.png

Why did this approach work?

  • It mentions a recent trend: “Meggings into the Mainstream”
  • It provides social proof by mentioning the publications that had already covered the topic, as well as the number of times the Daily Mail article had been shared.
  • It adds a personal touch by noting that the other articles touch on a Chicago-based male leggings company, and suggests they feature a brand “a little closer to home.”
  • It states that I’m happy to do the heavy lifting/content creation at the end.

With all of that in mind, it is not surprising that the reporter took on the story.

A relevant model on human behaviour which supports this theory is the Fogg Behavioural Model:

behaviour.jpg

Image Source: Behavior Model 

In order to increase the chances of a reporter taking on your story, we must consider the following three factors: 

  • Motivation. What is the reason that a reporter would publish your story? Will make them look good in front of their boss? Will it help them get promoted? Will it perform well in terms of views, comments, and shares? Once you understand their potential motivation, you will find it easier to communicate this to them.
  • Trigger. Triggers aim to capture a person’s attention. For example, Facebook uses notifications that trigger us to come back to the platform — whether it be to see that picture we have just been tagged in or what our friend just posted. In this case, the email being sent to the reporter serves as a trigger to incite action.
  • Ability. People are less likely to complete an action if the ability to take that action has been placed behind a barrier. In other words, you need to lower the effort barrier as much as possible to increase your chances of receiving press. (This is why I offered to create the content at the end of my email.)

4) Target specific publications.

Remember the motivation trigger above?

Well, there are certain journalists that will be more motivated to cover your story than others. This often falls back on their personal interests or responsibility for their media organisation. And these are the people to want to target. 

To find them, head to Google, Twitter, and LinkedIn to conduct some research. The key is to become more aware of each and every publication and journalist that covers your niche.

Record every potential publication and reporter in a Google Sheet that includes their average article social share counts and followers on Twitter, as this will help you prioritise.

Once you have a list of 20 potential reporters, follow each one on Twitter and engage with their content to get on their radar. 

5) Prepare necessary press assets in advance.

When your targeted reporter opens your pitch and scans your email you have one chance, as this is probably the 50th pitch he/she has read that day.

This reporter needs to access all the information they require to make a decision … or they may just move on to the next email.

To increase the reporters ability to make a decision in your favor, consider attaching these assets in an email or creating a dedicated press page on your website. 

Regardless of which option you choose, you will need to include the following:

  • Contact information
  • Company overview
  • Media mentions
  • New and existing press releases
  • Media assets — logos, screenshots, headshots, etc.

For more on how to put together an effective press page, check out this post. And to help you get started with creating an actual press release, use this template.

6) Be persistent. 

Here’s the thing about hunting for free press: you are going to get ignored, and you are going to get rejected.

What you do not see in the section above is the list of emails to every fashion reporter for national publications in the UK in my sent items that got rejected or no response:

stitch_email.png

Rather than let it discourage you, set realistic expectations. You might only get one response for every 20 emails you send. That’s okay. Keep hustling. 

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, uses a concept called “the Flywheel Effect” to describe the effort it takes to build momentum for something. While the wheel is heavy and difficult to push, once you get it going, it will begin to turn itself. 

In terms of press, each feature that you receive will build the likelihood that you will receive more features in the future.

At sTitch Leggings, we would not have been featured in the Daily Mail if we did not land the feature in the Daily Express. And it’s likely that we wouldn’t have appeared on the UK television series, Dragons’ Den, unless we had been featured in the Daily Mail. And after being featured on the Dragons’ Den, we decided it was time to try to earn a spot on the HubSpot blog. And here we are.

Every press opportunity must be sought out through hustle, and celebrated once achieved. As the more press you receive, the more likely you will be to receive additional press, etc.

Still feeling unsure of how to get started with building free press for your business? Tell me about your product or service in the comments section below and I’ll see if I can help.

  free press release template

Oct

26

2015

The Marketer’s Guide to Developing a Strong Corporate and Brand Identity

brand-1

Chances are, if someone mentions GoPro, you think of a super-sturdy camera for the adventurous.

Why’s that? Because GoPro has done a good job defining its brand. Great brands like GoPro are easy to recognize. Their missions are clear, and they foster that customer loyalty all businesses crave.

A brand is one of the most valuable assets of a business, and it needs to be carefully crafted to ensure it properly and authentically represents the business.

Crafting a brand is a shared endeavor, though. Customers, employees, blog readers (sound familiar?), and anyone who interacts with a business has a role in shaping the brand, which is why we’ve created a very short survey to see what HubSpot means to you. Because what it means to you will help us deliver on your expectations. (We’ll get to that a little later in the post.)

Do you know how your brand is doing? Does your business have a brand identity?

If it doesn’t, or your brand isn’t as strong as it could be, follow along with this post. Branding may seem like a fluffy concept, but we’re going to try to put some structure around it so any marketing team can get started defining their brand strategy.

For more tips about brand identity development, download our free branding guide here.

The Definition of Brand Identity

A brand is the “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or service as distinct from those of other sellers,” according the American Marketing Association.

Your brand identity is the representation of your company’s reputation through the conveyance of attributes, values, purpose, strengths, and passions.

It includes what your brand says, what its values are, how you communicate its concepts, and which emotions you want your customers to feel when they interact with your business. As Jeff Bezos says, “Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

The Brand Identity Prism

To help illustrate brand identity with a more holistic view of a brand, an internationally recognized corporate branding specialist named Jean-Noel Kapferer created a model he called the “Brand Identity Prism.” The Brand Identity Prism illustrates six aspects of brand identity: physique, personality, culture, relationship, reflection, and self-image.

Image Credit: Salman Abedin

According to the model, the synthesis of each of these elements is what drives a brand’s success. Here’s what each of them means:

1) Physique is the recognizable, physical aspect of the brand.

It includes the logo, color scheme, packaging, and the online spaces and communities. If we’re talking about Coca-Cola, it’s stuff like the logo, the cursive font, the shape of its flagship glass bottle, and so on.

2) Personality is the brand’s character.

It’s how the brand communicates with the outside world. This might be expressed in a certain writing style or voice, design style, color scheme, and even by way of celebrity endorsements. Coca-Cola’s personality is happy, playful, refreshing, and all about sharing and having a good time.

3) Culture is the value system and basic principles on which a brand bases its behavior.

There is an intimate connection between a brand’s culture and its organization. Coca-Cola’s culture is based around socializing and sharing.

4) Relationship refers to the relationship between people that a brand might symbolize.

One example would be a relationship between a mother and child, or among friends. Coca-Cola symbolizes an equal and friendly relationship among people in a community.

5) Reflection refers to the reflection of the consumer; in other words, the brand’s most stereotypical buyer.

While a company might have multiple buyer personas, this is the “top” type of buyer. For Coca-Cola, this might be 15-18-year-olds who value fun, friendships, and sports, although Coca-Cola’s target audience is much broader.

6) Self image is the consumer’s ideal self.

It’s kind of like a mirror the target persona holds up to him or herself. Marketers and advertisers can draw on their target audience’s self image to direct their strategy and approach. A Coca-Cola drinker, for example, might see him or herself as social, communicative, and the type of person who seeks adventure and pushes boundaries.

Now that you have a better idea of what brand identity is, let’s talk about how it applies to your branding strategy.

Determine Where Your Company Sits in the Market

Before you attempt to define your brand, you need to do some exploration. Take a long look at your company to get a clear picture of its purpose and place. The familiar SWOT analysis can help, actually. Here’s what each letter of the acronym stands for:

  • Strengths: Characteristics of the business or project that give it an advantage over others.
  • Weaknesses: Characteristics that place the team at a disadvantage relative to others.
  • Opportunities: Elements that the project could exploit to its advantage.
  • Threats: Elements in the environment that could cause trouble for the business or project.

When you do a SWOT analysis, you should involve everyone in your company, as well as some of your best (and worst — yes, your worst!) customers. This can be done with a simple survey that asks questions that get at the four points in the SWOT analysis. Or if you prefer, it can be achieved with an in-depth research survey and audit that looks at your brand awareness, usage, attributes, and even purchase intent. They are typically performed by an outside firm … but more on that later. You can also download our SWOT analysis template.

However you gather the information, once you get it, you should be able to sit down with your marketing team and clearly state your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Once you have a clear understand of your SWOT, it’s time to define your brand.

The Steps to Corporate Identity Design & Development

Developing or refining a corporate identity is a five-step process that aims to clearly define what your brand stands for: its goals, its personality, the emotions you want people to experience when they come into contact with your brand, and a clear conveyance of that identity through a positioning statement. Here’s what you’ll need to create to do that:

Step 1: Vision Statement

A vision statement describes what you want your company to become in the future. It should be aspirational and inspirational. Ideally, the statement should be one sentence in length and should not explain how the vision will be met. (Don’t worry, that’ll come later.)

When developing your vision, keep these questions in mind:

  • What are your most important products and services?
  • What products and services will you never offer?
  • What is unique about doing business with your brand?
  • How would your customers describe your brand?
  • Where do you want your company to be in five years?

To give you an idea of what you should end up with, take a look at JetBlue’s vision statement:

JetBlue Airways is dedicated to bringing humanity back to air travel.”

Step 2: Mission Statement

A mission statement defines the purpose of the company. It should be simple, straightforward, articulate, and consist of jargon-free language that’s easy to grasp. It should be motivational to both employees and customers. When crafting your mission statement, keep these tips in mind:

  • What are the specific market needs the company exists to address?
  • What does the company do to address these needs?
  • What are the guiding principles that define the company’s approach?
  • Why do customers buy from you and not your competition?

To give you an idea of what a good mission statement looks like, take a look at The Walt Disney Company’s:

The Walt Disney Company’s objective is to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information, using its portfolio of brands to differentiate its content, services and consumer products. The company’s primary financial goals are to maximize earnings and cash flow, and to allocate capital toward growth initiatives that will drive long-term shareholder value.”

Step 3: Essence

Say, what? That’s right, your essence. This sounds fluffy, but seriously, you need to develop an “essence.”

The essence of the company speaks to the intangible emotions you want your customers to feel when they experience the brand. A brand’s essence is the representation of the company’s heart, soul, and spirit, and is best described with one word. When defining the essence of your brand, consider these points:

Here are some great samples of brands’ essences:

  • Volvo is “safe.”
  • Disney is “magical.”
  • Lamborghini is “exotic.”

Step 4: Personality

Just as with humans, a brand’s personality describes the way a brand speaks, behaves, thinks, acts, and reacts. It is the personification of the brand: the application of human characteristics to a business. For example, Apple is young and hip, whereas IBM is mature and set in its ways.

What personality do you want to put forth when people experience your brand?

  • Are you lighthearted and fun?
  • Are you serious and all business?
  • Are you down-to-earth?
  • Are you playful or matter-of-fact?

Step 5: Position or Value Proposition

A brand positioning statement, or value proposition, is a one- or two-sentence statement that clearly articulates your product or service’s unique value, and how it benefits customers. It must define the audience, define the category in which the brand exists, cite a clear product or service benefit, set your brand apart from your competitors, and instill confidence the brand will deliver on its promise.

When crafting a positioning statement, consider:

  • To whom are you speaking? (Target market, demographic, and persona)
  • Which market segment does your product or service serve?
  • What is your brand promise? (Both rational and emotional)
  • Why is your product or service different from the competition, and why should your customers care?

For instance, Warby Parker has a great brand positioning statement:

Warby Parker was founded with a rebellious spirit and a lofty objective: to offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.”

(Read this blog post for more examples of inspiring company vision and mission statements.)

To help make this easier for you, we condensed these questions into a checklist that you can reference during this process:

branding checklist

How to Translate Your Brand Identity Into Actual Marketing

Once your brand is defined and you’re ready to take that brand to market with inbound marketing, a new website, content, paid media, and any other element of outward-facing marketing, a creative brief will help you define the purpose of each particular piece of marketing communication underneath your brand umbrella. When writing a creative brief, these are the questions that need to be answered:

1) Define the project deliverables.

What will be the result of the brief? Will it be a video? A website? An infographic? A whitepaper? An email campaign?

2) What is this effort expected to accomplish?

What is the goal of this particular creative project? What do we want to happen after the intended audience sees this piece of creative? What action do we want people to take?

3) Whom are we talking to?

A clear description of the intended audience, which should include demographics, psychographics, as well as how the audience currently thinks and feels about the brand or product in question.

4) What’s our message?

This is derived from your brand position and should include a statement that encapsulates the single most persuasive or compelling product benefit.

5) What do we want them to think or feel?

This is derived from the “Essence” step of the corporate identity process, and should describe the emotion you want your audience to feel after seeing this work.

6) What justification are we providing as support?

Explain why the audience should believe your claims. Here, you can detail the benefits of your product or service, why your offering is better than your competitors, and how these benefits substitute the claim you made in #4 (“What’s our message?”).

7) How is that different from other brands’ messaging?

Here you want to set yourself apart from the competition by clearly pointing out why your offering better serves the needs of your audience. Are you faster? Are you less expensive? Are you easier to implement?

8) How does this contribute to the brand’s positioning?

Every piece of communication you create must tie back to your brand identity. Here you can explain how this singular effort supports the greater brand promise.

9) Which practical considerations or restrictions are there?

The nuts and bolts of your campaign are explained here. If it’s a video, are there length preferences? Are there words or phrases that must be said? Are there things that you absolutely can’t say? Are there cost considerations or time constraints?

A creative brief becomes particularly handy when you’re working with an outside creative firm or ad agency. It concisely provides the direction needed to create the work, and it ensures everyone’s on the same page before resources are expended.

When to Ask for Help Developing Your Corporate Identity

If the above seems like a lot of work, it doesn’t have to be. The basic intent is to paint a clear picture of what your brand stands for and how you want it perceived by your customers. However, if the process seems daunting or you feel you could benefit from some professional help, then by all means reach out to a branding agency. Here are some considerations if that’s the route you’d like to take.

Have a clear understanding of what you are hiring the agency for and the services you need.

Do you have an in-house design staff, but just need help defining your brand? Have you tried to develop your brand identity on your own but are not confident it’s defined clearly enough? Does your research feel sub-standard?

An agency will want to know where exactly you are in the process so they can properly focus their efforts on the areas of need. Here is an RFP (request for proposal) template you can use to formulate your thoughts if you choose to reach out to agencies.

Can you afford a branding agency?

Just like any professional service, a branding agency costs money. On the flip side, just like any professional service, you’re hiring experts with a ton of experience who know their craft and can provide expertise you either lack or don’t have time to learn. Through the RFP process, you’ll begin to get an understanding of what different agencies cost. Be as specific as possible when you detail the scope of the work you’re looking for.

Match the size of your company to the size of the agency.

If you’re a small or mid-sized business, you should seek out a small or mid-sized agency. While you might find a deeper service offering at a larger agency, you might not have access to the agency’s top talent as they will likely allocate it to their larger clients. With a small or mid-sized agency, you’re more likely to have direct access to the agency president if needed, as well as the agency’s top talent.

Match the agency’s area of expertise to your industry.

While any agency worth its salt can certainly learn the ins and outs of your industry segment, many agencies, by design, choose to focus on specific segments and hire personnel with deep experience in that field. Identify which agencies focus their business within your industry, and start there.

Meet the agency principal and everyone who will work on your account.

This is known as the “chemistry test.” Anyone can be the best in their field, but if personalities clash, it’s a recipe for disaster no matter how capable the agency may seem. An informal lunch, meeting at an industry event, or an after-work meetup are the best ways to get past the professional veneer and experience the true personality of the people you may end up doing business with.

Tying the Branding Bow

Remember: Brand is an evolving asset. It’s one that requires continued attention. One that your customers will have a big role in shaping. One that you’ll need to foster. One that you’ll return to, make adjustments to as your business grows or changes.

But overall, defining your brand identity is much like packaging and presenting a gift. You want the recipient to be pleased with the offering — and that includes everything from the outer wrapping, to the style of packaging inside, to the gift delivery, to the usefulness and appropriateness of the actual gift itself. You want the recipient to understand that forethought and heart went into the selection of the gift, and that it was chosen out of compassion and understanding. And you want it to represent the love you have for that person — in this case, your customers.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

free brand identity / corporate identity tips

 
how to develop a brand identity / corporate identity

Sep

17

2015

19 Online Review Sites You Should Be Collecting Business & Product Reviews

We (and the rest of the internet for the past decade) have already spent some time convincing you of the importance of acquiring online reviews for your business. So let’s just assume you’re sold on the benefits of having a bunch of people tout how awesome you are on the web.

That being said, it’s not safe to assume we all know exactly where in the wide world of the web we can point those well wishers when they want to sing our praises. I mean, we might all be able to rattle off one or two sites (“Yelp! And I think you can get them to show up in Google Maps, too?”), but we don’t exactly have a laundry list of options at our disposal.

Check out our list of the best product review websites for B2B and B2C companies. Keep in mind that every industry has niche sites, too. For instance, those in the restaurant industry may want to be on UrbanSpoon. This blog post won’t get into sites that are specific to one industry, but it will provide review sites that apply to businesses in almost any industry.

Download our free guide to customer loyalty programs here to learn more about how to create loyal, happy customers.

Review Sites for B2C Companies

1) Amazon Customer Reviews

Amazon was one of the first online stores to allow consumers to post reviews of products in 1995, and it remains one of the most important resources for consumers looking to make informed purchase decisions. Even if people can and even do buy a product elsewhere, if it’s sold on Amazon.com — unless it’s gasoline or drug paraphernalia, that is — then many people will look up its Amazon review before they decide to buy.

What’s going to separate your product from one that looks just like it? Those shiny gold stars and good customer reviews. Products are rated on a five-star rating scale, which is broken down by percentage of reviews per star, followed by most helpful customer reviews and most recent customer reviews. 

2) Angie’s List

Geared toward U.S.-based service businesses, Angie’s List is a “higher-end” review site, because users actually have to pay for membership. But you get what you pay for. The reviews, given on an A–F scale, are typically very well-thought out — not a lot of that ranting and raving that’s more common on free review sites. The reviews can’t be anonymous, which helps cut down on fake or misrepresentative reviews, and companies are allowed to respond to the reviews posted about them, too.

It’s free to set up a page for your company. Once you have yours, encourage your customers who are on Angie’s List to leave reviews there — members are the only ones allowed to do it!

3) CHOICE

CHOICE is kind of like the Angie’s List of Australia. It’s a paid customer review website. In addition to allowing customer reviews where people can rate and discuss specific brands and models with other CHOICE members, they also test products themselves, create product comparisons, and write buying guides. If you have customers in Australia, we recommend encouraging those who are on CHOICE to leave reviews there.

4) TrustPilot

Have a customer base in Europe? TrustPilot is a fast-growing, community-driven consumer review platform based in Denmark. They have two complementary review types: product reviews written by customers and seller reviews written by folks at the companies selling those products. The platform for businesses helps companies from all over the world proactively collect customer reviews.

While they have a basic version for free (this lets you create a profile page and collect customer reviews), their paid versions let you create customizable review invitations, share ratings and reviews on social media, and link review data to your internal business systems.

5) TestFreaks

Similar to TrustPilot, the Swedish-based TestFreaks helps companies proactively collect customer reviews and write seller reviews to complement them. Another cool addition? Their question and answer feature, which lets prospective customers post questions and receive answers directly from your customer service team. 

Image Credit: TestFreak

6) Which?

Which? is an independent consumer review organization that tests and reviews products and then writes about them. Unlike Angie’s List, it’s the folks at Which? who write the reviews — not the customers. They don’t accept submissions for product testing or survey inclusion, but they do encourage people to let them know about their products and services by emailing brcpress@which.co.uk.

While this leaves less room for you to influence whether your products end up on their site, it’s still worth knowing about and checking in on this popular site, especially if you have customers in the U.K. The website has product reviews for everything from dishwashers and tablets to cars and credit cards. They test and review all these products themselves, and then write about both their methodologies and results. They also take customer surveys of things like the best and worst firms for customer service

A lot of their content is free, but customers can become members for £10.75 per month to get access to a “Best Buys” and “Don’t Buy” list, the latest reviews of products from their test labs, and access to their consumer legal advice service.

7) ConsumerReports

A nonprofit organization, ConsumerReports is an independent product testing organization that runs unbiased tests to rate and recommend products. They’ve reviewed over 7.7 million products, accept no advertising, and pay for all products that they test. (Fun fact: They buy and test 80 cars per year!) This is about as legitimate as it gets. As such, there’s not much you can do here “except” if you sell a product, make sure it’s really, really good.

If nothing else, you could take this website as a lesson in excellent content creation. For each product they review, they provide the review criteria, product overviews, a buying guide, and social sharing buttons. It’s all quite comprehensive and, well, helpful. Pretty much the key to great content, am I right?

8) TripAdvisor

If you’re in the travel, hotel, airline, entertainment, or restaurant industries anywhere in the world, you’ll want to check out the reviews on the popular website TripAdvisor. As the largest travel site in the world, it has over 225 million reviews, opinions, and photos taken by travelers. They also have some awesome content on their about low airfares, travel guides, rental listings, and advice forums about pretty much every location in the world you could possibly image. A lot of people look there before making a trip.

The key to a successful profile on TripAdvisor is making it as close to the top of their popularity index as possible, so that people searching for information in a specific place see your listing. According to TripAdvisor, the popularity ranking algorithm is based on three key components: quantity, quality, and recency of reviews. Here’s an excerpt of the advice they give businesses looking to improve their ranking:

Quantity: Ask your guests to write reviews, and use our management center tools to remind them after they check out. Offering incentives for reviews is against the rules, though — take a look at our policy to make sure you understand what is and isn’t okay.

Quality: Guests who enjoyed first class hospitality and a memorable experience are more likely to write positive reviews. Monitor what previous reviewers have written to see what worked and did not work best for your property so you can maintain and improve your service.

Recency: Recent reviews factor more strongly on your popularity rankings and older reviews have less impact on a hotel’s ranking over time. Once again, encourage guests to write reviews to keep fresh content rolling in.”

9) Yelp

Yelp is a free review site that lets consumers rate businesses on a five-star scale. Any business can set up a profile on Yelp for free, and users can set up their own free profiles to review a business. You’re free to respond to reviewers, too, but we recommend taking a balanced and polite approach to any negative reviews you receive, as Yelpers are in a pretty tight-knit community.

Yelp has also come under fire over the past few years for some slightly shady practices, like incentivizing businesses to advertise with them in exchange for gaming the search results for their business (“Pay us money and we’ll push bad reviews down!”). Savvier consumers have learned to look at Yelp reviews as a whole and with the reviewer’s clout in mind, instead of getting turned off by a business because of one bad listing.

That being said, it’s still to your benefit to get a constant stream of positive online reviews coming to your business’ Yelp account so happy customers are always at the top of your review feed — especially is you’re a location-based business. Yelp profile information contains things like store hours and location information, so your profile will often turn up when people Google your business.

10) Google My Business

You know those reviews that show up with you search Google for a business? Yeah, those things are on this list in a big way.

Google’s Pigeon algorithm update uses distance and location ranking parameters to deliver improved local search results. So, in order for your business’ website to be properly optimized for search, you’ll want to set up verified accounts with local directories — especially Google’s, called Google My Business. Getting reviews, comments, pictures, and so on, especially on Google, can give you a boost in search. Only verified local Google+ pages can respond to reviews. 

An added bonus? Google Maps pulls that information and those reviews into the app, so having a lot of content in there will make your business look more reputable.

11) Yahoo! Local Listings

Similar to Google My Business reviews, Yahoo! Local reviews let users post reviews of businesses with a five-star rating system. Here’s what the results might look like:

According to Search Engine LandYahoo! still receives about 10% of search engine share. So while you might not want to invest time figuring out the intricacies of Yahoo!’s algorithm, obtaining some favorable reviews on the Yahoo! Local Listings sure couldn’t hurt for that 10%.

Review Websites for B2B Companies

12) G2 Crowd

If your business sells software, you’ll want to be sure you have a presence on G2 Crowd. Every month, over 300,000 people looking to buy software read the 37,000+ user reviews on this website so they can make better purchasing decisions.

G2 Crowd operates kind of like Yelp, but in a specific niche. Companies are reviewed on a five-star scale, and reviews cover everything from setup and easy of use to security and support. Reviewers answer questions like “What do you like best?”; “What do you dislike?”‘; and “Recommendations to others considered the product.” Also, you can upvote and downvote others’ reviews.

13) TrustRadius

Like G2 Crowd, TrustRadius is an online review site for software businesses. Reviewers on the site are authenticated via LinkedIn to make sure they’re users (although the reviews themselves can still be anonymous), which allows users to see what their LinkedIn connections are saying about particular pieces of software on TrustRadius. This adds a layer of trust for someone reading the site.

You can use the site to browse reviews of individual companies, or compare two companies side-by-side to compare their five-star ratings, screenshots of their products, pricing details, and user comments from reviewers.

In addition to their company reviews, they’ve put together a whole bunch of buyer guides for categories including talent management software, business intelligence software, core HR software, social media, and A/B testing to help people find the right product for them based on hundreds of reviews and user ratings.

14) Salesforce AppExchange

Have an app on the Salesforce AppExchange? Then you’ll want to keep track of your app’s ratings and reviews there. Reviews are based on a five-star rating system, and each app has reviews listed with the most helpful positive review and most helpful negative reviews first, followed by all reviews, from which users can filter by rating, date, and helpfulness. They’ve embraced transparency, letting users access thousands of reviews and see the number of downloads with just a few clicks.

For Online Reviews Both B2B & B2C

15) Better Business Bureau

A nonprofit site, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) evaluates all types of businesses against a set of best practices for how businesses should treat the public. They don’t directly recommend or endorse any businesses, products, or services; they simply provide the public with the information on their site about businesses, and whether they have met the BBB’s accreditation standards. They will also review both accredited and non-accredited businesses.

A business’ profile listing on the BBB contains general overview information, like a short company bio and the company’s accreditation status, a history of any complaints made about the business and whether they were resolved, customer reviews, and the BBB’s A – F rating of the business.

16) Glassdoor

Glassdoor is an employee review site that helps anyone — from prospective employees to prospective customers to investors — get an idea of what a company is really like from the inside. In other words, it helps measure the more qualitative factors of things like valuation.

Employees can share what it’s like to interview and work at their companies, and the site shows visitors which companies are rated highest by their employees. Many employers use it to build their employment brand so they can target and recruit candidates, but you can also use the reviews to share ideas internally for improvement among your management team.

Creating an employer account is free, and it’s easy to track and respond to reviews. For example, you can set up alerts so you get an email each time a new review is posted so you can acknowledge and respond to each one.

Other Places for Consumer Reviews

Online reviews also exist on sites that aren’t necessarily built just to publish online reviews. Some businesses use their social presence and website to encourage online reviews … and some brands just get them unsolicited, for better or for worse.

Here are some sites that, if you choose to (please, choose to) can serve as additional hubs for online reviews. And they’re awesome, because they have enormous reach, and you have some — if not entire — control over these properties.

17) Facebook Ratings & Reviews

Did you know there’s a place on Facebook for fans to leave ratings and reviews of your business? There sure is … it’s named, aptly, Facebook Ratings & Reviews. It appears on the left-hand side of your Facebook Page, and you can’t move or remove it like you can other parts of your Page.

Anyone logged into Facebook can post a rating or review of a business. All they have to do is go to the Reviews section of your Page, click the grey stars to choose a rating, and then write an optional review. They can make that review public, visible to friends, or visible only to them.

18) Twitter

The ridiculously fast-paced nature of Twitter makes it seem like a weird place to try to accumulate reviews. But while users might not always search for reviews directly on Twitter (unless you started some kind of review hashtag, perhaps), tweets are still indexed in search results. That means a user’s tweet, whether complimentary or less-than, could pop up in the SERPs when someone’s searching for reviews on your business.

Not only that — there’s things you can actively do with the positive tweets coming at you. For instance, we tested the element of social proof on conversions here at HubSpot, attaching three tweets that gave positive reviews on an ebook we were promoting at the time. Guess what happened? The CTA with the three tweets converted better than the CTA with no tweets. If you start to “Favorite” tweets that could serve as positive reviews in the future, it’ll be easier to find them when you want to use them in your marketing.

19) Your Own Website

Finally, the one place where you have total and utter control: your website. It’s an excellent place to publicize reviews you receive (perhaps embed some of those tweets you favorited?) You could carve out a section of your website dedicated just to reviews and testimonials, and even include a form so happy customers can submit their unsolicited reviews. But if you’re actively campaigning for positive online reviews and you encounter happy customers who want to leave you a positive review but don’t have accounts on sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, or Google, it’s handy to have a place on your website to publish their kind words. Consider adding testimonials to landing pages and product pages, too.

What other online review sites do you use, either as a marketer or consumer? Share your ideas with us in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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Aug

11

2015

Introduction to Brand Strategy: 7 Essentials for a Strong Company Brand

Let’s say you’ve come to the difficult realization that quite frankly your brand — if you can even call it that — is all over the place. Or perhaps worse, you have a defined brand, but you’re noticing that it just doesn’t seem to mesh with who you really are and what you really do. 

Don’t panic.

Before you get all hung up on what shade of green to use for your logo or what tone you’re going to use when engaging with people on Twitter, you need to step back and take a look at the big picture. 

Let’s clear up the biggest misconception about brand strategy: Your brand is not your product, your logo, your website, or your name. In fact, your brand is much more than that — it’s the stuff that feels intangible. But it’s that hard-to-pin-down feeling that separates powerhouse and mediocre brands from each other.

So to help you rein in what many marketers consider more of an art and less of a science, we’ve broken down seven essential components of a comprehensive brand strategy that will help keep your company around for ages. 

For even more brand strategy tips, download our free guide to branding here.

7 Components for a Comprehensive Branding Strategy

1) Purpose

“Every brand makes a promise. But in a marketplace in which consumer confidence is low and budgetary vigilance is high, it’s not just making a promise that separates one brand from another, but having a defining purpose,” explains Allen Adamson, chairman of the North America region of brand consulting and design firm Landor Associates.

While understanding what your business promises is necessary when defining your brand positioning, knowing why you wake up everyday and go to work carries more weight. In other words, your purpose is more specific, in that it serves as a differentiator between you and your competitors. 

How can you define your business’ purpose? According to Business Strategy Insider, purpose can be viewed in two ways: 

  • Functional: This concept focuses on the evaluations of success in terms of immediate and commercial reasons — i.e. the purpose of the business is to make money. 
  • Intentional: This concept focuses on success as it relates to the ability to make money and do good in the world.  

While making money is important to almost every business, we admire brands that emphasize their willingness to achieve more than just profitability, like IKEA:

IKEA’s vision isn’t just to sell furniture, but rather, to “create a better everyday life.” This approach is appealing to potential customers, as it demonstrates their commitment to providing value beyond the point of sale. 

When defining your business’ purpose, keep this example in mind. While making money is a priority, operating under that notion alone does little to set your brand apart from others in your industry.

Our advice? Dig a little deeper. If you need inspiration, check out this post on inspiring mission and vision statements.

2) Consistency

The key to consistency is to avoid talking about things that don’t relate to or enhance your brand. Added a new photo to your business’ Facebook Page? What does it mean for your company? Does it align with your message, or was it just something funny that would, quite frankly, confuse your audience? 

In an effort to give your brand a platform to stand on, you need to be sure that all of your messaging is cohesive. Ultimately, consistency contributes to brand recognition, which fuels customer loyalty. (No pressure, right?) 

To see a great example of consistency, let’s look at Coca Cola. As a result of their commitment to consistency, every element of their marketing works harmoniously together. This has helped them become one of the most recognizable brands in the world.

Even on the surface of their social media accounts, for example, the seamlessness of their brand is very apparent:

To avoid leaving potential customers struggling to put the disconnected pieces of your business together, consider the benefits of creating a style guide. A style guide can encompass everything from the tone of voice you’ll use to the color scheme you’ll employ to the way you’ll position certain products or services. 

By taking the time to define and agree upon these considerations, your brand will benefit as a whole. Want to learn more about style guides? Check out this article my colleague Austin Knight published on the web design style guides of big companies like Apple, Google, and Starbucks.

3) Emotion

Customers aren’t always rational. 

How else do you explain the person who paid thousands of dollars more for a Harley rather than buying another cheaper, equally well-made bike? There was an emotional voice in there somewhere, whispering: “Buy a Harley.”

But why?

Harley Davidson uses emotional branding by creating a community around their brand. They began HOG — Harley Owners Group — to connect their customers with their brand (and each other). 

By provided their customers with an opportunity to feel like they’re part of a larger group that’s more tight-knit than just a bunch of motorcycle riders, Harley Davidson is able to position themselves as an obvious choice for someone looking to purchase a bike. 

Why? People have an innate desire to build relationships. Research from psychologists Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary best describes this need in their “belongingness hypothesis,” which states: “People have a basic psychological need to feel closely connected to others, and that caring, affectionate bonds from close relationships are a major part of human behavior.”

Not to mention, belongingness — the need for love, affection, and being part of groups — falls directly in the middle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which aims to categorize different human needs.

The lesson to be learned? Find a way to connect to your customers on a deeper, more emotional level. Do you give them peace of mind? Make them feel like part of the family? Do you make life easier? Use emotional triggers like these to strengthen your relationship and foster loyalty. 

4) Flexibility

In this fast-changing world, marketers must remain flexible to stay relevant. On the plus side, this frees you to be creative with your campaigns.

You may be thinking, “Wait a minute, how am I supposed to remain consistent while also being flexible?”

Good question. While consistency aims to set the standard for your brand, flexibility enables you to make adjustments that build interest and distinguish your approach from that of your competition. 

In other words, “effective identity programs require enough consistency to be identifiable, but enough variation to keep things fresh and human,” explains president of PeopledesignKevin Budelmann.

A great example of this type of strategic balance comes from Old SpiceThese days, Old Spice is one of the best examples of successful marketing across the board. However, up until recently, wearing Old Spice was pretty much an unspoken requirement for dads everywhere. Today, they’re one of the most popular brands for men of all ages.

Their secret? Flexibility.

Aware that they needed to do something to secure their place in the market, Old Spice teamed up with Wieden+Kennedy to position their brand for a new customer base. 

Image Credit: Works Design Group

Between new commercials, a new website, new packaging, and new product names, Old Spice managed to attract the attention of a new, younger generation by making strategic enhancements to their already strong brand. 

So if your old tactics aren’t working anymore, don’t be afraid to change. Just because it worked in the past doesn’t mean it’s working now.

Take the opportunity to engage your followers in fresh, new ways. Are there some out-of-the-box partnerships your brand can make? Are there attributes about your product you never highlighted? Use those to connect with new customers and remind your old ones why they love you.

5) Employee Involvement

As we mentioned before, achieving a sense of consistency is important if you wish to build brand recognition. And while a style guide can help you achieve a cohesive digital experience, it’s equally important for your employees to be well versed in the how they should be communicating with customers and representing the brand. 

If your brand is playful and bubbly through Twitter engagements, then it wouldn’t make sense if a customer called in and was connected with a grumpy, monotone representative, right?

To avoid this type of mismatched experience, take note of Zappos’ approach.

If you’ve ever been on the line with a customer service representative from Zappos, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, check out this SlideShare which details some of their most inspiring customer support stories.

Zappos is so committed to ensuring that not only their brand, but all brands, remain consistent across digital and human interactions that they’ve dedicated an entire department to the cause called Zappos Insights. 

By holding all Zappos employees to their core values 
and helping other companies implement the same approach, Zappos has built a strong reputation for solid, helpful, and human customer service.

6) Loyalty

If you already have people that love you, your company, and your brand, don’t just sit there. Reward them for that love.

These customers have gone out their way to write about you, to tell their friends about you, and to act as your brand ambassadors. Cultivating loyalty from these people early on will yield more returning customers — and more profit for your business.

Sometimes, just a thank you is all that’s needed. Other times, it’s better to go above and beyond. Write them a personalized letter. Sent them some special swag. Ask them to write a review, and feature them prominently on your website. (Or all of the above!)

When we reached 15,000 customers here at HubSpot, we wanted to say thank you in a big way, while remaining true to our brand … so we dropped 15,000 orange ping pong balls from our fourth floor balcony and spelled out thank you in big metallic balloons:

And while it may have seemed a little out of the ordinary to some folks, for those who know our brand, the gesture made perfect sense. 

Loyalty is a critical part of every brand strategy, especially if you’re looking to support your sales organization. At the end of the day, highlighting a positive relationship between you and your existing customers sets the tone for what potential customers can expect if they choose to do business with you. 

7) Competitive Awareness

Take the competition as a challenge to improve your own strategy and create greater value in your overall brand. You are in the same business and going after the same customers, right? So watch what they do.

Do some of their tactics succeed? Do some fail? Tailor your brand positioning based on their experience to better your company. 

A great example of how to improve your brand by learning from your competitors comes from Pizza Hut:

When a pizza lover posed this question to his Twitter following, Pizza Hut didn’t miss a beat. They playfully responded in minutes, before Domino’s had a chance to speak up. 

If Domino’s is keeping an eye on the competitors, they’ll know to act fast the next time a situation like this arises.

For HubSpot customers, keeping tabs on your competitor’s social mentions is easy using the Social Monitoring App. Check out this article to learn more about how to set up custom social streams. 

And while staying in tune with your competitor’s strategies is important if you want to enhance your brand, don’t let them dictate each and every move you make.

Sure, you probably sell a similar product or service as many other companies, but you’re in business because your brand is unique. By harping on every move your competitor makes, you lose that differentiation. 

What other components do you focus on when building out a brand strategy? Let us know in the comments section below.  

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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Aug

3

2015

Pitching the Perfect Image: A Look at Top Publishers’ Image Sizes

There’s no denying the power of visuals — including at least one image in your post can double your shares while also helping your audience retain more information than with text alone.

This is especially true in the PR and media world. When pitching a story, many more PR pros are including images and infographics in the hope of getting a hit. 

Though there are many things to consider when designing an image for a campaign, one crucial thing often falls by the wayside: optimizing the image for the width of the site you’re pitching. Editors don’t want to make their readers have to struggle to understand your image, so if your design is too wide or narrow for the site you’re pitching, you could easily be rejected.

With that in mind, Fractl and BuzzStream looked at the main or featured body tag images for 35 of the top publishers to determine the most popular widths. We also looked at any larger layouts and pop-ups to determine a maximum width for each publisher when available.

We’ll walk you through four insights below that will help eliminate some of the guesswork during your next design phase.

1) More than 90% of publishers support a featured image size of 600 pixels or larger.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all formula for publisher image sizes, 91% of publishers offer a featured image that is 600 pixels wide or larger. In fact, the sweet spot tends to be between 600 and 800 pixels, with more than 80% of publishers’ main image widths falling into this category. Additional analysis revealed:

  • The median width for main image sizes is 644 pixels.
  • When combined with maximum image widths, more than 95% of publishers can support a width of 600 pixels.
  • Only 14% of publishers’ main images are 800 pixels or larger while fewer than 10% of main images are fewer than 600 pixels.

In practice, this means that you should produce an asset that is at least 600 pixels wide in order to maximize placements with multiple publishers.

However, there are certain design situations — such as an infographic that requires tiny labels — that will call for a larger width; so keep in mind that more than 70% of major publishers can still embed images 800 pixels wide or larger without any additional cropping.

2) More than 65% of publishers offer a maximum width of 900 pixels or more.

Although most publishers’ main image widths fall between 600 pixels and 800 pixels, a majority offers additional layouts that can accommodate images larger than 900 pixels. This is great news from a design perspective because it means there is an opportunity to create larger assets that might require more nuanced details. Further analysis revealed:

  • Lifehacker, Gizmodo, Rolling Stone, and NBC News offer the largest publishable width: 1920 pixels.
  • Although the median width for main images is 644 pixels, the median width for the largest type of images on the publication is 940 pixels — more than a 37% difference.
  • With a maximum width of 1920 pixels and a main image width of 636 pixels, Lifehacker and Gizmodo have the greatest differential at 1284 pixels.
  • Only four publishers — The Economist, Fox News, CBS News, and Us Magazine — offer a maximum image width fewer than 700 pixels.

Considering the natural syndication levels of the publishers that offer some of the smallest images (three of the publishers actually only offer one image size across the board) designers should remember that the text needs to be legible, especially with an asset under 600 pixels.

Looking for an easy way to ensure clarity? Work with some of these smaller sizes during the initial design phase.

3) Six publishers offer a maximum width that is exactly the same width as their main page image.

Piggybacking on the last thought above, 17% of publishers offer a maximum width that is exactly the same as their main page width. In order from smallest to largest — ranging from 595 pixels to 840 pixels — these publishers include:

  • The Economist
  • Fox News
  • CBS News
  • MTV
  • CNET
  • Fortune

From a promotional standpoint, although this means that these publishers offer little flexibility, it doesn’t mean they should be avoided entirely.

In order to increase your chances of a placement while also optimizing your outreach efforts, make sure that any exclusives you offer these publishers include an asset that meets their standards exactly. If not, your exclusive pitch time is better spent elsewhere — save these outlets for syndication instead.  

4) NPR offers the largest main image width at 948 pixels (which is as large as two images from CBS News).

One publisher that stood out from the rest in terms of the size of its hostable assets was NPR. The publisher offers the largest main image at 948 pixels — nearly 70% larger than Us Magazine. And out of all 35 publishers, its maximum width is only 680 pixels fewer than the largest size available. Other publishers that place an emphasis on large assets:

  • Business Insider offers a main image width of 800 pixels with a maximum width of 1000 pixels — a difference of only 200 pixels.
  • The difference between Forbes’ main image and the maximum image is fewer than 165 pixels, with the main image being more than 800 pixels wide.

When we compared these publishers by niche, Gizmodo was the most tech-focused publisher to offer the largest maximum width size, GQ offered the largest for fashion, and NBC News offered the largest size for general news as well as the largest maximum width for all 35 publishers.

Whether your design focuses more on aesthetic or function, your production team should consider the different dimensions of publishers’ sites. Take a look at the graphic below, which allows you to easily compare one publisher to another. Although publishers’ sites will continue to evolve — along with the image sizes they offer — this is a great reference for your initial production stages. 

publishering_body_size_images.png

Study by Fractl and BuzzStream.

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Jul

2

2015

22 Companies With Really Catchy Slogans & Brand Taglines

price-tags

You know what’s really difficult?

Being succinct. Seriously … it’s ridiculously hard. If you don’t believe me, just grab your favorite copywriter and ask them.

It’s especially difficult to express a complex emotional concept in just a couple of words — which is exactly what a slogan does.

That’s why we have a lot of respect for the brands that have done it right. The ones that have figured out how to convey their value proposition to their buyer persona in just one, short sentence — and a quippy one, at that. Download our essential guide to branding here for even more tips on branding  your company. 

So if you’re looking to get a little slogan inspiration of your own, take a look at some of our favorite company slogans from both past and present. (Note: We’ve updated this post to include some suggestions from the comment section.)

Before we get into specific examples, let’s quickly go over what a slogan is and what makes one stand out.

What is a Slogan?

In business, a slogan or tagline is “a catchphrase or small group of words that are combined in a special way to identify a product or company,” according to Entrepreneur.com’s small business encyclopedia.

In many ways, they’re like mini mission statements.

Companies have slogans for the same reason they have logos: advertising. While logos are visual representations of a brand, slogans are audible representations of a brand. Both formats grab consumers’ attention more readily than the name a company or product might. Plus, they’re simpler to understand and remember.

The goal? To leave a key brand message in consumers’ minds so that, if they remember nothing else from an advertisement, they’ll remember the slogan.

What Makes a Great Slogan?

According to HowStuffWorks, a great slogan has most or all of the following characteristics:

It’s memorable.

Is the slogan quickly recognizable? Will people only have to spend a second or two thinking about it? A brief, catchy few words can go a long way in advertisements, videos, posters, business cards, swag, and other places. (Take this quiz to see if you can guess the brands behind 16 memorable slogans.)

It includes a key benefit.

Ever heard the marketing advice, “Sell the sizzle, not the steak”? It means sell the benefits, not the features — which applies perfectly to slogans. A great slogan makes a company or product’s benefits clear to the audience.

It differentiates the brand.

Does your light beer have the fullest flavor? Or maybe the fewest calories? What is it about your product or brand that sets it apart from competitors?

It imparts positive feelings about the brand.

The best taglines use words that are positive and upbeat. For example, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups’ slogan, “Two great tastes that taste great together,” gives the audience good feelings about Reese’s, whereas a slogan like Lea & Perrins’, “Steak sauce only a cow could hate,” uses negative words. The former leaves a better impression on the audience.

Now that we’ve covered what a slogan is and what makes one great, here are examples of the best brand slogans of all time. If we missed any of your favorites, share them with us in the comment section. (Note: We’ve updated this post with several ideas folks have shared with us in the comments.)

22 Companies With Really Catchy Taglines & Slogans

1) Nike: “Just Do It”

It didn’t take long for Nike’s message to resonate. The brand became more than just athletic apparel — it began to embody a state of mind. It encourages you to think that you don’t have to be an athlete to be in shape or tackle an obstacle. If you want to do it, just do it. That’s all it takes.

But it’s unlikely Kennedy + Weiden, the agency behind this tagline, knew from the start that Nike would brand itself in this way. In fact, Nike’s product used to cater almost exclusively to marathon runners, which are among the most hardcore athletes out there. The “Just Do It” campaign widened the funnel, and it’s proof positive that some brands need to take their time coming up with a slogan that reflects their message and resonates with their target audience.

 nike-just-do-it-2.jpg

Source: brandchannel

2) Apple: “Think Different”

This slogan was first released in the Apple commercial called “Here’s to the Crazy Ones, Think Different” — a tribute to all the time-honored visionaries who challenged the status quo and changed the world. The phrase itself is a bold nod to IBM’s campaign “Think IBM,” which was used at the time to advertise its ThinkPad. 

Soon after, the slogan “Think Different” accompanied Apple advertisements all over the place, even though Apple hadn’t released any significant new products at the time. All of a sudden, people began to realize that Apple wasn’t just any old computer; it was so powerful and so simple to use that it made the average computer user feel innovative and tech-savvy.

According to ForbesApple’s stock price tripled within a year of the commercial’s release. Although the slogan has been since retired, many Apple users still feel a sense of entitlement for being among those who “think different.”

apple-slogan.jpg

Source: Blue Fin Group

3) Dollar Shave Club: “Shave Time. Shave Money.”

The folks at Dollar Shave Club have made their way onto quite a few of our lists here on the blog — like this one on promotional product videos and this one on holiday marketing campaigns. In other words, it’s safe to say that when it comes to marketing and advertising, they know what they are doing. And their slogan — “Shave Time. Shave Money.” — is an excellent reflection of their expertise. 

This little quip cleverly incorporates two of the service’s benefits: cost and convenience. It’s punny, to the point, and it perfectly represents the overall tone of the brand. 

Dollar-Shave-Club-Slogan.jpg

Source: TheStephenHarvey.com

4) L’Oréal: “Because You’re Worth It”

Who doesn’t want to feel like they’re worth it? The folks at L’Oréal know that women wear makeup in order to make themselves appear “beautiful” so they feel desirable, wanted, and worth it. The tagline isn’t about the product — it’s about the image the product can get you. This message allowed L’Oréal to push its brand further than just utility so as to give the entire concept of makeup a much more powerful message.

loreal-slogan.jpg

Source: Farah Khan

5) California Milk Processor Board: “Got Milk?”

While most people are familiar with the “Got Milk?” campaign, not everyone remembers that it was launched by the California Milk Processor Board (CMPB). What’s interesting about this campaign is that it was initially launched to combat the rapid increase in fast food and soft beverages: The CMPB wanted people to revert to milk as their drink of choice in order to sustain a healthier life. The campaign was meant to bring some life to a “boring” product, ad executives told TIME Magazine

The simple words “Got Milk?” scribbled above celebrities, animals, and children with milk mustaches, which ran from 2003 until 2014, became one of the longest-lasting campaigns ever. The CMPB wasn’t determined to make its brand known with this one — they were determined to infiltrate the idea of drinking milk across the nation. And these two simple words sure as heck did.

got-milk-slogan.jpg

Source: Broward Palm Beach News Times

6) MasterCard: “There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard.”

MasterCard’s two-sentence slogan was created in 1997 as a part of an award-winning advertising campaign that ran in 98 countries and in 46 languages. The very first iteration of the campaign was a TV commercial that aired in 1997: “A dad takes his son to a baseball game and pays for a hot dog and a drink, but the conversation between the two is priceless,” writes Avi Dan for Forbes. “In a sense, ‘Priceless’ became a viral, social campaign years before there was a social media.”

One key to this campaign’s success? Each commercial elicits an emotional response from the audience. That first TV commercial might remind you of sports games you went to with your dad, for example. Each advertisement attempted to trigger a different memory or feeling. “You have to create a cultural phenomenon and then constantly nurture it to keep it fresh,” MasterCard CMO Raja Rajamannar told Dan. And nostalgia marketing like that can be a powerful tool.

7) BMW: “The Ultimate Driving Machine”

BMW sells cars all over the world, but in North America, it’s known by its slogan: “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” This slogan was created in the 1970s by a relatively unknown ad agency named Ammirati & Puris and was, according to BMW’s blog, directed at Baby Boomers who were “out of college, making money and ready to spend their hard earned dollars. What better way to reflect your success than on a premium automobile?”

The goal? To reinforce the message that its cars’ biggest selling point is that they are performance vehicles that are thrilling to drive. That message is an emotional one, and one that consumers can buy into to pay the high price point.

bmw-slogan.jpg

Source: BMW

8) Tesco: “Every Little Helps”

“Every little helps” is the kind of catchy tagline that can make sense in many different contexts — and it’s flexible enough to fit in with any one of Tesco’s messages. It can refer to value, quality, service, and even environmental responsibility — which the company practices by addressing the impacts in their operations and supply chain.

It’s also, as Naresh Ramchandani wrote for The Guardian“perhaps the most ingeniously modest slogan ever written.” Tesco markets themselves as a brand for the people, and a flexible, modest far-reaching slogan like this one reflects that beautifully.

tesco-slogan.jpg

Source: The Drum 

9) M&M: “Melts in Your Mouth, Not in Your Hands”

Here’s one brand that didn’t need much time before realizing its core value proposition. At the end of the day, chocolate is chocolate. How can one piece of chocolate truly stand out from another? By bringing in the convenience factor, of course. This particular example highlights the importance of finding something that makes your brand different from the others — in this case, the hard shell that keeps chocolate from melting all over you.

 m-m-slogan.jpg

Source: Platform Magazine

10) Bounty: “The Quicker Picker Upper”

Bounty paper towels, made by Procter & Gamble, has used its catchy slogan “The Quicker Picker Upper” for almost 50 years now. If it sounds like one of those sing-songy word plays you learned as a kid, that’s because it is one: The slogan uses what’s called consonance — a poetic device characterized by the repetition of the same consonant two or more times in short succession (think: “pitter patter”).

Over the years, Bounty has moved away from this slogan in full, replacing “Quicker” with other adjectives, depending on the brand’s current marketing campaign — like “The Quilted Picker Upper” and “The Clean Picker Upper.” At the same time, the brand’s main web address went from quickerpickerupper.com to bountytowels.com. But although the brand is branching out into other campaigns, they’ve kept the theme of their original, catchy slogan.

Bounty_Paper_Towels_Slogan.png

Source: Bounty

11) De Beers: “A Diamond is Forever”

Diamonds aren’t worth much inherently. In fact, a diamond is worth at least 50% less than you paid for it the moment you left the jewelry store. So how did they become the symbol of wealth, power, and romance they are in America today? It was all because of a brilliant, multifaceted marketing strategy designed and executed by ad agency N.W. Ayer in the early 1900s for their client, De Beers.

You can read all about the strategy here. The four, iconic words “A Diamond is Forever” have appeared in every single De Beers advertisement since 1948, and AdAge named it the #1 slogan of the century in 1999. It perfectly captures the sentiment De Beers was going for: that a diamond, like your relationship, is eternal. It also helped discourage people from ever reselling their diamonds. (Mass re-selling would disrupt the market and reveal the alarmingly low intrinsic value of the stones themselves.) Brilliant. 

de-beers-slogan.jpg de-beers-slogan-old.jpg

Source: Sydney Merritt

12) Lay’s: “Betcha Can’t Eat Just One”

Seriously, who here has ever had just one chip? While this tagline might stand true for other snack companies, Lay’s was clever to pick up on it straight away. The company tapped into our truly human incapability to ignore crispy, salty goodness when it’s staring us in the face. Carbs, what a tangled web you weave.

But seriously, notice how the emphasis isn’t on the taste of the product. There are plenty of other delicious chips out there. But what Lay’s was able to bring forth with its tagline is that totally human, uncontrollable nature of snacking until the cows come home.

lays-slogan.jpg

Source: Amazon

13) Audi: “Vorsprung durch technik” (“Advancement Through Technology”)

“Vorsprung durch technik” has been Audi’s main slogan everywhere in the world since 1971 (except for the United States, where the slogan is “Truth in Engineering”). While the phrase has been translated in several ways, the online dictionary LEO translates “Vorsprung” as “advance” or “lead” as in “distance, amount by which someone is ahead in a competition.” Audi roughly translates it as: “Advancement through technology.”

The first-generation Audio 80 (B1 series) was launched a year after the slogan in 1972, and the new car was a brilliant reflection of that slogan with many impressive new technical features. It was throughout the 1970s that the Audi brand established itself as an innovative car manufacturer, such as with the five-cylinder engine (1976), turbocharging (1979), and the quattro four-wheel drive (1980). This is still reflective of the Audi brand today.

audi-slogan.jpg

Source: Cars and Coffee Chat

14) Dunkin’ Donuts: “America Runs on Dunkin”

In April 2006, Dunkin’ Donuts launched the most significant repositioning effort in the company’s history by unveiling a brand new, multi-million dollar advertising campaign under the slogan “America Runs on Dunkin.” The campaign revolves around Dunkin’ Donuts coffee keeping busy Americans fueled while they are on the go.

“The new campaign is a fun and often quirky celebration of life, showing Americans embracing their work, their play and everything in between — accompanied every step of the way by Dunkin’ Donuts,” read the official press release from the campaign’s official launch.

Ten years later, what the folks at Dunkin Donuts’ realized they were missing was their celebration of and honoring their actual customers. That’s why, in 2016, they launched the “Keep On” campaign, which they call their modern interpretation of the ten-year slogan.

“It’s the idea that we’re your partner in crime, or we’re like your wingman, your buddy in your daily struggle and we give you the positive energy through both food and beverage but also emotionally, we believe in you and we believe in the consumer,” said Chris D’Amico, SVP and Group Creative Director at Hill Holiday.

dunkin-donuts-slogan.gif

Source: Lane Printing & Advertising

15) Meow Mix: “Tastes So Good, Cats Ask for It by Name”

Meow meow meow meow … who remembers this catchy tune sung by cats, for cats, in Meow Mix’s television commercials? The brand released a simple but telling tagline: “Tastes So Good, Cats Ask For It By Name.”

This slogan plays off the fact that every time a cat meows, s/he is actually asking for Meow Mix. It was not only clever, but it also successfully planted Meow Mix as a standout brand in a cluttered market.

meow-mix-slogan.jpg

Source: Walgreens

16) McDonald’s: “I’m Lovin’ It”

The “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign was launched way back in 2003 and still stands strong today. This is a great example of a slogan that resonates with the brand’s target audience. McDonald’s food might not be your healthiest choice, but being healthy isn’t the benefit McDonald’s is promising — it’s that you’ll love the taste and the convenience. 

(Fun fact: The jingle’s infamous hook — “ba da ba ba ba” — was originally sung by Justin Timberlake.)

mcdonalds-slogan.gif

Source: McDonald’s

17) The New York Times: “All the News That’s Fit to Print”

This one is my personal favorite. The tagline was created in the late 1890s as a movement of opposition against other news publications printing lurid journalism. The New York Times didn’t stand for sensationalism. Instead, it focused on important facts and stories that would educate its audience. It literally deemed its content all the real “news fit to print.”

This helped the paper become more than just a news outlet, but a company that paved the way for creditable news. The company didn’t force a tagline upon people when it first was founded, but rather, it created one in a time where it was needed most.

new-york-times-slogan.jpg

Source: 4th St8 Blog

18) General Electric: “Imagination at Work”

You may remember General Electric’s former slogan, “We Bring Good Things to Life,” which they initiated in 1979. Although this tagline was well-known and well-received, the new slogan — “Imagination at Work” — shows how a company’s internal culture can revolutionize how they see their own brand.

“‘Imagination at Work’ began as an internal theme at GE,” recalled Tim McCleary, GE’s manager of corporate identity. When Jeff Immelt became CEO of GE in 2001, he announced that his goal was to reconnect with GE’s roots as a company defined by innovation. 

This culture and theme resulted in a rebranding with the new tagline “Imagination at Work,” which embodies the idea that imagination inspires the human initiative to thrive at what we do.

19) Verizon: “Can You Hear Me Now? Good.”

Here’s another brand that took its time coming up with something that truly resonated with its audience. This tagline was created in 2002 under the umbrella of “We never stop working for you.”

While Verizon was founded in 1983, they continued to battle against various phone companies like AT&T and T-Mobile, still two of its strongest competitors. But what makes Verizon stand out? No matter where you are, you have service. You may not have the greatest texting options, or the best cellphone options, but you will always have service.

(Fun fact: The actor behind this campaign — Paul Marcarelli — recently began appearing in new advertisements for Sprint.)

verizon-slogan.jpg

Source: MS Lumia Blog

20) State Farm: “Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is There

The insurance company State Farm has a number of slogans, including “Get to a better State” and “No one serves you better than State Farm.” But its most famous one is the jingle “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there,” which you’re likely familiar with if you live in the United States and watch television.

These words emphasize State Farm’s “community-first” value proposition — which sets them apart from the huge, bureaucratic feel of most insurance companies. And it quickly establishes a close relationship with the consumer.

Often, customers need insurance when they least expect it — and in those situations, State Farm is responding in friendly, neighborly language. 

StateFarm_Logo.png

Source: StateFarm

21) Maybelline: “Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline.”

Can you sing this jingle in your head? Maybelline’s former slogan, created in the 1990s, is one of the most famous in the world. It makes you think of glossy magazine pages featuring strong, beautiful women with long lashes staring straight down the lens. It’s that confidence that Maybelline’s makeup brand is all about — specifically, the transformation into a confident woman through makeup.

Maybelline changed their slogan to “Make IT Happen” in February 2016, inspiring women to “express their beauty in their own way.” Despite this change, their former slogan remains powerful and ubiquitous, especially among the many generations that grew up with it.

maybelline-slogan.jpg

Source: FunnyJunk

22) The U.S. Marine Corps: “The Few. The Proud. The Marines.”

The U.S. Marine Corps has had a handful of top-notch recruiting slogans over the decades, from “First to fight” starting in World War I to “We’re looking for a few good men” from the 1980s. However, we’d argue that “The Few. The Proud. The Marines.” is among the best organization slogans out there.

This slogan “underscores the high caliber of those who join and serve their country as Marines,” said Maj. Gen. Richard T. Tryon, former commanding general of Marine Corps Recruiting Command. In 2007, it even earned a spot in Madison Avenue’s Advertising Walk of Fame.

US_Marine_Corps_Slogan.png

Source: Marines.com

Do you have your own tagline? What other brands’ taglines do you love?

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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Jul

1

2015

7 Important PR Lessons Every Content Marketer Needs to Learn

PR_Lessons_for_Marketers.jpeg

I tried to explain public relations to my grandmother once …

This was many years ago, back when PR pros cut press coverage from publications we could actually hold in our hands, and few marketers talked about SEO in everyday conversation.

“So, it’s advertising,” she’d say, and I’d try again to explain that, no, it’s not.

“Advertising is about paying for attention; PR is about earning it.”

I don’t think she ever got it, and she’s not alone. Most people still think PR is some kind of black magic flacks work on the press — you sprinkle a little witch’s potion, and TA-DA! You’re in The Wall Street Journal. But PR is a more strategic, sustained practice than that, and it’s a field content marketers need to understand as owned, earned and even paid media continue to intersect.

Below are seven PR lessons for content marketers (and for my relatives who still don’t understand what I do).

7 PR Lessons Every Content Marketer Needs to Learn 

What is PR?

If your impression of PR pros is influenced entirely by Publicist Samantha Jones from Sex and the City or Fixer Olivia Pope from Scandal, you probably think the whole industry is busy planning parties and solving national crises (while wearing really fabulous pantsuits). The reality is somewhat less exciting — but it’s also much more relevant to content marketers.

PR is about getting a company in front of the right audiences at the right time, with messages that make its spokespeople sound like human beings, not marketing super bots.

Today, that effort has a lot to do with content creation and distribution. The press, analysts, bloggers, prospects, venture capitalists, and other influencers want compelling content. In real life, Samantha and Olivia would be spending much of their days drafting articles for contribution or creating premium content with a team of writers and graphic designers.

What do journalists want from external content creators?

Every publication that accepts contributed content has some kind of guidelines for what they’ll take, and most follow the same best practices content marketers do. Editors will ask you to draft articles that keep their audiences in mind, offer helpful guidance to readers, are compelling and easy to read, leave out the promotional stuff, and deliver something fresh that won’t be published anywhere else.

Sound familiar?

These are many of the same parameters content marketers follow everyday.

Are contributed articles the only content PR handles?

The short answer? Not by a long shot.

Strategic PR is about solving business problems, so if the business problem is, say, a lack of leads at the top of the funnel, content can be a big part of the response. Depending on the exact scenario and the resources, a full-service PR team might recommend publishing on various social media channels, launching a comprehensive blogging program, creating a push around premium content (such as an ebook or series of infographics), putting out an email newsletter, or even a combination of these tactics.

Whatever the recommendation, a PR team can explain the supporting assets and workflows that need to be in place, as well as measure the results to determine what’s working and what needs to shift.

Do PR and content marketing compete?

Content and inbound marketing evolved at a time when PR was evolving, too. Just as marketers started to embrace strategies for drawing target audiences to them instead of pushing messages out to the masses, PR was experiencing a shift driven in large part by the shrinking media landscape.

There are now fewer journalists typing away in newsrooms and reporting back from the field — 20,000 fewer than in 2008, according to a count Gigaom put out last year before closing its own doors. But that doesn’t mean there’s less need for copy.

And while many web-based publications are eager to publish more material to attract readers (hello, inbound), editors are looking for expert content contributions. If an editor wants a 2,000 word article from your CEO on an industry issue, is that a PR request or a content marketing request? Or is that question completely dated in the integrated marketing era?

Is PR measurable?

Yes, and if anyone tells you differently, run in the opposite direction.

Just like content marketing, goal-based PR should provide tangible business results — not just a list of press hits. The metrics marketers use to measure awareness, engagement, lead generation, investor interest, sales, and other goals are the same ones you can use to measure PR.

“Of course, your PR efforts are even more measurable when your website is well-equipped with lead generation forms, tracking tools, and automated follow-up systems that allow you to capture visitors and convert them into real prospects and customers,” explains Rod Thomson, president of The Thomson Group, a Sarasota-based PR and messaging firm.

And while it can be challenging to sort through all of the information at hand, it helps to use questions to focus your analysis.

Are you getting mentioned in analyst reports? Are influencers talking about you on social media? Are readers clicking through to deeper content from your blog? Where are visitors going once they hit your landing pages? Are they converting? After a quarter, six months, or a year of PR efforts, how have you progressed toward your primary strategic business goal?

These are the kinds of questions PR pros should be able to answer about any campaign.

If PR and content marketing overlap so much, what’s the benefit to having both?

If you’re lucky enough (or smart enough) to have PR and content marketing experts on your team, you’re in great shape to influence targets everywhere — from the media to analysts to website visitors to social media followers and beyond.

Your PR pros and content marketers can support each others’ activities, inspire each others’ creativity and keep messages coordinated to better support your overall strategic goals.

How can content marketing teams best align with PR? 

Content marketing and PR teams need to communicate.

If you’re promoting a new ebook, for example, your PR counterpart might be able to repurpose that asset for contributed content, social media outreach, influencer engagement, media pitches, and more. On the flip side, a successful media campaign should spark ideas for you about which messages are resonating, what prospects want, and how to incorporate that into future content creation.

These days, it’s my kids who are asking me to describe what I do for work. I have been much more successful in explaining it to them than I ever was back when I first entered PR and relatives asked me to define the industry.

To my daughters, I say, “I help companies tell stories people want to hear.” I imagine content marketers tell their families something similar, and that is a good thing for practitioners in both fields.

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May

29

2015

Kale, Podcasts & Yoga Pants: The Secret Formula Behind Ideas That Take Off

Contagious_Ideas_That_Stick.jpg

Unsatisfied by his current job, Tom Dickson found himself with three things: the need for a change, a passion for bread making, and a $10 vacuum motor. 

In search of a way to combine them, Dickson started his own blender company, Blendtec. Unfortunately, he quickly found that generating buzz for blenders wasn’t all that easy. 

Then one day, his marketing director found inspiration in a pile of sawdust left behind by one of Dickson’s “blender durability experiments,” and proposed an idea that would soon propel Blendtec to fame. 

The Will it Blend? video series follows Dickson as he tests the power of his product by blending everything from glows sticks to Justin Bieber CDs. Today, the YouTube series boasts an impressive 799,332 subscribers and 259,503,120 views. 

How did this happen? And why?

Quite simply, Blendtec found a way to position their product as something truly fascinating. Something contagious

“The Blendtec story demonstrates one of the key takeaways of contagious content. Virality isn’t born, it’s made. And that is good news indeed,” explains Wharton Professor and best-selling author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Jonah Berger. 

In his book, Berger fuses the concepts of virality, social influence, and interpersonal communication with research and stories around what makes an idea not only stick, but also spread. I recently had a chance to catch up with Berger to discuss his book and dive further into his understanding of why people talk about certain products and ideas more than others.

Ever wonder why kale suddenly became impossible to avoid? Or yoga pants? Or podcasts? What’s that all about?

According to Berger, the transmission of ideas can be explained by six concepts: social currency, triggers, emotion, public, practical value, and stories. 

STEPPS: The Six Principles of Contagious Ideas

“The key is to understand what grabs people’s attention and why people share. And that’s what the six key STEPPS are all about. Even in today’s crowded marketplace, these principles have helped dozens of companies get their products and ideas to catch on,” explains Berger. 

Before we dive into some real-life applications of these principles, it’s important to start with a clear understanding of how they are defined:

  1. Social Currency: Social currency taps into our desire to feel like “insiders” and share information that makes us look good. 
  2. Triggers: Triggers remind people to talk about your product or service. This is often achieved by linking what you offer to popular events or cues. 
  3. Emotion: When we care, we share. If you can get people to feel something, the next usual step is for them to share those feelings. 
  4. Public: The more visible and easily accessible your product is, the more likely it is to be talked about. Highly public ideas market themselves. 
  5. Practical Value: People want to share content that teaches others how to do something better — improve their health, learn a new instrument, save money, etc. 
  6. Stories: Inserting information into a narrative will transform it into something more attractive to share.

So how do these principles help explain the popularity of kale, yoga pants, and podcasts? Read on.

The Kale Campaign

Between 2012-2013, 608 baby Kales were born. No, not the vegetable. We’re talking about actual babies named Kale. 592 baby boys and 16 baby girls, to be exact. 

This should come as no surprise after the Department of Agriculture announced that U.S. farmers grew 57% more kale in 2012 than they did in 2007. Or after Whole Foods reported that on average they now sell 22,000 bunches of kale per day. And while we’re on the subject, did you know that a recent survey of restaurant menus from 2013-2014 revealed a 47% increase in the word kale? 

Notice a trend developing here?

Kale is really really popular in the U.S.

From Beyoncé music videos to the next iteration of the McDonald’s menu, the almighty leafy green has seemingly infiltrated all corners of society. Which leaves us to ponder the question: How the heck did that happen?

The simplest way to explain this veggie phenomenon would be to attribute it to the increase in healthier eating habits amongst Americans. However, we’d argue there’s actually more to it than that. 

First, it’s important to note that this whole kale thing didn’t take off organically (pun very much intended). Truth be told, a few years back, The American Kale Association actually joined forces with Oberon Sinclair, founder of My Young Auntie PR, to propel the superfood into super fame. 

As a result, Sinclair did what any great PR person would do — she hustled the veggie into the hands of the right people. And in this case, the right people meant people like the guys at Fat Radish, which can be best described as a “trendy, brick-walled cafe with a hip clientele and innovative, vegetable-centric British dishes.”

Thanks to their endorsement and a handful of other high-brow mentions — Martha Stewart’s Kale Slaw recipe published in the August 2009 copy of Martha Stewart Living and Gwenyth Paltrow’s 2011 kale chip segment on Ellen — kale quickly made its way into the public eye. 

While this PR boost helped to push the vegetable into the limelight, Berger’s principles played a part in helping it maintain its authority.

“From almonds and blueberries to Greek yogurt and kale, people are always looking for the next superfood. Something that has lots of vitamins and nutrients, with no downside. And for the moment, kale has hit that perfectly. It’s the right blend of novel and nutritious that allows people who care to show they are on the next big thing,” explains Berger. 

The key phrase here being “novel and nutritious.”

It’s kale’s nutritious, practical benefits that make it shareworthy. People are always looking to share things that help others, so highlighting the health benefits of kale serves as a way for them to do just that. 

Aside from its nutritious practical value, kale has also become somewhat of a novelty. As a result, people are driven to share their kale consumption to prove that they are — as Berger mentioned — “on the next big thing.” This is a strong representation of social currency in action, as this principle refers to our desire to show off the fact that we are staying on top of the latest trends. 

“The only thing people love more than talking is talking about themselves. Particularly online, much of what we share is driven by how it makes us look. People share pictures of their meals, diets, and workshops to show how healthy, smart, or in the know they are,” adds Berger. 

To get a better idea of just how far the social spread of kale has gone, we ran a quick Instagram search for the hashtag #kale and found that the Instagram community alone had shared 1,327,785 kale pictures to date. Kale salads, kale chips, kale smoothies, you name it — they’ve slapped a filter on it and shared it with their followers. 

As long as we continue to operate under the notion that “you are what you Instagram,” it’s likely that this food trend will only continue to grow. 

The Return of the Podcast 

In 2001, Steve Jobs introduced the world to the very first iPod. Serving as an innovative portable music player, the iPod finally gave users the ability to carry their favorite songs and albums around with them.

Soon after its release, “podcasting” — a genre of narrative audio cleverly named to reflect the listening device — surfaced and began to catch on. However, somewhere between 2009-2010 the genre began to lose steam. 

Fast-forward to today, and it seems that there is a podcast for almost anything you can think of. So what caused this resurgence in popularity?

For starters, mobile usage is at an all-time high. According to Pew Research Center, 64% of American adults now own a smartphone of some kind. (This number is up from 35% in the spring of 2011.) This makes it easier than ever for listeners to pull up a podcasting app and tune in without the hassle.

Prior to this increase in mobile dependency, keeping up with a podcast meant subscribing to a program, downloading new episodes each week, and manually plugging your iPod or other MP3 player into a computer to sync up the latest. In other words, it was hard work. 

By improving the user flow and lowering the barrier between broadcaster and listener, it’s easier for users to incorporate this technology into their daily routines. This is where we can begin to see several of Berger’s principles take shape — specifically practical value, stories, and emotion. 

In terms of practical value, podcasts are unique in that they are both portable and audible, which in turn, makes them useful. As a result, people are driven to share information on podcasts or suggestions for listening to introduce their network to a new way of consumption — a format that will increase their productivity and help them learn new things. 

“Podcasts are like entertainment snacks. They provide a handy way to consume information on the go. Whether waiting for the subway, or working out on the treadmill, you can listen while you are doing something else,” explains Berger. 

Other than the fact that they are valuable in the sense that they fit nicely into our busy routines, the popularity of podcasts most certainly has something to do with their storytelling roots. 

“Bundling information into narratives encourages engagement,” Berger insists. 

Let’s take the Serial podcast, for example. If you’re not already familiar with the podcast, the 12-episode spin-off of This American Life chronicled the 1999 Baltimore murder case of Hae Min Lee. And while it would be naive to credit this particular program with the return of podcasting, its success certainly helped to generate a lot of attention for the medium. 

By repackaging the case into a compelling story, it quickly became something that people wanted to share and talk about. And while stories are quick to spread, inserting an emotional factor will help them go that much further, as people are known to share things that make them feel something. 

“As I talk about in my book, the more we care, the more we share. But some emotions increase sharing more than others. While positive things tend to be shared more overall, we found that certain negative emotions, like anxiety, do increase sharing. Serial was the perfect blend of anxiety and suspense that drove people to share,” says Berger. 

So whether you’re tuning into a weekly account of a murder trial that has you on the edge of your seat, or you’re feeling inspired after listening to a thoughtful Q&A with your favorite marketer, there’s no denying the power of storytelling mixed with emotion. And if podcasts continue to marry the two so seamlessly, there’s no telling how far this idea will spread. 

The Yoga Pants Obsession 

Walk around most college campuses and cities in the U.S., and you’ll start to notice an unofficial “uniform” on many of the women. 

And by unofficial uniform, we mean yoga pants. Everywhere. Every day. 

If it’s raining, people often opt for the yoga pants/Hunter rain boot combo. Snowing? You’ll see the triple threat — yoga pants, North Face jacket, and Ugg boots. If it’s bright and sunny, many will rock yoga pants, flip flops, and a t-shirt. (For the record, I’m guilty of these pairings myself.)

Certainly there has to be a logical explanation for this trend — but what? Why yoga pants?

Similar to kale, we can’t ignore the fact that there has been a recent uptick in healthy living initiatives. Over the last decade, the yoga and Pilates industry has grown significantly, which certainly contributes to an increased demand for the corresponding apparel. But, that’s not the only driving force behind this trend. 

In terms of Berger’s principles, there is definitely something to be said about the influence of social currency.

Take the wildly popular athletic apparel brand, Lululemon, for example. Lululemon has used social currency to establish themselves as the crème de la crème of yoga pants. At it’s core, social currency has a lot to do with the concept of making people feel like “an insider.” One way to create this type of social capital is to leverage scarcity and exclusivity to impact perceived value and interest in a particular product or service.

According to Berger, Scarcity and exclusivity play a part in the signaling process by increasing desirability. If not everyone can have something, it makes you look better to have gotten it.”

In an effort to create this sense of exclusivity, Lululemon runs their new colors and seasonal items on a 3-, 6-, or 12-week cycle, and they stock a limited number of items in stores to make them appear scarce. As a result, their new items are known to fly off the shelves, despite the fact that there are cheaper alternatives available (a typical pair of Lululemon yoga pants retails for ~$100). 

“What we buy not only serves a functional purpose, but it also signals things about us to others. Sure, other yoga pants might work just as well for half the price, but people aren’t buying Lululemon because it’s the cheapest. They’re buying it because of what it says about them — that they are into yoga and are wealthy enough to afford the brand,” Berger told me. 

While it’s evident that leveraging exclusivity and scarcity to create social currency is effective, Lululemon has even more tricks up their sleeve. 

Their strategy also leans heavily the principles of emotion and publicity, as demonstrated by their unique ambassador program. Essentially this program recruits local fitness junkies — yoga teachers, triathletes, runners — before a store opens in their area. As a Lululemon ambassador, they are tasked with spreading the word about the brand, and to make it that much easier, they are awarded free Lululemon apparel for their participation.

By encouraging their ambassadors to sport the gear, they are effectively making their product more public. This increase in visibility works to get people wanting, thinking, and talking about the apparel. 

Aside from wearing the yoga pants, the ambassadors are also responsible for promoting the brand, the lifestyle it encompasses, and the community that they are trying to create. This sense of community often elicits emotion — whether it be a sense of belonging or a new found motivation — which powers them to share and talk about the brand. 

“Products are more likely to catch on if they are part of a larger social movement. People aren’t just buying something; they are participating in something larger than themselves. Good brands build a community, almost a religion, around what they are doing. There is an ethos or value system they stand for, and buying the product allows consumers to be part of that movement,” explains Berger. 

Sparking the Next “Big Thing”

While kale, podcasts, and yoga pants are three perfectly good examples of ideas that spread like wildfire, not all ideas share the same fate. 

So how can businesses prevent an idea from flopping? Here’s Berger’s advice:

“Many people think that sharing today is quite different from what it was 20 years ago. But in all the hype around the technology, people forgot about something much more important: the psychology. Why people talk and share in the first place, and what drives them to share some things rather than others. Some companies have collected millions of friends and followers, but if no one shares your content, it doesn’t matter. The key is understanding why people share, and using that understanding to craft contagious content.”

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May

19

2015

How to Create a Social Media Crisis Management Plan [Free Template]

Social Media Crisis Management Plan - HubSpot

Social media community managers and public relations professionals have to deal with little problems every single day. These could include nasty comments, unhappy customers, delivery issues, or a marketing faux pas — all problems that arise frequently and deserve reasonable and empathetic responses. 

There are times when they also have to deal with real crises, such as gun terror, natural disasters, and white collar crime. The reason these fall under the “crisis” category is because, if you act or respond incorrectly on your social media channels, they could damage a brand’s long-term reputation.

While some of these issues can be categorized as a “problem” or a “crisis” pretty easily, others aren’t so black-and-white. How do you categorize these types of situations? How do you determine the point of escalation with each crisis scenario? When should you get help from a manager or another team member … and who should you even reach out to?

You’ll find answers to all these questions and more in our brand new Social Media Crisis Management Plan.

Download your social media crisis management plan here.

In this free PDF guide and Excel template, you’ll learn:

  • How to become an expert problem solvert
  • The differences between a problem and a crisis
  • What to do when a problem becomes a crisis
  • How to create your very own crisis management plan

From negative comments to natural disasters, it’s important to have a proper response plan for your social media channels. This guide will help you solve tough problems quickly while avoiding damages to your company’s reputation.

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“Check out @HubSpot‘s Social Media Crisis Management Plan: http://hubs.ly/y0Pp-90 (Includes a PDF guide + Excel template)

Social Media Crisis Management Plan - HubSpot

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May

15

2015

7 Ways to Be Insanely Honest in Your Marketing

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In Velocity’s latest SlideShare, “Insane Honesty in Content Marketing,” we argue for a little-used but hugely powerful strategy: taking the worst attributes of your company, product or service … and highlighting them for all to see.

I really, really, REALLY believe in this approach and I’m amazed more brands don’t practice it. 

If you haven’t seen the SlideShare yet, check it out below. I’ll wait. 

Okay, so you’re on board with Insane Honesty. Here are seven ways to get some Insane Honesty into your content and your wider marketing, done as a listicle for maximum share-ability (hint, hint).

1) Say Who You’re NOT For

Let’s face it, no product or service is right for everyone on the planet. Not even Coke.

So why can’t marketers simply admit that? Why are we so allergic to excluding even the most unlikely-to-buy from our target audience?

What if you said something like this:

If you like your coffee on the acidic end of the spectrum, the Z-Machine is not for you. We love the soft, mild stuff. But we recognize that some people really like that after-bite in their java, so we don’t want to mislead you guys. There are lots of great machines out there that keep the acids in. Ours? Nope.”

See how cool that feels?

See how confident it is?

Think about how you’d feel if you do actually prefer non-acidic coffee.

Now think about how you’d feel if you LOVE acidic coffee. Are you more or less likely to trust this brand when they come out with ‘Z2: The High-Acid Cup-o-matic’?

This is one of the most powerful — and least risky — techniques in the Insane Honesty arsenal. Use it!

2) Admit to a Weak Product Feature

No product team can innovate and develop equally effectively on all fronts. You choose your battles and prioritize the things on your roadmap, right?

That means Competitor A may have a better user interface than you (while your data management capabilities kick their butt).

And Competitor C may have a cheaper on-ramp product (while you have the gold-plated, bullet-proof, enterprise-class option).

Traditional marketing says, “Talk about your weakest features in exactly the same way that you talk about your strongest. Tap dance.”

What if you broke that phoney old convention and said something like:

Okay, we haven’t perfected our data visualization yet. If pretty dashboards are your number one priority, you may find that frustrating. We decided to focus on the data quality through Q2 and Q3 (to us, that’s WAY more important) and to get to the dashboard eye-candy in Q4. Just so you know.”

See how you can de-position the feature as less important without pretending you’re great at it?

And how you can get the reader to consider that data quality is actually much more important than pretty pictures?

And how you come off as an honest vendor who will tell you the truth even if it means losing a sale?

Who the hell wouldn’t want to do that?

3) Embrace the Elephant in the Room

My mother is a genius at denial (she had to be good at it — she had an unimaginably tough start in life).

We used to tease her about her ability to admire a hostess’ Oriental carpet while ignoring the massive blood stain right in the center.

But marketers do this every day — it’s one of the things that make marketing shout, “MARKETING!”

So what if you didn’t just admit you could see the elephant — what if you walked up and gave it a big, dusty hug? Like this:

You may have heard: Our cloud app had some serious down time last year. We let our customers down and paid the price. It hurt. It hurt so much that we did the following nine things to make sure it never happens again …”

All of a sudden, the story changes from “slick marketer trying to gloss over a major problem” to “well-meaning company trips up and learns from its mistakes.”

The elephant is already the room, dude. It blocks your view of the mini-bar. It smells. It has ears the size of your torso. You really want to chat about the cool curtains?

4) Praise Your Competitors

This one physically hurts a lot of marketers. But bear with me.

Your competitors may be duplicitous and under-handed and down-right annoying, but you have a lot more in common with them than you’d like to admit.

You serve the same people, helping them solve the same problems. You go to the same trade shows and speak at the same conferences about pretty much the same things.

So, like it or not, you’re fellow travellers.

We’ve all seen unseemly public spats between vendors. It’s embarrassing and both parties come out badly.

Insane Honesty turns that dynamic on its head. How about:

The smart folks over at BadGuys Inc. just put out a cool interview with Max McGillicuddy of Spinfast Propellers. Check it out. Max is the MAN when it comes to this stuff. Great interview. Wish we’d done it!”

Yeah, I know, now you think I’m smoking something in a Colorado coffee shop.

But read it again and monitor your feelings as you do so.

A statesmanlike passage like this sends a loud, clear message to your prospects: This is a confident company that’s unafraid of a little competition. And these are the kind of people everybody likes: These are nice people.

So be nice. Be gracious. Give credit where credit is due. You’ll live.

5) Laugh at Yourself

Marketers tend to have sense-of-humour failures over little things that don’t really matter. Little embarrassing things that we just know other people are laughing at behind our backs.

So what if we take the joke out from behind our backs and join in the laughter? Kinda like this:

We know, we know: the name ‘FourSkin’ is a pretty funny name for a drum head company. Our founder was an immigrant from Hungary, and English was his fourth language. But, hey, it’s too late now and it’s a great conversation starter. If you can’t handle it, you can call us FS. Our mothers do.”

Teasing yourself completely defuses the situation and deflates the embarrassment. A bit of self-effacing humor goes a long way.

6) Replace Lame Excuses With the Truth

When things go bad, the “crisis management” team spins out all manner of nonsense to try to “contain the situation.”

On Monday morning, we experienced a denial of service attack from an unknown server. Our security team responded within seven minutes to address the issue but, unfortunately everyone’s credit card numbers are now for sale on Silk Road.”

Just once in a while, a company says something like:

You’re not going to believe this. Last night, Jamie, over in accounts, left his laptop in a taxi. It had all our passwords on it. The good news? We got the laptop back an hour later and the passwords were still encrypted. The not-so-good news? We moved Jamie to shipping (passwords can NEVER leave the firewall under ANY circumstances and he knew that). Now here’s what we need you to do, right now if possible …”

If you give them a chance, people tend to understand that people are people and — even in the best-run companies — mistakes happen.

And people can smell PR spin from a mile away. They prefer the truth, even when it feels insane to speak it.

7) Share Disappointments Instead of Hiding Them

Didn’t get into the top-right corner of the latest analyst report?

Lose a major client or a key employee?

Old-school marketers just straighten the tie, practice the grin, and face the music as if it was “Eye of the Tiger” instead of Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.”

Instead, what if you say what normal people say?  

What if you say, “Ouch!”?

When Velocity lost Ryan Skinner, a beloved account director, to Forrester (where he’s now very happy), we could have done the normal thing and issued the standard press release to “wish him well in his future endeavours.”

But we didn’t want to.

We wanted to call him names.

And call Forrester names.

So we did.  

This post, “Analyst Bastards Poach Stinkyhead Skinner from Top Agency” was fun to write, de-fused the bad news, and turned the stale convention upside down. Warning: It’s got lots of juvenile swear words.

Conclusion: Not So “Insane” Anymore, Is It?

So there you go. Seven ways to turn the theory of Insane Honesty into real practice in your own marketing.

It may feel scary and un-natural and anti-marketing — but that’s true of all the best marketing, isn’t it?

And here’s the thing: To start out on your insane journey, you don’t have to RUN the insanely honest copy you write. You just have to write it down and show it to a few people. Discuss the upside (earning trust, surprising the audience, coming off as human beings …) and the downside (alienating people who would never buy any way).

Then, what the hell, just go for it.

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May

14

2015

How to Launch a Product: Secrets From Silicon Valley’s “Most Sought-After Image Consultant”

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You have a better chance of hearing a venture capitalist boast, “We’re bullish on professional services” than read a reporter confess to missing a PR person. Yet in 2010, when Facebook’s longtime head of PR, Brandee Barker, stepped down, Kara Swisher, then of AllThingsD, wrote just that. Then last year The New York Times dubbed her, “the most sought-after image consultant in the start-up world.”

Since leaving Facebook, Barker has advised some of tech’s best-known startups (Uber, Airbnb, Spotify) and helped Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg launch Lean In — the book and companion movement that brought gender-focused dialogue to the forefront of business conversation. She also teamed with Sean Garrett (Twitter) and Brian O’Shaugnessy (Skype, Google) to create The Pramana Collective, one of the Valley’s most influential yet mysterious (two years without a website) agencies.

In other words, when Barker talks public relations, the Valley stops to listen. And that’s exactly what she did in a recent episode of The Growth Show podcast.

Host Mike Volpe asked her a beefy, multi-part question: When’s the right time to invest in PR? How do you think about getting started with PR? Should you do it yourself or hire an agency?

Barker turned to a real-time example, Color Genomics – a start-up she funds and advises. The company provides a low cost genetic test that helps women and men screen for breast and ovarian cancer.

Several elements need to come together for a successful launch, Barker explained. She cited narrative development, marketing materials, media training, and press assets. But she spent the bulk of the interview talking about the multiple storylines that would drive the launch and a subsequent “evergreen” conversation.

Barker talked about a mainstream narrative, which would help advance a brave discussion started by filmmaker and humanitarian Angelina Jolie. Jolie had published an op-ed in The New York Times describing her choice to have her ovaries removed in order to mitigate her high risk of ovarian cancer. Shortly thereafter, actress Rita Wilson announced she’d undergone a double mastectomy. Just a few days earlier, singer Taylor Swift shared on Tumblr that her mother was battling cancer. 

But one narrative isn’t quite enough for a Barker-scale launch, especially when the company’s mission lines up so closely with her personal passion. She also crafted a tech industry storyline (two of Color Genomics’ founders were from Twitter and Google) and cost-savings angle (the $249 home test replaces a $4,000 professional alternative, which insurance often doesn’t cover), then wrapped all three stories up with a unifying bow. “Color Genomics democratizes the ability for men and women to take control of their health,” she concludes, convincingly.

So, how’d she do? (After all, the podcast was recorded prior to the launch, yet we aired it following the push.) Let’s have a look:

The New York Times’ coverage included reference to Jolie as well as the “democratize access to genetic testing” message that Barker conveyed in the podcast. In addition to picking up the Jolie storyline, Forbes and popular tech blog TechCrunch each emphasized affordability, with the former highlighting the delta between the $4000 hospital procedure and the $249 home kit. More coverage ran in USA Today, Fortune, NPR’s blog, and a number of medical and technology trade publications.

The common theme connecting all of the articles is Barker’s narrative. Every article contained at least one of the narratives she polished before the launch. Which makes you wonder … with all of the technology available to marketing and public relations professionals, is the most powerful tool still the most simple: a timely, compelling story matched with the right audience?

For more on Brandee Barker, her time at Facebook, her experience with Sheryl Sandberg, and her thoughts on modern day PR, check out the latest episode of The Growth Show.

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May

12

2015

How to Write a Cold Email That’ll Actually Get a Response

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Since launching The Growth Show in February, we’ve been fortunate to land interviews with some really busy people, including executives of billion-dollar businesses and founders on the cusp of building the next big thing. 

For some of them, we had an “in.” Somebody knew somebody else and happily made the introduction.

But we weren’t so lucky with some of the other guests. We wanted to get in touch, but didn’t have mutual connections. So I’d send them a cold email — targeted, relevant to their interests, and completely custom, but still a cold email. And somehow, among all of the other pitches they get for podcast interviews, speaking engagements, and business consulting, these guests noticed my emails in their inbox and actually responded.   

How? 

While there certainly isn’t a set formula for the perfect cold email, below are a few things that you can do to give yourself the best chance of getting a response. This advice will help you whether you are trying to find a guest for your podcast, write better sales emails for your business, or even pitch a local reporter to get some press.

Perfect Your Subject Line

You could spend an entire day writing the best email body copy known to man, but if no one opens the email, your efforts will go to waste. 

To make sure that doesn’t happen, you need a compelling subject line. This advice might sound obvious, yet there are still so many poorly written subject lines. Just open up your inbox and see how many emails are in there that you’ll never read. You can only get so many subject lines like, “The leading cloud-based software in hyper-local social media marketing.”

So how do you write a good subject line? Figure out what you are ultimately trying to say and then boil down that request to 5-7 words. Once you get to those 5-7 words, make sure those words speak to the interests of your recipient and clearly communicate what you’d like from that email exchange. Here are a few more guidelines to ensure your subject lines entice someone to open.

One of my favorite ways to get someone’s attention is to put their name in the subject line. For example: “Brandee — having you on HubSpot’s podcast” or “Chris  —  source for your article on marketing trends.” I use this every time I am doing cold outreach emails.

Make It Clear Why You’re Reaching Out to Them Specifically

Here’s how most cold outreach is done: Write a pitch, copy, paste, send, repeat (and maybe change the greeting to really spice things up).

You’ve gotten these types of emails before from sales reps or PR pros — isn’t it annoying? 

Your recipient has gotten them, too. So to stand out, you need to make it clear why you are reaching out to them specifically. Adam Grant, a professor at Wharton and author of Give and Take, talks about how when people feel they have nothing unique to contribute, they will feel very little responsibility to help.

So when writing a cold email, don’t just make it clear why you are reaching out — make it clear why you are reaching out to them. The best cold emails highlight what specifically drew you to that particular person. Using the example of reaching out for a podcast: Add a sentence or two about how specifically that person’s work would be a great fit with your audience and why.

Showing that you did your homework isn’t just important because you need to be relevant, but it also shows that you put some time and effort into reaching out. This is one of the easiest ways to show that your email isn’t just another canned message from a sales rep or a PR pro.

Use Social Proof and Point to Results

Adding in a little social proof and some high-level stats to your pitch will take your homework from a B- to the top of the class.

If you’ve interviewed a colleague of theirs or spoken to someone that they know, include that in your pitch (in sales this could be a case study or a local customer reference). This also works if you’ve interviewed someone that they would consider a peer or competitor. The chances of you landing the CEO of Nike would dramatically increase if you could tell their PR team that you just finished an interview with the CEO of Under Armour, for example.

If you have the numbers to back up what you are pitching, include those as well. Would you rather be on a podcast that 100 people were going to listen to or 100,000? 

Keep It Short, Simple, and Written Like a Human

Everyone is busy and their inbox is already full. Don’t make things worse. Try and keep your email short, sweet, and to the point. Would you read a five-paragraph essay from someone that you’ve never talked to before? Probably not.

One of the best ways to keep things short and sweet is to write like a human. If you saw this person out in public and had to walk up and say hi, how would you start your conversation? You wouldn’t jump right into your pitch. Most likely you’d start with something like “Hey Emily,  I’m Dave. I read your column every week and love how you’re focused on startups in Boston. I wanted to talk to you about my company because ___.” Writing your email like you were talking to someone in real life makes it feel much more approachable and relevant. 

Like I said above, there isn’t a formula for writing a cold email, but using the tips above should help you make a better impression and hopefully earn a response from your recipient. 

Nailing your pitch to potential guests is just one part of getting your podcast off the ground. Want help with the rest of the process? Here’s everything you need to know about starting a podcast.

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Dec

29

2014

How to Write a Press Release [Free Press Release Template + Example]

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When it comes to content, sometimes old school can be a good thing (namely, when it comes to old school rap or Throwback Thursday on Instagram). But when it comes to your company’s public relations strategy, being old school isn’t advantageous for your business or your brand. 

Ten years ago, people still relied on morning papers for news. Today, the vast majority of your company’s customers and prospects scan headlines on Twitter or see what’s trending in their Facebook feed. Download our free press release template here to learn how to write a top-notch press release. 

People now have control over where, when, and how they consume information. As a result, public relations is no longer about feeding into a traditional news cycle; it’s about providing relevant content when, where, and how your prospects, influencers, and customers will consume it.

Sounds pretty hopeless, right? Wrong. While relationship-building still helps you get into popular publications, we now have the opportunity to quit playing the waiting game and generate our own buzz. By turning your PR strategy into an inbound one, you create opportunities that weren’t there before and carve out a place for your company, building meaningful mindshare with your target audiences in the process.

One of the most crucial updates to make to your PR strategy is to think of press releases as an opportunity to connect to the audiences you care about — including, but not limited to, reporters. 

What Is a Press Release / News Release?

Whether we call it a “press release,” a “press statement,” a “news release,” or a “media release,” we’re always talking about the same basic thing: an official announcement (written or recorded) that an organization issues to the news media and beyond.

Most press releases are succinct at just a page long. Two pages tops. Ultimately, companies want to provide enough information so that news outlets have sufficient material for publishing their own stories about whatever the company is announcing in the release.

And while it may be tempting to craft a press release that embellishes your company’s accomplishments or twists the facts to make a story sound more intriguing to the media, remember: Press releases live in the public domain, which means your customers and prospective customers can see them. So instead of thinking of a press release solely as a ticket to earning news coverage, you should also think of it as a valuable piece of marketing content.

When Should I Distribute a Press Release?

While there’s no cut-and-dried formula for when a press release should be written (and distributed), here’s a few reasons when it’s a good idea:

  • New product launches
  • Updates to existing products
  • Opening a new office
  • Introducing a new partnership
  • Rebranding
  • Promoting/hiring a new executive
  • Receiving an award

A regular cadence of (meaningful) news can help a company stand out and build mindshare with journalists over time, so that’s where the press release (or news announcement) comes in. 

Press Releases Can Be a Viable Content Type

Many people think press releases have to be chock full of buzzwords and branded terms. Big data anyone? Five syllable words you have to look up on Thesaurus.com? Quotes from every executive on the planet that go on for pages? We’ve seen it all. Unfortunately, so have reporters — and they are not fans. 

So instead of stuffing your next release with jargon, take a page out of our book (okay, fine, ebook), The Newsworthy Guide to Inbound Public Relations, and brainstorm some creative approaches for your next announcement. Can you include new data? A remarkable graphic or video? A shareable SlideShare? If so, a creative angle will often help carry your content and increase the likelihood of social sharing. 

Even so, a press release can still be a really valuable medium for communicating news to your audiences. You just have to make it readable, relevant, and relatable.

We have crafted this comprehensive, easy-to-follow press release template complete with a promotional plan and considerations for your next announcement. We use these same guidelines when writing our releases here at HubSpot and created a faux, sample release to illustrate what content goes where and why.

How to Write a Press Release [With Example]

You’ve got your announcement in mind, and now it’s time to get it down in words to share with your community, industry, and followers. Take Catbrella Inc., a fictitious ad agency, which just gained its 10th Twitter follower after two years of paid social media efforts. To announce its achievement, Catbrella could issue a press release like the one we’ve dissected below.*

Sample Press Release:

*Disclaimer: HubSpot is entirely responsible for the silliness of this faux announcement. 

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Rule 1: Make Your Headline Irresistible 

Just like writing the perfect blog post title, setting up your press release for success starts with your headline. You only have one line to work with, which can seem scary, but consider diction carefully to make your headline captivating.

Use action verbs, clear, understandable language, and keep your headline simple and short — fortune (and search engines) reward the brief, so keep your title to one line to clearly focus people’s attention on your topline message. 

Most importantly, make it interesting: Keep in mind that reporters get dozens, if not hundreds, of releases each day, so invest the time to write a compelling headline. It’s worth the time and effort on your part. 

Rule 2: Don’t Play Hard to Get

For reporters, analysts, influencers, or followers to be inclined to share your announcement, you have to tell them upfront why they should care.

The first paragraph of your release should cover the who, what, why, where, and how of your new launch, update, or development. Reporters don’t have a ton of time to sift through details and fluffy background information — they just need the facts that’ll help them tell your story to someone else from a position of authority. 

There shouldn’t be any new, crucial information covered after this section that the reader could potentially miss. 

Rule 3: Offer a Tempting Quotable 

Once you’ve set the scene, it’s time to bring your details to life with a quote that reporters can use for context around your announcement and help paint a picture of how your news affects the given industry, customer base, and landscape.

Ideally, quotes will be from key stakeholders in your company including your executive team, project leads, or those directly impacted by your announcement. Quoting key figures and authorities underlines the importance of your development. The chosen quote should shape your narrative and emphasize the core of the announcement. Don’t ask everyone in your office for a comment or feel compelled to quote all 25 people included in the acquisition — pick one or two critical spokespeople and focus the quotes around their unique perspective. 

Rule 4: Provide Valuable Background Information

In this last paragraph, keep in mind that the reader already has all of the vital details and information they need to file a story or spread the word.

It can be tempting to provide superfluous facts and tidbits about your company or the development of your announcement — we sometimes think a piece of writing is lacking if it isn’t drawn-out and just shy of being a novella. However, a press release needs to be helpful and concise.

Offer details here that strengthen your narrative, like creative or noteworthy ways your company developed the project or announcement at hand. Or, when applicable, comment on future implications of your announcement. 

Rule 5: Make the “Who” and “What” Obvious 

Twitter is chock-full of reporters lamenting press releases or pitches that don’t clearly explain what the company does or what the announcement is actually about, so instead of being the butt of a joke, make your release incredibly easy to reference. 

Describe what your company does in clear, plain English, include a link to your company’s homepage early on, and make your boilerplate succinct and straightforward. If you cite data, include a reference link for the data source, and make sure every name in the release has an associated title and company as well.

To keep yourself honest on this front, ask a friend or colleague to read the release without context and ask if they can easily and readily explain why the announcement matters, what your company does, and why the executives included are quoted. If the answer to any of those questions is no, get back to the drawing board. 

The key to keeping your PR strategy new school is forgetting preconceived notions of what public relations is and instead focusing on creating highly remarkable content. Traditional press releases can still be really valuable when executed well, so instead of ditching releases as a tactic, give them a modern makeover to make them more useful for your marketing. 

Think about how you’ve used inbound methods to transform your marketing strategies to be more personalized, approachable, and build relationships. Those same principles apply to your PR strategy: Create content to craft your own story and use tactful outreach to get reporters and analysts familiar with your brand.

Tips for Publishing Press Releases

Writing a press release is really only half the battle. Once you’re finished with production, it’ll be time to focus on distribution.

Of course, we’re all familiar with the traditional distribution levers we can pull, which include publishing the press release on our website/blog, as well as sharing the press release with our followers/subscribers via social media and email. But for ensuring a press release gets the maximum amount of distribution possible, here are some tips you can follow.

1) Reach out to specific journalists.

Instead of blasting a press release out to every journalist you can find an email address for, focus on a few journalists who have experience covering your industry (and company, hopefully) and send them personalized messages. Connect the dots. Show why what you wrote connects to what they write.

2) Don’t be afraid to go offline.

Most journalists have mountains of emails (and press releases) to sort through. Try sending your release through snail mail or another offline channel to differentiate yourself.

3) Send the release to top journalists the day before.

Give journalists some time to craft a story around your press release by sending it to them — under embargo — the day before it officially goes live. (FYI “under embargo” just means they aren’t allowed to share the information in the press release until the time you specify.)

4) To avoid competition, don’t publish your release on the hour.

If you’re publishing your press release on a distribution service like PR Newswire or Business Wire, avoid publishing it on the hour (e.g., 1 p.m., or 3 p.m., or 5 p.m.). The reason? Most companies schedule their releases to go out on the hour, which means if your release goes out on the hour too, it’s more likely to get lost in the shuffle. Instead, try going with a more distinct time (e.g., 1:12 p.m., or 3:18 p.m., or 5:22 p.m.).

5) Share your media coverage.

If all goes according to plan, and your press release gets picked up by the media, your job still isn’t finished. To keep the buzz going, you can release a “second wave” of distribution by sharing the specific stories that news outlets write based on your press release.

What other best practices do you follow when writing press releases? Share your thoughts with us below, and don’t forget to download our free press release template here.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

free press release template

 
free press release template

Nov

28

2014

Which Channels Are Best for Content Promotion? [Infographic]

Content_Promo_Megaphone_Blog_Image-1Lately, I’ve been hearing more and more questions about earned, owned, and paid media. What are the differences between the three? How do they work together? How can they work separately? Which one is “better” than the others? 

Thanks to Column Five, there are now some quick, easy-to-consume answers to most of these questions. In Column Five’s infographic below, they give visual definitions of these marketing terms and back them up with data to help you decide how to promote your next piece of content.

In general, each of these channels allows for unique ways to promote your content, and they likely perform differently for everyone based on industries or audiences. This infographic lays out the facts so you can make the best promotion decisions possible for your business.

Ready to get started? Let’s walk through the basics of your content distribution options.

141017_C5-distribution-channel-breakdown

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Nov

3

2014

S#*t PR People Do That Journalists Hate, Volume 2 [SlideShare]

sht-pr-people-doIt pretty much goes without saying that most business interested in growing are interested in more press coverage.

That desire itself does not present an issue — but the tactics that follow often do. You see, people often take the fact that they want press coverage to mean that they should stop at (more…)


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