Archive for the ‘online media’ Category

Twitter’s CFO to marketers: I can do that!

May 7, 2015

Newsflash: finance and marketing do not always get along.  Some may even say the disciplines share a unique symbiotic rivalry; they support one another, yet constantly battle over how to define the value of marketing.

Twitter — itself a literal symbol of marketing in the digital era — found a novel way to end that discussion by allowing its CFO to take over the marketing discipline.  The move to appoint Anthony Noto came after months of failed attempts at finding the right CMO  for the company.  So, in a nutshell, it’s just marketing!  Give it to finance!  Even though (or perhaps because) we’re losing money!

…uh…oh…

Stranger things have worked, and maybe this will end up being more about “taking control of marketing spend.”  Or maybe the surprise ending is that Noto is the rare investment banker-turned-CFO who has keen marketing insight coursing through his veins.  But for the time being, this is playing out at the pinnacle of irony, as we see a flood of media coverage about how the floundering financial officer thinks he can do this marketing thing better.

It’s not going to get less weird anytime soon.  The Verge notes that “Noto’s first task may be figuring out how to market himself a little better at the office. [A] source told The Verge, “Twitter employees [are] asking why Noto gets $70 million, but the company can’t afford to give raises, or bring salaries closer to market rates.” Although engineers make around market rate, the source said, non-technical employees do not.”

This saga has everything the modern system is geared to despise – and everything that Twitter is famous for blasting out over the cyberwhatever.  Bloated executive pay, nosediving stock, executive hubris, belittled worker bees…

What’s missing (for starters)?  A good strategy.  A strong message. A vision. Really, anything that investors or advocates can get behind.

While that may come soon, it’s already too late to leverage the first wave of media exposure following the announcement.  I bet a sharp marketing guy could have handled that.  Ahem.

Finally, in honor of Noto’s presumably irrepressible spirit and ambition:

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If a blog is written in the blogosphere and no one is around to read it- does it still make a sound?

October 15, 2014
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Photo: Sebastien Wiertz

When I started my own book review blog in 2010, I thought it would be easy to attract readers.  But I quickly learned how wrong my assumption was.  Because the blogosphere is a crowded space, writing great content does not guarantee readers will follow.  After learning this lesson, I had to find ways to push out my content so readers would find it, and then become loyal followers.

Readers of this blog might be wondering, with the plethora of blogs out there how do  writers ensure their content stands out from the crowd?   Without readership- many blog messages can get lost in the shuffle and writers lose the opportunity to showcase their work and get their thoughts/opinions/expertise out to target audiences.

Bottom line- a writer can have a great blog with top-quality content, but without readers the blog’s existence is pointless.  This is why blog promotion is so important. At EZG, we’re constantly coaching our clients to promote their blogs since there is good, quality material in them.

For our readers, we’ve provided three easy tips for gaining blog readership:

  1. Make the blog easy to find

This tip may sound like common sense, but it’s surprising how many websites have a hidden blog tab or link. If site visitors are required to search the site to find the blog content, they will usually not continue the search.  By placing the blog front and center on the homepage, the content maintains visibility by being just a simple click away.

  1. Utilize social networks

A blog lives (and gains popularity) on the internet- and what better way to ensure your blog gets the eyeballs you crave? By spreading it on social networks.  When bloggers tap into their social networks, they’re ensuring hundreds (to thousands) of readers are exposed to the link.

We advise bloggers to share the links to their blogs multiple times a day to reach those who may be surfing the social sites at different times.

Bonus tip* Hashtags and @mentions are great tools for potential readers to find and share blog posts and increase the likeliness the blog link is found by readers. Twitter and Facebook are great places to find communities of other bloggers who are ready and willing to share good content!

  1. Reach out to other bloggers

Does your client (or you) follow a popular blog that covers similar subject areas?  We advise our bloggers to reach out and say hello to the other writer! For bloggers, it’s important to expand the reach of the blog by inquiring to other writers if there is an opportunity for cross promotion or guest blogging.  Bloggers, much like journalists, need content and will often welcome guest posts with open arms.  The blogger will also help promote your guest post through their various networks which expands the reach and credibility of the blog.

As a blogger myself, I have found these tips to be extremely helpful in attracting readers. The blogosphere is crowded, but with a little bit of work you can drive traffic to your blog and attract readers who trust your insights and opinions.

What do reporters really want from an online press room?

August 8, 2014

In PR, we are always looking for attention- attention from our clients, attention from the media and sometimes we’re looking for simple recognition for a job well done.

To achieve the attention we so desperately crave, we develop newsworthy pitches, make valiant attempts to create viral videos and secure media opportunities that position our clients as thought leaders in their respective industries.

And with all the materials we create to attract the interest from target audiences, it would be downright foolish for us to keep those juicy pieces of content hidden behind an email inbox or a private YouTube channel. In the vast online ocean, web surfers are looking for information that is useful, informative and engaging. This is why content is still King (Neptune, if you will), but it easily drowns if it isn’t noticeable.

There’s that attention we seek again- and usually, want the content to be noticed by reporters and producers. However, reporters are no different than every day online readers- they’re looking for the most relevant information, and in a timely manner. According to a recent article in Forbes; “Online readers are a different breed and notoriously fickle. Their attention spans are short. Their modes of access to information are varied. And they are looking for real-time sound bites, not a newspaper article continued on page A17.”

As PR pros, it’s our job to appeal to this need, and we frequently recommend our clients host an interactive press/content hub on their company websites. The online press room, if used properly, can be a valuable tool used to engage new audiences. However, a press room cannot be created blindly; there are a few must-haves to consider before launching the page.
3 Things Your Online Press Room Must Have:

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High Resolution Images: It’s no secret people are sharing stories through images these days (as noted by the popularity of Pinterest), so it’s important to ensure imagery (like head shots, infographics and event photos) are ready to be published as they are. If a journalist has to wait for a publicist to send a “web ready” file, they’ll probably move on.
Important Background Information: Reporters like to vet their sources, and if a PR pro has just sent a pitch, chances are the reporter is usually fact checking to make sure the source is reliable. It’s simple; include important information (like fact sheets, past press releases, and updated bios) in your press room so reporters know they’re dealing with a reputable industry leader.
•“Snackable” Content: Make sure your content is displayed in way that’s easily navigated and includes a quick description prompting readers to click through. It’s a content jungle out there- and to make sure your client’s content is digested by reporters and potential clients, you have to be smart. Set up the videos, articles and whitepapers so that their added value is communicated clearly and gets to the point immediately.

When building an online press room, it’s important to remember that all organizations are seeking traffic to their websites. The bottom line PR professionals must consider is, we should always be pleasing reporters by having a press page that is simplistic and efficient.

PR friends, have you seen an online press room that you’ve admired? Let us know @ebben_zall

Why Rolling Stone’s Editorial Blunder is Actually A Great PR Opportunity

April 11, 2014

Our worst nightmare as PR pros, spokespeople, or brand ambassadors is when great press opportunities are ruined by careless errors. Whether it’s a misquote on a press release, or an inappropriate tweet, we naturally get uncomfortable when plans go awry causing us to miss the chance at making a good impression. However, sometimes the biggest bloopers lead to a higher volume of PR activity than those that are perfectly executed. We like to call those happy accidents.

For example, you may have heard about actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus posing in her birthday suit on the recent cover of Rolling Stone to promote her TV comedy (Veep).  For extra Veep branding, her bare back was splashed with a fake tattoo containing verbiage from the US Constitution.

The photo was intended to draw attention to her political comedy on HBO, but instead drew attention to a minor detail on the tattoo: a signature by John Hancock on her lower left hip.  No doubt, John Hancock would be proud, except that he didn’t sign the Constitution (Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence)

Many Rolling Stone readers took to social media to comment on the Seinfield starlet’s bare-it-all photograph (for several reasons) but, history buffs? They were out to correct the John Hancock signature gaffe.  Over the past few days, media has been chattering about this historical oversight, and asking if the misplaced signature was intentional or if Rolling Stone editors need a seat in a 9th grade history class.

Sometimes what sticks in PR can’t be planned; sometimes it’s the unplanned that receives the most attention.  To keep the PR machine greased, Julia Louis-Dreyfus has played into the error’s momentum by posting a #TBT picture and noting  the John Hancock signature in her baby photo.

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The back and forth criticizing the magazine has mostly been done in good fun, and as PR pros, we’re happy to see a mistake made by Rolling Stone turn into a teachable and laughable moment. Hey, looks like Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the buff turned unsuspecting history buffs into accidental publicists…who knew historians were such great viral marketers?

What about you? Do you find any particular public blunders to be hilarious? If so tell us @ebben_zall

Thought leadership and paid placement? Meh.

March 11, 2014

Professional services marketing is a strange animal.  It’s one of the few disciplines that calls for a constantly evolving understanding of client subject matter: you don’t just get to know a client’s brand, you get to know the issues that drive their success.  Investment firms don’t grow long term because they have a cool logo or run a Superbowl ad; they grow because their clients trust them.  Law firms, CPA firms, consulting firms all share that common thread.  They sell because they’re smart (and some of them are even wicked smaht).

That opens the door to a few of my favorite things…to be good at what we do, we need to study the areas in which our clients play (academic), we need to identify trends (marketing savvy), and we need to be able to articulate the connection between those themes and their brand (storytelling).

Academics+marketing+storytelling=fun.  Oh yes.  You want me at your party on Saturday night, believe me.

I’m taken aback this year, though, seeing an aggressive mash-up of this thought leadership approach and paid placement, which undermines the credibility of clients and the media in one fell swoop.  Paid content has always been a part of the game, but in 2014 it has exploded to new levels of visibility.  The media’s need for content and revenue is outweighing its need to publish objective insight, while providers are pouncing on an opportunity that will eventually erode faith in the depth of their knowledge.

The WSJ has entire online sections with content sponsored and provided by Deloitte (CIO and CFO Journals).  Forbes calls their paid content “BrandVoice,” and the New York Times is following suit with a native advertising platform.

I dig into this a bit in PRNews’ PR Insider (Hey Pay-Play, Get Off My Lawn), and will echo the sentiment here: this is not good.  Brand journalism has a place and can be extremely successful, but intelligent buyers of professional services will quickly grow skeptical of the information they find in these sections.  If it’s paid placement, how accurate is it?  Where is the third party credibility?

I unfortunately predict great traction for the paid content trend in 2014.  But then it will crash, shifting back to true thought leadership.  And I’m wicked smaht, so place your bets now…

Brand Journalism: What is it and why is it great for brands?

January 31, 2014

Over the last decade, marketers, advertisers, social media experts and website administrators have been required to be nimble, flexible and transformative communicators– especially since the media landscape has evolved into an entirely new and interconnected animal. The result?  The art of storytelling is alive and well, but the way we tell the stories is changing at every turn.

That’s why the skill-set of journalists and storytellers remains incredibly valuable, even as the media world has dramatically changed around them.  And with any evolution comes the birth of something new, interesting, and genetically superior (bear with me on this evolution metaphor).
Enter: brand journalism.  It has arrived, and is a valuable approach PR folks can use to their advantage.

Simply put, brand journalism is a strategy employed by companies to create interesting content that educates, motivates or sparks interest amongst a target audience by reporting relevant and useful information. Brand journalists can examine a brand, read between the lines, decipher a story, and create interesting content that connects the audience with the brand by giving readers new information.  It’s advantageous for brands to hire a journalist or media firm that specializes in storytelling because executing relevant information is hard-wired in their DNA strands (For proof of that, check out EZG’s white paper that uncovers how we build brands based on expertise).

When consumer brands execute a brand journalism strategy, the brand journalist is typically required to dig deep beneath the surface of the organization’s brand proposition and cultivate meaningful stories.  For example, a major cereal corporation has had success with their marketing and advertising efforts and the results have been plentiful, but now the organization wants to embark on a brand journalism campaign to add an extra layer of depth. To do this, the same cereal company publishes content to their website or to a 3rd party news outlet that explains to consumers: how to use the cereal in new recipes, why the product is superior to others (using proven examples and facts) and what the employees, founders, and researchers are actively doing to improve the product.  The difference between brand journalism and other forms of marketing is answering the, who, what, where, when and why on behalf of a brand.
So why might brands want to hire a storyteller to ignite a brand journalism effort? Here are a few answers to that question:

  1. Brand Journalists understand the story and why the brand is distinctive.
  2. Brand Journalists write in a way that adds depth to the brand.
  3. Brand Journalists think like an audience member, and are ready to communicate the importance of the message with sophistication and clarity.
  4. Brand Journalists stand at the intersection of where technology meets traditional news reporting.

Of course, as PR professionals we already have a genetic predisposition to support any effort that combines branding and news reporting, but ultimately we have seen proof of brand journalism’s popularity on a few news outlets. For example, news outlets like Forbes, Inc., and The WSJ have altered the way their information is displayed from reporter-centric to expert-centric.  This is a pretty significant indicator that brand journalism has a bright future ahead, as companies and thought leaders will benefit from a beautifully crafted message written by the storytellers who can make a difference.

After all, it’s survival of the noticed right?

Example of brand journalism: Forbes’ BrandVoice Channel:
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Ebben Zall Group’s 2014 Marketing Predictions

January 15, 2014

crystal ball2013 was a year with changes that rocked the world of marketing (figuratively and literally, thank you Miley Cyrus and Buzzfeed). From Google’s hummingbird algorithm to Instagram offering advertisements to Twitter going public, media shifted and evolved at an accelerated rate.

At EZG we try to stay nimble and ahead of the curve when it comes to trends and industry milestones, and over the past month or so we’ve focused on setting goals for ourselves and our clients.

Out of that effort, the team raised a few marketing predictions for 2014.  We know 2013 took marketers on a wild ride, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for the year ahead!

EZG’s 2014 Marketing Predictions:

  • The value of content will become increasingly clear – and the role of paid media increasingly blurry.  On the social media front, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others will continue to move towards showcasing certain content and sharing user information in an effort to monetize.  Meanwhile, industry news and opinion websites will try to differentiate and draw traffic by competing for viewpoints from thought leaders who have significant networks through which they can share.
  • Ad spend will increase significantly across the world in 2014 from this past year due to public events set up to receive global attention. With the Winter Olympics in Russia, the World Cup in Brazil, and the mid-term elections in the U.S., there are multiple platforms with extremely high viewership that are great opportunities for advertisers to brand their clients’ brands.
  • Short videos will continue to grow in popularity. Whether they are used to show a clients’ expertise, for pitching purposes, or for fun mash-ups that display a firm’s personal side, videos will be included in more campaigns in 2014.
  • Advertisements and social media posts that gain popularity will become more image focused. It’s important that ads are visually digested and that text is kept to a minimum.
  • Interactive advertisements will gain popularity in 2014, and they will need to be more creative than ever. Whether it’s a crawler across your screen or a game that must be played before it will disappear, ads will increasingly become interactive and engaging across multiple platforms.
  • Content strategy is king: With the amount of content floating around the internet and on social media platforms, marketers must (as always) be strategic with their publishing initiatives.  Content publishers, content context and content timeliness will be absolutely vital for the success of brands in 2014 — more so than ever before.

Is online marketing the new dot.com?

December 11, 2013

Here’s a question: is online marketing the new dot.com?  (Hint: the answer is “yes.”)

I don’t pretend to be an economist, but bear with me here.  When Facebook went public in 2012, there was no real revenue model, no real plan, and the economy was stagnant.  The company targeted a $38 opening stock price, which it couldn’t legitimately garner.  Bankers scrambled to make it happen and the world cried foul.

Guess what?  Facebook is currently trading at $50.24, and everyone on the planet still uses it to post pictures of their children in snowsuits.  For now.

In 2013, Twitter headed for the public markets with lessons in hand from the Facebook “debacle” (I struggle to call what is now a $120B company a true misfire).  Smooth sailing, sneaking under the radar at a measly current market cap of around $28B and now trading at the same price as FB.

Forbes.com would have us look at all the ways these IPOs were different.  But surprise!  They’re actually very much alike in the most important way: once again…no real revenue model, no real plan, no clear economic picture.  Just a giant, overly communicative audience at their fingertips.  In the end, the markets bought bandwidth, and little else.

Certainly there’s tremendous value there, as the world runs on connectivity.  There is no shortage of ways in which these platforms can evolve and serve as launchpads to great new ideas and products.  They factor into our daily marketing strategies and serve as a common touchpoint for audiences across every industry.  The question is whether the current iterations will  translate into long term viable business models, or go down in flames and give rise to a phoenix we haven’t yet imagined?

Here’s where I flashback to 2000, though, and this crazy thing called the Internet.  You’re launching a website, you say?  How will you make money?  What’s that, Pets.com, Flooz.com, and theGlobe.com?  Oh, I see: “if you build it online, they will come.”

[Sound of U.S. economy collapsing]

The way we communicate globally is nothing short of miraculous, and creates an incredible new pair of pants into which marketing will grow.  In our glorious tradition, though, we’re assuming value before the fabric is fully cut; my hope for 2014 is that we can find the seams  before we get, well, too big for our britches.

What I have learned about using video in public relations: 3 Valuable Takeaways

October 21, 2013

As an intern at EZG, I have seen several video projects begin with a simple idea and transform into a valuable part of marketing campaigns.  Part of my responsibilities at EZG include helping out with a variety of traditional and new media initiatives for the PR team, but I’m most interested in the video production process and how it fits into the client strategy.  What I have learned so far is that producing informative marketing video requires a great deal of creativity and legwork—but the results are worth it.

As more digital channels become available to for us to utilize in public relations, we have seen the demand for viral content increase.  Just look at the way we share news today, often through popular sites like Newsy.   I have personally seen the demand for videos rise during my internship time at EZG—which is a good indicator of things to come.

At the end of August, EZG posted about the benefits of using video to help boost a client’s brand.  Today, I want to take an opportunity to share a few tips that I have learned from my leaders and mentors while editing PR videos here at EZG.

  • Shoot more video than you need: This tip seems like common sense, but I have found myself in the position of needing more footage when I have assumed that there was enough. It is always better to have too much footage than not enough.  For example, filming fifteen minutes of footage for a two-minute video usually provides enough usable content in the end. It is always better to get too much content during the original filming of the video than to have to go back and re-shoot more footage later; it can be very difficult to re-create a scene.
  • Tell a story: Like everything we do in PR, video is another tool that helps us tell a story.  Without a clearly defined message within the video, the story will get lost and inevitably the work will lose value.  To stay away from this misstep, I always try to connect the edited clips in a way that the story is told fluidly.  Our videos are not scripted, so we often end up with a wandering narrative until the source clearly defines their main points. It can take people awhile to get to the point, but it’s the video editor’s job to hear through the words and amplify the most interesting points in an easy to understand story.
  • Use the correct tone for the video:  Our EZ|TV videos are designed to show our personality, and we think that’s great—but not every video will have the same feel.  When creating videos for our clients, I have to remain mindful of their branding messages to maintain consistency with their other marketing materials. Design, music and font choices are all part of distinguishing the client’s brand in the video, and are used as an accent to highlight the expert content that is communicated to the audience.

It is important for videos to be professional, engaging and creative in order to appeal to target audiences and inspire viral pick up.   In the public relations field, we are constantly required to attract attention to messages that reflect our clients’ brands.  Simply put, the videos that we produce are not just footage of talking heads, they are multimedia vehicles meant to teach, inspire, and motivate.

If you’re interested in learning more about video used in PR campaigns please check out these articles:

Federal shutdown steals our sanity – and the news cycle

October 7, 2013

We can debate the federal shutdown and looming debt ceiling “talks” until pigs fly (or, just as likely, Congress becomes a functional unit again), but the fact is that both those issues are bringing the country to state of near-paralysis.  If you don’t love a culture of economic anxiety and infuriating, nonsensical political rhetoric, you’re in the wrong decade.

Tough talking politicians, hand-wringing citizens, and a fiscal anvil the size — and spirit – of Texas hanging over the country combine for a harrowing trifecta, but they also make for great theater.  Senators are lining up for the spotlight and economists and pundits will get their ample share.  The 24 hours news cycle is spinning on this axis, and not much else…nothing proves that better than the good old fashioned Shutdown Clock pictured above.

For public relations firms that have economists, politicians, and market timers trained and at the ready, there is opportunity to shine on the national stage.  For those representing other industries, let’s just say you may not be the top item of the editorial meeting at the Wall Street Journal this month.

With that in mind, here are a few items to consider during this laser focused news cycle:

  • If you have the insight, bust out the big guns.  Experts with valid viewpoints to contribute should be on their game.  In this environment, however, competition is fierce so bring the magic.  Build a package of expertise that relates to the issue at hand, and know that there are hundreds of other experts that likely have the same idea.
  • Take two, think it through.  Even if outstanding experts have something to say about the shutdown and its impact, will it advance your strategic goals?  Face time is nice, but again, it’s a crowded space and it will be difficult to stand out (we’ve seen 9 experts in one segment on CNBC…good luck naming any one of them).  Decide if this situation is a realistic platform for the right message to be conveyed; if not, don’t hesitate to sit this round out.
  • Embrace the silence.  Like in a car ride with an old friend, sometimes a little quiet does more good than you think.  Don’t try to shoehorn your expertise into a conversation that isn’t a fit – the result will be awkward and could have a lasting impression.
  • Look to year-end.   This too shall pass.  When it does, you’ve either a) spent your energy trying to force your way into the dialogue, b) you’ve  gone on vacation, or c) you’ve focused on preparing a more strategically sound avenue.  While Costa Rica does sound nice right about now, we vote for c).  As we near year-end, this political situation will be resolved.  Consider the messages most important for the turn of the year and craft campaigns that will be effective in the post-crisis news cycle.

That last point is critical – don’t get sucked into the single-minded vortex of the current media agenda.  As the conversation fades, the impact of this debacle will still be playing out.  Companies that can keep their house and their brand in order should be prepared to bring the right message to market and start the next cycle from a position of strength.


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