We at IVY are thrilled to announce that three of our team members were recently certified by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) in content marketing. Congratulations to Wendy, Bridget and Barb for successfully completing this six-week, comprehensive program! From October through December 2018, they learned more about:
• Developing a content marketing strategy
• Editorial planning and team structure
• Storytelling strategies for success
• Gaining exposure for content marketing
• Using social media and influencer tactics to boost effectives
• Content marketing measurement and analytics
But most of all, they learned the importance of what we at IVY have known for the nearly 30 years we’ve been in business: people buy a story. Why? Because it’s our most powerful source of persuasion and good will, according to course panelist Joe Gura.
Presented by the largest professional organization devoted to communications in the nation (PRSA), the certification program featured leading marketing experts from such companies as Microsoft and Mayo Clinic.
Which is all fine and good, but what’s the real value of being certified in content marketing? Why should our clients and prospects care? Why should you, dear reader, care?
Why Choose Certified Content Marketers?
Certification is education. Just as college graduates are likely to be more qualified for the careers they enter, so are those who’ve been certified in a particular area of professional development. Clients and business partners literally have a badge of confidence in the team they hire, knowing that they are specially trained in their industry and held to the highest professional standards.
Consider the investment. Certification from a preeminent organization like PRSA is not cheap. In fact, it’s darned expensive. Any business willing to make the financial investment is one that is committed to being among the most informed, resourceful and effective in its field. In addition to the monetary expenditure, there’s a considerable amount of time involved in completing such a comprehensive study. On top of work and personal lives, students devote several hours across several weeks to course participation, and there’s no slacking in the process (there’s a test at the end!).
Happy employees, happy clients. Professionals whose company has invested in their continuing education know that they are deeply valued. That knowledge translates to broader skill sets, greater confidence, productivity and work ethic, and longer employment tenure. That’s great for their prospects and customers, too!
Today’s communications demand education. Few industries have evolved so radically over so few years as communications. The digital world and ever-advancing, data-driven technology have made it challenging to keep up with the countless and ubiquitous ways in which messages can now be conveyed. Continuing education in content marketing is essential to modern-day, enlightened marketing, advertising and public relations. Professionals without leading edge instruction on the changing landscape risk being left in the dark.
Certification benefits are immediately applicable. Unlike traditional, multi-year educational programs, professional certification programs allow participants to apply what they’ve learned to the real world right away. Certified employees are already entrenched in their careers. Thus, they have the privilege and opportunity to take what they’re discovering and bring it to work as soon as it’s imparted by thought leaders in the field.
Everyone Loves a Story
For nearly three decades, the IVY team has known – and put into practice – that the surest way to the consumer’s heart is through storytelling. It’s in humankind’s DNA to love a good story. Our team continues to thirst for new knowledge, new tools and new ways to tell our clients’ unique and wonderful stories. That’s how they grow, and how we grow.
Let our team of certified content marketers bring our education, investment, commitment and endless curiosity to your marketing campaigns.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
Last week, we explored the psychology behind highly personalized content (why it works) as well as the technology (how it works). This week, we look at the application of personalized content (methodology) and why it’s good practice for both marketers and consumers (ideology).
The Methodology of Personalized Content
Today’s technology affords us insightful data like we’ve never seen before. The ability to track and analyze that data is what allows us to pinpoint not only demographics, but also consumers’ behaviors (including the key search words and phrases they use), habits, interests, preferences, pain points and personal causes.
Marketers who don’t leverage that kind of information with relevant content on social media, in email campaigns and with key Google AdWords are wasting precious opportunities to engage and connect with their digital audiences. Considering that there are now more electronic devices in the world than people, that’s a monumental misstep.
Segmented marketing further personalizes content by allowing marketers to categorize consumers by common needs and responses to specific marketing strategies. Segmentation is guided by intelligent, accumulated consumer data and allows more time and money to be spent on crafting the most relevant messages for each segment. This is not to say that individuals are not considered in content marketing; quite the contrary. Segmented marketing simply eliminates the effort expended on those single individuals who will not respond to your message, no matter how well it’s crafted.
Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, and customized re-targeting campaigns allow marketers to create new messages based previous actions. Consider, for example, Amazon’s ability to show consumers entire catalogs of product recommendations based on past purchases or items that were put in their cart without a completed sale. In our culture of information overload and decision fatigue, that’s like having a personal shopper at our fingertips, one who knows just what we want.
Re-engagement campaigns are more effective with personalized content as well. A message of “It’s been awhile; we’ve missed you,” feels more special, because it’s clear the sender knows the recipient has engaged with them before. One charitable organization recently asked donors who hadn’t contributed in some time “Did We Do Something Wrong?”, going so far as to cast possible doubt on themselves and, thus, really – and genuinely – play on the heart strings.
Facebook knows a thing or two about the power of re-engagement. When it’s not engaging users with those quizzes (which vegetable would you be?), it’s re-engaging them with “best” photos, moments and memories of the year. Brilliant!
The Ideology of Personalized Content
Today’s responsible content marketers strive to provide customers and prospects with sincerely meaningful messages that help them, enlighten them, inspire them, encourage them, entertain them, better them. Long gone are the days of the self-serving, in-your-face hard sale. Highly personalized content serves the dual purpose of increasing consumers’ trust and engagement in your brand and strengthening your valued relationships with them.
Let our team of experts show you how to reach your prospects on a new – and very personal – level.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
Have you noticed when you’re on your various social media platforms that the sponsored messages you’re getting are more and more personal and relevant to you in particular? A few years ago, users were getting content that had little or nothing to do with their tastes or interests – stuff that could have been sent to anyone. But now, it’s laser-focused on individuals or (more accurately), segments of individuals, right down to the type of shoes they like and the way they prefer to spend their free time.
Personalized content is certainly no accident, and more and more, consumers are welcoming it rather than feeling like they’re being invaded by Big Brother. As we grow more comfortable with and accustomed to highly targeted content, we’re not only okay with it, we expect it.
The Psychology of Personalized Content
Instead of feeling intruded upon by digital content that has little or no relevance to us, consumers are feeling understood. What could be better than that? According to Psychology Today, feeling understood is even more important than feeling loved, because if people don’t get who we are or what we’re about, all other needs can feel pretty meaningless.
Knowing who we are and what we’re about. That’s the very heart and soul of successful marketing, isn’t it? Marketers who know their audience and what makes them tick are far more likely to create lasting relationships with their prospects than those who are taking stabs in the dark. In fact, a 2017 study showed that 79% of companies that exceeded their revenue goals had a personalized digital media strategy in place.
The Technology of Personalized Content
What is to credit for extremely personalized content and, more importantly, its ability to engage consumers in truly meaningful ways? In a word, technology. In two words, advancing technology. As we know, technology is constantly ushering us into the future, and content marketers are benefiting considerably from the move. Reaching the right people at the right time with the right approach on the right media channel is increasingly possible. As data-rich tools and platforms become more and more sophisticated, content marketers are poised to thrive in their ability to identify audiences, track and characterize their behavior, and purposefully analyze it to create galvanizing content.
The Internet of Things may seem like high-tech on steroids now, but in less than 10 years, it stands to be as routine as getting directions from your smart phone. In a nutshell, the Internet of Things will allow us to have real-time, interactive media experiences on more than just our electronic devices. By way of trillions of sensors providing data streams on everyday items and products, marketers will be able to reach people in more private, personal spaces.
Creepy? Not if content marketers provide messages and experiences that feel welcome instead of invasive. Think of it this way: the technology that affords such intensely keen knowledge of individual consumers will also be the blueprint for precisely how to effectively reach them.
Next week, we’ll examine how to bring psychology and technology together in methodology and ideology. In the meantime, contact our team of experts to find out how to reach your prospects on a new – and very personal – level.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
IVY Marketing Group was beyond excited to attend the 2018 Content Marketing World Conference and Expo September 4-7 in Cleveland.
While Tina Fey was the main keynote attraction, sharing about her award-winning work as a producer, writer and actor, more striking was the amazing scope of possibilities surrounding content marketing today.
It was electrifying to experience it all in one place. With over 120 session leaders on as many different topics, 30 some “lunch and learn” opportunities, and seven inspiring keynote speakers, the three-day event pulsed with energy and endless potential for content marketers – and their clients.
IVY is eager to share with those seeking top-quality marketing and PR all that we’ve learned, not only through our own experience over the past nearly 30 years, but by engaging in such world-class events as the CM World conference and other wonderful educational opportunities. Our finger is always on the pulse of the ever-evolving realm of content marketing.
According to CM World, “Content marketing is no longer a bright, shiny object. It’s an innovative and sustainable practice that connects brands with audiences in meaningful ways.”
We at IVY make content marketing our practice, and our passion, each and every day. We know that compelling content is the foundation of every successful brand, and we are committed to telling our clients’ unique stories through all the amazing doors modern content marketing opens to us.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
By guest blogger Sally Falkow, Social Media Strategist
Content has always been a major part of PR, but now it’s become an integral part of all marketing. According to research from the Content Marketing Institute, 91 percent of B2B brands and 86 percent of B2C brands use it.
But it’s still an emerging tactic and far too many companies are “flying blind” – just pumping out content without any strategy. (Only 37 percent of B2B marketers and 38 percent of B2C marketers have a content marketing strategy.)
Your audience finds your content in many ways, but one of the main ones is through search. And since Google dominates the search market, it pays to develop content that meets Google’s quality guidelines and ranking rules.
When Larry Page and Sergey Brin started Google, their purpose was to organize the information on the web and make it possible for people using the web to find relevant content. As early as December 1998 “PC Magazine” reported that Google “has an uncanny knack for returning extremely relevant results.”
Every Google update to their algorithm, and all their rules about how to write content, have one aim in mind: to improve the results they give their users.
The Google Algorithm
“Algorithm is a technical term for what you can think of as a recipe that Google uses to sort through the billions of web pages and other information it has, in order to return what it believes are the best answers.” Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land founder, and editor.
There have been several major updates to the Google algorithm, but in fact, they make constant updates and tweaks every day. Luckily there are certain basic guidelines that always apply, and these are the rules you need to work with when creating content.
- Unique, original content. (The Panda update introduced ranking penalties for sites that use mass content producers and those that steal or duplicate content.)
- Trustworthy content from an authoritative source. Trust is often evaluated by the quality of the links pointing to your content.
The Google blog gave these questions as a guideline for creating trustworthy content:
- Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Is this article written by an expert/enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it shallow in nature?
- Is the site a recognized authority on the topic?
- Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
These rules apply to all your content – web pages, newsroom, articles, press releases, and blogs.
The Penguin update focused on the difference between owned and earned links. That’s something PR practitioners should be able to grasp quite easily. It’s about the value of third-party endorsement and why editorial overage of your brand carries more weight than an ad.
When you produce and publish content about your company, you obviously present the brand in the best possible light. It’s called ‘owned media.’ It could be your website, your blog, articles you write or your social content, such as posts on your Facebook page. Even when that content is syndicated to other sites, or distributed on the wire and picked up by other sites, it is still owned media. You produced it.
When someone else with no vested interest publishes good things about a brand, it has much more credibility than what we say ourselves. That’s earned media. Media relations is all about earned media. We know how that works; it’s one of the core functions of PR.
Using that same logic, Google regards any link that you put into a piece of content about the brand (press release, article, blog post, infographic) as an owned link. You created the content and you placed that link there. No getting away from it – that is owned, not earned. Any link that you created is owned.
Google is all about earned links. Inbound links, those links from other sites pointing to your content, have always been a large part of Google’s ranking algorithm. Google looks for third-party endorsement. They check to see who links to your website, blog, Facebook page. A link is regarded as a vote of confidence in your content. It’s like getting the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval”.
Google only counts what they call natural or editorial links – that’s earned links. In the very same way that you earn media coverage, you now have to earn links. Every time a reporter uses your press release content and includes a link to your site, that’s an earned link. Your media relations activity just expanded – it has to include getting those earned links.
Blogger Relations and Influencer Marketing are also good ways to earn these inbound links. Reach out to a list of bloggers or influencers in your field with an offer or a useful, interesting piece of content, and resulting mentions with a link are earned links.
The best way to earn links is to create outstanding content that people will want to mention, share, and link to. Google’s first rule for ranking content is high-quality, original content that has depth and substance.
News Content and Search
“In the U.S., roughly nine-in-ten adults (93%) get at least some news online (either via mobile or desktop), and the online space has become a host for the digital homes of both legacy news outlets and new, ‘born on the web’ news outlets.” Pew State of the Media 2018
Every business owner, marketing manager, and PR practitioner should know how to write and distribute news releases so they rank well in web search engines and news search engines.
There are some distinct advantages to having your news releases found via search engines:
- You know the people reading the release are interested in that subject because they asked for it by keyword.
- Online releases can be tracked – for the first time, you can get statistics of how many times your press release was viewed, read or downloaded. With Google Analytics you can see what visitors do once they get to your site and how long they stay.
Top 10 News Sites
You might be surprised to know that Yahoo! News tops the list for news. They’ve been number one for many years. Google News is nipping at their heels, but they have not managed to grab the top position. So your first goal should be Yahoo! News.
NEWS SITE MONTHLY VISITORS
- Yahoo! News 175,000,000
- Google News 150,000,000
- Huffington Post 110,000,000
- CNN 95,000,000
- New York Times 70,000,000
- Fox News 65,000,000
- NBC 63,000,000
- Mail Online 53,000,000
- Washington Post 47,000,000
- The Guardian 42,000,000
As you can see, some of the mainstream media websites are high on the list and you should be building relationships with journalists and bloggers from these publications.
Yahoo! News still has human editors and they pay attention to rising searches and trending topics. So be sure to include this as part of the research for your release.
Google News is growing their audience too. They’ve risen from number 10 to the second position in just a few years.
According to Google executives, Google News “algorithmically harvests” articles from more than 50,000 news sources across 72 editions and 30 languages. Their news content is seen by millions of people every week, providing hundreds of thousands of business opportunities every day.
Those opportunities are not only available to media publishers. Google News indexes press releases, so these opportunities are available to businesses and organizations too. Just make sure your releases comply with these Google News guidelines:
- Timely reporting on matters that are important or interesting to our audience. Google News generally doesn’t include how-to articles, advice columns, job postings, or strictly informational content such as weather forecasts and stock data. Google News is not a marketing service, so they won’t publish content promoting a product or organization.
- Unique articles: Original reporting and honest attribution are longstanding journalistic values.
- Authority: Write what you know. The best news exhibits clear authority and expertise.
- Accountability: Users tell us they value news with author biographies and clearly accessible contact information, such as physical and email addresses, and phone numbers.
- User-friendly: Clearly written articles with correct spelling and grammar also make for a much better user experience.
- Links: When our crawler scans your site, it looks for HTML links with anchor text that includes at least a few words.
Since almost every business in the U.S. is using content as part of their marketing strategy,you’re competing with a flood of content every day. Make sure that you start with an intelligent content strategy and that every item of content you produce is tied to a goal, has depth and substance, is original and interesting, and has eye-catching visuals with it.
Sally Falkow has been in public relations for more than 30 years and is accredited in PR (APR) by the Public Relations Society of America. Over the past 15 years, she has immersed herself in new technology and digital PR – most of her work today is as a social media strategist and trainer.
Content marketing is king in today’s world of online communications. But what is it, exactly? While the term is ubiquitous across all of modern marketing, it is still rather mysterious, even to those in the business. In the spirit of the holiday season, let’s lay it out like a wish list—all that we want in successful content marketing, and how to get it
- Audience relationships – Notice it’s not audience purchases. That’s intentional, and it’s huge. Making relationships, not sales, is the essence of content marketing and the reason we do it.
- Engaging content – This is the principal component of developing and maintaining relationships with prospects and customers. Without it, there is no hope of a lasting relationship, or even a first hello. Engaging means interesting, informative, problem solving, thought-provoking, entertaining, delighting…and doing each of these things very well individually and sometimes all at once.
- Knowledge of audience – This one’s as old as the hills, right? Yet, with all the countless messages on the Internet, yours must not only capture attention, but keep it and bring it back time and again. It’s imperative to know whom you’re talking to. Data analytics, buyer personas, content audits and other targeting tools are invaluable to a successful content marketing strategy.
- Audience trust – We are not selling…we are not selling…we are not selling. This should be the mantra of every content marketer. Trust is built by providing content that is engaging, not sales-focused. (Hint: this trust then turns into sales.)
- Audience loyalty – This is the natural consequence of gaining audiences’ trust. Consumers will want to come back to those who engage them meaningfully and will share not only your media, but also their experiences with your brand. Word of mouth is still the most effective marketing strategy of all.
- Transparency – Consumers are anything but ignorant or gullible. They are smart, savvy, and they know what they want and how to get it. They are “prosumers,” and they can smell a sales ploy and false or exaggerated information from a mile away. Without transparency, there is no audience trust.
- Credibility – A close cousin of audience trust is credibility, demonstrating to consumers that you are uniquely qualified in your space and buttressing your expertise with links and references to other respected sources. Any awards, certifications and accreditations you have should also be conveyed.
- Multiple online media – Social media platforms, blogs, e-newsletters, post boosters, landing pages, interactive forms, visual media, press releases…the list goes on. Your brand needs original and curated content across multiple media to be truly effective in building meaningful customer relationships.
- SEO expertise – Fresh, regularly updated content not only engages your audiences, it influences the way search engines rank your site. Knowing how to employ SEO (search engine optimization) is key in driving traffic to your site and implementing a successful content marketing strategy.
- Responsive design – Audiences have more ways to engage with your brand than ever—desktop, laptop, phone, tablet, and the soon-to-come Internet of Things. Your content marketing must fit people where they are, not only metaphorically, but literally too—conforming to screen size, platform, orientation, and other electronic factors.
All any business or organization really wants is great content marketing. This holiday season and beyond, let our team of experts earn you the best gift of all: lasting consumer relationships.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.