How to Find, Show and Tell Your Story

How to Find, Show and Tell Your Story

Great stories happen all around you everyday.  What milestone did someone or something reach that you would tell a friend about?  What made you go “ahhh,” “are you kidding?” or “wow”? What is trending in the media, the calendar or your community that is being celebrated, or acknowledged in your retirement community?  What acts or heroism came about during a crisis?

One of the best ways to decide if you have or know of a story that you think might have media interest is to ask yourself:  “If I told this story to a stranger at a large party, would they be interested?”  If the answer is “yes” you probably have something powerful to garner the interest of the media.

So now that you know you have a great story, it is important to convince a few more people that you in fact do.  When we create a story at IVY, we ask ourselves:  So what (why is your story important)? Who cares (who would enjoy learning about this subject)? And what’s in it for me (does this make the editor/producer look good; will it engage their viewers/readers)? Answering these questions will help you compose your story that will achieve the greatest exposure possible and will minimize the dreaded self-promotion that media rejects.

Your next step is to determine how to substantiate the story.  Think about who can corroborate your account of the events that happened?  For example, if you have a terrific presentation, get a quote or two from people who attended and enjoyed it.  You should have at least one or two quotes to achieve this important verification of the story.

Now you can start writing!  Keep your facts towards the top of the story and make it as timely as possible.  Weave quotes into your content.  Be sure to include a standard “stock” paragraph about your community that gives the reader a bit of background about your community and of course a contact name, phone number, website and social media sites to view more information.  Next, establish the links you need to embellish the reader’s experience and find photos and/or video to further enhance your story.  We always try to own the photography — as that is often the most important part of reader’s/viewer’s experience.

Your next step is to decide who should know about your story both internally and in the media.  You may need to rewrite the story for several different venues:  social media, your blog, the website, different publications and media outlets. If you are lucky enough to get into the mainstream media with a story that will be written and produced by the sponsoring media, always offer to get photos for their stories.  You may only have a few paragraphs about your community in their two page spread, but having the photo will give you much greater presence that those communities who do not have one.

Dare to Create Fascinating Content

Content rules… your website, your blog, your online and offline newsletters and your customer experience.  Make it fascinating by selecting topics that are interesting, entertaining and informative.  The right content will shed a bright light on your organization. A strategic choice of media will create a wide net for your content to fascinate prospects and residents.

As senior housing and service providers embrace the inbound marketing strategies necessary to gain the attention of prospects, they are also challenged to continually create the meaningful content that supports the sales process.

Content marketing is the art of creating compelling and valuable content and distributing it through a variety of channels, online and traditional.  It is the practice of developing relevant content in a consistent fashion to target buyers, focusing on all stages of the buying process, from brand awareness through to brand evangelism.  Good content can circumvent the consumer’s desire to block unwanted messages because they find it personally or professionally beneficial.

Content marketing is also a science born in the strategic plan.  Subjects are planned.  Accessories and outside content to support the topic is decided.  Distribution is determined.   The voice(s) suited for each target group is honed.  Metrics that gauge consumer influence during both the buying and retention process of a customer experience are established.

Here’s an example of how to make a less than dynamic story relevant to your strategic plan, your sales prospects, customers, general audience and media.  The principles in this example can be applied to all the content you are considering.

Your news hook…

You have an ice cream social for residents, family and guests at least twice a year and would like to send  a story and caption to the media for some free publicity and better attendance at the next ice cream social.  You know people really enjoy it — but will the media help you tell your story with free publicity?

Let’s get strategic…

Consider why you want to have media cover and if this placement will hurt other placements you may seek with this publication.  If you still want to move forward with it, think it terms of the publication’s readership; let’s say they are baby boomers who live within a 5 to 10 miles of where your ice cream social took place.  Next, do the photos you took of the participants reflect the image you want to portray for your organization?  At this point, you may decide that you really don’t have a very compelling story, your photos do not reflect the high energy and independence you want your community to be known for and finally you still have to get photo releases from the people whose photos will be submitted to the publication.  Is it really worth it?  It will be!

Look at all the angles…

First, think about the possible story angles that this can take on:  the popularity of ice cream — why is that?  What benefits does it possess?  What are the most popular flavors?  How many places can you buy ice cream within the area of the readership?  Is there a physiological change within a person when then eat ice cream?  Think about what would expand the interest of the reader and what could be relevant or entertaining to them.

Add the extras…

Then look at the photos you have.  Can they be cropped to be more appealing?  Can you add stock photography to the shot to make it more interesting?  Do you have video to add?  Links to other great sources and stories?

Make it last…

Review your distribution options:  local print, online, your website, newsletter.  Consider if this story now interests the readers of any or all of these venues; now, it probably will.  Send it out, email or call to follow-up with the editor(s) and print it out when it is published.  Create links to and from the publication and your website.  This article has just begun to work for you….

Get permission for reprints and put them in your sales folders.  Frame and wall mount the story in a prominent place, post it on your website and feature it in your newsletter.

How your content benefits marketing…

You have just developed a sweet little event into a marketing tool that helps people know what kind of community they are considering, the lifestyle they will enjoy when they move.  You’ve also honored the activities of those who live at the community.

Wow, now you have created something really fascinating!

Remarkable Content

Remarkable Content

Don’t think you’re a remarkable writer?  Then write about something remarkable.

Remarkable content is within your grasp every day.  What made you smile today?  What made you angry, or sad or surprised you?  Dozens of simple, possibly significant triggers come into your life daily.  Capture them, break them down into their basic parts.  Think about why you reacted as you did and what greater impact that revelation could have on people with the same interests and you — especially those interested in your online content or blog.

It’s really very simple.  Let’s say you see a field of daffodils.  You find them beautiful and it pleases your sensory receptors.  Ask yourself: why?  Do you like the color of the yellows and whites against the rich green leaves with the blue sky backdrop?  Although being in that field of daffodils might be a “you gotta be there moment” what the colors mean to you and others could be an intriguing topic.  Throw in a few serious facts about color, such as studies that support the claim that yellow sparks creativity, green generally means freedom and the blue from the sky is calming.  Invite others to think about color, what it means to them, how they use it, what the “universal” opinion of certain colors may be.  Take a photo or video of the daffodil field to accompany your commentary.  You just wrote a 400 word article that is interesting to read, relevant to your audience, about something… remarkable.

This very easy process can be applied to anything in your life whether it is work-related or personal.  Every day you face new challenges.  You have new ideas.  Again, just think about them in a wider context to test the topic’s ability to be developed into something interesting for many readers.

All writers suffer from ‘writer’s block’ from time to time.  They don’t know where to start and nothing is intriguing them.  That’s when you get out the Guinness Book of World Records or Google something very strange and interesting.  It will spark your creative juices and your fingers will be dancing over that keyboard in no time.

Another writer’s tip is to start in the middle rather than the beginning of your story.  The opening to your narrative will show itself when you have written the body of your copy.  In fact, since many people write two or three paragraphs before they even get to the true lead of their topic, starting in the middle can work out just fine.

The moral of this story is that your don’t have to be a remarkable writer, you just need something remarkable to write about.

It’s Called Inbound Marketing

It’s Called Inbound Marketing

When an organization engages people enough to have them seek out information about their products and services, it’s called Inbound Marketing.  The process of pulling prospects and customers toward a business is becoming widely accepted because it is the way that consumers prefer to make their buying decisions — via the Internet which is now the first responder to consumer questions about how to solve their needs and wants.

Inbound Marketing differs from traditional Outbound Marketing methods such as advertising, direct mail, telemarketing, etc. that seeks customers via intrusive, unsolicited messages.  Since consumers are able to omit these intrusions from their lives and use technology to filter the messages they want to receive, the prospect’s real value as a lead is greatly improved.  Inbound Marketing also “sweetens the pot” by offering consumers useful tools and resources that attracts them to the organization’s website and creates a relationship with them.

Inbound Marketing primarily uses social media to drive consumers to their website and to communicate with them creating a relationship.  Blogs, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are popular and effective social media methods; although, their effectiveness is influenced by the market a business intends to reach. The leads created from social media and a company’s website are considered to be more valuable than any outbound channel because the prospect has sought out the information about the services or products that they have identified as a need in their life.

With a track record for valuable sales leads and today’s economy, businesses welcome the 60% savings on their cost per lead — from an average of $332 per lead for Outbound Marketing to $134 for Inbound Marketing leads, according to a HubSpot report, “The 2010 State of Inbound Marketing.”  Budget allocations to Inbound Marketing have risen 67% and have been shifted from the traditional Outbound Marketing line items.

The HubSport Report further identified social media and blogs as the fastest growing category in lead generation budgets and they continue to be ranked as the lowest cost lead-generation channel.  Businesses who use these tools cite specific sales results, proving that Inbound  Marketing isn’t just for branding anymore!

Inbound or Outbound Marketing?

Inbound or Outbound Marketing?

Do you want your prospects to look forward to seeing your offers, information and counsel?  You can accomplish that with an Inbound or  “pull” marketing strategy which means your prospects and customers seek information you have to offer based on their needs and interests.  This is contrary to the Outbound or “push” marketing strategy that focuses on your features and repetitive intrusions.

In fact, approximately 40% of marketing budgets will be spent on content marketing in 2011 which exemplifies the Inbound strategy.  Content marketing is characterized by its ability to inform customers and prospects about key industry issues.  This may or may not involve the products or services of the company or organization publishing the content.  This soft sell approach has a far greater market appeal than blasting the features of a company to its customers and prospects without regard for the benefit it brings to the recipient.  Instead of finding ways to block an advertiser’s message, the customers or prospects actually “pull” in the information being delivered.

Content marketing is most commonly provided in print and online newsletters, online magazines, blogs, articles white papers, webcasts, webinars, videos and podcasts.  This style of content is often available via email marketing, events and other forums.

There is one rule with content marketing:  it must be relevant and valuable to create your customer’s and prospects’ desire to learn about you and your products or services.  Think:  what’s in it for them?

Here’s why it’s important to transition to Inbound/content marketing… According to the Customer Publishing Council and Roper Public Affairs:

  • 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information is a series of articles versus an advertisement
  • 70% say content marketing makes them feel closer to the sponsoring company
  • 60% say that company content helps them make better product decisions

Inbound content marketing is not a campaign:  it’s a commitment.  It takes 12 to 18 months to see the results of your efforts.  An article published in Communication Strategy by John Buscall, entitled: “How Long Does It Take to Work?” stated that “After three months you might see a glimmer of results, after 9 months, your approach will start to be discovered by more people and at 12 months you’ll know that it’s working [and what adjustments need to be made to improve results].  And that’s if you commit to a plan, regularly create excellent online content for your marketing initiatives and track your metrics to know how you are doing.”

Content Rules!

Content Rules!

So what should be in your blog or online magazine?

Content may rule but are you ever caught without a thought in your head to make your keyboard dance with colorful descriptions or exciting news, ideas or stories?  Everyone finds themselves in the place from time to time.  But if the secret to a successful blog or online magazine is great content, what are you suppose to do?

We like to follow the rule of thirds: one-third of the space can subtly reference how your product or service improves the lives of others  The next third of your content should be good information that others may benefit from and has nothing to do with what you sell.  Finally, your last third should consist of accessories such as YouTube videos, photos, artwork or other visually appealing items to add excitement and to entertain your audience.

There is wiggle room in this rule of thirds, however, and it largely depends upon the goals of your blog or online magazine.  Consider these factors:

Who is the target visitor?

Prospects

If prospects are your target audience, you want to prove you or company as an expert in the area of your product or service offering.  In this case, write about subjects that will interest prospects but that do not necessarily benefit you, or even refer to you or your company.  In your second third, show this audience how you can make a person or business healthier, wealthier or better  than your competition.  Do this with stories or testimonials from users of your product or service.  Make the rest of your publication fun and interesting with great visual accessories.  This target requires a fairly strict adherence to the rule of thirds.

Existing Customers or Residents

If the goal is to have a lively discussion and involvement from existing customers or residents, make your blog or online magazine more about them:  their achievements, activities, photos, etc.  Since you no longer have to prove you’re better than the next, you can reduce (not eliminate) the subjects that have a wider appeal.  In fact, it’s really about them now.  Include news that builds awareness about under-utilized services or products available to customers or residents.  Keep your final third fun.

Donors and Vendors

Weight your content towards the subjects that demonstrate how the contributions of the donors and vendors improve lives of others.  Seriously minimize information about your organization and keep your focus on the recipients of the services.  Fun may not have a place here but visual stories in the form of photos and videos most certainly do.

Keep It Fresh

Create new posts for your blog or online magazine at a minimum rate of twice per week.  Not only will this improve your search engine optimization, it will keep your visitors coming back for more.

It’s addicting!  The fast-paced, ever changing world of public relations and marketing captures your interest and keeps you charged up to learn more everyday.  I love to find the best ways to tell our client’s stories and man, they have awesome stories!

It’s my job to discover our client’s goals and then match the best processes to achieve them, within their budgets, of course.  I get to explore traditional, digital and every manner of communication to determine which tactics, whether it is direct mail or TV advertising, a new website or PPC (to name just a few) will efficiently and effectively capture the attention of prospects. 

I also get to work with great people at IVY – they’re creative, fun, caring and super smart.  We’ve all been around the industry a while so there is not a novice among us.  Our clients are very cool too and totally passionate about the services they offer.  We’ve been working with most of them for years so we know they truly care about being innovative and responsible to the markets they service.  I have great admiration for all of them and look forward to every day. 

It’s true what “they” say, if you love what you do, you won’t work a day of your life!

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IVY was established in 1990 with a basic premise to offer professional, ethical and highly creative marketing, advertising and public relations services. We have successfully maintained our core values and have been part of many amazing projects, client growth and changes in the world of marketing that continue to happen at lightening speed. Most of our clients serve older adults in some capacity so we keep abreast of the opportunities and challenges they face.   Each day, we keep it real and fun and consistently deliver positive results to our clients and their markets.

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As a hybrid graphic and digital designer/web developer with over 17 years of experience, I am always on the lookout for innovative digital and print visual communications. IVY Marketing Group’s broad range of projects keeps my job challenging and rewarding, as each campaign is a new and exciting opportunity to effectively communicate our clients’ messages and help them achieve their goals. It’s my passion!

My body of work encompasses a diverse design style and wide base of clients, ranging from national associations, small businesses and big name brands like Hyatt and LiftMaster. I firmly believe that form follows function and highly value the communicative power of simplicity. 

Areas of professional expertise include Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Word Press, Responsive Design, CSS3, and HTML5. The industries I’ve served include senior living, health care, hospitality and finance.

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All my life, I have loved writing. As a child, I could often be found in my room “writing a book.” While “novelist” is not (yet) on my resume, I am a storyteller. I believe that everyone and everything has a great story, and it is my joy to find that story and share it with the world.

After earning my bachelor’s degree in journalism and completing my master’s studies in the same field, I joined a small advertising agency with powerhouse clients in the hospitality industry, such as Hyatt, Hilton International and Carnival Cruise Lines. I began as a proofreader and achieved the position of senior copy writer within a year.

After my first son was born, followed by two more, I started a freelance writing business that included (among several others) such clients as Advocate Health Care and Coldwell-Banker Realty. Clients in the education arena included DeVry University’s Becker CPA and Stalla CFA Reviews, DePaul University, and Naperville School District 203, for which I won two state public relations awards.

For nine years, I was employed as Communications Director for a large faith community, where I managed all aspects of internal and external communications. I was writer, editor, designer, web master, and content manager.

As such, I am experienced and comfortable writing multimedia for a broad variety of industries, products and services.

I joined IVY Marketing Group in 2013, when I began writing client press releases on a freelance basis. I loved the work—and my teammates—so much, I was thrilled when I was invited to come on board in a greater capacity.

I have immensely enjoyed getting to know our valued clients in the senior housing industry, the people they serve, and telling the many wonderful stories that come out of content marketing done right—with the love and care our IVY teams puts into everything we do.

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It all starts with one idea. Working with the Ivy creative team for over two decades has always meant taking one great idea and bringing it to life to help our clients meet their goals. We enjoy the challenges offered with every creative opportunity and try to make the design process itself enjoyable for our clients.

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Making certain that the projects IVY produces are word- and picture-perfect is my specialty. But I also love implementing marketing campaigns and programs that bring our clients success. Details are my thing, so it is a pleasure to have worked with IVY twice now, first after college four years ago and, recently, for the past two years.

The IVY Group is a terrific team of creative, positive and talented professionals that I love working with and, judging from the length of stay of our clients, I think they love our team, too!

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Rock-climbing, training for an 80-floor stair climb event, running a 5K…This is just a tiny peek into what people 20 and even 30 years older than I am, are doing on a fairly regular basis at some of the retirement communities that IVY represents.

I’m of the generation that still has reoccurring nightmares about what the next step looked like when my grandmother could no longer live by herself. The very best option at that time was living at a “facility” and  included eating rubbery chicken and playing an occasional game of BINGO. Period. That’s why my parent’s generation begged us not to ever put them into “one of those places.”

I am so proud that IVY’s clients are at the very forefront of an industry that creates opportunities, challenges, and most of all freedom for seniors, allowing them to explore hobbies, interests, passions…the next chapter of their very full lives.

I feel reassured for my own future. Even more, I feel honored to be able to share the impactful stories about this paradigm shift in the world of senior housing. What we hear and see at our clients’ communities is fascinating and inspiring!

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Keeping up to date on new public relations strategies, online engagement tactics, and promotional tools is my passion.

With my hospitality background in marketing top Chicago restaurants and hotels, I was eager to bring fresh concepts and communication strategies to our clients and have really enjoyed learning various industries.

Our clients have such exciting and unique events and programs, which really makes it motivating for me to make the most of their content.  Results like increased sales leads, website visits and social media connections make everyday rewarding and interesting.

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I oversee, plan and implement projects and processes at IVY.  Often,  I am the conduit between our writers and designers, with printers, and other vendors to fulfill the marketing needs for our clients. I also manage media buys and coordinate production of advertisements.

Working for a flexible and fluid company that is constantly growing, changing and evolving is fun and rewarding. There is always something new to learn.

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My bio has a big blank in the beginning—Mom and Dad rescued me in Wisconsin, and no one really knows my origins. They were probably ruff. What matters though is where I am now, running IVY Marketing Group. There are humans here who think they’re in charge. In truth, they do actually have amazing experience in content marketing and public relations, but I’m super important and the center of attention. I mean, look at this face. Right? And I know I’m the top dog because honestly, I’m the only one allowed to sleep through staff meetings and eat things that people drop on the floor.

The fact is though that I truly love staying awake at staff meetings. Everyone talks and laughs and they’re always excited. That surprises me a little because it’s not like anyone has thrown a ball to play fetch or anything. But I guess what gets my pack of peoples’ tails wagging is their work and their clients. I don’t know what a website or a blog is, but I do know that my pack must be good at them because they’ve earned all sorts of awards for these and other things. My bed had to be moved because the framed certificates were taking up so much room. Despite the inconvenience, I’m proud of these awards!

I serve several important purposes at IVY. I always let Mom (and the world) know when the mailman is here. When people come into the office, just one (usually) quick non-invasive (usually) sniff, allows me to determine important characteristics…like if they had anything good for breakfast, own any pets (pet owners are the best!) or if they stepped in anything on the way in. (It’s sort of like me conducting a first job interview.) I generously share my tummy because I know people like to give it a good scratch. I always give kisses, whether one is feeling lonely or not. And I’m always happy to share someone’s meal, especially if they’re trying to lose weight. My pack describes me as being engaging, amusing, and entertaining. (When I hear a siren, I “sing” along and it makes them laugh.) NPR talks about the benefits of having a pet at the workplace. Studies show pets lower stress hormones and improve morale and productivity. I wholeheartedly agree that a dog in the workplace is the best thing since rawhide bones.

As for my pack of people at IVY…they are amazing and always make my tail wag!

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I could not be more thrilled to work alongside the IVY team.

For over 25 years, I have been employed in top executive positions across the Chicago area and have consistently built profitable businesses, generated sales, and developed and launched new product lines.

Strategically positioning companies and commodities for growth is a strong suit I’m eager to bring to ResponderHub™, IVY’s new crisis communications solution. I’m also excited to help expand IVY’s reach in the senior marketing industry.

I believe people are more open than ever to thinking outside the box and looking at new ways to reach their customer base, while at the same time reducing their cost of sale. The senior industry is exploding, and IVY is perfectly positioned to respond to the need for innovative, quality content marketing services and effective crisis communications.

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