Marketers & Advertisers: Give Up Control To Regain It.

It is hard being a marketer or advertiser these days. It feels like everything you were taught about marketing and advertising has been turned on its head. Most of the core principles, whether you practice the Four P’s or the Four C’s are about marketer and advertiser control. Yet, the problem today is that the marketer, their advertising agency, and PR firm have lost a lot of control over much communication about the brand.

With the rise of social media the power of the consumer’s voice is now equal or even more powerful than the brand’s voice. Consider the fact that consumers’ trust other people’s opinions online much more than any brand messages you can publish in ads or on the web. As mobile use increases, the consumer’s voice will only get more powerful, more immediate, and more frequent. Customer service departments know this very well.

Social Media Marketing Advertising Public Relations Strategy Keith QuesenberryWe are in the midst of a consumer revolution where the marketer, advertiser, and PR professional are no longer King. Content is King and consumers control what content is viewed, shared and created. Does this mean marketers, advertisers, and PR pros should simply give up? Not in the sense of throwing in the towel, but they need to understand one key lesson for today’s social media environment: Learn to give up control of your brand to regain it. Click To Tweet We may no longer be able to control much of the brand talk online, but we are able to influence it if we switch from our old traditional, mass media control model to a new social media engagement mindset.

A shift in mindset of this magnitude is not easy. The shift to Integrated Marketing Communication was relatively easy in comparison. We simply had to start working with and unify disciplines, partners and channels such as advertising, public relations, direct response and Internet (interactive). But now the consumer is also creating brand content. You can’t have conference calls with consumers and send them your brand standards, marketing plans and creative briefs.

If you want to find your brand these days you must be willing to lose it. This doesn’t mean that social media marketing has no strategy. On the contrary, strategy is even more important. More and more CMO’s are shifting budgets to social media yet most still struggle with integration of social into their traditional marketing, PR, digital and advertising efforts. Others struggle with focusing a strategy in social with such a dynamic environment and simply end up chasing the hot new social channels as they come out.

If you struggle with integration, if you’re missing focus and simply feel social media is out of control, it may be time to take a step back and look at the big picture. Reset your mindset about marketing, advertising, PR, and digital control. Take a 30,000 foot look at your brand, situation, and at what works and doesn’t work in social media to develop a framework that will work today with Facebook and Snapchat and will work tomorrow for whatever new network or mobile app comes out of the tech corridor.

A basic social media strategy framework:

  1. Identify your business goals, marketing strategy and key performance indicators (KPIs).
  2. Determine your target audience, discover where they’re talking online and what they’re saying.
  3. Engage the target on their social platforms with meaningful branded content in a way that leverages each platform’s key capabilities.

This list is incomplete, but it gets you started in a place rooted in your unique situation and drives a strategy of choosing social platforms and creating content based on your business objectives, marketing strategy and target audience. For a more comprehensive look and process for social media strategy I have written Social Media Strategy: Marketing and Advertising in the Consumer Revolution. It will take any marketer, advertiser, PR pro, digital consultant, entrepreneur, or student through a simple step-by-step process to developing a truly integrated and enduring social media plan.

Press Release 2.0: How Your News Release Should Evolve For Digital Media.

The first press release was written in 1906 to announce something newsworthy. Over the years PR professionals developed a standard format to obtain earned media publication in newspaper, magazine, radio and TV news. Like any industry the rise of digital and social media has changed best practices in this discipline. In this article you will learn the new standards and best practices for digital and social media optimized press releases.

The traditional press release was mailed, faxed or emailed to editors and journalists consisting of:

  1. A Headline to grab attention of journalists and summarize the news.
  2. A Dateline for the release date and originating city.
  3. An Introduction Paragraph that provided quick answers to who, what, when, where and why.
  4. The Body with further explanation, details, background, and statistics.
  5. A Boilerplate with short about copy on the organization or company.
  6. The Close was a symbol that meant the release ended.
  7. Media Contact Information included the name, phone, email and address for the PR or media relations person.

Today’s press releases must include more to be effective. Digital assets, quality links, headlines, and calls to action should all be designed for easy sharing on social networks and be optimized for online search. The main difference in a new digital or social media release is that it doesn’t necessarily mimic a complete news story like previous traditional releases. Instead it provides more components or raw ingredients to put together a story in any format or to be shared on various social networks.

In 2006, Shift Communications developed what they call the Social Media Press Release with the template seen below. It includes a series of bullets with quotes from senior executives and multimedia elements such as logos, photos, PDFs of key materials, links to podcasts, and an annual report or PowerPoint.

This template is still relevant, but Shift suggests some updated features including:

  1. Sharing Buttons for various social channels at the top of the page right under the headline
  2. Multimedia that now emphasizes using short video.
  3. Varying Viewpoints from other perspectives that make it more social.
  4. A Link to an Official Press Release because some prefer the facts in one easy-to-read place for new aggregators to pick up easily.
  5. Twitter Conversations curated to showcase what people are saying about the news on Twitter.

When writing IR Magazine suggests that …  new media press releases should be tailored to various audiences like wire services and social media contacts. Click To Tweet Therefore, communicating with bloggers is not the same as communicating with traditional media. Most bloggers who think you are pushing biased information will turn against you. The first step is to know the blogger you are targeting. Read their blog, get a sense of what they care about and start a conversation. Establish a relationship first and start with an interesting news item that may not directly relate to your company, then ensure the release links back to your organization’s main website as long as your content is good. Don’t let a person excited about your press release be disappointed by your site.

Press releases now need to be optimized for SEO. Write your release around three keywords or phrases that are important to key audiences. Keywords should be included in the headline and subheads at the top and in the body of the release. Sprinkle keywords throughout the release and add hyperlinks to help people find related content and provide support. SEO optimized releases help you get ranked in news search and editors may contact you solely based on your press release being properly optimized and relevant.

Catherine Spicer of PR Newswire focuses on what is not needed. She argues that it is also time to leave behind some conventions of the traditional news release. Writing “For Immediate Release” was intended to tell journalists when the story could be published, but now when a press release goes live online, it’s assumed that it is ready for immediate use. You may also want to stop using “Embargoed until XX:XX.” With so many news sites competing to break the stories first these days, embargoes are not always honored. Closes with a “###” are outdated as well. Readers today will more likely think the pound sign is a hashtag for tweets. The press release dateline now should always include a year. Thanks to website archives and search engines, press releases are now discoverable for an indefinite amount of time.

Victoria Harres also of PR Newswire suggests:

  1. New releases should focus links on relevant metrics that count such as tracking online reads, social shares, and content popularity.
  2. Releases should be used to publicize other organization content. When something interesting is published on your blog, website or YouTube channel use a release to drive brand exposure, social shares, media pickup, and brand discovery.
  3. Improve SEO by answering questions. Search engines try to deliver results that answer searcher questions. So write press release headlines that highlight the questions the release answers.
  4. Use keywords for SEO, but use language that relates with the target or it won’t get read or shared.
  5. Remember that the press release today reaches much more than the press. Press release strategy should strive to reach editors and journalists, but also influencers, investors, employees and consumers.

What new press release standards and features are you practicing for digital and social media?

How to Leverage the Power of Storytelling in Your Social Media Marketing

What keeps you coming back to your favorite books, TV series or movies? A good story. Publishers and producers know this and have become masters at using the power of story to draw big audiences.

Today, businesses are relying less on buying audiences with paid ads in traditional mass media and are turning to marketing on social media. However, to be successful we must approach this new media with a different mindset.

In advertising marketers interrupt the story people want to see with brand promotions that pay for it. Yet, in social media marketers must create the content people want to see. Brands must interest the audience themselves by telling a good brand story. But what makes a good story?

To research the power of story my colleague Michael Coolsen and I analyzed two years of Super Bowl commercials – the one time people choose to watch advertisements for the enjoyment of the ads themselves. We wanted to know which ads were the most liked, the ones that drew interest with buzz and votes to finish in the top of the advertising ratings polls.

We coded the commercials based on Freytag’s Pyramid, a theory, which breaks down story into five parts: introduction (exposition), rising action, climax, falling action and resolve (denouement). Shakespeare used this story formula to draw mass audience for his five act plays.

Keith Quesenberry postcontrolmarketing.com storytelling social media marketing

What we found was the ads that tell a complete story (all five acts) were the most popular and the ads at the bottom of the consumer ratings polls told less of a story (less than five acts). Having all five parts creates a dramatic arc or plot – the formula for being interesting. This is the same story formula you can apply to social media.

Social media depends on producing frequent, consistent, quality content. Brand managers used to producing yearly advertising campaigns with a series of 3 to 6 ads, are often left wondering what to post daily or weekly on their social networks. Establishing a bigger brand story can give you the content base you need. Then each social post or response can be a mini-chapter or character quote, expressing and advancing the overall story. Add intrigue to social media following a five act formula. Click To Tweet

Social Media Marketing In Five Acts:

Act 1: Introduction. Also called the Exposition, this provides the background details, setting, previous events, character, etc. People buy brands for products and service, but also for the back story. Are you sharing your company’s history, people and mission or vision through your social media content?

Act 2: Rising Action. This is a series of related incidents or events that build toward a point of greatest interest – the climax. Be careful of flat posts that simply contain the same information over and over in different ways. Think from a much bigger perspective of creating social media posts that build upon each other towards a big action, reveal or turning point that fans and followers can look forward to, check in on and keeping coming back to see.

Act 3: Climax. This is the turning point, which changes the main character’s fate. There are two ways to think about this act for marketing. First identify the main character of your social media effort. Are your posts focused on telling the brand story or are they focused on telling your customer’s story. In social media you want to present the brand or customer reaching a turning point of finding a solution or overcoming a challenge by drawing upon brand, product or service strengths.

Act 4: Falling Action. During the falling action, the consequences of the turning point are revealed in greater detail. In social media express those results. If an obstacle was overcome, what are the results for the brand or consumer? If an opportunity was seized, detail the many benefits and outcomes that point toward a final victory.

Act 5: Resolution. Here all the events lead to an ending scene of the drama or narrative. Conflicts are resolved for the characters which creates a release of tension and anxiety. Here social media content should show the brand or customer winning. Provide a look at the ultimate goal of the brand and its customers. What is your happily ever after?

Howard Gossage, a famous copywriter from the 1960s said people don’t read advertising, they read what they like. This thought applies more so now in our digital world. In social media give your audience what they like. People like stories. Are you leveraging all five acts of storytelling in your social media content?

This post originally appeared on Social Media Today.

Here is a template to follow on integrating storytelling into your social media: