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  • How to: Develop a story arc to guide your PR strategy

    In our world, public relations is so much more than just blasting out a press release and hoping for the best. Yes, press releases have their purpose and are a great way to make a big announcement or house all of your important information in one spot, but in most instances, we’re thinking about how to strategically follow up with key media outlets to pitch story ideas that support our larger messaging goals. One of the best ways to ensure that your PR efforts are effective is to take a step back and consider the bigger picture. It can be tempting to let your PR plan ebb and flow as you have big news to share, but a proactive approach can tell a more comprehensive story and result in meaningful, lasting coverage. For this reason, we often think of our communications as taking a story arc format. It’s long-term thinking that assures your short-term successes are supporting your larger messaging goals. Why we start with strategy You need to understand what your end destination is before starting out on this journey and plan for any stops along the way. Think of your favorite serialized TV show as an example of why strategy matters when developing a story arc. As a viewer, you recognize that each episode is building out a larger storyline that will culminate in some sort of conclusion at the end of the series, but the plot of each episode is what keeps you entertained along the way and lays the foundation for the “big reveal.” Without well-executed storytelling in the lead-up episodes, the finale can be kind of a flop, rather than something that generates a lot of buzz. Your PR strategy works in the same manner. Let’s use the example of a company that’s planning to announce the retirement of its current CEO, who will be replaced by promoting an internal candidate at the beginning of the year. You already know that there’s a lot of work that goes in behind the scenes to prepare for this transition, but think about how you can also leverage external messaging during this period to set the stage for your announcement. What are the elements? Identify your timeframe. Your larger announcement will give you a goal to work toward, and planning your timeline in advance will help ensure you’re not oversaturating the market with your brand messaging before that point. You want to strike a balance between raising visibility and being sure media outlets are still excited to hear from you when it’s time to share your news. This is one of the reasons why we don’t recommend blasting out press releases without thinking about the bigger picture. Key messages. Your brand might already have these in place as part of your larger marketing planning, but consider how to incorporate any campaign-specific messaging alongside your overarching key messages. When planning these out, think about: What are current industry trends; are there topics you’ll want to speak up on at this time? What makes your announcement unique? In our example, what makes the incoming CEO well-positioned to head the company? How does their experience add to the brand’s reputation? Why now? Are there timely factors that play into making this announcement at this time? What do you want your brand to be viewed as an authority on and what are the topics that will support you in being viewed as such? Cast of characters. The current CEO and successor are obvious choices, but are there other promotions happening at this time, or other key players who are spokespeople for the brand? Before starting any sort of PR outreach, know who your spokespeople are and identify what topics each is best suited to speak on. This will help you in brainstorming media opportunities, but also ensures you know who to direct any specific media requests to on different topics. Big finale & supporting storylines. Work backward from your big announcement. Consider how to boost your incoming CEO’s reputation leading up to introducing them as the head of your company. Are there opportunities for authored content, speaking engagements, or interviews that will demonstrate their authority in your industry? Know your audience. Having your key audiences in mind is helpful as you’re thinking about messaging and the types of media outlets you’d like to pitch. It can be helpful to identify your audiences first and then consider the type of messaging that might best resonate with each specific group. Keep the momentum going. Once you’ve made your big announcement, don’t lose steam! PR is an ongoing effort, and after laying the foundation for your big announcement, you should be well positioned to keep your brand in the spotlight in the months ahead. Fluent IMC is a Maine marketing agency specializing in integrated marketing communications. Our expertise ranges from brand strategy and marketing planning to digital marketing and online advertising to public relations and communications.

  • Are retargeting ads a dying tactic? How to rethink your remarketing program

    Most people, even if they’re only viewing them from a consumer’s perspective, are familiar with retargeting ads. After you view a certain product or visit a website, they’re the ads that then start following you around the internet, encouraging you to keep the brand you’ve already expressed interest in top of mind and, hopefully, convert to a customer. Many of them are intrusive and annoying. Others serve as helpful reminders. Regardless of where you stand on retargeting, a lot is changing in this realm of digital advertising. Last year, an iOS update greatly affected the way advertisers are able to utilize retargeting ads by allowing users to decide whether or not to allow apps to track their habits. Unsurprisingly, a whopping 96% of users have opted out after being given the choice. If this wasn’t a significant enough hit to your retargeting program, Chrome also has a plan in place to phase out third-party cookies by the end of 2023, meaning now is the time to rethink your digital advertising strategy if you’re currently relying heavily on retargeting. Let’s say retargeting becomes a thing of the past. What can you do to stay in front of and RE-engage your warm audience? Double down on building out your database Work on building out your email list so that you’re able to follow up with your leads via email and text message, and if you’re set on incorporating retargeting ads, utilizing a quality email list is one way to continue to do that. While users may have opted out of tracking from apps and websites, advertisers will still be able to retarget them by uploading their email list database to Google and Facebook ad platforms and retargeting in that way. Use a pop-up to encourage web visitors to sign up for future communication from your brand. In a time when all of our inboxes are inundated with communications from mailing lists we don’t even remember signing up for, the key to getting them to actually share their personal information with you is ensuring that there’s something in it for them. Maybe that’s a discount code, free download or product, or something else of value to your particular audience. You want to establish the value your brand can provide early on so they’re primed to pay attention the next time you reach out. Here’s an example that’s done well. Maximize native platform retargeting Don’t forget about audiences that are engaging with your social profiles. You can create retargeting audiences for all users who have engaged with your Facebook and Instagram pages through shares, likes, video watches, etc., and create specific campaigns targeting people who have interacted with your assets. Use a third party tracking system Platforms like Hyros and Triple Whale can be integrated into your website just like any tracking snippet and are used to communicate back to the advertising platform which visitors converted — though keep in mind, these platforms still miss a large percentage of data due to iOS restrictions. Focus on top of funnel content Retargeting ads, by nature, are targeting the portions of your audience that are further down your marketing funnel (in other words, closer to converting to a customer because they’ve already been exposed to your brand). With fewer opportunities to get in front of that previously engaged audience, focus on quality content to hook new visitors as soon as they’re introduced to your brand. Consider topics that will be of interest to users who are in the initial stages of looking into what you do and how your services might benefit them. Work on creating blog posts or other content that will answer their questions and position you as an authority in your field. Becoming a key resource early on helps build trust as they get to know your brand. Don’t forget that this type of content is a great way to work this audience into your database. At the end of your blog posts, offer a downloadable piece of content – an extension of what they’re already reading is a great idea – so that you’re able to add them to your email list. In our view, while the technical aspects of retargeting via display ads may be more limiting, this is an opportunity to think more holistically about remarketing. Take the time to create messaging specific to re-engaging a warm audience to offer them something from your brand that they’ve learned to trust.

  • How to: Connect Google Analytics to a wordpress website

    We often chat with clients and friends about getting started with digital marketing or advertising. A very early step is to set up a Google Analytics account and connect it to your website. This is the very minimum we ask of clients who engage us to set up, manage and optimize their ad accounts. If you’re not yet using Google Analytics, our digital media buyer Jay Marzec created a helpful video tutorial on how to connect Google Analytics to a wordpress website:

  • How to: enroll your nonprofit in Google Ad Grants

    When it comes to budgeting for digital advertising, some nonprofits may be eligible for financial assistance in the form of Google Ad Grants. Part of the “Google for Nonprofits” benefits, Google Ad Grants provides eligible nonprofits with up to $10,000 per month in search ads shown on Step 1: Determine eligibility To request a Google for Nonprofits account, you must be a nonprofit charitable organization in good standing and meet the full eligibility requirements in your country. Some types of organizations are not eligible and will not be verified. Before starting, you should confirm that your organization is: Not a governmental entity or organization Not a hospital or healthcare organization Not a school, academic institution, or university (Google for Education offers a separate program for schools) Determine if your nonprofit is eligible here. Step 2: Activate Ad Grants Sign in to Google for Nonprofits, click “Active Products” then “Get Started” under Google Ad Grants, and fill out the assessment by clicking the eligibility form link. Click “Activate” to submit your organization for review. Step 3: Ensure Google Analytics is installed on your website At this point, it’s a good idea to check that you have Google Analytics installed and tracking on your website. Google Analytics is always helpful to help determine where your web traffic is coming from and what pages they’re visiting, but it’s even more relevant once you begin launching digital ad campaigns so you can effectively track which of your advertising efforts are most effective. Step 4: Build and launch a Google Ad Grants campaign Once you have been approved, you can begin using the platform to create and publish digital ads for your organization. If you already have someone on your team or a marketing agency that has been running digital ads on behalf of your organization, this process will be familiar. If you’re brand new to advertising on Google, they offer a step-by-step video series to help you get started. It is important to note that unlike typical Google Search campaigns, Google Grant campaigns have several restrictions that need to be continually met to ensure that your campaign/s remain in compliance and do not put your Grant at risk. Additionally, search volume may be significantly lower for your desired keywords because Ad Grant ads are in a separate auction after paid ads. As a result, many clients find that they are not able to spend the full grant amount. Additional links that may be helpful: Account Management Policy Ad Grants Compliance Policy Guide

  • How to: Set a realistic digital advertising budget

    As consumers spend more and more time on their devices, paid digital advertising is a logical channel to increase brand visibility. Compared to broadcast advertising, digital advertising is notoriously “cheaper.” Small businesses, start-ups, nonprofits and beginners from larger organizations often ask us: how much does digital advertising cost? With budgets that are either very lean or they’re testing a new ad platform and don’t want to waste precious funds, advertisers commonly wonder how low they can go with ad spend and still make it worth the money and time. Understand how digital advertising is priced First, it’s important to know how different digital ad platforms price the ads that are served. Some are based on cost-per-click (CPC) while other platforms are based on a cost-per-thousand (CPM) impressions served. Some ad platforms, such as Google’s paid search advertising network, is an auction-based system where advertisers are bidding against competitors for a higher search ranking for certain keywords. How to set a budget that’s “worth it” When launching a campaign, it’s not uncommon to test a few versions of your ad against each other to see what works best. Differing creative, unique copy, and adjusted targeting can all have varying results – and letting each run for a period of time can give you an idea of what’s working and what’s not. However, it’s important not to go overboard. We’ve learned firsthand that excitement over a variety of new creative doesn’t mean it needs to go out all at once. With a small budget and lots of ads, you could easily be dividing your ad spend in such a way that no individual ad is receiving a high enough spend to get the attention it deserves. Digital ad budgets also vary based on platform, objective, ad type, audience, etc. Keep in mind that these platforms utilize machine learning to best optimize your campaigns and find the user that they think is going to be most likely to take your desired action. Your ad budget needs to be large enough to feed the algorithm and give you the historical learning data that you’ll need for your campaign to be successful. If you’re running multiple campaigns targeting multiple ad sets, you are going to need a bigger budget. You can’t run a full funnel strategy off of a $300 monthly budget on Facebook. If your goal is lead gen, you are going to have to spend more than you would if your goal is just brand awareness. A realistic starting budget would be $500/month of ad spend per platform to see any type of valuable results. Know when your budget isn’t going to cut it A small budget isn’t always a campaign killer. The secret is spending it on a campaign that won’t burn through your budget without gaining any traction. We’ve seen great success in utilizing Facebook ads (one of the more affordable forms of digital advertising) to increase visibility and sell tickets to events. Facebook is a great place to target “warm” audiences – or those that are already familiar with your business. Set your campaigns up to reach followers of your page, people that are connected to your followers, or individuals that may already be aware of your services. It can be tempting to place your ad on a more distinguished platform (LinkedIn, or your local media network) but be sure to price out your estimated impressions and compare your estimated reach across channels. For small budgets, the limited visibility your spend will get you may simply not be worth it. Follow the metrics and make changes as necessary The most important step (in any of your marketing efforts) is tracking your progress. Establish a baseline and keep an eye on traffic, impressions, and increased awareness/brand interaction over the course of your campaign. Are you seeing your desired results? If you’re running multiple creatives, is one performing best? Consider shifting your ad spend to prioritize the ad that’s getting the most attention. Fluent IMC is a Maine marketing agency specializing in integrated marketing communications. Our expertise ranges from brand strategy and marketing planning to digital marketing and online advertising to public relations and communications.

  • Tracking tools to have in place before you get started with digital advertising

    Digital advertising can play an integral role in a marketing campaign designed to generate leads or increase brand visibility. Before you launch your campaigns, it’s critical to set up tracking parameters. Without them, it can be hard to determine the success of your efforts and know where you might need to make adjustments in the future. As marketers, it’s fascinating to see what’s working and what’s not. Beyond us nerding out over strong performing campaigns and creative, we need to know which creatives and platforms are driving results. Analytics are the lifeblood of successful campaigns. There are a few specific tracking tools that make it easier to pinpoint which digital ads are performing well. Like many aspects of this field, there’s a lot of jargon to untangle before taking action. In this post, we walk you through the difference between “UTM codes” and “tracking pixels” to better understand which to use and how they benefit your ad campaigns. Set up custom UTM codes for each campaign Perhaps the simplest way to set up tracking when you’re developing a new digital advertising campaign is to utilize UTM codes, which serve as an extension to the URL and allow Google Analytics to track how specific audiences are making it to your website. Custom UTM codes allow you to account for the following information: Campaign source – A specific media outlet, email newsletter, Facebook or Google, etc. Campaign medium – Banner ad, paid search, etc. Campaign name – To identify specific campaigns Campaign content or search terms – To distinguish between ad creatives For example, if we were running a Google display campaign to promote annual planning, the URL for our ad campaign might look like this: https://www.fluentimc.​com?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=Display&utm_campaign=Annual+Planning&utm_id=Fall+2021&utm_content=Version+One A free tool for setting up your own UTM codes can be found at: Install tracking pixels on your website Pixels are snippets of code that are placed on the backend of your website to track specific user actions as a result of clicking on your ads and provide more detailed insight than UTM codes. Beyond tracking where a user is coming from, they are able to track specific user behavior once the user reaches your website – such as filling out a form or placing an order. This allows marketers to attribute sales, appointment bookings, or other actions to a specific marketing campaign. Several ad platforms including Google and Facebook have integrations such as Google Tag Manager to help you install tracking pixels directly on your site. For WordPress and many e-Commerce sites like Shopify, plugins can also be used to help install tracking pixels. If your website does not have a thank you or confirmation page, button click event tracking can be put in place to track button or link clicks. Since this tracks intent rather than completions, the results are not as accurate as would be provided with forms that have a confirmation page. However, it would still enable you to capture data for your campaigns to optimize toward. Types of pixels: Retargeting pixels are a form of advertising that many users will be familiar with. Consider the times you’ve been viewing a specific product on a website and then immediately begin seeing the product on your social media channels or other websites. Retargeting pixels track what a user does on your website to then keep that information in front of them after they leave your website. Conversion pixels, on the other hand, track completed goals or purchases and are valuable in tracking results related to specific ad campaigns. This type of pixel is usually placed on an order confirmation or thank you page after a purchase has been made or a form has been filled out. In the case of a brand awareness campaign where the measurement of success is impressions and visits to the website, conversion tracking would not be needed. Tracking phone calls Google does also offer some ability to track calls made either from your ads or website. No additional tracking code is needed for tracking calls made from ads, but if you want to track calls made from your website, a tracking pixel can also be used to dynamically change your phone number so that site visitors who make a phone call using the Google phone number can be attributed back to the ad campaign. There are call tracking service companies that also enable you to use multiple unique phone numbers for tracking calls from your campaigns across ad platforms. You can either track at a high level and issue a unique phone number per ad platform and per campaign or more granularly down to the keyword level if needed. Best practices for tracking pixels While there’s nothing stopping you from tracking to your heart’s content, focus on being intentional with your tracking. Too many pixels can actually slow down your website, not to mention overwhelm you with information and data that might not always be relevant to your current marketing efforts. Place your pixels intentionally – both for your own benefit in sorting through data, and so your users are not overwhelmed by advertising served as a result of your tracking. It might seem overwhelming, but once you have these tracking tools in place you’re well on your way to making smarter marketing decisions. If you’re ready to take the next step with digital advertising but need some additional guidance, contact us to see how we can help you get started. Fluent IMC is a Maine marketing agency specializing in integrated marketing communications. Our expertise ranges from brand strategy and marketing planning to digital marketing and online advertising to public relations and communications.

  • How to: Gain authority through op-eds

    We all have opinions — individuals and organizations. Does that make everyone qualified as an authority to publish an opinion piece? Certainly not. Pitching and publishing op-eds requires a strong opinion + research/facts on the issue + evidence of expertise related to the topic. Op-eds can be an opportunity for brand exposure but business leaders and communications professionals should evaluate the pros and cons of gaining authority through op-eds. Many C-level professionals, senior leadership, scholars, healthcare specialists and scientists have strong opinions on everything from climate change to immigration policies supported by a career’s worth of knowledge, experience and education. Combine that credibility with a powerful stance on an important issue and you might have the ingredients of a compelling op-ed. Is publishing an op-ed the right choice for your business? Start by asking these questions internally: Does the issue intersect with your brand’s mission or vision? Op-eds are an opportunity for a business and its spokesperson to make one clear point on a topic that is already making headlines. The topic will usually be one directly relating to the client’s industry or customer base about an issue of regional/national interest. In some cases, the connection might not be as obvious and can be a unique opportunity for the author to earn visibility in front of a diverse readership. Their stance could be for or against the issue but there should be a clear connection between the author, the organization and the issue. What are the benefits of sharing your stance on this issue? Op-eds can be an effective way to clearly align your organization on one side of a complex issue and influence public opinion. They can also raise the visibility of key members of your team to a broader audience. Put thought not only into what your op-ed is communicating, but also who is sending out that direct message. While a CEO authored opinion piece might demonstrate how strongly the company feels about the issue, another internal stakeholder may have the expertise and unique perspective to write on the issue. What are the risks? If the opinion is actually just a business announcement disguised as an opinion, you risk your communications team’s credibility when pitching the media. Use a different tactic, such as a press release, blog post or email newsletter to announce a new product or celebrate a corporate award. If your op-ed is published, there are always risks associated with speaking up. Are you comfortable with online reader commentary and engagement directly with the author? Is your leadership team confident and comfortable that the stance may polarize the brand among customers or employees? Even if polarization is likely, the op-ed may still be worth pursuing but your team should prioritize this risk/benefit analysis early in your process. If you decide an op-ed is the appropriate channel to communicate your stance, keep these tips in mind when writing: Make it relevant. You might be speaking out on a topic that requires a timely response, or one that has otherwise been gaining traction. It’s helpful to give readers a frame of reference that outlines why this conversation is happening now. Consider including a link to that publication’s recent article(s) on the issue. Make one clear point. Don’t try to cater to both sides. Be transparent and state the opinion that only you are uniquely able to have. Back it up. Use facts and stats to back up your claim and strengthen your argument. Don’t sell. This isn’t a sales pitch. A convincing argument for the point you’re trying to make will allow your message to stand on its own while still driving enough attention that interested readers will want to know who you represent. Don’t weave brand speak into the op-ed. Include a call to action. What can readers do to follow your lead? Keep it short and sweet. This is not the place to wax poetic. In addition to most media outlets sticking to a word limit of 250 to 750 words, you want to capture and retain your readers’ attention by making a concise, compelling argument for your point. We saw Machias Savings Bank have success with raising awareness of a timely issue through an op-ed last year. CEO Larry Barker stepped in to author a piece on restrictions facing Maine’s lobster industry. The commentary was subsequently picked up by Saving Seafood and Fishery Nation, resulting in further visibility within the fishing community. The bank, with its Downeast Maine roots, has served countless fishing industry clients over the years, and many employees have personal connections to the industry. Speaking out on this issue seemed like an obvious choice for those aware of this history, but it also provided an opportunity for the bank to showcase its character in front of its newer, growing audience in southern Maine. Fluent IMC is a Maine marketing agency specializing in integrated marketing communications. Our expertise ranges from brand strategy and marketing planning to digital marketing and online advertising to public relations and communications. #earnedmedia #Oped

  • How to: Earn media coverage about your business launch

    When it’s time to launch your business, it can be a reality check to realize that, despite the energy, devotion and excitement that’s gone into bringing your project to life, not everyone is aware of the business and brand you’ve been working hard to get off the ground. Unless you’re prominently placed in a high traffic area that your specific target audience happens to pass by twice a day, it’s likely going to take some effort to attract their attention. While we almost always recommend a multi-channel approach to marketing for our clients, we hold PR (aka “earned media”) in particularly high esteem when it comes to achieving meaningful results during a business launch (especially when executed in conjunction with other marketing efforts). Why should PR be part of your launch strategy? A launch is newsworthy. Business reporters are eager for newsworthy content and a new business launch is certainly worthy of an announcement. Be prepared with as much information about your mission, the market you intend to serve, uniqueness or demand for your product or service based upon current trends and how many jobs will be created. Offering as many facts as possible in an initial press release and/or pitch will strengthen your chances of being published. Bring in new customers. It’s obvious but every new business needs a customer base. In addition to your existing audience, earned media means you’ll be reaching a whole new realm of people that might benefit from your product or service. The credibility of the media outlet gives you a leg up in earning their trust early on. Build brand recognition. As the new name in your industry, you’ll be building your reputation from the ground up if you don’t already have a following. Aligning yourself with key stories and media outlets from the get go helps improve your reputation and gets your name out there. Attract the people you want to work with. If you’re a new business and potentially primed for growth, you’ll be thinking about who to bring onto your team as things get busier. Earned media opportunities that show off your brand help to make yours look like an attractive work environment to potential candidates. 1. Consider your audience Are you launching locally or starting a business with a national reach? Is your ideal customer the general public, or does your client base fall within a specific industry? Are there certain demographics that make the most sense to target? Consider how you might reach your ideal customer, potential investors, and colleagues in the industry who might be interested in your launch. 2. Determine the best outlet to reach your audience. Once you’ve narrowed down who you’re trying to reach, you can figure out the outlets they’re likely to be tuned into. Focus your efforts on the channels that will have the biggest impact on establishing credibility and get you in front of the audience that will be most receptive to your message. There can be value in diversifying to reach a broader audience down the road, but if you have limited resources, keep things specific to start. 3. Tailor your pitch to your target outlet. Launch events, product showcases, and other highly visual content can be a great fit for TV or local media that might physically visit your space and be in a position to share visuals. Content that centers more around your expertise and positions you as a thought leader within your industry can be a better fit for trade publications or an interview with a business journalist. 4. Partner with like-minded businesses. Consider leveraging your relationships with other businesses to raise visibility and help further tell your story. Is there an industry trend you’d like to speak on, and do you have another connection in the industry who can support your pitch and act as an additional source for a media outlet? This might also mean hosting a neighborhood block party with other businesses in your area, co-presenting a webinar with a potential referral source, or authoring a blog post on a colleague’s website. Don’t neglect these relationships in your social media strategy, either. Liking and sharing content can go a long way in building relationships, and other businesses are likely to reciprocate, giving you additional visibility in front of their established audiences. 5. Continue to build owned content while executing your PR strategy. Don’t neglect your owned content while focusing on earned media. Ideally, your PR efforts will be driving traffic to your website and social channels. Keep up with them to ensure the content is fresh, engaging, and helping to convert potential leads that wind up on your channels after seeing your earned media coverage. Fluent IMC is a Maine marketing agency specializing in integrated marketing communications. Our expertise ranges from brand strategy and marketing planning to digital marketing and online advertising to public relations and communications.

  • How to: Leverage podcast pitching in your PR plan

    In the ever-changing media landscape, we’ve become increasingly drawn into podcasts – both as consumers, and when we’re wearing our PR hats. They typically come in easily digestible episodes, they’re great for listening to on the go, and these days there are podcasts that cater to any interest you might have, from business advice to storytelling to true crime. From a PR perspective, pitching podcasts can take your earned media strategy to the next level. Why should podcasts play a role in your PR strategy? Podcasts are the perfect fit for gaining visibility in front of new audiences that are interested in a specific topic. The host has already done their job of establishing credibility and becoming a trusted source of information, and, by association, you’re off to a great start and already positioned as an expert on the topic just by being chosen as a guest by this type of host. Beyond the interview itself, a podcaster who knows what they’re doing will be repurposing their content across channels, giving the episode added exposure for a longer period of time. Studies have shown that podcast listeners are very active on social media and more likely than the average person to follow brands on social channels, so you may get more interaction from this particular audience than you would from a traditional interview. Identifying shows that are the best fit As a first step, consider what shows you or your colleagues consume regularly. This is a great place to start, but beyond that you can use a simple search for keywords on your preferred podcast platform and tools like Apple’s “You might also like” feature to find other shows that cater to your industry. Most podcasters use social media to promote their shows, so you can also search hashtags. You might start broadly with things like #healthcarepodcast, #bankingpodcast, or #businesspodcast but narrowing in on specific topics can help point you in the right direction. Know the podcast you’re pitching Just like with traditional journalism, you want to have a sense of the podcast you’re pitching before you reach out. This means doing your homework, listening to a few episodes, and taking a look at the show’s social channels or website. Make sure that this is the right opportunity for you. Do the show’s listeners align with your target audience? Is the theme one you can meaningfully contribute to a conversation on? Better yet, do you have a unique perspective that hasn’t already been covered on the show? This also means looking at the format the show’s episodes take. Some podcasts also have different types of episodes (long form interviews vs. quicker conversations). Knowing any variations in format in advance puts you in the position to pitch yourself for the type of episode that will be the best fit. It also helps to demonstrate your knowledge of the show when reaching out to the host. Pitchable content and landing an interview Keep in mind that podcasters aren’t typically up against the tight deadlines we’re used to with more traditional media. Often, podcast episodes might be recorded in advance and planned for release at a later date. From a strategy perspective, this means that podcasts aren’t always the best fit for timely announcements – but that’s okay. Think of podcasts as more of an opportunity to position yourself as an expert in the field, not to sell something specific. If the timing of your interview aligns with a big announcement or upcoming event, fantastic! It’s perfectly reasonable to work in a mention if it works out, but consider that the host is most likely interested in more evergreen content. It might make more sense to incorporate your announcement into the language you use while sharing the podcast episode on your own channels. When pitching a podcast, be clear about the value you can provide to the host and their community. Include a brief outline of some topics that might be a fit for their audience. If you have links to previous interviews you’ve done, send those along. It can help for a host to get a sense of what you’re like during an interview. In most cases, they’ll want to know that you’re knowledgeable, personable, and entertaining enough to keep a conversation going for the length of the episode. Do your part in driving traffic Podcast interviews are a two-way street. Yes, you’re benefiting from exposure in front of your key audience, but the podcast host is likely counting on you for exposure as well. Once the episode is released, do your part to drive listeners. Share on your social channels, blog, email blasts, etc. Ask your colleagues to do the same, and consider whether it might make sense for other organizations you have a relationship to share the content as well. Not only is this a great way to showcase your interview, but the podcast host will appreciate it. As with other media channels, building relationships can go a long way in opening doors to future opportunities. Fluent IMC is a Maine marketing agency specializing in integrated marketing communications. Our expertise ranges from brand strategy and marketing planning to digital marketing and online advertising to public relations and communications.

  • How to: Build a referral outreach program

    When you think of your target audience, do you think consumers? For many product-focused businesses, the buyer or consumer of your product is an obvious target. In the B2B realm, there’s often a longer sales cycle. The decision maker and buyer of your business-oriented product or specialized service typically needs many touchpoints with your brand and time to build trust in you and your organization. Often, referrals from a third party play a critical role in establishing credibility. Communicating with referral sources can be just as important (if not moreso) as reaching consumers and clients directly. Step 1. Segment your audiences. In addition to building a marketing plan aimed at reaching your consumers, ensure you’re not leaving gaps in your outreach by developing a program that also targets your referral sources. We think of audience as segments (i.e. a healthcare client might have several audience segments including prospective patients, current patients, referring physicians/clinics, employees and community partners). We’ve talked previously on the blog about thinking strategically when it comes to your referral network, and that’s a great place to start. Once you’ve identified the referral sources that will best help you reach your target customers, there’s an art that goes into building an effective outreach program to keep them engaged. Step 2. Identify the best way to reach your referral source segment. Before you begin thinking about WHAT type of content you can provide your referral sources, start thinking about HOW you’re going to reach them. Going back to our healthcare client example, to reach a referring physician, which channel is best? For those who prefer physical marketing materials, is it most effective to drop them off in person or send via email? Is there a staff person that might be the best point of contact to help you connect with an office of potential referral sources? For some people, the best way to connect might be taking them out to lunch or inviting them to a networking event for a closer look at your industry and the services you offer. Step 3. Consider what value you can provide. Before you do anything else, remember that this relationship is a two-way street. To remain top of mind among your referral sources, consider how you can provide value to establish yourself as a credible, trustworthy provider. This might mean hosting an educational webinar that benefits people in their industry and inviting them personally, developing a one-page infographic about your industry that they can share with their audience, or even sending referrals their way or giving them a shout out on your social channels or in your owned content. Think of it this way: when you make a recommendation, chances are you’re providing the name of someone who is exceptional at what they do and/or has provided superior customer service to make them stand out in your mind. When building a strategy to market to your referral sources, figure out what will make yours the first name that comes to mind. Step 4. Utilize a call to action and tracking code. We’re advocates of building brand awareness through paid media placements, but it can also be impactful to incorporate a specific call to action in your outreach that will give you a sense of which outlets or referral sources are driving the most traffic. In its simplest form, this might be something like a coupon or a promo code specific to this referral source. It might have an expiration date to encourage potential customers to get in touch sooner rather than later. If it’s a physical coupon or mailer (either print or email) it might have a specific code that allows you to identify which referral source distributed it, and you can customize the offer based on what might be of interest to your referral source’s audience. Step 5. Monitor and measure referrals from specific sources. Along with a tracking code on the marketing materials, we also advise clients across industries that one of the best ways they can help measure the impact of marketing efforts is to have a new client intake process that asks new customers to specify how they heard about the business. When we’re running a marketing program that spans multiple channels, this can be key in seeing which efforts are converting. Be as specific as possible when asking this question – it’s easy to get answers like “I saw you online/on TV/in the newspaper,” which could mean any number of advertising efforts, interviews, social media, etc. The good news when it comes to referrals is that new clients should be able to easily name the specific person that sent them your way so you can track where most of your referrals are coming from. Step 6. Nurture referral source relationships. Once you see an influx of new business from a specific source, it’s important to show your appreciation – not only because it’s polite, but because it will help keep you top of mind the next time your referral source has a potential lead for you. Consider sending a thank you note after you receive a referral and think about how else you might show your thanks, either by offering to partner on a co-branded marketing collaboration to boost your source’s visibility or by sending referrals in the other direction. Fluent IMC is a Maine marketing agency specializing in integrated marketing communications. Our expertise ranges from brand strategy and marketing planning to digital marketing and online advertising to public relations and communications.

  • How to: Earn coverage for your story in a competitive media landscape

    Long before 2020 hit, PR pros mastered the art of the pivot. We’re always prepared to switch up story ideas, take advantage of trends, or tackle a crisis head on. PR may be getting harder, but we’re confident our colleagues have what it takes to come up with creative solutions to get their clients covered. Journalists today are inundated with pitches, many of which are irrelevant to the topics they’re interested in. In the PR realm, that means we need to be thinking more creatively about how we can be heard, even while ensuring we’re not contributing to the overwhelm by repeatedly pitching journalists who just aren’t interested. Go beyond the press release. Press releases are for newsworthy information, not story ideas. We know it’s easy to fall into the trap of sending out a press release to a list of hundreds – and with numbers like that you probably will get some response. But more often than not you’re contributing to that inbox traffic jam. We prefer to create targeted pitches that align with what we feel a specific journalist might be interested in. This helps build relationships (even if the pitch isn’t a fit at the time) and usually leads to better quality coverage. Get back to basics. We have all the tools we could possibly need at our disposal, yet journalists still receive pitches that are completely irrelevant to their beat. Get to know who you’re pitching and decide why they’re the best fit. What will be most interesting for them in particular? Can you tailor your pitch to show why you chose to reach out to them over a colleague? While you’re spending time getting to know the person you’re reaching out to, you might actually come across recent work that can support your decision to reach out to them – or you may find that a colleague of theirs could be an even better fit. Back up your story. We know journalists are overwhelmed, so provide research if you have it, utilize trends for timeliness, and make it clear that you have an expert on the topic that can support what you’re outlining in a pitch. Journalists have expressed an interest in working with PR professionals that make their jobs easier, so added resources in your initial pitch can give your story idea a leg up on competing content ideas. Think outside the box. The plus side of the media shift is that we’re not limited to traditional media outlets. These days channels go so far beyond TV and newspapers. There’s a whole realm of podcasts, blogs, and influencers that often specialize in hyper-focused topics – meaning that putting in the effort to pitch the right one can land you in front of a more targeted audience. Need inspiration? Ask your client what channels they and their staff utilize for industry information. They’ll probably count this as a bigger win, too, if you land them coverage on a channel they consume regularly. If your story’s not getting told – tell it yourself. Even with the tips above, we know that sometimes it can still be a challenge to land a story in front of your ideal audience. When this is the case (and in general to support earned media coverage), utilize content marketing to your advantage. Take your solid story idea that’s not getting picked up, and write it yourself. A well-executed blog post allows you total control over your narrative, and gives you the opportunity to utilize that owned content across social channels and as an element of your paid media strategy. You may even be able to pitch your authored piece to a relevant publication or industry newsletter for additional visibility in front of your target audience. Fluent IMC is a Maine marketing agency specializing in integrated marketing communications. Our expertise ranges from brand strategy and marketing planning to digital marketing and online advertising to public relations and communications.

  • 5 things that make a career in PR harder than it was 5 years ago

    We’ve been working in the PR realm long enough to see a number of shifts in best practices. While strategic communications and PR have always been players in the marketing mix, the increase of pay-to-play messaging placements, skippable content and consent-based advertising gives earned media more gravitas than ever before, with many consumers viewing earned media as more credible than other sources of information. If you’ve read our blog, you know we’re advocates for an integrated approach. Even as the earned media channel seems to require more strategy, more legwork and more relationship building than it did even a few years ago, the rewards are that much more valuable. We don’t shy away from the extra challenge but are frequently reminded of a few reasons why the craft of PR is evolving and the job isn’t getting easier: 1. The C-suite doesn’t always understand its value. In some cases, PR can be a hard sell. If you’re working with senior leadership that either doesn’t understand public relations or hasn’t had much experience seeing it succeed, you might feel that you have to prove yourself. On the other hand, there are also cases where leadership believes that a press release is needed for every small announcement their company makes, and that the result will be an immediate influx of media calling for interviews. Our typical approach places the emphasis on thought leadership, and is more nuanced than blasting out news without specific direction. This type of program can seem like it gets off to a slower start, but organizations that are willing to stick with the program will see the long-term results. 2. The impact of PR is harder to measure than digital advertising. Metrics matter and PR is notoriously harder to measure than digital marketing and advertising, where the readily available data allows marketers to test, learn and adjust strategy. PR, on the other hand, isn’t as black and white. For starters, each channel comes with its own practices for providing measurement insights. Radio and TV aren’t as easy to get exact numbers on as online or print, but even then media outlets aren’t in the habit of sharing web stats with PR practitioners after running a story resulting from a pitch. On this side of things, we’ve learned to track media coverage and look for corresponding spikes in website traffic, increase in customer calls, and social media mentions that might come as a result of coverage. 3. There are fewer journalists. Even if you’re not in the industry, this probably doesn’t come as a surprise. With the rise of social media and other online news sources, traditional media outlets have seen a major shift over the past 15 years. In fact, studies show that U.S. newspapers have cut newsroom staff in half since 2008 – meaning the people that fill these roles are working twice as hard. Journalists at these media outlets are now wearing more hats than ever before. Cision’s 2021 State of the Media report revealed that almost half of journalists cover five or more beats, and about the same amount file seven or more stories each week. On top of that, reporters have new responsibilities in addition to the jobs they’ve always done – things like managing social media accounts and creating online personas are expected as part of filling the role. 4. Journalists are inundated with pitches. In addition to working overtime to meet these additional responsibilities, 1 in 4 journalists receive over 100 pitches a week – many of which are irrelevant or lacking the substance to catch their attention. This means their inboxes are overflowing and they’re conditioned to hit delete after skimming briefly if your email doesn’t immediately convey the value you’re able to provide. On top of the challenges of breaking through the inbox clutter, nine out of ten journalists strongly prefer being pitched via email rather than over the phone, so PR professionals aren’t left with many options. 5. Sponsored content is on the rise. In addition to competition for journalists’ attention, PR pros are also up against pay-to-play content, which often takes up valuable editorial space and can be confusing for clients who might not immediately understand why they don’t have the editorial control over their earned content that comes across in sponsored content in the same outlet. We believe in the power of PR, but view it as just one element of an integrated marketing strategy. There’s a time and a place for sponsored content, and for many clients we recommend a mix of paid and earned media efforts that compliment each other to achieve heightened credibility and increased awareness in front of target audiences. Not every story is newsworthy but that doesn’t mean it can’t be told on another platform or through paid media placements. Fluent IMC is a Maine marketing agency specializing in integrated marketing communications. Our expertise ranges from brand strategy and marketing planning to digital marketing and online advertising to public relations and communications.

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