Marketing Effectiveness

How to Create Engaging Content

Is a blog post only as good as the number of comments it receives? If you post something on social media and no one likes or comments on it, did the post happen?

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Creating engaging content is one of the top challenges for marketers, according to the 2016 B2B Content Marketing Benchmark report from the Content Marketing Institute. Sixty percent of B2B marketers stated that producing engaging content was their number one issue. (#2 and #3 were producing effective content and producing content regularly.)

If your blog’s comments are low or people seem to click away quickly, it may be time to give one or all of the following a try:

Be Topical (With Care)

“Newsjacking” is the process of using topical, timely content to get your brand’s message out to the world. There are good instances of newsjacking and some not-so-good ones.  A good instance might be to take a trending story and create an educational and informative blog post from it.  Similarly, you can write a piece that references a popular TV show or that connects to something that’s happening in the news, as long as it’s relevant to your business and positive.

On the other hand, using a recent tragedy or crisis to try to promote your brand is in bad form, even if your product might be relevant to readers’ lives at the moment.

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Listicles, or articles that are simply a list of things, tend to get a bad rap. But research shows that people actually do love listicles, and are more likely to share and comment on them than other content forms (one study by  Lumanu showed that listicles received 10 percent more social engagement per article.)

Why are they popular? It turns out that the human brain is wired to respond positively to lists. When a reader sees a list on your blog or social platform, he or she knows a few things right away – like what will be in the article, about how long it will be (if it’s a numbered list), and whether the article will be interesting to him or her. Ranked lists are particularly engaging for people, since they sort the information in a clear way.

Give Something Away

People are more likely to share their thoughts and opinions with you if you promise them something in return. You have a few options when it comes to running a giveaway. You can offer a small freebie to everyone who comments on a blog post or who shares a post (such as a free e-book).

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Another option is to have a contest for a bigger prize, such as a month’s worth of your product or services for free. Enter the names and emails of everyone who shares or comments on your post by a certain date into a drawing, then pick a winner at random.

If you mainly create social content or want people to engage with a special hashtag, create a social media giveaway.  Encourage people to post on Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest (choose the network that is most relevant to your business), using the hashtag and mentioning your company. Give the person who creates the most likes or shares a prize. Your brand can end up with a lot of engaging content, courtesy of current or potential customers.

The bottom line:  Engaging content connects to people in some way, whether it’s giving them a reward, promising them useful information or helping them learn from a recent news story or pop culture phenomenon. If you’re not seeing results from your content, experimenting with a different form might be all you need to do.

 

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A Social Media Checklist for Businesses

There’s a right way for businesses to use social media and there’s a wrong way. The right way actively engages with customers and users. It involves creating and sharing engaging content. The wrong way uses a purely promotional angle. It creates posts full of random hashtags and doesn’t respond to or interact with others.

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Using a checklist to monitor your company’s daily, weekly or monthly social media tasks will help you use social media in the right way. A checklist will also help you make adjustments or change course as needed.

The checklist should include the following:

  •  Respond to Comments and Messages (Daily)

One of the most important things you can do on social media is respond to comments and messages from your followers, fans or customers. When people reach out to a company over social media, they expect a response, fast.

A survey conducted by Convince and Convert found that 32% of respondents expected a business to respond to their message on social media within half an hour. Forty two percent expected a response within an hour. Customers want a quick reply anytime, whether it is the weekend or midnight on a weekday.

Responding to any messages should be a daily social media activity. In fact, you should have someone constantly monitoring your social media profiles for messages or mentions, so that you can reply quickly. Additionally, it helps to do a search every day for your business’ name on social media. People occasionally post about companies without using hashtags or usernames. It can be easy to miss those quiet mentions, but if you catch them, you’ll win your way into the hearts of customers.

  •  Find and Follow Others (Daily)

Along with replying to anyone who reaches out to you, it’s worth it to find new people to connect with through social media on a daily basis. You can search for leaders in your industry to follow or you can reach out to people who look as though they’d be interested in what you have to offer.

To do that, search for phrases or keywords that are relevant to your business on your various platforms. When you find a conversation or post about a topic that’s relevant to your company, find a way to jump in and add your input or some advice.

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One thing not to do when you’re looking to connect with others on social: follow then unfollow once that user has followed you back. If you’re going to follow a lot of people, commit to following them. It’s just bad manners to unfollow once you’ve gotten the follow back, even though it happens frequently.

  •  Create and Stick to a Social Media Content Calendar (Weekly)

You can’t post anything or share anything on social media if you don’t have an idea or plan for what to post. Creating a weekly social media content calendar gives you an idea what you need to post and when. It also helps you see how much you need to post on each site you use.

While maintaining and updating your content calendar should be a weekly (or even monthly) task, actually posting the content should happen daily. You’ll want to post at least once a day on most social accounts, but at least six times a day on Twitter, where people tend to be much more prolific.

  •  Pay Attention to What Your Competition Is Doing (Weekly)

It helps to keep an eye on what your competitors are doing on social media and on how they are using their social accounts. You don’t want to copy what other companies are doing, but you do want to check in from time to time.

Doing so lets you see what those competitors aren’t doing, so that you can fill in the gaps with your own social accounts. You can also see what’s working for them and what’s not and use that information to shape your company’s own social strategy.

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  •  Check Your Data (Monthly)

Every month, check out how your business’ various social profiles are performing. Analytics available from each social network make this pretty easy to do. For example, Twitter will tell you how each of your posts performed, how many people engaged with each post and how many people it post reached. Facebook does something similar. You can also see how many new people liked or followed your page each month and whether you’re social presence is growing or shrinking.

  •  Make Adjustments as Needed (Monthly)

The social media landscape is always changing. As social networks update or change their policies, your company will need to adjust its tactics. Keep up with the policies for each network you use and adjust your plan as needed.

You might also want to set monthly social media goals. For example, you might aim to get 100 new Twitter followers a month. If you reach that goal, increase it. If not, take a look at what you are doing and figure out what’s not helping you or what’s standing in the way of you reaching your goal.

What Marketers Can Learn From Pokémon Go

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If there’s one thing the makers of Pokémon do well, it’s to create a craze. Back in the late 1990s, Pokémon trading cards caused a frenzy among children and adults, as people waited in line to get their hands on a pack of the latest release, which might or might not contain the cards they were after.

Now, Pokémon is back again. This time, it is taking the world by storm in the form of an augmented reality game for smartphones. Instead of catching Pokémon cards, people are chasing the monsters all over town, catching them using the cameras on their phones.

To say that the game is a hit would be an understatement. First released in the US in early July, it climbed to the top of the sales charts in just 13 hours. So far, more than 75 million people have installed it and Forbes reported that the average user spends 75 minutes per day playing it. Yahoo News called the app a cultural phenomenon and compared it to the Dutch Tulipmania of the 17th century, when demand for certain tulip bulbs caused the price to skyrocket.

What does Pokémon Go have to teach marketers? A lot, as it turns out.

Customize the Message

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One of the features of Pokémon Go is the ability to customize the avatar a person uses when playing. Initially, a player could only customize their avatar at the beginning of the game, picking the clothing, physical features, and gender. An update to the app now allows people to customize and change their avatar whenever they want.

Marketers also need to learn to customize and update the messages they send to customers, who grow and change as they move through life. Your customers also aren’t  all the same person, and want you to recognize what makes them unique. Customization is particularly important to millennials, as this article in Entrepreneur points out.

How can you customize the message to certain customers? Offer appreciation and recognition events, personalize any emails or other communications you send to them and give them a choice when it comes to how they communicate with you or you with them.

What’s Old is New

Nostalgia is one of the things driving the success of Pokémon Go. Many of the 20 and 30 somethings playing the game now remember collecting the cards or playing the Gameboy games in the 1990s.

Nostalgia can also be a useful tool for marketers. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research in 2014 suggested that people are more willing to open their wallets when they feel nostalgic. If a product or service triggers a memory of a bygone time, people will spend so that they feel as if they are reliving that time.

Right now, the 1990s are a ripe for the picking when it comes to nostalgia marketing. Just as Pokémon is having its 15 minutes of fame, so, too, are Calvin Klein’s iconic jeans, Crispy M&M’s, and brown lipstick.

Keep it Simple

Here’s another reason Pokémon Go is doing so well: It’s easy to learn and play. You don’t need to have played the video games or card games that preceded the app, or spent hours reading a list of instructions. You simply download the app and start playing. It’s simple enough that you can figure it out as you go along.

Keeping it simple is one of the most important things for marketers to remember. If people can’t clearly spot your message or get what your brand’s story is at a glance, they aren’t going to stick around long enough to figure out if what you’re offering is worth their while.

Establish a Sense of Community

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One of the features that makes Pokémon Go more unique than other app-based games is that it, for the most part, has players go out and about to capture the monsters. Players also have a chance to work together to find and catch the Pokémon, at Pokéstops and Poké gyms. Large group Pokémon hunts have taken place in Spain, Australia, and other locations.

The game has proven to be a conversation starter, even among people who aren’t playing it. For example, players at a local coffee shop or bar have been known to strike up conversations with other customers about how the game works or about how many Pokémon they’ve caught.

A marketing strategy that has community at its center not only helps people connect over a shared interest, but also helps increase word-of-mouth shares. Much of Pokémon’s success is due to people who fondly remember the game or who never stopped playing other versions of Pokémon. When the app was released, those people got it, told their friends and shared their experiences on social media and the web until a significant buzz was established.

Who knows how long the Pokémon Go bubble will last? But, its wild success over the past few weeks has been enough to show marketers that some techniques never go out of style.

 

Using Social Media to Build Influence

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Unlike traditional marketing, you don’t need to have a huge budget or a household name to establish yourself or your company as an influencer on social media.

In fact, larger companies are struggling to build and maintain any level of influence on social media, as an article in the March 2016 issue of the Harvard Business Review points out. Smaller companies and individuals tend to have a greater reach on social media compared to national brands.  That’s because it can be easier for a smaller company to produce organic social media content that is perceived as being authentic than it is for a big brand.

Focus on Quality

Posting more content on social media isn’t always better than posting fewer items. You’ll be able to make a name for yourself or your business in the online realm if you post one thing per day that really resonates with your audience or that helps them solve a particular problem.

Although it’s important to pay attention to what topics are trending, pick and choose what you post about with care. There have been numerous cases of brands or companies jumping on a hashtag bandwagon and putting their foot in their mouths. Often, the brands saw that a particular hashtag was trending, but didn’t understand the meaning behind it and ended up posting something that embarrassed them or created an uproar.

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The “quality over quantity” rule applies  to the number of social networks you are on, as well. When you are first dipping your toes into the social media waters, it can help to focus on one platform at a time. If you prefer to make videos, focus on building your influence and subscriber list on YouTube. If concise, witty phrases are more your style, Twitter can be perfect for you. As you gain followers and traction on social media, you can think about expanding the number of networks you use.

Stick to What You Know

One way to establish yourself as an expert in your field and to earn “influencer” status is to focus on posting about the things you know. For example, if you are an accountant who primarily works with small businesses, you can write a post about often overlooked small business deductions at tax time.

It’s also important to anticipate what your audience wants to read or see from you. They might not value a post about recent events in international politics, for example, if your company sells kitchen supplies to bakeries and restaurants. But, if you run an import-export business or deal with a number of customers whose lives or businesses will be affected by the issue, a post from you on what the current events mean for business and for your audience might be appreciated.

Although providing information can position you as an expert or authority on a topic or industry, starting a conversation on social media can also help you build your influence. Solicit questions from your followers about your niche and take the time to answer them.

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You can also jump in and answer questions people might post in online forums or on websites such as Quora. Doing so will put you and your company on the original poster’s radar, as well as on the radar of anyone who ends up reading the Q&A.

Pay Attention to What Works

One of the great things about social media is that it is easy to see what is working and what isn’t. When you post an article or video, you can see how many people have looked at it, how many have reacted to it, and how many have shared it.

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You might start to notice patterns across your posts. Perhaps videos do better with your followers than written posts, for example. Perhaps people respond to posts with pictures more than they do to posts that are just text. You can build your brand and establish influence more easily if you give people want they want to see on social media.

Whether they are on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter, people are looking for companies to step forward and take the lead. Use social media to your advantage and you’ll end up gaining a considerable amount of influence.

4 Reasons Why No One is Reading Your Content

The world is full of content — according to data from Uberflip, more than 27 million pieces of content are shared daily. With so much out there, naturally people are only going to read the content that stands out from the rest and that makes an impression.

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If no one is reading the blog posts, white papers, or other content your team is creating, it is easy to blame it on the sheer volume of words available these days. But, the issue could go deeper than that. Your content might be getting lost in the shuffle, or it could be suffering from a number of other issues that make it easy for people to ignore.

It Doesn’t Have the Right Focus

When people go online to find information, they are often looking for a solution to a problem. Blog posts and white papers that get the most traction with an audience tend to be very useful or tend to help people or companies solve a problem.

Content that’s not focused on usefulness isn’t going to attract readers. One way to solve an issue of focus is to reconsider who you are creating content for. Your current customer base or potential customer base should always be who you are directing your content towards. When you are developing ideas for blog posts and other materials, think of issues your audience might have, then produce content that helps them solve those issues.

It Doesn’t Sound Authoritative

Content that appeals to people is authoritative and unique. It’s fairly common to see companies producing blog posts or articles in an attempt to cash in on a current trend. If the subject of the article isn’t really in the company’s wheelhouse, the author of it ends up sounding uninformed or inexperienced. That not only turns off readers, it can also turn off also potential customers.

It’s fine to write something about an issue or news story that is trending at the moment. But, the important thing to do is to put your own slant on it. Let readers see your business’ unique perspective on a problem or how you company can solve a trending issue in a way that no one else can.

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Your content might also be suffering because it’s just not well written. Poorly written content can make you sound less authoritative, as it’s difficult to make a strong argument when there are a lot of grammatical errors or overly flowery language. Not everyone is a gifted communicator, or has an eye or ear for good content. If you’re not sure if the posts and articles your company is putting out are any good, it’s worth it to hire someone to handle making sure your content team has what it takes to put together expertly written, engaging content.

It’s Not Visually Appealing

In some cases, the actual meat of your company’s content is perfectly fine. You’ve been writing knowledgeable, informative posts and papers. But, the way the content is presented to readers is the issue.

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More people use their mobile device over a desktop or laptop when reading digital content. The 2015 Internet Trends report from KPCB shows that more than half of the time people spend online, about 2.8 hours a day, is using a mobile device. (note: it’s slide 14 on the report)

If your company’s content isn’t easy to read on a smaller screen or if you’re using a web design that is not responsive and doesn’t adjust based on the size of the screen, you could be turning away readers.

It’s Not Reaching People

One last reason why people might  not read your content: they never get a chance to see it. Make it as easy as possible for people to find and read what you’ve written. Sharing your content on social media is one way to do that.

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Making your content easy to share is another way. For example, put share buttons that link to the more popular social media sites next to every post on your blog. That way, if someone stumbles upon your post from a search engine, and likes what he or she sees, it’s easy to share the article or post with his or her followers.

You can also send your content directly to the people you think would benefit from it the most. An email newsletter lets you connect with current or potential customers, and puts your content directly in their inbox. People can always click “delete,” but if you’re reaching out directly to them, it’s more likely they’ll take the time to at least look at what you have to say.

 

Email Marketing Isn’t Dead

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Who checks email anymore? The rise of social media and short, instant communication, such as text messages, has some led some people to believe that email is dead. Plus, there’s the concern that people just instantly delete messages or are so overwhelmed by their inboxes that they never get around to opening emails.

Although there are plenty of ways to market to customers and clients these days, email marketing isn’t dead and isn’t going anywhere. There are several benefits to using it to connect to current or past customers and to try to connect to new ones.

Increase Return on Investment

One of the big reasons why email marketing isn’t going anywhere is that it’s a relatively affordable way to connect to a large audience. According to Experian, email marketing is 20 times more cost effective than using traditional marketing techniques, such as mailing out a physical newsletter or paper coupon. The Digital Marketing Association goes a step further, noting that every $1 spent on email marketing brings in $40. Finally, eMarketer found that, in 2014, email marketing was the most effective form of digital marketing when it came to retaining customers.

Email isn’t just more cost effective than traditional marketing methods. It also performs better than social marketing and click-through ads.

Target Your Audience

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Another benefit of email marketing is that it allows you to target specific members of your customer base. Unless your company is sending spam, when you use email, you are sending messages to people who have expressed interest in your business. You already have an established client base and a general idea of what that client base wants from you. With email, you can take the next step and offer your customers something they can’t turn down.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re a technology company and you have a roster of clients who are using product A. When product A.2 launches, you can send an email message to those clients, letting them know of the upgrade and how the newer product will directly benefit them or improve their business functioning.

You might not reach new customers through email marketing, but that is for the most part, OK. It’s much more cost effective to target the client base you already have than it is to chase down new customers using email or other marketing methods.

Measure Response

It can be tricky to measure customer response to many types of marketing. If you send a direct mailing, there’s really no way to know how many people tossed it in the recycling bin right away, how many pinned it to a bulletin board, but never got around to following up, or how many passed it on to a friend. With paper mailings, the only way to really gauge response is to look at how many people bring  in the coupon or flyer you’ve sent out. Although there is a way to measure likes and comments on social media, you never know for sure how many people are looking at your social pages or clicking through promotions.

Email is different. When you send out an email blast, you can easily see who opened the message, who deleted it without opening, and who asked to be unsubscribed. You can also see who clicked on specific links in the message and who ended up ordering a product or renewing a service.

How to Get People to Open Your Emails

person_checking_email_on_phone Of course, your company can send emails messages all day long and not have much of an impact, if you aren’t sending the right emails. There are a few things you can do to keep people from deleting your message before reading it:

  • Get personal. The more personal your email message is, the more likely people are to click through, read it, and to click on links inside it. Including the recipient’s first name in the subject line of the email increases the click-through rate, for example. A personalized message is also more likely to lead to a conversion than a generic one.
  • Find the right words. According to Hubspot, some words are more likely to get people to open an email than others. Including words such as “secrets,” “posts,” and “jobs” in a subject line gets people to read the message inside. (Of course, it only makes sense to use those words in the subject line if they have something to do with what your email message is actually about.)
  • Timing matters. Hubspot found that emails sent at 6 a.m. had the highest click-through rates, while emails sent on Tuesdays had the highest unsubscribe rates. Sending email on the weekend, either on a Saturday or Sunday, is also likely to increase your click-through rate. The trick is to send a message at a time when most people are unlikely to be swamped with work.

If you’ve given up on email or are focusing your marketing efforts on other areas, it’s time to give email another shot. Far from being over or dead, email is proving to still be one of the most effective ways to reach your customers.

 

4 Budget-Friendly PR Tips

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When your business is just getting started, you might not have the budget to hire a public relations and marketing firm.  But don’t put your PR strategy on the back burner. A few do-it-yourself options can help you promote your company, until you can hire some professional help.

Do Your Research

A major component of public relations is building connections and relationships with people in the media. Often, one of the things that makes a PR firm so attractive is its ability to connect with key media influencers in order to promote your company and its products and services.

Without a firm behind you, you don’t have access to those contacts. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t try to establish connections yourself.  It can take a bit of research and digging, but learning who covers your industry and for what publications, then taking the time to reach out to and introduce yourself to them can be well worth the effort.

Although it’s traditional to reach out to people who work in media, you don’t necessarily have to limit yourself to reporters or journalists. It could benefit your company to connect to a local business that offers a complementary service, for example.

Focus on What You’re Saying

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Knowing what your company’s message or story is is crucial if you want people to pay attention to you. Remember that PR isn’t the same thing as advertising. A media outlet typically won’t want to cover a business if the coverage feels like a blatant ad for the company.

Make sure you give the media a “why.” What’s the special hook for your company, why is it different from the others out there, how does your company benefit the community, if at all?

To figure out your company’s message, it sometimes helps to look at what other businesses use as their story or messaging.  Look at the key stories of competing businesses and craft your company’s stories in a way that responds to or is considerably different from those stories.

Get Noticed on Social Media

A sharp social media strategy should be part of every budget-PR plan, as social media has changed PR in several ways, as this article from Cision points out. Even if every traditional media outlet in town is ignoring your requests, you can use social media to get your story out there.

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Depending on how well you use it, the information you put on your company’s social media pages can end up reaching millions. For example, you might share the story of your company’s beginnings on Twitter. An influencer, someone with a massive Twitter following, might see that story, be moved by it and share it with his or her followers. All of the sudden, your company is getting a considerable amount of attention, without having had to spend much, if any, money.

While social media success stories abound, keep in mind that there’s no way to guarantee your business will be the next viral sensation. Along with telling your company’s story, use social media as a way to interact with your current customers. Offering great service online can do a lot more for your business’ public image than hoping that one day one of your posts will go viral.

Consider Newswires

Although PR is more than just sending out press releases, sending out releases is still an important part of the process. Online newswire services, such as PRWeb, are a great, inexpensive tool to use. The services distribute press releases to journalists, bloggers and others in the media, around the world, at rates that start at less than $100.

A survey conducted by Vitis PR found that 37% of journalists use newswires daily and 30% use them occasionally. You might not establish a long term relationship using a newswire, but you just might catch the attention of a journalist who wouldn’t have found out about your company otherwise.

While budget-friendly, DIY PR techniques can help your company when it’s just getting started, in the long run, you’ll want to work with a professional to develop a comprehensive PR strategy. When you do have the budget for it, a strong PR strategy can end up reaping numerous rewards.

Marketing to the 21st century reader

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Changes in technology have led to a major change in the way people approach text and reading. You can see this in several places, from blog posts to today’s bestselling novels.  Although there are still plenty of big, thick novels and long blog posts out there, there’s been a fundamental shift in the way those posts and books are written and formatted.

The 21st century reader is one who skims, who wants whatever it is she’s reading to get to the point quickly. Today’s writing has been largely influenced by social media, which, with its character counts and limits, has shortened what people can say. It’s also been influenced by the introduction of screens. Reading on a laptop, mobile device or e-reader is a very different experience from curling up with a book or newspaper.

In today’s marketing world, you not only want to think about the message you’re presenting to customers. You also want to think about how you convey that message and the best ways to do it.

Think Vertically

Before people began to read on screens, the experience was linear. To get to the next part of an article or story, they’d have to flip a page. Today’s reader is more likely to experience text vertically, meaning he or she more likely to scroll up or down a screen while reading or skimming.

Designing your writing with the vertical reader in mind helps make the text more attractive to that reader and can make him or her more likely to read to the end. One way to embrace the vertical is to use lists, particularly bulleted lists.

When someone is scrolling down a page, a bulleted list is much easier to absorb and take in than a block of text in traditional paragraph form. Bullet points also give the reader the chance to pick and choose the information that’s relevant to him or her right away, versus having to sift through a dense paragraph to find what’s useful.

Break Things Up

Bullet points are just one way to break up the text and make it easier for the modern reader to digest what’s on the screen. It’s also important to aim for brevity, in terms of the length of sentences and paragraphs.

While in previous centuries, a reader might have been OK mentally digesting a large paragraph, today’s reader finds two to four sentence paragraphs much easier to process. Short paragraphs also help guide a reader through a blog post or article. When text is presented in small blocks, with a lot of white space around it, it’s easier on the eyes. People are more likely to keep reading from one paragraph to the next.

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A similar thing occurs in books. Shorter chapters appeal to readers and make them more likely to finish a book. In 2013, the New York Times reported that people are 25 percent more likely to read a book with short chapters until the end.

Don’t just aim for short paragraphs. Go for shorter sentences, too. In an interview with the International Association of Business Communicators, writer, editor and consultant Jeff Herrington lists long sentences as one of the most common mistakes he sees in business writing. Don’t lose a reader in a 60 word, multi-clause sentence. Keep it simple.

Leave Out What People Skip

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It might seem facile to say leave out the boring stuff, but in the age of lots of content, it’s crucial. Don’t bore your readers with long descriptions of places or people. Either let them use their imaginations or trust that they can Google something if they aren’t sure what it is. In a blog post, a link can substitute for lots of descriptive text.

There’s also a lesson to be learned from social media here: That’s to only include the most relevant information to get your point across. Give yourself a limit, such as 140 characters, and see if you can convey your message within that limit.

Read More

One last piece of advice when you’re looking for writing help or ways to modernize your marketing. Read as much as you can, whether it’s marketing material and articles from those in your industry, or entertainment blogs.

Pay attention not only to what the writers of those materials are saying. Look at their format and style. Something about it appeals to you. Once you figure out what it is, try to copy it in your own writing to make it appeal to the 21st century reader.

Effective PR Strategies

Over time, the concept of public relations has evolved and the most effective PR strategies have changed with it. The official definition of public relations, updated by the Public Relations Society of America in 2012, is “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” When you are developing a PR strategy, whether it is for a new customer or a new product launch, keeping the focus on relationship building can help you build a better and more effective strategy.

Know Your Goal

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Knowing what the goal of a public relations campaign is isn’t the strategy in and of itself; rather, it’s an essential component of any strategic plan. When you are putting together a strategy, ask yourself a series of questions to help you better map it out.

One crucial question is “who is the audience you are trying to reach?” If you don’t know who you are targeting, it can be difficult to put together a plan to reach that person or demographic. It’s also worth asking what the message is that you want to send to a customer or your target audience and what you ultimately want that person to take away from your campaign. Once you have the answers to those questions and have a defined goal, it becomes easier to put together effective strategies.

Partner with an Influencer 

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A survey published in January 2015 by Millenial Branding offered a close look at the habits and wants of the millennial consumer. The survey asked 1,300 millennials, chosen from the readership of “Elite Daily,” a number of consumer focused questions. The results revealed that the millennial generation is more likely to use information gleaned from blogs when making a purchase, rather than advertisements and other, more traditional forms of media. Along with friends and family, millennials were most likely to trust “online experts” when getting advice on a product or service.

That suggests that a useful PR strategy is for a company to find and partner with an online influencer, such as a blogger or vlogger. Not just any blogger or online content creator will do, though. Ideally, you’ll want to find an influencer whose interests and subjects mesh with the product you offer. If you’re working on a campaign for a financial services company, for example, it can be helpful to partner with an accountant or CFO who also maintains a popular blog. Getting the stamp of approval from an influencer people in your niche trust will give the product or service you’re offering a boost.

Create a Story 

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Every PR campaign needs to have a “why” behind it. Whether you’re working with an online influencer or a reporter from a traditional media outlet, people aren’t going to want to give a company, product or service coverage “just because.” Think beyond advertising when pitching a campaign and instead focus on the story you have to offer.

When coming up with a story, think of the various angles you can use. If the product or service your company offers solves a problem that no other similar product or service solves, that can be one angle. Another is to tell the story of why your company exists. It could be the that founder or CEO came out of adversity or built the company after a frustrating situation in his or her life. The story can also focus on the positive impact your product or service has on customers or other businesses.

Go For Exclusivity

Remember that PR is about building relationships. For that reason, an effective strategy is often to focus on one influencer or one media outlet and to offer that outlet exclusive access to your company’s stories. Think of it this way. If you send a press release out to 15 magazines, newspapers and other media outlets, and all 15 of them publish something very similar about your company, the impact is diluted, as the same story is disseminated in the same way, across 15 different outlets.

But, if you were to offer one reporter an exclusive interview with the company’s CEO, and that reporter publishes the story in a magazine that directly targets your company’s core audience, the impact is of the story is likely to be greater than if that reporter had published a generic story about your company that was similar to the stories found in other media venues.

Offering exclusivity doesn’t mean that you need to only work with one outlet. It simply means that you can offer one angle or story to one particular outlet and a different angle or story to another. Choose the angle based on the focus or interest of that magazine or blog’s audience to maximize the impact your story has and get the most from your campaign.

5 Tips for Creating Eye-Catching Headlines

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 Headlines have always been important for grabbing a reader’s attention and getting him or her to read the rest of an article. In the age of social media shares, headlines have become even more important. Think of all the catchy Buzzfeed or Mashable headlines you see on Facebook feeds.  Or, remember those Upworthy headlines, popular just a year or so ago, and how they almost compelled you to click on a link just to see what the story was?

 Having a great headline — or not — can make or break a piece. According to Copyblogger, 80 percent of people will look at a headline. But, just 20 percent of them will continue to read the content beneath it. To get more readers, an excellent headline is a must.  Following are some methods of writing headlines that grab people’s attentions and turn them into readers.

 Make it Relatable

People are more likely to read something that they feel connects to their lives in some way. This isn’t just true when content is appealing to consumers; it’s also true of content designed to reach a business audience. When writing a headline, think about who your target audience is, then craft a title that lets them see themselves in the headline.

If you work with start-ups or small businesses, an example of an attention-grabbing headline might be “15 Successful Entrepreneurs Share Secrets to Their Success.” An audience of entrepreneurs is going to want to see themselves in that group and is more likely to click through to learn more.

Skip the Question

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 Although you want to create a headline that people or businesses identify with and relate to, it’s usually best if you skip phrasing the headline in the form of a question. A study by Buzzstream and Frac.tl examined Buzzfeed headlines that didn’t do as well others.

Some of the least popular headlines were those phrased as questions. For example, headlines that began with “Are You . . . ?” tended to get the lowest number of shares, even on Facebook, the most popular social network for sharing.

The study’s authors also compared the average number of shares for question headlines to the 15 headlines with the most shares. Question headlines were shared around 25,000 times, while the most popular non-question headlines were shared nearly 84,000 times each.

Establish Authority

Another way to turn readers off is to let them know upfront that a post is from a person who may not be an authority or expert on a subject. The Buzzstream/Frac.tl study found that Buzzfeed headlines that featured the phrase “Community Post,” meaning they were written by a user, were shared 845 percent less than the site’s most popular headlines.

You don’t have to introduce yourself in headline. But a headline that reads “15 Board Certified Doctors Weigh in on New Medical Device” reassures a reader that people in a position of authority and who are qualified to weigh in on a topic are providing input.

Use a Number

The headline to this post, and all the sample headlines included it in have one thing in common: they all include a number. Including a number in the headline puts people’s minds at ease, as it gives them a basic idea of what they can expect. If your headline is “11 Ways to Increase Comments on Your Blog,” a person who clicks on it knows he or she is going to see 11 tips for getting more comments.

The structure of numbered posts can also be easier for people to read. Since the post will most likely be in list form, a reader can quickly skim it to see if there is useful information or not.

Promise Something Big

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This last tip comes with a big caveat. You want to grab a reader’s attention by promising something exciting or new. You also want to make sure the post lives up to its headline. For example, if a headline reads “13 New Ways to Get Leads,” and the actual article lists 13 well-known, fairly obvious methods of getting leads, you’ll let down the reader,  and he or she is  going to be less likely to share your post, or return for more.

Headlines are your way of introducing yourself, your business, and your content to readers. Don’t skimp when it comes to writing them. Since a headline is the first (and in some cases, the last) thing a reader sees, you want it to be a few words that will really impress.