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Creating Content from the Outside-In

Posted in Best Practices, Tricia's Posts

Let’s face it, throughout the customer journey, our prospects will spend more time conducting online and peer research than they will talking with our sales reps. According to Blair Christie, SVP and CMO at Cisco:

• 67 percent of the customer journey is done digitally
• 57 percent of the purchase decision is made before even reaching out to the company
• 90 percent of customers initiate the first step in the buying cycle
• 85 percent of B2B users are using social media during the purchase process

Times have changed. From large businesses to mid-market leaders and startups, marketing executives are taking note and reorganizing their marketing efforts to support customer needs. In fact, helping customers through the buyer journey with relevant and helpful content is a key trend for 2015, according to Ellen Valentine at Silverpop.

So, what makes content helpful and engaging? Relevance.

Outside In World Cloud

When creating messaging and content, many companies think inside-out instead of outside-in. In other words, instead of telling the audience what they want and need to hear, we simply provide the information we want them to have.

Recipient-oriented messaging and content is the core of effectively reaching your audience. It isn’t about how you want to give them information, it is about how they want to receive it. It’s not about what you want to tell them, but what they want to know. Relevant content marketing empowers prospects at the point in time when they need it most – while searching online or through other channels. As marketers, we must help them find answers, discover solutions and increase their knowledge base. We can do this by understanding the customer, their pain points and needs, and focus our communications around these themes.

Last week I had the privilege of leading the board of KC/IABC in persona building. This is one of the best ways to hone in on your audience’s mindset, uncover their motivations and learn what matters most to them. The persona building process entails not only surfacing the audience insights known by your team, but talking with the audience directly. Research your audience. Talk to them, ask questions, find out what triggers their decision making. Most importantly - listen to their answers and make strategic marketing plans based around audience needs.

It’s normal to think about things from your own point of view. Stepping into someone else’s shoes isn’t easy. But, what separates a great marketing strategy from so many others is the ability to think and plan from the outside-in. It is through this recipient-oriented content that you create brand awareness, nurture prospects and convert leads into paying clients.

Comments Off Posted on by Tricia McKim

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Content Marketing Success

Posted in Best Practices, Integrated Marketing (IMC), Susan's Posts

Allow Entrepreneur.com to be the first to remind us that this year, “Content has become bigger and bolder than ever before.” At Morningstar Communications, we couldn’t agree more. We are taking on the personal goal of producing more content in 2015 ourselves as a marketing strategy that will pay off today with dividends down the road. Content marketing is a great way to reach the audiences that matter most to you. Producing unique content is a great way to show thought leadership, direction and valued insights, and the topics are limitless. The top things to remember when producing content are your unique audience members! After all, that is who you are writing for. Recognize your audience and provide the content they need, want and can use. As Eric says, it’s all about how the message is received.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 85 percent of companies have a content marketing strategy in place with the main objective of remaining competitive in their industry. Yet, Kapost, a content marketing software company, reports only 32 percent of marketers say they are producing enough content.

So, what is the secret ingredient to your 2015 content marketing success? Doing your research, having valuable content to provide, having the courage to publish it and planning are all important. But don’t just plan, put a documented strategy in place. A recent report by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs states only 35 percent of B2B marketers report a documented content marketing strategy; others say their strategy is purely verbal. What’s the harm in this? The study finds companies with a documented content strategy tend to rate themselves higher in terms of content marketing effectiveness.

 
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In 2014, Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, conducted a goal-setting study with 267 participants. She uncovered participants were 42 percent more likely to achieve the goals they set when they wrote them down. That’s pretty compelling research.

So, what must you document?

Start by writing down your strategy and defining your goals. You’ll save time in the long run by establishing goals and sticking to them. Next, create an editorial calendar that outlines all of the content pieces you plan to publish along with a consistent, but realistic publishing schedule. This will keep you accountable for implementing your strategy on a consistent basis with set dates and topics. Write down the tactics you plan to utilize: email, social media, website copy, etc. Don’t forget to include what measurements you will use to define success. Most importantly, ensure you schedule and intend to publish content that is relevant to your target audience. Your goal is to reach a certain target, so your messaging must resonate with them and ultimately drive them to the desired call to action.

Comments Off Posted on by Susan Hinds

Expanding Your Reach in 2015

Posted in Best Practices, Laura's Posts, Social Media, Tips and Tricks

As 2014 comes to an end, many of us are making personal New Years resolutions. While these personal resolutions are important, it is equally as essential for companies and employees to reassess their business strategies moving into 2015.

A common resolution for businesses, “We want to double our audience/leads in 2015.” This is a great resolution, and fortunately, one that can be achieved through content creation and marketing automation.

Social media and email marketing (elements of content creation) are both excellent ways of delivering your company’s message. And most businesses utilize social media and email marketing to some degree, however, they are commonly separated making it difficult for potential leads/customers to connect with your business. That’s why it’s a no-brainer for your business to employ marketing automation.

I recently read a blog post on Act-On about how to double your company’s conversions, and ultimately your audience/leads, by uniting social media content and email marketing content. One tip especially stood out to me: “Ask for the social share via email.”

Businesses have the ability to extend their reach by sharing calls to action in their email blasts and e-newsletters. Include links to multiple social media channels in the email, making it easy for the recipient to share the content with his or her network. Chances are, if the recipient finds the content interesting, they will want to share it with their network – a perfect way to extend reach and engage similar mindsets.

Also consider pushing out a follow-up email to those recipients who opened or downloaded your content. This follow-up email should include a simple call to action. For example, programs like Click to Tweet allow recipients to tweet a pre-created message informing others of the valuable content they just read or downloaded from your email.

As you head into 2015, I encourage you to make resolutions for your business like the one listed above. At Morningstar Communications, we specialize in helping our clients extend their reach through various content marketing tools and strategies. Follow us on Facebook to learn more. And don’t be afraid to share this information with your own network.

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Comments Off Posted on by Laura Jung

The Role of Social Media in Content Marketing

Posted in Best Practices, Online Marketing

Content marketing strategies require creativity, dedication and endurance. In addition to being comprehensive and well thought out, your content needs to fit into an overarching strategic plan for your company, and that includes your social media efforts.

The purpose of content is to give the people who matter most to your organization access to information of interest and relevance to them. Simply put, your content educates your target audience. The purpose of social media is to start a conversation.

Speaker and author Jay Baer says, “Social media is the new telephone. Content marketing is the new brochure.”

These words are too true. So, why not align your social media efforts with your content marketing plan? Once your target audience has consumed your content, use social media to gauge their reaction, start a conversation and further extend the life of the content you created.

Here are three tips for supporting your content marketing strategy with engaging social media posts.

Utilize content calendars:

Content calendars are an effective and efficient way to determine topics of focus for the year and to develop manageable timelines. Create a social media calendar in addition to your content calendar to ensure your topic areas align.

Be timely:

While having a plan for your social media and content efforts is necessary and helpful, it is also important to join conversations that unexpectedly arise throughout the year. If a topic surfaces that relates to your business, draft a blog post or byline with accompanying social media posts to further position your company as a thought leader in your industry.

Keep your audience in mind:

Understand who follows you on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and what they are looking for on each platform. When possible, tailor your posts and content to meet the needs of your audience.

Aligning your content marketing and social media efforts is an effective way to educate and interact with your target audiences. If you’re interested in learning more about these topics or have a comment or question, drop us a line on Facebook or LinkedIn.

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Comments Off Posted on by Paige Kauffman

Enhancing Team Productivity around the Holidays

Posted in Best Practices, Tips and Tricks

With all of us in the thick of the holiday season, it's easy for team members' productivity levels to slip at work. We are easily distracted, looking forward to spending time with family, stressing about gifts, preparing for travel and all the other things that go into planning for the holidays. The following tips will help the team stay focused and ensure they end its year on a high note:

Share Calendars
Make sure every team member is aware of each others' schedules during the holidays. A shared calendar is a very handy tool. Mark the hours and days each member is out during the season. This can help develop a plan to ensure they cover all client projects and meet pending deadlines.

Prioritize
Help your team prepare a priority list. Holidays are a busy time and having a list of priority items gives each team member a clear focus area. They will spend productive time tackling the most pressing items, especially those with year-end deadlines.

Lend a hand
While you may have some time to spare, another team member may be swamped in client work or projects. This is the perfect time to show your team spirit and offer a helping hand. It is also an opportunity to learn something new about a part of your company or a client you aren’t currently familiar with.

Spring clean in winter
If your priority list is small or already taken care of, there's no dearth of preparation you could do to welcome a new work year. Take advantage of the down time by reorganizing your files, cleaning out your desk (or the office fridge – major brownie points with your team members!) and sorting through your files, making a list of what your clients are expecting from you in the first week of the new year and whom you will need to reconnect with. Make some 2015 goals and write them down.

Be reasonable and embrace the holiday spirit
It’s important to remember that the holidays are a time when you have to be reasonable. You can’t expect employees to stay late every night. Unless it’s necessary, be understanding about the time your team members can put into their jobs. As long as they are delivering on their expected daily and weekly work hours, they should be allowed to leave at a reasonable time.

We are keen to hear about ways by which you are keeping productivity levels high at your organization during this holiday season. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Comments Off Posted on by Suchitra Kamath

The Beauty of Content Repurposing

Posted in Best Practices, Laura's Posts

In school, we’re constantly required to create and write new content. While original content creation is a necessary skill for those of us in the marketing world, we often get caught up in trying to “reinvent the wheel,” which is quite time consuming and therefore costly.

At Morningstar Communications, we are firm believers in repurposing content, when appropriate, of course. For example, we often create promotional plans for our clients in which we recommend creating materials such as a press release and then repurposing the content in the release to form blog posts, social media posts, etc. I found a recent article intriguing, discussing the benefits of content repurposing. Here are the highlights:

  • Repurposing content boosts SEO. Having multiple “repurposed” pieces with the same topic and keyword bumps up your SEO value.
     
  • It expands your reach. Content repurposing helps you reach your current and prospective audience by providing the same content in multiple vehicles (blog posts, newsletters, emails, etc.). The more places the content lives, the more likely your audience is to see it.
  • Content repurposing makes an impact. Relaying the same message across multiple communication platforms allows you to reinforce your key points, often leading to continued conversations.
  • And my favorite: Content repurposing reduces stress! Content creation is not only costly, it’s time consuming and difficult with so many tight deadlines. Repurposing content allows for breathing room, keeping the quality of the content high and not rushed.


Interested in learning more about how Morningstar Communications can assist you in boosting your SEO, expanding your reach, making an impact and reducing stress through content creation and repurposing? Drop us a line at info@morningstarcomm.com.

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Comments Off Posted on by Laura Jung

Content Creation Tips and Tricks

Posted in Best Practices, Online Marketing, Tips and Tricks, Tricia's Posts

So, you’ve embarked on a content marketing strategy and now you need to “feed the beast,” or so they say. Let’s face it, creating content can be challenging. But never fear, below are some tried and true ways to jumpstart your content creation and help you develop relevant and engaging content.

1. Plan Ahead – This may seem like a no brainer, but I know too many people who wait until the day content is due to determine a topic. An editorial calendar is a great tool to not only ensure your content is on point with strategy, but also gives writers a no-fail roadmap for content topics. At the beginning of each month or quarter, whatever works for you, sit down with your strategy in hand and plot out content, from topic and sub-points to author and distribution channel(s).

2. Q&A – If you poll your sales team for prospect questions, you’ll likely see a lot of overlap. These questions and your answers become great recipient-oriented content you can use in a variety of ways.

3. Refresh. Reuse. Recycle. – Remember that post from a year ago that grabbed the readers’ attention and performed well? Don’t let it sit in the archive never to see the light of day again. Instead, give your post new life. Refresh the content, change out the statistics and reuse the topic. And don’t forget to recycle content onto other appropriate channels. Just be sure the tone, topic and information are right for that particular channel and adapt your writing as needed.

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Comments Off Posted on by Tricia McKim

Tips to Enhance Your Client Service

Posted in Best Practices, Laura's Posts

As one of my favorite authors, Lewis Carroll, once said, “One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others.”

I love this quote because while it’s so applicable to all aspects of life, it particularly relates to the public relations world. Those who put their clients’ needs first and foremost are those who thrive and succeed in the PR industry.

At Morningstar Communications we focus on providing exceptional client service through several proven account management techniques. And over the years, we’ve become known for these methods as our clients regularly voice their appreciation. Want to enhance your client service and become known as a client champion? Take these tips into consideration:

Hold regular meetings. With numerous deadlines and hectic work travel schedules, it can be difficult to carve out time for a meeting to touch base with clients on weekly needs. At Morningstar Communications, we schedule regular meetings with each of our clients for the entire year (i.e. the first Wednesday of every month). This helps keep our team and clients organized, focused on overarching goals and accountable for deliverables despite crazy time restraints.

Provide meeting recaps. After every client meeting we compile a recap email listing action items for our team and our client. We organize action items in order of importance to help team members and clients prioritize their workloads. In addition, we also send out a separate internal email outlining which team member will take point on each action item. This strategy allows us to communicate what needs to be done in an effective and efficient manner with everyone involved on an account.

Schedule mid- and end-year review sessions. Halfway through each year and at the end of each year, we schedule time with each of our clients to discuss what’s worked, what hasn’t worked and what should be added to enhance our relationship. This allows us to highlight our successes and provide our best recommendations for the following year.

I encourage you to implement these methods into your account management services and share the feedback you receive from clients and your team members with us on Facebook.

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Comments Off Posted on by Laura Jung

Humility, Sweet Humility

Posted in Best Practices, Eric's Posts, Executive Insights, Morningstar Communications Updates

Especially now, humility is something all executives need – and an extra large helping at that.

Look at the news these days. So many stories focus on individuals who believe rules aren’t for them and they can do no wrong. Have they never heard of servant leadership?

At Morningstar Communications, we frequently help executives “craft and deliver” persuasive presentations. Some of these presentations are for sales opportunities, while others target internal or industry audiences.

These presentations share common ground by emphasizing that each leader has a story to tell. The goal of each presentation is to make sure recipients think what the leader wants them to think, and do what the leader wants them to do.

Each executive I have the pleasure of coaching is terrific. You don’t become a C-level executive without both the skill and will for excellence. However, very few top executives have received coaching on the fundamentals of how to create and deliver persuasive presentations. They know their stuff, but they don’t all know how to tell their story for maximum impact.

And even fewer embrace the power of humility.

Bob Marcusse, President and CEO at the Kansas City Area Development Council, gets it. Bob’s team at KCADC, one of our long-term clients, is responsible for the regional economic development activities for Kansas City. They build and promote its regional brand, as well as put a spotlight on talent recruitment and targeted industry clusters in order to help businesses move here or expand. Kansas City is characterized by the “aw shucks” Midwestern spirit. No one summarizes this sentiment better than Bob. He once said, “If Kansas City was on the shores of Lake Superior, we’d probably rebrand it as ‘Lake Pretty Good.’”

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N2Growth Blog

I find the most confident C-level executives get this. Big time. They know they’ve got the goods and they’re self-confident enough not to let their ego get in their way.

These executives understand the “mirror vs. window” metaphor as it relates to praise or criticism and continuously incorporate it into their work.

Nobody likes an egomaniac. Nobody goes the extra mile for a person they don’t like or respect. Competency and leadership skills are now simply "entry fees" to become a great executive. In order to win the hearts and minds of the people who matter most, the very best executives incorporate authentic humility within their presentations. We all relate better to someone who is “like us” and humility helps bridge the chasm that often exists between top execs and the rest of the team.

There are proven presentation techniques to incorporate within persuasive presentations, including an appropriate use of self-effacing humor, acknowledging current events and particular body language and movements. As always, the key to effectively utilizing humility is authenticity: People will see right through a smokescreen, especially if it’s gratuitous or superficial.

But for those confident executives, embrace humility and you’ll get others to move mountains for you.

Onward and upward!

 
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Comments Off Posted on by Eric Morgenstern

The Importance of Employee Engagement and Appreciation in Business

Posted in Best Practices, Suchitra's Posts, Tips and Tricks

Employee engagement is designed to ensure employees are committed to the goals of their organization and motivated to contribute to the organizations' success while enhancing their own sense of well being. It is important for employers to make a priority of getting to know their employees so they can meet their needs and enable employees to fully engage in work.

Most businesses spend a lot of time and money finding and training good team members, but make the colossal mistake of not showing their appreciation often enough. According to the US Department of Labor, “lack of appreciation" is the number one reason employees leave their jobs. Clearly benefits, bonus programs and salaries are no longer the only factors employees use to measure job satisfaction.

Employers must recognize and understand the emotional needs of employees to feel appreciation, acknowledgment and empowerment by management and colleagues. This basic human need has an enormous impact on individual performance, productivity and consequently the financial health of the company.

Here are some tips for effective employee engagement:

Establish clear expectations of responsibilities and goals: It is important employees clearly understand what is expected of them, and that they’re allowed to play an active role in setting their performance goals. It is also necessary to tailor these goals according to each employee’s talents and expertise; not a “one size fits all” concept.

Recognize and reward performance and effort: Give employees a sense of support and the feeling of a job well done by marking both individual and group performance with recognition and celebration. Rewarding an employee or group for a job well done is the icing on the cake. Rewards can be as simple as a day off work or tickets to a baseball game, or a gift card to a popular, upscale restaurant.

Have an effective feedback mechanism: It is important to provide regular, timely and constructive feedback, and the mechanism should work both ways. Employees should expect regular feedback from management and colleagues to provide an understanding of strengths and opportunities for development. At the same time, employers should ask employees how they are doing as an employer. Ask your employees what you should do differently and what you might be able to do to make their job easier. Accept the feedback graciously and implement actions discussed if appropriate.

Make sure employees have all the resources they need: Equip employees with all the tools and systems they need to do their job. This way you will help them invest their energy in doing great work instead of wasting precious time.

Encourage learning: Challenge and support employees in learning and developing their skills. This not only motivates and increases productivity levels, but also increases employee happiness and engagement.

Empower your employees: When you empower an employee, you give him or her the responsibility to make decisions about a project and decide how the project will be done. By assigning responsibility, you demonstrate trust and help in their development of new skills. Make sure when you delegate responsibility you don't throw employees in the deep end. Instead, provide them with the necessary information and support to do the job the right way.
 

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Comments Off Posted on by Suchitra Kamath
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