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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

Elevate Engagement and Drive Sales with Marketing Automation

Posted in Hannah's Posts, Integrated Marketing (IMC), Online Marketing, Social Media

As marketing and technology evolve, so should your strategy. Meaningful, recipient-oriented content creation is a highly effective way to reach the people who matter most to your business. Combine this with marketing automation and strategic communicators will adequately identify engaged users and prospects in the ever-changing B2B landscape.

Marketing automation is a proven method. According to Act-On, companies that use marketing automation to nurture prospects experience a 451 percent increase in qualified leads.

Learn more and discover how marketing automation makes sense for your business:

1. Reach out to the right people at the right time. With the ability to measure how your content impacts the buyer journey through email and social media campaigns, your sales team better understands when to reach out to qualified leads, and consequently increases business development and revenue.

2. Get to know your customers. Increased data from your marketing automation platform will help you understand what makes customers tick. Embrace recipient-oriented communications and personalize your messages to prospects. The marketing team can adjust communications depending on users’ positions in the sales funnel.

3. Maximize search engine optimization (SEO) best practices. Marketing automation platforms like Act-On help identify key words to utilize month to month in blog posts and website content. Ensure your communications rise to the top of Google searches, and thought leadership is smart, timely and thoughtful.

Is your company interested in being among the 80 percent of businesses realizing marketing automation ROI in less than one year? Learn more by interacting with us on Twitter and calling us at (913) 851-8700.

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Comments Off Posted on by Hannah Babcock

Know Your Audience

Posted in Online Marketing, Sheri's Posts, Social Media

My oldest son is a high school senior. Colleges and universities have been marketing to him since he first took the practice SAT as a sophomore. One thing I find it very interesting about this process is the majority of schools send information via direct mail. Yes, that’s to the traditional mailbox sitting out on the concrete curb in front of our home. Oh, he also gets email solicitations (all of which come to my personal email because he doesn’t use his account except when I tell him I forwarded something important). This begs the question: who is the audience? The parents, who are likely paying tuition, or the kid, whose future career is at stake?

FreeDigitalPhotos net and Criminalatt
FreeDigitalPhotos net and Criminalatt

You could argue we are both target audiences because, ultimately, where he goes to school will be influenced by a variety of factors that my husband, son and I consider. Various Google searches around college marketing bring back a host of articles on reaching this lucrative teen/young adult market, but there’s very little about how colleges should be using newer channels to reach prospective students. I found one story from earlier this spring about a few companies marketing themselves to colleges to help reach prospective students. Of course, I uncovered some newer strategies coming to light. Take Oculus VR, which does virtual reality campus tours. But, in my opinion, that’s a bit over the top. You have to get your target audience’s interest before they will even consider taking a tour.

It seems to me developing a smart, integrated content marketing strategy makes sense for higher education organizations wooing today’s teens. The ability to reach high schoolers through other channels, like Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, might actually get their attention – and give me some relief from playing college research and application “project manager,” too! Plus, more and more parents use these channels every day and can facilitate the interactions.

By integrating more contemporary communications channels, combined with traditional marketing as part of a well thought-out content management strategy, colleges and universities could save a lot of money on printing and mailing costs, and actually spur interaction and conversation with both of their target audiences – the aspiring students and their time-crunched parents.

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Comments Off Posted on by Sheri Johnson

Facebook Marketing – Fail?

Posted in Hannah's Posts, Online Marketing, Social Media

A little more than a month ago, Facebook declined organic reach for company pages. While news sources disagree and firmly believe it's Facebook's ploy to encourage advertising, Facebook insists it has everything to do with increased user activity, translating to floods of content and its need to clean it up and deliver the most relevant messages to users.

Can't hate Facebook for that, right? We apply this principle to our business every day.

But if this is truly in place, and we aren't reaching the people who matter most to us and engaging as often, why should we maintain a Facebook presence at all? Why should we spend resources on a declining controlled media channel? I'll give you a few solid reasons businesses still should:

1. You can still strike a chord.

There is a method to this madness. Videos, photos and company updates resonate with a company page's fans more than links to other thought leadership pieces. Ever notice on your personal account that the articles your friends are most likely viewing are the ones that show up at the top? For instance, my closest friends are obsessed with Buzzfeed, therefore, funny stories and Top 30 lists cover my newsfeed.

Think about what your audience is up to. If there is significant buzz about something, jump into the conversation on behalf of your business. That's where you're more likely to float to the top of your followers' feeds. 

2. Facebook is one of the first places people conduct their research.

As Eric mentioned in his recent blog post, we visit an organization’s website and conduct a search before we meet in-person. Facebook and LinkedIn are typically the first two sites to appear at the top of the search page. Make positive first impressions by consistently updating these social networks. You might not appear at the top of users' newsfeeds as often as before, but you're still engaging unique visitors who could potentially invest in your business.

3. You're judged on where you do and do not participate. 

Businesses find value in a Google+ account because it helps boost SEO. While people don't engage on this platform as often as they do on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, imagine what your company's absence looks like when one of your most loyal fans logs on and can't find you. Your credibility diminishes, and depending on the person his or her allegiance might weaken.

Engage in all channels most applicable to your business. Even if they don't provide immediate business benefits, you'll uncover their value over time.

What do you think about Facebook's move? Does it make sense? If not, how should it accommodate those businesses that heavily rely on the social media platform to drive purchase behavior? Let us know on our own Facebook page.

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Comments Off Posted on by Hannah Babcock

Looking Forward: 20 Marketing Trends for 2014

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

The year is quickly coming to an end and 2014 planning is well underway for many PR and marketing professionals. WebDAM created an infographic, which contains 20 key trend predictions for marketers and PR pros to be on the lookout for next year. It comes as no surprise that digital marketing campaigns and tactics will continue to increase in 2014, but what are some less obvious trends?

Noteworthy trends:

  • Social media marketing budgets will double over the next five years
  • More than 70 percent of press releases will include images
  • Marketing teams will spend approximately $135 billion dollars on new digital marketing collateral
  • Email with social sharing will boost click-through rates more than 150 percent


Check out all 20 key trends predicted for 2014 on the infographic below. What key trends would you add to the list?

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

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Comments Off Posted on by Laura Jung

Pinterest Perks for B2B Marketers

Posted in Hannah's Posts, Online Marketing, Social Media, Tips and Tricks

Pinterest is still pandemonium after its launch in March 2010. What’s more – you don’t have to be a chef or wedding planner to successfully promote your business on the purchase-driving social media network. During Q2 2013, Pinterest accounted for 23 percent of social-generated e-commerce sales – up twenty percent in one year.

One of my clients recently asked what is deemed “Pinterest-able.” The following are useful tips from both experience and research:

Although Pinterest centers on visual imagery, take the opportunity to humanize your brand. Yes, infographics are hotter than ever, but smart Pinterest board variety is important, and customers appreciate seeing a human face they can connect to the companies they regularly interact with. Engage both customers and employees by posting pictures of day-to-day operations, company events, awards and community involvement. Challenge yourself to make it fun and up-to-date like Constant Contact has.

Always spend extra time becoming better acquainted with your audience. All in all, visual appeal will attract users to your Pinterest boards. As is the case across all aspects of marketing, you should always seize the chances to get to know your customers better. Establish relationships and regularly interact with them. Listen to them and better understand what they want.

Create boards that spark discussion. Assert subject matter experts with videos and articles that can all be found on one board. It’s okay to insert visually appealing PR coverage with graphics and photos. Avoid text only clips. It’s fruitful to share more information, but Pinterest is about catching pairs of eyes first.

Some B2B companies are uncertain about whether Pinterest is an appropriate outlet for them. As long as the company can brainstorm creative ways to promote the business and create content then it is 100 percent worth a shot.

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Comments Off Posted on by Hannah Babcock

For the Love of #Hashtags

Posted in Social Media, Tips and Tricks, Tricia's Posts

The other day I overheard two teenage girls holding a conversation. Every other word included a hashtag before it. Really – in a face-to-face conversation. (#areyoukiddingme) I felt like I was in the middle of Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon’s “#Hashtag” video spoof or the latest Subway commercial:

Granted, these two teens were probably playing off of these very same videos, but for me it reinforced the prevalence of hashtags in today’s conversations. While many people are really giving hashtags the business these days, the truth is, hashtags can be great for your business. It’s all about knowing why, how and when to use them.

There are many articles out there that dive deep into these areas. Some of the ones I’ve found useful include:

Mashable – The Beginner’s Guide to the Hashtags

Social Media Today – A Rant About the Proper Use of #Hashtags

Marketing Profs – The Power of Hashtags in Promoting Music (And Just about Anything Else)

The Wall Street Journal – How Twitter’s Hashtag Came to Be

A quick synopsis of the basics:

Hashtags were created to help people find, organize and track content. While the hashtag originated on Twitter, several social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, now support this nifty tool.

When using hashtags for business purposes, as with all good communication, consider how your audience will use and engage the hashtag. For example, if you’re holding an event, a hashtag is a great way to link all news together and make the event easy to follow. You can also use hashtags to make your benefits or products more searchable. For example, #strategiccommunications could help others find Morningstar Communications in social media conversations. The key is ensuring the hashtags are relevant to your brand and your audience, and specific to the topic or event. Research what comes up when you search the hashtag you’re considering. Do you like what you find? Is it the conversation you’re looking to join?

At the same time, avoid overusing hashtags. Best practices show two to three hashtags are the maximum, otherwise your post begins to look like spam.

Don’t be afraid to use hashtags to help promote your business, but use them wisely and judiciously.

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Comments Off Posted on by Tricia McKim

Measure, Monitor, Make Sense of Social Media

Posted in Best Practices, Brian's Posts, Online Marketing, Social Media

Morningstar Communications’ weekly Facebook analysis shows an organic reach of 1,346 with 13 people talking about us and an increased like total of +6.

Okay, great, what does that mean?

At this point we can assume that most businesses out there have some sort of social media presence, be it Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or one of the hundreds of up-and-coming platforms in existence. However, the measurement of its effectiveness can seem a bit on the arbitrary side.


“More is better” is the guiding principle behind measurement of social media’s effectiveness. 1,300 reach this week? Next week let’s shoot for 1,500. While that line of thought isn’t necessarily without merit, it’s a bit one-sided. Pictures of babies and kittens will probably increase your Facebook reach, but does that help your muffler shop sell more mufflers? Before you post on social media on behalf of your company, ask yourself a few questions:

  • How does my social presence relate to my overall brand messaging?
    • You have a brand that you need to cultivate at all times. Are you leveraging it, helping it or hindering it through your social presence?
  • How are you tracking ROI?
    • Tools like Facebook insights can show reach and engagement, but Google Analytics can monitor website activity in relation to social posts. Find out what people are clicking on and what the end result is.
  • Who are you reaching?
    • While more likes may be good, obtaining more of the “right likes” are more important. Make sure you are targeting and engaging relevant businesses to increase your number of “right likes.”


Social media is a constantly changing field so it’s important not to simply accept the status quo regarding measurement. How does your business measure its social media ROI? 



Comments Off Posted on by Brian Van Note

Working the Twittersphere

Posted in Best Practices, Media Relations, Social Media, Susan's Posts

At a recent conference in Kansas City, I connected with a Forbes contributor about the value of reaching out to industry influencers via social media and the best ways to position your clients so you’re being strategic rather than pushy. With a genuine approach, the idea is that you’ll see a better return on your time and strategic investment. You’ll also build substantial relationships with key influencers and industry reporters, which is the goal we all strive for in public relations.

I have long been a fan of the seamless ability of personal and professional worlds to collide in a rather unique fashion via social media, so I was intrigued when this topic came into discussion. The idea of gaining some insight on how a journalist himself wanted to engage with PR people via social media was exciting and encouraging! Having recently employed these tactics and successfully secured client coverage via Twitter, the following are best practices I’ve learned along the way and from those my new Forbes acquaintance shared with me:

  • Reporters and journalists are already on social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook for both work and personal use – but they also search for news just like the rest of us via social media.
  • There is value in connecting with industry influencers and reporters via social media as you’re going directly to them in a space they’re already engaging.
  • Do not enter the social media world strictly to ask for favors or interviews. The rules here are similar to the real world, still follow your basic courtesies.
  • Specifically engage with reporters and industry influencers via social media for at least two weeks before making a request of them on your behalf or that of a client.
  • Retweet or share their articles, show a genuine interest, engage with them and then ask for PR opportunities when the moment is right.
  • Otherwise you’re making the statement, “I’m willing to talk to you and at you, but not to engage or listen to you.”
  • Remember to engage as a person. Don’t push a logo if you can help it. Refer back to your own subject matter experts and highlight their knowledge.
  • Remember that there is little value in following someone who pushes out the same message constantly and lacks engagement. Assert yourself on Twitter as someone who you would be interested in following. No one wants a canned experience.
  • Always remain relevant to the times and to the brand/client.
  • Look for opportunities to “newsjack”: find a piece of relevant news coverage to tie your client’s story/relevance into to give a unique angle on a story that your client can speak to as a thought leader.
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Comments Off Posted on by Susan Hinds

Making Social Media Work in the B2B World

Posted in Executive Insights, Online Marketing, Social Media

As the number of social networks continues to rise and the ability to reach consumers on their mobile devices becomes more relevant, businesses are scrambling to figure out how to take advantage of all the new platforms and delivery channels. And in the B2B arena, where the sales cycle is less transactional and far more sophisticated, business leaders need to be even more strategic and focused when implementing social media programs as part of their marketing mixes.

In addition to traditional marketing tools, social media can prove very effective in the B2B space. It’s all about finding the right platform and mix for your business, then ensuring your traditional tools – like your website – integrate and complement these new channels. Is your website optimized for mobile viewing? Can you effectively track what’s working?

The rising use of content marketing platforms helps move businesses from tracking clicks and “likes” to building relationships and measuring conversion rates. Still, without the right strategy, these fall short as well – especially because the number one challenge B2B marketers face is content development. From white papers to tweets to infographics, delivering relevant content to your target audiences takes foresight, effective planning, consistent implementation, and constant monitoring and tweaking.

As more opportunities arise in the social media space, marketers will continue to find ways to customize the best of these new tools for the unique needs of B2B companies.

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Comments Off Posted on by Sheri Johnson
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