2013 will inevitably bring new, exciting marketing trends. While it is important to stay educated about innovative marketing tactics, tried and true e-mail marketing is still an important tool for many of my clients as they connect with their target audience this year. Here are a few tactics you can try to refresh and evolve your e-mail marketing.
Engage with your audience when they engage with you. Silverpop’s Bryan Brown shares the e-mail tactic of sending a “hello” e-communication when customers subscribe to your e-newsletter, sign up to download your whitepaper, etc. While most marketers let this moment fleet by, it is important to engage with your audience at the moment they choose to engage with you.
Test different subject lines. Subject lines are a huge factor in whether or not your e-mail is opened or trashed. Ever wonder what types of subject lines are most appealing? You can experiment by segmenting your e-mail list and sending the same e-mail out to three different segments with three different e-mail subject lines. Compare open rates to decide which subject line was most intriguing to your audience.
Set benchmarks for open rates, click-through rates and unsubscribe rates. First, do a little research to determine industry standards, and set your goals. E-mail programs such as Constant Contact and Mail Chimp track rates for each e-communication. Check metrics 24 hours after sending, and then again one week later to see how your rates compared with your goals.
Choose the right time to press send. Think about when your audience is most likely to read your e-mails. Research has shown that the best time for e-mail open and click rates are early morning and early afternoon. Check out this infographic from Marketing Sherpa for more tips on the best times to send e-mails.
Think strategically about your links. Instead of creating a hyperlink over a single word (for example, “donate”) expand the link to create an actionable statement (“donate today to bring fresh water to third world communities.”) A more descriptive statement generates more clicks.
What additional e-mail marketing tactics work for your business? Share your thoughts in the comment section.Tagged E-communication, e-mail marketing, E-newsletter tips, Holly Eckold, Morningstar Communications
Proactive public relations requires technique, planning, research, creativity- and a bit of luck- but earned media is one of the most trusted ways to tell your organization’s story. Below are five simple media relations tips to incorporate in your overall strategic communications plan.
1. Hand pick the reporter. One of the most important parts of effective media relations is connecting with the right reporter. Research different reporters’ beats, as well as recent stories they have done. Referencing a story they have written on a similar topic is one way to make your pitch personal. An in-person meeting with a reporter is another valuable way to build your relationship and become a trusted source.
2. Don’t default to sending a press release. Personalization and simplicity will help you stand out from all the lengthy press releases reporters receive. Try sending a concise, personalized pitch with an interesting story idea, offering to coordinate an interview if the reporter is interested.
3. Monitor the news cycle. If your organization has an expert source that you would like to be featured in news stories, monitor the news cycle. See if there are any trends or stories where your source’s expertise would be helpful and relevant. E-mail the reporter a short pitch about the timely trend or story, and offer to connect them with your expert source for an interview.
4. Check editorial calendars. Magazines oftentimes have editorial calendars available that outline their proposed story topics for the year. (Hint: check the advertising section of the magazine’s website). View the editorial calendar to see if there are any story topics that may be a relevant fit for your organization. Send a pitch to the magazine’s editor in advance of the editorial close date with insight on the topic and an offer to connect them with your expert source.
5. Research blogs. Bloggers are constantly refreshing their content, so they are good to keep on your media lists. Since they don’t have to worry about word limits, it can be easier to get a more in-depth story from a blogger. Blog posts are great to merchandise by sharing them on your company website, social media, newsletters, etc. Also, some bloggers accept submissions from guest bloggers, meaning you may be able to submit a guest blog post written by someone in your organization.
Keep these five tips in mind as you implement your overall strategic communications plan. Proactive public relations is a great way to tell your organization’s story and connect to the people who matter most to your organization.Tagged Holly Eckold, media relations tips, Morningstar Communications
I was talking to my coworker yesterday about her preference between Facebook and Twitter. She said she preferred Facebook, specifically for the photo sharing. I told her she needed to check out one of my favorite app’s, Instagram, which lets users upload photos, alter them with a variety of artistic filters, and then share them with their followers. Popularity of the app has grown at an astounding rate, which should be of no surprise considering the explosion of visual tools like infographics and Pinterest.
In the same way that brands jumped on board to engage with consumers on Pinterest, brands are also finding their place on Instagram. Recent research by Simply Measured found that 40% of the brands listed in Interbrand’s Top 100 have created an Instagram account.
Brands that have visually appealing products are a good fit for Instagram. For example, local brands that I follow include the letterpress store Hammerpress, the sandal company Sseko, and the soda fountain and espresso bar Little Freshie, which all have attractive, artistic products.
However, the key is not to just showcase pictures of your products, but to let your brand personality shine through the photos. For example, Whole Foods, which has an impressive Instagram following, not only shares photos of its food, but also nature scenes, farms and social gatherings. What Whole Foods does well is orchestration among the different photo subjects. All the photos share a consistent look and feel, collectively embodying the brand.
Engagement is also key to being successful on Instagram. Aside from getting likes and comments, brands are coming up with creative ways to use the platform. One example of this is Sharpie, which posts pictures drawn and submitted by employees and fans. Starbucks asks its users to join in and tag their coffee photos with #starbucks. I even saw a band recently, The Lumineers, use Instagram to take photos of concert tickets hidden in the city, challenging followers to find them.
Facebook recently closed on its purchase of Instagram, so it will be interesting to see if the app will go through some changes in the future. One thing is certain, the movement towards photo sharing platforms is not going away. A picture says a thousand words. It is smart for brands to get on board.Tagged brands, Holly Eckold, Instagram, Morningstar Communications
I have always been impressed by the advertisements I see from Google. Google finds a way to make ads personal, relatable and emotional, while simultaneously showcasing their innovative products. Take one of my favorite Google ads as an example:
In the Kansas City market, the exciting launch of Google Fiber’s high speed internet and TV service includes ads that continue to intertwine innovative products with personal, emotional appeals.
We are humble Midwesterners who oftentimes have an “Aw gee shucks” mentality when it comes to talking about our city, but there is an underlying pride that shines through when something great happens in our community. These ads appeal to that often hidden bit of pride, and are an effective rally cry to get the community excited about the opportunities Google Fiber brings.
Google Fiber’s personal, emotional marketing extends beyond ads to in-person interactions in the community which is key for building brand loyalty. The Google Fiber space has been hosting an array of events including “Fiberhood” neighborhood association meetings, Pilates classes, movie nights, cooking classes– even riding around distributing over 2,000 ice cream sandwiches in their Fiber trucks (ahem, hey Google Fiber truck, you can stop by our office anytime).
Google Fiber recently engaged in community outreach with one of our clients, Youth Entrepreneurs, a non-profit organization that teaches business skills to high school students. Several business-savvy KC metro Youth Entrepreneurs students were given the opportunity to participate in a two-week summer partnership where they learned about Google’s products and developed a plan for bridging the digital divide in KC. The students received a priceless learning experience that culminated in attending the launch event for Google Fiber. Community outreach like this is essential for building positive relationships and brand loyalty .
Blending innovation with emotional, personal appeals is a winning marketing combination for Google. What other brands do you think do this well?Tagged Emotional Marketing, Google Fiber, Holly Eckold, Innovation, Morningstar Communications, Youth Entrepreneurs
What has 90 bikes, 12 docking stations and is coming soon to downtown KC? Kansas City B-cycle! On July 3, volunteers will pedal the new bikes over the Heart of America bridge into downtown—launching bike share right in time for the All Star Game.
More than 200 cities around the world have bike share programs, including Paris, London, Denver, Miami and Chicago. Kansas City is launching bike share the same summer that New York City is also launching bike share.
Kansas City B-cycle offers a healthy, environmentally-friendly way to navigate the city (and save money at the gas pump). Comprised of 90 bicycles and 12 downtown docking stations, the system allows users to check out a bike at a docking station (B-station) and return it to any B-station within the system. Pricing options include daily, weekly, monthly and annual passes. Stations are located at a variety of downtown locations including the River Market, Crossroads and Union Station. Smart phone users can download the Bcycle app for maps and bike availability in real-time.
I have had the pleasure of working with the Kansas City B-cycle team since our client, Blue KC, is a major sponsor. Blue KC supports bike share for the many health benefits of cycling. Biking burns 600 cal/hr at a moderate speed and 300 cal/hr per hour at a leisurely pace.
As a downtowner and a cyclist, I can’t wait to use the system for short trips around the city and grocery store runs (the bikes come equipped with baskets!) I took the picture on the right at the newly installed B-station in my neighborhood in River Market. Can’t wait for the station to fill up with bikes after the launch on July 3!bike share, Blue KC, Holly Eckold, Kansas City, Morningstar Communications
I can’t help it. I always find myself reading articles that incorporate a numbered list. “5o best iPhone apps!” “15 practical tips for creating a simpler, happier life.” “10 awesome beaches around the world!” I recently looked through my bookmark list to find twenty articles with numbered lists, and wondered: WHY? I know I’m not the only one magnetized by the power of lists.
The top five reasons we like top five lists:
1. Scan-ability. Let’s face it, we have the attention span of squirrels. If we open an email and see long, text-heavy paragraphs, our eyes go cross-eyed. When material is condensed, numbered, bolded or bulleted, our eyes sigh with relief.
2. Curiosity. We like to try to predict what is on the list. Curiosity is what made me click on the recent Kansas City Star article 50 things every Kansas Citian should know. We want to know how our thoughts match up with the writer’s thoughts.
3. Easy action steps. Lots of list articles include self-help tips, teaching readers how to better their lives or solve a problem. There’s something comfortable about scrolling through the familiar numbered list format, and seeing action items clearly listed like punchlines. The list style fosters quick learning and makes action items seem achievable.
4. Organization for our messy lives. As Herbert Simon put it, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” With so much information at our fingertips, it is refreshing to see content organized into simple bite-sized pieces.
5. Personal and engaging content. Lists can be targeted to a specific audience or universally appealing. Either way, the list format makes people want to chime in and add their two cents. In fact, check out this snarky NPR article “The 20 unhappiest people you meet in the comments sections of year-end lists.”
A numbered list may immediately spark our interest, but it is the content in the list that ultimately holds our attention. Consider incorporating numbered lists with compelling content into your communications. Your readers will thank you for it.Tagged Holly Eckold, Morningstar Communications, reasons we like lists
According to Nielsen, the average internet user visits a whopping 2,646 websites per month. While the majority of our time on the Internet is spent visiting familiar websites (e-mail, social media, search engines, etc.) we also navigate unfamiliar, terribly frustrating websites. We know a bad website when we see it, but what characteristics make up a good website?
I’ve been taking Fundamentals of Web Design, a continuing education course at the Kansas City Art Institute, and it’s made me look at websites in a whole new way. Here are some tips the class has taught me about web design:
Always start with your audience in mind. What information is your audience searching for? Don’t make them jump through hoops to get the information they need. Start by really trying to understand your audience. Plenty of research, strategy and planning should happen on the back-end before you dig into developing the site.
Simplicity is key.
Think about the simplicity of Google’s web interface- no frills, just what we need. Make the navigation on the site as natural and intuitive as possible so that pieces of information are available right where the user thinks they should be available. And just because you can create a website full of technological bells and whistles, doesn’t mean you should. Minimalist web design is refreshing.
Think about what’s inside the box- not just the package.
Writing content for the web is not the same as writing for a brochure or newsletter. Website content should be concise, scannable and captivating. Content should be optimized for search engine optimization (SEO) but also human and engaging.
And lastly what I learned from my class…
Drink caffeine and try not to space out if you want to learn code.
Seriously, it’s like learning another language.
Web design should be about keeping your audience and their needs front and center. Want to learn more? There are countless blogs out there on web design; check out Web Design Ledger and Vandelay Design for more tips.Tagged Holly Eckold, Morningstar Communications, Web Design Tips
I recently represented Morningstar Communications at Kansas City’s PRSA Day, which included a career fair for college students interested in public relations. I loved how enthusiastic and driven the students were—asking question after question about what experience makes them the most attractive to employers in the PR field.
One student asked me something particularly interesting. She said, “I feel like one of my strengths is coming up with creative ideas in a group brainstorming session. Is that something that I should write on my resume or bring up in interviews?” Absolutely.
Divergent thinking, or coming up with multiple solutions to a problem or a question, is a skill that is so incredibly important today not only in the PR field, but in multiple industries.
Brainstorming sessions are where the best ideas happen. It’s amazing how different people offer different perspectives and ideas have a snowball effect. I loved a quote I recently saw in Fast Company from designer Aza Raskin, who said, “I love to take a spark of curiosity and pour fuel on it.” Brainstorming sessions are like pouring fuel on creative sparks.
At Morningstar Communications we frequently use group brainstorms to come up with new ideas for clients. Only one rule exists at our brainstorming sessions: no “fire hosing” other people’s ideas. If you make fun of an idea, you have to wear a fireman’s hat as a funny sort of punishment for “fire hosing.” All ideas are welcome at the brainstorming table.
Below are links to a couple of interesting articles with advice for those interested in a career in PR. Both mention the importance of creativity and curiosity, among other important skills for new PR professionals to hone.
7 Essential Tips for PR Newbies- Petya N. Gergieva
The PR pro of today: What do employers really want? –Arik Hanson
What skills do you think are important for employees in the PR industry?Tagged Brainstorming, Creativity, Holly Eckold, Morningstar Communications, New PR professionals
When you check out a new website for the first time, what page on the site do you linger on? Michael Margolis, Founder and President of Get Storied, contends that we spend the most time on the About page—getting a feel for the company or individual’s story.
I recently watched a webinar by Margolis entitled “The Secrets to an About Page that Rocks,” which offered tips on how to express your story in relatable and engaging ways in places like your website and LinkedIn profile. Margolis believes we spend the most time on About pages because we are drawn to stories. The more personalized and compelling the story is, the more connected we feel to the storyteller. As I mentioned in a previous post, Mr. Rogers put it best when he said, “It’s hard not to like someone once you know their story.”
The webinar got my mind racing not only about how we write our personal biographies, but also about how many outlets are available these days to express our individuality.
The new Facebook timeline that is being rolled out in the coming weeks displays users’ unique lives through their engagement with Facebook. As Nathan Bransford of CNET puts it, Facebook Timeline “is built around a similarly simple but powerful idea: what if you could see your whole life in one place?”
Facebook is among many sites giving users the opportunity to publicly display their individuality. Pinterest, a site that has recently captured my interest, allows users to collect photos of things they enjoy—food, photographs, clothes, design, architecture— and share the visual collages with connections. Hunch asks users to answer fun questions about their preferences regarding books, restaurants, music, technology, etc. It then allows the user to connect with people with similar tastes and receive personalized recommendations for other things they may like.
The list of sites and apps appealing to our thirst for individuality is astounding. We are left with an abundance of online outlets to display our preferences, and it is up to us to fill in the blank pages. What captivates you? What things are you naturally drawn to? How do you spend your time? What quirky idiosyncrasies make you, you? These individual preferences make up our story, and these days there is no shortage of ways to share our story and connect with others.Tagged Facebook Timeline, Holly Eckold, Hunch, Individuality, Michael Margolis, Morningstar Communications, Pinterest
Yesterday a few of us at Morningstar Communications got free food AND tips from seasoned editors on how to best pitch news stories. Score.
We attended a Business Wire breakfast event: “Meet the Kansas City Business Media.” Panelists included Chris Clark, News Editor for the Associated Press, Kansas City, Keith Chrostowski, Assistant Managing Editor/Business News, The Kansas City Star, and Peggy Phillip, News Director for NBC Action News (KSHB-TV).
Here are some tips I gathered from the panelists on how PR professionals can cut through the clutter and connect with news media:
Think about your client’s story from a wider scope. How does your story fit into a bigger macro trend or overarching theme that transcends your client?
Answer the question: Why is this story important to a general audience?
Craft releases more like news stories. Cut the jargon. Real people read it.
Think of an angle that hasn’t been thought of before.
Send content to the right reporter. Research all the contacts at local newsrooms. Know who writes about what topics and who their assignment editor is. Oftentimes, you can gain more traction with beat reporters than news editors.
After 3:30 p.m.= a bad time to contact a newsroom. So is Friday.
Before sending stories to TV news ask yourself: What’s the conflict? Is it visual?
Don’t hesitate to call if it’s a big story.
For pitching expert sources, watch the news cycle. Know when it fits to pitch your expert source as someone who has knowledgeable insights on a current news topic.
Reporters like being offered exclusivity. The scale may tip in favor of them doing a story if they are given exclusive rights.
Don’t be discouraged by a “No.” There are a lot of reasons why a reporter may not cover a story. Our job as PR professionals is to continually learn and adapt to what is relevant and newsworthy.
Don’t hesitate to set up meetings with the editor. A personal connection can make all the difference. When you tell your client’s story, the editor may recognize a news story that you have not thought of before.
Newsrooms are fast-paced and ever-changing, but it’s an exciting time in news. According to these editors, PR professionals still have content they are looking for, but it’s helpful (and mutually beneficial!) to consider these tips before we press send.Tagged editors, Holly Eckold, Pitching Stories, press releases, Public Relations Tips, reporters