#EarthDay2015

Earth Day is an opportunity for brands to spread awareness for important causes and make a difference. And there is an even bigger opportunity for connecting with fans and consumers, because, well, who doesn’t loves the Earth?

This year was quite successful, with more than 570,000 Earth Day-related tweets posted by noon Eastern Time on Wednesday, according to the social network. (WOW!)

Let’s take a look at how some brands demonstrated their pride for the planet on Twitter:

What was your favorite #EarthDay tweet?

Read more, here.

How Using GIFs Can Enhance Your Content Marketing

GIF Family Guy

Animated images, also known as GIFs, have dominated the online world. Just take a look at Buzzfeed and its brilliant use of GIFs. The team over there has truly mastered the art of viral sharing, largely through list posts of images and GIFs.

“GIFs are a mini-vehicle for storytelling, capturing emotions, and communicating them in a concise way that words and pictures alone cannot,” said Joe Puglisi, Senior Creative Strategist at Buzzfeed.

The importance of visual content cannot be understated. We live in a time of increasing competition and decreasing attention spans. Studies show that captivating images lead to better engagement. According to a research survey by Software Advice and Adobe, images are the most important factor in optimal social media content.

optimizing content on social media

GIFs offer the potential for marketers to increase brand awareness, show off products and services, and showcase company culture in a unique, compelling way.

Here are some brands that are taking full advantage:

GIF American Apparel

Ben and Jerrys GIF

Diesel GIF ad campaign

Kraft Foods GIF advertisement

GIF Google

Here are some best practices for using GIFs:

  • Use them in moderation—don’t go GIF crazy. Overdoing it will have the opposite effect and overwhelm your audience.
  • Keep it useful. GIFs that function as how-to guides, product demos, and instructional guides are great for conveying a lot of information efficiently.
  • When sending out a GIF, determine the purpose. Do you want to promote a product, drive traffic to your website, or increase brand awareness?
  • GIFs should reflect your marketing goals and promote your call to action.
  • Include unique, trackable URLs that will help you track clicks.
  • Use high-resolution and high-quality GIFs, just like you would with images.
  • Work GIFs into your social media schedules.

When you’re ready to use GIFs in your content marketing, you can find many tools to make it easy to create your own, such as ImgFlip, Picasion, GIFmaker and GIMP. And if you’d rather use a premade GIF, check out Giphy.com for endless options.

Related articles

Crisis Communications: Steps to Prepare for and Respond to Crises

crisis-communications

Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” It is certainly true—take Bill Cosby, for example. For decades he was “America’s Dad.” Today, he is a trending meme, his reputation in tatters due to numerous sexual assault allegations.

As President of a student-run public relations firm, I have encountered a few crises with clients in the food, law enforcement, and governmental sectors. It can be chaotic, overwhelming, and very stressful. While there is no foolproof strategy to preventing a crisis, there are some steps you can take to best prepare for and respond to crises when they arise.

Preparing for Crises:

crisis team

Anticipate Crises List out all potential situations that occur at your organization. This should be a joint effort within the company—you don’t want to miss a thing. Once you’ve identified all potential situations, have a plan for how to react should any crises arise, and be specific. Think about possible responses, best and worst case scenarios, etc.

Identify Crisis Communications Team This should be a small team made up of senior executives in the organization that are the heads of major organizational departments. The company CEO should lead the team, which should include the company’s top PR person. You might even want to retain a public relations agency that is specialized in crisis communications. It’s good to also have subject-specific experts to handle unique crises.

Designate and Train Spokespersons Spokespersons should be comfortable speaking to large groups of people, to the media, and in front of a camera. They should not be afraid to correct the media when they misreport facts. They should also understand and interact on social media. Depending on the crisis, you are likely to have different spokespersons.

Establish Notification and Monitoring Systems Know how to best reach your audiences when dealing with a crisis. How do they prefer to get their updates? Where do they communicate? Social media is often the best and fastest way, but don’t wait until a crisis to create these channels. Always be listening and monitoring what people are saying about your company—or your employees, products, or services. While the task may seem overwhelming, it’s necessary. And luckily there are tools to help, like Google Alerts. By monitoring, you have the chance to respond quickly and prevent minor situations from becoming full-blown crises. Monitoring will also help you adapt your messages and strategy during an ongoing crisis.

Identify Key Stakeholders Identify, in order of importance, your stakeholders, both internal and external, and assure they receive your messages. Johnson & Johnson decided its customers were most important to the company long before the 1982 crisis due to cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules. The company made the swift decision to pull all Tylenol bottles from shelves, despite it costing millions of dollars. The customers were more important than the investors.

Develop Holding Statements Although full messaging isn’t developed until the outbreak of the crisis, you can create statements for immediate use in advance of a crisis, such as, “Our hearts and prayers are with all of those affected, and we hope that they are well.” The team should regularly review and update these statements.

Source: Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc.


Responding to Crises:

managing crisis

So you have your crisis plan and team in place, you are regularly listening and monitoring, but you begin to notice a negative trend developing. What’s next?

Set Expectations Let the public know when it can expect a response. It takes time to gather all of the facts and make sense of everything. If your organization is small, it can take even longer. Be exact, but be sure to stick to the expectation you set.

Get the Full Story What are the facts? Identify what happened, as well as what people think happened. How has the public reacted? What about the media? Which channels need immediate attention?

Be Honest and Open Don’t lie, and don’t say, “no comment.” If you are transparent and authentic, rumors will eventually go away and the situation might even blow over. Be transparent through all communication channels.

Communicate Early and Often Adapt your key messaging that you developed in your crisis plan to fit the situation. As you learn more, be the first to tell your audiences—all of them. As soon as you know, they should know, too. Otherwise, rumors will fill the silence.

Feedback Make sure your customers and other audiences know they are being heard. Reply to them directly and answer their questions in a timely manner. Although tempting, do not delete negative comments—people will think you have something to hide.

Learn From It Learn what worked and what didn’t. How could the situation have been prevented? What will you do differently next time? Go back to that crisis plan and update accordingly. It will help you majorly in the future! Related Articles:

Why Google Plus Matters for Marketers

google plus logo

I’ll admit when I first heard about Google+, I wasn’t thrilled. I thought: no, please, not another social networking site. It began to feel like every other day something new came out, and they pushed and pushed, and they were all going to be the next big thing.

Plus (no pun intended), I already had Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest accounts, which took loads of effort, time, and commitment to stay active. I didn’t need another social media site—or so I thought.

I will tell you: Google+ is necessary for brands and marketers. Here are a few reasons to get on Google Plus:

  • 359 million monthly active users are on Google Plus. This is huge audience your company could be reaching, but isn’t because it’s not on Google+.
  • 70% of business brands have a presence on Google Plus. Who are these brands? Oh, they’re just your competition.
  • Google favors Google+ Pages in search engines results. This could mean a higher ranking for your company on Google search results.
  • +1 is clicked more than 5 billion times a day. Consider a +1 a “vote” for your company, like a favorite on Twitter or Like on Facebook.

P.S. Take a look at the ranking factors for Google search

ranking factors on Google search

  • Google+ is growing at 33% per annum. This is an incredible statistic for a platform just three years old. It’s also beating Facebook.
  • Google+, Twitter, and Facebook are the top three social media sites used by marketers. You should be on all three.
  • Brands’ Google Plus posts generate nearly as much engagement per follower as their Facebook posts and almost twice as much engagement per follower as their Twitter posts.googleplus interactions
  • 20 million unique mobile monthly users are on Google+. If you haven’t heard, mobile is everything.
  • Authorship (your picture + link next to search result) helps improve click-through rates. This helps you build influence.
  • Circles make it easy to group different people into categories and share the right content with the right audience.
  • Google Hangouts. These integrated video chats allow multiple users to “hang out,” or connect, in real-time. Think of all the opportunities to interact and engage.

And in case you’re not convinced, here is an awesome video about Google Plus that should do it for you:

So, next time you tell someone about Google+ and get a reaction like this….

G+ Mean Girls

…you’ll know exactly what to say.

Join me on Google+ and let me know how you like it!

The Difference Between Marketing and PR

The distinction between marketing and public relations can be frustrating when you’re starting out in the communications field. When I was declaring my major at the end of freshman year, I realized I was confused about the difference between the two. I shyly asked my professors and peers, but none seemed confident in their explanation.

Well, thank God—err, Al Gore?—for the Internet. It was around this time that Google became my favorite teacher and most trusted source of information.

And I knew others shared my need for distinction, too, when I saw the magnitude of findings on the search engine results page (about 14 million today). Luckily, it only took a few high-quality articles and blog posts to gain a sufficient understanding. Here is a summary of my findings:

  • Marketing focuses on products and services. Public relations focuses on relationships.
  • Marketing is a line function. PR is a staff function.
  • Marketing is paid media. Public relations is earned media. (Owned media can be either function.)
  • Marketing is telling people how great you are. PR is when others do the telling for you.
  • Public relations requires persuasion. Marketing requires $$.
  • Marketing is trading and sales oriented. PR is public oriented.
  • Marketing is about the 4 P’s: product, price, place and promotion. Public relations is about enhancing a company’s reputation.
  • PR creates the population around the product. Marketing sells the product.
  • Marketing you pay for, public relations you pray for.
  • An analogy: Marketing is the ingredients, PR is the cake displayed in the window.

marketing ingredientsCake Public Relations

But recently, the lines between marketing and PR are blurring more than ever. What’s the cause? The move to digital media brought by the Internet! Notice the irony here?

In the latest edition of his book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR, David Meerman Scott explains, “Prior to the web, organizations had only two choices: to get advertising or get third-party ink from the media.”

However, in a digital world, there is so much more: blogs, e-books, video, e-news releases, and other forms of online content that let companies communicate directly with audiences. Social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn allow people all over the world to share content and information and connect with people and companies they do business with, or would like to.

It’s hard to tell anymore which department is creating and managing all that content, but I think it varies from company to company. Both are certainly capable. Marketers and public relations pros have both adapted to the changing technology. Marketing brought the traditional billboard ad to Facebook, and PR brought the media pitch to bloggers.

The convergence of marketing and PR online has to do with content. Technological advancements in how we receive our news updates, and how that content is delivered, and even the content itself, blur the lines between marketing and public relations. A simple tweet or Facebook post can introduce a new product (marketing) or explain a company’s take on an issue (PR). Similarly, a company blog can focus on what the company has to offer (marketing) or on building a company’s image (public relations). It’s all about the tools used.

Related articles:

marking pr advertising branding

Why I Got HubSpot Inbound Certified

Inbound Marketing Meme

I’m not sure what exactly piqued my interest in inbound marketing. Maybe it was HubSpot’s INBOUND 2014 conference, maybe it was HubSpot’s IPO. Whatever it was, HubSpot made inbound marketing a hot topic, at least in Boston. It certainly caught my attention, and I realized just how important and relevant it is. But what exactly is inbound marketing? This is the question I struggled to answer. And more importantly, how does one do it successfully?

These questions led me once again to HubSpot’s site, only I looked a little deeper this time. I came across HubSpot Academy and all it has to offer: certifications, webinars, examples, user groups, and more. The Inbound Certification, which is open to everyone, seemed like the perfect opportunity to learn and educate myself about inbound marketing. I earned my HubSpot Inbound Certification in one weekend.

The Inbound Certification

The certification consists of eleven courses that cover the core elements of Inbound Methodology. From the essentials of an effective inbound strategy to the fundamentals of blogging to cultivating happy customers, the classes provide a deep and clear understanding of what inbound is all about.

Each class is roughly 45 minutes long, and although this seems like lot to tackle in one weekend, HubSpot does a great job at keeping viewers entertained with amusing images, charts and graphics, along with a catchy tune that somehow didn’t get old. The courses are further broken down into chapters, and each course closes with a few key takeaways and additional resources to clear up any possible confusion. I appreciated the real-life examples provided to illustrate some of the more complex concepts.

For me, the sales and “smarketing” classes were totally foreign. I never learned past the attract and convert elements of the methodology. If this doesn’t make sense to you, don’t worry. Start taking some courses, and HubSpot will clear everything up.

What I Learned

I learned a heck of a lot from the inbound classes, including some best practices for the various social media platforms, the four elements of a quality landing page, and how to best align content with the buyer’s journey. By the end, inbound marketing will make sense, I promise.

I highly recommend this certification program to every marketer, especially college students studying marketing. Inbound is the future of marketing, and sadly, university programs take far too long to catch up. Fear not, this program has got you covered.

The Exam

The exam consists of 60 multiple-choice and true or false questions that address important lessons from each course. You have 75 minutes to complete the test and three chances to pass it. If you don’t pass the first time, you will have to wait 48 hours before giving it another go. To earn your official certification, you must receive a 75% or higher on your test. The certification is then valid for 13 months from the month you received it.

Here are some tips for passing the exam:

  • Watch the classes in a quiet space where you can focus and won’t be distracted—Some lessons are more complex and will require your full attention.
  • Take notes as you learn—This will help you make sense of things, and you can refer to your notes as you take the test.
  • If something is not clear, use the additional resources provided—Take advantage of the extra resources at the end of each class to really drive home an idea or concept.
  • Thoroughly read the study guide provided—HubSpot has an awesome study guide that will prepare you for everything covered on the exam.
  • Check out this article—The 45 Inbound Marketing Terms You Should Know

Good luck and happy studying!

How Businesses Are Using Pinterest: the power of visual images

Pinterest is a web and mobile application that offers visual discovery, collection, storage, and sharing. Users create and share collections of visual bookmarks, called boards. Boards are created when a user selects an item and pins it to a new or existing board.

Basically, it can be seen as a counterpart to Google, in which users know what they are looking for. Pinterest, however, is all about discovery.

Pinterest

Photo found at http://bit.ly/1wxi5HO

More often, people are using Pinterest to shop. In fact, 70 percent of users use Pinterest for inspiration on what to buy, and 69 percent of consumers claim to have found a product on Pinterest that they bought or were interested in buying. Businesses such as Target, Nordstrom, and Whole Foods are tapping into the visual-oriented social network to promote their brands and drive users to their e-commerce websites.

Target, for instance, launched its Target Awesome Shop, which features the top-trending items on Pinterest and the top reviews on Target.com. When you click on a pin for more information, you are redirected to Target.com, where you can add the item to your shopping cart. As a result, Target has seen a 70 percent increase in traffic from Pinterest to Target.com, according to Target Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Jones.

Quick Tip: Publish high-quality images and use Rich Pins for a higher chance of your post being viewed and shared. There are five types of Rich Pins: product, place, movie, recipe, and article. If you’d like to promote a product, Rich Pins allow you to provide information on pricing, location and availability. Pictures that contain a product’s price have a higher click through rate than those that don’t.

Nordstrom uses Pinterest a little differently. It uses Pinterest to decide which merchandise to feature in stores, with a special red tag on shoes and handbags most popular on the social network.

Whole Foods uses Pinterest boards to capture the company values in areas such as community and the environment, healthy eating and education, and natural and organic foods.

For inspiration, check out How 5 Businesses Are Using Pinterest to Creatively Promote Their Products


Good News For The Holidays

Pinterest has proven to be a major force in holiday retail, helping consumers find products and retailers identify trends and market to the right consumers.

Pinterest Grid

Photo found at http://bit.ly/1pO9auh

A study of Pinterest users by market research firm Lab42 found that 54 percent spend more time on the site during the holidays and 94 percent say it has changed the way they make their holiday preparations.

Over the 2013 Thanksgiving holiday, Pinterest doubled the revenue sent to retailers on Black Friday. And on Cyber Monday, Pinterest revenue more than tripled.

Marketers and retailers, take note.


How Does Pinterest Compare to Other Social Media

Compared to other social medias, Pinterest generates double the referential traffic than Twitter, Google and LinkedIn combined. This is a great opportunity for marketers and retailers, who have the opportunity to capitalize off the power of visual images.

Pinterest shoppers spend significantly more, averaging $140 – $180 per purchase, compared with $70 – $100 per order on Facebook.

Check out this Pinterest VS Twitter VS Facebook infographic for more information.


Some Key Facts About Pinterest to Consider

  • The majority of users (68.2%) are female
  • Fifty percent of users have children
  • The majority of users (27.4%) are between the ages of 25 and 34
  • Annual household income is $100,000+
Pinterest Infographic

Infographic by Modea, found at http://on.mash.to/1wxhohG

How are you using Pinterest?

The Official “EW!” Music Video feat. Jimmy Fallon and will.i.am Goes Viral

I’d like to discuss my favorite video out right now, the “Ew!” music video featuring Jimmy Fallon and will.i.am. In the video, will.i.am. plays the role of mir.i.am, a ditzy teenage girl in a bright yellow dress, rocking pigtails and orthodontic headgear, and Jimmy Fallon plays the role of her brace-faced and equally colorful BFF Sara—”with no ‘h.’”

The BFF’s break it down and rap about things they think are EW! Among them, “FaceTime and reclining in airplane seats and then Vining.” It’s hilarious and catchy. It’s that song you can’t get out of your head and can’t help but sing along.

Have you noticed the impulse to recite: “Seriously seriously, EW! EW!”?

Written and produced by will.i.am, the video went viral within hours, as it was most likely intended. It’s been viewed 11.4 million times in just ten days, and placed No. 2 on Billboard Trending 140, as well as No. 26 on Billboard Hot 100. Impressive.

Check out Jimmy Fallon’s response to the success, here.

I might have been the last to know that “Ew!” is actually a video series by the Tonight Show, with previous videos featuring guests such as Taylor Swift, First Lady Michelle Obama, Channing Tatum and Will Ferrel. This (embarrassingly late) discovery led me to wonder what caused this video to go viral while the others had not.

Here are a few reasons I’ve come up with so far:

Jimmy Fallon Ew Will.i.am

“What’s up with those duck lips? EW!”

1) It is relatable—the video includes teenage slang words such as “OMG” and “WTF” and pokes fun at relatable situations. Cue the awkward school dance scene and the overly confident step-dad that ruins the party. 

2) It is easy to share—in just one click, you can share it with all of your friends, on any social media channel. When I first watched the video, I shared it on my Twitter, Google+ and Facebook accounts. And now I’m sharing it here with you, just like that!

Jimmy Fallon Ew Video Set

Photo found at http://buff.ly/1ug6qaa

3) It is incredibly well produced—from the kick-ass beat, sets, and wardrobe to the special effects and bullet motion, this video is a masterpiece production. You can tell it was well planned and thought out and that it’s a high quality video. 

4) It is for our entertainment—it isn’t trying to sell us anything! So many videos out there are just to sell us some product or service, but we appreciate “Ew!” more because it is purely for our entertainment. It succeeds in making us smile. And isn’t that what we’re all looking for?

5) It is (also) for charity—Surprise! The proceeds from “Ew!” actually benefit charity! Two to be exact: the SeriousFun Children’s Network and will.i.am’s i.am.angel Foundation. This was surprising and delightful fact to learn.

Let’s see what you can add to the list!