Content is definitely king

Cricket Australia has continued to evolve its digital prowess as it splits its corporate web presence from its evolving content arm.

Cricket.com.au is now solely devoted to cricket content in the form of coverage, scores, video and live audio match-streaming. A corporate site has been developed at CricketAustralia.com.au which contains the more corporate information which may not be of interest to the casual fan.

Cricket-com-au-home-page-600wImportantly, the content site has grown its newsroom from two journalists and editors to 11. Clearly content is king for Cricket Australia and it has seen a return in impressive traffic numbers to its site over the last 12 months with unique visits in 2013/14 almost double that of the previous season.

Cricket.com.au is now rivalling the previous undisputed king of cricket websites, Cricinfo, for coverage and analysis particularly in regards to Australian cricket happenings. Some big name writers and journalists have been employed to provide comprehensive reviews, match previews and features. Interestingly these writers are given much free reign in what they cover – the good and the bad of Australian cricket, and the result is balanced coverage – not just written to serve their employers’ interests.

This does wonders in the important credibility stakes for Cricket Australia’s content marketing strategy.

The goal of content marketing is to attract and retain customers by creating and curating relevant and valuable content. Once the content is created it can be delivered to an audience through relevant platforms including websites and social media.

Two corporates that are doing good things with content marketing include GE Money and the Commonwealth Bank.

GE Money earlier in 2014 launched its Art of Money online magazine which provides advice and insights from contributors in the key subject areas of Home, Car, Life and Travel. There’s also a Money IQ quiz to see how financially savvy you are.

Art of Money is not heavily branded as GE Money, though it doesn’t hide it totally either. Rather it provides advice, tips, real life scenarios – in short: great content and is well worth checking out. It’s a soft sell for relevant GE Money products. Even if you don’t become a customer of GE Money you can’t help but be left with a positive impression of this site as a resource.

Similarly the Commonwealth Bank has put much effort into developing valuable content and advice for its blogs including money management, technology, community, business and property.

Flight Centre is also significantly ramping up its content creation capabilities as it continues to lead the way as a one-stop travel provider. It has appointed former News Limited Escape editor Brian Crisp to be Editor-in-Chief of its content team.

You don’t have to be a large business like these to employ a content marketing strategy. One can be created to suit your budget and resources. But it is clear that it has become an important component of any marketing program.

Use the platforms that you own to demonstrate your expertise rather than just relying on third party endorsements which are much harder to control and secure.

 

*Cricket Australia image and stats sourced from www.marketingmag.com.au

What’s the difference between public relations and publicity? Think planes and roads

Ben Ready is Managing Director of RG Communications. He has been a journalist and communications professional for nearly 20 years.

Ben Ready is Managing Director of RG Communications. He has been a journalist and communications professional for nearly 20 years.

For many people there is little distinction between public relations and publicity and the terms can be easily interchanged. The fact is they are vastly differently fields that require their own unique skills developed over many years.

The easiest way to draw the distinction is to think of roads and planes. When you want a road built you call a civil engineer. When you want a plane built you call an aeronautical engineer (or two). They might both be engineers but you wouldn’t get the civil guy to build a plane or the aeronautical girl to build a road. The same should go for your communications.

What is Public Relations?

Public Relations has never been easily defined. For some it encompasses anything that involves talking to people that aren’t customers. For others it’s organising parties and inviting celebrities along.

I have been using the same definition for many years*.

PR is the strategic crafting of complex stories and interactions with a range of publics. It’s the focused examination of your interactions and tactics and products and pricing that, when combined, determine what and how people ‘talk’ about you. It addresses issues and it takes time and resources.

Under this definition the process of public relations is complex, time-consuming and more often than not, expensive. It involves formative research, strategy development, tactical thought and ongoing evaluation and program re-setting.

The goal of public relations is to complete this sentence with as much detail as possible.

 In order to (insert objective) we will (define a strategy) by (list creative tactics that solve the problem)

 You could end up with something like:

 “In order to drive preference with buyers during the consideration phase, we will activate the online voice of existing customers by creating a game that requires multiple reviews on Facebook and Yelp and that focuses on the reliability of the product.”

A good public relations person is strategic, thoughtful and research-focused. They can stand back and look at the big picture and break it down into small actions that get you to your goal.

 publicityvpr

What is Publicity?

Publicity is another beast altogether. Generally, when smaller companies say they want to do some public relations, they really mean they want some publicity. They want their name in the paper, on television and on the radio. They want a profile and they don’t want to spend millions of dollars on buying advertising.

Publicity is getting unpaid media (radio, TV, press) to pay attention, write you up, endorse your products, point to you, run a picture, make a commotion. Good publicity is always good for your brand.

From a marketing perspective, publicity is one component of promotion which is one component of marketing. Other elements of the promotional mix can include advertising, sales promotion, direct marketing and personal selling.

Good publicity does not necessarily require a lot of strategic thought. It is about identifying good stories and pushing them out to the media on a consistent basis. Publicity shouldn’t get bogged down in the minutiae of messaging, it shouldn’t be over analysed. You don’t get to craft a ‘perception’ in the media, the goal is simple brand awareness.

The best publicists always have an intimate understanding of the media. Their time is best spent on the phone, talking to journalists, looking for opportunities and chasing them relentlessly.

So next time you have a communications issue be clear on what you want and make sure you get the right person. The last thing you need is to take off in a plane, designed by an expert road builder.

* I am unsure where this is originated and happy to provide reference links if anybody can find the original source.

 

To Rebrand, or not to Rebrand? That is the question.

WITH so many avenues for stakeholders to engage with companies these days, it has never been more important to have a strong and consistent brand. Your brand is your company’s character or personality and how you communicate your brand persona to the world is of vital importance. Just like presenting yourself to someone for the first time, you always want to put your best foot forward and give people an insight into who you are and how you operate.

A brand also needs to to reflect the company’s values and mission, it will carry a promise that articulates what it can offer and how it will go about adding value to the relationship. A brands corporate identity is the visual face of the brand carrying the company logo, colours and specific visual assets that encapsulate the brand and provide its tangible representation to the public. Brands are recognised and remembered by their identities.

Every now and then, a business comes to the cross roads of deciding whether to rebrand in some form or another. Whether it be a complete brand overhaul or just an identity refresh, there are a number of reasons why you should rebrand and also some reasons why you shouldn’t. Either way, the decision is not something to be taken lightly. Whether it be evolution or revolution, the decision has a significant impact on not only your stakeholders perceptions, it also has a direct impact on your bottom line.

 

LG rebranded from ‘Lucky Goldstar’ in 1995 with a fresh new identity to better compete with western markets

 

Here are a few reasons you should look into rebranding your business:

(1) Your business has out grown your current brand and the identity is dated
Congratulations, things are going so well that you’re playing with the big boys now. To be taken seriously and stay competitive, you need a well thought out single-minded proposition, set of values, mission statement and a professionally designed identity that makes a clear and relevant link to your brand and represents it to a level that is authentic.

(2) Your market has changed and you need to reposition yourself
For whatever reason, your target audience may have shifted. It could be unforeseen circumstances like the GFC or a major innovative breakthrough that has given birth to new technology which has forced your hand to take on a new direction. You must stay relevant and must stay accessible to your market. This may mean signalling that change with a new identity.

(3) Mergers or acquisitions with other businesses
Taking on an equity partner or acquiring another business that brings a new/different product or service to the table. Your company structure and size may now be very different. How you communicate this new offering or change in structure is very important. You can’t shove everything under the same umbrella – it may not fit.

(4) Geographic changes or global expansion
Expanding into a new country or territory is daunting, exciting and generally means massive growth for your business. Moving into areas with different cultures and customs though has certain considerations. You need to research and understand if your brand is relevant or acceptable operating within these new cultures. For example; your brand name may mean something profound and important in one culture, but it may mean something totally different and potentially negative in another. Adjustments will need to be made.

(5) Negative publicity leading to impact on reputation
A project may have fallen through or mismanagement has deteriorated the brand name and identity. Once negative publicity takes off, it sticks like mud and more often than not, proves too hard to come back from. Significant damage to your identity through bad reputation forces brand change. Things need to change from the inside out. Good parts of the brand that still remain need to be carried forward and the damaged bits need to be identified, removed and replaced. In most cases, an identity refresh or some public gesture to signal change, improvement and regrowth is important.

(6) Your brand either never did, or now doesn’t accurately reflect your values and mission
You’ve got by on good service and good will. This will only get you so far as you’re probably finding that you’ve hit a brick wall with acquisition. This is because target markets don’t know who you really are, what you stand for and how to place you in the consideration mix. Your identity and brand doesn’t fit with the message you’re sending. Align your values, mission and message with a sharp and relevant identity, promote consistently, then watch those walls fall down.

Here are a some reasons to seriously think about NOT rebranding your business:

(1) Ignoring strong brand equity and making a change because you’re bored
If your identity is well recognised within your market, your customers/stakeholder feel an affinity towards it and your business is successful and growing, there really is no need to change and if you do, you risk alienating your customers and hurting your bottom line. You know the saying; “If it ain’t broke……”

(2) Changing the look to try and promote yourself as a ‘New Business’ if your core business is still the same
Changing your identity under the pretence that it makes you a new and improved company, without changing any internal operational aspects or culture will soon be revealed as superficial, superfluous and down-right shallow. Once recognised, this will negatively impact your brand.

(3) There’s no real problem to solve
The all-important design aspect to implement a change of brand and identity to help move a company forward and reconnect with stakeholders is built around problem solving. If there isn’t a problem to be solved, don’t waste your time and money.

(4) It won’t increase sales, awareness or loyalty
When contemplating a rebrand, if your forecast or approach does not reveal improvement in product or service sales, brand awareness or existing customer loyalty, you would then need to question the need for a rebrand.

(5) If you’ve made a mistake by your stakeholders and you’re trying to cover it up
Everybody stuffs up. Strong, successful brands are honest with their stakeholders and don’t cover up mistakes. Trying to gloss over issues that affect your stakeholders by making yourself look different to what you are will soon unravel big time. Once you lose the trust of your own stakeholder base, you might as well close the doors and go to the pub.

(6) The company’s inner culture is suffering through poor management
A company may have a good brand reputation but if the culture drops due to low morale, performance will almost surely drop. Customers will feel this pain and if these issues were born through mismanagement, the last thing you want to do is throw away good brand equity because of something that can be fixed internally. Both the staff collective and the Board have the power to make management changes that clean up poor performance, streamline processes, lift staff morale and can help get things back on track quickly if dealt with right away.

Whether the answer is to rebrand or to not rebrand, if you’re even contemplating the process it’s best to engage a corporate communications, brand strategy and design firm to go through your options. Most offer at least a cost-effective, no-obligation discussion to help understand where your company stands. The design firm will identify a path that acknowledges the problem and designs the solution tailor made for your company’s situation. Engaging them early in the process is key to creating strong, cohesive and consistent brand communications going forward.

The secret to a good headline: Why The Daily Mail is the ‘click bait’ king

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 10.23.11 amCrafting a good, attention-grabbing headline for a newspaper article was once considered one of the great skills of journalism and editing.

A successful headline was direct and compelling and managed to convey an entire story in as few words as possible. The aim: to capture the reader’s attention quickly and effectively.

The rise of online news has changed headline writing remarkably. Brevity and simplicity has been replaced by keyword rich complexity.

When writing headlines today, journalists must consider incorporating SEO (search engine optimisation) strategy to improve their Google search rankings. The headline not only has to be catchy, but it must also utilise keywords that readers search for regularly on the Internet. The goal is to entice readers to click through the Google results and onto your page.

The Daily Mail  is one newspaper that has successfully used SEO to increase its online readership  – it’s now the world’s most popular online newspaper (Daily Mail 2012).

The Daily Mail  is striking in its use of keyword rich headlines. Headlines are unusually long and descriptive, completely breaking the traditional rule of writing headlines that are concise and simple. All headlines incorporate long-tail keywords researched for their popularity in search engines.  It’s not uncommon for headlines to be more than 30 words.

The website is particularly successful at keeping the reader’s attention once they have clicked on an article. This is due to a number of different tactics.

To ensure it gets clicks, The Daily Mail uses four times as many words to sell copy as The New York Times (Ruud Hein 2012). Each story also features plenty of videos, graphs and images. On the right-hand side of each article is a column filled with enticing links to other stories on the websites, featuring, of course, keyword heavy headlines.

Another key to the The Daily Mail’s success is its willingness to follow trends.  Whatever is trending on Google News, the Mail will write a story about it. The more stories it writes about this particular topic, the more visible it becomes on Google News.

Whether you love it or hate it, The Daily Mail  has proved that the world of journalism is a moveable feast and it’s better to be adaptable than inflexible.

References:

Daily Mail 2012, www.dailymail.co.uk, accessed 5 August 2014, <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2092432/MailOnline-worlds-number-Daily-Mail-biggest-newspaper-website-45-348-million-unique-users.html>

Ruud Hein 2012, www.searchenginepeople.com accessed 5 August 2014,< http://www.searchenginepeople.com/blog/daily-mail-top-site.html>

10,000 problems to 10,000 likes – lessons from a publishing start-up

10000 Likes MBA NewsWhen we first launched MBA News 12 months ago it was the publishing equivalent of teaching yourself to swim by jumping off a bridge. We knew exactly what we wanted to do, we knew there was an unserviced niche and we knew we had the content skills to make it a success. We also knew what we didn’t know.

More than a year down the track and we have just clocked over 10,000 Likes on Facebook, we attract more than 13,000 unique visitors a month and deliver more than 40,000 page views a month for advertisers. It is a small start, but a big result in a niche market. We are continuing to grow every month.

As technology evolves more and more brands and individuals have the opportunity to become publishers. The well worn saying goes that every company is now a media company. Regardless of whether you are a jobless journo with illusions of publishing greatness or a brand considering taking the leap into the world of content marketing here are some of the most important lessons for a publishing start-up.

Get the right CMS, get WordPress

When I first conceived the idea of MBA News I never imagined we had the capacity to build and manage the site ourselves. Content was our expertise, not coding. After going to the market looking for a tech partner it quickly dawned on me that nobody wanted to sell me a solution, but everybody had a very expensive proprietary CMS that they were sure would do the job.

Someone suggested I try WordPress, you could learn it in a weekend they said. Always game for a new challenge I locked myself away for a weekend and learnt WordPress. I am now a disciple and couldn’t fathom why anybody would use anything else. As an open source platform it just gets better with every update and adapts almost seamlessly to new technology. It is flexible, secure, adaptive, user-friendly and incredibly intuitive.

SEM is the short game

Attracting an audience in the early days was tough. Champagne corks were popping when we had our first 100 page views in a day. I spread my small marketing budget pretty thin across multiple platforms with little effectiveness. Slowly my traffic started to pick up, almost exclusively from Facebook. In August last year I gambled and tipped my whole budget into Facebook. Traffic took off. It might not be the same for every audience, but my audience lives on Facebook. The lesson is to assume nothing, try everything, and learn something.

SEO is the long game.

Instant SEO results are modern-day snake oil because the people at Google will always be smarter than you; that’s why they work at Google. Initially, we had high ambitions of taking over key search terms overnight. Thankfully, the height of our naivety was only matched by the depth of our persistence and slowly we began to climb. More than 80% of our site’s traffic is now generated from organic search and we have been able to significantly wind back the investment in SEM. Try searching “QUT MBA” or “AGSM MBA” or any other MBA course in Australia and chances are MBA News is in the top five results.

But the lesson we learned is if you are expecting SEO to deliver instant gratification, think again. Focus on creating great relevant content, be consistent and share widely and often. Google will do the rest.

Fixed or floating?

When we conceived MBA News we assumed the floating content (news, events and other content with limited lifespan) would be far more popular than the fixed content (MBA profiles and other content that remains relatively static and timeless). We were very wrong. The fixed content on the site is consistently the most visited and highly ranked. However, the floating content still plays an important role in driving visitation through social channels. Many of our visitors will be driven to the site by an interesting article that catches their attention in the social sphere. Once in the front door, nearly every visitor will take some time to navigate through the fixed content, extending average visitation times and page views. Make sure you stay close to your analytics to understand your readers.

While we still have a lot to learn we have built the foundation for a lasting publishing venture and avoided drowning in the process.

 

 

Breaking through – 10 tips for small caps looking to get on the radar

iStock_000005428538SmallWith small cap funds continuing to deliver stellar returns the investment capital heading towards the sector is gaining momentum every day. New funds – like Manny Pohl’s Barrack St Investments – are raising plenty of capital and won’t be content to see it sit in the bank.

With an investment universe of more than 1,000 stocks on the ASX, the culling process by investors like Pohl and his larger colleagues can be harsh. For Boards and CEOs of small and micro cap companies the challenge to attract institutional capital is becoming increasingly difficult. Getting on the radar is always the first challenge. Below are a few things you can do to break out from the crowd.

1. Your credibility comes first

Management credibility is the most important element when professional investors evaluate a listed company. Credibility is only established over time by building a track record of honesty and transparency. Good news is easy to deliver, bad news not so much. The style in which you deliver the bad news is one of the most powerful ways to build credibility.

2. What’s your strategy?

A clearly articulated strategy with sound financial projections is fundamental to engaging new investors. This is the ‘story’, the narrative that tells people who you are and where you are going. To help communicate this, create an Investor Relations message sheet for your spokespeople containing a one-paragraph value proposition and listing no more than five key messages about the business.

3. Have a great IR kit

Investors need easy access to information from a number of sources. The minimum components of an adequate investor relations kit are:

  • An annual report
  • Earnings releases
  • Your investor presentation (long and short versions)
  • The investor section of your company’s website
  • Regular investor updates
  • Investor conferences

4. Know your investors

Know who your investors are and why they own your stock. Research who you should be targeting to be on the register. Set goals and targets for your shareholder base and build an IR and roadshow programme to achieve these goals.

5. Be pro-active

The ‘build it and they will come’ approach to investor relations is the most common mistake made by small caps. Don’t wait for an investor to stumble across you. Put your name out there, meet all the analysts, brokers and investors time will allow. Being proactive sends a strong message to the market that you are ready to deliver on your promise by growing shareholder wealth.

6. Become a Great Presenter

Presentation and speaking skills are important for both the CEO and CFO and should be developed through formal training.

7. Take the easy wins

Sometimes just a few basic initiatives can deliver big results. Consider the following;

  • Host results conference calls or meetings (even if nobody shows, because they will eventually).
  • Use audio and video webcast services like Boardroom Radio. They are highly effective and relatively cost efficient.
  • Undertake an investor day for existing shareholders (they will always be your biggest advocates).
  • Develop a comprehensive and informative IR website.
  • Pre-announce and keep updated a calendar of events (results dates, conferences, AGM).

8. Don’t let your good work go unnoticed

Have an active media program to alert journalists about your successes even when they are not material to your share price. Most business activities will be interesting to specialist trade publications, while mainstream press will often seize on initiatives that are consistent with topical themes.

9. Go beyond compliance

The requirements of ASX-listing make it easy to fall into a “compliance first” mentality that precludes active investor relations. However, the company’s objective should be to give investors the information needed to make accurate projections about the company’s future, not merely to comply with disclosure regulations.

10. Know your competitors

Many investors are attracted to sectors of the market, not individual companies. Once they have identified a sector which suits their investment needs they then go about finding the best company in that sector. Knowing what your competitors are doing as part of their investor relations programme can provide valuable insight. Using standard performance metrics and making peer comparisons is an important tool in ranking yourself in  the industry.

Why news is still the greatest content of all

newspapersFor thousands of years, people have been seeking the most effective way to communicate their thoughts and ideas.

The concept of the ‘newspaper’ – a regular publication that contains news and correspondence – was born when leaders decided they wanted to distribute their news to the masses.

One of the earliest forms of newspapers appeared in Ancient Rome. The Emperor Julius Caesar made government announcements through the bulletin Acta Diurna. They were carved in metal or stone and posted as message boards in public places. After a couple of days, the boards were taken down and archived. They were replaced with new message boards discussing the latest noteworthy information.

Due to the obvious time and size constraints involved in carving news on stone and metal tablets, bulletins needed to be concise. They needed to convey a lot of ideas in as few words as possible. They also needed to be informative, entertaining and attention-grabbing to maximise engagement.

Fast-forward to the 21st century and times have changed. Information is now disseminated via an overwhelming number of news channels – we have printed and online newspapers, radio, TV and blogs. Social networking is now an intrinsic part of our lives with companies and private citizens updating the world via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumbler and more.

However, while the distribution channels have changed some things remain very much the same.

Going back to Ancient Rome and more particularly since the first newspapers rolled off the presses 400-odd years ago journalists have been taught to write copy that is short, sharp and sweet. They need to grab your attention straight way – today’s society is a busy one and people are time poor. Readers want to get information quickly and easily while they grab a coffee on the way to work, on the train or before they turn their attention to their inbox.

The tricks of the journalistic trade – identifying an angle, crafting a headline, avoiding jargon and using tense to convey immediacy – have been refined over many generations to achieve the sole purpose of communicating quickly and effectively.

It’s a style that has evolved over hundreds of years. So why re-invent the wheel when the solution to communicating with all your audiences already exists?

Your media strategy, and particularly, the content that drives it, should be an integral part of your content strategy. Your media consultants need to be at the very centre of your content strategy.

Their experience as journalists will help create press releases, blog posts, newsletters, magazine articles and brochures that are exciting, relevant and newsworthy.

 

The changing face of travel media and rise of the blogger

iStock_000034138194_1000x666As the digital media revolution has gained full steam in the last 10 years we’ve witnessed the ‘rise of the blogger’ across many areas of interest but none more so than in the world of travel.

Where once some key TV, newspaper and magazine travel editors dominated the travel media pack, along with some experienced freelance writers, today some of the most influential voices in travel are those armed with nothing more than a laptop and smartphone.

By setting up their own travel blogs, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, some keen travellers are now earning their keep as influential voices in travel with large numbers of loyal followers.

Often referred to by marketing types as ‘influencers’, these bloggers are now as much as anyone the place for keen travellers to get travel information, recommendations and hopefully, independent opinion.

So what does this mean for your travel business?

If you’re simply not engaging with them then you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to put your product in front of many prospective visitors. If you’re not engaging with them properly then you almost certainly won’t be maximizing the benefit.

Be aware, some of the better bloggers have followings in their tens of thousands – more than many magazines – and their content is going to have greater longevity online and through their personal endorsement.

Do your research on who the blogger is and in particular look for their numbers of followers on their various digital platforms and by all means request that of the blogger when dealing with them. They should be upfront about their follower numbers if they are serious. Also look for a good level of interaction from their followers by way of comments and shares. You may not be willing or able to support all requests but you need to treat them seriously and do your homework.

If you’re going to host them, treat them as you would any media VIP and give them the best and most authentic experience possible. It will be reflected in their posts about their visit and also lead to you being referred to again by them in the future.

Use your social media assets to thank them for visiting and share their stories about you to your own followers. Make sure you let them know what your social media accounts are in advance so they can be included in their posts.

Many tourism businesses and regions are actively pursuing bloggers and dedicated Instagrammers as part of their PR programs and creating special opportunities for them. Some major familiarisation programs have been created in Queensland and around Australia providing perfect story and photo opportunities.

Often renowned as Australia’s top travel bloggers are Caz and Craig Makepeace from yTravel Blog who are in the midst of a year long around Australia trip with their young family. Check them out and see how they’re setting the standard.