The ongoing topic of race and its place in public life is raging in the United States, and that discussion is spilling over into Canada as well. While most of the country is discussing how to talk about race and race relations and protests continue to rage in many American cities, one company is taking the conversation in another direction.
Uber Eats recently announced the release of a feature on its platform that allows users to specifically find and support black-owned businesses in the United States and Canada. According to media reports about the release, users will not have to pay delivery fees for orders made from participating black-owned restaurants.
Recently, the New England Patriots were the big headline in the essentially closed world of professional sports. Their biggest name, the man some consider the best to ever play the game, quarterback Tom Brady, was headed out of New England to Tampa. Brady was a Buccaneer, and Pats fans were aghast. It was a headline many in New England, especially die-hard Patriots fans could hardly wrap their heads around. No more QB12?
Now, though, much of the nation, both in and out of New England, has a reason to cheer for the Patriots. With reports of personal protective equipment shortages at many hospitals across the country, especially in New York, millions of Americans are wondering if their local medical facilities will have what they need if they or a loved one gets sick.
Enter the Patriots. Owner Robert Kraft worked with Patriots president Jonathan Kraft and the state to buy 1.4 million N95 masks for Massachusetts. The Kraft family also purchased another 300,000 masks for New York state.
The shipment of masks arrived on a Patriots team aircraft, part of a logistical challenge Kraft called “probably the most challenging operation our organization and team ever had to do…”
Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker took to social media to express his appreciation, posting, “Tonight’s arrival of a major shipment of N95 masks on the Patriots’ plane was a significant step in our work to get frontline workers the equipment they need… it’s an example of how collaboration and partnership can lead to real solutions during these challenging times…”
Everyone involved called this a challenging project but also a “team effort” and vowed to continue doing what they could to help.
This “challenging” project illustrates how brands that may not be receiving the earned media they would be under normal circumstances can shift their efforts to meet current needs in order to continue their PR efforts while doing some tangible good.
Brands that take advantage of these opportunities will be remembered for what they did, as well as how they make people feel, just as others will be remembered for what they didn’t do during this unprecedented time. That’s not to say every brand has to do something as massive as this. Many don’t have the resources, but there are other opportunities or digital PR options they could work toward as part of their efforts to stay connected to customers and fans in this time.
The key idea is to remember that relationship building is a significant aspect of consumer PR in this digital age. People want a reason to connect to something they’re proud of, and that makes positive brand reputation vital to any awareness campaign.
Public relations is shifting. While, in many ways, the fundamentals are the same as they always were, PR is experiencing a Renaissance in the digital age. As traditional media outlets are tightening their belts, because of falling advertising revenue, other forms of media communication are offering brands a direct link to their customer base, creating relationship dynamics and communication opportunities that have never been possible before.
To win in the PR business today, brands and PR pros must be more proactive, they need to update their approach to PR and take advantage of new opportunities for brand placement and expanded venues for stories and customer connection points. And, along with these new options and opportunities, there are a host of new metrics and data points marketers can use to hone their PR efforts to make their campaigns more effective.
Much of this shift begins with thinking differently about the internet. It is not only a place where you put things and people find them, as it once was. Now, the internet is all about interaction, about people and brands sharing, connecting, continuing a conversation in order to build a relationship. Though you still need to get the attention of the market. And that’s one of the key ways digital PR differs from traditional PR.
With traditional PR, success could often be measured in circulation numbers, viewership, listeners, and demographic reach. All of those metrics are still important today, but online, they may go by different names and include additional metrics. Viewers, for example, may become “unique visitors,” and their “time on site” is just as important as their raw numbers.
Web analytics can also tell marketers what their visitors are looking at, for how long, and where they came from. Measuring each of these metrics is a key step in crafting consistent, winning digital PR. Sometimes, these metrics are surprising. People have a tendency to assume it is the bigger media engines that are driving the traffic to their site, but digging into the analytics reveal that it is perhaps a niche blog or social media page that is channeling most of the traffic.
Something else to consider is what people are responding to and what people are talking about when they respond. Which keywords and titles are getting the most traction, and which content keeps people coming back for more and staying longer when they do.
Timing is another important digital PR factor to consider. While there are still roughly defined news cycles online, these are more fluid than in traditional media, with ongoing stories continuing to develop even as new headlines emerge in a constant stream. And, since social media can keep content alive for weeks, months, even years, some element of the content should be evergreen, painting a piece of an overall picture the visitors and fans will recognize and telling the bigger story about the brand.
The global calamity that is the COVID-19 pandemic has ground some businesses and industries to a halt. However, there are some brands that are in a key position to step in and act heroically to help in this time of crisis. If they take the opportunity, and they manage the messaging correctly, this could be a major positive PR move in a sea of bad news.
Early on in the news reports about the spread of the novel coronavirus, one specific piece of medical equipment became a kind of shorthand for the resources available to fight the pandemic: the N95 respirator. Headline after headline urged consumers not to purchase the masks, to save them for medical professionals, even as others lamented the lack of supply, especially in harder hit areas.
Eventually, all eyes turned toward the brands that manufacture and distribute the masks or similar versions, including US industrial giant 3M Co. Questions began to fly in: “when will you have more?” and “will there ever be enough?” among others.
After doing the internal research and looking at supply chains and manufacturing capabilities, 3M released a statement with an answer: the company would begin to “double production” of the N95 respirators in an effort to keep up with demand. In addition, 3M promised to “expand global capacity” a significant amount over the next year in order to continue to meet demand as the virus continues to spread.
The announcement corresponds with news from the US Department of Health and Human Services, which revealed plans to buy “more than 500 million masks” to supplement the Strategic National Stockpile of pharmaceutical and medical supplies. President Trump offered a hand as well, saying he would take steps to help speed up production of ventilators and masks.
Another big US-based brand, General Electric (GE) said it would begin to increase its staff in an effort to manufacture more ventilators to help people hospitalized with COVID-19. This announcement comes alongside headlines that say US hospitals are doing what they can to prepare for an unprecedented surge in patients as the disease continues to spread.
The idea that the national medical infrastructure may soon be overwhelmed is a stressful and frightening potential for many. When a company steps up and promises to invest as they can to help where they can, it’s an opportunity to offer comfort and to come through by keeping their promise. Once through this, 3M and GE may stand as two of many American companies that stepped into the gap and helped where they were needed, much like Ford and General Motors during the run-up to US entry into World War II.
Streaming media continues to thrive, using its growing clout to siphon more ideas and more eyes away from traditional network television. Some of its most recent successes provide object lessons in the potential of applying effective consumer PR to transition a success in one area to a head start in another.
In less than a year, Netflix has launched three new reality TV programs, and the winners of those shows are leveraging digital PR and smart social media action to launch new careers.
The winner of Netflix’s design reality show, “Next in Fashion,” was Minju Kim, a 33-year-old fashion designer known for designing fashions for famous K-pop singers BTS. That resume was enough for notoriety heading into the competition, but it was the time on the show that allowed Minju Kim to skyrocket in fame. By partnering with a show sponsor, Net-a-Porter, the designer was able to turn good ratings into sales in a different market altogether.
Clothes designed by Kim and marketed by Net-a-Porter were featured on the show and cross-promoted on social media and other websites. The retail company helped Kim with pricing, marketing, and PR. Sales went big and went fast, and Kim told reporters many of her clothing selections were sold out in just a few months.
Another Netflix reality winner, Daniel Farris, won the rap contest program “Rhythm + Flow ” using the stage name “D Smoke.” While his bars and his ability to rap in both Spanish and English impressed the judges, D Smoke and the other contestants were told early on, the competition was about more than talent, it was about who could sell.
Speaking to CNN Business, D Smoke reflected on that lesson: “I’m not bubble gum. I’m not soda pop, but I’m a product as well…” And he played that role well, growing his Instagram following from 10,000 to 1.7 million during the course of the show. Now, since he still has recording freedom, D Smoke can leverage that big following into massive sales, especially for an independent artist.
The success of these reality shows, as well as the ability of their winners to transition into successes after the show through partnering with Netflix and targeted digital PR, is another example of how the streaming service is starting to compete directly with traditional network TV. While most networks have broadcast reality shows, many of the winners have failed to translate that success to success on the next level. There have been a few major standouts, but Netflix seems to have found a fan connection that works using key partnerships and targeted digital PR.
Marketing, like all endeavors, evolves over time. The mom and pop stores and the Sears catalog gave way to downtown shopping districts and, later, shopping malls. Many brands adapted, transitioning from small footprints and mail order, to large showcase stores. Then came big box outlets, a discount version of mall department stores where you could buy just about anything.
In the early 2000s, as more consumers logged onto the internet and stayed, retailers and marketers saw something new coming over the horizon, but it would have to be built largely from scratch. Consumers would need to be taught how to search for what they wanted and how to use the software that allowed them to buy those products and services. Thanks, in large part, to Apple and Microsoft, that hurdle was leapt over fast and easy.
Less than a decade after the first iPhone was released, nearly everyone was carrying a smartphone and shopping malls across the country were closing up as major U.S. department store brands struggled to stay afloat or closed forever. It became crystal clear that digital marketing was no longer an add-on or a luxury option. It was fast becoming the consumer go-to, which meant brands and businesses had to adapt or die.
The question is: how to stand out in a crowded and noisy internet marketplace? Some of the answer to that lies in applying a good, old fashioned brick-and-mortar approach to consumer service.
Successful merchants are realize that experience is still the key to success. It doesn’t matter if the business is in a building or on the web, customers will come back if they have a good experience – and they will leave if they don’t. If it’s easy to find items, the prices are clearly marked, and the item is clearly described, consumers are happy. If they can’t navigate the site, or if the item description leaves them with more questions than answers, it’s easy for them to click away.
Another winning strategy is adding a personal touch. One of the lost experiences of shopping at a mom and pop store is entering a place where everyone knows your name, where the consumer is greeted warmly by people they recognize who clearly appreciate their business. Thanks to smart search and big data engines, online merchants have the ability to instantly customize every shopper’s experience, whether it’s curating the product options based on previous visits or connecting the consumer with a personal shopper to help answer their questions.
Cross-promotion is another tactic that worked in stores and will work online. Leveraging social media and similar products offerings, online stores can connect customers with their brand in a way that is non-intrusive and often welcomed, even if the customer isn’t in the market at that time.
In the end, nothing trumps experience. Even if the customer is shopping on price, they want to find the lowest price or the best value quickly. Ease of use, combined with a friendly, personal greeting, can bring the brick-and-mortar experience online, increasing customer loyalty in the process in an age when being spoiled for options makes it challenging to keep them coming back.
“Who is the customer,” and “what do they want?” Boil all the jargon and these are the two most vital questions every marketer needs to answer. The process of finding the answers to these questions is called marketing orientation.
The point of this process is to develop a strategy that places the brand in a better position to find the right customers, connect with those customers, and meet their needs. Four vital elements of this process are identification, explanation, assimilation, and direction.
This is the step during which stakeholders within the business or brand identify and clearly define the challenge the brand is facing. Examples might include, shifting consumer tastes, changing trends, new competition, market confusion, growth problems, disconnection, or a host of other issues. These challenges should be informed by and filtered through company values and overarching goals.
Assumptions here can cause failure to launch. The answers to “what’s wrong” or “what are we facing” must be clear, solid, and backed by hard data. Otherwise, any subsequent action plans will be vague and less effective.
Once the challenge has been clearly defined, and a plan has been crafted to meet this challenge, it must be properly and accurately communicated to the rest of the team. Believe it or not, this is where many well-crafted, well-intentioned plans go off the rails. Poor or insufficient internal communication.
This stage isn’t just about getting everyone on the same page – though that’s part of it – a key goal here is to connect everyone on the team to the plan in a specific way. Give them something to work toward and for, as well as a goal that, when accomplished, they can be proud of. There is often a weeding out process implicit in this step. Some folks may not be interested in getting on board, and they may have to go, but if this is the direction the brand is going in, they need all hands rowing in the same direction.
That collective will to work towards the same goal is vital because the next stage – assimilation – will likely require some changes in protocols, responsibilities, and day-to-day work. Not change for the sake of change, but shifts to better implement or “assimilate” the new plan and goals into the work the brand is already doing.
Expect to do some training, create some reward or incentive structure, and open opportunities for people to shine. Expect some employees to surprise you while others will need some extra help or encouragement. There will likely be similar shifts with customer-facing operations as new or improved ways to connect, create value, and meet needs.
No marketing plan should ever be considered a “set it and forget it” exercise. Every operation will need review and maintenance. The need for course corrections will arise, so the ways and means of building momentum and keeping it going will require direction long after the launch. New people may need to be brought on, new ideas heard and tried, new information gathered, and new metrics measured. This will be an ongoing process.
The world of social media is an ever-evolving beast, so it helps to get an update on the current state of affairs from time to time. Here are the six primary categories of social media as of 2020, each with their own unique characteristics and marketing strengths.
When most people think of social media, they tend to imagine social networking sites. A social networking site is a platform that allows people from similar backgrounds or with similar interests to connect online. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the top three social network platforms for the time being, though 2020 may be a pivotal year for several new contenders in the market.
Social news sites are aggregators that allow users to post news links to external sites, on which other users can then vote submissions up or down in a way that affects their overall exposure. In practice, this means that links with the highest number of votes are the most prominently displayed.
Reddit is an excellent example of a social news platform that has weathered the ages. Members of the reddit platform submit content like links, text posts or images, organised into separate, user-created boards called “subreddits.” As of 2019, the site ranked as the fifth most visited website in the US.
Microblogging platforms are sites that allow users to post short written entries, which can include links to product and service sites, or links to other social media platforms. Microblogging sites typically build a “wall” or “newsfeed” to allow for specific sharing with followers.
The most well-known microblogging platform is Twitter, with more than 321 million monthly active users. The first tweet was sent in March 2006, when co-founder Jack Dorsey posted “just setting up my twttr.”
Bookmarking sites are used to save and organize links from the internet’s plethora of online resources and websites. These sites typically allow users to “tag” or categorize these links, making it easier to share with specific groups of followers.
Media sharing platforms allow users to share a range of media online; in practice, images and video dominate these sites. YouTube has been one of the world’s most well-known media sharing platforms since its launch in 2005. In 2019, more than 500 hours of video content were being uploaded to the platform every minute.
Oftentimes, sharing a core message online without maintaining a self-hosted website or outlet is more than enough for a brand. This is where community blogging platforms can provide an essential service, and help communicators reach audiences with minimal fuss.
Some examples of community blogs include Medium, a relatively new online publishing platform dedicated to so-called “social journalism,” and Tumblr, a microblogging platform designed for the sharing of multimedia and short-form blogging.
As with all things in the digital marketing market, the realm of social media shifts and changes by the day. This list may look completely different a year from now.
The popularity of social media for marketing continues to soar. It’s still important, nonetheless, to monitor it because some of the favorites keeps changing.
Video Is Big
As mentioned in earlier articles, video is a key choice these days. Not only does it help tell a story but it’s also useful in teaching and explaining things. YouTube was one of the first to recognize the power of video in 2008. Facebook jumped in in 2016 and Instagram was one of the most recent platforms to do so.
According to the Pew Research Center, 73% of Americans currently use YouTube and 68% Facebook. A study by Brandlive, a video platform training company, reported that 95% of marketers surveyed will be adding video to their marketing strategies.
Stories continue to gain in popularity as well. Besides their appeal in video, storytelling has spread from Snapchat. Stories are also being told now on Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp.
Although stories are usually up for 24 hours or so, Pew says Instagram alone captures about 500 million viewers daily. Millennials make up the biggest viewing audience on social media, with Instagram garnering about 60% of the market. They’re followed by Snapchap with 53% and Facebook with 48%.
Messaging also continues to increase and is even gaining ground on the popular social media platforms. Pew reported that, collectively, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat have more than 1 billion active monthly users.
Utilizing messages is appealing to marketers because of its ease. More and more brands are utilizing that platform to establish and build customer relationships.
Marketers are also discovering that social media helps drive sales. Tracking tools like Facebook Pixel help to identify the buyer journey.
Facebook is currently the leading platform for product discovery, followed by Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter according to Kleiner Perkins, a U.S. venture capital firm. In its study, the company reported that 55% of people who discovered the product they were seeking on social media subsequently bought it.
One of the Latest
AI and chatbots are among the latest to arrive on the social media platform scene. Chatbots make it easy for companies to respond sooner than later to consumers. Customers are also aware of this, which is why AI is critical to employ. AI-powered chatbots already promote products and respond to questions on Facebook Messenger.
Mastercard’s chatbot can even inform consumers about their finances and purchases. Chatbots and AI can also handle the more commonly asked questions and minimize human intervention.
The Human Touch
However, in spite of technology, nothing beats the human touch. That’s where influencers can be very effective. Influencer marketing has even surpassed print advertising on Google Trends.
Both micro-influencers and macro ones make big impressions on their followers. Each has advantages. Micro-influencers tend to have more engagement with their followers and cost less. Name influencers, of course, have a tremendous following. They also cost more.
Employees can be invaluable in being ambassador influencers. Companies engaging and empowering them will see gains as well.
Today’s constantly evolving playing field makes it mandatory for brands to stay in touch with changes. Also important in these days of fake news is brand transparency.
Influencer marketing continues to grow in popularity as its effectiveness is proven, time and time again. The number of personalities working as influencers continues to increase, offering smart marketers real-life and real-time examples of what to do and what not to do when attempting to employ influencers in marketing campaigns.
Here are some of the best practices marketers and brand managers should use to get the most out of their influencer marketing campaigns.
Consider Clout, Not Just Numbers
The key to success with most influencers is finding the right niche. Going off the number of followers or scope of influence alone does not necessarily guarantee results. The most important metric for influencers is, indeed, influence. How well and how often do they cause their fans to make buying decisions or to choose one brand or product over another? How much trust has been cultivated between the fan and influencer, and how eager are those followers to emulate that influencer?
Consider, if you have two influencers, one with an audience of 10,000 committed fans, and one with an audience of 100,000 casual followers, who has the most influence? The answer to that question is really in the question: “how many move when the influencer suggests?”
Choose an Influencer Who Represents the Vision
Brands are not just promoting their products, they are promoting the experience that goes with their products. If an influencer lives and acts in a way that lessens that experience or tarnishes that vision, they can create a net loss for the brand, even if some of their fans end up buying. Influencers are most effective when they are living the lifestyle represented by the brand, when their shared content paints a complementary picture of a life including what matters to the owners and users of that brand.
Create a Collaborative Plan
Brands that just hire an influencer and turn them loose can see their good intentions implode all around them. Influencer campaigns work best when the influencer works with the brand to create a campaign that works for both the brand and the influencer. That way, each person understands their role and responsibility, and the influencer is working from a script with built-in brand protections.
Offer Easily Shareable Value
Brands that give influencers something to share with their audience, that the audience can then easily promote on their accounts, create an exponentially-spreading web of positive responses to their brand or product. It’s a simple, easy step that’s so obvious some brand managers just miss it. Don’t just depend on the influencer to spread the story, give their fans something to say, to do, and to interact with.
While following these guidelines cannot guarantee success, this template offers a strong beginning to a successful influencer marketing effort.