The 7-Day Challenge to Jump-Start Your Email Marketing in 2019

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By Lauren Willard, AWeber

Every year, 80% of new year’s resolutions fail by the time February rolls around. Launching your email marketing strategy shouldn’t be one of them.

That’s why we created a simple, 7-day challenge to help you dominate email marketing in 2019.

By the end of it, you’ll have launched the most important parts of a successful email marketing strategy. And the best part? You only need 30 minutes or less each day to complete this challenge.

Day 1: Choose your email template and brand it. (30 minutes)

This step is often overlooked. Many people use different email templates every time they send an email. Or, they never fully customize a template to match their brand.

But branding an email template and using it consistently are important. Your brand sets you apart from your competitors. It allows you to be unique and develop a personality for your business. It builds credibility and trust between you and your subscribers. Your subscribers can see your content and immediately tie it back to you.

Step 1: Choose your email template. Find an email template that works with your brand and your message. A plain template is often better than one already filled with colors and background images, because it’s easier to make it your own. Then, add your logo to the top or bottom of the email. (Inside AWeber, there are 8 NEW email templates you can easily customize to fit your branding. Choose the template format you’d like. Then drag and drop to add your images and build the layout you want.)

Step 2: Add your brand colors to your template. Don’t overdo it! Too many colors can be distracting. Try adding your brand colors in just a few places, like your call-to-action buttons, header image, or headlines.

For example, in the welcome email of AWeber’s FWD: Thinking newsletter, we incorporate our brand colors by using a header image with AWeber’s green and blue gradient and a call-to-action button with our brand’s shade of blue.

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Homework: Watch this video on How to Design an Awesome Welcome Email.

To do: Choose an email template and add your logo and brand colors to it.

Day 2: Customize your confirmation message. (15 minutes)

A confirmed opt-in message is an email you send people immediately after they fill out your sign up form. It asks them to verify they want to subscribe to your emails by clicking a link or button in the message.

Confirmation messages are optional but strongly recommended. They serve as proof that your subscribers definitely want to be on your list. So internet service providers (like Gmail and Yahoo!) may deliver more of your messages to the inbox when you use confirmation messages. Plus, it prevents subscribers from signing up using fake email addresses.

To make your subscribers more likely to confirm their subscription, you can follow these common best practices for confirmed opt-in emails:

1. Keep your content short.
2. Explain the value your subscribers will receive by subscribing to your list.
2. Tell them what they need to do to confirm.

Homework: Read Writing Confirmation and Welcome Emails People Love.

To do: Set up and customize the subject line and content of your confirmed opt-in email. (If you’re an AWeber customer, you can follow these directions to complete this step.)

Day 3: Create a sign up form. (30 minutes)

Sign up forms allow your subscribers to easily join your email list. You can promote your form by adding it to your website and sharing a hosted sign up form with your audience. Hosted sign up forms allow you to share your form anywhere, even if you don’t have a website.

Homework: Read 9 Inspiring Sign Up Form Ideas to Grow Your Email List.

To do: Write your sign up form copy and build your form using ideas from the homework post you just read.

Day 4: Write your welcome email (30 minutes)

A welcome email is the first message subscribers receive after joining your list and confirming their subscription. And it gets a lot of attention — on average, open rates are 4 times higher and click-through rates are 5 times higher than other emails, according to marketing research company Experian. You can take advantage of this above average engagement by crafting an excellent welcome email.

Your welcome email should:

1. Welcome subscribers to your email list.
2. Deliver the lead magnet you promised on your sign up form.
3. Explain what kind of content you’ll send subscribers, how often you’ll send it, and what they’ll learn.
4. Introduce yourself or your business.
5. Ask subscribers to add you to their address book. (This is called whitelisting and it can help more of your emails bypass the spam folder.)

Once you draft your welcome email, take some time to personalize it! Personalization makes your subscribers feel you’re writing a message specifically to them. Something as simple as including your subscriber’s first name in the subject line or body of your welcome email can boost opens and clicks.

Homework: Read The One Email You Should Always Send and How Personalization Can Help You Connect with Subscribers.

To do: Write and build a welcome message for your subscribers using AWeber’s Drag and Drop Email Builder.

Day 5: Automate your welcome email. (10 minutes)

You wrote your welcome email. Your next step? Automate it. That way, your subscribers will receive it immediately after they sign up for your list.
Simply create an automated series for new subscribers in your email marketing platform. Here’s how:

1. Build a new automation series in your email marketing platform. Make sure it’s set up to send to every new subscriber.
2. Paste your welcome email content into the template you chose on day 1.
3. Add your welcome email to the series.
4. Activate your series.

Your email marketing system does the rest!

Homework: Read Email Automation 101: How to Use Automation.

To do: Create a welcome series using AWeber’s automation platform Campaigns and add in your welcome email. (Here are step-by-step instructions for setting up your own welcome series in AWeber.)

Day 6: Publish your form on your social media channels. (20 minutes)

Your list is set up and your confirmation and welcome messages are ready to go. Now it’s time to put your hard work to the test and start to grow your list!

An easy first step is turning you social media followers into email subscribers. People who follow your brand on social media have already shown they want to hear from you. And there’s no better way for them to stay up to date on your latest content and sales than joining your email list.

Post a link to your hosted sign up form on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and ask your social followers to subscribe for exclusive updates.

Homework: Read 7 Expert Tricks to Grow Your Email List with Social Media.

To do: Add your sign up form to your Facebook profile and tweet out the hosted URL to your form.

Day 7: Share your sign up form with your connections. (20 minutes)

Reach out to the people you already know, like colleagues, friends, or family members. Ask them if they want to sign up for your email list.

Let them know what content you are offering and explain the benefits they would receive if they sign up.

If they say no, maybe the content you’re offering just isn’t for them. But maybe they know someone it would be perfect for. You never know until you ask!

Homework: Read How To Get Your First 50 Email Subscribers in Less Than 30 Days. Use the fill-in-the-blank copy template in this post to easily reach out to people.

To do: Contact 5 people you know. Send them the hosted URL to your sign up form and ask if they’d like to join your email list or share it with someone they know.

Ready, set, go!

Congrats! If you completed this 7-day challenge, you’re well on your way to launching a successful email marketing strategy.

Note: PPRA is composed of many distinct organizations and individuals, each with different perspectives and specializations in diverse areas of public relations. Many of these members’ websites feature blogs with valuable insights and advice, and we would like to make this content available to you. Periodically, we will repost content from member blogs. If you would like to see your company’s blog considered, email Stephen Krasowski at skrasowski@rmahq.org.

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Fyre Festival: Burning Bridges and Ethics in PR

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By Gabby Llopiz, Buchanan Public Relations

The communications industry is no stranger to ethical dilemmas. Communications professionals are all trying to push out positive content about their clients, but would they be okay with completely misleading and taking advantage of consumers? The Fyre Festival disaster did just that two years ago, and it is hitting headlines again, as Netflix and Hulu both released documentaries covering this PR nightmare.

Fyre Festival seemed to have it all: an exclusive, luxurious, A-list music festival on a private island in the Bahamas. With the festival occurring over just two weekends, people were offered deluxe accommodations featuring top notch musical performances, meals from celebrity chefs and more (with tickets priced between $500-$12,000 a piece).

The organizers’ PR strategy was unique, relying heavily on social media influencers, actors and models to promote the festival. Some celebs were charging up to $250,000 for one post. Many of these posts did not include the “#ad” disclaimer, which led many to believe their favorite influencers would be attending the festival. Organizers also put together promotional videos featuring models and some familiar celebrity faces on beaches, dancing and having the time of their lives. This seemed to be a promising event, right? Wrong.

After spending absurd amounts of money and expecting an extravagant weekend, attendees were checked in at small shacks and soon learned the “modern, eco-friendly geodesic domes” they expected to sleep in were actually disaster relief tents. It didn’t stop there. With no food, water, mattresses, bathrooms or ways to get off the island, the festival seemed like the end of the world.

With attendees stranded, hungry, and understandably upset, this was the start of a huge scandal and PR nightmare.

So, I know what you’re thinking: “How did no one see this coming?” or “Why didn’t they call it off?” These are questions many are still seeking to answer.

It’s situations like these that result in distrust between consumers and communicators. And this presents a fundamental question about PR: Is it ethical? In many cases, the products you see on the shelves and celebrity endorsements you read have a PR team behind them making sure everything is perceived in the best way possible. Most people accept this. However, scandals like the Fyre Festival debacle cause people to second guess PR and advertising, believing that everyone is dishonest, even when it’s not the case.

In the Fyre Festival situation, not only were the leaders of the festival under fire, but so was everyone else somehow tied to the event. The influencers, advertising agencies, PR teams, and employees lost the trust of their audiences, and their names will be associated with this for a long time. The next time one of these influencers promotes a product, people are likely to think twice about it.

In the end, misleading ads and false promises led the creators behind Fyre Festival down a road of lawsuits, with their names blasted prominently in every headline. As PR professionals, we must learn from these situations and continue to practice PR with integrity. Because without the public’s trust, we have nothing.

Note: PPRA is composed of many distinct organizations and individuals, each with different perspectives and specializations in diverse areas of public relations. Many of these members’ websites feature blogs with valuable insights and advice, and we would like to make this content available to you. Periodically, we will repost content from member blogs. If you would like to see your company’s blog considered, email Stephen Krasowski at skrasowski@rmahq.org.

3 Ways Journalists and PR Pros Can Build a Better Relationship

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By Andy Stettler, Devine + Partners

Hey journalist friends! If there’s one thing media relations professionals want you to know, it’s this: the PR pro is only successful in the eyes of their clients when their story is covered or their content is published.

Yes, that sounds very selfish on our end. BUT, as a media relations professional and former journalist for 9 years, I know that journalists need OUR assistance on discovering stories and creating fresh content. So as the old saying goes, ‘team work makes the dream work’ and it all starts with open communication between journos and PR pros.

In my short stint working both sides of the aisle, here are my three ways that journalists and media relations pros can develop a truly valuable relationship.

Journalists: Share What Helps and Make That the Standard

When I was an executive editor, my favorite relationships with PR folks were with those who took the time to understand what I would needed to “get your story in the paper” and online.

This common understanding came when I let the PR pros know what kinds of topics our audiences loved to read and what kinds of media (photos, video, and story ideas about specific topics) would really help us to produce a better story.

For example, with a smaller newsroom, I recommended press releases and some accompanying visuals as the best way to alert us to a potential story. This way, if we couldn’t send someone to cover the event, we could at least reference the press release to produce a story alerting our readers to the news.

Can’t cover it? Ask for Submitted Content

There was a time when “submitted content” meant low-quality, shamelessly self-promoting content. That’s not the case these days. Many public and media relations professionals were once journalists, and they too now understand that promotional content doesn’t attract readers but objectively balanced content does. Will you need to change the voice for your readership? Maybe! Journalists need to be more open minded to submitted and creative content. Increasingly, we are in the same business of gaining eyeballs on content.

As newsrooms continue to shrink, editors have to rely more and more on content that is produced by the community it covers.

It’s true, we will always need reporters to do the digging when it comes to investigative journalism like exposing covering corruption, but when it comes to stories about events, people and achievements, submitted content can be a valuable resource that benefits both journalists and PR pros.

While working as a regional digital director in the Philadelphia suburbs, I had no live writing staff but would often find great pitches in my inbox that were sometimes just too good to ignore.

So what would I do when my work was overwhelming and there was no one to assign for coverage? I would ask for photos, a video or some form of media that could be used in a digital online post. And when the headline was interesting, the photos well framed and the social posts were bound to catch eyes, I knew we had a great piece of content that could contribute to our overall goal of growing online audience.

If You’re Not Interested, Just Say So

Yes, anyone in media relations would be disappointed to hear that their pitch did not convince a reporter or editor to cover the topic, but I now know that leaving the PR team hanging will only waste their time and leave you, most likely, annoyed.

Be honest. If the content isn’t worth covering, politely let them know. This way, they can move on to another media outlet, and you won’t see two to three more follow up emails coming your way on a subject you are not even interested in.

Note: PPRA is composed of many distinct organizations and individuals, each with different perspectives and specializations in diverse areas of public relations. Many of these members’ websites feature blogs with valuable insights and advice, and we would like to make this content available to you. Periodically, we will repost content from member blogs. If you would like to see your company’s blog considered, email Stephen Krasowski at skrasowski@rmahq.org.

 

Connecting with Diverse Audiences: A Media Panel with Philadelphia’s Diversity Leaders

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Photos by Bill Allen of Perception Media

 

By Melissa Fordyce, Presby’s Inspired Life Community Support Center

On Thursday, January 17, the Philadelphia Public Relations Association (PPRA) invited a panel of six leaders in media diversity to Del Frisco’s steakhouse to share their insights on the role diversity plays in shaping our news outlets and messaging. Moderated by PPRA Hall of Famer David Brown, assistant professor at Temple University’s Klein College of Media and Communication, the panel featured:

• Sandra Clark, Vice President for News and Civic Dialogue, WHYY
• Mike Days, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, Philadelphia Media Network
• Andy Gotlieb, Managing Editor, The Jewish Exponent
• Hernán Guaracao, Publisher and CEO, AL DÍA
• Irving Randolph, Managing Editor, The Philadelphia Tribune
• Mark Segal, Publisher, Philadelphia Gay News

Brown opened the discussion with the question of what diversity is and why the topic is so important. The overwhelming and consistent response from the panelists was that, as a media entity, their respective outlets have the moral and ethical obligation to cover their communities, and those communities are diverse. Therefore, diverse reporting and coverage is a necessity.

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“Philadelphia is a minority-majority city,” said Segal. “If you are a newspaper, you have a social importance to record what is going on in your city at that given time. We have a small staff at PGN, but a diverse staff. How can we cover all different types of people and communities if they aren’t a part of our staff?”

Days added, “If you have a diverse staff and you allow them to be their authentic selves, your company is going to do better.”

Randolph noted the immense responsibility the media has in shaping people’s perceptions. “How people are perceived in many ways is determined by how people are portrayed,” he said. “And in the media business, we often determine, in many ways—in what we report and what we cover—how groups and people are perceived. And how people are perceived often determines policy, action, etc.”

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“Diversity is a part of everything we do,” Gotlieb added. “Even our budgets reflect diversity.”

Clark spoke about how WHYY recently took a strategic look at its programming—what it covers, who it covers, and the types of people that are featured as a part of those stories, i.e. panelists and experts. She noted, “It’s important to think about not only who is included, but who is excluded, and remember much of our country is not exposed to each other.”

Shhhh! Here’s the Real Reason That Reporter Won’t Answer Your Phone Call

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By Sarah Larson, Furia Rubel Communications

Like most public relations agencies, Furia Rubel subscribes to media database services, and we have tried a handful of them over the years. Most are laughably outdated, in an industry that changes rapidly, or inexplicably incorrect, a point that was driven home to me on two recent occasions.

The first time I realized just how out of date most databases are was when a media contact list for a particular pitch for a health and science client included – drum roll please – myself, in my previous role as editor of a digital news organization. The second occasion occurred when I noticed that the database listing for a former colleague, who is a sportswriter in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, said that he covers pigeon racing. Um…not so much. (Note to self: what reporter does cover pigeon racing as a regular beat?)

Media databases do have some value, particularly for researching regional or international media outlets. However, they should be a communications professional’s first, not the only, stop in their media pitching research, because contact information alone will not get you past the first gauntlet: actually getting in touch with that journalist.
Nearly every listing for every journalist in these third-party media databases includes the journalist’s “preferred” method of contact, as reported to the database company. And there’s a reason that nearly every journalist claims to prefer to be reached by email.
Why is that?

Because she doesn’t like you.

More accurately, she probably sees most PR people as annoyances. If they’re being honest, most reporters will tell you that they’ve had dozens or hundreds of negative encounters over the years with PR people who have no idea how the news is actually reported. If you are a random PR person calling a reporter to whom you have never spoken, 9 out of 10 times, that phone call will kick over to voicemail. Why? That reporter doesn’t know you, she doesn’t know why you’re calling, and she’s busy. She doesn’t want to spend three minutes on the phone listening to a pointless pitch when she can scan and disregard an irrelevant email in a matter of seconds.

That is because journalists today are not just busy. They are overworked, in an industry that is frustrating and struggling and so very important, all at the same time, an industry where journalists are expected to do more and more with less and less with each passing month and with each subsequent layoff, buyout, and acquisition.

In this environment, triage kicks in. You answer only the calls that you know for certain will not waste your time. You cover only the stories in which a clear and direct contact to your beat, your coverage area, and your organization’s mission is immediately obvious.
So what does this mean for PR professionals and the clients we represent? Should we not even bother to try to pitch story ideas to journalists? Should we meekly email every story pitch one time, as directed, and slink away?

No, of course not. It just means PR pros have to be better.

You must get to know the reporters that cover the industry or geographic area in which your clients operate. One way to glean great insight is to follow them on social media, read their posts, review their writing style and get a sense of their schedules and deadlines.

Just this week, a Philadelphia social scene reporter publicly chastised a PR person for emailing him four times in two weeks asking if he would post her client’s event on his blog. He said, and I paraphrase, if she would have looked at my blog, she would have seen that I’ve been so busy that I haven’t posted to it in weeks. And if she looked at my Facebook feed, she would have seen that I’ve been busy covering events just about every night. Now’s, she’s blacklisted.

To be effective, a PR pro must research the journalist and outlet as they operate now, not according to what a database says they do. You need to be sensitive to their schedules. If they are in the middle of a months-long investigation or on a three-week stint of working night events or meetings, your feature story pitch likely will be more successful if you wait another week. To make those judgment calls, you must know what an individual journalist covers and what they don’t, and understand why they make those decisions. That way, you can anticipate their objections and address them head-on by demonstrating your story’s clear value to the journalist immediately.

That means you must fine-tune the actual pitches to be brief and attention-getting. A story pitch should include enough information to demonstrate the clear connection to that reporter’s beat or the outlet’s coverage area and focus, but should be short enough for a busy journalist to digest on the fly.

It also definitely should not include all the information that you have to share about the topic. Journalists are curious beasts; they want to learn and they want to discover information. The purpose of the pitch is to get them interested enough in the story idea to want to learn more. Then you can get them on the phone or set up an in-person meeting to discuss the story further. That approach is far more likely to lead to a published or produced story that is relevant and interesting to all parties – the PR pro, the client, the journalist, and the audience.

Once you’ve demonstrated to a journalist that you understand what kind of stories they are interested in, they are far more likely to take a phone call from you the next time. Because now, she knows you and she knows that you wouldn’t call her and waste her precious time. And that is a relationship you won’t find in any database.

Note: PPRA is composed of many distinct organizations and individuals, each with different perspectives and specializations in diverse areas of public relations. Many of these members’ websites feature blogs with valuable insights and advice, and we would like to make this content available to you. Periodically, we will repost content from member blogs. If you would like to see your company’s blog considered, email Stephen Krasowski at skrasowski@rmahq.org.