The Do’s of Corporate Blogging

CB imageIf your company has decided to cut corporate blogging out of its content marketing strategy, you might want to reconsider. Allowing companies to reveal a bit more about the brains and personalities behind the brand, blogging offers businesses the advantage to initiate unique conversations with customers, unlike traditional marketing channels.

“A company blog is a venue for clients and lovers of the brand to feel personally connected to the company. It’s an opportunity for consumers to be heard by a company or brand and to be kept in the loop on their own terms – ultimately forming a two-way, insider relationship that benefits both parties,” said Digital Strategy and Marketing Director, Clara Swanson of GillespieHall.

The “2014 Hubspot State of Inbound” report mentions, “companies that blog are 13x more likely to generate a positive marketing ROI.” So what are you waiting for? Follow these corporate blogging do’s and start reaping all of the benefits that blogging has to offer to your business.

The Do’s

Establish your brand’s voice and personality
Before a company moves forward with posting on any social media outlet, they must first establish their brand voice. Choosing your brand’s voice is a very critical step because it goes hand-in-hand with your brand’s personality, and how you will execute the content you plan to share. First, think about the type of business and industry you are in and the most commonly used lingo within this market. Ask yourself, how does your audience interact with one another and how do they like to be approached and spoken to?

Perform keyword research
Just as bees seek quality pollen, your readers seek superior content. Tagging your blog posts with the most effective keywords helps to guide readers to useful and relevant information. “Corporate blogging is an opportunity to connect with your target market on a personal level and establish a place in the market. Blogs are also critical for search – keeping your company fresh in search results, and appearing in a wider range of search results relevant to your product or service,” said Swanson. A definite way to ensure that your content is reaching your desired target audience is to create effective search engine optimized content. Try using Keyword Tool, it helps you generate over 750 keywords from Google autocomplete. Also, embed links into your blog posts that steers readers to previously published content. If you’re looking to maximize your PR efforts through search engine optimized content, check out this previously published post on PPRA’s blog, “How Search Engine Optimization Benefits the Field of Public Relations.”

Update regularly.
It has happened to us all. We surf the web and come across blogs that are completely outdated or are not regularly updated. What kind of impression does this blog leave you with? Think of your content as a store’s inventory. Don’t just offer your readers last season’s trends, fill them in on what’s hip now and keep them in-the-know with consistent blog content. “Not investing in regular blogging is a major lost opportunity in any industry. Blogging, approached strategically, can bring amazing benefits to any company willing to invest in the process. The key, though, is the quality of the blog content and the commitment to producing valuable content on a regular basis,” said Swanson. The first step to corporate blogging strategically is to create an editorial calendar that includes your blogging and posting schedule, as well as brainstormed topics and special events you can incorporate your content around.

Feature guest posts from all staff members
Allowing staff of all levels to regularly contribute to the company’s blog acquaints your customers with the thought leaders that are the force that drives the brand they love. It provides diversity to the reader because they can now receive insights from employees of different departments. Each employee has something valuable to offer to the blog. Make sure to answer consumer questions or leave them with thought-provoking conclusions.

This post was written by PPRA member Renee’ Velez. Renee’ currently serves on PPRA’s Communications Committee as the Blog Chair. She loves all things social media and is currently seeking opportunities in the PR industry. Follow Renee’ on Twitter @rvelez88. Special thanks to the GillespieHall team for the insightful feedback on corporate blogging.

Developing a Career as a Freelance Publicist

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When I graduated college with a degree in both fashion merchandising and communications the market was less than stellar. Despite having interned at multiple agencies around the area, great grades and a full portfolio, I didn’t have a job lined up after college. I interviewed but no one was hiring. Instead of giving up I decided to take matters into my own hands and began freelancing. First with a politician (2012 was a huge year for politics) and then with a fashion brand. A month into this I received my first full time agency job but continued to freelance on the side, after hours. Eventually through networking, hard work and lots of late nights I was able to take my freelance clients (I had a handful now after about a year) and start Piqued PR. Here’s how I started freelancing;

Rates & Services
Businesses often chose to work with freelancers over agencies and in-house positions because freelancers are either more budget friendly or require less of a long-term commitment. Keep this in mind as your developing your services and rates to attract clients.

Portfolio
Just like any other business, an important tool for a freelance publicist is a portfolio to show your past clients and work. In your portfolio be sure and include different clients to portray that you are well versed in the field and can understand the messages and markets in various realms.

Network
The best way to get your freelance business out there is to network both in person and through social media. Use platforms like Linkedin to connect with businesses and potential clients. Attend various events in your area and always have business cards in hand. Eventually the goal is to obtain future clients from existing or past clients through recommendations but networking should always be part of your weekly schedule.

Do you have experience as a freelance publicist? Please comment and share your top tips and advice.

Patricia Maristch is a graduate from Immaculata University and a young entrepreneur. She is the founder and principal of Piqued PR, a boutique lifestyle public relations agency, piquing the interest of press and consumers. Her years of retail experience, shopaholic tendencies and constant desire for all things luxe, provides a unique viewpoint to public relations and social media. She understands her clients’ audience because she IS their audience. While she works and plays on the Main Line her client list extends across the nation. In addition to Piqued PR, Patricia serves on the Wings for Success board, is the Main Line Fashion Week and Her Main Line founder as well as a frequent guest blogger for various publications.

Tips for Conducting Effective PR Surveys

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Survey data is a critical leveraging tool for all PR pros. A practitioner at a client meeting prepared with survey results from a well designed and executed study is no PR pro to mess with. Attention-grabbing and sometimes slightly out of the ordinary results could be the perfect approach for client and brand exposure. Sharing significant statistics without a doubt pique’s the public’s interest and even makes good use for an informative infographic. A recent PR Daily article titled, “9 tips for effective PR surveys,” gives practitioners fresh angles on how to carry out valuable, result driven surveys.

1. Keep the questions short. Always focus on the key objectives of the survey you are conducting. Keep both the questions and the length of the survey to a minimum. If it takes too long to take the survey you may bore participants who will decide to rush through it.

2. Use closed questions. If you are planning to report mean scores and percentages then avoid including open-ended questions within your survey.

3. Use credible stories. Make sure you construct your survey in a way that is relatable to your target audience and the key objectives you are researching. You can do this by including real-life examples and scenarios within the survey.

4. Don’t force answers. Creating a survey can sometimes be tricky. How a question is worded or limited answer choices can easily skew the results. Remember, you want your findings to back up valid points you are trying to convey. If results don’t match up or are easily skewed you could lose credibility in the eyes of both a client and the public.

5. Beware of sample size. For best results limit your sample size to 1,000 interviews when generating results from national or generally representative surveys.

6. Think internationally. Consider conducting a survey within various countries and regions. There are many websites online that are not as pricey as you may think. International surveys can provide eye-opening results as to how others perceive your brand. International data could provide resourceful results, leading you to creative ideas to kick-start a new campaign. 

7. Consider location and sample size Be cautious if you are planning to combine regional and national survey results, without including an adequate sample size.

8. Reconsider ranking questions Sometimes reporting the results of ranking questions can be difficult. The author of the article asks the reader if they are interested in the rank order overall or the percentage who mentioned specific items in the rank order. Also, be sure not to use rank order and rating questions interchangeably. Rating questions asks survey participants to compare different items using a rating scale.

9. Be realistic with business-to-business surveys Be practical when constructing business-to-business surveys. Consider which employees are most appropriate to reach out to in order to receive valid results. There are other decision makers aside from the CEO who may be more knowledgeable about specific topics and information.

In your opinion, what does an effective survey include? How do you analyze survey data to be sure the results aren’t skewed? Let us know in the comment section below.

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This is a great career path. Now what?

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With the continued steady growth of the public relations industry – up 11% in 2013 according to The World Report and anticipated to grow 12% over the next 8 years by the US Department of Labor – this is a great time to be a PR professional.  But just because companies are spending more time and resources on their reputations, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be the one reaping the benefits.

Just as you wouldn’t want a dentist with bad teeth or an unfit personal trainer, your clients won’t feel comfortable with you if you don’t have a clear brand of your own.  While early in your career, your goal may be to gain as much broad-based experience as possible, as you mature, you probably want to narrow your focus and become The Go To Person for something.

Pinpoint your value.  Identify exactly what it is that sets you apart as an expert in the field:  Do you serve a certain type of client?  Do you know how to cater to specific demographics?  Do you offer a depth of knowledge regarding a given industry?  Are you known for helping startups define their place in the market or for helping established organizations revamp their images?

Make a name for yourself.  In addition to whatever bio your employer maintains on you and having a strong presence on LinkedIn, you should have a place where potential clients can get a feel for who you are.  A website with your own blog, digital portfolio, and clear contact information is key.  Be sure your online footprint reflects your PR style and speaks to your target audience.  (A WordPress site isn’t going to impress major multinational corporations; a complex site with an ultra-sleek feel isn’t going to put small locally focused organizations at ease.)

Be careful to separate your work and your personal life.   It’s not simply a matter of making sure your clients don’t find those less-than-professional pictures you couldn’t help but post of inappropriately hilarious things your kids have done – it’s also a matter of being able to dedicate yourself to the task at hand.  If you never disconnect from work, you’re much more likely to burn out on both fronts.  With the increasing expectation of connectivity and the blurring of personal/professional, it’s more important than ever to set boundaries for yourself.

Manage your calendar.  Just as you wouldn’t send out an email blast or slap together a press release on a whim for a client, you shouldn’t let the pacing of your career go with the flow or be another item on your to-do list.  This works on both the micro and the macro levels.  Defining clear blocks of time each week as “personal” and “professional” can help enforce those boundaries.  Setting bigger picture career milestones or checkpoints for yourself can help you stay on track when you get caught up in the whirlwind of your home or your office.  Literally – pick a date to take stock of your career and mark it on your calendar.

Maintain your resume and your portfolio.  Add this to your calendar, too.  Even if you absolutely positively love what you’re doing right now, make a date to review your own marketing collateral at least once a year.  You never know when some amazing opportunity is going to pop up (or, some unanticipated disaster), but if/when it does, you’ll be ready to tackle it.

Continually expand your horizons.  Take advantage of networking and career development opportunities – PPRA has regular programming geared specifically towards industry professionals, and there are plenty of other exciting events throughout the region all the time.  Set a goal for yourself – plan on attending one extra event or volunteering your time for a cause at least one extra time each month.   Add events to your calendar to make sure you actually go!  Do this right now.  Seriously, open a new window in your browser and just do it.  You’re much more likely to go if it’s on your agenda.

Become a leader*.  Mentor junior-level personnel – you’ll need someone to fill your shoes as you move up to the next step in your career.  Take charge of a project at work.  Find ways to contribute to the community through volunteering or participating in special initiatives.  Use your career objectives and value propositions as markers to help you find ways to align your endeavors with your goals.  Feel free to add these experiences to your resume as appropriate.  *Ask for help as needed and look to learn from colleagues – this only makes you a better leader.

Above all, treat yourself as you would a client.  Your image, your messaging, and your visibility as an independent professional is your career.

Certified Career Coach Rita Friedman  –  PhillyCareerCoach.com –  helps clients plan their careers, conduct effective job searches, give great interviews, and grow professionally.  She provides one-on-one coaching, leads small group workshops, and writes a career advice column for Philly.com.  Subscribe to her blog or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Setting the Record Straight: How to Pitch…Molly Eichel

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“Get to Know Me.  I’m Pretty Nice”

Readers of the Philadelphia Daily News should recognize Molly Eichel as the author of the four-times a week “Philly Gossip” column – a long running staple in the “People Paper.”

Eichel took over the column in 2013 and has been a writer at the Daily News since 2010.  Before that, she was on staff at the City Paper.

Each day, Eichel is tasked with writing six to eight quick newsy nuggets on items that involve well-known Philadelphians (a recent coup: being the first media member to interview WPVI-TV personality Adam Joseph about he and his partner becoming first-time parents).   Many of those ideas originate from smartly-pitched PR pitches.

Eichel recently took time to speak to the Philadelphia Public Relations Association’s Adam Dvorin about her likes/dislikes when working with PR people.

With your ideas, e-mail Eichel at eichelm@phillynews.com

Q: What is the biggest thing you look at when considering a story idea?

A: The story needs to fit my beat. I have a pretty broad beat but I get so many off-beat pitches. As a PR person, show me you have a familiarity with what I do for a living and pitch directly to me, don’t just blanket a bunch of journalists and hope I’ll respond.

Q: When you open your e-mail to look at a story pitch, how much time do you spend looking at it?

A: It depends. If it’s a form press release, much less time than if someone takes the time to figure out how their story relates to my column.

Q:  Would you consider a story idea from Twitter?  Facebook?  Phone only?

A: Phone and e-mail. Pitching me on Twitter is a guaranteed way to get me to ignore you.

Q:  What would you advise a PR person avoid doing when pitching you?

A: Come into the pitch with no familiarity of what I do.  My name is very easy to Google.  Read a column.  Get a sense of my voice.  I don’t expect you to be a regular reader, but if you have no idea about what I do, it won’t help you.

Q:  When is the best and worst time to reach out to you with a column idea?

A: Deadline is 6 p.m. if you call me between 5 and 6 for something that’s not urgent, I’ll shuffle you off the phone or tell you to call back the next day. Reach out any time before that.

Q:  What is the best story idea you have ever received from a PR person?

A: One that comes to mind is a celebrity giving money to a local rehab center while he was in town filming a movie.

Q: What other advice would you offer to PR pros?

A: Get to know me! I’m pretty nice and if I know what you do and what you’re about, I can better tailor advice on future pitching.

This post was written by Adam Dvorin. Adam is Media Director of Winning Strategies, a New Jersey-based communications firm.  He is a Membership Co-Chair of Philadelphia Public Relations Association.  He can be reached at @adamdvorin on Twitter.