Boost Your Brand With Online Storytelling

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Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools to build and strengthen your brand, yet many companies are still not using it to their advantage online. PR experts know how to analyze, contextualize and create stories and narratives to showcase brand attributes and draw consumers. Add a social behaviorist to the team and your business is ready to rock your story online!

Why is a social behaviorist so important? The attention span of an average internet user is only 8 seconds. That means digital marketers have only 8 seconds to connect with consumers and entice them to take meaningful action. Understanding social behavior and how target audiences respond to your brand story online brings a competitive edge that delivers greater results from your marketing efforts.

What can online storytelling, in expert hands, do for your business?

  • Strengthen brand perception.
    One of the greatest advantages of social media is being able to listen to your consumers in real-time. That aids in finding possible gaps between the way you position your brand, and the way the public perceives it. Storytelling fills the gaps and creates a smooth transition for audiences to respond positively to your brand message.
  • Boost brand engagement.
    To strengthen brand loyalty, you need to deepen your online engagement. When consumers become aware of your story, they become a part of it as active participants. Emotional attachments develop and consumers believe the thoughts formed in their head are their own – and they react accordingly. They believe the messaging and become brand advocates.
  • Build trust.
    In 2013, 46% of all internet users claimed that social media influenced their purchase decisions. To influence an audience, you first need to build a relationship based on trust. Storytelling can build a human-to-human relationship that leads to trust between your brand and a consumer. And it will last longer than the notorious 8 seconds.

Storytelling forms a strong connection between your brand and its consumer. That’s why it is important to control the way your story is told. Your storyteller must have a deep understanding of your brand and its history. The story told on social media should be a part of an overall brand story that has been integrated across all media and communication channels.

Powerful storytelling enhances your brand, especially if it’s part of a cohesive approach. Is online storytelling part of your brand story?

GillespieHall is an integrated marketing and digital PR firm. Our award-winning team is comprised of astute PR communicators, sociologists, digital strategists, and creative content designers. We are leaders in exceptional results-based marketing, brand development and crisis management. Follow @GILLESPIEHALL on Twitter.

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Stay Ethical, Don’t Exploit

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When we see an opportunity for a client, it’s in our nature to seize it. It’s our job, after all. It’s also the job of public relations professionals to advocate for clients and we should have the sense to judge what opportunities are appropriate and when they might be crossing a line. Too often companies and organizations are chastised for taking advantage of a current event, pop culture happening or even a tragedy to get their brand attention.

There are plenty of examples where companies took their publicity a step too far after a tragedy or negative occurrence, both accidentally and intentionally.

  • Malaysia Airlines promoted a Bucket List contest, asking consumers what places they’d like to see before they die. This came after the tragic disappearance of Flight 370 and after Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine.
  • DiGiorno hopped on the hashtag bandwagon a little too quickly after the NFL suspended Ray Rice for abusing his wife. Thousands of Twitter users took to using #WhyIStayed to share their abuse stories and DiGiorno didn’t check the context of the tag before shooting out a response of ‘you had pizza’.
  • MSN’s Biggest PR Blunders of 2014 list rounds up more specifics pretty well.

These companies promptly issued apologies and/or made corrections to their public relations and social media efforts. However, it’s always better not to have to ask for forgiveness because you didn’t stray off the path of ethics in the first place.

The lesson your parents always tried to burn into your brain of “think before you speak” couldn’t be more applicable in our world. In this case it’s more so “think before you act and set your client up for some serious negative backlash”. Trust me, even though you might be receiving dozens of emails asking why they aren’t in the news, asking to get them some press, they would much rather sit back and wait for the right story than jump on board with the wrong one.

How can you be sure to stay ethical and not make the mistakes of these well-known, previously well-respected brands?

  • Trust your instincts
    You know right from wrong. If you are feeling a little wary about pitching a story because you feel it might be exploitive, you’re probably right. It’s not worth potentially ruining your reputation with a journalist and painting your client in a bad light.
  • Ask a mentor
    That’s what they’re there for. If you’ve hit a point where you’re just not sure whether you should go with a story or not, just ask. Chances are you’ll be respected for checking in and you’ll get a good conversation out of it where you might learn a few things.
  • Explain
    So you decided to do the ethical thing and your client isn’t pleased. Instead of getting defensive, walk them through your thought process. Create a case study to show them the negative ramifications of pouncing on a story in an exploitive way. This is what they’re paying you for, after all.

This isn’t to say there won’t be instances where your client’s services, expert advice or products shouldn’t be talked about following a sad event or a bad situation. If the organization offers counseling, for example, they should surely be getting the word out after a tragedy; because what they are doing will help others. There are absolutely ways for brands, organizations and companies to respond to situations appropriately and in a non-exploitive manner. The important thing for public relations professionals to do is make the judgment call.

There are some things you can’t (and shouldn’t) try to put a spin on. Exploiting a sad or bad situation purely for client gain is wrong. Knowing and acknowledging that is what separates the experts from those just trying to climb the ladder.

London Faust is an Account Representative at Bellevue Communications Group, a public relations firm specializing in media relations, crisis communications and issue management. She is forever #TempleMade, class of 2014. Follow her personal ramblings on Twitter at @londonfaust or her professional doings at @BellevuePRPhl.

Political vs. Branding Campaigns: What Politicians are Doing Right

polsmSocial media has invariably changed communication. So far, nothing has been off limits from social promotion, including Mountain Dew’s Dewrito, a Doritos-flavored soft drink (yes it exists).

The growing trend in the social media atmosphere has shifted into the realm of politics, as politicians increasingly campaign on Twitter. A recent study by PEW Research has shown that 1/4 of registered voters now get political news through their cell phones, 16% of registered voters also follow political figures on Twitter.

Politicians seem to be enjoying this, as it allows them to connect with their constituency and opposition in a unique way. Politicians are now able to use live monitoring via social media in order to understand and inform voters about their stances on issues. They also use software to monitor their opposition, taking screenshots of their pages as soon as changes are made and often catching the opposition off guard.

So what can be taken from these campaigns for your next campaign?

Proofread, Proofread, and Proofread!
Remember to check and double-check every Tweet before it’s sent out. If you’re running a campaign, odds are that no one will notice if you mess up a Tweet and delete it quick enough. Politicians don’t have this luxury, as competition is constantly monitoring campaign handles for updates. A screw-up is liable to land you on the front page of PolitWoops, a website that takes screenshots of all updates, and uploads the botched Tweets. Please folks, don’t be like Senator Hatch; proofread as if all of your Tweets are monitored, even when they aren’t.

SenHMake Connections
As we all know (or should know) social media is all about sharing content and making valuable connections with others. So why should it be any different for your campaign? Politicians know and understand this. They use it to their advantage by interacting with their constituency and sharing important updates. The PEW study showed that 41%, up from 22% in 2010, of those polled said that finding out about political news before others is a “major reason” why they follow political figures on social media.

To put it simply, most politicians are doing it right. Some 78% of Americans who follow political figures on social media say that the content posted by those figures is mostly interesting and relevant. The 16% of registered voters that follow a political figure are more likely to participate in campaigning and are 11% more likely to volunteer their time toward that figure than a non-follower.

Any PR pro will tell you that social media isn’t just about the number of followers you have, it’s about the valuable connections you make. A balance must be struck between pushing your wants and what your audience wants. As such, there can be a variety of ways to be more than just a walking-talking-tweeting ad. The key to creating a dedicated following, is finding what your niche audience wants and giving it to them.

Know your Limits
Remember that social media isn’t the king of all platforms yet. It’s still growing and professionals are still learning.  The story of social media is still being written and we are the authors of its’ early chapters. Social media campaigning is a great way to target select demographics, but not all. I think Gregg Peppin, spokesman for Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson, said it best in an article for the Minnesota Post, “You have to be able to differentiate from what’s feel good and what’s effective,” he said. “There are plenty of people who want to tell you that you will hit this demographic and that demographic if you are on social media,” he said. “It almost gets down to a subliminal hit rather than an overall effective message. It’s a rifle versus a shotgun.”

Though there are some drawbacks to social media campaigns. For instance, a politician must be able to differentiate effective messages to target their audience. Just as well, something buzz worthy is usually just short-lived attention toward the campaign. Keep these tips in mind the next time a campaign idea floats around the office.

Fred Lunt IV is a recent graduate of Temple University. Fred is also a Social Media Analyst and consultant at Mobile First Media, a healthcare public relations and marketing agency specializing in digital and mobile technology.

 

Protecting Your Personal Brand on Twitter

Today, more and more people are focused on building and maintaining their personal brands. This is especially true for those of us working in the communications field. When it comes to your personal brand, there isn’t much that is more telling than your social media presence.

We know that current and future employers will check our social accounts, but these platforms are also where we express personal opinions, connect with friends, and more. With our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest pulling double duty, it can be very difficult to strike the right balance between personal and professional. For many people, the platform that seems to give them the most trouble is Twitter.

One of my favorite PR pros (and fellow Temple Alum), Jason Mollica, recently had a post published on PR Daily that tackled the tricky question of whether people should have two Twitter accounts — one professional and one personal. In the post, Jason gives several reasons why one account is enough, and I have to say, I’m inclined to agree.

In addition to the points made by Jason in his post, for me it comes down to something simple — if you don’t want people to see it, it shouldn’t be online in the first place. If you take care to ensure that you’re never posting anything inappropriate, then you won’t have to worry about setting up two separate Twitter accounts. The same logic goes for retweeting — just because you didn’t type the words yourself doesn’t mean you can’t be held accountable for them once they are on your feed.

My boss is something of a social media guru and we follow each other on Twitter, so I always use her as my barometer when tweeting. If I think she’d have a problem with my words (or pictures), then I don’t press send.

Your boss may not be Twitter-savy, or maybe you are the boss, but you should always have someone in mind when you are about to send a tweet. Taking that extra moment to reflect on your post before you hit send can save you in the long run.

No one is saying you can’t have fun on Twitter. In fact, inserting your personality and opinions only adds to the authenticity of your personal brand, but they key is to always be mindful of your content.

What guidelines do you use to protect your personal brand on Twitter? Do you have two accounts or have you managed to balance everything using one account?

This post was written by PPRA Blog Chair Lauren Cox. Lauren is a Public Relations Specialist in the Office of the CIty Representative, where she works on the City’s major events like the Wawa Welcome America! Festival and the GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.