Monday, July 27, 2009

Local Media Report on Research Resources

By Mary Lower

My experience with the media is a unique one – I began my career working part time my senior year in college at the local affiliate ABC nightly newscast running the soundboard, character generator and the 8-track music cart for the evening news. (3/4 inch video tape was the cutting edge technology of the day- not that I’m aging myself with that fact...)

Being in the newsroom, I understood the immediacy and do or die pressure that a producer feels because when the clock strikes 10 pm, the show starts ready or not. With competitive pressure from other sources and mediums, the media has to supply the best coverage and source information to keep the viewer/listener/reader tuned in and satisfied.
No longer on the media team, rather now pitching stories to editors, reporters, and producers, I know that the need for quality storytelling has not changed. What has changed is how people are researching stories and finding sources.

The public relations industry has changed dramatically over the past 15-20 years….over the past few years social media has been a game changer in its own right…but that’s a whole different blog.

To research information for an upcoming presentation, I spoke to a number of traditional media professionals – TV, radio, newspaper and magazine news coverage decision makers - and polled them on a number of questions regarding press releases, social media and research.

Speaking from strictly a traditional media point of view, the answers I received reinforce the fact that: 1) media begets media. 2) if you’re not establishing yourself as an expert in your field, you’re not going to be tapped as a third party source by the media to contribute to stories that have the potential of having direct reach to your potential customer. 3) If you’re not paying attention to how you’re being found and perceived online then you’re really missing the boat. 4) If you don’t have a relationship with the media you’re not going to be the first source considered to get the interview.

When I asked a dozen local professionals the top three ways he/she researches stories, here is what I learned:

  • Sources, sources, sources. I live and die with my sources / experts in the field/ contacting associations for detailed information/ calling people I know in the industry (12)
  • Online research/ earnings reports/ conference calls/ government sites/ reviewing industry web sites/ journals/ Wikipedia/ Google News search (11)
  • Our news archives/ news clip library/ other producers (6)
  • Through the local news media/find other stories written on the same theme (3)
  • Check web site of the event or person I’m writing about (2)
  • Business-related books

I’ve had clients land radio interviews because of magazine articles I’ve placed and I’ve grown a single TV interview into a series of interviews once the client’s expertise was established. I’ve even landed my business partner paid speaking opportunities targeting ideal clients all from a 3 ½ minute TV interview.

My question to you is simply this – if you’re seeking media attention from mainstream (or social) media – are you proactively or reactively interacting with the media decision makers in a meaningful way that helps them do their job? Are you making it easy to be searched and found? Are you taking advantage of every media opportunity? You never know when a quick expert quote or small mention in a neighborhood paper can lead to front-page coverage.

Mary Lower is President and Chief Storyteller at Sterling Cross Communications offering clients integrated public relations, social media and web development. She can followed on Twitter @PRMoxie.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Global Marketing – Marketing to Customers Ready to Buy – Part 2

By Rodney Hiel

Making lemonade to refresh your bottom line in this challenging economy requires a new perspective in leveraging “growing” international markets. The first markets to consider that continue to thrive through this downturn have been commonly referred to as the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China). With strong growth rates in certain sectors and various governmental stimulus programs in place, this can provide direction to your greatest international sales potential.

For example in consumer products, China’s retails sales have continued their double digit climb. With government rebate incentives contributing a few points to the growth, as stated by Cheng Siwei, a highly respected Chinese government leader in a May speech at the University of Minnesota, consumer spending grew over 15% in the first quarter of this year. In January, auto sales in China continued to thrive and surpassed US volumes for the first time in history and are up 21% over the first six months of last year. Here, GM sales are up 38% year on year (led by minivans) for this time period and hold a large share of this growing market. They will continue to invest billions to grow this market for the future.

On the B2B side, a $580B stimulus package by the Chinese government was announced in November of last year. This has been steadily applied to rural infrastructure development, education, high tech, and healthcare among other industries. This creates multiple opportunities and generates significant revenues for companies serving these industries. The stimulus package is one indicator to provide strong evidence of immediate opportunities to leverage.

Connecting your products to these trends is the next step in defining the size and potential of the opportunity to your company. Developing your strategy to get to these customers and effectively navigate the many cultural, political, and legal variations of each market can make the first step challenging. Given your resources and competencies, do you have what it takes to efficiently get your products to foreign customers?

If these markets currently provide strong revenue growth for your competitors, waiting on the sideline “for the right time” is no longer an option in today’s economy. Here’s the target and it’s time to make lemonade!

Rodney Hiel is the Managing Director for Asia Business Consulting. Minnesota based Asia Business Consulting strategically researches, develops, and tactically executes a proven process to create cost effective strategies for market entry in today’s Southeast Asia and China.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Which Keywords Will Make Your Business Money?

By Craig Key

If you’ve asked yourself this question – you are off to a really great start. At the core of any web based marketing should be the ability to analyze which kind of web visitor is converting (to a sale, a lead, an email signup, etc), and adjusting to try to maximize those conversions. With web analytics tools, you can literally see which keywords sent traffic to your site, and which ones convert at a higher rate than others.

Most of the time we try hard to use SEO (search engine optimization) to increase visibility on the keywords that describe our products. For instance, if I have a shoe store – I want people to find my site when they search for “dress shoes” or “mens shoes” or “kids tennis shoes.” But often there is one group of keywords that get overlooked – and they probably have a higher conversion rate than any other traffic source for your website: brand searches.

Keyword Searches for Your Brand Name: The Unsung Hero
Users who search for “Craig’s Shoes” were already looking for me – and if they are seeking me out specifically, they are likely going to convert at a much higher rate than someone who has never heard of you before. Often times we overlook this in analyzing keyword traffic – most SEOs want to brag about the non-brand keywords that they’ve produced. And they should – ranking on “shoes” would be an incredibly valuable asset to my shoe store. But all of my competitors want to rank there too – and it will no doubt be difficult to near impossible for my little old shoe store to rank on such a powerful keyword.

When we can’t rank on the obvious keywords, we reach into the “long tail” of keyword research. This means aiming for more specific, but less popular keyword searches. Instead of “shoes,” you might try “brown leather men’s dress shoes,” to find a sweet spot that is searched often enough to send some traffic, but not so competitive that you don’t have a prayer.

The Other Long Tail: It’s Not Just About Your Products
Getting specific in the long tail is great (and you should do this), but what about getting more people to search for your brand? We already know that those keywords convert well, so we don’t have to put a lot effort into trying them out and seeing if they work.

There are lots of ways to go about this; buying a super bowl ad is one way, an online marketing campaign that throws around words like “viral” and “buzz” is another way. But I’m writing about SEO – and, I’d like to share a thought on how to increase brand searches by moving away from your brand, and your products, and into content that matters to your customers.

lifestyle-keywordsThink about the process a person goes through when looking for your product (this has been called the “path to conversion”). What will they type in before they are ready to buy shoes? What are they interested in? Build content on your site that will be relevant to your target shopper, so that you can get their eyeballs on your site as early and as often in the product research process as possible.

Building out content that is optimized around these “lifestyle keywords” will bring more people to your site before they’re even thinking about buying your products or services. But (drum roll), the next time they do need that pair of shoes, you can bet that they’ll have you in mind – and will likely search for your brand – a keyword which will convert very well.

Craig Key is a Social Media Planner for space150's Modern Media division. He also co-founded the music blog, and writes for his personal blog:

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Monday, July 6, 2009

The Brand of You in a Digital Age

By Tim Brunelle

Who are you, and how do other perceive and learn more about you? Just a few years ago these questions typically required face-to-face communication or were facilitated with printed materials—a magazine profile, a book, a laminated portfolio. Not anymore.

Since Al Gore invented the Internet, the means by which your personal and professional identity is (or isn't) communicated has become increasingly more complex.

Who are you? Go ahead, do some "ego surfing." Type your name into Google. Then enter some friends, colleagues, competitors, employees, brands. Try the same approach on YouTube, where roughly 10% of all search traffic now occurs. Try Yahoo. Try LinkedIn. Try Facebook. Try Twitter Search. Try Technorati. Try Wikipedia.

This is primarily how the world comes to know who you are today. Or doesn't come to know. Or comes to know an aspect of your life you'd prefer they didn't, at least, not initially.

This circumstance is unavoidable. As a professional, as a personal brand, as an employee and employer, you simply can't or shouldn't avoid the care and feeding of your digital self.

The process isn't terribly laborious—much of it a one-time exercise. But there are all kinds of tips, tricks and best practices you can employ to improve, counter and otherwise maintain the portrait you'd prefer people see of you online. This is what Greg and I will be talking about on Thursday, July 9 at Grumpy's in Roseville.

Please bring your laptop. We're assuming Grumpy is hip enough for wifi. So the last half of our presentation will include a mini-workshop to help you activate the tools which best suit the story you're hoping to tell about yourself online.

See you there!

Tim Brunelle is a writer and the Chief Executive Officer at Hello Viking. He got a degree in Jazz before starting in advertising in 1993. He’s worked for TBWA, Ogilvy, Mullen and was most recently Head of Interactive at Carmichael Lynch.

To attend the event "The Brand of You in a Digital Age" this week, please register online.

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