Lisa Hawes

6 Family-Focused Blogger Events for Your 2015 Marketing Calendar

Senior account executive Pouneh Lechner attended Blogger Bash in New York City this year with our client NETGEAR.

Senior account executive Pouneh Lechner attended Blogger Bash in New York City this year with our client NETGEAR.

Sadly, I’m not a mommy so until a couple of years ago, I hadn’t read many so-called “mommy blogs.” While aware that traditional corporate branding is under siege by word-of-mouth marketing, my attention used to gravitate toward B2B influencers and mainstream media. However, a year ago, Sterling began working with the WiFi Family sales team within NETGEAR that promotes mobile WiFi hotspots designed for AT&T service. Our top target for hands-on product reviews: mommy bloggers! I had to get up to speed quickly on the personalities and the events.

“Mommy blogger” is too narrow a definition to encompass the broad variety of people who review products on personal blogs, and it has a condescending ring. Yes, many are indeed parents and grandparents who blog as a hobby, but many are also sophisticated entrepreneurs who offer vendor sponsorship opportunities through an extensive network of partners. As my colleague noted in her post last month, you’ll meet ex-Fortune 500 executives turned fashion bloggers, stay-at-home moms turned tech evangelists, and spouses or siblings that use their blogging activities to promote a family business.

For all the gnashing of teeth of how technology and social media are ruining “true” social relationships, face-to-face events — conventions, really — are increasingly popular in the blogging world. Bloggers and brands want to connect with each other for sponsorships, advertisements, giveaways, and product reviews, and nothing beats an in-person meeting to boost trust on both sides. Moreover, these events provide bloggers who may be stay-at-home workers an opportunity to network with their peers and share lessons learned about growing their social businesses.

Through our work with NETGEAR WiFi Family, we’ve had the pleasure of attending a number of events scattered across the US. Below is a snapshot description of a half-dozen of these events:

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A Reflection on Brand Marketing and the 2014 World Cup 

I was in Brazil for the first two weeks of the World Cup and was lucky enough to be among the over 154,000 American ticket holders, the largest contingent of traveling supporters outside of the host nation. It’s estimated that over 40 million Americans streamed the games, up 44% from the 2010 World Cup. With such a large audience, it’s only natural that some brand marketing lessons should emerge, right?

As all good communicators know, reputation is forged by all stakeholders in the brand or organization, and soccer teams are no different. The players, management, and fans are brand representatives, on and off the field. Every player, fan, coach, manager, government, and organizing body contributes to — or detracts from — the team’s reputation with their words and actions.

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Live Tweeting at Conferences

texting at conference

The warm summer weather ushers in a flurry of high tech conferences and events, ranging from the consumer-focused Apple Worldwide Developers Conference and E3 to enterprise-focused events like GigaOm Structure and Fortune Brainstorm Tech. Thousands of people attend these events, with many more following the news from home. Leveraging Twitter enables conference attendees to share/discuss the experience with other attendees as well as their followers. For those who are new to live-tweeting at events, here are a few pointers to get you started:

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A New Year’s Resolution You Can Keep: How to Re-Vamp Your Social Media Habits for 15 Minutes a Day

January1I’ve tried making resolutions every January 1st and found that making small changes in my daily routine is what works best. For instance, instead of trying to lose 15 pounds, I’ve tried to work out every morning before heading into the office. The same goes for my social media habits. Sometimes I spend way too much time reading my Twitter feed; other days, I’ve noticed I have completely neglected my LinkedIn account and forgotten to reply to comments and messages on Facebook.

Devoting just 15 minutes per day, on the other hand, keeps social media management quick and consistent.

You may be thinking, “Only 15 minutes?” But, you’d be surprised how much you can accomplish in that timeframe! Let me break it down for you. 

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The Human Aspect of Social Media and Guidelines for Handling a Crisis

‘I knew I was going down’: 78-year-old Boston Marathon runner Bill Iffrig captured in viral photoWatching the aftermath of the Boston Marathon tragedy really hit home for me. Boston was  the place I called home for 11 years. I have family and close friends who live there. As a proud graduate of Boston University, I remember enjoying sunny afternoons on Patriots’ Day cheering on the valiant runners as they came through Kenmore Square on their way to the finish line. I was deeply saddened to hear the news that one of the victims killed was a BU student. During my days as a broadcaster in the area, I often stood right at the finish line just steps away from where the explosions went off, waiting to interview local runners as they reveled in their accomplishment. It’s hard for me to comprehend how such a joyous event can turn into a horrifying disaster in the blink of an eye.

Over the past few days, I’ve been consuming the news coverage, reading the latest online reports and viewing the responses stream across Facebook and Twitter, and it amazes me the power that social media has over traditional media channels. This coming from an old TV guy. At the time of the blasts, people began sharing the images of the chaotic scene across social media channels. It continues today with a tremendous outpouring of support for the City of Boston and the victims of this unspeakable tragedy. Folks from around the globe – celebrities, politicians, even the rival New York Yankees have joined together to demonstrate to all this city’s unity, strength and resilience. Seeing hashtags such as #BostonStrong, #PrayforBoston and #OneBoston littered across Twitter reinforces my belief that social media is not just another medium to promote the news, but a means of connecting human beings especially in the face of adverse conditions.

As PR and Social Media Managers, it is often our responsibility to handle communications when a crisis occurs. One can’t even imagine having to deal with a catastrophic event like the one that unfolded in Boston, but regardless of the situation, it’s our job to have a communication plan in place to control and effectively respond to a crisis as quickly as possible. Disseminating accurate information in a timely manner during a crisis is a priority, but social media has certainly changed the game. Too often media outlets put a priority on getting the news out first rather than getting it right. The Huffington Post learned this the hard way when it incorrectly reported that BU graduate student Zhou Danling was one of the fatalities of the Marathon bombings, when it fact, she survived the ordeal. They’ve since posted a retraction. This rush to report and scoop your competitors mentality can backfire and has certainly drawn its share of criticism.

You can never be too prepared when it comes to crisis management. Having a plan in place will help you deal with a terrible event like the one we saw this week. Here are a few guidelines to remember when dealing with a crisis situation:

  • Plan ahead – Don’t wait until crisis hits to put a crisis management plan together.
  • Act like a human being – Express empathy and concern when victims are involved.
  • Activate appropriate mechanisms to keep the public and media informed on an ongoing basis.
  • Integrate social media into your plan – Be quick, but get it right.
  • Keep your message simple and clear.
  • Select a primary spokesperson to represent the organization throughout the crisis process.
  • All communications should go through one channel.
  • Respond to incorrect information that may be circulating as necessary.

Ross Coyle is an Account Supervisor at Sterling Communications. Follow him on Twitter at @rossjcoyle

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A Beginner’s Guide to Twitter

TwitterI’m still amazed at how many CEOs and executives are still not on social media. Even more shocking is the percentage of people who are on social media who have no idea how to use it. I found myself making social media cheat sheets for client after client – especially for Twitter – and thought I’d write a post on Twitter basics to direct them to. At Sterling, we encourage our clients to be social, but only after the proper training, of course, to avoid gaffes like this and this.

Hashtags vs. Handles

A hashtag (#) is used to denote a conversation topic or what a particular tweet pertains to. Anyone can use or create a hashtag, and they are searchable. Say you’re looking into what’s being said about the Grammy’s, type #Grammys2013 in the search bar and every tweet using that tag will come up for your viewing pleasure. Twitter search is getting more advanced, so you can now do a one-word search without a hashtag and Twitter will pull all tweets containing that word. Hashtags cannot contain special characters (‘,$^& etc.). If you include these, your hashtag will stop before the special character. When using a hashtag containing multiple words, it’s best to capitalize the first letter of each word to help readers distinguish where one word starts and the other begins.

Handles (@) are Twitter usernames and can therefore only be owned by one person. Include handles when you want to engage a person or brand in conversation or when you want to attribute an article, quote or media to someone.

For example: A picture is worth a thousand words. Here are 26 of them: http://bit.ly/VA4Ori @Buzzfeed provides 26 #cats for every occasion #ILoveCats

The article is from Buzzfeed, and I’ve associated it with the topic of cats through the hashtags.

Pro tip: Place the link in the middle of the tweet because it usually garners more clicks than placing the link at the end. Sometimes, due to character constraints, it can’t be avoided.

Oh, did I mention all of this stuff –hashtag, handle and link– have to fit into 140 measly characters?!

Starting a tweet with a handle

Whenever you start a tweet with a handle, you are indicating that you are having a private conversation with whichever user you are tweeting to, and others are not exactly welcome to jump in. Tweets that start with handles can only be seen by those following BOTH the person tweeting and the person mentioned in the tweet. Since Twitter is a platform for conversation, this probably is not your intention. So, how to do you make the tweet public? Start your tweet with a period and then use the handle (.@), and it will be public and your tweeps will know that their input is welcome.

Example: .@Buzzfeed’s got 26 #cats for you for every occasion: http://bit.ly/VA4Ori Nothing says it quite like a gif #Kitties

RT vs. MT

Ok, so you’re down with the link and handle placement. “What now,” you’re asking. “What the heck are RT and MT?” RT stands for retweet. You use this when you like what someone has to say, and you want to share it and possibly add your own two cents.

For example: No more awkward emails, send gifs! RT @Buzzfeed 26 #cats for every occasion: http://bit.ly/VA4Ori 

You can also retweet without adding your own thoughts by either clicking retweet or throwing an RT in front of the tweet and adding the authors handle.

Example: RT @Buzzfeed 26 #cats for every occasion: http://bit.ly/VA4Ori 

Pro tip: If you’re participating in a Twitter chat (a conversation that takes places on a certain hashtag), your tweet will not show up in the feed if you click retweet; you have to add the RT like in the example above.

MT stands for modified tweet and is used when you want to retweet something that someone said but you make changes to it (probably for length).

Example: This is awesome guys! MT @Jazzpatron A pic is worth 1000 words: http://bit.ly/VA4Ori @Buzzfeed provides 26 #cats 4 every occasion #ILoveCats

The above tweet had to be modified for length in order for the retweeter to add his or her statement, so it is not a retweet, but rather, a modified tweet.

The most important thing to remember is that social media is supposed to be SOCIAL. Twitter is not a platform for you to blast out a bunch of messages (you won’t get followers that way). So, in summary: less of this —–> TwitterBird       and more conversation.

Now you’re armed and ready for the wide world of Twitter! Here’s a handy list of what you should and, more importantly, shouldn’t tweet about and a Twitter jargon reference guide – what does HTML even stand for anyway…?

Monika Hathaway can be reached at mhathaway@sterlingpr.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jazzpatron

Kawika

When is public relations more than PR?

'Aerial Of The Confluence' Fine Art Print by Sam AbellPublic relations has been at the heart of Sterling Communications since our founding in 1989. Relating to the public, in case it hasn’t become obvious this decade, requires far more than mere “PR.”

Public relations — at least to our high-tech and cleantech clients — has grown far beyond press releases about new products, speaking slots at tech conferences, or interviews with editors and analysts. These days, our clients want strategies and solutions for relating to the public through social media campaigns, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), website design, mobile apps, and even internal communications.

And they want this help integrated with their own marketing, sales, and business objectives in ways where results are unambiguous and meaningful.

Few other smaller agencies offer integrated communications, and none we know of are working to redefine “PR” this drastically. From a marketing perspective, creating a new category is challenging and expensive. Clients looking to define a new Magic Quadrant, for example, can spend enormous sums just to get analysts up to speed with their perspective — and with no guarantee of success.

Yet, new and existing clients keep asking us for insights, strategies and assistance with integrating their traditional and online communications. At the most basic level, clients want three things: awareness, influence and engagement. Awareness of what they stand for in the market, influence with the people who then influence decision makers in their industry, and engagement with the public in meaningful ways. Our job, then, is to provide the strategy, content, and results needed to make that a reality.

In 2013, you’ll begin to see some shifts in Sterling’s own PR as we raise awareness of this new approach, work to influence the industry about new opportunities, and engage with the public in ways that provide everyone involved with greater resources and better solutions. Currently, we’re providing integrated communications — a true confluence of traditional PR, social media, web design, SEO, and online marketing — for several clients. By the end of January, we’ll be able to share with everyone some of this fantastic new work.

If you’d like to learn more, let us know.

Kawika Holbrook is creative director at Sterling and can be reached at kholbrook@sterlingpr.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kawika or connected with him on LinkedIn.

Photo credit: ‘Aerial of the Confluence‘ fine art print by Sam Abell.

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8 Steps to Optimize Your Content for Search and Social

“Advertising is just renting the space. Content marketing is owning it.” — Arnie Kuenn

More and more, businesses are seeing the value of content marketing as an advertising tool and a way to position themselves as thought leaders in their respective industries. Content is the currency of the web. Buyers need content that makes them more knowledgeable on whatever topic they search for; businesses that provide that information will win. I was fortunate to hear a talk on this subject last month by Arnie Kuenn, CEO of Vertical Measures, a search, social and content marketing services company.

Content marketing strengthens the role of both search and social in our lives. The more good information there is on the Internet, the more people will go there to look for it. Content marketing’s goal is to get searchers to your website. The statistics Kuenn provided about search were really surprising and intriguing:

  • 93 percent of all buyers online or in stores use search prior to making a purchase
  • 86 percent of searchers conduct non-branded queries. (Ex: What is the best surfboard?)
  • 94 percent of buyers click on organic links versus six percent on paid links for branded queries.

Here are his eight steps for the convergence of search, social and content marketing:

  1. Strategy development
    • Your strategy will evolve through the whole process.
    • Why are you creating the content you are creating?
    • Who is your audience?
    • Who are you? – Determine your voice.
    • What types of content will you create?
    • How will you develop your content?
    • When will you develop your content?
    • What does success look like?
    • What is difference a year from now?
  2. Research
    • Get as much of your staff together as you can (face-to-face) and ask them what they get asked all the time.
    • The content you produce should answer those questions.
    • Look at Q &A sites: what questions are people asking most frequently?
    • Put your content in a spreadsheet and create an editorial calendar.
  3. Content creation – ideas for different types of content
    • Interviews – help make you the expert
    • Videos – interviews, fun, behind the scenes, user generated.
    • Lists (ex: best places to ski)
    • Curation or aggregation (11 lessons, 7 tips, etc.)
    • Free guides – good content that people will share, generate leads, build your list for you (ex: Guide to the best Southern California beaches)
    • When you produce content, it stays on the web until you want to take it down. Although the content may not be fresh, it will generate leads and traffic.
    • Content that is longer than 1,800 words tends to get more links than shorter posts.
  4. Content optimization
    • Check list: webpages, news, local, images and videos
    • Links pointing to your content
    • Titles and title tags (viewed in search results)
    • Description meta tag (viewed in search results)
    • Image alt text tags
    • H1 Tag (headline tag – only one!)
    • Page load times
    • Freshness of content
    • URL structure (short and includes keywords)
  5. Content promotion
    • Understand who your customer is and where they are online.
    • Conduct PR and blogger pitches
    • Develop relationships and build partnerships
    • People share your ideas, link to your content. Mentions and shares are signals (especially G+)
    • Pinterest?
  6. Content distribution
    • What channels are the best fit for the type of content you want to share?
    • Who would be most interested in this content and where are they?
  7. Link building
    • Who or if someone will link to your content is out of your hands.
    • Promotion, distribution and value of content are the biggest determining factors.
  8. Measurement
    • Measure for successes and failures
    • Check your rankings, traffic, conversions and other key metrics
    • Focus on the strategies that are providing the best ROI and keep rolling out the content

Happy curating!

Monika Hathaway can be reached at mhathaway@sterlingpr.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jazzpatron

Image: dailyblogma.com