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Data, Data, Everywhere


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Lets talk about big data because, well, everyone else seems to be. 

Many PR professionals I know tend to stress about big data for no other reason than there is so much of it, and they don’t know how to use it effectively. So, where do we start? Lets begin with the basics:

There are two main uses for big data in PR: planning and storytelling.  

Using big data, PR pros can create data-driven client reports and strategies based on results from previous campaigns. Identifying which types of posts got the most attention, which blogs received the most clicks, and which garnered the most engagement is invaluable for coming up with strategies that resonate with your target audiences. 

Your client has been aggregating usable data for as long as they’ve been online. Taking a look at this data and how it has changed over time makes it easier to create compelling stories about growth, industry change, and market trends. 

Lucky for all of us who are better with words than data analysis, there are free tools available that make using big data for PR and social media planning much easier. 

Okay cool -- but how do I get that data? 

Google has great tools for collecting and analyzing your data, and while these metrics aren’t new, they are often under-utilized in our industry. 

Google’s analytics platform measures every what, when, where, why, and how of your site visitors. These stats go a step beyond social media’s "vanity metrics" and track the assisted social conversations throughout the entire search and engagement process. Using that data, you can determine what an audience liked or disliked on the pages you manage, and in turn influence future outcomes. For example, you can incorporate the key words that resonated with your audiences into future pitches, outreach, and social media posts. 

Google’s Databoard application is the company's way of sharing insights gained from Google research studies. It also has capabilities that allow you to create custom visual representations of your clients' data for reports or shareable infographics that will drive your target audiences back to your website.  

I’m actually embarrassed to say that I just started using Google Trends, an awesome tool that lets you pull data about everything from Miley Cyrus to the most-searched chemical elements. Using this tool you can enter in your search term and track data trends by region, interest over time, and related information. 

The point is, our job in PR doesn't end with a placement or creation of collateral like a white paper. That one piece of content can go so much farther by using big data analytics to create new pitches, infographics, or posts. Across the board, PR pros now have an opportunity to use data not just to create compelling stories, but to support positive business outcomes.   

Looking For a Job in PR? The Role of a PR Professional Today


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Earlier this year, US News and World Report issued two best job reports that ranked PR specialist among the nation’s best jobs – Best Creative Jobs in 2015 ranked it as number one and 100 Best Jobs put it at number 75.

Per the US News and World Report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts more than 45,000 new architects, PR specialists, and art directors will be needed this decade. What’s more, employment in public relations is expected to grow 12 percent between 2012 and 2022, with an addition of 27,000 jobs.

While public relations jobs top many of the fun or creative job lists, it also tops many of the most stressful lists, such as the Career Cast “Most Stressful Jobs of 2014.”  Public relations executives rank number six on this list, right up there with airline pilot (#4), firefighter (#3), military general (#2), and enlisted military personnel (#1).

So what is a PR specialist anyway? A PR specialist creates and maintains a favorable public image for their employer or client. They write material for media releases, plan, and direct public relations programs. The role of a public relations professional has really expanded over the last few years to accommodate the changing media and marketing landscape. Here are a few roles someone interested in PR could look into.

Corporate Communications

Many organizations seek a head of communications to develop messaging objectives consistent with the organization’s goals. If the organization doesn’t hire an outside agency (and sometimes even if they do), they will look for a skilled professional who has experience with internal and external communications of all varieties – crisis, media relations, analyst relations, strategy, etc. This person often has a seat at the executive management table to recommend best practices or strategy in relaying company information to the public.

Crisis Communications

A crisis can hit in many forms – a high-profile oil spill for a major company like the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a key member of the organization or company coming under public scrutiny, or a food product company dealing with contamination recall. Establishing methods and policies to be used if an emergency should strike is key for this position. This could include policies and procedures for the distribution of the information to employees, media, government, and other key audiences.

Public relations professionals decide how the organization will repair the damage to its image, communicate how it is dealing with the problem and regain control of its message. This position often deals with high-stress accounts and requires the ability to stay cool under pressure.

Social Media

An emerging ask of many public relation firms is to launch or maximize an organization’s use of social media to build or support its image. Managing a Twitter feed, a Facebook page, LinkedIn page, and a YouTube channel are all vital ways to connect with possible new customers or stakeholders. Monitoring public comments about the organization can also give early warnings of any emerging trends or problems. 

This role popped a few years ago as a specialist position but is now moving toward being more a skill set that all PR professionals should have knowledge of rather than a position in and of itself.  In addition, the management of social channels typically falls into the larger, overall PR strategy for the company.

Public Affairs

A person in this position communicates mostly with the government and groups highly involved in societal (public) policies, action, and legislation. Unlike government relations, where the practitioner works strictly on behalf of an organization, public affairs is concerned with the effect of public policies, actions and legislation on its publics 

Community Relations

Organizations that have strong ties to the community often hire someone to be a liaison to the community in which they serve to build a continuing community relations program to be comprehensive and effective.  While these programs aren’t important for all organizations, those focusing on improving community relations will need someone who can bridge the business/community gap and enhance the organization’s image and reputation.

Content Management and Messaging

A person in this role often manages all internal and external messaging to define the corporate narrative and brand image. The person that fills this position typically has exceptional writing capabilities and is able to author powerful and thought-provoking white papers, case studies, keynote presentations, and thought-leadership pieces in addition to other communication initiatives like rebranding.

These are just a few of the avenues a person could take when navigating their public relations career.  PR can take on many forms within a company or agency and many companies roll their PR initiatives into communications or marketing departments. Likewise, many agencies have multiple employees who are specialized in certain areas or have a broad range of skill sets to serve individual client needs. Over time, a PR professional will hone their strengths and find roles that support what interests them most.

Do-It-Yourself Media Relations CTA Blog

The Best and Worst of PR Measurement – Round 4: Ranking Placements



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In this next edition of our look at common types of public relations measurement, we will look at measurement based on ranking placements according to influence or significance of the publication to a given company and/or by the length and tone of the coverage (such as a mention vs. profile, etc).


What it is:

Ranking publications in a tier-like format is a practice that a few of our clients have adhered to over the past few years and it has worked relatively well for us (and them). What it does is break down publications into three (or more) primary groups: 1 for top-tier or feature profiles, 2 for secondary publications or round up stories, and 3 for lower-tier, more easily achieved placements. 

Goals can then be set based on determining how many 1, 2, and 3 placements can be achieved in a given timeline. This method provides a more accurate look at what the placements mean to the company as opposed to just saying 6 placements were achieved in the month of January.

Additionally, the ability to pick what placements fall into the set categories helps to make sure rankings align with business goals. Companies can really look at what publications or types of stories would move the needle for them and rank them accordingly to properly set goals for PR efforts.

For example, rankings for one of our clients include:

  • 1: A top-tier national publication OR an article in a key trade pub. Sure, a piece in the Wall Street Journal or similar top tier publication would be ideal – but chances are it is a long shot for the average company. So companies need to determine what their reach goal is, as well what type of stories would also be considered a major win and is a bit more achievable. In many cases, this could be an article in a sought after trade publication that profiles your company specifically, as opposed to a round up.
  • 2: A trade publication specific to your industry or an important vertical. These articles will likely be seen by key industry players and potential customers that, as a result of the article, may become a lead. This might also include a profile article in a mainstream local publication or an authored article in a trade publication, which enables your company to fully tell their message and views.
  • 3: A lower-tiered publication such as a local publication or one that has limited scope. While this type of news may not have a business impact, it will keep beating the drum and letting people your company has an ongoing stream of news.



A reason why a lot of our clients like this method is because it is numbers based – providing a clear-cut way to measure against goals. One of the hardest parts of PR measurement is the number of different interpretations there are when it comes to measurement. Assigning a ranking system leaves little wiggle room for higher-ups to determine if goals have been met or not and provides more insight into what coverage is doing for the company that a large list of placements.

Another benefit is that this form of measurement can be specifically tailored towards a given company. Most likely every company we work with has a different view of success and a different end-goal. Using a ranking system allows companies to determine what placements equal a success to them. Unlike other measurement systems that apply the same metrics across placement regardless of end-goals, a ranking system allows companies to think through which placements follow their definition of a win and enables the agency to measure against that standard. 


With ranking publications, it is often hard to determine what pubs fall into which category. While this may seem like a simple task, it oftentimes is more difficult than PR professionals would like.

For instance, a story in the New York Times would undeniably be a win and a top-tier publication that we would rank a 1. However, if a story in Government Computer News helps to move the needle more for a company and ultimately creates more legitimate leads – should that also be considered a 1 even if it is less broadly viewed?

The problem then becomes, if rankings are set from the beginning of a relationship, there is no way to truly tell what kind of impact an article will have until after it runs and you are able to measure the increased web traffic, leads, etc. The best option is more of a guess and check method, whereas placements are analyzed after running and then it is determined between the company and agency where the placement should fall. While this is hard because the rankings are subjective – one person’s 2 may be another person’s 1 – hopefully there are enough facts to make a legitimate recommendation as to which category a placement should go under.

Additionally, with this method there would need to be a different system set up to measure non-placement goals such as social media, etc. as ranking is strictly limited to measuring media placements.

Overall assessment: 

Overall, the clients we have worked with that use ranking as their form of measurement have been pleased with the method. Given that they are able to tailor the ranking to their definition of a success, it is unique to each client and makes it clear if these goals are achieved or not. 

While there would need to be a lengthy conversation in regards to what makes sense for a ranking system, once that is determined if provides a more realistic look at the value of placement and the view of quality of quantity as a one-1 would likely trump six-3’s in an average month.

Do-It-Yourself Media Relations CTA Blog

Blogging Q&A with Elisabeth Pendergrass, Marketing Manager, QSM


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Elisabeth has over nine years of experience working in software and technology marketing, and in 2009 she oversaw the launch of QSM’s blog, Practical Software Measurement. She was nice enough to answer a few questions for me about what prompted the business blog and how she gauges success. See her insights below:


Is your job solely focused on blogging and blog strategy, or are you responsible for other things? If so, what things?

We have a small marketing shop at QSM, so I am responsible for other marketing and promotional duties. This includes web content strategy, organizing in-house and external webinars, creating digital and print marketing materials for new product offerings, and managing PR strategy with SpeakerBox.

I work with QSM's head of web development, Mike Isack, to formulate content strategy, which is strongly targeted to our SEO goals. I handle blog posts related to QSM news and product offerings, but I also rely heavily on employees from all corners of QSM's business to provide fresh content relating to hot topics in our industry.

What prompted you to start QSM’s blog? Was it a tough sell to the executives, or was it a top down priority? 

It was definitely something that we saw other technology companies implementing as a place to share product news and company updates. It was also attractive from an SEO standpoint, in that it provided an avenue for creating new, targeted content. 

It wasn't a tough sell to our executives, but I think the time commitment and ability to provide consistent content was somewhat of a concern. It took us a little while to get a good rhythm going where the creation of new posts wasn't falling on one person or a small group of people, and taking too much time away from their other duties.

What was the thought process behind the original strategy? How has that strategy evolved over time?

Initially it was all about getting new, fresh content up on the site consistently, not as much about targeted keywords or topics. 

Our strategy has definitely evolved. We've actually taken some tips from SpeakerBox in getting more authors from different parts of the business involved. We've also created more structure around targeted keywords to use, subject matter to focus on, and overall blogging best practices. 

The strategy is still evolving as hot topics and client interests continually change, but I've certainly seen an improvement in the quality of content and diversity of authors in the past couple years.

What are your blogging goals? How often do you look at and refresh your blog goals and strategy?

The end goal is always to increase traffic and leads to the website, so my hope is that the blog will continue to aid in those efforts. I'd also like to increase discussion in our comments area and interaction, possibly with polls in the future. Having an open dialog with our clients and prospects is extremely valuable to developing future product offerings and research projects.

Realistically speaking, I would say we evaluate our goals and strategies yearly, though we do make minor tweaks to our best practices documents from time to time.

Which metrics do you track, and why? Are there any insights you’ve gleaned about your readership from tracked metrics?

We track page views, number of social shares, comments, and linkbacks. We've seen a direct correlation between individual authors sharing content on social media through personal accounts (as opposed to the corporate marketing account) and increased views and comments. Also, industry groups on LinkedIn have been extremely beneficial in getting our content out to new audiences.

IntheCapital Relaunches as DC Inno; Bisnow Celebrates 40 Under 40


"IntheCapital" Relaunches as "DC Inno"


DC Inno PeopleTuesday marked the launch, or relaunch as it were, of DC Inno. The media outlet, formerly known as IntheCapital hosted a couple hundred people at a party sponsored by DC Biz Labs at the offices at 1725 DeSales Street, NW, to celebrate the rebrand. DC Inno launched in Washington D.C. in 2012. As one of the District’s fastest-growing news properties, their mission is to disrupt the local news scene covering what’s new in local innovation across politics, tech, startups, business, finance, higher ed and city life. Next up in events from DC Inno are their State of Innovation in the spring anf DC Fest in the Fall. Chris Silberman of Flatworld Knowledge, Daniel Hanks of Pagnato Karp and Shana Glenzer and kevin Alansky of SocialRadar (see photo above) were all on hand to help toast the new brand.

40 Under 40

40 Under 40

Tonight, Bisnow hosted their "40 Under 40" celebration event at Disruption Corporation in Crystal City. Four hundred people turned out for the Mardi Gras-themed celebration emceed by Doug Anderson and Tania Anderson of Bisnow.

Paul Singh of Disruption Corporation delievered welcoming remards to the packed house (see photo) before the final list was announced.

You can check out the full list of honorees on the Bisnow site, and we were particularly proud to see clients Blake Hall and Matt Thompson of make the list.

Congratualtions to DC Inno, Bisnow and their respective sponsors for putting on two great events this week!

The Ultimate Guide to Sponsored Content


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I recently came across an incredibly interesting report by Digital Relevance called The Media Buyer’s Guide to Sponsored Content. The 36-page report takes an exhaustive look at the state of sponsored content and attempts to define a model for pricing (and purchasing) these types of opportunities.

First some interesting stats:

  • In 2013, brands spent on average 6.7 percent of their digital content marketing budgets on sponsored content (The Content Promotion Manifesto – also by Digital Relevance).
  • More than 60 percent of publishers offered sponsored content opportunities in 2013, and an additional 16 percent planned to add these opportunities in 2014 (Hexagram and Spada, 2014).
  • Native advertising spending in the U.S. is expected to increase from $1.3 billion in 2013 to $9.4 billion in 2018. Also, 40 percent of publishers expected native advertising to account for about 25 percent of their total digital revenue in 2014 (2014 Native Advertising Roundup).
  • Native advertising has been found to be more effective than traditional display ads. Twenty-five percent more consumers look at native ads than display ads, and native ads generate an 18 percent higher lift in purchase intent and a 9 percent higher lift for brand affinity (BIA/Kelsey, 2013).
  • However, there is some controversy with this ad format. Two-thirds of readers felt deceived upon learning that an article or video was sponsored by a brand, and 57 percent would prefer that their favorite news sites run banner ads instead of sponsored content (Contently Study, June 2014).

If the concept of sponsored content is unfamiliar to you, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) defines native advertising (of which sponsored content is an example) as, “paid ads that are so cohesive with the page content, assimilated into the design, and consistent with the platform behavior that the viewer simply feels that they belong.” Unlike advertorials, sponsored content does not actively promote a brand, product or service. Instead sponsored content is a perfect example of thought leadership that positions the author as an expert and seeks to inform or entertain the reader.

The benefits of sponsored content are clear. Publishers have a new revenue stream as traditional advertising dollars dry up, and advertisers get the benefit of a trusted environment and enhanced exposure to their highly targeted audiences. Though some publications like TechCrunch do not offer native advertising because of concerns about editorial integrity – many other reputable outlets like Forbes, The New York Times, Business Insider, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal do (click the links to see examples of sponsored content at each of these outlets). You’ll notice that each of these publications follows the IAB guidelines for sponsored content. The content is clearly marked as a sponsored post so that readers can easily distinguish between editorial and paid content. 

The final section of the report focuses on the pricing study. The authors of the report contacted 550 publishers including small bloggers and major publishing houses and asked for the minimum sponsored content pricing. Publishers often justify their pricing using factors like word count, user time on page, if links are available, lead capture, traffic, social media or email promotion, visibility time and number of articles in the package. The report authors focused on the quantitative data points that are more easily compared, namely Domain Authority, Page Authority, AlexaReach, and Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest following. The goal was to see how these data points correlate with pricing and offer tools to enable marketers to better negotiate with publishers about sponsored content.

In a nutshell, pricing for sponsored content at blogs varied from about $100 to more than $1,500 (mean $292, median $125). For the 76 publications in the study, pricing ranged from $120 to $150,000 (mean $15,600, median $6,250).

If you’re interested in doing the math yourself, the report authors used multiple regression analysis to develop a handy (but complicated) pricing model. For the rest of you, price highly correlated with Domain Authority, number of Facebook fans and PageRank. Pricing varied widely and was further complicated by the fact that some publications bundle sponsored content with other traditional advertising elements. By way of example, GigaOm charges $2,000 for a one-off sponsored article, while Business Insider charges $5,000 for a similar program. However, CIO charges $20,000 for 3 months and 2 articles per week maximum and Forbes charges $50,000 per month for a minimum of three months with unlimited articles.

Regardless of what avenue you choose, the report ends by reminding marketers to establish metrics in advance of beginning a native advertising program. A few metrics to consider include:

  • Impressions
  • Time on webpage
  • Reader engagement (social shares, comments, etc.)
  • Call-to-action metrics such as click-through rate
  • Conversion rate, bounce rate for those that clicked through to sponsor’s page

Be sure to check out this report if you’re considering a sponsored content program in 2015. We’d love to hear from you if you’ve got some interesting results or anecdotes to share.

- Katie 

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Defining the Indefinable, Or, How Public Relations is Like a Slinky


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A few weeks ago I was having dinner with a friend when the conversation took an intriguing turn.

“So, what is it that you do exactly?” asked my friend.

It struck me as an interesting question, since it was coming from a guy who I’ve known for several years. Clearly, my chosen profession was a mystery to him. Not necessarily because he didn’t know what I did, but because he did not really understand it -- at all.

“I work in public relations,” I responded.

“And that means?”

At that point, I paused, carefully considering what I should say next. I didn’t want to confuse him, but I wanted my response to be accurate and comprehensive.

“I help clients get the word out about their companies, people, and products, through things like the media, blog posts, white papers, and other types of communications.” Even that, of course, was a highly simplified way of putting it, but it was the best I could do without getting too far into the weeds.

The truth is, there is no longer a simple way to describe what we do.

We used to be able to say “public relations means media relations” and call it a day. Those days are long gone. Yes, the heart of PR is still centered on working with the media. But that work is complemented by a number of other disciplines that, even a year or two ago, would not have fallen under the PR umbrella.

For example, we’re beginning to see increased demand for search engine optimization services interwoven into the public relations framework. This is relatively new over the past year or so. SEO was once almost purely a technical discipline, handled separately from traditional marketing functions. SEO firms became a cottage industry, touting themselves as the go-to shops for optimization.

That siloed approach no longer works, for a couple of reasons. First, Google has continued to place a large emphasis on well-written content as a means of determining which pages to give credence to in search results. Even more so, it’s become clear that a well-executed marketing communications program must include many different aspects working in concert with each other, SEO included. Social media ties into media and analyst relations, which ties into SEO, which ties into white papers, blog posts, data sheets, and on and on.

Speaking of content – if media relations remains the heart of what we do, content is the brain. It’s been written that brain cells can live at least twice as long as the organisms in which they reside, and, just like that, the content that we produce can live forever, and in many forms. A white paper that shows thought leadership and industry expertise can reside on a company website, where it can drive search engine traffic; be used to create pitch angles that reporters might find interesting, leading to interviews with corporate executives; be promoted via Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn; and used as a sales tool during calls, at conferences, and elsewhere.

Plus, that content can be controlled. Whether it’s an authored article, white paper, data sheet, or something else entirely – the message is not left to a third party. It’s what the client wants their audiences to know, in its purest form. That’s powerful. And it lasts, and lasts, and lasts – read, absorbed, and shared over time, with, hopefully, a lead (or two, or three…) to show for it.

As you can see, I couldn’t really get into all this during my conversation with my friend. It’s actually hard enough trying to summarize it in this blog post

Suffice to say that I’m trying to give you the essence of what PR has become. It’s no longer easily defined. In fact, I’m not even sure it can be defined.

That’s not a bad thing by any means. Sometimes the best, most effective things in the world are those that we can’t put easy labels to. Hope. Creativity. The Slinky.

I’m guessing we’ll continue to see PR’s definition continue to change over the next year. By the time February 2016 rolls around, we’ll most likely be adding some new disciplines to what has become an all-encompassing and difficult to define practice.

How do you define public relations? Sound off in the comments below.

A Beginners Guide to SEO

Best Super Bowl Ad? Nationwide, and It Isn't Close.


Nationwide Meme


We've had plenty of subjective, emotional questions raised by Nationwide's uncommonly morose Super Bowl commercial. So let's start with an empirical one: Was the commercial a mistake?

Certainly not.

Nope. No chance. A billion dollar insurance company has never and will never spend $4.5 million placing ad creative that hasn't been thoroughly talked, tested, and focused-grouped into oblivion.

(Mind-numbing committee-based decisions are also why, as a whole, advertising is terrible -- but that's somewhat beside the point.)

So no, this wasn't an accident. Nationwide didn't have the real Super Bowl commercial on one server, and then some intern spilled Coke on the rack, and it switched up the connections.

Nationwide knew what reaction this commercial would receive. It wanted this reaction. That corporate "apology" mini-response was written before the Super Bowl -- bank on it.

Now was any of this a good idea? Well that's the real question.

If you ask me (and I guess you did by clicking my link -- unless you're one of the folks who's getting this column spammed to your inbox courtesy of the Gordon Biersch loyalty club mailing list we purchased) the answer is absolutely.


Not RelevantNot relevant, but this makes me laugh


For most companies, Super Bowl advertising is a bad investment.

You're trading millions of dollars for millions of "impressions" of your ad creative. If people like your commercial, you may get added to a few "best commercials" lists on Monday morning and rack up even more impressions.

But a single ad impression does not a sale convert (unless of course you're selling gardening shears that can slice through a Hyundai).

So what you're really paying for in this transaction is attention, not sales. In marketing, we call this attention "mind share."

Super Bowl advertisers want their spots to become mind share-seizing spectacles. And one of the best ways to accomplish that feat is through manufactured controversy.

After all, people (like me) are writing about Nationwide on the Internet this week more than any other advertiser. 

That, in itself, doesn't translate to revenues (especially when the sentiment is overwhelmingly negative), but it does garner attention -- that, and a heck of a lot of inbound links.

The important question becomes, where does all that attention go?

If you're smart (like Nationwide), you have an end-game in place. You have a microsite that begins the sales conversion process. And once you get people there, they see that it's a good cause, a noble campaign, with a free app, lots of helpful inbound marketing content and hey as long as you're here maybe you're in the mood for some discount insurance specials...

Make Safe Happen


Now let's talk about the "negative brand equity" problem.

Scary stuff, that. Surely if you release an ad that people dislike -- or worse, find semi-exploitative and tasteless -- that's going to do some damage, right?

Well, it depends.

If you're Warren Sapp and you've just assaulted two prostitutes in your Phoenix hotel room, then yes, the bad press will be damaging. But if you're Nationwide, will anyone really -- honestly -- remember this flap in two months? 

Probably not. And that's why the right test of manufactured controversy is whether it proves truly disqualifying from a consumer sales perspective. In other words, will a consumer never again buy from your company based on this campaign.

This is a deceptively high bar -- deceptive because people (by and large) are loud, reactionary, and full of it.

I have a marketing statistician friend who studied consumer sentiment versus sales in the airline industry -- airlines having some of the worst customer service reputations on record.

It turns out (according to the data) no matter how much a consumer hates United, curses United's children, and vows never again to fly on United as long as they live... it makes no difference in their behavior. Ticket price is the only statistically significant sales criterion.

That's right, folks. If your usual flight is being offered by Satan Airlines for a dollar cheaper, the vast majority of us are "flying the unholy skies."

And if you think the airline business is commoditized, let me introduce you to the consumer insurance market -- in which you can save 15% by switching from any one carrier to any other carrier... somehow.




So no, I don't believe the negative brand equity (if any) outweighs the attention Nationwide is getting this week. The "scandal" doesn't have any legs. But the story -- the real story -- the narrative behind the scandal -- can be a long-term, successful campaign.

The only convincing counter argument I've heard so far is that Nationwide -- being an insurance brand -- should be trying to associate itself with conservative, prudent judgment in all things (including advertising). But that's giving viewers an awful lot of credit.

Too much, I would say, for an audience consumed by the libidinous contortions of a dancing shark.

P.S. Go Pats! And speaking of excellence:

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TMA Recap: Sales and Marketing Alignment, Marketing Automation and More

TMA speakers 1.30.15 L--R: Mike Morper, Elizabeth Shea, Mike Lees

The Marketing Alliance (TMA) held their first event of 2015 at the end of January and what a great event it was. The “Hear From Your Peers” format featured Mike Morper, VP of Marketing for Notable Solutions (NSI), now Nuance, and Mike Lees, CMO for WealthEngine.  The conversation ran the gamut from talking about the alignment of sales and marketing, to marketing automation, to how to best work with analysts. 

Before I jump into what our speakers had to say, let me first provide a bit of background on each of them. 

Morper recently experienced the trials and tribulations of exiting NSI to a much larger entity. Where he led marketing and product strategy at NSI, he now runs the product marketing for Nuance's document imaging division. Morper’s entire career has been in technology, with more than 20 years of experience in product management, product marketing, channel sales, and brand strategy. He has held senior positions in companies such as Sage Software, General Electric, and Kofax. 

Lees started his career as a CPA and then moved into technology investments before settling in as an entrepreneur and “get-to-market” strategist. Lees’s professional journey has armed him with a unique set of skills and singular perspective. Lees is accustomed to taking nascent products and creating clear, concise messages around them to show how they answer unmet needs. 

The conversation quickly turned to discussing the typical marketer’s conundrum: how do you better align sales and marketing? This is a topic I’ve often heard my clients discussing and it seemed to be a hot button issue for this group as well.  

Some key points from our speakers included:

  • The importance of understanding the buyer’s journey as a fundamental piece of getting sales and marketing in alignment. Lees pointed out that there are various roles in the buyer’s journey that both sales and marketing can fulfill in their own ways. It is not a linear process. 
  • Sales and marketing professionals need to discuss, jointly, how to move someone along the buyer’s journey. From those conversations, they can gain an understanding of the tipping point at which leads can be converted.
  • Time spent evaluating the buyer’s journey can provide a lot of insight into what sales and marketing could – and should -- be doing. These evaluations can also show where leads are originating, leading to both sales and marketing working together to determine how to best nurture leads.

Both speakers, and several in attendance, agreed that a lot of companies treat marketing as the front end of the cycle and sales as the back end. Unfortunately, then have nothing that deals with the interface between the two. This creates a lot of friction. 

One way that Lees has found to tackle this issue is to have both the sales and marketing teams meet and plan together. Establishing KPIs at the start of the year that are shared and managed across both the sales and marketing teams keeps everyone accountable and provides a clear sense of goals.

Morper also discussed the need for shared KPIs but felt strongly that complete trust between sales and marketing leaders is key to moving the organization forward. Understanding and supporting each other goes a long way in establishing a working relationship that provides necessary support and feedback to each team.  Morper pointed to the example of building a two story home – marketing may be the first floor, and sales the second, but it’s necessary to make sure the thing looks like it has the same structure. Independently each team may come up with their own plan but there should be constant interaction and inspection of what does, and does not, work.

The last point that both Lees and Morper discussed was the importance of closed loop reporting. While both gentlemen understand that not every lead will be “good enough” for sales, it’s imperative that the sales team share why a particular lead wasn’t good enough, why it didn’t convert, and what marketing could do better to make sure they are receiving quality leads in the future. Ideally this is something that would happen as leads are delivered.  

In time the conversation naturally flowed to marketing automation and how Lees and Morper are leveraging the technologies available. Morper pointed out that at NSI he had a very small team and a large channel, leaving him with a huge reach issue, which he solved through automation. He noted, however, that while they use Marketo now, the budget was not there on day one for such a tool and that his team “home rolled” much of the automation, which he ultimately felt was more effective. Additionally, he stressed the importance of making sure that teams invest in someone who understands marketing automation and letting that person really do what they do best.

Another topic that came up was the role of thought leadership – and in particular how it relates to analyst relations. As NSI built to an exit, thought leadership became a very important part of Morper’s marketing plan and the role and involvement of analysts in that process couldn’t be understated. Perhaps the two most important bits of information about working with the analysts from Morper and Lees were:

  • Get to know them and be in touch with them on a regular basis. For Morper this meant reaching out to most of them quarterly and some monthly. Those touches could be a simple product or customer update or something more. Morper stressed the need to know what analysts are interested in, and cater to that interest. The relationship between company and analyst is a symbiotic one, and if you know what they are working on and what makes them tick you can align the conversation to their needs.
  • Don’t try to create a new category for yourself.  Pick an already existing category that’s most appropriate for your company, tell them why you’re in that category, and what makes you different from all of the other companies that are included. Lees says this is a lesson he learned the hard way and that trying to create a new category for his company only ended up confusing the market.

So much more was discussed at the January Hear From Your Peers event, but these three main topics – sales and marketing alignment, marketing automation, and analyst relations – seemed to be the points that really drove the conversation between our speakers and the attendees.

Stay tuned for information on the next TMA event! I hope to see you there!  

Analyst Relations 101 Webinar

Federal Marketing Opportunities: What’s New for 2015


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As a follow up to my last post on government marketing, this month I decided to take a look at the media companies and see what, if any, new marketing opportunities exist for B2G marketers.

This year publishers are continuing to focus on integrated advertising programs that offer more flexibility and better branding for advertisers. A quick wrap-up of newish opportunities is as follows:

1105 Media, publisher of FCW, GCN, Defense Systems and Washington Technology, is offering two new programs this year:

  • Advertisers can again participate in the Front Cover Tip program, but this year, it includes guaranteed lead generation tied to a white paper asset. If you’re not familiar with this program, a fake cover is glue-tipped onto the real magazine cover. The sponsor gets about 2/3 of the front and the full back. It looks similar to the magazine cover with the masthead, but features the sponsor’s message.
  • The Editorial Calendar on Demand, allows vendors to work with the publication’s editorial team to create custom content on a topic of the vendor’s choice. The four-page insert includes three pages of editorial content and a full-page ad provided by the vendor.

Earlier this month, FedScoop announced a redesigned website as well as a new look for its newsletter, DailyScoop. The site was redesigned to include a number of new features such as responsive design (making the site mobile friendly) and “story cards” that can reveal layers of information. The redesign “also gives readers more direct access to FedScoop's rich collection of content, including FedScoop's exclusive video series, ‘FedMentors’ and makes it easier to find all of FedScoop's government technology stories by topic, or by government agency.” FedScoop is also adding a new event to its roster -- the Cloud & Cyber Disruptor's Board meetings. These meetings, scheduled for April 30 and Oct/Nov, will bring together an intimate group of 20-30 government and tech heavy-hitters to roll up sleeves, brainstorm, and share ideas around cloud and cyber. 

SIGNAL magazine, which focuses on the communications and information technology realms of the defense, intelligence and global security communities, also announced a new website that includes responsive design and improved navigation. The outlet is making a push for more guest writers for the print magazine and the blog. Writer’s guidelines can be found here and here.

Last but not least, Federal News Radio (WFED) is also improving some of its integrated advertising programs to better meet client demand. Over the last couple of years, WFED has expanded beyond broadcast advertising to offer services such as webinars, panel discussions, custom media, lead generation programs and a range of online advertising options. This year, ad programs will offer better metrics and will be more integrated with a radio buy.

Overall, the people I spoke to seemed optimistic about 2015 and excited to have new opportunities for the marketing community.  Hope this is a good year for all of you as well.

- Katie 




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