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Eastern Foundry Launches Government Technology and Innovation Incubator

  
  
  

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Yesterday, Eastern Foundry, a veteran-owned government technology and innovation incubator in Crystal City, held its official ribbon-cutting ceremony its new headquarters at 2011 Crystal Drive in Arlington, VA.  Senator Mark Warner was there to lend support to the veteran-led incubator that supports emerging tech companies in the government ecosystem.

Eastern Foundry creates an important platform for the government-focused technology ecosystem by helping small tech companies succeed in the government contracting space, system integrators find qualified partners, and federal agencies meet their small business targets. The incubator’s Crystal City location provides natural synergies with major defense technology firms and the innovation hub that is now taking shape there.

Senator Mark Warner and Mitchell Schear, president of Vornado/Charles E. Smith, delivered remarks along with Eastern Foundry’s co-founder and CEO, Geoff Orazem. They are pictured above along with Andy O'Brien from JLL (from left to right: O'Brien, Sen. Warner, Orazem, and Schear).

In his remarks, Orazem outlined the key benefits of Eastern Foundry’s three primary constituents:

  1. Small Government Contractors: Provide reasonably priced office space and business services tailored to meet small businesses' needs; establish a community of fellow government tech innovators who mentor and coach each other formally and informally; provide affordable on-site business winning and administrative support functions; and a forum to accelerate partnering activities with large businesses.
     
  2. Systems Integrators: Identify, engage, and contract with relevant, affordable, and innovative small businesses; ensure that small businesses have the administrative and financial resources to succeed; and identify, vet, and manage a pool of former government employees to meet full or part time level-of-effort or subject matter expert contract requirements.
     
  3. Federal Agencies: A single point of access to a community of expert practitioners and clusters of relevant, affordable small businesses in one location; a large venue to share and receive information from one of the largest groupings of small businesses in the area, allowing for rapid collection of market data from multiple small businesses and in-person dissemination of procurement information.  

Orazem also shared that the inspiration for Eastern Foundry came from his team's own frustration breaking into the government contracting space. "From registering their companies, to applying for veteran owned designation, to finding open solicitations, to the arcane world of proposal writing, they found the administrative side of competing for government contracts bewildering."

Eastern Foundry is the ecosystem they wished they had and they have assembled the top professional service providers, coaches, mentors, and BD support teams to provide structured and personal coaching to small businesses on a daily basis.

Vornado and JLL were highlighted at the launch event as key partners who helped with the exhaustive search to find the right location for the incubator, and who continue to support Eastern Foundry as it builds out its programming and plans future expansions.

If you are interested in learning more, here's some of their early coverage:

Federal Times, “Small business innovation incubator opens in Crystal City”

In The Capital, “Eastern Foundry, A New Government Tech Incubator Opens”

Technica.ly “Sen. Mark Warner cuts ribbon at Eastern Foundry opening ceremony”

Elevation DC,  “Tech incubator for government contractors opens in Crystal City”

Washington Post, “Eight months after launch,  Crystal City’s tech hub to double in size”

In the Capital, "There's a New Incubator in the Beltway Specifically For Government Contractors”

Arlington Now, “New Incubator to Launch in Crystal City”

Washington Business Journal, “Eastern Foundry to launch government contracting incubator, signs lease in Crystal City”

 

Understanding Google for Increasing Press Release ROI

  
  
  

When our clients issue press releases, specifically clients who haven’t engaged in a formal PR program before (but, even some who have), we often get the same questions:  Wow, why is this so expensive and is it worth the cost?  In other words, what is my return on investment?  Although there are best practices in place to help respond to these inquiries, keep costs as low as possible, and provide peace of mind, the real answers for these questions are certainly specific to each client and each news announcement.  Additionally, those best practices are ever evolving based on the functionality of search engines as well as how we measure and determine metrics and analyze them against the news goals, social media and more.  

That’s why, as PR professionals, it is important for us to stay on top of the game.  We have to know how to achieve our clients’ goals and make sure stakeholders, customers, industry execs, and especially reporters are reading our news releases over our competitors. 

A few weeks ago, I sat in on a webinar that BusinessWire held that provided some updated information on those evolving factors I mentioned earlier, and I felt like one, in particular, was too important not to share.  The truth is, Google is a huge SEO behemoth that can make or break the visibility of press releases we’re all distributing.  And, there are some things we all can start to better understand to help us leverage Google as best as possible.  

In case you missed it (I haven’t yet found an archived replay to share), here’s a brief recap of Google’s recent changes and a few other tips about how you can work with the largest search engine out there to help maximize your ROI; some from BusinessWire guru Gabriel Chapman’s presentation mixed with my commentary.   

Understand the Google Algorithm

For some background and for those who need a general understanding, Google defines algorithm as “computer programs that look for clues to give you back exactly what you want.”  So, basically, algorithms determine what you see and the order in which you see it when you conduct a basic search.  Google uses cute little animal names for their algorithms: Penguin, Pigeon, Panda and Hummingbird.  I’m not going to get into what they all do, but the bottom line is you want to make sure that these algorithms perceive your press release and content in a way that puts you on top of a search and makes sure your release gets the most visibility and ROI. 

The main thing to know about Google’s algorithm, specifically, is that they’ve recently made a bunch of updates promoting high quality over low quality content.  This puts a higher value on original content with thoughtful analysis or new content, like valuable news.  According to Chapman, the goal “is to encourage webmasters to publish content that is the best of its kind for the best search results.”    

Write for Search

Before you even begin writing your press release, you’ll want to have “search” in mind.  In fact, you can even Google ahead of time to make sure you’re on track.  Chapman provides these tips for “Using Google to Research How People Search:” 

  • Use Google tools to research and learn “real time” user behavior- what people are searching for right now
  • Include what your target audience found interesting about your news BEFORE writing the press release
  • Write a press release that anticipates questions reporters, analysts, and other readers will ask

Also, before you get started, consider what other types of content you’ll want to use to accompany your release, i.e. links and video, infographics, images. In my last post, I commented on the importance of video for SEO: 

“SEO, SEO, SEO.  Because videos are incredibly more likely to be shared than traditional content, this means the effect on your SEO could be immense.  And for mega search site Google, they are starting to care way more about quality than keywords. Meaning, the more validated the content is via sharing, the better SEO you’ll get.  In addition, search is also including social media. So all of those shares could be worth even more than you think for moving your content to the top of the results list.” 

Use Google Tools

You’ll also want to check out two important tools provided by Google before you get your release out there:  Google Autocomplete and Google Trends.  These are both things I know you are familiar with, but maybe consider more for your everyday search than gaining intel for release writing. 

Google Autocomplete is a tool that uses commonly searched words and phrases to literally autocomplete your search.  You know, when you start typing something into Google Search and it recommends a bunch of ways to finish what you’ve started typing?  That’s it.  Chapman and I agree that this is such a quick and easy way to check out what’s hot related to your release topic and make sure you’re not missing out on anything major.   A great tip from Chapman: For best results, use a clean browser to avoid biased results based on location and prior search history.

Google Trends is a tool that clues you in to popular and trending topics up to the minute.  You can even set up Google Trends like Google Alerts, customizing them to topics that matter most to you.  This gives you some insight to the bigger picture regarding your release topic and may help you determine a direction or attention grabber to expand your reach based on what people are already paying attention to. 

Issuing an effective press release requires a different process every time. But, by taking a look at some of the tools provided by Google, we gain some insight on how to increase visibility of press releases even before we write them, ultimately achieving higher ROI.  Of course, individual release goals and measurement are important, too, but we’ll save that for another post!  

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TMA Event Recap – Hear From Your Peers!

  
  
  

TMA resized 600I was excited to attend my first TMA (The Marketing Alliance) meeting last Friday and hear from J Rollins from Optoro and Susan Ganeshan from Clarabridge about driving their organizations’ strategic marketing initiatives. J is the chief revenue officer and executive vice president of field operations atOptoro, a cloud-based technology company that helps retailers and manufacturers increase their revenue from returned and excess inventory. Susan is chief marketing officer at Clarabridge, the leading provider of Customer Experience Management (CEM) solutions for the world’s top brands.

This program was set up as a “Hear From Your Peers” session in which SpeakerBox CEO Elizabeth Shea moderated a discussion with J, Susan, and other attendees.

J and Susan both have extensive marketing backgrounds. In J’s case, Optoro just closed $50 million of Series C funding and plans to shift its focus in 2015 to hyper-growth within its existing customer base, rather than placing attention solely on acquiring new customers. This shift will require completely new website messaging to better focus on existing customers, how they target and track site visitors, and how they can make online experiences more suited for returning users. 

When asked about leadership style, J said he believes sales and marketing should be united, under one leader. 

Anyone who has worked in either sales or marketing is familiar with the age-old tensions that arise between the two departments. J feels that by uniting the two teams under a common leader, it helps them support each other’s objectives and goals. But finding the right leader to oversee both sales and marketing is an arduous task. Not every marketer has a head for sales, nor does every salesperson have a knack for marketing.

Meanwhile, Susan addressed the topic of account-based marketing, also known as key account marketing, wherein organizations treat discrete prospects and customers as their own unique market segments. It’s not exactly a new concept, but it’s been steadily gaining popularity as companies like DemandBase promote services to help businesses focus on single points of sales, rather than marketing to the masses. Susan was somewhat surprised to find that very few attendees were pursuing this strategy.

Later, the discussion transitioned to sales and marketing best practices. At Optoro, sales decks are hosted online, which ensures that sales teams are using the most current assets and that activity within the deck can be measured (e.g., who receives links to which information, how much time is spent on each page, etc.). 

Susan then posed a question about where product marketing should fall within a company’s organization. For some attendees, their product marketers work closely with the sales team to make sure they understand end user preferences and pain points. For other attendees, that position falls under product/technology/engineering teams. 

The discussion ended on another interesting subject – managing up. It wasn’t so much about reining in the CEO or board members, but rather finding the right balance for a CMO to provide strategic advice from a marketing perspective.

All in all, it was a great session, and I hope to see you at the next TMA event!

Hopes and Dreams for 2015

  
  
  

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The end of the year tends to make us all reflect a bit. We look back on the past 12 months, assess what we experienced and learned, and wonder what those things will translate into next year.

I think that’s one of the reasons why predictions blogs are so popular. It’s fun to apply what we’ve learned from our recent experiences and turn that knowledge into foresight that’s based on actual evidence.

But there’s a difference between what we think will happen and what we hope will happen. Not to sound too Winnie the Pooh-ish, but sometimes the “hoping” and the “thinking” parts do not necessarily correspond with each other. For instance, we may hope to see enormous economic growth in 2015, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we think it will happen.

We can still hope, though. And so, instead of telling you what I think will happen in 2015, I want to share with you some thoughts on things I hope will happen.

I hope we all take a few minutes to slow down.

I love the efficiency that technology and social media affords just as much as the next person. But sometimes I cannot help but to think it would be best if we tried to slow things down a bit.

For example, many of us have come to rely on Twitter as a primary news source. I find this somewhat dangerous (and I love Twitter, by the way). Twitter is the poster child for our speed-driven, always moving society. We get news bytes in 140 characters or less.

That’s great in some ways – quick knowledge, for one – but very bad in others. It’s hard to get a fully digested news story in that type of environment, yet easy for the ones that are writing the stories to get the facts wrong (or at least not get all of the facts).

It’s better for everyone – businesses, consumers, bloggers, etc. – if stories are complete, accurate, and informative. That takes time, but it’s time that’s often well worth it.

I hope we can break out of our boxes.

Over the past year, we’ve seen some desperate moves from a few companies that have had their backs pushed against the wall. Most of these moves have paid off, at least to a degree. For example, T-Mobile continued to rebrand itself under the “uncarrier” banner, which led to an increase in subscribers and the need for competitors to step up their games. And software giant Microsoft was forced to reinvent the way that it distributed software, adopting a subscription as opposed to licensing model. 

Organizations that step outside of their comfort zones are often applauded by investors, customers, and the media. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it can pay big dividends. At the very least, it gives people something to talk about, and that’s a valuable commodity in a world where far too often everyone seems to be doing and saying the same thing.

I don’t want to see more companies have their backs against the wall in 2015, but I would love it if, everyday, organizations act like they’re on the ropes. That type of attitude keeps organizations on their toes, and it certainly keeps things interesting from a PR perspective.

I hope we can word things differently.

I mean this literally.

There’s a tool that some journalists use called PR Buzzsaw. Its sole purpose is to eliminate from press releases certain words and phrases that have become clichéd or simply have no real meaning. Words like “robust,” “seamless,” “mission-critical,” and others are routinely caught by the Buzzsaw. It’s an awesome tool that literally cuts out the crap.

In 2015, I hope we can all implement our own personal PR Buzzsaw’s when writing content, not just press releases, but blogs, articles, and other communications tools. Let’s be sure to write content that’s meaningful and says things in interesting ways.

Dare I say, let’s have fun with the stuff we write. If you’re writing the thousandth article about the growth of the cloud, don’t be afraid to throw in an obscure reference to an event that happened during the French Revolution, if you can find a connection. Or quote your favorite comedian, or line from The Simpsons.

While business and technology may be many things, they’re hardly ever boring. The words that accompany those two topics don’t need to be boring, either.

I hope everyone has the best year ever.

This goes without saying. I truly hope all of you reading this – clients, fellow SpeakerBoxers, or idle passersby who may have stumbled on this by Googling “2015 PR predictions” – have the best, most fruitful, and enjoyable year ever.

Here’s to a great – and hopeful – 2015.

Pete Larmey

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The Best and Worst of PR Measurement – Round 2: Benchmarking

  
  
  

In this second edition of our look at common types of public relations measurement, and their pros and cons, we will discuss benchmarking and how companies can use it to measure the success of a public relations campaign.

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What it is:

At its most basic, benchmarking is essentially a measurement technique that involves an organization learning something about its own practices and the practices of selected others, and then compares these practices. This is sometimes referred to as a baseline against which results are compared. Benchmarking is commonly done within public relations, even if not as a formal study.

A few of the most common benchmarks for measuring a PR program’s success include:

  • Number of news releases distributed
  • Time spent pitching news stories to media
  • Number of interviews conducted between your spokesperson and the media
  • Number of inquiries referencing coverage in the media
  • Spikes in traffic on your website in conjunction with coverage
  • Social stats (including growth of followers, likes, engagement, etc.)

Beginning with the first month of a public relations campaign, chart your company’s overall amount of media mentions, news releases, and more, and compare those numbers to those of your major competitors. This creates a foundation to benchmark against which you can measure the progress of your PR effort going forward. Each month numbers should be re-evaluated and compared to the previous month.

 

Benefits:

Benchmarking provides an ongoing tool to measure the success (or lack thereof) of a campaign. It’s an easy way to determine if a particular strategy is effective. It can help you modify campaigns as necessary; for example, if it is determined coverage versus your competitors is declining, it is a red flag that likely your communications strategy needs revision. Conversely, if coverage is increasing, it provides reassurance that the initiative is working. 

Benchmarking is generally spreadsheet-based and offers a way to showcase hard numbers that can be used to prove whether or not a campaign is moving in the right direction. These numbers are an easy way of gauging ROI. Hard numbers are easy to understand, even without context, and can be passed up the chain to justify the initiative and investment.

 

Weaknesses:

Benchmarking compares a company to how it was before the public relations campaign or initiative began. While this is a great way to show forward momentum, the baseline is typically set pretty low. If you are starting at square one, even a placement or two is a step in the right direction, but does not necessarily translate into the end goal: business results.

Another weakness is that some of the metrics could be hard to track if you never had a set PR plan in place before. For example, while it is easy to determine how many news releases were distributed, the time pitching may be impossible to determine if there was never a reason to track that figure.

Additionally, benchmarking can be time consuming. To really look at where you need to place more effort, what you have achieved, and how much effort has been put forth (and then look at your competitors as well) is no simple task. This is especially true if everything is done well, which entails in-depth analysis to determine which of these actions helped create tangible business results.

Overall assessment:

As the saying goes, “you can’t get where you are going unless you know where you’ve been.” Benchmarking definitely provides a baseline for which to compare all future results and is a constant statistic which to compare to, allowing you to compare specific results year over year to prove success. It’s a great place to start when building a new public relations campaign or initiative.

To truly get the best results it is essential to not only look at your company, but your main competitors as well and compare the results. Going from 5 to 15 placements a quarter isn’t as much of a success if a competitor is getting 50 a quarter. This may be a bit time consuming and tedious, but it will provide a realistic look at the landscape and allow you to set realistic and effective goals. 

As great as benchmarking is in itself, combining it with a goals-based measurement system is likely going to get the best results. Because as much as the benchmark measurements show the level of PR activities, they do not show actual success in reaching goals – by far the most important aspect of any public relations initiative.

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Ask the Influencer: Monica Mayk, FedPulse

  
  
  

Screen Shot 2014 12 03 at 12.43.05 PM resized 600Monica Mayk is a marketing and client outreach maven for Market Connections. She wears a variety of hats: overseeing promotional communications, public relations, events and content marketing, which includes executive editorship of the FedPulseblog.

She was kind enough to participate in our Q&A and share some insights on what goes into making FedPulse tick. Enjoy!

 

Can you give us some background on FedPulse and how it came to be the force it is today?

In 2011, while working on the Social Media in the Public Sector study, we were inspired to pay some much-needed attention to our blogging and social media efforts. Our friends at Strategic Communications Group helped us see how we could use a content marketing and social media strategy to connect with some of the right prospects and clients in the marketplace. We had had a corporate blog for many years, and we were sitting on a treasure-trove of great research and knowledgeable thought leaders. But our research team members were overburdened by trying to write insightful posts in addition to their primary work, and our blog lacked direction and purpose. We decided to retool our efforts with a better strategy and outside help. 

In 2012, a week prior to our annual Federal Media and Marketing Study release event, we launched the retooled blog and used that first big research study as a testing ground for content development. With a dedicated editor manning the ship -- Matt Langan of L&R Communications -- not only were we posting on time and on relevant topics, but we were paying attention to the amount and quality of traffic each post generated, and we used that information to help drive the strategy of our editorial calendar. 

We designed the blog as a separate news site from our primary website, and we established a formula for our editorial calendar that includes Q&As with executives, winning government contractor features, hot topics in the government market and of course research highlights.

The Weekly News Kickoff, which we added at the end of 2012, provides a forum to highlight customer and prospect news and stay relevant through coverage of top issues and trends like cybersecurity and (at the time) sequestration. We work hard to make sure the content we’re providing is relevant and insightful. Plus, we want to make sure it ties back to what we do and drives business for the company.

In 2013, we added PulsePolls™ as a way to better leverage our core capability – market research – and to keep the information we provide on our blog current and relevant. We launch a short poll about once a quarter, so we always have fresh, relevant survey data to work with. This has actually driven more than just blog traffic for us. As a result of our PulsePolls, we’ve garnered a good amount of media coverage, and now we often have media outlets and clients asking FedPulse to cover their news and events. PulsePolls have become a great way for us to stay relevant to reporters and clients in between our two big annual studies. We also offer our clients thought leadership coverage on FedPulse, such as Q&As with executives, which helps to increase the value of their investments into thought leadership research with Market Connections.

 

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

I oversee our content marketing strategy, among other things. This means I oversee the blog editorial, but I don’t handle all the writing, interviewing and day-to-day management by myself. I am very fortunate to have Susan Rose, an independent writer/editor, who manages the day-to-day for us and produces much of the content. I also drive the PulsePolls and other thought leadership research efforts, but our research team is just as instrumental in making those research projects successful. I’m also responsible for some business development, and I work with clients on thought leadership strategy and implementation through research and promotional communications.

I would recommend to anyone starting or revamping a content marketing strategy to hire an outside editor/writer or firm, or to employ a dedicated in-house staff member. Not only does this take the onus off of your staff to feel inspired about producing content and meeting deadlines, but it really helps to have someone whose main responsibility it is to make sure the content gets written, looks and sounds good, and meets your objectives day-to-day.

 

What are a few of your blog goals? How do these align with corporate goals? How often do you review and refresh your goals?

We have two primary objectives: to showcase Market Connections’ thought leadership and expertise, and to drive business. Before we really dedicated ourselves to this content marketing effort, I felt we had a lot of market knowledge, but we were not doing a good job of showcasing it or leveraging it to increase awareness of the company and understanding of our expertise. Our research directors, who are very knowledgeable and experienced individuals, sometimes felt they didn’t have anything new to say about topics that are second-nature to them because they are involved in research and market data every day. With a writer/editor involved, we are able to come up with new and different angles that showcase our researchers’ knowledge and expertise, and allow them to share their insights more easily than if they have to generate all the unique content themselves, in addition to their primary responsibilities.

In the past, when we released our two large studies each year, I always received positive comments from clients and prospects. They often said, “You should do this more often!” So the content marketing strategy was one of the ways in which we listened to our audience and worked to provide fresh, relevant insights and valuable information to help them do their jobs.

We reevaluate our blog strategy and tactics quarterly, and we are constantly making tweaks to help our strategy and our content evolve. We’re in a very good groove right now with respect to content generation, and we’ve done a good job in the past year of both improving our tracking capabilities (thanks to marketing automation!) and driving more traffic to our corporate website. My next big effort will be to increase traffic. We’re getting ready for our end-of-year review now.

 

How do you promote new content? 

Each person here belongs to, and is responsible for promotion within, different groups on LinkedIn. We all use LinkedIn pretty heavily company-wide, so it makes sense for us to leverage those existing relationships to promote our content. Every day that we post, we promote the content via LinkedIn. And our editor makes it very easy for everyone on the team to copy, paste and post daily.

We also promote our content on Twitter and re-tweet other influencers, clients, publications and partners in the industry. It has become a great awareness driver for us. I’m also personally a fan of Tweet-pics, because we produce a lot of infographics, and they are so easy to share.

 

FedPulse straddles the line between media outlet and business blog. Do you ever receive pitches from PR folks? How do you handle those?

We do receive pitches, and typically they are on-target or are touting customer news, so we cover whatever we can fit into the calendar that is relevant to our market or supports our clients. We also receive interest from reporters who’d like us to help promote events or content, and again if it’s relevant, we will publish it. One of the keys here is partnership and content curation. We have no qualms about sharing or re-publishing content from other outlets, partners or clients as long as it’s relevant and of good quality. We work with a lot of organizations that have great integrity and produce quality content, so I am more than happy to augment what FedPulse provides with other outlets’ content.

 

Any major "lessons learned" over the years that you can share with our readers? 

As I said earlier, I think working with an outside writer/editor, firm, or dedicated in-house writer/editor is one key to a successful content marketing strategy. For us, making thought leadership research an integral part of content development has also been a smart and successful strategy. I do not believe thought leadership research has been successful just because we are a market research firm; our clients have experienced increased media attention and better resonance in the marketplace when they have leveraged research in their communications and marketing as well. The market values unbiased data and craves real insights in the content we consume.

Finally, I would recommend ensuring that your content marketing strategy ties back to your company’s goals and always helps to connect your readers with your company’s core capabilities and expertise. The content should not be an end in and of itself; it should be the means to an end, whether that objective is elevating brand awareness, deepening understanding of who you are and what you do, or driving more traffic to your website’s products or services. I’m not suggesting your content should be a sales pitch, just that you find relevant ways to tie back to who you are and what you do as an organization.

 

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Why It Takes 5 Days to Get an iTunes Receipt

  
  
  
 Gwyneth Paltrowphoto credit: Jared Purdy at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaredpurdy/

"Cool, I just bought a five-bedroom colonial in West Guangzhou with one click! Thanks, Alibaba!"

 

Conscious uncoupling.

No, you're not dating Gwyneth Paltrow. You're just getting emotionally swindled out of your hard-earned dollars, which... now that I think about it, is probably a lot like dating Gwyneth Paltrow.

Let's back up.

Have you ever bought a song on iTunes? Of course you have -- it's easy! And if you just bought a Black Friday iPhone with Touch ID, those purchases are faster and more effortless than ever.

But here's something strange about the transaction: Your order goes through instantly. The song downloads in seconds. But your receipt email doesn't hit your inbox for five or six days.

Slow traffic on the Web? Ted Cruz was right about net neutrality? Hardly. You've just been "consciously uncoupled," son. 

Actually, behavioral economists call this conscious "decoupling," (sorry, Gwyneth) and it refers to a deliberate separation between the mechanism of acquiring goods and services and the mechanism of paying for those goods and services.

Here's a sample inner dialogue to illustrate how your brain reacts to this trick:

"Oh boy, the new Taylor Swift album is out! I better buy it since she's taken all her music off of Spotify. Poor girl must be having some money problems, which is totally understandable for a famous, childless, unmarried white teenager. Hmm, I just clicked one button and scanned my thumb. Did I really buy the album? It looks like I did -- the album is downloading. Did they really charge me? I mean I know they did, but maybe they just forgot this time? Oh who cares, my jams are starting."

Five days later, when you get the receipt, you'll barely remember the transaction. And it's not just iTunes.

Think about the recent shift from paid apps to "free" apps with in-app purchasing -- whether it’s more lives in “Sugar Crunch*,” more armies in “Clash of Tribes*,” or more rhinestone jumpsuits in “Alec Baldwin's Hollywood*.” So what if you’ll spend twenty times more than you initially budgeted when all is said and done -- you'll never feel a thing.

Just how pervasive is the in-app purchasing model?

Freemium Rules

In fact, Apple and Google were recently pressured by the European Commission to remove the word "free" from descriptions of apps with in-app purchasing. And the resulting terminology is not the least bit confusing.

Hey, ever wonder why casinos make you exchange cash money for betting chips? It's not because those heavy clay tokens are easier to carry around than your virtually weightless paper bills. It's because if going "all in" meant putting 10,000 dollars in cash on the table, you'd think twice about it.

Same deal with resorts and those electronic pay bracelets. It's amazing how quickly you can consume 78 dollars of mid-shelf crantinis when all you have to do is wave your arm.

And that's the real point of Apple Pay and the mobile wallet. It's the psychology of selling -- making us forget we're paying for goods and services by removing the social cues that trigger subconscious resistance.

According to BusinessWeek
, University of Chicago economist Richard Thaler scientifically proved that "decoupled" transactions are more pleasurable to consumers. And in 2009, Citibank tested the research "and found a mobile 'tap to pay' pilot program significantly boosted both the number and size of consumer transactions."

Buy more, feel better, fuel the global economy, and help Taylor Swift afford that clearance rack H&M top she's been eyeing for her big date with Chris Martin (sorry, Gwyneth).

People buying things without realizing. What's the worst that could happen... to the global economy... again...? 

 *One of my new hobbies here at SpeakerBox is not getting sued.

 

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Consistent Communication Is Key

  
  
  

download resized 600I read an article recently by a public relations professional in which she vows to start picking up the phone at least once a week to talk to her clients. I’m hoping she means outside of regularly scheduled weekly or bi-weekly status meetings or planning sessions. I’m also hoping she and her co-workers spend some face-to-face time with their clients. Regardless, the article got me thinking about the way client communications have evolved, and what we do at SpeakerBox.

 These days, most of us are inundated with busy schedules in our personal and professional lives, and the last thing we need is to be interrupted with unscheduled phone calls. Many of us are glued to email, Twitter, Facebook, etc. but are able to subconsciously weed out the messages that aren’t of immediate importance, we’ll often forget to return to the less urgent (but equally important) content.

 As PR professionals, communication is our lifeblood. We pride ourselves on telling our clients’ stories successfully and spreading news and thought leadership to the right audiences. But if we’re not proactively communicating with our clients, how can we ensure an optimal client communication strategy?

 For starters, pick up the phone. This is especially important in the beginning of a new relationship. The client chose you, but now you need to show them why they made the right decision.  Beginning with unplanned phone calls to ask a question or give a quick status update can set you off on the right foot and set you apart from other agencies they may have worked with in the past.

 Schedule weekly or bi-weekly calls. Of course, the frequency of these calls is up to the discretion of your clients. But it’s a good idea to schedule regular phone meetings with all appropriate team members. Phone meetings tend to be a shorter time commitment (30 minutes) and are often much easier to keep on a regular basis than in-person meetings. Generally, you can use this time to move agenda items forward.

 Don’t forget about in-person meetings. While in-person meetings can be difficult to schedule, the importance of meeting face-to-face can’t be overstated. It might be more feasible to plan quarterly in-person meetings a few months in advance, so that everyone can block-off time on their calendars early. Face-to-face time can be critical to a successful relationship. Quite often, people get distracted on phone calls by emails and social media. When meeting in person, with all other distractions removed, everyone is typically paying more attention and more engaged in the conversation.

Add a spark to a well-oiled machine. The saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is not always true. Sure you have a great relationship with your client, and things are running smoothly, but everyone can appreciate a little extra effort. It doesn’t always have to be business related. Treat your clients to lunch or coffee, or send them an interesting news article. They’ll know you’re putting in the extra effort to stay connected.

Lesson learned today – pick up the phone. Communicate. With all the wonders of mobile technology, we often forget the human aspect of our work. So get back to basics and connect. You’ll show your clients that you really are listening.

7 Ways to Encourage Blogging

  
  
  

Back in the dark ages, when we started The Sounding Board (yes, I was here back then), it felt like pulling teeth getting colleagues to contribute. There were a number of issues at play. We were busy with “real” work and nervous about the new platform. For many of us, it was the first time being published, and we were fearful of the negative comments we might receive. Looking back on it, of course, we had no reason to be fearful; we were simply writing about the topics we covered day-in and day-out for our clients. 

We have even less reason to be nervous these days. Facebook and Twitter have changed the way we feel about putting our thoughts out into the ether. Moreover, the digital natives we hire come to us ready and willing to express themselves.

But time remains an issue.

We’ve tried many different tactics over the years for getting our employees to devote more of their time to blogging. Some have worked, and some – like assigned, topic-specific editorial calendars – have failed miserably. 

So today, having led our agency’s blogging program for the past few years and after talking at length with clients and other blog editors in our industry, I’m ready to report on a few of the more successful strategies we’ve seen:

 

SET TEAM GOALS

We’re a tight-knit staff here at SBX, so setting team goals (as opposed to individual blogging goals) has been a good motivator. These team goals can take a multitude of forms. Incentives can range from cash and gift cards to paid time off or even simple public acknowledgment. It took a lot of trial and error over the years to find the goal system that best suits our team. So start where you can, solicit feedback, and make gradual tweaks over time. Eventually, you’ll find the sweet spot. 

 

MAKE IT A COMPETITION 

We’re also a very competitive bunch here – bowling, mini-golf, cook-offs, corn hole. You name it, and we’ve competed against each other at it. In the past, we even had a competition for most blog views (with a small reward for monthly winners and a Kindle Fire for the year’s top performer). But don’t feel limited to measuring blog views. Blogging metrics are everywhere. If you’re competitively inclined, pick the metric that fits best with your long-term goals and start a healthy competition. 

 

DOLE OUT SPOT BONUSES

Recently, one of our clients was trying to motivate his subject matter experts to provide more technical blog content. During a company meeting, the blog manager handed out $100 bills to every employee who had voluntarily contributed that month. The surprise element added to the excitement. So be thinking about impromptu blog rewards – perhaps for bringing in a lead that turns into a sale, or for creating a particularly popular comment string, or anything else that benefits your business.

 

MAKE IT PART OF THE JOB DESCRIPTION

Another one of our clients has subject matter experts who act as external “faces” of the company. They participate in media interviews, host webinars, and create content, including plenty of blog posts. These employees recognize blogging as a fundamental job responsibility, and the content they create flows directly out of day-to-day conversations with customers. It’s been a highly successful arrangement – and one that’s well worth emulating.

 

LEAD BY EXAMPLE

Upper management buy-in and (better yet) active participation are huge motivators when it comes to employee content creation. As an employee, joining the boss in a blogging effort is a great way to demonstrate your dedication to the company’s goals. However, be aware that actions speak louder than words here. So if you truly value the blogging efforts of your employees, lead by example.

 

SHOW THE RESULTS

For many employees, simply seeing the results of their efforts can be a strong motivator. So try to share specific numbers with your team, especially those that illustrate a positive impact – traffic numbers, time spent on the site, pages viewed, comments, etc. Additionally, be sure to share how these results are impacting your evolving strategy.

 

MAKE IT A REWARD

Several blog editors have told me that instead of treating blogging as a requirement, they’ve turned blogging into a reward for a job well done. By encouraging their employees to blog about their own successes (projects, promotions, speaking engagements, and other milestones), these companies are building internal excitement around the blog, while promoting success within the company. 

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Which Social Media Platform is Right for Your Organization – A Beginner’s Guide to YouTube

  
  
  
describe the imageHello, November! I’m back again with another beginner’s guide to social media and this month I’ll be breaking down YouTube. As Kate pointed out in her post, video has become an integral part of PR strategy, and YouTube is obviously a big player.

Now, on with the show.

The basics: From their own website, “YouTube allows billions of people to discover, watch and share originally-created videos. YouTube provides a forum for people to connect, inform, and inspire others across the globe and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small.” Founded in 2005 by three former PayPal employees, YouTube has been owned by Google since late 2006.

Demographics: YouTube actually makes it pretty easy to find some of their basic audience stats and I’ve listed a few of them here:   

  • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month
  • 80% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the US

Access:  Like the other social media platforms we’ve already discussed, YouTube is easily accessed both from desktop computers and mobile devices. In fact, mobile use is growing quickly -- as of Oct. 2013 40% of YouTube traffic was coming from mobile devices. It’s not just viewing, either; creating and sharing videos from smartphones and tablets is also incredibly easy. The ease-of-use of the platform is one of the great things about it, and companies can and should capitalize on this. One of the easiest ways to do so would be to capture video when a company executive is speaking at an event and upload it to YouTube right from your phone. Additionally, if your company has a strong and fun company culture, taking videos of teams competing, whether at foosball, Wii or card games, can really showcase the culture in a way that just saying you have a “fun culture” never can.

How it’s being used: Like Facebook and Twitter, YouTube is a social media platform that is largely used by the general public. On the whole it is dominated by music videos, movie clips, and cat videos.

Businesses should not count YouTube out, though, and while this article is a bit dated (Dec. 2011), it details how five big name brands are using YouTube effectively.  It’s worth reading if you’re looking to set up your company’s YouTube channel – your company’s home page on the site.

The thing to keep in mind with YouTube is that it shouldn’t be used in a silo – don’t just post videos there and wait for someone to find them. Like with all good content, the videos you post on YouTube should be promoted to the masses through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Of course, there’s also social interaction to consider. Users are able to comment on videos, share content on other social media platforms directly within YouTube, or simply give a video a thumbs up or thumbs down.  As with other social networks this ability to comment does mean that company representatives need to remain engaged and keep up with the social activity that’s going on and be able to respond to comments as necessary or appropriate.

YouTube also offers unique privacy settings. You can decide if a video is open to the general public, completely private, or somewhere in the middle, allowing only those with a link to view content.  

Finally, YouTube also provides the opportunity to subscribe, or follow, channels that interest them (for me, this is apparently Baby Einstein). YouTube will also make recommendations on other channels you might want to subscribe to (for me, this includes College Humor – YouTube knows me well).

Analytics: It’s not surprising that YouTube seems to be making good use of Google Analytics (it’s a Google platform, after all) and YouTube’s analytics are some of the best I’ve seen for a social media platform. You can gather information on performance (number of views, estimated minutes watched), engagement (likes, dislikes, comments, shares), and demographics. You can customize the timeframe for which you view the analytics and keep track of how many subscribers your channel has. You can also download reports and compare how videos perform against one another.  

Pros: One of the biggest selling points about YouTube is it’s ease-of-use and the ability to access it from any device. Whether you go through the mobile app or direct to the website, YouTube has made its site all about the user experience. The ability to customize your channel, set your banner heading, and use your company’s colors and logos is a big plus too. And, as mentioned above, one of the best things about YouTube is the analytics, which provide a wealth of information about video and channel performance.

Cons: YouTube has very few cons, but if I had to come up with one it’s that, to me, it’s not quite as social of a site as Facebook (for example). What I mean by that is I’m not sure how many people are really subscribing to channels and following brands on the platform. But, as I mentioned above, YouTube is a great place to store your content for sharing on other social platforms.

Final thoughts: YouTube has become the default place to go for videos. Just as Google as come to be used as a verb, so has YouTube (as in, just Google/YouTube it).  In fact, per the infographic below, YouTube is the second largest search engine – processing three billion searches a month. If video is important to your organization (and it should be), having an active YouTube channel is a must. 

Youtube infographic
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