The value of planning your content

The value of planning your content

Are you a marketer? Have you been lumped with marketing type functions like communications, pr, social media and content at your work because someone in c-suite thought it was the most logical thing for you to do? Are you stuck?

Having built and managed a number of our client's content schedules, and having been fortunate to study under the content master, Gini Dietrich for a while now, there's a couple of things I've learned along the way.

1) No one cares about your blog - tell your C-suite that.

2) If you don't plan your content out in advance, it'll never get done. At least not on time.

The first one, I'm, super sorry to say it. Before I met Gini, I'd always thought that blogs were the be all and end all to content. Actually, on their own, with no other content related friends to hang out with, they suck. If you have a company blog and you update it with boring news that no one is interested in, it will end up becoming a giant, dusty time-suck instead of something purposeful, profitable, and fun.

The second point. You have to plan your content. You have to know in advance what you'll be writing, illustrating, videoing about. You also have to know why you are doing those things and what the goal is at the end of it. If you are absent of a content plan that informs the why, you're at risk of wasting a lot of time and cash.

I get that not every company has the means and the ability to hire a full time comms person, let alone a content specialist. The marketing function of a business is as important as its sales team and if there is only a vague support of marketing as a whole, it'll probably take some time to get buy in for modern marketing roles such as a content strategist that have been and continue to crop up.

However, the show must go on, and so here's how you can nail your KPI's in an area you might not fully understand.

1) Get a content strategy. This is actually the hardest part of content developent because it requires a tonne of brain time and time in general to get this done properly. It doesn't need to be a 50 page best seller, but it does need to have your content goals (make 'em SMART ones), your environment - what you're selling and who your competitors are, an audit of existing content and what gaps you have, and who will be responsible for creating the content. If this piece of work is too big to do yourself, just about any agency in town can help you do this. Us included.

2) Get a content plan. From your audit of existing content, you'll see what gaps are evident. You'll also need to do some research on things your customers are searching for, and what your company can rank in Google for. The goal is for your content to get found by people searching for it, so there's almost no point in producing content that a) no one is looking for and b) that will only turn up on page 11 of results. Our content plans are thorough and offer ranked ideas based on your domain authority and what you can compete for on page one of results.

3) Set a benchmark for metrics, so you can show your boss how your work is contributing to leads, sales, and brand awareness. Your metrics dashboard needs to include your domain authority, as well as a marker for all the ways people can get to your website. Social media for instance, should be measured independently of search as they are two completely different things. You also need metrics to give you an insight in to what content is working towards achieving your goals and what is not so you can axe that idea and move on to something else.

4) Determine the purpose behind your offsite content and include this activity in your overall content plan. Offsite content is all the things that don't live on your website, such as a newsletter to your clients, any printed material, and media relations - particularly in print that doesn't have an easy push back. Flight Coffee here in Wellington uses their coffee tags with engaging messages and because they are all different, it's kinda cool for us as customers to see which one we get with our coffee delivery.

5) Feed back to your c-suite what your work is resulting in. Even if it's only micro level changes, give them a regular report of what's happening. You don't need to go too granualar with this information, but include any activity that's happened as a result of content like list numbers, increase in domain authority, and customer acquisition cost which you can get a cheat sheet of here.

Content strategy and planning is part of our bread and butter at DCG. If you get stuck on this or need a bit more help, come see us to get it sorted. In the meantime, here is a fantastic resource to get you started on your content journey from Velocity Partners in London. 

Lou Draper is Managing Partner of Draper Cormack Group and a public relations veteran. Originally from Auckland, she is now living, working and breathing public relations, personal brand and content curation in Wellington City.

What's the difference between a communications plan and a comms strategy?

What's the difference between a communications plan and a comms strategy?

When I was starting out my career I got asked this in a job interview. It got really tense really quickly because I realised I had no idea. I waffled my way through some crap and people nodded politely. I didn't get the job.

That was a lot of years ago now, but I still don't see a lot of people demarcating between the two. In fact they are used as interchangeably as PR and corporate communications which is a shame because if you get both nailed then you're in a really good place from a communications stand-point.

In its simplest terms, a communications strategy is the big over-arching ambition, the lofty goal - whereas the communications plan sets out the tools you'll use to get there.

So for Draper Cormack Group we have our communications strategy sitting right up the front of our website - "Not just a PR firm, but also a PR firm" - it's our strategy to convey that we are a company who does all the things you'd expect from a PR firm, but we also do more than just public relations. 

The communications plan we have for ourselves contains things like "blog your expertise" (must do more often), get well connected so we can make introductions between clients that are mutually beneficial, make sure we trumpet our successes but also own where we go wrong - things like that are what we call the "tactics", to use communications parlance.

If we do all of our tactics and do them well then we will have gone some way to achieving our communications strategy of showing that we are a PR firm, but not just a PR firm.

Communication strategies should be at an organisational level, you don't need to do one for each subsection of a business, or each job/campaign (though they can be helpful). Where they most come into their own is at the highest level so that everyone in an organisation knows that the reason they're communicating in a certain way is to achieve a certain goal.

You can also fold your communications plans and strategies into one document. In a future post, I'll set out what that might look like so you can go away and try and make your strategy yourself. And then if you need a hand, why I know just the communications company that can help you.

 

How to handle a PR crisis when you're not at fault but you have got time

How to handle a PR crisis when you're not at fault but you have got time

Recently we did some work with a client who had been wronged. Pretty badly wronged actually. And it was going to come out that they had been wronged, but it might look a bit embarrassing that they were able to be wronged. So they spoke to us and we did some work with them on how best to prepare.

It's an unusual situation when you've done nothing wrong but someone has done something wrong to you and you might still look like an egg. It's not a common one but it can still happen, and fortunately the client we worked with didn't wait until after it broke before talking to the experts. They prepared.

We got them to explain exactly what had happened, what they knew, what they wanted to know, and then suggested some things they might like to know that they hadn't mentioned - the unknown unknowns.

Once this was done we set about writing a plan. This meant:

  1. identifying all the audiences involved,
  2. figuring out through which channel we'd reach those audiences
  3. what we wanted those audiences to go away knowing;
  4. and the messages we'd use to make that so.

The audiences we identified were:

  • Staff
  • Key clients
  • All other clients
  • Everyone else external

Staff needed their own set of messages to be able to use if they were asked about the issue so we built that into the narrative for them. We created a script to use when talking to staff, as well as another script to use for key clients. We drafted an email to send to all other clients and then we prepared a holding statement if anyone else (including media) asked any questions. We also did a Q&A section of any possible questions that anyone might ask. Having this for the client was really useful in case something got thrown their way that we hadn't included in any of the scripts.

On the day it was going to break, staff were briefed first, then key clients and other clients and then came the expected publicity about the case. We stayed in close contact with the client throughout the day but everything ran smoothly because we had planned. We anticipated the questions that might get asked, we had answers for everything and we were able to just run through what we'd planned to do.

The client was very happy, but not because we'd been amazing, mainly because they'd been in a position where a stressful event occurred but they weren't left scrambling because they had everything down on paper.

Now obviously sometimes it's impossible to plan for these things because you may get surprised by them - we wrote about emergency comms here but if you do have a few days warning then either you, or a professional agency, can help you so that on the day it doesn't have to be too stressful for you.

The future of PR

The future of PR

A while ago I was asked to be part of an IABC panel event to talk to our communications industry about the future of PR, and what it'll look like in 2027. It's not often I'm asked to share my reckons, especially about a topic that I'm reasonably opinionated about, so I was excited to be invited, particularly to join a panel with such important people in our industry. If you missed the event last night or are interested more in where I see PR going, please read on.

I've been working in the PR industry for nearly 18 years, and while I've dabbled in a few other things in that time, largely, PR is my core trade. You don't need me to tell you that PR is constantly evolving. It has been in motion since the late 90's and it's not about to stop now. Traditionally it was all about media relations for a company and what coverage in the mainstream media and glossy titles could do for them. Media relations is still a part of what we do, but if PR people want to remain useful and employed in this brave new world, they're going need to add a lot more to their LinkedIn endorsement list, beyond press releases.

My friend Gini Dietrich of Chicago based PR firm Arment Dietrich and founder of my most favourite blog ever, Spin Sucks, says that communications professionals need to be hybrid communicators and I agree with her. To be a hybrid communicator you'll need to fully understand media relations and all that entails, but also be completely proficient in digital storytelling and content planning, social media, and paid advertising. 

Talking about paid ads, I'm sure we're all familiar with the PESO communications model, and even as little as a year ago, I would have said that the "PAID" part of PESO for PR people, meant sorting out facebook ads and sponsoring posts. Not anymore. In the future, or now, when your client is launching a product that needs a fully integrated launch plan, you're going to need to master media buying. Sure, you might have friends or an agreement with an ad agency to help you, however, the value you will add to your client by being able to take the lead on the launch including their paid advertising is pretty phenomenal. My firm has been leading the launch for new cricket platform BehindTheSeams.TV and a hybrid role here has been absolutely necessary.

Next up is metrics. And I don't mean advertising equivalents like we touted in the 90's. I mean true measurements of how effective your work is for getting leads in the door of your clients. In the future, and you can start this today actually, PR people need to show demonstrable evidence of their work contributing to a company's bottom line. Google have made it really easy for PR firms to measure their work, with its analytics tool. You don't need to go all gung-ho on guaranteeing leads to your clients if you're not comfortable with that (I get it, baby steps), but when you see users downloading content and signing up for lists, you can give yourself a pat on the back, as this means your work has made a positive impact to a company.

It's pretty clear that digital PR will be super prominent in the future - it is now, so there's no turning back. But how we embrace new technology like AI, will be key to the importance of PR practitioners in the future. AI robots as I like to call them, won't be taking your job, but they'll change it. Imagine how much time you spend on writing, and then think of the time freed up when a cute AI robot writes the majority for you based on some keywords and long tail questions you prepare for it. Your writing role will evolve into an editing role to shape the content and soften it with emotion and tone. AI probably can't do that for you, so take a breath, your job is safe.

Strategic advice is my final point today. And this one is really important. PR people need to get a seat at the top table and in time they will. When discussing business strategy and planning, our experience in communicating a message and via what methods is crucial to the success of a company. This will be more important in Government departments across the world, too. We only need to mention the Trump administration debacle and how disjointed and offensive to many, certain characters have behaved with their opinions and reckons. Communication controlled by a presence at the top table, could have saved some face.

I wish to thank the New Zealand chapter of IABC for inviting me to join their panel event, special mention to my panel colleagues, Sharon Hunter (international speaker), IABC Global Chair,  Regan Savage, Kiwibank GM Marketing CommunicationsDebbie Barber, Ministry of Health GM Communications, and thank you to IABC Wellington President Shaun Jones for the top notch facilitation.

Lou Draper is Managing Partner of Draper Cormack Group and a public relations veteran. Originally from Auckland, she is now living, working and breathing public relations, personal brand and content curation in Wellington City.

Why you should plan your PR, and how to do it super quick.

Why you should plan your PR, and how to do it super quick.

A blog from Laura at Spin Sucks made me chuckle today. It's about why her dog hates your PR plan and you should read it, it's very good. But it reminded me that while some of her customers have plans that don't really achieve anything, there's a lot of businesses out there that don't have a bad PR plan, because they don't have one at all. And I get it. There's a lot going on in your business,  especially if you have staff.

The number one reason why you need a plan is largely so you end up telling the stories in your business that are important to you, you tell them well in a strategic manner (no knee jerks please), and you gain some traction against your business goals using communications as a tactic. Comms and PR with no plan is like using a chocolate teapot. Don't do it. Messy end.

Sometimes it's not a time or priority issue, it's because you don't know where to start. I know this, because a quick glance at the searches for comms and pr plans in Google, indicate that "Comms plan how", "PR plan template free", and "What's a PR plan" are of a reasonably high level each month.

The bore of doing a Google search to find some insight is that what's on offer is usually either a Government based resource which isn't great as it's a completely different model,  or something from the United States which is kinda worse because it's not relevant to New Zealand, or it's something tailored for a specific business and it's just too confusing to pop your own details over the top. And maybe some PR plans you've seen, are fuelled with a single tactic of running to media any chance you get, instead of focusing on integration. So today, you can learn (if you want) how to drum up an integrated PR plan for your organisation - super quick. 

1) Pick a story in your business you'd like to share and a minimum of three ways it can be told. A blog, a video, an infographic, a white paper, a webinar, a case study, a podcast, an EDM - pick three. One of the three needs to be a blog on your website, so you have a reference point for metrics.

2) Identify the audience you'd like to hear about your story and make sure that your audience is receptive to at least one of the formats above you've chosen.

3) Write, produce, do the story. Get it peer reviewed to make sure all formats are good.

4) Set up your metrics. The goal is to tell your story, but ideally you want people to engage with it and if that engagement brings them back to your website, they might want to read more about you, sign up to your list, and holy smokes, maybe even buy from you. I know, smart huh? Now if you have a good metric snapshot to start with, you'll be able to see whether or not anyone was interested in your story, which will inform whether you tell those types of stories in the future, or if you need to completely change tack.

Likes on Twitter and Facebook aren't going to cut it sadly, but as an entry point without getting all Gung-ho on it, include things like your website domain authority, your current website visitors, and where visitors have come from to get to your site. If they are predominantly social media traffic, then you'll know to spend a bit of time perfecting your post there. If they are mainly from search, then you might want to consider some paid Google ads if your domain authority is average and you can't compete for page one organically.

Go here to read my blog on metrics, to learn more about it.

5) Media relations. This is a fun one. Typically media relations just meant engaging with mainstream media, but actually, if you've got media relations skills, then you should pitch some of your content (point 1 and 3) to other blogs as guest content.  You need to carefully consider whether your story has legs for a mainstream media audience before pitching it to a busy journalist. Business wins business and is happy about it is not something a mainstream journalist will be interested in. 

6) Publishing. If you have content going up in other areas get the date they are being published and the link so you can publish your blog with links out to various sites. Your blog will be summing up your story briefly, supported with examples in other places. If you have secured mainstream media coverage, edit your blog post and include this link when it's out.

That's it. If you've gone through these steps more or less, you've planned and executed one story. Take a look at your metrics. What are the differences you can see? Did you have more visitors to your website? Did you have more views of existing content? Did anyone sign up to your list? Analyse what new things have happened, make your tweaks for the next story, rinse and repeat.

Lou Draper is Managing Partner of Draper Cormack Group and a public relations veteran. Originally from Auckland, she is now living, working and breathing public relations, personal brand and content curation in Wellington City.

Magical metrics

Magical metrics

I love metrics. LOVE THEM. Which is rare for someone in PR. Typically what we really love is getting coverage of your story in mainstream media - the pitch, the success of seeing a story published. The rush from seeing your story that we took and presented to a really tough media crowd of journalists and editors in several different newspapers, well. You can only imagine. But what happened over the last few years is that while we are very good at representing you to the media, there's also a bunch of other stuff we learned to do really well. We're now focused on purpose. On integration. On making sure that the work we do is useful, rather than just giving us a high at the end of the day when we nail it. It's about you, getting value out of us being useful. Bye bye long lunch at SPQR.

So metrics. It's a bit of a face palm moment that we didn't do this ages ago, because it's really easy and the insights are phenomenal. They tell us exactly how a story idea has performed, and whether or not we should keep going with that tactic or axe it and do something better.

Largely all of my metric, geekiness love has come from following a leader in our industry who is just golden. Avinash Kaushik. He knows what's up when it comes to data of this ilk. Thanks Avinash!

Like everything, you can have a metrics dashboard as big as Russia and not know what's up. It's not necessary while you're starting out, so give this entry level metrics DIY Dashboard a go. 

Build a dashboard (sorta) in under an hour

1) Write down your domain authority. We want to monitor this periodically to see if it's going up or down.

2) Find out what your monthly average visitor number to your website is. It's good to see whether the content you're pushing out (in a very general sense) is useful to someone, somewhere.

3) Out of those visitors, find out what percentage come from searching in Google for you, and what percentage come from social media posts or other sites. 

4) Now split your dashboard between organic search, social media and any other promotional channel you use.  We need to do this because if the ratio in your channel is 40/30/20/10 and you treat it like 25/25/25/25, then you're not off to a great start and nobody wants that. What we want is to see is what channels for sharing content are good for you and your business. .0001% of visitors coming from your Pinterest channel is not enough to keep investing in its maintenance. See what I mean?

Ultimately, we are measuring how people are coming to your website, how long they are staying, and what they are doing there, via the content and social media chit chat you put out. We want to see what's working for your business and where to put more emphasis.

So let's get a bit more specific. Write these questions down and fill them in when you have some results. Usually we would pick a reporting period of two weeks from content going out.

- Out of all clicks on a social media post to your website (you can enter this when you have an actual post to put up) what was the bounce rate percentage - i.e how many went to your website and then left again without looking at anything else. And the same for organic search - how many people searched for you, then left super quickly? This tells us whether your content is on brand for your business and how authentic it is for your audience. Remember we want people to come to our website to have a good time and get lots of value and eventually buy from us.

- How interesting are you on your social media platforms? What is the percentage of all the comments, and replies, out of your follower number. If you have 100 followers but only one comment or action on everything you do, you might like the consistency of Jane's support, but it's 1% engagement at the end of it and probably a good time to rethink what you're sharing. However, 80 comments from 100 followers, is much better. You may celebrate! 

- If you haven't driven people to comment, perhaps you've driven them to share which is still rather good. So again, what's the percentage of the shares and retweets of your story link on a social platform out of your follower number. Extending on this, your amplification feeds into your reach number. And so with the help of a handy analytics tool, you can see what the size of your network was able to see your post. You'll want to keep that figure in mind when seeing how good a piece of content was, and also, see how many new followers you're getting!

- Do the same for likes as a percentage of followers. This will give you your applause rate. Let's not crack the bubbly over 100 likes when you have 25 million followers, though.

And finally what are people doing when they click your link and go to your website or search in Google to get to your site? Great if they are reading more content and generally having a nice time on your website, but what we'd really like, is for them to sign up to your list and become a lead. What percentage of people who click through from a social platform go ahead and sign up to your list or contact you through your form, and what percentage of those highly engaged people are doing the same thing from a Google search? Get these two percentages to round out your effectiveness report, which will inform how you play out another story or piece of content. 

So there you have it folks! The fun part is displaying this information in whatever way that will make sense to you when it's time to present and act on your findings. 

Lou Draper is Managing Partner of Draper Cormack Group and a public relations veteran. Originally from Auckland, she is now living, working and breathing public relations, personal brand and content curation in Wellington City.

I'm very very sowwy: or how to apologise

I'm very very sowwy: or how to apologise

Over the weekend a bit of a hullabaloo broke out when a 2-day old tweet from Nicky Wagner, the Minister for Disability Issues, showed some ... you might say flippancy, towards her portfolio and the issues within.

What to do in a PR Crisis

What to do in a PR Crisis

Despite the best of intentions, the best of behaviour, and the best of staff, things can go wrong. And they can go wrong spectacularly. And when they do it can feel like you're in the middle of a hurricane, being buffeted by criticism and negativity and that it will never ever end and things will always be bad.

Take a breath. Things will nearly always be ok.

Where else can my story go?

Where else can my story go?

At DCG, we’re trying to rock the boat a little when it comes to PR agencies and what they do for their clients. For a starter, that sweet little cash cow – the press release – that probably costs you anywhere between $400 and $1000 is not something we’re going to aggressively sell you, because largely they are a waste of time. We’re certainly not perfect, but selling a product or service that we know is next to useless, is unethical and we don’t roll that way.

We do roll via the PESO model. PESO was coined by Gini Dietrich back in 2014. It stands for Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned when referring to content creation. What it encourages is a more integrated approach to communications and content, which is infinitely better than running to the media with your non-story.

PESO also promotes a mantra I’ve stood by for many years: that every story has a home. And by home, I mean an audience. This approach slows things down a little, and gives us time to examine who really needs to know about this information. In some cases the media do need to be engaged, but 80% of the time they do not, and so we (everyone else) should really stop bugging them with nonsensical press releases.

It also promotes accountability. When you’re in charge of a company’s communications budget, you need to make sure that you’re spending it wisely. Frittering it away on press release and journalist spamming time isn’t great. But, by considering the audience and making sure that those people get that information, and then potentially doing something useful with it, well, for us at DCG, that’s when you become valuable to your clients.

Our clients at DCG hire us in the first place because we sell integrated communications rather than just being a media coverage PR firm. This means we’ll place a story where it gets the most bang for buck. It might not even be a story. We encouraged our client Snapper to engage with their end users when they rolled out their shiny new top up kiosks, with an easy competition. Just a media story relies on people happening upon your story when it goes up so they actually see it, and then how many of those would have felt compelled to go out and try the kiosks? Very few. In the end, the media were keen to talk about the kiosks anyway, and so it was a good result for Snapper. Our concept was about engaging with the user, the audience, in the best way possible.

The feedback we get from some businesses is that media coverage is still the golden child. They firmly believe that securing a story in the NZH or elsewhere is what will solve all their problems. It won’t.  However, playing the long game, with some strategic thinking and focusing on the audience who you are really trying to gain the attention of, will do a better job.

So where else can your story go? Here’s some ideas.

  • Your own website, promoted by social media, paid and organic.
  • Someone else’s website as a guest post, promoted through their social channels, and your own.
  • A company newsletter that by checking the open rates, gets opened and read by the people you want to share this story with.
  • As a micro-post on any of your social channels
  • As a video sent out via your newsletter
  • To a local news site, such as What is IT Wellington (disclaimer, this is run by DCG)

Here’s a radical idea. Word of mouth. Tell someone who tells James, who is sure to mention to his boss that she should look into xyz because of abc.

 

You could also do this at a networking event. “What’s new in the dev world, Jane?” “Well Ed, have you heard of Code Club Aotearoa – they’re teaching the kids to code. You mentioned last week you were looking at options to sponsor, this would be great for you”

There’s no denying that coverage in mainstream media – or any media at all is pretty exciting. It’s exciting for us when we pitch a story and it runs, especially cover stories. But when you save your media destined stories for media, and your other news for the exact audience and channel it belongs in, the ROI becomes crystal clear, because you’ll have put your audience first.

 

Lou Draper is Managing Partner of Draper Cormack Group and a public relations veteran. Originally from Auckland, she is now living, working and breathing public relations, personal brand and content curation in Wellington City.

Who should I send my press release to?

Who should I send my press release to?

I just want to cover a bit about press releases, why we don't do them as everyone else does, and also what a press kit is, because that's not the same thing and I feel like maybe some people don't know that. So here goes.

Public relations covers a good number of things, but the one thing people get hung up on, is media relations. That's the bit where you tell a journalist about the thing going on in your business in the hope they'll want to investigate, write about it in their own words and publish it in their newspaper. We've written about this before, but "business wins business and is happy about it" does not make a news story, nor does 95% of what's happening at work for you. That doesn't mean you should scrap your story idea completely, you just need to find the right home for it and there is a home for every single story idea - so don't fret. 

Generally speaking, we don't bother with press releases in the fashion you know them as. It is much quicker for us and fewer $$ for our clients to spend, if we summarise a story idea in a sentence or two and use that to pitch a journalist.

A press kit on the other hand, is very useful. It's what you put together for a journalist who has requested one, i.e. they are interested in your story idea, and they now need a bit more information, examples, and contacts of people to speak with.

A press kit could have official quotes from subject matter experts that might be too hard to reach for a direct on the record quote to the journalist. The kit might have images of the people concerned, videos and other content. It doesn't have to be packaged up in a pretty bow, but it will be a source of information to help the journalist do their job.

The other thing about press kits is that they can be time consuming to put together, particularly a good, useful one, and this time needs to be considered. If you pitch a story to a journalist and they are interested, you don't have very long to get the information together for that journalist. On the flip side, there's very little point building a hub of resource and information for no one in the newsroom because they don't want to run your story.

Lastly, if you are still pretty keen on that press release, or you've managed to narrow it down to a a much briefer pitch, consider where you'll send that email. If you've got more than one journalist from a news organisation to send your email to, choose the best person who is most likely to be interested and scrap the rest. Here's why.

If you were given a project at the same time as three other people in your business and you all go about working on this project, only learning after an hour that four of you were doing the same job, it'd be a bit annoying, right? Same for journalists and newsrooms. Frustrating, right?

David has written about why press releases are a waste of time, and he even guest-lectured at Massey University to the PR students about why you don't need to bother with releases anymore. Time willing, go on and read that blog too, it's very good.

Lou Draper is Managing Partner of Draper Cormack Group and a public relations veteran. Originally from Auckland, she is now living, working and breathing public relations, personal brand and content curation in Wellington City.