Content That Converts: Advice for Developing a Profitable Content Marketing Strategy

Content That Converts: Advice for Developing a Profitable Content Marketing Strategy

“Because you can’t eat brand equity, and can’t pay a team with it” – Laura Hanly, Digital Marketing Expert and Author, “Content That Converts: How to Create a Profitable and Predictable B2B Content Marketing Strategy”

When done correctly, content marketing can serve as a powerful arm to your overall marketing strategy – it establishes you as an authority and has the potential to increase your revenue and profit. That’s why CMOs at the largest technology companies report that building out content marketing as an organizational competency is the second most important initiative, only behind measuring ROI.

For those still wrapping their head around the concept, according to Forrester:

“Content marketing is a strategy where brands create interest, relevance, and relationships with customers by producing, curating, and sharing content that addresses specific customer needs and delivers visible value.”

The challenge is figuring out how to do it right. As author Laura Hanly explains in her book, “Content That Converts: How to Create a Profitable and Predictable B2B Content Marketing Strategy,” content is not a magic bullet.

Content marketing will not:

  • Turn you into an internet celebrity (at least not overnight)
  • Make you rich beyond your wildest dreams

And when done poorly, can:

  • Harm your brand
  • Put off potential customers
  • Never pay off (resulting in wasted time and resources)

Hanly stresses the importance of having a consistent strategy for the content that you’re producing, so that your audience is engaged, comes to know and respect you as an authority, and will buy from you when the time is right (because the ultimate goal is sales, isn’t it?) Every single piece of content needs to end with a call to action that can lead to a sale.

Some questions to ask yourself and your team before committing to a content marketing strategy include:

  • What is the purpose of our content marketing?
  • Who are we trying to reach?
  • What types of content should we produce?
  • Do we have someone who can produce the content?
  • Do we have good ideas about what our content would be focused on?
  • Is our market segment interested in consuming that kind of content?
  • How will we measure our success?

There are two main types of content you can use: recurring content, which builds a customer base gradually over time, and content assets (such as a whitepaper, a book, a webinar series or a learning workshop) that can be used as near-term client acquisition tools. Before choosing the route that’s best for your business, there are four things to ask yourself (what Hanly calls the Conversion Quadrant):

What’s the intersection between what your customers want and/or need?

Figure out what your customers really care about. What do they look to your company for insight about? How can your expertise intersect with what your customer wants and needs?

What do you want to be known as an industry authority for?

The simplest way to become an authority on something is to say the same things about that topic over and over again. Don’t just chase the latest trend – find the one thing you can focus on becoming known for that will make it easier to develop, market and sell products that your audience will buy again and again.

What is the format in which you produce your best content?

While most people think that its best to tailor your content to audience preferences, Hanly recommends choosing the format that you most enjoy working in – because if you like it, you’ll enjoy creating it, and your audience will like it too.

What’s your quarterly plan?

Mapping out your content helps you to be strategic about your production. This should include:

  • A clear statement of your “one thing” your company will be an authority on
  • Four themes you want to rotate through
  • Three topics per theme, including key points on each
  • Headlines for each topic
  • Scheduled date of publication for each topic                                      

Whichever path you decide to take with your content, if you don’t have the resources or bandwidth to do it right – if it feels like a chore every time you go to write – STOP. This will only result in an inconsistent content cycle with content that feels forced, uninspiring and unlikely to resonate with your audience.

The powerful thing about content marketing is that your assets increase in value over time. Whether it’s a blog, a book, a podcast or a whitepaper – you can always update later to improve it, modify key messages and share it with new audiences to see greater returns on early investments of your time and resources.

Remember – every piece of content you put out under your brand needs to be the best possible representation of who you are. Most prospects will have their first interaction with your brand through your content and just like in dating, you get one chance to make a good first impression.

 

By: Colleen Martin

How Optimization Influences Communications

Why are you reading this blog post? That, I’m not really sure about.

Who are you? Why are you reading this blog post? I can take a good guess. You probably have marketing, communications or PR in your profile somewhere. Chances are, you’ve read a post on a similar subject or even read something on the Zer0 to 5ive blog before. If our readership mirrors a site such as MarketingProfs, you are likely a professional at a small or medium-sized business in North America.

How do I know this? Because we’re inside an optimization loop. It’s similar to the social media bubble of our own design that keeps the unpleasant posts of our crazy uncle out of our feed and keeps feeding us posts that we’ll like, comment and share on. The optimization loop is more automated and more invisible. Every Google search (at least 5.5 billion a day), Amazon purchase (600 items a second on Prime Day 2016), or Facebook like (500,000 a minute) is being captured and analyzed to keep us clicking, buying and engaging.

Past performance is generally regarded as a good predictor of future behavior online, so the optimization loop keeps on working to drive more clicks. For those trying to get someone to take a new action online, the loop can be hard to break into. Here are a few ideas on how you can get your message out (or your client’s message, since you’re probably from an agency!):

1) Publish Outside Your Box

When creating content for potential customers to read, it’s important to get it published in the right places and engaged with by the right people so that it leaves your brand’s loop and enters the content loops of your prospects. This can best be accomplished through contributed content to publications or blogs that serve a target audience. When it comes to Google, they will have stronger authority on the content topic, and will be more likely to make your content rise to the top of search results.

There are also ways to leverage social media to try and break into new areas (e.g. hashtags in Twitter, audience targeting in Facebook), but if your account is outside of the loop, it’s less likely to be effective. With systems like Facebook’s algorithms in place that rely on thousands of factors tied to affinity and actions around a company’s page and individual posts, having your content pushed out by a well-regarded third party is a great way to increase impressions on your message. Plus, it allows you to use your brand and personal accounts to spread that message rather than relying on self-published content, which is likely to receive fewer eyeballs.

2) Become an Expert to Your Audience

There used to be ways to fake it online without real content, but the methods employed by Google and Facebook to determine valuable content are largely driven by user behavior. Bounce rate, time on page and post engagement all matter when it comes to rankings and visibility, so time spent creating good content will pay dividends over time. By combining strong content and wider distribution, it’s possible to become an expert source for target audiences.

This emphasis on quality carries over to email marketing as well. Gmail and other services increasingly monitor user engagement to determine if an email will be delivered. They examine behaviors at a macro (sending account) and micro (individual email) level to build reputation scores, so if your emails are ignored for being of little value (let alone marked as spam or unsubscribed), it’s going to keep your content from being seen.

3) Understand the System

It takes a lot of work to keep up with the changes being made by the big online platforms. Keeping up with what’s working on Google and updating your content and communications strategy on an ongoing basis to match can pay big dividends. Factors go beyond content too. For example, if web pages are slow loading, not mobile friendly, or not protected with SSL encryption, there can be penalties from Google because your site is not providing a good, secure user experience.

There’s also a degree of “follow the money” that smart users can capitalize on. If Facebook wants to push Facebook Live video to users to increase its popularity, it would be wise for you to use it and break through the walls that the algorithms put up. Being aware of best practices and using them to influence your communications strategy can create a lasting competitive advantage, as the optimization loop only gets stronger in your favor.

By: Bob Minkus, Director

Three Reasons to Incorporate Marketing Goals into Website Design

Today, websites have to do more than simply “exist.” With high levels of competition in the digital space, a website must be fully integrated to a company’s business objectives and goals. Investing in a website that integrates your sales and marketing messages into a compelling design can improve user experience and directly impact your business’ sales funnel.

Make a Lasting First Impression

You only have one chance to make a first impression, and in marketing, that first impression is your website. The Internet has become such an integral part of our lives that most people search online and make a judgment call about a business based on their company website before ever interacting with them or using their products. Having a website that looks like it’s from the “dot com era” tells site visitors that your business is outdated. Even if that isn’t the case, it’s difficult to overcome this perception if a customer has no other reference to your company or product.

Keep in mind that over 51 percent of users surf the web on their phone or tablet over a computer, making it vital that your site is also mobile friendly. Not convinced? A whopping 40 percent of people will choose another result if their first choice is not mobile friendly. Google’s search algorithms continue to heavily favor mobile-friendly sites, and a non-optimized site can leave you out of your prospects’ mobile search results.

Hone Your Message

As companies grow, expand and evolve, your message and value proposition needs to keep up. Your website is the best place to share the most important benefits of your company and product with customers and prospects. Your website copy needs reflect where your company and products are today, not what they were previously.

While crafting your message, be careful with the claims you put on your website. Overstating your business’ capabilities can lead to disappointed users who expect certain outcomes based on your site but have received a lesser version of the product they imagined. A proper marketing strategy should hone and focus on the best ways to highlight the strengths of your product without making outlandish or disputable claims.

One way to create an effective message is through Geoffrey Moore’s positioning framework. Moore’s framework helps to clearly define the target market and their main pain point, your product/business and its key value offering that solves your target market’s pain point, and how to best differentiate your product/business from the competition. With each of these points clearly defined, you can ensure your messaging draws in your target market and leaves them with everything they need to know about your product/business and why your solution is the best solution.

Integrate the Sales Pipeline

The best websites map out the user experience that eventually leads to a call to action (CTA) to either learn more, start a trial or buy the product. Proper placement of these CTAs will drive user engagement with your brand and have the potential to drive sales for your business. There are many tools available to track user behaviors on the site, (one such tool is CrazyEgg) so that your business can best optimize its CTAs and find the most user friendly design for them on your website.

Complete omission of CTAs and other sales-driven actions can result in lost revenue. Your website has the ability to drive sales leads from individuals who engage by requesting more info or a free trial of your product. From there, the sales team has a much greater ability to convert this lead, since search-driven leads have a 14.6 percent close rate compared to the 1.7 percent close rate for cold leads.

Among the long list of responsibilities for a business, its website must remain a top priority. While there’s no set rule regarding when a business should perform website updates, businesses should be updating their websites when they fail to incorporate modern user-interface elements and when they hinder a business’ sales funnel. But by making web maintenance more routine, a website becomes less burdensome to maintain, and with the proper messaging strategy and design execution, a business can create a modern, user-friendly site to reap the benefits a great website has to offer.

By: Jaimie Yakaboski

 

5 Strategies to Promoting a Successful Webinar

For reasons too many to name, webinars continue to be one of the most popular strategies for leveraging content to drive qualified leads. There has been significant focus on creating great content over the past few years, for good reason, but the fact remains that no matter how good your content is, if people can’t engage with it, it’s all but useless.

  1. Have a plan. There is so much that goes into planning a successful webinar, but in order to start you need to ask yourself:
    • Who are you targeting?
    • What amazing content are you going to be presenting that is going to knock everyone’s socks off?
    • What day and time are you going to host it to drive the best attendance?
    • How are you going to reach your audiences?

The answers to all of these questions and more should be answered up-front in a comprehensive strategic plan. To be most effective, promotional activities need to occur pre-event, during the event, and post-event – what tactics will you be employing at each phase? The chosen strategies and tactics should be aligned to your audiences and their behavior – have you built personas that help you identify the best ways to reach your intended audience?

Having a thorough plan ensures that when it is “go-time”, promoting the webinar is strictly about world-class execution.

  1. Engage hearts and minds. People are faced with a constant deluge of information. The hard truth is that no matter how interesting you think your webinar topic is no one is going to show up to your webinar unless you engage their interest – emotionally or intelligently. The key here is coming up with ideas that will get your audience excited. Excited enough to register, mention it to a co-worker, and share it on a social media platform. Excited enough that it is memorable.

If you want to be memorable, boring email blasts are not going to cut it.

Giving away valuable content, offering special discounts, creating games or sweepstakes, hosting contests and even the strategic use of humor are all ways to create a more engaging promotional experience.

  1. Take an integrated approach. Use every available means to reach your audience: email, social media, direct mail, the homepage of your website, and PPC campaigns can all help drive your audience to register. If you have multiple speakers, leverage them! Have your speakers add a link to the landing page to their email signature. Every speaker, sponsor, and partner should also be communicating within their own professional networks to drive attendance. Write a blog post that teases or supplements the content you will be sharing in the webinar. Invite industry media and analysts so that they promote it to their audiences during and after the webinar. Create a 30 second teaser video.

Sometimes people fall into the trap of thinking that since a webinar is a digital event – only digital strategies can be used to promote it. Nothing is further from the truth! 

In reality, people can and should be reached across multiple mediums. Direct mail and PR can be used to effectively promote a webinar, especially one on a trending topic.

  1. Stay in front of your audience. According to HubSpot, only 30% of people who register for a webinar will actually attend. Once someone has registered, don’t forget to send reminders the week and even the day of the event – people get busy and webinars are easy to forget. If someone registers but doesn’t attend, send a follow-up email that drives them to the webinar recording.

When it comes to promoting an event, once is never enough.

  1. Keep it simple. Make sure your invitation emails are clean and informative so that it is simple for people to learn what they need to know and take action. Keep it simple to register via obvious CTAs, a clean and well organized landing page, and an easy way to access previously recorded webinars. Use best practices on form fields and placement. Less is more, now is not the time to gather every potential piece of information on a lead you wish you knew!

Webinars are a cost-effective tactic that allow companies to expand their reach, target more people and deliver content in a compelling, fully branded way. Developing a strategy that effectively promotes your webinar will drive attendance and ensure success.

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By: Cole Naldzin, Principal

Mastering the Art of Infographics for Public Relations Efforts

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, but how about 1,000 hits? Information graphics, or more commonly known as “infographics” are graphic visual representations of information, data, or knowledge that help to present information quickly and clearly. It is hard to ignore the surge of infographics that you see every day in print, online and social media.

From the USA Today Snapshot to Instagram to research reports, infographics are everywhere.

Source: USA Today

Why have infographics become so popular? For starters – they are fun, visually appealing, and a great way to communicate a lot of information in a succinct way. In addition, consumers are bombarded with a massive amount of information on a daily basis and it has shortened our attention spans. In fact, a recent Nielsen Company audience report revealed that adults in the U.S. spend nearly 11 hours each day consuming media.

 

 

Competition for consumer attention is fierce and a strong visual will make people more compelled to reader your content and to share it with others. According to a recent article on HubSpot, when people hear information, they’re likely to remember only 10% of what they heard three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of it three days later. Additionally, infographics are much more likely to be shared via social media than your standard text article. In fact, Infographics are “liked” and shared on social media 3x more than any other type of content, according to HubSpot.

What’s the Story?

Infographics can be used to support a campaign in a variety of ways – to display survey data, illustrate a trend or timeline, make comparisons, raise awareness of an issue, simplify a concept or process or demonstrate results of research. To be effective, infographics must be focused on your core idea and tell a compelling story. Use a compelling headline that grabs the user’s attention and use images and captions to connect the dots. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need original data to leverage infographics. As long as you include the sources of information, you can also use industry data, trends, and other relevant information to support your idea.

 

Keep it Simple and Sharable

The design of an infographic is as important as the content. Compelling infographics are well designed, visually appealing, and easily digestible. Limit fonts and be consistent with the color palette. Remember to leave white space. The infographic also has to be easy to view and easy to share. Designing it to be a manageable length and size will make it easier to share and view on social media and other mobile platforms.

 

Share Far and Wide

Once you’ve created an infographic, you need to promote it. There are many ways that you can share it to increase awareness, visibility and engagement for your business: send in a press release as an accompanying visual; share on social media; post on your website and company blog; or send with a pitch to targeted media contacts.

 

At Zer0 to 5ive, we love to use infographics in our PR campaigns and we have seen the difference that a well-designed, visually appealing, and easily digested infographic can make in media coverage, particularly on social media. We’ve included a few of our favorites below to give you some ideas on using infographics in your next PR or marketing campaign.

[zlightbox image=”http://0to5.com/wp-content/uploads/vigilant-1.png” thumbnail=”http://0to5.com/wp-content/uploads/info-2.jpg” align=”left”]

[zlightbox image=”http://0to5.com/wp-content/uploads/Unknown-5.jpeg” thumbnail=”http://0to5.com/wp-content/uploads/info-3.jpg” align=”left”]

[zlightbox image=”http://0to5.com/wp-content/uploads/cengage-1.png” thumbnail=”http://0to5.com/wp-content/uploads/info-1.jpg” align=”left”]

[zlightbox image=”http://0to5.com/wp-content/uploads/k4-connect.png” thumbnail=”http://0to5.com/wp-content/uploads/info-4.jpg” align=”left”]

 

 

 

Maximizing Visibility for Medical Devices Throughout the FDA Approval Process

Pursuing FDA approval for your medical device can be an exciting time for any company in the healthcare space. Whether you are taking the path of the FDA’s premarket approval (PMA) process or the 510(k), the regulatory milestones along the way create multiple opportunities for a company to begin generating visibility and awareness for the product.

These key milestones include:

  • Clinical Trials
  • PMA/510(K) Submission
  • Advisory Committee Meeting
  • FDA Approval
  • Launch

A PR strategy that beings at the start of clinical trials and keep key stakeholders informed along the way will enable you to be prepared for each step, maximizing visibility throughout the process, and hit the ground running once your product receives FDA approval.

Clinical Trials – Announcing the commencement of clinical trials (first patient enrolled) and the achievement of key milestones can be announced through press releases and promoted to the media. At this stage, it is important to identify your top media contacts and influencers so that you can keep them informed throughout the process. Phase I and II clinical trials will generate the most interest among trade publications, while Phase III trials will be of interest to a wider array of media, potentially including mainstream media.

Once the clinical trials end and the submission is being prepared, it can be a good time to launch an issues campaign that supports the need for your device in the industry, educates stakeholders and helps build awareness. This type of campaign can help lay the groundwork for the filing and advisory board meetings.

PMA/510(K) Submission – Prior to the company submitting its application for FDA approval, it’s important that all the pieces of the communications strategy are in place to support the company through the advisory meetings and begin the push toward launch. This includes finalizing key messages and supporting points, identifying and preparing KOLs, and conducting any non-clinical research that will help support the launch of the product, such as market research or surveys. The PMA submission should be announced through a press release and interviews with key reporters should be scheduled with company executives.

Advisory Committee Meetings – Advisory Committee meetings leading up to approvals are a key milestone for awareness and visibility. It is important to issue a press release in advance of each meeting – to announce the scheduled meeting date and to inform media of this important milestone – and also to announce the outcome immediately upon the close of each meeting, preferably the same day. Industry media are likely to attend these meetings, particularly if your device is high profile. You can contact the FDA communications team assigned to your device category for additional insight into which media have registered to attend the meeting or might be there. Therefore, company spokespeople should be prepared with media talking points and a QA in advance of the meeting for on-site interviews. Key media contacts not in attendance should be briefed via phone as soon as possible following a successful meeting.

FDA Approval – Assuming that all goes well, the FDA will alert the company that the product is “approvable” and a date will be set by which time your company will receive official word of approval. While it is sometimes hard to know the specific date that the approval will be received, you should be prepared with all materials and communications plans in place so that you can push out the press release immediately upon notice. All key reporters should be pre-briefed on milestones to date and the outcome of the advisory board meeting. Key KOLs, clinical trial sites that you are using for media, and others who will serve as media references should be media trained and provided with key message points. Photos, videos and other multimedia assets should be prepared, captioned and made available on your website for download (this page can be hidden until the approval is official.) Once the FDA approval is formalized, an aggressive PR campaign in support of the product can begin.

Launch

Likely there will be some time between FDA approval and the actual commercial launch of the product to target market. At this point, you should have a strong foundation of visibility and awareness for your product, which will help you build momentum towards the commercial launch. But that, my PR friends, is a topic for another blog!

Any tips to share for maximizing visibility through the FDA process? Let us know.

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By: Jennifer Moritz, Managing Principal

GTM Planning for Health Tech Startups

This past Thursday, I had the opportunity to be the keynote speaker at the Plexus Healthcare Innovation Hub in Philly. What an amazing place for health tech startups, especially medical device companies to get started – the space, equipment, people and networking at Plexus are incredible!

I was lucky enough to follow two amazing demonstrations that kept everyone glued to their seats and fully engaged – the first from Dr. Alan Flake of CHOP, who demonstrated an artificial womb that has the potential to significantly decrease the mortality and birth defects that can arise with premature births, and the second from Dr. Johann deSa, founder of Instadiagnostics, which is innovating healthcare at the point of care. Both companies have the potential to have a tremendous impact for patients.

My presentation was focused on how to develop a GTM plan for these types of startups that can stand up to the scrutiny of seed or first round funding. I was excited to present because not only do I love to see what’s coming next, I want to help what’s coming next get funded, get to market and get adopted.

My presentation followed the steps of the Zer0 to 5ive Roadmap™ – what you need to do to get to the point where you can develop a defensible GTM plan, especially necessary when you are looking for funding. These steps are:

0. Objectives

1. Research

2. Positioning and Messaging

3. Brand Strategy

4. Brand Identity

5. GTM Plan

As part of the presentation I also gave out this handout, which includes tips for conducting research. Basic competitive, industry and prospect research is within any entrepreneur’s grasp – you just need to know where to look and what to look for. My Tip Sheet will help!

One thing that I emphasized throughout the presentation was setting realistic and measurable goals. Too often entrepreneurs, in an attempt to impress investors, are unrealistic as to how hard it is, and how long it takes, to actually get your product market-ready, launch and acquire customers. Your objectives need to reflect your reality of time, money and resources, as well as market readiness and competition. Seasoned investors will appreciate that you understand the road ahead.

If you are interested in receiving a copy of my presentation, or learning more about the Zer0 to 5ive Roadmap™, please reach out to me via LinkedIn or at michelle@0to5.com.

How to Leverage Cultural Fads to Maximize Marketing Efforts

A great way to promote your brand is by leveraging popular trends. Through a few well-managed steps you can create a strong link between your product and a popular trend, giving you an extra boost from the association. One notable example is the recent AR/mobile hit Pokémon GO. The game itself garnered massive amounts of media attention and numerous marketing capitalization articles to follow. In light of such a successful launch, I want to detail how you can successfully capitalize on the next big trend when it gets here.

Timing

In baseball, if you swing a second too late then you’ve missed the ball. The same applies to the launch of a PR or marketing campaign. Timing is important because there will be a surplus of companies and individuals racing to produce content surrounding any trend that beings to grow in popularity.

Pokémon GO launched in mid-July last year. If you hadn’t introduced your marketing idea by at least the first week of the launch, you were already edging on late. Joining the party a month in? You missed your chance. Trends move quickly in the digital age and it’s always better to be one step ahead of the game than even a millisecond behind.

When planning a trend-based PR or marketing campaign, make sure to carefully monitor the news for any pre-buildup of the trend and make sure to launch as close as possible with the actual hype of it. This way you ensure that you can be one of the first thought leaders commenting on the trend or one of the first brands to interact with it.

Focus on the Right Trends

Everyone loves a one hit wonder, but hits like that won’t have enough traction to sustain your PR and marketing efforts. What made Pokémon GO such a great trend to promote was the longevity of the brand and the multigenerational fan base. The first whisperings of this project had both adults who grew up in the ‘90s and young fans of today jumping with excitement to see their favorite characters come to life before their eyes. Buzz for this game started well before the release, and the hype kept growing the closer we got to the game’s release date.

If you are going to use marketing efforts in line with a popular trend, make sure it’s a trend that will last for a while. Even though Pokémon GO has had a decrease in users, it’s still popular and, more importantly, successful. It might be some time before we see another trend as popular as Pokémon GO, but it’s important to keep your eye out for the next trend that will have a potent presence in the media.

Find the Connection

Anyone can associate themselves with a trend, but the more meaningful the association, the more successful the campaign will be. To ensure people are paying attention to your brand amidst the hype of the trend, you need to make sure that your brand has a logical and meaningful connection to the trend. Don’t just talk about a trend for the sake of talking about it. Talk about it because it is relevant and you have something to add to the conversation. In any media or marketing relationship, you are looking to provide each other with relevant and useful information.

So, if you are trying to promote your brand in association with a big trend like Pokémon GO, find the logical connection before you promote. If you are a floral shop, a marketing idea could be creating Pokémon-themed floral arrangements that you give away to local stores with Pokéstops, an integral feature in the game. This type of “trend ride” is relevant, fun, and helpful for others, which is a great recipe for receiving positive media praise.

Overall, trend-based campaigns are an exciting and creative way to help promote your brand. With the correct attention to detail, you can create an interactive campaign that helps form a meaningful bond to a trend and successfully promote your brand. Pokémon GO may have had its time to shine, but will you see next year’s hit trend before it’s here? And, more importantly, will you catch it in time to capitalize on it?

By: Jaimie Yakaboski

Tips for Creating an HTML Email That Renders Universally

Satisfying the rendering differences between the vast selection of email clients out there is an ongoing battle with web developers. Here are a few tips that can help save you hours of coding headaches.

Use Inline CSS

When possible, write your CSS inline. Some email clients, notably Gmail, will ignore most CSS wrapped in the <style> tag. Inline CSS is implemented with the style attribute and is written on a single line, like so:

<td style=”color:#333333;font-size:16px;font-family:Arial;”>

Writing this way can get long and confusing very quickly, so keep your line formations consistent by grouping similar properties together and in the same order for every tag.

Do Not Use Shorthand

CSS shorthand is taking a set of properties and condensing them into a single one. For example, instead of

padding-top: 10px; padding-right: 15px; padding-bottom: 10px; padding: left: 15px;

you would write

padding: 10px 15px;

For hex codes, instead of color: #66cc00;, you would write it as color: #6c0;. Unfortunately, some email clients will not parse this shortened version correctly, so everything must be written in long form. It’s a pain and a bit more difficult to read as inline CSS, but it’s definitely a must!

Use <table>, Especially for Lists

It is usually best practice to use <div> as the framework for a webpage, but this is not the case with HTML emails. With how finicky email clients are, <table> tags are the best way to keep everything in its place.

Lists are another element that is difficult to tame, as some email clients will completely ignore the CSS that you assign to them. The best way get them to display correctly across different clients is to use <table> instead of <ul> or <ol>. Below is an example <table> list:

<table>

<tr>

<td>•</td><td>List Item One</td>

</tr>

<tr>

<td>•</td><td>List Item Two</td>

</tr>

<tr>

<td>•</td><td>List Item Three</td>

</tr>

</table>

Zero Out All Padding

Some clients, like Outlook, add extra padding around all table cells, which could be a problem if there are a lot of tables in your code. You can prevent this disaster from happening by applying

padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px;

to all <td> tags and adjusting the pixels as needed.

Section Out Paragraphs with <div> and <br />, Not <p>

The <p> tag is another target of unwanted padding, and zeroing out each one will add unnecessary bulk to your code. Save time by wrapping them with <div> and using <br /> for hard returns, as both have zero padding by default.

Use Media Queries to Make Your Email Responsive

Media queries tell the browser or client what code to use depending on the screen size. This enables you to break down an email for smaller devices like smartphones.

The media query goes in the head of your code within a <style> tag and all CSS is wrapped within

@media screen (max-width: XXXpx) {

/* your CSS here */

}

One useful media query attribute is converting all the <table>, <tbody>, <tr>, and <td> tags to display: block!important; to break the grid formation and prevent your email from looking cramped on small screens.

Make sure to add

<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width">

in the <head> of your code so that the media queries actually work!

Eliminate Whitespace Before Sending

Some email clients will automatically add a <br /> tag to every hard return in your code, which may cause display issues. Before sending, run your entire code through a compiler like HTML minify to compress it as much as possible and remove all whitespace. Be sure to save an uncompressed copy of your code should you need to go back to update it.

When Testing with Dummy Links, Use a Complete URL

This is something that I eventually discovered after many frustrating experiences with Outlook. If you have a few dummy links in your copy with # or javascript:void(0) as the href, they will break your email. You can avoid this by using a complete placeholder URL, like http://domain.com instead. Just don’t forget to replace it before sending out the email!

Finally: Keep It Simple

Make your HTML emails simple and to the point. Remove any unnecessary imagery, borders and accents to reduce the amount of items to code. Minimal design elements also mean less to worry about when making your email responsive. After all, the main focus of an HTML email should be the message and its readability.

These are just a few techniques to help you make your HTML emails work better. I also recommend subscribing to the Litmus blog to stay current on all of the best practices for email marketing.

 

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Using Surveys for PR Buzz

Surveys and statistics can lend a powerful punch to PR campaigns. When a PR pitch is supported with credible numbers and statistics, it is much more likely to get the attention of the media and be interesting to the public.

There are multiple ways so conduct surveys – phone, online, focus groups – but among the easiest is using an online survey company, such as SurveyMonkey, which enables you to create and deploy surveys quickly and easily.

How do you create a survey that will produce interesting content, and what do you then do with that content? Below are some tips for developing, deploying, analyzing and promoting surveys for PR campaigns.

  1. Pick a compelling and relevant topic – Don’t conduct a survey around a topic that no one cares about or that doesn’t align with your client’s goals. For your results to generate publicity successfully, you need to share information around a topic that will be of interest to your target audience. Along the same lines – don’t pick a topic that is so common that there are 100 other surveys on the same subject. The topic should be compelling and unique enough to make the findings newsworthy.

 

  1. Be statistically significant – When deploying your survey, make sure you collect responses from at least the minimum number of people required for valid results. Most online survey services have tools to help you determine what that representative sample of your audience is. Not only does this generate real scientific credence, but it also gives the immediate impression of legitimacy when you have a substantial sample size bolstering your statistics.

 

  1. Start backwards – Nothing is worse than investing effort and money in a survey only to realize you left out some key questions, or that the way in which the questions were worded failed to give you the information you wanted. When writing the survey, start by thinking through your ideal survey results first. What types of findings will support your campaign and be the most compelling? Think in pitch angles and headlines. Then write the survey with those headlines in mind.

 

  1. Keep it short – Organize your survey questions in a way that creates a narrative flow and helps you tell a story with the findings. Ask broader questions – e.g. questions on the industry or market trends – at the start and then narrow the topic to ask more specific questions that relate directly to the product or service you are promoting. In general, surveys should be no more than 25 questions. Take the survey yourself. If you need more than 5 minutes to complete it, cut it down.

 

  1. Ask, and then ask again – Consider asking the same “key” questions several times, in several different ways, to ensure that you get the data points that you are looking for around your main survey topic. This will provide you with multiple data points to support your campaign.

 

  1. Check your stats – Before you publicize your findings, double-check the numbers to confirm accuracy and ensure that the information has all been interpreted as intended. One wrong statistic can impact the credibility of the entire survey.

 

  1. Promote the findings in multiple formats – Announce the findings of the survey through a press release and through your social media channels. You can also create an executive summary to showcase the details and post it on your website. Use the findings throughout the year in media and marketing efforts, including pitches, social media, press releases and web copy.

 

  1. Get graphic – The media loves visual content that they can share with readers. Incorporate colorful graphics and charts into your executive summary to illustrate the findings in exciting ways. Create an infographic that summarizes key data points and tells a story. Make it easy to share via social media and watch your reach increase.

 

  1. Slice and dice – Parse your data in different ways to tailor your results for specific reporters and/or target markets. Create pitches, infographics and press releases on different key themes from your survey, or break down the stats by age, gender or geographic region to uncover additional insights.

 

  1. Time it right – Time the release of the findings with a key event, such as a conference or tradeshow, or a relevant awareness day to maximize the news value and increase visibility. You can also create a survey that you conduct annually to give a year-over-year update on key data points and track changes and trends within your industry.

There are many ways that surveys can be used in PR campaigns to educate target audiences and increase awareness for products and services. What are some ways you use surveys for PR?

By: Jennifer Moritz