A byline article is a great opportunity for a client to tell their story. They can use their own words and voice and are typically positioned as an industry thought leader. Often written by public relations professionals, these articles are published with the client’s name. For PR pros, that means delivering a well thought out and written piece. Luckily, with a little planning and attention to detail, your byline article can be perfect. Here are a few tips to remember:
- Research: This sounds simple, but there are many factors you need to consider before writing. Reading past interviews of your client is a great way to get a feel for how he or she communicates and will help you to determine the right tone. Reviewing approved language on the client’s website and in their marketing materials, such as brochures and case studies, will help you accurately describe things like the company’s mission, products and more. In addition, make sure you research the publication in which the byline will be placed. This will help you understand how the publication wants pieces written.
- Plan and Outline: Creating an outline for your byline before you begin to write will not only help with time management, but it will also strengthen the structure of the piece. In the outline, you can include statistics, facts, key statements and more. The more detailed your outline is, the easier it will be to write the article. If you need to interview your client (which is always a great idea), this helps keep you on track.
- Write: With your research completed and a strong outline in place, you can get started writing. Research shows the best time to write is first thing in the morning, so make sure you carve out some time at the beginning of the day. Take time to stop and read what you have developed every so often to make sure you are on track. Also, give yourself time to write a good first draft – some people can do it in one sitting; others need more time – fine what’s best for you.
- Review and Edit: One of the most important steps in the byline writing process is editing. You should review your piece at least three times and always have a colleague review it as well. This will help you catch and correct issues or errors before sending the byline to your client for review.
- Get Approval: Having your client’s approval to send in the byline for publication is crucial. Not only does this step allow the client to be aware of exactly what you are submitting, but it will give them an opportunity to make updates or changes to the piece. In addition, make sure that your client approves the piece in writing before you submit to the publication. When submitting the piece, make sure your client’s name and title are included and accurate.
Following these steps can help you write a great byline on behalf of your client. Your client will appreciate it and you will feel confident each time the opportunity arises!
By Maggie Markert
During a recent conference, I spent seven hours with local entrepreneurs, marketers, and PR professionals sharing first-hand experiences around marketing challenges and how they solved them. One of the main topics was digital trends and what we, as content producers, should know.
One speaker who really stood out for me was the charismatic Wil Reynolds, Founder and Director of Strategy at SEER Interactive, a digital marketing agency specializing in SEO, PPC, and Analytics.
Wil challenged the group to to ask themselves if they were working on marketing “outputs” or “outcomes.”
What did he mean?
We all get so caught up on making sure we are meeting certain bars or KPIs in terms of numbers and metrics – how many articles did we get mentioned in? How many media impressions did we secure? Did we get more clicks than last month? How many page views did we get? How many more followers?
These are all metrics that PR and digital marketing professionals are expected to report against, on a daily, weekly or monthly basis; and when our numbers are where they are supposed to be, it’s easy to think “hey, we are doing what we are supposed to do, and all is good.”
But at the end of the day, how do all of these metrics translate to customers and sales?
What so many of us forget to do is close the loop on our PR and marketing efforts. Did those extra followers lead to a new prospect? Did the articles you secured get placed in the publications that your customers read? Has our new messaging come across in our media placements? In other words, did all of our efforts result in actually “moving the needle” against our goals?
Wil continued, “In our business, we need to think like a child and ask “why” at least five times to everything we do, to get to the root of the problem. If we don’t know WHY we are doing something, or have any way to measure its effectiveness, then we are just going through the motions and wasting precious time, money and resources.”
So, as you look at your marketing mix, be critical. Don’t just “do”. Ask yourself why are we doing this and how is it going to translate into meeting our business objectives? That’s how you deliver more strategic outcomes, not simply outputs.
By Colleen Martin, Director
A review of social media-pro Guy Kawasaki’s book, “The Art of Social Media”
Sure, you’re engaging in social media efforts for your clients, but are they reaching the right people? Did they make any impact?
If you are already implementing, or are planning to implement, a social media campaign, Guy Kawasaki is a name you need to know. Formerly an advisor at Google and Chief Evangelist at Apple, Guy is an authority on all things social media.
In his book, “The Art of Social Media”, Guy outlines best practices and tips that all circle back to the main focus: Are you earning the right to promote?
What does that mean? It’s easy to share your latest news article or link to your event, but what does that offer your audience? That’s right: little or nothing. It’s too promotional.
Guy uses the example of NPR. Every day of the year, NPR offers commercial-free, quality news, which provides a true value to its listeners. It’s for that reason, a few days per year, they are able to run a pledge drive. NPR has earned the right to promote the drive with 363 days of uninterrupted, respected content.
“The Art of Social Media” uncovers various ways to make sure that you are continuing to provide new, and useful content.
One example is using curation and aggregation services – many of them are free and can provide a wealth of articles and the latest studies to share. Examples that Guy provided include: Alltop, Buffer, Feedly, Google Scholar, LinkedIn, NPR, and Reddit.In addition to these tools, it can be helpful to set up Google alerts on key terms: competitors, industry hot topics, etc. This way, you receive up-to-the-minute information that is worth sharing.
Once you have the content, the next step is to share. There are best practices in how to craft posts for the various channels.
- Be brief: Posts on Google+ and Facebook should be 2-3 sentences and Twitter has a limit of 140 characters, but 100 characters is really the best practice.
- Be visual: Every post, no matter where it is, should contain “eye candy” in the form of a picture, graphic, or video. According to a Skyword study, views of a client’s content increased by 94% if a published article contained a relevant photograph or infographic.
- Be sly: Use key phrases that let readers know they are about to get useful and practical information (i.e. “How to rock___, Quick guide to ___, Essential steps to___)
- Be active: While this seems obvious, it’s one of the most important tools. Don’t be afraid to repost the same exact post a few times per day. According to Moz, the prime lifetime of an average Tweet is only 18 minutes! It’s much more likely that you’ll gain new followers, retweets, likes, etc. by posting the same content multiple times than it is you’ll lose any due to annoyance.
By Alyson Kurtiz, Strategist
As content marketing continues to drive many of today’s integrated marketing programs, perfecting writing skills for the various marketing channels has never been more critical. Copy for a brochure is not the same as copy for a press release, white paper or social media.
Copy development for a website has its own voice or tone. The great part about web copy is that it can be changed and adjusted on the fly and new messages and call to actions can be tested dynamically for each campaign or target audience. The hard part about web copy is that you need to think about the SEO implications of the text and how what is put on each page affects the visibility of a website or web page in a search engine’s “organic” (un-paid) search results.
SEO is an animal. It is dynamic, always evolving, and quite frankly one of the most technical and, as a result, more difficult aspects of digital marketing. SEO can also often be overlooked. This is often because the role of keeping up with the SEO best practices resides with many people from both technical teams and content developers. There are standard best practices today that, no matter who your audience is or the purpose of your site, should be applied if you are looking to attract visitors.
Off-page SEO: Linking & Content Marketing
Websites can be optimized through activity that does not even occur on your site. For example, links from third parties in media placements or links from partners can drive additional, credible traffic.
Additionally, third party content that results from a contributed article, a blog post on another site, a video or social media, could also drive traffic.
Research: Targets & Keywords
Compiling web copy can be a daunting task. However, what you say is just as important as how you say it.
As with every marketing channel, copy that is optimized for SEO takes into account the target audience or audiences. Identify the audience the pain point they are looking to solve and what unique benefits will drive interest in your product or service. These benefits and differentiators will inform calls to action that are effective and create engagement.
Traditional SEO copy writing focused on keywords. However, these are usually way too broad and have too much competition – the result: you’re lost.
Today, it is best to optimize keyphrases for long tail search queries in order to attract highly targeted traffic. This takes time and research to identify the most popular and common phrases.
In addition to keyword and keyphrase research, Google Adwords provides valuable ranking and insight into the popularity of terms, helping to formulate intelligent decisions on what phrases and words to incorporate on the web page copy.
Technical Aspects of SEO Copy
While dated, the Google SEO Starter guide is a great source of information for the development of optimized content.
This guide breaks down important best practices on how to:
• Create unique, accurate page titles
• Make use of the “description” meta tag
• Structure your URLs logically
• Write better anchor text
• Make use of image alts
Metadata still plays an indirect role in optimizing SEO copy. Metadata is the information within thetag code that doesn’t get displayed on a webpage, but is used by search engines. Metadata influences Google’s and Bing’s algorithms directly. However, user behavior such as click-through rate and dwell time does. Meta descriptions factor into which results a user clicks.
Additionally, as the copy of the webpage comes together, keep in mind that the main body of the text is the most important – not the sidebars, headers or call outs.
Composing Optimized Copy
With the keywords identified and the plan of attack outlined, it is time to start composing the text for the webpages.
For each page, target 2-3 keyphrases, include headers (with keyphrases incorporated), and give headers hierarchical structure. In the body of the copy, weave in keyphrases, synonyms and natural variants.
Check your work. There are plug-ins available to verify and confirm that best practices are intact, such as Yoast for WordPress. Yoast is installed during development, manages on-page SEO and publishes XML sitemaps for search engines to crawl.
Once your site is developed and ready to launch, run a pre-launch check to make sure everything is ready to launch.
Now you’re ready to be found!
Launching a new website? What is your copy saying? Print this out and make sure you are following these simple rules. Best practices go a long way and can dramatically impact your site’s visibility.
- Vary sentence structure to have a combination of longer and shorter sentences for rhythm. Keep sentences under 30 words.
- Keep paragraphs short and break them into logical sections with headers. Readers need the white space for legibility. Headers also help a page look more visually interesting and are easier to scan. This goes double for mobile view!
- Use bullets to break up paragraphs and help readers scan list info quickly.
- Maintain the right tone for target readers.
- Don’t copy sections of other websites in order to appear more content rich. You may be penalized.
- Be boring
- Attention spans are super short. The more readers you lose early, the more your SEO takes a hit. Be dynamic. Web copy isn’t a white paper. It has a mission—give readers what they need quickly and drive them to action.
- Forget to answer questions
- Visitors are coming to your site to answer a question, make sure you are answering it so they come back or engage more.
- Create dead-end pages
- There must be clear, focused calls to action on every page.
- Primary CTA—get potential clients and partners to contact
- Secondary CTAs—newsletter sign up, link to related content
You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” If that’s true, then one minute of video could easily be worth 1+ million words.
The power of video in communication is more prevalent than ever, as we are constantly surrounded by it: television, YouTube, Vine, Instagram, etc. Yet, in a recent survey conducted by PR Newswire and PR News, 76 percent of respondents believe video is underutilized in messaging platforms and in PR content. More than half of respondents also stated less than 5 percent of their overall external communication is delivered in video format.
According to a recent PR Newswire webinar, video is shared 1,200 percent more than links and text combined, and photos are liked 200 percent more than text updates. So what is holding organizations back from using visual storytelling in their communication efforts?
The common reasons for not utilizing video are lack of time, budget, resources and expertise. Below are five ways you can adopt video and visual storytelling into your PR strategy:
1. Include video in your budget. 51 percent of respondents to the survey believe their video budget will increase this year. With the abundance of statistics showing the benefits of video in improving a campaign, it is important to try and set aside a budget in order to make incorporating visual elements possible.
2. Run a content audit. Take a look at what content your organization has to offer. Many organizations have content that can be repurposed into a video such as customer training tutorials, behind-the-scenes visuals, valuable data, or existing infographics. All of this content can be repurposed for video.
3. Get professional help. Whether you have the content or not, a great production company is necessary. It is important they have the creative ability to translate your specific story into compelling visuals.
4. Figure out what story you want to tell. We live in a world of instant gratification in which you only have a few seconds to catch a viewer’s attention. For this reason, one-minute videos will make the most impact. If you have a five-minute message to share, break that down into a series of shorter videos. Not only will this keep a viewer’s attention, but gives you even more content to share. If done efficiently, video has the ability to create brand loyalty by easily providing information a customer or client may be seeking. It also differentiates your company from the competition by helping to raise your brand to the top a search rank page.
5. Plan the downstream strategy. Market your marketing. If you have put in the time, effort and money into creating the perfect visual story, now what are you going to do with it? You cannot create a video and hope it magically goes viral. The distribution plan for video content is crucial. According to Unruly, 42 percent of video views occur within 72 hours of video publication. Proving, in order for your video to succeed, you must give it a push out the door to get it in front of the right audience, at the right time. By planning a comprehensive communication strategy, your video can become a shining star in your communications arsenal.
Visuals drive discovery. No matter how boring you may be on a piece of paper, there is always a story to tell. By figuring out a way to incorporate visual storytelling into your brand or PR campaign, the results will be significant – see for yourself!
Post by Emily Forgash, Strategist
In PR, it is always best to have the facts on your side. From pitching a new client to building a strategic communications plan to finding the right media pitch targets, research plays a critical supporting role in helping you to make smart, informed recommendations.
There are various types of research involved in PR: primary research, which can be focus groups, phone interviews, online surveys; and secondary research, which includes market and industry research, news tracking, competitive analysis, media and analyst audits, and media/social media analysis and more. Each of these tools can provide PR professionals with important information to inform your overall business and communications strategies.
At Zer0 to 5ive, we start every client engagement with research, because we believe that the best marketing and public relations programs are well informed.
Here are some of the ways that research can help improve your PR practice:
The New Client Pitch – Know your client, its competitors, its market, who covers them, and where they have been covered. All of this information and knowledge is based on research that should be conducted prior to any client pitch meeting. While secondary research is a must, primary research can also be very valuable. For example – when pitching a new client, conducting a consumer survey or interviewing target customers can add an additional level of insight and win points with a perspective client.
The PR Plan – When you are building the PR plan, research helps you strategize and set realistic goals, and will help ensure that your messaging is relevant and compelling. Making recommendations based on research – why you chose a specific target audience, how you came up with the tagline, why you are targeting a certain tradeshow for launch – will enable you to answer the client question: “Why are you recommending this strategy?” By conducting the appropriate amount of research, you will be able to support your recommendations with confidence.
The Media Pitch – Both the pitch and the media targets should be well researched. Who are you targeting? What type of stories do they write? How do they like to communicate? And when writing the pitch research can make it more compelling. What’s trending in the industry? Can you use metrics or statistics in your pitch to make it more relevant? Client-sponsored primary research, from online surveys or focus groups, for example, is also great fodder for media. You can package this research in an infographic or press release to help promote your client.
These are just some of the many ways that research helps to support the work we do here at Zer0 to 5ive. How do you use research in your PR program?
Post by Jennifer Moritz, Prinicpal
I think it’s fair to say that at some point in everyone’s public relations career, they’ve employed some form of the “spray and pray” pitching method. Shooting a press release or pitch out to everyone on a media list to see who bites can work on occasion, but a much more strategic and long-lasting approach is to create relationships with reporters.
I’m lovingly known around the office as the “media stalker.” Don’t worry, I haven’t crossed any lines, but it’s hard to be ignored when you feel that you have crafted the perfect pitch to the perfect reporter. So, when emails and phone calls don’t work, I often turn to alternative methods like social media, which often turns out well!
When the opportunity to listen in on a Webinar hosted by PR Newswire titled “You had me at Hello,” aimed at discussing the delicate PR/media relationships arose, I jumped at the chance.
While I was already aware of most of the tips provided, it served as a great reminder. I’ve outlined the top 5 takeaways from the presentation for you:
1. Create the relationship before you need the relationship
Everyone knows someone in their life that only reaches out when they need a favor. You don’t want to be that person. Instead, initiate a conversation with reporters before your breaking news hits. Offer introductory interviews with your clients. Provide the media some form of value, such as a third-party resource, before jumping in and asking them to cover your client.
2. Do your research
Have you ever reached out to what looks like the perfect contact in a media database only to get a response asking to be removed from your list? Although a great resource, sometimes keywords provided in media database searches can be misleading.
We’re lucky that we are now able to get insights about reporters through social media. Knowing your target by looking at previous coverage and reviewing their Twitter account is more important than ever. For every one journalist, there are 4.6 PR professionals trying to get their clients exposure. Uncover what the journalist’s interests are and what they’re currently covering, before connecting with them.
Google Alerts have been a great resource for me to find out who is reporting on the topic that I want covered. I’m then able to reference their recent piece, which provides the reporter with confidence that I follow their work.
3. Be a resource
You’ve found the right contact, you’re ready to engage in a mutually beneficial relationship, now what? Introduce yourself as a resource. The more assets you have ready to go, the better. This can include industry metrics, third-party contacts, executive interviews, images, b-roll, customers and case studies. They might not use one or any of your resources, but not being prepared can cause issues. Journalists are on deadlines. If you don’t have assets ready to go, they might move onto the next story idea or use stock photography. It makes such a huge difference to have a photo of the actual client or product accompany a story.
While it’s great to have photos and videos available, don’t attach them to an introductory email. It could suck up the reporter’s data, and could put you on a blacklist. Keep attachments, if any, small. If they want a high-res version, they’ll ask for it. A great alternative that a number of my clients use is a press resource web page, which houses high quality deliverables for the reporters.
4. Be your own devil’s advocate
This idea was proposed by James Pearson, EVP Corporate Communications at Grooveshark, one of the Webinar presenters. James advised asking yourself, “is this news?” Propose the questions the reporter would ask you. At this stage, it’s a good idea to use your coworkers. Bounce ideas and pitches off of each other. I’ve found that sometimes the best people to do this with are those who are not on the account with you. An “outsider” can oftentimes offer a new perspective.
Pearson also suggested professionals put themselves in the journalists’ shoes, and understand they’re going to have to talk to their editor. The more unique and comprehensive the pitch, the more likely you are to get a positive response.
5. Don’t forget to follow up
I think one of the most overlooked and underutilized practices is following up. To maintain a close relationship with the media, it’s nice to say “thank you” when a story is published. Tweet the piece and share it via social media. Additional exposure you can provide them is always welcomed. It’s also good practice to check in periodically with contacts you haven’t connected with in a while.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve circled back with reporters to see how they’re doing, what they’re working on, etc. and been told “you reached out at the perfect time. I’m doing a story on xyz.”
The bottom line is reporters are smart. They know when you’re sending them the same message as the other 100 people on your list. Treat them as the individuals they are, and you’ll get responses, respect, and maybe a few hits along the way!
Post by Alyson Kuritz, Strategist
Below is a quick guide to some of the fundamentals that are key for every designer to know.
1. Consider the brand and target audience.
Whether you are creating a piece to compliment an existing company, rebranding, or building a business from scratch, it is always important to consider the brand. Think about what the company does and what message they want to evoke. Is the company a fun fashion brand or a serious law firm? Typefaces can either help or hinder this process.
A wealth management company, for example, wants to elicit the feeling of trust and give the client a sense of confidence. It may be hard to believe that a font has enough power to accomplish such feelings, but here is an example:
The first faux logo was created using the font face Calisto MT, designed in 1986 by Ron Carpenter. Arguably, there are plenty of other fonts that could have done the job, but Calisto MT does a sufficient job of creating a semblance of trust and reliability just through the appearance of the logo.
Here is the same company name, this time using the font Chalkduster, created by Apple in 2008. The Chalkduster font conjures more feelings of childlike silliness than it does confidence and dependability. This font would be better served as a font for a children’s book.
Much like heeding the brand, knowing the target audience plays a large role in font selection. A company may target different audiences at different times. There is an appropriate font to choose for every occasion that compliments the brand.
2. Choose a headline font with character.
Headline fonts can get away with a lot more “personality” than body copy fonts. Headlines are meant to stand out and garner attention. Below is an example:
Both example headlines (in ChunkFive Roman and Amble) work as headlines. However, the thickness and slab serif of the first font (ChunkFive Roman) helps to make it jump off the page and assigns a personality to the piece.
3. Select complimentary headline & body copy fonts.
It is just as important to find a font to pair with the headline or logo as it is to find the main brand font. Designers often select a workhorse font as the body copy font. A workhorse font works well with just about everything and succeeds at many different sizes. When mulling over a body copy font selection, it is consequential to consider the font styles used in the logo and headlines. A slab serif font like ChunkFive, designed by The League of Moveable Type, used in example 2, works well with a san serif font like Gotham, designed by Tobias Frere-Jones in 2000, used as the greeked body copy also shown in example 2. To further demonstrate this point, below is another example:
In the first example Gotham is used as the headline font and Kepler Std is used as the body copy. Gotham works as the headline because the san serif workhorse style font pairs nicely with the serif body copy.
In the second example, with Gotham as the headline font, the chunkfive body copy font draws too much attention away from the main headline. The two fonts compete with each other for attention.
4. Use size to create hierarchy.
Almost any font can be used as a headline if sized proportionately (whether or not any font SHOULD be used as a headline is another matter). The largest typeface on any given page or piece should be the information or title that is most important. Generally, the size should decrease as importance diminishes. If there are too many headlines or snippets of information that are the same size, they compete with one another, and the viewer does not know where to pay their attention.
5. Differentiate between web & print fonts.
Not all fonts are created equal! A font that is suitable for a webpage does not always translate well to paper or vice versa. A web font needs to be legible at many different sizes and translate well to a variety of devices. Many have also argued that serif style fonts are easier to read as printed materials and that san serif fonts are more legible on screen. A designer may choose a font that the brand should use for web purposes and a different font that should be used for printed materials.
Web fonts are made up of tiny squares rather than printed fonts, which are made up of tiny dots. A web font must either be a system font (basic font installed on all/most devices) or it must be hosted on a server. Even then, there are no guarantees that every viewer sees the same font in every browser. As a general rule, the more complicated a font is, the more likely there will be issues viewing it on screen unless it is part of an image.
By Lindsey Tabor, Graphic Designer
The importance of writing well cannot be emphasized enough in public relations. For PR Pros, writing is a core competency that is a part of everything that we do – whether that’s a press release, a pitch, a blog post, or just an email to a client. Not only is your work being judged by those paying your salary, but your peers and clients also form impressions about you based on how well you communicate. How we write is a key part of our personal brand.
In listening to a recent PRWeek webinar, titled, “Tips for Breakthrough PR Writing,” I got some critical reminders about the importance of strong writing skills. Often, it’s the little things that count the most. These basic tips were great refreshers on how important it is to pay attention to detail and how be thorough in everything you write.
1. Frame the news
Hype is not news, as every editor will tell you. Words like “state-of-the-art, revolutionary, and first-of-its-kind,” should be thrown out of written vocabulary. Editors want you to get to the point, and fast. Think like the prospects you are pitching – what would make you interested in a story? The opening paragraph of any written piece should be as simple as possible and tell the most important elements to the story. If your first paragraph doesn’t do that, chances are, the reading will stop there. Make sure you know what is really newsworthy. Ask yourself, is it timely? Is there a reason to write about this now, or can it wait? Can you tie your story to anything happening in the world today? Making your writing relevant and keeping it simple are two key elements to PR success.
2. Master the 3 Cs…clear, concise & compelling
Tap into the power of simplicity, e.g. the Nike slogan “Just Do It”. If it can be said in three words instead of five, go with three. This avoids confusion and gets rid of unnecessary extras. After all, time is tight for those in media, so make it quick. Often we can’t just write how we talk, because our conversation is more casual than the written word. But think about how you would tell someone a story and, if you can, write it that way (taking grammar into account). Acronyms in emails to clients should be used sparingly, especially if they aren’t ones that are used regularly in their business. No one wants to have to send you a follow-up email just to ask you what you meant by your acronym shorthand. Finally, have you ever noticed that when you send emails to clients with multiple points and questions, it takes much longer for them to get back to you? Only include key points in emails. This will ensure that the important stuff gets read and answered.
3. Break on through… engaging subject lines & headlines
Always remember what the point of the subject line is in an email: to entice the prospect to open the email. If it’s wordy or takes more than a few seconds to comprehend, the email’s not getting opened. The subject line should help the editor or reporter picture the title of a potential article, so it should be just as short and punchy as the titles of the articles you are attracted to read.
4. Tone it for your audience
We can’t control how our tone sounds on the other end of emails. What might sound perfectly fine to us when we hit the send button can come across as angry, curt or blunt on the other end. Be mindful of how you “speak” in an email. One way to combat this issue is to have a peer read your email first before sending for tone. Getting an objective third party to review your email can help flag any possible misunderstandings before they are created. Never be condescending or presumptuous in an email to editors. If they made a mistake or missed something, there is a right way to ask them to correct it and a wrong way. Make sure that you know the difference!
5. Give grammar your best shot
It’s amazing how some of the smartest and most successful people still make common grammatical errors. No one is immune to these simple mistakes. Some of the most common errors include noun-pronoun agreement, subject-verb agreement, tense consistency, and sentence structure. Consider the image on the right – the first sentence sounds like we want to eat our grandmother, and the second sentence correctly states that we are telling our grandmother that we want to start eating, with her! Punctuation can truly save lives (or, at least, your latest pitch/memo/email, etc.!).
Post by Colleen DeVine, Director