Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Eye Tracking: How Users' Eyes Move Across Websites

Admittedly, there's far more to building an effective website than simply choosing aesthetically-pleasing colors and typefaces; developing compelling, well-written copy and other interesting content; and offering easy navigation. While there's no doubt these are always important criteria, have you ever considered visitors' eye patterns, and how they read information on a given page? No? Not to worry...not many clients or companies we've worked with over the years have, either. Until now...

Nowadays, marketers are giving much more thought to these dynamics. Why? Because ers are fickle, and u So what can be done to facilitate quick interactions, simple navigation, and returning users? Check out this outstanding infographic, courtesy of Crazy Egg and Single Grain, which offers these tips and insights:

Monday, January 20, 2014

Five Tips For Pulling Off A Newsjacking

Editor's Note: The following is a guest Marketing Mulligans post written by Anthony Hardman, PR manager at SecureState, and originally appeared on Ragan's PR Daily. Although the term has only been around for several years, newsjacking has been a popular and highly-useful media relations tactic for securing coverage for decades. So how can you effectively leverage newsjacking to generate visibility for your brand? Read Hardman's solid tips below for valuable insight on how to pull this off.

Newsjacking, the strategy of promoting your brand through breaking news, can launch the organization you represent into the national spotlight. The challenge is making your pitch stand out in the sea of competing messages as the breaking news story grows legs.

There’s also the question of choosing the right story. “Newsjacking” doesn’t have a positive connotation. It’s imperative that you make sure you inject your brand into a story that’s appropriate for it to get involved in. Otherwise, you’re going to look opportunistic or clueless.

Target made national headlines recently, due to a data compromise involving as many as 100 million customer accounts. This was a perfect opportunity to promote my organization, SecureState, as we are one of only 11 security firms authorized to investigate credit card breaches in the United States. I realized that this was the story that set us apart from everyone else, so I went to work.

1. Standing out.
The first key to earning media attention is determining what you can add to the story that no one else is talking about.

For SecureState it was that we could comment on what takes place during a data breach investigation. For retailers, it could be an example of how they've gone above and beyond to ensure customers’ security.

2. Start with existing relationships.
Once I found the news peg and crafted my pitch, I quickly pulled up all my media contacts who might be interested in the story, and I started making phone calls. (It's OK to pick up the phone sometimes).

Within 30 minutes, I had scheduled two local television stations to come to our office, and secured live in-studio time for a 7 p.m. broadcast.

3. Mine your media database and target your pitching.
The next step was firing up my Agility media database and creating a list of targeted contacts to pitch.

To save time, I exported relevant security and national contacts into my list from previous media relations campaigns. Then, I performed a targeted search for consumer advocate reporters, sifted through the list, and added the remaining contacts to my distribution list.

I sent my pitch out and monitored the analytics. Generally speaking, I avoid sending out a mass email, in favor of more targeted and personal messages. However, in cases when time is limited, such as a newsjacking or when you must communicate broadly in a crisis, a broadcast email is appropriate.

Over the course of the next two hours, I earned multiple interviews with a variety of media outlets, including the Los Angeles Times and numerous trade publications. A follow up email pitch landed more coverage, including an interview on “PBS Newshour.”

4. Respond to queries.
PR Newswire's ProfNet and Help a Reporter Out (HARO) are great resources for connecting with journalists, and during the news cycle around the data breach, I responded to several requests for experts, using my unique pitch.

A reporter from the Associated Press (AP) issued a query on Profnet and immediately responded to my answer. I knew I had struck media relations gold when he requested an interview. Once the story hit the AP wire, we were mentioned in local regional outlets from Hawaii to New England, as well as many national outlets.

5. Branded media.
In addition to using several channels to deliver my pitch, I also assigned two of our internal experts separate blog posts to provide detailed insight into the incident.

I edited and published the posts and promoted them through every possible channel, which included social media and a news release promoting the articles. The press releases we’ve issued over PR Newswire are the second largest source of traffic to our website.

When the dust settles
After what became one of the busiest days of my career, I earned a plethora of media placements, including wire syndication, and developed new relationships with journalists whom I can contact for future stories. As of this writing, the media coverage includes ABC News, NBC News, NPR, CNBC, and a live appearance of our CEO on “PBS NewsHour.” Experts from the CEO to staff-level consultants earned mentions all over the country, and I positioned SecureState as a leading source on data breach investigations.

By creatively using the PR tools I had in place, I capitalized on the opportunity, earning significant media placements for my company by creating, pitching, and distributing relevant stories and unique perspective to the right people.

Most PR teams are challenged to do more work with fewer resources, but the good news is that the tools most of us already have in place enable one person to stay on top of trends and deliver responses across a variety of channels. When you’re flying solo, you have to be agile and use what you have.

© Copyright 2014 Ragan Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Four Quick Tips For Better Infographic Design

Editor's Note: The following is a guest Marketing Mulligans post written by Mickie Kennedy, founder and president of eReleases, a cost-effective electronic press release distribution service, and a widely-regarded and well-respected PR professional who maintains the company's popular PR Fuel blog. Infographics are all the rage these days; in fact, you'll find a bunch of them here on Marketing Mulligans. However, not all infographics are created equally. Some are awesome, and these present facts and figures in compelling ways. Others...eh...not so much. Here are some fast and easy ways to design outstanding infographics to boost your content marketing efforts.

Did you know that over 80% of all human learning occurs visually? The simple truth is that most people are visual learners. Visual aids help to grab their attention, educate them, and increase their retention of new material.
That’s why infographics are such a powerful tool, and that’s why in the past I’ve talked about infographics can be a great format for your press release.

However, just because you put some information in the visual form of an infographic doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically get through to your audience. Design matters. If you can nail the design of your infographic, you’ll be able to grab readers’ attention, educate them, inspire them to share your infographic, etc. But it all comes down to getting the design right.
Here are 4 simple tips to keep in mind when designing your infographic.

1. Create A Central Focal PointThe whole idea behind an infographic is to get your information across visually in a quick and easy way. You can’t achieve this if you have a messy, scattered design. Be careful that you don’t turn your infographic into an overwhelming mess that’s impossible to follow. One easy way to avoid that mistake is to have a central focal point (one major graphic element) that attracts the eye and makes the information easy to follow.

2. Keep It Simple
Your audience shouldn’t have to work hard to understand your infographic. That’s why I suggest you avoid the use of legends that force the reader to go back and forth between the information and the legend to understand what’s going on.

3. Create Something Different

If you want to capture the attention of your audience, you need to show them something they haven’t seen before. A lot of infographics share the same basic design – pie chart, bar graph, etc. Try to come up with something new. Avoid being generic and unimaginative. Find a unique visual that corresponds with the information you’re trying to deliver in a smart, creative way.

4. Tell A Story Visually
When you get right down to it, infographics are tools for telling a story. And with infographics, you shouldn’t rely just on the words/data to tell your story; you should let your design be the storyteller. Someone should be able to quickly look at the visuals of your piece and understand the point you’re trying to convey.
© Copyright 1998-2013 eReleases® Press Release Distribution. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, April 23, 2012

5 Reasons You Should Always Follow Up On Your Pitches

Editor's Note: The following is a guest Marketing Mulligans post written by Mickie Kennedy, founder and president of eReleases, a cost-effective electronic press release distribution service, and a widely-regarded and well-respected PR professional who maintains the company's popular PR Fuel blog. Kennedy echoes a universal media relations truth we've been espousing for years:  if you want media coverage from your pitches and announcements, you absolutely need to follow up with the journalists you're targeting. Here's why.

Some media members have PR people believing they live by the motto:  “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” That’s why you might think that when you don’t get a response on that press release you sent out it must mean that no one is interested. Maybe that is the case, but maybe it’s not. The only way to know for sure is to follow up on your pitches.

Here are 5 reasons why you should always follow up:

1. Journalists Often Have Too Many Pitches To Go Through
Things slip through the cracks. That’s just how it is. Journalists are busy, and they receive countless pitches every single day. The pitches and press releases never stop pouring in, and to the busy journalist, they all start to look the same. Simply put, they can’t manage all of the information they receive on a daily basis. A simple follow-up call directing attention to the information you sent over can help ensure your pitch doesn’t go unnoticed.

2. A Story Published Without A Conversation Could Be Inaccurate
Has this ever happened to you? You send over a press release, and without any follow-up conversation with the reporter, you find your story has been picked up. But because there wasn’t a conversation, the story contains some significant inaccuracies. It happens more often than you might think. A simple follow-up call can help prevent this from happening.

3. Persistence Can Pay Off
There’s certainly truth to the old saying, “The sticky wheel gets the grease.” Persistence is important to achieving PR success, but you should also know there’s a very thin line between being persistent and being a pest. Don’t immediately call after sending an email; give it a few days. If the reporter sounds busy, don’t keep talking their ear off. If the reporter says no, don’t keep pushing.

4. There’s Something To Be Said For The Personal Touch
Picking up the phone helps you form relationships with journalists. It makes your pitch more personal, helping you stand out from the plenitude of emails crowding the reporter’s inbox.

5. A Follow-Up Call Can Explain The Benefits Of Picking Up Your Story
When you follow up on your pitch, it gives you the perfect opportunity to explain how the story you’re pitching is the perfect fit for the publication you’re targeting and its readers. You can quickly explain why your idea is so unique, and you can talk about the information in a way that shows how it can be readily used by reporter.

© Copyright 1998-2012 eReleases® Press Release Distribution. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Name Game: How To Make A Name For Yourself Online

Editor's Note: The following is a guest Marketing Mulligans post written by Mickie Kennedy, founder and president of eReleases, a cost-effective electronic press release distribution service, and a widely-regarded and well-respected PR professional who maintains the company's popular PR Fuel blog. Thankfully, in the digital age, it’s possible and quite easy to make a name for yourself and your business through advances in social media and public relations. Here's how.

In this day and age of instant communication, you think it would be much simpler to get the word about your business to interested parties. But often the opposite is true, and it’s a generally long and detailed process to make people understand how awesome you are.

Why is that? During the early stages of the Internet, when information wasn’t so readily accessible and the population online was much lower, it was easier to make a name for yourself. But the ease of use and accessibility of the Internet has made it so more and more folks log-on each day. This includes tons of businesses and interesting personalities, all of which are vying for a spot onstage.

Luckily, even with all of these competitors, it’s possible to make a name for yourself and your business. Advances in social media and public relations give you an edge every single day to make a difference… you just have to know how to use them!

1. First Steps
One of the earliest steps you must take when making a name for yourself is to decide on what your “brand” is. Your brand is anything that separates you from everyone else – something that is instantly recognizably “you.”

Companies like Coca-Cola and Nike have gone to great lengths to design and nurture their brand. When you see that check/slash symbol, you know you’re looking at something Nike has made. And Coke’s red and white designs instantly make you thirsty.

Your company needs something like this to visually separate you from the thousands upon thousands of other companies out there. When customers and the general public see your brand, they should instantly recognize it as your business. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a logo, either; it could be your shining face if you’re willing to put yourself out there.

2. Making A Name
Now that you’ve successfully designed a brand for your business, it’s time to spread it around the world! There are countless avenues for you to try your hand at marketing and PR, including social media sites like Twitter, sending out press releases, and even new tech like QR codes.

But for the most bang for your buck, I would suggest utilizing social media to its full potential. Nowhere else can you reach potentially millions of users with such little effort. Plus, if your business or product is extremely niche, you’re job might be even easier because you’re likely to find communities of people specifically interested in what you’re selling.

One rule to remember when making a name for your business: go where the customers are! If you’re spending all your time on Facebook, but all your customers hang out in communities elsewhere, you’ll still end up with an “Out of Business” sign on your door. Always remember to seek out who you want to market to and you’ll never have a problem with making a name for yourself again!

How have you made your brand stand out from the rest?

© Copyright 1998-2012 eReleases® Press Release Distribution. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pin This!: 7 Pinterest Marketing Tips For Small and Mid-Sized Businesses

Editor's Note: The following is a guest Marketing Mulligans post, written by Ekaterina Walter, social media strategist at Intel Corp., and first appearing in this post on American Express OPEN Forum. Pinterest has taken the social media world by storm in recent months, and businesses of all sizes and in all industries are trying to  figure out how to make the online bulletin board work for them. In this informative article, Walter offers seven very useful tips, particularly for business-to-consumer companies, on how Pinterest can be fully leveraged for marketing purposes. 

7 Pinterest Marketing Tips for SMBs
The image-sharing site Pinterest has been constantly in the news for the last few months. At first glance, the site seems to be nothing more than a place to share photos of shoes, recipes and crafting ideas arranged on aesthetically-pleasing pinboards, but according to a study by Shareaholic, the site now drives more referral traffic than Google Plus, YouTube and LinkedIn combined. So how do you make that leap from putting together whimsical boards on your profile to generating website traffic?

1. Show Your Personality, Tastes, Interests, Or Values
Your Pinterest profile shouldn’t be a copy of your website: it can be used to show a more fun side to your business. As well as showcasing your own work, you can use it to show more wide-ranging interests, such as a commitment to environmental issues, pictures of the place you live, local events you support, or your staff’s pick of movies, books or music. As well as having a Pinboard of their own products, Victory Jewelry also show boards of spiritual inspiration, Harry Potter and LEGO creations. This helps to make their brand stand out by helping to project some real personality.

2. Mark Your Content
If you are an artist, photographer or designer, you may wish to watermark your website images. Although Pinterest recommend only using images directly from websites rather than from image searches, making sure your images can be attributed to you not only helps to prevent potential copyright issues, but means that if images are used indirectly on Pinterest, you know that they can be traced back to your website if someone is interested in your services. This photograph by Gallery by Laura has been marked so that it can always be traced back to her studio website.

3. Give Tutorials
You can go beyond product images to get your message out there: YouTube videos can be pinned to boards in the same way as any other thumbnail so you can show off your expertise with ‘How To’ videos for aspects of your business. You can have a mix of learning techniques on a Pinboard, such as videos, infographics and storyboard images, like this board from Hero Arts. The content can then be shared both within Pinterest, or onto other networks.

4. Show Behind The Scenes
You might be concerned if your business is service-based, rather than product-based, that you won’t be able to use it to drive sales. But you can use Pinterest to show behind the scenes at your company, with boards about your staff, local environment and industry, or other ways of using interesting images to help people find out about what you offer. Rocket Clicks is a service based company, but they still provide plenty of interest on their profile by showing photos of their staff, their inspirations and industry infographics.

5. Go Beyond Your Website

Make use of what is possible with the Pinboard format by putting together ‘looks’, lifestyle ideas, or show your products in real environments to show how they can work. These inspirational boards from Bandhini Design show how their products can contribute to lifestyle aspirations.

6. Make Sure Your Products Appear In The Gift Section
Pinterest has a dedicated gift section, searchable by price range. If you have an e-commerce site make sure you tag your images by price when you upload them, that way they will automatically appear on the Gift Page. As with this image from Econica Fashion, Pinterest will add a price tag on the corner of your image and copy it into the sales section.

7. Help Others Find Your Content
Remember to make your content easy to find by using #tags in your descriptions, as well as labeling your Pins and Boards with obvious titles. Users can search by Pins, Boards and People, so make sure your company name reflects what you do, for example including the word ‘Design’ or ‘Kitchens’ after your name. You can also have a company website link for when people click on your profile image. These Boards by Ben Tyler Building and Remodeling are all logically labeled to help users find their images.

Like all social media networks, Pinterest is about community, and the same rules apply as on any other network. Share others’ content, don’t be too ‘salesy’, ‘like’ and comment on images shared by others, and engage in the conversation. Above all, pay attention to Pinterest’s own Etiquette Guidelines if you’re not sure how to get started.

© Copyright 2012 American Express Company. All Rights Reserved.