April 18, 2014

Two months, one experiment, zero search engines

A friend and well-respected comms pro, Paul Sutton, recently embarked on an experiment to see if he can survive two full months without using a search engine. I asked him to share what he’s learned so far.

Ask yourself a question: how long do you think you could go without using an internet search engine? I did some research among my friends, colleagues and networks, and two thirds of the people I asked said that, on average, they use a search engine more than ten times per day. They don’t think about it, they just do it.

It was while I was on a train heading into London that the idea of #NoSearch came to me. Looking around my carriage, about three quarters of the passengers had their heads buried in HTCs, iPads and laptops. And it struck me that all of these people – my friends, my contacts, me, you – we’re all totally reliant on what Google tells us. In fact, more than that, we have 100% trust and, arguably, blind faith in the results that we get back when we click the search button. This gives search engines immense power over us and the way we perceive the world. So I decided to give up Yahoo! and Bing for two entire months; to go Google cold turkey.

Is search behaviour changing?

The #NoSearch project was borne from a desire to investigate just how vital search engines have become to our everyday lives and whether it’s even possible to function without them.  I’m intrigued by the impact that the web is having on society, and I wanted to see whether social media is empowering collective intelligence as much as it’s purported to be doing; whether a social network can act as a ‘personal search engine’. So during June and July I intend to find out whether I can get by online by forgoing search engines in favour of my online networks.

Two weeks in and it’s already throwing up some really interesting areas for further thought and investigation. Google Instant (the feature that auto-suggests websites as you type a search term) quickly became my nemesis, to the point where I had to disable it. I’m not stopping myself visiting URLs that I already know, but typing them into the browser was proving a nightmare as I was effectively performing a search every time I did so. It highlighted to me how much search has changed from ‘pulling’ information from the web to having information ‘pushed’ to us via search engines, and is further evidence of Google’s power and influence. But do you ever question the results Google gives you? How often to you go beyond page one of the SERPS? Think about it…

The power of social networks

From a social media perspective, Twitter quickly became my lifeline. Facebook just doesn’t cut it when you need information in any sort of speed, and Twitter beats it hands down for expediency. And the people who use Twitter are also different; they’re more clued up, more reactive, more socially-savvy. Maybe there’s a learning there for social marketers?

I’ve also started to see great value in social bookmarking, an area I’ve never previously engaged with very heavily. Delicious, Diigo and Stumbleupon hold such a wealth of valuable information, and while they can’t compete with Google for finding a website URL, they’re good for information.

Time as a commodity

One word sums up my #NoSearch experience so far, however: frustrating. Living without search engines is, believe it or not, not that difficult if you have a network of any moderate size and a bunch of reliable and bookmarked web resources. But the time it takes me to find anything is starting to drive me nuts. With search engines you can be on a relevant website on any given topic within a few seconds. Without them it takes minutes at a time to dig out information. And when you’re as busy as I am that’s a lot of wasted time. You don’t realise how valuable time is until you don’t have any because it’s taken up with things you know you could do a lot quicker.

So have I been tempted to quit already? You bet! But in actuality, that’s more through impatience than a real need for Google. So I’m going to stick with it. I suspect that first search in August will be a delicious moment and I’ll probably start dreaming about it soon, but hopefully I’ll have a learned a hell of a lot about online behaviour and social media by the time that comes around.

You can follow the #NoSearch project on Posterous, Twitter and Audioboo. Paul Sutton is Head of Social Communications at BOTTLE, blogs at www.thesocialweb.co.uk and can be found on Twitter as @ThePaulSutton

The truth, the whole truth…but what is it?

This is the latest guest post from Carli-Ann Smith as part of The Student Perspective series – a set of posts contributed by future stars of the comms industry…and this one may ruffle a few feathers.

‘Ça dépend’…‘Es hängt davon ab’…’Dipende’…‘Εξαρτάται’…‘Det beror’…‘Depinde’

Hmmm…I seem to be getting the impression that no matter who you ask they will tell you that: ‘It depends’ and then launch into some sort of reason why there is no set definition of the truth. I was fully expecting to look in the dictionary and it say the same.

A quick search on Google reveals that definitions range from ‘a fact that has been verified’ to ‘one of the first heavy metal albums.’

Is this lack of definition a get out clause? If there is no set definition then how can something be untrue? Most people seem to know what a lie is, so why the confusion about the truth. My theory involves context, the confusion is the context that the ‘truth’ is placed in.

It matters who you ask and at the time you ask them. Facts and figures are the truth, yes? They can be placed in different contexts. Make-up ranges claim 98% of women agree their product has been of benefit to them, you then see in the small print that only 10 women were asked, still the truth but not as you would have expected.

Back in the days when it was regarded the truth that the earth was flat, the people that said it weren’t lying, they were merely passing on what they knew. Isn’t that the job of a PR Professional? Passing on information they know? Yes and no. It is common knowledge that PR practitioners pass on certain snippets of information, some people jump on the old ‘Oh it’s all spin’ bandwagon, this is one bandwagon I would like to pull the wheels off.

Everyone is guilty of selecting certain information to pass on, the difference is we just get paid for it. Individuals do it in real life, when you are out on a date you don’t give them your whole life story and include the story about the time you were charged for stalking an ex-girlfriend. Not if you have any sense you wouldn’t! You would embroider the truth.

So when is it seen as being socially acceptable to not tell EVERYTHING that you know? What about if it would start a moral panic and cause the country to go into meltdown? Maybe the best idea at the time but then if people found out you had hidden it then you get into trouble anyway. However if the public were told everything there would be bedlam!

There needs to be an information flow, and that’s where we come in. Sometimes we are told what to say, what not to say and others we help advise the best course of action, either way the hammer drops on us…

Our job is to put a certain amount of polish on facts, but you can’t polish something that isn’t there. With the rise of the internet and social networking sites there is nowhere to hide, the truth will come out, so what is the point in blatantly lying when your reputation and that of the companies will just be tarnished when people find out the truth?

Outright lying can have serious implications, your reputation as an individual is built on many things just like the reputation of the organisation. If you had a friend that lied about everything you would become tired of speaking to them and you certainly wouldn’t listen to anything they had to say because you wouldn’t know what to believe. Therefore how can you build and maintain mutually beneficial relationships, which is included in our role as PR professionals, if your contacts know you lie to them?

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer for 2010, 72% of people said that ‘A company I can trust’ is a top driver of corporate reputation in the UK. This therefore proves that lying to your customers can have a negative effect on sales, reputation and peoples impressions on you.

According to Julian Henry in an article on PR Week, “Telling porkies can become a necessity. You might be trying to contain something fragile, volatile and potentially damaging to a large number of innocent bystanders, namely your client’s kingsize ego, which has the potential to explode without warning at any moment.”

As the face of the organisation, it is our job to be responsible and make sure that we don’t cause any unnecessary upset, whether that be our clients or to the public.

In my opinion, and it may be controversial, I think that sometimes it is better to withhold certain information if it could start a moral panic. Especially if it is information that the public don’t in fact have a ‘right’ to know. If it affects them directly, then I believe they should be told, but if the knowledge is not essential then to keep quiet is not a sin. However, where the difficultly lies is if someone asks. Now, if someone asks and you don’t tell them then ‘technically’ you are lying.

I believe it is important to distinguish between what the public need to know and what isn’t vital knowledge. My naïve advice to PR professionals is, don’t lie. When we are so successful at promoting businesses and products why are we letting PR fall into disrepute?  How on earth can we persuade people that PR isn’t about spin when the ones practicing it are playing up to the negative stereotypes that these individuals hold? You have my permission to polish but don’t take it too far and fabricate things that aren’t there.

(Kudos to Neville Hobson for his article on truth, which informed this post.)

Carli-Ann Smith

Why should I be on Twitter? (The Student Perspective series)

This guest post from Lauren Gray is part of The Student Perspective series – a set of posts contributed by future stars of the comms industry.

A few college students and professionals, or at least ones I’ve talked to, have been asking the question:

“Why should I be on Twitter?”

Twitter is an excellent resource for many things. For example: I’ve often asked questions on Twitter about which phone to get, how to get in touch with an organization, what non-profit organizations students have interned with, and many more topics. Twitter is a social network of millions of people and they are here and willing to help you.

Reasons you NEED to be on Twitter:

  • Networking with professionals: Thousands of professionals in your field of study are on Twitter. They can help you with resumes, cover letters, asking general questions about the field, etc.
  • Networking with students: Thousands of students in the same field of study and students that are taking the same classes as you are on Twitter. Other presidents or organizations are on Twitter. You can talk to other students and bounce ideas off each other for your classes, homework, organizations, etc.
  • Research: You can create polls via websites, like WordPress, and broadcast them across Twitter to get information about a subject you are researching or just ideas about a topic you are researching.
  • Twitter chats: Twitter chats are the best way to get involved on Twitter. You talk to other professionals, students, etc. via a chat, like #PRstudchat, for about an hour, answer questions and discuss topics you are interested in.
  • Personal branding: Once you start getting involved on Twitter, you create a following of people who know you and know what you are interested in. People begin to rely on you for information and for discussion.
  • Talking to businesses: I recently had a bad experience at FYE and tweeted about it, the next thing I knew @FYEguy was sending me a $20 gift card in the mail. Brands/businesses want to hear about good and bad experiences. You can always tweet with them.

Make sure you are taking advantage of every opportunity available on Twitter. Be involved and start engaging! Convince your friends to as well!

Further reading:

Lauren Gray is a senior PR student at WCU and PRSSA President.

Changing your Twitter handle: choosing “Brand You”

This is a guest post from Heather Townsend, business consultant and founder of The Efficiency Coach.

On Twitter, Heather holds considerable sway among UK SMEs, so when she announced she was changing her handle on the site, I asked her to write a few words to explain her decision, and how it fits into her plans for her personal / business brand.

Why have I taken the drastic step of changing my Twitter name?

I’ve spent the last eighteen months building up the brand, The Efficiency Coach on social media. This week I took the risky step of changing my name on Twitter to @HeatherTowns rather than @EfficiencyCoach. Like many people you may be thinking, “Why…? Is she throwing the baby away with the bath water? Is everything OK…?”

The Efficiency Coach is going from strength to strength and has been bigger than just me for the last eight months. In fact if I am going to grow the business to its full potential, I need to remove myself from ‘being’ The Efficiency Coach. I’m still the same old me, but my five year vision and plan needed me to have a strong personal brand as ‘The Professional Expert your firm needs to talk to’, rather than piggy-backing on The Efficiency Coach brand. I need to build up a personal brand as writer, speaker, coach and consultant – who happens to run both ‘The Efficiency Coach’ and ‘the executive village’, rather than ‘The Efficiency Coach who is writing a book and co-founded ‘the executive village’. Does that make sense?

I was finding that everyone was introducing me as ‘The Efficiency Coach’, whereas, if I am going to fulfil my personal vision, I needed to brand myself for the job I want, rather than I have.  Still being openly referred to as ‘The Efficiency Coach’ is going to scupper my attempts to build up the brand as the professional services expert.

You look at any of the experts with a household name, such as Ivan Misner, Dan Schawbel, Chris Brogan, Guy Clapperton, Andy Lopata, Brad Burton, they all have a strong personal brand rather than hiding behind their business’s brand.  (It is not a co-incidence that I have spoken to all but one of these people in the last three months, to interview them for ‘The Financial Times Guide To Business Networking’)

Phew, announcement over. I can now blossom fully as myself again and come out from the shadow of ‘The Efficiency Coach’.

Is your personal brand constraining you?

Heather Townsend.

Let’s not forget the importance of honesty in social media

This is a guest post by Mazher Abidi, a marketer and blogger based in Manchester, UK.

Social media (and social networking in the broad sense) could prove to become one of the greatest applications of Internet technology bar none.

As with any community, there are unwritten rules by which its members live by. For example, there are etiquettes related to tweeting and retweeting, recommendations when it comes to selling vs. conversing, conflicting schools of thought when it comes auto vs. personal posting…all of this before anyone has even touched on the thorny subject of sharing Farmville and Mafia Wars stories.

Yet the one common view that appears to transcend all debates is that social media users MUST be honest. This was plainly revealed on August 9th by all the participants in the weekly #commschat on twitter (every Monday 7pm GMT, 8pm BST hosted by @EmilyCagle and @AdamVincenzini from @CommsChat), where the subject under discussion was comms confessions.

Social media users and communicators, both personal and business, appear to need to live by this mantra online or risk being marked out as social media outcasts by their peers, seeing their flaws globally retweeted or (in the ultimate symbol of social media displeasure) being unfollowed and unfriended.

From the discussion, here follows a list of the top 5 reasons why you NEED to be honest on social media:

1. We can see through it

A community of highly intelligent and communications savvy users has formed on social networks, whether as a function of the presence of the tech aware innovators and early adopters or mass uptake. But whoever they are, they all have an opinion; and there are some serious social media influencers out there that have the kind of credibility some offline influencers can only dream of.

They cannot be fooled, nor can they be placated when they feel wronged. There are genuine multi way conversations taking place on social media and ideas are being shared every second.

Spin now has no place in social media and modern communications. Should your message be uncovered as somehow dishonest, a mistruth or a blatant lie, these people will know about it, and the message will spread due to the lack of…

2. Control

The Internet in general and social media especially has spread at a rate that even the word exponential doesn’t quite cover. 24 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute and in just over 5 years the twitterati have racked up 20 billion tweets.

It stands to reason therefore that once your message is out there in the socialsphere, it ceases to become solely your message. For this reason, it needs to be pitch and content perfect, or you run the risk of serious damage to your…

3. Reputation

Increasingly, social media is being seen by organisations as a key part of their PR strategy. It makes sense considering it is a direct route to consumers, key decision makers and influencers within B2C and B2B markets.

PR, as defined by the Charetered Institute of PR, is “the establishment and maintenance of goodwill between an organisation and its publics”. Such goodwill cannot be maintained without the truth.

Reputations can be shattered through social media; witness the way Apple (for example) was forced to take notice and react to antenna-gate on the iPhone4 thanks to the huge swell of opinion against it on social media.

The best way to avoid this? Be honest.

Of course this does not only count for reputation in the here and now. It is also a concern for…

4. The future

The amount of information held on the web does not even bear an attempt to quantify. The consequence of this is that messages, files, images…anything that appears on the Internet – stays on the Internet. Forever.

Companies AND individuals cannot afford for anything they perceive as negative to be on there, even on page 4 of a Google search. For if it’s out there to be found then it can and will be found, more often than not at the least opportune moment.

The picture from the stag do 4 years ago could resurface in a job interview. The accidentally posted press release that was only online for a day could be found on an archived version of a website.

Making sure what goes online is an honest reflection of you or our business will safeguard you for the future.

5. Why not?

Finally, if there’s nothing to hide, there should be no need to hide it!

Cash for interns – is experience payment enough? (The Student Perspective series)

This guest post from Carly Smith is part of The Student Perspective series – a set of posts contributed by future stars of the comms industry.

There has been an ongoing debate as to whether interns should be paid for their work or not. Being one of these interns I thought it would be interesting to give an insight as to what I thought…

If you speak to anyone within PR or the University you are told that experience is needed when applying for jobs. It is therefore necessary for graduates to have a balance between education and real life experience. However this is easier said than done.

For some students their work experience is not a pleasant experience. They spend the entire time being the office ‘dogsbody’ – making tea, photocopying and washing up. Of course we understand that when we graduate we won’t jump to the top and be shouting orders but what do we gain? Fortunately my experience has been a positive one, I work on specific areas and am given ‘real’ work to do which benefits both myself and the business.

I think it is important to establish with a company, before the internship commences, what you want to get out of the experience. And don’t forget an interview is there to see if you are compatible for each other. I was very conscious when I went to the interview for my placement that the company I approached had probably been approached by many other individuals asking for the same thing. That is why I never even considered getting paid for it because I wouldn’t want to price myself out of the market.

So how much is fair?

Should it be the same as the person whose position you are experiencing? Enough to cover your travel and living costs? Minimum wage? A ‘token’ for your hard work? It sounds clichéd but it depends.

I am of the opinion that you pay to attend University where you learn and in your work placement you are gaining their experience and knowledge. Plus it is only for the short term, this experience you gain will help you get a paid job at a later date, maybe with the same company. It is also important to remember that the employer is taking time out of their working day to supervise you on projects and mentor you along your journey. It is mutually beneficial for both parties.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development suggested that interns should be paid £2.50 per hour. This is less than minimum wage and would provide a benchmark for employers. It would also make placements increasingly available as a choice to less well off individuals who otherwise might not be able to take part. But would this set amount make the grey area clearer or would internships disappear because employers didn’t want to pick up the costs? It also raises the issue as to whether there would become ‘unofficial interns’ who still wouldn’t be paid.

10 Yetis Public Relations Agency in Gloucester are setting a good example for others by paying their interns. Andy Barr, Managing Director, said:

“As soon as someone has been part of a team for longer than two weeks, they begin contributing towards the bottom line of a business and therefore they deserve to be rewarded and compensated for their efforts. I don’t think anyone should have to work without payment, as it is both degrading and unfair.”

It would be interesting to hear others thoughts on this debate. Are you an employer who takes interns? Do you pay them a wage or not? Are you taking part in an internship? Do you think interns should be paid?

Carly Smith is currently in between her 2nd and 3rd year at the University of Lincoln studying Marketing and Public Relations. She has a work placement at a local PR agency one day a week on an unpaid basis.

Shock tactics in advertising – anything goes? (The Student Perspective series)

This guest post from Carly Smith is part of The Student Perspective series – a set of posts contributed by future stars of the comms industry.

A couple of months back, the Charity Commission updated the guidelines on fundraising and warned charities over the risks to reputation associated with using shock tactics to encourage donations and raise awareness. After reading the article in PR Week, it got me thinking: should shock tactics be allowed? And in such a crowded market place are they effective anymore?

We’ve all seen the adverts featuring the lonely puppy tied up by the side of the road and the children living in a shanty town surrounded by rubbish, but has the time come for charities to find new methods of attracting our attention?

The majority of people know what these charities stand for so don’t need to be reminded every time they see the advert. Some people may find the content of the advert distressing and be so shocked that they disengage with the advert and the charity completely because they associate them in a negative way. There is also the argument that one of the reasons people donate money to charities is because they experience a sense of guilt, these adverts are encouraging this as individuals will look at themselves sat in their comfortable well furnished houses and feel bad. Would it not be better to try and educate donors as to how their money would benefit and show the work they have done already? This is an approach that Cancer Research UK has adopted and I feel it has been successful for them.

However is this all just further evidence of the so called ‘nanny state’ trying to shield people from what goes on in the real world? The advert represents what the charity stands for and illustrates the type of work it does. As my grandparents would say: ‘If people don’t like it then they can just turn it over.’

I do believe that when used effectively shock tactics can be a brilliant addition to a campaign as they break through advertising clutter and are likely to be remembered. In my opinion the THINK car safety campaigns use shock tactics effectively and are memorable. The main message of the advert is always remembered and sometimes I find myself quoting them saying things such as: ‘Don’t be a back seat killer!’ to my friends when they are in the back seats.

Shock tactics should be used with caution and extensive research should be done as to not offend viewers or shock anyone too much. There will always be people who prefer not to see them but that’s their choice. A balance is needed, therefore a campaign should be both informational and attention seeking.

What do you think about adverts relying on shock tactics? Is there a place for shock advertising? Would you be more likely to donate to a charity who didn’t use them or not?

Carly Smith is currently in between her 2nd and 3rd year at the University of Lincoln studying Marketing and Public Relations. She has a work placement at a local PR agency one day a week on an unpaid basis.

Five things your home page can do without

This is a guest post by Tom Albrighton, a professional copywriter and founder/director of ABC Copywriting, based in Norwich.

Planning the home page. So important, and so difficult. Often, our answer is to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. The trouble is, you end up with a lot of stuff that you really don’t need. So in a spirit of ‘less is more’, here are five things you could consider hacking away from your home page.

Welcome message

This is a contentious one. Many marketers and copywriters feel that the ‘welcome’ statement is embarrassingly old hat, and shouldn’t be present on a modern website.

I agree that it’s a cliché, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it, or that it’s not effective.

In my view, a ‘welcome’ statement has its place if it talks to the priorities of your visitors and makes them more likely to stay. If it just wastes their time or irritates them, drop it.

For example, a niche online retailer selling speciality coffees is the kind of cosy ‘shop’ you’d like to be welcomed into, while an all-business insurance comparison site would probably do better to lead with an eye-catching offer.

If a welcome message isn’t appropriate, you can use the space to offer ‘doorways’ into other parts of the site, or an orientation statement that tells the visitor where they might like to begin browsing.

Background info

I’m a strong believer in a simple, straightforward positioning statement somewhere on the home page, just so visitors can confirm they’re in the right place. For example:

We are a small, friendly team of accountants serving clients in Carlisle and the surrounding area.

Nothing wrong with that. Every word conveys information that visitors almost certainly need, and it’s almost certainly good for SEO too. But the ‘about us’ chat should end as soon as you get into things you want to say, rather than things the audience wants to hear.

For example, it’s unlikely that anyone needs to know immediately when you were founded, how you developed, how many people you employ or (being brutally honest) anything about your beliefs, values or business ethos. Provide that stuff somewhere by all means, but don’t put it on the home page where it could get in the way of a visitor who wants to get facts or make a purchase.

Generic pitches

Many, many websites fall into the trap of making a generic pitch for the products or services they offer, rather than selling themselves specifically. For example:

If you’re setting up in business, you can give your image a major boost with a professionally designed logo and letterhead.

The visitor already knows that. That’s why they went to Google and typed in ‘logo designer’, ‘business stationery design’ or whatever. They’re already persuaded of the general benefits offered by firms like yours, so don’t fritter away their patience by restating those benefits. You’re not writing an ad for the back of a bus – online, your audience is pre-vetted, proactive and attentive.

Remember, the user has probably got a set of nine similar search results sitting right under the ‘back’ button whenever they want them. So draw them in with some reasons they should stay on your site – in other words, the specific benefits of choosing you over a competitor.

Generic selling does nothing to advance your cause and arguably gives a hand to the competition – there’s a risk that you merely reinforce the visitor’s generalised interest, allowing another site to convert it to a lead or sale later on.

Scattergun content

Looking at some home pages, you get the feeling that the company got a bit bored with their own business. On top of the basic text and the navigation, you’re looking at case studies, client logos, special offers, awards, company news, blog posts, knowledge portals, newsletter signups – everything’s been thrown into the pot.

Making a home page is a bit like making a soup. You can put in ten different vegetables if you want, but your users won’t be able to discern every last taste. Instead, you might want to use just two or three really strong flavours and give them a more focused experience. Adding more can lead to dilution rather than concentration. As I’m often telling clients: the more you write, the less likely people are to read it all.

If you look at your home page for years, it’s inevitable that it starts to look a bit dull or elementary. But your visitors have never seen it before. (OK, they might be returning for a second visit, but it still won’t be familiar.) In fact, it may be that your whole industry is a completely closed book to them. Some basic info and a reassuringly simple layout that they can get their heads round in seconds might be just the ticket.

Irrelevant imagery

If you’re selling a product, it makes sense to show the product – holidays, showers, cars. But what if you’re selling a B2B service such as web hosting or copywriting? What should you show then?

Well, you could try to show one of the tools of your trade – a web server, perhaps, or a fountain pen. Unfortunately, those things aren’t that interesting visually, and they run the risk of making your audience think about computer hardware or stationery rather than website uptime and effective communication.

So you go down the road of metaphorical or figurative illustration – light bulbs (=innovation), fast cars (=high performance), shaking hands (=partnership). That gets you a pretty picture, but again, you’re risking the audience thinking about something irrelevant, like cars. And unless you can sustain the metaphor far enough to make every point you need to make, your text is going to end up being on a different theme from your imagery, which means that the overall message will not be harmonious.

It’s difficult. Believe me, I’ve grappled with this beast many a time. But even though it’s hard, you don’t have to make it harder by choosing a design that obliges you to have a leading or ‘hero’ image. Ask your designer to solve the problem with text and graphics.

Ideally, every image should have a semiotic, rather than purely aesthetic, justification – paying its way in terms of meaning as well as decoration.

Tips for a better home page

It’s so easy to criticise. So here are a few positive pointers to help address the problems I’ve covered in this post.

  • Imagine yourself as a newcomer to your site – one with little or no knowledge of your field. How will it come across?
  • Develop your home page for visitors – not for yourself, or to outdo competitors.
  • Make sure everything on your home page has a reason to be there.
  • Don’t be afraid to use space and simplicity to emphasise key messages (or a single message).
  • Keep in mind what you want the user to do. Include a call to action and don’t be afraid to state it early on. You’re selling products or services, not website content.
  • Think of your home page text as an ‘elevator pitch’, or the words you would choose to say if you were introducing your company. Be memorable, but don’t be afraid to state simple details. Facts are reassuring.
  • Don’t sweat it. Remember the user is actively searching – they want to use you. All you have to do is remove the barriers in their way.

Introducing The Student Perspective – a series about comms, from tomorrow’s stars

Tomorrow sees the launch of The Student Perspective – a series of guest posts from the future stars of comms.

Posts in this series will cover the usual fodder seen here (inc. PR, marketing, branding and internal comms) but the thoughts and opinions within will come from the freshest minds in the industry – those of PR & marketing undergraduates.

If you follow the work of David Clare (@davidjmclare on Twitter and once an intern of mine at Cagle Comms) or have ever checked out the articles submitted to @behindthespin (a PR student magazine), you’ll know how valuable such insight can be.

Stay tuned for the first post in the series tomorrow (Monday 13th) at 2pm.

And if you’re a PR/Marketing/Journalism undergrad with a passion for comms and something interesting to say, please send a short summary of your post idea and we’ll get things rolling.

Giving it away: a look at content marketing

This is a guest post by Toby Reid, the founder of In A Fishbowl, a business reality website that follows the progress of three entrepreneurs.

If you are in the service or advisory sector these days then, as unnerving as it sounds, your best marketing strategy is to give away everything you know for free. When you think you have given away nearly all the information you have, go and dig up some more and then give that away as well.

It is called content marketing and here are three reasons why you should be doing it:

Reason 1

Because you will no longer gain and maintain customers by guarding and restricting access to information you hold. “We can tell you this but we could tell you a lot more if you pay us”. Really?…

NO and double no. Those days are gone. They are gone because with the internet nearly all information is freely available. Conceptually, people refuse to pay for something that can be found free elsewhere. They may not find it, or understand it when they do find it, but that doesn’t matter because the damage is done… they have already switched off from you.

Free information is your hook to attract the attention of your target customers.

Reason 2

Brand is no longer just about logos and strap lines, it’s about voice. You want to be a market leader, be a market leading voice. It’s difficult to be a compelling voice without talking about what you know and what you think, so don’t hold back, tell them what you know. Providing quality content establishes you as an authority on your subject and gives you serious credibility in the eyes of your target customers.

Proving you’re an expert in your field sustains the interest of your target customers.

Reason 3

Because your customers still need you. In this age of free information, information isn’t your asset anymore. So give it away! But what will your customer buy from you? Well, your interpretation of the information and application to their personal circumstances, the time savings you can offer them in doing so, the peace of mind of outsourcing to an expert and the customer service you offer along the way.

The time saving, peace of mind and customer service are the benefits you offer. These can easily convert an audience of already interested targets into actual customers. But remember you have to attract their attention and prove your credibility first!