Leveraging social media for public relations success

Social_Media_pr_ebook_cover

The web and social media are making it easier for businesses to communicate with their audience. Where there used to be a clear delineation between marketing and public relations, the impact of the web has resulted in a blurred line between the two industries.

Some would argue that this is leading to the “death” of public relations. On the contrary, the web is actually helping to enhance the efficiency of the PR industry. So how can you incorporate social media and inbound marketing to enhance your business‟ PR efforts? This ebook will discuss major topics under the umbrella of public relations and explain how you can successfully incorporate social media and internet marketing tools and strategies to improve your business‟ public relations efforts in those areas.

To download the report, click on: hubspot_social_media_pr_ebook.

Top tips to write a persuasive case study

Insert the words case study into your subject line and most online readers will snap to attention. A case study promises real-life solutions and insider tips on how it all really works.

So what is the formula for a case study that packs a punch but is digestible enough to appeal to an online reader?

1. organize your information with sign posts

2. reveal real business pain

3. include specific, quantifiable results

Whether it’s the lead article in your e-newsletter or featured content on your site, a well-written case study should:

- build suspense

- have a satisfying conclusion

- solve a generalizable business problem (make money or save money)

If the objective is to showcase your organization’s capabilities, it may also propel the reader into the first step of the buying process for your product or service

Compelling content

In other words, good content isn’t just fun to read. It should set in motion a sequence of visitor thoughts and actions that ultimately lead to a sale.

Customer profiles, success stories or case studies

It doesn’t matter what you call them. Just be consistent. And recognize that visitors to your site aren’t dumb. They know why you’re including case studies.

Personally, I like “case study.” It suggests a story with a beginning, middle and end – a tidy resolution.

Is it a challenge with a result? A problem with a solution?

Whatever nomenclature you decide on, stick with it. Three subheads work well as signposts for your readers. As an example:

- challenge
- solution
- result

Or

- issue
- approach
- current situation.

A consistent organization to your case studies makes them easier to grasp – and also easier to write. If the case study is on your site, use a consistent layout on the page as well.

Snack, bite, meal

In other words, consider writing a case study in several levels. The top one is your signpost subheads with a summary blurb under each. Readers who want to know more can click through to a complete version that goes into more detail.

What makes a great case study

I asked Ellis Booker, editor of BtoB magazine, for his tips. He’s been publishing a “from the trenches” case study in BtoB Hands-On, the print pub’s free weekly e-newsletter, since January, 2002. He swears by his formula.

Short, candid and revealing

The best case studies, Booker said, are ones “that sound like a legitimate problem. The reader wants candor. They want to see the pain point. Readers want something to be revealed.”

Even more effective is a story that says, “We screwed up.” It should offer “a dialectic. Readers like opposing points of view.”

The case study “has to be specific and easily digestible. It has to be tactical information that can be generalized,” he said. “Unless you have results, the case study is not nearly as powerful as it should be.”

Stick to a word count

Booker assigns a limit of around 300 words to his writers, although most of BtoB’s case studies are a bit longer. A more reasonable word count is 500 words. If your readers can’t skim quickly to get the gist, you’re wasting your efforts.

Beware of letting PR folks write your case studies

GE Commercial Finance is a mega, content rich site filled with case studies (GE calls them success stories) that showcase the conglomerate’s many corporate financing capabilities.

Unfortunately, someone included the sub-head “GE Advantage” in every one of them. This significantly undercuts their usefulness as credible marketing tools.

If you must delegate the writing of a case study to your PR folks, be prepared to take an editor’s pen to the copy they submit. Strike out the Pollyanna, oh-we’re-wonderful tone. And slash the marketing speak.

Developing case studies is part of knowledge management

Whether your company is large or small, you’ve got stories to tell – about customers, competitors or yourself. Generating case studies for your Web site or e-newsletter is one way to harness your knowledge-based assets.

By Debbie Weil
Publisher, WordBiz Report, http://www.debbieweil.com/

White Paper SEO: How Important are Keywords in Your White Paper?

By Apryl Parcher

By now we all know that search engine optimization (SEO) is a key factor in getting visibility for your website. SEO includes strategic placement of keywords and phrases in your web copy, as well as in the HTML code.

But what about the documents you have available for download from your website, such as white papers and case studies? Can you optimize those for search engines as well?

Yes, you can! Most white papers are distributed as PDF documents, and just like other pages on a website, these can be optimized for search in two places: the visible content that your readers see and the “metadata” in the document properties they don’t see.

Optimizing your copy

The standard rules for SEO on website copy also apply to your white paper or other content.

The first step is to have your list of primary keywords handy when writing the paper, and to use them in certain strategic places:
* Title and subtitle
* Paragraph headings
* The first 100 or so words of text

Try to use your keywords in the beginnings of sentences when possible. But don’t overdo it or try to stuff in too many keywords just for the sake of optimization. First and foremost, your copy should be compelling and useful to the reader. Your logic should flow naturally. Boring your reader with stilted, awkward prose is a sure-fire way to lose them!

Optimizing your document properties

Here is a short screen-capture video that takes you step-by-step through optimizing your PDF document properties using Adobe Acrobat.
As you can see, it’s not at all difficult to insert your keywords into a PDF, and it only takes a few moments.

Click here to watch the video on how to do this.

If you don’t have Adobe Acrobat (versions 6 and up can do this) and you’re working with a graphic designer, they may be able to insert this metadata for you.

What about registration pages?

If you would rather your white paper was NOT indexed–because you want people to register for it–you can protect it from the search engines with a robot.txt file as explained in the video. However, you’ll want to make sure to optimize your registration page and any “teaser” copy from your white paper that you use to generate interest. Always optimize for readability

So how important is SEO in the grand scheme?

While optimizing your white papers is a good way to make it easier for people to find them online, it’s really more important to produce a well-crafted, informative paper that’s easy for humans to read and absorb.

A paper that resonates with your audience will get results. So don’t stress about getting all the SEO exactly right. Keep keywords in mind for your titles and headings, and give it a try. And since Adobe makes it fairly simple to add metadata to a PDF, you can experiment to see what kind of results you get.

About the Author: Apryl Parcher was handpicked by Michael Stelzner out of 100 writers to work with him as his apprentice. A veteran marketing writer and certified social media strategist, she helps businesses blend traditional and social marketing content strategies. Learn more at her website and blog at http://www.whitepaperresults.com as well as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Viral Marketing Tips: Getting Others to Tout Your White Paper Online

by Jonathan Kantor

The goal of every social media marketer is to get your content to “go viral”–in other words, to be blogged about, forwarded, Retweeted, or referenced in an online forum or wiki. The more people who hear about your content, the more widely known you will become, and the more followers and more business leads you will attract.

White papers are great fodder for a viral marketing campaign. But how can you increase the chance that your white paper will go viral and provide you with the ultimate rewards of social marketing?

Here are some pointers you might want to consider.

1. Create fresh, new and appealing content

An important part of going viral is to provide fresh new content that has not been seen or discussed previously. The more “buzz” you can create, the greater the viral opportunities.

That becomes a little more difficult when your white paper addresses a well-worn issue such as “supply chain best practices.” But if viral marketing is your primary goal, you need to plan your white paper content specifically for this objective.

Some content ideas might be:
• The results of a recent customer survey–including charts or graphs–that reach a compelling conclusion and appeal to a large audience of current or prospective customers.
• An industry-wide competitive analysis that illustrates a change of direction for the industry.
• A “come-from-behind” case study that represents a wide swath of customers and presents an achievable methodology for business success.
• An official response to an industry-specific news story–especially if you have a different viewpoint than the industry norm.
Be sure to include elements such as clear sidebar callouts/pull quotes, charts and concept graphics that make it easy for others to see the clear bottom-line points.

2. Create a provocative title

White-bread titles that include words such as “Best Practices” or a name brand diminish your viral opportunities.

Compelling titles such as “New Study Shows Dramatic _____” or “X Things You Didn’t Know about _____” will boost your odds of going viral. The more your title describes “what’s in it for me”, the better the viral opportunities.

Equally important is keeping your title professional. Understand that your target audience is made up of business executives and decision-makers. You should avoid titles that include provocative words, slang or the suggestion of swearing.

Titles such as, “How the Competitor Next Door is Getting Ready to Kick Your A**: Why It’s Time to Get Real About Mobile Marketing” will only result in negativity and risk harming your business brand and marketing objectives.

3. Pre-plan your viral launch

When something goes viral, it happens quickly. Rarely does any six-month-old news story go viral. Before you finish your white paper, you should be planning your viral campaign so it can be launched as soon as your white paper is ready for distribution.

Some ideas in this area include:

• Leverage internal resources–Get friends, business partners and employees to Tweet, Retweet, Facebook and blog about your white paper with links to its landing page.
• Keep it simple–Remove as many registration requirements as possible. Distributing a white paper without registration often yields the best results. But if you must use registration, only ask for a first and last name and e-mail address to download the white paper.
• Get other credible sources to write about it–Contact industry-specific blogs and news sources to inquire if they would like to include an article about your white paper or industry research. The greater the mentions, the higher the viral potential.

With a little planning and effort, you can increase the chances that your white paper will go viral, gain much more exposure and generate better results.

Why not try it on your next white paper?

About the Author: Jonathan Kantor is a 14 year white paper marketing veteran. He’s is the author of the widely acclaimed book, Crafting White Paper 2.0, and the founder of The White Paper Company and the White Paper Pundit blog.

Demolish the Competition and Recommend a Generic Solution (part 2 of 3)

by Gordon Graham

Part 1 of this article discussed how to frame a white paper around a nasty industry problem. This builds rapport with your reader, holds their attention, and creates urgency.

Next, you must destroy the credibility of everyone else’s way of dealing with that problem.

Here are some tips on how to do this.

Demolish the competition step #1: List every other alternative

Include anything a prospect could do, other than buy your offering. That includes doing nothing and buying nothing.
For IT vendors, other alternatives include working manually, using spreadsheets, rekeying data from one system into another, creating some sort of mashup or developing some homegrown system that the prospect believes is “good enough.”

Then sort them all into various buckets. But don’t sort by company. Instead, sort by category, class, genre or type. That way you can toss numerous products or companies into the same bucket.

Demolish the competition step #2: Think hard about why no alternative is good enough

Perhaps one option just doesn’t work very well or only works in certain cases. Maybe others are slow, costly or prone to failure. Perhaps another creates unwelcome tradeoffs, unintended consequences or a whole new set of problems. Whatever the drawbacks, uncover them all.

This can involve searching for what the classic book “Marketing Warfare” calls “the weakness in the leader’s strength”–the Achilles heel that can bring down a competitor.

For example, Mac OS is much less widespread than Windows, so malware authors seldom target the Mac. That means one weakness in Windows’ strength is the vast amount of malware that attacks it.

Demolish the competition step #3: Take your best shot at each alternative

I sometimes think of this as setting up a line of wooden ducks in a shooting gallery, and then blasting them to smithereens, one by one. When your logic is clear, you only need a sentence or two per alternative.

To do this, you can start with phrases like:
• ”In the past, some have tried…”
• ”Existing products are not effective because…”
• ”Many Vendors have tried to overcome this problem, but none have succeeded. For example…”
Recommend a generic solution

Now, with the less-than-ideal approaches reduced to rubble, you can sweep them all out of the way with your new, improved, recommended solution.

But don’t label it with your product or company name. Don’t dump in your regular product description. Don’t use your normal marketing lingo. It’s much more powerful to describe your solution in generic terms.

Warning: This level of restraint is very tough for many sales and marketing people, but it’s critical to success with a modern white paper. So if you can’t avoid giving a sales pitch, don’t call what you’re writing a white paper. Just write a brochure, a sales letter or a product brief; then call it what it is.

Here are a few tips on how to describe your solution generically.
• Forget superlatives, marketing-speak and any other terms you normally use to describe your offering.
• Imagine telling a Martian about your offering, using broad strokes instead of name brands and buzz words he wouldn’t know.
• Locate your solution in its market space, within an established category, class, genre, niche or type. If it’s a hybrid of two existing genres, say so. If it’s really a whole new category, say so. This helps prospects picture your market space the way you want them to see it.
• Focus on how your offering solves that nagging problem better than anything else. And make your argument without naming your product or your company.

This approach adds tremendous educational value to your white paper. It spells out the business or technical benefits of your offering by comparing and contrasting it to other offerings on the market without getting caught up in brand names.

To sum up: First articulate a problem, next knock down all other solutions, and then recommend a better solution in generic terms. This powerful approach positions your offering as the best solution.

Now all that’s left to do is to tilt the playing field firmly in your direction with a simple buyer’s guide. Coming next issue, the final part of this three-part series shows you how.

About the Author: Gordon Graham–also known as ThatWhitePaperGuy–helps B2B software companies tell their stories with crisp, compelling white papers. Gordon has worked on more than 100 white papers for companies like Google, Oracle and many smaller firms with big ideas.

Five mistakes to avoid when writing whitepapers

Don’t fail to define your audience

If you fail to define who will read your white paper, you or your writer will find it difficult to craft a clear message for the paper. What industry are you appealing to and which clients will find the paper interesting? Decide who you are talking to before you create an outline or start writing the paper. Understanding your audience up front will help the paper flow and keep the paper focused. Defining your reader will also streamline any content interviews you conduct for your white paper and will ensure you relay the messages that matter most to your readers.

Don’t sound overly promotional

Unlike marketing collateral that is supposed to sound “salesy,” white papers are more subtle in their approach. A white paper’s goal is to inform, educate, and share valuable information about a product or service. If a paper is well-written, then it will create sales leads. But the white paper’s primary goal is to hook the reader, share valuable information, and then (hopefully) incentivize the reader to inquire into the company, product, or service being described. Readers know that a white paper’s primary purpose is to inform and for this reason, they don’t tolerate white papers that sound overly promotional. People expect a brochure to contain a sales pitch but they want to see thought leadership in a white paper. When you define a white paper’s objectives, make sure you share valuable insights. If you truly need a document that discusses product features and benefits or lists information about your company, consider creating a brochure or sales sheet instead of a white paper.

Don’t write a white paper that is too short or too long

Nothing is more disappointing than reading an attractive, interesting white paper, only to discover typos, poor grammar, and spelling errors. When this occurs, the paper instantly loses credibility with the reader. In order to appear professional and believable, a white paper must demonstrate superior writing and contain correct capitalization, punctuation, and spelling. Sloppy formatting, passive writing style, incorrect tense, and poor sentence structure are red flags to readers. If your company lacks writing skills, hire a professional writing firm to manage white paper development. If you have a style guide, share it with your writer. Make sure several people in your organization proof-read the paper, including a marketing contact, product specialist, and possibly your legal department, depending upon the paper’s content.Today’s business professional is extremely busy and most prefer quick information bites.

Don’t create a paper that looks unprofessional

Look at the format of the “USA Today” newspaper or any of today’s popular news sites and see how communications is becoming an art based on brevity and clarity. The ideal length of a white paper is 8 to 10 pages and includes interesting graphics or photos to illustrate the points covered in the paper. A paper with more than 10 pages can overwhelm the reader. On the other hand, white papers that are shorter than eight pages may lack enough information to prove a point. Most white papers require at least eight pages of copy and graphics to fully explore a topic and to incorporate a white paper’s typical elements–title page, executive summary, introduction, body, conclusion, and end notes.

Don’t let your paper languish

Creating a well-written, professional white paper is a worthwhile undertaking…..unless you let the paper sit on your hard drive. Many companies spend time and in-house resources creating white papers or they outsource the task to a professional writing firm, create the perfect paper, show it off around the office, and then the paper sits on a shelf. After going to the time and expense to write a paper, you need to promote your white paper so all your hard work pays off.

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