4 ways to improve engagement with marketing & PR content
You’ve begun firing up your marketing engines as we come out of ‘hard Lockdown’ and at least some of your staff are heading back to the office. The sales and marketing planning session is in the diary. Why not use this opportunity to focus a little harder on improving engagement with your prospects – after all it’s fairly clear you’ll have to work harder to get deals over the line than you had to pre-COVID-19’s arrival.
This article is going to give you four ways to improve engagement with your marketing and PR content, thereby stimulating more prospects to take a closer look at what you offer and how it can help their businesses increase their operational efficiency and begin growing again.
- Deliver ‘new’ information
We all know an interesting article when we read one. It tends to contain some new information or insight which we have not read or heard about before. It may just be a question of presentation. Some author’s use of visuals and examples makes the knowledge and opinions they are sharing easier to digest and understand.
I’ve spent more than 25 years writing news releases launching new products and services, unveiling new market insights or announcing some new corporate developments such as a new customer win, mainly for technology companies. I’m a tech PR guy after all.
The key thing about writing a news release is that you need to make very sure that some key information in it is ‘new’ to the audience reading it. The clue’s in the word ‘news’. If there’s nothing new in it, it’s already failed as a news release. More than likely your key media’s news editor will ‘spike’ it.
Admittedly, it’s not quite so clear cut in the world of digital marketing. Your latest blog post will still be read by your most engaged Connections on LinkedIn. And if you have your content marketing strategy right then many people will see it. But will they actually read it? And, more importantly, will they engage and take action which moves them closer to buying something you are offering? If the answer is no, then it’s about as useful as a chocolate tea pot.
- ‘Mine’ new insight
For a fuller by-lined article or blog post to work, for people to read right to the end of that 1,500 word piece which you’ve spent hours writing, it needs to offer something special – a unique take, calculation or insight. Too many pieces I read online are essentially mash ups of what’s already been published elsewhere. They could and increasingly will be written by an algorithm. Unique insight is much harder to deliver in your content. It tends to flow from one of two sources:
The first, comes from the expertise and the knowledge that comes from years of experience doing a specific job, amassing qualifications and ‘learning on the job’. As a PR man, I spend my time hunting down those experts within the client I’m working with. They’re as rare as hen’s teeth. People who are experts in their chosen field but are also able to articulate their expertise to a wide range of people with varied knowledge of their specialist subject are like ‘gold’. Mine their knowledge judiciously. These people are your spokespeople. They are your future thought leaders if they aren’t already thought leaders by personal reputation.
They will be the guys and girls you want to put in front of your customers when you want to get them thinking about the big picture. However, they are unlikely to know your product set inside out. They are rarely the Head of Sales for example. Save your thought leaders for the Discovery phase of your sales process or for the consultancy-led sell to that strategically important client. Save them for media briefings and to front or write your blog posts – that’s if you PR guy isn’t already ghost writing these for him or her.
- ‘Manufacture’ new Insights
If you don’t have these domain experts with strong communication skills in your business, then instead you can ‘manufacture’ your insights! But how do I create insight out of thin air I hear you ask? That’s where market research comes in.
The only real question when setting up a market research project is what business intelligence do you need to help your sales team sell and what insight would interest a wider audience who could read your research findings in your target trade media?
It’s possible to postulate what might be happening in the market, building questions whose answers will confirm or disprove a theory about what’s going on out there. The great thing about the results of market research, especially if executed by a third party market research agency in which a ‘nat rep’ (nationally representative) sample is assured, is that they are undeniable.
They are also a powerful platform from which to come up with views on why the trend you have uncovered is happening. In short, market research gives you the authority to speak more widely about the topic you’ve shone a light on.
Do you primarily want new business intelligence which can be immediately used to support your sales effort? If so, it’s more than adequate for you to run Business to Business research which probes the issues which your sector is facing (which broadly relate to the products, services, or consultancy you offer).
Or do you want to generate higher level insight which should be of interest to your trade media, perhaps even regional and national media? Is it insight that you want to feed off in marketing content terms for at least six months, possibly longer?
Do you instead want to create ‘hero content’ – white papers, business guides, or consumer reports, which can become downloads on your website – generating sales leads as well as media coverage? If the answer is yes, you may well be looking at developing market research which has a wide and deep appeal.
For example, I’ve worked with a pension technology firm for many years and in the last four we’ve stepped up into running nationwide consumer surveys looking at specific generations’ attitude to saving, investing, and preparing for retirement.
The results in terms of media coverage and sales lead generation (through development of in-depth consumer reports summarising the findings of each of research study) have been impressive. Those reports are my client’s ‘hero content’. They sit on their website and require anyone interested in downloading them to leave their contact details. Some are being downloaded four years after they were first published and promoted via social channels and the trade media. As a PR man, I’m writing articles using the results of a study up to two years after those results first came back to us.
- Add a visual dimension to your content
There are three broad types of learners. There are those that have an auditory learning bias (e.g. listening to the teacher talking through a subject).
Others are kinaesthetic learners. These guys and girls are natural doers. They learn best when they process information while being physically active or engaged.
And then there are visual learners. They like to see diagrams and charts to understand ideas and concepts. Think about using charts, diagrams and offering vlogs (video blogs) as well as blog posts. Interestingly, a 3 minute vlog can comfortably cover the content of a 1,000 word article, even including some highly visual illustrations and branding. They are highly efficient in a time poor world.
When we execute consumer research for our clients we always encourage them to commission ‘vox pop’ video interviews. For the more visual amongst us, it’s much more powerful and more efficient to view a selection of interviews with target consumers, than ploughing through a 50+ page report which may contain many more insights but also requires much more time to digest.
In summary, this piece covered four areas of focus to make your marketing and PR content both more accessible and more compelling. The first focuses on the importance of offering something genuinely new. Any PR man will tell you about how and when they learnt to stop writing ‘puff’ pieces and began writing genuinely ‘new’ news releases. It an invaluable test to apply when you build marketing content.
Secondly, there is the value of mining insights gained from amassing years of experience selling into a specific market and/or developing a technical expertise. To some, passing on the benefit of your expertise is valuable and engaging.
Thirdly, there is the potential to manufacture insight from conducting your own market research, knowing that some of the answers you get will help you understand your target customers better (or the market you serve more widely) and some will be great talking points to share with the media, influencers, and present at trade functions.
Finally, think about adding a visual element to your articles, either creating short vlogs based on article content which we do for some clients or simply adding some diagrams and charts to reinforce points.
Do stay in touch if you want to see more from Miles Clayton of Agility PR