Category: Insights


5 ways to build your brand’s Instagram following

With an estimated two million plus Australian active users last month*, Instagram has evolved from a simple photo-sharing app when it launched in October 2010, to the powerful storytelling platform it is today. And with the introduction of Instagram advertising, its reach and influence is tipped to grow exponentially.

There’s no set formula to building a healthy Instagram following, and unlike Facebook and Twitter, it’s not as easy to promote your posts (although Instagram ads have just launched in Australia, there’s no self-service tool yet).

Growing a following takes time, but with the right tactics, you can significantly boost your brand’s exposure. Here are some tips.

 1. Start with a hashtag strategy

Don’t use a hashtag just because it’s popular. #love #instagood and #picoftheday are amongst the most overused hashtags on the ‘gram, but do they really lead you to your target audience?

Instead, think niche and think local. If you’re Instagram strategy focuses on healthy eating and wellbeing, why not pair a popular hashtag like #paleo or #cleaneating with Sarah Wilson’s #iqs. And if your post is relevant and location based, tap into local hashtags like #bondilife or #brisbaneanyday.

Think about your own, unique hashtag too. People often share images of products and brands they love, so make sure your hashtag is discoverable in your Instagram profile. And don’t forget to keep it short – we’re more likely to add #FUIC than #farmersunionicedcoffee.

2. Work with the Instagram influencers

The power of the Instagram ‘influencer’ (for want of a better term) is undeniable. From models and fashionistas to food and mummy bloggers, some of these users reach more people with one post than a magazine might do in one monthly edition.

Collaborating with Instagram influencers usually requires an additional cost, either in the form of paid sponsorship or product, but the investment can pay back in spades.

FORWARD recently teamed up with Rachael Finch to launch Vitasoy Coconut Milk. Rachael has a following of over 67K on Instagram, many of whom share her health and nutritional values. Rachael was given the opportunity to create a number of Vitasoy Coconut Milk smoothies and breakfast recipes, which she later shared with her followers. The response was dramatic. Hundreds of followers liked and commented on each post, giving Vitasoy a chance to gauge public opinion of the new product.

If you’re thinking of partnering with an Instagram influencers, it’s worth considering these points.

 3. Take advantage of special events

Special events provide us with opportunities to give handles and hashtags a little extra exposure. Whether it’s a media and influencer dinner, product briefing, launch party or experiential activity – special events give your audience an opportunity to capture content for their own Instagram channels.

FORWARD recently hosted a series of intimate dining events for one of our clients, and a number of highly influential guests were invited to attend.  To maximise the chances of guests snapping content for their social channels, the following was taken into consideration:

  • The hashtag and brand handle were seeded before the event via invitation or in email correspondence
  • Hashtags and handles were printed on event materials – signage and menus
  • Guests’ Instagram handles were followed by the brand before each event
  • Our MC was asked to politely remind guests (in a charming way) of the hashtag before the start of each event

When planning your event, it’s also worth considering what visual opportunities will be available to guests throughout the event. How’s the lighting? Do guests have time to capture the images they need?

Most importantly, don’t forget to like and repost your guests’ images and thank them for posting and attending.

 4. Run a competition

Another simple way of boosting your follower count is through an Instagram competition. Contests are relatively easy to execute and the prize pool doesn’t have to be outrageously expensive.

There are two main types of Instagram comps:

  • Enter to win, which requires users to post a photo with the relevant hashtag and your handle
  • Share to win, where the user is required to share your content (including your hashtag and handle)

Some things to consider when running Instagram comps are:

  • Make sure you ask fans to follow your account
  • Remember to draft Ts&Cs, and host them somewhere people have access to them – a Facebook note is a good back-up. And don’t forget to make sure your Ts&Cs comply with Instagram’s
  • Don’t make the entry mechanic too difficult – you won’t receive many entries if users are required to take a pic of themselves bungee jumping from the Harbour Bridge

For more tips, explore the Instagram blog here.

 5. Instagram ads

And finally, you could consider paid media as a means of boosting numbers.

Instagram has just launched ads in Australia, with Vegemite, Toyota and McDonald’s among the first to go live. The platform is still in a testing phase, so it might be a while before brands have access to a self-service tool like Facebook.

Keep in mind, all ads are required to go through a centralised global process – including approval by co-founder Kevin Systrom – so premium execution is a must.

For more info on Instagram ads and general tips for brands click here.

*Data estimate obtained via socialmedianews.com.au

 

4 essentials for selecting a brand ambassador

Brand ambassadors can be a powerful tool in any PR and influence campaign on the proviso that you choose the right one. It’s a big decision for any brand and needs to be carefully considered as they can either propel or tarnish a brand.

Remember Kate Moss’ infamous cocaine photo in the UK’s Daily Mirror that led her to being dropped as ambassador for H&M, Chanel, and Burberry in 2005? Or the 2009 revelations of Tiger Woods’ sexual indiscretions that cost him lucrative deals with TAG Heuer and Accenture.

Yes, they’re extreme examples but something every brand wants to steer clear of! On the flip side, there are good examples we can learn from…

I was interested to see Jennifer Hawkins in Sydney Confidential today, as a celebrity ambassador for a property development in Newcastle – it just goes to show you the power of an ambassador.

Australian celebrities do a particularly good job in this area, but you could also put this down to sound, strategic choices by brands. A couple of the biggest, Myer and David Jones, spring to mind with Jennifer Hawkins and Megan Gale, both have squeaky clean profiles and they’re aspirational, yet approachable at the same time. They definitely set the standards high for other Australian celebrities.

With a brand ambassador putting a face to your product and service, it can be an effective way to increase brand awareness but, in this social age there is even more pressure to find trusted ambassador that is the right fit for your brand.

To do so, you have to define what you mean by ‘right fit’. Do they already use your products or services? Do they fit a similar demographic profile to your customers? Could your customers relate to them? These are just some questions to ask when you’re thinking about the right brand fit.

Further to being the right fit for your brand, there are some other general considerations; here are four essentials we believe your chosen ambassador should have:

1. Profile

First things first, your ambassador needs to be highly recognisable. They need to have a profile and a decent one at that to ensure your get the reach and awareness you’re after, particularly when you’re paying the big bucks! When I say decent I don’t necessarily mean the biggest, you could have a brand that offers niche or unique products or services, so the market you are trying to connect with could be small. The key here is relevancy – make sure your ambassadors audience is relevant to your target market.

2. Reputation

To take a famous line from a Bond movie, “Your reputation precedes you,” know what people think and say about your ambassador. This will give you a good indication of how your audience will feel about them and how the ambassador will perform in their role. Do your research to unearth skeletons early, It can be quite obvious, but if your brand ambassador is trying to promote your health supplements and they are a chain smoker and have been photographed by the social pages, then that’s probably not the best look!

3. Credibility

This one is important – would your customers trust your ambassador? Would they easily identify the connection between your brand and your ambassador and genuinely believe they use your products or services? You don’t want a situation like Bonds’ ambassador Nick Kyrgios who admitted to not actually wearing underwear! Also, are they a brand tart – what other brands are they associated with and how would that affect your brand? You should make this clear at the outset how this could hinder or restrict your own ambassador campaigns.

4. The ‘X-Factor’

Ah, the ‘X-Factor’, by the way, I’m not talking about the show, but the concept is similar. This essential consideration is not usually rational or logical – it’s just a bit of je ne sais quoi! Your ambassador should have the ability to make others stand up and pay attention, the thing that makes them the most photographed or followed person of the moment, think Rachel Finch*, she is very hot right now. Customers should have a sense of admiration for them – ‘I want to be like them’ or ‘I want to do what they’re doing’.

Now, go forth and find your ambassadors and make sure you pop back soon to read my next blog on how to get the most out of your brand ambassador!

*Vitasoy is a client of F4

10 Expert Tips to Strengthen Your Content Marketing (Without Spinach)

Yesterday, I went to the Festival of Content Marketing and Branded Entertainment, also known as BEFEST. In its third year, this conference brings together some of Australia’s best marketing minds to talk about where we’re heading in the brave new world of content and branded entertainment. It seems that branded entertainment took a backseat to content marketing; but regardless here are my ten most useful, entertaining and informative outtakes. I have curated these to ensure they are neither sad nor relaxing because as I now know, this would place them in the “death quadrant” for sharing, according to Upworthy.

1. Branded Content is not new – and can drive massive sales of bad tasting products

I have been saying this for years, and thanks to Colenso BBDO’s Nick Worthington’s opening keynote, I can now prove it. One of the first pieces of branded content was Popeye the Sailor Man from 1929 who purposely ate spinach to stimulate consumption amongst kids who had rickets. The Popeye cartoons were so popular during the Depression, sales of spinach in America increased by 33%, and it briefly slotted in as the third most popular kids food after ice cream and turkey. “Popeye” spinach is still the second largest-selling brand of spinach in America. So, if Popeye can do it, we can too.

2. If you invest in amazing content production with a big idea, $0 media is needed to support it

The Jean Claude Van Damm “epic split” between two reversing Volvo trucks captured the attention of the world and has thus far been watched by over 75M people, making it the most watched automobile ad on YouTube ever.   It only ran once in a paid TV spot during the Grammys and the rest was all online video and viral sharing. Agreed, this is not exactly $0 in media, but still relatively little in comparison to the sheer reach and impact of the video.

3. You can’t just rely on organic reach, $$ are needed to fire up virality

Creating the content is only half the story. Getting it distributed is just as important and relying on organic reach within the mass of competing content is a very risky strategy. You may end up with the proverbial “castle in the content desert”. You need early adopters to share it and if you are fortunate in finding those important influencers who, if they support you, will ensure that you get the additional reach your content really needs to fire up. It is not just the content creation that is important; you need to put some gas on the fire and by this I mean save some budget for amplification.

4. Trying to be perfect every time is unrealistic – you need to create a lot of content ideas to get something that will be great

“Success is going from one disaster to another with no loss of confidence!” I loved this. Again from Nick Worthington, Executive Creative Director, Colenso BBDO Auckland. He says that if you only develop one idea it will be shit. But by law of averages, if you develop ten ideas then at least one will be good. Results come from taking risks rather than playing safe.

5. We need to entertain people.

Lets deliver stuff that people are going to love and share. “But how do we do this with an audience that inherently has ADHD?” asked Michael Abdul from The Sphere Agency. We need to stop the hard sell. Move away from cluttered environments and put the consumer first. For real. So that means creating content that really appeals to the target audience, which has relevance, and primarily will entertain them.

6. The five point content strategy

Lauren Quaintance, co-founder and head of content at Story(ation) shared a five point plan for developing content strategy:

  • Who you want to talk to, and why they should care about you
  • Do an audit of what you currently have and find out what works
  • Define what success looks like. What action do you want your audience to take?
  • What processes do you need to be a publisher. Do you have tone of voice guidelines, editorial calendar, meetings structures and approval processes.
  • Measure Learn and Optimise

Importantly, make your content strategy a living document, not something gathering dust in the corner.

7. Focus on Insights

John Ford, founder and CEO of The One Centre suggested that focusing on insight is one of the important keys to great content and to do this your need to focus on five C’s:

  • Character: Who they are and who they can become (with your brand)
  • Culture: The things they do, the life they lead and the rich fabric of life around them
  • Cause: (Role) What is the big idea that bridges between the person and your commercial interests?
  • Creativity: What ideas will turn them on?
  • Connectivity: (Sort of media planning) What are the devices they are using? What types of content are they currently using and consuming?

8. Think like a woman

This sounds a bit sexist, but as it is from Dove, a brand very close to my heart, I will let it pass! Kate Smith, Group Strategy director of M&C Saatchi (and ex-Ogilvy London where she worked on Dove) said content zig zags and thinks more like a woman. It is more fluid and unpredictable. (yes, she really said this, so don’t get cranky with me). She says there are three key things Dove taught her:

  • Think culture and content first and not channel: understand the world around your brands. Think about where they live as much about what your audience might or might not watch or read. Start a conversation. Invoke reaction.
  • Engage don’t execute: Trigger emotional responses that appeal across demographics, across countries and across genders. Don’t try and limit the reaction or emotions evoked.
  • Open not closed: allow the audience in. Use discovery of the story to create a sense of curation in the content. Don’t show people how to feel, let them feel it for themselves. Let your communications travel with the audience take on new significance.

9. Execution is as important as strategy – so is agility

“What differentiates execution from strategy? It is the difference between architects and builders. The executors are the ones that get their hands dirty” so said Jeanne-Vida Douglas from Filtered Media.

We really need to understand what the audience is interested in hearing about and what we can actually talk about. Execution evolves over time and you have to let it evolve – so agility is one of the key elements of a content plan – the ability to change.

Where you start may not be where you end up, and that is ok. A key piece of advice from Kristen Vang, director and founder of Hatchd Digital in Perth is “Do one thing really well. Don’t try and do everything at once (Facebook, Instagram, blog, Twitter etc) – do one thing well and then expand from that.

10. Measurement is not optional

A great model of measuring content success was shared by Todd Wheatland of King Content

Consumption

  • What? How many people saw it?
  • Key Measures: Views, downloads, visitors
  • Tools: Google Analytics, Platform Analytics

Engagement

  • What? How often does audience relate and share comments?
  • Key Measures: Likes, Comments, Shares, Time on Site
  • Tools: Posting and social tools, Google Analytics

Leads

  • What? How often do content consumers turn into leads?
  • Key Measures: Registrations, subscriptions
  • Tools: Lead forms, cookies, offsite tracking, CRM

Sales

  • What? How often do content consumers turn into sales?
  • Key measures: Revenue, contracts
  • Tools: Lead forms, cookies, offsite tracking, CRM

So there you have it, in 10 easy steps. Follow these and you will be a content marketer, my friends. And no spinach required. With many thanks to Tim Burrows and Mumbrella and the whole BEFEST crew, presenters and panellists. A very engaging day with lots of, dare I say it, content to think about.

 

 

3 Australian lifestyle influencers you should be following on Instagram

Instagram as an influencing platform has really found its feet lately. With more than 75 million daily active users worldwide, and now having reached 2 million in Australia, it is little wonder that brands are discovering how to successfully use the platform’s power players to communicate with audiences. Here is some work FORWARD recently did with @rachael_finch on Vitasoy’s new Coconut Milk Launch.

Successful brand communication on Instagram assumes a certain level of trust is established between the influencer and their fans. Engagement is key when selecting an influencer to connect with. You want to tap into an active audience who see your chosen influencer as a trusted and relevant authority in the health, beauty, fashion or general lifestyle categories that relate to your brand.

Increasingly, followers don’t seem to mind their Instagram feeds containing sponsored content, as long as the post is visually appealing and the products relevant to them.

Keeping the above in mind, 3 Australian’s you should be following to experience Instagram influencing in action are; Kayla Itsines, Miann Scanlan and Mimie Elashiry. All three manage to maintain integrity and a consistent aesthetic style when posting both national and international branded content.

Interestingly, they are also proof that Instagram is no longer just a supportive tool of blogging, but can in fact be used to build an online following that can raise an individual’s profile in the mainstream media, inspire the creation of a blog, or launch an international modeling career.

 

1. Health & Fitness  | @kayla_itsines | 1.4 million+ followers

Kayla Itsines is a fitness dynamo who has built a monolithic Instagram following, as a way to inspire others and share her 12 week nutrition and exercise Bikini Body Guide. Featuring somewhat less artistic photography than Scanlan and Elashiry, Itsines includes a lot of user-generated content on her account unlike other personal Instagrammers, as well as self and brand promoting images. Unsurprisingly, active wear brand Nike and trendy Norwegian water company Voss are frequently featured. Other brand related content includes fake tan and health food products.

 

2. Style & Wellbeing | @miannscanlan | 60,000+ followers

Miann Scanlan is an ex-fashion PR consultant, who after a personal hardship returned to live beachside in her home state of Queensland. A clear lover of the colour blue, sponsored posts for fashion and wellbeing brands are organically weaved throughout her posts on spiritual health and the latest bohemian apparel and jewellery trends.

In Issue 14 of Renegade Collective magazine, Scanlan discusses using Instagram as a brand platform, “Create some positive intentions before starting out, think about why you are using the platform and what you want to get out of it.”

Scanlan, who launched her blog in early 2014, was the winning blogger in a competition to style the latest Cleo x Billabong collection. The opportunity to take part in the creative process of two powerhouse brands is a clear demonstration of the power that digital influencers currently hold.

 

3. A Model Life  | @mimielashiry | 443,000+ followers

Mimi Elashiry, an 18 year old model from Sydney’s eastern suburbs, was once turned away from modelling agencies, but is now working for fashion and lifestyle brands all over the world as a result of her prolific social media presence. Elashiry’s feed is a combination of professional model shots, cheeky selfies and sneak peaks of fashion trips with other ‘cool’ kids, from Byron Bay to Paris. The brand mentions aren’t exactly subtle but still tie in with her aesthetic and tone of voice, with a range of jewellery, fashion, health food, and even music festivals name-dropped, tagged and positively reviewed.

 

5 Capabilities Your Social Team Must Have

As a Marketing or Brand Manager, it’s now your remit to attract and retain a base of brand fans on platforms that include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, and possibly Snapchat too! Given that social media is not a discipline in itself, it’s simply a new platform that delivers a message to an audience, it may be hard to determine which of your agency partners should ‘own’ this critical area of communications.

Do you ask a single consultancy to manage all of your social strategy, execution and community management, because surely this ensures the integration of a single campaign message through multiple touch points, and less agency management time for you? Or, should you engage a mix of agencies for different platforms? Confused? FORWARD breaks down the capabilities that your internal or external team should have, regardless of whether they sit in Marketing, Customer Service, External Relations or a funky warehouse in hipsturbia.

 1. They are experienced at building relationships

A team who puts the customer or key stakeholder ahead of everything else is worth gold in social media. Timeliness is everything – and crucial down under: Australian consumers are some of the most demanding in the world, with 72% expecting a response to an online request within a day, and 41% within an hour!

2. They have experience at managing issues

A poorly timed marketing campaign, like that of Malaysia Airline’s bucket list competition to win free flights on the recently troubled carrier, or jumping on a trending hashtag a la DiGiorno’s Pizza, without regard for the domestic violence conversation #WhyIStayed and what it relates to, quickly turns it into a PR nightmare.

By working with a team experienced in putting out fires like these, you stand a good chance of them not happening in the first place. And if they do, the appropriate response can be underway in seconds, versus you anxiously waiting for the External Relations Director to come to your rescue.

3. They understand the news medium of social channels

Twitter is a channel in which news breaks, whether it’s disgruntled customers causing their dissatisfaction to trend online or images of an event, meaning content can spread across online and traditional news outlets, often globally, in a matter of minutes. Working with a consultancy that knows how news unfolds and when to harness the news agenda, or avoid it, means your social media channels are being managed strategically.

Facebook is also prone to blunder, but your audience is far more likely to be a forgiving fan than a heavy hitting news journalist or troll looking for controversy.

4. They have outstanding communication skills

Having conversations in real time on a public platform is very different to making an ad that goes through multiple checkpoints with legal and other specialists before it’s shared. You’d be crazy not to have someone who doesn’t know their sh*t from they’re sh*t to be tweeting, responding to fan comments, having conversations or dealing with complaints on your behalf.

5. They understand the value of reputation

While it used to be so much easier to manage the message in the era of traditional media, it still required those communicating it to articulate a brand’s value proposition, and to do so consistently and regularly. The same rules still apply in social.

No single department or consultancy can ever ‘own’ social media, namely because social media is a conversation. And how do you own a conversation where the number of participants is infinite and the direction is out of the brand’s hands? Choose a person, agency or platform that can help encourage conversation and point it in a certain direction, one that aligns with your brand. In the very least, having these capabilities provides a good place to start.

8 useful tips to create great content on Linkedin

Content is king. It’s a phrase Bill Gates penned in an article almost two decades ago, now more than ever, the buzz
phrase is frequently used in the marketing and communications industry. Yes, content is still king but, now social is its
vital mouthpiece.

Examples of successful social content marketing can be found on one of the world’s most engaged social media
platforms, LinkedIn. With over 259 million users, worldwide and over 6 million in Australia, LinkedIn has become B2B
marketers number one channel to distribute content.

Sure, like many social channels, LinkedIn is an advertising platform, however although its paid solutions can help
generate leads and traffic, without brand awareness and credibility, it’s not easy to simply sell your product through
LinkedIn.

So, how do you get brand awareness and credibility that will convert to sales?
GREAT CONTENT! Thank you, Mr Gates.
Here are useful tips for creating great content for LinkedIn to help your brand become a trusted and credible authority
in its industry.

  1. Publish with purpose – Does your content reflect your key brand objectives for LinkedIn? Will it build brand awareness, increase brand credibility and trust or drive leads? Your content needs to be equally beneficial to your brand as well as
    your audience.
  2. Define content pillars – It’s important to clearly define content pillars; these align closely with your objectives and help you stay on track. Four basic content pillars that can be used by most brands are: thought leadership, trends, brand and
    product.
  3. Know your audience – One thing LinkedIn does well is targeting. Remember, unlike some social networks, LinkedIn’s affluent, career-minded audience look for, and engage with, clever, sharable content that helps them become more successful.
  4. Develop a content calendar – Align your content calendar with your audience, always stay current and be flexible to comment on breaking news and information. LinkedIn suggests three kinds content that its users expect: career information,
    updates from brands and current affairs.
  5. Use snackable content – Keep it short and sweet! Publish content that will take two minutes or less to view. Videos and images are also highly engaging tools for LinkedIn.
  6. 4-1-1 Rule – Tippingpoint Labs and Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute developed this rule for Twitter. However, it’s just as relevant for LinkedIn. For every one self-serving post, you should share one relevant post and most importantly share four pieces of relevant content written by others.
  7. Engage with your audience – Remember LinkedIn is a two-way platform so engage with your audience through comments and ask them questions. It’s a great way to build rapport with your audience while gaining insights.
  8. Shareability – In order for audiences on LinkedIn to share your content, brands have to work harder to develp content that is insightful, informative, inspirational and entertaining. This will help ensure you spread your messages and grow your audience.

For some more handy tips, The Sophisticated Marketers Guide to LinkedIn is a must read before you start a campaign  on LinkedIn.

 

The power of crowdsourcing in social media campaigns

Crowdsourcing is a powerful tool for influencer campaigns because it drives participation, it generates content and achieves higher levels influencer engagement.

Although commonly thought of as raising funds for an idea or project (which is crowdfunding), crowdsourcing in social media campaigns can include activities such as running competitions with fans to come up with a new ice cream flavour, find loyal fans to help take part in filming a brand’s new ad campaign or asking for fan images to build out a brand’s Facebook page.

How is crowdsourcing powerful for social media campaigns?

  1. Crowdsourcing drives participation To influence influencers you have to be influential yourself, which means using the technology and techniques available to gain audience participation. Nowadays it’s not uncommon to be called upon, as a consumer, to participate in a brand’s new marketing campaign – whether it be to design a bar (Jack Daniels, Australia) or help create a new soft drink flavour for Pepsi, for example. We frequently see calls to action from brands on social media. Social media has fostered a community based on participation, and we now expect to be able to interact with the brands we use every day, and smart brands are responding.
  2. Crowdsourcing generates content Crowdsourcing for brands is an excellent content generator – and it’s all about the content! You can tap into your audience’s knowledge and creativity – after all, if they’re a fan of your brand, they’ll know the brand almost as well as you. It’s content that you can use on your channels – social, television commercials and so on. But it’s important you don’t exploit your fans’ loyalty and creativity – look to ask fans to participate with the brand in a way that will produce interesting, meaningful and relevant content, but don’t just ask them to ‘create our new television ad!’ It’s important to identify what’s in it for them and what they’ll get out of it. One example of this is Vanish powder’s The Tip Exchange – the brand has built a website and Facebook page based entirely upon an exchange between fans of stain removal tips. As fans are familiar with how to use the product, they can easily share tips with other fans, helping other Vanish users and creating great content for the brand.
  3. Crowdsourcing drives higher levels of influencer engagement Crowdsourcing also works to make your audience feel more connected to your company or brand. Our favourite subject is ourselves, and we love to feel as though we’ve contributed to the greater good. By asking fans to participate in a project, you invite them and their ideas in, making them feel appreciated and heard. Plus, fans will get a real kick seeing the project come to fruition knowing they had a part to play, deepening the brand-audience connection and loyalty. A great example of this is using user-generated content on a brand’s Facebook page – fans get excited seeing their content shared on the page, and they’re more likely spend longer on your page enjoying the images they and other fans have contributed.

For a long time, communications worked in a very one-way style – a brand would put out a marketing campaign devised through internally led-focus groups. Now, we’re seeing much more of a crowd-focus in communications.

Crowdsourcing is a powerful tool for social media campaigns because it drives participation, content and engagement, ultimately strengthening the connection between brands and audiences.

2 Insider Tips to Power Up your Media Relations

Content might be the buzzword in marketing right now, but for some of us seasoned PR professionals, content is what we’ve been producing to help us tell our story to consumers via the medium of editorial, or earned media for years.

Media relations has become synonymous with Public Relations yet it’s just one part of the broad scope of PR. I continue to read valid articles written by journalists telling their audience to ‘never trust a bad PR’ – and invariably they’re entirely focused on media relations.

The perception extends outside of media; I’m often asked for ‘PR advice’ by friends starting their own business. This week’s request was for feedback on a media release and how to pitch to the titles my friend sees as her target audience. If only media relations was as simple as writing the copy you want to see published and emailing it to your preferred outlets! It’s confirmed two things for me that I want to share.

1. Get the essentials right

I had to break it to my friend that Vogue Living does not want to write about the opening of a yoga studio in Brisbane. And then I gave her some pointers on:

  • how to write a press release, recalling the tried and trusted w.w.w.w.w formula (who, what, where, when, why).
  • what makes news – that is, the information that people need or will want to know. It needs have controversy, proximity, utility or entertainment at the very least.
  • tailored pitching and targeting. A media release tells the whole story, but it’s the thoroughness of a verbal or email pitch that explains why it’s relevant to a particular outlet, especially for lifestyle media.

2. Hitting the Content Sweet Spot powers media relations

Good media relations is about knowing your facts, the outlet you’re talking to, having communication skills and a healthy dose of empathy.

Great media relations involves understanding not just the types of stories target media and bloggers write about, or knowing the news cycle, such as the best time to pitch a print or a radio story, but also:

  • knowledge of meta trends that can link to your brand, product or initiative
  • a well articulated benefit for the end user (we call this ‘what’s in it for me?’)
  • an ownable platform or concept that intrinsically links a brand or product to a news story, making it impossible for the brand to be cut out.

At FORWARD, we call this the Content Sweet Spot and we don’t talk to media or bloggers without looking at our comms plans through four key lenses to find it.

It’s what makes media relations a strategically planned part of a campaign. (Yes, I did just use the words media relations and strategy in the same sentence.) With a strategic foundations, I can manage expectations and to have the courage to recommend against a media release as a piece of content when there’s no news.

3. When to look beyond media relations

When there’s no significant news, but you still wants to raise brand awareness, we might look outside of the earned media channel. For example, an activation or an influencer campaign that can drive buzz in social might lead to an opportunity to create content that we can leverage through media relations as a supporting pillar of the campaign.

So next time you want to build your brand through earned media, bear in mind that there is more to public relations than a ‘one size fits all’ media release. Media relations still has a role to play within the comms mix and is one part of a PR strategy. We believe combining these three points – the essentials of media relations, finding the Content Sweet Spot and looking at the bigger picture are what delivers impactful results for you and build valuable relationships with your media network on your behalf.

6 Tips for Surviving as an Intern

As a brand spanking newbie to the fabulous FORWARD team, I have had a whirlwind 3 weeks diving headfirst into the ‘real job’ world. Although Uni was a great and valuable experience for me and I loved learning about interesting new media theories, the real world of boutique consumer PR and influence marketing isn’t like this at all. Shock horror! From my experience as an intern in the Public Relations field (this is my third agency experience), I have gathered some helpful tips, tricks and insights into surviving your transition.

  1. Ask questions. Intern is literally defined as “any official or formal program, to provide practical experience for beginners in an occupation or profession”. You are there to learn, questions are the best way to absorb all the knowledge your colleagues hold. A good question to keep top of mind when being assigned a project, is to always ask for the deadline. This will avoid any awkward mishaps, and allow effective time management and prioritising. Just be mindful they say there is no such thing as a stupid question, this is a trap, please think things over before you ask for the tenth time where the scissors are. Similarly, endeavour to group your questions together to avoid interrupting the busy work schedules of your colleagues.
  2. Be proactive. Being proactive is a good character trait that can be applied across numerous professional disciplines and life experiences. If you know something falls within your capabilities and needs to be done, do it. Similarly, if time allows, don’t be afraid to go above and beyond when completing a task. So go on, don’t wait to be told…show the team what you can do.
  3. Pen and paper (or iPad) are paramount. Having these simple stationary supplies by your side at all times will vastly improve your strike rate. Details are often important in this line of work (read: very), and having a reference point for the 12 different pies you have your fingers in will be a lifesaver come 4pm Friday ‘fried brain’. Don’t be afraid of taking notes and the humble list, relying solely on your brain is risky business.
  4. Be switched on. One of the first, and best things my mentor did, was link me to a range of PR and influence newsletters that I could sign up for (e.g here and here). Staying on top of industry news and views is a must in the fast-paced media industry, seeing all of the cool and exciting things being accomplished by industry peers also reminds me why I worked so hard to get here in the first place.
  5. Google maps and comfy shoes. These boots were made for walking, to the Post-office, the Caterer, Officeworks… It’s not all dreary, the great outdoors can be a welcome change from the office environment.
  6. Be a smiling, friendly face that says yes. Stay positive and the hard work will pay off. Having a great attitude towards your work and your colleagues will go a long way. Yes, you have a degree. Just remember everyone around you started off in the exact same position, doing all sorts of odd jobs and errands around an office much like where you’re sitting now.

If all else fails, keeping top of mind the official FORWARD values of fun, fast, friendly and flexible will see you through.

The 6 most important things to put in a brief

Depending on your professional background, marketing experience and available time, the briefing process may be something that you adore or avoid. But be assured the time spent in this process is directly correlated to the results you get from your agency.

The type and quality of information we get from our clients at the start of a project has a dramatic impact on the quality of our thinking, speed of response and ultimately will impact on the outcomes we can achieve for you.

If you only give us six pieces of information, please give us these:

1) Brand Objectives

We want to understand the bigger picture of your brand and business, in order to make sure that we ultimately deliver outcomes that are aligned to your overall commercial strategy. Sharing your objectives and business KPIs are important and give us insight into the size and type of the job to do.

We do not have a “one-size-fits-all” approach to strategy and starting with brand objectives gives us the most important insight into the types of channels, content, tactics and activities that may be most relevant to your brand.

2) Target Audience or Personas

Please share as much rich information about your target audience as you can – current users, prospects and non-users. Research helps us to understand triggers and barriers, audience hopes and aspirations, as well as their media habits, consumption and spending patterns. This applies to both B2C and B2B target audiences.

We will develop rich lifestyle or professional personas that bring to life a qualitative and quantitative picture of who we are trying to influence. If you already have brand personas, please share!

3) Brand Essence, Values and Tone of Voice

Let us know about your brand history, architecture, personality, and important symbols, past communications/advertising, tone of voice or characters. This is essential to ensure we respect, protect and build on your existing brand assets. Also please share brand graphic style guides, key visuals and digital assets; these are vital for content development.

Of course, part of your brief may be for us to help build your brand or evolve it – which we often work on with clients – especially if it is a new brand or product.

4) Integrated Activities

In most cases, you’ll probably brief all your agency partners together, but sometimes there isn’t time or practicality to do this. But don’t leave it to the last minute to brief for PR or influence – the earlier, the better! Our work rarely takes place in isolation, so please let us know what your other agency partners are doing and what other campaign activities are taking place. Understanding timings of these activities is really important for our planning.

Most importantly, knowing when and where paid media is occurring is vitally important for us in recommended the channels and timing of our earned media activities. Synchronisation is everything, right?

5) What do you love and hate?

What have you done before on the that you love and has been successful? What has worked well? And what has perhaps missed the mark? Are there other brands or campaigns you love or hate? What really stands out for you?

We will paint a picture of what success looks like, so knowing where you have been before and what benchmarks have been achieved helps to determine what are the most appropriate KPIs for this project or campaign.

6) Budget

Do you want a BMW or a Barina? No, seriously. We will always come up with biggest ideas your budget can afford and can provide options if extra investment is available – but please give us a starting point or ball park. It helps us to craft the most effective and realistic response to your brief and will get you to the outcomes you are looking for faster. And, by the way, we sometimes drive Barinas and sometimes drive BMWs – it just depends on where we are going and how we want to get there……

With all of this information in hand, we will have a really good starting point to craft a smart, effective, creative and cut-through program for you. If you need an FORWARD briefing form, let us know, and we can send you one!