Inspire me
29th September, 2012

Check out my new blog.

It’s not everyday you can write a blog post title like that. But it’s true. I’m off to the West Bank for a month.

From mid-October, I’m volunteering for a charity called Music Harvest that runs a cultural exchange programme in the city of Nablus and surrounding area.

Why? Life takes crazy turns now and again – some good, some bad. It’s been a tough year and this seemed like a little bit of craziness too good to turn down. I’ll be travelling around the region, meeting lots of people and even learning some Arabic. In return, I’ll be running music workshops for adults and children.

I count myself incredibly lucky to be able to take this time off and am unbelievably grateful to EML Wildfire.

I love working in PR and I love living in London. But this is an opportunity to experience something totally unique. Something a million miles away from my day-to-day, from the world where I’ve lived most of my life. It’s a cliché, but it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I plan to grab it.

This is the first and last entry that I’ll cross-post. I’ve set up another blog where you can read about everything that happens.

I’d particularly like to hear from anyone familiar with this part of the world. It’s an area I find myself disappointingly ignorant about the more I discover. So please point me in the direction of books, articles, films, music, art…

To be continued.

continue reading: I’m off to the West Bank...

24th September, 2012

There has been a debate raging for years (and this has even intensified in recent weeks) about the role that SEO and PR can/should play together.

As chair of the PRCA’s Digital Group it’s something I’m acutely aware of and I’m therefore delighted that the PRCA is addressing this at its latest Gateway conference tomorrow in London.

I’ll be chairing the half day session and there’s a host of A-list speakers from Edelman, Unibet, Text 100, PH Creative and Inkling.

It promises to be a fascinating morning and there are still a few tickets left so I’d encourage you to grab them if you are able to make it and/or follow the hashtag #prcagateway

continue reading: SEO and PR: the future? #prcagateway...

20th September, 2012

A few months ago, I gave a presentation at a PRCA breakfast seminar focusing on social media analytics. The slides from the presentation are embedded below.

The central theme running through the talk was how to effectively put together a social media PR analytics programme that would accurately and meaningfully measure success and results.

In my mind, there are five very important steps to ensuring you have a social media PR analytics strategy that is effective. The five steps are as follows:

1. What does success look like?

It might seem obvious, but how many agencies and businesses fail to really think about the reasons for embarking on a social media campaign in the first place. The only way to properly analyse is to ensure you know what you hope this activity will achieve in the first place.

There are many different reasons for investing in social media and there will likely be different benefits. But knowing the ones that really matter to your company is vital.

2. Establish KPIs

Once you know what determines success, you can begin to think about the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will give you clues as to whether your objectives are being reached.

Again, it is clear to see how the importance of the first step is again underlined here. When it comes to KPIs, less is most definitely more.

One of the biggest benefits of digital PR is also one of its biggest weaknesses; we have so much data at our disposal, understanding the data that is important to a specific campaign can be hard.

It is clearly tempting to measure everything but that is a recipe for disaster (or at least very long nights). Take each objective and identify the KPI that will give indications of results.

3. Select your tools

One of the biggest mistakes of any analytics programme is to select tools first: “we have purchased Radian6, therefore we’re going to measure XYZ.”

Actually, again, the opposite is the best approach. You need to identify what data you need first (to measure your KPIs and your business objectives) before you begin to search for the tools that will accurately let you capture that data.

4. Turn analysis into action

Analysis for the sake of analysis will not get you very far. If KPIs aren’t delivering results, you need to identify why this is and put in place changes in your strategy to see if that has an effect.

If analysis doesn’t lead to action, there is no point doing it in the first place. Another great advantage of social media and digital PR campaigns is that, because data can be collected in real-time, it is also possible to make changes to strategy in real-time too. Don’t leave it to the end of the campaign to measure, measure all the way through.

5. Rinse, wash, repeat

Building on this last point, an analysis programme never ends. Constant analysis and constant tweaking of a campaign will ensure that final goals are reached.

Nothing should be set in stone. KPIs and even objectives can change depending on the results of your analysis. It’s a cyclical process that allows you to measure and improve on an ongoing basis.

Social media analytics in black and white

View more PowerPoint from Danny Whatmough /  Originally posted on the EML Wildfire tech PR blog

continue reading: 5 steps to measuring social media PR campaigns...

19th September, 2012

Why do some companies make it so hard for you to do business with them?

I thinking about broadband or mobile phone providers that make you jump over hurdles to switch provider. Gyms that tie you into long contracts. Or websites that make you fill in a form before giving you access to their price list.

There’s one reason, of course: they want to sell more stuff. Historically, this approach has been one that brands have used. Stamp out competition, tie people into long contracts and they will literally be forced to give you their hard earned cash.

Sell, sell, sell

Consumers have never liked this approach and, now, they can voice their dislike in a highly vocal way.

Technology levels the playing field and, when it comes to brand affinity, simple awareness is not enough. Having a product or service pushed down your throat is also no longer a winning strategy.

The ‘hard sell’ is seen for what it is; desperation. That’s why savvy companies are starting to move from  ’always selling’ to ‘always helping’.

With the diminshing effetiveness of push marketing and a move towards positive brand engagement, ‘being helpful’ might sound trite but it can be incredibly powerful.

When it comes to being helpful, content marketing really comes into its own. Especially when we consider the B2B sales process. Here, buyers are making decisions about where to invest. Now, more than ever, we are unlikely to make a quick purchase without fully investigating all the options.

Help, help, help

Rather than pulling the wool over the eyes of prospects, it’s much more powerful to help them in their decision making quest.

Give them product comparison tables, answer their questions, supply them with whitepapers and other collateral that can help them justify their purchase to senior stakeholders.

And create communities where they can discuss needs with other customers and prospects.

If you have a great product or service, don’t go with the hard sell, but help your audience discover this greatness for themselves. The emotional bond will be far greater too.

Making life difficult, whether through a clock and dagger approach or with a website where it’s impossible to send an enquiry without filling out War and Peace, just won’t work.

Don’t make it difficult, make it simple. Stop selling, start helping.

picture credit / Originally posted on the EML Wildfire tech PR blog

continue reading: Why clever companies stop selling and start helping...

18th September, 2012

Do you find yourself lying awake at night worrying about the sheer amount of information that exists on the web?

No? It seems as though you’re not alone.

A recent study from Northwestern University has countered standard thinking around the ‘threat’ of information overload.

Generally accepted wisdom dictates that, with more information being churned out every second on the web, staying on top of all that content is tough.

That’s why attempts to ‘help’ manage information, whether through search or Facebook EdgeRank are seen as not just a nice to have but a vital solution in the securing the future of the web.

But the study, which was lead by Eszter Hargittai, an associate professor of communication studies at Northwestern, interviewed 77 people from across the US and examined their approach to accessing information.

Give me more

It found that, rather than being overwhelmed by the amount of content available, respondents actually liked the fact they had more to consume.

What’s more, it appears we have adapted to the situation we find ourselves in, have developed better skills to help us cope and feel incredibly positive about being more informed:

“We found that the high volume of information available these days seems to make most people feel empowered and enthusiastic. People are able to get their news and information from a diverse set of sources and they seem to like having these options,” said Hargittai.

Other key findings were:

  • TV was still the main way respondents accessed information but online news was viewed more positively.
  • Respondents were almost entirely enthusiastic about new media.
  • Trivial social media updates and opinion pieces from overly political pundits were sources of frustration when looking for information.

So what does that tell those of us working in digital PR and other areas where content marketing is increasingly important?

1. Content consumers are increasingly savvy

Those that reported difficulties with information were those with less advanced ‘internet skills’.

That tells us that we need to worry less about whether people will find our content. Create great content and they will come.

2. Quality matters

Perhaps an obvious statement, but it is worth underlining this fact.

Quantity is no longer a solution. The days of spewing out low quality content to help push search rankings just won’t cut the mustard. This approach has probably never ‘tricked’ anyone into consuming your content apart from search engines anyway.

Don’t post for the sake of it, post because you have something to say.

3. Make content easy to digest

I’m fed up of reading long, turgid blog posts that are hard to read and say nothing.

If you want your content to be read online (and this is even more important when it comes to mobile) then you need to write in a way that works for your audience. Of course, this doesn’t just apply to blogs. The web gives us the opportunity to create engaging content in a multitude of different ways.

Before you put together your next 100 page whitepaper, think about whether there might be a better way to present that information.

4. You need to provide more content (in certain situations)

This study shows that rather than feeling overwhelmed, we feel empowered by having more information.

I’ve written before about how providing the right content at the right time can significantly assist your sales funnel – whether B2B or consumer. When making a buying decision we increasingly expect content to be provided to help us. If content isn’t provided by the vendor (and even if it is) we’ll just look elsewhere.

Work out what information your customers need to help them buy and give it to them.

picture credit / Originally posted on Econsultancy

continue reading: License to create? Information overload is no longer an issue...

17th September, 2012

Content marketing is the buzzword du jour for businesses these days. And, in many ways, the hype is entirely justified. Content should form a central part of most PR and marketing campaigns (some would say it always has) and, now more than ever, with the growth of social, digital and search, content marketing can contribute towards significant ROI for your PR campaigns.

Before everyone gets too excited, it is worth bearing in mind that content for content’s sake just won’t cut the mustard. Objectives, strategies and tactics all have to be aligned in the right way, from the start, to really succeed.

We recently published a new case study on the EML Wildfire site from one of our clients EPiServer, who achieved a 200% ROI on a recent PR campaign we ran. The campaign had content at it’s heart. With the aim of targeting UK marketers, we undertook research to find out how leading UK companies are using social media and online communities. The resulting whitepaper was downloaded 122 times with five deals closed as a result.

Here are six all-important steps that we believe are vital to ensuring your content marketing achieves ROI:

1. Tell a story

The most effective PR always tells a story. And content marketing is no different. For EPiServer, we were able to explain how and why current social media strategies aren’t working and what marketers need to do improve matters. Finding a story that will resonate with your target audience will ensure your content had the desired effect.

2. Have something concrete to reference

With the EPiServer example, we commissioned some research to base the content on. It’s always a good idea to have something to act as a hook, especially if you want to encourage the media to consider covering it. On the flipside, if you are doing some research, make sure you create content to support it – it’ll go a lot further.

3. Use different content to tell your story

Whitepapers or reports are great examples of content that really add value for your audience, especially for B2B campaigns. But there are plenty of other pieces of content that would work just as well in addition or instead. For example, you could create an infographic or a video to go alongside your whitepaper. Different content will work better for specific communication channels and different audiences, so choose wisely. There is a significant SEO benefit here too. Google is increasingly favouring multi-media content, so you might be able to give your rankings a timely boost.

4. Use all your communication channels

When you are ready to launch your content campaign, use every possible channel at your disposal. Using the traditional media and your owned social media channels is an obvious first step but why not add your latest piece of content to your company email signatures? Alternatively, you could create a banner for your website or run some targeted advertising. A multi-channel approach will ensure you reach as many people as possible. And, as with the previous point, the more your content is shared across different channels, the more SEO bonus points you’ll get from the search engines.

5. Build relationships

By this point, hopefully you’ll have lots of people engaging with and sharing the content you have created. It’s important to see this as the first step in your relationship with these people. To do this, you need to create some ‘sticky channels‘. For example, encourage them to sign up to your email newsletter or follow you on Twitter. You could even consider putting your premium content behind a data capture form or a Facebook fangate – just make sure you use this as an opportunity to send them more relevant content in the future.

6. Measure effectiveness

If all goes well, then hopefully you’ll want to run further content campaigns in the future. And, if you’ve set up a measurement framework for your campaign then you’ll be able to see what worked best first time round and make better decisions next time as a result, tweaking your strategy and tactics as you go. For example, you can use web analytics to see where the traffic to your campaign landing page came from. You could even use unique URLs.

When it comes to great content, we’re passionate about using this approach for our clients. But we eat our own dog food too – check out our latest report looking at how consumers are influenced to make technology buying decisions.

picture credit / Originally published on the EML Wildfire tech PR blog

continue reading: Content marketing: 6 steps to make your content go further...

14th September, 2012

Google is such a dominant force in the world, surely there isn’t anything that keeps the behemoth up at night?

Well, what about this… You know all that content that sits out there on the web? What happens when the same person writes for more than one site? How do you (as Google) track all that information and attribute it to the same author?

Introducing authorship markup

It’s a problem. And it’s a problem that Google has been working on for some time. The nifty solution it has created is called authorship markup.

You’ve probably already seen the results of Google authorship markup. Anytime you do a search and you see an author’s avatar come up next to a search listing, that’s a result of authorship markup. And it is becoming increasingly common.

It’s all about SEO

The reason that more publishers and authors are flocking to this new way of sorting content is partly the kudos of seeing your picture in Google searches (and, in all seriousness, it makes your listing stand out even if it isn’t the highest result) but, more likely, because of the SEO benefits.

As you will see below, authorship markup basically links your content to your Google+ profile page. If you’ve followed out recent posts you’ll know that Google is always giving more SEO weighting to ‘social signals’ (e.g. content that is being talked about and shared on social channels) and, in particular, to brands using Google+. So it’s easy to see why Google will look favourably on sites and blogs that incorporate authorship markup.

Become an authority in Google’s eyes

The other important point here is that, from an individual standpoint, if you are writing lots of content around the web on a specific subject and you are linking all this content together through authorship markup, then Google will start to view you as an authority on that subject. Some of that authority will then brush off on the sites that you write for.

So, if that all sounds good and you are eager to get going, the next question you’ll be asking is how you get Google authorship markup working. The good news is that it is a whole lot easier than it used to be. The bad news is that it’s still a little bit fiddly. Here is a quick overview, but this post is a great source of more detailed instructions if needed.

Step one: Pimp your profile

First, you need to create a Google+ profile if you haven’t got one already. Make sure you use your full name (it needs to be the same name you will be referred to on the content you write) and have a clear picture/avatar.

The next step is to go and edit your profile page and, in the ‘Contributor to’ section add all the blogs and/or sites where you publish content.

Then you are ready to go with one or more of the following options to link your content to your profile page:

Option 1: if you have an email address on the domain where your content lives

If you have an email address that matches the domain where your content will exist (e.g. dannyw@emlwildfire.com for the site www.emlwildfire.com) then you can simply fill in your details on this form that Google has kindly provided.

You’ll need to then verify your email address. (If this solves things for you, then skip to the end, you can ignore the next two options!)

Option 2: add a link to each piece of content

If you don’t have an email address, then the other solution is to take your Google+ profile URL (e.g. mine is https://plus.google.com/115157031632707026932) and create a hyperlink in any piece of content you write that links back to this profile page. For example, at the end of your post, you might want to include a ““.

The important thing to include here (and this does involve a tiny bit of HTML) is a rel=”author” tag in your hyperlink. So your link should look something like this:

<a rel=”author” href=”PUT YOUR GOOGLE+ LINK HERE”>keep up to date with me on Google+</a>

In the example I gave above, my HTML link would look like this:

<a rel=”author” href=”https://plus.google.com/115157031632707026932″>keep up to date with me on Google+</a>

Option 3: link to a profile page

Now, while the second option is relatively simple, it’s not always possible to link directly to your Google+ profile and/or this method can get tricky for multi-author websites or blogs (like the EML Wildfire blog). So there is another option and that is to link to a profile page that then itself includes a link back to your Google+ page.

So, to use this post you are reading now as an example, if you click on my name at the top of the post, you’ll be taken through to my profile page on the EML Wildfire website. All you have to do is remember to include a rel=”me” tag on this hyperlink to tell Google that you are linking through to the author’s profile page. This is relatively easy to set up on multi-author blogs or sites.

Then, on the profile page itself, you just need to ensure there is a link back to your Google+ profile with the rel=”author” tag as referenced in option 2 above.

And that is all there is to it!

Of course, if this all sounds a little bit scary then I’m sure your web team/agency will be more than happy to set it all up for you.

And, if you want to know whether you (or they) have set it up correctly, then Google has created a clever little tool that allows you to enter the URL of a page or post that you have written and it will tell you whether any author tags are included and who they refer to.

Originally posted on the EML Wildfire tech PR blog

continue reading: What is authorship markup, why is it important and how do I get it on my blog?...

13th September, 2012

In 2010, Apple live streamed two keynote events.

Many felt (and hoped) this would signal a change in the company’s approach to live coverage of its infamous product launches.

But no, when the iPad 2 was launched in March 2011, the option had disappeared.

Don’t give ‘em what they want

I’ve often been frustrated by the lack of a live stream. Some have suggested the live stream was pulled because of concerns over the appearance of an increasingly ill Steve Jobs. But I think the absence of a live stream for Apple keynotes is part of a master PR plan that helps the company create buzz (if anymore were needed) around these events.

Creating buzz is something that Apple excels at. Whether it is leaking certain details ahead of time or even taking the Apple website down in advance of a new announcement, everything is geared to getting as much buzz as possible.

And it works. Even when the product announced is disappointing, the sheer amount of media coverage that Apple achieves – good and bad – will ensure there are queues stretching out from Apple stores on launch day.

The lack of a live stream is just another part of this media savvy jigsaw puzzle. As a tech PR, I know better than most the importance of third party validation. Forcing us all to pop over to Engadget and Gizmodo to see their euphoria surrounding the latest shiny revelation is a lot more effective in building positivity around products.

Keep ‘em hungry

The lack of live stream action is also another example of the power that Apple likes to wield over the media. By ensuring the only people that can publish real-time updates are those that are physically in the room, Apple can add or remove journalists it does or doesn’t favour. Bash the company and your access to keynotes (read: eyeballs) is massively impacted.

Secrecy is important for Apple. It creates intrigue and mystique. Of course products still matter and it is because of the revolutionary nature of its products that Apple fanboys ever appeared in the first place. But, from a PR standpoint, Apple perfectly stage manages the whole process to ensure as much noise as possible is achieved.

picture credit / originally posted on the EML Wildfire tech PR blog

continue reading: Why does Apple avoid keynote live streams? A PR masterstroke....

16th August, 2012

Much of the thinking that I’ve been doing around agile PR recently has stemmed from Google. So I’ve really enjoyed exploring a new little campaign created by Google entitled Agile Creativity.

There’s a great campaign site, an article in Think Quarterly and even a Google Hangout. It’s been put together by Google in association with leading US advertising agencies and, although the focus is on adland, many of the principles/tips would apply equally well to an agile PR setup. For example:

  • Increase collaboration
  • Embrace T-shaped talent
  • The minimum viable brief
  • Use real-time insights to constantly iterate
  • Beta testing with clients
  • Hackathon mode
  • Campaign prototyping

continue reading: Google’s take on agile PR...

7th August, 2012

Google famously forces its employees to spend a proportion of their working week on new projects that are not part of their day-to-day job descriptions.

Back in 2005, Eric Schmidt explained more about this process and introduced us to Google’s 70/20/10 programme. This is a simple theory which should aid innovation. According to it, everyone should spend:

  • 70% of your time on the core business
  • 20% on related projects
  • 10% on unrelated new business

Does this explain Google’s success when it comes to product innovation? Schmidt seems to think so:

“The test that I apply–and we do this every day, 70/20/10–is to ask how a feature will extend the core, the adjacent, or the innovative stuff to fulfill our mission. That’s the sort of drug that we all take, and it works really quite well. So it may very well be that what you said is correct, and it may not matter very much.”

Innovative fizzy drinks?

In a similar way, when Coca Cola revealed its new 2020 marketing strategy last year, the 70/20/10 rule was front and centre as marketing head Jonathan Mildenhall explains:

“To help guide this strategic intent we have developed an investment strategy for media and content spend. We call the model “the 70/20/10 investment principle”…The first segment relates to 70% of our communications spend. This goes on low risk, “bread and butter” content. It pays the rent… Next, we have the 20% of our content where we innovate based on what we know works well… Last, we have the high risk content that falls into our 10% segment. This involves brand new ideas. These may one day become part of our 20% or even 70% segments. Equally, these ideas may well fail outright.”

Now this really starts to get interesting.

Not only does it convey an approach to innovation that is intriguing in itself (e.g. if all you ever do is focus on the bread and butter stuff, then you will never innovate), it also hints at the agile PR approach that I blogged about recently.

As Mildenhall states, if you accept that your 10% might fail then it takes the pressure off and allows you to try new things that are more radical.

The 70/20/10 PR agency

How could this apply to PR agencies (or other agencies or even in-house PR activities)?

If we apply the same approach to PR campaigns then what would that look like? The majority (70%) of activity would be tried and tested tactics that are proven to work. An additional 20% would focus on innovating within the confines of the 70%. But, lastly, you would have the final 10% of a campaign where you try something totally new and are ready to fail.

Innovation is hard, but if you don’t put time aside for it, then it will never have a chance.

continue reading: Bringing 70/20/10 innovation to PR agencies...