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3 Website Design Features you should Avoid

June 12, 2015

Sterling PR's Rosie Brown shares her thoughts on the top three features not to include when designing your company website...

Designing a company website can quickly become overwhelming. With so many options for site design, it can be difficult to begin choosing features you want to incorporate. That’s why we’ve put together a list of three design features to avoid when creating your company’s website.

Infinite scroll

Unless your company is Pinterest, infinite scroll does no favors for you and your business. The whole point of your website is to provide visitors an idea of who you are, what your product is, and how to contact you to either buy it or learn more about it. Infinite scroll has the reverse effect; instead of prompting your visitors with a call to action, it overwhelms users with a limitless amount of content. You may as well whack every website visitor on the head with an encyclopedia, because that’s how content overload and aimless navigation feel.

Difficult navigation

Speaking of aimless navigation, your website should guide visitors through your content so easily that users find it intuitive. We recommend that our clients’ websites include a call-to-action link on every page. For instance, a home page might include a brief product description and a “Learn more” button that links to the product page right next to it. From there we’ll offer for visitors to “Find out more” either through a contact form or with a link to the Contact page.

You can also maintain easy navigation by keeping your content limited. For many companies, the website doesn’t need more than 10-15 pages. Visitors should feel like they’ve read everything there is to know about your company and product, without feeling fire-hosed with the information. Too many pages (or too much content on each page) will result in mentally exhausted visitors who may leave your site instead of contacting your representatives for more info (because who would want more info after reading every piece of marketing collateral you have on the website?).

Pop-ups

Despite 95% of users reporting that they find pop-ups annoying, websites continue to use them. These folks claim that pop-ups are effective in getting visitors to submit their contact information to a company’s database. While it’s important to have a call to action, it’s even more important to not annoy your website’s visitors. Utilize the space on the webpage to put what you need on your site; there should be no need for a window that blocks the content your visitors want to read. If you’re looking for a compromise here, try using an expandable form, like we do on our website (click on the red ‘Tips’ bar in the upper right corner to test it out). You’re still using the space given without preventing your users from reading the content on the page.

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Integrated Content Campaigns Can Help Your Customers Find You

April 20, 2015

Carabiner PR's Peter Baron discusses the importance of an integrated content campaign...

Do you remember playing hide ’n’ seek or catch ’n’ kiss when you were a kid? If you really wanted to get caught, you’d make it easy for your friends or that cute girl or boy to find you, right? Now that you're a sales or marketing whiz, don’t you wish your customers could find you as easily? 

Luckily for you, the lesson you learned back then still applies today—be where they’re looking for you. (Whether customers are looking for you or not is the subject of another blog post.) Like many things that sound simple, however, the practical implementation of all this can be a bit more complicated. How do you “hide” yourself where your prospects are looking? One great way is to run an integrated content campaign. Such a campaign places content about you, your thought leadership and your solutions in a context that matches your buyer persona insights.

If you need help creating and implementing an integrated content campaign, here is my advice: First, begin with the end in mind. Have you ever noticed those drivers who always back into a parking space so they can leave more quickly when they’re done? It turns out that if you apply this predilection to planning your campaign, you’ll be much more successful. Begin by asking yourself: “How much of our product do we need to sell by the end of this year?” “How long is our sales cycle?” “How many leads do we need to convert to be able to hit our number?” “What defines a lead?” You get the idea. Back away from your ultimate goal and piece together the milestones to get there, along with the facts you will need to know, so that you are in perfect alignment with your aims. When you combine these facts with your buyer persona insights and create the content your targets need, you’ll be like a backed-in driver, able to zip quickly out of your slot so you can start to help your customers find and select you. 

Since you’ve got a thousand things on your plate already, the good news is that you can get help with such a campaign. There are now numerous marketing firms out there that really get this stuff. Here’s how to choose a good one:

1. Trust someone who insists on parking backwards! They’re the ones who ask the questions that reveal the desired end of your journey. They need to know where you want to go and start from there.

2. Look for years of proven, effective experience. Do they have a combination of skills and talent on their team? It should span marketing strategists, PR professionals, writers, designers, SEO experts, etc., all with at least a decade in their respective fields. The lessons they’ve learned will lead to less experimentation on your dime.

3. Who else likes them? Ask around. If they have 10-plus years of experience, they’ll have a track record. People will know them. Talk to their current clients.

4. Lastly, I’m sure you are wondering if you have the budget for outside help.  There are three levels you can look at: freelancers, depending on the region, will likely be the least costly, and you’ll need a budget of $2,500 to $3,500 a month for their help; medium-sized firms like ours pack the punch to get you quickly in front of your customers and typically need a budget of $4,000 to $8,000 a month to get things done; and the big firms that are used to working with big clients (the results match the commitment on both sides), so expect to budget $15,000 and upward a month for this level of help. 

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5 Ways to Reinvigorate Your Media Relations Program

March 18, 2015

Melissa Baratta from Affect PR gives her top tips to boost your media outreach strategy...

If your media relations program is going well and you’re getting a consistent level of coverage, it can be easy to fall into a rhythm that stays within the company’s comfort zone – following a standard flight plan and putting out the same kinds of announcements and content month after month. Doing so for too long, however, can result in a stale PR program and a bored c-suite that eventually asks, is this strategy actually moving the needle for our business?

Whether your media relations program has fallen a bit flat and you need to drum up more coverage, or it’s going well but does little to generate enthusiasm internally, here are a few easy ways to infuse new life into your media outreach strategy.

  • Gather New Data

Many companies are sitting on a gold mine of interesting data and they don’t even know it. If your company tracks data such as how customers are using your product/service, where their needs lie or how their end-users are behaving, you could have nuggets of information the media will be interested in. Even seasonal data showing spikes in business can be analyzed and transformed into insights or predictions about how the industry acts during certain time periods. Think about your existing company assets, mine them for useful data, and then use that data to create new marketing content and media headlines.

  • Take a Survey

Taking a survey doesn’t have to be a resource-heavy endeavor. Poll five customers to get their thoughts on the latest trends or end-user needs, and turn it into a press release, or survey your top internal experts for tips or industry predictions, and turn it into a byline. Some of our clients have planned, executed and announced survey data in as little as two weeks – all with media coverage to show for it.

  • Talk to Customers

Customer references can be used to generate new stories about your company, use cases or industry challenges and solutions. If your case studies are old – or if you don’t have any at all – try going back to a handful of friendly customers and asking them if they’d be open to sharing their story with the media. We recently did this with one of our clients, leading to a 4-interview feature story with the Wall Street Journal. That kind of ROI is worth a quick call or email to your top customers.

  • Identify Additional Spokespeople

Think about other executives at the company who may not have been used for media relations recently or at all. Do they have different insights to share? More technical expertise? Perhaps an interesting bio or leadership style? Try interviewing them for 30 minutes and see what you get; that fresh perspective or unique background could be great fodder for a new story angle, a byline, a leadership profile or an ongoing column.

  • Create Dream Headlines

Thinking in angles – story angles, that is – can be a challenge. However, if you exercise creativity on a regular basis, it will eventually become habit to develop compelling angles in order to insert your company into stories that it might not be an obvious fit for. One way to do this is to work backwards: start by thinking of a few “dream headlines” you’d love to see in the media – maybe about the company’s differentiators, its product/service offerings, or its leadership, and then think about what kind of hook or angle you would need to get a reporter interested in that headline. Maybe it’s a trend already happening in the media, an example of how this is different from everything else they’ve seen, or a not-so-apparent a reason why this matters to a large audience. Make it a goal to turn these dream headlines into reality and put a special pitch plan behind each one.

 

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Humanoid Robots: From Fiction to Reality

February 18, 2015

Morgane Leonard from Finn Partners France discusses the latest humanoid robot and just how far science and technology can go...

Over the decades we’ve become increasingly fascinated with artificial intelligence and the evolution of robotics. Hitting the headlines recently was the news that Toshiba had introduced a humanoid robot named Chihira Aico at CES 2015. Chihira is a 32 year-old “lady” and is able to talk to humans, communicating through sign language. Toshiba plans to develop Chihira to the point where, by 2020, it will be able to act as a guide for foreign visitors during Tokyo’s Summer Olympic Games.  There’s no doubt it represents a step forward in terms of technological development, but such advancements are also beginning to raise a number of questions and concerns with regards to ethics –  how far can science and innovation can go without crossing over to the dark side? 

When I read about all of this it reminds me of Bicentennial Man, a movie released in 1999, in which the late Robin Williams played a robot called Andrew.  Andrew joins a family to carry out its housekeeping and maintenance work, but the family soon realises that, unexpectedly, Andrew is able to identify emotions and eventually evolves so much that, after 200 years of fighting for its rights, becomes human. 

It’s been just over fifteen years since the film was released, yet the subject is still hugely topical today. For example, you may have seen the recent Swedish TV drama, Real Humans, where a community of consumer-level humanoid robotic workers and servants live among humans. Or perhaps you have seen the futuristic film, Elysium, which depicts a highly technologically advanced world, where medical machines are able to cure any disease, reverse the aging process (goodbye Botox!) and regenerate new body parts. 

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Despite being science fiction, all these stories deal with a wide range of contemporary issues, such as humanity, slavery, prejudice, maturity, intellectual freedom, conformity, sex, love and mortality.  All of which are topics that come into play when these technologies – or even just the idea of them – are presented to us.

As we begin to see the technology develop, merging reality and fiction, it could certainly be a daunting prospect – but only if you look at it in black and white.  Technological evolution is a good thing and some technology can make people’s lives better, like Xbox Kinect technology which can be used for surgery, while 3D printing can assist medical innovations.

It may take a while until we see the full force, but Chihira is “living” proof that humanoids are not just a product of the mind.  Over the next few years innovations like this will increasingly become part of our lives – likely in ways that we couldn’t begin to fathom yet. Who knows, 50 years from now we could have the ability to fall in love with an artificially intelligent operating system, just like Spike Jonze's recent film, Her. Which raises yet more questions about how technology will impact loneliness and isolation – but that will be the subject of another blog post! 

Ready to meet Chihira? Watch the video! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BRycib5lWI

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Six SEO Tips for Killer Content

January 26, 2015

Sterling PR's Hilary Ferejohn shares her advice on how to develop and maximize your online content...

Content creation continues to spark discussion. Almost everyone has an opinion on what elements are most critical to success—some tout measuring ROI, others say having a documented content strategy is the most critical element, and still others believe everything hinges on reaching target markets across all the different stages of the buyer journey. That said, it seems that everyone can agree on this fundamental tenet: begin with your target audience in mind. This means being empathetic to how the people you want to know about you search for, consume, and share content.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, there’s a catch: it doesn’t matter how well-targeted your content is…if your target isn’t reading it. The good news is that SEO can help. SEO, like content development, is part science and part art; fully integrating your SEO and content marketing strategies ensures that your intended targets will easily find your content.

Here are 6 SEO tips that will absolutely help you develop better content:

1. Know your audience. Be clear about the audience you are trying to reach and what they want to know. What issues are top of mind? What problems are they trying to solve? What information would be most informative, engaging, and/or novel?

2. Don’t try to do it all: have the discipline to target your content. Targeting your content to the specific stage—awareness, consideration, preference, or retention—in the buying life cycle that will yield your company the best results is vital. Rather than trying to reach your audience from beginning to end, define the biggest problem in your buyer journey, and focus your content on that.

3. Leverage keywords and keyword phrases. Research and consciously select specific keyword phrases that are not only relevant, but also frequently used by your target audience in their searches. Nuance is important, because seemingly small differences can prove to be big. For example, take the words “house” and “home.” There are 26% more monthly searches on average for “home buying” than for “house buying,” yet there are 120% more monthly searches for “house for sale” versus “home for sale.” Many people are also tempted to coin new acronyms and name new market categories; unfortunately, unless you have many millions of dollars to spend evangelizing those new phrases, people won’t be searching on them anytime soon. A better tactic is to research how others write about your industry, reviewing articles from well-respected, authoritative sites. Also take advantage of the many tools available, such as Google Adwords KeyWord Planner.

4. Keep the audience’s environment in mind. Consider where your audience is likely to consume your content—are they on a phone, using a tablet, or searching sitting in front of their desktop? Someone searching for product information while in a store is likely looking at his/her smartphone, while someone exploring B2B security solutions is likely sitting at a desk, in front of a laptop. The length of time spent on the smartphone will be much shorter than the time spent on a laptop, so make sure the length of your content reflects the consumption patterns of the primary device.

5. Apply SEO when you create content, not after the fact. Incorporate your keyword phrases and draft meta tags as you write your content, not after it’s all done. Meta tags help browsers understand the content on a web page, which results in more accurate query results for your audience. Be sure to include your keyword phrases in meta tags for your page title, page description, and keyword list. In addition, it’s always good practice to include your most important keyword phrase in the URL name for that page.

6. Don’t let the tail wag the dog. Don’t over-optimize at the expense of readability—there’s no replacement for great, compelling copy. Define a real, immediate problem and illuminate your solution. Use straightforward language. Eliminate unnecessary words. Tell a story. And put your audience’s needs first.

 

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