graphic of business man connecting a heart and a brain with an electric outlets

Be Sensitive, Be Smart: Good marketing in difficult times

Put yourself ahead by remembering some easy tips.

Good marketing doesn’t just remain important as we navigate a global pandemic, it becomes imperative. Sorting out how to represent your brand while constantly adjusting to an ever-shifting landscape can be a tall order, but that doesn’t mean it’s unachievable. We’re all learning on an international scale, but you can put yourself ahead by remembering some easy tips.

Remember Your Voice

Voice matters in branding. No one’s looking for generic ad jargon from social media content when things are normal, and they’re certainly not going to respond to it while in isolation. While everyone’s seeking some sense of normalcy, it’s important to remember that a shift in social strategy doesn’t have to mean shifting your voice. Outside of eliminating some dangerous buzzwords and avoiding jokes that may make light of the current situation, the voice you’ve cultivated up to this point should be the one you maintain as you continue to market.

Check for Insensitive Words

A good rule of thumb here is to avoid the use of anything that might pertain to the pandemic as a whole. It’s not so much avoiding the topic as it is wanting to avoid reminding your audience of their current situation. Avoid phrases like “killer deal”, or any health-related terms while drafting copy. It’s also wise to hold off any phrases that include gathering or events until Stay at Home and Shelter in Place orders are lifted.

To that end, remember to maintain an added level of sensitivity in your content. Use words or phrases that encourage a kind of togetherness without overtly stating or implying physical connection or gathering. You want phrases and keywords that make people feel less alone. Talk about how engaging with your post or taking your offer can help them do things like contribute or connect while avoiding the normal ad phrases like “take advantage of” or the idea of profiting off of or from something.

Copy Editing Still Matters

This might feel like a no-brainer, but we’ve all got a lot on our minds right now. It’s easy for copy editing to fall by the wayside while you’re juggling so many things, but clean copy is always a critical aspect of any social strategy. It’s wise to avoid any embarrassing typos while most of your demographic finds themselves at home with a little bit more time on their hands.

Current Clients Over Lead Conversion

While it can be tricky, the most engaging and effective content is going to be the kind that makes your audience feel comfortable. We’re in constantly uncomfortable times, and folks are just looking for something familiar and easy. We always want new clients and a larger reach, but your primary focus should be on contributing to the conversation with your current reach. Word-of-mouth is a powerful tool, and people will remember who kept things focused on business as usual rather than forming a sense of community and outreach amid uncertainty.

Sensitivity Is Key

Keeping things light in our interactions is a great way to make people feel at ease, but it’s a difficult line to tow right now. There’s still space to be witty but be sure that you’re maintaining a level of sensitivity while doing so. With emotions at an all-time high, a poorly placed joke can lead to lost engagement now more than ever before. This can easily circle back to remembering your social voice. You don’t have to change your entire strategy, just be extra mindful for the time being.

It’s really that simple! No one’s asking anyone to reinvent the marketing wheel. You can still have exceptional brand strategy amidst a pandemic, it’s just about adding a little extra dash of thoughtfulness into the equation.

A man standing with a email symbol.

Have You Asked: Is Email Marketing Dead?

Would you be surprised to know that 99 percent of people check their email every day?

With a statistic like that, it’s not hard to see why email marketing is a go-to for marketing campaigns. What’s confusing, though, is that sometimes, email marketing ROI can look a little bleak.

An unsuccessful email campaign in a world where opening emails is such a big part of people’s lives can be confusing, and brings up an important question:

Where is the gap between consumers checking their email constantly, but not clicking on your brand’s message?

As you consider the value of email marketing, consider this — 73 percent of millennials prefer email communication when receiving marketing material. Ultimately, the problem may not be the marketing channel, but the message delivery. So, is email marketing dead? Or, is there something that can be done to enhance the email marketing experience — for consumers and marketers?

A marketing strategy makeover might be necessary for a struggling brand. Email marketing as a marketing tool isn’t dead. But some email marketing practices are, such as impersonal email address lines, violating General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), ignoring user experience, and not tracking metrics.

If your brand’s email marketing strategy is currently struggling with bringing in high ROI, it could be that your strategy hasn’t been improved to reflect how email currently works.

Ultimately, if you’re not catering to your audiences, or if you’re not using metrics to appropriately measure and improve your email campaigns, you’re likely missing out on ROI — not because email marketing is dead, but because your strategy is outdated.

To improve your email marketing ROI in 2020, here’s what to retire:

1. Impersonal subject lines

Email marketing starts before readers even open the email. Subject lines can make or break open-rate, a metric that tracks how many subscribers open your emails.

Personalizing marketing messages makes readers feel connected to what’s being sold. Generally, making a subject line personal can be as easy as noting the holiday season or asking a question to get readers thinking.

Think about what in your email is the “must-know” takeaway, and create a short subject line that taps into emotions to get subscribers clicking.

2. Ignoring GDPR standards

GDPR means making sure the reader gives clear, unambiguous permission to receive marketing emails. Full compliance with GDPR ensures that sending marketing emails is legal.

GDPR was created so consumers know their data is protected and being used by brands they have trusted with personal information. They opt-in to emails they’d like to receive from brands they’re interested in.

This is good news for marketers because it means your email campaigns will only be sent to users who are genuinely interested in your marketing messages. It also ensures your email marketing messages are compliant with the law.

3. Using templates that aren’t mobile-friendly

The world is mobile now. Many people check emails from their phone.

Emails that aren’t mobile-friendly are probably raising your bounce rate exponentially due to poor user experience. Because it’s so easy to click away from something that’s unappealing, emails optimized for mobile should be an important step in the design process.

The Apple iPhone is the most popular method for opening emails. For some audiences, marketing emails that are stellar for mobile should take priority over emails for desktop, so the majority of readers don’t get turned away from desktop-friendly templates.

4. Poor email design

It’s imperative to take time designing emails that delight readers.

Emails lately have gotten snazzy. From animations to GIFs, and even embedded full-length videos, businesses are dipping their toes into exciting email marketing efforts to pull readers in.

Emails that have quick loading time, bold CTAs (Call to Action), and colorful visuals typically perform best.

An email newsletter with long paragraphs, the same-old template and a CTA that hasn’t changed in years are less than exciting, and probably leave readers clicking out of that email.

5. Not strategically using metrics

Tracking metrics helps fill in the gaps when looking where to improve marketing efforts. They break down the behavior of email subscribers. 

Metrics collect data on how many people are interacting with emails, when they are, who they are, and for how long. All of this information is important to know when planning because they lead to important marketing decisions.

Metrics save time by reporting on what’s working and what isn’t. To begin tracking metrics, consider what email software you use. Many have reporting and tracking built into their tools, as well as information about how that data is collected and interpreted.

Ultimately, the reasons you may not be seeing results, is not because email marketing is dead — it’s because of how you’re email marketing. So, before you turn away from email marketing as a whole, think about ways you can improve your strategy to compete.

press release

Why the Press Release Matters (and How to Write One)

Releases serve more purposes today than they ever have before.

A lot of independent agents know what a press release is – many even write them and distribute their press releases to regional or even national press.

What a lot of title insurance professionals don’t necessarily understand, however, is (a) what the press release is; (b) why it pays to write one; and (c) where to send it and why.

The mighty press release is a 1- to 2-page document that trumpets news. It tells an audience that something important has happened, usually to a company and why it is important. There are tactical elements to a press release: who is sending it; the date it is sent, the geographical place of origin (city and state); the headline and the body.

The best press releases keep it simple: they have three to four paragraphs that tell what the news is, why that news is important, what that news means to the company and customers, and a small amount of background on the company sending the press release. Persons from whom the press release is sent are often quoted.

Editors, reporters, TV anchors and radio broadcast people have traditionally relied upon the press release to alert them to news. Today, social media experts also use press release material to populate social media platforms and to include in inner-company and outside-company newsletters and other communication vehicles.

The press release is actually a celebration of a company. Done right – meaning well-written, regularly sent press releases – showcase a company’s strengths and help to tell a company’s story. A new hire, a new product, a company move, surpassing growth goals – the news is virtually limitless. It need only be true and told well.

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) says about press releases:

Purpose

Releases serve more purposes today than they ever have before. They provide valuable SEO for your website, serve as a primary source of information for your investors, and help align your internal teams on critical messages — all while advising the media of important changes and events at your company.

Content

No more boring, text-only content on the latest corporate announcements. The press release today can be an engaging, multimedia experience. This is where you can make a journalist’s job easy and increase your changes of getting coverage by including great B-roll footage, embeddable video and compelling, high-resolution images with your release.

Yes! B-roll can be dropped into a press release, as can YouTube links, photos, even animation.

But there’s really no need to reinvent the wheel. Go online to a company’s website that you admire. Look at their press releases usually housed under a “News” tab. Read it and mimic it (but don’t copy and paste – that plagiarism, is unethical and opens up potential worlds of trouble).

Take a look at some of Alliant National’s press releases:  https://alliantnational.com/category/press/. Read one or two. They are carefully written, thoughtfully edited and purposefully distributed to appropriate media.

Feel free to follow the “formula” of a press release and then distribute to media you want to reach via email. You’ll be surprised when, done regularly and well, the attention (the good kind) your company ultimately receives.

giving is good business

Three Public Relations Hacks No One Tells You About (and they always work)

What if doing a good business turn, expecting nothing in return, and doing it because it’s the right thing, brings in new business?

Everyone preaches about being grateful during the holidays. While all of that is good and well, the truth is that it can stretch us to the limit to give “yet more and more and more time and with heart” to whatever cause(s) are planted firmly in front of us.

But what if giving is good business? What if doing a good business turn, expecting nothing in return, and doing it because it’s the right thing, brings in new business?

Science now shows that doing “free business,” when it feels right, can generate future profits for you and your agency. Here are three true examples of doing work for others, when there doesn’t initially seem to be much point (except that it’s taking time and resources from my own business) – paid off.

It does not matter that these three examples are purely public relations and marketing “gifts.” The concept plays out across all industries. You’ll know how to translate these examples into your own agencies.

1. Free Public Relations Because Your Product is Exceptional

A local, very small brewery makes some of the best tasting beer in a state that is renowned for world-wide, award-winning craft beers. There are too many breweries (if there can be too many breweries) in Colorado – yet here they are – two brothers, one a musician, the other a forced-to-retire geophysicist – now both brew beer for a living.

They stumbled into making “gluten removed” beer while they were crafting excellent tasting beer. Anyone who has celiac disease, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or any other gluten sensitivity has had to kiss beer good-bye or drink awful tasting beer. Except these brothers craft over a dozen exceptional-tasting beers.

I arranged a radio interview for them, guided them on how to “social media it to death,” and then introduced them to a celebrity chef-owned Colorado restaurant owner.

I expect nothing in return, not because I’m Mother Teresa or exceptionally generous. I just felt like doing it and their hard work and excellent product warrant the leg-up.  

How did it or will it pay off? It just feels right. That’s the pay off.

2. Sometimes You Just Want to Be Part of a Very Good Thing

I sit on the board of The Chanda Plan Foundation because I cannot resist the extraordinary CEO who happens to be a quadriplegic.

The Chanda Plan affords all spinal cord injured people free health and wellness services that have proven to dramatically improve their lives. The services include nutrition, massage, chiropractic and primary care physicians.

The clients pay nothing. Some of them go on to become fully mobile. All touched by The Chanda Plan live better lives; the results, after a dozen years, prove it.

CCPR dedicates free public relations and services to The Chanda Plan because it is the right thing to do. It cannot be explained in a spread sheet, but it somehow feeds Capital City Public Relations.

3. Scratching Each Other’s Backs Breeds Wonderful Friendships

CCPR does free public relations and marketing for a neighborhood hairdresser; our coifs look all the better for it. Another writer needs contributions to her literary anthology and she’s getting one from me.

She’s one of the best editors in the business and my copy reads better because of it. CCPR gave another paying public relations client extra services over the past few months because the boost will likely catapult that business into another realm.

Where’s the business sense in all of this? Where does the spreadsheet demonstrate how the return on investment works?

There isn’t one. Like the successful CEO that last week let me pick his brain over coffee, when he is already working a 60-hour work week to keep his two businesses running in the black, it just is because it feels right.

Perhaps your business can go the extra mile, do a good turn, contribute to the community in a new way. Perhaps you’ll never realize a dime in the action and perhaps it will even cost you.

But the truth is that these business relationships are truly friendships. And the other truth is that it always pays off. Maybe it isn’t measured on the calculator or within any traditional return-on-investment calculation.

It does not matter if it cannot be laid out exactly, in numbers, how giving pays off. It’s simply enough to know, in one’s soul, that it does.

Advertising vs Public Relations

Advertising Versus Public Relations

When you or your clients see information about a product or service, do you know if the information is provided as advertising, or is it considered public relations? Knowing the differences can help you decide what might work best in your marketing efforts.

Advertising

Advertising is described as a paid, non-personal, one-way public communication that draws public communication towards a product, service, company, or any other thing through various communication channels, to inform, influence and instigate the target audience to respond in the manner desired by the advertiser.

Advertising can be done through print ads, radio or television ads, billboards, flyers, commercials, internet banner ads, direct mail, etc. Social media platforms are now a major source of advertising.  The advertiser has exclusive control over what, how and when the ad will be aired or published. Moreover, the ad will run as long as the advertiser’s budget allows or determines it is effective.

As advertising is a prominent marketing tool, it is always present, no matter if people are aware of it or not.

Public Relations

Public Relations is a strategic communication tool that uses different channels, to cultivate favorable relations for the company. It is a practice of building a positive image or reputation of the company in the eyes of the public by telling or displaying the company’s products or services, in the form of featured stories or articles through print or broadcast media. It aims at building a trust-based relationship between the brand and its customer, mainly through media exposure and coverage.

Public Relations can be called as non-paid publicity earned by the company through its goodwill, word of mouth, etc. (It is often referred to as “earned media”).  The tactics used in public relations are publicity, social media, press releases, press conferences, interviews, crisis management, featured stories, speeches, news releases.

Key Differences Between Advertising and Public Relations

Adverting draws public attention to products or services through paid announcements. Public Relations uses strategic communication to build a mutually beneficial relationship between the public and the company or organization.

  1. Advertising is a purchased media, whereas, public relations is considered earned media.
  2. While advertising is a monologue activity, public relations is a two-way communication process. The company listens and responds to the public.
  3. Advertising is used to promote products or services with the objective to induce the targeted audience to buy. Public Relations aims to maintain a positive image of the company in the media, with an indirect result of those effected becoming customers.
  4. In advertising, the advertiser has full control over the ad, such as when, how and what will be displayed. In public relations, the company pitches the story, but has no control how the media uses or does not use it.
  5. In advertising, the ad placement is guaranteed, but there is no such guarantee of placement with public relations.
  6. In advertising, as long as you are willing to pay for it, the ad will be published or aired. Usually in public relations, the story is only published once, but it might be published in many media.
  7. Credibility is higher in public relations than advertising. This is because customers know it’s an ad and may not believe it easily and be skeptical. For Public Relations, third party validation improves credibility.
  8. Advertising mainly uses paid announcements (ads) to draw public attention to products or services. Public Relations is the use of strategic communication that aims at building a mutually beneficial relationship between the company and the public.

Advertising and Public Relations both use communication channels to inform and influence the general public. While advertising is a highly expensive marketing tool, it can reach a large number of people at the same time. Public Relations is “free of cost” implied endorsement along with validation of the third party.

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