PRSA ICON 2018: It’s All About Relevant and Data-Driven Content

Last week, the Ketner Group team attended the PRSA 2018 International Conference, better known to the public relations community as PRSA ICON, in our own backyard here in Austin, Texas. If you are not familiar with the conference, it’s designed specifically to help the communications community enhance our personal and professional network through career development and connecting with other PR practitioners.

Needless to say, the KG team definitely networked, and we DEFINITELY returned to the office with new ideas and methods for bettering our professional craft. We heard inspiring keynotes from Do Something’s CEO Aria Finger and digital marketing pioneer Ann Handley. The PRSA ICON breakout sessions we attended were all about perfecting your messages in clear yet relevant ways, and also explored new sectors of the communications industry. Here are just a few tidbits of the best practices we learned at PRSA ICON this year:

Lesson One: Communicating should ALWAYS be about your audience

Although as communication professionals we may think we are clearly delivering our messages, that may not always be the case. As we learned at the conference, we currently live in the age where content is king, but that can lead to a vicious cycle of “churning and burning” an immense amount of content, losing sight of one key component: your target audience. For example, think of a scenario where someone is just talking at you, instead of trying to understand what experiences or topics may be relevant to you based on your experiences and former knowledge – chances are, mid-lecture your mind will start drifting away to more relevant thoughts.

Therefore, your audience should always be at the forefront of the message. Key questions like ‘what is my audience’s point of reference?’ and ‘why would this be relevant to them?’ and ‘what does my audience need?’ should always lead your messaging strategy. After all, if you lose your audience, who is going to read your content?

Lesson Two: We are all, or should strive to be, data analysts

We live in a digital age where every search and click is tracked. And while we in the PR world are notorious for disliking math and preferring words over figures, it’s time to join the data revolution. At PRSA ICON, we discussed the need for PR professionals to dive into the world of data to create an even bigger need and sense of interest for each and every story, while continuing to make our pitches and strategies not only timely but also informed and relevant. As IBM’s Brandi Boatner explained during her workshop, while the world of data is intimidating, the key here is to start one step at a time. She recommended starting with Google Trends and then identifying data sets that are relevant to your communications strategy. As Boatner explained, when you dive into the world of data, you should not try to analyze a large amount of data all at once, as both you and your audience will be overwhelmed: “A good storyteller masters things that are unseen and with AI and data analytics, you can create a communications strategy that quickly identifies and gets ahead of trends.”

Lesson Three: Social media influencers are now a staple in public relations

As industry conversations continue to heat up on the effectiveness of social media influencers, the fact is, social influencers are now and will continue to be a staple in the world of communications. (Ketner Group recently profiled one such influencer in a recent blog!) What’s more, social media influencers can help companies effectively grow organic audiences and customers they would not have had before. As we learned at PRSA ICON, leveraging social media influencers for your communication efforts is a matter of conducting diligent research to identify the right influencers that will create a new level of authentic communication between you and your target audience.

As Dr. Seuss once wrote, “The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” And in public relations and communications as a whole, there is something new to learn every day! We look forward to implementing the lessons learned at this year’s conference into our communications craft as we continue to be life-long learners in this industry.

New Things Are All Around – Welcome to Ketner Group Communications

I always tell people it’s the little things that make me happy – a good hair day, catching all the green lights on the way home, or finding that lost $10 bill in my pocket. That’s why today, the official launch of our new and improved Ketner Group website, I am grinning ear to ear remembering all of the (several dozen) little things that happened during the journey of creating this latest version of KetnerGroup.com.

For starters, before the painstaking, yet satisfying process of developing the new website began – Jeff Ketner and I made the bold decision to change the name of the agency to Ketner Group Communications, leaving behind Ketner Group PR + Marketing. As an agency, we have grown in so many ways over the past few years, not only in our ranks, but also in expanding our scope of services to offer social media management and digital content marketing to clients. We felt that the word “communications” better described where we are now and where we are headed in the years to come. We think it fits us quite nicely, and we hope you like it!

So, a new name meant a new logo, with a new color palette, to go along with a new website! Enter our new and amazing friends from Mixtape Marketing (bless their hearts) who have hung in there with us since November 2017 and have been the best marketing and design partners we could ever ask for! No one ever said creating a new website was easy, but the Mixtape team made the nearly year-long process of getting this sucker off the ground a fun and enjoyable experience. Our hats off to them.

As part of the new Ketnergroup.com site, we wanted the content, design, tone and imagery to better reflect who we are as a group and our philosophy as an agency. As the homepage says, we are “obsessed with exceeding client expectations” and we love showcasing our can-do culture. It’s at the heart of who we are. We are a fun group of taco and latte-loving “strategists, writers, talkers, listeners, tweeters, readers, music nerds and goofballs” who love nothing more than to see our clients win big. We think that sentiment is perfectly reflected in the new website.

While we hoped to have launched the site sooner, we had a few worthwhile roadblocks come up this past year that needed our attention – like the six new clients we brought on in 2018, which led us to hire three new employees, bringing our current KG full-time employee count to 10. We were nominated as a finalist in “company culture” for the 2018 Greater Austin Business awards, and have been busy finalizing the details to open a New York office in 2019. Oh, and we bought new chairs for our conference room – they are so nice and comfy! Like I said, it’s the little things.

I suppose you can consider this blog the digital version of a “ribbon cutting” ceremony for the new Ketnergroup.com! To make it KG official though, we celebrated with some Torchy’s chips and queso, a big chocolate cake and champagne. It’s how we roll.

Welcome to Ketner Group Communications – our door is always open!

Austin’s Domain: Who Says Shopping Has to Be Boring?

I’ll start with a confession: I don’t really like shopping, which is a surprising admission for someone who’s worked with enough retail technology companies to populate a small mall. My idea of a great shopping trip is spending five minutes on my laptop, finding a reasonably good deal, ordering what I need online, and then calling it a day. I’m one of the millions of reasons why ecommerce sales continue to skyrocket, year after year. (And yes, my Amazon Prime account gets a hefty workout every week.)

Here’s my second confession, though: I love observing retail trends and the creative ways that retailers are reinventing themselves to get people off the couch and back into their stores. And what’s happening at the Domain, Austin’s premier shopping destination, is particularly intriguing to me. Retail is transforming at a dizzying rate, and the Domain is a microcosm of the changes in the industry.

For those of you who live outside Austin, the Domain is a thoughtful mix of retail stores, restaurants, hotels, apartments, offices – and a hugely popular Whole Foods – that’s known as Austin’s “second downtown.” It transformed 300 acres of formerly vacant Texas scrubland into a dog-friendly, family-friendly destination that’s fun to visit – even for a shopping curmudgeon like me.

I’ve had multiple occasions to visit the Domain in recent months, and each time I’ve come away convinced that it exemplifies some of the most positive trends in retail’s ongoing renaissance.

Clicks to bricks

Warby Parker, Away, UNTUCKit, Bonobos, b8ta and Casper are some of the hottest e-commerce brands around. They all have brick and mortar stores at the Domain, too, along with Amazon Books, as my fellow KGer Amanda noted in a blog earlier this year. Physical stores are playing an increasingly important role for online retailers, and some of the best can be found at the Domain. (Tip for Amazon power shoppers: take your returns to the Amazon Books location. They’re happy to take them, and they won’t mind if you purchase a book or two while you’re there.)

Turning shopping into an experience

“Experiential retail” is one of the biggest themes in retail right now, as evidenced by the 13.4 million search results on that term in Google. Retailers are focused on creating experiences you simply can’t get online – for example, sampling the coolest tech gear on the planet at b8ta or trying out a Casper mattress. But it’s not just about the experience at each individual retailer. A destination like the Domain makes the entire shopping trip an experience, with green spaces, a splash pad for kids, outdoor restaurants, an entertainment district that rivals Austin’s famed Sixth Street, and a compelling lineup of retailers, which brings up my final point.

Making it fun

People flock to the Domain because it’s fun: a great place to take your out-of-town friends who want to shop, eat dinner, let the kids run around, and experience something that’s uniquely Austin. There’s something for everyone, from luxury brands like Tiffany and Neiman Marcus to brands that are aimed squarely at the mainstream. The Domain is anything but boring; and as retail consultant Steve Dennis points out, it’s a bad time for retailers to be boring. The Domain has taken that mantra to heart.

I may not like to shop, but the Domain has won me over. And it reinforces why I love working with technology companies that are helping drive some of the changes in this fast-paced, fascinating industry.

Influencer Insights: CJ Johnson

CJ Johnson is an award-winning photographer and content creator, a GQ Insider and Google Next-Gen Policy Leader, and a well-known “brand guru.” We wanted to learn more about his process and asked for his perspective on the state of influencer marketing.

KG: How do you as a social influencer create partnerships, and what is your criteria before aligning yourself to an opportunity?

Typically, I say yes to partnerships or sponsored opportunities with brands if it’s an industry I’m knowledgeable about and interested in already. That’s important. Then, I want to be sure the ROI makes sense and is beneficial to me and my time. More and more, I’m starting to explore social causes, too. Creating these partnerships varies – some come organically my way, others I reach out to. If my goals are aligned with those of the brand or cause, then it’s off to the races.

KG: Recently there have been headlines about consumers feeling “influencer fatigue,” as they voice feelings about inauthentic content. How should you and other social media influencers respond to this sentiment?

CJ: Influencers who are frustrated or misunderstood by this discussion are feeling a bit judged. There is always room for improvement – everyone can agree on that. The “fatigue” mentioned is stemming from every influencer trying to compete with one another, and the inauthenticity is felt because of a lack of imagination as people copy each other. To help the state of influencer marketing, people need to be more educated about this industry and there also needs to be a culture that fosters more creativity.

Additionally, a more standard pay structure would help influencers understand their market value and how to better negotiate their pay. Right now, influencers – and the brands they collaborate with – are in the dark with what the market asks for. It’s a bit all over the place. Someone with 100k followers on Instagram can demand $1,500 per post while someone else can ask for $500, and both parties don’t even know the real value of either ask.

KG: You say there needs to be more education on the industry. In what ways do you see that playing out?

CJ: For content creators and influencers, there needs to be a clear understanding of professional etiquette, the deliverables they’ll create for companies they collaborate with, and their overall value as a business. On the other side of this, companies need to understand what really incentivizes these content creators and influencers. It’s not just about free stuff or monetary value. Content creators and influencers honestly care about their messaging and the impact they’ll make on their community. With every collaboration there is a lot more risk involved than you’d think.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more to learn on both sides of the aisle. We’ll see more workshops, webinars and events that will center around these topics in the future, for sure.

KG: Do you think the influencer space is becoming too cluttered?  Is there still room for individuals to make their mark and curate authentic community online?

CJ: For every article that talks about the pitfalls of influencer marketing, I see another that talks about how fast it’s growing into a lucrative sector. Two things stick out to me. First, the critiques often come from someone who is attempting to be an influencer, someone who is frustrated with not being recognized, even possibly experiencing a bit of “FOMO” (fear of missing out). The second thing is a difference in audience perception due to the influencer strategy – one sees content from influencers as annoying advertisements, and the other has no idea they’re looking at an ad in the first place. In any case, I think transparency and authenticity is key to growth and success in influencer marketing.

Even if it’s cluttered, it’s a growing industry. Influencer marketing used to be a thing only a few people were doing online, and now there’s an upcoming generation whose sole goal it is to grow up and be an online influencer. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bubble waiting to burst – I think of influencer marketing as evolving just as the acting or entrepreneur industries have done.

KG: What is your advice to companies considering influencer marketing as a part of their strategy?

CJ: First, consider why you need it in the first place, and then what your goals will be. Too many times, I see companies that “heard from a friend” or are following a competitor that is growing quickly because of influencer marketing, so they want in too. But that can lead to unrealistic expectations or experimenting without quite understanding the value of an influencer. So, please recognize the “why” before you begin. Secondly, you need to understand there are several strategies with influencer marketing now, including:

  • Getting as many influencers on board as possible
  • Recruiting a smaller number of influencers to act as brand ambassadors
  • A combination of the above for a specific limited campaign
  • One-off influencer-promoted posts
  • Repurposed influencer content and posts

When you know which plan fits your goals, set aside the time to do authentic research. Yes, there are automated tools and databases, but it might be smart to also have a team-member (here’s looking at you, interns) do some research on influencers that fit your criteria. After researching, make sure your collaborative efforts bring as much value and long-term relationships as possible. Again, influencer marketing is incredibly impactful and a lot more cost-effective than people give it credit for.

We enjoy following CJ online and think you might too. Learn more about what he’s up to by visiting his Twitter or Instagram.

7 Steps to Successful LinkedIn Marketing

In recent weeks, we’ve explored how to develop a content strategy, how to set up a social media program from scratch, and how to use thought leadership bylines to earn media coverage. All of these content approaches complement each other and help reinforce a brand’s identity. But the power of the written, or recorded, word can only get as far as the audience you’ve built to consume it. Luckily, there’s a way to amplify the reach and impact of this owned and earned content that we find quite valuable and our clients are consistently curious about: LinkedIn Sponsored Content.

 Adding a paid element to your PR program helps bridge the gap between traditional PR and traditional marketing, which shouldn’t operate in silos anyway. We like to take a strategic view of LinkedIn promotion, using a step-by-step practice to develop and continually optimize a highly-targeted LinkedIn ads campaign that complements existing content development and organic social media initiatives. The approach outlined below helps identify hyper-relevant prospects, target them with the right content, understand what content to create in the future and serve your company’s ultimate marketing goals.

 Step 1: Identify Ideal Audience

As with any marketing process, you can’t succeed if you don’t know who you’re talking to or trying to reach. But if you know who the decision makers, influencers or buyers are that you want to influence with your content, you can target them at a granular level on LinkedIn. By combing criteria, you can hit a hyper-targeted user set and ensure you’re not spending money promoting content to users who will never make a difference for your bottom line.  You can target audiences in three ways:

  • Demographics – Job function, seniority, company name, geographic region, industry, etc.
  • Interest-based targeting – Group membership, skills, fields of study
  • Company audience data – Target account lists your sales team is using (Note, you’ll need a lot of names for this to be effective, but it guarantees a precise audience.)

Step 2: Define Campaign Goal and Associated Content Formats

Once you know who you want to read your content and ultimately to engage with your brand as a potential customer, you’ll need to define the goal of your campaign. This will determine the kind of content you promote. For content you don’t already have, you’ll need to focus on developing it as part of a comprehensive owned, earned and paid media program. For the following goals, you’ll want to emphasize the associated content:

 Brand awareness

  • Company blog posts on LinkedIn
  • Press releases
  • Long-form posts
  • Visuals/videos
  • Product announcements
  • Promotion of tradeshow attendance

Thought leadership

  • eBook, whitepaper, video, research
  • Industry commentary
  • Long-form posts
  • Guest blogs on other blogs
  • Industry trends or data

 Lead generation

  • eBooks­
  • Webinars
  • How-to guides
  • Blog posts with calls-to-action (CTA)
  • “Freemium” downloads/gated content
  • Industry-related reports

Step 3: Develop an Editorial Calendar

Once you know which content to share, set up an editorial calendar – this will help you to visualize the rhythm of content being published and ensure that you’re addressing different aspects of your brand’s value proposition. Having everything written out will also help make sure you share different forms of content to keep things fresh and engaging for all members of your target audience, depending on their interest, challenge, or stage in the buying process:

  • Awareness: Have realized and expressed symptoms of potential problems or an opportunity.
  • Consideration: Have clearly defined and given a name to their problem or opportunity, actively looking for ways to address the issue.
  • Decision: Have defined their solution strategy, method or approach and ready to take the next step.

Step 4: Identify Assets and Messaging to Promote Content

Identify and/or develop compelling ad copy (150 words or less) and visual content that make readers want to click on or download the content you’re promoting. If you can’t sell your content, no one will read it no matter how informative or well-written it is.

Hint: Include calls to action, statistics, quotes, actionable text.

Step 5: Determine Ad Method

Sponsored Content

Sponsored content campaigns are promoted through paid channels based on posts you have also made directly on your Company Page. They are best used to attract new followers to the company website or landing page and drive engagement with company-specific content.

Company Page posts (status updates) can be promoted in the newsfeeds of both followers and non-followers whose demographics have been specifically targeted. This is a good option for posting blog content, articles about your company or to showcase commentary, award wins, customer or product announcements, and more.

Direct Sponsored Content

The direct sponsored content option allows you to post content directly in the LinkedIn feed without the content originating on your LinkedIn Company Page. This is useful if you don’t want the post to clutter your company’s LinkedIn profile page, but otherwise operates the same as sponsored content.

Website Ads

LinkedIn also offers more traditional website ads, which lead readers to the company website and often start at $2.00 per click and up. These are best leveraged for sending interested parties to your website to download gated content – whitepapers, e-books, case studies, webinars – for lead generation, or to product pages for direct sales promotion. If you choose this option, you should set up goal tracking in Google Analytics to count how many contact form submissions are received as a result of a given ad. Then judge what your cost per lead is and determine if it is delivering appropriate ROI.

Step 6: Set a Budget

Finally, you’ll need to decide what your total monthly budget for LinkedIn ads will be, and how you’ll allocate your spend – either emphasizing CPM (cost per 1000 impressions) if your goal is brand visibility, or CPC (cost per click) if your goal is lead generation or website traffic conversion.

LinkedIn Ads work on a bidding process, so depending on the audience you compete for, the price will change to show an ad. Bids are only processed at $.01 more than second-highest bid, so you can set your bids at the top limit of what you consider a fair value for the click or impression.

Step 7: Reporting/Continuous Improvement

It’s essential to monitor and analyze the key metrics of your campaigns on an ongoing basis. This review process is critical for finding opportunities for improvement to your campaigns, whether it’s improving reach, accuracy of targeting, CPC or CPM, website conversions, engagement and much more.

You should use the LinkedIn campaign manager to review all the metrics available on the platform itself, but also refer to your Google Analytics reports to see how successful you’ve been at driving increased traffic to your website as a whole or to specific landing pages on the site. There are also tools like LinkedIn Insight Tag to your website that will help you evaluate deeper insights about your campaign and users to continue improve your LinkedIn, content marketing, and overall marketing goals.

To learn more about how LinkedIn can help drive brand awareness and lead generation as part of your PR or marketing program, feel free to reach out to me directly – [email protected] – and don’t forget to follow Ketner Group Communications on LinkedIn and Twitter for more valuable tips like these.

 

Intern Series: Career Fairs

This blog post has been provided by our intern, Meghan Farrell.

It’s that time of the year again, a day that can fill students with dread – the career fair. Getting dressed up in our slacks and uncomfortable shoes, printing out (hopefully enough) resumes for everyone we speak to and waiting in line nervously, wondering how to stand out from the other hundred plus students in attendance, are just a few things we worry about. But career fairs shouldn’t be something you avoid. These events can be the perfect opportunity to meet your future employer and get meaningful networking experience. And with UT’s Moody College of Communications Career Fair on September 26, we thought it would be the perfect time to roll out some advice on how to tackle these opportunities.

Do Some Research

It’s okay if you don’t recognize every company attending the career fair. However, doing some research ahead of time on the businesses in attendance is imperative, even ones that might not necessarily be on your radar. This is one of the only opportunities where all of these businesses will be in the same place, so make the most of it and explore your options fully. While you don’t need to know every detail about each company, it makes a big difference when you are familiar with what they do. Visit their website or blog and get an idea of the type of work they do. You can ask them about a certain client or case study, or an open position they have listed; this will show that you didn’t come unprepared. It demonstrates that you are interested in what they do and have taken the time to learn about them beforehand. As you wait in those long lines to speak to someone, bring along notes to review so when it’s your turn to shine, you have lots of ammo for the conversation. On top of that, some colleges provide information on every company that will be in attendance on their app, so see if your school offers it and use it to your advantage!

Dress the Part

“Dress for the job you want, not the job you have” may sound cliché or lame, but it can make or break a company’s first impression of you. The representatives at each booth came dressed for the part, so you should too. While formal business attire has become less common for employees today, it still plays a part in making a lasting impression on prospective employers. They want to see that you made the effort to get ready for the event, take your career seriously, and that if hired, you would be able to dress professionally. UT also requires that you arrive in professional dress, so don’t make the mistake of preparing for the career fair only to be asked to leave because you showed up in jeans.

Exchange Information

It can be awkward deciding the right time to give someone your resume or business card, but recruiters want them! Even if it turns out you don’t qualify for the position, ask them to hold onto your resume in case something opens up. That company may be looking for someone for a position in the future and remember you and think, “Wow, this person I met at the UT career fair would be perfect for this role, let me go find their resume and contact them.” You worked hard on those materials so hand them out! Even ask for their card; they probably have a stack of about 200 in their office so I’m sure they would love to get rid of one.

Follow Up

A very important step that many students forget is to follow up after the career fair. If you had a particularly memorable or exciting conversation with someone, go ahead and shoot them an email explaining how great it was to meet them. This will lead to the beginning of a professional relationship with that person, and even if you don’t end up working together, it’s always beneficial to have another contact in your field. Even if you felt like the conversation didn’t go so well or was a bit awkward, contact them anyways. It never hurts to let them know you appreciated speaking with them, because at the end of the day they took the time out of their schedule to be at the career fair, too.

Take A Deep Breath

Career fairs can be very nerve-racking, but at the end of the day they are an amazing opportunity to learn about the companies in your area. They give you valuable pitching experience, something that is very beneficial in our field, and provide insight into the real working world. If you want to get hired, you are going to need to learn to vouch for yourself, so get out there and tell these employers why you would be valuable to their company. You have a lot to offer as a young professional, so take a deep breath and take that bull that is the career fair by the horns.

Tips for Developing a Content Strategy

Blogs! Social media! Whitepapers! Webinars and email newsletters! These are only some of the content marketing tactics that hold a tremendous amount of potential for getting your business the attention it needs to grow as fast as it deserves.

It can be truly dizzying for marketing teams to crank out the amount of content needed to make an impact. And unless your marketing team requires a fleet of Uber XLs to get to an office happy hour, it’s just not possible to do it all. Yes, PR firms can be terrific allies in developing and executing on your content strategy, but how should you set one up in the first place?

Brand awareness vs. lead generation

An effective content strategy serves two equally valuable and competing (yet complementary) purposes – brand awareness and lead generation – neither of which your marketing can succeed without. It’s finding out how to balance these that takes work. So, take a step back and work from the top down. Define your organization’s unique needs and goals. Ask questions like:

  • Do our customers know who we are?
  • Is our pipeline flooded or flowing at a trickle?
  • Does our sales team close every sale they work on or are we struggling to convert leads?
  • Do we have a competitor or competitors regularly winning deals over us?

Once you know where you stand, where you’re already succeeding and what gaps you need to address, you can determine the type of information your intended audience would most benefit from. Then, leverage the three overarching channels available to you – owned, earned and paid media – to get it to them.

Owned Media

Think about the advice we’d all give to a friend feeling overwhelmed by a situation, something along the lines of, “you can only control what you can control.” Although sometimes frustrating to take that advice at face value, it’s essential to get the basics right before branching out to more nuanced arenas. Unsurprisingly then, owned media should always be the first and most fundamental element of any content strategy.

Website

To that end, your focus should be on ensuring your website is the rock your content strategy can build off of. It allows you to tell visitors who you are as a company, what you stand for, what you sell and why it’s worth the investment. It has unrivaled power to tell your story how you want it told – everything you want someone to know about your company should live here. You should also have simple components like a ‘Contact Us’ page for lead generation, and any gated whitepapers, case studies, e-books, or webinars can live in perpetuity on your website to generate traffic and leads, long after you publish them.  Managing a regularly updated blog is also a key part of becoming a well-rounded brand; it will serve as an outlet for the promotional and thought leadership messaging you want your customers to associate with your business.

Social Media

It’s not exactly a cutting-edge revelation, but social media channels allow you to disseminate any info you want to the people that follow you. All the content you post to your website should be shared on the social channels you run, as this drives traffic to specific landing pages and your site as a whole, further driving lead generation. Just don’t forget to share and engage with the broader community on your social media platforms, as no one likes a “me, me, me” account!

However, it’s also important to note that not every platform is perfect for every brand or audience. We’ll share another post on social media content marketing in a few weeks (and will link to it once it’s live), but we tend to be major fans of LinkedIn for our B2B retail clients, using Twitter and Facebook as complementary outlets. Based on your audience and goals, pick and choose your platforms so you don’t waste time and resources building a community that won’t drive online engagement.

Email

Often left out of the ‘thought leadership’ bucket, but rarely forgotten by traditional marketers, email can play a key role in reaching an audience of customers, prospects, partners and others who care about your company message and sign up to receive information from you. Don’t just use email to sell; use it to inform, engage and entertain whenever possible to maximize its potential and keep your readers from going for an instant ‘delete.’

Earned Media

Along with content strategy and development as a whole, earned media is the bread and butter of our PR firm, and one of the most compelling reasons to work with an agency with a long history in a given market. Earned media provides a major boost to your brand’s visibility, recognition and authority. But using content to earn media attention doesn’t end with press release pitching.

My colleague Adrienne Newcomb wrote a great blog on using bylined articles to secure thought leadership coverage in key trade publications, and we’ve found that case studies, proprietary research reports, and pitching executive commentary on developing trends (great for sharing on social too) can have a big impact on a brand’s ability to get media coverage.

Whatever content you create for your owned channels, think about how you might be able to convince someone else to use it on their own platform. Without reinventing the wheel, you’ve greatly increased the value of a given piece of content.

Paid Media

Paid media can be a terrific option to supplement your owned and earned content strategies but should rarely, if ever, be relied upon to have a strong impact before the brand has developed those initial content foundations. We recommend thinking of paid media as the final exclamation point on a well-executed organic program that helps take successes to new heights. This doesn’t mean you need to have a killer email marketing program in order to promote high-performing blog posts on LinkedIn, but it does mean you shouldn’t be investing heavily in LinkedIn posts that direct back to a useless website. Determine the gap in your growth plan, create enjoyable content people want to engage with, build an audience that cares what you have to say, and use paid to take you over the top. If your foundation is strong, the potential ROI can be huge!

We’re here to help

Want to learn more about developing a content marketing strategy from scratch or optimizing a program already in motion? Reach out to us. We love talking about content and it’d be our pleasure to help you use your own media effectively and efficiently.

In Defense of the Supermarket

It’s expected that by 2022, 20% of all grocery sales will come from online shoppers. And with 70% of consumers purchasing some of their groceries on the web, I’m definitely in the minority, having never ordered groceries online myself.

I’m not opposed to online shopping or curbside delivery. They’re great options for those with kids, those who have lost their patience dealing with always-full parking lots, or those without access to reliable transportation. We could all benefit from wider aisles and shorter checkout lines. Time is an important resource, and most of us feel like we don’t have enough of it.

Call me a traditionalist, but I like going to the grocery store. It makes more sense for me, whether I’m grabbing a few things or doing a week’s worth of pantry stocking. With brick-and-mortar, I can also avoid navigating the world of memberships and high delivery costs. While I make my shopping list in advance, the endless products I see as I browse the aisles can serve as meal inspiration. The unmissable “sale” stickers help, too. Also, like many others who shy away from online delivery, I like to pick out my own produce. Fifty-nine percent of complaints against online grocery services revolve around receiving undesirable or mishandled produce.

The art of the grocery store

While many grocery stores still have room for improvement, a massive amount of psychology and planning goes into getting consumers to spend more, from the store’s scent to the sugary cereals. Everything’s been thought out and tested by science, like the fact that supermarkets make it hard to find a clock or a window, so you lose track of time and keep shopping. We’re still debating what is the ideal soundtrack for grocery shopping, and if there’s an ideal genre we can all agree on.

Did you know that spraying water on produce serves only to make it look fresher? The most expensive items are at eye-level, and products geared toward children are placed lower. Dairy products are kept as far from the entrance as possible, so shoppers have to pass by more items on their way to essentials. Supermarkets have been so strategically planned to keep shoppers within their doors and spending more that it’s almost a shame not to be the subject of their mind games.

A changing industry

For those who haven’t stepped foot in a grocery store lately, it might be time for a visit. With the use of a mobile phone, it’s easier for shoppers to look up where items are, or receive promotional items as they walk down a specific aisle. In addition to location-based benefits, mobile devices have also helped with checkout, which has served as a major pain point for decades. A 2015 study found that 88% of consumers want retail checkout to be faster, and with self-scanning technology, it’s now becoming common to avoid the checkout process altogether. Hopefully, hands-free shopping carts will be the next mainstream innovation. Clunky carts with one rusty wheel are so 20th century.

I’m fiercely loyal to shopping at my grocery store (America’s third favorite), and it helps that they’re starting to address the pain points that made consumers turn to online shopping in the first place. But more than just addressing current issues, brick-and-mortar grocery stores should also offer their own unique in-store benefits, to ensure shoppers like me are visiting. It all goes back to how we all want our time to be spent efficiently, and grocery retailers should strive to ensure that brick-and-mortar shopping is worth it.

Four Things to Learn from Your First Year on the Job

It’s hard to believe that I graduated from college and entered the working world more than a year ago. Starting your first job is a major turning point in life and can quite honestly be daunting. As a new graduate, there are a lot of things you discover that they just don’t teach in textbooks and the classroom. So, I’ve decided to compile a few pieces of advice I’ve gleaned this past year to help new graduates who are starting their first full-time job.

Be Confident

As a new professional, it’s easy to feel insecure about your work and ideas. You left your “mama, I made it” moment as a senior in college and now you’re back at the bottom of the totem pole again.

When you start to doubt yourself, remember that you were hired for a reason. Your company believes that you have the right skills and experiences to contribute to the team. It’s so important to take what you’ve learned all these years and not be afraid to speak up and be confident in your abilities. You’ll be surprised what you can do!

Make Mistakes and Never Stop Learning

You may think that since you’re out of school, you won’t need to learn anymore. But really, you should never stop taking opportunities to cultivate your skills and be adaptable with the industry. This could mean reading articles, keeping up with news or acquiring new skills.

You may also feel like you have to do everything perfectly the first time around, but don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Believe me, I’ve made plenty of mistakes on the job! But what I’ve come to find is that the mistakes will make you better, and it’s up to you to take something away from those learning pains.

Get Involved

Look around and you’ll notice that there are some incredible people to look up to and learn from. Whether it be your boss, co-worker, or any other professional in your industry, there are people willing to guide and help you if you just ask! There are also professional organizations you can join with luncheons and networking events. For PR folks, I’ve found that PRSA is a great resource with plenty of ways to connect, volunteer and meet other professionals in your area.

Do What You Love and Have Fun Doing It

Most importantly, whether you like it or not, you will spend more time at work with your co-workers than anywhere else. Take time to find out what your interests are, both in and outside of work, and hone in on those opportunities. Find a workplace that’s ideal for you. If you enjoy what you do and take time to care for the people around you, going to work every day will be fun and enjoyable. Thankfully, my team at Ketner Group has made it easy to adjust and has given me opportunities to learn and grow both professionally and personally as I’ve made my transition with a fun, taco-loving team!

So, congratulations to all the new graduates out there and remember to take a moment to breathe and enjoy this new chapter of life. Oh, and bonus advice – start saving for retirement early. I hear your 70-year-old self will thank you later!