How Public Relations Impacts Qualified Leads

This blog post was provided by Charles Dimov, an experienced marketing professional and one of our former clients.

As marketers, we know that communications and public relations are important. They are part of a sound marketing mix. It’s good for the brand and helps drive awareness. But, what is it doing for qualified leads and lead generation? Of course, we all understand that it helps. If someone has heard of your brand from a third party article, they are more willing to interact with you online. Wonderful, but that’s all wishy-washy qualitative stuff! Is there tangible proof that public relations drives qualified leads? As a convert, here is my story that answers this question. Spoiler – the answer is YES, it does.


Startup Struggles


For the past three and a half years, I have led global marketing for a small retail software firm, OrderDynamics. In all regards, the company was a startup with a serious challenge. Four years ago, it was a 40-person firm, spun off from a larger organization. It had no discernible market presence. For the most part, no one in the industry had heard of us. There was no significant brand presence, compared to several goliaths in the industry like IBM, Oracle, and SAP. The flow of inbound leads was sporadic at best. To approximate, we had about 30 inbound raw leads per month.

These were certainly not marketing qualified leads (MQL), nor sales qualified leads (SQL). The inside sales process was completely focused on outbound efforts (events, list calling, followup). To top it off, web traffic dropped 75% in the year following the spinoff. Sales thought of marketing as an unengaged team working on its own. In hindsight, this was by no means a picture of success.


Public Relations & Qualified Leads


Starting with a vision, and marketing strategy (content centric – inbound), we added a communications / PR plan to the marketing mix. With buyer personas in hand, we focused on creating high-quality content, and on an ongoing public relations push. For a fast start, we outsourced this expertise.


Publishing educational, non-promotional content on a consistent basis was part of the plan. Content included white papers, topic briefs, data sheets, brochures, webinars, podcasts and ground-breaking industry research (developed in-house).

Through these initiatives, we established an ideal platform for a blogging strategy, using SEO to catch the interest of ideal buyers.


Good content gave us a chance to drive press releases, provide media quotes, submit non-paid bylines to industry publications, offer guest posts, and even interview on podcasts. These third-party public relations efforts started driving an influx in inbound raw leads. On the marketing funnel, raw leads converted to qualified leads with a growing number of prospective customers.


Turnaround


After ramping up our PR efforts, page views grew from less than 6,000 per month to peaks just shy of 18,000 per month. More importantly, the marketing department grew inbound leads to as high as 400 per month. Over three years, more than 240 third-party industry publications referenced OrderDynamics. This in just over three years. Twelve of these were quotes in Forbes magazine, with one full unpaid article written about our research in the publication.


Certainly, the sales team was engaged, and excited. Consistent, high-quality content marketing – supported by a strong SEO blogging strategy, and solid ongoing PR – completely turned around the business. Sales and marketing were now working together to fill the sales funnel. Additionally, sales reps saw and appreciated the clear benefit of marketing’s contributions.


Proof in the Qualified Leads


You may wonder, did PR really provide sales-ready qualified leads? I wanted to know this answer too. So, we closely watched our inbounds in the stages in the sales process, in sales calls, and through our qualification process. Over the past two years, from close to 300 qualified leads analyzed, most were attributed to SEO (organic search), at 36%. We found the next largest category to be the ‘Direct’ sourced qualified leads, the people who directly typed in our website address, at 33%. However, as a small firm starting with an almost completely unknown brand, these sources must be largely attributed to our public relations efforts.


If there is any doubt in your mind – public relations does work! And there are results to prove it. For instance, solid public relations execution drove 33% of our sales accepted leads (SAL – qualified leads).

Don’t skimp on this part of your budget. Work with a professional, communications-savvy and well-networked team like Ketner Group Communications. They are experts at gaining media coverage for your company, which in turn drives leads. Our work together helped me completely turn around our marketing efforts and business. All in all, investing in good public relations management just makes good business sense!

Content Development Tips

The Write Way: Writing Tips to Get in the Content Development Zone

As many will say on a Monday when they can’t seem to speak correctly and need their morning coffee, “words are hard.” However, at Ketner Group, content development is an essential part of our DNA so we welcome the challenge. We’re proud to be the stewards of the words, the prose pros and the scribe tribe. When it comes to putting our clients on the map, we use our writing skills to give them a voice and ensure their stories rise above the noise through strategic, engaging content.

Although we fancy ourselves veterans of the craft, the writing process can be tough – especially when it comes to getting started, staying focused and tackling multiple projects in a timely manner. To offer our faithful readers some writing tips for building exceptional content, I asked some of the Ketner Group team for their most effective processes.

Getting Started With a Brain Dump

Sometimes it’s easier to start with an abundance of information and work your way down. As such, when I start a writing project, I dump all of the relevant collateral and resources I can get my hands on into a document and then begin chiseling away. This helps me find the story and craft it into a cohesive and impactful piece.

After including a plethora of information into her document, Mikaela likes to create headline and subheads first (of course, they’re subject to change and most of the time they do) to get a good starting point and a way to stay on track while writing. She also will write a topic sentence for her own reference before she starts digging into the content to help stay on track and prevent getting off topic. Meanwhile, Catherine takes a creative angle to keep things fresh and engaging by starting her intros with a fun theme or quote that will guide her throughout the piece – this process can be seen in full force in her recent Forbes article.

To Outline or Not to Outline

It’s the classic question that we all face in our careers – as certain as death and taxes. Some of us like to develop a full outline initially while others just get writing. In fact, in a poll of the entire KG team, we’re split right in the middle – half of us outlining, half opting not to. Kirsty finds value in it for certain projects, especially while writing a webpage, where she decides what she wants to write in a more visual manner. Once the outline is done, she usually lets it sit for a day or two, allowing her to come back with a fresh mind, and begins fleshing out the content and editing directly from the outline.

Perfect Timing

Many might say, there’s no better time than the present…but that doesn’t always work when we have countless priorities at once. Finding the right moment to begin your writing project isn’t always easy. Some of us write better at different times of the day so it’s important to find what time is right for you. For example, if other projects are getting in the way, make sure you knock those out first and set time aside on days when you aren’t as busy such as Friday afternoons, early mornings or whatever works for you.

While some work better under a strict deadline, setting short term milestones can help others who are having trouble keeping the content development ball rolling and want to avoid being overwhelmed right before a deadline. This includes creating short to-dos with deadlines throughout the week. For example, plan for your outline to be completed by Tuesday, draft on Wednesday, send colleagues for review on Thursday and send to client by Friday.

Background Noise

For those of us who need noise in the background, the most effective way to stay focused is listening to certain types of music. Amanda will often listen to white noise, instrumental music and brown noise. I tend to listen to instrumental music like jazz (John Coltrane’s album “A Love Supreme” is a great one), foreign (groups singing in another language, such as Tinariwen and Shintaro Sakamoto) and anything with a driving rhythm or R&B (lately Solange, Nilüfer Yanya and Blood Orange but William Onyebor, Fela Kuti and Talking Heads are always classics for me).

However, my go-to and most effective song is 45:33 by LCD Soundsystem. The almost 46-minute song, commissioned by Nike for runners, keeps me focused through its ebbs and flows and acts as a timer so I know it’s time to focus for that period of time.

Other Writing Tips from the KG Team:

  • Eliminate distractions: Close Outlook, Slack, iMessage and put your cell phone away.
  • Set a timer: Crank out content for a set amount of time (perhaps 30-45 minutes). Then you can allow yourself a 10-15 minute break to check email, scroll through Twitter, grab a snack, etc. before diving back in.
  • Get a little help: Since sometimes we all lack self-control, I’ll occasionally use the Self Control app to blacklist distracting sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
  • Get outside: Stuck on an idea and can’t figure it out? Step outside, go for a walk and clear your mind for a bit. Finding a friend to join also helps since there’s no process more productive than a good ol’ walk and talk.  
  • Caffeine: As always, the java-heads out there need their coffee. Sitting down with a good cup o’ joe or tea can keep you wide awake and ready for the unpredictable journey of content development.

There’s no right or wrong when it comes to content development. In fact, the way we see it, if you’re not writing…you’re wrong! At the end of the day, becoming a great writer is all about finding out what works best for you. As such, we hope these writing tips will help you stay focused and in the zone for your next project.

language-equality-marketing-pr

How We Can Use Language to Promote Equality

A few years ago, I made a conscious decision to stop saying, “you guys.” For someone who spent an equal amount of their childhood in both the north and the south, this decision carried some weight. Moving to Connecticut in middle school is an easy way to remove “y’all” from your vocabulary. In an effort to conform, “you guys” became my norm.

Lucky for all of us, with age comes confidence. As I found my place as a woman in the workplace, I became dedicated to gender equality, working to promote inclusion. “You guys” didn’t stand a chance.

The reason is simple: the phase is exclusionary.

In our society, we use language to emphasize pre-established situations. And we can use language to change them. Ultimately, this is the power in marketing and PR, which allows us to use language to impact people’s perception of the world. It’s no surprise that, as a marketer, I became hung up on just a couple of words.

Changing my vocabulary wasn’t easy. But after a few years, the phrase is (mostly) gone. The next step is to help others change their language too. Why? Because the state of women in the workforce is not changing, and we can use language to change that.

The State of Women in the Workforce Is Unchanging

The Women in the Workplace 2018 report by LeanIn.org and McKinsey found that “Companies report that they are highly committed to gender diversity. But that commitment has not translated into meaningful progress…Progress isn’t just slow. It’s stalled.” This is despite the fact that women are doing their part, obtaining bachelor’s degrees at a rate higher than men and asking for promotions and negotiating salaries at the same rate as men.

(If you need to be convinced that diversity in the workplace is important, there are plenty of reports that can help prove “gender-diverse business units have better financial outcomes than those dominated by one gender.”)

To Improve Diversity, Change Your Language

LeanIn.org and McKinsey seek to make improving diversity easy by providing six actions companies can take to find success. One of these is particularly relevant for our industry: foster an inclusive and respectful culture.

Language is a simple way to promote an inclusive culture. If you’re looking to change your own actions at work, be considerate about the language you use. Select words and phrases that are more inclusive. Because language is so ingrained in us, making an effort to be more inclusive will take some work, but if you take a collaborative attitude and give yourself the grace to make a slip up, your language will begin to improve.

How to Ask Others to Change Their Language

Once you’ve begun the process of changing your own language (it will be a process), you can begin to help others change theirs. Through trial and error, I have developed some personal best practices when it comes to asking others to change their language. (Interestingly, the strategy I use is similar to one I use at work to advocate for a project or cause I believe in.)

  1. Share a personal story. Sharing personal stories at work requires a balance—we don’t want to get too personal—but by sharing how we view the world, we can help others see situations through our eyes.
  2. Share the research. Do your research to understand why what your advocating for is important.
  3. Suggest a next step. Once your audience is bought in to your idea, they’re ready to take the next step. Share a suggestion for how to move forward.
  4. Be supportive. Changing ingrained habits is hard! Give people the benefit of the doubt and be there to help them with a supportive, cheerful attitude when (not if) they slip up.

I found success with this approach at a previous job. One of my colleagues came to work anxious after reading an article arguing against the use of “you guys” and feeling concerned about how his use of that phrase may have impacted those around them. I was glad he felt comfortable talking about this with me, and I used the opportunity to share my story of changing my language, provided research into why it was important to do so, suggested some alternative phrases he could use and cheered him on as he practiced shifting his language.

Steps You Can Take to Promote an Inclusive Workplace

If you’re ready to take it even further, some great resources exist!

She+ Geeks Out’s blog post on covering and passing in the workplace provides some great tips for supporting our colleagues so they feel comfortable being themselves at work.

A couple of my favorites (that helped inspire this blog post)…

  • “Be explicit in your language. If someone says something discriminatory, say something to make it clear that that language isn’t tolerated.
  • Share your own story of difference.”

In addition to making our workplaces more inclusive, it is also important to set up practices that promote inclusive hiring. Another post by She+ Geeks Out has some great tips for mitigating bias in hiring. Writers like me will be interested in this tip, “If you’re struggling to get candidates to respond to your job posting, you may want to start with your job description.” Inclusive descriptions that remove adjectives typically associated with one gender (example: ‘driven’ = masculine, ‘dependable’ = feminine), go a long way to encourage a variety of candidates.

Take Your Changes in Stride as You Promote Language Equality

As you make an effort to change your actions and support women’s equality this month, give yourself grace. Changing habits is hard. But remember, I’m here to cheer you on as you make strides. Just get in touch.

Ketner Group Takes On The Big Apple

Amazon’s HQ2 expansion to New York was the biggest news in corporate expansions for 2018. But let me set the record straight. Ketner Group thought of it first.

This time last year we started laying the groundwork for expanding to the Big Apple. And we’re thrilled to say, it’s now a reality. Ketner Group Communications has just opened an office in New York City, led by our fearless team member Adrienne Newcomb. It’s a dream come true for all of us at Ketner Group, and it underscores our commitment to growth, innovation and client service. Check out our recent Q&A with Adrienne to find out how this native Texan is adapting to New York. (If you know Adrienne, you won’t be surprised to learn that she’s embracing it 100%.)

Besides the world’s best pizza and bagels, New York is a strategic move for Ketner Group. We’re excited about it, and it makes sense for a number of reasons, including the following:

The Center of the Media Universe

First and foremost, New York is the undisputed center of the media universe. Where else can you hold high-value, in-person press meetings with The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Bloomberg and WWD in a single day? We’ve managed dozens of press tours and press meetings for our clients in New York, from top-tier to relevant trade media. Our interactions with New York media will pick up dramatically, now that Ketner Group has on-the-ground representation.

A Focal Point for Technology Innovation

New York is also the #1 area for retail, fashion, advertising and CPG innovation, and this will only accelerate with HQ2. The Retail Innovation Conference, hosted by our friends at Retail TouchPoints, is a prime example. Our client RevTech Ventures will participate in the May conference, focusing on the impact of disruptive, venture-backed companies in retail. New York is also home to XRC Labs, widely recognized as one of the top accelerators for disruptive retail and CPG companies. Moreover, in our first few weeks on the ground, we’re already talking to early-stage companies that will have a big impact in their markets. You may not have heard of them yet, but you will; we’ll make darn sure of that.

New Opportunities for Growth

Finally, our New York expansion is a sign of Ketner Group’s remarkable growth. We experienced a nearly 40% YOY growth rate in 2018, adding six new clients and increasing our team by over 50%. We’ve already added two major clients in 2019, and we’re not slowing down. We’re proud to say that our former KG’er Kirsty Goodlett has returned to Ketner Group as a senior team member; check out her intro blog to learn more about Kirsty’s recent re-entry to our team as an Account Supervisor.

None of this would be possible without our amazing team here at Ketner Group, as well as the best, most supportive clients in the business. We’re privileged to work with so many innovative companies that are shaping the future of how we work, shop, play and live. They trust us to tell their stories, and we work like crazy to exceed their expectations every day. Our New York office will only make it that much easier.

For more information, check out our press release announcing our NYC office.

kirsty-goodlett-account-supervisor

Get to Know Our New Account Supervisor: Kirsty Goodlett

Please allow me to re-introduce myself. My name is Kirsty. That’s like thirsty, but with a K.

I’m thrilled to be back at Ketner Group. KG has always been full of the kindest, cleverest, most fun people I know. How could I not want to be part of a team like that?

Over the years, I’ve worked with Ketner in a variety of ways. I began as a client, finding KG to be an extension of our team at Digby. When I moved to Nashville, I joined Ketner Group as an Account Manager, while simultaneously providing marketing services to small businesses through my company Seamless Marketing. Now, after a detour working with Rustici Software to help rebrand their company and re-launch their websites, I’m back at Ketner Group!

But okay, okay, enough about business.

Making Things, Writing Things and Cooking Things!

If there’s one thing to know about me, it’s this: I love to make things.

I studied film and electronic arts at Bard College, the culmination of many years practicing visual arts, theatre and music throughout my childhood years. At Bard, I learned how to create installation art pieces and began the process of learning how to write and think, two things I plan to learn more about as I age.

I love to cook. I’ve had the fortune to learn how to cook from two fabulous self-taught cooks: my mother and my dear friend and cookbook author, Pam Anderson. These women have taught me that food is a way to show your love, express your creativity and create the fuel of a very good party.

Outside of that, I’m an avid reader and will consume pretty much anything you put in my hand. I can’t not finish a book. And I love yoga. I’ve been practicing for more than fifteen years. I use yoga as a tool to learn more about myself and give myself an excuse to dance.

In Nashville, I’ve found that there are two types of people: those who are born here and those who arrive here by accident, but then never leave. My husband is the former, I am the latter. I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon, particularly since we’ve set ourselves up in a pretty cozy fashion. We bought our first house two years ago and are about to celebrate the third birthday of our very nice dog Charlie (or Chuck, Cha-Cha, Chewie or Chicken for short).

All of this is to say that I’m very happy. And I am very excited for this next big adventure.

Katie Stone, Intern at Ketner Group

Meet Our New Intern: Katie Stone

This blog post was provided by our intern Katie Stone

Getting To Know Me

Hello everyone! My name is Katie Stone and I am the new intern at Ketner Group Communications. I recently graduated summa cum laude from Texas State University where I received my bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and Public Relations. 

I am originally from Katy, Texas (yeah, I know, Katie from Katy). Even though there isn’t a whole lot to do in Katy, I love visiting home so I can spend time with my family. I also like to visit our crazy boxer mix Daisy. Though I have lived in Texas my whole life, I have been lucky enough to travel to many places. I have hiked through national parks in the United States and zip-lined through the Costa Rican canopy. I’ve eaten fish and chips in London and walked the streets of Rome. I hope to go even more places in the future. When I’m not traveling or visiting family, I love reading, cooking and binge watching the newest shows on Netflix.

How Did I Get Here?

Before joining Ketner Group, I did six different internships with companies and organizations such as the Freedom of Information Foundation, Leadhub and Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin Area. At these internships, I learned a lot about running the perfect social media campaign, developing digital content people will actually click on, and the ins-and-outs of event planning.

While working internships and going to class, I was also heavily involved with the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). While in PRSSA, I served as secretary on our executive board. I was also the Communications Director for the PRSSA 2018 National Conference – the largest annual gathering of public relations students and professionals in the world. Though I had a crazy schedule, the skills I learned made every minute worth it.

Despite my current dedication to the field, I knew nothing about public relations before I went to college. When I started at Texas State, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I needed to select a major. I selected Mass Communication and Public Relations at random. Thankfully, I fell in love with it.

I couldn’t be more excited to get started in my new position at Ketner Group Communications. I’m eager to work with the KG team and to learn about communications in the retail technology industry!

Same Us, New Look

Notice anything different? If making changes to our online presence was a haircut, we didn’t get just a little trim. We’ve got a whole new ‘do’ around here, one to better represent our capabilities and vision. Ketner Group is excited to (officially) announce the launch of our new logo, adjusted company name, and totally revamped website.

A Word From Our Leaders

“As an agency, we’ve evolved in so many ways over the past few years, and this website is a representation of that. Jeff and I made the decision to change the name from Ketner Group PR + Marketing to Ketner Group Communications, to better represent the services we offer.” – Catherine Seeds, SVP and partner

“It was certainly time for a change, considering our growth over the past few years. Not only have we experienced 40% organic growth over the past year, but our team has grown, too. We expanded from a group of six in 2017 to a group of 11 employees in 2018 to manage our client growth. We’ve also taken on six new clients in 2018, and in 2019, we are opening an office in New York City. We like to say we’re ‘obsessed with exceeding client expectations,’ and I’m confident our new website reflects that part of our company culture.” – Jeff Ketner, president

Take The New Site For A Spin

The website offers a more comprehensive layout that is simple to navigate. Here’s a tour:

 

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.