Forget Summer Reading - Must subscribe Podcasts for Marketers

It’s a golden age of content creation, without a doubt. And podcasts — that niche little medium we all thought was reserved for a few true content nerds— is coming into its own in a big way.


Part of this is thanks to entertainment podcasts that have been hugely successful in the past few years — Serial, Criminal and so on. But the information-sharing shows that have made up the vast majority of podcasts since the medium began are so much more sophisticated and useful now.

So, put down that summer read for now and pop in your earbuds.  Here are five podcasts I think every communicator and marketer should subscribe to.

Freakonomics Radio  

Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt wrote a best-selling book, Freakonomics, that explored unexplored areas of economics and unintended consequences of great ideas. This podcast is an extension of that, and if you’re getting great inspiration from it, you’ll be incredibly entertained.

Longform

Much of marketing these days is content creation and content marketing, which are fancy ways of saying storytelling. Longform.org is site sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh’s writing program that highlights and explores great long-form writing. These are great interviews with amazing reporters and writers who talk about the craft of creating, reporting, editing and dealing with people. Marketing and communications folks can take away a lot of valuable tips to use in their work from this podcast.

TED Radio Hour

We all know the famous TED Talks and their inspirational, insightful (and sometimes just plain emotional) mini-lectures about… well about almost everything. This is the audio version, which grabs the best of the best and packages it up into useful topics (success, for instance).

PNR: This Old Marketing

I’m just getting into this. Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose from the Content Marketing Institute give regular insights on content creation, inspiration, and, maybe most important, what lessons we can learn from old-school marketing techniques in the digital age. Marketing changes fast in the digital age and this is a great way to stay on top of things.

HBR IdeaCast

The Harvard Business Review’s audio production is an amazing place to get insights and inspiration from entrepreneurs. It’s been invaluable in helping me learn about new markets and technologies and even rethink some of my own business approaches.

So spend some of your summer holiday or your commute to the office listening to some of these podcasts. The best part is that you can enjoy the experience while in the car or train – another multitasking activity for the marketer who is the master of multitasking.

 

Three Easy Ways To Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

There are days, and then there are days. You know what I’m talking about. On some days, everything clicks. You’re a step ahead of yourself; your mind fills with questions but the answers come a moment later; your boss (or client) wants three creative concepts for the next marketing campaign, and five flood into your mind—and you haven’t even had that second cup of coffee!

Then there are those other days, when you just can’t push the rock up the hill; nothing clicks; everything is out of phase.  You’re pulling your hair out wondering what has happened, when just yesterday you were on the ball.  The good news is that in the digital age, there are plenty of tools and prompts to help you through those “days.”

Earlier, I wrote about Word Hippo, which helps me find the right word when words are reluctant to come to my aid. Here, let’s talk about three other creation-sparking tools that are easy to use.

1. Theasaurus.com: You’re writing and you’re in the ballpark, but the word you know is out there (or a better word you know must be out there) eludes you. This is a free and simple tool for finding the right word you know is there. Type in the word you’re reluctantly using and take it from there. Within a few minutes, you’ll have a better word and be on your way.

2. Mind maps: If you know me, you know my mind runs as fast as a New York minute--inputs and thoughts just rushing in and out. Yeah, not always pretty! The challenge can be harnessing those thoughts into something useful. If the thoughts are there, you know they are pieces of a puzzle, but we’re often unsure how the pieces go together. This is where mind-mapping comes to the rescue! Take a run through any number of free mind-mappers (like Coggle, Mindmaple or WiseMapping) and start capturing those random but incredibly creative thoughts. Once you capture them in the tool, you can then begin to build and connect them in ways that will yield stories or project recommendations or marketing campaigns.

3.  Starbursting: This is a brainstorming technique rooted in traditional journalism: who, what, where, why, and how. Journalists are taught to ask and answer these questions in every story. But the questions are just as useful for our work in marketing and communications. Star bursting is about asking questions (and more questions) to help you and your team work through challenges like product naming/development, campaign creation, even press release creation. Take a core idea and build the four Ws and one H around it in a starburst (you can draw it on a sheet of paper with a good old-fashioned pen! What a concept!). Then start asking questions and writing them down. For more information (and to download a free template), check out this article. 

 

           

Why are we so stressed out?

Our PR marketing jobs are incredibly stressful--more stressful than being a cop, according to one study!

How is that even possible? The odds of us getting injured or killed on the job are far less than those of cops (well, there was that one really difficult client some years back…).

Public relations is the sixth-most-stressful occupation according to this article.  And events manager is ranked number 5, which is another thing we do here at Cayenne. So if you put those two high-stress jobs together, you could say we should be knocking on the door of the nuthouse! (No comments from those of you who have known me for a while).  We love our business, so we’ve learned to manage.

There’s good stress and bad stress. It’s important to manage and mitigate the bad stress. So how do we do it here at Cayenne? Like everything else, we do it with grace and passion.

1. Exercise. My boyfriend is an ass. I could end this paragraph right here with that one sentence, and for those of us who have significant others who like to exercise you know what I mean. He makes me exercise when I don’t want to, but you know what? I’ve come to enjoy the endorphins that rush into me after a good workout. I’ve learned to suppress the terror that comes with his last-second decision to turn right on a busy street during a bike ride when he has signaled left. But at the end of the day, once the cursing has died down, I feel exhausted, relaxed, and I sleep a lot better.

2. Put it all down. Every day.  We live in a digital age — always connected, always reachable. This is great in some respects, but unhealthy in others. Create boundaries for yourself and your clients and boss. Just because you CAN be reached all day and all night doesn’t mean it’s right. To properly recharge for each work day, your mind needs to create a separation, to think about other things (or nothing). If need be, create a daily out-of-office email response for late hours in the day. People will respect it. I’m not very good at this, frankly. My iPhone and I are attached at the hip (there’s even a picture of me somewhere sound asleep in bed clutching my iPhone!), but sometimes you need that separation.

3. Laugh. YouTube is a wondrous invention, and laughter, as they say, is the best medicine. Take 5 minutes a couple of times on a stressful day, search out your favorite comedian or reality video on YouTube and watch a few minutes of some bit. It’s a nice break that will remind you that one of the best things in life is laughter.

4. Meditate. A multi-billion-dollar industry has grown up around meditation and yoga. And, yeah, I wish I had that type of body! But let’s be honest: Time is money in our business. It’s hard to justify (much less settle down for a few minutes) closing your eyes and doing the ohmmmmmm thing, especially in the middle of a chaotic work day. But you can do something that’s just as effective and is effectively meditation. Do you like to knit? Sew? Take 10 minutes to knit or sew something. Or play yourself in a game of Jenga. You can’t NOT concentrate on the task at hand. These type of concentration and focus — a vacation for the mind — separates you from work for a few minutes and gives your mile-a-minute mind some much-needed rest from the work day.

5. Drink. Yeah, OK. It’s not politically correct. And if you do #1 hard core, there’s little reason to consider this option. But people are human. On the most frazzling days, it really doesn’t hurt to sit down and have a glass of wine (I do enjoy my wine time). Why? It may be impractical—especially if it’s been a long day and it’s now dark—to pull on the jogging shorts and go for a run at 11 p.m. (Especially if you’re a woman; sorry, politically incorrect but life). Have a drink and savor it and then meditate on its impact. Leave it at that. Don’t overdo it. Then go back and do numbers 2-4 for the rest of the evening.

These tips have helped ease my stress levels, and they’ll work for you too!

What's the word? Need something out of the norm? There is a solution!

Everyone who is in public relations or marketing has sat down to a blank screen and just stared at it.  After a while you get up, go to another room, visit someone’s cube, get some coffee, check the clock to see if it’s lunch time, come back and, yes, screen is still blank.  Some of us might even shed a tear in frustration… where to begin?

Then you get the courage to start; you nail down a sentence or two and stumble—you’re stuck on a word. It’s always easier to edit or add to a draft that someone else has started than type that first word on your own. 

Now, some of us who have the gift of writing may not struggle with this issue often. But for those of us who at times wrestle with finding the right words (yes, those who know me, no laughter here!), I have a found salvation in a word site. Who does not like a short cut from time to time!?

It’s called Word Hippo. If you’ve heard of it, you can move on to the next blog. But if you haven’t check it out. It’s ideal for helping you find the right word or -- better yet -- breaking your writing pattern and getting away from relying on the words you have grown to used to.

And no, I do not own stock in the app nor am I married to the site founder. I just want to spread something useful and positive to others who may struggle with the blank screen!

For me, it’s – what’s the word – “revealing?” No, “edifying?” No, oh… it’s “enlightening!”

Publicity On Slow Days

Let’s face it: Companies launch a few products or have just a few big announcements each year, if that.  How are they supposed to generate buzz and interest the rest of the time?

Here are four ideas you can leverage to keep the interest level for your company humming throughout the year.

1. Look at the calendar. Oftentimes, holidays are an excellent touch point to create and distribute content relevant to your products and technology. Big trade shows, such as Consumer Electronics Show (even if you’re not attending) can be opportunities to reach out to media beforehand to help them with their event previews.

2. Take advantage of breaking national news. Some call this “newsjacking” but I like to call it being in the right place at the right time. A big national story is covered by hundreds of outlets, but the media is always looking for differentiated stories. Did a storm knock out power to a million people? If you’ve got battery technology or back-up power products, you have a perfect opportunity to tell a timely story. Warning: Steer clear of major stories involving tragedy.

3. Be a useful and consistent source of information. The media (and readers in general) are always hungry for new information. If you come across any number of reports that are published on any given industry each year, share them. Bring them to reporters’ attention or blog about the on your site.

4. Go to the well. If you’re in the technology business, your company or clients have brilliant people working for them. Take time to get to know the domain experts and talk to them regularly about technology and product trends with an eye toward creating content or pitching stories to the media. These off-product-launch opportunities can be catnip to reporters. And if you’re blogging about for your own audience, it helps build the authenticity of your company’s voice as you share useful information. 

Five Tips To Build a Successful Blog Program

Blogging looks so very easy, doesn’t it? You set up some free blogging software in a matter of minutes, type your insights into a post and hit “publish.” And success!

Not!

Blogging is identical to gardening (save for the smell of fertilizer). You must lay out your garden, choose your seeds, plant, nurture and harvest your content.

Here are five crucial tips to making that blogging garden grow.

1. Set a publishing schedule; make it realistic. You have to have a schedule to help you feed the blogging beast. But more importantly, you need a schedule to get you into a rhythm of sourcing, writing, reviewing, revising and publishing. Great blog posts require thought and effort. And getting into a routine will help strengthen this discipline in your team. A schedule also makes it more difficult for you to skip a post because you’re “too busy” with other things. You either blog regularly or you don’t. Readers will come to expect this rhythm and reward you with their clicks.

2. Always include a call to action. This can be as simple as driving readers to a more in-depth piece of content (a white paper for example). Remember that a blog post is part of a larger digital content ecosystem and you need to reflect that as your posts grow in number

3. Nurture your audience. When someone comments on a post, he or she is starting a conversation with you. Respond to build a relationship with that person. Plus, when other people see that you value readers’ insights, they may be more inclined to stay on your site and contribute to the conversation.

4. Respect the reader’s time. Many bloggers are enthralled with their own words. The reader generally isn’t. If she’s on your site, it’s generally because she’s looking for answers to a question or for some specific information. Write cleverly, but get to the point. Readers today scan digital content quickly looking for what they need; if they want to wade through florid prose, they’ll pick up a print book or fire up their Kindle. Use bullets for important points and don’t hesitate to bold-face phrases you want to amplify. This helps the scan process. For extra points, spend some time on Jakob Nielsen’s site. He’s a renowned expert on web usability and readability.

5. Respect your metrics. Connect a tool like Google Analytics to your blog and spend time reviewing your posts, how many people clicked on them and for how long. Where is your audience located? What content did they jump to after a post or before reading it? Use this information over time to optimize your blogs, how you write them, when you post them.

 

Compound Words - Not as straightforward as we may think

Have you ever been drafting a presentation, a press release or email and wonder if the compound word your using is one word or two?  After writing for a while even the most simple words tend to look incorrect and spell check does not always clear up this question. I’m talking about such words as checkup, timeframe, or placeholder.

As it turns out, the rules for compound words aren’t straightforward. (Or is that straight forward?)

“Compound words generally develop over time through use. As people continue to use two or more previously unrelated words together, the combination gains acceptance. Unfortunately, this progression doesn't follow a consistent, regular pattern. Word experts can't even agree on rules for compound words,” says the website plainlanguage.gov.

A common pattern is that two words — fire fly, say — will be joined by a hyphen for a time — fire-fly — and then be joined into one word — firefly.

This answers the question of why style guides differ on whether compound words such as health care and website are one word or two. The only way to be certain is to look it up in the dictionary (though dictionaries differ on some terms), but here are some guidelines, should you ask yourself at some point is this one word or two?

There are three forms of compound words:

the closed form, in which the words are melded together, such as firefly, secondhand, softball, childlike, crosstown, redhead, keyboard, makeup, notebook;

the hyphenated form, such as daughter-in-law, master-at-arms, over-the-counter, six-pack, six-year-old, mass-produced;

and the open form, such as post office, real estate, middle class, full moon, half sister, attorney general.

 

Compound nouns are usually written as one word.

Our last editor had a breakdown over serial commas.
What is the payoff for having a house style guide?

Compound verbs are generally written as two.

Please break down your last paragraph into shorter sentences.
I hope to pay off my student loans by June.

Compound adjectives and adverbs are very often written as two words or with a hyphen.

The cake landed upside down. (adverb)
The upside-down painting confused us all. (adjective)

The exception to this rule: Never hyphenate phrases that are created with adverbs ending in –ly.

Our offices were bigger in the recently-renovated building.
April had the dazed look of a newly hired media relations professional.
 

This does bring the question of when and how to use a hyphen’s.  That will be another blog post.

Creating awareness for your company and products

Why do you want to create and maintain awareness? So that your company or product comes to mind when people have a problem that you can solve for them. Having your logo plastered everywhere won’t help if they don’t know what you do or how well you do it. Here’s a quick outline of what you need to consider:

·        Realize that building and maintaining awareness is a constant process, not a one-shot deal.

·        Set goals for your awareness-building program – e.g., educate the market about what your company does, educate the market about the advantages of your product over previous solutions or competitive solutions, generate interest about your solution in a new market segment…

·        Agree on the key message you want to convey and no more than three supporting messages. (Often the most time-consuming part of the process.)

·        Plan how you want to reach your audience – e.g., user forums, blog posts, technical articles, interviews with top executives, webinars, tutorials, exhibiting at conferences, speaking at conferences…

·        Plan how often you want to reach your audience, considering bandwidth restraints within the company.

·        Decide how you will measure results – e.g., increased number of followers on LinkedIn company page, more readers spending longer on your website, higher registration for webinars, more followers on Twitter.

Remember that, since there is no specific call to action, results will build slowly. As well as increased followers, etc., you are likely to see more comments posted when you blog or are mentioned in articles, an increased response rate to ads and direct marketing, more traffic at conferences, and better response to Sales’ cold calls.