As I shared with entrepreneur attendees of a recent webinar I gave with a colleague on “ensuring your website is your workhorse,” search engine optimization (SEO) is not a one and done activity. SEO should be viewed as an activity that continues as long as your business or organization does. That said, there are steps you can take to stockpile some SEO work, while knowing that you can’t fully stockpile SEO because of needing to respond to yet-unknown industry, life, world, and personal events that may impact your organization and the products, services, and solutions you offer. Think about the onset of the 2020 pandemic. None of us really saw that coming, right? And, we had to pivot and put out new information, and/or add or tweak products and services to better serve our customers in a new world/business landscape.
How You Can Stockpile SEO
Google continues to reward websites who provide fresh/current “helpful content.” This was reinforced by their August 2023 algorithm update that indicated having “helpful content” was a key factor “the king of search engines” would continue to take into consideration when deciding which websites to serve high up in search results for relevant terms.
By creating an editorial calendar that documents future blog post topics for the next quarter, or more, and then, actually writing the posts and creating or identify images for use along with the posts, you can certainly get ahead of the SEO game — by doing all you can to have content that your target audience will value queued up for several or many months. The aforementioned is particularly true if your content management system (CMS)/website platform allows you to schedule posts to be published at a future date.
Why You Can’t Completely Stockpile SEO
As expressed in our blog post intro., there will always be unforeseen circumstances that arise that will cause you to want or need to put out new unanticipated content, or to add or change product, service, and solution offerings. Here’s an example: a blog post I wrote with a colleague about how to best employ social media during the pandemic. Could I have foreseen a need for this post months in advance, and therefore, created and scheduled this, i.e., stockpiled it? No. I don’t think anyone could have anticipated the severity and length of COVID’s impact on organizations and businesses many months in advance.
In sum, you can and should take time to create an editorial calendar detailing future blog post topics and publish dates, and you can and should write those in advance; plus, use CMS capabilities to schedule them to publish on your website at the right time. But, there will always be times when you’ll need to respond immediately to unexpected events that occur — either ones that may pose a challenge to you and your customers, or provide an opportunity for you and your customers that you’ll want to capitalize on quickly.
Need Help Building OutA Blog Post Editorial Calendar?
Not sure where to begin to figure out topics for future blog posts that will provide meaningful, beneficial information to prospective and existing clients?
Recently, as the owner of a digital marketing agency with an SEO (search engine optimization) specialty who is always looking to improve on the SEO services we offer our clients, I signed up for a subscription to “Answer The Public.” I had learned about the tool via a free webinar offered by Neil Patel, a digital marketing expert I greatly admire and follow on LinkedIn, and one of Neil’s colleagues. The aforementioned tool allows you to see what questions individuals are asking related to the products, services, and solutions to problems that your organization offers, and to see how frequently, for a particular geography, individuals are searching Google for answers to those questions.
I’ve already used the tool numerous times with various clients to inform FAQs (frequently asked questions) on their websites, as well as topics for future blog posts. And, of course, I plan to use the tool to inform future blog posts for Results C & R too.
The data available via “Answer The Public” is so in keeping with the blog post we wrote last year about the algorithm change Google shared about placing greater emphasis on “helpful content” when determining which organizations’ websites to serve up high in search results for relevant queries.
When thinking about what to write about “Answer The Public,” the song below came to mind because isn’t that what helpful content, and answering the questions people want answered, all about? Giving people what they want and need?
Reach Out To Talk About Your Marketing Challenges and Opportunities and How Our SEO Services Might Address Them
I always love a great marketing and communications brainstorm, so reach out today to talk about your awareness-, sales-, and service-engagement- challenges. I’ll always give you an honest evaluation of whether I believe your organization would benefit from pull marketing tactics (like organic and paid SEO), push marketing tactics (like social media advertising), or both. Use my calendar app to schedule a complimentary discussion at a day and time that’s convenient for you, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back in the days when I worked at BMC HealthNetPlan, I got great satisfaction completing the marketing & communications tasks associated with my role pertaining to “wellness.” I’ve always been someone who liked to exercise, particularly, play tennis, swim, go to the gym, and walk. Those who know me well, know that various health circumstances have gotten in the way of my being able to participate in some of the aforementioned athletic activities, but I hopefully I’ll always have my walking! Anyhow, because I was a big believer in the mental and physical health benefits of getting exercise, I felt blessed and happy to be able to share wellness tips, tools, and information with members of BMC HealthNet Plan’s health plan, as well as with prospective members.
I loved creating wellness-related flyers that the health plan’s Community Outreach team could give out at events, and I was particularly passionate about sharing that same information in the form of an advertorial for the now defunct “Boston Metro” newspaper. In addition, I maintained a section on the health plan’s website about “exercising for a cause.” On the website page, I would list various upcoming charity/cause exercise events like walks, hikes, bikes, runs, etc. I’ve always felt that such events are win-wins. The participant gets great exercise and has fun participating in the event with family or friends that they recruit to join them, and the cause/charity gets the much needed research or other funds they need to operate, as well as the benefit of awareness creation.
Mike McKenna’s Walk Across America For NECC
If you follow our Boston Digital Marketing Agency’s blog and read it regularly, you’ll know that I divide my time talking about “walking” topics and “marketing” topics. This particular post is obviously walking-related, and I’m using it to call attention to the extensive, creative, and significant “cause walk” that a friend and former co-worker from BCBSMA days is undertaking. As you’ll see from reading this article, my friend, Mike McKenna, is “walking across America” to create awareness of the challenges faced by individuals living with Autism, as well as their families, but also to fundraise to support the very important work of, and critical services offered by, the New England Center For Children (NECC).
So all those who walk, ride, bike, hike, etc. for a cause, we say “exercise on!” You are doing God’s work!
My Upcoming Cause Walk
I’m continuing to walk the above talk. This month I’ll be walking in Winter Walk Boston, and as I have for the last five or six years, I’ll be captaining my Jimmy Fund Walk team to raise awareness of the challenges of living with cancer and to create cancer research funds. Please consider joining me on one of these walks, and of course, any donations are always welcomed!
Important Update (afternoon of 2/7/23): So, literally within an hour of my publishing this post, I learned Mike had to put his walk on hold because of health concerns, but he assures me, he will still achieve his mission, even if his cross-country journey has to take a new form! Please continue to support NECC in the meantime!
Regardless of the size of your organization, it can be confusing to figure out what type of marketing agency or marketing consultant to hire to help you create awareness, and ultimately cause sales of your products, services, and solutions. The ability to market digitally/electronically — that came with wide-spread adoption of the internet — brought with it the following changes when it came to organizations engaging outside help for their marketing (outsourcing their marketing), whether it be for one-off/one-time work or ongoing work.
How Digital Marketing Leveled The Playing Field For Both Advertisers and Ad Agencies
Organizations who couldn’t afford the high costs associated with producing TV, radio, transit, or outdoors (billboards or other) advertising, found new, more affordable marketing activities were now available to them in the form of social media posting and advertising, tactics that support websites being found on Google and other search engines for desirable search phrases (organic search tactics/SEO tactics), paid search engine ads/marketing (SEM), e-blast and e-mail marketing, and more.
Since many organizations looking for marketing help no longer required the infrastructure and diverse skillsets associated with marketing tactics that involved large production activities and costs, some realized they no longer needed to hire a full-service large advertising agency — think the type of agency featured in the acclaimed TV series, “Mad Men,” or on “BeWitched,” as smaller marketing shops, like ours, could meet their digital marketing needs and/or traditional marketing needs related to activities that don’t require a lot of production, such as Public Relations (PR), or print advertising.
How To Figure Out What Type Of Marketing Firm To Hire And Questions To Ask
Branding and Design Firm. A firm that refers to themselves as a branding/brand and design firm primarily focuses on helping you figure out the look and feel of your brand, including the logo, colors, and graphic elements that will be associated with your brand. They usually offer website design services, but not always. And, some do offer other digital marketing or traditional marketing services thru collaborations or partnerships with digital marketing agencies, advertising agencies, or marketing consultants, or marketing freelancers. So, if you know you will need particular digital and/or traditional marketing services after working with the branding firm to develop or execute a new brand identify for you, ask in advance if they offer those services, so you will know whether you will have the burden of hunting around after for someone to help with traditional and digital marketing services — particularly to drive traffic to any new site you engage them to design for you.
Digital Marketing Agency. Digital marketing agencies tend to offer both higher-level strategic planning services, as well as hands-on/execution services, related to any marketing tactic that is digital or electronic related, including: e-blast/e-mail strategy and execution services, social media strategy and voice (actually writing and scheduling of social media posts), online advertising (social media/display advertising, Google Ads or other search engine advertising), blog strategy and voice work (actually writing and posting of blogs to your website), and search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. Most will offer content marketing services as well to help you figure out what content your target audiences are most interested in, and an editorial calendar for serving up such content on your website. Website content writing services likely will be available as well.
Marketing Consultant. In the almost nine years since we launched Results C & R, we’ve met a large number of marketing consultants. The degree to which they offer hands-on/execution work vs. developing high-level strategic plans tends to really vary. Some offer a number of hands-on services, in addition to helping you develop a strategic marketing plan, while others don’t do the actual marketing tactic execution work. If your organization has a number of internal marketing people who can actually oversee or execute the marketing plan developed by a consultant, a marketing consultant may be just what and all that you need.
Public Relations Firm/PR Firm. The focus of public relations firms is to get your organization unpaid-for-advertising/marketing. By helping your organization develop a strategy for causing various reporters and media to cover your story, they help your organization get mentions and attention without the cost of an expensive advertising campaign. PR firms also tend to offer event planning services since an event may be the perfect way to create awareness of your organization and/or create good will among your target audiences. Keep in mind that if you only need help with putting on an event vs. getting regular/ongoing press coverage, you could consider hiring an event planning firm. Many event planning firms also have experience getting media/reporter coverage for an event as well.
In general, the biggest overlap between a digital marketing agency and a Public Relations firm is that they both tend to offer social media services, since social media posts — particularly organic vs. paid/boosted social media posts — can help to generate good will and create awareness of an organization’s products, services, and solutions.
Advertising Agency. Nowadays, when people think of, or decide to hire an advertising agency vs. a digital marketing agency, it’s related to the fact that advertising agencies can pull in the right team members or hire the right contractors for a marketing campaign that requires heavy-duty production. As we mentioned above, scripting and executing a radio, TV (network or cable) or streaming advertisement requires the collaboration of a bunch of individuals with diverse skillsets, the renting of studios and/or locations in which to film, the hiring of “talent” for the broadcast spot — whether it be aired on the radio or TV. Activities like the aforementioned are often the reason why, in our current day and age, an organization would look to hire an advertising agency vs. a digital marketing agency. Although, most advertising agencies offer digital marketing services, in addition to traditional ones.
Web Design/Web Development Firm. Web design and web development firms are exactly what their name indicates — firms who help design and develop websites for clients. Many also offer logo design or other graphic design services because of their web designers’ ability to successfully complete such work. All web design/web development firms DO NOT offer SEO services nor do they always understand SEO, so if you expect or want to receive SEO services as part of your new website launch, be sure to ask any firms you are considering to design and develop your site, what knowledge they have of SEO and/or who they have on their team that has an SEO background. Otherwise, as we explain in this blog post, you’ll end up with a website that is not easily found via search engine searches.
Unfortunately, we regularly interact with prospective clients who had someone develop a beautiful, effective site for them, but the site is not being visited/found by target audiences because SEO tactics weren’t put in place by the web design/web development firm as part of the site development and design engagement.
What Should I Expect To Pay A Marketing Agency Or A Marketing Consultant?
Based, again, on our 9 years of marketing agency and marketing consulting experience at the time of writing this post, we’ve found that, in general, the bigger the agency/marketing shop, the more expensive their hourly rate and marketing project fees are. Why? It mainly comes down to overhead and the costs of maintaining and marketing a larger organization, offering a large number of employees benefits, etc.
We’re A Boston Digital Marketing Agency, Boston SEO Company, Boston Marketing Consultant, and Boston PR Firm All In One!
Due to our Principal’s more than 30 years of corporate marketing and consulting experience, we offer all the services called out in the heading directly above! We regularly meet with both start-ups and long-standing organizations — both for-profit and non-profit — for complimentary discussions about their marketing challenges and opportunities, so feel free to use our calendar app to schedule a FREE initial consultation https://calendly.com/gail-moraski.
As we’ve shared on social media and with our SEO company’s clients, Google announced in September 2022 a key revision to their search algorithm (the algorithm they use to decide which websites to serve up, and in which order, for search terms entered in their search engine) to which each and every website owner should pay close attention. And, that is that they, as the #1 search engine used by individuals (92% or more of individuals use Google as their primary search engine), will be paying greater consideration to whether or not a website’s content is “helpful” or “unhelpful” when making search engine results listing ranking decisions. As you would expect, sites with “helpful content” are more likely to be served up and rank well in search results for relevant terms.
Impact of Google’s September 2022 “Helpful Content” Algorithm Change
We know first-hand how much of a shift in ranking can take place when Google views your site as one that shares “helpful content.” Our site now rank approx. 50 spots higher in Google search results for a high-volume, relevant keyword and that shift happened almost overnight. We believe that the positive shift was due to Google recognizing that our Boston digital marketing agency consistently publishes blog posts that are easily understood by a “lay person,” but also provide enough instruction to implement some of the marketing tactics we describe and recommend in our posts.
Shared below in Google’s “own words” is information from Google’s Search Central blog about how to ensure your website content is “helpful.” We’ve highlighted (via bold italics) what we consider to be the most critical policies to apply when making decisions about what topics to write about — and how to write about them — to make sure your content is beneficial to the various audiences who visit your site. All of their recommendations should improve your website’s “bounce rate,” i.e., the percentage of people who land/start on your site without interacting it in any way, such as clicking on a link or call-out, or visiting another page of your site. When prospective clients or clients are bouncing too quickly from your site, it’s an opportunity for a competitor to win them over on their site, right?
Unhelpful Website Content And How It Impacts SEO
The flip side of the positive practice of regular production and posting of “helpful content” is to eliminate content that Google may deem as “unhelpful (which could negatively impact how your website ranks for “desirable” search terms).” Such “unhelpful” content includes:
Short content that is “stuffed” with keywords and was primarily loaded to your site to support your site being found on Google for those keywords.
Content that is outdated — think events that have already passed or information that is no longer relevant or accurate, particularly pre-pandemic information since the pandemic greatly changed both business and consumer behavior.
Content that is all “about you,”, i.e., too focused on selling your products and singing your praises or sharing your differentiators without explaining how your prospective clients or clients would benefit from your products, services, and solutions, i.e., explaining what pain points of clients they would address.
Our team is here to help you interpret this most recent Google algorithm change, and put the right steps in place to make sure you respond to, and take advantage of, this recent Google algorithm change appropriately, promptly, and effectively. It’s very much in keeping with what we shared years ago in one of our very first SEO blog posts about making sure your website is “authentic.” So, please reach out if we can help you effectively navigation this change in algorithm — one we think makes is warranted, was a long-time-in-coming, and will provide for a far better user experience on all websites.
The helpful content update aims to better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well.
How can you ensure you’re creating content that will be successful with our new update? By following our long-standing advice and guidelines to create content for people, not for search engines. People-first content creators focus first on creating satisfying content, while also utilizing SEO best practices to bring searchers additional value. Answering yes to the questions below means you’re probably on the right track with a people-first approach:
Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you?
Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?
Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience?
Our advice about having a people-first approach does not invalidate following SEO best practices, such as those covered in Google’s own SEO guide. SEO is a helpful activity when it’s applied to people-first content. However, content created primarily for search engine traffic is strongly correlated with content that searchers find unsatisfying.
How do you avoid taking a search engine-first approach? Answering yes to some or all of the questions is a warning sign that you should reevaluate how you’re creating content across your site:
Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines, rather than made for humans?
Are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?
Are you writing about things simply because they seem trending and not because you’d write about them otherwise for your existing audience?
Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
Are you writing to a particular word count because you’ve heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? (No, we don’t).
Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you’d get search traffic?
Does your content promise to answer a question that actually has no answer, such as suggesting there’s a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn’t confirmed?
The following blog post is dedicated to my friend, Susan Clawson, who lost her hard-fought battle with stomach cancer earlier this month. Susan was an incredible woman. Despite her own battles with both thyroid and stomach cancer, she helped raise both awareness of cancer and funds for research through her Relay For Life leadership roles — roles to which she brought great passion & energy. I know I and other friends are committed to keeping her cancer-awareness and research-funds-generation goals alive!
This morning, I met with my lovely contact at The Jimmy Fund. Such a caring and kind individual and so passionate about her role in helping Jimmy Fund Walk teams generate funds for cancer research. We talked about a number of things — fundraising ideas for my “Mission Possible” walking team, and how I could share with local reporters both my reasons for walking, as well as a cute story about how I met a good friend and current cancer patient thru the walk — all to create awareness for the walk and it’s important mission. We also chatted about my own cancer journey and how treatment for abdominal sarcoma has had a lasting impact on my health, as well as my unending desire to provide ongoing support to friends and family who are battling cancer, so they never feel alone or forgotten during their cancer journey.
I also shared with my Jimmy Fund contact a “fun fact” I hadn’t thought about in a while. How Dana Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) — the organization that receives and employs the funds generated thru the Jimmy Fund Walk to conduct innovative, life-saving research — was one of the very first places I worked when I moved to Boston after graduating from UCONN. Back then, the beautiful, state-of-the-art Yawkey Center owned and run by DFCI did not exist. I worked out of the Dana Building, which is still used today. As a temporary employee in DFCI’s HR Department, each morning as I came to work, I walked by a children’s play area set up in the back of the lobby. While seeing kids battling cancer made me teary-eyed, it also gave great meaning to working at DFCI — to help these kids and others win their cancer battles.
Little did I know — and I’m tearing up as I write this — that 23 years later, I’d be a patient myself and receiving care in the exact same building!
This October, I’ll walk in the Jimmy Fund Walk — so happy it is in-person again this year — for the fifth year!
It’s been another very busy year for me on both the work and personal fronts, but when summer rolls around, I know I need to make the time to start fundraising more for my Jimmy Fund Walk team, “Mission Possible.”
Why I Know and Have Supported So Many Other “Cancer Warriors”
There’s just not enough “real estate” on my Jimmy Fund walk page to explain why I continue to walk and raise funds for the Jimmy Fund, so that’s why I’ve taken to my blog to share my countless reasons. Friends and family have pointed out to me that, compared to the average person, I seem to have a disproportionate/very large number of loved ones who have battled or lost their battles with cancer. I won’t argue that, and there’s a reason for it — once you’ve been a “cancer warrior” yourself, friends and family members who are diagnosed with cancer tend to reach out to you for advice regarding how to physically and emotionally handle a cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Plus, you get to know other cancer patients who are on the same treatment schedule as you, or through virtual cancer support groups and discussion boards. And, a sad actuality of serving on the Braintree Relay For Life Committee for a few years was that I made friends with people who are involved with cancer fundraising because they are “cancer warriors” themselves.
All of the above explains why I have so many names listed next to my number one and number two reasons for why I walk in the Jimmy Fund walk below.
And, lastly, as a cancer patient or cancer survivor, you know what it’s like to feel so darn lonely and out-of-step with the rest of the world. As I shared with my Jimmy Fund liaison this morning, when you are battling cancer, it’s particularly hard to see the world keep spinning and everyone going about their day-to-day/everyday lives when what was previously your normal routine/life has been put “on hold,” — either temporarily or forever.
Reasons Why I Walk In The Jimmy Fund Walk
IN MEMORY of family members and friends I’ve lost to a variety of forms of cancer, including lung, bladder, prostate, breast, stomach, brain and pancreatic cancer: Sue M., Felice E., and Karen T. (my college friends), Susan C., Enid L., and Patty W. (Braintree Relay For Life Committee friends), Jeff P. and Scott R. (high school friends), O.V. S. (my dad), George E. (my grandfather), Hazel S. (my grandmother), and Sharon C. (my sister-in-law), Beth M. and Jen L. (fellow sarcoma patients), Bruce M., Trece M., and Nancy K. (fellow cancer patients I met along my journey), John S. (a close neighbor’s son), Marion H. (work friend.) And, there are many others from cancer support groups I lost along the way.
IN HONOR of family members and friends who have won their cancer battles or who are still fighting, including leiomyosarcoma, neuroendocrine tumor (NET), and prostate cancer, breast cancer, and thyroid cancer: Barbara and Maria S. (my sisters), Jean C., Jeanne M., Francine F., Carolyn Q., Barbara J., Chris M., and Archie S. (life-long/close friends of me and my husband), Pat E. and Dee C. (women who walk with my team), and of course, yours truly.
TO REMIND others that“cancer never takes a holiday” and that, if anything, the number of individuals battling cancer is on the rise vs. on the decline, and that there is not one person among us whose life hasn’t been, or won’t be impacted by cancer in some way, even if it’s thru a loved one’s diagnosis vs. a personal diagnosis.
TO RAISE VERY MUCH-NEEDED FUNDSfor cancer research, especially for rare cancers, since no one treatment is likely ever going to be capable of treating each & every form of cancer. And in keeping with the aforementioned, to feel that I’m helping friends & family who are still battling cancer or, who might again battle cancer, due to metastasis or recurrence. Fundraising is a way for me to put my anger and sadness about cancer into something positive and to not feel like the deaths of those who passed from incredibly hard battles with cancer were in vain, and to remind those fallen “cancer warriors” that they will never be forgotten.
How You Can Honor Or Remember The “Cancer Warriors” In Your Life
And, visit this page of my site if you need help and courage to “keep fighting.” E-mail me at email@example.com if there are fighting people, words, or songs I should be adding to this page. Plus, let me know if there is anyone you want me to honor or think of as I walk on October 2 this year!
Thanks for any support you end up giving my team and those who battle cancer!
The promotional product world looks very different now than it did in early March. It’s not all gloom and doom, but the way we interact with each other and stay in touch with our prospects and clients has certainly changed. Despite challenging times, you still need to promote your products and services, get in front of your target audience and generate new business.
So, what’s trending lately in the promo world to help companies stay top of mind? Let’s look at some new ideas and all-time favorites.
Pens have been my all-time favorite product because they appeal to almost every audience. With the focus on everything being fresh, clean, and sanitized, a new pen is a coveted item. Antimicrobial pens are popular because they help fight off germs – plus, many come individually wrapped in cellophane to avoid any contamination.
Personalized golf balls are a crowd pleaser and they’re a cinch to customize. Just add your charity or business’ logo, message or photo, and voilà, you’ve got a unique and memorable giveaway. Some may even become collector’s items! Since golf is one of the few team sports that’s ‘open for business,’ many golf events are still on. Yet another reason customized golf ball remains a top choice!
If you’re like me, you probably want to drink more water, but always forget to pack your water bottle. Problem solved! Give your prospects and clients branded water bottles that they can’t forget! Water bottles are a health-focused promo gift that your target market can use every day – and the benefit is that your name is always front and center. Want a few ideas? Check out my client’s favorite water bottles.
With everyone going back into the workplace, hand sanitizers are a necessity. If you thought customized hand sanitizers were a popular handout before COVID-19, they’re now one of my best sellers. Hand washing is serious business, so much in fact that the CDC has an entire section on keeping your hands clean. There’s even a “Life is Better with Clean Hands Campaign”. Piggyback on that for great PR and to do your part to keep America safe.
Why Promotional Products Now: The Benefits Of Using Promotional Products
Business is coming back and the same problems you solved before the pandemic, you’re still solving now. Don’t stop marketing. Let your clients and prospects know you’re well and alive and open for business. Promotional products that are reasonably priced and customized for your business, let the world know – “I’m here. How can I help you?”
Rachel Leone is president of Leone Marketing Solutions, a women-owned promotional product and apparel firm. She helps big brands and small brands stand out, get noticed, and generate leads through her promotional products and services. Thousands of new products are launched every day, and one of them may be just right for you, click here to browse her website. For more information or a complimentary brainstorming session contact her at 781.740.3171 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Joint Blog Post by Gail Snow Moraski, Results Communications & Research and Nick Bartos, Social Motion
Where to begin? First of all deep breaths, everyone. We are all in this together and we will get through this period of crisis in our country and in our world if we all continue to remember that it is our purpose in life to look out and be there for others the way we are there for ourselves.
Now, on to the mission at hand. We – Nick and I – have been chatting a lot this week about the nature of content to include in social media posts, currently and in the short-term. It’s a very tricky time for organizations. Many for-profit organizations have already experienced or expect to experience a significant loss of income due to customer work being cancelled or delayed, or an abrupt end to a robust product sales pipeline or stream. And, many nonprofit organizations’ financial and human resources are being stretched to a degree for which they aren’t prepared.
Where we landed is this; these are unprecedented times. Yes, there have been pandemics before, but at least in the U.S., there are likely only a handful of individuals who have lived through something similar. And, there’s never been a time in our country’s or world’s history where we’ve been as digitally and electronically advanced, and therefore, where we’re expected to be continuously communicating and providing updates online. Given all the aforementioned, as we’ve been saying to a number of the people, ”there’s no official guidelines or rule book for this.” The best we can offer, therefore, are the opinions of two digital marketing and PR experts in this blog post that we hope can serve as an “unofficial” rule book for your organization related to your social media voice & presence now and in coming weeks.
Social Media Is Meant to Be Active and Interactive, Not Passive
Social media is, and always has been, a tool to connect with your audience fairly intimately. Social media is not a passive form of interaction, and thrives on conversation, emotion, and the sharing of ideas. Whether for-profit or non-profit, organizations should be utilizing social media — in this situation in which we find ourselves — as an opportunity to demonstrate the values your brand encompasses. While it is important to not profit off of, or appear to profit off of this crisis, it is important to express that your brand empathizes with and is a part of your community. Furthermore, your brand likely has a great sense of what your community’s needs and struggles are, and you may be able to offer valuable insights to your audience during this difficult time.
For example, a construction company may share information relating to grants, or low-interest loans that help contractors, electricians, and plumbers during this crisis. The construction company may also share the precautions they are taking, or share the standards/procedures they have created to protect their employees. Additionally, the company may reach a broader audience by demonstrating their commitment to the cause — like a photo or video of the masks they are donating to a local hospital. Again, social media is a place to build relationships and offer value – if you can do that, respectfully, during this crisis, you are already ahead.
Social Media Do’s and Don’ts During a Pandemic
In general, speak from the heart, demonstrate empathy and support; think about how you can truly be, and can be seen as, part of the solution. We saw a fellow communications professional post the phrase “innovate, solve, or stop” when speaking about current social media. We think that the first two in this quoted series sum things up pretty well – if you’re going to post or share others’ posts, then offer creative, meaningful, effective solutions to challenges faced by individuals and organizations right now. We’ll speak to the “stop” piece in our “DON’TS” section.
Post or share, comment on, like, retweet posts that:
Express appreciation to/acknowledge those who are working overtime and/or risking their lives during the pandemic, including police officers, firefighters, EMTs, healthcare providers, pharmacy and grocery store employees, gas station employees, home and office cleaners, and anyone else who has to tirelessly continue to work to keep us all safe and well.
Speak to the good work that various national, state, or local nonprofit organizations and agencies are doing to help vulnerable, at-risk populations, and the general public.
Ask for help. If you do ask for help, make it clear what kind of help would be useful. And, whether you are requesting financial donations, tangible goods or volunteer time, be very specific about where those contributions will go, how they will help, who they will support, etc.
Remind others to check on elderly or health-compromised neighbors, or anyone they know who lives alone and who may feel isolated; plus, creative ways to make these individuals feel connected and supported – glass door and window visits, signs you make and show outside their window, texts, e-mail, phone, and video chats, and anything else creative you can dream up
Announce that you are there/here to help and on what fronts
Describe promotional offers or new products or solutions that will be received as heart-felt and legitimate and reinforce a true desire to help, such as a discount on any kind of services that would help a business keep running or get back up and running again
Provide updates about your hours, reduced staff, open or closed locations, etc. that indicate potential impact on customers, i.e., use your posts to manage client expectations
Share ways for your followers to donate to causes in your local community, or industries that you serve, where people may feel most connected
Create an image such as the one below (created by the Girl Scouts) that contains your brand/logo, or create a short video or video snippet along the same lines that shows heart, desire-to-help, or innovation — We are here and glad to help you with this!
Provide helpful information about the pandemic vs. creating fear (for example, sharing scary statistics related to the virus and its impact or frightening videos showing suffering of victims). Helpful info. may include:
Where/how to get help if you think you or a loved one has COVID-19, where to get food or other assistance, e.g., websites, phone #’s, text lines
Federal, state, or local government mandates or recommendations, such as group size limits and social distancing guidelines
Thoughts on or links to others’ thoughts on how to reduce anxiety level during our pandemic
Ideas for crafts for children to make with supplies that are likely on hand in any home
Family games and other bonding experiences, such as reading a book together, watching a movie, baking, or playing card games
Thoughts on or links to others’ thoughts on how to stay healthy during the pandemic, such as a daily walk or eating as healthy as possible (recognizing somehow that everyone might not have easy access to nutrient-dense food)
Reminders to find gratitude and appreciation somewhere, somehow in every day (aka “silver linings”) – whether it be taking advantage of unexpected free time, or additional time with loved ones
Thoughts on how to work efficiently and effectively from home
In general, don’t post, like, share, retweet, or comment on any content that might be offensive or seen as heartless, un-empathetic, or completely oblivious to or out-of-touch with what is going on in our world presently.
Don’t post about:
A new product or service you are offering that might appear as trying to prey on others’ misfortunes/take advantage of them in their darkest moments
Services and products that would seem like an incredible luxury, or irrelevant to or off-limits to many at this point in time. For example, some investment and insurance company advertisements about helping one prepare for retirement just don’t sit well right now. Audiences may be feeling that they won’t be able to retire, or must work much longer than anticipated before they are able to. Restaurant and vacation ads feel out of place as well when we’ve all been asked to “stay put.”
Services and products that encourage individuals to engage in activities that ignore mandates and guidelines set forth by federal, state, and local officials.
Last week, I went “in town” (traveled from my office on the South Shore into Boston) to meet with a client. As I often do when I make the 45+- minute commute to meet with a client, or attend an industry or networking event, I ran a few errands after my meeting. There’s always a birthday gift or a new book to be bought, right? I stopped at Copley Place/The Prudential Building to buy a couple of ingredients that Sur La Table and Eataly carry, and also visited Barnes & Noble to purchase “The Secret” (a cool treasure hunt guide with a Boston reference).
Initially, I thought I was just having a lucky or “random acts of kindness” day, because employees in each of the businesses I mentioned above were so welcoming, helpful, or kind — something I hadn’t experienced to such a degree at retailers in a while. But, then it struck me on my journey home, how much retailers must be recognizing the need to step up their customer service game if they want to survive in the next year, never mind the next ten.
I’m likely stating the obvious here, but the plethora of online shopping opportunities, particularly, Amazon.com, is causing retailers across the U.S. to close their physical shops/locations in busy downtown areas and shopping malls. Whether it be filing for bankruptcy or completing closing up shop (literally and figuratively), recent victims of the uptick in online (particularly one-stop) shopping include Papyrus, Payless Shoes, Forever 21, Barneys New York, Gymboree, and more. And, it’s common knowledge, that time-honored retail giant, Macy’s, whom families have visited for generations, will be closing numerous storefronts.
How To Provide Exceptional Customer Service And Why You Should
My aforementioned shopping experience in Boston leads me to believe that many retailers are now coaching and requiring their sales staff to deliver exceptional service in hopes of maintaining a strong physical vs. online consumer following. So what were some of the stepped-up customer service tactics I experienced at the retailers mentioned above?
lots of smiles from individuals working on the floor of stores or at the registers
being greeted when I walked in the door
being asked by more than one employee if they could help me find anything or if I was finding what I was looking for
being offered food samples
being given double the portion of the food item I was purchasing (but only paying for the original one portion) and being alerted to that by the employee
displaying interest in my needs, my life, what problem I was looking to solve, etc.
engaging me in a lengthy conversation related to a product I was purchasing and why I was excited about it, and sharing in my enthusiasm
Based on the way I was made to feel noticed, valued, and important, I will definitely revisit all the physical stores of these retailers again. I’m someone who enjoys chatting with salespeople at stores, window-shopping, and being able to feel, test, try on, etc. a product I’m hoping to buy. Part of that may be due to the fact that I work out of my home office and all my co-workers are virtual. I welcome getting away from my office once in a while and excursions that provide opportunities to socialize. I know this does not hold true for all consumers, though — many don’t want to have to socialize with salespeople or leave their home to run an errand after a busy workday.
I’ve shared all of the above as a reminder and warning to anyone who is responsible for sales at their particular organization, regardless of the organization’s nature. Great customer service never grows old or goes out of style! It’s as relevant — in fact, it may be more relevant — than it was in the 1800’s (hence, the exaggerated dinosaur reference in my blog post title) when Brooks Brothers, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, Bloomingdale, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Barnes & Noble opened their doors. While I do hope this stepped-up customer service effort will keep the retailers I cited from losing their brick & mortar presence, I wonder if such an effort might have kept them from being where some of them are today — close to closing up shop.
Because, in the last several months, I’ve had various fellow marketers talk to me about or take jobs in “content marketing,” or seen them post about it on social media, I thought the time was right to explain this term and marketing strategy in a blog post. Even though I’ve been aware of the term for quite some time because much of my work falls under the content marketing umbrella (particularly SEO, blog writing, social media voice, and Google Analytics data reviews), I haven’t tended to use that term with clients and prospective clients, thinking it might not resonate with them. But, perhaps, the time has come for me to do so. 2019 was called the “year of SEO” by some marketers. 2020 may be the “year of content marketing.”
While the term “content marketing” has only been in use for the last decade or so, and some individuals employ it solely related to digital/online/electronic distribution of information, one of its key premises has been around since at least the early 1700’s — when individuals began promoting products and services via the written word vs. the spoken word. And, that premise is that creating informational, helpful, desired content — which can be used across many marketing vehicles and tactics — will garner customers’ and prospective customers’ favor and loyalty.
Even though the focus wasn’t primarily or solely “online” usage at the time (the internet and social media were still somewhat in their infancy), during my tenure as a marketing leader at BMC HealthNet Plan (2008 – 2014), I wrote wellness-related copy that was able to be employed in print ads/advertorials as well as in hard-copy handouts used at events or for other purposes by BMC HealthNet Plan community outreach reps. PDFs of those handouts were then shared on the organization’s wellness section of its website.
The above is a glowing example of content marketing’s basic tenet of sharing information, that target audiences value, across numerous vehicles/tactics in order to retain or acquire audience members as customers. In this case, the target audiences were members or prospective members of the health plan, as well as community organizations or healthcare providers, who might refer them to the health plan.
Integrated Marketing vs. Content Marketing
Related to my initial comment at the top of this post that the key premises and intentions behind content marketing are not new at all, I want and need to speak to the synergies between content marketing and integrated marketing. Both aim to employ similar/the same content across numerous marketing tactics/vehicles to repeatedly expose target audiences to the same, consistent message. But, a key difference to me between the two is that content marketing isn’t just about promoting and creating awareness of a product or services through true “marketing/sales/promotional” messages. It’s about being helpful and creating good will by sharing desirable information that may or may not be directly related to an organization’s products or services (see our discussion of tangential topic blogging).
Since most people who use the term “content marketing” to refer to online/digital/electronic distribution of beneficial content to create brand awareness and loyalty — and ultimately sales or some other desired conversion activity (such as signing up for an e-newsletter, making a donation, or submitting an inquiry about an organization’s products and services) — what are some of the online/digital/electronic vehicles/tactics in which content created for the above purposes can be employed? E-newsletters, downloadable white papers, podcasts, website page content, blog content, social media post content, downloadable e-books, infographics (images that contain helpful, detailed info.) and videos.
The Love-Love Equation
The above list is not exhaustive, but provides a sense of the many primary ways organizations are sharing content electronically/digitally that they believe meets the needs of their various target audiences and demonstrates understanding of those audiences’ challenges and opportunities — all in the hopes of creating a loyal following who will show their “love” back by talking up the organization, purchasing its products, etc.
Reach Out To Our Boston Digital Marketing Agency’s Team Of Content Marketing Experts
I, individuals I employ, and my expert connections have extensive experience related to both the creation and distribution of content to support an effective content marketing strategy. I hope you’ll reach out, when and if, you need our help.