Creating Killer Visual Content for B2B Brands

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By Julia Prior, Account Coordinator

The verdict is in – compelling content in the digital age comes in the form of images. And it makes sense because images are an eye-catching way to convey information, feelings and news in an easy to digest and relatable manner.

But how does all this work for B2B companies?

Often a major strategy in a B2B plan is to position the employees and executives as thought leaders and trusted experts on the company’s particular topic. Images are a creative way to disseminate this kind of information to the general public.

Southern Methodist University Cox Executive Education (client) uses images like this one to share thought leadership in order to promote its programs that help professionals grow in leadership and management roles.

Southern Methodist University Cox Executive Education (client) uses images like this one to share thought leadership.

By sharing a quote or industry insight on its own, you may gain a few customers that read it and think about it. But people are more likely to read and engage with the content if it is presented not only in short and sweet “snackable” sizes, but in a graphically creative way.

Instead of just sharing a headline or quote from an article, try pulling a sound bite sized learning out and creating an image out of it. You can then use the image to post to social media, or even use as an embedded picture with the article in a publication or on your website or blog.

The key here is to make the content interesting. Support your executives’ brilliant articles and thought leadership pieces with compelling images that help tell the story.

The easiest way to do this is to simply impose a quote or learning from the article into an image, as shown here. This gives readers a quality look at topics and draws them into the article. Make them want to read more.

High resolution images of your company’s product can also be used to this effect. If you work in technology, use the images to back up any claims you’re making.

Paradigm, Ltd (client) uses product images to demonstrate the capabilities of its software for geological exploration and reservoir characterization of oilfields.

Paradigm, Ltd (client) uses product images to demonstrate the capabilities of its software for geological exploration and reservoir characterization of oilfields.

Get creative with your visuals. Showing your product on its own is nice, but to really add weight and credibility to the image, try using a picture of someone using your product. Pair this with a quote from your executives or customers about the product or technology, and you’ve got a compelling image to use practically anywhere.

In addition to small, snackable sized images, give some thought to using the research your company has no doubt done to create your own infographic. By teaching the reader something unique about your industry, and supporting your claims and products with data and facts, you earn the readers trust and become an expert in their mind. Infographics are also a great way to show how your customers are benefiting directly by using your product or service.

Lastly, don’t forget the fun side. Take pictures at conferences and events, even around the office. Office birthdays and special events provide a chance to show your customers and the world what kind of personality your brand has. Give a peek behind the curtain every once in a while and allow your Facebook fans or Twitter followers a glimpse at what your company does at conferences or events.

Images are a great way to tell your brand story not only through social media, but to make your website, blog posts and contributed articles more interesting. As long as they are high resolution, professional in appearance and relevant to your overall messaging goals, images can be a great way to draw more attention to quality content, which will in turn draw attention to your brand’s product or services.

What kind of visual elements do you use to tell your brand’s story?

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5 Ways to get the Most out of Your PR Firm

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We’re here to help. Really.

By:  Julia Prior

Having a PR firm under contract can be a huge asset to your brand, and if you know how to use them they can help your brand grow and succeed in the media and the minds of your customers. We’ve put our heads together on the top ways you can get the most out of your PR firm.

  1. Communicate with them. Your PR agency is an extension of your marketing team. Keep them in the loop with any changes to your marketing strategy. Allowing them the same insight as members of your in-house marketing team will allow your agency to create a more seamless, comprehensive strategy for your brand.
  2. Take them with you to events. Big events, small events, your PR team can help you extend the value of your trade show investment.  We can promote your news at the event and schedule 1:1 interviews with media and analysts. We can ensure that your news appears in the conference Show Daily or newspaper. As communicators, PR people have skills and knowledge stretching across many subjects and are the perfect asset to help you make the most out of your event.
  3. Don’t underestimate them. PR professionals are skilled multi-taskers and jacks of all trades. It’s easy to assume that they just do press release writing and media pitching if that’s all you’ve asked them to help with.  However, their list of services may range much wider.  If it isn’t in their scope of work, not only will they tell you, but they might also advise you on where you can get the service you need.
  4. Don’t think you’re overloading them-unless they say you are. Your PR firm is there to help you. Their primary role is to help you do your job and  o help your brand grow. Don’t be afraid to call them, think you’re interrupting them or think they’re too busy for your project.
  5. Trust their instincts. The value of hiring a public relations agency is the perspective they offer as an outside member of your team.

At its very core, your contract with your PR firm is a business relationship. Communication and collaboration are the basic steps that will allow both you and your firm to grow and succeed with each other.

Will Public Relations Become Branded Journalism?

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More and more we are writing news. Does that make us a new type of journalist?

By: Robyn Brown

There’s been talk recently in public relations circles about our industry becoming a form of branded journalism. And it got me thinking: What is branded journalism? And that sounds like something I do already.

We all know that the size of newsrooms has been shrinking, that media powerhouses are forced to evolve in the digital age and that younger generations have less trust in traditional media. With fewer media to call upon to report our news, wouldn’t it be easier to become the media? Instead of packaging the story for someone else and hoping they get it right, why not just tell the story ourselves?

What a radical notion! But we are moving quickly into this role – from corporate blogs to short video interviews with an executive. Large businesses are even employing former journalists to write stories for their websites and social media. At the heart, brand journalism is about telling honest stories about brands and inviting audiences to respond. We are not trying to be, replace or compete with traditional journalists, and we certainly won’t be telling breaking news (election stories, crime, weather, etc.) any time soon.

As PR evolves, we must seek to imbue in our communications an even greater level of narrative and audience participation. It’s about telling stories relevant to a brand’s industry. Do you sell pool supplies? Write an informative and engaging article about the best times to winterize a pool. Are you an oil and gas operator? Be a roving TV reporter and visit your workers at the oilfield drilling sites to tell your story through their eyes.

If we’re going to continue to pump out branded content, we need to keep our audience in mind and work more like media rather than publicists. Use facts rather than opinion and source information as much as possible. Let’s not use corporate speak or acronyms. And always keep people at the heart of our stories, even when the story is about software.

And lastly, stories are memorable, but a list of your product features may not be.

Five Reasons Why PR Should Lead Social Media Efforts

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By Robyn Brown

Who owns the social media function within an organization? Lately, social media seems to be shared among marketers, advertising, PR, IT, HR, customer service and even sales. A recent Social Media Club of Dallas gathering I attended confirmed this diversity. Clearly, everyone within the company wants a slice of the social media pie.

Here’s why I think PR pros should take the lead:

  1. Social media is a form of communication – a function managed by PR. It expands our option for sharing news, thought leadership and an organization’s story.  In addition to writing a news release, we submit a tweet, publish a video with a spokesperson or customer and write a blog article about the news. Jason Falls stated in Social Media Explorer, “Social media is public relations in the online world.”
  2. It’s a medium for social interaction. It satisfies the human desire for conversation. Once businesses realize this, they can open vibrant conversations with their customers and clients. In the current issue of Public Relations Tactics, Steve Cody of Peppercom, Inc. described the role of PR as the following: “We own the conversations. We understand better than any other marketing discipline how to engage in conversations and, critically, how to create compelling messages that will be passed along because they’re relevant and informative.”
  3. PR controls the corporate message and the story it shares to the public. We’re also best prepared to handle communications with the public during a crisis.
  4. Social media demands open and honest conversation. The minute you use corporate speak and sales language with online audiences, you lose credibility fast and people tune you out. PR is already comfortable conversing with different audiences and speaking their language. According to The Spiritual Art of Dialogue, “the key to successful conversation is being open and honest in expressing opinions, feelings, and theories, and having a willingness to share views even when the ideas are controversial and unpopular.”
  5. Journalists are now on Twitter – many looking for new story ideas. Media relations is still a PR function.

Whether you are dealing with negative feedback, communicating with the media, or engaging in conversation that represents your brand and image, a communications professional needs to be involved.

Epic PR Group offers this great analogy:

“Liken it to a cocktail party. Technology, legal, marketing, interns, etc. are all invited. But PR should be the host: introducing people, keeping the drinks filled, mingling and stimulating conversation, vacuuming beforehand to make a good impression, and handling ‘that guy’ who has had a bit too much to drink. The best parties are the ones that people keep talking about.”

Want Your Words to Stand Out Amidst the Clutter? Provide Value

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By Robyn Brown

I read once that there is more information in the Sunday issue of The New York Times than one person in 1850 would learn in a lifetime.

There’s a similar story online. In 2009, 90 trillion emails were sent over the Internet. Of the 234 million web sites that make up the Internet – 47 million were added last year. Twitter is now handling 600 tweets per second. Thirty billion photos are uploaded to Facebook every year. New content is being pushed to the average person at an alarmingly fast rate.

Communications professionals need to consider how to make their words rise above a mountain of information. How do we capture attention and keep it? How do we compete with… well, everything else?

There are millions of words out there. The best way to get yours read is to write things that people will value. Your content – tweets, blogs, article, news, videos – should help your audience. It should be thought-provoking and relevant. If it helps people improve knowledge, skills or their ability to complete a task, it has value.

Alex Bragg, founder of A Bajillion Hits, takes it a step further in a recent Fast Company interview: “You have to have killer content. You can’t just put any kind of garbage out there and expect the Internet to engage with it.”

Also, our attention spans are getting shorter. So, get to your point faster. Cut down on the number of words in your news release. Add bullets. I guarantee writing news in 140-character tweets is good practice.

Feeling the pressure

We recently worked with Microsoft’s Worldwide Oil & Gas team to share findings from its information and computing trends study. One survey finding in particular caught my attention. Over 44% of respondents said the information explosion in the upstream oil and gas industry has had a negative effect on their job performance.

Respondents complained about:

  • Difficult and time-consuming search of diverse systems to find information (44 percent)
  • Data appearing in unstructured forms not easily captured or archived (44 percent)
  • Too much redundant and/or unnecessary data available (35 percent)

I don’t think this trend is limited to just one industry. Most of us are overburdened with information.

Commit to rise above the clutter and respect your readers’ time limitations. As Information Age professionals, communicators should strive for content with value, brevity and relevance.

How to Be a Good Intern in 26 Easy Steps

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By Robyn Brown

Internships give a developing PR professional an education that a college course just cannot fully provide. After all, it’s one thing to learn about a successful PR campaign; it’s quite another to be a member of the team that organized and ran that campaign. Additionally, students benefit from being immersed in a professional work environment, interacting with AEs and directors and learning the silent mores of office culture.

The internship has an equal benefit for the agency. Often the research and support functions that an intern provides are crucial to the pitch, event or PR campaign. This includes media list development, research on trends and reporters, and tracking coverage so we can demonstrate results with our clients. Truly, interns can be key members of any PR team.

At Brooks & Associates, we have been fortunate to work with a number of bright and hard-working upperclassmen, who were eager to learn and help our team. Over the years, we started to document the good qualities that we have come to admire in our interns. On day one, we hand each intern the list as a guide for a successful PR internship.

So, here is our guidance on How to Be a Good Intern in 26 Easy Steps. Melissa Smith, our latest intern and now research assistant, contributed the first three.  Several others are borrowed from design firm Number 17, who knew what they were talking about.

  1. Don’t be afraid to share what you know. Trends in PR change so frequently and you as a student may have the best insight into what is going on NOW.
  2. Carve out a niche for yourself in the agency. Take on responsibilities and make them see that they just can’t live without you. You want them to miss you when you’re gone.
  3. Do your part in the office, but also try as hard as you can to tag along to client meetings. Not only will you figure out how these things work, but you will have made a new contact.
  4. Take your internship very seriously. (Seriously).
  5. Get in on time (without complaining about how early it is or how late you were up the night before).
  6. Listen very carefully and always take notes (just when people are giving you assignments, not during social situations). Keep a pencil and notepad with you at all times.
  7. Don’t feel entitled. (Your boss should not have to bend over backwards to accommodate your every need. She worked hard to earn the respect she receives and so should you).
  8. Find a mentor. (You are a fool if you miss the opportunity to soak up as much experience and knowledge from the people around you. Believe me: they will be excited to share with you… when they have time).
  9. Do more than is expected on every single assignment (unless more costs more).
  10. There is (almost) always something you can do (so let your bosses know when you are available; don’t just wait until someone notices you are free).
  11. Show up. People are relying on you. (A school assignment is NOT a reason to ‘call in sick.’)
  12. Understand that you don’t know it all (even though you feel like you do).
  13. Turn off your cell phone (even if your ringtone is really cute).
  14. Do not unnecessarily distract others who are busy working (even though Big Brother was particularly great last night).
  15. Bring snacks (sometimes sweet, sometimes salty).
  16. Be proactive. If there is nothing official for you to do, figure something out on your own. (Like get to know the magazine or periodical collection so when someone is looking for something you can be helpful. Or go through the case studies so you can really study the company’s work).
  17. Look out for opportunities to demonstrate what you do know and how you can contribute (but don’t push it – nobody likes a show off).
  18. There are (almost) no stupid questions. (Ignorance is not bliss, just ignorant and it can be a major waste of time).
  19. *Don’t just follow directions. Think about what you are doing while you are doing it. (So when the account executive says, “but that’s full of typos” you won’t have to say “I know!”).
  20. Be eager to learn and people will be more likely to teach you.
  21. Don’t take it personally. The road to success is a bumpy one and you won’t grow unless you make mistakes.
  22. Never stop learning. From day one to day 1,351 – you will never run out of new things to learn.
  23. Don’t be afraid to show the rest of your team that you are overwhelmed or stressed out. This is not a sign of failure. Most likely, they have been there too and can probably help you out.
  24. Find opportunities to apply what you just learned in class to a client activity. Perhaps your professors will allow class credit for a project you took on at the agency.
  25. Be social media savvy. Account teams look to the younger generation for insight on social media apps and how to use them for PR projects. (This does not mean you are allowed to play on Facebook all day).
  26. 26. Understand that the success of the internship is (almost) entirely up to you.

Read to Write

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By: Jamie Leon

With our busy lives, taking a few minutes to read or even grab a newspaper is a luxury that many of us wish we had the time for. For me, the idea of curling up with a paper sounds much more appealing than quickly perusing information and current events online. In many ways, we are short changing ourselves in the long run by not enjoying that luxury. As a society, we are transitioning away from traditional news outlets in favor of sites like Facebook and Twitter. We no longer read as an avenue to expand our writing, but instead, look for the quick answer.

What we communicators are missing is the importance of reading not only for content but as a guide for becoming better writers, paying attention to devices like style and voice. This ability is often lost through constant attention to the quick writing styles of micro-blogging, for example. Users can share main news points and keep up with events in real time, but may have lost the art of writing a complete thought.

It does not mean we have to take hours out of our day, but just 10 or fifteen minutes to dedicate to enhancing our writing skills by studying the writing styles of elite journalists. We do this every time we write by brainstorming or editing, but what about continuing to find the talent in writing?

Many public relations and journalism professionals begin their careers based on a love for writing and for communicating information in a creative and artistic way. As the youngest member of the Brooks & Associates team, social media to me is what my parent’s newspaper was to them. But, I make a conscious effort each day to read a newspaper such as The Wall Street Journal for the latest energy news or our own local Dallas Morning News to find out what is happening in my community.  I encourage you to find ways to explore and expand your writing, too.

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