The Art of the #Hashtag Part I

Ah, the hashtag. The little symbol that’s popping up everywhere from Twitter to Facebook, Instagram to Pinterest. It even appears in places it shouldn’t from time to time. Like text messages.

The idea of the hashtag is to help people discover content on various social media platforms –They’re search terms for social media that can be used to identify events, categorize posts or ask questions. As a business, you can use them to find new customers, answer questions about your product or service and get involved in online conversations with your audience.

The use of hashtags by brands is an art. So, how do you know if you’re doing it properly? Here are our top tips for using hashtags to your advantage:

1.      Choose Wisely: Hashtagging random or generic words won’t really get you anywhere – Consider what your message is and who you’re targeting. Remember, hashtags are designed to help people discover content. Ask yourself, how will using this hashtag help people find you, and your product, service or event, down the road?

Example:social media today

2.      Hashtag Lightly: #There #Is #No #Reason #To #Hashtag #Entire #Sentences. Not only is it difficult to read, but it defeats the purpose of the hashtag entirely. If you want to use hashtags in your social media, choose one or two that are relevant to the message you’re sharing.

Example:pr daily

3.      Try Them Out: Not every word or phrase lends itself to becoming a hashtag. Before disseminating content with hashtags to your audience, test them on the platform you intend to use to get a sense of the current conversation around those terms. This can be done using the search function on the platform.

 

When implemented properly, the hashtag can be one of the most useful tools in your social media marketing arsenal. Using hashtags not only enables you to find current and potential customers to engage online, it also could help them find you.

Stay tuned for The Art of the Hashtag Part II where we’ll talk about implementing hashtags as part of your social media marketing strategy – Including where and how you can use them to the benefit of your brand.

Trends in PR for 2014

canstockphoto15594986

Believe it or not, it is almost 2014! The new year will most certainly bring new resolutions, trends, and technology. It’s also a great time to reflect on your marketing and public relations strategies. As the industry continues to evolve, here are a few PR trends to watch for in the coming year.

Content Marketing
In any marketing strategy, quality content has always been important, but with the rise of social media, it is possibly even more important. Content that is both interesting and relevant is what unites a company to their audiences more than ever for both B2C and B2B audiences. This is where the “storytelling” trend comes in to play. If you have a customer who is already passionate about a company/brand, the content, such as infographics, videos and photos –anything visual, will create emotion. And that emotion is what allows an audience to drive exposure of the original message. Whether it is B2C or B2B, find a way to connect to your audiences through experience and give them the tools to promote your brand too!

A Variety of Distribution Channels
It’s increasingly rare that a company’s audience can be found in just one place. PR professionals will be more mindful of creating different types of content that can be shared across all social media platforms. Of course, the content still needs to blend cohesively with other marketing materials. By taking the approach of using a variety of distribution channels, a company can encourage more engagement from their current audience while acquiring new audiences too. The mix of channels and formats ensures that the target audience will find a format that is appealing to them. But, does this mean that traditional media pitching is on the decline? It’s quite possible that PR professionals will spend more time pitching bloggers and influencers, rather than journalists and reporters.

Public relations will always maintain the ultimate goal of creating and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships, but it’s certainly looking like the way we achieve those relationships is evolving.

Our Favorite Pittsburgh Things: Sports

Our Favorite Pittsburgh Things will be a regular series devoted to the places, things, and people in and around the city of Pittsburgh that all of us here at Yearick-Millea love.

Six Lombardi Trophies – five World Series titles – three Stanley CupsPenguins Parade

Yes, the City of Champions is a well-deserved moniker, and as a sports fan, it’s a thrill to live here. There’s a noticeable vibe and camaraderie wherever you go you in the city. North, south, east, or west; at the grocery store or the gas pump, you’re sure to run into black-and-gold supporters who are willing to have a conversation about the game the other day.

Not only do the Steelers, Pirates, and Pens have decorated histories when it comes to championships, they’ve all had recent success as well. A few short years ago, we were treated to Super Bowl and Stanley Cup victories only a few months apart. I remember those days like they were yesterday, as well as the victory parades that were held just outside of our office. Also, let’s not forget the long-awaited excitement generated from the ‘ol Buccos this past season. While I’m not the biggest baseball fan, the buzz around the city was something to behold.

If collegiate sports are more your thing, the Steel City is home to several universities, and luckily for me, Happy Valley is less than three hours away.

While our teams have had their ups and downs, the one constant has always been passionate fans. Win or lose, we proudly wave our towels and shout our chants. For sports, youth through pro, I’m not sure there is a better place to take it all in than Pittsburgh.

How to: Use Twitter’s Promoted Posts

Twitter promoted posts are tweets purchased by users to increase views to their account and, hopefully, engagement with consumers. Promoted posts are targeted to Twitter users based on a myriad of factors, including who they follow and the types of content they retweet and reply to.  These tweets are marked with a “promoted” label so Twitter users are aware that they are looking at paid content.

Should your brand be using Twitter promoted posts? These paid tweets can offer you more exposure with your target audience – but will that translate into follows, retweets or engagement? The best indicator of whether or not promoted posts will be effective is your content. Twitter users will simply keep scrolling if the content is not relevant and important to them. So, before you decide to put money into using promoted posts – make sure you have a strong content strategy, preferably with some numbers to back up this notion.

After you have formed an idea of what content your target audience responds to, here are some tips to make your promoted posts work best for you:

  • Run multiple versions of the same tweet to see which copy resonates best and then adjust accordingly.
  • Don’t set your promoted tweets and leave them – you need to continuously monitor these posts and keep updating and tweaking them.
  • If you are planning on using a hashtag for a campaign or an event in the near future, promoted tweets are a great time to introduce the hashtag, as any retweets of your promoted posts will also spread awareness of your hashtag.
  • Running multiple posts around one campaign will allow you to introduce different information, which can be a problem with only using one tweet, given Twitter’s character limits. Twitter recommends having six different tweets per campaign.
  • Timing is important – do your research ahead of time and see if there are major events coming up that will dominant the Twitter conversation. You should avoid running promoted post campaigns during these moments to avoid getting lost in the conversation. Obviously, this isn’t avoidable during breaking news, but advance research can help reduce the chances of this happening. If important news does break during your promoted tweet campaign, assess the gravity of the news situation and pause content at least temporarily.
  • Just because a topic is trending on Twitter does not mean you should use it in your post – it can be seen as insensitive, out-of-touch or just trying too hard. SpaghettiOs’ found this out on Friday with this misguided Pearl Harbor tweet:
Image via PRNewser, click for article

Image via PRNewser, click for article

If you take all these factors into account and have the time to dedicate to launching, monitoring and tweaking a campaign, promoted posts can be a nice addition to your overall social media strategy.

Direct Response Case Study: Solarphire® Glass by PPG for Solar Modules

Objective: In 2012, PPG Industries’ Solar Performance Group introduced Solarphire® glass, a highly transmissive glass developed expressly to enhance the energy efficiency of solar modules. To successfully market the product, PPG sought to promote its benefits to research and development directors for solar module manufacturers.  Market research showed that these individuals – who were the primary component specifiers – largely regarded glass as a commodity material.

Strategy:  PPG worked with design firm Vance Wright Adams and Yearick-Millea to develop a direct mail campaign targeted to these highly influential component specifiers.  The goal was to erase the perception of glass-as-a-commodity-item by demonstrating that Solarphire glass had the potential to dramatically improve the performance of solar modules due to their exceptional solar transmittance.

In addition to the direct mail piece, PPG invested significant time in developing a highly targeted mailing list. Internal marketers compiled a list of the top 50 U.S. solar module manufacturers and personally contacted each company to get the exact names, titles and contact information for targeted recipients.

Solution: The direct mail piece featured a glass ruler, fabricated from Solarphire glass, embedded and mailed in a custom-sized, high-end jewelry box.  Each ruler was etched with the name of the targeted recipient and accompanied by a letter from a sales executive from the PPG Solar Performance Group.  The letter asked only that the recipient accept his follow-up phone call.  Teaser copy was included with the ruler to pique interest in Solarphire glass by hinting at its benefits and by directing the recipient to a dedicated micro-site at www.ppgsolarphire.com.

Solar mailer - final

Results: PPG saw a return-on-investment of more than 930 to 1 on the direct mail campaign.  Sixty-three percent (63%) of the target individuals took PPG’s follow-up call and agreed to a meeting.  The mailer, which was executed for about $7,500, netted six new accounts for the PPG Solar Performance Group, generating more than $7 million in new business.

In addition, the campaign won a national Award of Excellence in the category of direct response marketing from the Business Marketing Association (BMA).

Common Misconceptions about Public Relations

“So, what do you do?” – is a question often received when you tell someone you work in the public relations industry. Because the industry is dynamic and fast-paced, it can be difficult to pinpoint an exact description of PR responsibilities. There are a lot of different aspects of PR – many roles and many personalities – and therefore over the years, I’ve learned that there are misconceptions of what public relations really includes.

Here are a few of the common misconceptions:

  • PR and advertising are the same. PR and advertising are two different industries, although they can be included together with an overall marketing campaign. Public relations is a field
    Click image for source

    Click image for source

    committed to creating a positive reputation with the public and the media. It requires the ability to craft stories to educate the target audiences through the media, however, there is no guarantee that the story will get picked up through media outlets. Advertising on the other hand is a paid service used to persuade the target audience about a product, service or event. Space for advertising can be carefully selected and there is much more control over what information is disseminated.

  • PR practitioners “spin” all stories. PR isn’t about spin or deception. PR professionals have a comprehensive knowledge of strategies and tactics, along with an awareness of various media outlets (on a local, regional, national or international level, if necessary). Successful public relations projects help a client to tell their story to target audiences. The goal is always to build understanding and trust through establishing and maintaining relationships, especially with the media. In many cases, PR professionals are there to work with a client and assist them through tough ethical decisions, while prioritizing the short and long-term effects of any actions. The Public Relations Society of America is an organization for the community of PR professionals, dedicated to providing development and setting standards for excellence, all while upholding principles of ethics for members.
  • PR is glamorous. TV and movies might be partly responsible for this common misconception. Shows like Mad Men, Sex and the City, or The Hills show PR professionals consistently throwing parties and hanging out with celebrities. Sure, event planning is considered a tactic of PR, but it’s not the main priority for all clients. PR can also encompass research, counseling, planning and implementation of a variety of tactics, including copy or speech writing, media relations, tradeshow management, and social media.

Ultimately, public relations is a dynamic industry. Like I mentioned before, there are many different descriptions you may hear, due to changing roles and advances in technology. At the core of all roles though, PR professionals serve as an integral part of a company’s communications function.

Creating an Effective Billboard

We’ve all seen them, right?  I’m referring to outdoor advertisements; advertising along the highway or staring down at you from a nearby building.

Billboards can be a strong complement to a company’s branding and marketing efforts, but it pays to follow some time-tested guidelines to create an impact with potential customers.

Click for image source

Click for image source

The most essential step in designing outdoor advertising is to use a simplified message.  Drivers passing the display at 65 mph can’t take the time to digest artwork that incorporates countless images – and an overabundance of text.  Even pedestrians may miss your message if it’s complicated.  Always try to use a simple design and straight-to-the-point copy.  A billboard is a sign – not a book.

Next, use imagery and text that complements what you want to tell the public.  If you’re selling cars, your choices are fairly obvious.  If the campaign is about cough drops or an upcoming event, however, you’ll need to rely on images that appeal to the eye – and colors that do the same.  It will require more creativity, but improved results will be your reward.

Many outdoor advertising firms have recently added digital billboards to their repertoire. Although they have fewer locations than paper displays, electronic displays are almost always located in prime viewing areas and have brighter colors and more versatile messaging capabilities.  Make sure you design your boards to make the most of these enhancements.

Finally, select locations for your outdoor messaging carefully. A single billboard is probably not a good investment unless you’re using it to promote a highly localized event or to direct customers to a nearby sale or retail location.

Work with a professional to measure your investment and campaign goals against your goals, tracking metrics such as daily or weekly impressions against the money you’re planning to spend.  Just as television advertising is more expensive for popular shows, you’ll pay more for boards in highly trafficked areas, and even more for digital displays.

With carefully planning and creative execution, outdoor advertising can help build your brand, boost sales and awareness, and deliver positive returns on your investment.