The Role of the Newspaper in Digital PR

The development of technology has driven some to believe the newspaper is outdated. However, newspapers, in all formats, still reach 69 percent of the total U.S. population in a month. With the takeover of Facebook, Twitter and copious ‘news’ sites, we are certainly getting our information in new ways, but with the abundance of “fake news” out there, the newspaper still remains to be one of the most valuable tools when it comes to understanding media trends. This said, it does not have to always be a physical newspaper. Online options of the most trusted sources such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal provide incredible options for people who cannot get their hands on a physical copy.

Why Read the Newspaper?

Here at Circa Interactive and throughout the world of digital PR, the need for media ideas and stories is paramount. The editors at the top global publications are tasked with informing the public about what stories really matter. Surely we should listen to them? These are ideas that can be leveraged into any PR campaign and serve as an incredible peg when looking to obtain media coverage for clients. What is important here, is that the we are positioning our clients/experts to add to these stories that are being presented to us by some of the top minds in the country.

The Benefits of Reading the Newspaper for Digital PR

A PR specialist should have a general sense of what is going on in their specific industry, but an understanding of global events can provide a great sense of educational value. It carries information about politics, economy, entertainment, sports, business, industry, trade and commerce.

In addition, the journalists at the New York Times and WSJ are some of the best in the business. Their writing abilities are impeccable, and with this being a big part of a PR/communication specialist’s role, it goes without saying reading these articles can improve the vocabulary and skills of any writer.

How to Read the Newspaper

Ultimately, you want to read a newspaper in a way that suits you, and everyone has their own way of digesting information. However, make sure you go beyond the headlines. If you want to understand a story and take value from it in a way that is going to provide benefit to you and your clients, then you need to take in more than a few words. Also, save a couple articles that are particularly relevant and come back to them later. If you take time to analyze, you are more likely to come up with new story ideas for your pitches. Finally, take a look at the opinion section. This is where you might find a unique angle or idea in relation to a trending topic, and is often the place where the mind will really start to tick over.

George has been part of theGeorge Circa team for three years. He graduated from Plymouth University, England, with a master’s in marketing management and strategy degree. George is a PR and digital marketing specialist who is passionate about creating high level opportunities for professors within national publications. 

15 Higher Education Digital Marketing Strategies for 2018

Every day, universities and colleges are coming up with exciting, innovative courses for the millions of motivated students all over the world. The higher education space is being redefined by innovation in design, delivery and employability for many degree programs. Education experts have the resources they need to craft, test and rollout cutting edge online degree programs. That’s why higher education institutions are bringing on board creative communication and marketing professionals to keep their institutions and programs visible and desirable. Here at Circa, we utilize unique higher education marketing strategies that help raise awareness of courses and programs while bringing in high quality students that enable online degree programs to flourish. 

Innovative PPC Strategies

Andrew Glasser and Farzin Espahani

The possibilities for higher ed marketing are seemingly endless when it comes to PPC. It is by and large the most immediate method for generating high-quality leads while broadcasting your brand to qualified individuals, ultimately turning clicks into prospective students. In Search, PPC is a hotbed for student acquisition, with degree-seekers constantly turning to Google and Bing to help them decide their career/academic path. Within Social, PPC offers increasingly advanced tools which we can use to hone in on subgroups of your target audience, fostering lead growth in the student acquisition cycle while simultaneously nurturing your Brand’s reach.

When it comes to paid advertising on social platforms, we notice a clear trend for universities who are marketing online graduate degree programs: All the ads are the same. The ad copy makes it clear that the program is flexible and completely online, and the visuals often convey a happy working professional looking satisfied in their new role. In 2018, it is our focus, mission, and purpose to ensure that colleges and universities make a commitment to standing out from the crowd by showcasing their true story. Students understand that they have basic needs in their degree program, but in 2018, millennials need to have a connection to something bigger. It is important for universities to look at their missions, ideals, and unique value propositions outside of online, flexible, innovative curriculum to begin conveying the information that matters to a student’s personal journey.

Mobile Optimized Search Ads

Studies continue to show that mobile devices are the go-to option for searching the internet. In fact, mobile devices are used more often for searches than desktop computers.  The average person checks their phone 150 times a day, the average time spend on a smartphone is 177 minutes per day, and amazingly, the average mobile session is 70 seconds. This means consumers are using their phones all day, every day, but in short bursts of time. By bidding higher for mobile devices in Google Adwords and Bing ads while utilizing mobile optimized ad extensions we can increase the CTR significantly.

Managed Placements And Interests

Managed placements is a good strategy when there are specific websites that you think are related to specific program or university where can be visited by a potential student. For example for an online MBA program, we want to place our display ads on education related websites and focus on pages relevant to higher education and career advancement. This will help us to make sure our ads are shown to those more likely to click on the ad to learn more.  

Facebook Retargeting Campaigns

The beauty and effectiveness of retargeting allows you to reach out to users who have already showed interest to your brand or program and to get them to re-engage with your brand. This is a slow but steady and cost effective strategy that converts more students compared to traditional targeting, since users are more likely to engage with ads from brands that they know. The best way to achieve a winner retargeting strategy is to start with a brand awareness ad to simply introduce your brand. Then running a retargeting campaign that shows new ads to those who have already engaged with your previous ad.

Fundamental SEO Strategies

Tyler Cooper

Every month, hundreds of thousands of prospective students are logging onto their computers, opening up Google, and trying to figure out where they should earn their degree. If your website’s SEO strategy is not up to par, chances are you’re missing out on the vast majority of these leads. While you can use Google AdWords to show up for these results, you’re going to be paying a premium for each click. When you rank organically, there is no cost per click. When looking at this from an ROI perspective, the value of SEO is undeniable. Having a large search presence means more organic traffic, more leads, more applicants, and more students. If SEO is not a part of your digital marketing strategy in 2018, you are doing yourself a huge disservice.

Link building

Link building is undoubtedly the most important aspect of your SEO strategy. In order to compete in competitive markets such as higher education, your website will need a steady stream of high-quality and relevant backlinks. There are a number of link building strategies. You can read more about those here.

On-Page SEO

In order to get the most out of your link building campaigns, it’s extremely important that your on-page SEO is in place. Make sure you all of the content on your website is properly optimized for search. This includes keyword rich title tags, relevant meta descriptions, keyword density, optimized header tags, internal linking, and much more.

Technical SEO

While this may require assistance from a web developer, it’s important that your site is technically sound so that it can be properly crawled by Google. The easier it is for Google to crawl and understand your site, the more your website’s pages will be shown in Google’s search results. On the other hand, if your website is full of technical errors, your search rankings will almost certainly suffer. Some things to look for when performing a technical SEO audit are: 404 errors, missing/broken XML sitemaps, slow page load times, duplicate content, irrelevant/thin content, and more! Use a tool like Screaming Frog to identify some of these common issues.

Website Content Strategies

Frederic Lee

Creation of website content (articles, infographics, data visualization, and more) is an essential aspect of any search marketing strategy. The primary reason being that Google favors websites with fresh content. With this in mind, a strategy of continuous creation and publication of content is important for website visibility in Google’s search results. In addition to creating fresh content, here are three core strategies to get the most ROI in this content.

Traffic and Rankings Focused Content

Through careful keyword research with an emphasis on target long-tail variations of your core keywords, content can be created with the best opportunity to rank in the search results. Keyword clusters/pods can be established in order to streamline content creation and may cover many keyword opportunity areas surrounding a long-tail variation. Upon completion and distribution, this content may rank for competitive keywords and either bring in large quantities of industry traffic, or a lesser, more valuable flow of conversion-focused traffic.

Conversion Support Focused Content

Depending on your business goals, conversion support content have a goal of providing detailed information about your product/service and industry. This content is designed to speak directly to individuals in the sales funnel. Through paid and organic social distribution and careful placement on your website, these articles are designed to be a strong touchpoint in the sales process.

Social Signal Focused Content

A portion of the Google algorithm involves having positive social signals pointing towards your website and content. Articles and graphics can be created with this exact goal in mind. A detailed analysis of your target audience and how they interact on social network is a key first step. This content must give them a reason to share and engage. Upon publication, strategic social sharing and promotion can help kick start this content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other relevant networks to your industry.

Creative Digital PR Strategies

George Bradley and Joseph Lapin

In the higher education industry, digital public relations is an important approach for any SEO strategy. Here at Circa, we believe that the faculty are one of a university’s greatest assets, yet in general, many higher ed marketing companies are not utilizing these key stakeholders. By leveraging traditional public relations strategies for the digital world, digital PR not only influences brand awareness and thought leadership for universities, but it also allows us to create high level media opportunities for our professors in publications such as the Washington Post, The Hill and HuffPost. Not only are the professors being placed here, but we are obtaining backlinks to our program pages. This directly influences organic traffic that leads to conversions and new students. In collaboration with on-page SEO elements, content marketing, and other link building strategies, digital PR helps bring prospective students to a university and serves as a significant contributor to a diverse link profile for an authoritative website.

Relationship Building

Professors and reporters/editors are the two key relationships that should be built as part of a higher education digital marketing strategy. By building trusting relationships with faculty, you are able to gain an understanding of their research and passions and also create opportunities that are specifically focused on their expertise. Relationships with reporters can also prove to be greatly beneficial. When you have a reporter who trusts you, they are far more likely to respond to your pitch and come to you for a quote from one of your faculty members.

Creative Pitch Writing

Pitching compelling story lines and sources are the crux of any PR strategy. In the higher education digital marketing space, we leverage the faculty expertise to write pitches that relate to current trending topics in the news. There are often four key components to a pitch, and these are the lead, call to action, unique value proposition, and conclusion. You can find more information on how to write these pitches here.

Stay on Top of the News

Having access to and critically understanding the latest news is imperative because you want to stay ahead of the curve. There are various ways to understand what is happening throughout the world, and you should consider each method to be as important as the next. Understanding stories in the newspaper and tying in our professors is the perfect way to begin the pitching process. All of this comes back to understanding your professors and the people working on relevant stories within the media.

Organic Social Media Marketing

Audrey Wills

In 2018, social media is an imperative part to any digital marketing strategy –– especially for higher education. To put the importance of social media marketing into context, take a look at the graph below. When the Pew Research Center began tracking social media usage in 2005, less than 8% of 18-49 year olds in America used at least one social platform. Today, over 75% of 18-49 year olds are active on at least one social media site, meaning social media is the optimal medium for reaching higher education’s target audience.

While the growth in social media usage is a good thing in the world of higher education digital marketing, this increased usage leads to users being inundated with ads and content marketing. So much so that at the beginning of 2018, Facebook changed its algorithm to prioritize content from user’s inner circles. Thus, making it even more difficult to get content in front of your target audience –– organically at least. So what tactics can you use to ensure you continue to reach your audience and boost enrollment? Let’s take a look.

Know Your Platform

As mentioned before, Facebook changed their algorithm in the beginning of 2018 to prioritize content from a user’s family and friends. This means that whenever you post content, whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you need to post content that best suits that platform.

Facebook’s algorithm favors content that people want to engage with. Think: would I share this with my friends? Content that is made for Twitter should be concise, yet informational. Let your followers know what you’re sharing and why. Do some research and identify the most active hashtags for your industry and use them throughout your tweets to help increase your reach. When creating content for Instagram, think visuals first, and make sure you have an eye-catching graphic that will grab your follower’s attention and get them to stop scrolling.

Keep up-to-date on social media marketing by attending a conference: http://circaedu.com/hemj/13-higher-education-marketing-conferences-in-2018/  

Live Video

One tactic that all social media algorithm’s love is Live Video. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter enable you to leverage live video to interact with prospective students. My favorite tactic for utilizing live video is hosting live Q&A info sessions to address general program FAQs and provide prospective students the opportunity to ask questions and receive answers in real-time. Hosting a series of Q&A info sessions that address different areas of your program. To give students a better feel for your program, have different team members host each session. Anyone from an alumni, a current student, a faculty member, or even dean are perfect candidates to provide their own perspective and create a connection with the prospective students.

Chatbots At Your Service

Social media has changed the way we all communicate, and chatbots are taking our new forms of communication one step further. Chatbots provide a modern way for students to get questions answered instantaneously. Implementing chatbots into your recruitment strategy can help your admissions team speed up the enrollment process by weeding out unqualified candidates, answering questions in seconds, not hours, and even following up with potential students to ensure they finish their applications before the enrollment deadline.

Circa Interactive is the premier digital marketing agency in higher education. Since opening in 2011, Circa Interactive has helped more than 60 degree programs increase lead flow, build brand awareness,and generate more students. To find out how our services could help your institution, please email clayton@circaedu.com. 

 

Generation Z: 5 Tips for Engaging The Next Generation of Consumers

Just when brands feel that they’ve finally mastered the art of advertising to Millennials, up comes the next generation of consumers: Generation Z.

Although sharing some similarities to the elder Millennials, Generation Z is far more savvy to brand intentions, meaning digital marketers will find themselves embarrassed if they try to implement Millennial advertising strategies for this younger generation.

So what is it that makes Generation Z different? And how can digital marketers successfully engage with this next wave of consumers?

Introducing Generation Z

The first thing to understand about Generation Z is that they’ve grown up with the internet. With the oldest of this generation being born in the mid-to-late 1990s, Generation Z have spent their lives heavily relying on smartphones and social media to not only connect with their peers, but also brands, businesses and organizations.

Understanding this generation’s heavy reliance on social media is crucial for marketing, as a few wrong moves on social media can prove detrimental to brands and businesses.

How detrimental? Consider that Kylie Jenner, one of the most popular and powerful Gen Z celebrities, cut $1.3 billion from Snapchat’s stock all from a simple tweet.


What this shows is that with this upcoming generation, brands don’t even necessarily need to make mistakes on social media; all it takes is negative publicity to sway the public opinion of Generation Z.

How Much Should You Care About Generation Z?

Being the next group of consumers, brands, businesses and marketers are clearly interested in advertising to this young generation, yet Generation Z should be more of a priority than it already is.

Why?

For one, individuals that classify as Generation Z already make up a quarter of America’s population. This number is growing, with projections stating that Generation Z will make up 40% of all consumers by 2020. Any target audience that makes up almost half of all consumers is definitely worth taking into further consideration.

Secondly, advertisers have yet to establish a solid understanding of this progressive generation. Lazily, some assume that they are a lot like millennials, except even more addicted to screens and phones.

While this might be true in some cases, the reality is far more professional and sophisticated: Gen Z aren’t screen-prisoners, they are screen-operators. Society at large functions within the digital realm, and Gen Z leverage their skills and networks to become full-time managers of their personal and professional brands.

This generation deeply understands digital branding – they leverage it for their personal benefit all the time – and are exceptional at seeing through poor or even tacky advertising, so businesses looking to connect with Generation Z will need to put forth equal effort in understanding who they are and what they are interested in.

Tips for Engaging Generation Z

If you’re looking to engage with the next wave of consumers, here are 5 tips for engaging Generation Z:

1.Use Easily Consumable Content

If you really want to connect with Generation Z, creating easily consumable content is essential.

Studies have shown that Gen Z have an 8 second attention span – compared to the 12 second attention span of Millennials – meaning that brands need to make sure that their message can be consumed fast.

Videos and GIFs have proven to be very effective in making a quick point. Clever messaging is successful as well. KFC’s recent public apology for running out of chicken is a great example:KFCSource: http://money.cnn.com/2018/02/23/news/kfc-apology-ad-shortage

In a situation that could have resulted in major brand damage, KFC were able to save face and generate acclaim from Generation Z and worldwide media outlets thanks to its quick, eye-catching message

2.Provide Value

Advertisers shouldn’t assume that they can trick Generation Z. Being brand ambassadress themselves, this group is smart and tech savvy. They can quickly identify when they’re being advertised to, so don’t try to fool them or waste their time.

If you’re looking to engage with this generation, make sure that your advertisement provides some kind of value, such as offering free items or discounts for taking surveys.

Brands that are able to create a mutually beneficial situation will prove most successful with Generation Z.

3. Pass The Eye Test

As mentioned, Generation Z have short attention spans, so before even considering your message Gen Z will judge your advertisement based on its appearance. If your advertisement doesn’t pass the eye test, expect this generation to swipe right past.

What can you do to help make your messages pass the eye test? Much of it depends on the message you’re trying to send.

That said, don’t be afraid to take chances and create edgy content (see KFC advertisement above) or advertisements that feature a bit of bright color here or there.

If you’re worried and unsure, it maybe a good idea to get some direct feedback from Generation Z. Asking for feedback right from your target audience can help sharpen your content creation skills.

4. How Can You Help Them?

For far too long, advertisers have viewed consumers from the selfish perspective of “How can we get our audience to purchase and need our products or services?”

While taking this approach may have worked in the past, Generation Z is too sharp. Any brand that attempts this approach can expect to be embarrassed and humiliated across multiple social networks.

You don’t want that kind of shame.

Great news: there are alternative perspectives.

If you’re really looking to build trust with Generation Z, you’re entire message should be developed with the approach of “How can we help them?”

Again, Generation Z are savvy. Don’t go through the motions with this. They’ll see right through it.

Instead, take a moment to seriously consider your product, service and message to better understand how your company and its resources can help make your consumers’ lives better.

Thinking with this perspective might be difficult for traditional marketers, but it’ll have a significant impact in the long-term.

5. Expand Your Efforts

On average, Generation Z tend to operate 5 screens at a time. For marketers, this means that your brand and message have to be at multiple places at once.

Brands with big budgets will be able to dominate more traditional advertising mediums, yet that shouldn’t discourage small brands from expanding their efforts to the best of their ability.

Generation Z are all about grassroots resources. Many brands have found success with a very limited budget simply by expanding and enhancing their social efforts.

In fact, sometime  traditional advertising can do more harm than good due to the appearance of trying too hard.

At the end of the day, the more that this generation comes positively interpret your brand and message, the more trustworthy that you’ll seem. And there is no better way to appear trustworthy than to authentically approach Generation Z on their terms from the beginning. So don’t wait until Generation Z grow a bit older. Start making adjustments to your marketing strategies today so your brand and message can better engage with Generation Z and hopefully establish a long-term mutually beneficial relationship.

Interested in learning more insights that could help with effectively engaging the next wave of college students? Check out these articles to get started:

 

Tyler is a retired division two college basketball player and a recent graduate from the University of Iowa. His creativity, as well as passion for entrepreneurship and the expansion of technology and communication, helps Circa to continue to stay on the cusp of new technologies and trends influencing future generations of students.

 

 

5 Ways to Keep Your Readers Engaged

The average reader will view your article for 15 seconds or less. You may have drawn them in with your headline, but are they going past the first few lines? Are they leaving your site truly understanding the point of the piece? If not, then why? Even if you are drawing the attention of those who are likely to be more engaged than the ‘average reader’, there are still tips you can follow to ensure that readers are absorbing and engaging with your content. 

Ask Tough Questions

Notice here how I have already questioned you and your articles. Questions encourage curiosity and allow for people to think of an answer to what is being posed. Questions also connect with a reader’s brain and leave them wanting an answer to your question (which is now their question). Ultimately, the reader should leave your site feeling a sense of value from the questions you have posed. Therefore, in order to ask the questions that are going to allow for optimum engagement and readership, understanding your audience is pivotal. 

Have an Opinion

An article that people want to engage with is often one that makes a claim and sticks to it throughout the piece. This should get people thinking about where their thoughts are on a particular issue. This can often lead to positive debate within a certain topic area or industry. That being said, think about your readers here and consider balance on some topics. You do not want to force people away from your site by being overly controversial, but it is not always necessary to sit on the fence. Industry leaders are often the ones with strong opinions, and a great way to showcase this leadership is by getting involved in the comments section on your site or engaging with readers on Twitter.

Ensure the Article is Digestible

This comes in two forms; tone and visuals. With tone, you again need to ensure you understand your audience. Are technical, high-level terms going to be understood? Or are they going to lead to your readers becoming confused? If so, they are likely to zone out and ultimately look for their information elsewhere. Be sure not to become too casual though. If you are posing answers to questions that your readers already know the answers to, then really what value are they getting from the article? As for visuals, you do not want to overwhelm readers with big block paragraphs. Breaking the article down into sections can make the whole piece feel more digestible and less of a task. Utilizing subheadings can also allow readers to skim through the article and get to the section they are looking for.

Use Statistics

Statistics allow writers to support their arguments with convincing evidence. They also enable writers to draw conclusions and argue specific sides of issues without sounding speculative or vague. Stats also engage the readers and get them thinking about the significance of the issues that you are presenting to them. Keep in mind though that the statistics need to be relevant to the the story. Adding them for the sake of it will likely confuse the reader and defeat the purpose; which is to tie everything together.

Tell a Story

People connect with stories. From a young age we are exposed to storytelling and we enjoy it when things come full circle. Tying points back to the questions you asked originally is a great way to do this throughout the article and should be fully utilized in the conclusion. The reality is, when stories are told, readers engage, so if there is the opportunity to emotionally engage with an audience, then seize this opportunity. All the points mentioned in this article can ensure that you are telling your story and that your readers are hanging around for more than just 15 seconds.

George has been part of theGeorge Circa team for three years. He graduated from Plymouth University, England, with a master’s in marketing management and strategy degree. George is a PR and digital marketing specialist who is passionate about creating high level opportunities for professors within national publications. 

The Benefits of Outlining an Article in Advance

Whether you’re crafting a straightforward blog or you’re delving into an in-depth research article, there is a temptation to simply sit down and crank out the copy. Once you start writing, the thoughts will flow, the sentences will arrange themselves accordingly, and everything will come together properly.

Unfortunately, as any dedicated writer or marketer can attest to, crafting effective copy takes a bit of forethought. Prior to writing a piece, it’s important to take a moment to plan out exactly how you’re going to approach crafting your copy–by doing so, you can ensure that your piece will have a cohesive structure, and that you will use your overall writing time efficiently. Here are a few of the key benefits of outlining an article beforehand.

The Theme of Your Piece

The most important benefit of outlining is that it can help a writer to determine the overall theme–or point–of a piece. Let’s say that you want to craft a blog about how Cision is the most effective marketing tool on the market. The first step in crafting this piece is to answer the critical unsaid question: why? Why is Cision the most effective marketing tool? Is it because it helps you stay organized? Or is it because it helps you connect with reporters and editors around the world?

Consider the following sentences:

A) Cision is the best tool a PR rep could ask for.

B) Cision is the best tool a PR rep could ask for because it features an unrivaled database of top reporters and editors around the world.

By addressing the unsaid question, you are able to determine the theme of your piece–Cision is great because it has a fantastic database. Once you’ve established the theme (or the why?), you can then break down how you will explore this concept on a paragraph-by-paragraph level.

Secondly, by addressing the theme, you can avoid burying the lede. A reader wants to know what the point of a piece is from the get-go–this is known as the lede, or the vital point or points that the reader needs to know about this story. In a traditional journalism story, the lede often appears right at the start of the piece.

Let’s say that you’re crafting a news piece about a revolutionary environmentally friendly car. The lede for that story would probably look something like this:

Acme Motors’ new Eco car line, which debuted at the Berlin Auto Show last May, is the most environmentally friendly car on the market, according to Green Car Reports. While most vehicles use gasoline to power their engines, the Eco car relies solely on water as a fuel source.

The lede for this piece lets you know the crucial parts of the story–that the Eco car is unique for a particular reason–right from the start.

A lede can appear in the first paragraph or even the first sentence of a piece. However, if you are not aware of the point of your piece from the start, you may “bury” your lede further down in the copy. This may cause the reader to become distracted or confused, since they may not be clear from the beginning on what the piece is actually about. By outlining before writing, you will establish the point of your piece immediately, and you can then decide how to examine this point in a clear and thoughtful fashion.

Solid Structure

When outlining, you can provide a thorough breakdown of how you will write the piece on a paragraph-by-paragraph level. By doing this, you can ensure that you will use your writing time properly, as you will understand where you need to go with your narrative as you tackle each paragraph or section. When outlining, there’s no need to go overboard: You can craft a detailed structural breakdown that explicitly highlights what you will say in each paragraph, or you can craft a simple outline that only offers a sentence or two regarding your approach within each section. The point is that with an outline, you’ll have a roadmap of sorts–you’ll understand where you need to go with the piece as you write it.

Research: Offering The Right Information

Outlining beforehand is useful from a research perspective, as well. Going into a piece, you may have a rough idea regarding the facts, statistics, or other data you might want to use within the copy. When outlining, you can determine a structural breakdown of the piece–in other words, what you will say in each paragraph–and you can also establish what type of information you will use within each individual section. For example, if you’re crafting a piece about press releases, you might want to include a section about the overall effectiveness of press releases–in other words, do they actually work on a consistent basis? If you want to make the case that press releases are effective, then you need to have the statistics to back up your assertion. By outlining, you can decide what type of research you will need for your piece even before actually begin writing it.

Gaps in Logic

Let’s say you’re making an argument: Press releases are no longer valuable. Your position is a controversial one, so you need to have facts to backup your case. You also need to make sure that there aren’t any obvious holes in your logic. By outlining, you can determine what kind of information you might need for your piece in advance, but you will also have a chance to examine your position from top-to-bottom. You might find during the outline stage that you overlooked a critical point in your argument. However, with a proper outline, you can ensure that you’ll present a solid case to your readers.

Supplemental Imagery or Charts

A good blog or article understands how to convey information in an easily digestible fashion. In other words, when crafting a blog, it’s critical that you present your copy in a way that won’t overwhelm the reader. Large, dense paragraphs might work for an academic journal, but they’re not appropriate for blogs, which are often intended to be read or scanned quickly. With that in mind, you might find at the outline stage that you can break up your copy, or supplement your information, by including charts, tables, or imagery. Determining the kind of images or charts you might need for your piece is far easier to do at the outline stage than the final drafting stage.

A Conclusion

Every good narrative needs a good ending. With an outline, you can develop your conclusion right from the start, guaranteeing that you will present a cohesive narrative structure from the first sentence down to the very last word. Once you highlight the theme of your piece in the outline, you can check to make sure that every section within the article or blog addresses this theme. Ideally, the conclusion reiterates your theme–e.g. Cision is excellent because of X, Y, or Z–and points out to your reader why your main argument matters.

An outline is a compass bearing, offering you clear guidance and direction at every stage of the writing process. An outline doesn’t need to be extensive–it can be detailed, or short and sweet. But by outlining before you write, you can guarantee that you will use your writing time in the most effective way possible.

Stefan Slater obtained his Master of Fine Arts in Narrative Nonfiction from Goucher College. He is a writer with over seven years of content creation experience, and his nonfiction work has appeared in a number of publications, including LA Weekly, Hakai, Angeleno, Surfer, and more. He is Circa Interactive’s lead editor.

5 Tips for Effective Client Communication

In the marketing industry, understanding how to deliver desired results for your clients is crucial to a successful business relationship, but a study shows that 46 percent of employees regularly leave meetings not understanding the next steps. Below are a few helpful communication tips that will ensure that both parties always leave a conversation knowing how to proceed, making discussions with clients more productive and effective.

Ask the right questions

In any communication setting, the person asking the questions is the one that steers the direction of the conversation and ultimately has control. The trick here is making sure that you are asking the questions that give you a better understanding of what your clients are feeling and what they want. Questions that prompt yes or no answers will not further a conversation, but rather put the client in a corner where they cannot fully explain what they are feeling. Deploy ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions that require a more elaborate response than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. For example, “how can we improve the illustration?” will get you much further than “do you like the illustration?”, because it requires a more detailed explanation of why the client satisfied or unsatisfied. Knowing how to frame your questions will also help resolve any problems or conflicts between you and your client. You can gain a better understanding of how your client feels about the work and how you can improve and grow in the future. Here are some other great ways to stage questions that will help you get to the root of a problem: https://wavelength.asana.com/develop-effective-communication/

Set the tone from the start

Make sure your style of communication is professional, yet personable. You want to show your client that accomplishing their goals is paramount, while simultaneously establishing an air of trust among both parties. Additionally, don’t be afraid to use informal conversation as a way to build the relationship. Make it known that the relationship is conducive to constructive criticism and feedback and that both parties are free to openly share their thoughts, ideas and opinions. Setting this tone will make collaboration easy and will keep the clients happy.

Be empathetic

 Show your client that you understand their concerns and recognize that they are human. If a client is upset about something, or seems like they are having a bad day and are taking it out on your work, refer to tip number one and start asking questions tailored to their concerns. Make it known that you are here to listen to their concerns and that you want to help them solve problems. You can also use “it seems” phrases to show the client what you’re understanding from their communication. By doing this, you are relaying your understanding of their problem, while also allowing the client to hear the tone that they are emitting. For example, if a client gets upset and says, “I cannot quite work out this illustration” and provides no other feedback, you can say “it seems like you want changes to be made to the illustration. How can we change the design to better suit your goals?”.

Do your homework

Preliminary research is not only useful for current clients, but also potential clients that you may be trying to court. Go into a weekly client meeting with new, potentially useful resources and a knowledge base of what your client has wanted in the past. Following the same idea, step into a potential client presentation with solid knowledge of their business and a strong idea of what their past work looks like. Be as prepared as possible. This shows the client that you truly care about their goals and are ready to help accomplish these. As a higher education marketing company, our public relations team leverages professors within our client’s degree programs in order to land media opportunities. We interview the professors before doing outreach on their behalf in order to get a better understanding of their passions and expertise, but before the interviews, we research the professor and tailor our interview questions to their individual work and interests. This establishes a rapport with them from the start, and they appreciate that we do not waste their time by going into the interview blind. Doing your homework upfront is a time-saver for everyone involved and shows the client that they are important to you.

Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone

In the digital age, much of the communication that occurs in a business setting happens via email or through some other digital medium. While this is convenient and generally effective, studies show that face-to-face communication is much more productive in terms of accomplishing one’s goals. While face-to-face communication with clients is not always possible in a digital company like ours, a phone call is the next best thing. Having a spoken conversation can solve problems and demonstrate a sense of urgency on your part to resolve an issue. Additionally, It is much faster and a more direct way to get to the root of a problem or miscommunication, leaving less room for things to get misinterpreted in the midst of a client crisis. Good old-fashioned speaking often gets the job done better than an instant message ever could.

 

Shannon black and white 2 Shannon has been contributing to the growth of the Circa team for nearly two years and recently graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in Communication Studies. Shannon’s creativity and passion for public relations and content marketing has contributed to Circa Interactive’s digital marketing value.