15+ Essential Apps and Websites for College Students

Educational Websites for College Students

Google Drive

Google drive is a great place to store all your documents, spreadsheets and presentations. The ease of access means that a file can be saved at home and easily accessed from a college computer or even a mobile phone. Because this is a cloud based system you do not have to worry about losing documents or files either!

Slack

Slack is a communication tool that can be greatly beneficial to students as well as businesses. Communicating and collaborating with those people in your study group can become a lot simpler with Slack.

Grammarly

Grammarly is an english writing tool that can improve your grammar and writing quality when crafting essays and reports. There is both a grammar and plagiarism check within the site which will ensure your work adheres to over 250 grammar rules. Simply add it as an extension to your browser and you’ll be able to easily check the quality and accuracy of your work.

Dictionary.com

Not only can this site provide you with a quick check for misspellings and allow you to expand your vocabulary, but the addition of the mobile site means you can quickly look up those complicated words your articulate professor is saying.

Dragon Dictation

Typing essay after essay can become tiring and is often very time consuming. Dragon Dictation recognizes and transcribes your words with great accuracy and speed. This is also an app that can be used on the go to save you even more time.

Research Websites for College Students

Rate My Professor

When planning your college classes for the upcoming semester, check out the Rate My Professor website.  The site provides student reviews on professors, based on criteria including class difficulty, textbook usage and grades received. This could help you get a feel for which professors will suit your learning style and how to structure your classes.

Pocket

With Pocket, students can save articles and come back to them later. Simply save the article and come back to it later when looking to pinpoint the finer details of a piece. Save articles directly from your browser or from apps like Twitter and Flipboard.

Flipboard

Flipboard is a way to create your very own personalized magazine. You simply select seven of your interests (or class topics) and the app will provide you with news content that is related to the pre selected criteria. This is a great way to surround yourself with real world information that can be used in your college work.

TED Talks

These speeches are extremely motivational and also provide valuable information. This can be a great resource when looking to come up with an original project idea.

Bibme

This app will allow you to quickly generate bibliographies and citations. The easy to use site has an auto-fill concept that quickly recognizes the source you have used or are searching for.

Genius Scan

A scanner in your pocket! This phone app allows you to easily digitize documents on your phone. You can also download extensions that enable you to sign and  fax documents or research projects.

Study Websites for College Students

Self Control

We all know that Facebook and Twitter can prove to be extremely distracting when trying to study. The Self Control app lets you block your own access to distracting websites that might get you off track. You can select the amount of time that the sites are blocked for, and even if you restart your computer or delete the app, you will not be able toaccess the blocked sites.

Audible

Audible allows you to listen to your assigned class reading when you are on the go. Not only can this save you time, but it can also come as a welcome relief from staring at a textbook for hours on end. It can also be particularly beneficial for students who commute to school. There is a monthly fee attached, but you can get a 30 day free trial and test out this handy application.

Quizlet

Quizlet is home to over 153,303,000 study sets and counting. These ready to use flashcards and study guides created by teachers and other students can be a great resource when looking to understand the key points from a particular class. You can also create your own flashcards, meaning you can access your study notes anywhere anytime.

Hemingway App  

Another proofreading tool here, but a great one nonetheless. The Hemingway editor highlights the errors that occur within your writing and will pick up on:

  • Complex words or phrases
  • Extra-long sentences
  • Long sentences
  • Too many adverbs
  • Too many instances of passive voice

Additionally, Each error is specifically color coded so they can be addressed individually.

Valore Books

Using Valore Books, students can make some money back on those expensive text books purchased for various college classes. The easy to use site allows for student to student sales meaning that purchasing books here can also save you some cash.

Scholarship Websites for College Students

Fastweb

Fastweb is one of the leading online resources when it comes to finding a school scholarship that works for you. There is access to over 1.5 million scholarships on the site.

Math Websites for College Students

RealCalc

This app is a downloadable scientific calculator that could save you some money while enabling you to solve complicated equations in class and at home.

Math TV

Math TV is home to a great number of math resources and videos that help with breaking down complicated equations. The site also offers insight into what a college student can expect from their math class.

Fun Websites for College Students

Roomsurf

The thought of looking for a new roommate can be a daunting and unappealing one. Roomsurf allows you to search for a new roommate using various criteria, thus enabling you to find a roomie with similar interests to yours!

Reddit

Reddit is certainly a fun and interesting way to get your news and offers considerably more than your traditional news sources. This is also a platform to use during study breaks to gather some interesting stories that you will most probably be sharing with your friends later that day.

Twitter

There is more to Twitter than meets the eye. Not only is it a place to connect with friends and stalk your favorite celebs during study breaks, but students can also utilize the site to keep up to date the date with the day’s breaking news.

Alarmy

If you have trouble getting up in the morning for class then make it a priority to download this app. Once you do, you will be forced to get up a take a photo of an item related to the picture that Alarmy shows on your screen. Good luck!

Job Websites for College Students

Career Rookie

Looking for your first job out of college? Want to find some work while you are still in school? Well, Career Rookie specializes in this and is a great place to start looking for your first dream job.

LinkedIn

Another place to start when looking for that first job post college is of course LinkedIn. Use this social platform to connect with influencers and highlight your expertise/experience. Many employers will check out your LinkedIn page during their interview and hiring process.

Psychology Websites for College Students

Psychology Today

An absolute must for an Psychology Student! This said, Psychology Today is more than just your average psychology based news site. Thousands of academics from across the world use this platform to blog about their interests and expertise. This can range from psychology (obviously) to business. You may even find that a couple of your professors are writing for Psychology Today.

If you have any more suggestions on websites for college students then be sure to leave them in the comments!

George has recentGeorgely joined the Circa team in California following the completion of his master’s in marketing management and strategy degree, where he graduated with distinction from Plymouth University in England. George is a PR and digital marketing specialist who is passionate about creating high level opportunities for professors within national publications. 

6 Free Keyword Research Tools For Beginners and Experts

When it comes to digital marketing, keyword research plays a big part in implementing an effective SEO strategy. Google and other search engines are evolving and becoming smarter in evaluating the best search results for the searched terms, so it’s no longer enough just to write content for blog posts, products, services, etc. without doing proper keyword research. Otherwise, content will be lost in the 20+ search engine result pages and nobody ever will find it.

If you are beginner and can’t afford any of the paid keyword research tools, then you’re probably wondering, “What is the best free keyword research tool?” If so then you’re in the right place. Below, I’ll share my top six favorite free keyword research tools and how to incorporate them in your content marketing.

Soovle

Soovle is a great keyword research tool for beginners. It’s simple to use and will not take a long time to gather the keywords list to use for your blog post. Soovle provides autocomplete suggestions from the major search engines: Google, Wikipedia, Yahoo, Ebay, Youtube, Bing, Amazon, and more. Since its not a very advanced tool, I would suggest combining Soolve with another tool to get more information for your content. Since this tools provides data for multiple search engines, it can be a great option for someone who is looking to sell products on Ebay or Amazon.

Interface of Soovle keyword research tool

 

Google Trend and Google Suggest

 Google Trends

Consider Google Trends as your inspiration for finding the next hot topic. By simply entering the keyword in the search bar, Google Trends provides over five years of data for that keyword and helps in identifying if that particular search term is still relevant for the consumer/reader. Google Trends is also popular for being a very customizable tool. It allows you to search for multiple terms at the same time, and data can be filtered by the country, period of time, different categories, and the type of search.

Google Trends not only analyzes historical data for the particular search terms, it also shows the interest by subregion and related queries. It’s a great way to identify if the content you’re planning to produce will be relevant to the audience you are trying to reach.

Google Trends Interface

 Google Suggest

Google Suggest is another tool that is popular within the marketing industry and well known by frequent users of Google. To use Google Suggest, simply start typing keywords in the Google search box, and Google Suggest will autofills the search box with keywords that other people are looking for or they are related to your search query. It’s perfect for generating insights on popular search queries relating to your search term.

Google Suggest Interface

Keywords Everywhere

The Keywords Everywhere extension is a free keyword tool that can be easily installed on either Chrome or Firefox. Keywords Everywhere shows Google keyword search volume, cost per click, and competition data of keywords on multiple websites including the ones mentioned above Soovle and Google Suggest. With this extension you will no longer need to wonder which keywords to choose for your content as all the necessary data is presented.

Keywords everywhere extension on Soovle

Google Suggest Keywords Everywhere extension

SERPs

SERPs is a fast and simple to use tool that is great for the beginners and experts. It provides related keywords for the searched term, volume, CPC, and value. SERPs shows all of this data on one page, allowing you to filter the results with secondary keywords and add them to the “Saved Results List,” which is downloadable in .csv format. Although, SERPs is a good tool to use for daily content creation, I would recommend taking their provided data on CPC and Value with a grain of salt by confirming the volume and difficulty with another keyword research tool.

SERPs keyword research interface

Answer The Public

Answer The Public is a very unique keyword research tool that provides questions containing the searched keyword. It can be very helpful for those looking to understand what people are asking for, what they are looking for, and what questions they have about that searched term. With such valuable insights, Answer the Public offers writers the opportunity to create content that could answer all of these questions. If the writer’s content is relevant, it might even be featured in the rich snippets in Google the next time someone searches for similar answers. This kind of content could provide great value for the business in every stage of the buyer’s journey. Answer the Public also includes results with prepositions for the long tail keyword opportunities and is friendly to Keywords Everywhere extensions mentioned earlier.

Answer the Public Interface

LSI Graph

LSI stands for latent semantic indexing. LSI keywords are keywords related to the searched term that are semantically linked. If incorporated into your SEO strategy, then LSI keywords can increase organic traffic and improve rankings. By incorporating longtail keywords and semantic keywords to your blog posts, the content becomes more user friendly and sounds more natural than just trying to use all the high volume keywords.

LSI Graph keyword research interface

Knowing how to choose and use keywords can help to increase organic traffic for your website. Although paid tools tend to over more advanced options, beginners, firms without big budgets and experts looking for alternatives can benefit from free keyword research tools.
If you now feel inspired to write some blog posts about your university but are not sure where to start, keep reading to find out 3 tips for finding blog topics for universities.

 

Martyna's headshotMartyna is a graduate from Vilnius University in Vilnius, Lithuania. With 2 years experience in digital marketing industry, Martyna adds in-depth understanding of on-page and local SEO to the Circa team. Her passion and continual education in SEO initiatives help contribute to Circa’s expanding digital marketing presence.

 

What Cision’s 2017 State of the Media Report Tells Us About the Future of PR

With the media landscape constantly evolving, it’s essential that all PR practitioners are aware of current trends and shifts in order to remain at the forefront of their industry. In practicing digital public relations, it is particularly important to be aware of how journalists’ preferences are changing to better engage their growing online audience. Cision, a media communications database, recently released the results of their annual State of the Media Report, which surveyed more than 1,550 media professionals about their preferred practices, biggest challenges and trends to be mindful of. Here are some of the key takeaways from this report.

Know the journalist’s beat before you pitch

According to survey results, 51 percent of journalists reported pursuing a story because of a displayed knowledge of their work, a 16 percent increase from last year.State of the Media ReportBut how can public relations practitioners accommodate these preferences in a practical way?

  1. Create specialized pitches for industry-specific publications and research each outlet to find one reporter that is most likely to pursue your pitch. This way you’re targeting niche publications in a strategic and efficient way.
  2. Create a master list of reporters you have already established relationships with for each industry. This will not only make your life easier when trying to find specialized reporters, but they will appreciate you respecting their beat.
  3. Take one reporter from a few top publications out of your media list and do the necessary research to really personalize those pitches. Maybe reference an article they recently published or trend they often write about. By doing so, you’re showing a vested interest in them and establishing yourself as a quality resource. Even if you may not land an opportunity that time, it will build the foundation for a lasting relationship. Who knows, they might reach out to you again for a similar story in the future.
  4. Take advantage of resources like Help a Reporter Out (HARO), where reporters post story ideas and request reputable sources for them. By using this database, you have the opportunity to find specialized story topics that will leverage your expert sources while increasing your chances of successfully landing an opportunity.

Get creative with multimedia

With the news shifting to become shorter and more interactive, journalists are searching for elements to use in their stories that will both entice and engage readers. Nearly 70.5 percent of survey respondents reported almost or always incorporating multimedia into their stories, and they ranked the type of multimedia that they value the most as follows:

  1. Photos
  2. Social Media Posts
  3. Videos including YouTube
  4. Infographics
  5. User Generated Content – Videos Photos
  6. Web Polls
  7. Live Stream / Blogging Embeds
  8. Data Interactives
  9. Animated .gifs

Photos, social media posts and videos come as no surprise as the most integrated multimedia elements in stories, but this presents a major opportunity for infographics. Infographics are useful to not only support a pitch with facts that are presented in a captivating way, but they can be used as a lead for a story as well. But what if certain reporters don’t accept infographics? It never hurts to ask what form of multimedia they prefer to receive and make note of that so you don’t keep pitching them with content they’ll never use. Respecting and valuing their preferences will pay off because knowing what they commonly utilize for their stories will make them a great resource for future opportunities.

Provide valuable and differentiated resources

Journalists are constantly being pitched with press releases and new story ideas, and while survey results show that this is their most valued resource, it’s essential that PR professionals find a way to break through the noise and stand out with their pitching ideas. One way to do this is to tie the lead to something trending in the news or to an upcoming event, which we refer to as news and time pegs. This not only shows that you did your research, but that you are stepping in as a valuable resource by providing a fresh perspective to a bigger story. Expert interviews and story sources were ranked as the second most valuable resource to journalists, so make sure to constantly check resources like HARO for these specialized opportunities. Finally, always be sure that you are presenting ready-to-publish content that helps establish yourself as a credible source. This means going through your pitch and checking for accuracy, grammar and AP style, and being sure that each hyperlink works.

 

Ariana HeadshotAriana is a soon-to-be graduate of San Diego State University and current member of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). As a journalism major with an emphasis in public relations, she brings both traditional training and fresh ideas to Circa as their digital public relations and content marketing intern. Her creativity and passion for storytelling contribute to Circa’s digital public relations presence.

 

Facebook Chatbots: The Social Media Game Changer

As with any marketing strategy, keeping communication lines open between a company and its customers is crucial to a successful relationship and high conversion rate. The same principle applies to social media. This is where chatbots have come in to save the day.

Thanks to some rather fancy artificial intelligence technology, chatbots operate by means of a certain set of rules dictated by the Facebook page’s administrator which allows the chatbot to be the first line of communication with a user. While it may sound as if chatbots are the opposite of open, transparent business-to-consumer communication, studies show that chatbot experiences with more engaged audiences are seeing an 80 to 90 percent response rate. Because chatbots are also still in its early phases of integration for most, early adopters have an incredible opportunity to take advantage of the low competition, free tool in a way that works best for their program. Here are a few ways higher education marketers can take advantage of this new, cutting-edge technology.

Why Higher Ed Marketers Should Care

Updated Content Strategy

With most higher education marketing plans, there is a content marketing strategy in place that often includes some kind of social media integration. That integration, however, tends to be passive and the social media user engagement tends to be rather low. Chatbots, on the other hand, give marketing managers the opportunity to personalize content, nurture relationships, and provide immediate value to any given user while driving website traffic without actually lifting a finger – no, really.

Frequently Asked Questions – Answered

Chatbots are also a great way to answer common questions prospective and/or active students tend to ask. As a social media/marketing specialist, you may not know specific university details well enough to adequately address questions without resorting to contacting student services. Rather than harassing student services yourself or complicating the user experience by merely sending the student a different email or phone number, chatbots can help to answer these questions on their own and provide further contact info should the student request it.   

Leadforms Revolutionized

Another exciting benefit to chatbots is the potential end of lead forms and expensive landing pages. While the latter might be a bit of a stretch, chatbots can do away with overly invasive lead forms that make a user feel as if they’re lighting a neon “Please All Spammers Contact Me” sign. Instead, all the information you need for the first point of contact is already there and free to use thanks to basic Facebook profiles. Should the bot need further information (i.e. email, location, phone number, etc.), the user can then provide it as needed rather than blindly subjecting their information to the whims of the internet.

Real ROI

Most importantly, you as a higher ed marketer should care about this tool because, as of right now, click-through-rates and engagement are especially high since competition is low and communication is one-on-one and not lost in a sea of news feed content. Who doesn’t want that?

Creating A Chatbot

This is a lot easier than it sounds. Yes, as I mentioned earlier, it is artificial intelligence technology, but the the process is extremely user friendly. The best part? It’s free.

Before you begin, the most important thing to remember is why your students should care about the chatbot’s information and how they can continue to gain value from it. As with any new marketing strategy, this is far and away the most difficult aspect to keep in mind, but also the most rewarding. One place to start is to find trends in your current Facebook inbox. What questions are most frequently asked? What information is most frequently requested? From there, you can then continue to expand your chatbot’s capabilities.

Here are a couple of tools to get your chatbot up and running:

Chatfuel

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This particular tool is not only free, but the interface requires absolutely zero coding knowledge. By simply dragging and dropping different “blocks” or rules for your chatbot to follow, this program promises to have your chatbot up and running in under 10 minutes (after a 10 minute tutorial, if you need it).

Botsify

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 1.45.58 PM

Just like ChatFuel, this service also starts for free, includes an entire slew of free integrations, offers unlimited messages, analytics, and paid plans for even more intricate options.

Using either of these sites, you can create:

  • A welcome bot for those who have just “liked” your page and an onboarding message to show the user how to interact with your chatbot.
  • A content distributing tool that sends the user exactly what they’re looking for. If they need a program brochure, contact information for student services, admissions information, links to your university’s blog or articles, or even if they wish to opt-in to a newsletter or content subscription, they can by answering a few simple commands.
  • An appointment generator. Especially if you can coordinate with your admissions team and have them create an open-source appointment page (using google calendar appointments, Doodle.com, youcanbook.me, etc.) you can set your chatbot to ask the user if they would like to schedule a call with an actual admissions counselor!

Chatbot Best Practices

Don’t forget to give people a clear and precise expectation of what you will be sending, how often, and the opportunity for them to also change those options and frequency. The user should be in as much control as possible. Otherwise, you run the risk of becoming yet another spammy nuisance that no one will want to be friends with – well, Facebook friends anyway.

Don’t forget to have some fun with it! By giving your chatbot an actual name or perhaps a bit of personality, your students are far more likely to engage and keep engaging.

If the chatbot fails to provide the information the user is looking for, make sure there are fail-safes in place to guide users to the right contact information or web page. Both ChatFuel and Botsify offers ways to do this.

And last but not least: test, test, testing 1, 2, 3. Before you make your chatbot live, make sure you and your team have tested it plenty of times on different devices. Does it work seamlessly with Mac’s? PC’s? iPhones? Androids? Different browsers like Google Chrome, Safari, or Mozilla’s Firefox? If yes, then let the chatbot roam free!

Thanks to the beauties of the internet and artificial intelligence, your university’s Facebook page can come back to life with the least amount of effort on your part – who doesn’t want that?

 

Tami Cruz of Circa InteractiveTami is one of our in-house social media gurus with a passion for content marketing and public relations. After earning her degree in communication and marketing from the University of California, San Diego, her dedication and multi-faceted skillset for creative marketing strategies has led her to become a crucial team member driven to expanding Circa Interactive’s digital marketing value.

7 Tactics for Repurposing Content on Social Media

If digital content marketing is in your tactical arsenal, you know that developing fresh subject matter can be challenging. Thankfully, by repurposing content that is proven to be successful, we can cut down time while maintaining or even increasing engagement. The following are 7 unique ways to repurpose successful social media posts for your school or brand.

 

1. Find and Create Evergreen content

Evergreen content is essentially content that doesn’t lose its value over time. It stays fresh for consumers, and when an individual encounters the content in their feed, it won’t feel stale or dated. The first step in successful content repurposing is finding and creating evergreen content.  A few examples are:

  • Lists
  • Top tips
  • Instructional “how -to” tutorials
  • Encyclopedia-esque entries
  • Product reviews
  • Videos

In academia, it’s easy to pinpoint information that will have a long lifespan. Educational topics rarely lose their value and can be repurposed many times over. Scan through the backend of Facebook and check to see which posts you’ve published that could have a maximum potential repurposing value. Shy away from anything related to news pegs, outdated statistics, or trends. When building out content for future use, it’s important to keep the evergreen mentality in mind and think ahead of the recyclability of posts that you create.

 

2. News Pegs

Consolidating stories on social media is a fairly straightforward task when dealing with a university and/or academic program. Course curriculum and program themes construct a natural skeleton to build content around. Take, for example, a master’s in criminal justice degree. Reoccurring topics may include policing, crime scene identification, and the US correctional industry. I run into reoccurring themes like these many times when promoting an academic social media account. These themes aren’t only applicable to the internal narrative of a university but also to stories outside of the school’s domain. Connecting relevant topics to trending news stories can be a great way to latch onto existing exposure. When you find a story that could apply to your brand, it’s critical to think of a unique angle to stand out from the masses.

 

3. Visualizations

Whether it’s a simple student quote or a research-based infographic, most academic literature can easily be converted into visually appealing media. Using sites like canva and unstock editor, you can create simple social graphics without the need of an extensive design background. Keep it minimal and clean and consider using campus images or other branded media you may have in a portfolio. It’s proven that Facebook posts generate 84% more click-throughs when they have an image. By converting simple text into a visual format, you can also capitalize on posting through instagram.

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Another way to take advantage of already-existing social media posts is by converting content into an infographic. If you’ve listed any tips or relevant industry information you can use canva’s infographic maker to easily organize them into a sharable infographic.

“Infographics make complex information eye catching, shareable and easily digestible. They can help boost engagement on your social media profiles, make your presentations more interesting and transform your marketing materials to have greater impact.” –Canva

4. Facebook Live

Live video streaming on mobile devices is expected to grow by 39 times in the next five years. Facebook Live is at the forefront of this burgeoning market. Thinking of ways to incorporate live video is going to be a tremendously popular marketing trend moving into 2017, and brands need to start capitalizing. For universities and their programs, think campus tours, live lectures, or even athletic events. When it comes to repurposing existing content, twitter AMA’s featuring professors could be easily repeated or tweaked for Facebook live. Including an admissions AMA where prospective students can find out more about a school they are interested in is another valuable strategy. The key here is personalization. Being able to see a face, rather than text coming from a brand and a logo, makes a big difference. Students and fans alike can make a better connection this way. Additionally, Facebook live videos seem to break through the organic barrier much better than other posts. Facebook is pushing people to really use the platform, so this is a major benefit at the moment.

 

5. LinkedIn Pulse Publisher

Launched in 2015, LinkedIn Pulse is a publishing platform that showcases roughly 130,000 unique articles every week. It’s one of Linkedin’s fastest growing products. Publishing to pulse is easy. Simply find a successful post you’ve already published on a social channel, preferably some sort of long-form content like an article or academic research, and then upload it to the Linkedin publisher. It’s important to note that you must have an external blog connected to your school/program in order to be considered a publisher on Linkedin. For a full list of requirements needed to publish on Linkedin Pulse, see a step-bystep guide here. Don’t forget to use canva for a catchy cover image.

pulse_stats

6. Upload YouTube videos to Facebook

Many marketers think of YouTube as the primary frontier for video marketing. However, Facebook video has considerably grown over the past three years. Zuckerberg is challenging the video throne. Facebook now serves over 8 billion unique video views per day. These videos generate 135% greater organic traffic than photo posts. If you already have video multimedia at your disposal, uploading it to multiple channels like Facebook is an easy decision to make. Video examples for universities might include alumni interviews, professor highlights, course descriptions, or campus tours. When I mention uploading YouTube videos to Facebook, it’s important to note that I’m not talking about posting the YouTube link. Video that is uploaded to Facebook directly plays natively and reaches 2X more people, resulting in 2X more likes, 3X more shares, and 7X more comments than a posted link.

 

7. Compile Tweets into Twitter Moments

Twitter moments were released to the public in November of 2016. They represent “the very best of what’s happening on Twitter” (their words) by compiling collections of tweets about a specific topic in one place. Creating a moment is simple and the link to do so can be found on your Twitter profile dashboard.

ag-create-new-twitter-moment

After you click the “Create new Moment” button, you’ll be prompted to enter an eye-catching title and description, along with a cover photo. After you’ve decided on a cohesive theme to guide your moment, you can scroll down and select historically posted tweets to add that fall in line with the story you’re trying to create. If you want to further customize your moment, click the “…More” button in the top left corner.

 

Jordan Opel

Jordan Opel is an accomplished, creative professional. He is responsible for managing and enhancing organic social media activities for our various clients. Additionally, as the leading graphic designer, he contributes to a significant portion of Circa Interactive’s creative endeavors through motion-media design, illustration, and content-creation experience.

 

 

The Anatomy of a PR Pitch – How to Structure & Standardize Pitching Across Your Team

As any PR or communications professional knows, pitching is the single most important skill to possess. While there are various approaches and styles to this, it’s important to find a structure and style for pitching that has had proven success within your industry and then standardize that formula across your team. So how can you streamline the process of pitching to make team members as successful and efficient as possible? First, it’s important to identify the key components that make up every well-rounded PR pitch. While each pitch can, and often will, look a little different, we have found that there are four primary components that should be included in every pitch. Here are the four core components and their definitions:

Lead

The lead is the angle into your story. Keep this as short and concise as possible. A lead should be comprised of one of the following:

    • A news peg is a trending story or topic in the news that relates to what you’re pitching. For example, leveraging the presidential debate or a new medical study that was just released. This allows you to hook the reader with a relevant and widespread story.
    • A time peg represents an upcoming date or event. For example, anniversaries of days like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, days or weeks dedicated to specific causes like “Health IT Week” or “Mental Health Awareness Day,” or even months like “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” These types of dates and events can be easily leveraged for PR purposes as media outlets will often shape content around significant or relevant time pegs. In order to keep track and take advantage of these dates, it’s helpful to create and consistently update an internal editorial calendar with your team.
Call to action (CTA)

This is the action that you want your audience to take. For instance, in our case this would often include speaking with a professor or publishing an infographic or blog on behalf of our clients.

Value proposition

This is where you allow yourself to stand out and differentiate yourself from the competition. Demonstrate the significance of what you’re pitching and why it’s important. What value would it provide to their publication and readership? How does it relate to the larger story? These are some of the questions you should address.

Conclusion

Quickly thank them for their time and reiterate what your goal or call to action (CTA) is. Keep this brief and to the point.

There are questions that you should always be asking yourself when writing a pitch. Here are a few of the important ones to keep in mind:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What is the larger story?
  • Why should they care about what you’re pitching?
  • What value does this provide them?
  • What story are you creating in your pitch?

To see how this formula looks in practice, I’ve included a pitch below which is color coded based on the four components I described above.

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Caroline-Black-and-White-tan-3-4Caroline brings a wealth of knowledge in communications, marketing, and account management to the Circa Interactive team, and she has worked with partners such as HP, Cisco, and Adobe. Graduating with honors in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Oregon in 2011, Caroline now plays a key role in Circa Interactive’s digital PR strategy by building long term relationships with internationally recognized media outlets on behalf of our clients.

8 Ways to Get the Most out of Your Press Release

As I discussed in my previous article, press releases can be an extremely effective tool when you are looking to promote an event or news within higher education. The potential impact of a press release goes far beyond this though, and should be an essential part of your overall public relations strategy. As defined by Entrepreneur, a press release is “a public relations announcement issued to the news media and other targeted publications for the purpose of letting the public know of company developments.” These short, compelling documents give your university’s latest developments a platform to be seen and discussed within the larger media circuit. However, if you do not include key elements in your press release, it is unlikely to be picked up by your target audience and your reach will diminish. Here I will discuss some key tips for you to consider when writing and distributing your next press release.

1. Make sure your story is newsworthy

Is your press release going to excite those within the industry? Does your news provide value and relate to larger industry trends? These are questions that you should be thinking about before you distribute it to the media. Innovative, exciting developments and research within your university make ideal topics for press releases. One of our clients recently announced they are developing a virtual reality application with the aim of improving mental health care, an incredibly innovative idea that appeals to a several popular media topics. We immediately saw this as an ideal opportunity to help raise awareness about the institution and the cutting-edge work that they’re doing through a press release.

2. Grab attention with the headline

The headline of a press release, as with that of an article headline or subject line within a pitch, is pivotal if you are to successfully pull in journalists and editors. Of course, it is important for your headline to be accurate and give the reader a strong idea of what is to come, but you also want to ensure that it is engaging and makes them want to read on. There are three best practices to follow when writing your headline: 1) Be unique – you need to differentiate yourself from the competition. 2) Be specific – give the reader detailed information to ensure they understand what you are presenting them. 3) Be beneficial – the headline itself must provide a benefit to the reader and show that the information is useful.

3. Include quotes

To increase your validity and credibility, it’s critical to include quotes from at least one high level source who is directly involved in the story. These quotes should provide greater insight and perspective and can also lead to further media opportunities for the expert and institution.

4. Remain relatable

It is important that you do not confuse the reporter or reader with your press release. Therefore, the language used should not be overly complicated, as much of your audience will lack the specialist knowledge required to understand the finest details. If there are terminologies that are complex, then explain these as if you were speaking to somebody who does not work within your discipline. Make the content simple, straightforward, and easily consumable for a general audience. 

5. Stay Concise

A press release should not exceed more than a single page and should only include the most pertinent facts. If the press release leaves them wanting more information, then they can reach out using the contact information provided in the press release.

6. Include a pitch

When distributing your press release, be sure to write a media pitch as you would if you were looking to create a traditional PR opportunity. The pitch is where you can really sell the story and the relevance of it to the publication’s audience and interests. Make sure to paste the press release below your signature as a journalist may not have the time or want to open an attachment.

7. Customize to each target audience (when applicable)

In order to maximize your chance of press coverage, you should tailor the press release to fit each audience when there is more than one. For example, we recently distributed a press release on the topic of virtual reality and mental health for one of our clients. Clearly, there is a both a technology and health angle here. You should be targeting both audiences and should alter the pitch and press release to ensure it relates directly to the industry you are pitching.  

8. Capitalize on link building opportunities

A press release provides you with an excellent opportunity to gain greater brand awareness as well as positively influence SEO. By including a link within your press release that takes the reader to the corresponding homepage or landing page, you will increase the chances of media outlets linking back to your target site which will in turn help to boost rankings. 

 

George has recentGeorgely joined the Circa team in California following the completion of his master’s in marketing management and strategy degree, where he graduated with distinction from Plymouth University in England. George is a PR and digital marketing specialist who is passionate about creating high level opportunities for professors within national publications. 

How Pokemon Go is Causing Digital Marketers to Experiment with Augmented Reality

Headline news this summer has been anything but stagnant. From political conventions to ISIS activity and a governmental coup, there are currently many powerful stories being told in the world. However, one trivial and unexpected memory from millennials’ childhood is commanding media attention in a way that would even catch M. Night Shyamalan off guard. Pokémon Go is taking the world by storm, and I’ve started to realize that mobile gaming isn’t the only industry being affected. If you haven’t heard about Pokémon Go recently, then there is a very good chance that you could be living under a rock, or more appropriately, hiding in the tall grass. Though if you’ve ventured out of your earthly abode and onto the internet any time in the past two weeks, you may know that the app has become the largest mobile game in U.S. history. However, its developer – Niantic, a former Google affiliate – is beginning to show the world that there is much more under the hood than a simple gaming platform, and it’s blazing a trail for digital marketers to begin experimenting with augmented reality as part of their overall strategy.

The Pokémon Phenomenon

Within only two weeks since its launch on July 6th, daily active user (DAU) numbers of Pokémon Go have effortlessly surpassed those of twitter. The app has been downloaded on twice as many devices as Tinder, a mega-popular millennial dating app, and one day, ironically, Pokémon Go could legitimately be considered a competitor with Tinder. On top of this, the Pokémon Go phenomenon is maintaining an upward trajectory of DAU’s despite consistent unacceptable server issues, multiple trespassing claims, and a diverse array of lacking features.

Google search queries compared to “Pokemon Go”

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In a recent sensetower study, Pokémon go is outperforming all social networks based on the time spent in the app.

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Now, if you think “phenomenon” is a strong word, then it’s safe to assume that you haven’t witnessed Pokémon Go in the real world. Since the game forces users to go outside to play, typical gamers are getting something commonly unfamiliar: exercise, and lots of it. There have been numerous accounts of people in New York City, the archetypal mecca of “PoGo” players, swarming streets and blocking traffic in search of rare pocket monsters to add to their collection.

Despite having to look at your phone [most of the time] to play the game, it still kindles a vivid social atmosphere and encourages users to talk to complete strangers about subjects ranging from childhood video game involvement to recent Pokémon catches and what team they’re on. Sure, the problem of stumbling into new areas can have several downsides, but there are many overlooked benefits of the game’s interface as well.

Because of it’s social advocacy, psychology professionals are claiming that the game genuinely helps people with mental health issues,  such as depression and social anxiety. Philanthropic causes are also booming due to Pokémon Go. The app Walk for a Dog tracks walking distance through your smartphone and sends cash donations to your favorite animal shelter based on how far you walk. Many Pokémon Go users are using both apps together. So much so that Wooftrax, the Walk for a Dog developer even mentions Pokémon Go early on on their homepage. Essentially, Pokémon Go is bridging the gap between online and offline experiences. It has evolved into a modern social network without integrating any social media features within the app, and companies are beginning to notice. Digital marketers should take note on how Pokemon Go is influencing the way people interact in the world, encouraging community on and off line, and begin to think about how their own strategies can tap into augmented reality in a similar way.

 

Understanding the “PoGo” Marketing Platform

Anything that can rapidly draw a user base as large as Pokémon Go deserves attention from digital marketers. However, in order to recognize how companies can take advantage of this cultural phenomenon, you need to understand a few basic aspects of the game, so bare with me for a second.

Firstly, the entire game of Pokémon Go is a map, which draws it’s architecture from Google Maps and superimposes an actual street map on users’ phones screens. This requires players to venture outside not only to find and capture digital creatures through the lens of their smartphones via augmented reality (AR) but also to collect items. These items’ applications range from giving users better chances of catching Pokémon to healing their Pokémon to granting Pokéballs to catch more of them.

Unless users are going to pay for these items, they need to physically walk around and tap on virtual blue icons on the app’s map called “Pokéstops,” which have about a 200-foot actionable radius. One of the most beneficial activities players participate in at Pokéstops, however, is the use of something called a “lure.” Lure’s attract masses of the digital creatures (and people) to a Pokéstop’s location for a half-hour period. All players in the immediate area can benefit from it’s effects and lures often spawn rare Pokémon available for all to capture. Lure’s cost $1/piece, and it’s important to note that they can only be used at these Pokéstops.

The lure is represented by falling rose petals

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Locations with multiple overlapping Pokéstops can draw consistent crowds of people. Gyms, on the other hand – hard-to-miss digital towers where you can battle other players for control and earn rewards – require nothing to be placed there and offer players the chance to earn Pokécoins to spend on in-game items like lures and upgrades.

Three examples of gyms

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Pokéstops, as well as gyms, are placed at unique landmarks all around a user’s city, and up until recently their locations have been pre-decided by developer Niantic.

Most Pokéstops and gyms are currently situated at artistic installations, historical landmarks, and religious buildings. But that may be about to change.

Marketing Implications

When people are playing Pokémon Go, they usually aren’t aimlessly wandering around looking for Pokémon. Experienced players are going to visit and linger at locations with Pokéstops and Gyms in order to benefit from lures and fight with their team members for Gym control.

These two virtual landmarks, Gyms and Pokéstops, form the fundamental basis for how marketers are incorporating Pokémon Go into their efforts.

Lures

Several small businesses have recently experienced huge sales increases thanks to Lure activity. A pizza joint in Queens even saw a 75% sales increase on a $10 investment. You don’t have to be a marketing whiz to understand that kind of a return.

Location is everything here, and being situated next to a Pokéstop is the first step in determining if a Pokémon Go marketing investment is right for you. However, if you’re lucky enough to have one within proximity, mimicking the above tactic is sure to draw users into brick and mortar enterprises. Since lures cost only $1 for a half hour, the opportunity-cost here is pretty attractive.

If you want to test this approach, my advice when creating a PoGo account would be to pick a username that advertises your business as you can click on a lured Pokéstop to see the name of the account that set it up. People noticing that “L’inizio Pizza Bar” is paying for lures may be more inclined to pay a visit.

If you’re lucky enough to be in an area with multiple Pokéstops, users are most likely accumulating naturally as the more lures that are set up, the higher the chances are of catching rare in-game creatures. In this case, the pay-to-play users will generally keep lures set up themselves as multi-lure benefits are significant. Meanwhile, non-paying players can still reap all the benefits. Businesses next to these hotspots are taking advantage of this by offering discounts or free items to anyone who sets lures up.

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Gyms

Gyms offer another unique avenue for marketing potential. In the game, there are 3 teams that users can join, and the competition is pretty intense in between them, especially between the top two teams: red and blue (or Valor and Mystic as they are more specifically called). Taking advantage of appealing to the three in-game teams (with yellow, or “Instinct” being the third), businesses can tailor advertising or even products to appeal to Pokémon Go team members.

Since the competing teams are constantly overthrowing each other’s gyms, users will be forced to visit a gym’s location in order to take control of it. Being on or near a gym provides a lot of opportunity for marketers to target a constant flow of Pokémon Go players for free.

team mystic

Partnerships

Right now the locations of Pokéstops and gyms have been carried over from Niantic’s first and previous mass augmented reality (AR) endeavor, Ingress. However, there is clear evidence that they will be adjusting these marketing hotspots based on the recent surfacing of a partnership with McDonalds.

Thanks to the advertising agreement, Japanese Pokémon Go players can now find gyms at over 3,000 McDonalds locations around the land of the rising sun.

On July 26th, McDonalds CEO Steve Easterbrook was quoted saying: ‘We are enjoying what [Pokémon Go] is doing for our business at the moment.’

It’s unclear if Niantic is planning on selling advertising opportunities like this to the masses, but these indicators mean digital marketers should definitely be keeping tabs on the company’s progress.

What Does it all Mean?

Pokémon Go is a popular topic right now. It’s a trend, and we all know that trends never result in foolproof capitalization. There’s no need to go full throttle with an intensive Pokémon Go digital marketing strategy, but my best advice would be to experiment with Pokemon Go and begin to think about how augmented reality can meet your clients’ goals. Create an account, find out if your business is next to a Gym or Pokéstop, and if so, spend that $10 just to see what happens. Pokémon Go has the potential to be an unusual yet thrilling way to attract new customers. However, a lot of businesses either don’t know how to use it to their advantage or are simply scared to risk doing so.

As with any unsaturated market, there will always be apprehension. Digital marketers are comfortable using Facebook or Twitter because everyone already advertises on those channels, but very few businesses are experimenting with AR applications like Pokémon Go. If anything, it’s an exciting time right now to be witnessing the birth of a potential new marketing channel. The last major social application with the same kind of potential has to be Snapchat, which is still yet to reach widespread use for professionals. Though, as the barriers to entry are currently quite affordable, downsides to dipping a toe into the PoGo pool are few and far between. Just like the stars of Pokémon Go, technology evolves often and early adopters are the ones who capitalize first. Accepting new industry changes and discovering their practical applications has always been what drives our industry forward and gives us a reason to keep learning.

A Step-by-Step Guide on how to Leverage University Events for Your SEO Strategy

Universities throughout the United States regularly host events and conferences with the intention of bringing awareness to certain topics and causes, while simultaneously building upon their thought leadership within the industry. However, while more organizations and institutions are beginning to leverage online tactics to promote their events, many are still missing out on a key opportunity to build links to their event, which will in turn help with rankings and visibility for the program. Here at Circa Interactive, we have found that using university events and conferences as an SEO and link building tactic can be a very effective strategy in boosting our clients’ rankings and brand awareness. The reason that this strategy is so successful is because featuring relevant industry events can provide great value to a publication’s readership. For example, we recently acquired twelve links over a ten day period for a brain summit hosted by one of our university clients, which clearly proves that this strategy can be a powerful and effective one. Here is a step-by-step guide on how you can achieve the same results for your university program events, including but not limited to: conferences, conventions, exhibits, and university tours.  

Start with Event Websites

You should begin by targeting national event listing sites as these will be relevant to every event that you host and serve to create easy link wins. Many of these sites simply require you to send them the details of the event, along with the URL, so that they can verify whether it is a legitimate event. This is a great tactic to obtain your first batch of links. These links are also likely to be diverse in comparison to many others you may have in your portfolio, thus further increasing the value of these placements. A diverse backlink portfolio with a variety of high quality wins is seen as a positive indicator to Google and will therefore be beneficial from an SEO standpoint. Some national event listing sites that I would recommend starting with are: lanyrd.com, conferencealerts.com, and eventbrite.com.

Write a Press Release

The concept behind a press release is to share newsworthy content with relevant contacts. This should be used to accompany your link building efforts. If possible, also factor in how this press release will work best from an SEO perspective and how a search engine will recognize your keywords. Your press release should elaborate on the details of the event, discuss the target audience, and note who the key speakers are. Also remember to include any contact information so that media outlets can obtain more information if needed. Alongside this, remind the media contact why this topic is important in a wider context. This can be achieved by using a news peg that is closely associated with your event. Prior to our client’s brain summit, a report stated that the rate of ADHD diagnosis had risen 5% each year since 2003. This data signified the importance of continued brain research and enabled us to provide media contacts with an additional reason to publish information on the event. A press release has the potential to spread far and wide because many media outlets pick up stories from other local media sources. If you can find a few sites that are willing to post your press release, then this could create a ripple effect and you might end up with a number of placements in a short amount of time without having to manually acquire all the placements yourself.  

Look for Local Links

A big part of your strategy should be to target sites that report on news in the area where your event is being held. Being featured on the main page of newspapers, tourism sites, and local news sites can be difficult, but securing a link placement in their events section is certainly possible and very valuable. This provides a great opportunity to land a diverse set of links that may have been otherwise been very difficult to attain. News outlets are also more likely to be interested in an event that is being hosted in an area that they regularly cover and that is of interest to their readership.

Target Industry-Specific Sites

In addition to targeting sites that report on local news and events, it is important to pitch your event to industry-specific sites. If your event is based around the topic of mental health, then it makes sense to target blogs and news sites that cover mental health related topics. However, you should not solely limit yourself to these confines and should not be afraid get creative and expand your outreach whenever possible. Reaching out to sites that cover other medical related topics would not be too far fetched in this case. If you can position the event to be relevant and valuable to the publication’s audience, then you will have a better chance of getting a media placement and link out of it.

Conduct a Competitor Analysis

You are unlikely to be the first organization that is hosting an event or conference related to your specific niche. Discovering where similar events have been posted is a surefire way to find websites that you know are willing to post this type of content. Again, if you are hosting a conference on mental health, searching for simple keywords like “mental health conferences” in Google will enable you to find a host of previous events on this topic. You can then conduct a competitor backlink analysis for each event to discover which sites linked to them. There are a number of tools out there that can be used to conduct this analysis, but here at Circa we use Moz. You simply need to enter the event’s URL into Moz’s Open Site Explorer search bar and from there you will be able to view all inbound links to that particular URL. Moz only allows you to have three free searches a day unless you upgrade to Moz Pro. However, you can test out this software with a 30 day free trial. Once you determine which sites are good quality, a competitor analysis will provide you with an important set of leads to go after. One easy way to help determine which sites are high quality is to reference the information provided alongside the list of inbound URL’s, which includes the domain authority (DA) and the spam score. The domain authority ranges from 1-100, and the higher it is, the better and more high quality the site is. Conversely, you want the spam score to be as low as possible. By finding and targeting sites that have posted similar event information in the past, you will likely save time and resources on outreach while also increasing your success rate.

Follow Up After the Event

Even if you have acquired a respectable number of links prior to the event, your outreach shouldn’t stop there. Some of the best opportunities will come after the event, which is particularly relevant following a conference. The findings from a conference are often a great source of content for media outlets. Conducting searches on Google and social media will help you find individuals who have been talking about topics that relate to your event. Creating a new page on your website which discusses and dissects the findings will also help you to gain links following the event.

George has recentGeorgely joined the Circa team in California following the completion of his master’s in marketing management and strategy degree, where he graduated with distinction from Plymouth University in England. George is a PR and digital marketing specialist who is passionate about creating high level opportunities for professors within national publications. 

5 Ways Your Online Event Calendar Can Positively Influence SEO

By Krystal Putman-Garcia, Vice President, Marketing, Localist

As competition for students becomes fiercer, search engine optimization has never been more important for a college/university. Better visibility and finding creates more visitors and engaged students. Thus university marketing teams are constantly looking for ways to improve their standing in search results. One key element that higher education marketers may be overlooking is their online event calendar. Just think about it – an efficient online calendar is filled with up-to-date events that are rich in content, which can play a major factor in SEO efforts.

Luckily, there are simple and efficient ways your online event calendar can help increase page views and positively influence SEO. Here’s how:

1. Grow the Number of Pages on Your Website

Having more pages on your website – in this case individual event pages – gives you the opportunity to have a larger number of keywords and page views. Instead of having a static 30-day calendar grid-view, you can make your events SEO-friendly with a dedicated page for each event, which allows users to click and view more information.

More event pages will also encourage users to engage with your online event calendar, thereby increasing the time visitors spend on your site. As you may know, the time a visitor spends on a site is one of the factors that search engines use in their ranking algorithms, so the longer visitors are engaging with your events, the better for your SEO.

However, it’s important to note that having more pages isn’t enough – these pages must also be structured correctly. Your online event calendar system should code the name of the event as <h1>. This defines the most important heading, and search engines will pick this up as a priority.

2. Gain a Large Quantity of Backlinks

The number of times people link to your site is a big “off-page” factor in SEO. When there are a ton of backlinks, search engines infer that your website offers valuable or interesting information because it’s popular and engaging with users online. Think about the large quantity of backlinks your online event calendar could gain if other people, companies or organizations share unique links for each individual event on their own websites.

Increasing backlinks is a direct result of getting people more engaged in your online event calendar, and that means your online event calendar should be chock-full of content and events.

3. Activate Social Sharing for Users

There are tons of benefits to incorporating social media into your online calendar, especially when it comes to SEO. Search engines are constantly taking social data into account when displaying search results. In fact, links that people are sharing over social media see more success in user searches.

Be sure to utilize online calendar software that can provide immediate metric reports, specifically on the social media activity around a particular event. Having access to the real-time knowledge of this data will allow you to optimize your marketing efforts, ultimately impacting your SEO.

4. Gain Attention with Unique Event Titles and Descriptions

While content should always be interesting and engaging, each event should also include custom, unique page titles and descriptions. Meta titles and descriptions that feature relevant keywords a user might type into a search box help attract robots and will display as a “sneak peek” for the page in search results.

5. Keep Your Content Fresh

It’s important to consistently update your online event calendar with new events. Ultimately good SEO is good content. You’ll need to make sure you are including as much descriptive content as possible for each event to ensure guaranteed SEO success. Frequently updated high-quality content sends a signal to search engines that your page is worth displaying in search results. Thanks to the easy-to-use nature of online calendars, new content will be easily achieved through basic day-to-day updates.

An event isn’t successful if no one knows about it until after it has happened. In order to get your events discovered, the right online calendar should be fully equipped to help with many important SEO factors. Events generated through our software at Localist are integrated with Google’s index so your events appear higher in search results. And metrics such as EventReach will help you quantify how discoverable your events are amongst the student body.

Online event calendars, especially those generated with a robust interactive software, can ensure your school – and event – will get found online. Highlight these SEO-friendly features of your online event calendar and page views will soar.

Krystal Putman-Garcia

Krystal Putman-Garcia serves as Vice President of Marketing for Localist, an event marketing technology company that offers interactive calendars that help companies publish, manage and promote events. She is responsible for Localist’s marketing and partnership efforts, to ultimately help businesses make the most out of their events.