instagram

Six ways to build an effective Instagram presence

Instagram currently boasts over 1 billion users and significantly higher engagement rates than Facebook. It is estimated that brands see around 4 percent engagement of their total followers on Instagram. While 4 percent might not sound like a high number, when compared to the less than 0.1% engagement rates on Facebook and Twitter, it shows that Instagram is a powerful tool for online consumer engagement.

On top of that, Instagram continues to roll out new business-specific features and has a tailor made for brand promotion. Here are six tips if you’re running a business and want to know how to make your Instagram presence effective and impactful:

Create a stellar profile

There is no “right” way to craft your profile. It depends on your brand and its personality. However, there are a few best practices for businesses that need to be kept in mind as a starting point. These include: the profile photo should be a the company logo to make it easy to identify your brand, the account name and username should be your business name and should be the same name as your other social profiles, the link to your company website should be included on your instagram page, and last but not least, your bio should either describe your business or your brand slogan (or both).

Post high quality photos

Optimize your photos and make sure they are clear, attention-grabbing and engaging. Instagram offers many options to filter and edit your photos, however it’s best to make use of photo-editing applications that can enhance your photos even further. Take market research into account as well. For instance, according to research by MIT, pictures with reddish tones were more popular than those using a bluish or reddish tones.

Be frequent

When it comes to Instagram, you need to maintain frequency in your posting. Your profile won’t get attention if you’re only posting once in a while. Set aside time each day to post something on Instagram, preferably at least twice a day. It is important to find out and pick times when your photos will get the most engagement.

Take advantage of hashtags

Use hashtags that are relevant to your picture and post. Find out which hashtags are trending and what hashtags other businesses are using. There are numerous resources and apps that will help find hashtags that are relevant and popular across different industries. Don’t forget to tag your location, especially if you’re a local business.

Include captions

Captions can serve various purposes. From simply letting your audience know about the contents of your picture to motivating your followers to take action, such as visiting your website or asking your audience to repost your content.

Build an aesthetic

Your company’s instagram should have it’s own brand aesthetic that is evident across the photos, profile and captions. This will help attract the right audience as well as create a consistent brand identity. Find out what kind of aesthetic works for your brand and stick to it.

Using PR to Recruit Volunteers

Why Every Small Business Needs Both a Marketing and a Public Relations Strategy

Public relations and marketing go hand in hand. Typically, a professional working in one industry has at least a general knowledge of the other. But how do public relations and marketing differ, and how can they best complement each other?

On some occasions, individuals may actually confuse public relations for marketing and vice versa. While the two roles do share some similarity — both are, after all, looking to boost a  business in their own ways — they accomplish different things.

Put simply, public relations manages the image of a brand, its leadership, and its product or service. PR professionals manage the public and media’s perception of a business and are there in case a crisis needs attending to.

Marketing, on the other hand, serves to boost eyeballs on the actual product or service of the business. Marketing is intended to boost sales and company revenue through avenues such as advertising or internal marketing campaigns.

However, these two roles intersect at one common goal: make the company look good and perform as well as possible.

Let’s break down a basic PR and marketing strategy for a smaller business, just starting out.

Public Relations for Small Businesses

PR can start small, just like marketing. Public relations relates to the public, so a small business can start its strategy by identifying influencers and media outlets within the brand’s niche to begin reaching out to.

Press releases announcing the launch and benefits of a new product or service. Local media interviews can be booked with the company founder or another individual, and influencers can be approached to begin testing and endorsing the brand. Perhaps a community give back initiative can be researched to help the brand put down roots and align itself with its locale.

Marketing for Small Businesses

Meanwhile, the marketing professional will set about putting together consumable content for the target audience to see. Perhaps a social media campaign would be the best approach, or maybe there is a podcast with listeners in a specific niche that would complement the brand nicely.

The idea of marketing is to sell the product or service offered by the company. Whether it’s a paid ad campaign or an organic, content-driven campaign (or a combination of both!), the end goal should be to convert users into buyers and to drive traffic to the brand’s website and/or store.

How Public Relations and Marketing Complement Each Other

When executed correctly and with foresight, both public relations and marketing can help the cause of the other. On the PR front, garnering positive attention and influence through media appearances and community efforts, the brand builds loyalty. If consumers see an interview with the company founder and identify with him, they’re more likely to go and see what his brand is all about.

Meanwhile, marketers can focus on keeping the attention of those who are driven to the website or store by the various PR efforts. Strategic and catchy advertising, quality engagement, and effective metric tracking all contribute to the success of a campaign and the retention rate of customers.

While some individuals may confuse the public relations and marketing professions, it’s important to understand their differences and similarities. They coexist well and are both necessary to the success of any brand. Employing a strategy that utilizes these roles efficiently will help boost any brand.

Winning the PR battle with Twitter

Best Practices Using Twitter for PR

Twitter is close to becoming the de facto conversation medium for news and current events commentary outside of the mainstream broadcast media. It’s a source of stories, an archive of opinions, and a real-time stream of perspectives relative to whatever topic is hot at the moment.

So, it stands to reason that any brand hoping to elevate their profile would want to employ Twitter as part of that effort. After all, just look what it did for Wendy’s. But, is Twitter what journalists are looking for in communication from PR pros? According to the polls, not necessarily.

In fact, recent surveys have shown, time and again, that journalists still prefer email as their go-to method for communicating with public relations professionals. Does this mean Twitter is off the table? No, not at all. In fact, in the very same survey, the majority of those same journalists ranked Twitter as their number two communications preference.

Of course, this does come with a few caveats, a fairly straightforward list of guidelines for how and when to contact journalists using Twitter.

As a general rule, if you plan to connect with a journalist on Twitter, direct message them. Don’t just comment on their thread. Additionally, just before you DM them, send them an email with more information about the topic at hand.

Don’t use a DM to create the initial connection. Preferably, you want to have already connected with that journalist in a recognizable way before you send them a substantive DM with a media pitch. Start by determining which journalists you want to connect with. Then read their tweets, explore their perspectives, and respond to or retweet them. Show them that you see them as a person and not just a means to an end.

When using Twitter to pitch a story include specific data points. Statistics and specific facts can be attractive to journalists, because they can quickly and easily determine if your information is on the level and, thus, establish you as a potentially valuable source of information.

Do your best to keep all Twitter communications related to your pitches private. Don’t share them with the world. Especially, if you are seeking to establish or build trust with the media representative. They are less likely to appreciate your information if anyone following them on Twitter also has the same access to that information.

Be certain that all information you DM pitch to reporters on Twitter is specifically relevant to their standard beat, industry, or niche. And, in most cases, there should be an element of immediacy to the content, something they can read and immediately act on, rather than a story that has a slow build or a long shelf life.

crisis pr

Looking Back at 3 Serious PR Miscues in 2018

As 2018 comes to a close it’s time to reflect on some of the PR lessons we have watched in real time over the past year. There have been a few wins and a few good crisis responses, and there have also been a handful of PR disasters. Some of these scenarios were disasters right out of the chute, and others grew worse based on the response.

Apple Catches Heat for “Throttling”

The year started off with a fizzle for iPhone maker Apple, when it was announced that the company had been “throttling” iPhones – slowing their performance – for older phones. Customers had suspected this for years, but to find out it was actually happening upset a lot of consumers.

Then came Apple’s reasoning: “We’re doing it all for you.” According to Apple, the reason for the slow-down was to “preserve battery life” in order to keep the phones working longer. That message did not sit well with iPhone customers, who felt slighted and manipulated into buying newer models.

In response, Apple apologized and initiated a more cost-effective battery replacement program for customers with older phones. That blunted the trauma somewhat, but in the end, this was an avoidable PR misstep. If the company had been proactive, customers would have known all their options and felt more of a connection with the brand.

Roseanne Crashes and Burns

2018 could have – and should have-been the Year of Roseanne. The noted comedian had returned to form, riding a successful reboot of her family sitcom to huge ratings and a major win for the Roseanne brand. At the time, nearly every news outlet was singing her praises, touting the new show as a great addition to what has been ranked as one of the best American sitcoms in generations. Then came the meltdown.

Roseanne, who is no stranger to stirring up controversy on social media, decided to go on Twitter and torpedo her resurgent career by tweeting out comments many considered to be overtly racist. ABC responded by immediately canceling Roseanne. Then, pouring salt in the wound, the network announced it would be re-making the show without its star and namesake.

If there was a highlight of the whole debacle, it came via Sanofi, maker of the sleep aid, Ambien. Roseanne, in her apology for the tweet, blamed Ambien for her errant posting. Sanofi responded with this: “While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.”

Southwest Airlines Makes Bad Worse

Of all the airlines to be in the news in a bad way, most people would not necessarily guess Southwest. So when the company had a major issue this past spring, some people registered surprise. During a flight, one of the engines exploded, killing a passenger. Reports from the scene were graphic and scary, and Southwest was left answering very uncomfortable questions.

That alone may have qualified for a PR crisis, but when reports came out alleging the company was promoting timeliness over customer safety and mechanical operations, that hit the bottom line hard. Bookings dropped immediately, and Southwest was left to do some very public soul searching.

How Social Media Manipulates Our Self Image

Social media is a complicated thing. As a platform, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter started as a way to help people stay connected in an increasingly globalized world. With social media, it’s possible for individuals to connect with people they know across the globe, without wasting huge amounts of cash on things like texts and phone calls.

At the same time, some social channels also give people a way to make new connections. For instance, LinkedIn is a place where professionals can find potential mentors, peers, and individuals to help them reach their professional goals. However, as powerful as it is, social media isn’t always a good thing. The social world has prompted is to start marking comparisons between our own lives, and the often-unrealistic representations of other people’s lives that we see online.

Social Media and Social Comparison Theory

The biggest problem with social media comes from the issue of “social comparison theory.” Social comparison theory is a psychological concept that suggests that people will generally compare themselves to the people around them, even if they don’t know much about those people beyond what they share online.

People on social media frequently compare themselves to the people that they see on their news feeds – without considering the fact that people will generally only share positive things about their life on social media. Social channels provide individuals with a space where they can create an image of themselves that ignores the crucial details that would be required to make an accurate comparison.

Everyone on social media gets to see the fun days out that their friends spend with their loved ones, or the relaxing weekends on the beach – but no-one gets to see the difficult days, the arguments with friends and so on. While comparing ourselves to others is a common way to measure how we’re making progress in our lives, this practice becomes problematic when we only compare ourselves to the perfectly designed versions of others.

Why Do We Keep Using Social Media?

Although we know that using social media makes us feel depressed and anxious at times, many people still stay connected to their news feeds at all hours of the day. People are constantly checking to see whether their friends have hit the crucial milestones that they hope to hit. However, while many people feel better when they leave social media behind the “fear of missing out” or not being able to partake in important social conversations keeps us going back for more.

Ultimately, if people are going to continue using social media, then they need to learn how to use it in a healthier way. To some extent, this means changing the way that we compare ourselves to others. The first step towards healthy comparison is identifying the right peer group by looking at people that are more like ourselves. Comparing ourselves to successful stars and influencers on social media increases the problem with social comparison theory because it pushes us to set unrealistic goals.

Once people have found the right peer group, they also remember that the things they see on social media aren’t necessarily the whole story.

Three Ways Charities can Improve Social Media

In terms of developing a strong and cohesive social media strategy, charities usually come across more hurdles due to the limitations in funding. However, the accessibility and ease of the internet has resulted in most charities utilizing social media to raise awareness, drive traffic to their websites, and promote events and publications.

Here are some practical tips for charities to improve visibility, engagement and fundraising efforts:

Know your audience inside out

Get to know every detail about the community you’re addressing – from demographics to hobbies to habits. Profiling is a crucial aspect of a tailoring content when it comes to formulating a strong communication strategy. What is their age group? Where do they live? How do they spend their weekends?

WWF, or the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, was able to use profiling to its advantage. The nonprofit wanted to engage and educate the younger generation on wildlife and environmental concerns. After understanding their audiences habits and preferred social platforms, WWF used SnapChat as the means to distribute their message about how the urgency of protecting endangered species.

Make friends within the industry

Build a strong network of friends within the industry to create mutually beneficial relationships. Reach out to journalists, bloggers, and influencers with a similar audience and work with them to spread your message.

Getting celebrities to use their far-reaching voice can be a great way to get some publicity. The animal right organizations PETA has done this quite effectively by featuring the likes of Naomi Campbell and Alexandra Burke in their birthdays suits saying “I’d rather go naked than wear fur.”

The rise of Corporate Social Responsibility has led to more corporations seeking to give back to society, often through charitable partnerships. This creates a win-win situation, where charities can benefit from the influence and access to funds. The most important thing to keep in mind when engaging in a strategic partnership is to make sure that the values of the company, individual or celebrity are aligned with your brand.

Create a buzz

Creating a buzz around campaigns doesn’t always require fat wallet. You can build a lot of momentum in your campaign by thinking outside the box with unique, creative and unconventional ideas -think of the Ice Bucket Challenge. Messaging that is humorous or has shock value to it is often shared at a much higher rate than messages that incite emotional reactions from the audience.

In 2013, UNICEF Sweden’s campaign was successful in creating a shockwave through its ‘Likes Do Not Save Lives’ campaign, which highlighted the need for the audience to go beyond social media to create a difference. This campaign highlighted the need for explicit calls to action.

There are various things to take into account if you want to make a splash with your campaign. For instance, it’s important to target various platforms to create a larger buzz. Using videos can also be beneficial in reaching and engaging an audience. YouTube is your best friend when it comes to storytelling.

soup

Campbell Soup Executive Apologizes for Conspiracy Comments

Kelly Johnston has been VP of Government Affairs for the Campbell Soup Company since 2002, but the former secretary of the Senate got himself in trouble recently for spreading a widely-discredited conspiracy story about a recent mass migrant caravan.

Speaking out on Twitter, Johnston condemned the caravan as having been “planned and executed” by Open Society, a charity group funded by billionaire political activist George Soros.

According to media reports, here’s what the tweet said said: “See those vans on the right? What you don’t see are the troop carriers and the rail cars taking them north. OpenSociety planned and is executing this, including where they defecate. And they have an army of American immigration lawyers waiting at the border…”

As it turns out, those rumors were “baseless” according to the media and other officials, a fact that has embarrassed Johnston and, by extension, Campbell Soup. The company immediately went on the offense to distance itself from Johnston and any potential PR fallout. In a statement, Campbell said: “the opinions Mr. Johnston expresses on Twitter are his individual views and do not represent the position of Campbell Soup Company…”

Despite this distancing language, guilt by association is not easily avoided. While it isn’t known what was said behind closed doors, it is clear Johnston took measures to try to put this behind him. Both the tweet and his Twitter account are gone, deleted from the social media platform. That was, of course, after a reporter captured the comments and shared them on his own social media account.

Worse, the issue has an unmistakable political connection. Soros is a well-known liberal activist and donor, as well as a frequent target of right-wing disparagement. By casting unfounded aspersions with political intent, the executive drew his company into an unwanted political PR situation.

In a further attempt to stave off this kind of connection to his brand, which does not wish to alienate any consumers, Campbell interim president and CEO, Keith McLoughlin, said,  “Johnston’s comments are inconsistent with how Campbell approaches public debate.” He added that Johnston would be leaving the company soon, and stressed that this decision has been made prior to the tweet.

Once again, we have an imminent negative PR scenario that could have been avoided entirely if the person had been more judicious in their use of social media. While, in most cases, even spirited debate on social media isn’t taboo, openly spreading false and/or specific kinds of opinions can, and often do, come back around on people. It’s better to remember that, while Twitter and other social media platforms feel private, they are megaphones to a very large public audience, whether that’s intended or not.

coffee marketing

Advertising Authority Slams Costa Coffee: Don’t Bring Home the Bacon

The British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a radio ad for Costa Coffee after it was ruled the ad discouraged the consumption of avocados as a breakfast choice- instead boosting the profile of the humble bacon sandwich.

The Costa ad, produced by BBH London, featured a voice-over which asserted: “Oh, there’s a great deal on ripen at home avocados. Sure, they’ll be hard as rock for the first 18 days, three hours and 20 minutes, then they’ll be ready to eat, for about 10 minutes, then they’ll go off. For a better deal head to Costa Coffee and grab a delicious, piping hot bacon roll or egg muffin for just £2 when you buy any medio or massimo hot drink or flat white before 11am.”

According to Costa Coffee, the ad was a harmless gag, focusing on the “frustration and unpredictability of the avocado.” The brand said the script was drawn from comical anecdotes based on widespread consumers’ experiences, and the frustration of trying to predict when an avocado ripened after purchasing. It was not, as the ASA alleged, “suggesting to listeners to make a definitive choice over two breakfast items.”

Radiocentre, the industry body for commercial radio and the gatekeeper for broadcast advertising, backed Costa’s claims. Consumers would see the comparison as a “light-hearted remark about the common experience of buying inedible avocados when compared to buying an instant hot coffee and bacon roll or egg muffin,” the body said.

Still, the ASA did not agree, with the watchdog adamant that “consumers would interpret the ad as a comparison between the experience of eating an avocado and a bacon roll or egg muffin.” It noted the UK’s BCAP Code, a guideline for advertisers, stated that brands must not discourage the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables.

“Although the ad was light-hearted,” the ASA went on to rule, “it nevertheless suggested avocados were a poor breakfast choice, and that a bacon roll or egg muffin would be a better alternative.” The ad is not to be broadcast again, and future Costa marketing efforts must not “condone or encourage poor nutritional habits and not disparage good dietary practice.”

The ASA has recently also cracked down on advertising by Kinder, KFC and Kelloggs in a bid to tackle the UK’s national obesity crisis, tackling advertisers that market salty, sugary and fatty foods.