Tag Archives: content strategy

A Lesson in Delivery Vehicles from the Affordable Care Act

1888610_645790608803511_469519588_nAt this point, at least 6 million people are aware of the Affordable Care Act. From a storytelling standpoint, healthcare reform has been covered from many points of view – From the initial website technical difficulties, to the ongoing enrollment numbers, to partisan disagreements and bureaucratic inefficiencies (redundant, I know), to the administration’s three-week PR blitz to encourage the public to enroll, to reports on how healthcare works in other nations, to interviews with individuals and demographic group leaders discussing how they would benefit or not from the new insurance plans… to the final website glitches that made for an ironic way to end open enrollment.

But as I tuned in for updates and new information leading up to the end of open enrollment, one thing in particular stood out in my one-track mind – the places people could find information about enrollment were countless. Promotional vehicles ranged from old-school telephone campaigns; to direct mail; brick-and-mortar locations offering assistance; pop-up retail shops in various states; the now infamously glitchy healthcare.gov website that featured a blog, infographics and personal stories; states’ individual online marketplaces;  TV commercials and other forms of advertisements; social media channels including Twitter (see #getcovered), YouTube and Facebook; news programs and talk shows; official presidential addresses… all the way to the President’s appearance on “Between Two Ferns” with Zach Galifianakis, which on March 11, 2014 became the biggest traffic driver to healthcare.gov.

It was expected that a reform of this nature would call for a public relations campaign of massive proportions. However, something I have enjoyed about this administration – where PR is concerned – is that from the moment of Barack Obama’s election, his team has never been afraid to let their message travel via uncharted delivery vehicles. Or it could be that the administration was under significant pressure to deliver on enrollment numbers that they were willing to try new things. They say necessity is the mother of invention.

Saturday Night Life captured just this in their latest opening sketch.

I’m almost stubborn when it comes to trying new things. I firmly believe that having never done something is never a reason not to do it – in fact, I may even believe that having never done something is the perfect reason to go for it. This is not a battle between tradition and emerging approaches to PR, but rather the realization that audiences need information delivered to them in a variety of new ways in order to pay attention. The added challenge today is to deliver information at exactly the right time and place, and that is where digital content, social media, mobile and analytics/insights have come in to play.

Freescale Great InventorsMy plea to you, readers, is to dare to do something completely different to reach your audiences and achieve your business communications goals. Perhaps even more importantly – trust that, with careful planning, established objectives, strategic targeting and a strong storytelling framework, your PR and communications teams can execute on something that has never been done before. For example, check out the “Great Inventors” campaign my agency Lois Paul and Partners collaborated on with client Freescale Semiconductor, to get people thinking about technology innovation leading up to the 2014 Global Freescale Technology Forum (FTF).

The Content Marketing Institute, one of my favorite resources, has created an excellent playbook with ideas for content and accompanying delivery vehicles that is great for inspiration. Feel free to bring up any of these ideas during your next brainstorm session and see what ideas spark.

How B2B Companies Can Use Instagram To Make an Impact in 15 Seconds

When Instagram first came out, and as soon as it introduced video, B2C brands hopped right on it. But B2B brands should also be using new platforms and features. In fact, some like Intel, Maersk Line, VMware, Cisco and General Electric are already experimenting with Instagram video and taking on the challenge of delivering their message more concisely and embracing the move toward brevity across all content formats. Check it out:

Screen shot 2014-01-26 at 4.27.19 PM

Several of my agency’s clients have asked questions about integrating Instagram into their overall social media strategies. I would like to address those, and then some. If you have additional feedback or follow-up questions, I’d love to hear them!

What are the benefits of video for B2B companies?

Rich multimedia in the form of images, video and audio are great ways to give your content strategy and overall social media program a boost. Video presents some unique storytelling opportunities for companies that struggle to tell their story, or that have been telling their story in the same old way. Video is your opportunity to:  

  • Take tech out of the weeds: One of the main reasons reporters, bloggers, influencers and customers turn down some B2B stories is that they are deep in the weeds. If you can explain (better yet, show) how a new technology or product works in 15 seconds, you’ve got their attention.
  • Show some personality: B2B companies and products have personalities too. Some of them make things smarter, some make things faster, and others are cleaning up the mess fuels have made. Wow them by showing how your products can make a difference.
  • Be helpful: B2B buyers and end-users live by user manuals, technical guides, handbooks, etc. Think about sharing 15-second how-tos with your audience or, better yet, build your Instagram community by challenging users to produce 15-second videos to help fellow users troubleshoot common problems. You can feature them in the first-ever user-generated manual on your company’s website.  
  • Be relatable: Give the people behind the technology their 15-seconds of fame, literally. Consider shooting videos with your engineers, developers, and IT teams to let reporters, analysts, bloggers and influencers in on what happens backstage.
  • Focus on your customers: Consider asking your customers to record 15-second testimonials. Embed these in your case studies or your next blog. A Q&A with a client can give an extra boost that will drive more engagement.
  • Geek out without boring everyone to death: B2B companies exist in unique verticals and industry niches – think storage, clean tech, embedded technology. There are enough data sheets and solution manuals to wrap the Earth 17.3 times (not an actual fact). Show me a microprocessor in action and make my day. 

Bonus Note: The beauty of Instagram video is that you can shoot it with your phone, use Instagram editing function to make cuts, and use Instagram filters to make it look awesome. Production cost here is literally ZERO DOLLARS and the level of difficulty is RIDICULOUSLY EASY.

Instagram or Vine? Is That the Right Question to Ask?

My stance is always to try to minimize the number of platforms/tools. Choose the ones that will best reach your target audience, and focus on creating consistent content on a consistent basis. Having said that, I’m on #TeamInstagram for a few reasons including the fact that it surpassed Vine quite drastically shortly after it introduced video capabilities:

  • Its relationship with Facebook gives Instagram the benefit of Facebook’s already massive community. Vine is available only as a mobile app and via Twitter, limiting its user base and reach from the get-go.
  • Sharing via Instagram is not limited to Facebook, hence photos and videos benefit from significant social amplification.
  • The Instagram team has the flexibility to update the platform and add new features such as sharing and embedding, which enable the Holy Grail of social media and content marketing.
  • Its hashtag capabilities transcend the Instagram ecosystem.

What are some specific things my company can do with Instagram?

  • Encourage content creation: Use campaign or event hashtags on Instagram and encourage users to share their photos or videos that can increase the campaign or event’s visibility. They can also be leveraged in future social media and marketing collateral.
  • Host a contest: GE asked Instagram users to take photos of GE products to win a trip to be behind the scenes at their next Instagram shoot. Put a video twist on this sort of campaign and ask users to share videos of them using your product for a chance to win.
  • Build buzz: Hosting an event? Unveil your speaker lineup one-at-a-time in 15-second interviews where you share a bit of their bio and a link to see more.
  • Backstage access: Give your Instagram community a sneak peek into the manufacturing of your next microprocessor, or a 15-second tour of your data center with an option to learn more about your infrastructure by downloading an eBook online.
  • Product launch: Why not put together a 15-second video where you feature your new line of MCUs, the smallest in the world, next to common objects so that viewers can appreciate just how small it is?
  • New announcements: Making an announcement soon? Build momentum by sharing a 15-second preview of what’s in store.

How Google’s Updated Link Schemes Impact Press Releases and Blog Posts

Last week, Google surrepticiously updated its Link Schemes document, which dictates SEO best practices. The following now constitute “unnatural links” as initially reported by Search Engine Land:

  • Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links
  • Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank
  • Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.

This means that content such as press releases and blog posts may actually decline in PageRank and search results if they contain forced optimized anchor text. What is anchor text? The illustration below courtesy of Moz explains it best:


What practices should you stay away from? Google provided an example of content that contains unnatural links in an attempt to optimize anchor text and manipulate PageRank results:

There are many wedding rings on the market. If you want to have a wedding, you will have to pick the best ring. You will also need to buy flowers and a wedding dress.”

You may still write press releases that include links back to a page on the company’s site where readers can find more information about a new product — this includes product pages, landing pages, blog posts, etc. However, in a Google+ Hangout (see below), Google’s John Mueller recommended nofollowing ALL links within press releases in order to eliminate any possiblities of Google mistaking your press release for link abusive content.

On blog posts, you should avoid optimized anchor text by hyperlinking directive text or calls to action rather than keywords. For example, in the phrase:

Click here to see how we develop public relations programs for technology, healthcare and clean tech clients

LPP would include a link to http://loispaul.com under the call to action rather than the term “public relations.” Although this may appear to contradict keyword-based SEO practices, it is the recommended way to build PageRank and improve SEO under Google’s new guidelines.

The Big Takeaway?

Avoid hyperlinking keywords just to boost your SEO for SEO’s sake. Stop creating content for engines and machines. Start creating content that delivers experiences for readers and compells them to click through and engage.

SEO = Search Experience Optimization