Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Marketing lessons from the #IceBucketChallenge

Have you heard the great news today about the #IceBucketChallenge that went viral in 2014?
The campaign raised $115m (£87.7m) from people pouring cold water over themselves and posting the video on social media. This has funded an important scientific gene discovery in the progressive neurodegenerative disease ALS.
Here's a quick look at the lessons marketers can learn from the success of this viral campaign...

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Why making your readers cry will improve your content marketing

The role of content marketing is to elicit a response from the reader - we want them to behave differently - to switch brands; to try a new service; to talk about us with their family and friends.

The first step in encouraging people to behave differently is to challenge them to start thinking differently - to re-educate; view things in a new way; understand a different perspective - and this in itself can be challenging.

This is where understanding the relationship between emotions and behaviour really comes into play.

Emotion drives action

You share a video with your friends because it makes you laugh; scares you; makes you cry; reminds you of a personal experience. Emotions provide us with feedback that tells us how to react in the present, based on our past experiences.

So whether it’s in personal or professional communication, eliciting an emotional response from people will encourage them to share your content.

Just as importantly, it is also proven to help them remember its key messages more vividly - in the same way that listening to a particular song can instantly transport you to a place and time significant in your past.

This approach, of using emotion to drive action, is illustrated well in the recent shift of approach used by social marketers. Success for a social marketer comes not from selling a product or service, but in proving that they have been able to change people’s behaviour by challenging the way they think.

Out is the content instructing people to stop smoking; drink less; and exercise more - in is the content which encourages people to change by eliciting a ‘what’s in it for me’ emotional response. This advert by Sussex Safer Roads being a powerful example:

Eliciting the right emotional response

Psychologist Robert Plutchik identified eight primary emotions which content marketing professionals can use as a guide when considering the appropriate emotion to elicit from the reader: Joy, Trust, Fear, Surprise, Sadness, Anticipation, Anger, and Disgust.

Image source:

The appropriate emotion to target will depend heavily on the product or service being promoted, and the demographics of the target audience. Look at this example from our social marketing friends, encouraging smokers to quit, not by tapping into the fear emotion, but the trust a child places in adults to care for their physical and emotional wellbeing:

Emotional responses can be tapped at different points within your content, and to varying degrees, for example in:

  • an emotive email subject line
  • unexpected video content
  • social media conversation starters.

So, at the start of your next marketing campaign, remember to ask yourself how your reader should feel before, during, and after accessing your content.

About the author

Claire Cresswell-Lane is a UK based, CIM Chartered Marketer specialising in digital marketing strategy and communications. You can contact her via LinkedIn or Twitter.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Catering for a range of learning styles with your content marketing

Buyers conduct extensive online research before making large or important purchases, and this is especially true of financial products and services. But understanding financial products and services can be difficult for the lay person.

Financial organisations have role in educating visitors about the range of products and services on offer, and a responsibility to educate as to which is the most likely to suit their personal circumstances.

This post illustrates how financial organisations are starting to present information in formats that cater for a range of learning styles - something that other sectors should sit up and take notice of.

“Don’t create another monotonous, bland and (worst of all) overwhelming financial services product page. Take the time to bring the relevant content above the fold in an innovative way….like videos and iconography.” Maxymiser, 2014

Content marketing that caters for a range of learning styles [Share on Twitter]

Auditory learners enjoy accessing information through listening and like content presented in formats such as checklists. Podcasts are frequently used by reputable publishers such as The Financial Times to cater for this style of learner:

Visual learners, as the name suggests, benefit most from pictures and video. They are likely to want to learn about all the options available before deciding which is right for them. Many financial organisations, such as Skipton Building Society have YouTube channels which they use to educate visitors about a range of topics including help to manage finances; product demonstrations and guides; Corporate Social Responsibility activities, and so on:

Kinaesthetic learners gain understanding by doing, and will prefer interactive online tools such as comparison charts and calculators to help them make purchasing decisions - as seen on the Coventry Building Society website:

Social / emotional learners like to make decisions following discussion with their peers. They will respond well to online communities or live chat facilities. Royal Bank of Scotland have provided a forum where users can share tips and insights with each other regarding the management of finances and investments:

Metacognitive learners like to reflect on a range of information and will seek out knowledge from a range of thought leaders in order to make decisions. These customers are likely to access a number of blogs offering deeper insight into specific issues (for example through white papers and eGuides) before making purchasing decisions.


  • Consumers conduct extensive research before making important buying decisions.
  • Content marketing has an important role in educating your audience.
  • People learn in a range of different ways.
  • Content can be re-purposed to cater for a range of learning styles.

About the author
Claire Cresswell-Lane is a UK based, CIM Chartered Marketer specialising in digital marketing strategy and communications. You can contact her via LinkedIn or Twitter.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Establishing trust and credibility in your marketing campaigns [speed read]

‘Credibility and trust’ are the two most important attributes that online marketers must establish in order to gain the confidence of visitors, according to a 2015 study by KO Marketing Associates.

Why content credibility matters

If the credibility of website content is called into question, it has the potential to affect the reputation of not just the online channel, but also that of the wider organisation.

Content that is credible will result in higher levels of visitor engagement. For example, users will stay on your website for longer, interact with a wider range of features, make repeat visits; and are more likely to convert from visitors into customers.

The more visitors engage with your online content, the higher the 'quality score' attributed to it by Google. This will have a direct impact on reducing the cost of any pay per click (PPC) advertising campaigns you are running.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a good online experience for visitors to your website matters in the same way that a good face-to-face experience does. It is a touch point that contributes to achieving the strategic goal of achieving and maintaining high customer satisfaction levels.

However, only 33% of people trust online reviews, and just 8% trust online advertisements - so digital marketers have a lot of work to do to establish levels of trust within their content.

Step 1: Know who you want to establish credibility with

Segment your audience. Understand who the decision making units and influencers of decisions are. [click to Tweet]

This can be achieved in a number of ways, for example by analysing your current customers and stakeholders to understand what brought them to you; what their likes and dislikes are; their demographic profiles; and so on.

Step 2: Understand what your audience(s) needs to know

Now you know who your target audience is, understand the content they are actively seeking out; the challenges they are trying to overcome; and the places where they are active online. You could get this information through:

  • social listening exercises (including sentiment analysis)
  • primary research, such as telephone interviews
  • secondary desk-based research.

Step 3: Mirror your audience’s interests with your content

It sounds obvious to make sure that your content is of interest to your audience. The key to establishing credibility with them however, is to do this without trying to sell them anything!

Trust can be gained by offering genuinely useful information that helps your target audience on their decision making journey. [click to Tweet] This may involve talking about products and services that you don’t offer! Remember, each interaction you have with them is a touch-point with your brand.

Step 4: Nurture your relationship

All relationships need to be nurtured if they are to mature - and this is true of online relationships. The more genuinely useful and transparent your content, the more likely your reader is to regard you as the go-to source of information on their topic of interest.

In order to nurture relations, it is important that your content speaks the language of your target personas - which is often different to the terminology used by internal stakeholders. The right language to use can be identified through techniques such as:

  • analysing the interviews you carried out in step 2
  • studying correspondence into your call centre
  • assessing the terminology in online forums and social networks used by your target audiences.

Step 5: Listen, learn, and react

Creating your marketing materials is the start of your process, not the end. Test content with members of your target audience to:

  • ensure the message received is the one you think has been delivered
  • understand what key messages can be recalled
  • learn about how your content made the reader feel.

Amend your content to reflect what you have learnt. Keep a record of the changes you have made, to inform future content production.

"The greatest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place" -  
George Bernard Shaw

About the author
Claire Cresswell-Lane is a UK based, CIM Chartered Marketer specialising in digital marketing strategy and communications. You can contact her via LinkedIn or Twitter.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

11 essential items to include in a content brief

When creating content it is often necessary to employing the skills of a third party writer, for example, to access specific technical expertise or gain specialist insight that you don't possess in-house.

Providing a detailed and accurate writers brief is essential in ensuring the content returned is as close to the desired end result as possible.

11 essential items to include in a content brief [Share on Twitter]

1. Audience profile
Provide details about the intended audience. Give information about their demographic make-up; likes and dislikes; level of existing knowledge regarding the subject areas to be covered, and so on. 

Understanding the profile of the target audience will give the writer the best possible insight into the appropriate use of historical and cultural references to use to illustrate their content. It will also affect the tone of voice selected for the piece.

2. Key messages to be delivered
Consumers of digital content are time poor. If your audience reads one paragraph of your content, which key message needs to be delivered above all others? [click to Tweet]

Providing such guidance to writers will help to ensure accurate placement of content (above the scroll; in H1, H2 headers; meta descriptions, and so on).

3. Narrative
It is likely that the content being created forms part of a wider narrative and is one of many touch points that the reader will have with your brand.

Clearly explain to the writer which materials the target audience is likely to have accessed before, and content that will follow.

4. Tone of voice
If your brand guidelines don't already contain guidance, consider providing the author with a tone of voice document which details where the content should be positioned along a number of continuum’s: 

  • serious/fun
  • authoritative/insightful
  • contemporary/modern
  • formal/relaxed, and so on.

5. Takeaway messages
Be explicit about what the takeaway messages of the content should be. Describe how the reader should feel after accessing the content, and the key points they should be able to recall. [click to Tweet]

6. Word count / article length
It sounds obvious, but be clear on the required content length. Too many words may lead to heavy editing which affects the narrative. Too few words and the content may fall short of achieving its objectives.

If you are asking writers to provide titles, meta descriptions, email subject lines, and so on, remember to be prescriptive with character limits, to help ensure your digital content is fully optimised for the platform used. 

7. Content format 
Be clear about the format the content being produced will take (blog post, slideshare, infographic, email, eGuide and so on). This will have a significant impact on the writing style used. Where possible, provide examples of existing content in the same format.

8. Keywords
Provide the writer with details of the keywords and phrases that the content needs to include. State where these keywords should to be place within the copy, and the density of use. 

9. Trusted sources of background information
Provide links to any sources of information you have that will help them understand the subject area in greater detail.

This should not be a replacement for the desk research that they conduct themselves, but simply provides examples of trusted sources of credible information.

10. Deadline!
Provide clarity on the deadline for content to be completed. Where necessary, indicate the number of amends cycles that are likely to be required. This will help writers to plan their time effectively in order to deliver on time.

11. Publication date and place
Many copywriters like to provide links to the content they have helped to create on their own websites and blogs. It's a great opportunity to get an all important back link or two!

What are your must include items?

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Managing social media for business

Managing social media channels on behalf of an organisation means balancing the interests and reputation of the business and individuals alike.

As there is no specific social media law, existing laws must be applied in the social media context. This is further complicated by the global nature of social media – which inevitably crosses legal jurisdictions.

Whilst having a robust social media policy in place is important, its scope and application may not be as black and white as first appears.

Protecting confidential information on social media
Control of confidential business information must be maintained by employees interacting via social media (both on their personal accounts, and when posting on behalf of a business). It is critical for people to understand which data belongs to the organisation, and which is in the public domain. The importance of this is illustrated in the case of a UK based, human resources executive who included company attrition figures on his personal LinkedIn profile. Disciplinary action was taken against Mr. Flexman by his employer who accused him of posting confidential information online.

Similarly, an ex-employee of Hays Specialist Recruitment was ordered to disclose business contacts uploaded to LinkedIn, because they constituted confidential information belonging to the organisation.

It is remarkably easy for employees to be unwittingly caught out. For example, when setting up social media profiles, many encourage the user to import contacts from other systems (such as email address lists):

Imagine the ethical issues in the scenario where a medical professional imports a contact list containing patients’ email addresses (who, unknown to the professional, are then invited to follow or friend them online.)

"All of this technology emerged fast, and employees at all levels of the organization might lack the skills and knowledge needed to leverage social media channels. The resulting digital skills gap can only be addressed through social media education." Hootsuite.

Retaining control over how business contacts and other online information, controlled directly by employees, must be planned for:

  • If an individual is a LinkedIn Company Page administrator, and their personal account is compromised, the unauthorised party automatically has access to the Company Page(s) they manage. Ensuring administrator’s personal account passwords are ‘strong’ and changed frequently will go some way towards mitigating this risk. Social media accounts have also been intentionally compromised by employees looking to establish rival firms.
  • Organisations need to be clear about the process for transferring contacts and business related conversations stored within social media accounts administered by employees. For example, there have been a number of instances where employees have taken a Twitter following with them when changing employer.
Social media profiles belonging to an organisation must also be protected as a valuable asset. Profiles with a large following may have a commercial value, and/or be part of brand valuation exercises.

Complying with the terms and conditions of social media platform is of paramount importance in protecting such assets. At the heart of Facebook’s governance, for example, is its real name policy (which goes as far as to prohibit practises such as the use of nicknames as middle names and the use of unusual capitalisation):

“We require people to provide the name they use in real life; that way, you always know who you're connecting with. This helps keep our community safe.” Facebook.

Failure to comply with the real name policy by an administrator (within their personal profile) could result in its removal - along with any company Facebook Pages managed by that administrator.

Well documented examples of Company Pages being closed down for violation of Facebook’s terms and conditions include:
As well as protecting their own assets, organisations must demonstrate respect for the intellectual property of others. For example, Twitter suspended the account of Bleacher Report in December 2014 on the grounds that it was displaying unauthorised video clips of football matches belonging to the UK Premier League.

Twitter clearly outlines its stance on trade-marked brands and infringement of copyright or intellectual property in its trademark policy.

Protecting online reputation

Adherence to well established regulations governing traditional marketing and communications must be applied within the social media context.

For example, laws governing the sharing of personal information, or sending unsolicited communications must be considered. Tools such as Facebook graph search have make it remarkably easy for organisations to send targeted, but unsolicited promotional messages.

Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) guidance outlines how such techniques must be controlled within industry they regulate. However, the guidance highlights some important issue relevant to a number of industries. The first is in relation to the re-publishing of social media posts which may result in the exposure of promotional materials to unintended recipients:

“Firms should ensure that their original communication would remain fair, clear and not misleading, even if it ends up in front of a non-intended recipient (through others re-tweeting on Twitter or sharing on Facebook). One way of managing this risk is the use of software that enables advertisers to target particular groups very precisely.” FCA.

Think of exposure to promotion of alcohol, tobacco, or gambling related products to those under the legal age; via re-tweets, shares, and online reviews.

Secondly, the FCA guidance outlines the need for “adequate system [to be] in place to sign off digital media communications. This sign-off should be by a person of appropriate competence and seniority within the organisation”. It is sensible for organisations to keep their own records of communications published via social media, and record authority to publish. Further, organisations using third party agencies to create and post content on their behalf should satisfy themselves as to the knowledge and processes of their chosen partner.

A four-eyes review and sign-off process for social media posts may have saved face for US Airways who attached a pornographic image in its response to a complainants tweet – which was seen by hundreds of thousands of its followers.

Balancing the rights of the organisation and the individual

There are no shortage of examples of employees falling foul of social media policies, guidelines, and general etiquette:
  • A manager at JD Weatherspoons claim for unfair dismissal, after she was fired for posting comments about the pub chain’s customers on her personal Facebook wall, was unsuccessful. Although the defendants comments were only visible to her Facebook friends, the number of them (646) was an important consideration in the case as it was thought to large enough to constitute bring the organisation into ‘public’ disrepute.
However, protecting the interests of business must be balanced with the rights of the individual to express their own opinions and have their own online voice - as highlighted in the case of Smith v Trafford Housing Trust (2012).

Mr Smith posted a link to a BBC News article about gay marriage on his personal Facebook wall and commented “an equality too far”. This was visible to his 201 friends, and friends of friends – some of whom had responded to his comment. On his Facebook profile, Mr. Smith had identified himself as an employee of Trafford Housing Trust, who started disciplinary action against him for alleged gross misconduct (being in breach of their code of conduct and equal opportunities policy).

The decision went in favour of Mr. Smith on the grounds that (among other factors) his post could not be considered work-related because it was not specifically targeted at his work [Facebook] contacts. The Court also stressed that the views expressed reflected those widely held by other members of society, which were frequently reflected in mainstream media.

Individuals have the right to post information about their personal interests and beliefs online, and employers must be cautious about using this for purposes for which they were not intended. For example, personal social media profiles will often contain information about an individual’s ethnicity, religion, age, marital status and sexual orientation – which, in the UK, is protected under the Equality Act.

According to UK employment and HR specialists ACAS, “digging up sensitive 'protected' information that is not usually sought during the application process could leave employers open to discrimination claims. Rejected applicants could maintain that the real reason they didn't get the job was because of knowledge of the protected characteristic...

...On the other side of the discrimination coin, research suggests that vetting through social media may also encourage 'recruitment bias' according to age, gender or ethnicity. Some recruiters said they drew inferences about candidates from Facebook profile pictures”.

Protecting social media managers

Employees often take on responsibility for administering company social media accounts without having the pitfalls, risks, and legal implications of doing so explained to them.

The personal liability of individuals’ who publish on behalf of an organisation, should be clearly explained to them (including any re-posts or re-tweets of content originated by others) - the Crown Prosecution Service has made clear that such publications could constitute an offence. Where necessary, personal liability insurance should be in place to cover employees acting as administrators (the emotional and reputational costs of a court case being brought against an individual will of course, not be covered by this insurance).

About the author
Claire Cresswell-Lane is a UK based, CIM Chartered Marketer specialising in digital marketing strategy and communications. You can contact her via LinkedIn or Twitter.

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