Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Why is Email Marketing Newsletter Content and Image Balance Important?

By Heather Truitt

There is nothing like opening an email on your computer or phone and seeing the following screen:

The average person received 90 emails per day in 2016. As digital marketers, we want to ensure that our messaging stands out in the crowded email-marketing space. Unfortunately, email marketing messages such as the above, that rely on only images and no words, are far more likely to miss their mark. Unless the email has a subject that has captured my attention, this email would immediately get deleted. In fact, I might even take the extra minute to unsubscribe.

Using an image is a great way to grab attention in your email marketing, but adding text content that supports the image is a best practice. That way, if your image doesn’t display correctly in your recipients’ inboxes – showing only a message to “right click here to download image” – they still will have an idea what your message is about.

You are selling yourself and your company short by not including any text-based messaging along with an image in your email marketing content. By taking a shortcut and using only images, more of your email recipients will unsubscribe from your email marketing database.

By balancing the image-to-text ratio in your email marketing messages, however, you will create content that engages more readers. For example, take a look at this Netflix email marketing message:

Netflix has included a large, attention-grabbing image at the top of the email, and below, they have added text content that supports the image. The image immediately presents the promotion, and the text content provides more insight. Even if you don’t “load the images” for this email, you will still understand the message. At the bottom of the message, Netflix add two action buttons (if you need help constructing an effective call-to-action, check out our recent blog post).

Below are a few email marketing best practice tips:

  • Test, test, test, test, and do another test before you schedule or send your email blast. I can’t tell you how many emails I receive and just ask myself… Why? Twice last week, I received emails that were either mis-formatted, missing images, or contained broken links. Sure, everyone makes mistakes, but these were very simple things that could have been avoided if a round of testing was incorporated into the email marketing process as a quality control measure.
  • Make sure you optimize your images. People don’t have the patience to wait for large images to load in an email. A particular daily email publication that I follow often features vintage artwork and vintage graphic design images of historical significance, but it sometimes takes 2 minutes for the entire email to load. Make sure you are saving your images so the file size is less than 50kb. That will ensure that they load more quickly for your recipients.
  • Test on multiple platforms. This is something that we do in-house at Furia Rubel, where some of us work on Macs and some of us are on PCs. Sometimes there is a world of difference between what you see on the screen and what your coworker sees. You can also subscribe to a platform like Litmus, where you can test and view different platforms and versions all in a simple interface. 

The appropriate balance of images and text ensures that your recipients are more engaged in your marketing messaging and are more likely to click-through your call-to-action links.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Echo Chambers and Alternative Facts: PR in the Public Sphere

By Jacqueline Sofia

Echo Chambers and Alternative Facts: PR in the Public Sphere
There’s an echo in the room. Do you hear it? Every time you scroll through your Facebook or Twitter feed, that echo reverberates louder and the walls inch inward.

You see a headline that makes you nod in agreement. You “like” it and move on to the next post. Some of the articles have no basis in fact, but you’re not reading the articles anyway, just the headlines. The more you click that blue thumbs-up emoji, the less the facts matter, and the more your emotions start to build their own reality inside these walls. Now the air is thick with alternative facts in an alternative reality of your own making.

Welcome to your echo chamber.

Swaying Public Opinion

This isn’t the Twilight Zone. The practice of engineering public opinion through mass dissemination of information, and watching as that information (factual or not) sways people’s emotions and actions, can be traced back more than 100 years.

In October 1902, leaders of the American coal mining industry were arguing over whether the president cared more about mine operators or mine workers. Theodore Roosevelt’s response was, “I speak for neither the operators nor the miners but for the general public.”

Roosevelt and his administration pioneered the use of public relations to convince the American people that the U.S. government was equipping them with the necessary facts to make policy decisions that were rooted in their best interests.

An activist in many respects, Roosevelt felt strongly for the well-being of anthracite miners who were on strike in Pennsylvania at the turn of the century. Although he could have let his emotions guide major U.S. policy decisions, he instead went out seeking the facts — not “alternative facts,” but actual information that could be verified, including first-hand accounts of the living and working conditions of striking miners, as well as non-union mine workers.

Roosevelt carefully researched the issues facing the American labor force, and helped galvanize public opinion in support of the government’s ability to present accurate information and proposed solutions, for the sake of the greater public good. In essence, his public relations strategy wasn’t just fact-based, it was also ethical.

Manipulating the Message

Let’s not be na├»ve. Unethical tactics are used as a part of larger public relations strategies all the time. Some tactics are more disturbing than others. The manipulation of facts to serve a biased agenda and garner support from the masses was most notably enacted by the Nazi regime leading up to and throughout World War II (1939-1945).

The German propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, and other Nazis managed to take hold of the human psyche and derail the world’s understanding of what was fact and what was fiction by carefully crafting public relations campaigns that included posters, children’s books and newspaper ads depicting Jews as criminals and crooked personalities.

These tactics came to a head on the night of Nov. 9, 1938. The “Night of Broken Glass” saw the desecration of Jewish cemeteries and the arson of Jewish-owned businesses and synagogues , with additional campaign tactics following the events, blaming Jews for the violence. Over the next six years, more than 6 million European Jews and minority groups were murdered in one of the largest genocides the world has ever seen, otherwise known as the Holocaust.

Whether we choose to call it “propaganda” or “alternative facts,” the definition is the same, and so are the results: A public relations agenda utilizing mass media to reiterate false information, resulting in a loss of basic humanity.

Now imagine how history might have unfolded if Roosevelt or Hitler had Twitter.

Social Media Becomes Powerful Megaphone

The speed at which we can re-post, retweet or Snapchat whatever we want on today’s social media platforms is alarming. At no previous point in history have we been able to disseminate information with such ease to so many people at once, whether that content is a vehicle for telling people the facts, or creating “alternative facts.”

In the past 18 months, rhetoric used by President Donald J. Trump and re-posted throughout Twitter and Facebook has included phrases such as, “bad hombres” and “rapists” in reference to Mexican immigrants, as well as repeated xenophobic remarks against Muslims and a call for a Muslim registry in the U.S. – a proposed move that is frighteningly similar to the stars that Hitler demanded all Jews wear on their clothing.

And now, to the present: on Jan. 7, Jan. 14, Jan. 27 and Feb. 24, a mosque burnt to the ground here in the U.S. Three of the four fires have been ruled as arson. And on Feb. 26, more than 100 headstones were toppled in a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia.

More than 100 years after Roosevelt, we must ask ourselves whether politicians, or any public figures, are taking their cues from our former president and speaking on behalf of the greater good, or if they are operating by an alternative set of facts in order to achieve an alternative (and dangerous) agenda. In a world where anybody with a Twitter account can make a statement to 25 million people at once, and where our news feeds are our own personally programmed echo chambers, it’s important to question the legitimacy of the information we’re being spoon fed through our screens.

PRSA Reaffirms Core Code of Ethics

As PR professionals, we advise our clients on what type of messaging they should send out into the world, and we do our best to advise them on what facts to disseminate in those messages. We also try to predict what the reaction will be from those who digest that information —Facebook “likes” and Twitter retweets are measured, recorded and analyzed. We try to understand the psyche of our clients’ followers, because we want to know what catches their attention, and duplicate it for the success of future clients.

We also hold ourselves accountable to a core set of ethics. Regardless of whether a Facebook post filled with exaggerated content and alternative facts could garner mass attention and popularity for our clients, we choose instead to operate on truth.

What about our industry as a whole? Are we doing enough collectively to battle the alternative facts that are inundating our newsfeeds? It’s evident that the field of public relations and communications has a fraught history, but which end of history are we going to choose to define us?

In January, the Public Relations Society of America, which represents 22,000 communications professionals and sets a code of ethics for the profession, took a firm stand. PRSA Chair Jane Dvorak released a statement reaffirming the organization’s commitment  to communicating with honesty and accuracy.

“PRSA strongly objects to any effort to deliberately misrepresent information,” the statement said. “Honest, ethical professionals never spin, mislead or alter facts. We applaud our colleagues and professional journalists who work hard to find and report the truth.”

Communicating with honesty and integrity is a core value for the PR and marketing team at Furia Rubel, as it should be for all of us.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

How to Create an Effective Call to Action

By Karen Preston-Loeb

One of the most important elements in advertising and marketing is the call to action, or CTA. This tells the consumer what you want them to do.

A solid call to action will grab the user’s attention and direct them to take a desired action, whether it be to purchase an item or click through to a website. The call to action can boost conversions; it is the difference between a user bouncing away from a website and a reader becoming a customer by signing up to receive blog posts, reading your website, requesting a free trial, or even purchasing a product.

Good CTAs need to be compelling. Here are some tips to create an effective call to action:

Be direct
Tell your target audience exactly what you want them to do, and use a strong command verb. Text should be short and to the point, enabling the reader to grasp exactly what you want them to do at first glance, while also creating a sense of urgency. The CTA is your sales clincher, so be persuasive.

Make it stand out
The CTA can be a button or a clickable line of text, but if it is not easily found, it is not going be effective. Make sure your CTA stands out on your ad. Place the CTA in an expected logical position. Use graphic elements of color, size, and surrounding white space to visually direct users to the correct spot. And remember to size the CTA appropriately for mobile devices. It is always a good idea to test different graphic elements to see what works best for your customer.

Get creative
Keep your content fresh. The call to action text is part of your advertising copy and should be treated as such. Use engaging copy that ties into your ad and gets your customer to act. Steer clear of bland words like “submit” and use friendly dialogue. Using the voice of the customer in a personalized approach such as “Show me my plan,” or “Yes! Take me there!” can be effective. Readers should understand the copy and be able to relate to it without too much technical jargon. Be clever while staying clear in your message.

Entice your customers with a unique selling point
Make sure your call to action gives your customers a reason to click through. A unique selling point (USP) is a factor that differentiates a product from its competitors. This could be a lower cost, a complimentary consultation, a free trial, or even a blog post that would benefit the user to read. The unique selling point differentiates the resulting product from its competitors.

Offer instant gratification
While we have heard the notion that good things come to those who wait, in marketing, waiting can result in a high bounce rate. People want instant satisfaction. When persuading a user with a call to action, it is important not to delay giving them what they want, as this can affect your conversion rate. Reward the user immediately, and use action words such as “now.”

An effective call to action that customers cannot resist will boost traffic, improve click-through rates and convert prospects into customers. An effective call to action also can vary according to the target audience. Be sure to test yours to see what works for your company.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Top 5 Actions to Achieve Blogging Success

By Laura Powers

Many professionals today are blogging on their own blogs or on a company blog in support of a team marketing effort. There are many things that contribute to making a blog successful with its target audiences. The essential factors of topic relevancy, good writing, timely content and a point of view are a given, but what about other factors like length and frequency of posts?

A recent annual survey of 1055 bloggers shows interesting trends from 2016. There are 5 actions taken by bloggers who report successful results:

1. Write posts with 1,000 words or more

In general, blog posts are getting longer. Posts with 500-1,000 words are still relevant and acceptable, especially if you’re a working professional who includes blogging as just one marketing and public relations tactics you employ. Although the average word count should be something that is comfortable for the author, there is often good reason to dedicate more words to a topic if it will benefit your audience.

2. Include video, lists or multiple images

As the amount of content grows across the Internet, competition for readership increases. Rich media such as video and images, as well as lists (like this one you're reading) that provide specific directions or tips, have become fundamentally more important to call attention to online content.

3. Frequent blogging is best

Most bloggers surveyed are posting every week, however, the bloggers that report the best success are also the ones that post the most often. This makes sense as their main marketing efforts are probably centralized around blog content and promotion. Most bloggers publish when it works within their schedule, but should consider increasing frequency if possible.

4. Use paid promotional services and leverage influencer audiences

When bloggers in the study reported strong results from their efforts, the promotional channels that they used most were paid and influencer. Paid promotion are tactics like LinkedIn Sponsored Content campaigns – the amount you can invest will vary with the scope of a campaign and the platform. Influencer marketing involves reaching out to credible individuals who maintain a high level of celebrity status within their industry to promote your blog post through their own extensive networks and profiles. This process involves dedicating time to grow your understanding of why they would want to share your content (what’s in it for them?) and building trust through developing a relationship.

5. Measure through analytics 

You won’t know if you’re successful if you aren’t looking at the analytics. Monitoring key data points of each post such as overall traffic, blog comments, and amount of social media sharing and engagement will show long-term success and set future content strategy.

While we can’t always access multiple, relevant images for a post, or invest in creating a professional video, or even find time to write more than 1,500 words, attempting to achieve some of these benchmarks throughout 2017 may significantly affect your blog. Take action to write posts of quality content of 1,500 words or more that include rich media and are posted on a frequent basis for maximum audience engagement and blogging success.

Search The PR Lawyer

Furia Rubel on Facebook

Blog Archive

About Us Team Services Experience News Events Media Clips PR Successes Articles Marketing Portfolio Resources Books Contact Us Blog