Cash and content are king in our digital world

cartoonby Nandy Heule

An SEO marketing company recently plastered simple flyers on telephone poles to advertise their services in mid-town Toronto.

One of their offers included “content bundles.” For example, three articles and 40 social media posts each month will cost you $99 for 1,500 words.

Maybe it sounds self-serving, but I’m concerned about this service offering.

The general consensus now suggests “content is king.” Your online info will be read if it is of serious interest to the readers you are targeting as well as SEO-friendly. Moreover, such content needs to be free of grammatical errors, typos and plagiarism.

A steady trickle of new, quality content will improve search engine performance. Such blog posts and news updates showcase an organization’s experience, creativity, and commitment to excellence. Quality content helps build influence and reputation, not just web traffic. It builds brand and bottom lines.

It makes sense to hire an experienced freelance writer who can work with rough notes, industry research, client success stories and other materials. She can turn such information into compelling copy — content that tells a brand story, demonstrates positive impact, and builds influence. Please plan to pay more than $99 for 1,500 words for this process. But, be confident that what you look like online matches the quality work you provide.

If the content marketing budget can’t exceed $99 a month, talk to a good writer who can produce 1 or 2 pieces of quality material. Less may very well be more!  A client testimonial, an industry event, an inspirational quote, a staff bio, an image with a caption, or a factoid can all provide strong content on a limited budget.

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you need a Toronto-based freelance writer to have a look at your content and evaluate its effectiveness.

Leaders’ Debate 2015: turning point in Canadian journalism or predictable dud?

2015-debate

The Globe and Mail likely squeezed every bit of coverage from the Leader’s Debate it hosted last week, so let’s discuss why this political event may have long-term impact, or not.

The Globe heroically managed to distill not just Debate Highlights from the 90 minutes show between national party leaders Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau. Editors also treated its audience to Memorable Moments and Best Exchanges. Moreover, the newspaper made available an indispensable series of News Videos to highlight newsworthy items such as Harper’s ‘old stock’ comment (which we were all shocked to learn, no doubt, caused hype on social media). Numerous columns and stories provided further analysis and summaries in print and online.

Meantime, on debate night Sept. 17th, CBC The National broadcast a debate about the debate. (Correction: viewers were treated to an analysis by the country’s most-watched national political panel.) Host Peter Mansbridge, presumably in a moment of weakness, couldn’t resist pointing out that an event hosted in Calgary used a backdrop showing parliament buildings halfway across the country in Ottawa. Broadcast amateurs they all are, those folks at the Globe and Mail, right?

Rather than news coverage generated or voters’ response, what seems rather  revolutionary about the event is this. A stately print publication broadcast one of Canada’s largest national election events. All this while Green Party’s Elizabeth May, excluded from the debate, creatively managed to comment from the sidelines with a series of Tweets.

As online news platforms mature, the lines between broadcast and print continue to blur. This  Leaders’ Debate demonstrates just how far media outlets have ventured into their competitors’ traditional territories. Will this Globe broadcast come to be seen as a turning point in Canadian journalism when print, broadcast, social media and online news gathering inescapably merged into one joint news stream?

The jury may be out if this fluid media landscape will make professional, unbiased political journalism more or less accessible to average Canadians in the long run.
In terms of ratings, the new format seems to be a bit of a (predictable) dud.

One news outlet reports that 300,000 watched at least part of the political showdown on YouTube. News 1130 further reports that this compares to Maclean’s Debate earlier this summer which gained total viewership of 4.3 million. In contrast, 10.6 million viewers tuned into the 2011 English debate on national TV when in April CBC-TV/Radio-Canada, CTV, Global Television and TVA worked together to orchestrate the political showdown.

PR pros offer smart analysis of election adverts

In today’s issue of the Globe and Mail, several PR pros offer some interesting insights into the advertisement spots running during this election. If you want to have a look at the story, here it is.

Helen Pak, CEO and chief creative officer at ad firm Havas Worldwide Canada

“We’re hearing about Stephen Harper from what seems to be real people. But the delivery, for me, didn’t come across as authentic. When a real person is talking on camera, there are natural pauses. The delivery isn’t perfect. Those lines were either fed to them, or perhaps they actually said them but were directed to say them over and over again. With this documentary-style storytelling that we see more and more of in ads, people are savvy. They can spot authenticity and see when it’s not authentic a mile away. That’s not the impression you want to give.”

John Crean, national managing partner at National Public Relations

“Notice that they don’t refer to the Liberals, they refer to Justin. And they refer to the NDP, not to Mulcair. They’re trying to create brand imagery around the others. It’s very intentional that it’s not “Mr. Trudeau” or “the Liberal Party.” It’s part of the image of the young, inexperienced guy. They’re using “the NDP,” not “Mr. Mulcair” or “Tom.” When it comes to economic management, Mulcair could be argued to have a better sense of how to be a good economic manager, while the NDP has a pre-existing narrative as left-wing, socialist, spenders. The Conservatives would be trying to reinforce that. … It’s surprising to me, entering into what they call a “technical recession,” that they could continue to use the economic platform as a selling point. They’re making a big bet on the economy as the most important consideration.” Continue reading

NDP’s new appetite for balanced budgets predictable. Learn why!

Icecream vendorsDon’t be surprised by the NDP’s sudden passion for balanced budgets during this election campaign.

It may sound like expedient role reversal, a cynical attempt to distill fears about the party’s big spending reputation.

However, I’d like to argue that Tom Mulcair’s appetite for balanced budgets was rather predictable for anyone familiar with a long-established theory. The Median Voter Theorem explains how political parties in democracies will by necessity move to the centre if they are serious about winning elections. It’s about brand building and PR, not ideology.

Have a look at this 6-minute Animation. It helps explain the Theorem by applying it to a non-political scenario. Two ice cream vendors (the parties) fight to gain customers (voters) in a city block. It also explains the Theorem’s origins in Harold Hotelling’s spatial model of firm strategies in a competitive marketplace.

So, expect more of the same from our political leaders as this campaign unfolds and the fight for undecided voters intensifies. All leaders will move as far to the centre as they can without completely alienating their core constituencies.

Selfies smart PR strategy for campaigning politicians

Selfietripper

Illustration by Paul Faassen first published in Vrij Nederland, 11July 2015

At a recent campaign event, Justin Trudeau was giving lots of kids the opportunity to take a selfie with him. Smart move by our Liberal Leader.

If nothing else, he validated the parents’ decision to drag their children out to a political event early in the morning. And, these kids may well boost voter turn-out among youth in the near future.

At times, it must be painful for our national party leaders to suffer through endless selfie assaults by the party faithful.

But it’s also a great PR strategy.

The selfie has become a mandatory tool to illustrate our success in life, says Dutch writer Els Quaegebeur, in her recent article in the weekly news magazine Vrij Nederland. She adds, when we send these pictures we no longer need to explain our success, we demonstrate it.

(Are these images are our new postcards? Forget putting a piece of cardboard on the fridge. We can now Tweet, post, share, email, text, and Snapchat the evidence of our latest adventures.)

Once posted on social media, our selfies are the new show ‘n’ tell: Look, I met a famous Canadian! Hey, I met Trudeau (or fill in ____ for your favorite politician).”

In the process, these innocent pictures turn into powerful brand building tools for political leaders. The selfies we share on social media turn into thousands of public endorsements. “Me and my smiling MP”; last time I checked, that’s free, positive PR and leverages the exhausting, costly campaign events politicians must attend across the country to get (re)elected.

Go ahead then, do your share to build the brand of your favorite politician – try to grab a selfie at the next rally you attend, enjoy the moment, and hit the social media circuit.

T

Social media’s selfies become legacy media’s sustenance

Wai Young, MPThis July 14 was an exceptionally heavy news day. The historic nuclear deal with Tehran, the Pan Am games, and the first photos of Pluto competed for airtime.

Yet, an obscure fur trader in St. John’s, NFL, and Conservative backbencher Wai Young in Vancouver made the editorial lineup on CBC’s The National.

Why?

Blame the “celebrity factor” for our furrier’s moment of fame. Bernie Halloran is a smart business man. One of Rod Stewart’s entourage asked him to rent some of his fur coats for the women about to accompany the singer on an outdoor stage in chilly St. John’s. Instead, Halloran offered to loan the outfits at no cost. Pure PR instinct, I suggest. The decision earned the merchandiser a selfie with the celebrity wearing a sealskin coat. Of course, the savvy Halloran posted the shot on his Twitter feed. Next, anti-fur activists responded by lambasting Stewart for wearing seal fur. In this case, all publicity is good publicity. “It’s the middle of July, people are talking about fur. It’s pretty cool,” concluded Halloran in an interview with CBC’s Ian Hanomansing.

Let’s blame the complete absurdity of our MP Young’s comments about the Air India disaster for her spot on The National. She delivered her talk at a relatively small church at the fringes of main stream Canadian Christendom. The pastor shared his selfie with the MP with his very modest number of Twitter followers. Next, the MP’s comments spread into the wider, secular world.

First, no matter who you are and where you are, watch those selfies.

And, of course, the two stories  demonstrate once again the fascinating interdependence of legacy media outlets and social media even on a day when history is made in outer space and right here on earth.