This article was first published in Hotel Executive, February 2012
This article explores how the Press Release fits into your content marketing strategy and Google+. It reviews proven principles for creating content pillars to extend your influence and keep your messaging clear and consistent. It explores the idea of creating content for buyer personas. We end with a tutorial on how to get started on Google+
The Press Release: Ever evolving, are you?
The Press Release, like the hotel market, is ever evolving. How different our industry is today compared to the days of the Knights Templar during the Middle Ages. Often considered the first hoteliers, the Knights Templar built 800 Abbeys in Europe and a chain of castles in Syria for traveling pilgrims.1
Ok, that’s a little extreme. The point is, I am about to introduce you to some new concepts we are all learning together. History evolves and so do we in marketing.
Editorial + Architecture = Today’s content, such as Press Releases, customer stories, viewpoints and blog posts
Think of content marketing as having two sides: Editorial and Architecture. The Editorial engages people; the Architecture shapes content for technology platforms.2 As a key player, the Press Release must also show off both its editorial and technical sides. Let’s explore them separately.
Content Editorial: Storytelling to a buyer persona
Messages are not only growing shorter and more visual, they also include a strong and sometimes emotional storytelling component. They often catch readers “out of uniform.” One example is a stunningly successful technology company that moved into new, award-winning offices. A Press Release and photos of the new offices plus editorial placement in interior design magazines can reach their customers in a new way. The message was still within the context of their brand and culture of excellence. We exchanged target markets for target, or buyer, personas.
What is a buyer persona?
I like this simple definition: “A buyer personal is a detailed profile of the buyer the company hopes to persuade to choose its products, services or solutions.3 ” I recommend you identify your top two buyer personas at the beginning of your content marketing strategy. That way you will know what really matters to your buyers. Use your two buyer personas to shape your content and tell the stories they want to hear.
“Content strategists and writers…already draw on some aspects of rhetoric — such as being sensitive to context…” — Colleen Jones4, Principal, Content Science. Used with permission.
The new thinking says it is okay for your product to make an appearance in the Press Release, but it is better to tell the story of how people use your product. When you write, start with your buyers not with your product. What are their wants? Problems? Concerns?
In fact, what is their profile or persona? If the concept of a buyer’s persona is new to you, consider reading through the resources at the end of this article. It is an idea that will become essential in the fully mobile, segmented environment.
Content Architecture: The new distribution channel is an environment
Consider creating three pillars for your content strategy. These will be your key messages and will act as an organizing framework. Adherence to these three messaging pillars ensures your messages will be clear and consistent, everywhere.
And some version of your Press Release will be everywhere because you want to create an online environment in which your customers, prospects and friends thrive. You can distribute snippets of your Press Release via your website, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and a nurture email send. Rewrite it conversationally as a blog post and remember to include relevant links. Content from a series of themed Press Releases or customer stories may be packaged as a presentation and posted on SlideShare. It’s great for search. We like this format for posting Press Releases on the website.
I encourage you to invest the time to learn how to html code your keywords for Google Analytics, and then measure which venues send you the most qualified referrals.
I also encourage you to jump in and explore how to share the messages in your Press Releases on Google+. To get you started, here is a tutorial.
How to Get Started on Google+
Google+ was introduced last June and in November I made my first post. Have you tried it yet? It’s an ongoing experiment but guess what: your customers are there, or will be soon. And your content – including snippets from Press Releases – needs to be there too. Since Google+ starts to weave together all your online personas with twitter- and Facebook-like features, I encourage you to jump in and get up to speed now.
TIP: Organize your content and architecture around the top 3 messages that support your company’s business goals.
Here is some vocabulary and best practices to get you started.
CIRCLES. Circles are a way to organize your contacts. Once you get on Google+ and establish yourself, start circling people you want to listen to and be heard by. I was advised to take it slowly. You can create and get rid of circles, or place a person in multiple circles.
Consider establishing circles around your company’s top 3 messages, or “content pillars.” For instance, I have 3 circles so far, titled Relationships, Innovation & Experience, and Our Markets – but nobody can see that. When you name a circle, it’s private to you. These are our company’s top 3 messaging buckets that support our business goals.
PUBLIC AND PRIVATE POSTS, GREEN and BLUE. When you create a post, you must select what circles to receive it before it goes live. You can choose to make it Public or Private. If the color key is green, it’s public. Anyone can see it and it shows up in search. If the color key is blue, it’s limited to the circles you selected.
HANGOUTS. Hangouts are group video chats with your webcam and can be used to deepen relationships around an area of interest. They currently let you and 9 other people video chat at once (gotta get a better background before I screen test). Companies use hangouts to get input on ideas from developers; host press audiences; or chat around conferences at which your team is speaking.
How do you get in? You get a notification that someone wants to invite you to hangout. Everyone who is participating is in a live thumbnail across the bottom. Whoever is speaking rotates to the bigger window at the top.
TIP: Hangouts are currently public. If you want a private hangout, create a temporary circle. Send the hangout invite to just that circle.
+1 BUTTON POWERS SEARCH. The +1 button indicates you LIKE something. When you click it, you can also include a snippet of your own opinion. This is a POWERFUL way for people to show what is important on the web, and for you to increase your brand’s online influence. +1 is the best reason to post good, relevant content.
What I will do differently on Google+ than I did on twitter and Facebook. I vow to only add valuable content related to our top 3 brand messages in support of our business goals. These are Relationships, Innovation, and domain expertise in the Hospitality, Government, Multifamily Housing and related markets. To start, I will also choose my friends differently than I did before: only people I know. I will ALWAYS be respectful of your stream; no flooding.
QUESTION: Will Google+ replace LinkedIn? I hope not. The marketplace needs competition.
For more articles on Google+, please click here.
Can the Press Release help evolve our hotel industry news portals?
More than any other vehicle, the Press Release straddles the marketing evolution timeline we are all experiencing. Most of our hospitality news portal websites are tooled to distribute Press Releases – but not alternative html and graphic messages. Because the eyeballs in our industry are focused, Press Releases get results on these channels.
Press releases, and other vehicles for your three pillars of content, can also excite engagement in the online environment you create. I wish you much success.
Heartfelt thanks to the high value webinars from Bulldog Reporter PR University and especially these teachers on the Google+ webinar:
Jon Greer, Training Director, Bulldog PR University
Rebecca Davis, EVP, Digital Influence, Ogilvy
Jennifer Lashua, Global Social Media Strategist, Social Media Center of Excellence, Intel
Vidar Brekke, Chief Product Officer, Conversion
Mark Traphagen, Internet Marketing Manager, Virante
Copyblogger blog, “How to Write a Social Media Press Release” by Muhammad Saleem
Chris Brogan blog, “Your Customers Are Always the Story” by Chris Brogan November 12, 2011
Buyer Persona Institute blog by Adele Revella, “FAQs”
Web Ink Now blog by David Meerman Scott, “How well do you know your buyer personas? “ July 22, 2008
Web Ink Now blog by David Meerman Scott, “An analysis of gobbledygook in over 388,000 press releases sent in 2006” Oct 12, 2006
Content Marketing Institute, “How to Put Together an Editorial Calendar for Content Marketing” by Michele Linn, August 16, 2010. Thanks @leenjones in Clout
The New Rules of Marketing and PR, book by David Meerman Scott