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What Great Listeners Actually Do

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Chances are you think you’re a good listener.  People’s appraisal of their listening ability is much like their assessment of their driving skills, in that the great bulk of adults think they’re above average.

In our experience, most people think good listening comes down to doing three things:

  • Not talking when others are speaking
  • Letting others know you’re listening through facial expressions and verbal sounds (“Mmm-hmm”)
  • Being able to repeat what others have said, practically word-for-word

In fact, much management advice on listening suggests doing these very things – encouraging listeners to remain quiet, nod and “mm-hmm” encouragingly, and then repeat back to the talker something like, “So, let me make sure I understand. What you’re saying is…” However, recent research that we conducted suggests that these behaviors fall far short of describing good listening skills.

We analyzed data describing the behavior of 3,492 participants in a development program designed to help managers become better coaches. As part of this program, their coaching skills were assessed by others in 360-degree assessments. We identified those who were perceived as being the most effective listeners (the top 5%). We then compared the best listeners to the average of all other people in the data set and identified the 20 items showing the largest significant difference. With those results in hand we identified the differences between great and average listeners and analyzed the data to determine what characteristics their colleagues identified as the behaviors that made them outstanding listeners.

We found some surprising conclusions, along with some qualities we expected to hear. We grouped them into four main findings:

  • Good listening is much more than being silent while the other person talks. To the contrary, people perceive the best listeners to be those who periodically ask questions that promote discovery and insight. These questions gently challenge old assumptions, but do so in a constructive way. Sitting there silently nodding does not provide sure evidence that a person is listening, but asking a good question tells the speaker the listener has not only heard what was said, but that they comprehended it well enough to want additional information. Good listening was consistently seen as a two-way dialog, rather than a one-way “speaker versus hearer” interaction. The best conversations were active.
  • Good listening included interactions that build a person’s self-esteem. The best listeners made the conversation a positive experience for the other party, which doesn’t happen when the listener is passive (or, for that matter, critical!). Good listeners made the other person feel supported and conveyed confidence in them. Good listening was characterized by the creation of a safe environment in which issues and differences could be discussed openly.
  • Good listening was seen as a cooperative conversation. In these interactions, feedback flowed smoothly in both directions with neither party becoming defensive about comments the other made. By contrast, poor listeners were seen as competitive — as listening only to identify errors in reasoning or logic, using their silence as a chance to prepare their next response. That might make you an excellent debater, but it doesn’t make you a good listener. Good listeners may challenge assumptions and disagree, but the person being listened to feels the listener is trying to help, not wanting to win an argument.
  • Good listeners tended to make suggestions. Good listening invariably included some feedback provided in a way others would accept and that opened up alternative paths to consider. This finding somewhat surprised us, since it’s not uncommon to hear complaints that “So-and-so didn’t listen, he just jumped in and tried to solve the problem.” Perhaps what the data is telling us is that making suggestions is not itself the problem; it may be the skill with which those suggestions are made. Another possibility is that we’re more likely to accept suggestions from people we already think are good listeners. (Someone who is silent for the whole conversation and then jumps in with a suggestion may not be seen as credible. Someone who seems combative or critical and then tries to give advice may not be seen as trustworthy.)

While many of us have thought of being a good listener being like a sponge that accurately absorbs what the other person is saying, instead, what these findings show is that good listeners are like trampolines. They are someone you can bounce ideas off of — and rather than absorbing your ideas and energy, they amplify, energize, and clarify your thinking. They make you feel better not merely passively absorbing, but by actively supporting. This lets you gain energy and height, just like someone jumping on a trampoline.

Of course, there are different levels of listening. Not every conversation requires the highest levels of listening, but many conversations would benefit from greater focus and listening skill. Consider which level of listening you’d like to aim for:

Level 1: The listener creates a safe environment in which difficult, complex, or emotional issues can be discussed.

Level 2: The listener clears away distractions like phones and laptops, focusing attention on the other person and making appropriate eye-contact.  (This behavior not only affects how you are perceived as the listener; it immediately influences the listener’s own attitudes and inner feelings.  Acting the part changes how you feel inside. This in turn makes you a better listener.)

Level 3: The listener seeks to understand the substance of what the other person is saying. They capture ideas, ask questions, and restate issues to confirm that their understanding is correct.

Level 4: The listener observes non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions, perspiration, respiration rates, gestures, posture, and numerous other subtle body language signals. It is estimated that 80% of what we communicate comes from these signals. It sounds strange to some, but you listen with your eyes as well as your ears.

Level 5: The listener increasingly understands the other person’s emotions and feelings about the topic at hand, and identifies and acknowledges them. The listener empathizes with and validates those feelings in a supportive, nonjudgmental way.

Level 6: The listener asks questions that clarify assumptions the other person holds and helps the other person to see the issue in a new light. This could include the listener injecting some thoughts and ideas about the topic that could be useful to the other person.  However, good listeners never highjack the conversation so that they or their issues become the subject of the discussion.

Each of the levels builds on the others; thus, if you’ve been criticized (for example) for offering solutions rather than listening, it may mean you need to attend to some of the other levels (such as clearing away distractions or empathizing) before your proffered suggestions can be appreciated.

We suspect that in being a good listener, most of us are more likely to stop short rather than go too far. Our hope is that this research will help by providing a new perspective on listening. We hope those who labor under an illusion of superiority about their listening skills will see where they really stand. We also hope the common perception that good listening is mainly about acting like an absorbent sponge will wane. Finally, we hope all will see that the highest and best form of listening comes in playing the same role for the other person that a trampoline plays for a child. It gives energy, acceleration, height and amplification. These are the hallmarks of great listening.

This post by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman first appeared online in Harvard Business Review.

Keeping Cool in Hot Weather

 

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“You can’t have a business without having clients and unfortunately, where there are clients, there are also ‘difficult’ clients.”

You can please some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time. Every business that provides a service, will no doubt, encounter a few disgruntled personalities along the way. As public relations professionals, we’ve all had that experience. Some clients are a breeze to work with. Others can be extremely difficult – the kind that makes you cringe every time their number lights up on your mobile. You know, the ones who drain your energy, criticize and complain incessantly about something you’ve worked on diligently (and see real value in), or an overly needy client who calls at least twice a day to find out why they aren’t in that society magazine yet!

PR is difficult at times. You’re in the middle of everyone, the diplomat between the client and the marketing spiel and between the journalist and the story. So suddenly having to deal with someone being nasty or unreasonable is just one thing that you don’t need. But how do you handle it, when the client is paying the bill?

Dealing with difficult people is essential to our success. When dealing with difficult people, specifically a client, it might seem that keeping peace and our sanity is a tough, if not impossible, task. So how do you find the right balance?

Bottom Line: You bend over backwards when appropriate but you also learn to put your foot down when needed. Even though you may be holding the phone on one end, biting your tongue and stabbing that notepad with your pen, you can turn this around! Here are some helpful tips on how to deal with difficult clients.

Be Open, Be Clear

When dealing with a client, it is better to be clear about expectations at the start of the new business relationship. This is your opportunity to share what type of reporting, results and communication your new client can expect from you. Have an honest conversation about the amount of communication that is most comfortable to your clients and what your agency can provide. However, even clients who appear pleasant, understanding and accepting in the beginning, can become challenging once the contract is signed. It is important to know that while you should aim to be a valued partner, not all requests are feasible. Don’t be afraid to tell your client no – but with good reason. Explain why their request is not realistic or possible. You cannot please everyone all of the time and that’s a fact.

Worth the Trouble

Some clients will send a rude email – out of the blue! Or you may get a harsh tone on your voice mail on a weekend. Then it’s time to ask yourself this question, “Is it me?” If not, it’s worth your while to check in on your client. Ask probing questions to find out what is really bothering him. It could be that he’s going through something that is affecting his personal life, or it could be a trickle down “telling off” from his boss that has nothing to do with you or your work. Be kind, lend your ears and see if there’s anything you can do to help. Sometimes it does have everything to do with you. If this is the case, have an honest conversation with your client, and with yourself. Perhaps, you need to assess and amplify your own efforts.

You are the Expert

For clients that call for constant updates or to give you their own PR ideas (ridiculous as they may seem), remember you are the expert, hired to do the job. Don’t be arrogant – you can either take the ideas into consideration (if worth exploring), or politely give your views as to why they cannot be executed, for e.g. it would end up in the editors’ trash. Explain why you were hired in the first place – because of your specific expertise. Perhaps, this is also a good time to share more information and updates on what you’ve been doing to assure your clients that you’re on top of things and have their best interests at heart. More importantly, assure them that you know what you’re doing.

Be Proactive and Supportive

It’s quite common for some of my clients to reach out to me for advice on matters not related to the work we’re doing. Don’t turn away. If you can help with some input to a web design or business question, become an ally and take the time to problem-solve with them. Or refer them to someone who’s in a better position to help. By offering a solution and assisting with other tasks, you show that you care about their business. This not only builds rapport but also trust and this goes a long way in building a good, long-lasting relationship with your client.

Time to Let Go!

Unfortunately, the client is not always right. If your client is consistently being difficult and your personalities just don’t mesh, then it may be time to take the “D” out and let difficult clients go. While it’s important to do whatever it takes to keep a client within reason, you, as the expert in your field, get to define what is or isn’t working.  If your client is making your team miserable, taking up a lot of time better spent working on clients who do respect your work, it might be time to set you both free.

Whatever you decide, always be professional and polite. Be as honest as you can without getting too personal.

For the most part, PR pros love their clients and probably spend more time with them than they do their family. A PR agency should act as an extension of the client’s team. Your interactions with your client should build on one another – after all, you’re ultimately interested in a long-term relationship with your clients, and that is what you should strive for.

Posted by Irene Gomez, Corporate Media

Event Success: Steering Conversations into New Spaces

conference-engagement“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.” – Scott Cook, co-founder of Intuit

Behind each successful event is the ultimate vision to deliver value to a target audience from start to finish. This usually begins before the marketing campaign kicks off, and continues well after the exhilaration surrounding the occasion has subsided and the dust has settled. Event marketing may make for an arduous journey, which nevertheless, can bear fruits when done right – be it in fostering brand awareness, generating leads, or establishing market positioning.

Embracing the efficacy of social media, marketers are increasingly bringing their events closer to their audience by taking the dialogue online. In centring takeaways around engagement and empowerment, they’re letting members access, as well as share content with minimal effort. Shareable assets from blog posts and clips, to media updates and infographics, enable online users to tell others about you – usually in the quickest way possible.

Make it Buzz-Worthy

Set up a website? Check. Send out the requisite promotional flyer or email? Check. Time to sit back? Not just yet. As American entrepreneur and marketer Seth Godin points out – long gone are the days when the mantra for marketers was “Build it and they will come.” Instead, sustained nurturing of community on social media is essential to create truly buzz-worthy events.

Sure, there’s nothing wrong with good old direct mail. But publicity is best done on platforms which your audience frequents and actively circulates content, especially the ones that you put out. Engaging prospective attendees with visually stimulating and interactive material is likely to keep the hype around your event lasting for much longer, seeing as how each retweet, like or download is an invitation to discover, discuss and disseminate news about your event.

Sneak peeks and teasers (articles, videos, audio, photos, etc.) posted on your social channels also build anticipation, helping to publicise event highlights, key speakers or unique offerings, while not being viewed as pesky or harassing reminders. Regularly update your promotional material and make sure your content is interesting, shareable and of value to individuals who have signed up, as well as to those who remain undecided (and might need a little convincing!).

In short, potential participants value being given a heads-up on what they can expect. Nothing beats letting them feel like they’re making an informed decision before committing themselves to the event. Add a little intrigue to the mix, and you’re on your way to building and growing a community that readily tunes in, and feels like it has a stake in your event.

“Great Execution is the Ultimate Differentiator”

Beyond drumming up hype, attention should go into providing quality experiences during the event as well. Among these, real-time social updates are important, not only in capturing the excitement of a live event, but also in sparking and keeping conversations going. By publishing thought-provoking questions online, the space for substantive exchanges is no longer limited to the event floor, program book or website – instead, your wider community of followers is now included in the discourse, bringing with them more perspectives and more of their own audiences.

Make joining the conversation easy by using hashtags that are created specifically for the event and used across all social platforms. These go a long way to help your audience search for information that you are sharing, and at the same time, allow you to monitor mentions from attendees or affiliates. Having your ear close to the ground keeps you in the loop of what’s being said, and allows you to be more responsive to the suggestions, comments or enquiries being made.

Meanwhile, featuring and tagging participants in your visual updates will boost emotional connection with those present, letting them know that you acknowledge and appreciate their attendance. A gallery of photos or a series of video clips can also serve as a recap of each day’s activities and highpoints, effectively encapsulating the core message and spirit of the event – all of which can be shared repeatedly with various groups of friends and followers online.

Harnessing Word-of-Mouth

Even as the curtain closes on your event, your work isn’t done yet! Capitalise on the high of your attendees and have them continue the dialogue by drawing them to platforms where they can further share about their experiences. A good example would be a blog post that nicely summarises the event, provides worthwhile (and downloadable) content, and encourages participants to leave their inputs or feedback.

Captured statements about particular programs, presenters or your event in general – accompanied by compelling visuals – can also be shared on your social channels. These testimonials (duly attributed, of course!) help lend credibility to your event, and provide positive word-of-mouth for your brand.

Quite simply, by empowering and giving a voice to your community at each stage of event planning and management, immense opportunities for engagement and exposure are to be had. Event success lies in your hands, as much as it does in the conversations of your followers!

Posted by Rahimah Amin, Corporate Media

Gen Z: The Voice of a New Generation

Humans have long corralled themselves into generational categories with the belief that one’s social, economic time-period and environment will effectively shape them into individuals with similar interests and behavior. Baby Boomers were conceived in the muddled post-World War II canvas and groomed into nonconforming liberals whilst Generation Xers alternated between their divorced parents’ homes apathetically. Online marketers in recent years have shortsightedly been clamouring for the attention of Millennials, aka Generation Y, who represent the highest proportion of online spending compared to any other cohort. As pioneers of the most disruptive invention of all, the Internet, they were the ones who molded it, and in return, it ultimately molded them.

With the spotlight trained on the founders, many have missed the opportunity that lies in the hands of the next generation, the same smartwatch clad hands dexterously juggling a tablet and a mobile phone while taking a selfie. When companies started recruiting 19 year olds as the foremost experts on this outspoken generation, we know that we are witnessing the dawn of a new age. Gen Y slowly incorporated the web into their lifestyles, but Generation Z (Gen Z) was born, fully submerged into the assimilation of notifications. Eighty-one percent of these aptly named “digital natives” are on social media at least three hours a day, making success more contingent on competent digital marketing than ever.

Gen Z are rapidly becoming a critical audience for marketers and brands to understand. Even if they aren’t your target group at the moment, they soon will be. In a couple of years, nearly 4 in 10 consumers will be from Gen Z, and their purchasing power will rise exponentially over the next 5 to 7 years as they grow to be the single largest group of consumers worldwide. They are forming their spending habits now which can influence their habits into adulthood. Appealing to this group can have a huge impact in a company’s long-term customer retention and brand loyalty.

So what does it take to really capture the attention of Generation Z? Let’s take a closer look.

Snap, Swipe, Share

Gen Z thrives on the edge of fast communications. Six second Vines, 140 character tweets, emojis and Snapchats – tapped once and gone into the ether. For brands, this means creating bite-sized, visual content that Gen Z can quickly digest and process. The more bite-sized pieces of information you can get to Gen Z, the further along their path to purchase you can push yourself.

The one thing Gen Z appreciates more than succinct communications is curating their own content. As a form of self-expression, these individuals enjoy taking charge and personalising their own content. Additionally, brands that utilise or acknowledge these consumer creations portray themselves as active listeners and genuinely caring about their customer’s wants.

Purchasing Power

Gen Z may not have a lot of its own money (yet), but this doesn’t necessarily mean they lack purchasing power. According to brand strategy firm, Sparks and Honey, the average upwardly mobile Gen Z receives an allowance of $16.90 per week, which collectively adds up to $44 billion a year. In addition to pocket money, they exert considerable influence on household purchases and family spending compared to previous generations.

What this means is that marketers need different approaches to gain the attention of the Gen Z. In the past, most ad dollars were spent on TV, radio stations, and newspapers. But to reach Gen Z, companies will need to spend more to create videos and other content that provides useful information, entertains, and otherwise impresses them enough that they share with families, friends, and followers.

Making CSR the Norm

An Inconvenient Truth” opened the eyes of unsuspecting Millennials but Generation Z grew up in an already unstable world of conflict. Fuelled by current events, they seek to create value and social change for the world through the products they purchase. This group places a higher priority on the quality of a product and how environmentally friendly it is rather than being blindly loyal to a brand. As most Gen Z research products and services prior to purchase, they become privy to the company’s practices, history, and reputation.

After too many lapses in safety and accounting, businesses must now prove themselves by being transparent and relatable. One way is to allow real customers themselves to create content, feedback, and reviews as a means of advertising the company authentically. Following in the footsteps of TOMS Shoes, businesses must start incorporating a social aspect to their business whether it be employee community service or through the triple bottom line approach in order to penetrate these increasingly knowledgeable and ethical customers.

Embrace Diversity

Gen Z is expected to be the most racially diverse generation. While Millennials in their own right are a pretty diverse group, Gen Z will view the increasing diversity in a more positive light. With more friends from different ethnic backgrounds than older generations, brands will have to amp up their multicultural marketing strategies to make their brands relevant to a wider range of ethnic groups.

Gen Z are growing up in a post-9/11 world and in a global economic recession, resulting in a demographic that is very socially conscious. They will expect nothing less from brands. Brands that can form a connection with this diverse group will have the most success. To do this, brands will have to incorporate various, yet consistent, messages that highlight diversity across a variety of platforms.

Point to Note: Gen Z’s everyday lives blend seamlessly with their lives on social channels, and many of their defining characteristics stem from this continuity.  Marketers will have to try harder than ever to interact authentically with this generation of consumers, but if they do, they’ll be rewarded by an audience that loves engaging with brands and championing their products.

Posted by Arwika Ussahatanon, Corporate Media

Start the Conversation and Get Going!

Social Media Are You Listening

People are talking about your brand. Are you listening?

Social media has taken over our lives!!!  That’s right, everyday millions of conversations take place over social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Skype, forums, etc. These conversations are not just happening with friends and families but are also influencing companies. Social media interaction continues to rise as more people use it in both their personal and professional lives, and brands are responding by continually looking for new and innovative ways to engage with them.

All these conversations comprise pools of data, but “listening to the talk” can be challenging.  How can companies make sense of this endless data to determine how and where to listen, identify what consumers are talking about, classify the types of content they are posting, and understand the behaviours they are engaging in?

Brand loyalty, customer engagement, qualified traffic and backlinks are not easy to come by. To get more, you need to give more. When it comes to social media, success comes from listening to your consumers, and providing them with the content they need, at the right time, and at the right place.

Embrace Technology

Those who don’t or have yet to embrace digital technology risk falling behind the needs of their customers. They also risk falling behind in the international marketplace where brands are rapidly ramping up their digital spend. Today’s consumers are digital, mobile, and tech-savvy. They are empowering themselves instead of allowing brands to dictate to them. Leading digital brands like Facebook and Google are redefining the market by creating new benchmarks for customer experience and personalization – so much so that customers today expect personalized services that address their immediate needs.

In short, unless brands can integrate digitally across channels and services, i.e. website, marketing, IT, sales, etc., they will not meet the rising expectations around the customers’ experience. To drive the integration of channels and deliver a seamless, coherent experience at every touch point demands that senior executives (CEOs, CTOs, CIOs, CMOs) get involved – to rally all the departments (marketing, IT, call centres, sales) to execute a digital strategy that reorients the whole business around the needs of the customer.

Mapping Strategy with Good Data

The next wave of marketing is all about providing a one-to-one customer journey for each customer – with highly contextual and personalized marketing messages.  It is important to understand the interconnectivity between various platforms and the roles that the different parts of the business play in the customers’ journey.  By tapping into data from a range of different touch points and systems, we can understand and shape the customers’ journey to achieve maximum engagement, conversions, and ultimately brand loyalty.  By capturing customer data at every touch point – from mobile phones and websites, to call centres and membership programs, we will be able to get a 360° view of our relationship with each customer.

Key Points to Remember:

  • Provoking real conversations between your brand and target consumer begins with an understanding of your audience’s desires, online behaviours and their perception of your brand.
  • Listening to what your audience and industry has to say allows us to craft and apply a unique, authoritative voice to content that establishes trust and invites consumer engagement with your brand.
  • Identifying trends, shared issues, and gaps in online coverage drives the creative process while ensuring you deliver content that adds and not distract from the conversation.
  • Social media moves at the speed of light. For brands that can keep up with sharing content, exchanging ideas, and actively engaging in real-time conversations, the rewards are tremendous.

Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, CorpMedia

Optimizing Optimization: The Big Picture

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“The best place to hide a dead body is page 2 of Google search results”

Terms like search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are often thrown around, especially in today’s web cluttered world. Companies are constantly searching for ways to promote their online presence in order to cut through the noise of over a billion websites and reach the highest number of relevant individuals as possible. One is often aware about the need for SEO/SEM, but how it is acquired and utilized is often a grey territory.

Before one can even begin to comprehend their revitalizing functions and abilities, the terms must first be accurately understood. SEO and SEM are digital marketing buzzwords often erroneously used interchangeably. In truth, search engine marketing is the umbrella under which search engine optimization lies. Both are aimed at employing a multitude of tactics to boost the number of visitors towards a certain site by increasing its placement on the search engine results page (SERP). While the top three ranked results tend to garner 58.4% of all clicks from users, the subsequent ones will decline in popularity quickly. Businesses need to think outside the text box on search engines and get serious about SEO if they want to boost their online presence and steer ahead of the competition.

SEO specifically pertains to methods used to influence “organic search results” or those naturally called up due to the relevance of the site’s contents in relation to the user’s search terms. SEM includes the previous but also paid results. It is easy to distinguish the two categories of search returns as paid ones are often accompanied by the indicator word “ad” and only appear at the top and the bottom of an SERP. Most small to medium firms with a limited advertising budget opt only for enhancing their organic searches, as paid ads can quickly add up.

In the interest of helping businesses to refine their websites, the following are some tried and true methods of optimization webmasters have perfected over the years, with all the results and none of the costs:

  1. Quality, quality, quality!

Let the quality of the site speak for itself. The first step is to have a unified theme as search engines will penalize pages with content that is disjointed from the rest of the site. After a concrete foundation has been set, focus on subjects that are most relevant and interesting to your current user base. Paragraphs broken up into digestible chunks alongside video, infographics and images ensure maximum user comprehension and readership enjoyment. Google’s web crawlers analyze all the words on a page in relation to the content around it to determine the quality of the site, so focus on value rather than amount of content.

  1. It’s a mobile world after all

With over 50% of Google searches emerging from mobile users and the number of mobile internet consumers finally surpassing desktop users, a smartphone incompatible site will prove detrimental to a company’s ability to extend their reach. Due to Google’s recent algorithm upgrade, mobile enabled sites are ranked higher while those without, demoted when users search through a mobile device.

Be wary that possessing an ineffective mobile friendly site is equally harmful. Take into consideration the loading time of a site. Abandonment nears 50% if a page takes longer than 10 seconds to load, so checking load speeds and mobile compatibility is imperative to a webpage’s success.

For individuals who can afford the extra lift on their search results, each search engine contains their own paid advertising options and costs. These usually utilize the pay-per-click (PPC) or cost-per-click (CPC) scheme whereby advertisers pay a certain bid amount each time a searcher clicks on their ad. With expenditure saving as a priority, there are certain techniques that firms practise to get the most bang out of their buck.

  1. Ride the long-tailed dragon

In the search for keywords to bid on, one may be interested in short and simple yet oft searched terms, but with this comes the fear of bidding for the limited ad spaces alongside conglomerates with cash to splash. The alternative is to elect long-tailed or more specific keywords. CPC for longer search terms is invariably lower, backed by less competition vying for the same precise string of words. This ensures the chosen keywords bid for are focused on niche users searching with a more readily committed state of mind.

  1. Bing-o

Microsoft’s underdog search platform, Bing, attracts 20% of all desktop searches and make up 3% of all platforms’ aggregated search, but do not be fooled by the inferior numbers. Bing Ads is a diamond in the rough precisely due to the lack of competition. Advertising costs average out to be 22.5% cheaper than those on Google while, simultaneously, campaigns achieve better positions and higher visibility. In addition, Bing allows for more granular controls alongside the ability to streamline ad exposure based on target demographics, bestowing advertisers with more command over their own content and how it is shown.

The targeted nature of SEM traffic deems it invaluable to any business aspiring to appeal to a wider audience. Furthermore, as 70% of all incoming website traffic emerges from search engine results, it is no wonder search engine marketing and optimization are spotlighted when it comes to constructing the most attractive site.

Posted by Arwika Ussahatanon, Corporate Media

You Are What You Share: #GetSocial

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We look to the Twittersphere for the latest news and join the hashtag frenzy on Instagram with as much fervour as the next internet-wired, mobile-owning person. The world now is the World Wide Web, a place where information and communication converge. Trend-spotting, the exchanging of ideas and the coalescing of people into communities increasingly occur online.

Observing, listening and connecting through the web offer vast opportunities. And for businesses today, having access to significant groups of consumers and keeping abreast of industry developments is possible not so much by being social as it is about going social. What this means is establishing a presence and engaging on the right social media platforms.

Social media and its smart utilisation can help drive brand awareness and reinforce brand recall. Social behemoths like Facebook and Twitter have become go-to networks for both consumers and marketers – not only are they recognised as mobile advertising juggernauts, they also offer a large user base (1.59 billion and 320 million users, respectively) with which businesses can have direct and sustained contact.

So which sites should marketers put their efforts into? Here are a few essentials to take note of when investing in social media marketing:

Explore your options

With a multitude of social media channels available, it is important that you identify the platforms that best allow you to reach out to your intended recipients. Be where your audience is so that you can concentrate on producing content of continual interest and which inspires feedback.

As consumers look out for reliability, branding your images and creating consistent visuals are vital in creating trust and gaining followers. Explore more of visual marketing as it resonates best with consumers. Specifically, photos drive more engagement than any other kind of posts, while infographics convey complex data in a coherent and visually interesting manner, effectively increasing traffic by 12 percent, if used properly.

It is little wonder then that consumers are increasingly turning to platforms which offer interactive visual assets to suss out new brands or to keep up with old favourites. Trending social media networks to consider would include:

  • Snapchat: The 100 million users on this image-messaging service share single, customised snaps or create a story (a chronological series of media forming a longer narrative), with each snap lasting 24 hours. Snapchat posts often appear more spontaneous, giving brands on the app a more human feel. Businesses can also send followers personal snaps to say hello or a simple thank you.
  • Pinterest: Brands hoping to tap into a niche network can look to Pinterest, a visual bookmarking tool offering boards that organise collections of pictures and aesthetics. Most of its 100 million users are women, with fashion, food, fitness and beauty amongst the most popular categories. By allowing the embedding of single Pins or whole boards directly into your blog content, Pinterest makes the re-pinning of your material extremely convenient.
  • Instagram: Powering the sharing of images is Instagram, a mobile-based social network with 400 million monthly users who collectively like an average of 3.5 billion photos per day. More and more businesses are using it to boost their visual marketing strategy, and rightly so – the app’s users embrace brands, with Instagram posts commanding 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook and 120 times more than Twitter.
  • YouTube: The biggest video library has over a billion users who upload, view and comment on material ranging from TV clips to vlogs and interviews. Considering that 85 percent of online adults are regular visitors, the opportunities to catapult your brand into the visibility of a large, captivated audience through great video content are huge.
  • Vine: Ideally suited for today’s notoriously short attention spans, Vine allows its 200 million active users to share 6-second-long looping video clips on social networks or embed them on websites. The clips’ short-form nature inspires immense creativity – often showcasing brands’ quirky side – while making sure that the information being communicated remains digestible.

Studying your audience and ascertaining your niche will enable you to put together your own mix of influential visual social networks that will provide the highest return on your investments. Once you recognise the relevant social media opportunities, you can then be part of relevant conversations that will add value to your business.

Make content your priority

Content published on social media works best when it encourages participation or when it deepens consumers’ emotional connection with the brand. Focus less on hard-selling and more on engaging. Take advantage of social channels’ ability to facilitate direct interaction with customers and listen to comments which can help you shape your marketing strategies.

Learning more about consumers’ interests and the kinds of updates that motivate involvement will also help brands construct personalised messages. As consumers are more likely to seek out posts that entertain and educate, structure your content around a takeaway for the audience.  And even as you create, make efforts to curate – collate great articles, videos and images and share these generously.

Remember, content must be compelling, better still, contagious! Quality posts make it easier to amass quality followers who are likely to share it with their own audiences on other social media platforms. Going viral may not always happen, but staying hyper-relevant to customers in an overcrowded market through insights-driven content may, in fact, be just as good.

Posted by Rahimah Amin, PR Executive, Corporate Media

Recycling Originality: Content Marketing’s Paradox?

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“Originality is nothing but judicious imitation.”

If the quote by Voltaire is anything to go by, then originality must be a moot concept.

Originality is often understood to mean thinking or acting in an independent, inventive, or individual manner. But considering that we live in a world that requires us to be connected and responsive, it is inevitable that our thoughts and actions are inspired and shaped by our experiences and the environment in which we live.

So then, can there truly be an original idea – free from influence and imitation? Facing this very challenge are content marketers, in their exacting search for continually creative content. But given the industry’s propensity to churn out ideas every single day, only for some to be cast aside, marketers have taken to reusing once-rejected material for new clients. Should recycling creativity be always seen as doing more harm than good? How can the credible creative recognise the right times to reuse old, yet amazing (and possibly profitable) content?

Here are some tips to consider when deciding to breathe new life into an old idea while waiting for your next spark of genius:

Exercise judiciousness

A look at the marketing landscape will show that influences abound. However, be aware of the differences between mere reproduction, and careful revision of ideas. Recycling creativity goes beyond reusing old content, and should see the marketer conscientiously reworking ideas such that they fit the brief and product of any new client. While the eventual concept may draw inspiration from different sources, it should essentially be work consisting of inputs which have been modified into, and presented as something fun and fresh.

While taking creative liberties with recycled ideas, it is also important to stay connected with their origins or how they came to be, so that marketers can better appreciate the new, improved versions and retain the authenticity in their communication with consumers.

Manage the creative ego

Creative minds are often afflicted by the fear of banality, and sometimes, unnecessarily so. Recognise that moments of brilliance are not always readily conjured, and that recycling creativity can mean letting a previously shelved idea – with the necessary tweaks made – take flight and live out its potential.

And even if concepts perceived to be new are discovered to have been delivered before, it should not weaken marketers’ belief in their ideas. After all, our thoughts bear a degree of unique, personal influence and are never exactly the same as some familiar version of it. Moreover, there has been plenty of evidence pointing to consumers taking pleasure in, and responding to recognisable structures and cues. Gain emotional leverage with familiar models while making sure that these ideas are able to deliver some form of value to consumers.

Do not be too obsessed with breaking the mould

In an industry fixated with being trendsetters in creativity, content marketers may get too carried away with wanting to consistently break tradition. In truth, however, the mould-breaker does not come by as frequently as we think. Marketing is no stranger to recycling concepts, with a large majority building upon or reworking existing thinking.

Opting to work on the tried-and-tested may allow marketers to make the most of their versions as they focus instead on improving the execution of their works. By obsessing less on originality as the ideal, marketers can channel their efforts into achieving content excellence as opposed to creative excellence. When brilliantly delivered, time-worn concepts can always come across as new and exciting.

Go the extra mile

Recycled ideas should ultimately be converted into insights-driven content. Effective concepts understand the client’s business drivers, address their points of concern, and create and sustain brand awareness. Sure, there’s nothing wrong in presenting a used idea to another client if the solution meets the brief, but make sure it is reworked and tailored to best serve the client’s business.

That being said, recycling creativity cannot be a marketer’s first instinct or his or her last resort – it should never be the easy way out, where the same idea becomes the persistent solution for different problems.

Expand the definition of originality

Let’s not restrict ourselves to only striving for total originality (if that is possible any more), but also find inspiration in successful and tested formulae, and then fastidiously improve on them. The creative ego should not stifle the many possibilities that recycling creativity presents!

At the end of the day, content marketers look to put out work that may not always be revolutionary, but is importantly, expressive, engaging and which resonates with consumers.

Indeed at times, the process of creativity can be made simple. As Marcel Proust sees it, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

Content marketing may have found a new meaning for originality.

Posted by Rahimah Amin, PR Executive, Corporate Media

 

Why Marketing is Emotional

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There’s been a lot of talk within B2B marketing circles about the importance of putting emotion at front of mind when creating marketing content.

One of the powers of social media is that it allows you to be yourself or anything else for that matter.

The euphoria of having a platform where your voice can be heard or you can be seen, creates a completely different person to what everyone sees or supposedly knows “offline.” It’s also a ‘space’ where as a marketer, you can display some emotion, even if this is in a virtual environment.

There is plenty of scientific evidence to show that you engage the best with people when you connect with them on an emotional level. It’s not necessarily about high drama or hypersensitivity. It’s about finding a connection, identifying a common ground, spotting a leveler and using that to form the foundation on which marketing conversations, marketing communications, and marketing engagement can be built.

So, what’s the marketing magic that happens when you get in touch with your emotions?

  • You create content that’s meaningful and not abstract
  • You make a lasting impression, and your content is bound to be remembered
  • You expand your creative vision
  • You churn out relevant stuff that’s reusable
  • You start to feel, and pick up what’s going on around you
  • You awaken from a sense of dullness, boredom and slumber
  • You identify your own value and pour it out to others
  • Content creation becomes a hobby and not a chore
  • You develop a personality and your image flows through every word, sentence, paragraph, campaign etc.
  • You stop hiding and reveal who you are.

To sum it up, marketing is a thought process, and if you are ready to revolutionize your marketing, then get emotional.

Post by 4CM, a member of the Evoke PR Network.

Game Changers and Social Staples

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The availability of multiple platforms on social media, coupled with changes in consumers’ taste and preferences, have led to a plethora of new opportunities for companies to grow their brands. In fact, digital marketing has experienced enormous changes in the last few years that brands have had little choice but to keep pace with technology. As social media platforms attempt to monetize their offerings by introducing new and improved features, it can get tricky for marketers to come up with the best strategy to stay competitive.

Real-time is the buzzword for 2016. Since the inception of social media marketing, brands and agencies have been searching for the best methods to deliver integrated campaigns that make others feel connected. In this day and age, it is also important to keep the finger-tapping younger generation of consumers interested by offering exclusive content that has an expiration date. The “one size fits all” marketing tactic no longer works. It’s all about finding the perfect platform to make consumers feel connected and unique, all at the same time in order to reap the benefits of a forward thinking campaign.

While it is impossible to predict how the social media landscape will change over the course of a year, here are three social marketing trends we feel will change the way brands reach consumers and become the social staples for 2016.

#1: Going Private

The latest trends reveal that the pleasure of privacy is seeping its way into many consumers’ lives online. The popularity of Snapchat has skyrocketed because the medium respects privacy. Users of other popular sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook are more inclined towards private messaging or the creation of private groups within their social network. While of course, publicity through advertising and other forms of explicitly overt marketing techniques would in many ways still facilitate knowledge about branding, the invaluable content is more effectively delivered to the individual or to a smaller group of people.

# Seeing is Believing

Visual marketing is expected to yield immense popularity in 2016. This medium ensures that the specific product and visual communications are intertwined – it is exactly this combination that reaches out to people, engages them and persuades them to make a particular choice. So, be generous, not only with the images but also the amount of short-form and long-form videos posted to your blogs, Facebook and Instagram!

Apps such as Twitter’s Vine, with its six-second maximum clip length, have dramatically increased the opportunity for businesses on a limited budget. But, if you’re to realise a decent return on your investment, you’ll need to bear the following in mind. With a tried and tested marketing success derived from the popularity of video uploads, the current trend indicate that the popularity of videos will continue to dominate companies’ online marketing strategies in the near future and it’s not difficult to understand why.

Jenn Herman, Forefront Blogger on Instagram Marketing TOP 10 Social Media Blog of 2014 and 2015, asserts that “The best way to reach your audience and connect with them in 2016 is through videos and/or live-streaming tactics as a way to really connect in a more face-to-face way. Facebook has been quick to jump onto the bandwagon in their video features as seen from the introduction of “live video”. This conforms to the demand by social media users and has raised expectations from brands and companies for social media to be transparent and authentic.

While 2015 started an era of live-casting with the introduction of new technology such as Periscope, Facebook Live and Blab, 2016 has changed the video playing field altogether. The introduction of live360 degree broadcasts allows people to move their mobile phones and experience the action as in real time.

#3 Publicity isn’t always free

While visual marketing is getting a lot of attention these days, many social media websites are beginning to charge for effective publicity. Many of the sites have algorithms installed such as PageRank, EdgeRank and TweetRank to prioritize the importance of posts. Very soon, tweets won’t appear in the streams of all your followers, and instead the intent to raise your visibility will come with a small price.

Facebook isn’t too far away on their open approach towards advertisements. Rather, businesses that attempts to use Facebook as a platform to advertise must be ready to pay a small amount before they can boost their audience reach. For example the boost post function that enables the increased reach of the post is pegged at 5 USD per post. Nonetheless, quite a handful who’ve tried the boost post function claims its effectiveness and affirms that the same kind of outreach on traditional media would be significantly more costly. According to Neil Patelco-founder of Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics, in 2016 more social networks will start charging for traffic. The algorithms are becoming harder to leverage via organic means, so if you want maximum traffic, you’ll have to spend money on ads.

2016 will see digital marketing become even more targeted and therefore valuable to businesses. It’s something that all businesses should be open to embracing. It’s not as simple as boosting a post and hoping for the best, there has to be a strategic element to it – which means you’re going to have to really be on top of your strategy.

Posted by Shahnaz Khan, PR Executive, Corporate Media