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Turning traffic into revenue

Although it’s been a few weeks since our class’ discussion on metrics, I can’t help but think about it.
I recently wrote a discussion post in another class regarding the uses and gratifications theory, and it brought the topic to the forefront of my mind, once again.
Why do we bother tracking how many likes or comments we have on Facebook, how many ReTweets on Twitter, how many passersby have visited our website?
It’s because these are the first of many goals. These are the steps toward turning traffic into revenue.
The problem is, too many people don’t see it as a step toward obtaining a customer; they believe they already have hooked the customer. But they haven’t.
I recently read a blog from FutureBuzz.com that addressed the problem of a popular site that is not profitable. The blogger gave a few reasons why this could happen:
• People visit only to read your blog but the content there is a non sequitur to what you actually do as a brand.
• Those who are drawn to your content don’t actually need your product or service.
• People respond to your digital marketing efforts, but when they reach your website it is difficult to navigate or lacks effective call to actions.
• Visitors come to research but you have no plan in place to nurture these audiences and elevate them to qualified sales lead.
The first in this list is obviously the most important, but I’d also add to this list that the website could be attractive, but it may not be a conversation-starter.
This is what it all comes down to: your “visitors,” “likers,” or “tweeters” should be acting on what they see. Whether it is telling their friends, subscribing or buying a product, the way you reach them should change their behavior.

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Crisis communication

Learning about crisis communication from a woman who deals with crises on a daily basis was interesting, especially considering the fact that the disasters she deals with are not normally considered crises.

While most companies would only respond to a natural disaster if it affected them or an oil spill if they caused it, it was a new concept to try to understand that those situations are the business of the Red Cross. The real crisis is when something affects the organization’s reputation.

The Red Cross has had to navigate its way through dealing with everything from a rogue tweet to seemingly bad press about the organization teaching first aid to the Taliban. It has been able to find a way to side-step each one of these land mines by doing exactly what it should: being honest and forthcoming and reiterating what its organization stands for.

There are so many people who criticize the PR profession, but the American Red Cross is able to stand above criticism as an ethical organization that employs PR in a most ethical way.

Everything that goes on in the organization is grounded in its fundamental purpose: to be the universal symbol of neutrality and humanity.

These are the types of organizations and companies that are most successful. They are the ones that rely on their message to make all aspects of their company work in unison. When everyone in a corporation is on the same page in terms of the mission and goals and strategies, it will always make for a more successful PR campaign. Too many companies end up having their messages lost when they implement PR strategies that don’t align with it.

After the discussion in class, I have even more respect for the American Red Cross now that I know more about the ways it handles crisis communications and even everyday PR.

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Feature story as a press release

I recently read a blog discussing how to make a press release more interesting by putting a little more thought and creativity into it.

The blog discusses how giving a static, informational and “egotistical” press release is not what people are attracted to – they’re attracted to something written more visually and something that’s more poignant.

This led me to the idea of turning a press release into something resembling more of a feature story. This is an especially good idea if the release is going out to traditional news media outlets.

If someone is well-versed in traditional media and strong enough as a writer to give an editor something close to what he or she would put in a paper or on a website, then the release will be so much more successful.

However, this method lends itself to more outlets than only traditional media. I think the prime use for a feature release would be in a newsletter or brochure.

For example, if I were to work for a non-profit like Habitat for Humanity, I might design a newsletter featuring a family that received a home from the organization.

I don’t mean to flatter myself into thinking that I’ve invented something that has never been done, because it has.

However, from my experience these press releases are still so egotistical and focused on the organization or the company. If we can focus on the people who are affected and find the conflict and maybe tug at a few heartstrings, we could create a release that’s much more effective.

Of course, I’m thinking of this from the perspective of a non-profit organization’s PR. And that’s what we’re wanting to achieve when working for that type of organization – we want to make people care. I can’t think of a better way to do that than to make it about the people who are being affected.

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What PR is doing wrong

The best way to improve a field that has been in existence for nearly a century is to find out what it’s doing wrong.

This was a weird concept to me at first, especially because I’m new to PR, and I’m still unclear on what it does right. But it’s a concept that was recently presented to me.

No field of work is perfect, that’s why they change. We figure out what has become wrong with them. It’s not something that is wrong from the start, but it’s wrong for the time.

In the book, “Putting the Public back in Public Relations,” Brian Solis and Dierdre Breakenridge focus the entire first chapter on what is wrong with PR.

I thought it was a very interesting and a very natural way to begin the book. Before even discussing any sort of means to improve PR, they first had to address it’s faults.

There are two different lists presented in the book from two different sources about what they think is wrong with PR.

The first list is completely client-centric. What is wrong with PR? The client doesn’t get it; clients won’t work with PR. That’s not my view of it at all.

The second list from Dave McClure is spot on. He focuses on where PR professionals have gone wrong in their work. He accuses PR of not being understanding, being seen as a spinner, being not properly trained in social media, and becoming too comfortable with “a few big traditional media instead of lots of smaller online media and online channels” (Breakenridge, Solis 2009).

This is the perfect example of how PR is only wrong today. With as many outlets as there are available today to engage your public and spark a conversation, why wouldn’t we use them? For some people, it’s simply because they’re not used to it or they don’t understand it.

Solis and Breakenridge go on to give invaluable advice in avoiding these PR pitfalls.

My favorite bit of advice is to read blogs magazines, newspapers, forums and newsletters to understand your customers. If you know what people are interested in and what they respond to, you can better reach them and “translate what you do in a way that matters” (Breakenridge, Solis 2009).

I like the idea of getting to know people before you provide a service. If you begin to spread a message before you even know what is important to your public or what they are interested in, you’re doing them a disservice. I also like the idea of sparking a conversation rather than spreading a message; we have to be engaging, not disconnected.

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Combining traditional PR and web 2.0 strategies

Working at a newspaper for the past few years led me to believe that PR professionals rely much more heavily on the news media than they actually do.

I never realized how much PR actually interact with the public (Seeing as how it’s called “Public Relation,” you’d think I would get it). I think for a time, PR may have depended on the news media much more than they do now, but social media has changed that completely.

In their book, “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations,” Brian Solis and Deirdre Breakenridge explained how PR 2.0 could combine with conventional PR to reach more people.

“This is our chance to not only work with traditional journalists, but to also engage directly with a new set of organic influencers using the media channels (traditional and social) that read them.”

PR professionals seem to be either underestimating and rejecting social media or completely embracing it. I think the challenge is learning how to combine PR strategies as Solis and Breakenridge described.

I’m still feeling slightly overwhelmed with the amount of social media and all the ways in which we can use it to our advantage as PR professionals.

I understand the basics of websites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but there are so many new things I’m learning about them.

Before now, I had no idea how Twitter’s “true reach” worked or even what it is. I also didn’t know how to track stats on Facebook. There are so many options now to see how successful we are in getting people to pay attention to the messages we are disbursing. There’s still so much I need to learn about these things, including how to manage the very blog I’m writing, but I think I’ll be able to grasp it.

After learning how to formulate a plan in class this past Wednesday, it’s so much more clear to me how I could utilize PR 2.0 strategies like social media and combine them with traditional strategies like direct mail, news media, etc.

I’m even more excited about learning to use video and photography and mixing it in with  this. I was completely enthralled with the idea of creating a Youtube channel as a tactic. It’s so much easier to captivate people when they can not only read a message, but see it illustrated right in front of them. I especially see the benefit of this when using it in a nonprofit campaign. It’s easy to tell people how beneficial an organization like Habitat for Humanity is, but combining it with a video showing people building a home from beginning to end and seeing the reaction from the person who will move into the home is priceless.

References:

Solis, R., & reakenridge, D. (2009). Putting the public back in public relations, how social media is reinventing the aging business of pr. (p. xix). Ft Pr.Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books/feeds/volumes?q=9780137150694

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