If there was a recipe for social PR news success, it would call for a dash of authentic content, a splash of vibrant color, and a double shot of visual inspiration. Oh, and make sure it's in a mobile-friendly "to go" cup!
Editorialized, Fresh, Newsworthy
We're in the dawn of brand journalism, a time when visual storytelling is paramount for social media success and overall content marketing. The contrived billboard type Facebook posts and robotic Tweets may have been sufficient yesterday but today's top brands are acting more like publishers, staffed with social editors in a newsroom style setting and mobile photographers are bubbling up to the top of the leaderboard. Attracting brand advocates along the way, including the media!
The science of visuals used effectively to tell a story and draw a reader into a fuller version of content. Adding eye candy to a brand's social PR marketing mixology is part of the success equation according to data scientists such as Dan Zarrella author of the "Science of Marketing". Statistic after statistic show that whether it's a mobile device, app, search result, press release, tweet, update, blog post or publication article, nobody clicks on boring!
Social PR secret: Visuals increase visits, pageviews, engagement, interactions, and conversions.
But when it comes down to it, visuals are just one part of the big picture called content and the drilldown looks at the type of content your followers care most about and how it is presented.
"It's all about your audience – if a visual is relevant and inspires them to take action you have a winner. There's as many ways to do this right as there are different audiences," said Megan Berry, RebelMouse director of community and social product.
Will the New Brand Journalist Please Stand Up?
Hello, that means you!
Relating to your audience is key to getting the social word flowing and that means writing and communicating in a way that is appealing and passionate. The best content will only stand out when accompanied by the right visuals, or else your news and message drops from unforgettable to barely memorable.
Hearing Brand Voices
"If all of the press releases or content you produce has the same voice, then it's likely not going to be relatable to your audience. It's not just about writing for journalists anymore, it's about writing to people who have a relevant connection to your brand – the influencers are the most critical and those will include journalists," said Jason Kintzler, PitchEngine CEO and founder.
Milk and Cookies Budgets
While Oreo had a team (and budget) of designers and brand executives on call during the Super Bowl ready to pull off the landmark tweet "You Can Still Dunk in The Dark" the allure of that tactic could be fading as the #RoyalBaby news tweet seems like what was new is now a little "tired" as 13 brands newsjacked the special delivery.
But what about the brands that might not have the luxury to have a team of designers and brand executives at bay willing to make a final call on visuals during some of the hottest media centric trending events of the year? How do brands small and large compete when it comes to visuals standing out in the newsfeed in daily life and beyond?
Experts agree that in order to get noticed and win the social newsfeed war, you don't have to break the bank or fall into the cookie cutter stock photography trap. Instead of creating ads that look like editorial content, it's actually the awesome content that is a brands' most compelling and natural advertisement.
Visuals on Demand
As demonstrated in the #RoyalBaby trending news, businesses are challenged with the task of transforming a trending conversation into a brand relevant visual that resonates with an audience in hours instead of days. It might be a radical shift in marketing and communications, but the strategy is available to any size organization.
Today's brands looking to sell their product or service have a level playing field when looking to using imagery or video to convey a message or story. The key is thinking outside the stock photography image box and get creative with user-generated resources, new solutions, platforms and apps are making it easier for visuals to be accessible and creative.
Visual PR Secrets, Tips, Platforms & Trends
1. Embedding short videos and news content with Instagram, Vine, and PitchEngine
Embedding video is at new level of creativity and speed with mobile apps on hand for on the spot reporting for the fast-paced storytelling world in five seconds. That is how long you have to engage visitors on your website, blog or social media newsfeed before 30 percent of them leave and 40 percent of them never return, according to a study, "When Seconds Count" by Equation Research. PitchEngine offers embedded pitches which enables you to share more dynamic content on less sophisticated blog platforms and social streams.
2. Social publishing with visual platform RebelMouse
Creating your own social front page is automagically possible with the RebelMouse social publishing service, that helps users create a dedicated page for all of the curated content they share (or want to share) on social networks in a free version as well as a paid version called Powered Sites.
The company is headed by former Huffington Post CTO and AOL vet Paul Berry who is giving small businesses an affordable interactive alternative for a social and visual homepage design packed with curated content and providing larger with potential profit centers to sell ad space.
Besides the journalistic-style editorial features on RebelMouse that lets users bring in content from social networks and other feeds, blog directly on RebelMouse, move and edit posts, freeze content – brands can power a domain and get added bonus features such as advanced embedding controls, customized design, and MailChimp integration.
For example if you have a domain yourname.com, RebelMouse is one possible solution to power up content in a Google-friendly SEO fashion! Big brands such as GE demonstrate how they choose relevant, interesting content with visual components to put out on social.
Old School Graphics Transitioning to New Media
NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen's board on Pinterest is a perfect example of how high priced designers and production red tape can be replaced by the simplicity of a pen and paper for engaging visuals.
"Making graphics doesn't need to take money. It takes time and love to make something people care about. Writing a stat on a piece of paper costs nothing but if you snap a photo and upload it to social channels you are creating something for your fans to share. Authenticity trumps money," words of data graphic wisdom from Jesse Thomas, founder of Jess3.
"Don't forget about the pen and paper option. Draw something and film it on vine. Draw something and take a photo for Instagram. Software is not always the answer," notes Thomas.
Be Authentic and Avoid Self Serving Visuals
"I can tell more about a brand by looking at their Instagram feed than I can about any marketing message, ad or press release," Kintzler said. "Any brand that is creating content with their 'real' voice is doing it right in my book. You can't just write like a 'newsie' and think people will relate. And remember, journalists are news consumers too."
Visual light bulb! Hey, let's do an infographic!
When it comes to data visuals Thomas notes, "brands 'get' that infographics are popular but they need to make graphics that are not so self serving."
Looks like that infographic idea might require a little more effort for best results.
- Real photos of real things taken by real people "We know that a photo of a Big Mac doesn't look like what you actually get. Trends in images show that people want reality. If you look at Starbucks Facebook page for example, you see fewer pro photos and more photos that look like they were taken with an iphone," said Krista Neher author of "Visual Social Media Marketing".
- It has become popular to create simple square graphics with one to two data points versus the original infographic style of being tall with 10-30 data points.
- You will hear "content marketing" 50-million times this year. What does that mean? I think it should mean this to you: Brands as publishers. PRs as journalists. This is the future of public relations and marketing.
- For a visual snapshot of the social network solar system, check out the 2013 version conversation prism by Brian Solis and Jess3.
- Tall graphics with type you can't read without zooming in.
- Graphics that are too brand-focused are out.
- Overused and generic stock photography. There is nothing wrong with starting with a stock image, but taking the extra step of adding a CTA, headline, or filter can make the difference between success and failure.
- Text only blog posts, social messages, press releases, and traditional press release wire services.
- Length. Content that's longer than two to three paragraphs
- Anything that feels tacked on as opposed to part of the brand's core voice and message, noted Berry.
"Can you say it in a tweet? Sure you can ¬– get creative and stop being lazy. Your value isn't your ability to write a press release – it's your ability to communicate a message and inspire people," Kintzler said.
Today's content is more visual, social, and sophisticated. As brands compete to lure in new customers with the right pictures, it's time to rethink which images are used and new ways to get visual. The inspiring, passionate, and authentic will survive.