Blogging is a laborious, tedious, and sometimes delirious activity for marketing professionals to pursue. That may explain why there are very few companies that do it well.

Despite the challenges, blogging on a regular basis can and does deliver impressive results, not the least of which includes higher search engine rankings, new leads and thought leadership.

So we decided it was high time to share some of the tools we rely upon to produce our weekly blogs (okay, sometimes bi-weekly blogs). Here is a short-list of the must have blogging tools you will find useful:

1) Twitter: use Twitter trends to see what topics are hot and potentially worth building into a theme for your post. Remember when the Hunger Games came out last year? There was an explosion of Hunger Games references in blogs. This wasn’t a cheap way to rip-off a title but a smart way to associate a blog post with a popular search term that can move the needle on site visits.

 

Twitter Trends


2) Blog Topic Generator
: built by HubSpot, this tool can help you brainstorm some nifty titles for your upcoming blogs. The results can seem pretty canned from time to time, so don’t take the suggested titles as gospel but as a starting point for your topic creation.

3) BuzzSumo: this tool helps you find topics similar to yours that have performed well and breaks the metrics out by social media platform. It does have a flaw in that the best performing articles/posts often tend to come from the most popular media outlets. For example, an article on “real estate agents cars” will show that Inman, a popular real estate site, had the most shares. Go figure.

4) CoSchedule: a marketing planning tool that includes strong blogging scheduling support. Its intuitive calendar scheduling feature allows you to set up blog posts weeks out and even add social media posts in support of the blog post. It will also help you measure the popularity of your posts so you can dial in on what your followers enjoy the most. It’s also easy to work alone or in teams using CoSchedule.

5) Google Calendar: similar to CoSchedule, it helps you plan out your posts in advance to ensure you stay on track. The great thing is that it’s free, but the bad thing is that it lacks many of the integrated social media and blogging functions of CoSchedule. You get what you pay (or don’t pay) for.

6) Grammarly: a must have for the writing-challenged among us. Not everybody went to school and studied English Literature or Journalism. Mastering those dangling participles and misplaced modifiers is no easy feat. Copy and paste your blog post and Grammarly will catch the mistakes faster than your high school composition teacher.

 

 

Grammarly


7) Google Docs
: Google’s word processing app is exceptional, automatically saves updates, is shareable with others on your team and doesn’t have all the distracting options that a Word doc has. In short, it allows you to write efficiently and easily copy over to your blogging platform. We are using Google Docs to write this post now, in fact.

8) Yoast SEO: this free WordPress plugin is essential for applying best SEO practices to each of your blog posts. Yoast sits at the bottom of your post and you can quickly optimize a post with just a few clicks and text entries.

9) PhotoPin: a high traffic blog usually has photos to draw in a visitor. The problem is that most sources of quality stock photos can cost an arm and a leg. PhotoPin to the rescue! You can search millions of Creative Commons picture files to add them to your blog post without the high cost. There are sponsored pics on the site in case you run across a particularly good photo and you don’t mind making an impulse purchase.

10) Digg Digg: a floating share bar, this free WordPress plugin makes it super easy for visitors to your blog to share it across their social media platforms. It’s a no-brainer and we’re planning to add it to our blog soon, too!

Thanks for reading our post and please let us know if you, too, have any blogging tools you can’t live without.

About the author: Dave Manzer founded Manzer Communications, an Austin tech PR agency specializing in communications & strategic inbound marketing for startups and fast-growth businesses in 2009. If you have any PR or content marketing questions about your business, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(at)manzercommunications(dot)com.

A lot has been made about inbound marketing over the past five years, and for good reason since it can have many beneficial impacts to a business. From higher search engine rankings to lead capture to greater revenue, inbound marketing forms the backbone of many companies’ marketing strategy.

But implementing a successful inbound marketing strategy can be challenging for companies with the best intentions. A variety of factors can actually prevent some companies from developing and running a seamless inbound marketing program. Say, for example, a white paper drives a crazy number of hits to your website. How can you be sure the website experience is frictionless, you capture the necessary contact information (without asking for too much!) and you have a drip marketing program in place to follow-up on new leads?

In this post, we look at how to tell when inbound is leaving you out of bounds when it comes to attracting and satisfying prospects throughout the marketing cycle.

  1. Stale content: there it is, impossible to ignore, a lack of good fresh content that is the hallmark of every good inbound marketing strategy. Without a steady stream of quality content targeting your prospects how else are you going to get results? A lack of good content turns off visitors to your website; a lack of fresh content turns off customers and prospects you are nurturing.
  2. Poor search engine ranking: another goal of content marketing is to reach the top three positions in organic search for keywords relevant to your business. For search engines to rank you higher, it helps to have content with embedded URLs (backlinks) pointing to your website – both internal links and ones from reputable websites. For example, getting your business mentioned in TechCrunch, Mashable, CNNMoney or a popular industry trade blog would not only get you in front of thousands of readers but also give you a solid backlink from a high-traffic, relevant website.
  3. Anemic social media: you can have a lots of quality content on your website and blog but if you don’t share it with the world you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. The more shares you get, the more clicks you’ll receive. The more clicks you receive, the higher your website traffic and resulting organic search engine ranking.
  4. Non-existent contact list: another goal of inbound marketing is to provide prospects an excuse to leave their contact information. One of the best ways to do that is to have ample possibilities on your website (both on the homepage and with every single blog post) through which people can sign up for valuable content such as a newsletter, a white paper or webinar series. Of course you will want to ask the right questions when people opt in: the more contextual information you have on your prospects and clients the better you will be able to tailor content to them as they descend into your sales funnel.
  5. No website optimization: if a website is the equivalent of a digital billboard for your business then not having it optimized for search engines is like putting the billboard in the middle of a forest with no highway in sight. Failing to optimize your website for keywords in this day and age is an unpardonable oversight. Failing to optimize it for the right kind of keywords is a strategic lapse, one that can cost you dearly in brand awareness and leads.
  6. Crash landing: most inbound marketing programs these days offer free content such as white papers, eBooks and shareable infographics to harvest contact information. To facilitate the collection of contact information it helps to create unique landing pages with campaign specific messaging, a sign-in form and Google Analytics. Failing to create a landing page and instead pointing a call-to-action to the homepage makes it harder to separate organic website traffic from your free content campaign.

To ensure you have prospects in all levels of the lead generation cycle, it pays to have your inbound marketing house in order. Otherwise, with a half-built home, how will you attract visitors to pay a visit? By making inbound marketing a priority and integrating more of your disparate marketing activities, you will soon have more leads than you’ll know what to do with.

Congratulations! You’ve managed to land a TV interview for your brand.

Oh wait, now you have to go on camera, and you’ve never had a TV interview before, and you are starting to get lightheaded, and you feel a swarm of butterflies in your belly because you’re afraid you’ll say something foolish in front of the world.

Not knowing what questions to expect from a TV reporter while at the same time looking good on camera is a daunting task –even for folks with prior TV experience.

But don’t worry! The simple fact is there are ways you can prepare for TV interviews that will minimize the chance you will say something off-topic that could hurt your reputation or embarrass you in front of your community.

To make sure you come off like a pro in your next TV interview, follow these easy Dos and Don’ts:

Do:

Relax: Take a deep breath. There is no need to feel nervous. The interview is really no different from any other conversation you have about your business (or charity) with people you meet. Think of it as a casual conversation with a new customer.

Dress professionally yet comfortably: Wear nice clean clothing that you feel comfortable in. Your outfit should not be a distraction to you or the audience. You are not trying to make a fashion statement – unless of course you’re a fashion designer! Want a few fashion tips? Check out our post about tips on what to wear for a TV interview.

Speak clearly and simply: Try to speak as clearly as possible. Don’t use complicated vocabulary show the world how smart you are. Keep your sentence length shorter so you don’t leave any unfinished thoughts hanging in the wind.

Be authentic: Say what you mean, and mean what you say. You are good at what you do or you wouldn’t be in front of the camera, so just trust that who you are is what the viewers want to see.

Stay focused: Make sure you are really listening to the questions during TV interviews and answer them directly without rambling. Build a fence in your mind around the question and stay inside to get the most out of the question.

Promote your business: Don’t forget to mention how your business addresses the issue at hand. If you are being interviewed about your business then it’s a no-brainer. But if you are getting interviewed about a breaking news topic like I was one time before Lance Armstrong’s famous doping interview with Oprah, then be sure to mention how you advise “your clients” to handle similar situations.

Smile: One trick for TV interviews is to smile as you talk, unless of course you are talking about something with very serious implications, like a how your company is helping during a natural disaster. Don’t over-expose your pearly whites, but do keep an easy half-smile on your face; you can even nod your head from time to time during a good question from the reporter or as you make a strong point.

Don’t:

Look at the camera: Ignore everything around you and focus solely on the interviewer, unless this is a remote TV interview with Anderson Cooper and you are supposed to talk to him through the camera. Pretend you are having a casual conversation alone with the interviewer. Looking at the camera may actually inhibit your ability to respond properly as it can act as a mind-freak for the untrained.

Fidget: Sit still. If you tend to talk with your hands, imagine they are tied to your side or in your lap. Why? Lots of movement distracts the viewer from what you are saying.

Let a mistake stop the interview: You might stutter, forget certain words, or even spit a little. No worries, just keep the conversation going. No one is expecting you to be a perfect speaker. Most people are willing to cut you slack because they themselves can’t imagine getting interviewed on camera. Plus, many interviews today are not “live” and so the reporter will edit any glaring mistakes out.

Overthink your responses: Say what comes to mind and be sincere as this will ensure viewers get an honest impression of who you are and what you’re about.

Get emotional: Sometimes reporters might ask your opinion about a controversy or hot topic in the news. If you are asked a question that could lead to an emotional response, take a deep breath, smile, and answer candidly but without emotion. Leave the fireworks to CNN and Fox News.

Your first TV interview should be an exciting moment. Although it’s important to be a success, you are allowed to make mistakes. Think about how you would like to see yourself if you were in the viewer’s shoes, what message would you like to get across?

Lastly, take full advantage of the opportunity. Let the reporter or producer know that you are available for other interviews on similar topics. Why? It may open many doors that were previously closed to you. Good PR is all about promoting your various strengths to the public and making yourself available to the media.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded Manzer Communications, an Austin tech PR agency specializing in communications & strategic inbound marketing for startups and fast-growth businesses in 2009. If you have any PR or content marketing questions about your business, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(at)manzercommunications(dot)com.

With the holidays, awkward family moments and turkey and stuffing nearly behind us (or in us), we head into 2016 with hope and a new set of challenges and goals, some of which may apply to your PR Strategy.

If this is an area where you don’t have much experience, creating and executing an effective PR strategy can be daunting. Here are few tips to help you stick to a News Year’s Resolution for your company’s PR efforts in 2016.

Make it something you can measure. It’s a lot easier to say that you’re going to ‘lose weight’ in 2016 than to say you’re going to lose 10 pounds and two inches in January. As for making your PR goals more measurable, consider these factors:

  • Coverage Quantity: Coverage can range from being mentioned in a newspaper story to receiving a full article on an industry blog. If you want to become a top brand in your community or industry by getting mentions on a monthly basis, then set the goal and be sure to allocate the resources needed to accomplish it.
  • Coverage Quality: Another thing to consider is setting a goal for a) publications/media in which you’d like to receive coverage and b) what should be included in a story that mentions your company. In other words, it helps to go after the publications, TV news shows or blogs that your customers pay attention to.
  • Time: It’s important to include a timeframe because it allows you to highlight PR successes alongside other key company reports. Tracking media mentions over time helps you identify seasonal spikes to optimize and dead-times you can figure a better solution for in hopes of getting year-round publicity.

Example 1. A local bakery’s measureable goal could be: January 1 to March 31, XYZ Bakery hopes to obtain two pieces of coverage in local media that highlight its menu variety and ability to accommodate people with severe food allergies.

Example 2. A software startup measurable goal could be: January 1 to June 30, ABC Software hopes to get into the local business journal and TechCrunch for a seed funding event it plans to close in March; it then plans to follow that with mentions in at least three trades that cover the industry the startup serves.

Reality check. While your dream may be to wake up and look like Channing Tatum or to do a guest appearance on the Today Show, you have to be realistic. It takes time and hard work to reach your goals, and there are usually external factors or obstacles that you can’t control.

In the case of our bakery example above, the PR goal is both measureable and realistic. It would be unrealistic, however, to assume a small bakery could receive two pieces of business press coverage in national outlets like the Wall Street Journal and CNN in the next three months.

Hold yourself (or your PR firm) accountable. For today, that might just mean writing down your goals and posting it where you can see it. When you’re ready, share your PR strategy with other stakeholders in your company.

To reach your PR goals, you will need information and support from others. So, ask for help regularly and share your successes. When you involve others in your plans, you’re much more likely to hold yourself accountable.

If, however, you are too busy to pursue a PR strategy by yourself (and there is enough room in the 2016 marketing budget), then be sure to share your goals with the PR firm you retain and hold the firm accountable the same way you would hold yourself accountable.

Don’t be afraid make changes. As you begin reaching out to media, you may realize that certain tactics aren’t working or that your goal isn’t as a realistic as you thought. That’s OK. Your PR strategy is not set in stone rather it should evolve as you test your story ideas with the media and intended audiences.

Understand that not meeting a goal doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. The fact is there is only so much room for media outlets to talk about businesses like yours, making the competition for the limited space especially intense. The key is to keep at it and build relationships with the reporters and bloggers who cover your community or industry. To mitigate the “failures” it also makes sense to blend your in-house content published on your blog or through platforms like Medium or LinkedIn in order to fill in the gaps when you don’t expect any traditional media hits. Your work will pay huge dividends to your PR strategy over time.

We hope that these tips inspire you to commit to a New Year’s Resolution for your company’s 2016 PR strategy.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded Manzer Communications, an Austin tech PR agency specializing in communications & strategic inbound marketing for startups and fast-growth businesses in 2009. If you have any PR or content marketing questions about your business, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(at)manzercommunications(dot)com.

In the previous blog post we brought you a series of tips and tricks on how to go about planning and executing a media training event. In this post, we pick up where we left off and add our last pointers for any companies getting ready to have their executives or PR folks media trained.

Build-up: It’s best to not dump a heavy load of theory on trainees and ask them to assimilate it all at once. A good approach to media training is to stagger content in chunks of theory with a bit of practice (the mock interviews we talked about in part I).  Theory and practice will build up together gradually for a more complex, nuanced media training. For example, rather than start off by lecturing about bridging, it would be more effective to conduct a challenging interview that will have a trainee thrown off-message, which requires a savvy media trainer, by the way. Give the trainee feedback on how he or she did, then explain what bridging is and why message maps (a.k.a. talking points) are important. Give the next trainee a couple of minutes to prepare the next interview through the preparation of a very basic message map and repeat the interview.

Audiovisual library: Any trainer should have an audiovisual library at hand in which he or she can find radio / television examples that illustrate how other spokespeople have performed (well or otherwise) with respect to different key techniques. Trainees will most easily relate to examples from people from their industry. While building a library is no easy feat and will take time and effort, it’s an effective way to augment media training.

Surprise interviews: The in-house communications staff and media trainer may also decide to throw in a surprise interview. In this case, one or more of the trainees are called in the days leading up to the media training session by the media trainer, who acts as if he or she were a journalist. The conversation is recorded and subsequently listened to (with the consent of the trainee in question) during the media training session. The surprise interviews should be planned and executed with caution as not all trainees are suitable candidates for surprise interviews. Content of the interview must be carefully screened for suitability as well; you certainly don’t want to start a panic among employees with a crisis scenario.

Ambush interviews: How will your trainees perform when they are confronted with a cohort of journalists at their doorstep when big news breaks? It’s definitely an appropriate training scenario for spokespeople who may soon be dealing with crises or big company announcements such as product launches or large acquisitions.

Hot and cold debriefs: Every trainee should have the chance to receive a proper ‘hot’ debrief after a mock interview. Make sure trainees reflect on this their performance before the trainer starts spelling out what went well and what went wrong. Have other trainees join in the conversation and share how they perceived the interview. Ideally, all trainees will a ‘cold’ debrief in the form of a personalized sheet with lessons learned from their own performance they should keep in mind for future reference.

Deliverables: An expert in media training will share print-outs of the slides used (preferably in ‘notes’ format so trainees can add comments). The mentioned ‘cold’ debriefing is another deliverable. It will not be available at the training, but could be sent to the trainees as early as a couple of days after the training. There is also no reason why trainees should not receive their individual unedited performances on video so they can reexamine how things went. Some trainers will also hand out laminated condensed summaries of key delivery principles for trainees to reference next time a journalist calls.

Media trainings must be well designed, prepared and conducted to be efficient and effective. In this 2nd blog post installment (see How to Conduct Media Training – Part 1) we hope you came away with a series of best practices as we apply them at Manzer Communications for our own media training clients.

If you have any question about how to implement media training at your own organization, or simply want to brainstorm ideas, please don’t hesitate to comment below or leave us your contact information here for a prompt reply.

About Jo Detavernier: Jo is a partner in Manzer Communications, an Austin tech PR agency specializing in communications & strategic inbound marketing for startups and fast-growth businesses in 2009. Jo has given media training to over 200 executives from many industries and backgrounds and loves to help people learn to handle the toughest interviews imaginable. If you have any PR or content marketing questions about your business, feel free to tweet him at @jodetavernier or email him at jo(at)manzercommunications(dot)com.

Whoever wants to address the press in an efficient and effective manner needs media training to do so. This certainly applies to company representatives that conduct day-to-day media relations — they typically have the title of ‘spokesperson’ on their business cards — but also to members of higher management such as the President or CEO. Members of the C-suite are frequently called upon to face the media whenever there is important news to convey to key stakeholder groups.

Companies that take professional spokesmanship seriously understand that whoever has received media training in the past can and should still take periodical refresher trainings. Nothing turns off a public — whether it’s shareholders during difficult financial times or rabid fans of a product that is getting a major update — faster than an executive bumbling through basic questions, appearing to be arrogant or indifferent or just plain unprepared.

What follows are tips and tricks for any company to consider when planning and executing a media training event.

Group Size: Typically more than one person will receive media training. The cost of having a media trainer conduct a training is for the most part a fixed cost and organizations will get a bigger bang for their buck if they invite several executives to the training. The typical size of a media training group is four in order to allow for everybody to have time to practice at least once on video (for a half day session) or to improve their performance on subsequent takes (for a full day session).

Functional Oversight: Ideally group members would be situated in the same skills brackets for media training. Product experts would get trained on how to approach product related interviews. Jony Ive, Chief Design Officer of Apple, would for example be called upon to speak to product design and functionality, as might a senior VP of marketing and any PR spokespersons focused on product launches. This ensures key participants can add their own complementary viewpoint to any discussion on message finetuning.

Peer-to-Peer: try to prevent a media training for employees with their superiors. Nobody likes to make mistakes in front of a boss for fear of getting a poor performance evaluation. People are far less likely to take risks and truly grow if they feel a mistake could cost them a raise or promotion. And trust me, mistakes will be made if the media trainer does his or her job well.

Trainee research: It’s the job of the media trainer to learn about the past experiences of the trainees and set proper expectations. The trainer should reach out to each prospective spokesperson at least two weeks prior to the training in order to map out a lesson plan that closely matches the real-world scenarios the group might face: quarterly financial calls with analysts and reporters, product recall interviews on MSNBC, media briefings during a crisis.

Mock Interviews: these are media training practice sessions where a company executive gets grilled on camera as though it were a live interview. Theory and open discussions are one thing, but actually sitting in the proverbial “hot seat” with the camera rolling is quite another. It’s as much about managing one’s own stress as it is about putting interview techniques into practice. It takes practice to become a trusted spokesperson for the company.

Interview Themes: when conducting media training, it’s also very important to make the interview as realistic as possible for each individual trainee. Say for example you are a CEO of a food company and you have to brief reporters about a case of salmonella that resulted in the death of two people and sickness of another eight. These are very real possibilities impacting companies and can have a significant financial impact on the bottom line if not handled properly. Just think of Blue Bell Creameries, which literally had to suspend its operations for several months while it dealt with a listeria outbreak. The financial future of the company is still very uncertain. Had the executive team handled the crisis better the outcome would have been much less dire.

Accountability: alas, some media trainers don’t go to the same lengths to prepare company representatives for the training, which is unfortunate. Make sure there is accountability within the corporate communications group or outside provider to ensure the time spent on training is as productive and effective as possible. Consider asking for a training checklist to make sure the training is well planned and executed. Conversely, make sure that the executives and other prospective spokespersons are themselves properly prepared for the training, which includes ensuring they are 100% focused on the training (no cell phone interruptions).

Survey: an easy step to overlook is feedback. Consider using an online survey to gain insight on how well the training went from your internal customer’s perspective. Do you need to modify the video interview scenarios to make them “real” for different executives. Was the live camera coaching relevant enough to help your executives put into use what they learned during the lecture portion of the class?

This is a first selection of basic building blocks for a successful media training. In the second and last post we will discuss among other things how to build in an efficient flow in the training session, how to organize surprise and ambush interviews and what kind of leave-behind material is useful for trainees.


 

About Jo Detavernier: Jo is a partner in Manzer Communications, an Austin tech PR agency specializing in communications & strategic inbound marketing for startups and fast-growth businesses in 2009. Jo has given media training to over 200 executives from many industries and backgrounds and loves to help people learn to handle the toughest interviews imaginable. If you have any PR or content marketing questions about your business, feel free to tweet him at @jodetavernier or email him at jo(at)manzercommunications(dot)com.

This is a continuation from last week’s post where I gave the reasoning behind  getting your brand into fighting shape with content marketing. This installment gives you some concrete tips on how to begin flexing your muscles to get your brand more buff in the eyes of prospective clients.

I recommend you follow three of the following content marketing exercises at a minimum:

Blogging: you should keep a blog for your business and write for it at least weekly, if not more frequently. As you blog, you can embed a URL to link back to pages on your business website. “Backlinks,” as they’re known in SEO parlance, tell Google your website is of value and should be ranked higher than those without backlinks. Blogging frequency is important for two reasons: 1) it creates lots of backlinks from your blog to the website and 2) it builds an audience of readers who, over time, will share your blog with others and become advocates of your content. Blogging platforms include WordPress, Tumblr, Medium and Blogger.

Contributed Articles: find a trade magazine, business blog or local news outlet and ask the editor if you can contribute an article about something that relates to your business expertise in some form or fashion. Next, ask the editor if you can place an embedded URL into a phrase of your bio allowing you to get a valuable backlink to your website for the keyword you are seeking to optimize. A personal trainer might want to use the phrase “Seattle personal trainer for moms” for the backlink.

Comment on Blogs: another way you can gain quality backlinks – meaning they come from a reputable website with some relevance to your industry or topic of interest – is to read other blogs and make comments with a reference to your business website. Some blogs will frown on a backlink to your website so consider a backlink to your blog where you talk about similar topics in hopes that the breadcrumbs eventually lead back to your website.

YouTube: start a YouTube channel this year as a way to drive clicks, buzz and backlinks. Don’t worry about creating elaborate scripts and paying thousands of dollars for professional videographers. Sometimes the most viral of videos look like they were taken by a smartphone without regard to make-up, lights and elaborate props. Just keep at it, create enjoyable content, and eventually you will be rewarded. After all, I owe Canyonman1963 my life for showing me how easy it is to replace a lid switch on a Kenmore washing machine! Because Google owns YouTube, the powerful search engine includes videos in the search results of key words and phrases.

Twitter: use the popular microblogging platform to send out offers, links to your blog, etc. It creates another source of inbound traffic to your online assets, some of which will enhance your search engine rankings while others will boost the credibility of your brand, eventually leading to new customer leads. Don’t forget to use hashtags like #FitnessAdvice #MomFitness to jump on popular terms or trending news.

LinkedIn: don’t overlook the stodgy old network of business professionals as a way to spread news about your brand’s events, offers and accomplishments. By now, you should already have a company LinkedIn profile; if you don’t, it’s not too late to start. Any time you have a blog post, feel free to post it to LinkedIn Groups you belong to in hopes of driving more traffic and brand awareness. I have a PR over Coffee Group, which I launched in support of that organization’s events, blog posts and general networking. Every time I post to my blog or have an article picked up in PRDaily or another media outlet, I invariably post it to LinkedIn.

Facebook: one effective way to grow your content marketing muscles is to promote your content – blog posts, videos, etc. – through a boosted post on Facebook. While I still hate Facebook for monetizing what used to be free, the new service does come with enhanced features like micro-targeting demographics. A fitness coach in Seattle show likes to work with kids could target women between the ages of 25 – 50 in the Seattle area in hopes of reaching lots of Moms who want their kids to spend less time gaming and more time playing games outdoors.

eBook: consider writing an eBook to boost your though leadership bona fides. This is especially effective for providers of professional services like marketing, consulting, PR and even fitness. Writing an eBook can help you earn paid speaking engagements and quotes in the media about trending stories. It tells the world you sat down and worked long and hard to come up with enough content to fill up a book’s worth of knowledge. Plus, being an eBook, you can embed links back to your online assets to help you with your inbound marketing strategy.

eNewsletter: another way to work out those content marketing muscles is to create a weekly or monthly eNewsletter, which combines the best aspects of drip marketing and content marketing. People love tips and helpful content and an eNewsletter keeps you top-of-mind for their future buying decisions.

Brand Journalism: this is the equivalent of body building in the world of content marketing. Your aim is to create generous amounts of content for your website such that it has some of the the look-and-feel of a media outlet. You probably need to hire on somebody with strong editorial experience, either as a full-time employee or 3rd party provider. The goal is the create an extra-strong perception of credibility, reliability and integrity among a broad base of constituents: customers, prospects, influencers and media. Along the way, you become a champion content body builder capable of flexing even the most obscure brand muscles. A startup I think does a great job of brand journalism is SpareFoot, which did a very smart thing and hired long-time business writer and editor, John Egan, to edit, write and curate content for its blog.

White Papers: those tried-and-true brand exercises still work. White papers work well as click-bait and generate solid business leads. My advice? Format them a bit more like “listicles” and keep them on the short-side, no more than 5-10 pages, full of call-out boxes and graphics to make the piece easy to consume. And, of course, be sure to insert a call-to-action to plant a seed for a future inquiry. See an this white paper we launched recently on how startups can get into TechCrunch.

These content marketing ideas should put you on the path to turning your brand into a body building behemoth. Ideally, you will choose to blog or vlog (video-log) on a frequent basis. Social media platforms need pretty regular nurturing, too, if you hope to win enough followers who are willing to share your wisdom, wit and timely observations.

Don’t underestimate the value of contributed articles as this is the gold standard of a search engine optimization strategy, which is to place a backlink to your website in a highly trafficked, relevant website. Backlinks from 2nd and 3rd tier blogs are a good start and build your portfolio over time.

Now it’s your turn. Will you start exercising your content marketing muscles and finally turn that couch potato website into something Arnold Schwarzenegger would be proud of?

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded Manzer Communications, an Austin tech PR agency specializing in communications & strategic inbound marketing for startups and fast-growth businesses in 2009. If you have any PR or content marketing questions about your business, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or drop email him at dave(at)manzercommunications(dot)com.

You hear a lot about content marketing these days from all quarters.

Savvy marketers have long espoused the value of blogging for a brand. PR professionals are wringing their hands over the demise of traditional media and wondering how their story-telling skills translate into the click-through economy. Media owners are jumping on the content marketing bandwagon by offering more flash-in-the-pan articles and sponsored content to drive clicks and ad revenue for their online assets.

Bottom line: content marketing, combined with a good PR strategy, can help you get to the top of organic search engine results like nothing else out there.

Why, you ask, is it so important to get to the top of search engines? Take Google as an example. There are approximately 100 billion searches on Google every month, which means 3 billion searches happen every day as consumers look for information on all kinds of topics — including product and services research in advance of a purchase.

Say for instance you are a personal trainer in Seattle, Washington. If I lived in Seattle and needed a trainer I might look up “Seattle Personal Training” to check out reviews of trainers and hopefully narrow down my search. Thing is, I’m a lot more likely to look closely at the trainers I see on the first page of results then glance at the top of the second page. If you’re on the third page you might as well be in Siberia, not Seattle. The average consumer is way too impatient to keep looking.

Translation: you really need to be on the first page of search results for certain relevant key words. Getting to the top three is priceless and probably yields 3x the number of clicks than any others on the list (according to my very unscientific estimation).

So how can you become a master of content marketing in order drive more qualified leads from search engines? After all, you’re not an SEO wizard or you wouldn’t be reading this.

Just like a personal trainer will tell you about getting your body into shape, it simply takes practice and consistency. If you don’t use your muscles, they atrophy. If you don’t practice content marketing, your digital brand atrophies. Neglecting to exercise your content marketing muscles at least several times per week will turn your brand into the equivalent of thunder thighs and double chins. When you’re getting the once-over by a prospective customer, don’t you want your brand to look its best and stand out from the crowd?

I’m not trying to fat shame any brands into action, just call their attention to a need to flex those content marketing muscles, especially if the goal for the upcoming year is to enjoy healthy, sustainable growth.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded Manzer Communications, an Austin tech PR agency specializing in communications & strategic inbound marketing for startups and fast-growth businesses in 2009. If you have any PR or content marketing questions about your business, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or drop email him at dave(at)manzercommunications(dot)com.

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Blogs number in the hundreds of millions on the Internet, and there are millions of blog posts each and every day on platforms like WordPress, Tumblr, LiveJournals, Blogster.

With such a massive number of blogs jockeying for attention on the Internet you would think that starting and running your own blog would be the equivalent of trying to be heard in the middle of a hurricane standing next to a passing freight train during a Seattle Seahawks game. And yet you would be wrong.

A surprisingly small percentage of those 100s of millions of blogs actually post with any predictable frequency – despite the incredible benefits an active blog can bring to a brand.

Perhaps more important, a blog for most brands is less about being heard by millions and more about being heard by the few hundred or thousand readers that really matter – existing customers, motivated prospects, influencers like industry journalists or media critics.

So with that in mind, here are the top 25 reasons you should start (and keep) blogging for your brand at least weekly, if not 2-3 times per week:

  1. Buyer advice: 61% of consumers made a purchase based on advice or a recommendation from blogs [courtesy of Ignitespot].
  2. Landing page: a blog post can be an ideal landing page for your next marketing promotion.
  3. [In]Credible: blog consistently and long enough and eventually you will be viewed as an [in]credible source of information about your industry.
  4. SEO: that all encompassing term for getting your brand to the top of the search engines for certain key terms which are related to your business offerings; blogs are a backbone of search engine optimization strategies.
  5. Lead gen: small businesses with active blogs generate 126% more leads than ones without [courtesy of Ignitespot].
  6. Announcements: you can make announcements like industry awards, new hires, promotions and customer wins.
  7. Test message: marketers can test the impact of a new brand message with the blog.
  8. Social media integration: blogs provide a way to engage customers and various publics seeking interesting information on social networks.
  9. Product launches: a product launch is a multi-faceted initiative involving everything from product slicks to an email campaign; the blog should be integrated into the campaign to provide additional information outside the scope of a product brochure or press release.
  10. Brand personality: blogs help shape a brand’s personality in ways few other media can, if only because its tabula rasa layout allows you to post text, pictures, videos and even audio; the frequency of your posts helps you solidify or evolve your brand personality as time goes on.
  11. Press releases: don’t want to send your release out on the Wire? Try posting them to the blog instead; it’ll save money and still pay dividends for your SEO strategy.
  12. Sales promotions: got a seasonal promotion or a fire sale to move some inventory? Use the blog to support the email blast that you send out to customers and prospects.
  13. Apologies: every now and then a company screws up and has to issue an apology; blogs are the perfect place for that because you control the message and medium.
  14. Instructions: you can share how-to advice and instructional videos on blogs.
  15. Event: use your blog to tell followers about an upcoming event, party or celebration.
  16. Guest posts: a blog allows you to solicit contributions from other experts and could lead to alliances that pay off in the future.
  17. Trust: 81% of US consumers trust advice from blogs [courtesy of Ignitespot].
  18. Thought leadership: in the past you often had to write a book to be considered a thought leader in a particular space; nowadays, a really active blog accomplishes the same thing.
  19. Reviews: you can use a blog to do product reviews of your own products.
  20. Review income: some bloggers make money from writing reviews about products.
  21. Ad revenue: blogs that have lots of views every month can make money by getting paid for ad placements.
  22. Kick the tires: blogs are perfect for pre-sales activity in that prospects can get over the ‘know-like-trust’ barrier to making a purchase.
  23. Content Marketing: 37% of marketers believe blogs are the most important part of a content marketing strategy [courtesy of Ignitespot]; you can add my name to that list.
  24. Savings: blogs are an affordable way to spread awareness of your brand, especially compared to traditional advertising (but then anything is cheap compared to buying ads).
  25. Media coverage: a well-executed blog may get picked up by another blog or media outlet with a ton of Internet traffic, leading to more attention to your brand, traffic to your site and higher search engine rankings.

Want to start a blog for your brand? It’s actually really easy to get started. It’s also very easy to fail. You may want to address these items before starting:

  • Use a blogging tool that is easy to use and maintain.
  • Find free photos/images and be sure to ascribe what you use back to the source; or consider using your own photos to add a little originality and fun to the blog.
  • Create an editorial calendar to make sure you don’t run out of content and aren’t constantly searching for new ideas the night before a deadline.
  • Assign blogging responsibilities and hold bloggers accountable to deadlines.
  • If your website has a blog post plug-in, strongly consider using it as it will help add links and traffic to your business website.
  • Never give up!

Do you have any ideas to add to the conversation? Please feel free to comment.

For many tech startups in Silicon Valley, and other tech hotspots like Austin, Boston and Seattle, the allure of getting into a popular tech media outlet like TechCrunch is too strong to pass up. In fact, when startup founders think about getting into the ‘news,’ it is often the implied target. And for good reason. With over 12 million unique visitors, TechCrunch is the undisputed Everest of tech media.

For those not already familiar with its history, J. Michael Arrington and Keith Teare co-founded TechCrunch in 2005 as an early player in a new crop of online publications totally dedicated to covering tech startups and their founders. What set TechCrunch apart from the other tech-focused media was its record of reporting breaking news before others could – especially high-profile funding announcements. Courtesy of a stable of prolific (sometimes irreverent) tech writers, TechCrunch eventually cemented its status as ‘king-maker’ in the eyes of the tech world.

The benefits of getting into TechCrunch may be universally known in the tech community but nevertheless here is a quick overview:

  • Startup buzz
  • First-mover advantage
  • Website traffic
  • Downloads
  • Investor awareness
  • Social sharing

With benefits like these it should not come as a surprise that getting into TechCrunch is a daunting task for a vast majority of startups. It used to be that if you raised a million dollar seed round you stood a good chance of getting a write-up. Nowadays, in the era of massive seed rounds, celebrity founders and unicorn valuations, the bar has risen higher than ever before.

But don’t despair. I have written a white paper that gives you the whole truth and nothing but the truth on how startups can leverage trends, titles and technology to improve their shot at getting to the top of the Mt. Everest of tech media. To download the white paper, please request one here now.