content marketing on vacationEven though there will be plenty of vacationers hitting beaches, hiking trails and theme parks this summer, it doesn’t mean your content marketing should take a vacation too. After all, content marketing serves multiple purposes for a business, which means it should be consistently maintained throughout the year. Failing to do that could lead to negative repercussions well into the fall and winter.

Here are five reasons why you should keep your content marketing working tirelessly through the summer:

Search engine rankings may suffer: Search engines don’t take vacations, which means your blog should stay hard at work all summer long. While your blog is not solely responsible for your search engine rankings, it does play a key role. Even if you blog just weekly, your search engine rankings will benefit more than if the blog sputters its way through the dog days of summer.

Newsletters lose steam: Content marketing comes in all shapes and sizes. Newsletters make up an integral part of a successful inbound marketing strategy. To be effective, newsletters must go out on a consistent frequency, if only to stay top-of-mind among your audience of prospects, customers and followers. Since newsletters are your chance to share your latest company news and drive interest in your new products and services, don’t miss out on this opportunity to keep the inbound marketing tap flowing all summer long.

New inbound leads dry up: If you are not careful to mind the ‘content marketing store,’ you could see your rate of inbound leads begin to dry up by the end of the summer, causing a nasty dry spell in the fall when you’re team is back and ready to work. At the very top of every B2B sales funnel is a sieve. If you don’t continue to nurture those early-stage leads, then they will fall eventually fall out and go somewhere else.

Your reputation suffers: Like it or not, we are judged based on the little things, such as showing up on time or following through on promises. When a lead is drawn into your sales funnel, it’s the reliability of the content marketing engine that carries the biggest load when it comes to establishing your initial reputation — that and an effective PR campaign. If you send out newsletters, ensure they remain at the same high-level of quality your audience expects to receive. If you hold webinars, keep them engaging and full of valuable insight. Whatever content marketing activity you engage in, just be sure to satisfy your customers and prospects as though it were a revenue-generating service.

Newton’s First Law of Motion: That’s right, even the rules of physics apply to content marketing. In this case, Newton’s First Law of Motion states that a body at rest tends to stay at rest. Translation: If you let your content marketing lapse for any period of time, it will have a greater probability of staying that way. In other words, don’t stop or you may not start back up again. Avoid this from happening by keeping your content marketing machine in motion for the entire summer.

Looking for a content marketing strategy to keep your business booming all summer long? If so, drop us a line at info(at)manzercommunications.com.

Deep summer in B2B tech marketing brings to mind those classic seafaring movies about whaling schooners and man-of-wars that suddenly hit a long patch of hot weather.

Perhaps your own company’s summer sales doldrums feels the same way? Like a once-animated ship now sitting listless in a dark blue ocean, white sails hanging lifeless, an impossibly bright sun beating down on the deck. With water running low and the precious rum stores under lock-and-key, the ship’s crew is put under incredible stress. Grumblings from below deck begin to bubble up, hinting at mutiny or the search for a convenient scapegoat (sailors were a superstitious lot). Eventually the ship nears a breaking point.  At the brink of the crew’s heat-induced madness, a gust of wind blows life into the topsail, lifting the crew’s spirits and setting the ship back on course.

Okay, maybe your company doesn’t go through such a perilous downturn every summer but the slowdown of summer is real for many smaller tech companies. And many of those companies put their own version of the ship’s stores under lock-and-key.

As you enter this summer, I recommend that you avoid the same draconian measures as those memorable sailing movies — the bosun handing out 10 lashes, mutinous crew clapped in irons, etc.

Instead, make a plan to keep your content marketing busy working for you. It’s the equivalent of keeping a bored, listless crew hard at work swabbing the deck, mending the sails and scraping away barnacles.

I’ll post something later this week on how to ensure your content marketing does not go on summer vacation with the rest of the world. After all, you never know when a hot prospect may be lurking in those deep, calm waters waiting to surface and give your company a record haul.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded Manzer Communications, an Austin tech digital marketing & PR agency specializing in integrated digital marketing & PR for tech businesses in 2009. Feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(at)manzercommunications(dot)com.

 

In the not-too-distant past, only the largest companies in the world used to be able to receive global PR support for their various initiatives.

That’s because it almost always came in the form of expensive budgets provided by large, multi-national agencies with offices around the world.

Now, thanks to PR & Marketing networks formed by smaller, nimbler agencies, even tech startup companies like our newest customer, DRONE HOPPER can get localized support at a trade show in Dallas thousands of miles away from its home in Madrid, Spain.

We promoted DRONE HOPPER at the XPonential conference last week. XPonential is an international trade show dedicated to promoting and introducing applications of drone technology to a wider array of industries.

We learned of DRONE HOPPER thanks to Art Marketing, a Spanish agency and member of our global Associate Agency network. The Spanish drone startup is developing a first-of-its-kind firefighting drone platform that could make fighting wildfires a safer, more efficient process than it currently is.

A full functioning prototype of the drone will be available as a demo on the American market in July, with a full production version available for sale in fall of 2018.

[A picture of the DRONE HOPPER prototype.]

We helped DRONE HOPPER turn XPonential into a success through our package of trade show PR services, which included:
  • Message design
  • Copywriting of press alert and press release
  • Spokesperson coaching
  • Pitching and follow-up of journalists
  • Media monitoring
  • Social media coaching

[Fire Rescue 1, with 630 thousand monthly unique visitors, was first to publish news of DRONE HOPPER’s attendance at XPonential.]

There were two categories of media that matter to our client: the first responder press and the UAV press. Outlets from both categories hopped on the story. Here is a sampling of media coverage we were able to obtain:

Congratulations to DRONE HOPPER for its successful trade show appearance!

white paper

Is your company looking to leverage its next trade show with an integrated marketing and PR strategy?

Download our comprehensive B2B tech trade show guide for valuable insights and helpful tips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Podcasts have turned mainstream over the last couple of years. According to a Pew Research Center survey in 2016, 21% of all Americans over the age of 12 listen to at least one podcast each month. With the proliferation of podcasts also comes an abundance of opportunities for podcast ads and sponsorships.

The price of podcast ads on the top shows can run up to $100 CPM. For mid-tier podcasts the cost can run up to $50 CPM. The cost of podcast advertising is pretty steep compared to a lot of advertising alternatives such as social media banner advertising (on average $1- $4 CPM) and magazine advertising (on average $8 – $20 CPM) (check out Chron for more information). On the other hand, the specialization among podcasts allows for an efficient targeting of audience segments.

Here are some tips to help you out if you want to take the plunge in podcast advertising or sponsorship.

Pick the right show(s)…

Do your homework and make a careful pick of the show(s) that are right for you. This is less about chasing numbers of listeners and more about reaching the right listeners. If you are on the verge of advertising in a podcast you have never listened to yourself, you should hit the pause button. You’ll be far better off if you are already familiar with the podcast to ensure it is consistent with your advertising goals as well as brand image and ethos.

but avoid (perceived) conflicts of interest

Sponsoring a show that brings news on your industry might seem tempting at first, but there are reputational risks involved. People who listen to the podcast might come to wonder if the people who produce the show are fully independent in the way they cover the industry and, more specifically, the role you play in it. In other words, this kind of sponsorship always comes with the risk that people think you are trying to ‘buy’ your way into favorable coverage. A recent Wired article addressed the issue of sponsorship conflicts of interests. It cited an example of a freight shipping company that sponsored a podcast covering the Port of Oakland and how this represented a challenge to the (at least perceived) editorial independence of the podcast producers. In other words, occasional advertising comes with much less risks of such independence perception problems.

Apply a direct response strategy

There is a reason why there are so many direct response ads that run on podcasts. With this type of advertising you can measure the return on investment of your advertising spend much better than using the traditional metric: downloads. After all, a download does not accurately measure how many active listeners there are or how many hear your ad (as opposed to skipping it). Building in a call-to-action at least provides you a way to measure a podcast ad’s reach and effectiveness. Consider taking it a step further by using a dedicated landing page to more accurately measure traffic generated by the ad or use a coupon code as a special offer to the podcast’s listeners.

Hone your message

A podcast host will typically not read ad scripts verbatim on air. He or she will use your bullet points and turn that into something that has a more organic feel to the show. A podcast ad broker will be able to help you hone your message. The tried-and-true laws of good advertising also apply to podcasting: think outside-in, focus on the benefits of your product or service and add a sense of urgency to your offer.

Evaluate and redirect

Will you spend thousands and thousands of dollars on podcast ad campaigns only to evaluate the impact of your campaign twelve months later? We hope not. Some shows might prove to not be a good fit, but you won’t know unless you are monitoring the key metrics you assigned to measure the initiative. Perhaps you went astray with your messaging or failed to make your call-to-action enticing enough? Continuous monitoring will tell you when you are hitting the mark or need a mid-flight adjustment.

 

As a marketing communications agency for B2B technology companies, we pride ourselves on knowing a few things about building optimized landing pages.

We recently ran across a webinar landing page that we thought would help us show how to design — or in this case how NOT to design — a well-optimized landing page.

Keep in mind that the purpose of a webinar landing page is simple: convert visitors into registrations as quickly as possible. With such clarity of purpose, it stands to reason that a landing page should be singular in focus, messaging and design.

Here is a screenshot of the landing page:

 

Here is the same screenshot, but marked up with our observations:

 

Our main take-aways:

  1. Title: Shorten it to one line and make it a stronger benefit statement with a high-impact action verb.
  2. Clock: Ditch it. The effort to create a sense of urgency is lost on most visitors.
  3. Call-to-action: Move it to the middle where the clock is. The goal is to convert visitors, right?
  4. Webinar content list: cut it down to main 3 points; you have seconds to make your case, so don’t add too much content. Focus more on benefits, less on feature statements like ‘Business process definition’ as it doesn’t tell us WHY we should attend.
  5. Bio of presenter: a great opportunity to solidify the value of the webinar by showing the presenter’s bona fides is lost with a muddled layout. Make the picture bigger and put it below the text so that it takes up some of the white space below.
  6. Design elements: we found the color contrasts weak and made the landing page look bland; a different header picture could have helped by providing sharper contrast to give more attention to the important text messages.

 

It’s high time Austin had its own crowdsourced map of its diverse startup ecosystem. That’s why we are launching Startup over Coffee today.

Why now? Over the past decade it’s hard to argue that any other metro area in the country has risen in the ranks of most every startup statistic as much as Austin has. We came in at #1 in the CNBC Metro 20: America’s Best Places to Start a Business in August. We cracked the top 10 on the 2016 Kauffman Index, which measures the entrepreneurial vitality of the 40 largest metro areas on the country. Austin also hit #1 on the Forbes list of The Cities Creating the Most Technology Jobs 2015.  

One of the keys to the success of Austin’s startup scene? A well-established startup ecosystem made up of all kinds of businesses, organizations and media!

Claim your spot on the Startup over Coffee map!

This map is intended to be crowdsourced and maintained by those who make up the Austin startup scene. From coffee shops to co-working spots and startup accelerators to media outlets, we want to democratize the map’s content in order to make it as relevant and up-to-date as possible.

For any organizations who want to claim their pin, it’s easy to do. Just follow these steps:

  1. Click your organization’s pin (you must represent the organization to be approved)
  2. Click ‘More Info’
  3. Click ‘Claim Place’
  4. Sign-in (you will need to create a MapMe account)

Any organizations that support the Austin startup scene not already on the map can easily add a pin by following the instructions found here.

But don’t just take it from us!

Our friend and local startup expert Paul O’Brien had this to say about the Austin startup scene:

Driving Austin’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is the incredible diversity of creativity. Where places like Silicon Valley thrive as a result of their innovative technology entrepreneurs, Austin thrives because it’s the convergence of technology with design, art, music, architecture, gaming, and the experiences that we love. Finding success in Austin is a matter of finding your node; balancing your own resources and needs and finding the community ideal to what you’re doing.  Austin lives to work and our entrepreneurs are in coworking spaces, office parks, working from home, and in coffee shops throughout the city; connecting opportunities with talent, resources, and ideas.

Can you help?

Startup over Coffee is an attempt to capture the richness of that startup ecosystem and share it for anybody who is looking for a way to plug-in, network and contribute to the Austin startup scene. That’s why we need your help!

We hope you will join us in supporting Austin’s startup scene. Those of us who have been involved in it for the past decade know we would not be where we are today without a strong sense of camaraderie and selfless support from thousands of like-minded entrepreneurs, influencers and volunteers.

 

Businesswoman pressing unlocking on virtual screens, technology for cyber attack, computer crime, information security and data encryption.

It is a decision that needs to be made up front in every B2B content marketing strategy: which content assets will be completely free for all (ungated) and which ones will require a contact form to be filled out prior to making the content available (gated).

This blog post you are reading is ungated. Anybody can read it, with nothing asked in return. On the Manzer Communications site you will also find a series of white papers covering topics as diverse as crisis communications, trade shows and social media campaigns. We love to make this content available, but in return we ask for just a little bit of information.

No sales without leads…

So what is the logic behind choosing whether content needs to be ungated or gated? Do companies randomly decide to make some content freely available and others not? The answer of course is: no. The ‘gates’ in the form of the sign-up webforms are meant to collect information on the person (and company) who wanted to access a certain kind of content.

In content marketing speak, gated content is meant to identify the person who shows an interest in a particular marketing piece and ultimately understand to which buyer persona he or she belongs, what is motivating the search and where in the sales funnel to place the lead.

… but no leads without awareness

A general rule of content marketing is that the more perceived value a piece of content has, the more a prospect will be willing to share about himself or herself in return for the content. A 200 page booklet can be made available at a higher ‘price’ than a 10 page white paper.

The 2015 Form Conversion Report by Formstack showed that there are on average 11 fields on a lead form and that the average conversion rate of the form amounts to 17%. By most lead gen standards, 11 fields is a very high number, if not completely unrealistic at a 17% conversion rate. Perhaps there is even a disconnect with the study or a research bias but what is not disputable is that lead conversion rates are impacted by the number of required fields. In our experience, it’s better to keep the number of required fields below five unless you have a content piece that is based on intensive industry research.

So while gating content is important for lead generation, it does not mean that you can and should pass on ungated content. Websites generally contain more ungated than gated content for a reason. Search engines cannot index content that you put behind a gate. That means gated content won’t contribute in any significant way to your site SEO strategy, unless you provide a summary page as part of your landing page.

Gated content cannot be shared with a single click so with that easy social sharing is out the door. You need the ungated content to create broader awareness and encourage more social shares among your prospects.
The advantage of ungated content is that it fills the ‘top’ of your funnel and thereby increases the number of prospects who will be tempted to consult your gated content, thus becoming leads. Ungated content can be ideated from the start as ungated content, but it can also take the form of a repurposing of gated content. An example of the latter is when you make a chapter of an ebook freely available on your blog or through LinkedIn Pulse.

Two illustrations: a gated webinar of Salesforce and a collection of ungated manuals of Harte Hanks. The Salesforce form asks for among others the job title and the size (as measured by number of employees) of the company.

Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 12.03.29 PM

Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 12.12.25 PM

And the winner is…

There is a time and place for both gated and ungated content. For many B2B marketers, the right balance may vary greatly based on the perceived value of leads versus raw website traffic. What is indisputable is that ungated content will pull in more website traffic while gated content will assist in lead capture and converting leads into new customers over time.

 

 

Many companies have no crisis communications plan available to help them prepare for and manage their reputations during a crisis. Rather than invest in a crisis comms plan ahead of time, most companies will end up trying to improvise their way out of a crisis. Others may seek professional help, but only after a crisis strikes.

Companies taking a ‘wait-and-see’ approach are invariably caught flat-footed by a crisis. They miss out on the opportunity to help frame the message communicated by the media. The narrative of the crisis can quickly become a spectacle on a public stage with the company stuck playing the role of villain. In a situation like that, no amount of PR help can keep the company from experiencing damage to their brand reputation, future revenue and capital valuation.  

But it should be noted that the creation of a crisis comms manual is not a one-off event. A crisis comms manual needs upkeep or it will gradually lose its value over time. It should be seen as a living document in need of continuous updates to ensure it reflects your most recent risk analysis, as well as internal and external organizational changes.

To keep your company as prepared as possible we recommend you follow a 2-step approach to updating your crisis comms manual. First, the ‘owner’ of the manual should make periodic updates as he or she hears any news about something that might impact the plan or staff assigned to support the crisis comms initiative. For instance, if a new CEO is hired, then that person’s name and contact information should be added to plan.

The second part of keeping your crisis comms manual up to date is to conduct an annual systematic review, which is designed to be more thorough than a periodic update. Since there is a lot more involved in this kind of update, we have spelled out four areas you should address:

Is staff information current?

You might have updated a couple of names during the past year, but did you really cover everybody mentioned in the manual? Are all the members of the crisis communications team still the same? And have there been any changes to people’s contact information (for example, an office or cell phone number)? Are the internal experts on your knowledge map still the ones you recorded a year ago? Or is Mary no longer in charge of quality control but now a line manager? As part of this exercise, send lists with people from your manual — be it an org chart or list of names with corresponding role titles and contact info —  to the respective department heads to ask for their corrections.

Are the scenarios still appropriate?

The world can change a lot in a year. If your manual mentions scenarios that are useful for training purposes, are those scenarios still as relevant today as they were a year ago? Do you need to add additional scenarios? For instance, last year you didn’t have to worry about your organization coming under fire from an inflammatory tweet by the President of the United States, but now you do. Your crisis comms plan scenarios should always reflect the newest risks to a company’s brand reputation.

Let’s make it clear, however, that using scenarios to prepare for crisis communications should never give the organization the false sense of being ‘ready’. Nevertheless, scenarios that are reflective of their times are a boon to the organization in two important ways: they continue to raise awareness among staff about the need to be vigilant and they help increase the likelihood of staff performing well during a similar crisis.

Are the processes still adequate?

New crisis scenarios could also come with new processes, timing risks and real-world impacts to your brand. For instance, how is your follow-up of damaging conversations on social media at 5:00 in the morning currently organized and staffed? Is there a social media team to capture what is being said? If so, is there an escalation process in place that can have the social media team alert the corporate communications team of a potential crisis?

Of course when it comes to crisis communications preparedness there is a trade-off between what would need to happen to fully prepare a company and the budgetary realities of the company. We are not saying that small companies need to go on a hiring spree to prepare for what probably amounts to very unlikely events. Nevertheless, some thought should at least be given to analyzing the way your processes are keeping pace with evolving internal needs and the situational threats in the world around you.

Are the external resources still up to date?

You might have checked whether your in-house staff was still in place, but are the people from the outside agency who are ready to support you still the same ones from last year’s meeting? Can the hotel you put down as a back-up offsite location still be counted on to host your emergency press conference? Your external resource list is as important as your internal one, so you should check that all the information contained in it is still up to date.

Crisis Communications Plan

The task of writing and keeping manual up to date may look daunting at first, but luckily you have our white paper on writing the crisis communications manual available to give you important pointers. If you don’t have it yet, download it now and let us know if you have any questions or need some advice on how to customize it for your organization.

 

 

 

 

 

blogging mistakes to avoid
A well-run blog provides continuous opportunities to establish your brand’s credibility as an industry expert in the eyes of customers and prospects. It also plays a key role in many B2B companies’ multi-channel marketing strategy aimed at supporting the customer journey from visitor to lead to closed sale.

That’s because blogs can be an ever-changing source of fresh content that helps establish thought leadership, drive website traffic and improve organic search engine rankings, to name just a few of the benefits.

Yet despite the proven benefits, many B2B companies fail to fully resource their blogs, or they abandon them mere months after starting them.

If your company is still struggling to get a blog off the ground, here are seven of the most common mistakes you should consider fixing:

Lack of frequency

One of the first mistakes most B2B companies make is not blogging with enough frequency. Many companies start their blogs with the best of intentions. Most end up failing to establish the proper internal expectations and accountability needed to stay on a consistent schedule. That’s unfortunate. According to research from Hubspot, B2B companies that blog 16 times or more monthly will see as much as 3.5x traffic compared to companies that blog only occasionally.   

No editorial calendar

Many blogs that fail to take off usually lack an editorial calendar, which helps the marketing team focus its efforts. An editorial calendar is a key management tool that provides the marketing team a framework to help them brainstorm ideas for posts, establish publication deadlines and delegate writing assignments. Without an editorial calendar, marketing teams will lack the discipline and accountability needed to fulfill the demands of a high-frequency blog.

Poorly defined brand voice

One of the chief mistakes made by brand bloggers is that they forget to either define the official brand ‘voice’ or simply forget to adhere to it as they create content for the blog. A brand blog should be in synch with the overall brand identity, both in terms of the actual content it posts and the tone of voice/personality used. Failing to do so can leave the prospects you are attempting to move through the sales funnel confused and uncertain about what your company truly represents. What’s more, blogs may not actually be a prospect’s first touch with a brand so failure to remain consistent with other brand marketing assets like white papers, social posts and website copy could result in a lost lead.

Unknown buyer personas

Who are you selling to? What are their particular demographics? Are they executives in the C-suite capable of spending millions or line managers in charge of day-to-day tasks with a definite need and modest budget? The truth is if you are in a B2B company you usually have multiple buyer personas in a sales cycle. Leads rarely start from the top-down. More often than not they start with somebody like a manager who is experiencing a business pain directly and ends up doing the initial research in hopes of finding a solution.

That same manager may end up being the actual lead you identify in your sales funnel or it may be somebody higher up in the organization. Executives of prospects may look to your blog for reassurances that your company is indeed expert at solving a particular problem before pulling the trigger on the purchase. Bottom-line: You have to properly identify which buyer personas are involved in your sales cycle in order to produce content that draws in and engages the right audience of influencers and decision-makers.

Zero calls-to-action

Calls-to-action are an essential part of a successful blog. Why? Because the purpose of driving traffic to your blog is to surface and capture qualified leads. A CTA need not be an actual offer for service or a promotional discount. In fact, most inbound marketing experts will tell you that promotional offers tend to backfire and turn off would be customers. Better to include CTAs for additional information like white papers, eBooks and webinars, all of which will help move leads further down the sales funnel until they are ready to make a purchase. Another CTA of sorts is a contact capture add-on to your website (we use Optin Monster), which automatically asks visitors if they would like to be added to your e-newsletter or some other drip marketing campaign.

Lack of cross-channel promotion

B2B sales cycles vary greatly depending upon a variety of factors, not the least of which is the purchase price. The more expensive your product or service the more likely it will have been researched, vetted by internal staff and kicked up the corporate ladder for approval over a period of 1-12 months. B2B marketing managers sometimes forget to link initiatives from other marketing campaigns — attendance at a trade show or an executive speaking at a conference — to the blog and thus miss out on opportunities to push the content systematically across multiple channels. Social media — paid and organic — can and should support content CTAs that are baked into the editorial calendar. Our own agency launched a white paper on trade show marketing campaign that included multiple social promotions, blogging, reviews on influencer sites, and even an upload into SlideShare, the popular slide deck sharing site.

Failure to analyze

In the immortal words of Aristotle, the “unexamined blog is not worth living.” Okay, maybe the famous Greek philosopher didn’t say blog but I’m pretty sure he would agree that failing to properly analyze your blog traffic and user patterns is a missed opportunity.

Google Analytics is easy to install and use to determine the effectiveness of your blog. If a post gets a lot of hits from visitors but they immediately fall off after 15 seconds on your site then you know the post failed to hook the visitors and get them to move further into the site. If inbound visitors from a small online publication where you published a copy of your blog post drives a handful of visitors but they end up staying on the site over 5 minutes and pass through 5-6 additional web pages then you know you have done something right in terms of engagement.

Other tools than just Analytics exist (e.g., Hubspot) to help SMBs analyze the success or failure of posts. The key is to make analysis part of running the blog and document the results so that you can find trends in content, sources of inbound traffic, and the most popular pages on your site. Only then can you get smart and really hone your message to drive more lead capture and customer conversions.
Got any ideas you would like to share about your B2B blog? Feel free to share below or on Twitter or Facebook.

online-consultation-5-main-news-of-the-monthFake news is here to stay.

But that should not be a surprise. Fake news is not new. It has been around since the founding of our country. The likes of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin all indulged in cooking up apocryphal content to advance the cause of the Revolution and even their respective political interests after our country’s founding.

What IS new is how fake news is now being used as a club to bludgeon brands for political positions they may or may not have actually endorsed. I say may or may not have because even if an executive at a major brand did support an idea popularized by a politician the actual facts could become so skewed by the ‘fake news engine’ that it no longer matters what the actual facts were.

In today’s wired world, a reputation that takes years and decades to build can be significantly tarnished or permanently damaged in mere hours and days.

Public relations to the rescue

Public relations professionals who are savvy in the ways of digital media and marketing have become the emergency responders for a brand’s reputation. A brand that hesitates in its response to fake news does so at its own peril. Responses have to be swift, measured and proportionate to the degree of threat involved.

PR professionals are experienced communicators who run toward the crisis. They are experienced at assessing the level of public and media awareness, setting up teams to address brand messaging and strategically sharing timely news with media outlets to curb the damaging effects of a crisis.

As we explained in an earlier post about the crises faced by Samsung and Wells Fargo last year, brands must face their crisis head on by giving PR professionals a lead role in setting up the team that responds to reputational firestorm. Indeed, fighting a brand crisis is a lot like fighting a forest fire where many conditions beyond the control of the brand can shape the crisis and leave a lasting impact that could cost executive jobs, stock valuations and future growth potential.

More fake news crises coming soon?

Brands should already be adding fake news to their crisis plans. Unlike a fire at a company facility or a case of fraud, fake news is by its nature ephemeral. It doesn’t exist in the real world where individuals can be taken into account and a clean reckoning can be made to the public. It exists in a digital world that is impossible to corral and is fed by the very engine that makes the Internet profitable: click through advertising.

That’s right! Many fake news sites are pedalling falsehoods simply to sell ads and make money. But is that really any different that the scourge of “Yellow Journalism” that cheapened the U.S. media landscape at the turn of the 20th century? Yes, if only because fake news sites are so easy to start, run and spread to poison the minds of readers against a brand. At least with Yellow Journalism the U.S. media eventually reacted to scurrilous journalism by instituting a professional code of ethics and cleaning up the profession by raising the educational requirements of future journalists at colleges and universities.

Brands must brace themselves for more cases of fake news. By building a crisis plan to combat fake news, you ensure that proper controls are in place to limit financial damage and long-lasting impact to brand reputation. Fake news, after all, doesn’t have to be based on reality or a real-world event. It can be started by a fringe political group that perceives your brand as too liberal, conservative or even non-committal. It can be started by an ethically-challenged competitor intent on stealing market share from you.

Not sure how to proceed in the face of such an unpredictable and immeasurable threat? You can always start by downloading our white paper on how to build a crisis plan for your brand. It includes practical tips on how to build out the crisis team, write the plan and run practice crisis scenarios.

Want a little coaching? Give us a shout! We have offices in Austin, Denver and Houston but our reach is global.

Until then, please keep a weather eye on the fake news horizon to keep your brand out of harm’s way!