Content Creation Roundtable: A happy medium

From concept to deployment, all brands want to crack the code on content creation. Industry experts discussed the how-to's and must-do's at this 360 Public Relations-hosted roundtable in New York.

From idea to deployment, every brand is striving to crack the code on content creation. Industry experts joined Gideon Fidelzeid in New York to discuss how-to's and must-do's at this 360 Public Relations-hosted roundtable.

Jay Blades
, executive editor, DailyCandy
Rob Bratskeir, EVP, creative director, New York GM, 360 Public Relations
Kevin Dando, digital marketing and communications director, PBS
Clay Dunn, online community director, Share Our Strength
Jessica Gioglio, PR and social media manager, Dunkin' Brands
David Patton, editor in chief, Waggener Edstrom
Scott Schneider, chief digital officer, Ruder Finn 

Finding your audience
Gideon Fidelzeid (PRWeek)
: The key to content lies not just in its creation, but also its deployment. How do you best map out your content and the platforms on which you present it to ensure it reaches the right audience?

Rob Bratskeir (360 Public Relations): I approach this from a marketer's point of view. It always goes back to the audience and remembering whom you are talking to and the channels they are on. These are just pipes. It's a matter of choosing the right pipes and knowing why people are using them.

We think SEO from the start. There's been that debate about whether optimized press releases really matter. Everything seems to indicate they do. The jury is out on Google+, but we know that what is on Google+ winds up in your search ranking. It's a good idea to be there to make sure you're being optimized as best you can.

Kevin Dando (PBS): [In June] we launched the B-side for the Mister Rogers Remixed video, called Sing Together. We looked at how we could maximize it on Vine, how we could share it on Google+, and what the right hashtags were.

For every venue we are parsing what it's going to be like, what the YouTube custom thumbnail is, what image we should use on Instagram, as opposed to Pinterest, as opposed to an animated GIF on Tumblr. It's taking each content piece and figuring out which audience we want to hit and how to laser-target it in different venues.

Scott Schneider (Ruder Finn): We drive down to the following: Do they have one second, six seconds, 30 seconds, or do they have a minute? Often, it would be the same person at any point of their day. So how can we figure out where to get them when we only have a second?

Jessica Gioglio (Dunkin' Brands): For us the magic is really in the mix. We always want to be flexible, in control, but also personalized to the platform. It's important to not just be spraying the same piece of content across every single platform, but to think about what the users on those platforms are looking for from us because the user experience on Vine is very different from the user experience on Facebook.

The joy of sharing

Truly great content gets shared repeatedly. That is one of the prevailing philosophies of DailyCandy editor-in-chief Ashley Parrish, whose website has become a must-read for women seeking cool things to buy, do, or see. She sat down with PRWeek managing editor Gideon Fidelzeid to share tips on how brands can maximize their content offerings.

Gideon Fidelzeid (PRWeek): Please offer some advice on creating content that is both editorially compelling and revenue driving?

Ashley Parrish (DailyCandy): All content must align with your brand principles. Do that and you create immediate authenticity.

People aren't buying products anymore. They're buying brands, experiences, and what products promise. With Coca-Cola, you're not buying a soda, but happiness. With Virgin Airlines, you're not buying a ticket, but an in-flight experience. One of the biggest pieces of content creation is figuring out what your brand stands for, what those three to five pillars are, and making sure all that content aligns to those pillars.

The second piece is social. Brands are more than just logos. They are experiences and conversations. Creating the content based on those brand principles is just step one. The hard part is the distribution and activation.

Word of mouth is incredibly valuable and it isn't just who is in your phone contacts or your address book. It's those you follow on Twitter. It's your Facebook or Instagram followers. Users are going to social to inform their buying decisions.

In addition to activating your brand content on social, you must also talk with your user. The ultimate goal is facilitating peer-to-peer communication. Your content must enable that conversation and also allow for a two-way conversation. It's speaking to your audience, asking for information back, and then enabling them to push that through their own peer network. A successful piece of content is when somebody shares it.

Fidelzeid: DailyCandy started in New York, but is now in multiple markets. How can brands best create effective content for different regions?

Parrish: You need to create built-in authenticity and that starts with knowing what's happening on the ground. It's important to wrap that culture into your content. And once you create the content, it's about distributing it – and mobile is key. Mobile is at everyone's fingertips. You have to make it easy for users to find that content.

Go to any coffee shop and you'll see people on their phones while on line. Brands need to create something useful, delightful, or fun for those two minutes folks are waiting. If you do that, you've built a brand because you've not only created something worthwhile to them, you've also distributed it effectively.

A great resource for brands to gain that on-the-ground familiarity is tapping into the crowd. Use the audience of the market you're looking at. Everyone talks about UGC, user-generated content, but I like to focus on IGC, influencer-generated content. Those are your super-users, your brand advocates, repeat buyers, or the people who are talking about your brand in a positive light on social.

And it needn't be a writer. It can be more of a community manager. You ask a question to that audience in, say, Phoenix, let them respond, and then you curate all that. So instead of creating content, you're curating content into an experience.

Fidelzeid: How can brands most effectively use consumer feedback in content creation?

Parrish: The morning after a particularly fascinating recent episode of Game of Thrones, all everyone in our office did was talk about it. So many sites published stories related to it. That's reactive content and social listening enables it. Find out what your brand's supporters are fans of or what they are talking about on social and react to it.

Let's look at the Met Ball [a New York City gala that celebrates the annual opening of the Metropolitan Museum's fashion exhibit at the Costume Institute, which took place on May 6]. The theme was punk. It was this huge red carpet event. We had our social media editor live tweet the red carpet. There was a lot of discussion around the theme, the fashion, and so on. When we came in the next morning, people were still talking a lot about it on social. So instead of just saying, “We've already covered it,” we took it further. We took all the photos we had – good and bad – and curated them. We decided to take the best pictures, tweets, and comments about the pictures and created a slideshow. It helped broaden our scope and it was content that was fully responsive to what users wanted based on social media activity we witnessed.

Fidelzeid: Blogging remains a powerful and popular forum for brands. Inasmuch as you teach a blogging class at NYU, please share some tips.

Parrish: Don't make it your press page. Don't just use a blog to post your press releases and your product launches. Talk about a new partnership with a media entity or another company and link that to a press release on the press page. In that blog, though, talk about how that partnership came about. A blog should reveal the culture and heartbeat behind the brand.

Do pay attention to visuals. Pictures, infographics, YouTube videos, and behind-the-scenes photos all help pull that curtain back and show that your brand is not just a logo.

Social care is also hugely important. Forty-seven percent of social media users engage in social care, while one in three prefer social care to [traditional] customer-service numbers. Social media users prefer to tweet about a brand versus picking up the phone and saying, “Hey, I didn't get my package or whatever it may be.” On a monthly basis, 65% of social media users say they learned about a brand on social. Meanwhile, 53% of them complimented a brand and 50% of them shared complaints or concerns about a brand.

A brand blog is where you can respond to all of those things. A blog helps set up the brand as a hero versus a villain when something goes wrong. It helps you say, “Yes, we understand that this went wrong, but here's what we did about it and now we want to tell everybody.”

Fidelzeid: A prevailing philosophy of yours is “don't let your to-dos get in the way of your what-ifs.” Why is this so crucial? How does it impact content creation?

Parrish: We all have things that must get done, but there are so many things not on your to-do list that are important. Good workers put their heads down and get their to-dos done. Exceptional workers look beyond their to-do lists and ask, “What are the pain points of my company? What can I solve? Where can I innovate? What are other people doing? How can I get ahead?”

At DailyCandy, we still get our to-dos done, but the team sets aside an hour every week just to think about big ideas. To-dos keep a brand going, but the game-changers are the big ideas out there, the what-ifs.

We've recently shifted our content strategy to be in line with our consumer. It's evolving. Seeing that before the trend line went down was a what-if. Enabling your staff and colleagues to see something before it happens is a huge part of what we've always done. Social listening and reactive content came out of that.

We are our consumers, too. DailyCandy's staff talks about all these things consumers talk about. When I see that, I'll always say, “If we are consumers, if we're the audience we want to reach, why aren't we writing about the things we're talking about?” It's so obvious, but so important. And brands can certainly follow this formula.

Fidelzeid: Please discuss the “new digital attention span” and its impact on content creation.

Parrish:Media consumption and creation has been truncated. Jokes are delivered in hashtags. Full days are summed up in 140 characters. BuzzFeed created the Listicle. Twitter is a source for breaking news. You must deliver short tidbits of content in the way people are consuming it.

Consumers are also creating content for themselves about brands, so speak to them in the way they're speaking to their peer set. Launch a hashtag campaign. Write a list. Don't worry about the long paragraph. There are absolutely places for that longer-form content, but when you're trying to reach an audience quickly and with impact, you must do so in the same manner in which that audience is speaking.

Visuals and photos are hugely important, too. Five hundred million photos are uploaded and shared a day on the Internet, 100 million of those via Snapchat, which is basically a photo-sharing app where you share a photo and it expires after 10 seconds. Except it doesn't expire, somebody takes a screen shot of it. There's a lot of noise out there so it's OK to be truncated. It's fine to have the short hits, as long as they're impactful, smart, and aligned with your brand principles.

Fidelzeid: How is content creation affected when consumers have almost as much control – if not more – than companies over how a brand is viewed?

Parrish: It's hard to control, but there's an upside. A brand can have control in terms of making good out of bad comments, for example. Brands can respond to some negative comments by reaching out, getting to the heart of the consumer, and saying, “Why are you so upset with our brand? Why are you pushing us this way? What do you really think of us?” It's so helpful to let your consumers inform you and then plan strategy around that.

Fidelzeid: A 2012 article on The Content Strategist highlighted DailyCandy for numerous attributes, among them knowing its target and having a relevant tone. Brands would surely love to excel on these fronts. How do you do it?

Parrish: Data is huge. Look into your data and figure out who your audience is, but don't stop there. Anticipate their pain points.

Today interviewed about 7,000 American moms and found 42% suffer from Pinterest stress, which is the fear of not being as creative or crafty as what you see on the site. I suffer from it. I can't make cupcakes that look that good. So a brand might think, “Pinterest is full of these beautiful photos. It's so crafty. Let's hire a stylist and a photographer. Let's display these beautiful things.” That's all fine, but you could be causing Pinterest stress for so many women.

That's a pain point. How do you respond? Do the beautiful photos. Hire the stylist. Get yourself on Pinterest, but follow up with tips outlining three easy ways to do this. In the case of baking a beautiful cake, for example, show the photos, but then suggest to your audience that they don't make the dough, but buy Pillsbury instead. Data helps you identify an audience pain point to which you can respond.

As for proper tone, it goes back to figuring out who your audience is and then who you want to be in relation to that. Do you want to be their cool best friend who tells them about all the places to go and things to do? It just depends on what brands want to be for their consumers, but you have to know whom you're talking to before you can figure out how to talk to them.

Fidelzeid : As the editor of a trend-setting site such as DailyCandy, you are the ultimate consumer and the exact person brands want to reach. What kind of content attracts your attention?

Parrish: A good piece of content is something I want to share, whether it's useful, delightful, or funny. I also look for content that makes me say, “Oh, my gosh. I didn't know that.”

Information that enables you to be the first person among your friends to know something is content I – and lots of consumers – want to align with. It's social currency. Arm me with some good cocktail party knowledge and I will be a consumer for life. I'll be your brand advocate.

Fidelzeid: DailyCandy's content caters to women. How can content be crafted to best make an impact on this incredibly important consumer demographic?

Parrish: Women have an incredible appetite for consuming media. They also have an incredible appetite for creating. That's something that is lost on a lot of brands.

When I worked at Redbook, a story fell out one day and we needed to add something to the home page. The girl working next to me was a mom who travelled a bit. I asked her, "What's a hot topic related to kids and travel?" She said, "My friend gives her kid NyQuil before they get on the plane." We put out a poll on that and it resonated amazingly well because we enabled users to speak to us. Even more importantly, we enabled the users to speak to each other. Mom A said, "Yeah. I do that, too," while mom B said, "No. I just buy them a new toy."

Things spiraled up to facilitate so much conversation that we ended up culling all those responses together and making a story about how to get your kid to behave on a long flight.

That has always stuck with me. Tap into the crowd and then curate those responses. The more you do that, the most insightful and vocal users will rise to the top and there's your influencer-generated content. Along the way, you also develop fluent advocates.

We spend a lot of time getting to know the user base and behavior on each of the platforms. For example, it's mostly coffee drinks that are in the spotlight on our social platforms, but on Pinterest people were actually pinning our donuts a lot more than anything else. One of our first Pinterest boards was called Our WorlDD of Donuts and it showed donuts from all around the world, such as the dried pork donut and seaweed donut.

David Patton (Waggener Edstrom [WE]): We're doing a lot more research to understand where our audiences are and what they are looking for. We work with a lot of tech companies, and last year we did some profiles of IT pros. We found they are on Facebook, but they don't use it for professional purposes.

Presenting content to them from a professional point of view on Facebook was not going to work. As such, we counseled clients to go toward channels such as LinkedIn and Twitter, where you can circle around folks because they tend to share between their own groups. That kind of research and listening, where you can be more nimble, look at the data, and parse what the conversations are, is more important than ever.

Clay Dunn (Share Our Strength): Being a nonprofit, we have to be scrappy with our content creation and think about a piece of content and how it can be translated across many different platforms. One thing that has been useful to us internally is thinking about that through audience profiles. We have these profiles we use for the potential donor, such as a mom of young children, the decision-maker or legislator, or even the family that's a potential recipient of the programs that we're pushing. We are thinking about adapting content for the distribution platform, but also about different ways the content can be adapted for those different audiences.

Jay Blades (DailyCandy): DailyCandy is unique in that we started out solely as an email company and we've been figuring out how to transition our email content into Web, social, and video content. What does that look like for DailyCandy and how do you keep the brand strong while also figuring out how to tell a story in different ways? There are slideshows, Cinemagraphs, or photo essays, and we are also re-examining what email looks like.

People are interacting with email very differently than they were 13 years ago when we were founded and we sent out email articles in 150 words. We are personalizing that to give the reader what she is responding to and interacting with in a new way.

Schneider (Ruder Finn): Email is the unsung hero. Nobody likes talking about it because you sound like you're antiquated. I used to joke that Outlook was my biggest social network at one point because I had most stuff coming there. People are afraid to talk about email because it doesn't sound cool, but it makes a lot of sense that you're going back to it after starting there.

Gioglio (Dunkin'): As a traditional brand, email is very effective for us. We include prompts for readers to follow us on Facebook and Twitter at the bottom of all our emails. When we send an email communication out, we see a lot of chatter based on what the email is about. As a result, we try to align what's in the national email content with what we are talking about in social that day because it seems like a mishit to be talking about one thing and later pushing out an email about something else.

Keeping up with the curve
Fidelzeid (PRWeek)
: There are multiple platforms already out there. New ones are springing up almost daily. How do you adjust and adapt to all of this?

Patton (WE): Slowly and painfully. There is a finite amount of time in the day and everything's popping up. You need to have a great deal of curiosity. The difference between social and everything that came before is that anybody can do it at any time. I am a serial signer-upper; anything that comes my way, I will sign up for it just to see whether it is useful. We've got a lab within the agency in which a group of folks spend a fair amount of their time figuring out what's out there.

Because there are so many, it is difficult to figure out how you're going to integrate them. It takes a long time. Nobody even talked about Pinterest 18 months ago and here it is. It's something you've got to be vigilant about. Fostering curiosity is the best way to go about it.

Bratskeir (360PR): Any smart developer will say an idea has to be wrapped around something strong and ownable. However, nobody knows where it is going to go in a week or in a month, so you've got to really watch that traffic, that discussion and development.

Blades (DailyCandy): DailyCandy has always been about discovery. Naturally we are parking our brand name on a channel first, even before we see what it does, and then watching and exploring it to see if it's a good fit for our brand. Sometimes that process happens really fast.

For example, Vine had so much buzz around it that it seemed like a good fit. There are other platforms that take a bit of time, such as Google+. However, with the SEO value there, it is important to be on Google+ and stay active. We're definitely seeing huge growth off of that right now. We parked our brand name there pretty early, but we've been careful about putting too much of our efforts there.

Cinemagraphs are another platform we're experimenting with. We have been creating some of our own Cinemagraphs with our photo and design teams. [New DailyCandy section] Street Style graphs are big, as are makeup and beauty tutorials.

Bratskeir (360PR): I have a 12-year-old son and you must look at what your 12-year-olds and 15-year-olds are doing. That is your best lab. My son is getting onto Goggle+ because his first email account was Gmail. Of course, Google does such a wonderful job of integrating everything. It's going to be around. It's going to work for them.

Gioglio (Dunkin'): Back to social listening, we look closely at all the platforms on which people are engaging with Dunkin' Donuts. It's like there's a party going on. Do you want to be part of the party?

For example, we started to see the buzz about Vine. When we dug deeper, we saw a lot of great user engagement about Dunkin' Donuts there, so we figured it was a great opportunity for us to join the conversation. We liked and commented on Vine videos for a decent period of time before we started producing our own video content. That is actually a great way to start building your audience and following.

We launched a campaign where we did a contest around iced coffee. We asked fans to show us how iced coffee put a spring in their step and film a Vine video including a custom hashtag for a chance to win a year of free iced coffee. We got a lot of great videos that were fun and unique ways to look at iced coffee, playing on the theme of giving you that boost to get through your day. During the campaign we gained a large amount of followers because we launched our account in a way that generated more buzz around it.

Schneider (Ruder Finn): I am always trying to look at the type of content that is going to be coming up. About a year ago, we got a 3D printer. They're super cool. We are probably about three to four years away from Dunkin' Donuts giving you the ability on its Facebook page to print out your own straw or your own cup holder. We are beginning to think about 3D content in the same way that Vine is making us think about video in six seconds. We understand video, but now we are trying to understand six seconds.

We're trying to get ahead of the curve in general about what is coming down in this new revolution of the information age and the manufacturing age. What's going to be the new platform for that? We are not there yet, but that stuff gets to the point of curiosity, curiosity, curiosity, as David [Patton] said. That's key.

Fidelzeid (PRWeek): Are there platforms where you found surprising success, where you tried something and it worked a lot better than you thought it would?

Dunn (Share Our Strength): We have a small team, so we are very judicious about where we are testing ideas. We encourage our employees to dive in and try things.

Though it's still a place where we are experimenting and testing, we're starting to see a lot more traction on Instagram. Smiling kid faces are tailor made for Instagram. People share them and we are getting a lot of comments on the content there.

Schneider (Ruder Finn): Having successful intranet campaigns has surprised us the most. The right program and the expectation that's set there on the intranet can translate inside organizations. People inside organizations hunger for similar experiences to those they have externally.

Sharing the wealth
Fidelzeid (PRWeek)
: Identifying the audience is one thing, but for maximum impact you want your audience to share your content to further broaden its reach. How do you build content to ensure maximum shareability?

Blades (DailyCandy): Optimizing your share tools is really important. You also must find any way to make it easier for the reader to have your content right at their fingertips. We are in the process of making a few enhancements to our site that make the share almost as important as the story. Elevate that social activity so it's top of mind and the reader will want to participate in the conversation.

Authenticity is also important. DailyCandy was founded to be like an email from your best friend. That really carries over into social. Our readers have always wanted to identify with our brand, own our content, and use it as social currency. That originally was forwarding an email to their friend or talking about it. Now we're seeing that in terms of shares, likes, and retweets. It comes back to knowing that there is a real person and personality behind the brand.

Bratskeir (360PR): Something I am trying to get done more within the agency is having objective people look at what we're doing and asking, “Would you want to share this? Is this something that would make you do anything?” An audit function may be something that starts happening among community managers.

Patton (WE): Whatever kind of content you're creating, try to come up with a way to make it relevant at a particular time, when people are already talking about the topic. In many cases, brands are not necessarily going to be the leaders in driving the conversation, unless it's specifically about their brand. If you add that aspect of relevance, however, it will lead to shareability.

There is potential for you to mess that up, so to your point of auditing, you must have your ear to the ground to ask, “Is this wrong? Are we camping onto something that we shouldn't be?” If you're smart and you're already listening, you know where everybody is at and whether it is the time.

Dando (PBS): Twitter and Facebook have both told us to have a call to action in any content you want people to share. Say, “Please retweet” and don't just put “RT” because a lot of people, especially new Twitter users, don't know what “RT” means. Twitter has rolled out data showing what percentage increase there is in shareability if you just put “please retweet.”

Fidelzeid (PRWeek): You might create an amazing piece of content, but it doesn't instinctively relate to your brand. You don't always want to create content that screams your brand, but you run the risk of it not being as effective because even though it gets mass attention, most people won't relate it back to you. How do you balance that?

Patton (WE): You can create a piece of content that might not be deeply tied to your brand, but invite people to do something that will actually connect it back. Historically, PR has been about awareness, whereas marketing and advertising are much better at driving to a direct action.

You can use social channels from an awareness point of view, but you need to have the marketer's mindset to say what you want people to do here. You can create that content, even if it is not directly tied to the brand, as long as you have an action that gets you back to the brand and people can make that connection.

Schneider (Ruder Finn): There is a notion that you create the social media content, it goes out in the wild, lives, and everybody is happy and you've done a good job. We are being inundated with content, though, so the brand must have some responsibility to make sure it ties back to the organization.

What not to do
Fidelzeid (PRWeek)
: What are some potential landmines in content creation?

Blades (DailyCandy): If you approach it by thinking of what you shouldn't do, you are setting yourself up to not explore all options. Social is very fast, so it gives you an opportunity to test and try new things.

With that said, you always have to come back to whether or not it is right for the brand. You must then continue asking yourself that. Just because your competitors are doing something doesn't mean you have to jump on it. If it is right for you, find your own way to do it. We have big brainstorms where we try to think differently about content, but after we have those sessions, we always come back to asking if it is right for our brand and if it speaks to our audience. It is about balancing those two things.

Bratskeir (360PR): What I have seen fall on its face is trying to use humor and everybody thinking they are a writer for Jimmy Fallon. It just doesn't work.

Gioglio (Dunkin'): You want to identify your brand personality. Who do you want to be your audience? Dunkin' is a fun loving, all-day brand, so we replicate that when it comes to social media. You come into the store in the morning and get your coffee. Then you might be dragging at 3pm, so we might come in on Twitter and make you laugh.

One piece of social media advice I would give is to not be too rigid in your content calendar. It is great to plan things such as Twitter sweepstakes, but you don't want to be asleep at the wheel. You must understand what is going on day to day. You need to have a system in place to be nimble. In fact, you should have someone who is always responsible for checking in and knowing what's going on.

Patton (WE): Don't freak out and shut up. You see these brands that have erred in some way and then they freak out, go completely silent, and try to erase all evidence of what they did. That is actually the worst possible thing to do.

There will always be somebody out there who takes something you did the wrong way that you can't possibly anticipate. Hopefully your brand has enough credibility with folks and you can be honest and transparent and say, “We didn't see that coming and we made a mistake.” That's the way to go rather than freaking out and going off in a conference room and not sharing what's happening.

It's a very fast cycle. The whole thing will be over in 12 hours, maybe 24, and nobody's going to remember it. Look at Toyota: three years ago, what a terrifying time for them, and yet here they are, back on top. If Toyota can come out of that, then your brand can survive 12 hours of a small oops.

Dando (PBS): Don't avoid figuring out what the temperature in the room is, what the right tenor is on specific venues.

Schneider (Ruder Finn): Don't be drunk on your own Kool-Aid. The danger is that we think what we do at our company is just the best. At the end of the day, the content that gets sent around relates to culturally relevant things. These culturally relevant moments are becoming the most talked about things across the board. For the companies that don't understand that, they'll have a marketing message or a business goal and when it comes up nobody will care.

Dunn (Share Our Strength): It's so easy to fall into industry speak or for our content creators to be creating to please an internal audience versus our external audience. We're always asking ourselves, “Will this make our fans look cool in front of their friends with whom they share it? Does this make sense if you don't know anything about our issue?”

There's some danger in that your content can be too polished. We find as much success with using a photo that a volunteer has snapped on their iPhone at a site as we do when we have a professional photographer capturing these slick-looking shots. Content can sometimes feel too packaged. Don't be afraid to look to experiment with things that feel more grassroots.

Measuring success
Fidelzeid (PRWeek)
: How do you measure the success of your content? How do you determine if you're getting the return on engagement you really need to be successful?

Patton (WE): Social channels are now established things and you're seeing a move away from audience-building metrics. You're seeing more measurement focused on the action that is being taken. The next thing that's happening is making sure that what we wanted to do actually helped with the business goals or the action you wanted to take. You raised more money or you downloaded this thing, for example. That's the ultimate measurement that people care about.

The one I find much more interesting is the return on effort. There's a belief with social and digital channels that they will be less expensive and less time consuming than the things we have done in the past. In many cases, it is true. If you are truly getting things done more quickly and efficiently and getting something out of it, you're finding the success you want.

Blades (DailyCandy): Downstream engagement is something we've always looked at from the beginning, but it's a little harder to measure. We're always looking at page views, time spent, shares, likes, comments, and all of that, but we're also focusing on whether or not an article, slide show, or video introduced someone to our brand. Are people engaging with our content in a deeper way? Are they buying that product? Are they trying out the new restaurant and then telling their friends where they read about it?

Gioglio (Dunkin'): We look at engagement rates as well. Our mantra with social media is that we don't own our channels, our fans do. So we take that engagement rate very seriously. If it isn't high, then we're clearly not serving our fans well by giving them content they can rally around and care about. That's actually more important to us than having all the fans in the world. You see us responding more individually than with blast-out messages.

Everyone wants to be able to say this Facebook post generated X amount in sales. We're lucky that our executive leadership team does not hold us to a hard line with sales. They understand we have a passionate and loyal fan base and that kind of community is important to them. So spending time with customer service or just responding one to one is actually an important deliverable.

We do put together a dashboard for leadership with special announcements or campaigns showing metrics in real time. That's important to them. Which channels and what type of content are performing? We have about 35 local Twitter accounts and we geo-target a lot of content as well, so we can get some interesting insights from that.

Shining examples
Fidelzeid (PRWeek)
: What is an example of content you created that really resonated? Explain why you felt it worked well and how you measured it to know that it did.

Bratskeir (360PR): [Hair care brand] Alberto VO5 is our client. Private equity firm Brynwood Partners bought it from Unilever [in 2011]. Starting last year, our goal was to rebuild value into the brand. It had slipped to 99 cents on the shelf, which was the only reason it was still in distribution.

Research showed that nobody knew what “V” and “5” stood for. It's five vitamins. That became the campaign. Everything we did was around five-vitamin education. We also found it had zero Facebook presence in the US. We designed a series of promotions that we saw as content. Over the course of eight weeks and three promotions, we told the five-vitamin story from a different point of view. The first one was about women sharing their beauty secrets. More than the advertising, this really helped fuel our fan growth from the start. We had 800 comments within about three weeks.

The next piece was about spring cleaning your beauty routine. Finally, we did a challenge where we asked fans to rewrite one of the brand's vintage ads. They had to write a tagline using the five vitamins and the best tagline would win. Engagement was much higher than we thought. We doubled our goal for fan acquisition in the first four months.

Dando (PBS): [On June 6,] we released the next Mister Rogers Remixed from PBS Digital Studios, with full social media support for it. Every social media platform that we're on, except for Vine, which happened later, was deployed in the same 60 seconds to get people to watch the YouTube video [Sing Together]. Judd Apatow and Alyssa Milano tweeted about it within the first few hours. On the first morning, there were hundreds of mentions of it on Twitter.

Last year, the Mister Rogers video we did was the most shared and viewed video across all of YouTube the weekend it came out, which for a brand such as PBS is noteworthy. We're hoping something like that will happen again with this and that we'll get a lot of new subscribers to PBS Studios' YouTube account.

Schneider (Ruder Finn): We did something around the Super Bowl called Super Jacking. We developed a dashboard where we could look at Facebook likes in real time. For every brand that bought a Super Bowl ad, we measured how many Facebook likes it got during the game. We started a site to show the results called Iron Man 3 gained more than 29,000 likes from kickoff to the end of the game. Some brands lost likes, such as Samsung and Skechers.

The idea here was what kind of social hook can you make? It got us thinking creatively about the types of data hooks an agency can create that can then be spread around other channels.

Patton (WE): [Waggener Edstrom] does a tremendous amount of work for Microsoft. When I joined the agency, Microsoft was evolving its traditional media relations portal, Press Pass, into a direct-to-consumer or direct-to-influencer news portal. It was changing the focus from press releases to compelling content, feature stories, and videos.

From content creation to production, we support all the different brands in creating a unified Microsoft story. In the last four years it has evolved from a media relations center to a storytelling portal aimed at consumers.

For example, we created a story about Microsoft's campus, which consists of 115 buildings and uses company technology to monitor everything from a control center. The company got 150,000 page views in the first 48 hours. It got calls such as this one saying, “I'm the governor of this state. I saw this and we want to figure out how we can use this technology to reduce our own costs.” So you're seeing this beautiful storytelling driving a very transactional kind of thing. You're seeing a lot brands going in that direction.

Gioglio (Dunkin'): [This past April], we were at the Boston Marathon with a truck providing coffee samples. After the explosions, we put out a heartfelt message on social media and then we immediately ceased all program posts and media.

The next Friday, when the city was on lockdown, people on CNN started to make jokes saying everything in Watertown, MA, is shut down except for the Dunkin' Donuts. Suddenly we were being pulled into this story. We found out our franchisee in Watertown was providing free coffee and food to the first responders and media. They asked if they could stay open to help serve the police.

We had to figure out how to talk about our brand in a way that didn't pat ourselves on the back. It certainly was in no way about us; it was about the city of Boston, but in some way we served as part of the Boston Strong movement that day with the great work that our franchisees were doing to serve. We did Facebook and social media communications, we opened up in-store donations for The One Fund, and we put up a blog and a post from our CEO about our efforts. Because we are a brand so closely associated with Boston, it was important for us to step up and serve.

Dunn (Share Our Strength): One of our priorities as an organization is making sure kids get breakfast before the school day starts. There are 21 million kids with free or reduced-price school lunch, but only about 10 million of those are getting breakfast as part of the school day. Increasing breakfast enrollment is one of the things we're hoping the school districts do.

Last year, we were the beneficiary of a pro bono study from Deloitte that talked about the long-term benefits of school breakfasts, such as higher standardized test scores, attendance, and graduation rates. My team took the information and created a simple breakfast map where a community could plug in its ZIP code and it would tell you what the benefits are in your community for kids getting breakfast. We also created a unique data set by crowdsourcing what school breakfast looks like in these communities.

In the course of a month we mapped breakfasts for a third of all the public schools in the country. We'll map the rest of them this fall as a second part of the campaign. It helped make the issue more relevant to people locally, but it was also a rallying point on social media.

Blades (DailyCandy): This April, we launched a piece of content called Our Editors' Spring Things. It was a brand new template, with new photo sizes. We thought about the user experience from the very beginning. It was different in the way you interacted with it. Once you clicked through one of the spots, it opened up the flipbook where you could read more about the editor and browse through their products. We also did collages and it had a nice advertising integration. Godiva and Red Bull were part of it. It had a seamless integration that didn't feel at all off-putting for the user.

On the day it launched, our page views per visit increased by 255%. Our readers really responded. Stuff sold out. It really spoke to the DailyCandy voice and brand while also highlighting the editors and their different personalities. We also used some of the same features for our Street Style program [launched in June], such as the browsing feature, and huge flipbooks and images to which people really respond.

Talent pool
Fidelzeid (PRWeek)
: What kind of talent should PR teams be hiring to make sure they stay ahead of the curve on content creation? How do brands build an in-house digital team and utilize outside resources to complement that? How do firms effectively work with clients to create and deploy content?

Patton (WE): The folks whom I've been hiring to support our efforts are digital journalists. Anybody who has that background is accustomed to speed and irregular hours, is good at content creation, and typically is very curious.

Bratskeir (360PR): We're currently making investments in analytics. The right analytics people benefit a campaign from beginning to end. Also, in serving a client or talking to a prospect, it's now so much about measurement and shared goals that when we have that person in the room who can talk about data, it's helping them understand how to do it.

Schneider (Ruder Finn): We've been recruiting digital artists. I'll look for people not necessarily with digital journalism backgrounds, but people who have an outside interest. Perhaps it's a musician, filmmaker, or writer. You need people to understand how to create content and collaborate around creating content, which is tricky. In addition, I'm trying to focus on technologists. They drive a lot of the creativity because they understand how the channels work.

Gioglio (Dunkin'): You need to hire people who understand content and are willing to get their hands dirty and produce on the fly. When I'm coaching agency partners in the field, I tell them to think like walking, talking content producers. I try to give them ideas about creating content around an event that's happening, while trying to figure out how to repurpose it.

Internally, what's really helped us is the formation of a cross-functional social team that spans PR, digital media, advertising, interactive marketing, mobile, and customer service. We meet every Monday and we have our agency partners on the phone. We go over the editorial calendar for the week, what's working, and what's not working. It makes us more nimble, flexible, and able to capitalize on great things that are happening. It's created a more well-rounded social media team, too, because all of us come at it from different expertise areas.

Dando (PBS): We have a meeting like that, too. It's half an hour and it includes everyone who deals with social or digital media, as well as people who are interested in it and don't deal with it. Anyone is invited to this meeting. We go in, learn, and that's been really helpful for us.

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