PR Audit: A Critical Path to Measuring Success



PR Audit: Measuring for Success

How effective is your PR program? Is your brand reaching the right audience? Is your message resonating? Organizations might understand the importance of measuring their overall share of voice but many fail to audit their PR efforts due to lack of understanding of what the anatomy of an audit should look like. If you’re investing in PR efforts, PR pros need to understand the key elements needed to be as effective as possible in assessing their efforts and creating a powerful PR strategy. I chose this topic because it’s near and dear to my heart. Having managed global agencies for the past 10 years, I’ve come to understand why auditing is a must – not only to demonstrate the power of PR but to understand the gaps that exist so you can align your communication strategy with your organizational strategy. You can’t improve or strengthen your efforts without having visibility into the disconnects. Today, with the vast amount of automated tools out there, it’s important for PR pros to understand the difference between what these tools can do and doing a real assessment that demonstrates true share of voice in the market.

While researching this topic, I found an interesting tidbit in a recent in a blog by Katie Paine’s (@KDPaine)  The Measurement Standard. In the blog, she sites a paper written by measurement maven Louis C. Williams  titled, “Framing Communications Audits to Create Positive Outcomes for Organizations,” by Louis C. Williams. He states: “Few public relations techniques are as mysterious as communication audits. Although the use of them is fairly well known in the industry, seldom has any research been done to determine their ultimate (or, even, their preliminary) value to an organization. Yet organizations continue to spend many dollars on them, hoping they will improve the way communication is conducted within and for the organization.”

Today, the value lies in developing a more sophisticated approach and understanding how an audit might benefit your organization’s strategy, timing, methodology and value expectations. This means aligning your PR goals with organizational objectives. By adopting a consistent auditing process, companies can achieve true visibility into whether their PR efforts are paying off and how they need to adjust. To gain better insight into this process, I turned to my colleague and friend Linda Vandevrede, president and founder of VandeVrede Public Relations, LLC, contributing blogger for Valley PR Blog and PR sensation based in Phoenix.

According to Linda, the purpose of an audit is to take an evaluation of the current public relations process and determine how that maps against the company’s objectives. It will tell you if you’re using the correct strategies and vehicles to reach your goals. She states that the process of an audit is useful because it may unearth issues with something as basic as your messages, and you may decide that you need to tweak your messages rather than your vehicles.  You may even discover that something as simple as your product nomenclature is confusing reporters and customers. It is a valuable tool for unearthing the disconnects that may exist in your PR program.

  • Social media monitoring and PR tools are a dime a dozen. How should organizations approach a PR audit?

The ideal audit includes the face-to-face and/or phone interviews in order to obtain qualitative insights, and the use of social media monitoring tools for quantitative data.

  • Is PR auditing right for every organization? Why is PR auditing important to an organization when you can simply measure impressions from a monitoring tool?

The problem with a monitoring tool is that you can’t always dig down into the whys and wherefores of a particular impression. To supplement automated tools, it’s useful to have conversations in real time with the various audience segments to better understand how they are thinking, as well as to probe for deeper insights. Any company can benefit from a PR audit, regardless of its industry. Particularly in this age of PR 2.0 and conversations, it’s important to understand what people think about you and what is being said about you.

  • How does a PR audit affect your organization’s share of voice in the market?

I have found that many companies think they know what their share of voice is, and what their key messages are, only to learn from the audit that the perceptions are very different. Having a complete PR audit with a written analysis helps you implement customized strategies and tactics knowing that they are based on sound, hard data and not just a gut feeling.  It helps management budget dollars where they are most needed and most effective.

  • Let’s break it down – what are the key steps, or checklist items, to obtain a comprehensive PR audit?

Here is a loose set of steps for a comprehensive PR audit:

    1. Buy-in from management, so they understand why it is being conducted
    2. A personal tour of the company or facilities to get a feel for the “culture”
    3. Compilation of all the various PR materials, including Web and hardcopy, any and all clippings, summary of events that have occurred to date such as open houses, etc.
    4. Formal facilitation meeting conducted with key personnel – these usually take a half-day to a whole day, and review key questions from corporate goals to competitive positioning.
    5. Separate select phone interviews with subject matter experts from the company and related personnel, and influencers (media, customers) for 360-degree feedback.   The influencers’ feedback must be anonymous, i.e. any publication of their comments must not be attributed to the original source when included in the final analysis.
    6. Written analysis based on the formal audit, interviews and review materials, with recommended strategies going forward.   The time elapsed between #1 and #6 usually ranges from 6-8 weeks, depending on how responsive the customers and media are to requests for interviews.
    7. Formal presentation of the results, with follow-up meetings if needed.
  • How can organizations make their PR audit results actionable and make it mean something?

This is often the weakest point of an audit. One team for whom I did an audit wanted to hire me to ensure they had someone to execute on the plan. This is where it really relies on the in-house PR point of contact to ensure upfront that management understands the reason for the audit, and understands that there will be follow-up activities. That point of contact needs to converse frequently with management and update them on the before and after scenarios to prove the value of the audit. Sometimes it helps to bring back in the professional who conducted the audit as an outside force to facilitate.

  • How often should you do a PR audit? Should you outsource or do it in-house?

Audits are helpful every few years, or when there is a major change in an organization, such as a merger or acquisition. They can be performed successfully in-house, but the value of bringing in an outside person or agency is that you then free up the PR contacts to focus on their core responsibilities, as audits are time-consuming. By using an outside person, you also ensure that no one thinks the PR contact has an ax to grind, and many of the target audiences, such as bloggers, customers and reporters, are able to speak more freely and honestly with an outside contact.  They will paint situations and opinions in much more glowing terms when speaking to a company representative.

Other Resources:

Convince and Convert: 4 Ways to Increase Share of Voice

PRSA: Best Practices for PR Measurement in a Difficult Economy

For more information on PR auditing, you can contact Linda at linda@lindavandevrede.com

Welcome to the Dark Side of Social Media

It wasn’t too long ago when companies were chomping at the bit to adopt social media as part of their overall organizational and communication strategy. I can’t blame them – it was all the rage. Blogs and news were abuzz with why and how companies would fall behind if they didn’t jump on the social media bandwagon. Major world-class brands and small companies alike couldn’t get enough of social media – Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. Well, the time has come when we see the dark side of social media. That is, engagement and open communication are being taken to new heights – outside of our control. As with all good things, we have reached a point with social media where we must look at not just the good, but also the bad and the ugly.

A few months back, Nestle took a nasty hit when Greenpeace UK turned against the giant nutrition, health and wellness company, posting a provocative YouTube video calling into question Nestle’s methods for acquiring palm oil. The online attack didn’t stop there. The Greenpeace group launched a full-blown social media attack against Nestle, posting negative comments on the company’s sites and forcing Nestle to answer Greenpeace’s questions. Weeks after the social media backlash, Nestle announced a “non-deforestation” policy in partnership with The Forest Trust (TFT).

Most recently, Intel, one of the largest manufacturers in the electronics industry, was attacked by activists opposed to minerals mining in the Congo. Opponents initiated an attack on Intel’s Facebook page, challenging Intel to pledge its support for a congressional bill that would restrict the import of “conflict minerals” that contribute to fighting in the war-torn country. Intel is highly reliant on a range of minerals. The company, per its long-standing Facebook moderation policy, took down posts they deemed to be “spam” and closed comments for a very brief period, which they reopend shortly after after realizing the significance of the issue. (Per clarification from Intel’s social media strategist Kelly Ripley Feller, Intel did issue an apology immediately following). Please take a moment to read Intel’s blog. For more details on this issue, I would recommend reading Fail to Understand Social Media by Torben Rick.

What now? While most companies may understand the value of social media, what these real-world cases have shown us is that transparency, engagement, communication and open dialogue come with a price. Before you jump on the social media bandwagon, companies must first look internally and look at pros/cons of social media and adopt a social media crisis management policy. Remember – both good and bad news can travel at lightning speed – especially in this social Web 2.0 age. Today, companies that use social media must have a sound policy in place not just for social media but crisis management policy that can help you address these challenges head on.

  • Social Media and Crisis Management Policy

Every company using social media should have a policy in place that includes best practices and dos and don’ts that align with your organizational strategy. Further, companies also need to incorporate crisis management policy that demonstrates the key steps in case a crisis should occur. We call this a social media response plan. This should entail your company’s plans step by step from gathering information to when and how company representatives should respond. 

  • Continuous Monitoring Process

Listening is a discipline – even in the social mediasphere. Every company should have a monitoring process in place to understand who’s talking about your brand, services and products at all times. Daily Twitter search, Bloglines, etc. should be used to monitor your brand every day and flag all positive and negative conversations around your brand. This way, you’re not reacting but can have the upper hand in preparing your Rapid Response Strategy. To do this well, your company should have a list of all the social media channels you’re tracking on a daily basis and share a daily, weekly and monthly social media index.

  • Influencing the Influencers

Your Rapid Response Strategy should include a running list of all your influencers and where they are most active across all social media channels. This way, you can reach out directly to them with your final response or message. This is assuming you have an ongoing relationship with them, which you should, to help extend the brand and message.

  • Rapid Response Plan

This plan is crucial and should reach across your executives, experts, spokesperson(s), PR teams and communication agencies. This outlines your external strategy for responding to the media and social media channels if necessary and explains the process when a crisis occurs, how you’re going to work across teams to cultivate your message and distribute it both internally and externally, including to traditional media outlets.

  • Communication Strategy

While you may be focused on engaging the social media/online communities with your rapid response, don’t forget your employees, partners, shareholders and customers. If a company fails to alert the internal teams (employees), shareholders, partners and customers, it can further damage your brand and customer trust. This can also damage your bottom line with stock shares falling and partners pulling out. Through an effective communication strategy, you can help control the message internally and externally.

Below is a very good crisis communication presentation by Olivgy on Social Media for Crisis Management. I highly recommend you take a look and adopt their best practices. For more information, please feel free to e-mail me at kimvanhorne@gmail.com.

PR Embargo: Dead or Alive? Or, Does it Matter?

Death to PR Embargo

In a recent post by Tech Crunch titled, “The Last has Fallen: The Embargo is Dead,” the tech publication announced that it is killing one of the most sacrosanct of journalism practices — the honoring of PR embargoes. And it’s not just Tech Crunch; it’s other high-profile publications like the Wall Street Journal. This comes after several publications have broken with the tradition of honoring the embargo and have published news prior to the set date/time.

According to Bay Newser, the reason why more publications are not upholding PR embargoes is PR agencies. As they face mounting pressures to show ROI, they’re spamming every news outlet on their target list to get as much coverage as they can. The problem is they’re doing this without a clear strategy.  Every PR professional should know by now that sending out a blind e-mail with the news announcement and the embargo date doesn’t really help earn you quality coverage or increase the volume of coverage.

 On the flip side, news publications are also facing pressure to publish the news first — especially when it comes to major announcements. As my colleague Stephanie Conner with Active Voice would say, the embargo was put in place to combat that so companies can get their news placements across more channels and keep reporters interested — you’re leveling the playing field.

My take is this: It’s really nobody’s fault. It’s just another sign of the times. Now companies are using other mediums, such as blogs and Twitter, to create momentum and buzz around their company or product announcement prior to releasing it via traditional news wires.

I’ve been in the technology space for quite some time and have witnessed firsthand how things have changed. Not only in terms of embargoes, but the types of news that capture a writer’s attention as well. In 2004 when I started at Lumension, then PatchLink, it was all about product news. Our news coverage relied on our products and their new capabilities and enhancements. Since 2007, I’ve seen a slow shift with fewer journalists covering product-specific news.

You also have to remember news is global, making embargoes seem a bit outdated. Don’t get me wrong – there are journalists who still honor the embargo – especially in the UK marketing. While they might honor this old tradition, the news will hit the U.S. first before it gets to the UK or other global markets.

Whether or not you like it, things are changing fast. I don’t believe embargoes are dead, but they are going by the wayside, slowly but surely. Whether you have an embargo in place or not, the quality of the content, strategy and, most importantly, the content, is what will get you maximum results. This is where I remind PR professionals that they need to adapt and evolve. A couple of things to keep in mind as you see more and more publications say NO to embargoes:

  • Determine your news and angle for the release
  • Identify your target audience, and prioritize your target list.
  • Communicate with journalists to gauge what their expectations of an embargo.
  • Never just pitch a product unless you’re Google or Apple. Whether you have an embargo or not, the chance of you getting coverage is greatly dependent on the angle of the news.
  • Get a customer or analyst to back up your story.
  • Get multi-media rich. Use video or written blogs, podcasts and whitepapers. This way, you have a multi-level message.
  • Drive a poll. Use a Twtpoll or LinkedIn poll to gauge the community’s take on the product/pain/challenges and create your own news hook prior to the launch.
  • Consider product slideshows. Do a five- to seven-slide PowerPoint slideshow with strong graphics that publications can run.

We recently launched our Lumension® Risk Manager. It’s a Compliance and IT Risk Management Solution to help simplify compliance complexities and help reduce overall total cost of ownership. The old-school thinking would have been to just write up a news release and send it out under an embargo to our target list. While we were focused on the product, I developed a strategy around creating content that showed how our product addresses issues that businesses face today. Here’s what we did:

  • Pre-buzz building exercise that included a blog series:
    • Blog Q&A with two leading industry analysts on key challenges and how the market demands were shifting
    • Blog Q&A with a customer who was testing the product.
    • Twtpoll – Run a poll on Twtpoll and LinkedIn and use the results as a news hook
    • Whitepaper – developed a whitepaper titled “5 Ways to Reduce Your Audit Tax Burden”
    • Video – interviewed our company experts on this topic about these issues

By having rich content available prior to the launch and an integrated approach with other marketing tactics, we created buzz around this product launch, and we included the multi-media links within the release. We earned 15 total pieces of standalone coverage and two pieces of product news coverage. A majority of our coverage centered on key issues and trends and how our product really helps solved those issues.

I leave you with this quote by Ted Levitt: “Just as energy is the basis of life itself, and ideas the source of innovation, so is innovation the vital spark of all human change, improvement and progress.”

Make a difference. Don’t be a sitting duck. Leverage innovative thinking and spark a new approach to driving coverage.

Social Media Reshaping Journalism… How Will You Cope?

social-media-evolutionAccording to a blog called Simple Zesty, there are 10 industries that will be revolutionized by social media – print media, politics, television, hospitality, sports, music, recruitment, advertising, PR, and shopping. With the availability of Web 2.0 tools such as YouTube, Twitter, etc. the power to create, publish and syndicate content no longer resides to only the news publication and journalists.  Today, we have the capability to custom create and communicate our own editorial content to influence the way the online community digests and disseminates information in real time. Prior to Web 2.0 adoption, consumers had to wait to get information on the latest news and information from your print and broadcast news. Now, we, the masses, have become writers and content creators from all walks of life, spreading information in real time. People are becoming social journalists in their own right to publish photos and stories from their points of view. For instance, real time terrorism was captured on Twitter by the actual users trapped inside the hotel that was bombed by terrorists in 2008, which catapulted Twitter to new heights.

 

The revolution in Iran – some of the most riveting and thrilling reporting was done via Twitter by a university student in Tehran who goes by the moniker Tehran Bureau. So what does this say about the changing landscape of the news media? Will social media change the way journalists adopt, connect, engage, and disseminate information to the rest of the world? Will this change affect the way PR/Communications and marketing pros connect and communicate with the media? One reporter, Del Jones (http://twitter.com/jonesdel) of USA TODAYwhom I’ve been following closely on Twitter, is one clear example of someone who gets it and understands how to harness the power of social media to look at the emerging trends and ride the way with the rest of us. Through social media, he engages, connects and collaborates with his online community.  He is someone who is authentic and transparent in his approach to social media (two key traits I admire most). In this blog Q&A, I ask Del about how he came to embrace social media and some key tips on ways for us PR professionals to approach reporters via social media platforms.

What prompted you to join the social media craze?  

I’m sure my high school class would have voted me the least likely to succeed in social media (had they had any clue).  I still don’t use Facebook or LinkedIn, although I’m registered on both. I was a complete Twitter skeptic, but I have a counter-intuitive streak in me. Twitter was growing and I needed to know why. So, when I had some time on my furlough (yes, three weeks of unpaid leave), I decided to devote 1-2 hours to figure it all out (ha ha). Months later, I’m still trying to figure the thing out, but I’m hooked to the point that my editor would probably fire me if I didn’t have so many followers (so please don’t unfollow me). I’ve also threatened to reveal personal information about him on Twitter if he fires me, so the social media craze is really all about having your own printing press should revenge become absolutely necessary. 

How is Web 2.0 changing the media landscape? Is that a good thing or bad thing?

I’m a free market person, so if people find value in reading anything, then it’s good. The only thing I object to is the wholesale plagiarism that goes on. Blogs will cut and paste entire stories I’ve written, never bothering to link back to USA TODAY. If they want to help USA TODAY pay my salary, then maybe they can steal my intellectual property (yeah, I know intellectual in my is a stretch, but you know what I mean).

How should journalists approach Web 2.0 and how transparent can they be?

This is a touchy point. I push it far more than most journalists, most who will still seem to think they are above it all and won’t post anything that isn’t a link or some boring factoid. I’ve been called into the boss’ office for going too far. They didn’t like it when I started giving out free online subscriptions to USA TODAY to my special followers (the joke being that the dot-com site is free to all). I’ve always been a believer in the “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission” model. When it comes to Twitter, it’s always easy to dial it back but I’ll continue to push the envelope. If I don’t tweet for a month, it will be because my 401K went down even more and I really need my job.

Many USA TODAY reporters are afraid of getting on Twitter. They have been made gun shy by the reader comments below our stories on the Web page, which are full of venom. I find the culture on Twitter to be the opposite of people who bend over backwards to be nice.

Are policies different for journalists than corporations?

From what I’ve read, USA TODAY is actually very liberal in its policies compared to most. It amazes me that media outlets that are built on the first amendment are the first to take it away from their reporters. Shame.

How does this change in terms of engagement for PR and marketing professionals when it comes to connecting and building relationships with the media?

It’s been very good for me. I get a few pitches on Twitter, which I ignore as I do pitches on email (unless, of course, I’m interested). However, it has allowed me to put forward a human face to PR people, who before Twitter, thought I lived in a dungeon. It’s nice not to always feel mean. I like to compare Twitter to the Lion’s Club Luncheon of old. Business types would show up. They all wanted to sell something to everyone, but nobody did any selling at the luncheon. Rather, they just got to know each other so that selling could be accomplished sometime down the road. Twitter greases the wheels.

Is social media/networking hindering or helping the media community?

Helping those who are good at employing it. 

When it comes to pitching, what are your key recommendations for PR/marketing professionals?

Pitch away. There is no formula. Most pitches I don’t like and there are a few I like a lot. Then, there is a huge amount that I don’t like much but have something to it. I hang on to a lot of emails until I figure out an angle that I’m interested in pursuing. PR people sometimes get an email from me a year later after they send a pitch. I prefer email pitches because I have developed a system for saving the emails I want so that I can find them down the road. I rarely respond to them, however, because I don’t like to get into a long discussion about why I don’t like their story pitch. It’s a question I really can’t answer. It’s my gut instinct.

social-media-dialog-participationJones makes a great point that social media is changing the way even journalists communicate and connect with people. From my point of view, I can’t say whether all journalists should adopt the social media tools to connect with people, but I do believe that just like with anything, only by listening to what people are saying can journalists really understand what we’re looking to hear and learn from them. Just like the “push” tactic of marketing and PR has changed the way we communicate with our audience, it too has changed the way journalists disseminate news to their audience.  Vice versa…PR and marketing pros need to understand how social media is changing the news media landscape. We must embrace this shift and learn how to connect with them in new ways in order to reach and connect with them.  

A few tips on how to connect and approach reporters and analysts on Twitter:

  • Research your target audience – trade and business reporters as well as analysts
  • Follow them on Twitter and their blogs consistently
  • Engage – follow their content on Twitter and their blogs and comment if relevant
  • Participate – keep an ongoing dialogue with them even if they don’t follow you.
  • Provide feedback and input using traditional tactics - provide news that would be relevant to them and the stories they cover.  Write compelling news pitches that could add value to their current or future stories and learn what they are working on so you can contribute.
  • Link it – as Del mentioned, if you have a blog, look at their stories and write a post that references or links back to their blog or story and post it on Twitter
  • NEVER blindly pitch a reporter on Twitter (unless you have a good relationship with them)

Another good read by Mashable: Social Journalism: Past, Present and the Future.

Do you agree? Let me know what you think.

Adding eBooks to the B2B Marketing Mix: Success Story

7 Things Every CEO Should Know About IS_Blog_Image

7 Things Every CEO Should Know About IS_Blog_Image

David Meerman Scott once said that an ebook was the “hip and stylish younger sister to the nerdy whitepaper”… it lends a hip to content and message you’re trying to communicate to your audience.  As part of our thought leadership campaign, we launched an ebook titled 7 Things Every CEO Should Know About Information Security and the success was tremendous.

Below is an interview I did with Stephanie Tilton (@StephanieTilton) with Savvy B2B Marketing on successful tips and key steps to launching an ebook to elevate your thought leadership, brand and company profile as well as enhancing SEO.  See below:

 

 

Post originally appeared on Savvy B2B Marketing www.savvyb2bmarketing.com.

Q. What prompted Lumension to produce an eBook in addition to white papers?

A. B2B marketers have traditionally used white papers to share content. While they’ve been effective for lead-generation purposes, white papers tend to be heavy on content, many times replete with marketing jargon and industry terms.

Web 2.0 prompts us to “open up our kimonos” in terms of how we produce, publish, and syndicate content. Given that content is king, today’s marketers must think like publishers and produce compelling, thought-provoking content. Then they need to leverage tools such as eBooks to generate interest and make the ideas go viral and easy to syndicate.

At Lumension, we wanted to focus on thought leadership as a way to elevate our brand. But we didn’t want to just produce and sit on that content. We wanted to syndicate it to influential bloggers and journalists, as well as to prospects, with the hope that it would go viral.

White papers don’t typically go viral because they sit behind a registration page. My boss, C. Edward Brice, recommended the eBook concept as a way to make it more interactive, content-rich, and viral. Before getting started, we turned to David Meerman Scott, one of the best thought leaders in this space in terms of how to create content and make it go viral. David boiled eBook best practices down to three things: make it easy to read, make it informative, and make it educational.

Lumension is always trying to be on the cutting edge in terms of how we market our content. We decided to publish an eBook since no one in the industry is doing it. The result was 7 Things Every CEO Should Know about Information Security (http://www.lumension.com/landing.spring?contentId=142632).

Q. What do you think of David Meerman Scott’s statement in The New Rules of Viral Marketing (http://www.davidmeermanscott.com/documents/Viral_Marketing.pdf) that the eBook is the “stylish younger sister to the nerdy white paper”?

A. In my opinion, the eBook is the new white paper – it lends a hip air to content. If you properly adopt the guidelines for eBooks, you’ll end up with a stylish piece that’s easy to read and navigate. An eBook should include sophisticated graphics and multimedia links, and be structured for easy digestion, such as by liberally using bullets, callouts, and share buttons. The structure of an eBook makes it much easier to share. These days, everyone is on the Web, sharing information via various tools and communities. You’re much more likely to see an eBook passed around than a white paper. That’s largely because people can access it freely, without providing any information in exchange.

Q. How did the process for developing and promoting your eBook differ from promoting and producing a white paper?

A. First of all, the writing style is completely different. It has nothing to do with marketing or industry jargon. Again, you want to make it simple to read and understand. As far as production, you want to make it a one-stop shop for all related resources.

A writer interviewed our Chairman and CEO Pat Clawson to gather the key points. We also interviewed influential analysts such as John Pescatore of Gartner, Inc. as well as C-level customers to get their perspective on gaps that exist today when it comes to information security. Then we worked with our creative director and a marketing agency – Spark Design (http://www.sparkdesign.com/) – to produce the eBook itself. The agency helped us structure the eBook and embed rich multimedia, with links to video interviews. Within each chapter, you can click on various links that take you to interactive features that give you a better sense of our CEO. We worked with a local videographer to shoot the video of our CEO, and then we uploaded it to YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/LumensionSecurity) in time for our eBook launch.

Having said that, it’s not necessary to go through an agency. There are plenty of online tools that enable you to format an eBook. If you’re on a budget, you can get it formatted for free at ChangeThis (http://www.changethis.com/).

As far as promotion goes – you can’t think about it as a one-time hit. eBook content can live and get shared for a long time. When you’re pushing out an eBook, you need to be committed to making others aware of it. That means you need to support a variety of activities on the outreach side.

We took a three-pronged approach to promotion. First, we gathered key stakeholders to come to a consensus on the marketing plan and how we’d measure success. Because we wouldn’t require registration, we decided to measure success based on the number of downloads from the microsite as well as the number of video views on YouTube.

Next, our corporate communications group sent out advance copies of the eBook to key analysts and media contacts so they could preview and write about it, and provide feedback. We also reached out to industry bloggers and social media leaders like David Meerman Scott and asked for their feedback.

We had our CEO talk to a local CEO/CFO group as well as TechConnect on why CEOs needed to get on the ball and get involved in Information Security. We also gave out USB sticks with the eBook on them at all major security and CEO events. Plus, we had our creative director design a button for easy, on-demand download, which we added to our homepage and email signatures. We also added the button to Ed Brice’s blog (http://marketinggimbal.typepad.com/) and most Lumension employees with LinkedIn accounts added it to their profiles.

Finally, we created a dedicated landing page/microsite that made it possible to track the viral component. We shared the link with analysts, our channel partners, prospects, and customers – essentially every touch point. All our employees included the link in their email signatures. We also included the link in Cindy Kim’s blog (http://cindykimblog.wordpress.com/). We also sent out dedicated emails from the corporate marketing side promoting the eBook and included a link to it in our monthly nurturing newsletter. Plus, we distributed a social media press release that talked about the challenges CEOs face amid the security threat landscape and introduced the eBook. We even included the video of our CEO at the end of the press release (http://www.prweb.com/releases/information/security/prweb1252324.htm).

Q. Has the response been different than what you’ve experienced with your white papers?

A. Since launching the eBook, it’s been downloaded over 7,000 times, and the CEO video on YouTube has been viewed more than 5,000 times. We’ve heard positive responses across the board, from the media, analysts, prospects and customers. It’s important to remember that our goal was not lead generation. It was not about selling our products or pushing marketing messages. We are using this platform to elevate and build brand awareness by educating. Having said that, we can figure out the source of downloads through the links in the eBook. By providing a dedicated link on our landing page, we can pull the analytics from our Omniture analytics tool to see how many times the eBook was viewed and downloaded.

One thing to note – eBook content should not include marketing promotions or sell the company or its products. The eBook is really about delivering premium content to educate around a key issue. This helps to validate your company’s expertise and thought leadership.

Q. How has the response impacted your future marketing plans?

A. To date, we’ve published only white papers. But going forward, we’ll publish a balance of white papers and eBooks. For lead generation, we will continue producing white papers. These will likely be for technical topics and to drive the nurturing process. Having said that, eBooks don’t have to be limited to thought leadership topics. Even if the topic is technical, an eBook makes it easier to digest. Plus you can embed links to so much other valuable content. I recommend all B2B marketers migrate to eBooks.

Q. What can other B2B marketers learn from your experience producing and promoting your eBook?

A. When putting a process in place, think beyond the eBook. You can share your content across multiple channels, such as byline articles, blog posts, videos repurposed on YouTube, etc. Whether you produce a white paper or an eBook, think about how you can syndicate it, share it across communities, and encourage peer-to-peer sharing.

Today’s marketers need to collaborate with thought leaders to create and promote great content. By teaming with leaders, you can take advantage of the power of two – those folks will tweet and blog about your content.

Q. Can you give us a sneak peek of your next eBook?

A. We’re working on another thought leadership piece about the evolving security landscape. Specifically, we will be getting large enterprises as well as small and medium businesses to consider how their security blueprint needs to change to deal with cybercriminals. It will be 10-15 pages long, and include links to video and a cartoon “skit”, which is like storytelling via a cartoon instead of a live person. To get an idea of what that’s like, check out Powerhouse PR (http://www.powerhouseanimation.com/PR/POWERHOUSE_PR.html). I’ll be tweeting about the new eBook as soon as it’s out the door, so be sure to watch for it!

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