Last week, I had the honor of being the special guest and co-moderator of PR Student Chat. Dubbed #PRStudChat on Twitter, this lively Twitter chat is a conversation between public relations students, educators and professionals guided by Deirdre Breakenridge and Valerie Simon. Each month, the community talks about the public relations industry and aims to provide opportunities for learning, networking, and mentoring.
I was on deck this month to talk about my experience with creating creative content to excite communities. Throughout the 60 minutes of the chat, insightful comments were plentiful and I had great conversations with participants. A total of 11 questions were asked. In this post, I will recap not only my answers, but a few of the answers from the community that I found particularly interesting too. In addition, I will give my thoughts on a bonus question posed by community member Staci Mac about how to handle a content faux pas.
Q1: How can you make your content more visual and interactive?
My suggestion was to seek out data as a first step in making content more visual and interactive.
I referenced a blog post from our Head of Design See Mei Chow titled “How to Make Great Charts for Infographics” as a good place to start for inspiration. See Mei suggests starting with your data, then giving it a makeover by including some relevant images. “This may require a little extra work as you will need to put together a few design elements to form a visual story,” she writes. “However, looking at the example below, you can see how a spruced-up graph looks much better compared to a dull one.”
See Mei also used images to compare the number of calories in different meals using a visual gauge, represent numbers with icons, and highlight cities on a map. If you look at your content through the lens of “What could I show?” rather than “What should I tell?”, you might just find ways to include visuals!
Here were other participant responses I found interesting:
Q2: What’s the best way to get started with your content marketing program?
When I saw this question, I immediately thought of a popular post our Head of Marketing Marta Olszewska published titled “Building Trust And Relationships: Why And How We do Content Marketing.”
Marta says our team is constantly experimenting with our own content marketing funnel. We experiment so that we can determine which channels and which type of content are the most effective at different stages of our customer’s journey.This is how it looks like for us today:
In addition to sharing the visual above with the #PRStudChat community, I mentioned that to get started with a content marketing program, the first step is setting up analytics. That way, you know what’s working (and what’s not) and who’s coming to your site. You’re also able to measure progress as you try new things. If you skip setting up analytics, how can you measure effectiveness?
Endya Watson agreed. “Great point. A benchmark is so important!” she tweeted.
Others in the Twitter chat had great things to say as well. Here are some of my favorites:
Q3: What should you include in your content marketing strategy?
I explained that at Piktochart, we start by looking at our audience based on analytics. Once you know who you are marketing to, then it’s time to start crafting your message. The more data we have, the better!
“I love that you start with research on your audience, all based on analytics,” Deirdre Breakenridge tweeted in reply to my answer. “Music to my ears!”
Once the audience is clear and the message is ready to go, it’s time to look at channels for distribution. Where does our audience hang out? Where do they like to connect with us? At times, email is the best way to deliver a certain message to a specific group. Sometimes, that connection is best forged on Periscope. Other times, we find writing a blog post is the best way to connect.
We also constantly ask the question, “What value are we adding?”. This idea doesn’t just apply to content marketing. Igniting new partnerships, building new features, and deciding whether or not to speak at conferences are all times we have to have a clear understanding of what value we’re creating for our community.
Here’s what others thought:
Q4: What are great examples of creative content?
Our team at Piktochart has been getting really creative on the content front lately. One way we are doing this is by focusing on publishing more in-depth content on our blog in order to help our community. We noticed that content we pushed live that focused on inspiration and education topics did best, so we rolled out our 3 pillars of blog content – inspiration, education, and sharing our lessons. More on that process here.
In addition to our focus on Piktochart’s blog, we are trying out emerging platforms like Blab and Periscope to connect with our community. In addition, we are going old school and back to the basics by hosting in-person events in a series we call #PiktoTours.
I also shout out other brands that I think are doing interesting things with their content:
Secretly, I was waiting for everyone else’s responses to this question. I absolutely love checking out what other brands are doing, and this was the community to garner good case studies from. Here are some examples of great content the #PRStudChat participants cited:
Q5: How do you measure your creative content?
When 2016 kicked off, it was goal-setting time for the Piktochart family. This year, my goals revolve around “collisionable events,” a term I picked up being part of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project investment portfolio. A collisionable event is any time where I am out and about and open for connections to users or partners. These collisionable events can happen either in-person or virtually, and I find them by going to conferences, being a member of Slack communities, engaging with people on social channels, or participating in things like this Twitter chat!
For me, community work involves listening and being readily available to hear what’s said on- and off-line. That’s my focus. That’s what I am attempting to measure.
To measure the work effectively, I track the number of collisionable events each month. I’m diligent about recording interactions and partnerships that result from each event. At the end of each month or quarter, I can see if I am on track and meeting the goals I set.
Interestingly, many PR professionals in #PRStudChat had different takes on the question. Many were unsure exactly how to measure creative content within their communities, and others had measurements that might be hard to define.
Others pointed straight to metrics like pageviews or social shares:
And then others had a bigger picture take on the question:
Q6: Who should be on your content marketing team?
Since I joined Piktochart 8 months ago, our marketing team has evolved and grown to become a really solid unit. I noted that in addition to my role, we have a head of marketing, a data scientist, a customer success agent, a social media marketer, a content strategist, a blog editor, our Latin America content head, and a growth hacker. In my opinion, we have a great, well-rounded team!
Here’s how others answered the question:
Q7: How and why should you involve influencers in your content marketing?
It’s important to know when someone with influence is excited by what you’re making. For us at Piktochart, champions are a big focus. To monitor what’s being written about Piktochart online, we use tools like Buzzsumo and Mention. Many partnerships come to pass because we are actively listening all across the internet from social channels and press to obscure blog comments.
Here are other responses that I liked:
Q8: What types of content are the most effective?
At Piktochart, our most effective content is community focused, reflects our values, and empowers users. Some of our messaging is aimed to drive new users to sign up, but that’s not all we talk about. To us, there’s so much more to share. We share design tips from our amazing design team, relaystories from users about what they are working on, and provide education for trends in visual storytelling.
To Valerie Simon, value for the reader and reaching a goal for the content creator are key.
Here are other thoughts that were shared in #PRStudChat:
Q9: Where can you go to get content topic ideas and inspiration?
One thing that we all seemed to agree on was that getting great content topic ideas and inspiration can many times come straight from your audience. It was a sentiment we heard over and over.
Here’s how I answered the question:
Others noted checking out Pinterest, reading up on industry resources, and going through your customer complaints.
Q10: Should you use a mix of content in your program (PESO)?
Having been out of a college PR classroom for awhile now, I wasn’t familiar with the PESO model. Spin Sucks author Gini Dietrich, a top PR thought leader, lays out the “PESO” model for public relations for readers. According to Dietrich, “If you aren’t using the PESO model for your communications work, and measuring the meaningful metrics that help an organization grow, you will not have a job in 10 years.”
After reviewing the model, it makes sense to me. To only focus on one area means you’d be missing many opportunities. Content creators should be incorporating all content that meets objectives and supports values. The key is to measure each piece of content to determine if your objectives are being met.
Here’s what others thought:
Q11: What advice would you give to students and pros about getting creative with content?
Other advice included speaking up, asking questions, listening, being fearless, being yourself, and always looking to learn new things!
Bonus question: How do you handle a “content fail”?
I once was caught in a major content fail for a client when I was freelancing. Without getting too far into specifics, the client and I had an idea for a contest. For many of our community members, it wasn’t perceived as we had intended. There were mean-spirited messages on social media and angry emails coming my way day after day.
Here’s what we decided to do – we kept the contest going for those who were excited by it. We told those who were upset by it that they were heard, and that their feedback would be considered next time around if we decided to do the contest again.
At the end of the day, people create content for other people – and with that comes uncertainty. You never know how people are going to react. Most of us, both content creators and content consumers, just want to have a voice. In my experience, ignoring or silencing voices isn’t productive or effective. Hear people out. Try to empathize with their feelings.
Needless to say, we didn’t do the contest again. The angry voices in the community were loud and were heard. And that’s ok. It’s important to listen to what the community has to say and change course if you made the wrong bet. But, that doesn’t mean you should stop betting.
Thank you to Deirdre and Valerie for inviting me to participate in #PRStudChat! You can keep up with this monthly Twitter chat by following @PRStudChat on Twitter. Do you have a Twitter chat you like? Are you looking for a guest for your upcoming chat? We’d love to hear from you!