Last week, Piktochart hosted our first ever Blab! From start to finish, it was surprisingly easy to use the platform to test out a goal we set forth for 2016 ― leveraging new platforms for Piktochart user community activities.
Our team has found Periscope to be an engaging platform for taking users behind-the-scenes of events we host and attend. And we’ve noticed that the traditional long-form webinar is a good place for a deep dive into a niche subject with any expert.
But lately we’ve been seeing a lot of buzz online around one of the newest gotta-have-it-now platforms ― Blab.
Launched in April 2015, Blab is a live streaming platform that enables a public video chat. We’ve observed that Blab is a wonderful platform for interviews and fireside chats. Each Blab can have up to four participants at a time, but this time around, we kept the conversation between one guest and myself.
The best part of hosting a Blab is being able to keep an eye on the lively chat room. Livestream viewers can participate by leaving comments and submitting questions which appear to the host in a special area of the app.
What we did pre-Blab
For our first Blab, we launched an Upvoter page a full week before the scheduled event so our international user base could ask a question or two without needing to be live for the stream.
When we were thinking about who our first guest should be, one of our power users stood out prominently.
Deirdre Breakenridge is an author, entrepreneur and CEO of Pure Performance Communications, and a 25 year veteran in PR and marketing. Deirdre speaks both nationally and internationally on the topics of PR, marketing, branding, and social media.
She is also an adjunct professor and the co-founder of #PRStudChat, a dynamic Twitter chat for PR professionals, educators, and students. Deirdre also hosts the podcast show, Women Worldwide, produced by the Social Network Station. In fact, Piktochart’s CEO, Ai Ching Goh, will actually be a guest in the coming weeks (keep a look out for that).
When we announced the Blab with Deirdre right after New Year, word spread quickly via social channels and our email list. We were thrilled to see we had a growing number of subscribers lined up.
In fact, we had 142 live viewers watch at some point during the 60 minutes we were live! And the replay count since we went offline has been ever-growing too.
The topic of the Blab was “PR Trends for 2016,” and Deirdre was the perfect guest throughout. Using Upvoter, we were able to capture community questions before the Blab and sort them by upvotes from others in the community. By organizing the questions that way, we covered questions that were most valued by the community during our relatively short online event.
We were very excited by the enthusiasm and kindness we witnessed throughout the Blab in the chatroom. Take a look at just a few of the encouraging words from those who were with us live:
— Ai Zhang (@aiaddysonzhang) January 11, 2016
— SurveyGizmo (@SurveyGizmo) January 11, 2016
— Team Blab (@blab) January 12, 2016
What we’ve learned
Before we jump into our recap, we wanted to share three things our team learned about using Blab for those who might be wondering if it’s a good community engagement platform for their startup:
1. Blab’s product design is simply delightful
Throughout the course of our Blab, we uncovered several user-centric and thoughtful features. There’s a great welcoming feature that will pop up in the chat if someone shows up, and it’s their first Blab. With one click, you can welcome the new user. This feature was very helpful when the chat was busy with feedback and questions!
Another great feature is the video embed feature in the Twitter shares. When a user shares the link to the Blab on Twitter using it’s sharing buttons), a short video clip of the time they tweet is embedded within. Here’s how it looks.
— Nathalie Soeteman (@Nathalief) January 11, 2016
2. Internet connectivity problems are no problem with Blab
The internet connection at the coworking space I was broadcasting from was acting up a bit. With a traditional video platform like WebEx, this would be daunting and anxiety-inducing. With Blab, I simply refreshed the browser and popped right back on the Blab.
What could have been an interview-ending roadblock, ended up just being a nuisance to work around. But the content kept rolling.
3. Collecting community submitted questions using Upvoter
Although Blab has a seamless interface for community members to submit questions, we were glad that we used Upvoter to collect questions. First, we were able to generate excitement pre-Blab by creating a page where users could upvote and submit questions.
Second, as great as Deirdre is on the fly, it was beneficial for her to know the questions beforehand so her answers could be as prepared as possible.
Third, real-time questions can be a wildcard at times ― sometimes they are off-topic or are too specific to one niche. For our team, being able to have the most popular questions upvoted to the top of the list was helpful and made for great content.
Below are the questions Deirdre answered live on the Blab. They came straight from the top votes on our Upvoter list. Further down in this post, you’ll see some questions that were either towards the bottom of the Upvoter list, or were asked live in the chat. Deirdre kindly answered these questions even after the Blab was over!
What is the emerging trend in online marketing for 2016?
Deirdre thinks live, real-time platforms are the biggest trend in online marketing for 2016. Brands are using new platforms like Periscope, Blab, and Snapchat to launch new products, introduce users to new promotions, give customers a sneak peek, and leverage influencers.
“There are lots of ways you can connect and get your audience excited, and then have them share. But at the same time, know you have to have a purpose.” ― Deirdre Breakenridge
When looking at a platform like Snapchat, many seasoned professionals aren’t sure exactly what to do with it. Deirdre recommends checking out what big brands are doing to get inspiration.
She points to Wet Seal as an example of leveraging influencers, Victoria’s Secret as an example of how to launch a new product on Snapchat, and Gary Vaynerchuk as an example of an influencer trying out building an audience on Snapchat.
“70 percent of the audience on Snapchat are ages 13 to 25. We have to make sure we are catering to the right folks and have a reason to be on the platform.” ― Deirdre Breakenridge
Deirdre also suggests marketers look at influencer marketing in 2016. She recommends seeking out the people who capture your audience’s attention and trust. “That’s the number one thing with social media. It’s always been about the peers. People trust people first.”
— Marta Olszewska (@gwynethmarta) January 11, 2016
Do you have any PR tips for tech companies to use before they launch their product? What are the best ways to get excitement generated pre-launch?
Deirdre says it’s important to get feedback from users or customers at the beta stage not only from a product development standpoint, but to build a relationship.
“It shows we care. It tells them they are part of the brand and they feel closer,” she explains.
Today, because we have so much information at our fingertips, it is easier than ever to connect with the media. Deirdre suggests signing up for HARO, a site that provides journalists with a robust database of sources for upcoming stories and daily opportunities for sources to secure valuable media coverage. She also suggests creating relationships with analyst firms.
What do you think are effective PR strategies that companies tend to discount?
Deirdre suggests companies go back to the basics when it comes to PR strategies.
“It’s not all about the media hits. It’s not about having big lists. Your strategy is your messaging. What do you stand for? Make sure everyone in the company understands what you are about and what you are trying to communicate.” ― Deirdre Breakenridge
To do this, she suggests building champions internally at your organization. “Employees are so important to you today. Focus on your own base, they are your front line,” she adds.
She also advises that all PR professionals aim to understand data in order to communicate more effectively and make better decisions.
— Danette Swanepoel (@DanetteS101) January 11, 2016
— Marta Olszewska (@gwynethmarta) January 11, 2016
How do you track ROI from PR? What sort of metrics do you set up?
When Deirdre talks to executives, everything tends to tie back to financials. She suggests looking at tracking metrics to determine what the PR team is doing to help to optimize marketing campaigns, lead generation, sales, internal productivity, customer satisfaction, and how the company is innovating.
This means the PR team should be regularly viewing things like website data, CRM data, and lead generation data.
In the world of gotta-have-it-now, what’s your take on real-time platforms like Periscope or Snapchat? How can brands leverage on them?
No matter which platforms you use, most importantly, you must have something to share. For any new platform, make sure you understand who is there, what they want from your brand, and how we can be part of their world.
“Pretty much every college student is on Snapchat. So if you are a brand marketing to that demographic, you should be there.” ― Deirdre Breakenridge
When joining new platforms, Deirdre cautions to be sure you can follow through and have the resources to keep up with the platform: “You don’t want to spread yourself too thin.”
What’s your take on paid media campaigns versus organic partnership opportunities? How would you balance those two?
Deirdre says PR professionals now need to look at a mix of paid, earned, shared, and owned media. Referencing Al and Laura Ries’ book The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR, Deirdre explains that the world of PR used to be about building your credibility first and then companies would use advertising to maintain that credibility.
But today, PR professionals should look at both advertising and organic at the same time. “There are a lot of opportunities in all different places where people are congregating and receiving their entertainment, news, and informations. It’s about allocating your resources effectively,” Deirdre says.
She suggest testing campaigns to determine what’s most effective for your company.
How has PR changed in the few last years? What do you think makes up the core of a good PR strategy?
If media and consumer consumption of news and information changes, Deirdre says PR should definitely change with it. The industry should, she believes, take the best of what they have learned moving forward.
“I’ve always believed in getting out of your silo. Be more integrated with other areas of the company! Now there is a tremendous opportunity to be part of the communication challenges among many departments.” ― Deirdre Breakenridge
If I want to learn more about PR, where are some places I can go online for industry thought leadership?
Deirdre advises those interested in learning more about PR to create a list of your favorite influencers or blogs. Here are some of hers:
- Spin Sucks
- Public Relations Society of America
- Shift Communications
- FIR Podcast
- LinkedIn Pulse
- Twitter and Community chats (such as #PRStudChat)
Deirdre Breakenridge adds that she has a third Lynda course that she just started working on. “It’s about speaking and audiences and will launch in the third quarter of 2016.”
Alltop is another resource Deirdre suggests that you should use to keep track of all the top headlines from popular topics, including public relations, around the web.
How do you feel about social conversations as a business profile vs a personal? Do you think it can seem too commercial?
As an author, consultant, and speaker, Deirdre uses a single Twitter profile she created in 2007. If you have an audience in a niche subject for your personal account, transitioning to talking about a new market for a business venture wouldn’t make sense to that audience.
If your two markets are very separate, Deirdre suggests creating two social channel profiles.
“Whatever you are doing, wherever you are ― you have a purpose. You want to make sure both you understand and those around you understand that purpose and find value.” ― Deirdre Breakenridge
What tools do you use for your podcast? Are there low-cost products I can use to make my own?
Deirdre has been working on her podcast, Women Worldwide, for about a year.
“One of the reasons I got into podcasting was because of some statistics from 2014. For every one woman who podcasts, there are 3,600 female bloggers. And only 13 percent of podcast hosts are women.” ― Deirdre Breakenridge
Do you think startups could afford to not have a strategy around PR? How should growth stage startups think about PR strategy?
Deirdre advises startups to remember that brand messaging and finding your voice within the market is so important. When it comes to choosing an agency or a DIY PR strategy, there are valid reasons for going either way.
As startups are working on a user base, developing a product, and building an internal team, they also need to remember the importance of building credibility, relationships, and developing a message.
Many startups who decide to work with an agency do so because they are launching a groundbreaking technology, making a big announcement in a crowded market, or a well-known executive joining the team. In that case, Deirdre says an agency’s contacts might be of huge benefit to getting the word out.
Bonus questions and answers
Below are Deirdre’s answers to questions that we couldn’t get to in our 60 minute Blab:
Which stakeholders will be the most influential in 2016?
An organization has many important stakeholders, but good communication always starts on the inside. More and more, companies don’t necessarily take the time to educate and empower their own employee champions.
If you want your employees to “live your brand” and to truly embrace your culture, then you have to involve them in the building process, co-creating with them, and providing them with a way to collaborate and innovate together, within your own four walls.
Deirdre says she has heard executives in meetings say employees are not interested in actively supporting the company’s communication efforts. Take a good look at what you’re doing on the inside to inspire your own people.
Do they understand your brand enough to want to be involved and to champion your efforts externally with their friends and through their networks? If you focus on champion building on the inside, then you will find many employees who are ready, willing and able.
Deirdre reminds communicators that they must give internal champions the information, tools, and guidance they need to actually become your biggest supporters.
As such a productive and successful woman, can you please share your time management skills? How could you accomplish so much?
Deirdre says she relies heavily on technology, which has her become organized and much more effective in her communications. “I’m able to find the exact news and information I need daily, both on a personal and professional level.”
Here are some of her top tips:
- Unsubscribe to any unnecessary news and information cluttering your inbox. Email takes precious time to sort. You can also filter emails into different folders, knowing which folders need to be addressed at the start of your day.
- Use social media to find exactly what you need and from the most important sources. “For example, it’s simple to create lists on Twitter of bloggers, influencers and news sources (in separate lists, of course) and then import them into HootSuite. Just by doing this simple step, you’re cutting out the clutter or noise on Twitter.”
- Find a note-taking software. Deirdre says she is a big Evernote fan. “I was just interviewed by James Martin for CIO.com and shared my thoughts on the subject. Here’s the article, if you want to check it out. Even though I’m Evernote loyal, Microsoft OneNote is another option.”
- If you edit documents with colleagues or your peers, Deirdre says she uses Google Drive. “Being able to comment and edit in real-time is a big time saver and also cuts back on email.”
- To increase productivity, Deirdre uses collaborative software and work messaging apps that allow her to communicate and coordinate with work teams. “Slack is one of the newer apps that is a combination of forums, email, and instant messaging all rolled up into one app.”
- “Try Spreeder to improve your reading speed and comprehension. It’s free and you can just add it to your browser.” Deirdre says Spreeder helps her to get through large documents quickly, retaining more information.
- At some point, Deirdre suggests investing in a virtual assistant. “This was a gift to myself after years of trying to manage my calendar and administrative duties. The time you spend in the details is the time you should be “billable” or networking for business opportunities.”
How do you stay updated with the latest PR trends?
With so many sources, staying up-to-date can be an overwhelming proposition. Deirdre thinks knowing exactly where to look for information is key.
“I mentioned on the Blab that I use Alltop.com to find the most important relevant blogs in your industry. There are also great curating tools such at Feedly that can gather the most popular stories and what’s important in your world. And, when you want to capture the highlights of the news (and be entertained at the same time), theSkimm is a brief newsletter capturing important national and international news highlights with links to learn more.” ― Deirdre Breakenridge
Deirdre believes that communicators have to step outside of their comfort zones and go beyond industry news into sources reporting the most recent advancements that affect the world. “That’s why I look for media with the latest tech news and information, including TechCrunch and Mashable.”
Lastly, Deirdre recommends networking and connecting with people who are outside of your own direct PR and marketing circles.
“I watch and learn from the techies, and the futurists. At the same time, I’m a firm believer in learning what’s new by chatting with younger professionals, especially when it comes to technology apps and the latest real-time platforms.” ― Deirdre Breakenridge
The team at Piktochart had a blast during our first Blab! If you are interested in attending our next Blab, come follow us. We’ll be talking about a different subject with a power user each month and we’d love to have you join us!
— Ai Zhang (@aiaddysonzhang) January 11, 2016