How Companies and Brands Can Capture Their Audience and Keep Them

Curator Intern Blog Series

By Lauren Macalalad, PR Intern

The rapidly changing digital ecosystem requires companies and brands to change with it. The endless – and at times overwhelming – flow of content and information on websites and social channels have caused me to ignore much of what I see simply because it all seems the same or doesn’t stand out. I have even come to believe that it has shortened my attention span to the point where I can barely stand to read a two-page article, and I find myself resorting to skimming the material instead. Like me, digital users are constantly altering how they react and respond to content, as well as how they navigate online sites, in order to keep up with ever-changing digital platforms.

When Facebook first came out, I would look at virtually all posts since my feed only consisted of my friends’ activities. However, with time comes change and the changes to not only Facebook, but other social channels as well, have made it difficult to filter what pops up on your feed. There is a nonstop stream of posts, advertisements, suggestions and links, among many other things, fighting for users’ attention. From here on out, it will only become more difficult for companies and brands to successfully reach their target audience, unless they implement the best practices to capture their audience and keep them engaged.

Below are three strategies companies and brands can use to stand out online.

1. Always provide an attractive and compelling visual to the story, social post, advertisement or whatever it may be. It is almost an unspoken rule at this point, but sometimes companies will use a visual that either doesn’t add much to the message or even distracts and subtracts from it. A recent blog post published on My Content Co explained that our brains are biologically wired to register and respond to visual content, while Inc. presented a list of statistics that highlights the powerful effects visuals have on user activity on several different platforms, thus making clear how influential visuals really are. A picture, video or design that is aesthetically pleasing and nicely complements the company’s message will ensure online recognition, even among an endless stream of content.

2. Convey the message in a brief and concise manner. No one likes to be overwhelmed with text on a page (unless you’re purposefully seeking out a thorough, scholarly research article). It is crucial to consider formatting and how it may affect the audience’s ability or motivation to consume content. Examples of formatting that make information easily digestible include bullet-pointed lists, short-sentence paragraphs and infographics.

3. Utilize social media or online listening tools to help track and evaluate post analytics. These numbers actually mean business and if you’re not paying attention, you probably don’t have the attention of your audience. Several social media platforms already make it easier for businesses to track how well their posts are reaching customers, like Facebook and Instagram. Other helpful sites to get you started are Hootsuite, Google Analytics and Klout. Use these analytics to strategize what and when you post to increase reach and engagement. The data is your guide and can help steer your company and online activity in the right direction.

Ensuring that content and messaging is consistent, concise and compelling will help companies and brands stand out among the millions of other articles and ideas floating around the digital world. Not only will the implementation of these three strategies simply improve content, but it also has the potential to make sure more people actually see that content. In a time where we are overloaded with posts, links and advertisements, it’s important to make it easier for your audience to find and consume your content, otherwise they will scroll right past it.

This blog was written as a part of Curator’s Intern Blog Series. The author, Lauren Macalalad, is a senior at the University of Washington studying communication, Spanish and diversity. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Brands and Influencer Marketing: Activating allies who consumers trust

Last week, I attended a BusinessWire lunch on influencer marketing and PR. Serena Ehrlich, BusinessWire’s director of social and evolving media, discussed the ever-evolving world of influencer marketing and led a great discussion on how brands are (and should) engage with influencers.

Influencer marketing encompasses the efforts by brands to build relationships and engage in partnerships with key individuals who have considerable influence over a desired audience or groups of people. To be clear, influencer marketing isn’t new in the world of PR. There have always been people whose opinions carry considerable weight or inspire others to action. However, the social/digital piece might be something brands haven’t tried yet.

For those brands that haven’t dipped their toe into influencer marketing, it’s important to understand that influencer relations is a natural offshoot to more traditional PR activity. A good PR team should include both influencer and media relations as part of their recommended strategy. The same creative, tenacious and targeted storytelling skills that help secure great media coverage will also help build engagement with the right influencers.

Here’s a data point that can’t be ignored: According to the 2015 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report, 66 percent of worldwide respondents reported to “completely or somewhat trust” the recommendations of editorial coverage (the product of traditional media relations). Those surveyed said their level of trust went up to 83 percent when the recommendation comes from a third party (an influencer). Folks are 17 percent more likely to trust someone whose opinion they hold in high regard than they are to trust a traditional article in a magazine or newspaper. That’s huge.

At Curator, we’re big believers in the power of influencers. In 2016, our client Ably launched a line of technologically advanced clothing that repels liquids, stains and odors. They knew the revolutionary clothing would appeal to travelers who thrive on adventure, so our team rolled up our sleeves and researched the top influencers who were out there creating inspiring digital and social content about their travel adventures. Then, we worked to get Ably’s clothing into their hands and encourage them to give it a try. We negotiated both paid and earned relationships. Traditional media relations was key to generating widespread awareness for Ably, but influencers added a layer of credibility from real people who could talk about how the products performed during their travels. They shared compelling testimonials from their blog or social media channels and that content inspired site visits and drove sales.

Whether the client’s goal is to increase sales or website traffic, gain social media followers or inspire app downloads, consumers are more likely to take action based on the recommendation from someone in their life they trust. Brands that create a place for influencer marketing in their marketing strategy (and their marketing budget) are setting themselves up for success. In a world full of skeptics, it is imperative for brands to connect with the issues, activities and people their audience cares about. Influencers are a powerful way to make that connection.

Are We Witnessing the End of Snapchat?

FEATURED IMAGE: BRYCE DURBIN/TECHCRUNCH

FEATURED IMAGE: BRYCE DURBIN/TECHCRUNCH

Curator Intern Blog Series

By Aleximie Holleaux

Last week, Instagram added “face filters” to its stories feature, taking yet another swing at the Snapchat empire. Could this be the final coup that makes Snapchat bow down to Instagram owner and social media giant, Facebook?

The rivalry between the two social media giants is not recent and, in fact, only seems to be growing. Last August, Instagram added “stories" to its platform and now the filters are eerily similar to Snapchat’s lenses, both in how they function and in how they look. Instagram is not denying that they are copying Snapchat, and CEO Kevin Systrom even claimed, "Snapchat has all the credit". When looking at the situation from Instagram’s perspective, it’s clear they see this decision as a no-brainer. Given the app is trying to bring more people together and be a one-stop shop for users looking to share moments of their lives in innovative ways, face filters are a must-have. In fact, the strategy seems to be working extremely well for Instagram. Since the app’s latest update, the app has seen its number of daily users rise to 200 million compared to Snapchat’s declining 165 million users a day.

By cloning Snapchat’s lenses, Instagram isn’t taking away from the popularity of face filters, but rather the exclusivity of the feature that was once only available to Snapchat users. Although loyal snapchatters have yet to switch to Instagram stories, the impact is seen among new users who are now less likely to download Snapchat in the first place. I can see why that would be the case. Why download two separate apps, when you can get both in one?

Influencer content is also impacted by the updates as influencers are found to prefer Instagram stories over Snapchat stories. While the reasons for their preferences aren’t clearly defined, it’s safe to assume there are three main factors: Instagram reaches a bigger audience, is more user friendly and allows users to share external URLs. All are very important to people trying to promote a business and increase following. Not to mention, this makes engaging with followers or fans easier, more personal and more interactive. 

Despite the growing popularity of Instagram, Snapchat is not dead yet and the rivalry is far from over. The little ghost we’re all familiar with is still more advanced technologically, and the time spent per user on the platform still remains higher than that of Instagram users.

Why is this important for PR professionals to understand? Simply put, it confirms that social media platforms are ever changing and persevering to surpass one another. PR professionals, influencers and general users alike need to constantly be on the lookout for changes. The world of media relations is changing largely because of the advancement of social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram. Users are no longer solely sourcing their facts, inspirations or news from traditional media outlets, but rather interactive, social landscapes. That being said, professionals need to understand the inner workings of each platform, how people are using these channels and when it’s appropriate to message via these apps in order to garner the biggest impact. Not to mention, they need to pay close attention to the updates social media platforms are making across the board, in order to stay on top of trends and further tailor projects and outreach to accommodate these ever-evolving channels. While researches continue to share data such as the best time of day to post and what kind of messages should be shared across which platforms, it’s important PR professionals do their own research so they can stay ahead of those studies and ensure their messages reach their target audience.

This blog was written at a part of Curator’s Intern Blog Series. The author, Aleximie Holleaux, is a senior at the University of Washington studying communication. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter 

Conversations with those on the front lines: Jess Estrada of Fresh Jess

Over a glass of rosé (because it’s finally feeling like spring), we met with Jess Estrada to find out what has changed in the Seattle blogging world since 2009 when she first began her blog Fresh Jess. We learned Jess’ social media pet peeve, what’s currently inspiring her and the surprising thing she wishes more brands did.

Here are a few key takeaways from our conversation!

·        As more people work to position themselves as social influencers, some are building a following through paid methods or bots. Jess prefers to grow her following organically. Her online community illustrates authentic content and engagement.

·        Jess is inspired by people (influencers or otherwise) and brands who are willing to talk about what matters to them in the midst of such a divisive climate, while still living life with joy and optimism.

·        Jess’ weekly local events roundup is one of the most popular features of her blog, allowing her to broaden her appeal to a larger audience of readers.

·        Often brands and PR agencies come to influencers with a specific and pre-planned ask, hoping to make the partnership simple and straightforward. Jess, while appreciating the intent, desires more opportunities to creatively collaborate with brands and to brainstorm together on partnership ideas.

This is the fifth and final blog post in our series on people who are on the front lines of the changing media landscape. If you missed the first four posts in the series, get caught up on insights from the Puget Sound Business Journal, The Evergrey, Seattle Gents co-founders and Obsessed by Portia.

Conversations with those on the front lines: Coral Garnick of Puget Sound Business Journal

During a recent office happy hour, we met with Coral Garnick, retail and healthcare reporter at Puget Sound Business Journal. Coral loves finding out what makes people who they are, which drew her to journalism and storytelling. Her career began at The Seattle Times where her extensive writing experience landed her at PSBJ in 2016. We discussed the best and most challenging aspects of her job, the evolution of digital journalism and Coral’s favorite stories of the past year.

Here are a few key takeaways from our conversation with Coral.

· As an online daily publication with a weekly print edition, on average, Coral writes three web stories a day. The news cycle moves fast, so she values efficiency, particularly when it comes to getting access to newsmakers.

· Exclusives matter. Receiving a press release that every other publication in Seattle is receiving isn’t as exciting when making editorial decisions.

· Readers want to hear from company leaders. For Coral, speaking with a CEO for five minutes is preferable to half an hour with a director of communications.

We are ending our “Conversations with those on the front lines” series with one of Seattle’s original bloggers, Jess Estrada of Fresh Jess. Check back to find out how she’s been thriving as a blogger for the past nine years!

* This is the fourth blog post in our series on people who are on the front lines of the changing media landscape. If you missed the first three posts in the series, get caught up on insights from The Evergrey, Seattle Gents co-founders and Obsessed by Portia.

Instagram Fitness: Let's Work It Out!

Photo credit: Tone It Up

Photo credit: Tone It Up

Curator Intern Blog Series

By Aleximie Holleaux, PR Intern

The fitness trend has been blowing up on Instagram for months and the real question is: How did they manage to make burpees so popular?

On a personal level, I have always been eager to be in shape, but found working out to be a hassle and I didn’t want to give up my usual delicious food for healthy eating. Well, I’m happy to say I now look forward to my Monday squats and Wednesday crunches, and it’s all because of Instagram. The platform has proven to be extremely helpful in jumpstarting my wellness journey, and also the lifestyle transformations of millions of other users.  What makes fitness gurus and personal trainers such as Kayla Itsines and Tone It Up’s Karena & Katrina so successful on Instagram? Here are two simple explanations:

1) The message has changed.  The word “fitness” used to carry negative connotations, and meant that success equaled losing weight and fixing bad eating habits. Today, fitness trainers are encouraging positive body image and loving yourself as you are. Success is no longer measured by numbers on a scale, but by how you feel on the inside. Fitness and mindfulness now go hand-in-hand. Here is an example of a popular fitness instructor who “wants you to see a photo of her ‘belly rolls’” to show you how you should approach your fitness journey: by empowering your body not punishing it.

2) It’s all about community. Today’s world is very media-based and influencers are making an impact across the board, from daily lifestyle preferences to Coachella fashion and the Fyre Festival fiasco. Fitness Instagram-ers understand the power of social media and are using it for the better, creating communities in which people support one another in their journey to be healthier. By joining these groups, people have shown to stay on target with their fitness goals because they have more support and are held more accountable for their actions. Kayla Itsines, who started the BBG empire and Sweat with Kayla Program, started the #bbgcommunity, which now includes millions of people across the world.

The way social media fitness is growing is providing PR specialists with a prime example of how users, customers and possibly their clients' target audience engage with certain social trends, and how building a community around a positive message inspires conversations among people all around the world. Simply put, this example of how Instagram fitness influencers have taken the world by storm can correlate to the PR industry and how brands will build and engage with their audiences: build a community that provides support, empowerment and positive thinking.

This blog was written at a part of Curator’s Intern Blog Series. The author, Aleximie Holleaux, is a senior at the University of Washington studying communication. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.  

Conversations with those on the front lines: Anika Anand from The Evergrey

We recently had lunch with Anika Anand, co-founder of The Evergrey, a new online media platform focused on connecting Seattle’s curious locals. We discussed her transition out of traditional journalism, her approach to storytelling and what made her fall in love with our city. Since its launch in October 2016, creating a new and fresh space for Seattle stories and connectors, The Evergrey has hosted numerous events and attracted a highly engaged community of daily newsletter subscribers.

Here are a few key takeaways from our conversation with Anika.

· Approach storytelling based on your audience’s curiosities. Anika says they realize people want more than just straight reporting on politics; they want to read about how policies are going to affect them and those they care about. They don’t want to read a transportation story; they want to know how their morning commute is going to change due to new construction. This approach creates very reader-responsive content.

· Anika also said that a less traditional platform like The Evergrey can share stories through casual, less polished videos, allowing for of-the-moment and simple storytelling.

· Often, what’s lost in print or online stories is interaction with readers. Sharing stories creatively through social media invites reciprocal conversations for people to comment, like and share local content that matters to them.

· Local journalism matters. While national outlets have larger reaches, local outlets have the unique ability to help orient and connect people with their city and to each other.

Next, we'll be sharing conversation highlights with Coral Garnick, retail reporter at the Puget Sound Business Journal, so hurry back.

* This is the fourth blog post in our series on people who are on the front lines of the changing media landscape. If you missed the first two posts in the series, get caught up on the influencer insights from the Seattle Gents co-founders and Obsessed by Portia.

Takeaways from PRSA Puget Sound’s Jumpstart at Edelman

Curator Intern Blog Series

By Lauren Macalalad, PR Intern

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in PRSA Puget Sound’s annual Jumpstart, a one-day event that brings together current PR professionals and aspiring PR professionals. The day was filled with intriguing presentations by current and former PR practitioners, a panel of local media, roundtable sessions and numerous opportunities to advance personal and professional development, and I’m really glad I went. Attending Jumpstart reaffirmed why I wanted to pursue public relations, and reminded me of the inclusive community of communicators and that there are always new opportunities to meet others and expand your network. After listening to and speaking with several key speakers from Jumpstart, including Jane Dvorak, national president of PRSA; Tim Smith, president of PRSA Puget Sound; and Dan Lee, vice president of PR talent in Seattle, I spent some time reflecting on what I learned.

Below are my three takeaways from Jumpstart.

The PR industry is rapidly changing.

What we know now may or may not be relevant in the next five or so years, as emphasized by PRSA Puget Sound president Tim Smith. My college major may not directly translate into my future occupation but, with that said, now is definitely an exciting time to be joining the public relations industry. Just as the digital landscape is changing, the PR field is growing right alongside it. Increased use of social media by companies, as well as rapid growth of partnerships between brands and influencers are key indicators of the constantly-changing PR industry, and as these changes continue to develop, our job as PR practitioners is to master ways to navigate through them.

PR knowledge can be applied to many different fields and disciplines.

Jasmine Goodwin, one of the presenters at Jumpstart, focused on integrated marketing, a discipline that combines PR with sales, advertising, graphic design, social media and many other practices. Throughout Jumpstart, and from previously talking to other professionals, I realized that PR could be applied to many different fields, such as traditional paid marketing, copywriting, owned content strategy, digital marketing, etc. The skills and knowledge gained from PR work is extremely valuable in the sense that it lays the foundation for many other practices, making PR a very critical and advantageous type of work to have under your belt.

It is important to invest in yourself and your career.

Investing in personal and professional development is always a good idea. This means you should proactively seek out new opportunities to experience and new people to meet, especially those who are willing to help you be successful. At Jumpstart, I challenged myself to talk with as many people as I could, including students from other schools. Initiating conversation with someone is one thing, but keeping in touch and maintaining that connection is another. Introducing yourself and getting to know the other person is always the first step. Additionally, Jumpstart held a raffle and many prizes were coffee meetings with PR professionals and books related to PR, communication strategies and the media, and I was completely willing to put forth some cash for a chance to connect with and learn from professionals. In the end, I knew that I was investing in myself and it was a much better use of my money than a venti iced caramel macchiato. 

Overall, my time at Jumpstart was incredible, to say the least. I left with more excitement for my career ahead, new professional contacts, a head full of knowledge and a handful of business cards. Oh, and leaving with several prizes wasn’t too bad either.

This blog was written as a part of Curator’s Intern Blog Series. The author, Lauren Macalalad, is a senior at the University of Washington studying communication, Spanish and diversity. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

A Case Study: Mother's Day Feels + Influencer Marketing

Mother’s Day is an occasion to gather, sip, nosh and acknowledge the important women in our lives. It is also a critical season for retailers. According to the National Retail Federation, over 84% of consumers celebrate Mother’s Day and spent $21.4B in 2016 honoring moms.

Long gone are the days where we only had news media to turn to for information and trends. Today’s consumers also follow social media influencers and bloggers to keep up with day-to-day happenings and seek lifestyle recommendations from food and entertaining to fashion and travel. This expansion in digital tastemakers allowed us to be creative in how we reach audiences to position Whole Foods Market as the essential lifestyle destination for both everyday cooking and special entertaining occasions such as Mother’s Day.

In front of Mother’s Day last year, we hosted three intimate ‘Brunch Boot Camp’ events in Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, B.C. for bloggers and Instagram influencers. Theses were hands-on events for attendees to learn how to host a simple yet elegant brunch experience – including champagne cocktails, well-designed menus and seasonal floral arrangements – all inspired by and courtesy of Whole Foods Market.

For each market, we partnered with an exceptional co-host to illustrate Whole Foods Market’s local connections. This encompassed Sur La Table in Seattle, Jackie Ellis, owner of Boucoup Bakery & Café, in Portland and Crate and Barrel and Chef Clement Chan, owner of Torafuku, in Vancouver.

What were the results? 

The bloggers and Instagram influencers that attended the Brunch Boot Camps were inspired with entertaining and gift ideas that they shared with their readers and followers ahead of Mother’ Day. Guests left with new brunch expertise, their own handcrafted floral creations, and swag bags with recipe cards to recreate the dishes and cocktails at home.

63 influencers attended

161 social media posts

12 blog posts

818,502 total impressions

Conversations with those on the front lines: Seattle Gents

We sat down (over a glass of red wine, of course) with Avi Soor and Antonio Smith of Seattle Gents to discuss Seattle’s fashion community and why they desire to put menswear in Seattle “on the map.” Through this innovative idea to create a collective of male influencers across fashion, lifestyle and dining experiences, Seattle Gents have seen their opportunities and power grow significantly in the short six months since the group organized.

We partnered with the gents for a March Madness-themed cooking class at Hot Stove Society, hosted by our client, Whole Foods Market. The event positioned Whole Foods Market as the go-to grocer for game-day entertaining as Seattle Gents learned the ins and outs of preparing delicious and simple game-day food while sipping beer cocktails. There was even a chicken wing sauce and plating competition! It was exciting to collaborate with this group of influencers, a first for us and for Whole Foods Market.

Here are a few key takeaways from our conversation with Antonio and Avi.

· There’s enough space for everyone. Each of the Seattle Gents has individual social platforms, brands and projects to manage, but in the words of Antonio, “He can be Posh Spice and I can be Scary Spice. We’re a group, but we are very different individuals with unique styles and there isn’t competition among us.” The group encourages each individual to grow and better himself, because as we know, a rising tide lifts all boats.

· There is much debate about the importance of following versus engagement. Some of the Seattle gents are hyper-local influencers, so followings can be relatively small, but engagement (number of likes, comments, etc. relative to their following) is strong. Others have a larger reach with a broad and more diverse audience. Depending on the campaign or project’s goals, both are valuable.

· Face time matters. The group increasingly receives offers to partner with brands. For them, what sets apart one opportunity from another is the facilitator initiating face time.

This week, we’re having lunch with Anika Anand, co-founder of The Evergrey, a new online media platform focused on connecting Seattle’s curious locals. Don’t miss it.

* This is the third blog post in our series on people who are on the front lines of the changing media landscape. If you missed the first two posts in the series, check them out here and here to get caught up!