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Keeping journalism alive, one step at a time

“Journalism is not defined by technology, by journalists or by the strategies they employ; rather, journalism encompasses the function that news plays in the lives of people.”

This insight from Elements of Journalism, an essential read from Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, is apt and to the point. At its core, journalism is a public service. Journalists are responsible for reporting the stories impacting society, and it’s up to each individual to seek out news without bias and to share all stories carefully.

In an era where content is available to consumers digitally and on the go, we can access news with just a few clicks and at any time during the day. It’s possible to follow stories as they unfold, and share them just as fast. The news comes in many forms, but one fact remains: without journalists and journalism advocacy, there would be no real news.

Journalists have experienced their fair share of hardships over the years. Now, perhaps more than ever, the industry is at an impasse. Trust in media continues to recover after a 2016 low, and a sharp decline in subscriptions has left outlets scrambling for alternate funding solutions. A recent study found that while the general public is aware of the problems facing traditional print publications, knowledge of the overall revenue crisis in journalism is low.

At CB&A, we value the relationships we’ve built with journalists and rely on the service journalism provides. For us, these relationships are truly a pivotal piece of our daily lives. A little bit of awareness goes a long way in supporting effective education public relations strategies. Without these hardworking folks, we wouldn’t be able to share the compelling stories our clients provide or generate buzz about the next big thing in edtech. So, with the help of some industry experts, we’ve compiled 5 ways everyone can support journalism.

#1 Journalism advocacy 101: Share quality reporting

To support the work that journalists are doing, proper visibility is vital. When you find a worthy article, share it.

Journalism Advocacy 101: Share the news with your friends, family and colleagues.

“Share good journalism,” said Kathleen Bartzen Culver, James E. Burgess Chair in Journalism Ethics and Director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “When you see a story that you think has a social impact, share it, and share why you think it matters.”

Whether it’s through your preferred social media platform, or in conversation with a colleague, sharing the news you consume brings immediate value to stories and recognition to those writing them.

“Social media is an incredible way for us to gauge the impact that our stories are making, and to amplify the work that journalists are putting in,” said Liz Willen, editor in chief at the Hechinger Report.

When sharing stories, it’s important to be conscious of bias and its impact. It’s worth taking time to research a publication before citing its stories as fact. Freelance journalist Wayne D’Orio recommends asking, “who is funding a site or outlet, and what is the influence there?”

With that information in mind, you become an informed reader. Create conversation surrounding news stories, and share sourced work when possible. An article or blog post that interests you is quite likely to be of interest to a friend or colleague, as well. So, remember: share the news that resonates. Remember, journalism advocacy can be as simple as clicking a share button like this one: Share this article on Twitter!

#2 Pay for the news you consume

“Journalists can’t get work done if they don’t have the revenue to do it,” Culver said.

Support worthy news outlets. As a consumer, the obvious answer is through subscriptions, and you’re right, but there are a variety of other ways to show support. Many news outlets have forgone subscription models in favor of different options. For example, the non-profit education outlet Hechinger Report is freely available and suggests you become a member to show support. Ultimately, remembering that there are people responsible for creating the news that you consume can be a good motivator.

“Hechinger Report is unique in that we are funded by foundations who are interested in supporting education reporting, though we maintain editorial independence from our funders,” Willen said. “Through the support of the foundations that fund us, we’re able to bring attention to how we can improve education, using stories as a platform for change.”

Companies and journalism have a symbiotic relationship. Without the media, companies would have difficulty sharing the news. News outlets need company support, too. Organizations can support outlets through advertising or sponsorship opportunities. If banner ads aren’t your thing, native advertising is one alternative to help your company rise above the noise while remaining true to your brand.

A word to the wise: not all promotional opportunities are created equal. While most outlets are explicit in identifying an opportunity as advertising, some operate in a sneakier manner. We experienced this first-hand with a suspicious Forbes opportunity.

As a final note, consider disabling ad blockers, at least when visiting reputable sites…hear us out. About 47 percent of U.S. internet users utilize ad blocking software, and experts say this can be detrimental to online media outlets who rely on ads to keep their news freely available.

#3 Diversify your news consumption

As of early 2016, 57 percent of American adults expressed a clear preference for getting their news on a screen, although the screen type varied. Online accessibility has been a blessing and a curse for news outlets, with some adapting successfully to the digital world, while others fizzle out. By exploring different outlets, both print and online, one can easily stay current and informed on myriad topics. By relying on more than one publication or outlet, readers and viewers can gain a broader perspective on current events.

D’Orio reflects, “I sometimes wonder whether people are choosing to be in an echo chamber, or if they feel like they are seeking out different, fair news?”

Most of us tend to have a personal preference when it comes to local news or politically charged news organizations, which makes keeping an open mind and exploring alternatives an interesting challenge.

#4 Support local news

Local news often features the stories we may not have heard about, yet should know about. Local journalism invigorates and supports the community in a way that national and even regional news outlets can’t replicate. Building relationships with local journalists can help stories be heard and can bring attention to issues that may go unnoticed without the local spotlight.

“Journalists tell hard stories. What they do is important. And what happens when journalists are not watching can be very dangerous,” Culver said.

Between 2008 and 2017, newsroom jobs of all types fell by 23 percent, but local newspapers saw the bottom fall out – down 45 percent in just nine years. Without journalism advocacy campaigns, local journalism will have to adapt.

“As newspaper advertising revenue continues to decline, it has become important for outlets to seek out alternative means,” Willen said.

This decline means that local outlets are joining the battle in finding new revenue models, turning to creative, non-subscription methods like community events.

Though consumer support is extremely valuable, some of the responsibility lies with community businesses and organizations. “If I were a CEO or thought leader,” Culver reflected, “I’d ask myself: ‘what does my business do to support journalism?’ Do we advertise in local media?’”

From a business standpoint, investing in local news is an investment in the community. Whether it’s through a sponsorship, subscription or advertising, local media deserves at least as much attention as the big national outlets.

Of course, support for local news varies from city to city and is dependent on many factors. Check out the local news dynamics in your community to embrace journalism advocacy on the small scale.

#5 Become an advocate

Perhaps the most effective way to support journalism is to advocate for the industry. Engage in a dialogue with friends, family, and co-workers on the importance of news. Or, participate in journalism through op-eds, letters to the editor and event postings. Engage with journalists via social media or email, and submit tips if you have a great story that deserves a larger audience.

“Journalism is one of the checks and balances that we need as a society, so we can try to let people know what’s going on in a straightforward way,” D’Orio said.

If there are causes that are important to you, write about them. “In recent years, I’ve seen more students pursuing activist journalism,” Culver said. “My students want to use journalism as a tool to bring attention to what’s important, and what could be beneficial information for society.”

And that really resonates with us – so we’re sharing it. And with that said, here are a few final words on Journalism Advocacy from our industry experts:

“We cover inequality and innovation in education. Our journalists are the most passionate, hardworking people I’ve met, and we’re on a mission to keep the public informed about how education can be improved, and why it matters. We’re not the enemy of the people. Support journalism, support your journalists.” – Liz Willen

“I think the future of journalism is getting brighter. More people are paying attention, so there are just lots of different outlets, as more people want access to better news, especially online news. To me, journalism is back on the upswing.” – Wayne D’Orio

“Speak positively about journalism – bite back at fake news. It’s important for the people of a community to have the information they need. It’s not about our individual interests, it’s about community interests overall.” – Katy Culver

What do you think about the state of journalism today?

Share this article on Twitter with your thoughts and the hashtag #JournalismAdvocacy and we’ll jump into the conversation together.

Did you enjoy this blog? Read more from our public relations category now:

The post Journalism Advocacy: 5 Ways to Support Journalists appeared first on C. Blohm & Associates, Inc.

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Five Steps to Maximize Your CRM Adoption

Adopting a customer relationship management (CRM) or marketing automation platform such as HubSpot requires a significant investment of time and money for most edtech companies. Making the decision is the easy part. After you sign the contract, you have to onboard or upgrade to a new platform. This HubSpot onboarding process may seem daunting, but with the proper plan in place, you can enjoy a smooth transition.

This transition requires integration with all aspects of your marketing efforts, so it’s no small feat. We understand this extensive process and have supported organizations that navigated it successfully. A CRM adoption and integration can be daunting, but if you follow CB&A’s plan to a T, your team can drive positive business results quickly and efficiently.

Assign Roles and Responsibilities

The first step is to determine roles and responsibilities within your organization. This will define the onboarding process and allow it to flow more smoothly. Once you have assembled a transition team, assigning one member to be the Point-of-Contact (POC) will simplify the communication process between your team and HubSpot tech support.

The POC’s role is to keep the project on schedule, advise employees on how to best utilize the CRM and work with their HubSpot liaisons to facilitate a productive partnership. It’s important to establish responsibilities within your team for various HubSpot onboarding components.

Ultimately, the deployment process is what you make of it – ideally, you’ll work hard to learn all the ins and outs of the software. It’s important for your team to practice the platform with both hands-on learning and training videos. The HubSpot Academy features a vast library of courses that cover every aspect of the platform and marketing best practices. Start with the Inbound and Marketing Software certifications, training sessions that cover the “big picture” and provide value-add benefits for even the most experienced digital marketers.

In addition to the training, you can elicit the support of a HubSpot Agency partner on your CB&A team. We’ve been through the onboarding process and will strive to make the transition as painless as possible. Ask us anything­!

Establish SMART Goals for your EdTech Marketing campaign

Whether you’re implementing a new software tool or conducting an email marketing campaign, we agree with HubSpot’s recommendation to start the project with SMART goals.

Your HubSpot onboarding process is a great place to give SMART goals a chance. Before you start the transition, outline how you want to use HubSpot (big picture and down in the weeds), determine how you’ll measure its success (which KPIs are important to you), and set an attainable goal (e.g., increase site visits by 10%) that is relevant to your business. Then establish a timeline so you can assess how the campaign unfolded.

Next, devise a plan on how to accomplish your goals. This will be valuable in answering questions on the fly and verifying a positive result.

 

Identifying specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound goals is the SMART thing to do for your HubSpot Onboarding plan.

Create a HubSpot Onboarding Strategy

Outlining your strategy depends on which Hubspot marketing and sales option your organization selects: Free, Starter, Professional or Enterprise. Based on the package chosen, your team could have access to new capabilities for social, email, CMS, workflows, sequences, CTAs, forms and more. Each tool can be learned by using it, and watching the training videos will help you derive maximum benefit from HubSpot’s offerings.

It’s important to know how your team plans to leverage HubSpot from the get-go. Are you looking to generate more leads? Drive visitors through a sales funnel? Perhaps you simply want all your information in one location. We’re here to guide you down the right path to achieve your business objectives.

In the long run, an onboarding strategy will help your team implement inbound marketing through workflows, sequences, content clusters, lists and email, with all members on the same learning curve.

Execute your HubSpot Onboarding Technical Set-Up

Technical tasks that your team will have to work through include:

  • Connecting your domain to HubSpot
  • Adding HubSpot tracking code to your website
  • Excluding internal website traffic from your analytics
  • Converting current website forms to HubSpot forms
  • Importing contacts to the database
  • Creating lists for different segments of your marketing effort
  • Integrating HubSpot with other platforms such as Zapier, Slack, WordPress and more.

This part of the process will likely require collaboration with your IT department. HubSpot offers robust support services should you run into issues. Additionally, the CB&A team has dedicated consultants to reach out to if a client encounters an unusual challenge. The HubSpot crew is very responsive, and we’ve come to trust their judgment implicitly (not an easy feat!).

Connect Your Social Accounts

At the Professional level of Marketing Hub, you gain the ability to connect social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter to HubSpot. This provides a number of options to automate the promotion of HubSpot-posted content to these channels.

HubSpot social services go beyond simple automation posts: You can also manage all content directly from the HubSpot social portal. This includes scheduling and monitoring of brand pages and personal accounts for the thought leaders on your team. The upshot – from one handy dashboard, you can schedule posts, engage with followers and measure most of your social media activity.

On top of that, the “schedule in bulk” feature allows you to optimize post times and platforms, simplifying the scheduling process to save your team time each month. HubSpot also looks at audience insights and posts content at peak times of day to maximize reach. Basically, if you’re not leveraging the social media platform, you’re missing out!

Launch, Optimize and Continue to Learn

Once you have moved into HubSpot, #LaunchDay is when you flip the switch and begin using the CRM platform to automate your marketing. The hard work will pay off as your team exploits its ability to run effective inbound marketing campaigns.

After your organization is working inside HubSpot every day, the process moves from infancy to toddler stage. Your team will learn to optimize blogs, where to add Calls to Action to drive the most clicks, and how to build lists and workflows that simplify your workload.

Maximizing the ROI from your HubSpot investment requires constant monitoring, analyzing and optimizing your marketing strategy. Additionally, HubSpot continues to roll out new tools and perks. Pay attention to these offerings and look for ways to implement them into your strategy.

Ultimately, you want HubSpot to work for your business, not the other way around. A CRM platform is a fantastic tool and it’s important to seek support to ensure you’re leveraging it properly. Ask HubSpot, ask CB&A or see how we helped ViTAL transition from the free to a paid version of HubSpot.

Need help with your HubSpot onboarding? Want to take your inbound marketing to the next level? As a HubSpot Agency Partner, we are ready to help. All you have to do is reach out to our team.

The post Why You Need a HubSpot Onboarding Plan appeared first on C. Blohm & Associates, Inc.

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The complete guide to tackling a public relations crisis, from pre-planning to talking with the press, CB&A has you covered. Get started today!

Regardless of industry, public relations disasters affect businesses of all shapes and sizes. And thanks to the rise of social media, news travels faster than ever. But for the savvy business, having a detailed public relations crisis strategy in your back pocket can provide a quick remedy to a difficult situation.

Being prepared to manage the narrative of a PR crisis will significantly lessen the price your company pays. A detailed strategy will help to avoid a negative shift of your brand image or decreased sales, and it can assist in employee and customer retention.

Five Tips for your EdTech Public Relations Crisis Survival Kit

The best time to combat a PR crisis is before it happens. Be proactive. Prepare a crisis management plan and elect the best team members to execute it before disaster strikes. The plan should include possible crisis scenarios, company talking points, audiences to notify, and contact information for your PR crisis team.

Your plan shouldn’t be accessible only to those on the leadership team. A single comment from an employee to the wrong reporter can make a large impact, so encouraging an atmosphere of transparency by sharing crisis communications with your staff can help prevent potential media hiccups.

Should a crisis arise, promptly addressing external audiences is crucial, but internal communications should be your first priority. Now, let’s look at CB&A’s five key tips to include in any public relations crisis strategy, starting with establishing your team.

1. Organize a savvy Public Relations Crisis team

Whether you decide to partner with an agency or assign responsibilities to individuals on your internal team, having a dedicated group ready to execute your plan is pivotal for proper crisis response. Identifying this relationship before a PR crisis hits is the best option. Overall, making PR a priority not only enables you to have professionals in your corner who can jump in to save the day, but it allows you to reap the benefits of an effective PR strategy.

When putting this team together, you’re looking for people ready to step in when forceful decision making is required, who will be cool and resolute under pressure. Handpick candidates with different backgrounds to assist with your crisis strategy. An effective PR team will have a deep understanding of your company’s business goals, strengths weaknesses and messaging, a key advantage when dealing with stakeholders in the heat of a crisis. And, at the center of your crisis team, is your spokesperson.

2. Identify a trusted company spokesperson

The company spokesperson should be someone who does well under pressure, can think on their feet, knows the company well and has influence in the industry and community. While that’s a daunting checklist, it’s imperative to highlight the right person, not just the important person.

Sometimes a company’s CEO or president isn’t the right fit for the job, so weigh your other options. Find a person who articulates well, and provide them with media training to ensure they are prepared for media announcements, both good and bad. Give your spokesperson all the tools they need to succeed and to build a reputation as a trusted media source.

To put a spokesperson in the best possible position to succeed, businesses need to identify potential PR crises proactively – and CB&A has always recommended a log of all potential incidents on file.

3. Track efforts via a detailed incident report log

There are obvious legal reasons to keep an incident report log, but this information also may be handy during a public relations crisis. In general, a company should document all incidents, even the small ones.

Whether you receive a phone call from a person asking strange questions, or a district experiences a program outage, keep a record. What may seem like a silly complaint can quickly turn into a problem. One day you might discount a call from a disgruntled administrator or teacher, the next day you could see that customer talking about your service or product on the news. And from there, you’re one incorrect statement away from a full-blown public relations crisis.

Documenting incidents yields benefits. First, it provides an event timeline to reference in case an incident grows into a larger problem. Second, it tracks patterns, highlighting recurring problems that can be addressed and prevented down the road. By identifying potential issues, proactive reporting will help you C.Y.A. in the future and can assist you in preparing talking points for potentially negative narratives.

4. Pre-draft succinct talking points to likely questions

So, you did everything right on the preparation front, but a crisis still cropped up. When you’re in the heat of a breaking story, the last thing you want is a spokesperson going off script during an interview. If you go into an interview or press conference unprepared, your PR crisis can easily spiral out of control.

To stay ahead of the story, your team needs to anticipate the questions journalists, employees and the public will ask, and practice key answers beforehand. If you can’t answer a question directly, are you prepared to stay on message and shift the narrative? Media relations training that prepares your team for hard-hitting questions can remedy uneasiness and equip you with strategies for navigating any conversation.

Keep your audience in mind. What are their concerns about the issue(s) at hand? Determine your core messages by deciding the three points you want your audience to remember, and find a way to bring each answer back to those key messages.

Study audience reactions to identify any misunderstandings and adapt your approach as necessary to distill concerns. Most importantly, remember to remain calm, stay on-message, and avoid a slip of the tongue. After putting your plan, team and talking points together, you have one final task to tackle: practicing!

5. Practice Makes Perfect

Have a plan ready to go? Great. Now, practice, practice, practice! Describe potential crises and act out a response. Channel your inner Leslie Knope, and prepare a drill or practice challenge for your team. Schedule periodic reviews to keep these skills fresh; you never know when they will be needed.

Need examples of PR crises? Check the news. Companies and other institutions endure them all the time; a few recent examples being Facebook’s data breachBoeing’s 737 Max disaster, and the botched Indiana active-shooter drill. Study these stories to avoid making the same mistakes.

Ultimately, when it comes to a public relations crisis, there’s no guarantee that you’ll shift the narrative, but having a plan that covers every contingency is paramount. It’s equally important to have the right team in place, with members who have practiced their approach with drills and challenges. ­­

A thoughtfully considered public relations crisis strategy and PR team can save your business. A smart company understands that communications crises are inevitable. The real trick to survival is being prepared to get ahead of the story before it spirals out of control.

Need help putting a public relations crisis strategy together? Reach out now.

Did you enjoy this blog? Read more of our public relations insights now:

The post How to Build a Winning Public Relations Crisis Strategy appeared first on C. Blohm & Associates, Inc.

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Five Steps to Maximize Your CRM Adoption

Adopting a customer relationship management (CRM) or marketing automation platform such as HubSpot requires a significant investment of time and money for most edtech companies. Making the decision is the easy part. After you sign the contract, you have to onboard or upgrade to a new platform. This HubSpot onboarding process may seem daunting, but with the proper plan in place, you can enjoy a smooth transition.

This transition requires integration with all aspects of your marketing efforts, so it’s no small feat. We understand this extensive process and have supported organizations that navigated it successfully. A CRM adoption and integration can be daunting, but if you follow CB&A’s plan to a T, your team can drive positive business results quickly and efficiently.

Assign Roles and Responsibilities

The first step is to determine roles and responsibilities within your organization. This will define the onboarding process and allow it to flow more smoothly. Once you have assembled a transition team, assigning one member to be the Point-of-Contact (POC) will simplify the communication process between your team and HubSpot tech support.

The POC’s role is to keep the project on schedule, advise employees on how to best utilize the CRM and work with their HubSpot liaisons to facilitate a productive partnership. It’s important to establish responsibilities within your team for various HubSpot onboarding components.

Ultimately, the deployment process is what you make of it – ideally, you’ll work hard to learn all the ins and outs of the software. It’s important for your team to practice the platform with both hands-on learning and training videos. The HubSpot Academy features a vast library of courses that cover every aspect of the platform and marketing best practices. Start with the Inbound and Marketing Software certifications, training sessions that cover the “big picture” and provide value-add benefits for even the most experienced digital marketers.

In addition to the training, you can elicit the support of a HubSpot Agency partner on your CB&A team. We’ve been through the onboarding process and will strive to make the transition as painless as possible. Ask us anything­!

Establish SMART Goals for your EdTech Marketing campaign

Whether you’re implementing a new software tool or conducting an email marketing campaign, we agree with HubSpot’s recommendation to start the project with SMART goals.

Your HubSpot onboarding process is a great place to give SMART goals a chance. Before you start the transition, outline how you want to use HubSpot (big picture and down in the weeds), determine how you’ll measure its success (which KPIs are important to you), and set an attainable goal (e.g., increase site visits by 10%) that is relevant to your business. Then establish a timeline so you can assess how the campaign unfolded.

Next, devise a plan on how to accomplish your goals. This will be valuable in answering questions on the fly and verifying a positive result.

 

Identifying specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound goals is the SMART thing to do for your HubSpot Onboarding plan.

Create a HubSpot Onboarding Strategy

Outlining your strategy depends on which Hubspot marketing and sales option your organization selects: Free, Starter, Professional or Enterprise. Based on the package chosen, your team could have access to new capabilities for social, email, CMS, workflows, sequences, CTAs, forms and more. Each tool can be learned by using it, and watching the training videos will help you derive maximum benefit from HubSpot’s offerings.

It’s important to know how your team plans to leverage HubSpot from the get-go. Are you looking to generate more leads? Drive visitors through a sales funnel? Perhaps you simply want all your information in one location. We’re here to guide you down the right path to achieve your business objectives.

In the long run, an onboarding strategy will help your team implement inbound marketing through workflows, sequences, content clusters, lists and email, with all members on the same learning curve.

Execute your HubSpot Onboarding Technical Set-Up

Technical tasks that your team will have to work through include:

  • Connecting your domain to HubSpot
  • Adding HubSpot tracking code to your website
  • Excluding internal website traffic from your analytics
  • Converting current website forms to HubSpot forms
  • Importing contacts to the database
  • Creating lists for different segments of your marketing effort
  • Integrating HubSpot with other platforms such as Zapier, Slack, WordPress and more.

This part of the process will likely require collaboration with your IT department. HubSpot offers robust support services should you run into issues. Additionally, the CB&A team has dedicated consultants to reach out to if a client encounters an unusual challenge. The HubSpot crew is very responsive, and we’ve come to trust their judgment implicitly (not an easy feat!).

Connect Your Social Accounts

At the Professional level of Marketing Hub, you gain the ability to connect social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter to HubSpot. This provides a number of options to automate the promotion of HubSpot-posted content to these channels.

HubSpot social services go beyond simple automation posts: You can also manage all content directly from the HubSpot social portal. This includes scheduling and monitoring of brand pages and personal accounts for the thought leaders on your team. The upshot – from one handy dashboard, you can schedule posts, engage with followers and measure most of your social media activity.

On top of that, the “schedule in bulk” feature allows you to optimize post times and platforms, simplifying the scheduling process to save your team time each month. HubSpot also looks at audience insights and posts content at peak times of day to maximize reach. Basically, if you’re not leveraging the social media platform, you’re missing out!

Launch, Optimize and Continue to Learn

Once you have moved into HubSpot, #LaunchDay is when you flip the switch and begin using the CRM platform to automate your marketing. The hard work will pay off as your team exploits its ability to run effective inbound marketing campaigns.

After your organization is working inside HubSpot every day, the process moves from infancy to toddler stage. Your team will learn to optimize blogs, where to add Calls to Action to drive the most clicks, and how to build lists and workflows that simplify your workload.

Maximizing the ROI from your HubSpot investment requires constant monitoring, analyzing and optimizing your marketing strategy. Additionally, HubSpot continues to roll out new tools and perks. Pay attention to these offerings and look for ways to implement them into your strategy.

Ultimately, you want HubSpot to work for your business, not the other way around. A CRM platform is a fantastic tool and it’s important to seek support to ensure you’re leveraging it properly. Ask HubSpot, ask CB&A or see how we helped ViTAL transition from the free to a paid version of HubSpot.

Need help with your HubSpot onboarding? Want to take your inbound marketing to the next level? As a HubSpot Agency Partner, we are ready to help. All you have to do is reach out to our team.

The post Why You Need a HubSpot Onboarding Plan appeared first on C. Blohm & Associates, Inc.

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Standing out in today’s digital world can be a challenge. With every inch of screen space shouting at you to do this or buy that, gaining perspective can be tricky for both producers and consumers. As a marketer, gathering highly-individualized opinions from small groups of stakeholders can cut through the clutter and realign your education marketing outlook.

By facilitating a focus group at an edtech conference, marketers and brands gain an exclusive inside look at how a target audience feels about topics important to their client or brand. Personalized feedback illustrates the optimal customer experience—and whether that is being provided—which can help shape new strategies or redirect current marketing plans.

Humanize Your Brand

Focus groups are a unique double-edged marketing opportunity to engage with current and prospective customers and strengthen their brand loyalty. Customers are more likely to adopt or retain branded products and services if they have interacted personally with a representative. By taking the time to converse with customers and hear their concerns, you let them know that their experience with your brand will be rewarding.

Be Real with Your Audience

Transparency is the driver of a meaningful focus group. Brands get genuine feedback only if they first reveal the pieces that need work. For example, one popular clothing brand dedicated to “radical transparency” has opened its world to customers by allotting one day each week to answer customer questions on its social media channels. Customers are rewarded with a chance to see and be seen, a win-win for any brand.

In education marketing, letting stakeholders into the picture signals that they have a voice in the development of products and services they might use in their schools one day. Emboldened by this chance to speak, focus group participants are inclined to remember and choose your brand over competitors, as well as recommend your product or service to others.

Eye-to-Eye Engagement

In the digital marketplace, there are not many opportunities to get face time with customers. Focus groups break through the pixels and allow you to build relationships in person. Even better, focus group participants are highly representative of your target audience, so you are able to make meaningful connections with the people who matter most to your brand.

Learn from the Best

On the flip side, focus group participants get a unique chance to pick your brain. Educators, administrators, district decision-makers and researchers—all influencers in the education marketplace—are devoting their energy to giving sophisticated advice on desirable product improvements. The education marketing value of such targeted, high-level feedback from experts is unmatched.

When aligned with other rich relationship-building opportunities, such as professional development events and conferences, you can draw an elevated pool of participants to your focus group. CB&A facilitated a focus group for Hoonuit, a student data management and analytics software company, at the ISTE 2018 conference that yielded an influx of educational expert insight. Hoonuit then used that feedback to steer their rebranding process.

Major Takeaways 

Focus groups provide a rich return on investment. One reason: the feedback is immediate. As a producer, you do not have to wait for participants to answer your online or emailed survey. You simply ask a question to get an answer.

In the same vein, focus groups prioritize quality over quantity. With a focus group, you substitute living, breathing people for long, impersonal email lists. Those people will have a stake in the group topic, since you invited them for a reason. They are inclined both to participate and to contribute something meaningful to the conversation. The hard work of organizing and facilitating a focus group pays off when you walk away with a treasure trove of useful advice for your education marketing efforts.

CB&A can help elevate your education marketing strategy by facilitating a focus group at an edtech conference. Contact us to learn more and get started.

The post The Benefits of Running a Focus Group at an EdTech Conference appeared first on C. Blohm & Associates, Inc.

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At the end of June, the edtech industry will converge on Philadelphia for the ISTE 2019 conference to discuss the future of the industry, to network with favorite brands and education players, and to foster new business relationships.

Some in the industry may be skeptical about the value of conferences, but ISTE is unique in that it’s the only major edtech industry event that overlaps two sales cycles. You can close deals with customers looking to wrap 2018-19 orders and acquire new leads for 2019-20 to kick-off your back-to-school marketing efforts.

To help you take advantage of this rare opportunity, we’ve compiled the seven best ways to secure leads and drive sales during ISTE 2019.

Social Media Advertising to Drive Booth Traffic

ISTE is a great opportunity to spotlight your brand… both offline and online. Standing out on social media is extremely important, and with new offerings from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other platforms, it is easy for your business to foster engagement and drive booth traffic through social media advertising.

To leverage social media for brands, CB&A crafts and manages paid social media campaigns that drive ISTE attendees to exhibitor booths to initiate in-person conversations and exchange profile contact information. We work closely with clients on copy, imagery and targeting of ads to reach the exact audience, maximizing ROI.

Ultimately, at any edtech event your organization is looking to turn social media engagements into business leads and sales, and we can help you achieve that goal.

Focus Groups to Gain Education Insights

Feedback gathered from a focus group of educators or administrators can be used to inform future product offerings, shape marketing plans, fine-tune launch strategies and provide valuable input on messaging pillars. And the best time to round up such an eclectic group? At an event such as ISTE, which stands above the crowd due to its sheer size and healthy mix of attendees by role and region.

An ISTE focus group comprises 10-12 attendees with job titles matching your target audiences. We assemble your honed-in audience in a room with a specifically prepared discussion guide and a professional moderator. Then, we all learn together, engaging with educators on an extremely personal level. We determine what works and what could work better with marketing and selling your edtech product or service.

After each focus group, CB&A shares the participant list, provides a transcript and compiles a summary report complete with insights from the experienced moderator. You’ll establish solid connections with the industry leaders in your focus group, and gain valuable insights to inform future marketing initiatives.

Media Relations to Boost Industry Visibility

While social media can draw targeted audiences to your booth, and a focus group can take your learning to the next level, a third key tactic is your media relations strategy. ISTE overlaps two sales cycles and attracts K-12 decision makers, journalists and industry leaders all at the same time. It’s an ideal opportunity to announce and discuss timely news from your organization.

When it comes to planning and executing a media relations strategy, CB&A is an unmatched partner. Tap into our decades of experience to facilitate conversations with top-tier education media contacts and establish relationships to leverage down the road.

Our media relations chops are about more than relationships. At CB&A, we develop smart strategies for sharing news with the right audience, draft compelling news releases, and facilitate interviews to secure high-quality earned media coverage. Immediate ISTE coverage will put you in the spotlight at the event, and continue to raise awareness into your back-to-school season as well.

CB&A Speed Meeting

CB&A’s Speed Meeting at ISTE 2019 is sold out.

A CB&A original, our Speed Meeting event is a highly-coveted opportunity for both brands and media outlets. In the two-hour event, participating firms discuss earned, paid and shared media opportunities with editors and publishers of leading education trade outlets. The goal of these conversations is to discuss media opportunities that will raise awareness of products, secure new leads and nurture leads through the sales funnel.

Those lucky enough to have a spot will meet in a speed-dating format to share news and build connections in a rapid succession of high-impact meetings. A big benefit of these meetings is to secure earned media coverage. Again, all business is relationship based, and that is especially true of media relations.

Firms that participate in Speed Meeting establish connections with industry journalists, generate new ideas for reaching their target audiences and possibly even secure a few pending media placements.

Connect with Journalists at In-Booth Meetings

Demo your latest product, discuss recent company news, or even pitch your most compelling customer stories to journalists during meetings at your booth. These encounters are ideal for showcasing the features and excitement behind your products and services. But why bring in an agency partner? That’s easy. We’re worth it.

CB&A will do all the prep work: scheduling meetings with journalists and bloggers, briefing you on the meeting before the conference and facilitating interviews during ISTE. All you need to do is speak passionately about your products and services, and their positive impact in classrooms. We’ll give you bonus points for sticking to the talking points we generate together!

In the end, you’ll build valuable relationships with reporters, secure earned media coverage and raise awareness of your organization.

Host a Special Event to Build Relationships

From product launch parties and VIP customer briefings to lunch-and-learn trainings and large receptions, connecting 1:1 with top customers, prospects and media off the show floor is another rewarding way to utilize your conference time. After all, our ISTE hosts plan networking breaks with you in mind!

CB&A works with budgets of any size to organize events and sponsorships that coincide with ISTE. We conduct venue research, plan menus, write presentations, brainstorm party activities and share key takeaways we learn along the way. For any edtech business, ISTE special events ensure you leave Philadelphia with new leads and improved brand awareness.

Drive New Business with 1:1 Sales Meetings

Face-to-face interactions make a difference – no matter what industry you’re in. This is especially true when it comes to establishing relationships with schools and districts. Before you travel to ISTE, you’ll want to fill up your schedule with 1:1 and small-group meetings with top sales targets. In an intimate setting away from the show floor, you can converse in more detail about customer needs and pain points, and offer a solution in return.

We make this easy for you by conducting outreach to conference attendees with titles that match your target audience until all available meeting slots are filled, or the attendee list has been exhausted. CB&A manages all the details, including finding meeting space, and preparing a representative from your organization to lead the meetings.

Plan for a Successful ISTE 2019

When you follow the marketing guidelines and strategies outlined here, you’ll walk away from ISTE 2019 with new business leads, valuable industry insights, new relationships with both media and customers, and (did we mention?) more leads. You can also download our 2019 Marketing eBook if the above insights didn’t satiate your ISTE interest.

Edtech conferences have evolved over the years, and we know how to get you in front of the right people. An event like ISTE is one of the best avenues to help you meet your sales goals this school year and get a strong start for the year ahead.

The post Seven Ways to Drive Leads at ISTE 2019 appeared first on C. Blohm & Associates, Inc.

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Changes to social media algorithms, more time spent on mobile and digital platforms, and advanced targeting capabilities have moved social media advertising from “nice to have” to a mandatory fixture of any education marketing plan. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn provide edtech marketers with the ability to target teachers and administrators with the right message at the right time.

As the new year unfolds here are four ways to leverage social media advertising to raise awareness, promote content and drive new leads.

Promote News Coverage

Securing a strong piece of editorial coverage is a big win for edtech companies, but your work is half done when the article is published. The next step is to promote your coverage, which can be done in a variety of ways: through email, on your website, in your organic social content and social media advertising are just a few easy ways to amplify your win.

A major benefit of running paid social media campaigns is the ability to reach new audiences in a cost-efficient way. A campaign to promote new editorial coverage can be very reasonably priced. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all offer campaign objectives, ad formats, targeting capabilities and cost structures that allow campaigns to be successful even if the budget is just a few hundred dollars.

Leverage Content Assets

A robust content marketing plan comprised of whitepapers, case studies, blogs and eBooks can raise awareness, promote thought leadership and drive new leads. You can further leverage these content assets with paid social media or email campaigns to promote your content to recent website visitors, current social media followers and new audiences.

FreshGrade, a portfolio and assessment platform, published a comprehensive eBook library for their customers. The library was created to drive leads in key states as FreshGrade broke into the U.S. market. Through Facebook and Twitter advertising campaigns, the CB&A team promoted their eBooks on social media to drive 136 downloads among the targeted states.

Stand Out at Conferences

EdTech conferences such as FETC, TCEA, ASCD and ISTE are opportune times to engage in valuable face-to-face conversations with educators and there is fierce competition for attention on the show floor.

Something else is happening in the exhibit hall: attendees are often on their phones. For marketers, this is a big opportunity. Targeting event attendees using Facebook and Twitter ads allows your business to take social media engagement to this highly targeted audience. To boost the likelihood of the best prospects visiting your booth, give them a reason to visit and customize your ads in each platform.

Our social media strategy for creatED Professional Learning by Crayola drove booth traffic and spiked online conversations by targeting conference attendees with content about a mobile-only contest during the conference. The strategy resulted in 121 submissions and an increase in traffic to the creatED Professional Learning by Crayola booth.

Build Brand Awareness

Previously, raising brand awareness took years of meetings, conference travel and networking. Now, it happens much quicker with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn offering campaign objectives to position your company, message and product in front of your target audience at the best time to reach them.

Looking to reach math teachers in Florida? Trying to entice curriculum directors in the Pacific Northwest with your new science curriculum? No problem. The platforms offer micro-targeting options to match all budgets. Managing campaigns with videos, graphics and short, yet effective messaging is the best way to build awareness and generate leads. When it comes time to download an eBook, read a blog post or sign up for a demo, your prospects will already know about your company and will be more likely to take the desired action.

Social media advertising allows marketing teams and companies of any size to reach their target audiences. Social ads that promote news coverage, leverage content marketing assets, or highlight conference activities will achieve your lead generation goals. These campaigns can be run individually on each platform, or through a central platform such as HubSpot.

Is your #edtech brand looking to add social media advertising to your marketing mix in 2019? Are you creating content and you’re not sure how to leverage it? We can help your team drive new leads this year using social media advertising… you just have to reach out.

The post Four Ways to Leverage Social Media Advertising in 2019 appeared first on C. Blohm & Associates, Inc.

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Many organizations begin a new year with a list of objectives, business goals and projects they would like to achieve. It’s best practice to redesign your website every 2-4 years, so for many organizations, 2019 is not just the year of the pig, but also the year of a new website launch.

In the Year of the Pig, consider making your marketing priority a website redesign.

 

To make sure your new website drives ROI for your organization, here are six things to consider when going through the process of a website redesign.

Content Management Systems

Houses are supported by a frame. Similarly, websites are supported by content management systems (CMS). A good CMS will allow you to post new content, move elements of your website around, and organize everything on your website. When you are redesigning your website, it’s the ideal time to consider if you are happy with your current CMS or if you want to switch to a new one.

There are many CMS options available, but two of the most common options are WordPress and HubSpot. These two platforms are easy to use, cost-efficient, and offer you the ability to continue building your website. After making that decision, you can begin thinking about other aspects of your website.

Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization is a never-ending project. Even if you are high-ranking one day, you may not be there tomorrow. The ever-changing nature of search engine result pages (SERPs) means the competition for organic clicks is more competitive than ever.

New content assets, website copy and pillar pages within a website are recommended tactics to use to improve rankings for your target keywords. The website redesign process is the ideal time to conduct a complete SEO audit of your website, keyword strategy and content.

Popular SEO tools to help conduct keyword research, research domain authority, discover keyword difficulty and track your progress are Moz, Ahrefs and SEMRush. From there, you can determine which title tags, headings and website copy are working and which ones needed to be revised. These tools will help evaluate the external links to your website.

Website Copy

Re-evaluating your SEO strategy often means it is time to revise your website copy, too. A copy update could mean a complete overhaul or simply a few tweaks. The scale of changes will depend on the structure of your website pages and if the new website launch coincides with any type of strategic shift or new focus for your organization.

Take time to review your website copy to ensure that it encompasses the messaging and themes you want website visitors to grasp. It’s likely been a while since copy on many of your pages has been reviewed, so this is the ideal time to revise it.

Mobile-First

A mobile-first mindset is no longer a new strategy, it’s common practice. Between 2016 and 2017, the percent of mobile website visits increased from 57% to 63%.

Having a website that looks good on smartphones and tablets is important from a user-experience perspective but it also helps boost SEO with mobile-first indexing. Every part of your education marketing strategy should be built around mobile optimization. This means making sure your website, email, social media ads, pay-per-click ads and more all fit nicely on a mobile screen.

When you are reviewing layouts and design progress on the site, be sure to look at it in the mobile view to ensure all headings, images and calls to action are optimized for mobile.

 

Website Structures – Leveraging Topic Clusters

More doesn’t always mean better, especially when it comes to websites. The best websites are focused on having high-quality pages, not the quantity of pages. A website redesign is the ideal time to revise how your website is structured. This can mean condensing a few short pages into one pillar page to build up the pillar page’s domain authority and have one central place to drive internal and external links.

The best way to organize content is by adopting the topic cluster approach.

For example, let’s take a K-12 curriculum developer. One pillar should be a page about all of the available math curriculum options. That page would feature strong calls to action, resources and information about the product. To support that page and drive traffic there, math related blogs should link back to the main math curriculum page. This process would then be repeated for each different pillar – English, science, social studies, etc. When you deploy this topic cluster approach, you create natural SEO links to help improve the ranks of your pages. A true win-win.

Calls to Action

Driving website traffic is great, but if no one takes any actions on your website, then there is no ROI from your efforts. Calls to action are an important lever for driving conversions and converting leads but only if done right. We’ve all been on a website reading a blog post or reading a services page learning about a company’s capabilities but were bombarded with calls to action and left the site out of frustration.

Typical CTAs help website visitors move deeper into the website and convert on forms, rather than users bouncing off the site without converting. Marketing automation platforms, such as HubSpot, now allow you to tailor your CTAs to the website visitor’s history with your organization and what actions they are taking on your website.

Focusing on conversion rate optimization (CRO) is an effective way to map out your CTAs and measure their effectiveness. It is important to have metrics from your old site to compare to your new site to determine the improvement of your CRO with the launch of the new website, so make sure to save your past analytics reports.

Your Next Step – Connect with CB&A to Learn More

Website redesigns are a time- and resource-consuming task. Designs have to be created and reviewed. Copy is written and edited. Content migration is planned and executed. But, in the end, it’s all worth it, because your website is often a potential customer’s first interaction with your business.

By considering these six key website elements in your process, your site launch will flow smoothly and more importantly, it will help drive additional revenue for your business.

Interested in learning more about how to plan for a website launch? Looking for website copy or a SEO strategy? See how we helped Galin Education refresh their online presence, streamline their website structure and revise their website copy and get in touch to see how we can help you.

The post Six Topics to Consider When Launching a Website appeared first on C. Blohm & Associates, Inc.

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