Last week the Central Connecticut Valley Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America hosted a luncheon with top media executives who shared ideas on the shifting role of imagery in media.
Provide media with newsworthy images
For starters they all agreed social media has drastically altered how journalists operate. Outlets are under continual pressure to get out the news first and fast. Which means accuracy of information often suffers. We know Twitter can break news at lightning speed but spare a thought for the editors and producers who need to monitor and react to tweets and simultaneously check their accuracy in a breaking news story.
Today devices abound. Anyone with a smart phone now sees themselves as a photographer. Which makes the job of traditional newspaper photographers and TV crews more difficult as they compete at media conferences and other events with amateurs jostling for the perfect pic snapped from their Androids or Iphones.
Of course many outlets, especially smaller ones, capitalise on the smart phone trend and invite readers and viewers to share their imagery. After all it is just more grist to the continuing content mill. But only a foolish editor or producer would use something without due diligence.
In recent times most media outlets have evolved guidelines for absorbing user generated content into their coverage simply to keep up with the new wild, wild West where citizen reporters can scoop news faster than gumshoe journalists.
So the typical questions media outlets ask when offered content include:
Firstly and most importantly: is it breaking news or otherwise newsworthy?
Can we verify where the information or imagery comes from? Who owns it?
Quality-wise can we use it?
Does the image 'have a verb'. In other words does it tell a story, show something happening or someone reacting to something happening?
Can we use it freely or are there limitations?
Does it show children or other groups for whom explicit permissions are needed?
Content marketers want to see their imagery widely spread online and in traditional forums. But before offering up something consider the media filters an editor or producer will apply before deciding to use it.
Sometimes you can easily overlook how serious you must be to succeed at content marketing.
Once you begin a conversation with clients, customers, citizens or fans it takes time, effort and energy to maintain the connection, keep things fresh, build audience and generate loyalty.
For example take the newly established American Athletics Conference which is staging its inaugural Women Basketball Tournament this weekend. A dedicated digital team is communicating the match-ups between 12 teams who have traveled across the US to compete. Located court side and venturing into locker rooms, the digital team opens up the tournament to fans beyond the arena through scores, updates, images, video and interviews. And all done at sizzling pace.
Pre-game the Conference provides mountains of player, game and season stats that would satisfy the most passionate fans of women's basketball.
During each of the tournament's nine games fans can follow the action live on social media through scores, video and images.
Following each contest they can either commiserate or celebrate their team's performance with post game notes, video highlights or after action quotes from players and coaches.
The digital team runs the Conference's 10 dedicated or personal work-related social media accounts supported court-side by a video cameraman with backpack technology and a photographer. Which means as fans in the stadium sip beer and enjoy the game, the team is splitting eyeballs between hoops and laptops to create a treasure trove for fans over the next four days.
Of course small business, not for profits and most government agencies will never be expected to work at such intensity. But the American Conference offers up a content marketing lesson for each. Get serious about engaging because you need skills, firm focus and an awful lot of stamina to succeed with the people who are most important to your organisation.
For the record the digital team at the American Conference is @TaraPetrolino, @jamieleecorun and @Mark_Hodgkin. They synchronize efforts with other PR and marketing staff managing traditional media arrangements including live TV coverage of each game.
Sometimes they measure the marketing experiences I have had.
First impressions count in content marketing, just like they do in the rest of life. That first encounter is the point from which a customer either grants or withholds permission for you to have a continuing conversation with her. And those conversations can stall or blossom into a relationship that benefits you both.
But do first impressions count in the academic world? Absolutely and here's a small example.
Harvard and Yale are two of America's long standing and most prestigious schools. Both have produced US presidents, esteemed diplomats, corporate leaders, pioneering researchers and generations of blue chip lawyers. I recently toured both campuses to saw first hand how they introduce their brand to the world.
Yale traces its roots back to the 1640s but its marketing is as fresh as anything corporate America serves up today.
It is a bitterly cold New England morning when I arrive at the Yale Visitor Centre, a colonial building on busy Elm Street in New Haven. Straight away I feel welcome. I'm guided to the restrooms, shown where to park downtown and invited to inspect the highly visual displays throughout the Centre.
Dead on time a welcome video comes on to tell me about student life. Theater students at Yale have been assigned the task of turning what could be a dry topic into a music video. Blending facts and stats with great imagery and a dollop of fun, they create a video that just screams energy. A hat tip to whoever has produced this. They obviously know something about communicating.
Then I am out in the cold for a one and half tour of Yale's historic buildings. My guide, a student from Singapore, is informative, easy going and punctuates history with talk on current happenings and stories about student life. I like the guy. His energy and enthusiasm leave the feeling he is excited about being at Yale ... and if he's excited then I am too even though I'm only visiting.
When tour time ends, I return to the Visitor Centre, ask some follow-up questions and leave clutching campus newspapers and a bag of literature (which I read). I have had a good experience and want a Yale memory to take back home. I buy a $6 branded cup for my coffee mug collection. I leave happy. I've been engaged and informed so if for some reason Yale should ever contact me ... hey I'm ready to listen. More importantly Yale has set up a positive platform for future conversations with the parents and high school grads on my tour looking at places for a college education.
The coffee cup I don't have
A few days on and I'm at Harvard. Again it's brutally cold if anything Boston is colder than New Haven. Harvard was established in 1636 and now has around 2,400 faculty members and 21 000 students. It's world famous. Like Yale I sign up for the free campus tour.
I do so in a sparse, barren shopfront opposite the old campus. The staff are efficient but lack the warmth that attracts visitors and counters a cold day. A corporate video grinds away to the side. A continuous loop shows authority figures like deans and professors talking about how important they, their research or their courses are. The acoustics are poor, the walls are bare and I'm not paying attention.
The tour commences. An undergrad student takes us around. While my Yale guide snakes me through alleyways and squares, my nice enough Harvard leader sticks to a tight script moving me quickly from site to site. I certainly don't get that special backstage feeling I get at Yale. The weather is cold and the experience is marginally warmer.
When the walking ends I search out a Harvard coffee cup for my collection. At Harvard's official shop I can't find one and the staff have not much interest in helping either. Later I spy one in a nearby bookshop but it's expensive and still it's freezing so I need to move on.
So .... Harvard leaves an impression but not enough to register a coffee cup. On the other hand every time I use my Yale mug it will always bring back memories of communicators who put personality in their marketing.
Harvard and Yale give me a free lesson. Put personality into your content marketing and you're off to the best start possible in building a relationship.