March 19th, 2013.
Over the past few decades, businesses which engage in advertising, PR and marketing have increasingly turned to research in the cognitive sciences to inform their decision making. The hope is that greater insight into the psyche of the consumer will ultimately lead to more profit. In recent years, the rapidly developing field of neuroscience has come to the fore with organisations as diverse as PepsiCo, Intel, CBS, eBay and ESPN utilising ‘neuromarketing’ company NeuroFocus to test for various physiological and cognitive responses to commercials, branding and products.
There is a straightforward reason for making use of such complex science:
We need some understanding of who and what we are communicating with, if we want to have any hope of them understanding us. This is why it is worthwhile incorporating an understanding of cognitive science, whether psychological, philosophical or neuroscientific, into an outreach strategy. Even a cursory glance over the cognitive science page of Wikipedia will reveal that our gut instinct about both ourselves and others is more often than not, flat out wrong. A good outreacher needs to dig a little deeper.
Classic Study: Behaviourism – Skinner and the Rat
Psychologist B.F. Skinner devoted the bulk of his career to the understanding of human behaviour. Perhaps his greatest contribution to cognitive science was his theory of operant conditioning, which holds that behaviours can be learnt on the basis of positive or negative reinforcement.
Skinner demonstrated his theory with a device known as the ‘Skinner Box’, which featured little more than a small container, a hungry rat and a selection of levers. When pressed, one of the levers would release a small pellet of food. Quickly the rat learnt to only press this lever if it wanted to get what it desired. Reinforced by the reward of food, the rat would readily repeat this action over and over again.
But what does this tell us about outreach?
It tells us that well-rewarded behaviour will be repeated. For example, if a journalist has posted an infographic before, had good results, then they are likely to do it again. They know the operation and realise the benefits. This factor of repeatability means that outreach is more scalable.
However, this is not to say that we shouldn’t outreach to those who have never posted infographics before. It took Skinner’s rat some time to understand the process, but once the behaviour is learnt, it is likely to be repeated. This is where persuasion and information kicks in. We wouldn’t dream of entrapping potential clients in a cage to reap some reward: in the rat’s case this was a bag of food, in our case it will be the prospect of driving traffic and awareness towards their website, or just spreading the joy of infographics. Our positive reinforcement will be much harder to enforce. So we have to provide examples of previous successes, as well as building trust to get clients pressing the lever for content again and again.
Wisdom of the Ancients: Emotion and Reason
In the great philosopher Plato’s famous analogy of the soul, emotion was two horses pulling a charioteer, reason, in opposing directions. The harmonious soul would be able to keep both emotion and reason in balance. A strong outreach strategy should have a similar aim.
- Marketers must be able to reassure the logical characteristics in consumers. A tug-at-the-heartstrings ploy may go over some peoples’ heads, or worse still, invite cynicism.
How does this relate to outreach?
- While using emotional hooks is important for content you can’t rely on it for all methods of outreach.
- Know your market. Some markets will not mind their emotions being pandered to whereas others will see this as little more than fluff, prizing ‘the facts’ much more highly.
A more integrated approach between the emotional and the rational will maximise the effectiveness of the outreach.
Recent Study: Optimism Bias and the Effort of Rejection
Optimism Bias:- Research into human decision-making suggests that humans are naturally hard-wired to believe.
It requires greater cognitive resources to question an assumption. It is more effective to believe something than to reject it. By nature, we are trusting. This is why big institutions, popular brands and institutions are built on popular belief and trust. To constantly test and question stimuli would be too draining on our cognitive resources.
How is this applicable to outreach?
- Spend time outreaching to larger influencers. Your content/image/post/media will have greater longevity and far reaching effects- people trust household names.
- Engage in an initial conversation to build the relationship, assuring and informing your outreach target. Eventually, once the aims have been met, it will be far less likely that your request will be denied due to the cognitive efforts of rejection on the receiver’s part.
- Have a full proof strategy, that way you are prepared to respond to any queries.
- This can also be applied to persuasion, turning a ‘no’ into a ‘yes’. It’s like a mental tug of war, making the effort of rejection even more exhausting.
- Well-rewarded behaviour will be repeated.
- Emotion and reason come hand-in-hand. A conclusion (logic) usually results in an action (emotional impulse).
- Determine the market before taking the plunge, whether a more emotive or logical method should be applied.
- Have a full proof outreach POA so that any queries can be met with total reassurance, making rejection less probable.
- Use other brands and institutions where possible to enhance your own content.
December 3rd, 2012.
On the 20th of October a free conference dedicated to the newest trends in the world of SEO and PR took place in London.
It was my first conference since I have only been working in SEO for a short while and therefore did not have any expectations. However I was pleasantly surprised at the professionalism and good presentations skills of the speakers.
Tom Ewing from “BrainJuicer” said that a Brand can play different roles in relation to a customer similar to Carl Jung’s archetypes. Those roles can be that of a
- Ring Master
So what makes people share your information?
Tom’s formula = give them a big surprise + a little happiness. If you surprise them with repulsive things they are a lot less likely to share.
He also revealed we are not thinking machines that feel but we are feeling machines that think sometimes (when we absolutely have to). The internet metaphor or the way information was measured in the past has changed from being a “page” to a “stream”. This stream (or the flow of information) is chaotic however it can be studied by a brand in order to determine how the customer is affected by the information flow in the modern world.
It all made a lot of sense as everything he said was based on the experience of their company. It was engaging and informative – theory confirmed by practice.
Desire Athow, ITProPortal
Gave some tips on how to pitch to a journalist like provide exclusive content, pitch by email (do not call !)
This presentation was a bit subjective and biased as the day before during the content marketing workshop the presenter (who is also a journalist) advised us to pitch to a journalist via the phone call as opposed to just pitching by email.
If anyone has got some experience with pitching to journalists you are welcome to leave a comment below!
Stephen Pavlovich, Wish.co.uk Experiences
Said that good PR does not have to be expensive. Just make sure that your content is Topical/Sexual/Controversial/involving a Celebrity or all of those things at the same time if possible! By mentioning Woody Allen’s quote he reminded that “80% of success is showing off”.
Again everything in this presentation Stephen had proved by his own brand’s example. By creating controversy and getting some celebrity support on twitter he was able to get free publicity, draw a lot of attention to his brand, and increase the sales.
Andy Keetch, Brandwatch
Emphasized the importance of social media monitoring. Monitor social media mentions by time of day, week day, time of year to help you to create your content calendar.
It makes sense to get your message across when your audience is ready to receive it. When you are a big brand monitoring your social media manually can be rather difficult and here Brandwatch tool comes handy, or you can try Datadial’s Netscout http://www.datadial.net/reputation-manager/
Jochen Mebus from Text Broker was explaining how to give briefings to writers to get the content to serve your specific needs. What style of writing? Who is it for? Mention things that you do want or mention things that you do NOT want. Your briefing should be concise and friendly (authors are also human).
Simon Penson, Zazzle media
Advised to “steal” content types from a printed press to create a balanced flow of various content types.
Magazines have verified through experience what types of content are the most sought after by the readers. That is why it is appropriate to consult relevant publications to understand what topics need to be covered when creating content in your specific industry sector.
Matt Roberts, Linkdex
Said that taking part in today’s conversations is as important as starting your own. “Resonate and influence” were the key points of his presentation.
Matt’s point is logical because one has to be on the same wave length with their customers to understand how they think and feel before one can actually try to influence their minds. Even in physics you can not reach your audience by broadcasting on a radio wave different to the one they are tuned in to.
Chelsea Blacker, Evergreen marketing
Invited us to “spruce up” boring content. Make videos out of PDFs and HTMLs, create events calendars. Connect with enthusiasts in niche markets and use them as influencers for your brand.
Chelsea insisted that you can still be creative working in a seemingly boring industry. Even a common accountant can give interesting insights about his work when asked the right questions!
Ian Humphreys from Caliber suggested that customers should be invited to share their stories as people prefer speaking their minds to listening to your Brand’s story.
People do indeed prefer to speak rather than to listen and they like good listeners. So this trait of human nature should be leveraged by brands if they want to be successful.
Overall it was refreshing to be surrounded by forward-thinking marketing professionals who strive for the best results. A lot of facts mentioned in the presentations were common truths but it was useful to be reminded of those truths and see the real examples of the ideas that worked.
October 20th, 2011.
When it comes to setting up and establishing a local business, there are a number of milestones. Getting your business letterhead, a merchant bank account and customers who aren’t family members, are just some of the hurdles that spring to mind. As soon as your business has grown sufficiently to warrant a mention on Google Places or Yelp, then you start to get customers’ versions or reviews of their experiences. The comments on your Yelp page should make you smile due to your conviction that you’ve provided people with excellent service.
The initial glow of customer reviews may not last, while it’s great to read the rave reviews about your business, it’s likely that you’ll see some that are bad, and possibly even a fiction of the writer’s imagination. The following should give you an inkling of the experiences of review sites that have befallen business consulting clients of mine.
- Customer is unhappy not to receive a refund when they have eaten their meal at an eating establishment, and to further his argument, adds other fictional complaints.
- Competitors who believe that bad mouthing someone else’s business is a valid marketing strategy.
- A negative review that was actually about a business other than yours
We could go on, but you get the picture. To some extent the kind of reviews you get will vary depending on what type of business you’re in and where it’s located. In some cities bar owners try to get along by arranging to have special nights or offers at different times, while in others the thing is to try and beat your competitors to the floor. No matter what your experience, you will need to find means of dealing with reviews of your business, and below are a few tips.
1. Even if a Customer Declares War, They are not Your Enemy
When there is a customer dispute, especially in the current economic crisis, and following reports of labor abuses, the business owner is always in the wrong.
Don’t respond to negative reviews and even downright lies with more of the same, if you do, you will harm your business even further. Take an approach that assumes the customer is genuinely mistaken, and maintain a professional manner.
2. Offer to Find a Solution to the Problem
If you want to safeguard your reputation, don’t admit to any wrongdoing, but offer to help the customer with their problem. If you’ve had a false detrimental review, try responding with something like the following (depending on what business you’re in)
Hi Paul, sorry to hear you thought we overcharged for your Pizza. We do our best to ensure that customers get exactly the toppings they order and all the prices are listed on our menu. We’re actually on the list good value for money pizza parlours. Please contact me, either by coming into the pizza parlour or giving me a call on the above number to see whether we can resolve this situation. Look forward to hearing from you, Steve.
If you already know the customer, it’s probably easy to get hold of them, sort out the problem and you may even persuade them to take the review down. You need to be careful when you contact a customer directly as it requires more tact than you might need on a review site, so take a sympathetic approach to the issue.
3. Be Ready to Accept that There Might be a Real Problem
While I’m not suggesting that the customer is right, if there is even a hint that the complaint is legitimate, then you still have to resolve the situation, and you need to ensure that the same thing never happens with another customer. You may find that your staff need retraining or you might even have to let a person go. Managing and training staff is extremely important, especially when they are in constant contact with customers and only earning minimum wage.
Perhaps your ingredients are not as good as you thought and you either need to improve them, change the supplier, or lower the price you charge. Sometimes it is possible to contact the review site and have a review removed, especially if the reviewer seems to be making a personal attack on you alone. If you have lots of positive reviews than the impact of one bad one should be minimal, ask all your satisfied customers to leave reviews as this will further boost your credibility against the occasional bad one.
July 13th, 2010.
It often seems to be normal practice to treat SEO campaigns as a stand-alone form of marketing. Groups of shadowy geeks perform magic in the room at the end of the corridor, with sales and marketing teams avoiding them as much as possible at the water cooler.
However, it’s important to remember that SEO is just another form of marketing – and as such planning and integrating your search engine optimisation with your other marketing channels will mean far more coherent and effective campaigns.
All advertising campaigns should have SEO and the company website in-mind. Is it easier for rushed commuters to remember an often random telephone number or a website address?
Do you now see more and more TV and poster campaigns telling people to ‘Google’ or ‘search’ them? With the growing bias towards the personalisation of Google search results, having users Google and click-through to your brand is likely to mean you’re then likely to appear more favourably for them in subsequent searches.
Any increase in brand searches on Google will also (arguably) benefit your site with increased brand visibility after the UK brand update back in March.
- Feature your website address prominently
- Consider asking people to Google/search you – make sure you’re ranking for the term though!
- Maybe target your SEO towards a memorable phrase you can ask people to search for – “army jobs” is a good current example.
Leveraging offline PR campaigns is a great way of getting added value out of both. I’m often surprised how many SEOs haven’t even asked if a client has a PR campaign in place, think of all of those link opportunities that have been missed and all of the great web content that is going to waste.
- Ensure you have spoken to the PR campaign account manager so they know the importance of asking for their editorial to be placed online and understand the impact of links from their content.
- Make use of the content the PR is generating. Ask to get cc’d in on their releases and discuss the scope for them to help distributing your linkbait to their journalists and their media contacts.
- Between you draw up a list of the online properties you want to see your client featured on. Many blogs now have larger readerships than national newspapers – they make-up an important part of both PR and SEO campaigns, you need to make sure you approach these sites correctly with a strong proposition.
Publishing good content is often the stumbling-block that holds-up many good SEO campaigns. The first port of call should be the client, asking the right questions about what’s on their shelves gathering dust can save thousands in content writers fees.
- Encourage staff at the company to make public the results of any research or industry analysis that they have performed.
- Ensure your entire product catalogue or list of services is published on your site. The more you can break this down into component products and services and publish these on their own individual pages the better.
- Consider making any stats facts and figures that you have into an infographic. You’ll find presenting data in a graphical format gets a lot more attention than a simple table of figures.
- Get the entire company blogging. If you can get everyone enthusiastic about publishing great content it takes a lot of the time pressure away from the SEO and marketing teams. Often the real industry experts in the company lie outside of these departments anyway.
- Are there already any user guides, FAQs, or client literature already in existence that can easily be published online?
Keep in regular contact with your sales teams about client feedback. make sure you gather data as much as possible from phone conversations.
- Find out from your sales teams how customers refer to your products and services. Often it’s different to how you refer to them – the keywords that you’re targeting should reflect this.
- Get feedback from your sales teams about questions and objections that frequently crop-up. The chances are that if people are asking questions they’ll also be Googling them too so make sure you add these to the FAQ section of your site.
In any linkbuilding campaign your existing contacts should be your first port of call. High-quality, on-topic links from relevant sites, as easily obtainable as a quick email or phone call.
- Partner companies and suppliers and distributors sites are always worth leveraging for links.
- Encourage your staff to blog if not doing-so already. Either on your own corporate blog or on their own sites. Branding your staff as experts can be as effective as branding your company.
- Check to see if industry association or corporate qualifications sites offer links back to their members
- Make sure you put your company forward for corporate awards, usually even the nominations receive links back to their site.
Image credit – Rachel Creative