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Expert POV: Pivoting Your Corporate Messaging During Challenging Times

Responses from Aaron Atkinson, director of marketing, Vyne.

Aaron Atkinson

There’s a natural ebb and flow to things. We navigated the economic crisis of 2009 and we’ll make it through the challenges we’re currently confronting. If you’re working hard and doing good work, in times of upheaval, the core of good marketing and messaging don’t really change, but our focus and execution have to.

With fewer resources, pillaged budgets, and employment uncertainty it can be tempting to retrench, but the reality is that these ebbs are moments to double-down on our efforts, promotions and messaging as things like brand awareness and thought leadership are “on sale” with less noise cluttering the market. When businesses do downturns right (and most don’t) when things turn back up, they should be leaner, smarter, and better positioned with prospects and customers.  

As we pivot our messaging, we’re not doing anything revolutionary. We’re merely doing more of the core elements we should be doing all along – focusing on customer pain points, articulating how we solve problems, speaking with honest empathy, and asking how we can help.

As a marketing function, this is also an important moment to get beyond ourselves. Last year’s turf battle is this year’s helping hand that’s received with open arms. Assume that every business function is overwhelmed and under-resourced. We’re actively working with sales to refine messaging and automate processes, we’re partnering with our operations team to engage current customers in efforts to improve satisfaction and retention, and we’re working in lockstep with our product team to refresh value propositions. It’s important to change our focus from being great marketers to being a great business people. Case in point, instead of focusing on pageviews, click rates, attendees, and leads, our metrics in times like these should focus on conversions, engagement, efficiency, and new revenue.

When done properly, marketing should be a transcendent function. There’s never been a better time to transcend and to help drive the business forward.

Improving Page Experience for Better PR: New Google Web Experience Analytics

In late May 2020, Google announced that it would be “evaluating page experience for a better web.” According to the tech giant, industry research, as well as their internal findings, indicate that users favor sites with a great page experience. Users want sites to load faster, be more responsive and be more intuitive.

This should come as no surprise to any of us as regular consumers of content. As daily browsers of the internet, we are easily annoyed by the smallest inconveniences and are quick to dismiss any brand whose website simply isn’t up to par. This impacts PR in a big way, too. Ultimately, PR comes down to the mental and often subconscious associations that people make when they think of your company or brand.

As IT and software companies in the 21st Century, most PR efforts are done online. The way that people feel when they are interacting with your website, app or social media page inevitably becomes a part of the story they form of you and the story they repeat to their colleagues and friends. The experience that users have on your website becomes a factor in their decision-making process and can determine whether or not they do business with you.

The user-friendliness of any webpage has a great impact on how long we choose to stay on the site, whether we visit the site again and whether we choose to conduct business with that company.

The “page experience” of a website remains in the minds of users long after they have exited the site and inevitably seems to form a part of the brand’s overall presence and story. Long after they have forgotten the copy and the colors, users will remember how a website made them feel while they were browsing it.

Were they annoyed? Was it difficult to find what they needed? Was the page quick and responsive? Did it feel fluid and intuitive? Was it a pleasant visit?

Like it or not, things like slow load times, lagging, and a lack of intuitiveness on your website can easily lead to the perception that your product or service is similarly subpar. Fortunately, the converse is also true. A positive page experience can easily inspire confidence, trust and the perception that your product or service also is fast, friendly and a pleasure to use. 

With this algorithm, Google has narrowed the gap between user experience and search engine optimization, since sites with better page experience rank higher in searches. They aim to “make the web more delightful” by forcing us to consider the user-friendliness of our website.

We are well aware of the importance of search engine placement and there is an entire area of expertise dedicated to proving the worthiness of your webpage to search engines. There is no doubt that a high search engine ranking inspires confidence and is an extremely important tool in the PR arsenal. Now more than ever, we can’t ignore page experience, since it directly impacts placement in search engine rankings.

However, we want to approach page experience from a more selfless perspective. We simply want visitors to have a good time. When hospitality drives your efforts, you will find that creating a positive page experience isn’t a difficult thing to do. 

The Core Web Vitals

Since a positive page experience seems to be a subjective concept that may vary from user to user, you may be wondering how this strategy may be implemented for your business. Core Web Vitals were conceptualized by Google with the aim of providing us with concrete metrics to measure page experience. These metrics are a simple and straightforward way to evaluate the quality of the experience that you are providing to your visitors. 

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is a key, user-centric metric for evaluating apparent load time. LCP describes the speed of delivering the main and most important content on the screen. For great page experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds.

First Input Delay (FID) measures interactivity by quantifying the experience a user feels when interacting with unresponsive pages. FID measures the time between the user interacting with the page (usually by clicking a link or button) and their browser actually responding to that tap or click. We should aim to have FID of less than 100 milliseconds.

Finally, Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures visual stability by quantifying how frequently users experience unexpected layout shifts. A page with poor CLS can cause text to shift without warning, leading to a user losing their place on the page. Or worse, a link or button may shift, causing a user to inadvertently click on an unwanted page, creating annoyance, inconvenience or even an accidental purchase. Ideally, you’ll want a CLS score of less than 0.1.

Page Experience and PR

These metrics are all well and good, but what do they really mean? Simply put, if people have a good experience, they’ll come back and they’ll tell their friends. Brick and mortar locations understand the importance of positive user experience and know that visitors are unlikely to return if, for example, the chairs were uncomfortable or there was an unpleasant smell in the air. That experience, whether consciously or unconsciously, forms part of the story that is told about the company. It’s no different online. A bad visit to the website of an IT or software company can leave a lasting negative impression that can be near-impossible to correct. 

As stakeholders in the IT and software industries, page experience should be foremost in our minds when developing a website and when devising a PR strategy. Quite often, your website is your brand’s first opportunity to make an impression on a potential client, investor or partner. Page experience should, therefore, be a vital consideration in making a positive and lasting first impression. After all, who wants to work with a software company with a shoddy website? Confidence in your brand can be compromised within seconds of browsing your homepage, simply because a user had a poor page experience. 

Your website’s analytics can also be an important tool to clue you in on whether your visitors are having a positive page experience. For example, a high bounce rate can be a sure-fire way of knowing that visitors are not having a positive page experience.

Do certain pages have a higher bounce rate than others? What could be causing this? How can you improve page experience to ultimately improve the story that is told about your product or service?

Though the new Google algorithm takes effect in 2021, the company’s announcement is an important wakeup call right now that we should remember for years to come. Investing in improved user experience on your website is always a great idea.   

Showing ROI of PR and Content Marketing Campaigns
Scott E. Rupp

How does one prove the return on investment of PR and content marketing programs? What are the metrics? What must be tracked? What are some of the tools to do the measuring? How do you answer the question about the worth of investment of such efforts when organizational leadership asks that inevitable question?

All good questions deserving of answers, so let’s start from the top. PR ROI was once difficult to measure, but that’s not so much the case anymore. While many still consider ROI in financial terms (the amount of money totaled from public relations campaigns after subtracting the costs), that calculation is not effective most of the time. Many other factors can be considered to make the appropriate calculate.

Also in the past, the main measurement criteria was the quantity of coverage, channel of delivery and media type. Other factors included type of mention, whether competitors were also mentioned, source credibility and popularity of the publication. For a tech startup, features on sites like TechCrunch, Mashable and Inc. are the top tier and where all goalposts point.

Earned media and published thought leadership pieces often allow organizations the ability to position their leader(s) as experts in their respective fields, and create favorable impressions of your brand with your buyers and, later or eventually, influences a buyer’s decision to buy. The buyer may not even realize the influence your media mention had on him or her, but once they begin to see you or your organization as speaking to their concern and a source for helping them solve their problems, they are more likely to seek you out when they finally are able to make a purchasing decision.

How do you know if your PR efforts are actually driving revenue?

There are a number of factors you can measure to justify your investment in PR software and activities. Here is a closer look at a few:

Web analytics can show who is coming to your website after reading earned media articles and lets you know what these visitors do once they get there. This allows public relations to show the ROI of media mentions in a way that executives will understand. Most users of web analytics track goal conversions and assign a dollar value to those conversions. Depending on the business, this value may be based on the average value of a new customer or the average value of an inbound form submission. Analyze referring sites to determine which press releases, mentions and articles are driving traffic. That way, ROI for PR can be measured in exactly the same way that it is measured for online marketing campaigns.

“Metrics are domain-specific and strategy-specific, but as always, it matters the most to measure how many people arrived from your campaign (input), and how many converted (output),” said Lazhar Ichir founder of topicseed. “By analyzing these two stages, you can work on improving whatever part of your pipeline or funnel. Unlike regular marketing, content marketing can be measurable: from time spent on a page, to other pages a visitor goes to, to how much revenue it generated over the months.”

Stacy Caprio, search marketing manager at Accelerated Growth Marketing, says “the best way to measure content marketing ROI is to keep track of the page views, new visits and revenue from each page, using tools including Google Analytics, Adsense and your ecommerce platform then subtract the cost of the content creation from the total revenue and new visitor sales metrics to get your content marketing profit and ROI.”

The importance of search engine referral

Search engines placement and the authority of the sites linking back to yours is exceedingly important. For example, if the New York Times links to your software product page or website, Google algorithms assume your site has value, which helps raise it in Google’s search results. This is remarkably effective in helping the search engines return relevant results to users. Even smaller blogs and niche sites with original content can prove highly effective in your PR efforts. These links back to your site or product page can drive your PR and content marketing ROI.

Watch your competition

Pay attention to what your competition is doing during your campaign. If they are not running a PR campaign at the same time and getting much less action to their bottom line or customer responsiveness, that is success. Also, you may wish to analyze is you are you taking a share of voice from publications that otherwise only gave your competitors coverage? Are you able to circumvent coverage for your brand that might otherwise go to competitors? If so, that’s success.

Also, brand leaders must quickly come to understand that PR ROI cannot be reduced to a simple accounting equation. Intangible value needs to be considered and this value may take a while to become “cash.” Because PR and content marketing strategies often achieve non-financial objectives, there are several other metrics to consider. Here are a few of them:

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