Oct 26, 2011

Ideas for Creative (& Efficient) Content Generation

Results from an HNTB survey, front and center in Times Square.

This week PR Newswire and our  newest partner, Zoomerang, together hosted a webinar about creative content generation.  Moderated by yours truly, the webinar featured original thinking and great ideas, tips and tactics from our panelists:

  • Douglas Karr (@douglaskarr) CEO of DK New Media, and a well known blogger and author of Corporate Blogging for Dummies
  • John O’Connell, senior public relations manager for HTNB, one of the nation’s leading infrastructure firms.

Douglas kicked the session off in high gear, reminding us to consider the intentions of our web site visitors as we develop content.   That means putting selling on the back burner, and instead focusing on providing value, capturing attention and building the brand’s authority.

In order to achieve these three things, Douglas also challenged the audience to adopt multiple content formats – doing so caters to different human learning styles, and will make your content resonate more deeply with your audiences. And don’t forget kinesthetic learners, he noted, who thrive on interaction – not just text, audio and video.

At the outset, developing the sort of interactive content that engages audiences can seem intimidating – but online surveys and polls are an easy – and effective – way to involve audiences, invite their feedback and develop fresh content.   Douglas noted that he regularly uses a “poll of the week” simply consisting of one question,  from which he can generate interaction across channels like Twitter and Facebook, and (importantly to a content strategy) derive other assets – infographics, blog posts, etc. – by repurposing and expanding upon the poll results.

Re-purposing content was something Doug really emphasized, and he also encouraged the audience to re-release content, too.  Wrapping blog posts into a white paper, creating an infographic from collected survey data, and using poll reactions as the basis for stories are offer communicators the means to provide follow up for the audiences they’ve already engaged, and a means of creating relevant content for new groups: polling enables you to essentially test a concept with an audience – a lack of response indicates a relative lack of interest in that topic.

Moving into John’s segment, the audience was presented with a variety of specific and compelling examples of how survey data can be translated into great story hooks for media and other forms of sticky and interesting content for online audiences.

HNTB utilizes publicity polls to gauge public response to questions related to infrastructure projects, by posing questions designed to spark interest and generate debate (e.g. asking whether people prefer highway tolls to higher gasoline taxes.)   Fielded about once a month, the survey themes are selected based upon their timeliness, newsworthiness and their prospects for starting public conversations.

From the survey results, HNTB is able to derive a plethora of assets. John lead the audience through examples of how story angles (often illustrated with an infographic) derived from surveys can really resonate with reporters – the fact that the public has weighed in gives the pitch authority and in some cases is basis for the story itself.

John also described the variety of ways HNTB distributes the content they create – via PR Newswire (they prefer the Flex Release, which includes display of an image in Times Square) and a multitude of other channels including the HNTB web site (with publication-ready images), motion graphics on the web site and YouTube, push e-mail to media and blogger contacts and social networks.

Once the content is distributed, further derivations can be created. John noted that HTNB uses the survey content as the basis for op-ed pieces, leveraged in future out-reach and materials (content has a shelf-life of about a year) and as the foundation for conversations about story ideas and angles that can generate related coverage.  Influencers other than journalists are also considered in the communications mix.

Both speakers noted in the following Q&A that while most media won’t accept non-scientific surveys and polls as hard news and the basis for stories, nonetheless less rigorous polling is still very engaging for audiences and (as noted above) responses can still be packaged into effective communications and used in story ideas and angles.

Our thanks to our partner, Zoomerang, and Doug and John for a truly enlightening and informative conversation!

Related reading:

Tips for Creating & Using Infographics

HNTB examples, provided by John:

An article about one of our recent surveys in the latest issue of HNTB’s THINK magazine: PDF version (pgs 14-15) or  Kindle Single .

Related YouTube video:

HNTB archive of previous survey research

Example of survey results used in a press release

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media, and is the author of the free ebook Unlocking Social Media for PR.

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