Nov 30, 2011

One year, and 100,000 reads…lessons learned from blogging for a brand

In late October, this little blog celebrated its one year anniversary, and about a week later, hit another important milestone – the 100,000th read.   It’s been quite a journey to get to where we are today with Beyond PR, and I’ve learned a lot along the way.

Gaining acceptance

As is the case with any social media endeavor (I’m convinced) the need for a blog was questioned, and until it started really showing some traction, few were convinced of its value.  I won’t kid you, this was annoying at first, especially since I was writing my brains out to keep the blog going, but in reality, I’ve come to realize that internal skepticism is something pretty much any social media manager will confront.  My advice for those in this phase – don’t take it personally, and stay the course!

Showing results

However, the tides started to shift once I was able to demonstrate results in language and metrics my organization understood, namely, media coverage, improved search engine rankings, and click-throughs to other company content and assets.  Life started to get a bit easier at that point.

Integrating with sales and marketing

At about the six month mark, we had developed enough of an audience that we were able to use the blog to “break” some types of news.  One particularly successful effort was around the concept of “visual PR” in which we used analytics data that proved the efficacy of including multimedia with press releases in generating more reads for the messages.  I was able to have our marketing team create an infographic illustrating the data, and blogged in detail about the findings.

(Multimedia content drives better press release results)

It turns out we had a real winner on our hands – this particular blog post was a real hit, in a few different ways.   It was immediately interesting to our readers.  It was also extremely useful to our sales force, and sales of image archival and distribution increased.  The content was repurposed by our marketing department in a customer newsletter.  It was shared widely in social networks by PR professionals, and got good play in some industry media.

(Ragan’s PR Daily: Multimedia news releases grab 77 percent more views)

We followed this formula for a variety of other posts – providing interesting information, data and tactical advice to our audience, while maintaining a strong tie in to a product, and have seen real business results in terms of sales as a result.  We do use this approach judiciously – much of our content (like this very post) is more geared toward sharing our knowledge and participating in the conversation about social communications, rather than selling.   No one wants to be pitched to constantly.  However, we all understand how the world works, and of course Beyond PR exists to support PR Newswire’s business.  This is, after all, a form of content marketing! ;)

Getting others on board

Anyone who manages a blog knows that keeping the content coffers full is the primary challenge.  You have to publish frequently in order to develop your audience, and you have to be pretty well organized in terms of the content you produce.  There has to be some continuity – no one wants to read a mish-mash of unrelated information.   And the whole point of a brand blog is to underscore and illustrate your know-how and expertise in a particular area.  Here on Beyond PR, our beats are public relations, content marketing and social media, with some media relations, SEO and investor relations sprinkled into the mix.

At first, getting others on board with blogging was really tough.  As in it became my own personal nightmare tough.  To compensate (and fill the yawning content chasm that greeted me daily) I started to read and write almost constantly.  Happily, the more you write, the easier it gets.  So for a while I was able to produce decent posts that got results.

They say success begets success, and with respect to the blog, this certainly has been true.  As we’ve been able to gain traction and show business results, people are more interested in contributing writing and videos. The wheels are turning, and we’re headed in the right direction as we move into Year Two of Beyond PR.

The pressure is on as we move into the second year.  My goal will be to grow the traffic, CTR and business integration of Beyond PR, and to continue developing this channel for communications between PR Newswire and professional communicators.    What do you think is missing from this blog?  Your comments, suggestions and ideas are always welcome.

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

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