Beyond PR

Jan 28, 2016

5 Steps to Unlocking Successful User-Generated Content

Content Promotion and User Generated Marketing

The human condition makes us storytellers, driven to share our perspective and expertise with others. Just take a look at your favorite social media network where friends and strangers alike freely trade opinions.

You can also see it in the surging popularity of user-generated content (UGC).

According to Content Marketing Institute’s 2015 Content Marketing Report, 70% of B2C brands said they’re working on user-generated content now or will be working on it within the next 12 months.

And if you think UGC campaigns are only for reaching consumers, 94% of B2B buyers in DemandGen’s 2015 Content Preferences Survey said they give the most credence to peer reviews and user-generated content.

User-generated content puts your audience at the center of your marketing. It adds diversity to your content’s voice, strengthens connections with current customers, and creates new ones.

But crowdsourcing content isn’t easy.

Even if your content’s readership is significant, inspiring your audience to take the next step and participate in a UGC campaign takes planning.

As we explore in the white paper Why Content Marketing’s Really a Question of Marketing Your Content, you need more than just a great idea. You need a strategy for distributing your content to the right people.

In a user-generated content campaign that means promoting not just the end-result of the crowdsourcing, but also your response-gathering efforts.

PR Newswire’s marketing team recently tackled user-generated content with last November’s #PRisNow infographic.

The objective of #PRisNow was to update our original #PRis infographic, which had been primarily crowdsourced during the PRSA 2012 International Conference. However, our plan for the latest version was to publish updated results ahead of the 2015 conference.

This posed a challenge because we could only depend on our digital channels to gather responses.

Ultimately, our #PRisNow campaign received more responses from around the world and across the industry than the first campaign.  We also earned media coverage in industry publications and the infographic (which you can view by clicking the graphic below) was identified as a top piece of content shared during the PRSA 2015 International Conference.


#PRisNow was successful because we laid out a multichannel content marketing strategy to gather audience submissions, create content, and distribute it.

The following five steps explore how to plan your own user-generated content, and the role content distribution plays.

Step 1: Document your UGC plan.

When creating our marketing strategy for #PRisNow, we outlined:

  • Objectives we wanted to achieve
  • External and internal audiences we wanted to reach
  • Behaviors we wanted to inspire
  • Content assets required for response gathering, response output, and promotion
  • Metrics that would determine success
  • Realistic timelines for execution
  • Responsibilities of individuals involved in project

You may think documenting these details takes up too much time. However, UGC campaigns have so many moving parts and dependencies. Putting an agreed-upon plan in writing will help you identify roadblocks and check progress along the way.

Step 2: Promote your request for audience input.

Your promotion plan for generating user content will depend on the type of content you’re gathering. However, you don’t need to limit it to one or two channels.

Even if you’re gathering responses via a single channel (for instance, Instagram), you can still use your brand’s other channels to direct people there.

In the case of #PRisNow, we started with a blog post on Beyond PR, then created customized posts for different social media channels, messaging that internal advocates could share with their networks, influencer pitches, and outreach via ProfNet’s free query service.

When gathering responses, utilize a combination of owned, earned, social, and paid media channels, just as you would when promoting other types of content marketing. And remember to create channel-specific visuals to help grab attention.


You’ll also want to compile respondents’ submissions as they come in. You may realize you don’t have the quantity or quality of replies you need. If you catch this early enough, you can fine-tune where, how, and how often you’re promoting your request for submissions.

Step 3: Package responses into the appropriate format(s).

When first planning your campaign, you should have a general idea of what your initial output will look like.

Whether it’s a video, blog post, infographic, research report, SlideShare, etc., make sure it fits the format, tone, and voice your target audience prefers.

It’s important to stay flexible, though.

User-generated content hinges on your audience and you may discover their replies are taking you down a different path.

Adapt your original path so the story your content tells reflects your audience’s responses.

Step 4: Coordinate your content promotion across channels.

Similar to when you promoted your response-gathering efforts, you’ll want to promote the resulting content across multiple channels.

Leverage your various owned media platforms. Publish multiple social media posts over time and tag contributors in them. Send a press release. Follow up with those internal advocates and influencers who helped spread the word initially and thank them for their support.

Step 5: Monitor results and consider next steps.

Return to your original plan and see how reality compares to your original expectations.

User-generated content demands a lot of energy. You want to make sure you get the most return on your investment, which means considering how you can repurpose this content.

Before we sought submissions for #PRisNow, we knew we’d start with an infographic to mirror the original version. However, we also brainstormed some tentative content ideas contingent on the campaign’s success.

When we saw the level of interest audiences took in the infographic, we repurposed it in a companion SlideShare, header graphics for our social media accounts, and a follow-up article with tips related to the trends our audience had identified.

In the end, the key to successful user-generated content is employing a multichannel promotion strategy that gives your content the immediate lift it needs and continues to amplify your message over time.

Don’t forget to download Why Content Marketing’s Really a Question of Marketing Your Content for more distribution practices that’ll help you achieve your goals.


Author Amanda Hicken is PR Newswire’s senior manager of strategic content and managing editor of Beyond PR. Follow her on Twitter @ADHicken for tweets about the media, marketing, Cleveland, and comic books.

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