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3 Ways to Get the Most Out of Professional Conferences

Last week, multiple members of Team True were lucky enough to get out of the office and attend the 10th Annual YouToo Social Media Conference at Kent State University. (And two members presented a break out session.) And while I love attending conferences, I’ve noticed more and more that the people attending conferences are there physically, but not always mentally. You might be asking what I mean by that last statement. Let me explain.

It’s no surprise that we live in a society where multitasking is the norm. And while I’m all for trying to cross multiple items off of my never-ending to-do list, it’s not worth it when you miss out on what’s happening right in front of you. Not to mention that professional conferences aren’t cheap, so you should absolutely get the most out of your company’s investment. So the next time you find yourself at a conference, try the following tips to get the most out of your experience.

Limit Emailing: Professional development is one of the main reasons you go to conferences, right? But if you’re constantly working and emailing and taking calls, are you really getting anything out of the conference? Put your out of office response on and try to limit the number of times you check your inbox. You’ll get so much value out of actually giving the speaker(s) your full attention. I promise!

Resist the Urge to Live Tweet: If you don’t tweet about it, were you even at the conference? I’m joking- but seriously, for those who can continuously live tweet at a conference, I applaud you. For me, I find that I’m listening for the next great quote to tweet, and then not really paying attention to what the speaker is actually saying. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you to never post to your social media channels during a conference, but I would absolutely try to limit the number of times you’re staring at your screen instead of looking at the speaker. Instead, go old school and take notes with a pen and paper!

Don’t Skip Networking: A few years ago, if I would have seen a networking session at a conference, I would have tried to avoid it at all costs. Why? Because networking is nerve-wracking! At least for me anyway. But now that I’m a few years into my professional career, I realize how crucial it is to attend any networking opportunity that is presented to you. So make sure you pack extra business cards and get out there and talk! You never know who you’re going to meet.

There you have it- three easy tips to get even more out of your next conference experience. And if you’re looking to improve or sharpen your social media skills, I would highly recommend attending next year’s YouToo Social Media Conference!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Benefits of Having a Dog in the Office

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Meet Murphy: True Digital Communications’ official mascot. He is friendly, fun and a bit crazy at times. He loves taking naps in his bean bag chair, eating treats and gets overly excited when the mailman stops by. But you might be asking yourself, why are you writing about a pug in the office? We’re glad you asked! We’ve found that being a dog-friendly office has many benefits! Here’s why:

  1. Relieves stress-  At times your workload can become heavy and breaks seem unrealistic. Having a dog sitting at your feet can definitely reduce some of that stress. A two minute snuggle session or even a short walk can be exactly what you need to refresh your brain and get on with your work.
  2. Breaks the ice- There are numerous people in and out of the office daily. With client visits and internship interviews, having a dog in the office is a great conversation starter. (Just make sure they like dogs before you begin the introductions.)
  3. Brings the office together- Usually during lunch breaks the team congregates where Murphy is. He allows everyone in the office to bond over something, even if it means watching him attempt to get treats out of his toys. He sparks casual conversations and definitely adds humor to the office. And on days where you have to stay late to finish up a report, having a pug in your lap makes it so much better! 

Of course having a dog in the office does come with some precautions. Always make sure you have a pet friendly environment and a well trained pet. Also, be sure to let visitors know that there is a dog around because believe it or not, not everyone is a dog person. Lastly, before bringing your dog to work, make sure to check with your co-workers and management to make sure there’s no allergies or pet restrictions in the office.

Murphy the pug makes days in the office fun and entertaining. He creates an exciting and positive atmosphere to work in. Just one look in his eyes can make your workload seem lighter and turn your stressful mood into a positive one. Not to mention, Murphy is just another reason True Digital is the place to be! Is your office dog friendly?

 

Choose Your Own Adventure: Joining Boards

There’s a million boards out there…professional ones, non-profit ones, company ones, it goes on forever. So, how do you figure out what is worth your time, and really who can use your help and expertise the most. Joining professional and non-profit boards have been some of the best experiences I’ve had since I graduated from college.

They make it easy (in my opinion) to be involved in college but it can be intimidating once you leave that happy, little bubble. I’ve met several professionals in advertising and public relations through groups like the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and the American Advertising Federation (AAF), plus it’s given me the opportunity to hear some fantastic speakers and expand my knowledge set. I also had the chance to serve on the board for the Akron Zoo’s Summer Safari event, the zoo’s biggest fundraiser annually. Plus, for fun I am on the board for a soccer supporters group called American Outlaws.

Everybody’s experiences are different and I think there are a few different ideas that can frame your decision:

  • Advocacy: Are you passionate about a particular civil right? Do you feel strongly about an issue in the current political landscape? Has your life been impacted by a disease or illness you want to help raise funds to cure? This is the perfect place to start. Find the nonprofits locally (or a local chapter) that has a board or committee that acts on their behalf. Help create a voice for that group locally – the passion of the board members will create excitement in the local chapter.
  • Skills: This leads me to the follow-up to advocacy – what can you offer? Do you love event planning? Writing? Organizing? Recruiting? I could go on forever. Think about what you do day-to-day or what kinds of skills you may have to easily offer to a board. For me it’s always been a communications play – social media, content and promotions. Remember! You don’t have to do what you do from day-to-day – just find a position or committee you are interested in and something you can offer of value.
  • Career: Every career has one (or 10) groups and clubs that you can join easily. Join a committee and help out to start, groups like these always need the additional support to keep the professional groups running. Plus, events like these help you create new professional bonds and even friendships.
  • Hobbies: What do you love to do? Do you love sports, crafting, running, food, beer, music? I could name 100 things – and they all have groups that love the same thing. These groups have boards and committees to help create and promote events – or just plain recruit. Plus, they are great ways to decompress from a long day and a way to find others that share your love of that coffee IPA.

So, there you have it! Take the leap and reach out to a non-profit or organization you have been looking to get involved in today. It’s not that scary, I promise!

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Stephanie and a group of the Summer Safari Volunteer Board.

Why Isn’t My Site on the First Page of Google?

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It’s the question anyone responsible for a school’s online presence dreads: “Why isn’t our site on the first page of Google?”

From page headlines and site navigation to social signals and relationships with other websites, there are hundreds of factors at play in Google’s search algorithm. Getting your site to the top of search rankings and keeping it there over time can be a long, frustrating, labor-intensive effort. And even if those efforts are successful, SEO focused on keywords that are too broad, too specific or out of sync with how target families search won’t drive an increase in site traffic, inquiries or applications.

The first step to increasing online visibility in a way that contributes to your school’s enrollment goals is defining the role your website plays in your larger communication strategy. From there, optimization efforts depend on:

  • Benchmarking your current site’s performance and identifying opportunities for improvement
  • Understanding the online behaviors and search habits of prospective families so you can hone in on the best keywords for your site
  • Following best practices for keyword use site content
  • Building reciprocal relationships with trusted websites
  • Establishing geographic cues that help Google place your site in the right location searches

Search engine optimization is not a one-time effort or a quick fix. It can take weeks – or even months – for search rankings to reflect your efforts. Understanding what organic search rankings can and can’t do for you in terms of site traffic and qualified inquiries can help you determine where best to invest your time and budget, and arm you to answer the inevitable, “Why isn’t our site on the first page of Google yet?” questions that are sure to follow an optimization project.

Want to know more about search ranking factors and how they impact your site traffic? Join True’s SEO experts on March 31 for a one-hour webinar. We’ll cover:

  • The role search plays in the potential student families’ decision-making process
  • SEO factors that do (and don’t) influence your site’s visibility in online search
  • Ways to identify “low hanging fruit” – the immediate improvements you can make to improve your site’s search ranking
  • How to set expectations for the time and effort needed to drive lasting improvement in your site’s online visibility

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Navigating the Influencer Triangle with the PESO Model

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Have you heard of Doug the Pug? Did you know Doug has 5.3 million Facebook friends and 2.3 million Instagram followers? Doug the Pug along with many others have become influencers in the world of social media and marketing. Chris Baldwin, our fearless leader at True, recently spoke at PRSA Akron on navigating the influencer triangle with paid, earned, shared and owned channels. Chris spoke about the importance of these influencers in marketing and created examples for the audience. According to the PESO model all aspects work in different ways but are all successful. Below are the examples he shared with the audience:

Paid media involves posting sponsored ads and posts on Facebook and Twitter, fan acquisition and lead generation. Chris discussed how Arizona Expedition used paid media by selecting five millennial social media influencers in different topics to do a five-day shoot around Arizona. The topics these millennials specialized in were golf, cooking and wine, photography and adventure sports. These millennials shared how they “Let Go” for Arizona Expedition’s “Let Yourself Go” project with great success.

Earned media includes publicity, media relations, influencer relations and partnerships. A good example of a company who uses earned media is Duck Brand Duct Tape. The brand has had many influencers because of its involvement with the community. Duct Brand Duct Tape has found many people who create DIY projects share them on blogs, websites and social media channels. Since they already had Duct Tape enthusiasts, Duct Brand Duct Tape created a Stuck at Prom Scholarship contest where teens created prom dresses out of the material. This created thousands of media stories for the company and also named Duck Brand Duct Tape the #1 selling brand in the world.

Shared media involves many one-to-one interviews and engaging with your customers, advocates, employees and partners to review the brand and company. Some companies that partake in shared media are Amazon, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google Places, Yahoo! and Facebook reviews. Reviews are a huge aspect of shared media. Chris shared an example of a review on Amazon for the Three Wolf Moon T-shirt. This T-shirt had a 5-star rating and great reviews from an Amazon customer. This influencer was not paid but still had a strong effect on the product. From the review the T-shirt became the top selling item in Amazon’s clothing store and a virtual hit.

Owned media includes all of the communications channels within a company’s control such as the website, blog, social media and email. This contains content from the experts, employee stories, customer stories, user generated content, reviews and multimedia posts. Having a Facebook page and other sharing sites available for your company or brand helps with owned media. As a company, you get to control the conversation but it also has a personal touch.

Key Takeaways

  • Find the best way to influence your target audiences whether it is one of these four ways or a combination of all.
  • 2017 is the year of influencers and it is important for your company/ brand to find its influencers and create a bond with them.
  • As a company you must nudge your influencers to share information in a positive way. To achieve that you must help them out and ask them questions throughout the process and make sure the communication is clear.

How to Make Instagram Albums Work for Your School

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If there’s one thing that is constant with social media, it’s that social channels will constantly change. From new features to updated layouts, you’ll find that as soon as you get used to a channel being a certain way- it’ll change. Yesterday, Instagram released a huge update to its platform with the introduction of Instagram Albums- a feature that allows an Instagram account to post up to 10 photos and videos in one post. Followers can then swipe through the post, viewing the grouping of photos and/or videos.

What Does This Mean for Schools?

If you’re an independent school and Instagram is a channel that is part of your social strategy- then Instagram Albums can be a powerful way to continue to tell your school’s story. However, make sure that whatever photos or videos you’re sharing stays on brand and has an intention. Take a moment to revisit your Instagram strategy and update accordingly.

Where Do I Start?

While the rollout of this feature won’t happen all at once, check your App Store to see if the update is there. From there, you’ll see a little icon of stacked photos when you go to post as you normally would. That’s where you get to select the photos you’d like to be featured and you can select which order the photos will be in. You can then batch edit the photos so they remain consistent and on brand. After you type in your caption and select your appropriate hashtags, hit post and voila! You now have an Instagram Album.

Ideas for Integrating Albums Into Your Online Presence

Since this feature is a game changer for the platform, this is a great time to sit down with your marketing team and brainstorm ideas for albums. Think through how you can tell your school’s story to potential and current students, as well as parents and alumni. A few ideas may look something like this:

  1. A tour of your campus featuring buildings and landmarks
  2. Introduce faculty and staff
  3. Showcase a day in the life of students
  4. Announce campus news/promote events
  5. Share photos/videos of sporting events

So there you have it, a quick look at Instagram Albums and several ideas for getting started with this exciting new feature. As long as you create albums with intention and have a strategy behind it, you’re sure to see the engagement on this channel increase.

If you have any questions about albums or Instagram strategy for schools, we’d love to chat!

The ROI Equation for Building Products Marketers

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In recent years, our ability to analyze user behavior and determine how Facebook, SEO, email and other tactics affect the purchase decision has improved. However, the challenges of two-step distribution make determining ROI especially difficult for most building products manufacturers. It can seem impossible to account for all the variables that result in purchase when you have little insight at the dealer or contractor level.

With the exception of reduced visibility, the funnel isn’t much different than it is for other marketers. The challenge is connecting marketing metrics to sales metrics. At True, we use three tactics to bridge the gap.

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Determine a non-sales marketing metric that indicates purchase

You can start to bridge the marketing ROI gap by focusing on what can be quantified, rather than what can’t. When a direct connection can’t be made between marketing efforts and offline sales, an intermediate, online conversion can help connect the dots. Examples of these include:

  • Requests for more information
  • Free product samples
  • Visiting a dealer
  • Downloading an online resource

Web experience planning is crucial at this point to figure out how users engage with your site and what they want to learn. Focus on finding one relevant, measurable action for each objective.

Determine the cost for your non-sales marketing conversion

The calculation is simple:

Cost of the program / Non-sales marketing conversion = Cost per conversion

The first question at this point is always, “What’s a good cost per conversion?” The better question is, “What’s a profitable cost per conversion?” The building products industry has a wide range of price points for a unit or an entire job. The drywall for a new construction build may be roughly $500. New siding is likely to cost upwards of $10,000. The siding company can afford a much higher cost per conversion and still be profitable.

Simple calculations for online conversions are the next step toward demystifying ROI. Determining front-end marketing costs and outcomes based on online conversion points is easier.

Determine the value of your non-sales marketing conversion

In a two-step distribution model, it’s nearly impossible to track every sale at the end-user level. What’s important is identifying trends to learn how different audiences buy. Rather than track every sale, use trends and averages to start to unmask ROI. There are three pieces to uncovering these trends:

  • Organized data – Whether you have a spreadsheet or a CRM, knowing where your customers come from, what audience segments they belong to and which sales rep closed the deal is important. The more information you have about your customers, the more reliable your assumptions about revenue per sale.
  • Open communications with sales reps – It’s important to get the right feedback from your reps. They know how many architects, builders and contractors they call on in a month. They can also tell you how many they feel ended in a sale. Depending on the rep and relationship, they may be able to shed insight on one-time customers vs. customers likely to repeat purchase.
  • Patience – Because two-step distribution is so fragmented, it’s important to remember this is an ongoing process. The more you learn about your audience and test your model, the smarter you become. Once you have a clear model you can test your inputs. Shift marketing dollars regionally, refocus audiences and change marketing messages. As long as you have a wealth of customer data, you will learn how these variable affect sales.

When you lose visibility at the point of sales, ROI is always going to be elusive, but we have the tools to audit our marketing efforts and track trends with sales.

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Meet True’s Newest Intern

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Meet Bailey, True’s new content intern. In this blog post, she tells us more about her PR experience so far, what she likes to do in her free time and where she sees herself in the future!

Name: Bailey Purpura

School: Kent State University

Major: Public Relations

Year: Senior

Other internship experience: Social media manager for NEO Allstars.

Do you have any hobbies?: I love to travel and I am usually somewhere different every weekend. I love taking and editing pictures and I also enjoy playing board games with my cousins.

What are 3 fun facts about you: 1. I am a competitive cheerleading coach 2. I LOVE Harry Potter and I had the chance to visit where they filmed the movies in London 3. I play the ukulele!

What’s your favorite snack: GRILLED CHEESE (I know that’s a big snack but I would eat it every day)

What do you hope to gain from your internship at True?: I hope to walk away with a better understanding of all aspects of a PR agency setting. I hope to take what I have learned beyond just PR and apply it to every job in my future.

What made you interested in an internship at True? I love how everyone is so passionate about their role at True. I think it’s awesome and beneficial that everyone here has a different specialty, and I feel like I learn something new every day! I love the atmosphere in the office and the variety of clients and projects True works on.

Where do you want to be in ten years? I would love to be working at an international PR agency in Cleveland or Chicago that allows me to travel and work with partners all over the world.

Welcome, Bailey! We’re so happy to have you on the team!

 

4 Steps to Improved Manager Communications

Every manager encounters a thousand communication opportunities every day.  It’s a metaphorical statement, but you catch the drift. A thousand chances to add value; a thousand chances to screw something up. The best of them, the leaders, know what to do with those opportunities, and fortunately, it’s not a secret.

Oh, sure, there are “naturals” out there — those gifted souls whose kind and gentle nature makes them magnets for great teams and whose command of language makes them a joy to work for. But most managers aren’t naturals when it comes to communication. They need to be carefully taught.

In my work with literally thousands of managers over the years (quite shocking to have totaled them up last year…), they seem to have two big problems in communicating with their teams.

1. They think more about what they need to say than what they need to listen to, and
2. They fail to consider the audience before deciding on messages, or methods to communicate.

Some of the issue is simple education — many people become managers because of technical expertise. They’re great engineers, accountants or public relations people who get promoted. They don’t have formal training that helps them be effective managers, let alone effective communicators. They often think communication is someone else’s job, except for operational and policy matters.

Yet, they’re often harsh critics of their own bosses — middle managers seldom feel like they know what they need to know. That takes its toll, as resentment builds. Managers feel like they’re going into battle with an unloaded weapon. Pass these four methods along to fill that gap, and use them yourself!

  1. Think critically about audiences. In this case, the more specifically, the better. It’s not just “employees” — there are groups of employees with differing needs, experiences and objectives that must be considered. Apply the same discipline to the leaders above your level.  An exhaustive listing of these potential groupings will help give a firm foundation to your communication plans.
  2. Consider communication objectives in the context of business objectives. Managers should be specific about what they want employees to think, feel or do as a result of communicating with them.  Again, go through the same exercise with your own management in mind. Keep your objectives organized by audience so you can make all communications work toward those goals.
  3. Evaluate messages. Messaging isn’t limited only to information flowing from you to subordinates. Boil down and simplify to be sure your language fits precisely the objectives for your audiences. As Strunk and White wrote, “Make every word tell.” Your employees, and your boss, will thank you for taking the extra time to do so.
  4. Finally, you’re ready to consider HOW to communicate. Methods can vary from hot (face to face discussion) to cool (email, telephone) to cold (memo, letter, statement).  As you think about the first three items on this list, fit the method to the context. Think of this less from your own preferences, and more from those of your audience, given the objectives you have for them. It’s the essence of receiver-focused communication.

If there were a #5, it would read: “Start now.”

Google Shopping Certification: What You Need To Know

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In the past, I’ve given you the run down for how to pass the Google Adwords and Analytics certification exams, but today I wanted to you give an in-depth look into one of the Google shopping exams for the Google Adwords certification. The Google Shopping exam was the easier of the two exams I chose (the other being search), however it did present its own set of unique challenges.

As stated in my previous blog posts, before you can take the exams, you are required to sign up for Google Partners. Google Partners is Google’s free program for agencies and other digital professionals designed to give you access to special events, Adwords and Analytics updates and free certification exams. Once you have registered, you will have access to all of the study materials for the Google Shopping exam under the Google Adwords certification.

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In order to become certified in Google Adwords you must pass two of the six possible exams with the Shopping exam as one of your options. The Google Shopping exam is 63 questions in 90 minutes and places heavy emphasis on the various feed specifications required to participate in Product Listing Ads (PLAs). There are plenty of supplemental materials on the web to help prepare yourself for the exam, but I found Google’s study guides to be the most helpful. Pay close attention to the specific requirements that each product must include to be approved for shopping and note that some requirements are specific to the product category. For instance, apparel and accessories may have different requirements than home goods and tools. Luckily, many of the requirements seem to be common sense, such as you can’t advertise a product through PLAs without an accurate photo and size and color information must be provided for apparel products. The majority of the exam’s questions focus on setting up the product feed and the fundamentals of the program.

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Since taking my Google Shopping exam last year, I’ve had the opportunity to work on accounts with Shopping campaigns and have developed a list of key takeaways from the exam that have helped me manage my accounts:

  • Products must include two of the three possible unique product identifiers in the feed: Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN), Manufacturer Parts Number (MPN) or the brand name.
  • GTINs are unique to every SKU of every product. Each variation should have a unique number.
  • Apparel and accessories must include the GTIN and the brand.
  • For apparel products, images must be at least 250 x 250 pixels and all other products must be at least 100 x 100 pixels.

Let’s review the facts before you take the exam:

  • You have 90 minutes to answer 63 questions.
  • You will not be able to return to any previous question once submitted.
  • Multiple choice answers, with the occasional multiple answer.
  • The passing score is 80%.
  • If you do not pass, you may retake the test in 7 days.
  • Your passing score is good for 12 months.

Remember to study the Google-provided materials before the exam because you will run out of time if you have to look up every answer to every question. Good luck!