Category Archives: #digitalmarketing

Vine reboot Byte begins beta testing

Twitter shut down Dom Hoffman’s app Vine, giving away the short-form video goldmine to China’s TikTok. Now a year and half since Hoffman announced he’d reimagine the app as V2 then scrapped that name, his follow-up to Vine called Byte has finally sent out the first 100 invites to its closed beta. Byte will let users record or upload short, looped vertical videos to what’s currently a reverse-chronological feed.

It will be a long uphill climb for Byte given TikTok’s massive popularity. But if it differentiates by focusing less on lip syncing and teen non-sense so it’s less alienating to an older audience, there might be room for a homegrown competitor in short-form video entertainment.

Hoffman tells TechCrunch that he’s emboldened by the off-the-cuff nature of the beta community, which he believes proves the app is compelling even before lots of creative and funny video makers join. He says his top priority is doing right by creators so they’ll be lined up to give Byte a shot when it officially launches even if they could get more views elsewhere.

For now, Hoffman plans to keep running beta tests, adding and subtracting features for a trial by fire to see what works and what’s unnecessary. The current version is just camera recordings with no uploads, and just a feed with Likes and comments but no account following. Upcoming iterations from his seven-person team will test video uploads and profiles.

One reassuring point is that Hoffman is well aware that TikTok’s epic rise has changed the landscape. He admits that Byte can’t win with the exact same playbook Vine did when it faced an open field, and it must bring something unique. Hoffman tells me he’s a big fan of TikTok, and sees it as one evolutionary step past Vine, but not in the same direction as his new app

Does the world need Vine back if TikTok already has over 500 million active users? We’ll soon find out of Hoffman can take a Byte of that market.

Push Strategies for Getting More Visitors

A push strategy usually involves interrupting the content that is being consumed.

You aren’t the tweet they want to read, but instead, you’re the tweet ad that they read on their stream. You aren’t the YouTube video they want to watch, but you are the pre-roll ad that they watch to get to the content they were after in the first place.

Pull is analogous to Hansel and Gretel. The sweets lure the children into the house on their own accord. Push is analogous to the Three Little Pigs. The wolf just huffs and puffs and breaks into their homes. You can pull them into your world, or you can push yourself into their world. That’s the main difference between pull and push tactics for getting visitors.

Understanding Lifetime Value of a Customers

The lifetime value of a customer (LTV) is basically the amount of money that you are going to make from a customer throughout their life. If you built an e-commerce app and you profit an average of $100 per customer, per year, and they typically buy for 5 consecutive years before they get bored with your inventory and stop shopping with you, then your LTV is $500.

This is important because another primary difference between pull and push tactics is that push tactics usually cost money. Going back to our example above, if a customer is worth $500 on average then it would be foolish to spend $501 to move someone through your funnel. You would ultimately lose $1 each time you retained a user. Keep this simple idea in mind with all of the tactics covered in this section.

1. Purchase Ads

It may not seem like growth hacking at first glance, but ads are definitely a place to hack the distribution of your product. Sure, if you just purchase ads without a strategy, void of creativity, doing nothing to gain an edge, and ignore the process of multivariate testing, then you will be like everyone else (and it probably wouldn’t be considered growth hacking). But that’s not what we’re going to do. Here are some things you must keep in mind as you approach this push tactic:

Understand Your Ad Platform Options

There are many different ways to purchase ads. Most people assume that there is just Facebook, Google, and Twitter, but there are so many more. You can also purchase ads on LinkedIn, which would make a lot of sense if you’re selling to corporate customers. There are niche ad networks such as Carbon (carbonads.net) or The Deck (decknetwork.net), both of which will allow you to target specific verticals. There is BuySellAds (buysellads.com) which allows you to purchase website banner ads, tweets, newsletter sponsorships, RSS includes, and even spots on mobile apps. There is a relatively new ad network that just focuses solely on email sponsorships called LaunchBit (launchbit.com). There is even a solution called Trada (trada.com) that will crowdsource the purchasing of your paid advertising and only take a cut if they exceed your goals. If you want to focus exclusively on mobile users then you can advertise using Tapjoy (tapjoy.com).

Here is a screenshot of Carbon, a niche ad platform.

Here is a screenshot of BuySellAds, one of the generic ad platforms.

This doesn’t even include the platforms that focus on retargeting. Retargeting gives you the ability to track users to your site and show your ads only to those people as they browse around the internet. Now, even your ads can be pre-qualified. If this sounds magical it’s because it is magical. In this space alone you have a number of platforms like AdRoll, Perfect Audience, and Retargeter.

Here is a screenshot of AdRoll, which was named the #1 advertising company by Inc. Magazine.

There has been an explosion of ad networks over the last few years. Some would argue we have too many ways to purchase ads. This can be a good thing if you are willing to investigate the options to find the ones that meet your needs.

Learn the Technical Details of Your Chosen Platform

Once you’ve found an ad platform that meets your specific needs then it will be imperative that you learn the technical details of their offering. The difference between making money or losing money could easily be the difference between knowing the technicalities or not. The most complicated and advanced platform is probably Google AdWords, and it could easily take months to truly master their product, but most of the other options can be learned in a weekend with a high degree of proficiency.

Buying Ads is a Business Model Competition

It’s always hard to know how much you should spend for a single click, or for a set of impressions, but the answer is actually a factor of your business model. If you are targeting the same audience as another company, but your business model is more efficient and your LTV is higher, then you can afford to pay more for the traffic without going upside down. The best thing you can do to win customers using ads is to have a great business model. It’s almost an unfair advantage because no amount of tips or tricks can overcome this one stronghold. If you can pay twice as much to acquire a customer then you have a very defensible strategy.

Consider the Various Personas of Your Customer

Your customers can probably be reached using various platforms. For instance, they are more than likely on Facebook and LinkedIn. You must then decide which persona they are utilizing when they want a product like yours. When someone is on Facebook they are thinking about friends and family. They are looking at photos of other people’s experiences. When people are on LinkedIn they are thinking about climbing the corporate ladder and how networking with others can help them reach their goals. If your product is for project management in agile environments then I wouldn’t choose Facebook, even though technically you could reach your demographic there. Yes, they would see your ad, but their mindset would be incorrect because you are introducing yourself to them in the wrong place. Always think about the persona your customers exhibit while using your particular product before choosing an ad platform.

Circumvent the Ad Networks When Possible

This tactic may not scale easily, but it is still well worth mentioning. You could go to BuySellAds (or other places) and buy banner ads on a particular blog that your audience reads. However, if you cut out the middleman (BuySellAds) and go directly to the owner of the blog then you can get cheaper rates for two reasons. First, BuySellAds is making a cut of every transaction, so if you go direct that is money that you can recoup without the blog owner losing anything. Second, you are able to negotiate. Very rarely is the lowest price and the advertised price the same thing. You can ask for a lower rate and often close a deal relatively simply.

If You Are Paying Per click Then Qualify Every Click

There are two ways to buy ads. First you can purchase them on a CPM basis, which means you pay for set number of impressions and it doesn’t matter how many clicks they get. Second, you can pay per click and this means that it doesn’t matter how many times your ad appears, you only pay when your ad is clicked. If you are paying per click then you don’t want people to click your ad unless they are seriously interested, because it costs you money every time they do. Luckily, there are things you can do to qualify clicks using the ad itself. Consider putting the price of your product in the copy so that people don’t click unless they are interested in spending money. Also, don’t use emotion to pull them in unless that same emotion will cause them to buy from you. Don’t put a picture of cute cat on your ad, just to get cat lovers to click on it, if your product doesn’t have something to do with cats.

Test Variations of Your Ad

One of the most fundamental lessons of ads is that you have no idea what your audience will respond to. You have to test multiple versions of the copy, multiple versions of the imagery, and then multiple combinations of the copy and imagery together. The numbers will tell you the truth about which ads you should be running, but your intuition or gut is probably not accurate.

2. Promo Swap

One of the easiest, and free, ways to drive traffic to your site is through cross promotions with other companies. If you find a company who is already serving your target demographic, and you wouldn’t be considered a threat to them, then there are plenty of ways that you could coordinate to promote each other. Here are some ideas to help you brainstorm possibilities:

  • Swap Tweets: Each company sends out a tweet to their followers about the other company.
  • Swap Facebook Posts: Each company writes a post on their Facebook page about the other company.
  • Dedicated Email Swap: Each company send out an entire email about the other company.
  • Sponsored Email Swap: Each company puts a “sponsored by” link in their existing newsletter, linking to the other company.
  • Ad Space Swap: Each company allows the other company to place a banner ad on their website or blog.
  • Pre-roll Video Swap: Each company gives away video ad space to the other company.
  • Giveaway Swap: Each company promotes a giveaway from the other company on their blog.

    3. Affiliates

    Another way to push people toward your site is by hiring affiliates. This is an arrangement where you pay someone every time they reach a certain goal for you, like getting a visitor to your site, or activating a member. An affiliate might use many of the tactics in this book, but you are paying them to do it instead of worrying about it yourself. Here are a few things to know if you are going to use this tactic:

    Think Carefully About the Incentives

    If you give an affiliate $100 for every new signup, but there is no clause that says the new signup has to stick around for a certain number of months, then you could find yourself in a situation with misaligned incentives. The affiliate would be rewarded for getting you low quality customers that cancel quickly because it doesn’t affect their profit either way. Create a system where the affiliate only benefits if you benefit.

    Don’t Roll Your Own Affiliate Solution

    There are a number of products that will allow you to easily get up and running on the technical side of creating an affiliate system, and on the acquisition side of finding affiliates to promote your product. There are products like Commission Junction that will connect you with affiliates, and products like Omnistar that actually track affiliate payouts.

    Vet Every New Affiliate Early On

    When someone becomes an affiliate for you then they are representing your business to some extent. The tactics they use, the language they employ, and their general style, is a reflection on you. They may not be an employee, but they will be the front of your brand for the people they reach. Choose your affiliates very carefully.

    4. Direct Sales

    I’m going to be honest, this is a hard one to categorize as a growth hacking tactic, but it is a way to get traffic at the top of the funnel so I would be remiss to completely ignore it. Direct sales teams do not work for every kind of product, but in some cases it is a worthwhile tactic. AppStack, a startup that creates mobile websites in conjunction with mobile ads for local businesses, was able to grow revenues to over 50k a month in a relatively short amount of time, and their primary strategy was direct telephone sales. I use them as an example because it’s hard to imagine a startup using this method, but some of them do, and it actually can work.

    Key Takeaways

  • A push tactic usually involves interrupting the content that is being consumed.
  • Push tactics usually cost money.
  • Since money is involved with push tactics you must understand the lifetime value of your customers (LTV), so that you don’t spend more money on a customer then you’ll make from them.
  • We covered 4 push tactics: purchase ads, promo swap, affiliates, and direct sales.

Get the Word Out With Public Relations

You’ve launched an amazing product or service. Now what? Now, you need to get the word out.

But you’re on a budget and can’t afford the $10K a month to hire a fancy agency and put out press releases. That’s fine. You’re better off executing you’re on strategy or hiring a really awesome consultant.

When done well, good PR can be much more effective and less expensive than advertising. For cost-conscious businesses, ROI is crucial. Every penny spent on marketing should generate revenue. PR is no different. Here are the steps you should take to form a successful strategy for your business:

1. Let go of the agency allure

The sad truth about PR is that existing process are broken. They’re outdated, costly, and inefficient.

  1. Many agencies are still buying very expensive ‘media lists’ and blasting our press releases and pitches to hundreds of journalists at a time.
  2. It’s hard for the PR industry to track and measure the value of what they do.
  3. Press release blasts entirely miss the mark on target audiences.

To succeed with PR, you need to focus less on the appeal of an agency and focus more heavily to focus on results. Prioritize what you want to achieve, not outdated ‘best practices.’ If you want to get in front of journalists, for instance, you are likely better off forming 1:1 relationships than bombarding them with irrelevant pitches.

2. Know When to Use a Press Release

A press release is worthwhile if your announcement is over-the-top catchy and newsworthy. But here’s the thing — most press releases read like giant sales pitches. If you think that journalists and publishers are going to be attracted to lukewarm content, guess again. They’re not. They don’t care. Their email inboxes fill up with 100s of spam messages again.

We hate to say it but marketers — get your head out of the clouds. The world does not revolve around your business, and journalists could care less about what you have to say.

If your goal is to get targeted placements for your brand, you will be better off cultivating a unique and thoughtful pitch in your area of specialty. A press release won’t cut it. Position your organization as a valuable, reliable, and trustworthy source of information instead.

3. Focus on Building Relationships and Making Connections

The problem with PR is ‘spray and prey’ or ‘broadcast’ mentality. If you shout at journalists with a megaphone, they’re not going to listen.

Above all, journalists care about compelling stories. They want to hear about your founders’ emotional journeys. They want to know what problem your company is solving and what motivates your team to wake up and come to work in the mornings.

Treat journalists like trusted business partners, not eyeballs. Develop a conversation. Let them ask questions.

Strategic Planning Wins the Race

Every so often, you’ll come across startups that generate insane amounts of traction on almost zero budget. You might think that it’s the outcome of luck — most likely, that isn’t the case. The more likely scenario is careful, strategic planning. WIth online media, Hollywood success stories are few and far between. Behind the scenes, marketers are hard at work — building key relationships with key stakeholders.

Karen X Cheng founded Dance in a Year, a platform that helps users learn anything in a year.

Karen learned to dance in a year and videotaped her entire journey. The outcome was an amazing video that went viral on YouTube. In just a few short months, her video has amassed millions of views. She makes the experience of learning to dance look seamlessly easy. She makes the process of making a viral video look pretty darn easy too.

That’s how you know that she put some real muscle behind the process.

  1. First, she posted her video to Facebook and Twitter, as well as social news sites like Reddit and Hacker News. She asked her friends to share the it and tweeted it to established bloggers. She also reached to bloggers who had previously written about viral dance video. Of the channels she pursued, Reddit was the top performer. The video gained attention and made its way to the top of the GetMotivated subreddit page. After day 1, she received 80K views.
  2. Day 2 was discovery day. The bloggers who had seen her video previously began telling her story on sites like Mashable, Jezebel, and the Huffington Post. These blogs were significant traffic drivers to Karen’s video. This coverage amplified her web traffic numbers to 800K views.
  3. The video’s popularity pushed Karen to the YouTube homepage. That chain of events helped take Karen to 1.8 million pageviews on the third day.

Karen also leveraged her video to connect with potential sponsors and stakeholders in her project. These included companies like Lululemon and American Apparel – two organizations that she was happy to support. Some of these companies supported Karen and shared her video on their social networks too.

She also released her video on Tuesday, guessing that on Monday, people are most likely to be catching up on emails from the weekend.

Use Public Relations Tools

The problem with PR is that the supply/demand ratio is completely imbalanced. PR seekers are constantly spamming writers, journalists, and bloggers for attention.

A service called Help a Reporter Out (HARO) can help to alleviate some of this crunch. Using this service, journalists can find sources to interview for upcoming stories. People seeking PR can monitor journalist queries and join the conversation where they’re qualified to contribute.

You can sign up for a simple e-mail digest that looks like this:

Here is what it’s like using HARO as a journalist:

For some queries, they’ll receive 50+ responses and most of the pitches I get are totally irrelevant. They make the journalist jump through hoops to get the information they need.

The thing to know about journalists is that they’re incredibly strapped for time and working under short deadlines.

From a journalist’s perspective, here are some tips for making your HARO query stand out:

  • Answer the question specified in your pitch. Don’t assume the journalist can hop on a call. Tell they the story you want told upfront — offer to schedule a phone conversation as a follow-up. Send ready-to-quote material instead.
  • Don’t send a generic pitch. Send a unique, compelling story. Share something that stands out from a typical PR blast.

  • Stop bombarding the writer. Journalists work on a deadline but do not necessarily know when their work will be published. Don’t bombard journalists with follow-up questions. Don’t harass them on LinkedIn, and don’t aggressively talk them via multiple email addresses. If you don’t hear a response, move on to the next story. Don’t be offended. HARO writers receive a ton of emails, and it’s impossible to respond to each and every one.
  • Write a really compelling email headline. Instead of just replying to the query, take the time to craft a unique headline that summarizes your story’s value proposition. Remember that there is a human being on the other end of the computer screen. Make it really, really easy to deliver your message, and the reporter will be more likely to open your email message.
  • Set-up Google Alerts. Make sure that you have Google Alerts set-up for the keywords you’re monitoring about your brand. Especially with HARO, you may not know when a writer will feature your story. Don’t bombard the writer with questions. Run Google Alerts to help you keep your eyes peeled.

Use Tools To Save Time

Save yourself the time and hassle of combing through spreadsheets and sending hundreds of emails. Use tools that have been developed to solve your exact pain point — scale with limited resources.

One example resource is BuzzStream — a CRM (customer relationship management) platform that helps PR professionals build relationships, monitor conversations, and maintain historical records of conversations with PR and media platforms.

Features include:

  • Automated tools for researching link-building prospects
  • Resources for identifying campaign opportunities
  • Team-based tools for building and managing relationships with influencers
  • The ability to prioritize a human, relationship-based touch

BuzzStream lets you automate mundane tasks like saving information about key contacts and partners. Teams can also collaborate on initiatives and delegate outreach tasks.

Collaborate With Other Business to Boost Your PR

Content marketing means that brands are becoming publishers and building their own audience bases. Companies, like you, are looking to connect with key audiences through PR and distribution.

Team up with fellow-business blogs who are looking to reach the same audiences as your organization. There are two ways to get going — guest post on industry blogs, or invite others to create content for your blog.

Grasshopper, a virtual phone system for entrepreneurs, uses its blog as a platform for giving props to their best customers. The company has a “submit your story” program and will write about their customers who have something awesome to share. For Grasshopper, PR is an invaluable way to say “thanks” to their trusted business partners.

Give Samples of Your Product or Service

One way to get press coverage is to give away trials or samples of your product or service. Reach out to prominent journalists and bloggers, and ask if they would be open to doing a product review. Give them a free trial or sample to try.

Always Say Thank You

When a journalist, blogger, or fellow business writes about you or your company — reach out and say thank you. Offer yourself as a resource for future stories. Position your organization as a company that wants to return the favor and help.

PR is, first and foremost, about building relationships. To the best extent that you can, maintain a personal touch. Take journalists out to dinner as a ‘thank you’ (not a bribe) for writing about you.

Show that you are grateful, and you’ll stand apart from the crowd of people who aren’t. Add value to your industry — don’t extract it. Pay it forward whenever you can. Connection karma, and you never know when something small will materialize into something much, much bigger.

Key Takeaways

  • PR is an inefficient and frustrating rat race. Cut through the noise by zeroing in on the results you want to achieve.
  • Treat PR like business development. Build key relationships with journalists.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of a journalist. Craft meaningful, compelling pitches. Don’t ‘spray and pray’ a salesy advertising message.
  • Personalize pitches to the journalists’ needs and interest.
  • Develop a powerful brand story to share.
  • Give more than you get. Say thanks. Offer to add as much value as you possibly can.

Talk media and TED2019 key takeaways with TechCrunch’s Anthony Ha

Anthony just returned from Vancouver, where he was covering the TED2019 conference — a much-parodied gathering where VCs, executives and other bigwigs gather to exchange ideas.

This year, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey got the biggest headlines, but the questions raised in his onstage interview kept popping up throughout the week: How has social media warped our democracy? How can the big online platforms fight back against abuse and misinformation? And what is the Internet good for, anyway? Wednesday at 11:00 am PT, Anthony will recap the five-day event’s most interesting talks and provocative ideas with Extra Crunch members on a conference call.

Tune in to dig into what happened onstage and off and ask Anthony any and all things media.

To listen to this and all future conference calls, become a member of Extra Crunch. Learn more and try it for free.

How to Tell Your Brand’s Story

Human-to-human connections are the heart and soul of business. At the end of the day, you’re dealing with people — your company is solving problems, alleviating pain points, and providing delightful customer experiences. Revenue is something that happens as a byproduct of a sound business model and a positive customer experience.

Storytelling is a powerful technique for building relationships. It’s an age-old concept that brings people together and keeps them engaged. It doesn’t matter where in the world you’re based or how much funding your startup has.

Good stories give big voices to small ventures. That’s why it’s mission-critical that companies take the time up front to fully develop their approaches to storytelling.

Storytelling and marketing go hand-in-hand. Just think about it. Whether you’re producing infographics, writing copy for a Facebook ad, or writing a free online guide (like this one), you need to capture your audience’s attention.

On a daily basis, consumers (yourself included) face advertising overload. Marketers are constantly competing for their prospects’ and customers’ attention. More likely than not, your brand will be buried under spammy advertising messages.

How can you make your brand stand out? Storytelling.

Chapter 3 is an all-inclusive guide that explains why your brand should prioritize storytelling and how your organization should get started. This is not fluffy stuff, either. Storytelling is a powerful and actionable marketing technique. Convinced? Let’s get to it.

What is Brand Storytelling?

Brand storytelling is:

  • The reason why your company came to be
  • What motivates your team to wake up and come to work everyday
  • How your product came to be
  • What types of customers find value in working with your brand and why
  • A transparent view into the people behind the company
  • A relationship-building tool
  • More subtle than you realize
  • A concept that underscores your entire web presence
  • Something that your entire team, at organizational levels, embraces
  • A look into who you are as a company
  • Direct

Brand storytelling is NOT:

  • A long-winded, 5-paragraph essay about your company
  • A blog post
  • Something isolated
  • A fragmented view into your company
  • Something reserved for the marketing team only
  • A PR stunt
  • A viral video
  • A tool to manipulate customers and prospects
  • Boring
  • Artsy

Contrary to popular belief, brand storytelling is not about your company. It’s about your customers and the value that they get when engaging with your product or service. The most powerful brand stories are the ones that prioritize customers as the stars. Think of your company as a supporting character.

Oftentimes, marketers get hung up on this concept. They’re stressed about communicating the perfect message and confused about where this initiative should be housed within your business.

Should you hire a consultant? Should you loop in your company’s EVP of corporate communications? And what if you’re an engineer? Does that mean you’re doomed?

Don’t overthink this process. Storytelling is something that we do naturally. More often than not, we don’t even realize that we’re doing it.

The problem is, online content is difficult to write. Stories become lost in translation. The human interest behind our brands will fall through the cracks.

And you feel stuck — at a loss for words to describe what you do and why you matter to your customers.

So why not let your customers tell your story for you?

That’s what Clarity did. The company provides a marketplace for advice seekers and experts to connect and share business advice. The company recently launched a series of stories from actual customers. If you’re wondering how Clarity can help grow your business, take a lesson from the leaders who actually use it.

It’s not just startups that make use of this powerful approach. Enterprise CRM Salesforce hosts customer success videos on its Pinterest page.

Brand storytelling is more than what you write on your webpage to your customers. It’s more than your blog posts and about pages. It’s how you communicate your messaging. It’s your values. Your brand’s stories are values are infused in every piece of copy, customer service answer,

Okay, so you’re convinced. But what what the heck does it all mean? Storytelling still feels tough. Web copy and advertising messaging are still challenging to write. Here’s what you need to do.

Forget About Marketing

This may sound counterintuitive, but it’s the key to successful marketing. Stop thinking like a marketer. Stop trying to sell your product, and instead, focus on developing human interest. Answer the question of why people should care about what your company has to say.

That means being persuasive and appealing to emotion.

Whatever you do, don’t be boring. Do not let the words on your page hide the personalities behind your organization.

Share more than what you sell. Share your strengths, weaknesses, and how you arrived at where you are today. One way to do this is by participating in the storytelling ecosystem. Just as you’re looking for customer testimonials and case studies, make sure to pay it forward by offering to do case studies for other companies.

Be Conversational

Authenticity is crucial to copywriting. If you’re overly formal or on guard, you’ll lose trust with your audience. And that’s because consumers can sense disingenuous messaging from miles away. From awkward stock photos with fake customers to false promises, empty messaging can only hurt your brand.

Be real instead. Be human.

Pretend that you’re talking to a new friend over drinks or coffee — not giving an academic presentation in 1862. If you talk down your customers and prospects (or show any indication of lack of respect), they’re going to stop listening immediately.

Don’t dwell over whether or not you’re using perfect grammar. You can always hire a copywriter for that. Stop worrying about the occasional misplaced commas. Focus on developing your messaging instead.

Conversational writing also means keeping it short. Write what you want to say. Get it all on paper. Then cut it. And cut it again. Stop trapping yourself into the mentality that you need a minimum word count to convey information effectively.

Write what you feel like writing — with the exception that you can’t let your stories get too long and unwieldy. Too much writing on a blog post or webpage will make your readers feel distracted or lost. Say what you need to say in as few words as possible. There’s no need to try to sound smart. If you build a great product, your customers and prospects will perceive your company as incredibly smart.

Craft Your Message Architecture

Brand storytelling is more subtle than what your company is saying. As we mentioned earlier, the ‘how’ matters just as much. Take a lesson from Pinterest’s lead content strategist, Tiffani Jones Brown. She and her five-person team are responsible for the voice, tone, user interface copy, grammar conventions, and pinner education on the site.

That’s right. It takes five people to get Pinterest’s public-facing messaging just right. This fact may seem surprising, given that some companies have zero resources devoted to getting their messaging just right.

Your company’s message architecture is far from coincidental. It takes careful strategic planning to position your strategic planning.

Don’t expect good stories to appear out of thin air. You need to focus on getting your messaging just right. You need to craft your company’s message architecture to underscore all of your brand communications. Yes, this is a real thing. And it looks a little something like this:

This table represents the steps that Speak2Leads has taken, conceptually, to connect with the company’s core audience — sales team leaders and small business owners who are looking to increase the speed of connecting to new leads. The concept is simple — when you wait too long to connect with an interested prospect, your company risks losing his or her business.

But here’s the problem. When sales teams are too aggressive, they risk driving customers away. That’s why Speak2Leads has positioned its company and product as one that boosts human-to-human connections. Selling is not about annoying your customers and prospects. It’s about being the first to respond and building a superior connection.

Before articulating your company’s brand persona, you need a thorough outline of your message architecture.

So what does that mean?

A message architecture, according to Bloomstein, is a way to transform vague goals into substantive concepts with context and priority. Your company’s message architecture will look a little something like this:

Speak2Leads incorporates these values in all of the company’s written material from help center documentation to email marketing initiatives and blog posts. The goal is to keep communication standard across its entire team and to maintain that consistency as the organization begins to scale. That’s why the company defined its message architecture as early on as possible.

The company’s story as a technology, partnerships, and customer-service minded organization comes through in absolutely everything on the website. Even though the company’s blog and help center, for instance, are managed by two different people — a customer service lead and marketing consultant, the same brand story will always shine through. Speak2Leads is a company that prioritizes human interest and is committed to solving a real problem in sales.

The company’s blog:

The company’s customer-facing knowledge center:

So how do you get started in choosing the keywords to place in your message architecture?

Brand strategists leverage a technique called a card sorting exercise.

  1. Create a list of keywords relevant to your brand. These could be keywords that you customers have said about your company as well as descriptions chosen by your own employees.
  2. Transcribe these keywords onto note cards.
  3. As a group, sort through the note cards to determine which words are most applicable to your band. Separate these words from the rest.
  4. Go through what’s left and rank the keywords in order of priority to your brand. Which are most relevant and which aren’t?
    Assemble these words into sentences that describe your brand.
  5. Piece together your message architecture.

Is possible, try to get your customers involved in this process. One way is to interview them for customer case studies. What words and expressions are they using to describe your brand? The more interviews and service reviews you conduct, the more patterns you’ll start to see.

Let your customers determine your brand messaging. Let them define the voice behind your company.

Unify Your On-site and Off-site Presence

Your company’s story, message architecture, and brand identity should follow your team members everywhere from on-site blog posts to PR opportunities in major media channels. You need to keep your company’s identity as unified and consistent as possible. As we mentioned earlier, the image you share with the world should be a genuine, authentic, and transparent view into your organization.

Choose Your Words Wisely

What you say is just as important as how you say it. Make sure you’re using the tone, voice, and communication style that your audiences value most.

How do you know what this should be and what words you should choose?

Jump back to chapter 1, where we walk through the art meets science of knowing your audience.

If you’re speaking to an audience of millennials, for instance, they tend to embrace a casual, conversational tone and style — more so than an audience of baby boomers would.

Again, unless you were a college English major (like Ritika was), the concepts of voice, tone, and style are really vague. How the heck do you put it all on paper?

What you need is a styleguide to provide instructions for all of your on-site and off-site brand communications. Get started by completing the following template:

  1. Website goal: Jot some notes about what your website visitors should hope to accomplish when visiting your website.
  2. Audience: Who do you expect to be engaging with these specific website sections?
  3. Core concepts to be reinforced: What do you want your audiences to feel after visiting this section of your website or piece of writing?
  4. Tone: What emotions should come across after somebody reads this story or section of your website?
  5. Perspective: Do you want your writers to communicate in the first, second, or third person? Who is telling the story?
  6. Voice: Should the language be conversational, formal, or somewhere in between?

Your brand styleguide and message architecture can be custom-tailored to any form of multimedia, beyond writing. Whether you’re producing infographics, brand videos, e-books, or blog posts, your plans will ensure that your messaging is consistent across mediums. Writing is only one form of online communication. Make sure that you invest the time in energy in creating structure behind everything that you produce online.

Key Takeways

  1. Human-to-human connections are the heart of marketing. Brand storytelling is a technique that can reinforce these bonds.
  2. Stories can give your brand a powerful voice, regardless of whether you’re running an enterprise organization, small business, or startup.
  3. Storytelling is medium-agnostic. Tell your story through blog posts, customer help centers, about pages, videos, or infographics.
  4. You need to formalize your brand story to build connections both on and off your site, especially if your company is actively building a PR strategy.
  5. Storytelling is more than what you say explicitly. It’s how you communicate your message and how you connect with your target audiences.
  6. Storytelling concepts are vague, abstract, and tough to plan. Rely on card sorting exercises, message architecture maps, and brand styleguides to articulate your strategy and scale it across teams.
  7. Brand stories are cross-functional commitments that should guide your entire organization. Your sales team, engineers, product managers, executives, and entry-level professionals should all have a hand in articulating your brand’s messaging.
  8. Who defines your brand? Your customers. Study and truly understand what they’re saying about you. Identify patterns, and hold these concepts as close to your heart as possible.