13 Critical Steps When Partnering With An Influencer

Influencers are among the most impressive traffic-generation engines marketers have available to them today. However, not all influencers are created equal. For a business, just seeing the numbers that an influencer can impact is only the tip of the iceberg. Companies need to know the people they’re partnering with.

 

Forbes Agency Council - Influencers

In all aspects of business, trust plays an important part, and a company should know it can trust the face of its marketing. Thus, for companies to be secure in partnering with an influencer, they should start by learning more about their potential partners. Below, 13 experts from Forbes Agency Council share a few critical steps companies should take when checking an influencer’s trustworthiness.

1. Know The Influencer’s Audience

Successful influencer marketing is essentially tapping into an influencer’s audience; hence it’s not only important to look at the feed, storytelling, followers, engagement rate etc., but also at what audience you are tapping into. Are their followers your target demographic, are they interested in fashion or cars? You are accessing an influencer’s audience so make sure it is the right one. – Emilie Tabor, IMA – Influencer Marketing Agency

2. Don’t Take Influencer Status At Face Value

There are many things you can do to investigate the true value of an influencer for your brand. As you do so, keep in mind that what’s important isn’t just their follower count. In fact, many smaller influencers can make for a great choice if they have high engagement and a true relationship with their audience. An influencer’s personal audience connection is what really matters. – Dmitrii Kustov, Regex SEO

3. Make Sure Your Values Are The Same

Your business is successful because you have a win/win solution for you and your customers, and your ideal customers’ values match your business values. Your association with influencers will only work if they believe in the values of your company. Their endorsement will come out authentic only if they believe in your business, plus their followers will be closer to your ideal customers. – Ajay Prasad, GMR Web Team

4. Do A Deep Dive Into Their Life

Before partnering with an influencer, do a deep dive into their life to make sure their persona is something you want your brand to be associated with. If you make the wrong decision on an influencer, only to realize this after you have gone public, quickly remove them. Don’t be afraid to let your consumers know you made a mistake and will correct it to be more in line with your brand values. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

5. Look Beyond The Individual

Take time to look into a potential influencer’s online connections and other partnerships. You should already be familiar with their followers, but what do you know about the people the influencer follows — do their messages and posts align with your values? This shouldn’t be used as a pass-fail test, but it can give you some insight into your influencer’s motivations. – Hannah Trivette, NUVEW Web Solutions

6. Look At The Numbers

It’s hard to judge how trustworthy an influencer will be, but the numbers won’t lie. Check the audience composition of their channels — does the age, gender and location align with your target? Do a quantitative analysis of other partnerships they’ve had — what did reach, engagement and clicks look like? It’s a red flag if they’re unwilling to provide the above, or if the numbers don’t look great. – John Keehler, RUNNER Agency

7. Request And Review Analytics

One important step each business must take when checking the validity of an influencer before partnering is requesting and reviewing their analytics to ensure their social accounts are genuine. In doing so, you can more accurately and confidently predict that partnering with the influencer will drive you qualified traffic and result in new sales. – Jonathan Durante, Expandify Marketing Inc

8. Ask For References

Ask your influencer to demonstrate the success and impact they’ve had with other businesses. Ask for references, too — or seek them out on your own. It’s important to get third-party insight into how your influencer moved the needle for others. – Paula Chiocchi, Outward Media, Inc.

9. Look For Low Fraud Levels

When choosing an influencer, authenticity is of the utmost importance so be sure your influencer has low fraud and no recent competitive posts. If an influencer has fake followers, you’re paying a premium to connect with fewer real followers. If the influencer posted about a competing brand within the last 30 days, they may not seem genuine and could negatively impact your brand. – Maria Sipka, Linqia

10. Check For Fake Followers

Tons of influencers buy fake followers. If their engagement rate is below 1%, their following is most likely purchased. There are many apps you can check that provide metrics on bots or inactive users. If you don’t know how to do this yourself, reach out to a social media agency that manages influencers. We usually keep a blacklist. – Kelly Samuel, Kelly Samuel

11. Read The Audience Comments

Sometimes, reading the comments under photos and videos of an influencer can give a clear picture of what sentiment their audience has for a certain type of content. Understanding that can help in selecting those creators that can actually influence the others and avoid those who bought fake followers or who are receiving only bland emoji comments. – Alessandro Bogliari, The Influencer Marketing Factory

12. Make A Real Connection

Whether it’s a phone call or a Zoom meeting, you’ll learn a lot more about someone through live connection than you will in their DMs. Set up time to chat one on one with potential partners. The little things, like whether or not they’re on time, will give you a peek into their reliability, and a real-life conversation can help you vet how they fit with your brand quickly. – Kate Weidner, SRW

13. Implement A ‘Q Score’

The most important step is recognizing that an influencer’s following is not the only criterion to determining a good fit with a brand. As an industry, we need to develop and start implementing a “Q Score” for influencers just as we do when evaluating celebrities. This type of measurement would dig deeper into an influencer’s persona and appeal and help ensure an authentic fit with a brand partner. – Carl Fremont, Quigley-Simpson

7 Smart Ways To Assess The Quality Of Your Brand’s Content

Anyone in or adjacent to the marketing world knows that “content is king.” Everything you create and share with the public should always be of high quality, as it’s a representation of your brand and is what will draw people to your business. But with a never-ending demand for branded content on your blog, social media channels and website, how can you be sure that each piece is top-notch before it goes out?

AdAge Collective

We asked the members of Ad Age Collective to share some unique ways to gauge the quality of your work before it gets published. Here’s how they recommend assessing your content.

1. Set clear standards.
In order to assess anything, you need to have clear standards. This goes for content as well. So, create a clear set of standards that cover things like tone, visual elements, key messages, restricted topics, etc. Standards may need to vary by media type. Then, the key is to have someone other than the content producer assess the content against the standards. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)

2. Make content on-brand, on-strategy and interesting.
High-quality content, like all marketing, answers three questions with a resounding “yes.” Is it on-strategy? It must have a clearly defined goal, target audience, etc. Is it on-brand? From logo usage to the tone of the messaging, it must look, feel and sound consistent. Is it interesting? It must be unmissable and unskippable, which is easier said than done. – Chad Robley, Mindgruve

3. Show the true worth of your content.
Make sure your audience can see the true worth of your content by making it different and clearly better than the competition. Connect to solutions people seek now, and show the impact it will make on key profit and loss line items. Once that happens, then your content quality is above par and it puts you on the path to being one-of-one (and not one-of-many). – Arjun Sen, ZenMango

4. Read it out loud.
This is such a simple step, but reading your content aloud helps you understand how it sounds to others. You’ll find any awkward phrasing or repeated words. Hearing your content spoken aloud also gives you the chance to assess if it’s conversational. It becomes easier to make changes to make it sound better. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

5. Test it out with a focus group.
Test your content and images with simple online focus groups to quickly see what resonates the best. This will help you determine which content is of the highest quality and connects best with your audience for the brand message you are trying to project. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

6. Put it in front of non-marketers.
Content is primarily the function of the marketing department. The risk is that piece of content comes across as too salesy or bloated when it comes solely from a marketing team without vetting. A good quick trick to see if your content is quality is putting it in front of other team members before publishing. My personal favorite: engineers. They’ll always tell you if a message is grounded enough. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

7. Make sure the right consumers see it.
Part of producing quality content is ensuring it resonates with the right consumers, but equally important is making sure they see it. When producing content, writers and promoters need to be on the same page about distribution, what part of the funnel it represents and what persona it targets. This plan, produced for all content, is a prerequisite for reach and efficacy, and therefore also quality. – Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive

15 Key Considerations For Businesses When Commenting On Political Or Social Matters

A few decades ago, the rule of thumb for businesses when it came to politics or social issues would be to ignore it. However, as the world has become more politically aware of the situations that infiltrate everyday life, businesses can no longer sit on the sidelines as history passes them by.

Politics and social issues can be thorny subjects, especially if a company doesn’t understand where its audience’s sentiments lie. A wrong step could mean a public relations disaster of epic proportions. Here, 15 members of Forbes Agency Council examine how a business can comment on social and political issues without finding themselves on the receiving end of “cancel culture.”

Forbes Agency Council

1. Walk The Talk

A tweet in support of an issue might feel like a good idea, but when you lend your brand’s support to a cause or issue, make sure it’s more than words on a screen. Woke consumers do their research. Be prepared to speak to what your company is doing with its policies, procedures and dollars if you choose to join the conversation on social issues. – Kate Weidner , SRW

2. Get Buy-In From All Levels

It has to be more than a public statement. When you stake a claim, be sure that the belief has buy-in across all aspects of your business. Your employees need to have buy-in and stand behind the belief, you need alignment with existing core clients and local support within the community. Each business decision should be held up to a litmus test to ensure it aligns with your belief (social or political). – Korena Keys, KeyMedia Solutions

3. Don’t Force It

Engaging in political or social issues may not be right for your brand. Before you go down this path, make sure that you take an honest look at your brand and your consumer to see if these issues fit your identity. If they don’t, it’s best not to force it. Today’s consumers can spot forced or disingenuous commentary a mile away. – JP Johl, AdTribute

4. Make It Defensible

If you have a fully-informed opinion that is based on more than emotion and you can articulate it well, then feel free to share it. If not, keep it quiet. Then, you can stand on your principles and the truth when there is dissension (and there always will be). – Christine Wetzler, Pietryla PR

5. Embrace Controversial Content

When you post about traditional “taboo” content, it will invite both sides of whatever issue to come forward no matter what, no matter how polite or how well-oiled your PR team is. Instead of trying to fight the inevitable, be open with your wording to encourage conversation. The more organic comments, the cheaper your CPC, the better your content performs on social media. – Kelly Samuel, Kelly Samuel

6. Define Your ‘Why’

Before you take a position on anything political or social, define your “why.” Make sure you live up to it with your actions. This is the hard part. Now, do not conduct market research to see how people respond to your “why.” Even if you do, never change it to please everyone. Own it as is. Now go ahead and be fearless in inspiring your brand followers with social commentary. – Kashif Zaman, Pivyt

7. Make Sure Your Stance And Values Align

Be authentic. When your words align with your brand, they will impact people. The popular choice is not the proper one if it goes against your values or does not connect with your brand. If you have no history or actions to back your statements, they will be poorly received; but if your messages are consistent over time and what you say matches what you do, your stance will draw people to you. – Fran Biderman-Gross, Advantages

8. Understand Consumer Perception

While authenticity has long been a marketing buzzword, it’s critical that brands understand who they are and how consumers perceive them when venturing into any political or social commentary. This ensures that if brands are entering taboo waters, they are doing so in a way that doesn’t appear to be opportunistic and will feel authentic to their followers. – Jessica Reznick, We’re Magnetic

9. Connect With Integrity

Connection with a brand should never come at the expense of integrity. Unless you represent an intentionally polarizing brand, there is no reason to create deliberately polarizing content or messaging. Even in that case, keep in mind that the internet is forever, and your messaging has the potential to haunt the brand, its stakeholders and you as the creator, for a long time. – Patrick Nycz, NewPoint Marketing

10. Be Politically Polite

Political issues should still be off the table unless someone invites the conversation — do not actively bring it up especially in such polarizing times. However, if someone does bring up a political subject and you don’t have the same views, politely listen to the content and then redirect the conversation to pertinent business topics instead of personal political feelings. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

11. Don’t Try To Satisfy Everyone

In sharing your views, you will appeal to many consumers, but not all. In fact, you may turn some consumers off such that you lose their business. But for those that share your beliefs, you will create a much more loyal customer and the increase in sales from them will offset any loss. Don’t be afraid of losing customers because the ones you gain will make up for it! – Lori Paikin, NaviStone®

12. Always Be Fair

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that you have to be very fair. As a company, you need to remain fair and share information and perspectives that are balanced and inclusive of all viewpoints. – Jon James, Ignited Results

13. Research Your Sources

Sharing your opinions or values can be a great way to bring authenticity to your messaging, but use extreme caution when sharing other people’s content — if at all. Items like user-generated quotes and photos need to be vetted carefully before you stake your online reputation on them. – Hannah Trivette, NUVEW Web Solutions

14. Be Mindful Of How You Say It

It’s not about what you say, it’s about how you say it. Today, there’s no longer one “media elite” but rather, endless conversations that are taking place on many different platforms. Listen to communities and hear what they have to say on the matter you wish to talk about and figure out what your added value is in the conversation or solution. – Hamutal Schieber

15. Support Causes That Resonate With Customers

Studies show consumers are apt to switch brands to those that share similar values to their own. The best way for a company to make social commentary to increase brand loyalty is to support causes that resonate with their customer base. For example, sponsoring arts and cultural organizations, or programs such as arts education, shows that the business is investing in their community and its people. – Henry Kurkowski, One WiFi

Stumped On Your Business Name? 8 Tips For Choosing The Right One

You’ve identified a need in the market, a product or service to fulfill it, a business plan to guide you and a team to make it all happen. You have everything you need for success — except a name for your startup. A business name should be memorable, descriptive and unique, which can be a challenging set of criteria to fill at once.

The members of Ad Age Collective know the importance of a brand name, as well as how to come up with a great one. Below, eight of them share their best advice for testing and choosing names for your company, product or service.

AdAge Collective

1. Test ideas with your audience.
There are so many factors to naming, such as inspiration, branding, legal and more. The real hurdle to get over is subjectivity. Years of experience can cause bias. Fresh ideas won’t reflect historical cycles. From the list, select your top picks and test them with your audience. Aren’t they the ones who matter at the end of the day? Use their insights to cut out consensus and inspire great work. – Nicole Oliha, City National Bank

2. Create mock-ups.
Creating design mock-ups of your products with the potential brand name can be very impactful. It will make your name more real. You can also print out content with your name and possible logo to get a feel for it. Then, when you’ve spent some time with it, you can get a sense of whether your name will work in the long run. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

3. Brainstorm as much as possible.
It’s a volume play to find the needle in a huge haystack of established businesses, existing trademarks and purchased URLs. Brainstorm like a mad person. Scribble everything down without editing yourself. Make up words like a modern-day Shakespeare. With hundreds of options on the wall, you can begin to narrow down the list based on the names that both reflect the brand positioning and are currently available. – Chad Robley, Mindgruve

4. Explain what your product is.
If you’re launching a complicated product to market with a limited budget, sometimes choosing a descriptive name can be helpful. A descriptive name does some of the heavy lifting on the marketing side. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

6. Reflect your passion and excitement with a story.
Names can be literal or creative. It is up to you to build it over time. It must reflect your passion and excitement, and you must have a story to tell. My daughter came up with the name of our business, ZenMango. Her logic was “zen” is a position of wisdom and rhymes with our last name, “Sen,” and “mango” is the world’s fastest-growing fruit and allows us to migrate current brand colors. When asked about our company name, I love telling the story with pride. – Arjun Sen, ZenMango

7. Make sure the name is available.
The mistake many business owners make is thinking that the name matters. What matters far more with a name is if you can claim the appropriate digital assets. Running a Google search along with a social media check for the availability for your particular name is crucial as you begin to market your business. Don’t stress on the name itself; make sure you can claim your digital real estate first. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

5. Weigh descriptive names against generic.
Begin by deciding if you want to choose a descriptive name, like “Precision Tools,” or a generic name like “Amazon.” Descriptive names are often helpful early on because they require less explanation, but they can be confining if you think your business will grow into new areas over time. Some names like Netflix are abstracted enough to provide a bit of latitude in both directions. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)

8. Ensure it doesn’t feel ‘wrong.’
Don’t get hung up on finding the perfect name, because rarely does any name feel totally right at first. However, it is critical that you make sure it isn’t wrong. Always confirm that it is culturally sensitive, isn’t confusing, is available and so on. People often mistake that a name is a brand, but the company, culture and behaviors will create the power behind the name and make it “right.” – Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive

10 Aspects Of Marketing That Will Never Change

As media, technology and customer needs continue to grow and change, so too does the world of marketing. While certain marketing trends come and go, others have withstood the test of time.

AdAge Collective

The members of Ad Age Collective have studied and experienced industry trends over the course of their careers. We asked a group of them to share some aspects of marketing they believe are here to stay. Below are 10 things about marketing that are unlikely to change, and what you can learn from them.

1. Needing the right message for your audience
Marketing is essentially about getting the right message to the right audience — that will never change. What does change are the tools to do that more efficiently and effectively. Your target audience and message can change too, but you will always need to match the two. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)

2. Getting the product right
Now more than ever, marketers need to perfectly fit their product or services to the customer. If it doesn’t fit, the customer will quit. Customers can discover more products than ever, they are exposed to more reviews and they are less tied to heritage brands. Before, brand awareness and messaging could cover up inadequacies, but companies and products (and sourcing) are forever exposed. – Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive

3. Time for creativity and inspiration
Creativity and inspiration have been at the core of marketing since day one. They remain the decisive factors in driving brand success, employee engagement and memorable ideas. Leaders must take time out to foster these and not get so caught up in business. Think Don Draper at the end of Mad Men. We find a way to allow for creativity or marketing will cease to inspire its audience. – Maggie O’Neill, Peppercomm

4. The need for ideas
It might sound trite, but the most valuable product an agency (or consultancy) can offer a client was, is and always will be big, bold, business-altering, projection-crushing, trendsetting ideas. Other “aspects” of marketing will evolve or disappear. – Chad Robley, Mindgruve

5. Telling stories that connect to the heart
The days of scream and tell are gone. Find that authentic story that showcases your brand’s uniqueness and feel proud of that. Now that the story is in your heart, find the best way to tell the story so it lands in the heart of your target audience. Stories have been there from the beginning of time and are eternal. Make sure your stories land on your audiences’ hearts. Have fun storytelling! – Arjun Sen, ZenMango

6. Human-to-human communication
Marketing has gone through so many iterations. Indeed, the current obsession with measuring and tactics (as seen in the rise of the discipline of “growth hacking”) has forgotten one crucial, unchanging aspect of marketing: communication. As much as you want to focus on data, don’t forget the key to successful marketing is communicating thoughtfully to the human on the receiving end of that message. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

7. The use of psychology
Marketing relies on psychological concepts to make its strategies effective. FOMO, discounts, two-for-one, giveaways and many other marketing strategies are all based on influencing people’s feelings. This fundamental link between marketing and psychology will stay strong for good. What this means for leaders is that they would benefit from learning more about psychology. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

8. Measuring your ROI
One thing in marketing which will never and should never change is ensuring you are getting a return on investment for your marketing spend. A brand should always ensure they are not only branding, but are also growing their business with direct ROI at the same time. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

9. The human imagination
So much has been automated and made efficient over the past two decades of marketing innovation. We now have great tools to eliminate the need for routine strategies and tasks that sucked up our time and money. What will never be automated is the human imagination. What we need now and always are powerful ideas. Ideas drive the purpose and possibilities we need to thrive as a culture and industry. – Lana McGilvray, Purpose Worldwide

10. Authenticity
The one thing that will never change is being authentic to your brand. In the last few months, we have seen campaign messaging shift, but the creative executions that resonate with consumers are the ones that stay true to their brand message. Honing in on your message and mission will help brands develop stronger connections with consumers and stakeholders. – Cathy Oh, Samsung Ads

15 Ways Potential Influencers Can Attract Sponsors

Influencer marketing has become such a significant part of many businesses’ strategies that they’re always on the lookout for new talent to add to their roster. As an influencer, getting noticed requires the most amount of effort. Potential influencer marketers need to know what sponsors are looking for and try to deliver on that.

Businesses tend to regard an influencer’s ability to offer their brand message to the correct audience as the most crucial factor to consider. However, an influencer can deploy several strategies to make sure they get the right eyes on their content. Below, 15 associates of Forbes Agency Council explore how influencers can get themselves noticed by sponsors.

Forbes Influencers as Sponsors

1. Become Part Of Influencer Networks

Brands rely on platforms such as CreatorIQ and others that provide recommendations to brands. The caveat here is that the data is not always accurate. If an influencer’s following and engagement rates are legitimate and accurate, brand marketers would be interested in seeing results achieved on previous projects in order to determine whether a working relationship would be beneficial. – Terry Tateossian, Socialfix Media

2. Leverage Automation Platforms

One of the biggest challenges agencies have is managing multiple influencer campaigns at the same time. It can be a lot to track. Automation platforms should be the wave of the influencer future. Rad Intelligence is one I can recommend. Full disclosure, we work with this group a lot and their latest iteration of the platform has performed well for some of our clients. The ease of organization and planning is tops! – Jason Fishman, Digital Niche Agency (DNA)

3. Don’t Be Afraid To Connect And Ask

If you have a well-defined brand image and audience, don’t be afraid to reach out to agencies and companies and ask for partnerships that make sense. There’s a lot of competition in the influencer space, and sometimes, all it takes is a little outreach and determination. Our agency has created fruitful partnerships with high-level influencers over Instagram direct message in the past. – Travis Peters, EightPM

4. Connect With Their Buyer Persona

For an influencer to be an asset to an organization, their audience and followers need to match with the buyer persona of the target company. The influencer needs to provide follower and audience demographics in addition to engagement metrics so the company knows that the influencer’s target audience is a prospective buyer and that their investment is going to attract the right audience. – Elyse Flynn Meyer, Prism Global Marketing Solutions

5. Build A Solid Media Kit

A solid media kit with statistics will help agencies partner with influencers easily. Also, having a website/blog adds a lot of credibility and is seen as valuable for agencies. – Sam Founda, Social Connection

6. Be Different And More Professional

Influencers range from everyday customers to full-time professional influencers. Be a brand yourself. Be professional. Consider how potential brand customers will regard your content and how they imagine you influencing their brand. – Jim Caruso, M1PR, Inc. d/b/a MediaFirst PR – Atlanta

7. Prove You Can Deliver The ROI

An influencer must not only be open to but should be able to prove the ROI they can deliver to an agency or brand. If you address this head-on and confidently, a company will be willing to invest in you and develop that partnership. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

8. Be Honest About Your Community

Don’t be something you’re not. Be open and honest about what works and doesn’t on your channels. What might not work for one campaign or brand partnership might work for another, so don’t try to be all things to all brands. And be open to collaboration — agencies can help. – Jackson Murphy, Pound & Grain

9. Have An Engaging Audience

If you engage with your audience regularly, you will get a better understanding of who they are and what they are into. From there, you need to fully represent that audience. Companies will see what your audience is and will partner with you based on the demographic you represent. Companies will also tailor their partnership to meet the demands your audience has. It will be a win-win. – Jason Hall, FiveChannels Marketing

10. Act Like A Business

To attract agencies and partnerships, an influencer needs to act like a business. It is not enough to have “followers.” Influencers must offer credibility and proof that they’ve helped other brands obtain actual ROI from their campaign work. They must quantify how their engagement has achieved results and provide thoughtful insights about their followers and past campaigns to prove their value. – Nicole Rodrigues, NRPR Group, INC

11. Target Brands That Match Your Influence

We see this all the time with restaurants hiring models with huge followers to be photographed in their establishment. The influence doesn’t work if the model doesn’t typically post food and beverage content. Their followers are typically looking for clothing and style influence and then boom, they see tacos and margaritas in the feed. Engagement and action is limited. No bueno. – Todd Maxwell, eMaximize

12. Have A Well-Defined Niche

A massive following is no longer enough to secure a brand partnership. A wide net of followers serves little purpose if they don’t interact with your content, so agencies today are putting a greater priority on smaller niche accounts with high engagement rates. Influencers should focus on tailoring niche content for an active audience in order to secure mutually beneficial brand partnerships. – Adam Binder, Creative Click Media

13. Post Quality Organic Content

Our greatest interest is whether the influencer will perform for our client. When we are looking at influencers, we look at the quality of content and the engagement of the influencer’s communities. We also make sure that every post is not a sponsored post. Too many branded partnerships start to dilute the messages from the influencer and it becomes less authentic. – Gina Michnowicz, The Craftsman Agency

14. Quantify Your Reach

Understand the potential reach of your audience. Companies need to know who you can reach, how much they engage around your content, and what traffic or impact your content can have. The more you can quantify your network into measurable outcomes the better. – Stefan Pollack, The Pollack Group

15. Define Your Personal Brand

In order to attract agencies and companies for partnerships, it’s important for potential influencers to first define their personal brand (values, personality, tone, etc.) and consistently exhibit it through all online and offline channels. Agencies and companies can identify if the influencer aligns with their brand, giving them trust and confidence with that influencer. – Tripp Donnelly, REQ

Are You Posting Good Content? Find Out With These 16 Quality Assessment Methods

Content marketing has evolved to become a unique field within the marketing industry. One of the things that businesses have realized when it comes to content marketing is that quality trumps quantity. Companies have understood these developments, and as a result, have been taking more notice of what they share with their audience.

How does a business go about determining if their content is good enough to inform, educate and engage its customers? To answer this question, we consulted 16 experts from Forbes Agency Council about their own experience with content quality assessment. They share their favorite methods below.

Forbes Agency Council

1. Do A Little Research

One of the more proven strategies to ensure you’re creating content consumers want is by leveraging properties that allow said consumers to ask their questions. Quora is one such property. Find a relevant category and look for questions that may be trending. Be sure to be as helpful with your response as you can. In doing so, you may find you’ve discovered something new to write about. – Stephen Kleiner, Bloom Ads Global Media Group

2. Look At Relevant KPIs

Quality content can be assessed by looking at KPIs (key performance indicators) including search visibility, dwell time and engagement. Search visibility shows how a website’s content ranks for a wide range of keyword combinations. Dwell time reveals the length of time a person spends looking at a web page’s content, and engagement measures the interests, opinions and thoughts of the reader. – Don Dodds, M16 Marketing

3. Start With Your Sales Team

“Quality” content is in the eye of the beholder — in this case, the customer. Starting with your sales team to find out what prospects are asking about and wanting to solve lets the marketing team focus on how to tell the story of how your brand can uniquely solve those issues. When you can answer questions before they’re asked in your own way tied to your brand values, that’s a quality promise. – Courtney Smith Kramer, Co-Active Training Institute / Co-founder PureMatter

4. Use Data And Analytics Tools

Instead of making assumptions about what your target audience finds useful, use data to see what actually resonates with them. Use analytics tools to understand how your content is being shared on social media and how it compares to your competitors. Dive into what types of content have been most successful for you and your competitors, and use that to assess your content’s quality. – JP Johl, AdTribute

5. Conduct A Content Audit

A content audit enables you to take a deep look at the strengths and weaknesses of your current content strategy in order to determine how to improve moving forward. A complete content audit includes assessing your current topics, link structure, metadata and so on. This allows you to identify gaps and pitfalls in your current content strategy that you can use to improve future marketing campaigns. – Adam Binder, Creative Click Media

6. View Its Quality In A Rounded Way

Impressions, interactions, consumption and the relationship between each are important data to understand in order to answer questions such as, “Is there enough?”, “Was it pitched at the right audience?”, “Was it the right ‘quality’?” But the eyes of your experienced content experts are still important perspectives to complement the data-driven universe. – Ken Mainardis, Getty Images

7. Monitor Engagement Statistics

The best way to assess the quality of your content is to monitor the engagement stats — views, shares, likes, comments and subscribes. If you’re new to generating content, take a look at your competition’s content and engagement. What generates the most buzz? Assessing engagement is a great way to give your audience more of what they want and stay top of mind. – Chelsey Pendock, Innovision Advertising

8. Ask Yourself If You Like It

If you, as a user, wouldn’t engage with your own content, it’s probably not ready for prime time. Before you hit publish, ask yourself, “Does the content inform, inspire or entertain you?”, “Does it serve a purpose aside from promoting your own business and agenda?” Make sure you’ve answered “yes” to both before putting it out into the world. – Kate Weidner , SRW

9. Determine How Much Value It Gives

By giving people a tremendous amount of value in the content that gets put out, you immediately build trust. People still buy from people and trust matters now more than ever. – Seth Winterer, Digital Logic

10. Work With Professional Editors

You should not have the same person who is writing content be the one editing it. Instead, hire an editor or work with an agency that has professional editors to review your content for grammar and style and ensure you’ve cited the correct sources and that the content flows organically. Editors do a lot more than catch misplaced commas, and they are well worth the investment. – Kelsey Raymond, Influence & Co.

11. Look At Your Biggest Competitors

Research is crucial when it comes to generating engaging content. Looking at your biggest competition and what they’re putting out in terms of content, be on top of what’s trending in your industry. Try and emulate what’s getting good engagement and make it better by adding more personality to it. – Sam Founda, Social Connection

12. Check Traffic And Rankings

Days after you’ve posted the content and made sure Google was aware of it, we suggest taking a look at the organic page traffic, number of associated indexed keywords and the rankings of those keywords. If you’ve written something of high quality that’s helpful to your buyers and also has demand in your marketplace, Google will reward that page over time with more views. – Dustin DeTorres, DeTorres Group

13. Plan Ahead With A Survey

Putting together a survey to assess key messaging to a targeted audience before going wide is an important tactic to build into your strategy. Before investing valuable time and resources in messaging that may not have the impact you initially thought, a survey gives you the opportunity to readjust on a cost-effective and targeted basis. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

14. Assess If It’s Useful For Non-Customers

Ask yourself this question when reviewing a concept for any new piece of content: “Will this piece be useful to someone who is not a customer of mine, and might not ever be?” That question helps you determine if the content is valuable to a broader audience or simply serves as a soft promotion for your products. The best performing content is objective and product-neutral. – Amith Nagarajan, rasa.io

15. Aim To Answer Ideal Customers’ Questions

As a business, we’ve hired consultants to deep dive into our client’s psyche to understand their top questions and concerns in doing business with us. This has led us to a list of five key questions all prospective clients ask. One way we assess the quality of the content we put out is to ask ourselves if this content is going to help answer or provoke thought around one of those questions. – Patrick Dillon, WISE Digital Partners

16. Evaluate Relevance By Using Personalized Visuals

Quality content is increasingly rooted in relevance. Brands can tap into user-generated content (UGC) to create highly personalized messages through regional, demographic and culturally-specific imagery. Consumers want to see themselves, their lives and, subsequently, their needs reflected in the brands they support, which cultivates a high-quality overall brand experience. – Analisa Goodin, Catch&Release

Handling PR In A Crisis Situation: 12 Expert Tips

When a company makes a misstep, it’s up to the PR team to do damage control. With constant news coverage and the penchant for modern society to fixate on small things, it’s a vain hope that the media or fans will overlook an offensive detail. Handling this pressure and dealing with the fallout to make sure the company has a future at the end of this issue falls on the PR team primarily.

Forbes Agency Council

With so much responsibility resting on their shoulders, how can they seek to right the PR ship and handle the emerging crisis as it develops? Twelve professionals from Forbes Agency Council delve into how a team can successfully put out “fires” amid a public relations crisis.

1. Have A Clear Purpose

When you have a clear purpose, in times of crisis, that purpose can guide your actions and help build a narrative that’s authentic to the business. Consumers’ radar for inauthenticity is more highly attuned than ever, and you will be called out if your communications and actions aren’t clearly aligned to the values you stand for and the DNA of your business. – Ed Rogers, BeenThereDoneThat

2. Don’t Go Dark

The worst thing a company can do is ignore the crisis and hope it goes away. The way you react is nearly as important as the original issue — and the world will be watching. Focus on what you’re doing to correct the situation versus defending what went wrong. Show empathy and determination to right the situation. People will respect you for owning up to it and offering a solution. – Matt Berry, Conversion Agile Marketing

3. Have A Plan And Be Transparent

Two factors distinguish those who right the ship and those who sink: preparation and transparency. Having a plan in place that lays out what each stakeholder should do in a crisis will empower your team to handle anything and put you ten steps ahead. If a crisis occurs, be as transparent as you can without jeopardizing your firm, staff or stakeholders. Unnecessary lies may look like a cover-up. – Nathan Miller, Miller Ink, Inc.

4. Create A Message Map

A crisis situation calls for a message map with a concise key message at its center and up to six supporting messages or proof points around it. The key message is a seven-second sound bite showing the company’s concern for its customers or its key audiences. All the proof points support the key message. This gives everyone in an organization a “song sheet” so everyone can sing together in harmony. – Nancy Marshall, Marshall Communications

5. Take The Wheel And Steer

My company is experienced working with clients dealing with navigating a media crisis. This includes issues that garnered national attention. My advice is to take the wheel. Develop a plan for handling the situation and have a designated source communicate with the media on what steps you are taking to resolve the problem. Also, issue a statement — otherwise your side of the story won’t be told. – Alex Membrillo, Cardinal Digital Marketing

6. Address It Honestly And Move On

Address the concern or issue immediately, empathetically and honestly, but then move on, especially if the complaint is false. It’s not good to get stuck in a negative mindset because of a bad experience or to let it affect you as a leader. – JC Hite, Hite Digital

7. Monitor From The Get-Go

Having a great monitoring system in place — ideally, before the crisis — will ensure that you are across what your consumers and the media are saying about your company and the situation at hand. Social media monitoring, along with print and broadcast, is imperative as it enables you to craft your PR response and change course if necessary. – Adrian Falk, Believe Advertising & PR

8. Stay In The Moment

Be where you are, right now. If it’s a crisis, address it swiftly, honestly and with simple answers. Then move on. Staying too long at the party benefits no one, and while some like to revisit horror stories, our news cycle likes to move along at a rapid pace. Let the river take you in its flow. Go to the next good thing by following a crisis with good news — how your company helps those in need. – Lynne Golodner, Your People LLC

9. Have Your Leader Step In

When such a crisis hits a company, there is only one way out of it and that’s when the leader of the company steps in and speaks about the issue. Make a video addressing the entire issue if the news is true, ask for forgiveness and tell people how you plan on overcoming the issue. If it’s fake, come out with real facts and handle the party responsible for it and ask for a public apology from the press. – Vishal Jain, Sunshy Group Of Companies

10. Get Everyone On The Same Page

Righting the PR ship means getting everyone in the company on the same page before, during and after a crisis. This means making sure that PR already has a seat at the executive table even before a crisis begins. It also means having a well-thought-out crisis communications plan that the entire executive team has already approved. Being prepared for any crisis is the best first step you can take. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

11. Decide A Direction And Stick With It

One of the largest issues with PR is that people often make a decision and they end up walking it back. What that means is that they take a position and they end up making changes and getting a lot of bad press. The message at the moment is critical to the success of the message. – Catherine Seeds, Ketner Group Communications

12. Focus On Your Strengths

It’s easy to get defensive when your company’s reputation is at stake for the wrong reasons. Rather than pulling up and rehashing the details around the negative points, be sure to focus on the strengths of your company and what you are doing right. The story will naturally shift if the hook is no longer there. – Jon James, Ignited Results

5 Things Every Business Needs To Know About Visual Search And Ux

Visual search is a great marketing tool that helps consumers find what they’re looking for faster. Rather than trying to describe a specific item in words, they can simply snap a quick photo and upload it to find a close visual match.

Visual Search and UX

Brands like Pinterest and Google have already implemented visual search functionalities, and other companies are starting to follow suit. If you haven’t yet incorporated this useful feature into your user experience design, now is the time to start looking into it.

To help you, we asked a panel of Ad Age Collective members what companies should know about the impact of visual search on marketing. Their best answers are below.

1. Metadata still matters in visual search.
With nearly 25% of all internet searches occurring on Google Images, this is the second largest search category. Creating high-ranking metadata is an important SEO strategy to show up and index on the front page. Also, XML images are powerful for creating sitemaps. This step ensures that crawlers can easily access your images and show them in search results. – Warren Jolly, adQuadrant

2. You can maximize your reach with a multi-site visual content strategy.
Search engines pull image results from multiple sources. Brands can maximize the potential for their product images to top the search results by building out visual content on other websites. Strong visual content strategies on Pinterest, Amazon and specialist sites like Houzz can drive more eyes on your products and ultimately increase sales. – Kerry Curran, Catalyst

3. It will take time to gain traction, but you should start preparing now.
It’s tempting with new trends to go all-in without addressing the current business climate. For brands that are used to investing in SEO to gain visibility, this shouldn’t stop with the advent of visual search, as it will take time to gain traction. Regardless, carve out a portion of your SEO budget to dedicate to visual assets and you’ll be ready for the arrival of mass adoption of visual search. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

4. Your images should give consumers a reason to click through.
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Make the image of your product quickly stand out and be visually appealing. Show the features and benefits of the product as they would appear as part of the consumer’s life to give them a reason to click through and learn more. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

5. Don’t wait to get started.
As mobile usage grows, mobile-friendly features like the vertical-video content format and visual search will become the norm. AI is developing rapidly and making it easier to carry out visual search accurately. Businesses need to get their foot in the door fast and build their audience from the outset of this new trend. It will be a lot harder to compete and stand out later. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

7 Tips For Leveraging Ai To Improve User Experience

The use of artificial intelligence in marketing and advertising has been constantly on the rise due to the technology’s versatility in connecting brands with customers. AI has already found its way into several areas of the industry, most notably in the form of AI-based chatbots designed to enhance and optimize customer service.

7 tips for Ai and User Experience

However, AI can go so much deeper in improving the overall user experience that a customer may have. AI has the potential to do a lot more in terms of data processing to garner insights for a business. Focusing on the metrics that are specific to a business is just the surface layer. User interaction data can also provide a significant store of data that the company can use to improve customer experience. An element like a product recommendation service based on what the user has searched for and viewed previously is an excellent way to leverage AI to improve consumer interaction with the brand.

These leaders from Ad Age Collective understand the immense potential that AI can provide to the industry as a whole. We asked them to help us understand how a brand can best include AI in designing and upgrading its user experience. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Create a system of checks and balances.
There are plenty of applications of AI across all areas of advertising and marketing. Whether you’re building your own AI or using a technology provider, it’s important to ensure that there are checks and balances and a discernible ROI created. That requires checking that the algorithms are working optimally, mitigating biases and surfacing the most impactful recommendations on an ongoing basis. – Ricky Ray Butler, Branded Entertainment Network

2. Identify your visual brand equity.
As AI-driven user experience becomes the norm, a brand’s differentiated visual equity will be critical to stand out in multibrand platforms. Brands must identify visual elements that are relevant and ownable. For instance, Target owns the bull’s-eye. What else can they own? – Arjun Sen, ZenMango

3. Focus on audio.
Most of the brands have largely been neglecting their audio dimension. Developers and marketers focus mainly on visual and haptics to a lesser extent, while the sound is the sense dimension that connects emotionally. – Marcello Magalhaes, Speakeasy – Knowledge Brokers

4. Use AI to enhance personalization.
AI can be used to enhance the personalization of your offering. Use it to alter product options, add-ons and benefits in real time while a consumer is online searching for your brand in order to directly benefit their lifestyle. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

5. Use AI to manage out-of-stocks.
Some progressive retailers like Wakefern and Kroeger are using AI-powered image recognition to identify out-of-stock issues and to efficiently restock the shelves. Some brand owners like AB InBev, especially those with direct store delivery (DSD), are also doing the same. Collaborate with your retail channel partners to capture and act on this data. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)

6. Keep a close eye on it.
While AI is powerful and can help carry out activities easily and fast, it’s not 100 percent reliable. Remember Microsoft’s “Tay” Twitter bot that went from having engaging interactions to using slurs? Use AI in creating content and better experiences, but keep a close eye on it. AI is literal and does not take context into account, nor can it make moral judgments. You need to constantly monitor it. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

7. Be cognizant of inherent bias.
AI is incredibly efficient and underpins many popular systems we use today. One only has to investigate the world of streaming services, with content recommendations powered by AI, to see its impact. However, brands need to remember to not be blinded by AI’s abilities and to be cognizant of inherent biases that exist within AI systems. AI is only as good as its creator — and that creator is human. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap