Eight Tips For Creating More Engaging Podcast Ads

Forbes Agency Podcasts

Original Publication: Forbes

Date Published: December 13, 2018

Podcasts are rapidly growing, with businesses across several industries leveraging the format. According to research, consumers are more receptive to ads on podcasts than on any other medium. As the likelihood of ad spend on podcasts continues to rise, more brands will be looking to differentiate themselves through podcast advertising.

To capitalize on this opportunity, eight Forbes Agency Council members share their tips for creating podcast ads that boost engagement.

Members share their best tips for podcast ads that engage.

Forbes Agency Podcasts

1. Know The Audience And Focus

When creating ads, it is essential that the audience meets your exact target. Understand the content focus of the specific podcast and make sure your ad aligns with the podcast. Podcast ads perform well when you are micro-targeting and speaking directly to an audience that is already captivated by the content of the topic. – Scott Darrohn, fishbat Media, LLC.

2. Combine Story, Knowledge And Entertainment

Similar to other native ads, podcast ads succeed by truly understanding the target audience, crafting a compelling message (not too commercialized but thought-provoking), and utilizing multi-spot frequency to boost memory and recognition. The successful models that we use combine story, knowledge and entertainment to form an effective ad that feels like an extension of the show. – Yan Zhang, XYZ Advantage

3. Think Of It As Influencer Marketing

Outline your goals and key messages you want to communicate to their audience, as well as anything you absolutely don’t want them to say. But then let the podcast personality shine through — even if it’s a bit scary. The most successful sponsored content emerges when influencers are allowed to tell stories in a way that resonates with their audience, and the same is true for podcast advertising. – Danielle Wiley, Sway Group

4. Leverage An Enthusiastic Host

Integrating an ad into a podcast is a very effective way to reach a target audience. Having the podcast announcer promote the brand or read the script directly is the most effective way to integrate a brand with the target audience. The consumer will resonate with it on a deeper level since it is being promoted in the authentic voice of the podcast. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, hawthornedirect.com

5. Make Your Message Clear And Simple

Most people listen to podcasts during their daily commute or while multitasking at work, so while you have their attention, recognize they are probably distracted with other tasks as well. Keep your message simple and relevant to the show/host, then hook them with a clear call to action. You’ll be more likely to hold their attention and hook them to learn more. – Katie Schibler Conn, KSA Marketing + Partnerships

6. Choose Podcasts That Align With The Lifestyle You’re Selling

Podcasts are great for advertising. But often when creating ads, you are selling a lifestyle just as much as you are a product or service. Be sure that the podcast host fits within this avatar, and that your product will resonate with his or her users. It should also be believable that the podcast host would use your product or service and have a personal experience with it. – Brandon Stapper, Nonstop Signs

7. Listen First, Then Advertise

In effect, podcast marketing is influencer marketing. Hosts often read the ads themselves, injecting their personality. So, your marketing should benefit from their connection to the audience. Many waste this opportunity by providing one-size-fits-all ad copy rather than actually listening to the podcast, understanding its tone and adapting their message. Good podcast ads feel like a part of the show. – Kevin Smith, Mighty Roar

8. Make It Relevant

It’s more about the podcast host, the topic and their audience, and less about the actual ad. It has to be seamless. Podcast ads convert better because the audience is there to learn — they get a lot of value. Imagine if the podcast is on marketing automation and you’re selling a marketing automation service? It stops being an ad; it’s a value-add, a recommendation. People like recommendations. -Rafael Romis, Weberous Web Design

How Advertisers Can Navigate The Chaos Of Election Season

Midterm Elections and Media Buying

Author: Jessica Hawthorne-Castro

Original Publication: Forbes

Date Published: November 27, 2018

Huge surges in political ad spending are expected in the run-ups to presidential elections, but spending on the 2018 midterm elections happened on a scale rarely seen before.Midterm Elections and Media Buying

Candidates in races across the country poured money into their campaigns and spent heavily on digital media. For example, Wesleyan University researchers found that Texas was the “most digitally wired” race in the country, with both candidates spending more money on Facebook and Google than on TV.

I run a media buying agency, and my company, Hawthorne, is acutely aware of these media trends and spend across local markets and national media campaigns. Large national events like the midterm elections impact our client campaigns, so it’s important to plan around them to ensure campaign success.

A blockbuster election season like this can pose challenges for brands. News networks are the battleground, as people across the political spectrum pay close attention to every new development and movement in the polls. All that political ad spending reduces the amount of available time for non-political advertisers. It also raises prices — as high as 10 times traditional rates — and generates a lot of noise, making it difficult for a brand to get its message across. As you figure out how to move your own campaigns forward during an election season, here are a few things to consider:

Be prepared to navigate the digital media noise.

While political advertising may seem like a world apart from a company selling consumer goods, everyone is using the same platforms to attempt to capture people’s attention.

Recent presidential elections were adept at harnessing the power of social media to get their message out there and rally support. Candidates in all kinds of races, with many backgrounds and views, have recognized they can’t run a successful campaign without thinking strategically about digital media. As a result, political ad spending has moved beyond traditional channels like TV and radio and is taking over platforms like email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and more.

Moreover, the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the ongoing saga of potential outside-U.S. meddling in the election has revealed a stark truth: Social media has created an unprecedented opportunity for candidates to identify swayable voters and target them with the right messages at the right time.

With so much noise on each of these platforms, advertisers must choose their channels carefully and plan content accordingly.

Maximize your social content.

The power of social was clearly recognized by candidates in tight races and particularly by underdogs looking to make their messages go viral and optimize the value of every dollar spent.

For example, Beto O’Rourke’s campaign in Texas put digital first. It used social media in creative ways, going viral with a Facebook Live video of him skateboarding in a Whataburger parking lot. According to AdAge, the skateboard video generated 200,000 views on Facebook, and the footage was later used in an ad that reached up to 200,000 more people for just $500. That many impressions typically costs 10 times that amount. This is a great example for brand advertisers looking to make a few dollars go far.

New opportunities on Facebook and Instagram are allowing brands to reach their customers in very targeted ways with social video services. Facebook Watch allows brands to utilize pre-roll advertising in original entertainment content with specific demographic targeting, as well as factors such as popularity and social media engagement. Same with Instagram TV, with varying demographic targeting than Facebook Watch.

Both still trail YouTube for content advertising, but brands should look closer to building awareness and engagement on these channels year-round. This will help refine the content and messaging to scale higher during key competitive periods in linear advertising channels like TV and radio.

Leverage earned media.

There’s an important distinction to be made here between “bought” and “earned” media. “Bought media” means paid advertising, while “earned media” encompasses news and commentary about the campaigns on television, in newspapers and magazines, and on social media.

It can be tricky to engineer going viral, but there’s no doubt that name recognition and controversy go a long way toward attracting attention. The current president was able to get his political campaign off the ground in part because of his celebrity. No matter which side of the political fence one leans toward, understanding the media environment can be used to one’s advantage.

This isn’t to say that brands should rely on controversy to generate earned media, but it’s worth thinking about how it can be leveraged. Nike’s recent ad campaign with Colin Kaepernick is a good illustration. It was controversial and attracted a huge amount of earned media coverage as a result.

That being said, not all social messaging needs to be as polarizing as the Kaepernick campaign, especially during an election period. Brands should use lighter content in social video channels like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Retailers can also rely on social influencers who are aligned with their brands and customers. The goal is to establish social activation and advocacy for a brand in these channels and share content that will drive conversation. Political messaging has a serious tone, and consumers welcome lighthearted messaging.

Stay out of it to stay in it.

Wading into politics and controversy in brand advertising can be a gamble. Coming out with a political skew is not always an effective strategy — it can create backlash or maybe even lead to boycotts. For some brands, a political stance is part of who they are and resonates well. However, when the debates are so heated, as we’ve recently seen, it’s best to lay off.

Take notice that there’s so much social good messaging out there at the moment (both political and seemingly unpolitical) that fatigue is setting in. In this heightened time of stress, consider a creative, comedic approach to your messaging that can cut through the tension and stand out.

Don’t let an election season derail your advertising strategy or its results. There are plenty of opportunities for everyone to get their messages out.

12 Ways To Encourage More Diversity In The Agency World

Encourage more Diversity in the Agency World

Author: Forbes Agency Council

Original Publication: Forbes

Date Published: August 12, 2018

There’s been a lot of industry talk recently around diversity and inclusion. And rightfully so: Having a diverse team is important for many reasons, including the ability to envision, discuss and brainstorm ideas or campaigns from many different perspectives. But there’s more work that needs to be done to balance out the playing field.
We asked members of the Forbes Agency Council for their best hiring tips for a diverse workforce. Their best answers are below:

Encourage more Diversity in the Agency World

1. Tap Your Higher Consciousness

By opening your mind, you open the door to greater possibilities and results. In order for a business to grow, it must capture more people, and that means an audience that includes as many people as possible. If you want to appeal to that mass audience, then it is imperative to hire people that have different perspectives, which means diversity, so that they may collectively appeal to that much larger and diverse audience. Diversity means greater results, happier clients and bigger profits. It also sends a message to the industry as they see you rise to the top. – Keith Herman, IPA Equities/PMBC Group

2. Go Global With A Distributed Team

The best way I’ve found to create diversity is to hire globally and build a distributed team. Even small agencies can improve diversity by hiring talent from places we generally overlook. Having a global team with a wide range of perspectives creates better outcomes for all of our clients. – Kj Prince, Insurance Engine

3. Focus On The Person, Not The Resume

Understand that a resume will not necessarily provide that information. To gain a more eccentric and diverse workplace requires you to learn more about the person’s life experiences and not just skills as they may be beneficial to the company. – Jordan Edelson, Appetizer Mobile LLC

4. Utilize Other Languages In Your Websites And Social Media

With the growing Hispanic population, if a business isn’t utilizing Spanish, they are missing out on a lot of business, and by seeking Spanish speakers you are bound to attract them. Therefore, not only will this allow you to target an under-marketed population but it will also encourage the diversity of different races and cultures. – Imran Tariq, WebMetrix Group LLC

5. Reword Your Job Description

“Diversity hiring” entails hiring based on merit regardless of background. If you’re noticing a lack of diversity at your workplace, it may be worth revisiting your hiring process. I’d start by looking over the job posting and analyzing its verbiage to ensure that it’s culturally appropriate and not culturally biased. – Ahmad Kareh, Twistlab Marketing

6. Define What ‘Good’ Looks Like

Establishing hiring criteria standards and promotion practices eliminates pay inequality or biased hiring decisions. At our agency, we established a career level system for our employees to ensure people grow, are promoted and paid equally, and hired based on consistent measurements. Once you define what “good” looks like, diversity isn’t something you consciously do, it just organically happens. – Brett Farmiloe, Markitors

7. Check Job Descriptions And Website For Accessibility

Diversity and inclusion needs to be a priority for every organization, and it isn’t something that can just be thrown together. However, one practical tip is to have the HR team do a thorough audit of all job descriptions and website accessibility. Is there something in either of those pieces that make people self-select out of the candidate process? Everything from blind applicants to requiring bachelor’s degrees when that might not be necessary to do the job well should be analyzed. – Alyshia Kisor-Madlem, STATWAX

8. Pay Attention To Age Diversity

In this business, approaching 40 feels like you begin to “age out.” Hire encore career seekers who bring real experience and diverse perspectives. Collaborative teams with millennials, Gen Xers and boomers foster respect, understanding and learning. Our multigenerational staff is our best asset, grounding us from biases that are easily forgetten or overlooked. – Katie Schibler Conn, KSA Marketing + Partnerships

9. Lead By Example

Agencies may post policies and offer diversity training, but the reality that employees live with day-to-day is set by the actions of the executive leadership. Attitudes and language used by a CEO to the leadership team set the tone for how they engage with their teams. Executives who set a good example with their leadership team can trigger a positive ripple effect across the organization. – Keri Witman, Cleriti

10. Be Aware Of Your Implicit Biases

Work on identifying and then filtering out quick judgments that aren’t merit-based when reviewing resumes or interviewing candidates. These could include judgments on where a candidate’s from, where they went to school, or even if they worked with someone or at a previous agency with which you had a negative experience. – Larry Gurreri, Sosemo LLC

11. Attain Diversity By Design

Think “diversity by design.” Every step of both the hiring and even post-hiring process (such as performance reviews) should have diversity top of mind. For example, interview panels should include a diverse set of interviewers to ensure that hiring decisions are not homogenous. For reviews, managers should be trained on subconscious bias to ensure again that there is diversity in action. – Preethy Vaidyanathan, Tapad

12. Embrace All Forms Of Diversity

Diversity and inclusion are critical to a well-balanced culture in today’s workforce to ensure a company stays in touch with the rapidly changing environment. I would encourage employers to not just look at diversity from a gender or racial demographic but also from different angles including age and place of origin. In my company, we have employees across genders, nationalities and all five current working generations, and we’ve found that it leads to critical thinking, unique perspectives, creativity and ingenuity. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, hawthornedirect.com

12 Planning Strategies to Keep Your Editorial Calendar on Track

Author: Forbes Agency Council

Original Publication: Forbes

Date Published: July 28, 2018

Creating content has quickly become one of the core activities for most brands’ marketing teams. Blog posts, social media, videos and other assets serve to establish a company’s expertise while building trust and interest with their current and potential customer base.

As the demand for unique, original content continues to grow, the best way to keep up is a solid, well-organized editorial calendar. Whether it’s a simple spreadsheet or a formal project management tool, planning out your content in advance can help you stay on top of long-lead deadlines for “evergreen” pieces. Here’s how 12 Forbes Agency Council members recommend preparing for those deadlines on your editorial calendar.

1. Build A Strong Backbone, But Leave Room For Flexibility

Start by brainstorming a list of most asked questions. This should be the backbone of your content. Strong content answers questions people are searching for and will draw them to you as the expert answering their questions. Make room in your calendar for flexibility to pivot with pop culture and industry breakthroughs. The top priority is to bulk up your calendar by scheduling strong content. – Katie Harris, Spot On Solutions

2. Get Specific

Staying on top of your editorial calendar is a key component to content marketing success. Create content topic lists, assign internal content and topic ownership, and include specific publish dates on the calendar that aren’t just rough estimates and that targets a specific target audience. Be specific. – Timothy Nichols, ExactDrive, Inc

3. Plan A Timeline That Covers Every Phase Of Your Campaign

Start out with the date range you need to go “live” with the campaign. Back out from there to plan for all phases of the campaign and parallel developments that include other departments/dependencies. Give yourself extra days if there are any review phases from third parties. Finally, publish your calendar to all parties and make sure there is agreement and accountability to adhere to deadlines. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, hawthornedirect.com

4. Create A ‘Dream’ Calendar And A ‘Necessity’ Calendar

Many times, brands start by creating their dream content calendar, with lots of new content being generated constantly. That’s great, but there needs to be another calendar that defines which of those deadlines and pieces of content are absolutely necessary for a campaign to work. Then, start by making sure you make everything on the “necessity” calendar, and if there is more time, do the rest. – Rafael Romis, Weberous Web Design

5. Engage Influencers

It’s a fact of business: brands get busy. If the team isn’t able to churn out enough quality content on a consistent basis to fill an editorial calendar, engage influencers to produce high-quality (and authentic) content to repurpose on your brand’s social channels. – Danielle Wiley, Sway Group

6. Have A Defined Editorial Process For Responding To Timely Events

Editorial calendars are tedious and out of date the minute they are written. A defined editorial process, however, gives you the flexibility to create content in the moment, reacting to or even initiating timely conversations. A focus on process and speed will let you plan for spontaneity. – Jerrid Grimm, Pressboard

7. Track Short- And Long-Lead Deadlines In A Well-Organized Spreadsheet

Spreadsheets are key and also a great visual representation of the timeline and content that needs to be prepared and published in time for editorially relevant milestones like company launches, holidays or seasons. Focus on overlapping content angles so that your content stays fresh and you are addressing both short- and long-lead deadlines simultaneously. – Sara Shake, Mad

8. Repurpose All Content

Users consume content differently on all platforms. Focus on creating evergreen content that can be repurposed and added to over time. Be sure to distribute that content throughout all social media platforms. As you learn to leverage the distribution of your media, you will see it is easier for you to fill in your editorial calendar. – Breynan Hammons, Innvio

9. Share The Process

Content creation should be shared, not siloed. Involve multiple people by creating a process and having stages in place. Having deadlines to pass the project to others for editing, proofreading and design help keep the author on track and accountable. This helps keep larger projects, like whitepapers, on track and moving forward, rather than waiting on one person. – Nicole Mahoney, Break the Ice Media

10. Plan, Measure And Refine

The most successful content marketing efforts start with a strong strategy, careful planning and are hyper-focused on your buyer persona. Invest time to be thoughtful upfront, and map specific content types, themes and placement for the full year at once. At the beginning of each new quarter, review the performance to date and refine your content planned for the rest of the year accordingly. – Keri Witman, Cleriti

11. Diversify Your Subject Matter Expertise

Implement strategic plans for long-lead cadence and themes to ensure each post serves a purpose. Whether it’s entering the conversation around a holiday or making sure you’re diversifying subject matter, being able to see the road ahead is key to measure success and audience interaction. Line up executives in advance for appropriate thought leadership to grow value and awareness. – Scott Kellner, GPJ Experience Marketing

12. Understand Your Overall Editorial Philosophy

While content marketing is powerful for brands, too many companies focus their attention on the form factor of publishing and not enough on their overarching philosophy. If you know the philosophy or ideology you want to share, you can look for events and opportunities that enable you to instantiate your philosophy. This will allow you to create content that’s more authentic and valuable. – Hamid Ghanadan, LINUS

How Voice Technology Is Changing The Way We Work

How Voice Technology Is Changing The Way We Work

Author: Forbes Agency Council

Original Publication: Forbes

Date Published: July 27, 2018

How many times have you set a reminder, sent a message or searched for the answer to a question, simply by speaking into your phone? Voice technology, combined with built-in AI assistants like Siri and Cortana, have made these situations commonplace, and it’s changing the way we live our daily lives.

But voice technology isn’t just useful in the consumer realm: Businesses can — and already do — greatly benefit from the ability to give commands, look up information and dictate notes using just their voice and a smart device. Here’s what nine Forbes Agency Council members believe the future of voice technology in the workplace looks like. How Voice Technology Is Changing The Way We Work

1. Improved Internal Information Sharing

IBM Watson has been building customized voice applications for the enterprise. Think: Being on the factory floor and having access to all of the company’s intranet, process documentation and HR documentation, all without lifting a finger. Making information accessible to everyone will help all levels of the organization to be more efficient. – Dan Golden, Be Found Online

2. Increased Productivity Through Multitasking

Being able to ask simple questions, set meetings, timers, reminders and more, without stopping what you’re doing can be incredibly helpful, and already is. Alexa is a key office tool for me today, ensuring I keep track of action items and to-do lists, and reminding me of upcoming meetings. – Molly Mulloy, Crafted Communications

3. More Free Time For Administrative Executives

Voice assistance has the possibility of freeing up valuable time for administrative executives, allowing them to shift their focus to higher priority to-dos on their list. Inputting meetings on calendars, sending quick texts and other similar tasks will be replaced with voice technology. – Priscila Martinez, The Brand Agency

4. Greater Control Over The Work Environment

It is predicted that by 2020, 30% of all web searches will be screenless, and within four years, shopping online by voice-only is expect to reach $40 billion. While I am working through my emails, I use Alexa to replenish snacks by ordering from Amazon, get restaurant recommendations, search for the latest stats and change the office temperature. I can also ask Alexa to answer my calls. – Alannah Tsimis Sandehl, IDM Brand

5. Automation Of Mundane Processes

Alexa for business utilizes simple voice commands to control the equipment in the room, set up meetings without issues, and save time in the corporate world. It also can report to the IT department about broken printers, etc. Looking longer-term, I feel one of the biggest value propositions of voice assistants will be the ability to automate mundane processes. – Imran Tariq, WebMetrix Group LLC

6. Streamlined Workflows And Reduced Communicative Friction

Google has already introduced the ability of voice tech to schedule appointments, impacting our daily processes. Soon we’ll be able to say out loud, “Schedule a meeting with Tom at 2 p.m.,” and done! Between emails, instant messages and endless office minutia that can take time out of our day, voice tech will soon be an invaluable tool for streamlining general workflows and reducing friction. – Bernard May, National Positions

7. Greater Insights Into The Consumer Mindset

Aside from the utility of audio assistants in the workplace, which could be used to book meetings, manage to-do lists and send messages to colleagues, voice technology could help marketers get in the mindset of consumers by exploring voice search results and popular Skills/Actions. Voice gaming, for example, could be used as a model for how consumers will navigate website content by voice. – Nina Hale, Nina Hale / Performance Digital

8. Easier Documentation And Note-Taking

Every company needs some degree of process documentation, standard operating procedures and long, tedious written forms of communication. Yet, no one ever has the time to write them, so why not say them using voice technology? It’s easier to edit something than to write it from scratch. – Brooke Weller, iProspect, San Diego

9. Uniquely Human Jobs

Voice has already started to make its way into the workplace to improve worker efficiency. Dictation allows you to take real-time detailed notes during a meeting so there are no discrepancies. Cortana helps you search, schedule appointments and set reminders. When used effectively, technology will allow the worker to focus on strategy and creativity, the elements that make us uniquely human. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, hawthornedirect.com

If You Want To Humanize Your Brand On Social Media, Try These 10 Tactics

Forbes Agency Council

Author: Forbes Agency Council

Original Publication: Forbes

Date Published: June 3, 2018

The reason channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube are so successful is because they encourage two-way conversations with customers. If you want those conversations to be successful and ultimately lead to conversions, you have to remember that people want to talk to other people, not faceless businesses. That’s why it’s in your brand’s best interest to show your human side in social media interactions and posts.

We asked a panel of experts from the Forbes Agency Council how to humanize a brand on social media. Their best answers are below.

Forbes Agency Council

1. Strike The Right Balance Between Personality And Professionalism 

Be real. Show yourself in your “personal” element while out on the job, giving back to the community, traveling and working with friends. But always remember to be appropriate because things will live online forever. It’s important to strike the right balance. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castrohawthornedirect.com

2. Show Some Character 

Brands often fail to captivate their audiences when they try to play things too safe. Don’t be afraid to show some humor at appropriate times or take a stance on some relevant issues. While there are always lines you shouldn’t cross, keeping things too sterile and not showing a personality doesn’t help you connect with consumers. – Greg Kihlstrom, Yes& Agency

3. Be Consistently Unique 

Every person has a unique voice and character that contributes to their overall personality – this is true for brands, as well. A consistent brand voice can do a lot to support the image you want your brand to portray. Not to mention, it can have a positive impact on the kinds of conversations you are having with your audience, making them feel like they are talking to a friend, not just a brand. – Alannah Tsimis Sandehl, IDM Brand

4. Be True To The Voice And Tone Of Your Brand 

The key to humanizing a brand on social media channels is authenticity and consistency. Staying true to brand voice while communicating with your audience honestly and openly is paramount. Audiences don’t want to see their favorite sneaker brand posting boring, sales-heavy content, just as they don’t want their bank posting cat memes. – David Harrison, EVINS

5. Define Your Brand’s ‘Personality’ 

Humanizing your brand on any digital asset is giving life to your brand. First, you should decide its personality. What kinds of things would your brand do, eat or listen to if it were human? Where does it hang out? Who are its BFFs? Where would I see your brand on the weekend? At a concert? In the mall? Let your brand “date” its followers. That means real interaction, all the time. – Jennifer Barbee, Destination Innovate

6. Go Behind The Scenes 

Your followers want a window into your brand. That is why they follow you. They want to see the culture of your company, people and what your day-to-day looks like. Make sure to mix professional or staged images with lifestyle shots and a look behind the scenes. If you have a set theme or look for your Instagram page, then utilize the Story feature to give your followers a true look at your company culture. – Meredith Xavier, The Ligne Group

7. Embrace Storytelling 

“Storytelling” is such a buzzword this year. Brands are getting smarter about humanizing messages across all content, whether it’s posted on their own site or on a social media channel. This is a trend to really embrace on social media. Tell your followers a story – something to which they can relate. – Matt Bowman, Thrive Internet Marketing Agency

8. Show Off Your Team 

Strong brands attach loyalty not just to their products or work, but also to their teams. Your audience is interested in more than your work and thought leadership pieces – they also want to know about the people behind the brand. Behind-the-scenes videos, birthday celebrations, fun outings and team bonding activities are all great ways to show off your culture and connect with your audience. – Nicole Mahoney, Break the Ice Media

9. Have Real Humans Respond To Customers’ Posts 

A simple “Thank you!” for a positive comment will go a long way. More detailed responses to actual questions or complaints will be even more successful. For brands that are really concerned about how they’re perceived by consumers, invest in a team of humans who understand your brand ethos, products and services to manage social pages. – Jeffrey Kamikow, Cross Audience

10. Stop Posting Like A Marketer 

Avoid using industry slang, formal sentences and third-party language. Social media is all about creating dialogue and building relationships. Create posts that are conversational in nature and use “you” and “me” phrases. Act like you are talking with your neighbor and post content in a way the creates that environment. Be human. – Korena Keys, KeyMedia Solutions

10 Places To Look When Your Website Traffic Is Dropping

Author: Forbes Agency Council

Original Publication: Forbes

Date Published: June 2, 2018

For companies that generate most of their leads and sales online, bringing in steady website traffic is critical. That’s why a sharp decline in traffic sends the average business into full-on panic mode.

While you should be concerned about a sudden dip in site visits, there’s often a logical explanation for it, if you know where to look. Sometimes it’s a simple and fast fix – a coding error, for instance – while in other cases, such as an algorithm change, it might take a bit longer to bounce back. Either way, it’s important to look for the root of the problem so you can fix it.

Ten Forbes Agency Council members explain some potential reasons your site’s traffic may have tanked, and what you can do about it.

1. Tracking Tags

The simplest explanation for a sudden and unexpected drop in website performance is often analytics tags failing to fire. Always check tracking first to make sure website visitors are being accounted for before making drastic changes. Reconciling tracking issues will help mitigate the long-term impact. Additionally, making friends with your IT department will help avoid issues before they arise. – Nina Hale, Nina Hale / Performance Digital

2. The Front End Of Your Website 

 The first thing to investigate after a major dip in traffic is your website itself. Is it actually working? Is there a problem with the domain? Mechanically, is everything functioning as it should? If all that checks out, make sure the critical inbound links are still intact. If the majority of your traffic comes from inbound campaigns, ensure your inbound marketing platform is working properly. – Jeffrey Kamikow, Cross Audience

3. Google Analytics 

When the world is crashing around you, trust the data. Dive into Google Analytics and try to pinpoint where things went south. Think back on marketing tactics you recently pushed live and find the correlation. This should lead you to an internal audit, where you may discover an internal tool is broken or an external force is impacting your site. – Kirk Deis, Treehouse 51

4. Google Search Console 

If you don’t stay up to date on major Google algorithm changes, you’re falling behind. If your site is not mobile-friendly, improperly secured or using outdated practices for SEO, your rankings may be dropping. Check your Search Console, work with your team to fix the problem, and start subscribing to the right resources to avoid this in the future. – Stewart Gandolf, Healthcare Success

5. Traffic Sources 

After confirming that there’s no recent update to search algorithms throwing things out of whack, identify which traffic source has seen the greatest decline – direct, referral, organic, paid, social. After pinpointing the source, work backward to determine what actions (or inactions) could be at fault. Check your content consumption and be sure it is on point with your target audience. – Keri Witman, Cleriti

6. Your Site’s Code 

When we see a sharp decline in traffic, we first check the site’s code. During site changes and redesigns, SSL and 301 redirects are often overlooked, causing Google to de-index the site’s pages and search rankings to drop. The drop in rankings can dramatically decrease visitors. So when building a new site or making changes to your current one, double-check your redirects before pushing live. – Michael Weinhouse, Logical Position

7. The Bigger Customer Engagement Picture 

Don’t panic, and take a step back to see the bigger picture. Perhaps customers are engaging with your website primarily on mobile rather than desktop. If your mobile site isn’t optimized or they are instead using your app, then this could be why. This gives you insight into how consumer behaviors change over time and where they are most likely to engage with your brand. – Preethy Vaidyanathan, Tapad

8. External Backlinks 

A client once had a downward trend in organic traffic. We audited all the checklist items to figure out what the issue was and we were stumped. We then evaluated the search trends of their top backlinks and found that their highest authority backlink had the same drop. To fix our client site, we had to fix the referring site. External forces are sometimes just as important as internal factors. – Brett Farmiloe, Markitors

9. The Last Item That Changed On Your Site 

When diagnosing an issue, you need to think back to what was the last item that changed. It could be a code push that somehow removed analytics from your site, it could have been a change to content that has caused a decline in search traffic. Did you make a change to your advertising? Sudden declines (or increases) are often traceable back to the last modification (big or small) that was made. – Greg Kihlstrom, Yes& Agency

10. Adblockers 

Check whether you are getting “adblocked” by any browsers, which may be redirecting traffic from your site. Also check on whether you might have had “false” traffic coming to your site from foreign websites, which was then rectified and now has new accurate website traffic numbers. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castrohawthornedirect.com

Autonomous Vehicles Will Be A New Opportunity For Marketers

Autonomous Vehicle

Author: Forbes Agency Council;  Jessica Hawthorne-Castro

Original Publication: Forbes

Date Published: June 4, 2018

Autonomous vehicles have been at the forefront of innovative thinking and Autonomous Vehicle development for some time now, and automakers are already exploring how they can fit into this new future.

Earlier this year, Toyota announced its vision to transform from a car company into a mobility company, while the Ford Motor Company is creating a reliable future of transportation through a systems-based approach for smart cities. Other automotive companies have pilot programs for autonomous vehicles that will become increasingly ambitious in 2018, reflecting a broader vision of what this technology will be able to do.

The reality is, despite ambitious projects already in the works by Ford, Tesla and BMW, autonomous vehicles won’t be ready to ship to the public for several years. Even with friendly city regulators, the real-world hurdles will take time to navigate, but the momentum is strong.

While the automobile as an ad medium is still in its infancy, marketers are starting to think about the enormous and exciting implications. As a full-service, data analytics-based media agency, we would welcome this additional channel to our cross-channel mix.

A New Marketing Medium

With the advent of self-driving cars and autonomous vehicles comes a new concept for the consumption of content. Vehicles will be the new living room, featuring multimedia surfaces for viewing a variety of media and advertising/branded experiences. They will encompass a 360-degree environment, all from the comfort of your moving living room. Autonomous vehicles will become the new entertainment field, so while consumers are relaxing on their commute to work, they will not only be on their phone and computers, but they will also have touchscreens in the car and projections or even holograms on the windshield with which to interact.

Cross-channel advertising opportunities in this fully immersive environment could combine the offline mediums, where commercial ads would sponsor your video content or streaming TV series; an outdoor/billboard type of environment where a product placement or still ad billboard could pop up before any article or organically flash across your screen as you geolocate near a particular store or brand, and radio spots could be micro-targeted for your demographic and sponsor podcasts and music channels. And of course, there would be digital banners and pay-per-click (PPC) targeting on your computer and mobile devices.

While it may seem like it could be a further invasion of personal space, the in-vehicle experience will actually be more customized with personalized content based on past likes and online activities and histories. Imagine restaurant or activity recommendations made on the fly. The vehicle might even be programmed to take passengers directly to recommended destinations upon opt-in from the passenger. Eventually, the vehicle might even be able to be commanded to suggest a customized day, curated entirely by the autonomous vehicle.

So, what do brands need to consider when they begin to add in-vehicle advertising and marketing to their media mix? The new self-driving vehicles will begin to not only shift the way people look at transportation but also change the way people behave within those vehicles. It will mean a whole new level of personalization to the brand experience where, if an advertisement comes into your car, you could click on the ad and the vehicle could physically take you to where you can personally experience the brand or the offering.

Overstimulation of advertising could obviously be a challenge, where the consumer begins to become numb or tune out the many stimuli. Therefore, just as marketers work hard at adding value today, they will have to continue creating content that is brief and engaging and that the consumer is genuinely interested in.

Looking To The Future

How will the addition of in-vehicle marketing opportunities continue to affect the overall industry landscape for marketers moving forward? First of all, when you consider that the average person today spends about 17,600 minutes each year driving, it isn’t a stretch to think about how that consumer’s time will increase once self-driving cars and other autonomous forms of transportation are the norm. And that expansion speaks volumes about how important a medium in-vehicle could be to marketers in the future.

Marketers will have to continue working with data scientists and technologists on enhancements with geotargeting and using the vehicle as a large beacon to better refine customer segmentation and location. Those marketers who are savvy about creating highly customized, value-added content for their brand that truly resonates with their in-vehicle engaged audiences will be successful.

When Hiring An Agency, Look For These 11 Traits

Forbes Agency Council

Author: Forbes Agency Council

Original Publication: Forbes

Date Published: March 5, 2018

Forbes Agency Council

Finding a digital agency that you can work with is key to the success of your business. You may have a long-standing relationship with a firm, but it just might not be providing your company what it needs to reach its marketing strategy goals.

According to a report by the Association of National Advertisers, as few as 2% of agencies actually strongly agree that the client approval process works well. This may be important to your company, and without the level of service that you expect, you can be left with a poor taste in your mouth about the agency you are working with.

Eleven members of Forbes Agency Council share some of the most important but often overlooked characteristics that businesses should be looking for (or avoiding) when picking an agency to work with. Here is what they had to say:

1. Team And Expertise

I can’t stress this enough because these days, it often happens that when you hire an agency, the people selling to you are not the ones who will be handling your account. And, oftentimes, you get handed off to junior people who don’t deliver, leaving you disappointed. – Suttida Yang, Fastmarkit

2. Effective Onboarding Process

During your vetting process, be sure to inquire about the agency‘s onboarding process and communication systems. A seasoned agencyshould be proactive in sharing how they will engage with you, including the agenda for the kick-off call, how they will immerse themselves in our business, and how they handle day-to-day communication and project management. – David Lewis, DemandGen International, Inc.

3. Shared Values And Work Ethic

When picking an agency, businesses should look for a company that shares the same values and work ethic. Working with an agency is a collaboration and partnership, and should be a relationship that is vetted thoughtfully. – Lauren Shirreffs, 2Social

4. Being A Resource Fit

When selecting the right agency to work with, be honest about yourcompany’s budget and look for “resource fit.” Traditional agencies can be costly or slow to produce, or have too many processes and approval layers built in for your high-growth department, while lighter-weight agencies may not be able to scale up in the way you need. Make sure to choose partners on skill, access, scale and speed. – Megan Groves, InterimCMO

5. Responds To Your Inquiries In A Timely Manner

How soon do they respond to your inquiries or needs? If they’re not responding to you in a timely fashion or not responding to what you’ve specifically requested, get ready for more of the same as you work with them. Does your agency hear you when you reach out? Do they listen to you when you state your concerns or have questions? Also, do you have access to senior management? If yes, great! – Daniel Lazarz, Life of Dad Agency

6. Transparency

Transparency is crucial. If an agency promises a deliverable that sounds too good to be true, it generally is. Ask difficult questions, and remember that you get what you pay for. – Amanda Stein, EXPAND

7. Knowledge Of Technology And The Niche

Many digital folks lack knowledge of classic traditional advertising and the role of creative and the science behind it, and many traditional advertising agencies do not keep up to speed with the fast-evolving digital world because they are uncomfortable with technology-intense projects. Finding the creative folks with knowledge of classic advertising and good understanding of technology is key. – Nikolai Mentchoukov, LIQWID(R)

8. Creativity And True ROI

An agency should be able to develop beautiful, creative campaigns and deliver a return on advertising spend — the right brain has to meet the left brain. Look for an agency that clearly understands data-based analytics and how their marketing efforts can be quantified for every dollar invested. If they can’t demonstrate true ROI, they’re not the right fit. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne

9. Access To Your Future Account Execs

Don’t just talk to the “closer” when meeting with potential agencies. In most small firms that is usually the principal of the company, and larger firms have a business development team comprised of salespeople. Speak to the account execs that would potentially work your account. Ask how long they’ve been with the firm, what motivates them and what their passions are. That will tell you a lot about the firm. – Dan Kahn, Kahn Media Inc.

10. Proprietary Tools And Methods

Businesses should look for agencies that have proprietary tools and methodologies, based on best practices, new technologies and an innovative approach to communications. – Teresa Villarreal, Newlink

11. Ability To Listen And Understand

A key characteristic that businesses should look for in an agency is their ability to listen and understand first. Agency partners that listen to their clients’ marketing challenges and understand their clients’ businesslandscape are only then able to recommend well-crafted creative marketing solutions. Beware the agency that knows all about your problems before you have had the chance to brief them. – Kenny Eicher, The CSI Group

Hawthorne Accepted into Forbes Agency Council

Forbes Agency Council 2018 Official Member

Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO of Hawthorne, a creative, analytics and technology-driven advertising agency, has been accepted into the Forbes Agency Council, an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies.

Jessica joins other Forbes Agency Council members, who are hand-selected, to become part of a curated network of successful peers and get access to a variety of exclusive benefits and resources, including the opportunity to submit thought leadership articles and short tips on industry-related topics for publishing on Forbes.com.
Forbes Councils combines an innovative, high-touch approach to community management perfected by the team behind Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) with the extensive resources and global reach of Forbes. As a result, Forbes Council members get access to the people, benefits and expertise they need to grow their businesses — and a dedicated member concierge who acts as an extension of their own team, providing personalized one-on-one support.

Jessica is thrilled to join the Forbes Council community and have the opportunity to further cement Hawthorne’s role as a thought leader and trailblazer in the advertising industry.
Scott Gerber, founder of Forbes Councils, says, “We are honored to welcome Jessica into the community. Our mission with Forbes Councils is to curate successful professionals from every industry, creating a vetted, social capital-driven network that helps every member make an even greater impact on the business world.”
For more information about Forbes Agency Council, visit https://forbesagencycouncil.com/. To learn more about Forbes Councils, visit forbescouncils.com.

About Hawthorne:
Hawthorne, a creative, analytics and technology-driven advertising agency, specializes in strategic planning, creative development, production, media planning, buying and analytics, and campaign management for integrated marketing campaigns. With nearly 30 years of proven excellence, the agency combines persuasive brand messaging with best-in-class analytic systems to create accountable, high performance advertising campaigns. Hawthorne helps brands efficiently target their consumers, improve cost per acquisition, optimize the lifetime value of a brand’s customers and even drive consumer response to key retail outlets or corporate locations.
As a leading analytic and data driven, accountable brand advertising agency, Hawthorne specializes in integrated campaign solutions. The company offers a full suite of integrated solutions with creative, media, digital and mobile services. Hawthorne maintains brand integrity and metrics to efficiently and effectively optimize the results of its clients’ integrated media budgets via leading edge and proven data analytics. Hawthorne has developed successful award-winning campaigns for countless Fortune 500 brands.

Please visit https://www.hawthornedirect.com and http://www.linkedin.com/company/hawthorne-direct for more information.