10 Ways To Create An Authentic Branded Podcast Audiences Value

Consumers quickly lose interest in brands that they sense aren’t completely genuine. Honesty and trust are table stakes for modern marketers, and when it comes to branded podcasts, audiences demand authentic value.

Forbes Agency Council

The medium is so personal, podcast content must resonate with listeners if a brand hopes to use it to build a following and have a positive impact. Done well, branded podcasts that consistently deliver meaningful, useful content can become powerful channels to build deeper connections with your target audiences.

We asked the members of Forbes Agency Council how to create the most valuable and authentic branded podcast content that will help attract loyal listeners. Here are 10 of their top recommendations.

1. Operate Within Your Strengths

Always make sure you operate within your strengths. Deliver podcast topics and content that energizes you, motivates you and ignites your curiosities and passions. This will come through in your delivery and help you as you work to set the tone for your podcast. Deliver content regularly; consistency is key for keeping your audience engaged. – Ana Miller, A2 Communications Group

2. Don’t Script It Word By Word

Don’t script your podcast word by word—let it flow. This makes it authentic but hits your important key messages. Talk about the main problem you solve, as that will resonate with the audience. Don’t take yourself or company too seriously, accept and acknowledge criticism, talk about the flaws you have and maybe even mention the competition. This makes every benefit that you mention much more authentic. – Timon Hartung, True Impact Consulting

3. Let Your Curiosity Lead

I’ve been podcasting for two years, and the only way I know how to do it is to let curiosity lead. Of course, I bring a journalistic background to the task, and that’s really what is needed. Podcasts require conversation, inquisitiveness, honesty and listening. If you can do that and explore timely issues (not just issues in your industry), your podcast will be authentic as well as valuable. – Lynne Golodner, Your People LLC

4. Weave Sponsorships In Throughout

In my experience, 99% of the time, the quality and relevance of the content are more important to a viewer than the “who” or “why” of the sponsorship. The problem is not who is funding the content, but how good the content is, and how naturally the sponsorship is woven into the entire experience, versus a “commercial” at the beginning and the end. – Abigail Hirschhorn, Human Intelligence | H.I.

Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?

5. Get Introductions From Influencers

Influencers can help establish your authenticity within a niche. If influencers are introducing you to their communities, know that the communities will follow their recommendations and will definitely come to listen to your podcast. – Mandeep Singh, SEO Discovery Pvt Ltd.

6. Focus On The Lives And Stories Of People

Podcasts that focus on the lives and stories of people are authentic and always resonate with the audience. Listeners love to hear where people have come from and how they persevered. No matter where they are in life, listeners can easily identify with the goals and struggles highlighted on a podcast, as we are all on a path to reach our individual goals. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

7. Inject Personality Into Your Content

You can achieve authenticity by injecting personality into your content and just by being yourself. It’s also important to be consistent because people will be looking forward to your content once they’ve heard your first episode. Sharing personal stories with your audience is also priceless, as it will resonate with your listeners. – Adrian Falk, Believe Advertising & PR

8. Don’t Use It As A Promotion Channel

Most companies can argue that they’re authorities in their domain of expertise and can start building a platform based on that. But what’s crucial is to avoid the trap of using it as a promotion channel. Instead, share real experiences as well as insights about what does not work; invite guests that might not be your fans and have honest conversations that provide value to listeners. – Lars Voedisch, PRecious Communications

9. Back Your Advice With Proper Data

When a brand provides expert advice while sharing content, it not only offers value to its listeners, but it also ensures that the content comes across as authentic, coming from “the” expert in the subject field. Brands should carefully research the topics they share and back them with sound and proper data. This gives content more credibility, showing the brand went the extra mile in its preparations. – Elissar Hajj Zarwi, Comma Hub

10. Approach It As You Do Any Other Ad Content

Approach your podcast content with the same mentality as you do any other advertising content: Remain true to your brand and aim to solve a problem. Put yourself in your listeners’ shoes. Ask yourself, “What makes people tune into their favorite podcasts?” Meet your audience where they are and provide them with transparent and direct content to keep them engaged and coming back for more. – Corbett Drummey, Popular Pays

14 practical ways to build camaraderie in a remote team

A remote workforce means no face-to-face interactions, break room chats or in-person office activities. This can sometimes equate to your employees losing their sense of community and camaraderie.

The Business Journals

As a leader, you have to ensure that your team stays connected, no matter where they’re located. That’s why we asked members of Business Journals Leadership Trust what leaders can do to build culture and connectivity among a socially distanced workforce. Their best responses are below.

1. Take team personality assessments.
Have your team do a personality assessment and have everyone share their results. It’s a fun and informative way of getting to know each other faster. And it’s actually easier when you’re remote because you can complete an assessment on your own, privately. – Madeleine Nguyen, Talentdrop

2. Have regular all-company video meetings.
I recently polled my employees and they universally agreed that while they liked the flexibility of working remotely, they also missed seeing each other. So we hold video conferences with the entire staff at least twice each month. These meetings are rarely more than one hour long, but I try to ensure that everybody has the opportunity to speak. – Mark Becker, Florida United Methodist Foundation

3. Standardize your processes for interactions.
Our team is and has been remote for several years. One really important thing is to have a standard of holding video calls (versus phone calls). That way we can see body language and understand each other better. Another important process is to have a standard way to get and stay in sync if there is conflict. Drama can tend to be high in a remote environment, and systems to reduce it create more harmony. – Russell Benaroya, Stride

4. Collaborate on non-work projects.
Create a commitment to connecting via non-work-related projects — especially ones that still put meaning in what you’re doing. Opportunities such as virtual volunteer opportunities allow people to gather for a purpose even when they’re apart. – Keri Higgins-Bigelow, livingHR, Inc.

5. Brainstorm ideas for cultural involvement.
In our peer groups, owners share ideas for keeping employees culturally involved. One recent idea that I really liked was assigning each employee a window of time for coming to the office parking lot. When they did, a food truck was waiting to give them a prepackaged dinner for four. – John Dini, MPN Inc.

6. Encourage group projects across departments.
One thing I do with my team is to encourage group projects or cross-departmental work. It helps keep team members in contact with one another and gives them an opportunity to work remotely as a group rather than just working independently. – Muriel Smith, De La Salle, Inc.

7. Have one-on-one meetings with direct reports.
Meet monthly one-on-one with each of your reports, and encourage each manager to do the same with their reports on down the chain. For remote environments with plenty of work and not enough personal interaction, regularly scheduled one-on-ones provide leaders at all levels time to listen, support and mentor team members while modeling a culture of connectivity across the enterprise. – Daniel Serfaty, Aptima, Inc.

8. Allow for fun in the (virtual) workplace.
Allow for, and even encourage, a little folly. One of our employees started a fun question of the day she posts every morning. We have standing virtual lunches (never required) for people to join and just chat. And one employee periodically leads yoga via Zoom. When possible, we’ve held some small, outdoor happy hours (with precautions) to allow people to see each other. – David Kennedy, Corona Insights

9. Get the team together for weekly meetings.
We hold weekly team meetings with our direct team members, which has allowed us to “test our tech,” learn together and connect on a personal level with two-word check-ins or other virtual icebreakers (e.g., quarantine bingo, meaningful memes, etc.). We also have held standing meetings with clients and colleagues where we spend the first few minutes connecting personally before we ever talk business. – Liz Wooten-Reschke, Connect For More

10. Encourage quick chats and phone calls.
Regular interactions have always been critical to reinforce the culture and help team members feel connected. That hasn’t changed with everyone working remotely. The entire team should spend time maintaining connections. Not all interactions need to be video; casually chatting one-on-one with each other (via text or phone call) goes a long way in building a connection. – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting

11. Check in every day.
Daily check-ins with remote staff are important to assess employee engagement and the work product. This regular touchpoint helps keep people connected to the team and aligned with team goals. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

12. Host virtual happy hours.
We encourage our leaders to host virtual happy hours every other Friday. The team members should each wear their favorite company T-shirt or branded hat, because it helps everyone feel united. This time should be used to connect and learn about what each person has going on outside of work, what side projects they’re working on, and what the weekend may look like for them — or to just kick the virtual can around. – Zee Ali, Z-Swag

13. Replicate water-cooler discussions virtually.
Replicate water-cooler discussions in a virtual environment with a monthly meeting where leaders and employees interact on non-work-related topics. Revealing their favorite movies or shows they’re binge-watching — even introducing their children or pets in a virtual setting — leads to interpersonal connections and opens the doorway to much better team communication. – Jeffrey Bartel, Hamptons Group, LLC

14. Make team connections your top priority.
Make remote workers feel like part of the team. Create informal group chats and organize regular meetings where you discuss what’s been going on in the company lately, what have you achieved together, who did an outstanding job this week and so on. The leader dictates the atmosphere, and keeping everyone connected should be your No. 1 priority — especially now. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

7 Tips For Creating Evergreen Video Advertising Content

Evergreen content is useful in a number of ways: it can be used at any time, it saves content creators from having to constantly generate new ideas and it is easy to refer back to when needed. When you think about video advertising content, the term “evergreen” rarely comes up, however. Video advertising campaigns tend to be more trendy, and there’s always the risk that the visuals will soon look dated — an issue you don’t face as often with the written word.

AdAge

So how can companies capitalize on the increasingly popular video genre and still create reusable content? These seven experts from Ad Age Collective have experience in what makes for successful video content. Here they offer valuable tips on how a business can create video advertising content that remains relevant no matter the timing.

1. Focus on educating your audience.
I think you can create an evergreen video campaign if you focus on educating your audience. Based on the industry or niche you’re in, marry education and advertising content. This is the best way to create evergreen content, especially for video advertisements, which is not an area where old content ages well. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

2. Build around things you always help customers with.
Clients are experiencing pains specific to this moment in time. Many of those pains may be over next quarter. Often, where we help the most are with challenges that customers have faced since time began. Build your advertising around the things you always help your customers do better — independent of economic conditions, political cycle, global pandemic, etc. – Moira Vetter, Modo Modo Agency

3. Create ‘how to’ and best-practice videos.
The most consistently evergreen content are “how-to” or best-practice videos. They will be relevant as long as your product or service is relevant. Broadly speaking, educational video content tends to endure well because it is tied more to a functional need as opposed to relying on other important elements of advertising, such as creative, characters, timeliness, originality, etc. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)

4. Leverage a Q&A format.
Focus on Q&A. When you engage with a prospect, chances are even the most informed will have questions about you, your business and the industry at large. People are inquisitive by nature, so feed into that curiosity by answering those questions in video format. You’ll pick up the patterns of frequently asked questions, so evergreen videos are a great way to have ready answers available. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

5. Speak to the product’s uses and benefits.
It is possible to create an evergreen campaign, or at least one that a customer can refer back to, and this would be any campaign that clearly speaks to the product’s uses and benefits. A features and benefits campaign can be used to first launch a product, and when brand awareness lifts, it can then be used on digital channels to refer back to for product instructions. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

6. Focus on constants rather than trends.
Focus on constants rather than trends and aim for a timeless visual style. Often, that style leads you to use animation (the side benefit of that is that it allows you to more easily take your content to international audiences). – Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive

7. Create memorable and relevant visuals.
Create memorable and relevant visuals for your campaign. Every script, prop and special effect needs to tie into your branding. You also need to entertain people or educate them so they will come back and rewatch, to absorb the message faster. Consider how one anti-smoking PSA won an award for conveying a rapid number of statistics within a musical number. It’s still popular and unforgettable. – Duran Inci, Optimum7

Looking to change roles at your company? 14 tips from leaders

It’s not unusual to see professionals focused on growing within their company through vertical movement. After all, “climbing the ladder” to leadership and a C-suite position is often seen as the ultimate goal in a person’s career. However, you can often find a new passion and learn new skills by moving into a different department or taking on a new role at the same level.

The Business Journals

We asked 14 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust for the best ways a professional can start making a “horizontal” move. Follow their advice to steer your career in the direction you want to go.

1. Look for opportunities where you’re most needed.
Change your mindset. We tend to be driven to roles where we think we’re needed. These roles usually align with the things we want to do and where we are effective in delivering results. Flipping this mindset is important when moving horizontally. Rather than supporting where we think we’re needed, we should support where we’re actually needed. This will naturally create a new passion. – Jarod Latch, Spiracle Media

2. Be engaged in your organization.
Start by being an engaged employee. Join an internal committee, participate in philanthropy events and attend company functions. The more noticeable you are, the better. Talk to people outside of your core group. I highly suggest asking someone to grab a coffee or talk with you for a quick 30 minutes about their role. Pick their brain about all the components that make up their role. – Kimberly Davids, The Weitz Company, LLC

3. Understand why you want a change.
First, identify why you’re considering a change and assess if the potential new job and environment will help you achieve the change you desire. Develop realistic expectations and thoroughly research the job expectations, skills and experience required. When you receive a lateral offer, consider if the new position will help you move forward to achieve your long-term career goals. – Phil Willingham, Robert Half

4. Take a test-and-learn approach.
It’s important to remain agile as an employee continues their professional journey. We often use a test-and-learn approach. If an employee has a passion project, hobby or skill they’re interested in, we encourage employees to be honest and transparent with leadership so we can actively search out new opportunities to develop the skills and allow for horizontal movement. – William Balderaz, Futurety

5. Let your manager know.
Speak up! You don’t have to wait for an annual review. Find time to meet with your manager to talk about your career path, the professional skills you want to build and how those skills could be used by the organization. Great managers are impressed by vision and initiative. If you get a negative response, you know it’s time to start looking for a new place in which to attain your potential. – Daniel Serfaty, Aptima, Inc.

6. Volunteer with other departments.
When considering a horizontal move, volunteer with other departments to gain a feel for those areas. By giving your time, talent and abilities in a new department or role, you not only gain insight about potential fits, but you are also seen as a team player willing to help out other departments outside of your own. This exposure can help you identify and clarify potential opportunities. – Adam Boudreaux, The Leadership Group LLC

7. Seek out extra projects.
If you have employees who want to grow, give them options besides vertical growth. We have had new ongoing projects come up, and some of our employees have asked to take on the new challenges. We have rewarded employees with raises and extra responsibilities. – Douglas Carter, Ironside Human Resources

8. Communicate your reasoning to leadership and any subordinates.
A lateral move is worth doing when your interests have changed or you find you’re better at something else. Whatever the reason may be, communicate clearly with your leadership and your subordinates. Don’t box yourself in — you can always go back to the role you were in before if it doesn’t work out. – Samir Mokashi, Code Unlimited LLC

9. Network with other departments.
Network and get to know team members in other departments. Not only will this help you build a relationship with individuals you may not otherwise have met, but it also allows you to ask to job shadow. Shadowing a team member in another department allows you to observe someone’s day-to-day and better understand their role and if it is something that interests you. – Scott Scully, Abstrakt Marketing Group

10. Continually assess the strengths needed in your chosen role.
It’s very important to continually assess the strengths of any high-performing team member in an area you wish to make a “horizontal” move into. Stay curious and regularly ask them what their goals are, as people are constantly evolving. Managers should listen to those employees who may express a wish to move into a different role so they can be there to support them in making a change. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

11. Pursue continuing education opportunities.
I work in an organization that is flat and doesn’t offer vertical job opportunities. We offer a lot of continuing education for employees to further their skills. We are also open to ideas that employees might have. I encourage employees to look elsewhere for opportunities if they feel inclined to do so. If you are concerned about a person’s future, then you will do this to support them. – Mark Becker, Florida United Methodist Foundation

12. Identify your strengths.
Identifying your strengths is key for both vertical and horizontal movement. Often, a key employee will join our team and will discover their strength is in a modified position. Allowing the strengths of each professional to shine ultimately leads to a strong and productive organization. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management

13. Learn everything you can about the role.
If someone is interested in making a horizontal career move, I assume they already have some particular job role on their mind. I’d say learn more about it before you transfer. You might take an online course or ask your boss to get you involved part-time in a project to the extent that you can bring value. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

14. Map out your long-term plan.
First, see what is available. Second, remember that it’s about values, both personal and professional. Do your values align with the department and where you may want to go professionally? Map out your long-term plan. Where do you see yourself in 12 months, 36 months and 10 years? This will help you align your focus and facilitate a possible position shift. – David Wescott, Transblue

Making your first big client pitch? 15 important tips to keep in mind

Pitching to a potential big client for the first time is an exciting milestone for any entrepreneur or business leader, but it can be intimidating. It’s natural to be nervous — there’s probably a lot riding on the sale. Fortunately, there are many ways you can refine your pitch and cater it to the client to improve your chances of closing the deal.

The Business Journals

We asked the experts of Business Journals Leadership Trust what entrepreneurs and sales reps should keep in mind when preparing their first pitch for a large prospective client. Follow their tips to better prepare for your meeting.

1. Understand what the client wants.
Be sure you understand what the client wants and focus your effort on clearly stating how you will fill this need. Do not be afraid to ask clarifying questions. When preparing for the pitch, be sure to research your competition. How will they appear to this client, and how will you compare to them? Highlight your best competitive features and do not say negative things about your competition. – Joy Frestedt, Frestedt Incorporated

2. Know what you don’t want to say.
Prepare not only what you want to say, but also what you don’t want to say. Anticipate difficult questions that might expose gaps in your abilities or experience. Big clients not only want to know if you can deliver everything but also whether you can recover well if something goes wrong. – Samir Mokashi, Code Unlimited LLC

3. Remember your value.
When first presenting your pitch to a big client, just remember that you have value. It’s not whether your product or service is good or bad — it’s whether you’re a good fit for this particular client. If they don’t want you, good for you. Discover that as soon as possible and move on. Hearing “no” only means that you get more time to focus on the people who need you. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

4. Prepare for the client’s unique issues.
Put the potential client at ease by preparing for their unique issues. My potential clients want to know that I have the experience to understand their issues and to help. I prepare ahead of time by pulling together potential issues that they may run up against and thoughts on how to handle those issues. – Priya Cloutier, Cloutier Arnold Jacobowitz PLLC

5. Prepare answers to anticipated questions.
The best cure for nervousness is preparation. When you want to land that first big client, put plenty of time into rehearsing your presentation and preparing answers to anticipated questions — including “gotcha” questions that could catch you flat-footed. The best compliment a big client ever gave me was that I was “unstumpable” in the presentation process. Strive for that. – Scott Baradell, Idea Grove

6. Focus on building a relationship first.
Do your research. Figure out who you are meeting with and what interests they have, and find something you have in common to make a connection. Always spend the first 10 minutes of every pitch building a relationship, not trying to close the deal. Instead of worrying about what you should say during the pitch, think about what you should learn about the prospect to make that crucial connection. – Scott Scully, Abstrakt Marketing Group

7. Have an outward mindset.
Make sure you are prepping your pitch with an outward mindset. Many times we prep our pitches thinking about what we do, why we are unique, etc., but the client wants to know how you are going to apply your unique and expert capabilities to help them solve a problem. The pitch has to be more about the potential client and less about you. – Merrill Stewart, Marketing & Business Solutions LLC

8. Be authentic.
I became an entrepreneur during the 2008 economic downturn. In our eagerness to build our business, we often tried to sell ourselves as what our competition offered. The truth was that we would never outdo them — but nobody could outdo what we had to offer either. Once we corrected this approach, we started finding clients who actually wanted what we had to offer. – Brent Foley, TRIAD Architects

9. Don’t forget about the emotional elements.
People buy from people. Don’t forget it. People get so caught up in PowerPoint and the script of the presentation that they fail to prepare for the emotional elements of the pitch. Take time to find out more about the big client’s culture and the personalities of the leadership that you’ll hopefully be representing. – Keith Woods, KB Woods Public Relations

10. Aim to alleviate the client’s concerns.
In engineering, the one thing I try to remember is that my job as a professional is to alleviate and remove any concerns about the project the client is soon to embark upon. Capital investment carries a certain amount of risk. My job is to alleviate that concern. – Dustin Hopson, Synergeer Engineering

11. Practice with your team.
Practicing with your team before a big pitch is key to ensuring you are all aligned and have the opportunity to brainstorm any tough questions that might arise during the pitch. Practicing the pitch allows the team to identify potential areas of weakness to ensure they can appropriately tailor the messaging and ultimately secure new business. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

12. Describe the client’s problem as you understand it.
Do everything possible to describe the problem as you understand it and in the way it exists in the client’s environment. Then demonstrate quickly how your solution solves their problem better than anything under the sun. Make it about the client early and often, and include the right amount of your features and benefits — but not too much. Lastly, be ready to ask for the business. – Russell Harrell, SFB IDEAS – a Strategic Marketing firm

13. Focus your message on the client.
Make sure the message and the presentation are focused on the specific client. Alter your messaging to meet the client’s problems and needs. Also, make the presentation all about the client. They don’t care about your accomplishments; they care about what you can do for them. – Zee Ali, Z-Swag

14. Practice reading aloud before the meeting.
Everyone gets nervous at these meetings. Make sure that you know what you are presenting inside and out. This will alleviate some of the stress and anxiety. Read some poetry beforehand to get a good cadence to your voice. Find out what works for you to put your game face on! – Kristen Briggs, General Mailing & Shipping Systems, Inc.

15. Make sure they’re actually your ideal client.
Business owners are often so eager to get a new client they can easily oversell their service in an attempt to get new business. Understand what an ideal customer and business fit looks like; otherwise, you can end up with a client who is a big headache in the long run. – Cody McLain, SupportNinja

What Not To Do When Algorithms Change: 13 Common SEO Errors

When search engine algorithms change, businesses typically try to adapt their search engine optimization (SEO) strategies to deal with the shift as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, without adequate understanding of the basis of these changes, a company’s response often runs afoul of a search engine’s new rules. Missteps in the approach to optimizing a site after algorithms shift can lead to a fall in ranking, potentially knocking it off the first several pages of search results and decreasing traffic.

Forbes Agency Council

Fewer visitors to your site can strike a blow to your company’s bottom line, especially if you rely on consumers finding your offerings through organic search. To help your company avoid these consequences, experts from Forbes Agency Council examine 13 common SEO errors that brands make when search engine algorithms change.

1. Making Rash Decisions

Companies jump to conclusions and start changing ranking pages and disavowing links or building new links. This will damage their rankings long-term, and they won’t recover fast. First of all, always check if the loss in rankings actually resulted in a loss in real traffic. Many times, the traffic is back a few days later. Then, carefully update bit by bit and, like Google, keep the user experience first. – Timon Hartung, True Impact Consulting

2. Overcorrecting With SEO ‘Hacks’

Overcorrecting is a big mistake. Chasing SEO “hacks” after each major update is like day trading. It may yield some short-term wins, but over time, you’ll likely be at a loss, compared to sticking with the basic strategy of frequently creating unique, quality content that’s relevant to your customers. Any major dips in page rank that don’t come from bending the rules will likely be corrected in a subsequent update. – Brian Sullivan, Sullivan Branding

3. Not Understanding Underlying Factors

A common mistake is not taking the time to understand the underlying factors that led to the change. This can lead brands to continue following “best practices” that the changes have now made obsolete, such as keyword stuffing, which at one time helped and then, overnight, hurt search rankings. If you understand why the algorithm was changed, you will do a better job of adjusting your strategy to the new reality. – Jodi Amendola, Amendola Communications

4. Chasing The Change

Chasing the change is a mistake I see often. Search algorithms are simply trying to prioritize what people find most valuable. Organizations that constantly chase and complain about the changes likely are missing the mark on what is actually important: building content that is actually valuable to those you serve, not just content that makes the current algorithm version happy. – Tyler Farnsworth, August United

5. Not Creating Content For Humans

Create content for humans first, not search engines. A common mistake marketers make when trying to “game SEO” is publishing content in awkward formats to appeal to search engines. This results in a poor experience for your web visitors, and it won’t provide an SEO boost for long as search engines continue to root out these tactics in favor of authentic content. – Wendy Covey, TREW Marketing

6. Making A Drastic Change In SEO Strategy

Algorithm changes are typically subtle and rarely present a case for uprooting your entire SEO strategy. A common error is for brands to make a drastic change in strategy without considering what is working and will continue to work. Improving existing content is a more sensible, short-term move until the algorithm change is fully proven and a new direction is clear. – A. Lee Judge, Content Monsta

7. Focusing Too Much On Brand Name

A common SEO error is putting too much focus on brand name or “inside baseball” jargon and not enough focus on how people actually search for services. Use keyword tools to understand how people are searching for solutions you offer. Focus on what audiences need, not on what you offer. – Stefan Pollack, The Pollack Group

8. Buying Backlinks

I’ve seen businesses buying backlinks, which generally means having your URL inside disreputable websites blocked by crawlers and dragging your reputation down as well. They make the copy super hard to read and understand just because they want to achieve the keyword saturation. Robots are super smart today; you must make your copy easy to read and understand and relatable to the web page’s topic. – Ally Spinu, USA Link System

9. Removing Content That Ranks Well

The most common SEO error I’ve seen brands make after search engine algorithms suddenly change is removing blog posts or website pages that have high notoriety and already rank well in the search engines. All of the built-up SEO that already exists is lost and must then be restored. – Jonathan Durante, Expandify Marketing Inc

10. Trying To Exploit Loopholes

Some brands try to exploit the weaknesses of a search engine to rank higher on a search engine results page (SERP), which typically refers to the first page of organic results for specific keyword searches. However, when they do this, they constantly have to make adjustments and find new loopholes to exploit. Creating engaging, original content that fulfills a user’s needs will always be the best way forward, no matter what changes are made. – Katie Schibler Conn, KSA Marketing

11. Keyword Stuffing As An Afterthought

Companies tend to treat SEO as an afterthought to a web build. We like to bring that conversation upfront. One of the biggest SEO errors I have seen is keyword stuffing at later stages in a panic to score better on search engines. With algorithms always changing, that strategy is just setting up the brand for failure. – Dean Trevelino, Trevelino/Keller

12. Not Reacting Quickly Enough

Not jumping quickly enough on SEO changes can decimate revenue overnight if algorithms change and redirect traffic to a competitor’s site. Be ready to not only adjust SEO content on your site at a moment’s notice, but also potentially overhaul the entire website to make sure you’re back on top of the SEO game. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

13. Forgetting The Brand’s Goals

Most SEO experts feel too pressured by Google’s algorithms. When there are changes, they are eager to address them, but forget to follow the brand’s goals for positioning. Google loves known brands, so having a brand that is recognized by consumers should be your goal, regardless of Google’s algorithms. In conclusion, don’t adjust your brand identity; instead, adjust Google to your brand. – Nikolay Stoyanov, Influence Vibes

16 business leaders on overcoming their ‘scariest’ leadership challenge

Every career comes with highs and lows, but when one is in a leadership position, the lows can seem especially daunting. After all, you have a team of people depending on you and turning to you for guidance; it can be hard to admit you’re going through a rough patch — and that you’re scared.

Business Journals

Part of running a business is overcoming such obstacles to grow your company and improve your leadership skills. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone in these struggles. Below, 16 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share the “scariest” business situation they’ve ever faced and how they successfully navigated it.

1. The 2008 recession
Not long after I purchased LAN Systems in 2008, the Great Recession hit. Later in the year, the stock market plummeted and we experienced the worst recession of my lifetime. My goals for modernizing the company were greatly delayed. How did LAN weather the storm? In a word, tenacity. I knew the plan was sound, and I worked it each day with changes that reflected the tough times. – Mary Hester, LAN Systems

2. The 2013 federal government shutdown
In 2013, the federal government shut down. Many IT consultants were trying to preserve income from traditional sources, too. But we knew if we were going to survive, we’d have to be cloud-forward. So, we shifted to Office 365 early while others stayed focused on Enterprise SharePoint. The result: We’re ahead of other firms in our industry and are offering better support models and prices. – Thomas Carpe, Liquid Mercury Solutions

3. Losing my corporate job
The 2008 downturn produced job cuts and my first experience with job loss. I turned fear into opportunity by identifying areas where I could provide critical services at a fraction of my salary while also using my skills to help other businesses. I presented my employer with a solution to help us both, which became the cornerstone of launching my business. – Robert Wolf, CREIS, LLC

4. Deciding whether to file for bankruptcy
There was a point where filing for bankruptcy was an option on the table. Weathering the storm is an experience that hones a leader, but to navigate it successfully, you must be willing to make the difficult decisions and always keep a positive mindset. But the most important thing of all is to never stop hustling. You have the power to change your position and successfully overcome your situation. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting

5. Losing our biggest client
We lost our largest client. We had to cut salaries and execute layoffs for the first time in my company’s history. We rebounded by networking and redoubling our efforts in new business while working hard to keep our current clients happy. It took hard work — the usual answer to many of the challenges that life can throw at you! – Carter Keith, 31,000 FT.

6. Launching a software company with no funding
Years back I risked everything and started to build software, as opposed to running a service company. I had no large seed funds, no friends and family help, and definitely no investors — just me. Despite everything, I came out strong and never looked back. It has allowed us to scale internationally and compete against giant companies. A leap of faith is all it takes. You never know if you might just make it. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

7. My business partner backing out
My entrepreneurial journey started off very rough, with my business partner backing out less than a week into our new venture. The original strategy had to be thrown out and a new plan had to be formulated — very quickly. When you are facing challenges and can’t see your way forward, take a break, ask for directions and plot a new course. Your tenacity and persistence will pay off. – Jared Knisley, Fizen Technology

8. Periods of uncertain sales and revenue
All businesses are based on continuous sales and revenue, but these numbers continuously fluctuate. This uncertainty is a constant challenge any business faces. Adjusting operations according to various levels of business ensures you are nimble and prepared for anything that comes your way without waiting until it’s too late to take action. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

9. Growing the team for a client that later liquidated
We expanded our team for a new major client. We didn’t realize they were so emphatic about headcount because they were on their way to liquidation 18 months later. We found ourselves outsized for our income. However, our pipeline is very long, so we were reluctant to abruptly right-size. We cut costs, kept everyone we’d hired but didn’t replace folks who left, and grew sales enough pre-Covid-19 to expand our team again. – Billy Hodges, Digital Filaments

10. Relocating right after starting out
Honestly, the scariest thing is starting out. I started right when the market tanked and I thought it might be the end, but I made the crucial decision to move my operation to Kansas City. Looking back now, it was the perfect decision. Kansas City is a big construction city, and that was right in our wheelhouse. Make sure that you adapt to the market — don’t stagnate. – Brandy McCombs, IBC

11. Losing face-time with customers due to an accident
I had a skiing accident and was out of the office for four months. I was not able to be in front of customers, which affected sales as well as some of the contracts we already had. We were very dependent on one customer, which we lost. We got better at working remotely and made sure no customer comprised more than 15% of the business. We kept going, but we no longer depend on just one customer or one person. – Sergio Retamal, Global4PL

12. Not being able to make payroll
When you have people relying on your dream for their livelihood, it requires you to improve your billing procedures, engage clients who aren’t paying on time and reexamine your contracting and billing processes. Most of the time these strategies have worked, but I’ve also had to dip into personal finances when in a pinch to make sure our team is taken care of first. – Liz Wooten-Reschke, Connect For More

13. Eliminating a business partner
The scariest situation I ever faced was eliminating part of a partnership. We were faced with a bad economy and a partner that was not aligned. Several of us discussed it, and a decision was made. To this day, I regret not discussing it openly with everyone involved. I’ve repaired the affected friendships and we all came to agreeable terms, but I still kick myself for the way I handled it. – Brent Foley, TRIAD Architects

14. Facing a temporary shutdown
In April of this year, we were forced to pause our operations due to the coronavirus. This was devastating for our employees, most of whom are hourly workers. We chose to put our people first and continued to pay them a portion of their usual average pay. By caring for those who care for our business, we helped them through a scary time and got back up and running faster the following month. – Aric Burke, Atlas Healthcare Partners

15. The shrinking Covid-19 economy
In February 2020, my company was poised to double in size over the course of the year. When Covid-19 struck, my company was faced with the big threat of the economy shrinking and our clients losing business. We handled the situation well mostly because we had prepared for a 2020 recession 12 months prior. We made sure we had cash available, operated very lean and focused on helping our existing clients navigate the pandemic. – Sanjay Jupudi, Qentelli

16. Taking that first step
My scariest situation was simply getting started and taking that first step in creating positive momentum. When you start a new business in the highly competitive health care field, you need to establish contacts and obtain business quickly, because you have responsibilities that go beyond yourself. That can be paralyzing, but persistence and a positive attitude are the keys to success. – Phil Gibson, CatylystOne

8 Considerations To Make When Using Influencers To Market To A Younger Demographic

Influencer marketing is a popular marketing strategy among many companies; however, when marketing to a young demographic, particular factors must be looked at. Kids, especially in the tween and teenage bracket, are incredibly impressionable, so when a business decides to work with influencers that resonate with this age group, they need to consider these individuals’ reach and how they are likely to impact the consumers.

AdAge

There are many additional elements that a business must consider before diving into the influencer market as a way to sell their product. Here, eight professionals from Ad Age Collective offer their best advice on what a company should keep in mind when considering using an influencer or micro-influencer to help market its product to a younger demographic.

1. Don’t be something you’re not.
Don’t try to be something you’re not. Hanging with the “cool kids” at the party, particularly if you’re paying them, doesn’t make you cool, but rather has the opposite effect. It’s embarrassing. – Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive

2. Embrace self-awareness.
Self-awareness is key. Younger demographics are ruthless when it comes to inauthenticity, so be wary about putting your influencer in a compromising position when pushing your product. If done right, the influencer, audience and your product should seamlessly and naturally fit together. Be sure to let the influencer drive the creative process so that it resonates with their audience by default. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

3. Think about the effect of peer influence.
I feel that the younger demographic is truly influenced by their peers more so than in the past. The way that social media can affect popularity, as well as that being a strong representation of how they judge each other, means choosing the right influencers for your brand is important. If they can get more “likes” and activity, that enables the brand to be more accepted. – Rob Palowitz, PALO Creative

4. Make sure they reflect your target audience.
Influencers should be reflective of your target audience. Instead of using them as experts, have them showcasing your product and having authentic interactions.Your target audience should be able to see themselves in the influencers’ reactions. – Arjun Sen, ZenMango

5. Look for influencers with a spotless history.
It’s important that any influencer has a spotless history and a strong moral code if they are speaking to and influencing a younger demographic. Everything must be above the board and on brand, and the influencer must showcase this in their public and personal persona. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

6. Remember behaviors and mindsets constantly shift.
Young people (teens and tweens) are constantly going through a radical change of mindset and behavior. What was hip and cool yesterday becomes lame today. Therefore, the “lifespan” of an influencer to younger demographics is very short. Once you’ve selected the casting of influencers and collaborators to work with your brand, make sure to track their freshness and relevance to a specific public. – Marcello Magalhaes, Speakeasy – Knowledge Brokers

7. Don’t focus on the size of their audience.
Don’t focus on the size of the influencer’s audience. Instead, focus on their authenticity and engagement with followers. Anyone can be paid to promote a product or service, but the influencer’s credibility is paramount when it comes to endorsements and the actions taken by the audience thereafter. The partnership also really needs to align the influencer’s beliefs or desires with your offering. – Kurt Kaufer, Ad Results Media

8. Stay on top of changing values and current events.
Stay on top of changing values and current events. Generation Z is more tech-savvy and socially aware than Gen X and Y are, relatively speaking, and have a unique sense of humor, as shown with the Tide Pod challenge. Thus, they become harder to win over. If your influencer or micro-influencer shows they can connect with the audience and care about their values, then you have a solid target market. – Duran Inci, Optimum7

11 Creative Ways To Use AI-Driven Conversational Marketing

Responding to consumers in real time is the cornerstone of conversational marketing, leading businesses around the world to implement tools driven by artificial intelligence (AI) as part of their customer outreach. Taking a more personalized and interactive approach to automated communication makes it easier for businesses to guide consumers toward specialized solutions that will meet their needs.

Forbes Agency Council

Success with conversational marketing can be achieved using many different methodologies. Here, 12 experts from Forbes Agency Council talk about the most creative conversational marketing strategies they’ve seen employed successfully, demonstrating how well AI can support business goals.

1. Leverage Chatbots For 24/7 Service

The best example of AI being used to help customers in real time is the advent of the chatbot. This simple bit of code can make your customers feel like they are chatting with a real person at any time of day, and it is sophisticated enough to solve most problems. If it can’t, it can get the customer in touch with someone who can. A chatbot is like a customer service rep that works 24 hours a day. – Jason Hall, FiveChannels Marketing

2. Increase On-Site Engagement And Conversions

You can use chatbots to increase engagement on your website, encourage conversion and direct visitors to take the required call to action based on their queries or requirements. This will ultimately improve the overall user experience and increase conversions from the website. – Ajay Prasad, GMR Web Team

3. Use An AI-Driven Gift Guide Or Product Finder

As conversational marketing and the desire for more personalized interactions with brands are growing daily, chatbots have become a must-have for brands. One of the most creative and impactful ways brands can leverage an AI-driven chatbot is by using it as a gift guide or product finder, where the consumer answers a few relevant questions and is then presented with the best options. – JP Johl, AdTribute

4. Give Automated Conversations A Human Touch

The most successful AI-driven conversational marketing is both targeted and specific. When a consumer is viewing an item on a website, an AI assistant can start a conversation by mentioning that specific product and inquiring whether the consumer has questions or needs help comparing products. The customer will feel more of a human touch, increasing the chance of that lead converting to a sale. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

5. Filter And Respond To Inbound Messages

AI-driven conversational marketing can definitely help companies engage with and respond to customers in real time. One creative way we successfully apply conversational marketing is by automating real-time responses to inbound messages on social media and websites. We create chat flows that help filter inbound inquiries and facilitate in getting customers the solution they seek. – Jonathan Durante, Expandify Marketing Inc

6. Communicate On A One-To-One Basis

The best thing about AI-driven conversational marketing is the ability to communicate on a one-to-one basis. For instance, I’ve used a behavior-driven algorithm that combines location data with implicit and explicit behavioral patterns. When a pattern is recognized, a personalized communication is sent to that individual. – Roger Hurni, Off Madison Ave

7. Spike Awareness As A Differentiator

Sleep experts at a mattress company created a late-night chatbot designed to keep you company when you just can’t sleep. On its own, the tool creates a solid PR moment to spike awareness as a differentiator. But it also has evergreen possibilities when people share their conversations on social media well after the bot’s initial debut. – Kathleen Lucente, Red Fan Communications

8. Engage Via Text-Based Conversations

A great application is text message-based conversational marketing. This underutilized channel is often overlooked because it is tied to different restrictions than others are. However, if used correctly, it can be a powerful way to speak to your customer in real time. – Corbett Drummey, Popular Pays

9. Take A Help-First Approach To Online Sales

I recently visited a site to get a new skin for my phone, and the conversational marketing chat prompt not only welcomed me back by name, but also asked if I was “still using a OnePlus 7” device. This was helpful because, when I clicked “yes,” I was directed to the latest skins for my device. The goal may have been to sell a product, but because they used a help-first approach, I almost forgot. – Bernard May, National Positions

10. Capture Real-Time Feedback To Scale CX And Drive Campaigns

Capturing real-time feedback using sentiment analysis and then routing potential problems or opportunities to the appropriate human is an easy way to efficiently use AI to scale customer experience. Over time, these datasets can be used to build segments within paid and email channels for win-back or loyalty campaigns, using the voice of the customer to drive creative and copy. – Jacob Cook, Tadpull

11. Listen To Potential Customers Across Social Media

We have used AI and big data analytics to listen to business leaders across social media in order to understand their confidence level in their business or industry. This information has been pivotal in understanding what solutions business leaders are looking for, which has allowed us to create relevant content and service offerings. – Stefan Pollack, The Pollack Group

15 overlooked subjects and skills schools should teach before students enter the workforce

Educational institutions play a crucial role in helping students of all ages prepare for the world of work. In addition to the grounding they receive early on in both hard and soft skills, many choose to pursue higher education to help prepare them for a career in their chosen field of study. However, the world of work changes constantly and rapidly, and the curricula offered by educational institutions don’t always cover evolving trends.

The Business Journals

So what kind of knowledge should educational institutions offer to better prepare graduates for the new working world? We asked the members of Business Journals Leadership Trust about some often-overlooked subjects or skills that would help students as they enter the modern workforce. Here are the skills they believe students should hone while they’re still in school.

1. STEM subjects
The critical skills necessary for even basic 21st-century jobs and lifelong security involve some level of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) literacy. The pivotal, life-altering decision to advance those skills must be made in middle school; if you’ve waited until high school to engage student interest, you’ve waited too long. Schools should incorporate STEM activities in elementary school. – Paula Grisanti, National Stem Cell Foundation

2. Critical thinking
Today, information is at our fingertips. By using an intentional approach to critically think about things we see and hear, we are less susceptible to misinformation, stagnant personal growth and manipulation. More critical thinking leads to a more “common-sense,” thoughtful approach to solving problems. – Kenneth Croston, Electronic Locksmith, Inc.

3. Time management
Today’s students would be better prepared to enter the workforce if there was a class taught on time management. Being disciplined with your time is an important skill, as is developing ways to focus on those tasks that are high in priority in favor of those tasks that are lower in priority. – Anita Kiehl-Quarles, A. Quarles CPA, PLLC

4. Problem-solving
I believe educational institutions need to do a better job of teaching core problem-solving skills. My children come home with a lot of assignments that require rote memorization. In the business world, there are many problems and situations to solve that don’t have obvious solutions. The more practice students can get solving different problems, the better prepared they will be for the workforce. – Matt Rosen, Allata

5. Marketing
A hard skill all students should learn is marketing. No matter the industry, clients must be acquired, and who better to recruit new clients than your own family of employees? From a soft skill perspective, students must learn how to problem-solve. The employees who stand out the most to me are the ones who say, “We have this problem, but here is a solution I have come up with to fix it.” – Shannon Laine, HealthWorks! Kids’ Museum St. Louis

6. Business basics
I have a student in college now and an often-overlooked approach is real business scenarios that students can work through to show their creativity. There are wasted resources in areas and classes that will not impact a future employee or potential owner of a business. Fostering a true understanding of the core basics of business and not just the theories is often missed. – Phil Gibson, CatylystOne

7. Teamwork and collaboration
Work is all about collaboration with people, both in person and virtually. It’s important for educational institutions to foster teamwork and communication and to teach students how to set mutually agreed-upon team goals at the beginning of a project. An individualized approach to work will not take an employee far unless they are trained to be a team player first and then, eventually, a team leader. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

8. Written communication
Students should master communication skills, particularly in written form. The ability to convey information persuasively is an essential component of any business relationship. Whether you’re writing an introductory business letter, an informational email or intriguing website copy, the ability to employ proper grammar, syntax and punctuation is critical in creating effective written communication. – Robert Antes, TradeTrans Corp.

9. Public speaking
The Speech 101 class that I took in college had a big impact on me — in business, on stage, in church and in the boardroom. The challenge today is that many people have grown accustomed to virtual communication via texting or social posting. Gone are the experiences of a phone conversation or getting up in front of others and sharing thoughts. Get a leg up on your peers and take Speech 101. – Keith Woods, KB Woods Public Relations

10. Psychology
A basic psychology course — including current best thinking on personality typing and understanding the different preferences and skill sets of colleagues and teams — would help, as would a course on the history of how politics influences business. As global history repeats itself both politically and in our public health crisis, it’s important to learn from and not repeat mistakes of the past. – Cheryl Williams, Hudgins Williams Associates

11. Sales
Sales is something that needs a lot more focus in school. It has been 20 years since I was in business school, but we didn’t have a single class on sales. This has always struck me as odd. Sales is the lifeblood of any company, no matter the business. Even if somebody doesn’t directly work in sales, the skills learned from it will come in very handy when it comes to career advancement. – Ben Buzbee, Today’s RDH

12. Empathy
Empathy, often considered a soft skill, is key to success in the workforce. With different demographics all competing for similar positions, understanding where someone else is coming from can be a game-changer. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management

13. Coding
As the world evolves into a hybrid of technology blended with everything else, people who understand the basics of technology will find themselves at the top of the workforce. Coding will be as essential in the next 20 years as basic word processing programs became over the last 20 years. – Brock Berry, AdCellerant

14. Finance
Finance — both business and personal — should be taught to every student. Understanding how money is made by organizations and what you need to do to manage your personal finances are skills that will help you succeed in any career. – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting

15. Real-world experience
Real-life training and application of education is the missing link in many educational environments. As important as it is to hone your skills in time management, working with others, setting goals, achieving your benchmarks, etc., it is equally important to have real-world experience in your area of study so you know what lies ahead and you can be better prepared. – Merrill Stewart, Marketing & Business Solutions LLC