As affiliate marketing grows in popularity, it’s essential that companies seeking to maintain a media presence realize its importance.
The basic concept of affiliate marketing is this: a brand joins an affiliate platform, through which they can network with writers, influencers, bloggers, etc. When these creators mention the brand in their published content, any sales resulting from said mention earn the creator a percentage commission of the goods or services sold. Sounds simple, right?
While affiliate marketing is simple in theory, there is much to be learned about its inner workings. One of the most common questions we get asked by clients is whether or not they need to join an affiliate network to land coverage. The next question that almost always follows is, “what affiliate program should I sign up for?” As affiliate marketing and public relations continue to grow more intertwined, any modern PR agency will be well-versed on the best methods to ensure a symbiotic relationship between the two.
Here’s how we advise our affiliate-curious clients
Whether or not you need to be on an affiliate network is largely dependent on your brand’s offerings. Do you sell a product or service that falls within the e-commerce or retail categories? If so, you most likely need to be on an affiliate network. Your brand’s offering is the most important determining factor because it dictates what type of coverage you may be looking to land. Of the clients we work with at Segal Communications, we advise any brand seeking coverage in national lifestyle focused outlets to join an affiliate network.
Of the available platforms, we advise our clients to join the ShareASale network as it is the most widely requested affiliate “umbrella” service by writers. Segal Communications clients automatically secure a 25% discount off of standard pricing. If you are familiar with affiliate marketing, you may have also heard mention of the name Skimlinks. Skimlinks falls under the “umbrella” of the ShareASale network, meaning that when you join ShareASale you are then able to apply to the Skimlinks sub-network for no additional charge. The Skimlinks network is solely comprised of media and publication affiliates, which is why it’s the preferred choice of journalists. In fact, there are many journalists who now require a brand to be on the ShareASale and Skimlinks networks to even be considered for placement.
You can’t afford not to join an affiliate network
Another question that is typically top of mind for those looking to sign up for an affiliate program is “what are the costs involved?” ShareASale generally requires a one-time set up fee, a percentage of each commission paid to affiliates, and a $35 minimum monthly transaction fee. If your sales for the month don’t cover this fee, it will be charged out of pocket.
Conveniently, ShareASale handles all payments to affiliates. You deposit money into your escrow account on the site, which ShareASale then uses to pay out the commission percentage you set to your affiliates when their marketing efforts result in a sale. The platform also sends regular reports to inform you on how your affiliates are performing.
When it comes to affiliate networks, we recommend brands that fall within the e-commerce and retail categories to join. Many freelance writers rely on affiliate marketing to supplement their income, and thus are much more likely to feature products that are accompanied by affiliate links in their stories. Additionally, the majority of top-tier lifestyle publications now require affiliate links for products to be featured. Here is a list of the publications that require or strongly prefer affiliate-linked product submissions. With these points in mind, many brands are coming to the realization that they can’t afford not to be on an affiliate platform. For the latest list of publications requesting affiliate links, subscribe to Segal Communications monthly newsletter the Pigeon Post.
Need help managing your affiliate marketing plan? Shoot us an email at [email protected] and we’ll get you up and running!
As a professional journalist, I spend a good portion of my work week reading pitches from hopeful publicists. While some of the pitches I receive are on-target and incredibly useful, the majority, sadly, are not. And so instead of being able to work on a story or find a useful source, I waste far too much time wading through off-topic or wholly incomprehensible pitches.
While many publicists learn key techniques during their studies or internships, there are some basics that aren’t included. The so-called soft skills that involve building and maintaining relationships instead of randomly peppering people with pitches in the hopes that one will be on target.
Here’s the thing, really great publicists understand how to connect their clients with the right journalists. They also understand that creating an ongoing relationship with the right reporter could prove more valuable than a single PR hit. And really great publicists also connect with journalists to understand both their likes and pet peeves.
In no particular order, here are some tips on how to better work with reporters while pitching or relationship building. We’ll be adding more advice in upcoming posts as well.
1. Make your message matter.
You have a limited number of words – and the writer you’re contacting has a limited amount of patience. While it can seem abrupt to get to the point immediately, try not to use so much flowery language and exposition, that the journalists you’re pitching stop reading mid-greeting. Be polite. Be friendly, and get to the point before they tune out.
2. Don’t make them figure out what you’re saying.
I can’t tell you how many pitches I receive that make absolutely no sense to me. Don’t assume that the journalist you’re pitching has any understanding of your client’s mission or messaging. In fact, assume that they’ve never heard of your client before. Try to offer a bit of background, or at the very least clarify what it is that you’re pitching.
3. Keep relevant information easy to find.
Oh, joy! Your pitch is on target and timely and the writer you’re pitching really wants to find out more about the company you mentioned. Only you forgot to include a link to their website and left out the CEO’s name and otherwise neglected to include the critical information that allows a reporter to do a bit of a deeper dive into your client.
4. Personalize or individualize your pitch.
While you’re busy and likely feeling pressure from your client or boss, that shouldn’t come across in your pitch. Take the time to include the reporter’s first name and spell it correctly. There are few things that cause me to tune out immediately like an email that begins: Dear [WRITER].
5. Skip the hearts and flowers.
Unless you know each other well and have professed our undying friendship, don’t start with an affectionate greeting or end with anything too personal. And while you’re at it, skip the x’s and o’s on pitches to total strangers.
6. Create a fantastic subject line.
Challenge yourself to pique the interest of the journalist in question. Try to set your pitch apart from the get-go by creating a subject line that’s almost irresistible. I receive hundreds of unsolicited pitches daily, when doing a quick scan through my inbox I inevitably read the emails that sound interesting.
7. Create a relationship, not a one off.
When pitching a reporter, understand that as well researched as your pitch is, it might not be relevant. But the next one might. By creating an ongoing relationship with a writer you sometimes bypass the crowd and they might come to you first for sources or pay more attention to your pitches the next time around.
8. Feedback is your friend.
For some reason many publicists bristle when being told their pitch is off-topic or irrelevant. If a writer is taking time to respond, it’s possible that something about your pitch did catch their interest. Pay attention to their feedback and fine-tune your next pitch.
9. Don’t underestimate freelancers.
Back in the day, publicists would prioritize pitches so staffers at print magazines were their first choice. While things have changed drastically— especially with the growth of digital journalism — some publicists still haven’t quite figured out how to work with freelancers. Depending on how many outlets the freelancer in question contributes to, you could be pitching a dozen publications instead of just one.
10. Do your homework.
It is not a journalist’s job to educate you on who they write for and what they write about. It also is a huge turnoff to be pitched a topic they haven’t written about in years. Look up their profile on Muckrack or a similar site to have an idea of what their recent stories are about and who they’re writing for before pitching. Or check out their social media profiles to see if they’re posting recent stories which will give you a bit more intel as well.
11. Don’t keep asking when a story will run.
Writers spend a good portion of their day, well, writing. In addition to that, they network with editors and other writers, research their stories, edit their stories, find sources, interview sources, promote their work on social media and more. If a reporter tells you that they don’t know when a story will run, trust them on it. Sending follow-up emails won’t magically make a run date appear. It will annoy them though.
12. Don’t pout if your client isn’t featured.
At the end of the day, there’s always an editorial hierarchy. A reporter might love your client’s quote and then have it edited out of the final version. Trying to make a writer feel guilty about it won’t cause them to sneak your client back in, it’ll probably make them avoid you in the future.
At Segal Communications we understand that while we work for our clients, journalists are our partners in the process.
Whether you’re a business vet or you just signed the dotted line for your first LLC, you already know the importance of promotion. Creating buzz for your business is one of the most exciting (yet often daunting) parts of the game. It takes a keen understanding of the shifting media landscape and a watchful eye on communication trends.
For those who live by the motto “work smarter, not harder,” a go-to route is to hire a PR agency or consultant. After all, they’re the ones who can help attract your future clients and customers. While these experts can add value and build momentum at nearly any stage of your business growth, there are essential factors to consider before diving into this meaningful working relationship. To ensure that you maximize your ROI and see better results in less time, we’ve mapped out ten things to keep in mind before beginning a PR program.
1. Determine your high-level goals
As any wise business owner knows, defining specific goals and timeframes around sales, expansion, staffing, etc., is crucial. You should ensure that your PR strategy is specifically tailored to assist in achieving those goals. Especially when you’re outsourcing, sharing your larger goals allows those experts to steer the ship in the right direction and allocate resources appropriately.
2. Define (or refine) your brand identity
This is something that a PR firm can typically assist with from a consulting standpoint. However, it’s essential to engage with branding specialists and designers to ensure your brand identity is beautifully reflected through cohesive design and messaging. With fierce competition and increasingly shortened attention spans, if your brand and image don’t project relevance, authenticity, and a clear identity, media and stakeholders will brush it aside no matter how well-crafted your pitch.
3. Evaluate your distribution
Whether offering a product or service, analyze your existing distribution and growth potential to assess the size and scope of PR required. While demand, of course, drives supply, sometimes it doesn’t make sense to over-promote (or target those top national outlets) if you know you lack the infrastructure to keep up with the resulting orders. A PR program should be designed to drive awareness and sales in a way that best serves your capacity and can be scaled up in line with your business.
4. Gather press-worthy images
While it may seem overly basic and self-explanatory, you’d be shocked to see how often companies execute PR with subpar image assets, even in 2022. These aesthetic tools not only reflect your brand identity and value but can be a ‘make it or break it’ deciding factor when a journalist determines which brand will land the coveted lead spot in an article or round-up.
5. Get social
If you had to choose between having only a website or a social media presence, quite often we’d
recommend the latter (of course, depending on your audience). Not only does it establish a sense of relevance, but it’s perhaps the most organic method to building an audience from scratch, establishing a direct channel of communication, and driving launches and announcements in tandem with traditional media relations. It’s also the first place most potential customers check to vet a new brand.
6. Build a sharp website
Needless to say, this has got to be on point, and you’ll want consistency in style and messaging between the
site and social channels. PR can help you land that feature story or top-tier placement, but if those calls to action lead to a lackluster website or uninspired social feed, you can kiss that potential sale goodbye.
7. Get clear about your audience
This goes back to the importance of defining your brand identity, and you should have a clear idea in your mind about the demographic and psychographic profiles of your target consumers. PR programs should be highly tailored, and the more specific the audience, the more tailored a campaign can be crafted to truly resonate. This can definitely be a conversation with a PR team to perhaps refine or expand the definition of your audience, but it’s important to have a strong existing sense from the jump.
8. Designate a spokesperson
While a PR rep handles 90% of the legwork here, most businesses should also have an internal ‘face’ of the company, who can be trained and leveraged for interview opportunities, press conferences, and other media or public-facing events. Oftentimes this will fall on the CEO, in-house communications director, or perhaps a paid industry spokesperson or celebrity. A PR agency can help determine the best option, but it’s smart to have someone who is ready and willing from the start.
9. Map out your company news
Even if timing isn’t exactly confirmed, it’s important to forecast future events and timeframes in terms of product launches, fundraising, expansion, new hires, etc. The further in advance you have an idea of these developments, the more strategic a PR program can be. Timing is everything, and your team can advise on which announcements will make the greatest impact, and when.
10. Learn to keep an open mind
PR professionals are natural storytellers and diligent planners, which are valuable traits for the job. While they understand that your business is your baby and will do everything in their power to control the narrative, even the best-laid plans will change on a dime. There are many moving parts and uncontrollable factors when dealing with the media, and this is when critical problem-solving skills come into play. You’ll absolutely lose your mind if you don’t learn to trust the process and change direction now and again. Sometimes the new solution ends up even better than the original plan!
Ready to get started with your customized PR program? When we work together, your brand does more than show up. It shows up with a story, a purpose, a unique reason for being – and it makes an impact.
Key reminders to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship
Within the complex definition that is 21st Century public relations, influencers have secured a lasting and impactful place. So, while your skills and techniques that just landed you an amazing hit in Buzzfeed are a great foundation, they are not necessarily going to cut it when looking to land that coveted placement with your local Yelp-Elite foodie influencer.
As you take a deep dive into the magicalworldof influencer marketing, here are some influencer strategies and reminders that even the most seasoned PR pros can implement.
Influencers are not mind-readers.
After outlining your campaign, analyzing your target audience, and pinpointing influencers, you probably have a good idea of what kinds of content you want to see influencers generate.
In reality, the influencers you seek to work with may have a different vision of their planned output.
It’s essential to keep in mind that despite your vision, influencers are experts of their domain – they know what drives engagement and secures likes. While respecting that platform expertise, PR agency professionals must provide influencers with a clear written understanding of what they’re expecting on behalf of a client. Without this, your client’s message is easily lost.
Want to see an Instagram Reel of your influencer unboxing your client’s beauty sample? Photos of their kids wearing your client’s merch? Be clear and specific about your expectations!
Provide influencers with caption copy, and even share examples of posts that have been successful in the past. Communication is key to influencer success!
Your relationships with influencers should be different than with reporters.
Like media relationships, social media influencer relationships can be mutually beneficial.
However, while journalists and their editors usually have the last say for content, you are in the driver’s seat regarding influencer marketing.
You can (and should) ask for pre-approval of influencer content. Contractual agreements can allow you to set clear expectations and establish your position to edit or alter messaging in their posts.
Something to consider – influencers (unlike most traditional media) can accept gifts! Show some appreciation for their hard work and treat them with something special – a happy influencer makes for a happy client.
Influencers are on their own schedule.
A common assumption is that influencers lead a life of indulgence as the recipients of free gifts and services from brands eager to work with them.
Not everything you see on Instagram is a true reflection of reality. Being an influencer, a good one that brands and PR people want to work with is a demanding job. It’s important to remember that above anything – your influencer is a real person with real responsibilities! Whether they are the Insta baddie or the family blogger, influencers might have other partnerships (and even other jobs) that make for a busy schedule.
So how do you make sure that your campaign stays a top priority?
Create benchmark dates for when you expect posts to be shared so that you and your influencer have the same expectations.
Understand that most influencers have set posting schedules – they know the best time to post on their platform. Be adaptable and give them space to make these decisions.
It’s all about connections.
The more you collaborate with influencers, the wider your influencer network will reach!
Vet and contact new influencers by asking for recommendations from influencers with whom you have already established relationships. This way, you can ensure that you are spending your time reaching out to worthwhile influencers and not bots (because, yes, you will find bots).
Be mindful that the influencer community is tightly-knit. Local influencers often collaborate with one another and will likely discuss collaborations. Aim to establish positive and transparent relationships with influencers – this will benefit you in the long run!
Ready to get started with your customized influencer strategy? When we work together, your brand does more than show up. It shows up with a story, a purpose, a unique reason for being – and it makes an impact.
To craft a successful social media strategy, you will first need to determine your target audience and goals. Once you have established these elements, you will need to select the right platforms, most impactful imagery, and select hashtags that will amplify your campaign to your target audiences. Before starting any campaign, we recommend identifying each element clearly before getting started so that it’s easier to show progress, identify issues, and make changes along the way.
Continue reading to download our free Social Media Strategy Checklist!
Identify your personal goals as a social media manager, the client goals, and agency goals. Your personal goals should be simple and easy to earn – but they are essential nonetheless as you should constantly challenge yourself. The client goals are generally straightforward as well. Are they selling a product, providing a service, or looking to drive brand awareness? This will determine what kind of content you provide to your audience. As for your agency goals, this generally has to do with agency reporting for the client. What did the agency offer the client in terms of deliverables for the campaign, and how do you plan to report on meeting those agency goals?
An excellent social strategy needs its content to be appealing to the desired target audience. While you think it might, your intuition may not always be enough. Do your homework, look at successful content of the past and content that gets high engagement. The quality of the content you post and its alignment with your audience’s interests is more important than how frequently you post.
Your viewer determines the imagery, tone, and subject matter of your content. You will likely have more than one target market, and you may find the demographic that you initially expected is not the one you have. This could require some experimentation, tweaking, and even starting from scratch.
Identify your content pillars once you have identified your target audience. These are the categories of content you will share with your audience, and they will guide your presence across all media platforms. You can start with general categories such as blogs, company news, and graphics. Then, create more specific categories from these buckets of content. For example, if you create graphics using customer testimonials and graphics with inspirational quotes, these are subcategories of your larger content type.
Additionally, don’t forget to make use of amazing user-generated content that consumers are posting. Posting user-generated content is a great way to acknowledge and engage with your audience, and it does some of the work for you in creating relevant content.
Besides reposting follower content, a great way to increase engagement is giveaways and promotions. Encourage users to post images and tag your brand for a chance to win a product, a voucher, an experience, or branded merchandise. This increases brand visibility and is a fun way for your audience to participate.
Selecting the right platforms will depend on the brand you’re working with, their needs, and their target audience. You’ll need to research your target audience to see what platform they spend most of their time on, for starters.
Currently, Pinterest dominates Gen X women with more than 400 million users; 78% are women 30-50 years old (Sprout Social, 2021). By the end of 2021, TikTok’s Gen Z user base is expected to top Instagram’s (eMarketer, 2021). These types of statistics will help you find where your target audience spends a majority of their time and better determine where you should spend your time placing content.
If you have the bandwidth to produce quality content, it is generally beneficial to engage on as many social platforms as your target audience is active. Even if the platform you’re initially gaining the most engagement on isn’t your top target, it may surprise you what leads to conversions. As for cadence, it is beneficial to post at least once a week, if not more.
The tone of your brand copy, or “voice,” is one of the main ways in which you define your relationship with your audience. Identify three to five adjectives that you want to convey in your brand voice. For example, a set of words that may describe your desired brand voice is “professional, confident, reliable.”
When you are addressing multiple audiences for different reasons, your brand voice can change based on the purpose of your communication. For example, you may sound more formal when addressing other experts in your field but more casual when addressing direct consumers.
Keep it clean. Clean design is key to user engagement and loyalty. While some people may love digging for that hidden treasure in the racks of some discount store – Target has become a household name for its clear message, clean design, and excellent branding. Most users respond to consistency and clean, visible graphics – text should be easy to read, the imagery should make sense, and the message should be clear. Developing design templates will help your audience feel more comfortable, familiar with the brand, and know what to expect.
Consumer-facing brands will likely require a significant amount of lead-time preparation to build visual content. That said, relevant and high-quality images can significantly impact other types of organizations as well. Strong images can communicate professionalism, expertise, and a bevy of other attributes and can help position brands as they would like in their field.
A consumer brand may constantly update its social team on new products or innovative ways to show its brand. A B2B company may use stock images that reflect the people and operations they serve.
To stay visible, make sure you use hashtags, but choose them carefully as too much repetition can inadvertently harm visibility. Invest a few hours each week researching the latest hashtag trends. Don’t spam non-target audiences as this will decrease brand credibility and can be annoying to viewers that search for unrelated content. Constantly check for trends in the industry by looking at competitors and similar brands. Trending hashtags change monthly and weekly, so be on the lookout.
Call to Action
This is going to look different for every brand. Defining a clear call to action in every post reminds audiences that we want them to do something. It could be “shop now,” “learn more,” or “visit us in-store.” Calls to action will change depending on the purpose of the post. A call to action can also be a question or a survey that engages with an audience to discover what interests the followers. Don’t shy away from a poll – and sometimes, the more simple, the better.
Planning & Insights
A planning tool must be used to manage a brand’s social channels properly. Ideally, you should plan out content at least a few weeks in advance to allow for unexpected news or changes. Many platforms offer a collaborative process, which can be very useful, especially if there are many people on the team that need to approve content.
Insights within each social platform provide a better view of your audience. On Instagram, you can view data directly from your user base to find out when your unique followers are online, as well as their demographics – so you know what to post as well as when. Keeping track of performance is essential to understanding which types of content work best. For example, a higher engagement rate on infographic posts could direct your future efforts.
Sprout Social, Later, Hootsuite, and Loomly are all excellent tools for managing and analyzing data from your social media efforts. Several of these services offer free planning, with limitations for new, small businesses. With more advanced packages, you can access larger-scale comparative insights, such as data on a competitor’s content.
At Segal Communications, we know that a successful presence on social media requires a few things: consistency, dedication, and creativity. Although it will not be accomplished overnight, following these guidelines will help you make progress as quickly as possible while reaching your target audience. Remember, social media is not a mathematical equation with one correct answer – it is a recipe that needs to be constantly remastered.
Download our free Social Media Strategy Checklist!