Articles by: Ashley Landreneau
We’re finally able to wrap our heads around the wealth information we obtained from the always amazing Content Marketing World conference, which was conveniently held in our hometown in September. Immersed in a sea of orange, top content marketing minds from around the world shared with us the latest trends for delivering valuable content – from sales to social media to metrics to messaging and more.
We learned more than we could properly process during the two-day conference, but with time to reflect we now bring to you our top five takeaways from Content Marketing World 2016.
- Document your content marketing strategy. One thing that was reiterated throughout the conference was the importance of documenting your content marketing strategy. Your content strategy should be accessible, detailed and easy enough to understand by anyone. When documenting your strategy, include the architecture of your content (like website navigation or pages), the end goal of the content and how your strategy will be governed. And don’t forget about measurement! Set specific goals that can be measured to determine your ROI.
- Emotive messaging connects your brand to the consumer. Developing content that speaks to consumers on an emotional level can create a special connection with your brand and your customers, differentiating you from your peers. When creating or searching for content, put the customer at the center of everything you do. Make your customers feel good about your brand, and they’ll want to share your content.
- Thought leadership takes content to another level. A buzzword desired by most but understood by few, we learned the true meaning of thought leadership. Thought leadership is the product of your brand’s chief storytellers or evangelists, who bring your content to life. Thought leadership goes beyond the status quo to provide consumers with content that identifies new opportunities or shares exclusive insights that relate to a pain or solution.
- Hug your haters. Haters are not the problem – ignoring them is. Instead of ignoring criticism and complaints from consumers, embrace the negative comments. Good customer service is rare and memorable. By being honest and providing answers to your customers, you are increasing transparency and ultimately building trust that will differentiate your brand from others.
- Find your why. Day two of the conference kicked off with a hilarious address from comedian Michael Jr. But behind the laughs and lightheartedness was a serious message any content marketer needs to hear: find your why. Michael Jr. expressed the importance of knowing your purpose and explained that knowing your “why” will help develop your “what” in content creation.
These words of wisdom only scratch the surface of what we learned at #CMWorld 2016. Thanks to the Content Marketing Institute, who puts together the largest content marketing event on the planet, we are armed and ready to create content that matters in 2017.
We shared with you the benefits of networking for your brand (both business and personal), but how exactly does one network? Pour yourself a fresh cup of coffee and read on as we explain the ins and outs of creating a vast network. We’ll even throw in some helpful tips to make your networking experience a painless success.
Lesson 1: Begin with Friends
It may seem silly to think of your friends as a networking opportunity, but it’s an obvious and easy place to start growing your connections. Ask your friends to introduce you to their acquaintances, and once you’ve met, ask the acquaintances to introduce you to their acquaintances, and so on. Beginning with people you know gives you an “in” to start conversations with people you don’t know and provides practice so that approaching new people becomes natural and effortless.
Lesson 2: Take Advantage of Opportunities Offered by Alumni and Professional Associations
Believe it or not, there is more to those happy hours than free drinks and donation requests. Because nothing bonds people together quite like school pride, start with your college alumni association. Reach out to local alums and offer to grab a cup of coffee together. In many larger cities, alumni associations will occasionally host meetups or reunions. Instead of deleting those emails before reading beyond the subject line, try attending. You can meet some great people, reminisce about the good old days of undergrad, and maybe even learn a thing or two.
And don’t forget about professional associations. Many professions have association chapters that host get-togethers, seminars and yes, happy hours. Use these occasions as an opportunity to meet like-minded people who understand your career and challenges in the field. It’s a great way to find a mentor, learn about new opportunities and further connections.
Lesson 3: Social Media is Not Just for Selfies
What better way to easily connect with people than through the tool built for connecting people. More than just a place to house your favorite selfie, share a laughable meme or stay on top of the latest news, social media makes networking simple. Is there a businesswoman or entrepreneur you admire and would like to get to know? Draft your best message and press send. Try retweeting their helpful advice or like an article they share. Building relationships online is a great way to connect and expand your network with people across the world. But beware—there is a fine line between connecting and ‘creeping.’ If someone does not respond to a message, follow up once and then let it go. Sometimes they are too busy to respond, and other times they simply aren’t interested.
Lesson 4: Perfect the Elevator Speech
Your elevator speech is your one shot at catching someone’s attention and convincing them you are worth their time. It’s that golden moment between the first and fifth floor to grab the attention of the hiring manager at your dream company and secure an interview. It’s important to highlight your why and your how, and emphasize anything that makes you stand out from the others. Just remember to keep your pitch to 30 seconds or less.
Lesson 5: Tips and Tricks to Make You a Networking Pro
- Have a plan. Set some networking targets, such as a specific number of people to meet a month, and monitor the results. Keep track of who you meet, what they do and how you can help them.
- Find out how you can be useful. When you meet someone new, always ask how you can help them. Not only does this help you understand the person’s needs, but it keeps you in their mind. Finish every networking conversation with a business card and an offer to help.
- Always, always, always follow up. After each conversation and business card exchange, be sure to follow up. In today’s nonstop business world, taking two minutes to send an email or make a call can mean a lot and set you apart from others.
Coffee, Cleveland, French bulldogs and good books — the makings of our summer intern, Erin Zaranec. Erin is going into her senior year at Kent State University, where she is studying public relations with a focus on nonprofit management.
A Cleveland-area native, Erin hopes to work in fundraising and event-based PR upon graduation. Throughout her time at KSU, Erin has been actively involved in PRSSA and will serve as Chapter President in the 2016-2017 school year, when she will also serve as entertainment editor for The Kent Stater newspaper.
Want to know more about Erin? Watch as she describes her favorite thing to do in Cleveland, the best place to get coffee and what made her first day at Prosper for Purpose so great.
You’ve just launched an incredible new product—your brainchild that you’ve been dreaming up for years—but instead of feeling successful and proud, you feel defeated and confused. Inventory isn’t moving like it should be. But your website hasn’t crashed from a sudden influx of online sales. And it’s not that your product isn’t great—because, let’s face it, it’s perfect and you should be proud—so what is it?
Or maybe this sounds familiar: You’ve just graduated from college with a hard-earned degree. You busted your behind to master the subjects and prove that you are ready to further develop your education as a professional in your chosen field. You’ve carefully constructed a witty yet intelligent cover letter, spent a little too much time analyzing the font in your email signature and applied for dozens of positions, yet you haven’t landed your dream job. It’s not that you aren’t qualified—your degree and that perfectly punctuated cover letter prove you know your stuff—so what is it?
In a world where we’re routinely flooded by classified ads and perfect jobs are few and far between, there’s a secret sauce that can help differentiate you from the competition: networking. It seems so simple, but networking can help your personal brand grow exponentially in a variety of ways.
Now, for clarity, when we say brand this could refer to a company that sells a product or service, or it could mean you as a professional. Either way, networking provides the same benefits to individuals and organizations and is something we should all spend more time doing.
So, first things first: Grab a cup of coffee. (A blog post should always be read with coffee.) Now, prepare to learn how networking can help your brand grow.
- Connections. You hear it all the time: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. While nothing can replace having the appropriate knowledge, experience or skill, the reality is that people recommend people they know, like and trust. In fact, many of the best job opportunities are never advertised to the public, but are instead shared through networks. Having an ‘in’ can open the door to your dream job or create a new line of opportunities such as client leads, speaking and writing gigs, joint ventures and partnerships.
- Promotions. Having a solid foundation of people who like you and your brand is invaluable. Your network is your brand’s cheerleaders and they advocate for your success among their other networks. With their help, your brand receives a boost in reputation or sales, and ultimately your circle of influences widens.
- Resources. A network of like-minded professionals gives you access to a directory of amazing resources—for free. Your contacts become your advisors, offering information and advice you would normally have to pay a consultant for. They can keep you on track or share how they overcame challenges similar to those you’re facing. And, on the flip side, you can build a reputation as a knowledgeable and supportive resource by returning the favor.
- Friendships. At the end of the day, it’s nice to have someone who understands what you do. There are proven psychological and emotional benefits to having a friend in the business. In addition, a friend in your field can serve as a sounding board for new ideas or be there for a much needed pep talk. Plus, there’s an added bonus to having work friends: You have someone to take coffee breaks with during the day!
“But I don’t have time to go to networking events.” No problem! Not all networking requires attending an event. Social media platforms make for a simple and effective way to network not only with other professionals or audiences, but also with other businesses, making the possibilities of new connections endless. Five minutes and a few messages a day can get you in touch with individuals who can provide a wealth of knowledge and, of course, more connections.
You’ve probably seen Prosper for Purpose hinting at a big announcement these past few weeks, and we’re so excited to finally share it with you. We are incredibly proud to announce that Prosper for Purpose is a Certified B Corporation. The ‘B’ stands for benefit.
There are more than 1,400 Certified B Corporations in nearly 50 countries but only nine in Ohio. Prosper for Purpose is honored to be among those nine B Corps, and we’re incredibly proud to announce that we are the first marketing and communications agency to receive certification in Northern Ohio, and the very first certified nonprofit consulting and fundraising agency in the state.
So, what is a B Corporation, and what does this mean for Prosper? B Corporations are part of a global movement of people using business as a force for good. Certified B Corps meet higher standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Think of B Corp certification as a Fair Trade certification–like LEED or USDA Organic–that’s not just for a building or product but for the business as a whole.
By receiving B Corporation certification, we join a movement of like-minded organizations who strive to not only be the best in the world but also to be the best for the world. Through this certification, we have the opportunity to set benchmarks as a business for good, and to learn how we can build and improve upon those measurements for the future.
B Corporation certification was a natural fit for Prosper. We’ve always believed that businesses should do well and do good, and that in a business world that follows a ‘zero sum game’ philosophy, we can all win through collaboration, creativity and purpose. Since our founding three years ago, we’ve made a conscientious effort to support this belief, from choosing to work with mission-driven organizations, offering pro bono services through our Prosper Project, giving back to our Cleveland community through volunteerism and regulating our office’s consumption of energy and other resources. Becoming a B Corp further demonstrates our commitment to these values.
Any organization can apply to be a B Corporation. B Lab, the company behind B Corps, has a rigorous certification process, where they survey and closely examine a company’s social and environmental impact on all its stakeholders, including its employees, vendors, community, consumers and the environment. Organizations must receive at least 80 out of a possible 200 points to receive certification, and they must be recertified every two years.
Some states have passed legislation that legally requires B Corps to consider the impact of their decisions on their employees, suppliers, community, consumers and environment as well as shareholder value. While Ohio has yet to pass such legislation, B Corp certification still allows Prosper to introduce conversations in our community about the importance of being cognizant about our social and environmental impact.
If we haven’t mentioned it yet, Prosper for Purpose is so proud to be a part of this inspiring movement. We look forward to sharing this journey with you and to continue our mission of communicating for a better world.
In today’s business world, employee volunteer programs are as commonplace as meetings, business trips and conference calls. Some of the most notable organizations have taken strides to increase their philanthropic efforts and create robust employee volunteer programs. Yet, some still question the value of volunteering.
To some, volunteering is a one-sided equation offering benefits only to the recipient of the deed. But in actuality, volunteering is just as valuable to an organization and its employees. Here’s how:
Employees who volunteer report more job satisfaction and improved morale
When someone volunteers, several things happen. They feel good about themselves for helping others. They form connections. They witness the impact of their actions, however small. When people volunteer, they not only improve the lives of the recipient, they are also improving their own lives. And when employees volunteer through their organization, they experience the same positive benefits, but with an added bonus: they feel good about where they work.
When an organization actively gives back to the community, employees feel they are working for an employer that is truly concerned with the betterment of others, and they are proud to be a part of it. They believe they aren’t just working for a paycheck; they are working for a purpose.
Volunteer programs serve as a recruitment tool for up-and-coming talent
Recent studies show that when job searching, nearly half of all millennials are more likely to apply to organizations they feel are working toward a better tomorrow. They want to work for a company with values similar to their own and have the flexibility to allow them to support those values.
With one-third of today’s workforce comprised of millennials, companies increase their chance of hiring top talent when they support employee volunteering. Not only does the company widen its talent pool, but it is also more likely to attract individuals who share the company’s values. Many times, employees serve as the ambassadors of the brand, and having employees who exhibit the company’s beliefs can have immense value with customers.
Getting involved in the community drives brand recognition
When employees enter the community on behalf of their organization, they are promoting the organization’s brand to the public. They’re showing people firsthand the company’s beliefs and values.
Additionally, employees are interacting with individuals on a personal level, and this face-to-face, human interaction leaves people with a positive impression of the brand that is more valuable than any advertisement. Individuals appreciate the organization’s efforts to enhance the community, and they are reminded that there are real people behind the brand.
While many larger companies have robust employee volunteer programs, there are simpler ways for your organization to give back. Here are a few easy ways you can make a positive presence in your community:
1. Offer skills-based volunteering, which is a great way for employees to lend their talents to those in need. Through skills-based volunteering programs, employees are matched by their specialized skills and talents with nonprofit organizations needing the help of these individuals to build and sustain their infrastructures. Examples of service may include assisting with bookkeeping, providing PR support or serving on a board.
2. Consider a company-wide, single-day volunteer initiative to encourage employees to become more involved. Employees will feel more motivated to take time off if they know everyone is involved. Plan a day to visit a food bank, homeless shelter or other organization where you can work together as a team. You’ll help an organization and individuals in need, and you’ll form stronger relationships among team members.
3. Ditch the holiday party and arrange a collection drive. Take the money you typically spend on a holiday party and use it to purchase donation items for an organization you support. Or consider encouraging employees to make a monetary donation in a coworker’s name instead of purchasing gifts.