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Kevin O’Keefe over at Real Lawyers Have Blogs recently brought up a very important point about the shift to content creation in today’s marketing playing field. While traditional methods like print and TV news media are still effective routes to reach target audiences, there’s no doubt that this arena is shrinking and in its place, content hungry social media sites continue to grow by leaps and bounds.

Shifting to the role of content creator in your marketing efforts requires a substantial time investment. Blogs need to be well thought out, accurate and frequent. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are great tools to reach the masses but require an extensive amount of legwork to establish feeds that captivate and engage online audiences. Today, trade publications are much more apt to publish guest articles or guest blog posts but if the business professionals – let’s use attorneys as in O’Keefe’s scenario – find themselves stretched thin by their responsibilities to the practice of law, how can the firm expect to create a regular stream of technical wisdom to help promote itself?

O’Keefe weighs the idea of using a third-party content creator to outsource content but I’d like to suggest a stronger alternative. Public relations professionals have been creating content for busy executives since long before the marketing shift toward content creation and we’ve been sharpening our skills accordingly for many years. While using a third-party for content means starting at the ground floor each time a complex writing assignment arises, a true PR pro works to gain an innate understanding of his or her client with the added bonus of playing a crucial role in guiding the marketing strategy of a particular brand.

Having worked in PR for six+ years, my job role has always included an emphasis on content creation. Whether the topic covers semiconductor chips, pharmaceuticals or medical devices, I regularly work with complex subjects and the brilliant minds who deal in these subjects to develop valuable content. Susan Ennis, founder of EnSpire Communication, has been at the content game for more much longer with special expertise in legal matters, among others.

Not trying to brag, but using PR professionals for your content marketing yield a few extra bonuses:

  • We think in the big picture. Content is only created if it is advantageous and productive to the brand we are marketing.
  • Comprehensive is our favorite word. We repurpose content to create cohesive communications outreach while being efficient.
  •  We understand audiences. Whether we are fine tuning complex messages for a B2B audience or repackaging complicated concepts for the general public, it will be on target.
  • We are researches at heart. All PR programs begin with research, crucial skills to support the content needs of our clients.
  • We can work social media. Even the most brilliant blog post won’t reach target audiences if a viable social media following is not cultivated by using the right channels.

In the end, O’Keefe isn’t sold on third-party content creators – I wonder if I can sell him on PR instead?

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By this time I thought I would have heard my fair share of both wailing and praise for Facebook’s latest feature and reinvention, the Timeline. Judging by online reports it looks like the rollout will come closer to the end of the year so let me share some more details that are sure to whet your appetite.

The new Timeline format makes me want to be a better Facebook user.

Whaaaat? It’s true. I’m not being sarcastic, I honestly think that Facebook Timeline will change the way we use the social media platform – it sure has for me. Your wall is transformed into a digital scrapbook of your life and each user gets to serve as curator, expanding the timeline by adding milestone events, pictures, and more. But it really goes beyond entering fond memories and events that have already gone by.

Facebookers will change how they post content to enhance their timelines on the go. The much maligned Facebook location based check-ins now seem more attractive to make sure the map that is proudly displayed beneath your name is filled with fun and exciting adventures, same goes for adding a location to any photo that is uploaded to Facebook, and icons in the status update window make it a breeze to add a new life event or milestone.

The Timeline will make profiles even more descriptive than ever, providing more insight into likes, favorite restaurants, travel destinations, you name it. Take a rehearsal dinner for example. To take a better snapshot of all the festivities surrounding a wedding, a bride will be more likely to add the event as a milestone on her Timeline. She’ll check into the restaurant or venue along with its exact location, tag all her friends and add several photos to go along with the milestone. It’s a great way to capture the atmosphere of an event, and a real-life testimonial for how great your rehearsal dinner could be at Venue XYZ.

The question becomes, will marketers quickly jump on this new format and adapt to become a larger part of user’s Timelines?  Facebook has laid the groundwork, modifying the programming functions to allow other verbs than “like” (read, ate, watched), it will be interesting to see who is first to successfully capitalize on this new format.

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We saw the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a new light this past May when the government health organization posted tips for a “zombie apocalypse.” In an effort to show the world that the organization is in touch with what’s popular today, the CDC used zombies to educate the public on preparing for a real disaster in a fun and engaging way.

Engaging indeed. According to the Washington Post, the CDC’s zombie apocalypse blog post garnered 30,000 hits, compared to the standard 3,000 hits other CDC blog posts typically receive. The Twitter handle @CDCemergency currently has 1,314,504 followers and the CDC boasts 162,448 likes on Facebook. Compare those figures to the Department of Homeland Security’s (@DHSgov) 52,050 Twitter followers or the U.S. Department of Labor’s 11,220 Facebook fans.

Using zombies to teach real-life disaster lessons to the public proved so successful that the CDC continues to use the zombie apocalypse theme to reach out to new audiences. Recently, a CDC VIP visited Dragon Con, one of the largest pop culture/science fiction conferences hosted annually in Atlanta. Rear Admiral Ali S. Khan, MD, MPH, who is the assistant surgeon general and director of the CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, participated in a panel discussion to discuss the real science behind popular doomsday plotlines found in comic books and film.

The CDC unlocked an important, albeit peculiar, key to connecting with larger audiences and many are following suit. Visit www.sears.com/zombie and you will be directed to two different sites depending if you are still among the living or not. Even the cosmetic company, Dermablend, strayed away from the typical celebrity spokesperson or supermodel, calling upon Rick Genest (AKA Zombie Boy) to sell its product in an unconventional ad spot.

Lesson learned: don’t be afraid to go for innovative and even off-the-wall concepts to attract the attention of your target audiences. If executed correctly, a zombie apocalypse might be just the trick to instill new lifeblood into your organization.

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