No one likes to have their work criticised and as a business or professionals, we want to maintain positive reputations. I’ve always been a particularly sensitive person by nature. However, the rise of online reviews has made it more complex to control our reputations. Dealing with a negative review has become an important component of any public relations or marketing strategy.

Recently, I met with a highly experienced medical specialist. She is renowned in her field, intelligent with a very kind, nurturing mannerism which no doubt serves her well as a doctor. She had received positive reviews online but there was one which was particularly negative.

“I can almost pinpoint the patient and why it happened,” she told me. “They wanted a treatment which I just didn’t think was indicated and upsetting for them to hear.”

The patient wrote a review criticising this doctor for being rude and not listening to their needs. The review was unsettling for the doctor, even though she had tried to put it in perspective. I have given keynotes to doctors on medical marketing and social media. Dealing with negative reviews dominates discussion afterward.

A friend of mine, who owns a successful food eatery was asking my advice too recently on a long walk. In their many years of operation, they hadn’t received a negative review so a harsh one about coffee being cold and their food menu hit hard. My friend was upset and said it had given her an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach.

She had her suspicions the anonymous review came from someone connected to another eatery, which had opened nearby. Whatever the reason, a mistake, miscommunication, even unfair attacks by a competitor, at some stage you’ll get a negative review. However, how you handle that review will be a sign of your character as a brand or professional and further affect your reputation.

‘The Economy of Trust’ & power of online reviews

We’re living in an age and marketplace fuelled by reputation and trust. Rachel Botsman, an academic and writer focusing on how technology is changing the way we work and consume, uses the term “Economy of Trust”.

In a now famous TED Talk, Rachel speaks about the shift of trust from corporations or governments to people. This new era of trust, which Rachel terms reputation capital is transforming how we do business. At the centre of this Economy of Trust is online reviews.

BrightLocal, a reporting platform for SEO professionals needing local SEO data, shows just how powerful online reviews are in their recent study on the subject.

Key findings include:
• 85 per cent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
• Positive reviews make 73 per cent of consumers trust a local business more.
• 49 per cent of consumers need at least a four-star rating before they choose to use a business.
• Responding to reviews is more important than ever, with 30 per cent naming this as key when judging local businesses.
• 79 per cent of consumers have read a fake review in the last year, but 84 per cent can’t always spot them.
• Yelp and Facebook are the most trusted review sites, followed by Google & BBB.org
• Consumers read an average of seven reviews before trusting a business – up from six last year.

The Power of online reviews study reveals a one-star rise on review site Yelp leads a to a 5-9 per cent increase in business revenue but one negative review can cost you up to 30 customers.

No wonder many business owners and professional service providers are particularly nervous about online reviews with such statistics. In this fast-paced digital world, the speed at which information and content can spread including reviews is phenomenal, meaning it’s important to implement a strategy to monitor and respond to reviews.

My policy is to ensure clients have a crisis management plan (see earlier post) in place because at some stage they’ll be involved in a situation that could potentially impact their reputation, operations and financial stability. Managing reviews is part of this plan because people have many avenues to express their grievances and with more intensity than ever before, severely damaging targeted organisations.

However, the impact of negative reviews on reputations can be minimal if handled with professionalism. Indeed, a negative review handled well can even have a positive impact overall on a reputation of a business or professional service provider.

One of the first points I try to make to clients is to try not to panic about negative online reviews, as they are just a part of a digital economy and often all positive reviews about a business are not good anyway.

Typically, users want to see a mix of good and neutral reviews when researching a business or service because all five-star reviews on a site look a little ‘contrived’.

I’ve even seen a business owner respond well to a bad review from a disgruntled client and turn them into the greatest evangelist for their business.

Nine steps to deal with a negative review

1. Stay calm and don’t respond hastily.

You work hard in your business or profession and a negative review will, of course, stir up all sorts of emotions, including anger, frustration and disappointment. However, you should remain calm and avoid these emotions showing up in your response.

Look upon a negative review as an opportunity to further build your reputation. If someone is critical, don’t react with haste or be rude in response. A negative review will hurt but are an inevitable part of doing business. As the old saying goes: ‘You can’t please everyone all the time’. By having a review strategy in place, this will guide you towards a calmer, consistent approach.

A strategy doesn’t mean using the same response to every review as each should respond on its independent merits. However, you will have guidelines and a system in place to follow.

2. Have one senior person investigate & respond.

Online reviews and reputation have become an important component of ‘The Economy of Trust’. It’s therefore, crucial to treat these reviews and responses seriously. To maintain consistency in messaging only the business founder or authorised person should respond to the reviews. I’ve seen the mistake where juniors or marketing people are often in charge of monitoring and managing social media or reviews because the business owner thinks they have more understanding of the technology.

Often, the business owner isn’t even aware of negative reviews or responses issued. While a junior person or marketing people may alert you to a negative review and have good suggestions for a response, it should not be their responsibility to respond without your input.

3. Respond promptly but thoroughly investigate first

If you take too long responding to a negative review, it may look like you’re trying to ignore your unsatisfied client or customer or hoping it will go away. However, while responding promptly demonstrates your responsible and attentive, you should investigate the circumstance of the complaint and not respond with haste.

Work to obtain as many details as possible about what happened leading up to the negative review. When you have gathered as much information as possible about the situation, then write out key points you don’t want to forget to start formulating your response.

Work towards taking an impartial approach to your investigation. People who write a review will honestly feel their complaint has a basis, while your employees will, of course, be defensive. Try to maintain a balanced middle ground in analysing circumstances surround the negative review. It may highlight a problem with your business or service, which you should work on overcoming in the future.

4. Prepare for further attacks.

When you’ve gathered as much information about the negative review as possible, you may feel you have a comprehensive understanding of what happened. However, until you’re able to discuss the complaint with the reviewer, you don’t have the complete story. You must plan for both your online and offline response to the negative review along with any further attacks by them upon your reputation. There are some important points to remember including:

5. Use an empathetic and personable tone.

When writing a response validate the negative reviewer’s feelings and feedback in a way which shows you are genuinely respectful of their experience. Don’t lose control of the conversation. No matter what your opinion is on the situation acknowledge and validate their concerns and don’t get into an argument.

6. Offer to discuss the complaint privately

Avoid arguing on the review site. Have a response on the public platform which includes an offer to discuss the feedback privately, for example, please contact us to organise a time to discuss your concerns.

While in the public domain, responding to a negative online review isn’t all that different from handling other conflicts you may experience in your business or profession. Be prepared and remain authentic to your professional or brand voice.

7. Try to drown out the negative review with positive ones
Encourage clients and customers pleased with your service to provide a review, which can push the negative review further down the feed. NOTE: This doesn’t mean getting your family and friends to write reviews or having fake reviews. Australia, like many countries, has legislation to protect consumers from misleading or fake reviews, see ACCC online review guidelines.

8. Request a site remove a review

Most review sites have a Terms of Service, where they list all things allowed or not allowed on their site. If you believe a review is in violation of a site’s Terms of Service, then you may have grounds for it to be taken down.

9. Seek Legal Advice

If you feel the situation surrounding the negative review is complex and could have further repercussions, then seek further advice. This can be important legally, especially for professions such as health and medicine. If you feel a review is defamatory then consult a lawyer, legal action may also be able to be taken. Unfortunately, I think the international nature of digital media and rapid changes in technology means the law is still lagging to catch up. However, there have been cases of successful legal actions taken in regards to negative reviews which have damaged reputations.

Conclusion

For most people, it can be hard to deal with criticism. It’s important not to blame yourself but at the same time be accountable. Investigate what happened to see if you can prevent such an incident happening in the future. Sometimes, what happened may not have been preventable and perhaps you did everything by the book but still got a negative review. As mentioned you can’t always please everyone and you may not even know who wrote the negative review. If you have mainly positive reviews, then this will read well overall. Develop a mindset where you every negative review becomes an opportunity to improve your processes and practice public relations skills.

However, if there are quite a few negative reviews and especially if there is a common problem then perhaps it’s time to look at your processes. Take control, recognise and accept the problem then work towards improvement. There have been some great success stories of businesses turning around dramatically by learning from negative feedback. Negative reviewers may even remove their reviews and replace them with a positive one.

34539155 – man reading the definition of feedback

Online business reviews serve to highlight, whether positively or negatively, various aspects of your business, including products, services and interactions.

Reviews can take the form of star ratings or comments and can appear on directory listings, review sites, social media or your business blog.

Review signals account for around 13 per cent of the total ranking factors of Google, which means managing your online reputation and reviews is an important component of SEO.

Hubdo co-founder Helen Nicholls, who leads a team to assist Hubspot consultants and partner agencies deliver SEO for their clients, says online business reviews can boost your SEO in numerous ways, including:

  • Creating fresh user-generated content.
  • Generating social conversation around your business or brand.
  • Boosting your keyword strategy – these are the words of your customers.
  • Google Star ratings.
  • Reviews keep content fresh.
  • The search-engines like content on sites which is updated and fresh, which is where business reviews are useful.

“Reviews provide relevant and local content while also keeping the conversation about your business flowing and active, which is important for SEO,” Helen says.

“User generated-content is also looked upon highly by Google.”

“Online business reviews generate social conversation about your brand and help keep this conversation active. When one person puts up a review about your brand, it can prompt others to write one. Reviews will keep discussions online flowing about your brand or business,” Helen says.

“By incorporating reviews into your social media strategy your further generating and prompting discussion about your brand.”

Business reviews boost keyword strategy

The language reviewers use, that is the actual voice of your clients, will be similar if not the same as your target audience.

“If you’re clever you can look carefully at your reviews, adapt and target your keyword strategy,” says Helen.

“A consistent flow of reviews will even help you target more traffic through various long-tail keywords created incidentally by your customers.”

Google star ratings

Have you ever noticed some sites have star ratings next to their listings, while most don’t? If a site shows up as 4 or 5-star, it’s likely to get more visitors than sites with no stars at all. Many SEO experts believe having good star ratings, and reviews can help you move up the search results, even if just through the higher click-through rates over time.

With Google’s recent update on star ratings, reviews with star ratings need to be visible on your website (via a plugin or similar) to allow a blog etc. to appear with a star rating. Google no longer takes these from review sites such as Yelp, Trustpilot or Google My Business. To ensure Google search bots see and recognise these reviews a piece of short coding called ‘Schema Markup’ must be added to your website. This code, when added to your website, helps the search engines to quickly identify important information for the search result pages (SERPs). Here’s an example of how a ‘star rating’ will appear:

SERPs showcase of blog or product with reviews.png

Schema.org Markup language is also known as ‘structured data’ or ‘microdata’ so ensure you ask your developer or SEO specialist.

6 step review strategy

As we’ve seen reviews are important. Your organisation should have a review strategy to encourage and handle reviews including:

1. Encourage more reviews

Whether through your site, email campaigns or social media make it clear reviews are welcome.

2. Aim for better reviews

Consistently communicate with your clients or customers, looking for ways to improve and attract quality reviews.

3. Pick your moment to ask for reviews

You’ve heard the saying “time and place”. Make sure you target the right audience at the right time of their journey with your organisation for a review.

4. Reply to reviews and embrace negative ones

No one likes criticism but as the old saying goes ‘you can’t please all of the people all of the time’. Negative reviews at some stage are inevitable. Answer them politely and promptly.

5. Sign up with quality third-party review sites.

Google relies on third-party review sites to determine a site’s star rating so ensure you’re familiar with how they work and monitor them regularly.

6. Remember social media ratings

Your review strategy should not ignore reviews on social media, where many users will go to learn more about a brand.

Health professionals & reviews

While online business reviews can be great for SEO, unfortunately, care needs to be taken for health professions in Australia who must follow strict advertising guidelines. Under various regulations, including the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, known as the National Law, health professions as listed by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) can’t have testimonials on sites they control.

APHRA Guidelines define testimonials or reviews as statements, stories and anecdotes about clinical care from past patients or clients about a health service or its quality. The guidelines list several reasons why testimonials aren’t allowed in medical marketing, mainly around being considered misleading, including:

  • They’re personal opinions from former clients and have no scientific or objective basis as a recommendation of a health practitioner’s services.
  • Outcomes experienced by one patient do not necessarily reflect the likely outcomes.
  • They’re not usually a balanced source of information, as they typically include a narrow selection of positive comments from patients, and therefore don’t tell the whole story about a practitioner’s services (i.e. they can be misleading).
  • Patients may place too much weight on testimonials because they do not have the expert knowledge to accurately assess their validity.

Marketing collateral, including websites or social media used to promote a business, such as a business Facebook page, is considered advertising and must therefore not include testimonials. However, a patient social media page, such as a bulletin board or Facebook group, where patients discuss their personal experiences, or other sites such as Rate MDs is not considered advertising.

A breach of advertising requirements for healthcare professionals is not to be taken lightly with consequences including hefty fines and even deregistration. Ensure you are familiar with all the rules around advertising for health professionals. For further clarification, contact us, your national professional body, APHRA or even professional indemnity provider.

Conclusion

Online business reviews are an important part of your local SEO strategy but also your overall marketing and public relations strategies. They provide your potential clients with a real account of what it is like to deal with your brand. Increasingly, in what has been termed ‘The Economy of Trust’ reviews are becoming as important as personal recommendations. All your reviews don’t have to be glowing, in fact, that can look more contrived. However, ensure you have a review strategy in place.

Red Ring Binder with Inscription Press Releases on Background of Working Table with Office Supplies, Laptop, Reports. Toned Illustration. Business Concept on Blurred Background..jpeg

Digital PR has become an integral part of a communication strategy to grow the profiles of businesses, their leaders, domain authority and boost SEO. When I first started in journalism, public relations consultants would fax or email us through press releases and they’d call us to see if we received the release and were interested in doing a story.

When I moved over to public relations, we were still emailing press releases and it’s still a common practice to do so today. However, PR leaders like Hubspot’s Illiyana Stareva, who invented the new concept Inbound PR, encourage a different and more effective approach.

Illiyana says focusing your PR strategy on digital has now become vital as content is the name of the buying game today.

“We make our decisions based on our research online by reading blogs, magazines, social media recommendations and any other online materials,” Illiyana says.

“If you haven’t focused your PR efforts on your digital appearance and building up your domain authority through more inbound links, you are not setting your business up for success in our content-driven world of digitally savvy consumers.”

The days of writing a press release and sending it on mass to journalists hoping for mainstream coverage are becoming less effective. Building your own digital PR strategy through media channels to focus more on the people you want to reach is delivering impressive results.

It’s not to say don’t write a press release or alert journalists or publications in your industry about a good story you may have for them. However, make the most of your online presence through great content to entice journalists, your target audience, influencers and other bloggers to your site. It’s all part of the inbound method where you entice people to take notice of your content rather than pushing it out upon them.

How Inbound PR can improve SEO

Inbound PR combines the techniques of traditional PR approaches – building relationships, identifying stories, creating news – with the approaches of inbound marketing. A benefit of inbound PR strategies is its boost to SEO. Gone are the days of dodgy black hat backlink tactics to show the popularity of your site by getting backlinks to irrelevant sites. Google technology and algorithms are much cleverer now and will penalise such underhanded tactics.

However, features of your brand and links to your website still play a vital role in improving your search visibility, that is the number of people able to find your business, products and services via the search engines. You need to build quality backlinks and raise your profile as an authoritative source, which is where digital PR shines. Inbound PR can help boost your SEO and profile through:

  • Promoting quality content.
  • Driving traffic to your website and owned media.
  • Building relationships with your brand and highly authoritative industry influencers, press publications and bloggers.
  • Create quality content and raise your profile through citations, mentions and links.

Make the most of co-citations

The co-citation algorithm is where Google is starting to look at what people are talking about on a page. For example, if public relations and Nadine McGrath appear in the same article, even if there’s not a single link if enough different sources cite the two together then that will carry authority. Google will start to see Nadine McGrath keeps coming up repeatedly with the words public relations so must be associated with public relations.

Google is constantly trying to discover what matters when someone is searching. Do elements like social signals, shares, mentions matter? It’s no longer just about linking strategies anymore. You need a social presence and want other people talking about you so Google can see you are credible. Anything Google can find and analyse using its crawlers then it will, including Twitter and public Facebook. It’s worth noting that Google+ is rated highest in search rankings. Make sure anything you publish is also on Google+.

How to build a valuable earned media strategy

digital PR collage of computer showing analytics and a hyperlink and logos.jpg

When people look to earned media they often have grand plans of contributing or being interviewed for top news sites or publications in their field. However, my advice is  start small and work your way up. Earned media means “earned” for a reason. Look first at getting in your local paper, radio or television news. Your local community is often where your target audience is, so it makes sense to try for coverage in this area. Once you establish your media profile locally, then look for bigger opportunities or industry media.  A good place to start is sites like SourceBottleResponse Source or Help a Reporter Out. Offer your knowledge and opinion by registering on sites like Quora or Savvy SME.

Have a good working website that reads well for people and is easy to navigate. If you’re content is boring or reads like you’re trying to cram it with keywords then chances are it won’t be interesting. All effective media strategy equals quality content plus network. If you have quality content, it may or may not get found. If you have quality content to share with a strong network, then that’s a solid formula for success. Start building your network.

Remember chasing a number one ranking for certain keywords doesn’t matter anymore because of personalisation. Nadine McGrath will come up when I search public relations not necessarily because I’m number one but because I have shared it so many times. Google is guessing Nadine McGrath is what I want to show up when I type in public relations. People connected to me who have seen my shares will see it higher up than other people who may not know Nadine McGrath.

Digital marketing manager for award-winning UK agency Impression Laura Hampton advises people to take a layered approach to their digital PR strategy with reactive and proactive techniques used side by side. Laura has written extensively on digital PR and spoken at numerous conferences including Brighton SEO, the UK’s largest search marketing conference.

What is the reactive and proactive PR technique?

A reactive PR technique means responding to what is happening within your business or topical issues in your industry that you can make a comment and might get coverage.

“On the reactive side, consider the use of Twitter hashtags like #journorequest and #PRrequest to find journalists looking for help with their stories,” Laura says.

Proactive PR is where creativity comes into play and businesses can start creating ‘news from nothing’.

“This means developing a strong understanding of your target publications and audience, to create content which suits their desires and therefore gains widespread high-quality coverage,” Laura says.

“For example, we wanted to achieve coverage across high authority publications in our industry and I found they often covered interview style content,” she says.

“I, therefore, put together an interview, which was filmed, and from which I was able to draw stories and subsequently gain coverage.”

Conclusion: Know your audience and PR goals

When developing a digital PR strategy do your research and consider your goals. Public relations is not a quick fix solution to gain more sales or clients but is about building up your credibility and influence. Public relations should be considered an essential component of any communications or marketing strategy for your brand. As Virgin founder Richard Branson says: “A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad.”

 

 

 

People often ask me what’s the ideal blog post length? There has been plenty written on the subject with some people saying 500 words, others 1000. But before we go into what exactly is the best blog post length let me share a bit about my experience with writing and numbers.

Throughout my career, I’ve had to follow many rules concerning the length of articles and stories. In the early days as a television journalist, I would write a script that would go for almost three minutes only to be reprimanded by editors.

“Even the top story of the day doesn’t get three minutes Nadine so go and halve it,” they would shout.

In print newsrooms, it was a similar scenario. The editors would just cut the story from the bottom, which taught me very quickly to ensure all relevant information is in the first few paragraphs. What I would consider an award-winning 2000-word article would be cut back to about 500 even less.

“We didn’t ask you to write a feature Nadine,” the editor would shout as I protested the butchering of my story. “There’s a lot of waffle in there so go and sit with the sub and watch him cut it.”

Holding back the tears and my confidence guttered, I would make my way over to the subs desk to learn how to write a story succinctly and to the point.

In PR I aim to write a press release no longer than one page and it’s straight to the point. Quite simply journalists want to know your pitch in the first paragraph and don’t have time to read waffle.

My ability to write succinctly has its good points and bad however when it comes to writing for SEO. Yoast, regarded as the leading SEO plugin for website creation tool WordPress, recommends each blog post and content on a webpage should contain at least 300 words to rank well in search engines.

Yoast still has a red dot on some of our pages because there’s not enough content. While a proponent of writing succinctly, it appears from research, interviewing SEO consultants and successful bloggers posts anything shorter than Yoast’s magic 300 words will struggle. Many bloggers have attributed their longer posts with growing organic traffic.

Why word count is important to increase Google ranking?

So just why was Yoast picking up on us for not writing enough words on some of our web pages and why do they say blog length is important for SEO?

According to a post by Yoast partner Marieke van de Rakt on blog post length, longer is better for numerous reasons, including Google crawlers just have more clues to decipher what your text is about and rank accordingly.

“You’ll probably have more headings, more links, and more pictures, in which the keyword will be mentioned,” Marieke writes.

She says you’ll also probably rank long-tail variants of the keyword for which you optimised your post, further giving you the chance to boost your organic rankings.

What is the ideal blog post length?

Content marketing strategist Robert Rose.pngA few years ago, while relatively new to inbound marketing, I interviewed Robert Rose, an early pioneer and one of the true thought-leaders in the field.

I naively asked Robert so how long should I tell my clients to write their blog posts? His answer reminded me very much of the old sub-editor who guided me with the length of a story.

“The answer is frankly as long as it needs to be,” Robert says.

“There is no template answer to this as short content works, long content works and both are appropriate for mobile.

“The real answer is understanding the context for where our audience will consume the content and providing the length as a contextual attribute to our strategy.

“For example, if we’re reaching our target market through a channel on their mobile device and are catching them in transit then snackable, short pieces are probably optimal.

“But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also create the 1500 essay blog post to pay off that short content because the answer is truly in understanding our audiences.”

A colleague of mine Genroe founder Adam Ramshaw has been blogging for about 15 years. Genroe’s expertise is in customer feedback and experience management. The amount of input and interaction on their blog posts is impressive.

Adam says his company aims to write a blog post of about 800-1000 words.

“It should be long enough to give a good response but not too long that people never get to the end,” Adams says.

“We’ve tried very long posts of 3,000-4,000 words, but these seem to lack engagement as it’s too much to read which I think impacts on the search engine ranking.

“Also, short posts can be great, if they are targeted and answer the customer question, but that is more uncommon.”

Leading Inbound marketing platform Hubspot’s new pillar page and subtopic cluster model for writing blogs, pillar pages can be up to a few thousand words covering topics on a whole subject matter. In supporting subtopics, the word count is much less as only a single topic from the pillar page is being covered.

Writing, Readability and blog post length

Blog posts that are more than 1000 words can be more time consuming and difficult to read. To keep your target audience engaged takes skill. We will tackle effective writing techniques in future articles.

Written poorly they will probably not be read through, people may click away, chances of sharing will diminish and poor user experience will mean they probably won’t rank well in the search engines either.

If you are going to write a successful lengthy blog post then don’t just waffle. My teenage children often have strict word counts on assignments and nearly always write substantially over before coming to me for pruning help.

Like the skilled sub-editors who taught me I help get rid of the waffle and make every word earn its place.

If you’re writing a long post, then make sure it is well-structured and readable. Break up the text with sub-headings and images or even add an index. Keep your sentences and paragraphs short and to the point.

So, what exactly is the ideal blog post length?
My apologies, you’ve got to the end of this article and just like Robert Rose I’m not giving you a definitive ideal blog post length.

We learned from Yoast it should be more than 300 words, otherwise, your post will have too few words to rank in the search engines. There is no right or wrong answer for the length of a blog post.

Remember, you should always be writing for humans not just the search engines and your blog should be long enough to explain a concept, attract new leads to your site of offer some thought leadership on a subject.

Recently, I’ve been researching a lot of women business groups on social media. One thing that keeps coming up by members is whether or not to do Facebook or LinkedIn live video.  Lives have become increasingly popular while statistics show the success of video as a marketing tool, further increasing pressure on women to do Facebook Lives.

I have undertaken a couple of Facebook Lives. I’m a trained broadcast journalist but still felt nervous and while I got positive feedback some people thought they should be more relaxed or jovial. I’ve been a journalist for many years so naturally inclined to sound more professional in front of a camera. I became a journalist in the days when elocution lessons were a standard part of our training. Where seeing the rise now of amateur journalism, which in many ways is very exciting as news is reported on the spot by eye-witnesses.

Everyone will have their view on how to do a Live. I’ve seen some overly relaxed Facebook Lives by people. I’ve asked branding and presentation experts what their views are on Facebook Lives. While some love the idea and say as long as you come across authentic that’s great, others advise their clients against Lives and say they can diminish their brand’s value.

For those considering doing live video, I thought these tips from my Facebook course might be useful.

– Journalists should keep in mind that they are professionals and follow ethical and technical guidelines when using Live. (I think this is the same for all service providers).

– Every stream should have a point and offer audiences a unique experience.

– Pay attention to the details: the camera should be stable, the audio should be clear, and you should come across as a professional.

– Interact with audience questions and comments, frequently reminding them to chime into the discussion.

– Explain what you’re doing and offer recaps intermittently.

Remember, don’t feel pressure to do Facebook Lives just because everyone else seems to be doing them or telling you to do them. I have a colleague and friend who has a podcast and is an excellent presenter. She’s even given a TEDx talk. However, she feels uncomfortable doing FB lives. She records webinars her clients can watch back with lots of graphics.

There’s a reason as journalists we have those specialising in print, radio and broadcast. Different personalities suit the various mediums. I’ll no doubt do more live videos, but today I just didn’t feel like it was for me so instead I’ve just written a post and there’s nothing wrong with my no pressure approach.

brand-reputation-lady-on-mountain

I want you to ponder a question. Do you consider how what you say on social media, at networking or social events, on the sidelines of your children’s sporting activity or in a speech impacts on you, your brand reputation?

Everyone will have a bad day now and again, want to have a spat at someone on social media, call themselves a “bad-ass” or a “hustler”, meaning they’re successful in business. However, is this really how you want to come across in the long-term?

I work with women leaders and change-makers who have already achieved a level of success but want a more national or global reach for greater impact. My ideal clients are humble but have established leadership and are making a difference in their field. I can usually tell very quickly who I want to work with and who is a red flag.

One of the first things I do with a potential client is become a pseudo-detective. I openly stalk their social media accounts. I do a web search for their name and work to discover other facts and get an understanding of them as a person. I may talk with their friends, clients or family members. All of this information will help me mine and craft their story.

I want authenticity in their marketing to build impact. The word authentic, meaning real or genuine, has become somewhat trendy in recent years. However, If you want to be authentic, then it needs to be across the board. If you’re an entrepreneur, then there’s inevitably going to be a cross-over between your personal and business life.

You need to consider how you act will impact on your brand reputation. The resignation of former Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce following an affair with his former media advisor, who is now expecting his baby, is a testament to harsh judgement the public will bestow upon inauthenticity.

Many argue the father of four’s indiscretions are part of his personal life and shouldn’t impact his work. However, Joyce held the National Party of Australia’s highest position. He publicly was against gay marriage, the Gardasil vaccine for teens to prevent cervical cancer saying it would promote “promiscuity” and was a proponent of traditional family values.

Being authentic doesn’t mean you can’t speak out on issues. By expressing your authentic self and values, you’ll attract people who resonate with your message. But don’t put on a show in public because you think it’s good for your image or on trend as incongruencies like with Joyce will show through.

If you’re going to debate someone on social media, then be respectful and stick to the issue, avoid swearing or personal attacks. Consider do you want to be known as a “bad-ass” or “hustler” now or in five years? If yes, then use the term and if no or I’m not sure then leave it out. Your brand reputation and digital footprint, what you say and do now will be around for a long time. As I tell my clients the best way to deal with a PR disaster is to avoid it in the first place.

Child's written out story

At the end of each school year, my children bring home a pile of used exercise books. While in the spirit of being a minimalist, most of these get thrown out. However, their journals or creative story writing books I cherish and love to read. I can tell what they were thinking through their stories. My son Scott wrote a story about a wicked witch named Kate (his sister). At another time, my son Jack wrote a story about a family’s holiday adventure based very much on one of ours.

We are naturally all storytellers but somehow lose faith in our ability to connect with people through story and instead fall into what I term PowerPoint or marketing language. I’ve worked in marketing but now run a program where I use my background in journalism and PR to help women leaders clarify their story and get media exposure for impact. I always say to clients drop your PowerPoint and marketing language, instead start with your story.

We naturally tell stories every day to our friends, in coffee shops, to our family members. We’ll talk about what has been bothering us or something interesting that has happened in our daily lives. A story has a power to connect us as human beings.

Stories also have a power of making the complex clear. My kids and husband are a fan of the scientist Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, who uses storytelling principles such as anecdote, analogy and metaphor to explain complex scientific principles.

He speaks in simple, relatable terms and yet in no way makes his audience feels like he is dumbing science down. Almost every leader has a vision, but the challenge is to relate and connect with people, so your vision resonates with others and comes to life. Think of the great leaders who stick in your mind – they’re usually the ones who humanise their message and deliver it in ways that connect with everyone at some level. Leading author and researcher into shame, courage and vulnerability Brene` Brown is a great example.

Through her stories about herself and others, she is about to turn complex psychological concepts into relatable messages that help and inspire others. Her vision, in turn, becomes clear.

When you’re thinking about your vision and purpose, don’t get caught up in the vanity metrics of marketing such as social media likes, logos and websites. The stories you tell and messaging is what will connect you with your target audience to build trust and grow your business. Reach out to learn how to clarify your story and get exposure for greater impact.

People-do-business-those-they-know-like-&-trust quote

I grew up in a small town and to this day love regional areas. Living or working in a country town can teach you some great business lessons, especially about know,like & trust. My grandfather owned a hardware store and my parents worked in service industries. In a country town, everyone has their role to play from the local policeman, baker, doctor, accountant or teacher.

My grandfather always taught me people do business with people they’ve built a relationship with and trust. His lesson was similar to the mantra ‘know, like and trust’ that has stood the test of time and been preached by many leading sales authors and speakers over the years.

When a new person comes to town, they have to work hard to become known, liked and trusted among the locals. I remember years ago when as a young doctor my husband (then fiance`) was sent to outback Queensland to fill in for the local doctor.

My husband was pretty fresh out of medical school and still had a baby-looking face. Some of his patients would come in and roughly say to him “Where’s the real doctor?” or “You don’t look old enough to be out of kindergarten”. He was feeling awkward and out of place.

I had some holidays from my work and visited to offer him moral support. I worked in the reception area, alongside the regular medical secretary. While I didn’t know about running a medical practice, I was confident in my ability to get my naturally shy fiance` connecting with the locals.

I was able to get everyone talking in the medical waiting room – people connected. We told stories about our background while people told us stories about their lives. We discussed the challenges of living in rural areas, such as the need for better health care or education. We would watch local football games, hang out in the pub, listen to the concerns of locals.

When it came time to leave people knew, liked and trusted my husband and were sad to see him leave. Connecting and building relationships with your target client, whether online or offline is a vital component of a successful business.

Respected business coaches and marketers are now saying stop concentrating on your social media following or complex marketing campaign and concentrate on building a true connection based on trust like my husband had to do in this small town.

I see many women at networking events and online business women’s groups who seem to think that to be successful they must have a huge social media following or elaborate marketing campaigns.

But recently, I’ve noticed leading business coaches have all been writing posts with similar messages. Women are focusing on the wrong elements in building a successful business and struggling in the process.

Their messages are similar that there are thousands of entrepreneurs making high incomes and having an impact, but you may not have heard them.

Their point is that most of the time a large social media following has nothing to do with your success or income. As coach Sonya Stattmann once told me: “I’ve looked under the hood of many businesses with large social media followings and let me tell you it’s not good.”

I’m a journalist now working with women leaders and changemakers to tell their stories and make an impact. However, I don’t choose my clients by their social media following. I have women come to me bragging about their social media following, but this is often superficial.

The women I work with and want to work with are humble and often too busy doing their work to have elaborate campaigns or huge social media followings.

Don’t get me wrong in the early days of my business I also was focusing on elaborate marketing campaigns or gaining a following. I study, research and work in the marketing sphere. However, I have become somewhat disillusioned with the low rates of conversion of mainstream marketing so now think outside the box.

For people like me working with clients on an individual basis, it’s about building a connection and trust rather than putting all of my energy into growing a social media following or elaborate marketing campaigns.

In the early days of social media and internet marketing, it was easier to make an impact. However, there is a lot of white noise online now without great substance. Talented and honest marketers all agree people are falling for the hype that you need followers and elaborate campaigns to get clients.

Marketing is changing rapidly so now needs to be strategised and can be highly valuable when you want to get to another level in your business. In the meantime, start with the basics like connecting with people and finding common ground to grow.

I love getting positive feedback or a review from people who have worked with me or enjoyed reading my articles. As human beings, we all like to be praised and validated for our efforts, while it also is a positive endorsement to others who may be considering my services. In turn, I like to sing the praises and give positive reviews for people who have delivered a great product or service to me.

However, I feel strongly about giving fake reviews or testimonials. From a personal perspective, false reviews go against my values. As a PR consultant and journalist working with women entrepreneurs and leaders, false reviews can just do more harm than good.

A recent post on a Facebook group for women in business asked people to give fake reviews of each other’s websites or Facebook page. The post to date has had almost 1.5k comments and most in favour of giving each other false reviews. The popularity of that post has led to similar posts and shout-outs for fake reviews.

I was one of a small number of business women to speak up against false reviews. The reasons I included were:

1. You’re damaging your reputation and potentially causing a public relations crisis for your business if word gets out you’ve been conjuring up reviews.

2. Search engines and social media platforms can penalise you for trying to beat the system. I have studied an written an article on this topic – it forms part of what is known as “black hat tactics”.

3. Made up reviews are dishonest, unethical and a reason why people have less trust in marketing. (Research the many articles on this topic)

4. False reviews go against best practice. You may want reviews but as the old saying goes “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Do the hard work and earn reviews. In the long term, your business will benefit from the trust you’re building.

Leading social media marketing strategist Anna Kochetkova advises you should not provide or ask for false reviews.

“You eventually disregard all the real reviews businesses get, making customers trust less,” she says.

Reviews mean you’ve worked with someone and helped them – they’re incredibly precious.”

Anna says fake reviews can damage your business if any of your prospects find out and contribute towards a complete disintegration of marketing.

“People get upset when Facebook changes the algorithm, but all they’re doing is updating their business model because people abuse the system through dodgy practices like fake reviews,” she says.

“The more people do fake reviews then, the bigger a hole is being dug.”

Business coach Sonya Stattmann, who has been helping women entrepreneurs for almost two decades, says women are focusing on the wrong strategies to build their business.

“You won’t get income from Facebook reviews, especially fake ones,” she says.

“You get income by having your attention on the customer, not yourself or vanity metrics.

“You get income by offering a unique solution to someone else’s problem and by having legitimate and real conversations that turn into sales.”

Book Coach Cathryn Mora has some great tips for engaging and connecting your target audience without the need for fake reviews.

“I’ve had much better results from just being ‘social’ on social media,” Cathryn says.

“Engaging in groups, answering questions, being curious, enjoying talking to people…I no longer use my page and am considering deleting it.

“I have many more clients now that I genuinely engage with people than I ever did when I focused on how many likes my page had, pushed ‘one-way’ content out every day and gave away free resources.

Having hundreds of people like your page as a ‘favour’ hurts more than helps you anyway as Facebook essentially punishes you for low engagement by pushing you further and further down the news feed.”

Some women defending fake reviews in these posts say they’re part of “networking” or “marketing”. However, by definition networking means to interact with others to exchange information and develop professional contacts. Marketing is the action of promoting products or services. Neither should involve being unethical or fraudulent.

Public relations which is my speciality area, although I also have experience in marketing, is maintaining and protecting a person or business’s favourable public image. For this reason, I feel compelled to speak out against fake reviews.

I acknowledge building a successful business is hard. There are other ways though to engage with your target client – be creative, tell stories about your work. I’ve heard some beautiful stories of hope and inspiration from women in business. Tell how you are making your products or benefiting clients? I heard a lovely story from a woman importing jewellery to the US made by women in African villages. By selling their jewellery, she is helping raise these women’s families out of poverty. Another woman is making gorgeous shoes from her garage. Inspire and engage people – fake reviews isn’t the answer.

native-advertising-newspaper

I remember as a young journalist reluctantly having to write up advertorials or what we now more commonly refer to as native advertising. Doors would slam as editors battled with advertising heads, reluctant to take their journalists away from a good story to write a “damn marketing fluff piece” as I remember one editor calling advertorials.

Traditionally, journalists and advertisers have been dubious of one another with a relationship akin to church and state. This uneasy relationship was predominantly due to journalists wanting to remain impartial and separate from paid marketing. Revenue brought in by advertising made it possible to fund journalists, whose work in turn attracted an audience appealing to advertisers. However, News Limited Chief Rupert Murdoch who would describe advertising as “rivers of gold” was conceding more than a decade ago that sometimes rivers dry up, saying he doesn’t know “anybody under the age of 30 who has ever looked at a classified ad”.

As journalist Christopher Warren wrote recently the digital challenge for the mass news media has never been about finding readers. It’s always been about advertising and getting revenue.

Ad blocking is not helping the cause and grew by 41per cent globally in 2015  with about 198 million users using these blockers. Display ads are hugely affected by these blockers.

With the decline of advertising, printed papers and the rise of digital, journalists in major news organisations worldwide have been contemplating their career futures.  Fairfax Media is cutting 25 per cent of its remaining metropolitan journalist staff, equal to 125 full-time jobs,  in an effort to help save $30 million across its Australian newspaper operations. A move which has seen journalists strike across the country.

Advertising dollars are desperately needed to keep mainstream media alive and the model for marketing is changing as consumers turn away from traditional advertising.  Statistics show that by 2021, native display ad revenue in the US will make up 74 per cent of total US display ad revenue, up from a 56 percent share in 2016.

What is native advertising?

So what is native advertising other than a fancy buzzword toted by online marketing gurus.

Well, also known as sponsored content it’s editorial in style and designed to blend in with a publication but paid for a business.  We used to call it advertorials. This increases the readability and reach of the content and requires a well-balanced writing style that gently nudges the reader rather than lambasting them with ads.

Some of the most well-regarded newspapers in the world such as The Washington Post, New York Times and Sydney Morning Herald have adopted this practice, which while controversial to many as it blends so closely with editorial looks like it’s here to stay.

An example may be an informative, educational article on changes to the tax system and how it will affect taxpayers lodging their next return. It will simply have a note saying sponsored by a certain firm.

One of my favourite pieces of native advertising appeared on the New York Times website promoting the Netflix series Orange is the New Black.   At almost 1,500-words, the native ad featured stories, video and charts about female incarceration in the U.S.

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(Photo courtesy of the New York Times)

How native advertising impacts brands and the media?

Online news sites are packing a punch and are now the more popular form of consuming news over traditional television, print and radio news. The traditional advertising dollar is also falling as businesses start to explore other ways of connecting with consumers.

Editorial and news departments may still like to maintain their independence of each other in a way similar to the doctrine of the separation of powers. However, the media landscape has become increasingly complex in a matter of only a few years with vast changes in consumer behaviour along with how news is dispersed and received.

Like it or not native advertising is becoming an imperative part of content marketing strategies and how brands communicate, increasing loyalty and a strong following.