maanantai 23. huhtikuuta 2018

Ragan.com: 16 clever pangrams for word lovers

How often does every letter in the alphabet appear in a sentence?

That’s exactly what makes a “pangram” special. The most well-known such phrase is: “The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog.”

Pangrams have been used for years to teach handwriting and typing—and to test typewriters, telegraphs, printers, typefaces and software. Graphic and font designers use pangrams to illustrate their work.

For many pangram enthusiasts, the best pangrams are those with the fewest letters. “Mr. Jock, TV quiz Ph.D., bags few lynx.” is considered a “perfect pangram” because it contains only 26 letters.

Although these are undoubtedly the most difficult pangrams to write, cleverness and clarity should can make a pangram shine, too. Here are some extra creative pangrams (ordered by letter count).

1. The five boxing wizards jump quickly.

2. Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.

3. Go, lazy fat vixen; be shrewd, jump quick.

4. When zombies arrive, quickly fax Judge Pat.

5. Amazingly few discotheques provide jukeboxes.

6. Puzzled women bequeath jerks very exotic gifts.

7. The quick onyx goblin jumps over the lazy dwarf.

8. Brawny gods just flocked up to quiz and vex him.

9. Watch “Jeopardy!”, Alex Trebek’s fun TV quiz game.

[FREE DOWNLOAD: 10 punctuation essentials]

10. Six big devils from Japan quickly forgot how to waltz.

11. Five or six big jet planes zoomed quickly by the tower.

12. Jack amazed a few girls by dropping the antique onyx vase.

13. A quick movement of the enemy will jeopardize six gunboats.

14. Jaded zombies acted quaintly but kept driving their oxen forward.

15. No kidding—Lorenzo called off his trip to Mexico City just because they told him the conquistadors were extinct.

And here is my own pangram:

16. Quixotic jugglers repent; wave away fake methods and brazen mishaps.

How about you? Do you have a pangram of your own to share?

Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor and a regular contributor to PR Daily. Read more of her posts on writing and word play at impertinentremarks.com.

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Ragan.com: 4 secrets for generating buzz with online contests

People love freebies—and many love to win.

Throngs of consumers grabbed a complimentary ice cream or Italian ice to celebrate the firstday of spring, and that same clamoring can be seen online as consumers share branded posts on their social media feeds in the hopes of winning swag.

Hootsuite wrote in a blog post:

According to a poll conducted by the Content Marketing Institute and ion interactive, 81 percent of content marketers say interactive content (like polls, contests, quizzes, and so on) grabs readers’ attention more effectively than static content. It’s not surprising, then, that half of content marketers are using contests as a component of their marketing strategy.

Thinking of launching a contest to breathe life into your PR and marketing efforts? Consider these takeaways:

1. Outline your goals.

Effective PR and marketing efforts require a foundation that starts with goals and objectives. These should be more than vanity metrics and superficial desires, such as “more Facebook followers” or “going viral.”

As soon as you know what you’re after—for example, more prospective leads for a new product or service or customer content for future social media campaigns—build your contest with that goal in mind.

Include fields on your entry forms for consumer information you need to fulfill your goal, and select specific platforms to reach your desired audiences. Consider the language and other steps you must take to make your contest posts effective on each platform—especially those with recent algorithm changes, such as Facebook.

[RELATED: Weave storytelling into every corporate communication, and craft copy that captures your brand voice.]

2. Select appealing prizes.

Pens, pins and other trinkets might work well for trade shows and conferences, but consumers won’t want to give you their information unless there’s a chance they’ll win something they actually want.

Consider offering a gift basket of your most popular products or, if you’re an online retailer, credit to spend on anything within your store that the winners wish. You can also give away trips and services that tie in with either your organization or your contest messaging, such as a family vacation, spa services or groceries.

Cash is also a popular (and versatile) prize—and you can use the allure of currency while showcasing your brand. Give away gift certificates or prepaid gift cards that you can use like credit cards that has your organization’s name, logo and colors on it.

You can also partner with other organizations to boost your contest’s visibility and offer additional prizes. Whatever route you take, select items that seem equal to the amount of work you’re having your audience do to enter (filling out a short form vs. entering a photo contest and racking up referrals, for example). Also remember that the bigger and more plentiful the prizes, the more enticing your contest will be.

3. Make your contest simple and easy to share.

Even if you have great prizes and a solid goal, distribution is crucial: Contests require a large amount of participation to make the marketing effort truly effective.

Use a hashtag so entrants can quickly find and share the contest information, and consider making referrals a part of the contest (you can do this through a voting system or additional entries with more referral clicks). Tease prizes and share content from former winners to give you additional material to share.

Employ specific contest tools such as WooboxRafflecopterWishpond or ShortStack to create the actual contest and forms so you can spend your time on an effective distribution strategy. If you’ve partnered with another organization, coordinate your efforts across social media platforms and in other marketing channels to ensure that the largest audience can see your contest—and in many cases, can see it several times.

4. Strategically follow up.

Contests are great lead generation tools: They enable marketers to easily collect email addresses and other information which they can then use to build email marketing lists and pitch additional offerings to potentially interested consumers.

However, giving contact information to sign up for a contest doesn’t automatically imply interest in your organization, its products or its services—and people can quickly become fatigued (and even annoyed) if you overwhelm them with marketing emails.

When your contest ends, follow up strategically. Test different marketing messages to see what resonates. If you’ve collected additional information, such as demographic information or preferences, use that to further hone your messages.

Wishpond wrote in a blog post:

Getting some additional information (for example, the type of sport an entrant plays if you’re a gym) by adding a dropdown or checkbox field to your form gives you some more insight into potential customers. When you’re creating your after-contest email drips, you can segment your entrants based on this new information, allowing you to better personalize your marketing efforts.

You can also offer coupon codes and limited-time deals, but don’t send too many emails. A potential customer might first interact with your organization because of the contest you created, but how you communicate after the promotion is over can make strong impressions. It’s up to you to make them positive.

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Ragan.com: 6 best SEO tools for marketing newbies

You have correctly determined that search engine optimization (SEO) is important for your business or organization.

However, SEO covers a lot of ground, so you should ease into learning best practices and strategies in phases. You might be familiar with some of these terms and tools already, but if not, here’s how you can dig in.

Onsite vs. offsite

There are two big umbrella terms for SEO: onsite and offsite.

The foundation of SEO is onsite, where you focus on tuning up your website (on the backend) so search engines can understand the content and structure of your website. The more your site adheres to search engines’ criteria regarding relevant content, keywords, meta-tags and other features, the higher you will rank on their indexes and ultimately meet the goal all of us have of being on page one of their search engine results page (SERPs).

Offsite SEO includes functions performed outside of your own website to impact your search engine rankings. These tactics range from backlinks in articles from well-respected and higher authority websites to your site to blogger mentions and links.

Both on and offsite are critical for site optimization.

Here are the tools you will need to maximize your SEO:

1. Google Analytics

One of the first tools in your arsenal should be Google Analytics.

This is a free service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. This is your main tool to assess your site’s performance from data about visitors, traffic, bounce rate, etc. Plus, Google offers some helpful online courses for Google Analytics beginners, so you can get started.

[RELATED: A communications audit from Ragan Consulting Group is the first step in achieving corporate communications excellence.]

2. Google Webmaster Tools

This tool breaks down your site’s data into more digestible chunks than Google Analytics, with a dashboard featuring information such as link traffic to your site, keywords and crawl errors.

To use Google Webmaster Tools, you must join it first. Then you will need to go through the verification process, so that Google knows you are the legitimate owner of the site. It is a free service, but you give up some privacy.

3. SEMrush

For a keyword planner you could use Google Keyword Planner, but you will need an Adwords account. Instead, SEMrush is a better long-term tool, especially if you don’t use Adwords.

SEMrush has several functions, but foremost is the ability to check out your competitors’ ad strategies and budgets while discovering which keywords are benefitting your competitors.

You can also collect in-depth information, including cost-per-click (CPC), volume, trends, long tail keywords and other data. SEMrush also analyzes the common keywords found on the top 100 domains for a search term on Google and Bing. These related keywords show synonyms and other proposed variations.

4. Mozbar

The Mozbar, a part of Moz.com and its digital marketing services suite, helps you analyze your site and other sites you want to benchmark. It resides in your toolbar where you can conveniently output a report on any site, from tags and titles to other descriptions necessary for you to be a true SEO specialist.

5. Majestic

Once you begin to get a handle on onsite SEO you can further audit your site or your competitors’ sites with Majestic’s tools.

One big feature Majestic offers is analyzing a site’s “trust flow.” Majestic defines “trust flow” as the score based on the traffic that flows through a link, the relevancy of the linking site and the links leading to that site.

By looking up how trusted a site is, you can determine whether you want to work to get that site to link to your site and you can analyze how many links and the type of links your competitor(s) have scored.

6. Cyfe

Cyfe integrates all of the online marketing analytics you have collected in one dashboard, helping you see all of your information in one place with real time and historical data. You can also generate reports and integrate custom data sources, such as custom widgets or APIs.

What would you add to the list?

Holly Rollins is the president of 10x Digital.

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Ragan.com: 13 inspiring Shakespeare quotes for communicators

Shakespeare’s birthday already? Time flies.

When you work for Mark Ragan—our CEO, as well as a Shakespearean actor and unrepentant bardolitor—you can’t avoid being swept up in the merrymaking every April 23.

Here at Ragan Communications, we’ll celebrate by quaffing tankards of ale and feasting on pigeons, a couple of short-legged hens, a joint of mutton, and ill-roasted eggs.

To honor the peerless Bard, I called for communications tips inspired by his great words.

Here’s a sampling of the quotations beloved by erudite communications pros, as well as several of my learned colleagues:

1. “The wheel is come full circle.”

At this moment in “King Lear," Edmund’s bad deeds have come back to haunt him, says Amanda Plecas, vice president and chief creative officer at Waterhouse Public Relations.

“We should know that what we say can come back to us later—we should be thoughtful with our words,” she says. “Be fully accurate, open and honest.”

2. “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”

Heather Taylor, communications coordinator for MyCorporation.com, finds inspiration in

The Merry Wives of Windsor.”

“Don't wait until the absolute last minute to deliver on anything,” she says. “Work ahead on your existing assignments, and plan ahead with your editorial calendar.”

[RELATED: Take a three-minute communicator evaluation to see how you stack up.]

3. “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!”

Ruthless Lady Macbeth might terrify us, but let her serve as a warning to PR pros, says David Langton, president of Langton Creative Group. “Whether it's a media spot, an ad spot or a spot on a podcast, show or website, Shakespeare reminds us that no one wants to experience bad communication or PR. The last thing you want to do is alienate your audience so much that they are screaming for you to get out of their lives.”

4. “Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.”

Julius Caesar stoically declared this, and we all know how he ended up: dead.

Still, Jason Roop, who does content marketing and public relations for Springstory, offers this sage interpretation: “When you find yourself holding back from your story, getting to the heart of your message and connecting with your audience authentically, take the advice from Julius Caesar to be bold, courageous and true.”

5. “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below. Words without thoughts never to heaven go."

This quote from Claudius in “Hamlet” inspires Holly Lanier, PR coordinator for Paradise Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations. She explains, “In the PR world, it's easy to use empty phrases and produce a lot of fluff ... but in my experience it's always important for PR professionals and internal communicators to be genuine and imbue their words with meaning and intent.”

6. “Brevity is the soul of wit.”

Many communicators said they are inspired by Polonius’s advice to Laertes in “Hamlet.” Brad Plothow, vice president of marketing and communications at Womply, exhorts: “Write shorter, tighter. Get to the point. Stop burying the lede. Completely eradicate ‘I thought you’d be interested in this news’ and similar filler-fluff from email pitches.”

7. “Men of few words are the best men.”

Ted Kitterman, editor of PR Daily and actor, prefers “Henry V” as an alternative to Polonius’s orations. “While we can all agree that shorter is better,” Kitterman avers, “the character Polonious continues to talk for quite some time after promising to be brief, to the chagrin of his son and breaking his own rule, which is a lesson for all communicators.”

8. “Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue.”

Mark Ragan often threatens to have us banished from staff meetings and sent to the stocks if we saw the air, bellow like town criers and split the ears of the groundlings. “The entire ‘Speak the Speech, I pray you’ lecture by Hamlet to the Players could be applied to public speaking and the hazards of overdoing it,” he says.

9. “Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.”

“Hamlet” also inspires Jonathan Rick of Jonathan Rick Group. “The best writers agonize over the perfect word,” he says. “We never tire of going back and forth over which locutions work best, and our fingers instinctively know the keyboard shortcut in every program for the thesaurus.”

10. “No legacy is so rich as honesty.”

Mariana’s demand for truthfulness “All’s Well That Ends Well" gets a thumbs-up from Katie Powell Bell with Icon Media Group.

“As a PR professional, my job is to be transparent always, especially when it’s hard, to best serve my client and that contact,” she says. “It’s not always easy but leaves you with a reputation of excellence and honesty, which is always a win.”

11. “All that glitters is not gold.”

Ragan.com editor Robby Brumberg urges you to consider the Prince of Morocco’s words in “The Merchant of Venice” and stop “chasing after new, shiny features and platforms.”

Citing the quote, Taylor adds, “Do not mark your success by vanity metrics, like the amount of followers you have on social media platforms or likes you get.”

12. “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.”

Ragan Executive Editor Rob Reinalda (another actor on staff) finds inspiration in this quote from “All’s Well That Ends Well." “Maintain a generosity of spirit in your professional dealings,” he says, “but be aware that some might not respond in kind and that ethics have a way of mutating.”

13. “Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.”

Jeremy Thompson, a Ragan fulfillment associate, notes Lucio’s exhortation in “Measure for Measure."

“Believe in yourself and go for it,” he says. “Whether it’s fearing to put an idea on the page or the public speaking jitters, trust that you have something important to say, and if you say it with importance other people will feel it, too.”

@byworking



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sunnuntai 22. huhtikuuta 2018

Ragan.com: The virtues of writing like a human being

Stop me if you’ve read this one before:

As an organization, all employees have demonstrated success in every facet of our strategic vision, settling for nothing less than the highest standard of operational quality, and for that reason, you deserve to be praised for your continued focus on improvement.

That’s a typical corporate-speak memo. It’s not bad. It’s grammatically correct and sticks to a clear message.

If you manage internal communications for a company, and you’re tasked with crafting a congratulatory note to employees, this is probably close to what you’d write. I know it’s what I’d write—because I did.

That’s from an article I wrote last year for our internal newsletter. It checked all the boxes, and it got management approval. The problem is that it’s boring.

[FREE GUIDE: How to transform dull stories into compelling content]

What’s wrong with boring? Official company messages aren’t required to be anything more than factual. However, boring messages are easily ignored. The onus is on communicators to bridge the divide between how we communicate “officially” and how we communicate “naturally.”

How we communicate outside of work

Imagine your friend Meghan invited everyone to a party at her house—everyone except you. Here’s the text Meghan sends you that night:

BRANDON OMG I AM SO SO SO SORRY! I thought you were on that group text and just found out that you weren’t! I feel sooooooo bad! Grab an Uber and I’ll pay for it!

That’s terrible writing, right? Messages like these are the reason why people say texting is destroying the English language. Any of us could look at that message and rightfully think the same thing, but read it again.

Notice how you react to that message. You can’t help but empathize with Meghan and feel her regret. She is truly sorry, and she’s being completely genuine. As the receiver of that message, I understand how she feels.

Compare your reaction to that message with this alternative:

Brandon, I am sorry. I thought you were on that group text and just found out that you weren’t. I feel so bad. Grab an Uber, and I’ll pay for it for you.

That’s the exact same message, just without all the extra punctuation (and aggressive, all-caps wording). It’s better grammar and looks much nicer, but it’s a bit dry and lifeless. The first text reads like a friend talking to a friend. The second reads like a memo between business associates. What’s more, it sounds like it might even be a second or third draft. The sincerity is completely gone.

This example comes from Georgetown University professors Deborah Tannen and Anna Marie Trestor. They conducted a study using a similar message and reached the same conclusion: Repeated characters and extra punctuation (“text speak”) more effectively conveyed tone and sincerity.

That’s not to say we communicators should start littering our prose with emoji and exclamation points, but there is an underlying lesson.

The evolution of communication

Many will lament the degradation of language, but what we’re seeing is an evolution of communication. Our written communications, thanks to technology, are evolving to better convey more information. We’re no longer just communicating words; we’re also communicating a tone of voice.

If you’re a living, breathing human being, then you’re reading words with a tone of voice in your head. That imaginary tone is influenced by sentence structure. Even now as you’re reading this, your brain is busy filling in the nuances of a human voice.

When we ignore tone in our writing—when we write too formally—we’re inadvertently removing sincerity and emotion from our message. Without sincerity and emotion, our messages fall flat—or they’re easily misinterpreted. That’s exactly what corporate communicators are trying to avoid.

A new approach to corporate writing

No, don’t randomly insert extra exclamation points into your CEO’s employee letter. Instead, take a step back from the message, and think about what it would sound like if it were written the way he or she speaks in conversation.

Pare down complicated sentences. Get rid of unnecessary buzzwords, adjectives and adverbs, and stop worrying about what sounds “professional.” Focus on what’s real.

True authenticity conveys emotion and sincerity, and you get authenticity by writing the way we speak. Do you know anyone who speaks like a corporate memo?

Let’s go back to the opening example. Here’s how you could make it sound less robotic and more like it came from the mouth of an actual human being:

Hey team:

Great job! I’m thrilled with our progress.

Operations: nailed it.

Strategic vision: nailed it.

Continuous improvement: double nailed it.

It’s that easy. When you put more effort into your tone instead of your words, your audience will be more likely listen (and empathize).

Brandon Daniels is an internal communications specialist at Marathon Petroleum Co. You can follow him on his website brandon-daniels.com or on Twitter.



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Ragan.com: Infographic: 6 social media marketing trends to watch

When it comes to social media marketing, one thing is certain: Nothing lasts forever.

What worked last year for your marketing strategy might not this year.

The landscape is constantly evolving, and brand managers must stay privy to the latest practices to have the upper hand.

Where—and on whom—should your organization be spending its marketing dollars? What must your social media team be prepared for? How are consumers communicating on these platforms?

These are all questions that keep brand managers up at night.

Take a breath: An infographic from Digital Marketing Philippines shares the social media practices that will likely be shaping the industry.

They include:

  • Don’t skimp on targeting Generation Z.
  • Prepare your organization for the online “call out” culture.
  • Fake news isn’t going anywhere.
[RELATED: Create videos, infographics and images that "wow," even on a shoestring budget.]

See the full infographic below to discover the tactics that will lead to social media marketing success:





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lauantai 21. huhtikuuta 2018

Ragan.com: Tricks for crafting the perfect headline or subject line

In Hollywood, it’s the logline. In newsrooms, it’s the headline.

In PR, it’s the email subject line—and first sentence of an email pitch—that can make all the difference when PR pros pitch media outlets, but how can you possibly present the gist of a story in just a few words?

Try borrowing logline/headline strategy from the entertainment and news businesses.

Start with the end in mind

Before a movie script is written--or any scenes are shot—Hollywood producers imagine a movie based on a one-sentence description (the logline) of the story?

Here’s an example of a logline for the 2004 cult hit Napoleon Dynamite from TV Guide:

A listless and alienated teenager decides to help his new friend win the class presidency in their small western high school, while he deals with his bizarre family life back home.

Similarly, in newsrooms editors often assign feature articles with enticing headlines—even before journalists are assigned to cover the stories. Just check out this scene from HBO drama series "The Newsroom" in which a reporter tries to boil down what’s most compelling to her cable news audience from a dire but complicated Environmental Protection Agency report.

In the business world, management gurus from Stephen Covey to Tim Ferriss have encouraged us to “start with the end in mind” or “work backwards.” Amazon founder (and coincidently, Washington Post owner) Jeff Bezos famously asks employees to start with what they think Amazon customers—and Washington Post readers—want before the employees create anything. The head of Amazon Web Services revealed a few years ago that software programmers are required to write a headline and press release before they even write a line of code for a new product offering.

[FREE DOWNLOAD: How reporters use social media in their jobs]

Before you get started

Before you write your subject line and first sentence of your email pitch, there are some things you must know:

  • What specifically the “news” is.
  • What’s your offer? What is it that you are using to entice the reporter to say yes? Is it an exclusive, an in-person interview, an advance copy of a report, etc.?
  • What’s the best vehicle for your story? Is it breaking news, a feature, an opinion piece?
  • What audience does your media contact have? Is what you’re pitching important to them?

Crafting your subject line

Here’s where you copy what the newsroom does and write your headline.

Imagine you work at Apple and you’re pitching reporters on a story ahead of the iPhone X launch.

Here are some ideas you might use for your email subject line:

  • David: Apple’s new face of iPhone will recognize yours
  • New phone for Apple fanboys and -girls: Preview Monday?
  • Exclusive? Jony Ive on new iPhone X, Wed early
  • Exclusive: Heeeeere’s Jony (Ive)!
  • Peek inside Jony Ive’s iPhone X: Tues 2pm?
  • Inside the mind of Ive, iPhone X designer
  • Meet tomorrow for first look at the iPhone X?

Here are some tips for writing a compelling headline/subject line.

  • Be brief. You don’t have much room, time or attention. Keep it short and pithy.
  • Create a sense of urgency. Emphasize time-sensitivity, if it’s important to the pitch.
  • Inspire curiosity. Tease the story. Use words that grab attention. Highlight what is significant.
  • Be useful. If you know your local reporter is writing a piece that requires local input, offer your spokesperson, especially if the reporter is on deadline.
  • Use facts and figures. Support your story with numbers or research data where appropriate.
  • Front-load it. Find a credible way to use a recognizable company or product name (e.g., iPhone, Uber). Place it early in your subject line.
  • Keep it lively. Eliminate (most) adverbs and adjectives. Let nouns and verbs do the heavy lifting.
  • Abbreviate. It’s OK to use common abbreviations in a subject line.
  • Plan for truncation. Expect your subject line to be cut off from the recipient’s full view.
  • Choose when to be boring. Sometimes the obvious just works.
Mistakes to avoid

Don't get on a journalist's bad side. Here's what not to do in a subject line.

  • Don’t start with “Press Release,” “Story Idea,” “Pitch,” or “Interview Opp.” Those end up in the trash.
  • Don’t use all caps.
  • Don’t name drop (unless you can deliver).

How do you write a first sentence that fulfills the promise of your subject line?

Here’s where you emulate Hollywood and use your logline. Write the first sentence (or two) of your email pitch as if it were the lede—minus the puffy adjectives—of a press release. Use words that you imagine the publication itself might use if its own journalists were telling the story.

Here are some techniques to try:

  • Riff on a recent article the journalist wrote, or ride a hot trend to grab attention.
  • Offer an exclusive.
  • Personalize it.
  • Localize it.
  • Make it an invitation.

Here’s what won’t fly:

  • “I hope this email finds you well.” Skip the so-called niceties and get right to the point.
  • Don’t be long-winded. Pare your pitch to two (maximum of three) short, clean paragraphs.
  • Attachments: They can snag your email in the media organization’s spam filter or annoy editors who might be paging through pitches on their cellphones.

What techniques do you use to write effective email subject lines and pitches?

Colleen Martell, CEO and chief strategist of Martell Communications, a Silicon Valley PR firm. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.

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