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    Led by Paul Maccabee, MaccaPR is a blog from Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.

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    Our PR Agency's Secrets For Top-Performing Resumes

    Posted by Gwen Chynoweth on Apr 14, 2015 7:12:53 AM

    With thousands of new college grads hitting the pavement looking for work in public relations, we thought this month would be a good time to share what our Minneapolis PR and online marketing agency considers to be the most critical components of a persuasive resume.

    We take the hiring of entry level talent every bit as seriously as when we’re seeking more senior account staff. Resumes, along with a candidate’s online presence (more on that in a bit…) give us a clear indication of how someone brands themselves and, therefore, their aptitude to represent our clients’ brands.

    Here are some of the elements we look for:

    1. Real-world experience beyond the classroom


    Oftentimes a young applicant lists coursework they’ve taken in college that’s related to PR, journalism or social media. This is unnecessary and takes up valuable real estate on your resume that could be used for more relevant information (i.e. more compelling copy that could increase your chances of winning that first PR job). After all, you’ve already cited your degree, major and minor, which implies that you’ve completed the appropriate PR coursework.

    Of course, it’s important to know how PR should work. Our agency staff needs to know that so we can apply the practice successfully to meet our clients’ objectives, and be able to define a PR campaign’s success and measure it. So, theory is a great place to start and the classroom is a great place to acquire theory.

    But the real world of agency PR is messy. Just a few examples:

    • The best laid PR and social media marketing plans and campaigns inevitably hit unforeseen snags that require on-your-feet thinking and wise decision-making.
    • One contact at a client company is convinced that a particular strategy is perfect, but a different contact at the same company demands that we focus on some other strategy. You need to mediate.
    • The media expects one thing from your PR pitch of a story, but the client wants you to deliver something not even remotely addressing the media’s needs. What do you do?

    For any agency to give more than a moment’s consideration to a college graduate’s resume, skip your list of coursework. Instead, highlight the real-world PR problem solving skills you exercised during internships, volunteer or part-time work or freelance gigs; illustrate them by quantifying the results you achieved.

    One recent intern applicant cited on her resume: “Revamped [Company]’s in-house social media strategy and increased engagement by 14 percent.” Another wrote: “Strengthened writing skills by preparing budgets, itineraries, letters of intent, and more.” The first example here quantifies the results of a specific effort, although it could be made even stronger by detailing how the social media strategy was revamped (Was the audience focus refined? Did they switch social media channels to better reach a particular audience or change messaging so it better resonated?) The second example is good because it describes to what assignments the candidate stretched her writing skills.

    2. Number and quality of internships


    Gone are the days when just one or two three-month internships will qualify you for the fast-paced, hectic nature of agency PR. Not only has our field morphed so dramatically over the past five years that limited experience won’t cover the basics anymore, but competition for entry-level agency jobs is fierce. The candidates who stand out for us cite multiple internships – in one extreme case, as many as nine! These applicants’ resumes make it to the top of our pile because they show – at least on paper – that they take their future in PR seriously, are not afraid to work hard, try new tasks, and have an insatiable appetite for learning and contributing.

    If, for some reason, internships are hard for you to come by, create you own by volunteering for nonprofits whose causes you believe in. Offer to write for their newsletter or blog, create their social media content – even better, to create their social media presence. Join their membership committee and help recruit new members. Assist them in organizing and promoting fundraising events. Track your successes and quantify them on your resume. 

    How? Quoting from a resume that’s currently on my desk: “Volunteered 100+ hours and strengthened personal leadership skills by motivating 1st-year students.” That one I noticed!

    3. How can you contribute from the first day on the job?


    Nearly every applicant who’s fresh out of college declares that they are eager to learn; which is great, for we expect all of our employees to learn and grow, regardless of where they are in their PR career. But our PR agency also wants to know how you are going hit the ground running and contribute to the success of our clients right now. Your resume can reflect that proactive attitude and ability by highlighting any “wins” you earned during whatever work experience you’ve had.

    Did you create weekly and monthly social media calendars during an internship? If so, in addition to listing that task, summarize any challenge you overcame to complete it and how you managed to do it. Did you write and distribute media alerts for special events? Great – but that’s only a piece of the story. The more important (unasked) question to answer: What kind of media coverage or social media engagement and buzz resulted from your effort? In other words, anticipate what a potential agency employer wants of a high quality worker and proactively address those needs by citing the results of your work, not just the work itself.

    4. Design is fine, but don’t carry it too far


    It’s understandable that you want to attract attention to your resume, to make it look sophisticated by using design elements such as unusual fonts, graphics and geometric patterns. However, skip design for design’s sake: Using bold design techniques can hamper, not help, unless you are applying to a graphic design firm. Keep in mind that a PR hiring manager is going to spend only a few seconds glancing at your application. If design distracts from vital information, your resume will not make it to the next round.

    Instead, aim for a clean, one-page layout that employs wise use of white space. That said, do NOT extend right and left margins to the point where type is falling off the edges of the page. Yes, some people do this to try to fit everything on one page. If you’ve had multiple internships that just can’t easily fit on one page, better to extend your resume to two pages than try to cram everything into an unreadable blob of text.

    And, if you can’t let go of design elements, use them minimally. For example, employ graphics that convey at a glance information about you that would otherwise be too wordy to explain. (Think: A simple infographic about you). Making use of spot color can be a good choice, too. Use a second color to highlight headings in your resume or other copy that you want to stand out. There are plenty of great design examples online – find one and tailor it to make it yours.

    One more note on resume design, which actually has to do with your text. Of course, you want your name to be remembered, but using 40-point type at the top of the page to spell it out isn’t the way to earn a positive first impression. A font that size screams at a hiring decision-maker and makes it difficult to move past. I’ll remember that blaring “headline” long before I’ll remember reading any of your qualifications.

    5. Include links to online profiles, such as LinkedIn and Twitter


    We’ll look for your presence on social media channels, anyway, so why not be proactive and list them on your resume?

    A word of caution, however: Pay attention to what you’re tweeting; clean up your Facebook page, be careful what you’re posting to Instagram or Pinterest. Social media is now an important tool in PR and marketing, and how you present and promote yourself online will tell us a lot about how you’ll do the same for our clients. A few pointers:

    • Your Spring Break revelry photos may live forever on your social channels – or at least long enough to horrify an agency’s HR director, convincing her that you are not cut out for a professional environment with high expectations.
    • Proofread everything – even your tweets! Your writing, wherever it appears, is a direct reflection on your standards for excellence. What’s more, writing is a foundational craft that’s critical to any PR executive’s success. Poor grammar or spelling, even in your social media posts, is a red flag to any potential PR agency employer that you won’t pay attention to those details on the job, either.
    • Posting negative comments about past employment experiences, no matter how justified you feel they are. Your future employer is looking for someone with a positive, can-do attitude, who can work effectively as part of a team and who is willing to solve problems rather than complain about them.
    • Avoid ranting about controversial topics. Yes, you’re entitled to free speech, but when you’re looking for that critical first job out of college, you want prospective employers to focus on your positive attributes: Your skills, education, aptitude, experience, knowledge and professionalism.

    Of course, everyone you know will be ready to give you advice on the best way to prepare your resume. The options are endless and there’s no single “right” choice. Just know that your document is going to receive only a few seconds’ initial inspection, so make that precious time count by putting your best writing and presentation skills to work!

    Related Topic: 5 Cover Letter Mistakes

    Gwen ChynowethGwen Chynoweth is executive vice president and chief talent officer at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.



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    Resume Tips for Entry Level Public Relations Professionals via Maccabee Public Relations Slideshare

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    Topics: Agency Life

    5 Key Takeaways From Social Media Marketing World

    Posted by Leila Hirsch on Apr 2, 2015 7:16:00 AM

    SMMWSurrounded by podcasters, bloggers and marketers, I spent last week immersed in all things social at Social Media Marketing World. With more than 100 sessions presented by experts from LinkedIn and Yahoo to the Boston Celtics and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, attendees from 49 countries descended upon San Diego.

    It began with an insightful keynote presentation on the top trends in social media in 2015 from Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner, the conference host. During his presentation, Stelzner noted current trends, such as the growth of podcasting and revealed new online trends, such as the increasingly strong influence of native video.

    Here are top five takeaways from last week's Social Media Marketing World (#SMMW15) conference:

    1. Every piece of your content needs a visual.

    Without a doubt, the top trend I heard reiterated time and time again at SMMW15 was that every piece of content your brand or company generates needs some sort of visual. This includes all social posts and blog posts. You name it, it probably needs a visual!

    For Twitter alone, including a photo with your tweet nearly doubles your chances of engagement with that post, according to Guy Kawasaki, author and former chief evangelist for Apple, in his presentation, "10 Ways to Pack a Punch with Visual Marketing." Who doesn’t want 200 percent more engagement with their brand’s followers?

    If you need further proof as to why every post should include a visual, picture this: as you scroll through your Twitter feed do you stop to read the tweets that are text only or do your eyes gravitate to those posts with photos? "... tweets with images were found to have generated 18 percent more clicks than those without images and were favorited 89 percent more as well," according to Social Media Impact. Your brands' consumers are no different. Captivate customers with imagery before your competitor does. 

    As Facebook marketing thought leader Mari Smith covered in her "How To Use Facebook To Increase Sales" presentation, consumers who use Google are in search mode, while consumers who use Facebook are in socialize mode. Facebook users are often looking to be social; so, ask yourself if your brand’s social posts are engaging. Do the visuals make the post pop off the page and grab the attention of viewers? "Content is king, but engagement is queen and she rules the house!," according to Smith.

    2. Be Seen on Pinterest.

    If you haven’t already, it’s time to claim a place for your brand on Pinterest. Why? Nearly all pinners (98 percent, according to Peg Fitzpatrick) have tried something new that they saw on Pinterest. Marketers can't argue with a statistic that incredible! This means that for brands already on Pinterest, a good portion of active Pinterest users are trying their products, reading their content and responding to their calls to action.


    Pinterest is visual marketing at its highest level as it allows brands to build communities, establish engaged audiences, and deliver content in a way unlike any other channel. Brands such as HGTV and Chobani are doing great work on Pinterest by delivering to their followers thoughtful and useful content coupled with beautiful imagery.

    I often heard repeated during the conference that Pinterest is the new Google. More and more often consumers are going to Pinterest to search instead of to the more traditional avenues of Google or Bing. What does this mean for your brand? Use keywords (e.g. terms that help classify digital content) and take time to appropriately establish the copy of your Pinterest boards and pins. Take into account what your consumers are searching for. What will lead them to your content? 

    Pinterest recently upgraded its search function by increasing the importance of keywords. Using keywords in the content of pins, board titles and board descriptions, your brand increases its chances of jumping to the top of search results and Pinterest’s smart feed. Brands often forget to use keywords in image titles. Google searches a number of places when indexing content, including image titles, so don’t forget to name each photo appropriately before uploading in pin format.

    3. Native video is taking off.

    Both Facebook and Twitter have recently launched native video applications for the social platforms. Native video, as defined by AdWeek: short clips that are uploaded to or created on social networks and played in-feed as opposed to links to videos hosted on other sites.

    If you’ve visited Facebook lately, you most likely noticed the increased number of videos found in your newsfeed. Brands are using the social platform's video feature to not only increase engagement with followers, but also to substantially increase exposure with impressive ROI numbers. After only two seconds of play, a video has been counted as a view. Videos autoplay on newsfeeds, meaning there's the opportunity for enormous views.

    Native video is especially important for Twitter as it allows you to upload up to a 30-second video that doesn’t count against the 140-character limitation placed by the social platform. Think of the content a brand could deliver in 30 seconds instead of only 140 text characters. The options are limitless and if your company hasn’t tried it yet, I recommend looking into native video on Twitter further to find out how your brand could leverage this feature.


    (Source: TIME)

    By now you’ve surely heard of the sensations created by Meerkat and Periscope. Meerkat, launched in February, took social media by storm as users were now able to use the live-streaming video app to broadcast to audiences. Meerkat was all the rage at Day 1 of Social Media Marketing World with speakers and audiences using the app to broadcast presentations and events in San Diego. What followed on Day 2 sent social media marketers into a tizzy of debate when Twitter launched its answer to Meerkat... Periscope. Is there a better place for the news of a competitive live-streaming video app to go live than at a social media conference with attendees from around the world tweeting constantly? From SnapChat to Periscope, what we know is that video apps will continue to grow; brands should think about how they can leverage video on each unique platform in the future.

    4. Embrace data and deliver measurable ROI results.  

    SMMW2Nichole Kelly, president of SME Digital, gave a great presentation on, “How to Become an ROI-Driven Social Marketer.” She said something that every marketer can relate to:

    What's holding us back from ROI is the fear of failure.

    Kelly said marketers fear data, which documents measurable results of a marketing campaign... because it can tell us if we have succeded or haven’t delivered on the promise of that initiative. Instead of fearing data, we need to embrace it, she preached.

    There are a number of tools, from Facebook Insights to Google Analytics, which marketers can use to quantify the results of their campaigns. Although this tool has been around for quite some time, one you may have not used is Google Trends. Google Trends helps you explore the popularity of a search term, keyword or image to measure patterns of how it performed over a period of time. Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, finds this tool to be incredibly helpful for brands to deliver targeted content. 

    More than one presenter at SMMW15 said that if your brand does only one thing to prove ROI, it has to be tracking your links. Any number of link shorteners will work, such as or, but brands have to use them! There should be a trackable link in every blog post, Instagram bio section and tweet. Without tracking links, brands are unable to clearly identify which type of content is working and which isn’t.

    5. Deliver content targeted to your brand's audience.

    How much content is too much? What many speakers touched upon at SMMW15 is that brands need to worry less about whether content is about them, and instead focus on whether or not it’s helpful to the consumer. By providing content that is useful to the consumer, a brand becomes the hero and is more likely to create an engaged following for the brand.

    Brands need to consider that consumers are always listening, even if they're not engaging. This is a topic that Kim Garst, Twitter thought leader, discussed in her presentation, “How to Sell with Twitter: Techniques That Work.” The implications of social listening are that even though a consumer may not like, retweet or comment on a piece of your content, they are taking note of it. Garst suggested that brands need to be aware of the content they publish every day; each piece of content has future sales capability regardless of interaction.

    In order to ensure that your brand’s content delivers the results you're looking for, Joe Pulizzi told the audience of his “How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy” session to develop an editorial mission statement. An editorial mission statement allows everyone in your company, in addition to those who interact with the company externally, to be on the same page by establishing what your brand is all about. This editorial mission statement will also help a company establish exactly who their target audience is while delivering content that's valuable to their consumers.

    For Pulizzi, that means subscribers. Because brands do not own the followers on any of their social platforms, they need to use these platforms as a means to building their subscriber lists. By delivering informative content through social media, brands are able to build relationships with followers that will convert them into subscribers. How do brands do this? According to Pulizzi, use the 411 rule. Brands should share four pieces of content from influencers for every one piece of original, educational content they have created and one piece of sales-related content.

    (Pictured at right from top: SMMW15 Speakers Joel Comm, Guy Kawasaki, Kim Garst and Joe Pulizzi) 

    While these five takeaways merely scratch the surface of the content presented at Social Media Marketing World, MaccaPR will offer you an even deeper dive into social media insights that you can use to help improve your brand’s awareness on a number of different social platforms. Stay tuned!

    For more social media goodness, check out our posts from past SMMW conferences:

    LeilaHirschLeila Hirsch is an account executive at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.


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    Topics: Measurement, On the Road, Pinterest

    4 Big Content Marketing Lessons from General Mills, 3M, Ameriprise Financial & SCHERMER

    Posted by Leila Hirsch on Mar 18, 2015 7:00:00 AM

    Remember when public relations required you to persuade gatekeepers – news editors, TV and radio producers and reporters – to carry your company or client's content to their audiences? Now, brands from Red Bull to Google are becoming publishers and broadcasters themselves. In this brave new world, marketers are creating their own content – infographics, podcasts, webinars, YouTube videos and more – that are distributed for free via their digital channels.

    This was the focus of a March 2015 event co-sponsored by Maccabee Public Relations and Minnesota PRSA. Moderated by Maccabee's Social Media Director Christina Milanowski, the panel discussions featured content marketing all-stars:


    If you're getting started or continually refining your company's content marketing strategy, here are four big takeaways from our evening of content marketing nirvana:

    1. Every marketer’s definition of content marketing may be a bit different, but all lead to the same goal.

    World-renowned content marketing expert Joe Pulizzi openly admits in his book, Epic Content Marketing, that there are many definitions of content marketing. He called it “the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling…instead of pitching your products and services, you are delivering information that makes your buyers more intelligent or perhaps entertaining them to build an emotional connection.” But, definitions vary by marketer. Take, for example, the four marketing expert panelists’ definitions:

    • Angela Dalton: Content marketing is any content that increases engagement with a customer/visitor. It’s the content that attracts and maintains visitors to your website.
    • Brian Enderlein: Content marketing is, in two words, content and marketing. It's been done for years. For 3M, we are not just products, we are the thoughts behind the products and we have the science to back it up. Content enhances and supports our brands.
    • Maura Ryan: Content marketing is content in any form or channel that supports a business strategy.
    • Chris Schermer: Content marketing is about creating content that is helpful to your customers. It’s about being constantly available and making a commitment to your customers to serve and solve their problems, all while putting selling behind it.

    What we can agree on is that content marketing encourages marketers to establish their companies - instead of being just a vendor, seller or manufacturer - as a leading information source in their industries. And, why shouldn’t we be? No one knows our company or industry and its audiences better than the PR and marketing professionals who live and breathe their brands every single day.

    2. Content marketing isn’t about you; it’s about your customers.

    One point that we found reiterated by our panelists is that whatever type of content your brand is creating and curating, you need to know your audience. Whether it's mothers looking to make cleaning easier with help from an innovative 3M Scotch-Brite product or connecting millenials with creative cooking through General Mills’, knowing your audience is key to the success of your content.

    Angela Dalton said it perfectly, “We are all guilty of falling in love with our content, but if it isn’t relevant to your brand strategy [and, therefore, your customers] just stop doing it. Don't put a round peg in a square hole.”

    We couldn’t agree more! There is only one reason that you are generating content for your brand in the first place: to accurately engage, interact and potentially impact your customers' purchasing behaviors.

    What’s more, Chris Schermer, of buyer-driven B2B brand experience agency SCHERMER, explained that all marketers have the responsibility to not only produce meaningful content, but to also resist the volume of content created.

    We know consumers don’t want to be bombarded with “Buy this!” or “You need this!” Creating content isn’t about spamming your customers. A quick peek at the junk inboxes of their email accounts will reveal plenty of that. Instead, content marketing is about creating useful content for the consumer or, as Chris pointed out, “to make them the hero of their own story.”

    So the question is, how do you successfully develop this type of content? How do you champion your customers so they become your biggest fans while maintaining your brand strategy? You listen. Hear what your customers are saying and what they are searching for. What do they need and how can you be the one who provides it for them?



    For 3M’s Brian Enderlein, successful content marketing begins with analyzing and listening to consumer and customer touch points across all channels. By monitoring keywords consumers were using to search 3M’s websites, the company discovered areas to enhance or build upon with new solutions-based (and not product-based) content. Brian recognized that 3M’s customers were looking for how to solve everyday problems they faced at home. The company was well aware that it had a loyal following of customers for the brand’s products, but, by producing how-to content, it not only provided great products to its customers, it enhanced their buying experiences. 3M's useful content solved household problems by helping consumers connect to the brand in a way that they previously hadn’t.

    General Mills has a unique source for generating its content: Blog partners. Almost 100 percent of content is created through partnerships with bloggers. And it makes perfect sense! By working with a seasoned blogger who is invested in growing her blog, but also in working closely with the brands that support her blog, General Mills is able to tap into its customers through alternative, yet authentic sources. This not only extends the reach of the brand’s content through social media, it's also a way for a consumer to connect with the brand that doesn’t shout, “Buy me!”

    3. Every “content marketing team” is unique.

    When it comes to internal content marketing teams and resources, nearly half (45 percent) of B2C marketers have a dedicated content marketing group in their organizations, according to the Content Marketing Institute. However, our panel discussed that many content marketing teams could be one person or a group of social experts. Perhaps there isn’t even anyone in the building with content marketing in his or her title!

    Maura Ryan said she works closely with multiple content owners, such as the integrated marketing team, product owners and PR professionals. Chris Schermer acknowledged that most large corporations don’t, in fact, have content marketing teams so it’s largely up to his agency to fill the gaps. 

    In a past MaccaPR interview with content marketing guru Joe Pulizzi, we discussed that a content marketing department can actually create another silo. Pulizzi instead recommended organizations assign someone as the ambassador in charge of all content marketing.

    Content marketing is a developing marketing practice that lives in many places in organizations, yet isn't often centralized. What is true is: There's no one-size-fits-all blueprint. Marketers are learning what works for their unique organizations.

    4. As content marketers, we must prove the ROI that is meaninngful to your C-suite.

    As Brian Enderlein of 3M pointed out early in the evening, our room of event attendees represented different types of marketers (digital strategists, brand managers and PR professionals), but every attendee was seeking the same thing: Content marketing insights. Enderlein said that, for him, analytics should be the foundation of content marketing.

    Chris Schermer believes that the goal of content marketing should be to create a sense of community that allows customers to achieve their goals. For Chris, that takes place through a series of traditional metrics via email, banner ads, embedded videos and more. He often also takes into account conversion rates for his B2B clients' content marketing programs - and acknowledged that tomorrow’s priority will be different from today’s.

    Through a balance of offline and online metrics, Maura Ryan measures impact of how each channel performs as the best route to take. Angela Dalton proves ROI through engagement and website metrics with

    Across all industries, marketers are striking a balance with the types of content they create and who should actually be in charge of creating it. No matter who takes on a company’s content marketing role, every marketer must be able to prove the benefit of his or her content marketing program to keep the C-suite satisfied and target audiences engaged. That is, after all, the reason the content is being generated in the first place, right?

    To download slides from this content marketing panel event and to download our exclusive Q&A with content marketing expert Joe Pulizzi, go to

    Download Content Marketing  Q&A with Expert Joe Pulizzi

    LeilaHirschLeila Hirsch is an account executive at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.
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    Topics: Inbound Marketing, Content Curation, On the Road

    Inside the Mind of a Daily Newspaper Business Editor: Q&A With Thom Kupper of the Star Tribune

    Posted by Paul Maccabee on Feb 25, 2015 8:14:37 AM

    Thom KupperIf you’re a corporate communications or public relations executive in Minnesota, the status of our state’s largest newspaper – the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune, with more than 250 editors and reporters – is always of intense interest. Beyond its average weekly readership of 1.34 million, the Star Tribune now has an online reach that includes 7.3 million monthly unique visitors and 80 million monthly page views across all of its platforms. Did you think that news-breaking rivals such as Twitter, BuzzFeed, Bring Me The News, MinnPost, Mpls/St. Paul Business Journal, Twin Cities Business’ e-briefcase, and even Huffington Post have eroded the value of the daily newspaper at 425 Portland Avenue? Think again.

    The MaccaPR blog interrogated Thom Kupper, 45, newly-elevated to role of Assistant Managing Editor for Business at the Star Tribune as he steps into the warm shoes of Todd Stone, who has taken off for the Houston Chronicle.

    1. You spent 13 years covering business at the San Diego Union-Tribune before joining the Star Tribune in 2010. Let’s do the math – it’s 63 degrees in San Diego tonight, and 20 degrees here in Minneapolis. What in Great Odin’s name were you thinking?

    "It’s definitely a big change. But I grew up in the Northeast and went to college in Chicago at Northwestern, so this isn’t my first exposure to cold weather. Plus, there were some tough changes in San Diego – the paper has changed owners twice in recent years, along with severe downsizing – and I’m very happy to be at the Star Tribune."

    Star Tribune

    2. Could you paint a picture of how the Star Tribune business section is organized now?

    "Sure, right now we have 21 people including myself. A bunch of them are new hires we’ve made in the past year, and they are really motivated to make their mark here.

    The reporting staff for the most part is divided among three editors. Doug Iverson (formerly with the Pioneer Press and Finance & Commerce) edits healthcare reporter Chris Snowbeck and medical tech writer Joe Carlson (formerly with Modern Healthcare magazine); our Washington, D.C. reporter Jim Spencer, columnist Neal St. Anthony and Dave Shaffer, who covers Xcel Energy and other energy news. Then there’s editor Cathy Roberts, recently hired out of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle in New York, who edits Mike Hughlett on food news, Tom Meersman on agriculture, Dee DePass on manufacturing, David Phelps on professional services such as law firms and ad agencies, and Patrick Kennedy on non-profits and big projects like our ranking of Minnesota’s biggest companies and CEO compensation packages. Evan Ramstad, who we hired about 18 months ago from the Wall Street Journal, edits Adam Belz on the economy (he also blogs at "3D Economics"), real estate reporters Jim Buchta and Kristen Painter (who came here from the Denver Post, and contributes to the "Just Listed" blog), and our retail writers Kavita Kumar and John Ewoldt.

    And finally, I work directly with our columnist Lee Schafer and our investigative reporter Jeff Meitrodt (formerly with the Chicago Tribune and a one-man I-Team at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Meitrodt said to MinnPost when he joined the Minneapolis daily, 'I still can’t believe the number of bodies we have. Jesus, with this many horses, we should do amazing stuff.'"

    3. How can you differentiate yourself against your competitors – the weekly Mpls/St. Paul Business Journal, Twin Cities Business, Minnesota Business, MinnPost and more?

    "We differentiate ourselves by doing ambitious, memorable stories that people cannot read anywhere else – original pieces that provide insight into the local business scene. There’s a challenge because we have to put out 7 newspapers a week. At the same time, we have a big business staff – 17 business writers in all. That kind of manpower gives us a big advantage over everyone else in town, and our challenge is to get the most out of it."

    4. What’s your own information diet for business news?

    "I scan the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal online in the morning, and then it depends – Target is on the cover of Fortune magazine this week, so I’ll be reading that! Otherwise I try to follow the other local publications and whatever catches my eye."

    5. There have been some changes in your Sunday section. Can you tell me about that?

    "Yes, for many years we’ve been carrying two or three pages in the back of the section that we got from the Wall Street Journal. But earlier this month the Journal stopped producing those pages. They aren’t available anymore. So instead we’re filling the same amount of space ourselves with staff-written content about investing and finance, as well as wire stories from Bloomberg, Reuters, McClatchy Tribune syndicate and the New York Times."

    Check out our latest blog post - it's a great read on the #StarTribune and its new business editor Thom Kupper.

    A photo posted by Maccabee Public Relations (@maccabeepr) on

    6. You love a flood of press releases, right?

    "Um, companies that shower us with 10 press releases a week – that is not helpful. Because we are not going to write 10 stories a week about even the biggest companies in the state."

    7. So if not press releases, what can PR people offer you that’s actually helpful?

    "What really helps is access to your executives – we don’t like it when a company puts out an announcement and they don’t have a human voice that can answer our follow-up questions. In the worst case scenario – and this does not happen often – a company will put out a press release and tell us there’s no one available to discuss it until, say, the next Tuesday.

    One thing we do appreciate: tell us in advance that you’re releasing a major announcement at 8:00 am on Friday morning, even if you can’t tell us what it is – so our reporter can be ready."

    8. Give PR Directors and VPs of Corporate Communications some advice: what’s the best way to approach the Star Tribune business desk with a story?

    "Approach the beat reporter who covers your industry directly; hopefully, PR people already know who those reporters are. It’s not a good idea to come to me or one of the other editors, unless there’s a special circumstance. Generally we’re just going to pass the information along to the reporter anyway, so it’s best to go directly to them."

    9. I remember being shocked years ago when the Star Tribune sent a reporter to cover a “Junkyard Pilates” class that our PR agency client was offering – she put away her notebook and took out a camera to shoot a video interview.  How multimedia tentacled do your reporters have to be?

    "I remember when Chen May Yee pitched that story to me. That was a good one! But it’s really case-by-case. Ideally we’d like all our reporters to be able to write a story, take pictures and shoot video. And some of them have really taken to the multimedia approach. But we also have a team of Star Tribune staffers who shoot videos – it’s the main part of their job. With bigger projects, for example the “Left Behind” series that Adam Belz did last year, we always want to have videos to accompany the stories. It’s really become an essential part of how we tell stories."

    Junkyard Pilates

    (Source: Star Tribune)

    10. Can you tell us anything about the overarching strategy for the business team in coming years?

    "The strategy is kind of obvious – find great business stories that people will read and remember. Those come in all flavors, whether it’s a five-part series that wins journalism prizes or just an unusual story that’s told in a creative way. We’re fortunate at the Star Tribune that we have the manpower in the newsroom to do really ambitious work. And I think so long as we’re doing good journalism we’ll be pretty successful on whatever platform you look at, whether in print, online, mobile or whatever comes along in the future."

    Paul MaccabeePaul Maccabee is president of Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.   

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    Topics: Interviews, Media Relations

    What Taylor Swift Can Teach You About Social Media Marketing

    Posted by Paul Maccabee on Feb 10, 2015 6:30:00 AM

    Welcome to your Taylor Swift Master Class in Social Media Marketing!  

    Your teacher today will be America’s #1 Online Brand Strategist, Professor Taylor Swift (Cue: Insane, utterly-abandoned shrieking, evolving into wild explosive screaming and rhythmic chants of, ‘Taylor, We Love You!’) Who better to instruct us in social media marketing than this 25-year-old, 7-time Grammy Award-winning “public relations genius” (in the words of the Washington Post)? The Nashville-bred superstar has leveraged every element of her social identity – on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vevo and YouTube – to make "1989" the #1 best-selling album of 2014.


    (Source: Billboard)

    If your CEO or President ever questioned whether there’s proof that social media marketing can provide ROI for a company’s investment, now you can point to Swift’s sales: More than 3.66 million copies of her fifth studio album “1989,” with more than a million units moved in its first certified-Platinum week. The secret behind those astonishing numbers? Taylor uses social media to connect one-on-one with 100 million fans at a time.

    The good news? You can do that too, even if your BFFs are not Lorde, Selena Gomez, Justin Timberlake and Karlie Kloss.

    Yes, Swift is an infernally catchy pop songwriter with earworm-burrowing hooks. True, she’s an electrifying, blonde mane-twirling, red lipstick-smacking entertainer in concert. And yes, her skill with traditional PR – as the singer dominated the covers of Rolling Stone, Vogue and People, along with broadcast interviews from “Ellen” to “Good Morning America” – plays a part in her volcanic success.

    “Taylor Swift is a PR mastermind of the highest order,” confirms writer Chris Ostendorf, in his Daily Dot commentary titled, The PR Genius of Taylor Swift’s Viral Media Empire. “Swift has carefully, methodically and brilliantly crafted a public persona designed to make you love her (or else). In terms of image control, there probably isn’t a single entertainer out there today who’s as good at playing the game. . . it’s her skills in self-promotion and image management that put her a cut above.”

    Yet the marketing genius that fueled Taylor Swift’s rise to mad levels of worldwide-stardom goes far beyond her mastery of media relations. More than any other icon of our generation, Taylor Swift amps up social media branding to its fullest potential – fusing her online and real world personas in a way that makes her appear approachably down-to-earth, even as her celebrity profile soars far higher than the mortals who are buying her music.

    So what can you learn from Taylor Swift, the Grand Mistress of Social Media Marketing?

    Lesson #1 - Embrace The Mass Intimacy of Social Media  

    First, there’s no celebrity who understands how to connect en masse – seemingly authentically and intimately with millions of fans – as brilliantly as Swift. What started with a core audience of 13-22 year-old girls during her Nashville-based country ingénue phase, has now blown that up to a level of global domination that even North Korea’s Kim Jong-un would envy. 

    What’s remarkable about Swift isn’t just the sheer enormity of her social media numbers, which spans 21.4 million Instagram followers to 561.9 million views for the “Shake It Off” video. Social media isn't all about massive numbers of followers, likes or shares. For Swift, it’s the emotional resonance of her online content – video, images and messages that display a comfort level with intimacy on a mass scale that’s nothing short of uncanny. 

    Taylor Swift Social Numbers

    Swift has a tremendous marketing staff supporting her – not just the promotional team at her Big Machine Label Group, but also the guidance of Nashville-based publicist Tree Paine, SVP of Publicity for Warner Brothers Nashville. As far as I know, Swift could have a stadium full of publicists and social media specialists frantically tweeting, Tumblring, Instagramming, YouTubing, Facebooking and blogging on her behalf. But all that’s visible to us are her images and videos – often shakily-shot with hand-held cameras, slightly out-of-focus, unprofessionally-lit and filled with the rich behind-the-scenes immediacy of Swift’s love of her cats and appetite for snack food.

    Is Taylor really composing every tweet, writing every post and personally popping each image online? The best answer would quote French playwright Jean Giraudoux, “The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” When Taylor takes to Twitter to update us on her day (below), only a cad would peek behind the social media curtain to see if her PR team is giving her an invisible hand.    

    For a master class in online intimacy that’s a universe beyond the scripted artificiality of most brand videos: Watch how Swift shot this video when surprising one fan, Gena, by showing up unannounced at her bridal shower.

    Corporate Video Producers Take Note: See how Swift addresses the camera in a conspiratorial whisper, the lens a foot from her face, as she takes you (yes, just you alone – except for the other 2.4 million viewers) into her confidence. Imagine how far your brand could go with videos that spoke with, rather than at, your customers on YouTube with this level of feeling?

    Lesson #2 - Keep Your Brand Name Simple

    Taylor’s 2012 album was titled simply, “Red,” a name chosen because Swift said the name captured “all the different emotions that I’ve experienced in the last two years. . . all those emotions are red.” Her current album title, “1989,” is her birthdate. The Taylor Swift song “15?” It’s all about the feeling of being. . . 15.

    There’s no arcane metaphors – as in Led Zeppelin’s enigmatic lyric “If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow” – here. Swift’s song and album titles are easy to remember and difficult to forget. Compare that to the camera currently being marketed as: “Nikon D3300 24.2 MPR CMOS Digital SLR with AF-S DX Nikkor VR 11 Zoom Lens.”  If the name of your product sounds like the combination to a Masterlock or the serial number on a dollar bill, take a page from Taylor Swift and keep your brand name simple.

    Lesson #3 - Choose Your Partners Wisely (and Boldly)

    Taylor’s brand partnerships with Diet Coke and Target (along with earlier affiliations with Walmart, Keds and Walgreens) feel so appropriate they were practically inevitable. But it was Swift’s daring collaboration with last December’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show that demonstrated she could make any cross-brand deal work. Surrounded by Victoria’s Secret models whose curves seemed as artificial as Swift’s performance was natural, the singer turned what could have been a mockable moment into a deft demonstration of female empowerment.

    Papa John's Taylor Swift My favorite Swiftie partnership was an alliance during the 2012 marketing campaign for "Red." Other artists have sold their albums through Whole Foods and Starbucks – but the promotion of "Red" with pizza chain Papa Johns meant that you could snare a copy of her album with your pepperoni pie (at right). The promotion combined Swift’s theme of surprise with the tomato-spattered color "Red" and her proclivity for delivering pieces of herself to fans at their homes.

    Have you thought of where – unexpectedly – your company’s product could be sold that none of your competitors would think of? If Starbucks can sell CDs, why can’t you sell or demo your products in yoga studios, amusement parks, emergency rooms, movie theatre lobbies, elevators, TSA check-points or jazz piano bars? 

    (Source: Papa John's)

    Lesson #4 - Humbly Ask Your Audience For Help

    Fortune 1000 companies market as if being a thought leader means exuding Greek God-level certainty.  Whether marketing software or kitchen appliances, brands tend to display unshakeable confidence in the conceit that no one could possibly know their industry/product better than [insert name of your brand here].

    In contrast, Taylor Swift’s messaging revels in endearing humility – most famously, she asked fans to help her master the art of Twitter hashtags. Here’s Taylor herself, asking fans to help her understand Tumblr, the microblogging platform and social network: “Taylor here. I’m locking myself in my room and not leaving until I figure out how to use my Tumblr. Well, might leave for a second to get a snack or something, but that is it. I have lots of questions, help me.” What would happen if rather than pronouncing definitive answers from your company experts, you had the humility to invite answers from the people who may know your products and services best – your customers?

    Lesson #5 - Carly Simon’s Not the Only One With Anticipation

    While artists from Bob Dylan to Beyoncé have taken to mysteriously unveiling their new albums with virtually no fanfare, Taylor Swift has learned from Hollywood movie marketers the value of heart-stopping anticipation. Swift has transformed the launch of each CD into Super Bowl-level global events by tantalizingly building suspense with multiple layers of online reveals.

    For example, to spark online buzz for the release of her single “Shake It Off” last August, Swift teased fans with hints about the tune on Instagram, Twitter and other social channels. And, back in 2012, Swift pre-released her ‘Red’ single, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” via a Google+ hangout with fans and a live Web chat, which launched a full two months before the CD dropped at retail.

    How could you create a 60- to 90-day ramp leading toward the launch of your next product or trade show, that will play upon your customers’ all-too-human desire to find out what’s coming next? Be like Taylor (or Alfred Hitchcock) and layer your launch for suspense. . .

    Lesson #6 - Transform Your Customers into A Community

    Fans of YouTube celebrity Bethany Mota call themselves “Motavators.” Devotees of the “Twilight Saga” films and books call themselves “twihards,” and I don’t want to repeat here what female fans of actor Benedict Cumberbatch refer to themselves as. Taylor Swift’s fan base? Her fans have embraced the collective moniker, “Swifties.” Does your customer base feel so connected to your brand they’d define themselves as a community of fans for your company?

    Secret Sessions

    (Source: E!)

    Nothing demonstrates Swift’s ability to transform small groups of fans into a multi-million strong community than the triumph of her Secret Sessions event campaign. For a sneak preview of "1989," Swift invited 89 fans to each of her five homes – where fans erupted with shock, surprise and joy as Taylor herself walked into the parties (see above). She hugged and fed them her home-baked chocolate cookies. Inevitably, Swift posted the behind-the-scenes video of these preview parties on YouTube for the tens of millions who couldn’t join her personally, which sparked an avalanche of fan love that rippled across the Web.

    Take some advice from Taylor Swift: how could you interact with a handful of your brand’s customers – at a user conference, trade show or client appreciation party – and then equip those customers to talk about you to the thousands of your customers who couldn’t attend?  

    Lesson #7 - Have You Ever Been Experienced?

    Admit it: How thrilling is the experience of buying your company’s product or service? Is the purchase just a transaction? A dull swipe of a credit card? With a nod to Jimi Hendrix’s first album, Taylor’s marketing is all about the experience. In fact, the very act of buying Swift’s products becomes a ceremony of communion with Taylor Swift herself. According to Billboard magazine, fans “want the full and complete Taylor Swift experience, and that experience includes buying the album.”

    Taylor Swift Time

    At a time when the Recording Industry Association of America has reported that CD sales have plummeted by 19 percent and fans are migrating to streaming services like Spotify and Pandora where they can listen “for free” rather than buying the album, Taylor made sure that the experience of buying a hard copy of "1989" surpassed that of online downloads. Famously, Swift pulled her song catalog last November from Spotify, making a bold statement about the tangible value of her music. What can you do to transform the act of a customer buying your product into an experience that’s deeper, richer and more emotionally resonant than the ring of a cash register or the ping of a credit card reader?    

    One part of Taylor Swift’s social media skill is to balance the impression of exclusivity with images, content and promotions that have massive reach. For example, Swift forged a deal with Minnesota’s own Target that offered an exclusive deluxe edition of "1989" with three extra songs and private voice memos about her songwriting process, along with early demos of the songs. Best of all, the Target-exclusive provided a dozen Polaroid photos that acknowledged her lyrics, “You took a Polaroid of us, then discovered, the rest of the world was black and white, but we were in screaming color.”

    (Source: Time)

    Which begs the question: How are you treating your existing customer base with special love – providing them with discounts, exclusive products, beta test sneak previews and first looks? Are you taking your target audience behind-the-scenes with a podcast, infographic, video, event or webinar that they, and only they, can access for a limited time?

    Lessons #8 - Let Others Celebrate Your Brand

    Most of today’s marketing involves brands telling the world how great they are – where’s the magic in that? Taylor Swift, though, gets other people – very famous people such as Girls TV actress Lena Dunham—to say how great she is. So BFF singer Lorde effused on Twitter, “OMG 1989 Is Out, What a Day, so proud of my sista.” Ask yourself - what could your dealers, retailers, value-added resellers, wholesalers, distributors (heck, even your banker, lawyer and accountants) say about you on their social media channels?

    Lesson #9 - Have The Humility to Really Listen And Respond

    Perhaps the most powerful lesson taught by Taylor Swift is that she truly makes her fans feel listened to and appreciated – and she uses social media as a two-way medium of conversation with that audience. The tragedy of today’s social media marketing is that too many corporations still treat Facebook, Twitter and other channels merely as additional pipes through which to push their commercial messages – and then walk away before they can hear what their customers want to say in return.

    Swift’s online communication truly feels like a dialogue with fans. Witness how Swift responded to a fan who had been troubled by bullies at school with a touching Instagram message and then how Taylor retweeted a video of a Houston-area woman singing along to “1989” in her car. Best of all, Taylor Swift re-posts images of her fans buying her CD in-store and holding up their own Polaroids – her customers transform themselves into Swift’s content collaborators. 

    Not everyone can post an elevator selfie, as Taylor did (below), featuring friends Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé and Jay Z or a birthday party pic with model Karlie Kloss and Selen Gomez goofing off. But it does beg the question: When was the last time you took your customers, dealers, distributors behind-the-scenes into your R&D lab, over to your ad agency during the development of your next campaign, into your factory to look behind the lathes, printing presses and scanners? When did you last ask customers to send you images of your product in use? Have you enabled comments on your company blog and YouTube channel? Have you transformed your social media channels from one-way push at customers into back-and-forth engagement with them? 

    CEOs are learning the revenue value of Taylor Swift-level listening to customers. AdWeek recently praised several companies as savvy social listeners, including:

    • General Motors, which altered the cooling ventilation systems in its Cadillac Escalades at the factory upon hearing social media complaints from owners,
    • Five Guys Burger and Fries, which is testing frozen desserts after hearing from customers via Twitter and Facebook, and
    • Dick’s Sporting Goods, which ramped up staff when social posts from customers highlighted weak in-store customer service just before closing hours.

    But, just a few weeks ago, Swift took “listening” to an absurdly glorious level. Her team Tay-lurked a select group of fans – heading to Facebook to study their jobs, friends, family, hobbies and likes – and then Swift delivered personalized Christmas and Chanukah gifts to them, climaxing with a surprise “Swift-mas” visit to one fan in Connecticut who was handed gifts by Taylor herself. Some 16.3 million YouTube views of Swift’s gift giving suggest how her micro-connection with this handful of fans, amplified a million times over through social channels, provided Swift with macro benefits.

    Here’s her final piece of advice for marketers: “Fans are my favorite thing in the world,” says Swift. “I’ve never been the type of artist who has that line drawn between their friends and their fans. The line’s always been blurred for me. I’ll hang out with them after the show. I’ll hang out with them before the show. If I see them in the mall, I’ll stand there and talk to them for 10 minutes.”

    As marketers, we must ask ourselves: When was the last time a brand, any brand, made you feel that you were their favorite thing in the world? If you hesitate to become a company that forges Swiftian-levels of loyalty, then you may have to accept that your customers, in Taylor Swift’s words, “are never ever getting back together” with you. So is it time to "Shake It Off”?

    Paul MaccabeePaul Maccabee is president of Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency. 




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    Topics: Social Media, Marketing

    What Pinterest Marketers Must Know About Copyright

    Posted by Alison Buckneberg on Jan 29, 2015 5:17:00 AM

    Pinterest_Logo_RedSo this just happened: One of my more than 3,000 pins on Pinterest was just DELETED! Since its launch in 2010, Pinterest has provided me with a space to collect content from around the Web, such as recipes, quotes, home decorating ideas, life hacks and fashion inspiration.

    Upon receiving a note that one of my carefully curated pins was removed, you can imagine that a barrage of questions crossed my mind, including:

    1. Why did Pinterest remove one of my pins?

    I started by closely reading my email from Pinterest:


    As it turns out, Pinterest can delete pins at the request of the original content owner in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA). In addition, Pinterest has proactively established a policy on copyright issues for its users, which outlines the five steps you’d need to take before submitting your copyright complaint to Pinterest. So, the “Lights Scene” photo owner must have filed a complaint with Pinterest.

    2. How can I prevent this from happening again? 

    In the email I received, I appreciated how Pinterest was quick to point out that I did nothing wrong, and that the complaint was not directed at me. After all, it was just a “re-pin” that was taken down. But it’s worth noting that the original person who pinned this post for the first time is responsible for not obtaining proper permissions. In fact, Pinterest states it will “disable and/or terminate the accounts of users who repeatedly infringe or are repeatedly charged with infringing the copyrights or other intellectual property rights of others.”

    3. What do marketing, PR and communications professionals need to know about Pinterest and copyright complaints to protect their own companies or brands?

    As a PR professional, I immediately wondered how this would affect the Pinterest activities of our clients and even our agency’s own presence. First and foremost, know the rules when pinning content. As referenced above, become acquainted with the Pinterest copyright policy. In addition to that, here are important takeaways for marketers to understand about copyright and Pinterest:

    Play it safe by pinning your own content. The easiest way to avoid copyright headaches is to create your own images! There are a plethora of online tools to produce colorful and noteworthy infographics, photos, charts and so much more. For example, Sprout Social has put together this list of 36 free tools for creating images. You can also hire your favorite photographer or graphic designer to create interesting pins, but it’s important to make sure you have their blessing to post the image and/or have purchased the rights for using the image online and in promotions.


    (Source: Sprout Social)

    If you do re-pin someone else’s content, verify the source and properly attribute the image. Once you verify the webpage from where the image came, it’s important to properly cite or attribute the image to the person who created it. If you can’t find the original website/image owner, think twice about adding it to your board. Alternatively, seek out approval to share the content with a quick email or phone call to the website owner asking for permission to post it. While many companies, artists, event planners, graphic designers and bloggers are okay with and actually encourage others to share their content, there are some who aren’t.

    A good rule of thumb when pinning images from someone else’s site, I follow is if there is a Pinterest logo or a “Pin it” option on the website, the site is probably Pinterest friendly. But just to be safe, we recommend going through the following step to properly cite the pin…find its point of origin.

    Following is an example on how to cite a pin, which includes the title of the post and the name of the publication/website it came from:


    Finally, be an advocate for your own company’s copyrighted materials. As brand advocates, we’re often tasked with protecting the online reputation of a brand. Ensure your content has a copyright symbol and/or “All Rights Reserved” in the image. You may also want to add your company logo or a watermark to the image.

    Another more conservative option is to password protect pages that contain images you absolutely don’t want shared by others. For example, you may want to use this method to guard a media library or press-only section of your website. If you don't want content to be pinned from your website, Pinterest offers codes that can be embedded into the backend, so if a pinner tries to pin an image, they will be alerted that the site owner does not want images to be pinned. Note, however, if it’s something that you really don’t want to share with everyone with an Internet connection, then it is best not to share it online at all.


    (Source: MoMA)

    As a last resort, know that you can ask Pinterest to remove specific content.

    I maintain that Pinterest is a great place for brands to connect with customers and other audiences in an authentic way. Knowing some of the ways to pin your own content or share content from others through proper citing and permissions will ensure that Pinterest remains a vibrant collaboration space for every marketer.

    What are your best-practice tips for using Pinterest to promote your brand?

    AliBucknebergAlison Buckneberg is a senior account executive at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.

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    Topics: Pinterest

    5 Mistakes Entry-Level PR Job Seekers Make & How To Avoid Them

    Posted by Gwen Chynoweth on Jan 19, 2015 6:03:00 AM

    5CoverLetterMistakesOur public relations industry is expected to grow in the low double digits over the next decade, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, breaking into an agency or in-house PR department directly from college is more difficult than ever.

    Gone are the days when entry-level PR job seekers would blindly pitch hundreds of reporters. Today, PR people are expected to know B2B content marketing strategies, SEO, social media campaigns along with traditional media pitching, press release and speech writing, require PR newbies to come prepared from Day One to significantly and professionally contribute to strategic PR work.

    To make matters even more challenging for college grads, nearly every entry-level PR opening out there receives dozens, if not hundreds, of applications. It takes ingenuity, perseverance and good old-fashioned sleuthing to make your cover letter stand apart to ensure your resume is viewed.

    Our Minneapolis PR agency reviews every application that crosses our transom, whether or not we have an opening. While most college placement offices emphasize the importance of creating a succinct yet descriptive resume (and of course, that is vitally important), what they might not tell you is that many agencies that are hiring will still place more emphasis on your cover note.

    Your cover letter is "your best shot at being singular," according to Slate editor Katherine Goldstein in this Fast Company article. What you put in your cover letter will often tell a hiring executive more about you and your communications skills than your resume will. 

    That’s why, at this time when thousands of soon-to-be college grads are hitting the pavement looking for their first PR job, we wanted to share these five common mistakes we see entry-level applicants make that guarantee we won’t get past the introductory email, let alone open your attached resume.*

    *What PR agencies look for in resumes – that’s another post for another time… coming soon.

    Mistake #1: Asking a PR agency, “Do you guys have any job openings?”

    There are a couple of things wrong with this question, but we see it posed often by even seasoned job seekers. First, it’s too easy for an agency to simply reply “no,” since we often don’t have a specific job opening on the specific day that someone calls. It would be better to ask for a 15-minute informational meeting (either in person or over the phone) even if there isn’t a current opening at the time. That’s because we are constantly on the alert for our next agency superstar. If we meet someone we can’t live without, we’ll create a position for them.

    Case in point: Several years ago, our agency was recruiting for an account executive with (at most) three years of PR experience. Then we met Jean Hill, who came in for an informational interview over a Caribou Coffee. Jean brought to the table nearly 20 years of agency wisdom and expertise, not to mention a client service disposition that is second to none. We quickly revamped our open position to fit Jean’s qualifications and she is now Maccabee’s Senior Vice President. After hiring Jean, we re-launched our search for a more junior staffer.

    JeffWilsonOther PR agency executives, including senior director of business development and agency marketing at PadillaCRT, Jeff Wilson, concur on the value of informational interviews. Wilson stated in his "15 Tips to Land That First Job in PR (Reloaded)" post:

    "Ask for informational interviews at companies where you think you’d like to work or that you want to learn more about. The company might not be hiring now, but could be two weeks from now. If you’ve made a good impression, they’re likely to remember you for the job. Or, they can refer you to others who might have a position that is a good fit for you."

    (Source: BuzzBin)

    The second thing wrong with the question: the use of "you guys." Remember, you’re not asking to join your buddies in a card game. You are applying to a professional services firm, and using “you guys” is a breach of etiquette that will ensure we won’t take you seriously.

    Mistake #2: Addressing your email cover letter to “Dear recipient” ...

    ... “To Whom It May Concern,” “Dear Hiring Manager,” or the anonymous, “Hello!’ Nothing is more off-putting than receiving an application from someone who didn’t take the two minutes it requires to find out to whom to personally address his or her query. 

    This also indicates to us that you likely won’t pay attention to details when performing client work when, so often, mastering details directly results in our helping clients achieve success. Use LinkedIn and other social channels to do your homework and then tailor a cover note that is specific to the individual and the PR agency.

    Mistake #3: Using smiley faces or emoticons ☺ 😃  ♥

    This one is a bit like using "you guys." If you’re applying for a professional position, your correspondence needs to reflect that. Emoticons and other text-language abbreviations are fine if you’re messaging your BFF. But in professional exchanges, they indicate poor writing habits, no mastery of vocabulary and a level of familiarity that’s not appropriate. When composing a cover note, keep in mind that among the items our agency is looking for is a firm command of business writing skills, laced with creativity.

    HeatherWhalenHeather Whaling of Geben Communications put it very well when she was quoted on Arik Hanson's "Do you really need a cover letter with that resume?" post:

    "… I want to know if you can write, whether you took the time to personalize the letter or sent a “canned” letter, etc. I think I learn a lot from cover letters that you can’t get from a resume, but are very telling for how you’ll do in the job … I think cover letters offer a lot of insights about how they approach their writing, which is important in PR and social."

    (Source: @PRtini)

    Mistake #4: Typos or grammatical errors of any kind

    Also, forgetting to attach documents that you say are attached. It’s astonishing how often both of these mistakes occur. One typo or grammatical error and that’s the end – your application goes directly to the trash. Those sloppy errors tell us that if you can’t represent yourself flawlessly, you sure won’t be able to represent our clients.

    Proofread your materials – including, and especially, your cover note. Better yet, have someone else, whose writing you respect, proofread them as well. Take the time to get it right the first time – it’s the only chance you’ll have. For a quick peek at 15 common spelling errors in cover letters and resumes, check out this article and infographic by Scott Dockweiler:


    Mistake #5: Declaring: “I’d be a perfect fit for your company.”

    It’s great to have a positive self-attitude, but it’s ultimately an agency’s hiring manager’s call as to whether you’ll be a great fit – or not. What’s more, many applicants tell us that they read our website, which causes them to believe that they’ll fit right in. Any agency’s Web presence represents only one facet of its culture and perusing the site is not going to give you enough information to make that kind of prediction.

    PRHiringQualitiesBefore baldly stating that you’re the ONE, ask to tour the agency. Talk with employees. Check out our social media presence. Subscribe to our blog. Research our media coverage. Talk with our agency’s competitors. And then, don’t tell us you’ll be perfect – prove it to us through your intelligent discourse, your superior work product and your winning attitude.

    In the spirit of helping entry-level PR professionals earn their first gig, we’d love to invite more advice. As a CMO or other marketing/PR maven, what qualities do you expect in your new hires or in your agency’s staff?

    Gwen ChynowethGwen Chynoweth is executive vice president and chief talent officer at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.

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    Topics: Agency Life

    Your Favorite MaccaPR Blog Posts: Ellen's Oscar Selfie, Death of PR Spin and Online Content Secrets

    Posted by Christina Milanowski on Jan 6, 2015 5:55:00 AM

    Since MaccaPR first launched in late 2012, we've averaged a new blog post nearly every week for our loyal chief marketing and PR officer, corporate communication directors and marketing professional subscribers. Just as we did in 2013 with "PR and Social Media Counsel from MaccaPR's Most Popular Posts," we're now taking a look back at the most successful recent posts on MaccaPR, according to our readers. From brand strategies and social media tips to content marketing and the death of PR spin, below are the top 10 MaccaPR posts of 2014 based on the most total views and social media engagement.YearInReview

    Top 10 MaccaPR Blog Posts of 2014

    #1. "Is it website or Web site? A Social Media Grammar Lesson from the AP" was a Maccabee classic that contains a handy list of popularly-misspelled social media terms. If you haven't already, this is a great post to bookmark. Author Christina Milanowski promises to keep it updated.

    Twitter Grammar Quote

    #2. In "7 Lessons From A Brand Battle: Bose vs. Beats By Dre Headphones," Paul Maccabee compared the online marketing strategies of a stodgy brand to a cutting-edge leader in the headphone marketplace. His post features tips for how your brand can use YouTube and other social media channels to conquer your competition.



    #3. On perhaps one of the most popular marketing topics of 2014 - content marketing - Maccabee published, "Become Epic with Content Marketing: Interview with author Joe Pulizzi." The Content Marketing Institute founder chronicled how earned and purchased space on media outlets is quickly being replaced by brands creating their very own content and publishing channels.



    #4. In a round-up of experts that featured BBDO Minneapolis' Tim Brunelle, Bolin's Nathan Eide, FRWD's Aimee Reker and GdB's Tom Gabriel, Paul Maccabee answered the question, "Was Ellen's Oscar Selfie Worth $1 Billion to Samsung?"



    #5. Marketing thought leader Arik Hanson and trademark law expert Kristine Dorrain helped us determine, "Should Trademark Symbols Be Used in Social Media Posts?" The verdict? Do what makes the most sense for your brand.



    #6. "Spin" connotes deception, obfuscation, misdirection and other smoke and mirrors tactics to hide the truth. Gwen Chynoweth called upon our industry to end the use of the word in "R.I.P. For PR Spin: Ethics, Public Relations and The Imminent Death of ‘Spin’."



    #7. Have we already moved past the "7 Social Media Trends in 2014 Live from Social Media Marketing World" chronicled by Christina Milanowski? I don't yet think so, especially with podcasting becoming a huge green field opportunity and the continued importance of advertising for brand visibility on Facebook. 



    #8. From an in-flight video featuring a dancing Richard Simmons to the quippy "Do It For Denmark" campaign, Paul Maccabee assessed "9 Travel Marketing Campaigns That Will Make You Laugh."



    #9. Paul Maccabee followed up his exclusive Joe Pulizzi interview with "5 Eye-Opening Lessons From "Epic Content Marketing": 1) Act More Like Media and Less Like Marketers, 2) Marketing Is No Longer About You, 3) Market When Your Prospects Have No Intention of Buying, 4) Your Marketing Goal Is Now Subscription, and 5) Be Patient or Buy Your Media.


    #10. We divulged "4 Marketing Secrets for Viral Guinness World Records" from our firsthand experience setting Guinness World Records for clients, including Kemps' Largest Scoop of Ice Cream.



    There you have it - your top 10 list of the most popular MaccaPR blog posts thanks to your engagement by way of views and social media engagement. For a closer look at past posts, we welcome you to peruse these past blog post categories:

    Agency Life (3), Blogger Relations (2), Blogging (8), Brand Strategy (19), Content Curation (3), Corporate Communications (13), Crisis Communications (9), E-Book (1), Event Marketing (5), Facebook (5), Giveaway (4), Google+ (1), Inbound Marketing (6), Infographic (2), Instagram (1), Internal Communications (1), Interviews (13), LinkedIn (5), Marketing (2), Measurement (4), Media Relations (8), On the Road (7), Pinterest (4), Round-Up (2), SEO (7), Social Media (25), Twitter (10), Video (6), Wikipedia (2), and YouTube (6).

    If you aren't already, please become a MaccaPR subscriber today (form is at the top of the page). Each post brings you marketing lessons drawn from brands like General Mills, Target, Procter & Gamble, Beats By Dre, Dove, Mentos, Apple, Samsung, Kmart, Verizon, Ben & Jerrys, Burger King, Charmin, Southwest Airlines and Under Armour.  

    Thank you for making 2014 a great year - and here's to an exciting 2015 filled with more lessons on hot PR and marketing topics!

    ChristinaMilanowskiChristina Milanowski is social media director and account supervisor at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.




    P.S. Here's our top 10 list as a downloadable PowerPoint presentation on SlideShare:

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    Topics: Round-Up

    Fem-vertising Interview with Marketing-to-Women Expert Dori Molitor

    Posted by Caitlin Jagodzinski on Dec 17, 2014 3:39:00 AM

    As CEO of WomanWise, a Minneapolis-based insight and brand strategy firm specializing in marketing brands to women, Dori Molitor has helped companies from Land O’ Lakes and General Mills to UnitedHealthcare and 3M tap into the female psyche and connect with women consumers.

    Dori Molitor Following up on the insight she shared on ads from Pantene to Under Armour in my last MaccaPR blog post, “The New Wave of Fem-vertising: 5 Female Empowerment Campaigns We Love,” we will be diving deeper into how brands can engage effectively with women in this exclusive Q&A.


    “I love this new wave of ads centered on the female empowerment cause—every part of these campaigns works for me. Women—whether they’re a mother, teacher, leader or executive—underestimate the power these marketing messages have on building up or tearing down their self-confidence. By shining a light on the stereotypes that women have been forced to adhere to in our culture, “fem-vertisements” are taking steps towards creating positive change while building meaningful brand loyalty. 

    The best examples of fem-vertising are the ads that invite consumers to join their brand in creating equal opportunity in our society. For example, Always’ Like a Girl campaign hits the mark on one of the oldest double standards between genders: tagging acts of weakness with the colloquialism ‘like a girl.’ The strength of the Always video stems from its ability to show those who first feebly ‘ran like a girl’ actually exhibit power the second time around—it’s a shift in consciousness, and action, we see right on the screen.

    PanteneThe Pantene #NotSorry campaign resonates with me as a woman, as the act of saying ‘I’m sorry’ is so subconscious. It’s not until we observe the before and after in the ad that we realize how detrimental our inferior and apologetic language can be. This fem-vertisement beautifully offers audiences an alternative to passively adding ‘I’m sorry’ to their daily dialogue –giving consumers the opportunity to make the shift in their own lives.  

    While critics may scoff at advertisers for heavily emphasizing womens’ insecurities and self-loathing, I think it’s the ad’s power to showcase these realities through visual storytelling that allows fem-vertising to become such a critical piece of the gender equality puzzle. By taking a stand, these brands are connecting with female consumers in deeper, more meaningful ways, and in turn, investing in the future of their brand and our society.”

    (Source: Self)


    “Not necessarily. Creating societal change through ads is a process that requires many great ideas—ideas that can stem from any gender, perspective or age. Male voices are just as important to identifying equality gaps in our society and are vital to a brand’s ability to create meaningful connections with all audiences. In order for these advertisements to make a real difference, we must tap into the subconscious minds and triggering reactions of those outside the female perspective to create conversations that invite all voices – and both genders –to the table.

    Brands with non-female specific products also have an opportunity to build brand loyalty through fem-vertising. I’d love to see more companies such as Verizon take the fem-vertising reins and own these ideas from a different standpoint. As long as the mission is cohesive and honest to your products and consumers’ convictions, any brand has the opportunity to move the sales needle through this form of advertising.”


    “In general, women have a greater disposition than their male counterparts to care about the world around them: the environment, education, hunger, global warming. Their strong affinity for nurturing leads female consumers to expect that brands, like themselves, will take a stand for social good and support meaningful causes. In order to move the sales needle, brands must think beyond product sales and dive deeper into the convictions of their female audiences and offer tangible ways for consumers to get involved in their fem-vertising cause.  


    (Source: Dove)

    Take Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign for example, this campaign marks one of the first attempts at fem-vertising, as it shows the shapes, sizes and figures of real women. But Dove’s praised campaign didn’t increase sales until the brand made the idea of ‘Real Beauty’ open and accessible for all women to get involved through its online ‘tips, topics and tools’ landing page. This page still offers activity guides, workshops and talking points to help youth leaders, teachers and mothers guide young women through self-esteem issues.

    These guided materials move beyond visual advertisements by actively helping women guide young girls in raising their confidence with Dove at the helm of the cause, allowing the mission of ‘Real Beauty’ to become a movement rather than a singular, stagnant advertisement. Inviting consumers to get involved in your cause is the most critical component to ensuring a fem-vertisement’s effectiveness, and ultimately, moving the sales needle for brands.”


    “Creating a clever campaign is the first step; but only through a brands’ ability to authentically stand behind the ideas within their ads will we start to see a real difference for gender equality in our society. For movement beyond the sales needle, brands need to back their missions with action and allow consumers to make the cause their own.

    For example, why doesn’t the Always brand deepen their #LikeAGirl mission through partnerships with women’s sports foundations to actionably show young girls that they are just as capable of participating in sports as men?

    Pantene could elevate #NotSorry by working with language coaches to investigate the meaning of ‘strong’ vs. ‘apologetic’ language to help women handle situations in their personal and professional lives through guided workshops.


    (Source: Verizon)

    Additionally, Verizon could expand its #InspireHerMind campaign by creating opportunities for girls to get involved with math and science by bringing science fairs and academic scholarship awards into young women’s hometowns.

    Ultimately, it’s too soon to tell if fem-vertising will be successful in filling the equality gap. We‘ve yet to see the teeth behind these big ideas.”

    Bonus! Dori’s Three Dos and Don’ts for Marketing to Women 

    Here are Dori’s quick tips for brands looking to strengthen their marketing efforts to women consumers:

    3 “Dos” for Marketing to Women:

    1. WomanWiseDo Your Research — Success requires a deep understanding of female “subconscious” motivators to behavior. You must know what emotional triggers will eventually lead to brand loyalty or you won’t move the sales needle for your brand.
    2. Build a Community — Women are hard-wired to want to be part of a community; we’re more about the “we” than we are the “I." Women want to have a feeling of one-ness, a feeling that they are a part of something larger than themselves—with other people, as well as with brands. Brands can facilitate this by joining together with consumers in shared values and shared ideals.
    3. Take a Stand and Be Authentic — Female consumers don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. It’s no longer about features, benefits and promises for women; it’s about why your brand is relevant to her self-discovery and empowered world.

    (Source: WomanWise)

    3 “Don’ts” for Marketing to Women:

    1. Be a Bully — Be the enabler, not the center of the conversation. Women want to join brands that share her ideals and values and are a conduit to her desire to do social good. 
    2. Pink-wash’ Your Brand — Heavily branding your products with the color pink to increase sales is a sure way to turn female consumers off.
    3. Don’t Assume Her Motivators Are the Same as Yours — Women are not one homogeneous group. It's critical to understand where your female consumers' emotional intensity lies and the relation to your brand.

    In sum, Dori suggests that your brand has the opportunity to create a sustainable competitive advantage by focusing not on "profit" but rather "profit with purpose," and allowing your female consumers to join in your cause. What ways can your brand create a more relevant and engaging relationship with its female audiences?

    Screen_Shot_2014-11-18_at_1.02.14_PM Caitlin Jagodzinski is a Public Relations Coordinator with Maccabee, the Minneapolis public  relations and online marketing agency. 

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    Topics: Interviews, Brand Strategy

    Landing Page, SEO and Blog Secrets: An Interview with Clint Danks of ThinkSEM

    Posted by Paul Maccabee on Dec 10, 2014 5:38:00 AM

    If the world of SEO, inbound marketing, optimized content and landing pages thrills you as a marketer, then the following interview with Clint Danks is going to be your cup of Lipton. Clint is co-founder of ThinkSEM, a Roseville, Minn.-based Internet marketing agency that caught our eye with its savvy pay-per-click advertising management, Web development and digital design services.

    ThinkSEM clients include brands like Regis, Explore Minnesota and Red Wing Shoe. Clint is also co-founder of the Minnesota Search Engine Marketing Association, although his Facebook profile admits he’s actually “plotting world domination.” Oh, and he’s a serious fan of Motley Crue and Metallica. Herewith, the wisdom of Nikki Sixx devotee Clint Danks:

    1. How did the ThinkSEM agency come to focus on search engine marketing and landing pages?

    "Our agency’s been helping clients with search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) online advertising for seven years. We realized the importance of landing page design and testing for marketers who wanted to drive lead generation, and that’s become a market differentiator for us.

    Red Wing

    Here’s an example of what we do, for the industrial side of Red Wing Shoes:  it relies on ThinkSEM to help generate B2B leads for its outside sales force across the country. Red Wing Shoes’ target audiences include big construction companies that need to follow OSHA safety standards. We developed landing pages to generate leads - phone calls and form leads - that get pumped into its Eloqua system. In fact, we design multiple offers for Red Wing, such as free downloadable white papers on OSHA standards and receive a free pair of boots in exchange for 15 minutes of their time. Hands down, the free boot offer pulled best in our tests – the interest level was 400 to 500 percent higher than other Red Wing offers. Ultimately, we generated over a 100 percent increase in sales leads for Red Wing."

    2. You invest a lot of time in your ThinkSEM blog, chiefly written by your wife and co-owner Sarah Danks and PR staffer Kayla Hollatz – it’s a fun read. 

    "When I first started our agency, I relied solely on PPC and SEO to market ThinkSEM, because I didn’t think blogs, social media or content marketing would do anything for us! Well, I was sorely mistaken. The moral of the story for marketers: SEO, PPC, social media – it’s all tied together. A blog is huge from a brand perspective, yet we neglected it at first and I regret that. The ancillary benefit of our blog is that our ThinkSEM domain gets stronger, people link to our blog content, and the pages on our website become more visible in search engines."

    3. Marketers now manage multiple online destinations – websites, Facebook pages, LinkedIn profiles, Twitter channels, YouTube pages, mico-sites, company blogs, Instagram and Pinterest pages, SlideShare and more. Ultimately, where should marketers send their prospects when they interact with a brand online?

    Clint Danks "Oli Gardner, the founder of the landing page and conversion agency Unbounce, likes to say, “your website is your Brand Central Station.” Yet there’s a LOT of distractions on your website – your prospect’s attention is divided between information on new products, lists of your clients, descriptions of your capabilities – ironically, much of that website content is a barrier to what your business objective is: getting a lead. And securing leads is where landing pages come in.

    What’s great about PPC and landing pages is that you can categorize keywords and create promotional themes. For example, Red Wing Shoe has several types of workboots, so one theme can be steel toe vs. soft toe workboots. Now Red Wing Shoes’ website is highly informative, with lots of content. But the landing pages we created for them were environments specific to targeted themes, so you have a landing page just for steel toe boots. With a landing page, you eliminate all distractions, even getting rid of navigation elements which could get your customer lost.If you give a potential consumer limited options on a landing page, that keeps them focused on what you want them to do. That’s the beauty of a landing page over a website."

    4. I hate online forms that ask not only for my name, title, company and address, but everything else short of my birthdate, social security number, favorite Starbucks drink and the name of my childhood pet and nickname. What’s your advice on truly effective sales lead forms?

    "Oh, it’s a constant battle to eliminate barriers that companies add to the form itself – one of the questions we like to delete from lead forms is, “how did you hear about us?” That’s a discouragement from you securing a lead. It’s also seldom necessary for a form to ask for a prospect’s company name and street address. We do little things to condense the size of landing pages and forms – for example, you can combine the respondent’s first and last name in the same field. Finally, marketers have to ask themselves - do you want lead volume or qualified leads? The longer your lead form, the more qualified your lead may be - but the fewer people will fill your form out."

    5. How dominant is Google now in search?

    "Google is 67 percent of the marketplace – Bing and Yahoo, which merged in 2009, make up 28 percent of the SEO market, although they’ve been gaining a bit of ground. Marketers should also keep in mind: YouTube is not classified as a search engine. But if it was, YouTube would be the second largest search engine on the planet.  Yet, few companies promote videos or run ads on YouTube."

    Google vs. Bing

    6. What does ThinkSEM do for your client, Regis?

    "We’ve worked with a dozen of Regis’ 60 branded salon chains, including Magicuts and Master Cuts. We guide their pay-per-click accounts, and build custom landing pages that house their promotional offers, encouraging people through PPC to print out a coupon or show the offer on a mobile device. One interesting lesson from our Regis work: one of the brands we worked with had new creative branding that we tested first online, and then Regis carried the branding messages over to the retail environment of their salons. Typically, what you do online stays online and doesn’t get carried back to the brick and mortar salons."


    7. Any advice for brands wrestling with how to optimize their content for search via Google?

    "I’ve been in the SEO industry now for 11 years, and the complexity of Google algorithms is at a much higher level than it’s ever been. Google has taken steps to ensure that companies cannot register a domain name and then rank highly within a week. The key to SEO today is producing great content on your website and then being sure that your content is being linked to from third-parties on the Web. The higher quality the links, the better your company does in organic search.

    What some marketers don’t understand is – the content you post has to be unique to you. A marketing department or agency cannot just recycle other people’s content. Another big mistake is writing content for search engines, rather than writing for your audience. If you repeat a keyword or phrase dozens of times in a white paper or article content, you may think that will help you in search – but it’s terrible for readability. What’s more, Google’s Panda algorithm is in charge of content quality control and Panda looks for repurposed content from other websites and blogs. If you (as a company) choose to take the easy way out with content, just understand the consequences. It takes effort and creativity to achieve a high level of success with online content."

    8. What’s on the horizon for digital marketing?

    SEOMobile"PPC advertising has been evolving at a rapid pace over the past two years. We're expecting more enhancements to help advertisers reach potential customers. Personally, I feel that wearable technology, such as smart glasses (including Google Glass), is the next step in targeting users - allowing advertisers to deliver ads based on location and real-time needs of the consumer.  

    Most importantly, Google AdWords will soon be launching its in-store conversion tracking. This will allow advertisers to attribute in-store sales back to paid search efforts, giving you a clearer idea of how paid search impacts retail sales.

    In 2015, Google will become stricter with how they deal with spammy content and unnatural link building practices. Content creators must take into consideration SEO best practices, but also what devices are accessing that content. This coming year, it’s expected that mobile traffic will exceed laptop traffic. So ask yourself: will the same piece of content be impactful at a resolution of 320 x 568?”


    Thanks Clint, for sharing your insights into SEO, landing pages and blogs! For more wisdom from Think SEM, follow it on Twitter, check out its blog and at

    Paul MaccabeePaul Maccabee is president of Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency. 






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    Topics: Interviews, Inbound Marketing, SEO