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Hi! I'm Kerry Jones and I'm the Associate Marketing Director at Fractl, a boutique creative agency that specializes in producing content that attracts hundreds or thousands of media mentions, backlinks, and social shares for our clients. You may have seen some of our client projects blowing up your social media feeds (like this or this).

So how do we do it? The key to our success is creating the type of content that journalists want to cover and people want to share. While “going viral” is never a guarantee, we’ve developed a system that regularly results in our client projects earning massive attention. Our proven process begins with choosing ideas that have high potential to perform well and ends with highly targeted, personalized PR outreach. Data journalism is at the core of most client projects. We either conduct first hand research to collect our own data or comb through existing data sources to find compelling stories and then package the data in a way that’s accessible to the masses. You can see a step-by-step process breakdown in this Moz post or hear me walk through it on this podcast.

We practice what we preach and take the same approach for marketing our agency (this is what I oversee). My team conducts marketing industry research which we regularly publish in places like Harvard Business Review, Adweek, Inc, Moz, and HubSpot. This strategy plays a major role in increasing our brand awareness and authority and it’s been highly effective for driving leads and new business.

I will be live on Nov 22 from 12:30 -1:30 pm EST during which I'll answer as many questions as I can. I’m very open about how we do what we do at Fractl, so anything you want to know -- AMA!  

  • AL

    Arsene Lavaux

    8 months ago #

    Bonjour Kerry,

    A few days ago, Neil Patel published this blog post - http://neilpatel.com/2016/11/17/we-analyzed-203900-data-points-to-answer-the-question-do-keywords-matter/ - where he makes the point that topic research is now more important than keywords per se for SEO purposes.

    Could you share with us some of the SEO actions you currently take or plan on taking soon in that vein?

    Merci!

    • KJ

      Kerry Jones

      8 months ago #

      Bonjour, Arsene! Looks like a fantastic post from Neil that I’ll explore more later.

      From what I can tell just by skimming it quickly, he’s speaking to SEOs who rely too heavily on keyword research. They'd rather focus on content around keywords as opposed to doing audience research and truly understanding potential customers and what they'd value.

      As for us, we’re going to keep doing what we’ve always done. Our ideation process always starts out with the audience top of mind, not SEO. So we begin by looking at topics related to our client and their target audience’s interests. We step away from the keyword planning tools and hang out where the target audience hangs out. We read the content the target audience shares.

      Once you’ve chosen topically relevant ideas that are likely to resonate with your target audience, from there you can use keyword research to refine your idea or determine which keywords to use throughout your content. Don’t be too black and white with this though -- as Neil pointed out, exact match keywords are becoming less prevalent in the SERPs.

      This post we recently put on our blog dives into how SEO goals help shape our overall content strategy: http://www.frac.tl/how-do-seo-goals-impact-content-marketing-strategy/

      7 Share
  • SK

    S Kodial

    8 months ago #

    Hi Kerry - thanks for joining us.

    Loved the article that breaks down how content can go viral. Despite that breakdown though,what is it, do you think, that you understand about content (creation and distribution) that you believe not many people still do?

    • KJ

      Kerry Jones

      8 months ago #

      Love this question :)

      From a content creation standpoint, you need to take a journalistic approach and be willing to change your angle based on where the idea/data takes you. You can't decide the angle of your content before you do thorough research.

      Our "Perceptions of Perfection" campaign is a great example (http://www.frac.tl/research/campaign-study-perceptions-of-perfection). When we asked graphic designers around the world to edit an image based on the ideal body types in their home country, we had an instinct this would reveal interesting insights, but at the end of the day, we wouldn't know until we asked and we saw what we got. That's what would determine the angle.

      The perfect combination is an idea based on already established questions people talk about (body image issues, etc.) and then an original exploration of those topics, even if there's a bit of a risk regarding results. Without taking those risks, you miss out on huge potential wins.

      From a distribution standpoint, not many people take time to research the places their audiences frequent on the web and further, fail to nurture relationships with those publications or influencers. Many marketers neglect promoting their content or brand beyond traditional press releases or impersonal cold pitches.

      Creating and establishing relationships with the media is invaluable, but often not a lot of time or resources are invested in a personalized outreach strategy. We’ve put together an ebook that details our entire outreach process, which includes insights from a survey we conducted of 1,200 publishers on how they want to be pitched: http://www.frac.tl/ultimate-guide-to-digital-pr-outreach/

      In addition to analyzing your wins on a campaign by campaign basis, it’s also important to look at your aggregate results across all of your content projects. We do this regularly to spot the patterns and trends in our highest and lowest performing campaigns (example: https://moz.com/blog/content-marketing-campaigns-earning-links).

      3 Share
      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        8 months ago #

        Love this!

        Let me ask a follow-up question inspired by this one (and a variant on another common "startup-y" question):
        What is it about content (creation and distribution) that you believe but others do not agree with you on?

  • JD

    James Dunn

    8 months ago #

    Hey Kerry

    Can you talk about any content related experiments that led to some learning you didnt have before or were big wins?

    • KJ

      Kerry Jones

      8 months ago #

      For our client Travelmath (case study here: http://www.frac.tl/portfolio-item/content-marketing-case-study-travelmath/), we came up with a series of hygiene/germ-related ideas in the travel space. We had a feeling they would do well because we played off a common fear people have about traveling (how dirty airplanes, hotels, and other public spaces are), and actually collected the data ourselves (via swabs and lab testing) to reveal whether these fears were founded.

      However, we hadn't before tried using actual lab testing for previous campaigns, so it was a bit of uncharted territory. But the results we got were a testament to how important it is to:

      1. Experiment with new methods of collecting data so you can continue to create content that is innovative/differentiated
      2. Look for ways to gather your own data when possible

      We did three campaigns for this client around this concept -- airplane hygiene, hotel room hygiene, and public transit hygiene -- and in total they received 226 dofollow links and 70k+ social shares.

      2 Share
  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    8 months ago #

    Hi Kerry - stoked to have you on!

    If you (ie an individual or a startup) does not have the bandwidth to be a content generating machine, is there any realistic chance of using content as an effective channel user acquisition/brand awareness etc?
    If yes, what's the best way to put this limited bandwidth to use from a content perspective to get the maximum ROI (however you define that)?

    • KJ

      Kerry Jones

      8 months ago #

      Thanks, Anuj! Glad to be here :)

      I know some of the advice I’m dispensing here may sound overwhelming to a one-man operation or startup.

      Investing in high-value, long-form evergreen content is a good place to start. I look at Backlinko as an example of an individual generating high ROI content. Apparently he is the only person working on his content full time, although I believe he has some assistance here and there.

      So what’s he doing?

      * Low volume of extremely high-value content (he spends A LOT of time on one post)
      * Consistency (although he doesn’t publish frequently, he publishes regularly)
      * Very conscious of SEO best practices baked into all content creation
      * Conversion copywriting

      So maybe to start, you publish one extremely high value piece of content once a quarter. Everyone starts somewhere. Backlinko’s a really good example of that. He didn’t wake up with tens of thousands of email subscribers. He kept at it, learned as he went, investing more time/effort into what was working, and now he’s a go-to source for SEO. I bet he’s so busy he’s turning away clients. :)

  • DH

    Dani Hart

    8 months ago #

    Hi Kerry,

    Great to have you on here today!

    I'm curious on how you define what success looks like for campaigns. When setting objectives for campaigns, how do you break down the success of each channel to ensure you're using the most effective means of acquiring attention? And lastly, to what extend do you involve lead generation and nurturing into your campaigns?

    Excited to learn more!

    Cheers,
    Dani

    • KJ

      Kerry Jones

      8 months ago #

      Hi Dani, success is relative to the client’s goals of course, but also to their industry/vertical. You need to have realistic expectations as to what your industry can accomplish, you really can’t compare apples to oranges when it comes to media mentions and social engagement across industries. For an example of how widely success metrics can vary, see our analysis of content marketing performance across 15 verticals: http://www.frac.tl/research/strategy-by-vertical

      The industries that have the most universal appeal saw the greatest amount of social engagement/media mentions, while more niche industries see a fraction of the engagement.

      The extent that we tie in lead generation depends on the client. While most clients are coming to us for awareness/top of funnel goals, we have several clients where we create very niche-specific content that aims to attract leads/customers. For these clients, we aren’t trying to reach a massive audience. Instead we are trying to speak directly to their target audience. This type of content looks quite different than content that is getting hundreds of thousands of shares. We then get the content placed with niche publishers to ensure it’s getting in front of that very specific audience we are trying to reach.

      Two examples of this are:

      Alexa case study: http://www.frac.tl/portfolio-item/b2b-content-marketing-case-study/
      Buzzstream case study: http://www.frac.tl/research/case-study-buzzstream

      3 Share
      • JQ

        Jason Quey

        8 months ago #

        Great insight Kerry.

        Quick follow up question - why do you suspect fashion was the vertical with the least placements and social shares?

  • DO

    Danielle Olivas

    8 months ago #

    Hi Kerry,

    Great to have you here today.

    What challenges have you found with attribution and what have you been able to do about overcoming them?

    Thanks for your time!

    • KJ

      Kerry Jones

      8 months ago #

      Hi Danielle, this is definitely something we have a lot of experience with!

      Sometimes writers forget to attribute the person/company that produced the content or they link to the wrong article or post as the source. Tactfully asking publishers to include proper attribution is simple, and in most cases we've found writers and editors comply with no issues. Simply explaining who should receive the attribution for your content and including a link to the source will do, but sometimes they will neglect to add it so a follow up email is definitely acceptable.

      For example, while promoting our study that revisited viral emotions, a writer linked to the wrong HBR article. Here’s the email we used to reach out to fix the error:

      Subject line: Incorrect link for HBR study [Chewbacca Mom post]

      Hi Michael,

      I worked with the team that put together the study for HBR on viral emotions and we noticed the current link in the post goes to a different article. Here's the link to the original study, and a quick thank you for featuring our work! We produce research on similar topics frequently, so I'll be sure to share any future studies that might be relevant.

      Happy Friday,
      Andrea

      The editor responded within moments and the link was fixed immediately – and he even mentioned how appreciative he was for the catch!

      We have also found that publishers prefer to link to blogs or landing pages with more information about the content as opposed to just a homepage or product. So keep this in mind if you’re having a lot of issues with proper attribution.

      3 Share
  • DS

    Dan Shure

    8 months ago #

    Hi Kerry!

    In our podcast interview you mention pitching about 50-100 publications in a content campaign. What does that pitch look like? How do you structure it, what do you say? Is it always via email?

    • KJ

      Kerry Jones

      8 months ago #

      Thanks for stopping by, Dan!

      Our media relations team typically performs outreach through email, though we also utilize other points of contact like social media to network and establish a relationship with a writer or editor before pitching.

      As far as the anatomy of a pitch, we typically structure as such:

      * While researching the best writer or editor to contact, we try to find some sort of connection-- whether that be directly tied to the research or content we’re pitching or a more personal connection (author bios or Twitter feeds are particularly helpful for this approach.) This helps your pitch stand out from the scores of impersonal templates and proves to the writer you understand their beat.

      * Now transition straight into what you’re pitching. Give a brief synopsis of the topic and methodology, then pull a few unique stats their audience would find particularly interesting, surprising, or important. Be sure to mention or imply why this would be a good fit for their audience.

      * In your closing, reinforce how the content will benefit the writer, publisher, and their readers.

      It’s a lot to fit into one email, but keeping it brief and simple is key. And don’t overlook the importance of an eye-catching subject line -- it determines whether or not your pitch will be read.

      Our new ebook (http://www.frac.tl/ultimate-guide-to-digital-pr-outreach/) goes into great detail (~40 pages) about our entire process -- from researching the best fit writer for your content to the anatomy of the perfect pitch to when to hit send.

      3 Share
  • RA

    R Ahammed

    8 months ago #

    Hi Kerry, Thanks for being here.

    What can make content go viral for SaaS Niche? As you know, it is kind of boring niche. Data and real facts are filling out our content. I found very few content that got 20k Social shares.

    • KJ

      Kerry Jones

      8 months ago #

      Hi R, thanks for the question!

      The first problem you face is a limited audience size. You can’t find much SaaS related content with a lot of social shares because only a small amount of people care about it.

      If you’re only creating content about SaaS, you’re only going to reach people within your niche. So your best course of action is to grow your content’s potential audience size. To do this, you need to venture outside of SaaS as your content topic and consider general business or tech topics that have broader appeal, but still relate back to your company.

      When our clients in “boring” industries allow us to come up with ideas that aren’t directly about their vertical, but still tie back to what they do, we usually have much better success than if we try to make engaging content directly about their brand/industry. (You can read about one such case here: https://moz.com/blog/case-study-controversial-content-earned-hundreds-links)

      If you’re trying to create something purely for attracting mass attention/high potential to earn links, you will want to go for ideas that are more consumer-facing, too. An example of when we have done this for more technical clients, Experts Exchange, is this campaign where we compared virtual assistants: https://www.slashgear.com/siri-tops-google-now-cortana-in-user-satisfaction-accuracy-09413764/ It still spoke to their target audience while appealing to an extremely wide segment of the population, which helped it generate about 340 media stories.

      Ok, so now that you’re willing to come up with ideas on broader topics, you want your ideas to incorporate as many of the following as possible:

      Emotional impact -- this is what drives people to click/share
      Newsworthy/original -- offering new data/research that hasn’t been published before is very appealing to both publishers and audiences
      Surprising -- this is the X-factor ingredient that most viral content has in common
      Proven success -- putting a new spin on an idea that has already been popular can greatly increase your chances for success

      Keep in mind viral content works best for achieving top-of-funnel awareness. For a SaaS company, viral content isn’t going to solve your main business goals like lead gen, customer acquisition, and retention. Through marketing our agency and other B2B clients, we’ve learned that really comprehensive, valuable, evergreen resources do well in the B2B audiences, especially data-driven content that provides insight into the industry. Of course, this type of content isn’t going to get 20K shares, but it does increase thought leadership, brand awareness, and attract leads/new business. For this reason, you might be better off investing in extremely high-quality niche-specific content that speaks directly to the needs of your target customer.

      5 Share
  • AA

    Aldin A

    8 months ago #

    Hi Kerry,

    Thanks for being here!

    1) Suppose you were in a very crowded space such as fashion, how would you go about coming with unique content topics that would resonate with users. What is your process for coming up with viable content topics?

    2)What are the most important lessons you've learned in your career?

    Thanks

    • KJ

      Kerry Jones

      8 months ago #

      Hi Aldin, great question!

      1) Consider yourself lucky to be in a crowded space where you have a ton of successful content out there to learn from! In another question someone asked about creating viral SaaS content -- not exactly an abundance of success stories there. ;)

      To come up with great ideas, first you need to study what’s been really popular in the fashion space and notice the common elements. Zero in on what’s doing well on visual platforms such as YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram.

      Chances are most content that’s done well has a strong visual component and is extremely useful (advice viewers can put into action). A great example is this video of how to tie a scarf (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LYAEz777AU). It has 32 million views on YouTube!

      A few reasons this video has done so well:

      * Simple/easily understood [she’s tying scarves, not building a house]
      * Practical/useful [even I can do some of these scarf styles and I’m Floridian/suck at wearing winter clothes]
      * Compelling [the pace of the video keeps you from getting bored. She packed 25 different styles into 4 minutes.]
      * Visually appealing [great production quality]
      * Headline is optimized for clickthroughs [I couldn’t resist clicking on it]

      This isn’t a standalone example. There is a lot of other content about tying a scarf that has been viewed millions or hundreds of thousands of times. Even if someone has already executed on an idea, you can still produce the same idea if you put your own spin on it.

      Look at what’s been successful and then consider how you can:

      * Take two or more successful ideas and combining them
      * Create an updated version of an older but successful idea. Are there new trends you can incorporate? A different visual layout (ex. Turning a video into a static visual format, such as an illustrated guide)?

      Once you come up with a handful ideas, consider taking it a step further and tie in an emotional aspect. Fashion is deeply personal to many people, so this isn’t that hard to to do. A few ideas for stirring up emotions...

      Take a contrarian viewpoint. In the fashion world there are a lot of rules. This tongue-in-cheek guide to 24 Things Women Over 30 Should Wear (https://warningcurvesahead.com/2016/06/04/24-things-women-over-30-should-wear/) has been shared over a million times. The message is forget the rules and wear whatever you want (but in more colorful language!) It’s both empowering and funny.

      Play up nostalgia. Right now anything 90s is hot in the fashion world (hello, everything I wore in middle school). Fashion connect can really connect with people by evoking memories of what they wore when they were younger, like this ode to (awful) 90s shoes (http://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/fashion/g5911/shoe-nostalgia/).

      Once you have great ideas, now you need to be sure you’re doing the idea justice and invest in high quality content production (photography, videography, illustrations, etc). Even a casual fashion blogger has professional equipment these days.

      For more help with brainstorming, see how we come up with original ideas at Fractl in this Moz post: https://moz.com/blog/want-a-viral-hit-here-is-an-inside-look-at-our-ideation-process

      2) I don't feel I have the wisdom yet to be doling out career advice, but here's what I'd tell my younger self:
      * Give yourself the freedom to fail (as long as you learn from it).
      * If your job is making your life miserable, find another job.
      * Never be “above” a task. Always be willing to roll up your sleeves and do grunt work, regardless of your title/experience.

      5 Share
  • JP

    John Phamvan

    8 months ago #

    Hi Kerry

    Irrespective of how good it is - there clearly is a lot of good content out there nowadays on every topic imaginable.
    How can you sustainably stand above it all - a "first among equals" so to speak?

  • JF

    Javier Feldman

    8 months ago #

    Hi Kerry!

    From a lot of what i'm reading about content marketing, it seems that when it comes to distribution, you need a leg up - whether its influencers or Facebook ads - without which its almost unlikely that large numbers of people will see your work no matter how good it is. Is that a correct reading of the situation? Is this understanding correct? if yes, isn't it kind of sad its the "unfair advantage" of people or money that will determine your success? If not, can you talk more about how you can organically get your content in front of the most people?

    Thanks!

    • KJ

      Kerry Jones

      8 months ago #

      Hey Javier!

      While some big brands benefit from huge budgets allowing them to buy ad space and influencer mentions, today's digital age allows the "little guys" like small businesses and startups to join in on a more equal playing field. We've seen great success in our promotional outreach strategies that have allowed our client campaigns to garner a ton of attention online without spending a fortune -- and these aren't necessarily clients that benefit from a lot of brand recognition either.

      Our secret isn't really much of secret, we actually just wrote an entire ebook on it here: http://www.frac.tl/ultimate-guide-to-digital-pr-outreach/ (and it’s free)! Investing the time and resources to research where your audience frequents online, researching those publications and influencers, then establishing real relationships with them by providing valuable content is a win-win for everyone. Your content gets massive exposure and the publishers get to share new content.

      Also, it’s misguided to think you need to partner with really popular influencers (who will charge you an arm and a leg to work with them) in order to get your content seen. Influencers with a smaller, but tight-knit following may be better for inspiring action among their followers. I wrote about the power of niche influencers here: http://marketingland.com/content-marketers-tap-power-niche-influencers-161930

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    8 months ago #

    One more:
    We recently did a growth study on Buzzfeed where we quoted one of the concerns raised with them, which was that while their content got shared like crazy, it was difficult to connect all those shares and likes with business results for their clients.

    How much of a challenge is this for your projects and what have you been able to do to overcome this (to whatever extent you have)?

    • KJ

      Kerry Jones

      8 months ago #

      For clients coming to us with awareness/link building goals, we’re able to tie our work to increased organic traffic. If the content is good enough, it attracts a high volume of press coverage. All of these media mentions result in links, links result in improved search rankings for our clients, and rankings lead to more organic traffic, and ultimately conversions/sales coming from organic searchers.

      The truth is, businesses have different goals that far reaching content can impact -- but there are a number of important caveats to consider. As mentioned, earning links from high authority publishers can have a powerful impact on ranking potential for a site. Native content may struggle to find large syndication, and it’s also possible that depending on the topic covered, a piece of content might do well socially but not really be seen as news by other publishers, so it isn't going to attract press coverage. In these instances, it is unlikely the content would be widely linked to.

      Also, it’s much more likely that Buzzfeed itself would get linked to as a primary source of the content, and not the sponsoring company -- so by and large, these companies purchasing native ads in the form of Buzzfeed paid viral content, they’re not earning the potential authority signals and links that would come with more massive syndication and direct linking to the original source on their site.

      The same is true with other metrics like referral traffic and social syndication. With native ads, the publisher (BuzzFeed in this case) is getting all that benefit. People clicking through the sponsored content still arrive on BuzzFeed. They still then probably interact then with other BuzzFeed content. Yes, the content is sponsored and users see the association, but the secondary benefits are diluted. The customer doesn’t interact with more content created by that brand, share more content created by that brand, or interface with that brand’s online platform/publishing/community (they interface instead with BuzzFeed).

  • KK

    Karola Karlson

    8 months ago #

    Hey Kerry,
    Just wanted to say that I dropped by and was really impressed with your answers. That's the kind of thoughtful awe-inspiring content marketing everyone should strive for. :gem:

  • DD

    Dmitry Dragilev

    8 months ago #

    Hi Kerry!

    A while ago you guys published a phenomenal study: https://growthhackers.com/slides/500-editors-journalists-reveal/

    I have referenced and referred to this study for more then 2 years now and have put together an entire course and coaching program helping entrepreneurs pitch press and get coverage on their own without PR firms some and just with my guidance (closing this year's enrollment soon): http://prthatconverts.com/

    I while back I used PR to scale a startup from 0 to 40M+ and got acquired by Google : https://growthhackers.com/articles/how-i-took-a-startup-from-0-to-40m-pageviews-and-got-it-acquired-by-google

    My question to you is a two part one:

    1. Are you planning to create a more of an interactive course or tool to help people write better email pitches? I run https://justreachout.io/ and we have 3K+ customers sending email pitches out, I reference your slides a lot but am thinking about building a tool which parses email pitches and finds issues with them based on your study (much like Crystal Knows).

    2. I'd love to connect and chat for a few min if possible, there is a lot of overlap between what you guys do and what I do, maybe we can help each other out?

    Thank you ahead of time!

    -Dmitry

  • JQ

    Jason Quey

    8 months ago #

    Hey Kerry,

    Thanks for taking the time to be here.

    If someone is starting to build relationships with journalists from scratch (i.e. assume no previous connections to the industry), what is the process you would recommend they begin?

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