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Content Marketing Deconstructed: Legal Considerations for Agencies at Every Stage of the Process

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When a person, brand, or organization creates its own platform to share and influence, a content marketing initiative is born. This practice has been going on long before digital capabilities made it as accessible and mainstream as it is today. It’s also these digital aspects that make it all that more complex for the modern marketer and the companies driving the ecosystem.

  • Who (or what robot) is creating your content?
  • Who is the rightful owner of the content and the intellectual property inside it?
  • Where and how is this content being distributed?
  • Are the laws relevant to the content being followed (or do we even know what those are)?

As a content creator myself, through a variety of media including blogging, video, podcasts, newsletters, and more, I understand the level of detail that can go into each and every project. It’s a big investment of time, talent and treasure, and that’s why it’s worth protecting at every corner.

I’ve seen legal hiccups at virtually every link along this chain, with rising complexities around content ownership and licensing, and emerging risks with more automated content solutions and accountability.

If you break down the process, you’ll find there are various and unique legal issues at each phase that can get in the way of progress. What’s my strategy to beat them? Plan ahead.

Here are three key junctures with reminders to help keep your content marketing campaigns secure:

1. Strategy, Talent & Content Sources

Before the first word is written, or pixel is placed, think about your end goals. In addition to the brand building and sales nurturing aspects, content marketing offers the opportunity of creating intellectual property for your brand, including in both the outputs and processes.

  • Is this something you will own and use in the future, or repurpose for other business opportunities?
  • Are you creating content in-house, using outside partners, freelancers or partners, or possibly integrating external, more automated and AI-driven content services?

You will want to ensure you own the rights to your work, so you have complete freedom in the future for promotions, repurposing and other applications.

For your content strategy and execution, ensure the same levels of agreements are in place for any partners or employees creating content on behalf of your company.

2. Content Development

Beyond the clear copyright rules and plagiarism risks surrounding content creation, there are several less obvious aspects that companies need to watch out for:

  • When featuring any other existing content, first get written permission from whomever owns the content (you would be surprised how often this step is skipped), and then cite proper attribution of any content sourced from, or linked to, from third party resources.
  • Gather and track licenses and use rights for images or artwork incorporated into your content and know the limits of those licenses.
  • When making claims within content, in addition to being true, claims need substantiation. Misleading by omission is just as off-limits as making an express false claim. Ask yourself about the substantiation before you publish the claim.
  • Include all needed trademarks with permission, or with adequate disclaimers if they are the trademarks of some third party.

There are many resources out there for education and reference, including this Skyword article, Original and Accountable: How to Detect Plagiarism, and Avoid It in Content Marketing. What’s key is making sure everyone involved keeps a vigilant eye on this, because your company becomes liable for any infraction.

3. Publishing, Distribution & Promotion

There are various considerations and rules surrounding content of all types that your company is publishing and promoting.

  • Copyright infringement or the use of content without permission or improper attribution.
  • Compliance failures in disclosures of endorsements, testimonials and all things influence marketing.
  • Native advertising or failing to distinguish clearly between paid content placed in a native ad context and the surrounding editorial content. Confused about what that is? Check out Robert Rose’s overview on Content Marketing Institute: What’s the Difference Between Content Marketing, Branded Content, and Native Advertising?

Additionally, email and data privacy rules continue to reign, brought to the spotlight more recently in GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act (remember the CAN-SPAM act of 2003?). No one should be using purchased or rented lists for email or relying on the “opt out” at inception as law favors the initial “opt in,” and making sure that “opt outs” are managed properly.

To summarize, wherever your content is going… make sure the destination is legit!

Send the Right Message

With the massive flood of content pouring through digital channels for more than a decade, and more and quicker ways to produce and distribute it, companies continue to seek ways to get their messages through in an overly crowded environment.

Take the time to educate yourself, your employees, and everyone else in your content universe on the legal risks at each step of the content journey, and stay on top of evolving rules and regulations.

Article by Sharon Toerek of Legal + Creative by Toerek Law.

Sharon is an intellectual property and marketing law attorney, with a national Firm based in Cleveland, Ohio.  She devotes her legal practice at Toerek Law to helping creative professionals protect, enforce and monetize their creative assets.

She has a particular concentration of clients in the advertising, marketing and creative services industries, and counsels them on legal issues including copyright and content protection, licensing of creative content, trademark and brand protection matters, marketing agency service contract issues, freelancer contract issues,  social media issues, advertising compliance, and direct marketing regulations. To learn more about Sharon, visit www.legalandcreative.com.

Digital Marketing – What’s Your Strategy?

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Marketing has changed a lot over the years and I’ve been fortunate enough to see how it has taken shape. In the past, we used broadcast and print marketing to reach out to consumers and businesses. Back then, we didn’t call it traditional marketing. We just called it marketing.

Today, the digital universe has not only changed the way we reach out to people but it’s also changed what we say. Brand messaging is the biggest change that I’ve seen. It matters to your clients and customers. It also matters to the general public. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the recent public relations nightmares. So, having a strategic plan to deliver your message throughout the digital-verse is just as important as it was in the past.

Digital Resembles Traditional

Digital marketing has some basic concepts in common with traditional marketing. The goal of a traditional marketing campaign was to cover as many bases possible—to capture as much attention while staying within budget. A well-rounded campaign focused on primary and secondary activities.

Primary activities delivered the entire message. These had more space or time for content that gave all the necessary details. Typically, primary activities were print-based and some broadcast media, such as infomercials and infotainment.

Secondary activities were used to keep brand names front-of-mind for consumers. This is a broad category that includes things like billboards and vinyl-wrapped busses. The goal of secondary activities was to complement marketing campaigns through increasing brand recognition.

Digital Marketing: A Comprehensive Mix

Everyone, regardless of age, is now online. The digital world is part our every day lives. Television is on smartphones. Radio stations stream through wireless speakers. Voice-controlled personal assistants sit in our living room and robots roam our houses. Marketers can capitalize on these changes by investigating how new and unique platforms within the digital-verse can deliver their message.

It’s time to be more strategic about your digital presence. You really need to have all things digital in play. Just like traditional methods, we need to have a good mix of primary and secondary sources for people to find your business.

More Than Just a Website – Primary

Websites are no longer digital brochures. Your home page has become your storefront—your front lobby. It’s where potential and repeat customers enter your business. And it has to do so much more than ever before.

Your website has to be a primary source of information. Every visitor should have all of their questions answered before leaving it. If not, they should be able to ask and get a quick response.

Added to this is the fact that your website depends upon two major criteria: search engine optimization (SEO) and mobile responsive design. Without these, your website won’t be as easily found by Google. SEO requires strategic organic search optimization through original content, such as videos, articles and blogs. These need to capture viewers’ attention, be informative, and need to be updated frequently or else Google will send you to the end of the list.

Social Media – Primary

The world of social media is always changing, always in flux, but one thing is for certain, it’s not going away. Your social media presence has to be a primary source of information. It also has to create an emotional connection with your viewers. This is just as true for B2B as it is for B2C marketing.

The bio pages on any social media site can inform your visitors about what you do and where you’re located. Frequent posts with pictures and videos show your business in action. Informative articles, white papers, and video content about your business’ expertise should also be shared frequently on social media. Remain positive in this space. Business social media pages are not a political platform and you will see your audience diminish drastically if you use them in this way. All of these guidelines will also help your efforts with public relations.

Google My Business – Primary

When Google knows more about your business, your visibility will increase. This means more traffic to your site and social channels. That’s what Google My Business does. It puts you on the map, allows online reviews, and provides primary sources of information. Here are some handy statistics about Google My Business:

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) – Secondary

In some ways, paid search has taken the place of broadcast media’s quick ad spots. But it’s so much different than blasting your message to everyone listening. As a secondary source, it resides in the middle of your sales funnel and provides measurable and trackable data. This leads to increased targeting and more appealing messages.

Paid search is a great way to target new audiences with relevant content. It drives more people to where you want them to go. We regard PPC as an important activity for any digital marketing campaign.

Content – Secondary

Your digital marketing campaign needs flawless content. This ranges from videos to podcasts to blog posts and each one has to differentiate you from everyone else. The best advice we can offer about content is to be authentic and be genuine. Show off your best and people will notice.

Content puts your expertise on display. It shows how your company is unique, and what your company culture is like. Plus, frequent updates of content keep your website active and relevant for search engines.

Link Building – Secondary

Your website really can’t rank well if it doesn’t have link building. This goes even further than someone linking to one of your blog posts. It’s about building partnerships, getting mentions in the press, appearing in videos and on podcasts, and building influencer relationships. Link building should also be part of your public relations strategy.

We Help with the Specifics

A solid digital marketing strategy can improve your visibility, which is a pretty big deal these days. But it also tells the story about your company. Knowing these general concepts is the first step in a bold digital presence. There is so much more to learn about messaging in the digital space, as well as which platforms work best.

Pinstripe has helped local and nationally-based businesses with every aspect of their digital marketing. We specialize in discovering our clients’ personal traits—their corporate character—and putting them on display. Our creative team consists of listeners and discoverers that have an innate ability to help you achieve your vision. Contact us to tell us more about your company and your marketing goals.

Build Top of Mind Awareness With an E-Newsletter

enews_newsSome things never change, even in the fluid online world. One thing that we have always thought important, and will always believe in, is the e-newsletter. A few years ago we wrote the below article – “Build Top of Mind Awareness With an E-Newsletter,” and we still think the information in this article is useful – probably more than ever.

In a market driven by meaningful content, producing an e-newsletter with solid articles that help your customers and prospects is one of the best ways to build the relationships that will foster trust in your brand. There is no question – content is king, and if you position yourself as an expert by creating good content, you will win the trust of clients and prospects.

There are some kinds of businesses that are a part of their customers’ weekly, if not daily routine—grocery stores, drycleaners, and gas stations to name a few. Other companies, such as clothing and hardware stores or even restaurants, also typically attract mostly repeat business. As long as these operations offer competitive prices, good service, and are conveniently located (with no new arrival in the market appearing significantly better on any of those points), customer loyalty should remain fairly strong. But how can businesses instill loyalty when clients may need their services on an annual basis at best, or perhaps only a few times during an entire lifetime? This is the common situation for many professional service providers such as attorneys, CPAs, medical specialists, IT solution providers, or architects to name a few. An e-newsletter may be an economical and effective way to maintain top-of-mind awareness with prospective clients during those long stretches between having a need for the provider’s services.

Simple name recognition is good way to initially differentiate your business from others in your market. But more importantly, an e-newsletter emphasizes the expertise that’s available from professionals at your company.

The greatest challenge associated with producing any e-newsletter – one distributed via email – is getting an audience to read it. And even when a recipient originally made a conscious decision to request the newsletter, it’s not unusual for that person to soon find himself deleting the communication unread, marking it as spam, or taking the final step of asking to removed from the subscription list.

Here are few dos and don’ts that will help maintain reader interest in an e-newsletter from a professional service organization.

Do offer news the reader can use. For instance, attorneys might offer tips as to what to do when starting a business and accountants could point out frequently overlooked tax deductions. Make the articles memorable, pithy and to the point.

Don’t make the publication just another advertisement. In fact, it will enhance the credibility of your e-newsletter if you don’t overtly “sell” anything at all. While articles can address issues that readers may be facing as well as the available solutions, avoid talking about your own company’s specific offerings. Consumers are savvy. If they read about a problem in your newsletter, they’ll assume you have a product or service to meet their needs.

Do make it plain that you’re local. People are more open to information that comes from a “neighbor.” Work references to area landmarks or events into the various articles. As silly as it may seem, people enjoying saying to themselves, “I know where that is.” Referring to local places and events will make your business seem less abstract to potential customers.

Don’t pontificate. A “message” from the company president or CEO is generally bad enough as a reader turn-off, but it may be forgivable if that message offers the “news you can use” component mentioned earlier. Observations about the state of the union, environmental policy, what’s wrong with kids today, or any other topic outside of the author’s professional expertise however, is a definite no-no.

Do keep it brief. While you may have articles that link to your Web site for more additional (non sales) information, the amount of content visible at first glance, should not take up much more room than one screen length. The format should also make it easy for the reader to scan for topics of interest, and quickly glean the facts.

Don’t overload your readers. Make sure the people to whom you send your newsletter have a reasonable chance of being interested in the information you’re providing. And your total number of broadcast communications (the e-newsletter plus any other announcements, alerts, sales promotions, etc.) should appear in their inboxes no more frequently than twice a month. Once a month or once every three months is probably often enough for your newsletter to make an impact without becoming an unread annoyance.

Do encourage reader interactivity. Solicit and make it easy for your audience to provide feedback about your newsletter. Not only is this good PR but their ideas could very well have great merit and can enhance your publication. Also make it easy for audience members to introduce people they know to your newsletter. And finally, make it easy for readers to unsubscribe if they wish to do so.

Do create a series of articles for your newsletter either with a fun or business theme. For example, this year we are running a series of articles with tips for best practices in SEO, and last year we ran a series with the overarching theme relating Wonder Woman (our President’s favorite comic character) to marketing. We’ve seen great enthusiasm for the fun themes so we decided to keep it going with a Zodiac Marketing series this year. We expect that people will enjoy this series as well! As far as the SEO tips series they contain actionable items that any business person or marketing executive can apply to their routine.

Properly executed and written with your audience’s interests in mind, an e-newsletter can help keep your business in the minds of potential customers for that specific moment when they may need your services. Pinstripe can help create a template as well as content for your e-newsletter – get in touch if you need help with launching yours.

Zodiac Marketer: Pisces

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In astrology, people belonging to each zodiac sign allegedly have individual inclinations in personality, relationships, and even fate according to the alignment of the stars at the time of birth. Whether or not you believe in astrology, it can be interesting to read about the different personality traits, relationship tendencies, career paths, and the various aspects of a person’s “sign.” In this series, we will approach marketing using the different characteristics of the zodiac signs.

Pisces is a water sign, with the strengths: compassion, creativity, intuition, gentleness, wisdom, and they are musically inclined. This is a no-brainer. So much of marketing encompasses so many of these traits. Let’s also take a look at Pisces’ weaknesses: fearful, overly trusting, desire to escape reality, can be a victim or a martyr.

Compassion in Marketing

How do you apply compassion to marketing? The truth is, we marketers do it every day, probably without even knowing it. If you really think about the word compassion, at its root is empathy and understanding. In a sense, compassion is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. A good marketer will do this with every piece of marketing material she or he creates.

Some examples:

  • We think about how the user will experience our website designs. Will the flow of the site and the content be easy to navigate? Is the text readable? Is the overall design pleasing to the eye, or are there clashing colors or fonts that will cause an unpleasant experience? We are concerned first and foremost with user experience.
  • When we are creating a new logo, we think about what the end customer is looking for in a company. Are they looking for a solid, trustworthy partner or a fun, cool experience? This will influence everything from the color palette to the font selection.

Creativity in Marketing

This one couldn’t be any simpler to apply to marketing. Creativity is at the heart of design, certainly, but it’s also a key part of marketing strategy. When we create marketing campaigns, creative problem solving is incredibly important. We start with the objective and a set of goals, and from there we develop a strategy of how to best reach those goals. The content development and design process is inherently creative, but applying creative thinking to public relations, media buying, and even management reporting can make all the difference between success and failure.

For example, in one client’s marketing mix, we reallocated a portion of their budget to create more digital ads with analytics. Our rationale for this move is to get a better sense of keyword performance from the digital advertising analytics and then apply those top performing keywords to other parts of the campaign to step up organic web traffic and eventually increase leads, sales, and ultimately revenue.

Intuition in Marketing

Intuition is defined as quick and ready insight or the immediate apprehension or cognition of something, without the need for conscious reasoning. It is one of those “soft skills” that thought leaders are tossing around a lot lately. How do we apply our intuition to a design project? Number one: WE LISTEN. We ask a lot of questions, and then we listen. We ask for a client’s favorite examples, and then we listen. We spend a lot of time listening, watching, notating reactions, passions, subtle hints. During this discovery process, we are experiencing what the client shares and says without judgment. Once we’ve collected our notations from this discovery meeting, we let the full weight of the experience set in and start the process of design or strategy outline. When you’ve spent the entire meeting listening, often there is little need to spend hours toiling over the next step. Sometimes it will even begin to manifest itself during the meeting so that it flows, intuitively, onto the page.

Avoid: Fear in Marketing

As in any business, fear is crippling to marketing and is to be avoided at all costs. Marketing is one of the fastest moving industries – the technology, applications, solutions, and tools are constantly evolving. This is no place for fear. A marketer must be curious, not fearful. You must be willing to try a new shiny tool and have the confidence to either adopt or discard it. You must trust your instincts when you make these decisions, and don’t be afraid to consult with colleagues, read up, take a course! Forge on, be spontaneous, educate yourself constantly – these are some ways to crush fear and thrive in the marketing world.

Avoid: Playing the Victim in Marketing

Let’s frame this from the perspective of online reputation management. Without going into great detail about this topic, which you can read more about HERE, we will touch on the one item that is most relevant to the Pisces victim role. That is – don’t respond to negative reviews or comments with anger, defensiveness, excuses, or any other immature chaff. This is placing yourself in the role of being the victim of someone else’s negativity. This type of response often leads to a pathetic comment battle, in which nothing is accomplished, except that your business looks petty and ridiculous. Instead, play the role of responsible, concerned customer service professional who wants to turn the negative into a positive.

By reacting in an authentic tone that shows that #1 – you want to try to make this right, #2 – you accept responsibility for the mistake and #3 – you plan on using the incident to improve future customer experience, you will often gain the trust and appreciation of the dissatisfied client. In some cases you will turn them into a raving fan. However, even if they are still not happy, at least you’ve demonstrated to other potential clients that you handle sensitive situations with genuine concern and the desire to improve.

We hope that you can take some of the above recommendations and apply them to your business or marketing plan. Stay tuned for the next zodiac sign, fiery Aries!

Nikki Devereux Lends Newsletter Expertise in Referral Rock Story

Florida trademark lawyer, intellectual property

Pinstripe senior project manager, Nikki Devereux, is one of 44 marketers to give advice on creating a compelling email marketing newsletter for Referral Rock. General tips included keeping language conversational instead of a lot of jargon, Tuesday is the most popular day for distribution, and lists are always a popular content tactic.

Nikki mentioned that we “repurpose and make their newsletter fun by sending their newsletter as a series. She says, “This year we have been running a series in which we compare marketing to aspects of Wonder Woman, and it’s been really fun and people are engaging with the content, so that’s always a good sign”.

She also talks about how the information needs to be useful too. “Overall, our general guideline for content is that it has to be useful to our reader – marketing and PR tips, local events, and spotlighting our clients and vendors in fun interview-style pieces”, she says.”

Read the complete article on ReferralRock.com.

See our Wonder Woman series:

Everything I Know About Marketing, I Learned from Wonder Woman
Public Relations Needs to Be Transparent, Like Wonder Woman’s Jet
Confidence Conveys Strength in Marketing
Truth in Advertising: Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth
Wonder Woman Marketing: Her Tiara and Brand Identity
Wonder Woman’s Compassionate Leadership