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Personalised Content: The Best Way to Engage with Customers

With the incessant growth of digital communications, newspapers and other publishers have been forced to come up with new ways to tell stories.
Companies that are not in the publishing business, but use content as a part of their marketing strategy can learn a lot from these emerging storytelling tactics.
When it comes to personalised content, gamification is king. The more you can learn programmatically – primarily using data for better targeting – about your customer or audience member, the more personalised your content will be.
Here are some actionable tips on how you can incorporate personalised content into your content marketing strategy:
Quizzes Drive Content
Digital publisher Buzzfeed is famous for creating content based on user feedback. They collect feedback from visitors to their pages via a customised quiz and then release content based on the results. For example, they just released an “Add Yours” quiz calling all readers to add their favourite celebrity cookbook to their survey. Later, they’ll release a round-up of the top answers submitted.
This content is personalised to a group of your audience members, and is effective for two reasons:

It allows you to know that your content is of interest – the rationale being if people complete your survey, they’re interested in the topic
It’s user curated and your audience feels like they are taking part in your content.

Consider doing a survey round-up of a product, hobby or service that your audience might be interested in to drive a bit more engagement with your pages.
Story based on Personal Info
Another way to create personalised content is to sort your content by certain parameters that pertain to your customer. For example, this article from the BBC explains the changes that have happened to the planet during your personal lifetime.
While this type of content is still personal, the reader does all the customisation work as it’s self-selecting. The content is segmented and personalised, but is easy to create because it’s still general when being created.
Consider segmenting the history of your company, campaign preferences based on age, or maybe interests as another angle for your next content release.
Gamified Conversion Funnel
Finally, when it comes to getting your content to convert, the best way you can do so is to gamify the process. When people feel like brands really want to get to know them, they’re more likely to provide them with information about themselves.
For example, the clothing services Bombfell and Trunk Club have long conversion funnels, but they’re getting as much information as they can from their customers so they can better style for them.
Plus, the conversion funnel is fun. Customers get to pick styles, brands and clothing items that they think help define them.
The bottom line: personalised content boosts engagement with your audience, and makes them more mindful when they interact with your brand.
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How to Make Your Content Actionable

Content is not a magical formula that will make your target audience find your product and then breathlessly buy from you.
The power of actionable content comes from your ability to attract the right audience, enabling them to interact with you and then to elevate that relationship to the next level i.e. for them to become a customer.
So, how do you make your content actionable? Most importantly, you must give the reader, viewer or listener a sense of how they can – and should – apply that information to their own problems and experiences.
To begin your journey towards making your content more actionable you need to start by understanding what actionable content isn’t. It’s not condescending, it’s not obvious and it’s not something your reader can easily Google and find somewhere else. Actionable content gives your reader assurance that they best know how to use the information you’re giving them.
Content, of course comes in many styles, shapes and sizes but the most important thing to remember is that it has to be useful. Check out this great example for marketers, helping them build a comprehensive strategy, step by step.
At its core, actionable content has a few key steps that give you the best possible chance of succeeding every time.
Get your story straight — create and keep a good narrative.
Good writing is essential to all content, of course. The trick to making your content actionable is taking your good writing a step further and framing a narrative for your readers.
The proof is in the science. Researchers at Washington University in St Louis found that instead of just being able to produce facts presented to them, listeners of a story were living the narrative right alongside their protagonist.
This is a powerful tool for brands who want customers to understand how their product fits into their audience’s own narrative, not just communicate what they do.
You can differentiate yourself through your voice, relatability and the delivery of useful content.
The Humane Society of Silicon Valley had this dog adopted by telling a, yes humane and entertaining story about him—shaping a narrative instead of the traditional sad angle taken by most pet adoption societies:

Here’s what some of their readers had to say:
“[I]f you’re looking for a floor-sleeping, speed bump of a dog that minds his own business, strike Eddie clean off your list.”
“Actually he’s kind of a jerk. But he’s a jerk we believe in. We’re not expecting you to want to meet him but if you must, we really can’t deter you.”
This organisation urged their readers to take action through their narrative, and accomplished their goal because of the way they framed their content.
Speak directly to your customers and prospects.
If you’re wondering how to make your audience act, look no further than those who already have. Tapping into the minds of your customers and prospects is the perfect place to start, as many of them have already taken the action you’re looking to obtain from others.
Lean on your customer service and sales teams and find out what experiences they’ve had with your current customers. What questions do they ask? What problems are they facing every day?
Directly addressing these concerns is a powerful step towards making your content actionable.
Barry Feldman of Feldman creative told Forbes how this has worked for him:
“A client asked me to give her and her staff an SEO 101 in 15 minutes. I responded with a post that did exactly that and it caught fire and became one of the biggest drivers of traffic to my site ever.” — Barry Feldman, Founder, Feldman Creative
Getting to the right pain points and questions is just the first step. To make your content actionable, you must know how to ask them what you should do next. And then do it.
Get your audience to connect with you in person, not just through an email newsletter.
The most common call to action that marketers use in their content is a mechanism to get the reader to fork over their email address. They ask prospects to sign up for an email newsletter, subscribe to a blog or possibly another content series.
If you’re looking to connect with your audience on another level, try getting them to meet you online at a specific time and place.
There, you’ll be able to interact with them directly, and create a platform that will better allow you to drive the conversation towards moving them down the funnel.
“Trish Witkowski the Chief Folding Officer at Foldrite invites website visitors to sign up for her 60 Second Super Cool Fold of the Week every Thursday afternoon. She’s set an expectation for her audience and delivered on it every single week for years. And it works.” — Andrew Davis, author of Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships told Forbes.
Think about promotion first.
The last step should be your first. Before you even begin writing, designing or recording, you need to think about how you’re going to get this piece of content in front of your audience.
The #1 downfall of brands when trying content marketing is producing excessively promotional content. Boring. No one (and I mean no one) wants to promote your product unless you make it relevant to them.
Start by researching different publications that your customers frequent—find out who the industry experts are and build relationships with them. Shape content that they might want to share.
Another tactic is leveraging social media listening for topic distribution. Spend a day or two on different social media groups, hashtags and topics to find where your content might fit best, or find the most traction.
The goal is to create a long-term relationship between the content creator and content consumers.
To transform your content from bland to actionable include strong narratives, direct customer/prospect feedback, in-person call to actions and a rigid distribution strategy.

bannersnack blog
Humane Society Silicon Valley

How to Reduce Your Media Spend & Achieve Better Results

Digital marketing has changed the media landscape forever and marketing budgets are being spread across channels – mainly digital – that previously didn’t exist. The problem is that optimisation is not as simple as it was before; if you’re not careful, your spend can get out of hand.
By optimising each of your channels, you can reduce your media spend and achieve better results – all the while proving a positive return on investment (ROI) for every dollar you spend.
We have tips to help you optimise each of the most popular channels draining your media budget. One tip is important for all of them:
Stay in control of budgeting and targeting. If you’re new to a channel, keep watch on your audience and don’t scale until it’s profitable.
Here’s how you’re going to achieve better results without breaking the bank, and figure out the right time to scale for each campaign.
Search Engine Optimisation
Search engine optimisation (SEO) and Google Ads are considered a staple in the marketing world – simply because they work.
A recent study shows that integrating SEO efforts results in a 25% increase in clicks and a 27% increase in profits. Because of this, marketers are increasing their spend in SEO.
According to MarketingProfs, nearly half of digital marketing budgets are spent on search, with 31% on paid search and 18% on SEO. U.S. spend alone will top $45 billion by 2019.
If you’re one of those marketers spending nearly half of your budget optimising for search, measuring success by click isn’t going to be enough.
#1 SEO Tip – Always run campaigns with conversion tracking.
You’ve got to know what happened after a prospect clicks. If it led to a product purchase, then which keyword, ad group or campaign triggered the conversion? Conversion tracking will show you which ones are – and are not – worth bidding on.
Ad Retargeting
Search engine marketing (SEM) retargeting means targeting website visitors who did not convert yet, often through a third-party vendor. It’s effective, but is an area where media spend can get out of hand.
Research showed 56% of customers retargeted after visiting the cart, didn’t want to make an immediate purchase. Marketers then invest in bringing them back to the cart – what a waste.
In fact, over two-thirds of visitors who intend to make a purchase never make it to the checkout cart. This suggests that marketers are failing to create campaigns that are tailored to visitor intent.
# 1 Ad Retargeting Tip – Use conversion analytics to figure out customer intent – specifically, why some customers aren’t completing their checkout, or converting.
Once you identify the group that doesn’t have the intent to convert, you can stop spending your budget retargeting them, and reallocate to maximise results from those that do.
Content Syndication
Content syndication packages can be highly effective if you’re generating top-quality content, but are hard to pin down in a budget since pricing packages vary widely depending on the media outlet you’re syndicating with.
They’re very effective for generating leads, as according to Inc, 70% of people want to learn about products through content versus through traditional advertisements.
The trick to reducing your syndication spend is to be very picky when choosing media outlets.
#1 Content Syndication Tip – Focus on the right media outlets, and once you find them, don’t keep spending if you’ve stopped seeing a return.
Keep an eye on results from certain media outlets, and continue reallocating budget to those performing best.
Social Media Ads
In 2015, global analysts predicted a 33% increase in spending for social media ads. This is because over 50% of (business-to-business) B2B marketers rank social media as a “very” or “somewhat” low cost ad option.
Social media can be low cost, and can drive unprecedented amounts of engagement if targeted correctly. Avoid this one common mistake – spreading your budget across every social media channel out there.
#1 Social Media Ad Tip – Choose the right social media platform.
Which platform is converting the most leads? As an example, a bakery is going to perform much better on Pinterest than the latest cloud security software.
The key to reducing your media spend while increasing your results is to find where your audience wants to see you the most. With robust conversion tracking and by following industry best practices, you can make your marketing budget stretch farther than you ever thought you would.
Image: Shutterstock Australia

How A/B Testing Can Deliver Better Digital Marketing Results

Moving a letter one pixel to the left may be the digital equivalent to splitting hairs, but as it turns out, even small changes can have a big impact. Nowadays we know that you can achieve a 42% higher click-through-rate by not littering a page with more than one Call to Action (CTA). How do we know that? Well, someone actually tried to pit a website with just one CTA against another with two or more. As the majority of people in marketing are aware, changes to things like colour, positioning and size can actually make all the difference – but are they willing to take the time to do some serious experimenting?

Online design can differ enormously from one webpage to another. There are a number of unwritten rules; you might for instance want to adapt your site to the population’s F-shaped online reading behaviour, and people have come to expect contact details at the bottom of a site. But apart from those guidelines, it’s up to you. As your audience will constantly change their view of a good website, experimenting with new design and online solutions is very, very important.

We could present a number of statistics on user behaviour, but those would only provide general guidelines when all you really need is to be specific. At the end of the day the crowd of people visiting your website differs from the one visiting your competitors’.  By adapting your digital platforms you can make sure to target the audience most relevant to you.

So how does one know what works on their website? Well, A/B testing of course! You pit your original website (version A) against one with a variation (version B) in order to find the best solution, thus allowing for information based decisions. This may be Marketing 101, but quite frankly A/B testing is something a whole bunch of marketers are not very good at. This is rather odd, considering tools such as Optimizely have turned A/B testing into child’s play.

You could for instance test out tweaking:

          Copy length          Wording          Whether to use bullet points or not          CTA button placement/colour          Images

What matters are the bits and pieces that will help you reach your goals. If an image will increase traffic to your site – try it out. If a different colour will make a button more clickable, go for it. Just make sure to test both versions simultaneously and have patience – you won’t get reliable results in just a couple of hours.

In the fast paced world of digital marketing, it’s only natural that those in charge of a company’s marketing efforts want to avoid a creative stand-still. Creative forces want to do just that, create, and not dabble in the almost scientific world of A/B testing. The trial and error approach may be a great way of learning the ropes, but it is also a way of spending a budget at light-speed. A little testing will go a long way in today’s harsh marketing climate.

The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.

Image courtesy: monicamlewis.blogspot.com, ergonomics.ucr.edu

Now THAT’S a Headline

Here’s a surprise… Sex sells content!
One of the key areas of research in content marketing at the moment – and one that applies to content creators everywhere – is about what makes people share content online.
When it comes to publishing, sub-editors have long been honing their headlines to generate the most interest amongst readers. The same story, marketed with different headlines in different papers, can have a huge impact on which paper readers buy – or, these days, which stories people click through to read in their entirety.
It’s one thing for a well-crafted headline to entice readers to explore further, but for the headline to be the cause of an article going viral? Well, that’s a successful day at the office.
The headline in question recently featured in British tabloid Sunday Sport, and read:

Gordon Ramsay Sex Dwarf Found Dead in Badger Sett

Yep, we were hooked as well…
Viral content creation 101
When it comes to creating viral content, it obviously helps to have titillating subject matter – and that’s something this story wasn’t, um, short on. For those who are not familiar with the story, the ‘sex dwarf’ in question was actually little person Percy Foster, a 35-year-old porn star who was propelled into the media spotlight by the same tabloid just a week earlier when it reported on his uncanny resemblance to TV chef Gordon Ramsey.

While the tabloid, blessed with a sensationalist story (and a complete lack of shame or taste) was clearly thrilled that the news fell in its lap, analysing the headline shows that its success is at least partially due to clever construction.
The mention of a celebrity, the fact that sex was somehow involved and the bizarre circumstances surrounding the tragedy all combine to make this tabloid gold. The headline guarantees a second look by, and makes the untimely death of a troubled man perfect water cooler – or email forwarding – conversation.
Content-creators should be looking at how they use headlines to capitalise on content sharing, even when there’s not a pint-sized porn star and a badger’s den involved.
The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.
Image source: kterrl

The Benefits of Being Helpful

It’s back to the future when it comes to content marketing…
Content marketing is definitely the new buzzword, but when you look at the principles behind it, they’re as old as marketing itself. It’s about providing something for nothing. It’s the virtual equivalent of handing out samples at your local supermarket. It’s about being helpful.
The question, then, is how to make the content you have on offer more valuable in a market crowded with content?
Someone in a supermarket handing out samples of a new type of sausage is helpful, because it provides an idea for dinner. If you’re IKEA, providing free notepads, pencils and measuring tape is helpful because you know people are going to need them.
The key to creating valuable content is to know what your audience needs. We’re not talking about pandering to the audience, or changing your offering based on who wants what, but structuring your content so that it best appeals to the people who are going to come across it.
Most banks and home loan providers feature a mortgage calculator on their website. The best mortgage calculator – the one with the most features, the one that helps you figure out the best budget – is the one you’re going to use the most. Which means that when the time comes to choose a loan, for some reason the logo of that same bank keeps popping up into your mind…

How to make content helpful
Even if being helpful doesn’t create an immediate benefit for brands, it has become a necessity in the current climate. To not be actively helpful is to be unhelpful, whether you’re doing it intentionally or not. The public attention span is short and getting increasingly shorter, and capturing any form of extended attention requires a careful blend of showing what you’ve got and showing what you can do for the consumer.
In a way, content marketing has brought us full circle, back to a simpler time of lending a hand to a neighbour in the knowledge that, at some time in the future, they’ll repay the favour. We’re not naive enough to think that this could ever translate fully into a business model, but for every helpful piece of content you produce, there is a new kind of consumer willing to fuel its journey through cyberspace.
Perhaps we should be looking not only at the dollar signs at the end of the equation, but at the likelihood that our content will be helpful enough to be shared.
The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.

From Famine to Feast

Does the surplus of online content prove the ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ cliché?
In the content economy, inflation is our biggest worry. We recently blogged about the curse of group buying, and how the overwhelming number of deals whizzing into our inboxes each day erode the value of each individual site.
Extrapolate this theory to encompass online content in general and you’ve got a slightly worrying state of affairs when it comes to creativity. Will the Michelangelos of this generation be lost in the cacophony of paint-by-numbers?
Seth Godin wrote recently:
‘When I was a kid at summer camp, a letter was as precious as gold (or perhaps candy). If you got five letters in a week, you were rich. Most of the time, we stood by the mailroom, plaintively waiting to see if there was some sort of message from the outside world – only to walk away disappointed.
‘Back home, missing a TV show was out of the question. If you didn’t see this episode of Mannix or Batman, it was likely you’d never get a chance, ever again.
‘And so we came to treat incoming data as precious. A lost email was a calamity. Reading everything in your RSS feed was essential. What if I miss something?
‘A new generation, one that grew up with a data surplus, is coming along. To this cohort, it’s no big deal to miss a tweet or ten, to delete a blog from your reader or to not return a text or even a voice mail. The new standard for a vacation email is, “When I get back, I’m going to delete all the email in my box, so if it’s important, please re-send it next week.”
‘This is what always happens when something goes from scarce to surplus. First we bathe in it, then we waste it.’
A generation of content wasters
Luckily, within this new generation of ‘content wasters’ is a passionate group of content curators; people who see the need for an online method of organisation and preservation, who sort the gems from the grit.
My Modern Met is a site formed on the belief that creativity needs an online home. A ‘community of intelligent people who want to be in the know’, the site serves as an online destination for the babies we don’t want to throw out with the bathwater.

My Modern Met – and other sites like it – could be the next generation in content curation. Sure, your internet browser can recommend sites for you, your iTunes Genius bar can show you music you might like and Amazon.com can (pretty successfully) predict books you’ll want to buy, but there’s no substitute for human passion when it comes to capturing content, dusting it off and displaying it under shiny lights to show its true beauty.
An algorithm can only go so far in identifying true creativity – it’s up to the rest of us to pick up the slack and become content curators for the generations to come.
The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.

The Hook

Is paid distribution the future for content marketing?
If you needed further proof that content was the way forward, take a look around the interwebs. Every second website has a bar at the bottom that looks like this:

This little bar is all you need to know about how far content marketing has come – and how important a player it is in terms of SEO, social sharing and the new marketing paradigm that gives before it receives.
We’ve been banging on about content since the dawn of time (or at least the dawn of this blog), so we’re pretty certain that it’s the way forward.
It’s exciting, then, when we see something like paid distribution taking content marketing to the next level. For those who are fuzzy on what this means, let us elaborate…
What is paid content distribution?
In terms of content, paid distribution is having your content – or at least your headlines – displayed on other sites where viewers might be interested in finding out more about what you have to offer. In terms of advertising, this is nothing new. But in terms of formatting, we’re seeing content, rather than brands, being shared online.
The above screen grab was taken from Mashable. The column on the left is made up of headlines from stories that appear elsewhere on the site, all relating to the main story. The column on the right, however, features headlines from stories all around the Web – content marketing exercises in their own right.

Why does paid content distribution work?
The effectiveness of paid content distribution is threefold:

It follows Seth Godin’s principle of Permission Marketing, meaning it delivers content to people who want to get it. The content is targeted, and the delivery is dependent upon the consumer seeking it out by clicking on the headline.
It delivers first. With content marketing in reverse, brands need to start delivering quality content to engage with consumers before the consumers have engaged with them. Content as bait, if you will.
It is brilliant in terms of SEO for companies. Spreading content throughout the Internet is like planting seeds in a forest – the more you plant, the more impressive the forest will be.

Potential problems?
It is possible Google and its unmerciful algorithmic hand may strike if it sees paid content distribution as breaching its search rules. With an increasingly intense focus on social sharing, content that has paid for its positioning (rather than having found it organically through ‘likes’ and other online sharing) may end up being penalised.
On the other hand, if you create good enough content, it will be picked up and shared this way anyway. It’s important to remember that paid distribution is just the hook – your content has to be tasty enough bait for a whole lotta fish.
One thing is for sure, we’ll be watching eagerly as the world of paid content distribution evolves…
The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.

The End is Nigh?

Is social media to blame for  the decline in quality of newspaper content?
Have you noticed that something is happening with our newspapers?

We’re not talking about the increasing reliance on social media for sources or the changing landscape for paid online news content. Rather, the issue is the apathy running through the traditional printed media – almost as if there is an acceptance that the end is nigh. And it’s manifesting itself in the fact that broadsheets both at home and abroad are running stories that… well, aren’t really stories at all.
People expect a certain amount of fluff from the tabloids – sensationalist headlines, paparazzi shots, tacky, tawdry tell-alls. But when you pick up a broadsheet like the Sydney Morning Herald or The Age (or, more likely, look at the online versions), you expect to read content with a little more substance.
Instead, you get articles headlined ‘Potter Star’s Alcohol Battle’, revealing that Daniel Radcliffe admitted in an interview with GQ Magazine that once he turned 18 he developed a taste for alcohol. Shock horror! He then quickly realised the error of his ways (after never once being caught in a compromising position on camera) and now doesn’t drink. He is 21.
Let’s just sum up the most significant points of the article, shall we? Child star turns 18. Drinks and parties with his friends. Decides he likes sitting at home better. Stops drinking. The end.
It’s bad enough when we see headlines featuring Miley Cyrus or Lindsay Lohan non-compos mentis, but at least they’ve got a slew of sleazy photos, drink-driving convictions and substance abuse issues to back up their ‘troubled teen’ images. Poor Dan doesn’t really have the street cred, when it comes down to it.
Content losing its lustre
The article isn’t even based on a direct interview with the Harry Potter star, but on a story in the UK Daily Telegraph (a broadsheet, by the way), which had cobbled together a few quotes from the original article as it appeared in GQ. All of which represents a poorly disguised attempt to jump on the bandwagon that is the impending release of the final Harry Potter film – from two newspapers that rather self-righteously boast of their commitment to ‘quality’.

Another example of journalism that would make Woodward and Bernstein shudder appeared on the SMH website recently, but at least there was a deep-throat involved: one Joey Chestnut, who retained his world record over the weekend by putting away an impressive 62 hot dogs at New York’s Coney Island. Thank god we had people on the front line to report it.
So why is this happening? Is it confirmation that we really do live in a superficial society where style is more important than substance? Is it a case of journalists throwing up their hands in the face of ubiquitous citizen journalism? Do they have insider knowledge that the whole industry is about to fall in a heap? Or is the pressure of updating the news four, five and six times a day finally getting to our noble men and women of the press – has quantity taken over from quality when it comes to the content they produce?
And does it even matter?
The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.
Image Source: Elizabeth Harmon Blog
Image Source: MySpace

The End of the World As We Know It?

Why ‘the Rapture’ made such engaging content
Last week saw several high-profile men shamed, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dominique Strauss-Kahn. But it was another man’s credibility that was more thoroughly terminated. Pastor Harold Camping’s prediction that ‘the Rapture’ would occur on 21 May and all good Christians would be beamed up into heaven was met with (mostly derisive) global attention, much of which played out over social media.
When 21 May came and went with Christians the world over remaining firmly planted on the ground, it’s fair to say Camping was left slightly red-faced. His explanation? A simple miscalculation. The real rapture, he said, will occur on 21 October.
It’s an easy mistake to make, we suppose – after all, fundamentalists of Camping’s yoke have never held science in much regard, so it stands to reason that mathematics wouldn’t be his strong suit either…
Regardless of whether doomsday prophecies are your thing or not, the real question here is why Camping’s prophecy (note that he’d already mistakenly predicted the end of days would arrive in 1994) caused such a stir? What is it about news stories like this that get the whole world talking?
Relatable content is compelling content
Seth Godin’s modern philosophy often has a brilliant explanation for phenomena such as this, and this case is no exception. He wrote:
‘How does one market the end of the world? After all, you don’t have a big ad budget. Your “product” is something that has been marketed again and again through the ages and it has never worked. There’s significant peer pressure not to buy it…
‘And yet, every time, people succumb. They sell their belongings, stop paying into their kid’s college fund and create tension and despair.
‘Here’s the simple lesson: Sell a story that some people want to believe. In fact, sell a story they already believe.’
Anyone raised with even a semi-Christian upbringing will be vaguely familiar with the concept of the end of days or the ‘Second Coming’. While we grow into our own spiritual (or non-spiritual) beliefs and understandings as we develop, those stories we recognise seem to resonate with some long-forgotten part of us.
So while we may not believe the messenger, or even the story itself anymore, there is something about the familiarity of the story that pushes us to take notice.
And take notice we did, as shown by this infographic from Mashable:

There is a lesson here for content producers and content marketers. find the resonance in your story. To access some collective memory, some shared belief or even some global fear is to pique the interest of the public.
The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.