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Archive for the ‘marketing communications’ Category

Kevin O’Keefe over at Real Lawyers Have Blogs recently brought up a very important point about the shift to content creation in today’s marketing playing field. While traditional methods like print and TV news media are still effective routes to reach target audiences, there’s no doubt that this arena is shrinking and in its place, content hungry social media sites continue to grow by leaps and bounds.

Shifting to the role of content creator in your marketing efforts requires a substantial time investment. Blogs need to be well thought out, accurate and frequent. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are great tools to reach the masses but require an extensive amount of legwork to establish feeds that captivate and engage online audiences. Today, trade publications are much more apt to publish guest articles or guest blog posts but if the business professionals – let’s use attorneys as in O’Keefe’s scenario – find themselves stretched thin by their responsibilities to the practice of law, how can the firm expect to create a regular stream of technical wisdom to help promote itself?

O’Keefe weighs the idea of using a third-party content creator to outsource content but I’d like to suggest a stronger alternative. Public relations professionals have been creating content for busy executives since long before the marketing shift toward content creation and we’ve been sharpening our skills accordingly for many years. While using a third-party for content means starting at the ground floor each time a complex writing assignment arises, a true PR pro works to gain an innate understanding of his or her client with the added bonus of playing a crucial role in guiding the marketing strategy of a particular brand.

Having worked in PR for six+ years, my job role has always included an emphasis on content creation. Whether the topic covers semiconductor chips, pharmaceuticals or medical devices, I regularly work with complex subjects and the brilliant minds who deal in these subjects to develop valuable content. Susan Ennis, founder of EnSpire Communication, has been at the content game for more much longer with special expertise in legal matters, among others.

Not trying to brag, but using PR professionals for your content marketing yield a few extra bonuses:

  • We think in the big picture. Content is only created if it is advantageous and productive to the brand we are marketing.
  • Comprehensive is our favorite word. We repurpose content to create cohesive communications outreach while being efficient.
  •  We understand audiences. Whether we are fine tuning complex messages for a B2B audience or repackaging complicated concepts for the general public, it will be on target.
  • We are researches at heart. All PR programs begin with research, crucial skills to support the content needs of our clients.
  • We can work social media. Even the most brilliant blog post won’t reach target audiences if a viable social media following is not cultivated by using the right channels.

In the end, O’Keefe isn’t sold on third-party content creators – I wonder if I can sell him on PR instead?

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We’ve all heard the phrase “cutting through the noise” in reference to advertising, and unless you live under a rock, it’s impossible to avoid the daily barrage from advertisers. EnSpired Thought recently looked at the large number of FTC cases involving deceptive advertising and the potentially dangerous outcomes. If there is a complete lack of trust from consumers, are the advertiser’s messages being completely shut out?

But playing it straight with consumers isn’t enough to move the needle. It’s merely the bare minimum. The Rep Man blog recently reported findings from an interesting study: a survey of 7,000 consumers revealed that only 23 percent felt they had a relationship with a brand. That means that after we gain consumer trust, we still have a long way to go in terms of making a lasting impression with target audiences.

Here are a few questions to ask about your brand to build a strong foundation and move toward stronger relationships with consumers.

  1. Does your brand have a clearly defined message and objectives? Does it align with the organization’s overall goals?
  2. Have you done the research to clearly identify a target audience? Who are you currently reaching? Is it ultimately the right group of people for your brand?
  3. Do you know how your target audience has responded to your brand and current outreach? Do consumers perceive the brand the way you intended?
  4. Are you consistent with brand messaging? Could a consumer quickly recognize your brand identity?
  5. What have you done to encourage brand ambassadors? Do you currently have consumers that are willing to represent your brand in a positive way?

If the questions above identified a few holes, it’s time to get back to the basics. Plan for a brand refresh and make sure essentials like messaging, audiences and consistency are solid before branching out to the more ambitious (and fun) aspects of branding.

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been kept busy recently with a bevy of high-profile cases concerning false and deceptive advertising. While we have the FTC to police these types of issues, deceptive behavior toward consumers erodes trust and ultimately harms not only the advertiser but also the advertising, and by extension, public relations industries as a whole.

While many feel that a reasonable person should be able to understand that tennis shoes will not give you a fit body or that a hazelnut spread is a delicious but in no way nutritious addition to your child’s breakfast, these types of outlandish claims foster consumer skepticism and weaken the level of trust and belief consumers have in the advertisements they are exposed to every day.

Furthermore, not all of these cases are so overtly deceptive. In 2010, the FTC cracked down on statements from Kellogg Company about two different cereals. According to an FTC press release, the company claimed that Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal was “clinically shown to improve kids’ attentiveness by nearly 20%” and Rice Krispies cereal “now helps support your child’s immunity,” with “25 percent daily value of antioxidants and nutrients – vitamins A, B, C, and E.” The cereal packaging also claimed that “Kellogg’s Rice Krispies has been improved to include antioxidants and nutrients that your family needs to help them stay healthy.”

Phrases like “clinically proven” alongside quantifiable statistics masquerading as scientific data make it difficult for the savviest of customers to discern fact from fiction.

If businesses, its advertisers and public relations teams do not take it upon themselves to increase the level of honesty and transparency in all communications, we risk falling into the treacherous category of the snake oil salesman.

In addition to ethical considerations, consumers are inundated with advertisements on a daily basis. Cutting through the noise and getting noticed is hard enough – let’s not add “accepted as truthful” to the obstacles.

 

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Public relations is a complex discipline with lots of moving parts.  Many people think of PR as publicity and dealing with the media, but it is really much broader and plays an important role in every industry.

So, how do you know where to start when you need to find a PR firm?  Navigating this vast and complicated space may seem like a daunting task, but break it up step by step, and you’ll be on your way to finding public relations support that fits your needs.

In this series of blog posts we’ll walk you through the process of finding the right PR champion to meet your very specific goals and objectives. Every organization has a unique structure and mission, but asking the right questions and knowing what to look for will help you find the right fit.

The first step is to look inward. What type of organization do you run? What does your internal structure look like – who would be responsible for directing the company’s PR efforts and do they have the time? What are you looking to accomplish?

Organizations have a variety of goals that require the dedication of additional resources to public relations.  Consider the following scenarios:

  • Start-ups and early phase companies looking to create buzz without the steep costs of advertising placement.
    • WARNING: If you fit in this category ask yourself if it’s truly time. Careful consideration of business objectives, a clear vision, and room in the budget amid myriad costs of starting a business is mandatory to establishing a successful PR program.
  • Companies wanting to build brand recognition and move to the next level.
  • Mid-size organizations looking to secure their place in the market.
  • Larger companies with a specific need to be filled whether it be media relations, community engagement, issues management and crisis communication, reputation building, social media, employee communications, and more.
  • Organizations that must maintain a strong reputation or ones that have recently suffered damage to their reputation.
  • Organizations that must engage multiple audiences on different levels.
  • Professional service firms that rely on establishing expertise and building relationships.
  • Organizations with complex messages, not easily packaged for key audiences.

So who are you? Take a step back and look at what stage your organization is in, what specific goals and objectives you have, your existing resources, and where you need help.

 

Art credit: © Aidarseineshev | Dreamstime.com

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It seems that customer service is often a luxury these days, only afforded to those with the time, perseverance and downright stubbornness to handle the curve balls our many service providers throw at us.

Comcast recently charged me $40 for a technician to come out and fix several months of extremely poor quality of service. After questioning the charge, Comcast immediately removed it, but not before 30 minutes on hold and being transferred to two departments. Four months into a six-month lease, my apartment management felt a significant increase for a lease renewal was justified. After a brief meeting, the price increase had been completely waived from the lease renewal.

This “let’s see what we can get away with” approach surely makes sense to the number crunchers of a company, but this strategy comes with dangerous consequences.

According to the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, Comcast had 22,360,000 basic video subscribers as of September 2011, not mentioning its Internet and telephone product lines. Let’s say just one percent of Comcast’s video subscribers (223,600) received an erroneous charge for a technician visit and either didn’t read their bill carefully enough or didn’t have the time to navigate Comcast’s phone system. That equates to $8,944,000 in “found” money.

But in an ever-changing landscape, this approach to customer service will not lead to long-term stability or gains. There will always be something bigger and better on the horizon and it’s a solid relationship of trust and service that will keep customers from straying.  When running an organization, don’t get caught up in short-term gains that will ruin the overall longevity of a business. Developing a sound rapport based on transparency, trust and quality are the right strategies for success.

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Shuttle Endeavor being decommissioned in the Vehicle Assembly Building.

In a recent blog post, I mentioned attending a NASA Tweetup – a once-in-a-lifetime experience. While in awe of the event’s tours, special speakers, close-up view of the launch and behind the scenes access, the public relations professional in me couldn’t get over the fantastic strategy behind the event.

Imagine if you were told the most popular and well-known segment of your company would be shut down. It’s a preposterous business scenario for most, but with the shuttle program officially closed as of August 2011, it was a dark deadline surely looming over the heads of the NASA communications team.

On January 21, 2009 the first Tweetup launched – and with great success. So successful, that the most recent Mars Curiosity Tweetup was the 31st of its kind.

While astronauts aren’t currently launching into space at the Kennedy Space Center, NASA has found an innovative way to keep fans engaged and take a viral approach to cultivating new space fans when a less savvy organization could have quickly become lost and forgotten.

The results are astounding. NASA tracked 10,665 tweets originating from the 150 participants of the Juno spacecraft launch Tweetup to find the event yielded 29.9 million potential impressions. By many accounts, today’s Tweetups produce close to double the impressions of the Juno Tweetup.

With each Tweetup, the momentum behind NASA’s social media presence continues to snowball and more and more of the general population become engaged with the latest updates in space exploration. The Twitter handle @NASATweetup boasts 30,062 followers and @NASA ranks in at 1,636,046 followers. It doesn’t stop there, as the majority of NASA Tweetup participants continue to support and promote the space agency long after everyone returns home.

The masterminds over at NASA honed in on the inherent nature of social media – sharing information – and found a fruitful formula to spread messages across millions of Twitter accounts. Congratulations, this is one for the social media textbooks.

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Up Close View of Atlas V Rocket

My husband recently turned to me and said, “you didn’t win anything on Twitter this week, now what are we going to do this weekend?” He was referring to my healthy social media contest winning streak that included tickets to many events as well as some rather interesting prizes.

I swam in a tank at the Florida Aquarium and watched the Weeki Wachee Mermaids perform just below me in the water. I have sampled restaurants before they opened and was even part of the Orlando Broadway Twitter Force, earning me season tickets and special access to each performance’s cast party.

The point is that businesses are finding creative ways to engage existing fans and attract new audience on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. An often-successful strategy is to offer what is referred to as a priceless prize – something money just can’t buy.

The social media realm is quickly becoming a crowded place and it’s going to take some pizzazz to stand out from the crowd. Offering a once-in-a-lifetime prize creates a brand ambassador for life, but more importantly, creates exciting buzz for your brand in the process.

In true once-in-a-lifetime fashion, I was selected to participate in probably one of the greatest examples of a “priceless” Twitter campaign. In an effort to attract new fans to space exploration, NASA began holding “Tweetups,” an exclusive event that grants unprecedented access to the Average Joe. Since the first Tweetup at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on January 21, 2009, the Tweetups have become high-demand events with thousands of Twitter fans entering to win, on average, one of 150 invitations issued for each Tweetup.

I was fortunate to experience the 31st Tweetup, which was a two-day event to celebrate the launch of the Mars Curiosity Rover. NASA stationed the “tweeps” in an air-conditioned tent outfitted with Wi-Fi, power strips and workstations right next to the famous countdown clock. We heard briefings from the brilliant minds that made the mission possible, hung out with astronauts, toured the Vehicle Assemble Building and even got to visit Space Launch Complex 41 for an up close look at the Atlas Five rocket before getting front row seats to the launch.

Bill Nye the Science Guy from the popular children’s television program, as well as Will.i.am, member of the famed musical group, Black Eyed Peas and STEM education proponent, were on hand to speak to the crowd and add even more excitement to the event.

It was a truly amazing experience, but I also had my eyes opened to the fascinating projects NASA works on outside of the shuttle program and will continue to learn as I follow Twitter feeds, YouTube accounts and Facebook pages belonging to NASA.

Are you looking to make your social media debut or wanting to enhance existing efforts? Why not do it with a splash and offer something spectacular to turn heads online.

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