Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Blending Professional and Personal on Facebook

This is a big question for business people and few have managed to answer it completely, although there seems to be a consensus that the two should not mix.

Truth - I am not a huge Facebook user (I have probably a dozen friends, most of whom have found me, a mix of professional and personal) but I am an Admin on two professional sites and then my own.

As an independent, if I hide my page then people won’t be able to find me – and some of my company information is on there. So it’s available.

Remember Bristol Palin’s boyfriend whose MySpace page, until Jon Stewart found it, trumpeted how he wanted to party all day and night and never get married. We’ve also heard the stories about kids who applied to college and didn’t get in because some admissions officer decided to check out their MySpace or Facebook page. We all have to remember these are public spaces.

My “Facebook Friends” so far haven’t written anything that I wouldn’t want anyone else to see. We save that for emails – which we shouldn’t do either.

We are all experimenting with social networking and I’m not sure that anyone knows the right answer. For me - what am I supposed to tell clients or prospective ones if they want to Friend Me? Thanks but no thanks?

I did get an email from an association president in Chicago via Facebook who represents a group I do not think of as eco-friendly. He was trying to reach out to science teachers and asked if he could Friend Me.

I politely declined but sent him to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) page and the Coalition on Public Understanding of Science (COPUS) page. I also sent him a bio and my web address which he dutifully said he passed on to his PR director. One hand washes the other.

A recent discussion on the ASAE listserv and some polling of friends, colleagues and clients showed that we are all struggling with how to manage personal and professional. There does not seem to be a simple solution. I’ve left out names from the listserv since it’s for ASAE members only. Here is what I learned:

You Can Separate the Two In Some Form - A number of people I talked to use LinkedIn for business and keep Facebook for personal use. It does have controls so that people can’t see your page if you don’t Friend Them. You can also set it up so your Real Friends can see some information and your Professional Friends can see others. I have no idea how to do this but one of my clients who is getting an MBA told me he does it.

Independents Seem To Use Their Page for A Mix of Both - A small business owner echoed my issue. She said “I often receive requests from business contacts to connect as Friends. I'd prefer to keep them separated, but it looks like many others use Facebook for all purposes.”

Some Have a Personal and a Professional Page – The simplest way to do it is to have two pages – one for business and one for professional. Since so many organizations now have Facebook pages, it makes more sense to do it this way, to allay confusion.

This raises other issues too – Do you want to have your professional affiliation on your personal page (after all it is another form of contact. What if your company name is the same as your real name – will that confuse everyone?)

One big discussion among associations is that members started Facebook pages and they weren’t part of the “Brand” so they wanted to know whether others had asked them to stop. Most seemed reluctant to ask their members to stop – after all it was a form of member outreach and kind of flattering. The consensus was they had to learn to live with a lack of control – and might learn something from the chatter.

And then of course the biggest issue to me is What Really Is the Point of Facebook?

And that’s the question I cannot answer except for the data that I keep collecting.

It’s the most popular social networking tool

It helps you bond with clients/members, etc. in new ways

It gets you in front of people you would not reach any other way

It is a way to keep in touch with a broad network of people – who may be friends/potential clients/real clients – in a cool, fun, way

You’ve got to be on it to figure it out

The fastest growing group on Facebook is 40-plus

My 13 year-old son is less adamant about having a Facebook page because his mother is on it – and as more parents go on I’m sure the kids will leave and found something else.

And that’s my post for this holiday week. Happy Holidays to All.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Placing Science and Health Stories: What Works Now

Last Friday I attended a meeting for public information officers held by AAAS’ EurekAlert! news service. The room was packed with university, corporate, and other science communications leaders. It was one of the most informative presentations I’ve been too in a long time. Here are some highlights and lessons learned.

Panel members: Karl Bates, Director of Research Communications, Duke University; Nils Burzelius, Deputy National Editor/Science and Tom Kennedy Managing Editor for Multimedia, The Washington Post; Art Chimes, Host of Our Word science program, Voice of America; Jorge Ribas, Video Producer, Discovery News; Rea Blakey, Host of Discovery Health: CME (moderator).

Realities of this new media world:

Most people will be reading your information on 3” screens

Your readers/viewers can talk back to you and tell you that you are an idiot

You are just one click away from a referral to someone’s entire network

70% of the people who come to your site are there for two seconds

The main message of the panel was that video helps sell your story. You can buy a good hand-held video camera for around $100, and you should. Video makes press releases more compelling. Some ideas:

No more talking heads – They’re boring and people don’t listen. If you must do a talking head - dress him up. For a presentation on stem cells Duke ran footage of them as a backdrop. Stem cells have beautiful colors and are constantly changing.

Going viral – Just because you post video doesn’t mean it will be watched but if it’s creative and different you have a much better chance. Here are two examples:

Dancing Shrimp went up on YouTube to demonstrate an experiment scientists were doing. People started setting it to music and it ended up on the Today Show.

Particle Physics rap song – Student Kate McAlpine was trying to explain complex science with rap and it was picked up everywhere.

Raw footage is best – Say goodbye to expensively produced video and b-roll. The media prefers 90 seconds of raw footage that it can use in a longer piece. BTW the most popular videos on YouTube are 7-9 minutes.

Losing control of your footage – This is a fear from lawyers and many executives. While you can’t control every use you can watermark it so they know it’s yours and it will always have your brand on it.

Your expert on video – Think of it as an audition tape. The media wants to show viewers what scientists are working on – not just read about it.

Some other thoughts for communicating science and health:

Get your field researchers to set up an FTP site – Footage can be used to report as they go. Also get them to blog about what they’re doing so people can follow them.

Strong characters are a big plus – The media wants people who allow us to go inside of a situation and observe it. Also offer a pre-interview if you can’t get the real thing – it allows them to get a sense of what’s possible.

Get rid of the corporate blah, blah, blah press release – It’s better to write releases in a journalistic way – use multiple sources and data (make sure it’s sourced). This way it may get picked up as is.

The role of PIOs is changing – With all the lay-offs, PIOs have to help journalists and take on more responsibility. The media wants partnerships, strong credentials, expertise, knowledge and often help with fact checking.

For more information http://www.eurekalert.org/seminar/2008/video.php

Friday, December 12, 2008

Gossip Girl Goes Networking Among DC Marketers

Does anyone get business from networking events? I know I’m notoriously bad about follow-up, unless I see a genuine lead and connection to what I do, but I've been to many so here's a rundown.

First off – the vendors are out in force. Know the economy is bad but where are the potential clients? They only seem to go out if they are seriously worried about their jobs.

All opinions are mine so take it for what it’s worth.

The One Party (A combination of AMA/DC, Ad Club DC and others)
Holiday Party at Eye Bar.

A great big thank you to the advertising business. Haven’t been anywhere for a long time where there were so many good looking young men in one room. And they talk to me - not out of that kind of interest – but because they’re selling services and I’m old enough to be their – well let’s not go there - they think I am a potential client.

Atmosphere – Very New York, sparse with a lot of black and white, table in front like a chic club

Crowd – Young, smart, sophisticated – except for a few stragglers and older men talking to leggy 20-somethings

Food – Pan-Asian and good, but big gap between servings – people cannot exist on just dumplings

ROI – Good, didn’t meet a single potential client, but with alcohol included $62.50 for food and drinks a good buy – higher marks if you count the people watching.

IABC/DC Networking Group Holiday Party
Bar Louie Near Verizon Center

Packed – and I got there late. Stayed about 45 minutes past happy hour time as did many others. Kind of an even split between IABC and DC Networking Group but the latter stuck around longer. Bad idea to pick a place in a super crowded area on a game night. They should have told us to take metro. Parking was a nightmare – by the time I got there was a wreck so had a shot of tequila at the bar. That’s an icebreaker. Many people shopping for business - a lot of financial people and consultants. Did not see either of two IABC DC leaders but I may have missed them.

Atmosphere – Private room which is always good, pricey bar and over worked bartenders

Crowd - Professional, chummy, 40-something plus with a few exceptions, came away thinking DC Networking Group is a good one to join

Food – Pretzels, scary looking spinach dip and quesadillas. Isn’t this supposed to be a holiday party?

ROI – Good, it was only $15 to get in, and there were a ton of people there

IPRA (PRSA Independents) Holiday Lunch
Maggiano’s at Tyson’s Corner, VA

Smaller than I expected, again mostly vendors and independents, sit down lunch with a complimentary glass of wine (thank you for making it festive). Networking was limited to people at your table which was kind of a shame – although there was some time in the beginning to chat before we sat down. Talked mostly with someone from Marketwire – learned a lot about the service which competes with PR Newswire and others. He was very convincing on why it was a better alternative.

Atmosphere – Very festive, private room, for branding it was good image making

Crowd – A hodgepodge of young and old, friendly, many of them knew each other, mostly PR people

Food – At Maggianos you expect an Italian feast and that’s what it was

ROI – For the price it was the best deal in town.

Eco Tuesday
Tabaq Lounge, U St., DC

This group is new to DC and it was their first event although they evidently have chapters all over the country. There was a presentation by a business executive about being environmentally responsible which seemed really self-serving which is why I’m omitting his name. Mostly a networking opportunity but wasn’t sure why I was there. People stayed after because the presentation was long.

Atmosphere – This is a lovely restaurant but we were in the basement. It was a private room but had the feel of someone’s garage.

Crowd – Maybe 30 people with many young, passionate greenies and older consultants shopping for clients. One young woman talked about living in trees to protect them. Met someone who does image consulting – what is that? They teach you how to dress and talk – shouldn’t we have figured that out by now?

Food – None but it came with a free drink

ROI – OK depending on what you were looking for. I probably will not go to another for awhile until it builds momentum.

Capitol Communicators Group
George Washington University

These are monthly luncheons held by a group of PR professionals from Booz Allen (used to be NOAA), Johns Hopkins and NIH in different locations throughout DC. The group is free to join. This particular lunch was billed as a higher education PR lunch and it was – the head of George Washington University’s PR Tracy Schiario spoke and she was very dynamic. I had never thought about the fact that in the nation’s capitol she has to deal with world leaders, rock stars, etc. as well as construction accidents as well as keeping university president and academics happy.

Usually this group has several speakers who say very little. This one was much better and Tracy had more time.

Atmosphere – Small group, private room, very simple

Crowd – Maybe 30 people, it was more expensive than their usual lunches which run around $20, probably because they had to pay for the room. Other events are much more crowded.

Food – Yuck – they must have gotten it from the university cafeteria and for awhile they were out of silverware and anything green. Diet Coke went fast. Had to eat gooey, tasteless lasagna and drink the original Coke or starve.

ROI – For me good because I work in education but many could and did skip it.

MENG (Marketing Executives International Group)
AARP Headquarters

I was a guest in this group of people who have to meet a salary requirement of $160,000 plus a year to join. Not sure how they verify this but maybe they self select. These are very senior people who know their stuff. Emilio Pardo – head of branding at AARP spoke. (There’s a blog post here on his talk). Many smart people in the room – you could tell by the level of sophistication of the questions they asked. Well attended – 40-50 people. Met a man who markets high end boats – yes he needs marketing advice right now.

Atmosphere – Very corporate, a U-shaped table, tiny space for networking. AARP has that big corporation feel to it – moneyed, huge and long beautiful corridors

Crowd – A lot of gray hair in the room – I felt young which is rare

Food – Someone went to Costco before I think – those wrap sandwiches they sell and a salad with cafeteria looking dressing

ROI – It was under $20 and well worth it – almost all senior marketing executives with big jobs. Should have stayed after talk but it was a long day. They invited me back which is good.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Don't Let Your Email Marketing Turn to Spam

Remember when SPAM used to be just gushy ham mixed with who knows what in a can?

Anyway data from Symantec (the Internet spam experts) shows that more than 30% of marketers who send out queries by email don’t even know their deletion rates. Not good.

For all of us who are spammed to death an interesting aside – in its most recent report Symantec detailed where most spam comes from. Here’s a breakdown:

U.S. – 26%
Brazil – 16%
China – 14%
Poland – 9%
South Korea – 8%
Germany - 7%
Turkey – 6%
Other – 24%

So the U.S. leads in spam generation – not surprising considering how much we all get. Want to get past the filters with your marketing materials? This post is dedicated to helping you do a better job of getting email into the hands of customers and prospects.

I talked to Pete Leibman, of TMA List Brokerage and Management who wrote a white paper on the topic. Here’s his advice.

Don’t include attachments in your emails – they often draw a false positive from spam filters.

Make your opt out button highly visible – put it at the top of messages. A simple, visible opt-out process often makes spam complaints less likely.

Create an email feedback loop – Marketers need to create (and monitor) an “abuse” email address such as buse@companydomain.com. For example, IBM’s address could be abuse@ibm.com or Verizon’s might be abuse@verizon.com. This is the default email address that ISPs use to communicate with email senders when email recipients have reported messages as spam to ISPs.

Test your content before you send. Run your content through a spam filter, such as Spam Assassin, before sending. This process can highlight content in your message that may lead to tagging it as spam.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Internet Ad Spending One Bright Spot in that Biz

A new study by the Direct Marketing Association points out that Internet ad spending is the one bright spot in a very gloomy world for advertisers. DMA measures email, SEO (search engine optimization), web sites, banner ads, affiliate marketing and other lead generation programs as advertising.

Research shows that a growing number of advertisers are allotting up to 20% of their ad budgets to the Internet. Total advertising spending in 2008 will be $339.9 billion. Direct marketing is slightly more than 50% of the total.

Anne Frankel, senior research manager of DMA, broke out the Internet advertising stats for us. She reports that:

It was $24.7 billion or 24.1% of total ad spending in 2008.

It is the only growth spot in advertising right now.

It is expected to climb about 3.7% in 2009, even as the rest of the ad market contracts.

Breakdown of Total US Ad Expenditures, 2008 (Billions of dollars)

Direct mail (catalog & non-catalog)$61.7
Telephone marketing $86.6
DR newspaper $38.8
DR television $75.9
DR magazine $18.2
DR radio $18.7
New media & other including billboards, etc. $39.4

Source: Direct Marketing Association, 2008

The growth in Internet advertising is despite the fact that its impact in many cases, other than affiliate marketing, is hard to measure. The current system – click through rates – does not translate into sales. But of course, with traditional advertising, clients can voice the same concerns.

The bottom line is the Internet needs to be part of your advertising mix, as does social media. If you are not there – you’ll miss a lot of potential customers.

Monday, December 1, 2008

What Keeps Marketers Up at Night

What do the questions/comments/messages that people post in the Marketing Executive Group on LinkedIn tell us? You would think that since there are 7,676 members as of December 1st, 2008 it would be a good bellwether for what marketers are doing, thinking, struggling with these days.

To keep it manageable, I only looked at the month of November. There were 100 posts which made figuring out the numbers quite easy. Here’s what I found.

Blatant self promotion – 38% of people who posted were selling themselves or their products/services and rarely pretending they were doing much else. This includes one marketing consultant who accounted for about 50% of it. I'm also including people who posted a question directly related to the name of their company or business – so it was simple to see where it was coming from. I guess this is becoming a new form of lead generation.

Marketing Questions – 37% appeared to be legitimate marketing questions centered around news of the day or a topic of interest. The consultant mentioned above posted a couple of these too. Questions that got 10 or more responses:

Which commercial do you like better? There was a link to two spots to choose from – and a request for a candid opinion. 11 comments.

Do you think social media/buzz marketing should become a topic taught at the undergraduate or graduate marketing level in college? 15 comments

Please share an inspiring quote. 30 comments

For those whose marketing budgets are determined by a % of sales, what are some reasonable numbers you are seeing? 13 comments

Please advise what Web 2.0 tools/strategies can be used to promote a chocolate bar? 16 comments

And my personal favorite - Why are "discussions" on this forum mostly self-serving spam? 26 comments

Job Seekers – 18% of posts were from people who posted their resumes and are looking for jobs.

The Rest – The other 7% were a combination of news, requests for partnerships, and international people checking in.

In social media there is a term called Lurker. These are the people who read the discussion boards but don't often comment. Personally when I start seeing blatant self promotion I stop reading. It's too much work to separate out the stuff that might be of interest.

So what does this mini-analysis tell us:

That we’re all experimenting with this forum and no one knows how to use it effectively.

That no one is policing this group's discussions.

That these boards are becoming places where marketers look for jobs.

That people respond to an eclectic mix of questions.

That blatant self-promotion was ignored - few or no comments were posted to these.

That we hurt the likelihood of people responding by posting things that don't help us.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Branding Lessons from a Master Marketer

For those looking to build a brand with a seemingly endless amount of cash to spend, the story of AARP’s transformation is one that can and should be duplicated. Most of us don’t have the wealth that this association has, but a lot can be learned from the steps AARP took to transform its brand into the powerhouse it is today.

Emilio Pardo, chief brand officer, AARP, spoke before the Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG) on November 20th in Washington DC. Pardo said AARP took the stigma of getting older that was glued to its brand for most of its life, turned it on its head, and created a cult (my word, not his) around doing and getting what you want at 50-plus.

With 40 million members ranging in age from 44-62 (the bulk are in their 50s) AARP has an enormous challenge. Most of you have seen the data, but I’m always impressed by how rich the baby boomers are (or were until recently?).

They account for:
• 83% of consumer spending
• 70% of the country’s wealth
• And 51% are still working.

Here are the lessons learned from Pardo’s talk and the Q&A that followed.

1. Create core, positive, universal messages – Aging is not something people like to talk about. Yet their lives and needs are changing. AARP decided to focus on the good part. Its core messages are wrapped around three words all with big plus signs in front of them.

Legacy – Independence – Personal Growth

A host of services and how-too information that make these possible became packaged underneath these core messages.

2. Acknowledge and address differences among your target customers. Not all 50-plus are created equal – or in a similar life stage. Pardo talked about the differences by referencing three different types of 50 year-old women – all AARP customers.

• The Grandmother – She had her kids young, is taking Pilates or water aerobics, among others, may or may not be working and with her spouse or without, is embracing her golden years.

• The 50-plus mother – She had her kids late, had or has a career or a job, is the one with the gray hair at the elementary or middle school picnic. She delayed motherhood as long as possible, and now embraces it.

• The “It’s time for me” woman. If she had kids they are gone, if she didn’t she works, has at least some disposable income, looks great and is into self-improvement (back-to-school, learn an instrument, travel).

Understanding the variations in AARP members of similar ages is particularly critical because most are living in multi-generational households. And how complicated it is when you’ve got kids, teens, early career professionals, parents and even grandparents sometimes living under the same roof.

Key lesson: AARP members wanted advice not just on how to manage their financial future but on setting up one for their kids, particularly 20-something mothers for their daughters.

3. Connect and engage with customers through a wide array of media. The AARP web site has hundreds of groups focused on interests of its members. It has created social networking paradise, all under the AARP brand which appears on every page and level of the groups and site.

And you don’t have to be a member to explore them – but of course once you do they have your contact information. Pardo also pointed out that the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is 50-plus. The former AARP magazine called Modern Maturity, a name 50-somethings didn’t like to see in their mailboxes anymore, is now simply AARP Magazine. It extends the brand and exudes the joys that come with maturity – without saying so.

Of course, the big unanswered question in the room while Pardo talked is WHAT NOW? And he really couldn’t answer that. He was honest about it. He said things will get worse before they get better. And then he went off to try and figure out what to do next.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Capitalizing on the New Spirit of Inclusiveness

Everyone wants to make nice with Barack Obama these days but particularly in DC, with its eight year history of favoring those who give money to the party in charge and spout the party line, many don't know what to do.

If you watched Fox News for a few days after the election you know what I mean - it was like a short circuited computer - people who were used to spilling bile and cutting off anyone who disagreed with them suddenly had to report on the smart, African American who will now lead the nation for the next four years. They had espoused hope for so long they couldn't talk about it - and then I just stopped watching.

Obama's new message of inclusiveness, let's invite everybody to the table and figure out what to do as a nation, is in many ways just a return to the American spirit of we're all in this together - and family and community first. Although conservatives tried to co-opt traditional American values as theirs - it was only true for those like them. Now it's about all of us. And it makes perfect sense in the world of the Internet and social networking - we are all connected and we all have a voice - so why not listen to it?

So how do we as marketers - in this thorough mess of a world we live in - capitalize on this new message of let's come together. How can we employ it to build our businesses?

Here are some thoughts:

Reach out to all your employees. CEOs, particularly those who are very well paid, are not very popular these days. There are too many line workers getting laid off, and to many mid-level employees who are terrified of losing their jobs. Start a breakfast series - have your top management invite a rotating group of employees at every level and from every department to the conference room each month to share what they've heard from customers and/or ideas for new products or services. And let them know about and take credit for what you use.

Start a Mentoring ProgramYour public schools need you. Far too many local middle and high schools never see business people in their classrooms, even when they are studying a subject related to your business. In Chatanooga, TN a few years ago, senior executives of local companies met with teachers from local high schools and discussed the kinds of skills they needed in graduates who come to work for them. The curriculum changed to make kids better prepared to go to work in their communities and executives started coming into high school classrooms. It went a long way to building business/education partnerships and all benefited.

Open your doors to the community for a day.
Most people know very little about the businesses that live and breathe right near them. Work with the local Chamber of Commerce to schedule one day a year as a Business Open House. Arrange tours of your facilities. Let people meet your employees. If you make a product give out free samples. Explain what you do and the value you deliver. Get your local politicians involved too. The next time people need a product or service - they will think local.

Don't cancel the office Christmas party, invite families and kids of both employees and clients. Times are tough and people are scared. Good cheer goes a long way in rough times. There was an article in the Washington Post recently about the Great Depression (yes it was upsetting and the stock market went below 8,000 the next day) and how everyone pitched in and helped each other during that time. Let your employees, your customers, your vendors and their families know you care. Schedule the party for after the holiday season too - it will save you a bundle.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Four Ways to Help Clients Address their Fears

I was watching Bill O’Reilly last night on Jon Stewart and they were arguing about America. O’Reilly was talking about how we should be afraid of Barack Obama and Stewart was talking about how Americans are optimistic and want to believe, even in the worst of times, that good things are just around the corner. O’Reilly kept saying “But we don’t know anything about him and we don’t know what he will do.” And I wanted to scream “You are such an idiot.” But I didn’t have too anymore because they lost.

We are all still afraid – and it’s hard to shake it. We’re afraid that the stock market will never come back, that major American companies will continue to fail, that lay-offs are the end of job growth, that the mess can't be fixed. Our clients are afraid for their families, their jobs, their futures. They are under enormous pressure to rein in spending, to find ways to cut back on their advertising, marketing and communications budgets.

But Jon Stewart is right. Americans are a hopeful people. In this mess of a world we live in, we as marketers and communicators need to reassure our clients that better times will come – that we are there for them now and will be there when it improves. And we need to convince them that if they don’t keep investing in the future of their brands, they will be the losers.

So what can we do to keep our clients from giving into the fear?

1. Acknowledge it – This is the best piece of advice I ever got about parenting and it works with adults too. Your kid is afraid of spiders or the monster in the closet or a bad dream. Don’t dismiss it. Validate that the fear is real and let him talk about it. Then slowly talk about strategies for how he can deal with his fear and move forward in a positive way – one that is good for business.

2. Say thank you – Your clients have stuck with you for a long time because they know and trust you. Take them out to lunch, invite them to your home for a meal (how incredibly retro that is) or send a small gift that shows you know what they like and care about. It doesn’t have to be extravagant and spending a lot will send the wrong message. To quote my mother, it’s the thought that counts.

3. Keep those creative ideas coming – So your clients don’t have much of a budget these days and they cannot fund the new work or even some of the current work they want too. That doesn’t mean they don’t want their bosses to know they’re trying. Turn off the meter and ask them to tell you about some of their business challenges. Provide free advice or even a free service. It will be greatly appreciated.

4. Show you care – The best salesman I ever knew scoured his industry for new information and competitive intelligence. Then he’d share what he found with his clients every week or two. I’m not talking about creating an RSS feed – but picking through all the stuff on that feed and finding information that really matters to your client. Send what you find with a sentence or two about why it’s important. Read what industry experts are saying and cite information that may be valuable. Make sure you show you are thinking of them all the time.

And how should we as marketers maintain our optimism? Find something that makes you feel better and do it. I bake. I baked for the Virginia Obama volunteers and I'm still baking. Most of what I bake I give away, or feed to my kids, but the smell of cake, cookies and brownies - with real butter - reminds me of better times.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Marketing in the Social Space is Still Marketing

A colleague recently talked about a social networking presentation given at her public relations agency - 60-plus employees in New York City. She said that the young woman presenting was treated in a God-like manner because she was an expert in this new space - but what she said was Marketing 100.

I wrote about marketing for senior executives in the late 1990s and after five years handed off my newsletter because I thought there was nothing new to say.

Despite what the social networking consultants tell you - marketing is still marketing no matter what space your in.

What's changed is the medium and delivery system.

A recent Online Spin blog posting by Joe Marchese entitled "A Marketers' Dilemma" said in the social networking space marketers are trying a bunch of tactics including:

Humor - It seems some marketers think the secret to success is to be funny or edgy, in hopes of achieving "viral" status.

Responsiveness - Get my attention and keep it by in many cases flooding me with content.

Keep it Fresh - Adapt the style of the medium to your product/service.

Show you Care - Reward your customers for sticking with you in tough times and show you care by giving to others.

Each one of these is a basic marketing tactic as old as Coca Cola. The bottom line is you're in a new medium - respect its rules. His advice is basic marketing too. I've translated for those over 30.

You don't want your marketing program built too heavily around one particular tactic. Mix them up. Translation: We used to call this integration - it means use a variety of tactics that all work together to achieve a common goal.

You want to be funny, but not so funny that you lose your message. Translation - humor gets attention but it doesn't sell the product. Think of the MacIntosh ads on television with the fake Bill Gates refusing to acknowledge there are problems with Vista. They are hilarious but also drive home a product message that Microsoft is too rich and doesn't care about its customers.

You want to be responsive, but only when people are talking to you, or you have something very relevant to say. Translation don't flood me with information because I will stop paying attention.

You want to give something back to the conversation. Don't just talk to keep the dialogue going - Translation give me tangible benefits for why I should keep talking to you.

You want to be authentic. Translation - Blatant self-promotion turns people off. DUH.

The social networking space fascinates me and I know that whichever marketer figures out how to use it well early wins. But I'm still astonished by how all of the "experts" treat it as though nothing came before it. Go read a classic marketing textbook. It's all there.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Six Tips for Creating Winning Proposals

Proposal writing is an art, and it's one that many companies are not very good at. It took me a long time to learn how to write a concise and persuasive proposal - even though my background is writing.

So here's my advice:

1. Tell them something they don't know about their businesses. We all get swallowed by our own industries and need a fresh perspective. The Internet is a fabulous tool for learning more about your prospective client. Don't just look at its Web site - check out what their competitors, media and blogs are saying about them.

For instance, in a recent proposal to a health care association, I typed in What is a THEIR SPECIALTY? onto their Web site's search engine. And stumped them. Other stakeholders also couldn't answer the question. So I was able to tie my communications services to a needs assessment and got the work.

2. Call them and ask questions. Even the best RFPs need clarification. Create a short list of questions and call the person listed on the proposal as a contact. Make nice with them, without taking up too much of their time. Get them to talk about their challenges as they answer your questions. The benefit: When your proposal hits their desk, they will remember you.

3. Treat the proposal like its your first week on the job. Many companies use generic proposal templates and fill in the blanks, adding a few customized thoughts to make it seem special. Consultants hate giving out free advice. But if you cannot demonstrate how you will do the work - you sound just like everyone else. So treat the proposal like you've already been hired. Tell them more than you usually do. It will get their attention and make you stand out.

4. Create a provocative and value driven title. You must demonstrate creativity even in industries that aren't very exciting. Most proposals use basic titles with the company's name plugged in. PR firms often use titles like "Raising the Visibility of Xs New Widget," or "Helping X Enter the Emerging X Market." I'm sleeping folks. A proposal we submitted recently used a stage with a curtain drawn back and the heading "Taking Center Stage, Showcasing the Work of X." That worked.

5. Your proposal cover is the first thing prospective clients see. It doesn't have to be fancy, but it shouldn't look like your kid's report cover either. Use a graphic designer, even if it's your teenager who has a flair for design. Use strong, vibrant colors and an intriguing typeface. And spiral bind everything if it's printed - it's inexpensive and looks far more professional.

6. No typos ever. This may sound obvious but you'd be amazed how many proposals go out the door with typos and even the name of the company or senior executive spelled wrong. Very bad. It shows you are sloppy at best, and that you really don't care. Proofread - double check numbers, references, headlines and text. If you want to be on on the A-list, you must demonstrate you belong there.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Mobile Marketing - Not Just for the Young

Recent articles on mobile marketing showed that it's gone from fad to fact and that it's becoming a more accepted way to reach consumers. Some highlights:

A study from Azuki Systems profiled in a media research report found that over 54% of mobile users surveyed said usage climbed by more than 25% over the last 24 months. Twenty percent said it jumped by more than 50%. The report did not say how many consumers were polled.

How much time did consumers say they spend on the Internet via mobile phone?

0-2 hours 61.5%
2-4 hours 22.4
4-6 hours 9.8
6-8 hours 4.5
8-10 hours 0.8
10+ hours 2.1

A new Limbo-GfK Technology Advertising Report being released this week reports that mobile marketing is growing and expanding past just text messaging. Brandweek reported on the study. The survey was based on responses from 1,000 adults polled via the phone. It reported:

104 million people (or an estimated four in 10 Americans) recalled seeing an ad on their mobile device between July and September 2008.

60 million Americans saw a text ad, a 42 percent increase from just nine months ago.

31 million viewed mobile Web ads.

57 percent of men surveyed said they viewed an ad on their mobile device. The demographic is not as young as you might think - about half were between the ages of 35-64.

Another article on Barack Obama's use of text messaging discussed its reach to young consumers. It reported:

Text message reminders sent to young people on or before the day of the 2008 primary elections increased the likelihood that they would vote by 4.6%.

2.9 million voters were reached by text with news of Obama's VP selection - yours truly among them. This helped Obama collect millions of mobile phone numbers for use in his campaign.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Blogging For Business

As a blog virgin, if you will, I know very little about how to do this right. But I am a writer - so stream of consciousness is not my thing. My plan was to start a blog on a topic I'm an expert at (marketing), find my voice and then move forward and promote it as I promote myself. I think it's going pretty well only a month in - although I did get some feedback suggesting I dump the hot pink (sorry fashionistas) background to make it easier to read.

I started a blog because I want people to find me - to learn more about the way I think - and obviously to hire me to help them market and communicate. In this testing phase I'm still figuring it out. Also wanted to get enough content to submit articles to marketing web sites and publications.

So I met with a serious blogger, Lindy Dreyer of SocialFish, who started 10 years ago and is building a business around social networking. Thanks Lindy for the advice. And if you're interested in one of her seminars go to socialfish.org. Also hunted around on the web for other advice and added a few things in but quite frankly her comments were better.

Tips for successful blogging:

1. Pick a topic and stay with it - You are trying to build a reputation and credibility in a new medium. That won't happen if you mix it up - and combine personal with professional. One or the other and keep it consistent.

2. Give them top 10 lists - And thanks David Lederman. We're all familiar with the format and it makes it easy to get your arms around a subject. The top ten reasons why I started a blog, the top ten reasons why my blog sucks, the top ten things marketers should address in this recession, etc. If ten is too much try five - this is a fast read medium after all.

3. Mix up your content - Her advice for me, too much text. Add pictures, streaming video, RSS feeds (when I figure out how to do it), etc. That's next week's assignment.

4. Comment on others blogs - If you want traffic for yours, read others and comment. It builds up your Google presence and encourages people to come see your blog. Lately I've been posting questions on discussion boards related to what I'm blogging about - it gets my name out there and encourages people to visit my blog and web site.

5. Figure out your messages and keep them consistent - Whether it's your blog, Facebook, Ning, Twitter or a printed piece make sure you say the same things about your business and the value you deliver on all of them. This can be kind of hard because your messaging evolves as you do, and when you find a new social networking site you sign up and may alter what you say based on the market it serves. But you need to be consistent in messaging about your company - no matter who is reading. .

6. Credit others, to add as much value as you can - This one I get as a marketer. This isn't just about self promotion. It's about helping people market better. I'm a secondary voice, what I think matters, but it's just as important to add other voices in too, and let readers know I'm out there listening. Plus it builds credibility and good will.

Happy Halloween.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Facebook - New marketing channel or play space?

This week I went to my fourth meeting on social networking in the last two months – I’ve now seen it from the advertising, marketing and ASAE perspectives. As a marketer I'm fascinated by this new opportunity and particularly its application to trade associations and other membership organizations.

The economy is tanking, associations are bleeding members, they can’t convince young professionals of their value and their budgets are getting cut. Social networking is an entirely new media channel for marketing and connection with members, prospects, and well targeted members of the general public. Associations know this – but they don’t know what to do about it. Plus it’s still affordable to get in.

Then I've seen a bunch of twenty and young thirty-somethings running around who know very little about marketing putting up these sites with a vague plan that says it will help you reach and keep members– a handful of marketing consultants talking like consultants and charging a lot for it – and a huge opportunity to help associations and others figure out how to do it right.

By the way, there are virtually no case studies and I've heard the one ITSE from the ASAE annual meeting five times. That's not a good sign.

What the associations need is a strategy across all these social networking sites and the rest of their marketing and communications, an understanding of how to drive people to these places, a plan for what to do with them once they get there and most important figure out how it can help them grow.

Should the cart come before the horse? Well the horse should keep moving forward but the cart and it's contents (forgive the metaphor) should be organized and thorough before it leaves the station.

Think of the first corporate Websites. They were vague, empty descriptions of companies with little functionality simply because they wanted to be on the playground. Then they evolved, and evolved and evolved - and many associations are stuck with these models that don't work very well. So this time let's figure out what we want to accomplish here first and move forward with an end in sight.

I want a social networking partner who gets this and sees value in what I can bring to the table. In the meantime, AAAS is helping me set up a Facebook page for our Science Inside Alcohol grant and we'll learn as we go.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Marketers - 30 Million LinkedIn Users Available Now

LinkedIn is offering up its 30 million professionals worldwide to B-to-B market researchers. It will be interesting to see how the new service does, what comes from it, and whether or not users will participate. Here are some of the details which were first published in Online Media Daily.

The data points that LinkedIn has are very impressive. Among them - filtering respondents by title, seniority, function, age, country, and company size, and other criteria.

Almost half of LinkedIn professionals are employed in the U.S.

Users can opt out of the service and will be offered rewards to share their behavior like cash incentives, donations to a charity of their choice, or merchandise.

LinkedIn management claims it will limit invitations to participate to four times annually - and will increase it as the business grows.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Adapting Your Message in our New Economy

A recent listserv post by a non-profit asked the question - How should we adapt our messaging now that funders are cutting back?

One of our network members, Karen Paul Stern and I came up with some suggestions. She watched an appeal recently where the non-profit leader launched into the same spiel that he did the year before, without even acknowledging that things are different now. The reaction was not good.

So if you're looking for funding - or to get more business from existing clients or members - here are three messages that can help.

1. We're All in This Together

Acknowledge that everyone is struggling right now and that it's not necessarily the best time to ask. Ask about how are your funders' priorities changing - what are they looking for in a charity now? Address their concerns and try to figure out a way to help them too.

2. We Have a History

This is someone you know, an organization or a client who has given you work or funding in the past. They know you, they know what you do well, they know what you don't, you have a relationship, a history. Remind them of the benefits they've gotten from working with you before and the work you do, your attention to detail, to service, to reporting, to communicating shared success.

3. We Need You More Now Than Ever

OK - now here's where you make your pitch. Everyone is hurting - the work that we do is still needed, in fact more so. Explain why and how what they give helps - quantify and measure results whenever possible.

Questions - please ask.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Becoming One of the Chosen Few

How do you raise money when the stock market is tanking? That’s a big question for anyone who relies on funding from other places. Donors are going to cut back – the question is where. Even if the market recovers in the next year, the sting of today’s losses won’t disappear.

So we’re starting a series of articles on how to message and market in tough economic times. What worked a year ago won’t work now.

The Stern Communications network has several members who specialize in working with non-profits. Here are the changes they’re seeing in corporate giving and some advice for keeping funders engaged and happy. Corporations are. . .

Examining their donation pools. Funders are looking at the mix of charities they support and trying to fine tune it to a few that offer them the most value. They are examining portfolios and evaluating return on investment (ROI) for everything they spend. They will cut back – it’s a question of whether or not you are the one cut.

Asking for quantifiable measures of value. If you expect to get donations now build in a way to measure results of funding. Be prepared not just to explain your value – quantify it. Measure at the start of your program, and at key benchmarks along the way. And report to donors as you achieve them.

Direct connection between businesses and charities they support. As funders start cutting back – the small donations, the ancillary budgets, are going to disappear. Those they fund must have a direct, connection to their businesses – so they can make a case for supporting their industries. So if you’re distributing food to the poor, go to a food company, preferably a local one. If you are helping female cancer survivors go to the medical service providers. In pure marketing terms – answer the question what’s in it for them?

Staying close to home. In tough times, companies spend more in their communities. They stay close to home to build good will. Supporting a local charity, getting employees involved, helping in schools, mentoring and training – all are options companies will be looking for. Offer ways they can help here – even if the investment is people rather than funds.

Finally, help your funders get media attention for their contributions. Publicize their donations as widely as you can. Tell everyone you know. Thank them in a public way.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Making the Complex Simple and Persuasive

Maybe it's watching late night television (Stephen Colbert, John Stewart and Bill Maher are my guys) or maybe it's eight years of soundbite journalism. But lately as I write proposals and talk to clients I find myself asking the simplest of questions and not getting clear answers to the basics of their businesses.

Remember when Colbert asked the senator who had introduced legislation to put the Ten Commandments into school curriculum and he couldn't name them? How mortifying was that? Years ago when I asked my ex-husband, an MIT PhD in political science, what his doctoral dissertation was about I got a 20 minute explanation. By the time he finished it almost a decade later - we'd whittled it down to less than a sentence - "It's about the impact of non-profits like Save the Whales on international politics."

When we search Google or Dogpile or whatever search engine we use we get explanations - most groups now have a Wiki. But why isn't the Wiki or at least the link to the Wiki on their Web sites? Has anyone thought to ask?

Here are just a few questions I've typed in lately and not been able to get an answer for - from sites that belong to the largest groups representing these specialties.

What is neuroscience?
What is a psychologist?
What is a podiatrist?
What is technical education?
What is an obstetrician?

Sorry scientists - if you cannot tell me within one or two clicks what it is you do I am gone. It would be very positive to say that people get so involved in what they do - and so caught up in their industries - that they think everyone knows what they are. But it's more complicated than that. People don't think about making the complex simple. And so they can't communicate with the general public. How can you have public understanding if you can't explain clearly? You cannot.

The big question of course is how can you effectively market when you can't explain and aren't educating as you go. The answer is you will never get beyond your core market - and most of us - particularly in these days of social networking absolutely want too.

Most people have an elevator speech (a 1-3 sentence explanation) of what they do. But they don't have it for what their specialty is.

To be fair I've had to develop my own too. My elevator speech - I take complex, scientific and technical information and making it accessible to everyone. What is communications? It's explaining who you are, what you do, why you're better at it, and why they should hire you - at every point at which you connect with a customer or prospect.

If you have good public relations people then you should have all of this - and it should be part of your media training and messaging. I used to work with a really good media guy and I remember when he took a one page fact sheet explaining the Components Packaging and Manufacturing Technology Association's products and turned it into we're the people who make the chips that run many of the products you use. We're the Intel Inside of everything. We get it.

So go on your Web site and search your area of expertise? Is it explained? Could your fifth grader get it?

That's my thought for the day.

Friday, October 10, 2008

It's Time for New Messages Stupid

Remember when Bill Clinton beat Bush I with the simplest and smartest of messages - It's the Economy Stupid. Well guess what candidates - it's time for new messages. It's time to stop running around talking about big problems that require huge amounts of money. Talk to the American people about how scared they are. Stem the panic. Give them hope.

I have spent the last two election seasons totally frustrated by both Democrats and Republicans who never seem to get what the American people really want. On Tuesday night - as Americans watched their financial future take a total nosedive - the debate never got to the issue of what either candidate really intended to do about it.

Instead they took jabs at each other- you voted for it, you didn't vote for that, it's your party's fault, no it's your fault, I'm smarter, I'm more committed, it went on and on until it all became stupid droning elevator music. Why was the debate considered a tie? Because neither candidate said anything they haven't said many times before.

When it came to foreign policy - I wanted John McCain. Even though I don't agree with him on much he sounded more confident, like someone who could figure it out. When it came to the economy I wanted Obama - despite the finger pointing at least he got that the middle class is so unbelievably screwed. And he says he wants to do something about it.

Anyway what I realized, from a communications perspective, is I'm frustrated as hell - as my 401K disappears and the world financials crash - I want to know this is being addressed - at the highest levels of the world. I want messages. I want hope.
So here are the messages I would use if I was running for president - or if I was president. At the very least one of the top advisors for any of these people. Because they don't get it either.

CEOs could use these messages too - they are big, generic and hopeful. And that's what people need. It's like talking to a four year-old, acknowledge how upset he is, do something to make him feel better, focus him on the next thing.

1. This is Not the Great Depression - it's not folks. It's an absolute mess and there are many economic indicators out there that say it may continue for awhile - but it's not 1929. That market was completely different, we didn't have government involvement and they just let that sucker crash. This time it's not like that.

2. World Leaders are Working on This. We are doing everything that we can to stop this but it may go on for awhile. It's going to be a wild ride but we'll make it. It's not an American disaster it's a world disaster. And we are trying to fix it on that level - which takes time.

3. Americans Must Come Together as a Nation Now. Actually Obama started to say this in the debate and then he didn't really finish it but it's a great message. After 9-11 everyone in this country came together regardless of party, status, race, religion, it didn't matter. We were all Americans who wanted to help each other. We need to get back to that feeling - it was so positive - so we can do anything if we come together. And Americans need that now.

4. What Goes Up Must Come Down and It Will Go Back Up Again. The financial markets will recover and so will this country. The American dream isn't dead it's just on hold for awhile. Hang in there. Better times are ahead.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Why Corporations Should Use Social Media

According to the findings of the 2008 Cone Business in Social Media Study, almost 60% of Americans interact with companies on a social media Web site, and one in four interact more than once per week. The data makes a persuasive case for finding new and more effective ways to reach consumers through social media.

Eighty five percent of those polled believe a company should not only be present, but should also interact with its consumers via social media.

33% of men and 17% of women interact frequently (one or more times per week) with companies via social media. The study found that men, who are less likely to interact with companies in other media, are more comfortable interacting via social media.

Two-thirds of the wealthiest households and the largest households (3 or more members) feel stronger connections to brands they interact with online.

33% of younger, hard-to-reach consumers (ages 18-34), believe companies should actively market to them via social networks.

(Opinion Research Corporation conducted this survey with 1,092 adults comprising 525 men and 567 women 18 years of age and older. The margin of error associated with a sample of this size is ± 3%).

Friday, October 3, 2008

Creating an Emotional Appeal for Your Brand

In a tough economy, when price becomes a powerful motivator for choosing one product, service or professional organization over another, Harvard Business School Press authors Rita McGrath and Ian MacMillan remind us about tapping into the emotional appeal of your brand to hang onto your customers and win prospects. The book is MarketBusters.

This is not a new concept (is anything in marketing today?, but there was a rather heated blog discussion about whether or not emotional appeal works in business to business marketing. I had this same discussion with a former boss who treated my saying - of course it can - like the ramblings of an idiot.

But the fact is we all have an emotional connection to the products we buy. It's not just the type of sneaker we wear, or our favorite restaurant or our hairdresser. It's the people we know professionally, the service providers we use, the professional groups we don't give up even though they cost more than some of the others, the Mac versus the PC, or the industrial chemical that we've been using for 20 years, know works, are attached too and don't want to change.

Tapping into that appeal - understanding it - reinforcing it - and using it to emphasize WHY US, WHY NOW - is just plain smart. But first you've got to understand it. Here's some advice from the authors about how to get to the heart of emotional appeal:

Examine what different customers segments think. Good segments reflect behaviors - remember that even customers who are demographically similar may have very different behaviors and preferences.

Look at how customers interact with your product/service. What's on their minds? What are they worried about? Looking forward to? Would they rather be doing something else than dealing with whatever issue you solve for them?

What emotions does your product evoke in customers? This requires research, ask them why they would switch, if they are considering switching. Ask your field salespeople and customer service reps - they probably know better than anyone else in your organization. Then do some brainstorming with members of your team - what could they come up with that might trigger that connective feeling?

Test what you learn. Try the appeal out on representative members of your customer segment and observe how they behave. By the way, observation is absolutely key. Customers often won't - or can't - tell you what is really driving their behavior.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Consumer Behavior in a Tough Economy

Porter Novelli did a presentation recently on how consumer mindset and spending habits are changing in these scary economic times. It helped drive home the reality of just how bad things are. Comments were about baby boomers, generation Xers and millenials (those born between 1980-1995).

Some of the highlights:

No more bottled water - the new water comes from from the tap.

32% of millenials are not as pretentious as they used to be - except in the area of personal electronics.

Use of coupons is up and impulse buying is down.

We are suffering from green fatigue - no one wants to hear about it anymore - just do it.

Cash is the new platinum card. People are buying less and more of what they really need - not just want.

We are evolving into a world of narrow communities and only talk to those who agree with us. That's what micro-networking is all about.

People are focused on necessities -food, clothing, shelter and supporting an individual cause (not multiple ones).

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Talking to the Media in An Age of Now

There was an interesting conversation on a listserv I belong to today about on the record versus off. The main point is can you ever trust a reporter? Thought you'd be interested in my response.

I think that the media has changed dramatically in the past decade, and I advise clients that there are "New Rules" for a new media market. Although there are many journalists that I do trust and respect, ethics are often in short supply.

I saw a presentation by a Google executive recently who in the middle of a talk said that he hadn't cleared his remarks, and that they were off the record. What he said showed up on blogs within minutes.

Misinformation and media manipulation are rampant and keep increasing with the proliferation of blogs, social networking, pundits, etc. Fact checking in a time when deadlines are immediate is not rigorous, words are taken out of context, information becomes viral quickly, and it's very hard even if you trust the reporter to be sure that they will get it right. Journalists have to defend their stories, and if they tell an editor or producer something that was off-the-record and get backed into a corner, there is no guarantee it won't get used.

So I think we need "New Rules" and would be interested in what others have to say. Here are a couple of mine.

Assume everything you say is on the record, no matter who you are talking too.

If you do go off the record or talk for background only, do so with a trade industry reporter who has a reputation in your industry he or she does not want to harm.

Never switch gears in the middle of an interview. Set the ground rules for the entire conversation ahead of time, and get them in writing if you can.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Branding in the Age of Social Media

Did you know that many companies handle online and other media as separate functions that don't even talk to each other?

That they have one brand image in print and broadcast media, and another online?

That as search capability expands from text based documents to videos, blogs, news and other forms of communications your brand image can become totally fragmented and the way you describe it in different media can make it murkier?

These are all challenges brought up in a white paper from iCrossing, a search engine optimization firm, that works with companies to create enterprise level campaigns maximizing their brands across all platforms - or as some ad agencies call it - customer touch points.

In an interview with EMTET, Rob Garner, director of strategy, reminds us that the age-old principles of branding apply just as much in new media as they do in old.

Garner says companies need to examine all of their marketing and communications - in all forms and types of media - to insure that they tie back to the brand image they want to convey. He says the mistake many firms make is they jump into social marketing and set up a separate department to address it, because they want to be forward thinking, but haven't thought through how it reflects back on the brand and positioning they already have.

Two issues to think about -

1. Now that you're blogging how will you respond to negative comments online? Will it be the same way you do it on a toll-free number or when a customer writes in? What will you do when someone writes something bad on their Facebook Wall about you?

2. How do you integrate the PR you are doing in print and other media with the marketing you're doing online?

In short, many of us need to go back to basics. We need to think about what our brand stands for and how it is presented and responded too in all forms of media. For every company - the solution must be linked to business goals and brand franchise.

The white paper was co-written with Gabe Dennison of Pluck, a social media company.

Friday, September 26, 2008

What We Can Learn about Media and Branding from this Week's Presidential Race

I watched this unfold on CNN with great interest. The political campaigns are an incredible example of marketing in the age of the Internet and how you can really screw up when things move so quickly. There is also enormous opportunity if you are smart and stick with your messages and don't deviate from your brand franchise.

Obama stumbled - as the stock market was tanking 500 points last week his campaign was sending out messages about Sara Palin's lies regarding the Bridge to Nowhere and other things. But that was over. The timing could not have been worse. He seemed like an angry, small man playing he said, she said. And out of touch with the world.

This week Obama got back on message and bounced back with a four point plan that essentially said Wall Street leaders, not the American taxpayer, should pay for the bailout. That's Obama's I'm on your side approach and it helped rejuvenate him in the polls. That's his brand.

On Wednesday - when John McCain tried to outmaneuver Barack Obama in the Wall Street mess - we saw what happens when one candidate tries to co-opt messages that another already owns.

What happened? On Wednesday morning Obama reached out to McCain and suggested they put partisan politics aside and issue a joint statement of what they thought needed to be accomplished in a the financial bailout. Turns out they weren't very far apart in what they wanted anyway.

The McCain people jerked Obama's people around until 2:30 in the afternoon when he called Obama back and agreed to do it. Less than half an hour later McCain was on national television (we watched him on CNN) making a statement about how he was suspending his campaign and heading back to Washington to help with the bail-out. He sounded uncomfortable and hurried, didn't actually leave for Washington until doing network interviews, and didn't bother to acknowledge reporters by taking questions. Instead of looking presidential he just looked desperate and old.

Obama was smarter. While the CNN hacks sat around with nothing to say for over an hour other than we are waiting for Obama's statement, he devised a strategy that completely reinforced his brand and messages.

Obama came on CNN and talked about how a president needs to do more than one thing at a time, and that although he was in constant contact with DC, he wouldn't cancel the debate (the American people should hear what we have to say, we're running out of time). He gave a blow by blow of his morning and afternoon conversing with the McCain team and made it clear that he'd made the first move, without openly accusing him of grandstanding. Obama looked thoughtful, deliberate and presidential. And the smartest part, he took media questions - which helped point out that McCain and his running mate do not.

The CNN people came back on and even they said that McCain's decision seemed like cheap political maneuvering. And they kept saying it. That on top of Sara Palin's photo opp with a world leader where even the Fox news correspondent got miffed because she was allowed in the room for all of 29 seconds and couldn't talk to her, was a bad week for the Republicans. McCain the maverick, became McCain the scared guy who stalled negotiations. And that's not very enticing to anyone, let alone those independents who are not sure what to do.

So what can marketers learn from this week in presidential politics?

Even in the age of "real time" all decisions need to be well thought out and possible outcomes evaluated. You cannot pretend to be a maverick if his decisions appear impulsive, careless and political - there will be a backlash.

Pre-set emails, even if on current message, need to be monitored up to the minute, in case something in the world or your business changes. Otherwise you look like idiots.

Know your brand and what your customers believe about you. Stay true to it. McCain may have once been a maverick but right now maverick doesn't work - it's Obama's message and he does it better. McCain should find out what his brand really does mean to people - perhaps war hero, keep us safe and making smart choices. He needs to stand for something. Taking your competitors messages doesn't work for long - you need your own unique positioning. And once you've got it, make people believe you mean it.

When you stick with your brand image, know it and nurture it, you can win. Obama's message of Change may be wearing thin with voters, but what resonates is he cares about them, he knows what they're going through. And when he sticks with that he wins.

Marketers should know their brand and only change it if and when they know in their gut and backed up by research that the time is right. They may reinforce, readjust, etc. - but people don't respond well when they dramatically deviate. They feel cheated and angry. And the last thing you want is pissed off customers and prospects.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Too Much News: Making Releases Work for Your Business

A Strategy that Works in Electronic Media

One of the biggest problems I face, as an independent media person trying to reach parents and kids, is lists. For the Science Inside Alcohol Project, my AAAS client, I have been writing news releases tied to time of year and mass distributing them on PR Newswire. They kept hitting the same sites - all dotcoms, although Reuters and Forbes.com are a plus, and impress clients.

This project is developing a curriculum for middle school students, book for parents, events, and partnerships to broadly share all the material.

Yet they pick-ups state that these are assigned as news releases and I wondered about whether anyone actually reads them. Also due to length of duration for any news on the web is it worth the $900-$1200 it is costing me? From a client standpoint yes, they can see I'm trying even though there is not much project news at this point.

Thought I'd share a few of the release headings which did get picked up by several dozen broadcast (I only did the web tracking that came with the service), wire and electronic news sites. Also did special distribution to healthcare sites and blogs which does get pick-up. One discovery I made - if I write the release like a news story, it gets picked up verbatim.

Tying it to Seasonal News

This Holiday Season Teach Your Kids the Science of How Drinking Alcohol Can Hurt Them

It’s Spring Break: How Much Does Heavy Drinking Affect Your Body?

Back to School: Five Ways Parents Can Help Middle School Kids Delay Their First Drink

The release model is pretty straightforward:

Opening paragraph tying info to project and reinforcing timeliness.
Document the trend with data from a couple of reputable groups.
Advice for parents
Quote from AAAS
For more information contact us.

We don't generally get follow-up in the form of interview requests but it does raise us on Google and keep us out there.

The last release, I discovered I could do a web only release that goes to 4800 sites for $295.00. Pick-up was about the same. That helped alot with ROI. I'd be interested in media tools others use and the success they've gotten from them - an ROI analysis is such a thing exists.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Updates from Advertising Week DC 2008

Update from Advertising Week DC, September, 2008

Attended our local Ad Club’s DC meeting last week and was surprised not to see more of you there. It really is a very affordable way to network and catch up on latest developments in that side of our business.

A few interesting tidbits:

Social Marketing - Leaders on a panel from Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn discussed Ning’s strategy of creating micro-groups and how that’s a direction they’re heading in.

Branding - The head of marketing at VW discussed how creating Max (a VW doubling as a talk show host – check out commercials where he does interviews) said developing a real personality for the brand was a great exercise in defining and embracing it. He recommended that others try it as a creative way of figuring out who you are and what you really stand for.

Creativity - A panel of creative leaders discussed the trend towards letting research dictate creative approach – and how it can stifle brainstorming. Use it as a starting point, not as a reality check.

Widespread Messaging - NBC Universal talked about its NBC Everywhere strategy that is highly focused on niche marketing and how it customizes material for hospitals, taxis and gas stations among other locations.

The Ad Club of DC says it will post information from the conference but doesn’t know when. Not exactly marketing oriented conference follow-up.