Sunday, February 28, 2016

On the Shoulders of Giants

"We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants."

—John of Salisbury

Two neighborhoods in my fair city, Washington, DC, take their names from giants we've all but forgotten.

Oliver Howard graduated from West Point in the 1850s and was sent to fight Seminoles. While encamped in the Everglades, he was "born again." His peers would forever after mock his piety.

An abolitionist, in 1861 Howard found himself leading Union troops at Bull Run. A year later, he lost his right arm at Seven Pines, but would return from the hospital three months later to fight at Second Bull Run and Antietam. In subsequent years, Howard led bluecoats into battle at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Chattanooga, Atlanta and Savannah.

After the war, Howard was made commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau. He believed former slaves would most benefit from education, and in 1867 started Howard University in Washington.

Robert Shaw, the fair-haired son of a family of Boston abolitionists, dropped out of Harvard in 1859, uncertain how to spend his life. When the Confederate states seceded two years later, he enlisted in the Union army, soon reaching the rank of colonel.

While home convalescing from a wound received at Antietam, Shaw was tapped to organize the 54th Massachusetts, one of the North's first regiments of African American troops. Sent to South Carolina as manual labor, the regiment was soon chosen to spearhead an ill-fated assault on a Confederate fort outside Charleston.

In the attack, Shaw's exposed troops were shredded by artillery and musket fire, but their remnants managed to reach and scale the ramparts. During brutal hand-to-hand combat inside the fort, Shaw was killed.

The Confederate general in charge refused to return Shaw’s body to the Union army after the fight. To show his contempt for a white man who would lead black troops, the general tossed Shaw's body into a common burial trench. After the war, Shaw's family chose to leave their son's body there, his father remarking they couldn't wish for him better company.

While you wait in line for your latte, celebrate February 29, the bonus day of Black History Month, by Tweeting this post. Include the hashtag #ShouldersOfGiants.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Fish Story

Here's a story with a hook.

Skift reports SeaWorld's CEO, after denying his employees posed as animal rights activists to infiltrate PETA, has admitted to conducting a covert operation.

In a report to stockholders, Joel Manby acknowledged corporate spies were sent by SeaWorld "to maintain the safety and security of employees, customers and animals in the face of credible threats.”

But a PETA spokesperson says SeaWorld sent agents provocateurs to bait PETA's people.

“SeaWorld’s corporate espionage campaign tried to coerce kind people into setting SeaWorld on fire or draining its tanks, which would have hurt the animals, in an attempt to distract from its cruelty and keep PETA from exposing the miserable lives of the animals it imprisons,” Tracy Reiman said.

SeaWorld's spokespeople have clammed up, claiming further comment would disclose "confidential business information related to the company’s security practices."

SeaWorld has been angling to fix its damaged brand for three years, after the movie Blackfish sent park attendance reeling and put profits in the tank.

As a case study in floundering PR, this one's a keeper.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Creativity Carries a Big Stick

“You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club,” Jack London once said.

Creative problem-solving is a free-for-all, as creative problem-solvers know.

It's toilsome work that British psychologist Graham Wallas said, in his 1926 book The Art of Thought, unfolds in four stages:

Preparation. The problem-solver acts like a hunter/gatherer, finding and grabbing materials she can use to construct new ideas.

Incubation. The problem-solver takes an indefinite time out. "The period of abstention may be spent either in conscious mental work on other problems, or in a relaxation from all conscious mental work," Wallas says.

Illumination. The problem-solver arrives at the eureka moment. That moment, Wallas says, is "the culmination of a successful train of association, which may have lasted for an appreciable time, and which has probably been preceded by a series of tentative and unsuccessful trains."

Verification. The problem-solver hunkers down to serious work "in which the results of the inspiration are verified and the consequences deduced."

The four-fold process may be serial, but creative problem-solving isn't, Wallas says.

Creative problem-solving proceeds like music, with wandering and overlapping parts.

"In the daily stream of thought these four different stages constantly overlap each other as we explore different problems. Even in exploring the same problem, the mind may be unconsciously incubating on one aspect of it, while it is consciously employed in preparing for or verifying another aspect."

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Poser = Loser

Authenticity isn't a strategy, says "hippie marketer" Tad Hargrave, so "stop trying to be so authentic."

Authenticity isn't a target or a tagline or a tone; and you can't get it by posing.

"There’s the old story of the archer who misses his shot because his eye is on the trophy he wants to win and not the bullseye," Hargrave says.

Forget authenticity. Aim, instead, for transparency.

If your organization is sales driven, be salesy. If it's tech focused, be geeky. If it's bureaucratic, be stately.

To win customers' trust, first trust yourself.

By playing a game of bait and switch, posers wind up losers.

Customers aren't gullible.

As Mad Man David Ogilvy said, "The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Where Do You Draw the Line?

Admirable work only results when creatives draw the line, Seth Godin says in his recent post, "Milton Glaser's Rule:"

"There are few illustrators who have a more recognizable look (and a longer productive career) than Milton Glaser," Godin says. 

"Here's the thing: When he started out, he wasn't THE Milton Glaser. He was some guy hoping for work.

"The rule, then, is that you can't give the client what he wants. You have to give the client work that you want your name on. Work that's part of the arc. Work that reflects your vision, your contribution and your hand.

"That makes it really difficult at first. Almost impossible. But if you ignore this rule because the pressure is on, it will never get easier."

Agency exec Bill Kircher (my former boss) used to spout similar adages when the pressure was on. I'll sum them up in a rule I'll call "Kircher's Law:"

Whenever an agency bows to a client's creative direction, the probability of later incrimination approaches 100%.

Although creatives are quick to cite their duty to themselves, the truth is, every professional shares the right to draw the line.

Remember the film The King's Speech

Early in the story, the therapist draws the line with a haughty Queen Elizabeth: "Sorry, this is my game, played on my turf, by my rules."

But with prerogative comes accountability. You can't have your kingly cake and eat it, too. 

Do you:
  • Respect everyone, coworkers and clients alike?
  • Arrive on site ready to work?
  • Tackle chores that need to be done to stay in business?
  • Avoid short cuts and excuses?
  • Learn from mistakes?
  • Consider how your decisions affect the company, not just your department or career?
  • Speak truthfully and with the passion of an owner?
Do you—where do you—draw the line?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Pandemonium? Blame the Media.

Presidential politics rides a wayward bus.

It's named Media.

Media revolutions drive voters away from party élites, as historian Jill Lepore says in her article about populism in The New Yorker.

Lepore looks back at party upheavals of the early 19th century.

Although slavery was the big issue, the rise of populism was driven by revolutions in media:
  • In the 1830s, advances in printing brought down the cost of a newspaper to a penny;
  • In the 1840s, newspapers began to get news by telegraph;
  • In the 1850s, newspapers began to include illustrations based on photographs.
"For a while, party élites lost control, until the system reached equilibrium in the form of a relatively stable contest between Democrats and a new party, the Republicans," Lepore says.

Then came the 1890s, when occurred another populist revolt, "which took place during another acceleration in the speed of communication, brought about by the telephone, the Linotype, and halftone printing, technologies that allowed daily newspapers and illustrated magazines, in particular, to carry political news faster, and to more readers, than ever before."

In the same decade, color printing appeared, which gave rise a nationwide "poster craze." Campaign posters papered every wall of every building, in every city; and every candidate "ran as an outsider."

Oddly enough, the 20th century was saner. 

Although voters saw the introduction of phonograph records, radio, weekly magazines, movies and TV, media's power to propel populists waned. 

"Despite the upheavals of the Depression, the Second World War, the Cold War, and Vietnam, the era of national newsmagazines, newsreels, and network broadcasting was a period of remarkable party stability."

But with the advent of mobile phones and the Internet, populism is again heating up.

"The American party system is not only a creation of the press; it is dependent on it," Lepore says. 

"It is currently fashionable, indispensable, even, to malign the press, whether liberal or conservative. But when the press is in the throes of change, so is the party system. And the national weal had better watch out. 

"It’s unlikely, but not impossible, that the accelerating and atomizing forces of this latest communications revolution will bring about the end of the party system and the beginning of a new and wobblier political institution. 

"With our phones in our hands and our eyes on our phones, each of us is a reporter, each a photographer, unedited and ill judged, chatting, snapping, tweeting, and posting, yikking and yakking. 

"At some point, does each of us become a party of one?"

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Content Marketing and the Agony of Defeat

We have met the enemy and he is us.

Digital agency Sticky Content asked 283 marketers what's defeating their content efforts.

Their answers are no surprise:
  • 37% said they have no strategy
  • 33% said management dings content
  • 46% said demands change after content has been created
  • 66% said their organizations waste a quarter of all content; 15% said, half
Is your organization lumbering toward self-defeat? If so, ask:
  • Is management serious, or not, about content? Are they merely entranced by this year's "shiny object?" If they're in earnest, then what's our strategy?
  • Do reviewers understand what to approve? Message? Accuracy? Style? The reason the content exists? What are the ground-rules?
    • Does management trust the content creators? If not, why not? Do they rewrite the lawyers' briefs and the developers' code, too?
    • Does management care about waste? One way to boost marketing's ROI isn't to create more content, but to publish and promote what's been created.
    • Can I improve things? Or is our situation impossible? (Remember what Napoleon said: "Impossible is a word found only in the dictionary of fools.")

    Saturday, February 20, 2016

    Do You Chase Butterflies?

    Remember the sunny feeling you had as a child when you chased butterflies?

    If you do that in business, you're begging for trouble.

    In a recent blog post, event-design guru Jeff Hurt laments the fact that most workers sacrifice impact for busyness.

    "I’ve seen way too many professionals addicted to cleaning out all the emails or making progress on their list of tasks instead of spending time doing the right thing," Hurt says.

    "We’ve got to retrain our brains that strategic thinking first is more important than a check mark. We’ve got to rewire our brains to realize that strategy leads to more success than our busyness."

    I've witnessed another, equally toxic habit that plagues many professionals, particularly senior executives, marketers and sales managers.

    That habit is chasing butterflies, the mindless pursuit of fugitive opportunities; an addiction to chasing every papery grail of growth that happens to flutter by (usually far off the path of the core business or audience).

    Like busyness, chasing butterflies feels good.

    Focus, its opposite, doesn't—especially when there are so many lovely distractions about.

    Focus isn't easy. 

    Focus isn't fun.

    But it's a habit you have to adopt, if you want to have impact.

    Just ask Marissa Mayer.

    Friday, February 19, 2016

    Adaptability is Our Secret

    Kimberley Hardcastle-Geddes contributed today's post. She is president of San Diego-based mdg, a marketing agency that currently serves 10 of the Trade Show Executive Gold 100.

    Given the pace at which the media landscape continues to evolve, it’s impossible to say (with any degree of certainty) what mdg will look like in five years. 

    That’s precisely why, when evaluating new candidates for employment, we look less at their current skill set and more at their proven ability to learn new skills. My business partner, Vinnie Polito, and I make it our mission to hire the right people, have in place the right processes, and create the right culture to allow us to adapt to meet the ever-changing demands of the clients we serve.

    Most recently, we’ve met these changing demands by enhancing our offerings in specialty areas and hiring more professionals skilled in digital marketing, coding, video production, international marketing, database marketing and public relations. Our clients’ needs in these areas are becoming more significant, yet they don’t have the corresponding internal resources (nor the desire and budgets to develop them internally), which enables us to efficiently and effectively fill gaps. Over the next five years, we’ll continue operating under the same general philosophy, developing new business units that align with evolving demand.

    We’ll also stay focused on delivering results. While we believe in the power of a strong brand, we know that our clients hire mdg based on the agency’s proven ability to increase attendance, grow membership, enhance the bottom line or achieve whatever objective happens to be at the forefront of their marketing plans. 

    mdg has built a reputation over the past 39 years for an ability to effect real change, and will continue reinforcing that reputation over the next five.

    Thursday, February 18, 2016

    Tomorrow's Agencies Will be More Consultative

    Rick Whelan contributed today's post. He is president of Marketing General, a full-service membership marketing agency based in Alexandria, VA.

    What will my agency look like five years from now?

    We’ll look exactly the same, but different. 

    I say the same, because the need for great strategy, consulting, creativity, program implementation and back-end results reporting and analysis will be the same; but different because the speed at which all the components will be needed, and the constant evolution of tools, technique and technology, will force us out of our comfort zone. We'll have to test new media and new methods to get ever better, faster results for our clients, all for less cost.

    Other changes I think we’ll see are fewer full-time on-site staff, and the increased use of freelance specialists worldwide who are employed for their expertise in a certain areas and for a particular project or program, and then let go until they are needed again. This will maximize my agency’s talent pool, but also allow me the convenience of “just in time” experts to match clients' needs, budgets and expectations.

    One thing that will not change is the need for some sort of agency orchestration of all the moving parts of a marketing campaign. If anything, agencies will be more much more consultative in nature and challenged to prove and then reprove their worth to a client over and over. 

    Finally the biggest change (and one that's been building all along) will be the use of better, bigger and more encompassing data on prospects and customers alike to drive all facets of the marketing spend.

    Series continues.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2016

    A Team of Trusted Advisors

    Jean Whiddon contributed today's post. She is president and CEO of Fixation Marketing, a woman-owned, full-service marketing communications company based in Bethesda, MD.

    Last week I met with a new primary care doctor. As I approached the desk of the new practice, I noticed a significant display of business cards: on the left, about 10 card holders for the primary care docs; on the right, a smaller cluster for the related specialists. Ah, I thought, one-stop shopping for integrated medical care.

    I bring this up because the medical practice somewhat mirrors my vision for the marketing firm of five years from now. 

    At the center is a core of hands-on creative strategists and designers, able to conceive, write and/or help execute the solid building blocks of an effective multimedia campaign—advertising, direct mail, email, websites, print and digital collateral. They’re agile, experienced and savvy (clients are in a hurry, so they need adept problem solvers). 

    In our “one stop shop” for strategic campaigns, the extended team includes “specialist partners,” incorporating, but not limited, to a researcher, media planner, SEO/SMM/SEM pro, developer and focus group/meeting facilitator. All these subject matter masters may be independent, but are vetted, curated and managed by Fixation with complete transparency (and with as much direct contact as warranted between client and partner). It’s a model that’s heavy on custom collaboration and light on overhead, because that’s what works best.

    What a far different model than the “all in-house” agency I joined nearly 25 years ago, but one driven by client needs and a changing marketplace. And really, it’s been evolving for a long time.

    Series continues.

    Tuesday, February 16, 2016

    Personalization and Flexibility Will Define Agencies in the Future

    Kevin Miller provided today's post. He is president and chief strategist of Frost Miller, a Bethesda, MD-based integrated marketing firm that provides a complete range of marcom services.

    Five years from now our agency will pretty much look the same as today—smart folks sitting around eating donuts and creating results-driven marketing campaigns.

    Broadly speaking, there are three overarching trends that will help shape how our agency works:
      1. Strategy, planning and execution are becoming intertwined
      2. Digital marketing is getting more personal
      3. The more things change, the more they stay the same
      It used to be that the only way to achieve a client’s marketing goals was to develop a strategy, put a plan together, and then execute that plan. That’s all changing. 

      With real-time measurement of digital campaigns, tactics—and even strategiescan be changed immediately. Underperforming campaigns get replaced with ones that generate better results. But in order to improve performance, the people producing these campaigns will have to be strategic thinkers who can make changes on the fly.

      An unfathomable amount of personal data about customers is allowing marketers to target very specific audiences. Targeting once achievable only through direct mail lists or Nielsen ratings—which only tracked the broadest audience characteristics—is now done through technologies that allow you to know exactly who, and where, your prospects are. Mobile, Facebook and Google lead the way, but this trend will reshape how we market in years ahead.

      Telecommuting, virtual workspaces, and other trends that affect most types of businesses won’t have such a big impact on agencies. That’s because what makes a good agency great is collaboration
      especially in an integrated marketing agency like ours. Sharing ideas among people with diverse individual skills leads to the development of fully integrated, and more successful, campaigns.

      Series continues.

      Monday, February 15, 2016

      What Will Our Agency Look Like Five Years from Now?

      Gary Slack provided today's post. He is chief experience officer of Slack and Company, LLC, a leading global B2B marketing strategy and services provider based in Chicago.

      What will we look like in five years?

      We're going to be much more diverse.

      Mirroring clients, more people with engineering, science and software backgrounds. A data scientist or two and even people with nutrition, life sciences and other technical training. 

      Practically everyone will be coders. “Growth hacker,” a term emerging from Silicon Valley, will describe more of us.

      More people who see themselves as marketing technologists.

      More experiential specialists, as events, private and public, are only going to grow.

      More B2B e-commerce experts (although we already have four), as this area will boom and bloom big time.

      More B2B sales and marketing strategy experts. We’ve already taken some of this kind of work from McKinsey.

      Probably a professional comedian or two to create “edutainment” to capture more attention and interest. Look at what Tim Washer has done for Cisco. Hiring journalists for content will be old hat.

      More history majors. They just “get” the outside world better.

      More senior women, although we’re not doing badly.

      More African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Indians and Muslims. All to better mirror B2B buyers and clients.

      Not just homegrown diversity. More people coming our way from exchange programs with the 30 members of WorldwideB2BPartners, our global B2B agency network.

      For sure, no prima donnas, jerks or worse. Actually, we're already pretty good here by hiring team players and asking every new employee to read Choosing Civility.

      As many dreamers and woolgatherers as we can find.

      And, finally, a bunch more slackers. We just can’t get enough of ‘em!

      Series continues.

      Sunday, February 14, 2016

      B2B Agencies Lean into the Future

      After buying The Washington Post in 2013, Jeff Bezos was asked whether he knew what trouble the company faced.

      He said he was buying the publisher's people, who weren't to blame for the collapse of the newspaper industry.

      "What we need to do is always lean into the future. When the world changes around you and when it changes against you—what used to be a tail wind is now a head wind—you have to lean into that and figure out what to do, because complaining isn't a strategy," Bezos said.

      Like newspapers, B2B agencies face strong head winds.

      Clients are better equipped than ever. They have DYI tools once found only within agencies.

      And they're more self-assured. Confident the can come up with big ideas, they're quick to shoehorn agencies into tactical roles.

      But smart B2B agency execs are leaning into the future.

      Tomorrow begins a five-part series that shows how. Five B2B agency execs will answer the question, What will your agency look like five years from now?

      Saturday, February 13, 2016

      The Wanderess

      Without knowing why or how, I found myself in love with this strange Wanderess. Maybe I was just in love with the dream she was selling me: a life of destiny and fate; as my own life up until we met had been so void of enchantment.
      —Roman Payne, The Wanderess

      My first crush was my second grade art teacher.

      Her name is forgotten to me.

      She dressed in black and wore berets.

      She told us she commuted on Fridays to my elementary school by subway from Greenwich Village, where she lived. I knew artists and Beatniks harbored there, enjoying vastly Bohemian lives.

      Maybe I was just in love with the dream she was selling me, as my own seven-year life until we met had been so void of enchantment.

      Remember your crush this Valentine's Day weekend.

      Friday, February 12, 2016

      Buying Brazil

      An old joke goes, "The CEO asked for coffee. The company bought Brazil."

      In middle managers' eyes, decisions by CEOs—even bad ones—are unassailable.

      That might-makes-right is why your B2B messaging should mirror CEOs' aspirations.

      Even when wrong-headed, those aspirations matter—more than anything.

      J. Bruce Ismay decided to cut the number of lifeboats on Titanic by 66% to fit more luxury cafés, White Star Line "bought Brazil." Why? Ismay aspired to attract super-wealthy customers.

      Gregg Steinhafel decided to fast-track the opening of 124 stores in Canada, Target "bought Brazil." Why? Steinhafel aspired to outgrow Walmart.

      No, you don't want to abet disasters (you'll never get testimonials). But you do want to abet CEOs' aspirations—because they're what matter to buyers.

      Buyers don’t want to save money.
      They don't want free trials. They don't want comprehensive solutions.

      Buyers want to fulfill the CEO's vision.

      They want to buy Brazil.

      Thursday, February 11, 2016

      Junk Content Pushing Europeans to Rebel

      Impersonal, junk content is pushing Europeans to rebel against brands, according to new research by Coleman Parkes.

      84% of Europeans say their patience with junk has reached its limit; and 18% have taken their business elsewhere, as a result.

      Other consequences:

      • 65% of Europeans feel less loyal to spammy brands
      • 64% think brands aren't doing enough personalization
      • 63%  would spend less money with spammy brands
      • 57% would stop buying those brands altogether
      Compared to Americans' junk-tolerance, Europeans' seems low: they consider just 25% of the content they receive to be junk.

      Will Americans soon grow as discerning?

      Tuesday, February 9, 2016

      Abe Lincoln, Storyteller

      "Humor is both a shield and a sword in politics," Ari Fleischer, press secretary to George W. Bush, recently told CNN.

      "Humor is a shield because if people like you they will tend to give you the benefit of the doubt. It is a sword because one of the most effective ways to make fun of your opposition is humor as opposed to direct, frontal, mean-spirited attacks."

      Among the presidents who wielded humor—including Teddy Roosevelt, Coolidge, FDR, Kennedy and Reagan—none did it more skillfully than Lincoln.

      Lincoln considered himself a "retailer" of other people's puns, wisecracks, japes and yarns. He had a photographic memory for funny material, and spent hours studying humorists' books and essays.

      Although quaint by 21st century standards, some of Lincoln's gags can still raise a chuckle.

      Lincoln told a story of a man in the theatre who put his top hat on the seat next to him. A plus-size woman sat on it. ""Madam," he said, "I could have told you the hat wouldn't fit before you tried it on."

      He told another story of a professional speaker's arrival in Springfield, Illinois. “What are your lectures about?” a city official asked the speaker. “They’re about the second coming,” the speaker said. “Don’t waste your time," the official said. "If the Lord’s seen Springfield once, He ain’t coming back."

      He told yet another story of a drunk named Bill, who was so wasted, he passed out in the mud. When Bill came to, he went looking for a way to wash off the mud, and mistook another drunk leaning over a hitching post for a pump. When he pumped the man's arm up and down, the man puked all over him. Believing all was right, Bill found a saloon. A friend inside said, "Bill, what happened?" Bill said, "You should have seen me before I washed."

      After one grueling speech, Lincoln said of the speaker, “He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas of any man I ever met." He called the arguments of his opponent for president “as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death.”

      Once after being called "two-faced," Lincoln said, “If I had two faces, why would I be wearing this one?”

      When Nebraska's governor told Lincoln there was a river in his state named "Weeping Water." Lincoln said, "I suppose the Indians out there call it 'Minneboohoo,' since 'Laughing Water' is 'Minnahaha' in their language."

      His contemporaries said Lincoln's real success as a comedian was due to a talent for mimicry. He could mimic voices, accents, gestures, postures and facial expressions perfectly.

      Fellow attorney Henry Whitney said, "His stories may be literally retold, every word, period and comma, but the real humor perished with Lincoln."

      Watch Daniel Day-Lewis perform as Abe Lincoln, Storyteller.

      Sunday, February 7, 2016

      Conference Producers: Have Faith in Fun

      No friends to controversy, conference producers like safe.

      Safe speakers. Safe subjects. Safe surroundings.

      But safe's also stodgy.

      Safe doesn't leave room for fun.

      Education researcher Dorothy Lucardie interviewed 50 adult students and teachers and discovered fun boosts leaners' motivation, concentration and engagement.

      By injecting fun into classrooms, "more adults are encouraged and motivated to participate in learning with enthusiasm for the journey and optimism for the outcomes," Lucardie says.

      If your only goals as a conference producer are to herd attendees between sessions and ensure the pastries are peanut free, your goals are obsolete.

      As app designers know, fun is the new professional. Just as the lines between "business" and "casual" have blurred, so have those between "serious" and "fun."

      Updating the way you design conferences may send chills up your spine.

      But, as fun theorist
      Bernie DeKoven says, "Have faith in fun."

      Friday, February 5, 2016

      Marketers Deserve an F in Metaphysics

      Marketers deserve to flunk Metaphysics. 

      Most, anyway.

      They don't get that to be human is to be a world, to wrestle with an all-consuming self.

      So their storytelling winds up worlds apart from audiences, as David Meerman Scott observes.

      Instead of starting with what audiences think, they start with what audiences should think.

      John Steinbeck said it espcially well:

      "Of course, people are interested only in themselves. If a story is not about the hearer he will not listen. And I here make a rule—a great and lasting story is about everyone or it will not last. The strange and foreign is not interesting—only the deeply personal and familiar."

      Thursday, February 4, 2016

      When is Advertising a Waste?

      Marketing maestro Edward Segal contributed today's post. Edward helps REALTOR® associations generate publicity about their activities and shows their leaders, staff and members how to deliver effective presentations.

      John Wanamaker, a merchandising pioneer in the 19th and early 20th centuries, said, “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

      Many people still regard advertising as the best way to help position, promote, and sell their products, services, or expertise. After all, if you have enough money, you can say whatever you want, wherever you want, and for as long as you want, to anybody you want. And in today’s competitive marketplace, there are advertising opportunities that simply did not exist a few years ago, such as Facebook.

      The trouble with advertising, however, is that unless you are careful, some or all the money you spend on it can be wasted. 

      But how can you guarantee every penny of your advertising budget is well spent?

      Check your ego

      Think you can do it yourself? 

      Do not let your ego get in the way of your advertising success. 

      The reality is that there is a lot involved in successful advertising, ranging from strategy and creativity to messaging and placement, and you need to know what you are doing every step of the way. Put another way, would you ask a lawyer to perform brain survey on you? Of course not. So why would you believe that you can do your own advertising if you’ve never done it before, or well?

      No one cares about your product

      You think everyone in the world will want to buy whatever you are selling. Face it: just because you may be in love with what you are promoting does not mean that anyone else will be, or will even care about it. A marketing professional can help ensure that you are reaching the right audience for the right reasons and in right way.

      Money pits abound

      Here are other major potential budget-wasting mistakes to avoid. You:

      • Do not have a clear marketing message or effective marketing strategy.
      • Do not know your niche in the marketplace, or who your target market is. 
      • Have not weighed the pros and cons of the different advertising outlets. 
      • Don’t know whether a particular advertising medium is the best one to use in order to communicate your message, or if that medium will even reach your target audience.
      • Do not know how often you will have to advertise in order to have an impact.
      • Do not know much money will you have to spend in order to be effective.
      • Do not experiment or test market your messages or strategy before launching your campaign.
      • Pull your advertising before you have given it enough time to work.
      Until you have taken steps to avoid these fundamental mistakes, it might make sense to place your advertising plans on hold, and consult a competent marketing professional.

      Perhaps if John Wannamker had followed the advice above, half of what he spent on advertising would not have been wasted.

      Wednesday, February 3, 2016

      Compartmentalized Thinking

      In the 1980s, when mapmaking kingpin Rand McNally first saw the signs of coming industry disruption, what did it do?

      It unleashed an all-out PR campaign to persuade carmakers and consumers to call the "glove compartment" the "map compartment."


      While thinking like that might have worked in the 1950s, by the 1980s it was nothing other than magical thinking.

      Magical thinking, psychologists say, is a product of Darwin's "struggle for existence." When faced with an existential threat, we look for saviors everywhere, as Rand McNally did.

      Sometimes those saviors are efficiency experts; more often, salespeople; most often, marketers.

      But when your industry's fragile, none of those folks can save you.

      To borrow a thought from the 1990s, you have to think different.

      Tuesday, February 2, 2016

      Government Communicators: Send Outreach into Orbit

      Award-winning video producer Ann Ramsey contributed today's post. She is a senior producer at the US Department of Health & Human Services in Washington, DC.

      Although traditionally a favorite of corporate communicators, the Satellite Media Tour (SMT) should be part of every government communicator's toolkit. 

      SMTs make efficient use of time-starved spokespeople who want to reach multiple media markets. This winter, for example, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services held weekly SMTs throughout the Health Insurance Marketplace Open Enrollment period. The benefit? Without leaving Washington, busy officials reached broadcast journalists all over the country with continuing updates about healthcare enrollment.

      Not every government communicator knows the ins and outs of the SMT, so here’s a rundown. While some agencies use PR firms for their SMTs, I will assume your agency has its own broadcast studio, or at least access to one. 

      What is an SMT? An SMT is a series of video interviews featuring a spokesperson responding in front of a camera to the audio of each remote interviewer’s questions. The broadcaster remotely receives the sound and picture of the spokesperson, usually via satellite, for play-out in a live news program, or as a recorded media file for editing into a package for later broadcast. SMTs generally take one to four hours of the spokesperson’s time, and interviews are typically scheduled in 10-minute windows. If radio broadcasters are included, the interview series is referred to as an SMT/RMT.

      Advantages. An SMT is an opportunity to tap broadcasters in order to introduce, or respond to, a newsworthy or time-sensitive topic. It allows for targeting of media markets, for direct interaction between the spokesperson and reporters, and for the opportunity to tailor the desired message to each market.

      Must-haves. At minimum, you need an available spokesperson; a satellite-capable broadcast studio (look up: is there a dish on your building’s roof?); the manpower to pitch to the networks; and a modest budget to rent a block of satellite time.

      Prep. First, send out a pitch notification (media alert) that includes your desired topic or announcement, the planned date of the SMT, the spokesperson’s bio, and any pertinent facts that can be used to leverage an interview. Target your top media markets, stations and networks, and work up a schedule of time-slots to fill. Most SMTs are aimed at some combination of TV news shows (morning, noon, evening) and/or radio drive-time shows. Contact local and network news divisions to pitch your SMT. Once your agency’s broadcast studio has a block of satellite-time arranged, notify all participating stations of the satellite coordinates and signal format details.

      Pitching tips. Local TV/radio news divisions are busy places. Nonetheless, a government agency can appeal to them by offering the twin advantages of authority and topicality. That a national authority, such as the Secretary of a cabinet-level department, is available to speak directly to a reporter about a hot topic is attractive to a network, particularly a small, local affiliate. Furthermore, offering a local angle can be helpful, if you can tailor your statistics and examples to each media market. Once a news producer is interested in the interview, the concept and timing normally need to be cleared with a news director at the station. That’s why each time-slot may take a couple of phone calls or emails to confirm.

      Day-of. Your agency’s broadcast studio will likely handle booking and supervision of the makeup artist, production crew and satellite link-up, as well as delivery of any non-live interviews to the network producers. You will be assigned a studio SMT producer and floor director to oversee the production. You will need to provide the studio talking points to be loaded into the teleprompter, so your spokesperson can refer to them during each interview. It’s smart to confirm that the studio team has all the information for each interview, including time-slot, the station’s network control room telephone number, producer name and number, interviewer name and number, IFB (
      “Interruptible Feed Back”) number (used by the studio to dial into each station), backup/engineer number, and delivery method (live or taped).

      On-air tips. As a communications professional, you should coach and assist your spokesperson. Be aware that on-air time with the reporter will be short; perhaps just a few minutes. Often the final story is only 90 seconds long. So reporters need your spokesperson to make between one and three points concisely. You should be on site with the spokesperson during the SMT, and coordinate with the studio’s SMT producer and floor director. Let your spokesperson know the first name of each reporter (the reporter will be speaking directly into your spokesperson’s headset). For each interview, the IFB number for the remote station is phoned by the studio’s audio engineer to create a direct audio link between the interviewer and the spokesperson. If needed, this link can be interrupted by the studio SMT producer or floor director, in order to keep the spokesperson informed. (Think of Jon Stewart on The Daily Show listening to a fake mic in his ear and saying, “Wait… I’m being told…”). If any linkup is lost, or any station has to cancel or delay, the studio SMT producer will make on-the-fly changes to maximize the scheduled line-up.

      Afterwards. Your agency broadcast studio will deliver any non-live media to stations that have requested taped versions for editing or later play-out. As desired, you may want to follow up with broadcasters for feedback and to confirm that post-delivery airing took place. You can also get a tape of your spokesperson’s on-air answers from your studio, for media training purposes or to keep as an archival record.

      Trends. Downsizing in broadcast is having an impact. Today you may find the network news producer and interviewer are one and the same person. If something urgent takes place, the floor director or studio producer must use the IFB to reach the interviewer. Another new wrinkle is that the interviewer may want to do the interview remotely, and so, rather than dialing into a station’s IFB number, the studio dials directly to the interviewer’s own mobile phone. It can be tricky! Social media is also having an impact. You can research the Twitter handle of a given broadcast station, in order to follow and interact on social media before and during a given live interview. And it's now possible to create so-called “air-checks,” permanent internet links to selected news show segments that make them available in play-back to stakeholders after the fact.
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