Advertising 101

February 26, 2014

Remember the Super Bowl commercial that featured a puppy making friends with a horse? It was one of my favorites. What about the one where the ‘80s characters were ransacking a store? I enjoyed that one as well. But just because I remember those ads doesn’t mean they were successful.

The puppy commercial was an advertisement for… hmmm… I don’t remember. The ‘80s characters’ commercial was an advertisement for Radio Shack. I contend the more successful commercial is the one where you retain the name of the advertiser. Of course I haven’t been to a Radio Shack since that commercial, but it illustrated to me that they know the market and they recognize how they’re perceived. I’m more likely to visit a Radio Shack now because they showed they’re current.

One of my favorite Super Bowl commercials from years past is the one featuring the magic fridge. It’s a Bud or Bud Light commercial. A more current ad features a camel walking around an office asking people what day it is. The answer: hump day. I laugh every time I see it. And I know it’s a commercial for Geico. Just now I asked a friend if he knew what the hump day camel commercial is for – he knew immediately it was Geico.

Another recent commercial shows a puppy growing up with a family, getting in and out of a car at different stages of his life. But I have no idea who the advertiser is or what they’re promoting – maybe it’s for dog food? Or for a car?

Obviously this is not a scientific study. I don’t have the ratings or numbers to back up my opinion. But after many years as a professional communicator, I find it interesting that so many advertisements fail to follow the basic tenet – it’s not a good ad if you don’t know who or what it’s promoting. This is true for all forms of promotion, whether you’re talking about brochures, flyers, web sites or advertisements.

Billboard advertising confounds me often times. Drivers only have a few seconds to glance at a billboard as they’re driving by, so why do some companies fill all the space on the sign with copy or pictures that no one could possibly take in all at once. Less is more. A catchy phrase is more likely to capture your attention, just like a clever headline.

Try a test with your friends next time you’re driving past billboards or watching TV. See how they respond to the ads, and then once the commercial is over or you’ve driven past the billboard, ask them who or what was advertised?

Each day we are bombarded with more and more information and advertising, but how much of it stands out or really captures your attention? Think about that the next time you’re putting together an ad. Make sure your company, product or service doesn’t get lost in the story or the cute characters. You want people to remember more than a cute dog or a funny saying. You want people to remember the cute dog and the advertiser. You want people to remember the funny saying and the advertiser. And you want people to buy the product or service. But that’s a post for another day…

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Tech Terms are Prevalent but Still Misunderstood

January 27, 2014

Every company and every industry has its own ubiquitous acronyms and terms, some of which cross over into other arenas. Information technology is one of the few industries that seeps or creeps into most, if not all, organizations regardless of industry, as well as into our personal lives. Fifteen years ago, I wrote a user manual for my colleagues, explaining new technology. Chapters included:

“What is the world wide web?”

“What is e-mail?”

“How to use e-mail.”

Of course at that time we all had analog mobile phones, which seemingly weighed about 5 pounds.

In the last five years or so, social media has become pervasive. During that time period, I spent countless hours defining social media, explaining its uses, and simplifying its purpose for both colleagues and friends. Texting (in the personal arena) and Twitter (in the personal and business arenas) have been the most confounding across the board. For example:

“What is texting? And why are all the kids using it?”

“I don’t get Twitter. It doesn’t make any sense.”

“I don’t like Twitter because I don’t want to be limited in how many words I can use.” (This one always makes me laugh. Most people would be surprised at how much you can convey using only a few words.)

Three or four years ago, I entered the world of SEO and SEM. At that time, these terms were fairly common, especially SEO, but only amongst the techies. The use of either of those terms outside of technology circles would prompt confused looks and raised eyebrows. No one else knew those acronyms stood for Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing, or even if they did hear or know the full terms, they weren’t the least bit interested.

Now, SEO and SEM are the new keywords; their mention becoming more and more prevalent in business marketing conversations. Business owners and executives know that these processes, if implemented correctly, can help grow their company. However, the use of SEO and SEM is much more complex than simply using keywords, counting views or click-throughs, or looking at your search engine ranking. Yes, all these elements are important to measure, but the latter two are merely basic indicators as to whether additional analysis, testing, and marketing is necessary.

In talking recently with marketing executives at a large national corporation about this topic, I was confused as to why we seemed to be in disagreement. Finally it dawned on me that they were talking basic SEO, as outlined above, while I was assuming they were well beyond that and I was talking about conversion rates and competitors. This illustrates that while these terms may be going mainstream, there still exists much confusion and misinformation.

I’m tracking this with enthusiasm to see where the trend takes us. As a professional communicator with a lifelong love of technology, I can’t wait to see what’s next.


Are You Still Behind if You Don’t Tweet?

September 4, 2012

If you feel like your company is behind everyone else in utilizing technology, you’re not alone, and chances are you’re not as behind as you think.

Twenty years ago, it seemed as if every company but mine had a web site. So I created one. From the kudos I received, I realized we were right in the flow, we weren’t behind at all, that was just my perception. When I publicized the new web site, I unintentionally perpetuated the notion that EVERYONE (except you) had a web site.

Now the onus has shifted to Twitter. So many people tell me they don’t like Twitter, don’t understand it, and even think it’s stupid, but they know they need to get their company on there, because EVERYONE tweets except them.  You are not the exception, although in another year or two, you likely will be if Twitter sticks around. (Some people will disagree with that last statement and insist that you ARE way behind, and they’re entitled to their opinion; I just don’t agree with that yet.)

So figure it out. Dig into Twitter and start using it. Take a class. Do research. Ask other people how it works. I began using it simply because I didn’t understand it and wanted to know what it was all about and why it was becoming so popular. To my amazement, I became a big fan.

I offer the same advice for all the other innovations out there, way too numerous to name here. I started to list some but then realized it would be impossible to list everything and I’d likely leave some out – like the one that just launched yesterday that I haven’t heard about yet. Don’t forget about the industry-specific applications and groups either.

As you integrate Twitter, FaceBook, a blog, other applications and social media into your company’s communications, remember that integrate is the key word. Your communications vehicles, modes, programs, plans – whatever you call them – should all work together. Your publications, press releases, web site, blog, speeches, Twitter and FaceBook accounts, keywords, conventions, events, outreach, etc. should be publicizing a consistent message or messages. They should reflect your company’s philosophies and goals, and enhance your reputation. They should be integrated throughout the company programs, so every employee and every endeavor is aligned.

This is a really exciting time for those of us in the marketing/communications field. After all, effective communication is all about building relationships, and there are more ways to do that than ever before.


What’s Your Communication Style?

July 1, 2011

If you’re a fan of Myers-Briggs, then you’ll get a kick out of this, too.

I attended WWPR‘s brown bag lunch a couple weeks ago. The speaker was Carol Vernon, Certified Executive Coach and Managing Principal of Communication Matters.

She has developed four designations for communicators. Perhaps you like the bottom line, or love to get lost in facts and figures. Maybe you’re a storyteller, or you believe compassion is the way to go. Whatever your preferred style, Vernon says you can use it to your advantage, in both your professional and personal relationships.

We all know people we consider good communicators. What traits do they possess? They’re usually friendly, interested, knowledgeable and good listeners. But after hearing Vernon speak, I realize there’s more to it than that. Just like with Myers-Briggs, when you meet YOUR type, it’s such a relief. You feel like you’re with your pals and you can relax. The same holds true when you meet others who communicate the way you do. Perhaps this makes a difference in how you perceive a good or not-so-good communicator?

Here are the fours styles Vernon has spelled out. She does say that no particular style leads to greater success or effectiveness. I believe successful communicators are more likely to morph their styles to fit a particular situation.

  1. Direct – decisive and pragmatic. Tends to speak quickly and formally, with direct eye contact and a firm handshake. Focus is on WHAT needs to be done.
  2. Systematic – analytical and logical. Prefers details like charts and graphs, and looks at processes. Uses precise language. Focus is on HOW to get the job done.
  3. Spirited big picture – storyteller. Excited about ideas and innovation. Very expressive and persuasive. Focus is on WHY the project is necessary.
  4. Considerate – supportive listener. Speaks slowly using soft tones. Values relationships and is more comfortable with workplace closeness. Focus is on WHO is involved.

Why style are you? I identified with all the styles to a certain extent. When I spoke with Vernon about this, she said that some people are able to blend or flex their styles naturally when they interact with people of different styles.

We didn’t take a test to determine which category best suited us. Instead, Vernon asked us to self-identify and then split into groups.

About half of us self-identified as Direct Communicators. Vernon says this is unusual. I wonder if direct-style individuals are drawn to the communications profession? Again, according to Vernon, you will find a certain type of person more drawn to a certain profession, but not necessarily to the exclusion of other types.

Only two of our group put themselves in the Systematic category. Again, Vernon says this is unusual. The styles are usually a bit more spread out. About 25 percent fell into the Spirited category, with the remaining 25 percent as Considerate.

So how can it help to know your style? When you recognize your style and your bosses or colleagues’ styles, you can consciously make an effort to blend or flex your style to better communicate.

For example, when dealing with Direct Communicators, get to the point and answer the question asked. For Systematic Communicators, provide facts and figures. Spirited Communicators need recognition of their contributions. Focus and really listen to the Considerate Communicators.

Interesting, isn’t it? Since I attended this session, I’ve been thinking about the people with whom I interact, and trying to determine which category they fit. With some people it’s easy; with others, it’s not so easy. But it certainly does explain why I feel some people are easier to get along with than others.

Let me know what you think about this. Also, check out Carol Vernon’s web site; she has much more information.


Build Communities Online and Off-line for Successful Public Affairs

May 16, 2011

Communities. Interactions. Relationships. These are the basic tenets of social media.

These are also the basic tenets of a good public affairs plan. Are you implementing these strategies in all your company communications? You should be.

Once you define your message(s) and your target audience(s), you need to build relationships and create communities. It’s easier than ever to do this through social media. But don’t forget about more traditional communications methods like a phone call and an in-person interaction.

Building relationships has always been the key to a successful public affairs program. I’ve never understood the reasoning behind sending out masses of press releases and hoping for some coverage. Instead, I’ve always called, faxed or visited journalists, and set myself and my staff up as resources. Then, when I’m looking for coverage of something in particular, I can contact the journalists I already know. This strategy has always worked.

To understand customers’ needs, we used to conduct surveys and hold focus groups, not to mention simply picking up the phone. I’ve never assumed to know exactly what customers want, without using tools like this.

Then along came e-mail and web sites – much easier ways to communicate with journalists and customers. Now, I can e-mail, blog, text, or comment, in addition to calls or visits.

The advent of e-mail, websites and the subsequent online communities, such as FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube, has made this process much easier. It has also propelled the idea of building communities to the forefront of companies’ communications plans.

It’s about time. I’ve been spouting this philosophy for years, much to the consternation of some former bosses and colleagues. Perhaps now they get it.


How are you getting your message out?

March 6, 2011

As a professional communicator, I utilize differing dissemination vehicles, depending upon the company and the message. Vehicles include traditional means, like newsletters, press releases and ads, along with electronic methods. A good marketing communications plan analyzes all the possible dissemination methods and capitalizes on the ones that will best reach target audiences. Below is a short list of ways to communicate your message. What would you add to the list?

newsletter or magazine

press release

advertisement

media relationships – press coverage

community relationships

industry group memberships

web site

e-mail

e-zine

LinkedIn

Twitter

FaceBook

blog

word of mouth

public speaking

networking/one-on-one meetings

events


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