The Pretenders

February 15, 2016

Isn’t it interesting how many terms once only used and understood by marketing professionals have made their way into mainstream language? One of those decidedly ubiquitous terms is “branding”. Everyone is talking branding. What is your brand? How to market your brand. Branding your company.  On one hand, I think it’s great that companies pay more attention to branding and recognize its importance. This is a concept for which I fought many years in different companies. However, once new terms hit the daily lexicon, pretenders and charlatans follow. Everyone thinks they understand branding, but do they?

“BRANDING”

Think about SEO and SEM. Again, many people know those acronyms, but how many know what they stand for and how to actually perform and/or utilize the services. SEO is search engine optimization. SEM is search engine marketing. The two processes are similar in some aspects but do refer to different processes and results.

“SEO or SEM”

I can tell almost immediately when someone with whom I’m talking is throwing out these terms (and others) with no clue as to what they really mean. It’s easy to talk a good game, so companies hiring marketers often need to pass by numerous charlatans and pretenders before finding a true professional. My advice? Look at past results. Ask specific questions:

What is my brand?

How will you determine and develop my brand?

What’s the difference between SEO and SEM?

What results have you had?

Unfortunately, the pretenders can give marketers a bad name. A company will hire someone with high hopes for greater visibility and increased business but then get no results because they’ve hired a pretender. Good marketers will get you results. Those results cannot be attained on demand and they may take a different form than you had originally envisioned, but professional marketing executives will help you meet your company goals and improve your bottom line.  They know how.

 

 

Advertisements

Junked Up Web Pages or Not?

March 31, 2014

Are web sites becoming more succinct and less busy? Is web design trending away from cramming everything possible onto the home page? I can only hope that this nod towards simplicity I’ve noticed is indeed a trend and not just a coincidence.

When I built my first web site over a decade ago, things were simpler. At least the sites were simpler. We had a few pages, some graphics and some image maps. I convinced my boss we needed a web site by telling him it was like a 24-hour brochure.

Web sites are still 24-hour brochures, but as web technology advanced, many of these advancements landed on company home pages, oftentimes creating an incomprehensible mess. Countless businesses insisted (and continue to insist) upon using all the latest developments. I contend this does their business a disservice by distracting and frustrating potential customers. In fact, I wrote one of my very first blog posts on this a few years ago – See Junked Up Web Pages – Stop Screaming at Us.

Admittedly, some businesses offer myriad products and services, and a web site can and should showcase that. Some organizations are so complex and nuanced, their sites become very deep. Sometimes it is necessary; sometimes it is not. For the past 4 or 5 years, sites have become longer, broader and more confusing. How many times have you heard someone say, “I can’t find their contact information.”? Terrible, especially from a marketing perspective.

Crazy, busy web sites will always exist, but I have noticed more basic sites in the last year or so. Is this because so many people are building their own? Perhaps, but then again maybe the new web technology has become so mainstream that everyone no longer feels the need to use it ALL.

I hope so.


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.


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.


Nonprofits: Revisit Your Mission to Revitalize Your Organization

October 4, 2010

Mission Focus at Nonprofits Important for Morale, Success

As I peruse and participate in Linked In groups and surf the blogosphere, I’m noticing the singular aspect of communications queries and tips. What should I put on my website? How can I drive traffic to my website? Should I have a two-fold or three-fold brochure? My response is a question. How do these message distribution channels fit into your overall communications strategy? Do you have a strategy? And if you do, how does your strategy communicate your mission?

                                                What is Your Strategy?

The days of counting newsclips as success are gone (I hope). The days of fuzzy ROI regarding public relations are also going by the wayside. There are countless ways to publish your news and promote your organization. But you need a plan.

Start with your mission or your goals. Why are you in business? What do you do? To what end? You and each and every employee should be able to state the answer to these questions in one short sentence. If that’s not the case, then you have some work to do.        

Most organizations start with well defined goals and a business plan. When your business was new, I’m confident the boss and employees knew exactly what the goals were. There was probably a lot of excitement – and possibly exhaustion from working so hard to get the word out. But as time passes, it’s easy to become complacent and lose sight of your goals.

When is the last time you really looked at your mission – and really read it? It’s important to review your mission at least every couple years to see if: 1) it’s still relevant; and 2) you are following your mission.                          

 Focus on Relevance

Hold a brainstorming session for all staff. Or if you have a large organization, hold a few brainstorming sessions. Encourage everyone to participate. Focus on questions like: Is our mission relevant and current? Does it describe our goals? Does it need to be changed or completely rewritten?

Depending upon the results of these brainstorming sessions, hold follow up meetings. Rewrite your mission, if necessary, and include the staff in the process. Or maybe you don’t need to rewrite your mission. Kudos. Then ask the employees to articulate what the mission means to them.                                                                                                                    

Either way, a focus on your mission will generate a renewed commitment to your organizational goals. It will motivate people by reminding them of why they do what they do, and why your organization is important.

Morale will improve and productivity will improve. This is a vital first step towards developing your messaging and messaging strategies.        

Next post: Know Your Audience


Keyword Proliferation – not just meta tags anymore

September 21, 2010

The notion of a “keyword” first came to my attention over a decade ago when I was building my first web site. Among the metatags, it was important to put keywords so search engines could/would index your site.

At that time, the sort of informal rule was to use less than 30 keywords (or maybe it was 50); if you used more than that, the search engines “would be suspicious” and you might not get the results you wanted. I put 28 keywords (or maybe it was 48) in the code of each page, not just the home page. Obviously, I was looking for as much exposure as possible. Some people laughed at me and thought I was overdoing it. To me, it was much better to have 28 keywords for indexing than just the 8 or 10 words the others had.

Fast forward to the year 2010, and it’s now necessary to put keywords in most everything.

Usually the top recommendation for optimizing your Linked In profile is the propitious use of keywords. The search function works by keyword, so you need to decide what keywords a potential employer may search for, and include those words in your title, status and profile.

Many employers now review resumes electronically, and if you don’t have specific keywords, a live person may never see your resume or cover letter. Again, you need to focus on what words hiring managers may use.

When I started my blog recently, I hunted around until I found the place to put keywords. In the case of my blog, my keywords are for people interested in the topic(s) about which I’m writing.

Press releases used to be just for the press. You sent your news directly to the reporter or producer or to the wire services. If you put your press release on your web site, it was more of a courtesy than a real marketing tool.

Now, releases can be and are often viewed by the public in addition to the press. As it becomes more and more common to turn to the internet first for information, you need to include keywords in your online communications, such as news releases. Think about what is of interest to your customers. What could they be looking for that you offer?

Twitter, I would suggest, is all about keywords, since you have a limited number of characters through which to broadcast your message.

The bottom line is if you’re interested in promoting your business, you need to think long and hard about the appropriate use of keywords. If you are well versed in the subject, you’ll unconsciously include appropriate keywords as you write. However, it’s important to look at the piece before you publish it and identify the keywords. When you do this, you can decide if all the necessary keywords are included or if you should add more. It’s much easier to write, and then go back and substitute a few words, than it is to try and write something with a whole list of words next to you to include. It’s too stifling that way.

So if you’re trying to catch the attention of a certain audience, as most of us are, you need to add another step to your writing process:

1) Write/edit/check sources

2) Add keywords

3) Proofread

4) Publish


%d bloggers like this: