Generating a Response from a Burned Out Audience: Is There a Secret Formula?


Respond. Engage. Purchase. The three actions a marketer wants a consumer to take upon seeing their campaign. More often than not, this process, while simple in concept, is among the most difficult to achieve. Why is this?

Consider this: consumers are wary. Subscription fatigue prevails in a world fraught with brands vying for a piece of the consumer’s wallet. In an environment where everyone constantly jostles for position and attention, how is it possible to stand out?

It’s not an easy task, surely. But it’s not impossible. Getting a response from an otherwise burned out market that is only reluctantly tied to technology just requires a bit of creativity — and thinking like a customer.

More Than Sales

One downfall some marketers experience is falling into the “sales” role too often. In this role, the focus is on value proposition, obtaining validation for that value in the form of a customer purchase or sign up.

But don’t forget, there is a whole other side of the product or service marketing lifecycle. Where else can you concentrate resources and energy?

For example, focus on creating a strong, impactful message around the idea of the product or service. What truly prompts consumers to act? When they feel one or both of two things: an emotional connection or a need.

By leveraging both of these response triggers, a marketer can find new ways to reach the target customers, which can lead to a spike in revenue.

Doing Research

When it’s difficult to summon inspiration, just do some research. Look on social media — what are consumers in the target demographic for the brand talking about? What is missing from their everyday lives that could be solved by engaging with or making a purchase from this specific business?

Let’s use an example of an entrepreneur who has launched an online personal shopping boutique. At first, the idea of convenience seemed sufficient to build out a marketing strategy. But then, the business owner saw so much competition for traffic from big names such as Stitch Fix that she found her marketing budget wasted away.

So she began thinking outside the box.

She joined a few Facebook groups dedicated to female workplace fashion. She followed several bloggers and local influencers on social media. She researched the relevant hashtags and added them to her radar. Through this research, she found that the women in her demographic were searching for a more affordable pricing model and more boutique brand items as opposed to big-name designers.

So the online boutique owner tweaked her marketing plan a bit to promote the pricing model (much more competitive than Stitch Fix, even with slightly more limited options) and the fact that she only sourced local and small business backed pieces. Through this savvy marketing refresh, this boutique owner saw her sales begin to flourish. She now has hundreds of monthly subscribers to her service, and the business shows no signs of slowing.

By simply stepping outside of her comfort zone, this entrepreneur was able to make some noise in a crowded space. This is the ultimate goal of the modern marketer.

Boosting Integrity in Marketing Communications


Integrity is often the key to success for brands seeking to improve or maintain a positive public image. This integrity is often something overlooked by marketing managers in an effort to reach a sales goal, but this oversight can backfire and cause disastrous consequences.

Today, much emphasis is placed on respecting consumer privacy and data. This goes hand in hand with how companies communicate with their customers, and how transparent they are in those communications.

Transparency does not have to mean giving away proprietary information or trade secrets, contrary to what some may believe. No, transparency and integrity in communications can be done on a much smaller, but still noticeable, scale.

Disclosures and Statements

“Read the fine print.” It’s a warning often uttered by skeptical consumers who have been burned one too many times by a sneaky brand. Signing a contract, agreeing to a plan, or signing up for a new service all involves a level of trust on the part of the consumer.

There are many legal disclosures that often must be made. This aside, make sure that any “fine print” is clear and as easy to understand as possible. Nothing is worse than line upon line of tiny print that only serves to cause anxiety for the reader.

When a customer signs up for a new service, such as a web design package, be clear about what information is needed and what will be done with that information. Don’t bog them down in fine print. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point — and don’t go back on your word. This is an element that, sadly, many businesses miss. This only destroys consumer trust.

Communicate Changes Clearly

Another common complaint from consumers is the fact that businesses often make policy changes without proper communication.

Let’s say that a monthly service is increasing in price. While some companies may offer a “grandfathering” process where legacy users are not affected, many will simply boost prices with little or no warning.

Others will send out a mass email, which more often than not is sent to a user’s junk folder, and consider that sufficient communication.

How can this be done better? Of course, there is a level of consumer responsibility to know what is happening and to read communications. But is there a better way to communicate change responsibly?

Consider sending a more tailored email if that’s the business’ go-to method of communication. Tailor the subject line to include the customer’s first name, or include a strong call to action, such as “Changes are coming! Open me to get up to speed”. Don’t expect a customer to open a generic email with a boring subject line.

Another option is through face-to-face interaction. During customer interactions, ask if they’ve heard of the upcoming changes to the pricing structure. If they haven’t, direct them to a website or other source for more information.

Make It Easy

On that note, be sure that any changes have a “hub” of information. It’s easy to set up and makes communications that much easier. Instead of having to dig for information, sending users to a specific URL to find out more about policy changes keeps the level of transparency and proactive communication high.

Marketing communications can be tricky, and so can consumer reactions. But it is the responsibility of the business to ensure they are communicating proactively, responsibly, and with transparency. In a world where consumer trust is finicky, it’s important for businesses to stay on top of their communications with integrity in order to maintain the loyalty of their customers.

How Charitable Partnerships Can Boost a Brand’s Profile

We’ve talked before about the importance of community impact for businesses both large and small. In any community, there are a wide array of ways to get involved and help improve that community for those living and working in it.

Forming charitable partnerships is another way to get involved and improve the community around a business. Of course, businesses can provide support in ways that individuals cannot to a nonprofit or charity. But these partnerships should always be done with tact and taste — the opposite effect can easily happen if a move is done for seemingly ulterior motives.

Finding the Right Charitable Partnership

When selecting a charitable partnership for a business, there are many things to consider. One of these factors is what charity or nonprofit to partner with. Here are some considerations for this decision:

  •     Core values and mission of the business
  •     Nonprofits that align with these core values naturally
  •     Reputation of nonprofit and of the supporting business
  •     Required budget to support a charitable partnership
  •     End goal of charitable partnership

Core values lie at the heart of a business’ purpose. These values are important. They give consumers a look at the belief and value systems of those in executive positions, and they provide a roadmap of how a business conducts itself in public dealings.

With that in mind, it’s equally important for a business to align itself with a nonprofit that also values the same ideas. The purpose and mission of the nonprofit must also make sense. For example, a leather goods company may not look the best if it were to support PETA, nor would PETA be likely to accept their partnership proposal. This is, of course, an extreme example, but it shows that a partnership should be genuine, not self-serving or just “for looks”.

Forming a Charitable Partnership

Once a business has selected a nonprofit to enter into a partnership with, it’s time to figure out exactly what that partnership is going to look like.

Not every partnership has to look the same. Remember, this has to be a beneficial arrangement for both the business and, more importantly, for the nonprofit. Whether the support is financial, in the form of volunteer help, or other services provided, it’s important to set clear expectations and guidelines for the new partnership. Contracts are helpful in this situation, to protect all parties involved.

Before jumping in, take the time to form a strategy about how a business can best assist a nonprofit. Perhaps a marketing agency can offer its services to a local animal shelter each month. Or maybe an event planning portal can donate a portion of the proceeds to local community programs in an effort to create a safer neighborhood in which to host events. Maybe a local consultant can jump on board to help plan a fundraiser for a nonprofit. The possibilities are endless!

Finding creative ways to help out is important too — it doesn’t always have to just be about writing a big check. In fact, finding other ways to get involved is often even more helpful, especially for under-staffed nonprofits.

Aligning business with a nonprofit is a smart move for many reasons, but the biggest motivator should always be the betterment of community or the helping of others. From this motivation can come a great, fulfilling partnership on both sides.

Using Content to build thought leadership

There are many ways to highlight your brand and what it does, content being one of the main and most effective ways of doing so. Content can also be a very effective way to highlight your expertise and knowledge of the industry. The goal is to get your brand front and centre, both online and offline, when people are searching for solutions that you can provide.

In marketing, thought leadership is a tool that establishes you as an expert and authority in your industry. By establishing your brand as a reliable and go-to source of information and expertise in the industry, it will improve brand awareness as well as market value. Here are a few ways in which content can help build thought leadership:

Build credibility

To establish yourself as an expert and authority, you need to prove that you are a credible and reliable source of information. This can be done by illustrating your knowledge and know-how by providing relevant and accurate answers to your audience’s questions and concerns. Providing people solutions and answers will ensure that your audience gets an insight into the level of expertise of your organization and your employees.

For instance, a local fitness studio can demonstrate their knowledge on fitness and nutrition by having instructors contribute to blog posts providing advice and answering questions about health and wellbeing. You can also monitor local Facebook pages and answer any questions locals have pertaining to your industry or in case of offline efforts, go to relevant local events and community gatherings to provide expertise.

Move beyond your website

While your website is an optimal place to provide information and expertise to your audience and customers, expand your online presence beyond your website. The goal is to drive traffic to your website, so find ways on social media and online forums to do so. For example, ask questions to experts in Facebook ads and provide a link to your website for the answer or create short video ads that get people excited and ultimately direct people to your website to learn more.

Foster partnerships

Build strong connections within the community by focusing on strong partnerships rather than sponsorships. Create mutually beneficial relationships with local organizations with whom you share a common audience. These relationships will enhance your visibility, build your reputation since you have the green light from another business and open doors for new opportunities.

The best kind of partnerships are active partnerships. Don’t just be partners on paper, actively promote and foster your partnership by sharing content with your partner, featuring their experts on your website and participating in each other’s events. Don’t forget to share each other’s content on social media as it will help boost your online presence and visibility.

Create useful branding material

Last but not least, don’t be lazy and just hand out brochures as promotional material. The most likely place the brochure will end up is in the trash. Give your audience something that focuses on your expertise and something they are more likely to hang on to or use. If you’re at loss for what kind of promotional material to provide, then even a refrigerator magnet will do the job better than a brochure!

instagram

Six ways to build an effective Instagram presence

Instagram currently boasts over 1 billion users and significantly higher engagement rates than Facebook. It is estimated that brands see around 4 percent engagement of their total followers on Instagram. While 4 percent might not sound like a high number, when compared to the less than 0.1% engagement rates on Facebook and Twitter, it shows that Instagram is a powerful tool for online consumer engagement.

On top of that, Instagram continues to roll out new business-specific features and has a tailor made for brand promotion. Here are six tips if you’re running a business and want to know how to make your Instagram presence effective and impactful:

Create a stellar profile

There is no “right” way to craft your profile. It depends on your brand and its personality. However, there are a few best practices for businesses that need to be kept in mind as a starting point. These include: the profile photo should be a the company logo to make it easy to identify your brand, the account name and username should be your business name and should be the same name as your other social profiles, the link to your company website should be included on your instagram page, and last but not least, your bio should either describe your business or your brand slogan (or both).

Post high quality photos

Optimize your photos and make sure they are clear, attention-grabbing and engaging. Instagram offers many options to filter and edit your photos, however it’s best to make use of photo-editing applications that can enhance your photos even further. Take market research into account as well. For instance, according to research by MIT, pictures with reddish tones were more popular than those using a bluish or reddish tones.

Be frequent

When it comes to Instagram, you need to maintain frequency in your posting. Your profile won’t get attention if you’re only posting once in a while. Set aside time each day to post something on Instagram, preferably at least twice a day. It is important to find out and pick times when your photos will get the most engagement.

Take advantage of hashtags

Use hashtags that are relevant to your picture and post. Find out which hashtags are trending and what hashtags other businesses are using. There are numerous resources and apps that will help find hashtags that are relevant and popular across different industries. Don’t forget to tag your location, especially if you’re a local business.

Include captions

Captions can serve various purposes. From simply letting your audience know about the contents of your picture to motivating your followers to take action, such as visiting your website or asking your audience to repost your content.

Build an aesthetic

Your company’s instagram should have it’s own brand aesthetic that is evident across the photos, profile and captions. This will help attract the right audience as well as create a consistent brand identity. Find out what kind of aesthetic works for your brand and stick to it.

Using PR to Recruit Volunteers

Why Every Small Business Needs Both a Marketing and a Public Relations Strategy

Public relations and marketing go hand in hand. Typically, a professional working in one industry has at least a general knowledge of the other. But how do public relations and marketing differ, and how can they best complement each other?

On some occasions, individuals may actually confuse public relations for marketing and vice versa. While the two roles do share some similarity — both are, after all, looking to boost a  business in their own ways — they accomplish different things.

Put simply, public relations manages the image of a brand, its leadership, and its product or service. PR professionals manage the public and media’s perception of a business and are there in case a crisis needs attending to.

Marketing, on the other hand, serves to boost eyeballs on the actual product or service of the business. Marketing is intended to boost sales and company revenue through avenues such as advertising or internal marketing campaigns.

However, these two roles intersect at one common goal: make the company look good and perform as well as possible.

Let’s break down a basic PR and marketing strategy for a smaller business, just starting out.

Public Relations for Small Businesses

PR can start small, just like marketing. Public relations relates to the public, so a small business can start its strategy by identifying influencers and media outlets within the brand’s niche to begin reaching out to.

Press releases announcing the launch and benefits of a new product or service. Local media interviews can be booked with the company founder or another individual, and influencers can be approached to begin testing and endorsing the brand. Perhaps a community give back initiative can be researched to help the brand put down roots and align itself with its locale.

Marketing for Small Businesses

Meanwhile, the marketing professional will set about putting together consumable content for the target audience to see. Perhaps a social media campaign would be the best approach, or maybe there is a podcast with listeners in a specific niche that would complement the brand nicely.

The idea of marketing is to sell the product or service offered by the company. Whether it’s a paid ad campaign or an organic, content-driven campaign (or a combination of both!), the end goal should be to convert users into buyers and to drive traffic to the brand’s website and/or store.

How Public Relations and Marketing Complement Each Other

When executed correctly and with foresight, both public relations and marketing can help the cause of the other. On the PR front, garnering positive attention and influence through media appearances and community efforts, the brand builds loyalty. If consumers see an interview with the company founder and identify with him, they’re more likely to go and see what his brand is all about.

Meanwhile, marketers can focus on keeping the attention of those who are driven to the website or store by the various PR efforts. Strategic and catchy advertising, quality engagement, and effective metric tracking all contribute to the success of a campaign and the retention rate of customers.

While some individuals may confuse the public relations and marketing professions, it’s important to understand their differences and similarities. They coexist well and are both necessary to the success of any brand. Employing a strategy that utilizes these roles efficiently will help boost any brand.

Winning the PR battle with Twitter

Best Practices Using Twitter for PR

Twitter is close to becoming the de facto conversation medium for news and current events commentary outside of the mainstream broadcast media. It’s a source of stories, an archive of opinions, and a real-time stream of perspectives relative to whatever topic is hot at the moment.

So, it stands to reason that any brand hoping to elevate their profile would want to employ Twitter as part of that effort. After all, just look what it did for Wendy’s. But, is Twitter what journalists are looking for in communication from PR pros? According to the polls, not necessarily.

In fact, recent surveys have shown, time and again, that journalists still prefer email as their go-to method for communicating with public relations professionals. Does this mean Twitter is off the table? No, not at all. In fact, in the very same survey, the majority of those same journalists ranked Twitter as their number two communications preference.

Of course, this does come with a few caveats, a fairly straightforward list of guidelines for how and when to contact journalists using Twitter.

As a general rule, if you plan to connect with a journalist on Twitter, direct message them. Don’t just comment on their thread. Additionally, just before you DM them, send them an email with more information about the topic at hand.

Don’t use a DM to create the initial connection. Preferably, you want to have already connected with that journalist in a recognizable way before you send them a substantive DM with a media pitch. Start by determining which journalists you want to connect with. Then read their tweets, explore their perspectives, and respond to or retweet them. Show them that you see them as a person and not just a means to an end.

When using Twitter to pitch a story include specific data points. Statistics and specific facts can be attractive to journalists, because they can quickly and easily determine if your information is on the level and, thus, establish you as a potentially valuable source of information.

Do your best to keep all Twitter communications related to your pitches private. Don’t share them with the world. Especially, if you are seeking to establish or build trust with the media representative. They are less likely to appreciate your information if anyone following them on Twitter also has the same access to that information.

Be certain that all information you DM pitch to reporters on Twitter is specifically relevant to their standard beat, industry, or niche. And, in most cases, there should be an element of immediacy to the content, something they can read and immediately act on, rather than a story that has a slow build or a long shelf life.

crisis pr

Looking Back at 3 Serious PR Miscues in 2018

As 2018 comes to a close it’s time to reflect on some of the PR lessons we have watched in real time over the past year. There have been a few wins and a few good crisis responses, and there have also been a handful of PR disasters. Some of these scenarios were disasters right out of the chute, and others grew worse based on the response.

Apple Catches Heat for “Throttling”

The year started off with a fizzle for iPhone maker Apple, when it was announced that the company had been “throttling” iPhones – slowing their performance – for older phones. Customers had suspected this for years, but to find out it was actually happening upset a lot of consumers.

Then came Apple’s reasoning: “We’re doing it all for you.” According to Apple, the reason for the slow-down was to “preserve battery life” in order to keep the phones working longer. That message did not sit well with iPhone customers, who felt slighted and manipulated into buying newer models.

In response, Apple apologized and initiated a more cost-effective battery replacement program for customers with older phones. That blunted the trauma somewhat, but in the end, this was an avoidable PR misstep. If the company had been proactive, customers would have known all their options and felt more of a connection with the brand.

Roseanne Crashes and Burns

2018 could have – and should have-been the Year of Roseanne. The noted comedian had returned to form, riding a successful reboot of her family sitcom to huge ratings and a major win for the Roseanne brand. At the time, nearly every news outlet was singing her praises, touting the new show as a great addition to what has been ranked as one of the best American sitcoms in generations. Then came the meltdown.

Roseanne, who is no stranger to stirring up controversy on social media, decided to go on Twitter and torpedo her resurgent career by tweeting out comments many considered to be overtly racist. ABC responded by immediately canceling Roseanne. Then, pouring salt in the wound, the network announced it would be re-making the show without its star and namesake.

If there was a highlight of the whole debacle, it came via Sanofi, maker of the sleep aid, Ambien. Roseanne, in her apology for the tweet, blamed Ambien for her errant posting. Sanofi responded with this: “While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.”

Southwest Airlines Makes Bad Worse

Of all the airlines to be in the news in a bad way, most people would not necessarily guess Southwest. So when the company had a major issue this past spring, some people registered surprise. During a flight, one of the engines exploded, killing a passenger. Reports from the scene were graphic and scary, and Southwest was left answering very uncomfortable questions.

That alone may have qualified for a PR crisis, but when reports came out alleging the company was promoting timeliness over customer safety and mechanical operations, that hit the bottom line hard. Bookings dropped immediately, and Southwest was left to do some very public soul searching.