books

Scholastic Hoping to Recapture Imagination with Rebooted Clifford

For more than a decade, Clifford the Big Red Dog has been a delight for young readers and a mainstay in elementary school classrooms and libraries. But, as more choices become available, and smaller screens begin to take up more time for younger and younger children, Clifford and his crew fell off a bit.

Recognizing this trend, Scholastic Entertainment, a branch of the literature company that publishes the Clifford books, has partnered with Amazon and PBS to produce and broadcast a reboot of the classic cartoon show.

In pre-press and other releases for the program, there are several key cultural points that are made clear, in an effort to connect with a very specific target market: parents and media specialists who are generally responsible for introducing kids to Clifford in the first place. The messaging is subtle, but it’s clear in its connection points and target audience. For example, here’s one media quote pulled from news about the reboot: “The new show offers more diversity among the human characters…”

This has become a hallmark of more modern educational cartoon programs. While, in the previous iteration of Clifford, there was some diversity among the canine characters, the human characters tended to be more of a “type” than a representation of a more diverse society. Addressing this directly, and speaking to consumers who are likely to be concerned about this is a smart move, given the intended target market.

From there, the releases get into more of the nuts and bolts of what viewers – and the parents who will serve as gatekeepers for the kids – can expect: “Emily Elizabeth, the 7-year-old owner (of Clifford) will be the POV character… Each episode will include an original song…”

This tells parents and educators a few things. First, the lead character’s gender and age, which helps to focus the ultimate target market. Second, that the show will be about the lives of these children, and that it will include both story and songs. This further delineates the sort of kids who might be most interested in watching this show.

Using this information, parents can explain the show to kids who might not be familiar by saying there will be “adventures, songs, and a friendly big red dog…” Meanwhile, these same parents and educators will also walk away from the PR about this reboot comfortable that the program will focus on “positive life lessons” specifically “character and empathy,” courtesy of Emily, Clifford, and their respective friends, both human and canine.

The PR related to this release wins, because it not only directly addresses the all-important gatekeepers, but also because it gives these people simple, specific, connective messages they can pass on to the actual target market.

The Organ Of The Soul

Famed 19th century American poet and educator, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was once quoted as saying, “The human voice is the organ of the soul.”  As true as it was then, Longfellow’s message is even more powerful today.

Why Is That True Today?

Voice commerce or vCommerce, an alternative to using a keyboard, is expected to soar in the near future.  A recent study by Juniper Research forecasted that more than $80 billion annually will be generated through voice commerce by 2023.  Juniper, which offers analytical services to global tech companies along with its research, also said it anticipates that most sales will start off being digital and money transfers. 

Juniper indicated that sales will migrate more to products when vCommerce comes up with a way for smooth cross-platform transactions.  Based on its forecast, the company also said it expects sales of multi-platform apps in smartphones and tablets to increase while predicting a decline in standalone apps.

If that’s not enough motivation, consider a study.  Research by Gartner for Marketers predicted that digital sales will increase 30% by 2021 for early adopters who redesign their sites.

Voice Ready

In order to successfully leverage vCommerce, more research relevant to a company’s customers is required.  Companies need to first discover when and how their customers use voice and then determine their own psychographic voice profile. 

Voicebot.ai reports that users of voice are of the alpha generation   They’re 18 to 29 years-old and have iPhones, and of that group 69%, they say, are male.

Drilling further down, it’s extremely helpful for companies to discover what kind of devices their target audience relies on.  Customers that participate in running and outdoor activities would likely favor earbuds and smart watches while home bakers and cooks might lean more toward smart speakers.

The Tricky Parts

Depending upon what findings about the favored devices of their customers, the next step is to pair up one or more voice assistants with the appropriate brand that matches up with their targeted audience.  This is critical for companies who want to be found.

The final step in the process is for companies to alter their SEO methodology.  Unlike an online search which generates a list of possibilities, vCommerce will deliver one finding.  Where companies wrote algorithms to be found on search engines, they now need to entice algorithms that generate the recommendations on voice assistants.

Remember that Google relies on information from websites to produce its search results.  Alexa, on the other hand, generates its results from a list of 70,000 skills.

To produce that good fit, it’s important to discover the questions customers ask about a company and/or its products or services.  One way to determine that is to survey customers. Another is holding focus groups.

Early adopters have an excellent opportunity to not only raise more revenue, but also increase their market share by adapting and incorporating vCommerce in making it easier for this young and growing customer base to find them.

TAKE THE LEAD

How often have we heard that phrase in a speech, movie or song?  In the digital marketing world, we hear it most often used with CRM, particularly when it comes to lead management.  Why is this important?

CRM lead management, along with analytics and content, are vital to a company identifying and attracting new customers and business.  Whether a marketing department has a system in place or is looking to improve its existing system, here are some key things to consider.

FIRST CHALLENGE

For many companies, the first challenge may be a surprise.  It’s internal. Marketing and sales are often not together on this.  Why? Marketing’s mission is to attract new customers while sales is to close the deal.   Sales, however, is sometimes accused of driving new customers away. When the latter occurs, the reason is not so much that didn’t know how to close the deal, but more because sales didn’t quite understand their potential new customer.

Both teams need to better support one another.  How? The simplest way to achieve greater success is to work better together which is what every management book says.  But working together means more than marketing handing over a list of new customers to sales. It means interpreting the data and arming sales with deeper information and a better understanding of its potential customers.

SECOND CHALLENGE

What’s extremely helpful is having a program that removes all or most of the guesswork.  All programs identify leads but one that can also prioritize them via predictive and/or behavioral scoring is invaluable.  Not only will such a program help the sales department land purchases more quickly, but it can also eliminate wasted time on prospects who aren’t as qualified. 

WHAT ABOUT NEW MARKETS?

Predictive scoring can be particularly valuable here.  A good program will compare the known characteristics of present customers against those a company believes their potential customers have.  That data can help direct a company to where and to whom it should target its resources and marketing efforts.

One of the biggest challenges is new markets is not giving in too early.  In spite of good data and help from predictive scoring, gaining a foothold in a new market can still take a while.   Don’t give up too soon.

The other important aspect to any market, but particularly a new one, is tracking and analyzing data frequently.  This allows companies that see trends or shifts I customer behavior to make adjustments in a timelier manner. Sales can also be helpful here by providing valuable feedback on how customers are responding and what they’re saying. 

Share the results of success, small and large, with both the marketing and sales teams.  Also be sure to include valuable lessons learned that might be applied in the future. 

Last, but certainly not least.  As always, be sure to honor and steward customers so they feel valued.  The new ones gained will appreciate this. This helps greatly in building customer loyalty.  Continue asking for and seeking comments. Great reviews and comments have the best credibility among potential consumers, especially new website visitors.

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!

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.

Three Ways Charities can Improve Social Media

In terms of developing a strong and cohesive social media strategy, charities usually come across more hurdles due to the limitations in funding. However, the accessibility and ease of the internet has resulted in most charities utilizing social media to raise awareness, drive traffic to their websites, and promote events and publications.

Here are some practical tips for charities to improve visibility, engagement and fundraising efforts:

Know your audience inside out

Get to know every detail about the community you’re addressing – from demographics to hobbies to habits. Profiling is a crucial aspect of a tailoring content when it comes to formulating a strong communication strategy. What is their age group? Where do they live? How do they spend their weekends?

WWF, or the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, was able to use profiling to its advantage. The nonprofit wanted to engage and educate the younger generation on wildlife and environmental concerns. After understanding their audiences habits and preferred social platforms, WWF used SnapChat as the means to distribute their message about how the urgency of protecting endangered species.

Make friends within the industry

Build a strong network of friends within the industry to create mutually beneficial relationships. Reach out to journalists, bloggers, and influencers with a similar audience and work with them to spread your message.

Getting celebrities to use their far-reaching voice can be a great way to get some publicity. The animal right organizations PETA has done this quite effectively by featuring the likes of Naomi Campbell and Alexandra Burke in their birthdays suits saying “I’d rather go naked than wear fur.”

The rise of Corporate Social Responsibility has led to more corporations seeking to give back to society, often through charitable partnerships. This creates a win-win situation, where charities can benefit from the influence and access to funds. The most important thing to keep in mind when engaging in a strategic partnership is to make sure that the values of the company, individual or celebrity are aligned with your brand.

Create a buzz

Creating a buzz around campaigns doesn’t always require fat wallet. You can build a lot of momentum in your campaign by thinking outside the box with unique, creative and unconventional ideas -think of the Ice Bucket Challenge. Messaging that is humorous or has shock value to it is often shared at a much higher rate than messages that incite emotional reactions from the audience.

In 2013, UNICEF Sweden’s campaign was successful in creating a shockwave through its ‘Likes Do Not Save Lives’ campaign, which highlighted the need for the audience to go beyond social media to create a difference. This campaign highlighted the need for explicit calls to action.

There are various things to take into account if you want to make a splash with your campaign. For instance, it’s important to target various platforms to create a larger buzz. Using videos can also be beneficial in reaching and engaging an audience. YouTube is your best friend when it comes to storytelling.

soup

Campbell Soup Executive Apologizes for Conspiracy Comments

Kelly Johnston has been VP of Government Affairs for the Campbell Soup Company since 2002, but the former secretary of the Senate got himself in trouble recently for spreading a widely-discredited conspiracy story about a recent mass migrant caravan.

Speaking out on Twitter, Johnston condemned the caravan as having been “planned and executed” by Open Society, a charity group funded by billionaire political activist George Soros.

According to media reports, here’s what the tweet said said: “See those vans on the right? What you don’t see are the troop carriers and the rail cars taking them north. OpenSociety planned and is executing this, including where they defecate. And they have an army of American immigration lawyers waiting at the border…”

As it turns out, those rumors were “baseless” according to the media and other officials, a fact that has embarrassed Johnston and, by extension, Campbell Soup. The company immediately went on the offense to distance itself from Johnston and any potential PR fallout. In a statement, Campbell said: “the opinions Mr. Johnston expresses on Twitter are his individual views and do not represent the position of Campbell Soup Company…”

Despite this distancing language, guilt by association is not easily avoided. While it isn’t known what was said behind closed doors, it is clear Johnston took measures to try to put this behind him. Both the tweet and his Twitter account are gone, deleted from the social media platform. That was, of course, after a reporter captured the comments and shared them on his own social media account.

Worse, the issue has an unmistakable political connection. Soros is a well-known liberal activist and donor, as well as a frequent target of right-wing disparagement. By casting unfounded aspersions with political intent, the executive drew his company into an unwanted political PR situation.

In a further attempt to stave off this kind of connection to his brand, which does not wish to alienate any consumers, Campbell interim president and CEO, Keith McLoughlin, said,  “Johnston’s comments are inconsistent with how Campbell approaches public debate.” He added that Johnston would be leaving the company soon, and stressed that this decision has been made prior to the tweet.

Once again, we have an imminent negative PR scenario that could have been avoided entirely if the person had been more judicious in their use of social media. While, in most cases, even spirited debate on social media isn’t taboo, openly spreading false and/or specific kinds of opinions can, and often do, come back around on people. It’s better to remember that, while Twitter and other social media platforms feel private, they are megaphones to a very large public audience, whether that’s intended or not.