[By Jeff Androsko]
Branding. Most people don't know what it is or how to do it (or why it's invaluable, for that matter). Essentially, it's a symbol, message or concept (or a combination of any of these) that sets you apart from your competitors. The core of your brand is comprised of your company's values, core competency and mission statement; it is the image you paint in the consumer's mind. If you still don't think this is important, perhaps you need to re-think your strategy.
Everything you and your colleagues say or do effects your brand image. In order to have successful and positive impact on your overall brand, your team needs to be a syndicate of dynamic thinkers; they all need to be on the same page and understand your messages, core competency & procedures. Have brand meetings to discuss company protocol when dealing with everything from customer service to outbound documents. For instance: a procedure when conducting a company email to a client or potential customer is to clearly explain your company's core values and provide at least one business solution that has helped a consumer with a similar need. This is simply one example of a small contribution to your company's brand; it is essentially hundreds of different attributes your company displays that makes up your image.
The important thing to realize about branding is that it starts with every interaction your business makes; whether it be interpersonal communication, your division's business cards, a promotional flyer, website content, etc. If one function of your brand circuit (your company) isn't congruent with the messages and images you are sending to the public, the entire system can be derailed.
But don't freak out on Carl because he doesn't get along with that new client from IBM. (You know... the one with the shrilly voice?) Simply get Carl on the same page and assist him in realizing that he is on the forefront of your company's brand effort; every interaction counts... and customer service/relations is an integral part of your business' brand success.
[By Tony Popowski]
In case you are unfamiliar with the term, press releases are written or recorded company announcements that are pitched to the media. After a reporter receives a press release, he or she has the option of running it directly into a publication (typical for online media) or developing a new story based on your information (typical for print media). Here are ten tips for writing an effective press release:
- Make It Newsworthy!
Company Buys Hamster For Office - Bad
It's great that everything in your company is exciting to you... it doesn't mean the media will feel the same way. Avoid sending out blatantly self-promoting releases that boast how good your services are or boring topics no one cares about (no offense to hamster lovers). Instead, write about exciting and emerging trends, interesting survey results and news that people can use.
- Always Put Your Best Foot Forward.
"I just had a ham sandwich. Oh yeah, the president is visiting town." - Bad
Journalists won't waste their time searching through your release trying to find something newsworthy. Grab their attention right away. The most important information should always come in your headline and opening statements.
- Use Facts... And Make Sure They're True.
"99% of beavers have been to Saturn." - Bad
Using facts to back up your points gives you more credibility. However, make sure your source is reliable and quadruple-check that your facts are true.
- Get Permission From Your Sources.
"Just between us Tony, I'm going to sell the company." -->
Breaking News: Company Is Sold! - Bad
Nothing makes a person more angry than when their more private quotes are released to the public. This is especially true for CEOs who can fire you for spilling the beans. Make sure that all sources give you permission for their quotes and have seen a copy of your press release before pitching it to the media.
- Avoid Exaggerations.
"Company To Hold Seriously The Best End-All Most Awesome Event of All Time!!!!!!!!!" - Bad
If you have to "fluff" your releases to make it sound more exciting, chances are it wasn't exciting enough to begin with. If your topic is strong and newsworthy, it will speak for itself.
- Don't Use Company Jargon.
"Companies should be using an IMC approach next quarter." - Bad
If you work in the marketing field, you know that IMC stands for Integrated Marketing Communication. The general public wouldn't know this, so make sure everything is explained for the reader.
- Follow AP (Associated Press) Format.
"Sports Team Adds 3 New Star Players to Roster" - Bad
This one is more tricky. There are many AP format rules and guidelines to follow when writing your press release. For example, numbers under ten should be spelled out (Sports Team Adds Three New Star Players to Roster). Pick up an AP Format Guide to make sure you follow the rules.
- End With A Strong Call To Action.
"From everyone at our company, have a good day." - Bad
Conclude your press release by telling the readers what you want them to do. Are you trying to get them to come to your event? Do you want them to participate in your next survey? Give instructions on what should be the next step.
- Include An Informative Boilerplate.
"Tony's Store is a local company. Call us." - Bad
The boilerplate goes at the bottom of your press release and serves as a company overview. It includes your primary focus of business, contact information and other notable information such as distinguished awards or records. Think of it as an "elevator speech" for your company.
- Designate A Contact Person For Reporters.
"This is our press release. Take it or leave it." - Bad
Sometimes, reporters may have more questions about your release. They also might be writing a different story and would like to use you as a source. This is great... but only if they know who to call. Designate someone at your company to be the contact person. The ideal person is a good speaker, subject matter expert and has the ability to explain information on simple terms for others. Make sure this person's contact information is clearly and separately identified for reporters.
[By Tony Popowski]
In today's economic times, marketing is a crowded battlefield of communication. With so many organizations trying to get out the word about their brand, consumers become oversaturated with messages... and unfortunately sometimes miss yours. Professionals often argue which discipline of communication is the best and will pretty much fight to the death supporting their point. Advertisers will tell you that advertising is still the proven method and will throw out ROI (return on investment) numbers until your ears go numb. Marketers will convey the significance of email and direct-mail marketing and show you how their methods will help you qualify leads. Public Relations professionals will let you know how the right articles in the right publications can bring in revenue for years to come. New-aged thinkers will tell you that Social Media is the gateway to a new way of doing business. So who's right? I'm going to let you in on a little secret...you ready for the answer? They're all right.
If you want to effectively communicate with your audience in today's society, you need to utilize all methods of communication. More importantly, all methods must work together. This notion is referred to as Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC). While there are certainly differing definitions of IMC, the main principle stays the same: using multiple methods that relay a consistent message to your targets enhances brand awareness and sales. Because the members of your target market are influenced through different mediums, you need to use them all to reach as many people as possible. Your outlets have the unique ability to reinforce the other's message, and in an economy where it takes 15-20 impressions to make an impact on business decisions, that's pretty important.
I think I have a pretty good analogy for IMC. While on the "superficial side", I think it gives a practical demonstration. So, today is my birthday and to celebrate I'm having a party at my house tonight. I'm very excited about it, as all my friends that I grew up with and my friends from college are coming. However, with 30 young adults with strict work schedules and busy lives (and not to insult my friends, but some of them need "extra reminders" when organizing their schedule), it wasn't necessarily easy to invite them all. Well, it wasn't so difficult to invite them as much as it was for them to retain the information. Therefore, I decided to invite friends to my birthday party in different ways: Email Blast, Facebook, Phone Calls.
The reason why this was so effective is that my friends organize their schedules in different ways. Some of my friends use their work planner to schedule their entire lives... so when I sent out an email blast during the day last week, they immediately marked down the date. Other friends check their email periodically or skip over it. They may have read the email and thought..."I'll come back to that later" or "I'll remember it." In this case, email blasts weren't the best method. Another group of my friends swear by Facebook. Facebook is their portal to society, so a Facebook message sealed the deal. However, some of my other friends haven't updated their pages since 2009, so if I just used Facebook, they wouldn't have gotten the message. Finally, I also did a round of phone calls to get the message out. When I did, I got a handful of "Oh yeah, I remember reading that and I forgot, I'll definitely be there!" I also got some "I never got your email, thank god you called me - count me in!". On the other hand, some of my friends didn't pick up their phone.... but I knew through their email reply or Facebook message that they were coming. For my friends that needed the extra reminders, all three methods were needed to for them to remember the date.
Re-reading this, it sounds like I have some bad friends - haha just kidding. You get the picture though. When you just use one method, you risk missing out on a lot of people. When you use multiple methods, you reaffirm your information and reach more people.
On a final note, don't worry about getting it right all at once. IMC requires you to take it one step at a time. Slowly but surely, work all of the methods into your communication puzzle and watch your brand soar!
[By Jeff Androsko]
"Walk this way!"
"Wear these jeans!"
"Drink that scotch!"
"Take those headache pills".
If I had a dime for every time I heard these messages I could spend the rest of my days nose-deep in tequila on a beach somewhere. But from a business standpoint, it's crucial that your message is clear and concise (OK... maybe not "Drink that scotch" verbatim, but you get the point). We know that basic communication models call for a message, a receiver, a medium and, usually, noise/interference. When using too many messages in your marketing/advertising efforts, there's a good chance that you will lose your brand identity; the true essence of how you want to be portrayed in the marketplace. Too vague or confusing of a message will leave you in the same raft.
A great strategy for finding your true brand identity and a solid marketing message is customer feedback. Think about it... though you're trying to make a "name" for yourself, you're only as good as what people already think of your business/product/service. Through surveys, polls and focus groups, you can learn whether your already existing messages are being encoded the way you see fit. From there, you can manipulate not only your message, but marketing techniques as necessary. It's been estimated that the average American is exposed to over 3,000 advertising messages a day... make yours the memorable one.
or "What English Sounds Like to Foreigners"