danniewriter

Embrace something new

I’ve been collecting articles and infographics for a while now, searching for resources that will inspire owners/leaders of local small businesses and non-profits to try something new in their marketing for 2019.

Of all the infographics I’ve seen lately, this one from Larry Kim and MobileMonkey, Inc. seemed especially useful. Take a moment to look over each suggestion, and I bet you will find an example in your universe of work or philanthropy.

Can’t see it? Call me and I’ll help you connect the dots. I’d love to meet you, and the first consultation is free of charge.

The second resource comes from Forbes, and is a tad highfalutin in my opinion, but there are some immensely valuable insights here for a business or non-profit that is struggling to make a go of it right now.

Don’t get bogged down with the techno-speak and alphabet soup … yes, I had to look up some of the stuff mentioned here. Instead, focus on those broad principles that the author, Billee Howard, has shared.

Check out the “about” and “services” sections on my blog, then schedule an appointment. I live and work on the Gulf Coast, so don’t let the Kentucky area code confuse you. I’d love to meet you and to learn more about your business/organization.

Trends: Looking back; looking forward

Do a Google search on 2018 marketing predictions, and you will read about IoT (Internet of Things), Chatbots, live streaming, virtual reality–and that’s just scratching the surface. For small businesses and organizations, all that techno-speak can be overwhelming, especially if you handle your own marketing and public relations.

Take heart. In the midst of all this gadgetry and constant change, the experts also have a great deal to say about foundational, even old school, marketing techniques.

Here are some insights on 2017 marketing trends that came to pass, and predictions for 2018.

The site, B2C: Business to Community, shared a very helpful column by Sarah Hanney that focuses on marketing for small businesses. A blogger for Signkick, it’s not surprising that Hanney has something positive to say about outdoor advertising, but her perspective is sound, and there is a new take on how billboards, bus signs, and the like, can work in concert with digital media.

There are other approaches that Hanney, and other experts, mention that are as old as movable type, although the names have changed: purpose-driven, and influencer, marketing.

Mathew Sweezey puts it this way in a post for salesforce: “Marketing of the future must have a heart.” Now more than ever, consumers want to do business with companies that care about the communities in which they operate, in addition to a national, and sometimes, global community.

That sense of mission and integrity is really in demand today, and marketers and influencers are responding.

Consider Virat Kohli, a pro cricketer from India, who turned down what must have been a highly lucrative deal with Pepsi because he wanted to promote a healthier product. Read S. Swaminathan’s piece on Campaign India. His insights are helpful to all of us.

Celebrities are not the only “influencers” you can call on to market your products, services, or organization. Find out more about influencer marketing in a blog post by Joshua Nite for TopRank Marketing.

If you need help marketing your small business or community non-profit, give me a call. I can develop a plan for you that uses old-school and new-school media to get your message to the right audience. The initial consultation is free.

Tell your story with enthusiasm

No one “just” runs his own business or “just” leads a community non-profit organization.

Use the word “just,” and suddenly you are saying that who you are, and what you do is ordinary.

I’d be willing to bet it isn’t.

The story of your business/organization is unique. You’d probably be surprised to learn how interested your customers/supporters are to hear those stories.

Business/organizational leaders who wear multiple hats and direct small staffs don’t have much time for brainstorming, or what I sometimes refer to as “bellybutton gazing.” That’s why I really like Tami Brehse‘s approach to storytelling as marketing. Brehse, a former television news anchor, runs her own marketing and public relations consultancy in Florida.

A column she wrote about how to use storytelling to develop your company’s brand was distilled nicely into this infographic:

She also provides a free worksheet that will help you clarify your thoughts. From these simple tools you can develop the story of your company/organization that your audience is itching to hear.

If you need assistance in telling that story, don’t hesitate to contact me. The initial consultation is free.

(Out)Pour with care

It’s still raining in Houston.

The impulse to do something, anything, to try to help the untold number of people affected by Harvey is very strong. It’s a great impulse. An outpouring of assistance is needed, but it is important to do that “pouring out” with care.

It is way too easy for fraudulent charities to capitalize on tragedy via social media. That link in a Facebook post, Tweet, text, or email may be going to someone’s back pocket instead of a reputable charity. Share these tips on your business’ or non-profit organization’s website and social media accounts as a way to show your support of those affected by the disaster:

Know the charity. If you are contacted by a non-profit organization that says they are soliciting donations for storm relief, take a few minutes to do some homework before you make that gift.

Type in URLs. Don’t use embedded links to take you to a charity’s website. Type the name and/or address in your browser.

Give money, not in-kind donations. With few exceptions (bottled water and disposable diapers being the biggies), in-kind donations are a bad idea. Sorting and distributing in-kind donations is a labor-intensive exercise, and every volunteer who comes into a disaster area takes away from the already overtaxed resources needed for displaced residents–chiefly fuel, food, and potable water. Wise donors give their money to organizations with expertise in deploying well-trained and well-equipped volunteers.

Three exceptional non-profits consistently rise to the top of disaster relief efforts:

American Red Cross

Salvation Army

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief

 

ICYMI: Great email tips for non-profits

July is here, so it is all hands on deck for the rest of 2017 for non-profit organizations. It’s time to finalize designs and themes for holiday- and end-of-year giving campaigns. Now is the time to make decisions about direct mail, advertising, and video promos.

Now is also a great time to add potential donors to your email list, and thoughtfully schedule when those messages will be delivered.

Scott Paley, co-founder and CEO of Abstract Edge, has some great advice for both activities.

The blog post, “An Easy Way to Build Your Email List,” is one that must be read in its entirety. Paley makes a clear distinction between adding addresses that might become here-today-and-gone-tomorrow prospects, and real leads that eventually become donors.

A second post from Paley might seem to fly in the face of common sense: Sending the same email to the same contact more than once.

Common sense screams that such repetition invites unsubscribes from your list, but Paley points out that, depending on the size of your list, just about every email you send will result in a few unsubscribes. By adding “ICYMI” or a similar tag to your original subject line, you are letting your contact know that the content you are sending is a re-run. It’s an exercise in integrity, and it lets the prospect know that you really consider the content important, and not something you are trying to “dress up” as something new.

I think this is well worth a try for your next email marketing campaign.

If you need some fresh ideas on communicating with your existing or potential donor base, give me a call. The initial consultation is free.

A festival of failure

I ran across a couple of articles related to a new museum opening next month: The Museum of Failure.

Psychologist Samuel West came up with the concept. Here’s a takeaway for you as reported by Leah Fessler of Quartz Ideas: Every failure is uniquely spectacular, says West, while success is nauseatingly repetitive. True innovation requires learning from the complexities of each failure—a skill that, he says, most companies fail to hone. (Word of caution, if you are offended by f-bombs there are a couple in the last paragraph of the story. Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/2ouLvIa)

Examining spectacular failures is not a new way to turn a corner. Many brave people have done so as a prelude to major breakthroughs.

Running a business, or managing a community non-profit, isn’t easy. Everyone goes through times of doubt, and even setbacks. I encourage you to look for stories of big comebacks. Here are a couple to start:

If you need a fresh look at your marketing and promotion strategies, or maybe you need to create a strategy for the first time, give me a call. I’d love to help. The initial consultation is free.

 

 

The point about touch points

In an exercise in taking my own advice, I’m

  1. Recycling content that I think has value, and
  2. Attempting to share posts that are concise … and brief.

A trendy term tossed around marketing circles is “touch point” which is mentioned in Dale Partridge’s excellent article on branding that I shared previously. Simply put, a touch point is every point in the customer/donor/employee process where those individuals interact with the company or organization. For example: Touch points for a small business could be a newspaper/TV/radio or online ad. A catalog, printed or digital, is another touch point. The process of making a donation and receiving an acknowledgement letter are a couple of touch points for non-profits. For your employees, touch points are the interview, hiring, training, performance evaluation, payroll and benefits processes.

No matter how small your business or organization is, it is a system that needs to be analyzed and reviewed frequently. You may find that your advertising and social media presence are effective, but customers are frustrated by the lack of parking near your store, or the online catalog that frequently times out before a sale is completed. Maybe your non-profit does a great job of quickly processing financial gifts, but it takes too long for acknowledgement letters to go out for in-kind donations. For your staff, maybe a failing touch point is in training or performance evaluations.

It’s easy to see that there are dozens of touch points that can impact your business/organization’s brand. As you gather data and feedback from customers/donors and staff, and make improvements, your brand will begin to stand out among your competitors.

If you need some assistance on finding out what your brand really is, give me a call. I’d love to help.

The challenge of simplicity

Late last year, freelance content creator Matt Mansfield distilled 151 articles projecting marketing trends for 2017 into a glorious infographic. (I love infographics!) The article even comes with instructions on how to use the infographic depending on your interests and needs.

I’m glad there are marketing experts out there such as Mansfield, making sense of everything from analytics and chatbots to “ephemeral content,” but I’ll never be a Matt Mansfield.

I started this blog for small businesses and non-profits operating on shoestring marketing budgets that focus on free and do-it-yourself communications.

In short: I’m a peanut butter and jelly marketer.

As “the” expert about your business or non-profit, and most likely the “chief marketing officer,” it’s easy to lose a straightforward message amongst your intimate knowledge of all things organizational. That is when it is necessary to take a step back, remove your CEO hat and try to think like a consumer of that message.

A piece from Flee app creator Didac Hormiga on LinkedIn really spoke to me. Yes, there are marketing lessons to be learned from fortune cookies:

  • Make your message applicable to everyone.
  • Combine a product with a message.
  • Make your message short and sweet.

Nolan Berg, head of his own marketing consultancy, penned an equally straightforward and practical column after attending a Garth Brooks concert. I appreciated his insights.

If you own a small business, or are working to sustain a vital non-profit in your community, I encourage you to get organized and develop a marketing/PR plan to communicate a positive and compelling message. I think you will be amazed to see how it takes your mission to the next level. If you need assistance, don’t hesitate to contact me. My rates are reasonable and the initial consultation is free.

Keeping track of success

Cute dog puppy

Last week we explored the myth of “truthful hyperbole” and I made three distinctions about content that passes the smell test. As a review, it should be based on:

  • internal research of my business and non-profit
  • statistics, other facts and opinions of reputable, and cited, sources
  • fairness and contextualization (Am I comparing apples to apples or applies to garden hoses?)

Let’s look more closely at the first item, internal research.

Those in public relations and marketing, as well as grant writers, are internal customers of business owners, key employees, CEOs, boards of directors and others. Our ads, press releases, billboards, videos, grant proposals, and social media posts are only as good as the data we are provided by an organization’s leaders.

Keeping track of the cost of your advertising and other marketing activities and calculating your return on that investment is vital, but that is a blog post for another day. I’m asking that you instead focus on data that you use in those advertising and marketing endeavors.

Rather than looking at data collection for public relations and marketing as a task separate from other necessary bookkeeping and record-keeping, look at the data you keep track of in the natural course of your work or mission.

For non-profits, the information on your IRS Form 990 can be a great source of positive statistics, if those facts are in line with characteristics sought most often by discerning donors. What are those? This article from Charity Navigator shares several, such as: “What is the percentage of every dollar donated that is spent on fundraising,” and, “How much does the CEO make annually?”

For small businesses, the approach is a little different. Are you tracking customer satisfaction through surveys, follow-up emails and phone calls? If you have a high percentage of your customers expressing enthusiastic satisfaction with their experience at your business, that’s a statistic worth sharing often and to a great many people.

Is your small business a major employer in your community? Are you recommended by the Better Business Bureau? If so, for how many years? What about positive ratings or accolades from the local Chamber of Commerce? Do you hire a significant number of military veterans, or perhaps individuals with disabilities? What other positive contributions do you make to your community through philanthropy, partnerships, and other initiatives?

Maybe you’re so busy running your small business you aren’t sure exactly where you stand? Here are a couple of articles that might help you gain perspective:

How To Know When It’s Time to Expand Your Business, from Value One

But Am I Making Any Money? from The Balance

Sharing positive, specific, and credible facts about your organization or business is a must for an effective communications strategy. Think of these facts as credible, reliable evidence submitted to the court of public opinion.

If you are ready to explore this or other marketing and communications issues for your business or non-profit, give me a call. I’d love to help.

 

‘Truthful hyperbole’ is why PR gets a bad rep

Side profile shocked man with long nose. Liar concept

On inauguration day, I listened to the remarks from the 45th president of the United States on the radio. The next day, I read and watched coverage of the millions of people around the world, overwhelmingly in the U.S., who marched in opposition to his election. Since then, my iPhone hasn’t stopped pinging with news alerts relative to executive orders, cabinet confirmations, opposition speeches and the like. The New York Times is churning out so many opinion pieces conveying outrage, I’m wondering if they are even in the reporting business any more.

And it’s only day three.

All in all, I feel like the inner circle of fictional Broadway star Margo Channing when she uttered the most famous line in “All About Eve.”

Chief among the outrage, at least for the last 36 hours, is the reference to “alternative facts” by the Trump White House when estimating the size of the inauguration crowd. This is in line with Trump’s modus operandi (outlined in one of his books) that his ghostwriter termed “truthful hyperbole.”

Now, “hyperbole” is defined as “obvious and intentional exaggeration” and “an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally.” For example: “to wait an eternity.”

So, by definition, hyperbole is not truthful (factual).

Therefore, if an individual or group presents “alternative facts” using “truthful hyperbole” as an acceptable standard, chances are they are lying through their collective teeth.

Viewing the term in its strictest definition, “alternative facts” could mean facts provided by a reliable source that simply isn’t as well known as the source used most often and by the most people. For example: Consumer Reports historically has a great reputation for its reviews and reports, but does that mean articles from Reviewed.com are unreliable? Not necessarily. But make no mistake, “alternative facts” as easily debunked as those posited by the White House regarding the inauguration attendance are fabrication.

Public relations and marketing often get a bad rep, I think, because, quite frankly, there are dishonest practitioners out there. Trump, with his non-existent “truthful hyperbole” is an example. But some of the bad reputation is unfair because

  • putting the best foot forward
  • leading with the positive rather than the negative, and
  • taking time to work on messaging in advance

often are mischaracterized as outright fabrication. The term “spin doctor” is pretty much synonymous with “snake oil salesman,” unless the latter happens to refer to selling a product that keeps your reptiles soft and scale-free.

Although January is nearly through, maybe a resolution is in order for anyone out there promoting, selling, inspiring, informing, and otherwise communicating … which, by the way, is everyone, isn’t it? … to make sure our content passes the smell test. Is it based on

  • internal research of my business and non-profit
  • statistics, other facts and opinions of reputable, and cited, sources
  • fairness and contextualization (am I comparing apples to apples or applies to garden hoses?)

In coming weeks, I’ll explore these three points in more detail, especially on how to discern a reputable source from “fake news.”

Questions? Do you need assistance in your public relations or marketing endeavors? Give me a call. I’d love to hear from you. Initial consultations are free of charge.