danniewriter

Is this really your outrage?

https://youtu.be/psmpWVuCb8s

I find myself deleting, blocking and unfollowing more and more on social media these days. I’ve only had a couple of upsetting social media interactions myself, but they have left me, more than anything else, exhausted—and more than a little despondent about so-called “civil” discourse in the 21st century.

A couple of these interactions involved very intelligent people who, I thought, would be persuaded that they might have jumped to conclusions about a situation because they hadn’t yet read the latest developments. I naively thought that fairly irrefutable and verifiable facts would make a difference. One person politely agreed to disagree, the second blew her stack.

I really sound holier than thou, so let me be clear: I’ve fallen prey to fake news (that is, “real” fake news and not just facts that fail to support my point of view) and have been guilty of rushing to judgment … and sharing that judgment on social media. And while I never enjoy eating crow, I’ve tasted it before and generally will accept it again when I need to. Just pass the ketchup.

There’s a mob mentality online that has developed largely from the efforts of hard-working trolls. Most effective deceptions start with the tiniest grain of truth. Exaggeration and outright manufacturing are piled on again and again until the lie is presented as reality.

The result is that we perceive that the gulfs that exist between cultures, political parties, religions, etc., are not just unwieldy, they are insurmountable.

Which is exactly what some people want.

Soon, the 2020 presidential election will be just a year away, so I thought it was a good time to revisit a great piece of informational animation from acttv. The source is unapologetically left leaning, however, the content of this video is extremely balanced.

Sometimes the most outrageous and offensive information is accurate, but often it is not. Like the proverbial half-full/half-empty glass, it is a matter of perception, but even more diabolical, motive. A healthy distrust, and willingness to do some fact-finding on your own before commenting or sharing, is seriously lacking in civil discourse today, especially on social media platforms where people can be anonymous. Don’t borrow someone else’s outrage. We’ve all got plenty of our own.

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Crisis Capitalization

My new home state of Mississippi has really taken it on the chin this year. Parts of the Delta began flooding in February and still are underwater. To attempt to alleviate one catastrophic event, floodwaters from the Mississippi River have been released into the Gulf, creating another catastrophe. Dolphins and turtles have died, and the men and women who harvest oysters, shrimp and other delicacies from the deep have almost nothing to show for their labors because of the freshwater/floodwater contamination.

The continued release from the Bonnet Carré spillway has made the seasonal “dead zone” of oxygen-starved saltwater one for the record books, precipitating an algae bloom that now has closed many, but not all, beaches to swimming and water sports just in time for the Independence Day holidays.

There’s no sugar-coating the facts: the situation for farmers, fishers, plants and virtually all other forms of flora and fauna is decidedly bleak. Nevertheless, Mississippians on the Gulf have not thrown in the towel for the summer tourism season. In the process, they have provided an excellent lesson in “Don’t Panic PR.”

Milton Segarra, CEO of Coastal Mississippi, the regional tourism bureau, set just the right tone of concern and optimism along with a dash of “algae blooms happen all the time. We’ve got this.”

“We are a warm weather destination. We are in the Gulf of Mexico; this happens,” Segarra told WLOX-TV. His response wasn’t flippant, however. He emphasized that the closures were necessary to protect the public. The algae causes some nasty symptoms when people come in contact with it.

Now, no one wishes that the flooding, freshwater release and algae bloom had happened, but in a weird way, the challenge actually reinforced Coast Mississippi’s rebranding effort that began earlier this year.

The bureau’s previous name was Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast. “Coast is the place where the water meets the land, but coastal encompasses the beaches, the water and the land beyond,” Segarra said in the rebranding announcement.

The fact is, there is a great deal of beauty and charm in the region. And even if I can’t wade in the Gulf, the joy and peace I get from a beach sunset such as the one above is gift enough.

I hope tourists will take Segarra’s advice, keep their vacation plans unchanged, and explore beyond the beach. I’m sure they won’t be disappointed.

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Tell the world your mousetrap is best

It’s exhausting sometimes to complete a project only to have it returned to you with notations about everything you did wrong. When writing, I usually focus on composing positive statements, but sometimes the most efficient way to tackle a problem is to look at the mistakes that have been made up to this point.

Writing for the Balance Small Business, Alyssa Gregory compiles a concise list of seven common marketing errors, and most important, how to avoid them. They are:

  • not having a marketing plan
  • being unclear about what makes your business different
  • trying to sell to everyone
  • underestimating the power of word-of-mouth advertising
  • being scared of social media
  • refusing to try new marketing activities
  • ignoring the competition

From this list, “being unclear about what makes your business different,” and “ignoring the competition,” really caught my eye. My grandmother often used the well-known bit of wisdom, “build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” That means knowing everything about your product and service, including how it compares to your competition’s products and services. It sounds so simple, but too often small businesses operate in a bubble, doing their own thing day after day, never considering why customers are spending their money elsewhere.

What makes your “mousetrap” revolutionary? Get specific about what sets you apart from the competition. If you need assistance in telling your story, contact me. The initial consultation is free.

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When nothing is everything

About the photo: Artist Amy Peters creates a mural in downtown Hopkinsville, Ky., in preparation for the 2017 solar eclipse. (Photo by Meredith Willse for the Kentucky New Era)

What do Oreo cookies and Mountain Dew® have to do with the hit HBO series Game of Thrones?

Absolutely nothing, but sometimes nothing is everything.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones kicks off April 14. The build-up is saturating headlines, social media and conversation. What business wouldn’t want to take a ride on the hem of that cape?

GoT-themed cookies are just the tip of the marketing iceberg. To get an idea of how brands are capitalizing on the show, check out Rebecca Jennings’ article on Vox.

If something has captured the public’s attention, consider how your small business might make the most of it. A direct connection between your company and the event in question is good, of course, but if the event is big enough, that doesn’t matter.

The 2017 total eclipse was a big deal in my home state, Kentucky. Hopkinsville was the largest city in the area of greatest eclipse. The event was on the horizon, pun intended, for a while, so it gave businesses and non-profits a long time to squeeze every drop of potential from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

What are people talking about in your community? Join a coffee klatch. Brainstorm with your fellow merchants or non-profits. Join neighborhood Facebook groups or Next Door. There might be something big on the horizon that takes your brand to the next level.

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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.

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A Dickens of an impact

The frontispiece of the original printing of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. (public domain photo)

I love movies, but am no longer someone who “must” see a film on opening weekend; sometimes I’m even a year late.

Falling squarely in the better-late-than-never category is The Man Who Invented Christmas, which I missed in 2017 but now intend to add to my “best Christmas movies” collection.

The film follows Charles Dickens’ frantic and very bumpy road in writing A Christmas Carol. His family in dire financial straits, Dickens needed a bestseller. A frequent speaker on the charity circuit after the tremendous success of Oliver Twist, Dickens was keenly aware of society’s poorest of the poor, even as he wrestled with personal money woes.

In reference to the title of the film, obviously, the celebration of the birth of Christ pre-dated Dickens’ lifetime, but how the day is celebrated definitely was impacted by the novella.

With the success of the small book, Dickens inexorably linked the holiday with overt expressions of compassion and generosity toward the less fortunate. In a 1998 article, The Washington Post shared examples of the book’s instant impact in 1843. Here is just one:

A young Robert Louis Stevenson was beside himself after reading A Christmas Carol for the first time: “I want to go out and comfort some one; I shall never listen to the nonsense they tell me about not giving money— I shall give money; not that I haven’t done so always, but I shall do it with a high hand now.”

The book has never been out of print. It has been adapted for the screen dozens of times. It is performed on thousands of stages, small and large, every year. I would argue that every red kettle, every toy for a tot, is linked in some way back to this small book with its huge message.

I read it every Christmas, for no particular reason other than the sheer joy of experiencing Dickens’ words. Now, having watched The Man Who Invented Christmas, and having dug into the story behind the story a bit deeper, I love and appreciate it even more.

Just as the fortunes of every retailer rise and set on the period of Black Friday through Dec. 24, non-profits depend, mightily, on the public’s generosity this time of year. Without Dickens and his novella, how different that picture might be.

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Head butting, reconstructed

If you own or manage a business, it’s likely that one of the least-favorite aspects of your job is responding to customer complaints. And, if you are on social media, it’s possible that the headache turns into a migraine if a troll has latched onto you.

Business Unplugged’s Carol Roth compiled a great collection of advice from business and communications pros about how to handle complaints, and trolls, and how to tell the difference. Some tips mentioned often:

Don’t respond in an angry or defensive manner, especially if you are dealing with a troll instead of a legitimate customer. Trolls want conflict. Don’t feed them.

You may feel that a customer’s complaint is unfair or possibly even untrue. It is your job to listen and respond with professionalism. Provide them with a way to communicate with you directly about their complaint. Direct messaging via the platform (Facebook or Twitter, for example), is the best way to start.

When you respond with patience and restraint, your faithful customers and supporters will chime in with their stories of great experiences at your business.

Respond, even if you need to step away from the computer for a while first to cool down. The silence of not responding screams to current and potential customers, “I don’t care if you’re happy or not.”

You have no control over reviews and comments on other sites such as Yelp, but it’s possible for you to block a follower from your own Facebook or Twitter feed. Do this only as a last resort. If you are dealing with someone who simply wants to rant, and if you have made an effort to respond in a reasonable and professional way, you can control who can post on your feeds. Do it too often, however, and you get the same blowback as not responding at all.

Finally, try to keep a sense of humor about everything. It’s not always easy, but it’s possible it will keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. As an aside, it’s OK to approach complaints and haters with humor, too, but make sure you really have a gift for it first. It’s a tricky business to convey sarcasm online. Check out some pros who do it really well, Moon Pie and Wendy’s.

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Pitch the rug: Manage PR crises with integrity

When you are in charge, and something bad happens, instinct can serve you well, but not always.

Instinct can equip you to put out fires, the literal and figurative blazes, quickly and efficiently. As a business owner, or head of a community organization, that instinct is like gold. It can prevent a spark from growing into a conflagration.

Where instinct can let you down, however, is in dealing with the aftermath of a crisis. Your gut tells you to circle the wagons, swear people to secrecy, and give a terse “no comment” to the press, the public, and even your stakeholders. Bad idea.

How you handle problems says more about you as a leader than how great you look riding the biggest wave of success.

Matt Valentine of Goalcast recaps four major public relations crises, and how corporate leadership responded with integrity and transparency. A few things that rise to the top:

  • They responded quickly.
  • They responded like human beings, not corporations.
  • They took a financial hit without flinching (at least publicly).
  • They answered their stakeholders’ questions sooner rather than later.

The Apple v. FBI example is unique, but there are lessons that can transfer seamlessly to your business or organization. The non-corporate tone of its response to customers is especially impressive. The document is straightforward and easy to understand, but it doesn’t bog the reader down with too much detail. It quickly goes to the heart of the issue, and states Apple’s position clearly.

If your business or organization is facing a tough time, there’s no need to tell the public everything about the crisis, but it is important that you tell them something that is truthful and makes sense. I have experience with crisis communications, and would be happy to help you with this, and other public relations issues. Contact me by email at danniewriter@gmail.com, or call (502) 432-8725.

 

 

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Small business marketing on a shoestring

 

May is a time to celebrate small businesses. In our mail-order/drive-thru/cookie-cutter existence, you, small business owners, give our lives and communities character, color, and identity. Thank you.

I’ve written frequently about how tough it is for small business owners to think proactively and for the long-term when immediate concerns are so, well, immediate. I don’t have any answers to a lack of time, but I’ve run across some tips and resources that can help you market on a shoestring.

Writing for Forbes, Mike Kappel has seven tips for small budgets. Note: It has never been easier to start a website or blog than it is right now. If you’ve been putting it off, don’t. Start with a simple, one-page site with a concise description of what you do, where you are, and how customers can reach you. Make sure the site looks good on smart phones and tablets.

If you feel like your business gets lost among your competitors during the big annual sales, consider picking a new date for a promotion. Small Business Trends has some ideas, and a comprehensive list of lesser-known “holidays” and annual awareness campaigns. (Remember, May is National Small Business Month.) Don’t get lost in the crowd; find your own day and start making plans.

Need some inspiration? Check out the companies that the U.S. Small Business Administration singled out for recognition in their annual awards. Read their stories. Take a look at their websites. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I’m willing to be that you’ll find at least one marketing idea that you will be able to implement immediately.

Are you ready to write a marketing plan for your business? The SBA has a section of its website devoted just to sales and marketing. It includes a sample of a marketing plan to help get you started.

If you know you need to do a better job marketing, but can’t seem to find the forest for the trees, give me a call. The initial consultation is free.

 

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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.

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