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.

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.

‘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.

 

 

Choose to accept this mission

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Remember Mission: Impossible? I loved that show, especially the opening scene when Mr. Phelps received details about the next Cold War caper upon which his team would embark. The serious voice on the audio tape always told Mr. Phelps that he had the option to refuse a mission, but of course, he never did.

I suppose the creation of a mission statement is, in the strictest sense, optional, but it is unwise to forego the exercise. This is especially important for non-profit organizations. Many businesses are self-explanatory, although many successful businesses also craft effective mission statements, but a non-profit without a clear and compelling mission statement is like a ship without a rudder. Additionally, the mission statement is the point from which your marketing and communications efforts flow. Again and again you will return to it to clarify your strategy when too many ideas, often many of them excellent, muddy the waters.

Always ask yourself, and your staff, if a proposed letter, ad, blog post, project, or event clearly supports your stated mission.

To get started, check out this 75-second (yes, only 75 seconds!) video from TopNonprofits. It’s excellent.

For inspiring examples, follow their suggestion and check out the accompanying article.

Pressed for time? Set a limited amount of time to work on this project, perhaps an hour per week, until you get it nailed down. Bounce ideas off staff, key supporters, and board members.

I would love to assist you in crafting your organization’s mission statement. Please give me a call.

Writer at work

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I get it. You are a busy small-business owner who is marketing on a shoestring. Or perhaps you lead a community non-profit that relies almost exclusively on volunteer labor. It would take a walk-in closet to store all the hats you wear. It’s laughable to think of taking a class or even attending a seminar to improve your writing skills. English class was a long time ago, and sometimes you aren’t sure about a verb tense or word choice. You know you could get more views and click-throughs on your social media posts if you could punch up your copy, but there’s never any time.

The next time you are in a doctor’s or dentist’s waiting room, find yourself a few minutes early to pick up the kids, or every open checkout at the grocery store is stacked four deep, take a few minutes to learn, or more likely, re-learn a little something about good writing with these resources:

How Not to Confuse These Commonly Confused Words from Writer’s Relief

12 Twitter Accounts That Will Make You a Better Writer from HootSuite

Be a Better Writer in 15 Minutes: 4 TED-Ed Lessons on Grammar and Word Choice

30 Power Words that Convert on Social Media by Chelsea Alves on Classy.org

Still stuck? A professional wordsmith isn’t as pricey as you think. Give me a call. The initial consultation is free.

Marketing: To thine own self be true

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This week’s Marketing Monday post won’t be for everyone, especially if you have a weak stomach, so that’s why I decided to post today. For this week, let’s designate today, Wretched/Retching Wednesday.

In Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, Polonius offers this pearl of wisdom to his son, Laertes: “To thine own self be true.”

I’m sure the Bard would get a migraine at the thought of someone such as myself applying his words to a discipline as “dubious” to some as marketing, but as you read on, you’ll see that, at least I’m “keeping it in the family.”

Kentucky Shakespeare has quite the track record. The company was formed in 1949 as the Carriage House Players, and in 2013 welcomed Matt Wallace as only the seventh artistic director in its history. There are many impressive aspects to Kentucky Shakes, and the marketing geek writing here considers one of them the promotional campaign for their upcoming production of Titus Andronicus.

Don’t know much about this play? Get in line. It’s one of the Bard’s lesser-known (yet quite commercially successful) works. I daresay the former is, in part, because of the subject matter.

Scholastically speaking, it’s a gore fest.

How bad is it? Likely one of the reasons it isn’t performed very often is that the budgets can’t handle the cost of all the fake blood necessary to pull it off.

That said, despite my usual lack of enthusiasm for artistic works that involve dismemberment, rape, cannibalism, and mass death, I am actually considering going to this production because the marketing campaign, I think, is inspired.

Kentucky Shakes has embraced the gore and added more than a dash or two of dark humor in the process. For your consideration …

It scheduled the production in October, when the public’s tolerance for the macabre is higher than say, Christmas or Easter.

Equally important with timing is location. As it happens, Louisville has the perfect spot for a tale of bloodletting and dismemberment: Butchertown. With such a name, I’m sure you’ll be shocked not a bit to learn that this part of the city is the former location of the Louisville Stockyards and adjoining meat packing plants. The production will occur in one of those long-empty-of-livestock warehouses.

Still not enough atmosphere? Consider this amazing poster that relegates any/all iterations of the Saw movie franchise to the “cute” category.

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And, the piece de resistance, this yes-its-gross-but-I-can’t-look-away video.

A little uncomfortable with the visuals? Keep in mind that Kentucky Shakes hasn’t used its marketing to try to convince a prospective audience of an importance to Titus Andronicus beyond the value of the work itself. Would it make sense to treat the romance as an “aside” in marketing Romeo and Juliet, and instead try to sell it as social commentary on the enormous problem throughout the centuries of rich, powerful families bickering at one another in public?

Know yourself. Be true to yourself.

Key to that is a concise mission statement. (Kentucky Shakespeare’s is 25 words. Not bad for an organization centered around the works of arguably the most prolific and important writer in the history of the world.) How ever complex your work may be, you must be able to articulate your mission quickly and clearly.

Be aware of your surroundings, the calendar, and the news of the day as it relates to special events and promotions. Look for ways to capitalize, (such as the Halloween season and Butchertown for Titus,) and be sensitive to potential problems. (Example: after 9/11, Hollywood scurried to back burner the release of films about terrorism, airline disasters, and other subjects that could distress audience members.) Don’t try to create an edgy campaign in a vacuum. Get professional assistance, and make your pitch to a small, trusted group before spending big bucks and/or going public.

Critics will say that promotions similar to Kentucky Shakes’ Titus are lowest-common-denominator marketing. Certainly that type of promotion exists, but I don’t think it applies in this case. This disgusting-yet-compelling campaign is wedded, faithfully, to the roots of the play itself. As an outsider to theatre marketing, I would speculate that promoting without pandering is the brass ring of selling the works of William Shakespeare in the 21st century. I think our local company here has grasped it perfectly.

While I cannot offer blood, guts, and dismemberment for you and your cause (nor do I really want to!), I am here to help you develop a plan to market or promote your business or organization. Just give me a call.

About the images: “Chandos portrait” of Shakespeare, named for one of the work’s owners, James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos. (Public Domain)

The poster for Kentucky Shakespeare’s upcoming production of “Titus Andronicus” was created by Rosie Felfle, a board member and professional marketer/communicator with Kindred Healthcare in Louisville.

Tendons, social media engagement; it’s about bridging gaps

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For nearly nine weeks, one of my digits has been in a splint, which is why the blog has been on a bit of a hiatus. It’s a case of mallet finger, which isn’t terribly painful, but at my last checkup, the ruptured tendon in question still had some mending to do. I certainly hope the splint is effective, otherwise I’ll need surgery. Based on the one YouTube video I dared watch, the procedure may involve hammering a piece of what looks to be the world’s thinnest rebar through the top of my finger.

Now that I’ve given each of us the willies, I’ll let you know what mallet finger has to do with marketing.

The splint forces the ruptured ends of the tendon together and promotes healing. If the splint doesn’t keep the joint fixed in the extended position, in comes the rebar to bridge the gap.

Take heart, dear reader, let me assure you that bridging the gap between your business or non-profit and your audience is must less painful!

You’ve probably read, repeatedly, that social media is about relationships and “engaging” with your core audience of customers, donors and other “stakeholders.” Here’s a quick recap on the concept from Digital Marketing Strategies 101.

Just like bridging the gap between two pieces of torn tendon, dialogue is needed to connect you to your stakeholders. This is achieved by inviting feedback from your audience and then responding to what they share.

Sometimes it’s as simple as asking questions via your Facebook or Twitter feed. Remember, you’re looking for useful feedback that will help you better connect with your core audience. Phrase questions so you get more detail than a “yes” or “no” response. Questions that begin with the words “how” and “why” should stimulate conversation.

Ishita Ganguly penned a great post for Social Media Examiner that should give you several good ideas. Like so many efforts, follow through is key. Make sure your social media account is set up to notify you when someone has commented. You can have notifications pushed to your cell phone so you won’t miss an interaction. Thank the commenter and see if you can keep the conversation going. Chances are other followers will chime in.

If you’re nervous that your effort won’t yield results, enlist a few of your most faithful customers or donors and ask them to share their thoughts to get the thread moving. The more time and effort you put into your first interaction, the more steam you’ll have to develop an online environment that embraces dialogue and responds to stakeholders’ questions, concerns and opinions.

Need more assistance? Consider giving me a call. There’s no charge for an initial consultation.

 

 

Avoid the Boil Over

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There are those in leadership positions who embrace the philosophy, “If you aren’t making someone unhappy, you’re not doing your job right.” In some cases, this may be true. I maintain that good law enforcement and military, for example, should make criminals and terrorists unhappy.

How many of us, though, are in fields that produce, or even require, clear adversaries? Overwhelmingly, we need more friends than enemies, and more supporters than detractors.

Leaders who adopt the adversarial posture likely do so because they are too lazy to communicate the “whys” of their decisions to stakeholders such as employees, customers, donors, volunteers, and the like. An additional, and more troubling, explanation is that they believe their decisions are draped in gold and free of error and therefore should never be questioned.

Recently I had this lesson brought home, literally. Late Friday afternoon I saw this message taped to the lobby door of my condo community, (sans handwritten comments):

condo

Making preparations for the problem was a little difficult because, at this point, the hot water already had been turned off.

The management company and condo board had a few hundred people with many questions and no answers. The quote: “Some people in the world don’t even have water,” apparently came from a member of the condo board no doubt approached by a concerned resident.

Leadership Tip #1:  It is poor salesmanship to deflect your responsibility by attempting to make a stakeholder’s concern seem petty. In our community, hot water is a reasonable expectation. It is the responsibility of the management company and condo board to ensure this service.

An additional comment was penned: “Plumbers work weekends.” Excellent point.

Leadership Tip #2:  Anticipate questions; provide answers before asked. The absence of explanation on why repairs couldn’t be done Friday and Saturday creates an environment of speculation. Residents are invited to assume the worst. In this case:

  • The problem was so complex and/or discovered so late in the business day that the management company and/or plumber chose not to address it immediately because it posed a personal inconvenience.
  • Rather than taking the time to price a weekend project with the usual plumber, or locate another company for an estimate, the management company informed the condo board, or select members, that the cost was prohibitive or that finding an alternative company was “impossible.”
  • The condo board, or select members, were more concerned with maintaining a positive relationship with the management company than pressing the issue as advocates for their neighbors.

The lack of anything more than a brief note tacked up a few places in the building (residents were not given printed notices individually) communicates an absence of concern, even basic respect, for stakeholders.

Leadership Tip #3:  Always attempt face-to-face/voice-to-voice communications first. The condo board exists as liaison between residents and the management company. As the most basic of responsibilities, board members should be expected to contact residents on matters such as a sudden loss of utilities. In this case, a meeting in the common area of each building should have been scheduled immediately for anyone who happened to be home at the time. The meeting should have been communicated via door-to-door visits/notices.

Leadership Tip #4:  Make a compelling case for your actions and in the process you recruit your stakeholders to assist you in communicating the news. The absence of information and personal communication sends the message to stakeholders that the actions (or inaction) of leadership cannot stand up to scrutiny. Again, in this case, speculation of the specter of personal inconvenience raises its ugly head: The plumber didn’t want to work on the weekend; the management company didn’t want to find an alternate company; the board didn’t want to authorize the expense, inform residents, or jeopardize a positive relationship with the management company.

In this case, the management company and condo board hold nearly all the cards. Residents pay a monthly fee to cover shared services and cede a portion of their responsibilities as homeowners regarding said services. The condo board is a volunteer, and mostly thankless, position. Any resident, myself included, has an opportunity to run for election.

Residents do hold a few cards, though. The company and board loses credibility, respect, trust, and possibly, the cooperation of their primary stakeholder. In the long run, mishandling this incident makes it more difficult for them to do their jobs, and creates an adversary where one was not required.

Does your small business or non-profit need some help communicating with stakeholders? If so, please give me a call. I’d love to help.