danniewriter

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.

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Take time to get inspired

The U.S. Small Business Administration realizes that small business owners are often too busy to attend the many great activities that the administration offers during National Small Business Week … because you are busy attending to your small business. That’s why they stream many of those events online.

Check out this year’s line-up here.

Why not schedule some time next week to listen to the speakers, and most importantly, fellow small business owners, for fresh ideas on marketing, promotion, and partnerships? Regarding the latter, check out all the resources on the SBA website and start building a network among your fellow business owners to promote Small Business Saturday (Nov. 25) 2017 in a really big way.

Want to learn from some of your peers? There are links to this year’s SBA award winning businesses from this page.

Case studies can be helpful resources, too, if you are seeking new marketing ideas. Here are a couple from Writtent:

And if you need help once you get that marketing inspiration, give me a call. Your initial consultation is free.

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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.

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That was a stretch

I ran across this Facebook post recently and felt compelled to share it.

Bill Penzey Jr., CEO of Penzeys Spices, has been very outspoken about his disapproval of the new president. First and foremost, Penzey is in the business of selling spices, herbs, and extracts, but he is managing to get his political views out there while keeping his eye on the ball.

No doubt many marketing experts will find his attempt clumsy and longwinded, but I was delighted when I read it. Make no mistake, it’s a long stretch to connect the product to the politics but I found the result genuine, and even a little charming.

And by the way, no matter your politics, I recommend Penzey’s products. They really are wonderful.

Following is Penzey’s post on the company Facebook page regarding a recent promotion of its spice blend “Tsar Dust Memories.”

A sitting US president’s administration is being investigated by the Justice Department and the FBI for colluding with Russia to deny American voters a free and fair election? We have a blend for that. It’s Tsardust Memories, and it’s tasty. And through Midnight Tuesday April 4, a $6.95 value jar is free with any $5 purchase.

At the heart of cooking is the idea that when you take care of people in need, the world becomes a better place. It is this idea that makes us human. And much like the caring, empathy, and kindness of cooks create better futures for those around them, the caring, empathy, and kindness of America has long been creating better futures for all those that share this planet. Our kindness brings us much good will. It would appear it’s this good will that Russian leadership hoped to undermine in helping to get our current administration elected.

Now is the time for Tsardust Memories, because now is the time to be reminded of the humanity of even our adversaries. Tsardust is an amazingly good blend. These are flavors that Americans are familiar with, but how, over the decades and even centuries, Russian cooks evolved the way they brought these flavors together to please those they cook for really is something worthy of our attention and respect. The Russian people are not our enemies. This time, if the allegations prove true, the enemies of Democracy are very much our own.

Tuesday is also the last day for free Penzeys Minced Garlic, also with $5 purchase. If you are coming into one of our stores today, make sure to bring this Facebook post with you. Spend $5, and you will get your choice of Tsardust or Minced Garlic free. Spend $10, and you will receive both.

Online it’s pretty much the same good deal. Visit us at penzeys.com, and after spending at least $10, proceed to checkout and enter 28552C into the apply code box while checking out for your free Tsardust Memories and then 44350C to get your Garlic. If you spend just $5 you can have your choice. Regular shipping and handling will apply, but regular shipping is always free on orders over $30.

And if tomorrow is Election Day in your community, please vote. It makes all the difference.

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Don’t help build a bridge to nowhere

My personality is a slightly bizarre combination of cynicism and optimism. I’d like to consider myself a healthy skeptic but there are times when I just want, even need, positive things to be true.

Case in point: I fell for two … not one, but two … April Fools’ “news” stories on Saturday.

I share this so you will know that I understand how photos of abused animals, critically ill/injured children, and other assorted traumas can inspire a profound need in people’s hearts to respond in some way.

Unfortunately, parasites (cleverly disguised as human beings) have learned how to capitalize on the good intentions of their betters in combination with the popularity of Facebook.

They are “like farmers.”

They steal a heart-wrenching photo and write accompanying text that implores people to “like” and “share” the post and/or type “amen,” “God bless,” or some other benign comment as a way to demonstrate solidarity, sympathy, or as the equivalent of a prayer.

The post explodes with thousands of responses, which translates into thousands of Facebook users leaving a trail of digital breadcrumbs back to their accounts. The “like farmers” then sell this access to the highest-paying slimeball who then harvests the login and password info from those good-hearted-yet-naive Facebook users.

Said slimeball often introduces malware into users’ accounts as the icing on the cake. An additional insult often occurs when the content on the original post is replaced with something highly objectionable, linking your approval with content you wouldn’t be caught reading much less endorsing.

The website thatsnonsense.com has written several informative posts about like-farming and other social media/internet scams. I urge you to read and post these articles to help stop the madness.

As someone who enjoys sharing articles on her Facebook page, I understand the instinct to respond, immediately, to something that is emotionally moving, but consider how useless the “like,” “share,” and “amen” gestures really are. It’s like building a bridge to no where. Taking the time to actually pray for a person or a cause (finding a cure for cancer, for example) and possibly contributing to a reputable charity are far more meaningful than anything you can post on your Facebook timeline.

Need guidance in your marketing and communications efforts? Contact me today. The initial consultation is free.

About the photo: The Big Four Bridge is a former railroad route spanning the Ohio River from Jeffersonville, Ind., and Louisville, Ky. For more than 40 years, the center portion of the bridge remained suspended over the river, rusting to ruin. In 2013, the Big Four re-opened with pedestrian ramps on each bank and a beautiful walking path in between. It is no longer a bridge to no where.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How truth got so complicated

deweytruman12

I promised a couple of weeks ago that we would explore in more detail how to discern reputable sources from those better left to themselves. I wish it were a completely straightforward process, however, in today’s world of “alternative facts” and “truthful hyperbole,” it’s becoming easier said than done.

It’s worth making a momentary diversion to answer the question, “Why does it matter?” In the 24-hour news cycle, aren’t errors, even intentional falsehoods, identified and corrected almost immediately? After all, it’s been a long time since we faced anything like the famous “Dewey Defeats Truman” fiasco of 1948. Right?

Well, consider the situation that Anas Modamani has been in since he snapped a selfie in 2015 with Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel. A Syrian refugee who settled in Germany, Modamani’s selfie has been used repeatedly in slanted, or downright false, “stories.” Some went so far as to “identify” him as one of the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks last year in Brussels and Berlin.

As quickly as the photo is taken down and corrections are posted, yet another misuse of the teenager’s image pops up again according to his attorney in this New York Times article.

Yes, the 24-hour news cycle permits quick corrections but it also permits the falsehoods to spread like, well, a virus. Consider the man who fired a weapon repeatedly inside a DC pizzeria last year because he believed, based on a piece of news-like fiction, it was a front for a Satanic child abuse network.

My point: This is serious stuff.

There are several excellent articles out there with tips on spotting fake news. I like this rundown from CNN because it gives you insight into the subtle differences of journalistic malpractice: complete fabrications, slanted news, satire that is not identified as satire, and those other amalgamations that take a scrap of truth then add speculation and remove contextualization.

National Public Radio also has some excellent observations in this piece.

Your greatest weapons in the battle for “real facts,” are free and available to just about everyone: common sense and integrity.

Common sense means you approach all the media you consume with a healthy dose of skepticism. If you are presented with something outlandish, scandalous, and unique to a single source, chances are it won’t pass the smell test. The following graphic caught my eye a year or so ago.

neverassume

This has made the rounds with various texts added, some suggesting media conspiracies. That’s not what I’m talking about here. The illustration says to me, “perspective is everything. Don’t jump to conclusions.”

Be careful what you “like,” share, Tweet, and quote. If you think you have some good information, share it and use it but also cite it so your customers/donors can do more digging if they want to. Also, if something goes wrong and the information is flawed, you can tell your stakeholders from where you got the data and why you thought it was credible. Without a citation, your reputation takes an additional hit because some people will assume you pulled the info out of thin air to begin with.

And then there’s integrity. Something that foundational needs a post all of its own.

Need help gathering data or discerning the credibility of a source? I’d love to help. The initial consultation is free.

Top image: Associated Press photo, Nov. 3, 1948 by Byron Rollins.

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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.

 

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‘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.

 

 

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A brief post on taking risks

boxers

Back in April, I compiled some marketing hits and misses. A few of these are real stinkers, but it’s important to note that sometimes taking risks works out really well.

For example, consider my hometown’s public library who used the double entendre, Drop Your Drawers, to get donations of underwear for children served by their school’s family resource centers. So far, more than 300 pairs of “drawers” have been given, some of them slipped through the book slot over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

A couple of risk takers I really admire are the brain trust surrounding Kentucky For Kentucky, an irreverent and edgy online news journal with unique Kentucky-themed products. Griffin VanMeter and Whit Hiler were less than impressed with the commonwealth’s official motto, Unbridled Spirit, so they came up with their own. Then they started a crowdsourcing campaign to purchase time during the Super Bowl to shout their replacement to the proverbial mountaintop from sea to shining sea.

Whether they expected to generate the bucks necessary to be seen during the big game is unclear. Even though they fell woefully short of the money needed to purchase time during the granddaddy of all TV commercial platforms, the pair was rewarded for their audacity with some great coverage. There’s no way I’d refer to their effort as a marketing failure.

Whether you’re ready to take risks or just want to explore low-cost marketing for the first time for your business or non-profit, I can help. There’s no charge for initial consultations. Give me a call.

 

 

 

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Choose to accept this mission

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

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