Sometimes it is simple; sometimes you need a role model

Richard Branson’s “Five rough guidelines for creating a successful business” stopped me in my tracks this morning as it is one of the best summaries I have seen.

Pay special attention to #5.

After five decades in business, I’m often asked if there is a shortcut to success. Unfortunately there isn’t — or if there is, I haven’t found it yet. Creating a successful and profitable business takes time, since you build your reputation as customers learn to trust and rely on you, one by one. 

Richard Branson

Image from John Armstrong Photography

Also, there’s no guarantee that spending a huge amount of money on marketing will slingshot your business forward. If you spend your time looking for shortcuts, you will find one — right out of business. 

While there are no set rules for succeeding in business, I have embraced some rough guidelines that can be very helpful:

1. Create a useful product or service

Image from Virgin Orbit

Above all else, you should not go into business purely for financial reasons. Running a company involves long hours and hard decisions; if you don’t have a better reason than money to keep going, your business will more than likely fail, as many new businesses do.

So it’s important to create something of use that is going to benefit society as a whole. If you do something you truly care about, you will be in a much better position to find customers, connect with them, and keep them coming back. 

Once you have decided on the type of product or service that interests you, focus on how to do things differently from the competition: Do your research, find a gap or an area ripe for innovation, and position your business in a way that sets it apart. 

2. Simplify your message

richard_branson_taking_notes_-_image_by_john_armstrong_photography.jpg

Image by John Armstrong Photography

Customers don’t just shop for a brand and its products, but also identify with its core values. Ask yourself, why did I start my business? Be honest – this will help you establish an authentic value and voice. Then break your message into something simple.

At Virgin, we stand for great customer service, good value and innovative alternatives to our competitors’ offerings. Most importantly, we view business as a force for good. Knowing who we are and what we stand for ensures that we don’t waste time or money on messaging that doesn’t represent us or resonate with our customers. 

3.  Market yourself

Richard holding his daughter Holly as he celebrates launching Virgin Atlantic

Image from Virgin.com

 Marketing is a powerful tool, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. My mentor, Sir Freddie Laker, a man who had started a company to challenge British Airways on their home turf, gave me some invaluable advice when I was starting up Virgin Atlantic. Knowing that we couldn’t match the more established airlines in terms of marketing budget, he encouraged me to drive the publicity myself: “Use yourself. Make a fool of yourself. Otherwise you won’t survive.” 

I took his advice and I’ve been thinking up fun ways to stand out from the crowd and draw the media’s attention to our company ever since, from breaking world records to pulling pranks. 

While I’ve always been interested in sports and physical challenges, that might not be the route for you. Find your tone, know your brand, do things your own way, and create waves. The free advertising will follow.   

4. Embrace social media

Image by Owen Buggy

Tools like Twitter and Facebook are wonderful ways to get your message out to a wide audience. Social media is not only more cost-efficient than advertising, but it also offers great opportunities for innovative engagement with your customers. Use it to your advantage.

Remember that there is a difference between selling and marketing. In my experience, selling a product through social media doesn’t always work – it’s better to simply communicate with your customers in an authentic way and have fun. As you build an online profile that people can identify with and trust, you’ll find that they will soon become customers. 

The feedback you receive on social media can be invaluable, especially when your business is just starting out. Listen to your customers’ comments about your company’s offerings to gain an understanding of what you are doing right and wrong. You can also use this feedback to sharpen your social campaigns and measure the effectiveness of your calls to action. 

5. Keep on enjoying what you do

Image from Virgin

If you genuinely love and believe in what you do, others will take notice and share your enthusiasm. 

If you find your interest flagging, it’s time to make a change — switch from operations to management, move on, expand into new territories, anything that interests you. To find success, you need to be fully committed or your work will show it.

Secret Sauce? – “Like Their Friend In The Newsroom Made Sure They Knew What They Needed To Know”

Whether it is a newsletter, a video, a social media post or a cocktail party – the basics remain – think about your audience and be interesting.  Below is the recipe for the secret sauce to communicating, and engaging, your audiences.

shutterstock_698002942 purchased July 2018

The New York Times recently announced that it now has 14 million subscribers across its 55 newsletters. According to Elisabeth Goodridge, The Times’s editorial director of newsletters, the “secret sauce” to good newsletters is as follows:

  1. Know your audience
  2. Have an expert write it (or be quoted)
  3. Design it beautifully
  4. Maintain it with best practices in mind
  5. And, perhaps most important, “offer something valuable that you can’t get anywhere else.”

It should also be an intimate and controlled space. “We want it to be a friction-free experience,” said Andrea Kannapell, the editor of briefings at The Times. That means shorter, lighter sentences; a conversational voice; and information that equips readers to take on news conversations at work and at cocktail parties. “We want them to leave the briefing feeling uplifted,” Ms. Kannapell said. “Like their friend in the newsroom made sure they knew what they needed to know.”

Thank you to the American Press Institute for sharing this article.  Blog readers:  Isn’t this what our jobs are too?  Whether it is delivering information TO a journalist, or shareholders, or employees or our communities … these simple steps are indeed the recipe to the ‘secret sauce’.

I am a subscriber to several of these NYT newsletters and usually I take the time to review and read them; they are that worthwhile.  This is a free service, delivered online, so I encourage you to take a look, experience their ‘secret sauce techniques’ and see if one of these 55 newsletters might be what you need to know.  Laura

Be Part Of The Bliss That Comes With An Out-of-Office Message

So incredibly smart!  Heathrow airport, offers a ready made Out-of-Office message for travelers.  You have to sign into an airport Wi-Fi so while you are at it, why not use their Out-of-Office message too??

This article from ADWEEK, ran July 3, just before Independence Day in the USA – but offers us so many ideas for all the businesses that add joy/special moments of bliss/fun/escape – you-fill-in the benefit to our lives – think of what hotels, recreation, destinations, retails, transportation and so many more could offer.. think about it – how do you add joy to your customer’s life?  Now produce a video or message for use not only as an out-of-office message but for social media channels.  

Now if you are a toy store, pet shop, ski resort, beach bar or more – you might just go wild with this idea – have big fun!

An entirely new way to send your corporate message!  

Though people across the pond won’t be celebrating the Fourth of July on Wednesday, Heathrow Airport still understands the sentiment of a holiday week—as it proved in a new spot that’s all about embracing your vacation days.

Havas London, the British-based agency behind Heathrow’s now-famous ads featuring a pair of bears returning home for the holidays, created this new spot for London’s landmark airport. In it, a woman drafts her out-of-office message while sitting at her gate at Heathrow. As she finishes, she laughs with her two children before the family giddily gets up to board their plane.

Heathrow: Out Of Office  – link here: https://www.adweek.com/creativity/heathrow-out-of-office-ad/
“Heathrow is just as much about those longed-for week-long summer holidays as it is about weekday business trips and round-the-world epics,” Lynsey Atkin, creative director at Havas London, told Adweek of the spot. “We wanted to celebrate the small moments that have great significance when it comes to our precious time away with those we love. Setting an out of office is one such moment, where the world of work is packed away and our focus shifts to the really important people in our lives.”

The ad’s approach is simple: A reminder of the feeling that comes along with the seemingly-minute, yet instantly relief-inducing act of setting up an out-of-office message before heading out on an awaited-for vacation. Atkin says that going into the campaign, the Havas London team wanted “to tell a seemingly small story that had big resonance.”

To make the family interactions feel natural and relatable, the spot’s director, Tom Green of Stink Films, worked with the cast for two days of shooting “to allow for natural action and dialogue that feels utterly relatable and part of the fabric of family interactions that play out every single day across Heathrow,” Atkin said.

The campaign aims to highlight Heathrow’s “Closer” tagline, meant to showcase “the airport’s ability to bring people closer together for special moments every day,” according to a release. Beyond the video spot, also included in the campaign are several out-of-home ads featuring images shot by Christopher Anderson. In these ads, close-up photos of different faces are featured. At the bottom of each image, there’s a personalized out-of-office message.

“At its very heart Heathrow is about bringing people Closer to each other,” Atkin said of the message behind the Closer tagline. “And in a time when that seems increasingly rare, it feels fitting that a place that knows the power and emotion of being together should be flying the flag for it, however big or small.”

Credits

Project name: Out of Office
Client: Heathrow Airport Limited: Simon Eastburn – Director of Marketing, Modupe Adeboye – Senior Marketing and Brand Manager, Kellie Heath – Campaign Marketing Manager, Silvia Cardinale – Campaign Marketing Manager
Creative agency: Havas London
ECD: Ben Mooge
Creative Director: Lynsey Atkin
Creative: Tom Manning
Account team: Caroline Saunders, Oliver Lester, Claire Petzal, Naomi Hollowday
Agency producer (film): Kiri Carch, Adrianne Godfrey
Agency producer (print): Hatty Middleton
Planner: Clare Phayer
Media agency: Carat
Media planner: Hanna Puggaard
Production company: Stink Films
Producer: Ray Leakey
Director: Tom Green
DoP: James Laxton
Editor: James Forbes-Robertson at Whitehouse Post
Post-production: The Mill
Soundtrack composer: Roots Manuva ‘Fighting For’
Audio post-production: Jon Clarke at Factory

 

Thank you ADWEEK for another smart and creative story.  Laura

Writing Is The Unicorn Skill – Uh-Huh We Knew It All Along

  • Note from Laura:  We’ve always known; writing is a master skill and much needed.  The ability to communicate, story tell, sell, divulge and engage are the ingredients of public relations, marketing, advertising and sales – not to mention management.                                                                                                              
  • When I saw this 3 MINUTE READ – from Co.Design – I knew I had to share.  We have THE UNICORN SKILL – add that to your resume and be so proud!

Forget Coding: Writing Is Design’s “Unicorn Skill”

In a new report, John Maeda explains why writing is a must-have skill for designers.

Forget Coding: Writing Is Design’s “Unicorn Skill”
[PHOTO: HERO IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES]

These days many designers can code–an increasingly important skill for landing a job. But few are just as fluent in their own language as they are in Javascript. That presents a serious problem in terms of design. Users still depend on copy to interact with apps and other products. If designers don’t know how to write well, the final product–be it a physical or digital one–can suffer as a result.

In his “2017 Design in Tech Report,” John Maeda writes that “code is not the only unicorn skill.” According to Maeda, who is the head of computational design and inclusion at Automattic and former VP of design at VC firm Kleiner Perkins, words can be just as powerful as the graphics in which designers normally traffic. “A lot of times designers don’t know that words are important,” he said while presenting the report at SXSW this weekend. “I know a few designers like that–do you know these designers out there? You do know them, right?”

 Design is changing fast, and design schools risk producing students without fundamental skills needed in the industry today. Writing is one of them. After all, content is still king.

By pointing to writing as the next most important skill for designers, the report suggests a corrective to an overreliance on the interface–to the extent that writing itself has been left behind as a design skill. “A core skill of the interaction designer is imagining users (characters), motivations, actions, reactions, obstacles, successes, and a complete set of ‘what if’ scenarios,” writes designer Susan Stuart, in a blog post highlighted in the report. “These are the skills of a writer — all kinds of writers, but particularly fiction, screenwriting, and technical writing.”

Learning how to write isn’t just an important skill for the future: It’s applicable right now. Trends in digital design emphasize clean lines and few words–giving language itself more weight. “Art direction and copywriting are as fundamental to the user experience as the UI,” as Paul Woods, COO of the digital design firm Edenspiekermann,wrote here on Co.Design. “Sure, you can have a beautiful UI/frame, but once you have that (we all know a great UI is an invisible UI), all the viewer cares about is what’s inside: the artwork, the story.”

[PHOTO: ILYA PAVLOV VIA UNSPLASH]

It’s not just that designers should treat their copywriters better, as Maeda mentioned at his Design in Tech SXSW talk. As chatbots and conversational interfaces become more popular, writing becomes the vehicle for experience design–so much so that writers are being integrated into those design teams. Companies are already starting to use AI to customize language for users on a mass scale. This writing-based design could transform the very nature of UX.

“We talk about the power of words—both content and style—all the time,” writes R/GA brand designer Jennifer Vano in blog post featured in the “Design in Tech” report. “When it comes to friendships, romance, work dynamics, and, dare we even mention it—though nothing is more telling, more relevant—politics, words have the power to change our opinions, incite action, divide or unify us, move us. Words can shape reality.”

As a well-known voice in the design world, Maeda’s report will help cast light on the issue–but design schools also have a role to play, as well. The report details how design education is falling short in other areas, as well. For instance, the top three skills needed by designers in practice–data, business, and leadership skills–are not available to them in most basic coursework.

How To Make A Bad Review … Better

The media and the communication vehicles that reach our customers, are the partners of businesses, especially marketing and PR. 

When the Associated Press gives out advice on how to handle negative commentary – it is something to heed.  Thank you AP!  

NEW YORK (AP) — A bad review can seriously hinder a small business’ reputation, but dealing with negative social media and online posts is now essential.

The popular online review site Yelp.com recently won a case in California where an aggrieved law firm tried to force it to remove negative posts. Such an action would run afoul of freedom of speech, according to internet companies, but business owners say it could leave the door open to spreading falsehoods without consequences.

There are several measures a business can take to respond to negative reviews to mitigate any potential damage.

Here are some key points for business owners:

ASK HAPPY CUSTOMERS TO POST REVIEWS OF THEIR EXPERIENCE

It’s important to be proactive and have staff ask customers to post their experience. The offensive part of this strategy involves having a base of good reviews from happy customers. It’s even more important because people who are upset are usually more motivated, Kagan said.

That can leave a skewed picture of a business. A solid base of good reviews will help give a potential customer a broader view.

RESPOND IMMEDIATELY AND POLITELY

People want to know that the owner is professional and cares about fixing legitimate problems. Simple things, like saying “I’m very sorry you didn’t enjoy” the meal or product can go a long way with potential new customers checking out your reviews.

“You will often find that you’re playing to the audience, which is sort of neutral,” Kagan said.

PROVIDE A FACTUAL REBUTTAL

While owners should acknowledge a person’s feelings, there are some issues where a factual rebuttal is necessary.

For a restaurant, this could include providing a link to a health department grade or report if somebody falsely accuses the restaurant of being unclean. For some companies, it could mean posting a statement on steps being taken to improve a product or service.

“You’re not necessarily going to fix an upset person,” Kagan said. “What you can do is limit the impact.”

I am often asked if I can make a negative comment “go away” – the answer is no.  But what I will do is reposition the comment with the facts as we know them, remember the audience is wide and large, respond directly to this one comment, and treat everyone’s opinion as valid.  Just because we are responding to one comment, it is imperative to remember many others will be reading what you say too.

SUPER Influencers A Key To Super-Success

Influencer marketing is without a doubt a trending area for marketers and public relations professionals.

In retail, travel and entertainment, savvy marketers are connecting with people who have a great number of followers — and influence — and compensating them with cash, gifts or an experience, such as a stay in a resort or a cameo in a show.

The idea of connecting with the right people and working those relationships is both a refreshing and seemingly simple approach. However, how does influencer marketing apply to complex selling environments, such as within regulated industries (financial or healthcare, for example) or with enterprise software sales?

Without exception, a pithy Instagram post or a Tweet from an influencer is not going to have a meaningful impact on shortening long sales cycles or getting a chief security officer (CSO) to narrow solutions they’re considering for their global operations. In my experience, there are, however, people and organizations that have pull with buyers and industry organizations that are worth investing in relationships with.

This article comes with thanks to Forbes and Scott Mills, a member of the Forbes Agency Council.  

 Your team’s success is made easier with positive relationships with outside influencers.

To use the financial industry for illustration, which is one I’m quite familiar with, reaching and persuading bankers to buy into new concepts, strategies and solutions is without a doubt a difficult assignment. When selling something that represents a sizeable investment for the financial organization, it is likely that the company has to accomplish several things. It must:

1. Sell the business-side leader (head of retail banking).

2. Satisfy a host of people involved in the decision, which may include the board of directors, IT department and procurement.

3. Assure the bankers they will remain in compliance (not run afoul of regulators).

4. Demonstrate that your company is financially stable enough to satisfy the client.

For technology sellers, companies are also faced with demonstrating integration with at least one other existing critical system, such as a “core” platform and demonstrating that the company is operationally mature and disciplined enough to handle the prospect’s business.

Marketing to everyone within a bank who needs to buy — or at least sign off on — the agreement requires a highly coordinated effort. It is made easier by reaching third parties who have influence with the prospect and the industry as a whole.

Who are the super-influencers?

Super-influencers are people who advise or provide services to your prospects. They are trusted industry authorities or other vendors that are already serving the bank. Some examples of super-influencers include:

• Attorneys who advise bank boards.

• Accountants who serve the risk committee and CFO.

• Consultants hired to manage a transition or guide strategy.

• Executives of industry associations who drive education and governmental affairs.

• Industry analysts covering specific operational areas.

• Regulators who advise what changes would be acceptable to them.

• Key vendors that are already entrenched in the bank.

• Media who drive conference agendas and what topics are elevated within their channels.

While media is often the target for public relations outreach, trade media is frequently made up of industry experts in their own right. These people deserve an intelligent approach to building relationships.

Super influencers typically have the power to sway a decision. As such, super-influencer marketing is a programmatic approach to identify them, reach out and build relationships.

A super influencer’s value is based on their reputation.

Just as you expect a trusted friend or mentor to provide sound counsel, so do those who turn to their accountants, attorneys and key executives for professional services. As such, these super influencers continue to invest in their development and understanding of forces shaping their industries. Doctors read about new treatments. Researchers seek answers to challenging questions. And educators study, write and publish to broaden their understanding and to influence others. This quest for knowledge is the basis for connecting with super influencers. So is the story you want to deliver. When determining the story, consider the following:

• How are you changing the industry?

• Is there an example of a client company that is achieving outstanding results?

• Are you applying lessons from another industry?

• Do you have research that suggests a shift in the market?

• Is your solution reducing risk? If so, what kind?

Regardless of the channel or communications tactics, the underlying strategy for reaching super influencers has to be based on appealing to their curiosity, helping them broaden their understanding of their industry and doing a better job for their customers and business community.

Many super influencers are paid to recommend the right solution or company or provide an informed opinion or guidance. Consider the people and organizations you know with strong reputations — protecting their reputation drives their actions and decisions. The bottom line is that tactics found in retail or entertainment influencer marketing programs do not translate well to business-to-business (B2B) super influencers because they do not trade their reputation for short-term profits or trivial gifts.

In broad strokes, utilizing super-influencer marketing requires you to build and prioritize audiences, determine what assets or content you’ll need for them and continually foster mutually beneficial relationships.

So, what is fair game for leveraging these relationships?

While some relationships can be based on information sharing or leads, others can provide opportunities to work together on projects that would reflect well on both parties. For example, an attorney and PR practitioner could collaborate on articles about crisis planning and responses. An accountant and consulting firm might create webinars that address operational risks associated with new regulations. And two complementary software companies might create co-branded educational materials about transforming a segment of the industry.

If you are a B2B marketer operating within a complex environment or regulated industry, you know there are no shortcuts. Embrace the complicated and practice these super-influencer marketing tactics — together they represent your competitive advantage.

Note from Bennett – there is a fine line between paying someone to support your PR campaign, and finding mutual benefits with no payment.  This is not a new trend as celebrity endorsements have been around as long as we’ve had speech – an outstanding tool, maybe even SUPER if used with intelligence and as one portion of a well-considered campaign.

Exceptional Role Models Make for Exceptional Careers

Christine Mau, named one of Ad Age’s “Women to Watch” and a former design director at Kimberly-Clark, says design must be brought into an organization’s full conversation, rather than considered an output.

American Marketing Association does an exceptional job of bringing us stories of people who we can learn from, emulate and follow.  A recent story in Marketing News gives insight into Christine Mau, read on!

Mau’s work has included the redesign of Kleenex boxes into oval and triangular formats, as well as the U by Kotex launch. The tampon brand presented its product in black and neon colors, a massive departure from the typical blue and white found in the feminine hygiene aisle.

This ability to talk about and design for what are sometimes considered taboo topics made her the prime candidate for co-creating the logo for No More, a movement for raising awareness and engagement around ending domestic violence and sexual assault.

The logo (pictured at right with Mau), which consists of a blue circle with a disappearing center—intended to evoke the concept of reducing the number of such experiences to zero—has been part of a global public service announcement effort that has received more than $2 billion in earned media.

https://www.ama.org/publications/eNewsletters/Marketing-News-Weekly/Pages/christine-mau-encourages-design-integration-in-marketing-process.aspx

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