Outlook 2021 – #1 in a series for Realtors, Commercial Brokers and Delivery Services

A crisis can be clarifying – be the leader.

What a customer is thinking when they see this sign:
And? What are you offering me if you are closed? Delivery? Good health or thanks? Tell me what’s next – do not waste this opportunity to communicate!

Does it seem like too much of corporate America is just stuck?  Still telling us they are trying and how hard it is for them? 

I keep waiting for some company to grab this opportunity by the throat and take advantage of the huge opportunities right in front of them.

During this quarantine and all that this virus has brought with it – marketers have a first-row seat to guide clients and their organization on how to flip this whole narrative on its back and taking over as a leader of what is to come.

Like what for instance?  Here are three quick ideas for 3 industries… more to come in future blogs.

Realtors – the paradigm has shifted, again.  With full-time in-home living and time to analyze and talk about future needs… here are some conclusions buyers are coming to:

  • Families are looking for new homes that have features previously considered to be for retirees.  As one parent of 3 elementary school children told me “if we have learned one thing during this quarantine our retirement is going to look a lot like this, minus the kids.  Our dream house is starting to look like our yesterday home.  We are thinking of a whole new way of living, and that to us means a house we can grow old in.”
  • Professionals are realizing work from home is absolutely their future, and the 9 to 5/Monday through Friday schedule will be gone too.  That means that offices in quiet sections of the home, with doors and a view of the outdoors will be high priorities.  In this case, the office priority might change the open concept mantra, and mean a bigger home.
  • Deliveries will mean adaptations and structural changes too.  Secure delivery areas, maybe even a refrigeration delivery area.  That means technology for notifications and security rise up in the features of the next home for many buyers.

Commercial Real Estate Brokers – you have been selling the same thing with a similar message for decades.  Location and square feet are just not going to be enough anymore.  You need to sell innovation and trust – why should I go to an office or a brick and mortar store when I do not need to?  The shopping experience was gone long before this pandemic and offices have simply not kept up with what the worker wants.

Change your story now.  Tell me why I should want to come to your location- have you updated the air systems to improve air quality?  Have you made it easier or better for me to come to work or shop?  How are you showing me you care if I am here?  For too many years I would have been glad if someone acknowledged I was even in their store – yes this customer matters more than repositioning that mannequin.

Do you know in Asia businessmen want to have offices near their children’s school and near medical facilities – families matter.  What is your location near?  Where is their beauty and nature?  How is your wi-fi and where are places to eat? 

Delivery services – right now you are the most impersonal, personal service possible.  No personalization of what we are ordering or when. From your website to the person who drops off the goods and hauls back to their delivery van – there is a different person every time.  No communication.  You are all looking the same, and more of a necessity than a choice. 

Do you want us to keep using your services?  Then build a connection!  Even a note of thanks in with the delivery, a small sample of something new you sell and some form of uniformity with your drivers and delivery people so you have brand recognition. 

There are much bigger ideas, but these are easy to implement, practically free and the window of opportunity for you is closing.

Big flashing light – use this time to think ahead and use what has been presented. All consumers want the same thing – to think it mattered that they chose your services, chose you as their Realtor or worked/shopped in your location. 

The opportunities are here, they are big, they are a pivot to a new mind set. You are ready for this – you can be the leader instead of a loser.

You Have 20 Seconds …Use These Techniques in 2020

This applies to everything — meeting someone new at an event, a post on social media or a cold call to someone you want to connect with.

If the first 20 seconds of your communication is all about you or your products and services, maybe it’s time for a rethink. Why is that? Why do we consider the opening part of the call to be the most important?

The best advice comes from professionals who do it every single day.  This advice from mtd Sales Training Specialists focuses on sales and how to start off on the right foot. Here’s what they shared about the first 20 seconds of an initial call.

This is outstanding advice whether you are trying to gain the interest of a journalist, a new client, an event producer or anyone who doesn’t yet know why they need you!

Think: What state or frame of mind is my prospect in when I call?

Think: What might they have been doing the moment before they took my call?

Think: What do they need to hear in the first 15 to 20 seconds that will at least make them listen to me for a further 15-20 seconds?

Whatever your answers, I doubt whether they included anything about being pushed towards a product or service they aren’t using at present.

What can you do, then, to lengthen this first call?

Of course, you grab their attention and interest by talking, not about you, but about them or something that can help them.

That first 15-20 seconds is golden time because it can make or break the next few minutes of the call.

You need to make it personal and specific to your market, but it should sound something like this:

“Hi, this is Bill Smith with Acme Widgets. Reason I’m calling is we recently helped a company in the (customer’s) industry increase their sales by 10% while reducing their marketing spend by the same amount. I wanted to see if we might be able to do the same for you.”

Now you’re talking about them. You’re talking about results. You’re asking if those kind of results would interest your prospect

When you talk about results, that is what the buyer would really be interested in.

It makes them curious and allows you to go into more detail as they are intrigued with what this might be about.

Of course, you need to be honest and truthful. Don’t lie about figures just to get an appointment.

You’re setting expectations that can’t be met if you do, and that will only cause more problems in the long run.

Did you notice that you didn’t mention your products or services in that first part of the conversation? It’s not relevant or necessary.

What you need to do is build their interest to know more.

You may have heard about the ‘AIDA’ principle before. That acronym stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.

Many salespeople go straight to their product pitch early on in the call because they are frightened of refusal or they think the product will sell itself. It won’t.

In any type of marketing, it’s important to get the prospect’s attention straight away. Without doing so, you risk the prospect saying they aren’t interested.

As the acronym states, you can’t build interest until you have grabbed attention. If they reply early with ‘I’m not interested’, it’s because you haven’t attracted attention first.

Think about when you go to the cinema. What comes on before the main feature? That’s right, trailers for upcoming attractions.

Filmmakers do that to grab your attention and build your interest for what’s to come. Treat your call like a ‘teaser’ or ‘trailer’ for what’s to come.

Just as you wouldn’t start off on a journey without knowing your end destination, think about what the end destination of your call needs to be. You’ll then realise that the opening of the call is the most important part.

So, talk about results and solutions, not products.

7 spam words to avoid in email marketing (and why)

#4 was the big surprise to me as I read this piece from EMMA the email marketing platform. Below you will see they not only list the spam words that cause your emails to be rejected, but why.

As a marketer, there’s so much on your mind every single day.

Not only do you need to worry about creating content that converts, you need to ensure that your emails are also accessible and GDPR compliant.

And … there’s another concern that all email marketers have: avoiding the email spam folder.

Ending up in the spam folder is basically a waste of the time and effort you expend to put together an awesome email campaign. Not only that, but it can also damage your online reputation. After all, no legitimate company would send spam emails, right?

Actually, it happens more often than you might think. You’ll find that there are many reasons why your emails might end up in your subscribers’ spam folder, but one of the most common is spam words in email.

In this post, we’ll share why certain words can get you tagged as spam and which ones to start avoiding like the plague.

Why certain words can land you in the dreaded spam folder.

The most common place to use spam words in email is in the subject line. However, if you use these words throughout the body of your content, you could still be flagged—especially if you are using other practices that make your emails appear spammy.

Spam filters are a great way for people to protect themselves from unwanted junk email or even harmful emails.

Spam filters definitely have their place. Unfortunately for email marketers, these filters can target emails that aren’t even remotely close to spam.

Spam words in email—even if it’s a perfectly legitimate email that people have signed up for—can land you in the spam folder. These are words commonly used to grab people’s attention and either excite them or scare them into action.

In 2018, three million people reported scams to the Federal Trade Commission. Of those, 25% had been scammed out of money—nearly $1.5 billion (yes, billion) had been lost to scammers.

Both the young and not-so-young were targeted.

Both the young and not-so-young were targeted.

Source: Federal Trade Commission

Scam artists use a variety of means to take money from their victims, including the telephone, snail mail, and email.

Fortunately, email filters have helped to reduce some of the more blatant scammers out there. What’s not so great is that your marketing email can end up stuck in the spam folder with the scammers just because of the words used in the email.

Again, these words are used to entice people into taking action, which is the purpose of email marketing in the first place. However, there’s a way to motivate your audience without sounding like a spambot.


Words you should use carefully, or avoid using at all costs.

Here are our top 7 spam words in email that can get you into trouble. Avoid using them and you’ll not only stay out of your subscribers’ spam folder, you’ll actually improve the overall quality of your email content.

1. Dear Friend

Un-personalized emails are one of the first indicators of spam. You’re probably 99% sure you don’t know who is sending you an email when you receive one that simply says, “hi” or something like “dear friend.”

Even if you sent an email this way and it passed through the spam filter unscathed, that doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal.

Personalization is one of the keys of a successful email marketing campaign. You want each person in your audience to feel like you are writing specifically to them.

First of all, it’s just a courteous, professional thing to do. Second, you have to remember that your audience is always wondering “what’s in it for me.” If you can’t even take the steps to personalize an email, your subscribers are probably going to wonder why they should invest their time, attention, and eventually, their money in your company.

Takeaway: Always use your subscribers’ name if at all possible. Personalization is key.

2. Click here

Another phrase on the list of our top spam words in email is “click here.” When it comes to spam and scams, this phrase is a huge red flag. Millions of people have clicked where they shouldn’t have and ended up with a computer virus or losing money.

But isn’t “click here” a call to action? Yes, it is, but it’s not a call to action you want to use. Instead, use a call to action that tells your subscriber what will happen when they click your call to action button.

  • Pre-order
  • Take our survey
  • Read more
  • Learn more
  • Subscribe
  • Contact us
  • Schedule an appointment.

Takeaway: Calls to action are imperative to the success of your email campaign. However, you want to avoid using the click-bait call to action of “click here” and guide your potential customers to take a specific form of action.

3. Free

The word “free” is completely enticing. After all, who doesn’t love a deal, especially one that results in little-to-no money being laid down?

Unfortunately, this is a word that a lot of spammers tend to use.

This isn’t to say that you can’t use it at all. Using it once or twice in the entire body of your email copy is not a big deal, and it’s a great motivator for your audience.

With this word, remember that a little dash will do. Overwhelm the content of your email with it and you’ll definitely end up in the spam folder.  

Takeaway: If you have a free offer, make sure you don’t go overboard with your use of this word. Use it sparingly and you’ll avoid being tagged as spam.

4. Re: or Fwd:

When you think of spam words in email, you might not think of “Re:” and “Fwd:” because these are actions people actually take with their email on a daily basis.

Source: Pinterest

When you think of spam words in email, you might not think of “Re:” and “Fwd:” because these are actions people actually take with their email on a daily basis. It’s definitely not uncommon to forward a cool email to a friend or reply to an email that someone sent you.

Spammers know this, which is why they use these words so frequently.

“Fwd:” and “Re:” are used so often that when people see an email with this subject line, they almost always automatically open their email.

Avoid using these words unless you’re actually replying to an email conversation with one of your subscribers. Using them simply to increase your open rate is dishonest.

Takeaway: Avoid “Fwd:” and “Re:” unless you’re actually replying to an email from a reader.

5. Great offer

This is another one of those phrases that scammers know people are intrigued by—just as they are with the word “free.”

Again, use these types of phrases as you would salt—sparingly. It is also good to avoid using it in the subject line, just to be safe.

Takeaway: When using anything pertaining to spending money (free, great offer), make sure to lightly sprinkle the words throughout your email. Avoid stuffing the words in your email or using them in the subject line.

6. Guarantee

Who doesn’t love a guarantee, especially if the guarantee is related to getting money back or achieving some fantastic results?

Unfortunately, it’s really difficult to guarantee anything. “Results may vary” may seem cliché but it is the absolute truth.

Scammers know that the word “guarantee” feels like a security blanket to many people, though, so they use it often.

You can avoid false advertising, disappointing your readers, ruining your online reputation, and ending up in the spam folder by avoiding the word “guarantee.”

Takeaway: Can you really guarantee anything? If you’re not 100% positive it’s possible, avoid using this word in your emails.

7. Risk-free

“Risk-free” is often used in conjunction with “guarantee,” especially by spammers and scammers. It conjures similar feelings as the word “guarantee,” which is why it’s one of the most popular spam words in email.

Saying anything is “risk-free” is the same as offering a guarantee to your readers. If you can’t offer that, then don’t say your product/service is risk-free.

Takeaway: “Risk-free” is yet another spam email phrase. If you’re tempted to use it, ask yourself if you can 100% guarantee that what you’re offering is risk-free. If you can’t, don’t add this phrase to your email.

Honorable mentions…

Here are just a few more things to add to your “do not insert” list for future email campaigns.

  • Anything with a character: !$#&%
  • ALL CAPS SUBJECT LINES
  • Discount
  • Big bucks
  • Extra income
  • Fast cash
  • Apply now
  • Don’t hesitate
  • Explode your business
  • Join millions
  • This is not spam.

Wrap up

Using spam words in email is a sure way to send your emails straight into your subscribers’ spam folders. The following words should be used sparingly or not at all in your future campaigns.

  • Dear friend
  • Click here
  • Free
  • Fwd: or Re:
  • Great offer
  • Guarantee
  • Risk-free

Avoiding these words will help protect your reputation, as well as the time, effort, and money you put into your email marketing campaigns.

Designing Future Business – Hire a PR Pro To Curate Your Unique POV

With the litany of tasks and costs that come with running a business, should you prioritize hiring professional publicity? What can you expect to get in return? We asked five publicists and designers, and the answer is more concrete than you think (even the publicists told us there is a wrong time to hire them). Here’s exactly how to figure out when it makes sense to hire PR and when it’s better to go it alone.

Hire a publicist when…

You want to tell the story of your business

“As long as there’s a story to tell, we’ll have PR,” says Ari Heckman, founding partner and CEO of ASH. “It’s about brand awareness.” No matter where you are in your career, a publicist’s job is to tell people who you are as a designer. And there’s more at stake than just reputation. Sarah Natkins, head of Camron US, tells AD PRO that PR is key to growing your business and boosting your bottom line. “Building awareness in a smart and strategic way can have a huge impact,” she says. ”If done in the right way, it can help expand a studio, and drive the right business.”

This doesn’t just apply to emerging designers; the right messaging can also help more established firms reach a new clientele. “A great publicist is especially helpful if you’re trying to speak to a particular audience or get the message out about a product you’re creating,” Heckman says.

How will you know when your PR strategy is working? Laura Bindloss, founder of Nylon Consulting, says although everyone’s business goals are different, you should regularly see your name in a variety of publications. “You want a real smattering and you want it consistently,” she says. “You want coverage monthly that can range from quotes to full features, and you want it in a variety of outlets. You want to be positioned as an expert in your field.”

You have a point of view

In order for a publicist to do their best work, Natkins says a designer needs to have a clear brand identity and know who their ideal client is, although they don’t need every detail hammered out. “A good publicist will work with you to help figure this out, and then develop a media strategy that communicates your vision,” she says.

Sarah Barnard, principal at Sarah Barnard Designs (WELL AP, LEED AP), doesn’t currently work with PR, but she credits a previous publicist with encouraging her to craft a specific message and find a niche in the market. Says Barnard, “We really care about a few specific things and those are the things we repeatedly stand on, come back to, and share.”

Bindloss says her firm, Nylon Consulting, wouldn’t take on a client who didn’t have a strong point of view and a professional website. “The first place we’re going to drive people is your website, and if your website isn’t communicating what we’re trying to pitch, there’s no point in paying us because you’re going to lose the customer when they get to your site.”

You have work to show off (and plenty of projects in the pipeline)

Publicists need finished work to publicize, so wait to hire one until you have plenty of projects under your belt and can hit the ground running. “Ideally, you want to hit a critical mass of work,” says Bindloss. “Enough to give a publicist so that they can run for six months with everything you have currently.” Usually, this means between five and 10 projects that are photographed and ready to publish, with several more lined up over the next six to 12 months. Remember, there’s no benefit to paying a monthly retainer until you can fully take advantage of a publicist’s time and expertise.

You’re better off on your own if…

You can’t comfortably float the fee

“Don’t hire a publicist if it’s a cost that’s going to keep you up at night,” says Bindloss. Although fees depend on the scope of the work, she says, it’s usually about the price of hiring a full-time employee. “Don’t think about PR as a monthly retainer but as an annual cost, like you would be bringing head count into the firm.”

Natkins agrees that monthly retainers tend to vary significantly, depending on what that client needs. “A small firm might start in the 6K range, a more established studio could be upwards of 10K, and a large firm with many projects around the world would go up from there,” she says.

If that sounds too spendy for your business right now, it’s probably best to wait until you have the cash to do it right. Publicity really is a “get what you pay for” service, says Heckman. “Probably like anything else in life, working with a publicist is a good idea if you work with a good publicist. I don’t know that it would have any value if you were just to hire anyone.”

You haven’t found someone you really connect with

A publicist can make or break your reputation, so be sure you take the time to find the right person. “Wait until you find someone you really trust,” says Bindloss. “This is someone who represents you to the press, so make sure you’re proud to have them speaking on your behalf.”

Heckman, whose firm, ASH, has been represented by M18 public relations for the past seven years, says they chose to work together because of a similar culture. “Our companies were aligned, both in their history and trajectory, and shared values,” he says. And, he points out, it’s a two-way street. Just as you’re searching for a firm to represent you, most publicists want to sign clients with a similar worldview. “A good firm is not just going to take on a retainer from any client. They realize that their credibility as a mouthpiece for their clients is based on who their collection of clients are.”

In fact, Heckman says, you can use a firm’s current client list as a guide to help evaluate if it’s a good match for you. “Probably one of the best ways that someone can go about identifying which firm they want to work with, is to find a firm with clients who share your vision, growth strategy, and aesthetic.”

You’re happy to multitask

“There is the small road also, for those who have the fortitude to do it,” says Barnard. As the owner of a small design studio, she prefers the grassroots approach over professional PR, because the authenticity is more representative of the actual experience her clients will have. “The primary benefit is I’ve maintained control over how I present myself to the world because it really is me. An overly polished, less personalized, sterile presence wouldn’t be a match for what they [the clients] are getting anyway. That level of refinement is not real.”

And some social butterflies just love the hustle. Gail Davis, principal at Gail Davis Designs, says she loves meeting people at events, and she’s gotten many opportunities by simply striking up a conversation. “You need to be authentically nice to people, not looking to get something, because you never know who will think about you for a job,” she says. “That’s how it has really worked out for me. We can all benefit by helping each other.”

Both designers stress that, especially if you forgo PR, professional photography is something you should never skimp on. “Snapshots on a job site for your Instagram feed—totally,” Barnard says, “but when it comes time to document your finished work, always hire a professional architectural photographers. A filter can only take you so far.” Davis agrees: “Pictures really tell a story and I want to make sure my story comes across clearly, and that person will think, Yes I need to work with her.”

Thanks to Architectural Digest, from their ADPRO online newsletter.

I am on hurricane watch right now …

Yes, it’s a fact – as I write this, hoping the power and my internet stay on, the eye of Hurricane Dorian is heading toward Florida. Walt Disney World is closed, the Orlando airport is closed and so are schools, businesses and many others.

Like most publicists when things get serious, we get busy.

Hurricanes and other weather issues, tragedies, unusual circumstances, holidays and other out-of-the-ordinary occurrences are times when our companies and clients need us the most.

Image result for closed due to hurricane sign

Here are a few examples:

  • You are closing when you are usually open, or the reverse (think Black Friday)
  • You have a message for your customers on how to stay safe
Image result for open during hurricane sign
  • Your products or services are essential to help others through (think gas stations, grocery stores, tree trimmers, etc.) and you are available.
  • Times or venues are being changed, but the event is still on. (think sporting events that are held outside )
  • Because of the occurrence you are doing something extraordinary like donating food or fundraising for others in need.
  • You want to reach out to your customers to say you are thinking of them and you care – this outreach can go to your entire audience, but be written for those being affected.
Image result for football game rescheduled
  • Times or venues are being changed, but the event is still on. (think sporting events that are held outside )
  • Because of the occurrence you are doing something extraordinary like donating food or fundraising for others in need.
  • You want to reach out to your customers to say you are thinking of them and you care – this outreach can go to your entire audience, but be written for those being affected.

A PR pro knows how to deploy the message – get it out, reach people who need to know and do it visually and with words chosen to have the right tone, at the right time.

Image result for open during hurricane sign

Members of the media, social media channels, direct communications and every normal communications channel are all pathways to get the message out, and do it right now.

PR tip: Don’t make your drama the focus – unless you have something useful to offer; don’t add to the noise.

But when possible and appropriate, humor is memorable, and how smart of Waffle House to be the one place we all look to for food and information!

Do You Have BLUE in your logo? Let’s Explore The Color of Trust!

Maybe this is why our corporate leaders wears so much blue?

What color is the logo of the organization you represent?  Do you share qualities with other brands of the same color?

According to Fast Company. “The implications of color’s effect on people’s emotions are far reaching, and understanding your customers’ connections to certain colors could increase the effectiveness of your company’s branding methods.”

Blue is often thought of as a male color, and since my father’s eyes were the most beautiful blue and this is his favorite month – Blue is this month’s color!

Note:  Over the decades I have worked on logo design, 99% of my male clients choose blue as their logo color of choice! Women tend to choose from all over the color chart.

 

logo color 2015 BLUE

Research complied by web design and marketing company WebPageFX, people make a subconscious judgment about a product in less than 90 seconds of viewing, and a majority of these people base that assessment on color alone. In fact, almost 85% of consumers cite color as the primary reason they buy a particular product, and 80% of people believe color increases brand recognition.”

What can be learned here?  I’d love to hear what you think!

With thanks to Fast Company for this great article –infographic from WebPageFX, written by Rachel Gillett.

Making Deals At Dinner – Much More Than Great Food

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

Dinner parties are “on par” with golf for being an opportunity to enhance and expand a relationship; and to make a deal.  

#1 – For you, the host and your staff this is not social, it is work.  Each person sits at a different table, with the skill to keep the conversation light and appropriate.  Training must include potential worst case scenarios, a few ‘what if’s”, how to steer away from topics that could ruin the mood and to steer toward key moments that make the event memorable. Plan the evening with your ultimate purpose in mind.

#2 – Low centerpieces, if any – low-ish lights, soft music and comfortable chairs are all a must.

#3 – Food that is easy to eat (BBQ ribs are a no-no), dietary options and not too much emphasis on the wine and cocktails.  

#4 – A beautiful, calm setting, a team that knows how to guide a successful evening and staying focused can turn a dinner into a deal.

Below is a wonderful article from Claire Hoffman in BizBash (with thanks), that asks the experts how to plan and execute a successful dinner event:

Small, seated dinners have long been a popular way for companies and brands to thank their employees or entertain V.I.P. clients in an intimate setting. But as any event planner knows, hosting an effective dinner takes much more than just gathering guests for a great meal.

While social dinner parties might be focused on reconnecting with friends, corporate dinners are usually a bit more strategic—the company wants to convey some sort of message to key stakeholders. As such, ease of communication is crucial, and that goal should bleed into everything from the decor and the catering to the seating chart and the timing of toasts.

“Corporate events [need to] think ahead to a sound system, a scripted message, and who is sitting next to whom to promote a positive networking environment,” explains David Merrell, the C.E.O. and creative director of AOO Events in Los Angeles. “There needs to be a certain return on investment for the money the company is spending [on this dinner].”

But that doesn’t mean the dinner needs to be all business, adds Christopher

Confero, the owner of Atlanta-based design firm Confero. “Just because it may be in a setting with fellow professionals, don’t forget to soften the space. Dim the lights, add beautiful decor pieces—anything that communicates to the guests they are appreciated and highly valued as employees and colleagues.”

Here are some more tips for creating effective dinners for corporate groups.

Design everything with the goal of facilitating conversations.
For seated dinners, centerpieces should either be below or above the sight line, so guests can talk throughout the meal. “If you place your elbow on the table and sit your chin on the palm of your hand, low decor should always be below that height,” says Confero. “If you raise your arm all the way up, tall decor should be above palm level there as well.”

It’s also important to avoid super-wide tables. “You want to be able to speak with the person across from you in a natural tone,” notes Jennifer Coman, the director of marketing and events for Los Angeles catering firm Haute Chefs L.A. “Comfortable chairs are also key, and something with a cushion is always appreciated.”

Entertainment-wise, it’s nice to have ambient noise in the background to cut down on awkward silences. Confero suggests live jazz music, or light music piped in through an audio system.

But if the event’s host wants more extensive entertainment, such as a performance of some sort, make sure it’s chosen with purpose. “If you are going to grab their attention away [from conversations], that distraction should be tying them back to the message, brand, or purpose of the event,” says Merrell.

Lighting is also an important consideration. “It is one of those things that when done well, it transforms the environment,” says Coman. “With corporate dinners, you need lighting that is not so dim that it feels like a club, but you don’t want it so bright that it feels medicinal.”

Confero suggests using a lot of candles on the table. “The more the better, with varying heights and varieties,” he explains. “Typically candles will be a bit cheaper than other centerpieces, and everyone looks ravishing in candlelight.”

Prep the event’s host on ways to keep the conversation flowing.
The dinner’s host should be responsible for keeping guests engaged and comfortable. One way to do that is with planned conversation topics. “With social or corporate dinners, many times guests aren’t familiar with the person sitting next to them,” says Merrell. “Lead questions from the host can break the silence, so always have some in your back pocket.”

Confero notes that this method also works if the party has multiple tables. One person seated at each table should be prepared with talking points. “Always put one large personality at each table,” he suggests. “If there is a lull in energy, they can jump in to pick things up. But be aware that you haven’t cast a bulldozer in this role—you don’t want someone dominating, only facilitating.”

One out-of-the-box way to facilitate conversation with a smaller group is the Jeffersonian Dinner method, where the entire table discusses one topic rather than having their own conversations with their seatmates. (BizBash covered this topic in a GatherGeeks podcast with Convers(ate) founders Taylor Buonocore Guthrie and Mollie Kinsman Khine.)

Toasts are also a great way for the host to thank everyone for coming and remind guests of the events’ purpose. “Make sure you have a sound system, or that the person giving the toast is loud enough for everyone to hear,” notes Merrell. “I also always encourage guests to not just toast with alcohol, wine, or champagne, but any drink that the guest has—you don’t want to promote drinking if [not all attendees] drink.”

As for timing, Coman says that toasts and other speeches should never be planned right before or during dessert. “We’ve seen it done, and you lose the crowd,” she says. “The best time for any ‘talking’ is going to be right when guests are getting warmed up and freshly seated, and between the first and second course.”

Think through the seating arrangements.
While assigned seating may be a good idea for dinner parties in general, it can be especially crucial for corporate dinners, says Merrell. “Meaningful business conversations and networking is one of the most important outcomes of the event,” he notes. “Seating configurations, the makeup of the guests attending, and the purpose of the gathering always dictate who is close to whom, and should always be considered separately from one event to the next.”

Confero adds that the client or host company should be involved in this process, since they know how best to group guests.

For dinners with multiple tables, it might make sense to play what Confero calls “a simple game of musical chairs.” “Each of your three courses is spent at a different table with various guests,” he explains. “It takes a bit more work for whoever is creating the seating arrangements—and of course on the kitchen and servers—but if you don’t have a large number of dietary restrictions it’s highly worth it to spend as much time as possible with different guests.”

Ask for dietary restrictions in advance—and keep catering simple.
In a corporate environment, it is especially important that guests with dietary restrictions don’t feel uncomfortable in front of their peers. “It is almost a given nowadays that you ask for restrictions such as allergies, gluten-free, or vegan,” says Merrell. “Asking up front sends the message that you care about the guests’ experience.”

With some exceptions depending on the group demographics, corporate dinners are usually not the time to get too experimental with catering. “Corporate dinners tend to stick more comfortably in the fish, chicken, and beef categories, and rarely venture beyond that,” says Merrell. Coman agrees. “Seated corporate dinners call for a plated, coursed meal with an option for restrictive diets and an easy switch-up for anyone with a serious allergy, for example. With our corporate clients, they always have a list of any executives that have allergies or dietary restrictions. In the rare case they do not [have a list], we work with our client to design a menu that is amenable to on-the-spot changes without sacrificing flavor,” she explains.

Like every other aspect of the dinner, though, food should never take away from the conversations. “You’d never want to be left ‘holding a skewer’ or having appetizers that take more than one easy bite in a corporate setting,” notes Coman. “It can cause for an awkward moment when needing to have a professional conversation.”

Confero agrees, adding that serving soup and pasta are not always the best idea. “There are always exceptions, but they are usually messy and loud,” he notes.

But, he adds, the dessert course may be a chance to get a bit more creative. “After a large meal, get guests up and moving around,” Confero suggests. “Make the dessert course something more relaxed and interactive. With space permitting, instead of serving the final course at the table, make it a couple stations scattered around the room.”

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

Have You Decorated … your social media channels?

10 Creative Marketing Ideas for the Holiday Season

Yes it is the holiday season, and nothing matters more the other times of year than our social media efforts, so include them in the holiday spirit too! #BennettHolidayMarketing  #HappyHolidays2018

As a long time PR professional, I am always looking for really great ideas, that are business-like yet have impact. 

Thanks to Wix (where I host the wwww.BennettandCo.com website), here is a list of 10 great and creative marketing ideas, and examples of how they were implemented for the Wix brand:

Months ahead of the holiday season, retail stores start decorating shelves with tinsel, candles and festive lights. It seems that every year, the holiday prep starts earlier and earlier. Call shop owners overeager, but planning ahead actually has its perks. This is especially the case when it comes to marketing. Planning for these predetermined dates can prevent your business from getting hit with unexpected snowballs – like last minute promotional campaigns, holiday re-designs, and battles with creative blocks.

As a small business owner, it’s worth taking a lesson or two from these retail giants. Although you’re going to need to put in some work, we promise that it will be nothing short of fun. That’s because we’ve included inspiration for holiday content for your website, decked-out social pages, creative newsletters and much more to dress up your business in festive and seasonal attire. And after you’ve implemented these holiday marketing strategies, your business will be just as jolly as a proudly-standing snowman (carrot nose and scarf included). So without further ado, here are 10 effective and fun marketing ideas you can implement on your site for the holiday season:

01. Decorate your social media channels

Just like putting up lights in your front yard or garnishing your front door, the point of decorating your social channels is to signal that your small business is well aware the holidays are in full swing. So, how will you begin? Pull out your digital arts and craft supplies and start creating some holiday content. For social media, upload a new cover photo that features a design of a simple festive image, a holiday wish written over a patterned background, or a promotion of a holiday sale. If you want to create your own designs, you can use a graphic design tool, like Canva, which allows you to choose your social media image size, then easily layer that base with customised photos, shapes, and text. Once you save your design, you can simply upload it to the corresponding social channel.

You can also use your FacebookInstagram, and Twitter profiles to post some holiday cheer. To create social posts, one effortless tool is Wix Social Posts because it enables you to simply pick a pre-sized, flawless design, then drag and drop your text, and add stickers (graphics) and images for a personalized look that speaks to your brand identity. Then, save and upload your design onto the social channels of your choice – or even onto your website. The type of content you can share is anything from upcoming events to promotions for the holiday season, such as contests, themed sales, and blog posts full of holiday inspiration. And don’t worry, we’ll cover all of these points and more in the tips to come. Just focus on filling your pages with joy and spirit for now.

holiday marketing ideas for social posts

02. Create a themed version of your logo

A logo certainly holds the core position of your business and branding efforts. It also represents your business’ personality – like Google’s playful color palette, for example (learn why they chose a green ‘L’ with this cool article about the stories behind famous logos). As an ambassador of your personality, it only makes sense that your logo reflect that your business is also celebrating it up during this holiday season. This holiday version can be as simple as replacing the dot on an ‘i or the letter ‘o’ with hanging lights or candles. Even if these letters don’t apply to you, you can incorporate a tinsel or glittery border into any design. Get as creative as you wish here.

If you don’t have a logo, not to worry we’ve got a solution. You can always turn to a trusted logo creation platform that can create a professional logo for you in seconds: Wix Logo Maker. All you need to do is simply answer a few questions about your company, industry, and style preferences. Then, watch the artificial intelligence technology work its magic and generate numerous logo options faster than you can wrap a present. And the best part is that they’re all completely customizable, which will allow you to make it as cheerful as you wish.

Creating a themed logo is a holiday marketing idea

03. Invent a festive hashtag

One proven way to get people talking about your brand is by creating a unique hashtag. In short, a hashtagis the combination of a ‘#’ symbol followed by a keyword or phrase that allows the accompanying post to become searchable. There are millions of popular hashtags that can certainly help with post engagement, particularly on Instagram and Twitter. However, a self-created seasonal hashtag or one related to a specific holiday date will stimulate a potentially viral campaign.

But first, let’s take a step back and discuss the phrase ‘user-generated content (UGC).’ This is the concept where everyday users create content for your business and share them online – essentially advertising your brand for you. Typically, these online posts are accompanied by hashtags, which funnel all of the UGC content to one central location. So, let’s make up an ultra specific campaign idea. For example, say you have a business, Ruth’s Vintage Apparel, and you want to host a costume contest. There are two requirements: participants must wear a clothing item from your online shop, and they must post about it using the hashtag #RuthsCostumeContest. This will generate hype around your brand because consumers will be enthusiastic to participate and check out the competition (hence, they will browse more of your posts for items from your store via the hashtag). It will also benefit your business by expanding your promotion reach much more than physically possible to do on your own.

04. Hold a competition

Anything from an ugly sweater contest, to a race to sign up for a free scented candle, will generate buzz around your business. It’s similar to the previously mentioned concept of creating a hashtag. User-generated content is certainly relevant here, as well, in order to spread the word about your company. Yet, the main difference between a hashtag and this strategy is that a contest needs to be incentivising. Whether you’re giving away a product, gift card, or featuring a customer on your website, you need to offer something in return to the chosen winner of your contest.

While the options of the type of contest you hold are endless, there are a couple of basic competition guidelines you should consider:

  • Set a clear goal: All that you do regarding your marketing strategy should have one clear goal in mind. Is it to get more followers on your Instagram account and Facebook page? Or is it to promote your newest holiday product? You’re going to want to come up with a game plan of how you can reach that goal. This includes everything from choosing the platform to researching the guidelines of hosting a contest there.
  • Entice your audience with a prize: Let’s face it. This is the entire reason consumers will be interested in playing. Whether it’s a gift card to your online store or a holiday gift (really, everyone loves scented candles), keep it relevant and in the spirit of your chosen festivity.
  • Include all of the rules: For legal purposes and overall transparency, this step cannot be neglected. Think about all the possible factors that go into your contest and write them down somewhere. It can certainly take up a lot of room on your social feed, so it might be worthwhile to make and link a PDF at the bottom of your contest post, include it as a section of your website or even create a one page website dedicated to the competition.
  • Promote your competition: Some promotional efforts are free (like email marketing), and others might cost you a bit of money (like Facebook advertising). Decide on your budget, content, and design. Then, throw your flyers into the wind.
  • Post about your winner: The final place you can truly make sure your first goal is met is by sharing the results. It’s the last opportunity you have to generate more content from your activity. So, make sure to create exciting content centered around your winner and company, and share it all around – your website, your blog, a newsletter, your social media, and more. Just don’t forget to get the winner’s permission first.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fwix%2Fvideos%2F10155805870270429%2F&show_text=0&width=560

05. Send a holiday shoutout

The most effective form of marketing proven again and again is email marketing. In fact, over 80% of retail professionals claim that email marketing drives customer acquisition and retention more than any other form of digital marketing – and yes, that number even takes social media into account. And the last, most important reason, is that it’s free or extremely cheap to send effective newsletters.

Have we convinced you to implement this holiday marketing idea yet? If so, send out a beautiful, easy-to-design and fully customisable email from your business’s own custom email address in order to make sure that your business looks as professional as possible to consumers this holiday season. If you’re a Wix user, you can easily send out a newsletter right from your account thanks to the all-in-one email solution, Wix ShoutOut. This tool allows you to customise your templates, sync your contacts, send out newsletters, then go back and track your stats to learn more about your community and how you can improve based on feedback and statistics.

When you prepare your email, include everything from the subject lineCTAs, and content, to themed images. (Here are some email marketing tips to get you started.) While crafting your email plan, make sure to think creatively, as you certainly won’t be the only business sending out a holiday email this year. You’re going to have to put in some work to stand out. Here are some creative examples for your inspiration:

  • Launch a countdown leading up to a specific holiday date: For example, you can list X number of products (with links to your online store) in descending order to entice readers to scroll through the whole email.
  • Animate with videos and GIFs: These are two engaging forms of content that will get visitors interested in your email.
  • Send a holiday gift: Anything from a voucher for an actual product to something much simpler, like a coupon or printable greeting card that they can share with their loved ones.
  • Announce a sales campaign: Sales are as inescapable as cut-out cookies during the holiday season. This is why you should considering creating a sales campaign for your eCommerce website.
  • Give out warm holiday wishes: Create a digital greeting card with a festive photo of you or your team – including your pets if you have any (because really that’s what people care about the most).

Wix Shoutout Email holiday marketing ideas

06. Highlight a sale on your website with a Lightbox

No, we aren’t talking about the box of string lights you stored away from last year, although we are sure that you can find something festive to do with those, too. Digitally speaking, a lightbox is an interactive message that appears on your website immediately upon a visitor’s arrival and then prompts them to take a specific action. So, if you’re hosting a sale, this is the perfect way to ensure that you’ve grabbed your audience’s attention. When you create a Lightbox for your Wix website, you can customize everything, including content, colors, fonts, layout and background images. This way, you can create a specific design to suit the holiday theme that you want to target. In addition, it’s possible to personalize the call-to-action (CTA) for your lightbox, such as a signup form to receive your sale discount or a link to your store’s sale page.

07. Write a festive blog post

Hmm… We wonder where we got this idea from? You can certainly take this article as an example for a holiday marketing blog post idea. Furthermore, not only is blogging a great practice to increase your SEO efforts, it’s also something that your customers will appreciate. If you don’t have a blog already, creating one is easy with this step-by-step blog guide. Here you can highlight anything holiday related at your company: a sale, a holiday gift or recipe guide, or a countdown of something. Then, once you’ve completed it, make sure to share your posts on your social media channels and marketing emails.

08. Wrap up your year with content

We can all learn from Spotify’s Wrapped Campaign. The music streaming platform used an algorithm to compile playlists for the top songs and artists of the past 12 months in order to ‘wrap up’ their year. You can use this awesome marketing campaign as inspiration for your business, whether it’s a list of best-selling products, the top social media posts, or other successful stats like new email subscribers and followers on Instagram. You can proudly display those results in any form you choose: an infographic, a blog post, Instagram Story, video, or Facebook post. This is one piece of content that can be promoted everywhere. It’s your time to flaunt the outcomes of your hard work and celebrate what your company has done this year.

09. Shoot a themed video

Consumers are 85% more likely to buy a product after watching a video about it. This and many other video marketing statistics explain why video content is the way of the future. If you’re scrambling to find a topic or theme to create a video about, then the holidays is the perfect excuse. Some ideas include describing a product, giving a behind-the-scenes look at your business, or ‘writing’ a blog post in video form. Just remember to make it festive 🙂

Based on the latest social media trends, it’s apparent that short videos are much more effective than their long-form counterparts. So, don’t stress about creating one longer than a minute, or even 10 seconds for that matter. You can turn to one of the many different video creation platforms to start building your mini film, like Magisto and iMovie. Once you complete your creation, save it, then share it on YouTube, Facebook, and your website. With Wix Video, you can effortlessly upload videos from YouTube or Facebook to your site, showcase them in stunning layouts, and then track their success through detailed stats.

10. Create a holiday Pinterest board

Pinterest and holiday inspiration go together like hot chocolate and marshmallows. That’s why the holiday season is one reason to create an account on the platform and start using it for the excellent benefits it provides, like growing a community, increasing brand awareness, and driving traffic to your website. Pinterest is a visual discovery tool that allows you to find and share ideas for projects. Here, users can follow accounts, brands, businesses, and boards.

Pinterest Boards are the backbone of the platform, and each one represents a different category. You can create as many as you like on any topics you like. That’s why filling a holiday-themed board is an excellent way to bring in the festivities. Use this as a chance to share anything related to your company in holiday version, from recipes to beauty products, gift guides, infographics, design inspiration, and so much more. New to Pinterest? This guide explains everything you need to know about using Pinterest for your business.

Ready to hang some lights and sprinkle fake snow all over the Internet? Create a stunning website with Wix today!

 

Jennifer Kaplan
By Jennifer Kaplan
Community Writer, Wix About the Wix Blog

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.

Social Media is an every day task – here is the ultimate social media checklist

Feeling swamped by the endless ‘things-to-do’ for social media?  Think of it this way… the more you do the better you do… the bigger and better the results.  So start with a little organization and things will be smoother.

TIP:  Saturday is one of the best days for getting your posts read, don’t limit them to weekdays only.

See the terrific chart on this blog?  It’s from Social Media Today, one of my go-to sites for smart advice.  Print it out and use it for a week and see the difference.

Now you can go beyond this and think bigger and better.  Like what?  Consider these additional bits of guidance:

Your starting place – do a quick communications audit.  Are your colors right?  Do your key words line up on all platforms?  Establish a benchmark number of how much engagement you are really getting… and then beat it, and elevate it and be proud of the difference this is making in sales.

Exhale, remember success of any kind does not follow a straight line, and enjoy the process.

40% of US Consumers Began Holiday Planning and Shopping YESTERDAY! And… a terrific infographic

The Importance of Holiday Marketing in October – Less Cost +More Results

According to recently published research from Adroll, marketers should definitely consider launching their holiday campaigns in October (or mid-August for PR) in order to maximize performance and response.

Instagram Connects You With Your Younger (and Future) Customer

Instagram for Business: Everything You Need to Know

Instagram is a mobile photo-sharing app and social network. It was created in 2010, and in 2012, Facebook purchased it for $1 billion. According to Instagram, more than 500 million people use it daily, and it has more than 800 million monthly active users.

Instagram is photo- and video-centric. Users can edit and post images and short videos, record Instagram stories, and go live with video. Before using Instagram for your business, here is what you should know.

Although it can be viewed on a desktop, Instagram is primarily a mobile app, so you need to download it before you can sign up for an account. Instagram is free in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play store.

To sign up, you can either connect your Instagram account to Facebook or enter your email.

You will want to convert your brand’s Instagram profile to a business account to receive access to analytics and insights. To do this, you’ll need to connect the account with your business’s Facebook page by following the in-app prompts from the Switch to Business Profile option under Settings.

Once your Instagram account is created, you can go to the Profile tab and tap the Edit Your Profile button to change your name, username and profile picture, or to add a website and a short biography. To change the app’s settings, tap the gear button on the top right corner.

When you open the app, you’ll be taken to the home page. Here, you’ll see an endless stream of posts from the users you follow, sponsored posts based on your interests and your own posts, if you’ve added any.

  • Home button: This takes you to your home page or your feed.
  • Search tab: This tab helps you find interesting content and users to follow. Using the search bar, you can look for certain content, users or hashtags. If you don’t tap a category (People, Tags or Places), the app defaults to Top, which shows the most popular results for that search term. You will also see a horizontally scrolling row of photos called Trending Tags and, below that, a feed of popular posts, called Explore Posts. These features are great ways to find other people and brands whose interests align with yours, and following users with similar content may even earn you some followers.
  • Add button: With this button, you can add a new photo from your gallery, take a photo or shoot a short video.
  • Heart button: On the activity page (heart tab), you’ll see two tabs at the top of the page: Following and You. The You tab is the default; this is where you can see recent notifications showing who has followed you or liked your photos, comments other users have left on your photos or mentioned you in, and posts you’ve been tagged in. When you switch to the Following tab, you’ll see recent activity from the users you’re following – other photos they’ve liked or commented on and users they’ve followed.
  • Profile: Your Profile tab is where you can see all your posts and story highlights, edit your profile and update your settings.
  • Geotagging: Instagram allows you to add your location to your photos when you post them. Adding your location to photos displays that location above your photo in each post that has been geotagged. You can toggle your location on and off before posting an image.

To post a new photo, tap the add (camera) button on the bottom of your screen. This will open your phone’s camera, and you can either take a new photo or record a short video, or select one from your camera roll.

Upon clicking Next, you’ll be taken to a screen with multiple options, including Instagram’s filters and an Edit button, which allows you to adjust the photo by changing the brightness, contrast, structure, warmth, saturation, color, fade, highlights and shadows. You can also add a vignette or tilt-shift the picture.

Once you’ve edited the photo to your liking, click Next. Then you can write a caption to describe the picture, add a location to geotag it, tag people and share it on other social media platforms. You also have the option to turn off comments, found at the bottom of the Advanced Settings page.

Before posting public photos, business owners should consider adding hashtags to their picture for optimal exposure. If you want to change or add something after you’ve published a post, tap the ellipses (…) button on that post and select Edit to update the caption or add a location or tags. You can also share the post on other social networks or delete the post if you’re unhappy with it.

Now that you know how to create a profile and post photos, here are the different ways you can use Instagram to promote your business.

Instagram Stories are photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. At the top of the home page is a horizontal bar featuring photos of the people you follow and one for yourself. When you select the photo of yourself, it opens another screen with eight options to add to your story.

  • Normal: With the normal option, you can take a regular, still photo.
  • Live: This is for live videos.
  • Type: Type is the only option that doesn’t require a photo or video. Instead, you can choose from different background colors and fonts and type whatever is on your mind.
  • Boomerang: This option creates a GIF.
  • Superzoom: Superzoom allows you to zoom in during a video with dramatic sound effects.
  • Rewind: Rewind lets you post a video to your story that’s in reverse.
  • Hands-free: Records a video without requiring you to hold down the record button.
  • Stop motion: With this feature, you can take a long series of photos and Instagram turns the photos into a GIF.

With all options, you can draw, type and place stickers and polls on photos and videos. These features are very similar to those on Snapchat, so if you’re familiar with that platform, it should make it much easier to navigate. Instagram stories are a great way to promote a new product, give a behind-the-scenes look at your business or show a new blog post.

With Stories Highlights, you can group stories together into highlights and feature the groups on your profile below your bio. Highlights stay on your profile until you remove them. To edit or remove a highlight, just tap and hold it. Instagram also automatically saves your stories when they expire and keeps them in the Stories Archive, which is accessible on your profile.

In addition to Instagram Stories, users can take and stream live video that disappears – sort of like a combination between Facebook Live and Snapchat. You can give customers a live look behind the scenes of interesting aspects of your business, show products or answer live questions through the comments.

Once the video ends, it lives on your Instagram stories where it stays for 24 hours. If you want video that remains on your Instagram feed, you can upload video you’ve taken or shoot video directly through the app to post. If you choose to shoot or upload video, you can still add filters and change the cover. You also have the option of including sound.

There are many ways to interact with other users on Instagram. For instance, you can tag other users in your photos or privately message people.

  • Liking: Liking is a simple way to connect with other users. To like a photo, either double-tap the image or tap the heart button under the post.
  • Commenting: Next to the Like button is a Comment button – just tap it, and the app will take you to the Comments page for that photo with a text box where you can enter what you want to say and hit Post when it’s complete.
  • Mentioning: As on Twitter, you can use the @ symbol to tag other users in your Instagram comments or post captions.
  • Tagging: Instagram allows you to add tags before you post an image or video. To do so, tap the Tag People option before sharing your photo, and then tap where in the photo you’d like to add a tag. The app then prompts you to type in the person’s name to search for his or her account. Once you’ve tagged other users in your photo and shared the image, other users can tap on the photo to see the people who are tagged.
  • Direct messaging: To access Instagram Direct, go to the home page and tap the button in the top right corner. Here, you can send private instant messages, photos and videos to other users. To send a new direct message (DM), tap the + button in the top right corner, and select Send Photo or Video, or Send Message. Once you’ve sent the message, you and the recipients can message back and forth. Users who are not already following you will be asked whether they want to allow you to send them photos and videos before they can view your direct message

Using hashtags is a great way to help other users find your content on Instagram. Hashtags can include letters and numbers, but they can’t contain any non-numerical characters. For example, #DaveAndBusters works as a hashtag, but #Dave&Busters does not.

Because users can both search for hashtags and click on hashtags they see in posts in the app, using relevant hashtags can be a highly effective tool for getting noticed. However, make sure you’re using the right hashtags for your brand and don’t go overboard.

Hashtags such as #nofilter (a photo that hasn’t been heavily edited with filters), #selfie (a picture of yourself) and #tbt or #throwbackthursday (old photos) are all incredibly popular on Instagram, but they may not work for you or your brand. It’s a good idea to look at other established brands or even personal users and bloggers in your industry for examples of what to do when it comes to hashtags.

Instagram allows a maximum of 30 hashtags in a post or comment, but using that many would be excessive. The fewer hashtags you can use to get quality responses, the better. Using a lot of popular hashtags might earn you a lot of likes from other users, but it probably won’t increase your following all that much, and the interactions you get will likely not be from people who are interested in your brand but rather those who just saw and liked your image.

Once you understand hashtags, you can branch out and experiment to find which ones work best for your brand. It’s also smart to create a custom hashtag for your business or even an event you’re hosting. This way customers can use hashtags, and it’ll be easy to find their posts as well.

Like other social channels, businesses have the option to advertise on Instagram. There are three formats for advertising:

  • Photo Ads: These look like regular photo posts, but they have a Sponsored label above the photo. They also have a Learn More button in the bottom-right corner, under the photo.
  • Video Ads: Like the photo ads, these look like regular video posts, but with a Sponsored label on top.
  • Carousel Ads: These ads look identical to photo ads but feature multiple photos that users can swipe through.

All three ad formats appear in users’ home feeds. These ads support four objectives: video views, click-throughs to your website, mobile-app installations and mass awareness.

For more information about advertising on Instagram, go here.

Not sure how you can use Instagram for your business? Try some of these cool strategies:

Show off your products or services. Take pictures of cool new products as you get them in, or share pictures of your most popular products. Or, if you run a service business, like a hair salon or a restaurant, take the time to take photos of your work.

Go behind the scenes. Take pictures and videos to show how your products or goods are made, especially if the process is unique or interesting, or something customers ask about often. This not only provides interesting content for your Instagram account, but it shows your customers and followers exactly what goes on in the background.

Include your employees. Make your brand’s Instagram page more personal by including your employees in your posts. Share pictures of your team members hard at work or having fun at company outings.

Ask your customers to show off their photos. Put your Instagram handle and custom hashtags on your products or promotional materials to encourage customers to tag you when they share photos of your product, service or work. This way, other users who want to know where it came from can find you easily. Just make sure you’re checking them out, liking them and commenting on them.

Post exclusive deals on your Instagram. Give back to your Instagram followers by offering them discounts for following you. Share an image with instructions on how to use the deal. For example, you can create a coupon code users input when purchasing something on your website. Another option is you can ask users (when they’re paying for a product or service in-person) to show that they follow you. This will make your followers feel special, and it’s likely to get them telling their friends about your business, too.

To get the most out of your Instagram account, keep these tips in mind:

Links don’t work in Instagram captions. The only place you can share a working link that actually takes users to a website is in your profile. Links don’t work in captions or photo comments, so if you’re trying to direct people to a specific web page, you can change the default link in your bio to that particular page and note in the caption that the link is on your profile.

Make sure your posts relate to your brand. It can be tempting to share photos of food, fashion and animals because they’re so popular on the platform, but if your business has nothing to do with those things, this could make your social marketing look disjointed and confuse your followers. However, if you can find a way to incorporate pictures like these while still making them relevant to your business, it could make your social marketing strategy more successful.

Run giveaways and promotions. Post an image advertising your giveaway, sale or contest, and ask users to repost that image with a specific, custom hashtag to enter. You can then search that hashtag to see who has reposted it and pick a winner. Promotions like this allow your customers and followers to market your brand for you by talking about your promotion on their personal pages, and it drives more people to visit your profile.

Respond to other users’ comments. When people comment on your photos, reply to them. Interacting with customers and followers shows that you are paying attention and that you care about whether they see your photos and what they say. They’ll be more likely to continue following you and interacting with your pictures if they feel like they matter.

Embed Instagram posts on your website. From the desktop version of Instagram, you can get an embed code to add specific images and videos to your company’s website. This can show visitors that you’re active on Instagram and help you gain more followers. Just select the photo you want to embed, click the ellipses button in the bottom right corner and select Embed. This pulls up a box with the embed code and gives you the option of whether you want to display the caption. From there, copy and paste the code where you want it to go on your website.

Use Instagram influencers to promote your business. Influencers are people who have a large following on Instagram. You can pay influencers to market your products to their followers in a natural way. These sponsored posts typically are subtle and don’t look like an ad. This is helpful because people typically hate advertisements.

The War For Talent Hinges on the Workplace Experience

The United States is a nation built on hard work. Even with technology increasing workforce productivity, an amplified advocacy for work-life balance, and the proliferation of non-standard work schedules, Americans, on average, still clock in a 40+-hour work week , and more than 83% still work primarily at the office.

At one time, workplace efficiency and selection was based almost exclusively on costs and proximity to employees’ (if not solely executives’) homes.

Today, providing a compelling workplace experience is an important way for companies to attract, retain and engage employees, as well as express the brand.

This article was written by workplace expert Jeff Lessard, a senior managing director in Cushman & Wakefield’s Global Business Consulting Group, it was first published with this photo of Unilever’s offices, in Connect, last month.

In our work with clients across all industries we see a clear trend—one that differs in meaningful ways from the traditional office environment. Today’s professionals crave agile workplaces that support the full range of activities across the work day, as well as authentic spaces that feel more like home or a boutique hotel than an office.

Ranked first in Fortune’s 2018 100 Best Companies to Work For list, Salesforce implemented an Ohana Design–influenced by Hawaiian culture–across the company’s global workplaces. The offices feature residential-like furnishings, environmentally-friendly interior materials, and designated quiet space for recharging.

In another example, Hyatt recently debuted its new Downtown Chicago headquarters designed to enhance flexibility and cross-team collaboration. Unveiled in 2017, it was designed to reflect the experience that customers have while visiting a Hyatt property. Indeed, “Experiential” is the keyword for the award-winning space.

Both these workplaces reflect the “resimercial,” workplace trend, which infuses comfort and familiarity into commercial office spaces. Key characteristics of this workplace strategy include diversity of furniture, a design that encourages serendipitous interactions, an ecosystem of amenities, easy flow between hospitality and work areas, and frictionless working for guests.

What’s special about the “resimercial” workplace is that it’s universal. It can be applied in offices of varying size, location and operational needs.

Unilever—a global consumer goods company that includes brands such as Lipton, Dove, Klondike and Hellmann’s—recently renovated its North American headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, NJ to enhance the employee experience, in part through a resimercial workplace strategy across its 325,000-square-foot campus. (see photo above)

The buildings are centered around a main atrium that is pierced with a variety of exciting spaces, comparable to a boutique hotel or a coworking space’s lobby. With its new look and feel, Unilever’s campus continues to create an exciting work environment that has increased engagement among existing employees, and has served as a differentiator in the eyes of prospective talent.

Employees’ attachment to their employers is not what it used to be. A 2018 study from Robert Half found that 64% of professionals polled think changing roles every few years can be beneficial—a 22% increase from a similar survey conducted in 2014. These findings lean even further against employers for employees ages 18 to 34.

To attract, retain, and engage top talent, companies must invest in workplace strategies that fit their business aspirations, work flow, culture, and appetite for change. If not, they will fall behind in the War for Talent.

Panels that WOW – whether you are the organizer or a speaker

Have you ever…

…had a panel moderator who liked the sound of his own voice a little too much?

…sat through a discussion where one of the panelists hogged the stage so other panelists never got to speak?

…watched as the audience wasted time with a bunch of irrelevant questions?

A great panel moderator fixes that!  See the 28 tips below, thanks to MeetingsNet, written by Need James

accomplishment achievement adult african

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

But not all moderators are great. You need to focus on finding a moderator who will create the best experience for your audience by educating, entertaining, and interacting with them.

At your next event, implement a BDA (that’s just my way of saying before, during, and after) process, and ask your moderator to consider the following strategies:

Before the panel:

  • Create bullet points for discussion and share with the panelists.
  • Organize a conference call so the panelists can connect.
  • Get photos, social media information, and short biographies of panelists.
  • Provide three questions to panelists in advance to help them prepare.
  • Keep those questions contextual so panelists can be flexible in their responses.
  • Prepare case studies and examples you can add to complement panelist input.
  • Manage logistics: i.e., make sure everyone has water, individual microphones, and seating, and advise panelists to silence their cellphones.
  • Determine the social media strategy: What hashtag are you using? Who will manage questions that are tweeted by audience members?
  • Determine the seating and speaking order; begin with a strong panelist.

During the panel

  • Kristin Arnold, a Certified Professional Facilitator, says, “Start with something interesting to get your audience to lean in to the topic. A simple tactic is to take a poll so that you and the panelists can focus attention on what really matters to the audience.”
  • Make the first question easy, and allow the audience to get to know your panelists.
  • When asking a question, direct your attention to the panelist and then look out into the audience (that will encourage the panelist to look at the audience when they respond).
  • Advise the audience about social media guidelines and what the hashtags are.
  • Encourage the audience to share learnings from the panel on their social channels.
  • Project the panel’s contact information, social media profiles, and conference hashtag on the screen for people to easily connect and tag them.

Managing the panel

  • Keep questions contextual—don’t let panelists stray.
  • Ask them to focus all their responses to benefit the audience.
  • Shut down any sales pitches of products and services.
  • Provide a variety of good and bad examples and case studies for the audience (don’t just share good news case studies).
  • Allow the panel to talk to each other (and over each other a little, but not to be rude).
  • Allow debate, not stage hogging.

Managing the audience

  • Always repeat the question for the benefit of the audience and the panelists.
  • Ask audience members to state their name before they ask their questions.
  • Ask audience members to ask questions that the whole room will benefit from.
  • Use microphones for all questions.

After the panel

  • Share the panelists’ contact information with the audience again.
  • Encourage the audience to meet the panelists one on one.
  • Send thank you notes to the panelists.

Having just been at a conference that schedules one panel after another, the ones that prepare like recommended above are the ones that WOW the audience, and are memorable.

Whenever possible use visuals on dual screens beside the panel stage – tutor your panelists to have slides and images that can be photographed, use large type and have lots of definition.  Please no gray type and gobs of copy – remember if you are wowing the audience they’ll be using their cell phones to photograph these images and posting across the web.

Think about what you ask them to wear, seating arrangements, microphone testing, sound levels and signage – all the better for those social media posts that will amplify your message and give you reportable results!

 

Turn Those Upset Customers Around: Best Practices For Customer Service Recovery

How do Marriott employees handle angry customers?  They call it LEARN, at Starbucks it’s called LATTE (of course) … both offer excellent examples of how to respond when there is a need for effective and immediate customer service.

In the article below Micah Solomon calls it “customer service recovery’.  Whatever term is used, it’s more important than ever to resolve a customer issue before it hits social media and you have to work much harder to erase a bad image.

Turn Those Upset Customers Around:

Best Practices For Customer Service Recovery

Every business needs a framework for customer service recovery–a sequence of best practices–for those times when the situation hits the fan and the customer hits the roof.

Before I get to my recommended customer service recovery framework, let’s talk about why you need one.

First, because even in the best of times, it’s hard for most of us to improvise entirely from scratch, without a framework to guide us and to fall back upon.

Second, because a situation that calls for service recovery is far from the best of times. When things haven’t gone smoothly, and a customer is upset, you’re likely feeling embarrassed or defensive, or put-upon, or angry (or all of these, at once). With so much emotion flying around, it’s hard for even the most seasoned and equanimous customer service professionals among us to do their best.

Third, because some of our human instincts are flat-out wrong, and need to be moderated or even turned around by what has, over time, proven to work in these situations; for example, getting past the tendency of professionals, including customer service professionals, to want to decide for themselves what an appropriate solution entails, rather than taking the time to get there together with the customer.

Every great business has a framework for customer service recovery. At Starbucks (where they have an acronym for most everything, to help employees mentally walk through the steps when struggling with a situation), it’s LATTE:

Listen to the customer

Acknowledge the problem/situation

Take action and solve the problem

Thank the customer

Explain what you did

At Marriott, it’s LEARN:

Listen

Empathize

Apologize

Respond

Notify

At the triple Five Star Broadmoor resort in Colorado, it’s HEART:

Hear

Empathize

Apologize

Respond

Take Action

Follow up (Yeah, maybe this means it should be HEARTF, but that’s a lot less effective as a mnemonic.)

Any one of these time-tested sequences will stand you in good stead.  And, as you’ve probably noticed, they’re all pretty similar.

However, if you’re not already hooked on a competing system, let me brazenly offer you my own five-step AWARE™ service recovery framework, devised and refined during my time working with great companies as a customer service consultant, listening to the concerns of thousands of customers, and observing the best practices used by hundreds of customer service professionals in such situations.

If you’d like printable version of this, email me at micah@micahsolomon.com and I’m happy to hook you up. (This is an update of prior versions I’ve published in these pages and elsewhere.)

Micah’s AWARE System for Customer Service Recovery

Acknowledge

Widen

Agree

Resolve

Evaluate

Acknowledge

• Immediately stop whatever you’re doing.

• Acknowledge the situation and apologize sincerely. Even if you have no reason to think you’re at fault, you can—and should—start off by immediately apologizing for the confusion or the situation. Convey that you recognize and regret what your customer has been through.

Note: If this situation calls for a larger apology (by which I mean that the customer feels it calls for such an apology, whether or not you think it does), make it a real apology, not a fake “I’m sorry if you feel that way.” The key to an effective apology, to getting back on the right foot with your customer, is to convey from the very outset that you are going to take the customer’s side and share the customer’s viewpoint.

• Don’t interrupt with questions or explanations.

• Learn more about the situation by probing for what the customer is specifically upset about; encourage and assist the customer in explaining what’s gone wrong from the customer’s point of

• Widen your viewpoint to be open to the “other side” or a different/unexpected side of the situation: a viewpoint that is not only different than yours, but may be one that you had never thought of in this context before.

• Include your customer in the process of developing a solution that works for them (and is something that is possible for you).

Note: You may, in the course of this widening step, discover that the customer is entirely mistaken in their assumptions about the cause of the situation, but under no circumstances—other than safety- or health-related misunderstandings—should you baldly say that the customer is wrong.

Agree

• Assure your customer that you take their concerns seriously, and that you will personally and immediately take definitive action.

• Spell out the agreed-on solution to your customer, as you understand it.

• Commit to exactly what you will do to resolve the issue, and by when.

Repair

• Take care of the issue as promised.

• Follow up with anyone you assigned it to.

• Follow up with the customer to ensure all is well.

Evaluate

• Document the error in two separate places, both of them important:

a) the customer’s profile

b) your company’s QC (quality control) system.

• Examine the error with an eye toward identifying systemic issues and choke points (for example, repeated complaints of long lines on Tuesdays).

• Strive to learn from the error and, where appropriate, to make it a part of staff training and systems.

Reprinted in its entirety with permission from Micah Solomon.

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.

Do You Know Your Lemons? … and other #creative hashtag campaigns

Thank you Sprout Social for this well written article about engaging your customers through creative hashtag campaigns. #lovethis!

The hashtag frenzy has been an important element in the rise of social media. It’s hard to achieve true brand awareness without at least one or two hashtags in your repertoire.

Not only does the right hashtag help you to connect with targeted audiences on social media, but a branded hashtag can also help give life to your digital identity, providing additional reach, impact and personality.

With approximately 81% of Americans using social media in 2018, companies can’t afford to overlook one of the most important resources in social.

But it’s not always as easy as it looks to craft, create and strategize your hashtag campaign. But don’t worry–we have you covered. To help inspire you for your next hashtag campaign, let’s look at eight creative campaigns in the last year or so:

1. #KnowYourLemons: Worldwide Breast Cancer

Often the best branded campaigns on social media are those with an important and meaningful purpose. In 2017, the Worldwide Breast Cancer organization launched its hashtag campaign #KnowYourLemons to convince women to check their breasts for signs of cancer more frequently.

The catchy concept went viral almost instantly. It was a fun and interesting way to give women the important information they needed to spot the lesser-known symptoms of cancer. The charity launched its own Facebook member’s page where people could take part in conversations about the subject. This extra step made the experience more engaging for everyone involved.

#KnowYourLemons Infographic

What We Loved About It:

The creativity in this hashtag campaign was a fantastic way to raise awareness for an important cause. However, the most exciting element of the strategy was that it made crucial information accessible to everyone. You didn’t need a doctorate or a high literacy level to learn more about breast cancer.

Using a light-hearted concept to convey a message about a serious subject, the Worldwide Breast Cancer group exceeded their Just Giving fundraising target by 317%.

2. #TeamVisa: Visa

At the beginning of 2018, Visa jumped on the Olympic fever bandwagon for the winter games. Since 2000, Visa has earned a reputation for accepting athletes around the globe into its “Team Visa” program. The program provides people with the resources they need to achieve their sporting ambitions. Ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics, Visa launched a special campaign to demonstrate how athletes can get involved with #TeamVisa.

The great thing about Visa’s campaign is that it takes advantage of a trending topic to draw attention to an existing product. The company teamed up with influencers who were sure to get plenty of attention around the winter games. Everyone from Billy Morgan to Elise Christie got involved.

3. #BrandBowl: Twitter

While there are 330 million monthly active users on Twitter, some experts suggest this social media platform isn’t seeing as much growth as its competitors. Fortunately, the channel decided to tackle this problem with a hashtag campaign of their own at the beginning of 2018.

Twitter announced at the end of January they would launch their #BrandBowl campaign alongside the Super Bowl. This was perfect timing to be involved with one of the most talked-about events on social media. The #BrandBowl campaign was a social contest designed to award companies for different achievements, like:

  • The brand with the highest number of tweets
  • The brand with the highest tweet per minute score
  • The brand with the most retweets

View image on Twitter

What We Loved About It:

To help improve engagement, Twitter combined the excitement of a social media contest with the appeal of an important trending topic. #BrandBowl gamified the concept of talking about companies, to ensure that everyone was chatting on Twitter during one of the most important sporting events of the year.

4. #ORIGINALis: Adidas

2017 was a highly successful year for Adidas. The company managed to cement its position as both a fashion icon and thought leader with its #ORIGINALis hashtag campaign. The promotion centered around the new Adidas Originals line, and asked people to re-think the concept of being unique.

Adidas partnered with some of the biggest names in the hip-hop world, including Stormzy, Snoop Dogg and ASAP Ferg to promote their new lineup. The brand even created a video to help link its products back to the idea of hip-hop culture.

What We Loved About It:

The first thing that makes the #ORIGINALis hashtag campaign so effective is it’s targeted appeal to Adidas fans. On top of that, in a world where influencer marketing is one of the best ways to generate trust for a company, Adidas managed to partner with some of the most influential figures in the hip-hop environment.

Overall, Adidas just goes to show that the best brand hashtags can help to establish credibility for a company and elevate its position in any marketplace.

5. #WeAccept: Airbnb

Sometimes the best brand hashtags are the simplest. And that’s certainly the case with Airbnb’s campaign from 2017 revolving around the hashtag #WeAccept. This popular branded hashtag was a great way for the travel giant to share the universal nature of their company while showing their support for a crucial ethical issue.

The campaign began with an inspirational video posted on the Airbnb branded social media feed. It continued with a selection of emotional photos delivered by people from different backgrounds and places around the world.

What We Loved About It:

It’s not always easy to produce an effective political campaign. This is particularly true on social media where everyone has an opinion that they’re ready to share. Fortunately, this hashtag campaign saw an incredible response, with hundreds of thousands of supportive likes and comments.

The theme of acceptance helped Airbnb to present themselves as a more approachable and authentic company on social media.

6. #WhatsInYourBag: RYU

People don’t just visit social media for information and news. We also use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to add a little bit of fun into our lives! That’s why building an Instagram hashtag campaign around a giveaway or competition can be such a great idea for building engagement. Ryu did this with #WhatsInYourBag campaign.

Ryu’s campaign was a great example of a social photo contest that leveraged the trend of Instagram Stories to increase their follower count to well over 20,000.

What We Loved About It:

Hashtag campaigns with gamified elements like competitions or giveaways are a great way to build engagement for a company and encourage your customers to share user-generated content on your behalf. Ryu’s branded hashtag prompted people to share more photos in relation to the brand. This instantly expanded awareness for the company and helped to add a little fun to their identity.

7. #TrippinWithTarte: Tarte Cosmetics

It seems like everyone is investing in the power of influencer marketing lately and Tarte Cosmetics are no exception. In 2017, the company flew a gang of fitness and makeup influencers to an island off the coast of Australia and followed up with them with plenty of Instagram-able excursions like candlelit dinners, yoga, hikes and more.

The hashtag #TrippinWithTarte also encouraged followers of the makeup brand to get involved with their own outdoor experiences, sharing photos that highlighted the versatile nature of the company.

What We Loved About It:

Not only did this creative campaign give Tarte Cosmetics plenty of great content to share on social, it also presented a great opportunity to reach out to new audiences. The influencers were all picked carefully based on their follower count and industry niche, meaning that Tarte could connect with thousands of new users within a matter of weeks!

8. #OpenYourWorld: Heineken

During 2017, Heineken decided to follow the trend of using social media to shed a light on important social concepts by conducting their very own experiment. The beer company used #OpenYourWorld to see how easy it was for people with opposite social and political views to accept each other when they went through a series of team-building activities together.

When everyone at the end of the experience shared their political or social views with the other, Heineken offered them the opportunity to share a beer and discuss their differences–something they all chose to accept.

What We Loved About It:

The #OpenYourWorld hashtag campaign addressed a meaningful concept in a new and heartwarming way. The first video achieved around 3 million views within the first week of its launch and around 50,000 shares in its first month too.

Heineken shows how addressing an important idea with your social media campaign can help to get people talking about your brand and strengthen new relationships.

 SproutSocial.com is one of my go-to resources for smart writing and great ideas – consider adding them to your must-read list too.

Then the assistant asked “what’s your favorite vegetable?”

https://www.fastcompany.com/40465774/10-questions-for-getting-to-know-your-direct-reports-faster?utm_source=postup&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Fast%20Company%20Daily&position=8&partner=newsletter&campaign_date=09182017

The other day my hairdresser’s new assistant asked me what my favorite vegetable was.  I thought she was asking in some context related to hair, but she told me she had a series of questions she was using to open conversations with the salon’s customers and thus improve her communication skills too.  That was a first, and it worked as we went on to talk about other topics and got to know one another.

The link above will take you to a Fast Company piece on using 10 questions you can use to get to know your team better… you might even learn they love artichokes!

When you hire a new team or inherit someone else’s, your first instinct as a manager might be to assess the situation for the best way to move forward–and fast. But if you aren’t careful, you’ll create more problems than solutions for you and your new team. Before you start diagnosing your team’s challenges and look for ways to improve, it’s crucial to take a step back and get to know your new direct reports.

The key is to learn how to support your team in the most effective way for them, not just for you. To do that, you have to listen first, diagnose second. Just as in relationships outside the workplace, the better you get to know someone, the better you can collaborate. That takes time, but there’s one way to jump-start the process: These 10 questions can help you quickly take the pulse on your new team members and their hopes for you as a manager.

1. WHAT ARE SOME FEATURES OF YOUR BEST WORKING RELATIONSHIPS WITH PREVIOUS MANAGERS?

Knowing what qualities your team admires in a manager can help you quickly adjust your style for each direct report. You may learn that they crave autonomy, or that they prefer more active support. This can help you graduate from instinctively providing the management support you prefer to intentionally providing the management support they prefer.

Plus, asking your team to describe traits they’ve admired in previous managers–rather than in the abstract–also ensures their answers are grounded in specific, real experiences, which may prove more actionable for you.

2. WHAT ARE SOME FEATURES OF YOUR WORST WORKING RELATIONSHIPS WITH PREVIOUS MANAGERS?

Learning about the bad side of your team’s past management experiences can be just as instructive as hearing what worked. Whatever created friction with previous managers is usually something to avoid, adjust to, or just keep an eye out for. And because it’s sometimes harder to articulate positive feedback than negative feedback, you may find you learn a lot more by asking this question than you do by asking about positive qualities (even though both are important).

3. HOW TRANSPARENT DO YOU PREFER MANAGERS TO BE?

Some teams prefer the full play-by-play as it happens. Others would rather skip the details and just be kept in the loop only as necessary. While some teammates love to follow every step of whatever changes might be happening, others find that distracting and even demoralizing. As a leader, you’ll be privy to information others won’t be. So finding out what level of transparency your team expects from you is an important factor in how, what, and when you communicate to your team.


4. HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO USE OUR ONE-ON-ONE TIME?

Every one-on-one meeting is different. While one team member may come to you with a list of updates and specific actions they need you to take, others may use the time to brainstorm solutions to a certain problem, while still others may arrive with no agenda at all. You can certainly find out your team members’ preferences by experience, but asking this question up front encourages them to think more intentionally about your time together, and how you can best support them.

5. HOW DO YOU LIKE TO RECEIVE PRAISE?

You expect your team to do great work–so how do they like to be celebrated when they do? Here, too, everyone you manage will be different. Where one person might love public recognition, another may cringe in the spotlight and prefer one-on-one or even written praise. Check in with them early on to avoid inadvertently embarrassing your direct reports.


 

6. HOW DO YOU LIKE TO RECEIVE CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK?

Feedback is essential to your direct reports’ growth, and it’s your job to help them improve in big ways and small. But depending on the person, feedback can be something they dread or something they hunger for. It may be something they prefer to hear in real time, or something they’d rather get after the fact so there’s time to reflect on it. There are many ways to deliver critical feedback. If you’re not sure what the best approach is for your direct reports, just ask.

7. ANYTHING I SHOULD KNOW ABOUT YOUR WORKING STYLE?

Working styles are highly individualized. Some people prefer meetings in the afternoons and thinking time in the morning. Others value getting home early enough to put their kids to bed. Where one direct report may crave structure, another may seek opportunity in chaos. What does it take for your team to do their best work? Ask your direct reports to self-reflect so you can identify what it takes to help them feel happy and productive.

8. WHAT EXPERIENCES MAKE YOU HAPPY AT WORK?

Which environments, situations, or projects get your team riled up? Do they enjoy projects that draw notice from elsewhere in the organization, or would they rather focus on work that makes an impact outside of the spotlight? Do they prefer to collaborate, or to keep their heads down to get the job done? Knowing these preferences early on helps you figure out which projects, staffing, meetings, or even desk areas best align with the types of things that make your direct reports happiest at work.

9. WHAT EXPERIENCES MAKE YOU STRESSED OR FRUSTRATED AT WORK?

On the flip side, what drains them? What makes one person jazzed can cause serious stress for another. For instance, too much socializing can be challenging for more introverted types on your team; too much solo work can make your more extroverted direct reports feel isolated. Knowing what triggers stress in the people you manage can help you avoid potentially frustrating scenarios before things get out of hand.

10. WHAT ARE SOME THINGS YOU’RE HOPING I CAN HELP WITH?

As a leader, you may have a mental list of your strengths and be ready to share them with your team. But the strengths you see in yourself may be different from the strengths your direct reports see in you–or the ones they need from you.

For instance, if relationship-building comes naturally to you, you may take it for granted (“that’s just who I am”)–but someone on your team may see and admire that quality in you, and hope to learn from you in that area. On the other hand, if you know you’re a strong presenter, you might be inclined to teach others that skill, too, when unbeknownst to you, what they really want your help in is running more effective meetings and setting better agendas. Asking this question helps you understand the delta between the help you’re preparing to offer and the help your team members are hoping to gain.

Needless to say, while these questions can be helpful, they’re just a humble start to getting to know your team. They’re not enough to replace your long-term efforts to build strong relationships with the people you manage. That takes time, but with this 10-question “intake form,” so to speak, you can get a running start on a process that might take other managers weeks or even months to begin.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ximena Vengoechea is a design researcher, writer, and illustrator whose work on personal and professional development has been published in Inc., Newsweek, and the Huffington Post. She currently works at Pinterest as a qualitative researcher.

I’d really like to ask Zimena about her job at Pinterest, perhaps that will be a future column … enjoy your day, and eat your vegetables!

Want To Get Your Company On Those Big Blue Highway Exit Signs?

Have you wondered how businesses get their logo on those big blue signs on the highway that tell drivers what’s at the next exit?

As a marketer, leave no stone unturned to get customers to your location or that of your client.  Far better to get one highway sign than to get hits on social media – this sign brings results 24/7/365.

Drive down any major interstate in the U.S., and you’ll see big blue signs decorated with business logos near most exits. Here’s who decides which businesses make it on the signs, and how much it all costs.

Called interstate logo signs or specific service signs, these ubiquitous big blue billboards are godsends to weary travelers searching for gas, food, or lodging close to the highway. Unsurprisingly, the signs aren’t solely there to help out motorists, as they also provide monetary benefit to businesses and, crucially, to the state.

Roadside advertising programs are administered by individual states, though specific service signs like the one in the picture above tend to be farmed out to contractors. One of the biggest of these contractors is a company called Interstate Logos, which works with transportation agencies in 23 states to not only install the huge blue panels, but also to work with businesses to run the programs.

This information comes from David Tracy and Jalopnik.com, with our thanks.

If you own a business that falls into one of these groups—attraction, pharmacy, camping, lodging, food and gas—and your business is located near a controlled-access state highway, then you’re eligible to get your company on the big blue sign.

But not everyone is eligible to display their firm’s logo; that’s because the state’s requirements are rather strict, specifying things like distance from the highway, operating hours, required amenities, and number of parking spots available.

For example, as shown in the image above, Michigan requires that any gas station on a specific service sign be within six miles of the highway, and be open at least 16 hours a day, seven days a week and 360 days a year. In addition, the gas station must offer water, gas, and oil for various types of vehicles, as well as public restrooms and a public telephone.

Requirements for food facilities are similarly specific, stating that facilities must operate continuously for 12 hours a day and six days per week. In addition, restaurants on the service signs must be within six miles of the highway, and offer 24 seats for patrons, a public bathroom, and a public telephone.

Other states are even stricter; Colorado specifies that restaurants must offer drinking water and be open continuously between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., and Kentucky limits restaurant and gas businesses to within three miles of a rural interchange or within only one mile of an urban interchange.

But even if your business meets all the requirements, and you’ve submitted your online application, there may be competition from other nearby businesses. As for which of those businesses get to be on the signs, that depends on the state’s policy. Colorado rotates the businesses at the end of each contract year, but other states like Michigan give preference to businesses nearer the highway, while still others like Washington use a first come-first serve (with waiting list) approach.

 Types Of Signs

Signs generally come in three different types: mainline, ramp and trailblazer. Mainline signs are the huge ones that motorists see on the main highway just before exits, ramp signs are found on either side of an exit ramp and usually feature an arrow and a distance to the destination, and trailblazer signs are found along the route when driving to a business from the exit ramp isn’t straightforward.

 The six main types of businesses found on logo signs—local attractions, pharmacies, camping, lodging, food, and gas—are often placed along the highway in that order (in other words, you’ll see the big blue “attractions” sign first and “gas” last), and are usually within one mile of the exit. They tend to feature a maximum of six logos.Cost

The cost of getting on a specific service sign varies by state, but in general, it spans between about $500 and a couple grand per year. For some states, the annual fee depends solely upon which kind of sign a business is renting, though other states base the annual fee on how much traffic that particular road sees (a sign along a more crowded road costs more).

Washington’s fees, for example, vary based on traffic and location. The example table on the Washington Department of Transportation site—shown above—displays annual costs between $360 and $910 for two signs (one in each direction).

Michigan charges a flat fee of $850 per mainline sign (this comes with a ramp sign as well), so advertising on both sides of the road—one sign for each direction—means businesses have to pay $1,700 each year to advertise on the highway.

Florida does things a bit differently, setting rates based on things like “population, traffic volume, market demand, and costs for annual permit fees.” In Florida, the maximum annual fee for a “sign location” in an urban area is $3,500, while $2,000 will get a business a sign in a rural area.

 Texas breaks up the cost of Mainline signs and small ramp signs, but also uses daily traffic count to determine cost. Mainline signs cost between $900 and $3,250 per year, and smaller ramp signs cost between $150 and $750 per year. Colorado’s fees are $750 per direction for a mainline, a ramp sign and a trailblazer.

These are just a few examples, but on average, it looks looks like if you want your business on a big blue highway sign, expect to shell out about a grand per direction.

There are, of course, other costs involved. Though individual states (or whoever the states have contracted to run the logos program) tend to provide the big blue back panels, businesses are tasked with designing the logo signs to meet the required specifications. This isn’t always cheap; Washington’s Department of Transportation gives some ballpark figures:

 Signs that are 24 inches by 12 inches cost between $84 and $530
  • Signs that are 36 inches by 12 inches cost between $160 and $530
  • Signs that are 60 inches by 36 inches cost between $330 and $530

Typical mainline logo signs are about 48 inches by 36 inches, so based on WSDOT’s ballpark figures, it’s probably safe to figure about $300 to $500 per sign.

Add the annual fee to the cost of making the sign, and any removal/change fees (usually around $100), or fees for additional trailblazer signs (typically about $50), and businesses in some areas could end up spending close to ten grand per year for the advertising for a pair of signs (though most businesses will likely end up spending just a couple of grand). If traffic is heavy enough, and the business is well-recognized among motorists, this could be worth it.

 The sites says that in 2010, Kentucky Logos—contracted by the Kentucky DOT—paid the state $618,904.91. That’s great for the state, but according to the report, of the businesses on the 1,568 signs in the state, only 1 to 2 percent leave annually. So it seems the businesses are happy, too.

 

Face to Face is #2 and E-mail is #1 – still all about two-way conversations

And the survey says… communication matters, and those two-way conversations whether by phone or via email are still the winners.  You can’t build a relationship, or tell a story, with one-way communications … so focus on the people you are trying to reach on the other end!

Email is holding its own in B2B sales despite minor slippage, according to State Of Inbound 2017, a global survey by HubSpot. Of 6,399 professionals surveyed in 141 countries, 86% prefer email for business communications — a loss of two percentage points from last year.

That drop doesn’t mean much when you consider the gap that follows, however: Face-to-face communication is a distant second, falling from 61% to 60% Phone communication comes in third, holding steady at 56%. And social media has fallen from 42% to 39%.

No wonder HubSpot concluded that “when it comes to communication channels, email is the clear winner.” It added that it had seen “slight decreases in people’s preference to communicate in nearly all channels.” The only one to grow was messenger apps — from 29% to 31%.

At the same time, email was rated the second-most effective channel for sales reps to connect with prospects, falling from 29% to 26%. The telephone, holding steady at 36%, was first. Facebook came in fourth, having risen from 9% to 12%. These results were consistent around the globe.

Communication methods depend on the person’s seniority. The telephone is the most popular way of reaching everyone from VP/director on down, with email second. For example, the phone was cited by 42% of respondents as the preferred way to reach managers, and email by 24%.

But email has parity at the C level — it was selected by 25%, compared to 26% who chose the phone.

The most daunting chore was getting a response from prospects (38%). That was followed by closing deals (35%), identifying good leads (30%) and engaging multiple decision makers at a company (27%). Connecting via phone was listed by 20%.

Of course, these findings are about tactical channel choices. Asked for their wider marketing priorities, 70% mentioned conversion of contacts and leads — nothing else even came close. Second was driving traffic to the Web site (53%), followed by increasing revenue from existing customers, at (43%).

Inbound practices produced the most high-quality leads, and outbound the least.

Overall, 61% of the respondents say their marketing is effective, while 39% say it isn’t. But it depends on the person’s rank. CEOs are most likely to feel that way (69%), and individuals/contributors are less so (55%). And while all regions are upbeat, North America is the most positive, while Asia is the least.

That said, these executives are moving into social media. Their marketing teams “will maintain or increase their presence on YouTube and Facebook video and focus on figuring out how to market on messaging apps such as WhatsApp,” HubSpot writes. “Snapchat is still a mystery for many businesses, and we see a dip in focus as marketers opt to spend their time on larger emerging channels.

Here are two more tidbits:

  • 44% claim that marketing and sales “are generally aligned.”
  • Salespeople are flummoxed when doing manual data entry – 23% say it’s their biggest hassle using their CRM tool.

What are these leaders’ sale priorities for the next 12 months? The answers were closing more deals (71%), improving the efficiency of the sale funnel (44%), social selling (29%), training the sales team (27%) and reducing the length of the sales cycle (26%).

But none of this will be easy. B2B marketers face these challenges:

  • Generating traffic and leads — 63%
  • Proving the ROI of our marketing activities — 40%
  • Securing enough budget — 28%
  • Identifying the right technologies — 26%
  • Managing our Web site — 26%
  • Targeting content for an international audience — 21%
  • Training our team — 19%
  • Hiring top talent — 16%
  • Finding an executive sponsor — 7%

Thanks, HubSpot. Let’s catch up again next year – originally published in Media Post, a commentary written by Ray Schultz, columnist.

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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Do NOT Hire a Social Media Consultant Before You Ask These 10 Questions

What is a “Social Media Consultant”?  It could be anyone with a personal Facebook Page and a large number of Twitter followers wanting to sell you on their services.

I too often see someone touting this service (for far too high a cost) who have only a Twitter account or not much of a personal or business presence anywhere on the web.  And while these “consultants” might be available the question is are they right for you?  

You ONLY want someone who knows your industry 

and has the maturity to know what NOT to post too.

Once you make the decision to outsource, you’ll want to strongly vet potential consultants and/or agencies.

Here are 10 things Social Media Today recommends you ask or consider:

1. Can they demonstrate a proven track record?

Ask what brands the person or agency has worked with and is currently working with (to ensure they’re not working with a competing brand).

Don’t be shy about asking for references. Ask about a brand they worked with where something didn’t work out – how did they handle that? Were they able to quickly adapt and change course? Do they have the necessary experience in your industry to properly advance your business?

The more they know about your industry, the less of a learning curve there’ll be, and the more resources they’ll bring to your brand. What are their first steps when taking on new clients?

2. Where can I find current and past examples of your work?

Anyone with experience will be readily able to show you a portfolio of work as well as links to initiatives they’ve either run or been involved in creating.

Look for campaigns that have been repeated. You know things are working when you keep doing it.

Have the campaigns led to brand exposure? Sales leads? Will this experience help your market?

3. Who will be handling my account and what background does this person come from?

This is the biggest question – don’t buy into a sales pitch and then get a very junior person.

The background of each person working on behalf of your brand is important. If you’re looking for marketing, PR and/or social media help, you want people that have leveraged those skills working with prior companies.

Do these people have knowledge and experience with trends in these areas?

4. How will we track ROI?

We know that not everything has immediate return that’s trackable when it comes to social media. But you can track most things.

You want to know that this consultant or agency isn’t simply looking to add likes, followers or fans, but is actually able to analyze conversion rates.

Brands that hire an outside agency will want to know that the agency or consultant is consistently monitoring results, and is being held accountable. You’ll want to know there’s a standard monitoring and reporting process in place that works for both you and the agency or consultant.

5. What is their process for reporting?

How often will you meet with them? How often will you be provided status updates or check-ins?

If the agency doesn’t have a method to suggest immediately to you on how they’ll communicate, it might be a red flag that the agency isn’t as connected with their clients as you’ll want to be (or that they haven’t even thought of this yet).

6. What will you do if something goes wrong?

How would you handle a social media crisis? This is the question that will give you real insight into their value.

Marketing campaigns that look great on paper can go wrong in application, no matter how seasoned the consultant is.

How will they react? How do they respond to negative reviews? Tweets? Negative Facebook comments?

7. How do they come up with strategic plans?

How much does writing content figure into their experience and plan for your business? A good consultant will have a workflow that works for them and you.

They’ll know how to integrate social media with PR and traditional media.

They’ll want to talk to your sales team and find out what plans they have and will know how to integrate them into all they are doing.

8. How will content be developed?

And, will you have to approve all of the content written on behalf of your brand? Will it all have to be planned, or will you trust this person or agency to create on-the-fly content for you? Does this person have the experience necessary to understand the nuances of writing content specific for each platform?

Content developed for your brand needs to be likeable and shareable. A consultant or agency should be able to show you examples of previously created content for other clients, as well as their content calendar, or what their content creation process looks like.

9. What does success look like, and how will we measure it?

Brands that are investing in consultants and agencies must have clear goals in mind when starting this process. An agency should be able to help you achieve your KPIs. The consultant or agency you choose will help you establish these KPIs and will (with you) write strategies and tactics to hit those goals.

10. What will this cost?

Outside of the monthly retainer or fee you agree to with the consultant or agency, you want to know that your budget is being kept in mind in all they’re doing.

Thank you http://www.socialmediatoday.com – one of my favorite sources for all things social!

AI Is What’s Next – As Communicators We Are The Front Line

Do a quick Google search for AI and you get a new definition from WikiPedia:  Artificial intelligence is being defined as Intelligent Agents.  Let that sink in.

AI is becoming part of all businesses and part of nearly every part of our lives.  From the way your communications are answered to the way you get to work – everything is changing thanks to artificial intelligence.   Having just attended three different conferences for clients; one on real estate, one on travel and one on school nutrition – I can tell you all three had at least one seminar on how this technology is changing our world.  As one speaker said:  “Ten years ago we did not realize the impact of social media, AI is already here and moving into the marketplace at warp speed.”

As communicators we are the front line.  We need to embrace this technology, understand it deeply and be able to explain how it is impacting our companies and clients to others.

As machines become intelligent there will be great ethical debates and concerns – be ready as you will be needed to shape the conversation.

TED has an excellent playlist about AI – https://www.ted.com/topics/ai

         This New York Times piece offers a summary of where we are: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/14/magazine/the-great-ai-awakening.html

The post below came from AdAge, here is a direct link to the full article:  http://adage.com/article/agency-news/chief-ai-officer-big-title-media-agencies/309667/?ito=792

Any time an explosive new technology takes hold, agencies have to navigate how it fits into their business. While some may be waiting until it has taken a deeper hold, others, like New York-based Crossmedia, are bullish.

The independent media agency just hired a new executive director of cognitive solutions, who will head up the agency’s work in that area — covering everything from client projects that use AI like chatbots or Alexa skills to other areas of cognitive solutions. The field includes data-driven creative work that might change according to weather, stock fluctuations or time of day, and data science, which encompasses deep learning and pattern detection.

For Karim Sanjabi, who’s taking on the new role, it’s a step agencies are going to have to take. Sanjabi previously started Freestyle Interactive, which was acquired by Carat Interactive in 2003, and most recently was CEO of Robot Stampede, a creative tech company based in San Francisco.

“If agencies don’t make this kind of change right now, and really understand they have to really commit to it, we’re going to have an evolutionary separation,” he said. “We’re going to have two different species of agencies: One that evolved with AI and one that didn’t.”

He said snubbing AI would be akin to an agency turning its back on social media 10 years ago.

Though Sanjabi has taken the top seat at Crossmedia’s new cognitive consulting practice, he wants to handle it in a way where the work bleeds across the entire agency, instead of siloing AI off into a separate business unit. His mandate, he said, is to help the agency sift through the tech options and find ways to improve internal operations and client solutions using these new concepts.

“I want our existing media buyers and planners, I want everyone in the company to think in terms of cognitive solutions,” he said.

“I just want to be a resource to everyone in the agency to help empower them to come up with this kind of stuff. This isn’t a standalone, separate thing — this is the core of the agency. We’re changing the way everyone thinks about this.”

Champions over chiefs
As the possibilities of AI are becoming known, agencies are grappling with the best way to bring in that knowledge.

“The power of this stuff is such that it surpasses traditional agency shiny object syndrome,” said Dave Meeker, a VP who focuses on innovation at Dentsu Aegis Network-owned digital marketing agency Isobar. “We see really the capabilities of what a well-trained or well-designed AI is capable of.”

Isobar doesn’t have a head of AI, but does rely on employees’ expertise to understand how it can help the business until it’s more deeply ingrained. Meeker said employees work on the forefront of new technologies, and once it really catches on, the company starts more formalized training across all employees. The company has an “Isobar Academy,” an online curriculum available to its 6,000 employees.

“Right now, we’re in this age of understanding this stuff. You need people with really specific domain expertise,” he said. “In time, that expertise becomes cooked into a lot of the software and things that we’re doing, to where it’s not like you then have to have an AI person because all of us kind of have the tools at our disposal that do that.”

Whatever the approach, the key to success, say agency vets, is incorporating the new technology in ways that everyone across the agency can master it. Which in turn could ultimately render the need for a chief of AI obsolete.

Tom Kelshaw, director of innovation at GroupM shop Maxus, said agencies have a history of hiring executives to head up areas like data, digital or innovation. The risk there, he said, is that “it tends to become stale.” Kelshaw pointed out that transformational new ideas should be absorbed across all leadership once a topic is understood, instead of letting it live with a sole executive or business unit.

At Maxus, Kelshaw said when it comes to AI and innovation more generally, his company relies on employees to figure out where tools and techniques can deliver operational efficiencies and improve clients’ business.

“It’s about getting champions, rather than chiefs, into the business,” he said.

Too soon?
Some agencies may feel it’s on the early side to make big investments into this area. Though digital agency PMG does a fair amount of work using AI, the agency doesn’t have any defined titles relating to cognitive or machine learning or artificial intelligence.

“Advertisers and brands realize the need for artificial intelligence, but very few are at the point where they’re going to the board and saying, ‘We’re betting everything on artificial intelligence,’ said Dustin Engel, head of analytics and data activation at PMG. “They know the risk of not being part of AI, but they’re not quite willing to bet the farm on that risk.”

He said factors like data quality make some areas of AI still relatively immature. PMG does work with clients on data onboarding, cleansing and standardizing so it will one day be useful in AI applications. It also uses AI when it come to data science and data innovation.

Engel added that AI appears to be polarizing with advertisers.

“Some are excited about it but don’t have clear use cases. Some are skeptical of the hype of AI being the business disruption panacea. Some are cautiously optimistic — stressing cautiously. So it may be early for advertisers as opposed to the agencies,” he wrote in an email. “As for PMG, we not only see AI possibilities in our client media programs but also in managing the operational complexity of our fast-growing business.”

More Events To Build Your Brand? Yes Please!

New Study Shows Brands Expect to Invest More in Events

The research surveyed more than 1,000 marketing professionals across the globe for insights on budget, technology, and more.

Looking for a top notch dose of what’s new, cool and works?  subscribe to Biz Bash at bizbash.com and you will find event nirvana!  Photos in this post are from a global tourism summit recently produced by Bennett & Company.  From chocolate cake for breakfast to a live social media wall it was the kind of brand building experience that accelerates awareness and is worth every minute of planning.

Brand experiences—from trade shows and sponsorships to virtual- or augmented-reality experiences and pop-ups—are an essential part of the marketing mix, and one in three chief marketing officers expect to spend as much as 50 percent of their budget on such experiences, according to new research from Freeman.

The 2017 Freeman Global Brand Experience Study, which the company commissioned from research firm SSI, surveyed more than 1,000 marketing professionals from North America, Asia, and Western Europe. Released Tuesday, the research shares insights on how marketing professionals view events and experiences, budget, digital and technology integration, and more.

According to Freeman, the results show that “more than nine out of 10 of them agree that brand experiences deliver stronger face-to-face interactions and more compelling brand engagements.”

As a provider of brand experiences, Freeman’s business is built on creating these types of events, and the company believes in their effectiveness, but it commissioned the study because “we wanted to validate that externally,” said Chris Cavanaugh, Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer at Freeman.

“Experiences, when integrated with the marketing mix, build brand affinity, bringing people into the tunnel and dimensionalizing the brands,” Cavanaugh said.

While marketing professionals value experiences and plan to invest more in them in the next three to five years, the research showed that they have yet to make the transition. The top three ways brands are connecting with their audiences are their website, social media, and email marketing.

As brands look to invest in experiences, Cavanaugh said they should plan “highly personal, in-real-life experiences.”

The survey also asked about technology. It found that brands involved in more events—20 or more a year—are more likely to integrate technology into their experiences. Among this group, nearly 30 percent use touch-screen technology, 21 percent use location-mapping or beacons, 16 percent use virtual reality, and 15 percent have added gamification elements to events.

“These are highly engaged people who want to lean into events,” Cavanaugh said.

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