Friday, December 20, 2013

Laws of Marketing

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing:

  1. It is better to be first than it is to be better.

  2. If you can't be first in a category, set up a new category you can be first in.

  3. It is better to be first in the mind than to be first in the marketplace.

  4. Marketing is not a battle of products, it's a battle of perceptions.

  5. The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect's mind.

  6. Two companies cannot own the same word in the prospect's mind.

  7. The strategy to use depends on which rung you occupy on the ladder.

  8. In the long run, every market becomes a two horse race.

  9. If you are shooting for second place, your strategy is determined by the leader.

10. Over time, a category will divide and become two or more categories.

11. Marketing effects take place over an extended period of time.

12. There is an irresistible pressure to extend the equity of the brand.

13. You have to give up something to get something.

14. For every attribute, there is an opposite, effective attribute.

15. When you admit a negative, the prospect will give you a positive.

16. In each situation, only one move will produce substantial results.

17. Unless you write your competitor's plans, you can't predict the future.

18. Success often leads to arrogance, and arrogance to failure.

19. Failure is to be expected and accepted.

20. The situation is often the opposite of the way it appears in the press.

21. Successful programs are not built on fads, they're built on trends.

22. Without adequate funding, an idea won't get off the ground.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Productivity

Often when we feel tired or blocked at work, our focus is internal. We assume we simply aren’t getting enough sleep or we ate too much at lunch. While both of those things may be true, there may also be an external reason for our lack of focus. We may be experiencing the effects of a toxic work environment.

If you’re a worker, chances are there are only certain things you can control. For business owners, however, paying attention to the research on various workplace issues can make a big difference in the daily output of each worker, not to mention overall morale. Whether you’re boss or employee, here are a few major adjustments that can make a big difference.

The Right Temperature

When it comes to climate, employees are most productive when they’re comfortable. Unfortunately, “comfortable” means different things to different people. Some people are happy in an office that maintains a steady 68 degrees while others break out the space heater until their work area reaches 80 degrees or more.

But when it comes to science, those who prefer sub-tropic temps win. According to research reported in Men’s Health, workers are most productive in temperatures ranging between 71 and 77 degrees. After analyzing hundreds of workers, researchers found cooler temps were the top cause of afternoon productivity lags. This confirmed a 2004 study from Cornell University that found that temps of 68 degrees or lower in an office increased worker errors. As the temperature increased to between 68 and 77 degrees, typing errors dropped by 44 percent and typing output increased 150 percent.

Lighting and Glare

Fluorescents have long been the light bulb of choice in office d├ęcor. But telling your boss that’s a bad idea may not be sufficient. For scientific proof, there’s a 2012 study by Mirjam Muench that studied two separate groups of people, one who spent multiple work days in daylight and another who spent multiple days working in natural light. The study found more dramatic feelings of sleepiness at the end of the day in those who worked in artificial light. Scientists have theorized in recent years that artificial light has disrupted our body’s circadian rhythms, leading us to fall out of sync with the sun.

By increasing the natural light available to workers, employers may find those workers sleep better and show up for work more rested, leading to increased productivity. For workers who are forced to remain in artificial light throughout the majority of the workday, taking frequent breaks outdoors could provide a natural rejuvenator that increases alertness.

Noise Reduction

In today’s “collaborative” environment, noise can be a real problem. In fact, it might be one of the most scientifically proven workplace drains today’s worker encounters. In a study published by Cornell University, researchers reported finding higher levels of epinephrine in workers who were exposed to low levels of noise, when compared to workers exposed to no noise. This indicated workers exposed to noise were under higher levels of stress. Studies have shown office noise can lead to negative moods, inability to concentrate on a task, and even health issues after prolonged exposure.

As a worker, noise-canceling headphones are a great way to silence the noise. But while workers may believe listening to music helps them focus, studies have also shown music can decrease productivity when a worker is conducting a task that requires focus. But when it’s a task a worker performs on a regular basis, music can actually increase concentration.

Business owners can help reduce noise-related stress by providing workers a quiet place to go when extreme focus is needed. Whether this is accomplished through an enclave located in the office or allowing employees to work from home, this can be a great alternative to trying to tune out worker gossip and ringing phones.

Worker Comfort and Safety

Ergonomics are a real issue in today’s typing-heavy work environment. But ergonomics are not just a safety issue. Studies have found when a worker is comfortable and safe, that worker is more productive. When employees sit up straight and type, they think more clearly and have a higher work output than an employee who sits slumped over his or her keyboard.

Color Therapy

Many experts feel that color has a definite impact on a person’s mood. The color of an office’s walls, floors, and furniture creates an overall office environment that influences how workers perform, experts feel. Frank Mahnke, author of Color, Environment, & Human Response says that when done correctly, workers will be able to get a different visual depending on which way they are facing during the course of the day. As you decorate your office, keep these color associations in mind.

·         Yellow: stimulating, bright, cozy.
·         Red: arousing, fiery, aggressive.
·         White: open, neutral, sterile.

Keeping this in mind, a worker may see why an office covered in red paint might experience more hostility than one that utilizes more subtle tones. However, many offices are decorated in neutral grays, which might be more versatile but has no positive impact on productivity. Pastel yellow might be a good choice for a conference room where workers regularly work hold brainstorming sessions, while a more calming and soothing color like light green might be a good idea for areas where meetings with clients are most likely to occur.

Incidentally, grey is a color associated with intellect and wisdom, which might be just the look you’re going for in your office. Since this is often decided by property owners long before a business takes occupation of a space, even business owners may not have control over the colors in an office. If painting isn’t possible, a few extra accent colors in paintings and decorations may make a big difference in overall employee mood.

Small changes can be made in individual work areas to improve worker productivity. By getting to know the psychology behind the way an office environment influences the five senses, business owners may be able to see a measurable increase in worker output, adding to their own bottom line each year.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Leadership

Great leaders are in short supply.

Not surprised?  I’ve been thinking, talking and writing about this for a while now. But lately there seems to be something of a groundswell of recognition within organizations that good leaders are a critical component of success, and that we don’t have enough of them, especially when it comes to the leaders of the future.

A Right Management survey conducted in December of 2012 found that 32% of HR executives in the US, and 25% globally, put “lack of high-potential leaders in the organization” as their most pressing concern for 2013.   Only 4% of US HR leaders said, “We have an ample leadership pipeline that will cover most of our needs.”

Why are employers feeling this need so strongly?  I suspect it’s a function of the way business is changing. Everything runs flatter and faster: most organizations have fewer levels of management and fewer built-in hierarchical controls; there is much more information to make sense of on a daily basis; the rate of change in almost every industry has increased significantly. In addition, younger workers are less likely to stay in a company with bad leaders: they’re looking opportunities for mastery, autonomy and purpose in their work, and leaders who don’t even recognize those as legitimate needs, let alone work to fulfill them, are having a hard time attracting and keeping the best young talent.

If you can demonstrate to your organization that you have real leadership potential, there’s almost certainly a job with your name on it out there.  Showing others that you’re a leader is very different. Here are some things you can start doing right now to show the key people in your organization that you’re capable of leading:

Build influence: Because most organizations are flatter and more matrixed than they used to be, leaders need to accomplish more through the power of persuasion than by relying solely on position power. For instance, if I work in marketing and I want to create a strong social media identity and community for one of our products, I may need to partner with someone in digital who doesn’t report to me to get that effort off the ground.  In other words, I’ll need to influence him or her to support my goals.  Being able to build that kind of influence, even in an entry-level job, is a great demonstration of your leadership potential.  A few years ago, I watched as the assistant of a client of ours influenced the staff at a resort where her boss was doing an off-site to solve a variety of logistical problems that arose, and that were the fault of the resort all without alienating them or having the problems negatively impact the event.  She was recently promoted to coordinator, and I suspect there are more promotions in her future.

Think outside your own job: One of the frustrations I hear most often from senior people is that their employees focus too narrowly on their own needs and constraints.  Junior employees will often complain about organizational decisions, for example, without understanding the enterprise-wide factors that may have led to those decisions.  If you want to be seen as a leader, make it your business to understand the larger organization: How does your business work? What are the factors, in your organization, that lead to growth, and what gets in the way?  What other functions does your part of the business interact with most, and how do you support each other?  Take a step back from your particular job and look at how everything fits together.  Then the conversations you have with your boss and other leaders are more likely to demonstrate your broader understanding of the business, and build their sense that you could succeed, and support the organization’s success, in a broader role.

Learn from others.  Great leaders don’t operate in a vacuum. If you come to work, do your job (even do it very well) and go home, having only minimal interactions with your colleagues, those in power are unlikely to see you as a potential leader. However, if you demonstrate interest in your colleagues’ opinions and ask them to tell you about things they’re interested in and know about, all kinds of good things will happen: 1) your colleagues will think you’re smart and interesting (when others are interested in us, we tend to think better of them) and will be even more likely to share their wisdom and insight, 2) you’ll learn important and useful stuff that will help you grow as a professional, and 3) your boss and others will see you as hungry to learn and grow  vs. just hungry to get a promotion.

Make things happen:  During the recession, I watched as two middle managers in a client organization went down two very different paths.  One of them focused on how difficult things were, and used the tough economic times as a excuse for why he was unable to do many of the things his boss asked of him. “You don’t understand,” he’d say.  ”People are freaking out; it’s hard to get them motivated.” “We don’t have the resources; we can barely keep things going.” Etc. etc.  Meanwhile his colleague, a woman at the same level and with roughly the same budget and number of employees, pulled her group together and worked with them to figure out how to overcome the obstacles.  She wasn’t able to do everything she was asked, I’m not sure anyone really knocked it out of the park in 2009, but she was able to accomplish most of it with the support and creativity of her team. The next year she was promoted, and her 'I can’t do it' colleague was let go.  It was a pretty stark example: The ability to figure out how to work with others to get things done, especially when there are obstacles, is probably the key thing bosses and HR folks look for when deciding whether someone has greater leadership potential.

If you consistently show up in these ways, your boss and other decision-makers in your organization will take notice. And the next time you ask for a bigger job or a promotion, you’re much more likely to get the answer you want.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Strategic Plan

Strategic Plan Template: What To Include In Yours
A strategic plan is a roadmap to grow your business. This article details the 13 sections to include in your strategic plan so you identify and achieve your goals.
Section 1: Executive Summary
The Executive Summary of your strategic plan should be completed last, and this section merely summarizes each of the other sections of your plan.
The Executive Summary is important since it will help other key constituents, such as employees, advisors, and investors, quickly understand and support your plan.
Section 2: Elevator Pitch
An elevator pitch is a brief description of your business. Your elevator pitch is included in your strategic plan since it’s key to your business’ success, and often times should be updated annually. Here’s why it’s important: if your employees can’t clearly and concisely articulate your business to others, you inevitably miss out on tons of sales and other opportunities.
Section 3: Company Mission Statement
Your company mission statement explains what your business is trying to achieve. While it may seem unimportant, it’s not. You see, for internal decision-making, your mission statement guides employees to make the right decisions; decisions that are in line with helping the company achieve its mission. For external parties, such as investors, partners, and customers, your mission can inspire them to take the actions you want.
Section 4: SWOT
The reason to include a SWOT analysis (analysis of your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) in your Strategic Plan is to help you determine the best opportunities to pursue to achieve your growth goals. It also helps you identify which strengths you must develop in the near future to improve your company.
Section 5: Goals
Setting and achieving goals is the hallmark of successful companies and is a critical element of your strategic plan.
They key is to first identify your 5 year or long-term goals. Next, identify your one-year goals; that is, what you must achieve in the next year for it to be successful and to put your company on the right trajectory to achieving your 5 year goals.
Then work backwards two more times to determine your goals for the next quarter and the next month. Ideally you update you strategic plan monthly to modify this section.
Section 6: Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Great businesses understand their metrics and KPIs. By tracking your KPIs, you know exactly how your business is performing and can adjust as needed.
For example, a basic KPI such as Total Sales is critical for understanding if the company is performing well. “Underlying” KPIs are equally as important. For example, if sales are affected by 1) number of visitors to your website, 2) number of visitors who complete a contact form, 3) number of proposals you issue to these leads, and 4) the proposal closing ratio, then each of these KPIs should be tracked. Then, if for instance, the number of visitors to your website decreased, you would know and fix this immediately, rather then waiting until sales plummet later.
So, it’s critical to identify the KPIs you will track in your business and list them in this section of your strategic plan.
Section 7: Target Customers
In this section of your strategic plan, you will identify the wants and needs of each of your target customer groups. This is important in focusing your marketing efforts and getting a higher return on investment on your advertising expenditures. This is because the more you can “speak” directly to your target customer wants and needs in your marketing, the better you will attract them.
Section 8: Industry Analysis
Your industry analysis doesn’t have to be a comprehensive report on what’s going on in your market. However, you should conduct an analysis to ensure the market size is growing (if not, you might want to diversify), and to help identify new opportunities for growth.
Section 9: Competitive Analysis & Advantage
Similarly to your industry analysis, your competitive analysis doesn’t have to be a thorough report listing every detail about every competitor. Rather, in addition to defining who your key competitors are, you should list their strengths & weaknesses.
Most importantly, use this analysis to determine your current competitive advantages and ways to develop additional advantages.
Section 10: Marketing Plan
In addition to your strategic plan, I recommend you develop a comprehensive marketing plan describing how you will attract prospects, convert them to paying customers and maximize your lifetime customer value.
Include a summary of your marketing plan in your strategic plan.
Section 11: Team
The team section of your strategic plan ensures you have the human resources to execute on the opportunities you’ve identified and to achieve the goals you established in section 5 of your plan.
Here you should list your current team members and identify the types of people you need to hire in the next year to achieve your goals.
Section 12: Operations Plan
Your operations plan helps you transform your goals and opportunities into reality. In this section of your plan, you will identify each of the individual projects that comprise your larger goals and how these projects will be completed. Finally, you’ll map out each of your initiatives, ideally in a Gantt chart, so you know when each project will start and who will lead them.
Section 13: Financial Projections
The final section of your strategic plan is your financial projections. Your financial projections help in multiple ways. First, you can use a financial model to assess the potential results for each opportunity you consider pursuing.
Also, once you determine the opportunities you will pursue, your financial projections will map out the goals. For example, you’ll know exactly how many new customers you must attract in the next month, and at what price point, to achieve next month’s goal.
You should develop your complete strategic plan each year, and then update it monthly as actual results come in and you gain more clarity and intelligence. While you will rarely achieve the precise goals established in your strategic plan, scores of research show that you’ll come much closer to them versus if you didn’t plan at all. So, develop your strategic plan today, and achieve the goals you desire.

Marketing Plan

Marketing Plan Template: Exactly What to Include
To grow your business, you need a marketing plan. The right marketing plan identifies everything from 1) who your target customers are to 2) how you will reach them, to 3) how you will retain your customers so they repeatedly buy from you.
Done properly, your marketing plan will be the roadmap you follow to get unlimited customers and dramatically improve the success of your organization.
Section 1: Executive Summary
Complete your Executive Summary last, and, as the name implies, this section merely summarizes each of the other sections of your marketing plan.
Your Executive Summary will be helpful in giving yourself and other constituents (e.g., employees, advisors, etc.) an overview of your plan.
Section 2: Target Customers
This section describes the customers you are targeting. It defines their demographic profile (e.g., age, gender), psychographic profile (e.g., their interests) and their precise wants and needs as they relate to the products and/or services you offer.
Being able to more clearly identify your target customers will help you both pinpoint your advertising (and get a higher return on investment) and better “speak the language” of prospective customers.
Section 3: Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Having a strong unique selling proposition (USP) is of critical importance as it distinguishes your company from competitors.
The hallmark of several great companies is their USP. For example, FedEx’s USP of “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” is well-known and resonates strongly with customers who desire reliability and quick delivery.
Section 4: Pricing & Positioning Strategy
Your pricing and positioning strategy must be aligned. For example, if you want your company to be known as the premier brand in your industry, having too low a price might dissuade customers from purchasing.
In this section of your marketing plan, detail the positioning you desire and how your pricing will support it.
Section 5: Distribution Plan
Your distribution plan details how customers will buy from you. For example, will customers purchase directly from you on your website? Will they buy from distributors or other retailers? And so on.
Think through different ways in which you might be able to reach customers and document them in this section of your marketing plan.
Section 6: Your Offers
Offers are special deals you put together to secure more new customers and drive past customers back to you.
Offers may include free trials, money-back guarantees, packages (e.g., combining different products and/or services) and discount offers. While your business doesn’t necessarily require offers, using them will generally cause your customer base to grow more rapidly.
Section 7: Marketing Materials
Your marketing materials are the collateral you use to promote your business to current and prospective customers. Among others, they include your website, print brochures, business cards, and catalogs.
Identify which marketing materials you have completed and which you need created or re-done in this section of your plan.
Section 8: Promotions Strategy
The promotions section is one of the most important sections of your marketing plan and details how you will reach new customers.
There are numerous promotional tactics, such as television ads, trade show marketing, press releases, online advertising, and event marketing.
In this section of your marketing plan, consider each of these alternatives and decide which ones will most effectively allow you to reach your target customers.
Section 9: Online Marketing Strategy
Like it or not, most customers go online these days to find and/or review new products and/or services to purchase. As such, having the right online marketing strategy can help you secure new customers and gain competitive advantage.
The four key components to your online marketing strategy are as follows:
  1. Keyword Strategy: identify what keywords you would like to optimize your website for.
  2. Search Engine Optimization Strategy: document updates you will make to your website so it shows up more prominently for your top keywords.
  3. Paid Online Advertising Strategy: write down the online advertising programs will you use to reach target customers.
  4. Social Media Strategy: document how you will use social media websites to attract customers.
Section 10: Conversion Strategy
Conversion strategies refer to the techniques you employ to turn prospective customers into paying customers.
For example, improving your sales scripts can boost conversions. Likewise increasing your social proof (e.g., showing testimonials of past clients who were satisfied with your company) will nearly always boost conversions and sales.
In this section of your plan, document which conversion-boosting strategies you will use.
Section 11: Joint Ventures & Partnerships
Joint ventures and partnerships are agreements you forge with other organizations to help reach new customers or better monetize existing customers. For example, if you sold replacement guitar strings, it could be quite lucrative to partner with a guitar manufacturer who had a list of thousands of customers to whom it sold guitars (and who probably need replacement strings in the future).
Think about what customers buy before, during and/or after they buy from your company. Many of the companies who sell these products and/or services could be good partners. Document such companies in this section of your marketing plan and then reach out to try to secure them.
Section 12: Referral Strategy
A strong customer referral program could revolutionize your success. For example, if every one of your customers referred one new customer, your customer base would constantly grow.
However, rarely will you get such growth unless you have a formalized referral strategy. For example, you need to determine when you will ask customers for referrals, what if anything you will give them as a reward, etc. Think through the best referral strategy for your organization and document it.
Section 13: Strategy for Increasing Transaction Prices
While your primary goal when conversing with prospective customers is often to secure the sale, it is also important to pay attention to the transaction price.
The transaction price, or amount customers pay when they buy from you, can dictate your success. For example, if your average customer transaction is $100 but your competitor’s average customer transaction is $150, they will generate more revenues, and probably profits, per customer. As a result, they will be able to outspend you on advertising, and continue to gain market share at your expense.
In this section of your plan, think about ways to increase your transaction prices such as by increasing prices, creating product or service bundles/packages, and so on.
Section 14: Retention Strategy
Too many organizations spend too much time and energy trying to secure new customers versus investing in getting existing customers to buy more often.
By using retention strategies such as a monthly newsletter or customer loyalty program, you can increase revenues and profits by getting customers to purchase from you more frequently over time.
Identify and document ways you can better retain customers here.
Section 15: Financial Projections
The final part of your marketing plan is to create financial projections. In your projections, include all the information documented in your marketing plan.
For example, include the promotional expenses you expect to incur and what your expected results will be in terms of new customers, sales and profits. Likewise include your expected results from your new retention strategy. And so on.
While your financial projections will never be 100% accurate, use them to identify which promotional expenses and other strategies should give you the highest return on investment. Also, by completing your financial projections, you will set goals (e.g., your goals for your referral program) for which your company should strive.
Completing each of the 15 sections of your marketing plan is real work. But, once your marketing plan is complete, it will be worth it, as your sales and profits should soar.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Public Relations

Here's a brief look at Public Relations from Robert Wynne:


Public Relations, explained last month a digital marketing expert wanted to include our firm’s public relations expertise in a new business pitch.  ”How many impressions can you guarantee the client each week?” he asked.  Hard to believe, but even a seasoned marketing professional doesn’t understand the basics of public relations.

For my friend, and all the friends of the PR pros who read this column, the family members who don’t understand what we do, and for entrepreneurs who need to understand public relations and how it can help their business, let’s explain Public Relations.


It’s not advertising.  We don’t buy impressions.  We don’t guarantee placement.  But the coverage we get, in the media, online, social media, TV and other places, usually has much more credibility than paid endorsements.  Public Relations consist of the following:

·         Persuasion
·         Information
·         Communication
·         Third-party validation
·         Public opinion
·         Public policy
·         Promotion to drive sales, revenues or donations.

Wikipedia has a great overall definition:

“… The practice of managing the spread of information between an individual or an organization and the public. Public relations may include an organization or individual gaining exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment. The aim of public relations by a company often is to persuade the public, investors, partners, employees, and other stakeholders to maintain a certain point of view about it, its leadership, products, or of political decisions. Common activities include speaking at conferences, winning industry awards, working with the press, and employee communication.”

The Public Relations Society of America, PRSA, notes the concepts have been modernized.  “The earliest definitions emphasized press agentry and publicity, while more modern definitions incorporate the concepts of ‘engagement’ and ‘relationship building.’” An international effort to update the definition led to the PRSA to note:

“PR is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”  At least we hope so.  As any PR person who has pitched a reporter knows, and any reporter who has to field calls from publicists has learned, the relationship can be mutually beneficial, antagonistic or indifferent at any time.  It depends on many factors including the news value of the story, the relationship between the two parties, the reputation of the subject, and the ideology of the media outlet.

The Princeton Review presents a very direct, some would say blunt, view of the industry.

“A public relations specialist is an image shaper. Their job is to generate positive publicity for their client and enhance their reputation. The client can be a company, an individual or a government. In the government PR people are called press secretaries. They keep the public informed about the activity of government agencies, explain policy, and manage political campaigns. Public relations people working for a company may handle consumer relations, or the relationship between parts of the company such as the managers and employees, or different branch offices. Though the job often involves the dissemination of information, some view this cynically as “spin doctoring.” … The successful PR person must be a good communicator-in print, in person and on the phone. They cultivate and maintain contacts with journalists, set up speaking engagements, write executive speeches and annual reports, respond to inquiries and speak directly to the press on behalf of their client. They must keep lines of communication open between the many groups affected by a company’s product and policies: consumers, shareholders, employees, and the managing body.”

For more information on what public relations agencies do, please see my previous column.

Like many industries, PR can be divided into specialties:

·         Industry-specific:  Consumer-Lifestyle, Higher Education, Legal, ...
·         Crisis Communications
·         Government Relations
·         Internal Communication

And of course, the internet and social media is a significant revolution. The biggest change for Digital Public Relations is this – you don’t need the traditional media as your megaphone, you can go directly to the consumer or audience via Twitter, Facebook, email, text, your website, etc.  The upside is immediacy for your message without a filter.  The downside is reaching that audience.  It’s easier for a celebrity or a name brand than an unknown person or business.

There are many great resources to explain this phenomenon. From the website Business2Community:

“PR has always been about creating a favorable operating climate for a company or organization. Digital PR is no different. It’s about building that presence online, understanding the digital landscape you operate in and developing strong relationships with all the players in your social graph. The techniques include SEO, content development, social media, online newsrooms, websites, blogs and online media coverage. Online Reputation Social media and consumer generated content can have a rapid effect on your reputation – both positive and negative. Understanding SEO (search engine optimization) is not just a vital skill for PR practitioners today – it’s crucial. Should an online crisis hit your business the event itself will be bad enough, but the aftermath of the negative content online can extend the effect of the crisis well into the future. Every time someone does a search for your company’s name that pesky negative content will show up. Search engines index content on relevance. If you don’t understand how the search algorithms work and how to move that content down the rankings, it will linger like a bad fish smell. Building relationships Digital PR makes use of social media platforms, networks and tools to interact with people online and build relationships. The social media part is the content and conversations on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and YouTube. The Digital PR part is the support functions needed to make those conversations relevant and effective – research, social audits, identifying influencers, developing and distributing the content.”

A good example of Digital PR includes the response of Southwest Airlines to a plane skidding on the runway of LaGuardia Airport in July of this year on Twitter and Facebook with screen shots of the posts thanks to the Likeable blog.  Southwest responded almost instantly with updates on the situation and reported the news directly to the public.  There’s also a great source, the Digital PR Guidebook from PR News Online with many more examples and essays.

For non-crisis PR, some brands are getting creative with digital platforms.  J. Crew obtained media coverage for choosing to release its catalogue on Pinterest and Oscar de la Renta played the PR game well for premiering its lineup on Instagram. Whether these are marketing tactics, PR stunts or genuine evolutionary steps, they are working.  When’s the last time you heard anything about Oscar de la Renta?

No discussion about Digital PR would be complete without a discussion of Content Marketing, the subject of a previous Forbes Column.

The website WhatIs defines it as “the publication of material designed to promote a brand, usually through a more oblique and subtle approach than that of traditional push advertising. The essence of good content marketing is that it offers something the viewer wants, such as information or entertainment. Content marketing can take a lot of different forms, including YouTube videos, blog posts and articles. It shouldn’t really seem like marketing — in some cases, in fact, it should only be identifiable as marketing because the advertiser is identified as the content provider.”

A contact in higher education notes research universities are leveraging their content to gain much more media coverage.  The traditional research stories or essays, which used to be hard copy tip sheets for reporters on who to call for experts, are now ‘legitimate content’ for a media industry that operates with fewer reporters and resources. My source notes web portals picking up their material verbatim in some cases. Universities can now talk directly to the reader about faculty thought leadership in many venues, rather than rely on reporters as the sole channel for explicating faculty’s knowledge.

This trend applies to academic institutions, think tanks and possibly corporate or government research labs that are reasonably neutral. This may be much harder for consultants and companies pitching products. In other words, “Research concludes our shampoo has 97 more tingling action!” press releases are still not working.

Feel free to share this with your friends, colleagues and parents.  And don’t forget to email a copy to the next person who asks you to guarantee something.  You can always tell them you won’t guarantee X number of impressions, but you can be sure that when you get something placed in front of the right people, you can guarantee they will pay more attention to it compared to a banner ad online or coupon in the newspaper.

Also check this older article out.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Economy: A Viewpoint from Risk and Strategic Management

Here is a quick piece on my take of the current state of the economy from a risk management and strategic viewpoint. This piece includes an article summary as well as my own writings.

Please look at this article on Forbes.

The beautiful is a phenomenon which is never apparent of itself, but is reflected in a thousand different works of the creator.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 

     The following three facts are pretty unsettling:

- Mergers and acquisitions are down 14% globally since 2008 and have plummeted 35% in Europe.

     - Massive amounts of cash are piling up on balance sheets. This hoard instinct represents an idle $1.4 trillion in corporate cash and cash equivalents sitting idle in the non-financial S&P 500 companies through late last year, up 69% from 2007, that's pre-recession.

     - Stock buybacks in the US so far this year are on a pace to substantially exceed last year, adding to the $2.2 trillion in buybacks from 2008 through 2012.

   It is understandable for business leaders waiting for things to clear up. The outcome of today’s stagnation is not only clouded, the entire ordeal is unprecedented. We’re in the midst of the longest and most complicated recessionary period ever. No one today has coped with anything like it. At the same time, political uncertainty is mounting due to legislation added by the current administration. Leaders have always lived with uncertainty, but this has always been the case. If money is not invested to spur real growth, expansion and innovation, it’s a good bet that none of these will occur.

     Doing anything is always risky. Doing nothing is a major strategic decision, typically a bad one. Business leaders can anticipate change by understanding that a lot of what seems like uncertainty is actually unfamiliarity. This distinction means that old ways can be adjusted and new methods acquired in pursuit of real opportunities that never have been seen before. In example, executives long understood that capital was scarce and talented people abundant; neither of which is true now.

Quick Advice for Corporations: Businesses must start hoarding talent. There is a current shortage of 10 million highly skilled workers, which could grow to as many as 95 million by the end of the decade. The world is now flooded in capital. A lot of it is currently on the sidelines but more will arise from developing nations. It is estimated that total global capital pool will expand 50% by the end of the decade, which is up $300 trillion from roughly $600 trillion today to nearly a quadrillion dollars by 2020. That’s a lot of money. 

      In order for businesses to continue on their path, good strategy must be considered with risk management in mind. The risk every manager faces is: What do I stand to gain? versus What do I have to lose? The question that is left on the table is: Can businesses afford to continue to sit on their hands/cash? And the answer is yes, yes they can.

Personal Note: I have been asked by several coworkers and friends on my own evaluation of the current state of the economy. Plain and simple I believe that the Fed is floating the economy through their Quantitative Easing Program, buying up $85 billion of assets from various entities and that businesses are waiting for the sleeping bear to wake and for things to crash before they will start unloading their cash hoard. It is my hope that instead of staying in stagnation that the Fed will allow the economy to crash to restart the business cycle so that the country can push forward. For those not familiar with business cycles, take a look at the following graphs: 
Business Cycle with terms


Blue - Stock Market Cycle  Yellow - Economic Cycle
     As I follow Forbes, WSJ, Bloomberg, Reuters  and many businesses as well as their contributors' blogs for my work, I feel comfortable in saying that a majority of business writers and bloggers feel that the current state of the stock market cycle is in Late Bull phase; I too concur. In terms of the business cycle, we have recovered but we have not yet boomed, and until the current administration fosters a pro-business environment, I would expect to see many corporations hold onto their massive cash piles sending the market into a bear one and causing the economy to contract. Fear not though, businesses will spend their cash as with time and inflation most companies choose to spend their money and invest it rather than lose it. Count on these businesses with cash piles to jump-start the real economic recovery into economic expansion, keeping the market in a natural balance.

The alternative side is that businesses will invest their cash before any downturn in the market occurs sending the economy into a boom period. I think this is highly unlikely as businesses stand to lose much more than gain as the market is currently at record highs. My hope is that businesses will invest in human capital and raise up future business men and women for their needs and provide the necessary incentives to retain their employees. Companies that are doing this already such as Chick-Fil-A are seeing vast returns on their customer service and investment in human capital. 

However, Mort Zuckerman is on the same page as myself, check out his article on the jobless recovery. "The country needs a real recovery, not a phony one." 

Side Note: Honestly, only time will tell if I am correct or not. If I stand corrected, I will admit my errors and move forward. My writings are not about whether I am right or wrong but looking at current events or issues and freely sharing ideas. Obviously, I wouldn't write or publish something I know to be wrong or false, so feel free to correct me when, not should, I make a mistake or be in the wrong.