Creating trust in the new corporate branding model comes down to one person.

Time was before the advent of social media, corporate communications programs were well organized. You had your corporate brand strategy and position which was then communicated via well understood channels such as investor relations, PR, advertising and so forth. In this well oiled marketing machine, individual corporate thought leaders were used to support the corporate message and in this model the goal was clear: create a clear brand value proposition at a corporate level that customers would trust to do business with. The ultimate top down model.

That was then. This is now and the model is turned upside down.

In today’s social networked world, trust is not generated by the corporate communications machine. It is generated by a dynamic I call the Law of One — the brand proposition is carried by an individual who can create trust on behalf of the brand.

In the new socially connected world – individuals are far more effective at conveying trust in social networks than corporate spokespeople or an army of communication specialists. In this new world, non employees or line employees can be the most vocal and valuable trust creators.

Tapping into this dynamic requires a new approach commensurate with the opportunity.  For example, creating a programmatic approach to systematically create personal brands for company “experts” or thought leaders or front line employees integrating existing company social networks, affinity networks with a coordinated approach to content distribution. For non employee trust champions, driving these engaged individuals to a corporate sponsored community driven by a shared interest is a key way to harness and leverage the Law of One within the social network experience.

The new corporate branding machine – creating trust one person at a time.

Judy Shapiro

PR or D-PR – how to get the most from your PR agency

  

 

I can’t stand it anymore.

 

If I hear one more friend or colleague complain about their PR agency, I will scream. Within the past week alone I heard 4 complaints about PR agencies. “They don’t get it”. “I am disappointed with the results”. The drone is the same. The question is why does it seem that level of complaints has reached a loud pitch?

 

The answer is because we have not updated our understanding of how to use PR in the increasingly digitally focused marketing world. Well it’s best to start right now.

 

We all know that there is “new media” (a.k.a. digital media) and traditional media (such as TV). Well PR has the same distinction that looks like this.

 

Traditional PR = media outreach. Period. That means your PR agency gets reporters to pick up a news item about your company. If that’s what you want – then many PR agencies are just fine. But for many eCommerce centric businesses, an occasional media pickup does not seem to have the value it used to. It does not build an audience reliably or consistently. And it does not seem to create the “buzz” many companies are looking for.

 

So what happened? A great pickup in the New York Times used to give a business more lift in the past than nowadays. But don’t blame the PR agency.  

 

Part of the reason for the decline of the power of traditional PR is the decline of the power of the media as sole purveyors of our news. Now news can be procured through complex and open channels. Private individuals can capture a video segment on their cell phone that becomes front page news. A person networking on a community site reports on her experience with the government and an investigation is launched. But many PR pro’s continued to cultivate the traditional media outlets even as their influence declines. .

 

That’s how D- PR (digital PR) is different. D-PR is about the ability to create and manage a public conversation through a myriad of digital tools that drive public opinion.  This approach allows for a continuous presence that sustains a business rather than a one time article that drives short term results. That type of planning and execution takes digital PR savvy in knowing the new tools needed to target new audiences that traditional PR agencies don’t normally address.

 

And D-PR turns traditional PR planning on its head. Rather than hiring a PR agency to pitch a story and hope users will follow, D-PR takes an alternate approach. It uses digital technology to seed usage among key user groups and gets them talking about it. Once these champions user groups have been established (they need not be big numbers – just passionate about you), then do the “traditional PR” outreach. D-PR is the “new PR” – true public relations in its broadest and most inclusive sense.

 

So please stop beating up your PR agency. Start understanding what you are paying for.

 

Judy Shapiro

“But it’s not fair!”

As children, we cling to the notion that life is fair. It is how we, as children, can make sense of a world. After all, if there are 3 candies and 3 kids – fairness helps kids know what they can expect.

This notion of fairness unfortunately is not how life often works. Long ago I abandoned my childish attachment to fairness and replaced it with a more mature devotion to balance.

While superficially “balance” just seems to be another word for “fairness” – they are really quite different.

Fairness is used to manage expectations, like 3 candies – 3 kids. Everyone knows who gets what. But it is also a passive, static activity. The principles of fairness drive the action and the participants are subjugated to the rules of fairness.

Balance, on the other hand is a created thing. The participants are the ones who create the energy of equilibrium creating the balanced state. And balance is always shifting – never static.

This week I was reminded of this lesson and how it pertains to emarketing. Stuff happens in the big city. Sometimes in marketing great stuff happens – you get a great review from an important publication. But sometimes – you get a bad review because the editor did not understand your solution. How unfair you rage.  On first instinct you want to call the editor and appeal to his sense of fairness.  You want to scream into virtual cyberspace … “But it’s not fair…”

I had the chance to relearn this lesson when we recently got an unfair review by a reporter for a desktop security solution. Sophisticated technology can take a bit of time to fully understand and it would be easy to overlook a feature. And that’s what happened here. The editor just got his facts wrong. And based on wrong facts this editor posted a blog entry on his popular technology blog declaring our product unreliable. Not good for a security product.

Not good at all and I immediately launched into my instinctive crisis management action plan. Get to the editor, show him the error of his ways and then I imagined, he would change his posts to be “fair” to our solution.  

But I was able to observe that crisis management in the online world isn’t about fairness. I learned this week that crisis management in the online world is about balance. It is about owning the trajectory of the balance that is to be created. The party that drives pace of the equilibrium is the one that wins the emarketing war.

That translates into closely monitoring how the incorrect blog cascades through the blog-o-sphere and responding to the incorrect assumptions. That translates into being very vocal and very candid about your concerns in public. That translates into being sure that your point of view is visibly out there.

It’s not a perfect science. How far do you push? But the fundamentals are straightforward. Quickly get your perspective out in as many places and ways as you can. Control the conversation so you can create the balanced state.

Fairness won’t win an emarketing battle – balance will.

Judy Shapiro

Ten Marketing Heresies You Should Start Believing In

 

Heresy is a loaded word – evoking in equal measure poor souls suffering some unspeakable death for the sake of an idea and the visionaries whose ideas were so ahead of their time that it often took decades or centuries for it to be proven true.

So when a friend recently said that an idea I had mentioned was “heresy” – I was taken aback. Strong language indeed.  And if something is declared as heresy the intention is to snuff out its spread for it may actually be true.

That got me thinking about all the marketing heresies I actually believe and much to my surprise, I have developed a fairly extensive list of these “heresies”. When I think about my start in marketing at an advertising agency working on Procter & Gamble or AT&T businesses, I also realized I was well trained (even maybe a little indoctrinated) in the well established marketing principles.

But that was in the 1980’s when generating awareness was based on large advertising budgets and large advertising agency expense budgets. Today, the goal is the same – getting broad awareness or “brand buzz” – but we must adapt our thinking and in some ways accept what would have been considered marketing heresies even just a few years ago.

So here is my list of marketing “heresies” … heresies that help build business if you can believe in their truths.

1)  World class marketing does not necessarily require an agency or consultant.

This one was particularly hard for me to accept as my heritage lies in the agency world, but is true nonetheless. Agencies largely can not bring innovation to clients because their business model is not geared toward that. Agencies do well in executing established programs that do not require a high level of non billable research investment. Often new programs require agencies to first get up the learning curve and they can’t bill for that. That means they usually stick to what they know – they make more money that way.  

2) “Hands on” experience is better than having consultants or agencies do the work for you.

Related to the above, and to be honest, I was not eager to believe this one  – but it is true nonetheless. And it is particularly true when working with the newer marketing tactics.  Since agencies are often not the innovators, in order for you to direct agencies well, you have to have hands on experience. Without that “hands on experience”, it is more difficult to get accountability.

“C’mon”, I hear you say, “how practical is that? Certainly, an ad executive can not get bogged down in implementing lots of programs.” I understand. I was used to an organized, compartmentalized marketing world – the copywriter wrote copy, PR agencies did the PR, the promotional folks managed emails. Doing it myself seems almost sacrilegious.

But it was not until I started to do the work, that I learned the most and I credit the CEO of my company for making me to do it (over my constant and eminently annoying objections  I might add). So take it from someone who had to learn the hard way, marketing is about staying current and being able to understand how people will respond your programs. Working the work yourself (as much as you can) really helps improve the quality of the work. And then you can begin to demand better quality from your agencies. 

3) Stop chasing measurement of specific marketing programs — but do measure all of marketing.

Sorry Virginia – but it’s time to put this long held holy grail to rest. Not every marketing program can be measured. Perhaps in some future time when we can measure what a person is actually thinking can we measure each marketing program.  The best we can do is measure an action that a marketing program may have generated – but that’s about it. The goal rather should be to measure marketing as an organic whole. 

Make sure you are looking at the right metrics. Of course – revenue is important, but I find volume metrics are also very important and a more sensitive measure to monitor marketing effectiveness. Increased sales revenue is often a function of price increases and/ or new product introductions. But to see if marketing is working efficiently, measure the order volume of a product from one year to the next. The volume measure is blind to changes that price increases could mask. If revenue has grown, but not volume, take a deeper look to see what can be done to improve this. 

4) Generating “brand buzz” is no longer a function of money.

The P&G model worked in its day. Buy GRP’s (Gross Rating Points) on TV, then awareness would go up and with it sales. Pretty straight forward and agencies marched right along. Large budgets drove large fees. It was a symbiotic relationship. But now the model is different. Creating awareness is a function of public relations, viral marketing and SEO programs. All of which are relatively low cost. PR agencies don’t understand viral marketing much and social media agencies don’t understand PR at all. None of them have a clue about SEO. So creating brand buzz means creating a new model that is not dependent on cash – but dependent on smarts.  

The recipe therefore is to integrate viral relations with public relations and SEO to drive search volumes. Then the more people will search for you the better your chances of getting them as customers.   

5) “Free” can build business – but it needs to be a real deal.

How many emails do we all get that claim free iPod or free this or that. These emails do seem to generate response but it has a dark side. The “free” deal is often tainted and that is worse than doing nothing at all. In a drive to generate revenue, keep free as it was intended – really free – not partially free or free if you buy this or that.

If you are making a free claim – really mean it (and be sure you can afford it) Then you’ll make money.

6) Search volume is highly manageable by marketers.   

Really truly. Stop thinking about search volumes that happens in a detached way from what you are doing. You can manage it, increase it. Tune it like you would an engine and your volumes will go up. 

7) Develop a refined sense of “roughly right”.

In today’s lightening fast world, perfection is not an asset anymore. It is far more useful to have a keen sense of “good enough” and get programs out there than to continue to work a program until it is perfect. Mind you, this heresy does not apply to all marketing tactics – but certainly to any tactics that lives in the online world. It is far more productive to get something out and refine it over time than to wait 9 months to get it perfect. If a program can get out “roughly right” in 4 months and generate some revenue, isn’t that far better than waiting nine months. I bet the extra measure of perfection does not compensate for the lost months of revenue. (I should add – I still struggle with this one – but hey – I’m still learning).

 

8 ) Letting customers openly voice thier opinions – good and bad – is a powerful brand building tool.   

 

I was having a conversation with a friend who runs the marketing for a manufacturing company and they wanted to create a user forum but decided against it because he said, “one bad opinion could really do damage.”  Well I heartily disagreed by explaining that bad feedback is going to happen anyway – but by creating a venue where you can manage the feedback, that gives you tremendous opportunities to turn that around. So don’t be scared of what customers may say within a forum you create – be more scared of what they say about you without you ever knowing. 

9) There is never one way to solve a marketing problem.

I tend to have strong opinions (you wouldn’t have ever guessed that – right :)) and believe that I am mostly right most of the time. I still believe that but now I know that others could be as right as me because there is always more than one way to skin a cat. So while I may be attached to my way – I can now whole heartedly follow other ways because they will deliver results too.

10) Last and perhaps more important — passion sells.

The corporate tone with a measured approach rarely makes anyone take notice. Rather, for marketing to work, you should be passionate about it because then it comes through in the work.

Resist the urge to think about another product launch as just more work. Get excited about the product. Learn why the developer designed the product the way they did. Too many times we become blasé about what we are doing and evaluate a new product through the lens of the product gaps. I am fortunate to work at an Internet security company with a CEO who is as passionate about every new product as though it is his first. That kind of passion is contagious and permeates everything. Try to turn yourself on when doing this type of work. It keeps the work fresh for your market and exciting for you. It doesn’t get better than that – does it?

Now do you believe?

Judy Shapiro

The Zen of Business Creativity (or why social media has become the new “in” thing)

 

Our CEO is fond of saying, “Logic has one way” and I politely smile and agree. Logic is useful for project and process management.  But that has little to do with how life or even business really proceeds. Innovation in medicine and science is rarely linear or even logical. Innovation, like life, weaves and bobs and turns back on itself like a tenuous road trying to make its way over a rough mountain terrain. The road must follow the contours of the natural topology. And so it is with business – it must follow the contours of creativity and imagination and intuition.  

Great businesses are born in the moments where you begin to harness the power of the blink decision in the way we humans make decisions about what we buy and where we buy it. And only after we have decided what we want to do, do we then look to rationalize those blink decisions with facts.

And this why, I believe, social media seems to have exploded onto the business psyche. It is the subtle perhaps even unconscious recognition by business to harness the power of the blink business. While logic based marketing is the foundation of most marketing programs – it is limited. Sure business executives like facts and logic – but it can be misused as a crunch for making decision. When asked to rationalize their decisions, they can pull out a presentation and very easily explain their decisions. To most business leaders intuition based decisions seem too risky to trust (note the irony in that – logic feels good and intuitive decision are uncomfortable).

And yet I notice what separates the visionary CEOs from the pack is the ability to appreciate blink thinking that is expressed by customers in their forums, communities and social networks. . Visionary CEO make intuitive decisions and then back it up with facts whereas most other CEO look for facts to help them make decisions and then they try and make themselves feel good about the decisions.

A simple example. Comodo makes available for free a slew of desktop solutions including an award winning firewall. Lots of time and development resources were spent on this initiative. Many people wondered, “Why do it? Where’s the money in it?” All logical questions — well aimed. Yet the CEO kept saying, “We are doing this to grow our business. People will know us for our free products and then they will buy from us.” Logical hardly, visionary you bet. And you know what he was right. Our brand is now more searched than the some of our biggest competitors.  And this was because he understood how to use social media at its best. Promote a great free product and word of mouth stimulated our whole business.

So next time you are tempted to make business decisions with logic and facts, think again – better yet – feel again.  Look to social media to help guide how you feel your way through business decisions. Answers are in the social networks – in the blink moments that are expressed in there. And yes, sometimes following creative business leaders is hard on the team around them. These CEOs often look like they on the edge of falling off the deep end. It is hard not to try to get them off that damn ledge. But this is where faith and intuition again asserts itself. You have to believe that their instincts are well honed.

But if you can endure the ride, the rewards mean the difference between a “just so” business and one that flies. I, for one, like life in the heights. The view is much more fun.

Judy Shapiro

The Six Step Plan to Claim Your 15 Minutes of Fame

 

Thanksgiving is here and with that the frenzy of holiday marketing truly explodes around us.  Everyone selling just about anything is vying for a piece of your mind and ultimately a piece of your pocketbook. And if you are like many businesses, the holiday season accounts for a big part of your yearly business – one way or another. 

So friends, here is a six step plan to make your name better known out there – (OK – maybe it won’t be a household name – but it will get you noticed.)

1) If you have a blog – flaunt it. Post regularly if you can – and be sure to sign your name to end of the post. You’ll be surprise how quickly the name will get picked up by Google. If you’re in the service business this is especially helpful.

2) Register your blog with Technorati and other directories.   Costs nothing to do and will beging to get you some traction.

3) Get your friends and family to cross link to your blog or site.  Yep – this is where networking helps. Ideally, get as many links into your site as possible – that is a key measure of importance to Google.

4) Don’t be afraid to give something away for free.  It may sound counter-intuitive – but giving something of value for free does generate business. People appreciate honest value and they will reward you with their business. But be straight in your offer – no hidden clauses or surprise fees. That will turn them off faster than a bulb gone dead.

5) Promote any brand recognition you can.  If you have won any awards or competitions that have branded cache, do a press release and send it out. You can send our press releases for free. Some of the biggest distributors are http://www.free-press-release.com http://www.prleap.com

6) Participate in the conversation.   Or, become an expert by responding to articles and other people’s blog. You will definitely see an uptick in your recognition.

Some things I mentioned are quick hits and others take time. But follows these steps and soon when someone Google’s your name, they will see exactly what you want them to see.

Happy faming.

Judy Shapiro

The Top 5 Myths of Viral Marketing

 

I am surprised at how mysterious this wide world of viral marketing is to many of my colleagues. It reminds me of the days when companies were first learning about  the Internet. Companies were slow to climb on the Internet learning curve then and now I feel like this is a mass déjà vu moment again.

So to help accelerate the learning curve this time around, I’d like to explain what viral marketing is NOT  because it’s easier first to explain what something is NOT and then you can better understand what it is. So here is my top five list of what viral marketing IS NOT. Take note comrades – nothing is a silver bullet and viral marketing is no exception.

1) Viral marketing does not cost a lot

It is a mistake to assume that viral marketing is something that happens if you sprinkle pixie dust into the Internet engine. There are costs but it is often hidden. Great viral marketing is about participating “in the conversation”. That takes time. The “time is money” cliché is true. And guess what – since there are no automated tools to participate in the conversation – participation can be time consuming and therefore not cheap.

 

2) Build a blog and they will come

Sound familiar? Marketers rushed to create websites using that mantra and we know how that ended. Getting a blog going is just the beginning but for it to help create brand buzz requires time and diligence and patience. Blogging at its best can give your brand a personality and a way for people to engage with you. But it needs care and feedling just like any other marketing tactic.

 

3) Viral campaigns can’t be planned – it just happens

On rare occasion that is true. But here’s the reality – most viral marketing successes are the result of careful planning, good execution and a sound strategy. Just like any other marketing campaign.

 

4) Viral marketing can take care of itself

Successful viral marketing is no different than managing a successful direct marketing campaign or advertising campaign or public relations initiative. It must be measured so it can be managed.

 

Which leads me to the final myth …

 

5) You can’t really measure a viral campaign

This is arguably one myth that does the most damage and is a myth that agencies like to promote. After all, it is in the agencies best interests to convince clients that viral marketing can’t be measured because then there is no accountability. But not only is viral marketing measurable – it is in some ways easier to measure than many other tactics. You can measure traffic volumes, responses to blogs and more. So next time your agency hems and haws about measuring a viral marketing campaign – keep looking. You can do better.

So now that we have debunked some of the biggest myths – what now? Let’s talk about what’s a good way to execute a viral campaign. There is a new disciplined type of viral marketing called “content campaigns” that uses an emerging model, PVR – public + viral relations. This means that all content is focused on a few themes and it is distributed across all media – PR, SEO, corporate blogs, white papers, seminars etc etc. By coordinating content creation and distribution, you can optimize search volume and that my friends is how business gets done today.

Buzz that.

 

Judy Shapiro

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