Can Instagram drive sales?

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Instagram_logo smallAccording to Entrepreneur, Instagram imagery can boost your brand and better your bottom line.

“Instagram is a unique medium for brand advertising unlike any other platform in the social space,” the business site notes. “The visually driven community allows users to communicate in the universal language of photos and videos, opening the world to the possibility of more “humanized” content. Instagram’s growth and reach speaks to its massive appeal to the millennial audience.”

While the article is aimed at “brands” instead of small businesses, its tips can still apply:

1. Users today want content that speaks to their real interests in a genuine manner.

2. Audiences demand personal interaction — they want to speak to another person who understands them and speaks like them.

3. Analytics: Instagram provides a simplistic user experience but provides vast amounts of data regarding users and content generated.

The full story is here.

 

Business Success: Wait, mental telepathy isn’t perfected?

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Business Success LogoBeing in charge carries many responsibilities — including directing the overall goals of your company. In this week’s Business Success column, Eisen Agency CEO Rodger Roeser tells us how running your own firm means you must take the reigns when necessary.

Thought Leadership and the Big Tuna
By Rodger Roeser

As the big tuna for a content development firm, we are often asked to craft and conceptualize thought leadership campaigns for our clientele. We also often practice it ourselves, as we believe it is a critical component of any good content development and brand development program.

I am the CEO of my firm. Key word: Mine. And with that comes unique insights and expertise that other leaders in other industries may not have. So, as a thought leader I believe it’s critical for the actual thought leader to pen the piece — Not the marketing team.

While I do believe it’s important for the marketing and content development team to review and edit, it’s critical that leadership is constantly looking both introspectively and externally at factors and ideas affecting their business and their industry – and get it down on paper, tape or video. Thought leadership need not be limited by medium, and certainly should not be limited by leadership.

A CEO or other executive, it should be expected, has their finger on the pulse of the industry, and is able to take their knowledge, background and expertise to bring perhaps disparate ideas and concepts together that should objectively push forward an idea or ideal. Thought leadership is exactly what it sounds like, taking the thoughts of leadership and sharing that information. Leaders must lead and, until mental telepathy is perfected, that content must be captured and shared.

And in truth, thought leadership should be simple for an executive, even if they can’t write. For starters, as the CEO, you should have some grasp of the expertise or knowledge you’re sharing — it shouldn’t involve exhaustive research, but instead be unique insight based on your expertise, and where you think things are going. Of course, adding in industry research to back up your thoughts, or real world examples, is helpful. And instead of writing, leaders could do a podcast audio interview, a video, or even a voiceover for an animated piece. I personally love sitting at the computer and penning my latest masterpiece, but as a former journalist I have an advantage some of my C-Suite brethren may not have. But that’s no excuse not to get your ideas down in some form.

Charge your marketing team with forward thinking by reviewing and presenting editorial calendars on topics leadership finds interesting and items you believe will enhance and bolter both engagement from your varied publics and make you look like you know what you’re talking about. Get these editorial calendars from both industry media outlets and other well known outlets that tend to share bigger thinking to get ideas as to the topics industry, mainstream and other business media is interested in. Oh, you don’t have that? Talk to your PR person (or hire a smarter PR firm).

From those topics (and there will be many), review the ones that you believe are going to give you the strongest possibility of sharing content that would be valued by those you wish to digest your content (a la, analysts, potential customers, so on). Waxing poetic about how smart you are, while you’re mom may love that, my not engage potential clients – so whatever you write, write it for the objective benefit of your audience. Thought leadership pieces can be short, with some quick pieces of expertise and advice you wish to share. Lists are popular, such as “The Top Five Things That Will Affect Our Industry Next Year,” or incredibly detailed and research oriented. It all depends on your goals, the time you have to invest (you should invest at least 10 hours a month on development of thought leadership pieces) and what you personally wish to achieve – not for the business, but for you.

You see, most B2B and B2C customer and client engagements are indeed influenced by the Big Tuna. If “they” don’t like or trust or value the leadership, most won’t buy – whether that product is diapers or stocks. Reputation is important. And, as a leader, that reputation can be built, maintained and shaped by quality thought leadership and content development. Once crafted, work with your media relations team to get those published and share them with the world.

You’ll increase your personal stock, help your business and hey, people will think you’re smart. And that, is good for everyone.

Rodger Roeser is the CEO of The Eisen Agency. Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, the award-winning public relations and content development firm specializes in marketing communications strategies for professional services organizations. More information is here.

Business Success: Trust, and Zero Crap

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Business Success LogoHow can you turn around an ailing firm? What are the keys to engaging your employees? This week author Lou Solomon reports on how one woman brought new life to a large charity, and how her priorities can also help you focus your management tasks.

                                                                                   

#1 Priority all Successful Leaders have

When you meet my client Jane McIntyre, you know instantly you’re with the real deal. She is the CEO of the United Way of the Central Carolinas, one of the largest fund-raising agencies in the country — but it’s not her title that will impress you. She is admired for turning around non-profit agencies in free fall, but it’s not about her reputation, either. She is also a charming woman with a deep Southern accent, but her Carolina drawl isn’t it either.

No, McIntyre is distinctly real because she is full of heart and takes zero crap. You recognize the look in her eyes as the mark of someone who knows who she is — and has the confidence to risk moments of vulnerability. She tells you the truth. She fakes nothing and places trust as her top business priority.

In 2008, McIntyre’s predecessor left her post in disgrace, and the agency in crisis. The local newspaper ran daily stories about her greed and mismanagement, and the community was outraged. Contributions dipped and the employees of UWCC were scapegoated. The scandal was especially poignant as the bigger economic crisis turned darker.

McIntyre, who was heading up the YWCA, stepped up and took the job no one wanted: to bring UWCC back from the edge. At the same time, she became my client — and one of the most colorful to date. She is small in stature but every bit of a red-headed cowgirl who can rope the biggest steer at any rodeo.

McIntyre made it clear to the team at United Way that she would ask a lot of them, and together they would do extraordinary work to change lives. They have delivered because they trust her, which is no small thing in this economy.

We’ve all been living with scandal, crises, and uncertainty since the recession hit in 2008. The majority of employees in this country are disengaged and distrustful of leaders, which can erode an organization’s bottom line. Gallup estimates that employers lose between $450 billion to $550 billion a year in productivity due to employees who lack commitment to their work — and this contributes to absenteeism, employee theft, poor service, safety-violations, turnover, and mediocre work.

After the big banks toppled and entire industries came apart at the seams, the trust rating of CEOs flopped to the bottom of the list, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer. Only one in five people trust leaders to tell the truth and make ethical and moral decisions. The presence of engaged employees who make companies competitive has slipped to just 30 percent of the American workforce.

At this crossroads, we have to pause and become intentional about the future. Instead of just reviewing cash flow projections, process, and procedures — we have to consider adding trust as a line of business. Crazy amounts of money are pumped into business processes, while employees long for the kind of human connection and common sense that builds trust, grows engagement, and pushes performance.

Three Stories:
We need a new kind of leader who is ready for the rodeo of the 21st Century. The corporate landscape has become a place of so much posturing and over-managed communication that leaders don’t trust themselves to get real.

Before each talk, Jane considers, “What’s the most important thing I should be talking about today?” I can tell you it’s never about statistics and data. Jane knows that people just like her are looking for a meaningful conversation.

There are three stories every leader should know: Who I Am, Who We Are, and Where We Are Going. People need to hear these stories to trust your motives — and you can’t fake it, you have to feel it.

Who I Am is not found on your resume or bio. It is the story of what your life has taught you and the obstacles you’ve overcome on your way to being a leader. One of the many defining stories Jane shares with people is her battle with cancer in her twenties. She tells them that the disease forced her to grow up. She tells them she has not taken one day for granted since. She advises, “You’ve got to live to the max. One day you look up and say, ‘It’s time to go to work.’” People can see who she is and they trust her because she “Walks the Talk.”

Who We Are is the story of defining successes within the organization. Jane is intimately aware of the unique abilities of the individuals who work for her. She doesn’t care about triple-degrees nearly as much as she cares about people who are smart and have the heart that it takes to do meaningful work. She celebrates the employees, contributors, heads of agencies, and clients of United Way. She does it in a way that makes the core values of her organization crystal clear.

Where We Are Going is the focus and vision of the leader who understands the greatest good for all involved. Upon accepting the position, McIntyre appeared on an NPR affiliate talk show and began driving the conversation from scandal to, “What’s important is that the United Way makes a difference to thousands of people in our region and in the community. That message has been lost. It’s time to get the focus back and ask how we can do more for the people who can lift the entire region.” This is no script. McIntyre says it with heart and she says it often.

Can you restore trust in your for-profit organization? The answer is yes, but there are no short cuts. Some leaders come at the idea of building trust with attempts to manage their speeches and financial reports. This is painfully transparent and produces the opposite effect.

#1 Line of Business
Think about a leader, co-worker, strategic partner, vendor, or employee you trust. Why do you trust them? I’ll bet it’s because they are willing to keep big and small promises, and choose people over immediate gain.

Last year Jane McIntyre called me from home to apologize for postponing a workshop for her leadership team. She was laid up after taking a bad fall. She could have had her assistant call, but she was willing to be inconvenienced to honor a relationship. She didn’t consider it un-leadership-like. This is one example of the ways she has galvanized trust over and over.

What if leaders considered themselves the promise-keepers of genuine conversation? If you are to lead well and help your organization thrive, you must rethink putting short-term gain ahead of people — and “see” performance in a new way. Begin with the fact that the people who work with you need a glimpse behind your title — to see your humility and humanity. You must be willing to risk vulnerability.

Strategic Use of F2F
The human connection is a relief valve. Have you ever had a mental resentment against someone, only to have it dissolve when you sat down with them face-to-face? The longer you go without face time, a misunderstanding can metastasize. Without the cues of body language, tone of voice, and facial expression, you imagine a negative tone and suggestion of blame in an email. You make things up.

Within less than one week on the job, McIntyre was meeting one-on-one with every employee before moving to the large contributors, and then to the community agency leaders. No one heard her sugar coat, suck up, or put a spin on the truth. She listened and she laid out her vision, along with what it would take to get there. People were invited to be a part of the positive urgency around the phrase, “It’s time to go to work.” She made it clear that “no” was an option. For those who said “yes” to the new landscape, she extended trust by delegating power.

The world we live in requires that we communicate virtually, but without the “reset” power of face-to-face connection, the trust supply can run out — and anonymity and disengagement will move in like an organizational illness. The culture turns aloof and even rude. Talented people leave and find other work where they can enjoy a sense of belonging in an environment that sparks innovation.

So what do we do when we can actually take advantage of face-to-face communication in meetings? Leaders allow people to open their laptops, disconnect, and check email. They tolerate cross talk, boring rounds of reporting out, and meetings that squander the resource of face time. Research shows that 70% of executives feel the majority of their meetings are a waste of time. How much does it cost for you to pay people to be bored?

There is little more important than the strategic use of face-to-face communication where we need it most. Start with your own meetings. Establish Meeting Agreements that honor people’s time, voice, and contribution. Plan off-site meetings to reset trust and performance.

Where does face-to-face communication fall on your priority list? Too often virtual forms of communication take precedence because they are easier and less expensive. It’s time we soften the lines between face-to-face and virtual forms of communication and stop talking about them as though they’re either/or. The right attitude is to address culture itself as a conversation, and search for ways to apply technology for connections.

Engagement is not a Survey
Engagement is a great buzz word, but most of the corporate world is dragging its feet and putting Band-Aids here and there. We need positive urgency to do the real work of shaping environments that can be the home of innovation. We have to start listening, laying out the vision, and make it clear that “no” is an option. If people are told and never asked, they will comply without buy-in.

Leaders tell me:
• “There isn’t enough time. I can’t connect with everyone.”
• “You can’t expect me to forget about Wall Street.”
• “But the world is too complex today. This is way too simplistic.”

…Yes, the bar keeps going up for great communicators. But we can’t just throw up our hands and say, “That’s it. I’m out.”

To be sure, it’s about balance. Leaders have to make both careful and courageous decisions. You’ll still have to make tough calls. When you do, give people as much information as soon as you can. Share the realities you are weighing and your intention for the best, balanced outcome. Don’t hide downsizing under a flowery name. Communicate with strength, heart, and zero crap.

The human connection is an attitude. Employees want to follow leaders who are strong and competent — but also honest, likeable, personable, inclusive, and regular people. Building trust is difficult and expensive in the short-term, but short-term gains don’t mean too much this time next year.

Leaders and Wall Street along with them have to adopt a grown up, delayed-gratification perspective. Serving shareholders’ interests at the expense of employees and communities is just bad business.

We lose our competitive edge not because we don’t understand business, but because we don’t understand people. Our value begins with the human connections and relationships we have with employees, and pushes out to customers and shareholders.

McIntyre has a way of connecting with the common sense and dignity within people. She leverages meetings, speeches, interviews, and conversations as a strategy for making human connections to drive her agenda. Is any of this easy? No, but leadership in the 21st Century is no cakewalk. As Jane says, “If you can’t take the heat, you shouldn’t be in leadership.”

Lou solomon— Lou Solomon is CEO and founder of Interact, a communications consultancy that helps entrepreneurs, Fortune 500 leaders and their teams build authenticity, make connections, earn trust and build influence. She is the author of, “Say Something Real.”

 

 

Business success: Why predict failure?

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Business Success LogoIt’s too easy to be a pessimist. But while pessimists fail, at least they were right about that impending lack of success.

In this week’s Business Success article, Alan C. Fox argues that it’s better to better to overcome your possible pessimism, and succeed in spite of it. Fox is the author of People Tools for Business: 5o Strategies for Building Success, Creating Wealth, and Finding Happines.

Alan C. Fox

Alan C. Fox

I’d Rather Succeed Than Be Right
By Alan C. Fox

“I’d rather be right then be president,” said former US Congressman and Secretary of State Henry Clay, Sr. (1777–1852). And right he was. The senator from Kentucky ran for president three times during his illustrious political career, and lost every time.

Many of us, perhaps most, often predict our own failure.  “I can’t climb that mountain.”  “My speech will be terrible.”  “I don’t suppose you’d like to go out with me.”

Why? Simply because it is much easier to fulfill a prediction of failure than it is to actually succeed.

But wouldn’t you rather predict success ten times, succeed five times, and be “wrong” in half of your predictions than predict failure all ten times and be entirely correct?

I for one would rather succeed.

I’ve used this attitude for most of my career. While I’m not always right, I am always confident.  And I end up succeeding a large percentage of the time.

A Sporting Chance
Heck, the highest major league career batting average of all time belongs to Ty Cobb.  His lifetime batting average was .366 (1905-28).  This means that out of 1,000 at bats, Ty Cobb — one of the best hitters of all time — failed to get a hit 634 times out of every 1,000 attempts.

And Detroit Lions quarterback Bobby Layne is reported to have said, “I’ve never lost a football game:  Sometimes my team was behind when the clock ran out.”

No one wins all the time, but you are far more likely to succeed if you go into your next interview (or deal, hearing, or review) anticipating your success.

Early in my career my business partner Harvey and I negotiated for eighteen months to buy an apartment complex.  Several times I told Harvey to give up, but he persisted.  After a year and a half, the seller finally agreed to accept our offer, and the transaction was later completed.  I must admit I learned something from Harvey: to work hard and expect success.  Harvey’s confidence was never shaken, and he had refused to take “no” for an answer.

In a 2013 Los Angeles Times interview, the great orthopedic surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache (whose clients include Kobe Bryant, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sylvester Stallone) was asked if he ever got nervous. “No,” he said, adding he always feels confident that he can solve any problem that arises.

Wonderland
So rather than go with Henry Clay’s approach, I’d rather follow the Queen’s advice in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:

“There’s no use trying,” Alice said.  “One can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” replied the Queen.  “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day.  Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

So why not tell yourself that you can do it—that you will succeed, despite the odds or obstacles?

Impossible?  Not at all.  And before breakfast is a good time to be optimistic.
Martin Luther King, Jr. had an impossible dream, and look what he accomplished.
Henry Clay, Sr., on the other hand, ended up being right—he lost all three of his campaigns for president in 1824, 1832, and 1844.
• Alan Fox is the president of ACF Property Management, Inc, and author of The New York Times bestseller People Tools: 54 Strategies for Building Relationships, Creating Joy, and Embracing Prosperity.  Fox is also the founder, editor, and publisher of the Rattle literary magazine, and he sits on the board of directors of several non-profit foundations. Visit www.peopletoolsbook.com

Business Success: Ambition and Advice

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Chris Wilkinson was only 19 years old when he started what would become a chain of five one-hour photo stores. “Not afraid to think big, he ran that company like a much larger business, developing systems, procedures and strategies you’d find in bigger, multiple-outlet operations,” write the New Zealand Herald.

Now through his First Retail Group, he seeks to add value to others’ businesses by “sharing the knowledge he’d already gleaned from years spent in retail.” Wilkinson says his involvement in the photographic industry, among the earliest sectors disrupted by digital technology, offered him insights he was keen to take into consultancy, the Herald adds. “Photography was one of the first sectors that transitioned with new digital technology, before books or even CDs were affected. That’s really helped us understand how sectors can change and how to manage those changes properly, so we’ve developed a bit of a specialty in working with sectors going through extreme change.”

The full story is here.

 

Business Success: Don’t stop now!

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Business Success LogoWhatever goals we promise ourselves we’ll achieve, the reality is that the outcome hinges only on our own sustained effort.

In this week’s Business Success advice article, Eisen Marketing Group president Rodger Roeser lays out the steps you need to succeed in your Marketing — or pretty much anything else, for that matter.

Success or Failure in your Marketing Activities

As we near the end of another year we see what became of our well-intentioned efforts to lose weight, get in to better shape, quit smoking, or stay more in touch with family. Is it too early to think of new resolutions for next year?

Rodger Roeser, APR

Rodger Roeser, APR

Resolutions are similar with marketing and public relations: Regardless of the economy, marketing activities are not flash-in-the-pan, quick-fix options, but rather long-term, sustained programs and campaigns that actually yield positive results.

Experts will tell you that the reason most resolutions fail is because they involve sustained commitment and effort. Also, they are often unrealistic in nature – so folks give up altogether. Similarly, good public relations and marketing activities take time and are not a quick fix to your business ills. Finding good publicity angles, creating image and article opportunities, reaching out and sharing that company story or profile — all this takes time, patience and stick-to-it-iveness.

It also takes time and effort to achieve realistic results. One push-up will not make you thin or build your chest. All too often, I see business executives simply increasing sales numbers for no apparent reason except that Excel allows them to plug in a 25 percent in widget sales. It seems solid research and market realities have given way to just plugging in numbers and storming the gates. This is bad practice, and leads to frustration and a lack of business clarity and focus among the employees. Don’t be that executive who says say you want X amount of articles in the newspaper, or any number that appears to be pulled out of thin air, and when those numbers aren’t hit, you’re disappointed. These types of business mistakes are not productive, and surely not good for morale.

A good marketing executive or agency can offer much better and more realistic guidance for these types of numbers, and advise the best ways to achieve those goals. And, like a good personal trainer, help keep you motivated and on track.

Here are four simple steps for your future successful marketing.

1. Get a Plan!

If you don’t have a marketing or marketing communications plan, get one. Do yourself and your business a favor: hire a good firm, and get a plan developed. The investment of just a few thousand dollars may be the best investment you make this entire year. The plan will have realistic goals with realistic prices (You do yourself no favors when you believe you can do a national advertising campaign for $500). A good plan will lay out strategies, tactics, timelines, goals and budgets that should be very easy to follow. The firm should be able to implement the plan, or work with you to share in the implementation duties.

If you don’t have a plan, this is the first and most important step you can take for your business.

2. Stop with the “Magic Bullet”

We all play Monday morning quarterback: surely the coach likely knows more about football than most, but it doesn’t stop people from wanting to share their “ideas.” Same holds true for marketing – rarely are folks short on “ideas.”

Recently it seems there is this great new invention that will revolutionize marketing as we know it and cause all other forms of marketing to wither and die:. Social media. For some reason, all the Monday morning marketers are jumping on the social media bandwagon and putting up any manner of information on Facebook, Twitter, and others – and waiting for the sales to roll in.

While social media and having a good social media plan is important, it is not THE answer. It certainly can be integrated into an overall marketing plan, and blogging and tweeting and friending and updating are all smart – just be realistic and be smart about it. If I ever again hear, “We’re not going to do much marketing this year, because we have a blog now” — I may have to send out the Marketing Police.

3. Keep at It

Regardless of whether your marketing program is grand or modest, continue to work it. Purchase media — billboards are at great prices, and direct mail is a simple, cost effective way to stay in touch and further solidify the brand.

While you must be smart and scrutinize every dollar invested, now is not the time to stop. I had a client that, for all intents and purposes, stopped their proactive marketing outreach months earlier — and now, they have no pipeline, no leads, and no revenue. They’re lack of consistency in their outreach has likely caused yet another business to go under.

Invest wisely, be proactive, and keep at it. Again, a good agency is your best friend here.

4. Change up the Routine

Just like working out, changing things up a bit can yield some quick and dramatic results. Now may be an excellent time to do something different – perhaps an event, a new sponsorship, a cause-marketing initiative, or a podcast. Properly positioned and integrated, new programs can attract entirely new segments of consumers or prospective business partners in a fresh way.

When is the last time you wrote a thought leadership article, or submitted an opinion piece? Take a look at where you may have some holes and fill them; see where the opportunities may exist, and capitalize on them.

Again, if you don’t know all the opportunities you may have, consult an agency. (There is also a great online radio show called “That Marketing Show” that has a top marketing genius as a guest each week, sharing one great tip and idea after another.)

By taking some simple and proactive steps, and hiring an affordable yet quality expert or agency, businesses can look forward to bright future. Now is the time to get out there, stay focused and keep aggressive. Ideas and options are a good thing. Go make some waves.

Rodger Roeser, APR, is the president and owner of Eisen Marketing Group, Northern Kentucky’s largest fully integrated public relations firm. Roeser served as the 2005 president of the Cincinnati Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. He is an accomplished and award winning print and broadcast journalist, and currently hosts Business Focus, an online broadcast news magazine.

Business Success: PR is not a verb!

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Business Success LogoThis week, Rodger Rouser of The Eisen Agency explains just what public relations actually is, which might suggest how your business can better work with a “flack” of your own — and help you get the news coverage that can help your business prosper.

To PR or not to PR:
PR is Not a Verb

This is not an article debating the changing landscape of the public relations or advertising industry, or preaching best practices — rather, it’s an examination of the two simple letters that encompass all that we (as communications professionals) do: PR.

Rodger Roeser, APR

Rodger Roeser, APR

As a public relations professional, I respect that there are some commonplace misconceptions about what “we” do here at our agency, and likely every other PR agency on the planet for that matter. The perception of what we do is made worse by certain reality television shows that make me want to claw my eyes out because of how they insult my intelligence and profession.

There is a significant difference between a PR firm and a publicist. All publicity is PR, but not all PR is publicity.

There are some novel notions around Publicity that I’m able to write off in good humor, including some personal favorites related to the mystique and glamour of the industry, and the all-too-frequent assumption that all story placements occur with the drop of a hat. Why yes, whatever story you’d like to have placed, just call me and I’ll get it in – I have a direct line. When clients say they need me to get them in the paper tomorrow, I quickly grab my ski mask and advise them to meet me at the nearest bank. I find running naked through the streets is also helpful. If only it were that simple to secure press… but I know a few tricks and have certainly been successful at securing solid placement, even in the absence of a quality story.

However, a minor but irritating thing I’ve been asked to do has always left me without a witty comeback. The question: “Can you PR this?” Even my own mother, who, upon hearing about one exciting upcoming project or another, has suggested that I do a good job of “PR-ing” for the client. I suppose I should thank my mom for reminding me to do my job by….doing what I do for a living, but I’ll never understand why she and so many others make those two letters into a verb.

Imagine someone asking a web developer to “website” something. PR is just not a verb, but it certainly is an ongoing action: The ongoing action of relating. Write it out. “Public Relations-ing.” Is that what we do every day? Sadly, I think when some people mention PR, they aren’t even referring to public relations, but instead to a Press Release – but that also makes no sense. “Can you Press Release this?”

This mistake frightens me. To me, the PR-as-a-verb phenomenon signifies a lack of understanding of the fundamentals of our industry, and mitigates the value of our strategy by implying that we exist solely to ‘get stories in the paper.’ If that were true, and that’s how it worked, think about the media landscape for a moment: Every story in every media outlet would be from a PR firm, right?

Of course, this isn’t to say that “PR-ing” doesn’t have its place.  Publicity, as we pros call it, is a great vehicle for interesting characters and stories, but in no way does it encompass the full extent of public relations. Publicity is also not the same as media relations – in fact, I work with some businesses to keep them OUT of the media or to simply maintain good relationships when confronted with an issue. (We call this “closed shop media”).

So again, publicity is part of media relations — which is part of public relations. Advertising is part of public relations. How you were greeted by your waitress today is public relations…

And while we’ll always recognize that publicity is a key component of any good marketing campaign, for an agency or practitioner’s abilities to be equated solely to publicity is a waste of good counsel. You need a great story, a good hook, proper timing, tenacity, the contacts and yes, a little luck. A good stunt now and again is fun, as is a press release duct taped to a pizza and sent to the newsroom.

Admittedly, this is just a rant from a word junkie hooked on technicalities — but it serves as a reminder to the PR-ers of the world that we need to explain the foundations of our practice, which we so often take for granted. Just as we tell newbies that Public Relations is far more than event planning, we must also ensure that our clients recognize that what we are doing is communicating.

So: don’t confuse PR with publicity. You don’t ‘ing’ PR. But, done right, we promise to sING your praises to your public, and get the phones to rING with leads — and if someone dINGs you in cyberspace we’ll be sure to brING out a little PR magic.

Business success: Photos are memories… But what else boosts recall?

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We often speak of photography being all about capturing for posterity the big events, beautiful locations, and our closest loved ones and friends  — and how we as an industry must do our best to help customers preserve their precious memories.

But while photography is great for memory (so much so that I am writing a book on that topic!) it’s not the only tool available to us — and in many ways, a powerful memory can boost your overall success in business, and elsewhere in life.

This week we present information and tips from Chester Santos, an actual recognized “Memory Champion” — yes, they have competitions!

Memory Exercises + Brain Fitness = Success

Chester Santos

Chester Santos

By Chester Santos

I am a memory expert: I help people to realize the benefits of an improved memory and sharper mind.
In order to win the USA Memory Championship in 2008, I practiced simple memory-building methods that can help anyone.
Wouldn’t it be helpful in your career to remember the names of everyone you meet, and to give a presentation or speech without notes? I teach that and much more.
My entertaining, interactive presentations and workshops provide my clients, from Fortune 500 companies to Harvard graduate students, with the tools to perform their functions at the highest level.

In any profession, you seem like much more of an expert in your field if you can recall important information rather than having to always look it up. If you have mastered your field and you are the expert, then you shouldn’t have to rely so much on reference — that makes you seem like a novice, not an expert. Another thing to consider: Whether or not there is a connection between memory and intelligence, there is definitely a perception: People with a razor sharp memory are perceived as more intelligent… and we always want to hire the more intelligent person.

My clients include businesses and organizations from various industries, including finance, technology, medicine and law. Many trial attorneys take my workshop because when they lose eye contact with the jury, they’ve lost the jury’s attention. You aren’t going to be as persuasive if you are always pausing to look through a mass of notes. Even the Harvard Graduate Council recognized the value of memory skills for students, and I conducted seminars for students from all thirteen of its graduate schools. “After listening to Chester, I realized the possibilities,” said Pukar Malla, President of the Harvard Graduate Council. “In a short span of time hundreds of students were using powerful memory techniques.”

I believe that memory techniques are especially important now in the technology age where people are less reliant upon human memory. The brain is very trainable. The more you have your brain do something over and over, the better it gets at doing it. The opposite is also true: The “use it or lose it” principle is definitely applicable to the brain. We all used to be able to remember the phone numbers of friends and family — Now no one knows anyone’s phone number. Things have gotten so bad that a lot of people don’t even remember their own phone numbers.

I engage my audiences and motivate them to memorize in the age of technology by demonstrating what is possible for all of us with just a little training: skills like remembering the names of one hundred people in the audience that I met right before the event, and memorizing a random list of numbers the audience created only a few seconds prior. I also can memorize an entire deck of cards in 90 seconds, or remember a sequence of 100 numbers in just five minutes (all challenges I performed in the USA Memory Championship). I never tell people that everyone is going to achieve my level, but what I do say is that everyone can dramatically improve their memory. My presentations are interactive, with audiences actively practicing memory exercises.

Most of the techniques I teach originated with the ancient Greeks. One of the core methods is known as the Method of Loci (“loci” meaning location). The Roman orator Cicero used this technique to give lengthy speeches from memory without any notes, and it was known then as the Roman Room method. This technique involves using a familiar venue such as your own home to create visual imagery that represents things you want to remember. In order to memorize a speech or presentation you choose several locations from your own home, and then link images that remind you in some way of each topic or section in your presentation. When you want to remember the topics you just take a mental walk through your residence, and “see” the images that you placed at the different locations.

These techniques magnify anyone’s memory many times over because you are using more areas of your brain. Scientific studies support that notion: When I appeared in an October 2012 PBS Nova ScienceNow segment, “How Smart Can We Get?” I trained the host of the show, David Pogue, how to use the Method of Loci memory technique. Pogue memorized 40 words in approximately ten minutes by using images connected to his own living room. In order to remember some of the words, I told Pogue to imagine that on top of this piano there is a monkey dancing, and this monkey picks up a giant iron. I later told Pogue that we tend to remember things more if there is something interesting actually happening, rather than just a stagnant object. Neuroscientist Dr. John Golfinos of New York University Langone Medical Center explained during the segment that memory champions can remember large amounts of information with these techniques because they are using the parts of the brain that process language as well as images, so employing other parts of the brain makes their memories stronger.

Since I know the importance of scientific support for my memory training, I offer programs along with Dr. Adam Gazzaley, Associate Professor of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Gazzaley explains the science of memory, and then I discuss the practical benefits of memory training in any career.

Clearly, memory techniques can help boost productivity for anyone in their business or personal life, and recently, I discovered that corporations might also want to get into the memory game. I brought the first-ever US corporate team to the USA Memory Championships. I do one-on-one memory coaching for Mike Faith, the CEO of Headsets.com, and he saw the benefit of memory training in his career. Faith believed in the value of memory training so much that he asked me to train his employees to compete in the USA Memory Championship this year. I started a trend: other corporations have already entered for next year.

Memory is fundamental to learning, so memory training and brain fitness are invaluable tools in the workplace — and who knows where the next corporate memory champion will come from? But it’s not all about competing against others… When you can improve your personal memory you are a winner in any arena. Just follow these basic and specific memory training tips to jump-start your memory.

Basic Memory Tips

1. Attach vivid visual images to information that you want to remember.

2. Establish a connection between new information and a familiar location, such as your home or office. Use this for remembering lists, presentations and speech topics.

3. Involve additional senses, including hearing, taste, touch and smell to assist in committing facts to memory. This aids in the process of encoding information into your brain.

4. Practice relying upon your memory and not technology, to recall telephone numbers and other information. This will help to re-program your brain to become more accustomed to remembering.

How to Remember Names

Everyone likes to hear his or her name, and it’s a great way to get ahead in business. Try these techniques and names will be more than just on the tip of your tongue:

Associate an image with the name of someone that you want to remember. So if someone has the name Jill, imagine a hill and someone jumping up the hill. Try linking another sensory cue to names such as sense of smell or hearing. When you meet someone, notice the scent they are wearing or the tone of their voice. If anything stands out, link it with the name. For example, if a woman is wearing a sweet-smelling perfume, link the word sweet with the name, “Sweet Sue.” If someone has a nasal voice use that with the name, “Nosey Jim.”

How to Remember a List

Imagine that there is a grocery list that you need to remember. Some of the items are milk, eggs and cereal. The best way to remember these items is to visualize them, but in an unusual way. For instance, think of a carton of the milk the size of a building, with eggs flying out of the windows. When the eggs splatter on the ground, cereal pours out of them. In order to cement the list in your mind, create a story surrounding the images and repeat it to yourself several times.

How to Memorize a Speech or Presentation

In order to memorize a speech or presentation you can use the same techniques for remembering a list: Connect an image with each topic or point in your material. For a particularly long speech or presentation, the Method of Loci works well. Just select a familiar location such as your home or office, and attach visual spots in that location to each topic. Picture your living room and take a walk around it in your mind, linking each piece of furniture, art and other objects to the points you want to make. It’s best to use vivid imagery when making these connections so that you have the best chance of remembering the information.

For more information on Chester Santos’ presentations and training go to www.InternationalManofMemory.com.

 

Business success: Rock on

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Business Success LogoIt’s been a while, but a few years ago I used to see the saying everywhere: “Everything I need to know, I learned in kindergarten.” Rodger Roeser, APR, president of The Eisen Agency, has a little twist on that idea. Everything he needs to know about marketing and PR, he learned in a rock ‘n roll band.

On that note (ha!), take it away, Rodger…

Rodger Roeser, APR

Rodger Roeser, APR

Those that know me know that I speak allegorically – I have a penchant for using nickel words and often turn to analogy and allusion to make a point. I have always found that it makes complex issues more personal and enables someone to better understand and appreciate an issue or an argument. My favorite analogies and stories typically tie in my experiences as a working, and often times starving, musician. Even as a suit and tie running a successful boutique agency, I am still that same wannabe rock star who practiced public relations and marketing before I even understood the so called “right way.”

There are literally endless ways businesses, personalities, civic and social leaders, and others utilize marketing and public relations in their efforts. In offering some practical and useful advice that I often learned the hard way, created as I went along, or simply worked harder than others would be willing to to make the seemingly impossible happen, understand that everything involved in good marketing and PR can be distilled into a story about rock and roll.

1. Play With Your Heart, Not Your Head

Too often, I see practitioners, either the so called professionals or internal teams, over thinking, over analyzing and over just about everything in an attempt to implement or develop a given marketing or public relations program. We’re likely all familiar with the term “paralysis by analysis,” but in marketing, it seems to be a rampant virus. So often, organizations and practitioners will laboriously fret (get it) over every conceivable outcome and focus on tactical minutia rather than looking at the big picture or worse, failing to see something beautiful in its simplicity that would actually work. Achem’s Razor: All things being equal, sometimes the most obvious is the right choice. Stop over thinking and DO SOMETHING.

I find too often that most would rather talk endlessly about ideas and theories and outcomes instead of finding a simple E chord that would crack someone’s ribs and really have an impact. Yes, it’s important to be prepared up front, but in looking at your organization, find what will make your customers (the listening audience) passionate and want to sing along to your tune. Stop focusing inward and think outward and let yourself be creative and passionate about what you do and how it makes a difference, solves a problem and tells a beautiful story. Because, as you talk with your customers, they’ll know when you’re playing a song you really love or just going through the motions. Marketing is not about keeping quiet in the cube: Shout it out loud.

2. The Show Must Go On

Things happen. It’s marketing, not rocket science. No matter how much you plan for an event, a grand opening, publicity or even desired outcomes – rarely does everything go exactly as planned. You can plan and you can spend head time on creating desired outcomes and what you believe is every possible contingency, but it will happen that the drummer is going to show up late (trust me), six people and your mom will be in the only ones in attendance, or the fact that you’re lip synching will be exposed on live national television. Things happen, it’s inevitable. How you recover, roll with the punches, and still make everything seamless is the mark of a true professional.

A good pro is prepared when something outside of their control happens. Last I checked, even the best agencies are not the magazine publishers, nor do they tell CNN upon what they should report. Businesses must understand that fact. It can rain. So as opposed to getting electrocuted when you plug in your amplifier, you are ready in advance for such unexpected opportunities to shine. You’re drummer fails to show up, time to grab the acoustic guitars and go “unplugged.” Whatever happens, have a back up and be prepared because the event or the interview or the program is in motion. As Frankie says: Relax. Do your job, and be the professional.

3. Know When To Hire a Manager and Outside Professionals

Sometimes, being a good musician (having a great company or product) is simply not enough. Hiring outside marketing professionals, just like hiring a lawyer or accountant, is a prudent move. You play your music well, we’ll show you how to take it to the next level and market it accordingly – that’s why all the great bands have great publicists. Over my 20 years in this marketing and PR business, I’ve seen, witnessed, created or otherwise had some involvement in just about everything at one point or another. Not much would shock or surprise me. I’ve made more mistakes over the years and learned from them than anyone else should have to go through. I taught myself how to play guitar, instead of hiring a teacher – which caused me to fire myself after I discovered guitarist after guitarist was so much better than me. I had a basic understanding, but these guys were good and better than me. They made the entire band (your business) better and I could focus on being the consummate front man.

I see the same thing in business. They “try” to do their marketing and public relations, but trust me, people like me know a heluva lot more about this than you do – it’s all we do. I see unintegrated programs, poorly written and self centered articles and press releases, websites developed by your cousin Tony’s high school son yet you’re a “high end” retailer. A good agency will save you money, not cost you. A good agency will bring hard work, fresh ideas, creativity and also bring to bear all these nifty tools and expertise not afforded to most businesses – particularly small or medium sized ones. And, if you are an internal marketing and public relations pro, don’t think that hiring outside expertise makes you look bad; rather it’s quite the opposite. A good producer can make a good song great. Bet you can name 20 rock bands (you, the client), and not 20 producers (me, the agency). Count on the experts and let them do their job. It will save you time, money and give you a competitive advantage. If you make widgets, make them great – just let someone else market it.

4. So, You Broke a String During the Song

Remember, it’s only one song of an entire set, an entire show, and possibly even an entire tour. Put things into perspective and refer back to rule #2. Just grab your second guitar or replace the string while you’re drummer does his solo (it’s called a distraction). Rarely will one single instant or tactic that may have to be changed or altered affect the overall outcome.

Also, keep in mind that sometimes hitting the “wrong chord” or playing the “wrong note” can lead to a much better song or outcome. Serendipitous mistakes have made for some of the most memorable songs – “Just Look Over Your Shoulder’s Baby” – was a mistake by Michael Jackson in a Jackson 5 hit. Never be so rigid in your thinking that you believe there can’t be a better way or that a serendipitous mistake can’t make a program as a whole even better. A good marketing professional must have the ability to improvise on the fly – and with the good ones – you’ll never even notice.

5. We’ve Got To Play These Kinds of Places First

One of the most amazing things I see in marketing, particularly in public relations and publicity, is how centric most companies and CEOs see their importance in the marketplace. No matter the size of the company or the arena in which it plays, all too often, I see them act and even expect to be on par with the Microsoft’s, IBM’s, or Procter & Gamble’s of the world. They are amazed that CNN is not interested in devoting 30 minutes to talking about how amazing and brilliant this company or this CEO are – and the fact that they’re not in the paper or on TV is because we simply haven’t called the media. They refuse to do interviews in the Cincinnati Enquirer because they’d rather hold out for USA Today. FastCompany is the only magazine I’ll be interviewed in, they say. I hope that one interview that may never come is a damn good one.

You see, you have to play a lot of dirtball clubs and bars before you get to play Madison Square Garden. I suppose you could rent out MSG (advertising), but who would come anyway? It takes time to build a solid following and also takes time to develop and create programs that will be most attractive to a journalist and media outlet – hard working people that are NOT on MY payroll. Although a good agency would have strong relationships with many journalists and reporters, good reporters have a job to do as well.

A good agency or practitioner can work with an organization or entity and find what is most likely to peak the interest of the media and how they can most likely secure coverage – regularly. Because, one show at a club doesn’t mean you get to play MSG the next night. It takes time, takes consistency, and takes tenacity. You must be able to put yourself and your organization on context and be willing to commit to a longer term program.

6. Good Publicity Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Good Attendance

Trust me. Most of the bands in the Cleveland area were not real big fans of my group because we were so media savvy (they had a great PR guy). We were on the cover of music magazines, newspapers, did live TV and radio interviews and performances, had press kits, did video and photo shoots, saved whales and still found time to throw TVs out of hotel windows – but that didn’t guarantee a packed house. You know what did? Hard work, practice and a heluva show.

In business, nothing is going to make up for a bad experience by the customer. I call it Brand Operational Dissonance (BOD), where the ads and smarmy PR guy say one thing, but the person behind the counter is rude, disinterested or your coffee is cold. Operations and your customer service, and honestly, the expertise of your people or the novelty of your new product is still going to be key. Find good insights. Test and retest with marketing research and secret shoppers in your specific target audience – and remember, you’re mom doesn’t count. If she likes your songs, you’re doing something wrong i.e.: ask your target and don’t be afraid of honesty. Use that information to refine and make your service, your product or you better. This is why good brands are always cautious of what appears in the news media or new media – and are protective of those things. Spin is exactly that. You don’t have to spin a fantastic new restaurant.

7. Passion Can Make Up for Talent

Just ask KISS (Sorry, couldn’t resist throwing that analogy in there). They have never claimed to be great musicians, but they are certainly amazing entertainers and you can feel the love for what they do, witness how hard they work, and experience the passion they have for their fans (your target audience) and their music (their product). They are second only to The Beatles in number of albums certified gold.

I am not the greatest public relations practitioner that ever lived. I’m not the smartest, I’m not the most creative – but I am the hardest working. I have the pleasure of having the best job on earth. I LOVE what I do and, ask my team, it can be sometimes all consuming and often times a challenge for others to keep up. I work late. I work weekends. My mind is always going, looking for other ideas and better ways of going about something. Do I get up at four in the morning to deliver cheeseburgers or flowers or coneys to the news media – yep. Pass out coupons or deliver hot coffee to the homeless in the dead of winter –  you bet. I stuff press kits, lick envelopes, make cold calls and entertain complete strangers at events. I’m not too proud to do anything that has to be done for the good of my clients or the good of the company, and sadly, I don’t see that very often.

This job is a paycheck. I’m too good for that task – it’s not my job. That kind of attitude is a killer in business. Again, people are smart and know when you’re faking it. Not that every program is perfect or every idea a winner, you just have to practice your passion and not be afraid to surround yourself with great people, talented people – if only they would learn how to play with their heart and not their head (refer them to rule #1).

8. Practice

There is no substitute. They say amateurs practice until they get it right, but professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong – it just becomes second nature. I can stand out on stage, play a killer bassline, belt out my song, jump up and down, press the button for the fog machine and point to a “fan” all at the same time without even thinking about it. So, too, must business. You must work with your team over and over and over again. Rehearse your speech, your movements, your key messages, your interviews.

A good agency has, as I’ve mentioned before, been there, done that with so many different programs – we’ve practiced. Marketing is not a good place necessarily for trial and error. During the show is probably not the best time to try out your new flaming guitar trick. Keep things simple and do what you know and do it better than anyone within the context of what you’re trying to do. Should you shred a lead guitar solo during a slow ballad just because you can – clearly not. Understand how you and your expertise fits in to make the whole greater than the individual parts, then work together in the many facets of your organization or your marketing program to create a comprehensive and leveraged program. Need help? Rule #3.

9. What Comes After 4?

One. With marketing and public relations, it is a process that involves upfront research, assessment, strategic communications and implementation, and finally an evaluation. Many of us are familiar with R.A.C.E. Again, if you’re not, refer to Rule #3. But, I’ve always felt this left something out of the equation – Continual Process Improvement. A good business and a good marketer will constantly find ways to make something work better, work smarter and more efficiently. If what you’re doing isn’t working, don’t keep doing it because ‘the plan’ says so. If the strategy is solid, but the tactics are not working as expected, don’t be afraid to improve upon that process if you’ve given enough time for the tactics, or personnel, to do their job.

Constantly measure and evaluate based on set key performance indicators, such as traffic, impressions, sales, leads and a host of other measurable objectives. Use unique URLs to track the efficacy of a given advertisement, direct mail or publicity endeavor. Utilize your tracking services and survey programs with clients and customers – items like surveymonkey and zoomerang have made this process simple and efficient. Set your benchmarks at the beginning, run the program well, evaluate then make it better.

10. Turn it Up!

“If life is a radio, turn it to 10.” Turn it up. Have fun and enjoy what you do and do your best on each program, each event, each time. Look for fresh ideas and never be afraid to get a “no” from a client, a reporter or a sales prospect. If you never give someone a chance to say “no,” they’ll never have an opportunity to say “yes.” Said another way: “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Soak things up like a sponge and take time to learn and be positively influenced and impacted by everyone around you. 10 is sometimes analogous to perfect, but understand that rarely will everything be perfect – marketing and public relations is a process and should be treated as such.

The number ‘10’ also makes me think of surveys and research, which are keys at the beginning of a program and also the rule of thumb as to the percentage of your total budget you should spend on research – competitive, demographic, segmented and the like. Doing your due diligence and investing in that research at the beginning of a program will save time, money and a lot of headaches.

11. There is no eleven in music. Unless you play for Spinal Tap. Rock on.

Small-business survival strategies

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Business Success LogoIn the UK, a study of 20 small and medium-sized high-growth companies showed they “utilized a blend of three strategies to stay competitive, proactive, and aggressive, and to continue growing while the economy contracted.”

The companies grew at a consistent rate over a recent four-year period—outpacing their competitors by more than 50 percent despite operating in slumping industries, according to this article, which compiles the best practices the study revealed the businesses all used:

• Keeping costs down: All the high-performing companies strove to keep their production budgets low and their prices competitive.

• Differentiation: Thirteen of the 20 firms studied simultaneously employed innovation strategies designed to regularly introduce new products, services, or processes.

• Customization: Eight of the 20 companies emphasized working closely with their customers to identify and produce tailored solutions, altering their product lines to meet their customers’ ever-changing criteria.

The full article is here.

The complete report is here.