Tag Archives: branding

5 Principles for Creating a Great Brand Promise

14 Oct

I’ve been thinking brand promises of late. Here’s what I believe goes into a great brand promise:Handshake

  • Singular Expression of Value: A brand promise is a singular expression of what makes your organization — or its offerings — uniquely valuable to your customers.
  • How You Want to Change the World: The brand promise shouldn’t just describe what you do and how you deliver it. It should express how you want your customers’ lives or work to be improved as a result of what you do.  How do you want them to feel before, during and after they choose you?
  • Build from Customer Insights: As a result, the brand promise should grow organically from insights about your customers. This is a combination both of what you believe, and what people outside the organization believe about what you do.
  • Be Aspirational: A good brand promise should reflect both who you are, and who you aspire to be.  It’s OK if you’re not meeting every aspect of the promise today…as long as you’re committed to getting there.
  • Put it up on the Wall: Your brand promise may not be a company tagline, but it could well be your mantra — and that of everyone in the organization. Put it up on the wall — it’s what you’re trying to live up to each and every day.

These are my principles. Your thoughts?

Which communications matter most?

7 Apr

Do some communications matter more than others?  Well…yes.

There’s the big speech by the CEO to the industry group that positions you as a leader.

The message to employees that cutbacks are coming, but we need to continue to focus on the mission.

The blog series explaining your position on emerging industry standards.

The news release that expresses how this technology will change the market.

The employee magazine article on the new line of business…that has to inspire without disheartening those that work on the old stuff.

The customer letter announcing elimination of support for discontinued SKUs.

The whitepaper for the technology crowd.

The email to the disgruntled customer.

The conversations with reporter and bloggers on your latest news.

The online app that you hope goes viral.

The response to the Twitter user who wonders why no one is picking up your phones.

The quarterly earnings report.

The answer to the question, “So, what do you do?”

The invitation to join a user group.

The letter that closes a plant, or cuts back on the health plan.

The words that guide and inspire visitors to the new website.

The email to the latest potential “whale” of a prospect.

The product ad.

The investor presentation on your startup as the ‘next big thing’.

The analyst interview.

The how-to tips for the weekly podcast.

The copy on the packaging…

Maybe a better question would be, “Which communications don’t matter?”

An Avatar for Real Marketing

21 Dec

The reviews of James Cameron’s Avatar were written before the movie premiered:  Visually stunning, weak/derivative/borderline offensive story. I saw it over the weekend; my Twitter-friendly review:  “Dances With Wolves meets The Lion King.” Maybe throw in a little Lord of the Rings. Is it a good movie? Sure. And if I were 13, I’d have been blown away.

But the more I think about it, the less impressed I am. When you’re making and selling a movie, that’s OK. Strip away the art (you can’t, I know, but stay with me for a minute), and you’re selling a 1.5-3-hour experience.  If you can get people to the door, it needs to impress folks enough to get them to tell their friends so that they walk through that door or buy that DVD.

As a communicator and marketer, “looks pretty but dumb story” is just wrong. It doesn’t work for brands and it doesn’t work for reputations.  What works?  Smart stories about what you do to make yourselves valued.  Real stories about the good you do, told by the people and businesses who benefited.  Long-term commitment to your customer’s cause.

“Looks pretty” is just a short-cut unless the organization has a strong brand story to tell at its core.  If you have that story, and know how to tell it…well, then you can move people.

Measurable Social Strategies for Corporate Communications – Idea 2

4 Aug

We’re talking about measurable social engagement strategies for corporate communications — reasons to get started for public relations professionals who haven’t made engaging in online networks a part of their day-to-day business.  I’ll be sharing an idea-a-day this week.  I’m suggesting ideas that can become part of your daily routine, and part of strategic programs, along with ideas for how to measure their success.  Here’s idea #2:

Idea #2: Getting in front of…or catching up to your competitors.

You might do a few searches and find that no one is talking about your brand and think, “My customers aren’t using social media — I don’t have to worry about this yet.” But…are you sure about that? Maybe they just aren’t talking about you… The first, most important step is to make sure you’re watching — that you’re monitoring the forums, topics and keywords that are important to your reputation and sales.

If your competitors are being discussed without you, there’s an issue to address — how can you become part of the conversation?

If customers are complaining about competitors’ products, is there an opportunity?

If no one talks about what you do…there may be an opportunity to start something new — a web portal, blog or partnership — or an indication that online resources need to better support offline interactions.

The remedy is to actively monitor, evaluate and plot a strategy that delivers for your company.

Measure by links back to your website from social networks, tone of key messages visible online, search engine positioning.

See also:

Monday — Intro and Idea#1

Contact me to talk about communications strategy, positioning and messaging for your organization.

Storytelling, Corporate Communications and Brand

16 Jul

There’s a funny dynamic in my business these days. I’m starting to see it as a push and pull between my business as “communications consulting” and “writing”.

In my mind, I’ve always seen it as the same thing. A consultant is inherently a communicator — a writer — who must advocate his own ideas, analysis and strategy, and outfit the client do the same.

And a writer is a consultant. To do more than skim the surface of business story, you need to bring more than simply curiosity and a way with words.  You need an ability to recognize both what makes a good story, and what that story has to do for the organization — the goals the story has to support for the organization to be successful.

There’s a reason that I (and others) use ‘storytelling’ to describe the heart my business.  First, I like the word. It evokes something basic and simple that hearkens back to childhood – sitting in the circle listening to lessons and fables and stories of enchanted kingdoms and plucky young Jacks and princes and foxes and rabbits.  And storytelling perfectly encapsulates the art and action of communications – the creation of ‘story’ – or message or brand – and the ‘telling’ of it – the strategic and pragmatic task of finding people who want to hear a story and pass it on to their friends.

On the other hand, these days we like to say that brands don’t “tell” their audience anything – they have conversations. They listen and they communicate and they respond and they act.

Sure. But a brand isn’t simply the creation of the crowd, or even its customers.

And have you ever heard a good storyteller? I mean a really good one. The kind that holds the rapt attention of a gaggle of unruly kids? The kind that hears the unscripted shout from kid in the the back with glasses and the attitude and makes him part of the narrative? The sort that listens to the beat of story as it is spoken and can quickly take up new rhythms from the night and the audience as inspiration and slip them into the story as casual as you would in your backyard lawn chair over lemonade and beer?

That’s the dynamic I see in corporate communications and marketing today: You want to create a space where you can sit in the center of the circle with the people inside and outside the organization who make it go.  Telling, asserting, advocating — expressing your vision – and listening, adapting, and moving.  And setting them free to tell the story to their circles – letting it grow stronger in each retelling.

The State of My Economy (or, “How It’s Going, 2009”)

19 Mar

We’re three months into 2009 and it feels like I’m working at the kitchen table sipping a cup of coffee and gazing out at the backyard and there’s a koala up in the elm tree, staring back at me.   

“That’s odd,” I say to myself.  

It’s been an odd start to 2009, and this is a good thing.   Since the beginning of the year, I have (in no particular order),  

* reconnected with my big clients from last year, and, beyond new projects, had discussions about PR, marketing and corporate communications we’d not had in some time.  

* been found on Facebook by a high school friend living in South Africa who I haven’t seen in 20 years, a unexpected surprise that may also turn into business.

* created and conducted my first new media training session in many years, and developed a “PR 101” session for a client.

* begun to work with an former client at a new company. This isn’t unusual except that we reconnected at a networking event, and I usually say that I don’t like networking events…but there I went and look what happened.

* reconnected with the marketing entrepreneur I advised last year whose startup didn’t quite make it, but whose new start up is already off the ground and making money.   And this one may well stick.   

And I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking about the economy, and come to the conclusion that I shouldn’t spend so much time thinking about the economy.  It feels better to think about family. And friends. And clients. And business.

Because nothing has changed.  For us to succeed, we need sharp messages. We need clear brands. We need smart strategy.  We don’t just need be in front of customers — we need to be there with them, delivering what they want and what they need in ways no one else can. 

It’s shaping up to be an odd and memorable year.  I think I’m going to enjoy this.

Re-thinking the News, Part 3

7 Jan

Adam Singer left an excellent response on my previous post.  He wrote, in part:

“I wouldn’t necessarily call it random. Take FriendFeed, for instance. If you follow smart people, you’ll get smart links. Follow people who are into LOLcats and you’ll get a bunch of randomness that may or may not add value.

“Not saying there is anything wrong with LOLcats, but you see what I’m saying. You can piece together your own editorial team made up of everyone from scientists to marketing people to botanists. In essence, as professionals we are defining the information we find valuable. That’s the future.”

Which all sounds very cool. But (if I’m warping the Meatball Sundae metaphor correctly) isn’t this “editorial team”, however carefully chosen, serving up the whip topping on the much more expensive and time-consuming work of professional reporters writing stories, and the editors and organizations who confer credibility on what these reporters report?

Here’s the thing:  We need high-quality professional news organizations. We need journalists. We need the news organizations that, till recently, resided most resolutely at daily newspapers.  

The problem is that they believe we need them.

The daily newspaper is a public service masquerading as a business masquerading as a public service. As a service, daily news reporters take it as their duty to define and report and agenda set and comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable and maybe educate, inform and entertain while they’re doing so. As a business, the news is an enticement that fills the spaces between the ads.  As a service, daily newspapers provide a vital service to democracy, challenging government excess and empowering the public with knowledge.  As a business, the newspaper delivers potential customers with folks who have something to sell. 

Back in journalism school, we talked about the business and journalism sides of a news organization as like church and state — separated by something as powerful as the Constitution, no less. But when the proliferation of media challenges whether the daily newspaper is necessary in its current form, it brings the business side back into the news room. 

And when business looks closely today, you see that the service of journalism in a daily newspaper is completely separate from what it sells. For newspapers, this is no longer a viable business model.  For anyone else, it’s questionable.  

I’m far more interested in saving news organizations and jouralism than I am newspapers. The question is, how can you maintain — fund — vital, vibrant local news organizations?  I don’t know the answer — plenty of smart folks have spent far more time on this issue … But, if I were trying to market a newspaper today, I’d start rethinking the newspaper like this: 

First, I’d embrace the idea of “The News Paper.” Call it “rebranding” if you must.  Pitch the paper as representing the unique point of view of a smart, dedicated, team of professional journalists focused on delivering “The News” in our community.  It’s not about expressing opinions — it’s about expressing a point of view.  The News Paper offers a unique perspective on what’s important today for our community — whether that’s local or around the world — and the people, trends and institutions who shape that community — for good or ill.  Stop pretending to be objective, stop acting like reading the newspaper is the right thing for responsible citizens to do, and stop apologizing for printing it on paper by chasing every new technology for reading the news.  Embrace the idea that you, as a team of journalists, are in the business of creating a news product that people want.

Then, raise prices. If it’s worth producing, people can pay for it. Think about increasing prices for corporate subscriptions as well, or making deals for businesses in to pay increased but reasonable prices to share the newspaper in public places. Yeah, you’d lose some readers, but you’re running a business here. If businesses don’t see you as a customer deliver vehicle, they are not advertising. If they aren’t advertising and they’re not buying the product you’re producing, where does that leave you? Exactly where you are today…

Open up the news process in a big way.  Online, share transcripts and post audio of interviews. Let readers in on the decision-making process of what becomes the news — not just by writing articles about it, but by, say, streaming the editorial meeting in video, or running a daily morning chat with interested readers.  

Bring in more voices.  Take advantage of infinite space online to offer a forum to a wide range of community voices — not just the unmoderated rabble of news article forums but articles and blogs and vlogs chosen by the smart folks who run the paper. 

Rethink format and frequency. What would readers choose if the the newspaper embraced high-speed on-demand digital printing? Could we print the paper we want at a local kiosk?  Would some StarTribune readers, for example, cut out Variety and International news, because they get their entertainment and international news elsewhere? Or would they appreciate the local editors’ choices as part of their chosen editorial team?  

I wouldn’t offer “just the news we want” … I’d offer the the chance to read our great product on a variety of topics.

And, maybe just start over.  What if, as a local newspaper business executive, you seeded a brand new news organization.  One that could restart the business of covering the community from the ground up. Give them a year to create their own business model, one that embraced the web and its economies as well as journalism and its professional traditions. What would they create? Could they sell it?

The result, I think, would be more investigative journalism, an organization more engaged with its community … and, as a result, one that is more valuable to its community.

Your turn!

Next up:  A few links to what I’ve been reading on the subject of late…

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