Tag Archives: communications

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?

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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?”

Five Communications and Marketing Lessons I Learned on My Vacation

1 Mar

Last week, the kids were on a school break, so we took them out to California for 10 days of fun and family. I’m back now, shifting once again into the world of deadlines and commitments (what to leave in, what to leave out…).  But since my mind keeps drifting back to vacation, and they say that you should learn from any experience, I thought share a few vacation memories, and what we as communicators and marketers (or I, at least) can take away from the experience.

  1. Crying over spilled milk. On our first day, we ate breakfast at San Diego’s famous Hash House A-Go-Go.  Amid the giant plates of griddled, fried and scrambled food, my 5-year-old reached stretched his arm for another chomp of pancake and doing so elbowed a glass of milk onto the table. It was refilled; he did it again.  A second refill, another elbow and another spilled milk.  Finally, my wife and I started laughing, at which point our son began to cry, thinking we were laughing at him.  We gently explained that we weren’t laughing at him
    Lesson for communicators: When confronted, remember to take customer issues as seriously as they do.

  2. Ah, Legoland. Our kids love Legos. I mean, they really love Legos. So the main reason for our trip to San Diego was to see the legendary Legoland theme park (the theme being Legos, of course).  Lego had told us about thepark many times, sent us coupons and generally made us feel wanted. We arrived 15 minutes before the park opened and stayed about 30 minutes after it closed.  A good time was had by all.  Since apparently our break doesn’t coincide with anyone else’s break, the crowds were small and the lines were short.
    Lesson for communicators: Embrace and encourage the passion of your biggest fans.  And, instead of the big event or trade show, choose the odd time to make your news. You’ll stand out more.
  3. Getting help. Before  our trip, we forced friends to recount their So-Cal journeys, did loads of online research and scoured the ‘Net for coupons…and quickly found ourselves in a state of information overload.  As my wife notes, we might never have gone on the trip if she didn’t call a travel agent to help us figure out where to stay and how to get safely from Southern California to the North. Yes, we could have figured it out ourselves, but sometimes, finding a real expert can make for a much happier experience.
    Lesson for communicators: Be a real expert, one that helps get customers and influencers where they want to go, and your reputation will grow.
  4. Plan for the unplanned. Some parts of our vacation that we’ll remember best weren’t planned at all: Driving toward the ocean and spotting the USS Midway — then spending hours touring the old ship.  The little donut shop in Leucadia. The twisted trees of Torrey Pines. The Italian Bistro in La Jolla. Stumbling upon an odd little memorial to Bob Hope’s USO tours. Taking an early morning stroll after an evening rain and discovering a sidewalk strewn with snails.
    Lesson for marketers:  Be open and ready to take advantage of serendipity.  It’s the good stories you don’t arrange that stick longest in people’s minds.

  5. The inevitable crises. Over the 10 days we were away, I count it a blessing that only three of them involved someone throwing up. The first time was in a Mexican restaurant in San Diego’s Old Town. In an impressive feat of self control, the afflicted boy, hand clamped over mouth, scooted to the restroom before creating a scene. The second was on my parents’ couch, where, while too late to completely spare the couch and the carpet, a quick-thinking grandma reduced the damage by a) providing a large pot and b) urging us to get the dog away from the mess. The third time was in the lobby of the Foster City Red Robin restaurant, and there was no hiding any of it. The staff smiled and smoothly moved in to help, while we smiled and calmly headed for the parking lot, where a jacket conveniently left in the car allowed me to replace my shirt.
    Lesson for communicators: No matter what the crisis, stay cool and use your best judgment. Also, when traveling with children, keep an extra set of clothes handy.

Next time, back to our regularly scheduled communications and marketing wisdom.

Happy New Years Ago

31 Dec

Let us leave 2009 with the wisdom of some folks steeped in the new media of their own times.

On the need for great writing:

“The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it.”

– Edward R. Murrow, in 1964

On the need to invest in ‘how to say it’:

If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.

– Woodrow Wilson, 1856-1924

On the need for measurement…and listening:

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.

George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950

Looking forward to accomplishing communications with you next year!

The Wall Came Tumblin’ Down

9 Nov

Today is the 20th anniversary of the breaking down of the Berlin Wall.  It also marks my 20th year in Minnesota…and there is a connection.

Twenty years ago September, I stuffed all the worldly possessions I could fit into a poorly air-conditioned 1982 Ford Escort and drove from Rhode Island to Minneapolis.  My goal: go to graduate school, get a couple degrees from the School of Journalism and maybe become a professor (I didn’t become a professor, but that’s a story for another time).

People constantly asked me what I wanted to study, I had the germ of an idea.  It grew straight out of the Cold War and its aftermath, and was, essentially this: How was everything we’d ever learned about the world so completely wrong? And what was the media’s role?

You have to understand that growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, there was no doubt about how the world worked. The Russians were evil, inscrutable and powerful.  Half of Europe was in thrall to the Soviets, and always would be.  War was unthinkable and inevitable.  These were incontrovertible facts and always would be.  Until Mikhail Gorbachev started talking about glasnost and perestroika and the United States didn’t get in the way, and in a few years, the Wall came down.  And those incontrovertible facts…weren’t.

When people heard my thesis topic, they often assumed I had an interest in Russia and Russian history. I didn’t, not specifically anyway.  My interest was in how a society – and the media in particular – perpetuated this inflexible worldview…in the ways we get trapped by stereotypes and stories, and ignore what doesn’t fit so that nothing changes.

So when I think of how the Wall came down, I feel the joy of the people of Europe embracing freedom.  And I also think about change – about how the people of Europe began to believe that things could be different.  About the need to look past “what is” and toward “what could be” in my own life and work.  Because today, as individuals and as organizations, we are the media … we can help people see the world in new ways.  When the story should change — or simply could be better, or fresher, or more meaningful — it’s not just in our power to embrace change – it’s our responsibility.

6 Ways to Drive Communications

12 May
If I were running your communications program, I would: 
1. Sync up the message. If everyone in your company is out there with their own message, they might as well be working for themselves.  When the core message is synched up across all communications and everyone knows it, those individuals become a team, and magnify the power of each interaction. 
2. Act like media. The company has people and communities to meet, reach and influence, every day. How will we do that? Where? When? In many cases, the website can be a central hub for communications that engage the market through site features, blogs, newsletters, video/audio, and RSS.  
3. Listen…and share.  When I was a young intern at a Fortune 500 company, the PR department did a daily news roundup on paper that went across the executive ranks. There are more media and conversations to watch, but tracking it is easier than ever — but the task is being left to individuals.  Mix up news alerts, RSS feeds, email and website, and you’re there — or pay a modest fee for a media/social media tracking service.
4. Listen…and share part 2 — web analytics. While SEO is front and center in the mind of marketing, web analytics seems to be far less so — at least in the B2B world where I spend most of my time.  I’d want to know what’s being seen on the website, who’s using it, and how marketing and communications tactics impact web traffic and, where possible, leads. And I’d share the data. 
5. Audit and adapt. What’s working? What’s not? What does everyone say “we really should be doing” but we’re not? If strategies and tactics are working, we keep them strong. If they aren’t, they should be phased out, and replaced with what we really should be doing.  
6. Measure, but don’t be ruled by measurement. Anecdotes can be effective. The press release that generated a lead that led to a big sale may never have generated single clip or pushed more than a dozen people to the website, but it worked. The article linked on an obscure blog that caught the eye of the guy the VP sat next to on the airplane and turned into marketing partnership was a blip on the radar…but it worked. Listen to the people on the front lines — in sales, business development, and service.  Collect statistics and anecdotes. 

As a communications consultant, I often talk to clients about strategy, but don’t often have the chance to help them “start fresh”.  So I thought I’d share this — six principles that I would advocate when running the communications function. 

1. Sync up the message. If everyone in your company is out there with their own message, they might as well be working for themselves.  When the core message is synced up across all communications and everyone knows it, those individuals become a team, and magnify the power of each interaction. 

2. Act like media. The company has people and communities to meet, reach and influence, every day. How will we do that? Where? When? In many cases, the website can be a central hub for communications that engage the market through site features, blogs, newsletters, video/audio, and RSS.  

3. Listen…and share.  When I was a young intern at a Fortune 500 company, the PR department did a daily news roundup on paper that went across the executive ranks. There are more media and conversations to watch, but tracking it is easier than ever — but the task is being left to individuals.  Mix up news alerts, RSS feeds, email and website, and you’re there — or pay a modest fee for a media/social media tracking service.

4. Listen…and share part 2 — web analytics. While SEO is front and center in the mind of marketing, web analytics seems to be far less so — at least in the B2B world where I spend most of my time.  I’d want to know what’s being seen on the website, who’s using it, and how marketing and communications tactics impact web traffic and, where possible, leads. And I’d share the data. 

5. Audit and adapt. What’s working? What’s not? What does everyone say “we really should be doing” but we’re not? If strategies and tactics are working, we keep them strong. If they aren’t, they should be phased out, and replaced with what we really should be doing.  

6. Measure, but don’t be ruled by measurement. Anecdotes can be effective. The press release that generated a lead that led to a big sale may never have generated single clip or pushed more than a dozen people to the website, but it worked. The article linked on an obscure blog that caught the eye of the guy the VP sat next to on the airplane and turned into marketing partnership was a blip on the radar…but it worked. Listen to the people on the front lines — in sales, business development, and service.  Collect statistics and anecdotes. 

Not every thing you do leads directly to sales, but it all should drive the business forward.

Five Things About Social Media I’d Be Thankful to See Change

28 Nov

Mike Keliher wrote last week on things to be thankful for about social media, and tagged me on a related topic:  things I’d be thankful to see change in social media.  Appropriately, it’s the day after Thanksgiving, so let’s have at it.

For me, the issues with social media are less with the media themselves, and more with how it insinuates itself into our lives an conversations.  To whit:   

1.  Overstating Social Media’s Reach.  I work in public relations and marketing; I live in a world with mothers and fathers, housewives, sales people, real estate agents, corporate marketing communications professionals, stock brokers, designers, financial executives, housekeepers, retirees, restaurateurs, lawyers, shopkeepers … it goes on an on.  Just because you and your friends are Twittering and Uttering and blogging, snickering about the demise of newspapers and reviewing carefully compiled RSS feeds each day, doesn’t mean everyone is. Moreover, it doesn’t mean that most people are.  

Most people are checking their email every day and have a few favorite websites they follow. They barely manage to keep up with the news, but they scan the paper.  They have no time to read blogs.  They are amazed that anyone would use Twitter. 

I’d be thankful if communicators and social media evangelists would remember this. And, more importantly, respect it. 

2.  Understating Social Media’s Impact.  Flip the coin over and you find that most people have little idea how deeply social media impacts their lives.  Someone in their world is emailing them links to the hottest YouTube videos. TV takes them from the web, and then back into it again.  Every Google search delivers more data to marketers, every product review read and followed amplifies the power of one person’s opinion.  A friend of a friend of a friend shares a link or a bit of news on Twitter that makes it to your inbox in hours, if not minutes.  And have you noticed how many of your friends, family, high school and college buddies have signed up for Facebook?  How many colleagues are on LinkedIn?    

I’d be thankful if those who shake their heads and say they have no time for this would pay attention to how much more entertaining, fulfilling and downright useful social media has already become in their lives. 

3. Personally, I wish it were all easier. No matter how good you are with social media, it’s a pain.  There are too many networks, too many websites and technologies and services to follow.  Too many contacts to keep track of.  When my kids grow up, I expect that communications and the Web and gaming will all be handled by The Chip.  They’ll just stick this do-everything chip into their heads and they can call people and surf the net and play games just by thinking about it.

Okay, so I’m mostly joking, but I do know some folks who’d be first in line when The Chip hits the stores. Me, I’d be thankful if what want to know, who I want to follow and how I want to share would all just flow.  

4.  Could newspapers just figure it out already? Not directly “social media,” I know, but it’s my blog…  Here’s the deal:  We need journalism. We need professional journalists.  We need people covering news beats in our daily lives, we need people to make sense of it all.  And we need editors and fact checkers committed to the idea that they’re going to get the story right so their readers can trust what they report. We need business people and news leaders who run professional news organizations to stop fretting over classified ads that aren’t coming back and figure out a new millennium organizational and business model that will support this noble endeavor. I’d be thankful for that.

5.   It’s OK to put it down for awhile. I’ve been visiting family for the past week.  I haven’t Twittered (much) or blogged (until now), or kept up with much news (except Mumbai and the Minnesota Senate recount).  My family asked me if the Blackberry makes me feel compelled to answer emails instantly.  I said no.  There’s a comfort to knowing you’re always connected.  That if anyone needs you, they can find you.  But there’s even more comfort in sinking into the couch, Thanksgiving dinner over and the kids in bed, goofing around with your family, no cell phone, computer or Chip in sight. 

So there you go.  I’ll tag Adam Singer to try the same topic, in part because I’m almost sure he’s written on it already.

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