Using Influencer Engagement to Boost Small Business Growth

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Using Influencer Engagement to Boost Small Business Growth


 

By Linda Landers
Girlpower Marketing


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As one of today’s most efficient and successful online marketing strategies, influencer marketing will continue to grow and evolve well into 2019. What started as “celebrity” influence has grown into a dominant industry with influencers boasting audiences and engagement of all types and sizes.

Studies have shown that 94% of marketers believe influencer marketing delivers 11x more ROI than traditional forms of digital marketing. It can be used to meet various marketing goals, including building brandawareness, increasing customer loyalty, distributing content, attracting followers and driving sales.     

Trends for 2019

While influencer engagement will continue to trend upward in the coming year, what will evolve is how influencers prefer to be compensated. While nearly 70% prefer monetary compensation, a growing number of influencers are becoming open to other forms of payment, including affiliate partnerships.

Today, influencer engagement is synonymous with Instagram, but there is much room for growth in other channels, depending on your target audience. While 99% of influencers are on Instagram, 70% are on Facebook, 46% on Snapchat, 42% on Twitter, and 37% on YouTube.

When choosing the platform for an influencer campaign, consider how many of your target customers can be found on the platform, and the potential engagement an influencer can generate. Because the better the engagement rate, the more effective your influencer marketing will be.

And whether it’s Instagram Stories or Facebook Live, video content created by influencers is one of the most impactful, converting forms of content you can provide. So, look for ways to deliver video content in a way that entertains and delights your audience.

Finally, many influencers are beginning to recognize the benefits of building closer, more focused long-term relationships with brands, rather than juggling multitudes of one-off engagements, and are adjusting accordingly.

Influencer Engagement for Small Businesses

While influencer engagement often brings to mind large brands, especially in the wake of the Colin Kaepernick agreement with Nike, don’t let these million-dollar deals dissuade you from seeking influencer campaigns for your own smaller brand.

Influencers that best fit smaller businesses may have micro-influencer status—meaning they have less than 25,000 followers (and typically less than 10,000) —but they also carry significant influence (4%) over that smaller audience. That influence translates into action, with 82% of people reporting they are likely to follow a recommendation made by a micro-influencer.  When compared to the 1.6% of engagement that celebrity endorsers experience, you can see how these smaller, more cost-effective influencers provide a significant marketing benefit to smaller brands.

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Micro-influencers typically mention brands three times more frequently than celebrity and mega influencers in a way that feels authentic and not forced. That equals more exposure to your target audience for a smaller budget. Cosmetics giant L’Oréal discovered this recently when Gartner L2 conducted a study on their recent Champs-Élysées fashion show.

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Jugos, a natural beverage company in Boston, works with smaller influencers to spread the word about their drinks. This particular post received 570 likes and 81 comments on an Instagram account with just over 19,000 followers. So don’t sweat the small stuff. If the influencers are reaching your target audience, then you’ve hit the jackpot, no matter how large or small their audience may be.

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Identifying the Right Influencers

Quite often the most challenging part of any influencer engagement is finding the right influencers. Selecting the right influencers is critical because once you’ve tapped someone to share their opinion on your product or service, that person becomes an extension of your brand.

So make sure to do your due diligence. Review an influencer’s previous posts to determine whether they’ll be a good reflection of your brand’s mission and vision. Make sure they are authentic and transparent. Because while you can afford to work with influencers who don’t have large followings, you may never recover from aligning with the wrong influencer.

Tools like BuzzsumoTapInfluence or Moz’s Follerwonk can help identify potential influencers by searching relevant keywords and hashtags and filtering the results according to influencer score, engagement, and other interactions.

Building Ongoing Relationships

When building relationships with your influencers, it’s important to make sure your brand is relevant to their followers, and vice versa.

Take the time to follow the identified influencers before reaching out, and make sure their posts align with your brand. Like, share and comment on their posts to begin building a relationship before approaching them regarding an engagement. They’ll undoubtedly spend time checking out your brand when they see that you’ve shown interest in them.

Once you’ve begun to build a rapport and you’re ready to reach out, transparency and clearly defined expectations will go a long way toward building trust with your potential influencers. This includes clarifying your brand messages and brand voice, while also giving influencers the freedom they need to create relevant, authentic posts about their experiences with your brand.

Finally, be realistic in your compensation. Think about what you would pay for content that would result in a similar ROI.

Compensating with product is still a part of the influencer economy – particularly with micro-influencers or high-value industries like travel – but most influencers now expect to be paid as any other creative marketing resource.

You can also offer other forms of compensation, including exclusive event access, a unique look at a product or study before launch, or promotion of the influencer’s own platform.

The Importance of Measurement

When done correctly, influencer engagement has the power to extend your brand’s reach, but you’ll never know by how much if you don’t measure your results.

Using personalized URLs, customized coupons and unique promo codes with tracking links help track engagement scores and possibly purchase decisions. You can also monitor hashtag use and specific keywords within each platform to determine the engagement for each. One tool for tracking hashtag reach is Keyhole, but you’ll want to be sure you’re using a proprietary hashtag to see the most relevant results.

Influencer marketing shows no signs of slowing down in the immediate future. As it continues to grow and develop in 2019, brands need to first and foremost research and identify those influencers who align with their marketing objectives to generate impactful campaigns that are believable, transparent and honest. If not, the trust you’ve spent years building for your brand will be gone in an instant.

If you’d like more thoughts on developing successful influencer campaigns and engaging new audiences, give us a call.

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Is it Content Strategy or Content Marketing?

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Is it Content Strategy or Content Marketing?


 

By Linda Landers
Girlpower Marketing


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Content is a huge piece of your marketing efforts – at least, it should be. The world won’t know what you’re about without content, whether you prefer blogs, social media posts, infographics, images, or video. This focus on content has resulted in many professionals using terms such as “content strategy” and “content marketing,” often interchangeably.

But are these two terms interchangeable? The answer is: not at all. Content strategy and content marketing are two separate things—and both are equally important.     

Why? Because one involves planning, while the other is the creation – the actual work. Let’s discuss.

Content Strategy

You can certainly attempt to create content and then distribute it to your followers with no plan in place, but don’t expect that content to go anywhere. Before you do all the hard work to create your content, take the time to identify why you’re creating content (hopefully the reason isn’t that everyone else is doing it), and then formulate a plan to maximize its reach and results.

That plan involves much more than simply when and where to post. It’s the structure around which you build your content, outlining what you will create, when and how. For example:

  • Who is your audience?

  • What/who do they follow?

  • What topics will you cover?

  • What are your competitors writing about?

  • Where will you post?

  • How often will you post?

  • Who will write the content?

  • How will you measure its impact?

You can actually determine several different desired outcomes when planning your content.

For example, do you want to:

  • Be seen as an expert in your industry?

  • Add value to the products or services you sell?

  • Increase your SEO rankings?

  • Improve organic search?

  • Reach potential customers who aren’t already familiar with your business?

  • Encourage engagement?

  • Build relationships with your buyers?

If your answer to any of these is yes, then you need a strategy to help you achieve those goals.

This strategy will lay out what type of content you need to create, where that content is placed, how you should distribute it outside of your current network, and how you will refine your efforts as you continue to discover what works and what doesn’t.

When creating your content strategy, also address your brand voice. Will it be formal? Informal? A good understanding of your audience is and what they’ll respond to will help you use the right voice to connect with them.

Finally, when creating your strategy, be sure to set measurable goals and KPIs, and use them to determine if you’ve achieved your desired result with your content.

Content Marketing

Now that you have a strategy in place, you’re ready to begin content marketing. You’ll create the content necessary to meet your strategy goals, and then distribute that content in a way that increases your chances of hitting your desired benchmarks.

For instance, if your strategy is to increase your credibility and become known as a thought-leader in your field, you’ll want to focus on content that will provide these benefits to your readers.

Blogs, “how to” videos, infographics, guest posts, white papers, eBooks, and by-lined articles all help to educate and inform your potential buyers. Distribution options beyond your website may include industry publications, your LinkedIn profile, or authoritative publications such as Huffington PostForbes, or other similar sites.

To encourage engagement with your customers, you may want to use images, videos, infographics, and short written posts that are designed to evoke a response. Humor is often the first choice, but anything that might tug at the emotions will help you reach your audience.

Your own social platforms are perfect for distributing this content—including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and even LinkedIn, depending on the nature of the message. Encourage discourse in your post, and then watch as your followers take care of the rest.

If your goal is to build relationships with your buyers, distribution of your content becomes the real focus. Email marketing is the perfect way to give personalized attention to consumers, though many are also turning to instant messaging options through social media platforms.

Facebook messaging, WhatsApp, and Instagram all offer your brand the chance to reach out to individual buyers with your messages.

Finally, when creating your content don’t neglect optimizing it. Think about keywords, density, length, links, yes. But remember optimizing your content is about the overall reader’s experience. Don’t get so hung up on SEO that your content is no longer recognizable to you.

If you’re spinning your wheels and need some help, give us a call.

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Marketing to the Adult Daughter: Getting It Right

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Marketing to the Adult Daughter: Getting It Right


 

By Linda Landers
Girlpower Marketing


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They’re known as Adult Daughters. Or Baby Boomers. Or even the Elastic Generation. Today, every fifth adult in the United States is a female over 50. They have a combined net worth of $19 trillion and make 85% of all U.S. household purchase decisions. But when it comes to marketing to these adult daughters, most brands are missing the mark.

These women are the healthiest, wealthiest and most active generation of women in history who control half of the country’s discretionary income and two-thirds of the consumer wealth.  They spend $400 billion more than younger demographics each year on consumer goods, and dominate spending in 119 out of 123 CPG categories. 

They’re social, mobile, and online — working well beyond the traditional retirement age, creating new businesses and products, and staying healthy beyond their years.

That percentage sounds about right when you consider that many marketers targeting the adult daughter still resist having an online presence and participating in social media. They’re convinced that these potential customers aren’t tech savvy. But nothing could be further from the truth.  Consider the following facts:

Yet the two words these women choose to describe marketing messages aimed at them? “Patronizing” and “Stereotypes.” This group of women continue to push the boundaries and upend the status quo, yet 91% say marketers don’t understand them.

  • Search is the most effective online channel to reach her, with 96.8% using it daily as their top online information-gathering resource.

  • Email is the 2nd leading online activity behind search, with 94.8% of this group using email on a daily basis. Marketers can use email to effectively provide topics of interest and value to this target audience.

  • Having a consistent social media presence is essential, as 82.3% of these women are on social media multiple times a day. Facebook is by far the most popular of all social media sites for this group, with 82.3% on Facebook daily. 

  • Over half watch more online video than TV, with YouTube reported as the preferred site.

Strategies For Marketing To The Adult Daughter

Insights and understanding are important, but their value to marketers comes from translating those insights into action – with an understanding that will boost the effectiveness of your marketing programs.

Brand Story

Your brand story is more than a narrative.  It’s an amalgamation of your employees, culture and corporate reputation – a narrative that encompasses the facts and feelings that are created by your brand.

Every element of your brand, from the colors and texture of your packaging, to the staff you hire is part of your brand story and reflects the truth about your brand. 

A powerful brand story can help you earn the loyalty and engagement of your target audience.

Do you have a brand story? A brand voice? Is it consistent? Are you differentiated from your competitors?

Website

Your website is the cornerstone of your marketing efforts. It serves as home base where customers can go to learn more about your brand and gives your content a place to live.

Your website should lead your visitors through the conversation funnel – first building awareness, then interest and trust, and finally – action.

According to Andy Crestodina, author of Content Chemistry, a website without a steady stream of useful content is just an online brochure.

A blog with a continual stream of fresh content generates the trust and credibility that leads to sales. It should be a blend of both curated content and original content, and all should be SEO optimized. Use links to move your potential customer through your site.

Use engaging photos that show real customers and people connecting with your brand. Provide videowhere possible. Testimonials and peer reviews also have broad appeal to this audience.

Include social icon buttons “above the fold” to make sharing easy for visitors. Sharing social media content also means more traffic to your site, better search engine rankings, and more lead generation opportunities.

Content Marketing

Content Marketing is one of the most important ways of getting your message to the adult daughter and generating inbound leads. A documented content strategy ensures every piece of content created supports your business objectives, as well as establishing your brand as a thought-leader.

It’s important to create content designed for each step of your customer’s buying journey.

The top of the sales funnel should educate the prospect about their problem and potential solutions. The middle of the sales funnel is the discovery section, where potential customers get to know and trust your brand. Finally, the bottom of the sales funnel is where they’re ready to make a decision and are considering solutions. This is where your content should focus on why your brand is the perfect solution to their problem. Case studies and testimonials are especially helpful in supporting their decision-making process.

Use long-form content – meaty guides are fantastic lead generation tools. Think eBooks, white papers, and longer “how to” blog posts.

Stories communicate and drive action, so when creating your content, tell the adult daughter a great story. An adult daughter’s heart is in her brain – telling her a story filled with emotion has the power to engage her more than any product or service description. Show empathy and demonstrate how your product or service adds value to her life or that of her loved ones.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is vital for building relationships with these potential prospects. It provides an opportunity to speak directly to them, in their inbox, at a time that is convenient for them – at a fraction of the cost of traditional media. 

And with 88% of adult daughters using email daily, it’s a great way to stay in touch while building credibility for your brand. When crafting your emails, be friendly and personable. You are not invading their space if you have chosen your message and recipient wisely.

Social Media

Adult daughters are present on all leading social media platforms, with significant focus on Facebook. Cater to them visually through great imagery and videos.

When creating your social media strategy, be sure not to be too promotional. It’s best to provide a balance of original and curated content designed to serve the adult daughter’s needs.

Your audience is too smart for clickbait article headlines, so use more economical and relevant headlines to attract them. Provide social proof around your brand – testimonials, and reviews of your products and services.

Make sure to include a link to your website on all social media posts. Most importantly, focus on helping your target solve her problems, not hard selling.

Influencer Marketing

Adult daughters want to hear from other adult daughters. They are receptive to connecting and engaging with influencers who have had similar experiences and have powerful stories to share.

Allow your influencers to share your brand messaging in their authentic voices. Tailor materials in an adult daughter-focused influencer campaign to written content and video.

Ideally, make sure your influencers can make these adult daughters laugh. Life teaches many women to laugh at themselves, and they are more likely to follow influencers who do so themselves, even when the campaign is around more serious topics.U

Understanding Her Half-Truth

According to Mary Lou Quinlan in “What She’s Not Telling You,”not understanding the half-truths women may tell can undermine your best-laid marketing plans.

Telling half-truths is often a critical behavior among female consumers to cut the conflict and smooth their way. These half-truths are not meant to deceive. They are a habit; survival gear that allows them to end the conversation and get on with their busy lives.

While a half -truth might be something like “I try to be healthy,” the whole-truth is often closer to  “I exercise (when I feel like it), watch what I eat (sometimes), don’t smoke (too much), and wear sunscreen (when I remember).”

Marketers need to recognize the half-truths adult daughters may tell and dig deeper to find the whole-truth or risk severely impacting their marketing efforts.

Most women, including adult daughters, don’t just buy products and services – they buy relationships, stories, and magic. Where is the magic in your brand story? 

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Build Better Brand Engagement by Tapping into Your Buyer’s Emotions

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Build Better Brand Engagement by Tapping into Your Buyer’s Emotions


 

By Linda Landers
Girlpower Marketing


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How do you feel when you read a Disneyland social media post? Or an ad for the latest Apple product? Does a message from BMW or Audi evoke a particular response from you? These brands all excel at making emotional connections with their consumers that are designed to build ongoing relationships and trigger a purchase. 

Think about what makes you choose one brand over the other. More often than not, it’s emotion. Through emotional branding, brands appeal directly to consumers’ needs, creating a connection that often results in long-term brand loyalty. 

Understanding Which Emotions Drive Your Consumers

The products or services you sell can pique your buyers’ emotions, which is why many consumers often prefer brand name products to generic ones. You can capitalize and build on these emotions with a deeper understanding of why your customers do what they do.

For example, Disneyland taps into the following buyer emotions: 

  • Excitement for new things

  • Fun

  • Family values

Disney’s television commercials, social media posts, articles, and other content center on these three emotions. The excitement of new rides, the discovery of a new park, and the pure joy that a Disney family vacation can offer.

What about Apple? With so many options for consumer electronics—phones, streaming services, tablets, computers—what makes buyers choose to spend more money on Apple products? Typically, it’s the desire for the best, and the desire to belong. 

Apple has long focused on the emotions of those who want to own the latest and greatest technology. Those who own Apple products feel a part of a select group. Apple intensifies these feelings of belonging through marketing materials that focus on superior technology, and through the services they provide. 

The ability to own a luxury car has long been a symbol of status. Car brands understand this and create imagery and content to cement and increase the feelings of self-achievement, the sense of power, and the desire to own the best.

What emotions do your products evoke in others? How can you sharpen and solidify those emotions into buyer loyalty? And do those emotions align with your brand mission and values?

Aligning Your Brand With Buyer Emotions

A deep dive into your brand should include a comprehensive understanding of your customers, inside and out. You can do that by creating buyer personas for your brand. What drives your buyers? What are their hopes, dreams, and desires? What do they do for fun? How can your brand help them achieve those hopes and dreams?  

The emotion you want consumers to feel must be present during all aspects of their interaction with your brand, from first encounter to their most recent purchase. That includes service before and after the sale, each and every time. To create real, lasting connections, check in with your buyers—ask them pointed, thoughtful questions about their experiences with your products, and give them a chance to make suggestions.

Embrace Change

In most cases, a buyer’s motivation for making their first purchase is not the same motivation for future purchases. A buyer may purchase their first BMW out of a sense of self-achievement. They’ve reached the point in their careers where they can afford one of the best vehicles on the road, and they’re proud of that accomplishment. 

But what prompts their next purchase? They’ve already satisfied that need for self-achievement, so the next purchase will be based on another emotion – perhaps the desire for a safe driving experience, or their trust in the quality of workmanship.

Apple understands this, too. Buyers often want to have the best that’s available, and they want the excitement of discovering new products and features they haven’t experienced before. And then there’s Disney, which brings 48 million people back through its gates each year by creating new rides and experiences for their consumers to enjoy. 

Your brand can’t rely on the initial purchase motivation to keep customers coming back. Whether in-house or working with your outside PR/marketing firm, you must continue to identify the experiences and emotional connections that are important to your consumers and provide them throughout your relationship with them.   

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How to Leverage the Changing PR Landscape in Your Brand Marketing

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How to Leverage the Changing PR Landscape in Your Brand Marketing


 

By Linda Landers
Girlpower Marketing


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Back in the day, public relations consisted primarily of press releases, articles in the daily newspaper and magazines, TV and radio spots, and a quarter-page section in the Sunday paper.

But today it’s a different world. Technology has given brands the ability to connect with potential customers in much broader ways than ever before and develop a much more integrated approach through various communications channels. 

The PESO model (paid, earned, shared and owned media), identified by Gini Dietrich of Spin Sucks, gives us the opportunity to grow brands in a thoughtful, controlled way. Even better? The results are measurable at all points in the process, from beginning the awareness-building process, through the final purchase. 

Paid Media

Facebook and Google ads, paid amplification, pay-per-click campaigns, sponsored influencer partnerships and print ads are all channels to get your content in front of as many people as possible in a relatively short period.

Paid media can be used effectively to reach new audiences that may not have been considered before. And a key benefit is that you have complete control at all times over your content, your budget, and even your audience. 

Try amplifying select pieces of your content, and test to see which performs best. If you don’t like how your content performs, you can always adjust to suit your needs.

Earned Media

Many older media tactics still have a place in this new PR landscape, especially in the earned category. This is where articles in publications like USA Today, Forbes, or the Wall Street Journal, as well as on radio and TV shows can boost your brand. 

But it’s not just the staff journalists at those traditional publications who can give a shout out to your brand. 

Everyone has a voice today, including the staggering number of bloggers and influencers who generate online content. They can be much easier to reach through Twitter or their own blog. Even traditional reporters can be reached via their Twitter handles. And a mention on Twitter from a business reporter on HuffPost or the New York Times can be just as valuable as a full-blown article in a print publication.

Shared Media

This is where things have really changed for marketers, and definitely to your brand’s advantage. Social media has rewritten the playbook on gaining exposure for a brand. In addition to sharing your news in real time through boosted posts, you can also enjoy the free organic reach that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social platforms provide.

YouTube, Facebook Live, and Instagram Stories allow brands and influencers to connect with their audiences and share information in real time. More effectively too, as Facebook users typically spend three times as much time watching a live video as reading a regular post.

Owned Media

Perhaps the most significant change to the PR landscape in the past decade is the ability to live on the web and own your content. Search engines can now lead prospective buyers straight to your website, where your blogs, videos, eBooks, new releases, and podcasts all reside. 

With owned media, you have absolute control over what is published, when, and how often. You can also control shared media from this space, pushing your published content to your social channels to drive more traffic to your site. 

There are some drawbacks, so make sure your content doesn’t sound like corporate marketing speak instead of more objective and interesting storytelling.

And because PR is no longer just about the written word, it’s essential that you visually showcase your brand as well. It will be far more interesting to your end consumer, and your visuals will make the media stories about your brand much more interesting. 

Ultimately, nothing has changed, and yet everything is different. We’re still telling brand stories, communicating the benefits of products and services, and reaching out to consumers to let them know we understand their challenges.

Not every media type will fit into every PR or marketing program. But the media landscape will continue to shift, and new trends will come on the scene. 

It’s our job to continue to be diligent in our research, remain flexible in our approach – and always be open to new ways for sharing our stories in a way that positively connects with our audiences.  

If you need help navigating the new PR and marketing landscape, don’t hesitate to reach out.

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Tips for Creating a Successful Start-Up Marketing Strategy

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Tips for Creating a Successful Start-Up Marketing Strategy


 

By Linda Landers
Girlpower Marketing


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We’ve worked with many start-ups this past year and have had an opportunity to experience first-hand what has worked and what hasn’t. A strategy is undoubtedly important; without a solid start-up marketing strategy, you’re not positioning your new product in the best possible way.

What we’ve seen though is that many, if not most, entrepreneurs are spending hours of time and tons of budget creating their product or service, but for the most part ignoring the marketing component, or leaving it to the last minute. Or, worse, trying to do it themselves.

The reality is that you need both: a great product and a great start-up marketing strategy to get off the launch pad.  Following are some of the critical elements to consider in developing a winning marketing strategy.     

Brand Development/Strategic Positioning

Your brand is everything. Your name, logo, and website are often the first images potential customers will see. Your brand and marketing messages should be consistently and effectively telling your story, and why you’re different from the competition.

Consider what you want your audience to think of when they see the branding you’ve spent so much time creating. The image of your company that pops into their minds — that’s your brand. And the only way to stand out is to make sure your brand story conveys what makes your product so unique.

Brand Voice

Everything your potential buyers come into contact with should articulate your story and what differentiates your brand from the competition. To remain consistent across all platforms, identify how you want to present your brand voice – the tone, focus, and authenticity. Are you light and funny or serious? Are you luxurious and discriminating or warm and welcoming? Does your content focus on your specific buyer personas, or does your message get muddled?

Believe it or not, your audience will notice when someone new posts information to your account if that person is not fluent in your brand voice.

Create Your Brand’s Buyer Personas

You already have a good idea of who will buy your products and services, and if you don’t, you may need to back up a few steps. Knowing your target audience will get you started. For instance, will your buyers primarily be Millennials? Moms? Baby Boomers? Will your brand speak more to men than women, or vice versa?

It’s not enough to just have a general idea of the audience you are trying to reach. To convince and convert those who come into contact with your brand, you also must know enough about them that they feel as though you’re speaking directly to them with your content. In other words, it’s not enough to know who is buying; but also why they’re buying—and build your content accordingly.

Of course, you need to understand the basics of who your customer is—their gender, marital and employment status, etc. But to reach your buyers you must tap into the thought process that precedes a purchase—the psychographic dimensions that define your target audience. In other words, what are their lifestyle behaviors, habits, and decision criteria? For instance, is your buyer concerned with health and appearance? Do they want a healthy lifestyle but don’t have the time for traditional fitness or beauty solutions? Do they spend a lot of time online or are you better reaching them through conventional methods?

Understanding these data points will help you create strong buyer personas—profiles of your primary customers—that will guide and inform your marketing strategy.

SEO Matters

Search engine optimization takes someone who knows their way around keywords, quality scores, and webpage rankings. Google and other search engines are continually updating their algorithms to ensure no one scams the system, and that means there’s never an easy climb to the top of the search engine results pages.

Keywords are your best friends, but there are some things to keep in mind. First, your competitors are using similar keywords to get found. A little bit of creativity with long-tail keyword phrases will help you rise to the top while everyone else fights over the shorter keywords. These long-tail keywords must be relevant and fit naturally within the context of your content. Gone are the days of using awkward phrasing like “blanket flannel black” or “bracelet diamond sapphire” in your blogs to beat the search engines.

Your goal is to climb the search engine rankings so that your brand is found first during a search, but there’s no shortcut. Focus on quality content, informative outbound links, and helpful inbound links within your content. Don’t be afraid to use paid advertising to give your content a boost in the search results, either. A good PESO program can help you determine which content to boost and which to rely on for organic traffic.

Using PESO for Product and Brand Launches

Developed by Spin Sucks founder Gini Dietrich, the PESO model takes the four media groups – Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned – and combines them to create a framework for your marketing and communications strategy. When these four groups are integrated into your strategic marketing plan, it works to maximize awareness and thought leadership for your brand.

Paid

Also known as advertising, paid media is anything you pay for, such as sponsored posts, boosted posts, advertising, direct mail, and social media ads that amplify your marketing messages.

Earned

Media relations and publicity, or any media driven by what others say about your brand, fall under the category of earned media. It can be difficult for start-ups to get press attention, but telling a great story to industry bloggers, journalists and influencers will help you build those relationships.

Shared

Any media driven by social platforms, like social sites, Facebook Live, online forums, etc. will serve as shared media in your plan. Make sure you choose the right social channels. Don’t attempt to be everywhere; instead, focus on mastering the ones right for your brand. Refer to your buyer personas and know the best time to post for those buyers.

Owned

Any channel you own (website, blog, social channels), and the content created for that channel (eBooks, infographics, white papers, etc.) is owned media. A small startup can quickly develop a big voice with the right owned media.

Always make sure you have a content creation plan before getting started. Your content strategy should outline your goals and everything you’ll do to reach those goals through increasing brand visibility, becoming a thought leader, and boosting your SEO.

Measurement

Your start-up marketing strategy won’t help much if you don’t know what’s working and what isn’t. To make sure you’re always on the right track, be sure to measure results on a regular basis.

For paid media, how many people are clicking through to your ads? Do they spend a lot of time on your site after clicking through? How many clicks result in a purchase or other conversion? How many people sign up to learn more about your company? When you feel your results aren’t worth the investment, be ready to switch up headlines, calls-to-action, and other elements of your content to see if you can achieve better results.

Earned media can be harder to track. In many cases, you’ll score the publisher of your content on their followers so you can determine your reach. You can also track how many people find the press release or story online and how many of those click through to learn more about your company or products.

Shared media can be easier to track than other options, as many of the platforms have built-in analytics to help you track engagement and clicks.

Finally, there’s owned media, which you can track through Google Analytics. How many people visit your website? How many read and comment on your blog? Do they spend a lot of time on your website or do they navigate away immediately? How many are opening your emails? Do they click through to view the offer, or forward the content to their friends?

Marketing is both art and science. If you’re not sure where to begin creating an effective start-up marketing strategy, don’t hesitate to give us a call.

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Building A Team To Take Your Client’s Project to the Next Level

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Building A Team To Take Your Client’s Project to the Next Level



“Magic,” that’s how I’ve heard public relations described. Many clients don’t understand all that goes into a PR campaign for their brand, they just know that you get the buzz going for their company announcement or new product and that’s enough for them. What PR professionals do is often taken for granted and labeled simply as “magic.” Those of us in the industry know that behind the scenes of that great media hit was hours upon hours of blood, sweat and tears (sometimes literally). We write, we research, we network, we build media lists, we get frustrated by inaccurate databases, we pitch, we pray, we pitch some more. As we approach a new project, most of us have our specialties, that one space where we find our groove, whether it is the writing, the relationship building, etc.

Over the years clients have given me the title of “media whisperer” and “the closer,” I guess you could say I’ve found my strength in the relationship building and the pitching. I have been fortunate enough to be the missing peg in teams looking for someone to focus on pitching. As that familiar quote says, “teamwork DOES make the dream work” and there are important factors to building your team for your next big project:

Strengths first- This is key. No one likes to admit it, but we all have professional weaknesses. An article from Fast Company states that “Working on one’s weaknesses only brings misery and
self-doubt. Concentrating on your strengths brings a better sense of fulfillment and forward progress.” Now in my opinion, the first part of this statement is debatable, but the second part couldn’t be more true. When you put together a team of people all focused on their strengths, success is inevitable.

Synergy- The dictionary describes synergy as “the interaction or cooperation of two or more agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.” We know this to be factual, but synergy is also a vibe, an ability to effortlessly play off each other’s strengths and weaknesses, to create a seamless joint effort and a successful outcome. The combined strength of a team that works well together is essential in a productive plan and ultimately a completed project that boasts triumph.

Communication- Surprisingly, in the communications field, communication can get lost internally. When working with an outside contractor, or building a team where most are remote, communication is essential and can make or break a team consisting of even the best professionals. Communicate with each other at least twice as often as you communicate with the client. Though work may be divided, cohesiveness in the plan, and actions is essential.

As the pitch professional piece of several public relations teams, my strength is in pitching and building relationships with key influencers and media. Below are a few case studies that are an example of how short-term projects with a team of people focused on their strengths lead to satisfied, repeat clients.

CASE STUDIES

HAHN’S OLD FASHIONED CAKE COMPANY

Challenge: I was approached by the owner of Hahn’s Old Fashioned Cake Company, a small brick and mortar store in Long Island NY that was looking to increase it’s online sales. Having had very little media presence, the goal was to get some “buzz” on food blogs around the holidays to hopefully increase holiday sales. I was hired in September, and had a few months to gain the interest of high traffic bloggers.

Process: Through strategically sending samples, pitching and creating relationships with key contacts, we were able to garner results in less than four months and holiday sales were notably higher than prior years.

Results: All media can be seen here: http://crumbcake.net/crumbcake/press/

Most notable- Newsday and Sugar Loco, one of the fastest growing food blogs with over 25,000 visitors per DAY. The client was extremely happy and has already hired me again for Holiday 2015 when the plan is to start sooner and focus on national print publications. Commitment: 10 hours per month for 4 months.

OLD SPICE (Client of RAS Associates, I was hired as a contractor)

Challenge: “Old Spice Guy”, Isaiah Mustafa was scheduled to do a presentation at Philadelphia high schools on how to “scent responsibly”. I was given two weeks to spread news of his appearance in local Philadelphia media.

Process: Pitched local editors and producer on the arrival of this well-known TV personality.

Notable Results: FOX29 Good Day Philly, Philadelphia Inquirer

LUCAS CANDIES (Client of Astonish Media Group, I was hired as a contractor)

Challenge: Small town chocolate company with an amazing product that was looking for national exposure to expand their customer base.

Process: During this six-month retainer project I strategically pitched a very specific list of contacts. The focus was on the history of the chocolatier family and the high quality hand made products.

Notable Results: Dessert Professional Magazine, Forbes, Sugar Loco


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About Dana R. Swinney, Public Relations Consultant

Dana Swinney is a PR natural, who has sharpened her skills working with the top media outlets on both the east and west coast, and most of the markets in-between. Past clients have included well known food products, chefs, law offices, authors, franchises and other lifestyle brands. Her skillset expands several industries. Having worked with national media from the Huffington Post, Forbes, The Today Show, The Better Show, Life and Style Magazine, Bloomberg Radio, NPR, and Prevention to some of the top bloggers online, Dana’s relationships with the media continues to thrive.

Dana worked in the Public Relations/Marketing field for over five years prior to starting Dana Swinney Public Relations in 2006.

Known affectionately as the “media whisperer” by her clients, Dana offers clients her ability to examine any potential news angle and find the right pitch for the right target, be it local, regional, national or international press.

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How a PR/Digital Marketing Agency Can Help Your Brand

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How a PR/Digital Marketing Agency Can Help Your Brand


 

By Linda Landers
Girlpower Marketing


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Consumers encounter hundreds of brands every day.  Getting in front of those consumers can mean the difference between success and failure for a brand. To stand out, a brand needs a well-thought-out strategy and a clever approach for using the right blend of earned, owned, shared and paid media. 

Your in-house marketing team may have wonderful ideas for reaching your target audience, but may not have the bandwidth for a fully executed product launch or comprehensive content creation program. There are so many choices of agencies, consultancies and solopreneurs doing good work today, that it can be difficult to know which is the right fit for your needs.    

Are You Ready for PR/Marketing Support?

One of the biggest mistakes brand marketing teams make is not thinking about what their needs are – what unique skill sets they need in an agency. Do you need a content marketing strategy? To generate more sales leads? Do you need to get your social media engagement up? What do you want a mention in BuzzFeed or Huffington Post to accomplish? 

Think about your business goals, and take a strategic approach to identifying the agency that will be the best fit for your brand.  A good PR/digital marketing agency focuses on what happens after the exposure. How can you nurture those consumers through the sales funnel and turn them into loyal customers?

Do you have the time necessary to spend with a PR firm to help them immerse themselves in your brand? Your fear that an external PR company can’t possibly know your business as well as you can be a valid one—if you don’t take the time to educate your chosen firm. Without that knowledge and brand history that only you can provide, they can’t be expected to represent your brand to your consumer audience in the best possible way.

Agencies That Cater to Your Exact Needs

Many PR and digital marketing firms specialize in businesses just like yours, with team members who are veterans of large global firms. By paying attention to their client list, you can determine if you’ve found a good fit. For instance, if you’re a start-up food and beverage brand, you may not get the same level of attention from a global firm that works with brand giants like Coca-Cola or Doritos with much bigger budgets. Instead, you will probably be better served to identify an agency with specific experience in generating buzz for startups and emerging, or “challenger,” brands.

Boutique agencies that specialize in your specific market are also likely to be nimble and flexible, able to turn on a dime if a particular strategy isn’t working. These marketers wear many hats and are typically up to date on the latest trends and technology. They have to be, in order to stay competitive. They are also more inclined to exhibit a more entrepreneurial spirit that matches your own – more agile, and less married to the “way it’s always been done.”

Is Boutique Right for You?

There are other considerations you should keep in mind before you make your choice, like value received for the money you pay. Would you like to know you have the option to speak to the principal when you pick up the phone? That you’ll receive fresh, new, creative ideas for every campaign? That you’ll see lower fees for the same level of experience?

Even if you already have an in-house department, an external agency can be a great choice. A boutique firm can act as an extension of your marketing team, providing agility and creativity for new campaigns while your in-house department handles the day-to-day PR and marketing. 

Look at the quality of work experience, the agency’s culture, and measure the chemistry. Are they a specialist in your brand category? Does their work ethic match your own? Is there absolute transparency in their work? Finding the right fit for both is the Holy Grail, of course. Being a small fish in a large agency’s pond may not get you the attention you desire. 

Neither big agencies or boutique firms are always the best choice, but smaller firms often have the luxury of being more fearless, resourceful, and nimble—a departure from the larger agencies that may be obligated to play-it-safe.

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4 Industries That Should Be Marketing to Baby Boomers

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4 Industries That Should Be Marketing to Baby Boomers


 

By Linda Landers
Girlpower Marketing


It’s not an overstatement to say that today’s marketers are almost unanimously focused on Millennials. Sure, Millennials are the largest living generation, but Boomers have greater spending power, controlling nearly 70% of all disposable income and spending $3.2 trillion each year. With that much spending at stake, it makes economic sense to aggressively be marketing to Baby Boomers.

That’s especially true with Boomer women, who will control two-thirds of all consumer wealth over the next decade, with estimates ranging from $12 to $40 trillion.

So, where are Baby Boomers spending their money?  Following are four industries that shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the benefits of reaching Boomers with their marketing programs.

The Travel Industry

American Baby Boomers are still the most traveled generation, spending up to $120 billion each year renewing themselves with travel, and creating lifetime memories by taking the trips they’ve always dreamed of.

Whether they’re looking to cross something off their bucket list, travel with their grandchildren, or just want to open themselves up to new cultures, it’s essential when marketing to Baby Boomers that marketers understand that the vast majority of these consumers say that high prices have no impact on their travel plans and that they are willing to spend more for an enhanced experience.

The Entertainment Industry

Baby Boomers are the Woodstock Generation, and no one knows, or appreciates, entertainment better than the Boomers. A full 44% of adults between the ages of 51 and 70 are attending more live shows than their counterparts were ten years ago.

Nostalgia is an intense emotion, which is a key reason why 2016’s Desert Trip Festival grossed over $160 million. Never before had the Rolling Stones, The Who, and Paul McCartney all played on one stage, and with their “live more” mentality, Boomers waited with open wallets to experience this once-in-a-lifetime concert.

Just like Millennials, Boomers attend events that allow them to connect with younger generations. In fact, young-at-heart Boomers go to more concerts than Millennials.

Marketers don’t need to market differently to this audience; the same messaging used to reach Millennials can appeal to Boomers as well. But one important caveat: avoid any youthful slang or acronyms that may go over the heads of Boomers.

The Pet Industry

As the first generation of Americans to raise pets inside their homes, Baby Boomers are often given credit for creating the pet industry. And now, as they become empty nesters, they are triggering a massive explosion in pet ownership in the U.S.

It’s a fact that Baby Boomers love their pets, and they love them to the tune of nearly $30 billion per year, or 45% of all U.S. pet spending. This has further translated into an explosion in specialty goods and services for America’s pets.

Often considering their pets as replacements for their grown children, they don’t just spend money on food, veterinarians, and toys. Boomers, who aren’t afraid to spend a little more than most generations, are taking their pampered pooches to pet psychologists, doggie spas, and even daycare. They’re buying more expensive and healthier natural foods and treats, seeking out homeopathic treatments, and choosing clothing from pet boutiques.

The Learning Industry

While many within this generation have held the same career—if not the same job—their entire lives, that doesn’t mean they’re through learning. In fact, Baby Boomers are ready to get out and discover all the things they may feel they’ve been missing. And they know learning doesn’t take place only in a classroom.

This awareness can lead them to try out new podcasts, dance classes, or even religious services. Of this generation 60% want to travel to a new place, 61% want to learn about new cultures, and 59% just want to try something they’ve never done before.

Smart Marketing to Baby Boomers

Even though marketers are preoccupied with using mobile technology to reach the younger generation, they should acknowledge that while Boomers are more tech-savvy than ever, they still prefer to shop online via computers and laptops.

Boomers also like to take their time making purchasing decisions. This makes gimmicky marketing tactics that rely on impulse far less effective for this group.

Instead, marketers need to make sure to show the superiority of their product or service. Provide convincing reasons why your product or service is worth their consideration.

With consumer attention spans becoming shorter and shorter, many marketers are using video and images to communicate their marketing messages. But having grown up with books and newspapers, Boomers still embrace reading as a pleasure. Marketers shouldn’t be afraid to lay out their story in a way that Boomers can take their time to absorb.

When asked what prompts them to take action, search engines typically score higher than videos and social media with Boomers. But don’t ignore social media; nearly all Boomers belong to at least one social channel, with Facebook being the most popular.

Successful marketers will remember that today’s boomers are active and healthy, and very often still working.  Nearly every consumer category has a Boomer audience, so it’s critical that marketers understand their Boomer audience and what drives their decision-making process.

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Consumer Travel Trends for 2018

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Consumer Travel Trends for 2018


 

By Linda Landers
Girlpower Marketing


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Whether travelers are dreaming about getting away, or planning a trip, their experience occurs in micro-moments. These micro-moments happen in various stages, from when they are initially dreaming about a vacation, to the planning process, booking the trip, and finally the anticipation of the trip itself. Travel brands need to plan and create a strategy for engaging with travelers in each of these moments by being helpful and relevant every step of the way.

Brand loyalty is in short supply in the travel industry because consumers are more loyal to their own needs and their desire to get the best deal.  Those planning a trip search multiple websites, apps and price aggregators to get the lowest possible price. To be competitive, marketers need to anticipate each micro-moment and stay on top of what’s happening in the travel industry. Following are some of the most significant trends for 2018 consumer travel.

Sustainable Tourism

In today’s society, we’re aware of the extreme impact the human race has in the world around us. We recycle, we shop local and buy organic, and we try our best to reduce our carbon footprint.

So how do concerned travelers satisfy the need to explore other parts of the world while concentrating on conservation? The answer is sustainable tourism, which has the added benefit of the “noble edge” effect.

Through sustainable tourism, travelers strive to leave a positive impact on the environment, society, and economy of the regions they visit. They educate themselves on their destinations; support local cultures and economies by buying locally made goods, patronize small businesses, seek out accommodations that are environmentally friendly, and use the least amount of nonrenewable resources possible to leave minimal impact on the natural environment.

Solo Women’s Travel

Responsible for 70% of travel decisions and 92% of travel purchases, women are fueling explosive growth in the travel industry. According to a report by the George Washington University School of Business, nearly two-thirds of travelers today are women. And more than 11% of adult leisure travelers are solo women, says the US Travel Association.

Traveling solo as a woman is often about leaving your comfort zone. Some of these women are seeking their Eat, Pray, Love experience, some are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and others just want a little solitude on a pristine tropical beach or in a mountain cabin.

Solo women’s travel doesn’t belong to any one generation. Millennials are waiting longer to settle down. They have different goals and values than their parents and grandparents had and want to experience the world before committing to a 9-to-5 job, spouse, or children. On the flip side, retired women who’ve spent a lot of time over the years building careers and taking care of families are ready to strike out on their own and live their dreams. 

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Glamping

Glamping appeals to those who want what adventure camping has to offer while also preferring to enjoy a bit more luxury in their experience.

Glamping isn’t a new concept. 16th-century royals decked out lavish tents with palatial comforts. In the 1920s, wealthy travelers brought their not-so-little luxuries along on African safaris. Since its more modern inception in the 21st century, glamping has grown in popularity and shows no signs of slowing down.

Glamping offers travelers an array of personalized options, whether it’s in a luxurious yurt in the desert, a tiny house in the California Wine Country, a treehouse in a lush forest, or a tricked-out Airstream at one of our national parks.

Culinary-Based Travel

People are becoming increasingly more interested in where their food comes from and the quality of the ingredients. Enter culinary-based tourism. Vacationers who happen to be foodies are booking worldwide travel geared toward culinary experiences.

Those who are interested in the sources of their food can tour farms and orchards and enjoy a delicious meal whipped up by a personal chef. Foodies who also love to cook might stay in a chateau in France and learn how to cook French classics like Coq Au Vin and Bœuf Bourguignon. Urban foodies can tour China and seek out the most exotic street foods ever.

River Cruising

The sweet spot for river cruising has always been older travelers due to their collective spending power and desire to experience familiar destinations in new ways. But it is also picking up steam with the Millennial market as well, especially in Europe. A 2017 MMGY Global study noted that some 36% of Millennials indicated their desire to take a river cruise.

One reason is the rise of themed river cruises, which tap into the special interests of travelers by offering unique itineraries around such things as history, craft beers, farm-to-table dining, or art. Travelers enjoy a personalized experience by immersing themselves in their passions – meeting vintners and sommeliers, experiencing cooking with international chefs, or conversing with a renowned art historian.

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Whether providing visual content during the customer’s “I want to get away” micro-moment or supporting their search efforts during their planning, marketers should arm themselves with the tools needed to reach and help customers along their journey. If you’d like to talk about strategies for reaching your travel consumer, give us a call. We’re here to help.

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Marketing to Women: How to Get It Right

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Marketing to Women: How to Get It Right


 

By Linda Landers
Girlpower Marketing


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According to The Economist, “The growing economic power of women is one of the most important trends of our time.”

Key growth drivers, such as delaying marriage and children as well as rising literacy rates, indicate the average U.S. woman’s salary will rise above the average U.S. man’s by the year 2028.

Women currently control $7 trillion in U.S. spending. And during the next decade, they will control two-thirds of the country’s overall consumer wealth.

Women influence or are responsible for 85 percent of all consumer purchases, including everything from cars to healthcare to consumer electronics and bank accounts. Yet many marketers look at the purchasing power of women as a niche market.

Yet 91 percent of female consumers agree that marketers don’t understand them.

The X and Y Brains

It really comes down to this: men and women think differently. Neither is right or wrong – just different.

Fact: Female brains have four times more connections between the left and right hemispheres, requiring them to process information 4x faster than men as they take in 4x as many signals that have to be filtered.

This increased brain connectivity allows a woman to multi-task more effectively than men.

Men, on the other hand, have the “Big T” – testosterone. The hormone responsible for male personality traits like self-assertiveness, competitiveness, risk-taking, and thrill-seeking.

And while men are more left-brain dominant where analytical thought and logic live, women are more balanced between left and right-brain processing, and so are thought to be more intuitive and better communicators.

According to NPD Group, analysts for the retail industry, “The ability to reach the female market represents the biggest growth opportunity ever for most consumer products.”

When developing a strategy for marketing to women, marketers need to keep some key points in mind:

Pink Is Not a Strategy

In a recent Forbes article, Bridget Brennan, author of Why She Buys, notes that when a brand offers a product in only one color, and that color is pink, it sends the message that we haven’t put any thought into this at all.

Though there are women who prefer pink, and it has become the official color of breast cancer, it’s best to consider pink as simply one color among many.

Lose the Stereotypes

“Shrink it and pink it” is the most common stereotype, but there are many others.

Example: 41 percent of mothers had a child outside of marriage this past year who don’t connect with the stereotypical nuclear family.

While women may be victims of various stereotypes including the sex object, the Stepford mom, soccer mom and others, men are also fighting stereotypes such as macho man, the incompetent dad, and beer-drinking couch potato.

Women appreciate recognition for their accomplishments, and being shown in roles of empowerment.

There Is No “One” Female Demographic

Women are not a homogenous group; there is no one female demographic. It’s important to recognize a woman’s life stage as well as her chronological age.

Women who have children later in life may better relate to other women who have children the same age, rather than those in her age group.

Each female sub-set has its unique interests and values that influence purchasing behaviors.

Work-at-home moms, single women, and empty nesters all want to recognize themselves in a brand’s marketing messages.

 Women Respond To a Good Story

Storytelling as a marketing strategy is hot right now, and good stories helps women consumers decide if they like, trust, and want to do business with a brand.

A story can set the stage for a relationship that can last for years. Most consumers, including women, are drawn to stories that entertain, enlighten and educate them.

Women love to laugh, and brands that know how to tell a good story will increasingly have her attention.

Understanding Consumer Psychographics

While men, in general, are naturally more transactional by nature and motivated by status and envy, women more often are driven by empathy. Women want to belong and to be understood. Whereas men more often want to be admired, women want to be appreciated.

According to Bridget Brennan, women also tend to shop with all senses. Not just sight and sound, but scent, touch, and taste. Think about brands like Anthropologie, Trader Joes, and Sephora and how they build all the senses into their marketing.

Many brands are already thinking differently about their marketing messages. Unilever is one such brand, issuing a rallying cry to the industry to rethink how it portrays men and women in advertising.

Also, brands like Harley-Davidson, Adidas, Lamborghini, Michelob and the NFL are adjusting brand messaging to make them more inclusive.

For most of these companies, even though women might use their products, they aren’t the main focus—or even taken into account at all—when creating marketing messages.

According to Coors marketing director, Elina Vives, “Brands today have to stop insulting women and be much more inclusive.”  “The beer category overall is a little bit behind. Women drink 25 percent of the beer in this country. That’s not a niche.”

Marketing to Women Moves Past Women of Yesterday

Today, we’re moving past speaking to females as the women of yesterday.

Marketers are beginning to realize they need to talk to them as people, as athletes, as beer drinkers, and recognize them as the key purchasers of just about everything.

Challenging stereotypes is a good thing.

But in our effort to promote gender equality, let’s also remember the fundamental and physiological truths about how each gender receives and processes information.

Neither is better or worse, just different.

Original published in Spin Sucks.

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7 Trends Expected to Impact Food and Beverage Marketing in 2018

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7 Trends Expected to Impact Food and Beverage Marketing in 2018


 

By Linda Landers
Girlpower Marketing


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The food and beverage industry is no stranger to the power (and longevity) of some trends (avocado toast anyone?). But we’ve also seen trends fizzle and fade quickly.

Today’s consumers want their foods to do more than just fill their bellies. They want to know more about their food, and they want healthy food to be easier to find.

The trends uncovered by a variety of sources, show that these things will have significant impact on food and beverage marketing in 2018.

1. An Increased Attention to Mindfulness. 

People are inquisitive, and they are paying more attention to where their food comes from, sometimes down to the individual ingredients.

Innova Marketing Insights has named mindfulness as one of the most significant drivers of food & beverage marketing in 2018. Along with mindfulness, consumers want to know more about what they consume. It’s not just being aware of what you are eating; it’s about where it comes from, and how it’s made. People want to know all of those things.

Food & beverage companies may want to consider increased transparency around what is in different items, how they are sourced, and even how they label food products, both in advertising and in stores.

2. Creative Use of Scraps/Minimal Waste in Cooking. 

Over the past few years, consumers have become more vocal about the amount of food that is thrown away and how it can be put to better use than just rotting in a landfill.

Whether food waste comes from a grocery store as imperfect-looking produce or a restaurant, consumers want to know that more food is used in a way that can help others.

Food sustainability is a growing concern for many consumers, especially when faced with potential problems like water scarcity. People want to know that resources are being used responsibly, even if the product isn’t a photo-worthy vegetable or fruit.

3. Changing Attitudes Toward Cannabis. 

Although it isn’t legal in all 50 states, increasing acceptance of cannabis is leading to new ways of consumption.

Though not yet legal everywhere under federal law, big names like Constellation Brands are branching out into the new industry.

In states where Cannabis is legal, we’ll likely see an increase in the availability of THC-and CBD-infused edibles.

4. Social Media Influence. 

Social media stars continue to play a prominent role in highlighting brands.

Typically younger consumers, these bloggers, Instagrammers, and Youtubers have built massive fan followings and can bring brands to new heights, with the click of a button. They can also bring a brand down a notch if they feel negative about a company or product.

Brands will want to be aware that colorful foods and meals with intricate plating styles may come into play as people continue to snap photos and share their dining experiences with the world.

5. Increased Popularity of International Cuisine and Dining as an Experience. 

For many individuals, cooking is an easy way to experience a new culture. Whole Foods notes that Middle Eastern foods are gaining in popularity and are likely to continue to move into the mainstream in 2018.

But it’s not just the flavors of a new region – consumers are also interested in learning more about the heritage and traditions that surround the foods they eat, especially if those meals are of a cuisine different from what the diner knows.

6. Increased Demand for Plant-Based Products. 

Non-dairy drinks made from almonds, cashews, even peas and rice have become increasingly popular over the past few years, and the increasing demand for plant-based foods does not seem to be slowing.

Companies are now working to create plant-based items that mimic meat-based products in nearly every way, from texture to moisture – some meat alternatives are even created with the ability to “bleed” like a typical hamburger product.

7. Availability of Home Delivery and Ease of Preparation. 

The growth of home delivery services, whether from outlets like Amazon Grocery, Safeway or from subscription box services that deliver ingredients proportioned for individual meals will likely continue in 2018, because consumers are extremely busy and not slowing down.

Shopping, pre-cooking preparation and cooking all take time, and not everyone is willing to sacrifice that time. Statista noted that Blue Apron had 3.23 million visits in September 2017, followed by Hello Fresh, with 2.58 million visits, and HomeChef.com with 1.53 million visits.

Home delivery and quick prep options seem here to stay in 2018.

Food & beverage marketers need to understand how to embrace these trends to be relevant to their audience. If you’re looking for support with your food and beverage marketing, please give us a call.

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A One-Two Punch: Inbound Marketing and Public Relations

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A One-Two Punch: Inbound Marketing and Public Relations

After working more than twenty-five years in the public relations field, I’ve seen numerous changes in the profession. In particular, I’ve observed a subtle blurring of the lines between PR and marketing. At first, it was because “marketing” became a catchall word used by many for anything to do with increasing awareness and/or supporting sales: advertising, speaking, and yes, public relations. It was semantics. However, with the relatively new concept of inbound marketing, I don’t see a blurring of the lines so much as I see a winning “one-two” punch combining these similar disciplines for our clients.

Credit: Pixabay

Credit: Pixabay

First, let’s be clear what “inbound” is, with this description from our friends at Hubspot:

Inbound marketing is an approach focused on attracting customers through content and interactions that are relevant and helpful — not interruptive. With inbound marketing, potential customers find you through channels like blogs, search engines, and social media. Unlike outbound marketing, inbound marketing does not need to fight for potential customers attention. By creating content designed to address the problems and needs of your ideal customers, inbound marketing attracts qualified prospects and builds trust and credibility for your business.

To a seasoned PR vet, inbound sounds an awful lot like public relations. How? Well, by definition (see dictionary.com) PR is about credibility and awareness:

Public relations is the professional maintenance of a favorable public image by a company or other organization or a famous person.

My colleague Robert Wynne gave a pretty good explanation in Forbes:

PR is the Persuasion Business. You are trying to convince an audience, inside your building or town, and outside your usual sphere of influence, to promote your idea, purchase your product, support your position, or recognize your accomplishments. Here’s what the Public Relations Society of America PRSA agreed upon after a few thousand submissions: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
PR people are storytellers. They create narratives to advance their agenda. PR can be used to protect, enhance or build reputations through the media, social media, or self-produced communications. A good PR practitioner will analyze the organization, find the positive messages and translate those messages into positive stories. When the news is bad, they can formulate the best response and mitigate the damage.

In PR we don’t buy ads for clients to get them covered in the news media, we instead identify what is most unique, credible and newsworthy about out clients and tell that story to the news media, industry influencers, and potential customers in hopes of getting them to say great things about our clients, (see earned media). We use tools like press releases, media relations, speeches, social media, podcasts, blogs and more to achieve those ends.

We help our clients achieve a high-status level of credibility through earned media and other efforts so that prospective customers seek them or their brand out. The ultimate success is when our clients become known to new customers (for want of a better word), then delight these customers so much that customers become brand ambassadors.

That, in essence, is what inbound marketing does. Not too far off from PR.

As detailed in the graphic above, inbound uses similar strategies and tools as PR–and inbound marketing has innumerable success stories. When an inbound marketing program is firing on all cylinders, a solid PR strategy complements it. You’re not only bringing prospects to you with inbound, but with PR in the mix, you’re also using an affordable, more effective version of outbound marketing in tandem.

At AGPR, we uniquely combine our knowledge of inbound marketing with decades of practical experience in PR and social media to become a powerhouse for our clients. We help them:

  1. Become known and get found for their expertise
  2. Use social media tools to drill down to their core audience
  3. Attract prospective clients from anywhere in the world
  4. Constantly connect with prospects–even while they sleep (a blog post that a prospect finds while searching the net is a good example)
  5. Become known as a thought leader in their industry or niche
  6. Get the kind of leads that have a reasonable shot at becoming customers. It’s great to have site visitors, but if the visitors are just kicking the tires, you’re almost no better off than if they never found you at all
  7. Monitor and measure to continuously improve their marketing for maximum effectiveness

Want to learn more? Check out this great post about inbound for your business.

For more great posts by Alex Greenwood, visit his blog at alexgpr.com/blog.

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Why It Pays for Brands to Embrace Baby Boomers

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Why It Pays for Brands to Embrace Baby Boomers


 

By Linda Landers
Girlpower Marketing


Madonna. Bono. George Clooney. Tom Hanks. Oprah. All Baby Boomers.

Not exactly the clichéd stereotype of grandma and grandpa using a walker to get from one room to another.

Though Millennials (75.4 million) have recently surpassed Baby Boomers (74.9 million) in sheer numbers, today’s Baby Boomers represent nearly 40% of the U.S. population and control 70% of all disposable cash in the United States. That’s $3.2 trillion in spending power. So why are marketers so willing to ignore this vibrant and lucrative market?

Following are key reasons why Baby Boomers represent a great opportunity for marketers trying to identify a consumer sweet spot:

  • They spend $400 billion more than younger demographics each year on consumer goods, including restaurants, personal care, and entertainment
  • Contrary to popular thinking, these consumers are willing to try new brands that talk to them and earn their loyalty
  • They dominate spending in 119 out of 123 CPG categories
  • Boomers are hungry for experiential products and services, and on the prowl for the next big thing
  • They plan to leverage technology for a more fulfilling, comfortable life
  • Boomers spend nearly $7 billion online annually, well ahead of Millennials
  • They purchase 62.5% of all new cars and 80% of luxury travel products
  • By 2022, Baby Boomers, particularly women Baby Boomers, will have inherited nearly $15 trillion from their parents and spouses

Women Baby Boomers, in particular, represent a huge opportunity based on their significant spending power. Consider these facts:

  • As a whole, women over the age of 50 have a combined net worth of $19 trillion
  • Having focused on looking after families in their younger years, these now empty nesters have become the biggest consumers of luxury, security, and convenience items in the country
  • Women over the age of 50 spend, on average, 250% of what the population in general spends in any given year, including purchases of technology-related items, cars, and various financial services

Boomers are social, mobile, and online. They’re working well beyond the traditional retirement age, creating new businesses and products, and staying healthy beyond their years. Boomers are most interested in the experiences their money can buy, so key industries that will flourish with this group include health & wellness, travel, auto, entertainment, and pets. Whether they’re spending $120 billion on travel or $30 billion on pet care, they’re spending their money differently than previous generations as they reinvent aging.

It’s unfortunate that these two vibrant generations are pitted against each other in the media and for the attention of marketers. It shouldn’t be either/or; both Millennials and Baby Boomers, particularly femaleBaby Boomers, represent powerful economic forces. Marketers would be wise to welcome Baby Boomers into their fold and establish meaningful connections that prioritize this group.

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Career Advice for Women: Stop Thinking Like a Girl

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Career Advice for Women: Stop Thinking Like a Girl


 

By Tami Cannizzaro
www.tamicannizzaro.com

 


Recently my blog was named “One of the Best Blogs for Women in Business 2017” by Market Inspector.

“Great news! Woo-hoo! Yay me!” – right?

Nope.

My first reaction upon hearing this news was not of joy but of disbelief. “Who, me?”  

Surely, they have mistaken me for another blogger, I thought. My little ol’ blog? A winner? Are you serious?

The skeptic in me was convinced this was a scam of some sort and it would only be a matter of time before the organization would ask for money in order to receive this dubious honor.

 After all, this wasn’t my first rodeo. I had received news of something great before, only to have it fall through. Not to mention this particular email was from a UK-based company. What could I possibly offer them?

A quick email later and there were no jokes, scams, or fees; this was real. My blog really did receive the honor and I could tell others about it.

How were the blogs selected? Who knows and who cares? I’m a winner! Look everyone, I got a trophy! LOL

But seriously.

When I thought about my reaction to hearing the news, it wasn’t what some professionals and certainly not what my male colleagues would have done when receiving good news in the corporate world.   

I’m going to make a broad generalization – something I usually don’t like to do: Why do we women, when receiving praise or awards, tend to bow our heads and give it the old, “Aw, shucks, it was nothing” routine? 

Or worse, question why we are receiving the honor?

Or wonder if it was a mistake?

Men, when receiving praise for a job well-done or honors bestowed, typically don’t ask questions. They stand taller. Prouder. They say, “Thank you” and shout the news from the rooftop.

As professional women, we need to own our accomplishments.  Wear the honors and praise bestowed upon us as if they were badges on a uniform. We certainly should not diminish the accolades by denying them with a cursory, “Well, it was nothing.”

It was SOMETHING.

In addition to accepting accolades, we women in must also learn to toot our own horn.  If we don’t tell others about our accomplishments, especially at the office, how will anyone else find out? 

As women, we tend to rely on managers or performance reviews to somehow do this job for us. Osmosis only works in science; not when it comes to personal achievements. Maybe we’re afraid to sound like a show-off, or maybe we’ve been taught that good work will speak for itself.

Newsflash: we’re not showing off. And who best to tell our story but us?  Besides, if we don’t, no one will. 

Let others know about your accomplishments. A performance review should not be the first time your manager hears about your stellar work.  And it needs to circulate higher than your direct manager; find ways to get your message to key individuals throughout the organization. Tricky, yes, although it can be done.

One of the best ways to make sure your accomplishments get noticed at work is through continuous communication.

Regular updates about the status of your project to key stakeholders not only keeps everyone in the loop, it also allows you to “boast” of your success at the completion of the project without looking as if you’re suddenly calling attention to yourself. 

Is it difficult to self-promote? It can be, since it doesn’t always come naturally and it does take some finesse to execute well.  Yet the results can mean the difference between recognition and a promotion or career stagnation.

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Why Don’t We Have a Crisis Communication Plan? Because Prevention Isn’t Sexy.

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Why Don’t We Have a Crisis Communication Plan? Because Prevention Isn’t Sexy.



As a crisis communication consultant, I have seen countless examples of organizations that either don’t have a crisis communication plan, or fail to effectively implement the one they have.  Numerous studies confirm that only about half of all organizations have any kind of crisis plan.  So, what’s the excuse for the other half? 

Here’s what I think:  Prevention isn’t sexy. It’s boring.  And denial is far too easy.  ‘That will never happen to our company’ is an all-too-common excuse for not investing in a crisis communication plan. These days, when employer-employee loyalty is a relic of our parents’ generation, who’s going to bother to argue with the boss when she/he denies there’s a problem? The sand is right there at our feet, let’s just stick our head down into it. See? No crisis. 

This is the reason, I believe, that so few politicians seem to support initiatives that are designed to prevent problems.  Prevention does not get them a headline.  But fixing a problem, now that merits news coverage. And campaign contributions and votes.  Too many are happy to stand up and talk about how they have solved a problem, but far too few are willing to work on preventing it from happening in the first place.  But I’m not here to talk politics.

The same is true for organizational crises.  Take United Airlines’ recent PR disaster, which occurred on April 9 when a passenger was forcibly removed from a flight because the airline needed the seat to transport a crew member to Louisville from Chicago, and too few passengers volunteered to give up their seats for compensation. 

United has had to apologize for how its policy was enforced, and is enduring an ongoing PR disaster of its own making. Their apology (see the related piece from fellow USPR Member Michael Blumfield) -- which improved somewhat over time and under intense social media pressure-- failed to adequately acknowledge their poor initial handling of the incident, when they hid behind policy and blamed the passenger.  

Perhaps CEO Oscar Munoz, having come from CSX, just isn’t attuned to a people-centric (rather than cargo) transportation business. His tone-deaf initial response on Monday certainly exacerbated an already embarrassing situation. What we don’t know is whether Mr. Munoz got bad advice on how to respond, or if he ignored good advice. Or worse, sought no counsel at all. But I believe that the right message, at the right time, would have contained the crisis quickly and we would be talking about something else by now. 

But crises like this only happen at big companies, right? They are the ones always in the news.  

Executives of smaller companies often believe that they are too small to capture news headlines, and therefore they don’t need to worry about a crisis.  “It won’t happen to us.”  The fact is, though, that a crisis can bring down a smaller company and never be widely covered by the mainstream media.  An issue becomes a crisis when your stakeholders find out about it, and share the story with others. Media coverage certainly won’t help the situation, but it is no longer the sole means to access news and information about your organization. In fact, it is not even the primary way to get information. That role has been assumed by social media and the internet.

So, what’s an executive to do? 

Let’s start by pulling our heads out of the sand and acknowledging that yes, we are vulnerable to a variety of potential crises. It can happen at our organization. It will happen sooner or later.  Time to make the commitment today to prepare and prevent, so we don’t have to repair and repent tomorrow.  

Invest in a comprehensive crisis communication plan.  It’s an ounce of prevention that will save a ton of cure in the long run. Begin with an honest assessment of the organization’s vulnerabilities to determine the kinds of crises that the plan should address.  Evaluate the issues, problems and disruptions that are most probable or most impactful.  Our research has consistently shown that most crises-to-be are smoldering issues that could have been prevented, managed or mitigated well before erupting into a full-blown crisis. 

Crises are about people.  Crisis communication plans are like insurance policies: you can hope for the best, but plan for the worst and minimize your exposure to risk. Hope that the catastrophe never happens, but be prepared just in case it does.  Because it just might.  

There are several crisis scenarios that should be addressed in virtually every plan, including: harassment, abuse or discrimination; illegal or unethical behavior; whistle-blowers; white collar crime; cybercrime / data breach; employee or customer casualty or fatality; natural disaster; workplace violence (including terror attacks and shooters); product recalls; labor disruptions; activist or social media attacks. Employees caught on smartphone video behaving badly.  There will likely be a few other issues specific to the company or industry that should be included.

Develop initial strategies for each of the scenarios and identify the crisis team members, communication priorities, key stakeholder groups, likely questions and initial messages. Prepare holding statements and social media messages, and have them vetted and approved by legal and management in advance, so they can be used immediately if needed. 

Once the plan is completed, teach the crisis team how to use it.  Conduct an exercise to make sure the plan works as intended, and that it integrates well with emergency response plans and business continuity and recovery plans.   Review and exercise the plan regularly, at least annually. 

While you’re at it, take a good, honest, possibly painful look at your culture, and determine whether it encourages employees to speak up when they see a problem.  If not, change the culture. This is much easier said than done, of course.  But the kind of crisis-ready, adaptable to change, employee-friendly and customer-friendly culture that prevents crises can also make the organization more nimble and ready to change in the face of new and unforeseen challenges. 

Learn more about the kinds of crises that made the most headlines in 2016: download our free annual crisis report

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Communications count – even when you’re not facing a crisis. (Looking at you, United.)

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Communications count – even when you’re not facing a crisis. (Looking at you, United.)



Besides the larger PR problems that United Airlines caused itself after having police remove a seated passenger, the company’s press releases following it were full of maddening corporate speak:

“I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers,” CEO Oscar Munoz said in a three-sentence press release shortly after videos of the incident hit the internet. That single sentence offends in several ways:

  • The apology is not an admission of guilt. He’s actually not saying he’s sorry but rather suggesting this was an unavoidable reality the airline had to address.
  • Lumping the customers who walked off the flight with the one man bloodied and dragged out of his seat is a way of distancing United from the particulars of the event. Cold.
  • And “re-accommodate?” Is that even a word? “Accommodate” is defined as “fit in with wishes or needs of.“ “Re” suggests you’re doing it again. Either way, calling the cops on a recalcitrant passenger doesn’t seem like the right application of the term, does it?

Airlines, of course, are famous for making things sound more classy and sophisticated than they actually are. You “get in” or “get out” of a car, “hop on” or “hop off” a bus or train, but at airports gate employees talk about “pre-boarding the aircraft” once arriving passengers have “de-planed.”

Not all carriers go along with the standard lexicon. Southwest Airlines has delighted passengers for years by allowing its flight attendants to riff on the standard safety announcements by injecting humor and personality. (Said one attendant of the life vests that passengers would grab if they crashed on water, “Everybody gets their own teeny-weenie yellow Southwest bikini.”) 

Southwest’s entertaining safety announcements have been captured on video by passengers and widely shared – having the exact opposite effect as the videos showing what happened on the United flight.

That reflects a shift in the way consumers view corporations at large, not just airlines. We live in an era that touts trust and transparency. A company’s language must reflect that new reality. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Use plain language, not terms that are unclear to anyone outside your industry.
  • Use the active voice, not passive.
  • Identify who did what, who’s apologizing to whom and what they’re apologizing for.
  • Write like you’d say it in a heartfelt conversation with an affected person. Avoid abstract positioning statements geared toward investors – they’re not impressed anymore, either.

The problem that CEO Munoz has at United goes far beyond word choice. Southwest can allow and even encourage irreverent safety announcements because it consciously aims to create a culture that’s vastly different than that of United. United’s flight crew and gate attendants weren’t empowered to do much or think creatively. They were bound by a strict set of operational guidelines. Hence the use of force.

Officious, cold corporate language is symptomatic of an officious, cold corporate culture. By itself, changing the language won’t change the culture. But paying attention to that language may give a company insights into how it’s thinking of its customers.

The reality is that customers already have picked up on these clues. All things being equal, they’re going to select a company that has a heart -- instead of just a list of procedures.


For more on communicating effectively during a crisis, see a related piece from fellow USPR Member Deb Hileman.

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The Envelope Please: Our Annual List of the Worst Business Clichés

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The Envelope Please: Our Annual List of the Worst Business Clichés

Every year at this time, as a public service, we bring out our list of the worst business clichés, those fetid phrases that dull our otherwise-brilliant conversations and writing. 

We've added some new ones from 2016, a year when - for some reason - starting every sentence with the word "So" became a thing.  

After publishing last year's list, many of you sent us your favorites. Thank you - we hated them - so, of course, we added them to this year's list. Some of you told have us that you bring the list to business presentations to see how many clichés you can check off. Clever.

Here we present The Annual RDC List of Worst Business Clichés" for 2017 (and their clearer substitutes):  

  • It is what it is (the facts are)
  • Circle back (discuss again)
  • Touch base (contact)
  • Close the loop (tell everyone involved)
  • At the end of the day (ultimately)
  • The perfect storm of (bad combination)
  • Brainchild (invention, idea)
  • Brain dump (briefing) 
  • Pick your brain (get your advice)
  • Brainstorm (discuss)
  • No brainer (easy)
  • Slam dunk (see "No brainer")
  • Get my head around (understand) 
  • Granular (more detailed)
  • Take it offline (talk after the meeting)
  • The elephant in the room (unavoidable issue)
  • Win-Win (mutually beneficial)
  • On the same page (agree)
  • Task force (working group)
  • Drink the Kool-Aid (this refers to a 1978 mass suicide; let's retire this one)
  • Leading or cutting edge (innovative)
  • Mission critical (essential)
  • Crunch time (near deadline)
  • On their radar screen (we have their attention)
  • Paradigm Shift (a change) 

 Have a great year! 

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Innovation vs Quality: After the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 disaster, will an old buzzword get new life?

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Innovation vs Quality: After the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 disaster, will an old buzzword get new life?

With the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 debacle, maybe it's time to resurrect an old buzzword and reconsider a new one. USPR member Michael Blumfield writes about how marketers might start thinking about injecting references to "quality" in their messaging and pull back on "innovation" in this article for The Marketing Scope. Spend a few minutes reading it – you might, like Bob Schiers, get some ideas about how your clients could benefit from this shift in emphasis.

http://www.themarketingscope.com/innovation-vs-quality-samsung-galaxy-note-7-disaster/

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