4 Industries That Should Be Marketing to Baby Boomers

Comment

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.

Comment

Consumer Travel Trends for 2018

Comment

Consumer Travel Trends for 2018


 

By Linda Landers
Girlpower Marketing


g-12.png

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. 

stock-photo-travel-boat-camping-lake-summer-relaxing-resort-hammock-relax-74bd4d6e-1659-4ed8-a6ed-8cde14449ae2.jpg

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.

45717892_m.jpg

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.

Comment

Marketing to Women: How to Get It Right

Comment

Marketing to Women: How to Get It Right


 

By Linda Landers
Girlpower Marketing


18.png

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.

Comment

7 Trends Expected to Impact Food and Beverage Marketing in 2018

Comment

7 Trends Expected to Impact Food and Beverage Marketing in 2018


 

By Linda Landers
Girlpower Marketing


30793479_m.jpg

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.

Comment

A One-Two Punch: Inbound Marketing and Public Relations

Comment

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.

Comment

Why It Pays for Brands to Embrace Baby Boomers

Comment

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.

Comment

Career Advice for Women: Stop Thinking Like a Girl

Comment

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.

Comment

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

Comment

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

Comment

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

Comment

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.

Comment

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

Comment

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! 

Comment

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

Comment

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/

Comment

Festive Frantic: A New Way to Work During the Holidays

Comment

Festive Frantic: A New Way to Work During the Holidays

The holidays have always been my favorite time of year. Everyone seems to be in a better mood. Places – and people – are more festive, dressed up in their finest. Everywhere you go, there’s an energy that just doesn’t happen during other months.

This year? I’m just not feeling it. I’m going to blame working from home. Honestly, how does one prioritize work and clients amid so many holiday distractions?

Comment

When Content Matters, Your Authentic, Personal Voice Can Lift Your Brand above the Bland

Comment

When Content Matters, Your Authentic, Personal Voice Can Lift Your Brand above the Bland

Yet the more we all rely on emoticons and emoji, the more we have to wonder if content even matters anymore. Why take care with tone and structure when we have abbreviations and graphics to explain what we really meant, anyway? If our eyes skip ahead to the emoticons to see the intent of the content, then what’s next for text? What’s the future hold for those who believe content can be more than filler.

Comment

Twitter is doing away with its 140-character limit for Direct Messages

Comment

Twitter is doing away with its 140-character limit for Direct Messages

It seems like news is breaking faster at Twitter than Twitter can Tweet.  At least that seems to be the case as tech writers, users and fans of the messaging software seem to have beaten Twitter at its own game by announcing this past Thursday that Twitter is doing away with it’s 140-character limit for direct messages before the tech giant had a chance to roll out a formal announcement.

Comment