Getting to Know SEO

Note:  This post originally appeared on Manna Design News.

by on May 13, 2015 in All News, Amazing Web Design, Featured News, Major News, Multi-Channel Marketing,Social Media

Google Adwords can help boost your SEO efforts.                             Call Manna to find out how.It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, I didn’t know a thing about SEO. I chalked it up to being an Internet-related acronym used by technical analysts and number-crunchers. Today, SEO is as big a part of my vocabulary as OMG — although using them both in the same sentence is rarely a good sign.

In today’s digital world, SEO, or search engine optimization, isn’t as simple as it used to be – but is more important than ever. That’s because the volume of content on the web has grown exponentially, as has the competition for share of eyeballs. Cutting through the clutter is key. Strategic SEO can help.

Defining SEO

SEO is a method of driving traffic to a website. The idea is to convince search engines that your content is so valuable that it deserves a top spot on search results pages.  The challenge lies in using key words and phrases throughout your website that are the same as or similar to the ones used most often in search queries.  The more this happens, the happier Google gets and the higher your website climbs in rank.  We call this method of SEO organic or natural.


Organic vs. Local SEO

Businesses are also found through local queries, which is why it’s important to add your location to your list of key words.  Local searches generate a page of results much like the one pictured here.  It’s split into three types — local, organic and paid.  Since consumers rarely scroll beyond the first page of results, that’s the place to be.  Because local searches leave less room for organic results, it’s harder than ever to depend on natural SEO alone.


Enter Google Adwords

The good news is that tools like Google Adwords can help boost SEO efforts with paid text ads. These ads, also tied to key words, appear on the top and right side of result pages — making them hard to miss. The ads appear each time a search includes your key words. Youpay per click, so you’ll want to make sure that the words you select are as specific as possible.

For example, let’s say that you own an exotic pet shop in Philadelphia.  If you select “pet store” as a key word, you are likely to pay for clicks from pet lovers interested in animals that you don’t sell.  A better choice is “exotic pet shop,” or “exotic pet shop in Philadelphia.”  Those will generate higher quality clicks from people who want what you have to offer.   This is one case when less is definitely more.


Adwords vs. Organic SEO

Many business owners struggle with which to use as part of their SEO efforts. In truth, the right answer depends on the type of business you have and the audience you’re trying to reach.  Many modern-day marketers believe there’s value in using both.

Organic SEO takes the slow and steady approach, but is effective once Google finds and indexes your website. Keywords that represent high-quality content give search engines a reason to rank you closer to the top – and keep you there. Without them, Google may lose interest, leaving your page rank to pay the price.

A way to overcome this is by using Adwords to complement your organic SEO efforts.  That way, you’re there when your audience comes looking.  Plus, Adwords offers great targeting and flexibility.  You can edit, start, or stop a campaign at a moment’s notice.  While Adwords isn’t free, it’s quite useful for generating traffic to your web site – and new leads for your business — in a relatively short period of time.

If you’re struggling with how to create and implement an SEO strategy for your business, we can help.  Contact us at Manna Design Works and we’ll get your program under way and delivering results in no time flat.  In the meantime, visit our website at www.manna-design.com to learn more.

Posted in Content Marketing, SEO, Social Media Marketing, Tips, Website Design | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

3 Reasons Why Freelance Writers Need Direct Access

Why freelance writers need direct access. (Photo credit: Dollar Photo Club; Pavel Lysenko)

Why freelance writers need direct access.
(Photo credit: Dollar Photo Club; Pavel Lysenko)

Congratulations!  You’ve finally landed the writing assignment of your dreams.  It’s a meaty piece and will involve interviews with your client’s executive team members.  All you need to do is go through the company’s marketing department (or PR agency) to get the interviews set up.

Not so fast.

Unfortunately, far too many corporate marketers and agencies keep their freelancers at arm’s length.  Instead of conducting interviews we submit lists of questions that we’d like to have answered – are left pulling our hair out.  We are also given copies of existing speeches and articles — and referred to the company website.   While those sources are all good and much appreciated, they don’t replace the need to have direct access to the people we are writing for or about.

Here’s why:

Direct access enables writers to communicate directly with the source.  While past articles, bios and other background information are great, there’s nothing quite like a real conversation.  It’s important for writers to not only see information in written form, but hear it as well.  Live interviews reveal personality that you would otherwise miss.  So, if you want your writers to capture not only the words, but passion and emotion too, direct access is a must.

One question often leads to another.  In every interview I’ve ever conducted, the questions I planned to ask have led to many others that I didn’t even know I wanted to ask until I was in the midst of discussion.  That’s the beauty of live interviews.  It just doesn’t happen when given a pile of existing documents.  The same is true when looking for examples to prove a particular point.  Sure, we can find information on the website, but having a favorite instance explained in person goes a long way toward bringing it to life.

The final product will be better.  The goal of the assignment is to produce a great product, right?  If so, then why not give your writers everything we need to create the masterpiece you’re paying for?  The more we know, the better job we can do.  If you’re worried that your freelancer might not make a good impression, then hire one that will.  Many freelancers have years of corporate and agency experience — and a great understanding of the importance of being professional at all times.

The bottom line is to treat your freelance writer as an extension of your team.  Since most, if not all, of your team members have direct access to the execs when needed, so should your writer.  If you hire the right one, you will likely receive a finished product that exceeds even your wildest dreams.

What’s your opinion on giving freelancers direct access to execs?  I’d love to hear it.  Thanks.

Posted in Content Marketing | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Please Take a Moment to…

Photo Credit:  Dollar Photo Club; hxdyl

Photo Credit: Dollar Photo Club; hxdyl

As I sat down to write a blog post this morning, I had a hard time wrapping my head around a good marketing-related topic.  I just kept thinking about the newspaper article I had just read about the Germanwings Airbus A320 that went down in the French Alps yesterday.  While we may never know the exact cause of the crash, 150 passenger and crew lost their lives after boarding a seemingly routine flight.  Sixteen of them were students who were on their way home from an amazing experience as exchange students.  Their lives had just gotten started.

Today, the last thing their families are thinking about is reading a blog post, or surfing the web for content marketing strategies.  I didn’t know anyone on Flight 9525, but the news of the crash caused me great pause, and I’m not sure why.  It just did.  We are all so busy and moving at such a frenetic pace that it’s easy to overlook the pain and suffering that’s going on in the world beyond our target audiences.  Sometimes it takes something bad to make us appreciate the good.

Photo Credit:  Dollar Photo Club; thinglass

Photo Credit: Dollar Photo Club; thinglass

While I realize that we can’t stop what we’re doing every time tragedy strikes, I think it’s important that we take time to pause and put things in perspective.  While the likelihood is small that anyone affected by yesterday’s crash will see this post, there are others with similar burdens who will.  Today’s post is for you.   I don’t know you, but I care and many others do too.

To all the writers, marketers and business professionals out there, I ask you to stop for just a moment today and join me in using the relationship-building power of Social Media to provide comfort to someone in need.  It’s important — and we all know how Likes, Follows, Friends and a kind word or two, can brighten even the darkest of days.  Thank you.

Posted in Content Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Gymnastics Content That Scores a Perfect 10

As mom to a high-level, competitive gymnast, I often feel like the sport is as much mine askimmyatnationals it is hers.  You won’t find me on a balance beam anytime soon, but the sheer will and dedication that it takes to be a great gymnast has a way of sucking you in.  Gymnastics is as exciting and nerve-racking as is gets.  When it comes to death-defying feats, the circus has nothing on this sport.  The skills these young women compete take your breath away — especially if you happen to be one of their parents.

This morning I was scrolling through the headlines in The New York Times and saw a story in the sports section by John Branch titled, “At Their Meets, the Audience Flips, Too.”  It caught my eye as the article showcased the University of Utah’s women’s gymnastics program and its success at both building a world-class team, and filling 15,000 seats for almost every home meet.  A whopping 7,500 of those are for season ticket holders.

What keeps them coming back?  What else?  Well-executed, compelling, exciting, relevant content.  The University gives its audience what they want:  two hours in awe of some of the strongest, most disciplined, tear-out-your-heart courageous athletes they may ever see.  Now that’s what I call content marketing.

All too often, people think of content as something that comes in written form, but it’s so much more than that.  Of course, written content plays a role, but so do special events, in-person meetings, e-mail messages, ads, direct mail, video, PR, social media, and every other way we reach out and touch our customers. The mix of content will differ by business and brand as determined by the needs, wants and preferences of our customers.  And like all good things, it doesn’t happen overnight.

In the case of the University of Utah, Head Coach, Greg Marsden starting working on his “content” when he helped form the women’s gymnastics team there 40 years ago.  When faced with the business challenge of filling seats, he gave the sports enthusiasts of the Salt Lake City area a new reason to come out.  They wanted a winning team that they could be proud of — and they wanted a good time too.

That’s what they got.  Attendance grew each year as did Marsden’s efforts to keep the crowd captivated.  For example, if you’ve ever been to a gymnastics meet, you know that there can be lots of lag time between events as the girls are warming up.  That’s not the case at the University of Utah’s meets as they fill that time with entertainment – cheerleaders, school pep band, fun with the crowd, and more.  There’s never a dull moment, and it works.

At this particular meet (featured in The New York Times story by Branch), the University’s content marketing efforts got an unexpected boost.  During the uneven bars competition, Utah gymnast Georgia Dabritz scored a perfect 10.  (By the way, for you gymnastics enthusiasts out there, I’m told she did this without grips…ouch!)  In my opinion, she wasn’t alone.  It may not have flashed on the big board, but Marsden’s content marketing score was nothing less than perfect.  Salute!

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The Nuts and Bolts of Repurposing Content

Bolts and nuts

Photo Credit: Mark Oleksiy, Dollar Photo Club

 

When I talk with small business owners about why they should invest in content marketing, I’m often met with wide-eyed stares of downright fear.  As someone who creates content for a living, I get it.  The thought of having to produce a steady stream of highly targeted, high-quality content with little or no staff can be scary.   The truth is that it doesn’t have to be that way as you can repurpose one piece of content to make two, three, four, or more.

Just this morning, I read about a great example of how to do this right.  Remember Pharrell and his “Happy” song?  Like it or not, the song was a big hit.  It had a certain beat that made millions for Pharrell – and millions of people want to well…be happy.  While he could have stopped with the song, he didn’t.  Pharrell recently announced that he’ll be working with Penguin Books to extend the happiness of “Happy” to include a series of picture books for kids.  Smart move.

Not only will this new venture grow (and maybe even reinvigorate) the popularity of his song, but it will enable Pharrell to reach new audiences and add a kinder, softer layer to his image.

While we can’t all be famous singers and songwriters, we can take a page from Pharrell’s new books and learn to repurpose great content.  Here’s how it’s done:

Photo Credit: iQoncept , Dollar Photo Club

Photo Credit: iQoncept , Dollar Photo Club

1.  Start by creating a content marketing strategy that aligns your business goals with the specific needs and wants of your audiences. If you’re not sure how to create this type of strategy, find an outside resource.  There are freelance consultants and entire companies dedicated to content marketing.  You can also find many helpful resources online.  Content Marketing Institute is a great place to start.

For purposes of this article, let’s say that you just opened a hardware store and you want to get customers in for a look (and a sale!).  Take some time to know your audience.  Find out what they love and hate about hardware stores.  What type of hardware do they use the most?  What are their biggest hardware headaches?  You get the idea.

I don’t know about you, but every time I move, my pictures get leaned up against walls for months (or even longer) because I dread trying to get them hung correctly.  I never seem to have the right hardware on hand and have a terrible time hanging my pictures in a straight line.  Plus, my husband hates when I put holes in the walls.  Of course, he’s also not fond of using adhesives as they always seem to pull paint off the walls during the hanging process.

Your job is to think of ways to help.  I would definitely be up for attending a quick in-store workshop on how to do this right – especially if I could leave armed with the tools to get the job done right.  Along the way, you provide much-needed help and get new customers in the door.  You also make a sale.

2.  So let’s say that your workshop is a piece of content. (Remember, content goes way beyond the written word to cover every way that you communicate with and “touch” your customers.)  Right off the bat, I see a number of ways to repurpose it.

— Start with branded signage and advertising that announces your store’s arrival and invites customers in for a free workshop.

— If you don’t have a blog, start one and be sure to include a post that provides picture-hanging tips for new homeowners.

— Post a link to your blog along with a personalized message on your company’s Facebook page and any other social media platforms you may be using.

— Use e-mail marketing to invite area residents to attend your next workshop and offer a coupon or free give-away while you’re at it.

— Create a simple “how-to” video and post it on your website…and the list goes on and on.

3.  Make sure your content marketing strategy includes an editorial calendar that’s filled with relevant and timely topics. Think through the seasons of the year – and the challenges your customers face during those times.  Figure out how you can help and then shout it from the rooftops via the content marketing channels your customers prefer.

4.  Measure your progress.  Along the way, it’s important to track your results.  Part of the content marketing strategy I mentioned earlier should include ways of measuring your progress.  These will be specific to your business and will include both quantitative and qualitative measures.

Quantitative measures include anything that you can calculate using hard numbers. Examples include an increase in sales, the number of new visitors to a web site, new subscriptions to your blog, etc.  Qualitative measures are a bit less concrete, but just as important.  These include positive feedback from customers, more activity in your store, better employee morale, positive coverage in your local newspaper, etc.  Do more of what’s working well and less of what is not.

5.  Commit for the long haul. While you will undoubtedly see some results more quickly than others, most will take time, especially as the needs and wants of your customers change.  Things like building awareness and relationships, improving your reputation, becoming “the” trusted source and expert, or paving the way for long-term growth take time.  It doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen.

Just keep creating great content and delivering it to the right people in the right ways at the right times and you will see.  In the meantime, keep an eye out for Pharrell’s new books – and be happy, my friends.

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For the Love of Laundry this Valentine’s Day!

Image

I don’t know about you, but doing laundry is a real money maker in my household.  Not only does the occasional quarter or dollar bill show up in the lint trap, but my laundry almost always yields cold hard cash even before it hits the washer.

How, you might ask?  First, some background.

I don’t know when it happened, but my house has been invaded by two tweens and a teen!  It seems like just yesterday, that my babies (three under the age of 3) were learning to walk and talk.  Oh, how cute they were!  I have a million pictures to prove it!

Yes, there were diapers to change, but my kids were easily amused with games of peak-a-boo and hide ‘n seek, as well as mesmerized by Baby Einstein videos (new to the world back then!) and Bob the Builder episodes.  They wore whatever I put on them and were happy about it.  There was no back talking, eye rolling or moans and groans about helping out around the house. Their rooms stayed clean – and so did they.  Holiday shopping was easy too!  There were no $500 electronics on the list.  Oh, and they napped.  Ah, naps.

Today, they are 11, 12 and 14 and there are no naps (unless you count the snooze button when it’s time to get up for school in the morning).   Don’t get me wrong.   I wouldn’t trade them for the world as they were not easy to come by.

After what seemed like endless infertility treatments, failed IVFs and four miscarriages, my husband and I decided to adopt.  While we initially set out to adopt from within the US, we were introduced to the Korean adoption program and fell in love.  I remember asking him, “Do you care if our baby doesn’t look like us?”  He didn’t and neither did I.  What was most important to us was adopting a baby that was as young as possible and healthy.

Then came the paperwork — tons of it – followed by fingerprinting, letters of recommendation, police checks, personal essays and more.  Next came the waiting…endless waiting.  You see, first, your paperwork heads overseas.  Then you wait for a referral (information about and pictures of the baby that has been matched to you).  Then comes the wait for medical updates and finally for “the call” that it was time to pick up your baby.  What an amazing day, only to be outdone by the first time your baby is placed in your arms.

Image

Here we are on the day our daughter came home. How young we all were!

For us, that glorious day came twice — first, for our oldest son, followed two years later by our daughter.  They are miracles in every sense of the word and have changed our lives forever.    In fact, they saved mine.

Less than one year later, our youngest son was born.  I know, you hear about this sort of thing happening all the time, but the percentage is actually pretty low.  It was not an easy pregnancy.  There were many complications, but he’s here.  I still have to pinch myself sometimes to make sure I haven’t dreamed the last 11 years.

That doesn’t last for long as it all comes flooding back each time overflowing baskets (that were just empty two days earlier) are carried into the laundry room by my darlings.  Without fail, each basket contains shirts and pants that are still neatly folded from when they were last washed and sent upstairs to be put away.  Frequent finds also include socks, still balled up in pairs, and even the occasional new clothing item still bearing tags!

Kevin, Kyle and Kimberly...my sweets.

My Valentine’s Day sweets.

While I am new to the teenage stage, I must say that a $3 fee for each clean item found in the dirty laundry seems to be working.   I still find the occasional bathing suit and rash guard shirt in the dirty laundry in the dead of winter, but their numbers are on the decline.  The truth is that, while they don’t know it, the money always goes right back into their stashes.

Secretly, I’m grateful to have all that laundry to do.  Each piece, dirty or not reminds me of how blessed I am for the gift of my very special family.  I hope you are too.  I wish you many lucrative loads of laundry and a Happy Valentine’s Day.

Who will you be celebrating with this Valentine’s Day?

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Wishing You a Wonderful Holiday Season!

Composite image of hands holding poster
Happy Holidays everyone!  Thank you for subscribing to my blog!  Linked here is the latest issue of the newsletter version of this blog.  It contains tips on managing social media marketing in 2015.  It also talks about what we know and love — blogging.  As always, I welcome your thoughts. 
 
With the holidays upon us I wish you and yours all the happiness and blessings in the world.  Regardless of which holiday you celebrate, I hope you will take time to enjoy the people around you who make life worth living! 
 
The New Year brings with it unlimited possibilities.  I look forward to exploring them with you.  As we said when were kids leaving school for holiday break, “See you next year!” — MJK 

 

http://conta.cc/1v909x6

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Tis the Season for the Human Side of Business

 

white christmas bow

What a week!  Business was good.  My kids were counting down the days until Christmas break.  My husband was happy that his football team won on Sunday, and I re-connected with three old co-workers on LinkedIn.  While, I connect with people on LinkedIn all the time, there’s something extra special about rekindling old friendships with people who played a role in shaping your career – and life.

You may be wondering why, if these people were so important, I lost contact in the first place.  Well, sometimes life just takes over!  We all get busy, move on to new jobs, start families, send kids to college, and before you know it, 20 years have gone by.  It happens in the blink of an eye.  Try as we might to keep in touch, it does not always happen.  We’re only human after all…

The good news is that social media platforms like LinkedIn are helping us mere mortals to re-kindle relationships of old, as well as form brand new ones.  It’s happening every day and all around the world.  We all talk about B2B and B2C, but H2H (Human to Human) is where it’s at today.  Personally, I rather like it that way.

We all want to do business with people we know, trust and like.  That means it’s important for businesses to show their human side.  Be empathetic, genuine and ridiculously helpful.  Be a friend.

With the holiday season upon us, there’s no better time to reach out and touch those who are near and dear.  With social media at your fingertips you have all the tools you need to do it.  Select the platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and more!) that your customers use the most, and communicate.

Capodanno 2015 Natale_01Take time to thank them.  Ask them about their New Year’s resolutions and how you can serve them better in 2015.  Do a customer survey.  Blog about their successes.  Preview new products and services.  Whether you’re in plumbing and heating, retail, food service, lawn care, accounting, or one of a billion other types of businesses, let your customers know that you’ll be there when you need them.  Let them know you care.

While you’re at it, plug in the names of a few friends or co-workers from your past.  You might be pleasantly surprised by who you find and how willing they are to re-connect.  Old friends are the best.  They already know, trust and admire you – and you them.  In business, that’s more than half the battle.  In life, it’s everything, so bring them back to your present and into your future – and together, make it bright.

How are you connecting with your customers this holiday season?  I’d love to know. Please use the contact form below to share your thoughts and ideas.  Thanks!

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How to Beat the Birthday Blues

Happy birthday candles on a cake

This post is a bit different from what I usually write. You see, today is my 49th birthday. That’s right. The year before the “big” one! While I happen to like birthdays, this one feels a bit major to me.

Could it be because of the many changes I made while at the youthful age of 48? After all, I left the comforts of full-time employment to embark on life as a freelance writer. That was pretty big. I went back to school for extra training in social media. My oldest son’s voice dropped two octaves, my daughter got braces and moved gyms (she’s a Level 9 competitive gymnast!), my little guy weathered the storm of switching schools, and my husband’s company changed hands.

My kids are growing up and, for some reason, the older I get, the worse that makes me feel. I find myself sobbing when I look at old photo albums as I realize how much — and how fast — time has gone by. If only I could freeze my kids at the same age for a few years. Who knows? Maybe I’d freeze with them!

My husband, the realist, says that’s not going to happen, so what’s a 49-year old girl to do to beat the birthday blues?

Start the day by checking Facebook! I must say that waking up to 20 or 30 birthday wishes from friends and family is pretty great. The best part is that they keep coming throughout the day. Some greetings even come the old fashioned way – by telephone! My birthday morning would not be complete without a call from my dad. I treasure that.

Shop! My Birthday is on Cyber Monday! What’s especially great is when retail stores that you frequent send you discounts and coupons to redeem on your birthday. When you combine those with Cyber Monday sales, there are some great deals to be had. There’s nothing quite like buying yourself something and getting it for way less than usual on your birthday! (I already placed my order, by the way! Thanks Kohl’s for the birthday bucks!

Get the mail! My first card arrived in the mail on Saturday from a dear friend who never forgets and my kids and husband left three funny ones for me on the counter this morning. Cards are so much fun! Be sure to check both mail boxes – the one outside and the one in your computer for birthday greetings. I’m grateful that so many people take the time to say something nice.

Work! While many people like to take the day off on their birthday, I’m happy to be working! In a mere seven months, I’ve gotten my new freelance business off the ground. I still have a long way to go, but I’m getting there. Just wait until you see what my 50th year brings!

Eat cake! While the last thing my 49-year-old waistline needs is cake, my kids say it’s a must. I happen to agree. Whether it’s cake, a brownie, cookie, or donut, I’m believer that everyone should hear the birthday song and blow out candles placed in something yummy on their big day. I haven’t seen a cake just yet, but I think one is coming.

Dream. Just writing this post has cheered me up. I have many things (mostly people!) to be thankful for and plan on continuing to dream big. And, while I can’t freeze time, I plan on continuing to enjoy it with the people I love the most.

I wish you many wonderful birthdays — sans the blues.

Do you ever get the birthday blues?  How do you banish them?  I will definitely need suggestions for next year…besides having a huge party, that is! 

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Tis the Season for Making #H2H Connections

Tis the season Christmas ribbon

This week was a great one!  Business was good.  My kids were healthy and doing well in school.  My hubby was happy that his football team won on Sunday, and I re-connected with three old friends and mentors on LinkedIn.  While, I connect with people on LinkedIn all the time, there’s something extra special about rekindling old friendships with people who played a role in shaping your career – and life.

You may be wondering why, if these people were so important, I lost contact in the first place.  Well, sometimes life just takes over!  We all get busy, move on to new jobs, start families, send kids to college, and before you know it, 20 years have gone by.  It happens in the blink of an eye.  Try as we might to keep in touch, it does not always happen.  We’re only human after all…

The good news is that social media platforms like LinkedIn are helping us mere mortals to re-kindle relationships of old, as well as form brand new ones.  It’s happening every day and all around the world.  We all talk about B2B and B2C, but H2H (Human to Human) is where it’s at today.  Personally, I rather like it that way.

We all want to do business with people we know, trust and like.  That means it’s important for businesses to show their human side.  Be empathetic, genuine and ridiculously helpful.  Be a friend.

With the holiday season upon us, there’s no better time to reach out and touch those who are near and dear.  With social media at your fingertips you have all the tools you need to do it.  Select the platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and more!) that your customers use the most, and communicate.

Take time to thank them.  Ask them about their New Year’s resolutions and how you can serve them better in 2015.  Do a customer survey.  Blog about their successes.  Preview Resolutions Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Clouds and Sky.new products and services.  Whether you’re in plumbing and heating, retail, food service, lawn care, accounting, or one of a billion other types of businesses, let your customers know that you’ll be there when you need them.  Let them know you care.

While you’re at it, plug in the names of a few friends or co-workers from your past.  You might be pleasantly surprised by who you find and how willing they are to re-connect.  Old friends are the best.  They already know, trust and admire you – and you them.  In business, that’s more than half the battle.  In life, it’s everything, so bring them back to your present and into your future – and together, make it bright.

How are you connecting with your customers this holiday season?  I’d love to know. Please use the contact form below to share your thoughts and ideas.  Thanks!

Posted in Good Business, Social Media Marketing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Responders Use Social Media on the Job

 

firefighter

I was pleasantly surprised when I opened up the Press of Atlantic City (the E-Paper, of course!) yesterday.  On the front page was a story about how police and fire departments all over South Jersey are successfully using social media.  Written by Anjalee firstresponderssocialKhemlani (@acpressanj), the article’s focus is on six first responders who are using social media to promote what they do and how and why they do it.  They are also using social media to deliver important information and educational materials to area residents.

As I read about their successes and challenges, I couldn’t help but think about the many small businesses that have yet to embrace social media.  So I decided to share this article in the hope that these fearless first responders will inspire more small businesses to follow their lead.

So, after you read the article  and are raring to go, here are five things to keep in mind:

It’s all about the customers.  Social Media is all about building relationships and being ridiculously helpful.  While it’s okay to slip in a little something promotional, do it sparingly.   The customer is king!

Take one step at a time.  Don’t try to be everywhere at once.  Find out which social media platforms your customers use the most and start there.  Facebook is a great choice.  In fact, according to some brand new research, Facebook drives four times more traffic than any of its competitors.  Not a bad place to be!

A “page” does not social media make.  In other words, creating a Facebook page and updating it once a month does not qualify as being active on social media.  Whatever platforms you select, make sure you are delivering a constant stream of great content.   The more you post (great content), the more relationships you’ll build and the more trusted and valued you will become.

 The rules and tools are changing all the time.  Ask any social media guru and they will tell you that the only thing that’s stayed the same about social media is that everything keeps changing.  What works now might not work six months from now.  Companies are introducing new tools and platforms.  Existing platforms like Facebook and Twitter are making improvements, and the list goes on and on.   It’s very  exciting, don’t you think?

Don’t wait.  Approximately 64 percent of B2Bs are using social media.  What’s more, 74 percent of consumers are using social media to inform their next purchase.  We need to be there when they come looking!

What challenges are keeping you and/or your clients from using social media?  Please use the comment form to let me know.

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The ROI of Employee Recognition

thank you note posted

Please and thank you.  Ah, the magic words that we’re taught never to forget.  Using them is a lesson that’s drilled into our heads as we’re reminded time and time again to say “thank you” when invited somewhere special, or to say “please” when we want to share a

please-and-thank-yousproutsenroute.comtoy or take a turn.  After a while, those magic words become automatic and part of who we are.  As kids, we quickly learn that good things happen when we use them.  Unfortunately as adults, especially when at work, we sometimes forget those words — along with the value of employee recognition.

Think about it.  When was the last time you personally thanked an employee, a freelancer, or a team of people for a job well done?  Sure, they were probably paid to do it, but a simple thank you will go a long way toward making them want to do it even better the next time.  All too often, managers lose sight of the morale- and business-building power of acknowledging people for their efforts.  We forget that employees who feel appreciated and valued will always strive to do their best — and will motivate others to do the same.

I recently traveled to Warner Robins, GA, to see my sister promoted to Colonel in the United States Air Force.  If ever jennandfourstar1there was an example of the motivational power of employee recognition, this was it.  And, while the ceremony was formal, it really all boiled down to the Air Force asking her to do a job and then thanking her for doing it well.  Oh, and with the promotion, came a new job – one of the biggest on her base – and she gladly took it on.

In addition to thanking and motivating my sister, the Air Force did the same for everyone in the room that day – family, friends, supervisors, direct reports, and the Four-Star General (the first woman to earn this rank) who presided over the ceremony.  My chest – and heart – was bursting with pride.  You better believe that my suitcase returned home filled with Air Force shirts, pins and car decals for all!  Imagine the awareness-building power of having your employees and their families proudly displaying your company logo wherever they go.  Just a simple “please” and “thank you” could do the trick.

At the risk of moans and groans from fellow parents at the mention of Barney (the purple dinosaur who entertains kids with life lessons set to song and dance), I couldn’t help but think of his “please and thank you” song as I wrote this post.  Give it a listen and you’ll hear:

He’s talking ’bout please and thank you,
They’re called the magic words,
If you want nice things to happen,
They’re the words that should be heard, 

Barney is right on the ROI with this one.  They are the magic words we learn when young and ones well worth remembering always.  They come at no cost to give yet can deliver endless return on the investment we make in our employees and on the success of our businesses as a whole.  Please join me in using them today!

 Please & Thank You Image Credit:  yoursproutsenroute.com

 

 

 

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5 Steps to Marketing Communications Planning Success

 

 

5 steps to marketing communications planning success infographic new crop

Very early in my career I remember being asked by a business team leader to create a new brochure for the product line he was charged with marketing.  I was new to the company, so took some time to ask him about the brochure’s intended audience, key messages and selling points, and how this piece would fit in with his overall marketing communications plan.

I soon found out that no such plan existed.  There was a business plan, but no marketing communications section or overlay.  He just knew he needed updated sales materials and thought he’d start with a new brochure.

Time to plan conceptLong story short, we worked together to create a comprehensive marketing communications plan – a roadmap of sorts that was completely aligned with the goals and objectives of his business and helped him chart a course for growth and success.

Since then, I’ve created many marketing communications plans for a wide variety of clients. While no two are the same, all of them should contain the following:

  1. Situation Analysis – This section is what I like to call the “everything you ever wanted to know and then some” about your client’s business and its customers. It’s the basis of your entire plan and includes: business history; an industry overview; a snapshot of current operations; business goals and objectives; key messages, strengths and weaknesses; opportunities for growth; challenges; competitive information; best practices; and a customer profile that outlines who they are, what keeps them up at night and how they prefer to get information. Remember, customers rule the roost so it pays to know them well.
  2. Communications Goals and Objectives – Next, you need to use the information in your situation analysis to develop a set of goals and objectives specific to how Goals concept in word tag cloudmarketing communications can help. Goals tend to be broad and overarching (i.e. becoming an industry leader), while objectives are more tangible and concrete (i.e. securing two high-profile speaking engagements over the next year).
  3. Strategies – With goals and objectives clearly defined, it’s time to create strategies for getting the job done! The possibilities are endless and can involve the use of public relations, content marketing, social media, advertising, direct mail, employee ambassador programs, community outreach, and so much more.   This is your chance to shine, so be creative, trust your instincts and have fun!
  4. Action Plan – Next, comes your action plan which identifies the specific tactics (tools) that you will use to set your strategies in motion.  Tactics can include things like redesigning a web site, starting a blog, developing a direct mail campaign, or utilizing Twitter to build relationships with key industry influencers.  Your action plan should also include a detailed outline of who will do what and by when.  It’s important that roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and communicated so as to stay on track.
  5. Measuring Success – Finally, your plan needs to include ways to measure your progress.  Most plans will rely on two types of results – quantitative and qualitative.  Quantitative results are data and numbers driven – and quite exact.  Qualitative results are a bit less concrete, but equally important as they can indicate changes in behaviors, attitudes and relationships.

Flecha rojaAs is the case when navigating any roadmap, implementing a marketing communications plan can be challenging and take many unplanned twists and turns.  Be prepared to expect the unexpected, be flexible and stay the course.  If you hit a detour, don’t be afraid to adjust your route.  What’s important is staying focused on reaching your destination.  With a solid plan in place, you and your client will get there – and arrive safe and sound.

 

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A “Touching” Approach to Connecting with Customers

Woman with touching look

Years ago, a friend of mine who belonged to a small non-profit asked me if I would come to the next management meeting and discuss marketing planning – what it is and how and why to do it.  I was happy to oblige, gathered up my Marketing Communications 101 presentation and arrived eager to tout the benefits of doing what I love.

I quickly learned that this organization was in a bit of a slump.  Membership and fund raising were down and the organization’s reputation had declined.  Existing members were unhappy too and were looking for reassurance that they were in the right place.

While the declining economy was to blame, it was not the only culprit.  This organization did little or no marketing (except for some limited advertising).  The management consisted of brilliant numbers people.  The problem was that they had no idea how to tell and sell their story in a way that would touch the hearts and minds of their customers — and win them over forever.  They also had to come to grips with the fact that changing attitudes and behaviors takes time.  Results don’t happen overnight.

The good news is that they listened and, in time, turned their organization around.

Looking back, I think the biggest challenges I faced with this client were convincing them that effective marketing communications must reflect business goals and objectives, be customer driven, and include more than just advertising.  Of course, advertising plays an important role, but so do public relations, media relations, sales programs, community outreach, promotions, and internal communications. Today, we’d add social media, content marketing and all things digital into that mix.

I remember talking a lot about “touch points” and the importance of having a constant, Kids joining fingers forming a star.yet helpful, presence in the lives of current and prospective customers. It sounds a little “touchy feely” I know, but an effective marketing communications plan puts us in touch with the right people, in the right way, at the right time.  We’re in their newspapers, on the radio, in their mail and e-mail boxes, in their Twitter feed, and more.  We also have a presence in their communities and their friends are recommending us.  We’re touching their lives and building relationships.  After all, people like to do business with people they know and trust.

touching approach to marketing communications picWhile the exact number of “touch points” needed to convince customers that we’re exactly what they need varies, it usually takes quite a few over a significant amount of time. Whatever the number may be, the right touch can make all the difference in the world.

 (Check out this article, How Many Contacts Does it Take before Someone Buys Your Product,” published on BusinessInsider.com by CityRoom.com for a great take on this topic.)

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Introducing the WRITE ON! Newsletter

-WRITE-ON (3)

Today I’m posting with some exciting news!  I’ve created a newsletter version of this blog.  I thank you all for following my blog and invite you to also subscribe to the newsletter version.

While it may sometimes reference the blog, the newsletter will offer new and exciting content in a different format that I hope you will enjoy.  I’m looking forward to connecting with and learning from everyone who reads it.

As followers of my blog, you are near and dear to my heart.  For that reason, I’d love your thoughts and input on the newsletter.  I’d also like to thank you for the wonderful content you share with me via your blogs.  I read them all!

All the best. — MJK

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Taking the Terror Out of Talking to the Press

All the witches, ghouls and goblins in the world have nothing over standing in front of a TV camera with reporters firing questions your way.  Seasoned pro or not, few things are quite as spine tingling as being interviewed by a member of the media — especially if the news your sharing isn’t all roses and rainbows.  It’s what I call public speaking on steroids — and can be terrifying if you’re not prepared!

press conference

The most fun I’ve ever had preparing for a media interview was when I was working for Kraft Foods and was managing public relations for its Post cereals brand.  I was in New York City at the offices of Hunter PR and prepping the “voices” of Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble for a radio media tour in support of Post Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles cereals.  It was a blast as we fired questions at these two wonderful actors whose voices had been so much a part of my childhood – both on TV and at the breakfast table.

Since then, I’ve helped prepare countless people (none quite as colorful as Fred and Barney!) for media interviews of all shapes and sizes.  I’ve learned that whether you’re preparing a spokesperson to handle a crisis, or simply getting ready for what is sure to be a positive piece, the preparation process is basically the same.

  1. Seize the opportunity. While some are more fun than others, every interview is an opportunity to tell your story, share your opinions, set the record straight, or even simply celebrate something wonderful with the world.  It’s yours for the taking.
  1. Do your homework. Find out as much as you can about the people who will be interviewing you.  Become familiar with their past pieces and writing styles, as well as with the publications they work for.  Plug their names into Google and see what comes up.  After all, it’s likely that your interviewers will be Googling you too.
  1. Zero in on your key messages. Think about the two or three things that you absolutely want to get across during the interview.  Is it your company’s unique style, approach to marketing, or actions taken in a crisis?  How about product quality or your commitment to supporting the community?  Think about the things that make your company great and write them down.  These will become your key messages.
  1. Create a Q&A. Come up with a list of questions that you may be asked and thenQuestions and Answers answer them.  Make sure that each answer in some way relates back to your key messages.  Find a way to communicate them over and over again no matter what. Oh, and be sure your list includes the questions you are most afraid of answering.  (Just because you leave them off the list doesn’t mean they won’t be asked!)
  1. Conduct a mock media interview — or 10! This is when someone with solid public relations (PR) experience can be particularly helpful.  Because they are familiar with how various types of interviews are conducted, PR pros make great “pretend” reporters.  This is particularly important if you think the interview may be a tough one.  Try to make your mock interview as realistic as possible and record it.  If the interview will be on camera, then practice it that way.  If it’s a telephone interview, have the mock reporter call you – and be sure to stand up while answering the questions.  Your voice almost always sounds more alive and animated when standing.  If you’re prepping for a press conference or satellite media tour, you will most likely be in the hands of a PR agency or freelance consultant who will make sure you’re ready to roll.
  1. Practice, practice, practice. I used to conduct pretend interviews with myself while driving to work – way before cell phones made it normal to see drivers talking to themselves when on the road!  Use your Q&A and practice out load.  Most importantly, make sure you know your material inside out and backwards.
  1. Kill it! Dress appropriately, control the butterflies (it’s always good to have some), remember your key messages, and tell your story.  I know it’s easier said than done, but if you are prepared, chances are that you’ll nail the interview and make your company shine.  Fred and Barney certainly did.

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A New Kind of Costume. Wearables Bring New Meaning to Dressing Smart!

 

socialcostumes

IMAGE: @KATEMILTON_ ON INSTAGRAM VIA MASHABLE AND PINTEREST

What will you be this Halloween?  Social media costumes are all the rage this year with party goers dressed in Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn logos.  Here’s one “costume” that’s sure to make you look smart — and last way past Halloween.

While I’ve never been known for my fashion sense, a story about a polo shirt forever changed my definition of a smart dresser.  I first heard about it about a few months ago when visiting my sister in Georgia.  I was getting ready for the day and had the TV news playing in the background when a very fit tennis player appeared on the screen.   Like most tennis players who are getting ready to hit the court, he was wearing a shirt.  It looked perfectly normal, but was anything but that.  In fact, it was downright smart!

I was familiar with the introduction of wearable watches, wristbands and the like, but didn’t realize that “smart clothing” was almost ready to hit the racks.  While this particular shirt looked pretty awesome (especially on the chiseled athlete), I was in awe of what it could do.  Click here to see for yourself!

Polotechshirt

This product image released by Ralph Lauren shows the new Polo Tech compression shirt. The garment offers smart technology to send heartbeat, respiration, stress levels and other data to tablets and smartphones. (AP Photo/Ralph Lauren)

The shirt was introduced at the US Open by Ralph Lauren and Canada-based biometrics firm OMsignal.   If there was a smart scale for clothing, this one would take top honors.  And while I’m no fashionista, I’d pay big bucks to see this shirt work the runway.   It goes way beyond fashion to provide functionality that maximizes a workout, and could one day, even save a life.

While I know as much about medicine as I do fashion, I can’t help but imagine the possibilities.  This shirt uses biometric technology and sensors (woven into the shirt) to read your pulse, blood pressure, heart rate and more.  During a workout, it lets you know when to pick up the pace, when to call it quits and everything in between.  The data is stored in a black box that’s attached to the shirt and then transmitted via a special app to the mobile phone or tablet of your choice.

If it’s that smart, what’s to keep it (or future generations of it) from preventing heart attacks and strokes with warnings to get help before it’s too late?  I can think of a number of people I’d like to give that kind of shirt to for Christmas.  You know the type…they refuse to go to the doctor, never check their blood pressure, forget to take their medication, and wait until they feel like they’re about to explode before admitting that there might be something wrong.

The good news is that Ralph Lauren’s polo shirt is just the beginning of what’s yet to come to closets worldwide.  The wearables industry is exploding and many different prototypes are in the works.  In fact, a May 6, 2014, article and infographic posted by Wearable World News (on wearableworldnews.com) projected that the industry will reach $30 billion by 2018.  Countless companies are on board and working hard to convince us that we really are what we wear.   Oh, and we’re talking way beyond shirts to include jewelry, hats, shoes, and so much more.

I can’t wait.  At last, I too can be a smart dresser!  If you could add something “smart” to your wardrobe, what would it be and why?  Post a comment to let me know.

 

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Do You Know Your Customers?

do you know your customers?

I recently wrote a story for a local newspaper about three area businesses that are celebrating milestone anniversaries — 50, 75 and 95 years in operation.  They are three very different business enterprises, offering three very different types of products and services.  Yet, as different as they may be their secret to success is very much the same – know your customers and give them what they want and need.

If a Ten Commandments of Marketing existed, “Know thy Customer” would certainly top the list.  To most business owners this probably seems pretty basic.  After all, we all know our customers, right?  Not so fast.

How well do we actually know the people who buy and use our products and services?  Are we sure we’re giving them exactly what they need to succeed?  Have we asked them lately?  As business owners and service providers we need to know what makes our customers tick – and how to keep them ticking.

A great way to tackle this task is to create a “persona” for individual customers or customer types.  A well-done persona takes some time and effort to create, but is well worth it.  Here is some of what a persona will help you identify:

We Understand Your Needs

Customer Demographics – Demographics like sex, age and ethnicity can have a big impact on a person’s purchasing decisions.  Cultural differences are particularly important, as different cultures do business in different ways.  You can easily offend or lose a customer if you don’t understand their views and basic values.

What keeps them up at night – Do you have “work” dreams?  You know the ones when you arrive at a meeting unprepared, or forgot where the meeting was and couldn’t get to a phone to call in. If so, you’re not alone.  We all have things that keep us up at night – staffing, making payroll, the need for new product ideas, meeting deadlines, and more.  A customer persona can help identify the things that worry and frustrate our customers the most – and give us the opportunity to put those troubles to bed for good.

Preferences — This is a biggie.  Do you know how your customers prefer to communicate?  How about where they turn for help or to catch up on business and industry news?  Twenty-five years ago the answers were simple as technology wasn’t what it is today.  We now have e-mail, web sites, social media platforms, text messaging, mobile phones, a 24/7 newsfeed, YouTube and Google to name just a few.  What’s more, we can connect instantly with anyone in the world.  As exciting as these new options may be, it’s more important than ever to know which ones your customers are using — so that you can be there in a big way when they come looking.

Personal and Business Goals and Objectives – When it’s all said and done, we ultimately want to help our customers succeed.  To do that, we must know how they define success – and what we can do to help make it happen.

So where do you start?  If you don’t already have one, find a persona template online.  HubSpot offers a free one that you may want to check out.  It comes along with a step by step process of how to use it most effectively.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll be writing about your business next!

Do you use customer personas to help guide your marketing efforts?   If so, what type of information do you look for?

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Six Tips for Hiring the “Write” Freelance Writer

Six Tips for Hiring the Write Writer

If you’ve ever been charged with hiring a freelance writer for a company project, you know that it’s not as easy as it sounds.   Keeping in mind that budgets, assignments and deadlines vary widely, here are six things to look for when hiring the right writer:

1.  Rave Reviews.  Much like you might do when selecting a restaurant, hotel, movie, or vacation destination ask your friends and co-workers for suggestions and recommendations on freeelance writers.  Chances are, if they had great success, you will too.  If for nothing else, it’s a solid place to start your search.

2.  Experience.  Look for a freelance writer with proven experience.   Ask to see samples that demonstrate the writer’s ability to tackle a wide variety of projects – from newsletter stories to brochures and advertisements, to scripts, website copy, blog posts, technical documentation and more.  While sample types will differ from person to person, the idea is to look for someone who can write almost anything – and do it well.

3.  Creativity.  There’s more than one way to skin a cat – or so they say!  The same holds true for writing assignments.  Not all newsletters and company profiles are created equally.  It’s a writer’s ability to capture and then deliver a company’s message in a way that’s uniquely creative that makes the difference.  Look for a freelance writer with the ability to make even the driest of topics both interesting and fun.

4. An Independent Worker.  Critical to the success of any project is a kick-off session.  Done in person, over the phone, or electronically this is the time when clients provide clear direction and communicate expectations, and writers ask any and all questions necessary to hit the ground running.  After that, a freelance writer should be able to work independently, providing client updates on an agreed-upon schedule.

5. Resourcefulness.  There are few assignments that are delivered on a silver platter — complete with all the information necessary to begin writing.  More often than not, they involve multiple interviews, a great deal of research and fact-checking, which requires a resourceful writer who knows how and where to find the right information.  If interviews are needed, be sure to hire a freelance writer who is comfortable planning for and conducting them.  Above all, make sure you select a true professional – someone you trust to interact with company management and outside experts.

6.  Sense of Humor.  It’s not absolutely necessary, but certainly helps!  Try and build a good rapport with your freelance writer.  Find someone that’s both talented and fun.  Generally, a good working relationship leads to great work.

Which of these do you feel is most important?  What else do you look for?

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What Storytellers Do

walt quote

Have you ever seen the movie, Saving Mr. Banks? If you are a writer and want to be inspired by the art of storytelling, it’s a must see.  I recently decided to give it a try.  I knew it had something to do with Mary Poppins (love her and remember seeing the movie as a kid), but didn’t know much more.  Since the movies you know the least about tend to be some of the best, I clicked play.

I am so glad I did.  As a writer, this movie struck a chord with me in a way that I never expected.  It also gave me a rare look into the lives and personalities of two incredibly creative people – P.L. Travers and Walt Disney.  As an author, Travers was very protective of her characters and was determined not to let the likes of Walt Disney turn them into what she thought would be an animated cartoon.  Disney, on the other hand, knew a good story when he saw one and wanted nothing more than to make this movie.  It took 20 years of convincing, but Travers finally agreed to consider Disney’s proposal.

During the course of an extremely colorful and entertaining exchange between the various cast of characters, Disney realizes that Travers was a very different person than the one she appeared to be – and for good reason.  I won’t go into detail so as not to spoil the movie for those of you who haven’t seen it, but when Travers decides to give up on the project, Disney makes an unexpected visit to her home in England.  Knowing the real story behind the creation of Mary Poppins, Disney was able to gain her trust and secure her permission to make the movie.

One of things he said to Travers to help her understand the difference her story could make in the lives of others was:

 “That’s what
storytellers do.
We restore order with
imagination. We instill
hope again and again.”

mary popinsThe rest is history.  Together, they would go on to tell the story of the Banks Family and how Mary Poppins saved it in a way that would bring joy and hope to generations of children and families.

Saving Mr. Banks is one of those movies that makes you laugh and cry – sometimes both at once.  It was hearing Walt Disney’s view of a storyteller’s role, though, that inspired me the most.  He was so right.

As a freelance writer and content marketer, storytelling is at the heart of what I do.  After all, whatever I write, whether it’s a blog post, video script, news release, or company brochure, I use my imagination to tell a story that will inspire people in a way that drives growth and success for the businesses and organizations I serve.

By the way, this movie definitely deserves a five-star rating.  If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to check it out.  I’d love to hear what you think.

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Are you a smart dresser? Wearables bring new meaning to dressing for success.

Polotechshirt

This product image released by Ralph Lauren shows the new Polo Tech compression shirt. The garment offers smart technology to send heartbeat, respiration, stress levels and other data to tablets and smartphones. (AP Photo/Ralph Lauren)

While I’ve never been known for my fashion sense, a story about a polo shirt forever changed my definition of dressing for success.   I first heard about it about a month ago when visiting my sister in Georgia.  I was getting ready for the day and had the TV news playing in the background when a very fit tennis player appeared on the screen.   Like most tennis players who are getting ready to hit the court, he was wearing a shirt.  It looked perfectly normal, but was anything but that.  In fact, it was downright smart!

I was familiar with the introduction of wearable watches, wristbands and the like, but didn’t realize that “smart clothing” was almost ready to hit the racks.  While this particular shirt looked pretty awesome (especially on the chiseled athlete), I was in awe of what it could do.  Click here to see for yourself!

The shirt was introduced at the US Open by Ralph Lauren and Canada-based biometrics firm OMsignal.   If there was a smart scale for clothing, this one would take top honors.  And while I’m no fashionista, I’d pay big bucks to see this shirt work the runway.   It goes way beyond fashion to provide functionality that maximizes a workout, and could one day, even save a life.

While I know as much about medicine as I do fashion, I can’t help but imagine the possibilities.  This shirt uses biometric technology and sensors (woven into the shirt) to read your pulse, blood pressure, heart rate and more.  During a workout, it lets you know when to pick up the pace, when to call it quits and everything in between.  The data is stored in a black box that’s attached to the shirt and then transmitted via a special app to the mobile phone or tablet of your choice.

If it’s that smart, what’s to keep it (or future generations of it) from preventing heart attacks and strokes with warnings to get help before it’s too late?  I can think of a number of people I’d like to give that kind of shirt to for Christmas.  You know the type…they refuse to go to the doctor, never check their blood pressure, forget to take their medication, and wait until they feel like they’re about to explode before admitting that there might be something wrong.

The good news is that Ralph Lauren’s polo shirt is just the beginning of what’s yet to come to closets worldwide.  The wearables industry is exploding and many different prototypes are in the works.  In fact, a May 6, 2014, article and infographic posted by Wearable World News (on wearableworldnews.com) projected that the industry will reach $30 billion by 2018.  Countless companies are on board and working hard to convince us that we really are what we wear.   Oh, and we’re talking way beyond shirts to include jewelry, hats, shoes, and so much more.

I can’t wait.  At last, I too can be a smart dresser!  Maybe there’s hope for me yet!   If you could add something “smart” to your wardrobe, what would it be and why?  Post a comment to let me know.

 

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A Lesson from Budweiser on “Content that Moves”

As a freelance writer and fan of all things social media, I work hard to create content that’s consistently compelling – content that people can relate to and can’t help but want to read.   Social media guru and author, Mark Schaefer, describes this as “content that moves” and this morning, I found a great example of that.  It certainly moved me.

If you haven’t already seen it, I’m talking about the new Budweiser commercial (#friendsarewaiting) that is creating buzz all over the Internet.  A friend posted the link, and since I usually enjoy Budweiser commercials (especially the ones with dogs in them), I clicked on it.

The ad starts out with a young man and his puppy.  Who doesn’t love puppies?  Anyway, the ad quickly makes the point that this young man and his dog are inseparable.  When the man leaves with friends (with a six-pack in hand) and doesn’t come back, the dog is devastated.  I think that’s when I stopped breathing.  I thought for sure that this lesson of never drinking and driving would surely be taught (as is so often is) through tragedy.

That wasn’t the case this time around – thank goodness!  Instead, Budweiser focused in on the positive – on the fact that people come back (where friends are waiting) when they make smart choices. That’s when the tears started.   Okay so they were happy tears, but they came nonetheless.  In a mere 60 seconds, this man and his dog, coupled with a very powerful message moved me.

I was even more impressed when I watched it again and realized that the ad contained very little branding.  For me, that added to its credibility as it clearly delivered the message that Budweiser is responsible – and really cares.  Not just any brand can pull that off, but Budweiser can and did.   Kudos — and thanks for taking my breath away with content that moves in more ways than one.

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Preparing for a Media Interview

media interview

The most fun I’ve ever had preparing for a media interview was when I was working for Kraft Foods and was managing public relations for its Post cereals brand.  I was in New York City at the offices of Hunter PR and prepping the “voices” of Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble for a radio media tour in support of Post Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles cereals.  It was a blast as we fired questions at these two wonderful actors whose voices had been so much a part of my childhood – both on TV and at the breakfast table.

Since then, I’ve helped prepare countless people (none quite as colorful as Fred and Barney!) for media interviews of all shapes and sizes.  I’ve learned that whether you’re preparing a spokesperson to handle a crisis, or simply getting ready for what is sure to be a positive piece, the preparation process is basically the same.

  1. Seize the opportunity. While some are more fun than others, every interview is an opportunity to tell your story, share your opinions, set the record straight, or even simply celebrate something wonderful with the world.  It’s yours for the taking.
  1. Do your homework. Find out as much as you can about the people who will be interviewing you.  Become familiar with their past pieces and writing styles.  Plug their names into Google and see what comes up.  After all, it’s likely that your interviewers will be Googling you too.
  1. Zero in on your key messages. Think about the two or three things that you absolutely want to get across during the interview.  Is it your company’s unique style or approach to marketing?  How about product quality or your commitment to supporting the community?  Think about the things that set your business apart from others and then write them down.  These will become your key messages.
  1. Create a Q&A. Come up with a list of questions that you may be asked and thenQuestions and Answers answer them.  Make sure that each answer in some way relates back to your key messages.  Find a way to communicate them over and over again no matter what. Oh, and be sure your list includes the questions you are most afraid of answering.  (Just because you leave them off the list doesn’t mean they won’t be asked!)
  1. Conduct a mock media interview. This is when someone with solid public relations (PR) experience can be particularly helpful.  Because they are familiar with how various types of interviews are conducted, PR pros make great “pretend” reporters.  This is particularly important if you think the interview may be a tough one.  Try to make your mock interview as realistic as possible and record it.  If the interview will be on camera, then practice it that way.  If it’s a telephone interview, have the mock reporter call you – and be sure to stand up while answering the questions.  Your voice almost always sounds more alive and animated when standing.  If you’re prepping for a press conference or satellite media tour, you will most likely be in the hands of a PR agency or freelance consultant who will make sure you’re ready to roll.
  1. Practice, practice, practice. I used to conduct pretend interviews with myself while driving to work – way before cell phones made it normal to see drivers talking to themselves when on the road!  Use your Q&A and practice out load.  Most importantly, make sure you know your material inside out and backwards.
  1. Kill it! Dress appropriately, control the butterflies (it’s always good to have some), remember your key messages, and tell your story.  I know it’s easier said than done, but if you are prepared, chances are that you’ll nail the media interview.  Fred and Barney certainly did.

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Back-to-School Basics for Content Marketers

Back to school

On his very first day at a new middle school, my youngest son boarded the bus with a belly full of butterflies.  He was both excited and terrified as he worried about what the other kids would be like, whether or not his teachers would be nice, and if he’d be able to handle the homework.  I assured him that all would be well, but what does Mom know, right?

Plenty — especially if mom’s a marketer!  As a freelance writer and content marketer, I’ve had similar conversations with small business owners who are thrilled to be living their dream, but don’t know where to start when it comes to marketing and content development.  It just so happens, that back-to-school time and content marketing have quite a bit in common.

Think about it. Teachers begin every September with an overall plan for teaching their students everything they need to know to advance to the next grade level by year’s end.  Plans include a series of educational milestones (i.e. goals and objectives), as well as an explanation of how and when they will help their students reach them.  In addition, teachers must often adapt their plans to meet the needs of individual students, as one size rarely fits all in classrooms today.  Progress is measured with various forms of testing – and plans are adjusted as needed.

Content marketing works in much the same way.

Step One:  Like teachers, business owners need to focus on the future.  Think about where you want to be in five years and everything that has to happen to get you there.  Create a business plan.  It’s a biggie, I know, but essential to your success, as well as to the effectiveness of any content marketing plan.  Once established, your goals and objectives will guide all other efforts.

Step Two:  Listen and learn.  Content and customers go hand in hand.  The more you know, the better you can serve them.  As a business owner, you need to know your Listen - Many People Talking Demanding Attentioncustomers inside and out — who they are, what they need, and what keeps them up at night.  Once you know what makes them tick, you’ll have what you need to make your content succeed.

Step Three:  Create an annual editorial calendar.  Schools issue them every year and students, teachers and parents alike use them to stay organized and on track.  Your calendar should do the same by outlining the content that’s needed at key points throughout the year.  Be strategic and make sure that the right content is planned for the right audience at the right time.   Also, outline specific goals and expectations, and keep tabs on your progress.  Next, start writing, but don’t stop there.  Content comes in many forms – video, infographics, photography, and more!

Step Four:  Choose your delivery tools.  Teachers use tablets, computers, field trips, games and experiments to bring their lessons to life.  What tools will you use?  Go back to what you know about your customers and how they prefer to receive communications.  Are they traditional newspaper readers, or social media fans?  Do they sleep with their cell phones (really…people do!), or never turn them on?  Most likely, you will employ a mix of traditional and social media marketing tools to build relationships and deliver compelling content.

Step Five:  Issue your own report card.   Return to the goals and expectations you set early on and see how you did.  Hopefully, you’ve been monitoring your progress all along and making shifts in your program as needed.

Don’t expect overnight success.  Content marketing, like a good education, takes time, hard work and dedication.  If you need extra help, ask for it.  A little “tutoring” from an industry expert can go a long way.  Most importantly, listen to your customers, always do your homework and stay the course.

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The ROI of “Please” and “Thank You”

 

please-and-thank-yousproutsenroute.com

Please and thank you.  Ah, the magic words that we’re taught never to forget.  Using them is a lesson that’s drilled into our heads as we’re reminded time and time again to say “thank you” when invited somewhere special, or to say “please” when we want to share a toy or take a turn.  After a while, those magic words become automatic and part of who we are.  As kids, we quickly learn that good things happen when we use them.  Unfortunately as adults, especially when at work — we sometimes forget.

Think about it.  When was the last time you personally thanked an employee, a freelancer, or a team of people for a job well done?  Sure, they were probably paid to do it, but a simple thank you will go a long way toward making them want to do it even better the next time.  All too often, managers lose sight of the morale- and business-building power of acknowledging people for their efforts.  We forget that employees who feel appreciated and valued will always strive to do their best — and will motivate others to do the same.

Last week, I traveled to Warner Robins, GA, to see my sister promoted to Colonel in the United States Air Force.  If ever jennandfourstar1there was an example of the motivational power of employee recognition, this was it.  And, while the ceremony was formal, it really all boiled down to the Air Force asking her to do a job and then thanking her for doing it well.  Oh, and with the promotion, came a new job – one of the biggest on her base – and she gladly took it on.

In addition to thanking and motivating my sister, the Air Force did the same for everyone in the room that day – family, friends, supervisors, direct reports, and the Four-Star General (the first woman to earn this rank) who presided over the ceremony.  My chest – and heart – was bursting with pride.  You better believe that my suitcase returned home filled with Air Force shirts, pins and car decals for all!  Imagine the awareness-building power of having your employees and their families proudly displaying your company logo wherever they go.  Just a simple “please” and “thank you” could do the trick.

At the risk of moans and groans from fellow parents at the mention of Barney (the purple dinosaur who entertains kids with life lessons set to song and dance), I couldn’t help but think of his “please and thank you” song as I wrote this post.  Give it a listen and you’ll hear:

He’s talking ’bout please and thank you,
They’re called the magic words,
If you want nice things to happen,
They’re the words that should be heard, 

Barney is right on with this one.  They are the magic words we learn when young and ones well worth remembering always.  They come at no cost to give yet can deliver endless return on the investment we make in our employees and on the success of our businesses as a whole.  Please join me in using them today!

 Cover Image Credit:  yoursproutsenroute.com

 

 

 

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Google Analytics for WordPress.com Business sites

Very welcome news! Are you as excited as I am about this new addition to .com site?

WordPress.com News

The Stats on WordPress.com are a special favorite of many site owners — it’s our second-most visited screen. At a glance, you can see when you get the most traffic, which posts are making the biggest impact, who your most frequent commenters are, and more. It’s a great way to gain insights into your visitors and your site.

To complement our built-in stats and to give you even more information about your traffic, you can now use Google Analytics with WordPress.com, as part of the WordPress.com Business plan.

Add the Business plan to your site and get everything you need to build a great website, including support for Google Analytics. If you already added the Business plan to your site, start using Google Analytics today, from the SettingsAnalytics screen. Read on for more information about Google Analytics and using it with your site.

Getting started with Google Analytics on WordPress.com

Google Analytics is a…

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