Blog posts

  • Brand Marketer’s Bonanza!

    If you are a brand marketer interested in discovering innovative new ideas and stimulating your creative juices, this is a great time of year. Two of the country’s leading marketing associations hold their annual conferences where CMOs from the world’s top brands share some great success stories and best-practices advice. I just returned from the <a href="">ANA Brand Masters Conference</a> in Ft. Lauderdale where I heard some great presentations from the top marketing minds at Mashable, Samsung, Citigroup, Honda, Hillshire Brands, Chobani and many other iconic and challenger brands. One of the more interesting presentations was from the President of Hostess Brands and their marketing agency who told a fascinating story about how they brought Twinkies back from the dead - the <em>Sweetest Comeback in the History of Eve</em>r. In addition to escaping the most brutal Chicago Winter in recent memory to attend the Conference, I came away from the ANA Brand Masters meeting recharged and ready to implement some of the great ideas I heard during the two days. I also came away all charged-up to attend the next major MarCom Pros event coming up in late March - the <a href="">BAA Annual Marketing Conference</a> in Chicago. With the provocative theme of <em>“Brand Activation - Shift </em><em>Happens®”</em>, CMOs from such leading brands as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Kimberly Clark, Ford, Kraft. and many others will be sharing brand activation success stories with such challenger brands as JetBlue, ebay, Collective bias and other relative newcomers. They will also be presenting the REGGIE Awards where you’ll hear some of the best case studies in the marketing industry.  And of course, the networking with other MarCom Pros during the social hours is as valuable as attending the presentations. Sorry if you missed the ANA Conference, but you won’t want to miss the BAA Conference.  We’ll even try to have some warm(er) weather for you here in the Windy City.  Hope to see you soon.
  • Gifting" The Media

    I recently had an interesting conversation with some colleagues regarding the effectiveness and appropriateness of giving the media "gifts".   We were strategizing hosting a Press Conference for our client at an upcoming trade show and someone suggested providing a gift or memento to the journalists. A lively debate then ensued among several people in the brainstorming session as to whether providing editors with a gift was "necessary", "worthwhile", "expected", "old school", "a nuisance" or a "brilliant idea".   After spending way more time than necessary arguing the pros and cons, it was decided that giving the media a "gift" or "memento" for attending the Press Conference was a good idea - if it met the following criteria:   ·      Reinforced the messaging we were trying to convey at the Press Conference ·      Would be truly memorable and something journalists would use and/or appreciate well after the event was over ·      Was really "cool"; had to be either very classy or very kitchy - nothing in between ·      Something they or their family and friends would want to use ·      Easy to carry in a back pack or purse and could get through airport security ·      Reasonably priced A second brainstorming then ensued to select the gift and what we finally came up with was prefect for the Press Conference. The new technology our client was introducing at the trade show helped engineers significantly expand the "Sweet Spot" for achieving maximum energy efficiency within design specifications. To communicate this expanded sweet spot concept, an ad was created that showed an oversized golf club head hitting a golf ball.     Therefore, the gift we chose was a hand-made, Belgian dark-chocolate golf club head hitting a white chocolate golf ball. We found a Belgian chocolatier who produced this one-of-a-kind item in an elegant clear plastic box with his certified Belgian chocolate seal prominently displayed. We also inserted a card that had the client's logo and the "Sweet Spot" slogan printed on it.   The media and the client loved it. It met all the criteria listed above, and getting it through airport security was a non-issue as most of the journalists said they would eat it before leaving the Show.   We have created a variety of media "gifts" over the years ranging from iPads to baseball hats with built-in LED lights. What are some of the gifts you have successfully used with media?    
  • PR Lessons Learned from the Obamacare Website Fiasco

    As PR professionals, we are used to dealing with crisis communications situations. Unfortunately, we have had to manage crisis communications for workers strikes, flooded buildings, chemical spills and a variety of other unfortunate events.    However, it is fair to say that the recent Obamacare website fiasco ranks right up there with the mother of all crisis communications challenges. Not only is America and much of the world watching it all play out in real-time, the Republican party will make sure they keep it in the news as long and as loud as they can.   However, since this blog doesn't deal with politics or religion issues, we won't get into the merits of the Affordable Healthcare act and how the rollout could have been made much smoother. This blog will discuss what was done right and what was done wrong in RESPONDING to the website rollout crisis.   Let’s start with the positives and how they followed the guidelines of a good crisis communications plan.     <ul><li> Several key members of the administration admitted they screwed up, took full responsibility and apologized. Too little, too late, you say - Many people may feel it doesn't make up for the problem and might even be insincere. Maybe so, but admitting the p   roblem and your role in it is usually one of the first things you should do in a crisis situation if it needs to be said. </li> <li> They brought in tech experts from the private and public sectors to help solve the problem. Too little, too late again? Perhaps, but also the right thing to do in a crisis like this. </li> <li> They gave a deadline of the end of November as to when it should be fixed. It's good to give a timeframe when the problem will be solved, but they better be right or the situation will be even worse.  </li> </ul>   What they did wrong - besides launching prematurely.   <ul><li> While admitting they screwed up and apologizing for the problems. They should have ALSO reassured the large number of people who went to the website seeking insurance. Although this fact was mentioned, that messaging should have been repeated and reinforced whenever possible - "We were quite frankly overwhelmed by the millions of people who flooded the website. We should have been better prepared, the system should have been able to handle it, and we apologize for the terrible inconvenience. However, we are very encouraged that 10 million people want to be insured and we will make sure they are all accommodated before the enrollment deadline." </li> <li> Another thing they did wrong - not mentioning the specifics of the deadline. They should have constantly hammered home that people still have plenty of time to register and that they can always enroll by phone if they don't want to wait for the problems to be fixed. Although this too was mentioned, the messaging wasn’t repeated and reinforced enough.  </li> <li> They didn't seek out and communicate the success stories on a persistent basis. There are several people who saved thousands of dollars by getting less expensive insurance online. Although a few reporters did write about some success stories, the White House should have been researching these successes and sharing them with the media and general public on an ongoing basis. It reinforces that the program is working and benefiting many people in dire need of insurance. In fact, a social media campaign based on quotes from happy customers would be a good thing. </li> <li> They haven't clearly communicated a plan for fixing the problem and a schedule for doing so. They should break it down in clear steps as to what will be done and when. </li> </ul>   As many of you know, the basic steps of a Crisis Communications plan are: <ul><li> Gather all the facts that you can as quickly as you can. </li> <li> Have a crisis communications plan and team in place so you can follow a step-by-step procedure of responding. </li> <li> Acknowledge the situation and what facts you have about the situation at that point in time.  </li> <li> DO NOT speculate or repeat theories. DO NOT provide information or opinions about anything you don't know for certain. Don't say that it appears it may have been a computer-coding problem unless you are 100% sure that is what caused the situation. Say you are gathering the facts and will let the media know as soon as possible. </li> <li> Make sure NO ONE but the designated spokespersons are responding to the media.   </li> <li> If possible, provide a plan for how you will fix the problem and an approximate timetable for doing so. </li> <li> Agree on your key messaging and repeat and reinforce it as often as possible.  </li> <li> Don't respond with anger or indignation - cool heads must prevail. </li> <li> Be prepared to weather the storm for a while.  </li> </ul>   What has been your experience in managing Crisis Communications?
  • Intriguing Video on Brand Activation

    We just watched a very interesting video on Brand Activation that truly underscores how critical Brand Activation is to all MarCom Pros. The video is based on a Google + Hangout interview with Pam Kermisch, Integrated Communications Director of Cereals at General Mills. Pam is also the Chairman of the <a a="" href=""></a>"&gt;http://<a href=""></a>"&gt;Brand Activation Association (BAA).     Pam emphasizes that Brand Activation is not just the latest marketing buzzword; it is a critical and ongoing strategy for building and nurturing customers’ relationship with your brand. The 35-minute interview touches on a variety of interesting and critical MarCom topics. But rather than going into detail in this blog, you can watch it yourself at <a a="" href=""></a>"&gt;http://<a href=""></a>..."&gt;<a href=""></a>.
  • Do We Have to Run it by the Lawyers?

    Let's be honest - One of the questions that is often in the back of MarCom Pros’ minds when creating a new campaign or promotion is "Do we have to run it by legal?"    After the marketing team has spent countless hours coming up with a great creative campaign, the last thing we want is lawyers telling us that we can't make certain statements or claim specific benefits. Or perhaps they want to kill our idea of giving away some great prizes!   However, after we finish making our hilarious lawyer jokes and snide remarks about how they can kill some of the best creative campaigns, we readily admit that they are not only a necessary evil but also an essential part of the marketing team. Without their oversight and guidance, we could not only end up in serious legal trouble but might also do irreparable damage to the brand.   When you stop and think about it, legal issues touch so many aspects of a marketing campaign. Just think licensing, sweepstakes, content ownership, copyright laws, FTC regulations, disclosure, privacy issues, patent infringement - and the list goes on and on. When you add in new legal issues regarding social media, mobile marketing and big data, we personally wouldn't want to be without our legal team when planning a marketing campaign.   Fortunately, most savvy marketers today consider lawyers to be a critical part of the MarCom team and get them involved early in the process. In fact, we were pleasantly surprised when the President of our company attended last year's BAA Annual Marketing Law Conference and came back raving about all she learned and how valuable it was to marketers. She thought she would be surrounded by mostly lawyers but soon discovered that many CMOs from the leading brands were also there. Many of those CMOs were also very surprised at how valuable the conference was to them.   This year's BAA (Brand Activation Association)<a href=";utm_medium=Email&amp;utm_campaign=27680934"> Marketing Law Conference</a> is November 18-20 in Chicago. We are going to send at least two people from our company. We would highly recommend it to any MarCom Pro.
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