Brand Image is in the eye of the Beholder.

Can’t help it, the Macklemore-Ryan Lewis tune “Thrift Shop” is one of my jams. Fun, catchy and it makes a pretty keen observation on marketing to our consumer culture:

$50 for a t-shirt? I call that getting swindled and pimped. I call that getting tricked by a business.” Cracks me up since while I’d never pay that much for a tee just because it has Brand X on it, I’d be happy to get it for $14.

How did I not know about this?!

I’m a diehard clearance rack shopper at Macy’s, happy to peruse Marshall’s and TJMaxx for deals and bargains. One store that I’d never considered was ROSS.

Maybe it was the signage, maybe the “Dress for Less” tagline; can’t say I’d ever paid attention to their ads. But whatever it was, the image I had for ROSS made me think it wasn’t for me. OMG was I wrong.

ROSS has cute stuff! It’s not wall-to-wall designer, but I’ve found some nice dresses, bought cute gifts and housewares. Scored Michael Kors shoes! Told a friend about my ‘new’ store and she was like, ‘been going for years.’ I was like, ‘so you’ve been holding out on me then?!’

I’m paying attention to the ads and wow, is the marketing off brand. Is it that they’re going only for the bargain shopper? The lower end? Is that why the marketing seems to ‘miss’ the middle, and high? Whatever the reason, they need a rebrand.1243048824goodchance

Image is Everything

Think what your marketing, your communications say about your organization, your small business.

  • Are you going for ‘value’ but landing on ‘cheap’? Details matter. If you’re courting the high-end market, you won’t you convey ‘gotta have it at any price luxury’ when you use cut-rate photography, design, printing, ‘buy now’ hard sell.
  • If you talk ‘customer service‘ as a cornerstone of your brand, then relegate it to a subset of sales, it’s just a setup for crappy service. Call center ‘support’ staffed with nothing more than a script and no empowerment in the company only hurts your reputation – and drives customers to someone who does it better.

Close your eyes. Picture what you want customers to see, what you think they see when they hear your name.

Take a hard, honest Kitchen Nightmare Meltdown look: Your website. Your brochures and ads. The stories you tell. The lobby the greats guests, your showroom floor. The photos you splash on Facebook and Pinterest.

There’s a reason global companies like Apple, Disney, Coke know from reputation and PR, service and image; the details represent what they need them to. These things are all part of your brand – and they communicate your company’s brand image.

If you’re telling the wrong stories, building the wrong image in the eyes of your stakeholders – I can help you create the right one.

Ever been pleasantly surprised or galactically disappointed by a brand experience that was completely off? Tell me.

Photo credit: Bluntcards also crack me up.

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Pork Chops with a side of Thanks

This is good! Smart, clever and fodder for (hopefully) a quick-and-easy blog post.

Two Words. And a Gift in Return.

It’s so simple right, “Thank You.”

Maybe it’s a little note card or an email, could be a DM or LinkedIn message — when someone does something for me, I try to say “thank you.” I’ve got some cute ‘coffee cup’ note cards, even add Starbucks gift cards to them on occasion.

It’s marketing. It’s social. It’s good PR. It’s etiquette, good customer service. And how often we forget that a simple “Thank You” could be even more.

someecards.com - Thank you for the gift, party, dinner, or other gesture that required significantly more consideration than this ecard

Daily deals being not quite dead yet, I ordered a Groupon a few weeks ago. It was a 6-pack of Cameron Hughes wines, a label I’d seen before and knew this to be a nice bargain for some drinkable vino.

Treat every customer, online and in person, as though he or she is the most important customer in the world.” – Gary Vaynerchuck, The Thank You Economy

Opened my box and inside was a great little “Thank You” postcard. On the back was a recipe for Chinese Spiced Pork Chops which would pair nicely with the wine, bringing the VALUE we so often speak of in hushed and reverent tones.

You bet I’ll keep it, remember this label for years to come. It was a simple, cost-effective way to bring their brand to a whole new level.

Small Business, Take Note!

This wasn’t an accident. This wasn’t dumb luck. Someone developed a strategy for business success.

This wasn’t a last minute whim, someone executed on a thought out plan with the customer in mind. This was professionally designed and printed, communicating a strong, positive brand image. Rather than just talking value, this brand delivered.

Think of the touch points you have with your customers – connecting doesn’t end when the credit card runs through. What comes next matters.

This is why I reply to almost every comment, why I thank people for RTs – I truly appreciate what others do for me and want to make sure they know it.

Tell me: When has a brand or business surprised you with their service after the sale?

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My Brain Hurts: SoloPR Summit Recap, Day 2

“My brain hurts. In a good way.”

Think I wasn’t the only one feeling that after the LOADED second day of the Solo PR Summit.

Author, speaker, {Grow} blogger and former super model Mark W. Schaefer kicked off the morning with a compelling keynote on the Web, Social and Influence.

  • Ah the dread pirate Klout, but he makes you think about the social web in a different way.
  • Moving content is action, influence realized.
  • Mark “hits the nail on the head – it’s not about ‘more’ content; it’s about ‘better’ content.” – Jodi Echakowitz

someecards.com - If we can't solve it via email, IM, texting, faxing, or phone calls, let's resort to meeting in person Tom Martin told us how-to Painlessly Prospect for Customers, no cold-calling required and generally rocked the shiznitz outta the place. IIRC he snagged a couple marriage proposals too.

  • Cornerstones and Cobblestones. Brilliant content mapping, maximizing opportunities for content, ways to share it across different media and networks. Tips:
    •  Thank you page doesn’t end there, redirect them back to blog or home page.
    • Record presentations, convert to long and short vids for #2 search engine, YouTube.
    • Forget ‘vanity’ plug ins for ‘popular’ posts; recommend related content, targeted to reader.
  • Holy inbound content marketing, Batman! Your website (and its blog, papers, contact forms) are the Terminator – a 24/7 365 machine designed to help you lure, hook and ulitmately reel in top prospects by driving them through the filter system. And give you a valid email address.
  • Hails from New Orleans, land of food, drink and Mardi Gras so win.

Food for body and mind. We had a working lunch as we had our choice of guided discussion.

Karen Swim talked Client Management with her group; Profitable Media relations was hosted by Monique Caradine. Alas I couldn’t clone myself to be in three places at once, I joined the Specialist or Generalist panel, an interesting talk on both niche industries as well as skills led by Daria Steigman.

someecards.com - Let's discuss my freelance rateSetting Fees with Jenny Schmitt and Greg Brooks.

  • As I  hinted in the Solo PR Summit Day 1 recap, I outted myself as a cheap hooker (Greg’s joke/analogy). Bad me! We spend a lot of time, work very hard to develop our talents and skills, build our expertise and hone our creativity – we should be paid for it damnit!
  • Different ways to run the math, but it all added up the same: get paid what you’re worth. Pick the lifestyle, business you want and structure accordingly.
  • On hourly rates – Client: “My lawyer doesn’t cost that much?!” Greg: “Get a better lawyer.”

If you’re not measuring..  A highlight was Kami Huyse on the much needed Measurement for Solo PR, how to show value and success.

  • More than 400 measurement tools – some of the Solo PR (non-existant) budget friendly variety.
  • Real-time analysis of the SeaWorld Harlem Shake video.
  • Not one wisp of AVEs!

Adaption vs. Extinction. Bad Pitch Blog’s Kevin Dugan on how PR pros can ID trends and changes in the market – and capitalize on them.

  • If you’re worried about making Bad Pitch Blog, you probably won’t. Interesting: most pitches aren’t exactly bad, they’re irrelevant, off-target.
  • Stop fighting to hold on to old models that no longer work; evolve and adapt.
  • “One Size Fits (No One At) All.” ITA!

someecards.com - I need a time billing code for not doing shitMore Done, Less Time. In this case, time with Sarah Evans. As a multi-tasking efficiando, I say word.

  • Finally found some IFTTT shortcuts I’m comfortable trying. I can’t automate reading, vetting content – but the filtering and gathering, that will give it a go.
  • Workflows sans email and 27 different browser windows (it’s like she’s seen my desktop). She’s a Tracky champion but project management tool of choice will do. The idea is to stop bouncing emails around cyberspace; instead put all the tasks, deadlines, supporting files in one place where everyone can see, monitor, send.

From the trenches. Success stories from Kristie Aylett, Kellye Crane, Kelly Davis and Heather Whaling. Always nice to learn from the pros first hand what they are doing, what is and isn’t working. Everyone’s doing this their own ways, for their own reasons.

  • Age, experience, location don’t matter as much as expertise, skill, know-how and ability to get it done.
  • Different strokes – solo, subcontracting, virtual agency, boutique firm, group consortium – for different folks; find what works best for you.

Woefully incomplete. If you were there, let me know what you thought. If you weren’t and want more, just ask.

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Big Ideas, Small Package: Solo PR Summit Recap, Day 1

Table for One. Or a Hundred.

The quality and calibre of the content at the 2013 Solo PR Summit – Second. To. None.

One standout for this event for me was relevance: this wasn’t pie-in-the-sky luxury available only to global brands, these concepts are scalable to many of the small and medium businesses we advise. Even more, much of what was presented – the need to be nimble, flexible, adaptable; the focus and human touch – cuts both ways.

Wish You Had Been There

After fearless leader Kellye Crane kicked things off, we got two days of smart, insightful and best of all, take-this-home-and-actually-USE-it! presentations.

Personal Branding. Even though I’m not a big fan of the term, Amanda Littlejohn and Mary Ellen Miller brought it home. Key takeaways:

  • Professional means just that. Think professional – doesn’t mean boring, stuck-in-the-mud stiff! – headshot, social profiles, brand image.
  • Website, blogs and branded, professional business email address.
  • ” Waiting to build your personal brand until you need it is like waiting until you’re cold to build a fire.” – Kevin Dugan

meetingsdemotivator

Online meets Offline. Great collab with Arik Hanson and Heather Whaling, showing how this is works together. Key takeaways:

  • It’s not about traditional vs. digital; it’s about how those can layer, build and support each other – creating value.
  • Solve clients biggest problem: no time to keep up. Be resource, share info.
  • “Don’t tell, beg, or ask people to follow you/engage with your content, show them why they should.” – Lucas Miller

Proposal Secrets: Revealed. Love when I get a chance to know people better, this time it was Natalie Ghidotti. Key takeaways:

  • Creativity Works. It’s not about the boilerplate and formula; use visuals, match presentation and format to the client.
  • Start at the right place by asking the right questions – H/T to Mary Barber for great list of questions – in order to give them what they need (not just want they want).
  • I need to start watching Mad Men DVDs.

Learning from Biggest, Brightest, Bestest. Jeremy Porter, Definition 6/Journalistics; Aimee Ertley, Sage North America; Ashley Callahan, Coca-Cola; Candace McCaffery, Independent Consultant. Key takeaways:

  • Interesting case studies on the use of social, the rethinking of web, traditional and new media, convergence of content, CRM and more.
  • Solo or Independent isn’t limiting; much of this is scaleable, adaptable at the SMB level.
  • Think Different. There’s more than one way to tackle issue or position a client. “Any business can be interesting.” – Aimee Ertley

And that was just a half-day! So much was shared, this barely scratched the surface.. and one of the days I’ll get a handle on embedding these awesome tweets.

For a first-of-its-kind event, the Solo PR Summit really hit a home run. Big time all caps bold KUDOS to Kellye Crane for making this happen. Look for Solo PR Summit Day 2: Electric Boogaloo next week when we do the Harlem Shake and expose someone as a cheap hooker. Stay tuned.

What did you think of Day 1? Please share.

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“Let ‘em eat cake” and other terrible PR advice

When Ms. Antoinette was getting mouthy and losing her head, she forgot to empathize and relate to her audience. Maybe she had bad PR advice?

Rant Alert: somewhere in the neighborhood of a Code Yellow on the Dammit! Jack Bauer scale.

So Carnival is in a PR and social pickle (again). This time it’s the Triumph (I’ve known people who’ve sailed and enjoyed that ship) losing power and having to be towed back to Mobile. This isn’t the first time a ship has lost power due to fire, and it’s not a problem exclusive to Carnival.

Now I’m sure the apologies will come fast and furious. Reports already indicate guests will get a full refund and a credit for future cruises, if they want to take their chances again. Emergencies will happen, especially in a business that operates practically 24/7, 365. Put that operation on water, you better believe the contingency plans get complicated.

But that’s not what’s got me steaming mad.
someecards.com - I give great wrong advice.
Take this bad advice, call me in the morning

USA Today ran a short piece with industry experts doing a Q&A on the Triumph fire. At the end there’s some good advice from a VP at a ‘strategic communications firm’ in which he talks about damage control, crisis communications and being proactive with updates with passengers.

Now I’d go much further, also include their families, the media, target social networks. Make every effort to keep people in touch, waive cellular fees, help with travel arrangements and expenses, even for those sans insurance. Mixed in with all the apologies, assurances to figure this out, take better steps to prevent this from happening again. But that’s neither here nor there.

Here’s the line that’s got my knickers in a twist:

“they understand what happened, provided they’re being communicated with and given food and water. Maybe (management) should break out the band.”

Seriously?! That’s the recommended message? “We’re still feeding you and hey, MUSIC?!!”  Next thing you know, someone’s gonna want their life back.

“Break out the band” is dreadful advice, an even worse attitude for damage control.

Of course the crew shouldn’t overreact and cause additional panic; and yes they need to do make steps to comfort guests, help passengers pass the time.

But going on as if nothing’s happening? Making it a party? I don’t think I’d be in the mood for a limbo if I hadn’t showered for two days. There are times levity can ease tension, calm the storm — but adrift at sea with limited resources and terrible conditions isn’t one of them.

Am I making a mountain out of a molehill, or is this not exactly the best crisis PR advice?

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