PR, Marketing, More: Observations from the Lido Deck

Here’s the problem with vacation: my brain goes with me.

Oh to be on a cruise

Once again my vacation of choice this year was a Carnival cruise. Snorkeling, cocktails, sun, sleep, food, fun, reading, napping.. the usual suspects all present and accounted for. Also in attendance, my communications consultant brain always seeing and thinking “oh they could do this, that business should try that.”

Difference makers. First time on a ‘Conquest’ class ship and while bigger may be better, it’s the Fun 2.0 features that really upgrade this cruise experience. I’ve done more cruises without those extra touches than with and all things the same, that’s the cruise that’s worth it. The Value is there; in the extra eateries and entertainment options, and across the board those ships, those crews, the food, the fun.. everything seems stepped up to the next level.

Know Your Customer. This was both hit and miss.

  • The miss: many of my favorite experiences were scheduled during my getting ready for/eating dinner time. I know the cruise director was working around having only two sea days and yet, I can’t help but think – and wasn’t the only one to notice – that many of the popular activities were geared towards for the early seating. Balance for everyone, please.
  • The hit: the redesigned, ‘upgraded’ dinner menus. Upgrade in quotes because in a brilliant stroke of branding and design smarts, Carnival fooled a lot of repeat guests into thinking it’s a ‘new’ menu. While some selections were new and truly improved, it’s also a lot of the same – simply repackaged. What was once the kitschy ‘didja’ as in ‘did ya ever want to try…’ is now labeled a ‘rare find,’ the ‘always available’ is the new ‘from the grill’ section, what was the ‘Caribbean’ inspired fare du jour has been dubbed ‘port of call’ to honor the journey. Same food, different labeling, pretty typesetting .. and voila everyone’s impressed.
    • Near miss or almost hit. The pasta with the mushroom cream sauce doesn’t hold a candle to Maggiano’s Rigatoni D. Ergo changing a logo won’t fix the brand, a pretty menu with flowery marketing descriptions doesn’t improve the food. I’ve always thought Carnival made a mistake by cooking down to its guests; the ‘new’ menus aren’t a perfect fix but certainly another step – in line with the very good Blue Iguana Cantina and Guy Fieri’s burgers – in the right direction.

IMG_1204Keep it Simple. Much like when you go to Disney World, you’re not going for themes and rides – you’re there for the experience. People pay very good money for those family trips, those shared moments and memories.

Same with cruising; it’s a no worries, little bit of everything for everyone kind of vacation. To that end, I loved the cruise-ship owned ‘private’ island; it’s a nice lazy beach day, where they do all the work and planning for you and it’s included without an excursion expense.

Service + Value = The Trick. The Liberty crew did a great job but always room for improvement. Been in food service enough to know it’s hard to serve that many people and yet, with all their practice, you’d think I’d get better than lukewarm pancakes.

Then there are the various daily specials the spa runs. So while marketing gets the win, PR takes the loss as the nice woman I met who paid more than $100 bucks for her facial kinda felt she got hosed when they broadcast the $39 deal over the intercom. And a cheapskate like myself learns to never pay full price, wait for the promo sale and get that ‘value.’

Lagniappe. AKA random thoughts.

  • Many ports and places kinda marketing proof; Grand Turk is such a small island, there’s little competition on beach clubs or diving operators — you pretty much have to take what you can get.
  • That said, I repeated the exact excursion – a sail and turtle snorkel – I’d done a few years ago in St. Thomas, I thought so much of the service, experience and value.
  • Comedians make brilliant sociologists, anthropologists. They relate to people – the why of what makes us tick – so they can tell jokes we’ll get. Dan Gabriel – “Going on Facebook is the life equivalent of looking in the fridge when you’re not hungry.” (Tweet This.) So spot-on I wrote it down. Makes me think PR turned comedian Shane Rhyne has a real chance.

Ok folks – books, gossip rags, a few too many drinks at the bar – how does one turn their brain off and just be away? Tell me your secret. P.S. Love it when a monster long blog post writes itself!

 Photo Credit: No silly meme this time, just lovely blue water taken by yours truly. Because I’m mean like that.
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Limits are AWESOME!

Please Make it Stop. I’m over the tweetable ‘Stop Sucking’ memes. Don’t want to read another ‘Be Epic’ blog post. Tired of the ‘Go Awesome or Go Home’ schtick.

It’s more empty ‘aim for the stars’ quiptoids, bad business advice you should ignore. To often without a single piece of real advice as to HOW, or clue how awesome will get you ahead. (This isn’t that post, just saying.)

shootforthemoondemotivatorThis is NOT an Ode to Mediocrity

I love brands that get it right most of the time and hate suckage probably more than most. It’s just that awesome really is bullshit. Never mind that:

  1.  Someone else is now and will always be the judge of that. You may think UnCool Brand X sucks; and they can think you suck as they laugh all the way to the bank.
  2.  We’re not eating at Chez Name Drop every night and ‘make do’ with NoAd Brand everyday; people neither want nor need nor will pay for Awesome all the time.

Throw adjectives like EPIC and AWESOME around enough, they lose that meaning on their way to being oh so very average. I started ranting this (see below) so many times, then the remarkable Mark W. Schaefer and the awesome Mack Collier beat me to it. As always.

I don’t see anything in this world that makes following a dream easy for anybody.” – Mark W. Schaefer

If you want to see other bloggers be awesome, then stop telling them to be awesome and show them how to be awesome. We need fewer talkers, and more teachers.” – Mack Collier

Word. It’s the ‘Just’ part of ‘Doing It’ – if it was ‘just’ that easy to be epic or awesome, fantabulous or remarkable, we’d all be The Incredibles with dream jobs and a guest turn on House Hunters International.

News flash: We have limits. And that’s a good thing.

  • We can’t live every dream.
  • We can’t read every book or blog, catch watch every cool TV show.
  • We won’t go everywhere on our Pinterest ‘someday’ boards.
  • We can’t like nor be liked or popular with everyone.
  • We won’t always be amazing at everything we do. No expectations of Gerber Baby perfection.
  • I won’t try all the yummy wines – no matter how hard I may try.

In lieu of a lottery win, I won’t get to go everywhere on my dream list. Which means that when someday I do make it to some of those places – it’ll be all the more epic, special and amazing to me.

Limits cut through, clarify, crystalize. Limits on time, on budget forces you manage resources that much smarter, to earn better results. Knowing what you do well – and what you don’t – drives focus. You won’t be all things to all people; you’ll be the best choice for the right people. It’s my job to communicate that – how your small business is and can be awesome – for your customer, for your stakeholder.

Talk to me about limits. Do they drive you to push harder or refine your business to do it better? Do they not shape how you’re going to get there?

Photo Credit: Think this Despair will make my DIY calendar next year. :-)

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Blogging: Fortune Cookie Wisdom Style

“Do not wait for others to open the right doors for you.”

Not much of a fortune – don’t ya hate that?! – but certainty good advice, even if from a cookie.

Stop Waiting

Yes there are nice, courteous people everywhere but one thing I’ve always loved about The South, the manners. More than a few times a nice gentleman has waited – a long bit – for me to get to a door so he can hold it open for me. If only everything was like that.

If you want to open some doors, here’s what you do:

i_hilarious_fortune_cookie_notes_002_50b4e4874717f

  1. Stop waiting.
  2. Develop a plan for success.
  3. Work hard, find your right doors.
  4. Open the doors your damn self.

That’s what good public relations and content marketing and social media are about. It’s why the myths about blogging are b.s.

YOU have to do it.  

No one else will do it for you. You open the doors by doing the work. You hire the right team, talk to the right experts. You research and plan, you study data and numbers, you find your doors. And find ways to open them.

You open the right doors by doing your homework. Research, targeting, relationships with strategic stakeholders. You know your story better than anyone, what you can do for others; so tell it.

You open those doors by creating content. It takes a team, so you get leaders and management involved to write blogs and post videos, produce content of value that people – your audiences – can actually use.

You open those doors being genuinely social and find the right doors getting out of your own house. And sometimes, out of your own way.

Here’s to not waiting, finding inspiration anywhere, shorter posts (personal victory!). Here’s to doing the WORK and opening doors for ourselves.

Photo courtesy: Humorsharing.com.

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Plan. Or Else.

Kicking off 2013 with (hopefully) a short and sweet little rant. I’ll get to my obligatory resolutions post later. Or screw, that .. two birds, one stone: This will be The Plan AND Resolutions post.

Resolutions are all about The Plan, n’est pas?

  • We’re planning for better health, maybe little weight loss.
  • We’re working towards better jobs, better clients, better careers. *raises both hands*
  • We’re making changes in our lives to change our lives for the better. We hope.

Hope is not a Plan
someecards.com - How does piss poor planning on your part constitute and emergency on mine?
It’s why resolutions often fail – they’re all talk, no show and the action has left its coat at the door. We dream and hope for love and happiness and success, but we don’t really DO anything – so our ‘plans’ fail.

Last year I planned nee made resolutions on a lot of things and can report success. Kinda. And none at all.

  • On the social front, things were mixed. I planned on a ‘less is more’ approach but I think for 2013 I need less less, more more. In the right places, like my blog.
  • Sadly my website and resume and portfolio have barely been touched and the Department of Family and Children’s Services is about to send a lynch mob after me if I don’t get those cobbler’s kids (my business) some shoes already. This HAS to change in 2013, which hereto dub the Year of Me as I’m about to become one of my biggest clients.
  • More than joining a gym and calling it done, I made changes in my life to improve my health. And some smaller pants later, I can report my evil plan is working. Why? Because I have a PLAN!
    • My diet is less of the bad, a little more of the good along with some portion control. So more Coke Zero, less of the yummy Real Thing.
    • Doing the ‘walk and watch’ several days a week, so I can get in a workout whilst catching up on my TV shows via iPad. Multitasking FTW.
    • Regular preventative maintenance. Think my BP hangs around the 105/70 mark.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

Plans take time. Lots of it, for even the ‘smallest’ or ‘simplest’ project.

Plans take work. Commitment and focus and discipline and patience. You know, many of the good virtues I wish I had.

Plans don’t fall into our laps or popup as cartoon lightbulbs overhead; plans are hard.

You can’t run your life – certainly not your business – flying by the seat of your pants. See also lame excuses for your lack of strategy, if you don’t plan to succeed then you won’t. Period.

Plans are what make companies like Apple successful. They had a plan, they got it right. So right that we’ve gotten complacent and say they’ve jumped the shark, when the reality is even Apple can’t WOW us every time. But don’t think for one second they don’t have a PLAN to DO something about it. Again.

Ok so not so short. But, that’s nothing new.

Take it away: What are you dreaming of doing this year? Now, what are you planning to do about it?

 

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What makes the difference?

Thinking soon almost any restaurant that wants to compete will have to offer WiFi. It’s so often my deal breaker, especially for lunch. In fact I’m more surprised when someone doesn’t have it.

Of course you’d want to be careful and do it right when you offer Wifi at your business. Take a look at the expense, do the math, think of luncheons you can host, the iPad, smartphone wielding users wanting to use their toys.

Places I go, often because I know they have WiFi:

  • Wine store and cafe, in a hilariously risky combo of booze and Internets.
  • Two of my local mechanics, oil changers. Tweet will you wait.
  • Many of my favorite lunch and dinner places, local and chain. Around Atlanta, any Chick-fil-A, McDonalds.
  • Hell my sports bar has wireless; friends making me sit through a four-hour blowout game? No prob, that’s what the handy, dandy iPad (and beer) is for.

Difference Makers. 

Lagniappe, Cajun for that ‘little something extra.’ Something as simple as offering Wifi can make a difference.

Olive Garden doesn’t that extra service? Then your restaurant should.

It’s how to market yourself vs. the competition: listen to customers, offer value, convenience, differentiate by providing extra service like Wifi that others don’t.

If you want business you have to want the business, you have to compete, you have to fight for it. And find what will make a difference. Not offering what customers expect could cost more in the long run.

Products and services are becoming more readily replaceable, being local may not make you marketing proof anymore. If the chaps across the pond or three counties over can print pretty much the same glossy post cards, or serviceable window cling, FEDex it to my client in days for less – sometimes considerably – what kind of small business advisor would I be if I suggested otherwise?

You have to find what will make a difference, make it worth my while. That’s why premium brands like Apple, Disney, Chick-fil-A are premium; design, quality, experience, service set them apart. Lot of theme parks have cool rides and fun shows; but those little intangible touches that are just so Disney, it makes a difference.

What about you, what are your difference makers? What can your small business do better, faster, smarter, cheaper, extra that will make a difference?

 

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