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You may be overlooking something

1 Nov

If you blog, for yourself or for your organization, do you know what your blog looks like to the outside world? How are your readers seeing you? Are they subscribing in a reader, via email or just visiting your blog?  Are those visitors sharing your blog? If so, how are they doing it?

(Caffeinated tip of  a few days ago was to make sure your blog is shareable.)

Many bloggers out there, including those that blog for large organizations, are NOT checking to see how their blog looks. I can tell you because there are several I follow in my Google Reader. Here are several fixable mistakes these bloggers are making:

  • Duplicating entries
  • Having no title appear for the blog or having a generic title like “Most Recent Entries.”
  • No sharing button
  • Sharing button that does not fill in information when you share so the post only has a link and no title.
  • Only sharing the first line of the post
  • Not allowing sharing from the  reader
  • Not having a visible RSS feed or email subscription tab on your blog

Happily, all these are fixable.  Start by following your own blog via RSS feed in a reader and via email subscription. Use your sharing button to see how (and if) it works. You may be overlooking something that will turn off one of your readers.  You should probably view the blog on someone else’s computer too.

You may be overlooking something. Protect your brand and your blog!

Don’t buy your own PR

24 Sep

In the age of self-publishing and social media, it’s easy to put out information about your brand or yourself out there. It’s easy to gain “followers.”  The lack of filters makes it easy to connect directly with people. But that doesn’t mean that what you are saying is true. Keep that in mind. Just because you put in on your blog and somebody shared it on Twitter DOES NOT MAKE IT FACTUAL OR TRUE OR EVEN RIGHT.  It just means that someone liked what you have to say.

In fact, just yesterday the disheveled leader of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmanidejad, claimed to the United Nations General Assembly that the U.S. was behind the 9-11 attacks and that most of the world believes that. To a rational person, this is hogwash, and yet there are nutcases out there who agree with this maniac.  Let me emphasize again: having followers does not make you right or true.

Many people and companies are falling prey to the lure of large numbers.  They believe that because they have large numbers of followers, they are “all that.” They may be, but they should question it. Just today, I read a blog post by a book author, talking about herself and her concentration. It was purported to be about happiness, but it really was all about her. Another popular blog shared this morning what the blog author does as a morning routine, as if this is what we all need to do. What is happening is that because it was easy to get ideas out there, and to get positive publicity for such ideas, these people believe that everyone cares and everyone agrees with them. But that is just not accurate.

I am not saying that you should not self-publicize or promote yourself or your brand. I am just saying you should not fall prey to the numbers game. Just because you have supporters does not mean everyone supports you (go over to the Washington Post and read what happened to Mayor Adrian Fenty if you want a real-life example of buying your own PR at the expense of a reality check).

If I can paraphrase a famous line: publicity corrupts, absolute publicity corrupts absolutely.

(And for some comic relief, read Christopher Elliott’s interview with Delta’s head of customer service, who thinks Delta has the best customer service. Clearly, she hasn’t flown Delta.)


Plainly speaking, it is better

30 Oct

What is better is to speak and write plainly, a lesson that is being forced on the U.S. Government according to the Federal Diary columnby Joe Davidson  in the Washington Post. To make that happen (I could have written: In order to facilitate the transition), there will be a symposium on plain language this afternoon at the National Press Club, held by the Center for Plain Language.

There is no doubt that the government (and many in the legal community) loves to make things complicated. The more obtuse, the better. The more wordy the better. Passive voice? They love it. Big words when smaller words would do, check.

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But, more disturbing in my opinion (since I already expect government/legal communications to be convoluted), is that marketing folk are jumping on the complicated bandwagon.  This blog post, from the Branding Strategy Insider, claims that “Complex Language Weakens Brands.” As the post says:

A serious impediment to communications is this constant upgrading of the language. No aspect of life is left untouched by the upgrade police. Not only does a term have to be politically correct, it has to be as long and as complicated as possible.

A great example from the post is that UPS went from being in the parcel delivery business to being a logistics company. How many people on the street instinctively understand what logistics is???? Not many, my friends. The only people who understand logistics are in logistics.

In any case, if you want to be clear, speak and write plainly. Using big words when small ones would do does NOT make you look more intelligent (if anything, it makes you look less so). From the Center for Plain Language website:

A communication is in plain language if the people who are the audience for that communication can quickly and easily

  • find what they need
  • understand what they find
  • act appropriately on that understanding

I think the bullet points above are the point of ANY communications.

And you thought plain vanilla was the boring choice.

What’s it all about?

20 Jul

This post is about “about” pages. You know, the pages that describe your organization. On blogs, the about pages gives a sense to visitors who the author is.  I would say this is crucial information. It helps us judge the trustworthiness of the content. Say that I am a student of public relations,  at the PhD level, and I say so on my about page. You may surmise that my content has a scholarly bent based on my research. However, say that I am a student, in high school. And I write about public relations.  You may conclude that I am still learning and that my blog is an attempt to explore social media.

I have come across many blogs lacking an about page. That is a mistake. A big mistake. Your about page does not have to be long and fancy. Just tell me who you are and what you are doing. That’s it. Use it to build your credibilty.

Just today I came across this blog: It purports to be a monthly ezine about PR. It gives some rather dubious advice and info (like PR took a backseat to advertising in the 90s, really? says who?). In any case, I want to know who is behind the blog, and guess what, the about page is blank. Immediately, I think these people do not know ANYTHING about PR if they don’t even have any basics about themselves.  So, their credibility is challenged.

Take a look at your blog, your website, your LinkedIn. What have you done in the about sections? Have you communicated who you are and what you do, at the very least?


Name changes

15 Jul

Electrasol  is now called finish. Brinks Home Security is now Broadview.  My question is why? Why would two established brands change names?  And in this case, the new names are a whole lot more generic than the originals. Electrasol has a lot more stand-alone recognition than finish. Finish, after all, is a verb. It is not a name. Same with Brinks. Every one knows Brinks–why would you become Broadview? That is one of those meaningless marketing names that doesn’t really separate you from the crowd. It’s as if Hertz changed its name to Roadview.  Makes it less memorable.

Brand or company name changes should be few and far between. It is confusing and dilutes your brand/name recognition. Obviously, sometimes a personnel change makes it necessary, as in the band Crosby, Still, Nash and Young, which added/lost Young.  But when you have a time-honored name, such as Electrasol (or Cascade, its largest competitor) you make  it harder for the consumer who has been using your brand for years to find you if you change your name. And, I don’t think in this case “finish” is going to attract any younger/new consumers.

Perhaps you want to be “cooler” or more in step with the times. We know AT&T stands for Atlantic Telephone and Telegraph, but clearly, they had to lose the Atlantic and the telegraph parts if they wanted to be known as a national telephone company. So they used their initials. Same with KFC. They have not changed their name from Kentucky Fried Chicken but they wanted to be known for more than fried food, so they use their initials instead.

Ownership changes bring about name changes as in the case of New England Telephone, which later became Nynex and now is Verizon.

In sum, some name changes are necessary and some are just gimmicky and maybe even plain stupid. In my eyes, finish and Broadview fall in this category.

What do you think?

Random thoughts

19 Jun

Radio Commercials

Does it seem to you that every time you are listening to the radio, and a commercial break comes on,  you get commercials on all other stations as well? Does it also seem to you that commercial breaks/DJ gab fests on radio go on for way too long?

It’s great that there is still so much advertising on radio, but I think that by making the commercial breaks so long radio stations risk losing their listeners. If I am listening to station, and a long commercial break comes on, I switch stations until I find one that is playing music. If these breaks were shorter, there would be less risk of alienation, IMO.

Different name, same location

Why is it that store owners think that by changing the name of a store they will get tons of new business? I was just walking home and saw that a day spa/salon just changed their name (and to something a lot more utilitarian). I thought, well, the problem was not the name of the salon, it is the location! Hard to get to, off the beaten path, etc. I don’t know if the salon was sold to another owner, but in any case, when I see too many names on the same store front I tend to think problems.

As if we thought Iran was democratic

I am not sure why Iran bothered to hold elections. Why pretend they are a democracy? Let me point out that the actual leader of Iran is not the president but the Ayatollah, the so-called Supreme Leader. Anytime you have someone ruling a country who is not elected and calls himself the Supreme Leader you are not dealing with a democracy. The problem is that the west wanted to believe that elections=democracy. They do not. It is not good marketing for Iran to hold elections and then repress the protests when it appears the election is a sham. Talk about a public relations fiasco!

The answer to your marketing needs

16 Jun

I recently read that to get leads for your business, white papers are the answer. (For those that don’t know, white papers are backgrounders, in-depth write ups about a subject area.) For one second I thought, yeah! that is the answer and I was about to put it on my to-do list. But wait, I thought, there is never ONE answer to marketing. That is the magic bullet thinking that gets lots of people in trouble.

Marketing should be about using a mix of strategies and tactics that can promote your service or product to its target audience. For instance, say you are marketing denture paste. You could advertise in the AARP magazine (if the budget allows) or in a local seniors newspaper. You could sponsor an event targeting those 65+. You could do many things, but you wouldn’t necessarily advertise in Blender Magazine or choose a skateboarding teen as your spokesperson. You have to go where your target audience goes.

So, my advice to you is that if someone tells you that to market your business, all you need to do is this one thing, walk away. Walk away fast. There is never a one-size solution nor any kind of magic bullet. Marketing is about creating awareness and that can take time and many forms.

I had a client once who was looking for the magic bullet. So, he hired me to re-do some copy, and he hired a PR guy to get some publicity, and he redesigned his website. He thought that each thing he did would bring a huge influx in business. And none of it did. Sure he got a better website, and good publicity, but because nothing was strategic and everything was a quick response to I need to get more business, it didn’t work. And he kept wasting money wanting to find the one thing that would work instead of working on many different tactics that would give his brand cohesiveness.  I could never make that client happy because one piece of copy or one press release is not going to turn you into a million dollar business.

A couple of nights ago, I was watching CNBC and they had a show entitled The Oprah Effect. As you no doubt know, anything that is seen on Oprah, almost automatically becomes a bestseller. You may think then that Oprah is a magic bullet. Well, yes and no. It does get you tremendous exposure, but in order to get on Oprah, you have to have a good product, good marketing and a good story. Those are part of the marketing mix. You also have to be ready to play in the big leagues. What if you can’t deliver? Then your business is going down the tubes.

In sum, stop looking for one solution and look at the whole picture. What do you need to do to give yourself a marketing boost?

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