Archive for August, 2009
Guest post by: Gail S. Bower | Read her blog
Earlier this year Northern Trust Bank took a public drubbing for proceeding with the second year of its five-year commitment to PGA Golf because it received TARP funds. According to a statement by the bank’s CEO, no public dollars funded the sponsorship, and the fiscally sound bank went forth with a program its leadership clearly values. Northern Trust participated in TARP at the government’s request, the statement noted, not because it needed the money. (You can read more about the effect this event had on sponsorship in my new guidebook How to Jump-start Your Sponsorship Strategy in Tough Times.)
I respect Northern Trust for honoring its commitment and for stating clearly its position in doing so. Corporate sponsorship is a marketing vehicle that gets results. When properly executed companies of all sizes benefit from incorporating sponsorship and event marketing into their business and marketing strategies.
After that incident other banks actually refused TARP dollars to avoid government and public scrutiny of their business decisions.
But some banks and financial firms were not so forthright. The New York Times reported on various corporations’ “‘stealth spending’” for event marketing. These companies are paying five- and six-figures to entertain clients, sans branding and identification of any kind.
I have a problem with the lack of transparency—with the sneakiness of the whole thing. But I endorse entertaining as a legitimate way to build relationships with clients, employees and vendors.
Take for example, Terry’s El Mariachi Supermarkets a Dallas-based chain of 13 stores that embraces the multi-cultural city it calls home. Terry Yu, the owner, invested $175,000 in a suite at the Dallas Cowboys’ fancy new stadium to reward workers and vendors whose support and loyalty have helped grow his business. He told the Dallas Morning News about what a “great investment” the luxury suite has been for him to provide a perk to staff and suppliers. (One of the first NFL franchises to broadcast in Spanish, the Cowboys have a large fan base among Texas and the Southwest’s Latino population, primarily from Mexico. So, imagine what a great perk this is.)
If entertaining employees and vendors works for Terry Yu, imagine how well it works for larger companies.
As a corporate sponsor, there are only three ways to go in these times:
- Discontinue sponsorship and be clear with stakeholders about that decision.
- Acknowledge that particular sponsorship investments meet your goals and provide value towards achieving business objectives. Be clear with the public, the media, and politicians about that decision and about why you are involved with sponsorships. Don’t engage in “stealth spending.”
- Be bold. Acknowledge that sponsorship works and determine new ways to do it that are not only acceptable for the times but that raise the bar. Champion a cause with strong brand alignment and enlist your clients in a day of service or in a cause marketing campaign to support your charity. (A February study on consumer perceptions on American corporations revealed that corporations that invest in a nonprofit organization or cause will win the favor of those consumers by 41 percent.)
Then shout it from the roof-tops. And build your business at the same time.
For those working with corporate sponsors, be sure your communications, both internally and externally, are supportive of corporate partners. If you uncover anti-corporate sentimentality, bring it to the surface and allow people to discuss it. Educate without being dismissive. Create parameters and policies that the staff, board, and other stakeholders will feel comfortable upholding.
Gail Bower is President of Bower & Co. Consulting LLC, a firm that assists nonprofit organizations and event/festival producers with dramatically raising their visibility, revenue, and impact. To learn more about her new guidebook, which provides a whole chapter on ways to enhance internal and external communications around sponsorship, visit http://www.GailBower.com/jumpstart. Her blog is http://www.SponsorshipStrategist.com.
What do YOU think about this post? Comments welcome.
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Last week I wrote a post about a study which came to the astonishing conclusion that 40% of the content on Twitter is “pointless babble.”
The report was also picked up by numerous media outlets including Mashable, BBC, and eMarketer.
Tell Me Something I Don’t Already Know
The survey was conducted by Pear Analytics. Their process was to randomly sample Twitter’s public timeline for a two-week span. They put tweets into six categories that aside from “pointless babble” included “conversational,” meaning messages that go back and forth between people or attempt to spark conversation (questions or polls), and “pass-along value,” which covers any re-tweet. Items the Pear people qualified as “news” had to come from national mainstream sources, such as CNN and Fox. News on social media and anything published on TechCrunch or Mashable did not make the cut.
There are other specifics, but suffice to say, the whole thing is highly subjective.
My reason for covering this less-than-scientific research was to point out that even if there is a lot of babble on Twitter the platform offers value to businesses.
I didn’t think the actual finding was surprising. Anyone who watches Twitter’s public timeline for maybe 10-15 minutes can come to the same conclusion.
Colleagues made the same observation. Some noted that in the scheme of things most conversations, and messages received via email, are not particularly important. So why pick on Twitter?
Why pay so much attention to a report that states the obvious?
It’s All In How You Say It
For starters, consider the word choice: “pointless babble.” How great is that? It’s not insignificant content or something equally mundane. ‘Tis trash talking the twitosphere.
Naturally, this spurred tweets galore. And it made for a terrific story hook.
Next, look at how Pear conveyed the win, place and show results:
What a fun punchy graphic.
It’s All Very Official
Now take a gander at another image that shows a correlation between the type of tweet and the day of the week it tends to occur:
It’s good to have graphs and charts with numbers in a report to reinforce the idea that this is real research.
The study includes additional data from other sources. These stats and diagrams make it even more official.
Meantime, Pear plugs the study on its blog, where the post format closely resembles the Mashable web site. This is crafty subliminal schtick.
I don’t have access to Pear Analytics’ financial statements but best guess is it’s a small business enterprise. Hats off to whoever dreamed this study up — it surely draws attention to the company.
The point about the pointless babble on Twitter states the obvious.
Slick packaging makes it newsworthy.
- Deni Kasrel
What do YOU think about getting attention by stating the obvious? Comments welcome.
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Today I did something that I’ve not done in a while. I composed a letter, signed it with a pen and put it in a mailbox.
As is the norm anymore my main mode of correspondence is the digital kind. It’s easier to dash off an email and hit send.
I wrote the letter because a friend of mine isn’t really into email. He offered to pass my resume on to an acquaintance who may be able to assist in my job search. So there you go: Paper letter and resume it is.
The process of creating this hard copy dispatch—along with penning a real signature, folding the paper, addressing and sealing the envelope—felt different than the expediency of internet communication. There will be no email trail or online back and forth. Any response will be via real conversation.
This got me thinking about what goes missing when we lose the art of letter writing.
There are libraries with books, boxes and files of letters written by famous people: Mozart, Galileo, Vincent Van Gogh, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Samuel Beckett, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Dickenson and plenty more. Reading the letters of these luminaries sheds light on the person and the times they lived in. A book of email messages can’t have anywhere near the same insight or impact.
And wherefore goes the love letter? A piece of paper to be read, reread, saved and cherished. A love email? Not even close.
A letter on stationary or a note card is something that we touch. It’s personal because we hold it in our hand. That’s a different experience than reading a computer or smart phone screen.
A letter holds more gravitas than email. We’ve all heard the request, “put it in writing.”
The act of writing a letter often leads to more complete and thoughtful correspondence. With email we like to get to the point quick. With texting, even quicker.
It’s funny to think that if you want to stand out from the pack these days sending a paper letter might do the trick. Everyone else is online.
What do YOU think of the lost art of letter writing? Comments welcome.
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Many companies are now integrating blogs into their marketing communications mix. But just calling something a blog doesn’t mean it is one.
Or at least not necessarily one that follows best practices for business blogging.
A bleary blog
Exhibit A: The blog for Savings.com, an online discount and coupon service that recently revamped its web site to make it more community oriented.
Posts (on this date) include a story about airline bereavement fares; photos from the Savings.com relaunch party; the top 10 best deals for the week of August 10-16 (this list includes discount offers from Frederick’s of Hollywood and Crabtree & Evelyn); a story about how the recession is affecting baseball teams; an article titled “What to Look for in a New Laptop”; and a “Best Store You Never Heard Of” feature.
Here comes the pitch
Many of the posts are highly sales oriented. The one about buying a laptop is a “shopping advice” informational article where highlighted brands are all companies that market through Savings.com. Likewise, “The Best Store You Never Heard Of” piece is a direct pitch for a vendor that lists offers through Savings.com.
A lot of the links within the different posts lead to deals included elsewhere on the site. And yes, it is called the Savings.com Coupons Blog, but it would be more accurate to just say, “Here’s where we promote the heck out of whoever pays us to advertise their discounts.”
And then there’s just a basic standard that the content should add value to the reader, which, sorry to say, the erratically written post on baseball teams having difficulties selling tickets in our troubled economy, fails to meet.
Kindly do not flog the reader
Ladies and gentlemen, this blog comes dangerously close to being a flog. Meaning it’s a fake blog. The “f” refers to the term flack, which is slang for a public relations/PR person. So it’s a flack blog, get it?
The reason it’s not a full on flog is that flogs are deceptive and hide the fact that they’re just a marketing tool in disguise. With the Savings.com blog it’s pretty clear what the deal is (pun intended). Even so, despite a scattering of stories under the category heading “odds and ends” that may not specifically pertain to site merchants, it’s heavily advertorial—that is, ads dressed up as articles.
A better way to go
A corporate blog can include a promotional aspect. But best practice is that it’s not so heavy handed in this regard. Also, if there is any kind of quid pro quo involved between the company that benefits from being mentioned and the one that does the mentioning, this should be disclosed.
In any case, a good business blog offers useful content that helps the reader better understand a product, service or brand. It might also present the company’s (or a particular employee’s) point of view on issues relating to its industry.
The best blogs are geared to creating a meaningful exchange between the writer/company and the reader, to include obtaining opinion and feedback. Better still, there’s a sense of personality to the posts. The main thing is, it’s not firmly slanted toward making a sale. You can use other areas of a web site for that purpose.
OK, repeat after me: A blog is not an advertisement.
- Deni Kasrel
What do YOU think of blogs that flog? Your comments welcome.
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On a recent episode of his satiric TV show Stephen Colbert stated that be believed in climate change, “So I can market the new Colbert Report Green. It’s just like the regular Colbert Report, except that we reduce emissions by jumping on the bandwagon.”
Ha, ha. And right on point. Green is red hot as a marketing ploy these days.
Clearly Kermit the frog was wrong when he opined “It’s not that easy being green.”
My health club has a sign in the bathroom stating that it’s switching from paper towels to air dryers in the interest of going green. Some restaurants no longer automatically serve water; you have to ask for it. Why? They’re saving environmental resources.
A regional bank is looking out for the earth by promoting home equity loans to be used to install solar panels.
Meanwhile, a vodka maker boasts that it’s “eco-friendly” and “saving the planet one glass at a time,” because “nothing goes to waste” in its distilling process, its bottles are made from recycled glass and the company is doing things around the office to reduce paper usage, like shifting to all electronic invoicing and order placement.
But is the health club really seeking to be a good citizen by going with air dryers? Or maybe that change has to do with the fact that using air dryers may lead to cost savings (paper is more expensive) and reduce maintenance (no need to refill the paper dispensers and there’s less trash to deal with). Likewise, the vodka maker saves cash by making sure nothing goes to waste and by converting to a digital sales process.
Nothing wrong with that. But if so, then there’s more self-interest than public interest involved here.
Savvy marketing and public relations tactics pick up on trends and address concerns of the consumer. No bones about it; reducing global warming and saving resources matters. If you truly can lay claim to having an environmentally-friendly service or product, now is a good time to crow about it.
But if you’re doing what’s known as greenwashing—that is, you are simply jumping on the bandwagon—then your promotion could come off as dubious in its declaration of do-gooding. In which case it than it may not be worth the green you expend for the marketing campaign.
People will not buy it. In more ways than one.
What do YOU think about the growth in green marketing? Comments welcome.
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