Marketing and Public Relations

Morgan Spurlock’s Wonderful Movie About Advertising and Product Placement

Posted on May 2, 2011. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

movie poster for POM-Wonderful-Presents-The-Greatest-Movie-Ever-Sold, by Morgan SpurlockWhat’s the difference between selling out and buying in?

Not much, if you’re documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, whose latest movie, Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, explores the world of branding, advertising and product placement.

It’s Spurlock’s personal statement, albeit an irreverent one, about how we’re pummeled with advertising throughout our daily lives.

Just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean you can’t make a point

The point of this flick is admittedly obvious, however, Spurlock likes to examine the obvious in unexpected ways.

The film that first brought Spurlock to national attention, Supersize Me, is about how eating lots of McDonald’s food is unhealthy and leads to obesity. In it, the filmmaker serves as a human guinea pig who only eats McDonald’s food for 30 days straight. That he gains weight is to be expected; what’s surprising is the drastic dangerous toll the dietary experiment takes on Spurlock’s health and psychological well-being.

With Pom Wonderful, the director gets super cheeky: He’s making a film about product placement and advertising that’s all about how he’s financing the film solely through product placement and advertising. He calls hundreds of brands, and 22 sign on. In return for their money, the brands get to have Spurlock shamelessly promote them throughout his movie. The biggest sponsors have full-fledged commercials inserted right into the documentary.

Movie still of Morgan Spurlock and Ralph Nader from Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever SoldSpurlock records the meetings where he tries to get companies to support his concepts. He’s an energetic pitchman who’s full of ideas. Some of his most outlandish ideas get shot down. No matter: Spurlock is a paid shill who gladly lets the brands control their message (though he delivers these lines with a big sly wink).

Along with the mischievous encounters with sponsors Spurlock delves into the world of manipulation, er marketing. He talks to experts in brand integration, co-promotion, brand collateral, brand personality, media placement and neuro-marketing. He chats with movie directors, TV execs, Donald Trump, Noam Chomsky, as well as Ralph Nader, who comes up with one of the movies more memorable lines when he says the only time we can avoid branding is in our sleep.

Two examples on the extremes of advertising (or not)

For the most part, Spurlock’s tongue is set firmly in his cheek, yet there are exceptions. Like when he heads to Florida’s Broward County to investigate how sponsors have infiltrated its public schools — an area even the educators agree should be off limits, but with budgets being cut to the bone, the school system is forced to find money however it can.

It all begs the question, where do we draw the line? For the right price, will we let consumer culture infiltrate every aspect of our lives?

Apparently, at least one place on earth isn’t buying in: Sao Paulo. The Brazilian city passed a law banning all forms of outdoor advertising. City officials say they passed the law to rid Sao Paulo of “visual pollution,” and when the camera pans its streets, we see what the city looks like with nary an ad in sight. In interviews with Spurlock, shop owners and residents all agree that Sao Paulo is now more attractive and they “notice a lot more” without the “distraction” of ads.

Powerful personal branding

Spurlock is transparent about irony of his efforts. He’s clearly practicing what he’s preaching against. Or is he? He claims he’s not selling out, but rather, buying in.

Of course, the biggest product placement of all in Pom Wonderful is for Mr. Spurlock himself. It’s an inspired piece of personal branding.

The movie has sparked demand for Spurlock’s bon mots. Fast Company featured him in a lengthy piece called I’m With the Brand and Forbes did a Q & A with him called This Space for Rent. He did a talk for TED called Morgan Spurlock: The Greatest TED Talk Ever Told and wrote a guest column for Entertainment Weekly called The Filmmakers Guide to Making the Perfect Pitch.

Spurlock even got the city of Altoona, Pa to change its name for 60 days, to Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, in exchange for $25,000. Altoona is the home-base one of the movie’s sponsor’s Sheetz, Inc. The name change is ceremonial, still the city figures to get publicity out of the deal.

All of which goes to show, as is stated in the movie, “At the end of the day, marketing works.”

Wanna peek at the picture? Here’s the movie trailer

Your Comments Welcome

What do YOU think? Have you seen Spurlock’s latest movie? Is he really buying in, or selling out?

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Tips For Making Videos That Are Doggone Good

Posted on January 9, 2011. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

It’s cliché marketing advice to suggest that you “think out of the box” in order to “cut through the clutter.” Maybe so — still, it’s good advice.

Of course the trick is in the doing. How do you come up with a creative idea that sets you apart from the crowd?

I’ll answer by showing, rather than telling. Watch this video, Husky Dog Sings with iPad Better than Bieber!, which has more than 2 million views and serves to illustrate how you can break out of the pack.

Can you really learn marketing tricks from a dog?

How does this video cut through the clutter? Let’s count the ways…

1. The video falls into a favored category. Videos of pets doing a cool tricks are incredibly popular. Right from the get-go, this one plays to the crowd in the space in which it’s offered — in this case, YouTube.

2. It has a catchy keyword rich title. The video is named Husky Dog Sings with iPad Better than Bieber! This title is clever on its own, and if you parse it out, between “dog sings,” “iPad” and “Bieber” you’re picking up on a few popular keywords for web searches.

Including the words iPad and Bieber helps attract viewers who are ultimately searching for something quite different than what this video is about, yet plenty of people may click on the link in their search results just because the video sounds like it could be fun to watch. Random entertainment opportunities are one of the many aspects that make the web experience special.

3. There’s no obvious sales pitch. There’s an embedded hat-tip at the end of the video for LaDiDa, an iPhone app. The app is not by the person who made Husky Dog Sings, so this mention appears to be just a nod to the technology that helps make its concept work in the first place.

Meanwhile, there is a direct sales component here. Under the video screen (when viewed on the YouTube site) there’s a link to Mishka on iTunes. Turns out, this singing dog is named Mishka, and she has her own iTunes single.

Click on the link to video’s creator, Matt Gardea, identified on YouYube as gardea23, and you go to Mishka The Talking Husky’s YouTube channel. Here’s where you see that Mishka is a canine celebrity. Her channel has more than 84,000 subscribers. Mishka the singing husky on Twitter She’s been featured on news media throughout the world and she has a thriving Facebook page, Twitter account and line of clothing.

One channel feeds into the other and if you read the posts to Facebook or Twitter you’ll note there’s plenty of personality behind it all.

4. The tone is homegrown. Husky Dog Sings vibe is warm and welcoming. Mishka’s owners are clearly out to promote their pet, however, they go about it in a friendly down-to-earth way. Most any dog owner can relate to Matt’s friendly encouragement of Mishka as he repeatedly says “good girl” to coach the husky through her duet with the iPad.

5. This is the real deal. Social media presents a particular kind of environment where hard-sell flashy marketing falls out of favor. After all, being pushy isn’t social. You want to be real, and this video is genuine. When Mishka is doing her thing, a child and another dog briefly enter the picture. There’s no attempt to hide this extraneous action, which only adds to our amusement.

More tricks to come?

This is one cool trick. It’s warm and cozy yet also a pretty slick package.  In late December Mishka tweeted that there’s more in store:Tweet from Mishka the singing husky

Hmm, wonder what she’s got up her paws.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think? Your comments welcome.

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Recommended Reading: Real-Time Marketing & PR

Posted on December 13, 2010. Filed under: Books, Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Real-Time Marketing & PR - book coverYou know how they say time is money? Well, these days it’s your reputation, too.

With an always-on 24/7 internet, if you’re in the news in a negative way, you must respond immediately.

There’s little time to plod though a carefully measured crises communications plan while a story races across the web — where videos go viral and Twitter unleashes a torrent of messages in mere seconds.

It’s time for your marketing and PR to get real

If that thought puts you on edge, or you doubt it’s true, then you could be in for a rude awakening. Or, you can get up to speed by reading Real-Time Marketing and PR, the latest book by marketing maven, A-list blogger, David Meerman Scott.

Just as he did in his groundbreaking The New Rules of Marketing and PR, Scott’s new book helps you see how certain long-held practices are not merely obsolete, but dangerous to your livelihood.

How NOT to engage in real-time PR

Anyone with access to the web can publish content. This so-easy-anyone-can-do-it circumstance sets up a scenario where, Scott says, “consumers set the pace. Left to their own devices, they imagine all sorts of things. They take unpredictable initiatives.”

One example of an imaginative consumer initiative is seen in a tale Scott recounts about Dave Carroll, a musician whose guitar got busted up by United Airlines baggage carriers. Carroll tried to get United to own up to the misdeed, but the company wouldn’t budge. So Carroll took to the web, with a video he created called United Breaks Guitars. The video went viral, news outlets and the blogosphere jumped on the story and Carroll’s plight attracted international attention.

United took a huge public relations hit, all because it would not properly respond to one customer.

Scott gives a blow-by-blow run-down of how the whole thing played out. He fills in all kinds of side details and breaks down the trajectory of the various ways the story shot across the mediaverse.

Monitoring, mobile, and real-time guidelines

United got it wrong, however the book also provides ample examples of companies that got it right by thoughtfully engaging in real-time communications. Time and again, Scott reinforces how paying attention pays off.

photo of girl holding hand to her earOf course, you can’t react in real-time unless you readily know what’s being said. For that to happen you must monitor and analyze media outlets all across the web. With so many venues, in both traditional and ever-increasing new media spheres, this can be daunting. Scott clues you in on how to turn it into a manageable task and offers a handy list of free tools such as Google Alerts, Blogpulse, Technorati and Twingly, and service providers like Attentio, Brandwatch, Cision, Radian6, Sysomos and Visible Technologies.

There’s advice for how to leverage the fastest growing real-time market: mobile, where location-based services such as Foursquare, Layar, and Mobile Spinach enable you to provide customers with instant gratification exactly where and when they want it.

There are tips on how to engage on Twitter (the big-time in real-time), ideas for how to integrate real-time tactics into your sales and customer service efforts,  plus an in-depth section on how to develop effective real-time communications policies—also known as social media guidelines.

An insider tells it like it is

All of this comes from a guy who spent most of his career in the online news business. This is an insider, telling it like it is, in lively, and sometimes good-humored, fashion.

It’s all downright practical. When delving into how to responsibly respond to online stories and social chatter about your company, Scott says: “Some people are plain crazy, and you don’t want to get dragged into dialogue with a psycho.”

Even in the real-time world, you must exercise good judgment. Scott’s book provides plenty of ideas for how your good judgment can help grow your business. Now.

– Deni Kasrel

Comments anyone? Please share your thoughts.

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How Long Does It Take To Tell Your Story?

Posted on November 23, 2010. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Hand holding stopwatchGood marketing is like good storytelling.

Truly effective marketing hits on emotional touchpoints that make us believe what you have to say, enough so that we’re persuaded to buy what you’ve got for sale. We need to see ourselves in your story.

It’s no accident we have the expression, “I don’t buy that story for one minute.”

How much story can you tell in 15-seconds?

How long should your brand story be?

This thought came to mind when I was chatting last week with Glenn Holsten. Glenn is an independent filmmaker who is well known for his documentaries, but he also does commercial work.  We were catching up prior to the world premier screening of his film Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists 1958-1968 and somehow got on the subject of social media. Glenn said he had a client who wanted a 15-second video to use for social media. “How can I tell in story in 15 seconds?” he asked.

I mentioned the tale, perhaps an urban legend but nonetheless oft-cited, about how Ernest Hemingway won a bet by writing a story that was only six words long.  I’ll now share this story, in it’s entirely:

For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

Glenn agreed that’s one heck of a short story, and he assured me he’ll whip up that 15-second spot his client wants for social media. Meanwhile, I’m intrigued by the fact that his client perceives the need to create a 15-second video, simply because it’s for social media.

Is there an ideal story length? Does the media matter?

I’ve seen two and half-hour movies that seem to fly by and watched three-minute videos that feel like they take forever.

TV commercials are usually 30 or 60 seconds long. Much of that’s due to the cost of buying time on television. There is no equivalent cost with social media.

Regardless of your expense, whatever the length of a marketing message, there’s a cost to your audience in terms of time and mindshare. Even 15 seconds of wasted time can be annoying.

YouTube is a social media channel and YouTube has in excess of 100 million videos, pretty much all of which are longer than 15 seconds. The fact that a video may also be a form of advertising doesn’t matter. If the content is worth watching, you can exceed the 30-60 second convention.

Screen shot from Blendtec Will It Blend, iPhone videoPrime examples here are the Will It Blend? spots featuring Tom Dickson, who rose to online stardom thanks to a series of videos where he proved the power of his Blendtec blender by using it to pulverize all sorts of objects, including an an iPhone, a Bic lighter, golf balls, a bag of marbles and a crowbar. Nearly all of the Will It Blend videos are between one to two minutes long and they’re super popular — the iPhone video has in excess of 9 million views. Blendtec also promotes its videos through a Facebook page , which has a more than 56,000 fans, and through Twitter.

The evolution of storytelling… to be continued

You might say your story should be as long as is required to tell what needs to be told while also holding the viewer’s interest. That’s true, and also highly subjective.

There’s no hard and fast rule here. Still, it’s interesting to consider how much social media, and the way in which we consume it – via mobile phone, desktop computer, computer tablet or TV –  influences the art of brand storytelling.

Open question: Is there a difference in our attention span toward marketing messages when we receive these messages via social media, as opposed to a company’s website?

Could be. I wouldn’t be surprised to see research down the line on this very topic. Time will tell.

What do YOU think? Is there an ideal length for a branded video that’s distributed through social media? Please share your thoughts.

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Why You Must Be The Master of Your Domain

Posted on November 10, 2010. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Golden Royal ThroneAll you have to do to own a web address is buy and register the domain name. There are plenty of sites that offer this service, including BuyDomains, Go Daddy, Network Solutions, and Register.com.

Most web domain names cost under $10 per year. Unless someone already owns the domain, in which case prices may vary — you‘ll need to work a deal out with the owner.

You must continue to renew your domain registration

Once you purchase a domain name, it’s yours to keep, as long as you renew it. There are exceptions — you might lose the domain if there’s some kind funky trademark dispute — but that’s a rare occurrence.

Domain registries send reminders when it’s time to renew, and you can set up an auto-renew, too. So the process is fairly foolproof.

Unless you happen to be distracted, as recently happened to the Dallas Cowboys football team, which fumbled the renewal of its website at http://www.dallascowboys.com.

Dallas Cowboys drop the ball on web domain registration

As noted in an article in The Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys neglected to renew their registration and their site went down on Sunday (as did the Cowboys, who lost to the Green Bay Packers).

On Sunday night, if you went to dallascowboys.com, you got a placeholder site that showed kids kicking a soccer ball, of all things:

Dallas Cowboys placeholder website

Once the mistake was discovered the Cowboys quickly renewed the registration; however, it took more than a day till their site was restored. In-between, sports fans and writers were quick to call a penalty on the team.

The Cowboys have reportedly put the domain registration on auto renew to avoid future interference of this kind.

If you fail to renew you can lose your domain

The parting tip here: If you own a website, pay attention to those emails from your domain registrar. Be sure to pay the renewal bill before the expiration date.

If you don’t renew by the cut off date, the site can be taken down, the domain can be put up for sale, and someone else may snatch it up. Keep on top of this seemingly small detail and you’ll always be the master of your domain.

FYI, according to ComScore, Dallascowboys.com is the second most popular NFL website; number one being  NFL.com.

Which goes to show, even in the world of web domains, there’s no such thing as being too big to fail.

Deni Kasrel

The field is now open for comments. What do YOU think of the Cowboy’s failing to renew their website domain registration?

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The ROI of Real-Time Marketing and Public Relations

Posted on November 1, 2010. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Photo of dollar bills growing out of flower potsPsst, want a hot stock tip?

Invest in businesses that engage in real-time marketing and PR.

This list includes:

  • Companies that adopt emerging communications trends – these days this includes social media and web analytics
  • Companies that respond to media and customer concerns promptly and courteously
  • Companies that respond to inquiries from A-list bloggers ASAP

New research measures real-time response of Fortune 100 companies

FYI, I am not offering this advice simply because I work in the field of marketing communications. There’s genuine research to back this tip up, and it’s hot off the e-press.

You can read all about in Real Time: How Marketing and PR at Speed Drives Measurable Success.

It’s the latest e-book by David Meerman Scott, A-list blogger, popular speaker and best selling author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly, 2nd Edition.

In his new e-book, David recounts the results of research he conducted to measure the real-time marketing response of the top 100 U.S. corporations as ranked by Fortune magazine.

Ties that bind real-time response and stock market performance

David’s research method was simple: He sent an email to the media relations departments of each Fortune 100 company asking the following question:

“In the last year or two, has the structure of your corporate communications team and/or communications processes changed to embrace the real-time digital era? If so, how?”

David wanted to find out:

  • How easy is it to contact each company’s media relations department?
  • How long does it take each company to respond to his request?
  • What is the quality of the response?

The e-book explains what happened next. It’s entertaining stuff. I’ll let you read it for yourself, however, the upshot is, David determined that in a comparison of 2010 stock prices, on average, the publicly traded Fortune 100 companies that were the most highly engaged in real-time communications beat the S&P 500 stock index, while those that were asleep at the real-time wheel, on average, underperformed the index.

Here’s a bar graph from the e-book showing details of the data:

Graph showing how real-time marketing & PR affects corporate stock performance

Likewise, an analysis of 2010 stock prices shows, the majority of the publicly traded Fortune 100 companies that responded to David’s inquiry (again, those engaged in real-time communications) were up on the year stock-price-wise, while those who did not were down. Here’s how that stat divvied up:

Stock performance of companies that engage in real time marketing beat those that do not (chart)

The data clearly indicates there’s a measurable return on investment for companies that engage in real-time marketing and public relations. Those who are out of the real-time loop are, overall, losing ground in the marketplace.

Now granted, David has a vested interest in touting these results. He wants to spark interest in his brand new book, Real-Time Marketing and PR: How to Instantly Engage Your Market, Connect with Customers, and Create Products that Grow Your Business Now. Still, David does not have the power to manipulate a stock price to suit his own needs. The data is what it is.

It’s also further reinforcement of the public’s increasing use of the web, in particular the rising prominence of social media, as well as smartphones, which encourage a rapid response mindset for messaging.

And while surely lots of factors affect a company’s stock market success, real-time engagement looks to be a new item to add to the list.

Stay tuned for more on real-time marketing and public relations

There are, of course, a plenitude of benefits to be reaped from engaging in real-time. A company’s ability to act and react in a fast and flexible manner can have positive consequences for product development, customer service, branding, crises communications, sales and more.

Heads up, I’m currently reading the book Real-Time Marketing & PR, and will soon have more to say on this timely topic. Stay tuned.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of the relationship between real-time marketing and PR and corporate stock market performance? Do you have stories of your own to tell on this topic? Comments welcome?

Related posts

Interview with David Meerman Scott, Author of the New Rules of Marketing & PR

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Business Podcasting Tips From Toby Bloomberg of Diva Marketing Talks

Posted on August 9, 2010. Filed under: Best practices, Marketing and Public Relations, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

RSS symbol with podcast headphone and microphonePodcasting offers an easy way to be heard in the marketplace.

It’s on-demand subscription-based audio content that lets you grab someone’s ear.

Of course holding onto that ear takes finesse.

Just spouting marketing messages doesn’t cut it. Then it’s an infomercial, and who’s going to subscribe to that?

You must make it worth someone’s while to pay attention to what you have to say.

Interview with Toby Bloomberg, host of the podcast series Diva Marketing Talks

It takes skill to pull off a successful podcast, and one person does it well is marketing maven Toby Bloomberg, host of Diva Marketing Talks, a podcast series about social media marketing.

Toby recently shared some of her podcasting tips with me, about the art of being a good moderator and how to create podcasts that reach out and touch customers in a meaningful way. Here are excerpts from our conversation:

Can you describe your concept for Diva Marketing Talks?

Toby: My concept is that since social media is a conversation, I don’t want to have to interview people. And the one-on-one thing, to me, is an interview. So I always have a least two guests, sometimes three.

What do you think makes for a good podcast moderator?

Toby: There are a few things that make for a good moderator. One is making sure you have a guest on who will share information and talk. Because the worst thing is to have someone on who just doesn’t talk. And you want to have someone who understands, in social media, they’re giving value-added information, not pitching their own company.

The second thing is to create an environment and atmosphere where they feel comfortable to talk.

And the third thing is to prep your guests for the show… I put questions together. I put concepts together and I give them to the guests and say, “Here’s our content direction. Whether or not we follow it depends on where the conversation goes, but here are the issues we’ll talk about.”

When it’s time for the show I’ll start off with a question and see where it goes. Sometimes it does turn into a real conversation. I will encourage people to talk to the other guests and to ask questions of me, so it has the feel of a conversation, instead of me interviewing two people.

What are some reasons a company might consider doing a podcast series?

Toby: A podcast is no different than an audio file that’s on the web. What makes it unique is that it has an RSS feed that gives you the ability to dump it into an MP3 player. And that little technology changes everything. It gives you the ability to do what people call “time transfer.” You can put it into your video or MP3 player — into your iPod your iPhone and iTunes — and listen to it whenever you want.

So that’s what makes podcasting so different and valuable. It’s that people aren’t tied to their computers any longer. They can listen to it wherever they want.

You can use podcasts to create thought leadership to build greater understanding and awareness of an organization or a topic. But it can also be used in other ways. For instance it can be used to train a sales force. You can do a podcast on product development, new product features, whatever. Give MP3 players to your sales force and they can listen whenever they want.

Another thing is take a cheap MP3 player — we’re not talking about iPods — load it up and give it away at trade shows.

What would be on those trade show podcasts — product information?

Toby: It can be product information. But it always has to be value-add. Because who’s going to listen to something about your new features or your latest widget? You can position it however you want. You can do a little show.

Is there any type of business that either does or doesn’t lend itself to podcasting?

Toby: You’re disseminating information. So if your target audience is comfortable listening to information in a given format, it will work. It really goes back to who your customers are… I think today we’re not looking at technology as much as information.

How can a business know what kind of information is of interest to their target audiences?  How should they define their podcast strategy?

Toby: You just ask your customers what they want. Tell them you’re thinking of doing a podcast series and ask, “Is this something that you might want?” They’ll let you know. And they’ll tell you what they want to hear.

Especially in a B2B environment, where relationships are so critical, even more than B2C, it gives you a wonderful opportunity to touch base with customers that perhaps you haven’t talked to in a while.

So pick up the phone… Take a look at the customers that you’ve been wanting to develop stronger relationships with, or people you just missed closing a deal on. It would be great to go out to prospects and say, “We haven’t talked to you in a long time. This is what we’re thinking of doing. What would you like to hear?” It gives you an opportunity to open doors.

You can build a whole strategy behind that. Why not tag the podcast with “Thanks to Tom Jones at XYZ company for giving his input on this topic.” Thanking people in a public forum is always a nice thing to do. You don’t have to mention if they’re a client or not.

In your e-book Social Media Marketing GPS you note how podcasts can bring out your personality and create intimacy between the people behind a brand and its customers. How does that happen and why is that important?

Toby: Voice and tone add another dimension than text. Even if your company has a blog, or a Facebook page, or is tweeting, it brings you a little bit closer… And audio gives you the opportunity to add a different type of information.

When you write, and when you speak, your words come out differently. I think a good podcast forces you to talk in a conversational manner. So if you’re taking in a conversational manner people tend to relate to you as a person rather than as a company. The bottom line is people like to do business with people they like and this is one more way for somebody to get to know you.

Say a business makes a product that does not seem to present itself as being all that interesting. It’s some kind of widget. How do you make something that is not inherently fascinating into a podcast series?

Toby: You don’t, if it’s something that’s inherently boring. Like if it’s a widget that goes into another widget.

It’s like Intel Inside. Think of how brilliantly they positioned themselves. They knew that nobody wanted to talk about this little technology piece that went into computers, they positioned it as Intel Inside — this is what makes everything work. So perhaps isn’t going to be about the widget, because how much can you talk about the widget? Maybe it’s about trends in the industry.

What about allowing people to call into the show? Why might a company want to do that?

It gives people an opportunity to get information that they may not be able to have any other way. It gives you an opportunity to interact with potential customers. And if somebody has a really deep question, you can say, “Let’s take this offline and I’m happy to make sure you get the information.”

It’s one of those things that could go wild, depending on the company and the questions. If you’re doing it where you can tape the show you have the opportunity to edit. If you’re doing it live, obviously you don’t have that, so I think it takes a very skillful host. Because then you’re not only in the world of social media, really what it amounts to is you’re in the world of public radio.

OK, final question: If you were to give only one tip for businesses about podcasts, what would it be?

Toby: Make sure you understand the type of content your audience finds interesting and work around that. It’s Marketing 101.

But with any kind of social media we’re really diving outside of traditional marketing… It’s a sidestep. Sometimes it doesn’t necessarily relate to you product or service directly, but rather, tangentially.

That’s where I see a lot of companies miss the mark. When some people think being in social media means not being sales oriented, they think it means a softer sales pitch. But more than not, it means not even going in the sales direction, but making sure you have information that can support your customers in your particular industry… It is different than any other kind of marketing because it’s built on value-add.

Thanks, Toby

Many thanks to Toby Bloomberg for sharing her insights. If you want to keep up with Toby’s thoughts on a regular basis, subscribe to her Diva Marketing Blog, or follow her on Twitter at @tobydiva.

Meanwhile, other posts I’ve written that relate to Toby include:

Social Media Marketing GPS: A Creative Social Media Guide

Wonder Gals of Web 2.0

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of Toby’s ideas about podcasting? Do you have more thoughts on the topic? Please share. Comments welcome.

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Social Media Marketing GPS: A Creative Social Media Guide

Posted on June 8, 2010. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Toby Bloomberg's ebook, Social Media Marketing GPS, is specially formatted for e-readers

Twitter is a powerful publishing platform. But when messages are limited to 140 characters it has its limits, right?

Well, less than you might think — if you’re as resourceful as Toby Bloomberg. She recently published an ebook based on interviews conducted via Twitter.

A guide to social media, one tweet at a time

As Toby explains in the introduction to her free ebook, titled Social Media Marketing GPS:

“The goal was to create a comprehensive body of knowledge that could serve as a roadmap (GPS) for developing a strategic social media plan. My thoughts were if this could be accomplished in a series of 140 character tweets it might help ease the apprehension for people new to social media, while at the same time, providing a review and offering some interesting ideas for those more experienced.”

Toby admits the whole thing was conceived as an experiment.

Based on the result, I’d say it’s a success. Social Media Marketing GPS is a shining example of the power of communication conveyed through social media.

Featuring advice from 40 marketing pros

The book features tweets from 40 professional marketers, all of whom are avid practitioners of social media.

Some handle social media for corporations or agencies, while others are solopreneurs. Contributors include Paul Chaney, Mack Collier, Roxanne Darling, Ann Handley, Beth Harte, Neville Hobson, Tim Jackson, John Maley, Scott Monty, B.L. Ochman, Connie Reece, David Meerman Scott and Liz Strauss.

Certain of those names are well known; still, I like that Toby didn’t simply turn to the uber-darling “usual suspects” of social media to create her book.

Not that there’s anything wrong with superstar power. It’s just nice to hear from others who are in the trenches, blogging, vlogging, podcasting, Facebooking, Tweeting, branding, and otherwise successfully engaged in social media marketing.

That, of course, is part of the beauty of social media: It helps level the playing field for who has a voice (and impact) in the marketplace.

Big ideas presented in bite-size nuggets

Each chapter of Social Media Marketing GPS features useful ideas and opinions regarding social media strategies and tactics. Topics covers tools and platforms, ethics, metrics, branding, blogger relations and more — all presented in bite-size nuggets.

In a way its presentation strikes me as being akin to how you might use a yellow marker when reading, to highlight essential details. Only in this instance, the content is strictly the highlights.

Toby is the consummate conversationalist

Toby — who, in case you did not know, is a popular blogger and marketing maven in her own right —  serves as ringleader, instigating interviews with a leadoff question. She embellishes each chapter with concise introductions and summaries of key concepts, and then closes out with questions to consider when creating a social media marketing plan.

These questions also invite you to think about each topic — on your own — which enables Toby to create a kind of conversation between the ebook and its readers.

Of course, if anyone knows how to generate stimulating conversation — virtual or otherwise — it’s Toby. She does it all the time on Diva Marketing Talks, her podcast series featuring chats with experts about all things social media. Those familiar with the series may note a considerable overlap between her guests on Diva Marketing Talks and the individuals featured in Social Media Marketing GPS.

Useful to both new and experienced marketers

Meanwhile, Toby does succeed in her goal of creating a book of value to both newbies and those experienced in social media. Wherever you may fall on that spectrum, I recommend you give it a read.

And by the way, if you happen to have an e-reader, the book is specially formatted for this handy gadget.

– Deni Kasrel

Have you read Social Media Marketing GPS? What do you think of it? Comments welcome.

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Best Practices: Writing Press Releases for the Web

Posted on May 19, 2010. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

A press release posted on your website is not a press release. It’s an everybody release.

Seeing as we all seek out information by hitting the web – frequently using a search engine as our guide — you can bet people other than the press are discovering and reading your releases.

Most PR practitioners, however, still write press releases in a rigid format specifically aimed at reporters. It’s a style developed long before the web came into being and best suited to the printed page.

Press releases posted online should be in web style

News flash: Web content should be written for the way we read web content. Or rather, how we glance over web content. Studies show when we first hit a web page we scan it. Our eyes skip around looking for clues to see if the page has information we can use. If it takes too long to figure out we hop off and scan elsewhere.

This applies to all areas of a website. Including the press section.

Press releases as information, plain and simple

OK, this is not groundbreaking news: Jakob Nielson, a pioneer of web usability, has beaten this drum for years. He’s posted numerous articles on the subject, including How Users Read on the Web.

Still, even companies that follow good web style elsewhere on their website often disregard it in the press area.

That’s a mistake. Usability studies by Janice (Ginny) Redish — as noted in her excellent book Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works — show the general web user is confused (and even frustrated) by traditional “wall-to-wall text” press releases that appear online.

And so, with hat tips to Nielson and Redish, here’s a handy list of guidelines for writing press releases for the web.

Best Practices: Writing Press Releases for the Web

1. Write short paragraphs

Keep it concise. Nielson suggests having one idea per paragraph.

2. Increase scanability with subheads in bold type

Subheads give instant clues about the full content of the release. Readers can know right away if the content is of interest, or not. Suggested length for headings is eight words or less.

3. Break up information with bulleted or numbered lists

Bullets act as graphical elements that stand out from blocks of text. Our eyes are naturally and psychologically drawn to lists with brief chunks of information.

4. Display data in tables and graphs

It’s difficult to digest lots of data rendered in paragraph format. You’re better off putting this information into tables and graphs that are more readily understood.

5. Use the same template as other informational pages

As noted, the general public does not make a distinction between press releases and other useful web content. A press release should have the same look and feel as other informational pages on your website.

6. Include hyperlinks and external documents for additional information

Provide more value to a release by linking to other areas of your site with related information.

If you need to go into more depth with statistics or research findings, create and post documents with these details. Write the press release as a summary fact sheet and put links to these documents in the release.

7. Include keywords

Use language that appeals to your customer base. Put special emphasis on terms and phrases someone might use to find your product or service through a search engine, a.k.a. keywords.

8. Be mindful of who’s listed as the company contact

Typical press releases list the person in your public relations/communications department who wrote the release as the contact for additional information. But is this the right person to respond to queries from the general public? And what happens when this PR flack leaves your company? Do you go back and changes all the releases?

Once a release is posted on the web you may want to list your main PR office number, and identify it as such, to better field calls that come in response to the release.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think? Comments welcome.

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How To Benefit From The Hispanic Marketing Opportunity

Posted on March 8, 2010. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

As a marketer, would you neglect a fast-growing consumer group with an estimated $1 trillion in buying power?

No way, you say?

You may be doing so without even realizing it.

In which case, you’re on par with about half the Fortune 1000 companies

Marketers miss out on the Hispanic community

Orci, a Los Angeles-based agency, recently conducted a survey of marketing and advertising executives at Fortune 1000 businesses. The survey indicates 51% of respondents do not specifically market to Hispanics or Latinos — the fastest growing ethnic population in the U.S.

Meanwhile, most of these same execs agree that Latinos will impact U.S. companies’ product and service offerings in the next five years, particularly in food tastes, fashion and technology.

Hmm… sure looks like an opening for savvy marketers to seize on.

Time to focus on the opportunity

Orci’s survey is timed to tie into the 2010 census, which is projected to show 50 million Hispanics live in the U.S.

CEO Hector Orci commented on his agency’s research in an article titled Latinos are a Driver of Business: Which Companies Will Take the Ride?, where he laments, “We feel like we’re in a time warp.”

Still, he reckons, “Rather than shake my head at the findings and talk about how I wished American businesses had changed over the last 20-30 years, I suggest we focus on the bigger story: the opportunity.”

Orci goes on to dispel certain notions about Hispanic habits: “What does it say to us when El Paso is the texting capital of the U.S.? Time to dispel myths about Latinos and the so-called digital divide. When Hispanics are the heaviest users of wireless through mobile phones and laptops, there is no divide.”

Guidelines to consider when marketing to Hispanics

Now maybe you’re a local business in an locale where few Latinos reside. Or perhaps you’re a niche business where this type of segmentation isn’t relevant.

Fair enough. Still, for many businesses there’s an untapped market here. And don’t forget social media — Orci claims nearly 80% of Latinos “engage in some kind of online socializing.”

Of course, you’ll want to do planning and strategizing. Here are a few points to consider:

  • Be aware one size does not fill all. Preferences for Latinos hailing from Mexico may differ from Latinos native to South America. You’ll want to determine who makes your market and create campaigns specific to those populations.
  • Hire an agency or consultant that understands and speaks the language of the specific target segment(s) you aim to reach. That way you stay aware of cultural nuances and can avoid creating campaigns that may be perceived as culturally offensive.
  • Meet your market via its preferred media. Target the publications, TV/radio stations, websites and social media favored by your Hispanic communities.

I’ll close with another quote from Hector Orci. It offers as good a reason as any to pay attention to this demographic: “At a time when American businesses are fighting to regain market share, the opportunity to effectively engage the Hispanic market as a growth strategy is just too compelling to ignore.”

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of the survey cited here? Does your business take advantage of the Hispanic market? Please share your thoughts.

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