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Turning Employees into Real Insiders

One of the biggest, most unexploited markets are the employees who work for organizations that communicate badly with them.

Poor communications can contribute to low morale, role confusion and disregard for management goals. Worse, poor communications can negate a company's home field advantage. The people with as much to gain as brand zealots are left applauding with one hand.

Communicating with employees through third-party sources, intentionally or unintentionally, is the worst no-no. If employees read about news that affects them directly in the newspaper or on a blog, they understandably will be upset and wonder, "Why didn't my management think it was important to tell me first?" It's a great question.

Confusing or contradictory messages also peeve employees. If management assures workers their jobs are secure, then tells market analysts or business partners that jobs will be cut, employees will come to doubt what they are told — and not just about job security.

In most cases, employees want to feel like insiders, to be in the know, to be advocates. Internal communications play a huge role in treating employees as partners in the enterprise.

For larger companies or ones with multiple lines of business and locations, a well-packaged, informative intranet makes sense. The intranet site can unify the organization by showing how all the parts fit together. The site can be a repository for company materials, such as logos and templates for proposals. Frequently asked questions can be answered, management goals explained and outstanding employee achievements celebrated.

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"Pink Slime" Gets Second Chance for Explanation

If you add chemicals to your product, be prepared to answer questions from consumers, regulators and the news media.

That's advice from Ron Hanser, head of a Des Moines, Iowa-based PR firm that works with agribusiness clients and was interviewed by NPR for a story this summer about "pink slime." (Hanser & Associates was a partner along with CFM in the former Pinnacle Worldwide network). 

"Pink slime" was the inadvertent and unfortunate nickname given to a meat byproduct added to hamburger to make it stretch further. The nickname, which was coined offhandedly by a meat inspector, betrayed the product's origin as meat trimmings. The butchering leftovers were treated with citric acid to kill bacteria.

As the name caught on in the media, consumers reacted, prompting fast food restaurants and grocery chains to reject products containing what Cargill and other meat producers referred to as "lean, finely textured beef."

That was 2012, when ground beef cost $2.50 per pound. With beef prices on the rise — ground beef now averages $4 per pound, "pink slime" may be making a comeback. This time, its makers are better prepared to talk about it.

Meat processors are also in court pressing a defamation suit against ABC News for its use of the term, which processors say led to plant closures and layoffs by implying "pink slime" was unsafe.

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Where Can Color Take Your Brand?

Updated on Monday, August 25, 2014 at 11:44AM by Registered CommenterCFM team

Color can transport a brand from bland to Boom!

A great example is Sherwin-Williams, a brand that generated about as much excitement as watching paint dry. Now it's colorful TV ads have injected freshness and vitality into its paint products. Watching them is like looking through a kaleidoscope.

Airing on stations such as HGTV, where people are watching and imagining how to spruce up their tired kitchens or bedrooms, Sherwin-Williams ads feature expressive use of color and design. Their TV ads qualify as visual art and they have the same purpose as art – to fire the imagination of viewers. 

There are differences in paint quality, which matter. But the real puzzle consumers want to solve is what colors to choose to warm up rooms that are cold and stale. Sherwin-Williams turns its ads into invitations to plunge into its world of color and leave inhibition behind.

Sherwin-Williams isn't the first or last company that spins the color wheel to separate itself from its competition in a commodity market. Target staged a major turnaround, going from a disdained discount store to an attractive go-to shopping center by emphasizing color – on its walls and in its products. 

The explosion of color, it seems, is everywhere. Go to a sporting goods store and look at the wide spectrum of colors for T-shirts and yoga pants. Once the preserve of black, white and gray, sports apparel now comes in colors once reserved for neon signs.

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Free Drinks? Tell Me More

In the scramble to conquer social media, some marketers have forgotten the latent power of the out-of-favor direct mail letter.

Snail mail, disdained as old school, has ironically cleared out the mailbox for smart direct mail solicitations.

Portland Center Stage got it right in its recent letter pitching subscriptions to its upcoming season of shows. "Free drinks? Check. $30 tix for friends? Check. Monthly payment plans? Check. We offer all kinds of sweet perks for our season ticket-holders."

The letter goes on to list "10 things we'd like you to know about season tickets," including your own personal ticket agent, access to best seats and virtual valet e-service.

The letter even shares a "Fun Fact" – tickets are printed with heat, not ink. "We use a special thermal paper that changes color when exposed to heat. If you drag your fingernail across the ticket, it will generate enough heat to leave a faint line. Ooohhh. Even our tickets are magic."

The conversational, enthusiastic tone is matched by on-the-money information about the value of being a season ticket-holder. The letter isn't splashy. In fact, it isn't even illustrated. A mailer describing the PCS 2014-2015 lineup was enclosed. (Who wouldn’t be enticed by "The People's Republic of Portland," written by Lauren Weedman, a former "correspondent" on The Daily Show.)

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Great Websites Strike a Balance

Websites that balance simplicity with consistency are the most effective. Science says so.

Consistency is important from a usability standpoint. Website visitors bring certain expectations when visiting a typical website. According to a recent article on, “Prototypicality is the basic mental image your brain creates to categorize everything you interact with. From furniture to websites, your brain has created a template for how things should look and feel.”

That is why most websites in a particular category share a similar layout. When designing a website, be sure to research what others in your sector are doing. It’s important that your website feels familiar to users, especially in terms of where to find certain items.

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