CFM Marketing PR

Package Your Information Like a Gift

Make sure your information is a gift your customers can't wait to open. 

Make sure your information is a gift your customers can't wait to open. 

Everyone likes to receive gifts, especially when they are packaged neatly with a card and wrapped in brightly colored paper and a pretty ribbon. You should think about packaging information the same way.

It’s not just about making things look pretty. The way you present your information directly impacts how likely your target audience is to hear what you're saying. You can make your information inviting by following the basic steps of wrapping a gift.

  1. Pick the right size box – The size of the box should match the amount of information inside. While little kids get excited about big packages, most people appreciate a box they can get their hands around. Some of the most excited reactions come from opening small, ring-size boxes. Skillful editing will help your viewers focus. Only include your most interesting informational gems and put aside less important items. 
  2. Choose your paper and ribbon carefully – Don’t forget about the visual way you present your information. Make sure the layout you choose draws in your audience. A bright headline and smart copy also attracts attention. You want to make the wrapping so inviting that viewers cannot resist opening your package right away.
  3. Protect the contents in the box – Just as you would place protective material to secure a gift, surround your valuable information with supportive material – links, video, SlideShares, podcasts and images. You want your gift recipients to rush to open the box, but to notice the care by which you packaged it. Providing supportive materials makes it easy for them to go back and find useful context or more deeply layered information.
  4. Deliver the package in person – While it is fun to see a package waiting by your front door when you arrive home, nothing compares to the impact of a friend handing you a gift. Building a relationship with your customers means they are hearing from a friend, not a stranger. Further personalize your information-sharing, through including a personal greeting, customized content or an offer for interactivity.
  5. Give a gift that's useful – The gifts that are most welcome are ones that fill a need. Make your information useful and relevant to your audience. Engaging your audience regularly will ensure you know what is at the top of their wish list. 
  6. Make your gift a party – Gifts are most fun when they are given at a party. Create some excitement around your information with an event, a contest or a milestone celebration. 

As with any gift, it really is the thought that counts. Always keep your customers in mind when creating and packaging your information. 

Your Relevance is Your Message

Effective websites are publishing platforms that allow you to post content of interest to your customers or clients and build a relationship with them.

Effective websites are publishing platforms that allow you to post content of interest to your customers or clients and build a relationship with them.

If you wonder whether it is time to mix things up on your corporate website, you probably missed the memo about keeping your website mixed up all the time.

Effective websites stopped being electronic brochures a long time ago. Now they are publishing platforms that allow you to post content of interest to your customers or clients and build a relationship with them.

Put more directly, you should be adding fresh material to your website continuously to give your audience a reason to keep coming back. This is true regardless whether you are marketing a product or providing information about a complex public issue.

Good websites often resemble blogs. In fact, some websites have morphed into blogs. Other websites have become online newsrooms. Still others are similar to Ebooks, with a storytelling theme and look and feel.

Content is more varied and visual. It includes photos, videos, charts, screenshots and infographics. Think of the difference between National Geographic and the TV Guide.

Instead of just the facts, many websites convey a brand personality or the personalities of service providers.

All of the content is aimed at the singular objective of engaging your viewers, answering their questions and offering useful information. It is less about you and more about them. Your relevance becomes your message.

If you are reaching out to customers or constituents on a regular basis, then you should be thinking about your website constantly. A website isn't a marketing panacea, but it should be the core of your marketing plan, the place you invite people to come to see what you have to offer. It should be a place they find appealing and enticing enough to return again and again.

How Wonder Woman can help pump you up for your big moment

Power Posing can help you feel like a superhero.

Power Posing can help you feel like a superhero.

The pressure is on. Whether it’s an interview or a presentation, your palms are sweaty and your voice is shaky.

Don’t just stand there. Strike a pose. Just make sure it’s a power pose.

In her powerful TED talk Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy talks about how emulating Wonder Woman doesn’t just change your mindset, it changes your body chemistry.

A power pose is one where your body language is open and looking powerful. There is the classic, CEO feet on the desk pose, as well as the victory pose with your hands spread in a large “V” above your head. The opposite is the low power pose. Your body is hunched down and curled up.

Cuddy’s research had one group assume a power pose for two minutes and the other a low power pose. After just a two-minute "high power pose," the risk tolerance of the high-power posers increased, while the risk tolerance of the low-power posers reduced.

“This, the researchers found, was the result of a profound change in body chemistry. Testosterone is the "dominance" hormone,” said Cuddy. “After a mere two-minute pose, the testosterone levels of the "high power" posers rose 20 percent. Testosterone levels for the "low power" group, meanwhile, fell 10 percent.”

So should you walk into your next presentation and put your feet up on the table? No, but while waiting for your big moment, find a private place and power pose for a few minutes. You will be amazed at the difference it makes.

“Sneaky” Crisis for Sandwich Chain

Would you like to snack on a sneaker? Or a yummy yoga mat? Sandwich chain Subway recently responded to customers who spoke out against the the company’s use of a food additive, which is also used to make sneakers springy.

Customers took to social media to protest the delicious sounding azodicarbonamide after being prompted by popular blogger Vani Hari of Foodbabe.com. Hari tried traditional customer service channels first, but ultimately used her blog to encourage readers to use social media to speak against the sandwich chain’s use of the additive. Hari’s petition quickly garnered thousands of signatures.

Hari was very skilled in how she crafted her message. By relating the additive to sneakers and yoga mats, she developed a concise, sticky message that was able to spread virally.

There’s a Nap for That

Got a big presentation coming up? Need to increase your alertness? There is a nap that can help.

Personally, I’m a fan of the NASA nap. It’s short and highly effective. All you need are 26 minutes. NASA scientists found that this short nap can increase alertness by 54 percent.

Matching the right type of nap to your desired result is important. Napping for the wrong amount of time can cause a sleep hangover, negating any of the nap’s amazing benefits. The 30 minute nap should be avoided at all costs.

If you have a bit more time, the 60-minute slow-wave nap can be a great way to increase your ability to remember places, faces and facts. This can be especially helpful before a big presentation.

Turning a Target Audience into a Persona

You are well advised to understand what makes your target audience tick. But connecting with your intended audience requires talking to them as people, not targets.

The advice we give is to identify your customer persona, even creating an image of who they are, what they look like and where they hang out.

If you use digital devices, you are aware that data miners are digging for information about you to customize the ads and opportunities they present to you. There is nothing wrong with that, but it isn't a substitute for a content marketing approach that digs deeper.

One of the most important places to start in the conversion of a target audience into a customer persona is examining why a customer would care about your product or service. What problem in their lives does it solve? How would it make life easier or more convenient for them? Why would they choose your product over other alternatives?

Wrestling with these questions, which requires more than a statistical assessment of website clicks, is what generates a customer persona.

Social Media Manager is Dead-End Job

With social media becoming an ever-increasing part of communications strategies, how can a position dedicated to managing social media be already on the way out?

The answer to that is easy and predictable. Social media never was — or should have been — an end in itself. It is just another tool, a cool one at that, in your integrated communications toolkit.

Social media is the perfect answer for some marketing and issue management needs and a non-starter for others. Just like TV ads, billboards and direct mail.

In the marketing PR world, the right answer isn't what service you sell; it is the tool or tools that get the job done.

Think of social media in the same light as websites. Not that long ago, websites were rarities as part of communications strategies. Now, it is rare to find a communications plan that doesn't call for a website. Social media is following a similar pattern. It is becoming a staple in most communications strategies. But it usually is just a part of the strategy.

Briefing the CEO

CEOs are busy people who don't have or take the time to prepare for important communications assignments, which is where the trusted briefer comes into play.Many occasions call for the CEO to speak on behalf of his or her organization. While communication skill levels vary, it is essential for CEOs to be briefed so they avoid dumb mistakes that can occur because of hubris, carelessness or simply a lack of preparation.

Men and women who reach the top perch get there in part because of strong egos. But an ego isn't a substitute for thoughtful preparation, whether the occasion is to announce a layoff, new product or reorganization. Even impromptu moments with employees, customers or stakeholders demand forethought. 

Smart CEOs recognize the need for a little help and don't view briefings as demeaning. CEOs are supposed to be focused on organizational strategy and high-level outreach, so there is nothing humiliating about some coaching on how to deliver a talk or make appropriate comments.

Becoming Intimate with Your Buyer Persona

Marketers obsess about target audiences. They really should focus on becoming intimately familiar with their buyer personas.

A buyer persona is human-scale profile of who buys your product or service, how they buy it and why they buy it.

Shaping marketing appeals to a buyer persona requires a sharp pencil, not a kid's crayon. It's the difference between thinking how to persuade Joe, a recent college graduate who lives with roommates, drives a clunker and is looking for Ms. Right, to buy your new beer, as opposed to thinking in terms of appealing to 21 to 25 year olds who have attended college.

If your marketing compass is a personality instead of a statistic, you have a better chance of making a connection. You can expand the kind of research you conduct from quantitative research of 21- to 25-year-olds to observation of real-life Joes in search of the perfect beer. 

The buyer journey is easier to discover and understand when you trace the footfalls of actual people. You begin to see predictive factors to behavior that are clues to where to place your marketing messages and how to design your website. You learn when and how to engage your customer.

Tips for Brand Journalists

Brand journalism is all about feeding your viewers content that interests or informs them, rather than writing a string of press releases about what you want to tell them.

For many PR and marketing professionals, especially those who never worked on a college student newspaper, brand journalism can be uncomfortable. Training to develop and deliver key messages must give way to reportorial instincts about story hooks, absorbing stories and visual storytelling. You don't push, you reel in. You don't hype, you engage.

For the journalistically challenged, here are some brand journalism tips: 

1. Think stories, not press releases

Reporters and their editors think in terms of stories. What's happening that is newsworthy? What would our readers or viewers like to know? Brand journalists should ask the same kinds of questions to determine what kind of content to post on a website or a blog. Understanding brand consumers and their expectations is critical to producing stories that will capture their interest and make them repeat clickers. Social media guru Jay Baer stresses the importance of "youtility" in brand journalism content. Tell stories that matter to your viewers.

2. Package your content for ease of access

Print, electronic and digital media package their content so it is easy for readers and viewers to find what they are looking for fast. ESPN divides its dense website into different sports. Newspapers have different sections, dividing national news from local news and business news from entertainment news. Television stations have different anchors for news, weather and sports. In addition to ease of access, packaging also is designed to expose as much content as possible. There is a reason why the sports page is usually deep inside the paper and the sports report is at the end of the news broadcast. Brand journalists need to employ similar packaging techniques to make their content accessible and expose as much of it as possible.

3. Behave like a photojournalist

Your website and blogs need what journalists call "good art." People like pictures and video. Reporters today, even for print and web-based publications, are asked to tote around cameras or camcorders. This harkens back to the days when reporters, especially those working for small daily and weekly newspapers, served in the role of photojournalists. They covered the stories and conducted the interviews while keeping an eye out for visual opportunities. My personal photojournalism gem was a picture in Portland Angeles showing a mile-long line of log trucks carrying single, huge logs cut down from an old-growth forest. The picture ran with no story. None was needed. As the hundreds of reader comments noted, it was a picture for the history books. Brand journalists need to look for pictures for the history books that tell stories and captivate viewers. 

Paula Deen: Deep-Fried Toast

You know you are in deep-fat trouble when a pork producer drops your celebrity contract. For Paula Deen, it is the latest fallout from her fall from grace after admitting to uttering racial slurs.

The Food Network dropped Deen's cooking show, which catapulted the queen of deep fry into national prominence, and now Smithfield Hams has signed her off at its spokesperson.

"Smithfield condemns the use of offense and discriminatory language and behavior of any kind. Therefore, we are terminating our partnership with Paula Deen," said a company statement.

Deen posted two online videos (the second was a do-over) apologizing for past "mistakes," while her company publicist explained, "She was born 60 years ago when America's South had schools that were segregated, different bathrooms, different restaurants and Americans rode in different parts of the bus, This not today."

At least the publicist understands the problem — that's how the world was 60 years ago, not now. Deen gave an interview in 2012 where she inexplicably defended the merits of slavery.

And so we have yet another case study of self-immolating a brand.

This isn't the first time Deen has been in boiling water. She took heat last year for belatedly admitting she was diabetic after years of promoting carb and cholesterol food bombs. She told an interviewer she didn't plan on letting her diagnosis — or the calorie count of her recipes — interfere with how she wanted to eat.

The Science of Picking a Name

Washington State University researchers call it a germplasm repository. Reporters quickly dubbed it a honeybee sperm bank.

A product or service name is key to a target audience's recognition. With all due respect to WSU researchers, few people would know what a germplasm repository is. Most people wouldn't exactly understand what a honeybee sperm bank is, but they certainly understand what it is all about. Moreover, the name's cleverness adds to its attraction.

It would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall during the discussion over naming Dave's Killer Bread. The logo for this marvelous, great-tasting organic bread tells the story — it has the word "Killer" inserted into the logo, almost as an afterthought.

In fact, it wasn't an afterthought, but a clever ploy to distinguish the new bread line from other premium breads. The word "Killer" was a not-so-subtle reference to Dave Dahl's criminal past, as well as a prominent adjective to describe the bread's texture and taste.

However, chances are good that somebody in the room brainstorming the name thought adding the word "Killer" would be too risky. The success of the bread suggests it would have been riskier not to include "Killer." 

Google is testing the use of balloons drifting in the stratosphere to provide Internet connections in remote, unserved areas of earth. The improbable experiment involving a flock of solar-powered balloons seems at first blush laughable and foolish. Thus Google's choice of a name – Project Loon.

The Art and Engineering of Information Design

Well-designed information aimed at a target audience combines right-brain and left-brain skills. It is a mix of artistry and engineering.

Designing information requires the precision of knowing what a specific audience is looking for and where that audience will look for it. Information design also requires the creativity of simplifying and packaging the message so it is striking and irresistible to view.

Connecting with a target audience isn't an accident or coincidence. It takes a strategic approach that includes solid research and a blank slate. Information designers leave their biases at the doorstep and let their audience's preferences guide what they say, how they say it and where they say it. This is the engineering dimension of information design.

Once information designers know the what, how and where of their messaging, they need to ignite their creative fires to produce the communications tools that do the job. That may involve devising a tantalizing tagline, showing a stark contrast or telling a story with a picture. The message may come in a blog, video or advertisement. The only rule of thumb is to make a connection between your brain and the brains of your audience.

It sounds profoundly simple to design information for a particular audience. In reality, it is remarkably hard. 

It is hard, in part, because we don't think about designing information. We think we know what our audience wants to know and we have favorite ways to share our message. That's better described as information indulgence.

Another information design obstacle is the fear you aren't creative enough to pull it off. In truth, you don't need to be a Photoshop wizard or graphic designer to design information effectively. There are many options for the creatively challenged to amaze and satisfy your audience. Those options range from stock photography, user-generated content, low-cost illustrators to desktop design programs, including the improbable PowerPoint, which may be the most intuitively easy graphic design engine around for everyday projects.

Rethinking the Press Release

Thinking of fresh story hooks and communications channels is better use of your time than word-smithing a press release, which won't run verbatim in major publications anyway.While some organizations waste time word-smithing a press release, wiser hands think of creative ways to entice coverage of their story by reporters and bloggers. Others just publish their own stories.

This doesn't mean the press release is dead. It just means there are a lot more options to look at besides grinding out a faux news story, with the obligatory and often gratuitous quote by the CEO.

Here are some options for story pitching:

Case Study of 'Show Me' Content

Two Portland teenagers want to engage young people on the issue of climate change by building a sustainable house and documenting the steps they take to lessen its carbon footprint. They want to show how everyone can make a difference on what the teens believe is the biggest issue facing their generation.

It is a perfect example of "show me" content.

Forest, 18, and Augest, 15, Endicott say they have secured a land donation for the house and have turned to Kickstarter to raise $395,000 to build it and document what they call an "EcoJuggernaut" journey to "uncover truths behind global warming and discover the actions that can deliver the greatest impact for solving it."

Describing themselves as "tenacious teens," they promise their Kickstarter investors a "front seat" on their "epic adventure to discover what it will take to stop global warming, and how the younger generation can lead the effort to actually reverse the current trends causing it." You also get a free T-shirt.

Forest and Augest say they will "research and investigate sustainable claims in their effort to discover for themselves, along with the audience, what sustainable technology, designs and simple steps can turn our buildings into energy preservers and generators." They will "apply what they discover with hands-on construction, by building a real home from the ground up, capable of producing more energy than it uses."

The Endicotts promise to "weed out greenwashing and eco-placeboes that too often take us down a road to nowhere." They also pledge to make the EcoJuggernaut "edgy, fun, suspenseful, hard-hitting, adventurous, inspiring, mind blowing, engaging, relevant and always real." A reality show with substance.