Marketing PR

How to Make Your Thank You Stand Out

How to make your thank you stand out

Next time you want to make an impression, consider taking a cue from an earlier time. Send a handwritten thank you note. 

While it might seem old-fashioned, a handwritten thank you note can make an excellent impression. While it’s much easier to send a quick email or tweet, a thank you note cuts through the digital clutter. Think about the last time you received actual mail that wasn't clearly mass produced.

Here are a few tips to make your thank you note stand out. 

1. Create personal stationery: While it may be easier to purchase a box of thank you notes, having your own personalized stationery feels more genuine. One easy way to make personalized stationery is to divide a piece of paper into four sections using a program such as Apple Pages or Adobe InDesign. You can either print the thank you notes yourself or go through a professional printer. Be sure to see and touch an example before you purchase or print a large amount. Include your contact information on the stationery, as recipients are more likely to keep a handwritten thank you note. 

2. Use quality paper: Quality paper demonstrates a clear tactile difference. When selecting a paper, be sure to touch and feel it before purchasing. Many office supplies stores will allow you to bring your own paper to be printed. Paper Source is an excellent place to purchase high-quality paper for making your own personalized thank you note. 

3. Consider colored envelopes: Using colored envelopes is an easy way to make your thank you note stand out. Make sure you’ve already designed and printed your thank you notes so that you can select the correct size. If you’re planning on hand-addressing your envelopes, make sure the color is light enough to write on. Paper Source also an excellent source for high-quality colored envelopes. 

4. Make sure to actually write and send your thank you notes: This step might be the hardest of all: sitting down to actually write the thank you note. Designing stationery and selecting envelopes may be fun, but follow through is the most important step. 

Advice for Aspiring PR Pros

Dear PR Student:

The best advice for would-be PR professionals is to learn as much as you can about as many subjects as you can, starting with journalism.

The best advice for would-be PR professionals is to learn as much as you can about as many subjects as you can, starting with journalism.

Congratulations. You are embarking on a fascinating career ride in public relations. Here is some unsolicited advice that may come in handy.

1. Take journalism classes. You very likely will be asked to write press releases. You should know what it's like to receive one.

Understanding news media needs and demands puts you in a better position to help, not just send an email with a news release. The goal is to get your client's message into print, online or on air. Having first-hand knowledge of how news is identified, researched, prepared and delivered can guide when and how you approach reporters and editors, as well as what you serve up to them.

Volunteering to work for a student newspaper is a great way to get experience. It will ground you in basics such as Associated Press style and serve as a reminder of grammar. It also will force you to write with the reader, not a client, in mind.

2. Be a liberal arts student. PR clients come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Their needs will stretch your knowledge. There is no way to know in advance everything you will need to know. The best you can do is to learn how to learn — fast.

Luckily, that is what a liberal arts education is intended to provide. All those non-major requirements may seem like boxes to check en route to a degree. In fact, they are important way stations to widen your horizon, to open your mind to knowledge you may have had no idea how to acquire or assimilate.

Take a physics class. You will be surprised how valuable it can be in understanding new technology. Take an economics class so your client's business plan doesn't look like gibberish.

3. Learn the tools of the trade. One of the exciting dimensions of public relations is that it deals with an environment that changes at the speed of light. Ten years ago, designing and building a website was a rarity. Today it is an imperative. Five years ago, people thought social media was a fad. Now it is viewed as an important communication channel.

The PR world five years from now is likely to be very different. However, you won't be able to leverage what's new if you aren't rooted in what's worked for a long time. A great example is how to fashion an effective presentation. The software may change and the animation may be cooler, but the fundamentals of a presentation that does its job won't be all that different.

You may write on an iPad or dictate into your Google glasses, but solid writing transcends the tools. Knowing how to tell a story and basic principles of design, which are universal, are foundation skills you should develop.

4. Know your chosen profession's history. PR professionals in the future will face an increasingly complex set of challenges in choosing the best platforms and the most resonant channels. A knowledge of how PR professionals in the past innovated is invaluable.

The use of events, contests, third-party validation, outrageous stunts, clever ads, smart writing and guest columns were all new in their time. Study to see how these ideas evolved so you understand, with some helpful perspective, how you go from problem to solution with creativity and élan. You don't need to discover gravity or reinvent the wheel. You can learn from your peers how they did it, so you can do it, too.

The Overlooked Virtues of Direct Mail

Using direct mail can help you get into people's homes unlike any other communication tool or channel.

Using direct mail can help you get into people's homes unlike any other communication tool or channel.

Snail mail has gotten a bad reputation, even though it is often the most direct, cost effective way to deliver your message to someone's doorstep.

In fact, one of direct mail's primary virtues is that it goes to people's doorsteps, so you have a higher level of certainty someone will pluck it out of the mailbox and give it at least a cursory glance.

That is more than you can say for a TV ad people don't see while fast-forwarding pass it or a radio ad people don't hear while stopping to get gas.

Yes, many people don't read what comes in the mail. They quickly toss into the trash or recycling bin. But that's where creativity comes into play to catch someone's attention and persuade them to take a closer look.

One of direct mail's secret weapons is the ability to personalize the mailing. People tend to pay more attention when mail is addressed to them by name. Again, creativity is needed to use this moment to grab their eye, but you have this moment to work with, which is not always the case with other forms of paid media.

Another plus for direct mail is its familiarity. Going the mailbox is a routine. Opening mail, even junk mail, is usually a pleasant experience, except perhaps for bills that are due.

The formats for mail are also familiar. We recognize letters, postcards, brochures and flyers. Generally, we associate them with information. They tell us about important meetings, new restaurants or serious issues that affect us.

Unlike a TV or radio ad that is here now and gone, mail is, well, tangible. It is right thee in your hand. Direct mail is also fungible. You can read it now or read it later. You can even retrieve it from the trash. And mail doesn't shout at you, like the rabid-looking car salesman on billboards or late-night television.

Another virtue of direct mail is its shareability. Before Facebook and other social media, people shared mail. "Hey, did you see that postcard announcing a new development in our neighborhood?"

Marketing these days is all about segmentation. Direct mail is the best choice when you are trying to reach a geographic segment – a neighborhood, a part of a city or a region. Electronic media may boast about multiple impressions and a newspaper placement ad may have considerable reach, but only direct mail can target specific mailboxes

Online ads can be aimed at certain demographics or buying habits, but they can't force an interaction as personalized as opening a piece of mail. Direct mail also can be sent to targeted names on a database.

Direct mail is a great companion to larger marketing campaigns, especially ones involving contests or coupons. Success is easy to track because you can count entries or redeemed coupons.

Even with all its benefits, direct mail isn't the right answer to every marketing challenge. But it shouldn't be haughtily dismissed just because it relies on snail mail. Mailboxes remain one of the most constant and reliable channels to deliver your message.

Newsjacking Versus News Releases

Earning media coverage by constantly pitching stories, including ones with flimsy news value, can seem depressingly hard and frustrating. Try newsjacking for a refreshing change.

Newsjacking allows you to hop on a trending topic with your own spin or comment, delivering your key message in a powerful, unfiltered way.

Newsjacking is a concept coined by David Meerman Scott for jumping on a trending topic with your own spin or comment. The advantage of newsjacking is that you are hopping onto a freight train already moving. The benefit of newsjacking is that your pile-on can be more message-centric.

In the media relations world, you need to jump through hoops to gain the attention of reporters, who receive hundreds of story pitches and treat many of them dismissively. All those hoops can obscure the main point you want to get across in your earned media attempt.

The 2013 Super Bowl blackout resulted in two of the best known consumer brand newsjackings. Oreo tweeted that people should use the blackout as a timeout to indulge a childish delight by pouring a glass of milk and dipping the popular cookie sandwich. Tide improvised with a tweet that said, "We can't get your #blackout, but we can get your stains out." Both were retweeted thousands of times at a value of millions of dollars in exposure. Their highest value, however, was in the targeted message they delivered at a time when people were listening.

Waiting around for major events to newsjack isn't a very productive media relations strategy, so you need to develop and pitch stories. But newsjacking should be an element in your plan – and an example of how to think of opportunities to drive your message, not just rack up column inches or blog references.

It's worth recalling that Scott also encourages marketers to create their own publishing platforms. To be effective, these platforms need constant content feeding. It is a perfect place for the media release the boss made you send, but will never see the light of day. And it is the perfect place to add more exciting content – including your newsjacking tweets or events –  that might appeal to reporters, bloggers and your own consumers.

Self-publishing platforms are a smart choice in an era when consumers have become their own content editors. You need to package your content so they can find what they want, but you can give them a lot of piles to search.

And your clever newsjacking will act as a neon sign for the media, online influencers and consumers as they seek you out online at your always open publishing platform.

This will be much more effective than trying to plug weak stories, me-too comments or non-news.

Talking with Customers Not at Them

Nintendo company leadership (pictured here in puppet form) made the mistake of talking at their customers rather than with them during the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo.  

Nintendo company leadership (pictured here in puppet form) made the mistake of talking at their customers rather than with them during the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo.  

Talking directly to your customers is often a great way to tell your story. However, this approach can have unintended consequences.

Nintendo learned this lesson after an angry reaction from its customers following its presentation at the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). In 2013, Nintendo made the decision to forgo use of press releases to announce new offerings and instead communicate directly with consumers through pre-recorded video broadcasts. For the past two years, the broadcasts have been well-received. 

However, this year’s broadcast backfired and fans were very angry about Nintendo’s new game offerings. After more information about the games was released, the initial reactions started to soften, but some of the damage was already done. Here are three things that Nintendo could have done to prevent negative reactions from its fans. 

1. Allow for two-way communication
Communicating to your customers directly can be a great idea, but make sure that communication offers some form of two-way communication. It's important to talk with your customers, not at them. Nintendo’s pre-recorded video statement did not allow anyone – fans or journalists – to ask questions. If fans and journalists had the opportunity to ask questions, many initial concerns could have been assuaged, and Nintendo could offer more context. 

2. Give an exclusive preview to a small group
Also, with an interactive medium like video games, video trailers are not the best way to demonstrate what the experience of playing a video game is like. Nintendo might consider allowing a small group of bloggers and journalists to play the games prior to its announcement, with an agreement that they would not post their thoughts until after the broadcast. 
 
3. Perform research
While Nintendo is a creative company that offers unique products, the company sometimes seems hopelessly out of touch with what its fans actually want. The E3 offerings demonstrated a clear disconnect. Part of the miscommunication might be attributed to cultural differences since Nintendo is a Japanese company. However, if the company was better at testing its messaging with fans, it could avoid similar difficulties in the future. 
 

More to Segmentation than Age

Whole Foods Market announced a new chain of grocery stores aimed at younger, more price-conscious Millennials, but may have oversimplified its segmentation by overlooking the ageless ways it attracts food buyers.

Whole Foods Market announced a new chain of grocery stores aimed at younger, more price-conscious Millennials, but may have oversimplified its segmentation by overlooking the ageless ways it attracts food buyers.

No one denies we live in a segmented marketplace. But the segmentation may be a lot more complex than merely dividing us up by age, gender or geography.

As Katie Martell, writing for ragan.com, pointed out in a blog, Whole Foods Market managed to miss the demographic mark and diss other age cohorts with its announcement of a new chain of food stores designed especially for Millennials.

It is an example of oversimplifying segmentation.

Millennials are about to overtake Baby Boomers as the largest population segment, but they are hardly a monolithic group. To design a grocery store just for them may prove a tricky task.

What's interesting about Whole Foods Market is its broad appeal across demographic, geographic and even income groups. A CFM team spent an entire day at the Whole Foods Market in Seattle's University District. The diversity of customers, especially considering the relative prices for food, was astonishing. What drew people to the store – in some cases from miles away – was Whole Foods Market's  commitment to quality organic fruits, vegetables, meat and seafood.

We interviewed housewives, professionals on their lunch break, a mailman and college students. What they bought and how much they spent varied, but their reasons for coming were pretty much the same. The mailman, who drove to the store from many miles away, called it "inconvenient quality."

Several of those we interviewed joked about the chain's unofficial nickname of "Whole Paycheck." But that didn't deter them from shopping at the store.

The winning pitch our team made to provide PR for the first Whole Foods Market store in Portland was titled, "It's all about the food." Fresh. Reliably sourced. Artistically displayed. Those aren't qualities limited to an age group. They appeal to a wider span of people.

In announcing its new store concept, Whole Foods Market talked about appealing to "tech savvy" consumers and offering lower-priced products in a more streamlined store format. Being tech savvy has almost nothing to do with selectivity of what you eat. Food consumers who value an all-organic store are willing to pay a premium price, but still shop for "bargains." Many grocery stores can be ponderous, but Whole Foods Market has a format that is easy to shop and which has been widely copied by other grocers.

As a regular Whole Foods Market customer (and a non-Millennial), I see the chain's greatest challenge as remaining different as competitors emulate what it offers. We drive out of our way to buy meat and seafood at our favorite Whole Foods Market, but make another trip to a nearby New Seasons to buy produce and fruit.

The Whole Foods Market we patronize offers a "tech savvy" Instacart option, where you can call in your order and pick it up and pay for it at a designated check-out line. It's a great, convenient option, but not a substitute for personally looking at the meat and seafood counters for the freshest, most appealing choices and for seasonal specials.

So far, I've never seen anyone checking out at the Instacart line. But I've stood in line at the meat counter along with people of all ages.

Unusual and Outrageous Keys to Earned Media

Carl's Jr. leveraged its brash brand personality to earn scads of media coverage, including a live segment on the Today show, on the introduction of its belly-busting "barbecue in a bun" burger.

Carl's Jr. leveraged its brash brand personality to earn scads of media coverage, including a live segment on the Today show, on the introduction of its belly-busting "barbecue in a bun" burger.

The value of earned media is to tell your story inside the news hole, not in the boundaries of advertising space. There is no better example of effective earned media than the promotion this week of Carl's Jr. Thickburger.

Brash is part of the band personality for Carl's Jr. Playing off that brash image, it introduced what it calls an entire barbecue in a bun – an oversized burger, accessorized with tomato, lettuce, pickle, ketchup, cheese, hot dog and potato chips. This puppy weighs in at 1,030 calories and 64 grams of fat.

Since the earned media opportunity was spun out, news outlets have stumbled over themselves to report this belly-busting burger. Stories with pictures of the plump burger appeared in USA Today, the Huffington Post and major daily newspapers.

The anchor team on NBC's Today show did a segment where four cast members talked about, then took a sloppy bite from the burger, which the PR team from Carl's Jr. just happened to provide. The value of this kind of exposure is, let's just say, worth a whole lot more than the $5.79 price tag for the Thickburger.

Anyone who has seen a Carl's Jr. TV ad knows they are outrageous-bordering-on-gross. People chomp into a large burger, dripping sauce all over themselves. The Thickburger earned media campaign employs the same outrageousness. That's what makes it "news."

Come out with a hamburger with bacon and you will get a yawn from news editors and producers. Slap on a hot dog and there is instant interest. The hot dog may taste sort of like bacon, but it's a hot dog. You know, at barbecues, you get a choice between a hamburger and a hot dog. Now, you don't have to choose.

You also don't have to worry about where on your plate to juggle your potato chips. They are in the bun, too.

When many fast food restaurants are wrestling with how to offer healthier fare, Carl's Jr. goes for the jugular – or a coronary artery. There is no hemming and hawing about calories or fat. Carl's Jr. puts it out there proudly, not defensively. And the chain calls the Thickburger "all American."

The outrageous doesn't always work for brands or idea merchants that initiate earned media campaigns. The lesson isn't about outrage; it's about breaking through the noise barrier with something that is different, catchy or unexpected. It's also about "news" that can have an extended life through social media, the stuff people read and share.

The unusual and the outrageous can earn media you don't have to pay for from your advertising budget. But don't avoid earned media just because your product, service or idea isn't unusual or outrageous. You can create an appealing news hook by finding what's truly different and building your earned media pitch around it.

Tuning Content for Your Audience's Ear

Content marketing is more than blasting content through a megaphone. It involves finding out what your audience wants and giving it to them.

Content marketing is more than blasting content through a megaphone. It involves finding out what your audience wants and giving it to them.

The secret to content marketing lies in knowing your audience, not someone's formula for success.

Neil Patel, writing for ragan.com, says too many content marketing initiatives go down in flames because they follow so-called best practices rather than the clues provided from target viewers.

"Take every best practice with a grain of salt. Do the one thing that matters: Know your audience," Patel urges. "Your form, method, frequency, length, style, approach, tone, structure, images should depend on what's best for your audience."

Content marketers are discovering what ad agencies have discovered – connecting with audiences requires more than shouting through a megaphone. Writing a blog that no one reads is just as much of a misfire as producing an ad that no one believes.

The "best practices" that Patel spears aren't necessarily bad practices to adopt. Snappy headlines, brisk copy, blogs, infographics all can be effective tools. But that's what they are – tools, not ends.

One clue to what your viewers are looking for is what they click on in your website. Typically, the most clicks are for team biographies and case studies. That suggests content centered on your team members and stories about your work.

Another way to ferret out what your viewers want is to ask them. Periodic surveys can combine a little fun with serious questions. This might lead to producing content, such as an informative Ebook, that responds to interests or needs that are expressed.

Tuning into online conversations is yet another way to hear what is on the minds of your audience. Creating content that follows – or bucks – trends could be a great way to capture attention.

One constant in content marketing that shouldn't be forgotten is the need to provide something useful. Usefulness could mean content that is entertaining, informative, relevant or eye-opening.

Another content marketing maxim is letting the form follow the function. Your content must be created, packaged and delivered so it arrives at the doorstep of your audience, whether that doorstep is a desktop, tablet or mailbox.

Many content marketing best practices have value and reflect track records of success. But Patel is right – they aren't where you start in designing an effective content marketing campaign. The place you start are the persons you want the message to end with – your audience.

Making Every Encounter Count

Make every customer encounter important by creating a magical moment. 

Make every customer encounter important by creating a magical moment. 

The Internet has changed the way people shop. It also has changed the way brands must interact with shoppers, treating each touchpoint with a consumer as a potentially magical moment.

Because it is easy to flit from one website to another, each encounter must count, says Scott Davis, director of insights and strategy at Sincerely Truman, a Portland creative agency. "The encounter is everything," Davis explains. "Catch people off guard and make them smile. Capture their heart, if only for a moment."

Of course, it wouldn't hurt if your encounter also involved transmitting relevant information, useful tips or to-die-for offers.

Davis makes a good point that every encounter is important, so brands must consider every social media post, their website design and marketing content that inspires shoppers to pause and exposes them to what is uniquely your brand story.

Paid and earned media have always been aimed at creating impressions. Davis says a quality impression is more valuable than a number of so-so impressions. "Every touchpoint must be a powerful standalone encounter."

Thinking differently about consumer interactions means thinking differently about content. In mass outreach, the goal is to grab eyeballs. What Davis recommends requires capturing eyeballs.

There is so much advertising on TV, in print and via the Web that it takes more than flash to create a durable impression, let alone to cause someone to poke a little deeper into the content.

Developing this kind of mix of creative content demands solid research to understand consumer motivations and trusted information sources. Content packaging must be clever, but also a quick route to the core information being offered. The actual content must instantly resonate with the intended audience by offering something of value that uniquely reflects your brand.

This is a tall order for every touchpoint, but Davis' admonition suggests the reward is worth the effort. "You must be able to bank on every encounter creating value." he says. Because in the crowded world of the Internet, you never know when the next encounter might be.

Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock and Brands

Leonard Nimoy at first resisted being type-cast as Mr. Spock, but he came to realize that he and his iconic role were beloved – and his brand for life.  Photo by Beth Madison, via Wikimedia Commons.

Leonard Nimoy at first resisted being type-cast as Mr. Spock, but he came to realize that he and his iconic role were beloved – and his brand for life. Photo by Beth Madison, via Wikimedia Commons.

The late Leonard Nimoy wrote two memoirs with interlocking titles – "I Am Not Spock" and "I Am Spock." His literary works could be a case study in a marketing communications branding class.

Being type-cast in Hollywood is not always a good thing. Recognizing you are type-cast can be liberating. Nimoy became famous as Mr. Spock, the split-fingered Vulcan sage who could see logic in chaos. The role that catapulted him to fame became his cage, which he first rejected, but ultimately accepted.

The lesson behind Nimoy's transformation is that customers decide your brand, not you.

Rebelling against your "brand" is why many brand extensions often fail – e.g. Colgate TV dinners and Evian's water-filled bra. You are who your customers think you are, not who you think you are. The better known the brand, the more you are, well, type-cast.

When Nimoy came to grips with his situation and accepted his branding, he directed two of the six Star Trek movie take-offs. He lent his voice to a cartoon version of the popular TV series. And he branched out to photography, poetry and music.

Brands can expand if you stay grounded in what the brand is expected to be. Starbucks came up with a home coffee-making machine. Orville Reddenbacher sells ready-to-eat popcorn. Duracell offers a power mat for mobile devices. Nestlé Crunch teamed with the Girl Scouts to produce a cookie candy bar.

Much energy and expense is devoted to "branding." A good place to begin is asking your customers or clients to describe your brand. You may be surprised at what they tell you. If customers are unsure of what you do, you have one kind of branding problem. If they tell you what they like about what you do, you have a golden opportunity to keep doing it.

Make Your Messages Authentic and Audience-Centric

Make sure your message connects with your audience. 

Make sure your message connects with your audience. 

Many of us know what we want to say, but have little idea of how to communicate our message effectively to the audience we want to hear it.

Quantitative research can reveal what arguments play best with which audience. However, that doesn't always translate into how to frame the argument so it resonates, sounds authentic and is believable. Sometimes, it just boils down to saying something in a way that is clear, not confusing.

Message testing usually requires one or more forms of qualitative research that involve listening to how people who are from the target audience react to the words you use – and noting the words they use to express the point you are trying to get across.

Powerful ideas can be powerless unless they are rendered in meaningful, accessible ways for the audience to which they are intended.

You wouldn't talk about a medical procedure the same way with doctors and patients. Doctors would want and need to know more of the technical details. Patients want to learn about outcomes and side effects. The level, tone and content would vary greatly, even if you were talking about the exact same thing. That is how audience-centric communications works.

Marketing campaigns often stumble by focusing on what you want to say and not on how your words will be interpreted, if heard at all.

The first step in communicating with an audience is to know as much as you can about that audience. If you craft your message so that your audience can understand what you mean and place it in a communications channel where they pay attention, you stand a much better chance of actually communicating, not just shouting into the wrong end of a megaphone.

Going Negative is Bad PR

North Korea's threats against The Interview backfired and turned a silly satire into a cause celebre and a case study of why going negative is bad PR. [Credit – Reuters] 

North Korea's threats against The Interview backfired and turned a silly satire into a cause celebre and a case study of why going negative is bad PR. [Credit – Reuters] 

North Korea, perhaps unwittingly, has proven once again the danger of poking the eye of your opponent. The results often boomerang, giving what you despise the publicity it needs to succeed.

The Interview, the satirical movie about two journalists recruited to assassinate North Korea's Kim Jong Un, drew sharp rebuke from the isolated, often angry North Koreans, which was followed by the hacking of Sony Pictures' computer network. North Korea denied any involvement, but the hackers threatened terrorist acts if The Interview was aired in American movie theaters.

The threats, compounded by movie theater owners refusing to show the movie, aroused First Amendment sympathies from President Obama to the people who buy movie tickets. Before you knew it, The Interview was a cause celebre and streaming on iPads. All the North Koreans and the hackers accomplished was to embarrass Sony Pictures with leaked emails and to promote a picture that may have been a flash in the pan.

As a PR campaign, this may be without parallel. As a smart move, it may go down in annals as one of the dumbest.

It certainly is a neon reminder of the risks inherent in negative attacks. Veering from your own narrative to criticize is an open invitation for the attacked to respond. What you are doing is essentially laying down a red carpet for the other side to tell its story. 

Even if your criticism is warranted, the upshot of voicing it may not be worth the rush of righteous indignation you feel. [China dryly observed that while America values free speech, other countries don't. It might have added that countries like North Korea value suppressing information it doesn't like. In North Korea, no one was likely to see the movie anyway.]

The best advice is to stick to your story, even if the other side is taking shots at you. Once you turn negative, you lose control of your own story and that never is a good thing.

Getting Your Audience to Lean In

A great ending to a speech is only great if the audience is still listening. The most important part of the speech is a rapport-building beginning.

A great ending to a speech is only great if the audience is still listening. The most important part of the speech is a rapport-building beginning.

The first thing a speaker or presenter must do is establish rapport with his or her audience. Unless listeners are leaning in, they are likely to tune out.

Giving a speech or presentation requires careful preparation and practice. But even the best speech or clever presentation can fall flat if there is a gulf between speaker and audience. 

Bridging that gulf is what separates speakers from good speakers. It also is what distinguishes a speech you hear versus a speech you remember. 

Establishing speaker-audience rapport rests with the speaker. Even if you pay to hear someone, you expect the speaker to make the first move to create a bond, a reason for sharing time and mental energy together and a good excuse not to check smartphone messages.

Here are some tips on how to establish rapport with your audience:

Call out associations you have with the audience or members of the audience. 

Former HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson started his speech at the Portland City Club by briefly describing tours he had taken and recognizing people in the audience for their roles in the success stories he had seen. Thompson made a connection between himself and his audience that he underscored throughout his speech with examples from his Portland site visits. The speech was more than a decade ago and I can still remember how he opened it and his main points, especially his strong advocacy for public health. 

Tell a heartwarming story

Stories unite people. We instinctively lean in when someone is telling a story, especially a personal story that has emotional value. Stories personalize speakers by making them less like someone behind a podium or in front of a PowerPoint presentation and more like everyone in the audience.

Use self-effacing humor

Jokes can be dangerous. The safest application of humor is when you make fun of yourself. The key is to be self-effacing without appearing disingenuous. You also don't want to convey to your audience that you are a buffoon. Laughing at yourself can be disarming, all the more so if the punch line serves as a segue into the content of your speech or presentation. 

Touch an emotional nerve

Be aware of what's going on the world around you and, when appropriate, use a commonly shared emotion as a rapport-builder. Tapping into the emotions of an audience is tricky and demands a solid read on the audience so you draw them toward you in sympathy, not spark resentment or even disgust. But when done with the proper empathetic touch, it can be a powerful way to put you and your audience on the same page.

Many speakers devote a great deal of their energy finding the right ending. They should spend an equal amount of time figuring out how to start so their audience joins them on the journey, rather than taking an early detour.

Lowe Commercial Spawns Spat over Shyness

When using humor to make a point, brands must be careful to test their messages or risk offending their audience.

When using humor to make a point, brands must be careful to test their messages or risk offending their audience.

The flap over Rob Lowe's portrayal of a painfully shy cable TV subscriber underscores the problems with using humor to make a point. You are bound to offend somebody in the process.

Actually Lowe appears twice in the funny, but controversial ad — once as a suave DIRECTV guy and the other as a hapless, creepy guy who watches people at a swimming pool through binoculars or sniffs a woman's hair at the movies when his cable TV goes on the blink.

Steve Soifer, CEO of the International Paruresis Association, expressed displeasure with the ad that shows the shy, unattractive Rob Lowe having trouble urinating in public.  According to the group's website, 7 percent of the population or 21 million Americans suffer some form of social anxiety, referred to as Pee-Shy, when voiding in a crowded place. 

You would have thought the YMCA or moviehouse owners would have complained. But instead it was from advocates on behalf of people with shy bladders, which just goes to show that what somebody thinks is funny is someone else's life distress. Marketers need to think twice about using stereotypes in their marketing materials for just this reason.

There are a lot of ways to be humorous and make a point without offending. Like K-Mart's "Ship My Pants" or Doritos' "Fashionista Daddy" ads.

One PR analyst says DirecTV may enjoy a boost for its ad because of the flap. But that isn't a long-term strategy for building brand goodwill.

Humor can be a powerful way to entertain and inform. But the humor needs to be tested and retested to avoid unintended victims and unwanted publicity.

Letting Your Weird, Creative Side Shine

Many young people have deserted Facebook for photo-sharing on Instagram. For brands trying to appeal to a younger demographic, Instagram is the place to be.

In the land of selfies, it takes clever marketing to score on this photo-centered social media platform. Instagram also involves more than simple sharing or "likes." It appeals to people who like to engage and be part of something.

For example, a music group called The Vaccines asked its Instagram users to take photos at shows and festivals to crowd source a music video. Others have employed Instagram for online fundraising, using fetching photos to tell the story about the fundraising recipient.

Instagram isn't for everybody. If you and your customers like to produce and read lengthy white papers, choose another channel. But it you can let creative side loose, Instagram can be a fun and informative avenue to activate your audience.

Content Marketing + Savvy Promotion

Great content is hard to produce, but will go for naught without hard-headed promotion to reach the intended eyeballs of your customers or clients.

Great content is hard to produce, but will go for naught without hard-headed promotion to reach the intended eyeballs of your customers or clients.

Effective content marketing requires producing the content, then promoting it through a variety of channels. The art is knowing what to write and the science is knowing how and where to promote it, says Intel content strategist Luke Kintigh.

Like it or not, 90 percent of viewership comes from 10 percent of the content. Some pieces are winners and some just trot along for the ride. Kintigh argues for a promotional strategy of placing your bets on the winners who show the best promise of attracting clicks.

According to a story by Russell Working, writing for ragan.com. Kintigh's strategy has tripled page views of Intel's iQ online magazine over the last year.

Like many other smart brands, Intel has turned to content marketing, using the online magazine as its thought leadership platform. iQ contains a wide array of stories about how technology is transforming everything from health care to craft beer. Intel pays to promote its content.

Many companies and nonprofits lack the financial resources of an Intel or a Microsoft to produce and promote compelling content. But the lessons from the big guys still apply. Good content and savvy promotion can pay dividends.

Not every piece you write will be a big hit. That doesn't mean the piece is worthless if it demonstrates your expertise or grasp of a complex situation. A piece like that only has to be read once by the right person to pay off.

Regardless whether your content is read by thousands or just a few, promotion is critical to make sure the right eyeballs see it. That's why you need to know where your customers or clients are paying attention to relevant content.

When you aren't able to produce enough content to fill an online magazine, it pays to focus on what you know and what your customers or clients need to know. Utility is the golden rule of content marketing.

Tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Reddit are no-cost ways to put some social media spin to your content. Direct email works, too. When you have something really special to share, putting a little advertising money behind it can give it an online boost.

The key takeaway – producing content is hard, but it is a fool's errand unless it is combined with hard-headed promotion so your content reaches the audience for which it is intended.

Compelling Corporate Storytelling

Microsoft Stories, "An inside look at the people, places and ideas that move us," is an excellent example of corporate storytelling.

The website looks and feels like an online magazine. It is actually a collection of corporate stories made to look like an online magazine. It is content marketing designed to give Microsoft staffers a face and Microsoft customers an entertaining experience.

The key "message" is subordinated to storytelling. Readers are engaged, not just message targets.

One of the featured stories is a profile about Kiki Wolfkill (her real name), who is in charge of the "Halo" video game, which has gone from a first-person perspective to an immersive world where players consume and create the game as they play. 

We learn through the profile, written and laid out in magazine style, that Wolfkill combines her talent as an artist with her thirst for speed as a racecar driver to stimulate her design adrenalin. By the end of the piece, you would like to talk to Wolfkill over one of her Asian fusion home-cooked meals.

A video game has gone from a game to a face. 

Other stories describe how five young technologists, who were finalists in Microsoft's Challenge for Change program, visited the Amazon, a former NFL player uses technology to battle ALS and a computer scientist splits​ his time between developing software and making wine. You even learn the Seattle Seahawks mascot doubles as a Microsoft demo whiz.

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.

Intranets
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.

Where Can Color Take Your Brand?

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.

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.)