Why Great Isn't So Great

Under the “say what you mean and mean what you say” category, here’s another overused pet peeve word: Great. Defined as, “of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above the normal or average” or “a generalized term of approval.” We often see “great” used in the wrong context and, quite frankly, it’s a boring word.

Why not use instead: considerable, substantial, significant, special, exceptional, extraordinary, magnificent, impressive, awe-inspiring, grand, splendid, majestic, sumptuous, immense, wonderful, notable, incomprehensible, incredible, unbelievable, unimaginable, extraordinary, phenomenal, rare, sensational, spectacular, singular, uncommon, unique, unusual, conspicuous, notable, noticeable, outstanding, remarkable, impressive, smashing, striking, mind-bending, mind-blowing, mind-boggling, animating, energizing, enlightening, enlivening, exciting, galvanizing, invigorating, stimulating, alluring, attracting, attractive, beguiling, bewitching, captivating, charming, enchanting, entertaining, enthralling, fascinating, interesting, special, unequaled, amazing, astonishing, astounding, marvelous, eye-opening, fabulous, miraculous, portentous, prodigious, staggering, stunning, stupendous, sublime, surprising, wonderful, wondrous, incomprehensible, inconceivable, incredible, unbelievable, unimaginable, unthinkable, extraordinary, phenomenal, rare, sensational, spectacular, singular, uncommon, unique, unusual, unwonted, conspicuous, notable, noticeable, outstanding, remarkable, impressive, smashing, striking, mind-bending, mind-blowing, mind-boggling, animating, energizing, enlightening, enlivening, exciting, galvanizing, invigorating, stimulating, alluring, attracting, attractive, beguiling, bewitching, captivating, charming, enchanting, entertaining, enthralling, fascinating, interesting. 

Okay, we’re repeating ourselves. Time to stop and move on to something supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! 

Advertising ROI
When considering an advertising budget, you CAN start small. Some companies think they can’t effectively use advertising to drive traffic or sales because their budget is small…so they do nothing. It’s true that you get what you pay for and more impressions will cast a bigger net. However, the key to great results is in having a targeted campaign. Know your customer and reach only them. Don’t spend precious dollars on building awareness with people who are not going to buy or use what you are selling. An experienced agency can ensure you get the best possible ROI.

The ROI for Your Time

Recently we met with a new company. Their EVP is in charge of sales and marketing. He talked about their early success in selling their line to some top 100 retailers but they need more. As a new company, he recognizes they need to increase their visibility in the marketplace, so he is also handling their advertising, PR and trade media submissions. These tasks could easily be facilitated by an agency on an hourly basis. If getting more placements were critical to growing your business, how would you spend your time? What’s the ROI on your salary for doing PR work vs. face time with potential new accounts? As a new business owner, many years ago I came to realize that if I hired professional help for things like accounting and office management, I could spend my billable time growing the business. What’s the ROI on how you spend your day?

Twitter is About Conversation; Facebook is About Communication

Businesses often ask if they need both Twitter and Facebook. That depends. Are you prepared for conversation with your customers or do you want to communicate with them? Confused about the differences? Let’s start with the definitions.

Here’s a simple, concise definition for “conversation” from the American Heritage Dictionary:  “The spoken exchange of thoughts, opinions, and feelings; talk.”

That pretty well sums up Twitter for us. Yes, we know businesses need to have the “right” followers and a consistent brand message, that’s true of any public relations or advertising strategy. But, that’s meaningless if you are tweeting all by yourself. To have a productive Twitter experience, you need to be online when your followers are online so you can carry on a conversation. You are “speaking” with your tweets. And, hopefully, someone is speaking back. Then it’s your turn again. And so on. Twitter is a two-way street.

Now for “communication”: “The imparting or exchanging of information or news.” Yep. Facebook. Posts about information, news, fun facts, and more. You share. Your friends and fans share. Facebook does not require you to be online when your friends and fans are in order to communicate with them. You can post and then leave. Come back later. Communicate whenever you want. They’ll reply when they want. 

So, in a nutshell: You “talk” with others on Twitter; you exchange information on Facebook.

Public Relations: The Secrets Revealed - Part I in a Series of 4

As presented by Kathy Wall for WHFA at 2011 Las Vegas Market

Do you know the difference between good PR and advertising?

Public Relations: the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc.

What is PR?

• A method of promoting your company’s messages in a factual and beneficial style

• It lets thousands of readers know who you are, what you do and why it is important to them

• Positions your company as an industry leader

• Boosts your company’s visibility and credibility through a third person observation

Advertising: The act or practice of calling public attention to one's product, service, need, etc. To announce or praise (a product, service, etc.) in some public medium of communication in order to induce people to buy or use it.

PR vs. Advertising

• Coverage – Free vs. Paid

• Control – No control vs. Complete control

• Content – Newsworthy vs. Sales message

• Shelf Life – One time story vs. Repeat ads

• Writing Style – Non-commercial vs. Commercial

Why is PR important?

• It helps you gain exposure through interviews and profiles

• It helps the public understand who you are and what you do

• It conveys your message to your targeted audience

• It carries a message of implied endorsement and believability by the media that runs the story

Public Relations create awareness and educates.

Advertising builds brands and sells stuff.

Write it Right

• Research SEO keywords

• Speak the right language consistent with your brand

• Tell the story straight; do not embellish or “dance” around the truth

• Write in bite-sized chunks

Do’s…

• Be truthful

• Provide useful information

• Have a plan with a course of action

• Train your spokesperson

• Build relationships with local media

Creativity and the Committee
Many of the clients with whom we work spend an awful lot of time bringing their teams together for committee meetings. The theory seems to hold that lots of smart people’s ideas homogenized into a single, agreed-upon concept produces premium results and propels the company toward whatever goals it sets for itself.
 
The idea of consensus can be a good one.  It allows relatively competitive beings to establish a team dynamic (except in the case of Congress, which is a topic for another column), to neither win nor lose, but to accept something in between as preferable.  While I am sure great leaps for mankind have come out of committees, one venture is always lessened by the collective averaging of the group—creativity.
 
By its very nature creativity lives further on the edge, imagining new possibilities, engaging us with its energy and verve.  Creativity is not served by consensus.  It is brought down to its lowest common denominator, that tapioca-textured nothingness where it has to be agreeable to everyone, making it okay, alright, fine.  Creativity lives to move us, make us sit up and take notice, pique our interest.  How can it do that when it is hamstrung by those who would strip away its most exciting elements in order to avoid differing opinions?  “I love it!” and “I hate it!” are transmuted by consensus into “It’s okay.”
 
Whether you manufacture a product, provide a service, or develop new ideas, turn your creative people loose; let them reach a little farther, bring something to the consumer about which they will have some feeling. Have a point of view. Remember, being in the middle of the road usually means you’re going to get run over, probably from both directions.  Find your creative lane and get going.

A “Do” and a “Don’t” for Finding PR Services

We’re a full services agency comprised of women who love what we do. We have sat on both sides of the desk and are uniquely qualified to offer suggestions on how to conduct a search for PR assistance.

First...DO have a budget in mind. Often, prospective clients will say, “propose what you think we need.” We can chat with you just a bit and have some great ideas about how and what kind of PR initiatives can benefit you/your brand/company. But, we are often reminded of the Dilbert cartoon in which he says something like: “It will cost whatever you put in the budget. If we get a lot of money we can build something great.” Smaller budgets can (and do) net big rewards but clients also need to be cognizant of the adage, “You get what you pay for.” So, be prepared with at least a range. It’s counterproductive for us to spend time creating a proposal that is out of your ballpark, or worse yet, underwhelming because we based it on a low number when you were expecting to be wowed. Much better to tell us what you can spend and let us create a custom program around that number.

DON’T forget why you are seeking to use a PR firm. We get paid for our expertise, time, and ideas. We’ve spent decades working with the media and building relationships. We know what is newsworthy and how to position your brand accordingly. We need your timely interaction and the right collateral to support our efforts on your behalf. For example, we just lost a great opportunity for a client because they had no high-resolution images of their product and didn’t want to spend the money to have it photographed. No, we can’t “get by without it.” Trust us. That’s why you hired us in the first place.

A New Approach

In today’s competitive business climate and conservative spending, it’s more important than ever to know the triggers that will cause your customers to open their wallets. People are willing to spend (and they do) if you give them the right incentive at the right time. If the product or service is associated with a recognized brand, be sure you use the name and the logo right up front. Your product has to be good value, design, and price but the brand can make it great…and more appealing to shoppers.

Make sure your message appeals to your customer. A recent national survey illustrates the importance of knowing customer hot buttons.

The % that regard each factor as extremely important when considering the purchase of a new food, beverage, personal/household care product:

a. 57% provides better value for the money
b. 42% offers better quality
c. 40% is longer lasting, more durable
d. 34% simplifies my life
e. 33% offers a healthier option
f. 33% helps save time
g. 22% is made from all natural ingredients
h. 17% is innovative

It’s not rocket science. Be visible. Be consistent. Be important. Be what your customers want.

A New Year: The Right Marketing and Media Mix for 2010

Companies that have survived the great recession did so because they didn’t retreat into the shadows by slicing their marketing, advertising and PR budgets to zero. They understood (and understand) that “to make money, you have to spend money.” Yes, they were frugal in their spending. Most cut their budgets. However, they remain in business today because they know you can’t sit on the sidelines and simply wait for things to get better. 

So what are those companies doing to get ready for the slow but sure climb to economic recovery in 2010 and beyond? They are going to use multi-media advertising and public relations programs to be visible to their potential customers as pocketbooks and wallets begin to open. The American consumer will spend if we give them reasons. If your product and message are both relevant and top-of-mind you will get the sale. As we say (over and over), “people cannot buy what they don’t know about.”

What’s the best way to reach them? First, understand where they are. That’s where you want to be. Are your customers reading magazines, watching TV, surfing the net or going to sporting events? It’s not enough to know your customer demographics. Not every $55k household has the same lifestyle and spending habits. Local cable TV and regional magazines could be right for your target audience. Or not. Your potential customers may do most of their shopping online. Do you know? If not, find out. Second, understand the buying process. It takes much longer to cinch the sale of a sofa than it does a sweater. We know that home furnishings customers like to gather lots of information and most want to hold printed literature in their hands in addition to internet research.  Third, understand that there is no single “right” media vehicle. An integrated approach is the most cost and time efficient way to reach your customer. 

Last, but certainly not least, hire someone with marketing, advertising and PR expertise. Let your sales folks do the job of selling. Financial whizzes should handle forecasting, payables and receivables. Ditto, your product development people need to focus on new designs. Many company CEOs think they know how to buy advertising and write a good press release. But unless they have an agency or publishing background, most of them would be wrong. To reach out to your potential customers with compelling messages you need people who are experts at what they do. If your company is large enough, an in-house marketing department might be in order. It’s unlikely one person will bring you the breadth of experience of a full services agency or have time “to do it all”, so you might still need outside help. The other option is to hire an agency in lieu of an in-house marketing department. For some of our clients, we report to senior management and provide all the company’s marketing needs. For others, we support their in-house folks with ideas and project execution. Either way, you need a range of expertise and knowledge from people dedicated to marketing and media that can research and develop the right media mix for your success. 

A New Way of Thinking

A blind boy sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet. He
held up a sign which said: "I am blind, please help." There were only a
few coins in the hat.

A man was walking by. He took a few coins from his pocket and dropped
them into the hat. He then took the sign, turned it around, and wrote
some words. He put the sign back so that everyone who walked by would
see the new words.

Soon the hat began to fill up. A lot more people were giving money to
the blind boy. That afternoon the man who had changed the sign came to
see how things were. The boy recognized his footsteps and asked, "Were
you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write?"
The man said, "I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but in a
different way."

I wrote: "Today is a beautiful day but I cannot see it."
Both signs told people that the boy was blind. But the first sign simply
said the boy was blind. The second sign told people that they were so
lucky that they were not blind.  Should we be surprised that the second
sign was more effective?

Moral of the Story: Be thankful for what you have. Be creative. Be
innovative. Think differently and positively.

August 2009 - Building Your Brand
Be sure your brand image and message is consistent when creating advertising and collateral materials.  Often clients “tire” of the same look because they live with it day-in and day-out.  They want to “reinvent the wheel” each time we create a new advertisement or brochure.  Constantly changing your color palette, layout and logo treatment can be detrimental to your marketing efforts.  Regardless of the size of your budget, with time and consistency your brand can become recognizable. 

July 2009 - Give Them Reasons to Buy
In times of trouble, it is human nature to find comfort in the familiar and nostalgic, while surrounding ourselves with things that feel stable and reassuring.  We know that people can be motivated to purchase when there is a perceived value and a sense of immediate benefit.  Will their lives improve?  Will their family be more comfortable?  Does owning your product or having your service offer a tangible reward?  Give your customers reasons to spend and they will.

June 2009 - The difference between editorial and advertising
Those not familiar with editorial (earned media) and advertising (paid media) often confuse the two.  If we are doing our jobs effectively, PR (public relations) results in “editorial.”  Editorial means stories or articles that editors or journalists write because they believe the idea or product will be appealing to their readers.  The topic must be “new” news, timely, unique and not a commercial for a product or service.  Consumer editors aren’t interested in your best sellers because they want to show their readers what is new in the marketplace and inspire them with fresh ideas.  Media folks visit a lot of trade shows; they know what is “out there.”  So when we say something is “new,” we need to ensure it really is new and not another version or price point of something already in the market.  We can’t buy editorial…it’s not like advertising in which the client pays for their products to be seen.  And, in most instances, it doesn’t matter if you advertise with a magazine or media outlet as editors determine what will be covered, not the sales department.  When editors choose to include your company or product in the publication or website be sure to share the honor with your customers, employees, and sales associates.  This free advice:  to get editorial coverage, do your homework and only pitch it to the media as “new” if really is.  Otherwise, let’s talk about advertising opportunities.

May 2009 - Talk the talk and walk the walk
Have you taken a look at your website lately?  A close look?  Is it written in a language your target audience will understand and appreciate?  When we research a potential new client we visit their website.  Recently, we were studying a consumer site that features products for children’s rooms.  Imagine our surprise when we read the following text about one of their beautiful collections for girls’ rooms, “Our objective here was to hit a young girl of 7 to 14 that wants to make her room her haven.”  Now, we are pretty certain they didn’t mean it like it sounds but we wonder what the moms shopping for their darling daughters thought.  This free advice:  communicate with your customers in lingo that they not only understand but in a way that delightfully engages them with your products and brand.

Leave it to the Experts.

We sometimes have clients who want to cut corners by writing their own press release and then have us distribute it.  It may save on the front side but, in the long run, delivers a poor ROI and can be a waste of money for already limited budgets.  Example:  we were asked to distribute a release about a new CEO.  The company not only wanted to announce new leadership but also was interested in relocating and hoped to get inquiries from real estate owners.  The problem?  First, their release didn’t mention their product.  They assumed that all media would recognize the company and be eager to run a story.  Secondly, out of concern for their employees, they didn’t want to specifically mention the idea of relocating.  In fact, the release didn’t even state their current location.  The CEO announcement got a lot of ink in the industry where they were known.  However, the general news and business media had no idea who the company was or why they should give it coverage.  Recently, we had a request to help a company with its nationwide debut of an innovative new product.  We were asked to reduce our fee by distributing their already-written release.  The name of the product was mentioned 20 times in 3 paragraphs so it read like a commercial, and it had over 15 grammar and typographical errors.  The moral of these stories?  Don’t be pennywise and pound-foolish.  If you have great news to share, hire a PR firm and let them do their jobs.  It will be worth it; we promise.

Marketing Your Most Valuable Asset
The ability to show others who you are and what you are about is good business sense.  Reprinted with permission from Home Furnishings Business magazine.
For the article on marketing your most valuable asset, click here.

The Secret of Every Successful Business Leader
If you are aspiring to lead, find mentors and learn from them.  Are you a mentor?  Be the person that others want to emulate.  Learn more in this article written by Kathy Wall during her tenure as president of WithIt.  Reprinted with permission of "Home Furnishings Business Magazine."
Click here to read

Women Do Impact Industry
Women can help you attract, retain, encourage and fully leverage female brainpower and talent.  Written by Kathy Wall during her tenure as president of WithIt, this article is reprinted with permission from "Home Furnishings Business" magazine.
Click here to view full article "Women Do Impact Industry."

Timely parable we think says it all
We accept that in challenging times, companies scale back expenses.  What always confuses us, however, is that the departments and services that experience the first cuts are the very ones that should be last.  This parable is so timely that we passed it along to our clients and now to you.  Remember, people cannot buy what they do not know about!

THE MAN WHO SOLD HOT DOGS

There was a man who lived by the side of the road and sold hot dogs.
He was hard of hearing, so he had no radio.  
He had trouble with his eyes, so he read no newspaper.
But he sold good hot dogs.
He put signs up on the highway telling how good they were.
He stood on the side of the road and cried, “Buy a hot dog, mister?”
And people bought.
He increased his meat and bun orders.
He bought a bigger stove to take care of his trade.
He finally got his son home from college to help him out.
But then something happened.
His son said, “Father, haven’t you been listening to the radio?”
“Haven’t you been reading the newspaper?”
There’s a big depression.”
“The European situation is terrible.”
The domestic situation is worse.”
Whereupon the father thought, “Well, my son has been to college: he reads the papers and listens to the radio, he ought to know.”
So his father cut down on his meat and bun orders, took down his advertising signs, and no longer bothered to stand out on the highway to sell his hot dogs.
And his hot dog sales fell almost overnight. 
“You’re right, son,” the father said to the boy.  
“We are certainly in the middle of a great depression.”


We’re an eclectic collaboration of women with the knowledge, contacts, skills, and creative mindset to identify opportunities, offer possibilities, and provide solutions for all types of marketing challenges. Put simply: We make you look GOOD!
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We love exploring new ideas, developing concepts, brainstorming just the right copy, and putting our creative “eye” on the photography and visual components used to communicate our clients’ messages.
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Our approach?  Good old-fashioned common sense and creativity.  Through captivating imagery and language, we can help you break ahead of your competition and stand out in the world of the ordinary.
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