Tag Archives: #craftsmanship

The 2 Most Deadly Sins of B2B Marketing

deadly sinsThere are two major reasons why marketing is failing at your small- or medium-sized B2B firm:

You view marketing as business triage. Your company applies a collection of tactics (often labeled as a “marketing campaign”) only in response to a problem; typically involving the loss of a key client, or decline in revenue. When business is good, little or no time is invested in marketing. When business (inevitably) takes a dip, only then does marketing becomes a priority.

You expect marketing to deliver immediate results. Either because your company always views marketing on a “cause & effect” tactical basis, or because marketing triage must be applied quickly to revive an ailing company, the marketing function is given insufficient time to produce tangible results. It’s no surprise that marketing professionals have the shortest tenure of any corporate function in the asset management business.

The hard truth is that very few B2B business owners either understand the marketing function, or have the discipline to design, implement, measure and adhere to a consistent marketing approach that builds brand equity and market engagement over a sustained period.

To establish the infrastructure and internal culture necessary for the marketing discipline to succeed, we offer the following simple path:

  • Create a Written Marketing Plan. This need not be in a 3-inch binder; a two-page document is often sufficient. Include goals, strategies, responsibilities, timelines, budgets and ways to measure results. Without a Marketing Plan you’ll waste lots of time and money. And unless it’s a written document, you won’t have commitment or accountability.
  • Gain Senior Level Commitment. The honcho in corner office (which might be you) must understand, endorse and support the Marketing Plan. This involves more than lip service. If your Plan isn’t properly staffed and funded at the outset, there’s no real commitment to marketing.
  • Do a Few Things Very Well.Your marketing success will be based on the quality and effectiveness of a limited number of strategies / tactics. Firms sometimes go overboard, thinking there’s a correlation between the size of its marketing investment and business results. But less is usually more, in terms of marketing ROI.
  • Build and Nurture your Database.Direct and easy access to your company’s clients, prospects, referral sources and opinion leaders is essential. Without an email pipeline, the marketing value of the content you create is close to zero. If your firm’s thought leadership simply sits on its website or social media, you’re missing the opportunity to build relationships with people in your target audiences.
  • Create Meaningful Content. Self-serving, long-winded white papers and research reports have very limited appeal. Generate content that validates your company’s intellectual capital, that’s easy to read, and focuses on timely topics that people have a genuine interest in.
  • Drive Top-of-Mind Awareness. To be included on the short list of candidates for an assignment or sale, you need to build awareness with key decision-makers. To accomplish that goal, share your content directly with target audiences on a quarterly basis. (More frequently than that, and you may be viewed as a pest.)

Most importantly – with apologies to Glengarry Glen Ross – B2B firms must commit to:

A…..Always

B…..Be

M….Marketing

…for the discipline to be effective. Otherwise, the traditional short-term, hair-on-fire approach to business development will keep your company from ever reaching its full potential, regardless of its quality or reputation.

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Make Your Corporate Anniversary Worth Celebrating

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B2B firms that have flourished for 20, 30 or 50 years are understandably proud of their longevity, particularly after having endured the most recent decade’s harsh economic conditions. But many of those companies do not leverage their achievement, by failing to capture the attention, interest and engagement of the internal and external audiences that will determine their continued success.

Too often important corporate milestones are treated in a manner similar to a wedding anniversary: companies will send out an announcement (press release, advertisement or email blast), host a modest reception, and provide a memento to a select number of longstanding clients.

These traditional corporate anniversary tactics may yield a few congratulatory notes, but will not deliver what might have been achieved – in terms of confirming core values, building corporate culture, and reinforcing brand presence – if the company had approached the opportunity in a strategic manner.

As a starting point, effective corporate anniversaries require the same high level of planning discipline that’s applied to other aspects of business development at the firm, which should include:

  • Articulation of measurable business objectives the program will seek to achieve;
  • Identification and prioritization of the target audiences the program will reach and influence, including employees, current and prospective clients, suppliers, referral sources, the media, etc.;
  • Framing the core messages that will be expressed through the program, and
  • How success of the anniversary program will be evaluated.

Based on that strategic groundwork, a company is prepared to identify appropriate tactics, make well-informed decisions regarding budgetary allocations, assign responsibilities for tactical implementation, and to build a program calendar.

Ideally, a corporate anniversary strategy is based on a limited number of high-quality tactics, rather than a long list of activities with limited impact or strategic value. A few examples of high value tactics might include:

  • Logo Modification – This need not be elaborate or permanent, and might also include a forward-looking tag line or theme. A simple “Celebrating 25 Years” or “Since 1988” can easily be integrated into an existing logo design. The reference can also be integrated into email signatures of all employees.
  • Website Visibility – This can be as simple as an anniversary banner at the bottom corner of the home page, or as elaborate as a corporate timeline or new “history” section that explains significant events since the company’s founding.
  • Client / Employee Gifts – If it’s deemed appropriate to give an anniversary gift to long-time clients, employees or suppliers, these gifts should be personalized and delivered in a very personal manner; either presented individually and in person, or accompanied by a customized letter from the CEO, managing partner or owners.
  • History Wall – This multi-media display, consisting of photographs and historical artifacts, displayed in the firm’s lobby or a conference room, can serve as a permanent and updatable validation of the company’s milestones and achievements.
  • Custom Publication – A commemorative book or brochure, well-written and nicely produced, can tell your company’s story and feature the people who have been responsible for its success. For the same reason people hold onto their high school and college yearbooks, this keepsake item has a useful shelf-life that extends far beyond your firm’s anniversary year.
  • Client-Focused Ad Campaign – Rather than touting your company’s anniversary, select 4 or 5 blue chip clients who are willing to be profiled in an advertising campaign that promotes their longevity and success. Passing (rather than direct) reference to the length of your firm’s relationships with those clients suggests that your company puts client interests ahead of its own.
  • Video Profiles – To humanize the firm, and pay tribute to long-time employees, video interviews can showcase the personal stories, values and dedication that have served as the cornerstone of the company’s success. These 2 – 3 minute videos can be posted on the corporate website, and on the company’s social media sites.
  • Earned Media – Press releases announcing corporate anniversaries are of little interest to most journalists. But if your company has an interesting or inspirational story to tell – involving hardship, unique challenges, failure or creativity – it’s well worth soliciting interest from appropriate media sources. Positive coverage in respected business or trade publications provides valuable 3rd party endorsement of your company’s long-term achievement.
  • Philanthropy – Rather than hosting an expensive celebration or social event, a charitable tactic may generate greater client goodwill and provide opportunities to promote the firm’s anniversary (and underlying values.) These tactics might include scholarships, research grants, sponsorships, named donations, fundraisers, etc. that are related to the firm’s business or mission.
  • Recurring Content  – To sustain top-of-mind awareness related to the firm’s anniversary and reinforce thought leadership, firms can publish and distribute theme-based content that’s likely to be of interest to target audiences. For example, an accounting firm celebrating its 25th anniversary might publish an interview series featuring CEOs of 25 long-term clients, who share the best business advice they’ve ever received. If published monthly, this tactic represents 12 separate opportunities to promote the firm’s anniversary.

The depth and range of anniversary-related tactics that can be leveraged by B2B firms is limited only by creativity and budget. But activity is not the benchmark for success. The real challenge involves alignment of strategy and tactics to achieve tangible business outcomes.

[If you’re looking for some guidance to create your company’s anniversary plan, we’d love to be of help. Reach out to us here.] 

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Five Life Lessons from Doc Martin

Entertainment Craftsmanship: What Missing from American Television

Entertainment Craftsmanship: What’s Missing from American Television

Although a similar-sounding name brings footwear to mind for most Americans, “Doc Martin” is a British television series that follows the fictional life of Dr. Martin Ellingham, a brilliant but extremely grumpy (dog-hating) vascular surgeon whose medical career is sidelined after he develops a fear of blood. This unfortunate turn of events takes him to the (fictional) Cornwall seaside village of Portwenn where, as a general practitioner, his gruff, short-tempered manner conflicts with the laid-back, folksy manner of the villagers.

If you’re unfamiliar with the show, you’re missing several things that American television has long been lacking, including great scriptwriting and acting, sophisticated humor and genuinely interesting characters. Doc Martin is pure television craftsmanship and well worth your time to watch all of the episodes from the past 5 seasons on Netflix.

Worldwide followers of the series eagerly await Season 6, set to begin this fall, which is purportedly its last. Addicted fans are preparing themselves for withdrawal, as the show’s creators understand that it’s always better to leave fans hungry for more, than it is to jump the shark with sloppy scriptwriting and worn-out or ridiculous plot lines.

Because Doc Martin offers viewers simple but enduring life lessons, the show’s legacy is secure. Here are a few things this blogger will always remember:

It’s OK to say “No!”  There’s rarely any doubt regarding where Doc Martin stands on an issue. No long explanations regarding the motivation or feelings behind his decisions. No sugar-coating. The downside of this approach is that people can be put off by the lack of diplomacy. The upside is that when you do say “Yes!” people understand that your decision is genuine, and not simply intended to make them feel good.

Know Your Stuff.  Even people whose personalities clash with Doc Martin appreciate (eventually) that he’s a skilled practitioner who has their best interests at heart.  He has the observational skills of Sherlock Holmes, and encyclopedic knowledge of every disease and malady known to mankind. Importantly, despite his lowbrow patients (compared with his London practice) he continues to study his craft and works to improve it. People will forgive personality shortcomings if you can add value to their lives in meaningful ways.

Overcome Obstacles. Development of a mid-career blood phobia would have ended the professional life of most physicians, but Doc Martin simply shifted gears – moving from surgery to general practice. When he’s confronted with blood in his new role, Doc Martin pukes in a paper bag and addresses the medical crisis at hand without skipping a beat. Doc Martin is a dauntless spirit whose determination was shaped by a mother who did not want him and a father who had no time for him. “When life gives you lemons…make lemonade” is a cliché, but its underlying lesson helps to maintain one’s sanity in a world we often can’t control.

Set Clear Expectations. Although Doc Martin is not always effective in enforcement of his own rules, there’s never any question about what he expects from people. His receptionists (three of them, so far) understand what behavior he’s seeking and what will not be tolerated, which includes not serving hot tea to patients in the waiting room. Whether you’re managing an office staff, raising children (or lining up your putt on the 16th hole), it’s important to have a clear vision of the outcome you’re seeking, and to be very specific with people regarding how they can help you achieve it.

Find an Meaningful Outlet. Doc Martin is wound as tight as a clock, so perhaps the show’s creators intend for his hobby of clock repair to serve as a metaphor for self-examination.  Either way, it’s important to have an outlet for relaxation, expression or personal satisfaction; whether that activity be physical or intellectual, which is increasingly difficult in a world consisting of so many passive distractions…such as watching Doc Martin re-runs.

In advance of Season 6’s final 8 episodes, diehard Doc Martin fans can follow the latest series-related news and gossip on its official website / blog www.docmartinfan.com . In the meantime, readers of this blog post are invited to share a life lesson or two that they’ve learned from Doc Martin.

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An End to B2B Social Media Madness

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Rapid, lemming-like adoption of social media tools by small and medium-sized B2B firms – fueled by an army of self-proclaimed social media experts – has resulted in wasted dollars, missed opportunities and heightened distrust of the marketing function in the C-suite. As if CMOs needed another cause for termination.

The past decade’s social media debacle is akin to introduction of desktop publishing in the early 1980s, when personal computers arrived in the business world. New software programs enabled companies, for the first time, to design and produce their own graphic materials in-house. Every company needed desktop publishing; corporate bean counters promoted the cost savings; anyone who learned how to use the software claimed to be a graphic designer, and the trend resulted in the most unprofessional and ineffective marketing & sales collateral every produced. Over time, even the bean counters came to understand that misapplied technology can be very costly.

The impact and potential of social media is far more significant than desktop publishing, but this also means that its range of casualties and cost of misapplication are exponentially greater. Simply, there are far too many B2B companies that are either:

–  using inappropriate social media tools,

–  not using appropriate social media tools correctly, or

–  missing opportunities to use appropriate social media tools.

At the risk of generating a firestorm of debate from social marketing gurus armed with clicks, likes, re-tweets and other forms of meaningless ROI validation, and based on the social media casualties we’ve seen or treated first-hand, the following guidelines are suggested for small and medium-sized B2B firms:

  • Focus on Your Website. This is the online mother ship of your brand. Don’t bother with social media tactics unless this tool is all that it can be. If your website has not been refreshed and updated in the last 3 years (which means more than simply sticking press releases in the “News” section), then your company is due for an overhaul.
  • Blog Correctly, or Don’t Have One. A company blog is the most effective way to leverage social media. But if you are unable or unwilling to generate meaningful content on a consistent basis (at least twice a month), or to merchandise your blog content properly (which means taking specific steps to promote the content with target audiences), then do not start a blog. If you already have a blog and you’re not meeting those goals, then shut the blog down. It’s a brand liability.
  • Forget Facebook, Twitter and Google+. These are primarily personal and B2C social media platforms, and there are few good reasons why most B2B firms should be investing any time or resources there. In terms of demographics, it’s telling that Twitter’s top 3 profiles belong to Justin Bieber, Lady GaGa and Katy Perry, but if your B2B firm needs quantitative evidence to support dropping these social media platforms, here is some recent research from Pew Research Center:

PRN_landscape_social_media_users

  • Use YouTube Selectively. YouTube can be a very effective social media channel for B2B firms. But your video products must be sophisticated, professionally produced, and no longer than 3 minutes. Resist the temptation to include sloppy, home-made productions, or hour-long webinar presentations. They reflect poorly on your brand, and few people will watch them. Ensure that you develop ways to drive consistent traffic to your YouTube channel.
  • Build Your LinkedIn Presence. LinkedIn is 3x more effective for demand generation than either Facebook or Twitter. LinkedIn has become an essential part of the business world’s due diligence process, and your company is conspicuous by its absence. Unfortunately, few companies take full advantage of LinkedIn’s social media potential. Their corporate profiles often do not contain adequate information, they do not merchandise blog-related and other relevant content, fail to connect through industry user groups, and their employees’ profiles are inconsistent and sometimes unprofessional. Most B2B companies would be well served to invest 100% of their social marketing effort through LinkedIn.

Very often, the root cause of dysfunction and disappointment related to the application of social media tools by B2B firms has less to do with the shortcomings of the various platforms, and more to do with the lack of a coherent and articulated marketing strategy. Chances are, if a B2B firm is spinning its wheels in the morass of social media, they’re having similar challenges with traditional marketing communication channels as well.

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Should I Rekindle My Blog Love Affair…Or End It?

Can This Blog Affair Be Saved?

Can This Blog Affair Be Saved?

Here’s a sad letter from the Marketing Craftsmanship mailbag:

Dear Marketing Guy,

I’ve fallen out of love with my Blog and I need your advice. My sad story:

It was love at first sight. A company Blog had everything I was looking for in social media. It would drive SEO. Establish thought leadership. Engage clients and prospects. Create two-way communication. Build long-term relationships.

My competitors all had Blogs, and I needed one. It would complete my marketing.

Falling in love with my Blog was so easy. WordPress.com was the perfect matchmaker, and my Blog didn’t cost me a penny to build. I had big plans for my Blog. Topics we would cover together. Discussions I would moderate. I made a personal commitment to post regularly. My Blog and I would create beautiful leads together.

It was a great love affair…at least for a while.

After a few months, my Blog started demanding more of my time. But my Blog wasn’t living up to expectations. Few people visited, only employees commented on posts, and there were no leads in sight. My disappointment grew, but my Blog demanded even more content. “I need interesting ideas, not sales promotion,” my Blog would scream. We grew further apart. Weeks, and sometimes months, passed between posts.

Now, my blog and I are the office joke. Blog visitors wonder if my company has a pulse. My Blog has become a brand liability. I can’t look at the company’s website anymore, because my Blog is always there, reminding me of our failed relationship.

Does my Blog deserve a second chance? Or should I simply move on? Help!!!

Yours Truly, Blog Gone Wrong

Dear Blog Gone Wrong,

Lots of companies fall out of love with their Blogs. I feel your pain, but you’ll get little sympathy from me. Here are  a few questions to start you thinking about why your Blog relationship fell apart so quickly:

  • Was your Blog part of an integrated marketing strategy…or just a temporary infatuation?
  • Did you create an editorial calendar to provide content focus…or made promises you could never keep?
  • Did you assign sufficient resources to ensure your Blog’s long-term success…or were you just looking for a cheap date?
  • Was there a strategy to promote your Blog and to merchandise its posts…or did you think that would just “happen”?
  • Were there tangible and realistic business metrics to measure your Blog’s ROI…or did you think pre-nuptuals would kill the relationship?

My guess is that you were attracted to your Blog’s many fine features and benefits, but were unwilling to invest the time and resources necessary to build a meaningful, long-term relationship. If that’s the case, you really don’t deserve a Blog.

You might be better suited for a relationship with a Twitter account.

The Marketing Guy

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What the US Marines Can Teach Your B2B Firm about Marketing and Sales

Every Marine a Rifleman

Every Marine a Rifleman

“Every Marine a Rifleman” is a basic tenet of the US Marine Corps.  At boot camp, every marine receives training in marksmanship, hand-to-hand combat and teamwork. Regardless of how (s)he ends up serving in the Corps – as a mechanic, lawyer, clerk, pilot, dentist or pastry chef – every marine is prepared and expected to apply their combat training whenever it’s required. That rifleman commitment serves as a tactical cornerstone of the Marine Corps’ Semper Fi (“Always Loyal”) motto.

B2B companies – professional service firms in particular – can benefit by creating a culture similar to the Marine Corps; training all employees with basic marketing & sales skills that can help the firm to grow and succeed. “Every Employee a Sales Rep” should be fully ingrained across a company’s work force, from the front desk to the corner office.

Many B2B firms – in legal, accounting, financial services and consulting disciplines – employ at least one rainmaker, typically a founding member, who brings in the lion’s share of new business. But that “outside / inside guy” dynamic puts a company at risk, because rainmakers can depart unexpectedly (by choice or by ambulance), and the firm’s growth rate is always limited by their energy, motivation and availability.  More importantly, this business model fails to leverage a firm’s “inside guys,” whose individual and collective business relationships, skills, experience and credibility should be harnessed to drive consistent revenue growth and to scale the operation.

Regardless of their title, job description or capacity to work the room at a social event, every B2B executive should be given training, tools and ongoing support that empowers them to:

  • Manage Their Personal Brand – Clients hire individuals, rather than a firm, to help them. To showcase their credentials, every account practitioner should maintain a complete and up-to-date biographical profile on the company’s website and on LinkedIn. To expand their visibility, they should also participate in at least one activity unrelated to employment, whether  that’s membership in the local chapter of a professional trade association, their daughter’s soccer team, or a fly fishing club.
  • Articulate the Firm’s Value Proposition – Many employees, even at the senior level, do not have a clear understanding of what makes their firm different from the competition, and are at a loss to provide a compelling      reason why someone should engage them. Like a good marine, every employee should know their firm’s “elevator pitch,” and be prepared to recite it whenever someone asks, “So…who do you work for?”
  • Nurture Their Professional Network – Every practitioner has a network of current and former clients, associates in other disciplines, friends, relatives, neighbors and individuals they’ve met at conferences or social events.  Business contacts are often included in the firm’s CRM system, and may receive quarterly newsletters or other communications issued by the company. But account practitioners should also maintain direct and regular contact with their entire personal network in order to nurture and expand those relationships, because referrals are driven by casting a wide net.
  • Drive Top-of-Mind Awareness – The marketing challenge for most B2B firms is making the short list of candidates called in for an assignment. To increase their odds of getting that call, firms must constantly sow seeds with clients, prospects and referral sources, driving top-of-mind awareness regarding the firm’s capabilities and credentials. Every practitioner should play an active role in that process by generating relevant content – in the form of blog posts, bylined articles, case studies, industry updates, slide presentations, etc. – that can be merchandised by the firm to keep the firm in play.
  • Sell Intrinsically – Because “inside guys” embody the firm’s intellectual capital and deliver its services and solutions, they are best prepared to demonstrate to prospects and clients the firm’s capacity to add value, which is its most powerful sales tactic. Intrinsic (or “consultative”) selling is what converts prospects to clients, and not including account practitioners in the sales presentation process can handicap a firm’s growth potential.
  • Seek Cross-Selling Opportunities – The professional practitioner assigned to an account is the steward of that relationship. As a trusted advisor, the practitioner has an in-depth understanding of each client’s current needs, as well as insight into what additional services might be of value. Based on that 360° perspective, the account practitioner is in the strongest position to recommend new services or an expansion of existing work. But many practitioners fear this solicitation will compromise their professionalism, or put the client relationship at risk. Both of those obstacles to increasing account penetration can be addressed with proper tools and training.
  • Ask for Referrals – This is a tough task for most account practitioners.  However, if they’ve nurtured their network, gained confidence by learning how to cross-sell to existing clients, and have rehearsed the referral request process, then practitioners can make this a painless routine.

“Every Employee a Sales Rep” will not be achieved simply by establishing firm-wide mandates. The program must be driven by internal disciplines – consisting of written guidelines, worksheets and in-house training – that provide employees with proper guidance, support, feedback and motivation. Combined with a senior-level commitment to change the culture, and firm-wide acknowledgement that the transformation will be difficult, your B2B company can greatly enhance its sales and marketing capability. Semper Fi.

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4 ½ Reasons To Avoid Using Celebrity Endorsements

With those big guns, can we be sure that Tony's not using HGH?

With those big guns, can we be sure that Tony’s not using HGH?

Here are 4 ½ good reasons to avoid celebrity endorsements:

  1. OJ Simpson
  2. Tiger Woods
  3. Lance Armstrong
  4. Oscar Pistorius

4.5  Elmo the Muppet

The marketing world is littered with celebrity endorsements similar to these train wrecks. Yet companies will continue to dole out lucrative contracts to sports heroes, actors, politicians and other personalities du jour…in hopes of leveraging their popularity or notoriety.

Why do marketers continue to roll the dice with their company’s brand reputation?

One reason: celebrity endorsements require no creativity and very little effort. Nike’s ad agency simply shoots some footage of Tiger bouncing a golf ball 25 times off the face of a pitching wedge, and voila…there’s a 30-second commercial.

Companies rationalize this brand risk by assuming that the public will assign them some sympathy for having been duped by the murdering, philandering or drug abusing ways of their fallen celebrity. Marketers also may believe a celebrity’s fall from grace will provide their company with an opportunity to publicly cancel the contract, express sorrow or indignation, and gain additional time for their brand in the public spotlight.

But in terms of long-term brand management, association with a celebrity who’s fallen from grace is a losing proposition. For starters, it demonstrates poor judgment. So ignore the assurances from your ad agency, even if the celebrity they’re proposing is Mother Teresa.

But if you’re determined to use a celebrity, it may be a safer bet to hire an animal than a human. To my knowledge, RinTinTin never bit anyone, but Orca whales have a very poor track record.

Better yet…create your own celebrity. The Geico Gecko, Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger, and StarKist’s Charlie the Tuna all have clean rap sheets. So far.

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The Lost Marketing Art of Ink on Paper

Time to temper our love affair with pixels on a screen?

In a pre-pixilated world in the not too distant past, Ink on Paper ruled the world of marketing.

Capabilities brochures, annual reports and other print collateral – complete with blind-embossing, foil-stamping, perfect binding, die-cutting and spot-varnished photos – served to explain, sell and educate. Graphic designers used drafting boards, rulers and glue. They understood the difference between a sheet-fed and web offset printing press, could distinguish between thermography and engraving, and spent hours studying paper stock samples, typefaces and PMS color charts.

In the days of Ink on Paper, marketers reviewed press proofs; they hand-delivered advance copies of newly printed materials to their CEOs, and measured ROI based on Business Reply Card volume. Printed words and images did not move on the page. Content stood on its own, linked to nothing. And the US Postal Service was profitable.

There’s no denying the time and cost efficiencies of our online world. We now communicate more broadly, more precisely, more rapidly and with greater marketing insight than we could ever have imagined 20 years ago.

But we’ve lost a few things in our exodus from Ink on Paper:

Visceral Impact – Pixels on a screen have no weight, no dimension, no texture, no smell. Ink on Paper places something physical into a person’s hands. They open the cover and turn its pages. They can scribble notes in the margin, or rip out a photo. It’s a sensory experience that communicates on human terms, and that cannot be replicated by a PDF downloaded and created on a laser copier.

Personality – The range of creative expression using pixels is limited by the fixed dimensions of a flat glass screen. Ink on Paper lives on a canvas of unlimited graphic possibilities, in terms of size, shape, color and physical features. No scrolling is required to appreciate the design. It provides an opportunity to stand out from the crowd, to express yourself more effectively, and to make an impression that’s likely to be remembered.

Permanence – People scroll through computer screens at hyper-speed. The volume of information is unlimited, and no intellectual commitment is required of viewers. Ink on Paper moves in slow motion, forcing readers to pay closer attention to its content. Print materials possess presence and permanence, suggesting that the people and company who produced them actually exist, have nothing to hide and can be trusted.

Craftsmen in any field are quick to embrace new tools and methods that enhance their results and professional satisfaction. They also understand the importance of sticking with tactics that work well. Seasoned marketers who have thrown the baby out with the bathwater in their rush to digital communications, as well as more recent arrivals to the marketing profession who have always lived in a paperless world, would be well served to reconsider Ink on Paper as a medium.

No marketing communications program is truly integrated without that capability.

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Finding Elmer in Hurricane Sandy

This is where I found Elmer, the Volunteer Craftsman.

One week ago today, my wife and I spent most of the night in total darkness lying on a mattress we had dragged into the front hallway: the location we determined to be the safest in the house…other than the basement, which we considered our retreat of last resort. On the other side of our front door, Hurricane Sandy lived up to expectations. Over the howling 80 mile per hour wind and the sound of aluminum siding being ripped away from the house, we could hear the mammoth trees that surrounded our house groan and fall, one at a time…but without the enormous thud one would expect, as their root systems, still clinging to clumps of rocks and dirt, slowed their trajectory.

For nearly two hours, waiting for any one of those trees to fall directly on to our house, we were completely at the mercy of the gods, statistical probability and dumb luck. We felt terror and helplessness, and unlike how we all spend most of our lives – watching others on a screen experience actual or scripted misfortune – this event was happening to us, it was real, and we were directly in harm’s way. Our three dogs, secured in their cages for the evening, were all strangely quiet, as if they understood the seriousness of the situation.

At first light, we surveyed how our property had been re-landscaped by the storm. Nearly a dozen trees, all more than twice the height of our house, were on the ground and all pointing in the same direction, as though they had been knocked down by a giant bowling ball. Our aluminum fence was crushed in several places, our chicken-less chicken coop destroyed, and our yard scarred by huge 3-foot craters at the base of each fallen tree. No tree had hit the house, and we counted our blessings, thankful to be alive.

Since that moment of profound thanks, and over the course of one week (so far) living without electricity, refrigeration, microwave oven, internet service, cable TV, phone service, hot showers or gasoline, a few things came into clearer focus:

  • “Civilized man” appears no longer capable of enduring any prolonged period of discomfort. We are hooked on electricity, plumbing and technology, and have no notion of how we might survive without any of them. We are addicted to physical comfort and entertainment.
  • The line between civilized society and total anarchy appears extremely tenuous. If it takes the local police to manage orderly distribution of gasoline at a filling station when supply is low, what happens when food and water supplies are short? Society scoffs at hard-core survivalists, but there is much truth in what they preach about human behavior.
  • We only really feel or care about misfortunes that happen to us and our families. As I sat in my dark, cold kitchen using limited laptop battery life, it annoyed me to see Facebook friends who had not been affected by the hurricane conduct their usual online banter.
  • We have very short memories. The power will eventually be restored, fences rebuilt, trees replanted and daily routines re-established. We’ll all return to our “normal” lives, and push Hurricane Sandy into that small corner of our brain reserved for things we’d rather forget.

At the “warming shelter” that had been set up at our local fire house for people without electricity, we met Elmer, a retired executive now serving as a full-time Red Cross volunteer, who has been on site at every major national catastrophe across the country over the past decade. Elmer was there simply to talk to people, to put their situation into perspective, to offer support and to provide helpful information if he could.

For me, other than taking cold showers and not having a tree fall on the house, Elmer is what I will remember most about Hurricane Sandy. Because Elmer reminded me that there are plenty of people who do care about others, and who are willing to be uncomfortable in order to help them. Elmer and his fellow practitioners of volunteering craftsmanship are just harder to find.

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PR / Media Pros Should Stand Firm on Requiring Quote Approvals

Quote Approvals Lower the Risk of Media Burn

The practice of requiring journalists to submit on-the-record quotes for approval by a source in advance of publication has long been a sore point between the media and the PR profession. A new spotlight has been cast on the issue, with writer Michael Lewis’ acknowledgment that he’d agreed to quote approval for his Vanity Fair profile on Barack Obama, and the new policy issued by the New York Times, which forbids their reporters from agreeing to “after-the-fact quote approval by sources and their press aides.”

Notwithstanding the New York Times’ effort to protect the integrity of the Fourth Estate, there are at least 3 reasons why it makes good sense for companies and organizations to stand firm on stipulating that reporters obtain quote approval as a pre-condition for granting an interview:

  1. Reporters Are Human. They often don’t bring the depth of knowledge that’s required to cover the assignments they’re handed…so they will make mistakes. They also bring their own points of view…so they will be selective in how they quote sources. And sometimes, they don’t always play by the rules. This blogger was told by a New York Times reporter that if I pressed for a correction to an error he had made regarding one of my clients, that he would never feature any of my clients in his column.
  2. The Spoken Word and Written Word are Very Different. A comment or offhand remark that’s expressed during an interview can cast a false or unfair impression when taken out of context, and when it is read rather than heard. Very few individuals have the ability to envision…as they are speaking…how their spoken words will look in print and to know what message those words will convey. Mark Twain recognized that “talk in print” results in “confusion to the reader, not instruction.”
  3. Journalism Is a Cat and Mouse Game. Reporters are frequently looking for a “gotcha” quote that can juice up their coverage, or support a point they’re seeking to make. Their questions can be contrived, or their approach designed to wear down a source. This blogger learned that lesson the hard way, when a Chicago Tribune reporter twisted a fact-based comment in a very long conversation that enabled him to write a story entitled, “Amex Official Admits CBOE Superiority.”

If you’re willing to participate in media interviews without the safety net of quote approval….here are some guidelines that will lower your risk of being burned:

  • You Can Never Be “Media Trained” – Regardless of whatever training, practice sessions or actual interviews you’ve had, believing that you are “media trained” provides a dangerous and false sense of security. Every reporter is different, every interview is a unique opportunity, and you need to be properly prepared every time.
  • Don’t Lead Lambs to Slaughter – For a host of reasons, and regardless of their org chart position or years of experience, some people are media disasters. If your senior manager or client has a track record of interviews that did not go well, avoid putting them in harm’s way. If a heart-to-heart conversation regarding their poor interviewing skills is not an option, at least ensure that they are equipped for interviews with tightly scripted talking points.
  • Tape Record all Interviews – When there’s a recorded version of an interview, a reporter is likely to be more careful in quoting a source, and you have something more credible than written notes, if there is any controversy. It’s good form to let the reporter know upfront that you will be tape recording an interview. If the reporter objects, and you still agree to conduct the interview, then your organization deserves whatever misquotes or misrepresentation may occur.

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