Your 2018 Communications Strategy

It’s 2018. Does your company have everything it needs to communicate in the New Year?

Chances are you’re just now getting back into the swing of things after a long vacation with friends and family. Your to-do list is a mile long with new projects and unfinished business from last year. Chances are your inbox isn’t even close to cleaned up after your time away.

We get it. You’re busy.

When you have a moment, I want to encourage you to take some time to look at your organization’s communications strategy. If your response is, ‘what communication strategy?’ then you really need to take some time.

A solid communication strategy is crucial to controlling how stakeholders, customers, and the general public perceive your company or association. If you pushed this off in 2017, it’s time to take a fresh look in 2018.

To start, here are a few communications tools you might need and how they can help:

A Media Kit.

As the name would suggest, a media kit – or press kit – is a bundle of visual materials designed to give media members an overview of your organization. A kit can include photos of your products or service, infographics or other representations of relevant data, leadership team bios, and a detailed description and history of your organization. Which elements and how much information to include will depend on your organization and specific needs.

Good website copy.

Chances are you’re not fully satisfied with your website. You’ve been thinking about it for a while, but it always gets pushed to the bottom of your to-do list. It’s easy to keep putting this off with everything you have going on, but it’s critical to get this right. After all, your website is often the first impression people will get of your organization when they type your name into a search engine. Make sure it’s a good one.

Is the info on your website up to date and relevant? Is it easy to read and well organized? If the answers to these questions aren’t a resounding ‘yes,’ then don’t put this off any longer.

Up-to-date Pamphlets

In a digital world, everyone seems to overlook the value of a good old-fashioned pamphlet. While this may seem a bit antiquated, the truth is a good pamphlet, brochure, or flyer is still an effective way of communicating – particularly if your office has lots of visitors swinging by or you attend lots of events.

The key is to create an item that pops. Creativity is key here. Make something that looks – and feels – appealing to the person holding it. A good design will make the reader think twice about tossing it in the garbage.

Again, the feel is important here too. Consider replacing the 24 lb. paper you would typically use with something more substantial.

These are just a few things to consider when designing a comprehensive communications plan. Best of luck telling your story in 2018. If there’s any way we can help, contact Targeted Persuasion today.

Top 5 PR Crises of 2017

2017 was a big news year. Some might even say ‘huuuuuge.’ But aside from politics, several large public relations crises also made major headlines. From United Airlines’ removal of a passenger in a brutal video, to Wells Fargo’s shady coverups of an even shadier fraud scandal, we’ve briefly recapped 2017’s top PR stories in this article. With only three weeks left in the year, let’s hope for everyone’s sake we don’t have to update this list again before January 1. 

1. United Airlines Scandal

Earlier this year, a video surfaced of law enforcement forcibly removing a passenger from a domestic flight, resulting in visible injuries to the passenger. People were outraged at United Airlines for “re-accommodating” a passenger on an overbooked flight in such an extreme manner.  

The PR team seems to have been sleeping on the job through the whole disaster. CEO Oscar Munoz issued an apology, however a leaked internal message penned by Munoz describing the victim as ‘disruptive and belligerent’ certainly undercut any pretense of sincerity.

No immediate action was taken by United on behalf of its passengers, aside from a single overbooking policy change.

This PR disaster resulted in 46% of millennials saying they would “avoid United flights.” Ouch. 

2. Harvey Weinstein and Co. Scandals

This year, starting with the high profile producer Harvey Weinstein, over 20 celebrity men have been accused of sexual harassment or assault. It appears that the culture of silence has lifted a bit and predators are being exposed in a domino effect.

Several of the alleged perpetrators initially reacted with denial and anger. These denials were often undercut by the emergence of new victims reporting their abuse and corroborating the accounts of early accusers.

These allegations have resulted in serious consequences for the accused – Kevin Spacey was removed from his House of Cards contract with Netflix, and Harvey Weinstein was booted from the board of his own company, just to name a couple. 

3. Equifax Data Breach Scandal

In September, news broke that over 140 million Americans had their security compromised in the largest data breach in history. Trust is one of the most important factors when consumers are handing over private information, so obviously this is was a huge PR nightmare.

Equifax handled the breach extremely poorly. They tried to keep the incident quiet for six weeks after it occurred, which made the crisis even worse when the news did come out. Customers weren’t able to take steps to protect themselves for six weeks while the breach was kept secret.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, Equifax offered to smooth things over by offering free credit monitoring. The only catch was that participants had to waive their rights to pursue legal action against the company. Obviously, this was penned by lawyers whose goal was to limit legal liability and not protect the company’s brand image.

This was the triple crown of public relations blunders:

Expose customers to risk of identity theft through irresponsible handling of info.

Keep the breach secret for several weeks, exposing your customers to more risk.

Offer a transparently self-serving reparation once the mistake is exposed.

4. Uber Scandals

Uber had an awful year, embroiled in scandal, lawsuits, and a revolving door of executives. One of the lowlights of the year was the February release of Susan Fowler’s whistleblowing essay, claiming a toxic culture at the company led to sexual harassment and rampant sexism. A video showing former CEO Travis Kalanick berating an Uber driver further tarnished the company’s image.

Uber’s self-inflicted wounds show that in the age of social media, human resources problems can quickly become public relations problems.  

5. Wells Fargo Fake Account Scandal

This year, the news broke that Wells Fargo employees had been creating numerous fake accounts unbeknownst to customers. These accounts helped stressed employees meet sales goals. Like with Uber, a toxic corporate culture at Wells caused massive public image problems for the company.

Wells Fargo’s response to the crisis was woefully inadequate. They went on record saying that the fake accounts were an isolated incident done by low-level employees, refusing to take responsibility for the actions of employees on their payroll. Word got out that whistleblowers were suppressed, and that more people knew about the fake accounts than was originally implied. In fact, it was a company-wide issue, not an isolated incident at all.

Conclusion:

Some of these disasters could have easily been avoided and resulted from toxic cultures emanating from leadership (Wells, Uber, Weinstein). Others were the result of a combination of bad luck, honest mistakes, and poor decisions (Equifax, United). Unless you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, it’s unlikely you’ll ever have to deal with a PR nightmare on this scale. But do you have a plan in place to react if something does come up? How would you put out a fire if your organization was under public scrutiny?

Do you have a seat at the table? If not, you are on the menu.

Does the state and federal government know how important your business and industry are to the economy or society? They should.

Here’s the thing: whether we like it or not, decisions made by elected officials in Washington DC and the state capital have reverberating effects all the way down the line – including into your community and business. Politicians rarely fully comprehend the bills they vote on.

While it’s easy to get cynical, think there’s nothing we can do, and fume at the politicians for being uninformed, who can blame them? Many elected positions are technically part time jobs that demand full-time hours and politicians have to deal with a bevy of issues for which they are not necessarily prepared. Often times they are relying on overworked staff and self-interested lobbyists to inform them on the issues.

That’s the reality. How are you going to deal with it? How are you going to make sure the politicians hear your voice above the noise?

Have you considered going directly to the politicians to make your case? I’m not talking about a letter writing campaign or a tweet storm (although those things can help too). I’m talking something bigger.

I’m talking about a lobby day.

So, what is a ‘lobby day?’

Also known as an ‘advocacy day,’ a lobby day is most simply defined as an organized visit to a national or state capital to meet with elected officials and policy makers on a specific issue of interest to the group and advocate for that issue. A lobby day can also include a march, demonstration, press conference, and other public facing events designed to increase awareness among the general public through social and traditional media.

So, what are the key benefits of a lobby day?

  • Direct access to elected officials.

Let’s face it. Politicians get hundreds or thousands of emails from constituents every week. Meeting in person gives you the chance to build a personal relationship and put a human face on the issue at hand.

  • Amplify your voice.

Dozens or hundreds of constituents descending on the legislature sends a powerful message that people care strongly about your issue and that you demand to be heard.

  • Media attention.

A crowd tends to draw cameras. This is your chance to get noticed, not only by elected officials, but also by the media and the general public. Just be sure you have a carefully crafted message and talking points to make sure your cause is being portrayed in the best possible light.

Okay, so now you know how beneficial a lobby day can be for your cause. Now, how do you make it happen? Something this big requires a lot of organizing, and you’re going to need to engage a lot of stakeholders.

Here are three key things to consider before you get started.

  1. Identify your stakeholders and build out your contact list. Who cares about this issue and would lend their support? Who are key influencers who can get others involved? What voices will be especially important for elected officials?
  2. Come up with concise and clear messaging to convey what it is you’re doing and why it’s important. This is a lot harder than it sounds. There are 1,000 reasons why someone might care about your cause. You need to identify the 3 things people care about and hammer home those points. (Hint: the key message could be different for different audiences. Be sure to keep your audience in mind).
  3. Identify key tools for organizing. Email, online petition, website, social media – these are all standard tools for organizing a campaign like this. It’s important that these pieces are working together toward common goals (getting petition signatures, driving attendance to lobby day, etc.). A piecemeal approach will make your campaign appear disorganized.

Could your industry benefit from an advocacy day at your state capital or Washington, DC in 2018? Of course it could. And it’s not too late to start that conversation. Contact us today and tell us what’s important to you.

Coffee’s Effects on Productivity

Coffee is the most popular drink at the workplace, by far, with 38 percent of workers saying they “couldn’t live without it.” But coffee is much more than an addictive drink that we Americans know and love. Coffee can improve productivity at work in several different ways.

  1. Coffee improves alertness.

Caffeine stops adenosine production and actually blocks adenosine receptors in the brain. Adenosine is a chemical produced by our bodies throughout the day, preparing us for sleep, and much of it remains in our systems in the morning after we wake up. This is why we feel sluggish for the first few hours of our day. Caffeine can stop adenosine in its tracks, waking us up in the morning and preventing a four o’clock slump.

  1. Coffee strengthens our brains.

Oils in the coffee bean itself are anti-inflammatory, acting as antioxidants in the brain. These anti-inflammatory agents are called kahweol and cafestol, and their properties can help protect DNA and protect the brain from free radicals. A protected brain is a productive one: preventing inflammatory stress keeps us in tip-top shape throughout our working lives.

  1. Coffee increases creativity.

Stimulating the brain with caffeine can help to blow out the figurative cobwebs, allowing for creative thought and freewheeling workplace conversations that can give birth to the next big idea.

  1. Coffee increases sociability.

Research suggests that the simple act of holding a cup of coffee makes you seem more approachable and friendly. Additionally, the office coffee pot serves as a kind of social nexus, allowing for increased social interactions with colleagues and better workplace bonds. This allows for better relationships and more productive teams.

  1. Coffee increases learning speed and short-term memory.

A study done on college students showed that they were able to learn faster after having a cup of coffee. This can enable faster turnaround times in the workplace, as the learning curve will last for a much shorter amount of time.

Another study showed that caffeine improved short term memory, with the subject given caffeine able to recall more words that were quickly shown to them than the control group. This improved working memory can help when workers are asked to multitask and quickly recall information.

Coffee, then, can be considered the miracle elixir of the workplace. Now that you know all the benefits, you’ll be able to put coffee to work for you!

You Need To Use This Old-School Marketing Trick

During the holiday season, standing out in a flood of marketing can be extremely difficult. Consumers are inundated with marketing emails and other forms of advertising throughout the month of December. That’s why you need to stand out from the noise.

Direct marketing through the mail is a good trick to have up your sleeve. A physical item that audiences can touch increases the likelihood of getting a return on your investment. In fact, according to the Direct Mail Association Factbook, the average success rate for direct mail is 4.4%, about 10 to 30 times higher than direct email marketing.

So, does it make sense to send mailers? Not every product or service does equally well through the mail. With direct mailing, you can target specific geographic zones that are close in proximity to your business.

For example, real estate is a good product to market geographically. You can target your mailings to neighborhoods that are in your price bracket, and close in proximity to your development. Other products that are predisposed to direct mail marketing are restaurants and events. Informing the community about your restaurant or event is easiest through a geographically targeted campaign.

When you are sending direct mail to your audience, you’ll want to take advantage of special occasions like the holidays. Throughout the month of December, you’ll be able to use holiday cheer in your marketing, and you can strategically place inserts for events and products. If you have a special deal, you should print that deal on an insert for your larger mailing. This way, the deal on the insert will jump off the page – literally!

One example is a direct mail campaign that Targeted Persuasion created. The developers of Hidden Lake wanted to draw potential home buyers into the community. Because of the nature of the real estate business, it can take a while for leads to convert. We sent multiple mailers to potential customers over the course of several weeks. ‘Drip’ campaigns like this have been proven to convert: sending one ad is good, but reminding potential customers about your product again and again can increase your customer base over time.

Our first mailer establishes what Hidden Lake looks like, where it is located, and outlines some amenities, all in a well-designed, attractive foldout.

In real estate, it is vital to get these potential buyers to come physically see the development and the homes. So, when December hit, we took advantage of the holidays. We created a marketing mailer for the drip campaign representing Hidden Lake, filled with holiday cheer.

The mailer is a thick, glossy foldout, filled with photos of snow-covered front lawns and holiday meals in pristine kitchens. It represents all that the holidays can be if you move into one of the homes at Hidden Lake.

And amidst the attractive photo spread, we attached an invitation to a holiday party held at the Hidden Lake clubhouse. The insert is pretty enough to place on the fridge or a bulletin board in a prospective buyer’s home.

With Christmas and New Year’s Day fast approaching, you’ll want to get started on creating your direct mail campaign today. It takes time to design, print, and physically distribute mailers, so the time is now.

Top 5 Brands to Follow on Instagram this December

As we begin our countdown to the holidays, so do brands. Vying for eyes in a saturated market, holiday marketing campaigns must stand out in a big way. To get that engagement, brands need a fun, festive, and cohesive plan for their holiday marketing.

We’ve highlighted five of the top brands to follow on Instagram this December. Because who can resist puppies and delicious recipes?

1. Starbucks

Starbucks has done a fabulous job positioning themselves as the most festive coffee company around. Their viral holiday cups are a big deal, and a large amount of their holiday marketing plan centers on posting pictures of their seasonal drinks in the holiday cups, not to mention the cozy aesthetic they cultivate.

2. Food Network

The time for food to shine is during the holidays, and Food Network knows it. Their marketing plan involves lots of how-tos and recipes for seasonal meals and desserts. Having recipes of the day guarantees engagement from fans who follow the brand on Instagram.

3. LL. Bean

LL. Bean is a cult cold-weather apparel brand, but their marketing strategy on Instagram centers around adorable puppies. Cute animals are a guaranteed win on Instagram, and LL. Bean has the engagement to prove it.

4. Macy’s

During the winter, NYC turns into a holiday themed wonderland, and Macy’s wholeheartedly embraces this aesthetic with their holiday marketing. Beginning with the Thanksgiving Day Parade and running through Christmas, they have plenty of NYC-centric material to post on their social accounts.


5. J. Crew

J. Crew’s preppy aesthetic works well over the holiday season. Last year, their campaign featured “holiday pairs” of the day, highlighting two things and illustrating how they can work together. Each post featured a holiday-centric color palette as well, helping to continue the consistency.

Now that you know the best Instagram accounts to follow, you can fill your feed with holiday spirit, and maybe learn a little something about holiday marketing along the way!

5 Marketing Tips This Holiday Season

Whether attending events, giving to charity, or spending on gifts for family and friends, people are eager to engage during the holidays. Their wallets are open and they are full of the spirit of giving. No matter what your industry, this time of year can be a great opportunity to reconnect with old customers and reach out to new ones.

That’s why we’ve compiled some ways you can stand out on social media and marketing emails by tying your cause, service, or product to the holidays.

1. Tailor your campaign for specific occasions.

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday – there are a ton of occasions around the holidays that give you the opportunity to create tailored ad campaigns. Aside from these staples, the holidays are a great time to create your own event (think 24 hour flash sale or donation drive).

For small businesses and local organizations, look for events in your community that you can use to engage. The holiday tree lighting in your town is just one example.

This ad was created for Black Friday, and does a good job of promoting Macy’s handbag sales specific to the occasion.

2. Create a sense of urgency.

People will respond when they sense that they have limited time to do something or buy something. You can use this to your advantage by highlighting limited time offers in your ads. This technique works year-round – not just during the holidays – and is a useful tool for any call-to-action or advertisement.

“Only 24 hours left to cash in on these savings!”

“City Council votes on December 1. Make your voice heard today!”

This technique is so effective, it even helps Groupon sell ugly Christmas suits – which are an actual thing that you should totally buy.

3. Focus on driving site traffic.

This is especially important for ecommerce businesses. This may seem basic, but remember to include as many links to your site as possible in your ads and marketing emails. If they click the picture, they should go to a landing page on your site. If they click your site name, they should be directed to your homepage. List your link in the actual ad copy as well.

Your call to action should be clear in everything you post or send. Keep the call to action simple, and include the link to the page where it is easiest to fulfill.

US PIRG provides a good example here: they provide information about the problem and then a large link to their website, which takes users to a page where they can contact the Governor-elect.

4. Create holiday-specific messaging.

Keep your messaging festive, and give people new ideas for product uses. The best holiday ads include recipes, tie-ins with traditions, and emphasize family and togetherness.

If you’re a local political, business, or community leader, you may want to talk about how your family engages with the community during the holidays. Highlight a local charity or event to tie in with holiday traditions and remind folks how much your city or state means to you.

If you’re marketing a product, talk about how perfect your product is for gifting. For example, the below ad talks about how the Kohl’s Cares books and toys are ideal as stocking stuffers. Giving out ideas like this can help your audience think of uses for your products.

5. Keep an eye on engagement.

If you’re scheduling many holiday posts, it can be easy to “set it and forget it.” But don’t! Watch for engagement. If someone has a question, you’ll want to quickly and helpfully respond. If you don’t, you could lose a customer!

Below, Wander Beauty has someone responding to customer questions that can crop up on their product ads. Make sure you have notifications enabled, and a dedicated team member to respond to concerns. Great customer service is responsive and has the answers that people need.

Hopefully our holiday ad tips will help you to promote your product, service, or cause. Whether you’re a big retailer working the Black Friday sales, a small town politician trying to make an impact over the holidays, or a charity trying to raise awareness, these social tips will come in handy from now through the New Year.

14 of the Best Advertising and Marketing Campaigns of All Time

Calling a marketing campaign one of top campaigns of all time can seem subjective at best, and reductive at worst. But going into this year’s holiday season, it’s worth looking at the highlight reel of some of the most insanely successful and memorable advertising campaigns in history.

Some of these campaigns are so widespread you may not even think of them as advertising anymore, like Dos Equis’s “most interesting man in the world,” who is now mostly an internet meme. Or like Nike’s Just Do It campaign, which entered the vernacular of most Americans.
Click here to read the full article from Hubspot.

Branded Merchandise: Physical Strength in a Digital World

In a world where we encounter hundreds of online advertisements per week, it might seem like standing out in the crowd is a near impossibility. While digital marketing can be cheap and easy, it is also easily forgotten by your audience.

This is where physical marketing comes in. Consider the trade shows or job fairs you’ve visited. You probably took home a whole “swag bag” full of branded merchandise and happily put some of it to use in your everyday life. Personally, I have at least two pieces of promotional merchandise in my bag today: a branded pill case and a branded pen.

These promotional products have a huge return on investment, according to a study done in 2012. Out of the people surveyed, 66% recalled the brand name on the product they received in the last year. 87% of people keep the items longer than a year, and the majority kept the items because of their usefulness. In fact, the return on investment (ROI) for promotional products is higher than radio and outdoor advertising, and is on par with TV advertising.

Mugs are the item kept the longest.

Targeted Persuasion’s take on a promotional product came about while we were working on passing the NC Brunch Bill, which would allow restaurants to serve alcohol before noon on Sundays. We needed signatures on a petition and social media support for the bill, so we wanted to put our message in front of people who would be likely supporters. What better place to find drinkers than at bars and restaurants? So we created a branded coaster, below, and distributed them to North Carolina drinking establishments.

The coasters are useful to our target audience, and sat in front of them in the restaurants where they will drink at Sunday brunch. The brunch bill, of course, was a smashing success, with no small thanks to the power of physical object marketing.

The coaster was useful and it provided a strong call to action. It was related to the cause- allow these restaurants to serve alcohol on Sundays- and it told the audience what to do to support the initiative, and the two hashtags to use. The best branded merchandise will provide a call to action and perform a function related to the thing being sold.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best and some of the weirder examples of physical object marketing. 

  1. Rimmel Quick Dry Nail Polish: Fast

Rimmel’s new quick dry nail polish is advertised with a sculpture installed in an urban public space. The function of the product is clear- it dries extremely quickly, and the sculpture is fun and interactive.

  1. Save Memories with Alzheimer’s New Zealand

This one is both functional and contains a call to action. The outside of the memory stick is a working eraser, which says “Alzheimer’s Erasers Your Memories. Save Them,” with a link to their website.

  1. Dogs are Stronger with Iams

These are frisbees made to look like barbell weights, and the message is clear: with Iams dog food, your dog will be stronger. This one is particularly neat due to its functionality- you use it while playing with your dog, and you’ll be reminded of the food every time your pup brings it back to you.

  1. Y+ Yoga Centers and Straws

These bendy straws were given away at a juice bar in close proximity to the Y+ Yoga Center in China. They are fun and functional, and were given to health-conscious consumers who are more likely than most to attend one of the yoga classes.

  1. Abbott Vascular: Heart Shaped Stress Ball

Abbott Vascular’s anatomically correct heart shaped stress ball has an obvious message: keep your stress down to take care of your heart. Stress balls are a fun choice for professionals because it can be kept on desks as a functional trinket.

Keep branded merchandise in mind for your marketing. Bring a useful object to your target audience that they’ll keep and remember. Include a call to action if you can, even if it’s just a website link. You can also take this opportunity to be creative and have some fun with your advertising, keeping it relevant to your brand, of course.

What Makes a Strong Call to Action?

A strong call to action (CTA) is vitally important when you are trying to get your audience to do what you want them to do. Without a strong CTA, your web copy or email can fall flat. If readers don’t know what to do, they most definitely won’t do it!

Make sure you have goals for each piece that you write. Do you want your readers to sign a petition? Sign up for a newsletter? Buy a product? Have a clear vision for the outcome of your piece. You want to guide people to take the action that you need them to take.

Here are the three elements for a great call to action:

  1. Your CTA should be simple.

Don’t confuse your readers by including multiple calls to action. Even if you want them to buy your product and sign up for your newsletter, choose only one single action for them to take (and choose carefully!). The best way to do this is to have a big button for them to click, saying “click here to order” or “sign up for our newsletter!” (not both).

       2. Speak directly to the reader.

Make it clear that it is the reader you’re talking to. Specify exactly what they can do. Avoid using the passive voice: “the audience was moved by our call to action” (passive) versus “our call to action moved the audience” (active).

For more details about the passive voice, click here.

       3. Create a sense of urgency.

You want your audience to think that there’s a time limit on the action, so they won’t think “oh I’ll come back to this email later.” More often than not, they’ll forget about you. Use words like today, now, or limited time to incite a sense of urgency.

A Strong Call To Action, In Action

Below is an example of Targeted Persuasion’s call to action on our highly successful Free The Mimosa campaign. Notice how the email tells readers to do one thing: email their legislators. It speaks directly to the readers, using words like “you” and avoids the passive voice. There’s a sense of urgency, and the vote deadline is highlighted.

call to action email example

The keys to creating a strong CTA are now in your hands. Want to continue the conversation? Contact us today and find out how Targeted Persuasion can help your organization create a successful campaign.