Branding And Helpfulness Begin With Culture

ALT="Helpfulness, Soulati.com"Helpfulness is akin to giving, giving back and paying it forward. When someone deigns to be helpful, they are thinking not first of themselves, but of another who is more in need.

What does that ‘need’ look like? Down and out, a home crushed from a natural disaster, job loss, medical matter, need for information, an elderly person unable to drive for the groceries or change the light bulb, or someone just plain depressed over the loss of a loved one.

There are many reasons why someone needs to receive an act of helpfulness or kindness, but this is not about challenging you to do more of that. Person-to-person helpfulness is simpler to ascertain, isn’t it?

When you put helpfulness into the same discussion with branding, then the understanding is somewhat blurred. Humanity is helpful; is a brand?

Helpfulness is an element of our heart core. Within you as a human, your heart core is a desire to be kind, genuine and helpful. It forms your person, it becomes your personality, and it is visible in your aura. What’s also apparent is whether this helpfulness philosophy is genuine, or not.

Helpfulness in Branding

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Blog Distribution Channels To Earn More Traffic

ALT="Soulati Media, Jayme Soulati, blog distribution"Blog distribution is rarely thought of, and I’m here to tell you that has to change! Your blog posts, the most valuable pieces of owned media you have in your archives, should never just be published on your website and forgotten. These stories need to be distributed on a wide variety of channels and in a wider variety of repurposed creativity.

Let’s explore further, shall we?

Blog Distribution Channels — A Long List

1. So easy and obvious, your own website is the very first place a blog post is published and greets the world. Ensure your website is owned by you; it’s your created domain name, and it’s on a hosting platform you’ve selected.

1a. A blog post comment section is key for links to others’ content to get added. Sometimes a blogger asks for shares, and these can get added manually. If you sign up for Livefyre, a blog comment platform, your latest blog post is automatically added to your bio descriptor.

2. LinkedIn posts are another obvious pseudo blogging channel. In fact, I had elected to craft this post and publish it on LinkedIn FIRST. Then, as I kept writing and writing, I realized how dumb that would be. I need the content and link juice for my own blog! Remember, that when you publish original content elsewhere first, you miss out on the strength of that content for links and traffic. Do build up your own archives first. Because I’ve been blogging since 2010, I have archives of more than 650 blog posts to my credit. A blogger’s life is never over; there is always a fresh audience seeking content with a twist. Stand out! [Read more…]

What Is A Heartful Business?

ALT="Soulati, heartfulness in business"What the heck is a heartful business? I’ve been using it consistently ever since we launched our podcast, The Heart of Marketing. We = John Gregory Olson and moi, in case you didn’t know.

What I love about this word is that it’s always indicated as misspelled on Microsoft Word and the blog posts I write everywhere. This means it’s not a mainstream word and thus isn’t trendy…so let’s create a new trend in the way of thinking, OK?

Let’s be strategic about your business, and let’s have a discussion about what being heartful is all about.

Here goes…

We’ve been running a series on the workplace on The Heart of Marketing podcast. I’m providing the links to our very popular three so far right here. When you click, you’ll get to our website, GetHeartMarketing.com, and you can listen from there. These discussions between John and I are very popular, and I like talking about workplace culture, too.

Who Cares About Culture in the Workplace?

How Workplace Culture Aligns Inside and Outside

Marketing Consultant: Should You or Should You Not?

What is a Heartful Business

When I think of a marketing department within a company, I think of the leadership in that department. What kind of leader are you? I don’t mean which type (A for aggressive) or which psychoanalyst letter (S, P, J), either.

What I mean is whether you live with a loving heart. This is not woo woo, folks. This is the real deal. My teenager, even before she was a teenager, has been told daily to live with a loving heart. Focus outward, help the poor and weak, be helpful, have compassion, and empathy; be sincere and be genuinely sincere.

Does any of this resonate with you?

When you’re running a marketing department how genuinely sincere are you to your reports, peers, clients, prospects, folks on Twitter, pro bono clients, and other stakeholders? Or, are you merely making the bottom line sing on steroids without concern for emotions anywhere?

I suggest that being heartful may be a sign of maturity. When you’re starting out on a career path, there’s not much helpfulness happening. I recall distinctly how competitive the Chicago agencies were in which I worked. Each of us was out for numero uno to get the boss’s nod. I also remember how ugly that was; a complete power trip.

As I moved up the ranks, it became apparent I liked to teach, and the firm I owned, Soulati Media Relations, hired kids out of college. It was grueling, but I knew, even at my own young age of 30-years-old, that I wanted to pay it forward.

Now, much later in life and still on a professional trajectory, I see things differently in business. Helpfulness and educating others are part of my client service; some call this servant leadership that comes from a world of faith, as I’m told.

And so, in a heartful business, others come first before the dollar. Yes, yes, profit is critical as it pays the salaries of all who contribute; however, the emotional foundation and health of humanity in the workplace begets the strength of the dollar for your bottom line. I know this because there are studies galore about happy wife, happy life…heh. I mean, happy employee, lots of productivity.

In fact, today’s Wall Street Journal kindly shared a story with data I can use to prove my point:

In the April 20, 2016 edition of the Wall Street Journal, “Job satisfaction hit its highest level – 88% — in a decade, says a report.”

The Society for Human Resources Management survey of 600 full-time and part-time workers “found that the biggest contributor to job satisfaction was ‘respectful treatment of all employees at all levels,’ which 67% of respondents cited as critical to their happiness on the job.”

What great fodder in support of my heartfulness theory!

Heartfulness begins with the CEO, entrepreneur, founder, president, business owner; you know that gal in the corner office or only office! Even if you are a solo, you can exhibit heartfulness to your peers, vendors and clients. It’s highly discernible; trust me, as I try to live that culture every day as a solopreneur.

If you have a small team of say, five folks, for sure there’s someone at the helm, and the culture you create for your team is embodied throughout your team and the network you create to conduct business. Respect has a lot to do with it. Employees know when and if an employer respects them, and they govern themselves accordingly!

We spoke on The Heart of Marketing about Zenefits, a startup in the HR sector that allowed alcohol at work every day and fun was the tone. What happened was sex in the stairwell and an out-of-control workplace all because the leadership permitted that party atmosphere in the first place. Check out one of the above links to learn more about that!

Charitable giving and rewards for performance are helpful ways to be heartful in business; yet, there’s a fine line. No leadership team wants to be taken advantage of by employees or for employees to have an expectation that financial gifts are commonplace and not earned.

At the end of the day, every single person on this planet must develop heartfulness on his or her journey, and it comes with intent. You don’t awake one morning to say, “I want to be more heartful today.”

You awake over the course of 10 years of mornings, after a particularly challenging stretch of your journey, and you say, “It’s time to make an attitude adjustment. I am ready to be more loving, caring, helpful, emotionally connected with my fellow man, in tune and perceptive of those in need, aware so I can lend a hand on occasion, sensitive to those less able, and cognizant of my own productivity and contribution to our green Earth.”

A Nuclear Energy Twitter Case Study

ALT="Soulati Media, Hitachi, nuclear energy, Twitter"In the fall of 2015, I agreed to join my long-time colleague, Caren Kagan Evans, CEO of ECI Communications, as the Twitter professional on nuclear energy for the Nuclear Industry Summit 2016. The Twitter handle @2016NIS was brand new for this event; there wasn’t a single tweet or follower, and ECI Communications was hired, as part of an entire event strategy, to ensure that the Twitter stream was active on a daily basis and earning power up to and through the global event. Daunting, eh?

The Summit culminated April 1, 2016 with 1,656 tweets (I have no idea if this is a lot or not!). This story shares my experience as the only person permitted to tweet on behalf of #NIS16. The State Department, Nuclear Energy Institute, and influencers in the nuclear energy sector monitored the stream closely. I felt the pressure, but pummeled through and focused on the task at hand.

The Objective

Twitter was to be the pulpit for the Summit – to inform, share, educate, invite, engage, and coalesce folks under the guise of the Nuclear Industry Summit 2016.

Nuclear Energy Twitter Strategy

  • I had to immerse in the subject matter quickly and identify those who were safe to retweet with positive and neutral content.
  • I had to maintain a neutral balance without injected opinion, and was thoughtful about retweets of events oriented to nuclear energy.
  • I was to be informative and be the announcer for everything on the brand new website ECI Communications created for this specific event. It’s full of several new videos, presentations, exhibitor information, Summit agenda, awards, a Flickr account for all the Summit photography, as well as industry reports and documents.

The Tacticals

I’ve been on Twitter since 2009, I know the ins and outs of launching Twitter streams from scratch; still, this project was global with key government officials from countries around the world as well as other influencers in the sector.

I identified the influencers and slowly began to get my feet wet. Previously, I had no prior knowledge about nuclear energy; thus, I painstakingly reviewed each influencers’ Twitter stream to learn who the players were, what they were tweeting, and whether I could engage enough to get them to follow me back.

At the same time, I had to ramp up knowledge by immersing in articles written by academia, bloggers and journalists to understand a semblance of the issues. To earn confidence that I would tweet pro-nuclear content versus the negative content presented by anti-nuclear folks, I was more careful than ever before about re-tweeting. I opened every link before it was tweeted, and if it was something juicy, I shared it with my team via email. Often the stories were already known, but a few times I was able to share a story that had not surfaced yet.

The topic of nuclear energy is highly controversial. I set up two search streams for ‘nuclear energy’ and ‘energy media’ to identify news of the day. Probably 70 percent of the news in nuclear energy came consistently from Asia and Europe. There is a lot of global activity on this topic as nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear security remain hot-button issues for the entire world. In addition, there are new nations coming into the nuclear age with new plants coming online while European plants are shutting down. It is a fascinating industry, and the general populace in the U.S. is not up to snuff on the facts about nuclear energy.

I bumped into scholars, academia, students, organizations, companies, countries, journalists and bloggers, atomic/solar/wind energy experts, non-profits, governments, and utilities in the Nuclear Industry Summit stream always careful to be gracious, professional, helpful, and cautious.

The First and Last Tweets

The first tweet posted soon after the New Year, and I averaged 22 tweets per day with scheduled tweets every 30 minutes on a daily basis. I monitored the stream all day, never closing out of Hootsuite and often relegated to Twitter.com to look at the streams of my followers to ensure I was in touch with the leaders in the field.

In between the first and last tweets, the stream became the microphone for the entire Nuclear Industry Summit 2016 to amplify everything on the website as well as news releases to promote the event, and to also pitch and engage media. The tweets were helpful in earning traffic to the website; in fact, I’m going to take a guess that prior to the first news release, Twitter was responsible for 85 percent of the website traffic, and it grew daily closer and closer to the Summit.

It was always intended to live tweet at the Summit, and that’s what I did. I sat in all the sessions and used TweetChat.com to set up my ‘studio’ so the hashtag #NIS16 populated in every tweet automatically and also enabled me to track others using the hashtag, too. (If ever you’re tweeting a live event, do check out Tweet Chat.)

At the Summit Expo, I took photos with my iPhone of each exhibit booth. I posted tweets and images for all of the event’s sponsors and added more tweets and images of other exhibitors from around the world.

The final tweets included newly added materials on the website posted after the closing ceremony, as well as information to alert people to the Flickr account and videos.

Key Takeaways

The reason this Twitter strategy was a success is due to my years in social media and my time-seasoned experience (I don’t mean to blow the horn here). Twitter can be extremely tactical for many folks; in fact, Twitter is a highly strategic channel that requires a thoughtful approach to relationship building and engagement. A less-seasoned professional may not have the strategy under their belt to understand the best way to approach a stream being built from 0 to 100 mph in three months.

Prior to marketing automation, this is how we engaged on Twitter – with 1:1 conversation on a consistent basis. People shared appreciatively, and actually read content, too. Those were the basics, and today, this is not being taught.

I could have done a better job had I known more about nuclear energy going in. That was the biggest issue I had, but we were hired to showcase the event. Few people understand how beneficial it is to have subject matter expertise when you tweet; yet, specialty experts who do don’t have the social media knowledge. That’s why I vote for ‘a me’ – someone with the how-to knowledge versus the subject matter expertise. When you seek someone with the how-to, they are going to be seasoned in their craft, and the knowledge will come. (We only had three months though, so it wasn’t necessary to be an expert in nuclear energy for this project.)

The field of nuclear energy is nascent on social media. That was a challenge to earn engagement; perhaps as time goes by, the field will begin to use Twitter more profusely, especially as emerging teams and nations want to share their good news.

A Twitter stream planned to promote a global event needs credibility. It is very important to have a handful of ambassadors who can make introductions and invite others to follow and share. It is always nice to have more of that at any time given the challenges of building from ground zero.

After a short several weeks of scouring the topic and industry, I soon realized the global sector was more active than the U.S. domestic sector. I predicted we would have more international attention at the Summit and more international journalists attending the Industry Summit than U.S.-based journalists. I was right; it’s what Twitter told me!

I love Twitter for what it delivers, how it engages, how it introduces relationships and shares knowledge. The biggest key factoid I can share after this career-high experience is that behind every Twitter avatar that is a logo is a person. I was honored to be that guy for this event.

Home Depot Customer Experience Fail

ALT="Soulati Media, customer experience fail"What is happening to big box retailers with customer experience? I toured the aisles of Home Depot over a weekend expecting to find product for my master bath remodel. Alas, the lowest-end vanities, four commodes, maybe six shower fixtures and NO tile I could even remotely consider were featured. As I walked faster through each department, I realized that the brick and mortar business is failing customer experience.

Home Depot Customer Experience Failure

I went to customer service and asked about the selections in the store and mentioned I would need to order online. The CSR immediately told me the online store was not the same as the retail, in-person store. She wanted me to come in with my list and sit with a sales associate and order my vanity direct from the manufacturer or make custom furniture.

After I expressed confusion, I then realized and said, “Oh, I get it. Home Depot corporate is the same but the retail outlet competes with the online outlet for revenue.” The customer service rep said yes.

No wonder people are buying more online, eh? With that kind of customer experience, who wants to go into the brick and mortar store any more? And, I can get delivery to my front door of the 30 lb. sheets of Hardie Backer board for the shower instead of attempting to lift 25 of them through check out myself (because there are no cashiers) and into my vehicle.

After Home Depot took away cashiers at check out several years ago, I stopped going there. I thought I would give it another chance over Lowe’s, but you know what? Lowe’s is beating Home Depot hands down. I even found some tile in the store at Lowe’s and a vanity I could purchase there, too. Guess which retailer is highly likely to get my bathroom remodel business?

Tory Burch And Customer Experience

In the Wall Street Journal, March 23, 2016, I was delighted to see a brand I absolutely love featured in a story about marketing and customer experience. Turns out, Tory Burch has decided to build its ‘first permanent retail outpost for a fledgling brand in the world of athleisure, the fast-growing, still confusing mode of dressing that has overtaken the apparel industry.”

This is a reverse of what most companies do — first they build a brick and mortar business, attract customers and sell, sell, sell. Then, they get an online business to attract a wider audience beyond geographic boundaries.

Tory Burch is disrupting e-commerce + retailing and making a case for the customer experience. Here’s my absolute favorite part of this article in the Wall Street Journal, extracted directly:

“Stores are changing, Ms. Burch says. Their purpose is to engage customers and to build a community. They also can be a place where the online and offline worlds merge. A big cube in the middle of the Tory Sport store has an interactive tabletop where customers can view projected images from the Tory Sport look book.”

What Tory Burch is doing with her new designer store (where only 1-2 sizes are available on the shelf), is to “immerse and entertain shoppers in the fictitious, tightly controlled world the brand creates. It’s a chance to show and explain all that a brand stands for — and to seduce a shopper into buying something.”

Home Depot Meet Tory Burch

Back to the concrete and metal fabricated warehouse that stocks whatever a homeowner or builder needs to maintain a residential or commercial structure. The two experiences are related yet don’t compare.

I had no customer experience at Home Depot. There was no one on the floor to help me; there was no good feeling as I perused the aisles of product stacked to the ceiling. No one cared, no one was engaged, and I was extremely disappointed. The Tory Burch brand and shopping experience, on the other hand, is made to delight. Shoppers are put into a setting of sports leisure with travel destinations and tennis (my absolute fave pasttime). You’re invited to sit, have a beverage, engage interactively, and chat with the designers floating around the store.

Hey, Home Depot, can you take a lesson from Tory Burch?

How I See A Home Depot Customer Experience

Here’s what I want when I walk into a Home Depot or Lowe’s:

  • Remember the K-mart blue-light special? An announcer belted out the aisle number for the blue light special and customers in the store raced over to grab something. We had to; we didn’t want to miss a deal. How about that? Put an announcer over the intercom and get a deal going on lighting, paint or other slow movers. Engage the shopper so they feel positive about the brand.
  • How about some training demos in the store? Want to show how to tile a shower wall or how to put tile together to design something more exciting than laminate? (Funny, just found a list of DIY workshops on its website, but how are customers made aware of these? I had no idea my store offer these at all.)
  • I’d like a gathering place in the store to sit and have a coffee. That way I can look at my list and think while taking a breather.
  • You know that garden center that pops up every spring? What an opportunity to have someone demoing shade plants, landscaping, and how to select perennials that bloom in all seasons.
  • There’s absolutely nothing appealing about Home Depot for me now; not after this most recent experience that has been a customer experience fail.

Retailers are going to need to get a clue how to re-attract the customer. The online experience, while convenient, is not always the first choice for shopping, but it permits comparison shopping. If you want my business, and I know you do, Home Depot, then act like you care and put people on the floors who are engaging, want to be there, and want to help me.

You can bet had someone approached me and asked if they could help, then you could have rescued my customer experience and made a huge sale on a master bath remodeling project. As it went, I walked out with nothing and my business is going down the street.

Consumer Buying Habits Still Challenge Retailers

ALT="Jayme Soulati Christmas Tree 2015"Consumer buying habits remain a mystery to retailers, apparently.

Yesterday, I was at a holiday party with my tennis groupies in an affluent home with several Christmas trees and many lovely decorations admired by all. The conversation launched into the fact that there were no more cool ornaments in stores, and the selection of holiday decorating accessories is limited.

We talked about Target and Pier One as places to go on the hunt while others preferred to wait until after Christmas for the deals. Wait! We all agreed there are no more after-Christmas deals for decorating goodies; if you see them before Christmas, you have to snap them up. That is so sad. We used to be able to get really cool ornaments and now retailers are not stocking shelves. Who wants to buy ornaments online, anyway? You have to touch them already.
The fact that retailers began to limit holiday selections is not new. I noticed this trend about 2009-2010 during the last recession when no one was buying that stuff. [Read more…]

5 Reasons Why I Was The Victim Of Fraud

ALT="Duh Road sign on Soulati.com"Being the victim of fraud is one of the most excruciating pains for the psyche. There’s not a moment that passes when you don’t think of yourself as stupid and dumb (probably the very same thing) for falling for it. Especially when the tells were there.

I am a marketing professional. I like to think I’m pretty keen on knowing when something smells rotten. But it was the perfect storm, so let me tell you about it so perhaps you’ll recognize the signs a lot faster than I did. [Read more…]

Marketing Predictions In The Year Of Fear 2016

ALT="Trump Tower by Jayme Soulati"

Credit: Jayme Soulati via iPhone 4S to Instagram

What will 2016 hold for you? Will you have a chance to be authentic? Or will you keep the same old business practice and just manage in the Year of Fear 2016?

I have a bunch of marketing predictions, and they are based on the following factors. [Read more…]

Live With A Loving Heart

ALT="Heart Candy, Loving Heart, Soulati"It’s what I teach my child every day—live with a loving heart.

I had to write about that and remind people to do so because where I walk, live, read, breathe, eat, and play, love is absent. There is so much anger amongst people right now; there is so much animosity and inability to smile or be friendly.

Most of all there’s no compassion.

Is it because I’m older now, and I can see through the angry façade of folks who might be protecting something inside or who are envious or suspicious of loving kindness? [Read more…]

BASF Love In Business Campaign

ALT="BASF Ad for Create Chemistry"Is there love in business? BASF, the 150-year-old conglomerate, thinks so.

In my hunt for good podcasting fodder, I was leafing through Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s The Year Ahead 2016 issue. When I landed on a full-page spread by BASF, which I thought made audio and stereo equipment, I came across this tagline:

We create chemistry that makes more power love a cleaner drive.

Eh? I read it again and again and still could not decipher whether it was referring to computer hard drives (as the left vertical image was of a super highway often depicted as the speeding Ethernet), or whether it was the clean fuel as depicted on the right vertical image in the ad. The blue heart conjoining the two images then made me wonder if ‘chemistry’ was the entendre for ‘love.’ [Read more…]