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…]

Direct Marketing As Strategy, Not Tactic

ALT="Opt-in Marketing book cover by Scott Hornstein on"Direct marketing could be called dead like so many other things since the disruption in technology, but it’s not. In fact, direct marketing as strategy, not tactic is also smart marketing. That keen statement comes from one of the most influential marketers in integrated today, Scott Hornstein. The reason I know this to be true is due to the fact that Mr. Hornstein is our very first featured guest on The Heart Of Marketing podcast with John Gregory Olson and me. You do remember I launched at podcast in February, right? We’ve taped about 34 episodes already, and it’s tons of fun. Thank goodness John does the editing because, well, just because.

What are your views about direct marketing as strategy? [Read more…]

National Business Media, PR And Newtonian Theory

Sir-Isaac-Newton.jpgIf you’ve kept abreast of news about national business media of late, you’d know a few are on the auction block while others are undergoing close scrutiny about revenue and future performance. Still more venerable brands are splitting partnerships.

What does this have to do with media relations, the arm of the public relations discipline oriented to earned media – getting stories to appear in news outlets based on the strength of clients’ news?
It is turning the entire media chain on its head; let’s take a closer look:

  • National media need owners with deep pockets.
  • Business leaders in the executive suite are leaving in droves.
  • Journalists writing for the publication know their necks are on the chopping block, too.
  • Editors are trying for business as usual, while crooking the head over the shoulder to see what’s coming.
  • Media relations experts who have built strong relationships with these business reporters now find these relationships drying up with uncertainty and the inability to say “maybe” to a national news story.
  • Clients who shell out oodles of retainer fees to agencies that promise results by way of earned media now may be seeing less positive confirmed responses about media relations projects.

I bet you didn’t know that Newtonian theory applied to national business media and PR did you? For every action there is an equal or opposite reaction.

So, what’s a guy to do? I’m just going to come clean and say, “Run, and take cover!”

Forbes is for sale. Fortune is splitting from due to a Time Warner divestiture, and Bloomberg Businessweek is under review in spite of its new found success being owned by Bloomberg Media. Time, Inc. is seeking new ways to improve its bottom line while Money magazine is also part of the split from CNNMoney.

Why The Shift in National Business Magazines?

The reason is quite simple; digital. Advertisers are truly hungry for more reach for the dollar, and the way to make this happen is by making websites work on higher digital scale than in the past.
Everyone knows how critical advertising revenue has been for journalism. It’s the elephant in the room. With native advertising now playing strong, business media executives are becoming hot commodities for this expertise so magazines can strengthen revenue.

Online publications designed for smart devices create opportunities for media to build new ad streams, too. If these, sometimes archaically thinking executives don’t get on board with digital and online publishing, then opportunities are weak to maintain a healthy bottom line.

As a public relations marketer,
I subscribe to about 25 different news outlets and other magazines monthly. The majority come via hard copy to my door because the deals I get are too good to pass up; something like $10 for the year with a gift subscription. Sadly, I’ve seen the ‘zines I rely on get thinner and thinner and then consolidate with sister publications. So, this shift in media is not just happening with the national business press; it’s happening in the verticals, too.

Media Relations Professionals

What this means for we who pitch media is the need to absolutely be on the money with stories reporters can’t refuse. Have you ever seen HARO lists of the queries reporters are seeking to write stories? They’re so bizarre and unconventional I’ve nearly stopped scanning for pitching opportunities.

It’s no wonder journalists are complaining every more forcefully about we who pitch stories. If you’re being paid by a client to pitch a story regardless of whether there’s news value, then please push back on the client and take a look at other ways to get that story some air time.

It will save your reputation; trust me. Meanwhile, media relations and public relations professionals need to get more creative and identify outlets, content marketing strategies, and other communication vehicles to share client news.

Because we come from a creative profession, this shouldn’t be too hard to do. I would look to content marketing and digital marketing as an opportunity to get some creative legs on client stories; it’s the next big thing in PR.

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Get Ready For The 2014 Mobile Marketing Revolution

Soulati-Media-mobile-marketing.jpgMobile Marketing. It’s ubiquitous; yet few businesses truly understand what it means. Let’s break it down to the basics and see if we can’t get you pushing brain power to smart devices to better understand what this means for you.

Smart Devices Are Prolific

  • When you’re waiting in line at the retail center this holiday season (it’s what I did this weekend), look at the moms with strollers and shopping carts. What are the kids holding to occupy them whilst mom shops? Tablets! There were more children on tablets strolling through the store than I’d ever seen (and each kid had one so they wouldn’t fight).
  • When you’re sitting in the movie theater waiting for the junk and previews to stop (what, like 20 minutes?) count how many peeps are surfing or reading on tablets, smartphones or e-Readers. Bet you can’t count that high, can you? Uh-huh.
  • Now, step up your thinking a notch and imagine the shoppers doing cost comparisons online as they stand in front of a store display. Do you know what’s happening? Retailers are offering a 10 percent cut from online prices.

That’s how I just bought my new Babolat racquets; strolled into Tennis Zone and asked how much (after months of demoing each one), and the clerk looked up the online price and cut it. Pretty soon the smart retailers will have Wifi-ready touch screens installed throughout the store for folks to comparison shop right there and see that the deal in the brick and mortar is better than the online price (it’s a no-brainer because of shipping and other service fees, right?).

  • Let’s think about one b-to-b example here…I do a ton of online research because I’m a professional blogger. I have to back up my content with a few proof points when I’m really trying to be smarter than the average bear. Research takes time, and I appreciate those 20 minutes in the movie theater to scroll through websites for the best downloadable content I can read later. That content looks primarily like a stale PDF; what’s your take on that?

Navigate Backward From the Mobile End User

To fully understand, because we can list about 50 examples like the ones above in a nanosecond, let’s do a backward navigation from the movie-theater surfers and the comparison shoppers’ end-user experiences.
What do they need on those smart devices to 1) Keep them clicking 2) Earn their loyalty and 3) Earn a high net promoter score? (You know what NPS is, right? Those who love it promote it; those who hate it detract with negative posts and shares.)

  • A Mobile, Responsive Website. We’ve been speaking about this for more than a year now. Every website built must be designed two ways – for desktop and laptop computers AND for smart, mobile devices. For the latter, it takes some design strategy to determine how to present the website onto the small, vertical (iPhone) screens. The design needs to scale to each screen regardless of size; the site needs to “respond” to the device’s parameters. If your company isn’t mobile ready in early 2014, you will play serious catch up (kinda like the social media train? It left the station two years ago?).
  • Interactive Content. Consider switching your content format from the dead PDF to an interactive magazine, whitepaper, newsletter and infographic. For anyone using the iPad or other tablets, this format is necessary and required. Because smart devices (phones and tablets) will be the most popular gift this holiday season, according to Gartner, tablet shipments will increase 53.4% to reach 184 million units by the end of 2013, you need to take a hard look at how you’re presenting content.
  • Long-Form Content & Video. If you’re a professional blogger or a budding blogger writing for a company blog, you need to look at lengthier content, about 1000 words on average, with links, imagery, tips and teachings. It’s never a dull moment in Google land, and SEO continues to shift seismically (hmm, didn’t know that was a word!). Video has always been important to a website and blog because of the marriage between Google and YouTube, for one; not to mention the 80 gazillion users and videos viewed, shared, posted, and embedded on YouTube daily and globally.
  • Engage on All Screens. Remember, your television is a screen. People don’t always watch their favorite shows on TV; they turn to a tablet, notebook, laptop, or desktop. Think about how you can cross-pollinate each screen available to the end user with some activity that makes them engage. According to Google’s Mobile Playbook 2013, 84% of multiscreen shopping experiences include mobile devices.

NBC The Voice

Let me provide my favorite example…do you watch The Voice on NBC? It’s coming to a head where America will choose the winner in the next 10 days or so. To select the contestants who get to stay in the competition, America votes by text via sponsor Sprint, via Facebook, by downloading single songs on iTunes, and via The Voice website. This year, a brilliant strategy was introduced – the Twitter instant save. As the bottom three contestants were standing there to see who was saved, America got five minutes to tweet the name of the singer they most wanted to save along with a hashtag. The Voice engaged America as they tweeted their favorite choice to save, and in five minutes the votes were tallied, and the singer with the highest number of tweets and retweets was saved. This is ingenious, and a perfect example of how The Voice team engages viewers on all screens.

Google published The New Multiscreen World report detailed in this blog post here by Readz, the company creating “amazing mobile experiences” online by bringing dead whitepapers, PDFs, newsletters, and more alive with interactive links, images, and user-engaged elements.

Get the Website Mobile Ready First

It’s daunting, isn’t it, when you see all of the above above? It’s hard to know which step to take first, and that’s why you start at the beginning with your website. If your site is not mobile ready, I’m going to suggest to you a complete review and likely overhaul of your site.

You need to get a new mobile responsive template and design and develop the site for a variety of screens (see above) that scale. Get it working on the largest iMac screen, and then get it going for the smart devices. Find a developer who really knows what she/he is doing; it’s critical. All the rest will follow in good fashion.

Engage in Message Mapping, Too

I’m also going to suggest you launch a Message Mapping exercise with me to ensure you get your content strategy for external audiences solid. You might like this e-book I wrote (sadly, it’s in a dead PDF…hmm, maybe I need to engage with Readz?), Message Mapping: How to Deliver External Communication with a #RockHot Tool for Leaders.

By the way, what’s a long-form blog post without some required self-promotion? Got any questions? You know where to find me!

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The Future Of PR Is A Marketing Smoothie

smoothie.jpgBack in the day, public relations, advertising and marketing were firmly divided in their respective silos and disciplines. We in public relations were often referred to for real in jest as the “bastard step children” of marketing.

Often we’d sit in an integrated meeting of the disciplines and keep our traps shut until we tossed out a bit of value-added strategy into the mix while our peers across the aisle glared nicely.

Today, the blended nature of marketing has public relations professionals up in arms. Some are balking at the integration of PR so cohesively into marketing. In short, these people are having an identity crisis.

They don’t want to be a marketing smoothie. I get it; nor do I, BUT,the nature of marketing today is quite different than the isolated and unintegrated way we worked in the past (as recently as six years ago).

Marketing in its broadest and most inclusive sense now requires every single communications disciple to integrate and blend while learning others’ expertise. For people in public relations, that’s called hybrid PR. For people in marketing, that’s called integrated marketing – the blended whole.

If you don’t do either or both, you die. Purely and simply, you become antiquated.

Change is now; change is always the future. Change makes some people uncomfortable and others squiggle with glee (that’s me). The changes you make as a professional can be methodical or they can be all-in. Regardless of how you change ensure you’re changing to innovate and not merely to keep up with the Joneses.

What’s a Marketing Smoothie?

I know you’ve made a smoothie in your day with all the good, healthy and nutritious ingredients stacked up looking all colorful. Then, what happened? You clicked the “on” button and voila! A blended smoothie chock full of nutritious wholesomeness.

Marketing has become that – a blended beverage with the smarts and nutrition of a plethora of disciplines feeding into and around the other for the benefit of the user, customer, prospect, etc.

Public relations is a powerhouse in that smoothie; it’s the energizer and protein that packs punch. It brings integrated value few other disciplines can brag on. We in public relations do this for every marketing smoothie you’ll ever drink:

• Put the core business goals front and center into strategy
• Build communications strategy against the business with results-driven comprehensive and inclusive programs
Message map the core outbound and external messages for the C-suite and spokespeople and train them to be on top of such messages
• Build and create content against the business goals (content marketing)
• Optimize that content for on-page performance (search marketing) and toss in a bunch of optimized online news releases every campaign benefits from
• Write the landing pages and title the calls to action to drive traffic to sites and generate leads (digital marketing)
• Write and optimize the online newsletter that ties into the digital strategy using the core messages from the message map (email marketing)
• Create and execute blogger relations, influencer campaigns, thought leadership, industry analyst relations, investor relations, and internal communications, to name several

And, yet, all that goodness listed above is not done alone. Some may believe it is and tell you so, but don’t be fooled. An expert public relations practitioner needs her sisters to fully develop and deliver a solidly trackable and measurable campaign with every single ingredient to create the best-tasting smoothie marketing has to offer.

(This post originally appeared on Steamfeed.)

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