In a world with seemingly less time and so much more to consume I’ve identified three tighter, smaller and concise was of getting three important things done in my world.
1) Read theSkimm.com.
This daily feed of the top 3-4 news stories keep you informed even when your day does not allow any news reading, TV watching or much dialogue with your well-informed friends.
2) Weight train in 30 minute chunks.
For years I’ve tried, and then soon blown off, the hour-long weight training sessions with a personal trainer. I got bored. Most days after an hour, I was so sore, I never wanted to come back and the cost, in my mind, seemed excessive. A shorter 30-minute session is fun. I’m seeing the same results and I rationalize the expense as no different from a nice dinner out, but helps to reduces my waist line, not increase it. If you are in Tampa and need kick in the butt, and an inspiring trainer, I highly recommend Sasha Townsend.
3) Write shorter blogs.
Yes, in the beginning this will not seem like less of anything, because it is often a tougher task to get to the point with few words. Trust me, once you master the shorter, sweeter blog post style, it will mean you are a more effective writer and it is very likely, more people will enjoy your opinions, ideas and talents. I know I’ve been guilty. However, I am going to recommit to work this change into my blog writing. Sure, every now and then a “how to” branding subject or marketing issue will need or deserve a bit more detail, story or blah, blah, blah. That’s cool, but for now, I’m signing up to brief is better blog.
Got to go!
Branding guru, CEO, marketing director, head honcho, boss, manager, entrepreneur—whatever your title, one day you may be faced with an unexpected challenge. Lead with courage, you’ll likely turn it around. Manage with mediocrity, and your brand’s life may be very short.
Leading a brand turnaround is no easy role. If it were, there’d be fewer brand casualties.
It takes a special kind of person—one who can lead and battle through brand bumps, uncertainty and the stress that comes with unfortunate situations like product recalls, scandal and controversy.
Having spent close to 30 years sitting in on committee planning meetings and inside boardrooms, and observing brands from around the world, I’ve paid close attention to how leaders act and react during catastrophic storms. Some gasp for air and drown while others take charge and employ strategic change that accelerates their recovery.
Those who pull through display a high degree of focus, resiliency and a sense of urgency throughout the entire ordeal. They are also willing to try new and unproven methods to meet their goals. This style of leadership and set of traits are pivotal in turning around a brand in trouble.
In my new book Brand Turnaround, I studied over 75 brands that were in serious trouble. I looked at their paths back to recovery and the leadership characteristics that helped propel the charge forward. Common behaviors included being:
- Courageous – They don’t fear uncertainty.
- Resilient and tough – They fight while under fire.
- Candid – They are honest, no matter what.
- Charismatic – They empower, inspire and excite.
- Humble – They are innately modest and value others’ worth.
- Gracious – They appreciate all stakeholders.
- Creative – They use imagination to solve problems.
- Generous – They share the rewards.
To explain these attributes in context, let’s say you own a vegan restaurant whose brand is suddenly under scrutiny because it was discovered that one of your signature dishes does in fact contain an animal ingredient. Being a good leader, how would you deal with this?
1. Detach yourself without losing sight of lessons learned. Momentarily abandon your emotional connection to your brand, and look at the entire situation as an outsider might.
2. Focus on making things better while avoiding blame. Maybe it’s the vendor’s fault. You were told that the ingredients contained no animal products. Suddenly the vendor drops a bomb saying that their manufacturer realized there in fact was an animal ingredient in the food. Even if this is the case, don’t spend time pointing fingers. It will waste energy and make you look like you’re focusing more on blame than addressing the actual problem and committing to a solution.
3. Have a clear vision of the future that addresses the triple bottom line: finance, society and the environment. Your recovery plan can’t simply be to fix your menu. How will you do this? What can you do to cut costs through the process? How can you make a sincere attempt at not displeasing too many people involved? Will your solution harm the environment in any way?
4. Leverage your own strengths as well as those of your team. Maybe your Marketing Director is a calm, pleasant speaker, able to keep her cool under stress. If this is the case, you might want to have her be the brand spokesperson. If your General Manager is a customer-service specialist, consider assigning him the task of personally talking to patrons about the issue. Just because you’re the leader doesn’t mean the entire road to recovery has to be paved by you. You just need to be the one who leads the way.
5. Embrace new leadership tools including social media and digital communications. Whether or not you have a Facebook, Twitter, YouTube channel or blog, you may want to start one during the shake-up. Have a designated team member manage the platforms and interact directly with consumers to show that your brand cares. Create a video on YouTube to personally express your concern and apology.
6. Be willing to take risks and accept failing forward. If something doesn’t work, try a different route. The main thing is to persist no matter what, because you are the one in the driver’s seat.
7. Be willing to “launch and learn.” Trust your respect for research and confidence in what you think is right. Don’t second-guess yourself too much during this time. If your first thought is to create an apology video via YouTube and then offer all Facebook fans a coupon, go for it. Maybe your video gets negative reviews and the masses bash your sincerity or feel a coupon isn’t enough of a fix. Try something else.
8. Love the game and play to win. Leaders are passionate people. No matter how much stress the customers and media may cause you, stay true to yourself and remember why you took the leader role in the first place.
9. Be willing to mix, mingle and listen to all stakeholders. Have an open mind because you never know who might come up with a good solution. Maybe someone knows of a more trusting vendor or a better way to boost morale. Don’t close yourself off to anyone, even if they belittle you or threaten to cut ties with you. You may even end up seeing some relationships crumble during this tough time. Be accepting and respectful then move forward.
The road to recovery starts with you, so tap into all these leadership traits you possess. This article is based on content from Karen Post’s latest book Brand Turnaround (McGraw-Hill 2011).
About the author
Known by many as the Brand Diva®, Karen Post is an international branding/marketing expert, professional speaker and author. She helps individuals; businesses and nonprofits around world succeed with powerful, distinct brands.
Karen has written two books: Brand Turnaround: How Brands Gone Bad Returned to Glory… and the 7 Game Changers that Made the Difference (available late 2011) and Brain Tattoos: Creating Unique Brands That Stick in Your Customers’ Minds. For more info on Karen and branding matters, visit the Branding Diva thank you page.
Results from a 25-point social media reach-out research project.
Last month, September 14th to be exact, I posted a blog about such a social media research project. With all the hype around social media marketing strategies and available tactics for businesses, I was curious if a full throttle social media approach would make a difference for a small business with my revenue model. I earn money from consulting, speaking and writing.
Objective: Determine if a 25-point social media effort is worth the investment and results.
TOP LINE FINDINGS FROM STUDY
Is a social media blitz on 25 different points of contact a good use of time and money that produces a meaningful return and results vs. the cost?
In my opinion, to date, from these efforts, NO. Could this change in 6 months, YES. It’s too early to track long-tail results such as if the Fox News report touches a book buyer, another media source or a future client from the visibility.
We invested over $3,800 in time, and that time could have been used for higher income generating activities. (As a side note, I realize my current business model has limited online revenue channels to convert, monetize and track.) But with our current model, the time and money resources we spent on social media, I believe this investment could have been better used and generated more of a return if we had spent that same amount on direct sales initiatives, ad words and media buys to produce better results.
Could these efforts payoff later?
Yes, the good thing about social media is, once it’s out there, it’s pretty permanent, so future clients could stumble upon our past efforts, articles and links. Additionally, the new visitors who come back to the site can buy products and services in the future now that they are aware of my site. And all of these social media efforts do aid in Search Engine Optimization. And for me SEO produced over $100,000 in fees this past year alone.
Was there one powerful means of social media that I believe is really worth it’s weight in gold from this test?
Our Mailchimp newsletter, (which is an aggregation of our blog feed) drives the most traffic to our site. Our Google analytics also shows that the top referral sources include: Twitter, TalentZoo newsletter and key media coverage.
If you decide to try monitoring your efforts and results from social media, you must first define what good results look like. For my companies, success from a marketing effort would look like: More value than investment.
Our value framework was defined as:
- An increase in unique visitors to site
- An increase in new opt-ins to our mailing list
- An increase in affiliate sales
- An increase in book and product sales
- An increase in speaking engagements
- An increase in consulting projects
- An increase in (a top-tier, media source calling me for an interview)
Our value achieved that we can quantify:
- We’ve had an increase in unique visitors to our site by 100%
- We had 20 opt-ins to our mailing list in last 30 days (value $10.00 each)
- We sold 7 affiliate items and earned $7.00
- New book sales (can’t track yet)
- Product sales via tools store (our store was not up at the time of this test)
- New speaking engagements from blog (0)
- New consulting projects from blog (0)
- Top-tier media source interview (1) – Live.Foxnews.com booked me for 10/25
Investment is defined as time and money:
I look at time invested as actually paid time, plus the cost of missed opportunity because our time was tied up on this social media project, other tasks were put to the side.
Time expense on this project was calculated at: 17 hours at $300 an hour = $3700
My time includes: writing of the initial blog that we were touting (Branding and the Beast – How to not get bullied.), the blog about our 25-point study, I planned and did analysis of this project, completed items 1-8 out of 25 on the list and wrote this follow up blog of our results.
My staff‘s time to do list items 9-25 and participate in planning and analysis of our project was equal to 10 hours at an average of $60.00. Billable rate = $600.00.
Total cost of project: $4,300.00
Results that you can take to the bank = 0
Soft results that possibly can translate in future earnings = $500.00
Bottom line: Loss of $3,800.00
The 25-point social media activities we did to promote the blog and gain meaningful results, see original post for list.
Bottom line – should businesses bank on this type of expense?
I believe strong brands are cumulative efforts and any business’ marketing should include a diverse mix of touch points including social media.
Do you think social media efforts should have the same pull as a sharply designed direct response campaign where the credibility helps and sometime just the right placement turns into a home run at the end of season?
Being a successful entrepreneur is no candy-coated, sweet-cake walk. It’s often more like a grueling marathon. If it were an easy ride the unemployment rate would be less, fewer people would be upset about capitalism and they wouldn’t occupy streets in America being the 99% frustrated over the economy. Instead they’d be focused on finding 99 solutions to grow their business. Nothing against the protest, that’s a great American freedom, it just seems like no mission, no message, no plan.
We all make choices and if you’ve made the choice to be a successful entrepreneur and love life with all its ups and downs, do read on.
Entrepreneurship is a highly challenging game. To win you’ve got to be fit and possess a sustainable, sharp, entrepreneurial competitive edge to thrive.
Here are 5 tips that have made a difference in my journey.
1) Confidence and positive attitude are 95% of the drill.
Anyone who says you are too confident or too positive is either jealous, fearful of you beating them out or fearful of you succeeding and then leaving them behind. If I look back at my life and greatest achievements, these attributes were game changers.
I’m sure you’ve read this tip in many entrepreneur blogs and magazines, so to make sure you get hard meaningful value from this post, I’m sharing a real world example of how this works for me.
(Actual event) Recently, a client asked me for my fee to re-brand their company. With extreme confidence, I proposed double my historic fee, absolutely believing I would exceed his company’s expectations and deliver solid value to their event. The client agreed to the fee and I did hit a home run.
2) Go out on a limb, stick your neck out and take risks.
It is a heck of a lot riskier to do nothing or consistently play it safe. Often the key here is to re-frame a situation. Change your story from scary and dangerous to intentional, certain and positive outcome.
(Actual event) I often invest in business expenses, like: research, expert insight, staff and coaches before my compensation comes in from the project. By doing so, this extra expense actually adds pressure on me to perform at a higher level and 90% of the time, I do. On my last book deal, I had over $2500 in hard costs and over $5,000 in my time just on my proposal creation, way before I was insured a contract and an advance.
3) Network and play up.
This means don’t be hanging out with peers that are your equals all the time, but you must put yourself in situations where there are people much smarter and more successful than you. The trick here is in order to pull this off, you must master tip #1. This move may take some sacrifice (skipping another expense) because to play in this league, many times it costs a lot more. That’s why you often won’t see your medium competitors at these (more expensive) situations and events.
(Actual event) When I travel I never stay at medium hotels. Why? Because if I did the chances of me meeting a new quality business prospect are statistically beyond low. Same goes for buying tickets to seminars, like when I went to see Tony Robins, if they have premium seats, that’s where you will find me, not within the section of “wannabes”.
For more on how to become an entrepreneur, view:
The ageless entrepreneur.
Internet photo police are a real thing. I learned this lesson the expensive way last year. I received a formal letter from Getty Images citing that an image on my blog from 2007 was copyrighted and the image company had no record I paid for use of the photo. Apparently, big photo houses now have teams of professionals watching the web and also use special image tracking software to find illegal photo usage.
I immediately looked into their claim and found that the blog article and photo in question was posted by an intern who had worked for me. I was not aware that there was a violation as I trusted that the intern knew the rules of copyright protected images and usage.
The Getty representative explained that ultimately the company that is using the photo is responsible for fees on any copyrighted image. While the representative believed that I was not aware of the violation and that one of my employees posted the image, the fee of $800.00 was due regardless.
So I paid the bill and removed the image.
If you are using images in your blog, make sure they are copyright free or in fact you have paid the source to use them.
The Wall Street Journal ran a good story called “A Guide to Happy (and Legal) Tumblr-ing” about blogging, images and content usage. It’s worth reading as they share some excellent places to source all.
Here are two sources I use often.
iStock.com -Low cost, quality images (most images for low res and blog usage are under $10.00).
Picasa.com – Owned by Google offers many images for free usage in blogs (this is good source but takes more time to find good quality and free images).
Plus, don’t forget to tap your own creative work and shoot original photos when you can, there’s no cost, other than the camera. And if you shoot a killer image, just give yourself a bonus!
For more information on photo copyrights and to get free stock photography, view:
Stock.Xchge – Free stock photography
Every Saturday I salute someone or a group that deserves a little extra attention for his or her good deeds, achievements, creative solutions, witty comments or meaningful acts of customer love.
This week my hat goes off to Martin Lindstrom, one of my good friends and fellow marketing visionaries. Martin and I met in 2003 via the Internet (not from match.com but from me reaching out and complimenting his writing), than later that year we hung out when he and I were both in New York City.
Martin is one of the smartest cats I know and he has been very successfully building a global brand for himself as a marketing and brand guru and bestselling author. If you’ve not read his works you should. They are all excellent resources combining research, case studies and creative forward thinking.
His new book Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate our Minds and Persuade us to Buy is why he deserves an extra round of applause today. The book (with the forward written by film director and producer Morgan Spurlock) jumps out of the circle of what you should do with your brand to what is going on in the world of “at all costs, get that consumer to buy”. Which was a bold move since he often works on the side of the consumer hunter.
Martin’s approach around his latest book is fresh, a bit shocking and very insightful, because as marketers we all have to continue to create, converse and captivate this brandwashed society. So to better understand what’s going on in the sandbox is a good thing.
I just received my Brandwashed book so this is not a review, but encouragement to grab a copy as I’ve never read a book Martin wrote that I did not love and learn from.
On a side note, while writing Brandwashed, Martin went on total brand detox. Which meant for one year he did not buy one new branded anything. He used what he had or consumed alternative non branded generic options. Phew, that alone needs a moment of special recognition.
Martin continues to push the envelope, the box and the marketing mindset to the edge challenging us all to better understand the world and the consuming residents who live here.
How a little comedy can help content creation and communication captivation
We all struggle with developing killer content that not only communicates but captivates audiences. Let me share some insight from two recent comedy outings and why you should routinely schedule such humorous adventures in your career journeys to master the art of theater and comedy in your messaging.
Last month, when I was in New York City I saw Love, Loss and What I Wore, an off Broadway show about women and life or to better describe it as the New York Times Review states, two hours of matters of the heart and matters of the closet. It was entertaining, thought provoking and triggered some deep emotions and memories.
The performance did not include any high tech scenes, fancy costumes or flying actors. It was so simple, yet so powerful. Five women in black dresses, who stood in place for the entire show spouting off smart dialogue that left a lasting impression.
This past weekend I was in Chicago and went to Second City. Second City is a comedy institution (with theaters in Chicago and Toronto) dating back fifty years and spawning such great talent as Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd and many noted Saturday Night Live stars. They usually have a couple of performance options, this weekend I saw South Side of Heaven.
Most of what I saw there were character-driven improv style, laugh so hard it hurts shows. I’ve never been disappointed and always learn so much.
I love comedy, and due to my very tight time and limited schedule I always try to do things when I’m traveling that are fun and I can learn too. Here are some of my take-a-ways and I how I manage idea generation while I’m hanging out with friends and often drinking wine.
1) Always carry a good idea pad or use your phone notes app. After two glasses of wine, a great idea can easily exit your brain.
Spot what works.
2) Pay attention to what topics the audience laughs at.
3) Listen for simple words that are called something goofy but seem to roll off the tongue and sound extra funny. For example, the word ‘Acne’ is okay, ‘Big Fat Zit’ has a lot more word punch.
Mimic good story structures.
4) Story telling is a craft. Stories that really work usually follow a simple architecture. Here’s a structure you’ll see often: Set scene, introduce characters, identify problem, present solution, use of a shocking result or a question asked.
All of these comedy gems can aid in delivering more meaningful and memorable presentations, writing content or making a strong point in a text message .
If you need more help with story telling or comedy, check out two of my favorite advisers: Doug Stevenson, who puts on story telling workshops around the world and offers coaching and my super funny buddy David Glickman, who also coaches and can punch up material.
For more creative problem solving, view:
18 steps towards stress-free, fast-lane, more fun and darn good writing.
I’m very fortunate to have an awesome social media team supporting my message and assisting our client’s in reaching their goals. Allow me to introduce the “A” social team to you as they contribute to branding content, SEO solutions and marketing outreach on the front line and behind the scenes.
Pictured above from left to right is Lauren Angrick, Chief Problem Solver for all my companies and to the right of me is Jess English our newest social media team member who is Community Manager for Restaurant Branding Roadmap, our soon to launch DIY self small business branding program for restaurants. Both are super bright, dedicated and are hard core social media-savvy professionals. Raining from the University of Tampa, their studies and expertise range from marketing, public relations and entrepreneurial matters.
This photo was shot last week at the first annual Splash Bash to End “High Tech Homelessness” in Tampa Bay sponsored by Tampa Bay Wave. Which was a blast! Tampa Bay Wave is an organization that I support. Their goal is to build a strong community of web tech entrepreneurs across Tampa Bay. If you are in Tampa you should check them out and other supporting web-based businesses, if you are outside Tampa finding a local organization like this is a worthy move.
To learn more about my companies, click here.
Social media continues to get lots of media coverage and buzz. Some, very well deserved and some is just a whole bunch of empty shoeboxes. Not good, because I love shoes!
Many of my blog readers and friends know that in 2009, after reading one tweet on a Saturday night at 11PM – and following up on it – this social connection turned into a million dollar consulting contract for me. I will forever love little blue birds!
I’ve also connected with and discovered some amazing professional resources through LinkedIn too. I love to find competent people that I can count on to help me do my work!
That’s all good, but as entrepreneurs and small or big businesses, can one count on meaningful results from social media? Like a concentrated 25-point social media blitz without investing any money, just time.
I’m curious too. So I’m going to conduct a test. We’ll call it the “25- point social media project”. This week my staff and I will leverage a two-part blog post article in 25 different ways through social media. In 2 week days we will report back the results. We will also track our time so you we can weigh out the investment to the return.
Here’s the test.
Join me, if you want to try this too and then we can compare results and lessons learned.
My blitz was geared around my new book, Brand Turnaround. I started by writing an article, which included excerpts from the book. The article was about brands gone bad and how they return to glory. The two-part series was called Branding and the Beast. So beyond the text, I had the book art and an image I bought from istock.com.
My 25-point social media blitz/how to promote your blog:
- I tweeted about it, included a link to the blog post and a unique headline.
- Posted a discussion about it on LinkedIn in my Brandturnaround group.
- Found a popular LinkedIn discussion, made a comment and included the article link.
- Posted a discussion in blogengage.
- Posted on .docstoc with links to blog.
- Turned it into a PowerPoint and posted it on Slideshare.
- I utilized pinging services. By pinging the blog post I let search engines know I just updated my blog.
- I posted it on Facebook with a different headline (because the blog autofeeds to my Facebook author page).
- I bookmarked the post on Reddit.
- I bookmarked the post on StumbleUpon and grew my stumble followers.
- Bookmarked the post on Delicious.
- Created a saved search for Twitter based on the blog’s keywords, replied to those tweeting the keywords with a comment and a link to my blog.
- I bookmarked the post to Digg.
- I found a high traffic site, TalentZoo, where they invite guest bloggers to submit stories.
- I submitted it to technorati.
- I wrote another discussion about it and posted a question on another LinkedIn group.
- I bookmarked the post to Blinklist.
- I posted it on Bizsugar, so readers could vote on it.
- I added my blog to Ping-o-Matic – it updates different search engines that your blog has updated.
- I produced a 3 minute video on the book Brand Turnaround, posted it on YouTube, Vimeo and then promoted it in Twitter, Linkedin and on my Author Facebook page.
- I posted my blog on blokube – a social voting site dedicated to professionals in blogging.
- I added 5 linkbacks within my blog to other blogs in my niche.
- I commented on 5 other blogs in my niche, with links back to my blog.
- Started a discussion on Google Groups.
- I posted an article on EzineArticles.com with a byline link to my blog.
and be sure to use a URL tracking system for every single URL you create, which tracks the effectiveness of your links.
We are off to the research laboratory and we’ll let you know our results.
For more on social media tips, view:
If you are going to tweet, why not make it really sweet.