#FocusFriday – Focus on Your Message and Messaging

wesfryer-etechohio09-stageWith so many platforms, strategies and marketing approaches available to us, it is easy to become distracted. Many gravitate to new, exciting and technology-focused marketing tools and social media platforms. However, what is marketing without a message? Understanding what your message is, crafting it and using it are important elements of marketing and business development.

On this #FocusFriday, take time out of your busy marketing activities and programs and examine your message. Ask questions, the answers may require you to hit the reset button or at least reexamine you message and how you are projecting it to your target audiences. The language here may be new to someone unfamiliar, but no matter: take some time to walk through this process and it will strengthen your marketing foundation which is necessary for long term personal and business success.

two-woman-smiling-and-talking_16360724

Message and Messaging

What is your message?

The definition of message. In terms of marketing, message is the underlying idea or theme in a marketing piece or communication, or the central or primary content or information that passes from a communicator to a receiver. When I think of message I think of what my organization is about and committed to and the value we bring to clients. Understanding your message – and it may change over time – is important. A clear and articulate message conveys confidence, success and ability. A powerful message and how you convey it is a competitive advantage and a differentiator.

Messaging

In the marketing world we often discuss messaging. What exactly is it? This is the process of how you bring your key messages relating what your organization is, what its mission is and why you do what you do. Your messaging focuses on the key points you regularly make when you communicate with your target audiences. Remember, messaging always connects back to your brand.

Clarity

Can you write it, articulate it and explain it? What good is a message if you can’t convey it to the audience? You message must be clear in its intent and purpose.

Organizational Acceptance

Is your message embraced by your organization and is is a part of how team members communicate with customers or prospects? This is vitally important and all team members must be on board and learn how to communicate and share your message effectively.

Message Projection and Consistency

Can the members of your organization explain it and convey it to prospects and clients? This is where regular training and review of your overall message and marketing messages becomes important. Remember, it’s all about focus; if we wander away from what is important, messages get muddled and this creates brand confusion. Consistency in your message and messaging eliminates confusion and keeps attention focused.

Talking Points

Do you have talking points that support your message? For example, if you were at a networking event and somebody asked you questions about what you do or your business could you easily convey your message and key elements of what you do and the value you provide? Preparation is important any time you or a member of your team will be “on stage” or in the spotlight. We regularly train people for TV news interviews which are typically short and to the point. Having three well defined and practiced talking points makes for a much better interview. In a business interaction you can use these defined talking points in the same way.

Value Proposition

Do you know what your value proposition is? The definition of value proposition is an innovation, service or feature intended to make a company or product attractive to customers. Sounds technical – and it can be. However, the point here is can you explain in easy to understand terms what value you bring to a relationship and the value that your products or services bring? Being able to articulate value and back it up with examples will give you a competitive advantage when presenting or when speaking with prospects.

Competitive Advantages and Differentiators

Do you know your competitive advantages and differentiators? We know that having an edge or competitive advantage puts you in a superior position over those in your market space. How you describe these advantages and how you are different in your approaches will allow you to stand out and attract more attention. Being different is a competitive advantage. If you have not taken the time to write down your key differentiators, do so. Take the time and assess how you do what you do, why clients choose to work with you and examine how you are truly different. Write these down and commit them to memory.

Why are we going through this exercise?  All too often I have been in the presence of fantastic business people. Many have great ideas, offer quality services and are leaders in their respective industries. Unfortunately, based on the way many communicate, you would never have the foggiest idea. Communicating, whether it is in person, online, or though video or audio must be done effectively and with a message.

Keep Focusing on your brand and your business.

Sources:

http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/differentiators.html#ixzz42cn9qquW

Focus Friday is all about being more effective and successful in business and life activities. Focusing will allow you to save time and achieve goals in both your personal and in your professional life.

Have questions, need a resource? Contact me at wjcorbett@corbettpr.com.

Need to start creating a personal marketing plan?  Email the code PMP2016 to me at info@growyourpersonalbrand.com and I will send you a list of questions to ask yourself to get started.

Looking for some help setting up your LinkedIn plan? Visit www.growyourpersonalbrand.com

Join our groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.

wjcorbett@corbettpr.com

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

Social Media Marketing During the Paris Terror Attacks

Blacked Out Eiffel Tower

The blacked-out Eiffel Tower following the terrorist attacks on Nov. 13, 2015.

Pre-programed and robotic posts show many “marketers” were out of touch.

Nothing is worse than looking insensitive and out of touch with your audience. During times of crisis your audience will shift its focus to the latest news and world events. We saw this happen immediately when the Paris terrorist attacks occurred on Nov. 13 and during the aftermath.

Breaking news and major world events requires an understanding of our audiences and the 24-hour marketing/news cycle.  We must constantly watch and monitor what is happening and have the ability to take action immediately.

Were you watching the events unfold in Paris? Were you or your audiences commenting about this on social media? I did and many of the people I know and with whom I am connected expressed their opinions, outrage and sadness. The ability to express our feelings and opinions as well as communicate with others is what social media is all about. We have the unique ability, like never before in history to communicate and interact instantaneously. However, with this ability comes a responsibility, especially for those of us who use social media as a means to market and build our brands.

I was shocked to see many social sellers, marketers and so called marketing gurus continuing to post marketing/sales information and content throughout Friday night and they continued through Saturday and Sunday. Their posts showed a real disconnect with the concerns and the focus of most people around the world. Posting marketing messages and inspirational “sales” quotes only demonstrated a lack of understanding of the global picture and audience interest.

These posts also made it clear that these marketers were using pre-programed or robotic messages. The use of software-based tools is not the issue.  In my opinion the problem is the “set it and forget it” attitude marketers take today. Yes, these tools save time and effort, but they come with drawbacks as we have seen in times of crisis. Attention must be paid to the messages and information being sent out. A poorly-timed post can damage a personal brand, the reputation of a business or cause other harm.

How can you prevent looking insensitive, greedy or just out of touch? The following are some strategies to consider:

  1. If you are marketing socially, monitor the news or have team members monitor the news every day of the week, including nights, weekends and holidays.
  2. Have a system set up that will allow you to react quickly. You may need to have the ability to post on all social networks at once an appropriate message or order that all posts stop. If you manage this yourself, this should not be an issue. Make sure to test your plan and, in addition, be sure you have the ability to shut down programed posts via your smartphone or remotely.
  3. Have the ability to quickly shut down or suspend programed posts and responses. This may be tricky if you use a digital marketing agency. When an event occurs, over a weekend or at night, there should be a policy or system your business and your agency have agreed upon. You need the ability to order the shut down or have a policy in place that will allow your agency to shut down social media activity. Make sure to discuss this with your agency when developing campaigns and when signing engagements. Poorly timed posts and those that continue on throughout a crisis can hurt your brand and your reputation.
  4. Wait to react socially to breaking news and trends. Often initial news reports about a major incident are flawed and inaccurate. Wait until the facts are clear to formulate an appropriate response. In the case of the Paris attacks, it was clear very quickly what had occurred. However, in many situations the root of a crisis cannot be determined so fast.
  5. Don’t respond because everyone else is responding. Sometimes being silent is the best policy. Consider carefully how you are going to respond and don’t post just for the sake of being seen.

Watching and being sensitive to horrific events unfold before our eyes is unfortunately part of the world that we live in today. Understanding the messages that we project during these periods of time is critical. Monitor your marketing and social media and be prepared to make changes or, in other words, react appropriately. Those who use social media spend significant time and energy building their brands and reputations. Don’t let poorly timed or scheduled posts cause damage that pre-planning should have prevented.

wjcorbett@corbettpr.com

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

The Subway PR Crisis, What Should Franchisees Do?

A Subway franchise owner.

A Subway franchise owner.

Another Reason why Personal Branding Matters

I have written about the Subway Jarod Fogle spokesperson scandal and crisis PR recently. I understand what the management, marketing team and PR firm for Subway is doing this week. It has been a roller-coaster and certainly a challenge for them; this is truly a nightmare for a corporation. While I have discussed spokespeople before in blogs, I am not going to focus on the spokespeople for this blog. I have a different take and a marketing strategy that most franchises should take, both on how to market as well as how to weather a crisis.

Let me start by saying that I like Subway and give them great credit for building a brand and empowering so many entrepreneurs.  I have been to Subway shops many times and have been treated well.  Through Subway, many people around the word are experiencing the American dream of business ownership. They provide for their families, they create jobs as well as economic activity. They provide food at a reasonable cost and for the most part are a positive influence in communities; but, I feel quite sorry these days for the average Subway franchise owner. They have no control over who the corporate management chooses to use as a spokesperson and have little control, if any, over national marketing programs. However, there is no doubt that they do benefit from national marketing and branding efforts. The branding is part of the overall rationale behind franchising in the first place. I have worked with a number of franchises and understand the model from the franchisee as well as the franchisor perspective.

I hope that the marketing team at Subway is thinking about its franchise owners and local operators. The franchise was founded in Connecticut in 1974 and today has close to 70,000 units in over 100 countries. Interestingly the company does not own any units.

The damage of the current controversy will impact store sales, some more than others. Negative publicity for any reason will have an impact.  Most consumers also know that the crisis is not the individual franchisee’s fault, but it is their problem. Negative perceptions will hurt them.

If I was on the Subway marketing team, I would focus my attention on the franchisees and provide them with support, tools and a long term strategy for localized marketing which should include a personal branding and marketing plan for franchise owners. Subway shops are no different than any other local business. They are part of communities and rely on people for business. Franchises like Subway, unlike most other small businesses (restaurants in particular), have owners out front. What I mean by this is that in my market, Long Island, New York, it is not uncommon for you to walk into a diner, Italian restaurant or even a sushi place and be greeted warmly by an owner, chef or hostess. Many of the most successful local restaurants have owners who get to know their patrons, interact with them and treat them special. They make customers feel like family and this builds loyalty. This works with chefs and hostesses as well but not as effectively when you have an owner interacting directly with the customers. The key is the relationship. This relationship-focused approach is something that franchises, and in this case, Subway, need to embrace. When customers know the owners, they have a relationship with them, can compliment them or provide feedback. Even negative feedback is important for businesses and the owner is the best person to deliver it to.

A Subway franchise location.

A Subway franchise location.

Recognizing that franchises do not have this type of structure, for the most part, is a challenge but it can be turned into an advantage if done properly. Like me, many people like Subway, but they don’t know the owner. If they did, when a crisis hits, having a relationship will help the franchisee weather the storm. People will come back because they know the owner and like them. This personal connection is invaluable but must be cultivated. Here are a few personal branding strategies for franchise owners:

  1. Be present: Franchise models are designed so that owners don’t have to be there. While is true, this does not mean that they should not be there. Owners should spend time at their operations, greet people and speak with them.
  2. Be active in the community: Some Subway shops provide food, support and other items for charity or local groups. Owners need to be part of this and part of the engagement with community members.
  3. Local press: There is no reason that good work cannot be touted in the media. Owners, who have interesting stories to tell, should tell them and be available to the local media for stories. However, in the case of Jarod Fogle or crisis situations from corporate, it is best to not to get involved. All media inquiries should be forward to the regional or corporate office. However, local positive business stories or franchise stories are certainly fair game.
  4. Social media: Subway has a large and active social media presence and this helps local owners and operators with branding and promotions. However, local operators should also have a presence online and be part of the online/local online community. Social media should be used to allow the community to get to know who the owner is, what they stand for and what they are passionate about. Again, this is another way to make connections and build valuable relationships that matter when crisis situations occur.
  5. Join local organizations and business groups: This is simple marketing 101. Owners need to be out at groups and remain. Business people need to buy lunch. Do you think that they would frequent Subway shops more often if they know the owner? I do.
  6. Speak: People are interested in big brands and business owners. The branding of Subway or any international brand will open doors. Owners should create presentations for local groups and present the lessons learned as a Subway/business owner.
  7. Educate: Schools and camps are looking for activities for students. They also want to give them life lessons. I remember going to a Roy Rogers as a child. I still remember how they made the burgers and the fact that they placed a little butter on the hamburger buns. This is a memory that has stuck with me for over 40 years.
  8. Have a personal marketing plan: The steps outlined here are part of a personal marketing plan. The owner of a Subway or any franchise should have a personal marketing plan that will allow them to become better known in their community. With the right approach and commitment to the effort, a franchise owner can become a local rock star. We know rock stars attract attention and interest. Interest will lead to customers and will also blossom into relationships. These activities create good will. Through good will and relationships is an insurance policy in the event that a crisis should one day occur.

The Subway Jarod Fogle controversy presents an opportunity for all franchise owners to look at their marketing and their reputations in their communities. Franchisees leverage their brands to grow their businesses and this is an advantage in many ways. Branding and frequent messages builds awareness and a modest level of trust. However, personal relationships and direct interaction with customers build stronger trust and loyalty and can mean the difference in weathering a given crisis.

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

Consistency Matters: Does the Real World Brand Match Your Online Brand?

Target and Single ArrowFor nearly three decades in the public relations business, I have had the pleasure of working with some great entrepreneurs and businesspeople.

The firm’s goals have remained the same: we seek to secure media coverage to build a person’s brand, reputation and attract attention. Building a brand takes time. In the past I have discussed the questions you need to ask to define your brand and I have outlined what is needed in your personal marketing plan.

With so many ways to promote your brand and with so many places online where your brand resides, a challenge surfaces: consistency. Is your brand image and message consistent across all the digital properties that you own? Does this “online brand” match how you present yourself in the real world? I bet some readers have not even thought of this.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a social media marketer using social media for your brand, business or if you are just a casual user of social media. Guess what? You have an online brand and you need to know how you are presenting yourself. For those of you who are not practitioners of social media, you cannot escape either. Even when you don’t have social media accounts of your own, your name is probably online on your company’s website, in directories of the groups that you belong to or perhaps in the media. Have you ever searched for your name? Have you searched for it recently? If not, you should. You need to see how your brand is represented online and what people are saying about you.  Are people making positive comments, negative comments are they not saying anything at all?  Search for your name in Google (and other search engines) to see what comes up. Search down a few pages and make notes of what you find. Search Google Images; does your image come up? Is it an old image? Is the image unflattering? Again, take notes and click on the images, where are they being pulled from? Perhaps images are coming from social media sites such as LinkedIn or Facebook or a newspaper or organizations to which you belong.

Tip: for Gmail/Google Plus users – you can create what is known as Google Alerts. These are Google searches that are done daily or periodically for search terms that you want to monitor. Put your name into the Google Alert system and if your name is mentioned you will get an alert. There is more to this, but begin by creating an alert with your name or, more specifically, your name in quotes such as “Bill Corbett.” This tells Google to search just for your name. If you have a relatively common name like I do, I suggest adding additional words to your search. I use “Bill Corbett” “Public Relations.” This narrows down my search and gets better results – not all the results of all the other Bill Corbett’s in the world. There are quite a few of us by the way.

Businessman Looking in Mirror

Now that you are monitoring your brand, it is time to look at the consistency of your brand. Do you have an elevator speech? Do you have a personal mission statement that you share with people you meet? Do you have an area of expertise that you discuss in the real world? Your answer to all of these questions is likely to be “yes.” How about this question: do you have a certain style of dress or a “look” that you are known for? If you don’t have a specific look, you can be sure the way you present yourself professionally will not go unnoticed. Your message, your mission and the way you look and present yourself needs to be the same (consistent) online as it is in the real world. Your headshots and images need to be professional and consistent. Every written profile also needs to reflect a similar message. Certainly your LinkedIn profile will provide much more information than a Twitter profile, but stay consistent. The graphics and the videos you use must also be consistent. Video is by far the best bridge between the real world and the cyber world. If you can convey on video your brand and message, you are doing it right. Be aware that video is tricky; poor quality videos (poor lighting, poor audio and an awkward presentation) can hurt you and your brand, especially if you are sharp and clear in the real world. Keep an eye on your videos.

Your bios, profiles and content needs to be consistent with your messaging. Think about what you post and the subject matter. If you are a banker or financial services professional, is posting marketing-related content consistent with your brand? If you are a medical professional, are posts about movies and TV appropriate? When using social media for business you must consider these factors. It is not the same if you are using social media to communicate with friends and family. However, in today’s world the lines between what is business and what is personal (for the most part) has faded away. Remember, if you’re online you are representing your brand at all times. You should expect anything and everything you post to be seen by everyone. So if you don’t want friends, employers, prospects, clients or others to see what you are doing, don’t post. In some cases you may not have a choice; friends and others can and will post images of you and mention your name. Again, this is why you need to monitor your brand regularly.

A poor or inconsistent image can result from simply not having your image or content on a LinkedIn, Twitter or other accounts. How does this look to someone you met at a networking event or the person you were introduced to by a friend as a referral? When you don’t bother to project your brand image to prospects, you damage the potential for establishing a business relationship. It’s better not to have an account than to have a blank one. It is shocking to me to see how many networkers and salespeople don’t have completed profiles on LinkedIn. Think of the opportunities you have lost or how this looks when compared to you competition. You’re not looking good online even though you are very impressive in the real world.

Your brand message and image must be consistent in the real world as well as in the cyber world. Take the time to review where your brand resides online and make sure that it is consistent with your real world image. Keep your content consistent and you will be rewarded with a stronger and more effective brand.

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

Guess What? You are a Media Company

iPhones

Smartphones such as iPhones are your Personal Marketing Devices.

With today’s changing marketplace for business and communication, the old rules no longer apply. To succeed and thrive you must recognize that you and your business are media companies. How can this be? We are in an age where technology and communications is not only vital for business operations but also for marketing. Some traditional marketing strategies will continue to apply but sticking with them alone will be a recipe for difficulty in the years to come.

A media company. Really? Yes, and the sooner you recognize this and make changes to your marketing the better prepared and the more competitive you will be. In addition to using traditional print marketing and mailings, your multi-media business must add technology.

You hold in the palm of your hand a powerful tool: your smartphone. Virtually everyone in business today carries one and if you don’t, this post is probably not going to help. I call the smartphone your PMD – Personal Marketing Device. This amazing tool can do so many things that many of us would never have thought it would be possible. From a strictly marketing perspective, what does this device do?

Video: When done right, video content created and shared can reach as many people as a broadcast TV program. YouTube is the center of the video universe and you and your media company need to be present. People want video content. They want to watch videos on their smartphones and tablets. They want to watch them at the time of their choosing, on demand. Your competitors are on YouTube and using video. If you are not using video to market and share your brand message, you are two or three years behind your competitors.

meerkat-periscope[1]

Meerkat (l) and Periscope (r) are two smartphone applications which allow for live broadcasting.

From a broadcasting perspective, new applications Meerkat and Periscope are on the scene and part of the next wave. With these apps you become a live broadcaster. You can do shows on the fly and your followers/audience can watch them live. All of this is done on your phone and amazing to think about. However, recognize that the quality of video from smartphones is great. Use your phone, but whenever possible use real video cameras to capture and create content.

Face to Face Communication: iPhone’s FaceTime application or other applications like Skype allow for one-to-one or multi-user video conferencing. This is another form of broadcasting, but to small audiences. The use of video conferencing will be much more common in the future and for meetings and networking it will become an important tool. To reach larger audiences in a live format check out www.Livestream.com and its mobile app.

Blogging: video content is important but written content is also an integral part of your marketing and branding. Your blog is equivalent to your media company’s publishing arm. Your content is created like a magazine, offering articles on a variety of topics for your audience. Your audience wants this content and they will seek you out for it.  Without a blog your brand has no voice and no place to come to life. For a business, your website is where your brand lives; for an individual it is your LinkedIn profile, but it is your blog that brings your brand to life. This is equally so for your video content and – if you have the energy – a podcast.

podcastmikeheadset1[1]

A podcast microphone and headset.

Podcasts are becoming increasingly popular. They represent the “radio” part of your media company. Podcasts allow you to share your knowledge in an in-depth way. Many podcasts incorporate interviews where ideas can be shared and expertise can be further presented. While not for everyone, podcasts are an effective tool in reaching new audiences and they are the next generation of audio content.

Social media: for most people it is clear that social media sites are where brands and individuals engage with audiences. Many people have social media accounts/apps on their smartphones and use them for personal activities. But they must be properly leveraged for business purposes. Are personal social media accounts used for business still personal? Today we see a mix between what is personal and what is business. In order to engage with people 24/7, it is often necessary to use personal accounts. If you are seeking to build your brand, you want to utilize all social media sites to build awareness and to become an influencer. With a mobile device you have the ability to engage at any moment. Consumers and prospects are online nights and weekends. You need to understand their habits and “live” communicate with them when their eyes and attention are on the social sites that you are using.

Social Media Logos

Icons of various social media platforms that are popular today.

Social media activities can be done on desktops or laptops but more and more of the content is coming directly from mobile devices. Again, your PMD becomes the conduit for bringing your message to potentially millions of people. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Instagram, Snapchat and others that are emerging are platforms where you will need to present your brand.

Social media in the consumer space is much different in business-to-business. Recognition of this fact impacts how you communicate with your audiences and the sites that you will use. Certainly LinkedIn is the premiere site for business-to-business while sites such as Facebook and Pinterest are more effective at reaching consumers. The point here is not so much the value of social media; it is not new. However, we need to look at it differently and recognize that social media is not only part of how we project our message but also where we engage with prospects and customers. When social media was new, many focused only on projecting and sharing content. They skipped the important part – building relationships. This is going to be the key factor in the success of businesses that are adopting social media now.

We see that technology, particularly the technology that is in the palm of our hands, has enormous power. Businesses and individuals need to harness the marketing power of these devices and become media companies which offer diverse content (text, video, audio, photos, graphics) to audiences in different ways. Broadcasting alone will not see results; these tools must be used to listen, interact, share and build relationships. Build your media company and use its capabilities today, this is how you will achieve short and long term success.

Time Saving Productivity Hacks

SpeakWriteTime is something that we all wish we had more of it and lament when we run out of it.

Today time is more valuable than ever and we will fight to get more of it as well as complain when we don’t have enough of it. Time is a valuable commodity and we need to do whatever we can to make the most of our time when working or seeking to improve our businesses.

Most of us – if not all – are on the lookout for ways to make more efficient use of our time, whether it is saving time or accomplishing more in a given period of time. For those who – like me – are constantly on the go, we have no choice.

As a busy public relations and marketing firm owner I am always on the run. I want to share with you some time-saving apps and strategies that I use on a regular basis to assist me to be more efficient and effective.

Dictation Applications

People who are pressed for time are not always the best typists. We rush and it is hard to type very fast on a mobile device. I have found that dictation, a tried and true business efficiently activity, can be easily adopted in the mobile environment.  If I need to write a letter, a lengthy email or a blog, I use apps on my phone to record myself – often when I am driving, on the train, waiting for a meeting or on the road between meetings.  When I am on the road, I do not have a place to sit down and type but I can hammer out a lot of content rather quickly verbally.  Every smart phone has applications that can be used for recording. There are services that, for a fee, will then convert that audio content into written text.

I use SpeakWrite, a dictation app and service, as well as the voice memo application of my smartphone. Dragon (you may be familiar with Dragon Naturally Speaking) can also be helpful, although I have found that it is challenging to work with and it can be expensive.logo

SpeakWrite translates your dictation (mp3 file) into text.  The file is then uploaded to the company website. The company processes the audio and cleans it up in terms of some structure and spelling before returning it to you relatively quickly.  The caveat though is that there are fees involved with this and if it is a long dictation, it can cost between $30, $40, $50 or more. Check with www.speakwrite.com for pricing and services. However, the goal here is to save time. By saving time we save money and this activity gives us the opportunity to literally do two things at once.  We can be in a meeting while the document is being created. After the meeting you have the convenience of having the text waiting for you when you return to your office or right on your website. Now all you have to do is edit the document and you are finished, a great time saver.

The other option is to find a manual service that will take your audio file and return the text to you typed up. If you have flexibility in the timeframe for returning the script, the fee will be much less. All you need to do is edit the text file and again count the time you have saved.

Text Reading Software Apps

Do you have a lot of articles or blogs that you want to read, but just don’t have time?  This is a problem I have but I have found a fun and easy solution. I use Natural Reader Pro, which can take a PDF, Word document or other formatted content and read it back to me. It also has a desktop application, which is great if you are not an outstanding proofreader. It is a valuable timesaver, especially if you are working by yourself. It is also available on mobile devices.naturalreaders logo

This is my hack: copy and paste an article’s text or a PDF magazine clipping or letter that you can send to yourself as an attachment and the software will read it back to you. It is like converting written articles into podcasts because you can fast-forward, pause, rewind and choose different voices.

Taking this approach allows me to listen to a large amount of content via my smartphone while I am doing other activities such as driving to meetings, doing work around the house, walking or exercising. Again, I am able to do two activities at the same time, allowing me to be more efficient. This allows me to read the dozens of magazine articles that I cannot read otherwise because I simply do not have time. In just one hour in the car I can listen to a dozen articles, expand my knowledge base to better serve my clients and find strategies to improve my business.

Social Media Scheduling

It is valuable to create your own fresh, original content and be “real” in your interactions with people on social media. It is important to be both a listener and an engager. If you are blogging and sharing your content online, scheduling posts is a good strategy, but scheduling should be intermixed with ongoing social posts and other activities.

Sites like Hootsuite, Gremlin and Tweetdeck allow you to schedule posts whenever you want to so you have control over your social media strategy. Depending on your business – a mattress company, for example – you may want to post late at night to reach those restless sleepers. Scheduling means that you don’t have to do real time posting. The combination approach for the most part is the best way to get content out. However, do not publish too much content, especially if you can not react to likes, retweets or comments.

Some services offer the option of recurring posts within a specified period of time or for a specific number of times. These are also a good time savers. However, with any scheduled post – watch out for these as there are risks associated with this strategy.  For example, scheduled posts can hit at inappropriate times, i.e. during a national crisis.  If you are posting robotically when something bad is happening it can make you look uncaring. You must have the ability to quickly shut off scheduled or recurring posts.

These are examples of the ways you can use mobile applications and sites to save you time and become more efficient. I am a busy Public Relations firm owner and father of twins. I have a very hectic schedule; I am in New York City and Long Island working with clients, attending events and communicating with the media. I use these activities and tools to create a system that makes me more time efficient.

Look for ways to optimize your time while in transit or involved in other activities. If you have any time-saving hacks, please share them with me, I would love to hear about them and share them with others.

Revisited 2015 – July 4th Independence Day – Lessons from the Founding Fathers for Social Media and Personal Branding

I wrote this blog 5 years ago it is still relevant today.  However, the world has changed.  Today Americans have more ways to market and communicate.  With smartphone technology in our hands we have enormous power to broadcast our messages and engage with others. I call smartphones, PMD’s Personal marketing Devices they can also be seen as your own personal broadcast center. (More on this in a future blog)

The technology we have however is not being leveraged effectively by small business people.  Many don’t see the opportunity because they are overwhelmed with time pressures and lack of understanding of the power that they have. Understanding marketing and why and how it must be done is also a challenge.

It’s time for small business people from across America to take charge of their destiny and bring their brands and messages to target audiences.   Failure to utilize the marketing tools that are available (for free) today will see many smart and capable people struggle to succeed in the new economy and within the new marketing paradigm.

As we look back at the lessons of our Founding Fathers below, consider what they would do today.  I believe that they would be regularly leveraging social media, blogs and video to get their message to the masses. They would engage in conversations and share their vision for the future.  They would be making connections, building relationships and beating their competition.

The pursuit of happiness lies in our hands both literally and figuratively.  Use marketing technology today as a vehicle for achieving success and your American dream.

First Published 5 Years Ago 

Today we celebrate Independence Day, July 4.   Beyond the fireworks and BBQs, we all should think about the great nation that we have the pleasure to be part of, and the many people who gave up their lives to give us the freedoms we enjoy.

Exactly 234 years ago, a group of brave, brilliant and industrious individuals met in a steamy Philadelphia room and agreed to do something that had never been done before—start a revolution.  The risks were great; the price that was paid was high in terms of lives lost, lives destroyed and money, but in the end the reward was unmatched in human history.  The American Revolution gave us a country where freedom is sacred.

Today despite a challenging economy we have the freedom to express ourselves and pursue our business as well as our personal dreams.  For many the dream is being an entrepreneur or a small business owner or simply pursuing a career in a chosen profession or industry.  Having this choice is an integral part of our national character and a driver of the entrepreneurial spirit.  While entrepreneurs and small businesses are under attack from many directions, the American entrepreneurial spirit lives on.

The information age has brought with it new media vehicles which are allowing individuals to voice their opinions, develop creative ideas and start new businesses.  Like the minutemen of Lexington and Concord, individuals can stand up, and take control of their own destinies like never before.  Like the “shot heard around world” that started the American Revolution a simple Facebook post or Tweet can literally be seen around the world just in seconds.

Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Adams, Hancock and the other Founding Fathers all understood the importance of individuality and expression.  They were passionate individuals with a mission, and the creativity and drive to achieve their goal – a free and independent nation.

While the Founding Fathers did not have social media vehicles and platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Youtube, Flickr and Foursquare I am sure that they would have taken advantage of them as mediums for communicating with contacts, public, friends and others interested in “the cause.”  Social networking and marketing did not exist, but these individuals knew the importance of publicity, having a personal brand, word of mouth marketing, networking, effective writing, publishing and public speaking. Do these skills and approaches sound familiar?  These techniques and others are the same that individuals need to capitalize on today to build their own personal brands, the foundation for a success in life, in business and in any community.

Did Franklin and Madison have a Blog?  Not exactly, however they did have a printing press.  They were able to create a buzz using well written content, printed books, flyers and newspapers. Papers and printed materials were circulated in pubs and homes across the 13 colonies and beyond.  People held discussion sessions and analyzed the information they were provided.  They debated and came up with their own comments and then shared materials with others who they thought would be sympathetic to their dreams of an independent democratic nation.

Today’s social media and personal branding gurus like Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee)Dan Dchawbel (@DanSchawbel),  Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki), Peter Shankman (@skydiver), Seth Godin and others are taking similar approaches as the Founding Fathers.  The Founding Fathers published articles and spoke to small and large groups to educate, motivate and inspire individuals to become part of a movement that included the individual but also was much larger than any single person.

Let’s look at some of our Founding Fathers and how they relate to personal branding and communications.  There is much we that can learn from them and ways we can apply these lessons to social media marketing and personal branding efforts today.

George Washington – Founding Father and First President of the United States of America.  Washington is also

known for his leadership abilities, speaking skills, political savvy and ability to stand out in crowd.  Although he did not sign the Declaration of Independence his leadership of the Continental Army made him a front runner to lead the country after the war.

During the Revolutionary War era it took weeks or months to get information or important messages out to thousands of people, or just one letter from one colony to another.  Hand written copies of the Declaration of Independence were circulated by hand around the 13 Colonies and read in front of groups gathered in pubs and in front of churches and other community buildings.

Today we can disseminate messages and blog articles in seconds using social media sites and digital communications.  The speed of distribution may have changed but the goals of communicating ideas messages and attracting attention remain the same.

We can learn from George Washington an important lesson, humility.  When offered the opportunity to become king of the new nation, he turned it down.  He also turned down the opportunity to run for a third term as president; instead he retired.  In today’s world full of online and off line self promoters and overexposed celebrities seeking the lime light, humility is a trait that seems to be in short supply.  We could all benefit from more people following Washington’s example of humility and grace.

Thomas JeffersonThomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, agonized for weeks to find the right language and consulted with other Founding Fathers to craft this historic document.   We learn from this example that writing passionately and choosing the right words is important.  On Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other writing quality has certainly suffered. Today it remains true that quality writing and compelling content will attract followers, and poor and uninteresting content will drive them away.

In our fast paced mobile technology society we are constantly on the move. A telling example of this is that on average there are more than 3,000 Tweets being placed every second.  Jefferson’s quote: No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing,” is apropos for today.  Many people are always “doing,” (communicating).  However, how much doing is actually wasting time? How much time is being spent on social media marketing with no measured results? Social media marketing programs must be planned and have goals. Without goals or a plan, the “doing” is nothing more than wasting time.

John Hancock – We know the name and we know the signature, he was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence and did so in large and bold script.   John Hancock knew the importance of standing out, making a statement and doing something different.  My favorite quote from Hancock is: “The greatest ability in business is to get along with others and to influence their actions.” This statement is especially true today. To be successful in business relationships and trust need to be built.  To influence people to act, purchase products or services, information and proof of abilities need to be conveyed to the target audience.  Be bold, but also have objectives and consider how relationships are being forged.

Benjamin Franklin – Frequently clients ask what should be said or what information should be put out on social media streams?  This quote from Benjamin Franklin answers the question perfectly: Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about.”

Benjamin Franklin was truly an original and individual who understood celebrity and personal branding.  His exploits, scientific experiments and inventions as well as his larger than life personality made him a celebrity in France before he arrived to solicit their support for the “cause.”

We have much to learn from Franklin but for now, his grasp on being relevant and authentic can be our take away.  If something interesting or newsworthy is done write about it, don’t just write something for the sake or writing something.

John Quincy Adams – Are you a leader or do you aspire to be one in business, politics or in another field? If your answer is yes then this quote from John Quincy Adams is most appropriate:If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” To be a leader you need to be relevant and interesting.  Self-promotion and self-serving actions will not attract the right attention or inspire others.  Remember that being successful is not what inspires; what motivates and inspires others are the stories and examples of overcoming challenges and hardships to become successful.

There is much we can learn from studying our Founding Fathers.  From humility to creating relevant content their lessons can be applied to many facets of business and life today.

Every day of the year we should celebrate the precious gift of freedom we have been given.  We continue to enjoy this freedom because of the sacrifices of those who came before us and those who fight for us today in foreign lands and on other fronts.  We can honor them by embracing the American entrepreneurial spirit and following the examples set by our Founding Fathers.

All comments welcome, Happy 4th of July.

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