It’s All About Relationships Part 1 – Meeting Mr./Miss Right

2 May

Wednesday, May 2, 2012 

The foundation for any successful business is relationships, whether we’re talking about a for-profit company or a not-for-profit organization. Lets think of it this way: You wouldn’t say yes to a marriage proposal on a blind date, would you? (Ok, I understand that there are some…er…adventurous?…people who might. But the general population would at least consider a second date first.) Maybe that example is a bit of a stretch, but it gives you a good idea of how to approach business relationships. For the purposes of this series, I’m going to use the premise of a non-profit organization. I’ll take you through the courtship of potential donors. Today we’ll start with ‘The Search’.

Meeting Mr./Miss Right = Cultivation

Before you can court someone, you have to find the right person, make connections, which is called cultivation. During the cultivation stage you are simply putting forth information out into the world and letting your “wing man” (to borrow a phrase) talk you up. How is this done? I’m glad you asked…

I believe that the foundation of cultivation should be this amazing principle called fangelismthe idea that existing volunteers and constituents, who already have a passion for the cause, engage people, initiate conversation and, ultimately, ignite excitement and promote action. All the other pieces should then fall into place. Consider this: If given a choice between a self-serving advertisement or an amazing recommendation from a third-party, which are you likely to trust more? Create fangelists to be the voices of the organization and help build relationships. Those people will then come and form relationships within your organization in an organic and personal way. They participate because they don’t feel pressured or conned. 

Social Media 

 People listen to each other more than us, so we need to stop viewing social media as another form of getting our message out…Its primary value is that it allows other people to get the message out, for us. – Katya Andersen   

This is particularly pertinent for those in the non-profit realm. After all, your ultimate goal is to promote your cause. The best way to do that is to support relationship building. Relationships are formed every day on social media. Donors don’t need another organization telling them why they should donate. Instead, give them a platform to share with you and other donors about their experiences — their stories, their souls — which will foster the support you need. Now, social media is just one platform non-profits have for cultivation, but it’s hugely relevant in our digital world and probably a good place to start. Use it to inform potential the community, promote events, stimulate thought, ignite movements, etc.

Ideas for Success
The key is to make people feel welcome to share on your social media pages and keep that momentum going. 

  • Make your Facebook timeline look and feel like a safe haven for story sharing. Timeline gives you ample opportunities for creativity. For ideas, check out other non-profit pages.
  • Have a current fangelist initiate discussion threads, themed posts or polls.
  • Invite a guest blogger to write about their experiences, which encourages others to share. 
  • Use Twitter hashtags (#) to initiate a collection of short stories.
  • Sign up for Pinterest and post relevant pictures that will cause people to dig a little deeper.
I would love to hear your ideas. Please share them in the comments section below so that others can benefit from your amazing creativity. Check back next week for the next installment in the series. 
Thanks for stopping by.
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New Series About Relationships Announced

30 Apr

Monday, April 30, 2012

I’m happy to announce that I’ll be starting a new blog series called “It’s All About Relationships”. I will focus on a different aspect of relationships and relationship building every week for the next 6 weeks.

Relationships are the foundation of any business, whether for-profit or not-for-profit.

This series is specifically geared towards the non-profit sector, however, I believe there are relevant principles for everyone. Look for the first post later this week.

If you haven’t already, Subscribe to the Marketing Musings blog, Like DM&C on Facebook and/or follow on Twitter. That way you’ll get all this awesome information right as it’s released! Immediate gratification – can’t get that everywhere, folks. (c;

Oh, and don’t forget to  Share it!

Lucky Number 13

13 Apr

Friday, April 13, 2012

I got to thinking this morning how fun it would be to run promotions of Friday the 13th. Think of how creative you could be!! I’ve compiled 13 promotion ideas, but trust me, I could have kept going.

1. Offer a 13% off discount.

2. Using Twitter to broadcast clues, hide a lucky rabbit’s foot somewhere in the local area. Winner gets an awesome prize

3. Best black cat photo contest.

4. Feature 13 top products — preferably with some tie to Friday the 13th…think umbrellas, ladders, mirrors, etc. — and put them on sale.

5. Create a special product just for Friday the 13th and feature it. This would work really well for the food industry (ex: sandwiches, drinks, etc.).

6. Create a Friday the 13th playlist and share it with your followers.

7. Donate 13% of daily proceeds to a worthy cause.

8. Try Your Luck casino night? Great for a fundraising event.

9. Unlucky winner contest – the unluckiest wins!

10. Offer a list of 13 tips or suggestions related to your product or service.

11. Host a horse shoe competition as a fundraiser.

12. Hold a drawing with 13 random winners.

13. Baker’s dozen – give out a free donut/bagel/muffin when a dozen is purchased.

There are so many other creative things you could do to “celebrate” or at least capitalize on this day. What ideas did you come up with?

Happy Friday the 13th. Hope you don’t suffer from triskaidekaphobia.


Non-Profit Media Relations

23 Mar

Friday, March 23, 2012

Have you ever realized how many pitches a reporter gets on a daily basis? How can a non-profit organization stand out and get noticed? Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for non-profits who want their voices heard.

1. First of all, make sure you indeed have a story. Is what you are pitching relevant to your community? Is it interesting and newsworthy? Would people want to read about it?

2. Learn how to write a good press release. And practice, practice, practice.

3. Include infographics in your release for added interest; and for ease-of-use and printing, include a written version of the statistics summarized in the infographic.

4. Get to know the reporters you’ll be pitching to. What beats do they typically cover? What are their writing styles? What types of stories pique their interest? Build relationships.

5. In my experience, the best time to send a press release is Tuesday or Wednesday morning around 10:00. However, see #6 below.

6.Twitter has made pitching directly to the reporter at any time super easy. It’s not necessarily simple to do, though, because you have to craft your message just right to fit the 140-character max. Another caveat: don’t let your pitch get lost in the resporter’s feed! Research and strategize the best time to pitch. 

7. Visit a newsroom to get a firsthand view of where your story goes. You’ll gain an appreciation for what media does. And reporters will see that you’re serious about getting your stories published.

8. Position yourself — or your organization — as an expert in your respective field. Pitch your expertise on a given subject for feature stories and regular column contribution.

1. If your story doesn’t have local significance, it probably won’t get published. Your story needs to resonate with the audience; if it doesn’t, the reporter won’t waste their time. Make sure your news is relevant.

2. Don’t disregard a reporter’s pitching preferences. Do they prefer electronic only? Do they allow follow-up phone calls? Do they want the pitch in the body of an e-mail or as an attachment? Follow instructions explicitly.

3. Don’t forget to say “thank you”. Follow up after your story is published. Your name and organization will stay in the forefront of the reporter’s mind for future stories. Note: A handwritten note goes a long way.

4. Don’t use the same angle everyone else would. Dare to be different in order to stand out. “You can often propel your story from important to newsworthy just by highlighting a different angle.”

5. Don’t send a bulk press release to multiple media outlets. Instead personalize the pitch with the reporters name and tailor it to the reporter’s niche and style.

6. Don’t offer queries or pitches and then not be available to reporters for questions and interviews. Consider giving them your home and/or cell number. If you miss the call, return their call as soon as possible.

7. Don’t assume that just because you follow these suggestions that all your stories will be published. The amount of pitches reporters receive is staggering and there is only so much air/column space to be filled. Sometimes you’ll hit, sometimes you’ll miss. Keep trying and your story will be heard!

Your turn: In the “Comments” section below, answer these questions:Do you have any other tips for successful media relations? What has worked for your organization? What have you had to reconsider?

Thanks for stopping by!


Other Posts Related to Non-Profits: Here are some other posts you may find helpful: ABCs of FundraisingFangelismGrant Writing Resources

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Rainy Day Motivation

27 Feb

Monday, February 27, 2012

Some days it’s all I can do just to get a few things done. Rainy days just have a way of zapping my motivation. (Mondays aren’t any easier, are they?) Here are 8 ways to fight through the rainy day ruts…and thoses “cases of the Mondays” too. Hopefully, you’re not facing both today where you are. Thank you to my Facebook followers for contributing your ideas.

1. Allow yourself scheduled mini-breaks/rewards.

2. If it helps, put something on your to-do list that’s already been done just for the satisfaction. (Awesome idea, Ginny.)

3. Coffee – any caffeine for that matter – always gies me the burst of energy I need.

4. Make a playlist. Put on your favorite “pump me up music”and rock out.

5. Don’t take your jeans off. (Thank you, Shannon, for that one!) This one might require some explaining: When you get home from running errands or whatever, never put on your comfy pants, because it’s all over from there. You’ll definitely not get anything done.

6. Post positive affirmations in high-traffic areas around the office/house. They’re sure to boost your resolve with their encouragement.

7. If you’re able to, head to a local internet cafe where others are likely motivated and working. Perhaps just being surrounded by others will help!

8. Eat a variety if nutritious and energizing foods – fruits and veggies are sure to help!  Avoid sweets which will only give you a temporary energy boost.

Your turn: In the “Comments” section below, share some ideas of what motivates you on a rainy day.


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The King of Kona

26 Jan

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lets play a game of word association. If I say coffee, what is the first word that comes to mind?

Starbucks, right? Either I’m clairvoyant or they have just managed to ensure such a response with their incredible marketing philosophy because you and millions of other people would likely answer the same way. They’ve guaranteed that their brand is at the forefront of people’s minds. Clearly they’re doing something right. (For the record, the other options are also very valid choices.)

The Starbucks Advertising Philosophy = No Advertising!

Their advertising philosophy is that there is no advertising. Think about it: How many Starbucks commercials have you seen? I bet that you haven’t seen any. Am I right? I guarantee you’ve seen print ads, but not TV ads. So how have they managed to build and maintain their “espresso empire”? It all comes down to amazing branding! “You can be extraordinarily successful as a business using what people would call non-traditional means,” says Senior VP of Marketing, Anne Saunders. “It’s expanded my notion of how important experience versus information or one-way communication can be.” When you walk or drive by a Starbucks, the parking lot is always full and there is always a line, am I right?

Non-Traditional Channels:
Do a search on YouTube for “Starbucks commercials” and you’ll come across quirky – slightly vague – vignettes. The brand has solidified a formula for success. Why spend millions in advertising dollars for TV commercials when we are all clearly in the virtual world? I mean, there are entire fields of study, college majors and advanced certifications dedicated to success online because that’s where business and the world exist.
 It’s an online world…so that’s where they are. Their online presence is interactive, modern and relevant.    

Public Relations and Platform:
Marketing a company as a conscious one is an excellent platform for public relations. Starbucks stands for something. Lots of things actually: Community, Environment, Wellness, Ethical Sourcing and Diversity. Cause marketing is a very effective tool, highlighting an organization’s globally-, socially- and locally- responsible philosophies. Not only is it trendy to be associated with these causes, but by patronizing businesses that are so conscious, customers are doing a small part as well to make the world a better place. 

Another aspect of their public relations efforts is delivering an experience. “It happens millions of times each week –  a customer receives a drink from a Starbucks barista – but each interaction is unique.” It’s all about the experience – from superior products to intentional customer interaction to the cool ambience – and engaging the customer so that their Starbucks visit becomes the high point of their day. Customers leave stores with a story, an experience that they don’t get anywhere else. 

As Anne Saunders alluded to, PR isn’t one-sided. It requires action on the part of the message receiver. Action may involve a call-to-action like signing up to follow social media feeds, calling a political candidate, etc. But action is more likely to be just as simple as making a decision one way or the other about a company or organization.

Their logo is as easily recognizable as, say, McDonald’s golden arches or Disney’s Mickey ears. The Starbucks logo is synonymous with “cool” and “experiential”, so much so that even if someone doesn’t like coffee, they still want to be associated with the brand in some way. When people see the logo, they know what it means and it resonates with them. And they start craving their favorite Starbucks brew. 

To support my analysis, here is a snapshot of Starbucks’ retail market share vs media dollars spent. (Note: these figures are from 2007, but they illustrate my point!)

Here’s the Bottom Line: You don’t have to rely on big budgets and traditional advertising to make your brand a household name. It’s about tapping into the unique characteristics within your brand and promoting them in a new and creative way. Public relations is all about perception. Help shape people’s perceptions of your products and services by offering an overall experience, one their bound to remember.

Thanks for stopping by! ~Laura~

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31 Dec

Saturday, December 31, 2011

I learned a lot about myself personally and as a business owner in 2011, things that I will take with me into the new year and beyond. I learned that you have to anticipate problems and plan for unexpected changes. It’s all about being flexible. Not everything is going to go as planned, but having a contingency plan in place can save a lot of time and headaches. I was also reminded that public relations is a 24-hour business. It’s not something that ends when the business day is over. Instead, it takes constant strategy to maintain a brand. A brand’s character can be destroyed in a second…and it’s difficult to recover from. There’s a lot left to be learned on this journey of owning a business and I am so thrilled to be on it. I can’t wait to see where the next year takes me. Thank you to all of my wonderful clients – and friends and family – for believing in me!

I can’t believe this year has come to an end already, but I am so excited for what’s in store for 2012. Happy New Year to you. See you in 2012 (by now, only a few hours away).

All the best,

MVCs: Most Valuable Customers

7 Dec

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Is customer service just designed for external customers? I don’t believe so. My theory is that it starts from within the organization. Keep reading!

Who is the Most Valuable Customer?
I was reminded recently of the incredible value of employees because of some firsthand experiences. Not only do they complete the day-to-day activities that make a business run, but they have the potential to be your most loyal and committed cheerleaders. So why is it that when creating customer service strategies, we simply forget about them? I know a company that has an incredible customer service philosophy…I mean absolutely incredible. Everything they do is customer-centered. It’s amazing; truly. However, in carrying it out, they often inconvenience or frustrate employees with ridiculous and frequent policy changes, lack of communication between departments and different standards for all levels of employment.

The trend for employees these days is to put in some time (a year or two) in one position and then move onto another company and do the same. However, this is costly to employers for a number of reasons:

  1. the hiring process alone
  2. training of the new employee
  3. prospect search
So, how do you keep employees satisfied?

Employee-Centric Management
Here’s an idea: Employee-centric management. Herbert D Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines told Fortune in 2001 that “[y]ou have to treat your employees like customers…When you treat them right, then they will treat your outside customers right. That has been a powerful competitive weapon for us.” It starts from within the company and works its way out. When your employees are happy, they will translate that into their work. To reinforce this idea:

“There isn’t any customer satisfaction without employee satisfaction…He recognized that good employee relations would affect the bottom line. He knew that having employees who wanted to do a good job would drive revenue and lower costs.”Gordon Bethune, former CEO of Continental Airlines, longtime friend of Kelleher’s

“When an employee is delighted, he will delight the customer.”

Internal Marketing Plan
Consider instituting an internal marketing plan. Since we’ve established that employees are indeed another form of customer, they should also be marketed to. According to a spot-on research paper on the subject, “the establishment of internal marketing implies that the business must have positive relationships with employees.” Create and implement a marketing plan that specifically targets this very integral ‘market’.  Your plan should include items from the list below. A good plan will also require continuous research and evaluation of employee empowerment platforms and skills and training programs.

How do you convert an ‘employee’ into a lifelong ‘fangelist’? Here is a very brief list of ideas:

  1. Earn their respect by being competent, the best you can be at your job.
  2. Integrity – the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Enough said.
  3. Trust them. And then, go out of your way to let them know that you trust them.
  4. Value and utilize employee opinions. Give them an outlet to share their opinions. Actively consult this resource.
  5. If your company is going to be charitable, don’t force it upon your employees.
  6. If you are the CEO, be visible and accessible. We all know the CEO has responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean he/she can’t be accessible. Let your face be known in the workplace. An interesting idea: a two-way blogging platform where the CEO sets aside several hours per week to address employee questions or concerns and interacts with employees.
  7. Career advancement pathways. Hiring from within is a great motivator.
  8. Employee recognition programs.
  9. Be flexible/fun. Modern businesses have game rooms and cafes for employee enjoyment/relaxation.
  10. Communication, communication, communication. Set expectations and continually follow up so that no employee has a question.
  11. Treat them like people, not cogs in a machine. They have hearts, have feelings, etc….
  12. Employee loyalty programs like those offered to external customers.

“The internal market of a business encompasses its employees. This market is continuously being influenced by the ability of the employees to work together as a unit to reach and maintain the objectives of the business.” 

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Branding: Netflix

1 Sep

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I’ve been thinking about Netflix’s recent marketing implications. You probably know that several weeks ago the online TV and movie giant announced a restructuring of their prices. Instead of paying one price for streaming and DVD options, beginning September 1 — today — customers will pay separate prices for each service. Outraged, thousands of angry customers canceled their subscriptions. Can I blame them? I’m a Netflix consumer, but it hasn’t stopped me yet.

But let me put this into a branding perspective: First of all, branding is the promise we make to customers that we vow never to break. It is creating and maintaining the essence of the brand. Consumers will stay with a solid brand even when newer or sexier brands are introduced. With that understanding, wasn’t Netflix’s original branding ‘one low price’ for two services? Though their service hasn’t changed and product is still the same, I can’t help but see this as a reneging of their most fundamental platform.

However, and it’s a big one… I took a look at their portfolio over the past year and even considering that they lost thousands of subscriptions, their stock has continued to rise. All I have to say about that is that their public relations team must be doing a killer job. After all, something’s keeping me around isn’t it?





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Recap: Beating the Time Suck

29 Jul

Friday, July 29, 2011

If you subscribe to or have been following my Twitter and Facebook feeds this week, you will have seen that I’ve been posting valuable tips for saving time in order to ultimately be more efficient. These tips can cross over from your personal life into your business life and beyond. Below is a recap and elaboration of each tip. 

Tip #1: Set attainable tasks.
If you are like me, you set a task list every day/week. A lot of times, I don’t get to check items off the list. Sometimes, that’s because I’ve set myself up for failure by setting tasks that aren’t attainable. How can I help myself? Break down large or difficult tasks into more bearable, smaller ones. That way you can tackle the project as a whole more efficiently. 

Tip #2: Don’t hesitate to delegate tasks, but be reasonable.
Delegating can be really useful. Maybe you’re someone who likes to do things themselves (ahem…a.k.a. “likes to be in control”) or just feels uncomfortable asking for help. Either way, you might find that by delegating, because you’re in a supervisor role, or asking for help from a colleague can help you check tasks off your ever-expanding list. 

Tip #3: Set aside a few minutes every day to get organized.
It can be first thing in the morning or right before your leave work for the day, but make a conscious effort to get organized. Or get organized as you go. Papers have a way of disappearing and things don’t always get back to the place where they came from. Specifically committing to organization will prevent these things from happening…or at least keep them to a minimum. No one’s perfect, right?

Tip #4: Multitasking = chaos.
I always used to say that I was a great multitasker. I think my husband would disagree, and I may have to agree with him. Instead of doing a really great and accurate job on one project, instead I’ve created chaos and accomplished very little, very poorly of numerous tasks. That doesn’t sound streamlined, does it? Instead, I’ve really started to prioritize my work and concentrate on one project at a time, giving it my full, undivided attention. And you know what I’ve found? The quality of my work increases! 

Tip #5: Resist the urge to check Facebook/Twitter/Linked In/Google/e-mail, etc. constantly.
I heard someone say ,”Make a social media budget.” I love it! Set aside a specific block of time in the morning and in the afternoon to do your social media scouring…unless of course, this is your job description! It’s important to stay within your allotted time so that you aren’t falling back into your endless routine. I know social media can suck you in – we’re curious. We want to know what everyone else is up to. However, by wasting mindless hours being nosy, we’re losing valuable time and efficiency on work that really matters. 

“Time is more valuable than money, you can get more money,
but you can not get more time.” – Jim Rohn.

Tip #6: It’s ok to say “no”.
This is self-explanatory. You’re a good person; you want to help out. But by always helping someone else, you may be neglecting important things that you have to do. Sometimes, you just have to apologize graciously and decline. It’s perfectly acceptable and the other person will likely understand your time constraints.   

Tip #7: Before leaving your desk for the day, prepare it for the next morning.
I love this idea. Wouldn’t it be awesome to walk into your office/cubicle [insert appropriate office space here] in the morning and find everything in order and ready to go? Well, if you take 5 or 10 minutes the night before to organize your work and tasks for the next day, you can make that dream come true! Set aside your important work for the following day coordinating with your task list. Put away projects that are on hold. You can even leave yourself a little treat to start the day off right. Chocolate anyone? Leave your work space in a way that is calming and inviting for the following day and see how much less stressed you feel the next morning. 

Tip #8: Commit to doing difficult tasks during your most productive time.
Maybe you’re a morning person and your peak time is in the morning. Set aside an hour or two in the morning to do the tasks that maybe aren’t your favorite or that will require a great deal of concentration so that when the afternoon slump hits, you will feel accomplished. On the other hand, maybe by 11:00 (or even later for some people) you’ve started feeling human again. After your 10 cups of super-caffeinated, dark roast breakfast blend coffee, start in on your least favorite assignments. Because you’ve (most likely) hit your peak time, you’ll be able to fulfill more of your responsibilities and with higher quality.

Tip #9: It sounds counterintuitive, but schedule time for rest.
Have you ever realized how much more productive you are after you’ve taken even a 10 minute break to relax or refresh? Taking your mind off a stressful task (or any long task) for a short period of time gives your brain and body a well-deserved rest. Leave your desk and stop thinking about work altogether. Maybe you have time for a quick walk around the office park. Take a few minutes for you, for your mental health. You’ll come back to your desk feeling refreshed. Note: Don’t take any longer than 10 minutes or you’ll probably lose all energy for work!

Tip #10: Instead of doing several small trips, combine them into one large trip.
Not only does this save time, but money as well, in terms of the sky-rocketing gas prices. If it helps, map it out the details of your route ahead of time. This way you’ll stick to your plan and maybe even have some time to spare.

Tip #11: When scheduling meetings, ask yourself if they are truly necessary or if you can get done what you need to with an e-mail.
Think about how much time is wasted waiting for everyone to show up for the meeting, getting coffee, then doing your greeting, answering questions, etc. Could you have just asked your questions in an e-mail or a quick drop-by your colleague’s office? If you indeed must hold a meeting, make a precise and clear agenda and stick to it! Make sure by the end you have made a clear decision to prevent you from having to schedule additional meetings. 


“An average interruption time of 5 minutes – equates to about 4 hours – or 50% of your productive time being wasted by interruptions.”
“Once interrupted, it can take 20 minutes to get back to the level of concentration you were at prior to the disruption.”

Have a wonderful weekend!


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