Tag Archives: Public Relations

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.

Logo: 
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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Reflections

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,
-Laura

What Have You Done To Thank Your Donors Today?

19 Jul

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Donors are the lifeblood of the non-profit world. Lets be honest, how much of the budget is devoted to fundraising? Most likely a large majority. And like all non-profits, you depend on your donors to propagate your cause. So how do you say “thank you” to these people, most of whom you’ve probably never met?? A “thank you” can be the simplest form of public relations.

1. Donor recognition events – If possible, host a small recognition event highlighting donor accomplishments. Showing donors how their dollars specifically went to mission-fulfillment gives them even more incentive to donate again by giving them ownership of the process.

2. Thank you e-mails/personalized notes – What ever happened to the simple thank you note? My mom always taught me that when someone gives you a gift or does something for you, that it’s just common courtesy to send a personalized thank you. I have since taken this with me into the business world where it has had amazing effects. It’s a simple gesture that shows people you appreciate what they’ve done by acknowledging their contribution. Why would anyone bother donating to a cause if they never hear from them again? I know I wouldn’t. 

3. Branded tchotchke – Gifts are easy ways to say thank you. And what better gifts are there than branded promotional items which also function as reminders of your cause? Have t-shirts, water bottles, calendars or note pads printed with your logo and tag line to send to donors as a small token of gratitude. They’ll appreciate the gesture…especially if the gift is something useful.

4. A video – I just read a blog post where a reader shared a “thank you video”. What a great and creative way to say thank you. Not only is it thoughtful, but it’s personalized and customized to your donors. Send it in an e-mail, post it on your Facebook page or host a small presentation, but either way, it’s an excellent idea!!

It comes down to expressing gratitude. If your donors know how grateful you are for their contribution, even in small ways, they are more likely to support your cause in the future.

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Series Wrap-Up

30 May

Monday, May 30, 2011

Whether we ever recognize it or not, public relations and marketing affects pretty much every aspect of our daily lives. It’s the underlying motivation of why we purchase one product over another. And their foundational principles can even be found in entertaining performances.

To wrap up the blog series, “Exploring Marketing Triumphs and Failures”, I offer this final entry. Public Relations Rogue, a fellow wordpresser, has put forth an insightful list of thoughts on communications that were learned from, of all places, a Blue Man Group show. It just goes to show you that you can learn something about PR and marketing anywhere. Hopefully you’ll take the opportunity to recognize these principles wherever you go. 

Thanks to everyone who has stopped by. Stay tuned for more exciting entries!!

——
I just wanted to take a moment to publicly acknowledge the men and women of our armed services that unselfishly protect our freedoms on a daily basis. And they do it by sacrificing time with their families and friends and and sometimes, ultimately, their lives. Thank you each and every one of you…and for your families who support you. Happy Memorial Day! And God Bless the United States of America. 

ABCs of Fundraising: Best Practices for a Successful Event

22 Feb

Monday, February 28, 2011

Fundraising, in some respects, is like an art form. It needs to be learned, appreciated, mastered. It’s true that anyone can ask for money; but, successful fundraising is more than that. It’s building lasting relationships for sustained giving and support. And even given the circumstances of our fledgling economy, charitable giving is up in the United States – over $300 billion!1 It’s time to harness the opportunity. Below are some of my suggestions – alphabetically, of course – for any fundraising campaign. (Note: All of these suggestions can apply to both fundraising campaigns and events.)

Awareness – Creating publicity for the event is first and foremost. If people don’t know about it, they won’t be there to support you.

Best-Practices – Establish a list of best-practices – a list of methods, activities or processes that will ensure a particular outcome – following your event/campaign that you can reference in the future.
Budget – Establish a budget during the planning stages. Consider including staff time and resources to establish a baseline which should make planning in the future easier.

Committees – Establish specific event committees, give them exact expectations, coach them and maintain Communication.
Confidence – Have confidence in your mission. Uncertainty will come across in your ask.

Donations – Obtain as many donated items as possible for the day-of (e.g. tents, AV equipment, photography, etc.). The less you have in expenses, the greater your profit. Or ask local businesses if they would be willing to donate a portion of proceeds for a particular product towards the event goal.
Donors – Make a list of your biggest donors and those people you have identified as the most potential donors (e.g. business owners, well-known society figures, etc.).

Efangelists and Fangelists Employ your brilliant efangelists and fangelists to spread the word for you. Remember that word-of-mouth is a highly effective tool.

Goals – Set realistic goals based on previous experience or similar events done by other organizations. Make sure everyone involved in planning the event knows your goal and your strategy to execute it. (Tip: Typically you don’t communicate this goal to the public, but do reveal the amount raised  and other pertinent details in a press release following the event.) Estimate your expenses for a more accurate picture of net income.

Honor – To bring in an even wider range of participants, honor someone who has been fundamental in mission integration and/or volunteering. Another idea is to honor someone who has been affected by your cause.

Innovation – The walk-a-thon is over-used, and let’s face it, kind of boring. Launch a new idea or even a variation of one that’s being done.

Jobs – Delegate specific jobs to day-of volunteers. Make sure they know explicitly what you need them to do. That way they’re not asking you questions every few minutes and you can concentrate on running your event.
Join – Have a station where people can join your advocacy network or sign up for membership and volunteering.

Keys – The key to any successful event is planning. Don’t rush into an event or campaign without having done research and planned every detail.
Keep – Following your event, hold a wrap-up meeting with your committee. Keep a record of everything that was positive and received good comments as well as the things that need improvement.

Leadership – It’s very important that your organization be visible in every way. That includes your board members. Have at least two or three  (board chairperson and vice-chair would be awesome!) attend your event to talk with constituents and, most importantly, donors and sponsors.

Mission – It’s not just about the money, but the mission. Ultimately, a fundraiser is conducted to further the mission of the organization. Therefore, the mission statement should be prominent in promotional material and at day-off activities.

Network – Join the local Chamber of Commerce, business networking groups, and non-profit organizations. The point is, be visible in the community in order to develop an extensive network.

Opportunity – Take advantage of this opportunity to showcase your programs and services, staff and even facilities. It’s ok to brag a little!

Purpose – Clearly define the purpose of your campaign. That sounds obvious, but sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do. Once you have it in place, everything else can be planned around your purpose statement.
Partnerships – Benefit from partnerships with organizations that share common values or that are willing to align themselves with your mission.

Quality – Quality over quantity. Yes, it sounds cliche, however, designing an event that is both exciting and entertaining will ensure that people come back. Your goal is to raise money, but retaining supporters is easier than recruiting new ones.

Research – Research your ideal donor. Research similar events to see how you can improve on the idea. Research, research, research. I can’t emphasize that enough.

Strategy – Plan your strategy detail by detail ahead of time so there are no surprises. You’ll want to have a contingency plan in place as well in case of bad weather, cancellations, etc.
Sponsorships – Approach potential donors and present the opportunity as a benefit to both their company and your organization.

Timeline – Formulate a logical timeline. This goes for the planning stage and the implementation of the event.
Third-Party Events – Third-party events are excellent ways to meet fundraising goals. Just make sure that the group you are working with aligns with your core values and mission. Not only is this a way to raise more money, but it’s great public relations for everyone involved.

Unique – A great way to get more participants? Make your event unique. Do something that hasn’t been done yet. Stand out.

Volunteers – Recruit a hard-working and trustworthy core of volunteers to plan and run the event. At some point, you may even be able to turn the event over to your volunteers, freeing you up for other  fundraising activities. (Tip: Don’t be opposed to holding informal interviews and having them fill out surveys to ensure they are a good match.)

Walk – Think outside the “walk”. How can you update it to better represent your purpose or brand? Better yet, come up with something altogether original.

(Sorry folks. There just isn’t much you can do with “x”.)
eXperience –  Capitalize on the experiences of your volunteers and supporters. Listen to their suggestions because in all likelihood they have some really good contributions for the planning and execution of your event.

Yield (results) – From year to year, you want to yield greater results. This may mean setting your goal higher, adjusting your strategies and/or updating your best-practices. Yield the results you want, but be proactive about it. A fundraiser is a 24/7, year-round event.

Zeal – Capitalize on the zeal and energy of your volunteers, supporters and attendees. Ask them about joining the committee, helping next year or just completing a survey of the event.

For more in-depth details and consultation, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I want your event to succeed just as much as you do. Let me know if I can help.

~Laura~

1 Great American Merchandise & Events

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What Is Marketing Anyway? Pt. 1

16 Feb

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I get asked all the time, “What is the difference between marketing, advertising and public relations?” Well, I’m here to definitively answer that question. And then I’ll talk about how each relates to the other.

Marketing – While there is not just one definition for marketing because it encompasses such a large range of topics and practices, the American Marketing Association sums it up perfectly: “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” At the core of marketing is defining the identity of your product or service while invisibly presenting it as mutually beneficial to both buyer and seller. It is the broader subject of the three disciplines.

Advertising – Advertising is probably the easiest one to define because it’s the one we know the best; it’s what we see. Advertising is a paid, public promotion or announcement of a company’s message intended to persuade an audience to take action. It’s used to reveal the product/brand and its personality to the target audience. The look is just as important as the message to convey character. If marketing is invisible, than advertising is prominent and obvious.


Public Relations (PR) – Public relations is another practice that has several layers of explanation and because of that is not easily defined in one concise summary. According to the Public Relations Society of America, PR “… helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.” While that’s an apt definition, I don’t think it does much to explain how. So, here’s my definition: Public relations is the art of cultivating advantageous relationships and disseminating positive messages about a company or brand by means of free* media. (*Keep in mind, “free” here simply relates to money in it’s strictest form. I’m not taking into account time and resources. Also known as “earned media“.)  It’s understated and behind-the-scenes.

Now that we’ve defined what each is, check back tomorrow to find out how they integrate to create a fully functioning brand.

See you back here tomorrow!
~Laura~


“Fangelism”

10 Jan

Monday, January 10, 2011

What is the one thing that all non-profits have in common? They all need money to fund mission-enhancement projects. And how do they acquire this lifeblood? There are thousands of non-profit organizations across the country that do all kinds of amazing work. They’re also vying for people to help. So where do you go for volunteer recruitment? How can you reach new donors?

Expand your search through “FANGELISM” of course.

The principle of “fangelism” is very simple really. But it’s implementation must be well-thought and seamless. The idea is: Existing volunteers and constituents – who already have a passion for the cause – engage people, initiate conversation and, ultimately, ignite excitement and promote action.

“They turn strangers into friends. They turn friends into volunteers.
They then do the most important job – Turn your volunteers into advocates for your mission.”*

This could take many forms. It used to be by way of traditional word-of-mouth promotion – friends telling friends telling friends…well, you get the idea. Word-of-mouth has evolved into the use of social media networks making it super viral and immediately accessible. I call it “E-fangelism“.

How do you create a successful e-fangelist?

Well, not all of this is totally in your hands. You might already have e-fangelists in the social-network sphere that you don’t know about. But what you can do is offer ways to coach and encourage your fan base. You want to make them feel that they have freedom in disseminating the message, but ensure that they do it with tact.

1. Confirm the core group of efangelists. Gather your development team and discuss which volunteers you would like to approach. These should be trusted volunteers who have a history of helping toward mission delivery and development goals. Create a list of best practices and guidelines for success. (Note: These will vary from organization to organization because expectations and goals are distinct.) Familiarize yourself with the platforms available to you: Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Flickr, Foursquare, etc. You don’t have to be an expert in the various functions, but you ultimately want to know how each network can work for you.
2. Approach the volunteers and inquire about their interest in helping. Make sure they are aware of the full commitment.
3. Host a training session emphasizing key terms and concepts. Make sure they know the mission explicitly. Be prepared to do a tutorial for each social networking platform for new users.
4. Maintain regular communication with your team in order to circulate important messages and updates, offer encouragement and send reminders. (Tip: You will want to “monitor” new followers so you can follow up with them and, ideally, turn them into e-fangelists also. The key is to stay involved! Or if that’s not a feasible option because of time constraints, consider appointing a volunteer to serve as coordinator to organize the activities.)
5. Track your progress using features such as TweetReach.com and Facebook’s built-in insights attributes.
6. Tip: Always thank your advocates!! It goes a long way to hear that your work is appreciated. They will reciprocate by working harder.


What are the benefits?

1. The internet is more wide-reaching than traditional direct mail pieces. Most people in America participate in social media in some capacity. In fact, Facebook has more visits per week than Google in the United States.** You can reach more people in a shorter amount of time.
2. Volunteers can help do some of the work you’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t had time to commit to. You likely have many projects going on at once. They have one mission, one project to which they can devote their time and energy. A wider network of people doing one job should result in greater outcomes.
3. It’s legitimate “advertising”. E-fanglism is volunteers vouching for your successful programs. People value the opinions of friends and peers over the persuading of advertising from the source.
4. The message you communicate is immediate. And, therefore, you’ll be able to measure your return on investment (ROI) instantly.

You already have the most amazing, fervent sales team. Now, with a little coaching and encouragement, you can expand that network and continue to grow. If you’d like to know more about implementing e-fangelism into your development plan and for more tips, please contact me at 610.393.4430 or LRDConsulting@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

~Laura~

*adapted from Seth Godin’s concept
**Hitwise blog

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Wacky Business Ideas!

14 Dec

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 (In case you didn’t read that right, there are only 11 days until Christmas!!*)

Are you thinking of starting a new venture, but just need a little encouragement? Here are some recent ventures that you will enjoy. The entrepreneur in me LOVES these ideas. I love and am always amazed at people’s creativity and can appreciate each of these enterprises for how they have made dreams come true, stimulated the economy and even (hopefully) brought joy to the consumer. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did. Imagine: chicken diapers and a construction vehicle playground! Amazing.    (Note: By clicking on the link below, you will be taken to another site.)

http://businessonmain.msn.com/browseresources/slideshows/print.aspx?cp-documentid=26600537

I’m always totally encouraged by stories like this. We live in an amazing country!! And when you’re ready to market and publicize your new business and want some help, contact me. Check out the “Services” page for details on how I can help. Until next time, be well and happy shopping!

~Laura~


*Just a side note: The reason for the season goes beyond presents, trees, lights and even family. The Reason left perfection in Heaven to be born into this imperfect world – to make us complete. Consider what CHRISTmas is all about this year. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Eternal life in the One true God. May God bless you and your family this Christmas season!


Tight budget? So what?

3 Dec

Friday, December 3, 2010

It’s really December already?! (I feel like it was just summer.) That means that the new year is rapidly approaching and it’s time to consider your company’s budget for the coming year. Most of us don’t have an unlimited budget — wouldn’t that be nice? — so creating and sticking to a budget can often be difficult. Sometimes certain aspects of the business will need to be cut back. One thing you shouldn’t skimp on, though, is your marketing/public relations budget. Now, I know that is easier said than done because we want everything in balance. However, there are ways to creatively and resourcefully fill in the gaps. I have helped several organizations overcome tight budget situations and still accomplish their communications goals. I promise — it can be done! Get in touch with me and we can talk about how to make this work with your unique circumstances.

– – – – – –

I would love to hear from you. Simply use the comment field below to share your experiences. Open Forum: A) If you had an unlimited budget for your company, what are the top three marketing activities you would conduct?
AND
B) What creative or resourceful measures have you taken in your marketing efforts?

If your company is looking for ways to accomplish your goals, but still stay within budget, please contact me. I would love to show you how.
~Laura~


From Concept to Creation: A Lesson in Branding from Post

10 Nov

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Believe it or not, today I was inspired by the back of a cereal box. Well, adult cereals actually have some good information on the back; none of the games or toys, but still good stuff. This particular one told the history — and the branding — of Post’s Honey Bunches of Oats cereal.

According to Apple’s dictionary, a brand is defined “as an identifying mark burned on livestock…with a branding iron” and “a piece of burning or smoldering wood.” So it’s not a coincidence that this term is also used to define the identity of a product line or service. A brand should  leave an indelible impression in the mind of its consumers. If done correctly, it will be a positive perception, will give rise to a “smoldering” desire to use the product. The branding process is paramount to the success of any concept. Michael Levine, in his book, A branded WORLD, says that “[b]randing, when it’s done right, creates an institution.” Wow. What are you doing today to create an institution?

What’s in A Name?
In the case of Honey Bunches of Oats, what started as a mere concept from a facility manager in Battle Creek, Michigan turned into one of the company’s — and the market’s — most successful products. With the help of his daughter, Vernon J. Herzing came up with the idea of a new cereal by combining a variety of other Post cereals with just the right blend. He proposed his creation to Post and they loved it. After concept, they needed to create a title. A successful product name should resonate with consumers; evoke positive memories or suggest favorable images or emotions. Taking time before launching a product to research the effects of a name by way of a focus group or consumer surveys, can determine the its ultimate success or failure. For example, Post originally called their cereal “Battle Creek Cereal.” While that seemed appropriate, “research showed that many consumers didn’t like the name, although the product itself earned top marks.” Instead, the company chose a name that reflected the contents of the cereal, something that wasn’t on the market already, but was interesting and enticing.

New Opportunities
“The way you build a brand is by creating a new category you can be first in.” — Al Ries, marketing strategist and coauthor of The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding
Because there was nothing on the market like Honey Bunches of Oats, that offered such a mix of textures and tastes, it created a whole new niche in the cereal market. Being first in a new category is always preferable — you earn that recognition, have an advantage in publicity and set the stage for all new entrants to the category —  however, it’s difficult to do. Post started with a specific product, but one it knew could be expanded easily once the brand had been successfully established. According to Levine, it is easiest to enter “a market between two established niches”…”to carve out a portion of the market for a new brand.”

First Impressions…and Second Impressions…and Third Impressions
“Ninety percent of a brand is the experience you get once you get where you’re going.” — Charlie Koones, publisher of Daily Variety
So whether you are the first in a category or entering into one that is established, you have to make the best first impression possible. Your first goal is name recognition on which Post thoroughly concentrated. They then focused on making Honey Bunches of Oats a cereal for the whole family, enticing even children by adding their sugary flakes to provide some sweetness. No other “adult cereals” (i.e. ones without cartoony mascots) had that particular draw for everyone in the family. Make a conscious promise to the consumer and throughout the establishment and life of the brand, do everything possible to fulfill, and even exceed, that promise. The promise should be part of the identity of the brand. The life-force behind it. Don’t forget the importance of public relations in creating your first impression. Make sure consumers know that you are fulfilling that promise “every minute of every hour of every day that [the] brand is on the market.” (Levine)

Brand Expansion
Once a brand is established in the market and has name recognition which has never been questioned, you might consider product expansion. Post capitalized on the prosperity of its product and chose a product expansion as the next step. From Honey Bunches of Oats was born Honey Bunches of Oats with Vanilla Bunches, with Cinnamon Bunches, with Pecan Bunches, with Chocolate Bunches, with Strawberries, and varieties of Just Bunches. When considering an expansion, “[n]ever, ever lose sight of your brand identity. And your brand identity is merely the promise you make to the consumer.” (Levine)

Coming Full Circle
Following three years of development, Honey Bunches of Oats hit the market in 1989. Since then through branding efforts and product expansions, it has grown to be one of the top-selling cereals in America today. Branding is a simple concept, but is not always easy to complete. It’s not something that is done just once, but continually over the life of a product. Honey Bunches of Oats works hard to constantly fulfill their promise of a quality, family cereal. What are you doing to fulfill your promise to your customers? How have you fallen short?

_ _ _ _ _

If you have questions about branding or any other aspects of your product’s development or expansion, I would love to talk to you. To schedule a free consultation, please contact me at 610.393.4430 or LRDConsulting@gmail.com.

~Laura~


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