Author Archive

Does hacking impact your company’s brand? You bet.

Monday, March 13th, 2017

hackingIf it’s on the internet, it’s real, right? When Sony Music tweeted that Britney Spears had died, the rumor spread like wildfire. Hacker group OurMine recently hacked and then mocked NetFlix by saying, on NetFlix’s Twiter account, “Hey, it’s OurMine, Don’t worry we are just testing your security…” As noted in The Atlantic, even more disruptive was the two-hour morning outage in October 2016 of Twitter, Reddit, Spotify, Github, and many other popular websites and services that became effectively inaccessible for many American web users. What was unique about this attack was the perpetrator used a botnet composed of so-called “internet-of-things” devices—namely, webcams and DVRs—to spam Dyn with more requests than it could handle.

“The software uses malware from phishing emails to first infect a computer or home network, then spreads to everything on it, taking over DVRs, cable set-top boxes, routers and even Internet-connected cameras used by stores and businesses for surveillance. These devices are in turn used to create a robot network, or botnet, to send the millions of messages that knocks the out victims’ computer systems.” Imagine coming home to find your thermostat turned up to 80 degrees or your toaster on. It may be funny on the surface but think about the damage this can cause.” –USA Today

Fourth-Hacker-Stealing-Sensitive-Data-from-Game-Companies-Pleads-Guilty-477527-2The bottom line is that we live in a world that’s run by computers and everyone knows that hacking is a major problem. The hacking of social media accounts can range from the annoying to downright scary. For example, hackers stole 32 million login credentials from Twitter in 2016 and then more recently  there have been political attacks like the one on the Democratic National Committee and the reports of Russian hackers impacting the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Sadly, there are even YouTube videos that teach people how to hack social media accounts.

While it’s clear that cybersecurity is an issue that impacts all of us, companies need to consider how the attacks can impact their brand, and how they can prepare in advance to combat these issues. While these episodes can be embarrassing, companies need to realize that ensuring customer loyalty is critical. Most people think of this as an IT issue, but in reality it is also an important brand issue. As noted in Chief Marketer Magazine, here are five things that companies can do to prepare for a cybersecurity crisis:

  • Put preventative measures in place. Mimic access control procedures, governance, and policies that your CIO imposes on their IT teams.
  • Train all of your marketing staff on basic information security practices.
  • Change your passwords regularly.
  • Make your creative teams aware. If you incur a breach, a savvy move might be to launch an immediate campaign on improving security across the organization as a whole.
  • Get PR involved. Make sure that your internal and external PR teams are involved in developing and implementing a brand recovery plan.

Are you prepared to protect your brand from a hacking scandal? The McKenzie Worldwide team has extensive crisis communications experience and we can help you prepare for and manage through these kind of cybersecurity issues that can negatively impact your brand. Please contact us if you would like to discuss how our team can help your company.

Strengthen your brand without creeping out your customers

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

The Internet of Things (IoT) presents a great opportunity for marketing executives. As noted in Forbes, “Data analytics and IoT – two emerging keystones of the digital economy – are fueling something of a feeding frenzy of grand proportions in the tech space…Much of the action was driven by the push to adopt IoT and data analytics capabilities and intersection between the two.” While the growth potential seems to be limitless, I often wonder if technology is going too far.

customersI read an article in Business 2 Community that talked about how the IoT provides marketers “With such abundant user data and the availability of instantaneous consumer feedback, brands should consider themselves in direct, near constant conversation with their customers.” Shifting gears, I turned to Chief Marketer and read about how “The information from these devices will allow marketers to better understand how customers interact with different platforms. These insights will lead to radically new ways of capturing people’s attention and engaging their loyalty.”

Which begs the question of how do marketers leverage the IoT to improve customer experience without annoying their iotcustomers? We recently placed an article for our client, e-Spirit, about this issue in The Marketing Scope titled “Leveraging The Internet of Things To Turn Content Into Revenue.” What is most interesting to me is the idea of empowering marketers with the ability to deliver personalized content to help consumers make better decisions. For example, what if I’m in a store where my friend registered for her wedding and the location-based app points me in the direction of items on my friend’s registry? That type of service helps me spend less time searching for the gift and more time with my family, which sounds pretty good to me. Plus, I don’t consider it an invasion of privacy or badgering by the retailer.

For marketers the IoT presents a great way to share relevant information with customers without overloading them with worthless information. At McKenzie Worldwide we work with a variety of technology companies that help improve the customer experience. Can we help boost your company’s marketing power?

Building brand the right way

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

brand-2Branding is a buzzword that’s tossed around all the time in the marketing world. I Googled the term—define branding in marketing—and came up with this definition: “The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products. An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets.”

Why is this relevant? I just read in the Portland Business Journal that retailer HHGregg is closing all of its 222hhgregg_logo_a_e
stores on Thanksgiving. Company CEO Bob Riesbeck said that “It’s important to us that our associates are able to be home with their families on Thanksgiving, and we are encouraging our customers to do the same – knowing great deals will be available online on Black Friday and through the weekend.”

This giant retailer is not the first company to take this path. But other companies in this space, namely Macy’s, Target and Kohl’s, are open on Thanksgiving as they try to complete with the growing online retailer community. You can argue the issue on many levels but my interest lies in the branding aspect.

Does closing its doors on Thanksgiving so that employees can be with their families make you want to shop at HHGregg and avoid Macy’s? Last year Apple launched its Apple Global Volunteer Program. Locally, Nike has its Nike Community Impact Fund. Do I now have a preference to buy products from Apple and Nike simply because they give back to the community? Maybe and maybe not, but knowing about these types of programs raises my awareness of the companies which, in turn, helps them to build a positive brand.

When your company designs marketing programs, do you take into consideration how the product or program will be viewed? Is it worth it for large retailers like HHGregg to take the financial hit by closing its doors to allow their employees to focus on family first during the holidays? The impact on the bottom line might not be positive, but the impact on your brand and your employee well-being certainly will be.

How successful marketers turn content into revenue

Monday, September 26th, 2016

Delivering the right content to the right person at the right time on the right device is a big challenge for marketers everywhere. With so many channels available to reach customers—desktop, mobile phone, tablet—it’s hard to know which technologies are the best for delivering your message to your target audience. Another important issue to consider is which channel a customer likes to receive content on. Personally, I’m a big fan of email but many people I know prefer to receive content on their mobile device. What’s a marketer to do?

For one of our clients the growth in this area offers a huge opportunity. e-Spirit recently launched FirstSpirit CaaS which allows companies to streamline content delivery across multiple channels. As noted in a recent article in CMSWire, e-Spirit’s Andreas Knoor stated that, “Companies that rely solely on traditional content management will sooner or later find themselves unable to take advantage of the enormous business opportunity the Internet of Things (IoT) presents, or keep pace with app and smart device innovations. The result will be an inability to satisfy the needs of today’s digital consumer.”

iotSo why all the hype around the IoT? Some people feel it’s just a buzzword, but those people are missing an important point. According to research firm Gartner, the IoT is the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment. The growth of the IoT is incredibly important to retailers because personal electronic devices can receive fresh content from retailers which opens up a huge channel to connect with customers. How big are the stakes here? Gartner estimates that by 2020, more than 20 billion connected things will be in use across a range of industries and the IoT will touch every role across the enterprise.

As mentioned in InformationWeek, Gartner says that the growing importance of the IoT and how connected devices, along with the data these devices collect, are changing the way IT is viewed within large businesses and enterprises. Gartner also states that “business analysts and developers of information-centric processes need to have the expertise and the tools to implement IoT aspects that play a role in their systems.”

So the question becomes, how can today’s marketers provide their customers with the content they need on the right device at the right time? At McKenzie Worldwide we have extensive experience working with some of the world’s leading Web content management, enterprise content management and customer experience companies. We can help you navigate through the complex worlds of these markets and provide the best communications strategies to help you take advantage of the IoT opportunity.

The impact that partnering can have on your brand

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

amazon-300x300On the surface the idea of having your company partner with a larger company sounds like a good idea. With any luck your company will increase sales and possibly be able to create joint marketing opportunities like presenting together at an industry trade show or by writing a byline article together. However, sometimes there is another side that must be considered when partnering with another company, especially if that company is an 800-pound gorilla such as Amazon. The main drawback is that the larger company might dominate sales and marketing activities and thereby position your company as a small fry that doesn’t merit much attention. What’s even more important is that the larger company can have a direct impact on your customers and your company’s brand.

For example, during Amazon Prime Day (APD), a number of smaller companies spoke about how they approach customer service and want to be responsible for the creating a positive customer experience. One company, underwear retailer Mack Weldon, decided to opt-out of APD in order “to keep its long-term customer experience intact.” Another company, BedBand, sells through Amazon but the founder has “lost all trust in Amazon” when she saw her revenue plummet by half because Chinese companies were undercutting BedBand’s prices by writing positive, albeit false, reviews that appeared on Amazon.

In addition, as discussed in Investor Place, some brick-and-mortar stores, who also sell their products online, like to 2000px-TheHomeDepot.svgpromote the fact that customers can receive hands-on help by coming into the store. Home Depot said that its customers like to come into the store to get a feel for what they’re buying. Similarly, Ulta Salon, which is a cosmetics company, offers interactive experts in their stores for people who like to try different make-up styles and brands at the store.

When your company decides which partners to work with, do you take into account how that partnership will affect your brand? Immediate sales might look great in the short-term, but what about all of the effort you’ve put into building brand equity?

How important is your brand? Is it worth it to increase your sales simply to be associated with a larger partner even at the potential cost of hurting your customer’s experience? Admittedly, sometimes it’s hard to put long-term brand recognition ahead of short-term sales, but building and maintaining your brand is a goal that every company should strive for.

Don’t forget the strategy when it comes to your Content Marketing program

Monday, May 16th, 2016

e-Spirit logoOver the past year I’ve seen quite a bit of coverage devoted to Content Marketing. Many people I’ve spoken with and articles that I’ve read highlight the importance of having a content distribution machine in place to deliver content to the masses. However, the reality is that while many companies talk a good game, most don’t have a content strategy in place and many don’t follow up on the plans they do implement.

According to research conducted by the Content Marketing Institute, 55 percent of B2B marketers say their organization is unclear on what content marketing success or effectiveness looks like. The same report indicates that only 44 percent of B2B marketers meet daily or weekly to discuss the progress of their content marketing program. The bottom line is that while many companies continue to crank out content to share with their customers and prospects, many don’t have a plan in place designed to ensure success.

One of the companies we work with, e-Spirit, just recently had an article published in CMSWire that our team wrote and placed in the publication that focuses on the CMSWire logoimportance of having a content marketing strategy in place. In addition, the article highlights the importance of being able to deliver the right content to the right person at the right time.

Does your company have a defined content marketing strategy in place? More importantly, does your company regularly check to see if it’s following that strategy?

Strike when the opportunity is hot

Friday, May 13th, 2016

One of the more important aspects of public relations is being able to uncover opportunities and being agile enough to ensure the best outcome for your clients. When an opportunity to help a client presents itself, you need to move fast. But it’s not just about turning around something quickly, it’s also about knowing the company’s audience, understanding market issues, and presenting a coherent discussion. Being smart, agile and quick can lead to great results.

For example, when a busy reporter was about to decline a time-sensitive story idea about the Portland CyberPatriot Camp recently, we seized the opportunity to offer up a guest column instead and drove hard to get it turned around in a day. Since many of us at McKenzie Worldwide are former journalists, we know what makes a good article or guest column. We quickly identified one of the leading companies in cyber security (Galois, Inc.), discussed the opportunity with the company’s marketing team and quickly wrote up the guest column for the CEO.

We ended up developing a guest column on behalf of Galois that focused on hot trends in the cyber security space and also promoted the Portland CyberPatriot Camp (an event that McKenzie Worldwide is sponsoring) which was published in the Portland Business Journal within two days. We also promoted The Galois Foundation’s sponsorship of this cyber security camp for high school students while highlighting their focus on supporting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.

It was a win-win for Galois and provided great exposure for the event.

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What is the brand impact of a CEO Statesman?

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

In a recent article titled “On the Stump,” the Economist positions CEOs from tech companies as the new CEO Statesman. “He is an evangelist, out to persuade theStriped_apple_logo world of the righteousness of his chosen causes.” The genesis of the article came from news about Apple CEO Tim Cook who is garnering headlines about privacy and government regulations with regard to unlocking a terrorist’s iPhone. While media-savvy executives and CEOs who seek the spotlight have been around in the tech industry for many years— think Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison—I started thinking about the impact their actions can have from a PR perspective.

“The CEO-statesman is not content with just accepting a job in the government; nor does he simply lobby behind the scenes. He is an evangelist, out to persuade the world of the righteousness of his chosen causes.”

Taking a stand on a legal or socially responsible issue, such as child labor laws, partner benefits or equal pay, is seen as a noble effort. Similarly, Mr. Cook’s issue with the government isn’t about the technology behind the iPhone. Rather, it’s about personal privacy vs. governmental need for security. He’s taking a stand on behalf of his company which, to me, is a noble gesture. Are his efforts helping or hindering sales of the iPhone? It’s hard to say. However, what he is doing definitely has an impact on Apple’s brand.

I see Mr. Cook’s efforts in a positive light. He’s doing what he believes is right, regardless of the consequences, and I applaud him for that. But, what if he was leading a charge against a hot political issue like abortion? Would I stop buying products from Apple because I disagree with his political stance?

Starbucks_Coffee_Logo.svgLook back at what Starbucks head honcho Howard Schultz did last year. At his request, baristas were asked to write “Race Together” on paper and plastic cups in an effort to get people talking openly about race relations. While the media backlash was quite negative, I thought it was an interesting move by Mr. Schultz to get people to start having an open dialogue about an important social issue.

From my perspective, the CEO Statesman can have a huge impact on a company’s brand and I applaud those CEOs who take that role seriously regardless of the impact it may have on their company. For instance, outdoor retailer REI gives employees paid days off to get outside or volunteer in the community and this makes me want to purchase their products. Part of building a brand is about what the company stands for and if I know that a CEO is willing to stick his or her neck out, as well as their company’s stock price, I am inclined to support them and their company.

What do you think about having a CEO Statesman for your company?

Does PR Overhype Unicorns?

Monday, November 30th, 2015

unicorn8Interesting article in a recent Economist about the hype surrounding high tech start-ups. The article, The Fable of the Unicorn, discusses a Silicon Valley darling called Theranos. The company has created a new type of blood test technology that could possibly turn the industry on its side. According to the Economist, that is a $75 billion a year industry so we’re talking about big money.

_76894099_theranos-logoThis article, and many like it that I’ve read over the years, highlights a big issue in the public relations industry—What responsibility does a PR manager have to give honest feedback and perspective to both the company’s executives and to the market in general? If the goal of a CEO is to build the valuation of the company, how much hyperbole is allowed? Lying can get you in to trouble, but is it a lie to merely hype the new company or product and paint a vision of where the company can eventually be?

“Yet in other ways Theranos evokes a central theme in today’s tech industry: startups which promise to disrupt lucrative businesses and become valued on the basis of fantasies about their potential, rather than present reality. Investors are so keen to get a piece of any sexy-sounding startup that they lap up entrepreneurs’ hype—and anyone who asks awkward questions risks being cut out of the funding round in favour of someone more trusting.”—The Economist

Our industry is full of examples of companies or products that were over-hyped only to crash and burn. The issue of FUD is also a part of this but that will be for another blog post down the road.

Promoting a company or product in order to gain attention and build valuation or secure investors is part of our job. To me the question becomes, who are we responsible too? I know that if I was working with a CEO or CMO who wanted us to over-promote something, or outright lie about it’s potential, I would have a problem with it. We always counsel our clients to be ethical and we expect them to behave the same.

Anyone who has had to give someone constructive criticism knows how awkward it can be. Imagine if you were working with a CEO or CMO and you knew they were bending the truth or outright lying, what would you do? Have you ever had a similar experience?

Why is it so hard to get sales and marketing to play nicely together?

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

I’ve never quite understood why it’s so hard to get the folks in the sales department to work closely with the PR team. I’ve worked with many big technology companies, including Oracle, Microsoft, and Apple, and rarely have I ever had an easy time engaging with the sales team. It’s a very strange relationship even though it’s really a symbiotic relationship—both sides can benefit from working with the other.

One theory I’ve heard is that the people in each of these departments are fundamentally different personality wise.  Chief Marketer Magazine had an interested article that focused on what each side brings to the table, using a Kirk and Spock analogy:

Spock represents the logical, data-driven (machine-like) approach to decision making, while Captain Kirk Kirk and Spockrelied mainly on his training, experience and instincts to get the crew out of a tight spot. Ultimately, the Enterprise completed its mission because Kirk and Spock often collaborated to find the right answer together—demonstrating how successful man machine collaboration could be.

The key to success is collaboration. When I’ve run into roadblocks with sales reps refusing to share customer examples, it’s usually because they don’t want to lose control of the relationship with the customer. Plus, they don’t want someone from the PR team messing up the company’s standing with the customer—both of which I completely understand.

When I work with sales reps I go out of my way to outline exactly what I would like to do with the customer, how it would benefit both the customer and our company, and include them on all communication. It sounds pretty simply but, in fact, it takes discipline to make sure you don’t lose sight of the bigger picture beyond your PR needs and the sales reps’ needs—the importance of keeping the customer happy for the long-term benefit of the organization.

UDWhile I’ve had success placing customer stories for our customers—Urban Decay and Geberit come to mind as recent examples—and with placing customers as speakers at industry events, it’s critical that the PR team takes the time to develop a relationship with the sales team so that they trust what you’re doing and believe that what you’re doing is in the best interest of the customer first and your company second.

Do you have any good success stories about working with your sales reps and customers?


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