Archive for the ‘Strategy’ Category

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?

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?

How to communicate effectively when “you know too much”

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

presidential debateWatching the presidential debates, I have found the diversity of communication styles from candidate to candidate to be a fascinating study in spokesperson strategies and how they represent a brand. What traits make a spokesperson successful and what may not work in front of the camera or a journalist’s pen?

When you set aside the issues, what’s left are the basic elements of communication, or the strategies a spokesperson employs to convey their point of view and influence their audience while representing the company brand (or party image, in the case of presidential race).

Although public relations has evolved dramatically during the past 10 years, the basic guidelines for being a good media spokesperson have remained the same (with some tweaks). Below are some of the basics that you may already know but I hope they serve as a helpful reminder to anyone who plays the role of spokesperson, whether it’s a quick answer to a few questions or a longer, in-depth interview. As a spokesperson, you represent the company brand at all times, so how do you stick to the key tenants without going off track?

  • Remember, you know too much. You are an expert about your subject matter. So much so, that you likely have a level of understanding that is many levels deeper than the journalist. If you try giving them too much information, you will probably bore them and they may pick up a tangential point you may have mentioned instead of the topic you imagined would be the focus of the article. So keep the conversation simple and focused. This leads me to the next point…
  • Stay on message. There are many strategies for doing this, but in short: Say what you want to say, and then say it again. In other words, identify your core message and supportive key points before your presentation. Then, keep your core message simple and repeat it often so it sticks. You may give a lot of examples and scenarios to help explain your point, but always return to your core message. Another good way to wrap up your interview is to use numbered steps to outline your key points. For example, “ … the three main things I want to leave you with today are 1) …. 2) … 3) …” It may seem obvious, but reporters often appreciate the clear, concise recap.
  • Engage them in the conversation. This seems self-explanatory but when you have a lot to explain, it’s easy to start lecturing. If you feel this is happening, ask questions to make sure you’re not losing or boring them with too much detail.
  • Act as if you’re talking to your most important customer. Although you may be talking to one person, the end result may be an article describing your comments to a majority of your customers. You want it to sound respectful and concise.
  • Silence is golden. Don’t babble on uncomfortably if you get flustered when they stop asking questions. Just stop talking. This gives pause for questions and gives the journalist time to take notes. Also, remember that the questions the reporter asks reveal where he/she is going with their article and may flag areas of concern that you will need to address.
  • Set expectations accurately. No one likes to be let down or lied to, and it’s a real bummer when products you purchased don’t work as described. Be honest and deliver on your promises. Otherwise, you’ll start to sound like a presidential candidate and no one will trust you – OR your brand.

How do you represent your brand during media interviews? If you need help, give us a call! We have media training experts ready to help.

Enterprise transformation – Is it real this time?

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

Over the past 20 years or so that I’ve been involved in the enterprise software industry, I’ve heard endless predictions about how the industry is going to dramatically change and how this technology or that technology, or new delivery models like software as a service are going to put the established vendors out of business.

As far as I can tell, not that much has actually changed. Sure enterprises are using some cloud apps and improving mobile device support. But where the rubber actually meets the road, enterprises are still running their own infrastructures and closely guarding their content and data behind layers of IT administrators. The players aren’t changing much either, with Microsoft, Oracle, IBM and SAP accounting for the lion’s share of revenues.

IDC FutureNow, for its 2016 industry predictions IDC is saying that converging technology forces – primarily mobile computing, cloud services, big data and analytics, and social networking – will lead to wholesale digital transformations that will essentially blow up everything we know about enterprise software today. As enterprises embrace emerging technologies, IDC predicts we’ll see the creation of what it’s calling the “DX economy.”

According to IDC, besides determining the winners in nearly every industry – the companies that embrace the new technologies will win while those who don’t will lose – the DX economy will fracture the enterprise software industry. Per IDC’s press release about its research:

Nearly a third of today’s IT suppliers will be acquired, merged, downsized, or significantly repositioned. In this environment, enterprises will have to constantly monitor and assess the solutions offered by their suppliers and partners and be prepared to realign these relationships as needed.

Talk about disruption.

But the big question is whether IDC is right. Is this the moment when the enterprise software industry truly changes, or is this just another hype cycle?

Both sides have a case. On one side, you have the massive investments enterprises have already made in hardware and software which simply aren’t going anywhere. On the other, you have increasingly tech-savvy customers demanding a more cohesive and personalized experience than ever before. There’s also the much-discussed Internet of Things (IoT) that IDC says will be a “fertile area” for DX.

There’s little question that digital transformation is one of the hottest topics in the enterprise space today. But is it real or just another passing fad? Let us know what you think.

In your spare time, be sure to head over to IDC’s FutureScape landing page to soak in a series of 33 on-demand presentations covering many different industries and market segments. Full disclosure: I have not actually watched them all, but many do look promising. I’m interested in learning what’s up with wearables, for instance.

Building Brand Takes Bold Action

Friday, October 30th, 2015

REI logoI’m really impressed when a company talks the talk and then walks the walk. Recently REI, the nation’s largest consumer co-op and specialty outdoor retailer, announced that it is going to close its doors for Black Friday. The company said it is going to pay its 12,000 employees to do what they love most – be outside. Why give up one of the busiest days in retail? To stay true to its brand.

Is this simply a public relations stunt? The industry magazine PR Week went so far as to publish a headline that read “REI: Our plan to close stores on Black Friday is no PR stunt”—so I guess it’s not just a stunt.

Outdoor camping Two things about this announcement caught my eye. First, regardless of whether or not it’s a stunt, the move is getting people to talk about the company—industry buzz is always a good thing. Personally, I hate what shopping has done to Thanksgiving so I’m now more inclined to take a look at REI’s merchandise since I respect the move.

Second, it’s all about the brand. REI is all about the outdoors. As it says on the company’s “About REI” section, “But no matter how large we grow, our roots remain firmly planted in the outdoors. Our passion for outdoor adventure is clear, whether you visit any of our stores across the country, phone us, or interact with us online.”

The company values the great outdoors and wants to help people to enjoy what nature has to offer. Rather than promote huge savings or getting people to look at the next outdoor gadget, the company took a bold step and showed the world that there’s more to life than shopping.

 

When a key editor needed video content, Tektronix (and our agency) delivered

Friday, February 20th, 2015

One way that you can build trust in your company’s brand and continue to strengthen your relationship with the editorial community is to help out those hard-working editors who cover your company and its products whenever you can. Editors are typically short on time, yet they always have lots of content that they need to generate for their online publications. Therefore, providing them with useful video content that is compelling, news-style and professionally produced, such as the remote video interviews that we recently helped manage and produce for our client Tektronix, is just a good thing.

We recently worked with our Tektronix clients to develop two CNN-style remote interview videos for Martin Rowe, senior technical editor at Electronic Design Network (EDN), of him interviewing an expert at Tektronix. The objective was to help Martin give his readers/viewers who were unable to attend this year’s DesignCon a great overview of a few of the important technology issues that were going to be discussed at the show

In the videos, Chris Loberg, senior technical marketing manager, at Tektronix was interviewed via phone by Martin Rowe about trends as well as 100G standards and measurements. The videos were posted on EDN and featured a Q&A interview with Martin.

Martin loved the videos that we produced and he received such positive feedback from his colleagues at the publication that we expect we’ll be helping them out with many more videos to come.

Remember, thinking creatively about the best ways to help our editors and our clients is what we enjoy doing every day.  Please give us a call if you would like McKenzie Worldwide to help you build trust in your brand!

 

 

Recipe for Results

Monday, February 16th, 2015

For PR pros working in the high tech sector, getting coverage for companies that are not named Microsoft, Google and Amazon has become harder than ever. With a smaller number of publications out there and fewer reporters to cover even more news, getting eyeballs to read about your client can be quite a challenge. In the absence of hard news, such as quarterly earnings, acquisitions or product launches, how can you help your clients secure the type of exposure they want?

StoresFor one of the companies we work with, e-Spirit, we’ve focused on a number of key themes that resonate in their respective markets. The overarching idea centers on improving their customer’s digital experience and is supported by such themes as personalization (STORES Magazine—Downright Personal) and creating brand ambassadors (CMSWire—Turn Touch Points into Trust Points.)

ScopeWe’ve also focused on discussing and providing insights when it comes to industry trends such as content marketing (Document Magazine—Content Marketing that Serves Your Customer Experience) and mobile SEO (The Marketing Scope—7 Tips to Successful Mobile SEO.)

The point here is to make sure that your PR agency understands your business, your markets and your customers.

The Paperless Office…In Our Lifetime?

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

logo_aiimIt seems like we’ve heard about the paperless office for many years now. Will it happen in our lifetime? Well, your guess is as good as mine. Our friends at AIIM just published a very interesting report about how companies are incorporating paper-free projects into their business. What I find interesting about the report, Winning the Paper Wars, are the reasons for and against going paper-free.

Many of the companies involved in the research indicated that their legal departments and some executives are not comfortable using 5-more-simple-tools-for-a-paperless-office-508f814ec9electronic signatures and electronic documents due to legal issues. The reality is that e-signatures and e-docs are 100 percent admissible in court. Conversely, the growth of mobile workers and mobile devices/applications has helped spur the need for the paper-less work environment.

mobile worker - man on his phone and laptop in a fieldFor those who work in PR and marketing, do you find that your clients like to publicize the fact that they are paper-free or that they’re using workflow and business process technology to reduce the use of paper and increase worker productivity? From a business perspective it makes a lot of sense to go this route, but does it help from a communications standpoint?


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