The Holiday Season Is Upon Us: Top Retail Trends in 2018

As the year comes to an end, retailers have one thing on their minds: maximizing the peak shopping season. Between consumers shopping for Christmas gifts and preparing for holiday festivities, sales spike in November and December. Even more so, NRF expected this year’s retail sales to increase nearly 5% over 2017. In addition to a higher percentage of sales, more competition between retailers also ensues. Vying to stand out, notable retailers and brands have proved their value to consumers with a few innovative trends.

Taking the cake in 2018 are those who understand what their customers want and deliver the highest quality in response.

A Personalized Approach Goes a Long Way

In today’s on-demand economy, traditional deals won’t capture shopper’s attention alone. Instead, customized apps and email promotions help on-the-go consumers know what discounts are available ahead of time.

In my own personal holiday shopping this season, Nordstrom’s app has helped me stay up to date on which products are on sale. Furthermore, the app creates a personalized “looks” page that generates outfits based on a profile I’ve created. As I shop for friends and family and snag last minute outfits, the app has been a lifesaver. Browsing online gives me insight into what items are in stock at the store closest to me. When I’m in a crunch and know what I want, I can easily place an order online. If I’m unsure about a size, I can reserve up to 10 items online and swing by the store to try them on. Needless to say, personalized apps go a long way when the holiday season rolls around.

Apps are taking over, but email marketing isn’t a lost cause either. While clogged inboxes aren’t exactly a shopper’s dream, I’ve enjoyed receiving specialized discount codes from my favorite retailers this month. In many cases, I’ve bought something online or stopped by the store to browse because of the emails I’ve received.

Social Media Drives Results

The cellphone is an integral part of the modern-day shopping experience. Specifically, social media platforms have a dominant hold on users. According to the 2018 Holiday Social Marketing Trends report, 56% of consumers said a brand’s social media presence affected holiday purchase decisions. Additionally, 79% of marketers planned to run a holiday campaign on social this year. Out of those who ran a holiday ad campaign last year, 88% of marketers said it was effective. Hence, the strategy seems to work in most cases.

This year, retailers from various industries are getting in on the action. Companies are using relevant hashtags and Instagram stories to capitalize on increased shopping. Target, for example, features a “Gift Ideas” highlight on Instagram to offer some ideas based on who shoppers are buying for from babies to teachers. Though this is a practical approach to increasing awareness among customers, some brands are going for a more emotional effect.

Air Canada pulls on heartstrings with an ad showing emotional reunions as airline passengers come home for the holidays, associated with the hashtag #FlyTheFlag. The Instagram community took to the video with nearly 5,000 likes.

VR and AR Give Glimpse Into Retail’s Future

A recent addition to the holiday marketing repertoire is enhanced reality. Whether virtual or augmented, the technology is gaining traction among retailers. Most noteworthy, Facebook launched augmented reality camera effects for ad campaigns over the summer. This holiday season, Office Depot is using the technology to offer “Elf Yourself” ads. With this feature, consumers can animate themselves with elf-like effects.

An even more immersive and novel experience is virtual reality. Though more of an enigma, we can expect more VR experiences in retail’s future. Macy’s is an early adopter of the technology, launching “See Your Space IRL”  in time for the holidays. Available in about 70 Macy’s locations, shoppers can use a VR headset to envision a room in their home and experiment with different furniture pieces.

All in all, holiday shopping has come a long way from overnight campout sessions outside of stores to catch the latest deals. With a more digital, customer-centric approach, securing the season’s top purchases is a bit more seamless. Don’t get me wrong, I still think holiday shopping is a stressful time of year, but I’m thankful that so many retailers have stepped it up in hopes of a more fun and less chaotic experience.

A Marketers Christmas

Moving Beyond The 30 Second Super Bowl Ad Spot

This blog was provided by our intern, Daniela Ramirez.

The biggest sports event of the year, the Super Bowl, is one of America’s most highly celebrated events. Millions tune in every year to watch two teams go up against one another, competing for the NFL’s biggest title. But this year I tuned in for a different reason, the ads.

We all know how expensive these advertising spots for the Super Bowl are and generally only major brands can afford to make the investment. However, I often find myself thinking, “Why would you spend all of that money? How do these high profile brands measure their ROI for a spot that can cost businesses over $5 million? Is it even worth it to have your name out there for 30 seconds when it has the opportunity to be skipped over, muted or even fast-forwarded in today’s DVR world?”

Companies often use the Super Bowl as an opportunity to move a brand or product forward in the marketplace, pioneer forward thinking and engage with their consumers. With this in mind, many brands are moving beyond the traditional TV platform to share their message and create a bigger strategy out of their 30-second ad spot. This is where public relations and marketing come in.

Since brand’s now have more opportunities and channels at their disposal, they can create and drive an entire campaign around one ad, such as Lumber 84 did this year. The televised “The Full Journey” spot prompted users to head to their website to discover the uncut film and find out what happens at the end of the journey. What you found was not a simple advertising campaign, but a powerful statement that has made this brand that was previously only well-known in the building supply industry, a household name. Shortly after the spot aired, Lumber 84’s website crashed as a result of social media conversation and publicity around the advertisement’s message.

Airbnb’s Super Bowl spot was part of larger campaign launch. Shortly after their “We Accept” spot aired, I received an email to my inbox as a call to action to learn more about their brand and #weaccept campaign.

Photo taken from Airbnb’s email

 

After clicking the “Learn More” button, I was led to a blog post that provided me with more information about the campaign and Airbnb’s corporate social responsibility initiatives.

 

Photo taken from Airbnb’s website

 

These cross-channel marketing strategies are one of the many tactics communications professionals are using to make their advertising dollars go further. And, we saw this not just after the ads aired but before kickoff. Many brands teased their spots before the Super Bowl event to generate buzz, create curiosity and engage with their audience.

Whether it’s before, during or after the big game, ultimately, brands need to implement a strategy that will resonate with their audience. But the challenge is figuring out how to do that. In the age of digital, brands are always looking for new ways to break through the noise and be top of mind. No matter the medium, it’s now more important than ever for advertising, marketing and public relations professionals to join forces and communicate one cohesive message while keeping the consumer in the middle of the conversation.

 

 

 

 

Ketner Group Musings on Retail: Finding the Perfect Blend of Technology and People

In the past few years, it would seem that the appeal of “traditional” physical retail stores is decreasing. After all, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, eCommerce grew 14.6% in 2015 with online sales accounting for more than half of total retail sales growth.

Even with this tremendous amount of growth in the online channel, the store is still the heartbeat of retail. But the reality is this: What we as shoppers really want, what we crave, is for our favorite retailers to create new and refreshing reasons for us to visit their physical stores.

Spoiler alert: it’s all about technology with a human touch!

So what, exactly, does this partnership of technology and human touch translate to?

Human touch means assisted selling in the store, in which store associates capture customer preferences and provide more targeted recommendations with the help of mobile devices that contain attribute information for all retail products. The result? Associates can become highly-effective personal “style” advisors when they combine their own knowledge of a product with readily available product information and customer preference indicators.

So too does it translate to relaxed spaces in-store where customers can learn and call on associates if they need or want to. Apple has been a leader in this type of dynamic in-store environment for ages.

Photo provided by Tech Times
Photo provided by: Tech Times

Since then, other retail stores have taken note. For example, London-based department store, Selfridges, has brought that “technology meets human” feel to the store by launching a multi-sensory yoga experience by partnering with East London yoga duo, Yung Club. Smaller scale retailers like STORY have taken the store experience to another level. Their 2000 square foot Manhattan store is part magazine, part store. Every four to eight weeks, it completely reinvents itself from design to merchandise in order to address a new theme, trend or issue.

Human touch in the store becomes especially useful when it partners with technology that pulls together disparate pieces of information. Think Clueless in the real world! Consider the example of a shopper pulling up a digital version of their own closet to see if a top they’ve found at a retail store matches their skirts. Adding that insight to a full product catalogue allows the store associate to purchase that top from another store should their location be out of stock. By connecting all channels with human insight, shoppers can truly find the right product at the right moment. The end result is a delightful and share-worthy shopping experience for the customer.

The Ketner Group team looks forward to hearing more about how human and machines are working together to create relevant, intimate and memorable customer experiences. We’re excited to find out the extent to which the future success of retailers hinges on connecting these two things to build memorable brand experiences. Retailers that effectively blend human touch with technology stand apart from the rest and not only “win,” they kill it.

Gifs: Redefining Interpersonal Communication

A “gif” is defined as “a computer file format for the compression and storage of digital video images.” (Thanks, Merriam-Webster.) But most recently the term has come to define the looped video used in reaction to a situation or to add “color commentary” to an ongoing conversation between groups of people or to one’s social media post.

Suffice it to say, I am a BIG fan of them.

Since Slack announced its integration with GIPHY two years ago, Ketner Group’s inter-office /giphy tags have provided comedic relief to pretty much any situation we find ourselves in or in one-off conversations we may be having with other team members. I even find myself having entire conversations via /giphy. (Personally I’m partial to Game of Thrones and Beyoncé gifs. Given the recent release of the new season of GoT and LEMONADE, I’m pleased I’ll have a lot more content to work with.)

via GIPHY


via GIPHY

Gifs really are the new expression of emotion or reactions through a two-dimensional medium, be it in interoffice messages or texts with friends. Some might argue that emojis are the current “it” thing, and while I appreciate a good emoji conversation, nothing really says “I-just-secured-awesome-coverage-for-my-client-and-didn’t-break-a-sweat” like Michelle Pfeiffer in Grease 2.


via GIPHY

Or when receiving an unexpected complement, I look to a children’s classic.


via GIPHY

Many brands and companies have introduced their own branded gif keyboards, including Kik with their partnership program, Starbucks with their Frappuccino featured keyboard and Mississippi State’s athletics focused keyboard, to increase their reach with consumers.

With these brands creating their own keyboards and countless others in development, it’s generating a whole new vehicle for us to engage with those brands and use those brands as a means of self-expression, much like we would clothes or accessories. This integrates brands further into our everyday lives, blurring the distinction between marketing and organic content, including GIPHY’s head of business development.

As my parting gift, I’ll leave you with the hilarious fail gifs and let you see if you can figure out which ones are branded.


via GIPHY

via GIPHY

via GIPHY

via GIPHY

via GIPHY

via GIPHY

Scoring a Perfect 10 on Earth Day

This blog was written by our intern, Cambria Sawyer.

Cause marketing is a lot like college.

I first started to see this connection in my journey as a Ketner Group intern back and forth from the office to the jungle (a.k.a. campus). You see, college is a balancing act.

Professors assign you more hours of homework than you have in a day. Somehow I’ve managed to survive off of cheese sticks and grapes for the past week, but the grocery store is in my imminent future. I need to go to the gym, steel drums practice, a club officer meeting and still go out with friends tonight– and all I want to do is take a nap.

Figuring out how to fit all the pieces together so they make sense and reach a goal is a delicate art; the same type of challenge comes with devising an effective cause marketing campaign.

If you break it down, it has two, equally important parts: the cause and the marketing, but putting the two together is easier said than done. Brands have to be careful when they choose a campaign. It must be simple, interesting and brand-relevant, while not appearing insincere. Digiday explains the stakes well in an article warning brands of “cause fatigue,” where poorly balanced campaigns cause consumers to stop taking corporate social responsibility seriously.

This Earth Day, I want to take a few brands from the apparel and fashion industry and rate them on a 1-10 scale for their Earth Day cause marketing balance skills.

 

Photo courtesy of Amour Vert
Photo courtesy of Amour Vert

Amour Vert
Rating: 4
The sustainable fashion brand’s “Buy a Tee Plant a T(r)ee” campaign is fine, but that’s kind of the point– it’s just fine. While the rhyme is catchy and the cause is admirable, the connection between the fashion brand and planting trees is not particularly strong. Not to mention this is definitely not the first time a campaign identical to this has been launched, so it also looses points on originality. It’s clear to a consumer that this campaign is more about the marketing.

 

Burton
Rating: 8
A brand for the earth-conscious adrenaline junky, Burton takes environmental campaigns to the next level.

Photo courtesy of Burton
Photo courtesy of Burton

Their most creative plan to save the world (yes, they have many) is, in my opinion, the Burton x Mountain Dew campaign, where recycled plastic bottles are converted into the thread Burton uses to make some of its equipment and athletic wear. It’s unique, but still hyper-relevant to what they do as a brand. Where the brand falls short is its lack of focus on a specific campaign. While it undoubtedly earns a perfect 10 conservation-wise for facilitating a whopping 11 separate eco-campaigns, the marketing aspect suffers. As the Harvard Business Review advises, keep it simple. There’s a fine line between impressing and overwhelming your customers.

KEEN
Rating: 10
The footwear brand’s motto is “Follow Your Feet,” so that’s what it’s doing– and it’s awesome. KEEN’s Live Monumental Film Tour campaign began as a cross-country road trip 10 months ago in a yellow RV. As the brand ambassadors travelled 7,500 miles from Oregon to Washington, D.C., a film crew captured their efforts as they received more than 40,000 petition signatures to protect 3 million acres of public land, according to Cause Marketing Forum.

Photo courtesy of KEEN
Photo courtesy of KEEN

The grand finale? A yellow-carpet movie premier of the film on Earth Day and film tour to follow. The campaign directly correlates with the hiking- and travel-oriented merchandise the brand offers. Even if it wasn’t relevant, the idea itself is so intriguing you forget it’s a marketing move in the first place. What’s even better? Two of the five natural areas the KEEN campaign focuses on have been declared as “protected” since the outset of the movement, a tangible achievement consumers can really take to heart when evaluating the brand.

A perfect 10. Nailed it.

Ebola Relief in Liberia: Introducing #RetailFightsEbola

The Ketner Group team is fortunate to work with clients doing groundbreaking work in diverse technologies including mobile, cloud, supply chain, machine learning, advanced analytics and other innovative areas. We work with really smart people who are helping shape the future of how retailers interact with consumers, which is pretty heady stuff.

Every once in a while, though, we get to work on a PR campaign that is something special. And that’s certainly the case with #RetailFightsEbola, a campaign from the Retail Orphan Initiative (RetailROI) that’s rallying the retail industry to fight Ebola in Liberia. Ketner Group has been privileged to handle PR for the Retail Orphan Initiative since it began six years, but this latest campaign raises the bar even higher.

A quick word of explanation: RetailROI is a charitable foundation that brings together retailers, technology vendors and editors and analysts to make a difference in the lives of orphaned and vulnerable kids around the world. Rather than duplicate the work of existing charities, RetailROI provides grants to charities that are already on the front lines of providing care in some of the poorest countries in the world – including Liberia.

Working with its partner charities operating in Liberia, the #RetailFightsEbola campaign is rallying retailers, manufacturers and individuals to provide much needed medical and hygienic supplies to Liberia. The goals are two-fold:

  • Raise $1,000,000+ in donated goods from retailers and manufacturers. RetailROI is working to provide specific items requested by its partners and the Liberian Ministry of Health, including first aid supplies, as well as food, clothing and linens to help with practical aid and care for survivors and the more than 3,400 children that are newly orphaned from the disease.
  • Raise $250,000 in financial contributions from companies and individuals for immediate relief. The financial contributions will help RetailROI partners provide additional relief until the goods arrive. 100 percent of the funds go directly to Ebola relief – ensuring the funds go where they’re most needed.

Why Liberia? For starters, it’s one of the countries hardest hit by Ebola as well as one of the world’s poorest countries, with an average national income of only $412 USD per capita annually. Moreover, RetailROI has reliable partner charities on the ground, including a remarkable organization called More Than Me, whose original mission was to provide education and opportunity to the most vulnerable girls in Liberia’s West Point slum, but has recently expanded to combat Ebola.

“Liberia’s government is primarily focused on mobilizing hospitals, treatment centers and coordinating with others to help with the treatment and keeping order,” says Katie Meyler, founder of More Than Me. (Check out her recent photo journal from the Ebola crisis in Vogue.)  “When it comes to practical aid for those most at risk, the vast majority of the work and distribution is being done through community groups and non-government organizations with boots on the ground like us. Survivors of this disease lose everything; their entire household and belongings are burned to stop the spread of the disease, and several thousand survivors are now orphaned children.”

More Than Me and other RetailROI partners have reduced the number of new cases by up to 90% in some of the areas hardest hit by the disease, through education, community outreach and delivery of basic medical and hygiene supplies. These efforts have been so successful that the Liberian Ministry of Health reached out to them to expand their work to additional Ebola hotspots within the country – and that’s the impetus behind #RetailFightsEbola.

As Greg Buzek, co-founder and donor trustee of RetailROI, explains, “The goods that Liberia has requested are readily available from nearly any supercenter, drug, clothing or grocery store in the U.S. We are asking retailers and manufacturers to donate products at their cost from overstocks or out-of-season goods. This is retail’s chance to make a difference in the lives of people that desperately need our help at the source of the outbreak and will be key to helping contain this epidemic.”

Retailers or individuals who would like to get involved or donate to #RetailFightsEbola, please visit www.retailroi.org/ebolarelief for more information. Please help us spread the word!

Digital Retail’s Brightest Take Over Seattle This Week for Shop.org 2014

The annual Shop.org summit is already underway, and it has been a fast and furious few days for the team here at Ketner Group and our wonderful and innovative clients who are exhibiting at the show this week. The months and weeks leading up to Shop.org was full of planning sessions, scheduling meetings with media and analysts and preparing show announcements for our clients. This is a very exciting time of year for the KG team as it represents the unofficial kick-off of the holiday shopping season. We are working with all of our clients on some really exciting holiday-themed campaigns over the next few months, but more on that in another blog post!

Shop.org is a must-attend event for anyone in digital retail. In their own words, it is “a 2½ day event specifically for digital and multichannel retailers. Get the rush of discovering new ideas, getting actionable takeaways and building strong relationships with the brightest and most innovative players in the digital retail world.” The more than 5,200 attendees, 280 exhibitors and 100+ speakers represent the entire digital and multichannel retail community: senior management, marketers, merchandisers and solution providers.

In the first two days alone, attendees have had a chance to participate in various keynote sessions, roundtables and panels. Highlights include:

  • Jamie Nordstrom of Nordstrom speaking on the importance of evolving with your customer or “you die”
  • The Amazon.com story featuring leading Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru and veteran Silicon Valley journalist and author, Brad Stone
  • A special NRF members-only session focusing on “Decoding the New Consumer Mind”

To see the latest and greatest news, tweets and photos from Shop.org – click here!

For those of you still in Seattle and need some advice on a successful Shop.org (or if you have some free time available before your flight home) check out Shop.org’s blog, “12 Tips for Making the Most of the Summit.”

Video Courtesy of Shop.org

Girls Can Run the World

When my husband and I found out that we were pregnant with our first child, we were of course thrilled! Starting our own family was very important to us and we couldn’t wait to find out whether it was a boy or a girl. A few months later we got the word – we would be having a baby girl. I was beyond excited and immediately started shopping for cute baby girl dresses, bows, socks (with plenty of Texas Tech gear, of course) and started planning the color scheme and décor for her nursery. She was going to be the sweet, perfectly styled baby girl I always wanted.

Then it hit me – I’m having a girl. I pondered about what she’d be like – would she be the shy girl like me or would she inherit my husband’s strong personality? I also thought about all the things that go along with raising a girl – from teaching her how to fix her hair, helping her deal with friendships, how to cope with boyfriends and having the serious “talks” about her body. It was all very overwhelming to think about, but I knew that my husband and I would be up to the task.

Nine years later, it turns out that my beautiful Madeline most certainly got her father’s personality and height! She is mentally and physically strong, intelligent and inquisitive and has all of the qualities and the confidence of a good leader. (Case in point, she refused to get in the back of the tug of war line with the rest of the girls, insisting on being at the very front with all of the boys in the class!) Of course she has squabbles with her little girl friends from time to time, which has resulted in hurt feelings and some tears. But Madeline is not the type of person to dwell on things for too long, and is very quick to bounce back from anything that gets her down. I’d like to give my husband and I a “high-five” for all of this, but the truth is that I believe that 50% of her personality, and the personalities of all young girls, come with them on the day they were born.

The other half, well, that’s on us as parents and the rest of you out in the world. What can we as parents and the “global village” do to help our young girls grow into strong and capable members of society? What’s more, what can we all do to help them become the leaders of tomorrow?

When I heard about the #BanBossy campaign, I was immediately intrigued. Ban Bossy is a public service campaign designed to help girls flex their leadership muscles while having fun do it. It was developed in partnership with the Girls Scout of the USA, Rachel Simmons (co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute) and LeanIn.org. According to their website,
Girl Scouts
“When it comes to girls and ambition, the pattern is clear: girls are discouraged from leading. When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy”—a precursor to words like “aggressive,” “angry,” and “too ambitious” that plague strong female leaders. Calling girls bossy is one of many things we do to discourage them from leading. It’s no wonder that by middle school, girls are less interested in leadership roles than boys, a trend that continues into adulthood.”

The campaign provides leadership tips for girls, teachers, parents and Girl Scout leaders, to encourage confidence and leadership for young women. I thought this would be a wonderful lesson for Madeline’s Girl Scout troop. My two female co-workers (who also used to be in Girl Scouts) graciously offered to co-lead the meeting with me and talk to the girls about what it means to be a leader and how important it is to speak up and stand up for yourself and your friends.

Girl Scouts Silly
The meeting was a hit! We divided the girls into groups and had each of them act out different skits that allowed them to showcase different scenarios on being a leader and being a good friend. We talked to the girls about what it means to be “bossy” and that it is ok to be “the boss.” The girls loved hearing us talk to them about being the very best they can be and the importance of being confident young ladies.

One of the girls told us that sometimes people call her a “know it all” but that she really didn’t care. Awesome. That same girl told us later in the meeting that she wants to be President of the United States, and I’ve just learned from her mother that she has instituted a family newsletter with deadlines, assigned columns, etc. Even more awesome. Watch out world, this girl is going places!

As for Madeline, I know she is going places, too. My husband and I will continue to do our part to nurture her confidence, but I ask that the rest of you help us in the process. Please encourage Madeline and all young girls to dream big. A woman’s place is anywhere she wants it to be.

I encourage you to check out Ban Bossy and the below campaigns designed to encourage and inspire young women:

Four Ways to Refresh Existing Website Content

Gini Dietrich

Guest post by: Gini Dietrich, CEO of Arment Dietrich and lead blogger at Spin Sucks.

In late 2011 and early 2012, the Public Relations Society of America undertook the big task of redefining public relations.

Before this happened, the industry was working with a definition that was 40 years old. It hadn’t been reviewed since 1982.

In 1982, E.T. came out. John Belushi died. Knight Rider was a popular television show. Prince William was born. Seven people died from taking cyanide-laced Tylenol. The first issue of USA Today was published. And the Times “man of the year” was the computer.

A lot has changed since 1982. Not only have TV shows and movies grown up, so has Prince William and an entire industry. Social media has completely turned the PR industry on its head and technology is changing more quickly than ever before.

The evolution of technology is so fast, it’s reaching millions -and even billions-of users in no time at all.

Consider this: It took older technologies years to reach 50 million users…and then just a few months as it evolved.

  • Radio: 38 years.
  • TV: 13 years.
  • The Internet: Four years.
  • IPod: Three years.
  • Facebook added 100 million users in just nine months.
  • iPod app downloads hit one billion in nine months.

Nearly every year we have a new social network introduced. Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, SnapChat. The list continues to grow and it’s not only the job of communicators to keep up, it’s your job as business leaders to stay abreast of the changes so you can lead your team during the digital age.

Websites are about the Customer

Technology is creating some amazing opportunities for all of us, but also causing some distress. You used to have a PR team (internal or external) that focused on employee communications, media relations, reputation management, financial reporting, the annual report, public affairs, and maybe some events.

Today PR professionals also have to be knowledgeable about web development, mobile marketing, search engine optimization, content marketing, and more.

The web, it turns out, is extremely important in the job of a PR professional. Much more important today than it was in the previous decade, as new technologies are introduced and companies are struggling to figure out how to add the latest and greatest tool to its overall marketing strategy.

It used to be your website was an online version of your corporate brochure. But times, they are a changin’. Your website now needs to be a living and breathing document that changes consistently (at least once a week, according to a Hubspot study) and becomes less about you and more about your customer.

Refresh Existing Content

The first place you want to start is your website by taking out the French – the we, we, we (oui, oui, oui – get it?!?).

  1. Find the French. Depending on how you like to work, you can either print out every page of your website (not very green, but it works) or you can go into your content management system and do a search. Look for every word that is about you. Look for “we,” “our,” “us,” and similar words. This is the copy you’ll have to rewrite.
  2. WIIFM. What’s in it for me means the copy you rewrite becomes about the customer, instead of about you. You tell them what your organization does for them. You use words such as “you” and “your.”
  3. Testimonials. Update your testimonials. Some of you will have them in text as a quote. Get these on video. We have a client who held a user’s event a couple of weeks ago. They hired a videographer to spend two hours at the conference and the marketing director got users on video talking about who they were, what they do, and how they use the client’s product. The stories ended up being really compelling. One user rescues dogs and finds them permanent homes. He talked about that and then spent 30 seconds talking about the client’s product. Mailchimp also does this really well. Rather than have the customers talk about how much they love the email software, they talk about their own businesses or interests or hobbies and how the product fits into their lives. Very compelling stuff.
  4. Case studies. This is what we’ll call social proof – the reason another person should buy from you. Most case studies are boring text with nothing interesting in them. Make them multimedia. Add images. Add charts. Add infographics. Even think about whiteboard automation. Make them so interesting, prospects can’t wait to buy.

Once this project is complete – and it will take some time – you can focus your energies on other owned media, such as white papers, webinars, blog posts, and videos.

To learn more, check out Gini’s latest book – Spin Sucks – on sale this week!

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Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is officially here!

PR Crisis Management: Always Be Prepared

photo credit: PR Pret-A-Porter, Crisi Management: Titanic Case post

Over the past several months, my Netflix account and I have been BFF’s. After listening to my colleagues go on and on about all of the great television series I’ve missed out on over the past, oh, eight years, I decided it was my mission to become more cultured in my television viewing, and ditch shows like American Idol and Dancing with the Stars. I started with AMC’s Mad Men, then made my way through NBC’s Friday Night Lights – television at its best in my opinion.

Most recently, I’ve started watching ABC’s Scandal and AMC’s The Walking Dead and realize that both shows have a common central theme – crisis management on steroids! Both shows deal with crises in very different ways – obviously taking down zombies is much different than taking down a dirty politician in Washington D.C.  But, the chosen profession for the main characters in each show very clearly includes “crisis management” in their job description.  Olivia Pope on Scandal is a political “fixer” which means she is a lawyer/PR specialist who handles the problems of the rich and powerful in Washington D.C. Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead is a local sheriff in small town Georgia, leading a rag tag group of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world and constantly tries to figure out how not to get overrun by herds of hungry zombies.

But, in the real world, crisis management involves more than a highly paid TV writing team and good actors.  You need to have a plan. If you don’t have a crisis management plan solidified for your organization, there are plenty of resources available online for professionals in all industries. For PR executives, I suggest taking a look at the blog “10 Steps to Managing a PR Crisis” written by Marc Cowlin of Meltwater News.

Marc’s blog includes his playbook of crisis communication best practices that he’s learned over time.  His tips for a seamless PR crisis include:

Take a deep breath. When a PR crisis comes about the first thing you need to do is: nothing.  Stop, close your eyes and take five slow deep breaths. We make better decisions when we are calm and in control than we do when we are panicked.

Circle the wagons.  Take a few minutes to get in touch with all customer facing employees (other PR team members, the social media team, customer service, etc.) Brief them on what happened, the steps you will follow to react to the issue, initial instructions on how/if they should communicate externally, expected timeline for reaction and how they can help.

Investigate what happened. Now that you’re calm and everyone’s informed, you need to get the full story. Use your connections in the organization to determine exactly what happened. You need to know the entire story from an internal perspective, and how your customers perceive the incident externally.

Understand business impact. Is this PR crisis having an immediate impact on business? Will it have a future impact on the business? Before you react, it’s important to know how your decisions will impact the business, revenue and your brand reputation. 

LISTEN UP! Use your PR and social media monitoring tools to take the pulse on the reaction of the media and your community. This step will tell you if the crisis has made it to the attention of your customers or media yet. From there your goal is to gauge the significance of the PR crisis: just how big is this issue?

Decide on corporate position and messaging. Armed with the full story, an understanding of the business impact, and a complete picture of the reaction so far, you will have a clear idea of the position your company should take. From there you can write up a quick messaging platform and get buy in from your executive team.

Make decisions on channels of distribution. Based on your corporate positioning and overall messaging, you need to determine the channel/s that best deliver them to your audience. These days there are many channels to consider: you can post on your corporate blog, through social media, in a press release, directly to the media, or a combination. When making this decision, keep in mind the basic differences in each channel. Every situation will be different, and you’ll need to use the info you’ve gathered so far to decide on the best distribution.

Get the word out. You’ve done your homework, gotten the buy-in on messaging, and have decided on distribution channels.  It’s now time to get your message out to the channels you’ve chosen.

Monitor reaction and react as needed. With your message out in the world, you need to circle back with your public facing teams. Is your PR crisis still a crisis? What happens next will ultimately depend on the reaction of the media, your community and in social media. There are no hard and fast rules and you’ll need to make the call in real time.

Learn from the process. Everything you learn will help your company understand how to avoid future crisis and will help you to efficiently managing your next crisis. Take what you’ve learned and apply it to the next time you have a fire to extinguish.

As PR professionals, it is our job to be prepared to help guide our clients and teams through a crisis quickly. According to Brian Ellis, owner and executive vice president at PadillaCRT, the first 48 hours of any crisis are crunch time. “If you are not ahead of the crisis by that timeframe, it’s likely it will run you over,” says Ellis.

On the flip side, with any given crisis, there is always opportunity. John F. Kennedy once said, “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.”

Here’s hoping that the “danger” part of your crisis doesn’t include zombies!