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By: Tiffany Whitaker
Communication Ally, Pushing the Envelope
As the new Communications Ally and team member of Pushing the Envelope, I thought it fitting to write about Communications and its many languages. However, I’m not talking about speaking French, English or sign language; I’m referring to the levels or stages upon which we interact. I’ve recently found myself reading communications blogs of successful women from different walks of life, all of whom shared an interesting, yet entirely different perspective on communicating. Here are a few of my favorites:
Whether intentional movements and expressions or natural reactions and projections, we are constantly communicating with our bodies and physical movements. These behaviors are picked up by the person we are interacting with, and likewise. Take notice of what you are projecting and interpret what the other person is telling you, communicating to you through their body language and gestures.
Language of Listen
You may recall Samantha’s interpretation of communication on this blog recently, The Passive Act of Communication: Listening. She expresses the importance of two-way communication, showing the other person that “their input matters.” Communication involves engaging the person you are interacting with, talking with them instead of at them. Try asking questions, listen to what the other person has to say and truly hear their message.
Beth Comstock, CMO at General Electric, shared a lesson she learned from former GE chairman and CEO Jack Welch after he hung up on her. After spending years in media and network news, she was too abrupt and she had to slow down. He was asking her to take more time to relate to people she was “communicating” with; get to them, where they are coming from, what is important to them. Sometimes we get caught up or distracted, are running through a never-ending list of tasks to complete that we miss out on the “why” we got into communications; the experiences and relationships.
Empathic listening is a mixture of communication skills and awareness to use when you genuinely want to connect. You can use it to applaud someone’s victory or to help uncover what’s really troubling them. If you allow yourself to empathize you can communicate on a whole new level. In her book “It’s All A Gift,” Miriam Adahan describes a friend who’s 8 month old baby was hospitalized with cancer. People kept telling her that everything was going to be okay when what she really needed was so express her feeling and have someone lend an ear and hear what she needed to say. Their forceful and “optimistic” message was actually hurting her more. Allow yourself empathize with a person, their situation, their angle or belief will make you communicate better in a situation.
Whether you’re new to a team (wink, wink), meeting someone new, making a sale, networking or even interacting with a loved one, remember there is more to communication than speaking. Taking note of the many levels or languages of communication can positively effect your life on both professionally and personally. Thanks for reading and if you need assistance with your communications, give us a call at (239) 221-2858 or visit our website.
By: Samantha Scott, APR
Grand Poobah AKA Owner
Today is the day of love, Valentine’s Day, so I thought I’d write in genre. As we grow up we strive to find something that we love that can provide income and sustainability for ourselves as adults – a job or career. It’s my hope that you (reading this) have found that one thing, industry, topic or passion that you love. It’s more likely if you’re an entrepreneur. Take me for example.
My husband and I started this company 7 years ago because we found that we were both good at marketing. I love the process of communications and relationship creation. On the Myers-Briggs scale I’m an ESTJ. Words are my friends and I’m comfortable with new people. What I don’t like is math and numbers, especially balancing a checkbook and calculus. This is important because I do what I love and good at, and leave the other stuff to those who are good at it. I practice public relations and run Pushing the Envelope, but I leave the bookkeeping up to my accountant.
It’s easy to get caught up in running your business. You’re busy and work hard to meet the demands of your clients or customers and your staff. Maybe you could use a little help and as a result, have stopped or stalled your marketing efforts. Don’t let being busy in “season” (for those of you in Southwest Florida) lead to a lack of business or new clients come summertime.
You are good at what you do. You run a successful business, but if we’re being honest, it could always be better, right? It can be hard to ask for help or even realize there is a need. Chance are, you didn’t go to college for marketing or web development. You know you need both for your business to be successful and grow, but aren’t sure where to start or perhaps, what to do next. Why not let us help?
Our skilled team can be your virtual in-house marketing department, help you get social media going (you know that plan you talked about 6 months ago?) and work on updating your website for increased traffic generation – and ultimately leads.
Do what you are good at. Let us help with the rest. Have questions? Give us a call at 239.221.2858 or email info(at)getpushing.com. We’ll be glad to help you do what you love.
By: Samantha Scott, APR
Grand Poobah / Owner
Yes, we’re in the holiday time of year and it seems like everyone is talking about donations, end of year giving and helping the needy. We are too. Beyond doing something good for someone else or “paying it forward,” there is value in getting involved in the community from a business perspective.
Doing community service projects, donating to fundraisers or sponsoring events can boost business (via awareness, traffic, etc.) and take your public relations efforts up a notch. Let’s also be clear that community relations or service doesn’t necessarily mean hours. If you or your staff doesn’t have time, there are other opportunities. Likewise, if you have time, but not money there are opportunities to get involved through in-kind services too.
“Do not underestimate the positive marketing and public relations that can come from community involvement. Many people want to patronize and support those companies and businesses that they see as invested in the community. Letting the public know that you care about and are supportive of community challenges is a very good way of building a solid reputation.” - Kori Rodley Irons
So often as business owners or leaders, we’re approached for donations – of time and/or money. Instead of saying “no” instinctively, charge yourself and your public relations counsel with really looking into the opportunities that might lie in getting involved. Are there exposure opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be available? Could this foster new connections with other area leaders, decision makers, or potential consumers? Does this align with the goals of your brand or your public relations plan?
Often times there are a lot more pros than cons associated with giving back. Plus, it will make you feel good and inevitably make someone else feel good too! Take a look at the needs of your community or industry and try to align them with what you’re good at or passionate about. There’s bound to be a chance for you to give back and boost your PR at the same time!
If you’re in the giving mood we’re nearing the end of our 2nd Annual CAN IT! Campaign – Putting Hunger in its Place and invite you support CCMI (our local soup kitchen) by donating non-perishable items through 11/21. For more information, give us a a call at 239-221-2858!
By: Samantha Scott, APR
Grand Poobah / Owner
I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a “consistency stickler.” It doesn’t matter if it’s in the tone of writing used on a website or in PMS colors, I can’t help but notice when something isn’t consistent. In our field, marketing communications, it’s important. All too often business owners, marketing folks and other people communicating on behalf of companies don’t maintain consistency in their branding or marketing. This week we’re going to address this – and why it’s important.
What is Branding?
According to the mighty Wikipedia, “A brand is a “Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”Branding began as a way to tell one person’s cattle from another by means of a hot iron stamp.” Simply, branding started as a means of differentiation. That’s what it’s meant to today, as well.
Importance of Brand Consistency – Face Time
Let’s start with the basics. A company’s brand is their image. It’s their face, so to speak. Just like we differentiate people by their appearance, voice, and other attributes, we (consumers, people in general) differentiate companies and products by their logo and/or packaging, colors, etc. As Michael Tasner points out, “It’s the image, words, feeling, etc associated with your company.”
Not only should the aesthetic of the company, the logo, company colors, etc. be pleasing to look at and easy to read, it should also accurately depict the company and its offerings. If your logo is in Cowboy font, but you’re a tech company, something’s not translating. Keep in mind, people could see your brand/logo without knowing anything about your company. They have to be able to look at it and understand what you’re all about. Are you traditional or edgy, a modern and tech-savvy Internet firm or a mom and pop lawn service? Make it clear from the start.
Another key component in marketing as it relates to brand consistency is avoiding the risk of brand confusion. Did you do a double take when you saw that image? That’s what consumers do when they look for a certain package or product and can’t find it or see something similar. The more consistent your branding can be the safer your market share is.
Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer. You are one after all! If you go to the store and look for a specific product, say laundry detergent, and can’t find the brand you usually buy, what do you do (after seeking help from an associate, etc.)? You might try another brand or wait to buy it elsewhere. Now, what if the product was there, but the packaging had changed and you just overlooked it? That company, the one you were loyal to previously, just lost a sale and perhaps a lifetime customer or future purchases.
Of Note: The average attention span in 2012 is just 8 seconds. That’s down from 12 seconds in 2000 and even shorter than that of a goldfish. This makes it all the more important for your brand to be visibly differentiable quickly. Source: Static Brain.
Different Departments or Products – Same Brand
So you say, branding and consistency are important, but what if I have a multifaceted company? How can our brand be consistent if we have different departments and/or products? Colors and a primary logo will be key.
Use Coca-Cola for example. They have a number of different product lines, but their brand is consistent throughout. They use the same primary logo, colors and packaging.
Have a Guide – Enter the Brand Book
We’ve discussed why it’s important to maintain brand consistency. You get it, so now how to do you ensure the rest of your team or co-workers will support this as well? Enter the brand book. A brand book is a critical resource for any business. Simply put, a brand book is a guide for anyone involved with the company. It outlines the brand logo, colors (PMS, so they’ll be EXACTLY the same), typefaces or fonts, acceptable layouts, email signatures and more.
BrandMaker News offers an excellent review of what a brand book is, what needs to be included and how to use it.
Go. Brand. Succeed.
By: Matt Mernin
Interactive Web Development
As I write my first blog entry for Pushing the Envelope, one particular topic comes to mind, which is vital to effective project management – Defining the Website Development Process. This can be defined as a sequential series of steps to follow, guiding a web development project from discovery to launch. It is vital that websites are built carefully and systematically, as they are the nucleus of your internet marketing strategy. This process can be different for every company, as we all have different approaches to our trade. However, there are four key steps that we feel every company should follow to a certain extent. They are:
- Discover & Define
- Concept & Design
- The Build
- Website Launch
I’m Matt Mernin, Interactive Website Developer for Pushing the Envelope. After several of years of experience in the industry, in addition to my education at the world-renowned technical school, Full Sail University, I’ve learned that walking down a path of assumptions is never a good idea. Following these steps makes for a systematic website development process that (1) accommodates the client’s marketing goals, (2) conveys the brand accurately and (3) is built on-time/on-budget.
Step One: Discover & Define
This step consists of researching the company, analyzing the industry and competitors, understanding the target audience, and submitting a proposal. At PTE, we consider it our “due diligence”. The more we learn about the client, the more confident our client will be in our ability to craft an effective marketing tool (i.e. their website). The following subjects should be included, but not limited to, in your proposal:
- Client Profile – A brief explanation of the company will reassure the client you understand who they are, what they do, and why they operate.
- Communication Brief – The overall vision of the project and identification of the target audience.
- Audience Profiles – Business storytelling to describe, in detail, the target audience.
- Timeline - Key milestones, not only to keep clients in-the-know, but to keep the project moving forward.
- Situation Analysis – The current situation, goals of and intent of the website, and how you plan on accomplishing those goals.
- Time Estimate – Create a list of all phases and how long each one will take. Ex. Wireframe design, mockup design, html coding, programming etc.
Step Two: Concept & Design
In this step, we review all of the information gathered during discovery and begin applying it towards the overall project structure. Important elements are of course the architecture of the website, branding, art direction (visual look and feel), hierarchy of information, any features and functions that are needed, wireframes, design mockups, analytics setup, etc.; any activities relating to the project as a whole and aligning the build with the clients needs and wants. This step is just as important as the build itself, because it will serve as a guiding light moving forward.
Step Three: The Build
We always start this process with a team production meeting, identifying who will be handling which tasks. All components of the site are be broken down and assigned to different team members. Website content is revised & edited (if existing, or developed if not), server and domain settings are determined, and of course, constructing the actual website (constructing the website has an entire process of its own, and we can discuss that in a future entry!) The Build can take varying lengths of time, depending on the project. Also varying from project to project is the approval process. Every company has a different leadership structure. Once the website is completely built and approved, we move forward to the Website Launch.
Step Four – Website Launch
We like to handle the launch of any project with care. Rushing a launch can lead to costly mistakes, which takes away from ROI, and can have a negative effect on our relationship with our clients/customers. We advocate having a soft launch, which is a collaborative process where the website is reviewed internally by all key management, followed by time for revisions and debugging. Following this step is the website launch, summation and hand-off of all assets. Time to show the world what we’ve built!
Again, this is a general process for website development. Every company has a slightly different approach, but these core components should certainly be covered. Your brand deserves it! If you want to know how we would approach YOUR website development project, get in touch with us at Pushing the Envelope Inc., our team of experts will provide you not only with a great website, but an incredible experience to go with it.
By: Alex Fernandez
Internet Marketing Specialist
One of the most fundamental marketing lessons I took away from my days at Florida Gulf Coast University with Dr. Ludmilla Wells, was this principle: “You CANNOT market in a vacuum,” meaning that there will always be external factors, such as competition, environmental factors, industry trends, etc., that you will have to adapt to. Simply ignoring these factors can render a great idea absolutely useless.
The topic I want to address today is building a brand with online competition and SEO in mind, or “Branding for SEO”. One of our specialties at Pushing the Envelope is establishing online presences for our clients, whether it’s building them a website, landing page, social media account, or online directory listing. However, often times we will find that the client hasn’t considered online competition when they built their brand, as if search engine ranking pages (SERPs) and Internet marketing in general was an afterthought.
Internet marketing and search engine marketing is not the “wave of the future” as it is often tritely described. Internet marketing and search marketing is NOW. I would even go further to say that mobile marketing is also NOW. These mediums should be the first consideration for anyone that is creating a new brand. A few questions you should ask:
What are your domain options?
- A costly domain isn’t usually a great move for a start-up.
What are the top three results for each keyword or key phrase you are targeting?
- These are your search engine competitors, which could vary greatly from your offline competitors.
How active are your search engine competitors online and on social media channels?
- It might behoove you to find ways to be different and avoid an uphill battle from the start.
These questions might seem uber-simple, but they can save you thousands of dollars in time and web development costs, which will make you more profitable long-term. Here are a few principles to follow when branding for SEO:
Check the search results first!
Whenever I have idea for a new website, the first thing I do is see if anyone has come up with a similar or better idea before me. As brilliant as we like to think we are, the law of large numbers will always prompt me to perform a quick benchmark search inquiry. Why? Because if I thought of it, there is a high probability that a large number of people before me thought of it, too.
To illustrate let’s say you type in the prospective brand name and you see several other companies doing business under that name. Perhaps all but one company are doing business in a different industry. You are going to look at the one search competitor within your industry, and click through to their website, blog and social media. Is everything well designed, up to date, creative, content-laden, etc.? Will you be in direct competition with them? If so, you might want to rethink starting off with an uphill battle.
Own your brand on the major search engines.
Another concept of branding for SEO is owning as much of the web under your brand name as possible. Search for popular business directories such as DMOZ, BOTW, etc. – there are thousands of others. Then add your company information, keywords, links, any information they will allow you to include. Each new directory you setup for your business will generate an additional backlink to your business.
Another step to take is local SEO, if your business is a brick and mortar company with specific locations. You can place additional listing for your business on popular local search and user review websites, such as yelp, MerchantCircle, Trip Advisor, YP, superpages, and more.
The end result is your business “owning” the SERPs for your brand keywords. If you type your brand into Google, you want more than just #1 – you want 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, and so on.
Grow your brand without destroying it.
To illustrate this – think about the “New Coke” crisis that the Coca-Cola Company had in the 1980s. By creating a new beverage and discontinuing the old beverage, they essentially alienated their customers and abandoned the brand equity of Coca-Cola Classic.
This is a great way to think about branding for SEO. It’s important as your company grows, to keep in mind that you should never abandon the brand equity that you have built. It can take multiple years for some companies to reach number one for their targeted keywords – only for them to decide that they want to change their brand name. Make sure your brand strategy is clearly defined before changing your online presence.
You might want to add a brand extension, or create a separate website for your parent brand, rather than changing your current name in order to avoid unnecessary losses. For example, SC Johnson is the parent brand for Windex, which has a dedicated landing page for it’s Windex Outdoor Shine product. Each of these company names work together to create brand equity, without detracting from one another.
If you have questions about how you should go about launching your next big idea, or if you want to grow your brand without losing your brand’s equity, please contact us! We’re here to help you succeed.
As many of you know, I earned by APR (Accreditation in Public Relations) last year. Quite the process, I learned far more than I thought via studying assigned literature. One such piece, Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations 10th edition (EPR 10) was invaluable.
Having practiced public relations for large and boutique firms, I felt secure in my abilities. My APR study course reassured me, but I learned a great deal about structures and systems that can me, as a public relations communications professional, do a better job. One of those is what the book calls “Public Relations Strategic Planning Outline”. It basically outlines the four step process most of us are familiar with – Research, Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation (RPIE) – and adds in steps for each.
This blog post will outline the RPIE process and EPR 10′s suggested 10 steps. I’ve added in notes on how we apply these within our company with hopes that helps get your wheels turning too!
Step 1 – Research & Define the Problem
I find this surprisingly simple, but it’s so important. How many times a PR professional are we so busy trying to address an issue that we don’t even take the time to really look at it and define it. in EPR 10, they go so far as to really detail the situation in two suggested steps:
- Define the problem and/or opportunity (What’s really the root of it?)
- Develop a situation analysis (We do this in all of our project plan outlines at the very beginning. It’s habit now and often ensures that what we think is the issue is actually the issue in the client’s mind.)
Step 2 – Planning
No strategic campaigns can be done overnight. It takes time and careful consideration of many factors. From who the target audience (or audiences) is to the best way to reach them, each component must be planned. According to EPR 10, it starts with goal setting and laying out the structure of how you’ll get from point A (the problem) to point C (the desired result).
- Determine the program goal (What’s the desired end result and when do you want it happen by?)
- What’s the strategy? (Learn the difference between a strategy, objective and tactic! A strategy is the “overall action and communication plan for achieving the program goal.” EPR 10)
- Determine the target audiences and objectives (Consider internal AND external audience members – employees, media, government officials, etc. Make sure your objectives are S.M.A.R.T.)
Step 3 – Implementation
Here comes all the fun – and the hard work. You’ve done your research. You’ve defined the problem. You’ve designed your plan. Now it’s time to put it into action! Now is when you can start determining what tactics will be used to achieve the stated objectives and start doing the campaign.
- Action Tactics – What do we need to do to ensure this certain objective is met, or exceeded? (This could be sending out a news release or contacting media to attend the event.)
- Communication Tactics – What is the message we need to communicate? (Remember which audience you are communicating with. What you tell employees may not be the same as what you tell media. Jargon could play a role, etc. Also consider which tool will be the best delivery method – email, social media, a news release, etc.)
- Program Implementation Plans – Who’s going to do what and when? (Have a schedule and define responsible parties from the beginning! This is SO important. You don’t want all your hard work in planning to be delayed or messed up because something was overlooked.)
Step 3 – Evaluation
The project or campaign is over, but your work isn’t done yet! Did it work? Was the goal met? Were the objectives and strategies met or were there issues? Measuring the outcome(s) of communications is just as important and measuring sales after an ad campaign. While much of communications work is consider qualitative, there are many components that can be quantitative as well. You’ll make your evaluation job easier if you use S.M.A.R.T. goals and objectives from the beginning.
- Evaluation Plans – First you had to determine how the outcomes would be measured, then after the project you have to them apply those measurements and determine the results. (Did we get the behavior change we were looking for?)
- Feedback & Program Adjustment – It’s not good enough to just evaluate the program and determine if it worked. You have to then apply that knowledge, plan, etc. to future programs. (If your feedback indicated employee dissatisfaction, what will you do as a result?)
If you follow the RPIE plan and EPR 10′s steps, you will have a successful communications program. You may not get the results you want, but you will have done it strategically, intelligently and in a measurable way that can be learned from. I highly encourage you to read the book, even if you aren’t interested in getting your APR. I guarantee you will learn something. If you do get a copy, this outline is on page 306.
We take no ownership to this content or claim any rights to it. All RPIE, 10 steps and EPR 10 references are direct indicators that they are ideas and content from the book, Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations 10th Edition by Glen M. Broom. This post is meant to merely share knowledge – and the book – with others looking to better their professional skills. We give Cutlip, Center and Broom kudos and HUGE thanks for writing this important book!