Author: Bonnie Harris

Advertising seems to have less and less of an effect on consumers every day. More people are skipping commercials while watching television programs, thanks to recording services like DVR and streaming services like Netflix. And online ads are easily ignored by Internet surfers. So companies today are looking for new ways to reach people. Many are taking to the streets with guerrilla marketing campaigns that are designed to shock and awe those who experience their stunts live. And, if all goes well, videos of these stunts can go viral online through social media. Here are five of the best guerrilla marketing pranks:

1. Carrie Gets Coffee

Few people actually believe in telekinesis, the ability to move objects with your mind. But what if you actually watch it unfold in front of you? Well, as this promotional prank for the remake of the movie "Carrie" shows, most people will become believers — or at least terrified — if someone with telekinetic powers shows off her skills before their very eyes. The setup for this prank was genius. They rigged the cafe with remote controls, pulleys and springs so it all looked horrifyingly real when a patron flips out and lifts a man off the ground and makes books fly off the shelf.

2. MorphCostumes Has a Mannequin Army

stop wordsmithingFor lack of a better word, marketing and communications work is squishy. It can be hard to know if you're creating a strong deliverable. For most business owners, messaging can be the worst. Who hasn't sat in on an agonizing meeting waiting for the president and the operations guy to stop arguing over whether or not something is going to "move the needle."  Or worse, the horrible and annoying quarrels over the oxford/serial comma. In my short-lived career as a restaurant manager 100 years ago, we used to go to wine tastings all the time. It was really fun, especially if you liked to drink as much as I did back then. But unfortunately, none of us really knew anything about wine. So we came up with this phrase that meant nothing but sounded really impressive. "It's oblique, without being obtrusive" I would state, twirling my wine in the glass while lifting my best impersonation of an educated eyebrow. It sounded really good and most people usually got home or sobered up before they realized it meant absolutely nothing. What most business people are doing when writing anything, from a mission statement to a tweet, is coming up with stuff that just sounds good. We're coming up with our own versions of "oblique without being obtrusive."  I say let's stop this now.We need to focus on sending the right message, NOT using the right words. Here are five ways to help  create the best messaging ever for your company, product or brand: 1. Create a Core or Integrated Strategy Statement. This is the statement that covers what you do, why you do it, and how you do it, in a nutshell. It doesn't have to be pretty and it doesn't have to sound particularly good. It just has to resonate with the key players in your organization. It has to be the one where people say "yeah that's us" unequivocally. This is not the same as a company strategy statement. This is a simple 2-3 sentence phrase from which all messaging can be derived. These are the statements behind all the taglines, tweets, web content. Once you've got this, the conversation then revolves around whether subsequent messaging is aligned, or reflects, that core statement. NOT whether it's better to use the word "strengthen" or "empower." (Seriously, that was a 2-hour conversation.) Mine is this:  "Wax Marketing does integrated marketing and communications services." 2. Understand the audience you're trying to reach. I'm a firm believer in creating personas and writing messages for those personas. Stop writing stuff with you as the audience. If you know who your primary targets are - the media, your customers, your influencers, your employees, for example - you'll understand when someone translates those messages for that particular audience. Chances are your employees absorb information in quite a different context than your customers. Be cognizant of those differences. 3. Be aware of requirements for the messaging channels you need to use.  I have a client that is a group of super cool dermatologists. What I love about them is they really know their patients, even though they range in age from 2 to 90. They know that each patient is going to acquire information in a different way. And they understand that information in a medical journal needs to be presented differently on Facebook, for example. Our conversations revolve around where those patients get their information. The disagreements happen there, and they're productive. My point is, once you know your audience, you know the channels. Again, just make sure that messages translated for those channels align with your core strategy statement. 4. Understand that what sells well, doesn't necessarily read well. 

connecting strategyThis blog post first appeared on PRSA's ComPRehension.  Although most marketers accept that integrating marketing communications is a powerful approach, campaigns today seldom realize the full power of the methodology commonly known as IMC. Most of us  synchronize our earned and owned media in some way.  Many of us have learned empirically the right combinations of tactics that lead to the most engagement, or the highest landing page traffic. What’s often missing in campaigns is the ability to plan, manage and measure the synergy that occurs as a result of powerful IMC strategies and strong linked tactics.  It’s the acceleration caused by this synergy – the combination of marketing efforts that add up to more than the sum of their parts – that provides the best results. Synergy looks and feels different in every IMC campaign. The good news is there are common elements to successful IMC campaigns that result in increased synergy.  The first is message alignment. IMC requires a persistent, consistent messaging strategy across channels. A core, or integrated, strategy statement should drive every campaign message. This statement is rarely shared with an audience. It is simple, to the point, and states what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.  For a healthcare practice, it might be something like “We’re here to provide the best care in a safe environment.” An organic food company might use “Delivering the healthiest products to families.” Every single message should be aligned with this basic message. Another important ingredient to powerful IMC campaigns is of course to choose the best combination of messaging channels.  Most people understand the importance of selecting channels that are right for the target audience.  However, it is crucial to select a set of secondary channels that boost the performance of the overall campaign.  If you think about it, you know which messaging channels complement each other. It can be as simple as automatically linking your Instagram account to Facebook, or as complicated as buying digital billboards to supplement a PSA. The selection of channels is part of creating a strong IMC strategy.  Too many projects are defined with only goals and tactics, without the strategies that provide the bridge in between. A good strategy  should be a consistent, long-term part of an IMC plan.

[caption id="attachment_6692" align="alignright" width="225"]@bartthedog as Trump @bartthedog[/caption] Years ago, I "carried a bag" in the technology industry. There were very few women in the industry - I think three of us sold those kind of services in Minneapolis at the time. Every time I see or hear Donald Trump I'm reminded of the bombastic salesmen against whom I competed in the late '80's and early 1990's. In fact, these were the ones who called me honey  and patted me on the head right up until I stole their business. Then they just got mad - which made me very happy. Let me explain this persona of this "sales guy" I know so well. They weren't (and aren't, for that matter) bad guys, they actually had good intentions and many were loving husbands and fathers. They have one major common characteristic that brings them down every time however - they don't believe in messaging. Don't confuse this with the Don Draper persona. Although Draper could shoot from the hip, he planned his creative and messaging carefully. Although like Draper, the Donald Trumps of the world are also highly skilled in the art of persuasion, they don't believe in the power of the carefully crafted message. Nope, not for them. Send them your talking points and they'll make up their own every time. Like Donald Trump many of these sales guys eventually become entrepreneurs. As a marketing consultant, I'm working with them instead of selling against them. Unfortunately many have retained their old habits of shooting from the hip and ignoring attempts at messaging.

shutterstock_254812159A microsite or mini-site is a stand-alone website that rose in popularity as a marketing tool in the mid-1990s with the growth of Google's then-revolutionary pay-per-click business model. Microsites are still a great way to create a brand-oriented experience for consumers, and serve as a landing page for search results. TopRankBlog reports optimized microsite landing pages improved site conversion rates by up to 200 percent. Microsites give your brand a chance to shine without the extraneous information and features that your primary site may contain, and here is a look at how you can leverage microsites into your marketing strategy.

Provide Focused Content

Microsites can give customers and consumers a landing page for a specific product or service, campaign or project. Not only can they highlight one aspect of your business, they can increase awareness of your brand as a whole to consumers who might not be familiar with you. By keeping your microsite simple and easy to navigate, it can direct consumers to what you want them to see. To achieve this, think about exactly what it is you want to highlight and stick to it. Don't get off topic; consumers will become interested in your other offerings if you can grab their interest in the one thing you're highlighting. A key component to microsite design comes in the earliest stages, when creating a hierarchy for your site.

There's new fear among business owners based on the recent hubbub at Reddit after the firing of Victoria Taylor and the subsequent "exit" of CEO Ellen Pao. Although most companies don't have 36 million users or even thousands of employees, many are afraid that the kind of discontent voiced so passionately by Reddit users could happen to them as well.  What if this discontent experienced a tipping point and caught fire in a LinkedIn group, for example, or someone's private Facebook page? Could customers or employees become so incensed that the situation goes viral for them as well? ? I'm sensing a kind of panic right now. The kneejerk reaction seems to be a lock down of online policies, and  micromanagement of organic engagement on social media.  The justification for this behavior is that without the internet, this wouldn't happen, right? WRONG. The internet doesn't cause problems, it brings them to light. What happened at Reddit is a communication problem, and as far as I'm concerned it's lucky that the internet brought it to their attention. When I was a manager in the 1990's, it could be impossible to know what was being said over lunch, or on the phone, or at happy hour. Sometimes we didn't know there was a problem until a costly trend in turnover brought it to our attention, and that could take months. I covered a territory with nine profit centers in six states, plus a corporate headquarters 1,000 miles away. I tried as hard as I could to meet with employees and customers as much as possible, trying to ferret out possible issues before they caused real damage to the bottom line.  Occasionally someone would come and talk to me about an issue, but it had to get pretty bad for someone to email me, or worse, pick up the phone. Problems didn't boil over quickly, they percolated behind the scenes causing much more damage. Arka Ray is the CEO of Sidelines, a company that develops engaged native ad experiences.  His recent commentary about Reddit and community management is so relevant when he says

[caption id="attachment_6665" align="alignright" width="226"] Mike Salem, CEO, Vorex[/caption] Integrated marketing means managing a lot of different channels, including the synchronization of those channels. Lately I've met more and more public relations and communications professionals who are training in project management, even going so far as to...

Special Event Badge Lanyard Conference Expo ConventionEvent marketing typically only consumes 20 percent of a company's budget, according to inbound marketing software platform HubSpot. Meanwhile, 67 percent of B2B marketers consider event marketing its most effective strategy, reports an infographic by WebDAM. Event marketing doesn't have to be expensive or even complicated to be highly effective. You can set up an event in hours and get started on improving public awareness for your business. Here are some ideas to get started:

Create a Learning Event

Educate your customers on how to use your products while empowering them to improve their lives or own businesses. Host an event at a community center on how to use your sales software, create original jewelry, master organizational strategies or anything else that relates to your business. Then, ask your students what other types of resources and classes they need to succeed to get targeted ideas for follow-up courses. Remember to ask for students' contact information to start an email list for future events and product promotion. And before you dismiss class, sweeten the deal by offering a discount or free swag to help spread the word about your product.

Start a Meetup Group

Find your ideal target audience by hosting a Meetup group on anything from travel to entrepreneurship to working moms. Events can be held anywhere you want, such as coffee shops or your own office. You can promote your Meetup through social media and to your current contact list. Plus, you also benefit from the exposure on Meetup with a built-in audience who is looking for a wide variety of groups and events.

business blogEven when it might not feel like a priority, business blogging is a critical component of your business' success. At times it may be tempting to give up on your business' blog, but don't do it — Hubspot reports that marketers who use blogs receive 67 percent more sales leads than those who don't. Here's how you can sustain you blog easily while still juggling the other aspects of running your own business.

Get Focused

Sometimes, it's all the little distractions that make creating content for your blog feel like a chore. If you are the sort who is easily distracted or tries to multitask while blogging, it's time to cut out the distractions.