Author: Bonnie Harris

Years ago I was at a cocktail party that was also attended by Donald Trump. Don't ask me how I got invited, I think they mistook me for someone that was important. But regardless of how I got there, I was soon struck by several things  about Trump in person. First, it does look like a dead animal is sitting on his head, but I'm pretty sure that's his own hair. (Although I suspect it's been planted.) Second, and most surprising, he's got amazing skin, nice shoulders and a nice ass. Not kidding. Lots of women were flirting with him at this party. I was too scared of Melania. But I digress. The thing that was the most surprising about Trump was that in person, he wasn't bombastic nor did he try to dominate the conversation.  Although perhaps he was tired, or drunk when I saw him, I think off camera he's rarely as bombastic as he is on camera. What he's done is create a persona that works for him. It keeps him in the public eye (he claims he's never hired a publicist) and serves his purposes. I often say that Donald Trump is the PETA of personal brands. PETA also achieves its public relations goals through shock value. Remember when President Obama killed a fly, and PETA released a statement accusing him of executing an animal on air? A friend of mine was mocking the group, but I reminded him that probably every other person in the U.S was talking about PETA that day too. Do I think PETA cared about the fly? Of course not. They cared about impressions. I am not going to debate whether PETA is actually ethical , or whether Donald Trump is a narcissistic egomaniac. But I think there are some things we can learn from these two and other shocker brands in terms of marketing and public relations. Because they're both highly successful. And everyone knows their name. So here goes: 1. Shocker brands are consistent.   Personally, I hate brands that make a statement and then backtrack because they get a bit of kerfuffle. If you're going to have a strong impact on the market, you have to have a strong voice. And for that reason you will piss some people off sometimes. (Believe me, I know.) Apologize, but don't let your brand voice waffle around in some kind of amiable, people-pleasing manner. Choose your brand message and voice carefully and stick to it. You don't have to have shock value, but it does need to be forceful in this cluttered mess of a media market. 2. Shocker brands often get a free pass. Consistency generates automatic forgiveness.

holiday salesAs a small business owner, it’s no doubt you’re looking for ways to maximize your sales over the impending holiday season. After all, it’s the time of year when people traditionally open their wallets a bit more freely and want to satisfy others’ wish lists and their own. So with all the opportunity for seasonal marketing campaigns and creative ways to use holiday cheer as fuel for sales, what’s the best approach? While many methods may work, employing countdowns is one tactic that is tried and true. The premise behind counting down is that your consumer is faced with a limited amount of time to make a purchase. If they’re leaning toward making a buy already, the perceived (or real) time limit will cause them to delay no more. Here are three ways to effectively incorporate countdowns this holiday season for a spike in your sales.

Count Down the Number of Items Left

The principle of scarcity within advertising is really what makes countdowns so useful. People are more inclined to buy if they feel an item is universally desired or hard to come by or if they know their opportunities for getting it are limited. Zappos uses this technique by showing how many items are left in stock in the color and size requested. If someone was intent on buying a pair of boots, seeing that there is only one size nine pair in “camel” color left is sure to make her add the item to her cart in a hurry. She wouldn’t want to let that slip away. You can apply the same principle to your business. Even if you don’t handle transactions online or through an e-commerce platform, you can tip customers off to the fact that your merchandise isn’t going to stick around forever.

Count Down to a Sale or Event

[caption id="attachment_6058" align="alignright" width="300"]Photo courtesy of MSNBC.com Photo courtesy of MSNBC.com[/caption] Last week I wrote about the importance of defining your best customer(s) and the influencers that send them your way. This is important when you're defining an overall campaign and determining their hangouts. ( sorry for the pun, Google) There is, however, an insidious problem with many business owners when it comes to marketing messages, audiences and customers. If nothing else, here's what I want you to remember. YOU ARE NOT YOUR BEST CUSTOMER. Let me repeat that. YOU ARE NOT YOUR BEST CUSTOMER. You may have been the best customer at one time, or  knew one really well. Or perhaps you  were an influencer. But the minute you decide to start your own business, or manage the business, you become biased. Here's a great example:

James J. Hill CenterThis morning I gave a presentation at the venerable James J. Hill Center in downtown St. Paul. Beautiful place!  The Center has created a new business program based on a similar, quite successful program in London. My talk was one of a series of free lectures open to the public. I am passionate that businesses understand and know their customers  really, really well. It's not enough to be personal with your customers. These days you have to get intimate in order to find them and keep them. I've embedded the slideshare below, but here are the main points I hope my audience walked away with this morning.

shutterstock_184633280Although Twitter introduced animated GIFs to their website earlier this year, most social media sites are not compatible with GIFs. Twitter has become GIF-friendly with the creation of GIFV, a looping video with a smaller file size and consequently a faster loading time, states Imgur. This change has made it possible for these movie-image hybrid files to be used in marketing on a variety of platforms.

Twitter

As noted above, one of the best ways to take advantage of GIFs is on Twitter. If your company has a Twitter account (and it really should), tell the world about your services or products with a GIF. Not only is it more eye-catching than a string of images but it also takes less time to watch than a video. In the Information Age, time is of the essence, which means you can no longer expect your viewers to watch a product video that's over five minutes long. Use a site like GIFMaker to upload your images and create a short animated GIF. For example, Gap did a brilliant job with a GIF that both promotes their famous 1969 jeans and this year's tagline, "Dress Normal."

Emails

Using GIFs in marketing emails is a great way to make your brand stand out. However, there are some points to keep in mind.

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 11.27.14 AM When I heard about the Vocus and Cision merger at the PRSA conference this week, all I could think was....oh shit. Both companies seem to be long on salespeople (my dinky little company has had 9 different Cision reps in the last 3 years) and short on customer support. And, I admit, I'm as guilty as the next person of having my intern sit in on webinars to earn a Starbucks coffee card from Vocus.  Oh, and together they bought Visible, which apparently is a great company. "...Coupling the company’s social intelligence SaaS platform and insights experts with Vocus and Cision’s powerful PR tools creates a comprehensive solution for tracking and analyzing earned, owned and paid media that elevates brands and drives business results." Or, as another release said "Cision is now better placed to provide quality solutions that will serve the PR and communications professional’s complete workflow." Boy this takes me back. Those of us in IT services remember the 90's when flush with cash, we decided to go out and "merge with partners".  (By the way, someone always buys someone. Mergers are just a way of making the smaller guy feel better about it.) The idea was that if you could sell the entire "lifecycle" you could own the customer. We can do it soup to nuts!  And after quite a bit of partying and initial hoopla, the reality sets in. Wow, this doesn't work. Here's why it doesn't work:
  • First, it's the usually the biggest company with the worst brand that has the most money. And gets to keep the name. Therefore the better brands get sullied.  The brilliant Katie Paine just wrote about this yesterday :
"Instead, they chose Cision, a brand that Vocus and everyone else has been bad mouthing with good reason for years. In a move that was both baffling and incredibly fitting, they promoted themselves by bringing a large dinosaur to the trade show area of this week’s PRSA International Conference. ....My feelings about Cision are no secret. I’ve told anyone who has asked that using the CisionPoint  system is like having a root canal — incredibly painful, takes a long time, and when its over you’re left with a feeling that something’s missing.  Personally, I’d prefer root canal."

IMCI'm always amazed at the ability of PR people to accomplish things in about a third of the time it would take the rest of us. But I think it's a necessity. News moves practically at the speed of light these days. Trying to stay ahead of that cycle (which is what public relations professionals have to do) takes a giant amount of energy, alacrity and mojo. I was incredibly honored to be asked to speak at the PRSA International Conference yesterday. True to form, the staff asked me to present an overview of Integrated Marketing Communications, or IMC. In an hour. I did a webinar version of this talk in August, and the general consensus after that session was they wanted less "what and why" and more "how to." Makes sense right? There's very little time to look at the pretty train and enjoy the comfortable seats. No my friends. The train has left the station and PR people are leaping on the roof, dashing into the cars and at times hanging onto the caboose with their fingertips.  I love that energy! I'm not entirely sure I delivered what they needed yesterday. Technology was not on my side and I probably tried to present way too much information. (Here it is on Slideshare if you're interested) It's hard to say. Here's what I'm really hoping they took away from all my mumbo jumbo:

downloadThe power of marketing has really been proven by the amount of awareness, funding and treatment advancements in breast cancer since this whole pink ribbon thing started. All the #pink during Breast Cancer Awareness Month may seem a bit tiresome, at least it was to me until I reaped the benefits this past summer. And it brought home to me the fact that marketing is a GOOD thing. That marketing drives the conversation and helps promote not only sales (which is good for the economy) but awareness and funds to help save lives. In May of this year I went in for a routine mammogram at the University of Minnesota Breast Center. Although I hadn't had one since a false positive several years earlier, my mom was being treated for lung cancer and I felt it was time. Also, I had a weird burning sensation in my left breast. One diagnostic mammogram and subsequent biopsy revealed I had high grade DCIS, which some call Stage 0 breast cancer and others precancer.

Death is often temporary and perplexing in the world of search and Google, a fact only further proved when John Mueller of Google Webmaster Tools announced that Google would no longer support rel=author markup. Consequently, SEO professionals who preached authorship as the future of content ownership and recognition are losing trust from online marketers and authors who dutifully followed suit to maximize their content marketing strategies. But the loss of trust is premature; when you separate Google authorship from Author Rank, a path for managing your digital content becomes clearer and just as impactful.

Why Should I Still Care?

As Search Engine Land describes, Author Rank is derived from Google's 2007 agent rank patent and its relevance was renewed after CEO Eric Schmidt's comment in his 2013 book. "Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top [verified] results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance." We now know that authorship markup and Google+ will not be a catalyst in identifying content ownership.