Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Repairing a Reputation: Actions Speak Louder than Words
Recently, I was asked to contribute material for a local column related to rehabilitating a damaged public image. Following are my thoughts and recommendations:
It takes time to rehabilitate one's image: such a matter does not lend itself to a quick fix. Many people hope that if they say the right thing at the critical moment all will be made good. That's just not how the world works.
We, as human beings, form perceptions about other humans over time. This is the basis of reputation. If a person has made a major blunder, it equates to a big, negative hit against his or her reputation. This cannot be overcome with one press conference. No, the perfect statement at the perfect time will not wipe the slate clean. Instead, those in the audience will watch and observe, most likely in a cautious manner at first. Some will be inclined to forgive; others may become embittered permanently toward the person who made the major mistake. Over time, most people in the audience will adjust their assessments of the person in question.
So if the perfect words will not do the trick, what can rebuild a tarnished reputation? One word: actions.
As we've all heard, actions speak louder than words. Once a person has made the gargantuan gaffe, the best thing he or she can do is to consistently do good and do right. According to the laws of communication theory, 93% of the information that human beings process and learn from is related to non-verbal signals or cues. By contrast, words account for only 7% of that which we process and upon which we form perceptions. With this fact in mind, it is easy to see why actions are so much more important than words in regard to mending one's reputation.
With the clear understanding that (1) rehabilitating a reputation takes time and that (2) actions speak louder than words, let's shift the focus toward the public relations strategy. What are the right tactics to use in a situation where a person has made a career-threatening mistake? I would advise my clients and anyone else to adhere to the following ABC principles:
A - Apologize. Admit your mistake and ask for forgiveness. Demonstrate that you have a contrite heart. This is done by speaking in a humble manner and expressing remorse.
B - Be genuine. Show some emotion. No one will forgive an over-rehearsed, stiff emotionless robot. Speak from the heart and use natural, appropriate hand gestures and other non-verbals. Obviously, we don't want to see a blubbering basket case, but genuineness and emotion can be very helpful.
C - Compassion. Show compassion. The root of the word "passion" is "suffer." To show compassion is to demonstrate that you are suffering with the person (or parties) who were affected. The audience will identify with compassion and respond favorably to it. Perhaps no one understood this better than Bill Clinton who repeatedly emphasized: "I feel your pain."
Remember that non-verbal communication is crucial. People in the audience are watching, more than listening. Therefore, the speaker's emphasis should be placed upon apologizing, being genuine and demonstrating compassion.
It may be acceptable to speak briefly about one's past track record (which may have been glowing and heroic) but only in the context of remarks about future plans to atone for this incident. Specifically, the speaker may want to briefly discuss specific plans about rehabilitating himself, through counseling, clergy, medical care, training or community service, to demonstrate that he is focused on atoning for his actions and preventing future blunders.
All in all, the majority of the positive impact, or image rehabilitation, will come in the weeks and months that follow the initial episode. Accordingly, we would work with our client to establish an ambitious, pro-active outreach plan to lead them through this subsequent phase. Ultimately, the key to successfully rehabilitating a reputation is consistently repeating good deeds, rightful and helpful acts, over an extended period, in a manner that reestablishes trust.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
“Marketing” a Killer
The tragedy this week at Virginia Tech has left us all stunned and horrified. Personally, I am also stunned and horrified at the way the media is making a cult celebrity out of a deranged murderer. This morning, you couldn’t pick up a newspaper without staring down the end of two pistols and the face of evil itself.
In a society that’s all but immune to atrocities in the news (e.g. 183 people lost their lives in Iraq on Monday), only the most sensational stories can divert our collective attention from American Idol and Dancing with the Stars.
As a marketing professional, I understand the power of a shocking photo. If you want to sell papers, a picture of the gun-toting madman will turn more heads than a picture of grieving students. But by giving such a disproportionate amount of airtime to the disturbing press kit of a serial killer, aren’t we inadvertently promoting his violent ideology? Or worse, by “marketing” Seung-Hui (see, even I am helping raise his search engine status), are we – in fact – encouraging every lunatic wannabe with a camcorder and aspirations of notoriety?
The media is an extremely powerful tool, and with extreme power comes extreme responsibility. Seems to me that it’s far more responsible to stop “selling” the news by marketing the perpetrators of this type of unspeakable violence, and devoting equal time to uncovering and addressing its cause.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Lucy XM-54 Knows Me and My Cohorts
I'm an occasional XM radio listener. Talk radio on AM is my mainstay, for the record. I supplement my listening with public radio (NPR and WV Public Radio). When I am XM-ing, the channel that I gravitate toward is number 54, the channel known as "Lucy." The primary factor for me is the music. Lucy plays the music that I love. The format for Lucy is billed as the killer songs of the Alternative Music era. It's the important songs in the history of alternative music from the '90s, with some '80s flashbacks. It works. I like it. But wait ... there's a bit of marketing genius here to explore.
The marketing genius producers at Lucy know how to utilize cohort marketing, or generational marketing theory, to create messages that resonate with me. They really know how to embrace me, or at least my cohort group. Lucy knows the following:
- That my cohorts and I have been out of college for almost 20 years.
- That my cohorts and I are raising families.
- That we are battling expanding waistlines.
- That we have traded in sports cars for mini-vans.
- That I am dealing with the first signs of aging.
That's me and my cohort group, the Trailing-Edge Boomers (or the Jonesers), described to a tee.
Lucy and its creators accomplish this depth of connection with quirky, clever announcements from the DJ. These run about once every 15 minutes, in between songs. Here are a few examples--some of my favorites:
"Lucy - XM 54. We're the music that weird girlfriend of yours from college turned you on to."
"Lucy - XM 54. We've been with you all the way from the days of your 32-inch waistline to 38. Heck, we were even there for you when you made it back down to 36s on the Atkins plan."
Announcements like these resonate with me. They add depth to the station and its programming. It tells me that Lucy XM-54 gets me. And as long as they keep playing the great music that I love, Lucy will keep me.
Is your product or service aligned with a particular cohort group? If so, do you truly understand their psyche and their shared life experiences? If not, perhaps you should explore how cohort marketing might fit into your overall marketing strategy.
By the way, the definitive work on cohort marketing theory is Defining Markets, Defining Moments by Geoffrey Meredith, Charles Schewe PhD and Janice Karlovich. I highly recommend this book to all marketing geniuses.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Maple Creative Grabs Gold
Clayman & Associates, a forensic and clinical psychology firm led by Dr. David A. Clayman, is a long-standing client of Maple Creative. Over the past three years the collaborative partnership has garnered several ADDYS and Crystal Awards from PRSA. Featuring custom photography by Rick Lee, the “Clear Solutions” postcard campaign was designed and implemented by our creative director, Thomas White, and our client services manager, Emily Woodson Tucker. Our team had tremendous support on the client side from Kim Lawson - marketing director at Clayman & Associates.
The direct mail postcard campaign is part of a strategic marketing plan, conceptualized by Maple's Chief Creative Officer, Skip Lineberg, in collaboration with Dr. Clayman, and aimed at raising awareness of two key Clayman & Associates service offerings: evaluations and effective interventions. The target audience includes law firms, healthcare, small business owners and high-net-worth consumers.
It's truly a pleasure to collaborate with Dr. Clayman, a marketing genius if there ever was one!
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
In marketing, it is very gratifying to help clients grow their businesses ... to increase revenues. Marketing usually operates a the top line of the business, i.e., the revenue. What's even more gratifying is to work at a strategic marketing level and help a client avoid a mistake. Marketing can also have a huge impact on a business' bottom line costs, as illustrated by the following examples from our work at Maple Creative.
Case #1- Mental Health Professional - We helped the Managing Partner to develop a premium pricing strategy for a new service offering. He had envisioned a competitive market pricing strategy with volume discounts. Instead, we proved that clients viewed his services as highest value and that price was not a determining issue. Saved this client $150,000 per year by avoiding unnecessary price reductions.
Case #2- Petroleum Retailer - We helped the CEO explore a potential change in gasoline brands. Discovered that changing from Brand X to Brand Y would have caused at least 32% of customers to leave. Saved this client $3 million a year in lost revenues.
Case #3- Financial Services Firm - helped the management team explore a possible name change and re-branding. Learned that it was unnecessary, enable this client to refrain from wasting $250,000 (avoided cost of change out for signage, collateral, etc.)
Looking for the commonality among these three, great success stories? It's simple: research.
The marketing genius understands how powerful it is to isolate that which we do not know and to get answers via research.
Case 1 - Focus group
Case 2 - Survey - clipboard exit interviews at the store
Case 3 - Survey - telephone interviews
Selling with Features: Worse Than a Cheap, Worn-Out Mattress
Soapbox issue of mine: selling benefits. If you've read this blog, you likely have read my previous rants on this issue. If not, here is a refresher.
People do not respond to features. Features are trivial. They are stuff ... merely a means to an end. As any marketing genius knows, effective marketing copy has to tell the story in such way as to describe the wonderful product (or service) and its bells and whistles (i.e., features) but always, always making sure to articulate the benefit that the customer will derive. On the contrary, people respond to hopes and aspirations and promises. They respond to products, people and services that can change and improve their lives.
Quick sidebar: Dr. Judy Morley, the brains behind the Grasshopper Communications blog, weighs in on this topic, as well.
Recently, I saw a TV advertisement for a mattress. It was a local spot - not great, not the worst I've seen either. What caught my attention was the message, one that hinged on a number:
"The UltraMax MegaSpring mattress has 432 coil springs. More than any other mattress."
Incredibly, that is where the message ended. Cue jingle. Fade to black.
Naturally, I said, "So what!" (Yes, I actually said it out loud to the television.) What does that do for me? Tell me how this will help me. I do not care how many coil springs it has. I care about sleep and my health. What will it do for my back? How much healthier will I be? (Did you do any research? Any trials? Any studies?) Frankly, I don't care if it only has 4 coil springs, as long as it is a great mattress. As long as it's comfortable. As long as I sleep comfortably on it. As long as my back feels great when I arise.
You want to sell me something? Sell me the benefits, not the features.
Slides from Alliance Presentation on Blogging
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
CEO Roundtable Presentation on Blogging
I learned quite a bit, and if you were in attendance, I hope you did, too. If you are visiting the Marketing Genius blog for the first time today, as a result of the conference, please post a comment and say, "Hi."
We'll have our PowerPoint slides very soon. Meahwhile, here are a few photos from today's gig: that's Matt at the top of this page, Bob below.
Hoppy's Take on Beilein's Beeline
Hoppy Kercheval is a trusted, bright and skillful journalist in my estimation. Hoppy is the voice of MetroNews Talkline, as well as a veteran news and sports radio broadcaster. In addition, he is a flat-lander, like me ... a native of the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.
His take on ex-WVU Head Basketball Coach John Beilein's departure for Michigan is right on the mark. His commentary captures my feelings precisely. Well done, Hoppy!
And best of luck to John Beilein, a classy guy, gifted teacher and true gentleman.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Maple Announces Promotions
We're excited about our wonderful team of marketing professionals at Maple Creative. It continues to evolve and grow. As an owner and founder, it gives me great pride to see our young professionals develop and progress in their careers.
Accordingly, here's some recent news that we announced this week:
Thomas White has been promoted to Creative Director. Thomas is a talented graphic artist and designer, whose work has garnered many industry awards in West Virginia. More about Thomas from our Web site.
Emily Bennington has been promoted to Marketing Director. Emily is a highly-skilled writer and project manager with a knack for making clients say: Wow! Here's Emily's blogger profile.
Both are veterans and top performers at Maple Creative. These promotions are well deserved. Congratulations to Emily and Thomas!