April 23, 2014 by Rebecca Prescott
So you think you have something interesting to say? The key is to get someone to listen.
Press releases are one way for you to get attention and exposure from a local newspaper, website and radio or television station. So here are some tips on how to write a solid press release, and how to get it published.
A press release is a pretty simple document. A basic, solid release contains the following items:
- Contact information
- Company description
When you start writing the body copy, put the most important information first in the release. The general rule of thumb is that people don’t usually read to the end of the article, so you want to get the most important information as high in the article as possible.
And don’t feel like you have to write a novel. Anytime that writing can be quick and to the point, you increase the chances of someone reading. For more detailed tips on writing a press release, download our sample here.
How to get it published
There are a couple of ways to increase your chances of getting your press released published.
Tie it to a philanthropic event: When I asked a group of fellow marketing and journalism friends whether the press release was still a viable tool, my friend and colleague, Sara Wilson responded with a resounding yes.
“We get about every one of our releases printed,” said Wilson, Marketing Director for the United Way of Story County. “Tell them to tie it into charity.”
I also heard from colleagues in manufacturing, health care and sales who agreed that releases work, especially in smaller communities. The key is to make your topic interesting to a wide group of people. Don’t just talk about yourself.
Include a photo: Newspaper readers love to see photos. Snap a picture of your donation and include it with the release. Make sure to write a caption to accompany the photo.
Be sure you’re sending it the right place: Most news organizations have information on their website to direct people with news releases.
Follow up: If it’s been more than two weeks and you haven’t seen your release published, follow up and ensure they received it, and ask if they have any questions.
Press releases are an affordable way to brand yourself to your local community. They take little time, and can provide you decent exposure. The thing to remember is: Every little bit helps you make a name for yourself.
March 13, 2014 by Rebecca Prescott
One of the quickest ways to build brand recognition is to give back to—and make an investment in—your community.
But before you open your wallet for a charitable donation, or roll up your sleeves for some community service work, take stock of what it is you have to offer your community.
There’s a phrase called strategic philanthropy, and its definition is self explanatory: Choose your philanthropic ventures based on your business goals.
Doug Conent, the former president and CEO of the Campbell Soup Company, likens philanthropy to a method of conducting research and development for your business.
“I encourage companies to view philanthropic investments as incubators for promising ideas and a mechanism for understanding both community and corporate needs,”1 he wrote in an article for McKinsey & Company.
For financial professionals, it might be a great way to generate leads or help build credibility in your community. As a volunteer, you become a resource and partner in the community.
Here are some ways to practice strategic philanthropy:
- If you’re a professional whose strategy is to educate customers, offer to provide free financial counseling to lower-income families or single parents.
- If you’re looking for mass appeal, consider a larger donation to a group in your community that has a high profile. This increases the amount of promotion you’ll receive.
- If your goal is to cultivate customers in their early retirement years, offer to give a presentation on the basics of using a 401(k) to a local young professional’s organization through the Chamber of Commerce or Jaycees.
- Try not to turn away the school carnivals and after-prom committees. The amount they request is usually small, so try and support as many as you can. The parents asking for these donations need financial professionals.
For more ideas, read this article on the value of small business philanthropy.
Take a minute to think about how you can give back in your community. Because it does more than help you feel good on inside. It’s good for business.
1 Conent, Doug. “Why philanthropy is R&D for business.” McKinsey on Society Voices Expertise Our Practices Economic Development Social Innovation Education Sustainability Global Public Health Tools – See more at: http://voices.mckinseyonsociety.com/doug-conant-corporate-philanthropy/
January 16, 2014 by Rebecca Prescott
Let’s address writing; my favorite part of developing a brand.
I’m a bit of a word bully around the office (and at home). I’ll always edit out the use of ellipses for emphasis. I can’t stand a split infinitive. Jargon makes me verklempt.
I wholeheartedly believe that good writing is an integral part of good advertising, marketing and promotion.
David Ogilvy, legendary advertising executive (called the original “Mad Man”), believed that good writing was key to selling products. He penned a memo to the Ogilvy & Mather staff in 1982 titled “How-To-Write.” Click here to read the 10 tips from his memo.
Ogilvy was no advertising dummy. He helped Dove become a best-selling soap in the United States by promoting that it contained one-quarter moisturizing cream. He also helped companies like Rolls Royce, American Express and Sears.
What does this all mean for you developing your brand?
You may have the best logo, coolest colors and great pitchman for your product. But if your ad, website or brochures are poorly written, you can’t communicate effectively. If you can’t communicate effectively; you can’t sell.
So how do you work on your writing?
- Hire a professional copywriter.
- Read, and follow, Ogilvy’s 10 tips from his memo.
- Read books about writing. (I recommend On Writing Well by William Zinsser.)
- Have someone else read your writing before you publish.
- Read. But don’t just read novels. Read other advertising.
- Write for your audience; not yourself.
It’s one thing to have a tagline that is a grammar bender (Got Milk?). It’s another to have a brochure full of typos, run-ons or completely confusing copy.
Don’t ruin a first impression with bad writing.
November 12, 2013 by Rebecca Prescott
Branding and brand development is an ongoing process.
No successful company—or one of its corresponding brands—has experienced continued success by resting on its laurels. Branding, like selling, is an evolving process.
A cohesive and comprehensive look is important for a successful brand. It is reflected in a logo, a set of colors, and the basic words that go along with your advertising and promotion.
If you have this part nailed down, great! But if you’re wondering how to pull these elements together, here are a few tips to consider before moving forward. In this installment, the focus is on logo and color.
Unless you have a degree in visual arts or graphic design, paired with an incredible threshold for constructive criticism, hire a graphic designer to create your logo and color scheme. Why? A graphic designer has the software and skill set to serve as an independent, objective voice in the creation of your look.
A good designer will take the time to talk to you about your business, your clients and the competition. You should expect to receive three to five options to mull over and tweak before settling on a final design. This designer also should provide you with a color and a black and white version of your logo (in .JPG and .EPS formats), as well as a set of colors that you can use with your logo.
You can do some homework before you meet with the graphic designer. Look at the logos and color schemes of your competitor and your industry. (For example, financial organizations love blue, because to them it represents stability, trust and loyalty.) It’s up to you to decide what you want to communicate to your customers. A designer will help you communicate that message.
Need some inspiration? Take note of the brands or products that you respect. What do they look like? What colors do they use? What do their ads looks like? Then think about how you could apply the same concepts to your brand.
A logo and color palette are the first pieces of the look. In my next blog, I’ll talk about how to develop a tagline and some basic written pieces that can be used side-by-side.
If you’d like to read the previous entries in our branding series, click here.
September 12, 2013 by Rebecca Prescott
Take three of your marketing materials and lay them on a table. Can you tell they are from the same brand?
If so, you’re doing well with blending your brand into your marketing and promotions.
If not, don’t worry: You’ve got an opportunity.
This installment of our branding series is about promoting your brand; specifically, how to weave your brand identity into your marketing materials and campaigns. Promoting your brand is the proverbial cherry on top of your branding strategy sundae. It’s your final step of execution. If you’ve missed the previous brand steps, click here to read them now.
If you’ve been with me for my previous posts, you’ve probably taken the time to develop your brand, and ascribe characteristics like color and logos. A successful brand—like Starbucks—puts it together all the time to create a coherent message. The idea is that each time you touch a customer, you reflect your brand.
My colleague Courtney Redfern wrote about this in her recent blog about consumer touchpoints. In it, she points out that your clients expect to receive a consistent experience from you and your business in every interaction.
Promoting your brand is the same concept.
Every marketing piece needs a consistent use of logos, colors, fonts and tone of voice. When it’s all tied together, it creates visual shorthand or instant recognition for your reader. For example, when you see a yellow M on a red background, you immediately know that it is McDonald’s. That’s because McDonald’s has been successful at creating a visual identity.
If you’re having a hard time using your brand elements consistently, develop guidelines using these tips. Brand guidelines outline how and where to use your colors, fonts, logos and other elements. Just like the saying goes with goals, amazing things happen when you put actual pen to paper, and write them out.
The goal is to stay on message. Create consistency and your brand will become more recognizable over time.
August 6, 2013 by Rebecca Prescott
Image is everything.
This phrase was popularized in a 1990 ad campaign for Canon. The 30-second commercial for the Canon Rebel featured tennis great Andre Agassi hitting balls, laying by the pool and hanging out on the Vegas strip. The spot ends with Agassi’s eyes peeking out from behind his sunglasses and stating, “Image is everything.”1
Even if the campaign didn’t cause shutterbugs to drop their Kodaks and Nikons in a rush to be more like Agassi, it did affect the vernacular in certain circles (mainly those who think about branding, logos, and company image).
So sit back and think about what your brand looks like. What is your image? What do people think when they see your marketing materials? Do your materials reflect you and your strengths as a financial professional?
In previous branding blog posts, I’ve written about the need to take inventory of your brand, and formulate a strategy. That strategy has to include your image.
The easiest place to start building an image is your logo. There are tons of resources on this. I found this blog (and it just happens to be the first to appear on my Google search) which is a great resource, http://www.creativebloq.com/graphic-design/pro-guide-logo-design-21221. Keep in mind that logo design, if done well, will cost you money. But it’s an investment that if done right, will pay returns for years.
Next you need to think about a tagline for your business. What’s a phrase that you can use to sum up your business or service? When developing this tagline, go back to your brand inventory and look for some of the key themes that speak to what your business is really about. Think about your ultimate purpose.
And finally, put some color with things. Pick one or two colors (which are likely to be found in your logo) and use them. Resist the urge to use every color in the Crayola box, and stick to the few that match your logo.
When it’s all put together, get some feedback. Show it to people and see what they think. Get their first impressions and make tweaks from there.
And then once it’s all put together, use your logo and tagline on all of your materials. Pound it into people’s heads. The goal is to create visual recognition, and get people to remember your look. But make sure you put some thought into it, and don’t just slap something together.
Because image is everything.
July 2, 2013 by Rebecca Prescott
We’re at the midpoint of a six-part series on branding, and it’s time to talk strategy. (Break out the playbooks and dry-erase markers. It’s XXs and OOs time.)
The worksheet included a section on strategy, and posed the following questions:
- What is your company’s ultimate purpose?
- Do you have your company’s mission, vision or value proposition written down?
- Who is your ideal client?
- What is the most important element of your product/service?
If you are a budding student of the brand, you’ve already taken the time to write down the answers to these questions. All others must write “I will not water down my brand” 1,500 times on pieces of Mead wide-ruled notebook filler paper.
But seriously, the answers to these questions are crucial in helping develop a brand strategy. Your business may have several facets, but you don’t haphazardly focus on an element without developing a strategy. You have to know who you are to know where you are going.
McDonald’s executives aren’t likely to sit in a board room and talk about the little nut packets that come with hot-fudge sundaes. This is not the focus of their marketing efforts. Those nuts aren’t important enough to generate revenue and therefore, don’t warrant marketing dollars.
According to an April article in Forbes magazine, what’s really going on is, “McDonald’s continues to broaden its product portfolio by offering high quality coffee and healthy drinks (either through its traditional restaurants or the Cafés), competing head to head with Starbucks and local cafeterias—benefiting from local trends like austerity in Europe.”1
It’s hardly haphazard.
Just because you aren’t the world’s largest food chain, doesn’t mean that you can’t approach your branding and promotion with the same precision.
And take a serious look at the answers to the questions you’ve written down. Take some time to think about those answers, and how you incorporate them into the development and perpetuation of your brand.
Don’t break the playbook before it’s written.
June 18, 2013 by Rebecca Prescott
The word audit makes most people grimace. It triggers an underlying fear of punishment. It’s similar to the feeling many teenagers experience when a parent enters their room to discover what really happens behind the sacred door.
It’s the fear that someone will see what you are doing and be disappointed.
But, conducting an audit on your brand can have a positive result. It helps unveil a true picture of your company as your customer sees it.
When is the last time that you sat down and honestly assessed your brand, and thought about how it relates to the customer experience? If you’re overdue, this blog and accompanying worksheet will help you complete a brand audit.
Sometimes the word brand is a catchall to describe the collateral used to promote your company (logos, colors, websites, merchandise) but the scope is wider. In my last blog, Branding and coffee; A supercharged combination, you learned that your brand is really your “promise”.
To know your brand requires an honest assessment. Strengths come to light, and opportunities become goals. And if you have an open mind, your business will grow.
Try this simplified process to help audit your current brand. Look at it from three perspectives:
- Strategy: What is your company’s ultimate purpose?
- Recognition: What does your company look like to the naked eye/new customer?
- Promotion: How will you tell the rest of the world about your brand?
Consider each perspective as a section of a triangle. Individually, the pieces aren’t very strong. Collectively, they make up a cohesive and holistic brand strategy. Together they can withstand internal or external forces of change.
Now grab your laptop, download this worksheet, and conduct a brand audit. Get the basics on paper for now. We’ll get into the details in subsequent blog posts.
Just remember that no matter what you find, you’re not in trouble!
May 2, 2013 by Rebecca Prescott
I think about Starbucks a lot.
I can’t tell you that it’s only because I love their coffee. It’s not that simple.
I’m in love with the Starbucks brand, and the experience that comes with. Everything about the brand gets high praise from me: Packaging, merchandising, service standards, customer-rewards programs, human resources policies, their use of music, philanthropic endeavors and yes, even the coffee itself.
My friends might call it an obsession. But my love for the Starbucks brand has helped in my career; it’s helped me understand how a company can use its brand to cultivate and maintain customer loyalty. And Starbucks, like other companies that I respect, does it by offering an experience.
This blog kicks off a series of posts that I’ll be providing in the next few months about the importance of developing your brand. I’ll be talking about taking a brand inventory; developing a strategy; ways to increase recognition; and how to promote your brand.
But before we move on, let’s talk about the word itself.
There are thousands of definitions of the word brand. Here’s one that I particularly like from Alina Wheeler’s “Designing Brand Identity” (Second edition, 2006):
“The brand is the promise, the big idea, and the expectations that reside in each customer’s mind about a product, service or company.”
I’m particularly fascinated with the word “promise.” A promise sets the stage for a customer in their decision-making process. If they like and trust your brand, they’ll make a purchase. If they don’t, they’ll buy from someone else. And in my little corner of the universe, it’s the experience that keeps me coming back.
Here’s a scenario to consider: I’m standing on the corner of a major metropolitan city and have the choice of Starbucks and another coffee shop in the same square-mile area. I’ll walk to the Starbucks every time. Why? I know that when I walk out, they will have done their best to meet my needs. I know that if my drink doesn’t taste right, they’ll make another one no questions asked. It will be familiar and comfortable.
They have hooked me to the point where if I’m pressed to make a decision on how to spend money on coffee, I’ll choose Starbucks.
This can apply to financial professionals. You may not be a billion dollar coffee empire, but your brand can contribute to your failures and successes.
In the next installment of this series, I’ll take you through some steps to take a solid inventory of your current brand, and then set you free to do the same.