Yes, I’m a “word nerd.” Everywhere I go, I look at the words. Specific words. Oh, and the strategies behind the words. I can’t help myself.
I run with a crowd who often share this affliction.
People like me edit menus…assess signage….and look into descriptions to see the inner messaging. While this condition has its challenges, I vastly prefer this to having been a carpet expert, where everywhere I went I would look straight down and say something like, “Wow….take a look at that 22-pound, double-tuft weave, poly/wool blend!”
I owe a lot of this imprinting to John Bremner, one of my very favorite professors at The University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications. Today, the “Bremner Editing Center” serves as an ever present reminder of his passion for helping others develop their own writing and editing skills.
From John Bremner’s book, HTK (Head To Come — instructions to the copy editor to summarize the story headline in just a few words), I gained immense appreciation for the utmost importance of individual word selection to convey specific information and tone.
However, we all know that all good things can be taken to an extreme. I had a boss once who used to edit my drafts and would tell me “here’s a ‘happy’ to ‘glad’ change.” They were never material changes. He felt it was important to put his fingerprints on it.
C’mon, now. If “happy” works, let it be. Change for change sake is unproductive. But additional word specificity is golden.
Knowing what words to change — and what to leave alone — is often the key question.
Determining whether or not a person was “involved” in the incident or “aware” of the incident drastically changes the entire meaning.
Word specificity comes into play when we define that ubiquitous word, “brand.” We focus on the strategy and the words. Sure, “look and feel” matter a lot, but its not the closer. Early in my career for nearly five years I served as Manager of Public Information at Hallmark Cards (still a client, still an amazing company filled with terrific, bright people). I learned (from a gazillion dollars of consumer research) that all of us pick up a card because of how it looks, and either buy it or put it back because of what it says.
It’s all about the exact, specific words. Precise and purposeful. Exactly the right word.
specific precise particular intentional with your word choice. Every. Single. Time.
Mark Twain once said, “If I had more time, I’d have written a shorter letter.” In today’s world, I’m sure he would have included blog posts, emails and reports.
All writing is not created equal. Focus on just the right words, and you’ll move people to the change in behavior or attitude that you seek.
Onward and upward.Tagged Eric Morgenstern, John Bremner, Morningstar Communications
My husband and I closed on our new house last week. After several years of talk and a full year of active real estate shopping, we finally found “the one.” As we now work tenaciously to make it our own, I’m struck by the similarities between this project and the strategic communications programs I work on for new clients. Sounds like a long shot from the surface, I know, but as I was cutting in the walls last night so we could get up that first coat of paint, the pieces fell together.
Typically when we start working with a new client, there is a pent-up need for marketing and communications. Businesses turn to us when they have an opportunity or challenge, and our team is eager to help. As is the case with our new home, there are many ideas and projects bubbling on the surface. It’s natural to want to move full-steam ahead into execution when the paperwork is finally signed. But I’ve found in my work and home life that having a plan, and a little patience (which is truly the hardest thing!), pays off greatly in the end.
Morningstar Communications Future Visioning™ process is one of the best ways I’ve found to steer this initial communications plan. It guides where we’re going and what goals we will accomplish. At the end of the five-step process we have a comprehensive integrated marketing and communications program to serve as our playbook. While we haven’t gone into that detail on the house, having an end-in-mind for what the house will look and feel like when we move in has gone a long way in smoothing the decision making process. By understanding what changes will have the most impact while considering our timeline and budget, we’re on the path for a successful project. However, even with a plan in place, I still want to see action and so do our clients.
To satisfy the urge to get started and see results, we always look for quick wins. What low-hanging fruit can quickly and easily make an impact? In the house, we changed out a chandelier above the kitchen island. What a difference one light can make. For clients, there may be an upcoming presentation for which we can provide coaching, or a new product launch where media relations is appropriate. The key is finding those seemingly small wins that make big impacts as they propel us toward our end-goal.
The first three days in the house were all about laying the foundation for a great end result. We spent our time cleaning baseboards, patching walls and selecting materials. Foundational work is often tedious and can take some heavy lifting, but on the surface it doesn’t always look like much got done. However, this work is critical to the success of the project. Likewise, in a client engagement we first work to lay the foundation. We build media lists, create key messages, develop processes for reporting, etc., so that when it comes time to execute the building blocks are all in place. From there projects start rolling and results become visible.
I love working with our new and established clients to help them grow. This house is equally addicting. I’m looking forward to seeing great results both at home and at work in the days, weeks and years ahead.Tagged Future Visioning, Integrated Marketing Communications, Morningstar Communications, Tricia McKim
“Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point-of-view.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi
This statement has become a cornerstone of our approach to strategic integrated communications. Philosophers, theologians, and deep thinkers often believe there are absolute truths. I’m not so certain.
Over the years I’ve learned that the ”truth” often depends on your point-of-view. This is why Morningstar Communications is so insistent on creating customized recipient-oriented communications for our clients.
It comes down to one very simple fact: It’s not what you want to say. It’s what they need to hear. Always.
In most things in life, the idea that one-size fits all is rarely true. We all know this intuitively. One area this is painstakingly true is communications. If you’re talking about the ABC thing, how an employee, a customer, or an investor sees that same thing will color their unique point-of-view.
As you can see, what’s viewed as good news to some may be viewed as bad news by others. So, that ABC thing always remains the very same thing… or does it?
The key to crafting solid communications is really this simple: identify the best way for the recipient to receive the information, not the best way to send it.
It’s football season and my KC Chiefs are off to an amazing start. So, it’s time for a gridiron analogy: Are your communication passes complete or incomplete?
The best way to assess the effectiveness of your communications: did the recipient catch the message. Your message was received or it wasn’t – incomplete or complete, the prettiness of the pass really doesn’t matter. Customize your communications based on the receiver / recipients EVERY SINGLE TIME.
Whether you believe in the force or not, Obi-Wan is spot on regarding recipient-oriented communications. Embrace this concept or accept that a lot of your passes will fall incomplete.
Onward and upward. Oh, and may the force be with you.Tagged best practices, Eric Morgenstern, Morningstar Communications, recipient-oriented messages
Every day we work with clients to help them clarify their messages and use them to connect with the people who matter most in order to change attitudes and behaviors. Simply, we help our clients tell their stories to bring about change.
On Wednesday, our team took a day to “sharpen the saw” – a Stephen Covey “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” term – to feed our minds. We were lucky to learn tips for effective storytelling from John Stevenson of ClientKudos. We all walked away energized. Here are a few of my favorite tips, courtesy of John:
It’s important to take time for professional development – to step back and concentrate on improving your skills. We enjoy taking one day a year to focus on learning as a team. Then as individuals it’s up to all of us to continuously learn and grow our professional knowledge.
In the Star Trek episode called Darmok Captain Picard is stranded on a planet with an alien called Captain Dathon. In spite of the fact that they both had Universal Translators they had considerable difficulties understanding each other. Dathon kept on saying “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra,” but since Picard didn’t know what Darmok, Jalad or Tanagra is, he couldn’t understand the meaning behind Dathon’s words.
They were missing the cultural context.
As night fell, Dathon lit a fire for warmth, but Picard was unable to. Dathon handed Picard a branch from his fire and said to Picard, “Temba, his arms wide.” Finally, Picard realized that Dathon was trying to help him and that Dathon’s language used metaphors for communication.
In this song by Melanie Amaro she says that she wants her boyfriend to be more than just a picture on her screen.
Just ten years ago, people would have thought that she was talking about a television instead of her smartphone.
One hundred years ago Ms. Amaro would have been talking about a movie.
We all use metaphors in our everyday conversation, but communication problems happen when we don’t know the context behind the metaphors. As Laura Jung, one of our interns, pointed out in her blog earlier this week, communication problems can wreak havoc on international relationships. In his blog Brian Henderson shares ten “lost in translation” gaffes that cost millions of dollars in lost opportunities, including one of my favorites. When the Chinese translated the Pepsi slogan “We bring you back to life,” a little bit too literally. To the Chinese it meant “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave.”
As communicators we must be watchdogs for our clients. We need to understand their key audiences well enough to judge how they will react and know the hidden context.
Effective communication requires more than a universal translator; understanding the context behind the words is key. Imagine how much more compelling the conversation between Picard and Dathon would have been if Picard knew that Darmok and Jalad worked together, to fight a common enemy, in an epic battle at Tanagra.
PS. As I was researching this article I discovered that Microsoft is developing a real Universal Translator. I wonder if their translator will be able to handle Klingon and Vulcan.Tagged Effective Communication, International Communications, Shanny Morgenstern, Star Trek, Universal Translators
The modern business world is like a massive battlefield, in which the combatants are companies and brands constantly fighting for your attention. The greatest of the “gladiator” brands know how to win the crowd, and as a result, the majority of market shares. But the process of winning the crowd isn’t always about mass appeal.
In the modern business world, brands are able to connect on a personal level and attract individuals in a variety of ways. In order to do this, a strong brand must know its role in culture and the lives of its consumers, understand itself completely, and display a level of consistency that helps to maintain its image and message.
Watch and Learn from the Consumer
Brands cannot always rely on their followers to tell them exactly what they want. They must watch and learn from their behaviors in order to adjust and adapt to new trends and stay ahead of competition.
GoPro, now the best selling camera company in the world, adapts and evolves its product based on how its consumers use their cameras. After starting out with a simple camera inside of a waterproof casing that could be mounted to a surfboard, they realized that their newly discovered niche in entertainment was much more expansive than they originally thought. Users were creating home made straps and mounting their product on bike handlebars, helmets, and go carts. GoPro took this in stride and began mass-producing a variety of mounts for all activities.
Be Yourself and Others Will Follow
Just as important as understanding its followers, if not more important, a brand must have a thorough understanding of itself. A brand is not just a trademark or symbol that can be controlled and monitored, it is an idea that exists in the mind of the consumer as an imprint of what the brand represents.
The impression a brand makes on its consumers consists of multiple experiences all combined together to form an idea that not only represents the brand itself, but the desires and attitudes that the consumer associates with that brand.
A great example of solid brand that has found and established its identity is Nike. Over the years, Nike has become a symbol that transcends the sports equipment and clothing market it took root in, and has formed an identity that symbolizes action, ambition, excellence, and overcoming hardship. Their recent commercial illustrates this message perfectly:
For a brand, a sense of identity is crucial when connecting with its followers. Brands must be firm in what they represent and communicate a central idea and message that tells its story and forms its identity in the minds of its followers.
True brand loyalists take up a brand and make it a part of themselves. The brand becomes a representation of the values and attitudes a person wants to embody, and so a solid identity to which a person can relate and adopt as their own is essential.
Consistency is Key
Finally, because a brand is an idea and cannot be controlled in the mind of every consumer it must be consistent with the things it can control in order to create a consistent message and brand image.
Diet Coke is a perfect example of the use of consistent brand imaging resulting in high consumer recognition. Diet Coke has become such a recognizable product that the latest can design is a magnified version of the company’s typographic logo.
In addition to its image, a brand must also be consistent in its messaging. A brand that attempts to be everything at once is like a person that is always following the crowd. While they may be comfortable with just fitting in, their own sense of identity is lost.
Brands cannot be followers if they want to succeed, they must push the edge and find the specific things that they want to represent. This is where relationships are formed between brands and followers. Brands must be the object of desire and the image, not just of a product or service, but of the promise they will give to their followers and the identity they create.
Tagged Branding, Cocacola, GoPro, Korab Eland, Morningstar Communications, Nike, Success
Move over multi-channel marketing, there’s a new strategy in town. Omni-channel marketing, which means “every-channel,” is rapidly changing the way companies engage with their customers.
Today’s consumers expect companies to provide them with a faultless transition between all channels. Omni-channel marketing does just this; it provides companies with the opportunity to reach consumers wherever they may be while building brand loyalty. This new way of marketing, like anything else, comes with a set of challenges. Here are a few tips that will keep you one step ahead of any potential challenges.
Assess your company’s current multi-channel customer loyalty. Omni-channel marketing is all about increasing brand loyalty by actively engaging with the consumers. It is important to know where your company presently sits in the customer loyalty department. Do you have a strong multi-channel presence? Are there any gaps in your customer communication that need to be filled in? By addressing questions such as these, your company will be better equipped to take the leap from multi-channel marketing to omni-channel marketing.
Enrich the customer experience. Omni-channel marketing allows your company to reach each customer through their preferred method of contact, making their experience feel more personal. Omni-channel marketing provides customers with a consistent, seamless experience across all channels by integrating their individual data, such as purchasing patterns and channel preferences, into every platform. The personalization created through omni-channel marking will not only make the consumer feel special, it will also turn those once sporadic consumers into lifelong, loyal customers.
Hire the right people. Because omni-channel marketing encompasses everything from digital media and social media to in-store shopping and online shopping, it is important to have the best possible team. Omni-channel marketing integrates personalized data for each customer, so it is crucial that your company’s IT department and marketing department are in sync with each other. A knowledgeable and well-informed staff will create a seamless experience for the consumer and increase their brand loyalty.
The upgrade to omni-channel marketing from multi-channel marketing is crucial for companies to stay in touch with the Millennial generation. As a member of this generation, I know that we demand more from companies. We want to be able to instantly connect and interact with our favorite brands through all available channels. Omni-channel marketing can provide all of your consumers, no matter their age, with a consistent, engaging and transparent experience that will have them coming back for more.
Tagged Integrated Marketing, Laura Jung, Morningstar Communications, Omni-channel Marketing
Over the past several weeks, I’ve had several conversations about color schemes – whether it has to do with branding or personal tastes. It got me thinking about the impact of color and how that might change over the coming years.
Before surfing through relevant articles, I brainstormed color impressions from what I had learned duringall my years in school. Here’s what I came up with before I sorted through articles related to marketing materials:
Red – Red seems to be the most contested color. It can resemble passion and love, or it can represent fear and resentment. It can be flirtatious, or it can be intimidating.
How do you perceive the color red?
Yellow – The brightest color in the spectrum is sunny and lighthearted, fun and playful. No bad days with this color. Yellow personally reminds me of all my favorite, not-so-healthy foods. Yummy.
Orange – I think this is the most athletic color of all. I’m actually surprised more sports teams don’t wear orange. Gatorade, Nike and other sports-related brands incorporate orange in their logos and other materials.
I remember my mother saying once that orange is a boyish color. Do you agree?
Green – I know a lot of people whose favorite color is green. That surprises me a bit because, like red, it can be interpreted in so many different ways. To me, it epitomizes nature. On the other hand, it makes me think of creepy reptiles or “looking green” (getting sick).
Blue – I learned from a friend last week that blue is supposed to curb your appetite more than any other color. Have you ever eaten off of a blue plate? I haven’t from what I can recall.
Blue is the color of the ocean and the happy sky – tranquil and serene. From my perspective, the color blue is mostly used for calming effects.
Purple – I associate purple with mystery and even power. I’ve seen a lot of purple on kings’ elaborate costumes in several medieval movies growing up. I like to think they’re not jerking my chain.
Many think it’s a girly color, but I notice it catching on with the guys. Purple sports teams’ fans tout purple pride – no shame in that.
Pink – One word: Girly.
Gray – Some of the gray articles of clothing I own are my favorites. Other than integration into fashion, my reaction to the color gray is “sad” and “lonely.” It makes me think of a dreary day.
I like to think my gray clothes aren’t dreary, though. Just sayin’.
Brown – This color also reminds me of food – dessert to be precise. The color brown is often underestimated – and thrown under the bus, actually. It’s prettier than a lot of people credit. Unless it’s chocolate, you won’t see many brands use this color in their marketing materials.
Black – The most basic color. It’s sometimes associated with depressing events, like funerals and natural disasters. On the other hand, it suggests sophistication for both males and females in the fashion world.
White – The other most basic color. Sometimes I forget it’s even considered a color at all. Hopefully that illustrates my point well enough.
Still, white space is essential in many advertising campaigns. You’ll want to be easy on the eyes, and not have too much going on.
According to Revesencio studies have shown 60 to 80 percent of a customer’s purchase is influenced by color. I’m surprised that statistic isn’t higher.
Looks like I hit the nail on the head when I said that purple is associated with mystery, black with sophistication and yellow with optimism.
I was wrong about brown and green. It looks like more and more people and brands are coming to embrace these colors.
Blue is the most popular color for brands in general, but red is dominant within the restaurant industry.
Picking a color for brand utilization might seem like an easy task, but if you’re an entrepreneur, be careful – it could make or break your business. Try to make a tactful decision the first time around so you won’t have to go back to the drawing board.Tagged brand image, Branding, brands, color, color scheme
Proactive public relations requires technique, planning, research, creativity- and a bit of luck- but earned media is one of the most trusted ways to tell your organization’s story. Below are five simple media relations tips to incorporate in your overall strategic communications plan.
1. Hand pick the reporter. One of the most important parts of effective media relations is connecting with the right reporter. Research different reporters’ beats, as well as recent stories they have done. Referencing a story they have written on a similar topic is one way to make your pitch personal. An in-person meeting with a reporter is another valuable way to build your relationship and become a trusted source.
2. Don’t default to sending a press release. Personalization and simplicity will help you stand out from all the lengthy press releases reporters receive. Try sending a concise, personalized pitch with an interesting story idea, offering to coordinate an interview if the reporter is interested.
3. Monitor the news cycle. If your organization has an expert source that you would like to be featured in news stories, monitor the news cycle. See if there are any trends or stories where your source’s expertise would be helpful and relevant. E-mail the reporter a short pitch about the timely trend or story, and offer to connect them with your expert source for an interview.
4. Check editorial calendars. Magazines oftentimes have editorial calendars available that outline their proposed story topics for the year. (Hint: check the advertising section of the magazine’s website). View the editorial calendar to see if there are any story topics that may be a relevant fit for your organization. Send a pitch to the magazine’s editor in advance of the editorial close date with insight on the topic and an offer to connect them with your expert source.
5. Research blogs. Bloggers are constantly refreshing their content, so they are good to keep on your media lists. Since they don’t have to worry about word limits, it can be easier to get a more in-depth story from a blogger. Blog posts are great to merchandise by sharing them on your company website, social media, newsletters, etc. Also, some bloggers accept submissions from guest bloggers, meaning you may be able to submit a guest blog post written by someone in your organization.
Keep these five tips in mind as you implement your overall strategic communications plan. Proactive public relations is a great way to tell your organization’s story and connect to the people who matter most to your organization.Tagged Holly Eckold, media relations tips, Morningstar Communications
I was talking to my coworker yesterday about her preference between Facebook and Twitter. She said she preferred Facebook, specifically for the photo sharing. I told her she needed to check out one of my favorite app’s, Instagram, which lets users upload photos, alter them with a variety of artistic filters, and then share them with their followers. Popularity of the app has grown at an astounding rate, which should be of no surprise considering the explosion of visual tools like infographics and Pinterest.
In the same way that brands jumped on board to engage with consumers on Pinterest, brands are also finding their place on Instagram. Recent research by Simply Measured found that 40% of the brands listed in Interbrand’s Top 100 have created an Instagram account.
Brands that have visually appealing products are a good fit for Instagram. For example, local brands that I follow include the letterpress store Hammerpress, the sandal company Sseko, and the soda fountain and espresso bar Little Freshie, which all have attractive, artistic products.
However, the key is not to just showcase pictures of your products, but to let your brand personality shine through the photos. For example, Whole Foods, which has an impressive Instagram following, not only shares photos of its food, but also nature scenes, farms and social gatherings. What Whole Foods does well is orchestration among the different photo subjects. All the photos share a consistent look and feel, collectively embodying the brand.
Engagement is also key to being successful on Instagram. Aside from getting likes and comments, brands are coming up with creative ways to use the platform. One example of this is Sharpie, which posts pictures drawn and submitted by employees and fans. Starbucks asks its users to join in and tag their coffee photos with #starbucks. I even saw a band recently, The Lumineers, use Instagram to take photos of concert tickets hidden in the city, challenging followers to find them.
Facebook recently closed on its purchase of Instagram, so it will be interesting to see if the app will go through some changes in the future. One thing is certain, the movement towards photo sharing platforms is not going away. A picture says a thousand words. It is smart for brands to get on board.Tagged brands, Holly Eckold, Instagram, Morningstar Communications