Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Social media and business 101: Personal is never truly personal

Perhaps, as a Gen Y-er, I can chalk it up to having been technologically spoiled since the age of sixteen. From my earliest memories, technology was always at my disposal, assisting me in areas where I never really needed to develop the skills that countless generations before me relied on (To put it in perspective, I only passed my driving test thanks to a rear-view monitor). Thanks to technology: I know when the roads are closed; how the next 15 miles of traffic will impact my travels; when storms are coming, when a dollar exits my bank account, and the moment my or a client’s name appears online.

Within the last month, though, I’ve encountered more than one situation that reminded me that technology is wonderful but, when it comes to business, is only as good as gut instinct.

I will preface my first example by saying that I (in case I haven’t made it obvious) pride myself on my professionalism. A bold statement, yes, but one that I’ve lived by all my life. I’m notoriously over-dressed, over-prepared, over-packed, and over-resourceful. Most people keep a first aid kit in their glove compartment. I, however, keep an emergency bow-tie, just in case of a formal emergency (yes, they do happen). Having said that, you can probably assume that Halloween wouldn’t be one of my favorite holidays. Just because I don’t personally like appearing in costume, doesn’t mean I’m not entertained by them, in fact—quite the opposite applies. Unfortunately for me, though, the entertainment factor of a tongue-in-cheek costume (and resulting photo of me with the person in said costume) did not make for a well-received addition to my personal Facebook page.

 'So what’s the fuss about? It was your personal page, and its not like it was YOU?'

Personal? More like semi-private. Upon further examination of the post, I realized that people I wasn’t even friends with had seen and liked it, despite my privacy settings. How? Because they subscribe to my public updates. Further, while I--like many in a small business setting--attempt to keep personal and professional separate on Facebook, the lines always blur. In discussing this matter with Carrie, she framed this example perfectly: “Josh: you are NOT a nameless, faceless cog in some big corporate machine; You are a high level employee at a small firm with national presence.” Quite possibly the best argumentative point I’ve ever heard.

Underscoring the lesson of this very personal experience are recent high-profile examples of the damage that can be caused by professionals thinking emails, tweets and status updates are "personal"; or, worse, professionals not thinking about the bigger picture when posting something online. Take, for example, Hurricane Sandy. While this superstorm paralyzed the northeast, taking not only homes and businesses--but also lives... companies like Gap Inc. took it as an opportunity to tweet to encourage online shopping with the 'spare time' the storm afforded its victims.  Needless to say, the backlash was tremendous.

So what if you are a cog in a major corporate machine? Does this make you exempt from following the rules of social media etiquette? Absolutely not. In fact, the stakes are higher. While in a smaller company, a good working rapport with your superior means that he/she will, in most cases, understand that your social media post was made in good humor and work with you to correct it. However, if a tweet or post could even have a whiff of being in poor taste, chances are, it is, and could result in the termination of your employment.

The moral of the story? Know your audience, and never forget that your social audience--regardless of your so-called safeguards--also consists of your coworkers, superiors, and clients. Remember: words are the new 'sticks and stones'; 'everything you say, share, post or photograph can and will be held against you'.

The prosecution rests, your Honor.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Lessons in PR: Communication isn't simple

Communication. Pretty simple word. But pretty tricky business. Ever tried to communicate to a family member, friend or significant other how they hurt your feelings in a tense situation, only to have it backfire? Okay, now that 99% of you are nodding, I’ll get on to my point…

Everyone, it seems lately, thinks they are “PR experts”. But public relations isn’t about having a lot of friends or throwing fun parties. It is about expert communication, especially with the press (and, in this age, on social media). I find myself, almost daily, cringing at PR faux pas—from basic to potentially fatal.

While hiring a professional to represent your brand is the best way to avoid this sort of deadly foot-in-mouth syndrome, I understand that this is often cost-prohibitive. If that’s the case for your company, there are some basic PR/communication rules that I drill into my staff and interns daily, and that I happily share. From me to you: lessons learned thanks to my 10+ years’ experience interviewing thousands of designers, politicians and retailers as journalist; 3+ years as a publicist giving press interviews and representing brands on social media… but, mostly, thanks to my relentless journalism professors at the University of Connecticut.

  1. Fact check. Think you know how to spell the proper name of an organization or person? 98% of the time, you’re probably right. You do. The problem is the other 2% of the time. If I spelled a proper name wrong on a college journalism project, my journalism professors would make me write it correctly, by hand, 500 times. Actually, it may have been less than 500; but having spent a couple nights sitting in the dorm lounge writing a name over and over until my hand ached: I still double check the names of even clients I’ve worked with for years.
  2. Listen. As a reporter, I learned the most in interviews when the interviewee suddenly went off on a tangent in response to an innocent question… often revealing more than I ever imagined asking. This is a basic of any business communication: listen carefully to the question before opening your mouth. Example: I once served on a non-profit board and, when I hadn’t received end-of-year financial reports, I asked the executive director for them. The executive director’s reply was shockingly angry and defensive. How dare I accuse her of misappropriation of funds? Well, actually, that hadn’t crossed my mind. But once she threw it out there, told me to call her lawyer, and told everyone within earshot that I’d made such an accusation; it definitely crossed my mind (and everyone else’s). Enough said.
  3. Condense. Short is, indeed, sweet. Say what you have to say. Then wait an hour and go back to edit. In PR, wordiness has always been a cardinal sin. Today, it’s deadly for a publicist or any business person. Who among us isn’t suffering from information overload? Case in point: The average attention span of someone opening an email? 8 seconds. The average attention span of a goldfish? 9 seconds. Need I say more?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Social Side of Fashion Week

Another Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week has come and gone. We all now know the must have trends for Spring/Summer 2013. We also now know that social media shows no sign of slowing it’s influence on the fashion and luxury industries. Social media has transformed Fashion Week from an elite, industry-insiders-only event, to one with a global audience of consumers. This transformation allows brand customers and fans to feel that they are more a part of the event, and allows them to have a voice in the fashion world. A voice that brands must be prepared to hear.

The lessons learned from Fashion Week apply to any luxury or designer brand – small or large. First, the importance of video in social marketing. For example, more than 30 shows are streamed live on YouTube Live Runway, and designer participation in live streaming runway shows increased 17% this season. Video streams from an event like a runway show have long provided a great way to engage potential customers but, as social marketing gets more sophisticated, Fashion Week designers upped the ante this season.

For example, Michael Kors didn't just live stream his show on the site Live Michael Kors, but was tweeting and posting photos right before his show. His live stream, meanwhile included a task bar, where viewers could tweet from the live stream directly to Michael Kors. Lacoste, meanwhile, pursued long-term engagement with interested consumers by integrating the live stream with Facebook. To view the stream of their live runway show, viewers had to first like Lacoste’s Facebook. The brand also posted back-stage photos during the show and created a "Lacostagram," which had images of the runway show posting on Instagram. Further, on Lacostagram, Lacoste encouraged viewers to tag and tweet their own photos using the hashtag #LacosteSS13.

The results of these strategies? Aside from great exposure during their events, Lacoste and Michael Kors have both grown their social audience and have long-term connections via Facebook, Twitter and Instragram, with those who watched their runway shows. While not every luxury company has the status or budge to show at Fashion Week like these brands, social media allows a breadth of opportunities (many affordable) to implement the same concept – long-term engagement with your target audience. So, how are you using social media to allow your consumer to feel more involved with your brand?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Social Media: User Data and Business Insight

The most recent social media statistics show that social networking platforms are not only dominating web use and social interaction but—more importantly—increasing numbers of users are in that luxury-goods sweet spot: women who are either affluent or aspirational.

A wise coffee company once said, “America Runs on Dunkin”. We disagree: America runs on technology. And, especially, women with disposable income run on technology. To illustrate, let’s look at each of the top platforms individually.
Facebook, of course, continues to be the most dominant social media site on the web.
·      According to the cnn.com, as of March 2012 Facebook has exceeded over 900 million active users.
·      Of all these Facebook users, 31% check in every day.
·      A majority of Facebook users earn more than $50,000 per year:
o   47% make between $50,000-99,999
o   11% make over $100,000

Readwriteweb.com says that Facebook has “two basic social needs: the need to belong and the need for self-presentation.” With that in mind, it’s up to the individual how they can make that page more personal.
·      This is why many people on the site will “Like” pages from their favorite shopping store to their favorite actor/actress.
According to Wildfire’s Why Social Marketing Will Deliver A Positive ROI for Your Brand (click to download file) these are the “3 phases of social media.”
·      Users become fans
·      Fans engage with the brand through their News Feed
·      They become familiar with the brand they are more likely to connect by buying a product or advocating for it.
o   Washington University did a study on brand familiarity and stated, when consumers are exposed to an ad for an unfamiliar brand, they are more likely to have a goal of learning about and forming an accurate impression of the brand.”

Twitter continues to grow and, today, has about 200 million active users. Who are those users?
·      53% women (according to Palatnikfactor.com)
·      The majority of users are Caucasian, between the ages of 18-34.
·      Twitter users are financially comfortable:
o   37% earn between $50,000-99,999
o   10% earn over $100,000

With 10.4 million users, Pinterest is Twitter’s closest competitor in terms of use and activity.
·      Pinterest users range from the ages 25-54
·      80% majority of users are women.
·      Annual income of Pinterest users:
o   46% make between $50,000-99,999
o   7% make over $100,000
Why is Pinterest so popular? Because pictures are worth more than 140 words, apparently.


Foursquare is location-based outreach; and targeted to local businesses. Foursquare.com says that it “makes the real world easier to use. We build tools that help you keep up with friends, discover what’s nearby, save money and unlock deals.” This application allows people to check-in to a business while those who are connected can see where the individual has checked in.
Who are the users for Foursquare?
·      There are 20 million users worldwide.
·      Rooster.com says that foursquare consists of the majority of 63% females
·      36% users are between the ages of 35-49.

So, armed with all this data, we ask: how are you utilizing social media to harness its marketing potential? 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Happy Birthday to us: reflections on our first three years

Mia, celebrating in 2009

At sunset on a beautiful late spring evening in 2009, I was walking on the beach in Weekapaug, R.I. where I lived, mindlessly tossing a ball to my black Lab, Mia. It felt like every other day, but it was a very different kind of day. For weeks, I’d been debating, rejecting, then reconsidering the idea of starting my own agency. After more than a decade in the cushiony security of the corporate world in New York, I was—frankly—terrified at the thought of starting a small business during the worst recession in recent history, in a state I barely knew, and focusing on an area that most people were laughing off as a joke (social media). Did I have the guts and determination?

And then, alone on that beach with my dog, I found the inspiration. From whom? From Mia. I threw her ball for the umpteenth time and there she was, running as hard as she could to, this time, outrun it. She didn’t. But she brought it back, dropped it at my feet and—panting heavily; eyes, nose and everything else covered in sand—wagged her tail happily, ready to keep working at it. Her determination at that moment changed my life and launched Miamore Communications. (As I write this and think back, it’s kind of funny how very much the first couple years of starting a business with no entrepreneurial experience is like chasing a ball that moves faster than you.)

It’s crazy how fast three years can pass. Miamore Communications has had great successes and its fair share of failures. But what amazes me most is how much things have changed since I founded this company. I vividly recall a grueling two-hour meeting in 2009 with the executives of a huge jewelry brand. My task was to explain why they needed to integrate social media into their public relations and marketing strategy. The owner beat me up quite a bit with his skepticism but, to his merit, believed—albeit grudgingly—that social media might be important and hired us. Today, his company has perhaps the largest fine jewelry brand presence on Facebook.

While my roots are firmly in fashion and jewelry, I decided early on that Miamore Communications would diversify into the general luxury and lifestyle categories; and that we would do everything we could to support those categories in our local community. We dedicated thousands of unpaid hours to support the successful launch of what was then a nonprofit group creating New England’s first business-oriented industry fashion week that supported local designers. For the past year, we’ve sponsored the nonprofit that presents the Rhode Island International Film Festival—the only Oscar-qualifying film festival this side of Tribeca, and the launchpad for independent film makers from around the world. We’ve loved every minute of it.

I’m happy to brag that, on the PR side, we’ve achieved client placements in every major (and minor) media outlet in Rhode Island and the Boston metro area; every jewelry-industry publication and website; major New York City regional press; and some heavy hitters on the national scene—including Oprah, Martha Stewart Weddings, People, and Redbook.

The double-edged sword of running a boutique marketing agency is the constant flux. We’ve worked passionately for small art galleries,start-up fashion designers, boutique travel companies, non-profit organizations and international brands; and absolutely thrive on both the challenge of working for various clients at once, and the variety that brings to every single day. But, having the people behind the clients we love come in and out of our day-to-day lives is an adjustment that I’m still getting used to.

I’ve read that surviving the first three years is one of the biggest hurdles to success for small businesses. I’m happy to finally be here. And I wouldn’t be without having been blessed with some of the most amazing interns, staff, partners and contractors. Todd, Steven, Cassie, Doug, Sam, Ryan, Amanda, Tessa, Nick, Bianca, Alysandra, Martha. From my first intern, Lauren, who was the only one who believed in Miamore as much as I did back in 2009; to Josh, Miamore’s account executive who is approaching his one-year anniversary and who—as crazy as things (or I) get around here—is forever passionate about our mission, our future, and our clients.

It’s amazing what can come from a walk on the beach, a rubber ball, and a passionately determined Black Lab. Mia’s at my feet as I type this. I think she deserves a belly rub.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Key to Cohesive Multichannel Messaging

In an era dominated by ever-changing social media outlets, the process of navigating the waters of marketing can be somewhat daunting for business owners; the corporate equivalent of balancing spinning plates. Harder still is the art of maintaining consistent brand messages that are both clear and direct. By outlining an integrated marketing strategy built on basic principals, firms have not only increased their credibility, but have ultimately created more grand-scale recognition of their brands.

We’ve heard it time and again: “Our business has a special and unique story, but people just don’t understand it.” While many of these companies are using all the right tools --press releases, social media, trade shows & events, in-person networking and creative collateral, etc.—what they aren’t doing is creating a singular, cohesive, identifiable brand message that is reinforced across all these marketing channels.

We see many firms—especially in small businesses—working hard to utilize all marketing channels. But the message they’re sending via these various channels is disjointed. Various theories of Effective Frequency argue that it takes anywhere from 3 to 20 exposures before a brand message registers in a consumer's mind.

Take, for example, two of our clients. First, high-end jewelry designer Mary Esses. An artist by nature, Mary personally created a sketch to illustrate her brand. She had planned to use it as the backdrop in her exhibit at an important trade show. We took that image and made it a focal point in an intensive marking plan to support the show, from integrating it into her Facebook and blog to email marking and event invitations, as well as all other PR initiatives. The outcome? Few buyers or editors will be able to walk past her booth without that image registering in their heads.

Another client, The Rhode Island International Film Festival, is a major international event for the film industry. This year, RIIFF celebrates its 30th year.  While widely recognized and respected within its industry, and flush with accolades from films that have debuted here—it has struggled to achieve similar recognition among the general public in its own region. Our solution? Create more local points of engagement.  Social media, press releases and marketing initiatives will concentrate on bringing awareness to the anniversary year of the festival and, thus, the festival itself. Using PR, social media networks like Fourquare and Pinterest, marketing cross-promotions and other strategies, we’ve outlined an integrated plan to engage film-goers, families and other local guests with the Festival.

Does your marketing strategy have a cohesive multichannel messaging?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Pinterest: Linking visual marketing to social media

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” and that’s where social media site Pinterest comes in. According to comscore.com, Pinterest just hit 11.7 million unique monthly U.S. visitors, crossing the 10 million mark faster than any other standalone site in history.  They also reported that the average Pinterest user spends 98 minutes per month on the site, compared to 2.5 hours on Tumblr, and 7 hours on Facebook. With Pinterest gaining significant media attention and experiencing enormous growth, the natural question is: Why and how can Pinterest be implemented into your marketing strategy?

A major reason for businesses to embrace this social platform is the web traffic referrals that brands are receiving from Pinterest. According to Shareaholic, Pinterest drove 3.6 percent of all Web traffic referrals to other sites in January--more than Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube combined. For example, Nordstrom uses Pinterest to post pictures of fashion looks, all of which have the Nordstrom website attached to them. Once a person looks at a certain picture and is interested, they can easily click through to the Nordstrom website. Perfect for Nordstrom, because they are not only marketing specific products through Pinterest, but also driving business to their website. What Pinterest has done is given companies, businesses and organizations—especially those in fashion, jewelry and other product-oriented  fields—another avenue to market their brand and products.

Experian Hitwise stated last month that Pinterest was the third most popular social networking site, trailing only Facebook and Twitter in the U.S. The use of this site for businesses has been quite beneficial because they can get to know their target market better and the target market can also absorb the company's culture and product by viewing their "pins." Whole Foods, Dr. Scholls and Coca Cola are just a few companies that have utilized this site for marketing and advertising purposes. Whole Foods “pins” recipes while Dr. Scholls “pins” shoes and both allow users to buy what they are looking for by clicking a button that sends them right to their website.

In reality, Pinterest is a sort of social equivalent of visually-appealing advertising done in a very creative way; one that is interactive, offers brands and prospective customers not just one image, but endless numbers of ideas, products, and recipes for success.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

CASE STUDY: shedding new light on The Rhode Island International Film Festival’s Oscar Night® America

CASE STUDY: shedding new light on The Rhode Island International Film Festival’s Oscar Night® America

The Client:
FLICKERS: The Rhode Island International Film Festival’s presentation of Oscar Night® America Providence; Rhode Island’s exclusive Oscar events officially sanctioned by the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts & Sciences (one of only 49 official Oscar night parties in the United States).

The Goal:
To achieve media placements, build awareness through a social media campaign, create local marketing initiatives to promote the events, and develop a more powerful front-of-house experience for guests and the media at the event.  

Our Work:
Miamore Communications developed a campaign that combined traditional press outreach, marketing and social media initiatives. We created a national hook by emphasizing and promoting a local Oscars nominee. Marketing initiatives included the establishment of a cross-promotional program involving local restaurants and a Facebook promotion in conjunction with the state’s largest magazine, Rhode Island Monthly.

The Results:
Social Media:
While under the direction of Miamore Communications, the Rhode Island International Film Festival’s social media engagement increased by 1,031% over the previous month. Post interactions increased by 82% compared to the organization’s premiere annual event, the Film Festival period in August of 2011.

Editorial Placements:
From January 1, 2012 until February 29, 2012, Oscar Night® America Providence received more than 14 million impressions in print, broadcast and online media:

·             298,463 broadcast impressions
·             9,890,609 web impressions
·             3,864,797 print impressions


Placements included:

·          USA Today
·          KTVU (San Francisco)
·         The Associated Press
·         The Boston Globe
·         The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)
·         The Arizona Republic
·         KTVU (San Francisco)
·         San Antonio Express News
     ABC6 Providence/New Bedford
·        The Providence Journal
·        Rhode Island Monthly
·        The Rhode Show
·       WPRO FM Radio
·       CBS12 Providence/New Bedford

Friday, February 24, 2012

Weekly Round-up February 24, 2012

The Oscars and social media
In honor of Sunday night's Oscars - Mashable and mRank have teamed up to provide us with a social media leader board ranking of the top 15 most-buzzed-about terms from this years Oscars. Social media sites include Twitter, Facebook and the blogging world. 

Take a lesson from bad PR
Although Levi's ad slogan "Hotness Comes in All Shapes and Sizes" may seem to address women of- well- all shapes and sizes - the visual advertisements tell a different story. This week Levi seems to have created some bad PR for themselves by ineffectively executing their marketing goal.

Holy Twitter
It was announced friday that Pope Benedict XVI will be opening a personal twitter account enabling him to reach out to his Catholic followers. The twitter account is just the next addition to the Popes growing internet presence - with a youtube channel, a website, a facebook page and an iPhone application. I find it really interesting to see such an old and traditional culture embracing the new age of communication.

Timeline for Brands
Communications and social media gurus are more excited than ever for the highly anticipated new facebook timeline for brands which is launching next week. CEO Reggie Bradford of Virtue claims that brands will "build even more meaningful interactions with social audiences" via this new timeline. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Weekly Round-Up: February 17, 2012

Twitter condemns fate of Saudi Blogger
This week, Saudi blogger Hamza Kashgari was deported from Malayasia back to Saudi Arabia - per request of the Arabian government. This controversial blogger received backlash from many social media users - including a Facebook group entitled "Saudi people want punishment for Hamza Kashgari -for negative tweets he posted about the prophet Muhammed. His return may result in abuse and possible death punishment for the young 23-year-old. The uproar caused by these tweets certainly sealed the fate of Hamza; it's crazy to think social media could condemn a person to such a fate.

Does your social media presence determine who you are?
Thanks to reports from ComScore, a Mashables article reported this week that in 2011, 16.6 percent of minutes spent on-line were spent on social media websites. The article also highlighted that while 3 out of 4 internet users have a Facebook; sites like Tumblr, Twitter and Google+ are rapidly expanding in monthly visitors. Another interesting article from this weeks news highlights what it means to have a strong social media presence, and just how important it is for you.

Take a note from these guys
This week Voltier Digtial provided insight into the top 5 companies that use social media in the best possible way. Thanks to a neat infographic, we can see just how they did it. From user friendly sharing, to successful hashtagging, many companies (say, McDonalds?) can take a lesson and learn how to better promote their company through the use of social media.

Good news for the luxury market
In business news this week, the luxury market had something to celebrate. After a long slump many luxury goods markets are projected to increase sales for the upcoming year. Claudia d'Arpizio, partner for Bain & Co. in Milan, commented "the surprise was mainly in the US and Europe." She went on to add "Luxury shame is now over."

Friday, February 10, 2012

Weekly Round-up: February 10, 2012

From fairytale creatures to an outer space phenomenon, here are our top news picks of the week from the social media and fashion world.

Pinning Winning
After recieving my pinterest invite via e-mail on Monday, I have been exploring the social media site and all it has to offer. If you haven't tried it yet, I advise you to sign yourself up for an invite - as it has been reported by comScore that website has taken the lead as the fastest growing social media site - with over 10 million monthly users. If you are unsure as to pinterest and it's features, check out this article for a breakdown! Now go get your pinning on!

Out of this world Tweets
Twitter announced this week that it will be teaming with two major companies to provide Twitter access via satellite. This will make tweeting available to virtually everyone everywhere. Read more here.

Analyzing your statistics
Thanks to Ann Smarty, a web and marketing entrepreneur, here you can find 5 useful and extremely information spreadsheets containing everything you need to know about the analytics of your social media accounts. Best of all? It's free!

2012 New York Fashion Week
Thursday February 9 kicked of 2012 fashion week in New York. The ready to wear collection "Creatures of the Wind" by Chicago based Shane Gabier and Christopher Peters was far from ordinary. Inspired by a 17th century fairytale of elves and fairies, these magical creations were the perfect way to kick of this year's show.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Weekly Round-up: February 3, 2012

Happy February!  Let's take a closer look at some of this weeks top news stories from the PR and social media world...

Social bowl, Super media
This year's Superbowl is one for the record books. For the first time ever in superbowl history, a social media command center, made up of 50 social media gurus, has been established in downtown Indianapolis - where the Superbowl is being held - to provide internet users with all the necessary information they need. President and CEO of Raidious say's "it's probably the future of big-event social media." Well, I am certainly looking forward to seeing what changes this may bring!

The new age of media
For any one interested in media relations, here you can find really useful information reguarding the traditional media market, and what you can do to be successful in it.

Valentine Jewels
Thanks to a survey done by the 'NRF' -National Retail Federation - many women (and hopefully me too!) will have a reason to smile this Valentine's Day.  With numbers at the highest they've been in 10 years, more than 8 in 10 men surveyed will be dazzling their loved ones with jewelery this holiday.

Show don't tell
Thanks to social media platforms - businesses are able to gain a following and expand their business by connecting with every different kind of person. But telling people how great you are isn't the best way to do things.  Follow this advice and you're sure to be successful.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Why Canned Blog Content = Disaster

I recently heard about a couple "blog services" that attempt to translate the concept of syndicated (i.e., canned) print products into the social media realm. Because the same exact content is used by multiple businesses, the cost is low. An easy, inexpensive way for a busy small business owner to have a “social” presence, say those who offer the services. Great idea, right?
Wrong. Very, very, very wrong.
I don’t care how cheap the service is; posting the same blog content as dozens of other businesses is an enormously costly mistake. It is a mistake that will not only harm your brand's public perception, but one that is in violation of Google’s duplicate content policy and will kill your Google ranking. Add to that: when this “cheap” fix inevitably fails, it could deter you from trusting blogging and social media as a marketing tool… which would ultimately have a devastating effect on your business growth and revenue.
Unlike syndicated print, blogs are not produced only for a local market. While the reader of a local syndicated print product is unlikely to see the same print content from a competitor 1,000 miles away, a blog reader can (and probably will) search a subject, finding results in real time from around the globe. A blog is also, fundamentally, social. And social means—first and foremost—authentic and engaging.  A blog is personal for your business—a place to share your unique expertise, your unique product or services, and your unique point of view in a way that engages potential customers. If your company blog, instead, has canned content and the same posts as dozens of other businesses, it defies the very purpose of a blog and, worse, defines you to your potential clients as inauthentic… the kiss of death in a social world (online or otherwise).
Since I started consulting on social media three years ago, I’ve found that the most effective way to explain the ins and outs of this “new” digital form of communication is to show how it is so very similar to the age-old form of communication: in-person networking. So, first, imagine the blogosphere as a giant cocktail party where your key potential clients are mingling. Now, here's the equivalent of what happens when you have "canned" blog content:
  1. You (a.k.a your blog) introduce yourself to someone you’ve wanted to meet. As with all networking, you have only a very short window of time to connect with her, show your personality and let her know how and why your products or services are perfect for her. 
  2. You have a great dialogue (blog post) and walk away quite pleased. 
  3. She, in turn, walks away (surfs online) and meets another professional (aka another blog) in your same field. 
  4. That other professional introduces himself to your potential client… then proceeds to have exactly the same conversation (syndicated blog post) you just did. Verbatim. The exact same words, the exact same mannerisms, the exact same smiles and nods; all at exactly the same points in the conversation. “Creepy,” is her likely response, right? 
  5. Then, when she moves on and it happens three more times (syndicated blog posts), she’s likely to go running from the room, not trusting one word that any of you said. 
  6. A month later, when she needs expertise or wants to purchase the goods and services you offer, what is she going to do? Easy: she’s going to seek out someone authentic and genuine. Someone she can trust.
As a small business owner, you’re busy, so hiring someone to represent you is a great way to conduct business development. But it’s a pretty basic requirement that whomever you hire must understand your brand and services, and can represent them in a personal, genuine manner. You wouldn’t send a representative into a key trade show or networking event if he couldn’t speak personally about your business… or worse, if he was representing dozens of other businesses at the same time and simply regurgitating the same script about others as he is about you. The same standards must hold true for whomever you contract as a ghostwriter for your blog or other social media profiles.
The bottom line: networking in the digital realm isn’t something new, it’s just an online extension of networking in the “real” world. So, the same age-old rules apply: there’s the easy way of doing things. And then there’s the right way.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Weekly Round-up: January 30, 2012

McDonalds big fail; Jean Paul Gaultier's tribute through Couture; five skills for mastering the web; China's happy New Year and a luxurious read.  Here are some of the past week's top news stories concering PR, social media, and the luxury market.

Not all publicity is good publicity
McDonalds made headlines on Twitter for what is now being referred to as the "McFail." Originally intended as a positive marketing move, the company purchased #McDstories as the promoted trending topic on the twitter homepage. Unfortunately, twitter users had more negative stories to share than positive ones. I guess these people were not lovin' it.

A surprise ending in Paris
The 2012 Paris Couture fashion show debuted last week, and ended with a Jean Paul Gaultier collection inspired by Amy Winehouse, who died just 6 months prior.  Models rocked the late singer's signature 'bee-hive' hairstyle while walking to a live a capella version of Amy's very popular 'rehab' song.

Mastering PR
If you want to become "technologically savvy" dominating these 5 skills will guarantee to make you a more effective and efficient in public relations.

Year of the Dragon
The WLA - World Luxury Association - announced the top 100 most luxurious brands for 2012.  With this also came news of 2012's largest luxury market -- China. Quite the way to ring in the Chinese New Year.

The Pursuit of happiness
Magazine readers, look out for the newest addition to the Bloomberg family. It was announced that the company is launching a magazine dedicated to the luxury market.  A spin-off of Bloomberg market, Bloomberg Pursuits will focus on the best of the best in luxury -- everything from shoes to home decor. Editor for new magazine, Vince Bielski, commented on the magazines loyal readers and the enjoyment of life's finer things:
“Our readers don’t just own and appreciate luxury. They have a command and mastery of their toys”

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Wine Industry and the Digital Grapevine

Perhaps it was all the libations we enjoyed over the holiday stretch, or maybe even this beautiful 55-degree weather we’re experiencing in New England that’s made us take a quick mental vacation, but either way, we’ve got wine on the mind (Is it Friday yet?). This was the segue to our discussion of Rhode Island’s bountiful variety of vineyards… but why is it that we so rarely hear from them during the winter months? So we got to drinking, thinking… “How has the wine industry approached the realm of social media?”

For many wine enthusiasts, there is no greater pleasure than enjoying a vintage selection that has been aged to perfection. However, unlike the wine itself, there is no faux pas greater than a winery having a digital presence lay untouched over a long period of time.

If your internet curiosity has brought you this far, you need no explanation as to the potential power and reach of social media. A simple “if we build it, they will come” attitude toward your online presence does not a successful business make in the world of wine or any lifestyle category. A strategic balance of presence, participation & promotion has proven to be a successful business model for many wineries and vineyards, who, despite turbulent economic conditions, have remained on top of the industry.

Nationally, Duckhorn Vineyards and J. Lohr are a couple great examples, but you need not be a major brand to successfully utilize social media and digital marketing. Among our local wineries here in New England, we love Greenvale Vineyards. This small, family-owned winery in Rhode Island has a vibrant blog and engaging social media presence.

The true benefit of social media is its potential to create awareness of your brand, and do so in a way that enables prospective or existing consumers to engage and interact with it. Social media is about being social and—from wine enthusiasts sharing great finds to novices seeking out advice—the subject of wine is inherently social. We’ve seen this first-hand in working with French Wine Explorers—a boutique travel firm that specializes in luxury wine tours to France. Check out their Facebook page and blog to witness how the company uses social media to engage potential customers not only on their specific tours, but on the subject of wine in general.

A recent survey by winebusiness.com showed that the majority (59%) of visitors to wineries relied on word of mouth in planning their itinerary.

“Tapping into the “word of mouth” aspect of social media can be beneficial.”
- wine business

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter allow savvy wine industry businesses to not only promote their wines, vineyards or tours, but also to illustrate and share their expertise, thereby tapping into and forming relationships with a new, more extensive world of potential clients.

How do you interact with your current and potential? If you knew then what you know now, how would you restructure your digital presence?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Luxury market and sales strong for savvy high-end brands

Today, like every day after New Years for the past decade, I started the work year by researching luxury holiday sales. After a 2011 that overflowed with mind-numbing negativity in the media and among many high-end companies, I’m thrilled to report to the luxury industry: the sky may be a different shade of blue than you’ve seen before, but it most certainly is not falling.
As you’ve probably already heard, retail sales for the 2011 holiday season increased more than analysts anticipated. While the final numbers aren’t yet in, the increase is expected to be around 3.5% over the 2010 holiday season.
One of the strongest categories cited again and again in media reports? Luxury goods. Indeed, affluent American consumers (those with the top 10% of household incomes), who represent 35 percent of overall retail sales, are spending.
  • According to ABC News, luxury is on fire. They quote Howard Davidowitz, chairman of retail consulting and investment banking firm Davidowitz & Associates: "When we look at luxury sales on a national level, we see they're doing just fantastic. Saks and Neiman's, they're terrific. Coach is fine, Nordstrom is fine. Bulgari and Tiffany, tremendous." 
  • MSN, meanwhile reports: "'Twas the season when wealthy people unscrewed the vice clamps that had been on their wallets and decided to stimulate the economy. Tiffany and Coach were among the winners this holiday season, according to Jason Asaeda, retail analyst at S&P Capital IQ. He rates both as "strong buys" and points out that wealthy consumers are attracted to the exclusive merchandise being sold by department stores.”
  • NBC reports that luxury retailers like Chanel and Gucci reported better than brisk business this holiday season; Neiman Marcus sold out of the ten 2012 Ferrari sports cars it offered in its Christmas book of fantasy gifts for a whopping $395,000 each; and Saks Fifth Avenue reported a resurgence in full-priced selling. 
  • In a post holiday report, National Jeweler says that, for some independent fine jewelers, the end of the holiday season was strong enough to draw comparisons with post-recession seasons, while others reported that they saw fewer customers but that those who did come in made bigger purchases. 
  • In November, high-end department store sales rose 6.5 percent over the same period in 2010, compared to a 0.3 percent loss for mid-tier department stores, according to Bloomberg data.
  • According to Reuters, Wall Street analysts expect higher-end chains like Saks and Nordstrom to report strong seasonal sales, helped by the continued recovery of high end spending and a stock market that rebounded after swooning earlier in the fall.
So, while luxury shoppers are clearly not in hibernation, they are shopping differently than they traditionally have. For starters, online shopping hit a record a record $35.27 billion this holiday season, up 15 percent versus the corresponding period last year, according to comScore. This season also saw 10 days in which online sales surpassed $1 billion in one day. And, according to USA Today successful luxury goods firms are utilizing social media and digital marketing techniques to drive traffic and, ultimately, sales. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Business of Blogging

While I’m not big on traditional New Year's Resolutions, like many business owners, the start of a new year is a time for planning and, well, resolving to make my business more efficient and prosperous during the 366 days ahead. At Miamore Communications, we often get so focused on our clients’ marketing plans that we let our own flounder. One way I intend to maintain our own marketing is with a 2012 Miamore formal blogging calendar. I encourage you to do the same with your business blog—whether you operate B2B or B2C.
B2C companies that blog get 88% more leads/month than those that don't.
B2B companies that blog get 76% more leads/month than those that don't.*
Not surprisingly, from 2009 - 2011, the percentage rate of businesses that have a blog increased from 48% to 65%. A total of 85% of businesses consider their company blogs as useful and important to their business, and 27% of those who blog rated their blogs as critical to their business, according to WebSwagger.

Why are blogs so critical? For starters, they drive sales:
57% of companies using blogs reported that they acquired leads directly from their blogs.

72% of companies that blogged on a weekly basis found that they had received new business directly from their blog.*
Potential leads that convert into sales are the key incentive to blog, which leads us to our next point: An up-to-date blog also plays a key role in boosting that ever-elusive yet much sought SEO for companies.
Companies that blog have 55% more website visitors.*
This is because websites with blogs:
  • Show up in more search results for a wider range of queries/keyword searches
  • Attract more links: Inbound links raise the "SEO value" of your website
  • Attract social signals: "Share signals," such as Facebook Likes, Tweets, and Google pluses, indicate the popularity of a document to search engines, and they can boost rankings. 
Keeping all this in mind, now is the time to not just make a vague resolution to keep your blog fresh throughout 2012, but to create concrete plan to ensure its success, (even if your other resolutions fall into the 88% failure rate for New Years Resolutions!). That plan should include:
  • A proper place and format for your blog
    • Build your blog into your website to maximize SEO.
    • Incorporate your social media profiles into the blog
    • Provide readers tools to follow your blog, and to share your posts via email and social media
    • Create a format that illustrates your business: for example, if you are a designer, your blog should be highly visual
  • A schedule of blog days
    • Make blogging part of your weekly calendar to ensure that posts aren’t missed and content remains fresh
    • A calendar of blog post themes to include a variety of content that:
      • explains what you do
      • humanizes your work
      • avoids repetition
      • incorporates everything within your 2012 marketing plan
      • includes photos, graphs, or other visuals
  • The allocation of resources
    • Do you (or a key person on your staff) write well, understand how to write effective posts and—most importantly—have the time every week to write posts, maintain the blog, and respond in a timely way to comments?
    • Do you need a consultant/ghostwriter to create, execute and promote effective posts regularly, and to monitor the blog for comments and feedback?
  • A strategy to market your blog
    • Every blog post should be promoted via your other social media profiles (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
    • Incorporate your blog into your email marketing
    • Include your blog url in your email signature
Have your own experiences with business blogging? Please share them here. If you need more help with your 2012 blogging plan, contact me directly.

*research by Hubspot