As we dive into 2019, one thing is for certain: Social media is here to stay. While channels will continue to evolve and change, digital mediums are now infused into our social fabric. Although the negative aspects of sharing online will forever be debated, individuals rely on social media for news, engagement, suggestions, insights, connection and just plain fun.

Roughly two-thirds of all adults use Facebook, and an even greater number are streaming video content on YouTube. Newer channels like Instagram, Snapchat and others are also growing in popularity. Many companies have embraced this societal frontier and utilize it to successfully reach target audiences. Brands are now more than simply a logo on a billboard; they can develop unique personalities and followings online to sell products, share messages and impact the world.

Is your organization still new to social media? Here are some best practices to follow:

Be authentic:

Paid promotions and reviews are permeating social media, causing many audiences to mistrust companies online. Make sure interactions are sincere and any purchased product placements are disclosed. Your organization’s core values need to be reflected online.

Find your unique brand voice:

Quirky, cool, or educational – whatever voice you choose for your online brand, make sure it’s consistent. Audiences should be able to identify your content as distinct to your organization. Be sure to refine your messaging to reflect this consistency.

Take an innovative approach:

Distinguish your company from its competition by taking a fresh approach to its online presence. Just because something worked for a similar organization, doesn’t mean that it will (or should) work for your brand.

Be consistent with aesthetics:

As simple as it may seem, one of the factors that distinguishes a successful company from one that gets less engagement is look-and-feel. Choose colors, types of content and imagery in advance to make sure it’s a cohesive, branded visual. The goal is to have audiences view your content on different channels and know it came from your company.

Find the right medium:

Not every social media channel will be the right fit for every organization. Find suitable mediums based on the content you’ll be sharing, your target demographic and the amount of time required for successful implementation on each platform.

The bottom line:

Companies who are resistant to a digital presence are losing out on valuable customer interaction. Employ a strategic, comprehensive approach to best utilize social media platforms and you’ll see your company’s presence surge!

Is social media the next step for your company? Give us a call – we would love to share our insights at 941.544.2765. For more information on our capabilities, view our Online LookBook.

While digital strategy is a crucial part of most comprehensive communications campaigns, it’s important for marketing professionals to recognize that “traditional” mediums certainly can still be effective. Before we dive into why we think you shouldn’t ignore traditional media, let’s review the distinction between the two:

Traditional Communication Channels – Think magazines, newspapers, phone calls, brochures & other print collateral, guerrilla marketing, billboards, as well as good ol’ fashioned broadcast media.

Digital Communication Channels – This category encompasses any online activity including social media & other apps, websites, display advertising, e-newsletters, affiliate marketing and many more! Online communication continues to evolve and expand as more digital mediums are created.

Now, let’s explore the top two reasons why traditional mediums can help you share your message and reach your audiences.

1. Add a personal touch

As more and more advertisers are paying for online placement, opinions and reviews, audiences have become masters at recognizing when content isn’t authentic. Companies that personally connect with their customers are getting noticed. For example, when the new president at the University of Florida was hired, he went above and beyond to show students that the university cares about their well being. He’s been known to buy students Starbucks drinks during finals week and photo bomb graduation photos. These interactions were often shared online, but the interaction with students displayed a sense of authenticity often lost to many organizations. In the New Year, try to reach out to your audiences through a traditional channel – write a letter wishing your clients the best in 2019 or pick up the phone and give them a quick call to say you’re grateful for their business.

2. Go with a trusted source

While channels like Instagram and YouTube certainly boast impressive reach, traditional media is still viewed as an essential source for fact-based information. A recent Pew Research Center survey showed that 47% of Americans still prefer watching the news rather than listening or reading it. Considering how many online articles rely on shock value headlines to garner clicks with little if any valuable content, it’s no wonder that many people still turn on their television! Thus, targeted TV interviews, advertisements and other broadcast media outreach can still be strategic, as least for the time being.

As always, keep in mind that every tactic should fit into a larger communications plan! A combination of both traditional and “new” media is generally the best route. If you need help figuring out the best way to reach your audiences, give us a call.

 

Planning is critical in any business. In marketing, it’s also important to have the right tools in place to transform plans into a solid strategy with tactics that propel your business forward. So, as we look at trends driving marketing communications in 2019, keep your own toolbox in mind, tossing the now obsolete and adding new devices.

1. Refreshing Your Brand: Self-Evaluation

One of the key ways we serve our clients is by helping them to understand their brand – as it was, is and should be. While we’ve been doing this for years, experts report that this concept is taking a stronger hold recently, especially in the B2B realm. The process involves creating or re-evaluating the core brand promise and developing a messaging strategy that demonstrates what that company is today. It’s an inward look at what the rest of the world sees and, from our experience, it can be quite eye-opening.

2. Marketing in the Palm of Your Hand Social Media Still Reigns

Social networking apps have become one of marketing’s most powerful forms of outreach for both content and advertising. Offering a fast track to customer engagement and brand loyalty, apps like Instagram also promise an attractive ROI. Though a simple process, presence on these networks does require a high degree of creativity to draw attention, maintain contact and engage with followers. Strategic planning to grow a profile’s following is also a necessity. In 2019, we can expect to see newer apps like Vero burst onto the scene and potentially dethrone some of the powerhouse social media mediums that have dominated the market this year.

3. Embracing Influencer Marketing: Authenticity is a Priority

Social media is by far the most popular channel for Influencer Marketing, which entails building relationships with others who can connect you to your target market. An influencer is simply someone who has a large following on social media and other digital platforms, and can affect the purchasing decisions of their fans. Seen to be a perfect tool for today’s ad-weary consumers, Influencer Marketing can add authenticity to brand communications and strategy. We predict that companies in the New Year will focus less on simply the number of followers an influencer has, and more on whether the individual is a good fit for the brand and campaign. Veracity will always be valued be social media consumers.

4. Focusing on The Few: Account-Based Marketing

Account-Based Marketing concentrates resources and effort on a limited set of carefully chosen target accounts, and has brought a personal touch to business-to-business (B2B) marketing. Based on the needs of each individual prospect or customer in that set, Account-Based Marketing drives customized campaigns designed to speak specifically to them. Admittedly, it’s harder than sending a blast email. However, reports show that nearly 85 percent of marketers measuring ROI say that Account-Based Marketing outperforms other marketing spends – and 50 percent say the difference is significant.

5. Seeing is Believing: Video Will Continue to Grow and Flourish

Video content, which currently makes up 75 percent of internet traffic, is expected to grow to a whopping 82 percent by 2021, according to Cisco’s annual Visual Network Index forecast. A powerful tool in story telling, motivating, entertaining and relationship building, video is poised to continue dominating digital marketing. Here, again and of course, creativity is essential, as the point isn’t just to sell but to create bonds that last.

What Else is on the Horizon? 

While we’ll stop here, there are few other things to put on your “watch” list as 2019 brings another year of business opportunity.

  • Continue High-Quality Content: Having the information customers/prospects need builds trust and relationships.
  • Know Your Audience(s): Despite the power of individual transmission outlets, you still have to deliver information the way they want to receive it.
  • Think Strategically: You have the content and the means to convey it, but it will go nowhere without a strategy behind it.
  • Make Contact: Technology and automation are wonderful things, but they can’t build relationships as strong as those forged with a personal touch.

Are you considering an image refresh for your company? Rebranding can benefit organizations of all sizes, signifying evolution and intent. Whether you want to change the perception of your brand, attract a new audience or simply increase sales, make sure your efforts are strategic. Although image updates can be time-intensive and costly, if executed correctly your efforts will pay off in the long run. Before you rush into a rebrand, it’s important to ask yourself these questions:

Is your target market changing?

Stagnant sales often lead companies to turn their attention to new audiences, leading to a necessary image refresh. Old Spice is a great example of how rebranding can peak interest in a new demographic. Traditionally seen as a brand for older customers, Old Spice launched a marketing campaign featuring Isaiah Mustafa. The ads were amusing, quippy and somewhat strange — appealing to the humor of a much different generation. As a result, the campaign went viral, sales spiked and younger consumers began reaching for Old Spice.

Have your offerings expanded?

As your company grows, it will undoubtedly begin expanding its offerings to increase revenue. Does your current message and branding reflect this growth? Your image should evolve to demonstrate the company’s focus and inform both new and existing customers.

Does your aesthetic look outdated?

Consider the evolution of design in all aspects of society, from clothing styles to interior design trends. We even have a “color of the year” that inspires designers everywhere, until a new shade kicks it out of the top spot 12 months later. The point? Aesthetics change and your brand can quickly appear outdated if it doesn’t evolve. Consider Taco Bell’s growth from a logo sporting bright colors and exaggerated fonts to a more on-trend, minimal style. The company recognized that their brand was obsolete and opted for a refresh.

Will a rebrand fit into a larger strategic plan?

Rebranding is more than simply changing your logo. Take a critical look at your messaging, website, outreach, buyer persona, brand personality, internal communications strategy and organizational goals. These all have to align with your new visual strategy for a rebrand to be successful. Consistency across mediums and messaging is key!

So before you launch headfirst into a rebrand, do your research. Or better yet, let us do it for you! Give us a call to see if crafting a fresh identity is the right move your company.

  

Today, the compilation of accurate data about customers and competitors is an indispensable tool for any organization. We understand that the process of conducting market research can often appear overwhelming, however, the dividends it yields are priceless. With that being said, here are five reasons why market research is a must for business success.

  1. It Elevates your Messaging and Communication

All too often, companies find themselves talking at consumers rather than to them. There’s a big difference. Market research is an invaluable and effective way to test concepts and key messages to evaluate those customers and prospects relate to best. With this information in hand, you can create content that resonates and determine how best to get that content to the people who matter.

  1. It Can Optimize Your Brand Strategy and Positioning 

Every company’s goal is to position itself uniquely in the marketplace in a way that puts them ahead of the competition. Quantitative and qualitative marketing research can be used to identify where your brand is positioned compared to your competitors, what metrics you should be tracking over time and what brand benefits matter most to your target market.

  1. It Fosters Better Decision Making

In today’s rapidly shifting market landscape, the ability to make effective data-driven decisions is crucial for all business operations. Having the right information at your fingertips can help you go forward with confidence, validating what you know to be true and minimizing the risk of getting it wrong.

  1. You Gain Better Insight on Target Customers

 One of the biggest returns you get from effective market research is that it compels you to actively listen and to engage with your customers on a personal level. This in turn enables you to more accurately assess their needs and identify potential holes in customer satisfaction so you can make necessary adjustments to better serve them. Significantly, when you can communicate at this level, it shows you not only know your customers and prospects but you also respect them, not wasting their time with incessant and unnecessary communications.

  1. It Allows You to Remain Relevant and Future Focused

You may be familiar with the phrase “adapt or perish.” This can certainly apply to businesses and brands, as well as individuals. Conducting regular market research helps ensure that your brand stands the test of time, looking past short-term gain and evolving as necessary to survive and prosper.

In the modern global market, marketing research is not only useful but essential. Put it at the top of your marketing to-do list. Trust us, you’ll be glad you did.

As social and political issues overwhelm the media, companies are working harder than ever to cut through the clamor and grab the attention of their desired consumers. Interestingly, this cacophony has led to the liberation of graphic design. Visual marketing and advertising trends soaring in popularity are perhaps best characterized by a feeling of daring independence — strict structures are crumbling, wacky effects reign supreme and colors are flashier and louder than ever!. Graphic designers seem to have gone back to their roots as artists, experimenting and mutating previously worn-out practices.

Let’s explore some of these trends that, in some ways, are giving voice to the myriad emotions felt by many around the world.

Distorted effects
Think overlapping images, multiple light sources and “glitching” photos. Known as distorted effects, these design features are coloring everything from movie posters to retail advertisements. The result is a gritty image that can feel dark and somewhat ominous. However, when paired with bright colors it can exude a modern, edgy appeal.

Creative use of negative space

Even the use of negative space — the blank area surrounding an object — is being elevated in 2018. Negative space is often hailed as the most important part of an image, and traditionally it has been used to draw viewers to a focal point. However, graphic designers are once again flipping the script on this institution. Now, we’re seeing images merge with negative space to create a secondary feature that not only attracts the eye, but also inspires the imagination.

Broken, or cropped typography

Utilizing negative space has also proved popular in typography. It’s tough to erase parts of letters, or space them far apart and on multiple lines, while maintaining readability. When utilized correctly, however, the treatment can entice viewers to take a little more time and absorb the piece. The effect is futuristic and can be worth the risk when applied in the right context.

Bright colors and gradients

This year, muted colors are being shoved to the side by vibrant, bold palettes that shout for attention. We see this visual particularly being used in gradients, with colors gradually transforming and shifting into each other. Designers are also using this effect to incorporate various shapes and textures, creating an interesting visual that can benefit companies with a playful, lively brand personality.

Although these trends certainly won’t work for all businesses or industries, brands looking to garner attention can benefit by giving their designers freedom to break away from the traditional mold and draw outside the lines, both literally and figuratively. However, companies also need to evaluate the longevity of these trends and whether they fit with their mission, vision and values.

Are you contemplating a visual refresh? Give us a call and let’s talk.

 

 

 

 

When we hear from a client who refers to us as their partner, we take it personally. That’s because a true partnership infers ideals and concepts we value. To us, partnership means:
  • Effective collaboration with constructive give and take. Client insights into their own businesses and markets are prized pieces of the puzzle when creating high-return campaigns. Likewise, our insights into marketing techniques and trends are necessary to complete the picture. It takes both perspectives.
  • Respect for each other’s unique skills and knowledge. Good partners have complementary talents and mutual admiration.
  • Open exchange of ideas and concerns. It is important that strong opinions not go unexpressed. Healthy exchange is the cornerstone of creative conversation.
  • Support for each other’s success. True partnerships are a bond that buoys each participant to be better.
  • Help through challenges. Problem-solving is a team sport, and effective partnerships are a catalyst for resolution.
  • Reliability and trust. Knowing you can depend on your partner to come through reduces anxiety and enables you to concentrate on your own duties and workload.
  • Responsible use of resources and respect for each other’s time. The best partnerships stand firmly on integrity and consideration.
  • Shared passion and commitment to achieving goals. Excitement and dedication fuel mutual success.
  • Being each other’s champion. Everybody needs a steadfast friend – and cheerleader.
  • Truth in all things. Partnerships require honesty. It’s critical that all participants work with the truth – and the same truth – for any endeavor to be successful.
Most importantly for us is being the type of partner the individual client needs, working to create the specific relationship that brings the most value to them. There’s a lot involved, but also a lot to gain in building a lasting partnership.

It’s easy to focus solely on external marketing — after all, businesses need to satisfy current customers and garner new clients to remain profitable. However, internal communication is paramount to engage personnel, stimulate positive behaviors and support marketing objectives with other audiences.  Here are a few reasons why employee communication is more important than ever:

Aligns Messaging

Think of everyone who works for your company as an unofficial spokesperson; the knowledge they share can help fuel sales or improve experiences for customers. This is particularly important in large, service-oriented companies where employees of all levels continually interact with clients (think of a hospital or chain of coffee shops). When employees are informed and engaged, they are more likely to be positive brand ambassadors. They’ll speak highly of your organization, share exciting information with friends, families and customers, and help advance communications goals.

Retains Talent

The days of employees staying at one job for 20+ years are over. Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce and research shows that they are nearly three times more likely to switch companies than any other age group. Avoid costly turnover and boost retention with strategic internal communication efforts.

Here are a few ways to engage your employees, help them feel emotionally connected to their work and ensure they will stick around for the long run. As always, strategies and tools will vary depending on the size of your organization.

  • Maintain an employee intranet with news and updates
  • Develop a printed publication featuring employee accomplishments and impact
  • Send out a regular newsletter with need-to-know information
  • Create recognition programs that connect employees with leadership

Garners Fresh Ideas and Perspectives

Use internal communication tools to invite feedback from your workforce. When you encourage employees to voice their opinions anonymously, you’re able to validate direction and use their responses as an important step in the research process. Whether you’re testing messaging, trying out a new website feature or deciding which topics to focus on in a publication, establishing a dialogue with your employees is a great way to encourage collaboration.

When executed strategically, internal communication can help advance organizational objectives and equip employees with the information they require to remain connected and devoted to your company. Do you need help launching an employee communications program? Let us help you get started!

Providing valuable, digestible content to consumers in order to build brand affinity is hardly a new marketing device, so why are some marketers struggling to craft killer content and effective creative assets?

While it may differ from marketer to marketer, one of the key problems we see is related to organization and planning. Part of the problem lies in the fact that many organizations lack a standardized framework, one that breaks content development into clearly defined stages of completion.

Thus, below we have outlined five important steps every marketer should take when developing a new piece of content.

  1. Start with a Creative Brief

Crucial for the beginning of a new project, especially if there are multiple parties involved, a clearly organized creative brief is quintessential to the success of every new content project. Not only does it ensure everyone is on the same page, but once approved this then will become a working document that provides guidance to all parties on the overall communications objective of the asset being developed.

  1. Develop an Outline

Once you have a creative brief that is approved by all parties, you can then provide a copy outline to include an overview by section with bullets along with other salient points, fact-based items and other content that should be included.

  1. Complete a Working draft

After a copy outline is developed, a working draft is then completed, and sent to internal or external reviewers for feedback. This draft might include multiple options for headlines, copy points and the overall content layout direction.

  1. Begin the Editing Phase

Any good content marketer knows that editing is a critical part of the process. Thus, once you have feedback on the working draft, it is important to then to work with the client through a few rounds of edits (we recommend no more than three) until approval is reached.

  1. End with a Visual Context Review

If you are adding graphic elements to the content asset, this is the last step. Once the approved draft is in design, we recommend then smoothing out the overall copy in a design context for flow and fit within the designed asset.

Need help with your content strategy? We would love to assist. Give us a call at 941.929.3104 or visit our website.

Your company is suddenly mired in a negative situation with potentially serious repercussions. While a chill grasps your heart, a slew of questions assault your brain. What’s your first step? Who are the decision makers? When and how should you respond to the media? Who should do it? Then what?

Most organizations likely will be confronted with some sort of a crisis communications challenge, whether internally or externally. With thorough preparation and an efficient response, however, you will be able to shape the appropriate, successfully navigate challenging times and maybe even come out the better for it.

Following are some core principles of crisis communications. The biggest takeaway, however, is this: Be prepared. That is, don’t wait for a disaster to strike. Look deep into the organization, acknowledge vulnerabilities and honestly confront them. Time-consuming? Yes. Painful? Most certainly? Necessary? Absolutely.

C – Choose the Right Tools
While the resources you employ will differ with each situation, make sure you always have: a core team of leaders to vet strategies, share insight and provide approvals; established communications channels and methods through which you’ll relay messages to internal and/or external audiences; and a messaging document approved by leadership and stakeholders. Other tools, such as support resources for staff, can be added as necessitated by the crisis.

R – Reveal the Facts
Before you act, you need to assess the particular situation to fully understand the crisis at hand. Knowledge is power, and gathering intelligence is crucial to your success. Fully understanding the facts, the players involved and any outside influences will help you objectively create meaningful conversation and collaboration. Once the facts are gathered, you’ll need to develop a communications strategy to address the issue in a timely manner.

I – Instill Trust and Tell the Truth
Demonstrating your ability to objectively listen and make informed decisions in a crisis communications situation will develop trust, both within your organization and with the public. If you respect each internal and external stakeholder’s position and perception of the situation, you are more likely to resolve the issue in an expedient and proficient manner. This also will ensure that you address all concerns and offer timely, effective and valid solutions that will cultivate sustainable results.

You don’t have to share every irrelevant detail, but what you say must be the truth. If you don’t know what that truth is yet, say so. Don’t guess. There’s usually no going back once you’ve said the wrong thing – intentionally or unintentionally.

S – Streamline Processes
Crises easily can get worse, so you’ll need to act fast. Make sure every step of your reaction plan is concise, clear and detailed. Each person involved should be aware of his or her responsibilities, the actions they need to take, to whom they will report and whom they should or shouldn’t contact. Checklists are an efficient way to keep team members on track. Craft your media responses in advance, even if the chance of reporter inquiries is small; if the issue does make it into the spotlight, you’ll be able to respond quickly and consistently.

I – Institute Change
Your job isn’t over when the media moves on to the next story. Crises test core organizational responses, procedures and culture, and it’s a communicator’s job to help drive transformational growth. Debrief after the event to address and identify issues that emerged. Consider alternative scenarios and establish effective action plans that address weaknesses.

S – Sustain Confidence
As an organization, it’s important to follow through on promises made during a crisis. Committing to needed change and effectively communicating it to the audiences involved can instill trust and restore confidence in your company.

There is so much more involved, of course, and so many specifics among the generalities.

Preparing for, and learning from, crisis communications situations benefit us as professional communicators, leaders and team members in any organization. Though crises always will impose an element of chaos, preparation and a solid communications plan provide the anchor you need to make the right decisions and create the groundwork to sustain the conversation and continuously grow.

Contact us for additional insight into how your organization can successfully and effectively manage crisis situations.