It’s no secret that the success of most companies is influenced heavily by its connection, communication and trust with its community. Whether a group is connected through physical location or through digital mediums, successful community relations can enact change, boost employee accountability and engagement, lead to positive publicity and even increase revenue. Here are a few tips for developing a successful relationship with your organization’s target audience:

Be genuine

Can you imagine Philip Morris sponsoring a walk to end lung cancer? Of course not. While most cases aren’t as clear as this example, you do need to find charities or organizations that align with your company’s core values. In an ideal world, your employees should be involved in any outreach efforts, so make sure they are able to genuinely recognize and speak naturally about the connection between the business and the cause.

Be consistent

Effective connections with your community are not developed in a day; this takes time. Thus, gain trust through continued effort year after year. In doing so, you’ll also establish a culture of giving within your organization, which can lead to increase employee engagement and retention.

Be transparent

Any decision or issue that impacts the community should be openly communicated. This may take the form of town halls seeking feedback on a decision, events where local members can mingle with company representatives, social media outreach, or any other ways your company can reach out to target audiences. Change is inevitable and crises happen, but you’re sure to garner a more understanding response if you’ve built good will with the community through effective, transparent dialogue.

Community relations is more than simply sponsoring a race or volunteering a leader for a board member position. It’s a sustained and strategic effort that will elevate the company and enact good within the communities it serves. Wondering where to start? Give us a call.


Let’s be honest – even the mostly highly trained communications professionals still get nervous before an interview or a media relations appearance. Positive, “earned” media is as good as gold in the marketing communications world, but a fumble, an off-color joke or an out-of-context statement can quickly shift the conversation to uncharted territory. So what happens when you’re contacted by a reporter armed with hard-hitting questions? Here’s how you can make the most of the media interview/public relations opportunity you’re given.

Don’t go off the cuff

If you get an unexpected call from a journalist, don’t feel pressured to answer their questions right away. Politely ask the topic of the story and the timeline, then schedule the interview for a later date. Even if you know the topic well, you need time to research the news outlet and prepare. The reporter should respect your request. And if they don’t, simply say that you don’t have time to discuss the topic at this time but would be happy to follow up with an email response when you’re able.

Stick to message

Before you head into your interview, make a list of several points you want to get across in the interview. These should be simple, direct and relevant to the topic the journalist is covering. Be aware of trying to sneak in comments that are irrelevant or seem too “promotional”. If it’s an interview for a print news outlet, the journalist simply won’t include the comments; if it’s a TV or radio interview you might appear self-serving or desperate.

The messaging should also be free of jargon. Practice elaborating on your notable points without using industry lingo. This way, journalists are more likely to quote you rather than interpret your comments themselves.

Finally, remember that reporters love human-interest stories readers can easily relate to or connect with. So whether you’re addressing a crisis situation or simply sharing the history of your company – always focus on people!

Prepare several “no response” answers

There may be certain questions you simply can’t answer. Depending on the situation, consult with your legal and policy experts, as well as your marketing communications team, about what you’re allowed to address and what you need to avoid. Don’t allow reporters to pressure you into giving up information, even if they say they won’t attribute it to you. Additionally, never say “no comment”! Unfortunately, those two seemingly harmless words often imply guilt and can lead the journalist to make assumptions or fill in the blanks. Instead, have a few other canned responses prepared.

Respect the reporter

Finally, the journalist contacting you is probably on a tight deadline. Respect his or her time by responding in a timely manner and sticking to the topic at hand. If it’s applicable and relevant, suggest that the journalist utilize other sources from your organization to round out the story, and don’t be afraid to give them background information on your company’s internal processes (just know that it’s probably all on the record!).  And don’t forget to finish the interview with a warm “thank you!”

Media relations is an important part of growing your brand’s presence. And it’s one part of our many services here at Next-Mark! If you have a story to tell, let us know – we can help find the right news outlet, set up media interviews and hone your talking points.


Many viewers of Super Bowl 53 had the same overall impression – meh. The game was low-scoring, the ads weren’t altogether revolutionary, and the halftime performance led to quite a few not-so-kind memes online. And, as happens every year in the advertising world, many wondered whether the $5 million per 30 second commercial price tag was really worth the air time. Some traditional heavy hitters (we’re looking at you Doritos) took the plunge, while others opted for a more digitally focused campaign that utilized social media to reach audiences. Here are a few commercials that stood out in our minds, for better or for worse.

Most Timely:

Coke’s theme of unity and celebrating our differences was classic and appropriate for today’s volatile social environment. Opting for illustrations distinct from its typical commercials, Coke stood out from the crowd by echoing the company’s core values. However, while it was a winner all around, other ads generated more buzz online.


Had you aired the Zoë Kravitz ASMR for Michelob ULTRA commercial just a few years ago, viewers would have been left hopelessly confused. ASMR is a popular style of content on YouTube but, like most trends online, probably won’t be around for too long. Thus, this quirky ad probably won’t have the staying power of other commercials.

Most Forgettable:

Yawn. The Pringles’ commercial utilizing an Alexa-type device fell flat. The concept of mixing flavors is old news for the company and was a neutral, yet too safe a bet for the brand. The ad was easily overshadowed by other brands that opted for bolder choices.


Olay’s #KillerSkin ad featuring Sarah Michelle Gellar was a winner. Memorable, amusing and timely, this commercial has people in the industry talking. We love that the “story” can easily be translated to the online space and even extended to feature other situations as needed. It was also one of the few that included an easy-to-remember hashtag for quick sharing.

Most Star-Studded:

Pepsi went for star power with Steve Carell, Cardi B and Lil Jon in its “More than OK” ad. We shudder to think about the cost of the ad and, from our perspective, we’re not sure the price tag was worth the output. The commercial seemed a little too crowded and is the brand association with the word “OK” really beneficial? Another direction may have been a little more effective. Try again next year Pepsi.

Best Overall:

Bud Light once again didn’t fail to disappoint with its “Special Delivery” ad that soundly dissed its competitors’ use of high fructose corn syrup. It was humorous, well-branded and lit up the Twitter-verse. While the companies Bud Light called out attempted to respond online, their voices were drowned out by the loud praise for the commercial.

What did you think about this year’s lineup?

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.


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.


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!

What if your ideal consumer was able to interact with your product, marketing material and content – all in real time? Augmented reality is enhancing customer interaction in ways that have proven to be both effective and lucrative.

Let’s explore the fundamentals of AR and how it can be used to bolster digital marketing and communications.

AR vs. VR

While virtual reality diverts us from our world, augmented reality digitally enhances it. Users enter the realm of VR by wearing a video headset equipped with technology that creates a computer-generated simulation. While immersed in VR, you can explore space, float above the New York skyline, become a soldier on a battlefield and experience thousands of other scenarios — all from the comfort of your home. (Read our recent blog to learn how companies are engaging consumers with VR).

Augmented reality, on the other hand, integrates or “layers” digital enhancements on top of the user’s real world experiences. It is considered more accessible to the average consumer, as it can be accessed via smart phones, tablets and laptops.

Implementation and application

Not surprisingly, many companies realize the potential of this technology and have since incorporated it into their marketing strategies. Pepsi Max won awards for its creative implementation of augmented reality in its Unbelievable #LiveForNow campaign, which turned a tedious bus stop into a visual adventure. Space ships appeared in the London sky, creatures smashed through the sidewalk and a tiger plodded toward onlookers. While users may not have been fooled by the stunts, they were certainly impressed and entertained. The campaign has garnered national acclaim, generating nearly 8 million views on YouTube and thousands of social media comments, shares and engagements.

Ikea has also integrated augmented reality into their customer experience. The Ikea Place app enables furniture to virtually appear in a person’s own home, giving them a preview of how the piece would look in their space before purchasing it. This foray into augmented reality is a key example of how technology can be used to ease the purchasing process and drive sales. Ikea recognized an age-old problem with furniture buying and thus provided a truly innovative solution. 

Looking to the future

When executed effectively, augmented reality is a breath of fresh air for consumers inundated with print and digital advertisements. Rather than simply delivering a message, AR gives companies the opportunity to simplify processes, solve common problems and directly engage customers with their products. Customers also benefit from this exchange. Imagine virtually trying on clothes or testing a popular shade of lipstick, without having to step foot into a store. As the technology continues to develop and companies adapt to the expanded digital environment, expect the bridge between the digital world and the “real” world to magnify.

Looking for innovative marketing solutions? Give us a call and prepare for powerful results.


A dependable crisis communications plan is an anchor in a sea of instability. It aligns the response of an organization, provides step-by-step directions, offers essential resources and establishes roles and responsibilities. Recent gaffs that shook the stability of several large companies — from United Airlines’ violent removal of a passenger to Pepsi’s distasteful commercial — have highlighted the significance of a measured, strategic response. While some corporate reactions made the public wince, other organizations adroitly backpedaled with profuse apologies and promises of change. In the digital age, damaging incidences like these are amplified by the pervasive use of online social mediums. Now, traditional geographic barriers aren’t a hindrance to the spread of information and anyone armed with a smart phone can spark a wildfire response online. For communications professionals, time is a luxury we simply don’t have anymore and our ability to act quickly and strategically is paramount. Here are a few ways you can expand your crisis communications plan to ensure your organization uses digital channels to its advantage.

What you have: Key messages that can be tailored to the situation and the organization’s position. Messaging is a standard piece in crisis communications planning, and it gives representatives a foundation for content creation during an incident.

What you should add: An expanded set of content with short, preliminary responses that representatives from your organization can quickly push out online. A swift response, even if it’s simply a reassurance to the public that you’re investigating further and will have an official message soon, can help quell the spread of misinformation. Your organization will also appear proactive in investigating and remedying the situation. These responses should be developed for a number of scenarios, approved by senior leadership and included in your plan. So if an unfortunate circumstance erupts, a representative can make a quick recommendation for an initial response with one of the already-sanctioned messages.

What you have: Instructions for how to remote-access your company intranet portal and other secure documents. These guidelines ensure your communications teams can connect with the resources they need even if they aren’t at their workstations.

What you should add: Directions for posting on your numerous digital channels. A crisis rarely strikes at an “opportune” time when the office is fully staffed and at-the-ready. Don’t get stuck in a situation where you can’t access your online communications tools. In the event your social media and web experts are unavailable, there should be simple but detailed instructions for logging onto the organization’s digital channels and posting content. Make sure you specify the appropriate approval processes and, of course, all usernames and passwords should be stored in a secure space only accessible by a group of authorized users.

What you have: A triage plan for fielding media requests. One of the most crucial elements of a crisis is how the media reacts, and a plan for responding to inquiries from the press in a timely manner is the cornerstone of crisis response.

What you should add: Guidelines for video recording and live streaming on social channels. This strategy will certainly not be applicable for every situation, but outlining the protocols for uploading videos or streaming online should be included in your crisis plan. Consider a situation where your spokesperson is unable to meet with reporters, but needs to connect with audiences through more than a written memo. Employing video is simply another tool you can use to efficiently communicate and successfully control a disruptive situation.

The goals of any crisis communications situation are to ensure safety, manage organizational reputation, communicate effectively and prevent financial loss. In our 24/7 world, an active online presence is one way your organization can quickly respond and navigate through a crisis.

Over the years we’ve seen the latest and greatest technological advancements burst onto the advertising and communications scene.    Some stuck around through innovation and engagement, while others became stagnant and slowly faded into irrelevancy. (Remember    when every piece of printed material sported a QR code?)

Now, virtual reality, known as VR, is taking over. While our century’s re-invented virtual reality is still in its infancy, the technology is rapidly changing as more and more companies evolve its abilities for a better user experience. Today, brands are using VR to demonstrate          product value, share a message and connect users to their mission through immersive storytelling.

There’s no doubt that the virtual reality experience is cool — who wouldn’t want to float around in space or explore the streets of Manhattan from their coach? — but before incorporating VR into your next brand campaign, consider these tips:

Make sure it’s worth the cash

Developing content for virtual reality is time-intensive and costly. There are quite a few factors you should contemplate before you commit. You’ll need to develop 360° videos or create custom 3-D animation, both of which require special equipment and software.                    Outsourcing the work is another option that will drive up overall cost. Approach virtual reality as you would any other channel — in a strategic, thoughtful way. Make sure the technology enhances your brand’s message and personality, and that it will help you meet set objectives. If it doesn’t, ditch it for a more effective and less expensive medium.

Know your audience.

Is your target market forward-thinking millennials who will jump at the chance to interact with a shiny new gadget? Or are they less technologically savvy baby boomers? Consider whether their experience with virtual reality will be favorable or if it will it hurt their relationship with your brand. You need to have a firm understanding of your audience before asking them to interact with VR.

Think practically.

How will you get consumers to engage with your content? A pioneer of the virtual reality age, The New York Times sent more than 1 million Google Cardboards to its readers. Their app, which houses 360° videos, received nearly as many downloads. Lowe’s set up a virtual     reality experience room in a handful of their locations to entice visitors and increase in-store sales. What will be your technique to get consumers to engage with your VR content? Whether you’re supplying people with the right gear or targeting those who already have their    own, be purposeful in your approach.