Internet Marketing Services, Wilmington NC

man woman hands holding broken heartI’m breaking up with Facebook. Like most superficial romances, the infatuation has worn off. I hope the PR & Marketing police don’t come and drag me off to rehab for my subversive ways. But I’m just tired of it. I quit posting to my Facebook page about six months ago. And I quit even looking at Facebook for updates about a month or so ago. And you know what? My life and my career are doing just fine, thank you.

About a year or more ago, the angst set in. I felt overexposed and under-rewarded. I do enjoy keeping up with my nieces and nephews across the country and I love keeping tabs on some high school friends I’ve reconnected with. But even they have begun to temper their activity online. Maybe we all are feeling the same sense of Facebook ennui.

It’s interesting that this sense of malaise coincides with Facebook’s IPO. It will be interesting to watch how this revolutionary technology evolves. Will it go the way of the 1990s dot coms or will it emerge into something truly valuable that its 850 million members can’t live without? Only time will tell. But you won’t hear about it on MY Facebook page.

Excuse while I go do something vastly more rewarding than spending time on Facebook. Like playing Words with Friends or reading a book — on my Kindle Fire.

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images9Everyone is well conditioned to jump into action when a crisis erupts. But what about when an issue is simply brewing on the horizon? Two thirds of all crises never need to reach crisis stage and could be prevented if a communications plan had been initiated when the problem was still an issue. Issues management is one of the most important aspects of corporate communications, but unfortunately, one of the most overlooked.

What is issues management? Issues management involves identifying and addressing threats to an organization’s ability to conduct business. These threats could include public policy, financial resources, competitor activities, legal threats, industry trends, investor relations, industry activists, etc. Any of these threats can damage a company’s reputation and its ability to attract customers and maintain profitability.

For the PR practitioner, issues management requires the skills and judgement of a seasoned professional. It’s risky business. Issues are unpredictable and demand flexibility in strategy and response. Things rarely go as planned. Clients are often uncooperative. It’s human nature to avoid confrontation and it can be difficult to get decision-makers to take corrective action and get in front of an issue before it transforms into a crisis.

But woe to those who don’t heed the warnings — an issue can quickly ignite a crisis if ignored or downplayed.

Here are some tips for initiating an effective issues management program:

1. Identify threats to your business and corporate reputation — develop procedures for identifying issues on an ongoing and consistent basis.

2. Analyze and prioritize threats

3. Develop strategies and action steps to mitigate threats

4. Monitor and adapt strategies as needed

5. Involve issues management professional in every step of the process to ensure strategies enhance your corporate reputation.

Well-intentioned leaders often exacerbate an issue by taking actions before fully evaluating the potential public relations consequences. That’s why it is critical to have a seasoned PR professional involved in issues management and strategic planning at all times. Issues management is a process that demands cooperation and collaboration across teams and departments.

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Reprinted from CNN.com.

There’s no denying the cultural impact of Facebook. It has united almost 700 million people, including most of you reading this, becoming the greatest social introduction platform the world has ever seen.

But there are also some recent signs of “Facebook fatigue.” There is only so much you can do to socialize online, especially after you’ve exhausted your friend list. Some people also complain they’re spending so much time on Facebook that they’re short-changing the rest of their lives.

Evidence suggests a small but increasing number of users — at least in North America, where Facebook use is especially saturated — may be shunning the site. The site lost more than 7 million active users in the United States and Canada last month, according to data from the blog Inside Facebook, although Facebook disputes those figures.

Others are consciously reducing the time they spend on the site.

“I figured out that I wouldn’t look back as an old man and wish I had spent more time on Facebook,” says David Cole, an IT manager from Boston. Cole said he believes the popular social-networking site is a useful tool, but not a replacement for what he calls “realbook” experiences.

“Instead of working on an essay, I would waste time browsing people’s walls,” says Kip Krieger, a college student from Virginia, who like Cole has consciously reduced how much time he spends on Facebook.

On top of that, Facebook has become predictable, Krieger says.

“It’s really gotten to a point where I know pretty much what my friends are going to post. They usually just write the same thing over and over again, and I am getting sick of that.”

Joshua DeRosa, a Salt Lake City graphic artist and former Facebook user, agrees.

“I don’t need to see pics or hear updates about people’s babies,” he says. “I know what babies look like, and while you might think what Junior did was the cutest thing ever, I couldn’t care less.”

Others contacted for this story say constant status updates may inadvertently discourage more meaningful and sensory interactions that can only take place offline.

“My mom quit Facebook because she wanted us to call her on the phone and see her in person more,” says a 29-year-old Provo, Utah, man who wishes to remain anonymous.

Maybe mother knows best. “It’s working,” he says.

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I was interviewed yesterday about what type of crisis management strategies  Assistant Coach G.A. Magnus and University of South Carolina should employ to rebound from Magnus July 26 arrest for public nuisance when caught urinating outside a bar at 1:30 a.m. in Greenville, SC. Click on link below to view segment.

WLTX-TV segment on Crisis Management for Mangus

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Throughout my 25+ year career as a PR and marketing specialist, I have worked with a wide variety of companies to assist them in developing effective marketing campaigns to boost sales and grow their businesses. My first step in these endeavors is to identify the company’s brand platform. What does the brand stand for?  What is the brand mission? What are the company’s values? What is the brand positioning? More often than not, clients (even company presidents of large corporations) do not have good answers to these questions. Most of us are so busy running our business that we unfortunately don’t take the time to create a solid brand platform on which to rest the company’s growth and success.

Here’s a quick summary of the five elements of a successful brand platform. Before launching any marketing initiatives, take time to build your platform. It is well worth the effort and time.

Every strong brand sits upon a platform comprised of five fundamentals:

  1. Mission
  2. Vision
  3. Values
  4. Personality
  5. Positioning

security_blocks1Mission

A mission statement describes a company’s fundamental purpose. It answers the question, “Why do we exist?”

Vision

A vision statement describes a company’s dreams and hopes for the future. The vision statement answers the question, “Where do we want to go?”

Values

Core values are principles that guide employees’ conduct with internal and external audiences. Values impact every aspect of your organization:

  • Personal work behaviors
  • Decision-making
  • Interpersonal interaction
  • Ability to prioritize
  • Success – employees who embody values are rewarded, recognized and promoted

Value examples (do not choose more than 6 — 3 to 5 is optimal):

  • Ambition
  • Integrity
  • Fun
  • Teamwork
  • Quality
  • Learning
  • Compassion

Although these are very important, these are not values:

  • Family (value = close relationships)
  • Church (value = spirituality)
  • Professionalism (value = integrity)

Personality

Brand personality is the attribution of human personality traits to define a brand’s core attributes and characteristics. Examples: creative, warm, friendly, sophisticated, fun, etc.

Positioning

Definition:  A brand positioning statement is a succinct description of how your brand meets the needs of your customers in a unique way that provides real value and is not easily replicated by your competitors.

Purpose:

A positioning statement focuses your marketing strategy by acting as a barometer for marketing decisions. Decisions on how to promote the brand (everything from company name to advertising) should be judged by how well they support the brand positioning.

Structure:

The four elements of a positioning statement include:

  1. Target audience
  2. Business description
  3. Points of differentiation
  4. Credibility – reason to believe

Template:

For (target audience), Talk, Inc. is the (business description) that delivers (points of differentiation) because only Talk, Inc. (reason to believe).

Sample:

For B2B businesses in North and South Carolina, Talk is a marketing communications agency that combines expertise in PR, crisis management, graphic design and Internet marketing to craft strategic campaigns that win. Talk is unique in its use of a proven, 4-step process that helps businesses grow, navigate change and mitigate threats.

How to evaluate a positioning statement:

  • Is it memorable, motivating and focused on your core audience?
  • Does it provide a distinctive and meaningful picture of the brand that differentiates
  • it from the competition?
  • Can the brand own it?
  • Is it credible and believable?
  • Does it enable growth?
  • Does it serve as a filter for marketing strategy?

I routinely host workshops to assist companies in crafting brand platforms. To learn more about how Talk can help your company, call me at 910-371-9770.

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talkpr_camdenTHERE are plenty of studies which show that dogs act as social catalysts, helping their owners forge intimate, long-term relationships with other people. But does that apply in the workplace? Christopher Honts and his colleagues at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant were surprised to find that there was not much research on this question, and decided to put that right. They wondered in particular if the mere presence of a canine in the office might make people collaborate more effectively. And, as they told a meeting of the International Society for Human Ethology in Madison, Wisconsin, on August 2nd, they found that it could.

To reach this conclusion, they carried out two experiments. In the first, they brought together 12 groups of four individuals and told each group to come up with a 15-second advertisement for a made-up product. Everyone was asked to contribute ideas for the ad, but ultimately the group had to decide on only one. Anyone familiar with the modern “collaborative” office environment will know that that is a challenge.

Some of the groups had a dog underfoot throughout, while the others had none Tramadol. After the task, all the volunteers had to answer a questionnaire on how they felt about working with the other—human—members of the team. Mr Honts found that those who had had a dog to slobber and pounce on them ranked their team-mates more highly on measures of trust, team cohesion and intimacy than those who had not.

In the other experiment, which used 13 groups, the researchers explored how the presence of an animal altered players’ behaviour in a game known as the prisoner’s dilemma. In the version of this game played by the volunteers, all four members of each group had been “charged” with a crime. Individually, they could choose (without being able to talk to the others) either to snitch on their team-mates or to stand by them. Each individual’s decision affected the outcomes for the other three as well as for himself in a way that was explained in advance. The lightest putative sentence would be given to someone who chose to snitch while the other three did not; the heaviest penalty would be borne by a lone non-snitch. The second-best outcome came when all four decided not to snitch. And so on.

Having a dog around made volunteers 30% less likely to snitch than those who played without one. The moral, then: more dogs in offices and fewer in police stations.

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images8I love it when PR folks coin a catchy phrase that succinctly captures a cultural phenomenon. “Badvocates,” attributed to Elizabeth Rizzo at Weber Shandwick, are people who stand on a virtual soapbox to criticize or detract from companies, brands or products. Simply put, they’re brand bashers. And left unchecked, they can unravel your company’s reputation — and bottom line — quicker than a jaguar in a yarn shop.

Thanks to the pervasiveness of the Internet and smart phones, consumers can voice their good and bad opinions about your company with just the touch of a button. And badvocates are passionate naysayers. They like to voice their criticisms early and often to whoever will listen. According to Weber Shandwick, badvocates represent 20 percent of adults online worldwide. And each badvocate reaches an average of 14 people. Yikes.

When people are unhappy, they vent their anger quickly — and most often, they vent online. Badvocates’ brand-bashing can get circulated around the globe within minutes. If your company is not actively listening to what’s being said online, you may be caught off guard by the media, customers and competitors who won’t hesitate to escalate the brand-bashing. Monitoring the online conversation can be educational as well. Badvocates often have legitimate gripes that if addressed, can help you strengthen your product line and maybe even turn that naysayer into a brand advocate.

The bad news about badvocates is that they typically control the conversation online and in mainstream media. Why? Because they are more proactive, passionate and prolific than their corporate targets. To mitigate badvocates’ impact, corporate America needs to step up communication efforts and prepare for disaster rather than wait for it to strike. Paul Barsch wrote a great blog for Marketing Profs in which he bemoans that too many businesses shelve or discard “’soft stuff’ such as brand management, press relations, crisis communications and the like . . . in favor of “just-in-time” strategies.”

The problem with the just-in-time approach is that it’s just too late. Restoring a reputation is significantly more difficult, expensive and time-consuming than protecting one. To make sure your business is well protected from the badvocates, consider launching a reputation “wellness” campaign. When it comes to reputation management, an ounce of prevention is worth at least a pound of cure.

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images7A blog posted today by Crisisblogger Gerald Baron attributed “Toxic Talk” as one of many reasons public opinion about BP and its handling of the oil spill response has been so . . . toxic.

Toxic Talk, as defined by Baron, is the lack of civility and decency in public discourse. “It’s a sad part of our culture,” he says, “but it contributes to an overall attitude of animosity, venom and cultural dis-ease.” Today, when bad and tragic events occur, the public - and by extension, the media - gets incensed and needs someone to blame, shame and crucify.

Weber Shandwick, one of the leading global PR firms with offices in 76 countries, just published a nationwide study entitled “Civility in America.” Of the more than 1,000 adults surveyed, 94% said they consider the general tone and level of civility in the country today to be a problem; 65% said it was a “major” problem. Here are some additional findings:

  • 72% attributed the worsening of civility in recent years to the financial crisis and recession.
  • The top 5 uncivil elements in American society today are
  1. Government/politics (72%)
  2. Traffic on roads/highways (69%)
  3. American public (61%)
  4. Talk Radio (59%)
  5. High schools HGH (59%)

Who’s responsible for putting a stop to all this nastiness? Survey says:

  • American public (87%)
  • Political leaders (83%)
  • News media (81%)
  • Business/companies (79%)
  • Places of worship (76%)

So what impact does incivility have on Americans?

Unfortunately, it is causing people to tune out some of our most important sources of information, like government and the media. To address the issue, Weber Shandwick offers the following five solutions to employ both online and offline.

  • CEOs should set an example
  • Tame your “badvocates” by monitoring and mitigating
  • Be civil in your social media discourse; create and adhere to codes of conduct
  • Media needs to curb incivility in discourse and reporting
  • Use advertising to influence; punish uncivil ads with fines and withhold ad buys from uncivil programs and websites

According to the Weber Shandwick study, it appears that politicians, business leaders and the media all have a very important role to play in helping our country learn how to put the civil back in civilization. I couldn’t agree more. When, how and if this happens remains to be seen, but I doubt it will occur while the oil is still flowing into the Gulf.

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In denial about the impact of social media in today’s world? Just take a look at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. interndiaries2

Social Media sites like Facebook and Twitter have seen epic numbers ever since the World Cup’s start on June 11th, where web traffic peaked at about 12.1 million visitors per minute.

Twitter saw its biggest numbers yet when on June 14th users sent out 2,940 tweets per second when Japan scored against Cameroon, and then again on June 24th during Japan’s victory over Denmark where the site received 3,283 tweets per second. Twitter normally only receives 750 tweets per second. When the U.S. team advanced into the next round on June 23rd tweets about the epic event dominated 80% of Twitter’s hot topics.

Facebook has been seeing the big numbers too. On June 12th when the U.S. played England, over 30% of all status updates referred to the match. Facebook also has been partnering up with ESPN and Univision through its Facebook Connect feature which tracks elements like “fan intensity” and allows people watch the game online to chat with other viewers (a feature I myself used on June 23rd when the U.S. played Algeria, and I must say it is quit cool)

Other social media features include specific Foursquare badges for users that check-in to over 100 viewing venues in 32 countries around the World. As well as Twitters most popular hashtag yet, #Worldcup which receives hundreds of tweets per minute.

Businesses are catching on to the World Cup social media buzz as well. Many advertisers are promoting their twitter and Facebook accounts rather than their own web pages, because social-media sites provide more impact.

All of this illustrates how important and useful social media is, especially in international business and communication. Social media is more personal and makes quick responses easier, resulting in important dialogue. You can start to see the results of a campaign done online in a matter of minutes, and “retweets” and “Facebook shares” are now important numbers in marketing.

Companies are taking note now, but will this hype keep up even after the World Cup winner is crowned? We can only hope.

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micahtopdogMicah, a six year-old Shih-tzu owned by Kenny and Elizabeth Barnes of Wilmington, took “Top Dog” honors at Talk, Inc.’s first annual Top Dog Contest in celebration of today’s Take Your Dog to Work Day. The online contest was launched on Friday, June 18 with 16 entries ranging from couch potatoes to service dogs and secured more than 2,100 votes until the polls were closed on Monday, June 21 at 6:00 p.m.

The “Top Dog” contest was launched to celebrate dogs like Talk’s own Top Dog, Camden, who work tirelessly either at home or at the office to keep their loved ones happy and stress free each day. Winning dog Micah works at Kenny Barnes Studios and performs a wide variety of important jobs, such as enthusiastically greeting customers and making clients feel loved and welcomed.

“Micah comes to work every day with a great attitude,” said Kenny Barnes, Micah’s owner.  “Along with the vigrx plus where to find fun and friendly side of Micah, there is the serious, business side as well. It may look like he is asleep, but he’s not!  Micah assures us that he thinks better with his eyes closed.”

Entrants in the online contest were asked to submit a photo of their dog and a brief explanation of why their pooch deserved Top Dog honors. The Barnes entered a custom portrait of Micah created by his “daddy,” portrait artist Kenny Barnes. The entries were posted online at Talk’s blog, which included a survey that allowed visitors to vote for their favorite Top Dog. The contest was launched and promoted via the Talk blog, Facebook, Twitter and e-mail marketing.

On Friday, June 25, Micah and his owners were presented with a basket of goodies for both dog and human. Prizes included goods and services donated by Zeetlegoo’s Pet & People Store, Port City Java, Coastal K9 Bakery, and Pedigree.

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Talk helps businesses in the Carolinas attract new customers, mitigate issues and increase profits.

 
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