Publishing Your Brand

If you listen very carefully, you might hear it… the groans from small business owners all across the land when the phrase “Content Is King” is mentioned to them.

As true as that saying may be, most of today’s consumers go directly to search engines to answer even the slightest of trivial questions.  The mistake that most businesses make today is that they churn out content every day, but without making it part of their overall communications strategy.

Content publishing should focus on two simple goals: educating and building trust.

Content strategy is delivered through very specific content forms, and not volume alone.  Every business today is publishing content, and today is the day you need to think like a publisher.

How best to build trust with your audience?
Blog: There’s no doubt that blogs are the best starting point for content strategy as they allow for simple content production, and syndication of your message.  Search engines gobble up blog content.  Blog content can easily be delivered through other channels like e-books, workshops and guest articles.

Social Media: Step one – claim your stake with profiles on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.   But don’t let that stop you.  Take it to the next step by claiming your place on communities like Entrepreneur, Inc., or even Business Week.  Creating these profiles and optimizing links back to you site plan an important role in content strategy publishing.

Testimonials:  Third party testimonials may be the most powerful tool in your publishing arsenal.  Seek testimonials in a variety of forms including written, audio and video.  Share them on sites such as YouTube and Google+ to continue to build your publishing portfolio.

Reviews:  Depending on your specific business, sites like MerchantCircle, CitySearch and Yelp! can offer positive user referrals.  While never in control of reviews, overlooking them may prove more harmful than bad reviews.  One thing is certain, you’ll need to actively monitor these channels at all times.

Consider these two easy ways to educate your customer with content.

Seminars:  Today’s consumer wants their information neatly pre-packaged for easy consumption. Seminars, workshops and presentations are everywhere – both online and offline.  Once engaged, these channels provide a great opportunity to really engage your audience.  Taking your white paper or ebook and turning it into a 30-45 minute, value-packed presentation may be the most cost-effective way to both engage and convert casual leads into loyal customers.

White Papers & Ebooks:  In communicating their brand story, documenting the values and views are effectively done in the form of a white paper or book.  This content needs to highlight the businesses truly unique values including why it exists, what it will accomplish, and ultimately – it’s special purpose.

This is certainly a short list of ways and channels for you to reach new, actively engaged customers. What are others you might be using that are working for you?

Once you’ve developed your specific system of content publishing that works in unison for your brand, maintaining and growing our channels becomes a fun and welcomed task, instead of one to dread and avoid.

Warning: The Social Media “Guru”

courtesy of communications catalyst

courtesy of communications catalyst

Recently, there seems to be a coincidental alignment between reality and theory.  In this case, the topic of social media “gurus” was being discussed around our social and professional circles when I ran across several other blog posts that seemed to align exactly with the content of our debates.  And so, it seems, a good topic to bring to this blog.

With the decline in the job market, self-promotional tools and schemes have proliferated.  I can’t count the number of “get rich on Twitter” or “make money on Facebook” programs that have been pitched my way in recent months.  Along with those programs seemed the rise of the “social media guru” – an obvious attempt for some to brand themselves in a new marketing sector while they continued to struggle with today’s economic decline.

While I enjoy participating in the social media sphere, and encourage our clients to strategize their engagement – I’m no social media expert.  As the face of these marketing channels literally change on a daily basis, I’m wary of anyone who might be so bold as to say they are on top of all it’s rapidly changing facets and nuances.

If you’re in marketing or are marketing your brand, your budget has likely been cut, staff has departed or been reassigned, and the pressure to produce sales from a dwindling market has increased.  Producing qualified leads is still very possible today – converting those prospects from “fence sitters” to buyers is an entirely different challenge.  New sales goals, reduced marketing budgets, and increased expectations have challenged us all to apply more creativity and sound strategy to the brands we know and love – and especially to those that aren’t entirely transparent to the target audience.  What then, given these new circumstances, is a good marketer to do?

Some have turned to social media as the cure-all in hopes that the inexpensive promise of reaching new prospects is well worth the time and investment dedicated to Facebook, Twitter, and a host of other potential market channels.  My inbox is flooded daily with new strategies and “opportunities” to use these free channels to maximize what remaining budgets any client may have.  Yet the challenge remains – just where do you start?  And how do you measure ROI?

Having conducted a few seminars for interested entreprenuers, I can tell you they all share that very frustration.  Often, they’ll throw their hands up, realizing they don’t possess the time or expertise to start a campaign with any strategy and turn outward for help in the “free social media” sphere.  Just Google or check LinkedIn for “social media expert” – then stand back for a glut of referrals to a wide variety of companies and individuals.  Do you hire a big agency?  A one-man-shop?  How do you know who is really worth the investment?

And given the dour economy – many people jump in without much investigation, in hopes of moving to any type of response sooner than later.

Then I ran across a great blog post by Eric Weaver at Brand Dialogue, who clearly outlined some very basic considerations I think each of us would be smart to help guide the decision process.  I’ve recounted them here for your review:

1. Engage a consultant that shares a “media-agnostic perspective”. It’s not the tools that create results – as much as we may love them…it’s the strategy and messaging that will ultimately win the game for any brand.  Ask the consultant how they fit into the marketing mix that includes the tried-and-true traditional channels.  If the response is all about the tools – keep looking.

2. Seek a marketer, not a “techy”. We marketers see these tools in terms of brand, outreach, dialogue…and most importantly, trust.  Technologists often think they understand these integral parts of brand strategy…but more than often…they don’t.   Seek  marketers who have embraced and utilized social tools as part of overarching awareness, conversion or loyalty campaigns – they get it, and can guide you to success overall.

3. Look for quality… not quantity of clients – not followers. Cult followings of people who are similarly enamored by the technology follow those of the same type – and they’re not reaching new markets that can help your brand. Don’t mistake online popularity or digital verbosity with expertise – they are far from the same thing.

4. Look for selflessness rather than self-interest. Consultant relationships can go well – or wrong.  Don’t engage anyone who might turn on you and use you as an example of what not to do.  A good consultant will champion and advocate for their client brands without regard for their own personal growth or online positioning.  Beware the “hangers-on” who are focused on a steady stream of work than deploying the right strategy for your brand.

5. Demand evidence of commitment. Look for testimonials and absolute proof positive that this “guru” has consistently produced for people and brands like yours.

6. Look for final products, and ask them to fully disclose their role. Find out exactly what that consultant has done for any client, and ask for an example of that specific work.  Too often, we see big claims for campaigns from someone who has only taken a small role in the development of the strategy.

Yes…it’s difficult to find the right social media mix and help for your brand in today’s market.  But take the time to vet any consultant who offers their help – no matter how inexpensive or great the claims may be.  Beware the technologist who talks a good game, but is actually learning how to market at your expense.

I’d really like to hear more about the successes and failures we’re encontering in this new field of consulting – and help our clients find the best solution for their social media campaigns with the right mix of talent, strategy and messaging.

What experiences have you had in this area recently?

WordPress Marketer’s Blog Roundup


We’re fortunate to be included in a collective of bloggers on WordPress that concentrate their efforts on marketing reviews and ideas.  Here’s a quick recap of some of their latest (and greatest) updates:

* Brady’s Crew has some 50 great ideas from Time Magazine on how to improve your website.

* Dave Knox over at Hard Knox Life has some compelling ideas on why corporations should integrate social media into their communication mix using Motrin as a good example.

* Rick Leibling takes time with Junta42’s content marketing list, and notes Eyecube is growing in readership.

* Francis Anderson takes a quick look at Dido and Elf Yourself.

* Groves Media survived hell week with a round-up about manic Christians, Google, Crunched Celebs and Dead Parrots!

* Jax Rants investigates a really cool Sweet Spots site by Nike.

* Liquid Architecture shares some insights about the gaming community’s reaction to President-elect Obama.

* Marketing Integrity’s new site location rethinks church marketing, and it’s role in growing participation.

* Micha Solomon give props to Elite Media’s truly elite sales rep and process.

* Nicola Davis shows us something really interesting – AC DC’s innovative music video in an excel spreadsheet!

* Octagon First Call makes a really good point for brand communication, using XBOX as an example.

* Online Marketer Blog is offering a free e-book for download about writing holiday donation emails.  Take time to read it…great advice.

* Share Media’s Matt Hames takes note of Motrin’s social media response challenge, and the importance of context over content.  Something’s obviously up with Motrin…this is the second time the brand is on our radar.

* And finally, Weather Pattern’s shares the experince of getting a free future edition of the New York Times.

This roundup is just a sampling of the great ongoing work these bloggers passionately cover.  Please take time to read them, and share their insights and information with those you know might enjoy them as well.

Your Brand Probably Sucks


The term “brand” continues to have a good deal of misinterpretation and misinformation attached to it – even today as it’s become part of our common daily conversation.  Many, if not most, brands today are not truly brands – they’re simply nice logos attached to products.

Martin Lindstrom, author of Brand Fast Trackers, tapped into Brand Connections’ CEO & Founder Brian Martin about every marketer’s holy grail – consumers’ innermost thoughts.  In his latest book “Buyology – Truth Lies About Why We Buy” Martin cleverly connected over 2,000 people to brain scans in a scientific effort to really determine exactly how different products affect the brain.  Measuring the subject’s pleasure centers in an effort to prove his “smash your brand” theory.  Martin’s theory is that brands continue to retain their value – even when devoid of logos or other clues which consumer’s instinctively recognize.

I’d agree with Lindstrom’s suggestion that the vast majority of today’s consumers are so overwhelmed and jaded by year’s of a barrage of commercials that they now guard themselves when they perceive traditional advertising messaging and collateral.  In that environment, subliminal messaging is far less invasive, and achieves a much higher degree of positive response.

Lindstrom weigh in: “[Marketers] have become so rational,” with their “better-for less” positioning  “it is such a short-term way of building brands.”

To the point, he’s noted that visuals (yes, your logo) is last in the list of sensory importance:  “We’ve learned that the most powerful sense when we’re building brands and selling brands is not the sense of sight, it’s the sense of sound, followed by the sense of taste, touch & smell, then followed by the sense of sight.”

The combination of all five sensory experiences is the goal of marketer’s everywhere – and too often we forget the experience of the brand while concentrating on the imagery and positioning of it.

The challenge may be to take your personal perspective of the brand you know and love aside, and allow others to give you honest (perhaps even painful) feedback about what your brand truly means to them.  Then, reposition the elements of the brand to address those common perceptions.  You may be surprised to learn what your customers and prospects truly feel about it, and how your current brand is, or isn’t working as you’d believed.

Perception is reality – especially in today’s barrage of messaging.  Do you really know how you’re being perceived?  In today’s more-than-challenging market, getting in touch with the reality of your brand, and taking a hard look at the many facets of it (including your logo) may be the difference between survival and financial ruin.  Don’t take your brand for granted – you may well be the worst person to truly identify it’s real value and viability.

Inside CRM’s 50 Social Sites List

Social-Media/Social-Bookmarking Sites:

  1. Reddit: Upload stories and articles on reddit to drive traffic to your site or blog. Submit items often so that you’ll gain a more loyal following and increase your presence on the site.
  2. Digg: Digg has a huge following online because of its optimum usability. Visitors can submit and browse articles in categories like technology, business, entertainment, sports and more.
  3. Social bookmark your way to better business with sites like, which invite users to organize and publicize interesting items through tagging and networking.
  4. StumbleUpon: You’ll open your online presence up to a whole new audience just by adding the StumbleUpon toolbar to your browser and “channel surf[ing] the Web. You’ll “connect with friends and share your discoveries,” as well as “meet people that have similar interests.”
  5. Technorati: If you want to increase your blog’s readership, consider registering it with Technorati, a network of blogs and writers that lists top stories in categories like Business, Entertainment and Technology.
  6. Ning: After hanging around the same social networks for a while, you may feel inspired to create your own, where you can bring together clients, vendors, customers and co-workers in a confidential, secure corner of the Web. Ning lets users design free social networks that they can share with anyone.
  7. Squidoo: According to Squidoo, “everyone’s an expert on something. Share your knowledge!” Share your industry’s secrets by answering questions and designing a profile page to help other members.
  8. Furl: Make Furl “your personal Web file” by bookmarking great sites and sharing them with other users by recommending links, commenting on articles and utilizing other fantastic features.
  9. Tubearoo: This video network works like other social-bookmarking sites, except that it focuses on uploaded videos. Businesses can create and upload tutorials, commentaries and interviews with industry insiders to promote their own services.
  10. WikiHow: Create a how-to guide or tutorial on wikiHow to share your company’s services with the public for free.
  11. YouTube: From the fashion industry to Capitol Hill, everyone has a video floating around on YouTube. Shoot a behind-the-scenes video from your company’s latest commercial or event to give customers and clients an idea of what you do each day.
  12. Ma.gnolia: Share your favorite sites with friends, colleagues and clients by organizing your bookmarks with Ma.gnolia. Clients will appreciate both your Internet-savviness and your ability to stay current and organized.

Professional-Networking Sites:

  1. LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a popular networking site where alumni, business associates, recent graduates and other professionals connect online.
  2. Ecademy: Ecademy prides itself on “connecting business people” through its online network, blog and message-board chats, as well as its premier BlackStar membership program, which awards exclusive benefits.
  3. Ryze: Ryze lets members organize contacts and friends; upcoming events; and even job, real-estate and roommate classifieds.
  4. YorZ: This networking site doubles as a job site. Members can post openings for free to attract quality candidates.
  5. Xing: An account with networking site Xing can “open doors to thousands of companies.” Use the professional contact manager to organize your new friends and colleagues, and take advantage of the Business Accelerator application to “find experts at the click of a button, market yourself in a professional context [and] open up new sales channels.”
  6. Facebook: Facebook is no longer just for college kids who want to post their party pics. Businesses vie for advertising opportunities, event promotion and more on this social-networking site.
  7. Care2: Care2 isn’t just a networking community for professionals: It’s touted as “the global network for organizations and people who Care2 make a difference.” If your business is making efforts to go green, let others know by becoming a presence on this site.
  8. Gather: This networking community is made up of members who think. Browse categories concerning books, health, money, news and more to ignite discussions on politics, business and entertainment. This will help your company tap into its target audience and find out what they want.
  9. Once you’ve acquired a group of contacts in your city by networking on, organize an event so that you can meet face-to-face.
  10. Tribe: Cities like Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, New York and Chicago have unique online communities on tribe. Users can search for favorite restaurants, events, clubs and more.
  11. Ziggs: Ziggs is “organizing and connecting people in a professional way.” Join groups and make contacts through your Ziggs account to increase your company’s presence online and further your own personal career.
  12. Plaxo: Join Plaxo to organize your contacts and stay updated with feeds from Digg,, and more.
  13. NetParty: If you want to attract young professionals in cities like Boston, Dallas, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Orlando Fla., create an account with the networking site NetParty. You’ll be able to connect with qualified, up-and-coming professionals online, then meet them at a real-life happy-hour event where you can pass out business cards, pitch new job openings and more.
  14. Networking For Professionals: Networking For Professionals is another online community that combines the Internet with special events in the real world. Post photos, videos, résumés and clips on your online profile while you meet new business contacts.

Niche Social-Media Sites:

  1. Pixel Groovy: Web workers will love Pixel Groovy, an open-source site that lets members submit and rate tutorials for Web 2.0, email and online-marketing issues.
  2. Mixx: Mixx prides itself on being “your link to the Web content that really matters.” Submit and rate stories, photos and news to drive traffic to your own site. You’ll also meet others with similar interests.
  3. Tweako: Gadget-minded computer geeks can network with each other on Tweako, a site that promotes information sharing for the technologically savvy.
  4. Small Business Brief: When members post entrepreneur-related articles, a photo and a link to their profile appear, gaining you valuable exposure and legitimacy online.
  5. Sphinn: Sphinn is an online forum and networking site for the Internet marketing crowd. Upload articles and guides from your blog to create interest in your own company or connect with other professionals for form new contacts.
  6. This one-stop news resource is great for businesses that want to contribute articles on a variety of subjects, from the environment to politics to health.
  7. HubSpot: HubSpot is another news site aimed at connecting business professionals.
  8. SEO TAGG: Stay on top of news from the Web marketing and SEO (search-engine optimization) industries by becoming an active member of this online community.

General Social-Media Sites:

  1. Wikipedia: Besides creating your own business reference page on Wikipedia, you can connect with other users on Wikipedia’s Community Portal and at the village pump, where you’ll find conscientious professionals enthusiastic about news, business, research and more.
  2. Newsvine: Feature top employees by uploading their articles, studies or other news-related items to this site. A free account will also get you your own column and access to the Newsvine community.
  3. 43 Things: This site bills itself as “the world’s most popular online goal setting community.” By publicizing your company’s goals and ambitions, you’ll gain a following of customers, investors and promoters who cheer you on as you achieve success.
  4. Wetpaint: If you’re tired of blogs and generic Web sites, create your own wiki with Wetpaint to reach your audience and increase your company’s presence online. You can easily organize articles, contact information, photos and other information to promote your business.
  5. Frappr: Embed a Frappr map and guestbook into your company’s Web page so that you can pinpoint exactly how users find your site, discover in real-time what they have to say about your company profile and services, and create an “interactive, fun and engaging” spot for visitors.
  6. Yahoo! Answers: Start fielding Yahoo! users’ questions with this social-media Q&A service. Search for questions in your particular areas of expertise by clicking categories like Business & Finance, Health, News & Events and more. If you continue to dole out useful advice and link your answer to your company’s Web page, you’ll quickly gain a new following of curious customers.

Job Sites:

  1. Reach millions of candidates by posting jobs on this must-visit site.
  2. The Wall Street Journal’s CareerJournal: The Wall Street Journal’s CareerJournal attracts well-educated professionals who are at the top of their game. Post a job or search résumés here.
  3. If your firm wants to hire promising entry-level employees, check for candidates with college degrees.
  4. Monster: Post often to separate your business from all the other big companies that use this site to advertise job openings.
  5. Sologig: Top freelancers and contractors post résumés and look for work on this popular site.
  6. This site “offers self-employed small business owners links to freelance & work at home job boards, self-promotion tips” and more.
  7. Freelance Switch Job Listings: Freelance Switch is the freelancer’s online mecca and boasts articles, resource toolboxes, valuable tips and a job board.
  8. GoFreelance: Employers looking to boost their vendor base should check GoFreelance for professionals in the writing, design, editing and Web industries.
  9. Yahoo! Hot Jobs: This site is often one of the first places that job seekers visit. Post open opportunities and check out informative articles and guides to gain insight on the hiring and interviewing process.
  10. Build your company’s repertoire with top freelancing professionals by advertising projects on this site, otherwise known as “the world’s largest online service marketplace.”

AT&T Plans For Your “Internet Meter” Fees



In what I would call a dubious development from the “Death Star” of communication providers, AT&T has confirmed that it has quietly begun “bandwidth metering trials” here in Reno, Nevada.  Obviously, this is the first move in metering studies to establish the development of higher pay service tiers beyond what consumers currently pay for monthly web access currently.

AT&T says it is conducting the market trial “to evaluate a usage-based model that could potentially help address today’s trend of explosive bandwidth usage”.  More to the point, similar trials will likely be launched in other markets by the end of 2008.

Perfect timing from what many have considered the “T-1000” of communication corporations.

And now, starting on  Nov. 1, 2008,  AT&T’s High Speed Internet customers in Reno have been receiving a bandwidth usage amount report –  from between 20 gigabytes to 150 gigabytes.

“Once they’re a part of the trial, customers will receive a one-month grace period the first time usage is exceeded,” the carrier explained. “Thereafter, customers will be charged $1 for every gigabyte over their determined usage amount.”

So there it is America, yet another way that corporate America looks to gain profits on the backs of a struggling economic downturn, and worse yet, economically challenged consumers.  A PR nightmare designed to identify and charge what AT&T claims is a small group of customers who are using the majority of bandwidth on its network. The carrier has said almost 50 percent of total bandwidth is used by just five percent of customers.

To “help customers gauge their usage”, AT&T will provide trial customers with a bandwidth measuring tool. This “tool”  will notify customers least 60 days ahead of any overage charges. Even more helpful, AT&T promises to be even more helpful by “proactively letting customers know each time they reach 80 percent of their usage amount”. “We will not terminate service due to customer usage,” said AT&T.

AT&T has hinted that some type of usage-based model, “for those customers who have abnormally high usage patterns, seemed inevitable.”

Like the advent of VOIP for long distance service, this is the first step in monetizing internet based on usage.  While I’d agree that the corporation must maintain a financial model that provides its stockholders with a secure future, metering and charging for usage based on volume, and not service type is not the answer.

What do you think about these latest developments by the nation’s largest communication company?

Reno Green Summit Outstanding Success

City of Reno Green Summit

City of Reno Green Summit

Reno’s Green Summit at the incredible new Joe Crowley Student Union on the beautiful University of Nevada campus couldn’t be seen as anything but a major success.

Reports are noting that close to 300 people spent the afternoon at the summit, filled with informational booths from a variety of vendors and organizations from around the region.  As a representative from our green social network, Project ecoBrand, I can tell you that the opportunity to connect with the other vendors and attendees was really welcomed and appreciated.

The display tables were provided free of charge by the City of Reno, who did an outstanding job planning, organizing, coordinating and executing this great City branded gathering.

The Reno Gazette-Journal noted “close to 50 people attended a session on recycling and plastic bags” – and the main session was filled to the brim with individuals who spent the afternoon connecting and learning more about how we can all become more eco-conscious in our daily lives – as well as providing much needed inspiration to our City leaders.
Jason Geddes, the city’s Energy Administrator, says he expects to present several options to Reno City Council on Oct. 23 for regulating plastic bags, as well as an update on recycling negotiations with Waste Management Inc., which collects trash locally.  Jason’s efforts should be applauded by us all.

I had the opportunity to connect directly with several City Council members, and spent a good deal of time talking about how the event might be made more effective and accessible to our community.  I can tell you, Reno is truly progressive when it comes to our environmentally consciousness – and it’s really inspiring to be part of that effort.

Stay tuned for more updates about the event, and Jason Geddes’ final report to the City of Reno.

In the meantime, I’d really welcome your comments and thoughts about the event.  Together, we can make this a core value to our community, while developing habits and systems that will protect our environment, and our children’s future.

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