Archive for the ‘public relations’ Category

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Best Practices – Live Tweeting An Event

July 9, 2013

twitter-button-colorMary Lower, Founder and CEO of Sterling Cross Communications was recently asked to write an article for RSVP MN Magazine for the Meeting and Event Planner Industry on the best practices to use when live-tweeting an event. Here’s her article from the Summer 2013 Issue.

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Crowdsourced reviews can put local restaurateurs on the defensive

July 9, 2013

1yelp0302I was recently interviewed by Bill Ward of the Minneapolis Start Tribune for an insight into online reputation issues facing restaurants. We talk about Yelp and how clients I had set up with monitoring tools and training are utilizing those tools in every day restaurant operations!

Click here to read the article in the Star Tribune.

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The Paula Deen Effect and your Business – The Perils of Influencer Marketing

July 2, 2013

rsvpmn-logoToday I contributed a guest blog/article to RSVP MN Magazine. Here is the post also a link to the post on their site:

The Paula Deen Effect and your Business – The Perils of Influencer Marketing

By Christopher Lower, Co-Owner and VP of PR, Marketing, & Social Media for Sterling Cross Communications

For many years we have come to learn of the power that celebrity influencers have on businesses. It’s one of the hottest terms in marketing today: Influencer Marketing. Businesses are looking for that lift that can be achieved when a person with a huge audience on multiple communications channels speaks fondly of your service or product and endorses it to their audience. In the most wildly successful cases, it became a phenomenon called the “Oprah Effect” due to the frenzy of business activity a company would receive when mentioned on the popular Oprah Winfrey show by the host herself.

On the negative side of the spectrum would be what has been happening in current events and could be ascribed as being victim to the “Paula Deen Effect”. In this case, the person of influence has become associated with a negative event and has triggered a wave of impact across several businesses that were connected to her, either as a direct working relationship, or in an endorsement relationship. Because of her negative online reputation, and current public perception of her, any brands that are tied to her are suffering. There has been a massive wave of companies scrambling to distance themselves from her brand, many of whom have been intrinsically tied to her popularity in the past.

To be completely fair, Ms. Deen isn’t the only influencer to have a negative impact on brands when a scandal has been tied to their reputation. How easily we forget those like Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, and so on.

This current case is only greater proof of how important the public perception of your brand and reputation is online. It affects the bottom line, and can impact the stock prices in public companies. It could be your greatest weakness and many companies don’t even know how they can protect and defend their online reputation.

Because of the nature of social media users to have an extremely short attention span, people are more willing to perceive what they find on search engines to be the true nature of your business. You are what Google says you are. Sadly, you are also only as good as the latest and highest search engine ranked review.

As “The Deen Effect” demonstrates, you are also affected by the online reputations and perceptions of those people associated with you. These range from your vendors, suppliers, resellers, channel partners, employees, board members, and anyone else that impacts your brand. Their negative reputations can harm you online as well. You may not have “celebrity” endorsements, but you do have influencers inside and attached to your company. You no longer can afford to not monitor your own company and brand, and it would also be beneficial to monitor the reputations of those associated with your brand where you rely upon them to conduct your business.

Many businesses are scrambling to put together teams that can respond to these new crises situations. These issues may occur across multiple communication platforms in an instant, and can go globally viral in seconds. Traditional PR professionals who don’t have both the crises communications skills and a mastery of social and mobile technologies are obsolete. Using interns to solve the problem is fine for their knowledge of social media tools, but inadequate to deal with the crises communications. You need a team experienced in both that can respond immediately 24 hours a day, every day.

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Sterling Cross Communications Celebrates 10 Years of Cross Community Projects (Pro-Bono) for Non-Profits, Charitable Causes, & Faith Based Organizations

January 11, 2013

Sterling Cross Communciations logoThis has been both a great sense of accomplishment and pride for our firm and we hope to continue projects like these for many years to come:

Sterling Cross Communications Celebrates 10 Years of Cross Community Projects (Pro-Bono) for Non-Profits, Charitable Causes, & Faith Based Organizations

Minneapolis, MN – When Mary Lower first proposed the idea to her husband Christopher, that they should put out their own shingle and launch their own Public Relations and Marketing Firm, Sterling Cross Communications, in 2003, they knew they really wanted to put their own stamp on what it meant to be a firm or agency in the Twin Cities. They really wanted to be a firm that stood out from a very crowded creative field in the market. One of those unique differences was the creation of their Cross Community Project program.

There are many great stories that needed to be told to the public, but a lot of charitable, non-profit, volunteer based, and faith-based organizations did not have the budgets, know-how, or manpower to get the word out there to the media. The Lowers decided that no matter how their business would perform, it would always have the Cross Community Program offered.

Four times a year (once each quarter) Sterling Cross takes on a project from one of these groups that fills out a request on their website for help (http://sterlingcrossgroup.com/contact), and selects and provides a pro-bono PR or Marketing project. It started with just the Lower’s choosing projects, but as their firm grew and they added employees, contractors, vendor partners, and clients, the project grew to include recommendations and selections from the entire group.

Mary Lower reflected on the 10 year milestone and said; “We may always be a smaller (size) agency, but we want to have a huge impact on our community.” She continued; “Some of these events reaped tremendous benefits from our effort, helping to make these events or news stories the best they could be and share great stories provided great joy and we felt that was payment enough.” Christopher Lower agreed; “Great stories need to be shared, and as that is a passion of ours, it has truly meant we were honored to be a small part of and to share the stories of people doing great things to impact their communities. Both Lowers hope to still be performing these projects and continuing the Cross Community Projects for many years to come.

For a partial list to some of the parties and organizations they have helped over the years, please click here: http://sterlingcrossgroup.com/industries (listed under the Cross Community Clients). To find out more or to submit your projects for consideration please visit their website here: http://sterlingcrossgroup.com/industries/cross-community-charity-and-non-profit-clients.

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10 Businesses That Would Benefit by Being on Pinterest Today!

April 18, 2012

In recognizing how incredibly fast Pinterest is growing, and the quick migration to Pinterest by many businesses (including ourselves and several of our clients). I was recently asked at a conference, which businesses would really benefit by being on this platform and why they would do so. Here’s the list and reasons that I came up with for the group:

  1. Hair, Nail, & Spa Salons – Obviously this platform is incredibly suited to the primary demographic of users (Pinterest is the number one platform of choice for female social media users).  Pinterest Boards can be used to highlight and focus on photos of current hairstyles, fashions, nail color trends, hair colors, beauty and facial trends and the lists go on. 
  2. Travel Agencies – Think of Pinterest as your home for virtual travel brochures and videos. Because of the “wish list” feature of Pinterest, where people are pinning and repining great travel images and destinations they would like to plan on visiting.
  3. Home Remodelers – Use Pinterest as an online gallery to show off before and after photos of your projects to demonstrate your expertise and examples of great work you have performed.
  4. Interior Designers – The same basic idea as remodelers would work here. Pinterest can be leveraged as an online gallery to show before and after photos, show off trends, fabrics, patterns, signature pieces, and so on.
  5. Landscapers – Here you can benefit from sharing how-to information, as well as showing off examples of work you have performed.  Just like rooms in our homes, we tend to pin photos or repin photos of things we’d like in our yards someday.
  6. Event & Wedding Planners – Here you can showcase venues, ideas, your portfolio of work done, decorations, themes, and settings. The list here is endless.
  7. Jewelry & Clothing – Combining product photos and the Pinterest “Gift” option can help to drive online and in store sales of items you sell.
  8. Tattoo Shops – Where better to place an online gallery of your artwork and designs! You can also show off specific signature pieces, as well as provide examples of tattoos designed for specific body areas.
  9. Auto Detail/Paint/Customizing – The number one things that Males on Pinterest pin after food pins, are pins of vehicles, especially dream cars, customized cars, and video as well.  If you can provide these images of your work online they are sure to be repinned (believe me, I found a showroom photo of a 1979 Chevy Chevette, my first car, and even that car is my pin with the highest number of repins).
  10. Resorts & Campgrounds – Similar to travel, you can virtually create an online travel brochure for your property to drive awareness and interest.  You can even open up certain Pinboards to allow your guests to pin photos from their trips or vacations. Allowing your customers to help share the fondness and memories of their trip.

At Sterling Cross Communications, we have a vast experience in creating and executing exciting and outside the box campaigns across several social media platforms. If you need help or more ideas on placing your business on Pinterest or need a strategy and action plan on what to do on these channels please contact us at http://sterlingcrossgroup.com.

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Using QR Codes to Enhance Your Events

January 5, 2012

The Fall 2011 issue of Meetings +Events Magazine ran an article I wrote about using QR (Quick Response) Codes to enhance the marketing and promotion of your trade show appearances or events. It is based on case studies of current work we are doing for our clients, and the success of interaction, excitement, and conversion that they can provide. This has translated into greater traffic and attendance for our clients in measurable and impactful ways. Here is the intro to the article and a link to read the rest of it:

Quick Response, or QR codes, are popping up in all sorts of places: newspapers, magazines, billboards, drink coasters and even on the walls of restrooms. What started as a simple bar code stamp to track inventory parts for the auto industry is sweeping through many other industries as a tool for marketing, advertising, promotion and sales.

Sadly, many QR codes lead to material that is not very unique and engaging of the audience; more often than not, they lead to…click here to read more!

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Not “social media gurus”—they just do successful work: Twin Cities Business Magazine’s Senior Editor Gene Rebeck blogs about Sterling Cross Communications re: PR & Social Media

February 14, 2010

We met with and chatted with Gene Rebeck, the Senior Editor at Twin Cities Business Magazine, and he wrote a blog post based on our discussions. Here is the opening excerpt and a link to Gene’s blog:

Sterling Cross’s Social Studies

Chris and Mary Lower, the spouses and owners of Maple Grove-based social media and public relations agency Sterling Cross are highly regarded in the burgeoning Twin Cities social media scene. But don’t call them “social media gurus.”

It’s a term that makes them laugh and shake their heads. Such “experts” often are mid- to late-career marketing or PR types looking to latch on to the Next Big Thing. (Test the guru: Ask for case studies.)

Besides, as Chris notes, it’s not a field that you can be an expert in: It’s changing too fast and too continuously. “These experts say things like, ‘Make big money on Twitter!’” Chris says, chuckling.

The Lowers do know their social stuff. Go here to read the rest!

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Using PR & Social Media to Promote Restaurants – A Case Study

January 18, 2010

At Sterling Cross Communications, we’re very proud to have been a recent case study focus by Meetings: Minnesota’s Hospitality Journal Magazine’s Winter 2010 Issue.  The Case Study covers the work we have been doing for our client moto-i, the first sake microbrewery outside of Kyoto, Japan, located in Uptown Minneapolis.   It goes into detail about the behind-the-scenes efforts that were put into place to promote this restaurant via social media channels as well as integrating media and blogger relations. Here is the article:

Sake & Social Media

Placing his trust in Sterling Cross Communications, restaurateur Blake Richardson turned to social media to market his latest venture, Moto-i sake microbrewery and restaurant.

By Ellie M. Bayrd

Nearly seven years ago, Blake Richardson, owner of the Herkimer Pub & Brewery in Minneapolis and the mind behind Triple Caff draft energy drink, fell in love with sake. Inspired by what he calls an “amazing beverage,” the beer brewer embraced the possibility of creating a sake microbrewery restaurant in Minneapolis. The labor of love took him to Japan several times, where he studied the art of sake. At the same time that Richardson was becoming enamored with the drink, he was also in a love affair with Asian cuisine like many other Americans. “The synergy between the two just came together at the right time,” he says.

The idea percolated and his studies progressed, and about two years before his restaurant idea would become a reality Richardson had a chance meeting with Chris Lower, director of marketing, public relations and social media at Sterling Cross Communications. A company touting its traditional storytelling in a modern world,Maple Grove-based Sterling Cross has embraced online marketing tools. While Richardson wasn’t really thinking about how he would market his new restaurant concept at the time, his conversation with Lower spurred him to action. “I don’t want to allude to that I wouldn’t have had a plan,” Richardson says. “But I came in contact with Sterling Cross long before that segment of my responsibilities to the marketing would have come along.”

 Click HERE to read the rest of the article

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10 Quick tips to improve your Linkedin presence

November 30, 2009

At Sterling Cross Communications, we are heavily involved in Social Media on behalf of and for our clients.  A natural side-effect of this has prompted us to develop training programs for our clients on social media platforms when they are running their social media in house.  In my rounds this past year of speaking and training for social media, I am still asked the most for tips on how to improve your Linkedin experience and presence.

Here are ten quick tips to really optimize your Linkedin presence and skills:

  1. Add a photo Avatar – 40% of Linkedin profiles do not have a professional photo avatar.  If you are serious about using this tool to build your brand personally or professionally, it is time to go and get a professional headshot taken. The whole success of social media is the fact that it allows you to add personality back into a sterile environment that is the web. If you have a presence on other social media platforms, make sure you use the same photo avatar to allow people to identify you, and recognize this as another reputation of your brand.  Avoid using logos (people don’t want to identify with just a logo) or too casual (the photo with a beer in hand from the last networking Happy Hour isn’t appropriate, even though you dressed up).
  2. Fill out your profile 100% – It seems rudimentary, but if you have the opportunity to fill out fields of information about yourself, brand, company, business, products, or services, and have that information listed in Linkedin’s Search Engines, then why wouldn’t you?  Yes, even seek referrals. If you have performed well on behalf of a client, employer, etc. it is extremely valuable to have their recommendation.
  3. Make sure Referrals & Recommendations are valid and meaningful – If I see traded recommendations, right away, there is a perception of that this is not very credible.  If you give out a recommendation, do so because you are sincere about it, not just to swap recommendations.  If you are seeking a recommendation, customize your request around a specific job skill, situation, case study, project, or client.  It will showcase those skills in a better light than just seeking a platitude laden general recommendation.
  4. Optimize your profile – When deciding on language to fill out content fields on your profile, think of the key words that you wish to be found for when someone performs a search. Use those keywords in the content you write for your profile.
  5. Use the Status Updates – Just like a website that has dated content, people will become disinterested in your content if it is not updated on a regular basis. If you are on Twitter, take advantage of the new Linkedin ability to sync your account and update both platforms from one tool. Another benefit of a regular update is that it keeps your content in front of your network. They can see your updates and that will keep you top of mind.
  6. Leverage Applications – Linkedin allows you to add even more content to your profile, by adding applications such as Tripit, WordPress, Slideshare, and more.  Again, more content, more optimized your profile, the greater interaction you can have.
  7. Groups – There are affinity groups for almost any subject on Linkedin. These groups are another great opportunity to have peer discussions, establish thought leadership, share articles, and keep plugged into a community.
  8. Questions & Answers – Linked in provides forums based on topics, where individuals can post questions or answer questions that are posted. Providing insight or expertise online to help out someone in your industry goes a long way towards establishing yourself as an expert in that field. Make sure you fill out responses concisely and utilize any extra space to include links to your website, blog, or other links that can support your answer.
  9. Link to your other profiles – Then benefits of linking to your other profiles on social media platforms, can help others see a broader picture of your skills and areas of expertise.  While Linkedin can show one aspect, you can link to your profile on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, etc. to show more depth or different facets that are limited on Linkedin.
  10. Actively maintain your profile – Just like a website, you don’t want information to go stagnant or become irrelevant.  Keep job titles, positions, experience, and other supporting materials relevant and current. Get the credit you deserve!

Let me know if you have any tips not on the list that should be included!

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How one Ad/PR agency’s actions is killing three brands: Disney Pictures, AMC Theatres, & MN Parent Magazine

August 10, 2009

Have you seen the excitement that ensues when a child wins a prize?  It can be any prize really, but how about if a child wins tickets to a new movie such as the new 3D Disney Movie, G-Force? You would expect the level of that child’s excitement would be pretty high, and if you’re a parent you’re probably rating the excitement even higher imagining your own child’s reaction.

Now, imagine the crash of disappointment that child experiences when they arrive at the theater to be told that the movie theater is full to capacity (a half an hour before the start time) due to the fact that the Advertising/Public Relations agency (Allied Advertising & Public Relations) purposely overbooked the theater to ensure they had a packed theater. Not overbooked by a few tickets, they overbooked by at least a hundred tickets based on the disappointed families left standing in the lobby of the theater.

Those families were outraged.  There was no second theater opened up to accommodate the families they overbooked. There were no offers of passes to see another children’s movie showing at the theater. There was no evidence of customer service skills demonstrated by the three people from Allied Advertising what-so-ever, and sadly that ended up tarnishing, damaging, and for those parents of disappointed children, killing three brands: MN Parent Magazine, AMC Theaters, and Disney Pictures.

The sad point is that many companies are often in the dark about how their brand is being handled when it is out of their “direct control.”  MN Parent Magazine and Disney Pictures were unaware of Allied Advertising’s practice when contacted.  AMC was worse; their onsite management team was apathetic. They could care less that their patrons were affected by Allied’s actions.  The AMC manager, claiming she was the “highest authority” I could speak to regarding the Edina, MN location, said that the theater was not “responsible” since Allied Advertising had rented the auditorium for the event.

As a parent, who had brought three children to see the movie G-Force (Who is also a PR practitioner) I was appalled by the actions of Allied Advertising and their practice of intentionally overbooking movie premieres.  One would have to wonder if Allied’s practice of this was to boost their numbers for their client, Disney Pictures.  Disney Pictures should be concerned then that they are paying for such surreptitious practices and not getting true results for their money being spent.  If Disney Pictures is testing or hoping to gain market research insight, then every event carried out by Allied is tainted, and cannot be considered valid data.

One of the Allied Advertising reps did finally offer to pay for myself and the three children to go see any other movie playing that night, but only after I identified myself as someone that worked in PR and after they witnessed/overheard me call a local news station to speak with the assignment desk to report on the events happening and see if they wished to send a reporter. At that point the Reps from Allied Advertising were willing to do just about anything to get me to leave. Of the three other brands associated, only MN Parent magazine has reached out to all of the parents that had received “free tickets” through them and promises to have Allied provide free passes to see G-Force in theaters.  AMC and Disney Pictures have yet to respond to complaints submitted via email on their websites.

So who controls your brand once it is out of your hands?  Do you have vendors, resellers, distributors, field reps?  How are they caretaking your brand?  Will they respond with the same level of customer service that you provide to your customers?  What are the repercussions if they don’t?  How will you know if they are carrying through your brand?  Are you set up to monitor your brand once it is out of your control? What is the cost if you don’t?  What do you think?

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