Posts Tagged ‘Corporate blogs’

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The Keys to Success and Longevity in Business and Events

November 4, 2013

This originally was published as my contribution to the RSVP MN Magazine Article: Click here to read it therersvpmn-logo

In 2003 there was a huge transformation of the entire workforce in the United States as a whole generation of women bought into the mantra of a revolution known as “Opting Out.” Women were choosing to opt out of the job force to stay home and raise families and seek a balanced life. By 2013, with economics in their current state, women and men are choosing to “Lean in” to their careers and seem to be driven for success. Both movements became vastly popular, and have worked for several individuals, and that is where the problem lies.

These movements have had a huge impact on both our corporate culture and the dynamics of companies, but they have failed to last the test of time. I believe they fail because they have been focused on the individuals that make up a team or company. They fail to work on or have impact on the entire team and culture. The focus has been on the change of self rather than on the team, business or culture. While this has profound effects for individuals, the impact and benefits to business and events has been scattershot and in many instances has had a negative effect.

To go the distance and have longevity, an event or business has to pull together as a team and effect change for growth and success. They need to innovate. The key to all Innovation is that the people in charge are able to keep their vision focused on the Big Picture, instead of being sucked down into the mire and details that often leads to tunnel vision. We have two incredible examples of a company and an event here in the Twin Cities that are exemplary models of this: Target Corporation and the Minnesota State Fair.

Target was recently named as No. 10 of Fast Company’s 2013 “Most Innovative Companies” and is in the caliber of such companies as Nike, Pinterest, Square and Amazon. Its attention to the trends and needs of current shoppers and the future of shopping has lead it to re-imagine its “Big Box” concept to create CityTarget, a half-size store prototype that launched in Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles.

This model focuses on a demographic that is looking for four-packs of toilet paper rather than a 36-pack, has furnishings more suitable to apartment and balcony dwelling, smaller packaged food proportions, and is more mobile friendly for research, e-commerce and speeding up checkout lines by having additional employees deployed with mobile register scanners.

Target’s focus on value versus volume has proven so successful that they will add three new stores, doubling their new concept and look to take this concept globally in the future. Target’s ability to continually transform and respond to the rapidly changing retail behaviors will keep its chain ahead of its competition at a time when its competition struggles to keep pace and in fact are downsizing the numbers of locations.

The Minnesota State Fair has had innovation at the core of its mission statement since 1859. An event that has continued and has thrived for 154 years has put in a lot of work to keep its offerings fresh, educational and entertaining. Each year, from attractions and food offerings, to events and displays, the Fair not only embodies and lives out its own belief of innovation, but encourages and challenges its participants and vendors to do so as well. Continual feedback and communication from attendees each year drives changes for the future.

Nowhere is this more evident than with the food vendors that innovate each year to come up with the newest flavor trends or gimmick “food on a stick” (candied bacon cannolis or deep fried pickles and chocolate anyone?). Not only does the food then become an innovation that is fresh, but the popularity of the inventive foods has driven media coverage, self fulfilling its ability to remain relevant and fresh year after year.

It is clearly evident that the companies and events that are built on a best practice that focuses on the entity or event such as innovation will far exceed and surpass any practices that focus on the individuals involved. If your team and culture can fully embrace a concept that leads to benefits for all, versus benefits to one, than it is a concept that can stand the test of time. It’s time to opt out of bad practices, lean in to a team concept and employ innovation to your business.

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Businesses – Are you failing to maintain your online presence?

April 13, 2012

Negative Comments Can Spread Like Wildfire

It’s not enough to have an online presence anymore.  It is great that you have a Facebook Page, Twitter Account, and YouTube channel, but are you maintaining them?  In 2011 we saw many businesses leap online, eager to try out social media and leverage the communication and business power of these tools. Now, a year later, the scary fact is that most of these websites and social accounts have been abandoned or are not being used effectively (or even correctly in some situations).  You may have had the right intentions by setting these accounts up, especially if you were doing it to secure your IP and registered business names to protect your corporation.  If you set up accounts in order to have access to the platform, to monitor or listen to feedback, criticism, and comments, that is also a great reason to be on social media, but only if you are engaging back. OK, so now you are thinking to yourself: “So what?  We have a presence on social media platforms as our bosses told us we had to do.”

What if I told you that these abandoned, neglected, and incomplete accounts are actually hurting your business, and that they were actually costing you money to your bottom line, in spite of the fact that it was free to set up accounts on most of these platforms. If you are neglecting, abandoning, and failing to complete and monitor these accounts, you are losing customers, for the following reasons:

  1. The perception that your company is “Out of Date”, “Out of Touch”, and downright “Incompetent” in engaging your audience on social media – Many customers that encounter your business on the web, will check out these accounts just to see what is happening.  If, for instance, your Twitter account hasn’t been updated in the last 90 days, you are perceived as being “out of touch” and therefore a company that is seemed as approachable and eager to listen to a customer.  Incomplete profiles, pages without headshots or branding, or important information missing, such as contact info, gives off the impression that you are incompetent, especially to the under 35 crowd that is pretty much living their lives on the internet and mobile devices.
  2. The perception that your company isn’t listening – 98% of all internet users expect you to not only have a presence on these social media platforms, but they want you to engage with them as well on these platforms.  Especially when a customer has a question or complaint. Today’s internet users in this text driven society, demand and expect to have a response from your company quickly on the social media platform where they made the comment or complaint.  24 hours is an eternity and will not gain you any favors.  You need someone to actively manage these accounts and respond. 
  3. The perception that your company is ( insert descriptor word here: bad, evil, inept, uncaring, etc.) – More and more web companies live or die by their online reputation. If your company lets too many negative reports build online over any subject, without addressing and responding to these comments and complaints, can lead to the escalation of the issue, and in turn its ability to go viral.

Ultimately, you can think of each of these social media accounts the same way you would as building little campfires.  If you neglect them, all sorts of things can result. Your best hope is that they fizzle, die, and disappear.  occasionally though there are those fires that can flare up, escape its confines and end up becoming a raging wildfire, leaving behind swaths of ruin for your business.  If you are struggling with how to maintain your social media accounts, contact us and we’ll help you to take control of your accounts. www.sterlingcrossgroup.com.

All stats were compiled from www.pewinternet.org

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Removing Social Media Accounts – What happens when you need to end a presence online?

June 30, 2009

It’s become a fact in this economy that companies are going out of business.  Even those companies that were forward thinking in their marketing have not been able to escape the factors in the economy, and they have had to close down.  A client of ours became such a casualty two months ago.  They had just launched several online platform accounts at the beginning of the year.  All was going very well for them as they built their followers slowly and steadily to amass an engaged audience.  Then we received “the email” alerting us that the client was ceasing all business activities and requested we shut down all of their accounts online.

This would be a first for us.  We’ve worked with over a dozen companies, all with varying degrees of success, but, it has always been success.  It was even successful for this client as well; we had executed the initial strategy well, and were growing our audience to allow us to move into the second phase of the strategy.  Now we had proof though, that even the almighty social media with all of its bells and whistles could not solve all problems a company faced.

So we went and started deactivating accounts and learning to what degree the information could truly be removed or purged from the internet.  The results were interesting to say the least:

The Corporate Website – This was able to be turned off. Searches to the domain name now lead to a placeholder page put up by the hosting company.  Two months later though, the site still shows up in searches.  The links are broken, so I will assume Google, Bing, and other engines will eventually drop the results, it wasn’t gone in two months.  The search engines have archives and cached pages of the website, which are starting to deteriorate as well. Queries made to the search engine companies have come back with inconclusive answers as to how long something can live online.  Some items that are heavily linked to from other sites will last longer than those that had only a few links.

Facebook – the Company’s professional page was shut down, but the owner of the Company kept his personal page up to continue building his personal brand for a new career/job.  Facebook is fairly complete when it comes to deleting material permanently.  Due to the fact that most of the content is kept inside of the Facebook community tags, and unless it was open to search by the outside internet community, it seldom shows up in outside searches.

Twitter – After the corporate Twitter account was shut down, it was determined that the content would not easily go away, in spite of Twitter having the content open for immediate outside search.  The several different search applications associated to Twitter archived Tweets almost immediately and most kept running archives up to eight pages long.  The owner of the company decided to re-brand the Twitter account and continue its use for his personal brand.

A WordPress Blog – The blog was deactivated, but is still found in several searches. The codes that many blogs are created in are very search friendly.  Search sites have copies and cached copies of the blog posts, and many of the posts were reposted on other sites.  Unless those posts are removed by the individuals that reposted them, they will stay online.

Linkedin – The Company profile was removed, but the fact that it is listed by former employees, and as past positions of the owners, the company listings will stay online in Linkedin.

Some of this material can be litigated to be removed, but you’ll want to make sure you are going down the right path with the right legal team for that.  Most bloggers are protected by 1st Amendment rights and you will need to engage an attorney with experience in Constitutional law.  Other sites may require formal legal requests to remove photos, videos and other charts and images.

The bottom line is that yes you can deactivate your accounts and remove some material online, that it will not result in the immediate removal of all of the material from being found online. It may fade over time, like the memory of the company, but for now it is a record of existence that won’t easily go away.  With that in mind, what kind of online legacy is company leaving online?

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If you Want Your Company’s Blog to stand out – don’t do What Most B2B Bloggers do!

July 10, 2008

Every category of blogs and bloggers reported incredible growth numbers in 2007, according to a New Forrester Report, except one: B2B Blogs.  In fact, the number of new B2B blogs started in 2007 from 2006 actually decreased. Have blogs lost their magic?  Nope not one bit.  So then what is the problem?

 

To put it bluntly, it is the bandwagon and herd mentality of B2B Marketers and their inability and or ignorance to figure out how to get their corporate message out without vomiting and regurgitating all over their audience.  It’s the Bullhorn effect.  Many marketers have not gotten the clue or the hint that what they’re doing isn’t working.  They saw blogs as this great new soapbox to jump on and push out their truckloads full of hackneyed slogans and contrite pitches.  They still think a blog is merely a tool to blast out another message, and they are dumbfounded that it isn’t working!

 

They think; “Hey, we are part of the social media scene!  We have a blog, we’re cool! Buy from us!” They just don’t get it.  They are trying to butt their way into the conversation, instead of joining it.  They think that their blogging style should be heavy-handed with all of their slogans, and carefully crafted branded content and they are forgetting the basic purpose of blogging – to start a conversation.

 

Forrester also reported that most B2B blogs are dull, drab, and don’t stimulate discussion.  More than 70% of the corporate blogs it reviewed stuck strictly to business or technical topics and didn’t share much personal insight or experience.

 

The report noted that; “team blogging may lighten the burden, but group blogs seem even more impersonal as writers bounce between topics and fail to deliver a unifying narrative thread. Team efforts also suffer from participation ups and downs. In the past year, for example, about half of Intel’s featured bloggers have moved on to other pursuits.”

 

As a result, 74% of B2B blogs receive a minimum of commentary or trackbacks because readers fail to find conversations worthy of their involvement.

 

Successful blogging, Forrester insists, is not a one-way street, but most corporate bloggers yak away about their companies and products, seemingly oblivious to whether their audience is listening or not.

The report states; “Similar to last year, 56% of blogs we examined simply regurgitate company news or executive views, while relatively fewer blogs work to establish thought leadership by enlisting internal experts–with deep, specific knowledge of a particular topic–as their primary blog authors.”

 

That last line speaks to precisely the strategy we use at Sterling Cross Communications to advise and coach our blogging clients on their own blogging strategy.  To open dialogues where in the course of discussion you can establish your thought leadership position by speaking clearly, concisely, and passionately on the area of expertise you bring to the market.

 

B2B Bloggers need to get this message if you want to reap the rewards a blog can bring.  You can learn this lesson, or you can leave your blogs abandoned and continue to heavy hand Twitter or the next shiny new tool!  If you can learn from these mistakes, you can assist your blog in rising above the buzz!

 

**NOTE:

Lest you think we were generalizing all b2b bloggers, Laura Ramos the author of the report wished that I would clarify that they were researching the following:

 

“Just a point or two of clarification: in the report we reviewed 90 large B2B companies where blogging activity was evident from their home page. This number is not meant to be representative of all blogging in the B2B space.

We looked for blogs by Fortune 500 companies and top tech firms, who are enthusiastically embracing blogging because this research follows-up on a report we published last year that reviewed the same group. The intent was to look for trends and patterns in “enterprise” blogging activity, not to size the effort as a whole.”

Thanks Laura!

 

 

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Blogs. Borrrrrrinnggggg.

June 30, 2008

Yep. That’s how a 20+ year veteran of the advertising and creative industry ended a 500+ word rant on his corporate blog, about how he “hates blogs” and decries them as a “self-aggrandizing fad”.  Wasn’t the internet, and television once called a “fad”? He equates those that read, follow, and comment on other blogs as “new-media groupies.”  He just doesn’t get it.  It’s a shame really.  It is another case of a creative talent, responsible for the promotion, innovation, and differentiation of the brands that his clients entrust him with, who can’t adapt to the future.

 

I know Advertising is all about the interruption approach, and has been forever.  TV commercials, radio spots, full-page glossies in magazines, and billboards – all mediums going through a whirlwind paradigm shift which will reshape and recreate the media field at the speed of light.  These methods don’t work and customers “get it”.  Sadly, some agency owners do not. 

 

The customer realizes that they have the power.  They can Tivo out your commercials, block your pop-ups, and block out all of your attempts to push your catchy jingle or edgy catch phrase.  They realize that your four-color glossy ad is in that magazine specifically because you paid to place it there.  Oh, and please do me a favor, and stop trying to disguise your paid ad as an advertorial!  That’s just insulting our intelligence.

 

They want to be engaged in a discussion rather than pitched to.  So what would be a first step down that path?  How about engaging your potential customers in a conversation?  How about you open up your pitch, your claims of “new” and “improved”, to the feedback and comments of your audience?  Could your product and brand survive that?  If it truly is what is says it is – then it will survive.  Otherwise it could be trashed and trampled.

 

Blogs can open up your brand to discussions, especially if you accept comments.  Even if the comments call out a shortcoming (if there is a shortcoming that needs correction), it is better to have them do so while you are paying attention to them and have the opportunity to make the change, rather than find out these shortcomings as the blog author puts it: “I figure I’ll hear about our shortcomings by our clients walking out the door.”  By then, it’s too late.  They are on to your competition.

 

The advertising exec blog author (the irony of him blogging about how he hates blogs is just too sublime!) goes on to say that corporate blogs are the worst offenders – “And the corporate blog is the worst because it’s just a big PR tactic that is so very transparent.”  Amen to that.  He has just stated the key principal has to be integral to every communications campaign: transparency. 

 

You can’t hide behind the spin and shine.  You’ll be called out as the Emperor with no clothes.  People want transparency.  Target got called out because they were enticing people to rave about them in the social online communities. They want to feel they can get to know you and your brand.

 

A blog lets your audience get to “know” you a bit better, by reading about what you care about on your blog.  They can encounter your “parroting” of your company’s reports, or your pitches, just like anyone you speak with, whether online or in a face to face meeting.  They can also encounter your expertise, knowledge, experience, opinion, tastes, likes, competence, and so on.  A website is a great place for your audience to find and interact with you, if there are the right tools to do so.  A blog is one of those tools.

 

I spoke to a group of business professionals last week that were skeptical yet eager to learn about how blogs are being used today and whether or not they should have a blog or even recommend blogs to their clients (they are consultants).  I was impressed by shared inquisitiveness and curiosity, and most of all with their ability to embrace this new form of communication. They wanted to join in the discussion.

 

I think advertising will ultimately survive – there will always be a need for creative content, but it will have to move to the new communication mediums, and become on demand rather than an interruption.  Agencies, the slow ones, refusing to be nimble and embrace the changes and keep with the times, will be culled from the herd.  Those that embrace and innovate will be the ones setting their brands truly above the buzz.  What do you think? Leave a comment. Start a conversation. Engage!

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