Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Managing PR in a Crisis: An exclusive panel discussion produced by AMA Boston

October 13, 2009

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“Two experienced divers die mysteriously in the tunnel from Boston to Deer Island. Archdiocese of Boston officials cover up an insidious scandal that spans decades of sexual abuse. U.S. forces invade Iraq while longtime American allies howl in protest.

Only well-prepared, quick-thinking PR experts with prolific backgrounds in crisis management could manage—and succeed—in defusing these controversies. Our distinguished panel of experts are looking forward to sharing their experiences addressing these and other crises through the application of proven PR tools and techniques.

While most businesses have an emergency plan to protect their staff and office systems in the event of a natural disaster, few have developed a communications plan to address public crises such as lawsuits, improper behavior by employees or product recalls. The power of the social web and 24/7 news coverage can amplify public perception and corporate crises can quickly spiral out of control. Today, more than ever, it is imperative for companies to be prepared.”

Sign up for this great opportunity to hear Tom Lee and other PR professionals discuss how to prepare for and manage PR in a crisis:  http://pr-crisis.eventbrite.com

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How the hell do I get this printed?

October 9, 2009

Commercial printing, digital printing, desktop printing, online vendors…. Arrg! How many times have you found yourself in this quandary: You have to print something, you have a deadline looming and marketing people are either unavailable, or non-existent? Here are a few rules of thumb to follow to get the best quality printed product on time and at a reasonable cost.

Commercial (or offset or lithography) printing: Colors are made up of four basic printing colors, cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK or process colors). These colors are separated into dot patterns that when combined on paper create a full color image. A metal plate is made for each color with the dot pattern imaged on to it by a laser, the imaged area accepts ink and the non-imaged area resists ink.  First the plates are wrapped around cylinders in a printing press, inked and rolled onto another cylinder of softer material called the blanket. Next, the image is “offset” onto the blanket and rolled onto the paper.

Commercial printers can add some special touches such as varnishes, custom inks, die cuts, and just about any size and configuration you can imagine.

• Price: Very high price-per-piece for quantities under 1000 pieces. The more pieces you need, the cheaper it gets; you can pay just a few cents per piece when printing 10,000 or more.

• Quality: The best. You won’t get better quality printing than with a commercial printer. They have production managers who will work directly with you to make sure you get what you need, when you need it.

• Timing: Generally, give it a week. Depending on the amount of work on the floor they can be flexible with schedules to a point, but you won’t get an offset printed job back the next day.

• Best jobs to give them: Large corporate brochures, slick sales materials, books, packaging, quantities over 1000 pieces.

CMYK separations from left to right: The cyan separation, the magenta separation, the yellow separation, the black separation, the combined halftone pattern, and how the human eye would observe the combined halftone pattern from a sufficient distance.

CMYK separations from left to right: The cyan separation, the magenta separation, the yellow separation, the black separation, the combined halftone pattern, and how the human eye would observe the combined halftone pattern from a sufficient distance.

Digital Printing: Many commercial printers will have a digital option available. The reputable printers will offer you this option, if your quantity is small enough to take advantage of the cost savings of digital printing.

Digital presses are either laser or inkjet. Laser printing involves lasering your image onto a light-sensitive surface making the image area able to attract or repel toner. The image is then transferred to paper and fused in place by a heating element. Inkjet shoots tiny droplets of ink onto paper to create an image. This process provides near-photographic quality images but is limited to certain types of paper. Your printing rep will recommend different solutions based on the type of image you’re printing.

Digital printing is great if: you are printing fewer than 1000 pieces, you’re not picky about paper, you have a job that prints on letter-sized or tabloid-size paper, you have a job that needs to be done quick, you need a job completed quickly because this type of job can be printed within hours. Short run digital also allows you to personalize each printed piece; Names and messages can be pulled from a database and laser printed onto each page. Studies have shown that response rates rise dramatically when direct mailings take advantage of mass customization.

• Price: Very reasonable for up to roughly 1000 pieces. If you print more the per-piece price is better going the commercial route.

• Quality: The technology advanced so much with digital printing that it is very close to offset quality. Limitations are on paper stock and size of the piece.

• Timing: Digital printing companies usually give you a three day turnaround, but if the job is time sensitive, they can get it done same day.

• Best jobs to give them: Short run projects that you need right away.

Desktop Printing: The technology behind your desktop printer is the same as you’ll find in the larger machines but you’ll run into problems with managing the job at the office. Co-workers wanting to use the printer, paper jams, alignment and registration issues, problems printing on two sides and collating and binding contribute to printing a large number of pieces off your desktop printer a nightmare. You are much better off sending it out – believe me I’ve been there and it’s not pretty.

• Price: Appears free until you add up all that expensive ink and paper you’re using up.

• Quality: Usually poor because copy paper will bleed, warp and not carry color well.

• Timing: The timing is right until you hit that first paper jam.

• Best jobs: For printing fewer than 50 sheets with minimal large color graphics and  basic staple, or 3-hole punch binding.

What about online print vendors? Be careful. There are great bargains to be had, but you really don’t know how reliable an online vendor is until you’ve used one. I would suggest using a few different online vendors for low priority jobs until you find one or two that have worked well for you. Online print vendors have good prices because they print in volume. They will gain a lot of jobs on one huge print run, limiting you to very few paper options and usually very long delivery times. Good luck finding anyone to talk to, if there’s a problem or you need to expedite shipping. There is usually no customer service person on your account and no flexibility to help meet your deadlines.

Price: Cheap! You’ll get inexpensive printing as compared to any of your brick-and-mortar printers, offset or digital.

Quality: It’s a crap shoot, if you find a few good resources guard them with your life. Whomever you use, you will be limited to paper stock and a long lead time.

Timing: Could be as long as three weeks depending on when in the vendor’s print cycle you submit your project.

Which do you prefer? Tell us your story below!

451 Marketing’s Strategize or Die Workshop Will Be Held On 10/22/09

October 8, 2009

You know about social media, you want to use social media, you have a budget for social media, but you are worried about wasting time and resources, if you don’t do it right. 451 Marketing’s Strategize or Die! Workshop can help!

October’s workshop will take a close look at several examples of both B2B and B2C companies that have used social media successfully, as well as those that have failed in using social media. The pros at 451 Marketing will provide attendees with a preliminary plan to formulate a social media strategy for 2010.

When: 8:00am – 10:00am, October 22nd
Where: The Westin Copley Place (10 Huntington Ave. Boston, MA 02116)

The workshop is free to attend and is open only to non-agency personnel.

Follow this event on Twitter with hashtag 451Strategy.

Sign up here!

Sending your child to school for the first time

October 6, 2009

Recently, I was speaking to an industry group that hasn’t really done much with social media as a whole. It’s really not the group’s fault; this industry just happens to be heavily regulated when it comes to its communication to investors and end-users. But not surprisingly, as end-users have become increasingly active on these channels, the industry is now being dragged head first into social media and confusion seems to be fairly rampant.

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At the event, I fielded many questions about the concerns these people had about social media. As most of these questions revolved around strategy, and how to avoid any number of potential disasters, I couldn’t help but think how managing your company’s first social media campaign was just like sending your child off to their first day of school.

I know at first this may seem like a stretch but try to think of your “brand” as your first born child. As a marketer or public relations professional you protect it and you try to strengthen it with the right messaging, all in the hopes that your brand will grow to become something special. Of course, you are also nervous about sending it off to the public and losing complete control. It’s a scary world out there, and people can sometimes say things about your brand that it may not want to hear (like the first time your child comes home from school crying)!

Now, I am not the type of person to say that you have nothing to fear about social media. Running a social media campaign without a sound strategy is as foolish as sending your child off to school unprepared. The reality is though, that letting go of some of your control might be exactly what will strengthen your brand, as long as you take the necessary precautions, act intelligently, and monitor it closely.

By venturing into the social web with the right frame of mind and purpose, your brand will begin to learn things about itself that it may have not known before. By allowing your brand to be surrounded by open discourse and direct engagements with end-users, you will uncover new opportunities, and current brand reflections, that will only stand to benefit your marketing initiatives over time.

Remember, as your brand interacts with others, it has the ability to grow. Home schooling is rarely the best option.

Medium Regular with Milk and Four Sugars

October 2, 2009

Looking at the consumer landscape, it is easy to pick out brands that have been with us for as long as we can remember. Immediately, you might think of brands like Coca-Cola, Apple, IBM, McDonald’s and many others. Their personalities are emblazoned in our minds to the point where we can recite their popular jingles and possibly even draw their logos on paper. This is called, “unaided awareness,” meaning you have a subconscious attachment to the brand. This is due, in part, to the personal connections we have developed with these brands over the years. For example, I remember when I worked with my dad on my first summer job. I was 13, and every day, we’d wake up at the crack of dawn and head over to Dunkin Donuts. I’d get a donut or a bagel with some kind of juice. But, my dad would order a croissant and a coffee. He’d have it how he still has it to this day, medium regular with milk and four sugars.  We’d then sit in the car and talk over our breakfast until we had to punch in for work. Those moments with my dad are moments I’ll never forget, and Dunkin Donuts will always be a part of that story.

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But, how is it that Dunkin Donuts and other long-standing brands like it, has managed to stay relevant to an ever-changing audience? It is about acknowledging the past and giving credence to the present. What does this mean? When we think about brands that have been with us for decades, some for more than a century, we have to realize that they have survived amid enormous cultural change. Including different generations of evolving mindsets, like my fathers generation as well as my own. For example, when Starbucks entered the picture and fixed itself upon global domination, Dunkin Donuts did not rush out to make its brand more youth oriented by adding gradients or cleaner typography. What did the company do? It stuck with its candy colored pink and hot dog font and just added a coffee cup next to their logo. It didn’t put on airs or presume to be something it was not. Dunkin Donuts, as well as other long-standing brands, has learned to adapt, but has not forgotten itself in the process. Many brands have created a presence for themselves through social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, etc… Does this mean they have sold out? Absolutely not, it means that they have recognized the need to continue to stay relevant to their ever-changing customer base. If you look at other brands that have stood the test of time, this ethos continues to ring true. They all stay honest to their brand and their consumers, but still manage to adapt by leveraging change as an opportunity to further interact with their customers, responding to their questions, while also reaching new generations of consumers.

Does this really make sense? To this day, whenever I need a pick me up, where do I go? Even though Starbucks may be next door, I walk the few extra minutes to the Dunkin Donuts down the block, to get my medium regular with milk and four sugars

Strategize or Die! How Fortune 1000 Companies Are Building Successful Social Media Strategies

October 2, 2009

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“You know about social media, you want to use social media, you have a budget for social media, but you are worried about wasting time and resources, if you don’t do it right. Worse yet, you have heard the horror stories about social media causing tremendous damage to brands and you want to know how to avoid any potential catastrophes. This paper will take a close look at companies that have failed and what they did wrong. It will also give you preliminary steps to help you get started on formulating a social media strategy for 2010.”

Read full white paper here

Pictures From 451’s Retreat Are Up

September 30, 2009
451 goes to Thompson Island!

451 goes to Thompson Island!

Check out 451 Marketing’s pictures from the company outing to Thompson Island here! Leave your comments.

451 Marketing Launches Massachusetts: It’s All Here Website

September 29, 2009

Massitsallhere.com's homepage designed by 451 Marketing

Massitsallhere.com's homepage designed by 451 Marketing

451 Marketing recently designed, developed and launched www.massitsallhere.com, a one-stop portal that provides businesses, individuals, families, tourists, and students with Massachusetts resources and connectivity to public, private, and academic partners throughout the state. The site is the central component of the Massachusetts: It’s All Here marketing campaign, a public-private partnership between the Commonwealth’s Department of Business Development, MassEcon, MassDevelopment, and the Massachusetts International Trade Council.

The new site is a collaborative web-based effort focused on retaining existing employers and attracting new jobs, businesses, and creative talent to Massachusetts. It connects a growing network of those committed to establishing the state as the destination of choice for every business, young mind and new idea considering a home in Massachusetts. The adopted model, which categorically breaks information down into Grow here, Live here, Work here, Play here, Study here, allows for easy navigation and accessibility, as well as linkage throughout the Massachusetts ecosystem. Dozens of industry groups, regional councils, agencies, and organizations throughout the state have adopted the It’s All Here logo and linked into the portal, providing the state with a common web-based resource.

Our Interview with New Media Marketing Innovator, Author and Restaurant Owner, Justin Levy

September 1, 2009

justin-lcp-gradsmFor part four in our series of “451 Heat 1-on1’s,” we spoke with the General Manager of New Media Marketing Labs, Justin Levy. Justin, based in Boston, helps businesses understand the potential of new media marketing, including how to use social media tools like blogs and community platforms to listen to clients and drive business revenue. He is the author of a forthcoming book, “Facebook Marketing: Designing Your Next Marketing Campaign,” and the Partner/General Manager of Caminito Argentinean Steakhouse.

To read more about Justin’s experience using social media to the benefit of his restaurant business, his new book, and his experiences working with Chris Brogan and New Media Marketing Labs, scroll on.

What first compelled you to engrain yourself in the world of new media marketing? Did you immediately recognize the potential that these tools could have for your restaurant business?

I have always used these tools as they continued to evolve. It first started out with forums, user groups, chat rooms, IRC and IM. Over the years it evolved into social networks such as MySpace and Facebook. Of course, the number of social networks have continued to grow and now there are a whole host of networks which make up the tools and core of new media marketing.

As it relates to the restaurant. I began experimenting with these tools because they were free and we needed to find ways to extend our brand. Our issue was never a quality of food or atmosphere inside of the restaurant. But, if no one is coming in and buying your stuff, then all of that other hard work doesn’t matter much. We began using new media marketing as a way to grow our brand, build community and leverage that community to spread the word about our restaurant.

Tell us about New Media Marketing Labs and what sort of brainstorming led to the creation of the popular events, Inbound Marketing Summit and Bootcamps?

New Marketing Labs is a social media agency that was founded by Chris Brogan. We opened at the beginning of 2009. At New Marketing Labs, our team works with medium and large businesses to help them use these tools to move needles that are important to them. We do this by helping them to develop a strategic plan with clear deliverables backed by a strong analytics dashboard. We do everything from strategic development to blogger outreach to manning listening and monitoring stations and a host of other activities related to using social tools to fulfill business needs.

Our Inbound Marketing Summit event is a 2 day conference that was formerly the New Marketing Summit. The New Marketing Summit has been around for approximately 3 years and was run by our parent company, CrossTech Media. When we started New Marketing Labs, we acquired the Inbound Marketing Summit from HubSpot and adopted the name. The Inbound Marketing Summit brings together some of the top thought leaders, marketers, brands, and agencies in the industry to discuss using these tools to take strategy and turn it into action. For 2009 we brought the Summit to 3 cities: San Francisco, Dallas and Boston on October 7th and 8th.

The Inbound Marketing Bootcamps are intensive one-day keyboard level training events. Topics typically include blogging, social networks, social media marketing, listening and monitoring, profile development, reputation management, and how all of this ties into business needs. By the end of 2009 we would’ve held Bootcamps in 5 cities as well as our private Bootcamps we do for brands.

You are currently in the midst of writing what should be a popular book, “Facebook Marketing: Designing Your Next Marketing Campaign.” Even social media savvy individuals and businesses seem to struggle at times to grasp how they should be using Facebook to connect and mobilize fans and prospects around their product or service. Will you address how Facebook should be utilized by B2B marketers to have a more effective reach and engage with potential buyers?

That is exactly the intention of the book. This book is being written for businesses and will, hopefully, provide them the concepts, strategy and tactical information needed to bring Facebook into the fold of their marketing plans. The book will provide a basic overview of features, deep dives into some of the tools that are important for businesses to understand, a review of some of those brands that are considered the “best in class” through their use of Facebook, and how to build a marketing plan that has Facebook as a main component of it.

Every social media marketer seems to have a slogan, or a concept, that they espouse when describing how best to use these tools for business (i.e. “listen to engage’, etc). What is your go-to?

While I have a lot of ways that I tend to explain how I believe these tools should be used by businesses, I tend to return to topics surrounding how these tools allow business to become humanized. Also, that we tend to want to do business with friends. By showing the human side of your business, it allows you to develop these personal relationships with your customers. In turn, they become fans of your business, product, or service and carry forward the message.

I also think that listening and monitoring is the most important thing that any business can do, especially when they’re just starting out. Conversations are taking place all around their brand, products, services, executives, competition and industry.  It’s up to them if they’re going to be part of that conversation.

What have you found to be the most useful social media tools for marketing your restaurant? Why do you think this is the case?

The most successful tools for our restaurant have been our listening and monitoring station, blog, video blog, Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, and Flickr. Each of these tools allow us to have two-way conversations with our customers and fans. They also allow people to connect with us on a more personal level and get to see some of what goes on behind-the-scenes at a steakhouse. Tools like Yelp allow us a mechanism for feedback about what our customers like and don’t like.

What kinds of advice do you give to people who are just beginning to get involved with social media?

Start reading as much as possible. Subscribe to blogs that you find valuable and start following those people who you learn from on networks such as Twitter. Also, don’t think you need to start everything at once. You should lay back for a minute and observe everything that is going on and then set a plan on how you want to engage. If you don’t have a clear plan of how you intend to use these tools and what your measures of success are going to be, it will be hard to determine if you’re using the right tools in the proper manner.

Chris Brogan is obviously a very popular figure on the social media web. Can you tell us what the most important thing is that you’ve learned from Chris?

I’m constantly learning from Chris. I’m extremely fortunate to get to work every day with someone that I consider a mentor and a friend. Probably the single most important skill that I continue to learn from Chris is how to build community with trust at its core. In everything that Chris does, one of the reasons he’s able to be so successful is due to how hard he has worked to build and nurture his community. He gives everything he has to his community.
For more information about Justin Levy, visit his blog.

The Evolution of Crisis Communication

August 26, 2009

deer islandAfter finishing Neil Swidey’s 2-part story in The Boston Globe Magazine last week – “Trapped Under The Sea”, the untold story of two divers who died in the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) Deer Island Treatment Plant Outfall Tunnel – I was immediately transported back 10 years to one of the seminal events of my public relations career, making me reflect on how much crisis communication has evolved over the past decade.

On July 21, 1999 I was sitting at my desk at the MWRA in the Charlestown Navy Yard writing a mundane press release about summertime water conservation, when the phone rang. It was my boss, Executive Director Doug MacDonald, and he sounded uncharacteristically shaken. There had been a terrible accident on Deer Island, he said, and that I needed to get there fast to handle the press…

As the 25 year-old spokesman of the MWRA in 1999, I personified the classic “Flak” of the time. I wrote press releases, nurtured media relationships, proactively issued good news, spun the bad news and reacted to the unexpected accordingly. I carried a pager and a basic cell phone (used sparingly for outgoing calls), and sent press releases over the fax machine. I had email, but since most media members didn’t, it was fairly useless. The internet was several years old, but it was really still just a novelty. In 1999, the dissemination of news was still solely done by traditional news outlets. As a spokesman, controlling the media meant “controlling the message”.

From a public relations standpoint, The Deer Island Outfall Tunnel crisis was handled perfectly. Pre-set protocols that had long been established were set into motion – notifications to key personnel were made quickly, a communications center was set up on the site of the incident, accurate and up-to-date information was disseminated to key communications personnel, and a single spokesperson for all public information was set (me). Within an hour of the incident, we had established control of the information and were in a position to release that information as we saw fit in a well thought-out, clear, concise manner. If the press wanted the story, they had to go through me…and they did.

Fast forward to 2009…If this same incident occurred today and the protocol we had established in 1999 was still all that was in place, I cringe to think of all the loose ends that would be flying around! What had been an airtight crisis communication protocol at the time would be seriously flawed today.

Advances in communications technology, and people’s incredible access to it today in comparison to a decade ago, has created a playing field so drastically different for a Public Relations professional that it’s not even comparable. The internet, which was just emerging in 1999, has become a critical conduit for news, communications, commerce, and social interaction. The internet has taken our vast world and shrunken it down to the size of an iPhone. Cell phones are no longer clunky mobile telephones with a single use and purpose.  Today, “Smart Phones” are multi-faceted portable communications tools that not only allow users the ability to connect with each other anywhere, at any time, through voice or SMS; they enable users instant access to the internet and all of its mass communications tools.

Armed with a Smart Phone, every citizen has become a source of news and information. Look no further than Janis Krums, the blogger who happened to be on the first ferry to arrive on the scene a few minutes after US Airways Flight 1549 had plunged into the Hudson River in New York City earlier this year. Within ten minutes of the crash, Krums had used Twitter (and Twitpic) to post a photo of the downed plane with news of the crash and distributed that information to tens of thousands of people. It was roughly 30 minutes before the first news crew was even on the scene.

Controlling “the message” today as a PR professional no longer means controlling the press. Since everyone who has access to a computer is now a viable news source, it is now virtually impossible to completely control the message. It is still possible, however, to mitigate the crisis and influence public opinion.

With that said, I will share with you my Five Principles of Handling a Crisis in 2009 that will help you to minimize the damage of an unforeseen crisis and protect your company’s short-term and long-term interests:

  1. Prepare – Abraham Lincoln once said; “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”  Being prepared for a potential crisis situation is absolutely critical.
    1. Develop a set protocol that will be placed into motion as soon as an unforeseen crisis strikes. This protocol includes everything from a strategic contact list (eg – key decision makers, communications personnel & legal council) to the creation of a physical command center.
    2. Media train key personnel. Establish a spokesperson(s) for the company and have them work with a professional public relations professional (or firm) to receive the proper media training.
    3. Set up online monitoring tools. Every company should employ free online monitoring tools like Google Alerts and Tweet Grid, or paid services like Radian6 and Cision. It is critical to monitor your brand online 24/7. Whether it’s a disgruntled employee smearing your company name on a blog or an online news article about a client or competitor, monitoring the web is a necessary step towards protecting your brand’s reputation and to identify, or in some cases, avoid a crisis before it happens.
  2. Get the facts – Stay calm and keep your wits about you! While it is important to respond swiftly to a crisis, it is even more important not to make any rash or reflexive moves. It is imperative to get all of the facts as quickly as possible from the most credible sources. Before you can successfully handle a crisis, you need to understand what happened, how it happened and where your exposure lies.
  3. Be Proactive – Once you have all the facts, it is imperative that you take a proactive approach to responding publicly. Avoid taking a defensive posture. Make sure that your stance and message is carefully crafted and delivered in a clear and concise manor. Avoid live interviews if possible and never, ever say “No Comment!”  In the court of public opinion, “no comment” means “I’m guilty!” The most effective way to ensure that your response is clear is to issue a written statement attributed to your designated spokesperson. A statement should consist of a two to three sentences that can each stand alone. The statement should be conciliatory in tone and firm and decisive. Make it clear that you are aware of the incident, state your stance on the matter and ensure people that you will get to the bottom of it and take action.
  4. Monitor – Good intelligence is your greatest weapon for diffusing a crisis situation. Utilize your online monitoring tools, adjusting search terms as necessary, to monitor what people are saying about your company, what they are saying about the crisis itself, and how effective your response has been. This allows you to keep a virtual finger on the pulse of public opinion and enables you to uncover additional exposure that may warrant a response.
  5. Take Action – Whether the crisis has been averted or you’ve simply mitigated the fallout, it is important to publicly take steps to remedy the cause of the crisis and ensure that it will never happen again. Announce new policy, hire a consultant, or fire your CFO. Whatever it is, make sure you announce it, so the public knows you intend to fix what broke.

While advances in communications technology and the advent of the “citizen journalist” have significantly added to the challenges faced by a crisis communicator, the key principles remain the same. Whether you own, manage or operate a company or public agency, you can be sure of one thing – you will inevitably be faced with a crisis situation. When you do, will you be prepared to handle it?