My Top Ten Posts for 2013

2013The New Year holiday is often a time for reflection and for looking ahead.  While circumstances prevented me from blogging as much as I wanted, I still had a successful blogging year!  Below are my top 10 posts (number of views) written in 2013:

10)  Do You Have A Twin On LinkedIn?  Why duplicate profiles exist on LinkedIn and how you can remedy it if you have a duplicate profile.

9)  The $209,200 Question  My answer to the question, “What is the skill a graduating senior would need most in order to secure employment?”

8)  We Take Care of Our Own  What do Bruce Springsteen and networking have in common?

7)  The Value Of First Impressions  How first impressions of schools and universities participating in a college fair passed/failed.

6)  The Secret to a Successful Job Search  My answer to the question, “If you had to narrow down all of the various pieces of job search advice into the singular most important thing someone could do, what would that one thing be?”

5)  Twitter Players  What’s a “twitter player” and how do you spot one?

4)  Follow Up To:  LinkedIn Policy Is Guilty Until Proven Innocent  Responding to reader questions for more information, this follow-up post provides additional detail on LinkedIn’s #swam policy.

3)  Check Your Facebook Privacy Settings Ahead of Graph Search  A review of how to check and change your Facebook privacy settings.

2)  LinkedIn Policy Is Guilty Until Proven Innocent  This was the most commented on post I wrote in 2013, which criticizes LinkedIn’s Site Wide Automatic Moderation (#swam) policy for group posts.

1)  Recent Examples of PR – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly  In any given week, if you look for it, you’ll find examples of public relations; good, bad and ugly.  Here’s what I found at the time . . .

As 2013 winds to a close, I wish my readers a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014.  Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing my posts this year.  I look forward to sharing my knowledge, expertise and thoughts with you in 2014.

Advertisements

Marketing and the College Tour

In March I wrote a post about the value of first impressions.  That post was inspired by the different marketing and promotional approaches of colleges and universities at a local college fair I attended with my daughter.  Fast forward four months and some of the booths that grabbed our attention that day were visited recently.

Since I tend to view many things with a marketer’s eye, the college tour experience was viewed with the same scrutiny I applied to the college fair in March.  It’s safe to say that some excelled and others failed miserably.  After visiting/looking at 7 schools in 3 states, here’s what stood out:

  1. Photo editing is a marketer’s best friend.  One school that looked great on the web and in their brochures was the exact opposite in person.  Situated in a very poor part of town, there was no dedicated campus and the buildings were quite run-down in person.  This is exactly why you must visit schools and not believe everything you see in a marketing brochure.
  2. Hospitality goes a long way.  Most schools offered visitors something to drink (bottled water, coffee, tea).  Some even offered cookies.  One offered nothing and pointed to vending machines in the lobby.  You certainly wouldn’t apply to a school based on whether or not the Admissions Department offered cookies.  But, which experience leaves a better taste in your mouth (pun intended)?
  3. Personalization makes a great impression.  Most schools followed-up on our visits with a “canned” thank you note and additional marketing materials.  Thank you notes are important, but they need to be authentic.  We received a hand-written thank you note from the student tour guide at one of the schools (in addition to one from admissions).  That simple gesture made a great and lasting impression!
  4. You need to walk the walk.  If you’re going to tout how state-of-the-art your campus is when it comes to technology, then your admissions presentation should reflect that.  A simple PowerPoint isn’t going to cut it.  The schools that invested in a higher quality multimedia presentation reinforced their claim of incorporating cutting edge technology.
  5. Finding common ground.  A few of the schools had large groups of students/parents for the campus tour.  Most simply split the groups randomly.  However, one university split the groups by the prospective students’ potential major/school.  Additionally, they matched that group with a student tour guide from that same school.  Rather than having a theater major attempting to answer questions about a business major, you had a business major answering questions from prospective business school students.
  6. Kids like swag.  Just like point #2 above, whether or not you receive a coffee mug or t-shirt from the school should have no bearing on whether or not you choose to apply to that school.  But, kids like free stuff!  The schools which made a small investment in a promotional budget sent visiting students home with a positive impression (and created a walking advertisement in the process).

The above marketing observations are certainly not limited to higher education.  These same examples and principles apply to small businesses too.  Think about the impression your action (or inaction) is leaving on customers and potential customers.  Quite often, just a simple shift can make a big difference!

Recent Examples of PR – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

In any given week, if you look for it, you’ll find examples of public relations; good, bad and ugly.  Here’s what I found recently:

The Good:  Restaurants and fast food chains have so many examples of bad PR that you could write a novel.  So when something goes against that trend, it’s worth talking about.  Red Robin recently received great positive PR and all it cost them was $11.50.  How did that happen?  A couple expecting their second child visited a location in North Carolina.  When the bill came due, the couple was pleasantly surprised to see her meal was at no charge with “MOM 2 BEE GOOD LUC” written on the bill.

The Bad:  Allstate recently released an ad that focused on how they’ve helped numerous victims of Hurricane Sandy and how their agents put the customer first.  The problem was that one of the damaged homes featured prominently in the spot is not being covered fully by the company and the insurance claim is still in dispute.  The homeowners have vocalized their displeasure with both the company and the video.  I’ve tried to include a link to the video, but it’s been removed.  While not a PR disaster of epic proportions, this is certainly bad PR for the company.

The Ugly:  Did you happen to watch the NCAA Football Championship game on January 7th?  During the game, play-by-play announcer Brent Musburger made some comments about the girlfriend of the starting quarterback for Alabama.  What he said wasn’t necessarily inappropriate or bad, but many viewers during and after the game took to social media criticizing the comments as “creepy” and “awkward.”  In my opinion, an apology wasn’t necessary, but ESPN issued one to escape a potential firestorm.

What have you noticed recently in public relations and would you nominate it as good, bad or ugly?

Opposites Attract

There’s an old saying that opposites attract and that’s often true.  There was a story in the local paper recently about the decline of greeting cards due to the increasing popularity and usage of electronic versions and social media.

Stats back up this trend.  A U.S. Postal Service study which shows correspondence (like greet­ing cards) fell 24% between 2002 and 2010.  Hallmark estimates the number of greeting cards sold in the U.S. has fallen by 20% in the past decade.

It’s certainly great to log onto Facebook on your birthday and read dozens of birthday wishes from friends and family (most of whom probably would not have mailed you a physical card).  But, isn’t there something special about opening the mailbox to find an envelope with your name on it, written by hand?  That’s a great example of the opposite (of the norm) having a positive effect.

The same principle applies to business or job searching.  Most job applications are filed electronically and many of the larger companies have their own applicant tracking system in place.  Conventional job search wisdom is to send a thank you following an interview.  What if, instead of emailing that note, you mailed a physical thank you card and wrote your note by hand?  Don’t you think it would stand out (in a positive way) in this ever-increasingly electronic age?

With business, when everyone sends an email, why not pick up the phone?  Don’t forget the power of a sincere “thank you” in business – and to do something to make that thank you memorable.  At the end of the day, if you want to stand out from the crowd, sometimes you zig when others zag.  It may not always be true, but very often opposites do indeed attract.

Natural Disasters and Marketing

Companies need to tread lightly when it comes to marketing around a natural disaster.  With Superstorm Sandy, 100+ people died worldwide and damage estimates are at $20 Billion and growing.  That doesn’t make for a great marketing opportunity in most instances, but it can, if done correctly.

American Apparel caused a Twitter firestorm when they offered a Hurricane Sandy Sale.  As if that wasn’t tasteless enough, their headline read “In case you’re bored during the storm.”  Seriously.  The company was slammed on social media with outrage and rightly so, in my humble opinion.

Closer to (my) home, and with much less publicity, a local winery committed a similar marketing faux pas.  Glenora Wine Cellars offered customers a Hurricane Sandy Sale.

While not as egregious, I still thought it was in very poor taste (especially the picture).  I made my opinion known on their Facebook page, commenting on their post about the promotion.  Within hours, their post (along with my comment) was removed.  Their website still offered the promotion, and I called them out on Twitter for it.

Within hours, their web page promotion was removed too.  What couldn’t be removed were the emails the winery sent out to their list.

So what’s a “good” way to market around a natural disaster?  How about showing some compassion?  How about figuring out how to help the victims through a donation of time, talent, product or service?  Duracell brought charging stations to Lower Manhattan so that those without power could charge their cell phones.  They’re helping victims of Hurricane Sandy and garnering positive publicity and public relations in the process.

It’s such a simple concept when you compare the positive example to the negative ones, isn’t it?  Yet so many companies get it wrong.  One would hope that marketers would learn from these mistakes.  Sadly, history will likely repeat itself and some company will damage their image and reputation by running a tasteless promotion during the next natural disaster.  Hopefully, they have a public relations department or company at their disposal.  Even better would be to employ some common sense.

Want to help the victims?  Below are links to various organizations assisting in the relief efforts (list not to be considered an endorsement):

Red Cross

Salvation Army

New York Blood Center

Feeding America

AmeriCares

World Vision

Save The Children

Before you donate in a time of crisis, make sure you do your homework on the charitable organization.  Here are some tips by Charity Navigator.