You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2009.

cutting edgeEvery professional communicator, whether on the agency or client side, is looking for that extra edge – the cutting edge – that enables their client to gain market share.

But, what does that mean? 

Without question, it can mean developing a creative idea, a breakthrough moment (e.g., product innovation, service technique, creative expression, etc.) that generates excitement, creates buzz, draws attention and, most important, draws customers.

This may happen once or twice in the lifetime of a consumer brand or a company providing much-needed services to individuals or other businesses.

More likely, businesses find and maintain their “edge” by marrying creativity with clarity of expression, consistency of application and disciplined implementation over time. 

tortoise and hareFor every “one hit wonder” there are hundreds of “slow and steady win the race” examples in business.

From a communications perspective, this means having an integrated marketing communications approach. 

This, in turn, means that your company is fully committed to implementing business processes to ensure that all contacts with your brand, whether a customer or prospect for your product, service or organization, are meaningiful and consistent.

Easier said than done.  From the company’s perspective, it requires all employees to be on the same page in terms of the company’s values – who it is, what it does for whom and why.

From a communicators perspective, it means learning and teaching ways to ensure that the client’s culture – it’s values – translates into every interaction with a customer or prospect.  And this means in all offline (traditional) and online (new media) communications activities. 

From media releases to social media, from direct contact to direct mail, from collateral materials to community presentations, from graphics to packaging, the key to an integrated approach is to deliver creative, clear and concise messages over time that reflect the true value the company brings to its customers.

Post by Nick Vehr – 8.31.09

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cafe experienceHave been thinking a lot about integrated marketing communications lately and the real value it delivers for clients and the challenges it presents for professional communicators

A colleague (thanks, Laura!) shared this article this morning from FastCompany.com.  It’s title is, “Scale: The Importance of Cafe-Shaped Experiences.” 

The premise is clear – it is important to strive to personalize every brand interaction to enhance brand reputation and develop or strengthen the relationship that is at the core of the value exchange.

In essence, this is precisely what integrated marketing communications does.  Its goal is to ensure that every interaction with your brand, whether a consumer, a business or a service, reinforces why you re interacting in the first place. 

It doesn’t matter if the interaction is with Starbuck’s coffee or Tide detergent, or the supplier of 200 containers of building supplies or the architect designing a new R&D facility. 

What matters – and what leads to repeat interactions and value exchange – is the sincerity, honesty and consistency of each interaction that leads to trust, loyalty and a deepened relationship.

fast company logoThe FastCompany.com article, in essence, touches on just the same thing.  It’s a good read and I hope you enjoy it.

Post by Nick Vehr – 8.28.09

Any professional communicator servicing clients has been there.  It happens all the time.disconnected

You show up for the start-up meeting with a new client who is represented by several different people from different departments or operating divisions.  You do the business card exchange thing and, as the meeting begins, you set the cards in front of you.  Each card looks like it’s coming from a different company. 

The internal disconnect is glaring at you from the table top.

It’s usually an indication of a much larger problem.  It may not be what the company thought was the problem that got you into the meeting in the first place.  Chances are, though, the lack of integration and coordination resulting in the scrambled deck of b-cards is somewhere at the core of why you’re there.

Of course, integrated marketing communication means more than getting the b-cards to all look the same.  It means having:

  • the insight to understand why clarity and consistency in brand presentation is important,
  • the creativity to ensure that how you present yourself accurately represents who you are, what you do and why you’re different (better), and
  • the discipline to do it every day, every time, with every audience that matters to the growth of your business.

Consumer brands are pretty good at this stuff.  B2B companies, not so good.  Regardless, communicating with clarity, consistency, creativity and discipline over time is not easy … not at all. 

It is, however, important for consumer-focussed and business-focussed companies looking for any and every competitive edge or advantage they can find in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Post by Nick Vehr – 8.25.09

twitter iconThe 2009 Comfort Food Tour is over.  Phew!

Just to recap, my 23-year old son, his buddy and I covered 1,800 miles, 7 cities, 18 restaurants in six days.  From Cincinnati to Pittsburgh, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, NYC, Albany, Buffalo and back to Cincinnati, we experienced food and togetherness.  It was a blast.

Besides the obvious quality time with my son, and giving him and his friend the experience of seeing cities they had never visited, I decided to tweet (www.twitter.com/nickv) the entire trip as a Twitter immersion experience. 

So, how’d that go and what did I learn?  

I tweeted about 60 times over the the course of the trip.  From restaurant updates and ratings to sightseeing pictures (twitpic) and smart-aleck remarks, I kept busy.  I viewed it all as keeping a new media journal. 

Halfway through our trip, tech support (23-year old son) connected my Twitter account to my Facebook account so my tweets posted automatically.  The increase in online chatter happened immediately.

Tweeting enabled Mom and other famly and friends to follow the trip.  I think they enjoyed the updates but, like me, became a bit tired of the volume.

As a professional communicator, I entered the experience with a clear bias.  I felt that Twitter was mostly a consumer-focused social media tool with limited applications for b2b companies. I clearly understood the value of Twitter for crisis communications (reputation management), especially for consumer brands.

The trip and the Twitter experience left me a bit more open to broader applications of Twitter, but I still feel it is primarily a “social” tool rather than a “business” tool (of course, I know Twitter is developing a business application for Twitter and I look forward to learning more about it).

We all have friends whose excessive use of social media becomes sadly anti-social.  Rather than interacting and enjoying the moment, they have their head down typing away on their hand-held.  I found myself doing this periodically.

Regardless, for me it was a learning and growing experience in the use social media.  The 23-year olds were much more comfortable than me.  I had fun.  I got some nice suggestions and comments. 

The trip was a success, as was my own immersion experience with Twitter.  I’ll continue to look for, and feel I am now better able to spot, business applications for the benefit of our clients.

Post by Nick Vehr – 8.24.09

buffalo wingsI am breaking my rule about only using this blog for posts of interest to professional communicators, kind of.

I am leaving tomorrow on what I am naming (at least so far) the “2009 Comfort Food Tour”.  I, my 23-year old son and his buddy are heading out for 7-day roadtrip with one rule: no chain restaurants.

Dining choices will be heavily influenced by the Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food” picks and the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Throughs and Dives” stops.

Cities?  We’ll see, but the plan for now is Pittsburgh, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, NYC, Boston (maybe), Buffalo, Cleveland and back home to Cincinnati. 

From Primanti Brothers in Pittsburgh to the Anchor Bar in Buffalo (original buffalo wings, duh!), our cultural eating tour should be an absolute blast.  Robert Pirsig (Zen) would be proud because it will be very spontaneous, by design.

I plan to tweet and facebook (maybe) my way through.  I will not be posting to this blog – wouldn’t want to miss a meal.  In addition to learning what makes 23-year old young men tick (kinda scarey) and having some great food experiences, this trip will give me a chance to really experiement with Twitter and Twitpics.

So, follow me (@nickv) and have some fun with us.  If you do, the big difference between you and us on this trip – we’ll be gaining all the weight!

Post by Nick Vehr – 8.15.09

pepsi logoAs professional communicators know, sometimes the best crisis communications exercise results in few people, if any, realizing how close you really came to a full blown crisis. 

Social media can play an important role in a world that’s moving faster every day.Coca Cola logo

In today’s Wall Street Journal (8.3.09), the article, “For Companies, A Tweet in Time Can Avert PR Mess” discusses examples where monitoring of social media averted broader PR messes for Ford, Pepsi and Coca Cola.ford logo

Not every crisis, or near crisis, can be averted by monitoring tweets, posts and other online chatter, but in this article some of the world’s biggest brands share examples of how, in their cases, they did.

Whether a monstrous global brand, a privately held mid-sized B2B company, or a non-profit organization, being prepared for crisis, having a business continuity plan and, importantly, the commitment to execute it can preserve your hard-earned and well-deserved reputation.

As Winston Churchill once said, “A lie can go halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on in the morning.”  And just think, he said that before the Internet.

Post by Nick Vehr – 8.3.09