Amy Minchin Creative: Two Years and Counting

It’s hard for me to believe it, but it’s been two years since I ventured into the world of consulting and freelance writing. Every day is different, and the variety of work is refreshing. I am thankful to the following organizations for trusting me with developing communications and marketing strategies, implementing projects, writing, or working with the media on your behalf:

Alabama Institute of Medicine
American Association of Occupational Health Nurses
Bebah, LLC
Community Action Program Committee, Inc.
Hancock Bank/Hancock Holding Company
L. Donnie Smith & Associates, CPAs
Santa Rosa County Beaches to Woodlands Tour
Snowbirds Magazine
Visit Florida

I should also acknowledge the Leadership Pensacola Class of 2014 and its LeaPplay project, as well as the Pensacola Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association. It has been a pleasure to serve and support these organizations during the past year, as well.

Here’s to the future and many more words to write!

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LeaPplay: One LeaP Class Member’s Perspective

Last summer I was selected to be a part of the Greater Pensacola Chamber’s Leadership Pensacola program. It’s similar to leadership programs in other cities with a series of opportunities to explore the local community, understand its infrastructure, and potential for future growth. I’ve enjoyed meeting other professionals in the program and I’ve learned a great deal about Northwest Florida.

SH0144 Leap logo(2)What I am most proud of from this experience is the opportunity I’ve had to be a part of LeaPplay, a class project to renovate the playroom space at The Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart. We’re essentially giving the playroom area an extreme makeover that will give the young hospital patients a vibrant and roomier space to play, read and watch movies. It’s a place they can go to get out of their hospital room and enjoy the same activities they would if they were at home.

While I won’t be ripping out walls or installing new flooring (we leave that to the professionals who have kindly sponsored LeaPplay!), I am helping to spread the word about our project to media, potential donors and others who have an interest in helping our cause. Our dedicated marketing committee launched the LeaPplay brand in just a few short weeks last fall. Local creative agencies Appleyard Agency and Clever Ogre provided the project’s graphic identity and website, respectively. We’re using videos on YouTube and commercials produced courtesy of Cox Communications to tell our story on television. We’re active on Facebook and Twitter, and we’re speaking to local civic and community groups throughout the area. You may even see a car wash or two as we look for any potential avenue to get support for LeaPplay and make the new playroom a reality for the kids at Sacred Heart.

It’s been fun to be a part of this grassroots effort and we’re not finished yet. If all goes as planned, we’ll raise the funds necessary to begin construction in March and cut the ribbon on the brand new play space in May. If you would like to learn more or donate to LeaPplay, please visit leapplay.org.

Social Media Evolution

Instagram user photo

Instagram user photo

In my last post, I talked about the use of calls-to-action in social media. Instagram was not on my short list of social networks where CTAs can be effective, but new research suggests it has solid potential. Patricia Redsicker summarizes the latest user data from Pew Research in her Social Media Examiner post, “Instagram Platform Ripe for Marketers Shows New Research.” She includes some good examples of how you can make the most of your brand’s presence on the photo sharing site.

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On any social platform, whether you are using calls-to-action or just sharing informative or entertaining content with your community of followers, it’s important to know the demographics of your audience and how the nuances of the network can support your overall brand and business objectives. In social, it’s always evolving, too. What worked last year may not be the best approach anymore. It’s a happy new year, in deed.

Are you overlooking this critical element in your marketing strategy?

Yesterday I was interviewed by Polina Opelbaum with PR Newswire about the use of calls-to-action in social media. The interview, which also includes comments from other industry professionals, appears here on the website ProfNet Connect. Seeing my comments in the Q&A article reminded me how much my own blog has become a classic case of the cobbler’s children having no shoes. I’ve been busy writing for clients and other media while my own neglected blog gathers virtual dust. So with that said, in this long overdue post I’d like to expand on the comments included in the ProfNet Connect article and offer you a few more of my thoughts on using calls-to-action in social media.

Are you overlooking this critical element in your digital marketing strategy?

Although it should not be a part of every social media post, a call-to-action is critical for those Facebook posts, tweets, etc., that are designed to get a response from your audience. The call-to-action very simply tells your audience what to do next as a result of the information or visual content that you’ve shared. If you’ve gotten their attention and they want to know more, it tells them what to do to get more information about your brand (e.g., visit your website or landing page). If you are offering a specific product or service in your communication, it may direct them to email, call or complete an online form.

Calls-to-action are not new. They are often used in sales letters, brochures, ads and other traditional marketing vehicles. In social media posts, calls-to-action have the advantage of being able to drive the audience to engage with you in real time. Facebook and Google+ may offer the most flexibility in terms of the length of your written content and the types of visual content you can include. If your call-to-action is short and to the point, Twitter can be a good option. You see this a lot when a company asks its follower to retweet a message to encourage the viral sharing of its content. On YouTube, the call-to-action often appears at the end of a video similar to how it might look at the end of a TV commercial.

An example from Twitter:

Please visit and like our Facebook page, https://t.co/Gza5hCL2Im, to read today’s news release announcing the @LeaPplay project.

— LeaPplay (@LeaPplay) November 18, 2013

Many times brands use social media to gather sales leads, so they will use the call-to-action to drive prospects to a landing page where they can get free advice, download an ebook or whitepaper, or perhaps register for a giveaway. It allows the marketer to capture email addresses and other contact information for its use in future marketing efforts. Other calls-to-action are simply intended to create awareness by driving traffic to the brand’s website or encouraging users to share content that is useful or entertaining.

I’ve seen calls-to-action as simple as a sign in a sandwich shop that read, “Like us on Facebook and get a free cookie.” The payoff for the business and the consumer is instant.

Calls-to-action have to be explicit in telling the audience what to do next and how to do it. Including a link to your website or landing page is helpful because you can take them straight to the source of more information and encourage them to engage with you directly. In some cases it helps to not only use a call-to-action, but specify a time frame in which the reader/viewer needs to respond to take advantage of your offer. So basically, give them a deadline or emphasize the immediacy (e.g., call today or register by Friday). You should avoid calls-to-action that are overly complicated. If it’s not concise and easy to understand, it won’t work.

I was Pinterest When Pinterest Wasn’t Cool

If you’re old enough to remember Barbara “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool” Mandrell and her lovely sisters, you’re probably old enough to have engaged in one of my favorite holiday pastimes as a child – studying the Sears catalog. The day it arrived in the mailbox each fall was a day my sister and I eagerly awaited. We had our pens ready and we fought over who would get to look at the thick book with thin, shiny pages first. Circling all the toys we hoped Santa would bring us was just plain fun. We knew we wouldn’t get all of those toys (although we got plenty). We certainly didn’t need them. It was pure fantasy. What fun it would be, we imagined, to wear one of those Mary Lou Retton leotards while dressing up our Cabbage Patch dolls and making masterpieces on our Light Brights. The catalog served its purpose. It let our parents know in no uncertain terms what we’d soon be telling the red-suited man at the mall about.

When the fun of Christmas ended, my friends and I used the catalog to decorate our imaginary dream homes. We’d fill notebooks listing our selections for each room of the house – comforters and bed skirts, lamps and even tacky wall paper (it was the 80s). Let’s just say our interior design careers peaked early.

“I took a lot of kidding because I didn’t fit in. Now look at everybody trying to be what I was then.” – Barbara Mandrell

But today, designing and virtually proclaiming the lifestyle we’d like to have is just a click away on Pinterest. Although I primarily use Pinterest to save recipes, I have to admit there is some appeal to assembling pin boards with ideas for a luxurious home, a perfectly organized office or the craft projects we’d like to do with our kids someday.

Some of my favorite retailers have capitalized on this fantasy, offering prizes (usually shopping sprees) to customers who pin their products to a contest-themed Pinterest board. It’s a smart move on their part — driving consumers to their website where we study items we’d like to own and capture them on a social sharing site we return to often.

If you manage a business, whether it is b2c or b2b, consider what visual assets you have and how you can make Pinterest a part of your social media mix and content marketing strategy.

Now, just for fun…

 

Going Back to My Roots, Y’all

YC-attendee-badgeI’ll be in Sweet Home (Birmingham) Alabama this Tuesday at the Y’all Connect conference. I’m looking forward to going home and learning from some of the most recognized names in digital marketing, social media and blogging. The focus is corporate storytelling, which I’ve been doing throughout my career in one form or another. These days storytelling is one of the most effective strategies for engaging customers and gaining loyalty for your brand. It is essential to relationship-based sales and long-term business success. The conference should be great fun. Plus, who can resist an event with okra in its logo?

 

Sunshine – Yes, please

This week is National Travel and Tourism Week. It’s something I might not have given much thought to before I lived in Florida, where the industry has a tremendous impact on the economy, but travel and tourism is in fact one of America’s largest industries. According to 2012 data reported by the U.S. Travel Association, the industry generated $2.0 trillion in economic output, with $855.4 billion spent directly by domestic and international travelers that spurred an additional $1.1 trillion in other industries.

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As if anyone needs convincing that vacations are a good idea, you can add helping our economy thrive to the list of benefits! Uncle Sam not only wants you, he wants you to lounge on the beach and hike in the mountains.

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So where will you go this year? Here are three beautiful Florida beaches you should consider — and I should know. I’ve been to each of them and I wrote these stories:

Panama City Beach
Perdido Key
Rosemary Beach

If you go or if you’ve been before, what do you love about these beach towns? Enjoy the sunshine!

Pensacola PR Professionals Host Annual Networking Gala

If you will be in the Pensacola area this Wednesday night, grab a friend or co-worker and join the fun at the FPRA Pensacola Chapter’s annual Making History Networking Gala. There’s no cost to attend, just come ready to network and bid on some fantastic auction items to benefit our local Florida Public Relations Association chapter!

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Amy Minchin Creative is proud to be a part of this event. For the silent auction, we’ve donated 2 tickets to the University of Alabama Crimson Caravan event in Orange Beach, Ala., featuring Head Football Coach Nick Saban and the 2013 BCS Championship Trophy. (Read about the Crimson Caravan on al.com) If you are not as obsessed with Alabama football as we are, that’s okay, too. There are many other great items to bid on, including valuable ad space donated by various local media outlets.

All proceeds benefit the Florida Public Relations Association – Pensacola chapter, which funds student scholarships annually and supports professional development opportunities for local members.

What Marketing Pros Can Learn From Ben Affleck

Roll out the red carpet. It’s time for Hollywood’s biggest night. Shiny Oscars will be awarded to films and almost every imaginable element of their production. Folks at home will watch and many, like me, will find the live tweets in their Twitter stream more entertaining than the broadcast itself. (The snarkier the better, Tweeps.)

In thinking about the upcoming Academy Awards, I see a few parallels to how modern marketing is changing the role of creative professionals. Ben Affleck, for example, has redeemed his career directing, producing and acting in Argo, the favorite to win Best Picture by many accounts. Although his work on the film did not garner (no pun intended) individual nominations from the Academy, he’s received numerous other awards. Back in 1997, it was his writing that won him an Oscar for Good Will Hunting. I think Ben’s versatility is what they’d call wicked good in Boston.

Like Ben Affleck, those of us who write or create marketing content have to become more flexible, wearing many different hats to execute the great creative work that engages our clients’ target audiences. Good writing will always be essential to communication, but now writers are also expected to think beyond the text on the page or screen. Video especially has exploded as a medium for businesses and organizations to tell their story and reach potential customers. So yesterday’s press release and article writers must be today’s script writers, directors, and in some cases on-screen talent. Photography, social media skills, and an understanding of search engine optimization (SEO) are a must, too.

With mobile technology continually changing, the types of content and digital assets that we’ll be called on to produce in the future will keep changing, as well. (Hello, Google Glass)

I’m ready for the challenge. Now if I could only sing like Adele.

Been There, Done That, Bought the Wine

TJs bagWalking out of a new Trader Joe’s store in Gainesville, Fla., I told my husband, “This may be the trendiest thing I’ve ever done.” Considering the fashion misdeeds of my youth included parachute pants and bubble suits, this was saying a lot.

Like many of my friends in Southern cities that aren’t named Atlanta, I appreciate when brands and retailers renowned in other parts of the country finally make a foray into Dixie. Thus, it was a given my holiday visit to Gainesville would not be complete until I walked through the doors at TJ’s. And walk I did, along with what seemed like at least half the population of this college town, all for an experience – one not previously available to us.

I had just left another grocery store. I didn’t go in with a particular list of items to purchase, nor did anyone else if the number of shoppers browsing aimlessly was any indication. We were all there for the experience. That and the obligatory bottle of $2.99 wine, also known as Three-Buck Chuck. Several minutes later, my curiosity quelled and impulse buys completed, I went home.

What struck me about the store (besides the quirky atmosphere and wanna-be hipster shoppers) were the low prices, many of which were for Trader Joe’s private label products. Even organic items and foodie favorites were available for less than I’ve seen in any other store. Almond milk priced at just $1.69, for example. This undoubtedly is the draw for the Trader Joe’s fanatics I know.

Ironically, selling store brand products at low prices (albeit less original and gourmet) is an art perfected by big bad Wal-Mart, which many in Gainesville vehemently opposed allowing in its fair city a few years back. Although both promise everyday low prices, these two retailers couldn’t be more different – at least that is the perception. At the risk of over simplifying the role of the two companies’ business practices and operations in defining their brands, consumers’ perceptions hinge largely on the shopping experience. Or, the previous lack thereof, in the case of Trader Joe’s stores in new markets like Gainesville. TJ’s definitely has the IT factor and it will be interesting to see whether the demand for IT is lasting as the chain grows its presence across the South.

(Now, off to meet Chuck.)