Want Your Business to Stand Out? Join the Crowd

Find common ground with others and grow business together. In one Northwest Florida county, that connection is the beauty and diversity of the natural environment.

There is strength in numbers when it comes to capturing the attention and more importantly the business of your customers and prospects.

Sure, big numbers in your marketing budget can help, but not everyone has that luxury. By numbers, I’m referring to your organization and those around you — peers in your industry, in your neighborhood, in your target market. By identifying others who share something in common with your business and creating opportunities to work together for your mutual benefit, everyone wins.

I recently had an opportunity to do some writing for a print publication promoting a Santa Rosa County, Fla., tourism program, the Beaches to Woodlands Tour. The Beaches to Woodlands Tour encompasses more than 40 events taking place across this Northwest Florida county along the Gulf Coast. It offers something for everyone — locals and tourists alike — every weekend in October. There are marine life encounters, running and cycling events, a golf tournament, hay rides and a corn maze, tiki carving, an automobile show, and dozens more activities. There is even a fox hunt (a subject of which I’d have no knowledge without the Beaches to Woodlands Tour).

Many of the events are fundraisers for local non-profit organizations. Individually they might not garner the publicity that a county-wide program with a concentrated marketing effort is able to achieve. Tour coordinator Karen Harrell does a great job of organizing and marketing the Tour for the Santa Rosa County Tourism Development Council. She utilizes traditional media, the Tour website and social media. You’ll find information here on Facebook, for example.

The organizations’ collective participation makes it a low-cost, high impact strategy to raise awareness for their individual businesses and events, while also promoting the diverse geography and cultural opportunities of the area.

So what does this mean for you? If you want to stretch your marketing and PR dollars, look for opportunities to come together with those around you. Businesses can join with other merchants nearby to lure current and potential customers to a special event. Your local Chamber of Commerce or Economic Development Council may offer these avenues. Conferences and festivals need vendors and sponsors, and they often provide an affordable way to get in front of your target customer base and showcase your organization alongside others in your community. If it’s a cause you’re advocating for, find others who share your position and team up to spread the message. Industry associations and lobbying groups do this daily on the federal and state levels. Whether it is sales you’re after or the hearts and minds of your stakeholders, you never have to go it alone.

How has your business or organization taken advantage of joint marketing or public relations opportunities? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Conventional Wisdom

Miss a speech or want to re-watch one? You can find it on YouTube.

Many people are turned off by political rhetoric. I am too, at times, and really, who isn’t? It can become exhausting and frustrating, but — some of the more petty, personal attacks aside — it is an important part of our political process. Voters and constituents have to know what a candidate stands for, what they have accomplished, and what plans and solutions they will bring to the table. Communicating these points is essential for success, as I talked about in a previous post, and this concept applies to politics, business, charitable organizations, you name it.

With that in mind, I have watched a good portion of the Republican National Convention from Tampa this week, and I will tune in for the Democratic National Convention being held in Charlotte next week. I try to objectively evaluate the messages that the candidates and their parties advance at these events and during the course of a campaign. Do they state clearly what they will offer if elected? Do they answer the questions that are on voters’ minds? Is it apparent that they have a defined strategy for each speech or appearance and do they effectively deliver?

It’s a good exercise for anyone who works in communications, but also for anyone who represents an organization.
It is selling, pure and simple. Could you stand up before thousands and eloquently describe your business, your products, your cause, your (fill in the blank)? Could you persuade buyers, investors, donors, subscribers or whomever your target audience happens to be? Although it would be easy for me to simply say, work with a good communications pro or writer and he or she will help you out, that is not my intent. My point is to encourage you to watch the people who must make their case on the world’s biggest stages and consider what you can take away and apply in your own business or career.

I think what has struck me most this week watching the RNC convention is that speakers have to be believable, to be sincere in telling their story, and they have to show empathy for others and inspire them. It isn’t as much about what they are saying, as how they say it. Some use humor, which can be incredibly effective and memorable — not to mention tweet-able. Like it or not, we have a sound byte culture. And now, it is also a 140-character culture.

Some share something personal like former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did last night, saying:

“A little girl grows up in Jim Crowe Birmingham, the segregated city of the South where her parents can’t take her to a movie theater or to a restaurant but they have her absolutely convinced that, even if she can’t have a hamburger at the Woolworth’s lunch counter, she could be President of the United States if she wanted to and she becomes the Secretary of State.”

This says a great deal about what she overcame in life, her character and her determination, which automatically gives her credibility whether you agree with her views or not. Of course not everyone has this type of exceptional personal story of overcoming odds, but whatever your story is it is uniquely yours and people want to know who you are. They also want to hear it in your own words. They want transparency. Following a script can work, but the words and the delivery have to be believable.

I am looking forward to what Mitt Romney will say tonight and what President Obama and other Democrats will say next week. Each has his own communication opportunity. I hope you will tune in. There is always something to learn when we listen.

Conference in Review: Florida Public Relations Association

Public relations and communications professionals from across the state of Florida gathered in St. Augustine this week for the 74th Annual Florida Public Relations Association Conference. As a first-time attendee, I was impressed with the hundreds of professionals who dedicate their time and energy to this organization. Past, present and future state and local board members took part in the event and shared multiple stories of how FPRA membership has enhanced their professional and personal life. They also were just a fun bunch to hang out with.

Members of the Pensacola and Northwest Florida Coast Chapters of FPRA

Over three days, I attended educational sessions covering online newsrooms, PR research and measurement, content marketing and brand journalism, special interest communications, grassroots campaigns, crisis management and much more. I made new friends and contacts who I look forward to working with in the future.

Whatever job you do, I highly recommend participating in an organization like FPRA. For me, the conference was a way to refresh my skills and renew my enthusiasm for the profession. Many years ago, through membership in a similar organization I learned about a job opening that turned into a 13-year career for me.

Courtesy of FPRA Gainesville


Some organizations are even cool enough to have their own red Solo cups. Cheers!

Check out my Flickr Photo Stream below for more pictures from St. Augustine.

A Presidential Endorsement

I am always in tune to comments that leaders make about communication and its importance. As you can imagine my interest was piqued when President Barack Obama broached the subject with CBS News earlier this month.

I read about the President’s comments in professional communicator Robert J. Holland’s recent blog post, “Storyteller-in-Chief.” And just as Mr. Holland states in his post, I must stress this is NOT a commentary on politics. Asked to name the biggest successes and mistakes of his presidency to date, President Obama cited a failure “to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times.”

Regardless of what you think of the President’s remarks or his time in office, there is a point that we all can take away from this. It is about the value of communication and perception.

I have seen this notion in the corporate world many times. There is always a need to highlight progress and achievements to superiors and investors, to illustrate for them how you have delivered on what you promised. There is always a need to help employees understand business objectives and the role they play in reaching them. And there is always a need to show customers the value your products and services provide. In other words, what does it all mean and why does it matter?

Stories give us this context. Using them to present your work in way that is meaningful and relevant to your constituents is essential.

Journalists and good PR people have known this for a long time. We do it well.

Thanks for the endorsement, Mr. President.

Crisis, anyone?

It would be an understatement to say this has been a rough week on the PR front for Penn State, Chick-fil-A, and even the girl from Twilight whose name I don’t remember. Maybe it’s a case of when it rains, it pours. Maybe it’s just a slow news week. Whatever the case, I cannot think of a time in recent history when more PR crises have unfolded within such a short span of time.

Fortunately for those of us who are tired of hearing about it all, Olympics coverage begins tomorrow and a happier, more unifying mood should reign…at least on our TV screens.

All that said, I find it interesting that AIG, poster child for the beginning of the U.S. financial crisis, chose today to launch a rebranding effort aimed at repairing its image. The insurance company is using a series of YouTube videos to tell us they have changed, they have paid back their debt to the American taxpayers and then some, and they are going to do better. Here are two of the videos:

Maybe a release date of July 26 has been circled on their calendars for months to take advantage of the fact major media outlets will be focused on the Olympic Games. Maybe they considered the pro-American spirit that the Olympics always seems to bring out in our country and thought it could make us more receptive to the “we stand by our promise to the USA” themes in their messaging. For that matter, we may even see similar TV ads from AIG wedged between Rhythmic Gymnastics and Ping Pong.

If this date wasn’t carefully chosen, they are awfully lucky. At worst, AIG’s campaign may receive some public backlash in the Twitterverse, but it won’t make many headlines. And it isn’t just Michael Phelps they should thank. There is so much attention focused on other high profile reputation crises this week, not to mention a movie theater massacre, most Americans will hardly take notice. AIG, who?

Timing is everything.

What do you think? Was AIG’s YouTube campaign carefully timed to take advantage of the Olympics and minimize any negative response? Or are they just lucky to be one of many in a PR-challenged crowd this week?

Open for Business

 

First dollar collected – July 2012

I am very excited to announce that Amy Minchin Creative is open for business. Earlier this month I left my corporate job of 13 years with a great company to pursue a long time dream of working for myself as a freelance writer and communications consultant. I am hanging out the proverbial shingle. So far I am having a great time meeting new people and working on new projects. I plan to use this blog to pass along updates and insights related to business, communications, marketing, social media or whatever I find interesting. Thanks for visiting and please leave a comment or question any time!