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Ira Koretsky
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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

‘Tis the Season for Giving Back

The holidays are upon us and this season of goodwill is a wonderful opportunity for organizations of all types to make a difference in the communities they serve.

One of the best ways we can make a difference in the lives of others is to volunteer.  Volunteering with others in community service is a great way to build relationships, help the less fortunate and improve your reputation. It's an opportunity for organizations who say they care about a cause or group of people to put their words into actions. Giving back is not only a way to make a difference, it's a way to differentiate your brand. 

In her poem, "Life’s Mirror," Madeline Bridges speaks eloquently of this relationship between giving back and receiving when she writes, “Then give to the world the best you have, and the best will come back to you.”

Make this the holiday season where you give your very best.

For more thoughts on how organizations can serve others, please see:
• Reputation Management: Six Things Brands Can Learn from George Bailey
• Your Brand and the Community It Serves
• What the Boy Scouts Can Teach Your Business About Serving Others

For all of you gamers and interested, Yahoo writer Chris Morris recently wrote an interesting piece about the voice behind Microsoft's Halo character, Master Chief. The article starts...

There's a lot we still don't know about Halo's Master Chief, but it's safe to say very few of us thought he'd be a classic rock DJ.

Steve Downes has given the Halo hero his voice since the very beginning. When he's not busy battling the Covenant, blasting the Promethians, or chatting with Cortana, you can find him on WDRV ("The Drive") in Chicago.

The 62-year-old DJ grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and while the 6'10" Master Chief's face is permanently obscured behind his helmet's shield, it's a safe bet he looks little like Downes, who's relatively short, sandy haired and wears glasses.

Downes is, in some ways, the Clark Kent to Halo's Superman.

Having played video games for years, the characters make or break a game. The characters help shape your world, your experiences, and your decisions. The stories you hear connect you on a deeper level to everything. They immerse you in an alternative reality.

Look at Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Sales hit $1 billion in JUST 15 days. More on this later...


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Powerball Fever Sweeps the Nation

So did you? I did. Normally, I feel sort of guilty, just a little. I'll buy 1 to 5 tickets, even if its triple digit millions. I never win and never expect to win. It's a guilty, light-hearted fun distraction.

For some reason, I bought a bunch this time. Not exactly sure. Is $550 million really that much more than $325 million (last big jackpot). Not in fantasy currency. Isn't human behavior fascinating?

The lottery organization didn't even have to advertise per's all built into the numbers. The numbers do all of the advertising. There are three hour or more hour-long lines in some areas.

Here's an excerpt from a Yahoo article that includes a fun video to watch:

The allure of the record $550 million Powerball jackpot has led to long lines across the nation at local mini-marts and gas stations, with Americans hoping their champagne and caviar dreams become a reality when the numbers are drawn tonight.

The jackpot was boosted Tuesday from $425 million to the now historic $550 million sum, which is expected to get sweeter as millions of Americans rush to the store for their last chance to purchase a ticket and become a multi-millionaire overnight.

Powerball officials tell ABC News they expect to sell more than 105,000 tickets every minute before the drawing. When the dust settles, more than 189 million tickets would have been sold for the half a billion-dollar jackpot. That's more than double the number sold for Saturday's $325 jackpot that nobody won.


Hope you can attend a great event next week -- "A panel of distinguished business leaders discuss doing business internationally and cultural competency as a strategic advantage."

Here's the text from the event:

Leverage Cultural Differences for Competitive Advantage!  Recognizing and leveraging cultural differences allows a company to be more successful and to gain a competitive advantage over those who do not.  To be successful a company must develop competencies that enable its workforce to move between various cultures and tailor their communications and problem solving skills in a way that is comfortable for each culture. 

How will your company win in markets that may be foreign to your business today but vital to its success tomorrow?  

Learn strategies to leverage cultural differences for competitive advantage from a distinguished roundtable of six business leaders.

Juanita Hardy of Tiger Management Consulting collaborated with The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center to bring you a stellar morning event, "Winning in The Global Market: Six Leaders Discuss Bridging Cultural Gaps."

I met Juanita a while back and we became fast friends. I am sincerely looking forward to this event. As someone who has conducted business internationally, the panel will surely share ideas gleaned from years of working nationally and abroad.  The panel includes:

- Andrew Sherman, Partner, Jones Day International (Panel Moderator)
- Dr. Douglas Guthrie, Dean of the Business School for George Washington University and Professor of International Business and Management, Washington, DC
- Roger Lawrence, Corporate Vice President, McCormick & Company
- Ted Dean, Chair, AmCham China (American Chamber of Commerce in China), Beijing
- Desmond Fraser, President, American Certification Body Inc (ACB Inc)
- William Burrell, Director, US Commercial Services, US Department of Commerce

Email me if you are planning on attending and we can meet for coffee before/after.

When it comes to customer experience, sometimes the most unforgettable moments come from chance encounters. How your employees respond in that instant is often the difference between magic and mediocre.

Earlier this month, I was volunteering as a course marshal at the Girls on the Run® (GOTR®) 5K race in my community. GOTR® is an international organization whose “mission is to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.” The program runs for several weeks and concludes with a celebratory 5K running event for each participant and their buddy runner.

As one of several volunteer course marshals, I was positioned at an intersection approximately one mile from the finish. My job was to help ensure the safety of the thousands of runners who would run by me that day, keeping them on course and cheering them on. All of that changed in an instant when one participant’s buddy runner, who was her mom, emerged from the sea of runners before me to tell me she was unable to finish the race. She asked if I could find another buddy runner who could finish the race with her young daughter, whose eyes began to tear up as I called for medical assistance.

Instantly, I knew what I had to do. I asked the runner and her mom if I could be her daughter’s buddy for the remainder of the race.  They both smiled. When we got to the finish line, her mom was there waiting for us. It was an emotional moment for them – her young daughter had just finished her first 5K race, after weeks of preparation and against what surely seemed an insurmountable obstacle moments earlier. It was, as she told me, an unforgettable moment.

To them and at that moment, even as a volunteer course marshal, I was the GOTR® brand. The experience I provided to them in their time of need – which was to go the extra mile on their behalf, literally – helped to turn a chance encounter into a magic moment.

Are your employees going the extra mile for your customers? Is your customer experience filled with magic moments?

Hope you can attend a great event next week -- "A panel of distinguished business leaders discuss doing business internationally and cultural competency as a strategic advantage."

Juanita Hardy of Tiger Management Consulting collaborated with The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center to bring you a stellar morning event, "Winning in The Global Market: Six Leaders Discuss Bridging Cultural Gaps."

I met Juanita a while back and we became fast friends. I am sincerely looking forward to this event. As someone who has conducted business internationally, the panel will surely share ideas gleaned from years of working nationally and abroad.  The panel includes:

- Andrew Sherman, Partner, Jones Day International (Panel Moderator)
- Dr. Douglas Guthrie, Dean of the Business School for George Washington University and Professor of International Business and Management, Washington, DC
- Roger Lawrence, Corporate Vice President, McCormick & Company
- Ted Dean, Chair, AmCham China (American Chamber of Commerce in China), Beijing
- Desmond Fraser, President, American Certification Body Inc (ACB Inc)
- William Burrell, Director, US Commercial Services, US Department of Commerce

There is a discount for the first 15 people good through Nov 24.

Email me if you are planning on attending and we can meet for coffee before/after.


Today I delivered my "Presenting with Confidence" workshop to a lively and engaging audience.

At the end of the presentation, Judith (name changed) came up to me and we chatted about a variety of subjects. Then she politely asked if she could make a suggestion. "Of course" I responded. She suggested moving the "Story of a Sign" video from the middle to the beginning. "It's very moving and powerful" (or something similar).

Internally I cringed. She was right. I whispered to her, "Can I tell you a secret? I needed a change. It's one of my all time favorites...I have been using that video as the start to more than 50 presentations...I wanted to do something different...for me."

Then she dropped the hammer on my toes. She smiled and said something to the effect, "isn't one of your messages, it's all about the audience?" I laughed out loud. Again, I knew she was right.

My learning lesson for today...listen to the audience.

Friday's presentation on the Capabilities Clinic WILL start with Story of a Sign! Thank you Judith for the much-needed and gentle kick in the ...

Join NBPCI and The Chief Storyteller for the Nov16th Compelling Capabilities Statement Clinic.

It is *Free* for registered attendees of the NBPCI Executive Breakfast Event with Teresa Lewis.

Please visit our other website page with all of the details.

If you are like me and subscribe to the notion that your brand is whatever people perceive it to be, then the importance of delivering your brand promise applies to non-customers, too.  Organizations that focus all of their branding efforts solely on “customers” are likely to fail. Here’s why.

Astute marketers know that brands interact with, and have the potential to influence, groups of people other than customers – employees, job applicants, vendors,  investors and members of the community, to name a few.  The interaction becomes more personal when there is an overlapping relationship with a brand among any of these groups (e.g., employees who are customers, job applicants who are customers, etc.).

Let’s assume for a moment your brand promise is to make people feel valued.  Customers who receive personalized thank you notes, who are rewarded with exclusive offers and who are affirmed with opportunities to provide feedback in periodic surveys will feel your brand promise has been delivered.  On the other hand, employees who receive no affirmation from the boss, job applicants who hear nothing back, vendors who do not receive return phone calls and community members who are not engaged by your brand will feel you have failed to deliver your brand promise.

For your brand, the consequences of ignoring this second group – the non-customers – may be significant. The voices of those who feel ignored by the brand will ring louder than those who feel valued in blogs, across social media, in online reviews and through word of mouth. They will undermine your credibility by telling others your brand cannot be trusted.  Instead of advocating for your brand, they will assail it. Your brand’s reputation will suffer.

For more insights on the relationship between brand promise and organizational culture, please see:
• What Story Is Your Organizational Culture Telling?
• Your Tone and Voice Are Your Brand
• The Positive Impact of Social Media and Brand Advocates on Business Storytelling

There are a few spots left for Wednesday's workshop in the Baltimore, Maryland area. Here is the information. Email Bjorn (contact info below) with any questions (or me).

There will be a meeting of entrepreneurs who want to learn the art of making great presentations. Mr. Ira Koretsky will lead this event. He has travelled the world training people and consulting to organizations on the art and science of great communications. Join us for a fun, engaging and insightful event.  

Ira will introduce us to his five-step approach. He will ask you to draft your pitch (any type of pitch). And he will ask for volunteers to deliver what you have done during the workshop. Ira makes your communications unforgettable. He helps you develop compelling messages to your target audiences. With better spoken, written, and online communications, you will expand brand awareness, improve business outcomes, and strengthen financial results.

Presenting with Confidence: Develop and Deliver Engaging Presentations in 5 Steps
Great presenters transform ideas into action. They put their messages, supporting points, facts, and personal stories into a meaningful context for their audiences. Great presenters do not just tell us what we should know, they tell us what we should do, and why we should do it. Learn the techniques of great presenters. Learn to develop engaging presentations of any type for any audience (e.g., investor,prospecting, partner, executive team, and board updates). Join us as we share the five key steps to becoming a more confident and persuasive presenter. Learn more at  

About Our Speaker
Ira Koretsky founded The Chief Storyteller® in 2002. Based on more than 26 years of experience, research, and refinement, he has developed a process shared internationally to over 25,600 people. This flexible process helps you develop and deliver highly targeted messages to your audiences. Ira looks at the world of communications and messaging differently than most. He looks at the world through the lens of storytelling, with a twist (come see the “twist” at this event).  

Meeting objectives
- Identify the best messages and words interesting to your listeners.
- Focus your content on answering the questions of your audience.
- Learn a new way of communicating and building relationships.
- Harness the power of storytelling to meet your objectives more effectively and more quickly. Facts can only prove, stories build value!  

Everybody, including entrepreneurs, need to pitch their stories to customers, investors, partners, and employees. Usually different pitches to different people.

Time and place
November 14, 2012 from 12:30 to 3:30 pm, Large seminar room at UMBC’s energy incubator (CETI)

1450 South Rolling Road, Halethorpe, MD 21227

12:30 pm Doors open & networking.
1:00 pm Workshop conducted by Ira Koretsky.
3:00 pm More networking (Ira will leave for another commitment).  

Please RSVP to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

We will limit the number of RSVPs to 60. This is likely to become a sold-out event.  This meeting is free and open to all.

- Maryland Clean Energy Technology Incubator (CETI) @ bwtech @ UMBC.
- Maryland Clean Energy Center (MCEC).

- Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development (DBED).
- Whiteford Taylor Preston (WTP).
- SB & Company.

Bjorn Frogner, PhD
Entrepreneur in Residence, Tel: 443-534-7671
Maryland Clean Energy Technology Incubator(CETI) at bwtech@UMBC

I stopped in my local Starbuck’s the other day. I had been up late the night before and was staring at a full day of work at the office. I needed something that would boost my energy level and brighten my day.

I took my place in line, along with everyone else that morning. When I got to the counter, I found exactly what I was looking for. I was greeted with a huge smile and a sincere-sounding, “How are you today? What can I get for you?”  I paid $2.05 for my grande-sized coffee and left.

I could have gotten a cup of coffee at any number of places on the way into work. I could have picked a place where the lines were shorter. And, I could have gone somewhere else and paid a little less. What made me choose this particular Starbuck's was my expectation of the experience I would have when visiting the store.  In short, I knew they would make me feel great.

Long after I had finished my coffee, I was still thinking about the customer experience I had at Starbuck’s that day. Sure, the coffee was good. The experience, however, was outstanding.  Although I left the store with a cup of coffee in hand, I went (and will return) for the experience.

If your retail business is selling a commodity at a premium price, consider looking at your customer experience as a way of differentiating and creating preference for your brand. The simple idea of making customers feel good about their experience with your brand does not require large investments of time or money in market research. All that is required is a genuine and sincere desire to help people and to make them feel great about themselves when they experience your brand.

As the famous poet, Maya Angelou, once said, “…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I'm a big fan of Dan Pink...While his article is about's really about words and messaging.

Here's the beginning:

This year’s presidential race has now come down to ten days and two people. But like many exercises in persuading, influencing, and otherwise moving others, it has also come down to two words – one for President Barack Obama, another for Governor Mitt Romney.

Which word prevails may determine which man takes the oath of office three months from now – and therein lies a lesson for your own work.

A few years ago, British advertising pioneer Maurice Saatchi conceived the idea of “one-word equity.” His notion was that today -- when all of us feel blasted by a daily fire hose of text, images, and ideas from our computers, phones, and social networks -- the only way to be heard is to push succinctness to it limit.

“What I am describing here is a new business model for marketing, appropriate to the digital age,” Saatchi wrote. “In this model, companies compete for global ownership of one word in the public mind.”

And what goes for companies goes equally for political candidates.

Dan continue discussing President Obama's word of "Forward" and Governor Romney's words of "Believe in America."

If you are a fan of words, content, meaning, and messaging, you'll enjoy Dan's musings.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Best Time To Send Email [INFOGRAPHIC]

GetResponse, an email marketing company, recently posted a blog on emails with an insightful infographic.

From its blog post, author Hanna Andrzejewska shares "We analyzed 21 million messages sent from US accounts in the 1st quarter of 2012 to determine top open and click-through times. We also analyzed the recipients’ top engagement times — all to test our thesis: sending times matter, and message results depend on reader engagement routines, not just a little but a lot."

Key Takeways:
- Emails reach the best results within 1 hour after landing in the inbox.
- 24 hours after delivery, the average open rate is close to zero
- 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. are the top engagement times
- If your recipients are occupied with other activities, they won’t be able to engage while it’s still fresh, and your message will be crowded out by more recent messages
- To optimize the engagement rates for your message, you should schedule it to hit the inbox no later than 1 hour before the top open times, when its chances of getting noticed are the highest.
- If your emailings go to worldwide lists, make sure you use solutions that optimize delivery times in different time zones, such as GetResponse Time Travel.

As I was scrolling through our library of insightful tip guides the other day, I came across one of my favorites from The Chief Storyteller®: “'What Do You Do?' How to Design and Deliver a Compelling Elevator Speech (Tips 1-10)."

The tip guide starts with a common assumption about elevator speeches – that they are a useful tool for answering the question, “What do you do?” during professional networking events. In reality, your elevator speech is much more.  It is your core business story – your brand story, if you will.

Think of your elevator speech as a 30-second infomercial. It should quickly and compellingly convey the attributes of your brand in a way that resonates with your target audience. All of your marketing and communications collateral should stem from a single core elevator speech.  Examples include:
• Your ‘About Us’ statement – on your website, in press releases and presentations
• Your social media profiles
• Your sales scripts
• Your exhibits booth signage
• Your recruiting messages
• And, of course, the 30-second answer each and every one of your employees gives when answering the question, “What do you do?”    

Why is having an elevator speech for your brand important?

In today’s world of increasing collaboration and business networking, your employees and associates encounter many opportunities to tell others about their job and your organization, sometimes by chance or by design. In my experience, these opportunities almost always begin with the question, “What do you do?” A well-crafted brand story can lead to more sales, more clients and other top line business results.

Click on “What Do You Do?" How to Design and Deliver a Compelling Elevator Speech to download your free copy of this tip guide. Act now! Offer expires October 31, 2012. (Sorry, this offer has expired)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

When You Listen, What Do You Hear?

I went for a run the other day. It was a warm, sunny day so I decided to run along the roads near the gym where I work out. I left my iPod in my locker because I knew it would be safer to listen for the sound of approaching cars and trucks while navigating around the traffic I was likely to encounter. Then something amazing happened.

I started listening.

I encountered a stretch of road where there was no traffic. There I was, just a single runner making his way along a quiet road surrounded by an open field on one side and an untouched forest on the other.  Suddenly, it was quiet. So I started listening. I could hear the crickets chirping in the woods near the road. I could hear the birds singing. And I could hear the rhythmic sound of my running shoes hitting the pavement.

I never noticed the sound of my steps before. The steady beat became a motivational message of sorts. I enjoyed the sound so much I didn’t want it to end.

I started wondering how many other sounds and messages I had never heard before. I had been in countless meetings at work, lectures at school and conversations with others.  What did I miss?   

Here at The Chief Storyteller®, we focus on helping you and others like you tell your business stories. How those stories are perceived, however, often starts with how well you and your audience are listening.

When you listen to a story, what do you hear?

For more insights on listening and audience engagement, please see:
• Mobile Devices in Meetings – Rudeness or Engagement?
• How Engaged Are Your Meeting Participants?
• 10 Content Planning Questions for Getting Conference Attendees to Choose the Ballroom Over the Pool

Yahoo recently published an article, "Body Language Signs to Watch During the Debates." 

This particular paragraph sums it all up nicely:

"The mistakes the presidential candidates have made over the years are numerous. Poor body language has been a common blunder. As much as candidates focus on perfecting the substance of what they say before the cameras, a large number of Americans are really most interested to see how they say it," CNN contributor and history professor Julian Zelizer wrote for CNN.

The article goes in depth on various body language tendencies of both candidates. And the article ends with a brief discussion of six non verbal cues:

1. An itchy nose

2. Hands in pockets

3. Crossed arms

4. Touching the neck

5. Finger pointing

6. Frequent eye blinking

According to the State of Social Media Marketing Survey conducted by Awareness, Inc. in July 2012, 462 marketers across a wide variety of industries rated the top four business objectives for social media marketing as:
 • Better customer engagement (78%)
 • Revenue generation (51%)
 • Better customer experience (47%)
 • Increased thought leadership (41%)

These same marketers also listed the top social media marketing platforms as:
 • Facebook (89%)
 • Twitter (84%)
 • LinkedIn (77%)
 • YouTube (71%)
 • Blogs (61%)

If you're like me, you'll connect the dots fairly quickly. Businesses looking to engage customers, grow revenues, improve their customer experience and position themselves as thought leaders within their industries ought to have an engaging presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. An engaging presence starts with a good brand story.

What is your brand story? Are you telling it on social media?

What does customer loyalty look like for your brand? If you saw it, would you recognize it?

I recently returned from the 2012 Laurel Highlands Jeep Jamboree in Pennsylvania, an event my son and I attended as guests of the Jeep brand. As some of you may know, I have been a loyal Jeep customer since October 2001.

Jeep Jamborees are off-road adventures with a tradition dating back to 1953.  On thirty-one weekends throughout the year across the United States, they bring together legions of Jeep owners, their Jeep 4x4 vehicles and the outdoors for two full days of trail riding.

As I spent time interacting with other "Jeepers," trail guides and Jeep Jamboree officials during the weekend, it became obvious to me the Jamboree was more than just another weekend off-road adventure.  The people who attended are easily among the most passionate and knowledgeable advocates of any brand I have ever met. In total, they comprise an image of extraordinary loyalty – to the Jeep brand and to each other. Below, some of the 121 Jeeps and 197 participants from the Laurel Highlands event await the start of their Jeep Jamboree experience.   

What does customer loyalty look like for your brand?

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Your Tone and Voice Are Your Brand

Your tone and voice – the ones belonging to you and your employees – are your brand.

What tone and voice do your employees use to communicate with one another? It is the same voice – words and phrases – they will use when speaking to your customers. It is the same tone -- how they say what they say -- that will become the personality of your brand.  You and your employees are your brand.

One of the biggest challenges facing any brand today, particularly in the world of social media, is finding and articulating a proper tone and voice – one that is genuine, unique and compatible with your target audience. The power of social media is such that people will see through and expose brands who pretend to be something they are not. If you put on a mask, people will see through it.

How, then, should you address this challenge? For starters, choosing the right tone and voice is more than just an exercise in window dressing. Every message you share verbally, in print and online should look and feel as if it came from a single source. Your tone and voice should be consistent throughout. And it needs to be the right tone and voice.

Engage your employees by spending time with them. Look across the organization for people who are good in front of customers (hint: you may need to look beyond the sales and marketing department). Identify those who can speak and write conversationally in a way that is genuine, unique and compatible with your target audience.  Look for people who are social, authentic and transparent – people who your customers will trust. These are the people who should be articulating the tone and voice of your brand.

After all, when it comes to tone and voice, you and your employees are your brand.

While Nike didn't advertise on official Olympics' television, Nike was busy launching a variety of advertisements that were Olympic-styled. And they were effective.

One in particular titled "Jogger," stars 12-year old Nathan Sorrell. Nathan is from London, Ohio. During the video Nathan can be seen jogging. What you don't see in the beginning is that Nathan is 5-foot-3 and he is overweight...200 pounds. In fact, in an interview he shared that he threw up while shooting the video.

Published on July 31, that's just 28 days ago, the video on just the Nike YouTube page, has amassed 1,254,539 views.

Here's why it works...and think about what you can do in your advertising and messaging to connect to your audience's heart and mind.

- Journey Story. Nearly everyone is concerned about our weight. And we can empathize with the star. Nathan is an average, kid next store. Not a pro athlete...not an athlete at all. In fact, this might even be a David and Goliath metaphor. Where Nathan is battling his weight and is determined to beat it.

- Intriguing.  It starts off in such a way that you are intrigued. You are not quite sure what you are viewing. You can tell someone is have to watch to figure it out.

- Voice Over.  The voice over is full of great messages and is narrated by a powerful voice

- Short.  It's 1:09. 

- Generates Action. Makes you think. If Nathan can do it, so can I. It's the archetypal Nike message. It's on message. On brand. On emotion (my phrase). Tweets, articles, interviews, parodies, blog posts, and more keep appearing. People are responding in words and with action. That's what advertising is supposed to do.


- Nike Commercial

- Interview on ABC News

When it comes to online conversations about your brand, marketers will fall into one of these two categories – those who see the glass as either half empty or those who see it as half full. The "half empty" are the people who monitor online mentions for brand antagonists while the "half full" are those who mine online conversations for brand advocates – regular folks like you and me who are passionate about your brand, who had a great experience with it and who want to share it with others.

While the “half empty” crowd will focus its efforts on controlling or suppressing what others say about your brand, the “half full” group will allow people to say what they want, when they want and where they want (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, blogs, etc.). While there is an obvious risk to letting others tell your brand’s story, I believe people who are trusted and otherwise empowered to speak on your behalf will generally want to support you and your brand. 

I know from my own sales experience people buy from people they know, like and trust. Brand advocates, because they are people who are known, liked and trusted by others within their social communities, have the ability to positively influence your brand’s reputation, increase name recognition and awareness and, ultimately, drive sales and customer loyalty. Their followers want to hear the stories they tell of how your products and services impacted their lives.

What kind of marketer are you? Is your glass half empty or half full? Is your brand harnessing the power of social media to identify brand advocates who can tell your story?

Is your association, business or government agency using social media as part of its marketing communications mix? If not, it may be time to consider social media as an additional element of your overall integrated marketing communications strategy.

An integrated marketing communications strategy uses a mix of different media – social and traditional – to help create a customer experience that is consistent with the tone, voice and character of your brand. The mix your association, business or government agency ultimately decides to use, of course, should depend on the preferences of your target audience.

In my experience with both social and traditional media, more traditional tools like direct mail, email and telephone tend to be more effective when the brand initiates the conversation. Traditional media like these allow for privacy, personalization and greater content sharing. They are tools with a proven track record of success in driving contributions, sales and other results-driven metrics.

Social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are public forums where anyone can initiate the conversation.  These forums are places where members, customers and users can share experiences (good and bad), vent their frustrations or otherwise engage communities of like-minded followers. Aside from the relationship-building opportunities afforded to brands who engage their audiences by responding, these channels provide brands with a higher level of brand recognition and awareness.

For more insights on branding and social media, please see:
• Klout Perks: Building Brand Awareness One Influencer at a Time
• 5 Insights on Marketing Your Brand in Social Media
• Is Your Brand Social?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Brand Reasons to Believe…Or Leave

Last week, I wrote about the brand promise of a summer swim school, where the brand promise, or positioning statement, was “Teaching the confidence that inspires moments of triumph.” I also mentioned how important it was for the brand promise to be believable (i.e., the evidence you provide to your customers that you can deliver on your promise).

Before you make a brand promise, be sure you can identify at least 3 true and credible reasons to believe. Also called brand proof points, these reasons to believe should be based on fact and are a key element of the brand positioning statement.

Your reasons to believe can include a statement of quantifiable and verifiable results (e.g., "75% of our students go on to swim competitively in summer leagues"), effective images (e.g., photos of actual students competing in or winning events), evidence of past success (e.g., a display of trophies and awards earned by your instructors, as well as current and former students) or testimonials (e.g., “…gave me the confidence I needed to improve my time enough for a first place finish!”).  

Brands that do this well provide their customers with true and credible reasons to believe.  The proof points they provide are the basis for customer decisions regarding initial purchases and continued loyalty to a brand. On the other hand, brands who fail to provide such proof points are effectively providing their customers with…you guessed it…reasons to leave.

I'll Gladly Pay You Tuesday for a Hamburger Today (and Other Stuff You Shouldn't Believe)
Posted By Guy Timberlake, The American Small Business Coalition (The ASBC), LLC, Monday, July 23, 2012


Recently, I've been getting a wave of calls and emails from small businesses who feel like they were on course to be duped by one or more of a cast of shady companies based in and around St. Petersburg, FL.

The organizations in question are reported as being evasive with substantive information most of the time, and other times they provide information that just makes no sense even to folks who are admitted neophytes to federal contracting. The "shiny rocks" these predators dangle include promises of guaranteed no-bid federal contracts, guaranteed micropurchase orders, guaranteed GSA Schedules, guaranteed contracting officer's calling you daily with business opportunities, guaranteed whiter white's, fresher breath and...well, you get the idea.

Do a simple web search for the names of any of these companies that mine the Central Contractor Registration database (among others) for your info, and you will find plenty of commentary about them in places like BBB, and The stuff out there is definitely not an endorsement to run out and do business with these organizations.

So I did a little research.

One of the very first things you will note about these companies is they all seem to be affiliated in some way. Some share phone numbers, while others share addresses and even executives. Several very clearly link back to an organization made infamous by getting itself investigated by multiple State's Attorneys for fraudulent business practices a few years ago. Several of the principals and employees have formed spinoff organizations that mimic many (if not all) of the bad habits of their predecessors.

Two markers common to each? I never saw personal contact information or bios about company executives on any of the sites, and each organization took factual information related to federal contracting and went over-the-top in their marketing write ups to the point they are ludicrous and completely unbelievable to anyone that applies basic common sense.

Please sir, I want some more. Really? Okay, here you go.

In a discussion forum where individuals submit information about repeated nuisance marketing calls, the "PROUD President" of one of the organizations I was told about makes the following claims about his company:

"...the federal government knows who we are and what we do. You are welcome to go to the government's website and see all of our credentials yourself by clicking the following link and entering our Government CAGE Code. You can also see our credentials through the federal government agency known as the Small Business Administration (SBA) by clicking the following link and also entering our CAGE Code. (5MKQ3)"

What credentials? This particular company does not participate in socioeconomic programs administered by SBA or VA. The only aspect of their CCR profile that could be considered a "credential" is the CAGE Code which anyone with a DUNS, Tax ID, bank account and no delinquent federal debt can obtain. Like them for example!

The proud president of this company goes on to say

"We are a CCR and SBA registered company with a COMMERCIAL AND GOVERNMENT ENTITY CAGE Code - (5MKQ3). USFCC holds Government Procurement Certifications from the Small Business Administration (SBA) & the U.S. General Service Administration which is THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT!!!"

Hmm. Doing a search of the FAR, Google, and other sources, and I cannot find a single reference to the phrase "Government Procurement Certifications" attributed to the U.S. Government. I also checked with the folks I know at these agencies to make sure there were not other "Government Procurement Certification" programs their agencies were running that would not be posted on the agency websites.


Other than having a CAGE Code, nothing one would call a credential. Now, a GSA Schedule, 8(a) Certification or a contract for a million dollars? Those are credentials! These are the things these guys and all the others, promise to get you. Of course they can do that and all for $599 (more or less a few thousand dollars). And they seem so honest and knowledgeable.

Oh geeze! Did I leave a company name in that earlier quote? Well, it was the "Proud President's" own words, right?


The Chief Visionary

Teaching the confidence that inspires moments of triumph.

The Summer Olympics are underway and the United States has already produced its share of Olympic champions, some of whom hail from our local area. The regional swim leagues have just completed their divisional meets and my local team, the Sharks, has just been crowned division champions. It’s an exciting time to be a young swimmer here at home…with the hopes and aspirations of maybe one day becoming the next Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin or Katie Ledecky.

For many of us whose children aspire to victory in the water, we turn to the cadre of competitive swimmers who serve as summer lifeguards at our pools. Like our country’s Olympic champions, their role model behavior inspires our kids. As parents, we believe they can get our kids to the next level.

If this were your business and these lifeguards were your employees, what expectation would you create for them? What words would you use to describe what your brand promises to do every day for every kid who comes for a swim lesson? This is your brand promise and, if you asked me, this is what I would suggest:

Teaching the confidence that inspires moments of triumph.

A brand promise, also called a positioning statement, is an internal statement. The best brand promises are short (6-9 words in length), inspiring (they speak to the highest aspiration you have for every customer), believable (it’s clear to your customers you can deliver), and compelling (what you are promising is something your customers want and are willing to pay for). The brand promise, while never spoken to your customers, is ultimately how your customers will experience your brand.

Coincidentally, it is usually the statement from which your tagline is based. And for those of you who might be wondering what tagline I might recommend, I’ll tell you:

Confidence. Inspiration. Triumph.

Josh Sanburn in Time Business Online wrote a piece, "Big Experiment: New Menu, New Decor, and a New Target Audience." 

It's a well-written article about Hooters, its goals, and its plans for changing its image to woo more women.

What made me laugh so hard was the second sentence, "Over the past several years, Hooters’ sales have been on the decline. So the “breastaurant”..." And there you have it. A face dripping with ice tea and a messy desk covered in ice tea. (there's good storytelling fodder in this one)

The word is clever and communicates its meaning immediately. I doubt it will make it into next year's list of newly approved words...


The Moral: What can you do to be more interesting and creative to generate more attention...of course doing it within your own organization's and personal comfort zones?

Robert Gaskins, inventor of PowerPoint shares some interesting stories, insights, and background information on PowerPoint.

In his BBC article, "How PowerPoint changed Microsoft and my life," he shares some interesting news.

- "PowerPoint was first launched on the Mac platform on 20 April 1987 after its developers decided Windows was not able to support it (see image below)"
- "Microsoft bought PowerPoint 25 years ago, on 31 July 1987...PowerPoint became the first acquisition made by the company, creating a new business unit located in Silicon Valley."
- "[Bill] Gates, wasn't keen to buy PowerPoint initially"
- "10 versions of PowerPoint released for both the Mac and Windows platforms"
- "After six months of talks, and tripling its offer price, Microsoft finally completed the deal for $14m."

Thank you Robert for thinking of PowerPoint! Read more at the BBC site here.

I'll leave you with a musing of mine I have shared with PowerPoint naysayers for many a year now...since 2000.

“PowerPoint, like any tool, is only as good as the person who wields it. If you want to blame PowerPoint for bad presentations, then blame Excel for poor financial performance and Word for terrible prose.”
- Ira Koretsky, CEO, The Chief Storyteller®


Take a look at this sunrise, as seen from the balcony of my oceanfront hotel in Virginia Beach. Along the boardwalk that stretches some 40 street blocks, there are literally dozens of oceanfront hotels with rooms overlooking the beach. This image, and the vacation experience of taking in a sunrise over the Atlantic, could have been captured at any one of them.


So if you are the hotel or brand manager of one of these properties along the boardwalk, how do you differentiate your hotel? How do you create guest preference for your hotel and brand?

Virtually all of the hotels offer the following: direct access to the beach, a pool and fitness center, free parking, a relaxed atmosphere where guests can stroll about the property in beach attire, a warm and friendly staff as well as a variety of restaurants and shopping within walking distance. As a testament to the marketing prowess of these hotels, none of them appears to be competing on price – there were no “guaranteed savings,” “lowest prices on the beach” or “cheap rooms” claims.

Instead, hotels like the Residence Inn by Marriott have identified a niche with a unique need and now create memorable vacation experiences by targeting families like mine who want to vacation with their pets. This hotel offers the usual amenities found at other hotels. What makes this one unique – and worth paying a premium for – is a vacation experience that truly includes all of the comforts of home, including the greetings we got from our dog when we returned from the beach each day.

As the only pet-friendly extended stay oceanfront hotel in Virginia Beach, the Residence Inn by Marriott has succeeded in creating a memorable vacation experience that differentiates. These are the kind of experiences, and the memories they make, that ensure my continued loyalty to the Marriott brand.

For more on how brands are delivering memorable customer travel experiences, see:
• How One Brand Delivered the Unexpected to Create an Unforgettable Customer Experience
• The Key to an Unforgettable Vacation Experience
• My Summer Vacation Experience – A Brilliantly Executed Market Segmentation Strategy

When it comes to marketing, there are many things our political leaders do well that can be applied to business. One of the best examples is how some of our political leaders establish a personal connection with their constituents.

My son and I were recently invited to have coffee with one of the U.S. Senators from our state.  Up until the moment we met, our impressions of him and the institution he was a part of were formed largely on the basis of what we heard, saw or read in print, online or on television/radio. Our perception, although favorable, was largely based on others’ opinions and potentially subject to future influence.

It was only after we had met and heard him speak were we able to develop a true sense of who he was and what he stood for. He told us about his background, why he had entered politics and what he hoped to accomplish. He asked us about our backgrounds and the things that brought us together. He introduced us to his staff and invited us to tour the place where he worked – the U.S. Capitol. It was an unscripted moment, a conversation between a politician and his constituents.

We left our meeting with a connection that was deeper and more personal than any we could have gained from reading a press release, watching an ad or listening to a debate or interview.  It’s a connection strong enough to ensure our continued loyalty, even in the next election.

Now think about your business and the way in which your CEO, CMO and other executives interact with their customers. Are they making an effort to build personal connections with their constituents or are they relying on customers to form their own perceptions of your brand by what they hear, see or read in print, online or on television/radio?

I've known Frans Johansson (author of The Medici Effect) for a number of years. His book is an excellent read in innovation and creativity (read my review here). I saw his Tweet and read it with great interest.

Frans idea of connecting with his readers, fans, clients, etc. is brilliant. I'm trying to figure out a way to do it myself and make it seem like it was my idea (smile). Here's Frans' blog post in its entirety.


Over the past few years I’ve received many emails, tweets, and Facebook messages about the impact of The Medici Effect on people’s lives. I read each email, and I am truly touched by all of them. Now I want to be able to connect with you on a more regular basis.

Starting this week, I am kicking off what I’m calling “Intersections with Frans” — that is, you can schedule 20 minutes, first come first serve, to chat with me — via phone, Skype, or if you’re in New York City, in person at our office. Given my travel schedule, I’ll send out a note every Monday morning about my availability for the week.

The purpose of these calls is to simply connect. As you know, I strongly believe that the best ideas happen when people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives intersect. So, let’s “intersection hunt” together! We can talk about anything:

- A burning idea of yours
- Writing-
- Lord of the Rings
- The Medici Effect
- My upcoming book The Click Moment
- Why Twin Peaks is one of the greatest television shows of all time
- Intersectional Thinking
- Entrepreneurship
- Anything else you can really think of

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