Monday, August 25, 2008

I’ve been a bad blogger.

As a subscriber to Marketing Profs emails, a couple of times a day, I get little bursts of inspiration, trend alerts and other bits of marketing news. Friday’s email hit me square in the jaw by asking in the subject line, “Would Your Blog Get an A?”

Mack Collier over at The Viral Garden blog has formalized a grading scale for corporate blogs, based on four areas:

1 - Content, what the bloggers write about (35 points)

2 - Comments, how many comments the blog receives, and how the bloggers reply to comments from readers (35 points)

3 - Posting schedule, how often and regularly new posts appear on the blog (15 points)

4 - Sidebars, the information contained on the sidebars (15 points)

So, how ‘bout that A?

The school kid in me would love to say, “yes! I always get As.” But, I’ve been a bad blogger…no updates in 13 days! So much for keeping content fresh and relevant! (Deduct 15 points, at least!)

Consider this my “mea culpa” moment, and on to the next topic!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Nothing Fishy about this Marketing Campaign

Last week, I started spotting blue posters plastered in shop windows across town proclaiming “PLAY like a kid, PAY like a kid!” It’s all part of a special promotion, this month only, that lets all South Carolina residents visit the South Carolina Aquarium and pay just the children’s admission price of $10 (down from regular adult admission of $17).

Smart marketing all around.

It’s no secret that spikes in gas prices, food prices, and the cost of pretty much everything has hit Americans pretty hard in the pocket. The Summer of 2008 saw the creation of a new buzzword, the “staycation,” for those who take time off of work but don’t leave town on a vacation in order to save money. Why not, then, appeal to bargain-conscious staycationers when ticket sales might be tight?

The Charleston CVB’s been specifically targeting locals for years with their Be a Tourist in Your Own Town program, allowing locals to visit museums, plantations and attractions during a typically slow tourism month – January.

The South Carolina Aquarium is a great educational resource (and beautiful event venue to boot!), so spread the word and go “play like a kid!”

Monday, August 11, 2008

All the Pretty Colors

As I mentioned in my Crazy Eights Day post, I’m beginning to work through the Adobe Creative Suite 3 Master Collection, and it’s opening up a whole new world of graphic design for this non-designer. As I’m feeling my way through these programs, one of the more useful tools is having a guesswork-free color system at my fingertips – the Pantone Matching System (PMS).

Since 1963, the PMS in its fan-shaped book filled with the whole spectrum of colors and their formulas has standardized how colors are used across media. For instance, for this blog’s masthead I used Pantone 219 and Pantone Cool Gray 11.

I appreciate the “what you see is what you get” quality to the color charts. Pick a color. Done. No fumbling through CMYK adjustments to get that perfect hue (but hey, maybe that’s your thing! I’m just not good like that!)

More recently, the folks at Pantone have gone beyond the fan books and produced movable and removable swatches. There’s a great Flickr stream that shows just how the PMS applies to everyday life! (Note: if you ever had a burning desire to know the PMS equivalent of Patrick the starfish from SpongeBob SquarePants, this link’s for you.)

While I probably won’t masquerade as a Creative Director any time soon, it’s fun learning new skills (and I appreciate what the real designers do that much more!)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Vote for Charleston!

Travel Weekly is asking the public to vote in its 2008 Readers Choice Awards. Categories range from top airline, hotel chain, to top destinations around the world.

And if you only have a second to spend on the survey, you don't have to vote in each category! Just scroll down and vote for Charleston as Top Desination (U.S. City)!

Happy 08.08.08!

In honor of Crazy Eights Day, I thought I’d share eight things I’m into right now, in no particular order:

1. Twitter. Just when I thought that I couldn’t possibly make time for another social media tool, I joined the legion of twitterers (or is it tweeters?) and am hooked. I love the instant feedback from “followers” and the conversational flow and brevity of thoughts in the feed. It’s also a great window to people with some level of “celebrity” in their chosen field…whereas it might be considered weird to friend a complete stranger (but someone you admire) on Facebook, following that same person on Twitter is an acceptable way of connecting.

2. RSS Reader. I must have been a late adopter of this one, but my RSS Reader is one of the most valuable tools for tracking media coverage for work, and for keeping up with all the blogs I follow. For a long time I used Google Alerts, but found the constant email barrage of new alerts was too much. I downloaded the free Feed Reader 3.13, and it automatically adds new feeds as I subscribe to them in Internet Explorer.

3. The Tudors. Thanks to my Netflix subscription, I watched all of season one in about a week and a half, and I’m dying to see season two. Rented “The Other Boleyn Girl” as a consolation, but much prefer the Showtime series to the feature film (and I hate to say that given my admiration for Natalie and Scarlett!).

4. Adobe CS3. I recently bought the entire Adobe Creative Suite Master Collection, and have gotten to a certain comfort level with InDesign. There are 19 programs in all (some of which I’d never even heard of until they were downloaded), so this might take a while!

5. Charleston County Library. Ahhhh. I’m back in the Library’s good graces since they found a “lost” book that I was certain had been returned. Is it strange that I prefer to read their books with the clear protective jacket? And I love taking advantage of the reserve desk, which I used to check out…

6. Predictably Irrational. I plan to post a full review once I’m done. So far, I’m really enjoying this book – it’s a smart look at why people behave the way we do, going against what’s rational because of past experiences, slanted judgment or other influences. Contains valuable information, for marketers especially, to gain insight into how people think, and how best to exploit "predictably irrational" behavior to sell products and services.

7. Pandora. If you’re anything like me, listening to music helps me get the work done that I need done. Pandora is a great online radio service that lets the user control what music it plays. Customize your own station (e.g. Fall Out Boy Radio), then it plays music by that artist and by other similar bands. Best of all, if there’s a song you’re sick of, or are just not feeling, skip over it and tell Pandora not to play for a month, or ever again!

8. Beijing Olympics. Today marks the beginning of the Olympic Games in Beijing. While public demonstrations, controlled news media, limited web access and air pollution concerns are plaguing China's global perception, I'll be tuning in. Not feeling the new gymnastics scoring system, though. Bring back the Perfect 10!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Think Before You Click.

A cautionary tale in pressing “send” too hastily:

Yesterday I was reading an article in PR Week about a sensitive email unintentionally sent to a Connecticut journalist. The flub? The email included yet-to-be-announced information about an upcoming, aggressive “reputation management” campaign designed to combat negative attention on crimes (murders, disappearances, etc.) that occur during cruises. And this while U.S. Congress takes up legislation to tighten safety and security requirements for the private cruise lines.

For a journalist, that’s about as good as gold. He proceeded to break the story, and in my opinion had no obligation not to, even when told by the PR person that it was an internal memo and should be “disregarded.”

The story imparts two beneficial lessons to us in the business of communications. The first: accountability of PR practitioners.

I found it interesting that the PR person’s quote in the PR Week article was:
“It is unfortunate that the journalist accidentally received the e-mail.”

Hmmmm…Deflecting and trying to shift accountability doesn’t exactly instill positive relationships with media or the public. A better way of handling the situation might have been to say,
“We regret accidentally sending the email to someone outside of the organization,” showing that you are taking responsibility and not just deflecting. In other words, "Hey! I messed up!"

PR people recognize that they are largely accountable for what they do and say on behalf of their employers. Think Scott McClellan and the recent tell-all book about the Bush White House. He’s been highly criticized for turning tail on the administration to sell books. Many that worked with him at the time say that he never questioned what he was told to say to the media, despite his own assertions that he was uncomfortable with the message he was relaying. Hindsight is 20/20 afterall.

The second lesson learned here is the importance of being ultra-careful when it comes to electronic communication. In this case, an email was accidentally blasted off to a newspaper reporter, but it’s certainly not limited to just email. Comments posted on online stories or blogs and Twitter updates should also be carefully disseminated.

Late last year there was a bit of a local explosion on privacy vs. transparency when it was revealed that a frequent commenter (username “afternoondelight”) on the Post and Courier’s online stories was actually a staffer in the solicitor’s office, who was facing a tough re-election campaign at the time. The comments ranged from the generally offensive, to racially charged, to unapologetic favoritism for his boss. While the staffer assumed that he’d remain anonymous in his rants, the Post and Courier site details that comments concerning stories "will not be considered confidential." Whoops.

So, while e-communications are extremely valuable to PR and marketing and must be utilized, be sure to tread lightly in the online communications world, and think before you click.

Small Business Success: Using Online PR

Congrats to my friend Beth for a great article in the latest e-newsletter Small Business Charleston! She brings up some key points to consider in spreading your company's message through e-sources, specifically through blogs. Check it out! Basics

A few months ago, inspired and enthused from reading David Meerman Scott's New Rules of Marketing & PR, I started this blog. Several posts later, blogging fell by the wayside.

The good news is that the blog's back - and will focus on a couple basics culled from my experiences:
(1) trends, mishaps and successes in public relations and marketing; and
(2) general observations about life in the Lowcountry.

So let me reintroduce myself. I'm Allison, and thanks for reading.