farenheit 451

So Long Ray, and Thanks for Lighting a Fire

Everyone has a bold story to tell.  Ray Bradbury, who passed away yesterday at the age of 91, was no exception. That’s not to say he wasn’t exceptional. After all, not everyone’s bold story gets to be a standard part of the American tenth grade curriculum.

Forgive me for getting sentimental, but we hold a special place in our hearts here for Ray’s masterwork, Fahrenheit 451. To us, it’s much more than another dystopian omen for what we might all become if we’re not careful.  It’s the inspiration for our company’s name.

In Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag faced more severe limits with the printed word than we can really imagine, thanks to an entire brigade dedicated to their destruction.  Nevertheless he witnessed the intense resilience of the human spirit in keeping alive what had been held in those books.  He witnessed people, regular people, adapting to an oral record of those books so that they wouldn’t be lost.

So what does that have to do with us?

To be clear, we don’t burn books here. The destruction of information is (in most cases) a terrible thing.  Quite the opposite, we created a company centered around the dissemination of information.   As the old methods of marketing and advertising slowly fade into the past (direct mail, billboards, etc.), we’re adapting our clients’ messages for the way people communicate in this century.  We chose Public Relations, Social Media Marketing and Search Engine Marketing because we to like having different methods at our disposal.  Print media still has a part to play (and always will), but the more powerful part of what we do is harnessing digital media to amplify that medium.  It’s like growing a little spark into a blazing bonfire.  But we’ll leave those little salamander hats to someone else.

Thanks for the ideas, Ray, and may you rest peacefully.  We’ll keep your book right at our front desk.


Ray Bradbury, 1920-2012


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Are you asking the right questions?

A client of ours is a prolific user of metaphor.  But those metaphors have proven effective in getting his points across.  The most recent one was a description of his role as a sales professional.  His first job, as he described it, was to identify his prospect’s wound.  His second job was to rub as much salt in it as possible.

Apt.  Grisly perhaps, but apt.

Let’s think for a moment about what he’s trying to achieve.  From the perspective of marketing and advertising, it’s exactly what we do on a daily basis.  Gone are the days of simply saying your product is there and it works.  We’ve all developed an immunity to simple fact-bast advertising.  Instead, you need to appeal to a client’s target audiences on an emotional level.  You need to show them that they have a need.  They need your service now in order to prevent something worse from happening that would cost more money down the road.

It works, right?  Yes.  But who wants to appear as a fear-monger?  We don’t.  Our clients don’t.  So that begs the ququestion markestion of how to expose (and maybe aggravate) a prospect’s needs without being too obvious about it.  How to do it a little more…indirectly.

One way is to ask questions. Loaded questions, to be sure.

A tactic that we often take is to first identify the problems our clients’ targets may have.  That’s the basis for everything.  Since they know their prospects best, they know exactly what frustrates them on a daily basis.  They know exactly what keeps them up at night.  They also know exactly how their services or products can be solutions for those problems.

Next, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the various people you’re targeting.  Think about what is important to the individual executive your message is reaching.  A pain that’s top of mind for a CIO, most likely won’t even be on the CEO’s radar screen. 

Imagine a scenario where your service could save your prospect significant money, because of a change in how their industry is regulated.  The CEO has probably heard about the regulatory change, but only understands how it impacts the highest levels of the organization.  The key here is to highlight the CIO’s pain for the CEO and get him thinking about how it could have a great impact on the bottom line.  Does he even know about this?  Does he know how to ask his employees about it?  Perhaps not.

The questions need to be seeded in the CEO’s mind.  If the CIO or IT Manager is your actual target audience, wouldn’t the most powerful form of advertising be to have the CEO start asking them about what they’re doing to address x, y or z?

Sometimes the most obvious approach isn’t always the most effective.

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Are you on the right track?

So why would you use social media to market your products?  Is it because it’s what the cool kids are doing? I hope that’s not your rationale.  If that is your reason, then you’re probably not using it to its full potential.

Granted, the cool kids ARE doing it, but that’s not the point.  Social Media Marketing is an incredibly effective tool with a reach that is ultimately beyond being truly quantifiable.  Nevertheless, there are techniques to track many of the results of a Social Media Marketing campaign and use those results to determine ROI.

It’s not always easy, but it is absolutely essential to running a successful campaign.  More to the point, it’s essential to get your client’s CFO to sign off on that campaign.  We all understand the profound value of Social Media Marketing campaigns, but the reason we’re successful is because we know how to communicate that value to the campaign’s beneficiary.

Here is a quick primer on some of the more basic ways to track a Social Media Campaign:

1. Site Traffic: If the goal of your campaign is to increase brand awareness, then benchmarking and measuring spikes in traffic to your website and blog or numbers of followers on Twitter can serve as a rough indication of how a campaign is driving brand impressions.

2. Conversions: Similar to what you might do with an SEO campaign, having your Social Media Campaign tied to specific conversion goals on your site can provide you with very specific success benchmarks in the form of highly-qualified leads.

3. Backlinks: If the goal of your campaign is to build a general following, then you should be measuring increases in backlinks to your Website, blog, wiki or whatever happens to be the epicenter of that following.  They can be easily tracked with Google and give you a great feel for who’s taking you seriously enough to link to you.

There are much more involved techniques that we use, but these represent some simple ideas to start with.  I’d love to hear feedback and suggestions for other basic techniques!

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Credit where credit is due…

Regardless of your political affiliation, I think anyone would agree that no small part of the success of President-Elect Obama’s campaign was due to their groundbreaking use of New Media. While presidential campaigns have been using interactive marketing for several election cycles now, the technology becomes more and more advanced with each one. In 2000, the web was still the new and exciting medium. Everyone knew the magnitude of its power, but we were all still trying to figure out what to do with it (thus the gold rush of the late 90s). Gore and Bush both had professional websites that broadcast information about their positions. Howard Dean took the next step in 2004 by using the internet to raise amounts of money that took all his competitors by surprise.

In this year’s cycle, however, we’ve seen an even more extraordinary leap in the effective use of technology. This year is the first one since what we generally refer to as “new media” has gained a meaningful number of users. Barack Obama and his team recognized this from the start and harnessed it to do so much more than just raise money. Bring in record numbers of money they did, but they also did a lot of things that left McCain’s campaign behind, much the way Kennedy left Nixon behind because of his inherent understanding of television.

So what did he do beyond his regular marketing campaigns and public relations efforts? He ran targeted opt-in text messaging campaigns, twitter updates, RSS Feeds, Blogs, webcasts, podcasts. I wonder if John McCain could even identify what most of those items are. I don’t mean that to be derogatory, rather I mean it to point out the difference in generation. The fact remains that Obama embraced a technology that is no longer in the future. The “present” has arrived for Web 2.0, Search Leveraged Public Relations, PR 2.0, Mobile Marketing and a host of other technologies. Now that we’ve seen how a political candidate can use it well, I’ll be a keen observer of what will come next in 2012.

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