According to Forbes, the growing interest in podcasts is not slowing down. Here is a quick list of stuff.
Why should you start a podcast for you business?
What mistakes should you avoid?
What steps should you definitely take?
How will you grow audience and generate business?
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As another holiday season appears in the rearview mirror and companies begin thinking about their marketing, messaging and branding strategies for 2022, I'm hopeful that a visit to 34th Street inspired a few people. The original 1947 film is always on my watch list during the season, but there are three important lessons brands can remember throughout the year.
Lesson 1: Customer Loyalty Was Earned Without a Sale
When kids shared what they wanted for Christmas, Santa was supposed to tell the parents how they could buy specific toys at Macy's. When Santa meets Peter, he tells Santa he wants a fire engine for Christmas, not just any toy fire engine - A fire truck like the big ones only smaller, with a real hose that squirts real water.
His mother tries to tell Santa it's impossible to get because nobody has them. So, when Peter is told he'll get one for Christmas, she's not too happy about it. When Santa tells her she can find those fire engines at Schoenfeld's on Lexington, that all changes.
The head of the toy department hears Santa tell her and others where they can buy toys - outside of Macy's.
Did they hire a Bad Santa?
Did they lose a chunk of revenue as Santa helped parents find the right store and price?
Indeed this madness had to stop, right?
That is until Peter's mom said putting the spirit of Christmas ahead of the commercial was wonderful, and she would now be a regular Macy's customer.
That was an even bigger shock to the manager, but should it have been?
If you took this quote and replaced "kids" with "customer," would you say that's your brand's philosophy? If so, what Santa did was completely logical.
The toy manager thought the only way for Santa to earn revenue and loyalty was to tell them what to buy. It's instant gratification - like knowing what's in a wrapped package before opening it.
Macy's didn't get an instant buy that day, but the purchases Peter's Mom will make as a loyal customer will more than make up for it.
Much of today's marketing and advertising continues to be rooted in a desperate attempt to get that instant gratification despite research that shows consumers don't want sales pitches and don't want to be told to buy on social media.
Lesson 2: The Customer Did Not Expect the Brand to Care
Peter's mom assumed (and rightfully so) that any employee or representative of Macy's would care about their own interests (in this case - sales) over the customer's needs. Remember, for Mr. Kringle to be a "good Santa," he was instructed to suggest overstocked toys to kids.
There is plenty of skepticism about the motivations of brands today. The difference is that in 2021, customers are in a much better position to demand companies act more like Santa and less like the toy manager.
What will you do in 2022 to communicate to customers that you have their best interests at heart?
Lesson 3: The Competition Took Notice
In his book, They Ask, You Answer, Marcus Sheridan talks about how CarMax shook up the car buying industry by saying they would differentiate themselves by addressing the typical customer's complaints about going to the dealership.
The car dealers didn't take them seriously. They knew they were the big dogs that had been around for years.
When people want a car - they go to them.
In their minds, nobody was going to change that - until they did. They changed the rules, and car dealers had to adjust.
Macy's nor Gimbel's would have come up with a holiday shopper strategy without Santa's customer-focused heart because they would assume it would hurt them (a company-focused mindset). However, once Macy's did something new, Gimbel's took notice and had to change their thinking (or hearts).
However, if you're a consumer, how does that look to you?
You have two brands with a lot in common in their industry - including their business, marketing and public relations strategy.
One brand does something TOTALLY DIFFERENT and blows the minds of customers. Suddenly, everyone's talking about it, and it's a game-changer for their company.
Then the other brand suddenly makes a significant effort to say, "Hey! US TOO! We believe in that too!"
Would you still be attached (maybe even more loyal) to the company that did it first?
It's not uncommon for competing brands to watch each other and do what the other one does - especially in marketing, branding and public relations.
The only differentiator is each brand is trying to tell customers that:
What good does that do?
As digital marketing consultant Mark Schaefer will tell you - If you're #2 in your industry, you can't be doing things the way #1 does things.
How will you differentiate yourself from your competition?
Bonus Lesson: Santa is Real
So be good to your prospects and customers.
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Anytime a brand can get a solid celebrity endorsement, it can give its promotions and messages a boost. However, it is still important to utilize the opportunity to carefully consider how the celebrity and the message will be used.
Rob Gronkowski is a big NFL star with a big personality. USAA offers military veterans competitive rates on financial services like banking, investment and insurance. The two have come together to produce some TV ads to promote their special offers to veterans.
Football Star vs. Military Vet
The word "hero" is pretty prevalent in our culture, and occasionally I will see good reminders on social media about its use. For example, there's a difference between a "sports hero" who plays a game and a "military hero" who risks his or her life to protect the nation or others.
During an election season, it's not uncommon for candidates to talk about new ways to better care for our veterans - especially after they come home from the battlefield. We can do a lot more because they're generally not making NFL salaries like Gronk.
So, the optics in this commercial has an NFL veteran and millionaire trying to get an army veteran who is working at a little shop to get him the same benefit as he gets from USAA.
Why would Gronk need this discount?
Why would Gronk try to convince a veteran to get USAA to make an exception and give him the special military rate? "You love me, right?"
They have another ad where he's trying to trick a customer service rep into giving him the membership and rates.
It just doesn't look good in that context.
Alternative: Do Something for the Vets
I thought of a better scenario that puts Gronk in a better light while showcasing USAA's special offer to veterans.
What if the commercial showed Gronk trying to use his fame, influence and personality to do more for the veterans? He knows he can never really do enough to thank Frank for his service, but he will try!
Next thing you know, he's trying to sell pastries, wait tables, clean floors, fix machines and more (and may not be good at all of it). He doesn't think he has done enough, saying, "Frank! What if I made some calls and got you some great rates on some financial services?"
Frank tells him, don't worry - he already gets that from USAA, and it's part of their special membership/offers to military veterans and their families.
Then have some fun with what Gronk tries to do next to "help" Frank.
What do you think of the message? Do you have another idea for the ad campaign?
When I was a single guy, I remember hearing that women would often judge men based on their relationship with their mothers. This approach included considerations on how they talk about and communicate with their moms. The idea is that they could potentially get a good feel for how someone would treat another woman in a relationship.
Can a similar principle apply to how a company communicates with (or even treats) its audience?
Similarly, how you talk about customers within your own company could impact how that same organization communicates with them publicly.
If someone asked you how people within your company talk about customers or prospects, what would be a fair assessment?
The Gullible View of Audience
Several years ago, a company hired me to help them develop some new copywriting ideas. When I was hired, I was invited to the office to learn more about the business and its messaging challenges.
When they were showing me around, they pointed out the copywriting team.
That threw me off a bit.
“If you have a team of copywriters, what made your hire someone like me?” I asked.
The response was, “We just need some fresh ideas.”
The company offered free online access to a service and wanted customers to pay for additional services via a monthly subscription. They sought to increase paid opt-ins and keep customers on their subscription plans.
Recently, many people would get what they wanted and opt out.
Then I found out what needed “fresh” ideas.
After people filled out the form for the free service, they were asked for credit card information.
I sat in on a meeting where an entire creative team discussed how a new website with photos of friendly-looking people would make users more comfortable with the last-minute credit card request.
Because the website looked nice and the photos looked like credible people - duh!
I was stunned by this.
It reminded me of My Cousin Vinny when Vinny asked his fiancé what pants he should wear to go deer hunting. She asked him if he was a deer, and some guy showed up and blew him away – would he care about what kind of pants the shooter was wearing?
I asked a similar question in the meeting.
“If any of you were told you’re getting something free, and you filled out a form to get the free service…but you were then asked for credit card information…would you really care how nice people looked on the website?”
As Ralphie Parker once said – They looked at me as if I had lobsters crawling out of my ears.
This company viewed its audience as gullible people, and their external communications proved it.
The Explain Everything View
I’ve attended trade shows and seen vendors with backdrops that are so loaded with information that the text extends from top to bottom. Many people wouldn’t stop to read it all, and those who did would stop and confusingly ask, “What do you all do?”
Having the internal belief that your customers and prospects need everything explained can put strains on your business. These days, customers know their problems and understand what they want out of a solution.
Too much explaining on a website, email or other materials can:
A Mutually Beneficial View
Dr. James E. Grunig (public relations theorist and Professor Emeritus, Communication at the University of Maryland) developed the "excellence theory" in public relations. The development of this concept was pretty wide-ranging, to say the least:
Excellence theory takes what’s known as a symmetrical two-way communication approach. Now, what does that mean, and how can it apply to culture, communication and audience?
Let’s first look at other examples of communication and see how they could be applied to examples already discussed.
One-way communication – Think of this as an approach that an agent or publicist might take. The communication is focused on one side. Messaging will always be constructed or spun in ways that make the best possible impression on the audience for the subject's benefit.
Two-way communication – This is about considering the audience in the messaging. However, if it's asymmetrical, the benefit is still focused on the messenger because there is a layer of “scientific persuasion” used in communicating with the audience. In other words, they may listen to what the audience has to say about something, but the result will still be to persuade them for the sender’s benefit.
A two-way symmetrical approach like excellence theory is focused more on mutual benefits for the sender and the audience.
Applying a Communication Culture of Excellence
One of the big mistakes marketers make in their strategies is they think like marketers (and not consumers). Grunig believes public relations has to be more than just external marketing and PR communications by:
A key takeaway: If organizations already have a genuine interest in communicating in a mutually beneficial way, that can translate well into how that same company communicates and views its audience.
This approach can work for everything from businesses to academic institutions.
Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), a 1,200-employee industry-funded company, wanted to convey not only environmental responsibility, but also a high standard of ethics and integrity in their public reputation.
In a 2016 evaluation of the effectiveness of excellence theory within the organization, AER achieved one of its highest scores in ethics and integrity. Public Affairs contributed to the organization's success (and public opinion) through communication and professionalism messaging and response.
A 2019 study focused on web, social and internal communications of universities around the world. It concluded that "Research on public relations activities at public universities in the era of public information disclosure has found that public relations activities have well supported public services in accordance with the principles of good governance."
Excellent communication doesn’t have to be academic. While excellence theory provides a good example of the advantages of a consistent internal and external communication approach, do we need to study to understand why that makes sense?
If a company culture has internal communication challenges, is it tough to see how that could impact how the organization communicates externally?
If a company culture is primarily focused on how great they are and how the world needs to listen to them, do you think that could create challenges in how it creates external communications?
If marketing strategies are rooted in ways to overexplain, trick or lecture their audience, what does that say about a culture’s view of their most valuable assets?
Finally, if a company culture believes there is mutual benefit to be gained with the public (gaining insights, providing value, building relationships, being transparent, etc.), how can that hurt the organization?
If my mom asked me what type of communication I believe in, I wouldn't want to throw out terms like two-way symmetrical communication, but I'm sure she would be pleased to hear "mutually beneficial."
My wife (who is also in marketing) would be pleased as well.
Imagine you attend an event covering a topic that is very important to you. Let's also imagine you chose to attend because you were seeking to get something meaningful from it.
Maybe you went because you want to learn something new.
Maybe you went because you want to learn how to take action.
Or maybe you went to get energized about something that means a lot to you
Perhaps you attended the event for all of these reasons.
Yet, while you're there, you have to sit through someone who is there to promote themselves and thinks everyone should be excited about him.
After all, this doesn't represent what you want or what you're seeking to find.
In the 1988 film Coming to America, there was a big crowd at a local Black Awareness Event, and you have to think they all wanted something of value from it (including some of the "good stuff" from McDowell's).
Yet, they had to sit through a musical performance from a local actor who played Joe the Policeman in an episode of That's My Momma. Despite everyone's (minus one big fan) lack of interest, Randy Watson thought everyone should be excited to hear him and his band perform.
Randy is an iconic character from the film, but he also presents us with a great analogy about a common mistake people make in their content strategy.
The Tease Wasn't Very Special
When Reverend Brown said he had a "special treat" for the audience, they probably expected better. When users are looking for value online, one of the most frustrating things they experience is clickbait.
In other words, they see a headline that makes them think they found something of interest.
So, they click on the link.
Then, they're disappointed to find that the content features a company talking about (or frequently linking) to itself or a brand promoting their product.
Randy Didn't Know His Audience
Randy didn't get the reception he likely thought he would get. So, he thought he could boost the reaction by telling the audience that they looked lovely.
However, it generated the same response.
That didn't stop him from promoting his band and telling people how great they sound:
"They play so fine. Don't you agree?"
He Never Changed His Act
While in front of his audience, all Randy managed to do was:
Then, despite lack of engagement, he stomped his feet and yelled out the name of his band:
At the beginning of his act, the lack of response should've sent a signal that his plan wasn't going to work with his audience. He could've adjusted and spoke to the them about something they care about or tried something different. Yet, he persisted in making it about him and his band.
A lot of brands will do something like this in their content, and you'll see it on everything from their websites and social media to their emails and blogs.
It's all about them, and they might as well be stomping their feet and screaming the name of their company at you.
Additionally, despite a lack of meaningful amount of clicks, shares and responses, they don't change their strategy.
If that's your strategy, you'll need all the prayers Reverend Brown can give you.
When I landed my first ad agency job, it was all about print. We were a team of three, and our main client was a big healthcare company. We were on the phone every day placing ads in newspapers and magazines while writing copy for flyers and brochures. Some of you may read this and ask:
How well did that work?
What's a newspaper?
It's true. Not only was is that some old school marketing, but the content was almost always company-centric. It was all about how great it was to work for them.
Times have changed. Now the messaging has to be audience-centric, and you have to reach them in multiple ways. However, a lot of companies haven't learned that yet.
Print may be old school, but a lot of companies still ask people to read a lot. While blogs, print collateral and other copy-driven content are still relevant, you can't put all of your eggs into the text basket.
In this video, I explain:
Watch now to learn more.
Other references in this video:
Watching and Listening Are the New Reading
Donald Miller: Weighing Your Audience Down
I am about halfway through earning my Master's Degree (Interdisciplinary Studies: Professional Communication) from Southern Utah University. One of my recent classes was Professional Social Media, and I wanted to share an assignment that was part of my Final.
I had to find a company, evaluate their social media and produce a presentation (as if I worked there or consulting) that gave suggestions for improvements. I decided to pick Podcast.Co because I love podcasting, and I liked what they were offering to the market.
This isn't about criticism, because at the end of the day, a lot of companies could make improvements to their social media. I wanted to share this to help you come up with ways to evaluate your social media and maybe help a podcast company in the process.
In 2017, I was asked to create a virtual session for Podcast Movement. I decided to center it around creating a podcast that stands out right after launch. As you'll see in the session, it's important to consider things like format, topic and audience.
You can also listen, download or share the audio version of this blog.
What makes a good relationship between marketer and their target audience has changed. This has been true for several years, but many marketers have been unable to adapt.
Two ways marketers can ruin a relationship with their target audience are:
1. They approach conversations with a "sell first" attitude
2. They cling to outdated marketing strategies
As Judy Ungar Franks, author and clinical assistant professor in the Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University, says - when you apply old-school media thinking to a new media world...nothing happens!
What changed in the relationship?
In simplest terms, the catalyst of change in the relationship between marketer and audience is the internet. Trends in social media posts, influencer blogs, customer reviews and instant communications gave the consumer more control in the relationship. Marketers had a lot more power when the relationship was more linear. Back then, they made sales pitches to captive audiences through TV, newspaper or radio.
Then, the world of media and communication began to change.
Suddenly, people could skip commercials and turn to the internet for entertainment. So, marketers followed them and tried to communicate the same way they would on traditional broadcast media.
They found out the results were not the same:
As Dr. Franks points out in her book, Media: From Chaos to Clarity: Five Global Truths That Make Sense of a Messy Media World:
Old school marketing was about four Ps: Product, place, price and promotion
There was certainty in every medium, limited selection and media was product
Now it's about the four Cs of social: Content, connecting, community and curating
Media are strikingly similar (it's all on screen)
Today, people flock to all kinds of media for a comprehensive, engaging experience, and consumers are the distributors and accelerants of the marketer's content.
What Do Consumers Want in a Realtionship?
If the "sell" or "pitch" is the end goal, you can't spend all your time focused on that part of the conversation.
Recognizing the change in the relationship is only half the problem. The second half deals with a crowded room of people trying to woo the same consumer. If everyone is talking the same way, it's harder for brands to make their case.
One of the best ways to optimize communication in a personal relationship is remembering to put yourself in the other person's shoes. This relationship is no different. You have to think like a marketer and a consumer.
When marketers are not thinking like marketers, they can find similarities in how both parties respond to online content.
Think about that. When you're not at work (or wherever you spend time on marketing strategy), how do you answer those questions?
Remembering your consumer habits can help you develop better marketer habits. At that point, your focus goes deeper than just selling to the other person and puts the relationship on a better path.
Do you find yourself struggling to develop topics for your company blog? You're not alone. Have you ever considered why it's so difficult to generate content? It could be any number of reasons:
The lack of time to write a blog
The product or industry doesn't "inspire" topics
The belief that blogs can't translate to sales
Well, the good news is there are solutions to all of these challenges. Here are some concepts to help you break these content creation barriers.
I have simple response to that blog.
Do you think I'll be fooled by that company again? Nope.
In today's content overloaded world, you should just assume you're audience won't fall for a clickbait-like tease. These days, people tend to already be cynical about what brands put in front of them. They already assume it's probably more self-serving than valuable. It's also why when they land on content filled with links that benefit the content creator, they're likely to bail out in a matter of seconds.
Ask yourself why someone would want to read your blog, and don't say it's because your content is awesome or your company is unique. As Joe Pulizzi says - “Your customers don’t care about you, your products, or your services. They care about themselves.”
Your customers can create blog topics
Focusing on customers and topics can address two common blog strategy barriers:
The time challenge
The company product/service topic issue
What if you just took the answers your customers ask and turn them into blog topics?
This is how Marcus Sheridan saved his swimming pool business - making the the question a blog title, and featuring the answer (even if it's short) is the body of the blog.
Now he makes a living teaching businesses how to create value by answering questions that customers are asking - often times via search. It's amazing that Marcus turned this into a content phenom, because on its surface it seems kind of an obvious idea.
This concept helps with the challenges of time, length and sales. It's a prime example of how blogs don't always have to be long, time-consuming epic reads.
And Marcus will tell you - his They Ask, You Answer strategy works for all businesses.
Beyond conducting internal research to find out what your customers and prospects are asking, there are online resources like AnswerThePublic, HubSpot’s blog topic generator and Buzzsumo that help generate blog topics.
Some People Don't Want to Read Blogs
When it comes to time, you shouldn't just consider how much time a blog will take to write. You should also consider how much your audience is willing to read.
Brand and digital content strategist Chris Brogan expanded his content strategies beyond the written word when he noticed trends pointing towards video and audio. In making his case for why watching and listening is the new reading, Chris pointed out that people only spend an average of 19 minutes a day reading - including their texts and emails.
How many minutes do you spend reading your emails or phone communications?
How much time is left to read a few articles and blogs?
Chris's point doesn't mean you should stop writing blogs. It's a reminder not to solely rely on content content that takes a lot of time to read. Limited time and skimming habits are reasons why more blogs offer a written and audio version to their audience.
If you choose to record a video, just share some insights. Make it fun and engaging. Talk to your audience and save them some time by recording something that can also be shared on your blog.
Simple Blog Ideas Can Still Provide Value
Once you realize you don't have to write an epically-long blog post, you may realize just how much content you can create. It's all about providing value, and there are a variety of ways to prove you have a lot to offer your customers and prospects.
When I first learned about this approach from a content marketing expert, they said something that has always stuck with me:
If you provide a lot of value through content, your audience starts to think, "If I get this kind of value for free - imagine what I'll get when I buy something from them."
So, take the time you might spend on an extremely long and complex blog and use these 60 ideas for bloggers, entrepreneurs, marketers and businesses to generate ideas.