Sign-Up To Our Free Newsletter!'s PR Branding Zone

Monday, December 31, 2007

Is Jessica Simpson the Next Suzanne Somers?

Jessica Simpson recently had the worst movie box office numbers ever for her movie "Blonde Ambition." It was released in her hometown in Texas and flopped. None of her films before it did well except The Dukes of Hazzard which had minor success. Despite failed films and poor CD sales, she keeps getting merchandising deals. I think she is in the process of reinventing herself. Given her lack of success in tradional show business, this is a good move.

American Express Remember the Thighmaster? Suzanne Somers famously used it in a low-budget infomercial which launched her new career as a health and beauty billionaire titan. She has books, clothing, exercise gear, jewelry, food and anything else you can stick a label on. Jessica Simpson is moving in the same direction. I just saw on TV that she now has a swimsuit line. Ms. Simpson also has hair extenstions, footwear, handbags, clothing, and beauty products. There is a trend here.

I was never a fan of Jessica's music, but I found her amusing on her MTV reality show. But her footwear line isn't bad and from the clip I saw on TV of her swimwear line - it shows promise. There are a couple of pair of her boots that I definitely would wear. Suzanne Somers has a great partnership with her husband of many years and they have created an empire together. I am not sure if Jessica's team has the same business prowess as Ms. Somers team; however, she is really moving into creating a full-on merchandising empire that could save her career and her bank account.

I question if she has the charisma and business sense to carry a full-line of products. Only time will tell. For now I wonder if people will continue to buy Jessica Simpson merchandise to keep her empire in growth mode. I do hope she chooses to devote her energy to her merchandise full-time and exits gracefully from acting and singing. It could be the big break she is looking for.

Resolutions for 2008 Business Marketing and Branding

If 2007 was a year that you didn't make the most of your ability to market your product or services, turn that around in 2008.

I have seen a number of articles in various publications and blogs about small businesses hiring public relations firms. The debate has been should they or should they not engage a public relations firm. Personally, I do not recommend pr firms for very small businesses. If a business is making under $250k a year, a pr firm is not the right move. Instead there are things that small businesses can do on their own to market and publicize to increase awareness. Here are some tips for 2008:

#1 Refresh Your Brand - Whether you own a storefront retail business or a company offering services do something to refresh your brand. This could be updating your signage outside of your establishment. I especially recommend this if you have had the same signage or logo for over 10 years, if that is the case you are definitely overdue. A brand refresh doesn't have to be really expensive. Work with a freelance branding expert or a graphic design student to come up with something.

Do-It-Yourself Email Marketing#2 Start an Electronic Newsletter - Most small businesses are not doing enough to connect to existing customers. Almost everyone has an email address today and many people are willing to receive information from companies they patronize. Start an e-newsletter and include features on products or services. If you run a business that can offer a special promotion - make sure you include one in every e-newsletter.

#3 Create New Referral Sources - Get out there and network in 2008! Cultivate relationships that can lead to referrals. Pick up a business journal in your area. If you live near or in a major metropolitan city, almost every big city has a business journal. Read it and look for events that could offer good networking. Start by attending events held or sponsored by the business journal. Check the local paper for business event listings.

#4 Refresh Your Website - Many small businesses are guilty of having static websites. (FYI a static website is one that you put up a while ago and have not added one new update or change) Your search engine optimization is dependent on your website having FRESH and RELEVANT contact. Work with your webmaster to post new information to your site.

WebEx MeetMeNow Online Meetings #5 Improve Customer Service - Great customer service is the BEST PR and MARKETING for your business. Even if you think your customer service is stellar, do something to add to it. Make sure you train employees to provide the best customer service possible. If you are in a service oriented business, have your representatives call your customers long after your work is done to make sure they are satisfied. If you have a retail business, do something extra for your customers when they visit your location. I can't talk enough about my dry cleaner who brings my clothes to my car for me each time. His customer service is why I drive out of town to patronize his business.

#6 Advertise Online - You might hear people talking about search engine marketing or SEM. SEM can tremendously increase the visibility of your website in search engines. The best part about this type of advertising is that you create your own budget! You can invest whatever amount of money in SEM that your business can afford. You can literally devote $25 a month to it. SEM is quite easy to do on your own. Search engines such as Yahoo! and Google provide step-by-step instructions to begin your SEM program. If you want more people to find your website, definitely start a search engine marketing campaign.

Good Luck in 2008 and remember to check for more tips for your business.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Holiday Hours and Seasonal Employees are Important for Your Business

This Christmas Eve, I found myself on a wild goose chase at 7pm trying to find establishments that were open for business. First stop – Whole Foods Markets. I got there around 7:15pm on Christmas Eve and they were closed. They appeared to have been closed for a while. There were no cars in the lot. Their normal Monday hours are until 10pm.

Second stop - a local restaurant. I wanted to use a coupon at a local pizza restaurant. I stopped in there at 7:30pm on Christmas Eve. We walked in and the girl behind the counter didn’t hesitate to say “Uh the dining room is closed – we closed it at 7 pm.” I mentioned my dine-in coupon and she said “sorry.” The regular hours for this restaurant are until 10pm. It would been nice if they offered to honor my coupon for take-out, alas they did not.

Third stop in my quest for a meal BEFORE 8pm on Christmas Eve was a desperate move. We were going to our local Wendy’s. We didn’t have to pull into the driveway of Wendy’s to see that the lights were off and that they were closed too. This was unbelievable as Wendy’s normally stays open until midnight.

So as we were making our fourth stop to a Chinese take-out restaurant, I noticed the 24 hours neighborhood Dunkin Donuts was also CLOSED before 8pm. The best part was a vehicle pulled into the Dunkin lot as I was waiting at a light. It seemed that patron was also in awe at the closure as well – he was just sitting there staring at the door as if it would magically open.

So we headed over to the Chinese take-out in the next town, but before we got there I noticed a nicer Chinese restaurant was open and ready for business. We got in and they were packed – I guess all of the hungry folks from my town ended up in there too. Of course, this restaurant was open for its normal business hours.

My point in bringing all of this up is simple, Christmas Eve is not a holiday, so try to keep your regular hours. If you want to give your regular employees time off do it, but do not sacrifice your business. Consider hiring seasonal employees who want extra money and will not mind working regular hours. There was no reason for any of the places to be closed so early. There are plenty of people who are willing to make extra money during the holidays.

Yahoo! Hot JobsFind the talent you need today. Post your job on Yahoo! HotJobs.

I remember about 15 years ago, certain retail stores would be open until midnight on Christmas Eve. That seems to be a thing of the past. So if your regular employees want more time off , give it to them. Make sure you bring in seasonal employees starting in November to learn the ropes so they can jump right in the jobs in December.

I was looking to spend money on Christmas Eve and nearly no one was open for me to do that. Don’t miss out on last minute sales and dinner seekers on holiday eves. Hire seasonal employees to keep you up and running. And pay your management extra money to stay their regular hours so the seasonal employees have leadership. I guarantee that if any of the four places I noted previously had advertised for seasonal employees, they would have gotten lots of inquiries. You can use online job placement services like or others to find people to keep your business open for regular hours during the holidays.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Advertise Your Business by Engaging in Charitable Giving

Small businesses typically have a limited budget for advertising expenses. There are many sophisticated ways to promote a business, without breaking the bank. One is to provide services for free to a local or regional charity.

Many nonprofit organizations, especially chapters of national organizations, are looking for opportunities to partner with local merchants. Offering your services for free to a charity can be a great way to promote your business. Charities need the same services as a for-profit business. In many cases, a non-profit organization is unable to pay for services that could help promote their cause or service. This is a great opportunity to provide pro-bono services that will advertise at the same time offer a tax deduction for your business. It is a win-win.

A company that has leveraged this type of opportunity is Constant Contact. Constant Contact is a provider of do-it-yourself email marketing. I recently learned that it has a program called Constant Contact Cares 4 Kids. Under this program, it has established a relationship with nonprofit organizations such as the United Way. Constant Contact provides its services free to 1300 local chapter affiliates. The benefit is that United Way local affiliates can market services and implement donation campaigns via email, at no cost, thereby reducing overhead expenses.

The United Way is a great organization for kids and Constant Contact
has leveraged the opportunity to help out a charitable organization that fit within its niche that offers great positive exposure. In return, the United Way has created a page on its website under its “partners” section exclusively for Constant Contact. The web page highlights Constant Contact by explaining the relationship as well as links and information about Constant Contact’s services.

This relationship is brilliant because Constant Contact’s email marketing templates provide links to its own website, therefore, anyone on the United Way’s email campaigns are exposed to a Constant Contact product. In the end, this is a smart relationship for the United Way because it provides all of its local chapters a free marketing tool and Constant Contact is making a charitable contribution that gains them terrific exposure.

Small business such as printers, IT services, website development, public relations, marketing, caterers and many more can benefit from establishing a similar relationship with a nonprofit. So be creative, identify an organization in your community and start leveraging your charitable efforts for great branding exposure.

Email Newsletters - 60 Day Free Trial

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ike Turner Leaves Behind A Personal Brand Tarnished By Scandal

Ike Turner died recently with baggage. Although Tina Turner's violent life with him was highly documented in her book and autobiographical film, Ike never owned up to abusing her. He led a life of rock and roll drinking and drugging. He never did anything to save his reputation.

For many, Ike Turner's legacy is one marred with violence and self-deprecation. He did not die a great music legend, he died a fallen star who wasn't man enough to own up to his dirty deeds.

Turner's personal brand was tarnished years ago and there was no public relations person or other star handler that could turn him around. He was a lost cause. I don't know a single song that Ike Turner did without Tina. Actually, only one song comes to mind when I think of Ike and Tina, Proud Mary. He didn't leave much of anything positive behind.

It is important to try to overcome scandal. Sometimes it is time to be contrite and try to seek the forgiveness of those who care about you. Many celebrities have been able to polish their tarnished image by admitting to wrong-doing and trying to move past the issues that have plagued them. Your personal brand is essential for your success. Be open about issues that you or your business face quickly. Don't deny something that is obviously true. Protect your personal brand by eloquently sharing your side of the story and then quickly move on.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Going Green is Good for Your Business and Brand

Thanks to Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth, going green is big with everyone these days. Even the folks who could have cared less about the environment and even poked fun at people who obsessively recycled are now trying to do something green. But being environmentally friendly is no longer just for individuals, it is for businesses too.

Believe it or not, you could probably increase your business if you did something "green." Why? Because there are business leaders who are green and looking to do business with other green businesses. It is a statement of your businesses committment to helping the environment, which could mean a lot to your potenital clients or even customers.

If you are doing anything green, publicize it. For instance, if you are only using 100% recycled paper products or operate your business in a certified "green" building, make note of it on your website and marketing materials. I recommend this especially if you are a subcontractor for large corporations. Many large corporations have environmentally-friendly initiatives in place. If your business has similar intiatives, you might be considered over companies that do not share the same values.

In today's competitive landscape, any edge up over the competition helps. It is not hard to implement a green program. It could be as simple as providing multiple trash cans at your business for employees and customers to separate trash for recycling. You can purchase recycled ink toner, energy efficient light bulbs and even install lighting timers to start your green program. If you have a business that utilizes company vehicles consider purchasing hybrid vehicles for your fleet. (Note: there are nice tax advantages for purchasing hybrid vehicles.)

Going green is good for your bottom-line and your company's branding. In the very near future, it could be what tips the scale to attain new business or even recruiting talented employees. Jobseekers who are passionate about living a green lifestyle typically want to work for companies who share their interest in the environment. No matter what your beliefs are about the green movement, it is here to stay. Consider finding ways for your company to take part in our green world and maybe save a tree or polar bear in the process.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Are Your Employees Brand Ambassadors?

When was the last time you "tested" your employees about their knowledge of your product or service? You might be surprised to learn that your employees do not know as much as you think they do or would want them to.

I have a client who tests her employees regularly by asking them questions about the services she provides. She owns a medical spa and she knows it is important that they know details about the services she provides. On one occassion, she found that that two of her six employees couldn't provide basic information about the medical procedures performed at her spa. Those employees were staff for more than three months. She immediatlely started to look for new employees.

You might find my client's actions drastic, but she knows how important it is for her employees to be brand ambassadors. Let's face it, employees are the main point of contact with your customers and clients. They must be able to offer the same level of knowledge of an owner or manager.

Small business owners should regularly "quiz" employees on their knowledge of the products or services offered by your business. You can informally ask them questions during departmental meetings, perhaps give "prizes" to those who know the most. Make knowing the most about your company a competition.

Employees as brand ambassadors can increase the level of customer service and increase sales. Make sure your employees are well-versed in whatever services or products you offer.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Target Advertising – Niche Audiences Result in Brand Loyalty

Do you have a product or service that only appeals to a certain audience? Niche audiences can bring a stream of sales to your business – regularly. It used to be that if you had a product or service that didn’t appeal to the masses that your business would fail. Now with social networking, niche audiences can build brand loyalty and the best part about it is that your niche audience can be your foot soldiers!

Here is a really great example of taking advantage of a captive audience within a specific niche. I recently read in a media relations newsletter that a magazine that ceased publication nearly four years ago is coming back. The magazine is called, “Victoria.” It isn’t a fashion magazine or a gossip magazine, it is an elegant publication about living a simple yet elegant lifestyle. And it has rabid fans.

Since it ceased publication, fans of the magazine have been getting together virtually in online forums, sharing their love for the magazine and the information similar to what was in the magazine. The magazine’s publishers, Hoffman Publications, noticed that these rabid fans would be a perfect and CAPTIVE audience. “Victoria” will be back as a subscriber publication in 2008. Besides finding out that the fans were extremely loyal, publishers also learned that readers HATED the redesign of the publication months before it stopped publishing. The revitalized “Victoria” will be the pre-redesign version.

Another example of this is that CBS cancelled a program called, “Jericho.” Fans were so outraged they conducted a very organized campaign directed toward to the programming department at CBS. They went as far as sending large amounts of items that represented a theme from the show to CBS headquarters. End result? This program is coming back for another season for its rabid fans in January 2008.

Lesson learned? Even if your product or service has a smaller reach than desired, if you have clients or customers loyal to your brand, they will do some of the marketing for you. Social networking is a powerful tool for brand loyalty. If you have a website, think about posting a message board that your customers can use to talk about your product or service. If you are concerned about the material that will be posted, be sure to have moderating capabilities. Send your loyal customers information about your products or services using services such as Constant Contact.

There is something to be said about targeting a niche audience for brand loyalty. Take a good look at who your audience is and figure out how to best appease them so they go to market on your behalf.