Creating messaging that goes deeper than a catchy tag line

woman at computer

Great tag lines are inspiring; they beckon you to buy their product. They help focus a buyer’s attention and are relatable. But creating messaging that resonates with your customers should go deeper and reflect a thoughtful process that creates a complete framework to guide your marketing, communications and decisions across the boards-both internally and externally before you create a tag line.

It all goes back to doing the heavy lifting to fully understand your product positioning, key benefits, unique value and sales propositions, target markets and tone or voice of the brand, before putting those catchy phrases together. There is no substitute for sound research.

Firstly understand what are your customer’s needs and wants. Have you done customer surveys, or audits? Talked to your customers? Gained feedback. You need to get inside the heads of your consumer audience to fully understand what motivates them to buy your product or service or what causes them to hesitate or turn away.

Consult your sales reps? Your sales team is on the front line. They should be able to provide input on your product or service and which pitches are the most effective. They will also be the ones to carry your messaging forward so it is important to involve them in the creation of your brand messaging.

Differentiate yourself from the competition. Of course, differentiating yourself from the competition is extremely important to create successful messaging. I might get in trouble with beer snobs for this, but most beer in the same category tastes fairly the same, therefore success in the beer market is based on brand experience and each brand has its own unique message—Molson- I am Canadian, Budweiser–the King of Beers. Notice nothing is said about the taste of the beer—beer marketers focus on the band experience. So whether there are clear differences or differences you need to create, ensure you value and sales propositions are unique.

Identify your tone of voice. Once you’ve done the research and due diligence the next step is to identity your tone of voice—edgy or soft and sexy? Human? Bold? I sometimes ask my clients to identify celebrities or newsworthy individuals that typify the voice and tone of their product.

State your brand promise. A colleague of mine that designs websites promises “websites that you can update yourself’. It’s reassuring and simple. Identity your target audiences—Similarly identify the benefits of your product—using concise sentences that could be used in headlines. And finally, use supporting information and examples that backup the benefits.

Once you’ve done all that—then its time to create that catchy tag line.






How to Get Media Coverage


cliparti1_megaphone-clipart_04If you are a small business and looking for the best way to grow your business while considering various options such as advertising versus public relations, you might consider the advantages of PR.  As a former journalist I have been on the receiving end of many a
pitch and know what makes an editor or reporter take notice. So here are my first hand recommendations.
Media Coverage & PR is cost effective
Public Relations can be a lot cheaper than paid advertising and an article in the media, can lead to an immediate increase in sales and make your company seem more established than you are.
When a story about your product or service appears in the media, it is perceived differently than if you advertised. That’s because the reader views the article as a third party testimonial written and endorsed by an objective journalist, not a company trying to sell something. So the ‘unpaid coverage’ or ‘earned media’ means a great deal more and carries a lot more credibility to the reader or consumer than a paid ad.
Best way to make PR work for you—Tell a compelling story.
The best way to get noticed through PR is to create a compelling story or story line, that identifies what makes your product or service unique or what need it fulfills that will resonate with the editor or writer. There is no substitute for a good story. There are lots of products and services in the marketplace that may be similar. You need to consider how to bring something new or different enough to the attention of the reader. So look for a problem you solve, a story about the creation of the product that is unique, does your service or product link to a recent activity or story in the news that might provide something an editor can ‘peg’ the story too.
Connect with the media. And the right source
Today, you can directly connect more easily to the media using social media by following reporters that cover your field. Send them a direct message about your story. Read what they’ve previously written. Ensure to target a reporter that is knowledgeable about your area. Nothing irks a reporter more than sending a pitch that isn’t relevant to their beat. You can also position yourself as the go to media expert or specialist in your field. Reporters are always looking for spokespersons with expertise to use as subject experts to quote in stories or provide background information.
Create a well- crafted pitch
Keep your pitch simple and to the point remembering to tie you story back to what makes your product or service different or how it fulfills a need. Back it up with two to three facts to support your opening pitch. Don’t pitch your company, pitch your story! Reporters and editors do not give free publicity to your company. It happens when a story about your product or service that speaks to their readers. For structure, look at how a typical newspaper story is constructed. The headline tells the key message of the story, if there is a second headline or sub head it usually provides a fact to back up the headline. Then the body of the story fills in the details. That’s how you want to structure your media pitch.

Keep it short –two to three paragraphs. Who, what, where, when and why!

A lesson in differentiating your brand from an unlikely Masai village in Tanzania

I recently traveled to Tanzania with a not for profit organization focused on improving the lives of Tanzanian communities by fundraising and building classrooms and other educational infrastructure in the Northeastern part of Tanzania near the Serengeti.  

One of the projects involves the fostering of a bead collective run by Masai women who make elaborate native necklaces and intricate bead works that are then sold to tourists as part of Thomson Safari ‘s regular visit to the collective.

What I was looking for was not only bead work representative of my time in Tanzania and the Masai, but something a bit different I could bring back to friends and family.

On long tables displayed much like a North American flea market, the pieces that stood out were the small beaded baskets that were different from similar baskets.   One had a teacup handle on the side, another had an acorn shaped handle on the lid of the basket and still another had a rather abstract collection of spiky beads ringing the outside of the basket. Imperceptible to the ordinary shopper but to me they stood out as examples of wanting to differentiate their products in a crowded marketplace, when the prices were all the same; hoping to sell more than their counterparts.   Maybe I’m exaggerating one bead workers motive, but as a marketer, it resonated.

A bit of product innovation through a slight change in design, made all the difference and I bought them.

 The same goes for differentiating your brand in a crowded marketplace.  You may offer the same product or service and sales support but what can you deliver that is value added that transcends the similarities. Is it a variation in design? Or the added value in providing useful information that makes your customer’s job easier?  It might just be the little things that make a big difference.


Why Social Media for professionals is no longer an add on

I was recently asked to give a talk to a professional group about social media. They were undecided about whether to incorporate social media into their marketing mix and if it was a good use of their time and resources. While all had LinkedIn accounts most did not know how make the most of it and other social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter. Well, it’s no longer a question of whether it’s worth it, but what is it worth not to have a social media presence for your company.
Consider this:

Millions of consumers & professionals regularly frequent social media sites to make buying decisions.
People are buying products and services, investigating companies, retaining vendor partners or hiring new employees.
The sheer volume of eyeballs with commercial intent cannot be ignored.
Social media networks offer an entirely new way to reach and influence buyers. And is simply no longer an add on.

Further more buyers have gone from being passive.e.g. receiving email and direct mail to becoming informed participants in the selection process. This means traditional marketing efforts alone will no longer work even in the professional services area.Buyers are doing on line research to see what others think of your services and company. Social media also enables your prospects to quickly and independently conduct due diligence on your company and validate that your company is a good fit .  While Social media is another layer of the communications and influencer process, it does not replace your marketing efforts.

 Here are a few simple rules

1. You have to be in it to win it.
2. Research and understand your audience’s behavior.
3. Get a feel for your competitive landscape.
4. Listen before you speak.

5. Engage people with what they’re interested in
  —It’s not about you; it’s about them (and they know it)
6. Don’t be fake.
7. Have fun!


The Tangible and Intangible elements of achieving ROI through PR Creating Buzz Awareness and Public Relations but at what cost?

Often clients ask about what they can expect as a return on investment by using Public Relations.
The answer is not as easy as it is with sales. In sales, one can calculate the return on the dollar for an ad spend and sales generated.

In PR, The ROI is more about communications objectives and less about financial objectives.
Because public relations is, at core, about heightening company/product awareness and promoting a positive reputation. What price can you put on a good product review? A request to speak at a conference? Your name mentioned among industry leaders in an article or anecdotally. Having said that there are measures that are widely used to determine PR success, and that has to do with the number, frequency and breadth of media clips or mentions secured in the media. But volume alone does not guarantee success. What is the tone of the story? Is it positive or negative? Does the article support your core message and your market positioning? How many calls, emails, anecdotal mentions by colleagues, employees, suppliers and competitors of seeing your company name mentioned in the media? How many website visits occur as a result of an article appearing in a trade journal. These in large part can be measured and assessed.

However, the intangible aspects of PR are about gaining brand recognition and market leadership. It does not happen overnight with one press release or a few mentions in the media. The longer term is about building brand equity, and market leadership. It takes time to move the needle.

So the answer to the question about ROI and PR is that PR is a tool to achieving your objectives but not your sales tool.

Repetitive Advertising-Why it pays. A true story.

Repetitive advertising and integrated marketing for small business
Why it pays.  A true story

If you’re a homeowner, I’m sure you know the anxiety of facing a household emergency in which you need an expert  – a plumber, electrician or in my case a drain and sewer company following a backed up sewer from a cracked and root infested sewer pipe.  What to do? Who to call?
Fortunately, there is one company in the GTA that is easy to remember and has the service to back it up.  They are a regular advertiser on 680 news using vivid sound effects of gurgling water to a baby giggling.  They have created a strong brand identity to match – “look for the baby on the side” (of our trucks).  Even the company name stands out from the usual plumbing company names you see using forgettable initials.  To further differentiate itself, the company also has a story behind its name. “ We are New Canadians working hard as proud Canadians to promote the growth of our business”.

In the midst of my emergency, recall was instant.  For many many years, I’ve heard their radio ads and seen their trucks on the road—silently hoping, I would never have to call them.
Well the inevitable happened—and now they are outside digging to find the “root” of my problem—the truck with the baby on the side is out front too for all to see and take note.
Nothing is as impactful as repetitive advertising backed by integrated marketing and communications. The more you see or hear something, the more likely you are to make it part of your household.
That’s why continual advertising to stay top of mind pays off.
Even for a small business or a plumbing company.
The name of the company is New Canadian Drain and Plumbing. I would also be pleased to provide a recommendation –another important word or mouth marketing strategy.

Communication Matters

Trademarks: Making your mark helps set your company apart from the competition

In today’s competitive marketplace businesses may want to consider trade marking their products or services as a way to distinguish their business from their competition.

According to Wikipedia, a trade mark, is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business, organization or other legal entity to identify products or services to consumers and indicates the trademark originates from a unique source.  It is also used to distinguish products or services from those of other entities.
I recently explored this concept with two of my clients. One I suggested applying for a trademark to protect a process related to a training approach.  The other, a phrase that can be used to distinguish the way the company promotes its services as a specialist. In both cases, a trademark will give the company an added advantage –it can be used in promotional materials and prevent competitors from using the symbol, phrase or work and most importantly set the company apart for its competitors.

According to lawyer, Michelle Wassenaar, an international Trademark and Intellectual Property lawyer at Johnston Wassenaar, “It can be very effective to register a trade-mark since it gives the owner the exclusive right to use the trade-mark across Canada.”

A trademark is typically a name, word, phrase, logo or symbol or a combination.  It may be designated by the following symbols:

The process starts with researching whether the trademark is registered; if it’s not then an application is made for a registered trademark.  “ When a company makes application for a registered trade mark (or simply decides that they have a common law trade-mark), they can use the symbol ™ “ says Michelle Wassenaar “ and when an application is registered, which typically takes about 2 years, then the ® symbol can be applied. “

Let’s Talk! Conversations can ease the stress of change

Far from being cheap, talk may turn out to be one of the most valuable assets your company owns.

So you want to reshape the organizational culture. Your company and HR team have spent months and devoted costly resources towards working on redesigning the organization to improve the business.

Your communications team is all revved up and ready to go deliver the new key messages in company newsletters, intranets, town hall meetings, on posters and bulletin boards throughout the company. Standard practice is an important part of any successful internal communications’ plan. But wait a minute; can more be done?

Hey, here’s a novel idea: why not start a conversation?

Research in workplace culture shows that face-to-face and peer-to-peer communications are critical in changing behavior at work. So, if communication is one person trying to share ideas and meaning with others, then “talk” is a powerful tool to help facilitate change. Several years ago, the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), a global professional organization dedicated to the education and enhancement of the careers of communication professionals, published several articles related to research on the connection between leadership and communication and peer-to-peer conversations, and their impact on learning in the work place. A key finding in the IABC’s 1998 study on effective supervisor-employee communications underscored how learning in organizations can be nurtured through effective communications between leaders and their employees. And business communicators who tap into the ˜power of talk’ in their companies can increase the organization’s ability to learn faster than its competitors and gain the competitive edge.

Following on that,  study results from research on organizational communications at a Canadian financial cooperative was profiled in IABC’s publication, Communication World. The company had a staff of 250 and consolidated assets of over Cdn$3 billion. The study was undertaken to help the organization understand how communications between leaders and employees could help reshape culture and support organizational learning. At the time, the organization was coping with change on many fronts including globalization, new technologies, changing demographics, and increasingly sophisticated customer needs.

Study sheds light on how leaders and employees experience their conversations and what makes a conversation from which two people can learn, including:

  • The role conversations play in organizational learning;
  • Characteristics of effective and ineffective workplace conversations; and
  • Best practices for enhancing organizational learning between leaders and employees.

For example, a conversation with a leader or supervisor and an employee was perceived to be effective if the participant learned something that was helpful in his or her work. The partnerships, while taking time to develop, then helped build trust, idea sharing and meaning, making employees more open to being guided, supported and constructively challenged and by extension more productive.

Conversely, a conversation with an employee or leader where the participant was not able to learn something that helped with his or her work, or was perceived as playing politics, intervening for a non-work purpose or pursuing a hidden agenda, was remembered as ineffective and likely would not help employees improve their work performance.

A final word.

Finally, I’d like to pass along just one more example of why employee dialogue and communication should be a key communications priority by company leaders and is critical to a company’s long-term success.
In introducing a formalized employee recognition program at one mid-sized company, peer opinion leaders from all levels of the company were brought in to learn about the new program and to provide feedback.
When the program was launched, this review team, or “ambassadors” as they came to be called, had been involved in the program’s development and had the inside story. They were able to discuss the new program with their peers and answer questions. In conversations, they carried key messages about the new program to their colleagues, thereby assisting the company to gain buy-in from its employees and save valuable work time for more productive endeavors.

How do you begin successful conversations in your workplace? Some simple conversation starter suggestions include:

  • Asking questions in a constructive rather than an accusatory way;
  • Building partnerships between leaders and employees to explore workplace issues and problems as equal, open, and active participants;
  • Sharing a case study to help start a conversation or establishing a clear and common purpose for the conversation so that both participants know the purpose of the conversation, eliminating confusion and mixed messages.
    • So, if organizational change is on the horizon, why not incorporate the practice of talking and entering into conversations. Far from being cheap, talk may turn out to be one of the most valuable assets your company owns.

Rewards & Recognition Celebrate Successes! Employee Recognition Programs can boost employee productivity by 15-25%

Letters of praise, commemorative plaques, the branded coffee mug – may not appear to be of value to employees, but when it comes time to clean up or de-clutter our offices or homes, these items are generally among the treasures we salvage. It’s a fact that we all value and need recognition for a job well done.

So powerful are employee recognition programs that a planned consistent program can actually boost employee productivity by between 15-25 per cent.

Just as interesting, studies indicate that companies with a strong internal communications focus increase morale, employee retention, productivity and profits. Just think, then, how powerful a planned consistent and well-communicated recognition program can be. Communications plays a significant role in all three key elements in building a recognition program- monetary and non-monetary reward, openly praising employees and communicating and celebrating successes.

Imagine if your birthday wasn’t acknowledged by your closest friends or not celebrated. It’s the same with employee rewards and recognition.

A job well done must be openly praised and recognized in a timely way to have impact. Off-site meetings are excellent venues to share successes and recognition. So are staff meetings, emails, a personal letter of thank you from the CEO along with recognition in an employee newsletter, a special parking space designated for the ‘employee of the month’ and of course that plaque presented in a public forum are all visible non-monetary ways to recognize employee contributions. Some awards, such as a citizenship award for example, may warrant mention in the local community newspaper.

Middle market companies may overlook rewards and recognition as a significant part of employee communications. However, while large companies have entire departments devoted to employee communications, some middle market companies may overlook the importance of communicating effectively with employees when it comes to sharing the company vision, or latest strategy.

This is also common with employee rewards and recognition programs. When reviewing various tactics used by a mid-sized company to show recognition, the CEO expressed frustration that the employees took the programs for granted and accepted them as part of their due, when the real reason was that the company programs were ad hoc and had not been packaged or communicated as part of an overall planned and consistent program.

Involve employees in the development of the program.

If you want your employees to share in the excitement of your company and become motivated, involve employees from the programs inception and include representatives from all employee groups on a planning team. If your program is up and running, involve employees in reviewing your process, that way employees not only provide feedback and insight into the development of a program, but become goodwill ambassadors of the program relaying company messages back to the workplace. Brand your recognition programs.

One newly merged national company that wanted to encourage a new entrepreneurial approach among its store managers, created an Academy Awards type celebration evening and awards program. It used a catchy and meaningful name for the awards not only for the awards, but also to characterize its top performers. Now the branded name has become synonymous with excellence and the employees as leaders. A prominent location on the main floor of the head office also displays the award trophies and names of the winners.

So when planning your recognition program, keep in mind that even long after that letter or plaque from the boss or team leader has been misplaced, the memory of where and how that message of praise was celebrated and recognized will be strong.