Have the Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media changed about sharing your political views? I guess it depends on how you heated up you are personally (or not) over the current state of affairs—and if you want to share that publicly as a business or brand.

Brands have a core message and stand tall for what they believe in. They can also influence, motivate, alienate or outrage prospects, customers and audiences. We see that in a big way today with swings to the left and to the right in Washington, and all over the country.

As a PR Mentor, I suggest to my clients that they keep their brand or company comments on target to their core message and core values. If your brand is a political one, that’s a completely different story.

In the past, there were 5 Subjects we never talked about on Social Media:

  1. Sex
  2. Politics
  3. Money
  4. Sports
  5. Religion

Today, each of us is the media.

We can share our opinions openly and for free. I honor that and am grateful for that right. But, how will your message affect your brand if you are the spokesperson – or you are the brand?

  • Do comments about sex, partying and boozing it up online affect a job search?
  • In a divided society with emotions high, do political comments help or hinder your ability to be a leader, get a promotion or win a prize client?
  • Does talking about having lots of money alienate you in a world where many are struggling?
  • Are you infuriating fans of one sports team (and possible customers) when you are obnoxious about a recent win of your rival?
  • In a world of many religions, faiths and beliefs are we helping or hurting our brand with off the cuff or insensitive comments?

Ultimately, it’s up to you how to position your brand, and what to say or not say on social media.

Before you post ask yourself two questions. What’s my intention? What’s my end goal?

Whatever message you share, be sensitive to how it will be perceived.

It does matter.

Today, I’m giving a talk on Digital Trends for 2017. As part of my preparation, I always like to research what other experts are forecasting and predicting. Their information usually validates my thoughts and offers more data on the why’s behind the findings.

What’s Trending:

  1. Millennials are moving away from public social networks to private ones. Think Facebook Messenger, What’s App, GroupMe. Micro-sharing information and links.
  2. Live video isn’t a maybe strategy. It’s a must have to boost engagement. Plus, there’s limited competition.
  3. Digital Assistants are here to stay. Have a question? Ask Siri, Alexa, OK Google or Cortana.
  4. Customers are using multiple devices to make up their minds to try products and services.
  5. Keywords are more conversational as voice dominates.
  6. Google’s new algorithms are putting more emphasis on local search.
  7. Native advertising is on the rise. More content-like but still sneaky.
  8. SEO and Paid Media spending will grow up to 24% of a marketing budget by 2022.
  9. Brands are creating an “immersive experience” to increase engagement.
  10. Becoming more instant is definitely the way to go.

These are top picks, but there’s always more.

And why are these trends important?

Dense marketing is yesterday’s news. Spend time and money where your target market is. Improve your video marketing and use it to grab attention. Repurpose content in ways it will be seen and shared. And finally, engage with your prospects and customers live. At workshops, events, on video.

Show the real you.

 

Special thanks to contributors Blair Nicole Nastasi, Corey Austin, Lindsay Hutter, Dave Chaffey and Jayson DeMers for their collective insights.

One of my clients, Lidia Kenig Scher is a transformational artist who heals through vibrational painting. Last month, a student and major collector of her art, offered to host a holiday party and silent auction in her honor to help Delibreen, an 18-month old boy who was badly burned in Iraq and flown to Shriner’s Hospital.

Lidia’s intention all along was to give a portion of the proceeds to help the little boy – but we added another layer. We decided to start a crowdfunding campaign to raise money, feature the cause and offer Lidia’s artwork as incentive for donors to give.

I’ve never created a GoFundMe campaign before, but I announced it at a presentation last week. Within minutes, Phill Naylor, a videographer from XtraLargeMedia offered to shoot the 2-minute introduction and Diane Debs from Arbonne made a pledge to donate healing baby products. I was touched and not surprised, at the same time.

What will this accomplish for Lidia, Shriners Hospital for Children, Baby Delibreen and all of the benefactors supporting the cause? Lots.

Lidia will paint from the heart and give away her artwork in return for donations to help Baby Delibreen. Shriners Hospital will benefit from the goodwill and publicity. Baby Delibreen and his family will receive funds, kindness and the generosity from others. Phill will have produced a meaningful video, Diane will have given healing products to a boy in need, and Lidia’s art collector and devoted student will know that her efforts to help were valued in contributions — far greater than her own circle, from strangers around the world.  Who knew this baby and why was he here in Boston?

You see, things happen and when faced with what we don’t know – the right people show up to help us.

There is a path to gratitude and goodness. Teach your children and the young that this is the way to heal the world.

If you’re in the market to buy promotional products to increase your company’s brand awareness at a trade show, event or conference, it’s important to know the most common mistakes people make – so you can avoid them like the plague.

Over the last 20 years, I’ve seen the simplest jobs go wrong because of a mix up of facts, colors, formats and more.

Take a few minutes and read what the mistakes are so your order comes out exactly as you expect, at the price you want and on time!

Lack of purpose

With millions of promotional products to choose from it’s important to know the purpose of your promotional product campaign. Do you want to increase traffic to your website, landing page or promote a special offer? Based on your answer, you may be surprised that a different product, design or distribution plan may be a better idea. Without a clear goal and purpose, your marketing campaign could be doomed to fail before it really begins.

Not tailored to your audience

A custom beer koozie is a great premium for a bar or brewery, but not necessarily on target with a hospital’s image. I’ve seen buyers select premiums that are cool in their eyes, but just don’t fit. When this happens, marketers are appealing to their own taste rather than their audience’s. Take time to research the interest and hobbies of your target demographic and find a product that will appeal to them. Not sure?  Create an informal focus group!

Bland or generic design

Does your freebie or premium have visual interest? Whether it’s colorful, has a catchy slogan or pattern, you want to be sure your product gets attention and a positive reaction. If you create a giveaway that’s boring and uninteresting, chances are you’ve wasted a timely marketing opportunity. Remember, one of the goals of giving a promotional product is to create interest – in the product, service and the item itself!

What’s your distribution plan?

Before you even order promotional products, determine what you’re going to do with them. Will you give them out at a trade show or will reps hand them out to customers in the field? Are you trying to increase your customer’s loyalty by sending a product in the mail or attract a new prospect, in a totally new target market? No matter how you answer these questions, you can be select in your distribution. And, remember to keep at least a few samples in your file cabinet with important facts like where you gave them out, when and feedback. (You can use an excel spreadsheet too).

Ordering cheap items

Most promo products are fairly inexpensive and cost effective as compared to other types of marketing. I know it’s tempting to save as much money as possible and buy the cheapest products available, but sacrificing quality for quantity can actually cost you more in the long run. Be mindful that what you give out is a reflection of your brand, so going cheap isn’t always the way to go. I’m not asking you to break the bank or your budget, but here’s the deal: Your product needs to be effective, before it can be cost effective.

Printing ineffective information

This sounds like a no brainer, but don’t forget to include your website and contact information on the promotional item. The best product at the best price will be wasted if people can’t reach you. Granted, you have limited printing space to work with, so make every word count to reach your goal. A call to action isn’t a marketing maybe, it’s a marketing must! Premiums and promotional items included.

Not proofing carefully

How carefully are you reviewing the proof your promotional company is sending you? Take it from me, you may want to enlist others in your company to take a look too. Triple check the ink and PMS colors as well the actual imprint position. Once you’ve signed off on a proof and the job is in progress, additional changes will mean tossing out the old, and beginning from scratch. And, you know you’ll have to pay extra unless it’s not your fault.

Being stingy on quantities

Don’t be afraid to order a few extra premiums to have on hand for future events and surprise trade shows or meetings. Most vendors offer quantity price breaks where the price per piece decreases as the quantity increases. A company can often save 10 to 15 percent on an order by just adding more product. Plan out your event calendar and product purchases ahead of time and you can save big time.

Pay rush charges

This is one of the biggest mistakes marketers make and one of the easiest ways to reduce costs. Think and plan ahead! A typical production facility schedules weeks in advance so when a rush order comes in changes must be made immediately at the plant. A standard rush order can result in charges of 25% or more. A next day change for your million-dollar client can be – well, you don’t want to know. I’ve done it and saved the day and you could too. When you’re not in panic mode, ship by ground to avoid high freight charges. If you’re going to fly premiums overnight, why not save the money and travel yourself?

The bottom line is this.  Don’t rush through the planning stages of your promotional products campaign. Effective event purchasing can give you the results you’re looking if you use these tips on your checklist before you buy.

About the Author

Rachel Leone is a client and President of Leone Marketing.  Her firm specializes in finding perfect promotional products for trade shows and events to increase brand awareness, loyalty and recognition.  Rachel works with Fortune 500 brands as well as small business owners to engage, without a diamond ring. Her brainstorming sessions are noteworthy and complimentary. Contact Rachel at Rachel@LeoneMarketing.com.

An extraordinary personal brand is a set of messages, attitudes and behaviors that come together synergistically to help you enjoy better opportunities, make more money, command more influence, and help more people. What’s more, it helps establish you as a role model and leader in your field, which elevates you to a whole new level.

Of course, those are the benefits of an extraordinary personal brand. Most people don’t have one at that level yet; and some might not even have a personal brand at all (or at least not one that they’ve ever noticed). However, if you fall anywhere on this spectrum, then don’t worry. When it comes to improving – or possibly re-inventing – your personal brand so that it’s extraordinary, there’s no need to go searching for clues on where to start. You can simply borrow the playbook from the corporate world.

Indeed, have you noticed that the most trusted, valuable and beloved corporate brands share certain key characteristics? It doesn’t matter whether they’re established in the consumer retail space, the medical field, the IT industry, or anywhere else – when you set aside all of the differences, the best brands are always: unique, expressive, authentic, consistent and confident.

1. Unique

A “generic personal brand” is a contradiction in terms; yet this doesn’t stop many professionals from having one that is virtually identical to many others. This is a mistake of profound proportions! Your personal brand is your “professional DNA.” It should be all about you, and only you. Don’t be afraid to be different; on the contrary, leverage your differences to stand out from the crowd for all of the right reasons.

2. Expressive

Your personal brand should convey key messages that express who you are, where you’ve been – and most importantly — where you’re headed tomorrow. Be willing to communicate your personal brand in a variety of ways, and to a variety of audiences. If Shakespeare was right and “all the world’s a stage,” then your personal brand is a microphone. What will YOU express?

3. Authentic

Make your personal brand attractive. Make it engaging. Make it interesting, unforgettable and bold. But no matter what, make it authentic! And you achieve this by embracing and expressing your values and principles. What do you stand for? What do you care about? What do you consider essential about you, and about the contribution you aim to make? Let authenticity shine through your personal brand, and you’ll be amazed at the impact you have on like-minded people who want to be part of your story.

4. Consistent

Whether you’re presenting at a conference, enjoying a casual lunch with clients, creating your LinkedIn profile, or doing anything else where your personal brand makes an appearance, ensure that you’re consistent. This doesn’t mean that you must choose the exact same words and repeat them mechanically. Rather, it means the core, underlying message should be consistent in look, tone and style, and that your visual should match your verbal. Here’s the litmus test: connect with 10 different people in 10 different settings. If all of them share the same impression of your personal brand – not the exact words, but they feeling, the impact and the key takeaways – then you’re being consistent.

5. Confident

As a corporate A-player, you’re certainly “in it to win it.” But is your personal brand in alignment with that ambition; or, could it be undermining your aspirations? Ensure that your personal brand is confident and self-assured. Clearly convey that you believe in yourself and in your potential. After all, if you don’t, how can you expect anyone else to?

The Bottom Line

Provided that the quality of your work is excellent, and that you’re committed to adding value to everything you do and everyone you meet, an extraordinary personal brand can take your career to unimagined new heights. But it can only start with you. So ask yourself: are you ready, willing and able to be extraordinary?

There’s a small shop near my summer house that sells rafts, boating supplies and bouncy floatables to the vacation crowd who flock here every year to enjoy life on the lake. Their prices aren’t cheap, they have a decent selection of products, but from the minute you walk in the store you notice something wrong.

Terrible customer service.

We went to look at rafts and engaged the staff, from the manager to the owner, and what we noticed was true. Customer service was frightful. It wasn’t just their individual attitudes, but collectively it was horrifying. I was ready to walk out, but my friend wanted to buy a raft and was willing to pay full price.

Would they take the raft down so we could see it. NO. Could we look at it to see if it was the right size for the kids. NO. No seemed to be the only response and snarky disrespectful growls didn’t win any points.

We took the raft home and my teenage niece told us how to fight back. 

“Click on their Ad words and tell all your friends to do the same,” she said. “It could cost them thousands.”

At first, I chuckled then thought about it. She was right. If there’s an ad campaign for their company and they’re spending money on Google Ad words, she’s got a point.

I didn’t do it and suggested to the entire family and CEO friend who was irked as well, to let it go.

Truth is: One angry customer who felt violated, ripped off and annoyed at disrespectful lip service and attitude could cost a business money, and lots of it – especially if the business is buying Ad Words.

My take away from this experience and advice to small business owners?  Spend time in training and adopt an attitude of “How can I help you?”

We travel frequently and visit top hotels and restaurants (at great discounts) and companies who care spend time and money training their staff – to make a positive impression, keep a customer for life and create an experience that makes them feel special.

You don’t have to be a top hotel to do this – you or your company can have great customer service.

Hey, no one’s perfect. But from my experience and other’s feedback, this raft store on the shore of America’s oldest summer resort in America doesn’t give a hoot.

I wish they would.

My tagline is “Don’t Be the Best Secret in Town” and it’s no secret that I love to teach small business owners, experts, authors and professionals how to promote your business and brand. Why? I’ve studied and practiced PR and promotion for over two decades and it comes naturally to me.  I also love to see people succeed and share their gifts so they can sell more products and services.

Even though there are hundreds of ways to promote yourself, there are a few timeless principles that I’d like to share.

1)  Go outside your comfort range and step into the brand you want to be. If that means faking it until you make it, go for it. The feeling is what you’re going for, hand in hand with inspired action. Determine your core values and make every decision from there. You won’t go wrong.
2)  Keep moving forward. We all get discouraged and may want to hide in bed, but that’s precisely when you have to jump back up and restart the engines. There isn’t one flower that I know of that blooms 365 days a year.
3)  Make a dedicated effort to learn. There are countless videos, programs, articles, webinars, classes, and experts in your subject field that know more than you. That’s a good thing. If you’re not growing, you’re dying. I’d rather grow today, thank you.
4)  Acknowledge that you’re an expert in training. We can all learn from one another and even the smallest piece of advice that you take, digest or tweak can move your business in the right direction. Sometimes these experts are disguised and are at networking meetings at 7am. Set your alarm clock for 5:30.
5) Hang with, hire or be a part of a group that’s smarter, richer and more successful than you. You’ll get to where you want to go quicker when you listen to the voice of experience. It’s worth the time, effort and money to hear how others have accomplished goals.
I would add that you want to be accountable to yourself, a group you’ve put together or a Mastermind. But, don’t underestimate the power of a mentor or coach who you trust. Find the right one and they can transform your life and business. You still have to do the work though!
Oh, and write down your goals. When you follow these timeless principles and put pen to paper, or pen to pictures, you’ll become a manifesting machine.

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 15 minutes to ruin it.  If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
– Warren Buffet

I just taught a PR class on Digital Marketing at Salem State University, so I wanted to share the lesson. It’s about How to Prepare for a PR Crisis – not if it happens, but when it happens. Most of us sail through life and business, but at some point you’ll be caught off guard and it’s not always your fault. Here’s my version of a crisis management plan. Put it in place now to protect what you’ve worked so hard for. Protect your ‘ass-ets’!

9 Steps to a PR Crisis Plan

  1. Put together a crisis management team before a crisis. You may not think you’ll ever have a PR crisis, but if you’re in business it’s not only possible, it’s probable. Include your CEO, legal, marketing, HR and yes – your PR person to be part of this influential life/business saving circle.
  2. We all know you’re busy, but you have to listen. What are your employees, community, customers, enemies and advocates saying? Pick up chatter early enough and you might save yourself time, upset and a major PR crisis. Oh, did I mention lots of money?
  3. As in any relationship, it’s wise to preview expectations. What works for your personal relationships can work in business too. If you say you’re going to call back a customer in 48 hours, do that. If your policy is to call them within 24 hours and don’t follow through, you’ve lost their trust. Here’s an easy rule. Under promise and over deliver.
  4. Being transparent isn’t a bad thing. If you’re a CEO you might see this as a sign of weakness, but being transparent shows that you bleed like everyone else and you’re human. People like, know and trust humans as well as brands. If you’re the leader of the pack and you’ve messed up, admit it and don’t fudge the details. Position them accordingly.
  5. Everyone has made mistakes so how will you respond? My suggestion is to be mindful and thoughtful in your responses to all who have been affected. Someone or a group has been offended or worse, and often there’s more than a BAND-AID® needed. To fix relationships, TLC is needed to build trust again.
  6. You might be angry but for heaven’s sake keep calm. It’s hard to keep your cool when you’ve been attacked and it takes some coaching to stay even keeled. It’s also difficult to not take everything personally. You’ll never be everyone’s best friend.  If you want a best friend, adopt a dog.
  7. Who has ‘keys’ to your social media accounts? A really frazzled fired employee who has your passwords to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn might post something negative about you, your staff or business practices. Put a system in place and know who has the passwords to your social media accounts and online voice to the world. Hint: This is critical.
  8. Create social media guidelines that are simple to understand. Sure you can’t control what your employees post on their own social media accounts, but you can ask them to adhere to certain guidelines about your company without infringing on their freedom. Every employee, vendor or volunteer is a brand ambassador for your company. Make sure they share a voice that aligns with your brand, not one that fights it.
  9. Your mom gave you good advice. You’ll never be perfect or please everybody. As a leader every day you step up to the plate and take risks. Some work out and some don’t. My ask is that you think ahead to what might be problematic and plan for it, without being paranoid. Fear puts you in a paralysis state often enough – and you’ve got things to do, places to go and a brand to build.

Create a community and brand advocates that love you and will go to bat on your behalf when times are tough. Don’t hide from bad news. Take a deep breath and suck it up. It not only builds character, but it also builds a stronger brand.

When I was a Girl Scout, this was our motto – and I think it still is.

This is a story about an amazing 15-year old girl who wanted to go to private school. Almost everyone told her she couldn’t do it. She’d never get it in and it was way too much money. Impossible and unrealistic they told her. “What was she thinking?”

It was late July. Summer vacation was in full swing. She had no transcripts, notes from her teachers or experience in applying to a coveted school.

One thing she did have though – was a dream.

Two or three times a week, my niece took her boat to town and walked up a long hill to say hello to the Admissions department. Piece by piece she hand delivered her application and asked what she needed to do next. Day by day we talked about what she wanted to accomplish, not worrying about obstacles.  They were clear – lack of financing, tight deadlines and fear of the unknown. “Don’t worry about the how,” I’d tell her. “Anything is possible.”

Our next door neighbor had children attending the same school and offered to talk with Admissions on her behalf. My niece didn’t know this. She went on her merry way visiting, collecting letters from teachers and pursued her dream.  I went to visit the school, to say hello as an unofficial ambassador for the cause and it was clear, they were impressed with her initiative, determination and cheery can do attitude.

You know the “Little Engine that Could”?

It wasn’t a total surprise that “The Teenager Who Could” was funded last minute by an incredibly generous scholarship that made attending possible. Bright and bold, this 15-year old who had never slept away from home got accepted.  She knew she wanted something big for her life – and wasn’t afraid to go for it.

In her first semester as a sophomore, my niece made MVP in JV soccer. In the second, she was asked to join the Varsity Ski team.  She’s a part of a vibrant community and loving it.

PR and Marketing lessons from a 15-year old.

If there’s something you want, give it your best shot. Meet people in person. Get to know them. Just be you. Surround yourself with believers who will go to bat for you, because they want to, not because they have to. Freedom lies in bold actions. You never know what’s going to happen. The power of intention can be magical. Make your follow through rock.

On Spring break she’s going to meet Donald Trump in Florida.

Who are you going to meet?

12

Save the Date: Tuesday, March 1 – Join me and #branding experts, Christina Inge, Jeannette O’Neil and Heather Jackson at a Mastermind Workshop on How to Develop and Manage Your Online Brand at #ConstantContact Headquarters, Waltham MA.  Here’s the link to register. It’s from 10a – 2p. Attend one session or all 4.  Let me know if you’re coming! PS – it’s also free.

How many conferences do you attend each year? It can be a lot of money for you (or your boss) to fork over. Yet, they are so worth it! Conferences don’t just provide continuing education for your industry, they also provide priceless and countless networking opportunities.

The BEST way to get the most out of your money and time is to prepare well ahead – so you can plan the networking and follow up process to your BEST advantage.

21 Tips For Meeting People That Will Rock Your Next Conference is packed with excellent ideas and tips on what to do before you get to the conference. Tips like ‘bring business cards’ are a no-brainer, but also ‘check out the gym’, ‘be a mindful fan, not a nuisance’ and of course, ‘tweet that you’ll be there to meet other attendees’. I highly recommend this read to be best prepared. I’ve written an article on this subject myself and you can read it here.

While you’re at the conference, there are several must know’s that will come in handy – especially if this is your first really big conference. I like the featured article because it gives you five good tips that you’ll want to implement.‘If you’re going to spend money and sacrifice a valuable chunk of time that could be spent taking action, then it had better be worthwhile.’ Take a few minutes to read 5 Tips for Making the Most of a Conference.

Once you’re home from the conference – or on the way home – trust me, you aren’t done! The real networking and relationships come after you’ve met. They continue online and across multiple platforms. Here’s Nataly Kogan’s take on it: 10 Tips to Maximize Networking After a Conference.  She gives several do’s and don’ts on how to continue those conversations and give tips on how to make those relationships blossom.

I’d love to know where you are headed this year and what your most valuable tip is to someone who is a first time attendee.