The free marketing you’re missing on Google My Business
Every business that wants to be found online should have an active Google My Business page. Whether you have a brick & mortar location that customers visit or visit customers to provide B2B services, a Google My Business page is a free marketing opportunity with a nice payoff. But claiming your page isn’t enough. You must engage.
Hello, new customers! SEO vs. GMB
There are multiple ways to show up in search results when potential customers look for you. Search engine optimization and Google My Business are two.
Simply having a website isn’t a guarantee you’ll be found online. Everyone has a website. You. Your direct competitors. Your indirect competitors.
Getting your website to rank for words other than your brand name takes an established presence, earned over time with content strategy. One piece of a content strategy could include adding fresh and useful thought leadership blog posts on a regular basis to your site. When people spend time reading your website content, it helps Google, Bing and other search bots know that the content is important to your audience. If that happens consistently, search engines will trust your website and show your pages as a search result more often.
This practice is an important part of search engine optimization or SEO. And it’s a marathon. It takes time to build authority and rank higher in search results. It’s worth doing so that your business ranks ahead of competitors. But it’s not instant.
Google My Business
On the other hand, Google My Business is an instant efficient search tool for getting found online.
If your Google My Business page is a match for a search, Google is more likely to return a result for your business. The Google search engine return page could even include a snippet – you know, that special box with call-out information for a business. Snippets often include photos from your Google My Business page, an easy-to-click phone number and reviews. Here’s an example of a search results page with a business’ Google My Business Page snippet on the right:
Why is this important? The higher you rank on a page and the more attention-getting your snippet is, the higher chance you will be seen. That’s a higher chance to rank ahead of your competition. Which gives your page a higher chance to be clicked on. Most importantly, a higher ranking means a higher chance to earn a new customer.
Engage for better results
But like SEO, Google My Business pages work better for your business when you engage. This is no set it and forget it. You have to log in. Post links and deals. Respond to reviews. Engage. (There’s that word again.)
You help your Google My Business page be more effective by posting things here, similar to a social media account. Photos of your product, your space or people benefitting from your business, for example. The brand images you already use can be repurposed here. Like social media channels, you can post your thoughts on a current event or links to a blog post on your website or even a third-party website.
Your customers can also engage with your page through reviews. You can’t control them. They can be 1-star or 5-star. This is where you get to shine if you provide an amazing product or service. And where you can learn how to do it better. The important thing is to be responsive here. To show that you will make things right with customers if they post a negative review. And to thank your customers for taking the time to share their comments – good or bad.
I can personally attest to the power of Google My Business and SEO. Click here take a look at my ClearWing Google My Business page and to see how simple it is to build one. Or, call ClearWing if you need help creating a content strategy and ongoing content to boost your search engine optimization efforts.
And remember, while Google My Business is a wonderful, free tool, it will only go so far without checkins from you. Ask customers for reviews. Sign in, post and respond to customers regularly. Update your hours and holidays. Post links to useful content. There’s no reason to miss out on this effective and free marketing tool!
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It was late December of 2017 and Christmas tree pine needles littered the floor. We were all tripping over new toys and the post-Christmas turkey was finally gone. My husband handed me a bright yellow book he had just finished reading: The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon. Hm. The floors wouldn’t clean themselves. But a voice said to let go of the vacuum.
I opened the cover and soon met George, a businessman experiencing a breakdown of sorts, and Joy, a bus driver full of smiles and wisdom. I had no idea what an impact Joy was about to make on George and me.
At the time, I was punching a clock daily in a communications department for the largest health system in Georgia. I enjoyed the work itself and the people I came into contact with, but I often felt like a small cog in a giant corporate machine. I certainly did not feel like I made a difference. And I had accepted that in exchange for a steady paycheck, the feeling of a secure job and a pension.
The Energy Bus
Before I tell you more about my journey into business, I’ll say The Energy Bus is a speedy and entertaining read about taking responsibility for your own future. It is actionable wisdom set to a story, which speaks to my own personal feelings about the power of storytelling (and how we should all be doing that in our businesses). It’s about developing a vision with purpose. Surrounding yourself with people who believe in your vision. Inviting them to ride your bus. And fueling your vision and yourself with positivity.
I wouldn’t have picked the book out for myself. But it was exactly what I needed to read. I’m thankful I was exposed and reminded of some really wonderful and foundational concepts that carried me through the first year of my new business.
George – the main character of the book – revamps his life, his marriage, his career and his team – all of which had gone very wrong. And he does it with the help of The Energy Bus. In addition to fixing situations gone awry, the book is also good for someone about to launch something new…because you’re going to need a lot of positive energy.
“You have no idea of the challenges I am facing right now. I’m hitting a lot of roadblocks,” George complains early in the story.
That’s when Joy – the bus driver about whom George is quite skeptical – introduces him to the importance of positive energy. It is the fuel that keeps his, mine and your vision moving forward. Without it, we’re eventually stranded on the side of the road.
“And we’re not talking about the fake kind of chest-thumping
rah, rah positive energy that simply masks our negativity and annoys
people…We’re talking about real positive energy that help you overcome
obstacles and challenges to create success. We’re talking about trust, faith,
enthusiasm, purpose, joy and happiness.”
A bus full of cheerleaders
Not even a month later, I began seeking a new job. But nothing felt right. I wanted to make a difference – not punch a clock. My husband told me for the umpteenth time that I should start my own business. I put on my ear muffs and kept looking for the right job.
I made a lot of phone calls searching for ideas and
opportunities. And then someone else encouraged me to start my own business.
And then someone else.
I finally started listening.
The conversation sounded different when I called people
after that. I’d say, “I’m thinking of starting my own business. Can I have some
That’s when I realized I had a bus full of cheerleaders. They believed I could really help people. Which helped me believe it. And do it.
In The Energy Bus, there’s a whole section on how to lead people and how to get people to follow your vision. There are steps you take to ask people to get on your bus. While I didn’t have a team to lead at that time, I realized that I had a lot of cheerleaders on my bus. I had an incredible gift of positive energy all around me.
I took that fuel and I hit the gas like I was 16 driving a sporty
red VW to Ft. Myers Beach. (Memories…)
Seriously, the early days of building my PR business are a blur seen from a vehicle going way over the speed limit. I had little sleep and stared into the bright blue glow of a laptop into the wee hours of the night. I made countless phone calls and had too many face-to-face meetings to count. But those people on my bus cheering me on helped fuel those late nights…and fuel my business with referrals – THANK YOU!).
Here’s an off-the-cuff video I recently made to say thanks to all those cheerleaders who have been on the bus with me. I didn’t list anyone by name (other than the family) – there are just too many.
Leave energy vampires
in the dust
Just because I had a busload (fleet?) of support, that didn’t mean it was always sunny and 70 on the highway. On one occasion, I took time out of my crazed schedule to catch up with an old acquaintance. Who nearly sucked the life out of me and my dream.
I couldn’t believe how fast the air whizzed out of my tires when I spent time with an “energy vampire,” as the book calls it. I came home KNOWING I would fail. I sneered at myself for trying to start my own business. What was I thinking? What was I doing?
Luckily, I snapped out of it.
A quick consult with Joy, the bus driver, says there is no room for energy vampires on the bus. That’s a priceless lesson. Once I made a decision to move forward with my business, I hadn’t doubted myself until an energy vampire did it for me. And I almost let that run me off the road to my dream. It was a hard lesson but an important one. It was time to post a sign that said, “No energy vampires allowed on my bus.”
The first road trip
About 2 months after I read The Energy Bus, I launched ClearWing Communications.
It’s been a year of learning how to lift people up in the pursuit of their goals. Luckily, I am surrounded by a lot of incredibly smart people who share their own experiences and help me grow. And…I read great books.
Thanks to many incredible cheerleaders on my bus, ClearWing has helped 30 clients in pursuit of a goal. Some were big goals, like communications around a new business launch. Others were smaller pieces of a larger plan, like writing taglines, a speech or a thought leadership article. It’s priceless to get to work with many of these clients continuously, leading their strategic communications, marketing plans and execution every month.
I’ve had the opportunity to serve incredible clients who are changing the world in a variety of ways. I get to be their cheerleader. I bring a lot of positive energy to each team I’m part of or that I lead. And, as the book recommends, I strive to bring more value and joy to the work my clients and I do together every day.
And all of my cheerleaders? Sometimes they surprise me. My daughter’s third-grade teacher patted my arm one day at a school event. She said, “Penelope is so proud of her mom. She loves telling us that you’re a writer and you help people.” Knowing my daughter was proud. Also priceless.
Enjoy the ride
The bonus step at the end of the book is to have fun and enjoy the ride, which I am most certainly doing every day.
Final thoughts: you should know that I only touched on a few points from the book here. The Energy Bus covers “10 steps for fueling your life, work and team with positive energy.” You’re missing a lot if you only read this blog post.
My husband, who recommended the book to me, keeps a shelfful of copies at his office to hand to employees, vendors and colleagues who he thinks will benefit from its quick-to-digest lessons.
If you or someone in your life could use a little gas for current endeavors, get your ticket for the ride of your life before you roll on to the next thing. Here’s a link to The Energy Bus on Amazon.
And if you need support on your journey or just want to chat about the book, contact Christy at ClearWing. I’m over here, enjoying the ride, and so happy to cheer you on.
ClearWing is a participant of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program design to provide a referral fee by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
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There’s a lot more legwork to helping our clients’ stories take off than writing a press release and hitting “send.” A decade ago, it was standard to write an upside-down pyramid-style release, leading with a terribly boring who-what-when-where sentence. Then, it would be sent to a mass distribution list of reporters. The surprising thing is that a lot of businesspeople still believe that’s what PR pros do. But media pitching has eclipsed press releases and doing it well is more important than ever.
Today, the method of writing a press release and sending it to a big list is known as “spraying and praying.” And if a business is doing that, a lot of praying is required. That’s because journalism staffs have gotten leaner. Take a local large metro newspaper for example. Its business section alone had a staff of more than 20 reporters in the early 2000s. Now it has 2. This is not an isolated incident.
Media’s small staffs still receive hundreds of press releases and pitches a day. If they don’t have a relationship with the person sending them, they’re probably not giving them consideration. But if you get them at the right time and with the right pitch, you can still get their attention and land great coverage for your news stories.
ClearWing focuses on techniques that strengthen the writing and give reporters (and more importantly, their audiences) a story worth paying attention to.
A thoughtful, targeted pitch can get attention in ink, digital or on air. To do this successfully, we must start with something that is newsworthy, think about the audience we intend to reach, the media vehicles they consume and the people doing the talking or writing. While traditional media may be a fit, we may also consider trade publications and even influencers. Today, landing your story with a highly-trusted influencer with a small but loyal following could be just as powerful as landing a story in the general media.
Who is the story about?
It’s always best to find the human in the story. People don’t care for stories about things. But they’ll read a story about how a thing impacted a person.
Put the reader at the focus of the lead when possible, answering the question: “Why does the reader care?”
In 2018, we worked with Atlanta start-up InpharmD to earn media attention to garner awareness and gain credibility.
We identified a targeted list of media and reporters who cover healthcare and tech stories. The list included trade media as well as general media. But it was tricky. InpharmD’s app was created for use by physicians, not the general public. Would a general news audience care? We needed to humanize the story.
After some thought, we pitched a behind-the-scenes story about how patients’ doctors are using technology to give them high-quality care on a hospital floor. We paired our pitch with a popular trend topic (apps for home health care).
This is how we pitched a reporter at Atlanta’s NPR station:
Everyone talks about
patients using apps for healthcare at home. But what about health care
providers using apps in their healthcare facilities? A new app developed in
Atlanta gives physicians a chance to submit complex questions about medications
to reduce research time by hours.
You may have notice there’s not even a company name in that pitch. That’s okay. The pitch was designed to get attention. Names, titles and industry jargon slow down the attention-getting process. Once the reporter was interested, ClearWing coordinated interviews with the app founder and a physician who used the app regularly. The company’s name led the headline in the final story, which ran on several different programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered. The lead below is the reporter’s wording, but the meaning was based on our own pitch above:
apps that allow patients to communicate with their health care providers using
only their cellphones have gained popularity, but an app developed by an
Atlanta-based startup is moving the concept forward.
For companies that seek media attention, it’s also important to note the level of their control over the story. While brands have complete control over what a paid advertisement looks like, PR is different . While a strong PR pro puts a lot of thought into shaping our pitches, press releases and headlines, there’s no guarantee what the media will print or say (unless it’s a paid advertorial, but that’s another topic for another day). Those are the positives and negatives of public relations. People tend to trust information from a third-party more. The trade-off for the company is giving up control. And…sometimes a headline that will surprise you. But the pay off of a great story is often worth the risk.
In the client example above, the similarity between our pitch and the media’s lead isn’t a coincidence. We gave the reporter a good angle and he used it. That’s the best outcome when we do a great job of preparing client stories for take-off.
If you’re ready to discuss how to help your organization’s stories take off, let’s talk.
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Nonprofit organizations and some companies create annual reports to showcase their work with key stakeholders every year. And many come off sounding like a, well, report. Something nobody really wants to read. They’re just something to check a required box. But why waste an opportunity? When annual reports are well executed, people actually read them and act.
An effective annual report may inspire stakeholders of different
backgrounds to take action. A reporter might pick up something from the report
for a story. A donor might make another donation or buy tickets for an upcoming
event. A customer may book a different service or try a different product than
the one they’re familiar with. What do you want your audience to do when they
Influential annual reports
The topic of annual reports is on the brain here because ClearWing recently worked with the Cobb/Marietta Exhibit Hall Authority to create an inspiring 2018 Annual Report. The theme was “Influence” and included stories about how three organizations – The Cobb Galleria, the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre and ArtsBridge – make a significant impact on people and organizations across the community, the state and the southeast.
We considered all stakeholders and readers when planning and hunting for stories. In all, we featured 7 short stories to show how companies benefited from sponsorships; how organizations and people benefited from events there; and how students benefited from arts education. One story was about a volunteer who overcame her grief at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center, and formed a close relationship with a patron. Another story featured a school principal who shared how children’s eyes are opened to the possibilities when they are exposed to the arts. The report was picked up by local media and gave the organization another opportunity to tell their story to audiences beyond their own stakeholders.
Another stunning annual report I had the privilege to help conceptualize and produce was the 2017 WellStar Annual Report. Authentic patient stories, stunning photography, custom paper artwork and infographics came together to create a story of how the health system was “Building momentum in pursuit of world-class healthcare.” It was inspiring to tell the story of the 72-year-old man who won a gold medal in shot-put halfway through his cancer treatment. The 16-year-old girl who survived a tragic bus crash taking a church group to the airport for a mission trip. And the woman who survived breast cancer so she could keep teaching elementary music students and living life to the fullest. Several of these stories came to life in print and broadcast media.
9 Tips for tremendous annual reports
CONSIDER YOUR READER: As always, consider who will be reading the annual report. What do you want them to know? What do they want to know? And how can you put the two together?
KEEP IT SIMPLE: Additionally, remember who you’re writing for and in most cases, keep jargon out of it. Most annual reports cater to a variety of audiences.
TELL YOUR STORY: Tell authentic brand stories that take both your mission and your reader into consideration. Who does your organization serve? Who in your organization serves them? There are interesting stories. You just have to dig a little. Read how to tell your brand story to engage your audience here.
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: If your company isn’t a nonprofit but you do things to make the world a better place, talk about it! Corporate social responsibility (or CSR) is becoming increasingly important, especially for younger consumers. According to a 2017 study by Cone Communications, 87 percent of people will purchase a product because a company got behind an important issue.
SHOWCASE: Use high-quality photography to accompany your stories. The photos don’t have to be of people using your product or service (but it’s a win if they do). They can reflect the life that’s possible because of your organization.
VISUALIZE YOUR DATA: Annual reports usually divulge a lot of data in the spirit of openness. Unfortunately, they can be complete eye charts and cause people to close the report. Include only what’s really necessary. Use infographics, pull-quotes or other graphics to visualize the data and take people on a journey through information that might otherwise go unnoticed.
APPRECIATE: It’s always good to appreciate people in an annual report. Gratitude can incentivize those who’ve given to or purchased from your organization a reason to stay engaged.
ASK: Most people don’t usually act unless they’re invited. If there’s something you want from your readers, ask. Looking for funds? Have a new service? Give them a way to go after it. If you’ve told your story well, they will be more inspired than ever to take action.
MAKE IT DIGITAL: Annual reports are changing to keep up with the digital age. Consider how to make your annual report interactive online with video, animation, extended stories and more. While this is the last item on this list, it shouldn’t be an afterthought. Here’s an example of an amazing animated 2017 Annual Report by Girls Who Code.
If you’re ready to ace your next annual report with great storytelling, let’s talk.
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What’s your favorite podcast? Podcasts mean numerous radio-style shows with a narrow focus on almost any topic. They offer great opportunities for business people to reach new audiences as podcast guest experts. There are podcasts dedicated to the Watergate scandal all these years later (Slow Burn = awesome). Not to mention entrepreneurship, murder, marketing, business and beer. And a few other topics too.
While most don’t necessarily have the broad reach of a radio station, podcast interviews can be an incredible tool for you to market your business. Below are several reasons why you might consider serving as a guest on a podcast.
8 benefits of serving as a podcast guest expert
Introduction to a targeted and engaged audience. While the podcast audience may be small, these listeners seek out the program. They go online to listen. Or they download episodes through an app. They want to hear the host and learn from guest experts on the show. It’s a matter of quality over quantity. Often magazines with a specialized audience charge more money for their ads than those with a larger, general audience. This is because they know the value of niche marketing. The same concept applies here but with one major difference…
Free advertising. While magazines charge a premium for niche market ad space, a podcast interview is usually free. While you need to provide helpful information and shouldn’t be self-serving in an interview, a podcast is like an ad for your business. You get to talk about your background, what your business accomplishes for customers and any other important messages you may need to get out there. And it’s free.
Third-party verification. The very best advertising is word-of-mouth from a third-party, whether that third-party is a friend, a stranger who left a review online or a beloved podcast host the audience thinks is worth “tuning in” for. Their verification of you being “guest-worthy” speaks volumes.
Increased website traffic. When you offer helpful information to an audience that is a good match for what your business offers, they may choose to visit your site for more information. You can up the chances for a visit by offering a free download that’s useful. (See point #5 for more.)
A bigger email list. You can grow your email list with the podcast’s audience by offering a free download. It could be something you already have created (like a free e-book) but they have to enter their email address to download it. Voila! Now you have a bigger email list with qualified prospects.
Increased search engine optimization. The host of the podcast should create a backlink to your website and social media channels from their website. To Google and other search engines, a link from a trustworthy website back to yours is like a vote of confidence. The more backlinks from reputable sites you have, the higher the chances that your website will be returned for searches related to your business.
Street cred. When you appear on a podcast, you position yourself as a thought leader, raising your street cred among your peers and prospects. You can use your appearance to boost your reputation with phrases like “As heard on ______________podcast” if it’s well-known. Other places to leverage your appearance are your bio or LinkedIn page.
New content for your own audience. I’m a huge fan of leveraging content. Once you create content, don’t let the opportunity to use that content slip by! A podcast is another reason to share your expertise with your own audience. You can link to it in your blog, social media channels, website, emails, newsletters and your other communication channels. And make sure you share the love and link back and tag the podcast and/or podcast host.
While the benefits of being interviewed on a podcast are tangible, for some people it can be nerve-wracking. It may feel more comfortable than public speaking to some, but stage fright can still come into. But don’t let that stop you from benefitting from a podcast appearance. A little preparation goes a long way.
Even if you’re not nervous, you’ll get a lot more out of the podcast interview if you’re well-prepared.
When I was recently invited to be a guest on A Brighter Web podcast, I’ll admit I had stage fright. I know I know. You’d think someone who prepares others for interviews and has given many presentations would be fine. But I was nervous. I said yes anyway and followed the same rules I use to prepare clients for radio shows and speeches. Thanks to the host, Mickey Mellen, for putting me at ease and being well-prepared – it went great! Below are some tips to make sure your podcast or radio interview goes well too.
7 helpful tips to be podcast-interview-ready
Ask your host for information. Hosts are usually happy to share questions, the timing for answers and helpful guidelines. Find out if you’re allowed to share your website or offer a free download to listeners.
Create speaking points for each of the questions. Remember– your answers should help others. You can’t be self-serving and just talk about your services or products. However, if the host allows, you may be able to offer a free download of something useful for listeners on your website. That’s a great way to offer value and collect email addresses for your email list.
Submit your answers back to the podcast host ahead of time. Ask for feedback. You can even ask if any of your answers spark other questions so you can prepare for those too. Make sure the host knows you want to prepare well so that you can respect their time limits for the show.
Practice out loud. Things that look good in ink don’t always sound good when you say them out loud. As with speech preparation, the more you practice out loud, the less tongue-tied you’ll be during the real deal.
Time yourself. When you rehearse your speech, time yourself to ensure you’re staying within appropriate time limits. Your smartphone probably has a stopwatch built in so you don’t have to watch the clock.
Practice ahead and often. Practice as you would for a speech. That is, over and over and over and over. You should know the speaking points so well that you don’t have to refer to your outline very much.
Practice on camera. If there will be a video component for the podcast’s website, you may want to make a video of yourself practicing. This tip is really handy for giving speeches too. Recording yourself can help you recognize anything you do that you may want to change. For example, you may realize you look too serious (depending on the topic of the podcast) and can practice smiling more.
Smile. Whether or not there’s a video component, one thing I learned when I did ad sales for a magazine is to smile. Whether you’re pitching a sale over the phone or recording a podcast, a genuine smile goes a long way. People can hear it in your voice. Smiles add energy and are contagious. This may sound crazy, but multiple research studies -including this one in Psychology Today – prove that smiling builds trust and confidence. So, smile during your podcast interview (even if they can’t see it).
Contact ClearWing to for help with public relations and communications strategy as well as interview prep and media training.
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ClearWing’s shiny, blue glass award was for helping Christie Coursey of Breastfeed Atlanta share groundbreaking information. It positioned her as a thought leader and elevated her business as a preferred care partner. All in the name of healthy babies.
The problem & the solution
Babies who quit mom’s milk too early suffer from poor health outcomes. But they’re often referred to lactation consultants too late. Breastfeed Atlanta worked with ClearWing Communications to create a position paper with two goals:
To propose a new model of care for earlier intervention for breastfeeding babies and moms.
To position Breastfeed Atlanta as a leading expert on lactation care for newborns so health providers will refer patients.
ClearWing ghostwrote the article for Coursey after a one-on-one interview. We captured information such as who we wanted to educate and action we wanted them to take. The audience included physicians, nurse practitioners (NPs) and other advance practice practitioners (APPs) who see breastfeeding patients.
The professionally-designed and printed branded content piece resembled an article in a medical magazine. The content theorized a gap in specialist care, citing reputable third-party data from organizations such as the World Health Organization. Supporting graphics included infographics (see below). These images helped health providers digest information quickly, even if they didn’t read the full article.
Public relations campaign
The position paper was part of a larger PR plan for Breastfeed Atlanta’s expansion into Marietta. The practice had no existing brand recognition in the area. The PR launch’s purpose was to garner awareness, brand recognition and referrals among the healthcare community, leaders and women. PR support included: A media alert, personal invitations to leaders, a ribbon-cutting/open house event, on-site photography, a press release, story pitching, a series of organic social media posts and the mini position paper.
The four-page position paper was hand-delivered to physicians, NPs and APPs by members of the clinic’s staff. This branded content was the most powerful piece of the clinic’s collateral. It resulted in increased brand awareness, valuable new relationships and healthier babies. It will continue to educate health partners for healthier and happier moms and babies.
Here, we’ll talk about developing key messaging and voice to shape up your brand identity.
Shape your brand’s key messaging and repeat it
Your key messaging should incorporate the “why” and the “who” we discussed in our previous brand identity blog. Then you’ll repeat it in every communication. Your website, your social media channels, printed collateral, ads, speeches, videos and more.
Companies with strong brand identities like Coca-Cola repeat their messaging over and over and over. And over and over and over. And over. Even when it gets old. That’s why you recognize slogans like “Taste the feeling.”
Why is repetition important?
In today’s digital landscape, media is more diverse than ever. People can get their information across different service providers and devices. That means audiences are more fragmented than ever. Even when a company repeats a message day in and day out, an individual customer only hears it sporadically so it must be repeated relentlessly.
People are also exposed to more messages than ever before. According to Yankelovich, a market research firm, people living in cities were exposed to an average of 5,000 ads a day in 2007. More than a decade later, experts say it could be as high as 10,000. It’s no wonder many messages don’t stick. In a world where thousands of messages compete for attention on a daily basis, repetition is critical.
Once a company develops its key messaging, it will inform all future communications such as elevator pitches, speeches, ads and more.
Your word choices and brand voice should reflect your organization’s personality
But don’t stop yet. Take it a step further and make intentional choices about your brand voice. Your brand has a unique personality and your brand voice should reflect it. Specific word across your marketing collateral will help people understand how your brand relates to them better.
To start humanizing your brand, come up with a list of adjectives that represent your organization’s personality. You might describe it with words like tough, friendly, witty or funny. And for every personality trait, there’s a voice to match. Words can be gruff, humorous, peppy or clever.
Brand personality helped SPANX stand out
A great example of a Georgia-based company that created a unique brand voice is SPANX. Atlantan Sara Blakely, a.k.a. the “pantyhose mogul,” invented her body-shaping product to look svelte in white jeans (it works, ya’ll).
Though the billionaire has made a killing, she shared in a 2018 interview with Georgia Trend magazine that her brand never takes itself too seriously. That’s a direct reflection of its founder who isn’t afraid to say she was the company’s original “butt model.” The name in itself – SPANX – was risky, but funny, and its first slogan was, “Don’t worry, we’ve got your butt covered.” Product names have included “Her Thighness” and “Undi-tectable.” Her brand voice made it acceptable, even cool, for younger women to use shapewear. The first SPANX served a need no one else was serving and her approachable humor helped the company stand out.
Brand personalities, especially for small businesses, are often a reflection of their founders. Think about your own personality. How would you describe you? It’s not a good idea to force a voice that’s far from natural. If your company voice is really humorous but you’re quiet and straightforward in person, it won’t feel authentic.
Exercise your brand identity
There’s a good chance you’ve gone through a similar process to create your brand logo and look with color, font and design choices. Combine that with brand messaging and voice and you’ll have everything you need to create a brand identity guideline document. Moving forward, you’ll want to share your guidelines with any marketing and communications professionals you work with, people on your team involved with marketing and companies you partner with to keep everything consistent.
For example, a sponsorship may include remarks, a company description in the program and a logo for a shirt or presentation. A quick consult with your brand identity document can guide your speaking points, program write-up and ensure the partner organization keeps the integrity of your logo intact.
For help creating a brand identity that really reflects your company, let’s talk.
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Which piece of advice would you be more likely to remember after a visit with your doctor: the sentence with or without jargon?
Dr. Jargon: Decrease your lipoproteins and glucose, increase intake of herbaceous plants with water-soluble vitamins, and increase your calisthenics to reduce your BMI and comorbidities.
Dr. ClearWing: Cut back on red meats and sugar, increase your intake of leafy greens and exercise to lose weight and lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Did you glaze over when Dr. Jargon was talking? I hope none of that guy’s patients flatline…
But seriously, jargon and acronyms are popular no matter what industry you work in. We’re all guilty of using them.
Industry-speak has its place. It can help people learn detailed pieces of information and exchange it quickly amongst peers. But that’s where it should stay.
Have you ever met someone who made you feel like you needed a pocket dictionary just to follow the conversation? When it was over, you may have wondered what you actually talked about. All those words were forgotten and you may have decided NOT to engage further with that person or their business.
Do you speak Jargon?
While it’s easy to be critical of others with a robust vocabulary filled with industry-talk and acronyms, it can be hard to recognize you’re doing the same thing. Even worse, to your customers. (Or maybe you cringe when you use the word “synergy” with a prospective client…even Dr. ClearWing slips up sometimes.)
Business leaders are often entrenched in their industry and meetings with colleagues. It can be tough to realize or admit the need to change their language for different audiences.
Clear messaging for all
Speeches, elevator pitches and marketing content should be as devoid of acronyms and jargon as possible. You should keep your language simple with a general audience, but even with a highly educated audience. People with advanced degrees are still hard-pressed for time. The simpler the message, the easier to process. The quicker to understand, the higher the chance they’ll get your message.
This is something I’ve driven home with my content teams over the years. For general audiences, we shoot for writing on a seventh or eighth-grade level. We measure that with the Flesch Kincaid Readability test. It takes different things into account, like how many words are in a sentence and the length of each word.
It’s hard to grab attention and once you have it, it’s fleeting. The easier your content is to digest, the more likely you’ll be able to communicate your key messages, even if your ideal customer has an M.D.
At ClearWing, we work with our clients to reduce jargon and acronym-filled content so your messages are crisp, clear and easy to digest. So remember, clear messaging saves lives!
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Boost your business when you focus on brand identity
We’re going to play a brand identity game and I’m not even going to tell you the rules. You’ll be fine. I say “Dress for Less.” Now you say, “_______.” Here are a few more. The Happiest Place on Earth. Taste the Feeling. Where Shopping is a Pleasure. Eat More Chicken. And my favorite, Do the Kind Thing.
Just in case you need a memory boost….that’s Ross, Disney, Coca-Cola, Publix, Chik-fil-A and KIND. But you probably already knew that.
These powerhouses have strong brand identities. That’s not a result of being a powerhouse. It’s the other way around. When a company creates a strong brand identity and does a phenomenal job of delivering on its brand promise, people connect with it and even trust it.
It’s clear that Ross, Chick-fil-A and Coke invest a lot of THOUGHT, TIME and MONEY into their branding. And COMMITMENT. While the first three are obvious, you might scratch your head at that word “commitment.” It means that after putting careful thought into creating the brand identity, these companies didn’t tuck the document away and move on. They committed to it for years and even decades. They repeated and continue to repeat the message and use their iconic logos and symbols (like cows for Chik-fil-A) over and over and over.
Branding is important for businesses of all sizes
Because these mammoth corporations spend more money than we can imagine on their marketing, does that mean we let them have all the branding fun? Most certainly not. Branding isn’t just important for billion dollar companies.
Branding is a critical step in paving the path to your company’s success. The investment you put into it will affect your ride. So unless you’re Jeep, you probably want to accelerate down a paved road rather than struggle up a rocky mountain incline.
A strong brand identity helps define you so clearly that your dream customers find you. When you’re working with your ideal customers, you’re happier. You provide even more excellent service or the new products that they love. They talk. That attracts more ideal customers. And your business grows.
Is it hard to find the time to do this? Yes! You want to focus on your product or your service. Who has time for a brand identity?
Is it worth it? Yup. Adding something else to your to-do list might feel like a step backward when you’re gearing up for a launch or even just managing the day today.
If you’re ready to level up your brand identity for better connections and growth, read on.
Start with your why
In a nutshell, a brand identity is your brand promise to your customer. It’s your why. It’s what gives you a traction to connect with your customers in a meaningful way.
Some businesses launch because their owners are good at what they do. They are tired of working for someone else. And they work to make sure they’re paying the bills. Those are all real-world reasons to run a business. But they’re not good enough to be a company’s why. They’re selfish. (Ouch.)
The real reason a company exists is to serve a purpose. To serve someone, somewhere. The financial payoff is what allows the company to keep on trucking. And when profits are high, they’re a reward for doing a good job. But money shouldn’t be the primary reason a company exists (unless it’s a bank.)
In other cases, a company is started with a deeper purpose. But then the day-to-day gets in the way and brand identity gets set aside.
No matter where you are, it’s never too late to rethink or rev up your brand identity. And then to maintain it. The more attention you give it, the better the results.
When you take the time to get granular with your why, it will serve to guide many of the business decisions you make in the future. In a nutshell, your why needs to define:
What you do
How you’re different
Why customers choose you
More than ever, millennials and the generations that follow are looking for connection. They’re looking for authenticity. They want to support brands with purpose. As an example, think about KIND Snacks. KIND promotes a message of kindness to our bodies as well as other humans in the world. Check out the KIND site – you can actually nominate someone for doing something #kindaawesome and hit them with a KIND card and a KIND bar.
Who do you serve?
Just as important as our why is our who. It’s imperative to drill down to who exactly we want to serve. A clearly defined customer makes it easier to deliver your message to the right people.
If you keep your brand as generic as possible so you can serve everybody, no one really has any way to connect with you.
But if you define your dream customer and deliver on your brand promise, you will stand out from a crowd to the people who really matter to you.
One way to develop a clear idea about who you serve is to create an avatar. That’s just another name for your audience or target market. An avatar typically includes a stock photo to represent your customer and a name to humanize him or her. It’s a lot more friendly than referring to your audience as a “target.” And before you get too concerned, yes, you can have more than one avatar. Many businesses reach more than one group and help alleviate more than one pain point.
When you’re creating your avatar, get specific. Male or female? Is she 25 or 35? Is she married? Does she have kids? Did she go to college? Does she drink Starbucks or Red Bull? Is she in a BMW or a Jeep? Would she prefer to get a manicure or go hiking next Saturday? Is she motivated by being a super mom, a super businesswoman or staying in great shape?
When your company has a clear sense of who your customer is, to know what they live for and what they care about, you’ll show them that you “get” them. Connect with who you want to serve and your ideal customer will seek you out. And as you deliver on your brand promise, you will grow.
If you’re ready to take your business to the next level with a strong brand identity, I’m thrilled for you! If you’re looking for support, tell me all about your why and your who so ClearWing can help your brand fly.
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Read our follow up brand identity post with tips on developing key messaging and brand voice. If you’re interested in receiving ClearWing’s future tips on brand storytelling and how to let your brand fly, sign up for the occasional e-blast here:
How to go from BAD to BADASS for remarkable growth
Are you about to launch a new business? Or maybe you’re in an opposite place: you feel stuck in your career, humming along without purpose. Either way, you may want to consider exchanging some bad ideas for badass beliefs. A little attitude adjustment transformed my life and I know it can do the same for you.
About six months ago, I went from one extreme (stuck) to the other (launch). I was working a job I liked. Comfortable, but not quite content. Then I launched my new business.
As someone who wants to gain the trust of future clients, the last thing I want to do is wear my flaws on my sleeve. As a PR person, I’m tempted to show you Curated Christy. All the right angles. All the right messages. But I’m about to go off script.
I hope by sharing some of my screwy ideas, anyone who’s stuck in a rut or about to launch a new business will be inspired and renewed. Here goes nothing.
Bad idea: You DIY a little too much.
I’ll admit it. I’m a do-it-yourselfer. When I was cold after moving to Georgia (I know, I know…but I moved here from southwest Florida), I learned to knit. I laid sod when I was pregnant. I grouted 800 square feet of flooring. For some crazy reason, I tried making my own shampoo (that was a bomb).
When I launched my business earlier this year, I was my own attorney and CPA. I repurposed an old LLC and EIN with a new DBA. And, my husband is about to launch a business, which we planned to roll up under the same LLC.
Badass idea: Consult with experts.
After a few red flags, I hired a corporate lawyer who helped me understand why setting up the business that way was a bad idea. He then helped me navigate out of the murky waters. He also gave me some advice on another issue (trademarking) that I was able to cross off my long to-do list.
With expert help outside of my own expertise, I cleared my uncertain path and put my mind at ease. I had more time and energy to focus on my clients in areas where I’m strong and can make a difference.
Bottom line: don’t try to fill every position in your business, especially when it’s outside your industry. Ask for help where you’re weak to allow you to be a badass _____________(fill-in-the-blank with your specialty).
Bad Idea: You’re “too busy” to spend time with people.
Okay, this is one of the more embarrassing things on the list. I used to consider myself a people person but in recent years, I’ve been shrinking away from human interaction. When I (finally) read the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey last year, I learned an ugly truth about myself. The amount of work I could crank out was where I found my value as a person. Colleagues invited me to lunches. Organizations invited me to events. And I skipped everything unless I was absolutely forced to attend. I had some tension with some colleagues because they wanted to socialize with me and I wanted to focus on my work. My brain said the problem was them.
The book made it clear that I put accomplishments before people. While work is good, and too much chit-chat in the office can distract, I had to find balance. And I did for a while.
But old habits die hard. I returned to my old ways when I launched ClearWing Communications. People would say “we should grab lunch!” and I’d scream inside. Out loud, I’d say something asinine like, “Sounds great! Let’s touch base in a few months when things settle down a bit.”
Meanwhile, I was missing out on opportunities and friendship.
Badass idea: Reconnect with who you know and meet new people.
Thank goodness so many good people already had this human stuff figured out, shared their secrets and loved me despite my flaws. I had a successful launch because of people who were willing to spend time sharing a coffee.
Looking back at my numbers, my prospects to help people grow their businesses grew as I met more people for coffee. More importantly, my quality of life improved because I learned to enjoy the moment and relish time spent learning about someone else.
The takeaway here is “reach out and touch someone.” Shake their hand or even hug (this is the south). Say “yes” to meeting people face-to-face.
Bad Idea: You think maybe you should give up caffeine.
Don’t ever quit the caffeine. Because, you just read through point #2, right?
Badass Idea: Drink caffeine.
Seriously, if coffee’s not your jam, meet people for coffee anyway. I’m not a coffee person myself but magic happens in coffee shops. Learn something new about someone new over a smoothie or a blueberry muffin.
Bad Idea: You think networking events are for getting business.
Do you enjoy hearing blind pitches from salespeople? Me neither.
But when I started networking, there was this pressure to walk into a room, identify someone and sell my services to them. Essentially, I wanted to propose marriage in a speed-dating session.
Frankly, a lot of other people see networking events the same way, which is another reason so many of us dread going to networking events. I’ve been approached by so many people and I’m just not in the market for their services.
Badass Idea: Connect, relate and help others at networking events.
Real networking is about getting to know people and helping them. We all have room to grow. Share your challenges and ask whomever you’re talking with about what they’re facing. Chances are, you might know someone to connect them with and they might have some good advice for you too. Overcoming obstacles together is the basis for a lasting relationship that could bless you and your network for years to come.
I guess you probably realize that to get to know people like this, you have to show up more than once. I’ve heard the frustration of many others with a new business. They attend one event and think it’s a waste of time. But when all of us attend weekly or monthly, we recognize people, help them, form relationships and actually enjoy it.
Bad Idea: You feel like you need to be everything to everyone.
Fifteen years of marketing seems like a good amount of experience. But I still didn’t feel like I was enough. I felt like my new business needed to be a full-service agency. By myself. I felt inadequate. I had a desire. No, that word is not strong enough. I had a sickness that kept me up at night learning every possible thing I thought I needed to know that moment to sell myself.
Badass Idea: Have confidence in what you know.
I woke up and realized clients wanted to work with me because I’m really good at what I know.
This isn’t to say learning new things is bad. But embrace who you already are and what you already know. Let that lead. Learn as you go and as it makes sense rather than pressuring yourself to be everything to everyone.
The truth is, the more specific your niche, the more attractive you are to your ideal client.
Bad Idea: You think you know enough.
Here’s another really embarrassing one. I got too comfortable in my career. I allowed myself to believe that when I wasn’t at work, I should clock out on my personal growth. Work/life balance is so important! But that doesn’t mean I should stop learning.
Badass Idea: Be a sponge.
I was a member of Public Relations Society of America for a number of years, but it was only when I launched my communications firm that I really appreciated the incredible benefits provided to me. Now I’m a sopping wet sponge. I soak in information and best practices from PRSA’s magazine, message boards, panels, seminars and webinars. It adds interest to my life and makes me better at what I do for my clients.
Never stop learning. It makes life more exciting and fulfilling. And, it helps you serve your audience better.
Revive yourself with better ideas
As my ideas went from bad to badass, my new business grew. In my third month, the things I measure to know I’m on track came close to where I wanted to be by month 12. More importantly, I liked myself and my life inside and outside of work more. Pardon the poetics, but the sun is rising on a whole new horizon.
Whether you’re looking to add new energy to your career or you’re about to launch a new business, I hope I inspired you to ditch some bad ideas that are holding you back. Instead, take time for people, learn new things and have faith that you’re enough. When you open yourself to the new, you may just find yourself heading down an unexpected, beautiful path.
Please share any “bad ideas” you’ve transformed over the years for smarter and happier business. I love to learn from others.
ClearWing plug: If you’re launching something new and need communications, marketing or content support, let’s meet for coffee! While I don’t design, develop sites, coach small businesses or offer legal advice, I have an amazing network. (See #4.) So tell me what you’re up to and I’ll see who I know that might be of service to you as you launch. Call 470-240-1861 or email me.