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Maybe You Should Write a Blog

St. Petersburg online reputation managementAre you publishing your own business-related blog?  Maybe you’ve looked at the endless array of verbiage already on the web and wondered why you should add more. We get that, but we’re going to try to talk you into it anyway.

Your blog is about your business, not the millions of others on the Internet. You don’t stop talking just because billions of other people are already flapping their gums, do you? You’ve got something to say, and a blog could be an effective way to be heard by a receptive audience.

A blog shouldn’t be that hard for you to write. Blogs can be short; 250 – 500 words is perfect. You shouldn’t have to do (much) research because you are the expert! Keep the focus narrow then write as though you’re explaining something to a client or new employee.  If you aren’t confident of your grammar, spelling or construction, let someone with those skills clean it up for you. (Your friends at Pinstripe can help!) The goal is to convey interesting information in a way that’s easily digestible. You don’t have to wow anyone with your literary style.

A blog enhances your relationship with customers. This is a simple way to turn your expertise into a resource that’s easily accessible by your clients. Your willingness to make this effort, along with your display of knowledge, builds trust. Writing about things to which customers can relate helps you connect on a personal/human level.

A blog helps improve how your website is ranked by search engines. Google and other search engines like to see that a website isn’t just sitting stagnant on the web. Regular updating indicates the website is dynamic and has worthwhile content. Adding a blog or two a week is a good way to accomplish this.

Blogs work well with other social media. Having a new blog gives you something to tweet about, or to mention on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. Then the more the article gets retweeted, liked or shared, the more traffic is generated for your website … with stronger PR for your company.

A blog can re-enforce marketing campaigns. Your promotions will be directing customers to make a purchase, but a blog can come in handy for delivering a more subtle, thoughtful message that complements the advertising. Share an anecdote or interesting statistics that help highlight the value of your offerings in a way that makes prospective customers think and understand as they work toward a buying decision.

A blog can help explain “who you are.” Many companies have mission statements, but lofty words are often vague. A blog lets you continually sharpen and define that message so that everyone associated with your business—whether it’s clients, employees, suppliers or investors — grasps the issues you believe are important.

Do we have you convinced to give it a try? If so, you might like to check out “The Anatomy of a Perfect Blog Post: The Data on Headlines, Length, Images and More” as a helpful, how-to article.

Use a Welcome Letter to Help Hang on to a New Client

welcome client letterIf you’ve ever been fishing on the bank of a river or pond, you’ve probably had a fish that you caught spit the hook out just as it hits the ground. It’s flopping and flailing just inches from the water’s edge, and you must act quickly to prevent it from getting away. The fish has been landed, but not secured for the long term.

New clients can seem like that. They may not be comfortable in their new situation with you, and may want to get away. Unlike the fish, however, your client isn’t a victim of deception, and will benefit from being “reeled in.” A welcome letter (or more likely an email) is an easy way to keep new clients by reassuring them that they’re now in good hands.

Here is a six-point checklist for your new-client welcome letter:

Know who you’re writing to. Address the letter recipient by name in the salutation—first and last. This is going to sound a little hard-edged, but using someone’s full name indicates you know who they are and you have them “on record” as your client. It’s okay though, you are going to be warm, friendly and reassuring throughout the letter; potential intimidation will be purely subliminal. (Okay, maybe write, “Welcome, John Smith,” instead of “Dear John Smith.”)

Along with identifying your new client as an individual, you are also acknowledging their change of status—they’ve gone from being a prospect to a member of your clientele. So, give the active selling a rest! A welcome letter is not the place to upsell a new client or tell them about a sale or new offerings. Your purpose here is to make them comfortable in their new relationship with your business, that’s all.

Cement your relationship by referencing their affirmative action. They’ve either purchased something, agreed to purchase something, or have signed up to have you provide a product or service if their need arises. Mentioning their agreement to buy—like using their name—is a way of saying “we’ve got you down for this,” but quickly ask them how they are enjoying their purchase, or emphasize the benefits they can expect.

Reiterate your value proposition. When someone makes a purchase, they are acknowledging, and then attempting to satisfy a need (or desire). But just because someone came to you this time, doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get him/her the next time. Somewhere in your welcome letter, you should remind your new client of your company’s value proposition (e.g. the thing that best distinguishes you from your competitors).

Emphasize your brand. Your welcome letter isn’t an ad; in fact, it may come to your new client as plain text. But along with referencing your value proposition, there are other ways to help make your brand resonate with the client. Use your business name at least twice in the copy. Look for an opportunity to mention your tagline. Make sure the tone of your copy matches your other marketing materials (i.e. serious, professional, light-hearted, humorous … etc.). And of course, if there are graphic elements, they should match the color schemes and design of other public-facing collateral. In addition to building top-of-mind awareness, branding gives your clients something to which they can personally connect.

Include contact information. Communication is vital to every successful relationship … and that means two-way communication! Be sure to include a phone number, email address, URL … etc. for questions or feedback, then encourage their use.

And be a real human being! You used their full name, so put the name and title of a prominent representative of your company at the close of your welcome letter.  New clients will know that there’s a live person who is standing by the words of the letter and is offering to listen if they have something to say.

Thank them! We almost left this off the list because it seems so obvious, but let the new client know how much you appreciate the trust they’ve put in your company.

Keep in mind is that no one likes to be fooled (e.g. taken in by a shiny lure). That concern will work in your favor, because new clients want to be believe they made the right to decision about your business. When you send them a welcome letter, it’s kind like giving them a pat on the back that says, “Congratulations! You did good!”

Should Your Business Have a Newsletter?

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“We need a newsletter.” Perhaps no four words so fill the hearts of marketing communication staffs with dread. That’s because company newsletters always seem to be the spur-of-the-moment brainchild of underutilized executives, who — having left this rotting corpse of an idea on someone else’s doorstep — immediately scurry off to attend their regular duties (probably clogging sinks and putting sugar in gas tanks).

 

Okay, maybe that intro is a little over-the-top and not quite fair (after all, this article is in a newsletter) but we’re trying to flip the mindset on newsletters from automatic “yes” to skeptical “maybe.” They can indeed be worthwhile vehicles for building rapport with customers, channel partners, employees and others, but they can also easily become a burdensome waste of time that ends in embarrassing surrender

 

Here are five questions that must be answered with a solid affirmative before committing to producing a regular newsletter. (And it IS a commitment to your audience, even though 80% or more of them may never read it.)

  • Will it provide ongoing support for achieving your overall marketing objectives? You should think of a newsletter the way publishers think of any periodical: they expect them to run forever. This means you don’t want to create a new newsletter only in conjunction with an occasional or unique occurrence (i.e. new product or service) or business change (i.e. a merger) that takes place within a limited time. Sure, you should publicize such things in email alerts, press releases, ads, blogs, even articles in an existing newsletter … anything … except a separate publication. Newsletters need a permanent theme and then should help you do something that will always need to be done, namely keep vital audiences connected to your organization.
  • Will it always offer value to your audience? If you ask yourself whether someone would be better off by having read your proposed newsletter, you can probably always rationalize a “yes.” (After all, you wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on your weekly sales specials!) But will the audience readily perceive the value of your proposed newsletter’s content? Before you get too far along, ask some objective (and honest) people how they would feel about receiving the newsletter in their inboxes.
  • Will you have enough content? True, there are no rules about how long a newsletter has to be, but realistically, the first one will kind of set the standard. Before starting a newsletter, businesses often have a lot of share-worthy information stockpiled. However, if they get too ambitious with the frequency or amount of content up front, it will evaporate surprisingly fast. Editorial staff will be left scratching their heads as deadlines loom. Make sure you will always have an adequate amount of worthwhile information in the pipeline before going forward with a newsletter.
  • Do you have the resources to produce it? Don’t be fooled, a newsletter requires a real investment. Do you have people with the skill and talent to produce a newsletter? If yes, the second question is whether those people have the time. Then, will you be able to reliably get it to your readership? Finally, what sort of ROI can you expect? If you’re going to publish a newsletter, it should be done well … as it will be a very visible representation of your company. Poor quality and haphazard delivery will not speak well of your business.
  • Will you, personally, enthusiastically read it? If everything is a “yes” up to this point, you have some real momentum going in favor of a newsletter, but before pulling the trigger, pause. Think about your own inbox and everything you are expected to read or want to read every day. Now think of where the proposed newsletter would sit on your list of things to peruse. If you, as a chief executive, won’t read your own newsletter with interest, how could you expect other audiences to do so?

If you answered yes to these questions and are ready to start your newsletter, let’s talk!

 

East-West Shrine Game Wrap Up

media planning media buying

Saturday, January 21, 2017, marked the 92nd annual East-West Shrine Game and Pinstripe’s sixth year managing the advertising, social media, public relations, media credentials, pre-game and much more. While preparation for the game takes a couple months, the week leading up to it is an action packed time for us, and we love every moment of it!

 

Kicking off the week with a visit to the Shriners Hospitals for Children – Tampa with four busloads of all-star football players, coaches, team managers and other staff is incredible. We couldn’t think of a better way to remind ourselves and these young rising star football players what the Shrine Game means.

Monday am – We start the day by visiting the Game Office at the Tradewinds Hotel on St. Pete Beach. We check in with the staff there, pick up the most up to date rosters and practice schedules, and just say hi to all of our wonderful colleagues that make the Shrine Game possible.

Monday lunch – We collect and organize all of our media interview requests for the players and coaches. These have been arriving via text, phone call, email – any method the press can connect with us, they do! Our goal is to make sure the press gets what they want, but also that the players get exposure for the week – they’ve worked hard to get here and deserve some recognition for that.

public relations

Monday afternoon – Head over to Shorecrest Preparatory School football stadium, where the East Team practices. We set up our media table, where we distribute rosters, schedules, and check-in writers, photographers, and videographers who are approved for credentials to access the practice field and press box at the game. We even hand out mints and sunscreen, because we’re just thoughtful like that. You’d be surprised at how many people take advantage of both. We take photos and video of practice and post to all social accounts. After practice we pull players aside for in-person interviews with media, and give them instructions for radio and interview call-ins they will need to do in the evening. Later in the afternoon, we head over to St. Pete High football stadium for West Team practice, where we do the same thing that we did with the East Team.

Monday night – We all meet to go over media requests, recap the last two days, look at photos/video, and make sure we’re on track for the rest of the week. The whole team is always checking in with each other to make sure all bases are covered and to see if anyone needs help with anything.

Tuesday – Thursday – These days are much like Monday – we attend practices, connect with media, and make sure that social is alive with photos, updates, and fun, interactive posts to keep our fans engaged and make sure they can follow what is going on. Some of the players’ families are not able to attend the game, so our posts are their way of seeing what is going on during the week.

press release writing

Thursday, Friday, Saturday mornings – Prior to the week, we booked morning shows for the executive director of the game and the Shriners Hospitals patient ambassadors, so we attend these morning shows for support and guidance, as well as to connect with the patient ambassadors. This is our first time meeting them and it is always a pleasure!

Friday evening – We attend the banquet! The Shriners, players, coaches, and the Shrine Game team come together at Tropicana Field for a night filled with food, awards, and celebration. The executive director of the game, Harold Richardson, presents the Pat Tillman Award. Pat Tillman was a professional football player who walked away from the game after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 to join the U.S. Army and fight for our country. After just three years in the NFL, Tillman turned down a multi-million dollar contract offer from the Cardinals to enlist in the U.S. Army. He was killed during a mission in Afghanistan in 2004. This year the award, which recognizes the player who best exemplifies character, intelligence, sportsmanship and service, went to Air Force safety, Weston Steelhammer.

video production

Saturday – GAME DAY! Although kickoff is at 1pm, the Pinstripe team is at The Trop at 10am to set up the press box, go through the production schedule with the Rays video team, and get ready to provide last-minute media credentials at will call. We manage the pre-game pageantry, in-game video and graphics, half-time show, sideline photography, press statistics, MVP voting, the final game press releases, and more! It feels like we fit a month of work into a single day that lasts well into the night. It is a tremendous sense of satisfaction as we look out over the dark, empty Tropicana Field where just a few hours before, a hundred young football stars burst onto the field to play for their futures, for their families, for many of their own reasons, but most of all, for the millions of Shriners Hospitals for Children patients who benefit from the game.

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Do-It-Yourself Video: Stephen Spielberg or Ed Wood Jr.?

Tampa Bay video production
There are many reasons you might want to create a corporate video for your business—video blogging, demonstrating a new product, offering a tour of your premises. The good news is that this form of communication has never been more accessible and easy to use than it is today. Many modern smartphones deliver higher quality video than some professional cameras of just 25 years ago. Additionally, there are inexpensive video-editing programs that will let you trim footage, add special effects, lay sound tracks and include graphics that can be mastered in just a few hours.

On the other hand, it’s still very easy to produce a very bad video, and all of today’s technology and editing capabilities sometimes give amateur film-makers a false sense of security. If you’re going to produce a video for your company, here are 10 steps for improving the process.

  • Have a clear purpose for your video. Before you dedicate a single pixel to your production, know what message you’re trying to convey and focus your energy on presenting that communication as concisely and effectively as possible.
  • Write a script. This will get you thinking about location, the people (“talent”) you will need, necessary props, and any graphics you may wish to create. If this is going to be a short production, you may not need an official script to share with others, but it’s important to have an outline so everything will proceed smoothly. Chances are, you’ll be taking people away from their regular duties so don’t waste anyone’s time by having to figure things out while on the set.
  • Make sure you’ll have adequate lighting.  When people think of poor-quality video, bad lighting is one thing that comes immediately to mind. You’ll need to take pains to overcome the shadows, sickly hues or graininess that often comes from inadequate indoor lighting. If at all practical, the best option may be stay near windows or to go outside in the sunlight. Not only will the lighting be great, it will add a certain freshness to your work.
  • Focus on sound quality. First try to shoot in isolation from background noise. If indoors, disconnect phones, intercom systems, computer alerts, etc. Let others know that you’re filming and to be quiet if they’re nearby. Next, have microphones for people who will be speaking on camera; external mics simply don’t sound very good. Also, as you film, stop to do a sound check. No one wants to sit down to edit video and discover there’s no audio.
  • Avoid extended shots of ‘talking heads.’ Having a single person talking on screen for a long time (20 seconds or more) gets monotonous. Consider using B-roll (secondary footage to appear on screen in accompaniment of narration) as a good way to change things up. If nothing else, at least change the camera angle.
  • Be careful with ‘jump cuts.’ It used to be a no-no to have someone talking on screen with an obvious edit taking place right in the middle of their speaking, but some film-makers like the effect. A good guide as to what’s acceptable might be that the break appears to be an artistic choice, rather than something you’re hoping to get away with.
  • Let the talent ‘act natural.’ If you want someone to be terrible on camera, just tell them to “act natural,” so don’t ever say those words … and yet … The best approach is to tell the person being filmed to just “talk to you.” Then turn the camera on and let them go. If they mess up, you can always fix it in editing (and maybe with some B-roll). And don’t be too critical. Nobody’s a professional here.
  • Change up the angle of action scenes. Just as is the case with the talking heads, you don’t want to linger too long on any single shot, even if the subjects are engaged in an on-screen activity. Change the angle of the shot, or consider a semi close-up of a participant’s face.
  • Make sure your anchorperson or narrator speaks clearly. You want inflection in your speaker’s voice but don’t overdo it. (This is an amateur corporate video, not Shakespeare’s King Lear.) He or she should speak at a good pace but fully enunciate each word. It’s also usually best to avoid thick accents.
  • Don’t worry about “it.” When you finish work on your video, there will inevitably be something that bothers you … something that you would like to have done differently or that didn’t come out the way you imagined. Remember, when people view your film, they’ll only see what you show them on screen. They’ll never know all the “shoulda, woulda, couldas” that are floating around in your own hyper-critical head. Simply learn from your experience … you’ll get better with time.
  • Hire a consultant. If you’re producing weekly or monthly blogs and want to be able to do your video in house, but also want to do a great job, consider hiring a video consultant like Pinstripe Marketing, who will give you advice on location, lighting, equipment, audio, and editing programs to suit your purpose. They can even point you in the direction of stock footage and music to spice up your videos. Spending a little money up front on a pro consultant can help your videos stand out and make sure you are not wasting money on costly errors.

Want some help producing a corporate video? We’re ready!

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