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Things to Consider When Hiring a Marketing Firm

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The marketing firm you choose will be in charge of your brand, so you need to make good decisions on who you hire.

When it’s time to hire a marketing firm, you have a lot of choices to pick from. There are more than 500 advertising agencies, public relations and digital marketing firms in the Tampa Bay area. Many of them are highly specialized, while others can offer a large suite of marketing services. It’s important to be prepared before handing the reigns over to a firm in charge of promoting your brand.

Some Important Questions, First

Going into a relationship with a marketing firm takes some homework on your part. A little business self-awareness goes a long way in understanding the type of relationship you’ll need with the firm.

  • Do you know what your brand is?
  • Who is your ideal client?
  • What geography do you cover?
  • Are your clients local or online?
  • Is there a budget in place to handle all marketing costs?
  • Have you set goals for your marketing?

If you don’t have an answer to those questions, work with your team to determine the answers before hiring a marketing firm.

 

Choosing a Local or National Firm

With all of the choices available locally, it’s rare to go out-of-state to hire a firm. The goal is to hire a firm that fits your needs exactly. There are local firms in the Tampa Bay area that carry a national presence and national companies with a local presence.

The choice really is more about what you prefer when hiring a service. Do you prefer meeting face-to-face? Or can your marketing be handled through video conferencing, email and phone calls? Both are effective ways to communicate and build very successful relationships. In our experience, having a good mix of each one leads to stronger relationships.

 

Setting the Search Criteria

When considering to hire a marketing firm, the following 10 things to consider should be used as a checklist.

  • Portfolio – The firm should impress you with their design and implementation.
  • Experience – A lack of experience could cost you money.
  • Industry Knowledge – Having a firm with industry knowledge reduces the learning curve for them regarding your business. Something to also consider is if their industry knowledge works against their ability to be creative or think outside the box.
  • Capabilities – Smaller firms offer more personalized service, yet may be limited in capabilities, but this is not always the case. Be sure to do your research and ask the right questions.
  • Business Savvy – A firm with solid business acumen will understand the big picture and not just work from project to project. They are more adept with problem solving, too.
  • Channel Expertise – Strong marketing firms understand the channel directions for most industries. This makes them better marketers. They are better at forecasting and seeing the next big thing on the horizon.
  • Technical Knowledge – Marketing is technology heavy. Both print and digital marketing are driven by advanced technologies. The firm you pick should know how to harness these technologies for successful campaigns.
  • Network – How extensive is their business network? These connections can be valuable assets.
  • Communication – Everyone is looking for fast and friendly. How about clear and concise? Honest and thoughtful? Those are special qualities, as well.
  • Personality – It’s a business relationship. Your personalities should mesh well together. What makes them unique is something that can differentiate your company from others.

Make sure each one fulfills your criteria. If no one fits it, then look at what’s really important and how many do fulfill those needs.

At Pinstripe, we have experience with companies across the United States—from entrepreneurs to the Fortune 500. We are passionate about creating tailored campaigns that generate results. Our team has decades of experience within a wide range of industries. Contact us today to learn more about how we can provide the best marketing experience for you.

Public Relations Need to Be Transparent, Like Wonder Woman’s Jet

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Transparency is a very important policy for any public relations campaign. In this article we find a connection between transparency and Wonder Woman’s jet.

According to Wikipedia, it all started with an invisible plane that first appeared in 1942. Over the years, that plane evolved into a jet with the ability to travel almost three times the speed of sound and hover in place to allow for tricky landings. In the TV show, we could see Wonder Woman in her invisible jet depicted as a white wireframe that surrounded her. The symbolism of the invisible jet in the era in which it was born may still be relevant to this day, but today we’ll use it to explain a little bit about public relations.

The Principle of Transparency

Transparency in public relations is about how the public “can see how you got there.” People want to see through the fluff to the heart of the issue, just like we can see through Wonder Woman’s plane to find her and her passengers very much revealed. Bad things happen and often do, but it is how you handle those crisis situations that matters. It’s about openness and your ability to share the right information. This builds trust and makes everything you do visible to the public, so there are no questions or, even worse, insinuations from outsiders looking to mar the company’s reputation when something bad happens.

Building transparency shouldn’t appear contrived or fake, especially during a public relations crisis. Being open and honest about your challenges, as well as forthcoming with information, will demonstrate that you are managing the situation and lessen any damaging effects. Honesty, authenticity and requesting feedback are often used to show transparency. And it’s this transparency principle that builds trust and empathy.

Strategy for Communicating

The general public has become less trusting of advertising and marketing. That’s why it’s important to be honest or you may lose their trust and support.

Truth and honesty create authentic messages. You are being honest and forthcoming when you share your challenges alongside your successes. This humanizes your brand. Whether it’s during a crisis or not, clients can gain a deeper understanding of what’s going on, which allows them to be more forgiving and builds empathy for your situation.

Empathy is a powerful tool to help you gather feedback and build support. Gaining support can protect you against future challenges or repair any damage that may have occurred during a crisis.

Transparent Communications

The rise in social media has made it easier for PR campaigns to be more proactive and honest about challenges. These platforms can carry your authentic message to a larger audience and be a point of light during difficult times. To take advantage of this, make sure to be proactive rather than reactive. Social media is immediate – you must be agile and get ahead of any problems or social media can work against you. A great PR campaign spots potential issues and crises before they happen. Keep pushing out positive, honest messaging on all channels so when anyone searches for your company, they find the good things first, those authentic messages that build trust. It’s these kind of transparent communications that I believe in strongly, because they let others know that you really do care.

 

This article is part of a series on how Wonder Woman inspires our marketing philosophy. Throughout the year, we will be featuring more on this topic, so let us know how you feel about it in our comments section below.

 

Budget Season Coming Soon!

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I know, it’s still summer and I’m writing about marketing budgets. How about this? Instead of writing about budgets, I could write about something fun, like branding and networking. But we wouldn’t get to do any of those fun things without a budget. Am I right? So, let’s talk budgeting for your marketing and I promise to make it worthwhile.

Budgeting for What’s Next

You have a budget in place, but it probably needs to be tweaked a little to fit next year’s needs. Marketers have a lot more data to go on these days, so they know what brings in returns and what’s stale. Staying on top of the data means getting the right activities into your mix. There are several activities we think you should put as line items in your budget, if they aren’t in it already.

Building Communities

We are in an engagement economy where businesses need to engage with their clients and their employees to strive for success. When you build a community for your clients, you’re creating a stronger network and engaging with them as an industry leader. This type of engagement opens new possibilities and leads to organic growth through word-of-mouth recommendations. So, it definitely deserves some consideration in your budget.

LEGO has a great example of engaging with their community through LEGO IDEAS. This interactive community setting allows everyone to contribute ideas and vote on great designs. Communities like this are a two way street—offering enthusiasts a platform while providing valuable marketing data. Another example of a great community is the Oracle Interactive Community. This is mixed-use site with a forum and lots of information to support their users better.

To build a community, you’ll need a cause for your platform. Usually, the cause you pick is something that separates you from the competition. It’s how you add value to your business. Then, you can pick your platform where this cause is supported. This will need social media and maybe an interactive website. How about an annual event? Print materials? You’ll definitely need employees to run it all. Starting slow and small to test the waters is always a sure bet.

Public Relations

This area of marketing has changed quite a bit over the past 10 years. I’ve seen how it’s changed and why. Good public relations have developed into consistent, positive messaging that crosses multiple platforms. It also helps with search engine optimization (SEO) and keeps your community connected. The press release is still the foundation, but how it’s used and why have evolved. Spreading the word means spending more time and energy.

Looking at ROI

There is more data available to us than ever before. Marketing is no longer a guessing game. It’s strategic planning and implementation. Contextualized data will show how your clients are engaging with your marketing campaigns. If you’re having trouble seeing what works and what doesn’t, beef up your data gathering and analytics. This may be in the form of analytics software or statistical research.

Striking a Balance

Some experts believe that many traditional marketing activities no longer work. That’s why it’s so important to engage with clients and customers in a more authentic, one-on-one basis. Building a customer community is the perfect thing to do using content marketing, social media, and possibly a website to interact with them. Investments in public relations and getting a better grip on ROI will help your bottom line. These are definitely things we need stay on top of in this dynamic marketing landscape.

 

 

Confidence Conveys Strength in Marketing

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There’s no denying that Wonder Woman is super strong. It’s said that she is even stronger than Hercules. And, in the comic book series, she beat Superman twice to save the world. This kind of strength gives her confidence and vice versa—her confidence also gives her strength.

The Confident, Trusted Advisor

Wonder Woman’s confidence is something that resonates with me. With every battle, she gained more experience and tested her limits. I feel like I have done the same over the past 25 years of my career. My confidence has given me the strength to be a trusted advisor for my clients and a counselor for my peers. Malcolm Gladwell introduced the concept of becoming an expert at just about anything with “10,000 hours of deliberate practice.” By focusing your efforts at developing expertise and skill, you will become more confident.

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience. You are able to say to yourself, “I lived through this. I can take on the next thing that comes along.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Building Confidence

My confidence also comes from continuing education. Every year, I attend conferences and seminars to learn about the latest trends in marketing and technology. I also love reading books and listening to podcasts about entrepreneurs and artists, because they give me more insight on how I can improve and never become stagnant. I’m a naturally curious person and I look for that trait in the people I work with because it multiplies our capacity for knowledge. With every group of students I meet, I give them the news that learning doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) stop after graduation. This builds tremendous confidence, which feeds the strength of the work we do at Pinstripe.

An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest. – Ben Franklin

Strength in Soft Skills

I wouldn’t be in this position today if I hadn’t worked with such great people over the years. Relationship building requires “soft skills”—those intangible character traits of people like good listening, kindness, compassion, and empathy. These are all important skills that help us to be better communicators, as well as vulnerable and sensitive in unique situations. It takes a special strength of character to be vulnerable in this way, open to new experiences and others’ opinions.

I’m a very strong believer in listening and learning from others. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice

Being Consistent

Another strength of the Pinstripe brand is consistent performance. We have established ourselves as a trusted partner through consistently delivering on project after project. We do what we say we are going to do, and we do it well. Sure, the awards we’ve won are nice, but it’s not why we do it. Doing our best every time for our clients is what matters.

It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently. – Tony Robbins, Author and Inspirational Speaker

Would I love to have Wonder Woman’s super strength? Of course, but that’s not realistic. What is real is building the strengths I do have, and constantly improving in what I do and with the relationships I’ve built.

This article is part of a series on how Wonder Woman inspires our marketing philosophy. Throughout the year, we will be featuring more on this topic, so let us know how you feel about it.

 

The Combined Power of Public Relations and Search Engine Optimization

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Most people don’t associate public relations (PR) with search engine optimization (SEO), but if you play your cards right, PR can lead to great SEO. In fact, sometimes we undertake PR activities with the specific goal of increasing SEO for ourselves or our clients.

Help a Reporter Out (HARO)

Every day, HARO sends out several emails with queries from traditional media reporters and producers, but also blogs and and other online platforms looking for experts in certain fields and topics, and opinions about popular news items. The list sometimes contains over 50 different queries, ranging in content from health to finance to entrepreneurship to technology. Some of them are very specific and some are more general. The process goes like this:

  • We scan this list looking for opportunities for ourselves and our clients.
  • When we find one that fits, we immediately begin the process of writing the answers.
  • Complete an internal review
  • Request final approval from the client.
  • Once that is complete, we send our response to the query, and then wait for publication.
  • If the reporter decides to use our information in his article, we send a link to the client’s website, name, and sometimes even a bio and website.
  • Post the final article to all social media, including Google+

And there it is – the link back to the client’s site is SEO gold, especially if the site that it’s coming from is a reputable company in a related industry.

A perfect example is the story we contributed to for CEO Nation. The article is a really good social media tips from fifteen different entrepreneurs, including our very own Ginger Reichl! If you check out the story here, you’ll see that this particular article included Ginger’s head shot, name, and a link to our site. The article turned out great, and we learned some new social media techniques as well.

Online Press Release Distribution

Press releases are written for many reasons, including announcements, company news, events, and interesting stories that apply to trending topics. Knowing where and when to distribute a press release is as important and strategic as the writing of the press release itself. For traditional media relations, we rarely use releases anymore – with the exception of major news and investor relations, they typically just get ignored.

However, for SEO purposes, we’ll draft a release for ‘clean up’ work once our usual media relations efforts have been exhausted. There are several free places to distribute press releases online. We make sure that the press release contains the keywords that we want to rank for in search results, and always have the company’s website in the boiler plate at the end of the release. This is considered a backlink, which is, again, SEO gold. Plus, in some cases, we’ve had those releases picked up by a reporter or news outlet and posted on their site, which adds even more to the SEO credibility of the company.

Other content marketing strategies like guest articles and podcasts also have SEO benefits in addition to their traditionally PR role and we will continue to see the lines blur as search continues to drive interest … and traffic.

Connect with us if you need help writing your next press release or finding creative ways to use PR to promote your company.

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