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Zodiac Marketer: Virgo

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by Nikki Devereux, Director of Account Management

Virgo is our next sign for zodiac marketing: birthdays between August 23 – September 22.

One of the earth signs, Virgo’s strengths are loyal, analytical, and practical. Virgo’s weaknesses are a tendency toward shyness and being overly critical of others and self. We’ll explore ways these positive and negative traits can be applied or avoided in marketing and business practices.

 

Loyalty to Your Brand

The first thing that comes to mind when considering loyalty in marketing is brand loyalty. Consumers stick with a brand for a variety of reasons: great customer service, consistency in taste and feel, sturdiness, reliability, and price. Loyalty to a brand is often seen from a consumer goods perspective, but it can certainly apply to services as well, as in the case of Pinstripe Marketing. When thinking about Pinstripe, our clients choose us, again and again, for marketing services because of some of the best characteristics of our brand:

  • Tailored
  • Experienced
  • Leaders
  • Expertise
  • Quality
  • Strategic
  • Holistic

If taken a step further, loyalty in marketing can also be viewed as loyalty to your brand. What does that mean? Well, loyalty to your own brand means that you would buy your product and stick with your brand. If that’s not the case, then you need to bring your brand up to your own standards. After all, if you wouldn’t consistently use your own product or service, why should you expect anyone else to?

Consider performing a brand audit with a team within your company to determine areas of improvement and places where you can increase value so that company employees, and YOU, will be loyal to your own brand.

 

Analytics and Metrics

These days, marketing uses a lot of data, especially with digital marketing. As a primary way to reach potential and repeat clients, we collect a myriad of data to analyze and maximize every campaign we create.

Measurable data means more predictable sales, more accurate advertising, and more refined solutions and products, all delivered to the correct target audiences. Marketing is now, more than ever, a blend of creativity and metrics—a perfect storm of the two.

The ability to create more targeted campaigns, plus the low price tag on digital ads, means you can spend more time and money on the right strategy. Take advantage of this fact!

Fifteen years ago, your best option was a print ad and postcard mailers. You can spend thousands of dollars on printing, and thousands more publishing the ad in a magazine or newspaper, plus hundreds to thousands on a list of addresses.*

Today, you can define your audience , choose keywords and create ads, then measure your reach within a week. Rather than toss paper to the wind and hope that someone pays attention, you can make adjustments to your campaign, fine tune the target audience in order to spend your budget effectively. Engagement with your ads may cost as little as pennies. That’s the efficiency of digital marketing. As a Virgo, you should not pass up the opportunity to stretch your analytical skills and we all know you love efficiency.

 

Being Practical

Practicality is useful in any business, and it can be a big time and money saver for marketing projects. Project management for marketing involves a lot of moving parts and stakeholders.

Being practical means occasionally making decisions based on time and money, rather than creativity.** Being practical means prioritizing tasks, timelines, and adjusting when necessary. Being practical also means communicating frequently and clearly in order to set expectations, learning from your mistakes and those of others, and applying that knowledge to the next project. There are so many aspects to being practical; without practicality, nothing would ever get done!

 

Avoid: Being Shy

Shyness will get you nowhere with the creative work of marketing and certainly in business in general. If you’re a shy artist, no one will ever see your art. Creative work takes guts because you have to put your ego away and allow criticism to flow without flinching. Well meaning critique leads to growth and innovation; some artists actually seek it out!

If you’re a shy project manager, your project deadlines will extend and your budgets will be blown every time. I understand that some people may be naturally shy and introverted. Try challenging yourself to step outside your norm and be more assertive.

If you’re a shy business development person you won’t be able to build a relationship with the next biggest prospect. People may walk all over you. Business is competitive and you have to put yourself in the spotlight on occasion. Practice in personal relationships and with colleagues, and see how rewarding it can be to operate outside your comfort zone.

In general, no matter what your position or type of work, choose to conquer shyness in order to grow in your career.

 

Avoid: Being Overly Critical in Marketing

Dear Virgo, we all know that you strive for perfection in yourself and sometimes expect it of others too (take it from a fellow Virgo!!). Recently, I read an article with the theme – “Sometimes good enough is good enough.” It discussed perfectionism as an obstacle to progress and success.  This article resonated with me because it points out that extending deadlines and budgets and personnel to achieve the “perfect” design or product is sometimes a simple waste of time. As a project manager, I try to avoid this as often as possible.

Don’t get hung up on minuscule details that no one else will notice. If it’s not a life or death situation (where someone may be physically hurt by a decision), feel out your team and be prepared to let go. Then, take a deep breath and let go. Nothing bad will happen because we know you’ve already covered all the bases!

Being overly critical of yourself and others can backfire in other ways. If you are a creative director or managing a team and you are constantly critical of your team or designers, you could end up offending people and creating an atmosphere of discontent. Learn how to properly and effectively critique any work, creative or otherwise, so that your team can grow rather than feel offended and attacked.

Have you ever experienced any of the above traits in your marketing campaigns or business? We’d love to hear your stories!

* This is not to say that print advertising is pointless and dead. This is to say that lean budgets are best spent in digital advertising so as to maximize the reach. Print advertising, if done correctly, is a perfect supplement to digital advertising and helps to increase brand awareness, among other benefits.

**Though this is never to say that design is sacrificed, but sometimes a creative process can go on and on indefinitely. There needs to be an end so we can close the project and get some results!

A Few Tips to Stay Out of the Grammar Slammer

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Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, by Mary Norris

Book review by Michael Premo, Content Strategist

 

In her book, “Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen,” Mary Norris, a long-time copy editor at The New Yorker magazine, has found a way to make reading about grammar interesting and fun.

I know what you’re thinking. How can a book about grammar be fun? Well, it is and especially when she writes about quirky coworkers and famous writers, who argued with her over the use of commas, hyphens, and other grammatical rules. In her book, she tackles big questions, such as when to use a colon or semicolon and devotes entire chapters to spelling, dashes, and other parts of speech that often confound us.

Over the years, I’ve grown to understand most of those rules, committed them to memory, but it’s still frustrating as ever. There are aspects of the English language, especially within our lexicon, that can be mindboggling. Spelling is one of them.

 

Spelling, Ugh!

In grade school, I was a horrible speller and hated diagraming sentences. It didn’t help that English is a rat’s nest of contradictions—exceptions to the rules and phonetic madness. Algebra seemed easier or at least more straight forward than learning parts of speech and punctuation.

 

“The English language is full of words that are just waiting to be misspelled, and the world is full of sticklers, ready to pounce” – Norris

 

Norris points out that “A misspelling can undermine your authority.” This is absolutely true. There really is no excuse for a misspelled word, especially with autocorrect. Yet, spelling mistakes do happen, and homophones are usually the culprit.

Even for the most attuned with this crazy language, spelling can be elusive because we may be a little too confident. While editing a story, Norris admits to changing terrine to tureen. Both are, in a way, similar, but tureen is much more common. “I had a skeptical streak and an ego,” writes Norris. “and at some level I thought that if I had never seen a particular word it didn’t exist.” Confusing one word for another can happen to the smartest of us.

 

“Spelling is the clothing of words” – Norris

 

I thoroughly enjoyed Norris’ telling of historical events that surrounded the orthography of the American dictionary. Samuel Johnson was England’s lexicographer; Noah Webster was America’s. Much of our language today rests upon their efforts centuries ago.

 

That or Which? Who or Whom?

Many writers fall into the trap of using that for which and which for that. It took years for me to understand their proper usage. Their definitions are fairly clear, but according to Norris, and some of the greatest writers of our time, when to use them is more ambiguous. She devotes an entire chapter to deciphering this conundrum through instructing us on what exactly a restrictive clause is, and what an independent one looks like.

The same can be said for who and whom. To know the difference, you’ll need to understand that who is used as a pronoun for “the subject or the predicate nominative, and ‘whom’ when it’s a direct object, an indirect object, or the object of a preposition.” A predicate nominative? The object of what? You’ll understand them better once you’ve read this chapter.

Yes, we should understand the difference and use them properly; however, as Norris points out, there are situations that are not as cut-and-dry as we’d like to think. There is also a movement to use “they” and “their” for a singular-genderless pronoun. My takeaway from these chapters was that we shouldn’t get so down on ourselves if we make a mistake when using pronouns because it’s not as easy as it seems.

 

To Comma or Not to Comma

The serial comma (aka The Oxford comma). Our teachers made sure we use the serial comma or else suffer those dreaded red marks. The Associated Press style guide says it’s okay to leave it out unless it causes confusion. I want to leave this one open for comments because my opinion can be swayed either way.

 

“One test for whether you need commas to set off a group of words is to see whether the sentence will stand without the phrase or clause between the commas” – Norris

 

Norris explains how some of the most famous American authors, specifically Melville and Faulkner, used commas as pauses of breath. “Charles Dickens is a prime example of a writer who punctuates by ear,” writes Norris. They were comma-philic. Their editing skills wouldn’t jive with today’s standards.

 

The Grammar Slammer

Sure, we’ve all read those jumbled sentences and understand what they say, but try that in an email to your CEO. I think not! You’ll end up in the grammar slammer.

While working in a professional environment, your credibility is on the line with each email that you write. There are grammar sticklers everywhere because proper grammar is the foundation of clear and concise communication.

Sometimes ignorance is bliss because the more you learn about grammar, the more complicated it gets. You start second-guessing yourself. You search the internet for a definitive answer on a tricky question, yet come up with too many opinions. Just remember that it’s a learning process, one that lasts a lifetime. Don’t believe me? Then read Norris’ candid book about how grammar has evolved over the centuries and how it may look years from now. I promise you will learn a few things about our language and reinforce your knowledge on things you already know. Plus there are some laugh-out-loud moments. Norris’ book gives us a personal and informative look at the American language in a very unique way that makes it fun and interesting.

Build a Recession Proof Marketing Plan

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Marketing tends to be one of the first things to go during an economic slowdown, but it shouldn’t be. We all know that the ups and downs in business are inevitable, so we should set in place a marketing strategy that is recession proof.

 

Saving Money Is a Priority

When marketing budgets get slashed, the CFOs are essentially preparing for less cash flow. They are also pulling back their spending on new projects and taking the planning of them in house, if possible. This has been especially true for those in the construction industry. They have to cushion their bottom line during times of a depressed economy.

 

Marketing Opportunity

In 2005, a year before the great recession, I remember how spending was cut way back in the marketing department of the company I worked for. This happens every time. To make matters worse, pulling funds away from marketing will hurt sales. But it’s hard for CFOs to loosen the purse strings.

So, marketing has to be a priority. That’s why we need to be strategic and plan ahead, because it’s actually a time for more opportunities to outshine the competition.

 

Digital Marketing

The online world has brought people closer. It’s created stronger relationships between people and the brands they love. All things digital are no longer an option, they are the norm, and they are necessities.

You really need to have your digital marketing game in play prior to a recession. Every aspect of your digital presence should be established:

  • Mobile friendly website
  • Pay-per-click advertising (Google Ads)
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Video
  • Email and text-based marketing
  • Social media
  • Organic search (content marketing)

If you don’t have your plan in place now, there probably won’t be any money for it in the budget when the recession hits. The great thing about digital marketing channels is that they are inexpensive. They tend to be much less expensive than traditional marketing and they are easier to measure, so you can take your great results back to your CFO and prove that every penny was worth it!

 

Be Innovative

To capture more attention and a little more share of the market, you’ll need to start doing a few things differently. Otherwise, you’ll end up getting the same results you’ve always had, which is not what you want during a downturn.

It’s time to get creative and step outside the box. Innovation often comes from shoestring budgets and lots of positive energy. That energy could be the differentiator in a client’s decision.

Start thinking about what you can do that no one else is doing in your industry. Making yourself more available through new lines of communication is one way. Creating authentic client success stories with an original twist is another. Show them that you’re expert in your field. Start telling your story in new ways, on new channels.

 

Maintaining Contact

One of the biggest challenges for any business during a recession is to maintain a contact with their clients. You don’t want to fall off their radar just because you are doing more with less.

When you maintain a steady presence online and at conferences or events, you’ll stay in touch with your clients. They’ll know that you’re still there for them. Your marketing can do this and there are cost-effective ways of doing it.

Pinstripe has helped local and nationally-based businesses with every aspect of their marketing. We specialize in discovering their personal traits—their corporate character—and putting them on display. Our creative team consists of listeners and discoverers that have an innate ability to help you achieve your vision. Contact us to tell us more about your company and the marketing goals you envision.

Try This Quick Time Saving Tip for Busy Professionals

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Usually, around six o’clock, I am amazed at how fast the day went by. And it always seems like I’m rushing to get out of the office for a meeting or dinner with my family.

But, did you know that if we took 15 minutes at the end of our day, we can be more prepared for tomorrow? Recently, I started to take just 15 minutes at the end of my day to get organized and it works. Here’s how.

 

Prioritize Those 15 Minutes

What better time to review your day than at the end? It allows you to do three very important things:

  • Review
  • Reflect
  • Prepare

You can briefly review what happened throughout your day by jotting a few notes, which will strengthen your  memory and recall. It’s also a good time to check off the items on your agenda and make sure that you’ve logged your time correctly. Research has shown that taking account of completed tasks lowers your anxiety and stress levels.

Simply taking a minute or two to review your day will also help you organize your evening. Figure out dinner or check in with loved ones. Are you picking something up? Need gas for the car? These things often get forgotten and make tomorrow a little more hectic. Plus, it gives you time to organize the work you are taking home with you.

 

To-Do List or Not To-Do List?

Reflecting upon your day will help you restructure your to-do lists. Priorities are always shifting. Some tasks gain a higher level of urgency.

As for to-do lists, I have seen a lot of opinions on them. Lots of consultants don’t like them and one in particular simply believes that to-do lists don’t work. However, research, lots of research, says otherwise. I’m a proponent of them, but with this caveat—I don’t put everything on it.

One major complaint of the to-do list is that it causes more anxiety, usually because there’s a list a mile long with things on there that should have been done weeks or months ago. Too many trivial things on it will cause anxiety.

One novel idea is to move the important things off your to-do list and placing them on your calendar. This raises their priority, while reduces the clutter of your list. Here are some other ways you can create a more effective to-do list:

  • Shorten the list to three things,
  • Use small Post-It Notes or index cards,
  • Organize your list into smaller lists (calls to make, things to delegate, to purchase, etc.)
  • Prioritize tasks in order of importance,
  • View one task at a time.

You need to be faithful to the idea of ending your day thinking about tomorrow. This lets you get organized before you even step foot in the office, tomorrow.

 

Better Planning of Your Time

Time is the most important asset we have, yet we don’t value it enough. Meetings and late lunches can get in the way. There’s also the occasional drive-by meeting—”impromptu” for the visitor—but an inconvenience for you.

Taking a few minutes to prepare for your day, tomorrow,  may get you out of a meeting or conference call that really isn’t important. With these final moments at work, you can also follow up with your employees regarding important projects. Even better, you can delegate tasks from your list to them.

 

Better Organization = Less Stress

Let’s face it, you’re only given so much time in a day. Organization doesn’t give you more time, but it does allow you to spend more time on the things that are truly important. Typically, these are the things that affect the bottom line.

You won’t regret using this time-saving tip. It will help you be more productive and less stressed about work and home. Give it a try for a month. If it works, pass it on to a friend or coworker of yours that could use it.

Content Marketing Deconstructed: Legal Considerations at Every Stage of the Process

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When a person, brand, or organization creates its own platform to share and influence, a content marketing initiative is born. This practice has been going on long before digital capabilities made it as accessible and mainstream as it is today. It’s also these digital aspects that make it all that more complex for the modern marketer and the companies driving the ecosystem.

  • Who (or what robot) is creating your content?
  • Who is the rightful owner of the content and the intellectual property inside it?
  • Where and how is this content being distributed?
  • Are the laws relevant to the content being followed (or do we even know what those are)?

As a content creator myself, through a variety of media including blogging, video, podcasts, newsletters, and more, I understand the level of detail that can go into each and every project. It’s a big investment of time, talent and treasure, and that’s why it’s worth protecting at every corner.

I’ve seen legal hiccups at virtually every link along this chain, with rising complexities around content ownership and licensing, and emerging risks with more automated content solutions and accountability.

If you break down the process, you’ll find there are various and unique legal issues at each phase that can get in the way of progress. What’s my strategy to beat them? Plan ahead.

Here are three key junctures with reminders to help keep your content marketing campaigns secure:

1. Strategy, Talent & Content Sources

Before the first word is written, or pixel is placed, think about your end goals. In addition to the brand building and sales nurturing aspects, content marketing offers the opportunity of creating intellectual property for your brand, including in both the outputs and processes.

  • Is this something you will own and use in the future, or repurpose for other business opportunities?
  • Are you creating content in-house, using outside partners, freelancers or partners, or possibly integrating external, more automated and AI-driven content services?

You will want to ensure you own the rights to your work, so you have complete freedom in the future for promotions, repurposing and other applications.

For your content strategy and execution, ensure the same levels of agreements are in place for any partners or employees creating content on behalf of your company.

2. Content Development

Beyond the clear copyright rules and plagiarism risks surrounding content creation, there are several less obvious aspects that companies need to watch out for:

  • When featuring any other existing content, first get written permission from whomever owns the content (you would be surprised how often this step is skipped), and then cite proper attribution of any content sourced from, or linked to, from third party resources.
  • Gather and track licenses and use rights for images or artwork incorporated into your content and know the limits of those licenses.
  • When making claims within content, in addition to being true, claims need substantiation. Misleading by omission is just as off-limits as making an express false claim. Ask yourself about the substantiation before you publish the claim.
  • Include all needed trademarks with permission, or with adequate disclaimers if they are the trademarks of some third party.

There are many resources out there for education and reference, including this Skyword article, Original and Accountable: How to Detect Plagiarism, and Avoid It in Content Marketing. What’s key is making sure everyone involved keeps a vigilant eye on this, because your company becomes liable for any infraction.

3. Publishing, Distribution & Promotion

There are various considerations and rules surrounding content of all types that your company is publishing and promoting.

  • Copyright infringement or the use of content without permission or improper attribution.
  • Compliance failures in disclosures of endorsements, testimonials and all things influence marketing.
  • Native advertising or failing to distinguish clearly between paid content placed in a native ad context and the surrounding editorial content. Confused about what that is? Check out Robert Rose’s overview on Content Marketing Institute: What’s the Difference Between Content Marketing, Branded Content, and Native Advertising?

Additionally, email and data privacy rules continue to reign, brought to the spotlight more recently in GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act (remember the CAN-SPAM act of 2003?). No one should be using purchased or rented lists for email or relying on the “opt out” at inception as law favors the initial “opt in,” and making sure that “opt outs” are managed properly.

To summarize, wherever your content is going… make sure the destination is legit!

Send the Right Message

With the massive flood of content pouring through digital channels for more than a decade, and more and quicker ways to produce and distribute it, companies continue to seek ways to get their messages through in an overly crowded environment.

Take the time to educate yourself, your employees, and everyone else in your content universe on the legal risks at each step of the content journey, and stay on top of evolving rules and regulations.

Article by Sharon Toerek of Legal + Creative by Toerek Law.

Sharon is an intellectual property and marketing law attorney, with a national Firm based in Cleveland, Ohio.  She devotes her legal practice at Toerek Law to helping creative professionals protect, enforce and monetize their creative assets.

She has a particular concentration of clients in the advertising, marketing and creative services industries, and counsels them on legal issues including copyright and content protection, licensing of creative content, trademark and brand protection matters, marketing agency service contract issues, freelancer contract issues,  social media issues, advertising compliance, and direct marketing regulations. To learn more about Sharon, visit www.legalandcreative.com.