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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.

Social Media Campaign Management Secret Sauce

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A social media campaign for business, whether large or small, is more than just posting photos, ideas, industry news or funny quips on your page. Save that for your personal Facebook page, although you still need to be conscientious here (more on this in another article). A business social media campaign needs to be carefully thought out, align with your business goals, and possess an authentic voice that is considered trustworthy by your readers, followers, and clients.

Planning your social media campaign should take the form of several steps to begin with, but of course you will probably need to adjust over time as your business goals change, your products change, and the business environment itself changes. As always, being agile and adaptable is an advantage when managing your social media accounts. Below are some steps to follow to get you started:

  • Define your target audience – who are your readers, followers, and ultimately, your clients? Start with determining this so that you can formulate a voice that speaks to those people authentically.
  • Set goals – do you want to drive more traffic to your site, a particular product or service page, or just raise general awareness of your business?
  • Create a keyword list that defines your business and appeals to the audience you want to reach – this list will inform everything you write, post and say on all social media accounts.
  • Create a timeline/calendar – how often do you want to publish blogs and post to social media? Create a calendar so that you always know when it’s time to post and the earlier you can define what it is you want to post, the better. This way you are not always scrambling to come up with something the day that you are supposed to post it.

This is the framework of your social media campaign. Once you have an understanding of all of these items and your calendar is in place, you can start gathering your content. Business social media is all about sharing content, stories, case studies, and ideas that are relevant, useful, and/or helpful to your audience. It’s not only about promoting your business. There is no better way to lose your audience’s interest than to constantly post about your products and why someone should purchase them, or even posting coupons or sales. People want information! We recommend a ratio of 10-15% business promotion and the rest is all content that the reader can actually use. In some cases that may even be giving away some of your business’ “secret sauce.”

A great example is this very blog and, in fact, most of the articles on our blog. We are experts in social media marketing and many of our clients hire us to do just what we describe in this article. Why would we give away these secrets? Because we sincerely want to help. If this information is useful to your company and can help you run your social media campaigns more efficiently, then we are happy to have impacted your business in a positive way. However, we also realize that taking the above steps can become time-consuming, and many business owners quickly realize they are in over their head. If that’s the case, we exist to help you in this way as well – to fill in the gap you have in social media marketing so you can work on your business. If that’s the case, please contact us and we can come up with a social media management plan that will fit your business and budget!

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.

 

Pinstripe Book Shelf: “Why Is Your Name Upside Down?”

A couple years ago the Pinstripe team attended an event hosted by American Advertising Federation of Tampa Bay. Held at the Art Institute of Tampa (always a wonderful place to visit), the event was called “An Evening With David Oakley: Stories from a life in advertising. By an award-winning creative director.”

When you don’t know who the person is that is presenting, you don’t know what to expect. We definitely didn’t expect David Oakley, at 6pm on a Thursday night in Tampa, to be an incredibly charismatic creative person who told some of the best advertising stories we’ve heard. He was simply hilarious. And to top it all off, he gave everyone a copy of his book, Why Is Your Name Upside Down, which we just finished after losing it in the shuffle and recently rediscovering. This turns out to be a good thing, because it reminded us all over again just how funny David Oakley is and how much we aspire to his lighthearted irreverence, passion for serving his clients, and ability to turn just about any project or proposal into a joyride for all involved.

Why Is Your Name Upside Down, David OakleyThe book recaps in short story form some of David Oakley’s best stories of his work with his own agency, the well-known and respected Boone/Oakley in Charlotte, NC. Seldom does one person possess the ability to both WRITE a great story and TELL a great story, but Oakley shines in both formats. He writes the way he speaks, which somehow works in his case. The stories are easy to read and you can put the book down for a couple weeks and not worry about forgetting where you were. Just pick up at the next story and you’ll remember why you loved this book in the first place.

If you’re an agency pro or work in advertising and marketing at all, you’ll appreciate the anecdotal accounts of the mishaps and successes of his agencies. Even if you’re not in the industry, you’ll get a kick out of his wild ideas and execution, his ability to create buzz out of blunders, and his seemingly tireless sense of positivity.

 

Social Media Protocol for the Professional

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We see people misbehaving on social media all the time. This can have consequences for associated business social media accounts that may range from small waves to downright devastating. Below is a list of items to consider when posting on your personal social media account as a professional.

-Even if you aren’t managing the business’ social media account, you are still connected and as a result you represent that business, on social media and wherever you go.

-In effect, your behavior on your personal social media account is indirectly (and in some cases, directly) associated with the business itself, whether or not the content of your posts refers to the business in any way.

-Knowing this, your conduct on social media may be scrutinized, particularly as an associate of the business, so any negative, lewd, ignorant, blasphemous, or otherwise irresponsible behavior can reflect poorly on the business, in turn cultivating a negative opinion of it.

-Think before you post – if your post is even remotely controversial, ask yourself if it’s worth blasting out to the public or if it’s something better discussed privately with close friends or family.

Example: An employee of a mid-sized law firm is annoyed with the company’s slow adoption of technology. He thinks of the partners in the firm as “dinosaurs” who are stuck in an age of paper and pen. One day he decides to post a meme on Facebook that features photos of seven of the attorneys alongside surprisingly similar looking dinosaurs with the caption, “A dinosaur a day keeps the technology away.” While his friends and some of his family find this extremely funny, one of the firm’s largest and longest-standing clients happens to see the post and is offended, as he has been working with the firm for as long as it’s been around, and thus is, by proxy, a “dinosaur” as well. He contacts his attorney at the firm to complain.

This is only the beginning for this incident. Depending on how leadership handles the complaint, they may lose the client, fire the employee, or they may be able to gracefully apologize and set the record right. Either way, their staff most likely needs some training from a marketing firm like Pinstripe. We do public relations and communications training on a regular basis.

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