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- Back to Basics: What is Marketing Communications?
Part 1 of a Multi-Part Series on Marketing Communications Basics 🎦 TL;DR: Watch a high-level video overview. Let's start at the very beginning—it works for mastering the art of singing. It's also a good place to embark upon learning about marketing communications. Ok, let's dig in and see what marcom is. We'll also touch on some resources. Marcom Housekeeping First things first: "Marcom" is short for "marketing communications" and the terms can be used interchangeably. Marcom is sort of an umbrella term that covers a variety of "stuff." And different people may have a different concept of what marketing communications is and what's covered by that canopy. This is a BIG topic. So this is the first installment in a multi-part series about marketing communications. Stay tuned for future posts! (Topics will include How To Do Marcom, Why Do Marcom, etc.) Marketing Communications Defined That said, here's my definition of marcom: Marketing communications is a business function charged with connecting to stakeholder audiences and conveying specific messaging with the goal of mobilizing those audience members into a specific desired action. Ok, so what—exactly—does that mean? I know, it sounds a bit like word stew. Let's tease it apart a bit and look at each piece. Breaking It Down It helps to define some of the terms I used above: Business function: This is a specific and relatively narrow role or task that is done to help move a business toward its overarching goals (e.g., sales or growth targets). Businesses generally have many functional groups—like Finance, Customer Service, Quality Control—that work together. Connecting: This is the act of finding, contacting and engaging with people, prospects, customers, etc. Stakeholder: This is a person or entity (e.g., company, governmental body, community) that has some sort of vested interest in a company and its products and services. Audience: These are your people! This is the group of folks you're targeting with your marcom efforts. They are the ones that will hopefully be engaging with your biz and enabling you to meet those company goals. Conveying: This is the act of actually sharing or spreading content. It can be done via a number of media and methods. Message: This is more than just the vocabulary you use. On a surface level, it's also the voice and tone of those words. It's the colors, imagery, and branding. It's the platforms, channels, and media you leverage. On a different level, it's the actual product, services, information, content, values, personality, etc. themselves that you're putting out into the world. Mobilizing: This is the act of getting someone to actually do something. It's driving them from thinking to performing. Action: This is the thing you want your audience member to do. It could be to sign up for your email list, purchase a product, call for more info, back your campaign, etc. When this action is taken, it moves your business toward accomplishing its goals. See? It's clearer already! That strange sensation you may be experiencing is demystification. What Marcom Isn't Just a quick, clarifying note. Yah, it's a small detour, but I promise we'll get back to the main route asap. Marketing communications isn't Sales. It isn't Biz Dev. It isn't Account Management, Customer Success, Training & Development. These are other departments and functions. A quality marcom team works closely with these other functions (and others) to be effective, though. Synergy! Marcom may or may not include Creative or Interactive teams—there are infinite ways for a company to organize itself, yah? It's important to understand that marketing communications is not an exact discipline; it's an ever-wavering mix of art and science. The Marcom Mix At a High Level Marketing communications isn't a single, homogeneous blob of a thing. It's like an orchestra: a bunch of different players, instruments, pieces of music, format and venues all working together (hopefully!) to create sweet melodies for the listeners' ears. And it changes over time, a "living organism." In marcom, the players are the copywriters, social media manager, designers, web masters and so on. It's a blend of creative types and more administrative, support or operation types. It takes a village! The instruments of marketing communications are words, images, audio and video. Which you use to create pieces of marcom music: web copy, social media updates, product videos, etc. Music comes in various formats—vinyl, CDs, streaming, live. Format for marketing communications is similar—published (digital and print), live streaming, on-demand, live-and-in-person (events). The music halls of marcom are the platforms, apps and places that host your marketing communications "music" in your chosen "format." Uh...Give Me Some Visuals Please! This article gives a nice, though somewhat dated, rundown of the elements of a marcom mix. It will get you thinking in the right direction. But your marketing communications mix should include modern practices and approaches (e.g., use of social and other digital media). The colorful diagram is useful, too, for us visual learners. (That's me!) This explainer might also help to frame it up for you. To borrow from the orchestra analogy above, the verticals music/formats. The horizontals give details and examples. Definitely click on the image to get to the full PDF version, which has additional information (i.e., some context). Marcom is Dialogues, Not Monologues Marketing communications is...communications! Maybe this is a giant "DUH!" but it's worth stating explicitly. It's that important of a concept. Communication means multi-directional, multi-modal conversations. Even when you're broadcasting out to an audience, you should have feedback mechanisms built into your processes and campaigns. Having this back and forth is critical to your business. It keeps you honest and focused. (Oh, folks will let you know if you've over-promised and under-delivered! Don't you worry about that.) It helps you evolve your offerings and messaging. It enables you to be responsive and address issues with agility. It builds rapport with stakeholders so you can really solidify your brand, build trust and engage ambassadors and advocates. (Yay, happy PR!) Marcom Context Matters Other articles I've seen on this topic that haven't directly addressed this dimension of what marcom is. But, it absolutely makes a difference. Where/to whom you're marketing and communicating impacts every aspect of this function. B2C This is "Business to Consumer." It's marcom that's going from a business (e.g., company, non-profit, organization, etc.) to its consumers (e.g., users, buyers, subscribers, etc.). It's what you're probably most familiar with, and what comes to mind first, when you hear "marketing communications." That's legit. After all, you are probably bombarded all day every day with marcom from companies and organizations vying for your attention and $$$. B2B This is "Business to Business." As you probably can guess, it's marcom from one business to another. In this scenario, the recipient biz is the customer, client or consumer. Generally, what's being marketed are professional or industrial products or services that the customer business needs to produce their own products and services, and run their own biz ops. Internal Possibly the least considered is the marcom that occurs within an organization. As opposed to externally, outside the organization. This goes by many names, like Internal Communications or Employee Communications. It's often folded into the HR function, though larger companies may have a dedicated team (outside of and separate from HR). The role of internal marketing communications varies from organization to organization but can include organizational announcements, employee events and programs, perks and benefits, etc. Essentially it's trying to accomplish a similar goal as B2C or B2B marcom (inform, compel, engage, mobilize, whatever the call to action is) just with a different audience. Help & More Resources The Marcom Explained table above is a handy resource as you begin to learn about marketing communications. I've been doing marcom for years and still look at it sometimes to keep me on point, kind of like a checklist or memory jogger. For more goodies, swing by the Resources page. And, of course, you can always reach out to me for help. And, be sure to stay connected by subscribing to my email list and via social media. This is how I tell the world about new blog posts and Resources that will help them strike back at their business challenges. Crowd Wisdom Marcom-Style How do you define marketing communications? What are your favorite marcom tips and resources? Share your thoughts and knowledge in the Comments section below. Thanks! Learn More About Marketing Communications We just scratched the surface here. Future installments in this Back to Basics: Marcom series will focus on other dimensions of marketing communications. Now that you know about the What, we'll explore the Whys, Hows and more. So subscribe to BrainWrap or check back soon. Thanks!
- 50 Blog Post Ideas for Businesses
Blow away the overwhelm or writer's block with this big, bad seed list of blog prompts! Blogging can be an effective way to flesh out your business’ online presence, engage with prospective and current customers, bolster your brand and reputation, strengthen SEO, and more. (Plus, it can be a lot of fun! And who doesn’t need a creative outlet?) Blogging 101 – The Basics Keep these best practices in mind as you create your blog post. Sometimes it’s easier to get started if you have some guardrails…. Always Include the Following in Your Blog Posts Heading 1 and Heading 2 tags. Goal: Improve readability and SEO. Text formatting like bulleted/numbered lists, bolding, italicizing and blockquoting. Goal: Improve scannability and provide text style variation. Imagery (pictures, graphs, etc.), tables, video. Audio is good, too. Goal: Break up a page of just text and provide some visual interest/variation. Backlinks and crosslinks. Goal: Point to other places in your website that you want folks to see; link to related web content (like social media platforms). More Pro Tips Open links to content and to outside of your website in new browser tabs. This includes attachments, assets and third-party sites/platforms. You want to make it easy for people to stay in your website. Call for reader participation. Be explicit. Ask open-ended questions. Request input or feedback. Remind them that there’s a Comments section. Create a series out of these prompt ideas. For example, create a periodic series of posts featuring interviews with your best clients, or a monthly gratitude practice post that acknowledges all the good things that have transpired. This facilitates planning and gets even more mileage out of your blogging efforts. (It’s easier to start writing if you already have a seed of an idea!) Start with an outline. It’ll give you structure and direction. You may find that it’s best to write the title after drafting your post. Be consistent; create an editorial calendar. Map out posts so you know what workload to anticipate and when. This helps you budget (time and money) and build rapport with readers. Blog Post Seed List The suggestions below are intended to jumpstart your blogging. While grouped to help bring some order to the chaos of a long list, some post ideas could fit in multiple categories. So, take a prompt and run with it! Announcements & Updates Events – Use your post as a landing page with a link off to the RSVP page. Or, use it to bring more attention to an event you’ve posted elsewhere (and then link off to it). New Content – Promote your new video/resource/product page/etc. or revamped website. Lead people to the new stuff. Give them a tour so to speak. New Offering – Launching a product, service or location? Announce it, VIP-style. Newsletter – Recap recent happenings and announce near-term noteworthy tidbits. News Flash – Share company updates, or post your press releases to your site. Brand & Culture Community Involvement – Share ways you’re helping out in your area or industry. Highlight how you’re supporting a cause. Great for humanizing a business. Differentiators – Explore how your biz isn't like your competitors. Why do you stand out? What sets you apart? How are you better? Why should people flock to you? Good Ol' Rant – This is a free-form stream of consciousness on a topic of your choice. Do this in an authentic-but-professional way (as you're representing your biz). Gratitude – Give thanks for the good stuff. Appreciate “wins.” Spread some positivity. Inspiration – Impart words of wisdom or motivation. Sometimes people are looking for a little boost. Intention-Setting – Lay it out there. Say how you want your business, program, campaign or clients (or whatever) to be, relate or do. Declare an underlying purpose. Points of Pride – What's making your chest puff with pride? Non-braggingly, share. Response to Current Events – Show your biz is keeping up with what’s going on in the world around it. Underscore your understanding of critical issues. It can let readers know your position, values, priorities. People & Team Interview/Q&A – Talk to others and relay those convos via your blog. You can write this as a narrative or — even quicker and easier — as question/answer couplets. Kudos – Shower a person or biz partner with praise; explain why he or she earned it. Meet the Team - Introduce each team member in a post that's a bit more fleshed out and personal than their professional bio (that may be elsewhere on the site). Personal Profile – Do a feature on a person who has significance to your biz or industry. This could be a mentor, advisor, innovator, historical figure, etc. Plans & Progress 5-Year Plan – Roadmap for your biz’s future. Call out your priorities and motivators. Achievements – Toot your own horn! Feature milestones you’ve reached, awards you’ve won, important rankings you’ve attained. Aims & Aspirations – Got dreams and goals? Tell folks what you want to accomplish. Reflections – Consider lessons learned and discuss inferred meaning. Storytelling A-Musing – Give commentary on a topic: its meaning, how it connects to other things, its broader impact. This is an Op Ed; it's ok to give your opinion. Curated Gallery – Ideal for visual artists who speak in images more comfortably than words. Showcase your work while providing context. Fortunately/Unfortunately – This is a fun way to point out pitfalls of competitors/circumstances/etc. and how your biz is the solution. It follows a pattern in which you make an “unfortunately” statement then a “fortunately” statement. Repeat until you’ve told a story or made your point. Imagine if.... – Explore a possible future. Fantasize about an alternate reality. Discuss how, if you change just one variable, outcomes could be better (then pitch your business as the bearer of that solution). Listicle – Take a cue from Buzzfeed and create a list of something. It can be any number of items, just be specific. (e.g., Say “17 Reasons to Get Organic Kibble” rather than “15+ Reasons….”) Photo Essay – Great option if you’re a visual artist or storyteller of any kind. Pictures catch people’s attention immediately. This is a powerful way to convey info. Round’em Up – Rally around a well-defined topical theme. Your post should articulate what the theme is and why it matters, as well as explain why each item is special/included. Storytime – Enchant readers. Your goal may be to entertain, or to push an agenda. Today’s the Day – Write something related to a holiday, “national day of __”, “__ history month”, etc. Top 10 – You know this one. Run with it. Just make it relevant to your biz. Compare & Critique Before & After – Show progress between then and now. Timelines and before-and-after and historical-vs-present-day pics work great in this sort of post. Comparison – Pit A against B. Or show how A and B differ. This may take the form of comparing your biz/product to competitors or your products against one another. Review/Testimonials – Everyone likes reviews. You’ve done the tedious job of researching and testing something out for them. You’re giving them food for thought, saving them time or giving them direction. Trends – Discuss patterns you’re noticing. Draw a line from the trends to what they mean going forward. Value Proposition – Propose the merits of doing something vs not doing something. Guide, Inform, Teach Education – Straight out teach readers something. Pass on knowledge in a narrative. FAQs – Turn each A into a post that addresses the Q. Follow the Leader – Guide readers through a process or provide actionable info. Guided Meditation – This is an awesome one if you’re in the health and wellness sector! It makes for a great audio/audio-over-sound-visualization post. How-To – Show step-by-step how to do something. Include pictures/video plus written instructions. This is ideal for DIY projects, teaching software, etc. PSA, aka Knowledge is Power – This kind of post is less about your biz and more about informing or awareness raising about a specific topic. Its intention is to serve the public good, not yours (though it can certainly offer opportunity to also benefit you — but that’s not the main thrust). Recipe – Another easy win for health and wellness, food and beverage, travel and culture or lifestyle businesses. Recipes can also be woven in to other content, like a recounting of a recent trip. Tips & Tricks – Give pro tips on how to do or make something better/faster/cheaper/easier/etc. Customer-Centric Are You A ____? – These are great posts because they immediately involve readers. They get readers to picture themselves as something or to join a “team.” Show how you can help that type of person. Contest – Pitch a contest and then (in a separate post!) showcase the winners. Good Client/Bad Client – Outline what makes an ideal customer. This can help prospects self-qualify, save you time and effort by preparing clients proactively, and facilitate account management. Marquee Customer– Spotlight a customer who has significance to your biz. This could be a success story, testimonial, personal profile, etc. Survey Says – Create a poll or questionnaire post. Great for gathering feedback. This or That – Ask your readers to make a choice. This could be just for fun, or it could have real impact — like which features to add to your product, services to discontinue, or charities to sponsor. Help & Resources Use the handy printer-friendly version below to keep this list close by. (Note: This post is slightly different than the linked-to take-away. I've added more post prompts, refined some of the descriptions and linked to some examples.) For more goodies, swing by the Resources page. And, of course, you can always reach out to me for help. (I write, edit and advise on blogging as part of my service offerings.) And, be sure to stay connected by subscribing to my email list and via social media. This is how I tell the world about new blog posts and Resources that will help them strike back at their business challenges. Crowd Wisdom What are your favorite blog post ideas? Share your go-to prompts, or the ones that make the kind of posts you want to read. Thanks!
- Does This Biz Want You to Buzz Off?
8 reasons we have a failure to communicate... Communication is a tricky thing. It's complex. It's multi-layered. It can be subjective as h-e-double🏒. That said, IMHO this coupon that came in my weekly circular is a communication flop. Why do I believe this is a communications fail? Here are some reasons. And, just so you don't think I'm nothing but a naysayer, I've dappled in suggestions, alternative approaches and fixes! Practicality, hello: How are they going to implement this? You can't necessarily tell if a device is off. It'd be pretty invasive for your waiter to check throughout your meal. And, if you say your phone was off during the meal but you turn it on afterward — you know, to calculate that tip — are they going to argue with you and deny the discount? There's just no good way to enforce the terms of this coupon. We're living in a connected world: What about other connected devices? Are they asking you to turn off your watch or fitness tracker, too? Again, this isn't really practical, appropriate or enforceable. Social Media Foodies: No phone = no camera = no snapshots = no posting. We all know those folks who live by the creed, "If there's no pic of it, it didn't happen." It's fairly commonplace to photograph meals or check in at restaurants. This is second nature to many. Besides, why wouldn't a restau want folks publicizing its biz FOR FREE?! Unless their restaurant/food are or appear to be unappetizing.... The takeaway (← See what I did there? Geez, I ❤️ puns!) here is: Let people share their experiences with your business. In fact, leverage this as a way to engage with them even more (e.g., via contests and giveaways). In¢entive$: OK, so you can get $8 off your meal or you can get only $5 off but you also need to shut down your phone? That doesn't make sense. The math incentivizes you to do the $8-off deal and your ringing phone be damned. Purpose & Clarity: What are they trying to accomplish with the ad/coupons? Get bodies in the door or create a certain kind of ambiance? I'd guess they're running this promotion to get people to eat at their establishment. If so, the whole piece in the circular should be about the food, the environment, the service, etc. to entice new and repeat customers. Align the Promo: Consider adjusting the offer. Instead of stipulating turning off cell phones, the restaurant could offer a deal for dinners who come in during the typically slower hours. This would mean customer traffic — and the corresponding noise — would be more spread out. The net effect is that it would be quieter during the traditional "dinner" hours because there'd be less of a rush of hungry-hungries. (And, this might reap other operational benefits for a biz, too.) Goal-Oriented Comms: There are other — more appropriate and sensible — ways to promote a quiet, undistracted dining experience. Firstly, it's a bit weird to ask people to turn off their phones in your restau before they've even decided to go there. Tell them when they arrive. Which leads me to a second point. Asking for specific behaviors should be done at the place where the behavior is desired. It's more in context and bounded. It's within the confines of the private establishment being visited. Lastly, there are many opportunities and methods of making the actual request in a polite-yet-assertive way: Post a sign at the hostess stand, put it at the bottom of every page of the menu, etc. Phrase it as a request like "For the comfort and enjoyment of all diners, please turn off or silence your cell phone. Thank you!" (More casual or quirky businesses can take liberties with the messaging so that it fits their voice/tone/theme/etc.). It's Not All About the Comms: In addition to digital and print communications, you can architect an environment that supports your desired behaviors or ambiance. For example, if the aim is to have a quiet restaurant: Install carpets, curtains and upholstered chairs/banquettes. Use cloth napkins and tablecloths. Space out and stagger tables so they aren't all aligned in a sound wave-amplifying formation. Have potted plants and other decorations. Opt for the occasional column, post or divider in the dining room instead of a vast, airy space. Avoid having an open loft. Don't blare loud background music. Big, open areas and hard surfaces exacerbate noise; soft surfaces and intimate spaces absorb sound. You get the idea — design the physical to match the objectives. So what you say? Perhaps this all seems a bit nit-picky. Maybe. I'd like to argue, though, that words and structures and so on matter. What you put out there is a representation of your biz and its values, priorities, personality, etc. How do you want others to think or feel about your business? You should use all the tools at your disposal to create a positive, enduring impression and to convert prospects into customers. Extrapolate, please! This post uses a restaurant as the example. But we've all probably seen needless communications disasters in other sectors. These pitfalls and insights can be applied to countless other businesses. It just takes some time, patience, thoughtfulness and caring. And a bit of skill and practice. (If you lack any of these qualities, I'm here for you! Say Hi! today — I can help you out. 👍) Help & Resources You can also find some helpful goodies in the Resources Center. And, be sure to stay connected by subscribing to my email list and via social media. This is how I tell the world about new blog posts and Resources that will help them strike back at their business challenges. What are your thoughts? What do you think of this coupon/advert — is it acceptable to you or falling short? What do you think about tying intent to the form and message? Do you have examples of what you think are advertising flops? What makes for a stellar promo communication?
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- Resources | Suzanne Brick Consulting
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- Portfolio: Process | Services | Suzanne Brick Consulting
Process Samples Process Sample: Setting Up a New SharePoint Site Over the course of my career, I have created (or reviewed and improved) and documented scores of processes. The processes have ranged from manufacturing medical devices to creating an email campaign in the marketing automation system. This sample shows a process I established and documented for setting up a new collaboration site. See Process Doc (PDF) For more samples, please contact me. Let's Talk Today Say Hi