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Photography Power

13 Sep

A picture speaks a thousand words. And cliches are turn-offs. So let’s begin again.

How much power is in your photography? Can someone glance at your marketing materials and get the gist of who you are and what you do? Or are they at least curious to focus on you another moment or two and make that determination?If they look at your website, photography, videography, print materials, building and then they look at a competitor’s site, materials, building – is there a difference that testifies to the brand you hope to represent?

Are you using stock photos? Most of the time, that’s not so great. For example, the photo you have placed in your beautiful investment may also be used in the nearby pharmacy or card store making a completely different point. You inadvertently compromise your quality or, worse, associate yourself with another brand unintentionally. No matter what great design you do with the photo, it is always less effective than a true-to-you, one-of-a-kind original. That’s tough, sometimes costly and feels like a burden I bet. Making a commitment to original photography is worth it. Stock photos have their place, but shouldn’t be your leading piece. If you’re really looking at unleashing some photography power on your PR, originals matter. When you think photography, think ORIGINAL. Beyond that, think creative. Think people. Think expectations. Think function. I’ll explain.

1. Creative.

Photography and other visual creations can stir more buzz than most headlines, speakers and events. Remember the movie Patch Adams when they put giant bent legs up on either side of the lecture hall’s door for the gynecology convention?

Photography and creative visuals make a point. Good or bad - they can make a big point!

Photography and creative visuals make a point. Good or bad – they can make a big point!

Horribly hilarious, right?

I’m not saying that was a good idea. And that wasn’t a photo, exactly, but I encourage you to get creative with your visuals so you’ll make the lasting impact you need. Here’s a link with funny photo and guerilla marketing/visual interest examples: http://www.creativeguerrillamarketing.com/guerrilla-marketing/the-80-best-guerilla-marketing-ideas-ive-ever-seen/.

Take the time to unleash real creative energy instead of sticking to the standard template or photo genre your organization always puts out year after year. It’s true that this has to be done well. You don’t want to deviate so far from the beaten path of your brand that it’s disconnected from your strategy. You must connect the dots between the creative goal and your overriding marketing need.

2. People.

Study after study site the powerful phenomenon that people love to see, look at and study other people. People also don’t have a realistic perception of who they are or how they appear. So, when you are marketing with photos of people, you’re getting into an entire realm of psychological factors in terms of your effort to trigger a positive, memorable, meaningful response. People do in fact relate most to photos of other people and are more likely to literally picture themselves in your product, service or the lifestyle associated with it when they see someone they relate to in your graphics. However, people photos can be overdone and may not be your best hook or lead piece. The book “Three and a Tree” makes many great marketing points, one of which suggests that many campus directories and promotional items feature three students wearing backpacks on a campus with a tree and a red brick building. Can’t you picture it now? The photos may be relatable in that case, but they’re not SPEAKING to the audience in a way that differentiates from anything else they’re studying. So, while photography of people can be super compelling and we’d encourage you to use them, it doesn’t trump advice to know your audience and create those meaningful distinctives early in your interactions.

Most marketers get a speech about diversity of photo subjects early on in their education; meaning a successful marketing doesn’t have all Caucasian, blond people on the cover of their products, so they broaden their appeal to everyone. Get some diversity worked in, considering race, age and other demographic factors that can be assumed or deduced from a visual. We love teasing Jordan Ihrig, our talented colleague, for being the perfect photo candidate because she’s not only beautiful, but somewhat mysterious. She could be perceived to be a broad range of ages and even races.

Beautiful, for sure!

Beautiful, for sure!

Ok, maybe we want to use her in photo/video shoots mostly because she’s just stunning. But you get the point. Diversity matters. You want to be this happy mom on the beach with a happy energetic kiddo whether you’re 22 or 36, indian, oriental, black or white; rich or poor – or a variety of other demographic factors. So, while demographic diversity matters, it only matters to the degree that’s realistic for what your organization is really like. For example, if you have a campus with lots of white people and a ton of people from Korea and a small scattering of other backgrounds, your materials for recruiting new students need to paint an accurate expectation. That leads me into our next point.

3. Expectations. Marketing is persuasive education. I know – you’ve heard me say that over & over. Really great marketing is most persuasive and effective because it carefully manages the expectation of your target audience. If your website is sleek and beautiful but someone shows up at your place of business and it’s run down and dirty, there’s a mixed message and an unhappy patron. If your leaders are displayed on the website and social media galleries wearing suits & carefully photo shopped for less wrinkles & flaws, but then they show up at an event or in business casual and tired – again, there’s a mixed message and an unhappy patron. You need to manage the expectation that is realistic to what you will consistently deliver.

Not only do you need to manage an expectation that’s realistic, but you also need to manage an expectation that’s idealistic. You need to think about not only the kind of customer and team member you have (realistic), but the kind of customer and team member you WANT (idealistic). This goes back to overall operational goals and system analyses your Beacon team is proud to offer, unlike many other creative firms. If you’re not represented by the best of your workforce, your marketing is ultimately less effective. Let’s work on attracting and representing your group with a better set of employees – whether that’s training for current colleagues or some transitions. If you’re not being honored by the customers you have – they’re unkind, slow to pay, confused, disrespectful, in-compliant – let’s develop a clear picture of your ideal customer and how to target them. THEN, you’ll have photos that not only set a clear expectation for what IS but position you to effectively transform into what you want TO BE!

4. Think function. No matter how neat the photo is, if it’s not clearly visible, it doesn’t work. Consider the medium the photo will be used with, what distance it needs to be legible, who will be attempting to dicipher its meaning, how long it will be on display and what aging protections need to be considered, the life cycle of your piece and other factors. Make sure your photo is used in a functional way, or its worth is lost. Test it in a variety of networks in case it has a connotation of which you’re not aware. Don’t get so creative that you forget the basic function of the end project.

 

I bet I’ll think of more photography advice, but it’s Friday night and we all gotta go be with our loved ones. Right? Right! Thanks for reading. Pass it on & share your thoughts or favorite photos with us somehow. We’d love to see.

Oh & here’s a super quick video summary from Beacon Marketing Strategist Lane Bruder on photography: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PI6qlz4zSOU

If you’re looking for a professional photographer in the Stillwater, Oklahoma area, we’ve had great success with Brent Niles lately of BBJN Designs. We have others we’ve worked with well and there are a few members of our team with high tech cameras and professional training. We’ll be glad to connect you and/or help oversee the creative process, including photography efforts.

 

:: Have a great weekend. Our best to you always. Enjoy that photography. TELL A STORY WORTH TELLING! ::

 

Being Beacon

6 Sep

The transition from summer to the start of the school year has been a time of change here at Beacon. We’ve had one member of our team (Laurie) make an exciting move to Kentucky. She’s still involved and connected to your cause, even though she’s on a new adventure. We also welcomed a talented graphic designer to the team, Kala McDonald. All along the way, we join together to cheer you and our clients toward new goals.

Yes, even with all these changes, we’re still Beacon at our core. What does it mean to “be Beacon?” Well, we are committed to helping light your way to relationships and results. At Beacon, we believe in good thinking and the balance of both efficiency and effectiveness.

Think of this blog as our continued effort to share these qualities through the categories of marketing, life reflections and even some midwest-specific PR. One of our talented researchers, writers & marketing strategists, Sarah Andrews, will help update this blog throughout the fall with news, musings and other bits of information relevant to the world of PR and marketing. May good thinking and the E:E ratio inspire your communication.

Our best to you,

The Beacon Team

Open the Door

3 Sep

Open the door. Seems easy enough. But, hey, we’ve had many a sales guy tell us there are times when they’d rather just drive on by than stop, open the car door, open a potential customer’s door and present options before calling on a decision to be made. Whether you’re in sales or not, your professional paths are sure to come across some moments when the best thing you do is open that door and make the introduction or present the deal. So, could you agree that sometimes opening the door is the toughest part of making a sale?

Opening the door can also carry significant figurative weight. “God never closes one door without opening another” has been featured on countless trinkets, encouraging people to keep their heads up and press ahead through tough times.

You can imagine the panic of someone locked in or locked out who is demanding “OPEN THE DOOR!” I was recently shut out of my own nine-year-old daughter’s room. I said “open the door” quite clearly and I was not thinking of the phrase’s sales or life perspectives. I had an immediate need to reach her and I was emphatic that the door open right away.

Have you ever had stage fright? The door might be a curtain or it might be just a fear to take that first step and open the door of your public criticism (or praise). Yikes – open the door and step out in front of others. Leadership is tough and performing is tough, but we’re sometimes called to take that step, aren’t we?

Many of us church-raised people have been singing songs about Jesus knocking at the door our entire lives. Yes, he’s knocking and all we have to do is…there it is again…open the door. That signifies an opening of our hearts, minds and will to that of the supreme Savior who can and will transform our lives and who will declare our eternities.

So, those three words “Open the Door” could mean something different to all of us.

When the blog schedule (which I’ve clearly not held to well at all) was first drafted, I was supposed to write a blog for each letter of the alphabet. They’re all marketing-related, tip-oriented topics and so, at the time of that calendar commitment, this blog was intended to motivate you as marketing and sales people – as communicators – to open the door and get the job done. See the task ahead and start taking steps to get there. Work through the tough moments and keep opening doors, cutting red tape, communicating your way through objections and getting closer to the solution and/or goal. I still feel a sincere calling to urge you to be tenacious in the task you have and work diligently toward the end goal. That starts with a goal, with a clear desire to reach the cause. GIVE A CARE. Want it. Get to it. Open that door and make it happen. I am great at this in some aspects of my life (like PR plans for clients) and horrible about this in other aspects of my life (like exercise plans). So, I know it’s tough and I hope this catches you at a time when you can claim a new mantra. Just open the door. One more step. Put yourself in the position to get it done and get it done well. Be there. Open. The. Door.

So, that’s the point I wanted to make and that I’m glad to make on Beacon’s behalf. We have had that conversation with numerous clients who just needed to get the foot out there, put it down in a forward motion and take the next step. We’re glad to come alongside them and help them be more confident and prepared and focused as they do so. If you’ll humor me, though, I’d like to take this topic in a completely new direction that’s a little more about my personal life than my Beacon advice. That ok?

Ok.

Open the door. Sigh. Where do I begin? Years ago Natalie Grant came out with a CD (remember the shiny, flat, round things we used to put in hardware audio devices before we all played music on our handhelds?). Her CD had themes of surrender that struck me in a meaningful way. Coupled with prayer and journaling moments – intimate moments with my amazing friend Jesus (I just can’t make that sound cool to some of you, I know. I’m a dork. Read on.) – I discovered areas of my life that I was refusing to surrender. Over a period of months, I began to sing that CD to the skies all times of the day and at all volumes from silent prayers to tearful cries. I was ready for God to awaken me and use me, no matter what. I was prepared for him to hold me, even if it doesn’t work out like I’d hope. The wreckage that unfolded soon after has been devastating. Everything crumbled slowly and painfully, yet I felt God’s unwavering sustenance and guidance. Years later, it all still hurts but I know I there was a nearly miraculous transformation that freed some souls when I opened the door; when I raised my hands and told God to clean our lives and use us best. I’m still not sure what His purpose was in some of that situations. Both the process and end result have not been beautiful and easy. Yet I trust. I have an open hymnal on my piano turned to “Wherever He Leads, I’ll Go,” and that is just where I camped my heart. I learned that being RIGHT can feel better than being HAPPY in some strange way. Peace and joy would seep out of our lives and our testimonies, even though we were amidst painful situations and being persecuted with lies. I know God’s growing me and my girls, and even some friendships through this but shew – it bites.

Another chapter of that strange whirlwind-like experience has come more recently as I became convicted about some other issues, like financial responsibility. I felt I needed to rediscover some better ways of managing our budget. More pressing, I was coping with constant reminders that my kids were in chaotic, stressful situations. While I had believed, for several years, that we would always be in that yucky circumstance and we must just endure, it’s clear to me now that He orchestrated a variety of conversations and situations together for my clarity. Could He care so much for little ol’ me; for just our little bunch? It’s overwhelming! It creates a sense of awe and fear at the same time. I again (but still reluctantly) began to OPEN THE DOORs of my life; doors I didn’t realize I had closed. I addressed responsibilities I had already given over to the providence of God, yet somehow taken back over into my corners of worry and fruitless work. I opened the door and surrendered all the way again. That led me to make a decision with full confidence and zero doubt. We moved a few states away. Quickly. Nuts? Maybe a little. Right? Absolutely. Stressed? Umm, yes! At peace? In all the ways that count, yep! So, here we are.

My prayer is that I never get stuck in the daily grind again in such a way that the doors close. I think any fruit my life did bear quickly rotted by the rest of my stinky attitude and ignorance. I was definitely cramping things and flailing around frustrated. So, my goal is to stop that and open the door to new. I pray we stay focused on Him on a daily – no momentary – basis so that a surrender to Him isn’t such a life-shaking event, but rather a lifestyle. It is through Him and only through Him that we’ll be ok. Right? I mean we can’t try any harder, do any better, endure any longer, cope any stronger. It’s not even about us and our state of comfort. That’s the entirely wrong gauge on the entirely wrong instrument for getting through life. Reminds me of Ephesians, among other books. Chapter 2 verses 9 & 10 NLT say “Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Love that! It’s about his plan – not us at all. So read the whole thing…it’s all so good. I love when you work on into Ephesians 3:16-19, again NLT, where it says “I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Let’s all pray that together and be made complete for his purpose. Let’s open our doors and refocus our lives on what really matters because, whether you’re an Oklahoman or a Kentuckian, you know the point here is that it ain’t about us! Only he can make the way.

Ok, enough personal gushing.

::Open the door! Love ya’ll!::

Never Say Never?

9 Jul

Never say never. Well, sometimes say never. Strong COEs make decisions. They don’t get stuck in an almost decision or suffer from that ongoing task force to address every possible issue pertaining to the decision that should’ve already been made. Sometimes you have to make a firm decision. Draw a line in the sand. Sometimes you have to forget the popular choice, do what’s right and press ahead with clear focus. As a strong communicator, you must listen carefully to make educated decisions and then – scary as it may be – you must make that decision and stick with it. Do what’s ultimately good for the end goal. Making the decision is only part of the success story. Communication (both listening and presenting) will get the ball the rest of the way to the goal. You’ll be a better decision maker when you’re listening well and you’ll be a better communicator when you are passionate about the decision and resulting outcomes. Be confident in your daily marketing and overall operations decisions – even the far-reaching, occasional claims for “never” and “always”. Knowing when to say never is a skill, so study other decision makers, leaders and wildly successful individuals, teams and organizations. Learn from others’ strengths and mistakes. Let that inspiration feed you as you snowball it all up – your own powerful instincts, the leading of your creator, all the input you can gather about the decision before you and the provided circumstances – snowball it all up into one big, giant, good mix of nevers, sometimeses, maybes and alwayses you believe in and communicate well. People will join you.

Master, Pro, Guru, Expert, Opinion Leader…

7 Jul

“Strive for mastery, big or small. Your audience will be impressed.” That’s the closing line of this quick video, narrated by Beacon PR’s strategist Rebecca Henley (and we think she says niche funny. Don’t you? Ha!) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3XmzpBRNbg Well, what do you think about that statement and the idea that being THE pro will matter to your target audience?

Example one for your consideration: Do you think most preachers know Dr. Moeller’s general position on hot topics today? Just take a preview of the topics highlighted on the left pane of his blog http://www.albertmohler.com/. He’s taking a stance and staying in the content marketing arena regularly. If you’re a prospective seminary student or a pastor looking for the next book to read, do you see how it’s easy to respect Dr. Moeller’s level of notoriety and industry-recognized expertise? Do you think professors and other leaders are eager to be part of his administration at Southern Seminary?

Example two: When a colleague expressed interest in adding another monitor to our office for presentations, why do you think I was so quick to mention a client who can advise us from concept to installation? Aspen Custom Electronics knows the latest in digital signage, beyond just a conference room style TV set up. They’ll mount it and I can stay focused on doing what I do – not putting screws in the wrong place or investing in last year’s technology instead of the modern versions. I trust them with that decision and want to rely on their expertise.

I could go on! Look to the global marketing for your industry, the regional habits of your subject area and your local perspectives. Do you see gurus? The go-to person?

While every campaign Beacon touches is completely customized and no one size fits all, my bet is that your audience will care about your level of expertise, at least to some degree.

Strive for mastery, big or small. Your audience will be impressed. In today’s information age, content is king. Your ability to create meaningful material for the web-scouring potential customers out there will be crucial to your success. Harvesting success stories from existing customers and turning them into branding ambassadors and/or additional content creators will be another key aspect of your marketing programming. Gone are the days when marketing plans consist of direct mail, enews, media hits, signage, ads and a few special events. Regular content blitzing into every channel viewers may be peeking is the name of the game. Content marketing is the game changer and your marketing budgets and plans need to be keeping up. Your website is the hub, so ensure that it’s built on the best platform with the greatest security for the future – all centered around a content manager that empowers dynamic updates and customization. Gone are the days when “experts” had to have PhDs and spent each waking moment in research and teaching. Some still do, but you can add a megaphone to your brand through positioning yourself or others on your team as the guru, expert and go-to pro. Find your niche (neesh, as Rebecca would say 🙂 ) and build your level of expertise to such a fluent level, you have information and content pouring – oozing – out of you with confidence and clarity. Package that in a meaningful, relevant, powerful, professional yet real and fast manner. Your audience will stand up and take notice while competitors look on and wonder how you’re churning it out. Building momentum from the expertise you can portray through effective marketing systems will help add fuel to the fire when editors take notice, stories are placed, and visitors pour in. Be THAT GUY. Be the guru. Make it happen. LOVE IT every step of the way!

:: Need help? Beacon can explain content marketing more and help you find your voice and prioritize the right channels. Here’s to your mastery! ::

Is Leadership a Pass/Fail Journey?

5 Jul

Is leadership a pass/fail journey? If so, what are the criteria, who are the judges and when are grades reported?

Many leaders don’t even acknowledge they’re leaders. They have a position and they view their daytime hours as a job or possibly a career; but not exactly leadership. Some equate leadership with some level of management – like you’re only in “leadership” if there’s a VP in your title. YOU are a leader if you’re a mom, a student, a teacher, an administrative assistant or a CEO. Whatever our path, we all have points of leadership and the potential of guiding others and an overall group in a certain direction. So, while there are basic performance expectations of your position at work (whether carefully crafted forms in a corporate procedure and protocol manual or even just loosely stated expectations from a loved one), your pass/fail journey through leadership efforts doesn’t work that way.

How do you define good leadership?

Focus on the kind of leader you WANT to be. Starting there is wise because you zoom out from the realities of today’s pressure, circumstances and limitations. You take the lid off and really dream. How do you want people to describe you in the future? Invest some time to envision your future as a leader. In Cathy Jameson’s new blog, http://www.CathyJameson.com, she sets a tone for what will continue to be a great outpouring of her beliefs about “leadership of self and others”. Check it out. Also, drop by Cathy McCullough’s resource for leaders, http://www.LeaderHuddle.com. Meanwhile, think carefully about your goals as a leader, personally and professionally. Write those goals and put plans into motion to begin making them happen.

Focus on who you are today. You can’t set out to be a subject matter expert or reputable content marketing creator (hint for our next blog) if you don’t have that skillset, haven’t done that research and/or aren’t qualified. Be an expert before you set your sights on being a leader.

Treat leadership like a skillset you must craft. Prioritize the agenda laid out before you on your ideal leadership goals. Then you’ll define your own criteria, you’ll study the traits of great leaders and learn from others to refine your weaknesses into strengths and to amplify your innate positive qualities. Work for leadership and you’ll find that you’re passing one day at a time, as judged by all audiences including the one that may matter most to your future: you!

:: Rest well. Work hard. Be led. Do right. We’ll be cheering you on! ::

P.S. Here’s a quick video to get your wheels turning in exploring your leadership plans, in the voice of Beacon PR designer & strategist Rebecca Henley. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbPpx4hdr74

Drop the “I” and Identify With Your Audience!

2 Nov

I have x years of experience. I provide the following services. I sell the following products. I, I, I = blah! What reader is going to hang on to hear how awesome you are when all that’s going through their mind is a determination to find an answer to their question; a solution for their need; an entertainment for their moment? They can link away from you as fast as they linked into you. If you miss your moment to relate to your reader and engage your viewer because you’re coming from I – I – I land. Well. That’s tragic.

Here’s our Beacon marketing challenge to you for today: Focus on the reader, viewer or person you’re talking to! Make it about them. You only have so much time to make your message fit into what’s relevant to them. Replace I – I – I with you – you – you. Rephrase even the most standard of statements so your audience always gets the point in a way that’s oriented to them and not you. Shut up and listen. Engage. Have enough integrity to identify with others!

My mama always told us “You first and me too” when she was teaching us how to deal with others. Her point was that we should always be mannerly and put others first, whether we’re opening a door for someone and following them in or simply listening to someone present an idea before tossing out our viewpoint.

This “others oriented” way of living is not innate and it isn’t always rewarded, but we think it’s the way to be. Certainly, I’m telling you now today without question, it IS the way to market and effectively communicate a promotional campaign. YOU FIRST!

The “me too” amendment was also important when it came to mom’s lesson. Putting others first without ever asserting one’s own needs can be unhealthy in personal relationships. Doormats who can’t stand up for themselves can be victimized or enablers, among other things. We must be as “self secure” as we are “others oriented”.

In marketing, the “me too” is also important because you will have a chance to tell someone what solution you provide once you understand their problem, need or desire. So, your “me too” opportunity to present your side of things can actually be more on target and better received because you appropriately let the “you first” mentality lead you right into an understanding of the other person’s pains or hopes. As you deal with others, think “you first” and then feel free to communicate your needs in a way that matters to them. You first and me too.

Harsh as it may seem, people just don’t care about many of the details marketers might feel compelled to share with them. So, fight the urge to list the details about you and your brilliant expertise or years of experience. Instead, identify with what’s important to them. Take a note out and write “I, I, I” on it. Now put a big “X” over those letters. Then, write “Identify”. Then, post the note in a prominent place to remind yourself to drop your own story and, instead, seek ways to identify with the other person. What are they into? What benefit do you/your organization offer to them? Listening and identifying with others will create a huge difference in your communication and the success of your internal and external public relations.

Have enough integrity to drop the I and instead, identify! Run your business and live your life with integrity. Relate to others and eliminate the me/I in your mentality, language and ultimately, your strategic communications message. Watch language barriers that suggest a we/them or us/you way of thinking. Be on the same page – and do that by identifying with them first.

:: Here’s to a wonderful weekend for you…and I. For We! For Us Together! 😉 ::