Tag Archives: business

Understanding Instagram

14 Nov

BoomerLakeStillwater

“Look at this vintage photo I took of the lake near my work!”

This slightly sarcastic exclamation illustrates the assumption many have of Instagram being nothing more than a place to post pictures of one’s breakfast or bicycle. Although it is true that Instagram is a place to do this, many businesses such as Nike, Starbucks and the NBA have recognized the massive power of Instagram as a communication tool.

I took the photo above at Boomer Lake in Stillwater, Okla. Using Instagram, I uploaded the photo, added a filter, wrote a description, and placed the hashtag symbol in front of words in my description related to the picture.

So why should your business care about Instagram and how can you use it to help your business? I’ll answer these questions in my next post, “Instagram your business.” Before we dive into the potential value of Instagram for business, let’s take a minute to establish a basic understanding of what Instagram is and how it works.

Six things to know about instagram:

1. Instagram is a free social media app for iPhone and Android that was launched in 2010 and sold to Facebook in 2012. A username and photo are all that is required to start an account.

2. Instagram allows users to share photos and 15 second videos. These photos and videos can be found by anyone with an account. A follower of an account will automatically see uploads from the followed account in their feed.

3. Users can take photos or videos using the app or choose to upload photos previously taken on their phones. All photos will be cropped into the signature Instagram square. A variety of filters can be applied to a photo or video for a desired effect. Before posting, a user can write a description of the photo or video.

4. Like other social media sites, Instagram lets users put the hashtag symbol, #, in front of words in a photo’s description. These hashtags makes photos more searchable by other users, extending the reach of a photo.

5. Those with an Instagram account can “like” a photo or video by double clicking on it. Users can also comment on their own or another’s photo. Unless a user sets their account to “private,” their photos can be found by anyone with an account.

6. Instagram allows users to select to post their photos or videos on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr by providing their login info for the various accounts.

Now that you have a basic overview of what it is, try it out. Then watch for our next blog on how to maximize it for your business. If you’re wondering what photos in general may do for your promotional and customer education efforts, also see Laurie’s previous blog on the power of photography.

Connecting with audiences through Pinterest

16 Sep

Pinterest has come a long way since its beginning in 2010. In 2011, I began hearing statements like, “I just pinned the cutest idea for mason jar candles to my wedding board.” I didn’t initially understand what all the hype was about, but I started my own account and began creating my own cleverly-named craft, recipe and lifestyle boards.

There are about 70 million Pinterest users today. You ask what this statistic means for your organization’s communication goals? It means Pinterest is another medium your organization can use to connect with its audience. Pinterest has become more than a place to post recipes and craft projects. Many organizations from Southwest Airlines to the U.S. Army are leveraging Pinterest to reach an even broader audience.

Here at Beacon, we are in the process of creating our own Pinterest account. Below are three tips we’ve learned along the way that will help your organization as it considers creating an account.

1)  Show your organization’s personality through boards and pins:

Do you own a coffee shop? Consider pinning pictures of latte art, reading lists and pastry recipes. Think about what your brand offers beyond traditional products or services. What are the current trends in your industry? Identify these trends and use them to fuel ideas for your account.

Pinterest encourages businesses to “be authentic” and “show what inspires you.” So pin your organization’s passion. Through doing so, you invite others to share in your passion.

2) Create meaningful content for your followers:

Pins are essentially links to outside websites. Look at the online content your organization already has available and pin this content to your boards. These pins take pinners back to your website or blog.

Explore ways to create new content to share through your account. Don’t rely solely on the pins of others!

3) Interact with other pinners through likes, repins and comments:

Pinterest allows users to pin, like and comment on content.  Pinners can see when other users interact with their pins. Through participating in all these activities, you expand your presence on the site, which will hopefully result in pinners interacting with your pins in return.

Have any tips about using Pinterest for business? We want to hear!

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!::

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! ::

How would you grade your facilities?

11 Oct

Ok, so your website is rich with class and easy to navigate. Your team is handling callers well on the phone. Referrals are strong and you’re on a roll. Yet the first time a client, customer, patient, key vendors or crucial lead steps into your place of business, they’re greeted with cigarette butts, wilted plants, discarded candy wrappers, dead crickets or dirty windows. Paint colors aren’t at all like the rest of the online branding or printed materials that brought them to you and the chairs are dingy and worn. Your facility is, in essence, another medium in your branding package! Is it earning an A grade? Your signage and interior design are marketing. So, make them count.

“Wow, a PR firm with an opinion about my lobby colors?” If that’s what you’re thinking, join the crowd and welcome to the first step in understanding what’s different about the Beacon Public Relations team. We care about a great result for you. We can’t sleep at night when you invest in a beautiful website branded with, say, blue, green and black…and then never update your burgundy & beige lobby or create a system for keeping things clean. Even the best online presence we can create for you and the most perfectly placed ads we can design, record & place for you, are all wasted if they set an expectation your facility can’t uphold.

“Oh gosh, this is gross. Am I in the right place? I thought they were high tech and state-of-the-art, but this looks like state-of-the-70s, complete with cranky receptionist,” is the last transitionary thought we want crossing the minds of the leads we helped bring your way. The facility, the verbal skills and the overall operations of your organization are ALL going to play a role in the success of your marketing. So, it matters to us. Make sure and get a Beacon A (top grade) on your Beacon F (facilities). 😉

Hey, this is a tough one and we get that. We’re renting a space downtown and have invested obscene amounts (in my opinion, noting I’m crazy frugal) on signage, blinds and paint yet we still need carpet, a wall portfolio and much more. Now the window is broken and the landlord refuses to fix it now. The conference space has peach paint, water spots on the ceiling and aged matting on what could be really neat art. It’s tough to run a business and keep up with all of these details and we’re being challenged on this first hand more than ever before. We simply challenge you, like us, to be on a journey to improvement and acknowledge that our facilities and physical spaces are indeed a reflection of our level to quality and responsibility. Not only is important to be clean, but overly elaborate spaces can also send a message that could be detrimental to public opinion. I was in a new bank building today with a giant raised roof serving no purpose at all and more empty offices than occupied offices. Does that leave customers wondering how a bank can afford such obvious overspending? Does it make customers wonder why the bank isn’t doing well enough to fully staff their offices & fill their spaces? It most certainly crossed my mind. The point, again, is that your space planning matters. Clean, appropriate and on track with your overall messaging – that’s the key. Fancy? Not necessarily. Ornate? Not for everyone. Consider your audience, your industry and the factors unique to your situation and don’t cut corners. 

 

Thoughts? What facilities gross you out or impress you?

 

::

If you’re following the Beacon Mediauras & the Marketing Alphabet, you’ve seen that A is for your aura or brand, B is for finding the beacon or beacons that work to light your way. C is for the all-important link between creativity and a comprehensive strategy. D is for staying determined and on task. E is for the efficiency to effectiveness ratio. Now you know F is for facilities & how your literal image does in fact matter to your branding image. Visit www.DefineYourAura.com for more on Mediauras and an image linking to quickie, interactive videos on the entire Marketing Alphabet.

ABCs of Marketing – C is for Creative and Comprehensive

27 Sep

No matter how creative your designs are and ingenious your strategies may be, they aren’t going to work unless YOU’RE WORKING THEM! You have to have the entire comprehensive picture coming together for any creativity to really count. So, they (creative & comprehensive) go hand-in-hand.

Getting creative :: Sometimes getting creative means a fresh start, breaking loose, taking the lid off of what IS to think about what COULD BE. Break the status quo. Try something new. Start by reaching out far and wide. Make sure no “norms” are holding the creative spirit back. Then, we challenge you to go back to the basics. Think function and clarity. Creative designs that are cutesy and make the brand’s owner all thrilled because it “looks so snazzy,” can be failures if people can’t see them, remember them and act on them. Get creative, funky and totally jiggy with it. Then jump back into reality and see if your creative solution still works to press ahead. If so, WINNER!

Keeping focused on a comprehensive plan :: An awesome, clear and catchy brand that goes on some business cards – great. If it’s carried out into a look & feel for the online presence and other communications tools – now you’re talking! Creative solutions must be used, pumped out into the world, put into action. Comprehensive operational plans that work cohesively with strategic communications will always be more successful. PR and marketing efforts must intertwine with operational goals and the organization’s current and future direction. Creative deliverables and a series of completed tasks aren’t going to work unless YOU work THEM. “Working” them involves employing an intentional, comprehensive plan of action and tracking your results.  The best “strategic plan” will take you nowhere if it never moves past the binder of wish list documents and into a workable, achievable action plan about which your team is passionate.

Take Creativity and Comprehensive Marketing mentality to an organization-wide discussion. :: Your team’s commitment and your clear leadership will be crucial to the success of a creative, comprehensive, effective, efficient way of marketing. Having an opportunity for creative expression is helpful for every personality style and job description. Accountants and programmers need an opportunity to invest in the creative messaging, so don’t leave everything in the laps of your graphic designers and/or marketing reps. A team approach will not only create greater commitment but offer your normal “creative team” invaluable insights to keep the campaign grounded in the daily operational realities of the organization. Giving your team an opportunity to know where you’re headed with operational  contribute to creative direction will increase effectiveness in an overwhelmingly positive way.

 

 

Meet Beacon Designer Kylie Vincent & hear her take on Beacon’s “C is for Creative and Comprehensive” approach: http://youtu.be/jKM_U5mOTQU