Archives for 2009

Marketing Plan for 2010? Try the 70-20-10 Marketing Mix

Patrick Spenner at the Marketing Leadership Council presented a great variation on the Pareto Principle (also called the 80/20 rule) when it comes to trying new marketing tactics: (Beat the Social Media Investment Catch-22, November 9, 2009)

Spenner suggests any marketing plan should be follow the 70-20-10 spending rule: Roughly 70% of your marketing budget should be on the “tried and true” marketing channels — areas that you know absolutely have succeeded in the past.

The other 10% should be on experimental or new channels “for which there is no in-year expectation of ROI.” In other words, don’t expect to see an ROI within the fiscal year. Look for growth and results, but don’t expect things to pay for themselves.

The middle 20%, says Spenner, is for the most successful of last year’s 10%. “These touchpoints are incubating — we should manage them to develop benchmarks for success,” wrote Spenner. “These touchpoints eventually move over into the 70% as the organization accepts them.

Where could you find some new traffic? It may not always be on social media (said the social media company). It may be something new like trade shows and non-industry conferences. It may be a new website. Or email newsletters. Or a strategy of participating in discussion forums. Or telemarketing. And it just may very well be Twitter and blogging. The point is that you look at at least one new strategy and give it a year to see what happens.

Take some of the money you’ve been spending on newspaper and radio advertising, and try a new social media campaign. Pepsi Cola just did it, forgoing the multi-million Super Bowl ad buy, and putting $20 million into a social media campaign instead. Toys ‘R’ Us saw some explosive growth on their Facebook fan page. And even the Cincinnati Bengals have joined the Twitterverse and have over 15,000 followers.

Finding new marketing channels is important. Media consumption by your customers is always changing, and they’re going to places you didn’t have in your 70% bucket a few years ago, or even last year. Two years ago, I thought Twitter was the stupidest thing ever. Today, as much as one-third of my personal blog’s traffic comes from Twitter, but the largest portion comes from StumbleUpon.

So what’s your new 10%? What are some new channels you could explore for 2010?

Rules for Being a Media Blogger

This was originally posted at the blog on May 28, 2009.

I was really honored to be selected as a media blogger for the Indianapolis 500 this year (I’m covering it at my Laughing Stalk humor blog). I’m sitting up here with a lot of local talent, although there are a lot of empty seats right now (I’m in Dennis Neal’s seat from WLW radio in Cincinnati).Indy 500 Media Center

I learned a long time ago that there are a couple of unwritten (and written) rules for media people. And if you’re interested in being a guest blogger for a sports team or major event, you need to follow these rules. They’re the same ones the big-J Journalists follow every day. (“Big-J Journalist” implies that these people are serious journalists who make their living writing and producing important work. These guys look down on bloggers, because we’re not serious or well accepted in journalistic circles.)

  1. Never geek out. You were probably invited because you’ve got a passion for writing and for the team you’re covering. However, you’re the media now. You’re not a fanboy who bumped into your favorite player at a McDonald’s. Play it cool, be mature, and don’t try to be their buddy. You’re there to get a story, just like the real Journalists (see, I even used a big J), so act your age and get it done.
  2. Never ask for autographs or photos. My friend Amanda, who writes Red Hot Mama, the Cincinnati Reds/National League Central fan blog, said she once tried to get some media credentials for a Reds game, and was told it would never happen. It seems the year before, they allowed a blogger into the locker room, but the guy geeked out and asked for autographs and photos with the players. The guy turned into a total fanboy and gave the PR staff the only reason they would ever need to not invite bloggers to cover the team again. Now, we can argue the Reds are missing some great PR and coverage, but until that PR director leaves, he’s willing to give it up to avoid the hassles and headaches.
  3. Blogging is not big-J Journalism. And it never will be if you don’t act like it. Sure there are writers like Chris Brogan, Jason Falls, and even political writers like Matt Drudge and the Daily Kos are all professional bloggers and speakers. They take their reputations and brands seriously, and work hard to make blogging an accepted form of media. If you’re going to be a serious blogger — and maybe we should start calling ourselves big-B Bloggers — write your blog as if you have a serious brand to promote.
  4. On the other hand, you’re not there to write fluff either. Don’t feel like you have to be the company yes man on anything. I was eating lunch today with a reporter who had also been a blogger for his newspaper. He wrote a not-so-nice post about one of the racers and his wife last year, and was griped at by the racer’s staff via email. While he is no longer blogging for his paper, he is still employed by them. He still writes critical pieces if he needs to, and realizes he’s not there to be the PR mouthpiece of the racers or their teams. The takeaway: if you find or see something that could be seen as negative, write about it anyway. Do it respectfully, and treat it like a big-J Journalist would. Write the facts, keep your opinion out of it, and be a professional.

Bloggers are still getting a bad rap from most of the mainstream media as being an unreliable source of news. And it will be, until we change our reputation and quality of work. That, and when the newspapers all go out of business, and network news is replaced by cable news and, well, blogs.

Until that time, as you grow your reputation and reach as a quality Big-B Blogger, practice journalistic techniques. Read books on newspaper writing (it’s still the gold standard of writing quality and ability), use Associated Press writing style, and study as many newspaper writers as you can.

But most importantly, for the love of God, don’t geek out.

5 Podcasts That Will Improve Your Writing

typewriterI’m a big podcast fan. In fact, I have nearly stopped listening to my radio completely, because I get most of my music online (I’m listening to WFPK 91.9 out of Louisville via iTunes as I’m writing this). And when I’m in the car, I listen to podcasts.

I have about 20 favorites that I listen to as I drive to and from the office, to appointments, or before I go to bed. I can catch all 20 within a week, and be ready for the next round when they come out. I’ve got podcasts about marketing, technology, science and archaeology, and even one on baseball history.

There are a few grammar and writing podcasts I listen to, which have provided some great lessons for improving my writing, answering a grammar question, or even correcting a grammar error (very rarely!). There are more than 70 different writing podcasts available on iTunes, but based on my past listening habits, and research, these are the best ones I found.

    1. A Way With Words: This podcast is also a call-in show on public radio. It’s my favorite on this list because the hosts, Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette, take a simple, down-to-earth look at language and their love for words really shines through. They can give you the history of words and expressions, answer grammar questions, and even identify the regionalisms we all use and think everyone else already knows. You can follow them on Twitter at @wayword.


    1. Grammar Girl: Grammar maven Mignon Fogarty, author of the NY Times best-selling Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, gives quick grammar lessons on a single topic with humor and an easy-to-understand explanation. I was listening to the “Lay vs. Lie” podcast this morning, a grammar trap that still trips me up even now. I like Fogarty’s thorough approach to grammar education, and the fact that she’s not just limited to doing a single podcast. She has really developed her brand and self-promotion, including a weekly newsletter, tips only found on her website, and a second whenever-she-feels-like podcast about whatever writing or literary topics she feels like. (Bonus: If you want to learn about how to do self-promotion well, watch her every move and copy it.) Grammar Girl is also on Twitter.


    1. Grammar Grater: I have to admit a bit of snobbery here: I’m a fan and writer of audio theatre, so I’m not that swept away by the audio morality plays that open each episode. Having said that, I still think the Minnesota Public Radio group does some good work, and I have even learned to like some of their mini-plays. Grammar Grater is a nice folksy complement to Grammar Girl. In fact, the two podcasts will sometimes overlap in their topics (which sometimes makes me wonder if they’re in cahoots), which can lead to a very deep understanding of some of their grammar topics. I’ve learned things on this GG that I didn’t pick up in the other GG, and vice versa. So I make sure that these two are always in regular rotation on my iPod.


    1. Writing Challenges: David Morley, director of the Warwick Writing Programme at Warwick University, England, gives listeners a series of creative fiction writing challenges. His latest episode, “Murdering Your Darlings,” discusses the importance of rewriting and reading your writing pieces out loud to make sure the writing isn’t flat. It may be geared toward fiction writers, but I know several nonfiction writers whose work is just as gripping as a good fiction piece. So if you want to improve your nonfiction writing, don’t forego fiction writing advice. Add this podcast to your regular playlist.


    1. Writing Excuses: Another fiction writing podcast. Fantasy novelist Brandon Sanderson, professional cartoonist Howard Tayler, and horror writer Daniel Wells talk about different writing techniques. I discovered this podcast researching this article, and I appreciated their fast-paced discussion of the technique. They do their podcasts in 15 minute bursts, “because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.”


  1. Bonus: Other podcasts I listen to, which inspire my writing efforts, but aren’t writing-related: Vinyl Cafe with Stuart McLean (CBC Radio); Completely Burns, works of the Scottish poet Robert Burns in convenient podcast form (BBC Radio); The Moth, a storytelling podcast where the storytellers work completely without notes (podcast). I may preview these in another writing-oriented post.

My one complaint about some of the other 65 podcasts is that they only had a couple episodes (one podcast didn’t have any), while others haven’t been updated since 2008. There’s still some good advice to be had in those podcasts, just don’t get too attached to them.

Do Small Businesses Need a Social Media Person in Marketing?

A reporter posted a question to an email list I belong to, about whether small businesses need a specific social media expert on their marketing team. I replied that I thought a small business did not need an expert. Rather, they just need to appoint someone on their marketing team whose job it is to participate in social media, but that person can learn the ropes about the different tools they would use. (They will need other knowledge. More on that in a minute.)

Although people have become more and more specialized over the years, at least in the marketing world, social media and the Internet are turning us back into generalists.

You don’t need a special videographer, script writer, and editor to create a corporate video, you only need a Flip camera, a YouTube account, and some creativity to get your videos out to your customers. You don’t need a PR specialist to send out press releases to the local media, you need someone who is already connected to them on Twitter and LinkedIn to connect with them personally. (Yes, I’m oversimplifying a bit, but you get my point.)

And you don’t need someone who has logged thousands of hours on Twitter or Facebook, has written a book, or is a top-notch computer programmer (although they’re all very nice).

You do need:

  1. someone who has the time to do it on a regular, consistent basis. This is not something to do just once in a while, but needs to be done a couple hours per day.
  2. someone the company trusts enough to speak for its brand publicly. This is typically not an intern.
  3. someone who understands message creation and social psychology. It’s not the knowledge of the tools that is important, but the knowledge of how to create a solid message and how that message will affect a chosen group. Again, this is typically not an intern.
  4. management buy-in and their understanding that this is not just jacking around on “Facespace or whatever you young people call it.” They need to be committed to this venture, just like they have every other marketing campaign you’ve done.

We’ve reached the point that social media is no longer a fad. It has incredible usage rates that show that it’s here to stay. The tools may change over the years, but this connectedness among us is not going anywhere for a long while. And because these things are so easy, anyone can do it. The challenge is finding someone who actually knows how to harness the power, and has the time to do it.

Business will serve themselves well by either hiring someone who does social media marketing as part of their responsibilities, or contracting out to someone on a part-time basis to do the work. But either way, they need to jump on this bandwagon before they’re left at the side of the road with the people still running their IBM PS/2s wondering when all this talk about the Internet is going to die down.

My new HTC Droid

Me and my DroidI’m loving my new HTC Droid on Verizon right now, although I’m worried about my motivation for buying it. I finally decided to get it because Chris Brogran got one.

Now, I’m not the kind of guy who buys stuff because some celebrity says so. In fact, I will often go out of my way to not buy something because a celebrity did. Ashton Kutcher is schlepping some new camera? I won’t buy it. Peyton Manning has a new MasterCard commercial? He’s one of my favorite players, but I’ll stick with my own credit card.

I realize Chris is not actually a celebrity (he’s what we call a “cewebrity”). But after reading Chris’ book Trust Agents, especially his chapter on “One of Us,” I decided I could trust him. Chris uses a cell phone all the time. If he decided he couldn’t live with AT&T’s crappy network anymore, and that the Droid was a pretty good deal, then maybe it was time I joined the 21st century and got rid of my old flip phone. (It wasn’t that old.)

Basically, I was torn in three directions: do I get the Droid and stay with Verizon (I’ve been with them for 8 years)? Do I wait to see if the iPhone becomes available to Verizon in Q3 2010? Or do I leave Verizon and go to AT&T just to get an iPhone and have to deal with a network that most of my Indianapolis friends detest?

Once I saw that Chris Brogan — One of Us — had made the switch, I knew which one to get.

So my wife and I took advantage of Verizon’s Buy One Get One offer on the Droid ERIS (which I think should be called the ERIK, but they didn’t ask me), as well as our upgrade credits and rebates, and got two of them for $24. Not a bad deal.

I’m still learning how to use it, but I’m starting to see all the cool stuff the Droid can do: Twidroid for Twitter, Evernote, Google Latitude with turn-by-turn directions, and — God help me! — Foursquare. (I am seriously digging FourSquare. It makes me want to get out more.)

I’m still fiercely clinging to my celebrity independence, and refuse to be swayed by someone’s popularity when I know they’re nothing more than a shill-for-hire, pimping out their name and reputation to the highest bidder.

But I’m also wondering if Chris will autograph my Droid the next time I see him.

Don’t Stress Over Keywords in Your Blog Posts

The keyword conundrum is one that plagues all bloggers. We’re supposed to use keywords, but you can’t use too many, or you’re stuffing. You can’t use them just once, or you’ll get beat by anyone who uses them properly.

Search has gotten more complicated, as more websites and blogs appear, and people are getting smarter about SEO and how they use keywords. This means that we as bloggers have to create smaller and smaller niches (which is a smart strategy to begin with).

Let’s say my hobby is old-school pens. Not just any pen, like the $.69 Bic, but old fountain pens. More specifically, refillable fountain pens — the kind where the ink comes in a little bottle, and you need to refill it with an eye dropper.

Ten or twelve years ago, I could have optimized a website to be found if you searched for “pens,” or maybe “fountain pens.” But now, as more people have pen websites, I need to be more specific and only talk about “refillable fountain pens.” I could even take it one step further, and write about “repairing refillable fountain pens.”

And therein lies the problem. If I want to win any search for “repairing refillable fountain pens,” I have to use that exact phrase over and over. It’s a clunky, 4-word phrase that defies elegant usage. I can use it a few times naturally, like in a headline — “5 trends in 2010 for repairing refillable fountain pens” or Ashton Kutcher’s celebrity secrets for repairing refillable fountain pens.” — but I’ll plumb the depths of that barrel pretty quickly. So I need to find an alternative.

The body text is also important, but using that exact phrase is going to be difficult. The prevailing wisdom is that keyword density should be 1%, or 1 out of every 100 words. That’s not that hard to do if you have a short post. It’s when you get into 500 or 1,000 word posts that it gets a little awkward.

Write for Readers, Not Spiders

Here’s where I differ from my SEO friends: I think it’s okay to keep your keyword density below 1% sometimes. Even a .25% is acceptable, or 1 time out of every 400.

That’s because you’re not going to win search with one blog post. You don’t need to swing for the fences on every pitch. You need to write several blog posts about your specialty for it to make a difference.

Here’s the key, it’s how well you write that makes the biggest difference. Do you write well enough that people want to read what you have to say? Or do you write a bunch of spider-oriented garbage that looks great to the search engines, but annoys your readers?

It’s not a matter of having more keywords than anyone else. I mean, I could write a sentence like “I love repairing refillable fountain pens, because repairing refillable fountain pens gives my life purpose and meaning, so I can continue making a living repairing refillable fountain pens.

But who wants to read that? It’s clunky, cumbersome, and it looks like I crowbarred the keyword phrase into the post just so I could get them in there for the appropriate keyword density.

The short of it is, keyword density is not nearly as important if you don’t have readers. Yes, you can get them in there naturally, but don’t kill yourself or ruin your writing just to meet an acceptable percentage.

If you’re writing well, you’ll attract the readers (and the backlinks) needed to get your posts indexed and ranking high on search engines.

Photo: Flickr: J. Dueck

I Was Wrong. Canadian Council of PR Firms is Doing RFPs right

A couple of days ago, I took the Canadian Council of PR Firms (CCPRF) to task for asking media monitoring agencies to submit an RFP to help teach the members about good media monitoring and what they can expect to pay.

I said, finger pointed to the heavens, “It sounds like the CCPRF is just information gathering. There’s no chance of winning a project. There’s no definite work that’s going to come out of it. It’s just hours of work that doesn’t really educate, answer questions, or teach people about what that particular company does.

Boy, am I an idiot.

Joseph Thornley, president of the CCPRF, very calmly and kindly responded with why I was a big idiot, without ever saying so. He left a comment on the blog, saying:

My post may have left you with the wrong impression. I’m talking about why we’re asking for proposals. But we are asking for proposals and we are planning to issue contracts at the end of the process. You can download the actual RFP from the link in the first paragraph of my post. (Link added — Erik)

So it sounds like the CCPRF is actually going to issue contracts, which is great. This isn’t just an educational effort. It’s an honest-to-God RFP that’s going to result in a nice contract for someone.

So rather than just bury a mea culpa in the comments, I wanted to write this post so I can correct the record and make sure that the corrected version gets some Google love.

Thanks for taking the time to educate me, Joseph.