Archives for March 2010

Oscar Wilde Knows a Thing or Two About Branding

The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. — Oscar Wilde

It’s a big fear of the corporate attorneys that people are going to say bad things about them. That’s why they don’t do blogging and social media.

“We don’t want people to leave negative comments about us on our blog,” they say. (The solution, of course, is to solve the problem the people are complaining about, and then post the response that you fixed it, but that’s for another post.)

The thing is, people are talking about you already. Do a quick check on Google, Twitter, and even on Facebook to see if people are talking about your brand. If you’re a large company or nonprofit, you’ll find people talking about you online, whether you have a blog or not.

But what if you’re a small or medium sized company or nonprofit and nobody is talking about you? That’s a good thing, right?

Wrong.

It means nobody is talking about you. They’re not saying how great you are. They’re not talking about how much they love your product. They’re not saying a single thing about you.

In other words, they think you’re rather unremarkable.

And unremarkable companies don’t make money. Unremarkable nonprofits don’t get volunteers or donations. Unremarkable companies and nonprofits go out of business.

But you’re not unremarkable. You’re awesome! You do some amazing stuff. In fact, I was talking to John and Kara about you. You remember John and Kara, right? They were telling me about that time you were hanging out with them at that place, and that guy came up and did the thing. Don’t you remember? Well, they love you.

So why aren’t John and Kara talking about you online? Why aren’t John and Kara telling all their friends about you? Maybe it’s because you’re not on there to talk with them, which will remind them to mention that time at the place with the guy who did the thing.

But if you did, if you did take the plunge, and start using a social media tool — just one — they’ll start talking about you. They’ll leave reviews about you on places like Yelp.com and Google Local. They’ll mention you in tweets, and refer people to your website.

And you’ll be able to talk back to them. You’ll thank them for the reviews. You’ll answer their questions. You’ll solve their problems when they’re upset with you. Then everyone else will notice, and they’ll start talking about — and to — you too.

That way, you’ll start attracting more attention, which will lead to more customers, which means more revenue from new sales channels.

So if you want to increase your reputation, increase your customers, and increase your sales, just try it. Just a little. Pick a social media tool (we like Twitter), and start using it.

Because the only thing worse than not being talked about is being talked about in the past tense.

What Stylebook Should Bloggers Use?

If you ever want to see writers argue loudly (and who doesn’t?), ask them which writing style guide is the best. The opinions will be varied, the disagreements will be vocal, and the slap fights will be, well, slappy.

Nothing gets the ire of a writer up higher than someone slamming on their beloved style guide. A stylebook is really just a preference guide for how you want people to punctuate, and spell and capitalize certain words.

Bloggers often get caught in the cross-fire, because we don’t know which style guide we should use. This is a question I’m often asked, and I always say the same thing:

Bloggers should use the Associated Press Stylebook

I like the Associated Press Stylebook (affiliate link) because it’s a book for journalists by journalists. And since bloggers are really citizen journalists, we might as well use the book the journalists use. Although it was really written for writers who work for the Associated Press, it has been adopted by every journalist except for the New York Times.

While there are no major differences between most of the stylebooks, except on some small ticky-tack stuff, like whether you should use the Oxford comma or whether or not to hyphenate certain words.

I realize there are many style guides you can choose from: MLA (Modern Language Association for English), Turabian (history), and APA (American Psychological Association; social sciences) for the academic world. The Chicago Manual of Style for book publishers, Strunk and White’s Element of Style for general writing, and The Bluebook for lawyers.

While there is the Columbia Guide to Online Style (COS), I prefer the AP Stylebook. The COS is used for citing online sources, and is a style guide for “creating documents electronically for submission for print or electronic publication,” but from what I can see, it’s used more for academic purposes, rather than the real world.

3 Reasons Why Sports Marketers Need Social Media

Sponsoring a sports team or event is not just about signing a check. It’s more than just getting your name on the side of a car or a sign in the stadium.

Basically, if you want your sponsorship dollars to be an effective marketing tool, you need to double your total sponsorship budget just to promote the fact that you have a sponsorship deal. If your sponsorship is for $100,000, spend another $100,000 to promote it.

If you’re sponsoring a racing team, you need to tell your customers about it, and get them to cheer for “your” team. If you’re sponsoring a football team, you need to get your best customers into the luxury suite to see and hear the game. Even if you’re sponsoring a Little League baseball team, you need to find a way to bring the parents into your store or restaurant after a game.

Tomas Scheckter

I’ve been thinking about how sports marketing professionals can use social media to their benefit over the last several months. Last year, we brought a some Indy Lights team owners and sponsorship brokers — Gary Sallee, Roger Brummett, and Tyce Carlson — to talk about sports marketing at a Confluence networking event.

That month, I also had a chance to talk to Mike Micheli, PR director of Dale Coyne Racing, who was also a great guide and mentor when I became one of the first ever race bloggers at last year’s Indianapolis 500. (He also hooked me up with Tomas Scheckter for a quick interview.)

The Problem: You Just Can’t Effectively Measure Traditional Marketing

One thing both the team owners and Mike Micheli explained is that sports marketing is no longer just about soliciting checks from big companies. Now, team owners have to be able to demonstrate the ROI of a sponsorship.

I can’t imagine anything harder in the measurement and analytics world. It’s just as hard as measuring regular marketing outlets. You don’t know which TV commercials increased sales, and which ones lost money. You don’t know which billboards brought visitors to your website.

And good luck trying to figure out which logo placement or interview plug was responsible for the bump in sales. You’re trying to figure out which made money and which lost you money, whether it was the car sponsorship, or the special event tent. Or the t-shirts. Or the ad in the race program. Or the — you get the picture.

But social media can do all of that, and then some. Here are three things social media can do for sports marketers.

1. Social Media Can Prove ROI in Sports Marketing

The great thing about social media is that it’s easy to demonstrate the ROI. Thanks to simple tools like Google Analytics and bit.ly, it’s possible to come up with a basic system to see how many people found your website, requested additional information, or bought something. With a paid solution like Yahoo Analytics, you can actually get more specific information, as well as deeper stats and real-time results.

You can measure a campaign’s success and figure out which variables, messages, and even time of day brought the best results. See if you get spikes in traffic before, during, or after an event. And whether the spikes are taking place in the event’s city, or if they’re spread out. You can even set up different URLs and landing pages, and do A/B testing to see which variables brought the best results.

Take it a step further and use products like Radian6, ScoutLabs, or even Vocus to monitor the social media discussion about your brand and your team. Now you can pay attention to who’s talking about your brand, and interact with the ones who are the most vocal, whether positive or negative. You just can’t do that with a billboard or a TV spot.

2. Social Media Can Grow a Sports Marketing Audience

There are more social media tools than you can shake a stick at. Suffice it to say, there are plenty of ways to connect with your customers online. For a good start, get Twitter Marketing for Dummies (affiliate link). (Full disclosure: I helped Kyle Lacy write this book. Shameless plug: We’re working on another one.)

Use tools like Twitterment, NearbyTweets, and even Twitter’s own search function to find people who are interested in your team. Use Twitterfall or TweetDeck’s search feature to watch for dicsussions about your team or the event.

Connect with those people, and discuss the team, the players/drivers/crew, and the event itself. Don’t sell them anything or talk about your company. if you have to, hold a special contest or make a special offer. “If our team finishes in a certain place or higher, the first 500 people to tweet us gets a coupon for a free widget.” But other than that, talk about the thing that interests the fans (hint: it’s not you).

3. Social Media Can Deepen Relationships With Fans and Customers

Enhance your customers’ experience on race day by live blogging, tweeting, and video streaming from the stands, the sponsor’s tent, or even Victory Lane.

  • Get some behind-the-scenes looks (assuming you get permission from the team) at what it looks like in a garage or locker room.
  • Hold a special Twitter chat with a driver or crew member.
  • Have a player give a special video greeting or tour for fans.
  • Ask different team members to blog about their experiences over the season, complete with photos and videos.

Social media lets fans see the things they might be missing, but help them feel like they’re part of the experience. By doing this, you help them feel more like a part of the team. They’re insiders, with special knowledge about the team, the athletes, and the event. By feeling like they’re connected, they’ll become more of a fan, not only of the team, but of the organization or brand that helped them get there.

Five Things Newspapers Can Teach Us About Blogging

If you’re not getting readers to your blog, it may not be your social media promotion, it may be because your blog sucks.

(Okay, it doesn’t really suck. I was just saying that to get your attention. You’ll see why in a minute.)

I recently spoke to the Hoosier PRSA chapter of the Public Relations Society of America about the secrets of blogging, and realized I had never actually written about the subject of the presentation.

Blogs are a lot like newspapers. In fact, a good blog is written more like a newspaper than a magazine. And since bloggers are becoming citizen journalists, I think it’s important that bloggers learn to write like newspaper writers. Here are a few ways you can improve your blog writing and have it read more like a newspaper article.

Write in Newspaper Style.

This means the most important information goes first, second most important goes next, and so on. It’s the inverted pyramid style. After a certain point, usually around the halfway mark, you start seeing more of the inside information, background story, etc., and the story gets boring.

Newspapers are written this way, because readers usually abandon a story when it gets boring. They also abandon it because it’s too long.

So with a blog post, you need to end the post before you get to the boring part. When you start writing background information, or repeating old information, stop. Don’t write a post that’s long enough for people to get bored. Instead, put a “To learn more about this issue, check out these previous posts” section with links to older stories.

Short words. Short sentences. Short paragraphs.

Despite what my 7th grade English teacher said, it’s perfectly all right to have a one word paragraph.

Nyah.

By breaking things up, and making them easier to read, we’re more likely to continue on. We glance ahead and see all the short paragraphs and think, “that’s not so hard. I can go a little longer.” Pretty soon, “a little longer” turns into “the entire story.”

Negative Space = Readability

One of the reasons newspapers are tough to read is the lack of negative space (that’s fancy graphic designer talk for “spaces between paragraphs”). All the paragraphs are crammed together, which can make for some tiring reading.

Our eyes and our brains need a break from all the text running together, so we look for that break by switching to other stories, abandoning the one we were just reading. But if you can provide some extra relief in the story, that will help propel readers forward.

Create a Powerful Lede

I got your attention when I said your blog sucked, didn’t I? Not every blog post has to have a Pulitzer-quality opening, but it doesn’t hurt to have something that’s attention getting and informative.

Remember, a newspaper article’s job is to get you to read the first sentence. The first sentence’s job is to get you to read the second sentence, and so on. So your lede better be a doozy.

(By the way, the opening sentence of a newspaper is spelled “lede,” not “lead.” Lead is the soft metal used to create the individual letters used to lay out the newspaper. Since “ledd” and “leed” are spelled the same, journos started calling the opening sentence the “lede” to avoid confusion, forcing future generations to explain that we’re not idiots, and we do know how to correctly spell that word.)

Write For a Clever 12-Year-Old

It’s a newspaper’s dirty little secret that they write for a 6th grade education and attention span. (Don’t feel too insulted; TV news is produced at a 4th grade level.) That’s why the important stuff is at the front of the story. Bloggers need to do that too.

It’s not that your readers are stupid, or can’t understand big words. It’s that we just don’t want to devote the mental resources and energy to decoding really long and complicated words. Even academic journals written by and for Ph.Ds in an academic field are considered “better” if they’re written at a high school level instead of a post-graduate level.

So skip the polysyllabic words and use short ones instead.

It’s also important that you explain new terms. Assume that your story is going to be read by someone who is experiencing this issue for the very first time. Don’t assume knowledge on their part, don’t assume they know as much about the story as you do. So be sure to explain it like you’re telling that 12-year-old for the first time. Don’t use jargon, acronyms, and abbreviations unless you explain them.

For example, newspaper style requires you spell out what a term means, followed by the acronym/abbreviation in parentheses. That tells the reader you’re going to use it from then on in the story.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) today announced a new measure banning texting by truck drivers.

Afterward, I can use FMCSA in the story wherever I want. However, when I do a new story, I have to assume a new set of readers, so I have to spell it out again.

Writing a blog can be easy, especially if you’re doing it informally, and for just a few people. But writing it newspaper style takes a little more effort, but the payoff can be worth it. You’ll get more readers, your readers will stick around longer, and you’ll earn a reputation of being a stellar writer.

Just remember to tell them where you learned it.

Photo credit (inverted pyramid at the Louvre): KeepTheByte, Flickr
Photo credit (lead type): JM3, Flickr