What We Have Here Is a Failure to Converse

February 24, 2010

Perhaps I was wrong. In this new 2.0 era, I thought communications was all about having conversations.

Conversations require interaction where people talk and listen. Maybe I’m missing something, but I observe a lot more talking than listening. It seems everyone has something to say and everyone is clamoring to be heard. To me, it looks like the talkers far outnumber the listeners.

Was I mistaken to assume that things would be different with the arrival of the social media revolution? Am I naive in thinking that people would connect with each other because 1) they were genuinely interested in what others had to say and 2) they actually had something of value to share?

As we interact, as we share information, we connect with each other. Social media give us the tools to connect and converse. Sometimes during our conversations we’ll encounter negative or inaccurate information. Does that mean we should immediately end the conversation? Should we refuse to talk because the conversation may be a little awkward or uncomfortable? Absolutely not! Read the rest of this entry »


What Is 2.0? A New Era Defined

February 17, 2010

We hear a lot of people talking about the 2.0 world we live in. Marketers refer to social media tools as Web 2.0. The titles of business books increasingly contain that magical number—2.0.

But what does “2.0” mean? How are things different now than they were before? What has changed?

For starters, let’s agree that the social media revolution has created an entirely new landscape—a 2.0 world. The changes are so profound that those who do not understand it will soon find themselves on the sidelines, confused and perhaps even angry that the world has passed them by.

The social media revolution is really not that confusing. The more we understand and embrace the changes, the more powerful social media will become. Here is my brief comparison of the differences I see between a 1.0 and a 2.0 world:

Let’s look at the nuances between the two. Read the rest of this entry »


What Do You Do (In Seven Words)?

February 3, 2010

A friend of mine, Mark Whitaker, is an experienced market research professional. His official title is Strategic Research Consultant at The Kansas City Star.

That’s an impressive title, but what does it mean? What does he really do? What impact does he actually make?

In seven words on LinkedIn, Mark summarizes his job as “helping you find the information you need.”

I really like that “job description” for three reasons:

  1. It’s simple. I can understand it without having to translate industry jargon.
  2. It’s differentiating. It really describes what he does, not what his company or co-workers do.
  3. It’s outwardly focused. He describes what he does for others. He focuses on the benefits he provides, not the process involved. Read the rest of this entry »

Understanding the Four Phases of Disaster Recovery

January 27, 2010

Here at the American Red Cross, our role changes through different phases of disaster relief. All relief efforts—regardless of the disaster size—transition through four distinct phases. Anticipating how a relief effort will unfold helps us better serve those affected by the disaster.

Each stage of recovery demands a specific type of public affairs response. (In case you’re unfamiliar with that term, “public affairs” is used by the military, government agencies and the American Red Cross to describe public relations, communications and media relations.)

The American Red Cross recognizes that our disaster relief unfolds in the following stages:

  1. Heroic Phase.
  2. Honeymoon Phase.
  3. Disillusionment Phase.
  4. Reconstruction Phase.

What happens in each phase? What should we anticipate as each unfolds? How do public expectations change? How should our communications strategy shift in each phase? Read the rest of this entry »


What to Do When United Way Moves Your Cheese

January 6, 2010

I just finished re-reading the classic little book Who Moved My Cheese? It gave me a better understanding of what is happening in the nonprofit community—not just here in Kansas City, but across the nation.

For many years, the national United Way system has been struggling to redefine itself. Its leaders have created new methods for allocating money, and somehow they believe that “moving the cheese around” will make their cause more attractive to donors who have, over the years, found United Way to be waning in relevance.

That logic escapes me. In my opinion, United Way will become less relevant as it leaves gaping holes in human services programs. I guess you could call it their “Swiss cheese model” for meeting human needs. I assume United Way realizes that its decision to cut much-needed funding will actually force established, well-respected organizations such as the American Red Cross to compete more directly with them for contributions from within the same donor pool.

Personal Disclosure

To be transparent, I must disclose two important facts about myself before I continue sharing my opinions.

First, I am responsible for marketing at the American Red Cross of Greater Kansas City, the single largest recipient of United Way allocations in this region. Though I am employed by the Red Cross, this blog post has been written on my personal time and entirely reflects only my own opinions, not those of my employer.

Second, before coming to the Red Cross I served as the vice president of marketing for the United Way of Greater Kansas City. Because I have always had great respect for the organization and its mission, I am both a Diamond Donor (meaning I’ve given for 25+ years) and I’m also a member of the Leadership Giving Circle. However, in the weeks ahead I intend to reevaluate whether United Way is the wise investment I once thought it was.

By the way, I have many friends who work at United Way. They are exceptionally professional individuals and nothing I say here is a personal indictment of them or anyone else. Read the rest of this entry »


Effectively Selling Yourself in a Job Search

December 15, 2009

Good sales people know the difference between features and benefits. Often that makes the difference between making a sale or conceding defeat to a competitor.

Likewise, effective job seekers must also know the difference. That knowledge often determines who gets an interview and ultimately who snags the job offer.

Sadly, most job seekers focus only on features when they should be talking about benefits. So what’s the crucial difference?

Features Tell. Features are facts, the list of items on your resume that describe you. They provide basic information — Who you are. Where you’ve worked. Dates you were there. Job titles. Accomplishments. Education. Community involvement.

Benefits Sell. Benefits convert features into relevant information. Benefits describe the value that a potential employer might find in one of your features. A hiring manager is always asking questions such as — So what? How is this relevant? Why should I care? What can you do for me?

Features and benefits are both important. To be effective, though, you must lead with benefits and then follow up with features. Read the rest of this entry »


Why Do We Need a Marketing Department?

November 10, 2009

As a marketing professional, I often ask myself why my organization needs marketing. Why does my marketing department exist? What impact do we really have?

Sometimes I think it would be fun to remake the classic movie A Wonderful Life so we could see what the world would look like had we never come into existence. What would the company look like if marketing never appeared on the organization chart? What would be lost if my marketing group “went out of business?”

Read the rest of this entry »


10 Things Marketing Is NOT

October 13, 2009

Business success requires effective marketing. People have spent considerable energy trying to define marketing, but just for fun I’ve listed 10 things marketing is not.

  1. A silver bullet. Some people unrealistically expect a single marketing tactic to be extremely effective or to easily cure a major prevailing problem.
  2. Pixie dust. Although marketing can produce magical results, there’s no magic potion or formula that can produce instant results.
  3. Icing on the cake. Marketing must always be an essential ingredient, not something that’s added later to make the product or service look prettier or taste sweeter.
  4. Communications. Too often, especially in nonprofit organizations, communications is used synonymously with marketing. They are not the same thing. One is a subset of the other.
  5. A black hole. Rarely does an investment in marketing disappear into the cosmic void. Marketing does, however, require a minimum investment of resources for it to yield the desired return.
  6. Rocket science. There’s an art to marketing, but it is not an esoteric science. Brain surgery—yes. Rocket science—no.
  7. Snake oil. Rightly done, marketing has no gimmicks, fakery or fraud. Neither is it a panacea that cures all.
  8. Hocus pocus. Marketing is not “putting a spell” on people to manipulate them into doing something against their will.
  9. Quick fix. The law of the harvest tells us that you’ve got to plant the seed and nurture the crop before you can expect to reap a bountiful harvest.
  10. Cotton candy. Although cotton candy is colorful, sweet and attractive, it lacks substance and nutritive value. Effective marketing is both attractive and substantive.

Marketing is sometimes hampered by unrealistic expectations so occasionally it’s helpful to look at what marketing is not.


Marketing Manifesto II – Team Performance

October 1, 2009

Shortly after I stepped into my leadership role at the American Red Cross, a member of my marketing group chose not to be part of the new team.

Her departure gave me the opportunity to recruit someone new, so I spent considerable time thinking about how to forge a strong partnership between 1) the individuals I inherited and 2) those I would select myself.

In consultation with team members that remained, I developed this list of 10 characteristics to describe the commitment, the loyalty and the engagement of every contributing member of my marketing group:

  1. We are inspired by the mission of the marketing department, knowing that our special group exists to ensure the success of the American Red Cross.
  2. As we visualize the role of marketing within the organization, we are proud to be a part of an exceptional consulting team working on projects that really matter.
  3. We value diversity within our team, knowing that each of us makes a unique contribution to the department, to the organization and ultimately to the community.
  4. We build synergy whereby the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In so doing, we recognize the interdependence of every member of the team.
  5. When one of us succeeds, that person appreciates and acknowledges the contributions of teammates, knowing that success is often a team effort.
  6. We celebrate when another member of the team excels. After all, we know that one teammate’s success reflects positively on our entire group.
  7. When something goes wrong, we avoid pointing fingers and assigning blame. Instead, we join hands with others to seek solutions and to look for the learning embedded within the situation.
  8. We assume positive intentions on the part of others. In circumstances where there is a potential for misunderstanding, we proactively seek clarification.
  9. We are loyal to other members of the team, especially in their absence. We focus on the positive, affirming attributes of our co-workers and teammates.
  10. We always operate from an abundance mentality that seeks win-win solutions. We refuse to believe that our win implies a loss for someone else, knowing that a scarcity mentality spawns fear, competitiveness and retaliation.

Marketing Manifesto I – Individual Performance

September 29, 2009

When I was chosen to lead the marketing program at the American Red Cross of Greater Kansas City, I wanted to make sure each person on the team was pulling in the same direction.

Within my first 90 days, I led my group through a two-day planning session to 1) discuss organizational priorities, 2) plan marketing projects and 3) enlist the commitment of each individual to the team effort. By the end of the retreat we had defined the following 10 characteristics that every contributing member of the marketing department should be able use in describing his or her dedication, passion and internal beliefs:

  1. I see the big picture.
  2. I see how the individual pieces fit together, and I understand the importance of my unique role.
  3. I prioritize my work and spend considerable time working in Quadrant II on projects that are important but not urgent. Because of this, I am proactive and in control of my job, my career and my life.
  4. I think strategically before acting tactically.
  5. As an internal marketing consultant, I ask affirming, empowering questions of myself and others.
  6. I approach consulting projects in a collaborative manner, finding ways to say “yes” and facilitate the success of others.
  7. I own and manage important projects where I assume responsibility for the entire planning, production and evaluation of my projects.
  8. I am a collaborative team player, contributing my energy and expertise to those projects managed by others.
  9. I have a deep desire to learn, to create and to explore. Knowing that the status quo often leads to obsolescence, I seek innovation and welcome change.
  10. I make a difference. I do work that really matters.

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