Sword and the Script

Book Review: 7 Takeaways from Jay Baer’s YOUtility

by Frank Strong


One audiobook that deserves a spot on your summer reading list.

Every now and again a book comes along with the potential to change minds.  Though I pour through dozens of books every year — often “cheating” by listening to audiobooks on long drives, those that really capture my mind are far and few between.  The audiobook YOUtiliy by Jay Baer however, is certainly time well spent.

He breaks down the concepts of content marketing with a simple elegance that crystallizes why this is so important.  It’s a style he’s perfected on his blog, Convince and Convert, and it came through in this work.  His mantra of “hype free” will not disappoint.

Whether you are a novice or an expert that already knows everything, I can promise that YOUtility will give you something to think about.  And here are my 7 take-aways. Read More…

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Big Ad Spend Listers and No Shows on Brand Power Lists

by Frank Strong

Advertising Megabrands, content marketing

Does spending more on advertising translate into brand power?

Advertising Age released an infographic this week showcasing the America’s 25 biggest advertisers and the first thing I noticed was which brands were not on the list.

For example, where is Coca-Cola?  This legendary software maker — the undisputed market leader in their category of products — and an iconic brand with a history of equally iconic advertising wasn’t on the list (Coke was the Cannes advertiser of the year this year).

These  “megabrands,” as AdAge calls them, are ranked based on dollars spent on paid media.  Let that sink in for a minute.

Dollars spent on paid media, which means the ranking is not based on results.  It’s not based on leads, sales, customer retention, market share gained or even market research benchmarking awareness, resonance or message penetration.  It’s how much they spend. Read More…

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Wall Street’s Problem with Content Marketing

by Frank Strong

Wall Street Marketing, Content Marketing

The Pyramids of Giza as seen from the the top of the Saladin Citadel.

Wall Street’s got a problem with content marketing.   Or maybe a better way to frame this conundrum is that content marketing has a problem in Wall Street. That problem is three months long and repeats itself four times a year, every year.

Wall Street wants results quarterly, preferably in the form of a hockey stick with a sharp tick up.  Blips, misses and mishaps are punished severely in the form of a depressed stock price.  Nothing puts senior management into a short-term tizzy like a stock plunge.

The investor phone calls start first, then the financial analysts begin to prod, and on a really rare occasion, for those publicly traded companies that mix of the masses of the middle market, a reporter starts sniffing around.  Read More…

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Celebrate July 4th Differently this Year: Read the Declaration

by Frank Strong

Read the Declaration of Independence

Celebrate different: Read the Declaration of Independence. It’ll take just a few minutes.

The Declaration of Independence is a little more than 1,300 words — the length of an old-school contributed article.  It contains 56 signatures from representatives of the 13 original colonies.

As a society we often celebrate such holidays with fanfare, but how many of us actually take the time to read the documents at the center of what these holidays signify? Read More…

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PR, Common Sense and Independence Day

by Frank Strong

PR, common sense, independence day

5th Regiment Armory, Baltimore, MD

As much hath been said of the advantages of reconciliation which, like an agreeable dream, hath passed away and left us as we were, it is but right, that we should examine the contrary side of the argument, and inquire into some of the many material injuries which these colonies sustain, and always will sustain, by being connected with, and dependent on Great Britain: To examine that connection and dependence, on the principles of nature and common sense, to see what we have to trust to, if separated, and what we are to expect, if dependant. (sic)

I’ve long felt that Independence Day, the Fourth of July, ought to have special meaning for PR professionals.

First, we have a PR profession in large part due to the freedom of speech granted by the First Amendment of the constitution. Read More…

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Why We Can’t Just be PR Pros Anymore

by Frank Strong


Have you heard of Moz, the company formerly known as SEOMoz?  It’s a marketing vendor that is pretty unique in several respects.

The company is rare among vendors in that it’s genuinely interested in solving marketers’ problems. Moz has great products some of which are free. It’s a vendor that does a lot of good for the marketing community at large.  Finally, Moz is really strategic about it’s marketing.

It amazes me the company hasn’t long been acquired for a premium price.

Moz has long appealed to SEOs.  In many ways this has pigeon-holed the company into that corner of the market, and in my opinion, prevents it from penetrating the larger marketing landscape.  This despite the fact it’s products are quite useful to a range of marketing functions, including PR. Read More…

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The Checkout Line Speaks to Content Marketing

Checkout Line, Content Marketing, upsell

The pressure to sell and upsell breeds a philosophy at odds with effective content marketing. (Photo credit: Flickr).

by Frank Strong

Have you been shopping lately? I mean shopping by visiting a bona fide retail store and standing in a check out line.

Recently I stopped in a several stores after being on a trip for two weeks for annual training with the Army and was shocked by one uniform observation: the hard upsell.

Every store I visited — Target, REI, WorldMarket, Walgreens and Toys R Us — applied an incredible amount of pressure at the register to buy more.

Each cashier had a checklist of questions to ask the customer — offers for loyalty cards, credit cards, coupons for return trips, discounts if I bought more — right then and there — and donations to charity among others.

I understand smart processes and the value of an upsell — there are probably a hundred retail consultants with data to prove this works in aggregate — but at what point is it too much? At what point is the customer being badgered?


Pressure: A Slimy Sales Technique

Toys R Us was by far the most aggressive — no less than five different sales questions at checkout.

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Marketing: the Race to 2nd Place

Race to 2nd place

Racing to 2nd place is like chasing a sunset: you never quite get there.

by Frank Strong

If you are running a marathon and pass the person in second place, what position do you hold?

The correct answer is second place.

The race to second place is pervasive in the business community.  Every company wants to be the leader but few are willing to take the risk to lead.  Often the first question posed in response to a new initiative is — such as social media or content marketing — is who else is doing it?

Nothing gets senior management’s attention like the competition.  Benchmarking the competition is a near-sure-fire way to make the case for content marketing.  Replicate the effort in sleeker packaging and a head for first.

Some might argue this is the Microsoft strategy — though in fairness Bing is doing things Google isn’t with Klout, Quora and others. Say what you will about Klout.  It is an interesting marketing tool and Microsoft does deserve credit for experimenting.  Read More…

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Content Marketing is Window Dressing for the Web

content marketing

Window shopping near Covent Garden, London

by Frank Strong

Physical stores – the brick-and-mortar kind – always prefer to select locations on street corners.  Why? It provides greater window space and two main entrances which means double the opportunity to connect with prospective customers.  The street corner is prime real estate.

Store front windows provide retailers with the opportunity to showcase their best wares – their high quality content.   The more great content on display, and the more convincing it becomes to walk through the door, the more likely it becomes a hurried passerby might stop and browse.

And the longer they browse, the more likely they are to purchase.  Who hangs around a store without making a purchase?

Starbucks is legendary for providing us an illustrative example. The company would often open new stores nearby existing stores.  Many would question such a move arguing that placing additional stores so close to each other would cannibalize sales; but it doesn’t. Read More…

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Marketing, Strategy and War Analogies

by Frank Strong

Marketing Strategy and War Analogies

For three years he had traded space for time. Skirmished, lost, retreated and did it again.

The war dragged on. Public support plummeted. Abandonment rates grew.

The men were exhausted and bitten by frost. It was dark. It was cold. The plan was exceedingly audacious. It was, in many respects, desperate. The route of approach for the raid crossed a wide river and more than nine miles on foot.

Chaff. Blisters. Frost bite. Hunger. Dehydration. Fatigue. Ammunition on short supply. Men would — and did — die on the movement let alone the battle.

For three years he had traded space for time. It was a strategy that had kept his rag tag band of men assembled into an organization easily mistaken for an army. On that night, the day after Christmas, his strategy was surprise. Read More…

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