Sword and the Script

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

Why-we-cant-just-be-PRs-anymore

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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Why Google+ is a Better Place for Brands


Google+ for brands

Google+ is the #2 network according to eMarketer

by Frank Strong

“Google+ is like a gym,” began the Facebook status update. “Everyone joins it but only few use it. [sic]”

Lately, I’ve noticed people that make such broad statements have weak or little activity on the social network, but there’s little doubt it has grown.

Recently eMarketer published a post with a headline that stated Google+ had topped Twitter as the #2 social network in a survey of 2,500 U.S. Internet users conducted in March 2013:

The site had the second-highest number of account holders among both men and women, leading Twitter by approximately 10 percentage points for both genders. – eMarketer

Google+ hasn’t existed long enough to reach toddler status, yet the critics have already marked it as a failure. It’s amazing, really, because if a startup social network gained such traction it would be a media darling. However, since it’s Google, the standards, vague as those might be, are set higher. Invariably, it always returns to a Facebook comparison.

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Google Bombs Native Ads


native advertising

eMarketer reports and optimistic outlook for spending on native advertising.

by Frank Strong

Usually when Matt Cutts speaks he reminds me of the Federal Reserve’s Ben Bernanke testifying before Congress: he speaks in broad terms about a philosophy and leaves the pundits to interpret the details.

This probably isn’t by choice, but by design because the words of both men hold a great deal of gravity to so many people. The latter can boost or tumble global financial markets, while the former has a similar impact on online marketing. However, one can arguable say both men speak to a digital form of currency.

That currency is dollars for one and links for another, but yesterday Cutts spoke out with unusual clarity about both. Links in exchange for dollars, he pointedly said, don’t mix.


Misleading Readers

Google’s Web Spam team lead was speaking of course about native advertising and in a video bluntly titled “advertorials” he warned that publications running advertisements, which are designed to look and feel as if they are editorial content, may face stiff penalties. In fact, he warned that Google might go beyond just removing the offending content and remove an offending publisher’s entire site from Google News.

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Two Marketing Vendors that Do a Bang Up Job with their Blogs


marketing vendor blogs

There’s only a couple of marketing vendor blogs that burn it up.

by Frank Strong

The challenge for a vendor selling tools to the marketing or PR space is that they’ve got to be experts.

Why is this such a challenge? This is because most vendors are technology companies first, which means they are people that may be good at writing code, but not necessarily great at marketing. It’s a law of nature that often gets overlooked by customers and prospective customers because the juxtaposition of tool and space is a powerful persuasive leap.

There are a dozen vendor blogs I read regularly — which means I check in on them about twice a week.  Of course, I manage a good old fashioned RSS reader (Netvibes is my preferred reader) so I’m continuously adding and removing vendor blogs to keep current. As of the moment, my list has vendors that make tools for blogging, SEO, email marketing, marketing automation, social media management, and a couple that pitch themselves as all-in-one.

Of this list, there are just two vendors that I think do a really bang up job with their blogs. Read More…

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