Sword and the Script

Indelible montage for Memorial Day



by Frank Strong

We cherish too, the Poppy redThat grows on fields where valor led,It seems to signal to the skiesThat blood of heroes never dies. - Moina Michael, as cited by USMemorialDay.org.

I don’t have words for the holiday, but here’s how to observe Memorial Day and the History Channel has some interesting facts. If you work in marketing or PR, here’s what not to do.  I find it distasteful.  Good initiative; poor judgement.   Instead, I’m offering a few things that have moved me this weekend, a montage of sorts. Many of these photos and graphics are items my own friends have shared on social media. 

  1.  “If not me, then who…” writes Tom Manion quoting his son Travis who was killed on his second deployment in the Wall Street Journal. The quote is a reference to Travis thoughts about returning for #2:  if he went again, his service might keep safe a junior Marine.  Manion Senior, it’s worth noting, served for 30 years.  His article details dozens of sacrifices, including Devin Snyder, 20-year old NCO her mother describes as a “girly-girl.”  She was killed by a road side bomb in Afghanistan.  Sen. John McCain, a veteran himself tweeted a link.
  2. “The more I thought about myself, the weaker I became. The more I recognized that I was serving a purpose larger than myself, the stronger I became,” said Eric Greitens in a commencement speech to Tufts University. The author of this CNN post goes on to quote Longfellow, “The life of man consists not in seeing visions and in dreaming dreams but in active charity and in willing service.”  The reference to “man” should be considered gender neutral, as my first post point notes, the veteran sacrifice is without regard to sex.
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When is the best time to listen?



by Frank Strong

There are a lot of posts on the web recently about “when is the best time to post,” but the question that goes un-asked is when is the best time to listen?

Oh, I understand, we all want people to read, share and discuss our content, so it makes perfect sense that we’d want to know the optimal time down to the millisecond to post a link on Twitter, or update a Facebook status.

But what about listening?  Remember that word?  Along with “transparency” and “authenticity” and similar words and phrases that now seem cliche, those words used to be a pillar in social media, but today they strike me more as punch lines.  Read More…

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Communications professors without a social media clue



by Frank Strong

A little more than two years ago I contacted one of my old professors from American University.

We were working on a Webinar theme and I thought he’d be a good fit.  A published author, an associate (not an adjunct) professor (but without a PhD), he had a lot of real world experience with political communication.

It had been about 10 years, but I could still remember the slide overlays he used in class to stimulate discussion.

And that’s the problem.  Zero social media presence.  How can a professor of communication profess to be an expert in teaching the skill if he’s not using the tools that are so widely adopted, and in many ways, have turned the idea of (a very weak) communications theory on its head?

They can’t.  That’s right Professor.  YOU can’t teach communications if you don’t have a clue about social media.  And prospective students, you should avoid their classes. The university should drop you from the program.  Sadder still, those of you implicated will never see a post like this one here.

“I’m a very private man,” he said to me.   Please.  You don’t have to share intimate details on Twitter if you choose not to.  You do have to understand its impact on communications. Go be private in the private sector. Oh, wait, maybe you can’t.  Read More…

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Social media is like driving in the rain



by Frank Strong

Oh, the commute.  DC area commuters know what I mean.  Sigh.  It gets worse every year.  Housing bubble?  What housing bubble?

New apartment and condo buildings go up every day.  I left for a year and recently returned to a new skyline.  New buildings mean more vehicles.  Think more cars.  And SUVs.  And lots of them.

Traffic is already terrible.  A small city with an enormous urban sprawl, DC easily rivals Los Angeles or New York City.  Worse, when it rains, traffic is exponential nightmare.

One co-worker theorized today that rain brings out two types of people that clash on the interstate:  the more aggressive and the more cautious.  The two do not mix well.  Another said it’s because DC is a transient city.  Few people that live here were born and raised, which means the Nation’s Capital has an eclectic mix of driving styles.  Read More…

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How Facebook borders on Hunger Games


Image Credit:  Screenshot of Google Image Search

Image Credit: Screenshot of Google Image Search

by Frank Strong

Facebook is experimenting with additional ways to monetize its platform and it’s doing so to signal to Wall Street – in advance of its IPO – that the company is serious about making money.

Last week reports emerged that Facebook is testing a plan to let users pay about two bucks to have their posts rank higher in your feed. This comes at a time that Facebook has been meddling with the newsfeeds, using algorithms of sorts, that are likened to Google’s PageRank, in an effort to show users what Facebook thinks you want to see.

At the same time, as the WSJ this Morning podcast reported last week, businesses are experimenting with methods to give social media power users discounts to recommend deals. For example, a juice maker will take a tiered approach to urging users to share a deal.  If they offer a coupon for 10% off for their product, and a power user gets 5 of their friends to share that power user would get 20% off.  The more shares the better the deal for the originator.

Put two and two together and you can see the problem. There’s a monetary incentive here for someone to plan to pay Facebook to rank their shares higher in the hopes of getting discounts. Fundamentally, it’s the difference between sharing a good deal because it’s a good deal (that’s called viral) and sharing a deal because you’re benefiting from it (that’s called manipulation). Read More…

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Creative Mother’s Day Pitches



by Frank Strong

We’ve got a few more days to get something for Mom – or grandma, or baby’s mama, or a sister with kids (mine has six!).  This year I was planning ahead – a marketing email from the same local flower shop where I order something for my mother each year hit me up early.

There was only one downside:  they don’t deliver on Sunday (the 13th) which is the actual celebration of Mother’s Day.  Ditto for the big shops – I ordered another gift from 1-800-FLOWERS and they don’t deliver on Mother’s Day either!

At any rate, I took to Google to search for some creative PR and marketing ideas around Mother’s Day.  What are some things businesses are doing?  Here’s a look at seven I liked:

1.  Help the kids pick gifts.  When I was about 4 or 5, I gave my Dad a nickel and a dime in an old candy case for Christmas.  Back then fifteen cents was a big deal to me but I can still remember him laughing his ass off when he opened it.  Sort of hurt my feelings. Of course, now I understand, but this anecdote underscores a business pain:  kids have a hard time picking out gifts for parents. Charlie Gaudet writes in a blog post on Predictable Profits, “Create an event for children to come inside your store and select items just for mom. Perhaps offer a special discount to children, or offer a special low-priced selection just to kids.”  Great idea!  By the way, I found Charlie’s post by way of a PRWeb release (owned by my employer) which you can see in the nearby screenshot (click the image to enlarge) was the top search result in my Google News search for ideas to write this post.

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Audio branding, essential sound in marketing



by Frank Strong

Sound has a powerful emotional connection; think for a minute what is triggered in our minds when we hear:  a heartbeat, a doorbell, a phone’s ring, a car horn,  a lawnmower, a dog’s bark, a baby’s cry, or Christmas carols.

Each sound has a special meaning, like a language onto its own;  someone needs us, is warning us or entertaining us.   These sounds trigger’s emotions: a doorbell for example, might trigger excitement for a familiar friend, or dread, with an unwanted visitor.

Sound isn’t commonly associated with branding, perhaps because it’s not often cited as a mechanism to raise awareness or drive leads; it might however have a powerful connection to customer loyalty and retention.  Consider the sense of community stadium-wide singing during the seventh inning stretch of a baseball game builds.

What sort of music do they play in retail stores?  Shopping music.

It seems to me, sound in branding goes nearly unnoticed, it’s almost unconscious, or perhpas subliminal, yet  in a way that’s different than simply trying to ignore web advertisements.  This is why I found a Marketplace story – Company logos expand into sonic realm – so interesting (you can read, or better yet,  listen to that story).

If you subscribe to the idea popularized by Ries & Trout, that positioning takes place in the mind of consumers, as opposed to the words of a tag line, then you can instinctively understand the power of sound.  Read More…

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5 things scuba diving teaches me about PR



by Frank Strong

We can see parallels in nearly anything.  Sometimes analogies work; other times they don’t.  It depends on perspective – and experiences.

As a long time member of reserve components of the military, I often think of PR as the “indirect fire” – the artillery and mortars that “softens” up a beach before the infantry assaults (think familiarity before a sales call).  I once had a boss that thought that was ridiculous; I had another that thought it was genius.

So having just returned from a Scuba diving vacation in Bonaire, I was reviewing (amateurish) photos I had taken and had this inspiration.  Maybe it’ll work for some but not others, but here’s five things Scuba diving makes me think about in PR:

1. Check your buddy’s equipment before you dive.  Most Scuba courses teach you to do this; but some get sloppy after a while.  Don’t let complacency set in – recreational diving has one redundant system and that’s your buddy’s air. If it doesn’t work, you’ll be sucking water: that’s not good.  There isn’t a second chance.  Likewise, proof you work before you publish.  As the old saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Read More…

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A Marketing Conversation with a Small Business Entrepreneur



by Frank Strong

small-business-marketing
Word-of-mouth.  That’s the only marketing Curt said he does for his small business.

Clean cut, casually dressed, and the adoptive parent of three children from Ethiopia, Curt is a pediatric dentist that sat next to me on a recent flight back from the Netherlands Antilles. We talked marketing for the better part of a couple hours; I asked a lot of questions and listened.

Curt isn’t a marketer, he’s an entrepreneur, with a small practice and handful of employees.  The biggest hit he takes on a vacation isn’t the cost of airfare or a room at a resort – it’s the fact he isn’t billing — and that is easily 4 or 5 times the cost of his vacation.

“If my hands aren’t wet, then I’m not making any money,” he told me.  In fact he said he tells his staff that all the time.

His take on pediatric dentistry is simple:  good communication, a light-hearted manner with kids, and the knowledge that the parents rather than the children are his patients. His staff is forbidden from mentioning words like “ouch” or “boo-boo” or anything remotely similar in the office.  He rattled off about 20 such words and phrases; I can only remember two, but then, armed with an electric toothbrush, I’m not afraid of the dentist.

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