Thursday, May 17, 2007

Getting more bang for your small business advertising buck. Judette Coward-Puglisi

This week I got a congratulatory call from the CEO of Stechers, Sheena Thorpe. My company produced a series of ads for her luxury stores’ bridal registry and she was happy to report an excellent consumer response. The success of the Stechers campaign had to do with a couple of factors. The design was clean. The product was hero. The message was simple. But there was another success factor; working with an exceptional media planner we determined which audience would receive the messages and what mediums would be most appropriate to them.

Not all businesses strike the right advertising note. In fact, I was having lunch 2 months ago with my friend, an advertising manager of a large service company and she were commiserating how her advertising strategy had failed – in her post campaign research only one in four of those surveyed remembered the messages in her ads.
Her dismay was a striking reminder that the advertising/marketing mix is difficult if you don’t understand the framework necessary for analysis.

1. Share of Voice
Whenever clients have an advertising dilemma, the first question I ask is do they understand their share of voice. Most of them don’t but it is a fundamental starting point. To arrive at the percentage of the total exposure for all business in their category, I ask them how much of the total signage is theirs. I also ask for the details about their TV, radio and print advertising. I also like to get the below the line details like their web traffic or the number of mentions their brand had in a news story as opposed to a competitor. Understanding the numbers makes them aware of their total share of voice and if they need to ramp it up simply because they are not visible in the market place.
In Stechers case, while her share of voice was not high it wasn’t important that it should be. After all, how many customers can afford an $8, 0000 crystal owl as a decorative piece. Not many. So be effective Thorpe was advised to buy more repetition for her ads but get it from fewer suppliers in the media chain i.e. increase her share of voice to the prospective buyers with targeted media buying.

2. Impact Quotient
Advertising fails for only two reasons. The ads are either reaching too many people with too little repetition or delivering a message that no one cares about. Let me give you an example. At Mango Media Caribbean, we provide a myriad of services under the umbrella of strategic communications and brand development. Last year, we wanted to increase the quantity of editorial projects we were executing so we came up with a message that addressed the fact that many smart business people who are not gifted writers have i.e. they get stuck writing the first sentence of their report, proposal etc.. Our ad began with the question: “Stuck for words?” and was supported by graphic design of someone doodling as they were trying to write. The impact of that ad was great. Our audience could relate to it easily and quickly and because they did our editorial work rose by 80%. So the question is how impressive is your advertising message? Does your audience care about what you’re saying. Does your audience understand what you’re saying? To generate sales your ad must look good and reach the right target message but first of all it must first be believable and it must deliver on what it promises, which brings me to my next point of your brand promise and the personal experience factor.

3. Personal Experience Factor
Have you ever seen a really good ad for a clothing sale, one that touted the store’s high quality designer wear but in fact sold designer knock offs. Chances are if you went to the store because of the ad and were disappointed because of its false promises, you probably wouldn’t return. In essence unimpressive products or services nullify impressive ads, especially in an era of word of mouth selling. A strong ad will only temporarily prop up a business that delivers a weak personal experience factor. Remember: your ad must create genuine impressions of what you’re selling.
If you haven’t been as successful as you’d like try examining your advertising through the lenses of share of voice, impact quotient and personal experience factor, that way you can get back your campaigns back on track quickly.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Better communication in the workplace

Consider the case of a letter an employee once wrote. After having been told that an executive position had opened up in her organisation and that the CEO already had a listing of talented people to interview, she sent a letter saying that she knew of the list and thought she was the right person for the job. Many employees resented her action. “It was too forward, too fresh,” they said and criticised her for it months later.

And therein lies the explanation in what is wrong with many of today’s organisations. The woman’s action generated considerable heat but no light on why an employee should not be forthright with an opinion. The real reason may be that in many of today’s organisation we dare not say what’s on our mind.

In many corporations employees lack not only words. They lack courage. Take for instance a corporate meeting where the chairperson babbles on and on. Meanwhile you are lost in the drone thinking all the while of piles of work on your desk. You know that what you should really be saying is “Enough already, let’s get back to work.” But you know your words may have consequences and you wade through another 2 hours of an unproductive meeting. Silent.

Employees often fail to use candour in the workplace and then wonder why nothing is ever resolved. "Most people," writes executive coach Susan Scott "would really like to have meaningful conversations at work but aren't really sure how to do that. They may have seen someone do it before and saw what happened to them, so they don't do it themselves."
Conversation is at the heart of business relationships. Yet, without talking about the issues in the workplace directly, there is little chance of finding a solution, according to Scott.
In the case of the woman with the letter, when she heard that her name was not on the list she thought she’d address the situation directly, hence the letter to her CEO. She later learnt that she would be promoted.

Analysts say that reluctance to speak candidly may have deep roots. We are given stern directions early in life in proper behavior. Girls are told not to speak until spoken to, most parents tell children to shut up unless they have something good to say. When we start jobs, the landscape may change but not the rules. Colleagues brief us on the lay of the land and we observe what is deemed the correct corporate behaviour. For instance you may notice after a few days on the job that no one talks to the boss before breakfast or that there is a list of important work issues that are just not ever discussed or that in meetings whatever one particular person says goes despite the discontent of work colleagues. "People tend to accept that these are rules through which they must navigate," Scott explains. "That means they won't ever be able to have the honest conversations needed to change things." The status quo is accepted.

The key to a successful conversation is to find ways to candidly discuss topics in a diplomatic way, without threats or accusations. This is mostly done in peer-to-peer relationships but when it comes to peer to supervisor relationships, the success of the conversations is often thwarted.

Supervisors, naturally because of the power issues involved, sometimes undermine any opportunity for a successful conversation. They may respond immediately to a worker's statement, suggesting why an idea won't work or dismissing it with a "I hear what you are saying, but ... "

Replacing “but” with “and” is a great technique for inviting discussion and building listening skills. So too is if every supervisor asks employees the most important thing on their mind and give them time to think about it. A well thought out answer means opening a door to the words an employee wants to say and not necessarily what the supervisor wants to hear.

And that’s the start.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

IABC fosters the opportunity to connect

Last week Thursday, Executive VP of IABC T&T, Maria Rivas Mc Millan, and VP of Membership, Giselle La Ronde West and I shared a wonderful Thai lunch with the incoming chair of IABC Canada East Region, Rawle Borrel and his wife Abiola. Both are of T&T parentage but spent the majority of their lives in Canada.

We spent some time talking about IABC but most of it was spent chatting about our families, spouses, and our homes, what I like the call the real life stuff. Directly after our lunch, I told Maria that I felt as if I just had lunch with some old friends.

One of the real strong bonus points for me as a Chapter leader is the quality of global relationships I have struck up through IABC. When my husband and I vacation in Canada later this month we will be staying at the charming apartment of an IABC friend who is out of town for that very same week.

I met my friend Katherine Shelley from Toronto through IABC. Katherine, who comes to Trinidad every year for our world famous Carnival emailed me two years ago because she wanted to connect with other local IABC members. We hit it off immediately.

When I journey to New Orleans for the international conference in June, I am looking forward to attending the majority of the seminars on measurement & ROI but I am equally excited about connecting with the friends and colleagues I met earlier this year at IABC’s Leadership Institute in San Diego

When people ask me what drives me to continuously work at leading such a wonderful chapter, my answer is very really is all about the opportunity to connect.