Resist Tunnel Vision About Your Value, Heed Market Feedback & Turn Failure into Success

In today’s rapidly shifting strategic marketing and public relations landscape, being willing to change is only one part of the equation.

You’ve also got to be continually alert to those ways in which you must embrace change–or invite extinction. That truth comes to mind as 2010 draws to a close and I reflect on what was happening in my professional life five years ago.

In the January 2006 issue of North Shore magazine, I bought an advertisement for Your Front Page. It was part of my big promotional push for a personalized writing service that until that point had been a fun sidelight to my journalism career.

I hoped the ad would trigger a deluge of business from folks in places like Winnetka, Northbrook and communities all throughout the Chicago area who wanted a distinctive way to commemmorate birthdays, wedding anniversaries and other celebrations.

Alas, the placement sparked a grand total of one phone call. And here’s the kicker: it was from a salesperson hoping I’d buy an ad from his publication.

The “Your Front Page” ad
in North Shore magazine

I realize that with advertising, repetition is vital, so I don’t in any way fault the magazine (which has recently been assimilated into the burgeoning Make It Better empire). Besides, I made other grassroots marketing efforts to get the service off the ground.

Despite my grand ambitions, Your Front Page has attracted a mere three clients in the past five years. And while enthusiastic responses to the pieces have been gratifying, it’s obvious that on a commercial level, my blueprint of how I’d shift from journalism has been a resounding flop.

Fortunately, I wasn’t hung up on the exact nature of my value to the marketplace. As a result, YFP’s failure has opened the door to the success of what has become Inside Edge PR.

Like a quarterback who spots a coming blitz and calls an audible at the line of scrimmage, I have been open to market feedback and carved a niche as a Chicago-area publicist who uses a journalistic sensibility to help small- and medium-sized companies and organizations.

Over the next five years, where will it all lead? Will I continue along this path of helping mostly Chicago-area businesses connect with, and expand, their market?

Maybe–though I wouldn’t bet on it coming via some orderly trajectory. New wrinkles continually emerge: over the past few years, for example, Inside Edge PR has jumped feet-first into the use of videos for PR as well as developing a strong social media presence for clients.

Through it all, one thing is for certain: nobody, least of all me, can afford to stay stuck in any preconceptions about how they can best serve the marketplace.

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Social Media: No Need To Get Blogged Down

“Social Media & Your Business: A Phase or the Future?” enjoyed a solid and receptive turnout on Thursday night at the Oak Park Public Library. About 30 people, mostly business owners, attended and learned a ton from Sherri Lasko of Sunspot Marketing and, I hope, at least a few pounds’ worth from me.

I learned a bunch myself, including this reminder: people are at a loss when it comes to blogging–and it need not be so. We polled the audience and found:

13 were on LinkedIn,
10 were on Facebook,
And four were on Twitter.

The grand tally of folks who blog: zero, zilch, nada, one big, fat goose egg.

As much as I have seen the collective reluctance to blog, I was somewhat astonished that not even one soul raised a hand to claim themselves as being an active citizen of the blogosphere.

Below is a 55-second excerpt of my blog-encouragement, which was a riff off of a tongue-in-cheek hand-out I provided on Blog Schmog: Why You Absolutely, Positively Don’t Have to Blog.

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Blog, Schmog: Why You Absolutely, Positively Don’t Have to Blog

You hear “blog,” and think, “Blah!” As in, “Yuck!”

No, make that “Blah-blah-blah!” As in, “A royal waste of my time—as a reader, and certainly as a writer.”

OK, I hear you. And it’s true—you don’t have to write a blog. Isn’t it so 2007, anyway?

Of course, if you are looking to grow with the 21st Century way of doing things, then there’s got to be some online formula to help you promote and grow your cause, business or widget of the moment. Try this combination on for size:

Hone the Discipline of Reflecting

Take some time to actually think about what you’ve done, what you’re doing and what you plan to do. Then distill those thoughts into words. It’s not simple, but on the other side is a huge pay-off: improved processes and practices.

Psst, let others in on your mental journey. It increases their understanding of and respect for what you’re up to.

Display Your Expertise

Through anecdotes and insights that only you possess, convey what separates you from the pack. Give a bit of yourself away—not the whole store, but enough to add value to those who come across your path.

Send a Signal That Your Cause or Business Is Alive and Well

When you haven’t updated that website in years—or, God forbid, haven’t gotten around to creating one in the first place—think of some simple way to let this cat out of the bag:

“Hey, everyone, I’m still around and gainfully engaged in the marketplace.”

Hint: if you’re thinking of cutting-and-pasting those very words into an e-mail, then sending it to everyone you know, it’s time to ponder Plan B.

Create An Anchor for All Your Communication

In the online realm, it’s a good idea to figure out a way to rise above the din that comes with billions of options.

So, amid enticements to check out this video, to read that product review or to study your baseball team’s latest box score, how do you help cyber-surfing Hansels and Gretels find their way to your home?

By consistently leaving trails of crumbs—on your e-mail signature, in comments on websites and everywhere in between—that all lead back to the same URL (Uniform Resource Locator).

That’s a good start: engage in reflective thinking; show and share your expertise; regularly remind the world that your business is in business; and establish a reliable communication anchor.

By now, it should be abundantly obvious that you absolutely, positively don’t have to blog. Then again, you don’t have to harness one of the most multi-dimensional, dynamic ways for kick-starting your efforts.

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Coming May 28: Social Media Workshop

On Thursday, May 28, I will be co-presenting a workshop, “Social Media & Your Business: A Phase or the Future?” at the Oak Park Public Library.

To learn more, click on the image to the left. Better yet, right-click it, save it to your desktop and share it with others who may benefit from the session. That would be social media in action.

Along with Sherri Lasko, in the workshop I will provide an easy-to-follow introduction to the various social media services and how they can benefit individuals, organizations and businesses.

The workshop begins at 7 p.m. and will go until 8:30 p.m. It’ll be fun, illuminating and will employ layman’s language, so you won’t get a headache from techno-geek-speak.

Social Media’s Powerful Domino Effect

If any organization had any doubts about the urgent importance of monitoring its brand, 24/7, then the recent Domino’s Pizza controversy offers a compelling cautionary tale.

Millions have seen videos of a few since-fired employees as they behave in a disgusting manner as they prepare food. You can link to those videos through a report (“Social media: The cause and the solution to Domino’s nightmare?”) at Medill Money Mavens, a site maintained by the Medill School of Journalism graduate level advanced economics and reporting class.

Type “Domino’s Pizza” into Google and near the top is this video response by Domino’s USA President Patrick Doyle.