Monday, May 10, 2010

Recently in a new business pitch meeting I was asked my opinion of utilizing text messaging in an advertising campaign. The potential client was dead set on it and asked me what I thought was the best way to acquire the list of phone numbers to text to. He didn’t have cell phone numbers in his database and wondered if they could be purchased.

There were so many things wrong with this line of questioning; I thought it warranted an article.

Text messaging is indeed a viable marketing communications tool, but like anything else, there are appropriate and inappropriate ways to use it. And like any social media vehicle, the appropriateness depends heavily on what you’re selling and whom you’re selling it too.

Advantages of Text Messaging
The advantages of text message advertising are obvious – texts are cheap to produce and have the ability to travel directly to the eyes of your potential customer. With people so glued to their phones, you know with absolute certainty they’re going to read it – unlike TV, radio, print or outdoor where you have to hope that:
1. They randomly come across it
2. They’re paying attention when they do

And because it’s a relatively newer tool in the marketing arsenal, it stands a greater chance of being read than other direct channels. Consumers have developed immunity to tangible and electronic junk mail. Think about yourself when you’re checking your email account or rifling through your mailbox. You can tell almost immediately what you need to read and what you don’t. But there is no spam filter or shiny coated envelope for your text messages – not yet anyway. For the moment, people give every text message they receive equal consideration.

That being said, text messaging can be the sharpest of double-edged swords. If you use it incorrectly it will annoy your customers faster than anything else you can think of. And with text messaging being a point on the blurry line that is the “Do Not Call” list, there can be legal implications as well. But given the right message about the right kind of product to a customer who wants to receive them, text messaging can be highly effective.

Golden Rules of Text Messaging
1. Only send them to people who have explicitly told you they want to receive it
o Even if they’ve given you their contact information for something else, they have to explicitly agree to receive emails or texts
2. Only use texts to send messages that are legitimately important and time sensitive
o No one wants to hear puffery or cares that you’re offering $00.10 off all purchases in the next 20 minutes
3. Don’t use a text to ask people to make too major a decision on the spot
o No one will come in to buy a car after 1 text message
o For bigger purchases, get them to do something smaller first – check out a website, enter into a sweepstakes, etc.
4. Never send too many text messages in too short a time
o Once a week is definitely too often
o Once a month probably is too
o Use your judgment
5. Use text messaging in conjunction with other communications – NEVER in place of them.
o Text messaging is for telling an important and time-sensitive thing to people you know want to hear about it.
o Text messaging is not the vehicle for building awareness of your product/service or cultivating your market image.

Things to Keep in Mind
Text messages need to be clear in what you want your customer to do, and you shouldn’t expect the text to do too much heavy lifting.
• A text message might compel someone to look at a website for more information, or to swing by a store to check out a huge tent sale
• A text message will never sell a car, house or insurance policy by itself

Always keep in mind that text messaging isn’t free – for you OR for your customer. Many text messaging add-on plans give people a finite number of text messages per month, or charge by the text. That applies to texts sent or received. That means many customers will be charged by their phone companies to receive a text message whether they asked for it or not. Consider that the next time you’re thinking of doing a text messaging campaign – would someone want to pay $0.25 to receive this message?

When thinking about whether you should do text message advertising, don’t think in terms of “does this customer want to receive messages about my company/product/service?”

Think specifically -- what about your company/product/service does your customer really care about? And is that thing appropriate to convey in 160 characters? Tell your customers something about you they’re not used to hearing – like in these examples below:

Examples of Good and Bad Texting
Example 1:
• If you’re a retail store and you have sales all the time, no one wants to hear about every single item as it’s marked down. Just because people may individually care about some things doesn’t mean they want to be overwhelmed with every little thing.
• But, if you rarely have sales or you have only small ones, people might care to know when you’re having that once-a-year event where everything in the store is 30% off. You know they like to shop with you, and an event like that doesn’t happen very often.

Example: 2
• If you’re a restaurant, don’t send customers random messages to the effect of “make a reservation for this weekend!” They can eat at your restaurant any weekend. If there isn’t anything special going on this weekend why would they want a text message from you?
• But, your customers might like a text message reminding them that Valentine’s Day is in 2 weeks, that you’re preparing a special couples menu and that you still have reservations available. If they’ve forgotten to make a restaurant reservation (which they probably have) all they have to do is click “Reply” to your text to lock one in. It saves them the time of picking a restaurant to go to and then calling around to see who still has reservations available.

Example: 3
• Some national bands or music groups will send texts to their fans when they’ll be playing in their area. Texts include the date, time and venue of the event and where (whether website or location) you can go to get tickets.
• If you’re a big fan of the band and they’re not in town every day, then that’s probably something you’d want to hear about.

We hope these suggestions and guidelines will help you determine whether text message advertising is appropriate for your company and customer. Of course, proper implementation and tracking a text messaging campaign is more complicated than just hitting “send.” If text messaging as part of a larger social media strategy is something you’re interested in, Stone can help with the details.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Doug Melville
Eleven years ago when I graduated from Syracuse University, multicultural marketing was one of the most important platforms for reaching trendsetting youth and forward thinkers. Multicultural masterminds in urban America created, owned and developed ways to monetize buzz and word of mouth. Most importantly, these platforms were tied into the corporate media and part of ad and marketing spending.

Some called multicultural nontraditional, some called it experimental, some called it grassroots, but the platform's core remained the same: a good strategic below-the-line way to create value for your brand. Corporation's turned to this "multicultural toolbox" to find the platform that best allow their brands to hit urbanites. In 2001, there was so much demand for these platforms, I started an agency out of my bedroom solely focused on monetizing them. I helped brands focus on street teams and premiums, block parties, mix tapes, flyers, in-market events, e-mail blasts and wrapped vehicles. And as our firm grew in size (and finally got an office), we began to do niche based print/magazine buying and spot media -- all focused on the forward thinking consumer.

A next generation of multicultural platforms were then developed by the Jay Z's and Diddy's of the world. They used their brands, their influence, their videos and their music as a way to develop clothing, fragrances and licensing platforms to leverage against other marketing and advertising opportunities. They built agencies and relationships to bond with the urban consumer. Ad agencies and brands assigned budgets to these non-traditional categories and looked at these niche relationships and campaigns as a necessary part of their spend. These platforms had ad dollars set aside and assigned for multicultural owned and operated formats.

Let's fast forward to today. Nontraditional platforms no longer hatch in the street, but in Silicon Valley. Steve Jobs (iPad/iPhone/iAd), Eric Schmidt (AdWords/YouTube/Droid), Dennis Crowley (Foursquare), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Jack Dorsey (Twitter) have redefined "nontraditional" as "digital" (digital was formerly known as "new media"). And in the digital world, the most profits go those that own the platforms. Measurability and metrics now define platforms.

And for the multicultural segment it couldn't come at a worse time.

Look at Nielsen's 2009 Multicultural Ad Spending Report and things don't seem so great. On the surface, multicultural ad spending outpaced the general market. But the reality was that only one multicultural category increased in both African-American and Spanish-language media: cable TV buys. Other than that, everything else was down.

For African-American Media, four of the five categories showed brand defection.

•African-American network TV spending: down 72%
•African-American national magazine spending: down 33%
•Spot radio spending: down 10%
•Syndicated TV spending: down 16%
For Spanish-language Media, six of seven categories measured decreases: local magazines, local newspapers, Spanish-language network, spot radio and spot TV.

Which is why the release of the iPad and the preview of the iPhone OS4 were so important. As the technology industry continues to develop proprietary platforms to get people more engaged through technology, many in the ad industry -- and particularly those in the multicultural space -- are losing their ad positioning. Budgets are going to be more committed to platform ad spending instead of multicultural ad spending. And it doesn't help that the data shows that multicultural is becoming less innovative and more of a one-trick "ethnic cable media buy" pony.

While executing multicultural campaigns will continue for years, true multicultural innovation and platform development has seemingly become more and more extinct. Remember: He who owns the platform, profits the most.

For advertisers, what used to be simple game of low-cost experimental checkers has now become an expensive game of digital chess. Every piece of the digital toolbox affects every other piece, and there are no shortage of marketing-budget-draining platform options.

There is the iPad, in addition to 50-plus competitor tablets in the works. Then there are QP Codes for the scanning of new products. There are four major mobile platforms to consider: iPhone, Droid, Blackberry and Palm. Don't forget social media (how could you) and search. And this doesn't even include augmented reality.

If that wasn't enough to drain the ad/media/marketing/man-hour/R&D budget for the "niche" sector, you then have to battle one final format war -- programming codes HTML5 vs. Adobe Flash.

Those that develop the ads have less power than those who develop the platforms, which was part of the reason the hip-hop generation and hip-hop culture had such a major impact on spending, trends and American in general. We owned hip-hop, we owned the platform, we held the power, we set the terms.

The multicultural sector must be challenged to come up with a new invention or product, a 'multicultural digital toolbox' or some compelling platform offerings, if it expects to continue to gain headlines in the digital age.

But true to the form of economics, when someone wins, someone also must lose. In this case, even in a Census year, the digital toolbox seems to have snatched the momentum and relevancy away from the multicultural tool box.

At least that is what it says on my iPad.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Social Media as the New Standard in Public Relations
By: Chris Stone

The power of communicating a controlled message to the largest possible audience has long been known as an effective organizational tool. The use of public, verbal communications has played a significant role in influencing common beliefs and behavior for centuries.

But as technology became more advanced, the shear quantity of messaging that was possible brought a growing suspicion that organizations were using multimedia to create deception. Time proved this to be correct – a number of public relations initiated by large corporations were exposed to be fraudulent. Perhaps one of the most extreme examples of this was the Union Carbide tragic chemical explosion in India that was initially denied by the company.

As public trust in “official corporate communications” dissolved, a counter culture of those seeking their own truth began to gain momentum.

Enter Web 2.0, the technology that moved the Internet from a “push” medium to a truly interactive medium. Because of this technological breakthrough, pathways opened between individuals and groups of individuals to share opinions well beyond their physical circle of friends.

It took no time at all to see how easily a product could gain momentum when consumers spoke among themselves. Peer-to-peer communications were seen as unbiased and genuine – the polar opposite of traditional public relations. Social media opened the channels for ordinary consumers to report and investigate the truth for themselves without having to rely solely on the official corporate word.

As it became clear consumers were no longer content to be spoon-fed information, many companies responded by initiating real-time discussions on topics their audiences were concerned about, and allowed them to take part. These forums brought together people of like interest, regardless of distance, and allowed companies to have a voice in the discussion.

Eventually, a new breed of interactive information delivered as Web Casts drew together new communities that were willing participants in a given subject. Companies often enhanced the credibility and value of these events by inviting expert guest presenters with special subject knowledge to be moderators.

In many ways, this became public relations at its highest level, now providing the ability to create a dialog that could communicate truly relevant messages to small, influential groups – but in ways where both the consumer and the company could each have a voice.

This mutual opportunity enabled real relationships to form between companies and consumers. The company sponsoring these forums gained a new breed of loyalists who have since demonstrated the potential for a viral impact within their own circles. Consumers gained the opportunity to voice their thoughts and concerns, thereby indirectly influencing company actions.

By strict definition, it is here that the line blurs between public relations and emerging social media. Once a company has inspired others to speak on their behalf because of a meaningful relationship spawned from social interaction, the result often eclipses results that could be achieved by conventional public relations alone.

In our emerging, non-traditional world, social media in all its various forms has created more unity of thought and action than mass communications. What we are to learn from this is to not underestimate the power of one. A well-planned social strategy that offers real value can move a mountain, one rock at a time.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Wikipedia defines confidence as "a state of being certain, either that a hypothesis or prediction is correct, or that a chosen course of action is the best or most effective." Scientifically speaking though, one has no idea whether a course of action is correct until what is being sought has been achieved or not. Which leads to a reasonable possibility that one may decide to take no action because they no longer trust in the ability to perform due to past failures or because one "just has a feeling" that they won't succeed before trying.

And then there's "The Choke." Just at the moment when confidence, especially self-confidence, is needed the most one allows doubt to enter the mind and squelch any hope that the best result will be achieved. It's a term most often used in sports, but just as easily translates into business when important decisions are on the line.

Jack Welch, of GE, once said, “Confidence gives you courage and extends your reach. It lets you take greater risks and achieve far more than you ever thought possible." Hockey great, Wayne Greasy once said, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

Confidence is one of the top characteristics of successful leaders. Here are 7 ways to gain more confidence:
1. What's the worst that could happen? Too often we place excess importance on potential problems and spend too much time and energy worrying. Instead, take action on what you have control over and minimize risks for what you don't. Then invest your energy wisely.
2. Visualize. If you are doing something for the first time imagine that you have already done it in the past. Close your eyes and imagine you succeeding wildly at what you are really going to do. The mind does NOT know the difference between something vividly imagined and something real.
3. Model others' behavior. Find someone who has mastered confidence and copy them. What allows them to act decisively on a course of action? Model their behaviors, attitudes, values and beliefs.
4. As-if. Use the "as-if" frame of mind. If you were confident, how would you be acting, moving, speaking, and thinking? What would you tell yourself inside? By asking yourself these questions, you are literally forced to answer them by going into a confident state. You will then be acting "as-if" you are confident.
5. Keep it in perspective. Visualize the future and ask if what you are faced with today is such a big deal. Imagine yourself on your deathbed, surrounded by family and friends looking back over your life. Is what you are faced with now all that relevant? Probably not. Keeping things in proper perspective really diminishes fear.
6. Go for it. Remember that you automatically lose out on 100% of the opportunities that you never go for. To get what you want, ask for it. As you think about your goals, how effective would it be for you to believe that all the people out there want to help, if you only asked? Whether that is true or not in the "real world" does not matter. Believe.
7. Lose the internal voice. The negative internal voice can keep anyone stopped. To stop the internal voice, imagine a volume control and lower the volume. Or how about changing the voice to a clown voice. You wouldn't take direction from a clown, now would you? The point is to disarm the voice by altering the way it nags at you. If I hear my own voice nagging at me, it stops me. If I hear a clown voice, I laugh and continue onward.
Confidence is derived from within, and it has a better chance of developing when one allows oneself to choose a course of action when the outcome remains unknown. A positive outcome will stroke the confident behavior and make the decision easier next time. A negative outcome will provide a valuable lesson for a future decision. Either way confidence is bolstered and you are better prepared to evaluate risks versus rewards.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hundreds of LifeCare advocates gathering at Crossroads Fellowship Church for Awareness and Support Rally!

Part of a Call to Action to Educate people on Viable Alternatives to Abortion
Join the Movement to Change Hearts and Minds

WHAT: LifeCare Pregnancy Center, is holding an Awareness and Support Rally! to fight for the lives of the unborn and their mothers. LifeCare is a local affiliate of the nationally recognized CareNet Network. Thousands of women have been helped locally, millions have been helped nationally.

LifeCare is hosting a press conference at the North Hills Renaissance Hotel on Friday, February 19th at 10am. Dr. Alan Keyes, a prominent pro-life advocate, former UN Ambassador, Presidential and Senatorial candidate and radio/TV personality will share how you can become part of the movement to change the perception of abortion in America.

Kicking off the “LifeCare Awareness and Support Rally” event will be Dr. Alan Keyes.

WHY: For 25 years we advocated for the unborn and the unborn’s parents. We make it possible for people to make good choices about sex and life by providing a safe place where they can talk and get answers and support. LifeCare is a place where someone listens instead of judges.

PRESS CONFERENCE: February 19th, 10am – Press Conference at Renaissance Hotel at North Hills

PUBLIC EVENT: February 19th – 7:30pm-9pm
WHERE: Crossroads Fellowship Church, 2721 Millbrook Rd, Raleigh, NC 27604
PRESS CONTACT: To arrange pre-event interviews with speaker, or to RSVP for the press conference please contact: Jenny Martin, 919-621-1619,
For Immediate release

(RALEIGH, NC February 17, 2010)
Dr. Alan Keyes speaks this week about changing the perception of abortion in America

"Prominent media personality and former Presidential candidate Dr. Alan Keyes will speak in Raleigh this week about changing the perception of abortion in America.

Keyes will be the main speaker at an awareness and support rally for The Life Care Pregnancy Center February 19 from 7:30pm – 9:00pm at Crossroads Fellowship Church in Raleigh."

“The courts have ruled that abortion is “legal”. Their ruling encourages women to believe that they are free to choose abortion” Keyes said in a statement issued for release today. “Because of their ruling women are confronted with a tragic and necessarily negative choice. They don’t want an abortion nor do they want to give birth and raise a child absent the love and support they believe is missing in their situation. Life Care’s role is to provide these women the ability to make a more informed and broader choice.”

Keyes added: “We need to remind people that there are alternatives to abortion. With enough information and support we can reform the public perception of choice. Choice cannot be synonymous with abortion. It ought to be synonymous with decent responsibility toward each other and to God. We help people choose well.”

Keyes’ speech comes amidst the recent maelstrom of political debate happening all over the country surrounding the status of abortion in healthcare. Recent events suggest the public perception may already be changing.

Last week, Wake County announced it would end a decade-long practice of covering elective abortions for government employees – citing a 29-year old NC Supreme Court ruling that makes it illegal. Under the ruling, North Carolina tax dollars can only be used to cover abortions in the cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the pregnant woman is in danger.

In November 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a healthcare reform bill that would prohibit federal funding of abortion under any government-run insurance plan as well as private policies available in the Exchange to people receiving federal subsidies.

The Senate version of the bill, which passed a month later, would allow each state to choose whether or not to allow private policies that cover abortion into their exchanges.

Keyes says, “The fight to change how Americans think about abortion has intensified. We need to gather even more support to continue the pro life movement’s undeniable impact.”

Keyes has a long career of government service and political activism. He ran for President of the United States in 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2008 and was Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in 1988, 1992, and 2004. Keyes was appointed as ambassador to the United Nations by President Reagan in 1983, and has served on the National Security Council Staff as well as the American Delegation in India as well as on the State Department Desk for Zimbabwe.

The LifeCare organization in Raleigh, NC asked Keyes to speak at Friday’s Rally event because of his outspoken support of the alternatives to abortion.

“The Courts allows abortion, but many women make a choice because they feel they really don’t have one. Their situation makes the prospect of giving birth too insurmountable. We are here to help her, her partner, and family evaluate her options based on information, love, and support all in an atmosphere without judgment. A place where she can choose well,” said LifeCare representative Mary Amundsen. “We respect the right to choose, and want to help people make that choice an informed one.”

According to their mission statement, LifeCare helps people make good choices about pregnancy, sex and life by providing a safe place where they can get information and support in a nonjudgmental environment.

They also offer free pregnancy tests, STD screenings and ultrasounds as well as free life skills classes and material support for anyone affected by a crisis following sex.

“We’re excited to hear Dr. Keyes speak at the (Rally),” said LifeCare spokesperson Mary Amundsen “Given all the talk of abortion in the news recently, the timing couldn’t be better. We’re hoping for a great turnout to help raise awareness and support for the cause.”

The awareness and support Rally event commemorates LifeCare’s 25th anniversary. It is being held at the Crossroads Fellowship Church on 2721 Millbrook Rd this Friday from 7:30pm – 9:00pm. Free childcare is offered for children under 5. Dessert and coffee is provided to all. For more information visit

PUBLIC EVENT: February 19th – 7:30pm-9pm
WHERE: Crossroads Fellowship Church, 2721 Millbrook Rd, Raleigh, NC 27604
PRESS CONTACT: To arrange pre-event interviews with speaker, please contact: Jenny Martin, 919-621-1619,