1,000 Tweets!

March 21st, 2013 by Collin Canright

I noticed yesterday that I had done 999 tweets, right on the precipice of my third major Twitter milestone. Coincidentally, I read that today is Twitter’s seventh birthday, and I think it’s awesomely appropriate for me to send my 1,000 tweet on this day.

I’m sure it was my friend and social media expert extraordinaire Barbara Rozgonyi, who once told me that any 1,000 milestone is significant: 1,000 followed (pretty easy), 1,000 followers (harder especially if you’re seeking quality and fit), and 1,000 tweets.

That one should be the easiest, though in my case I would not be surprised if I took longer to reach that milestone than most others. People who do not tweet at all and who monitor and read tweets may never make it, nor will the people who simply lose interest in the medium, as I have on more than one occasion since I started my account on () 2007.

I joined when I gave a presentation in August 2007 on the wonders of Web 2.0. I had been reading about the next version of the web with high interest and put together an online survey of our email list during June 2007. Most respondents found web 2.0 relevant to their business but felt they lacked knowledge while nearly 80% were (extremely or very) interested in learning more about web 2.0 technologies.

In looking at the results now, it’s interesting to see that the term “social media” did not appear, though we wrote and asked about “social networks.” Twitter was not mentioned; I demonstrated the service when I presented the results in August 2007.

Some results were prescient as well. This respondent comment in some way predicted the rise of content marketing: “Being constantly user-focused and developing new ways to deliver content to users will have a big impact on our strategy; we will most likely continue to shy away from user contributed content.”

I called myself a “Twitter skeptic” in a November 2008 blog post on Twitter and social media best practices. But I kept at it on and off, and by August of 2009 I had developed a Twitter list of B2B payments companies that led to a client and the development of www.epaydb.com, a directory of payments companies and content that we maintained until last year. Visit the site to view the Twitter news feeds and read how it grew out of a Twitter list.

As a final note, I listened intently last Tuesday evening to WBEZ as it broadcast an interview with Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, on The Commonwealth Club of California. It’s well worth the time to learn about his management style, as well as the past, present, and future one Twitter.

Skeptic no more. I remain more of a content curator and sharer in by tweets than conversationalist, yet I do, and on this day of tweet 1,000, look forward to 10,000.

 

Tech Meets Tradition: Burberry and Attention to Digital and Material Detail

March 12th, 2013 by Christina Canright

We work a lot on paying attention to details in our company. Is what we’ve written accurate? Has the final copy been proofed? Do the message and design reflect the brand? Every detail matters in the business of communications—every detail reflects on us and our customer.

I got a good lesson in attention to digital and material details at a reception for members of the Executives’ Club of Chicago (Canright client) this past week. In this case, the material part also meant “fabric,” as the event was held at the new Burberry flagship store in Chicago.

At the store, tradition meets high-tech and social media. It was so exciting to see a brand that had previously been perceived as stuffy, now anything but. A fashion innovator. And in the space of just a few short years. Associates were friendly and more down-to-earth than I expected, proudly describing details of the clothing—down to the stitching—the store, and the way associates communicate with associates at the other stores around the globe.

I’ve been interested in textiles and their history for a long time and noticed the contemporary cut, color, and feel of the fabric is very different than the company’s traditional fashion look and feel but in keeping with its innovative past. Thomas Burberry was, after all, the inventor of gabardine fabric—and designer of the company’s signature product, the trench coat, first submitted as a design for an army officer’s raincoat to the United Kingdom War Office in 1901. In 1914, Burberry was commissioned by the War Office to adapt its officer’s coat to suit the conditions of contemporary warfare, resulting in the “trench coat”. Its adoption by the fashion world and the cinema is, as they say, history.

Walking into the Burberry store that night, I was struck with the variety of products—purses, shoes, perfumes, jackets, men’s suits, children’s clothes, and of course, the “trenches,” as they call them. Colors and fabrics that show how CEO Angela Ahrendts and her creative director, Christopher Bailey, have reinvented and reinvigorated the brand over the past several years.

The reinvention of the brand is apparent when you see the new Chicago store, on Michigan Avenue at Ontario, with its plaid-embossed chrome-plated exterior and ceiling-to-floor banners in the front windows. Inside, the exterior banners are reinforced by a ceiling-to-floor “digital content display” on the third floor.

“It’s that balance between the physical and virtual worlds that Burberry—and every other retailer—is working overtime to figure out. The pundits keep telling us we’ve entered a brave new Amazon world where on-line retailing is king and bricks-and-mortar a lingering anachronism. The unceasing crowds on Michigan Avenue would suggest otherwise,” wrote architecture critic and blogger Lynn Becker in “Tartan check-mate: Burberry’s Reinvigorates the Mag Mile,” a thoughtful piece on the new store’s design and its relationship to Chicago and Michigan Ave. retail architecture past and present.

The tech blog Mashable covered the store’s digital details, in a piece on the December 2012 grand opening, including a link to the “Art of the Trench” campaign video, which features Chicagoans wearing Burberry. “How we use technology was going to be our greatest differentiator,” Ahrendts told Crain’s Chicago Business.

Growth numbers from back in 2006 provided the digital impetus. As other luxury brands turned in 12-13% growth, Burberry lagged at 1-2%, as detailed in “Burberry’s Digital Transformation,” a Capgemini Consulting interview with Ahrendts. Judging by the most recent results, the effort has been a success, with Burberry generating strong third-quarter 2012 revenue increases of 9% in total revenue and 13% in retail revenue.

The Chicago store is Burberry’s second largest in North America, and will be the first to host Burberry Bespoke trench coats. Shoppers can collaborate with store associates to design their own trench coat via iPads, which many of the store’s sales associates carry.

The Burberry partnership and in-store event added excitement to an evening of informal business and social conversations among Executives’ Club members. As my partner and I walked out into the rainy Chicago night (really), I could only imagine the dialog between Burberry and The Executives’ Club as they did the same in their classic trenches. Yes, the beginning of a beautiful friendship. —Christina Canright

Dave Kerpen’s #Likeable World View Includes GE Locomotives and Tropicana Orange Juice

February 24th, 2013 by Collin Canright

Dave Kerpen is a likeable guy—or a #Likeable guy, in social media terms. He probably hears that one a lot because he is very likeable as a speaker, and his business is all about the marketing power of social media, with two books featuring “Likeable” as the first words in the title.

His presentation and book titles focus on the “Likes” of Facebook for the sake of simplicity, but his talk Friday, Feb. 19 in Chicago gave a sense of social media marketing’s strategic fullness while blowing some of its myths. BigFrontier put on the talk as part of mobium marketing’s long-running New Paradigm series.

There’s a myth that social media is free. It isn’t. “The number-one cost of social media is time,” Kerpen says. “Your time, your staff’s time, intern time, an agency’s time. If you’re going to do social media marketing well, it’s going to take time.”

Another myth: social media produces instant results. “It’s like a large cocktail party. You have conversations, and as those relationships mature, you will get results,” Kerpen says.

He told a number of stories about social media and business. The story about the Rio Las Vegas is a great one about how a company listened to him on social media—he was complaining about the service at another hotel on the Strip—and through only an empathic tweet gained, over the course of some period of time, at least $10,000 in new business from Kerpen and his large social network.

The network effects of social media conversations and comments are incredible, making listening as well as participating critical for businesses of any type, including business-to-business companies. “There’s no such thing as B2B; there’s only B2P,” he says, “because at the end of the day, we don’t sell to businesses, we sell to people.”

Social media tools today make it easy to target people within a business, especially LinkedIn. You can target ads in both LinkedIn and Facebook extremely specifically: company, title, demographic, location—nearly anything tagged in a profile, actually. Facebook’s new Social Graph search will compound the personal effect of social marketing, for both consumer and business brands. As Kerpen put it:

“Ten years ago, you’d go to find a dentist in the Yellow Pages or a coupon book. Five years ago, you would go to Google and search for “dentists.” Now I can search on Facebook for the dentists my friends like the most. This is a total game changer and potential Google killer.”

B2B brand conversations also take place in ways whose influence you cannot predict. As an example, I came across a short story in Fast Company called “The Juice Train,” which turned out to be a video about a new fuel-efficient train, powered by General Electric locomotives and operated by CSX Transportation. It pulls more than half-a-million gallons of Tropicana orange juice from Florida to New Jersey. GE’s electromotive marketing department produced the video and included quick visuals of CSX and Tropicana. I told my wife about it this morning with positive references to all three brands, and now I’ve written it up in a blog, complete with a link to the fast-motion video, which is extremely cool if you like trains:

You aren’t likely to go out and buy a GE locomotive, nor am I. But I’ll bet you like GE just a little bit more, and the effects of these conversations as they move through social networks certainly can’t hurt, especially because the content is generated by someone who doesn’t work for GE. (For the record, I refuse to call myself or anyone else who makes a comment on a social network a “user.”)

Social media makes it easier to tell and distribute a story, and the best stories a business can tell will provide value to the reader (entertainment, in the case of the GE video). From a sales point of view, “education and engagement last a lot longer than in the traditional sales cycle,” Kerpen says, “but when you do drive sales, you get loyalty through the work you put in. . . . Focus on building relationships, telling stories, providing value, and generating business through pull marketing.”

And don’t worry about making mistakes—because you will say the wrong thing. “At the end of the day, it’s just a very large cocktail party. Sometimes at a cocktail party, we put our foot in the mouth. We say we’re sorry and get on with life.”

View his presentation, “7 Simple Concepts to Become More #Likeable”, on Slideshare.

Keeping Ourselves Inspired

February 17th, 2013 by Christina Canright

“What inspires you?”

I know, that’s not a typical opening question. It may seem cliché, but take a minute and really consider your answer. What gives you chills or moves you when you watch it? What motivates you when you read it? What simply puts you in a better mood after hearing it? What makes you cry? What makes you laugh?

Inspiration is a quality of experience that underlines what we value and care about. It goes hand in hand with our vision for our lives and what we choose to focus on. It goes way beyond cliché if it really inspires.

Sources of inspiration, whatever they may be for you, are important because they encourage us to take risks—to do things we may be afraid to do—and to keep going when the going gets tough. They help us find ideas when we feel we have none or when we need a kick in the seat of the pants.

As a creative firm, we’re always looking for fresh ways to be inspired. About a year ago, at one of our early morning staff meetings, I showed a scene from the Kenneth Branagh movie version of Shakespeare’s Henry V. It’s the famous soliloquy where Henry, about to embark on a battle where his forces are outnumbered five to one, encourages his “band of brothers.” “This story shall the good man teach his son,” he exhorts, while inspiring their confidence in themselves.

I felt that this kind of inspiration and how it put me in a positive frame of mind, orienting me toward a vision, would do the same for others in the office. By starting off this way, our meeting ended up being more engaging than previous meetings, and more fun. Ever since, we’ve held weekly inspiration meetings. We take turns presenting something we find inspiring—discussing how it inspires us, what it means to us personally. And we often find it relates to how we approach our work. It helps us learn, grow, and most importantly, connect with a shared vision.

Our inspiration meetings help get our creative juices flowing. We like to think our ideas come not solely from inspiration, but from creating that potential to be inspired.

You don’t have to be in the creative business to be inspired, share what inspires you, or benefit from others’ inspirations. When ideas flow freely, work becomes more innovative, interesting, and efficient.

Take that extra moment today to uncover what inspires you. What do you care about? What motivates you? In the end, you will be a more interesting person, a more effective worker, and a more connected team member.

As for King Henry V and his brother warriors, they went on to win the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 AD with only 25 English casualties.

Check out the film clip.

– Christina Canright

Five Common Website Mistakes, and What to Do About Them

February 6th, 2013 by Christina Canright

Often I hear company owners say they don’t want to bother with their websites. When I ask them about it, I get one of two responses: They say they don’t like their website but don’t want to spend the time and money to rework it. Or they say it’s “fine,” it will do for now. Either way, the website is not doing what a site is meant to do: Be an introduction for a company, and a continuing way to reach potential customers.

Many firms will put more money into making their reception space look impressive than they will put into their website and online marketing. They understand the value of the impression an office can make. The website is in that same category, except its reach is much greater. Considering how much a website could do for a company, just leaving the site “as is” essentially amounts to wasting a valuable sales and marketing resource. A good site can be set up to capture leads, tell what is unique about your company, and show how your company can be a benefit before a potential client even contacts you.

But what if you finally get past some of those objections and you decide to bite the bullet and redo the site? Given that it can be a challenging process, here are the five most common mistakes to avoid:

1. Looks like everyone else—impersonal.
Many sites try to look like each other, or follow the latest trend. They start with a home page with too much content or often feel cold and impersonal.

A site needs to reflect the company’s personality—whether it’s “we play tough, nothing is too difficult for us to tackle” or “we listen to you and will handle any problems or needs with expediency, so you don’t need to worry.” The tough players will have an in-your-face site, and the service-oriented firm will have a warmer, more accessible feel. Professionalism comes through for both.

2. Internally focused on the company rather than externally on the client.
Frankly, clients don’t care that much about your company’s mission. What they do care about is: What can you do for them, and what kind of reputation do you have? When you focus more on the benefits you offer, your prospect senses you will focus on them—and you more readily differentiate your company. Client alerts and articles in your areas of expertise show what your company and its people feel passionate about and have special expertise in. A company can gain a lot of credibility if it provides client briefings and backgrounders on especially complex issues.

3. No calls to action.
Guide visitors on the site to what you want them to do, whether it’s calling you or downloading reports and white papers. Use download buttons and links that are obviously buttons to click on. Buttons also make it easier for them to see where to sign up for a newsletter or how to access your blog if you have one.

4. Making it difficult for interested people to contact your company and get access to its resources.
On many sites, it’s difficult to find a phone number; instead, you get a form. While you do want to capture visitors to your site, you also want to make it easy for them to call you directly. Sites are for making you more accessible to your customers, not less.

5. Photos that don’t relate to what the company does (pictures of the city, office building).
There are exceptions to this, but because so many sites use the city they live in as the main home page photo, it’s best to stay away from a city photo, unless you use it in a unique way. Look for images that are compelling but not cliche. How many have people sitting around a conference table? How many use stock photography and models rather than real people? Every company can find creative ways to present its work.

If you know you need a better web presence or recognize one or more of these mistakes on your site, send me an email at christina@canrightcommunications.com. I offer a free hour-long assessment to help you determine where to start.

Alan’s Children’s book is the perfect Christmas gift idea

December 12th, 2012 by Canright Communications

Children's Christmas book

“My two youngest siblings (nine and twelve) could not read your book fast enough! They loved reading about Dasher cover to cover. You have a lovely gift of writing.” – Molly Strenk, Chicago

 

This past weekend, the Canright team assisted author Alan Jania with his first public book signing. The event was part of the Chicago French Market’s Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony, so there was plenty of Christmas spirit, good cheer, and hot chocolate to go around.

Children's Christmas book

Canright coordinated the event with the French Market and also promoted it via social media, produced  signage, and designed and distributed handouts for passersby in the area. It was an exciting day, as Alan spent all afternoon greeting families and signing copies of The True Tale of Dasher. While they flipped through Alan’s new children’s Christmas book, parents and grandparents were just as captivated as the children!

The next book signing will again take place at the Chicago French Market as part of Jinglefest, Saturday, Dec 15, 11:00 am – 2:00 pm.

There will be plenty of fun activities for the kids, including cookie decorating and getting a picture taken with Santa!

 


Infographics Inspiration

December 3rd, 2012 by James Richter

By now, you’ve probably heard about infographics. The secret has been out for a while, and they now seem to be everywhere.

We at Canright like the way infographics can combine data and design to tell a story in a creative, engaging way. The graphical format is not only easy to understand—it’s easy to share, too. If your infographic compels people to share it online, it can really help spread awareness of your brand while also telling your business’s story.

If you’re looking for some inspiration for your business’s next infographic, then we encourage you to have a look at these:

  • Visual.ly, a website for creating and sharing infographics, can give you a sense of the broad range of topics that infographics can cover.
  • GOOD.is magazine keeps an updated list of infographics that tend to have an altruistic or educational angle.
  • Econsultancy publishes a weekly list of the latest and greatest infographics.
  • Upworthy’s mission statement is explained with an infographic.
  • There’s even an infographic about infographics.
  • Infographics can have a sense of humor, too, as The Oatmeal has discovered.

As you can see, the rules for infographics are flexible. Businesses can use them to spread awareness, define their brands, present a value proposition, and much more.

However, you must beware of the bad infographic! Keep in mind that it’s only worth creating and sharing if it engages your audience while delivering the right message.

 

My, how blogs have grown!

October 25th, 2012 by James Richter

 

In their early days, blogs got a bad rap.

In the late 90s and early 2000s, the public imagined a typical blogger as a slovenly guy with an untamed beard, probably ornamented with a Cheerio or two, typing out his opinions of the latest Star Wars prequel rumors.

Blogs and bloggers were called immature, profane, and larcenous. A lot of people didn’t even like the word blog. As a portmanteau of “web” and “log,” it sounds more like a combination of “blah” and “ugh.”

Today, our perception of blogging is much different. Once the nemesis of Old Media, blogs now offer a vital voice within the digital domains of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. In fact, there is a total of 128 blogs among those three sites (50, 52, and 26 blogs, respectively).

And businesses have taken to blogs in a big way. A blog gives a brand another way to hone its voice. It can be a medium for employees to connect with customers while giving the company a human face. Blogs can also yield higher search rankings and grow brand awareness.

Oh yes, what a difference a decade can make. Last week, Anthony De Rosa, social media editor of Reuters, summed up how the tables have turned in less than 140 characters:

Making a difference, one blog at a time

And now blogs are contributing to public policy, too. The most recent example is the Federal Reserve Bank’s adoption of nominal GDP (NGDP) targeting. Once something of a fringe-theory, NGDP targeting has entered the mainstream (of economists, anyway), and much of the credit is being given to the blogging efforts of Scott Sumner.

While Sumner holds a PhD in economics from the University of Chicago and is now an economics professor at Bentley University, his influence was not always substantial. But in 2009, he launched a blog, TheMoneyIllusion, in which he has persistently espoused the idea of NGDP targeting.

Here’s a post from the Economist‘s blog, which links to George Mason University economics professor Tyler Cowen’s blog post at Marginal Revolution, which gives credit to Sumner and his blog for this new direction in Fed policy. (That sentence is meant to illustrate the popularity of blogs among very smart people.)

It’s safe to say that blogs have really grown up. They went through their awkward phase in which they were sneered at, distrusted, and often reviled by whole industries. But today the blog is the medium of game-changing ideas and constructive conversations. From the private to the public sector and everywhere in between (journalism), the blog is now an indispensable  facilitator of communication that many people can no longer imagine living without.

Five Ideas for Writing Blog Posts

October 18th, 2012 by James Richter

In writing blog posts for clients and ourselves, Canright focuses on five major categories. Using these blogging ideas will not only help you keep the content flowing, it will ensure that the content is diverse as well. Rich content keeps things interesting for your audience and allows your company to generate web traffic while presenting itself as a multidimensional brand.

1. Identify a Trend.

A staple of media reporting is the trends story. A trends post can start with a report on industry surveys in order to show a trend. “Mobile Ecommerce Requires a Strategy, Not a Reaction,” by lyonscg, an ecommerce developer, takes the trend post a step further by telling readers how they can take advantage of the trend.

2. Present a Case Study.

Case studies are the bread-and-butter of marketing communications and blog posts. They are also great ways to gain position in search results. “In Winnetka, Marvin Windows fit right in” shows work done by McCann Window & Exteriors so that readers see the difference new windows make in a home like theirs, as opposed to viewing the photos taken by the window manufacturers, as beautiful as those photos are. Notice, too, that this post gains search position by mentioning the town, Winnetka, the manufacturer, Marvin Windows, and the business, replacement windows.

3. Develop an Idea.

Leaders in their fields develop new ideas and knowledge. In “Principled Capitalism: A Pragmatic Approach to Corporate Governance,” Don Delves, president of The Delves Group, an executive compensation consulting firm, writes about capitalism under attack. Based on his experience at a recent conference, he proposes five principles for capitalism. And since his post touches on five ideas, he sets himself up for five more posts that dive deeper into each point.

4. Round Up the News.

There are times when a story gets a lot of media attention. TechNexus, a collaborative technology space in Chicago, received quite a bit of coverage when Alexis Madrigal, tech writer for The Atlantic, visited Chicago and surveyed its startup scene. I took the opportunity to write a post for TechNexus that wrapped it all up and provided some context. It was one more way for TechNexus to get the news in front of its network. Bursts of coverage don’t come often, so juice them for all they’re worth.

5. Make an Announcement.

Did your company win an award? Hire new talent? Launch a new product? Get a new client? Open a new office? Don’t keep your company’s successes a secret—share them with the world!

Of course, there are many other types of blog posts, too. You can comment on a news story, interview an expert, explain a technique, take a stance on an issue, and more. What other ideas and tips do you have for writing blog posts?

photo: VICTOR HABBICK VISIONS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Case Study: Payment Pathways

October 9th, 2012 by Canright Communications

Our client Payment Pathways provides patented privacy management software and electronic payments identity solutions. As a newcomer in the industry, the company was looking to establish itself as an authority on the competitive landscape with innovative solutions for consumers, merchants, and financial institutions. Because the company is also in the process of raising money, another audience consists of venture capitalists and angle investors.

As is our process, we provided Payment Pathways with a creative brief detailing the sequence and scope of a marketing campaign. We identified the target audience as bankers within small- and medium-sized financial institutions, consumers, merchants, and payment networks. The goal was to promote the company’s flagship product, Greenlist®, and its consulting services for the payments market.

Because Payment Pathways was a new company, it had only a rudimentary website. We used its existing logo and created a clean design that clearly articulates the company’s value proposition. On the homepage, visitors get a quick overview. From the navigation bar, they can learn more about the solutions offered, markets served, needs met, and more. New companies are always encountered with a healthy dose of skepticism, and Payment Pathways’ target audience is a particularly intelligent, discerning, and technically inclined group. That’s why we went the extra mile with Payment Pathways to include useful, descriptive information at the most granular level.

For news regarding Payment Pathways’ new patents, product releases, and company initiatives, we wrote, edited, and distributed branded press releases. Because Payment Pathways was an emerging company that did not have much name recognition, we decided to build a distribution list in-house. Our list included local media, international banking and payments media, small-to-mid-sized payments and e-commerce business executives across the country, and financial institutions of all sizes. We also post news items on LinkedIn groups that focus on payments, banking, and treasury management.

To simultaneously establish credibility in the marketplace and build an email list of potential customers, we researched, wrote, and edited two in-depth white papers. One targeted bankers, while the other was for consumers.

The bank-focused paper was a 15-page report that explains the benefits of participating in the Greenlist® secure transaction network, as well as the logistics of doing so. The level of detail we provide in the report is essential to earning the trust of banks considering adopting the payment solution. The consumer-focused white paper provides a detailed description of the consumer-level electronic payments landscape before introducing a new product from Payment Pathways that improves upon it.

Payment Pathways offers an innovative product within a rapidly changing payments industry. The company reached out to us to provide them the tools and a campaign from which they could go about building a reputation and a client list. With their new website, growing email list, and expanding presence within the payments space, Payment Pathways is quickly becoming a start-up success story.