2011 Sparklight Successes (continued)

Client Rob Dugger and former Rep. Glenn Nye on CBS Early Show

A few weeks ago, we shared five of our top client successes in 2011.  We’re now happy to share the second half of the list.

5. Generated National Media Coverage – Several clients wanted to increase their presence in the national media this year.  By creating sustained relationships with a targeted group of national reporters, Sparklight gained top tier coverage for its clients. Epilepsy Foundation – Wall Street Journal Digital, CBS Early Show, ABC News.com, Houston Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, and NPR.   Hanover Investment Group – Bloomberg Radio, Reuters, CNBC, FOX Business News, and CBS The Early Show with Rebecca Jarvis

4.  Grew by 500% –   Using a combination of message building across all communications channels including social media, web content, and Google Ad Words, the Epilepsy Foundation succeeded in having five times more people take the online “Get Seizure Smart” quiz in 2011 than in 2010.

3.   Secured Google Grant Funding – After securing a $10,000 Google Nonprofit grant for the Epilepsy Foundation in Spring of 2011, Sparklight project managed and created no less than 60 ad groups that moved the needle for the Epilepsy Foundation to its new coveted position at #2.

2.  Quadrupled Online Followers –  Social media is now one of the best engagement tools for the Foundation with Facebook now its third largest referrer to the main website, quadrupling the number of followers on both Twitter and Facebook, and increasing engagement 600%

1. Better Online Performance – Sparklight worked with Winners Lacrosse, Hanover Investment Group, and  Epilepsy Foundation’s National Walk for Epilepsy   to create a better visual and user experience for each of these clients web properties.



The 11 Social Media Mistakes: Are you Guilty?

In a recent issue of Mashable, ClickZ reporter Sundeep Kapur, had a great piece on the 11 mistakes brands continue to make in social media. Surprising as these may be for those of us who’ve been doing social for a while, the list is thoughtful and applies to nonprofits as much as it does to brands.

Nonprofits spend less time and money on their social media, presumably for lack of resources. But as this article attests, you don’t have to have a lot of money, buy a lot of widgets or have a to have an engaging presence.

The trick to success on social media is the same trick for success in friendship: be nice, respond when spoken to and have something interesting to say.  Here’s the list of social media mistakes, pared down for nonprofits:

1. Run specials all the time. In a struggle to keep the consumer engaged, brands tend to keep offering consumers special deals. This all-out effort to discount and lure tends to have a negative impact by devaluing the brand and devaluing the relationship.

2. Wait for people to come. Brands set up shop on social media sites and simply wait for the consumer to come and find them. They do little to engage via dialogue or by trying to market along other channels. They have simply set up shop and expect that it is good enough to drive consumers in.

3. Run contests and games all the time. Gamification is the new buzzword for engagement with many brands investing significantly in games to engage their consumers. Additionally, brands tend to run multiple contests, which results in severely diluting their engagement to conversion metrics.

4. Block negative feedback. Many top brands tend to either block or ignore negative feedback. If you put up a comment on their site they either take it down or have a defined strategy to push the bad comments as far down as possible. This strategy diminishes the value of the positive comments.

5. Launch press releases on social media. Do you pay attention to more than 300 characters or watch long video clips? Brands tend to forget the conversational nature of engagement on social media sites – short, interesting stories are a much better way to engage.

6. Wait 24 hours to respond. Some brands take a long time to respond because they only check “social feedback” twice a week. Other brands take a long time to respond because they have to get approval before they can respond. The problem is that if you take too long, the consumer will probably call your brand for an answer or move over to someone else.

7. Not connecting your channels. Always a classic with the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Just two weeks ago, a major travel company sent two types of incentives – a gas discount card by email that shaved 10 cents off each gallon and a gas discount offer via social media that offered a five cent discount. It took a direct mail piece to fix the issue.

8. Just rolling along. Some brands feel that it’s OK to reach a certain critical mass in social media after which their sites can just “roll along.” The snowball can roll the wrong way and hurt brands.  Focus on “likes.” A blind focus on driving up “likes” has led to the “like” button being devalued and resulted in significantly lower ROI.

9. “Wait” to get started. Believe it or not there are still brands, especially in the financial services area, that are waiting for the social media “fad” to end.

For the complete article go to:  11 Deadly Social Media Sins for Brands by Sundeep Kapur

Media Relations in the 90s. Then and Now.

For those of us who began our PR and Marketing careers in the 90’s, the press release on heavy, bonded stationary was king.

There was no Vocus, Cision or PR Newswire. Press people had a Bacon’s press book, with addresses and phone numbers so you could, yes, mail your press release and then call each reporter to see if he or she received it.

Nobody was in love with this system.

And while it sounds like things have changed so much, they haven’t really. Because then, like now, the only way a reporter would even OPEN your mail is if he or she recognized your name and thought you might have something valuable to say.

But how do you say something valuable, when your clients need/tell/want you saying the same thing over and over?

There were several articles in the last day or so about Twitter, relationship building and media outreach. Some were good, some obvious, and one was great.  They all discuss the importance of relationships, but was about shedding your Twitter ego and going a bit further, and following your competitors. This quote is from the article, Why Bill Gates Should Return Eric Schmidt’s Twitter Follow by Rupal Parekh and discusses what marketers would gain by seeing how the proverbial other half lives.

“For example, how often do your rivals communicate with their customers on Twitter, and what’s their tone?” Parekh writes.  “What type of personality do they have? What sorts of promotions are they running in their Twitter communities, and what types of crises are they are facing?”

Besides being a hilarious title, following your competitors, monitoring their relationships and interactions – that’s interesting and compelling stuff. And while such activity won’t earn you a higher open rate among the press, it will provide you with valuable insight and  interesting things to say. And sometimes, that’s half the battle.

3 Questions You Must Answer

Strategic planning is essential to any marketing and communications initiative.  When working on a new initiative, we always start by asking three basic questions:

1. What Are You Trying to Achieve? – Many groups don’t have clearly defined goals, or have ones that are loosely tied to their mission.  Clearly articulated, mission-specific SMART goals are essential.  Rather than a goal of “helping the homeless” we greatly prefer “enacting a law in 2010 that creates 10 new homeless shelters” or “raising $50,000 in 2010 for temporary housing.”

2. How Will You Achieve Your Goal? – Strategy is like a  road map.  There are many ways to get from point A to B.  Which will you take?  Defining your route ensures prevents costly and time-wasting detours and dead ends.  Just make sure your strategy actually leads to the achievement of your goal, unlike what happened to Hillary Clinton in 2008.

3. What Will You Do? – Once you have a goal and strategy, what tactics will you employ?  Will you start a blog, buy advertising or start a newsletter?  And what can your customers do to spread the word?  As with strategy, make sure your tactics actually achieve your goal and don’t run counter to your strategy like John McCain in 2008.  Media coverage might make you feel good, but if it doesn’t achieve your goal of increasing sales, why bother?

Strategic planning is a critical first step in any campaign.  By developing an integrated campaign along these lines you can significantly increase your chances of success.

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