Happy Holidays

xmas treeJust wanted to post a message to all those who have been reading, commenting and connecting with me over the past months since I started this blog. I really do appreciate you stopping by, reading, re-tweeting, subscribing and joining in on the conversation. Watching my readership grow, conversing with you, and connecting has meant a lot to me. I hope that you have found reading what I have to say helpful, interesting or at least entertaining in some way.

For those of you who celebrate Christmas, may it be merry. And for all of you, I wish you peace, good health and much happiness in the coming year.

Happy holidays, my friends.

Cheers,

Cheryl

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Does An Idea Have Value?

brightideaA similar question was recently posed in an online discussion. Some people answered this question quickly by saying that ideas are worth absolutely nothing until someone puts money down on the table for them. I wholeheartedly disagree. Value is not just about dollars and cents. Value can be about potential – for change, innovation, meaning, emotion, function, or design. Even in the context of business, these elements, especially in today’s economy are the keys to business success. It’s the businesses that understand that, the ones that have the intuition and sense to see and believe in that potential, that will be the ones that move on to create the future in business world.

In Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, he states his theory that right brainers will rule the future in business. Pink argues that outsourcing (finding manufacturing overseas for cheaper production) and automation and computerization (replacing the information based knowledge workers) are forcing the Information Age to give way to a new Conceptual Age that values creativity, innovation and inventiveness. Ironically, it’s those intangible things like ideas that cannot be replicated or automated, that will give a business its greatest value.

Every business starts with an idea. It can be an epiphany that wakes you up in the middle of the night. It can be inspired by something you see or hear. It can be born from a desire to try to do something better than how it’s been done before, or to invent something that never existed before. But how do you know when an idea is just an idea or when that spark is something that has potential to be big and worth turning it into a business? Oftentimes, that’s where the strength of the conceptual side of the brain kicks in. Studies, focus groups, and market research can play a role, but if an idea is so innovative that there’s nothing to compare it to, then research results may not reflect an idea’s full potential for success. Likewise, if a business relies too heavily on consumer input, especially with a highly innovative idea, the results may be the same. Consumers know what they have seen before. They are not innovators, they are consumers.

In the early 1970’s Xerox created the Alto, considered by many to be the first PC for desktop use. Unfortunately for Xerox, they lacked the vision to see the full potential and the ability to innovate quickly enough to bring it to market.

They were left in the dust when in 1979 Apple Computer’s Steve Jobs visited Xerox and was said to have taken inspiration from their innovation and in turn incorporated similar technologies into the MacIntosh. So when answering the question of the value of an idea, just ask yourself what that idea was worth to Apple. The rest is history.

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What The Grinch Can Teach About Brand Integrity

Every year about this time since 2000, the Jim Carrey/Ron Howard interpretation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas rears it’s ugly head. It’s dark, it’s loud and there are words and images in it that Dr. Seuss would never have used. I’ve heard it referred to as an interpretation geared for today’s kids, and unfortunately, it is probably true that some very young children will associate this 2000 Hollywood version of the story as THE version of the story. I am a brand purist and this movie is a prime example of how to ruin a perfect brand.

When Theodor Gisel (aka Dr. Seuss) was alive, he fought off movie companies knocking at his door to buy the rights to a variety of his classic books. He always said no, with the exception of when his respected friend Chuck Jones convinced him to let him take a stab at producing and animated version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. But Gisel knew and respected Chuck Jones and worked closely with him on the production to assure the integrity of the Dr. Seuss brand, message and style remained intact, and Jones was committed to making sure it was done right. The end result is a testimony to their commitment to retaining the true essence of the story, the characters and the feel of the book. This original 1966 Boris Karloff/Chuck Jones version is perfect, timeless and tells the story completely in the words that were written by and in the illustrative style of Dr. Seuss. It indeed has become a timeless classic.

But after Gisel died, his widow started signing away the movie rights to her dead husband’s life work, and in turn, bringing in millions from the deals. With one swipe of her jewel encrusted pen, his widow dismissed the value and meaning of all that her husband had worked to protect for his entire working life. Money won over substance, ironically contradicting the very meaning that the story of the Grinch conveyed.

Some things shouldn’t be messed with. Some things can’t be improved, especially those that offer originality and innovation. Making something a commercial blockbuster will most likely mean those unique elements that made it special in the first place are scraped away and replaced with bells, whistles, fireballs, predictability, maybe some cleavage, and lots and lots of toys and licensed products that will be on the shelf for way too long.

I am perhaps idealistic when it comes to brands. I am always a believer in the longevity of building a pure brand, one that may take a bit longer to create, rather than the quick rise of commercialized garbage to make a fast buck. Just because something may make lots of money fast, it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do for the long term value of a brand.

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How To Bait Your Press Release Hook

FISHING 1In this multimedia world of promotion, there’s a lot of competition out there. More and more businesses are all elbowing each other for prime coverage in a limited number of promotional slots. Just sending out an informative press release isn’t good enough anymore. It’s noisy out there. Editors are scanning piles of releases and completely ignoring most. Here are a few key tips on how to put the right bait on your hook to get your business noticed and to help secure the coverage you desire.

Give it a catchy title
Catchy, not “Company X announces the launch of their new line for Fall.” Boring. Sorry that one will end up in the trash. Flip through the publications that you are pitching and get a sense of their language. Write the title for them in their style. Use metaphor, humor or other elements of language to catch the immediate attention of the reader.

Customize it
There’s nothing worse than mass produced press releases that are not targeted to anyone in particular, just “the press.” Draft a general release, but tweak it a bit depending on the publication that is being pitched. Say something that speaks to the recipient, do a little research and know what they are looking for. This takes more time and work, but results will be greater if your release is tailored to appeal specifically to the recipient.

Channel an editor when writing

Write your release like a journalist rather than an ad agency. You need to tell a story. But it isn’t just about a telling story; it’s about how you tell a story: the hook. Write the story with the intent to make the job of the editor easier and to grab their attention. Hand the story and the telling of the story to them on a silver platter and your business will get the coverage that you desire, and the editor will be a hero for coming up with a great story, your story.

Give it some emotion

It’s true that the best press releases are the ones that have all the elements of a great article. The worst ones read like a blurb in a catalog. If it’s too hard for the recipient to make a story out of it, they won’t get past the first sentence. Find the emotion behind what you are pitching and let it out. Use stories with humor, empathy, courage, sacrifice, passion or innovation to entice an editor into connecting with your business.

Relate it to the big picture
Connect your story to something bigger – relate it to something going on in the world at large. Don’t be too self-centered. You may think you have the best widget on the market, but not everyone will. Make it relatable to the big world.

Give it some personality

Add a couple of meaningful quotes from key players that show the personality, the heritage or the philosophy of your brand to add richness to the writing. Let the image that you want to create for your business shine through.

Give up ownership
There have been numerous occasions when I have seen copy from my press release reproduced verbatim in publications with someone else’s byline underneath the title. Although I may have had a momentary mind blip thinking, “Hey, I wrote that, not them,” I quickly snap out of it and realize that there was no better result that could have happened. They wrote exactly what I wanted them to write, sending my message for the brand that I am representing out there to the right audience. No chance of misinformation, misinterpretation or misquoting this time. There’s often not a whole heck of a lot that you can control when the writing about your brand is put into the hands of a magazine editor. If you write your release well, that problem will be solved for you.

Write it so your grandmother could read it

Literally. Don’t use tiny type. Don’t single space it. Boil it down and edit it. Then re-edit it. Think about how your release looks, not just how it reads. Make it visually easy to look at. No one will read a lengthy catalog blurb that you need a magnifying glass to see.

Hire a professional

Most everyone can type, but not everyone can write. There is a craft to effective writing and an art to knowing how to compose a press release to get a business noticed. Sometimes if you are too close to something, it’s hard to see what’s right in front of you. If you are struggling with getting attention for your business, then hire a professional to help you get off the ground. (And oh, by the way, I can help with that ☺)

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