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Keys to implementing a solid communications program

Posted in Integrated Marketing (IMC)

Media lists. Recycling. Future Visioning. Distribution. Media relations. Blogging. Proofing. News releases. Clips. What do all of these have in common? My life the past 10 weeks as an intern at Morningstar Communications.

As an intern at Morningstar Communications we get asked often “What did you learn?” Gaining experience is always at the forefront of everything we get to do as an intern. It is bittersweet to say I only get to answer that question one last time since my internship is ending this week and I head back to my senior year at the University of Iowa. It’s a challenge to answer the question, not because I didn’t learn anything but because I learned so much.

My final answer to the question is integrated marketing.

Before this internship I felt I had a good handle on integrated marketing. And, I think I had an excellent knowledge base from what I was taught. Using a mixture of all forms of marketing will, in turn, provide the best results for communication programs. It’s something I knew all along, but this summer I got to see it in action.

There have been numerous accounts that I’ve worked on this summer that used integrated marketing but there is one project that stands out. A Future VisioningTM session I was a part of truly encompassed integrated marketing strategies. Future Visioning is the process of working with a client to figure out where they want to be in the next few years and providing the plan to get there. Using as many different marketing tactics helped create a strategically sound communications plan. Social media, tradeshows, white papers and blogs were just some of the different marketing strategies recommended for the client.

For me, I got a chance to see integrated marketing be properly implemented – that’s better than any classroom lecture.

With integrated marketing we unify methods to create the best possible communications map for our clients using traditional and new media. Paying attention to details and the big picture are key to a successful integrated marketing strategy and are things we sometimes overlook. We often get excited with new communication tools such as Twitter and LinkedIn but it is important to remember that combining marketing approaches includes both the tried-and true and new tactics.Whether an intern or a seasoned professional, going back to the basics and remembering the keys to integrated marketing will prove succesfful for your next communications project.

I’m taking with me this valuable knowledge and I hope everyday to ask and answer the question “What did I learn?” I know I will be putting this information to good use in the school year and beyond.

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Comments Off Posted on by melissa

Volunteering: The Networking Way

Posted in Community Leadership, Integrated Marketing (IMC)

A few weeks ago I blogged about what got termed “accidental networking.” I have picked up meaningful connections throughout my career, but I never had a formal plan for expanding my network.

Something clicked a couple years ago and made me think about how to be smarter about developing my professional network. One of the first things I did was reach out to KC/IABC and asked about volunteer opportunities. I was connected with Sara Miller who was in charge of the Bronze Quills and a few weeks later I was managing registration at the event. I had a great time and got to see a lot of people that I hadn’t seen for a while. A few weeks later, Sara called and asked if I was willing to take on an even larger role in the chapter and serve as her deputy for the 2010 Bronze Quills. I didn’t have to think very long. I knew it was something I wanted to do.

This year, I’ve taken on an even greater role in the chapter. I attended my first KC/IABC Board meeting last week and it was interesting to see how many of the other board members got involved the same way I did – just by expressing an interest in participating.

If you’re interested in getting to know a great group of people, test it out by volunteering a little of your time. It doesn’t have to be with IABC, there are dozens of organizations that offer exceptional professional development opportunities. However, I just happen to be looking for volunteers to assist with the 2011 Bronze Quills. I’d love to have you join the committee. I have openings at all levels of involvement. It’s possible you’ll find it as valuable as I did and stick around.

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Comments Off Posted on by Rachel Spear

Thinking Outside-In

Posted in Integrated Marketing (IMC)

I thoroughly enjoy meeting with people that are enthusiastic about what they do. It makes it even more exciting when we can teach those people about marketing – I love to see the lightbulb click.

This morning Eric and I met with a young, aspiring entrepreneur. He was bright, hard-working and had a great idea. But what he was lacking, which he readily admitted, was a solid marketing strategy that would bring his business to life. He called on Eric to help him better understand the ins and outs of marketing, and to figure out what his next move should be. Luckily for me – Eric asked me to join the meeting.

We talked about a lot of things – using in-house talent vs. an agency, our Future Visioning product and how it can shape an overarching strategy, and the four media channels; earned, paid, shared and controlled (expect to see a blog from Eric about this soon). But what really struck a cord for this entrepreneur, was the need to take his thoughts about marketing from being inside-out, to outside-in.

Recipient-oriented messaging is the core of effectively reaching your audience. It isn’t about how you want to give them information, it is about how they want to receive it. And it’s about using their language to explain it. And knowing how to do both those things. Research the audience – talk to them, ask them questions, find out what triggers their decision-making. Most importantly – listen to their answers and make strategic marketing plans based around audience need.

It’s normal to think about things from your own point of view, and it isn’t simple to step into someone else’s shoes. But, what separates a great marketing strategy from so many others, is the ability to think and plan from the outside in.

Comments Off Posted on by egregory

THE Center for Community Collaboration

Posted in Community Leadership

There are three places called Kansas City.

The first two are the actual cities in Kansas and Missouri. They specifically include the legal and political boundaries of those municipalities.

The third one is the place more than two million people call home when someone outside of the metropolitan area asks them where they live. When I’m in Chicago, Jerusalem or Florence, Kansas City is my “home.” I call it the “Big K” Kansas City.

Both of these descriptions accurately define the places called Kansas City. But just as Obi-Wan Kenobi explained in Star Wars, “Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view.”

Our own personal point-of-view depends on how each of us sees our city.

But understand there are two realities to consider: the political and legal boundaries versus the market boundaries, as Michael Gallas explained to several hundred civic leaders last month during the recent Kansas City Revealed conference.

Market forces disregard most political boundaries. Businesses barely consider political boundaries when referring to a “local” market. Watersheds, traffic patterns and criminals don’t adhere to political boundaries either. I mean seriously, it’s not smart business for both Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri to have their own water treatment plants that empty into the same place on the same river. I’d like to think we can do a better job as we plan for the future of the “Big K” Kansas City?

So, what is your primary image when you hear Kansas City – is it just the city, or the whole metropolitan area?

Most of us consider The Royals, Chiefs and Wizards as our hometown teams, regardless of which city we actually live in. And, it’s our Plaza, Truman Library, Power & Light District, Speedway, airport and Union Station.

It will be easier to focus our efforts on greater Kansas City as we move forward because both The Chamber and Kansas City Area Development Council (KCADC) will move their headquarters into adjoining space at Union Station at the end of this year.

Kansas City Chamber LogoKansas City Area Development Council Logo

Kansas City Union - Exterior

(Photo was contributed to the American Institute of Architects by Yakov Brodsky)

Kansas City saved Union Station from the wrecking ball back in 1996. Voters in Jackson, Clay and Platte counties in Missouri and Johnson County in Kansas approved a one-eighth of a cent bi-state sales tax to restore and redevelop Union Station and create a science museum. The tax raised $118 million toward the total $250 million project. The remaining money was raised through private donations and federal funds. The passage of the bi-state tax is thought to be the first of its kind in the history of the United States.

We worked across all political lines to completely refurbish the station and return this jewel to prominence among our city’s treasures. It worked. We brought new life to a historic and integral part of our city’s legacy.

Not so long ago, Union Station served as the jumping-off point to help defend and preserve our future. I believe Union Station will do that once again.

It serves as greatest single “proof point” of regional cooperation.

Place Matters. Context Matters. And Union Station is simply spectacular.

We saved Union Station. We improved it. And when thousands of people “meet” in Union Station in the normal course of business at The Chamber and KCADC, this special, physical space will help empower every one of us to transcend traditional political boundaries to make decisions that will propel the entire Kansas City metropolitan area.

I’m exceptionally optimistic Union Station will quickly become THE Center for Community Collaboration. Union Station belongs to everyone who calls Kansas City home. Numerous other civic groups are considering a similar move to Union Station. Whether they move offices or not, their voices will be heard in Union Station.

Obi-Wan was right: As we reinforce the new role of Union Station as THE Center for Community Collaboration, every place called Kansas City benefits.

Onward and upward.

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Comments Off Posted on by Eric Morgenstern

Journalism trends you need to know about

Posted in Integrated Marketing (IMC)

We are all publishers. This is the era of WordPress and Twitter. If you have something to say, you can find somewhere to say it and probably people to listen. This is empowering and exciting. You don’t have to be a full-time journalist to share news.

With this fundamental shift, the obvious next question is what does this mean for journalism? This is not a new question, but in light of devices such as smartphones and iPads that accelerate the death of newspapers, these thoughts cannot take a backseat. As an industry that works closely with the media, public relations professionals must be on the forefront of this question. While I am no expert, I have noticed and read about a few trends in journalism. By familiarizing ourselves with these trends we will better understand the media’s perspective and purpose.

Niche Journalism: People are tired of multiple outlets telling the same story over and over again. We are interested in more expertise in anything, whether it be topical, regional or ideological. Two of my favorite examples of niche journalism are Wired and Ars Technica. They are both thriving in their respective spaces. This shift will not completely eliminate the big national media, but they will have to spend some time considering how to survive in this world of new media. We will need to think more creatively beyond traditional outlets to smaller, specialized outlets.

Dynamic Journalism: The traditional static news story is a thing of the past. Consumers are interested in real-time journalism. If someone asked me my favorite news outlet, I would say Twitter. It is in real time from real people. The after-the-fact story that used to monopolize the news wire, will not cut it anymore. In the PR world we have to adapt and understand this. We always knew that journalists moved quickly, but they are even under more pressure to deliver as-it-happens news.

Journalism is here to stay, but the vehicle that makes it move forward no longer needs a stone building and large printing presses. As long as we understand what and who powers the vehicle, we can keep up.

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Comments Off Posted on by jessie

Forget Plan B, we need Plan C

Posted in Community Leadership

Yesterday, I attended KC/IABC’s monthly professional development lunch at Brio on the Country Club Plaza. These lunches are always fantastic networking opportunities combined with good food and great learning from our speakers. Yesterday we were lucky enough to have Nate Hancock*, leadership development consultant and facilitator for Black & Veatch University Corporate College, share tips on how you can tap into your potential, become a leader in your organization, and grow professionally.

*Quick note for sports fans, Nate’s father, Bill Hancock is executive director of a small organization you might have heard of. It’s called the Bowl Championship Series, or BCS.

As Nate discussed key competencies and how you can recognize your own, one example he shared stood out as something I think all professional communicators should value. This is the concept of strategic agility. Sounds like quite the corporate buzzword, but drill down and take a look at its meaning. For me, strategic agility means adaptability. It looks at how well you can adjust when things go awry. And they will.

For example, our team recently handled a major rebranding announcement for a client. We contacted a top-tier media outlet and arranged an embargoed story. The story was scheduled to run on a Monday. Friday afternoon, we get a call from a media outlet in the client’s home city asking about a cryptic story the reporter had just seen online. Turns out the media outlet broke our embargo (accidentally, but still broke) and published a story devoid of major details about the rebrand.

Now, faced with a situation like this, you can panic and exacerbate the problem, or you can adapt and, as the phrase goes, use the lemon to make lemonade. Our team was able to hustle and inform the client (their website wasn’t even live yet), get correct information to puzzled media and generally gain back control over a situation gone bad.

I’m sure there are many horror stories about similar situations out there. Feel free to share your best, or worst. Or, share what characteristic you think is most important for professional communicators.

Comments Off Posted on by Matt Dunn

Moving from exposure to engagement

Posted in Integrated Marketing (IMC)

In the public relations area, measuring success always seems a bit nebulous. How do you ascertain the power of a news story? How do you demonstrate an article prompted a purchase? For years, the amount of output, and resulting pickup, served as the main measurement guide. Slowly, assessment of key messaging inclusion, branding elements and other components of the story worked their way into the measurement metrics.

But now output doesn’t cut it, regardless of your methodology. Today’s world requires outcomes. Exposure alone, in a world of email newsletters, banner ads and RSS feeds, simply doesn’t create results. The average consumer is exposed to 247 advertising messages each day. Hard to believe any of them really work.

Measuring outcomes rather than outputs provides a better way to understand engagement. And engaged people – whether employees or consumers – are happier, healthier and more positive in general.

While plenty of information is out there touting how employee engagement will help your workforce, and truly, employee engagement is the first step, imagine how extrapolating the concept to your customers and prospects might work.

Start with the basics. Do you receive comments on your blogposts, do your key customers or prospects follow you on Twitter or “Like” your business on Facebook? Does your participation in LinkedIn groups foster robust conversations? If your organization can move beyond outputs and truly measure how engaged your stakeholders are, you will surely uncover ways to move the needle.

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Comments Off Posted on by Sheri Johnson

Doing well by doing good

Posted in Community Leadership

In public relations we are told to do good and talk about it. Personally, that’s not my style so, instead, I’d like to talk about something good that a client, cargo largo, is doing.

Frequently, the challenge with companies choosing a charity is to find something that concerns the community. Dee Pack, president and CEO of cargo largo discovered that there are an estimated 700 students in the Independence School District who are considered homeless. With that, he and cargo largo created cargo for kids, a nonprofit initiative to help those kids get the right tools they need for success. The campaign will culminate with a daylong backpack stuffing party at the store.

This is great for a lot of reasons. First, kids who need help, get help. Second, cargo largo gets to engage their employees in the charity, thus, improving internal public relations. Third, the public – cargo largo’s customers, neighbors and community members – get to take part in the fun by donating their time to the stuffing and giving back to the community. Finally, sponsors such as Lafarge North America are involved by donating their resources to the cause.

This campaign does so much more than provide a quick fix and a photo op. It is rooted deep in both the geographical and business community. With so many touch points, it is sure to raise awareness about this troubling issue.

**It is cargo largo’s brand style not to capitalize its name.

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Comments Off Posted on by Tyler Dustin

Summer play day

Posted in Executive Insights

Every year our company takes a day off. A day to play. A day to learn. A day to bond. Do we generate revenue on that day? No, but what we generate translates into something more tangible.

We take a step back and work on our relationship as a team. When you know and trust the people you work with, it makes work flow smoother. You can jump in and help out the team because you know how they work. You know the quality product they expect and you do not want to let them down. Everyone is aware that we do what is best for the client and give them excellent service.

We have done all sorts of activities over the years. Professional development sessions, community service and involvement, team building challenge courses, swimming, boating, playing word and board games are just a few. The one common theme is quality time together as a company. Sometimes there are surprises or cash rewards; always there is food, laughter and a full heart.

What will we do this year? Only I know for sure, and that is how it always is until our play day begins.

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Comments Off Posted on by Andy Woodward

A number is only a number

Posted in Social Media

When I first was introduced to social media, it seemed pretty daunting. How would I ever have a thousand friends on Facebook? I nearly closed my Twitter account because I feared that I would never have more than five followers, and my blog remained blank for a few weeks, as I was unsure if anyone was reading. Over time, the content spoke for itself, and my personal social media outlets have grown.

Businesses or organizations thinking of breaking into the world of social media may be discouraged by power bloggers with fancy websites or Twitter users with thousands of followers. It is easy to look at these examples and give up before you even get started. Don’t let this be the reason your organization remains unseen in the social media world. Numbers are only one descriptor; connections are the golden ticket.

The online network you are building should include people who want to engage with your organization. This may not be the largest network, but it will be strong and active.

Consider what your organization provides for your audience. How is your organization valuable? How do you serve your audience? If you can provide for your audience, there will be a return on the time you spent setting up and maintaining your online presence.

Start by listening to the online community. Search for relative topics on Twitter, find similar fan pages on Facebook and look for groups on Flickr. Follow the pages for a little bit, and think about ways your organization could fit into this conversation, and join in the conversation and begin to understand the culture before starting your own pages. At Morningstar Communications, we recommend beginning with a soft launch. Start small, and experiment with all the ways you can use your new online tools. This gives you time to build your content and followers before making a big announcement to those who matter most.

After a soft launch, build your engagement by letting your community know about your new online presence. Advertise at your place of business, post a link on your website or add a few links to your email signature. All of these will help to grow your network. Of course, always remember to engage your audience and serve them. The connections you make online will pay off, and before long you will stop worrying about the numbers.

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Comments Off Posted on by jessie