I promoted you through the summer wind…

It’s officially summer! You know what that means; it’s festival season! For the next three months, it’s time to enjoy fairs, festivals, outdoor concerts, firework displays, outdoor markets, and more. Even though I listed a variety of different types of events, they all have one thing in common, which is they all have local vendors. If you’re a local business owner or artist and have only gone to these events as a spectator, you are missing out on a great marketing or public relations opportunity. Think about it, have you ever gone to one of these events without seeing a local business selling their goods or promoting their services? Alternatively, even if there are no local vendors in sight, prominent displays acknowledge the sponsors. At a concert for example, you can see a banner with a list of companies that financed the show. If you’re a small business, you may want to think about sponsorship or having a booth at a local summer event. If you’re an artist, a local summer event might be a good place to showcase your talents. I myself have seen firsthand the positive effects of having a presence at local events. While in college, I interned at a nationally syndicated talk show. The talk show I interned for backed a major concert series in the city where they tape shows. As part of their sponsorship, the production company’s name appeared at the concert shows. In addition, the talk show hosted a tent, in which concert attendees can sign up for TV show tickets. Interns like myself, handed out promotional items such as bubbles, coozies, facemasks, sunglasses, etc. This is has been an ongoing successful venture for the production company. The production company not only gets to show that it is a part of the community in which it tapes in, but also convinces locals to come to a show taping. You don’t have to be a nationally syndicated television show to reap the benefits of sponsoring and/or having a booth at a local event. Sponsorship and/or participation can help get your name out to those who don’t know about you in the community. If you sell goods, having a booth is a great way to move merchandise. If you’re a singer or a band, what better way to get your name out for future gigs. No matter what genre of music you perform, don’t rule out performing at a festival. You never know who is on the lookout for say a wedding performer. Sponsorship can also help raise awareness in similar ways, by showing community involvement and getting your brand’s name out there. Sponsorship might be a better way to go if you provide services as opposed to goods. If you decide to participate or sponsor an event make sure you do your homework first. Sponsorship and participation don’t automatically equal more customers. Think about your key demographics and theme in relation to the event. For example, it might not be a good idea to have a booth at a pirate festival, if your business can’t even touch on the pirate theme. For the record, I have been to a pirate festival in the summer. Here’s a list of some summer food festivals that take place around the United States: http://www.buzzfeed.com/robfranklin/awesomely-weird-summer-food-festivals If you’re thinking about sponsoring an event, try to get an informational packet before hand, if they have one. If you can, do a little research to see how prominent of a placement your business logo will have. If you provide a service, but do decide to go with a booth instead, hand out something memorable. For example, a face mask of a famous talk show host. You can also do a little preparation. Make sure you have plenty of business cards and fliers on hand to pass out. Finally, let your current fan base know about your participation. This is where social media comes into play. Announce via Twitter and Facebook where you will be and when. Or what event your sponsoring. If you can, try to tag, like, and/or follow the accounts of the event. Social media also means that the benefit of participating in an event doesn’t end with the event. You can always follow up with a status and/or tweet about what a great time your business had at the event, even if you really didn’t. Posting pictures is another great follow up. This alone makes the case for an Instagram account for your brand. Going back to the idea of passing out fliers, make sure to list the links to your social media accounts. Lastly, remember to relax, have fun, and promote. Oh and try to snag a treat.

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R-E-S-P-E-C-T Find out what it means to, well you get the point

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In past posts, I’ve blogged about how to present yourself and/or your brand to the public as a whole. Now that I’ve focused on the masses, it’s time to address the individuals. In the past month, a professional athlete, a clothing brand, and a pop singer have gotten themselves into trouble because interactions with individual fans ended in trouble on a mass level. In late April, former NBA Shaquille O’Neal mocked a fan’s selfie on Instagram. The fan, Jahmel Binion, has a rare disorder, Ectodermal Dysplasia, which causes him to have abnormal hair growth and missing teeth ( http://nypost.com/2014/04/28/shaq-under-fire-for-mocking-disabled-fans-selfie/). Binion’s story ended up in the local news of his area, Detroit, as well as making national news. This attention meant that O’Neal’s actions came under scrutiny and he removed the photo after issuing a personal apology to Binion. (http://nypost.com/2014/04/30/shaq-apologizes-for-mocking-disabled-fans-selfie/) Later in early May, Black Milk Clothing decided to post a funny picture on their Facebook page to celebrate the pop culture reference on May 4th. http://www.buzzfeed.com/alyssajayne/how-not-to-use-social-media-101-pgg2 (A quick note of explanation for those who don’t know, May 4th has come to mean a play on words from the Star Wars phrase, “May the Force be With You” to ‘May the 4th be with you.’) The image offended many of their fans for two reasons: (1) it appears to give preferential ranking to one type of look over the other type of look; and (2) it contradicts two of the brand’s commandments, which are as follows, you shall be excellent to one another and you shall not make critical comments on other women’s bodies. Many customers voiced their criticisms on the fan page. Instead of just deleting the image and issuing an apology, Black Milk Clothing dug an even deeper black and milky hole by deleting critical comments or by responding with condescending remarks. In addition, they also started telling fans to feel free to stop buying their merchandise and unlike their page if the picture upset them that much. Not surprisingly, the fan conversation moved away from the poorly chosen image to criticizing the brand for poorly handling the situation. The company chose to ban fans from the page, which lead to complaints spilling over onto Twitter. Over 24 hours later, Black Milk Clothing deleted the picture and issued a statement, but it was not an apology. Two days later, Cameron Parker, the head of sales and marketing, finally issued an apology. The whole two-day fiasco has cost Black Milk Clothing thousands of fans on Facebook. Lastly, there is one more incident from Rihanna. In mid-May, Rihanna mocked a 16-year-old girl on Twitter for posting pictures that featured an outfit very similar to one of Rihanna’s. The girl, Alexis Carter had a family friend make the outfit as a tribute to what Rihanna wore at a 2010 event, except that Rihanna’s outfit was green while Carter’s outfit was black. Using this, Rihanna mocked Carter for looking like a bat in two Twitter posts. RiRi’s fans followed in the mocking. The story was featured on both national news as well as on Baltimore’s local news affiliates, where Carter resides. Needless to say, Carter is no longer a Rihanna fan. http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2014/05/15/rihanna-mocks-16-year-old-fan-for-copycat-prom-outfit/ While the obvious moral to all three of these incidents is to be mindful of how you interact with fans/clients on social media, there is more than meets the eye. As I blog about all of these incidents, I realize that there is more commonality than lack of respect for individual fans. All three of the incidents revolved around mocking how people look. It’s best never to mock or criticize how people look. One thing to learn is if showing humor is on your brand’s social media profile, then try to be more Ellen DeGeneres than Joan Rivers. If you do make a mistake, handle it like Shaq did, delete the post quickly and apologize personally. If Black Milk Clothing and Rihanna had done that, they would’ve kept more fans and their reputation. Finally, act as if the local or national media are always watching you. As Shaq, Black Milk Clothing, and Rihanna can testify, you never know when you a local error will end up in the national media spotlight.

Arrogance accepts PayPal or Job as Forms of Payment ONLY

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Two weeks ago, former PayPal Director of Strategy, Rakesh Agrawal, tweeted insults at his fellow co-workers at PayPal. He tweeted a pledge to explain everything while announcing his new startup company. Agrawal then tried to cover his tracks by deleting some of his tweets and using lack of sleep as an explanation. Shortly after his ranting, PayPal issued a statement that Agrawal was no longer with the company, and that PayPal has zero tolerance for disrespectful behavior. http://nypost.com/2014/05/05/now-former-paypal-executive-continues-his-epic-twitter-rant/ What a hot mess to say the least. In the age of social media, more specifically Twitter, any public figure from Lady Gaga to Pope Francis can not only say anything that comes to mind instantly, but then share it with literally millions of people in less than a minute. This seems to present a dilemma: has social media defrocked the CEO? Ten years ago, the image of top level executives, like Agrawal would be a refined person in a suit, who would keep to their social circles in Manhattan or Silicon Valley. Anything that was said to the public would be put out in a press release by a publicist, issued as a statement by a lawyer, or offered in a press conference with a rehearsed speech. Interaction with public, outside friends, family, and colleagues would’ve been on a very limited basis. It wouldn’t have been documented either. Are we entering a new era in which the mighty and powerful cooperate executive is humanized? Think about it, Agrawal uses Twitter, just like me, or anybody could. If I want to ask him a question directly, I can just Tweet him. Now, I’m not naive, I realize that he probably wouldn’t respond to me, nevertheless he would see it. Although you would be surprised how often a public figure interacts with their fans. For example, Saturday Night Live alum, Norm MacDonald, got into a debate about religion with various fans on Twitter last year. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/03/19/bullied-by-atheists-nonbelievers-go-after-former-snl-star-for-saying-he-believes-in-god-scriptures/ Again ten years ago, such platforms weren’t available to have these types of conversations. These types of incidents don’t just occur on Twitter. We’ve seen it happen on Reddit and Instagram. In the past, if a CEO had say something like Argawal did B.S (Before Social media), it would have been indirectly associated with him or the company and very simple to imply that it was the media adding an unflattering spin to the CEO’s elitist image. Our current direct access comes with benefits. It can make a CEO more human and down to earth. If the CEO has a nice personality, it can be showcased on social media, and ergo have a positive effect on profits and company image. Sir Richard Branson is a primary of example of a CEO with a nice personality, that is showcased well on social media. Branson is the the CEO of the Virgin Group, which is most notably known for the brands, Virgin Mobile, Virgin Records, and Virgin Airlines. http://www.virgin.com/time-machine Branson’s success speaks for itself, considering the well-known and diversified brands that he owns, the fact that he was knighted in 1999, and a billionaire. His fun-loving, down to earth, and caring personality is showcased well across various social media platforms, including his blog, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Branson is not only an influencer on LinkedIn, but he was the first to reach one million followers. http://www.cnet.com/news/richard-branson-on-linkedin-first-to-1m-followers/ While I can’t provide directly correlation between Branson’s nice persona on social media and the Virgin Group’s profits, I think the fact that Branson’s net worth went up in 2014 shows that nice guys don’t finish last. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-27360032

Silly Rabit, Racism is never OK

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Even though we’re less than half way through 2014, I think that we can go ahead and give the hot mess of the year award to Clippers owner, Donald Sterling. As you already know, TMZ.com released a recording in which Sterling told his archivist/girlfriend on the side/silly rabbit, V. Stiviano, that he was not OK with her posting a photo of herself with Magic Johnson on Instagram.  In Sterling’s words, he didn’t want Stiviano broadcasting her associations with black people and bringing a person of African American descent to the  Clippers games.http://nba.si.com/2014/04/26/donald-sterling-nba-investigation-racist-comments-clippers/ The ramifications on Sterling’s personal life and professional career are continuing to wreak havoc, and I predict will for quite some time. Currently, Sterling has a lifetime ban from NBA games and practices, a $2.5 million fine, as well as being forced to sell the team, pending a vote from the NBA Board of Governors. http://nba.si.com/2014/04/29/donald-sterling-suspension-fine-adam-silver-clippers/ This punishment is fitting considering that a racially insensitive person shouldn’t be a position of leadership, especially in the diversified world of professional sports. Although I think the punishment could be taken a step further, with Sterling being forced to issue an apology and attend some sort of diversity program. There is something that we can all take away from this situation, besides be careful who you date on the side, oops, I mean hire as an “archivist”. In all seriousness, this situation reminds us to be careful what we say, because we never know who or what is listening to our conversation. Directly, we must think about how we present ourselves outside of the workplace. For example, consider practicing discretion not just on your business’s social media, but your own personal social media as well. This is especially true if you’re friends with clients on social media. Even if you’re not friends with clients, make sure your Twitter, Instagram, Facebook profiles have strict privacy settings so that you can only share among friends. If you are well known in the community, be mindful of what you say at local community events, such as fairs and festivals. Inappropriate racial comments are made commonly, but the reason why Sterling’s caused him so much trouble is because he is a public figure. We’ve witnessed how politicians on both sides of the aisle have put dents into their political careers because of comments made when they thought the microphone was off or when they didn’t think that someone had a tape recorder. Mitt Romney may have lost the 2012 presidential election due to his 47 percent comment. Joe Biden has a hard time being taken seriously as a Vice President due to the many gaffes he has made over the years. In addition, one may need to reflect internally to ask if they are prejudice. Some people may argue that people of Sterling’s generation grew up in a very different time in America, in which racism and prejudiced was somewhat the norm. Personally, I have very mixed opinions on this, considering that I know people in my life for whom this argument applies to, as well as other people in my life who defy this argument. I think that a happy medium between both arguments would be to look at a person’s character as a whole as a deciding factor in punishment and judgement. In Sterling’s case, this isn’t the first time he has made racist remarks. He also has acted misogynistic. Lastly, Sterling has paid women for sex. That was a definite taboo when he was growing up. http://deadspin.com/5263277/the-sordid-life-of-clippers-owner-donald-sterling As I mentioned earlier, be careful of who you associate with. As the old saying goes, “birds of a feather flock together”. In my opinion, social media, especially Facebook and LinkedIn, can perhaps be the best showcase of who your associated with. If your friends, family, colleagues, etc. have legal, successful, straight laced, and appropriate social media profiles, this can be a good reflection of you. However, if the opposite is true, well you can fill in the blanks.

A Hack for the Applause

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This past weekend, the U.S Department of Homeland Security advised Americans against using Internet Explorer as a web browser for the present time. Reason being, a flaw was discovered that would allow a computer virus to attack if the user visits one malicious website. In other words, Internet Explorer is incapable of prevent a virus from attacking. Microsoft just issued a patch yesterday http://time.com/85500/microsoft-fixes-internet-explorer-security-bug/. If you have Internet Explorer, you should receive an update. Normally the U.S Department of Homeland Security doesn’t weigh in on these types of matters; however, when you consider that fact that most businesses use Microsoft computers, and probably don’t give their web browser a second thought, a warning was definitely justified. The threat of hacking is so old and redundant that it could compete on Dancing with the Stars. So why do people hack? There’s of course the obvious reason neither of financial gain, but sometimes there isn’t a monetary reason nor for that matter a malicious one. Sometimes it’s for attention; or dare I say it, it’s for the publicity. The most obvious reason for hacking for publicity is status. Think about it, when you hack a well-known enterprise, you become famous or infamous… your name makes the national news, Julian Assange of WikiLeaks is a primary example. Along the same lines, sometimes people hack for significance. Before I dive into that however, I’m going to ask you to consider the notion that not all hacking is malicious. Rarely, but sometimes hacking is meant to demonstrate to system administrators about flaws in the website by inflicting a low-level virus or harmless prank, thus preventing larger scale viruses from occurring. Other times, hacking is political. For example, well-known hacking group, Anonymous hacked the controversial Westboro Baptist Church in a kind of a Robin Hood notionhttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/17/westboro-baptist-church-twitter_n_2318519.html. Individuals or groups like Anonymous sometimes like to hack as a way to stick it to major corporations. After all, is there a better way to humiliate a major company than by giving them a virus or exposing secret information? It must be even sweeter when done publicly. Whether a hacker’s intentions are malicious, benevolent, or neutral, they are significant because the create awareness of a system’s flaws as well as make the general public more conscience about their internet habits and e commerce spending. This leads to the question, is hacking a form of public relations? The point of a publicity campaign is to create brand awareness. In the case of Wikileaks and Anonymous, this has been effective. With most hackers on the other hand, it does not build brand awareness at all. Think about, can you name a famous hacker as quickly as you can name a famous pop star? Some people would argue that there is no such thing as bad publicity. I myself have uttered this phrase from time to time. However, in strict public relations terms, a publicity campaign is only supposed to display the good side of a brand. Messing up websites and getting a hold of other people’s financial data, is usually frowned upon. Also, consumers don’t like it when you put down a religion http://gawker.com/5065477/anonymous-kid-faces-ten-years-for-scientology-hack. If a corporation did that, the PR team would be responsible for damage control. Good luck with putting on a positive spin on intolerance. Talk about a bad case of the Mondays. Also, in a publicity campaign the company communicates with their publics. When you’re doing something illegal, you can’t really have a Facebook page or Twitter account. The point is to be noticed, which is significantly different from being caught. You can also forget about having an official website. Lastly, no hacker has ever put out a press release.

A foot in your mouth is never in Fashion

Spring is here at last! I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel like seeing my heavy sweaters, jackets, and dark colored clothing for a very long time. As long as we’re ditching over worn clothing for a new perspective, we can get rid of a few clothing company CEOs that are worn out as well. Lululemon and Abercrombie & Fitch have recently reported lower quarterly profits, leading to bad news on the stock market. All tied to the comments of their respective CEOs. To add more fuel to the fire, A&F’s sister brand, Hollister, got in trouble in March for having posting a photo of one of their models with extremely thin thighs. After posting the photo on Twitter, many twitters took to the Hollister account to complain. This photo mirrors the controversial comments of their CEO, which I’ll get to later. Although Target isn’t strictly a clothing company, they also get in trouble last month for having a model in a bathing suit with a clearly Photoshopped thigh gap. I realize that average person reading this assumes that most of us are smart enough not; (1) to say discriminatory comments in public forums; (2) to offer a biased opinion as justification for selling poorly made products; and (3) to use Photoshop to promote an unrealistic beauty standard. Why should a small business owner or a local artist consider these recent events? Answer: because once you have alienated customers or fans, they will take their dollars elsewhere. The old-fashioned problem of an offended customer has entered the social media age where one can add a bad review to a company listing or create a critical anti-website. Every business, artist, and musician caters to a target demographic and lifestyle. However, just because you go after your specific demographic, that doesn’t mean that you should discourage others. Don’t think of this as the standard diversity human resources vomiting rainbows lecture, think of this as a way to improve your business bottom line. Let’s start with the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, Mike Jefferies, who said in an interview several years ago, which recently came to light, that A&F’s clothing exclusively caters to cool kids, and that A&F brands hire attractive people to work in their stores to influence attractive people to shop there. (https://shine.yahoo.com/healthy-living/in-defense-of-abercrombie—fitch-mike-jeffries-183806454.html) There is also Chip Wilson, founder and former CEO of Lululemon, who said that the reason why their brand of yoga pants are too shear is certain women’s body types weren’t meant for the pants. (http://articles.latimes.com/2013/dec/10/business/la-fi-mo-lululemon-chip-wilson-ceo-20131210 )I realize that at some of the clothing stores I shop at I am not the in their business’s typical demographic or image. I’m not preppy, Goth, or look like a supermodel. However, I still shop at those places knowing that I feel welcomed, because I usually have friendly store associates that greet me and are very helpful. Friendly or unfriendly associates I think can make or break a place of business. You can notice this just watching one episode of “Undercover Boss”. In addition, these places don’t exclude someone like me. The store environment is friendly welcoming and even though has a specific demographic, has enough variety in their merchandise that I can find something I like. If you have a small business do, you must offer variety in the services and/or products that you provide. If you are a musician, do you have a diversified repertoire of songs? If the honest answer is no, you may be losing profits to someone who can answer yes. There’s more to just merchandise however, consider store layout. Is it handicap accessible? Elderly friendly? Also, it doesn’t hurt to take the religious and ethnic communities in your community into consideration. There are ways to cater to your demographic, without excluding other ones. One way to cater to your demographic is using a community relations plan, in other words, collaboration with a charity that relates to your brand and your demographics needs. For example, bra company, Aerie, donated proceeds of pink nail polish and bras to Bright Pink, a breast cancer charity, this past October during Breast Cancer Awareness month. As far as age, be well informed regarding issues and trends facing specific demographics. Though being more inclusive may not automatically mean better profits, it does mean better publicity. Abercrombie & Fitch and Lululemon didn’t have to deal with just bad sales, they also had to deal with negative press, which their CEOs had to counter act with public apologies. On a side note, it also cost the CEOs their positions. Wilson stepped down as CEO of Lululemon, while Jefferies stepped down as chair of Abercrombie & Fitch. Although Jefferies’s contract as the CEO of A&F was renewed, it was controversial, especially among investors. A Target spokesperson also had to issue a public apology for their poorly-Photoshopped photo (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/11/target-photoshop-fail_n_4940819.html). The photo posted on their website had received many negative comments from the blogosphere, which made Target remove the photo. On the other hand, H&M received positive press last year when they used a plus size model on their website to show off their bathing suit collection. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/30/hm-swimwear-model-feature_n_3185135.html) What I will credit Abercrombie & Fitch, Lululemon, and Target for doing correctly is paying attention and responding to criticism. If foot and mouth happens to your brand, or if you have an unhappy customers on your social media accounts definitely take the time to address it. Also, make sure to check out review websites such as Yelp or Manta, to see what is online for customer reviews about your business. Looking your business up on a search engine can also help you to monitor the conversation. Having good communication with your employees can help prevent bad reviews. In other words, make sure your employees are well versed in store policies. Let them know of any changes immediately. Also, help train them in customer relations. Oftentimes problems can stem from bad organizational communication. When it comes to social media, make sure you use a variety of social media platforms to attract different age groups and users. Some people who are on Twitter may not be on Facebook, and vice versa. Lastly, I can’t stress this enough, be careful what you say on your social media pages. You don’t want a mini Lululemon situation on your hands…

Jimmy Fallon & Lolo Jones #usingsocialmediatogetahead

Two weeks ago was a good week to be a couch potato. Besides the awful winter weather, it was a big week in television. On Monday, Jimmy Fallon replaced Jay Leno as host of “The Tonight Show.” Tuesday and Wednesday, Olympic hurdler turned bobsledder, Lolo Jones competed in Sochi, making her the tenth American athlete to compete in both summer and Winter Olympics. Even though Jimmy Fallon’s journey to become host of “The Tonight Show” is obviously different from Lolo Jones’s journey to become an Olympic bobsledder, they both used the same tool to further their careers — the tool of social media. Even though you might not be training for the Olympics or hosting a talk show in the near future, (although you may daydream about doing either one) as a small business owner and especially as an artist, you should be on social media. Consider this, in “Branded” (the ESPN Nine for Nine series-documentary), Lolo Jones discussed how she was was the #1 ranked hurdler after competing in her first Olympics in 2008, but had no major sponsorship. After doing some research, she realized that other top Olympic athletes who did have major sponsorship, had a major presence on social media. Jones decided to make social media a priority. Considering that major social media giants and corporations such as Red Bull, Asics, and BP currently sponsor her, her move to social media has literally paid off. You may be one of the best businesses or artists in your community, but may have less revenue than your competitors may because you do not have an Internet presence beyond a website. This may be especially true if you have a younger client base. One of the reasons why Jimmy Fallon was chosen to replace Jay Leno as host of “The Tonight Show,” is because NBC thinks that Fallon is better equipped to attract the coveted 18-34 demographic. In my opinion, one of the reasons why Fallon is more appealing to that generation, The Millennials, is because he much more social media savvy. Jimmy Fallon has both a personal Facebook page as well as a one for his show. The same goes for Twitter. In contrast, Leno only had accounts for the Tonight Show. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily stating that you need to have both a personal Facebook page and Twitter account, although it couldn’t hurt. My point being is that a commitment to learning, even embracing social media is essential. In addition, every week Fallon would have a bit where Late Night viewers would submit funny stories or jokes on Twitter using hash tags. A lesson to learn from Fallon, Twitter is a great way to engage your customers in a conversation. One last point, both Jimmy Fallon and Lolo Jones are on several social media platforms. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, you can also find Fallon and Jones on Vine and Instagram. Like Fallon and Jones, you may want to consider using different social media sites. Time for me to go back to the couch, another #polarvortex is on its way…

Your customers want to know what love is

Jewelry, chocolates, flowers; it’s that time of the year again: Valentine’s Day. If you’re in a relationship, chances are that you are thinking of ways that show your significant other that you love them, with the hope (or even expectation) that they return those feelings. On the other hand, if you are single like me, you think of which wine pairs best with loneliness and tears. I digress. You know your friends and family love your personality, but is your brand loved by your customers? There is a difference when your customers love your brand, over liking your brand. Some could argue that the grocery store chain Trader Joes is a prime example of a brand that customers love. Consider this, this week Trader Joes is set to open their initial stores in the state of Colorado. A local Denver area musician wrote a song about how much she loves Trader Joes, and plans to perform a concert in front of the Denver store the night before it opens. Another example of a brand that inspires love is Apple. In a 2011 article, Forbes named Apple as one of the happiest brands. Considering the popularity of their various products, it’s hard to argue that the majority of Apple consumers are unsatisfied. Not to mention all the die hards who line up for every release of the new iPhone. So we know that Trader Joes and Apple are loved, but the question is what makes them loved? It takes more than just selling good products. It takes really getting to know your community. For those who do not know, Trader Joes has a Hawaiian theme to their stores. So, every time they open a new store, they have a lei ceremony for their customers. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to introduce yourself to the community if you’re opening a new business or a new location. Having a grand opening is a good start, however it’s more important to have publicity. Consider making the grand opening a Facebook event and issuing press releases to local media outlets. Also, show that you and your business are involved and care about the community. This is what transforms public relations into Community Relations. Since Trader Joes hails from Pasedena, California, it makes sense for them to have a float every year in the Tournament of Roses Parade. Having a float in a nationally televised parade might be out of grasp for most small businesses, but try to take advantage of events in your own community. It might also be a good idea to join the local Chamber of Commerce. Just like in early romance, begin by showing off your good qualities, including kindness. Customers love a company that has a heart. Show that you care by donating to local charities. If it ties to the brand’s products or services, that’s even better. Yesterday during the blizzard, Modell’s Sporting Goods had a truck parked outside Grand Central Station handing out free hot chocolate and hand warmers. It was met with praise on their Facebook page by local NYC people and businesses alike. Again, make sure that you publicize your good deeds. As I have reiterated throughout this blog post, staying connected with the media is key. Going back to what makes Apple loved, one of their great techniques is holding press events to present their latest model or invention. Consider holding a press event with your local media to showcase new equipment, a new or significantly renovated store space, or anything that you can demonstrate that sets your business apart from competitors. With all these tips in mind, I hope that you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day. May you have a healthy, loving relationship with your clients… just as long as none of them buys you lingerie.

All I want for Christmas is you…and Fraud Protection

Unless you were living under a rock last week, you probably heard about the debacle with Target. This may have made you a little more worried about identity theft, even if you haven’t shopped there recently. To add to your holiday paranoia, perhaps in addition to worrying about your personal finances, you should also be worried about your own business. What if something similar to what happened at Target occurred at the store you own? This isn’t just a concern if you own a retail store. If you’re a doctor who owns a private practice, this type of situation could happen with your patients’ identity and their personal information. Can you say HIPPA violation? OK, now that you’re freaking out, let’s explore what you can do to prevent this situation and how you re-build your image if faced with a similar crisis. First, let’s start with prevention. According to an article from the Associated Press, a security expert interviewed suggested that this was an inside job, and that Target could have done more to prevent such a widespread breach. If you own a business, make sure to invest in the proper security programs and anti-virus software as well as related updates. A security analyst, who advises Target, said that the breach was assisted with a type of malware. You may want to consider requiring background checks for your employees. I myself was required to consent to a government background check for one of the unpaid internships I did when I was in college. If you’re a doctor, one way to protect your patients’ data is to encrypt it. Next, let’s focus on damage control. If your business faces a similar crisis, make sure that you handle it the correct way. Good damage control boils down to good communication. Make sure that you contact those affected right away, to let them know how you have handled the problem and its resolution to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Be sure to use specifics. In my own personal opinion, I feel as though Target didn’t respond quickly enough or effectively ease customers fears. Don’t be afraid to go beyond to show your customers that you’re truly sorry for what happened. People are more willing to forgive than you may think, just take a look at the recent NYC mayoral race. Some of these measures may cost a bit of money, but think of it this way, money spent wisely today is better than money foolishly lost tomorrow. May 2014 be a fraud free and damaged controlled year for your business.

Ron Burgundy demonstrates classy public relations?

Last week comedic actor Will Ferrell, made headlines here in our own CT backyard. To promote his upcoming movie, “Anchorman 2”, Will Ferrell made an appearance as his character, Ron Burgundy, on “The Dan Patrick Show” on NBC Sports Network last week. “The Dan Patrick Show” tapes in Milford, so many local Milford media outlets reported seeing Ron Burgundy out and about. Ron Burgundy also made an appearance on “Sports Center” in ESPN in Bristol. Will Ferrell’s television appearances aren’t limited to our own state however, Ron Burgundy co-anchored a newscast at a local North Dakota news affiliate. There are of course more examples, but I won’t get into them. The reason why I am blogging about Ron Burgundy’s appearances is that there is something that businesses, musicians, and artists can learn from him. Besides, of course why scotchy scotch scotch is the drink of choice or how men can better themselves by growing a mustache, the main lesson to learn is how to make your brand visible. Just as Ron Burgundy is the face of the “Anchorman” franchise, you are the face of your business. Make your presence known in the local community. For example, if you own a business, one great way to make your business more personable is to present yourself, whether it be through social media, press releases, or local television/radio appearances. Another valuable lesson is to reach out to all your publics, even the smaller fish. The publicity team for “Anchorman 2,” could have easily set up an arrangement for Ferrell to co-anchor a local news show in a major market such as New York City or Los Angeles, but instead they chose a smaller market in the heartland of America. Lastly, when generating awareness of your brand, make sure that you utilize any relevant skills. Did you know that in real life Ferrell has his degree in Sports Information, and was an intern at NBC Sports? Who knew that it would prepare him for promoting a movie. What skills have you learned in your past that you can use when generating awareness for your brand? Just a few PR lessons to keep in mind.