Posts tagged ‘Brand’

Are You Taking Advantage of “Special Offer” Media Opportunities, Or Are They Taking Advantage of You?

The pandemic impacts hit the U.S. business markets in mid-March 2020. Conferences and events, and the fertile business development grounds they provided, were cancelled, postponed or pivoted to online formats that were unfamiliar (at least way back in 2020) to most professionals.

“I generally speak at the Name-That-Conference for industry professionals and get a few solid new business leads out of that engagement each year…,” was the start of many a pipeline-focused conversation. But that pipeline ran dry with a highly transmissible virus attending all the same gigs.

Smart professionals and their firms turned their attention to content – and in most cases, this was what we PR-types refer to as “owned” content (the firm controls and distributes it without going through any gatekeepers, a.k.a. editors/reporters/producers). Webinars, newsletters, resource centers, blogs and even forays into the broadcast realm – in the form of podcasts and video series – proliferated.

This desire to educate, share and engage with potential clients in new ways was music to many in-house professional services marketers’ ears – and in the absence of third-party engagements, focusing on firm-produced media channels seemed the perfect pivot. But there is a dark side.

With the launch of these owned media channels, particularly podcasts and “online magazines,” there’s an emerging new category of “media” out there, and it appears to be confusing even the best and the brightest – somewhat intentionally.

Using recently encountered real-world examples, allow me to describe three different wrinkles on this media trend that should raise questions for communicators, marketers and business developers:

  • Example A: An A/E/C industry-focused “online magazine” with a well-targeted title and corresponding URL is “honoring” firms with various self-selected awards (think “top interior designer” or “best plumbing contractor.”)
  • Example B: A podcast has emerged in the IT space with a flattering name, online presentation and a cool-enough concept: the episodes profile the cream of the IT crop and discuss issues of interest to the top players in the space.
  • Example C: A family of podcasts in the legal industry, managed by a single producer, targets lawyers, identifies the podcasts within the family of managed productions that align with the lawyers’ expertise, and lines them up to participate.

Here’s the “owned” media catch: there is another brand behind each of these media channels.

  • In Example A, an A/E/C software developer produces the online magazine – and pushes pop-ups and other company promotion to viewers. (We had to dig in a bit to get to this as it is not overtly disclosed.)
  • In the case of Example B, the IT podcast is obviously and proudly branded by a service provider. We’ll discuss why this can be a red flag below.
  • In the legal podcasts described in Example C, while not obviously branded as law firm or legal tech productions, each is sponsored by and aligned with a specific legal brand.    

Companies create these owned channels for fairly transparent reasons:

  • Access to potential clients (whether their ultimate target is your firm or your firm’s clients).
  • Desirable audience overlap between their brand and the goodwill brought by your firm/professionals (and keep in mind these channels include “subscribe” and “follow” buttons – as well as active chatbots in some cases).
  • A halo effect that your firm brand can bring – providing them credentialing implied by your participation (and, therefore, approval) of their channel.
  • “Shared” media cross promotion on social channels as you help to amplify your participation.
  • Real estate on your website when you post your participation on your domain of authority.
  • SEO fodder.

And that leads us straight to the questions these “opportunities” should raise. Before you jump in wholeheartedly, ask yourself:

  • Is it wise to align our firm brand with this brand? Do we know the sponsoring outfit and its reputation with our own audiences – including clients, prospects, referral sources and the industry generally?
  • Do we want to provide our “implied approval” of this vendor and/or their product(s)?
  • Might our involvement or participation signal an “allegiance” – however tangential – that could be misconstrued by others in the space?
  • Is the sponsoring brand’s audience desirable to our business development goals?
  • Is the production value reflective of our firm’s standards?
  • Is the “sales” approach acceptable to us and our connections? (For example, will the channel spam our clients if they follow or register?)

Beyond these questions, as you evaluate these opportunities compared to traditional media outlets, consider that:

  • There are no audited circulation or subscriber numbers, so the audience noted may or may not be as advertised. Even if the numbers are there, they may or may not represent a large extended family of the producer, rather than solid targets for your business development efforts.
  • The traditional ethical canons associated with the fourth estate, don’t apply. There is no semblance of editorial independence here – so the rules of balanced reporting, separation of editorial and paid content, and protocols for handling correction requests may not be applied.

Now please don’t get me wrong, there are some seriously impressive owned media channels out there. It has long been a goal to land a client in the Costco Connection or to have the cult-like following of a channel like the Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer. My only caution is to do the work to identify the sponsor of the media channel before replying to the come-on, granting interviews, posting accolades on the firm website or sharing the content with your entire LinkedIn network. Otherwise, you could very well end up doing someone else’s marketing while undoing your own.

Traci Stuart

September 20, 2021 at 4:10 pm Leave a comment

Locking Down Key Online Real Estate

Online professional brands are incredibly important assets that you need to control. As the baseball playoffs continue today, fans will flock to www.MLB.com. However, many may now know that the website was once the property of law firm Morgan Lewis & Bockius.

While this particular situation was apparently resolved without any payout, it highlights the importance of locking down key online real estate, which no longer just includes domain names, but also involves Facebook pages and Twitter handles.

The dynamic nature of the Internet is such that even if you only post a simple website, you need to do some due diligence and anticipate both user behavior and future needs. Your website and online properties are increasingly the best conduits for conveying your company’s message.  Bear in mind, 65 percent of U.S. adults are now using social media, so surely someone is searching for your company.

Cybersquatting and Typosquatting

Cybersquatting is the practice of registering domain names with the intent of forcing a payout from a party whose intellectual property or brand are directly or indirectly associated with the url.  A related practice is typosquatting wherein a site is registered with a url address that is one or two letters off from another site in hopes of misdirecting users or again forcing an organization to purchase the domain.

Each and every business should register all potential deviations of their URL address. These are valuable properties that you need to control. You can then redirect users who make a typo or who guess an address that is not your company’s official url to the correct homepage.

For example, www.Coke.com redirects to www.Coca-Cola.com. As such, XXYlawyers.com or XYZlaw.com could redirect to XYZlawfirm.com. The cost in doing so is small and the process easy. Compare this to the cost of having a rogue individual redirecting clients to false or misleading information.

Suffixes!

While .com is the dominant suffix, .net and .org are the most prominent in a dizzying array of additional web suffixes.  You may want to consider snapping up.net and .org and redirect them to your main website. The White House, which is http://www.whitehouse.gov, once had to deal with the pesky issue of http://www.whitehouse.com ,which for a number of years was a pornographic website. Yikes!

Social Media Squatters

The practice of cybersquatting is also occurring on social media websites. As rapid adoption of social media continues, more companies are planting their virtual flags on Twitter and Facebook. Even if your organization is not ready to make the jump to an active Twitter feed or Facebook page, it should reserve spaces on these social media networks.

Reserving multiple Twitter handles is free and a sound defensive strategy for both future branding entrees and for public relations efforts. The fictional XYZ law Firm could reserve handles such as @xyzlaw, @xyzlawyers, @xzylawfirm and even @xyzsucks. (It is always a good idea to protect against potential disgruntled individuals.)

The firm could also register Facebook pages of different names so as to own that real estate. However, be aware that you need 25 “likes” to secure a Facebook URL that is shortened, such as facebook.com/xyzlawfirm.

Even if you don’t populate these pages, it is good to own the real estate and the brand extensions.

Checklist

  • Have you registered all website variations of your company’s name?
  • Have you investigated purchasing .org or .net suffixes?
  • Have you thought about and registered potential typos that could misdirect users?
  • Have you registered domain names that could damage your brand? (i.e. XYZlawsucks.com)
  • Have you registered Twitter handles for your company and brands?
  • Have you registered a YouTube handle for your company?
  • Have you considered creating a Facebook page and working to get a shortened URL?

Insurance

Insurance policies can’t cover everything, but they can provide you with peace of mind with respect to many potential disasters. Creating a well-thought out and strategic online plan, complete with strategic real estate buys, can help your business tremendously and provide you with similar peace of mind. Taking the time to be strategic in crafting branding and communications plans is critical.

–  Michael Bond

October 6, 2011 at 10:08 pm Leave a comment

Lessons from Netflix’s Summer of Discontent

It hasn’t been a blockbuster summer for Netflix. First, they raised prices, and now they are causing great ire by deciding to split their DVD business from their streaming business. Netflix’s moves have caused more than a million defections, tremendous scorn in social media channels and a slumping stock price. What can a professional services firm learn from Netflix’s miscues? Plenty.

Continue Reading September 23, 2011 at 8:38 pm 1 comment

Avoid “Situations” by Taking an Active Role in Brand Management

While for most companies there is not such an overt association with a questionable character, very real brand and reputational management — ahem — situations exists. Simply put, your reputation and brand are far too critical to not actively monitor and manage.

Continue Reading August 22, 2011 at 7:18 pm Leave a comment

What’s a Brand Worth? $153 Billion, Apparently.

Have you ever pondered how much your company’s brand is worth? This is one of those squishy questions that are important, but very hard to determine. The folks over at Millward Brown took a stab at this question and produced what they consider to be the top 100 brands and the monetary value for each.

This year, Apple, maker of the ubiquitous iPhone and iPad, topped the list with a brand worth of an astounding estimated $153 billion. But really, what does that number mean? Some great insight was provided by Andrew Zolli of PopTech quoted on American Public Media’s Marketplace:

Someone famously said of Coca-Cola that if you burnt down every one of their factories, they’d be back in business in a quarter. If you knocked everybody on earth over the head and gave them amnesia, they’d be out of business in a quarter. And the reason for that is that their brand really exists in all of our minds.

That is a pretty succinct way of looking at the power of a brand. It is also worth noting that Apple, before Steve Jobs came back, was floundering but its dented brand still held great allure. Iconic commercials, like 1984, helped cement the company in the public’s collective conscience. Simply put, it was easier for Apple to come back because people knew who they were.

Branding professional services firms is considered more challenging than branding consumer products. In fact of the top 100 brands, according to Millward Brown, only Accenture made the list.

This is not to say that branding cannot and should not be undertaken by entities such as accounting firms or law firms. Rather, it is essential that it is. The tendency of professional services firms to have employees operating as semi-autonomous business entities hurts cross-marketing capabilities and hinders a company when they set out to achieve long-term goals.

What Does a Brand Mean?

A brand affects all aspects of an organization from the look-and-feel of business cards to the nuts and bolts of the services provided. With a clearly defined brand, consistently reinforced in thought-leadership pieces and marketing, a company develops an identity and consumers begin to attach qualities to an organization. Apple is worth a tremendous amount because consumers have the expectation that its devices will be cutting-edge and user-friendly. (Even their battery charger is supposed to be innovative.) A law or accounting firm, when properly branded, can cause clients to feel about them in similar ways. XYZ firm is honest, dependable and forward-thinking. This, in turn, may lead to increased business from existing clients or favorable reviews to potential new business sources.

Michael Bond

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May 11, 2011 at 11:06 pm 1 comment

Protect Your Brand – Use Caution When Jumping on the Royal Wedding Media Bandwagon

Remember, the point of conducting a public relations campaign is to reinforce your brand. For example, how does a press release announcing a new law firm partner serve the brand when it appears on a Royal Wedding News website? Better examples include law firms focusing on pre-nuptial agreements, issues for workers on a national holiday and the licensing of wedding merchandise.

Continue Reading April 27, 2011 at 10:33 pm Leave a comment


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