Upcycle your content

Companies invest a lot in communications and marketing efforts. Content creation can be costly and time consuming. Thinking creatively about the life cycle of a single piece of content could save on resources and broaden your offering.

Check out Lewis PR’s post on Upcycling VS Recycling content. Jen Scheer includes 5 concrete examples of how you can get more value from your content.

Here’s an example from my world. Read More »

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Client work: Hope Learning

Jim Beaubien and Karen Caesar begin each relationship with one question. “How can we add value?”

Hope Learning Models ScreenshotThey are organizational thought leaders. Professors in the MBA program and the Executive Education Program at the University of Alberta, they also consult on organizational change management and strategic growth for companies across North America.

They hired me to project lead a new web site and brand refresh for their consultancy Hope Learning.

Through brand discovery we co-created the following goals for their new site. They are great goals and I’m pleased to say post-roll out that my team delivered on all six.Read More »

The effective email tease

There is an old marketing adage, originally written in a New York Herald Tribune column in 1956, that goes, “doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does.”

Advertising mediums have changed dramatically since then, but advertising precepts and concepts have not. No matter what, we still have to find our audience, and we still have to find a way to not only sit in the spotlight, but get the audience to look when we wink.Read More »

Digital Good Deeds

This list of digital good deeds was part of something I sent out with the National Digital Media Day campaign. Maybe there’s still some good that can come of it…

We are in an amazingly fortunate situation. With a very simple click of a button, any one of us can DO something to help people around the world. Here’s how.

Click Free Rice Play an online vocabulary building game to feed the hungry. The more words you get right, the more rice will be donated by the UN World Food Program to developing nations.

Click Microlending It is taking off online. This week alone over 1,500 entrepreneurs were helped through KIVA loans. You can loan KIVA as little as $25 and support multiple initiatives.

Click Good Words For Africa Scrabble Kit Can you imagine helping African grandmothers caring for AIDS orphans by playing a board game?Stephen Lewis Foundation has developed a fun download so you can do just that.

Click Connect Your Friends to Your CauseSet up an online fund raising page of your own using Give Meaning and invite your social network to support a cause that you care about.

Click Be a Mentor Do you have skills that you want to share with the developing world?Sawa can partner you with a local hero in a developing nation who needs your skills.

What About White Papers?

If you are curious about white papers you will want to read this blog post by Vertical Response (after you’ve read this one of course;)

I like VR’s post because it answers the all important question, “What the heck is a white paper?”

From Wikipedia: A white paper is an authoritative report. White papers are used to educate customers, collect leads for a company or help people make decisions.

and then the VR post goes on to provide tips for what to include, and suggest ways to promote a white paper once you’ve got one.

But something that might not come across clearly is that you actually need to approach this from the other direction.

Instead of writing a white paper and then thinking about how you are going to use it and promote it, first think about your PR and marketing objectives, decide if or how a white paper will meet those objectives, who the white paper is for, what you want them to do/think after reading it, how you are going to get the white paper in front of them, and then figure out what content needs to go in the paper.

There are a lot of good PR and marketing objectives that can be supported by creating a white paper (or hiring someone like me to write one up for you). Here are a few:

  1. Demonstrate that you are an expert in your field
  2. Demonstrate that you care about your clients, prospects and colleagues by giving them a  document that is valuable to them and makes it easy for them to understand and use your service
  3. List build – a white paper that attracts the interest of your target market can be used as an enticement to subscribe to e-newsletters and other forms of permission marketing
  4. Prospecting – a white paper can be a powerful CPC (Pay Per Click advertising) draw. Google ads that drive people to your white paper can help you build site traffic and permission marketing lists. But keep in mind that people who want information are different from people who want to buy and there are different reasons that companies choose to speak to both markets.
  5. Sales support – a white paper can become non-salesie common ground between your sales staff (or you) and your clients/potential clients. It provides an opportunity to discuss industry best practices and that conversation can feel more like a beneficial exchange of ideas than a hard sell. (And while you are having that conversation you can further demonstrate that you are an expert in your field and that you care…)

So check out Vertical Response’s blog post about white papers, keep in mind they offer a service that makes it pretty easy to link a white paper to your e-newsletter sign up process, and if you are interested, contact me to discuss developing a white paper (tool kit, tips sheet, or industry report) that supports your PR and marketing objectives.

What makes you relevant?

I worry about coaches and service providers who are continuously positioning themselves/ their ideas/ their companies with statements like, “Given these difficult times…” or “Recession-proof…” or “In today’s market…”

What does that do? It demonstrates that you have read the papers – fine – but if you do too much of that kind of positioning, it can crazy glue you/your idea/your business to the thing that you are telling people makes you relevant – in this case the “downturn”.

Call me kooky, but I don’t see that as a long-term success strategy.

In contrast, consider how Curves has chosen to shape their relevance. They know that it is in their best interest for clients to look at their membership as a long term, life-improving, feel-good choice, rather than a quick fix to a temporary weight-loss problem. They know that their target market is uncomfortable, or even unhappy with their bodies today. Fine, but Curves wants clients to love them now and to keep right on loving them, even when they reach their weight loss goals.

So, instead of attaching their relevance to a potentially temporary weight problem that could ultimately make Curves irrelevant, they position themselves for the long term with messages about women loving their bodies – that vision will never be irrelevant. Then, they reinforce their relevance to their target market by demonstrating their popularity (stores opening everywhere, 4 million members world wide). And by making a program that’s only 30 minutes, they’ve created an opportunity to reinforce that their service is specifically relevant for women with busy lives (all of us). You will notice that all the things Curves relies on to make them relevant show up at the very core of what they do.

You will also notice that they are not running ads that jump on the downturn band wagon, “Lost your job? Lose weight too!” It sounds absurd but the point is that any company could try to use the economy to make itself relevant, but no matter how you spin it, grasping for relevance really doesn’t look very good.

Now, I hope this post isn’t going to confuse people who have heard me challenge them to try to relate what they are saying (in articles and presentations) to something that’s going on in the world. (E.g. refer to a news item, a popular figure, or a current event.)

I want to be clear.  There is a critical difference between using topical real world examples to illustrate concepts or to help people relate to you, and hammering people with empty statements like “In difficult times like these…”, which say little more than, “Look I know what’s going on and I’m telling you I’m relevant!”

Do you have any ideas about relevance that you want to contribute? Any questions you are pondering?  I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about questions of relevance in the past couple of weeks and I haven’t come up with any hard and fast truths. But you will find a few other posts on the topic because questions of relevance are relevant to me. What about you?

Shea Butter Gifts Help Women in Ghana

lav50_000I’m on the lookout for socially responsible gifts and I’ve found a real winner with the Shea Butter Market skin care products. The recipient of the gift will feel the benefits of pure shea butter, and the benefits extend to women and children in Ghana.

Through her company, the Shea Butter Market, Gifty Serbeh-Dunn has been working to help women in rural Ghana gain access to education for themselves and their children, and develop a sustainable income through shea butter.

Many women in rural Ghana are starting to make a cash income by harvesting and processing shea for the western market. The Shea trees grow wild and the women know how to pick the fruit sustainably and prepare it for market.

GiftyWhen Gifty started the Shea Butter Market in 2003, she started working with the Tapko Widow’s Group. They worked together to figure out how much product the women would be able to produce, when they would be able to work (so that it wouldn’t interfere with the farming season and destabilize their economy), and when they would need to be paid so that they could use the money to pay for their children’s education and seed for their farms. Not all western companies take such a collaborative approach.

Gifty says, “Shea butter has become so popular now, people are ripping off the women. They think they can make quick money or take map of Ghanaadvantage of the women’s ignorance of the market. We hear stories of companies buying at good prices, and then as they order more, they keep dropping the price. Also, the companies use scales and purchase by volume. The women don’t know how the scales work. They traditionally sell the butter by the ball. So now when we buy it, the women count the balls and then we weigh it and show them how the scales work. They are learning to calculate and sell for fair market value. We are applying to CIDA to get them some training in basic numeracy, and accounting. My goal is that even if Shea Butter Market doesn’t exist, that the women have the education to stay in business, and keep their children in school. Education has given me everything I have, so I just want to give back. I know these women and I know that when they earn cash, they make sure their children go to school.

Last Christmas, there was a drought and 44 women Gifty works with lost their farm crops. They desperately needed $11 each to buy food and seed – just $11 would see them all through until the rains. Gifty, told a few people in her professional network about the drought, and in no time, 44 women (including an entire choir in Victoria) signed up to send the money. They also signed up to be friends. Because of the connection through Gifty, the Canadian women felt like they were helping out someone in their circle, so with the money they sent pictures and messages of support, and asked their new friends a very important question.

What do you think would be best for the development of your community? In gratitude for the assistance, the Tapko Widows Group answered. A Moranga co-op. Moranga is the new rage in beauty care. They can sell it in local markets and to overseas buyers. The women have been working towards co-operative farming for some time but this new plant is where they see a future. The Canadian friends were motivated by their conviction.

So this past summer, Gifty gave the women an unexpected gift from their friends in Canada. They have set up a micro-lending program and are starting the women off with $1,500, which is enough for the Tapko Widows Group to buy moranga seed and fencing for the seedlings. Their dream, shared with friends, is becoming a reality right now!

Check out the Shea Butter Market’s holiday baskets, and the new line of Moranga products at your local Choices or Capers. Or shop online at http://www.sheabuttermarket.com/

Gifty is originally from Wa, Ghana and now lives in Mill Bay, BC. Read the story about how and why Gifty started the Shea Butter Market