Brand relevance and the art of finding your sweet spot

“Relevance” is a word that D.C. marketing expert Bob London likes to use when talking to clients or giving branding advice to groups like the Independent Public Relations Alliance.

Bob London speaking

Marketing expert Bob London was the guest speaker at June’s IPRA luncheon.

“It sounds simplistic, but in every way, be relevant. Striving for relevance hits all of the touch points of personal branding,” he told a group of about 30 PR practitioners attending last month’s IPRA luncheon in Tysons Corner.

The veteran D.C. marketer is the principal of London, Ink, a firm he started in 1995 to help companies solve business challenges through effective marketing and communications strategies. He often steps in as a “virtual vice president of marketing” to provide interim leadership and execution.

As far as staying relevant, London offered three prescriptions for PR practitioners:

  1. Figure out what you’re great at and make it your brand specialty.
  2. Listen to your clients so you can address their “elevator rants.”
  3. Market yourself through LinkedIn and other social media.

London observed that most PR and marketing people are good at many things, but they are great at only a few. “What engages you the most?” he asked. “What excites you and makes you want to go to work? And what kind of work or client do you dread?”

He noted that we often pride ourselves in being generalists—able to do everything and anything for a client—but in reality we should be focusing on what we do best. “There is great power in being specific. You have a much better chance of succeeding. Find your sweet spot and develop that.”

A few years ago, London took it upon himself to visit clients and old associates to ask them what they thought his strengths were. “I was hurt that some things weren’t mentioned, but that exercise taught me a lot. It helped me refocus my business. Now, every summer I reevaluate what I’m doing.”

London recommended Michael Port’s book, “Book Yourself Solid,” which suggests that entrepreneurs spend more time with the clients they love working with and dump those “dud” clients who frustrate and drain them. “I’m not saying that you should just dump all of your clients overnight,” London said, “but gradually you do need to weed out the duds.”

London is also big believer in listening. “Every client has an ‘elevator rant,’” he noted. “This is what keeps them up at night. It’s the thing they would tell you in the space of an elevator ride that is really bothering them. You have to be able address those rants if you want to succeed.”

London has been able to create added value by translating his clients’ rants into marketing solutions. “Once you’ve talked to customers and better understand their concerns,” he said, “questions about strategy, message and channels just fall into place. It has taken my services to a whole new level.”

London also spoke of the need for solo practitioners to constantly market themselves. “I probably devote 20 to 30 percent of my waking hours to networking,” he confided. His favorite social media tool is LinkedIn. “I can’t say enough good things about it,” he said. “If you have a specific service to offer, I would suggest trying LinkedIn ads.”

London also uses other social media and his blog to get his name out there, and he said he has had success with his weekly “Drivetime Marketing” video series posted on YouTube.

Jay Morris is president of Jay Morris Communications LLC, an independent PR and marketing firm in Alexandria, Va. He serves on the PRSA-NCC and IPRA boards and blogs at waywardjourney.com.

Free e-tools and apps for the busy PR professional

We’ve all had those exasperating moments at the office when we stomp and fume, “There’s got to be a better way of doing this!”

That’s definitely the case when you’re a solo practitioner, or you’re a one-person PR department. Efficiency and productivity take on new meaning when it’s just you and your computer, and you have no support staff.

Marcus O'Malley at a recent IPRA luncheon.

Marcus O’Malley talks about free e-tools at the IPRA luncheon.

Luckily, there are a lot of slick web and mobile applications out there, many of them free, that can make your life easier. A couple of weeks ago, Marcus O’Malley of Immerge Technologies gave the Independent Public Relations Alliance an excellent overview of some time-saving, life-simplifying e-tools that PR professionals can put to use right away.

In addition, there are quite a few publications and blogs that provide good advice to entrepreneurs and small business owners, and they often provide lists of apps worth checking out. One source of small business advice that I like is The New York Times’ “You’re the Boss—The Art of Running a Small Business.” This blog has lots of great stories and ideas.

So if you haven’t already discovered these, here are a few free apps worth exploring (even if you’re not self-employed):

Google’s suite of office tools. Most people are aware of Gmail and Google Docs, but Google offers many other products that can increase your productivity and improve your professional image. For example, you can create aliases for your Gmail accounts to give them the appearance of coming from your business address. You can aggregate and manage various Gmail accounts and link them to Google’s calendar. You can also create “hangouts” for collaboration and group chatting.

Screenr. This free, screen-capturing tool allows you to create screencasts of websites, including recording your own voice-over. It’s extremely helpful for explaining to customers or clients how to login to an account or manage content. Check out this Screenr video by Marcus that explains how to use some of Google’s free tools.

FreeConferenceCall.com. I’ve used this conference call service myself, which allows you to set up calls (and record them) at no cost to you. The only catch is that participants must make a long-distance call to dial in, but nowadays most people are able to make free long-distance calls anyway.

CamCard. How many times have you been to a networking event, collected a bunch of business cards and then failed to follow up because you’ve tossed them into a drawer, never to be seen again? CamCard scans the information from business cards using your smartphone’s camera and then allows you to save and organize the information for later use.

MailChimp. This easy-to-use email service allows you to create your own marketing emails and e-newsletters. You can create lists, monitor opens and click-throughs and customize the look of your emails with your own artwork.

DropBox. Tired of losing flash drives or leaving them at home? DropBox is one of the original cloud storage applications. Once you’ve set it up on your computer, tablet or smartphone, you just drag and drop documents and files to share across platforms. You can also allow others to access your DropBox files.

Evernote. Another cloud-based app, Evernote helps you organize and share all of the snippets and scraps of information you collect, from to-do lists and notes to photos, scans and documents. Regardless of what it is, you can use Evernote to capture it, share it and make it searchable.

Jay Morris is president of Jay Morris Communications LLC, an independent PR and marketing firm in Alexandria, Va. He serves on the PRSA-NCC and IPRA boards and blogs at waywardjourney.com, where a version of this post originally appeared.