Unexpected Combinations Can Yield an Increase in Favorable Results

By Tiffany K. Bain

Watching Food Network Channel’s reality competition show “Chopped” often makes me recall how diversity in a team setting can increase productivity and creativity.

Before you give me the “what is she talking about?” look, just give it a second thought.

On “Chopped,” the show’s host presents chefs with four seemingly unfitting ingredients, and the judges expect the contestants to prepare a tasty, palatable, and an enjoyable dish. These ingredients could be fish, cereal, zucchini, and bread-in-a-can – all in one ingredient basket.

Sounds unappetizing, right? However, the best chef knows how to incorporate the best aspects of each ingredient to prepare a cohesive and appetizing dish, which alters the mindset of the world’s most accomplished chefs and makes them want more.

The same concept could be applied your team, and your team could also yield the same favorable results.

In fact, L’Oreal, one of the world’s most successful and profitable cosmetic companies, uses this concept in its global business practices, and it works well. L’Oreal understands and values that not only does diversity lie in how different people look, but it also lies in people’s varying life experiences. L’Oreal and its managers also know how to highlight the best aspects of their diverse teams to promote its brand, product, and message, so that it resonates with its targeted audiences.

According to an August 2013 Forbes article, the author commented on how multicultural managers at L’Oreal outpace its “monocultural” competitors in many ways. For example, L’Oreal encourages, enhances, and embraces its company’s diversity, which allows its multicultural team members’ to play these five important roles:

  1. Making creative associations and drawing analogies between geographical markets, allowing L’Oreal to develop global products and build global brands while remaining sensitive to local market differences.
  2. Interpreting complex knowledge – i.e. tacit, collective and culture-dependent, hence impossible to simply “explain”_ across cultures and contexts, an essential skill when marketing products like cosmetics, where much of understanding is tacit and culture-dependent.
  3. Anticipating cross-cultural conflicts, and addressing them, something critical to the effectiveness of global teams.
  4. Integrating new team members from different cultures into teams that quickly develop their own norms of interaction and a strong “in or out” identity, making joining the team once it has been in existence for a while particularly difficult.
  5. Mediating the relationship between global teams, with a high level of cultural diversity among their members, and the senior executives they report to, or their interaction with local subsidiary staff they collaborate with, who are usually monocultural.

Making the best of unlikely combinations might seem like a daunting task at first. However, similar to “Chopped” and L’Oreal, once you know how to appreciate and accentuate the uniqueness of what each ingredient or team member brings to the table, it is possible to yield favorable and long-lasting results.


Tiffany K. Bain is a member of the Diversity/Multicultural Committee for the Public Relations Society of America’s National Capital Chapter. Outside of PRSA-NCC, she holds several roles. Tiffany is a political communication graduate student at American University, a government affairs intern for Net Communications, and a research associate for the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council. Tiffany earned a Bachelor of Science in public relations, summa cum laude, from Florida A&M University, where she also served as the university’s PRSSA chapter president and public relations director. Follow her on Twitter at @tbain2.  


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.

Will you be the next PRSA-NCC Social Media Rock Star?

Trophy Winner

Did you know that 20 percent of our day is spent on social networks? I admit that first thing in the morning, I’m checking Facebook and Twitter for the latest news. We want to see, as well as share content, stories, tweets and advice through our various social networks.

What better way to celebrate our time using social media than to recognize public relations professionals that help share content for the National Capital Chapter of Public Relations Society of America (PRSA-NCC). PRSA-NCC’s Marketing Committee is starting a new program to acknowledge members who help promote and share information about our events. The committee will monitor Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and each month we will announce the PRSA-NCC Social Media Rock Star.

PRSA-NCC understands the value of social media. It has helped raise the visibility for our events. For example, this year we used various social networks to promote Social Media Week in DC. PRSA’s event had one of the highest attended professional development events in our recent history, with 50 percent of the audience being non-members.

Here are some statistics about how much we have grown since 2011:

• Facebook = 350/593 (June 2013)
• Twitter = 1,000/2,066 (June 2013)
• LinkedIn = 350/1,104 (June 2013)
• YouTube = 1,284/13,000 views (April 2013)

Social media is a powerful tool for PRSA-NCC as well as our members and their clients. Are you going to be our next Social Media Rock Star?

To participate, PRSA-NCC members should use the hashtag #PRSANCC or re-share material on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. If you aren’t following PRSA-NCC yet, here are our different social media handles and links:

Twitter: @PRSA_NCC
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/30633095702/
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/PRSANCC-Public-Relations-Society-Americas-828017/

We want to raise the visibility of our active members who help us promote our different events, but board members and committee chairs will are not eligible for the award. At the end of the year, the Marketing Committee will recognize all the winners during its annual holiday party.

So, start sharing content today, including my blog!! If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Five Elements of a Successful Focus Group

Scenario #1:  Your client wants to get Spanish-speaking moms interested in a new product. You’re trying to decide how best to reach them – a brochure, a website or perhaps TV/radio ads.

Scenario #2:  You’re developing a video on the dangers of smoking that you would like to test with teens to see what images and messages resonate with them.

Reality check #1:  The budget is limited.

Reality check #2:  This project needs to be completed yesterday!

In either scenario, focus groups would achieve the goal without breaking the bank. They provide a relatively inexpensive and timely way to brainstorm with target audiences about how to reach them, or to test messages and advertising concepts.

The key to getting the most from your limited focus group dollars is to plan ahead and to use the right tools… and the right people. Here are a few key ingredients you need to make the most of this valuable research tool:

1. Qualitative Research Consultant/Moderator

1503555-1If you know you will use focus groups at some point in your project, make sure that a trained qualitative researcher/moderator is working with you from the start. She or he can help you budget correctly, decide upon how you want to segment the groups, determine whether in-person, phone or online groups are most appropriate for your study, and figure out the best way to  present your concepts  in a focus group setting.

To find a qualified moderator, contact the Qualitative Research Consultants Association  or get recommendations from colleagues. Don’t forget to ask prospective moderators if they have received professional training.

2. Effective Recruitment Strategies

Good recruitment strategies are an essential part of having successful focus groups. Use qualified market research firms and cooperate with them on incentive or screening recommendations, as they have extensive experience trying to reach the very people needed for your project.

You may decide that you want to hold groups in three or four different geographic areas in order to see if people in Los Angeles react the same way to an advertising concept as those in rural Alabama. How do you do that? You hold focus groups in several different locations and compare the responses. Use the Green Book website or Quirk’s Marketing Resource Media site to find professional focus group facilities nationwide. They’ve been in business for years and know what firms are out there.

3. Appropriate Incentives

It’s unlikely that someone will participate in a focus group for free. That’s why determining the appropriate incentive for your groups is important. Offering less than the going amount could end up costing you money in the end, as market research firms base their own recruiting costs in part upon the intended incentive. Lower incentives can mean higher recruiting costs, or the need to recruit more people for the group in order for an acceptable “show rate.” Paying a reasonable incentive is a sure-fire way to ensure that respondents will show up and participate.

4. Adequate and Realistic Timelines

The best gift you can give to yourself and your project is time. Proper planning will lead to a better research approach, more exact research goals, better testing materials and adequate time to identify the right respondents.

You also need adequate time between completing the groups and submitting the final report to ensure that the moderator/qualitative researcher has enough time to time to read and process transcripts, enter data into qualitative software programs, and fully analyze the data.

Often, however, time is limited. When developing a focus group timeline, be sure to include a realistic amount of time for:

  • Obtaining Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval (if the project is funded by Federal funds)
  • Developing recruitment screeners and moderator guides
  • Developing materials to be shown/tested in the focus groups
  • Obtaining bids from focus group facilities
  • Recruiting participants
  • Getting transcripts made from focus group recordings
  • Analyzing data
  • Preparing the report

5. Compliance with OMB Process for Federally-Funded Research

Any focus group project that is funded by Federal money needs to be approved by OMB.  Most Federal agencies have an office that works with OMB to ensure that all projects comply with OMB requirements. Incorporating the OMB compliance process into your research plan will ensure that the project meets OMB requirements and the client’s needs at the same time.

Lynn Halverson is the Senior Qualitative Researcher at TMNcorp. She has more than 30 years of experience as a researcher, including 25 years as a trained focus group moderator. This post originally appeared on the TMNcorp blog.

What Your Email Says About Your Brand

A Case Study: Your Emails

Digital branding starts in your inbox.

It’s something you take for granted, something seemingly trivial, even mundane. When executed thoughtfully, however, it makes a splash. It says, “This guy is sharp—I want to work with him!”

What is this opportunity, obvious but overlooked? It’s the bookends of your emails: your address and signature block—often, the first and last thing your recipients will see. For better or worse, your email bookends are powerful purveyors of your brand. What are yours conveying about you?

Continue reading

Facebook is Still Sexy Like the Electric Company

On CNN’s Reliable Sources Feb. 10th edition, HLN’s Digital Lifestyle Editor Mario Armstrong and PandoDaily’s Founder and Editor-in-Chief Sarah Lacy joined Howard Kurtz to discuss whether or not Facebook has lost its allure. According to a study by the The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 61 percent of Facebook users have taken a break from the platform while 20 percent of adults online say they’ve left Facebook indefinitely.

Around the esolutions360/aiellejai office, we’ve said for some time now that although Facebook is no longer the darling of the tween and teen set, it’s become a utility—a part of our lives that we don’t think twice about it. Much like the electric company or our mobile phone carriers, we don’t think much about their existence. We just take for granted that they exist and that our use of their services will endure. It’s ingrained in our daily behavior.

Also, with the new Facebook Graph Search—which we’ll examine in a later post—the social network has become the marketer’s dream. No other entity holds more demographic information on a sixth of the planet. It helped to elect our president and marketers are hoping that magic will rub off on them when it comes to selling products and services to their customers.

However, for Facebook to continue to be beneficial to marketers and the rest of the business world, it needs the general population of users to continue to engage and share their interests with their family and friends within the platform. Without this level of engagement, marketers can’t gather timely information on customer habits and they’ll be sharing content with droves of people who won’t be listening.

We can’t realistically expect every last one of Facebook’s one billion account holders to be faithful and enthusiastic users. We can only hope that we can strike a balance between meaningful and genuine engagement and pure targeted marketing based on users’ interest.

And we can also hope that Facebook works on their mobile app. “Facebook has an absolutely horrible app,” Lacy said. “That’s why I haven’t been to Facebook in weeks. It crashes every time I open it.”

Angie Jennings Sanders is chief content architect at aiellejai, a boutique content creation consultancy specializing in marketing communications project management, social media engagement, writing instruction/tutoring and book writing/publishing strategy. aiellejai is a subsidiary of esolutions360, a digital solutions agency that marries the creativity of content creation with the fundamentals of software engineering. Follow her on Twitter at @pronouncedALJ.

Tips to Use PR for Marketing for Your Nonprofit/Association

Public relations can be used effectively to market your association. By way of definition, both PR and marketing are external communications efforts but while PR is the art of managing information between an association and its targeted audiences; marketing focuses on activities tied directly to revenue. Specifically, association marketing refers to increasing membership, producing non-dues revenue, and attracting more participants to your events.

Here are some ways to use PR for marketing. 

Hold a telephone news briefing. With the smaller newsrooms today, reporters are covering more in the same amount of time. Gone are the days when reporters had the luxury of leaving their offices to attend a press conference. That’s why many press conferences are being replaced by telephone news briefings–a press conference held by phone. Telephone news briefings can be held before your annual meeting, when releasing a new report or survey, or in conjunction with your Capitol Hill Day. The benefit is that reporters can call in from anywhere and listen to the briefing and ask questions without leaving their desk. 
Get hometown press. Holding your Capitol Hill Day or announcing your awards recipients are activities that lend themselves to local press for your members. The media outreach for a Capitol Hill Day may be: “Susie Jones was in DC to talk to Sen. Brown about XYZ;” and for awards, “Jim Miller is the recipient of ABC National Award from 123 Association.” This is a very effective way of garnering press and clearly illustrating the value of membership. 
Promote passage/defeat of legislation. When your nonprofit works to pass or defeat a piece of legislation or regulation, make sure you promote your efforts. Let your members know how they can get involved along the way. When the passage or defeat occurs, send out a blast email immediately notifying your members. Consider sending a statement to reporters on your media lists to let them know that your organization had a part in the legislation. 
Draft articles for other related associations. Reach out to another related nonprofit and offer to write an article for one of their publications or their website or blog. You may already have an article or blog that you can dust off and recycle. When the article runs, be sure to let your members know. 
Create a Speakers’ Bureau. A Speakers’ Bureau can provide visibility for your association among its targeted audiences. A simple way to create a Speakers’ Bureau is to tap your current association leaders as experts and ask them for recommendations of good speakers on a variety of key topics. The Bureau members can serve as speakers for your association, presenters at related meetings, and media spokespersons.  
Draft messages/train spokespersons. Use your nonprofit’s mission statement to write key media messages that accurately represent your association. Once the messages have been drafted, identify association spokespersons–board members, association staff, other leaders and train them on how to effectively deliver your messages. This training ensures that all your spokespersons are on message, that your message and brand are consistent and that the spokespersons are representing your nonprofit effectively. 
Determine the digital media appropriate for you. To figure out what digital media tools are appropriate for your nonprofit, conduct a digital media audit. An audit looks at the digital media options available to your association such as a Facebook, your website, blogs, Twitter, etc. After conducting the audit, draft a report to make recommendations on what would work for you given your financial and human resources, and your association’s needs and goals. Use the report findings to author a digital media strategic plan that can be incorporated it into your overall communications strategy. 
Draft op-eds and letters to the editor. When appropriate, your association can respond to news articles by writing and placing op-eds–a 700-word opinion piece that comments on the news of the day; or a letter to the editor–a 200-word letter that comments on a specific article that appeared in a print or online publication. Don’t forget to comment on blogs related to your industry.
Track and monitor your efforts. Since PR is not an exact science and marketing professionals are often asked to track their successes, we recommend using an Excel spreadsheet to track media requests, and Google Alerts (a free media monitoring service through Google) to monitor your association’s mentions in the media. Promote your successes to your members. 

Following these tips will help you use PR tools to market your nonprofit to your target audiences.

Sheri L. Singer, President, Singer Communications
PRSA-NCC Board Liaison to the Nonprofit/Association Committee