How Companies and Mayors Can Revitalize Their Business and Brand

My experiences working at WebiMax have been rewarding, to say the very least.  I’ve been fortunate enough to meet many great and influential people, including Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Denise Morrison of Campbell’s Soup Company.  However, my meeting with the Mayors of Camden and Atlantic City, New Jersey at last Friday’s Southern New Jersey Chamber of Commerce event may have been one of my best experiences to date.

Lorenzo Langford and Dana Redd, the Mayors of Atlantic City and Camden, respectively, spoke at last Friday’s Good Morning South Jersey Series.  Both Mayors were faced with similar challenges during their tenure in office – revitalizing the business sectors within their cities in order to create jobs and stimulate economic growth for their citizens.

Building businesses and brands can often be a tedious and intensive process.  Much like Mayor Langford and Mayor Redd, marketers must find innovative and effective ways to improve the revenues of various businesses and maximize their potential for achievement and success.  Camden and Atlantic City are both in the midst of their own revitalization strategies to drive new businesses into the area.  Conversely, many businesses have turned to Search Engine Optimization, Integrated Public Relations and Social Media to enhance their brands.

These and other digital marketing initiatives have helped businesses grow in the competitive online marketplace.  By utilizing proven methodologies while maintaining a focus on innovation and originality, everyone from business owners to major metropolitan mayors can improve their brands.

Reputation Management Made Easy

You are your reputation.

Search engines are a great tool, but they add to the vulnerability when the wrong information gets exposed online. It doesn’t matter whether the misinformation is from neglect, a disgruntled former employee or a jilted lover, the damage can be real and sometimes, devastating, both socially and to one’s career. People finding the bad data don’t stop to ask questions, they just make an assumption and move on. That can deprive you of opportunities, or expose you to punishing consequences.

Keywords and Citations are the language used by search engines to define who you are (Citations) and what’s important to you and about you (Keywords). No one can tell search engines like Google what to do. All we can do is make suggestions, so talking the search engines’ language can be a strong advantage.

Citations are just that – references to a bit of data, plain and simple. Just as your English professor used them to check on the accuracy of your term paper’s quotations, so Google uses them to establish the credibility of bits of data, such as name, address and phone number. Google looks for exact match data, and applies trust to the data based on how many times it is accurate (and where it is listed).

Citations may arise as a tool in a hostile competitive or disinformation campaign. Bad data can be misleading, thieves may use false citations to steal business leads, or simply to confuse readers. Incorrect data can hamper local search results. Unwanted disclosure of some data, such as credit card numbers, or unlisted phone numbers, represents a vulnerability that it is best to defend against.

What Can You Do?

Google Alerts (www.google.com/alerts) is a free ‘clipping’ service that can send you E-mail alerts when particular keywords that you select are found on the web and newly arise in their search index. Your Business Keywords may be:

  • your personal name,
  • a unique brand-name,
  • company name,
  • product name,
  • leader, officer, spokesperson,
  • or even a competitor.

A carefully-chosen bunch of keywords (when limited by ‘negative keywords’) can feed a warning system for personal and business purposes. As new mentions of your keywords are crawled by Google on the worldwide web, you can click through to them and find out if the mentions are positive, negative or neutral. Each type of sentiment expressed requires its own strategy to profit from any interaction. Some times it is even better not to react at all. The key is knowing the difference, and for that it pays to gain knowledge from a Reputation Management expert.

An even-handier tool for personal use may be Me On the Web, https://www.google.com/dashboard/ (part of the Google Dashboard). It offers email alerts when your personal information (name, company name, home address, email address, phone number, etc.) is posted on the Web. It automatically includes things such as one’s E-mail address. Even better, it includes guides to “Manage Your Online Identity”.

To use it requires one’s Google services log-in. Clients and prospects must be cautious when providing this to their Online Reputation specialist, potentially making this a strictly personal tool. Information that’s confidential, embarrassing, or just plain wrong should be addressed by taking the time to click the “How to remove unwanted content” link to request the removal of a page from Google’s search results. That way, one can reduce the risk of exposure of unwanted material.

An Online Reputation professional who is made aware of the undesired presence of personal information or incorrect listings in Google has strong tools at their disposal. They may apply effort to ProActively or ReActively alter listings in Directories or Business Indices in order to correct the data. They may add more and better Citations. They have experience in how best to respond to Comments and Remarks, whether complimentary or complaining. They may even advise on contacting Google or other methods to improve the situation. Results are tracked and reported on a regular basis. That way, the successful improvement of your Citations, Keywords and thus your Reputation will be clear.

And what of Social Media? Mentions on Social Networks can be utterly scathing, yet Twitter and other social sites’ messages are not indexed by Google. How will you know what is being said about you? WhosTalkin.com is a search tool focused on social media sites. SocialMention.com is another, very fully-featured tool. If people are talking about you or your company on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any of the 60 other social sites that these sites monitor, this service will help you keep tabs on those discussions. How to respond then is up to you. Time is of the essence… most complainers resist any effort to change their attitude after about 24 hours have elapsed.

Any good, ethical Reputation Management specialist can talk knowledgeably about your situation. Don’t hesitate to contact WebiMax with any concerns you may have. After all, it’s our reputation on the line, too!

MOUNT LAUREL, NJ (OCT. 17, 2012)Kenneth Wisnefski, founder and CEO of WebiMax, the fastest growing private company in New Jersey on the Inc. 500, announced the unveiling of a new website aimed at  providing valuable information on brand management and reputation management for medium and large-sized businesses.  Brand Management dot com delivers important information regarding how to successfully manage a brand’s presence online and furthermore includes important resources for decision makers at these institutions related to these services.

“I have discussed with many decision makers at some of the most reputable and largest businesses indicating that this community needs up-to-date resources on brand management techniques,” states Wisnefski, who founded WebiMax in 2008.  “Brand Management dot com serves this purpose and furthermore provides valuable statistics on how brand management and reputation management have major impacts on consumers and their buying behaviors.”

While core fundamentals of the marketing mix and other key tangibles remain relevant for branding purposes, statistics indicate that the proactive management of the brand through online methods and techniques have become crucial elements in remaining competitive and building an authoritative brand.  As of today, more than 89 percent of consumers said they use online channels to investigate the product and brand they are purchasing.  In addition, approximately 87 percent of consumers indicated that positive reviews they have read online convince them to buy a specific product.

“Consumers today are leveraging technology more than they ever have before in their purchasing decisions,” states Wisnefski.  “Today’s consumer is smarter and more aware of product and brand alternatives and how they are rated online, and 89 percent of them use these online reviews to make their purchasing decisions.”

Brand Management dot com includes statistics, case studies, a regularly updated blog, and other resources for businesses.  The website is managed by a team of seasoned brand and reputation management experts that also develop these strategies for clients.  Visit http://www.brandmanagement.com/ for more information.

About WebiMax.

Led by serial web entrepreneur Kenneth Wisnefski, WebiMax has become the leader in online marketing services, including a focus on Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, Paid Search and PPC, Website Design and Development, Reputation Management, and more. The company was named to the 2012 Inc. 500 (No. 37 overall) and was also selected as one of America’s Most Promising Companies (2011) by Forbes Magazine (No. 30 overall).  The company employs over 125 personnel in 12 offices including 8 U.S. based, and 4 International. Visit http://www.webimax.com/ for more information.

How can lip balm be controversial? Just ask Chapstick – they’ve managed to offend a lot of people with the image they chose for a new advertisement and, moreover, how they chose to deal with the backlash on their Facebook page.

Chapstick is the latest example of a brand mishandling negativity over a new advertising campaign – a prime example of how NOT to use social media when it comes to managing your reputation online.

What many companies don’t realize is that, for the most part, Americans are a forgiving group of people. We watched as Britney Spears fell from grace, but now she’s a judge on the popular television show X Factor with millions of people rooting her on. Michael Vick was involved in an illegal dog fighting ring and served time in jail for the conviction, but now he’s the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles with a strong fan-base. Chris Brown was charged with felony assault for beating his girlfriend, pop star Rihanna, but he continues to be a celebrated member of hip hop community.

What do these three people have in common? They all admitted their mistakes, apologized, asked for forgiveness, and explained to the public how they plan on changing their lives for the better. Any publicist will tell you that trying to cover up a controversial event will only make matters worse. Owning their actions and taking responsibility for their mistakes is the only way that celebrities or famous athletes can begin to repair their relationships with the American public – and that goes for brands, too, not just people.

So when Chapstick ran this ad -

- featuring a woman bent over the back of a couch looking for her lost Chapstick (we know where they were going with this ad: read Dan’s latest post about how sex sells in the marketing world), and they received criticism on their Facebook page by people who found it offensive, did they take ownership? How did they handle the backlash?

They deleted the comments. Big brand management no-no.

To make matters worse, in bold letters at the bottom of the ad it says “BE HEARD AT FACEBOOK.COM/CHAPSTICK.” Perhaps a more accurate call-to-action would’ve been “be heard – as long as it puts our brand in a positive light.”

If Chapstick wants to use social media as a place where consumers can go to give their honest feedback and “be heard,” they’ll need to be prepared to take the bad with the good. Here are my two pieces of advice for Chapstick, or any brand that is faced with a similar situation:

  1. Listen to people’s complaints, and apologize to those you have offended on your Facebook page where the public can see your response.
  2. Be prepared to handle criticisms as well as praise & approval whenever you launch a new campaign – especially if you direct readers to your Facebook page where consumer feedback is a fundamental part of social media for businesses.

What do you think about Chapstick’s decision to delete negative comments from their Facebook page? Join the conversation on Twitter using #brandchat or email me at pryan[AT]webimax.com.

Remember childhood soft-drink selections?  There was Coke, Pepsi, 7-up, and possibly some Capri Sun if your mom was super cool.  Today’s variety is broader.  There are sports beverages, flavored water, fruit drinks, energy drinks, and more.

By volume sold, guess which drink manufacturer has the most impressive sales record in the US?  It’s a Monster!  Monster enjoys about 35% of the market (per the Beverage Digest).  The vertical has come a long way from Coke, Pepsi, and RC Cola.  Coke notices, looking to “bolt-on” acquisitions as voiced by Muhtar Kent, its chief exec.

Some thought Coke was giving Monster a look; but, Coke may have been frightened off by big, scary dollar signs.  It’s interesting to follow how ‘the Market’ influences business maneuvers.  There was discussion on the (Wall) streets that Coke was interested in Monster.  Such gossip influenced Monster stock, raising its shares 20% on Monday.  The 20% equaled $2 billion!  That’s not exactly loose change.

Coke balked at the numbers, denying an incipient deal with Monster.  The Wall Street seesaw tilted back; Monster’s shares ebbed in price.  It’s understood Coke and Pepsi have noticed Monster for some time; Monster paraded itself around last year, looking for potential suitors; yet, Monster’s prices have gotten a lot of attention in the past year.  Monster stock doubled in the last year, trading at 30 times higher than 2012 estimates.

Coke’s deal with Monster would be the former’s biggest in its history.  Coke bought Vitaminwater in 2007 for $4.2 billion.  Coke’s and Pepi’s plight is similar to that of other major brands, which must modify to stay relevant in modern times.  The newspapers are doing it.  The book publishers are doing it.  Just about all businesses are trying to stay relevant in modern times.  Energy drinks have been popular with Americans in recent years; naturally, Coke and Pepsi are going to take interest in that market.  However, acquiring the most popular energy-drink supplier at the moment, Monster, is a monetarily imposing proposition.

The WSJ article traces the evolution of Coke; the brand’s been attempting to expand.  Earlier in the year, Coke acquired a majority hold on Zico, a supplier of coconut water.  Additionally, Coke has stake in the energy drink market already; Full Throttle and Fuze NOS brands are within the Coke stables; yet the energy drinks aren’t as popular as Red Bull or Monster.

If Coke does decide to takeover Monster, things will be looking pretty gruesome for Pepsi, a brand trailing Coke in the beverage market share for years.  One raised glass is deserved of another.  It will be interesting to see how the dynamic plays out.  What would you do if you were Coke?  Would you stay settled, hoping progression continues based on the brand’s history?  Would you refresh the brand’s direction and arsenal, chasing Monster down? How about Pepsi?  Would you see Monster as your opportunity to upend Coke?

 

“Godfather, be my friend,” a man pleads as he kisses Don Vito’s hand.  The former was really asking of a favor.  The Godfather knew.  It’s VERY LIKELY those on your ‘let’s be pals’ radar know your immediate intentions too.  It’s okay; be aware of their awareness and proceed…naturally.

I’ve been pretty successful in making friends throughout my life. I’m actually pretty cool; but, that’s for me to know and others to notice.  In social life, I can be a bit lax, allowing things to happen at a gradual pace.  I’m a tough sell.  I’m not going to ‘be down’ with just anyone.  In my professional life, things are a bit different, warranting a mixture of friendly and professional sentiments; but, I’m very similar to other professionals in that regard too.  I’m not going to be ‘cool’ with just anyone.  If I did want to begin a relationship, I would go about it in the following manner.

The Elephant in the Room
Have you ever engaged someone in conversation, knowing there is an ulterior motive for the union, yet it goes ‘unpublished’ in conversation.  It makes for an awkward guessing game of what the other person is thinking.  Be honest whenever approaching or PR pitching another professional.  Would you like their help?  Would you like them to read your blog?  Would you like to be considered as a source in an article?  All of these ‘selfish’ desires are acceptable; however, don’t ‘beat around the bush.’  Just be direct.  Being direct doesn’t guarantee a disarming welcome; but, it does let the other person know you’re a straight shooter, honest, and not wasting their time.

Some time ago, I wanted to guest post on Mike King’s blog.  I hit him up in an email; and, though may have been a bit complimentary in the opening, I was succinct in my intentions.  I wanted a social media post on ipullrank’s blog; however, it was important to offer something to Mike’s readers too. Why else would he accept if I wasn’t creating some sort of value?  Mike posted on the wrong and right way to ask for a guest post.

Creating Value
My mom thinks I’m special; that goes along with the job.  I know.  Do others?  Perhaps, but it’s because I earned their respect.  I did; I inspired; I worked; I expressed; I did a number of things to openly demonstrate (out in the practical, wide-open world) I can offer some sort of value.  Think of other professionals as active musicians.  By adding your presence, does their professional world become more harmonious?  If not, they’re likely to want you to ‘sit this number out.’  Maybe you can try-out again when you have something of value to offer.

Value is subjective; but, the need to offer ‘something’ is an objective reality.  What can you offer?

-          Humor (maybe you make them laugh with your take on the industry)

-          Research (maybe you’ve crunched a lot of data, elucidating a new trend or previously unseen ‘truth’)

-          Exposure (maybe you have a high number of followers and can introduce a personality to a new pool of subscribers and vice versa)

-          Guidance (perhaps you have experience in a particular area and can offer insight)

Think about what you can add.  It’s a delicate dance of give and take.  If you’re not offering anything valuable, there’s no reason for professionals to jump at the chance to ‘make friends.’  Many will question why you thought a union with them was apropos in the first place.  Have you researched?

Do Research
I recently read a great explanation of why doing your homework in a respective vertical is important.  You see, it’s not about ‘just getting exposure.’  It’s about finding the right fit; it’s about making the right kind of relationships.  I’m a writer.  Is making a contact with NASA the right fit though NASA is an incredibly respected entity?  Unless NASA wants me to help them with content marketing, the relationship is ill fitting.  I’d be better off finding better niches, befitting to my networking wishes.

Check out Chris Dyson’s post on chasing footprints for linkbuilding.  Knowing the right paths to venture is crucial.  Next, don’t forget to familiarize yourself with the personality of interest.  That’s how you would normally go about making relations and conversation, right?  Consider the alternative:

Heather Lloyd-Martin   Heather Lloyd-Martin ‏ @heatherlloyd
If you are going to pitch me, at least check out my freakin’ site first. Otherwise, I just hit the “delete” button. Sheesh! :)

Relation Building
You’ve heard of link building, the reason why many people approach others for immediate connections.  Awesome, you’ve made a connection and got a valuable link.  The link is good in and out itself; but, I liken the process as getting the opportunity to shake the Dali Lama’s hand but not engaging him in conversation.

The reason it’s so important to research relations above, is because like online marketing, relations take time to build momentum and strength.  What’s better, getting one guest post link or cultivating a relationship, resulting in future guest spots, insight and guidance, introduction to other ‘doors’ of opportunity and personalities, etc?  Lightning storms are pretty and exciting; but, the excitement is short-lived.  I’d rather invest in my time in building lasting weather patterns.

Pro tip:  PR (I think of it as peer relations) is not for everyone.  Are you stuck in a connection rut?  Do you wonder why you and yours are shunned by others?  Something is off; you’re doing something wrong.

Do you see relationships merely as a means to an end?  If so, PR is not for you.  You don’t ‘get it.’  No matter how much work you put in, you’re likely missing an integral piece of the puzzle.  PR is a practice for the genuine and forthright.  You can roll your eyes all you want at these sentiments.  Go ahead and try to prove me wrong.  The following video is for those interested in building real relations with peers.  All others need not apply.

  

Which camp does your approach fall under?  I can tell (I’m just nice about openly id-ing the former group.)  Don’t be foolish.  Others, who are PR savvy, can ‘see’ your approach too.