Jeff Krakoff

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:47

Communicating in black and white

Want to challenge and motivate ordinary people to turn in an extraordinary effort? Share information with them. Lots of information. And encourage them to share information with one another.

The more they know about the problems and opportunities facing the business, the more likely they are to want to become involved and actively participate in it.

If this sounds like the stuff of Employee Communications 101, that’s exactly what it is. Lots of companies attempt to do it with e-mail, memos, face-to-face meetings, bulletin boards, newsletters and other means. Some companies even go to the expense of putting together closed-circuit news broadcasts — all in the name of improving internal communications. But, sometimes, simpler is better.

One Pittsburgh-based equipment manufacturer makes use of something that’s about as basic as it gets . . . and it really works. Posted permanently on the wall of one of the busiest corridors in its office is a large white board — the kind you write on with an erasable magic marker.

Listed across the top are all of the major projects going through the shop. Down the left side are the names of teams working on various phases of each of those projects. Written in black marker in the blocks of the chart, and what everyone stops to read, is the status of each of those projects — assembly completed, testing underway and delivered (with the date). However, on occasion, in one or two of the blocks, is the word failed — in red letters.

Share good news . . . and bad

It’s obvious that this company shares information with its employees. Regardless of whether the news is good or bad, any employee who wants to know the status of a project, or how many jobs are going through the shop, need only spend a few minutes in front of that chart. It’s updated every day.

In today’s information economy, that kind of real-time information sharing is critical. The people working there can see instantly who the customers are, what is being built for them and how the project is going, even if it’s not going well at all.

Don’t rely only on the company newsletter for this type of dynamic information, since it may not be published until next month and certainly won’t feature a story about every issue within the company. This daily sharing of information is better than a periodic “state of the union” address to the troops from management.

But the greatest value of that white board doesn’t have anything to do with what is written on it. Its true value comes in the subtle but clear message that information sharing is very important in this company.

Some preparation needed

If you’re thinking of trying something like this in your business, you need some preparation. Don’t just slap a sign on the wall and reach for the red marker. It’s important to let employees know that ongoing communication is coming, and it’s absolutely critical that they understand why.

Take the time to explain how everyone in the organization benefits when information is shared. Tell them that this is an example of how management wants to share what’s going on with all of them. Encourage them to do likewise.

Undoubtedly, this is a message they have heard before, but the chart and what’s on it may be something they have never seen.

Granted, it’s a bold move to put all of that information on display in a very public area. But consider the implications for employee morale, or the reaction of visitors — some of whom may be customers or partners — if a number of failure blocks show up at the same time. Then, again, the presence of that board may be one of the very things that keeps many of those negative status reports from showing up at all.

It might just become one of the key factors in turning ordinary people into teams that turn in extraordinary performances.

Jeff Krakoff is president of Krakoff Communications Inc., a marketing communications firm based in Pittsburgh. Send questions or comments to jkrakoff@krakoff.com. Reach him by phone at (412) 434-7718.

Monday, 22 July 2002 10:05

Marketing Matters

Downsizing, mergers, outsourcing and other recent business trends have created a tremendous amount of stress and uncertainty throughout the workplace. A number of recent studies have revealed that workers today are increasingly disenchanted with their current jobs. One of the chief reasons: Facing an uncertain future, they feel more like lambs being sacrificed at the shareholders' alter than they do valued members of a team.

Here's a solution for companies looking to attract and retain valuable employees-improved employer-worker communications. Effective employee communications can assist in increasing employee productivity, but it can also help to initiate and execute behavioral-change strategies for an entire workforce.

As the U.S. workplace continues its dynamic changes, it's only natural for workers to feel apprehensive. In most companies, angst is created by the great unknown. Not knowing or fully understanding the consequences of a company's actions-whether unplanned overtime requirements, a plant expansion or imminent layoffs - can have a detrimental effect on employee morale, which often leads to productivity problems.

According to Roger D'Aprix, author of Communicating for Change: Connecting the Workplace with the Marketplace, traditionally, "capital, and what it could buy, has always been the precious asset. But in the current information economy, smart people are the precious asset."

By engaging in effective, two-way communications, D'Aprix says, companies can better harness employees' skills and intelligence-and win back their hard work and dedication.


What to say

Communicating with employees extends beyond breaking bad news, offering details of the company 401(k) plan or announcing the company picnic. It extends throughout the very fabric of your business. And it's a byproduct of your management style.

Don't just tell employees what's changing. Tell them why. Educate them in your business, and give them business reasons for the changes. They'll understand. Really. If a change is complicated to understand, make the extra effort. After all, employees will, in many cases, be instrumental in making the desired change a success. Not informing them fully risks potential failure.

An often-used example of a company with superior employee communications is Southwest Airlines. From the pilots to the baggage handlers, employees understand the company's overall goals and expectations. The Golden Rule is that employees are allowed to do whatever is reasonable to satisfy customers. Management guru Tom Peters once said in the book NUTS! (a book about Southwest Airlines) that Southwest "is smart enough to recognize that their most valuable assets are their people and the culture they create. Southwest never forgets it's in the people business-the company just happens to operate an airline."

Regardless of whether you run an airline, a specialty metals shop or a small retail store, the lesson is that employees are on the front lines of customer perception. From the front-desk receptionist to the part-timer who sweeps the shop floor, all of your employees have the potential for customer contact. Your workers should be aware of new product and service introductions and new company policies. Imagine your embarrassment when a longtime customer asks one of your workers about a new service or product that you're offering-and the response is a shrug or a blank stare. It simply makes sense to keep employees informed and to help them become more in touch with the company's overall goals.


How to say it

While it's important to know what you're saying to employees, how you say it can take several forms. Very large companies may use e-mail, slick color magazines and video conferencing to get their messages out. Smaller companies, however, have a key advantage over larger companies. Their communications can take much more intimate forms, such as face-to-face group meetings, brown-bag lunches and open houses for employees and their families. Other old standbys include personal letters, bulletin-board notes and recognition ceremonies. Also, encourage employees to become more familiar with your company by reading your product literature and other marketing materials.

Whether it's good news or bad, after you've reached a decision to spread the word, you should tell your employees first. Not only will this build trust with employees, but you'll also be able to put an end to any rumors before they start.

Jeff Krakoff is president of Krakoff Communications Inc., a Pittsburgh-based marketing communications consulting firm. Comments and questions can be sent via e-mail to contactus@krakoff.com.

Monday, 22 July 2002 10:02

Marketing Matters

Focus is important for everyone, since we all have so much to accomplish and so many details to address at any given time. Focus helps us spend our time most efficiently and concentrate on areas where we can make the most impact, and not worry about those in which we can't.

Lack of focus can be frustrating and counterproductive. Take job hunting. Imagine if you conducted a job search the same way some companies market their products or services.

You would prepare a resume with a long list of accomplishments and credentials, mail it to numerous companies, to the attention of a variety of managers, including those responsible for human resources, data processing, marketing, accounting and the mail room. Without any follow-up, you would expect the phone to start ringing off the hook with plum job offers.

This doesn't work in job hunting, and it certainly doesn't work with marketing communications. In marketing, I see a tendency for many companies to feel the battle is simply a "numbers game" in which the more mailings you send, the more ads you run and the more articles you pitch and place, the better.

Some companies insist on communicating the whole spectrum of features and specifications, regardless of the specific needs of each audience. Rather, concentrate on the most important message: benefits to the customer. Develop a distinct strategy behind each target and message you select. Keep in mind that inadequate follow-up and fulfillment of inquiries will sink your ship faster than an iceberg in the North Atlantic.

Now comes the focus part of this column. Successful marketing communications programs all have a clear focus in two distinct areas: the audiences and the messages sent to those audiences. Here are a few tips in dealing with each:


The audience

1. Prioritize who you want to reach by balancing two themes: With which group(s) do I have the best chance of success, and which group(s) have the largest market need and potential for your product/service?

2. Are there cross-selling opportunities with existing customers? For example, does Customer A use you for one need, Customer B use you for another need, but each is unaware of the full range of needs you meet?

3. Depending on budget matters, you may want to consider decreasing the number of prospects you reach-and reach the select group more effectively, instead of spreading your efforts too thinly over a larger group.


The message

1. Research the needs of each audience. Many companies market on the basis of what they think is important, which can be completely different from what customers think is important. Why sell on the basis that your product lasts for 40 years or more if you find that people buying your product are interested in a life of only 15 years?

2. Forget about listing features. List benefits by answering "what's in it for me?" Don't shotgun the same benefits to every audience. One group may buy based on quality and life-cycle costing, while another may not care about long-term performance and buy on price alone.

3. Be sincere in your message. Don't make exaggerated claims that can't be supported. Avoid making prospects feel like they're being sold. For example, my company was recently recognized with an award, along with a number of other local companies. Shortly afterward, I received dozens of form letters congratulating (fill in the blank with company name here) on the award in Paragraph One. Then a distinct shift took place in Paragraph Two, with thinly veiled sales pitches that were obviously the same for us and every other company on the list of award recipients, even though I'm sure all of our needs differ greatly.

Again, focusing messages to your audiences' needs will make any marketing effort more successful.

My last message for 1998 is to express my sincere wishes for everyone to enjoy the holiday season and to be positioned for the most healthy, successful and all-around fruitful year possible in 1999.

Jeff Krakoff is president of Krakoff Communications Inc., a Pittsburgh-based marketing communications consulting firm. Comments and questions can be sent via e-mail to contactus@krakoff.com.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:59

Marketing Matters

You hear about these all the time—death in the organization, a natural disaster, layoffs, lawsuits, regulatory violations, crime in the workplace or a service or product liability. Odds are, sooner or later, you’ll face one of these crises. How you handle it—and communicate it to others—will shape your company’s image and could determine whether you are successful, gain or lose market share or even stay in business.

For a business, dealing with a crisis is similar to fighting a forest fire. To contain the spread of fire, you must establish secure individual fire walls. If you’re successful, the fire can be contained and you can move on to fight the fire in another area; if you’re not, you can be consumed by it.

In a business crisis, the first fire wall must be built to deal with the crisis itself. That means assembling the best management team of legal, financial, operational, safety and business counsel you can, then getting to work to solve the problem.

At the same time the problem is being dealt with, you must build another fire wall to preserve your company’s reputation. That means effectively communicating facts about the crisis—and the steps you’re taking to resolve it—to customers, prospects, investors, employees, government regulators—and, yes, the media.

Crises almost always are something the media love to sink their teeth into. Take layoffs. They have an impact on the community, breed controversy and provide both an apparent bad guy and victim.

Not only can the media play up the personal, human-interest side of the story, they can present it as affecting the region’s overall economy. Because layoffs often are newsworthy, the media can turn them into a community crisis, escalating the crisis element for you.

Another way of looking at a crisis is that it puts your organization’s values on trial before the court of public opinion. Generally speaking, the American public accepts that anybody can make a mistake. It’s how you handle your mistake that becomes the critical issue.

Several years ago, the large public relations firm Porter/Novelli conducted a survey to investigate consumer response to organizational crises. It found that two-thirds of the public make buying decisions based on behaviors of organizations during a crisis. In addition, 95 percent of those surveyed said they are more offended by an organization’s lying about a crisis than they are about the crisis itself.

Consider the case of Gerber, the baby food company. A few years ago, Gerber lost 14 percent market share over reports of glass in baby food jars. The loss wasn’t so much because of the glass, but because Gerber mishandled the situation. It didn’t immediately recall the product, which gave the appearance that Gerber cared more about sales than its customers’ babies.

The point is made time and again, in crises ranging from layoffs and airline crashes to product tampering and recalls—you must act swiftly to communicate the facts of the incident to all of your important audience groups. Then, you must continue to communicate frequently and truthfully as the situation unfolds. It’s better that they obtain the facts from you, as you can control the dialog, than for them to rely on unfounded rumors and half-truths.

The essence of communicating in a crisis is not damage control or “spin.” It’s not cutting your losses. It’s leveraging the opportunity presented to enhance your reputation by responding to the crisis in such a way that people will say, “That’s a good company. They did the right thing.”

Jeff Krakoff is president of Krakoff Communications Inc. Comments. Questions can be sent via e-mail to contactus@krakoff.com.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:51

Writing right

From the hieroglyphics on cave walls to Web-based communications that can be transmitted in the blink of an eye, people have been using writing as a way to communicate for a long, long time.

Regardless of your profession or position within your organization, you became a writer the day you learned to crayon your name. But what makes a good or great writer?

Ever wonder how the same opinionated person who is never at a loss for words in a staff meeting — or the really funny jokester of the office — can catch an acute case of writer’s block when asked to develop a memo, report or proposal? It’s probably not because of an inability to communicate or come up with something interesting to say. It’s much more likely that he or she is not paying attention to the writing process itself.

From my standpoint, and in the eyes of writing curriculum developers, you should consider five primary categories for effective writing:

1. Focus Clearly identify the audience and purpose of the communication. Establish and maintain a clear focus. Sustain a single point of view. Exhibit clarity of ideas.

Know your target audience. Use words and phrases they will understand. When the reader is finished, will he or she know what you’re trying to say and why you’re saying it?

2. Content Ensure that information and details are specific to the topic. They also need to be relevant to your focus. Ideas should be fully developed and supported. Before you write, hold a brainstorming session. Write down any thoughts that come to mind. After you’re finished, eliminate any information that gets in the way of your core message.

To effectively make a point, support your ideas and thoughts with research, statistics, examples, etc. Any additional information you can add to make the article or report more credible is always a plus.

3. Organization Maintain a logical order or sequence. Paragraphs should deal with one subject. Logical transitions should be made within sentences and from paragraph to paragraph. Make sure introductions and conclusions are evident. Make it easy on the reader to see your point of view by guiding them logically down a path.

Finish with a strong conclusion or summary of your point. People always remember what they hear last. A weak conclusion can turn an otherwise excellent article into an average one. However, grabbing the reader’s attention within the first few sentences also is important.

4. Style Use precise language and effective word choice, active verbs versus passive ones. Avoid “there is/are/was.” Utilize a variety of sentence structures, types and lengths. Use a mix of short sentences, complex sentences and transitions from one to the next. You can paint a much better mental image with strong, active verbs. People like to visualize what they are reading.

5. Grammar/mechanics Keep an eye on spelling, capitalization and punctuation. Ensure subject/verb agreement and sentence completeness. Nothing can take away from a written piece more than sloppiness and errors in grammar and usage. Have someone proofread your work, since most people find it difficult to catch their own mistakes. Keep a dictionary and thesaurus close by.

One last tip: If writing without the use of computer or typewriter, write neatly so your handwriting doesn’t resemble those hieroglyphics from years gone by.

Jeff Krakoff is president of Krakoff Communications, a marketing communications firm based in Pittsburgh. Send questions to jkrakoff@krakoff.com. Reach him by phone at (412) 434-7718.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:38

All about integration

In the last few years, many organizations have made an effort to move their communications function in the direction of integrated marketing communications.

The term has become old, and the concept is even older. Agencies with both advertising and public relations capabilities have been selling integrated marketing communications programs to their clients for decades.

Regardless of what you call it, the strategy is a good one. An integrated marketing communications plan provides the opportunity to pull together many communications resources, including a deliberate mix of advertising, publicity, collateral, direct mail, giveaway programs, use of the Web and so forth, to effectively communicate your messages. It's the most effective means of reaching your target audiences.

As an example, one of our clients is planning for an exciting new product introduction. This is an obvious event that lends itself to a multiplicity of communications activities. We are utilizing advertising, direct mail, public relations and collateral. But you don't need to wait for a new product or service to make use of integrated marketing communications.

When planning your communications strategy, consider what you want to say about your products or services, how you want your audience(s) to respond to your messages and the best means of reaching them.

Once you've established how to reach your audiences, begin with a theme -- something memorable, but also something that obviously describes what you do or who you are, something that reminds your audiences of your value as someone they do business with.

The theme can focus on quality, speed or comprehensive service. Keep in mind that whatever you come up with will have to work with ads as readily as it will with your literature, gift items and other components that should all fit together in the minds of your customers.

The advantage of beginning with a theme is that it establishes the direction for everything else in an integrated marketing communications effort.

Years ago, a company called WABCO introduced a "See Red" theme for marketing its railroad and mass transit brake shoes (which were painted red). Everything associated with that campaign referred to that theme. The ads emphasized it, playing off the message that " ... you should be seeing red ... if your brake shoes don't ... " and then listing all of the benefits of WABCO brake shoes.

A direct-mail campaign with gift items used a similar approach. Each of the gifts was red. The messages, the color (in this case, color was an absolutely essential part of the theme), the gift items, literature and everything associated with this integrated marketing communications campaign reminded recipients that if they were using, or thinking about using, a competitive product, they would soon "See Red."

That subtle message implied that customers would be angry about their choice of a competitive brake shoe that would not perform as well as the red shoe. Secondly, they could lose money because they would have to replace the competitive brake shoes more often, and their bottom line would show red ink.

That campaign was relatively short -- the whole thing lasted less than a year. But, it made a tremendous impact on the market.

You can make that kind of impact in your markets. If you have a good product, you don't have to paint it red, or change its color. If your service is great, keep it that way. Just begin to think in terms of using a variety of marketing communications tools and, more important, think about how you can pull them all together around a theme that clearly communicates to customers. Jeff Krakoff is president of Krakoff Communications Inc., a Pittsburgh-based marketing communications and public relations agency. Reach him at (412) 434-7718 or by e-mail at jkrakoff@krakoff.com

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

Market makeover

A client needing to aggressively promote an improved product line and service commitment, in an effort to increase sales and market share, presented me with an interesting situation.

The client had long been the pre-eminent provider of specialty chemicals within its industry. After problems with product quality and service several years ago, it decided to focus its attention on quality and service enhancements. During that time, several new competitors emerged in the marketplace.

We recommended a two-step approach. First, we suggested it conduct a study of its marketplace -- both customers and noncustomers -- to identify the perception of the company and determine the factors affecting buying decisions. Second, we advised it to prepare and implement a multiphase marketing plan.

Research is critical in any re-emergence scenario. While the company felt it knew why current clients stayed with it and others left, research leaves no room for interpretation because the audience speaks to you.

Marketing strategy and implementation are equally important. While individual communications piece is useful (brochures, advertisements, etc.), you will get the greater effect only when each piece is strategically combined with the others. By leveraging your efforts, you can minimize the overall expense while maximizing overall impact.

Overall, though, it's important in an effort as substantial as repositioning a company in its market that the communication messages come to potential customers from all angles.

The research study

We performed a comprehensive study and evaluation and found the following:

1 Company name was not well known among noncustomers.

2 Current customers felt very strongly about the quality of the company's products.

3 Company's sales force was not thought to be aggressive enough.

The marketing plan

The next step was to build a marketing campaign to address these challenges. Based on survey results, we targeted three areas for communications: the company's commitment to technology, its product quality and its service.

We then developed a strategy designed to work in conjunction with internal sales efforts. It included:

1. Advertising in trade publications to present a fresh, new image of the company and begin to increase name recognition.

2. Direct mail to send repetitive messages focused on the company's commitment to technology, quality and service.

3. Sales support literature to assist the sales force in getting the company message out to prospects in a concise, consistent manner. Literature included both a general capabilities brochure and a sales kit.

4. Publicity, including writing and placing product announcements and technical articles about technology and quality to garner recognition and credibility in targeted trade publications.

The company planned to deploy the new communications tools over a three-month period, which would culminate with the major trade show in its industry.

Internally, it developed a number of programs to complement the communications efforts:

  • It prepared a "Binder Blitz" of product-specific materials and delivered them to key specifiers in the form of "boxed lunch" sessions.

  • It developed a system to provide for customers the ability to order its products electronically.

  • It expanded the sales force to provide better service.

The results

While the company currently is rolling out the campaign, its customers reportedly have responded favorably, and it anticipates a large increase in sales over the next year.

Just keep these two points in mind:

1. Never underestimate the value research plays in understanding your market's perception of you and its critical role in the success of any marketing campaign. 2. While the individual communications tools themselves are important, their mere existence without a strategic plan for their use may prove ineffective. Jeff Krakoff is president of Krakoff Communications, Inc., a Pittsburgh-based marketing communications and public relations agency. Reach him at (412) 434-7718 or at jkrakoff@krakoff.com.

Monday, 22 July 2002 10:03

Marketing Matters

In real estate, three words mean everything: location, location, and location. That picturesque four-bedroom colonial with the wrap-around porch, hardwood floors and all the extras you want just doesn't seem so attractive located next door to a sewage treatment plant, if you know what I mean.

In print advertising, positioning can help grab customers' attention, but it isn't everything. This raises the question: "How much attention do you pay to ad message vs. ad placement?" Both are important factors in advertising success, but research reveals that it's wise to focus more on ad messages and quality than becoming fixated on positioning.

Many advertisers think their ads will be better noticed earlier in a publication, for instance. But again, this is unsubstantiated logic. Studies show that magazine readers don't read issues like books, beginning at the beginning and turning page by page until the end. They start reading just about anywhere in the publication and jump around throughout the issue.

Starch Roper Worldwide conducted a series of studies that measured the readership performance of ads based on placement within an issue. According to the research, there is absolutely no difference in the readership of ads appearing in the first third, middle or last third of a publication. An analysis of 74,000 ads revealed virtually no difference in ad readership scores for left pages in the back of the issue and right pages in the front. The one exception is the page facing the table of contents; ads in this position received a boost from the high-profile position. Interestingly, the research also showed that ads appearing opposite an article performed at levels lower than ads placed opposite of other ads.

Another study, conducted by Audits & Surveys, Inc., showed the average reader was exposed to 85 percent of the ads in a single issue. A related study found that a reader is exposed to a typical ad page 1.7 times.

What does all of this mean? Readers tend to enthusiastically read the front, middle and back thirds a publication, and a strong creative advertising execution will command attention regardless of where an ad appears.

So focus on the execution. Obviously, in developing your ads, your overall objectives and strategy will drive the creative approach. But in general, here are several tips to help create winning print ads:

  • Sell benefits, not features. Instead of listing the ingredients in your loaf of bread, tell them it tastes good and is fresh. Address buyer needs and tell them how your product/service can meet them.

  • Be positive. Negative advertising rarely works. Communicate the positives of your product/service rather than listing the faults of competitors. Plus, why would you want to make prospects aware of your competition in your ad?

  • Use creative design elements. The creative design approach can make your message more compelling to the reader and have a greater impact on readability. But don't go crazy with design elements; have compelling reasons for any element you use in your ad. Use visuals that bring your ideas home to the reader.

  • Build on the brand equity of your company. Make sure the reader of your ad knows that your company is behind the product/service being offered. According to the PreTesting Company, the corporate identity in 50 percent of all advertising is either hidden or too small. If your ad is effective and stimulates interest, make it easy for readers to choose your company over others.

So, instead of location, location, location, think message, creative execution and frequency. And be honest in your advertising. Sell the benefits, but don't portray that beautiful house next to the sewage treatment plant as being located in a scenic setting next to natural wetlands. That approach could flush your credibility right down the drain.

Jeff Krakoff is president of Krakoff Communications Inc. Comments and questions can be sent via e-mail to contactus@krakoff.com.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:57

Marketing Matters

The money companies are paying to associate with big-time sports is enough to drop your jaw. It costs a cool six figures to have your company logo sewn onto the jumpsuit of a top NASCAR racer. Naming rights for big-league ballparks are in the neighborhood of $20 million. And the price of admission into the inner Olympics circle is $50 million — which gets you the right to use the famed entwined rings symbol, and that’s about it.

So why do the Quaker States, PNC Banks and Coca-Colas of the world — companies driven by profit and shareholder return — spend phenomenal amounts of money on sponsorships? Because they work.

Used as an integral part of an organization’s overall strategic marketing mix, sponsorships can help deliver qualified, highly motivated customers who share a particular common interest. In other words, sponsorships offer exposure to a super niche market that’s already been cultivated and developed.

When thought of like that, it’s no wonder Coca-Cola spends well over $100 million every year on national, regional and local sponsorships. It’s less expensive than trying to create avenues to new customers.

Sponsorships help define who you are as a company, your image and your values. They also have been proven to:

  • Strengthen brand name recall;

  • Contribute to brand loyalty;

  • Reinforce corporate image;

  • Transfer positive attributes of the sponsored event (or organization) to the sponsoring organization and its products/services; and

  • Drive traffic (to retail, Web site, etc.)

A common cause

While big-time sports sponsorships command large cash outlays, you don’t have to spend megabucks to play and win the sponsorship game. Sponsorships are not limited to sports. There are tremendous opportunities in a variety of settings, including business, academia, the arts and sciences, and charities. The key is to understand what your customers passionately care about — what motivates them. Then, get involved.

Some ties may seem natural. Dog lovers would clearly see and appreciate pet supply stores that help underwrite Humane Society events. An information services firm that offers academic scholarships at local universities helps increase its visibility among high-achieving students it wants to recruit. An electronic components manufacturer is viewed among customers as an R&D leader by sponsoring a lecture series at a major electronics trade show. In each case, the sponsor is gaining valuable, positive image-building exposure in a third-party setting important to its customers.


How to succeed

Sponsorship involvement comes in a number of forms. You could sponsor a local PBS-TV cooking show or underwrite an exclusive reception at a trade show. You could sponsor a live, high-profile chat in cyberspace, or contribute your time, energy and supplies to Habitat for Humanity.

In addition to altruistic motivations and the valuable goodwill generated through your sponsorships, you will find measurable levels of visibility for your company. These include varying degrees of name and logo recognition, advertising and signage space, product sampling/demonstrations, publicity recognition and hospitality. You can increase your marketing mileage by highlighting your sponsorship programs in your own marketing and advertising efforts.

Whatever forum you choose, try to leverage your promotional dollars to maximize exposure. But avoid the temptation to sponsor too many things, watering down the impact of your sponsorship dollars. Concentrate on a single cause, where you have the chance to be the big fish in a small pond.

Jeff Krakoff is president of Krakoff Communications, a Pittsburgh-based marketing communications firm. Questions can be sent via e-mail to contactus@krakoff.com. Reach him by phone at (412) 434-7718.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:46

The lasting impression

The special event is a marketing technique that can make a favorable and long-lasting impression.

Annual meetings, open houses, dinner meetings with customer groups, sales meetings, even having a hospitality suite at a trade show, all qualify as a special event.

Pulling off a special event in memorable fashion comes down to a single point: Taking care of the details.

The invitation list

Staging the event is only half the effort. Convincing the right people to attend is the other half. Many companies leave this detail until the last minute.

If you do, some people will receive their invitations too late to place your event on their schedules. Start working on the list as soon as you begin planning the event.

Location

If the location isn’t predetermined, select one that is convenient to most of the people attending. Making it easy for your audience to get there will increase attendance.

Don’t forget to consider road construction schedules. Deal with construction by letting everyone know it’s there, giving them details on how to get around it and urging them to get an early start to the event site. Provide something to do for those who arrive early.

Speakers

Consider bringing in a speaker to liven up the event and help get your message across. An organization moving from one downtown location to another not long ago wanted to prepare its employees and customers for the move.

We brought in the producer/narrator of a local television series about Pittsburgh people and places. He had delightful, behind-the-scenes stories which he interspersed with film clips from the series. We arranged for him to focus on the people and places that make the Strip District unique. So, much of what he said focused on his film about the Strip.

It was a little detail, and it paid off. The audiences loved the presentations. And they began to get a subtle message that the move was going to be good for everyone.

You don’t always have to budget large sums of money to get them onto the stage. The TV producer didn’t charge anything for his appearances. He liked the opportunity to promote his films, and he absolutely delighted in telling stories about how he made them.

With any speaker, consider budgeting for audio/visual support. Your location can be ideal and the speaker may be great, but if you need A/V support, and the A/V system isn’t up to par, you’ll lose the opportunity to tell the audience what you want them to know.

Consider hiring a local A/V firm to bring in a system. Your site already may have its own A/V system, but if the sound or projector fails during your event and you can’t switch over to the second system, the party’s over. Use the hotel system as a back-up. The professional A/V firm is going to have better equipment — and it will work.

The size of the room dictates when you need a microphone and screen. If you’re talking to a group of 50 or more people, you may need the mike, and you’ll likely need a screen as well.

The evaluation

At the end of the event, don’t forget to ask the members of your audience to fill out an evaluation form and ask them to provide you with suggestions for the next gathering. It may provide you with surprising information.

Attention to detail. Every detail. That’s what makes a special event special.

Jeff Krakoff is the president of Krakoff Communications, Inc., a Pittsburgh-based marketing communications and public relations agency. KCI is the agency of record for First Night Pittsburgh, the region’s largest annual special event For a free copy of KCI’s meeting/special event check list, call Jeff Krakoff at (412) 434-7718.

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