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Federal Marketing Opportunities: What’s New for 2015


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As a follow up to my last post on government marketing, this month I decided to take a look at the media companies and see what, if any, new marketing opportunities exist for B2G marketers.

This year publishers are continuing to focus on integrated advertising programs that offer more flexibility and better branding for advertisers. A quick wrap-up of newish opportunities is as follows:

1105 Media, publisher of FCW, GCN, Defense Systems and Washington Technology, is offering two new programs this year:

  • Advertisers can again participate in the Front Cover Tip program, but this year, it includes guaranteed lead generation tied to a white paper asset. If you’re not familiar with this program, a fake cover is glue-tipped onto the real magazine cover. The sponsor gets about 2/3 of the front and the full back. It looks similar to the magazine cover with the masthead, but features the sponsor’s message.
  • The Editorial Calendar on Demand, allows vendors to work with the publication’s editorial team to create custom content on a topic of the vendor’s choice. The four-page insert includes three pages of editorial content and a full-page ad provided by the vendor.

Earlier this month, FedScoop announced a redesigned website as well as a new look for its newsletter, DailyScoop. The site was redesigned to include a number of new features such as responsive design (making the site mobile friendly) and “story cards” that can reveal layers of information. The redesign “also gives readers more direct access to FedScoop's rich collection of content, including FedScoop's exclusive video series, ‘FedMentors’ and makes it easier to find all of FedScoop's government technology stories by topic, or by government agency.” FedScoop is also adding a new event to its roster -- the Cloud & Cyber Disruptor's Board meetings. These meetings, scheduled for April 30 and Oct/Nov, will bring together an intimate group of 20-30 government and tech heavy-hitters to roll up sleeves, brainstorm, and share ideas around cloud and cyber. 

SIGNAL magazine, which focuses on the communications and information technology realms of the defense, intelligence and global security communities, also announced a new website that includes responsive design and improved navigation. The outlet is making a push for more guest writers for the print magazine and the blog. Writer’s guidelines can be found here and here.

Last but not least, Federal News Radio (WFED) is also improving some of its integrated advertising programs to better meet client demand. Over the last couple of years, WFED has expanded beyond broadcast advertising to offer services such as webinars, panel discussions, custom media, lead generation programs and a range of online advertising options. This year, ad programs will offer better metrics and will be more integrated with a radio buy.

Overall, the people I spoke to seemed optimistic about 2015 and excited to have new opportunities for the marketing community.  Hope this is a good year for all of you as well.

- Katie 




Which Social Media Platform is Right for Your Organization – A Beginner’s Guide to Instagram


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All good things must come to an end and while there are still countless other social media platforms that I could review and provide a beginner’s guide to, we are going to end our journey with Instagram. Since our clients are predominately in the B2B and B2G space it makes sense to focus on the platforms that they are most likely to use. And with that said, let’s learn about Instagram.

The basics: Instagram is a photo sharing app that allows users to take photos or videos (up to 15 seconds in length), add filters to those photos or videos and then share them on the app as well as across other social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. Instagram was first released in October 2010 and was acquired by Facebook in 2012. The idea behind Instagram is that it’s “a fun and quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures.”

Demographics: Instagram proved to be incredibly popular and within a year and a half of launching already had 100 million active users. As of December 2014 the app boasted 300 million active users “sharing 70 million photos and videos each day.” From a Business Insider report, more than 90% of Instagram’s users are under the age of 35. Other stats include:

  • Instagram is predominately used by women with 68% of its users female.
  • The app is used more in urban areas with 17%  U.S. adults in urban areas using the app (compared to 11% in suburban or rural areas).

Access: Instagram is very much a mobile app, but its users are split 50/50 between iPhone and Android. While photos and videos can be viewed, liked and commented on online, the app is meant to be used from a mobile device – allowing users to share images from their life as they go about their day.

How it’s being used: Perhaps more so than other social media platforms, Instagram is really a consumer-focused social media platform. That’s not to say brands aren’t – or shouldn’t be – using it, but the brands that are using Instragram the most are largely consumer brands like retailers. Along with having an Instagram account to showcase their products, Instagram also has sponsored posts, which are clearly marked as such. From their own website, Instagram indicates that they are currently working with a handful of brands to participate in sponsored posts, including: adidas, Ben and Jerry’s, Burberry, General Electric, Lexus, and more.  

So how could a B2B or B2G company, or even a service provider like SpeakerBox, use Instagram?  If your company produces a final product that is “photographable” Instagram is a great to showcase what you do. A few companies that do this well are Killer Infographics, an infographic design firm based in Seattle; 3D Robotics, a San Diego-based maker of drones and Intel, which in recent years has really been showcasing all the amazing products and technologies they are a part of.    

Another way to participate is to use the app to showcase your culture – both to build morale amongst your team and to help in the recruiting process. Here at SpeakerBox our Instagram feed is a combination of photos of our team gatherings, industry events we attend, random office fun or the next generation of SpeakerBoxers (aka, our team’s babies that we’re grooming to take over).  Marketing software provider Marketo, and enterprise resource planning software provider Oracle, are two additional companies that use Instagram well to showcase their culture. Both companies use their Instagram feed to display the human side of their business, including what it’s like to work for them, which certainly helps with recruiting efforts.

Analytics: Per this article in Mashable, Instagram rolled out a deeper set of analytics for advertisers back in August 2014.  The metrics include impressions, reach and engagement and the data is provided to marketers in almost real time. From the Mashable article, “the desktop-based dashboard leverages Facebook's demographic information to let advertisers see an age- and sex-based breakdown of users who are interacting with branded messages.” For most users of Instagram though, post measurement is as simple as tracking the number of “likes” and comments.

Pros: Instagram is like no other social media platform in that it’s all about pictures and is a great way to share them – without overwhelming say, your Facebook feed. It’s a fun way to really showcase a company’s culture and let people see the lighter, more human side of your business.

Cons: While I do point out a few examples above, the B2B or B2G play on Instagram is limited. Clearly it’s not impossible, and some companies are very much succeeding, but to truly build a following and be successful would require a dedicated social media team that understands the scope and reach of the platform. Just by looking at the demographics alone it’s clear to see that it’s not the place to try to sell security products or services, software or application development services.  

Final thoughts: Personally, I love Instagram and that it allows me to show off pictures (admittedly mostly of my children) without driving everyone on Facebook completely nuts. I think that using it to showcase a company’s culture and human side is a good idea – especially if culture fit is an important part of your hiring process.  

And thus concludes our beginner’s guide to social media. In case you’ve missed any of my past posts, I’ve already taken a look at LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook,  Google+,  YouTube and Vimeo

3 Tools for Managing Information Overload


The great thing about the Internet is that everyone is free to share their thoughts and ideas with the world. The horrible thing about the Internet is that everyone is free to share their thoughts and ideas with the world.

With so much content out there, and with the media landscape changing so frequently, it can be hard to keep current with relevant news you can trust.

In PR I’ve found that one of the most important parts of my job is staying informed on well…everything. In order to come up with proactive ideas for my clients, I need to know what's happening in their industries. And to sound like an educated human in conversation, I need to know what’s going on in the world.

The question is, who has time to wade through the millions of pieces of content posted every day that may or may not be important? For me, managing all that news comes down to three tools:


Specific News 

People, Google alerts are your friend—well, if you go beyond just setting up an alert for just your client’s name. Sure, it’s helpful to be notified when your client is mentioned in the news, but using Boolean Logic to set up calculated alerts for clients and events will prove to be much more efficient. For example, I use these alerts when I’m waiting for information about a specific conference, product release, or trend I would like to pitch. Setting the information to come to your inbox rather than spending 20 minutes searching for it will end up saving you a lot of time and frustration throughout the week.


Industry News

One thing I love about working in an agency is that my clients are in such different spaces. I am always learning about something from a different sector, so it’s hard to get bored with what’s in front of me. That being said, multiple sectors mean exponentially more publications to follow and verticals to pay attention to. 

Enter Feedly—the content aggregator that made my life so much less complicated.

Feedly is a content aggregator that allows you to customize how you see your news. With this tool I can organize the publications I follow into “Collections” for each client. I can’t tell you how much time I save by having all of the public sector tech coverage (for example) that I need to read in one place, rather than jumping around between 15 publications looking for relevant news. It's made it easier to identify industry trends and ultimately helps with proactive pitching. That’s right Sounding Board, Feedly helps with pitching. (I swear they’re not paying me to say this.)

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World News

Obviously you can’t use one source to get all of your world news. Personally, I get updates from the Washington Post, Politico, and New York Times throughout the day. It may be small, but the one tool I want to call out for world/life news is The Skimm.

The Skimm is an email that shows up in my inbox before I wake up every morning with a brief recap of the news that happened the day before or is currently happeneing. The five-minute read condenses most of what you’re going to hear that day into short, funny, conversational paragraphs. Essentially, it’s news that you can wrap your mind around before coffee.

Warning: The Skimm is pretty femme-focused; of its entire readership (about 1 million active readers) only about 20% are guys.


So Sounding Board readers, how do you manage your news? Do you use a different content aggregator or newsletter service? Are you like our newest employee and find The Skimm too conversational? Share your thoughts in the comments!


The Best and Worst of PR Measurement – Round 3: Goals-Based



In this third edition of my look at common types of public relations measurement, and their pros and cons, we’ll look at arguably the most realistic way of measuring PR success – goals-based measurement.

What it is:

Goals-based measurement is exactly what it seems, setting goals at the beginning of a campaign or time period and measuring success based on whether or not those goals are achieved. Goals should be set based on clear and measurable objectives that advance corporate goals. Without results-focused objectives that match corporate goals, PR measurement produces only data that essentially proves nothing.

Example: Being able to say that a placement received 2 million views is fantastic – but if all of those views were from an audience that does not move your companies end sales goals, those views really mean nothing and are not worth measuring.

To start the goal-setting process, it may be helpful to list the company’s top three objectives for the year and determine how PR can help meet these pre-defined goals. Then, measure PR initiatives against those objectives - for instance, how does a media relations campaign meet the overall corporate objectives? In many cases, the end goal is to create an audience that then turns into leads, which in turn the sales team converts into customers and revenue.


Goals are completely unique and tailored to each specific company. Chances are, no two companies will have the same PR goals. For some, one placement in a publication like the New York Times is a win for the whole year. Another company, a series of bylined articles in Government Computer News would much better reach their target audience and increase business leads.

Today, PR must measure more than reach, opportunities, or impressions. Measurement requires a qualitative assessment of each media placement that includes sentiment, messages, quality of publication, spokespeople mentioned and other key factors that affect how the story resonates with readers -- all of which can be measured by specific goals as opposed to a more numbers based measurement option.

Another benefit to goals-based measurement is also that goals can be flexible and stretch way beyond measuring just media placements. As of late, there has been less of an emphasis on traditional news media for many companies. While placements are obviously an important aspect, social media can be just as important. Many businesses and consumers make purchases based largely on word of mouth and recommendations of friends and colleagues obtained through social media. Goals can be set in place that not only includes an increase in followers, but also more interaction with these followers.

The same can be said about other aspects of PR such as securing a key speaking slot at a conference. If that is what would move the needle for your company, goals-based measurement is flexible enough to include that as and objective.


One of the major weaknesses with goals-based measurement is that most PR goals are innately hard to measure. It is difficult to establish values for what a success is. While many types of measurement have tried to set a standard across the board, consensus of what to measure or how to best measure has not yet been established.

Goals-based measurement can also be a bit wishy-washy. If you are working with a CEO (or whomever handles the PR budget) who greatly prefers hard numbers – goals-based measurement could be a hard sell. While one article in a top pub might seem like a win for the month, if they are used to seeing 10 articles in that same time period, it may be harder to justify the goal.

Another weakness is that goals will vary immensely by organization (which can also be a benefit). However, since each organization will likely have a different definition of what they consider a success, some time will have to be spent determining what would truly move the needle for a given company. Chances are, it will probably involve a pretty thorough look at your organization and past successes/failures to understand which goals make sense and what potential placements/social media goals/speaking opportunities would draw in the most leads.

Along these same lines, with goals-based measurement when starting with a new client it is hard to determine where goals should lie. It is much harder to gauge what is achievable or what might drive results if there has not been a formal PR program in place before. While you might think a goal of getting a placement in The Washington Post is worth going after, six months down the road you may realize a byline in a focused vertical drives in many more leads and is more worth pursuing as a goal.

Overall assessment:

Goals-based measurement may be the best option when it comes to PR measurement as a whole. While it still has some flaws and cannot be measured against other companies since the goals are specific to each individual program, it does likely provide the most realistic picture of PR success.

The key is the flexibility. PR comes in so many different forms and methods that defunct types of measurement like AVE’s in no way make sense anymore. With goal-based measurement companies have the opportunity to make their own rules and it provides them with a reason to really take a look at what past programs have led to business results and will continue to do so in the future. 

Changes Everywhere: Capital Business Folds, InTheCapital Rebrands, WBJ Gets a New Tech Reporter, and More!


describe the imageA new year, a new D.C. media landscape. The past few weeks have seen a number of changes at some of the area’s most important business publications. As a result, we’re saying hello to some newfriends, and goodbye to others.

The Washington Post announced in December its decision to discontinue Capital Business, the Post’s standalone publication focused on business and development in the D.C. area. Launched in 2010, Capital Business was to compete with other area local publications that specifically covered government contracting, banking, real estate, legal and advocacy organizations, retail and technology. Alas, the last issue will publish on Monday, January 26th

Good news, though; the Capital Business team will continue to cover local business stories that will be featured throughout the Post’s online pages each week starting February 1st.  The content will primarily be featured in Sunday and Monday’s delivered papers, with regular placement on Sunday’s front page. It will also be made available to all home delivery subscribers, whom, according to Post editors, have asked for more local business coverage in the paper. Popular blogs like OnIT and On Small Business will continue, as will the “Top Workplaces” list.

2015 has also brought change to InTheCapital, the local business/technology/culture publication that has gained quite a following since its debut a couple of years ago. It’s not going away, but it is getting a pretty significant makeover, as editors recently announced their intention to rebrand the popular publication to DCInno. They claim that the name change is part of growth plans, as other segments (BostInno, Chicago Inno, and a new pub, Streetwise Media) launch and continue to cover tech innovation stories across the country.

Take a minute in the new year to meet Washington Business Journal’s newest tech and venture capital reporter – Kasra Kangraloo. Kasra, a D.C. native, recently took over from the departed Bill Flook (who went to Thompson Reuters). While he doesn’t have an extensive background in tech, he’s excited to dig in and see what the D.C. tech scene is all about. He also has a history in our area from covering the Federal Reserve and fiscal policy at Market News International. 

On top of all that, NextGov has just announced the start of a new tech blog, Emerging Tech. Frank Konkel, a current technology journalist for Government Executive Media Group, will head up the blog and focus on emerging tech across the government.  Per Frank’s first post, he plans to cover all things IT, research and development, ideas, as well as large-scale and broad tech issues.  At NextGov, Frank was previously covering topics like cloud computing, cybersecurity, big data, and mobile. 

It’s no surprise that the news industry is constantly changing. It’s hard to keep up with where reporters are moving to, which publications are still around, or what exactly everyone is covering. And, it’s starting to seem like 2015 may be an even more volatile year than most. After all, we’re only a couple of weeks into the year, and already seeing some significant changes taking place. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on other significant moves in the months ahead. 

Media Training 101: Recap from FounderCorps Event


Last week I attended an event hosted by the new and improved FounderCorps 2.0--an organization led by Jonathan Aberman to bring together serial entrepreneurs who are interested in giving back to the entreprenerial ecosystem.  

Our featured guest was Anne Dickerson of 15 Minute Productions, a lively, enthusiatic woman who coaches executives on delivering a professional performance in broadcast interviews, and we were able to take away some key points that can also relate to overall effectively communicating one's message with impact. 

Jonathan Aberman and Anne Dickerson

FounderCorps Exec Jonathan Aberman and Speaker Anne Dickerson of 15 Minute Productions

Here are some great tried and true takeaways: 

When Anne began her business, she was typically called prior to a client's media appearance on TV. But now, with the proliferation of digital media, people seem to always have media assets online, whether through YouTube videos, blog posts, podcasts, etc., so it is more important than ever to keep the following principles in mind. 

Mind Your Body Language

-  The reality is that when you first meet someone, they are judging you on your appearance, and not always what you say. So be mindful of this, and consider the first impression you are making. Are you smiling within the eyes? Relax the jaw, twinkle the eyes, and stay calm. It puts you and others at ease. 

-   Be passionate and excited about what you are going to say. Before you go on stage, put on your game face! If you have to, go into your own "Superman booth" and change your demeanor if you are not in a good place. 

-   A lot of people freeze up, and it shows. A piece of advice she gave: if you know your heart rate will go up, or your hands will sweat, acknowledge that fact and channel that nervous energy toward demonstrating excitement. If you are prepared (another important point), no one will even notice. 

-  Body postion and posture have an amazing impact on how you appear. Sit up so your back doesn't touch the chair back. Never lean on the table if seated. Don't cross your legs or look too casual. If you are standing and/or walking around, open up your arms to appear "big." This trick has a secondary impact of decreasing your stress level, as you open up and breathe. If you lean back and slouch, you look arrogant!

-  Best piece of advice: Mimic the posture of your interviewer, you will look engaged and respectful.  

Using Your Voice

-  Best radio voices have modulation, think about ranging your voice up and down…avoid sounding too monotone. Show emphasis on certain words, hit key words harder. You can change the tone entireley by where you place your emphasis 

-  Practice on your way to the studio, out loud, hear yourself talk. Don't just practice in your mind. By the time you get there you will be warmed up, so that when you open your mouth, you don’t surprise yourself! 


Prepare by thinking about what you could get asked and what you really want to get across. Or, ask a friend or colleague to ask what he or she might want to know. Then practice out loud. You can also expect that in any interview situation, there are "gimmie" questions that will always be asked. Have a ready made answer that sounds natural! Include in your preparation: 

1. What you or your company does, and not in a mission-statement kind of way, but in a colloquial easy manner, such as "we help X do Y so that Z."

2. Always have a headline. What do you really want to get across? Prepare short, succinct, takeaway headlines and supporting points. If it’s a 3-minute appearance, have THREE headlines ready to go. In general, interview questions are usually 15 seconds, make your answer 30-45 seconds. Don't go on too short and high-impact. 

3. Be ready to answer softball questions, they will come! That way you'll hit the ball out of the park instead of stumbling around on a really easy question. 

4. Bring facts. Have 2-3 really solid facts that back up what are you going to say. Memorize them. The media loves facts...

5. Think about how to make it relatable--use metaphors or similes. Say things like, "it's like a fifth of the population," or "imagine an area as large as the state of California" rather than just numbers. Or help the listener/interviewer "get it," by comparing to something everybody knows: "It's like Uber for tow trucks." This is especially important in radio, where there are no visuals. 

6. People always love stories, as long as they are not longwinded...storytell, don't fact-tell. 

7. Interviewers almost always ask, "what's next?" Or "what do you see?" so have a ready made answer. This is another gimmie!

The obnoxious interview...

There are times when an interviewer might ask questions that are not relevant, possibly hostile or agressive, or just not aligned with your area of expertise. Here are a few tips for handling these delicate situations:

-  You can always bring the interview around to what you want to talk about, especially if it seems he or she is not that knowledgeable about the topic presented. Turn it around with, “I heard your question, but what I really want to talk about is…”  (as long as you don’t sound like a politician!). Or try: "you know, that’s right, that’s an interesting point, but..." softening that talking point.

-  Don’t repeat the negative. If they bring up a missed forecast, try not to start your sentence with ”We did not miss our forecast" and then the explaination. Just give a positive response. 

-  Beware of getting or sounding defensive. Don't respond with "that's not right," or "why would you say that?" It seems like a no-brainer but Ann pointed out with video clips from major networks that people really do this, and often! It hurts all credibility and makes the interviewee look mean and/or arrogant. 

-  When asked a “clown” question (and there sometimes are!), don’t make yourself an enemy by reflecting that it’s a stupid question. Combat it with humor.

-  Practice having someone ask you three negative questions and ask him or her to give you feedback on your body language and how you came back with a thoughtful positive answer. 

These are great tips to keep in mind in general, when in an interview, a business meeting, or on a job search. Thanks Anne, and I look forward to the next FounderCorps event! If you are interested in becoming a part of the organization, reach me at and I'll make an introduction. Check out the website for membership criteria. 

---  Elizabeth Shea, @eliz2shea

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Top 5 SpeakerBox blog posts from 2014


2014 was quite a year for our little blog… As we look to the future and revamp our style a little, I couldn’t help taking a look back at the five most read posts to see what’s resonating with our dutiful readers.


Frozen Fractals All Around: What a Popular Movie Can Teach Us About Word-of-mouth Marketing

In this post, Pete explains how word-of-mouth marketing is responsible for the song playing on repeat in your head now.


Why It Takes 5 Days to Get an iTunes Receipt

Jonathan is annoyed…again… this time at how decoupling – the act of separating the purchase and receipt of goods from the acknowledgement of payment - is changing the way we spend money.


SxSW Parties, Panels and More: The DC Guide

Lisa got to party in Austin in 2014, but before she left she wrapped up all of the events to help techies from D.C. stay connected to our hometown while in Texas.


Congratulations MindShare Graduates of 2013! Recap of the Year

It was an exciting year for the 17th class of MindShare. In this post (from all the way back in January of 2014), Elizabeth recaps some of the exciting events that took place and gives a nod to the four award winners before teasing the announcement of the members of the 18th class.


Direction for the New Cision/Vocus Merger Revealed

Kate not only covered the merger of the arguably two most used tools in the PR industry, but also offered up her advice on establishing a new direction for the new company.


Cheers guys! Thanks for the interesting topics and great content. Can’t wait to see who has the most read blog posts for 2015!

This Is How We're Tricking You



This free blog content is made possible by a generous grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and because we're stealing your credit card information.


This is part three of our Emmy-nominated* series -- so if you're just tuning in, here's what you've missed:

Part 1: Tim Cook took a thinly veiled shot at Google and Facebook's business model, suggesting that "if an online service is free, you're not the customer; you're the product."

Part 2: Eric lost his Schmidt over the comments and countered with what we deemed (at the time) the "world's lamest defense" -- that if you don't like sharing data with Google, you can just turn that part of Google off, no biggie.

Which brings us to the present.

It seems Mark Zuckerberg didn't much care for Cook's characterizations either, and so felt the need to add his own layer of obfuscation to the mix, telling Time Magazine in December:

“A frustration I have is that a lot of people increasingly seem to equate an advertising business model with somehow being out of alignment with your customers. I think it’s the most ridiculous concept. What, you think because you’re paying Apple that you’re somehow in alignment with them? If you were in alignment with them, then they’d make their products a lot cheaper!”

Time Cover

Okay, first question: Is this as stupid as Eric Schmidt's argument?

I don't know.

I do not have access to the types of scientific instruments it would take to accurately compare stupidity on such astronomical scales. Perhaps if I had a few years and access to the CERN laboratories... okay, suffice it to say Zuckerberg's argument is mind-numbingly stupid.

Here's why:

First, the concept of "customer alignment" is ridiculous and vaguely anti-capitalist. Nearly every customer in the world wants the same two things: the best product for the best price.

You don't see a whole lot of disparity there.

It's not as if some Canadian customers prefer paying more for crappier stuff. No, even in Canada this is a pretty basic tenet of consumer psychology.

Now Zuckerberg's contention is that if Apple really wanted to serve its customers, it would find a way to cut costs. And to do that in a way that doesn't hurt the business or get Cook pulled in front of a subcommittee on anti-American activities, Apple would have to shift the costs to a third party.

What's that, you say -- they did exactly that by arranging mobile phone subsidies with voice and data carriers?

Oh yeah. And it’s been great for the customers (if not so much for the carriers). In fact, you can now get an iPhone for "free" -- with a contract from AT&T.

Now Facebook had a different idea about how to give away free services by shifting the cost burden -- they'd sell advertising.

But there’s a problem here. It's a universal problem, and as an advertising professional I can attest to the severity of it:

Traditional, straightforward advertising no longer works.

According to my Canadian contacts at the CERN laboratories, the last time a human being purposely clicked on a website banner ad was September of 2007 (and some reports suggest she was being held at gunpoint by a renegade sales rep from

See, today’s consumers are really, really good at ignoring traditional advertising.

The only way to be successful in advertising these days is to trick people into thinking your ad isn’t actually an ad.

Seriously. That’s all there is now in advertising -- trickery.

It’s what Google’s business model is based on. It’s what “native advertising” is based on. It’s what most content marketing and social media marketing strategies are based on. It's what the movie "Transformers" is based on.

And where there’s a trickster, there's always a person getting tricked -- in this case, you the consumer.

These are venial sins, and one could easily argue that advertisers have always been tricksters. We’ve simply replaced overt lying with covert manipulation.

Furthermore, companies like Google and Facebook aren’t enabling these tricks because they’re evil corporations and they hate mankind. We’re not talking about Comcast here. These guys are simply trying to do what Apple did with phone subsidies -- deliver services more cheaply by shifting the cost burden. 

But the mechanism by which those costs get shifted matters. And if you choose a path that confuses, exploits, or antagonizes your customers... well, you may be due for a re-alignment.

Speaking of trickery:

New Call-to-Action

*My neighbor Emmy likes to nominate things.

Keep Customers From Experiencing a Brand Identity Crisis


Barnes and Noble Cafe resized 600

Recently I experienced a brand identity crisis.

You see, ever since I can remember, I’ve been a bookworm. I devour novels like some people eat bonbons – right after the other. My go-to place for this habit has always been the Barnes & Noble bookstore chain. It’s been a staple for me since I was younger. I have fond memories of browsing through the stacks and leafing through books and magazines. These days I’ll occasionally take my young daughter to the store to play with toys and read children’s books.

Sadly, Barnes & Noble is failing in today’s ebook economy. Sales are down across the board, from ereader devices to print books and beyond.

I realized that I was part of the problem. Although I still purchased from the company (and, in fact, continued to pay a $25 annual fee for a customer loyalty membership), I had begun buying more from places like Amazon and Apple. In doing so, I felt as if I was leaving a piece of me behind. 

Isn’t that weird? I actually felt bad for not spending money with a particular vendor.

What I felt exemplifies the true essence of brand loyalty -- a company and customer developing deep, even emotional ties. It’s the creation of an extremely strong bond – so strong that the customer should feel a near visceral reaction when the thought of potentially breaking it comes into play.

This type of brand loyalty is not something that is developed over the course of a few days, or weeks, or months, or even a year. It’s cultivated over a period of time. Generally, it starts with a single event – the customer makes a purchase. That purchase is accompanied by an interaction with a vendor’s representative. At Barnes & Noble, that’s a bookseller. In the enterprise, that could be a regional sales rep or partner manager. If the customer enjoys the event and interaction, they come back without question. If that goes well, they return again.

At this point, the relationship has begun to blossom, and other incentives can be introduced. For example, discounts can be granted as a form of customer appreciation. Enterprises can offer complimentary training or add-on software or hardware. All of these are good ways to deepen the relationship, and can go a long way toward preventing customers from someday moving on to the competition.

Of course, the bond may yet be severed despite these efforts. This is especially true if the company in question does not continue to push itself forward and attempt to better its competition.

We’ve seen this befall several organizations in recent years. For example, BlackBerry, which at one point had one of the most fervent customer bases on the planet, today has very little market share. This status has forced the company to go back to its roots in an attempt to appeal to that old customer base by releasing the BlackBerry Classic – a combination state-of-the-art smartphone and throwback device that the company hopes will help it recapture its glory days.

That might not be a bad strategy, since brand loyalty is also heavily dependent upon nostalgia. The thought of something that was once great and enjoyable to use can strike a deep emotional chord within customers.

Maybe that’s why, as I write this, I’m sitting in my local Barnes & Noble Café. I decided that, regardless of whether or not other companies may better meet my needs, the connection that I feel to this particular company is strong, and I’m not ready to let it go yet. I want the organization to succeed. At least, I don’t want to be part of its potential failure. I feel akin to the brand, and it means something to me.

That’s the type of connection every company should aspire to.

Pete Larmey

Inbound Marketing: Getting found with creative content








2015: What's Hot and Not-To-Be-Missed


As we go into 2015, it's a time of reflection and also anticipation for what's to come in the new year. 

This year we have been able to support new entrants and activities that support the growing ecosystem of the technology community in DC. I was inspired by Steven Overly's recap in the Washington Post last week on what some of our community leaders have to say about what's in store for the technology sector in DC.

Giving a shout out to those groups that have emerged and have helped us get where we are today! I urge you in 2015 to pay attention to these players that are changing the landscape of DC: 

TandemNSI (disclosure: a SpeakerBox client): I look back to when TandemNSI began less than a year ago as an idea, a concept, to bring together national security agencies and non-traditional performers...entrepreneurs who have a passion for bringing to market technologies that will protect our national security. Over the year, this public/private partnership between the Arlington Economic Development Authority and Amplifier Ventures has grown into a notable force and spawned a community numbered in the thousands. Jonathan Aberman, Managing Director for TandemNSI serves as a true thought leader on topics of entrepreneurship, and is regularly quoted in the press on topics affecting national security interests. 

CONNECTpreneur: Tien Wong's vision for building one of the hottest executive networking venues did not disappoint! This year we heard from a dozen emerging companies who were fundraising, building new businesses, and sharing their stories. He held fireside chats with technology executives such as Rick Rudman, former CEO of Vocus, after he successfully sold to Cision, and Chip Paucek, CEO and Co-Founder of 2U (NASDAQ: TWOU). Mark your calendar for the next upcoming CONNECTpreneur: March 12, 7-11 am in Tysons Corner. 

CADRE: Derek and Melanie Coburn founded the CADRE organization; they have built a powerhouse of an organiation who's primary focus is to bring together executive professionals to exchange ideas, advice, and collaborative on opportunities that provide added value to our everyday endeavors. Derek is author of the bestselling Networking is Not Working, . Consider exploring CADRE and attending the next YOUniversity event on January 15th, Dave Asprey, hope to see you there!

1776: Donna Harris and Evan Burfield founded the inspirational 1776 in 2013...and it has launched a culture of entrepreneurism that has changed the landscape of the DC community. Companies competed around the world in the infamous Challenge Cup...its mission is to connect startups with the resources they need to grow and succeed, and shine the spotlight on rising stars. Mark your calendar for the upcoming CoFounders Lab on February 4th - an event designed to help entrepreneurs match up with other possible  founders who could share a similar vision and grow companies. 

Eastern Foundry: This past month we also experienced the launch of Eastern Foundry, a veteran-owned government technology and innovation incubator in Crystal City, which began as an inspiration of CEO Geoff Orazem as he experienced challenges navigating the government contracting community. SpeakerBox COO Lisa Throckmorton wrote a recap of the launch event as it took place this past month in their new offices. 

Happy New Year--and to a great 2015!

--- Elizabeth Shea

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