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Integrating Your Brand’s Story Into the Holiday Season

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The holiday season is possibly one of the most significant of the year for marketing and branding specialists. Unfortunately, the increasing commercialization of the holidays often leads to over-aggressive marketing that seeks to take advantage of shopping developments such as Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other shopping extravaganzas.

Avoiding Marketing Intrusion During the Holidays

One of the problems with holiday marketing emanates from focusing too much on the direct response method. There is a marked tendency towards competition between retailers who choose price discounts and special offers as their promotional weapons of choice. Naturally, shoppers enjoy good deals during the holiday season, but what about creativity?

When discounts and special offers are overused, they become intrusive and are bound to cause a loss of interest among consumers. Repetitive banner ads and constant radio spots can only go so far. The holiday season has been proven to be excellent for the purpose of establishing brand loyalty, and this requires the ancient art of storytelling.

Finding Maximum Value with Brand Stories

The popular “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” marketing campaign by Apple is a great example of effective branding by means of storytelling. With a little whimsy and an engaging story, Apple achieved brand loyalty that could be adjusted to various occasions and seasons.

Advertising that tells a story is most effective during the holidays. This is the season to feel good on a personal, familial and spiritual level, which can be tapped with the right amount of creativity and storytelling. The value of a holiday campaign can be maximized by creating brand awareness, which tends to have a more lasting effect than direct-response and discounts. The idea is to create this awareness from early on. Even something as simple as creating a holiday specific video from the face of your company, could provide huge results.

The Holidays and the Customer Decision Process

The main ingredients of branding during the holiday season are engagement and motif. The approach should be interactive; to this end, marketers often rely on appropriate content. Articles that tell stories about the holidays should have an overall tone of goodwill. For example, an online electronics retailer may feature a current or previous charitable endeavor that ties in with the holidays. A commitment to make a donation from profits earned during the holidays can be articulated with appropriate text, appealing graphics and supporting photos.

Another idea for marketers during the holidays is to feature playful items. An example of this would be to offer a holiday-themed app, preferably a game or a series of fun quizzes. It is important to remember that many shoppers are bound to be on vacation, and thus they have more time to engage in recreational pursuits.

How to Optimize your Site for Maximum Holiday Sales

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When the holiday season is about to kick off, it is important to have your own unique sales and marketing strategy for your e-commerce website. Seasonal shoppers spend massive amounts of money to buy gifts for their family, friends and colleagues. The only way that you can attract these generous consumers is to optimize your site so that holiday shoppers can find your store and spend some of their Christmas budget on products that you sell.If you are not sure exactly how you can optimize your website just for this merry season, here are tips to consider.

Add Festivity to Your Landing Page

If you want your landing page to trend, you have to incorporate what is trending on the page. By temporarily changing your landing page to add festive images, image titles, meta tags and on-page keywords that are frequently searched for, you can improve your ranking on search engines when consumers type in an organic and common holiday keyword. Using a Keyword Planner, like the one available with Google, can held you research the most searched keywords so that you can optimize your landing page efficiently until the new year comes.

Choose a Graphic Design That Captures Attention

If your web design is not up to par with the web designs you can find on other optimized e-commerce landing pages, your visitors are not likely to stick on your page. If you want to extend the period of time that your traffic stays attentive as they browse your selection, a holiday-themed web design is key. Choose a color scheme that is festive, create different tabs that look like icicles or holiday lights, have reindeer and ribbons scroll down the page focusing the eye on the best-sellers, and rename some of the categories to be seasonally appropriate. By lightening the mood and giving the shopper a great experience, you can build trust and improve your sales in the process.

Get Ready to Roll Out Holiday Marketing Campaigns

Marketing is off-page optimization and it is a must if you want to be found in the midst of the millions of stores that are on the world wide web. Seasonal campaigns are all about offering discounts and promoting these discounts on the right platforms so that your target audience will see what you are communicating. Make sure you have clever but straightforward calls to action on your promotional copies, choose a platform where your followers will be social, and direct traffic to your site for the sale.

Christmas widgets, social media, holiday mobile apps and bulked up bandwidth are all considerations you cannot overlook. Be sure your site is ready for the influx, choose an eye-catching design, and attract the maximum visitors so that you can close the maximum number of sales.

Building a Social Media Following From Scratch – 0 to 1,000 Followers

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Ronn Torossian on how to Grow a Social Media following.

It’s easy to jump-start some small buzz for your business in social media. Staring at a Zero Follower count could be intimidating and seem like an uphill battle, but the truth is, once you get the ball rolling you will be raking in the followers. I have put together this guide to help you go from 0 to 1,000 followers.

In brief, the steps are:

  1. Produce content.
  2. Attract an audience.
  3. Link the audience to your profit mechanism.
  4. Network and socialize to keep your momentum going.

To save time, we’ll pick a random industry to use as an example so that we don’t have to talk in such abstract terms. Let’s pick collectible trading card games such as Magic: The Gathering or Pokemon if you will.

Using this example, here’s the steps:

Produce Content

Grab a content platform and start cranking out content about your market. This can be Blogger, Pinterest, WordPress, Tumblr, or any other major blogging platform. Or use your own domain, which is strongly advised. You can buy website hosting for pennies, some $10 per month for a good one, and then it’s your site done your way by your rules.

Whatever your platform, start cranking out content. For card games, you could do funny memes about the cards, great shopping deals you’ve found on cards, reviews of card sets as they come out, or going to a tournament to play them and reporting on how you did.

Get at least 20 posts up before you move on. Nobody likes to come to an empty blog with just one greeting post in it.

Attract an Audience

Get on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Reddit, plus every other social media platform. You will not make this work unless you spread a very wide net. Ideally, you should have established accounts already.

Once you have content, post links to it. Now on social media where your first mission is to get the widest possible following, do this:

  • If anybody follows you, follow them back. Look out for useless bots.
  • If anybody in your circles or followers posts something interesting, forward it to share with your followers. This encourages them to return the favor with your posts. The more relevant to your target market, the better this will work.
  • Avidly follow anybody with a large following who is doing the same thing in your market. Social media thrives on mutual cooperation.
  • Seek out and join any groups, message boards, circles, or whatever related to your market.

In any industry, there are industry-centric groups, forums, and websites devoted to strategy and insights. Create accounts there and be sure your username is the same as your social media username and the name your content is posted under. This creates personal brand continuity; you can lure followers from the general social stage like Facebook to the more specific forums. And vice versa; you can occasionally post something with a link from the specific forum back to your profile on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc..

Your best friend is that mouse pointer, so always make it easy for the user to access your whole system in one click. Put sharing buttons on your blog posts, so readers can easily link to it from their own accounts. Use big, friendly buttons at the top. Make everything easy to share. Don’t make the user have to swat down pesky pop-up windows or paw through pages of irrelevant walls here.

Link the Audience to your Profit Mechanism

This can be anything from ad revenue on your content, affiliate links from your site to Amazon or whatever market, your own kiosk on eBay, or your website’s customer service page where you, yourself, operate a store with a cart. Again, make this easy to find from any of your content – ideally it will be in the sidebar of your blog.

There’s no reason you can’t make multiple streams of revenue from the same market. For the trading card market, you can have Google ads in the sidebar, link to books about the games on Amazon with an affiliate link, and have sidebar links to your own eBay store where you sell custom-made deck-boxes made to order or your own gaming dice. Or simply buy the product wholesale and sell it retail, like any store.

Network and Socialize to keep your Momentum Going

Guess what? That’s just step #2, repeated over and over again! Good luck, pick a market with high demand that is also a good target for content, and have fun!

 

Open or Closed: The Thanksgiving Debate comes down to the Customer

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Over the past week the Internet has been in a rage – when is it not, really – but this time it’s about whether or not a private business decides to unlock its doors. Well, several private businesses, unlocking multiple doors and on a revered national holiday. Should retailers be open on Thanksgiving? CEO of 5WPR Ronn Torossian weighs in.

It should be simple to dismiss the legal question of “should.” If retailers want to be open, they have that choice. The moral question, too, should not be prohibitive. Some might consider it in bad taste, and other may even see it as disrespectful and sad, but “should not” cannot apply here on moral grounds. So, as with many things, it really boils down to public perception.

Some argue that many other people have to work on holidays. First responders, medical professionals, cops and pro athletes all miss out on the option of taking Turkey Day off. So, why not retail associates?

Well, comes the counter argument, what purpose does it serve? Aren’t we choosing commercialism over family and tradition at that point? Interesting question on both sides. But, in the field of public relations, it really comes down to who you are trying to impress the most. Who is your customer base, and what do THEY want you to do?

Given this metric, it’s not surprising that stores such as Jo-Ann Fabrics and Home Depot chose to be closed on Thanksgiving. Their customers tend to be those who are more likely to want to be with family and friends than at the mall. However, when it comes to Macy’s and Kohl’s the market for shopping aficionados knows no bounds. They are catering to a group who salivates at the chance to work off the turkey and pumpkin pie with some deal hunting.

So what are the lessons embedded in this debate? Well, first, people will talk. Everyone does. But, for a business, the most important people to listen to will always be those who actually help you pay your bills. Keep them happy, and you’ve probably made the right choice.

Pinterest, Privacy & More…

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In today’s digital world, communications and consumers move quicker than ever before. Once something is said or done, it’s hard to put that genie back in the box.  
Pinterest faces a lot of challengers – and recently cut the number of spammers and fake accounts on its system in an effort to clear its platform of unwanted elements.  There were major adjustments – and then they chose to start testing secret boards amidst very high-profile attention.
In trying to be all things to all people and please consumers Pinterest is inviting criticism – which could escalate into a larger issue. By only allowing users to create up to three of these Secret Boards (which won’t show up anywhere else in Pinterest), you’ll need to delete one or make one public before you can create another. You also can’t transfer any of your existing pins – far from ideal.
Now that users have been given a taste of ‘privacy on the internet,’ many will want a lot more of it. And that creates a fundamental challenge to Pinterest, because a large part of their strength is in the social reach and infrastructure that gives users – including businesses – a very public and visual platform to broadcast the things they like or that inspire them.
Pinterest depends on its public façade – hence by acknowledging the “privacy” issue, they face a tough decision.  It’s now near impossible to blend social sharing with privacy; it’s either one or the other, if you want to do it right. The genie is out of the box – and by launching Secret Boards, Pinterest has helped to shine the spotlight on private bookmarking platforms which guarantee unlimited privacy and focus more on the needs of the user, rather than social relevance.
There are other platforms – like Clipix.com – an online tool that organizes digital content in people’s lives – and enables privacy without limitations.
As Pinterest publicly admitted that privacy was so sorely desired that they created it they may be forced with a decision on which direction to take the business. People love Pinterest, but they also love privacy – without any limitations.
There is always a give and take in business.
 
Jonah Engler is an entrepreneur fascinated with the changes in social media.

Could this be the future of mobile PR?

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WiFi is everywhere. Not too long ago people rejoiced if they found a spot where they could connect to the net wirelessly. Now the tech is so common, it feels a bit like stepping back in time when a place doesn’t offer WiFi. It’s like a Dr. Seuss refrain. Where can you get WiFi? In a train and on a plane. In a car, both near and far. But is it really everywhere? Well, not quite…but things are going that way.
 
As this trend continues, and by all indications it will, soon people will be talking about WiFi deserts in the same pitying way they discuss food deserts. There will be charities dedicated entirely to bringing WiFi into “depressed areas.”
 
This move toward more WiFi is music to the ears of mobile users. Let’s face it, how much actual “phone using” do most people do anymore? The vast majority of current mobile users log on to social media, text, and stream data much more than they chat. With more WiFi available, that means less data being purchased from mobile carriers. Soon, people might be able to skip buying data plans completely.
 
What then, from the big four phone companies? Sure, they will find some way to turn a profit, but what will your mobile bill look like in ten years? Let’s peek across an ocean to see.
 
Over in Europe, many cell phone users have already begun to cancel their wireless carrier. Over there, WiFi is nearly unilateral, both accessible and imminently robust. Things are not that way in the United States…at least not yet.
 
Of course, there are also very real concerns about public WiFi safety. With more public access, hackers have more opportunities to access personal mobile devices. At least, that’s the assumption. And it’s tough to argue with the logic. Sure, connectivity companies are offering better security encryption, but we all know how that dance can go. They get better, then so do the hackers. They get smarter, and the bad guys find a “dumb” way to get around all that “smart.”
 
So, for now, the wireless companies are biding their time, while the cable companies are basking in the hope of turning their value added service into a staple, as well as something to replace plummeting basic cable revenues.

Ronn Torossian: FSU faces calls of favoritism after player gets wrist slapped

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A recent article by a New York Times reporter has the garnet and gold seeing red. According to the article, after an early morning celebration of yet another FSU victory, at least one FSU starter was involved in a hit and run accident. Not unusual on a hard partying campus after a celebration. Lots of folks have been there … but, of course, there’s more to the story.

According to the Tallahassee Police Department, the three occupants of the at-fault vehicle fled the scene. Subsequent reports have them returning and admitting guilt anywhere from half an hour to an hour later. What isn’t under dispute is that, at some point, the FSU campus police showed up. How much they had to do with how the case was handled from there is up for grabs at this point. What we do know is that the driver, whose license had been suspended for failure to pay a previous traffic citation, was only ticketed. Instead of being arrested for leaving the scene or, at the least tested for intoxication, the driver was ticketed and sent on his way AFTER the police learned who he was. Even more fishy, the record of the event failed to make it into the police computers, which list as public record citations and arrests.

The Times is calling cronyism and favoritism, implying without implicitly stating that the school is trying to sweep the incident under the rug. Hardly the first institution to do so … and hardly the first time a Seminole player has been caught up in a legal snafu. So, while the legal system ignores the issue, the court of public opinion is already in session. And as lawyers like Martin Russo or Marlen Kruzhkov would tell you, the court of law ain’t always quick.

FSU has fired back calling the reporter’s version of events unfair and lacking facts. Of course they did. Did anyone actually believe the school would come out and say, “Yes, so, I covered it all up for the good of the team.” Never going to happen.

At this point, the issue, much like that with Winston, will certainly not be decided until well after the season. At that point the law might throw the book at these players, but don’t count on it.

Ronn Torossian’s Final thoughts: The only thing that stands to suffer now is the school’s reputation. Not that Seminole fans will care too much if their team makes it back to the title game.

Ronn Torossian on Using Big Data in Public Relations

Big data has a great deal of relevancy in the marketing industry, and it also has plenty of important applications in the field of public relations. PR firms can benefit in their next strategies by paying close attention to some key points extracted from big data. Online statistics provide useful analytical information about which recent press releases reached the highest numbers of readers.Big-Data-Analytics

Various types of social media analytics can also provide helpful insights about who is writing what about a given brand at any given time. This part of big data can be especially useful in troubleshooting an unexpected public relations crisis. Reviews and mentions on social media sites are essential for building brand awareness, and public relations specialists need to know how to take relevant information from these statistics.


Selecting the Right Tools for Big Data and PR

New data management tools are becoming available every day, and improvements to existing ones happen just as quickly. Some of the most recommended data management tools for PR strategies include an enterprise level Google Analytics account, a SurveyMonkey account and a set of keyword-focused Google alerts to help PR specialists stay on top of every mention a brand gets across every type of website. A similar tool is Vocus, which tracks results of published press releases.

Recommended Actions for PR Professionals

Interaction across various social sites is vital for maintaining good customer relations. One recommended step is to respond to each review or mention with a short message thanking the posters for the feedback and asking for any further ideas they may have about how the brand can give them a better customer experience. Responding to negative comments and asking how to fix the problem is an excellent strategy to prevent a PR problem from becoming too widespread.

Big data may first appear to be a large amount of numbers and statistical measures, but the right tools allow a PR firm to sift meaningful information from it. This information can be invaluable for formulating more effective PR campaigns and strategies that bring more positive results. Keeping current on changes in social media trends and Google search algorithms is another important factor in getting the most out of big data in regards to improved PR strategies. Big data has already revolutionized many tactics in the marketing field, and public relations is sure to naturally follow the same path as the technology continues evolving.

Ronn Torossian on the Alex From Target Twitter Sensation

Alex Laboeuf, a 16-year-old from Texas has quickly become the latest twitter sensation. He instantly rose to fame after a young girl posted a picture of him working the check out at a Target store. The photo went viral and even gained its own hashtag, #alexfromtarget

The high school student now has over 600,000 followers on Twitter, and he was even flown to Los Angeles to make an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

His random rise to fame has many confused, including Ellen.

During his interview, Ellen asked, “Do you sing, do you have any other talents?”

“I can apparently bag groceries pretty well,” Labeouf replied.

According to Labeouf, he was also extremely suprised and confused by his nearly instantaneous rise to fame.

“These random girls that I had never met before came in and showed me my twitter page and it had 500,000 more followers, and I was just really confused,” Labeouf said.

After appearing on the show, many speculate that Labeouf will become even more famous, while others believe his fame will quickly fade.

CEO of 5W PR , Ron Torossian said “We’re telling him to take any deal he can get right now and to make sure he is saving his money.”

Torossian also believes it would benefit Target to use Labeouf in international advertisements.

Tech insider, Alyssa Bereznak said, “I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on Dancing With the Stars, or him getting his own Target sponsored Vine series.”

Bereznak feels that Labeouf has the potential, but there is no guarantee his fame will continue to rise.

“He could do a lot, but we don’t know if there’s any talent there so he could fizzle out pretty soon,” Bereznak said.

Some also speculate that the photo was posted as a publicity stunt dreamed up by Target.

“Let us be completely clear, we had absolutely nothing to do with the creation, listing or distribution of the photo. And we have no affiliation whatsoever with the company that is taking credit for its results,” Target officials said.

Labeouf and the young girl who posted the photo have also both denied having anything to do with a Target publicity stunt.

“I didn’t know the picture was taken or tweeted until my store manager showed it to me,” Labeouf said via Twitter.

Twitter users around the globe continue to use the #alexfromtarget hashtag and have even started posting their own photos of young, attractive retail workers.

The Toy Story Never Ends

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Pixar fans responded to last week’s announcement of a new Toy Story movie with decidedly mixed enthusiasm. CEO of 5WPR Ronn Torossian explains why, at least for the moment, the return of two of Disney’s most treasured characters might be too much too soon.

When Toy Story 3 ended, most movie fans declared it the perfect ending to the trilogy. Andy had passed his toys on to little Bonnie (setting up a sequel) and moved on to college. It was the ultimate emotional closure. Then came the shorts and the TV spots and the endless commercializing. And why not? The stars were toys, after all. Fans were more than content. They were loyal and they were legion.

But now, some of the original creators of the first movie have come back with a new Toy Story to tell.

It’s an interesting PR problem. While the third movie left a plotline wide open for a sequel on several fronts, the fans were utterly content to leave things as they were. They continued to buy Toy Story movies and memorabilia, and adults who grew up watching Toy Story are now introducing it to their young children. The marketing and PR was a perpetual motion machine that was just growing MORE profitable.

The original trilogy found new life on Amazon Prime, and Toy Story toys became constant sellers on just about every toy store shelf. The live action Toy Story productions and character interactions at Disney parks never lost popularity, even as both Disney and Pixar continued to hit it out of the park, movie after movie after movie. Even Frozen and Cars, popular as they have been, have not dimmed the ardor for the adventures of Woody and Buzz.

So, why a new movie? Well, according to director John Lasseter, he and co-conspirators Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, and Lee Unkrich could not stop thinking about the new idea they had. Despite all the reasons not too, that little itch kept growing, and now Buzz and Woody will be back and the Toy Story franchise will keep chugging along. To infinity and beyond.