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The Kilgannon Blog has moved! You can now access the blog from our website.

The new address is www.kilgannon.com/blog/

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The speed trap.

By now we all realize that technology has taken over. Information can be obtained at the speed of 4G. Mobile devices with GPS can pinpoint our every step. Not sure about something? Find the answer with your smartphone in a snap. These are all very convenient tools, and we would be hard-pressed to think about life without them. They have given us the ability to do more, but at what intellectual price?

As producers, we are getting information out there faster than ever, but what is sacrificed is the ability to connect and communicate with others in a meaningful way. We keep hurling more fill dirt into an ever-widening void. We’re like gluttons feasting on so many empty calories. It’s commonplace now to visit the home pages of most major news sites and see numerous “articles” about how to lose weight or top ten lists of the best sitcoms of the ‘80s, all replete with typos and the occasional nonsensical phrase. It’s classified as content. But, where’s the value? Do we really need to know these things? I’ll admit I quite often click on these items, not because it betters me in any way, but because it’s easy. What’s the harm? I think to myself.

None, really – at least not to the consumer of this information. The harm comes to the producers. The speed at which all this data is generated leaves too many opportunities for errors. And those errors will slowly diminish the credibility of a company. Being up-to-the-second and fresh is one thing, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the bigger picture–your brand.

Although we all feel the pressures of this digital age bearing down, it’s always a good idea to pause and take inventory of what we’re putting out there. Dig deeper, if necessary, to find at least a little piece of information that stands out and resonates with your audience–something that will stick to their proverbial ribs. The extra time will pay off in how your company is perceived and whether they come back for more.

– Kurt Miller, EVP, Executive Creative Director

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Crisis Communications Steps for the Social Media Era

It used to be that crisis communications managers had the power to “beat” the media cycle.  They had a window of time, albeit small, to gather the crisis team in a war room and assess the situation in order to craft and refine key message points for reporters.

The proliferation of citizen journalism and social media has changed how crises are covered, yet a majority of companies have not updated their crisis communications plan to reflect new strategies and techniques.  A recent study conducted by Gartner Communications revealed that 84.8 percent of companies worldwide have a general crisis communications plan; however, only 20.7 percent of them have a social media crisis plan.

Below are eight steps to remember when implementing a crisis communications plan in today’s environment:

  1. Act quickly – The “golden hour” of a traditional crisis communications plan is gone.  After assessing the situation, respond as quickly as possible in a rational, respectful manner.
  2. Listen and engage – Understand the motivation behind the posts.  Know what is being said and why, and respond appropriately.
  3. Be open and human – People want to see a human response to a crisis, not a formulaic or canned reply.  Gauge the sentiment in people’s posts, and validate their emotions in your response.  If the company is in the wrong, admit it.  The two little words that can quickly dispel a social media crisis are, “I’m sorry.”
  4. Use your judgment – Not every negative comment requires a response.  Look at a person’s history and their number of followers.  If they consistently post negative remarks, think twice about engaging with them.  Do engage with someone who has a respectable track record, and know when to disengage.  Sometimes continued contact can be counterproductive.
  5. Fix the problem – If the crisis is bringing a problem to your attention, admit it, address it, and fix it.  If something isn’t really wrong but someone perceives that it is wrong, remember that perception is everything.  Take the opportunity to educate them in a helpful, considerate way.
  6. Allow negative comments – Do not delete negative comments.  You will only fuel the fire.  People will post negative comments elsewhere and voice their opposition to your company for deleting their original posts.
  7. Know when to take it offline – If there is one person leading the cause, suggest a one-on-one conversation via phone or e-mail.  Remember that e-mails can be reposted, so be careful what you type.
  8. Become the information hub – Create a page where you post stories on the issue, both positive and negative.  Bring in a Twitter feed and other real-time feeds of people talking about the issue.  You can’t control the conversation, but you can control the placement of the conversation on your page.  Make your opinion prominently seen.

Is your company prepared for a crisis played out in social media?  To ensure an “issue” doesn’t escalate into a crisis, it is mandatory to monitor key social media outlets 24/7.  There are several free tools available such as Google Alerts, Technorati, and Blogpulse.  For companies with a budget for monitoring, check out BuzzLogic, Radian6, and Trackur.

– Debbie Dryden, VP, Thought Leadership

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Do QR codes make great marketing tools?

In a recent post, I asked what people thought would be the hottest trend in 2011. A lot of responses discussed the popularity of location-based social networking sites, but there were also quite a few mentions of QR codes.

QR codes are those interesting, fuzzy-looking squares that you may have seen pop up recently on

qrcodeproduct containers, convenience store shelving, or even online. First established in Japan in 1994, the QR code is a 2-dimensional barcode consisting of black elements arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The intent is to scan data at very high speeds, usually with a camera phone or barcode reader. Due to an estimate projecting that, in 2012, more smartphones will be sold than PCs, QR codes are going to affect the way websites are designed and products are promoted.

Take an athletic shoe product, for example. At the next World Shoe Association trade show, a company can add a simple QR code to its handout, which links to a sweepstakes landing page providing key information or even a special offer. Or perhaps it can be taken further to incorporate the product and the use of a durable hiking shoe by creating a QR scan treasure hunt – where each scan links to a new splash page featuring a clue to the next one.

QR codes can be used to swap contact information. Instead of exchanging business cards, a single QR code can be scanned, and the contact information will save to your smartphone.

As this technology becomes more and more popular, there are a few ideas that should be considered to optimize results:

  1. Offer exclusive prizes, offers, or information to those scanning the QR code that are different than what is available to everyone else.
  2. Optimize the website for mobile-browsing.
  3. Include an obvious call-to-action so that the audience is encouraged to scan the code.
  4. Establish a plan to engage people who scan the code over time, rather than a one-time promotion.

The important idea to remember is that QR codes create a new opportunity to enhance the relationship with a customer/prospect who has already engaged with the brand, building positive word of mouth or even a future sale.

– Jonathan Ginburg, Senior Account Executive

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Communications plan or connections plan. Using connection planning to target and engage customers during the buying cycle.

When most marketers develop a communications plan, they start with their product or service, determining the target audience that represents the greatest revenue opportunity.  Smart marketers dig deeper to identify target insights, high-opportunity vertical segments or underdeveloped regions.

But if you want your marketing to go a step further and truly engage with customers, you should establish rich connections based on where they are in the purchase cycle.  This dimension is especially important if you are promoting a product with a long sales cycle, or a B2B brand.

For a prospect to consider selecting your brand, you must first establish a base level of knowledge and trust.  One quarter of the U.S. respondents to Edelman’s 11th Annual Trust Barometer indicated that they needed to hear something about a company 6+ times before they believe it.  Note that they said “hear,” not “be exposed to.”  With advertising exposure exceeding 3,000 messages per day, it is critical that marketers connect with prospects, rather than simply shout at them.

To start creating a connection plan, consider how your brand relates to prospects in each of these stages:

Unaware and Unengaged:  This is the largest, but also the most passive target group.  They have unmet needs, but have yet to begin actively looking for a solution.

Increasingly Interested:  This group has started to show interest in your category and may be attending trade shows, beginning to read relevant articles or looking for informational webinars.

Actively Searching:  Prospects who are actively searching are driven by a pressing need.  They are researching specific solutions and beginning to establish impressions of brands that best fit that need.

Confirming Credentials and Chemistry: This group is actively going through the RFP process (whether formal or not), narrowing their options and determining which brand has the right solution at the right price.

Establishing the Relationship:  Communications shouldn’t stop when the sale is made.  The value that current users place on the relationship will make or break both referrals and incremental sales.

By customizing the media and message to align with each of these stages in the purchase cycle, marketers will have the foundation for a powerful, multi-touchpoint connection plan.

-          Pamela J. Alvord, EVP Managing Director of Strategy and Operations

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Is social media changing your world?

We’re in the midst of some rather transformative times. Especially if you happen to live in the Middle East.  Some are crediting Facebook and Twitter as key catalysts that helped to overthrow a 40-year dictatorship in Egypt. This phenomenon has spread throughout the Arab world from Yemen to Bahrain and is currently erupting in Libya. You can follow the revolution on Twitter.

And last year, we witnessed a revolution in Iran from our social media accounts.  Marshall McLuhan believed that all media is transformative – that when you engage it, it changes you. Social media has indeed changed the flow of information to a more democratic forum – especially in more closed societies.

I believe that social media is having an effect on all our relationships. Will it ultimately change the world for the better? I hope so. But one thing I do know is I will not be watching CNN while it happens.

Tips for following events in social media:

  1. Check trending topics on Twitter.
  2. Create a column in Tweetdeck and use it to search a popular hashtag like #libia.
  3. Search YouTube for uploaded mobile video.
  4. Check Facebook for any pages that protesters are posting to.

Don’t assume that people who are not from your country spell the same way you do.  Arabic words, especially, have many translations.

– Jimmy Gilmore, Senior Copywriter

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Checking the Press in a Digital Age

The digital press check can be markedly different than the traditional press check. In a majority of instances, you never have to leave your office. Here are some basic tips to follow to ensure that you’ll have a successful experience.

1) What You See Is What You Get – When you review a proof for a digital press job, you’ll be looking at an actual press sheet printed from the digital press. And this is a key difference between digital printing and traditional printing.  The digital press gives the printer the capability of showing you exactly what you can expect on the actual paper you’ll be printing on.  While some proofing systems can run on the actual paper and generally serve the same purpose, you would have to go on a press check to make sure you’re getting an accurate representation of your client’s material.  With digital printing, you can check the sheet at your desk.

2) I Can See Clearly Now – Just like any traditional press check, you should carefully check for all the basics like type, color, clarity, crop marks, and any other potential problem areas.  Since you’re checking an actual press sheet, use a set of the color printouts of the final file you sent to the printer – this will give you something to check against, just in case there was an issue with the file.

3) The Times They Are A-Changing – Digital printing is the perfect fit when you’re using variable data to reach your client’s prospects. Look at the position of the variable data to make sure it is consistent in placement. Ask your printer to bring you several different press sheets so you can see a variety of line lengths for the names, addresses, and any other area that changes.  Remember to watch for type that might reflow in a paragraph due to length of the variable data.

4) Every Picture Tells a Story, Don’t It – When you have to “color match” a digitally printed piece that was previously printed on a traditional press, ask your printer to run some test sheets so you can see if you need to make any file adjustments. You may encounter this situation from time to time, so it is worth the minimal expense to maintain your client’s brand integrity.

– Tim Kedzierski, Production Manager

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