While Digital Media is the Future, Traditional Media is Still the King

I am inundated daily with information on how to use digital media as a marketing tool.  And for the record, I'm one of the biggest digital and social media advocates you'll ever find.  While the channels and platforms will likely continue to change over time, digital media usage isn't going away.  Therefore, it should continue to be a part of any integrated marketing campaign.  However, with a few exceptions, it should still only play a supporting role...for now.

To reach the largest number of consumers in your targeted population, traditional media, like TV and radio, is still King.  I wouldn't even rule out "print" if we can still call it that.  While print in its traditional form (paper) is on its last legs, traditional print content is still available online, where its usage is quickly growing.

According to findings from a recent study conducted by Barkley, in partnership with Service Management Group and The Boston Consulting Group, to no one's surprise, Millenials are substituting the use of traditional TV and print with more online media consumption.  However, one must note that Millenials are STILL watching TV and reading articles; they're just doing it more on their laptops.

Additionally, while only 26% of Millenials indicate that they watch more than 20 hours of traditional live TV each week, 49% of Non-Millenials do.

And while the face of traditional radio is also changing with the advent of iTunes and Pandora, traditional radio is still the preferred medium of choice in the car with Gen Xers and Gen Yers. Additionally, the use of online radio has almost doubled since 2006 going from 1.3% to 3.7% of all radio usage, according to SNL Kagan.  And in many cases, online radio is nothing more than an audio stream of terrestrial radio content.

So while the face of traditional media may look a little different, its viability as an advertising channel is still very strong!  Continue to study and integrate social and digital media as a marketing tool, but don't throw all of your eggs in that basket just yet.

You too can make a profit off a natural disaster!

Who would have ever guessed that Washington, DC and the majority of the American northeast would experience an earthquake and a hurricane in the same week?!

Are the planets aligning?  Is the Mayan calendar coming to an end?  Are cats and dogs sleeping together?

Whatever the case may be, from a marketing standpoint, it is creating an opportunity like no other, IF you are smart enough and fast enough to capitalize on it.

Grocery stores, hardware stores and gas stations are making a killing this week.  Anyone on the east coast who isn't advertising on the local news/talk radio station or the weather channel is missing the boat!

Are you offering earthquake, hurricane or "earthicane" specials?

Goodwill of Greater Washington will soon be selling "I survived the DC earthquake of 2011" tee shirts on its Facebook page.  Who doesn't want a keepsake commemorating one of the rarest occurences in a lifetime?

So whether you're reviewing your crisis management plans or celebrating during your hurricane parties, spend a few minutes thinking about how your company can benefit from the aftermath.  There is always money to be made if you're quick enough to react or proactive enough to anticipate.

Disclaimer:  While my comments are intended to be humorous, my objective is not to make light of a very dangerous situation.  However, sometimes a little levity can help make difficult circumstances more manageable. I thank God that the damage from the recent earthquake was extremely minimal.  And I pray that damage and loss of life from Hurricane Irene are just as minimal.

Why you should spend more time at the bar when attending your next conference...

The best learning at a professional development conference is often not done in the classroom; it's done on the bus and at the bar.  And I say that with all sincerity!

I recently returned from a national marketing conference where I was asked to sit on a mobile marketing panel.  It was an excellent three days.  I learned as much from the people in my session as I hope they learned from me.

There were several very good workshops where I gleaned some useful information that will help me as I continue to try to improve my organization's marketing strategies and enhance my personal knowledge.

However, as I was reflecting on the event during the plane ride home, and was looking at the action steps I considered the highest priorities, I discovered that all of them except one came from a conversation I had with someone...outside the classroom.  One came during a conversation at the bar, one came from a conversation on a bus ride to a site visit, one came over a cup of coffee in between sessions, and one came from someone who was sitting in my session trying to learn from ME!

I'm not dismissing the value of the information I gathered at the workshops and panel discussions.  There was some great idea sharing and thought provoking content.  However, the broader professional development sessions generally tend to center more on philosophical or conceptual ideas.  Often times programs consist of case studies with presenters explaining "what and why", but not "how".  And sometimes sessions will focus on data sharing, that while interesting, isn't adequately translated into an action plan.

But the casual conversations with peers, outside a formal setting, often tend to generate organic, actionable ideas that result from shared challenges.  Sometimes the person I spoke with already had a solution that I thought would work for us.  Other times, our impromptu brainstorming resulted in a strategy that we both thought might work well for us independently or by leveraging our combined assets.

Why?  Because typically these conversations are just that...conversations!  Both parties are listening, speaking and debating.  In a professional workshop, everyone in the room but the presenter/s is listening, while only one person is speaking.  It's not a two way dialogue. Yes, there is often time for Q & A at the end of a session, but sharing that opportunity with 20 or 30 other people doesn't really allow for a meaningful discourse. 

Here is an idea that conference planners may wish to adopt in the future:  Allow for one on one time with every presenter.  Schedule it almost like a speed networking session but for longer periods of time (perhaps 15 minutes).  Attendees can register for individual consultations during the conference.  While it may seem unreasonable to expect a speaker to spend an entire day in one on one sessions with guests, some may actually appreciate it, as they are often business executives using these speaking opportunities for prospecting anyway.  For those that don't wish to participate, make it optional.  Having spoken at many conferences, my guess is that most presenters will be willing to give up a couple of hours.  The majority of attendees may not take advantage of the opportunity, but for those who do, it will be a tremendous benefit.

Next time you attend a conference, don't judge the overall value based solely on what you learn sitting in meeting rooms.  Judge it based on what you learn both inside AND outside the meeting rooms.  I think you'll find the conference to be more beneficial than expected.

Improving Your Communication Skills

In my line of work, having well-developed communication skills is a requirement.  Counselors are trained to be active listeners, reiterate what we hear the other person has said, and to respond without giving advice or bringing our opinions or feelings into it.

The result is open, mutually-respectful communication where both people feel heard and understood, and a positive rapport develops

Keeping the balls in the air: Juggling college with the rest of your life

We all lead busy lives.  (I know...duh.)  We have many responsibilities to ourselves and others that take up a good deal of our time.  Having a full-time job, a spouse or significant other, kids, going out with friends, volunteer activities, caring for a sick family member...all of these contribute to our very full schedules.  Don't you sometimes wonder how we get it all done in the 168 hours

When the glass is half-full: The benefits of living with a positive attitude

"Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference."  (Winston Churchill)
Attending college is an awesome and wonderful experience, yet it causes a lot of anxiety and worry for many students.  You may worry about being able to cut it, whether you've got what it takes to see it all the way through to graduation (let alone to the end of the semester).  In a nutshell...

Having a positive

Personal Space Etiquette

(Video courtesy of YouTube)
Ever been annoyed when standing next to someone who doesn’t understand the concept of personal space? There you are standing, minding your own business and next thing you know, you feel someone’s breath on the back of your neck or they're standing so close you can tell what they ate for lunch.  Don't you wish you could just say, "Hey, buddy, you need to back the [bleep

Sorry Seth, but you don't understand the nuances of nonprofit marketing!

Seth Godin posted a blog entry yesterday claiming that charitable agencies need to place a greater focus on the community benefits that come from making a donation. His assertion is that nonprofits don't do a good job of promoting the personal reward that comes from supporting one's community, instead placing too much emphasis on providing tangible benefits in exchange for giving.

While his intentions are honorable, Seth's assessment and understanding of nonprofit marketing are surprisingly incomplete. 

I’m not suggesting that giving out a nifty tote bag will drive donations, but it may be enough to convince someone to give one organization their charitable dollars over another organization just as deserving. On the other hand, it may work against you, since many donors don’t want charities to spend their money on gifts. They want them to spend their money on the mission. But every donor is different.  And while many may claim they are donating to be philanthropic, just as many donors still take full advantage of the tax deduction they receive for their donation.  Does that make their gift any less honorable?  Of course not.  But they're still recieving a tangible benefit in exchange for their gift.  The only difference between the tote bag and the tax deduction is that the tax deduction is coming from the government, not the charity.

My point is that Godin's argument is overly simplified and doesn’t take into account the complexity of convincing a donor to choose one charitable organization over another.  We live in a very competitive environment, and every charity is fighting for its survival, just as corporations are.  There are a lot of good charities that fund great causes.  Which one should you support? A charitable agency can pitch the personal rewards of giving all day long, but if the message doesn't resonate with donors or prospects, a group sometimes has to shift gears and find another way to gain access to charitable dollars. If that happens to come in the form of a Persian rug discounted at a silent auction…so what? It’s bringing in money that at the end of the day is still helping an important cause.

Many businesses do not give to charity purely for the philanthropic rewards that come from doing so.  Corporate Social Responsibility is a strategic business decision to help position practitioners as good corporate citizens in order to convert their customers and prospects into brand advocates. In many cases the community benefits are secondary to the corporate reputation.  By allowing employees to take days off for service projects, many businesses aren't just trying to make a difference in the lives of others.  They're also seeking stronger employee loyalty in an effort to reduce turnover and improve productivity.  So what?  Does that make the corporate effort any less meaningful?  Of course not.  So why shouldn't a charitable agency promote the tangible benefits of supporting it, whether it be in the form of an improved bottom line or a tote bag?

There are many reasons why people give to charities. While the mission will always be (and should always be) the driving message, an organization cannot survive using a one size fits all strategy. It has to understand the motivations of the individual. Of all people, I would think Seth Godin should understand that.

Personally, I completely disagree with Seth's assessment that many nonprofits are ineffective in communicating the community benefits of giving.  I think that by and large, most charitable agencies do a very good job of it.  However, those subjective rewards are not always enough, especially in a challenging economy where every competitive advantage can make a difference.  It requires that nonprofit agencies diversify their sources of income by finding new and innovative ways to generate revenue. 

At Goodwill of Greater Washington, the community benefits continue to be the primary message used in its cash appeals, but they are a secondary message in its retail and donated goods appeals. The majority of Goodwill's retail customers aren’t shopping in its stores to benefit the charity or the community. They’re shopping to benefit themselves and their families.  They're trying to find quality, low cost goods that will allow them to stretch every dollar.  Many of Goodwill's household goods donors aren’t donating to help the community either.  They’re donating out of convenience because they don’t want to throw their items in the trash or because they want a tax deduction.  And that's fine with Goodwill!  So for a marketer to ignore the true motivations behind the reasons a donor gives is simply foolish.

I can tell you this with 100% certainty:  If congress were to eliminate the tax deduction for the donation of household goods, those donations would all but dry up, and our landfills would overflow.  Look at what happened after the tax laws on vehicle donations changed only a few years ago. Donations dropped by 40% virtually overnight.  Was that because charities did a poor job of promoting the community benefits of donating a car?  Of course not.  It was because the tangible benefit for making the gift disappeared.

So while I appreciate Seth's sentiment, he should give nonprofit marketers a little more credit for understanding the nuances of securing disposable funds in a very challenging economy.  The importance of the mission is critical, but it simply isn't enough anymore.

Trying to reach affluent consumers online? Provide free content!

According to a recent article in the Biz Report, new research from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), shows that affluent consumers "are more willing to share information to allow the customization of ads that accompany free digital content."

The article goes on to say that, "Despite their affluence, they prefer free ad-supported content to having to pay for the privilege. The IAB's study found that affluents appreciate the relationship between free content and advertising more so than the general population (72% vs. 61%). As such, they are more willing to share personal information to help create a more relevant online experience (32% vs. 23%)."  I guess they didn't become affluent by spending frivilously.

Most affluent consumers tend to use much less traditional media than less affluent consumers, and are much more likely to be online using digital media.

So what does this mean for today's marketer?  It means that digital channels, and mobile channels in particular, may be the long sought after solution for reaching and activating an audience ($100,000+ AI) that spends 3x more than other consumer populations.

Digital content providers listen up!  If you really want to make money off your app or website, perhaps charging a subscription fee isn't the best option, assuming you want to reach consumers with plenty of disposable income.  Advertising is still a relevant revenue stream.  You just have to stop using 1995 business models.

Maybe it's time to regroup.  I'm just sayin'...