Archive for the ‘Commerce’ Category

The World According to Ringo

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
The World According to Ringo

Every year or so Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band hit the road to bring cheer and nostalgia to boomers and their kids. After 17 studio recordings under his own name and a career spanning more than 50 years, the former Beatle has amassed a large catalog of songs that reveal a philosopher as well as a lovable mug. Finger bling and peace signs aside, the guy delivers some sobering wisdom for those who look beneath the mirth. It may sound simple, ordinary, even natural, but practicing his philosophy is more complex than it sounds.

Here’s what I’ve learned since I saw him sitting there, a generation ago on the Ed Sullivan Show:

  • Have a heart. “Maybe I haven’t always been there just for you,” he sings on “Weight of the World.” “Maybe I try but then I got my own life, too.” Ah, remorse and regret, the terrible twins who visit the conscientious all too often. Ringo chose career over companions when he went on tour, as many corporate road warriors do today. While acknowledging that you have to pay your dues, Ringo counsels compassion. Give yourself, and others, a break. “But no matter what you choose, choose love.”
  • Give peace a chance. “Last night I had a peace dream,” he sings in “Peace Dream.” “No need for war no more/Better things we’re fighting for.” Like efforts to minimize hunger and pain. And while he often advocates for global harmony, he also emphasizes the need for inner peace. “I’ve got to remember some days when I feel sad/Nothing lasts forever, and everything must pass,” he sings on “Y Not.”
  • Let go. So things don’t work out. “Ev’ry time I see your face/It reminds me of the places we used to go,” he sings on one of his signature songs, “Photograph.” “But all I got is a photograph/And I realize you’re not coming back anymore.” Time to leave the twins behind, along with all of the other baggage. Forgiveness helps. “It all comes down to who you crucify,” he sings in “Weight of the World.” “You either kiss the future or the past goodbye.”

Good advice for people of good will. All you have to do is act naturally.

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Housing’s New Job: Rebuilding the Economy

Monday, April 8th, 2013
Housing's New Job: Rebuilding the Economy

Here’s something we haven’t heard in the last five years: while government and retail shed jobs, builders continue to add them.

A closer look at the numbers shows a split recovery. While the overall economy added 88,000 jobs in March, three areas lost workers that month: government (7,000), retail (24,000) and manufacturing (3,000). Since the start of 2011, government has shed 391,000 jobs, and millions of workers continue to leave the labor force, according to figures quoted in the Wall Street Journal.

The opposite is happening in the building trades. Reflecting the growing recovery in the U.S. housing market, the construction industry added 18,000 positions in March and a healthy 169,000 since last September. That brings construction’s cumulative gain since 2011 to 367,000, beating the 357,000 gain in manufacturing.

Those figures reflect increasing activity in the market. Privately owned housing starts in February stood at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 917,000, 27.7 percent above the February 2012 rate of 718,000, the U.S. Census Bureau reports. Sales of existing homes and condos have also grown, from 4.52 million to 4.98 million over the same period.

While the economy still faces headwinds, housing looks like it’s building a solid foundation for recovery.

The Revolution Will Not Be Printed

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013
The Revolution Will Not Be Printed

It’s easy to believe that since print survived radio and television it will survive the Internet. After listening to Barry Dawson, I’m not so sure. Or to take a more nuanced approach, I’m not sure it will continue to influence the culture and the economy to the extent it has since Gutenberg invented movable type more than 500 years ago.

Certainly print works better for some content and some eyes, but not news. Its immediacy seeks out the fastest and most flexible medium, and digital tools deliver. Combine original content, new distribution channels and innovative marketing and you have a potentially profitable business, as well as an alternative to ink.

Barry DawsonThat brings us to Dawson, a resident of the West End of Monroe County, a rural area of the Pocono Mountains in Northeast Pennsylvania. Long inhabited by the descendants of German and Dutch settlers, the area best known for woodlands and resorts continues to transition to a bedroom community for metropolitan New York and New Jersey. Several papers, radio and television stations cover the region but shifts in the economy and the culture have gutted their newsrooms.

Enter the digital entrepreneur. Dawson grew up in the West End, moved to North Carolina and returned to take a job in radio promotion with a pair of stations in the nearby Lehigh Valley. He has local knowledge, knows how to bypass channel surfers by embedding commercial messages in programs and lives on his mobile phone. Combining those assets, he bought a police scanner, became a reluctant reporter and launched westendsupporter.com and westendradio101.com. He also integrated his site with accounts at Facebook and other networks as a way to drive traffic and measure results.

Dawson believes that with its speed to market, digital news will eventually replace printed news. It’s a natural fit. Blending content and commerce creates a viable business model. Only time and his bank account will prove him right. Meanwhile, here are five conclusions I’ve drawn from his venture:

  1. Digital trumps print for speed and relevance
  2. Mobile devices trump PCs for optimum news delivery
  3. Micro content beats state, national and international news for gaining followers
  4. In our attention-deficit culture, product integration trumps advertising
  5. For marketers, digital offers the precise measurement of the effectiveness of the ad spend.

Where do you find your news? And do you think print and the people who produce it will dwindle in importance?

Retail Therapy

Friday, March 15th, 2013
Retail Therapy

How do you compete effectively in the retail space? Listen to Sarasota’s Jesse Balaity and take a page from the Apple playbook: Think different. You can download the Acrobat file here.

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Retail Therapy

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013
Retail Therapy

Many brick-and-mortar stores struggle in the Internet age, and new shopping centers present challenges to established retailers. Enter Jesse Balaity, owner of Balaity Property Enhancement in Sarasota. With a master’s in architecture and a decade of experience, he designs and manages projects in retail, mixed-use and hospitality. In Sarasota, he has consulted on the new Diamond Vault building and Touch of Africa on St. Armands Circle. His newest project, Carats Fine Jewelry & Watches on Bay Road, opens soon.

Read the Q&A at BIZ(941).

Non-profits can profit from social media

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013
Non-profits can profit from social media

How can non-profit organizations use social media to further their cause? Writing in Great Britain’s The Guardian, David Lawrance, head of development at The Clare Foundation, says that charities and other non-commercial organizations can boost donations and energize volunteers . . . if they adopt the practices of the business world.

“A recent survey showed that UK charitable organisations have doubled their supporters on key social media channels in the past year,” he writes. “Yet, for many charities, the vastness of the social media landscape is too daunting to venture into.”

The solution, he says, is “to bring established commercial methods, business expertise and entrepreneurism to the voluntary sector.” As PR and social media strategist for a U.S-based marketing agency, I work with for-profit and non-profit organizations to plan and execute their entry into the world of social marketing. Lawrance’s strategy can work for both sectors. I’ve condensed his approach into three key points:

  • Choose your network based on its audience. LinkedIn attracts professionals. It’s a great place to establish your expertise with key opinion leaders, including the media, who can spread your message. Facebook attracts a sociable audience eager to share personal information. With its punchy headlines and live links, Twitter can serve as a hybrid between those two, as well as a news feed for your organization.
  • Make an emotional connection. Show the people you’re helping. Their stories will motivate volunteers and sway donors. “Donations will be more forthcoming if [services] could help somebody just like them/their mum/their child/their pet/their friend,” Lawrance says.
  • Use supporters as ambassadors to amplify the message. Encourage supporters to “like”, re-tweet, send links, write blogs and upload photos and video. They have greater credibility with their peers. Let them tell your story.

Non-profits can profit from social media. They just need to get down to business.

Jeff Widmer is a PR and social media strategist.

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Through the looking glass

Thursday, February 21st, 2013
Through the looking glass

Google Glass: altering marketing as well as reality.

Creatives without borders

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
Creatives without borders

“Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great, creative people.”
– Leo Burnett

At a breakfast meeting of a nonprofit organization dedicated to good deeds, Ed started talking about a funeral. A friend had died and the family didn’t have the money for burial. So Ed and another DJ put together a benefit and in less than 24 hours raised thousands of dollars for the family. Ed’s a DJ who does karaoke for the local bars. With wild hair and wiry beard, he looks more like a deer hunter than an artist. Yet he developed an innovative solution to a problem that would have challenged most of us.

Later that day, NPR broadcast the story of an out-of-work scientist who raised $25,000 to research the effect of drugs on the brain through an avenue not associated with medical research: crowd-funding. Two days before, the ASPCA hosted a live dating show on Twitter called Puppy Love that matched potential owners with pets . . . just in time for Valentine’s Day.

That isn’t what we’d expect from a night owl, a scientist and a pet shelter. And that raises an interesting point: who do we consider creative? The art director who concepts a campaign or the surgeon who reroutes the body’s plumbing? If we don’t paint or act or play an instrument, if society doesn’t sanction our work with a degree or title, do we even consider ourselves creative?

“If you put fences around people, you get sheep,” William McKnight, former chairman of the board of 3M, once said. “Give people the room they need.”

And the credit they deserve.

Getting a grip on the grippe

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013
Getting a grip on the grippe

You’ve had an inoculation and you’re still concerned about contracting the flu. Aside from living in a bubble or wearing a mask, technology can only do so much to protect you. If you do get sick, these three smartphone apps might help speed relief.

  • iTriage. The app lets you diagnose symptoms, identify an illness and book an appointment with the appropriate doctor. HCA West Florida Division uses iTriage to promote its 15 hospitals, including Blake Medical Center, Doctors Hospital of Sarasota and Englewood Community Hospital. Sarasota Memorial Health Care System uses AppBrain to provide users with a dynamic listing of its services, locations and physicians. Venice Regional Medical Center uses ER Extra to let users see the current emergency room wait time for the hospital and receive a map and directions to the facility.
  • RXmindMe Prescription. The app tells users when to take their medicine and offers nine types of reminders, from daily and weekly to a customizable schedule.
  • ZocDoc. A more social version than the others, ZocDoc allows users to check a doctor’s availability, view his or her credentials and rate the experience after the visit.

If that doesn’t work, take two aspirin and have the smartphone call you in the morning.

Jeff Widmer is a PR and social media strategist.

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3 Steps to Creating Social Networks

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013
3 Steps to Creating Social Networks

I’d just finished writing a social media strategy for a rather large healthcare company when my client asked: how are we going to implement this?

One step at a time.

A week later I think we have a solid plan for launching the network, first with employees, then with their customers and prospects. While developing those tactics I’ve come to a few conclusions—three to be exact.

  1. Promote the network. If you build it, will anyone show? Not unless you publicize it. Actively connect to, follow or like the key opinion leaders and media in your industry. And don’t rule out help from the other marketing disciplines—media planning, web development, public relations and direct marketing. Depending on your industry, an integrated, balanced campaign can drive traffic more effectively than an all-digital approach.
  2. Create your own content. Once you’ve attracted an audience you’ll need to work to keep visitors engaged. Providing original content, and allowing visitors to add their own material, will give them a reason to return.
  3. Measure the results. Whether you’re working with for-profit or non-profit organizations, buy-in is essential. Senior management looks for progress over time. Define realistic metrics and deliver them.

Jeff Widmer is a PR and social media strategist.

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