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Cornerstone Communications, ltd is a strategic public relations and marketing communications firm specializing in small to mid-size business growth, branding, strategic communications, reputation marketing, and more.



Preparing To Market Your Business In 2018

Brooke Greenwald

It’s almost November and both companies – and people – are planning their marketing and sales efforts for 2018.  While 2017 was the year of backlinks, funnels, and downloadable content, personalization is the driver for 2018.  Regardless of how you want to reach your targets next year, it’s important to maintain the inside track on their needs before that first call is ever made. 


There are so many different ways to do this, but the most efficient way is through the use of intent signal data.  For those of you that don’t know about this yet, intent signals come from the digital trail we leave behind as we search Google, and other sites, across the Internet for information on any given subject.  Companies can trace these digital breadcrumbs, aggregate them together, and now, in real-time, create a picture of a company’s needs, and even their purchasing timing.  By using reliable intent signal data, a company can recognize when a given target is seeking more and more information on a key subject or area, and then personalize their information, show their value, and build trust with a target, even before the first sales call.

Technology, when used properly, enables us to get in front of a sale, but its true partner is personalization.  Personalization engages the reader, builds trust with him/her, and enables us to present, for lack of a better way of saying this, a digital welcome mat, everywhere from a website, to a downloadable document, and beyond.  The secret is out.  When we personalize an experience for someone, they are more engaged.  Every analyst firm has discussed this and continues to do so. 


Considering this, and understanding that companies are planning their marketing for 2018 now, it’s a good time to address some of the areas where personalization truly makes a difference.  Here are the Top 5 places that personalization can really enhance your sales and marketing efforts.


1)    Your Website.  Personalizing the visit to your website means longer, stronger engagement with your content.  This can be done in many ways – from a welcome pop-up to a personalized page.  Whatever route you choose, remember your goal should be long-term engagement.

2)    Email.  Did you know that MarketingLand gathered data this year and discovered that “Personalized emails deliver six times higher transaction rates but 70% of brands fail to use them?”  This is a stunning statistic when you think about it.  Even scarier in their analysis is the fact that “70% of brands fail to use them.”  If we could improve this staggering statistic by even 25% that would mean a staggering increase in both responsiveness which, in turn, translates to more sales.  A great way to do this is to send emails from a person to a person.  It may sound simple but, time and time again, studies have shown that the majority of companies forget this key common sense-based tactic.

3)    Create targeted LinkedIn Company Product Page Variations.  LinkedIn company pages are a great tool for personalizing products and services.  They are easy to put together and you can even create personalized messages where based on demographic information such as industry, job function, and more.  This is an excellent way to target different products to different users, and to add or change your content regularly, from special offers to newsworthy information.

4)    Respond to customers and prospects in social media.  Social media is not only timely, but also another excellent way to personalize content and show responsiveness to readers.  Make sure your social media is being monitored in real-time, so you can answer questions, include additional information that has never been seen before, or engage industry thought leaders on your behalf.  Don’t forget to tag a prospect or company in your social media positively…they’ll see your tag, which makes your job much easier.

5)    Personalize your blogging experience.  Writing about something you are an expert about in your blogs is important; getting an industry expert or thought leader to contribute is even better.  Use the intelligence you’ve gathered on your targets to create your blog calendar and fill it.  If you know what information your targets are learning about, and you fit the bill, include a blog on the subject.  When you show you are an industry expert, your targets become more engaged with you, and realize you can solve their problem, not to mention as the industry thought leader you are. 


In short, personalizing your engagement is actually much easier than it seems.  Creativity, ingenuity, and timely tactics will help any company effectively market themselves – or their products in 2018.  When planning your marketing and sales efforts, consider these tips.  You’ll increase your engagement, build trust with your audience, and get the word out about your business -- in real-time.   


The ABC's of Social Media: What's It Really All About?

Brooke Greenwald

Sure, social media is a great way to connect with family and friends around the globe. You can catch up current events, vacations, children’s milestones, and more. However, for social media marketing, it’s a whole lot more. Not only are sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Instagram, important ways to connect with your clients, they also are vital to growing your business and promoting your products and services.


Why Your Business Needs Social Media

Did you know that more than 80 percent of B2B marketers use at least one form of social media to promote their business? It doesn’t matter what you are selling or even to whom you are selling. When you use social media as a marketing tool, it will have a positive effect on your brand and your company.

Nonetheless, there is still that 20 percent of marketers who have dug in their heels, and prefer to use methods that have worked for years. However, the world is changing, and the need for social media is greater than ever.  Here are some of the things you may not have though about with respect to social media.


·      Social Media drives targeted traffic to your doorstep.   Your social media page shows off your business to the world. A well-placed post can make a huge difference and bring in traffic you may not have expected.

·      It leads to real relationships.   The interactions you have on sites such as Instagram and Twitter can help you gain insight to who your customers are, what they are buying, and what kind of posts they want to read and share. It also gives you an idea to what your competitors are doing.

·      Customers are receptive to your messages through social media.  Because most people use social media to connect with others, they usually won’t see your posts as advertisements. Therefore, they are more likely to hear your message and share it with their followers and friends.

·      Social media gets you noticed! If your company sponsors a fundraiser or attends a trade show, you can announce your presence via social media. Updating your pages during events helps as well.

·      It builds brand loyalty.  If you have a strong and active social media presence, you will gain more loyal customers especially when you are engaging and interacting. You will look less like a business and more like a person sharing your vision.

·      Most importantly, it creates a level playing field.   Although some brands have larger budgets, all companies start off on equal footing when it comes to social media. To succeed, you will have to crate useful, cleaver, and attention-getting tactics, as well as link-worthy content.


Why Social Media Is Important

Social media is important to businesses because your brand cannot exist online if you don’t have representation on social channels. It also allows you to interact with your followers, thought leaders, and potential clients.

It is also fun. You can host a Twitter or Facebook chat to introduce a new product line or service. You can also create pop-culture polls for your followers to chime in on as a way to boost traffic and build brand awareness.

For more information on Cornerstone Communications, please visit or email us at


Resonating in 2017 And Beyond

Brooke Greenwald

2017 is the year of brand marketing.  Now more than ever, it’s important for marketers to look outside the box when creating brand messaging that really resonates with customers. Like many other professionals, marketers can get into a rut from time to time trying to find new and innovative brand messaging with which to sell a new product or service. They can’t find that deep, emotional connection with an audience that’s needed to be successful.


Marketing Brand Messaging that Resonates

The question is then, “How do you get someone to really fall in love with your brand?” It’s simple. It all starts with brand messaging that is so creative and unique that it resonates deep within a potential customer’s soul. Keep these questions in mind when creating your marketing message:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What are you selling?
  • How do you help?


If your brand messaging falls flat, you will not be able to make those meaningful connections that convert into long-term and loyal customers. Thus, your business will most likely fail.

There are several ways in which you can create brand messaging that will resonate with potential and current customers. You want to make sure that your message is being heard by the right people.


Find the Right Target Audience

When creating a buyer persona, you want to make sure know as much as you can about your audience such as:

·      Current trends: Find out what is drawing your customers to your business and what they find most engaging about it.

·      Interview current customers: Find out their likes and dislikes about your brand, as well as those who can go either way. Make detailed profiles for each customer that includes age, gender, profession, and interests.

·      Listen to your sales and customer service teams: Take a good look at what’s happening behind the scenes of your business. Is your sales team knowledgeable about your products? What type of responses is your customer service representatives getting?


Get Emotional

For your brand message to have a real impact, it needs to reach the customer’s emotions. Think about what emotion you want to project, and decide the emotional need of your brand and whom you want it to resonate with. Put yourself in your clients’shoes and think about how they must feel when receiving your brand messaging. Some common yet effective emotional triggers are:

  • Fear
  • Trust
  • Value
  • Guilt
  • Instant Gratification
  • Leadership
  • Time


Know Your Brand

If you lack focus when creating your brand messaging, you may end up confusing your customers. Besides knowing who your message is geared toward is only part of the equation. You also need to understand what you are trying to sell. You can do this by:

  • Consistently delivering a clear message
  • Having it be trustworthy and believable
  • Making sure it has an emotional connection with your audience
  • Having a strong backstory
  • Outlining your plans for the next five years


For more information on Cornerstone Communications, please visit or email us at








What Inbound and Outbound Marketing Really Mean To Your Business

Brooke Greenwald

 If you are trying to attract new customers, grow your business, and expand you the audience for your website, consider investing in a marketing campaign to promote your product or services. Fortunately, today’s technology makes it easier for you to reach a targeted audience.


Instead of relying solely on long sales pitches and television advertisements, which are strategies used with outbound marketing, you can also increase your brand exposure through valuable content and a social media presence with a technique known as inbound marketing. To find out which approach works best, you must first understand the difference between the two.


About Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is a technique used for drawing customers to your brands, services, and products via search engine optimization, content creation, and social media marketing. The goal is to bring potential customers to you instead of having to fight for an audience’s attention.


By creating content that will appeal to specific individuals, inbound marketing is also a data-driven approach that attracts others to your brand or services and converts them into unwavering customers. It will build trust and a connection with them even before they try or buy your brand. By drawing patrons in over a long-haul, you permit them to inherently prepare themselves for this buying decision.


Driving Inbound Marketing Leads

There are several tactics you can use to land inbound marketing leads including using SEO, interactive tools, photos and infographics, and videos and podcasts. However, you can best drive inbound lead generation with content created through:

  • Websites: These are the hubs of all inbound marketing efforts, where your leads and potential customers will learn more about your brand and services. You can convert visitors into customers by having the proper layout, design, content, and call to action.
  • Blogs: You can generate communication and trust between you and your customers by having a current blog that is optimized for SEO. By highlighting social media channels and calls to action, you will not only keep your readers interested, but can open a gateway to conversions.
  • Social Media: Your content can flow freely through the different social media networks online. Peer groups and influencers will pursue and learn about your company in a format that is secure and comfortable to them. Social media can help you nurture trust with your audience while keeping your brand fresh in their minds.


About Outbound Marketing

This is a more traditional form of marketing that is pushed out to audiences with the hopes that your message will reach your target audience, and they will act upon it. Outbound lead generation typically includes paid marketing tactics both offline and online. Simply put, if you pay for acquiring customers, it’s an outbound marketing tactic. Examples include outbound calls, mass mailings, print advertising, and content syndication.


Driving Outbound Marketing Leads

Marketing has drastically changed over the last decade, and it will continue to evolve. Inbound marketing has made outbound marketing look outdated, but it is not dead. Here are some was in which you can best drive outbound leads:

  • Display Advertising: These ads are a good way to target various demographic actions. You can select where you want your ads to be seen by choosing websites where your leads visit.
  • Pay-Per Clicks Ads: With these advertisements, you pay for each click your ad receives on a website or a search engine. They can appear as sponsored ads in organic search rankings. This method can generate high-quality leads.
  • Content Syndication: Because it takes time to draw traffic to your company, content syndication is a good way to promote your content in newsletters, on other sites, and even in email blasts. By sharing your content on other sites, you are giving it a wider reach.



For more information on Cornerstone Communications, please visit or email us at

Understanding The Media And How It Works

Brooke Greenwald

Successful marketing and public relations begins with understanding the media. It is mission critical to know what reporters and journalists are looking for when talking to them. This collaboration is fast-paced and rapidly changing, but it is also full of vital information that is beneficial to both parties.


However, the competition to get noticed, in the limited space available by these media outlets, is tougher than ever. You have to know whom to talk to, what to sell, and how to pitch it. If you can obtain a share of this valuable commodity, consider yourself lucky. You will have a tremendous competitive edge and sometimes even a decisive advantage if you have competitors closely matched in other areas.


Making That Media Connection


Talking to a member of the media is similar to a game of telephone. You are the professor reading your textbook (or in this case talking about something you know intimately) to someone who has not read it or has no working knowledge of the subject. This person then has to translate or explain what you said to their audience.


Unless your media contact has a complete understanding of what you are talking about, chances are he won’t be able to translate it into your words. The story won’t make sense and may include some inaccurate information. Before sitting down with any media outlet, make sure you know your subject matter and be able to explain it in a plain enough language so others will understand it.


Tips for Understanding and Working with the Media


Just as understanding the requirements of your market is vital in successfully selling your products or services, knowing the needs of the relevant media outlets is critical for your public relations or marketing efforts. Some ways you can improve your relationship with media outlets include:

·     Learn more about your media contact: Whether it’s a reporter or other journalist, make sure you learn a little about his background. This will help build a long-term relationship. For instance, I recently told a client on Veteran’s Day that the report with whom I was meeting was a veteran. My client, a company CEO, thanked the veteran for his service and talked about the importance of serving our country. This immediately put the CEO and the reporter in a situation to build a lasting relationship.

·     Understand the reporter’s intentions: Expectations are everything! Find out the reporter’s expectations at the beginning of the briefing and end the discussion with a summary and note that you met them. Think of it as a college exam blue book with more value!

·     Don’t make up information: If you don’t know an answer to a question, then simply don’t answer it. Offer to find out the needed information if given the right amount of time.

·     Be gracious: Media outlets are inundated with requests from marketing companies and public relations firms all over. If you are the one who is respectful of their time and bandwidth, you will get better results, attention, and story.


Remember the Golden Rule


You can do what you want and need to get your information out to the general public, but showing respect and honesty to your reporter are your best bet. Find out what makes him tick whether it be a love for technology, hard news, or even a deadline-driven mentality. Knowing these answers can help you tailor your briefing and get a better understanding of your media outlet’s needs.


For more information on Cornerstone Communications, please visit or email us at







2017: The Year of Being Strategic

Brooke Greenwald

Do you know the difference between being a confident leader who can grow a business, and one who can’t and is stuck in survival mode? It’s called having a strong strategy in place. All successful companies and entrepreneurs have clear marketing strategies to make everything they set out to do more rewarding.


Being strategic is the key to success in every type of vertical and business. However, if you are getting caught up in the daily marketing execution, such as: building a website, posting on social networks, advertising, and more, you won’t have time to work on ways that will improve this strategy.


As the foundation for generating interest, your marketing strategy should also create awareness and increase customer engagement. There are also several other tactics to consider when formulating your strategy. These key decisions can help you grow your business, get out of survival mode, and make 2017 the year you want.


Key Marketing Strategies for the New Year


In order to keep up with your business’ growth potential, make sure to implement and understand these key marketing strategies:


  • Use Technology: Communication is vital for any business. With technology, you can communicate faster which in turn can help you grow at a quicker pace. You can also reach your constituents faster by sending out your message loud and clear.
  • Clear Message: Make sure your message is concise, clear, and resonates well with your clients and customers. For best results, under promise yet over deliver your message. Think Coca-Cola®. Everyone knows what its red can with the white stripe represents. Why? Because its message is clear, and the branding is consistent. Your business can be like Coca-Cola® if you do things the right way. Creating the formula is the easy part, but staying the course takes experience, hard work, and perseverance.
  • Momentum: Consistency is the key when you are trying to grow your business and client base. Changing courses, and continually stopping and starting will not help you implement a successful marketing strategy. You can get ongoing, long-term results by keeping a consistent momentum.
  • Industry Key Term: You should create an industry key term or area that explains your message, but more important, identifies the potential that your products and/or services can live up to. You can A.P.P.E.A.L. to your customers and clients by: Announcing yourself as a key player; Pursuing your mission; Planning for success; Enlightening those around you; Achieving accolades; and Listening to what you are hearing as well as to your results.


Putting Your Strategy Into Action

Having a good strategy outlines what you will do, and when and how you’re going to do it. As a business owner, you want to make sure your strategy is working. You can learn from what you have done, whether it’s successful or not, and from the market where you want to be a leader.


For more information on Cornerstone Communications, please visit or email us at



Companies Need New Year's Resolutions Too! Planning For The Future Is A Key Metric For Success.

Brooke Greenwald

You can’t build a house without a foundation; and you can’t have a future without a plan. Every organization needs a structured course of action to ensure that there is a plan for the future. Like New Year’s resolutions that we all make (but these need to be kept), there are a few questions that should be answered in the process of making a plan, like:

                        Who is going to be speaking for your company?

                        Where are you going to take your company in the next year?

                        How will long-term employee benefits be financed?

                        How will you find customers – and keep them?

    What are your inbound marketing plans?  

    How will you compete in your market?  Your competition is? 

                        How can you ensure that your business is structured to last?

                        Even if your business is a new one, it is never too early to start looking towards the future. Similar to planning for retirement, your business should be thinking about its future from the very beginning. The most important thing about planning is going to be making sure that the plan is not only sustainable for the long term, but it is also reviewable and changeable. Businesses are living, breathing things that must change with the market. Your business is going to grow, and it will probably change faster than you ever imagined. Like a financial budget, your business needs a marketing and strategy one as well. While not financial, it does outline your successes and goals and how you will achieve them. If you are regularly assessing your performance against your goals and targets, there is a significantly better chance of achieving both your short-term and long-term objectives as a business.

            Your plan for the future should include marketing aims and objectives, operations information, and financial planning.  The way to go about that is S.M.A.R.T. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. If a goal isn’t specific enough, miscommunications can occur, and an objective can be missed. Similarly if an objective isn’t met in a timely manner, it could be forgotten. If a goal isn’t actually achievable or realistic employees won’t be able to help you attain it, because it simply isn’t possible for them. Measurable success and failure is mission critical in an organization. This is possibly the most important piece here, because without measurements, there is no clear way to see improvements or even progress.  

                        Using an annual business plan revision, your business can set, review and measure progress of your business’ objectives easily. Whether you decide to have your business on a yearly cycle or a quarterly cycle, reviewing your business plan will be a date set for all of your employees to take the time to process their work. Their immense efforts in their work lives will shine. This will help keep morale up as well. Psychological studies have proven that looking back on past successes helps people move forward with more motivation to keep succeeding.  In other words, planning for the future now is the path to success every business needs to take.



Message Consistency Is Your Best Friend

Brooke Greenwald

Branding a product or company thrives on consistency in your message.  How many people remember the old Dunkin Donuts commercial with the man saying it was “time to make the donuts;” or when you see the golden arches you know it is a McDonald’s long before you actually get to the restaurant? 


Our brains are subconsciously trained over time to remember messages, take them in and file them away.  We all know a red and white can is a Coke; just like we know “i” before a product name is almost always an Apple-branded product.  These messages are in our brains and we understand them based on recognition, values, cognition and consistency.


Whether or not you like Donald Trump, he is ultimately one of the most successful billionaires walking the planet today.  He has grown a multitude of businesses, failed and triumphed again.  Mr. Trump is everywhere and has significant business acumen.  I think it is fair to say that he is a branding genius. When asked about branding, Donald Trump said that, “if your business is not a brand it is a commodity.”  This is, in fact, the truth.  However, what Mr. Trump left out is that the only way to make a business a brand, and not a commodity, is to have a clear, consistent message that resonates.


While each product or service an organization offers will have a different message; it is the underlying messaging that must be consistent to reach the pinnacle of success.  Your message is your voice; while, at the same time, your voice must tout your message. 


Understanding why your message is so important, helping an organization create, and ultimately transmit, a strong, solid message is what professional public relations professionals do.  The majority of organizations want to claim that either they – or their products – are socially responsible.  For some that is marketing and for others that is the basis of their very foundation.  Having a brand trusted as a socially responsible leader in business does not happen merely by creating new marketing and advertising pieces.  It takes a significant amount of vision, effort, and most importantly, the understanding of your customer’s core values, to find and create a message that is in check with them.  It is truly an evolving process, rooted in the understanding of both your core values as well as those of your target market.


Once you truly understand your core values, as well as those of your customers, it is time to sit down and brainstorm, not about a sales strategy, but about how to make your message resonate with those you are trying to reach.  It is important at this juncture to think about the biases of the publics you want to reach, as well as to look into the future.  Where are you headed as an organization?  What products are on your future docket?  Where is your industry headed as whole?  Being at the forefront of the message will help your message – and your branding achieve long-term visibility.  Now, I am not suggesting that an organization disclose everything in the pipeline; what I am saying is that your message needs to be modern enough to have a longer lifespan, yet tailored enough to fit the specifics of what you do today.


A great message evokes three key components of business: listening, learning, and translating.  In other words, a great message demonstrates an organization has listened to the market; it has learned from the market, as well as from competitors.  Finally, a great message translates this into reality through their message.  According to the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, “In this ever-changing society, the most powerful brands are built from the heart.  They are real and sustainable.  Their foundations are stronger because they are built with the strength of the human spirit, not an ad campaign.  The companies that are lasting are authentic.”  In other words, they have listened to the market; they have learned from the market; and they have a strong foundation based on truth and authenticity.


An organization’s message is far more than words on a computer screen. It is what every employee and customer says about a company.  It starts with the leadership and flows all the way to the man on the street.  It is about everything that is said and done and that is how a brand, and a strong message, is built.  It is about the human spirit.  When people believe they share values with a brand or an organization, for that matter, they remain engaged with that brand; they make a point to watch for more from that company.  That, my friends, is the secret sauce to making consistency in your message your best friend. 

Public Relations Success And The Return On Investment

Brooke Greenwald

What does success mean to you?   More importantly, how do you define public relations success?  What does it mean for your business?  Is it seeing your name in lights?   Is it the additional credibility a positive article in a publication brings to you, your company, and/or your product/service?  Is it an increase in traffic to your website?  Is success defined by you as new customers who may never have known about you without the media placements your public relations professional has gotten for you?


For each of us, the definition of success will be different.  For some, it may be brand building and a greater awareness of a product/service.  For others it may be an increase of traffic to an e-commerce site; and yet, for others, it may be an increase in sales leads.  When it comes to effective public relations, each of us has a different definition of success.  Just as Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors, we each have our own ideas about what success means to us.


Why is this so important to think about?  Well, when working with a consultant of any type, (public relations or otherwise), it is important to set the work done together up to be successful from the very beginning.  Success, in this case, means effective communication, goal setting, and a specific understanding of how success is defined as a team.   In some cases, a client may define success as a number of placements, while a public relations professional may define it by specific placements.  This is why it is really important to discuss goals and define what success is together, at the onset of a relationship.  


Henry Ford, the Founder of the Ford Motor Company, probably said it best when he told his employees that, “coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”  If we were to live by Henry Ford’s credo on success in the public relations world, we would define success as working together as a team with a common goal and clear communication as a beginning; communicating well and maintaining a long-term relationship as progress; and achieving at a high level together as success.  That said, I ask, what then, do you define achievement as?


For me, achievement means knowing I have done the best job I can for my client, and watching the positive impact my work has on their business, product, and/or service.  It is maintaining a long-term relationship that grows over time with a client, and transcending that into a deeper understanding of our role as a team.  Some public relations professionals might define achievement as beating the competition with specific reporters or publications; while others might say it is about how the work is done with a client.  Once again, each of us has different perspectives, biases and definitions of what achievement means to them. 


Every potential client I meet with asks the same question: how should they measure the return on their investment in public relations.  It is not as simple as collecting a coupon or tracking specific users to websites or product purchases; it is more about a measurement of a client's brand, in this case.  In my company, we used to use a matrix that clearly defined success and the measurement of ROI across the board; nowadays, we customize that measurement for each client, based on their personal goals, and the plans we set out to achieve together.


At the end of the day, there is a measure of ROI for almost everything.  The question I ask clients is how they factor achievement and success into that measurement.  By clearly defining goals from the outset, it is much easier to achieve great success together.







The Real Cost Of Public Relations, Marketing, And Business

I am asked in almost every meeting with a potential client what the cost of public relations really is. They are immediately thinking about their budgets, their “wish list” and worrying about what can and cannot be done, rather than what should be done. The negative effects hiring the wrong public relations firm can have on your business can be far reaching: from your bottom line to your pipeline, and beyond.

Business owners need to focus more on what a solid, sophisticated public relations firm will do for them, rather than on the cost of that firm. There are a lot of excellent public relations professionals providing sophisticated service or a very reasonable sum. Many years ago, I realized that clients were watching their watches more than they were watching our work; that was when we abandoned the industry standard of hourly billing and moved into flat fee-based service. It was amazing to see how there was a polar shift in our client’s behavior – from worrying about dollars going out – to celebrating the successes together.

Most agencies don’t like to talk about budgets and numbers up front with potential clients, but I tell them that it is more important to look at the team you are working with, the track record of those people, and the experience behind them first, and not the dollars you will spend. (Obviously the dollars are important, but they should not be the most important part of the equation.) You see, a successful agency will bring you customers, and should be willing to grow with you and your business. A former client once asked us to “put some skin in the game” with them; they asked us to bet on ourselves as a team (the team of all of us together) with a greater reward on the back end. I agreed and it turned out to be one of our most profitable experiences ever. Our profit spanned much further than the dollar.

Through this experience we learned that to really work with a client effectively and gain their trust, we needed to become a real “team” with them. We have done this many ways since then (most do not include cost-sharing) but each time we commit to working together as a real team, we enter into a stronger partnership with out clients.

Nowadays, there are all kinds of ways to judge a public relations firm. Measuring ROI is an everyday occurrence, but detailing the means of measurement is what changes from client to client. When I meet with companies that are struggling with the cost of effective public relations and marketing, I tell them that you can’t budget success because success means something different to each of us. The only way you can understand and communicate effectively in your measurement of success is to set goals both parties agree on as the first objective in working together.

There are many different types of public relations professionals – from levels of experience to how we do our craft. Truly effective public relations should pay for itself time and time again in your brand awareness, your partnering programs, your mindshare with the target markets you want to reach and so much more. I would challenge every decision maker to challenge themselves, to not only measure the ROI of an agency, but the ROI of themselves as a team member as well. Remember, when we all work together as a team cohesively, we all win and our successes are that much greater!

Your Words...Your Message...For The New Year

Finishing up 2014 seemed like a very big task to some and a smaller one for others. There are several things to consider before jumping into 2015, including whether or not your message is up-to-date. January is a great time to review your message, update it, and do any media training you feel is important before hitting the streets. Many of us use the time between Christmas and New Year's to organize our homes, but we often forget to organize our messages, and our business goals, as well.

For new organizations, this can mean creating your message and ensuring that what you are communicating is resonating with the audience you are targeting. For other organizations, it may mean reviewing where you left off at the end of 2014 and looking toward your goals for 2015. Clearly defining your goals will help significantly when updating your message. Does your message help to achieve your goals? Is it crystal clear? Can it be readily understood by your potential customer base? Your current customer base? How has what you are doing changed and where is it headed?

While I am not advising that we lay all of our cards on the table, it is important that this is a great time to look at our editorial plans, speaking opportunities, event participation, and more. Every organization that does not create a "game plan" for the new year is remiss in doing their own internal due diligence. What are editors looking for this year? How is your product/service changing the way we function (either as individuals or as businesses)? What is the main crux of your story?

I tell my clients every day that they need to look at and and review their goals. Once they have their goals, we can work backwards from there to ensure we are achieving them in a timely, cost-effective manner. A strong, successful communications and marketing plan begins with a solid strategy. A great strategy begins with a resonating message.

How do we know if your message resonates with the publics you want to reach? There are a myriad of ways to measure this. Surveys are one traditional format, but they tend to take longer. Customer acquisition is another excellent methodology, but it can take a while as well, depending on the product/service and the reach of your message. However, the most simplistic method is to present your message to people who don't know very much about what you do and have them explain your message back to you. If they understand what your message is communicating, and can clearly repeat it back to you in their own words, then you are on the right track. If not, it is time to look at your current message and understand why it comes across differently than you intended.

A message in need of modernizing is not a tragedy. In fact, it is a very normal thing. A strong public relations or marketing person can modify the message (or help modify it) so that it clearly delineates what you want to say in a short period of time. These people are able to take your jargon and turn it into user-friendly lingo, which may have a significantly higher impact on your target market(s).

So when you go back to work tomorrow, or sometime this week, maybe it is time to consider ringing in 2015 with a revised game plan for this year, based on your goals. A game plan that should include the review and potential updating of your message. This can go a long way toward achieving the goals you have defined in your plan. As Mark Twain once said, "The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug." My wish for you in this coming year is that your message, and your plan, are your lightning.

Public Relations, Training, and the Time-Space Continuum

Everyone seems to be running around like crazy now trying to get the last bit of positive result they can for 2014. I see it in my client’s goals. I see it in the sales being offered in the mall (ok so the Black Friday sales that were supposed to be for one day only are still on…go figure?). I hear it in every pitch I make to a potential new client; and, most importantly, I see it in every marketing piece that is coming out now. The world seems to be in a very heightened state of goal achievement and each one of has a role to play in this end of the year exercise.

For companies that have not thought long and hard about 2015 yet, the time to plan is upon us. Before we know it, the calendar page will turn and we will be back at our desks trying to get as much out of our first quarter as humanly possible. Right now, we are stuck in the time-space continuum of the year and the public relations and marketing decisions we make today will truly shape our year tomorrow.

There are always customer, vendors, clients and friends that look at this part of the year as a sort of “senior slump” but the truth is that this is the best time to plan and engage ourselves so that when the calendar page turns, we are not only prepared, but already achieving! While vacations and school holidays are important; and time together with family is special, it is important to consider the old adage that “the early bird catches the worm.” In other words, those that put in some preparation now, will greatly benefit later.

Preparation can be defined in many ways. To the athlete, preparation is day-to-day mental and physical exercise that makes him/her stronger and more agile at the sport(s) they perform. To the singer, preparation may be finding a new piece to learn, learning to sing that piece, and, of course, practicing one’s vocal exercises. Preparation for a public relations and marketing person is no different; we must engage our minds, study our client’s competitors, and plan for the year ahead. What better time to do this then when many of those we reach out to on a daily basis are away on vacation?

As a client, do you know enough about your competitors and their products/services? If not, now is the time to learn. Do you know who their target customers are and how they are reaching them? Again, if not, now is the time to learn. Do you understand their message and how it resonates with their constituencies? Regardless of your answer to this question, now is the time to learn, update, and prepare your outreach plan(s) for next year. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

So I challenge you to take just one step toward your preparation for next year. Make a detailed list of what you want to accomplish and by when. Then look from your goals backward to see where you stand today and how far you are from achieving those goals. Then, make a plan. A simple plan of how you will get from where you are today to being able to cross those goals off of your list. That’s it. Simple. Take the first step today. Then another. And another. One day, all of those little steps, when linked together, will equal the accomplishment you planned for.

Public Relations, Reputation Management, and Advertising: Getting The Most Bang For Your Buck

Every day of the business week I sit in meeting with both clients and potential clients and listen to them talk about their business goals. Regardless of the meeting, one thing is consistent: every management executive or business owner wants to grow their business and gain mindshare in areas they believe they need growth. While this may be true, it is also uniquely consistent that these companies believe, in many instances, that advertising will gain the customers faster than any other solution.

This, however, is not the case. Over two decades of experience has taught me that advertising is just that, advertising. True committed customers with ongoing relationships with a business will make their purchasing decisions based on credibility. Credibility is something lacking in advertising. While advertising is an excellent branding and awareness tool, before any organization should begin an advertising program, it is mission critical to have a game plan. A true, effective plan will include quite a bit more than mere advertising ideas and spend. It will include the management of the message and the brand from all aspects of corporate communications, both internally and externally.

Take, for example, a company that has a limited budget and needs to reach a large audience for growth but knows it is in a state of growth internally and externally. Creating a huge advertising campaign is not necessarily what I would recommend. Instead, I would tell the customer to put together a marketing and communications plan that, over the course of time, addresses all facets of brand and product/service recognition before entering into formal advertising contracts. For example, is your brand consistent throughout all of your materials? Do your staff members stay on message when talking to customers? Does your website bring you customers or is it just a placeholder of information that distracts from your core competencies? How is your reputation online? How positive are your online reviews? Does your product/service have brand recognition and resonate with your potential customer pool?

If your answer to one or more of these questions is anything but yes, then it should be understood that an effective marketing program will, by its very definition, need to begin by fixing the problematic areas first, prior to utilizing your advertising spend. More than fifty percent of companies that advertise do so based on gut decisions and not based on effective communications practices. How, then, does this help you?

I tell both current and potential clients to think of advertising as ego and strong, effective public relations and reputation marketing initiatives as the cornerstone of their success. If your message is not resonating with your target market prior to advertising, your advertisement will only create more market confusion. In other words, sophisticated managers and business owners understand the value of practicing before the big game. In this scenario, the advertising dollars are the big game but the real success comes from the strength and value of your brand, products/services, reputation, and, most importantly, your message. At Cornerstone Communications, ltd., this is our message…in our voice.

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