Telling the Story of Food

Compiled and presented by Stephanie Heinatz of Consociate Media and Sara Harris of Sara Harris Photography.


Think about this…where do you often find yourself telling, sharing the best stories? For us, if it’s not in writing, it’s while breaking bread together. That’s what made a recent event at Waypoint Seafood & Grill for the Virginia Chefs Association so great…where we joined Sara Harris Photography in leading a discussion on telling the story of food through imagery and social media.


Pick two social media channels.

We get it! Chefs are B-U-S-Y! Don’t get overwhelmed by social media. Identify the top two social media channels you think will reach your audience AND that you can effectively maintain. For the chefs in a suburban, we recommend Facebook and Instagram. For chefs in a more urban setting, we recommend Twitter and Instagram. Also, try at the very minimum to create a LinkedIn profile.

Create your personal brand.

You are a brand as a chef and representative of your restaurant’s brand. Don’t rely on just your personal accounts on social media. Create ones that are unique for you as a chef. Diners enjoy getting to know the chefs behind the dishes they enjoy as much as the restaurants themselves. Also, share posts and photos with your restaurant’s marketing team for use on those marketing channels. Special note: ensure you have a professional headshot as your profile picture for accounts you are branding for yourself as a chef.

Be social.

Social media is meant to foster social relationships. Don’t just post it and forget it. When people comment on your photos, comment back. Start a conversation. Go and like and comment on other brand and personality pages. Tag people.

Use hashtags on your photography.

These (noted by a #) are used to unite posts on a single topic. It’s like a targeted search engine. There are thousands of acronyms, cryptic phrases, and nonsense words (#instafood, anyone?) chefs are adding to their photos – and sometimes getting tens of thousands of likes for it. #hastagit

Photos. Photos. Videos. Photos.

Photos and videos are the top pieces of content users on social media engage with, like, share or otherwise comment on. Use imagery always. On all platforms.


Find the light.

Lose the flash. iPhone and Andriods have robust camera software. Turn off your flash setting and use an existing available light. Natural lights is always the best option and some of the best light can be found near windows or doors. Shoot with the light, rather than into it. A trick to exposing properly is to simply tap the screen on your phone where you would like the focus/sharpest point of our picture to be.

It’s all about perspective.

With food, it’s visually compelling to shoot from directly above or at table level. When shooting from above, hold the phone perfectly parallel to the surface of the food. When shooting at table level, hold the phone at a low angle perpendicular to the table, or even use the table to balance the phone.

No zooming.

Zooming often distorts image quality. If you want to get in close to your food, physically get much closer to it. Also remember that story may be better told including the entire vignette. For example, the busy motion in the kitchen or the whole scene at the farmer’s market.

Keep it simple and skip filters.

Backgrounds add to (or can subtract from) the story. When the food is the star, keep the ground simple, a wood cutting board, a table top with a fork. Look around and think about the entire scene before you take the picture. You’ve worked hard to create a beautiful plate, so don’t let Instagram filters dictate the color palate. If the image needs a polish, a subtle adjustment to contract, exposure and vibrancy may be all you need.

Lift the curtain and go behind the scenes.

For better or for worse, we live in the age of reality shows. So give the people what they want. Wide-angle shots of the kitchen in action (blur included), the bustling of a farmer’s market, or even what you cook at home are compelling to your followers.

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10 Tips for Speaking Effectively

By Kelly Marderosian, Consociate Media 

If something has “phobia” attached to it, then it’s probably not popular with many people. Public speaking falls into that category.

The fear of public speaking — glossophobia — is in the top 10 phobias and is even feared by some more than death. But public speaking doesn’t have to be so frightening.

The secret, says Beth Pedison Gibson, is to be well prepared. Gibson has more than 25 years of communications experience from the public and private sectors, including serving in the White House for President George W. and Mrs. Laura Bush. Before working in Washington, D.C., Beth was a communications leader at several large companies in Dallas and continues in that capacity, in particular for her husband Ken Gibson’s law firm, Gibson Singleton Virginia Injury Attorneys.

Beth shared these tips for preparing for your next public speaking event at a recent Gloucester Chamber of Commerce business training event.

Prepare for your audience.

Before thinking about what you want to say, always consider your audience. For formal speeches, actually call the inviter to ask detailed questions. For more casual opportunities, simply think about the answers and the types of people likely to be there. To prepare, know the full name of the group, the expected audience size, demographics and room logistics, such as the set-up, microphones, lighting and other details. Additionally, ask if media is invited to be aware if the comments you make could become public.

Determine your topic, importance and speaker.

Ask yourself these questions:

Topic – What would you like to say to this audience? What would you like them to do as a result? What will be most interesting to them?
Importance – Why should they listen? Will they become healthier, wealthier, or wiser?
Speaker – Why are you qualified to tell them? This should be very brief and often just your current or most recently past position.

Develop an appealing opening and a memorable closing.

In your opening, you’ll want to throw out a welcome mat. Put them at ease with the word “you.” Draw your listeners in by telling a story, asking a question, sharing a surprising statistic, an interesting quote, observation, or allusion. The phrase, “What most people don’t know,” always works!

For your closing, avoid introducing new thoughts. Simply tell them what you’ve told them. End with strong words, such as “you.” You can also include a memorable scene, sharing a personal philosophy, praise your audience’s role, take a look at the big picture, tell a humorous story or ask strong rhetorical questions.

Use a simple organization.  

A formula for a successful message is as follows:

—Tell them what you’re going to tell them in the opening;

—Tell them in the body;

Tell them what you’ve told them in the closing.

Share your stories, but have a point.

Stories are a great way to connect with people. Remember to be brief when telling a story and only include the relevant details. Humor is a powerful tool, but only if it has a clear point. Keep in mind, telling a long joke is risky to keeping your audience’s attention. 

Remember that delivery counts.  

Dr. Albert Mehrabian, a psychology professor emeritus at UCLA, did pioneering work on the importance of nonverbal messages. He found that when delivering a message, 7 percent is words, 38 percent is voice and 55 percent is nonverbal. This does not mean that your content is not important. It means that when your delivery and your words are in conflict, people trust your body language.

Maintain regular eye contact with your audience and smile often. Use good posture and keep your hands at your side while resting. Keep your weight balanced whether standing or sitting. It’s okay to look at your notes and pause often. By the end of your speech, you want your audience to like and trust you. 

Use your voice to convey enthusiasm.

Speak as if you are smiling and even mark smiles in your notes. Anger is rarely effective.

Project your voice. When you think you are speaking loudly enough, think about the people all the way in the back of the room. Additionally, speak more slowly than you would normally and consider lowering your pitch. Pause often during your speech and use silence to your advantage.

Lastly, ensure your breathing is under control. Practice breathing beforehand by sitting comfortably and breathe in and out to a count of 10, seven times.

Handle questions with courtesy and confidence.

You do not have to take questions at the end of a speech, even if you’re invited. If you want to end with impact and not dilute your message, you can always invite questions privately after the conclusion of your speech.

If you choose to take public questions, these tips work well, especially when dealing with the media:

—Limit time for questions up front;

—Use an open palm to call on someone as opposed to pointing;

—Rephrase questions as needed;

—Answer to everyone;

—End with a strong final statement.

To prepare for questions, you can jot down difficult questions you may be asked and practice your responses beforehand.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

You have to practice to improve. Practice your speech in front of a mirror, record it, or invite family and friends to listen in. You should practice a minimum of five times; once a day for five days works.

Be at your best.  

Get plenty of rest the night before your speaking event. Wear clothing that you feel good in and that photographs well. Arrive to your event early to avoid stress and to allow yourself time to visit with your guests beforehand. Lastly, check yourself in a big mirror immediately before you speak.


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Developing Your Personal Brand

Compiled by Stephanie Heinatz and Kelly Marderosian

Have you Googled yourself, lately? No?

Go. Do it. Do it now.

The results there, my friends, is the first hint you have at your digital presence, your brand, your identity most people see first.

You may or may not realize that you have a personal brand already. If you have a Facebook or LinkedIn profile your name probably comes up on the first page. Perhaps you are listed in the phone book or you have recently been mentioned in a local news article. All of these things are part of your personal brand.

Blogs, websites and social media make it virtually impossible to prevent anyone from creating a personal brand, whether they want to or not.

What you can do is ensure you are shaping your brand.

According to Forbes, less than 15 percent of people have truly defined their personal brand and less than 5 percent are actually living it on a daily basis.

Personal branding requires work and self-awareness, but the end result is well worth the investment in time.


Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands and defining oneself as a leader, a thought leader. The concept of personal branding suggests that success comes from self-packaging.

Take one of our personal favorites, Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia. He has developed a unique brand for himself, helping people build businesses.

Right after college, he took his family wine business and grew it from a $3 to $60 million business in five years. This led him to become an entrepreneur, investor, venture capitalist, author, blogger and a prolific public speaker.

His work has been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Fast Company and the Wall Street Journal, just to name a few. If you’ve ever listened to or watched Gary Vee, you know he’s raw, straightforward and will tell it like it is. He’s authentic and people like that.


So what can you do to create your own personal brand to ensure you are being portrayed the way you want to be? Understand and be your authentic self. Your personal brand is your story. It should answer these questions:

—Who are you?

—What are your goals?

—What do you stand for?

—What do you believe?

—How do you want to change the world in your life and in your business?

Identify your brand.

Your personal brand is made up of many elements. It’s how you dress, what you say. and how you say it.

To start identifying your brand, ask people who know you well to describe you. It’s similar to when I tell someone’s story, I ask them three words they would use to describe themselves.

This helps me clarify how they want to be portrayed as an individual. Identifying skills, qualifications, quirks and flaws is also part of the equation to blend with values, purpose and goals.

It’s important to keep in mind that when first defining your personal brand, you may not get it right the first time. Or even the second time. But that’s okay.

Live your brand.

Are you living your brand every day? Your brand isn’t a facade. It’s meant to be a snapshot of who you are, what you believe in, how you live your life, what’s important to you and the types of problems you enjoy solving.

People want to do business with people, not companies. Think carefully and be purposeful about your daily communication with co-workers and peers. These people have the power to influence your brand and your conversations with them are just as important as your communication with your boss or a client.

Your brand helps serve as a mission to help guide you to the next phase of your career and helps you focus on your strengths. When you live your personal brand it gives you credibility and validates that you can be trusted.

Recognize that your voice has power.

Take up offers to speak publicly. Write thought leadership articles. Participate in interviews. These may sound like big things, but the simple act of sharing information on social media gives you the opportunity to share your thoughts and your voice and it exhibits confidence.

With that being said, keep in mind that what you share online sends a message and will be there for a long time. This doesn’t mean everything has to be sterile or business focused. You still want people to see you living your life. Every status update, every tweet and every picture you share contributes to your personal brand. Ensure what you share is purposefully and mindfully chosen.

Think of yourself as a brand.

Your reputation is your brand or your trademark. When people think of you, what do you want people to associate with you? Once you discover how you want your personal brand to be perceived, you can be strategic about it.

As human beings, we are constantly changing as we learn and grow. This means personal branding is ever evolving, which means personal branding is something that requires maintenance. So as you change as a person, your brand changes.

Share yourself with the world.

Being vulnerable can be scary. Will people like you? Will they criticize you? Through vulnerability comes confidence. I like to think everyone has something unique to contribute and share with the world. Your message may not be meant for everyone, but you never know who you are inspiring with the information you share. Once you develop an understanding of your true self, then you can go out and share your value with the world.

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Crisis Communications: What today’s news cycle looks like


By Amanda Kerr, Consociate Media Writer and Media Strategist

In the days before the Internet and 24/7 cable news, a reporter had all day to finish a story. Big news came on the 6 p.m. television and radio newscasts and replayed at 11 p.m. For newspapers, the story didn’t actually reach readers until the paper hit newsstands the next morning.

Ah, the good old days! In today’s highly digital world, the news cycle is constant, driven by immediacy, the urge to be first and the desire to maximize audience reach on website and social media platforms. So what does that mean for public relations and corporate communications?

It means managing social media, websites and mass media. It means reaching reporters for each cycle on each deadline of the day: writing for the web and social media posts while also writing for print, radio, TV and online. It means you’ve got to keep up.

Communications in a Crisis

“If it bleeds, it leads.” That’s the long-standing mantra driving news coverage. The day’s latest crisis, whether it’s a chemical fire at a plant, a security scare at a college, an airplane crash, or layoffs at a local factory, will set reporters swarming for facts, information, context and commentary.

Effective communication during a crisis is based on preparation. A business or organization shouldn’t be coming up with a crisis communications plan as the crisis is unfolding. Having systems, protocols and timelines in place long before an unfolding crisis – big or small – is the best way to prepare.

It’s imperative a business can respond quickly, accurately and effectively under duress. Knowing which audiences you need to reach, how you want to reach them, who you want to be the voice or face of your company and the type of information you’ll need to gather is essential to successfully managing a crisis.

Having prepared statements geared toward specific incidents is key. These statements are essentially templates that can be quickly edited to address the specific situation at hand and then pushed out to your website, social media and news media. These are critical to responding quickly and effectively.

Immediate Response

If a crisis breaks internally, be ready to put out an initial statement as soon as possible. Don’t wait for a reporter to call if you can avoid it. Directly addressing a negative situation head on builds trust with the press, consumers and clients.

Should a reporter obtain potentially damaging information before you’ve had a chance to prepare an initial comment, don’t wait too long to respond. Call back within the hour if you can. Waiting to comment won’t delay the story until you’re ready. If your business doesn’t speak to the media, there’s a good chance someone else will.

Don’t expect reporters to show patience in a time of crisis. Remember, they’re under a lot of pressure to get something online so it can get pushed out on social media. Then they’re expected to update the story on their outlet’s websites throughout the day as new details become available.

But keep in mind reporters also don’t necessarily expect you to have all the answers in that first phone call or news conference. They just want to confirm the facts and offer context for how the business or organization is addressing the issue or emergency.

When a crisis is unfolding, the story is likely to change and develop throughout the day. Reporters understand that.


The primary goal of crisis communications for any business is to ensure consistency of message and mitigate negative publicity due to speculation. The best way to do that is to be honest and transparent.

Attempting to cover up the magnitude of a situation can only make a business or organization more vulnerable. The absence of the truth tends to drive others with information to the surface. A concealed fact that end up shared on Twitter or Facebook can go viral in minutes, and all that will do is make you look guilty.

Be clear about the situation. Don’t hide the bad news. Speak with empathy and sensitivity. Offer information about how the company is handling the situation and what type of services will be made available to those who are affected. If you aren’t clear on the facts of an incident or if a response plan hasn’t yet been finalized, don’t speculate or guess. It’s better to say you don’t know or that a plan is under way than to offer up information you’ll later have to take back.

While it may be tempting to breathe a sigh of relief at the end of the first day of a crisis, it’s not over. Don’t stop communicating. Continue to share updates and information on your company website and social media as well as with the news media. That way you’ll continue to have a voice in the ongoing coverage and avoid negative press due to lingering unanswered questions.

And remember to stay calm, stay confident and remain professional at all times. Managing a difficult situation with integrity is the best way to communicate in difficult times, get through it and come out stronger on the other end.

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Why SEO is a key component of a PR plan in 2016

By Amanda Kerr, Consociate Media Writer and Media Strategist

Public Relations is a time honored pillar of entrepreneurial endeavors for any business.

The role of a PR team is to nurture and maintain a favorable relationship between consumers (i.e. the public) and a company. Traditionally PR has taken the form of messaging, branding, press releases and earned media through news outlets, such as newspapers, television or radio.

But in today’s digital world, those time honored methods just aren’t enough to make sure your business’ message is being heard. Search Engine Optimization, commonly referred to as SEO, must be a key component of any PR plan in 2016. It’s the only way to make sure your company isn’t getting lost in the Internet jungle.

Goals and strategy

The intersection of SEO and PR is a natural one when you think about it. Much like PR, maximizing SEO requires understanding your audience and setting clear goals and objectives.

What is it that you want to achieve with your digital presence? What do your website traffic numbers look like now and how can they be improved? All of these questions must be answered in order to define your SEO strategy.

Then you have to take that data and merge it with the tastes and preferences of your audience. What kind of information do you want to share with consumers? What kind of platforms does your audience prefer? And what tone and style should your content contain that will appeal to potential customers, while meeting your SEO goals?

The best way to create a PR plan that incorporates SEO is to think about each campaign as it comes. If a campaign includes an upcoming event, think of real phrases people may search for and incorporate them as part of your SEO and content strategy. Then concentrate on maximizing content reach by promoting the event on the website and through social media.

Now you’re creating a partnership between SEO and PR.

Technical challenges

Just blending SEO and PR strategies isn’t enough, however, to guarantee success. SEO can become a little tricky in the ranking systems and algorithms search engines use to position a company’s website.

Researching keywords and searcher intent are critical to having solid SEO performance. But remember words and tags you incorporate into your content should be authentic and carefully selected. Wildly peppering your website with keywords can actually hurt more than it helps. Search engines, such as Google, penalize websites that overuse keywords.

How well your website functions can also impact SEO. Things like user friendly features, speed, design and conversion rates matter, too.

And are you successfully using link backs to drive web traffic? Search engines evaluate incoming links when ranking a website. High quality SEO content can help attract incoming links from social media, bloggers and news outlets. Getting those links in front of the right audience can improve your SEO success.

Content matters

Once you fix any technical barriers to SEO success, then you’re back to matters of PR. In the world of the Internet and SEO having fresh, organic content is crucial to keeping your business’ website relevant to search engines.

What does good content look like you ask? Well, it could be blog posts, press releases, website content, white papers, case studies, product copy, podcasts or visual content. But don’t go crazy. Keep any content, whichever form you decide to pursue, meaningful, informative and valuable to your audience.

Having reputable content matters in the world of SEO. A plethora of marginally useful copy laden with keywords isn’t the way to go. Quality over quantity should always win out.

Good content should bring consumers to your website, keep them there and hopefully convince them to make a purchase. Regardless of what form that content takes, it must effectively communicate your business’ values, services and brand.

The most important thing to remember is this: tell your story well. When you do that, the rest will fall into place.

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The ROI of marketing in 2016: Some expert insight

Compiled by Matt Sabo, Consociate Media Writer and Strategist

To get a sense of what marketing return on investment looks like in 2016, we picked the brains of our own Consociate Media Partner Rudy Heinatz, as well as Nix co-founder Josh Rowe.

Both Heinatz and Rowe have MBAs — Heinatz from the Mason School of Business at the College of William and Mary and Rowe from Northeastern University — but they have very different professional careers.

Before joining Consociate Media, Heinatz spent 10 years as a healthcare executive where he researched gaps in the market to develop new service lines, led a team of 100, oversaw a seven-figure construction project and ran a multi-million dollar operating budget. He earned his undergraduate degree in business and marketing from Christopher Newport University.

Rowe has spent a career in sports marketing, working at Nike for more than a decade in various marketing capacities to include managing Nike’s stable of elite track and field athlete, to managing the sports federations of countries, to overseeing Olympic Games marketing efforts. At Nike, Rowe co-founded the popular BorderClash event and created the Nike Cross Nationals. In 2009, Rowe moved to Boston to drive marketing for New Balance. Last year, Rowe left corporate America to co-found Nix, a sports-related startup out of the Harvard Innovation Lab.

Consociate: What’s your big-picture view of marketing ROI?

Heinatz: For me, the ROI is so much about brand building. The metrics that we traditionally use for ROI are arbitrary to a great degree. It’s nearly impossible to calculate, unless you have very specific parameters, like an all-online retail outlet and a true e-commerce business if you are viewing ROI simply in terms of dollars. Then that’s easy to calculate. You can see that you had $10,000 from a specific post, for example.

Billboards are the classic example of ROI you can’t measure. Someone along the line used a clicker to count cars and exposure. But these days, for the most part, cars are single-occupancy. And if there is someone else in the car, the chances are pretty good they’re on their smartphone or tablet or whatever and not even paying attention to billboards on the side of the freeway. The ROI metrics on billboards are completely speculative.

Print ads are another example. With a print ad, whether it’s a magazine, or newspaper, you hope that someone will land on your page and that one single exposure will promote action. But with digital, you can do demographic targeting and measure the metrics to gauge reach, audience, response, click-through rates and many other things. It’s a whole new paradigm. Because so much of our lives are spent online, the targeting can go well beyond age and gender. Information such as personal interests and spending habits are now in play.

Companies need to view to a certain degree that most of what you’re doing is brand building and use topline revenue increases over time as the ROI.

Rowe: In my mind, marketing and brand building are long term investments.  So often executives look for marketing to drive sales and they look for a vehicle that says, `I’m going to invest X and get Y.’ It’s not easy.

For me, the key to ROI — or measuring the success of any marketing effort — is clearly defining the goal of the campaign or marketing effort before the investment. This is the only way to identify if the effort was successful or not. If the goal is brand awareness, do some research to find out what the current brand awareness is, then put down a measurable goal for what you want awareness to be after the campaign.

If the goal is a positive sales increase, this is easy.  Did sales go up more than the marketing investment? If the goal is drive traffic to our website, that’s pretty easy to measure. A successful “return” doesn’t always need to mean immediate sales.

Consociate: If you don’t have a positive ROI on a campaign, does that mean it’s a failure?

Heinatz: That all depends on what a company is using as the ROI. For instance, if a campaign produces no significant increase in customer base long term, but has a short term impact on sales that may or may not be considered a success. On the other side, a campaign may produce zero short term sales gains but could have a significant impact on brand reach and recognition that produces new sales in the future. Is that a failure or is the lifetime value of a customer more important than the projected goals of a campaign?

So much of this involves the goals of the company, the targeted outcomes of a campaign and, to a large degree, the type of business. A cereal brand can much more effectively gauge the success of a specific campaign based on the immediate impact on sales versus a luxury automaker.

Rowe: No, positive ROI doesn’t mean it’s not a great program. ROI is only one metric in the marketing evaluation tool box. Brand engagement, brand affinity, willingness to consider or willingness to purchase are also critical long term metrics.

If you find a marketing vehicle that actually drives a positive direct ROI — I would not call this a unicorn, but definitely an elusive rare bird — hold onto it and treat it well. So often brands kill it by doing too much with it or trying to replicate it. Nike and their `Run Hit Wonder,’ for example. It was a great race concept that worked perfectly in Los Angeles. They took it global and simply couldn’t replicate the magic they made in LA. On the other hand, there was so much demand to do BorderClash’s all over the country (BorderClash is an annual post-season high school cross country race held at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., pitting All-Star teams from Oregon and Washington against each other for state supremacy) but we knew there was no way we could replicate the magic, so we said no. That event today stands as one of the best Nike events they do. In footwear, Nike is also the master at allocation and keeping demand strong. They could make millions of Jordans or Air Force Ones and kill the franchise. But by putting out only thousands each year — not millions — they keep them special.

Consociate: How do you measure the ROI on social media?

Heinatz: To a large degree ROI on social media is such a long term game that quantifying it is challenging at best with the exception of a very targeted ad campaign, – I want to sell 1,000 units in the next 90 days type of thing. Social is about putting in the time and effort to build your brand. Taking the time to develop interesting content that works within the specific platform to drive attention and awareness. With literally millions of sites, companies, platforms, etc. jockeying to win the attention war, it may take a company months to gain any traction – if not longer.

In looking at it simply in dollars, a company may have a negative ROI on social for six months to a year before it really starts to see positive revenue effects. Does that mean the first six months were a waste? Of course not, they are necessary to earn your place on the attention graph of he consumer.

Rowe: Social media is another perfect example of how marketing investment does not necessarily translate into direct dollars today. Brands with huge social media footprints have the ability to control and direct the conversations with consumers in ways that others don’t. This leadership is critical to long-term brand equity and therefore success of brands.

Consociate: What are some specific examples from your experience, whether it’s in health care, or athletics and running, or some other industry, of campaigns or brands and brand awareness that work or don’t work?

Heinatz: For me, one of the best examples of a brand that is crushing the awareness game is GoPro. Granted, as we live in such a visual world, they have a hefty advantage because of their product. But virtually all of their branding and marketing activities revolve around simply showing the audience what the product is capable of. This is really evident on their social platforms. There are very view sales driven calls to actions, they simply share great content based on the product. They do a tremendous job engaging with their communities and essentially invite their fans to be a part of the brand by submitting their own pictures and videos.

Rowe: Reebok is classic for mass media campaigns that drive footwear sales. The problem is, they have little brand equity, so as soon as you turn off the TV ads, the sales stop. Yes, they see an ROI from the campaign, but is that a good use of funds long term?

When it comes to sports marketing, Lebron James, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and Steph Curry are about the only professional athletes that drive a direct ROI for footwear companies. No Serena Williams. No Roger Federer. No Tom Brady. These three are among the largest global sports starts today, yet they do not directly drive purchases of shoes and apparel that equals their endorsement salaries. So why do Nike, adidas, Under Armour and others continue to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into sports marketing? Because it builds brand equity. And over time, brand equity builds businesses.

Another example. In the running industry, New Balance was known as an `old man’s shoe.’ And still is largely outside the vertical running world. New Balance knew that it needed to do something to get the brand younger and more gender diverse. So they invested approximately $1 million in young female distance runners. Stephanie Garcia, Kim Conley, Emma Coburn, Jenny Simpson, Brenda Martinez, Nicole Bush and Sarah Bowman do not sell a single shoe by themselves. Okay, maybe a few people buy NB directly because of Jenny, but that’s about it. BUT, together this effort completely changed the perception of NB. And NB running shoe sales went up by millions of dollars. Not `this quarter.’  And not `this year.’ But certainly over two or three years.


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Are you a leader? Or a fool?

By Matt Sabo, Consociate Media Writer and Strategist

Bad leaders don’t exist.

Let me put that another way. There is no such thing as a bad leader.

Either you lead or you don’t.

Being a leader conveys commanding a group, or organization, or team. Leading is guiding or directing in a course of action.

Let’s say I am leading a group of people on a hike on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. There’s well-marked and well-worn trails to follow. I know this because I’ve been privileged enough to have recently been there with my family.

There are signs of warning along the paths. That tell you to the effect that, as if you can’t see for yourself, rather severe implications and potentialities await for leaving the trail. There are also places that are particularly precarious that have railings. To keep you in. And safe.

Say I were to hop the fence in one of these particularly precarious places. As I was leading my group of hikers. And plummet violently to my death.

Would the people in my group, who I surely hope didn’t follow me, say, “Well, now there’s a bad leader.”

Probably not. They would say, “Well, now there’s a fool.”

But when someone who is supposed to be leading or commanding a group, or organization, or team does really stupid things and leads people over a cliff, we say, “That’s a bad leader.”

No. That’s a fool.

Don’t confuse leadership with foolishness.

Jocko Willink is built like an NFL linebacker. He is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a former decorated SEAL Team Three leader who led men into the darkest places of combat in the urban warfare of Ramadi, Iraq, in 2007. The city was retaken and Willink returned to train, instruct and mentor our elite warriors.

I heard him interviewed on Tim Ferris’ podcast and when asked what makes a good leader, he gave an answer that might surprise you: Humility. Leaders are humble, they listen and are coachable, Willink said.

There’s an absence of arrogance. They don’t point fingers. They accept responsibility.

Leaders serve because their interest is in elevating the group. Not themselves.

There may be times a leader will take his group into unpredictable, perilous places. It happens every day actually in business.

Maybe that’s you. Your are tasked with leading people. So then.

Guide them.

Lead them.

Direct them.

Show them the way.

Listen. Adjust. Move forward.

Leadership encompasses judgment, prudence and supervision. Which signifies actually caring for someone.

A fool lacks judgment and prudence. A fool simply doesn’t care.

Which are you?

The choices are: A leader or a fool.

Pick one.

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How reporters use social media, today’s mass media

By Amanda Kerr, Consociate Media Writer and Media Strategist

Just three years after Harvard College student Mark Zuckerberg and three of his roommates launched a website to connect fellow students through the world wide web, a seminal media moment occurred immediately following the Virginia Tech shootings on April 16, 2007. A lone gunman murdered 32 students and faculty at Virginia Tech and in the aftermath the press harnessed the reach and power of social media in new ways.

Reporters at The Washington Post used websites such as Facebook and Craigslist to quickly locate students connected to the tragedy. Messages students posted through Facebook were compiled in a story and names of victims appeared on The Washington Post’s website before they had even been released by authorities.

Facebook and other social mediums have become tools for the media to not only find people and contact them, but also to reach new and wider audiences. The very nature of Facebook — what was once meant to be a fun way for people to “socialize” on the Internet — has evolved and today it has become one of the leading ways younger audiences consume news.

Newspapers, magazines, blogs and television news stations use social media to promote stories and engage with readers and viewers. It started off simply enough, maybe a post teasing an upcoming weekend feature or a few links to breaking stories, but has since expanded to the widespread use of linking comment sections on articles to Facebook profiles, for example.

With the advent of Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope and others, including storytelling methods such as podcasting, the way in which reporters both report and gather the news has dramatically changed in the 12 years since the launch of Facebook.

What does that mean? For starters, social media has afforded reporters the opportunity to do a lot more reconnaissance on a subject, organization, business or person than just looking for a phone number on Social media has become a go to place for local governments, school districts, businesses and nonprofits to promote events, share news and engage with customers and citizens.

With all that activity on social media, that’s where reporters are going first to look for the latest news on a company or organization.

It’s no longer just an obligation for businesses and organizations to throw up a few posts; social media is an essential part of a larger communications strategy.

Newshounds can track down supporters of a gun rights group, garden club, local business or school using social media. They can research social media channels to better understand an organization’s current projects, values or messaging. And they can use that trail to cast a wide net to find the best leads and the best stories.

Reporters, however, no longer passively use social media as voyeurs. The multimedia options available offer an entirely new platform for storytelling, whether it’s breaking news, photos, video, or abbreviated posts in the form of tweets. There are myriad ways to use social media to enhance a traditional newspaper, radio, or television story that helps give the audience another perspective.

That same approach can help a commercial real estate firm, apparel company or app developer engage customers through blog posts, social media campaigns and behind the scenes photos and video that tell their story and sell their brand.

Using social media to sell a brand isn’t something reserved for just traditional retail businesses. The various social media platforms allow media outlets and reporters to sell their news brand too, be it a newspaper, television i-Team, major news network, radio station or podcast.

The technology also gives reporters the opportunity to brand themselves. And it gives readers a more intimate perspective of their interests. Reporters can personalize posts by sharing a national news story that matters to them, or describing how a tornado has affected their own neighborhoods. That branding is good for engaging very distractible audiences who are bombarded by a host of competing media interests.

There’s something else, too. Social media allows reporters to actually connect with readers or viewers in real time. They can answer questions or respond to feedback. Reporters often use social media to connect with potential sources as well through Twitter direct message and Facebook messenger. The technology makes it easier than ever to reach out and connect.

The opportunities for generating story ideas over social media are endless. There are as many potential stories as there are social media users.

If businesses and organizations aren’t using social media to its fullest potential, there’s a good chance customers and clients won’t hear that message – and reporters won’t see it either.

It goes beyond just having things to post on Facebook and Twitter. Businesses, organizations and media outlets alike have to be present. They have to be relevant. They have to be accessible.

The world of mass media has been forever altered, going from a handful of Harvard students who wanted to connect socially on a website initially called “thefacebook” to a new media giant — just plain old “Facebook” — that has reshaped the world of news gathering, information dissemination and interaction.

What hasn’t changed, however, is connecting with people and sharing the stories of the world around us.



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A principle. Less is more. Briefly.

By Matt Sabo, Consociate Media Writer and Strategist

It’s so tempting.

You have mad skills.

You ooze creativity.

You don’t need coffee. In the morning. Or ever. Really.

You know stuff.

You do stuff.

You make stuff better. With your eyes closed.

You’re so good. Sometimes you can’t stop.

You just. Can’t be contained.

That’s why. It’s tempting. So tempting. To add more you. In everything.

It’s precisely why. Why you never Tweet. Because let’s face it. 140 characters? So limiting. It quenches your quintessence.

So. Your rules. Are their rules.

Less is never more. Less sucks. You like to add. Because subtracting great from greatness. Leaves you ness. Nobody wants ness.

Your emails are longer. Because what you say? So freaking stupendous. The stuff you write. Even if it’s a lot. Makes everyone smarter.

Your meetings are longer. Because what you say? So freaking stupendous. The stuff you say. Even if it’s long-winded. Makes employees better.

Your presentations? Middle East peace negotiations. Can take less time. You put the power. In PowerPoint. Which means. Order in lunch. For your presentations. Because they are powerful. Maybe. Just maybe. Even powerfully long.

One thing though. What if? Yes. What if less is better?

Could you? Do less? Like …

Don’t cc.

Step back. From the PowerPoint.

Talk less.

Practice minimalism. In everything.

Especially your emails.

And your meetings.

In fact. Cancel stuff.

Like meetings.

See what happens.

To like. Productivity. Yours. And theirs.

One other thing.

Start Tweeting. It’s good practice.

Read Further

Why podcasting is an effective marketing tool

By Matt Sabo, Consociate Media Lead Writer and Media Strategist

We are wired to tell and listen to stories, an ancient method of communication that we’ve used for millennia to help make sense of the world around us.

We relate to stories. We gain insights, arrive at conclusions and learn from them. We experience the range of emotions through storytelling. We marvel, we may be surprised or shocked and we may react in anger or sadness. Often we tell stories to entertain and laugh.

Stories are a way to shrink a very big world and make connections in previously unimaginable ways that cross culture, gender, demographics and even societal status. As a marketing tool, stories are essential to connecting with an audience, whether it’s broad or targeted.

But stories are worthless without an audience; their very purpose is to share. Which makes podcasting a natural fit as a marketing tool to connect with an expansive new audience. It’s verbal storytelling reimagined, repurposed and recast.

One of the beauties of podcasting is its mobility and accessibility, making it a marketing dream. With the advent of smartphones, a podcast can be listened to anywhere — in a car, at an office, in a coffee shop, on a treadmill and a host of other places and even during a host of other activities.

Podcasters can use it as a tool to mold and shape their brand because they can control the message. They can also reach new, untapped audiences and connect with them in inventive ways.

Podcasting is a means to elevating a company’s brand and raising the profile of company executives. By telling their stories, hearing their musings on their successes and failures, what they are focused on, what they value in employees, industry trends — do you get the idea that there’s an endless supply of potential podcast subjects — you can take the audience on a journey inside the company’s walls.

You can also engage with an audience, soliciting questions and comments and building a rapport that you can’t get in other spaces. It’s also a direct line to customers, partners, potential patrons or clients and others.

Another selling point of podcasting is it helps cultivate a company’s cross-pollination efforts by incorporating other social media elements. It can widen a company’s reach as well by reaching out to contacts inside — and even outside — its industry to highlight trends, divulge what’s new, predict the future, tell war stories, frame discussions and offer insights into other topics of interest.

Before getting started, however, there are a couple of essentials to launching a successful podcast. Quality is key and it’s well worth the money — which can be surprisingly inexpensive at an investment under $1,000 — to ensure you have a podcast that sounds professional.

Also, have at least three to five podcast episodes edited and ready to upload and launch a social media blitz in conjunction with their release. You want to get noticed — there’s no point in making the time and effort to do podcasting if no one is listening — and use the tools at your disposal to drive traffic both to your podcast and from your podcast to a website and social media channels.

The times have certainly changed but whether it’s oral storytelling traditions in primitive cultures or podcasting, the story is still the same: It’s about the story.

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