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Does Your Online Presence Pass the Truth Test?

By: Marsha Friedman

What’s the fastest-growing marketing trend on the Internet?

I’m sad to say it’s the “fakeosphere.” Yes, fake blogs (called “flogs”), fake web news sites and fake testimonials. They look like the real thing, right down to comments posted by “bloggers” and their supposed readers. Those comments appear to be written by people discussing the pros and cons of a particular product or service, and they even include some naysayers.

“But in the end, the bloggers and their readers always win over the skeptics and persuade them to buy the product from a convenient nearby link,” writes Bob Sullivan in his blog on msnbc.com.

He cites Internet marketing analyst Jay Weintraub, who believes the fakeosphere has become a $500 million-a-year industry.

These fake sites and phony conversations are often more than simply misleading – OK, fraudulent – marketing. For consumers, they can be downright dangerous.

“The end game for most of these sites – no matter what they sell – is to persuade a consumer to sign up for a ‘free’ trial of a product, then make it incredibly difficult to cancel before the trial period ends,” Sullivan writes. “A similar technique … is to offer a free product and charge a web user a token shipping and handling fee, just to get the consumers’ bank account information. Larger charges soon follow.”

Consumers are – and should be – increasingly wary. They’re scrutinizing websites more closely, especially if they’re considering making a purchase there. They’re avoiding social media interactions with anything that smells less than genuine, and they’re more careful about who they share information with online.

What would they say about your online presence? Do you look like the real deal, or a potential cyber threat?

Here are some ways to ensure you pass the reality test — and some missteps that will ensure you don’t.

On social media:

• Real people have real friends and family among their connections. They can’t resist sharing photos of their vacation, the newest baby in the family and their genius dog (not necessarily in that order). They have interests that may have nothing to do with what they’re trying to market, and they comment about them (“I shot a hole in one today!”) or share a photo (“Here I am buying everyone drinks after my hole in one today. That was the most expensive golf shot ever!”) They also respond to all comments, even if it’s just to say, “Thank you.”

• Fake people generate mostly sales copy – “Buy my product! It’s great!” They don’t engage in conversation, they don’t appear to have a personality – or friends or loved ones or hobbies, for that matter.

On your website:

• Real people have text that informs and entertains users while offering them helpful information. The copy is professionally written – no typos or other mistakes – and provides answers to anticipated questions. It’s easy to learn more about you or your business and to find your contact information. Testimonials are from real people whose existence can be verified through a simple Internet search. They write blogs that are updated regularly and/or post articles with helpful information.

• Fake people have websites with lots of pop-up advertising banners and text urging users to “Buy my product!” Testimonials are from untraceable people with vague titles or credentials. The site may be hard to navigate; contact information may be missing or difficult to find; and there’s no link to media about the person or company.

In your newsletter:

• Real people share valuable information in their newsletters (which can be as minimal as a “tip of the week” email). Their newsletter (or tip) includes no overpowering sales pitch or self-promotion – or, at least, includes that only occasionally. It conveys a personality, whether warm and friendly, authoritative, or humorous.

• Fake people blast newsletters and promotional emails that may identify a problem but offer as the only solution hiring them or buying their product. They may seem unprofessionally written (errors, etc.) and lack personality. They offer nothing of value to the reader.

All of these things will help you create an online personality that conveys your authenticity. But the No. 1 thing you can do – what I value above everything else – is to be, actually … genuine.

In my book, “Celebritize Yourself,” I write about identifying the passion that led you to start your business, create your product or write your book. Maybe you became a financial adviser because you found it gratifying to solve people’s money problems. Or you developed a product that you know will benefit others. Or you have expertise that can help people live longer, happier, or more productive lives.

Whatever it is that got you going, that’s what makes you genuine. Identify it and make it a part of your message, and no one will ever call you a fake.

About Marsha Friedman

Marsha Friedman is a 22-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations (www.emsincorporated.com), a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors and professional firms. Marsha is the author of Celebritize Yourself: The 3-Step Method to Increase Your Visibility and Explode Your Business and she can also be heard weekly on her Blog Talk Radio Show, EMSI’s PR Insider every Thursday at 3:00 PM EST.

 

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Has Your Marketing Message Changed with the Times?

 

People have changed in dramatic ways over the past five years, and businesses should take that into consideration this holiday season, says one public relations expert.

“As people’s values change, so do their shopping habits. To market effectively, businesses should be aware of how their prospective customers have changed,” says Marsha Friedman, CEO of EMSI Public Relations (www.emsincorporated.com) in Wesley Chapel, Fla.
Shoppers are fussier, and while recessionary budget concerns are one reason for that, thrift is not the only value affecting consumer choices, Friedman says.
“Some stem from personal issues. Take me, for instance. As I grow older, I view many more material things as clutter. I want to get rid of the junk in my life and focus on important things,” she says.
Friedman is a baby boomer – a group that makes up 26 percent of the U.S. population.
“I’m sure I’m not the only person experiencing a change in how I view material goods, what’s ‘clutter’ and what’s meaningful,” she says.
Other changing values have arisen from global concerns, such as the world’s reliance on oil, growing environmental issues, and whether goods were manufactured here or abroad, she says.
Businesses that want to cash in on holiday shopping can set themselves apart with a message that appeals to their audience’s changing values,” Friedman says.
Here are her tips for developing a new marketing approach that’s in sync with the times:
• Identify what makes your product appealing to customers’ values. If your homemade soaps are produced right here in the U.S.A., brag about it! In a recent poll, 90 percent of us rated “keeping jobs in America” as the No. 1 step the government can take to help us economically. Many shoppers have friends or family members who are unemployed or underemployed; that makes for a greater appreciation of businesses that create jobs here at home. Your “made in America” label is valuable! Does your packaging use recycled materials – or is it recyclable? There are now 69 percent of us recycling, according to a National Geographic poll. Does your manufacturing process use a renewable energy source? More than half of us think it’s more important to develop alternative sources of energy than to find more oil.
• Become an expert. You can gain valuable media exposure for your company or product by positioning yourself (or your spokesman) as an industry expert with useful information to share. For instance, if you’re highlighting the fact that your product is made in America because you to help put Americans to work, offer them suggestions based on your experience. What are skills employers value? What are the biggest mistakes applicants make during interviews?
• Which channels will be best for getting your message out? Where does your audience get its news and entertainment? Are they using social media? Reading the newspaper? Listening to radio or watching TV? Or a mix of all four? On social media, you can share your expertise by offering useful information and links to resources, and engaging in conversations. Print is a great medium for providing consumer tips, as is TV, which is also perfect if your message has a visual component. Talk radio shows look for debate and information that solves problems. On social media, you can build a following of fans who help spread your message, while mentions in (or appearances on) traditional media will give you the implied endorsement of journalists and talk show hosts.
• Choose a messenger who’s accessible. If you’re the CEO and the person best qualified to be interviewed by journalists and show hosts, you may be the perfect spokesperson. But if you’re so busy you can’t drop what you’re doing to respond to interview requests, you will lose valuable media opportunities. Your messenger should be a person who is well-versed on the chosen area of expertise – and available at the drop of a hat.
If your message hasn’t changed with the times, Friedman says, now is a good time to think about your company or product in a new light.
“If you look at it from the shoppers’ perspective, you may just see something that appeals to consumers’ changing values,” she says. “Turn that into a message that resonates with potential customers and you may just have your best holiday ever.
About Marsha Friedman
Marsha Friedman is a 22-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations (www.emsincorporated.com), a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors and professional firms. Marsha is the author of Celebritize Yourself: The 3-Step Method to Increase Your Visibility and Explode Your Business and she can also be heard weekly on her Blog Talk Radio Show, EMSI’s PR Insider every Thursday at 3:00 PM EST.

 

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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