Meet the people behind Media Link Inc.

Media Link is a full-service advertising agency, but we are more than that. Media Link’s team members have their hearts in the right place to ensure client satisfaction, and our passion goes far beyond the field of marketing. Media Link takes pride in the fact that its team members are passionate about giving back to the community in a variety of different ways.

President Natalie Linville-Mass gives back to the community as a board member of The ARC of the Quad Cities Area to advance the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. On top of that, Natalie has developed and runs, a Women’s Executive Group aiming at advancing female executives in the Quad Cities Area. In 2012, she was awarded the Iowa Governor’s Volunteer Award for her long-standing service to Big Brothers, Big Sisters. Advancing young professionals is Natalie’s passion and she does so through Media Link’s internship program. With this program she supports young adults in getting hands-on-experience that will prepare them for their future profession. Additionally, President Natalie Linville-Mass has volunteered as a guest speaker for various universities and colleges such as Augustana College, Blackhawk College, University of Iowa, and Western Illinois University, to name only a few.

Senior Marketing Consultant, Ronna Walker-Johnson also shares this passion of giving back to the community. She has been an active Board Member of the Public Relations Network of the Quad Cities, a volunteer-run organization that brings together local professionals for professional development and the exchange of ideas. In addition, she has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society, an organization with the mission of perpetuating the music and memory of Leon “Bix” Beiderbecke. “I have always felt it is important to be an active participant within my community, and being involved with areas that complement my career and personal passions make staying involved easy.” Ronna enjoys supporting our community’s children and does so through volunteering at the Bettendorf Police Explorer Youth Program, as well as leading her daughter’s Daisy Troop. She states: “I especially hold opportunities to make a positive difference in our local youth close to my heart, as these young people are the future of our community.”

Adrian Wille, Marketing Consultant, joined Media Link in early 2015 from Germany, and his passion for giving back to the community made him the perfect addition to the Media Link family. Representing his German heritage, Adrian is a Board Member of the German American Heritage Center in Davenport, in addition to being Vice President and Board Member at the Palomares Social Justice Center in Moline. Furthermore, Adrian serves on the Young Professionals of the Quad Cities’ Professional Development Committee and is an active member of the American-Scandinavian Association at Augustana College and the NAACP. He additionally helps out at the Komen Quad Cities Race for the Cure. “I volunteer because it makes me feel like being part of the Quad Cities family,” says Adrian.

Supporting the community is part of Media Link’s identity. This is the reason why all of Media Link’s marketing assistants are engaged in community work. Ben Wildner only recently moved to the Quad Cities, but he already shares his passion for sports with community organizations. Mike Tortorelli, a Clinton resident, enjoys spending time with the Clinton Fire department to promote a new program, which ensures residents get free smoke detectors for their homes. In addition, he helps raise awareness for St. Baldricks, a childhood cancer charity, and last year he helped to establish a campaign that raised more than $400 for the River Bend Food Bank.

Jack Seaman is all about sports. He uses his passion to give back to the community in ways such as volunteering as a coach for the Young Gunz Wrestling Club. The newest addition, Elisabeth Kulmer, has a heart for animals and volunteers at local shelters in addition to a position at the World Fair Trade Organization of Asia, to promote Fair Trade around the globe.

Giving back to the community is simply what Media Link does. “If we all do what we can in our own way, we can make a big difference overall.  So, knowing we’re all in this together, I’m happy to help where I can.” We are proud of the fact that Media Link’s team is equally as passionate about the community as they are about their work.


Searching for Meaning – Corporate Social Responsibility

The times of “being in it for the money” are over. People are now looking for more than high salaries – people are looking for meaning in what they do. The term describing this movement is corporate social responsibility, often referred to as CSR. Many large corporations such as Wal-Mart and Walt Disney have implemented a CSR campaign. However, not only large firms, but also small businesses have identified this to be an important staple in their day-to-day operations. Corporate Social Responsibility reaches from reusing and recycling materials, to caring about excluded groups of the population, to energy saving activities.

These methods are ever more important when looking for new employees or retaining staff. This is especially important in a time in which 86 million millennials make up the largest population group in the U.S. and provide a large labor force. These young people strongly tie their personal values to their career and bring innovative ideas to a business. This is supported by the fact that seven out of ten young adults consider themselves to be social activists and state CSR to be a major factor when choosing among employers.

At the same time these young adults are consumers and are looking to do business with companies that share their passion for social causes. Consumers increasingly want to be seen as good citizens, and this desire is reflected by their buying behavior. According to Landor Associates, 77% of surveyed consumers note it to be important for companies to be socially responsible. In the digital age we are living in, customers have more information and often share this information with fellow consumers. This may be a threat to companies engaging in unethical business activities, but an opportunity for businesses having CSR fully incorporated into their business concept. Corporate Social Responsibility is what defines a business and what makes it rise above competitors.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/insead/2013/11/12/corporate-social-responsibility-the-key-to-attracting-retaining-top-talent/#1ce48ffee73b

Why Companies Can No Longer Afford to Ignore Their Social Responsibilities

http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20140325/OPINION/140329895/corporate-social-responsibilitiy-is-millennials-new-religion


Customer Service in a Digital World

We touched on customer service in one of our blogs a while back, and we would like to use this opportunity to share a new emerging form of customer service with you.

The number of social media users is continuously increasing and at the same rate, their behavior is changing. In fact, according to Nielson, the Facebook messenger app was the fastest growing app in 2015. The behavioral change can be seen in that people now utilize Facebook messenger rather than ordinary text messages to chat with their friends and family. Additionally, more often customers would now rather reach out to companies on social media platforms than contacting the traditional customer service department. As a matter of fact, 67% of consumers have utilized a company’s social media presence to solicit a customer service response. Social Media has now become a fully recognized customer service tool for various businesses such as Starbucks, Nike, and Wal-Mart.

Facebook reacted to these trends and has undertaken several update to turn this platform into a full service customer hub. Among these changes are the “call to action” button that allows customers an easy way to get in touch and make updates on the direct messaging system. Now companies can track response rates and can even earn a badge based on how quickly that company responds to customer inquiries.

Many large corporations now have staff available 24/7 to ensure immediate response to customer inquiries on social media. This is especially important when operating globally, taking different time zones into consideration. However, Facebook as a customer service tool is not only important for multinationals, but also for small and medium sized companies.

To use this new tool successfully, follow some simple guidelines to ensure satisfied customers. First, make this platform a place where customers are encouraged to engage and feel comfortable reaching out to you. Often companies post questions or utilize online competitions to engage the customer. Make your customer feel like a part of your “family”. Secondly, companies need to ensure quick replies. Especially when utilizing social media, customers expect a fast reply. This not only applies to customer complaints, but also to positive statements made by satisfied customers. This leads me to the last point: let your customer know you value their opinion. Regardless of the nature of the comment, always reply in a friendly and professional manner and try to solve your customers’ issues in a timely manner. The way you interact with your customers can truly affect your business, because customer experience will ultimately increase or decrease your sales.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/miketempleman/2015/12/22/how-facebook-is-becoming-a-customer-service-hub/#1708a2fe758c

http://www.forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2016/02/01/5-ways-to-turn-facebook-messenger-into-your-best-customer-service-tool/#f88f7ac5d9e7


International Marketing

With globalization, companies need to adjust their marketing strategies as new challenges emerge. One major challenge is adapting to local cultures. This is of special importance when firms operate in countries culturally distant from their home country. This post will discuss global marketing with the example of China.

In China, a country with double the active internet users of the United States, social media marketing is a crucial success factor when doing business. But what do you do when the government bans Western social media networks such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter? You rely on Chinese networks. There is a great variety of networks to choose from such as WeChat or Sina Weibo. At the fast pace China is transforming, there is no doubt social media marketing in China will change incredibly quickly too.

A further crucial factor of doing business in China is being familiar with the local calendar. While in the West the Christmas season is one of the largest advertising periods of the year, this holiday is rarely celebrated in China. However, there are numerous Chinese celebrations; one of which is single’s day, on which singles buy themselves gifts. Not to leave out the most important Chinese holiday: the Chinese New Year.

The last key success factor discussed in this post is the country of origin effect. Chinese consumers are greatly influenced by the place in which the product was made. Products made in Western countries are often perceived more favorably. Moreover, products made in countries such as the United States, Germany or Switzerland are perceived as luxury products. These are only three aspects to consider when marketing in China. Make sure you consider these points and familiarize yourself with the local culture when entering into a foreign market.

For more information visit http://www.theguardian.com/media-network/2015/oct/06/marketing-china-social-media-consumers


The Rate of Return

Marketing agencies are frequently confronted with questions regarding the rate of return (ROI) of our service. People are used to investing a set amount of funds on the stock market and receiving a clear cut ROI statement at the end of a specified period. There is either a positive (profit) or negative (loss) ROI depending on the performance of the stocks. An investment is either successful or it is not. Period.

This is not the case in marketing. Marketing involves a process; a process that potentially necessitates an extensive amount of time. This amount of time depends on the nature of the campaign. Advertising a holiday special can be done quickly and the success be measured relatively well. People either respond to the special offer, or they don’t. A sustainable marketing campaign aiming at creating long-term brand awareness and permanently increased profits is more complicated and hardly measurable in the short and medium-term.

Brand awareness takes place in people’s heads. It increases the likelihood of individuals choosing one product over another. This decision is not only based on the quality and price of the good or service, but depends especially on the overall perception an individual has about a company or organization. A sustainable marketing campaign will shape a whole bundle of feelings towards a company and establish the company as prime choice in people’s heads. This process takes time as people don’t change their consumption habits from one day to another. There is a reason you have a favorite desert.

Just because sales does not increase immediately after the start of your marketing campaign does not mean the campaign isn’t working. It is working on a subconscious level! Brand awareness must be built step by step. Just imagine convincing a person using all kinds of Apple products from using a Samsung Galaxy or vice versa. A well executed campaign can actually do this – as long as it delivers a consistent message over a certain period of time. The length of this time period depends on the good or service. People tend to be more faithful towards certain products/services (car make), but not at all towards others (cable providers).

This brings us back to the main topic: the rate of return. How can you measure developments happening in your subconscious? Does one person’s subconscious influence the purchasing behavior the same way another person’s subconscious does? And these are only internal developments. What about all of the external factors influencing an individual’s behavior? Having a degree in economics helps me to maneuver the fine line between humanistic disciplines and natural sciences. I am a social scientist, trained to analyze human behavior using mathematical models, especially regression analyses. Being able to mathematically predict human behavior is the holy grail of economists. You can certainly account for specific external influences like taxes, unemployment, technological developments, and family; yet, it is impossible to account for everything (!) happening around you.

These are the two reasons why marketing agencies cannot seriously promise a certain rate of return. Successful marketing takes time, and the gradual and mostly subconscious developments taking place in your mind can hardly be measured, especially if taking into account countless external factors. Patience is a virtue for a reason.


Focus Groups

Effective and efficient marketing and advertising is impossible without having detailed information about your target demographic. There are a number of ways to gain insight about people’s attitudes and preferences: two of the most common approaches are surveys (a quantitative approach) and focus groups (a qualitative approach). Both have advantages and disadvantages.

Surveys come in handy when you have plenty of questions about different topics that can be answered clearly and quickly. A larger group of participants can yield statistics to base decisions on for your company. Surveys do have their restrictions, though. For example, people might not answer precisely, might interpret a question in a different way, and the organizer does not have a chance to follow up immediately.

The last point is particularly the strength of a focus group. Its biggest advantage is the fact that moderators and participants initiate a dialogue that can be maneuvered. This enables organizations to tackle complicated issues in depth and allows participants to react to other people’s responses as well. Newly discovered perspectives can be utilized and scrutinized immediately. A moderator can even spontaneously test potential solutions and receive instant feedback.

Good focus groups are cost-effective and bring about desired results. Though they do require meticulous planning and a precise implementation:

 

  • Develop clear objectives
  • Define your target demographic and screening strategy for recruitment
  • Develop an overall concept for the questionnaire
  • Carefully develop questions that don’t bias participants
  • Organize an appropriate venue with a relaxed atmosphere
  • Allow open discussions and new perspectives, yet stay in charge
  • Be spontaneous and follow up, yet stay focused on the main objectives
  • Show the participants you value their honest opinion
  • Transcribe the answers and analyze patterns in the responses
  • Check whether your main objective was met and implement changes

 

For more information about how to conduct a successful focus group please visit https://assessment.trinity.duke.edu/documents/How_to_Conduct_a_Focus_Group.pdf or if your organization is considering a focus group, please contact Media Link at 309-786-5142.  We also offer focus groups to our clients.


Branding and Communications

Marketing defines who you are and how you present yourself to potential customers. One of the most important elements of a successful marketing strategy is branding.

Branding is the long-term process of creating an experience tied to your company and consumption of products. This experience differs from person to person. It is therefore essential to define a target population based on specific demographic factors to make your branding efforts as efficient and effective as possible. Efficient branding is the creation of a positive perception of values and characters represented by the brand name that complements your target demographic. This process involves researching, developing and implementing brand names, brand marks and trade characters. But the effort is well worth it!

Benefits of Branding:

– Effective branding enables the easy and quick identification of the company and product in a sea of competitors

– Branding creates loyalty

– Branding allows the establishment of premium pricing

– Branding guides the development of new products by defining a clear-cut frame work consisting of your company’s values

– Consistent and well-executed branding increases sales

The above experience must be communicated well. Effective and efficient communication is key to reap the benefits of branding.You need to craft the messages you would like to be received and send it out to your target audience.

The brand’s character and target population refers to a specific mix of communication channels.  Choosing sub-optimal channels wastes your valuable resources, because it is a delivery of the message to people who are not receptive. Additionally, choosing channels that create a derivation from the perception of the branding can have damaging effects on your brand and your sales, because your potential and real customers will have a harder time identifying themselves with your brand and ultimately you loose that brand loyalty every strives to achieve.  Brand loyalty is what allows your company to establishing premium pricing for your products, but that kind of pricing is difficult if your customer isn’t there to support this increased pricing.

To sum up, aligning branding and communications is a challenging long-term process, but it is well worth it.

https://www.boundless.com/marketing/textbooks/boundless-marketing-textbook/branding-and-packaging-10/branding-74/value-of-branding-371-611/

 http://www.economistgroup.com/leanback/channels/brand-marketing-vs-brand-communications/


From Intern to Marketing Assistant

When I started at Media Link in October of 2015 I was a Junior, Marketing and Communications major, at Augustana College grateful for a chance to start my new internship.

Before working at Media Link, I had not worked in the marketing field.  My knowledge of marketing was based on my schooling and personal research, and was nervous that I would not be prepared enough to begin working in the field.

I was right and I was wrong at the same time.  My schooling did well on teaching me the overarching strategies and methods of marketing, but at the same time I lacked the details that I could only be taught while working at Media Link.  The best example of this is when it comes to actually purchasing media.  I understood the basics like markets, demographics, reach and frequency but I had never even seen a media sales kit from a station.  I had never been taught the details of following through with actually making a purchase.

As time went on I started to realize that to learn about a very specific aspect of my field, such as media buying, you need to get real experience.  While working with Media Link, I have been able to learn more about marketing as a whole, but also the details of actually going through all the steps of creating a marketing campaign for a real client.

Now I am no longer an intern, but a Marketing Assistant working part time while finishing up my last year of school.  Now, I look at a media sales kit from a station or creating a new radio campaign for a client as just another day on the job.  I still learn something new almost every day, but I am confident that I have a strong understanding of marketing and its many different aspects.

** This blog was written by Zack Wheeler, student at Augustana College


An Intern’s Perspective

In the classic movie Good Will Hunting, Will was a kid with a genius level IQ and nothing could get by him. When discussing art on a park bench with his therapist, Michelangelo was brought up. Will would probably know everything about the artist; his artwork, political aspirations, relationship with the Pope, etc. Then his therapist told him that he does not know what Michelangelo’s work is really like because he has never actually experienced what it is like ti be inside the Sistine Chapel and look at the artwork and take in the atmosphere. Now I am not saying I am a genius or master at marketing by any means; the connection I am trying to make  here is that you could read every marketing book from front to back, you can listen to every communication lecture offered, but you never know how important and useful the information is until you go out to implement and experience it for yourself.

That is exactly what my time spent at Media Link has done thus far. It has given me great experience. Media Link put me in situations where I had the opportunity to take lessons I learned at Augustana and apply them in a professional setting.

Through the use of Media Link Softwareâ„¢ it became very apparent that marketing is not just something we “do”. You can’t just run one ad in a newspaper and hope to be successful. Ongoing campaigns with good reach and continuing frequency are required if you want more customers in your business. It is an ongoing process that requires a critical analysis of the target market and how to best appeal to them.

I learned that Media Link can find out where a company stands brand wise and what needs to be done in order to get them to where they want to go. Maintaining and keeping track of all the ads that are being run on all of the mediums was once very monotonous, but with the help of Media Link Softwareâ„¢, managing advertisements is more clear-cut than ever. Using it was difficult at first because there’s nothing like it out there, but it is a very beneficial tool to use once you get the hang of it.

None of my class assignments ever had me making taglines or slogans for a company, I only read about it, so when I was given that task it was new to me. I thoroughly enjoyed thinking about the product and tossing around words, phases and ideas to try to find the best way to appeal to the consumer. It was satisfying to know that my words could be the next tagline for this company’s product. It was fulfilling because what I said helped bring business into a local restaurant and the words on the billboard could have convinced someone to stop in the restaurant where I indirectly helped them eat the best meal of their lives.

Media Link might be a small business, but is has a big business mentality.  They have their hands in everything. From posting Facebook statuses for a Doctor to running TV campaigns for restaurants.  Media Link is there with the know-how to get the job done. My internship here at Media Link has provided me with useful experience to further the skills and knowledge I will need to be successful in my future endeavors.

 

** This blog was written by Mike Tortorelli, student at Augustana College and former Intern at Media Link, Inc.


Newest Addition to the Team

We proudly announce our newest addition to our Media Link team: Marketing Assistant, Adrian Wille. After years of living in Europe, the United States, and the Middle East, Adrian decided to settle her in the Quad Cities in late 2013. He is a MA graduate with an economics, business and marketing background.  His strategic and analytical approach to his work is a real plus.

“Adrian’s background and his zest for learning brings a lot of energy to our office.  We’re excited to have him here.  His interdisciplinary thinking is a welcome complement to our team,” says Natalie Linville-Mass, President of Media Link.

“Media Link is different from the organizations I have worked with previously.  It offers exceptional transparency, flexibility and efficient strategic marketing solutions crafted individually to each client,” says Wille.

Adrian is actively involved in our community. He’s Vice President and a Board Member of the Palomares Social Justice Center in Moline. He is also an active member of the Young Professionals of the Quad Cities, the German-American Heritage Center, the American-Scandinavian Association; volunteer at the Komen Quad Cities Race for the Cure; and a proud AIESEC alumnus.15