Category Archives: Marketing, Advertising, and PR

Your Personal Brand and Your Business Brand

When we think of Branding, we usually thinking of Brands in Business. However, it’s just as important to think about your personal brand and how it may be tied to your business’ brand. 

The concept of intermingling the personal brand with the business brand goes back years, decades, even centuries. Even in an age of multi-national corporations, chain retailers and restaurants, we all have a favorite local shop or restaurant. Then when we think of that business, the business owner is often who comes to mind. 

Of course, the same can be true of huge companies. As Forbes reports, Steve Jobs is still tied to Apple, both in terms of products and branding, nearly eleven years after his death. Certainly we think of Colonel Sanders when we drive by KFC, even though the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken passed away in 1980.

Some business owners may truly want to stay anonymous and behind the scenes. Not everyone wants to be front and center, and it’s not the right role for every business owner. However, it’s worth taking some time to think about whether you would relish that role, and if so, how best to place yourself and your personal brand within the context of your business brand.

If you’ve decided your personal brand should be tied to your business brand, then it’s important to be conscious of how you’re interacting with the public on social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are not merely an online place to congregate with friends, those sites are an opportunity to strengthen both your personal and business brand. You can read more about building your personal brand from Forbes here.

Mammoths vs Boutiques, Which is Right for You?

We are a boutique agency. It is the business we know and love. Certainly, there are advantages to big agencies for certain clients. If you own, say, Ford Motor Company, you have a lot more marketing and advertising needs than an in-house team and boutique agency can handle. A huge client like Ford needs a big agency. However, big agencies are not right for every business.

As Forbes says of boutique agencies, “These new agencies were born because the mammoth marketing agencies acted like, well, mammoths — woolly mammoths, to be more precise: big, awkward and unable to adapt.”

Thriveverge points out that boutique agencies offer a more personalized approach. This is where boutique agencies working together with small and medium-sized businesses can really thrive. “Smaller, more experienced staff in a boutique marketing firm atmosphere ensures that top talent touches all accounts,” they report. “From conception to execution, boutique agencies are committed to quality.”

For some businesses, the mammoth might very well be the best option. For most smaller and medium-sized businesses, the mammoth can be too big, and the nimbler boutique agencies are often the best choice.

Careers in Digital Media for the Leaders of the Future

As Whitney Houston once sang, “I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way.” Whitney released that song 36 years ago, and many of the children she was singing about then now have their own children who are the future. That’s how life goes, always changing, and the media and advertising business is no different.

Media Link President Natalie Linville-Mass had the honor of speaking to children moving quickly on their way to young adulthood at Edison Junior High School last week. Natalie was there along with friends at MindFire Communications and Abernathy’s as part of a Career Fair sponsored by the Moline Foundation focused on careers in digital media. “I am happy to have the chance to participate and hope the kids had a great time and even learned a little bit about this ever changing field,” Natalie said after the event. 

“The students gained a lot from today,” said Susan Zelnio, Program Director of the Moline Foundation, “even when they didn’t look like they are paying attention!”

For Media Link, talking to young people about careers in this field is an ongoing part of giving back to the community and helping to offer guidance to the leaders of the future. “This past year, I have also volunteered to speak with AVID Junior and High School classes about what we do,” says Natalie. These were classes taught at Washington, Edison, and Rock Island High School.

Some of the topics Natalie discussed with students were the importance of brand recognition in advertising, how advertising helps small businesses, and careers that are tied to digital advertising, including careers as copywriters, graphic designers, and what it’s like to work for different kinds of firms. This next generation is a digital generation, and the field is constantly changing, yet as the leaders of the future, we know they’ll be ready.

Sharing our wisdom and knowledge is all part of the mission of Media Link, and it’s also a treat that doing so reminds us of a fabulous Whitney Houston song.

To blog or not to blog?

With apologies to Hamlet:

To blog, or not to blog, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler for the business to publish
The musings and insights of one’s expertise
Or to put one’s marketing efforts into a sea of hashtags
On social media, and let the blog slip idly by unwritten. 

The decision to blog isn’t quite the existential threat Hamlet faces in his soliloquy, but for marketing purposes, it can be pretty important. But how important, exactly? Blogging is one of those marketing efforts that takes a lot of time. And let’s face it, we’re not writing Shakespearean soliloquies, we’re trying to bring awareness to our client’s businesses.

According to Hubspot, companies that blog have much better marketing results than companies that don’t. Blogging companies have 55% more visitors to their websites, with 97% more inbound links, and 434% more indexed pages. This means not only are a lot more visitors coming to your website, but you’re also going to show up in more search engine results.

For those of us in the content marketing business, we know it can take some convincing for companies to jump into blogging. It takes a lot more time and effort to write a blog than it does to post a marketing message to social media. Fortunately for business owners, they don’t have to do all the work themselves. They can turn to marketing and advertising agencies for help with blogging. And blogging is about more than just driving traffic to your website.

As Forbes reports, a blog builds authority and trust in a business. When a customer is looking for a product or service, and two competing businesses look similar, the business with a regular blog will establish a stronger sense of trustworthiness and expertise in the customer’s mind.

Blogs are not just about selling products and services though. They are a way to communicate with customers, to let them get to know a business in a different way than social media allows. It’s a way to let customers know about the direction a business is heading, and a way to ask customers for their input.

As Small Business Trends wrote last year, blogging has been around since the beginning of the internet, but it’s still an important way to communicate with customers, establish expertise for your business, develop business leads, and educate customers about not just products, but the details of how your business works. Blogging is still worth it.

Curiosity is Key

One of the most wonderful things about working in marketing and advertising is the opportunity to continually learn new things as you get to know your clients and their businesses. At Media Link, we find it helps to be genuinely curious, whether it’s a business that’s completely new to you or a type of business you’ve been marketing for years. 

Even the same types of businesses will benefit from curiosity in marketing. Two cupcake shops may have completely different marketing needs, depending on what kinds of cupcakes they make, their core customers, and where they are located. Curiosity will lead to finding the best individual solutions for each client. As Walt Disney said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Obviously from a client perspective, it helps to have a curious team behind your marketing strategy. Yet for those of us who work in marketing, it also makes our lives richer and more interesting. We can learn about the needs of a cupcake shop one day, and then learn all about a unique metal-smithing business the next day. 

As Media Link President, Natalie Linville-Mass said about the future of marketing in a 2021 interview, “This evolution is far from over. Our crew continues to learn as each new technology and communications company emerges. Who knows what the next 20 years will bring?” Curiosity and a love of learning is key to staying on top of trends, seeing the future, and connecting with your client’s needs.

Curiosity is also a virtue that keeps marketers learning new trends and coming up with new marketing ideas. Online marketing was virtually non-existent 20 years ago. As Natalie said, we don’t know what the future will bring, but we’re sure curious to find out.

Happy 20th Anniversary, Media Link

Time flies! It is hard to believe it’s been 20 years since Natalie Linville-Mass founded Media Link. She began the agency because she believed there was a need for a different way of serving clients. Linville-Mass wanted to rethink the relationship between agency and client, to give the client more information about how their needs were being met. She wanted a more personal approach. She saw a path to better serve her clients, and felt a responsibility to follow that path by forming her own agency.

This approach is also how the Media Link office works. Everyone who works at Media Link becomes part of the team, not just an employee. Linville-Mass wants her employees to feel empowered in the work they do, and in the relationships, they forge within the office, and with clients.

Media Link is not just a business in the community, it is truly part of the community. “Nothing works in a vacuum,” says Linville-Mass. “What you give to the community, the community gives back to you.” The Quad Cities has been a community that has given back in droves. The Chambers of Commerce in Illinois, Bettendorf, and Davenport were instrumental in getting the business off the ground, and have added layers of support throughout the years.

“If you see a need for something, it’s up to you to do it,” says Linville-Mass. It is a philosophy she lives by, so when she saw a need for a different way for agencies to collaborate with clients, she started her own agency. That is how Media Link began 20 years ago, and it is the philosophy that keeps Media Link thriving today.

Here’s to another 20 years!

How Much Should I Spend on Marketing?

A fundamental question asked by every business owner is “How much should I be spending on marketing and advertising?” The answer is of course: It Depends. If you are talking to an advertising agency, then you have already recognized the need for an expert evaluation of the opportunity/cost balance of advertising within your specific context. In this blog we are going to look at some of the guidelines Media Link uses to make recommendations with regards to that top line figure.

A few notes first:

  • We do consulting. Just because we could handle everything, does not mean that it is a good idea. The business owner or internal Marketing Director always establishes the budget.
  • Media Link operates without a retainer. So, we are hired project by project.  We do this so we can continue to work with businesses of all sizes.

One method of calculating your budget is contained in the table below (Taken from Effective Marketing by Peter Hingston). We like this example, because this exercise in determining your budget is focused on your situation at this particular point in time. With this exercise, start with a typical annual marketing budgetary figure of five percent of total revenue. Then for each factor, add or subtract percentage points depending on your own situation. At the end, you will have a percentage of your revenue to use toward marketing your business.

This method of tailoring a budget to your needs is purely a guide to give you an indication of the sort of factors you might consider. Your final decisions should be interpreted in light of your own circumstances. For example, you might say it has been a bad year because of the pandemic I better spend less on advertising to make up for it. If this move is essential to keeping you solvent, then this move might make sense. Overall, the reason we market or advertise is to remind and let people who need your product or service know you are an option.  The more people hear about your business, the more likely they are to buy from you when the need for your product or services arises.  Advertising less means less people will be reminded you are an option.   Remember, when people have a need for your service or product, the first few businesses that come to mind will be the businesses they turn to for help in fulfilling their need.

If you want to do the job properly, a full analysis is the most important step. Marketing is not just advertising design, it is every time a customer, former customer or potential customer encounters anything to do with your business. Most business owners are aware of all the elements factored into a marketing analysis, but might not be actively considering them and certainly cannot be dealing with how they all fit together.

2021 Digital Marketing Predictions

2020 has provided a variety of new digital marketing options like the Spotify, Pandora and Hulu self-serve platforms finally making digital radio and OTT accessible for small and middle-sized businesses. Let’s have a look at a couple of 2021 digital marketing predictions.

 

Chat Bots

Chat bots already exist, but advances in artificial intelligence and natural language processing will tremendously improve their responsiveness. Most chat bots in the past relied on a limited amount of options to select, but the next generation will be able to come up with more sophisticated responses, including better product recommendations, e-commerce transaction support and troubleshooting. They are ideal for businesses focusing on solving customer requests online instead of relying on call centers. Mastercard has successfully implemented this element and others will follow this path in 2021.

 

Video Content

Video content will be quasi-mandatory for customer-facing businesses. While it was a desirable addition in the past, ImpactBND reminds us that:

  • At least 70% of consumers have shared a brand’s video.
  • More than 50% of consumers claim that watching product videos guides their online purchasing decisions.
  • 72% of businesses believe video content has improved their conversion rates.

Live streaming especially provides an opportunity for businesses not familiar with professional video production to produce valuable content.

 

Interactive Content

Marketers already familiar with creating effective video content need to focus on interactive content. There is something for all sorts of businesses:

  • Calculators and configurators
  • Quizzes, polls, games and surveys
  • Multi-touch photos and videos
  • Interactive e-books
  • Interactive infographics and data visualizations
  • Virtual reality and augmented reality overlays

A common example are interactive maps showing election results or the development of COVID-19 cases.

There is so much more to consider for 2021, so check out sources like AdWeek, the Content Marketing Institute and the AMA to get ready.

Remote is not Regression: Leading in a Remote Environment

About the Guest Author

Dr. Burl Randolph, Jr., DM, is connecting remotely daily at MyWingman, LLC, a Business Leadership and Management Consulting company in Davenport, Iowa that serves the Quad Cities and the Nation.  Dr. Burl is also the author of the Best Selling Book, “Inspired, Not Retired: Leadership Lessons from Father to Son” and coauthor of “Can God Trust You with Trouble?

 

Sometimes doing what we do may feel like regression.

 

As professionals, we are all accustomed to certain things like the corner office, big desks and nice computers with plenty of space to do our work.  Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many are forced to work at home, which is a dramatic change.  This concept of Remote Work or Working Remotely may feel like a regression in what you or your organization have accomplished.  This is only true if you allow it and at this point, I will diverge from my normal self and use a cliché’:

 

But leadership makes the difference.    

 

In this Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA) environment, leadership is the glue that holds the organization together. Leading remotely is almost routine when your organization is spread across several states and square miles, the situation requires it, and you operate regionally, nationally, or globally.  Even in those environments, leaders must establish certain parameters to help spur success in the organization.

 

1. Establish Routine Connections.

Most people are creatures of habit (routine) and interaction (connections).  When working remotely, establishing routine connections is vital to the health of the organization and its members. People need to hear from their boss, coworkers and stakeholders as routinely as they did when business occurred in-person. So, what meetings, phone calls, events and motivational moments can you continue while working remotely?

 

2. Develop Stability.

When situations are the most uncertain is when stability is required the most. Routines and connections are two parts of that. Updates about all facets of the work environment are also key, so that people feel like they are informed.  This may include updates from human resources (HR), business development (BD), operations (OPS), and logistics and supply, just to name a few. A good one for HR is also Recruiting and Retention.  Are we still hiring or are people leaving in droves? For BD, are we gaining new clients or are we struggling to keep who we already have now?  Informed people work much better and have a higher commitment than organizations that keep people in the dark. How are you developing stability in your organization?

 

3. Inspire Accountability.

Accountability is a good thing, although it has been cast as a fiendish tool used by management to keep tabs on people.  One accountability measure that establishes routine connections and stability is having a Battle Buddy or Wingman/woman. Working remotely does not allow us to just walk over to someone’s desk and say, “Can you check this for me?” so, find a Battle Buddy to bounce things off each other. You become each other’s editor, muse, sounding board and backup. You hold each other accountable. Who is your Battle Buddy at work?  Who has your back? Who keeps you straight? Are they doing that right now?

 

4. Empower Communication, Collaboration and Innovation.

I have witnessed many innovative ways to help others during this pandemic. Can you use that same type of innovative spirit in your business? Empower everyone to communicate freely, collaborate openly and innovate without fear of repercussions. What can be done in your business that has never been done before? Who has a skill that was unknown until now? Who works well together and has formed a High Performing Team?

 

5. Value the Impact of Connectedness.

Do not miss the boat on this one. As much as you may dislike Zoom, Skype, Google Go-To-Meetings, Microsoft Teams or the literally hundreds of other video teleconference (VTC) platforms, the connectedness they allow provides great value. In the prime of my CEO tenure, VTCs were reserved for the elite or those in trouble, so I only had the phone. Now, being able to see a coworker, boss, family member or friend can make a huge difference. Even when you meet wearing a mask and being socially distanced, it has a wonderful impact on morale and well-being. Do you value connectedness? Are you creating connection opportunities both professionally and personally?

 

How will you continue leading during this Remote Work Environment, so that it does not feel like regression is occurring in your organization?

 

Marketing in Times of COVID-19

Organizations like the American Marketing Association and the ANA provide a range of useful articles on navigating your marketing efforts around COVID-19. Here are three of our favorites:

 

The New Reality: A Guide to Marketing in a Post-COVID-19 World

This guide can be downloaded and shared as a pdf. It focuses on new consumer habits and expectations, including a growing demand for experiential and agile marketing, a higher reliance on virtual influencers, and society’s new focus on brand’s sustainability efforts. Another article, The Big Shift: A Prediction of What’s to Come Post-Pandemic, complements this content.

 

Allow Adaptation to Fuel Creativity Amid Isolation

Struggling with being creative when being refined at home is a common issue. The article suggests remedies like dividing your work into windows or 30-minutes to allow time for interruptions like helping your child with an assignment. Re-adjusting the approach to brainstorming with colleagues by limiting participants and trying out innovative work processes is another way to keep your creative juices flowing and to stay productive. The article Lead with Creativity, Not with Capital explains why remaining creative truly matters.

 

5 Steps to Pivot from In-Person to Virtual Events Today

This article provides an easy-to-follow approach to evaluating your physical events and deciding on whether to provide them virtually. They encourage a steering committee to analyze available resources and infrastructure to identify gaps. The final virtual events must provide a unique value to easily assess through appropriate virtual channels like life videos, blogs, audio files, PPT slides, etc. Similar considerations should be made in the area of healthcare marketing.

 

As always, please reach out to us with any questions and comments.