The right way to write: A guide for Georgia Tech

I’m excited to spend my lunch today with 50 of Georgia Tech’s brightest communications professionals. My friend and colleage, Katherine Strate, will help me lead a workshop on writing for the Web. As an Alabama grad, I’ll try my best not to be intimidated.

Coca-Cola 125: Jackson Spalding’s weekend to remember

This past weekend, Coca-Cola celebrated 125 years since the first Coca-Cola was enjoyed on May 8, 1886. I was fortunate enough to help Jackson Spalding coordinate portions of the event and to invite select media to Friday night’s illumination of the Coca-Cola Tower and Saturday’s 125th Anniversary Celebration Concert in Centennial Olympic Park.

What a weekend! [Read more…]

A little lesson about Glen Jackson

Glen Jackson, Maryville Retreat Talent ShowJackson Spalding has enjoyed a good run lately. We were named to the AJC’s Top Work Places in Atlanta and then the Holmes Report named us Best Small Agency to work for. (If you want to find out for yourself, we have nine jobs posted right now — send me your resume).

Needless to say there’s been some self-reflection on why we’re such a good place to work. The easy answers are healthy, realistic billable goals and a true focus on work-life balance. But there are a lot of intangibles.

One of those intangibles is the Glen factor. I found this nugget in my email from April 2008 and had to share it today:

To: Jackson Spalding
Subject: A little lesson about selling

Something I thought about today that I wanted to put down in writing about selling:

Instead of selling to people, connect with people.  There is a big difference between the two.

Just a little thought for us to remember.

This is typical of Glen. He finds a connection to everyone he meets. That connection starts as an small ember and he feeds it until it’s a raging fire.

[Read more…]

Ice Cream Friday: Jake’s Ice Cream visits Jackson Spalding

Ice Cream Sundae via http://www.flickr.com/photos/neilconway/Today will be an interesting day. I’m excited to host a focus group for Jake Rothschild, the serial entrepreneur and owner of Jake’s Ice Cream. A group of Jackson Spalding colleagues will walk-through the challenges of opening a retail concept on Peachtree Street in Midtown.

While we’re all marketers and communicators, today we’re volunteering our time and opinions as consumers and lovers of Midtown, Atlanta. [Read more…]

Market research transforms luxury clubs into lifestyle brand

The Luxury Club Makeover

It’s amazing what a little market research can do. Boston-based Millennium Partners Sports Club Management watched at the beginning of the recession as clients at Sports Club/LA and the Reebok Sports Club/NY drifted away. Attrition rates steadily rose from 30 percent up to 37 percent. On top of that, ancillary revenue from existing members declined as members cut back on private trainers and other programs.

CEO Smaiyra Million decided to get to the root of the problem instead of simply watching revenue decline by 10 percent in 2010 alone. Her solution? Well, it was partly based on market research.

After listening to customers and potential customers, Sports Club/LA stopped referring to its brands as luxury clubs. It turns out that “luxury” is perceived as being excessive. And excess hasn’t been selling well the past few years.

The company also stopped calling its brands “urban country clubs.”

Today, you’ll hear Millennium discuss the lifestyle associated with the club. In the minds of company management, their clubs are an essential lifestyle for those who can afford it. The company’s current ad campaign, The Essentials of Life, features health and fitness as an essential part of life that should not be put on hold. (Oddly, the company still uses the word luxury on its corporate website).

Here’s how Million described the shift in marketing focus to ClubIndustry.com:

We don’t try to downplay the fact that we do have extras and that we do pay attention to the individual needs of our very discerning customers, but we just don’t talk about it as a luxury because a luxury is something that most people think they should be doing without.

Million projects revenue will increase in 2011 by 5 percent over 2010. Attrition rates are improving and revenue is rebounding. Millennium is now ready for the growth, with Atlanta potentially in the mix.

If Millennium is successful, this will serve as a powerful example of the power of using marketing research. Every company should consider research a necessary investment and a first step with any new marketing campaign.

NOTE: This article is cross posted at Jackson Spalding’s blog, JS Thinkstand.com.

Spring cleaning: Time to dust off your website

Jackson Spalding: Atlanta Public RelationsI spent an hour or so Monday morning researching the background of several companies that I will partner with over the next few months. Naturally, this research leads to viewing the corporate website and any related websites. I was impressed with what I saw — at least at first. As I looked around and clicked a few links my impression dimmed.

The company — which I won’t name for obvious reasons — has completed world-class projects and is in a league above many in its field. There is no doubt, by any measure, that this company isn’t top-notch. But instead of showing the world a top-notch website, many of the company’s pages were out of date, relayed old information or offered visitors broken links.

This is a good reminder that websites are not set-it-and-forget-it projects. A little spring cleaning for your website won’t hurt. I promise.

Unless you have a simple landing page with only your contact information, your website needs to be dynamic, current and accurate. For many people, your website makes the first — and sometime only — impression. Are you OK with that?

I will be reviewing the Jackson Spalding website today to be sure we’re up-to-date. I know a makeover is already in progress but if there’s any old information, it needs to be cleaned up today. Let me know if you see any mistakes!

Social media policy: A treasure trove of netiquette rules

Social Media PolicySeveral clients recently asked me for a social media policy, or a blogging policy, so that they could provide social media guidelines for their employees. Frankly, I simply didn’t have a corporate social media policy template sitting on my desktop ready to fire away.

So I did what I always do in these situations: I asked my colleagues. This is generally a reliable group to turn to in a pinch. Unfortunately, nothing turned up. I drafted my own social networking guidelines and provided some general advice that I’ve learned from personal experience but I still felt that I was short-changing my clients.

I was thrilled when Jackson Spalding’s Social Media Director Stefany Sanders shared this link: Online Database of Social Media Policies.

Eureka! [Read more…]

Crisis management questions: What to ask for crisis response

Issues Management WorksheetAny successful crisis response requires a calm demeanor. You simply can’t be effective with crisis management if you rush your thinking or overlook important steps. Additionally, it’s important to have the full support of your team when an unplanned issue that will impact your corporate reputation surfaces.

To help my clients manage both of these tough assignments under pressure, I use an issues management worksheet that I created with the help of my colleagues. My long-term clients have a copy of this worksheet that they provide to key employees.

Whether you’re responding to TV reporters trying to report a criminal investigation or a natural disaster, it’s important to gather facts quickly and accurately. Once the facts are sorted out, a proper assessment can be made and a strategy can be approved and implemented. [Read more…]

UPS leads Atlanta among Forbes’ most reputable cos.

United Parcel Service logo (2003-present)

Image via Wikipedia

UPS makes an appearance as the only Atlanta-based corporation in the Top 20 of the most reputable companies in the US, according to the sixth annual list from advisory firm Reputation Institute, in partnership with Forbes Media. UPS, in fact, ranks in the Top 10 at No. 6.

Other Georgia companies making the list include No. 24 Home Depot, No. 25 Coca-Cola, No. 61 Southern Company, No. 102 Delta Air Lines and No. 105 Aflac.

The Reputation Institute’s annual list is an attempt to rank brands by influence. [Read more…]

Crisis management and your crisis response plan

Too late for planning (via tvol on flickr)Crisis management planning is critical for any business and Atlanta-based companies are not immune from this rule. During my career as a reporter and especially over the past five years of reputation management at Jackson Spalding, I have witnessed the results of those who conduct business without a crisis communications plan. It’s like walking a tight rope without a net.

Most of my clients never expected they would need help with issues management. Crisis communications popped into their minds only after the crisis popped into their life. In fact, I frequently acknowledge that many of my clients never wanted to work with a PR firm at all. They call — sometimes at the request of their attorney — after an unplanned event becomes an issue that might impact their bottom line.

The situations that lead to this call are wide-ranging. I’ve helped corporate boards communicate the transition of C-suite executives and once worked with a client who needed to explain to employees, vendors and partners why a C-level executive was pleading guilty after a Justice Department investigation. I’ve responded to protests, including one led by Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH coalition and one organized to oppose a Glenn Beck book signing. [Read more…]