Friday, December 30, 2011

Mega-JLo-mania, and Other Cautionary Tales of 2011 Celebrity Spokespeople

Taking a quick look back at the last 12 months in national advertising, it’s clear that 2011 was another year dominated by celebrity endorsers – with widely varying success rates.

Fiat’s use of Jennifer Lopez to support a new car launch seems to be backfiring. Nobody’s buying the ol’ “Jenny from the block” routine:

Go Daddy has bigger problems on its hands right now than its terrible commercials featuring Danica Patrick, but spots like this aren’t helping:

In 2012, big brands everywhere are likely to keep trotting out familiar faces from screens, fields and courts. But before our big-budget marketing brethren shell out the cash to those who don’t need it, maybe they should take note of these and countless other less-than-celebratory results.

Then again, sometimes a celebrity spot works pretty well, like some we've seen recently here in Old Milwaukee ...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday Party Gift-Wrapping Rodeo Wrap-Up

Office holiday parties are a fine opportunity to promote teamwork and togetherness. This year, we decided to take the camaraderie of our annual yuletide shindig to a new level – by mixing a charitable ingredient into the usual recipe of food and fun.

In the spirit of giving, we channeled our holiday cheer toward a toy drive for the Journey House of Milwaukee, an organization that provides education, employment, neighborhood revitalization and other programs on Milwaukee’s near south side.

We collected a variety of new, unused toys for kids served by Journey House. And to make sure we emphasized the “fun” pillar of our core values, we incorporated a wrapping contest (not be confused with “rapping contest” – maybe next year?).

We are proud to announce that this past Saturday, Santa himself handed out 25 presents worth almost $400 to children from the community from SH (among many others from the generous Milwaukee community).

Check out photos from the holiday festivities on our Facebook page.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Travel Diaries: Personal and Professional Networking in Madrid

Despite what you may be reading about the Eurozone crisis, not everyone’s in panic mode. For example, PowerAxle, our IPREX public relations partner in Madrid, seems to be on the up and up.

I had the opportunity to tour PowerAxle’s offices and meet Mayte González-Gil (at right), CEO of PowerAxle, during a return trip to Spain, where I lived for four years until late 2009.

In an old apartment in the center of the city, PowerAxle’s work environment reminded me a lot of ours here in Milwaukee. It’s an open office that allows for constant communication and collaboration. Some of those efforts are put towards clients such as AXA, the French insurance company, Chicco, the Italian baby care brand and Scania, the Swedish automotive company. Working primarily in the B2C sector, PowerAxle specializes in market research reports (many of which are used by various ministries of the Spanish government) as well as brochures and other collateral material.

We had a chance to sit down for la comida, a typical 2 p.m. Spanish lunch (which ended around 4 p.m.) at a lovely place near Plaza Olavide called La Huerta del Duque. We ordered some cheese and ham to start and shared an amazing rice dish (similar to paella) and talked about everything from business to politics to life. We found common ground on what our companies are doing in the digital space and also talked shop in terms of copy writing, design and billing.

Mayte mentioned to me they were looking for a new hire, which I passed on to my friend Juan, who was looking for a job. He’s starting there this week.

It just goes to show there’s nothing stronger than a good network, whether on a global level like IPREX or a simpler level like two friends. So keep up the networking on whatever scale and wherever that may be.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Entering the Marketing Communications Job Market? Ten Tasks to Tackle Today

Last month, I participated in a panel discussion of fellow UW-Oshkosh journalism alumni to provide students with advice on entering the “real world.” And while their questions were particularly helpful for soon-to-be grads, much of the advice also was beneficial for entry-level professionals.

Here are the top 10 pieces of advice from our panel:

  1. Keep building your skills. Gain experience in writing, design, web, social media, etc. Today, employers are really looking for a jack (or jill)-of-all-trades.
  2. Keep your résumé to one page. Take the short and sweet approach. Whether you’re fresh out of college or looking for your second adventure, be objective – only include experience that really demonstrates what you can do on the job.
  3. Illustrate your abilities in cover letters. Match your expertise to a company’s specific needs. If they’re looking for someone with web design experience, describe a successful project and add metrics of success.
  4. Create a portfolio and make it available online. While hard copies are nice, an online portfolio showcases your work in a format that’s easy to revisit, which is especially important with a limited amount of time during interviews.
  5. Secure internship experience. Whether you’re still in school or recently graduated, an internship can provide valuable work experience that allows you to expand your capabilities – or get your foot in the door at a specific company.
  6. Network. A lot. Stay in touch with fellow students, alumni and professors to remain in consideration for job openings. Attend professional development events or alumni networking opportunities, and use social media to maintain connections.
  7. Express your self-confidence. Hiring managers want to know that you won’t be afraid to offer ideas or contribute to team projects. Be bold and outgoing, and show your passion for the job.
  8. Maintain professionalism. Even though you may think you know what’s acceptable in a company’s culture, err on the side of caution and present yourself professionally. You’ll earn respect as you get to know the company’s personality better.
  9. Take initiative. Ask questions. If your supervisor gives you a challenging project, don’t be afraid to ask questions and take ownership. Be proactive and anticipate clients’ or supervisors’ needs.
  10. Drive your own growth. Don’t be afraid to ask for more responsibility. Ultimately, you’re the one in charge of your career, and if you don’t speak up, you may not get to where you want to go. In addition, don't be afraid to move on if you feel you can no longer grow professionally.

Want more? Check out this PR Daily article for additional insights: 5 tips for landing your first PR job after college. I’d also encourage readers to follow the #HAPPO and #PRStudChat conversations on Twitter, which offer regular advice, tips and suggestions for students and entry-level professionals.

If you’re in a hiring position, do you have other suggestions for young professionals, and if you’re a young pro, are there other questions you’d like us to address?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

3 Keys to Creating a Great Online Newsroom

As promised, here is a follow-up to last month’s post on 3 Reasons Why Your Website Needs a Newsroom. Building on the basics of what a newsroom is, what it isn’t and what it can accomplish, let’s look at three best practices of successful online newsrooms and a client example.

1. Keep it simple: Facilitate easy browsing and discovery.

Make sure the newsroom is easy to find and can be accessed from any page on your website, and vice versa. Done correctly, a newsroom will be one of the most visited pages on your site. Get more out of that traffic and enhance the user experience by linking visitors to other sections of the site. The user experience is more than just site navigation – it also involves strategically planning content. Think like your audience: What are they most interested in? Where will they look first, second?

2. Add more substance: Content equals more than just words.

Use digital media such as videos, images and graphics. Use original photography or develop simple graphics to add visual stimulation and excitement. But, be conscientious about balancing your message and using complicated images or technologies. Many users will view your site on mobile devices and tablets, so don’t be too flashy (literally, don’t use too much Flash video) and make sure all essential elements are easily viewable on different devices.

3. Let them see the real you: Showcase your personality with social feeds and other information.

If you maintain social media channels, bring your newsroom into the mix, housing feeds from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other networks. These not only provide strong calls-to-action to engage with your company, but they often show more of your company’s personality. Link to related research, educational materials and industry articles, as well as tradeshows you’re attending, events you’re speaking at, awards you’re receiving, etc. If someone wants to start a conversation, let them know what you’re up to.

In general, keep in mind that newsroom visitors are your potential or current customers, employees or media contacts. Make sure they know something more about your company after stopping by.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Utilizing Virtual Events to Reach a Larger Audience

Milacron Plastics Technologies, one of our plastics manufacturing clients, recently hosted an open house at its Ohio manufacturing facility for customers, media and industry personnel. The three-day event showcased a variety of technical demonstrations, expert presentations, product overviews, facility tours and other programs.

While aggressive promotion resulted in high turnout at the event, there were still many individuals who couldn’t attend.

Because the information and demonstrations presented at the open house provided significant value to those in the industry, Milacron didn’t want to limit its scope to only in-person attendees. The company decided to consolidate the content and make it available online in the form of a ‘virtual open house.’

Hosting a virtual event like Milacron’s open house can provide visitors with an interactive experience of the event, which can include:

  • Video demonstrations
  • Attendee and exhibitor interviews
  • Photo slideshows
  • Downloadable presentations and collateral
  • Links to media coverage of the original open house

Milacron launched its virtual open house through an email campaign to customers, prospects and media. PlasticsToday summed it up by saying: “…We don't need convincing that a virtual event can be just as instructive, and a lot more convenient, than traveling somewhere.”

Look for more open houses and other events to go ‘virtual’ in the near future. It’s a great way of leveraging technology to reach a broad audience. And, by hosting an in-person event and following it up with a virtual event, you may be able to get the best of both worlds.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

State of Emergency: Manufacturing’s Workforce Problem

In a recent national survey of manufacturers administered by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, 67% of respondents said they face a shortage of qualified workers.

As a result, many manufacturers can’t keep up with demand. It’s hardly the first time we’ve stressed the manufacturing worker shortage on this blog. But it’s worth revisiting today because the problem is increasingly urgent. How can we reinvigorate our stagnant national economy if one of its most significant drivers, cannot grow?

As a country, we must increase the supply of manufacturing workers with technical skills and education. But the relevant training programs are no longer as popular as they were for the baby boomers, a generation that was more fully supported in their pursuit of manufacturing careers.

Although the federal government is trying to address the manufacturing skills gap through various workforce development initiatives, manufacturers and their communities must also begin closing the gap on their own.

5 Ideas Manufacturers Can Implement Today

Create an employment brand. Just as you need the right messaging to attract the right customer, you need a strong employment brand to attract strong employment candidates. Ensure that your company’s values and culture are represented in this brand.

Refresh your careers section. Make sure you’re appealing to a younger generation. Include testimonials and biographies of current employees so young people can relate. Make your employment brand prevalent.

Use social networks. Reach young people where they hang out. Create a Facebook page and a YouTube channel and populate with videos. Showcase your facility, employees and what a day in the life looks like. Remember, most people never have been inside a manufacturing facility but have nevertheless formed negative opinions. Prove them wrong.

Start mentoring and onboarding programs. Engage and guide professional development and ongoing training. Implement a regular performance appraisal and feedback process. Maintain open and transparent communication between employees and management.

Form partnerships. Reach out to local vocational and technical educational facilities and organizations dedicated to workforce development. Work with them to design programs that include facility tours, open houses, speaking opportunities, student internships and teacher externships, apprentice programs, scholarship opportunities, etc. Get creative!

These are just a few examples of the many opportunities to attract and retain an engaged and productive workforce. What are some other ideas or programs have you seen implemented?

Monday, October 24, 2011

5 Key Elements of Social Media Success

Each month, people spend the equivalent of 1.3 million years on Facebook. That’s a lot.

But it’s no wonder: we spend a lot of time on Facebook and other social media because we can do a lot – stay in touch with family and friends, stay up-to-date on news and, for many businesses, stay in front of customers and prospects.

For B2B marketers, however, there are still many questions about what to do with social media and how to do it. Fortunately, answering many of these questions – on best practices, strategies, etc. – was the mission of the recent PR + Social Media Summit (#PRSMS) I attended at Marquette University.

The all-day summit featured 15 sessions jam-packed with valuable information, but here are five of the most interesting takeaways:

1. Content remains key. You need to share valuable content with an honest, transparent voice in order to build an active community that fuels conversation and growth. Make it fun, honest, relevant and valuable. Look for stories that are happening within your organization – stories that your audience can’t find anywhere else – and tell them in a unique way.

2. Social = listening. As much as you need good content, you should still listen more than you talk, answer more than you promote, and above all else, provide value. Listen to answer this question: What does my audience need, and how can I help?

3. Not everything happens online. Develop offline elements to your social programs. Get your teams out in the field to interact with your audiences.

4. Think long term. The greatest value of social media is the ongoing relationship, not the initial interaction.

5. Represent the whole organization. To be effective, social media has to be integrated across all functions to effectively communicate your key messages and address customers’ questions or concerns instantly.

What ingredients do you think are necessary for a recipe of social media success? Ultimately, social media engagement is about proving your value, so audiences will share positive interactions with their networks, encouraging others to turn to you for similar business solutions.

For further reading, you can review some of the summit speakers’ presentations at

Monday, October 10, 2011

Selecting the Right Spokesperson for Your Organization

[HINT: It doesn’t have to be someone from the C-Suite]

Consider this: how long does it take you to form an opinion of someone?


OK – pencils down. What’s the answer? Just one-tenth of a second, according to Noeleen McGrath, award-winning journalist and founder of McGrath Communications.

That’s why it’s important to select the right spokesperson for your organization. With that in mind, the Southeastern Wisconsin PRSA chapter invited McGrath to present at its most recent luncheon on how to choose the right “face” or “voice” for a company.

So what should you look for in potential spokespeople to create that desired first impression? The decision should be based on three elements: message, audience and experience. What message do you want to communicate, to whom, and what experience is necessary to support that message?

While typical spokespeople tend to be CEOs or other C-level executives, they’re not always the right fit. After answering the questions above, the right spokesperson should meet the following criteria:


While it may sound shallow, the truth is that looks matter. By nature, people want to listen to attractive individuals. That said, it’s important to wear the right outfit on camera. After grabbing someone’s attention, you don’t want viewers to lose your message due to distractions (e.g., a lot of accessories are a no-no). McGrath suggested wearing bold, solid colors, which film well on screen.

Confident, trustworthy & knowledgeable:

You want someone who can stay cool, calm, collected and comfortable in front of the camera, which comes through with confidence and knowledge. As a spokesperson, it’s important to never get emotional or aggressive. Once you expose your emotions, you leave yourself vulnerable to providing poor responses to other questions.


Again, it’s important to remember that not everyone is fit for the job. Therefore, cast a wider net within your organization and find “average joes” who can relate to your specific audience. Establish trust by finding someone who can connect with them on a more personal level – do they have kids, live in the same community, or participate in similar activities?

It’s these three key traits that will gain – and maintain – your audience’s attention, helping to make the right first impression. Aside from these points, what else would you suggest when considering spokespeople?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Insights from Our Partner in Japan

It’s a small world after all – but that doesn’t mean it’s a simple one.

For many companies, increasing globalization has brought with it increasing complexities of language and culture. Having people on the ground who are part of the culture in foreign markets is essential.

That’s why we’re pleased to bring you today’s post from TrainTracks Inc., our strategic marketing communications partner in Japan. As a fellow member of IPREX, a global network of independent public relations agencies, TrainTracks helps us understand and connect with audiences in a key Asian market.

Here are some recent insights from Ron Huber, a TrainTracks director.

Japan’s Media Landscape

It's been more than six months since the Great East Japan Earthquake. For the many victims of the disaster and the regions directly affected, the effects will continue to be felt for years. For the rest of the country, many struggles still remain, but for many businesses in Japan, the economic outlook appears more positive than initially expected. The general social atmosphere here has largely returned to its peculiar version of normalcy, and for international and global businesses exporting goods and services to Japan the high yen has created an ideal opportunity to grow their market share.

Due in part perhaps to this high yen, but more so because of our growing number of global PR partners, we at TrainTracks have seen a measurable increase in multinational client work. For new clients one of the most important tasks for us is always highlighting the unique characteristics of Japanese media. Every domestic market around the world will of course have key differences when dealing with the media, but Japan is the second-largest advertising and communications market in the world. Therefore it is especially important to recognize and adapt to these idiosyncrasies when planning your communications strategy for Japan.

There are two main aspects to the media landscape in Japan, the first being the way that journalists operate and the second being the ways each specific medium (newspapers, television, magazines, etc.) influence society. For part one of this two-part series let us have a look at the way journalists operate.

Just as with any country, journalists in Japan have their own particular way of doing business. The first aspect of this that our global clients are often exposed to when trying to attract media coverage is that there is tremendous pressure on the journalists to focus on domestic companies. To get past this as a foreign business, you need to localize the news and make the domestic relevance obvious to the target audience. This may involve something as simple as explaining how Japanese investors can utilize the information, but more often you need to explicitly explain how the news will impact Japanese businesses or the economy, even if it seems obvious.

Japanese journalists prefer in-person interviews, whether with the corporate spokesperson or with the agency representative. This means additional time, effort and costs that could be mitigated by phone interviews in markets where that is acceptable or the norm. On top of that most journalists will only do interviews in Japanese – even if they do know some English. In addition the media still prefers Japanese spokespeople even if a professional interpreter is used, so having a local spokesperson is crucial. Top tier executives like CEOs and CTOs from overseas are still welcomed and relatively easy to set up media interviews with, but unless they are willing to spend one week in Japan every month you are going to be missing out on many PR opportunities.

Finally, reporters here do not write articles solely based on press releases as often as they seem to do in other markets, and this is especially true when it comes to the most influential media. While this may also seem obvious to some, reporters like to find their own perspectives and almost always look for objective information based on their own research. This also means that if a press release relies on statistics or other figures, reporters here will often require them to be backed up by an independent third party before including them in an article. Another result of this tendency is that bylined articles (articles prepared by corporations but published as news) are quite uncommon in Japan.

Next month we will look at the media landscape from a publication and market perspective.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Don’t Just Earn Media. Earn Attention.

Back in the day, your target audiences’ main sources of information were dominated by traditional and trade media. It made sense to focus on gaining coverage, or “earned media,” in those outlets.

But in the increasingly interconnected world of social media, the middle man is disappearing. Your customers and prospects go to Twitter and Facebook for news, reviews, suggestions and promotions.

The good news is that you can connect directly with them in these realms. But that doesn’t mean they’ll pay attention – too many choices, too little time. That’s why building brands is no longer just about earned media, but about “earned attention.”

In “Why ‘Earned Attention’ is a Social Media Objective,” (subscription needed) author Deborah Budd highlights the need to tap into target audiences’ emotions, grabbing their attention and generating conversations. The key is to consider what you can contribute to your audiences – customers, partners, employees, industry members – via social media:
  • Share content and commentary about industry trends and best practices.
  • Highlight what your business offers in the context of these conversations.
  • Provide thoughtful updates, such as customer successes, that include a call to action.
  • Show your lighter side, which helps to strengthen connections and build loyalty.
In the process, you’ll build trust, demonstrate thought leadership, and position yourself as a valuable partner in an increasingly crowded marketplace. And the attention you earn will flourish, as your audiences become your advocates, disseminating your messages throughout their networks.

What do you think are challenges faced by B2B marketers seeking earned attention, and what advice would you have to achieve this important new objective?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

3 Reasons Why Your Website Needs a Newsroom

Years ago, maybe your company could have managed without an online newsroom – a home base for releases, media coverage, byline articles, event information, team biographies, fact sheets, media contacts, images, logos, etc.

But in the information age, it pays to make as much information as possible available and easy to find.

Here are the top 3 reasons an online newsroom is a smart investment and a crucial component of a successful marketing communications strategy.

Reason #1: Real-time reporting and shrinking staff.

At a time when overburdened media members are facing tighter deadlines than ever, if you don’t make information easily and quickly accessible, guess where reporters, editors or even potential customers are going to go for the information they seek?

A well-developed and populated newsroom turns browsing media into interested publishers who are more likely to tell your story than that of your competitors.

Reason #2: Digital distribution and re-purposing of content.

Remember that release that you wrote, that earned you an interview, which you videotaped and then edited, that you put on your YouTube channel and then announced on multiple social networks?

Well, where is all of that content now? What return is it earning you if no one can find it? All of that owned content should live right there on your newsroom.

• Integrated into social media feeds
• Linked to your blog
• Archived in your releases

Reason #3: Search engines love them.

Search engine spiders are out there crawling for fresh, valuable content. And that’s just what an online newsroom gives them. Quality content built around industry keywords is your ticket to a major traffic spike.

A newsroom also can increase your online real estate – meaning you have more unique pages for search engines to index, increasing the likelihood you’ll be found in search queries.

In a future post, we’ll look at the key components of a successful online newsroom. In the meantime, here’s a pretty good example to shoot for: InsideSH News..

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Dos and Don’ts of Successful Blogger Relations

Like it or not, bloggers are a force to be reckoned with in your PR efforts. But these aren’t your father’s journalists; they must be approached in a different way.

With that in mind, the PRSA Southeastern Wisconsin chapter focused its August luncheon on “Blogger Relations for Dummies (and PR Pros).” Blogger panelists Jon Mueller (@jonmueller) of, Nick Chipman (@DudeFoods) of, and Heather Blessington (@mamaVISION) of shared insights from their interactions with PR pros.

To recap, we’ve outlined a few of the key takeaways:

Research, research, research – Rather than crafting the “perfect” pitch, spend more time researching the blogger(s) you’re targeting. What’s the focus of their blog and who is their audience? Read a few of the posts to get a sense of their writing style, and more importantly, learn about their passion(s).
Make a real connection – Bloggers have a platform and a passion for what they do, so tap into their interests. Point to a specific post you’ve read. Why did it grab your attention?
Be selective – Narrow down your list for blogger outreach. Select key bloggers who are influential to your target audience.

Be generic – Personalize your communication. “Dear Blogger …” doesn’t encourage anyone to learn more about your client or its product/service. Simply put, don’t take a cut-and-paste approach. Would you want to help someone who didn’t take the time to learn your name?
Beat around the bush – Identify what you’re looking for up front. Plant a seed. Collaborate with bloggers to share your story.
Use industry jargon – Talk to them like a regular person. For most, blogging isn’t their full-time job; they’re also business savvy and know the usual promotion lingo, so don’t invite them to be a “brand ambassador.” It won’t work.

Want to learn more? A video post is now available on the PRSA SE WI blog at:

Is blogger outreach part of your media relations program? What advice would you give to fellow professionals?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Timing Has Never Been Better for an Ethics Refresher

Hey, we’re all ethical people here.

But these are confounding times—and not just politically and economically speaking. Marketing communications professionals of all stripes are confronting an array of rapid technological and cultural changes.

Even the most upstanding among us can get caught up in confusion and lose sight of what’s right.

So sometimes it helps to be able to refer back to the basics. That’s why we here at Scheibel Halaska have signed on to the Principles and Practices for Advertising Ethics recently set forth by the Institute for Advertising Ethics, a group administered by the American Advertising Federation (AAF).

The principles comprise eight rules to live by, centered on a few simple ideas:

  • Honesty
  • Transparency
  • Fairness

Good reminders to keep us all grounded in these fascinating, challenging days. Go ahead: Read the full IAE principles document.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Facebook Makes It Easier to Build Your Page (But You Still Need a Strategy)

Score one for Facebook in its ongoing battle with Google, with the latest round focused on bringing businesses into the social networking fold.

This week, Zuckerberg et al. unveiled a tidy new how-to guide for businesses to create their own pages. Meanwhile, Google remains wishy-washy on how to integrate businesses into its new Google + network.

At first glance, Facebook for Business appears to be a helpful, straightforward resource (CNET’s take here). However, the site mostly covers the mechanics of setting up your page and maximizing its functionality.

To gain the biggest advantage with your Facebook presence, you still need clear objectives and a solid strategy to match.

So as you try out Facebook’s new guide, why not refer back to these key considerations for your company Facebook page.

Friday, July 22, 2011

You’d Think a Mega Media Mogul Would Have a Better Handle on Crisis Communications

But in the case of Rupert Murdoch, you’d be wrong.

Reviewers were unimpressed with Murdoch’s testimony this week before British Parliament in the rapidly expanding and deepening News Corp. phone hacking scandal.

Murdoch’s performance was yet another reminder of a lesson we pointed out recently: that executives need better crisis communications training.

It wasn’t exactly the notorious no-comment approach. But it was far from the transparent, accountable leadership that Parliament and the public were looking for. Is anyone buying Murdoch’s pleas of ignorance about what’s been happening at his news outlets?

It seems News Corp. has handled the phone hacking problem poorly going all the way back to its beginnings in 2006. Instead of tackling the issue head-on when they had a chance, Murdoch and his son James must now clean up a much bigger mess.

To do so, they’re going to have to be more open, responsible and direct than they’ve been to date. After all, you can’t make the story go away just by ignoring the scandal in your own media … or even by winning a little sympathy after a pie attack.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Quick Response, Quick Death? Critics Question QR Codes’ Effectiveness

How many people, when they see a QR code, know what it is?

How many of them have a smartphone capable of doing anything with that little pixelated box?

How many of them have already downloaded the correct application for reading the code?

And when they take the time to have their phones read the code, where does it take them?

QR codes are an increasingly popular marketing tactic. But critics such as these columnists in Business Insider and AdAge are raising questions about whether all the fuss is really futility.

It’s healthy to have a sense of skepticism about the latest tech fad. And QR codes, which may prove to be transitional rather than transformative technology, fall into that category.

But we shouldn’t immediately dismiss them. QR codes, despite their shortcomings, offer a low-cost chance to engage customers and prospects in new ways. Just don’t let yourself believe that they’re some kind of magic potion.

Start with a smart strategy, incorporate a compelling offer, put it in a place where your target audience is most likely to use it … and a QR code might just bring a little something extra to your next campaign.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Having a Blast Thanks to U.S. Manufacturing

For a few weeks there, it looked like there wouldn’t be much to ooh and ah about this summer, economically speaking.

But now the U.S. manufacturing sector, perhaps inspired by the profound lyrics of Katy Perry, has gone and set off some beautiful economic fireworks heading into this Independence Day weekend.

Not that we had any doubts here about the strength of America’s manufacturers. But we’re pleased to see more strong data to back up our bullishness and help investors regain some optimism, too.

The news is well timed: As we get ready to celebrate our great nation, our spirits are boosted by one of our greatest assets—the vibrant manufacturing sector that has helped spur our economic growth for 235 years.

Happy Fourth of July!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Why PR, Crisis Communications Belong in Business Schools

The value of a company is closely linked to its reputation. Why, then, do so many executives fail so spectacularly at protecting their companies’ reputations in times of trouble?

Columnist Anthony D’Angelo in Bloomberg BusinessWeek cites a lack of communications studies in MBA programs as one key reason:

“So glaring is this omission that it's typical for MBA-holding executives to assume ‘reputation management’ or ‘public relations’ is the black art of spinning an alternative version of reality, as though that works in today's wide-open, relentlessly scrutinized, electron-speed information environment.”

Well put, Anthony.

And so we continue to witness CEOs from the likes of BP, Toyota and a parade of financial institutions take an evasive or no-comment approach, instead of being as transparent and responsive as they need to be in a crisis. It takes plenty of practice to think carefully, act quickly and communicate clearly—all with the empathy, care and urgency that a delicate situation demands.

These skills are fundamental to great business leadership. They should be emphasized, not just for MBA candidates but for undergrads as well. And if you don’t have crisis communications know-how in your company, consider seeking a strategic partner who can help you prepare.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Woven into the Fabric of Every Strong Economy Is a Vibrant Arts Community

Here at the office, we’re in the midst of our fourth annual office fund-raiser for the United Performing Arts Fund.

We kicked off our fund-raiser last week with a tour of the Broadway Theatre Center in Milwaukee, home to Skylight Opera Theater and other companies. Photos at left, courtesy Elizabeth Franczyk, show the costume shop. Thanks to Diana Aliota and Jim Ferrell for a fun and fascinating look at all the passion, ingenuity and hard work that goes into every show.

UPAF—kind of like the United Way, but for artistic organizations—is clearly a big reason our hometown boasts a lively arts scene. Less obvious, perhaps, is that it’s also a key driver of our region’s economic resilience.

A strong arts community helps attract and retain the talented, creative professionals who are essential to our ongoing economic evolution and growth. That’s what makes increasing collaboration among creative organizations and businesses—such as the Creative Alliance Milwaukee and its Creative Hub—so important.

Meanwhile, our collective support of the arts is becoming even more crucial, at a time when the state budget is tight and legislators are finding it necessary to slash public funding for the arts.

So get involved. Give to UPAF. Connect with the Creative Hub. And help us keep southeastern Wisconsin’s economy strong for many years to come.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Recruiting: The Only Thing Holding Manufacturers Back?

Following up last week’s post about the increasing importance of recruiting: Perhaps nowhere are recruiting efforts more crucial right now than in manufacturing.

It’s clear that manufacturing is staging a comeback. But as throngs of experienced baby boomer workers approach retirement, the sector continues to struggle to attract the next generation of talent to maintain the momentum.

A recent NPR report highlighted the gap between manufacturing’s false image as a dark, dying industry and the reality of today’s advanced, accelerating manufacturing economy.

In medical devices, electronics, transportation, renewable energy, aerospace and defense applications and other demanding markets, U.S. manufacturers are doing high-precision, engineering-driven work, requiring a lot of people with specialized skills.

And with the likes of Ford, GM and Chrysler all adding jobs, finding these qualified manufacturing professionals is only getting tougher.

But hey, having a lot of jobs to fill is a good kind of challenge. That’s why our manufacturing clients are out in front on the issue, supplying scholarships, providing a range of training, leading collaborative efforts and advocating in numerous venues.

Meanwhile, others need to pick up the slack. For example, in our recent B2B marketing research, while 71.6% of the respondents said recruiting and retaining talent is very important to the future of their business, only 40.5% said they’re doing a good job of it. (Get a copy of the full research report here.)

If you’re in that 40.5%, let me refer you back to these 3 steps to kick-start your recruiting efforts.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Are You Winning the Intensifying Tug-of-War for Talent?

At a time when “unemployment remains stubbornly high,” you might think that recruiting talent doesn't need to be a priority.

But you might be wrong.

As economic acceleration continues, your competitors—some big, some small—are becoming more active and savvy in recruiting. They’re finding new ways to reach the talent of tomorrow that will help keep their companies innovating, evolving and growing in changing times.

Successful recruiting today means:

  • Connecting with candidates where they are—mobile platforms, social networks, etc.
  • Making it part of everybody’s job, through continuous internal communications that show everyone why a robust talent pipeline matters to the future of your company.
  • Building a culture and brand that people want to be a part of.

In other words, it’s a lot more than just an open-positions web page or the occasional jobs-fair appearance.

So let’s hear it in the comments: What are you doing differently today to help attract the talent you need to succeed?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

This Ought to Thin the Social Commerce Herd

Note to anyone considering joining the group coupon fray:

Both Google and Facebook are getting into the social commerce game.

Begun, the coupon war has …

So where does that leave early leaders such as Groupon and LivingSocial? If they weren’t already challenged by rapidly increasing competition from every direction, they’ve got to be worried about facing down the two overlords of online.

What about smaller group coupon upstarts and wannabes—in B2B services, hyper-local markets, new-baby accessories, etc.?

When the dust settles, there will probably be niches left to fill. In the meantime, it might be best to step aside and let the big guns blast it out.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Secret to a Good Presentation

Recently, Scheibel Halaska founder Mary Scheibel spoke to the Waukesha Business Alliance's breakfast club. Her presentation focused on creating differentiation for your business through PR. Strategies included meaningful branding, telling ‘sticky stories’, positioning your business as a thought leader, and aligning your marketing/PR with sales.

Michael Arnold posted a blog recognizing the value of the presentation for him and his business. What was the secret to such a successful event? Well, sharing secrets actually.

People are generally hesitant to expound upon their “trade secrets.” In fact, that is exactly what senior practitioners should be doing. With such a wealth of knowledge and expertise, their presentations should be solid and substantial, not fluff or gimmicky.

Remember, presentations are meant to help those attending, and Michael’s blog left us with the impression that he indeed walked away with something valuable.

Monday, April 18, 2011

SH’s Latest Addition (and Youngest)

For an agency on the move, “office” additions are a regular occurrence. But the newest addition to the SH family is a bit younger than most of them – only about 12 hours old actually!

Our head copywriter, Tom Groff, has produced some of his best work yet (although his wife Diane surely deserves to go first in this particular byline!) by welcoming home a bouncing baby boy, who joins his two older brothers. Congrats to the whole family!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Can Group Coupon Sites Work for B2B?

You’ve heard of Groupon and LivingSocial (maybe you even broke the bank buying those darn coupons). But what about or

While deal-of-the-day group coupons are a big hit with consumers, it’s uncertain whether they’ll catch on in B2B. Still, that hasn’t stopped several sites from trying.

The concept usually involves a minimum number of purchases needed for a deal to be activated, serving as a sort of insurance for advertisers. This works well for B2C deals—although not without some profitability challenges.

In B2B, you’re even less likely to make big money directly from a group coupon offer. And yet, maybe that’s not the point.

The value of a social commerce site, after all, is much more social than commercial. Think of it as another marketing channel to reach and engage new prospects.

So, is a deal-of-the-day right for your business? Depends. It’s a more logical fit for small- to medium-sized businesses with transactional business models. Group coupons can help fill the pipeline with new customers for equipment parts, design and delivery services, etc.

If you decide to give it a try, do so as a marketing and advertising investment. Check out these sites: , and … and let us know how it goes.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Update: More Love for B2B Social Media Book

As we posted last week, Eric Schwartzman, a co-presenter with Mary Scheibel at the Plastics News Executive Forum last month, has filled an important gap with a book dedicated exclusively to B2B social marketing, "Social Marketing to the Business Customer."

Plastics News Editor Don Loepp seems to like the book, too. Seeking to expand on the conversation, he’s inviting readers to share how they’ve used social media in imaginative and effective ways. He’s also giving away 3 copies of the book to the best comments, so go ahead and give it a shot if you’re feeling social.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Finally, Some No-Nonsense Pointers on B2B Social Media

Why do so many people continue to view social media as only a B2C realm? Well, it could be the continuing gap between social media hype and actual, practical advice for B2B companies.

But that’s starting to change with folks like Eric Schwartzman and Paul Gillin.

Eric and Paul have co-authored “Social Marketing to the Business Customer,” a new book hailed as the first full social media reference exclusively for B2B marketers. (Full disclosure: our own Mary Scheibel presented with Schwartzman at the Plastics News Executive Forum. But just to be clear, no, this isn’t a paid endorsement.)

We haven’t finished the book yet, but we’ve already picked up on some good points. It turns out B2B companies actually have more presence in social media than B2C folks. The book cites a report showing that 81% of B2B companies have accounts or profiles on social media sites, while only 67% of B2C companies do the same.

Here are six reasons the authors point to for why this is the case—and why you could benefit from developing a social media strategy, as well:

  • Group decision making (typical of B2B transactions) is accelerated when everyone is more aware of the circumstances—a process facilitated through social media.
  • Sales cycles shorten, since tools like Skype and LinkedIn make it easier to reach people.
  • Good rapport increases persuasiveness, as people are more willing to buy when they’re connecting with the people behind the brands.
  • Interactions happen at every level, not just in the boardroom, helping win over key audiences throughout an organization.
  • The more communication, the less complex the sale.
  • And finally, joint promotion and marketing is more likely. (Take this blog post, for example.)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Lesson behind AP's 'Email' Change

Sayonara, superfluous hyphens and spaces. The Associated Press has finally acknowledged prevailing use of “email” and “cellphone” as compound nouns.

Silly and insignificant as this development may seem to some people, last week’s AP style changes hold a good lesson for any marketing communications professional.

It’s about more than punctuation dictates. It’s about communicating clearly to your audiences. And that starts with using the same words, in the same way they do. As terminology and technology evolve, you have to keep up to stay in the conversation.

A little caution is necessary, however: Jumping on every latest buzzword bandwagon also risks alienating and confusing audiences (or just seeming desperate).

As much as I might mock the AP for being unhip, there’s something to be said for their measured approach of waiting a while to see what sticks. And so it's “email,” at last—until email itself no longer exists, I suppose.

Friday, March 18, 2011

3 Reasons not to Abandon In-Person for Online

Don’t get us wrong: You definitely should be taking advantage of social media and other online channels to reach target customers cost effectively.

But an article in the latest issue of B2B Magazine is a good reminder of the importance of the flip side to these virtual interactions—real-life, face-to-face meetings.

Despite the considerable cost advantages of digital, every marketer needs to understand the value of balancing online and in the flesh. Whether at a tradeshow, a focus group or a lunch meeting, here are just a few reasons why in person is still in vogue:

· Clear communication. Tone and context can sometimes be lost in virtual interaction. People understand so much better when you can look 'em in the eye.

· Candid insights. Sitting down with customers (or potential customers) will yield more candid responses—especially beneficial when conducting research or building relationships.

· Undivided attention. People are far more likely to multitask in virtual encounters. Meeting them face to face demands their attention, increasing openness and recall.

There’s probably no better day than Friday to catch a potential customer in a good mood, so go ahead and set something up today.

Friday, March 11, 2011

3 SH Clients Earn Awards for Excellence

We’re generally a pretty happy group, especially on Fridays. And right now, we couldn’t be happier, as good client news keeps rolling in. Here’s a trio of shout-outs:

  • Plastikos Inc., for winning Plastics News Processor of the Year. Just a few reasons this custom injection molder brought in the big prize: 60% increase in customer base, 45% increase in sales and a 99.6% order-perfection rate.
  • Dickten Masch Plastics, the 2010 Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year. A custom thermoplastics and thermoset molder, DMP took home the award in the large company category for achievements including 20% top-line growth last year and adding 139 new jobs and $10 million in new business.
  • DME Company, for making the Quality Leadership 100. The global mold technologies leader earned this top-performer distinction based on scrap and rework as a percentage of sales, rejected parts per million shipped and registration in various standards, among other criteria.

Plastikos, DMP and DME—just three of the great companies we serve who are leading our economy forward. It’s an honor to work with every one!

Friday, March 4, 2011

B2B Research Insight #2: Win by Out-Recruiting the Rest

How will you make sure your organization has the talent you need to succeed, today and in the future?

If you’re like many of the 310 B2B executives we talked to recently as part of a plastics industry research project, chances are you’re not quite sure.

Of our research participants, 71.6% said recruiting and retaining talent is very important to the future of their business. But only 40.5% think they’re doing a good job of that right now. Do a better job, and your company will gain an edge in the intensifying competition for talent.

That’s one of many opportunities and trends uncovered by our research, including:

  • Steps companies have taken to strengthen their businesses, from improving operational efficiencies to expanding products and entering new geographies.
  • How companies are communicating the improvements they’ve made to both their employees and the marketplace, and how effective their communications are.

The full report, which we’ll be presenting next week at the Plastics News Executive Forum, is packed with interesting and at times surprising data for all B2B marketers.

You’ll soon have a chance to get a copy of the research report, so stay tuned.

Monday, February 28, 2011

310 B2B Firms Told Us about Their Marketing Efforts. Want to Listen in?

Then join Scheibel Halaska at the upcoming Plastics News Executive Forum—March 6-9 in Las Vegas—where I’ll be presenting recent research that uncovered some valuable insights about B2B marketing in this new era.

For this project, we listened to a diverse array of companies across the plastics industry:

  • Size: 47.1% had fewer than 50 employees, 13.7% had 51-100, 10.1% had 101-200 and 29.1% had over 200 employees.
  • Geographic reach: 17% were regional, 37.6% national and 45.4% global.
  • Classification: 22.5 % of companies classified themselves as equipment manufacturers, 33.7% as material manufacturers and 43.8% as processors.

Not in plastics—or even in manufacturing? There’s still a lot of valuable, surprising lessons in what these companies had to say. Plus, the Forum is a great event loaded with knowledge sharing and networking opportunities.

So get all the details and register for the Forum here.

Or, if you can’t make it, look for more to come about the research on this blog, including a chance to see the full report for yourself …

Friday, February 25, 2011

4 Dos, 4 Don’ts for PR Pros Pitching Pubs

HARO, Help A Reporter Out, kindly returned the favor for us recently.

During a webinar hosted by the popular repository of expert news sources, reporters from the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and AOL News weighed in on the dos and don’ts of pitching a story to a reporter.

Here’s a brief recap to spread the knowledge. Let’s start with the dos:

Be catchy. Include a subject line that lures the reader in for more.

Be direct. Explain what the news is and why it’s relevant in the first sentence.

Be personal. Be aware of the reporter to whom you are pitching the story. What’s their beat? What are their deadlines?

Be short and sweet. As one participating reporter said—“Don’t try to impress. Pitch a story the same way you would tell your friends over a beer.”

And now for the don’ts.

Don’t make your client the news. Try to put your client in the news- how do they fit into a bigger story that is relevant right now?

Don’t make exaggerated claims.

Don’t pitch stories that have already been done. Do your research!

The general takeaway? Be quick and compelling. And keep on pitching!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

One Thing Obama and Gov. Walker Have in Common:

Lately, both the president and Wisconsin’s head of state are engaging in open dialogue with the business community and striving to be more responsive to its needs.

n Obama in a visit this week with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and changes to his outside panel of economic advisers, bringing GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt on board.

n Walker in business outreach that started during his transition and recent moves to streamline and privatize the state’s commerce department.

These are good developments because, as we’ve pointed out before on this blog, manufacturers and other companies could use more support as our economic recovery continues. With manufacturers continuing to lead the way, public-private collaboration will be key in keeping up this momentum.

So we’re pleased to hear of open dialogue among businesses and government leaders at both the federal and state level, on both sides of the partisan divide.

After all, any change for the better must begin with open, honest communications from all sides.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Why Manufacturing Makes a Better Super Bowl Bet

There is, shall we say, heightened interest in the Super Bowl around here this year.

And hey, why not make it even more interesting, with a few friendly wagers? Senators are betting sandwiches. Rappers are betting haircuts.

But come on now, this is a big game! Maybe it’s time for something more super, and less superficial.

That’s why we like the unique approach of the Green Bay and Pittsburgh chambers of commerce, who are highlighting their respective regions’ manufacturing strengths as the stakes in their bet.

It’s nice to see leaders seizing this public relations opportunity—because while two great football traditions are in the spotlight, their cities’ equally storied manufacturing economies are often perceived as if progress has left them behind.

The reality is that resurgent manufacturers everywhere are doing some exciting, innovative things and leading us all into a brighter economic future. And as we’ve said before on this blog, civic and economic leaders, as well as manufacturers themselves, must do a better job of sharing this industrial success story.

Bet on it: the proud industrial traditions of Green Bay and Pittsburgh will live on—and not just as relics honored by the names of their resident football teams.

Monday, January 17, 2011

3 Vital Steps to Take as Recruiting Makes a Comeback

News that Ford is aggressively recruiting engineers across the country is encouraging for the entire American manufacturing sector.

But it also reminds us of a challenge many companies may have lost sight of during the recession: the shortage of skilled workers.

If you’re targeting the same top-tier engineers as the big guys, you’d better realize the competition you’re facing. An afterthought of a “careers” page on your website and a couple of job-board postings will no longer suffice.

It’s time to step up your recruiting efforts with a complete brand that emphasizes what’s special about your company in ways that appeal to today’s best job candidates.

Three key components:

n An interactive online portal that acts as your main recruiting communications hub (while supporting database development critical to connecting with individual recruits and their unique interests)

n A public relations program—including traditional college outreach and relationship-building, media relations, social media and mobile-specific communications—to drive interest and traffic to the portal and, ultimately, to create a candidate pipeline

n Internal communications that support recruiting through clear explanations of why it’s so important and how current employees benefit, along with continuous recognition of successful recruiting efforts

Of course, there’s so much more to an effective recruiting brand. In 2011, we’ll be talking a lot more about these issues, including the use of mobile platforms, the challenges of global recruiting and more. If there are aspects you’d like to see as part of that discussion, don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Jargon to Drive Me Crazy!

Soon after the annual Lake Superior State University list of banished words comes a Forbes article posted today busting on business jargon.

With the battle against cliché heating up, will 2011 spell the end of hackneyed phrases?

Ha—not hardly!

List posts ranting about “paradigm shifts” and the ilk are as commonplace as the tired language they strive to eliminate. Here’s one. Here’s another. And here we go again ...

These articles continue to proliferate because jargon never dies. New buzzwords slip into our language every day. At the end of the day, it’s just too tempting and too easy to use.

Nevertheless, in 2011, we can all at least try to avoid the cliché and think outside the box instead.