Archive for March 24, 2010

Dumpster diving for inspiration

When I was a kid, anything was possible. I made art by melting crayon shavings with a magnifying glass. When I was seven years old, I planned on being an astronaut when I grew up. I discovered diamonds in rocks and built “mansions” out of sticks while camping with family.

Inspiration and creativity were possible at all times and came from everything around me – be it rocks, sticks or dumpster cans as pictured right. (That’s me pictured far left with my little sister, Laura, and two cousins, April and Christopher.)

I have no idea where this photo was taken, but whoever labeled the dumpster “inspiration” is brilliant. Why? Well, inspiration can come from anything (literally as you can see) and when we least expect it. However, for most us inspiration and creativity (which go hand-in-hand) come to us in irregular spurts, or at least that’s what we believe.

Not to fear, there is a solution.

The solution is to allow yourself to be inspired and give yourself the emotional freedom and time to be creative and explore new experiences – just like when you were a kid. What’s even better? Everyone can be creative.

This is great news for professionals working in a creative field, which most of us do whether we realize it or not, because being creative is good for business. It allows your mind to be flexible and adept in recognizing challenges and opportunities as well as how to make the most of those opportunities.

Creativity is crucial to success so long as you zero-in on how your creative ideas can be transitioned into savvy business maneuvers.

So, how should some of us more pragmatic thinkers approach inspiration and creativity?

  1. First, understand that the process is not a mystical one. It’s simply the process of allowing yourself the opportunity to hone-in on what you already know, or don’t know, and connect the dots.
  2. Second, you’ve got to allow yourself the time to be inspired and creative. Think of it like regular physical exercise for your mind.
  3. Third, surround yourself with other inspiration people. These types of personalities always find a way to make things happen – always. Keep them in your corner.

For us practical thinkers, me included, I recommend reading a blog a colleague wrote called “Creative brainstorming best when efficient.” It’s an excellent piece on how to overcome common hurdles in the inspiration and creative process. For those who are not convinced on how valuable creativity is in not only the success of business, but the critical need for it in America (period), I highly recommend reading “The Heart of Business” blog. This blog is written by a design professional named Craig Galati and he’s someone I enjoy keeping in my professional “creative corner.”

It’s easy to be re-inspired and reclaim your creativity, and it can be done one day at a time. For you critical thinkers out there just remember this: a creative thinker sees achievable opportunities everywhere, it’s just a matter of how they approach it.

If you still can’t find your way back to the inspired version of you in your yester-years, try thinking back on your childhood and the exploratory process you took in learning about the world in exciting new ways – like making art from wax shavings and the sun versus a traditional paint and brush.

Amber Stidham is the director of strategic planning at Imagine Marketing.
Contact Amber at
astidham@imnv.com


*Blog originally posted at: The Biz-E Gal: Life as a marketing pro and parent

Becoming your own “news source”

It’s uncertain times for the world of journalism. According to Peter Shankman (entrepreneur, author, speaker and worldwide connector recognized for radically new ways of thinking about social media, PR, marketing, advertising, creativity, and customer service), 1,126 print and online magazines folded last year, and so did nearly 300 newspapers.

The local situation isn’t much different. Many of our friends in the media industry have been shown the door over the past year-plus and those who haven’t are worried they might be. Newspapers and magazines and TV stations are tightening their belts and trimming all the fat they can afford. A few pages here, a few inches there. In turn, the competitive industry of media relations has become even more competitive as well.

Simply put, the journalism industry is changing and it’s changing fast. Our firm decided to address this issue head on, and, in December, we launched our own newsroom, The ION (http://www.ionnews.wordpress.com/) – short for Imagine Online Newsroom.

The ION only covers the news of Imagine Marketing’s clients, and all of our articles are written by the former journalists who make up Imagine Marketing’s Media Relations Department. We are here to provide interesting, educational and informative news.

The ION features industries across the board. While a large number of the businesses and entities featured in the ION are Southern Nevada-based, not all are. Our topics range from local to national.

So why an online newsroom specifically? Because the industry in general is largely shifting to online. People are busy and they want to be able to access everything they need with the click of a mouse – or the tap of smart phone screen. Convenience is key, and what’s more convenient than a free subscription to useful, positive news published by a company you trust? After all, Imagine Marketing is known by media locally and nationally for providing quality, newsworthy information.

Imagine Marketing is on the leading edge of providing quality news to media outlets, which includes non-traditional media outlets. The ION helps to fulfill the new role the media relations industry is evolving into, which includes a strong concentration on becoming your own “news source.” Bottom line, our job is to create a buzz about our clients.

Although it’s only been two months since the ION’s debut, we’re pleased with how it’s doing. We invite you to check out our site and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to see for yourself. And, of course, we welcome your feedback.

Melissa Rothermel serves as Director of Media Relations for Imagine Marketing.
Contact Melissa at mrothermel@imnv.com.

Practical answers for start-up bloggers

It’s been nearly a year since our firm launched its blog site. We love it. (Of course we’d say that, right?)

What started as a creative outlet for our team has turned into one of our firm’s most recognizable and respected attributes. Our blog has allowed us to extend our brand, provide real marketing solutions to businesses in need of our support during this New Economy, and continues to keep our current clients engaged with our team, and more importantly, engaged and aware of all the services we provide to them.

Why? Perhaps it’s that our team provides practical solutions to common marketing challenges and showcases integrity and passion for our industry in every blog that is posted.

Speaking of practicality, people frequently ask me to provide them basic suggestions so they can start, host and maintain their own company blog site:

Plot – Identify your blog’s plot and write pieces relating to that matter. Will your blog focus on your specialized area of expertise? Will it provide practical information or serve as a motivational site to readers? More importantly, identify what you are passionate about because in order to successfully maintain your blog site, you’ll need to regularly write blogs relating to your identified plot (i.e. focus area).

Content – It’s absolutely critical to post information that’s relevant and of interest to your readers. Remember that your blog site is competing with the endless amount of information that the Internet already provides users. This means writing pieces that include references to current events or emerging markets and putting your own personal “flair” to them. Be relevant or your blog will surely die.

Blog Promotion – Managing a blog site alone will do nothing to help you. Promote your site as a resource or point of interest via other communication channels you have available to you. For instance, post your blog to 10-15 top social bookmarking sites and refer and link to it within your email signatures and e-newsletters. Notify your customers of your blog through a letter campaign, include paper inserts within your month-end invoices to customers. Include key industry phrases and words within your blog posts. This will allow search engines the ability to find your blog site as a result of the end-user’s keyword search entry. To capture different audiences, set-up a Facebook, Twitter and MySpace account that can automate your blog postings as well. Or, automate it all on social networking maintenance platforms such as Hootsuite.

Internal Blogging Policies (or perhaps better said as “etiquette”) – Have safeguards in place. Blogging is great to enhance your brand and position you as an expert, but there’s a reputation management side of it that’s often overlooked. (Not to mention the fact that you must always assume everyone will see your blog as it will be made public online.) In our case, our team understands the objective and structure of our blog and they have the freedom to contribute to it in their own personal way. But there are a few people who review all blogs for grammatical and spelling errors and appropriateness of content before posting online to ensure all blogs represent our organization the way we intend them to.

Reader Engagement – Allow readers to post comments to your blog…easily. While a blogger may think they’re simply taking precautions by formatting a site to not allow comments to be left, the reader will perceive you as defensive. A blog is a social discussion that exists online. Be social and allow others to participate. (This includes blogs that are imported to your social networking sites as well.) If you don’t, you’ll alienate readers, they won’t come back to the blog and they certainly won’t refer the blog or your site to others. You will need to regularly maintain your blog site and its feedback, but it’s worth it to you to make it easy for others to participate.

Converting Site Visitors into Leads/Sales – Provide a value-offering or include a call-to-action at the end of your blog. It can be simple, but worth the effort to the reader to pick-up a phone or send you an email. It can be something as simple as including a promotional code valid for a product discount, an invitation to attend an educational workshop, an encouraging note for readers to submit their email and name to you in order to receive a free packaged service item or product and so on.

To finish, blogging is an excellent way to drive traffic to your website (especially if it is hosted under your site domain), help position you as an expert, as well as educate and introduce your products and services to an audience of prospective buyers. However, they’re hardly an overnight success. It takes time, passion and diligence to build a regular, responsive reader base.

Amber Stidham is the director of strategic planning at Imagine Marketing.
Contact Amber at astidham@imnv.com

E!’s take on the PR industry far from typical business reality

I admit it. I was tricked into watching the new reality show, “The Spindustry” on E! last week. If you read my company blog a while back, you’ll know I’m a bit of a reality TV show junkie. More importantly though, as a public relations and marketing professional, I was curious to see how professionals on the “sexier” side of the industry conduct business. Plus, the cheesy show name pulled me in – although I cringe inside every time I hear me and others in my professional referred to as “spin doctors.”

Although two episodes have now aired. I’ve only watched one episode – if that’s an indication to you on how great the program is.

I’ll let you in on what the show has properly communicated to viewers:

Public relations works – Having other people – whether media, industry experts, current customers, etc. – tell your story carries a lot more weight than simply placing traditional advertising. Both work together, but PR is ideal to have incorporated into your overall marketing communication program.

Results matter – Staffers on the first episode were upset when an outsider came in and seemingly took over operations to roll-out a 24-hour turn-around publicity event. However, the outsider got the job done in just minutes compared to the handful of team members who spent hours trying to accomplish the same goal. Although the outsider didn’t fold into the new group smoothly, as no one coming into a team situation at literally the very last hour would, she made magic happen for the company and its client.

Here is what the show improperly communicated to viewers:

Tardiness is not an issue (wrong) – Half of the office was not able to show-up to work, meetings or work-related events on-time. (Let me remind you, this is in just one episode.) Excessive tardiness is an issue and shows a complete lack of respect for the people you are scheduled to meet with. I cannot think of a rule breaker more damaging than to be continually late…to anything.

Treating employees like underlings (wrong) – Screaming at staffers about your inaccurate sandwich orders and telling them ‘your job is to shut up and bring the suckers’ (while en rout to a celebrity candy endorsement meeting), in front of other employees and on nationwide cable television no less, doesn’t build a business. Instead, it builds bitterness, breaks down overall team morale and simply destroys the shred of respect employees have for a boss. And, now that publicity firm owner Jonathan Cheban has decided to publicly showcase his circus on-air, I wouldn’t be surprised if a number of celebrities would choose NOT be associated with a company that treats their team the way he does.

The list goes on, but I’m certain you get the point.

Hopefully the show’s PR firm can learn from its past and incorporate the proper business fundamentals needed to make their West Coast office a success. In the meantime, this reality TV show junkie is opting not to watch future episodes of “The Spindustry.”

Amber Stidham is the director of strategic planning for Imagine Marketing.
Contact Amber at astidham@imnv.com

*Blog originally posted at: The Biz-E Gal: Life as a marketing pro and parent