Over the holiday weekend I managed to catch about five minutes of A Christmas Carol on TV. It wasn’t the classic movie starring Reginald Owen or even the 50s favorite starring Alastair Sim. And it wasn’t the new Jim Carey animation. Instead it was the 1999 made-for-TV video starring Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) as Ebenezer Scrooge.
Anyway, I have read the book numerous times and watched the movies even more often. But this time, I heard something that I do not ever recall hearing before. It was a rather simple line spoken by Scrooge himself, quoting his old boss – Fezziwig:
“Ebenezer, when happiness shows up, always give it a comfortable seat.”
As we wrap up 2009 and finalize our plans for 2010, I wish this sentiment for all of you: When happiness shows up, always give it a comfortable seat.
As Scrooge suggests, “you have to be open to joy. If you are, it’s yours! If you aren’t, it won’t be found anywhere.”
God bless us, every one.
Retailers and manufacturers would likely consider me their ideal holiday customer. I spent 8 hours with my mom and sister shopping for deals on Black Friday, and the day after Christmas I was at it again.
To my surprise, I didn’t find much at all the day after Christmas and was rather disappointed. Macy’s shoe department pickings were slim, and it was hard to find my size in their outerwear section. Express was out of sizes in jeans unless you were a size 0 or 2. Dick’s had little to no selection in North Face jackets, and J. Crew’s shelves were practically bare.
Just today the Associate Press reported that retailers kept inventory so low that they are having to bring in new merchandise to fill the shelve space. It is certainly good news that retailers experienced slightly higher sales than expected (a 3.6 percent increase from last year), but it didn’t translate into great deals or savings for consumers. Bah humbug!
Once upon a time (in the early 1980s) I was an account executive with Burson-Marsteller/Chicago. One of my accounts was the National LP Gas Association and gas prices were soaring, which was good for the propane industry. So good in fact that Ford Motor Co. was retrofitting some of its vehicles with propane tanks and we (NLPGA and B-M) were holding a press conference on the south side of Chicago to watch the vehicles come off the assembly line. It was a big story for us, but the media was only mildly interested in attending… until a fire broke out at some factory along S. Torrence Avenue, just down the road from the Ford facility.
Suddenly there were media everywhere. And after they covered the fire, they came to watch our retrofitted vehicles roll off the assembly line. The resulting coverage was phenomenal, but you won’t find any evidence of it in my professional portfolio. After all, if it were not for the fire, the media would not have come.
Anyway, this morning I read that Walgreens is pretty stoked that its focus on core consumer needs is paying off, with both sales and profits for the first quarter of its fiscal year hitting record levels. According to the story, “Some of the company’s record results are directly linked to flu-fretting consumers: It [Walgreens] says it jabbed 5.4 million flu shots into consumers’ arms in the quarter, up from 1.2 million last year.”
The smoke made me think about the fire on South Torrence.
Walgreens’ president and CEO Greg Wasson says the success of its flu shot campaign proves that “consumers across the country value the services of community pharmacists. Our center of gravity continues to be the community pharmacy.” Wasson says it was the largest flu shot campaign in its history, and calls it “one of the best-executed initiatives in my 30 years at Walgreens.”
Maybe. Or perhaps the endless barrage of media coverage warning consumers of the worst flu epidemic the world has experienced in a century had something to do with it. Maybe the five million people who came to Walgreens would have gone to Starbucks or even Macy’s if they were giving out the shots.
In the words of Cindy Wang, “I’m just saying… give the fire a little credit.”
What is the best day and time to distribute new product news releases to the traditional media?
By Jennifer Manocchio
We could spend hours giving different scenarios of when are the best days and times to distribute new product news releases because all situations are unique. However, for the purpose of this blog and to keep the answer short and succinct, we’ll focus on products that could potentially be breaking news and me-to products.
If you are launching a new product that will truly be seen as breaking news (e.g. the Apple iPhone), send your news release immediately to the consumer and trade media. There is no need to wait for a specific day or time to distribute breaking news.
On the other hand, if you are launching a me-to product (e.g. a new leather cleaner or mop), considering the day and time you distribute the release could help increase media interest and/or coverage. The most important aspects to consider are what is going on in the news on that specific day or time and the media’s deadlines.
First, research any special events and special times of the year (holidays, national days/months like Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Earth Day, spring cleaning, Mother’s Day, etc.) that can work in your favor. If you have a new product you can associate with something timely, it can help get the media’s attention and increase media coverage. For example, if you are launching a new leather cleaner, consider associating it with spring cleaning (assuming the product launch is scheduled around spring).
The opposite can be true as well. Certain days and times can hinder coverage; therefore, research those potential pitfalls as well (e.g. industry trade shows, holidays, etc.). For example, if you plan to launch a me-to leather cleaner at the International Home and Housewares Show (one of the biggest consumer products shows of the year), it is likely that the trade and consumer media will pass it right up. There are just too many new product launches at the show to get attention for a me-to product.
Finally, consider the media’s deadline. If you are targeting monthly consumer and trade media, consider the 3-6 month lead-time required. Or if you are targeting a reporter that writes a weekly column, send him or her the news release in enough time to potentially get coverage when you are looking for it to appear.
As a general rule, the agency does not typically distribute news releases first thing on Monday mornings or at the end of the day on Friday (unless of course it is breaking news). This helps us avoid getting caught in all the emails, faxes and voicemails received at the end the day on Friday, those that collected over the weekend and early Monday morning (especially if you are on Eastern Standard Time sending releases to West Coast media).
Have questions on how to achieve quality media coverage, contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.
This morning I opened my Retailing Today Email Newsletter and was shocked to find the following headlines:
“Target extends store hours in areas hit by blizzard”
“Borders extends store hours in snow-affected cities”
“Online retailers extend shipping date in wake of snowstorm”
“Kmart to open for 64 hours, celebrities offer gift ideas”
“Macy’s to open 12 stores 24/7 for holiday shopping”
Certainly this is not an extension of hours and online shipping dates to help consumers snowed in. Rather it is a way for retailers to bring in some extra sales during what was expected to be a fair holiday shopping season.
For some retailers though, like Macy’s, staying open has been part of the retailer’s strategy. Macy’s has been offering 24/7 shopping at 12 retail locations for the past 4 years. Kmart on the other hand will keep 352 stores across the country open for 64 consecutive hours from Dec. 22 at 6 a.m. to Dec. 24 at 10 p.m. to help last-minute shoppers.
Personally, I think this is crazy. I have worked retail during holiday breaks from college and for retail personnel Christmas is something they dread (and that was when retail hours weren’t that bad).
My biggest concern is when will this stop? Pretty soon all retailers will start following suite… unless no one is shopping during their extended hours. Even if I wasn’t done with my Christmas shopping, I would refuse to support these retailers ridiculous hours!
What is a web site “bounce rate”? And should I be paying attention to these numbers?
By Jennifer Manocchio
According to Google, “a bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visit or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page.” In other words, it is the percentage of visitors who “bounce” away to a different web site rather than continue on to other pages on your site. In the real world, this would be like people stepping into a department store, scanning what they can see from the entrance and leaving without further browsing or shopping.
Bounce rates are definitely important when analyzing web site statistics. While there are no industry standards for a good or bad bounce rate, a high bounce rate indicates that the landing page is not connecting with the people coming to your site.
There are some general explanations as to why people will bounce.
1. It could be your site is just not effective in engaging visitors and retaining them.
2. Online advertising (paid search, banner ads, sponsorship, etc.) or email marketing could be sending people to a page on your site that doesn’t fulfill the advertising message.
3. Online advertising or email marketing could be targeting the wrong audiences.
If a high percentage of visitors are bouncing upon arrival at your web site you are losing your audience before you have the opportunity to engage with them. Examine landing pages with high bounce rates, determine possible causes – conduct research if necessary – and take action to change that behavior.
Have questions about your web site analytics or how to improve your bounce rate, contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.
Today is the last day for most retailers/manufacturers to provide free shipping and delivery guaranteed by Christmas Eve. In fact, more than 700 retailers are participating and have coined the term “Free Shipping Day”. There is even a consumer web site devoted entirely to this event – www.freeshipping.com.
From the looks of my inbox (I have one email address devoted entirely to retail/manufacturers offers to stay on top of emarketing trends), retailers are pushing hard to get the message out.
Kodak: Last Minute Shopping? Gifts Delivered by 12/24
Express: Winter Sale 40% Off! + Free Shipping Today Only! + The More You Spend, The More You Save!
Ulta: Hurry Up! Only TWO Days Left to Ship Great HOLIDAY Gifts for FREE!
Pottery Barn: One Day Only! Free Shipping on all orders
It appears that retailers are on the right track. According to a survey released yesterday by the National Retail Federation, consumers had completed only 46.7% of their holiday shopping by the middle of last week. These numbers are slightly less than the 47.1% the National Retail Federation reported the same time last year.
Additionally, the same survey reported 35% of respondents would shop online. This data suggests that online shopping has the potential to peak today and even exceed Cyber Monday numbers.
So how’s that $100 million advertising investment to launch Bing working out for you Microsoft? And what about that billion-dollar-a-year investment you are making in your Yahoo partnership?
Well, according to data from Experian Hitwise, as reported in ClickZ, Bing lost ground during the four-week-period leading up to and ending November 28, while Google continued to gain. Ouch.
According to the report, “Yahoo and Microsoft’s Bing both experienced a decline, dropping 5 percent and 2 percent respectively.” Google experienced an increase of one percentage point. Oh snap.
Of course experts and insiders are saying it is too early to determine whether these investments will pay off. According to eWeek: “Whether the Yahoo-Microsoft agreement, combined with new functionality for Bing, can drive up Microsoft’s U.S. search engine market share is a question that will only start to be answered later in 2010.” Sure, sure, sure.
But it occurs to me that Microsoft may find itself between a rock and a hard place. For years, the company has grown and grown not just as a result of innovation, but also because of its ability to “embrace, extend and extinguish” the competition. But suddenly that approach isn’t working anymore. Suddenly the competition – in this case Google – isn’t quaking in its boots. Somehow this all seems so familiar…
Michael: My credit good enough to buy you out?
Moe Greene: Buy me out?
[Fredo laughs nervously]
Michael: The hotel, the casino. The Corleone Family wants to buy you out.
Moe Greene: The Corleone Family wants to buy me out? No, I buy you out, you don’t buy me out.
Is it acceptable to begin creating consumer awareness for a new consumer product before it is available at the retail level?
By Jennifer Manocchio
Some companies don’t want to put the cart before the horse, while others take advantage of the opportunity to create buzz prior to a product’s actual availability (think Apple iPhone). While not all products are as innovative as the iPhone nor do all companies have the luxury of iPhone budgets, there are clear benefits to conducting publicity and media relations– in addition to a wide range of complementary marketing strategies – prior to retail distribution (assuming of course that early disclosure will not create issues).
Reaching out to retailers, buyers, potential investors and consumers prior to a product’s official launch can help build awareness, interest and excitement. Both traditional media coverage and an online presence will help set the stage and get the conversation started, exposing market expectations and allowing for last minute adjustments if needed.
Hain Celestial and Martha Stewart, for example, used publicity in February of this year to announce their partnership to create a new line of products, Martha Stewart Clean . Eleven months later they announced the new cleaning products line will be available at Home Depot in January 2010. The news will have floated around the industry, the Internet and the media for a full year before the line is actually available at the retail level.
Of course, it is essential the early announcements are not made so soon in advance of a product’s launch that the media, retailers, buyers, consumers, etc. forget by the time the product is unveiled. And equally important, the information shared must be sufficient to generate and maintain interest over a given period of time.
Here’s the bottom line: if you have a good story to tell, and you are able and willing to effectively “share” with the marketplace prior to an official launch date, there can be distinct advantages.
To find out more about how to achieve national media coverage and leverage your publicity and social marketing efforts to increase retail distribution, contact Jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.
Did you know as they grow older, these overweight children and adolescents – our babies – are more likely to have risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes? Not to mention the emotional stress and psychological trauma.
Please help stop the madness.
Who lets their precious children eat themselves into sickness and death? Scratch that; who cares. Instead, “how can we help you to get your children into better health?” Because that is, after all, what this is all about.
Everyday we are bombarded with endless commercials and ads and promotions and events and videos that make fun of the issue and encourage us all to eat until we explode. And many of them are – by design – absolutely hilarious.
But there is nothing whatsoever funny about an overweight 12-year-old with diabetes. Or a 35-year-old who dies of heart failure.
Here are a few more facts to ponder from the Office of the Surgeon General:
But there is good – maybe even great – news: This is not inevitable and it is not a losing battle.
To demonstrate, I salute the good folks at the Biggest Loser – the most real of all reality shows – for demonstrating not only the importance of healthy living, but the ability to take charge of life and overcome obesity.
Please get involved. Please reach out to an overweight family member or neighborhood child, or join a group or initiative. Please let them know they are loved. Please help save their lives.
Maybe we’re all just tired from the Thanksgiving weekend followed by a five-day work week. Maybe the recession has us all in a funk. Maybe we’re all just demented.
Regardless of the reason, Tiger Woods has suddenly captured the world’s attention beyond anything he ever imagined on the golf course.
I have no desire to think about this, yet alone talk about it, so I will keep it short and sweet:
1. As my brother Kevin would say, “It is nunya,” as in “nunya business.”
2. In case you haven’t noticed, Tiger is just a golfer; nothing more, nothing less.
3. In case you haven’t noticed, we are still in a global recession.
4. In case you haven’t noticed, our President has vowed to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.
5. In case you haven’t noticed, the holiday season (peace on Earth, good will toward men) is upon us.
I get the initial surprise of a little boy trapped in a balloon or an actor caught picking up a transvestite prostitute or a national leader having oral sex in the White House or a golfer driving his car into a fire hydrant. I get it. It is virtually impossible to not look into the sun during an eclipse. I get it.
But why do we insist on continuing to stare after the initial impulse? I don’t get that.
All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere
Their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression, no expression
Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow
No tomorrow, no tomorrow
And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
How do you establish a spokesperson as an expert among media and bloggers?
By Jennifer Manocchio
This is a strategy we often use for clients to help increase brand awareness for a company or product, establish credibility and differentiate themselves from their competitors. It is a process and does take time.
The key to positioning a company spokesperson as an expert is to first identify what areas he or she is truly an expert in and identify what makes him or her an expert. For example, if he or she is an expert in the cleaning products industry, identify what specifically he or she can discuss about cleaning products. Can he or she discuss chemical make-up, cleaning tips for specific surfaces, marketing, packaging or distribution?
Additionally, be sure to provide solid credentials to support your spokesperson as an expert. This can include how many years he or she worked in the industry, education, accreditations, training, workshops/presentations he or she conducted and past media who have used him or her as a resource.
Second, create a biography using the information you have gathered that identifies why your spokesperson is an expert and what makes him or her an expert. Third, let key gatekeepers like influential media and bloggers know he or she is an expert by sending them the biography.
But it doesn’t stop there. It is imperative to continue providing the media and bloggers with relevant information for their audience related to your spokesperson’s expertise. This can be accomplished a number of ways, including contacting media and bloggers with your expert’s opinion on recent news or events, sending media and bloggers tips or industry trends your expert identifies or comments on, and responding to media and blogger resources like ProfNet, HARO and PitchRate when your expert can be a resource. You can also schedule interviews with media and bloggers when your expert is attending industry shows/events, but be sure to give the media and bloggers a reason why your expert is worth their time. This is where dedication and continuous communication with the media and bloggers will pay off.
The most exciting aspect about establishing your spokesperson as an expert is the more exposure he or she receives, the more credibility he or she gains and the easier it becomes!
Have questions or want to learn more about establishing your spokesperson as an expert? Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.
With the weather getting colder, I just had to rave about my favorite Burt’s Bees product – Lemon Butter Cuticle Crème. It is hands down the best cuticle cream I have ever used. In fact, I keep it in my desk and apply it at least once daily when I’m chatting on the phone.
It is not greasy or oily and always makes my nails look 10 times better. Best of all, it is 95% natural (hmm… wonder what the 5% unnatural part is). According to the packaging it is “A soothing blend of natural ingredients for intensive care of dry, brittle nails and chapped, cracked fingertips.”
Disclaimer: I was not paid or given free product by Burt’s Bees to write about the cuticle cream. I simply wanted to share my love for the product!