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posted by Will Weatherly Feb 27,2014 @ 04:20AM

Two Key Marketing Lessons From Architecture School

I didn't go to school for this. At least, it wasn’t my degree. But as my professional studies and experience in marketing have expanded, I've realized my time at the Clemson School of Architecture was far from wasted.

Two particular strategic approaches instilled there carried over beautifully:

1) Flip it upside down.

In Architecture, that literally meant pick up the volumetric shape you’ve been crafting, invert it and set it back down - wrong side up. Then, try to learn something you hadn't noticed before.

In Marketing, it means second-guess your assumptions. So your consumer definitely wants X and always needs Y? Periodically lay that certainty aside. First find, then look and think from, the polar opposite viewpoint. Buyer? Become a seller. Passionate? Role-play apathy. You may be surprised what insights you're missing.

2) Every touchpoint is an opportunity.

In Architecture, on presentation days, professors would provocatively tear off portions of student work and sling them to the floor. "Irrelevant," they'd mutter. This meant your overarching concept needed to more distinctly affect that element. Otherwise, it probably needed to be eliminated completely.

In Marketing, your brand is only as strong as you push it. Inventory your web of external communications (don’t worry, everyone else’s is just as tangled), and rethink elements that don't jive with your organization’s driving attributes. Bear in mind, it's rarely just your print ads and Christmas cards that need a fresh look. Your automated service reply emails, staff LinkedIn pages, and office lobby count too.

Once you’re finished and feeling really certain about things, flip it sideways.

Architectural Model










posted by Ryon Edwards Feb 25,2014 @ 04:02PM

Inspiration Everywhere

While waiting in the examination room at my eye doctor, I noticed the archetypal medical poster on the wall depicting normal and abnormal conditions of the eye, complete with cutaway illustrations of eyeballs and eyeball parts, with precise labeling and detailed information. This observation inspired me to create my own poster — but for type-geeks and non-type-geeks alike. - RE

posted by Apprentices Feb 20,2014 @ 06:00AM

Inbound What?

When I first met Keely, I could not even tell you what the phrase "inbound marketing" even began to mean. Now, it is the only way I can function. Inbound marketing is so different from the traditional, "old" form of marketing. It really should penetrate the way everyone looks at marketing.

I have never been great at explaining things, I am more of a just get it done person. Instead of trying desperately to help you understand exactly what inbound marketing is, I found this awesome infographic from Mashable.

Enjoy and hopefully you can learn something awesome! :)

posted by Kelly Davis Feb 18,2014 @ 02:23PM

Making PR Magic

While much of the nation was under snow last week, I had the fortune of spending the week in beautiful and sunny Orlando, Florida attending the PRConsultants Group conference, our annual gathering of senior-level PR professionals from around the country.

When we originally booked our conference hotel within the Walt Disney World Resort Area last year, we were told that they would be in the process of converting from the Royal Plaza Hotel to a new property, the B Resort. Renovations were expected to be completed by the time our group arrived, but as anyone who has ever built or renovated their home knows, construction doesn’t always happen on our personal timelines. As our conference approached, it became evident that they were a bit behind schedule. (The hotel is now slated for a grand opening in the summer of 2014.)

Since it would have been terribly difficult to find another location to suit the needs of our group on such short notice, the hotel agreed to accommodate us, with the understanding that they were in "soft opening" mode. You had to feel for them. They had potentially the worst set of critics around – a group full of outspoken PR people with extensive experience in event management and logistics, and national media contacts to boot.

What began as tempered expectations were quickly turned around and sustained throughout our stay by a staff that was committed to exceptional customer service and hospitality. From the moment each guest arrived to the moment we left, the staff went above and beyond to make us feel extra special. They were friendly, welcoming and accommodating. Their willingness to solve problems and to find quick resolutions to minor inconveniences demonstrated not only a customer-focused culture, but also a leadership team that empowered their employees to pursue any idea or remedy that would make our stay better.

Here are just a few examples of how they ensured that we had an experience that we would be proud to share:

  • Their culinary staff served a cooked-to-order breakfast and provided complimentary snacks, including custom-designed cookies.
  • They ordered and assembled stylish furniture for the lobby so that we would have somewhere to congregate in the evenings.
  • They arranged with nearby hotels for the use of pools and fitness rooms.
  • When winter weather along the east coast threatened some guests’ travel plans, they offered to accommodate anyone impacted by canceled flights.
  • When a staff member overheard one of our members lamenting a sore throat, he prepared a special, soothing “homemade recipe” with cucumbers and tonic water.
  • Minor maintenance issues were resolved within minutes, including one repairman who provided a guest with his name and personal extension in the case of further concerns.
  • Most notably, the general manager asked us to serve as a “test guest group” and report to him directly any suggestions that would be helpful for future travelers. It made us feel that our opinions mattered, and gave us the satisfaction of knowing that our input would help future hotel guests have an even better experience than we did.

In the end, this property created 40 ambassadors who came away feeling impressed, relaxed, pampered and appreciated. The PR value was immeasurable. The cost of making it right was priceless.

In a culture that is so resigned to bad customer service, shouldn’t we all shine the spotlight on those who go above and beyond? Share your stories of great customer service in the comments section below!

posted by Kevin Archie Feb 14,2014 @ 06:06AM

Snow Day

Don't underestimate the benefits of ridesharing in inclement weather.

posted by Apprentices Feb 11,2014 @ 06:23AM

Branching Out Early Into New Media

Over the last few years, major brands have gone from social media skeptics to true believers, embracing Facebook as a new way to reach and interact with audiences. Big brands have a track record of being hesitant to embrace emerging media, and become major news stories when they finally adopt a presence on the next big thing. There can be a down side to waiting. Unfortunately for brands that are just hitting their social media stride, as Facebook celebrates its tenth birthday, there is already talk about its decline. Users are already shifting to new applications and ways of communicating that may or may not have any staying power. As audiences continue to migrate from one social media outlet to the next, brands shouldn’t be afraid to follow and step out into the new, unknown territory.

A few weeks ago a friend asked me if I come up with all sorts of cool hip ideas at Riggs Partners, as if because of my age I have a magic ability to use social media in the hippest way possible. My answer, in short, was “no.” Here’s why. The goals for connecting with people are the same no matter the medium. Whether it’s because of the way we communicate, or the way people listen, that part of the equation doesn’t seem like it is going to change any time soon.

A recent New York Times article noted that Aristotle had the recipe for viral media marketing figured out in 350 BC. Just as Aristotle’s methods of appealing to logic and emotion made his speeches more memorable and persuasive, modern social media, and any media for that matter, works the same way.

Aristotle, the original social media master.

Having a strong brand position can be key to success, but as long as a brand stays true to its message, as new frontiers open up, brands shouldn’t be afraid to branch out into them. A quality message will be effective no matter if it is on Myspace or Snapchat. Advertisers should take solace in the fact that even in a noisy medium, where everyone has a voice, the cream of the messages will still rise to the top.

posted by Kevin Archie Feb 11,2014 @ 03:30AM

Too Easy

A few weeks ago, acclaimed website builder Squarespace released a new tool that enables users to create a hi-res mark for their company by combining an icon from a large online library with open-source typography of their choosing for $10. The problem? They called it Squarespace Logo, a grave misnomer in my opinion.

Thoughtful logo design is so much more than just choosing a ready-made icon and pairing it with a trendy free font. It is the process of giving a company an identifiable face that cohesively links it to its brand. This requires intensive research, exploration, refinement, and a close working relationship between designer and client in order to uncover a truly successful mark.

A logo should be recognizable, unique, timeless, versatile, and properly in tune with the brand it represents. It utilizes appropriate color palettes, distinctive visual styles, and relevant typography to tell a compelling and cohesive story. Properly executed, a logo can help bring a company great success and recognition for years to come.

Does Squarespace Logo allow for the creation of an attractive company mark for cheap? Perhaps — but that mark won't have the punch and originality of a professionally designed logo.

I'm not condemning the tool itself. In fact, I encourage you to try it out for the header of your daily Tumblr about what you had for lunch the other day or use it for your grandmother's Hawaiian-themed 85th birthday party invitation.

After all, it's basically logo design at its core. But remember, it takes more than basic to truly define a brand.

posted by Alexandra Frazier Feb 07,2014 @ 02:04PM

Tweeting the Olympics

For the next three weeks, I will become a couch-potato commentator on all things winter sports related. Fair warning to each and every Olympic athlete competing in Sochi: I will judge you. Whether the landing of of your triple axle is a bit shaky or the overall impact of your first run down the halfpipe is a bit lackluster, I will criticize you from the comfort of my peanut gallery.

Luckily for me, the snarky folks at @SochiProblems have already gotten a head start on judging the highs and lows of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. However, they’re not commenting on the performances of the athletes (although I’m sure that’s soon to come), but rather, the thousands of mishaps that have seemed to plague Russia’s winter games. The @SochiProblems account currently boasts roughly 274,000 followers. That’s 100,000 more than the Olympics’ official @sochi2014 account. According to Mashable, "The hashtag #SochiProblems has been mentioned more than 'Team USA,' 'Putin' and 'opening ceremony,' on social media." Fodder for the account includes photographs of/jokes pertaining to subpar hotel conditions, bathrooms without stall partitions, packs of stray dogs, glasses of yellow tap water, and these tipsy security guards:

It’s worth noting, then, that a Twitter account that does not claim an owner (nor has it given any hints about who is managing its tweets) could severely undermine Russia’s 50 billion dollar effort to promote its attractions and amenities to potential tourists. So, what have we learned? Two things: 1) Twitter is more powerful than ever as a means of aggregating and sharing content, and 2) it has the capacity to change the world’s perception of an Olympic sized event. The negative publicity is taking away from what’s set to be one of the coolest and most physically demanding Olympic games we’ve ever seen (Slopestyle? The ski halfpipe? C’mon!). On the bright side, at least there’s all kinds of team bonding happening in the Olympic Village:


posted by Apprentices Feb 05,2014 @ 05:16AM

What a difference a decade makes

What a difference a decade makes.

Ten years ago today, the world was five days away from the launch of Kanye West’s first record, still recovering from a certain Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction, and baffled by Britney Spears’ decision to get married to Jason Alexander (not that Jason Alexander) for 55 hours.

Oh. And a little site called had begun to find its way around the Harvard Campus.

Facebook (which has changed the way people and brands interact with one another, provided the story for my favorite movie of all time, and issued a host of phrases into the general lexicon of the 21st century) has continued to grow and thrive in a place where other social networks have come and gone, surviving by refusing to sit still.

But more than these other ideas, Facebook has always been a place to share personal moments. The site got the ball rolling on the way we’re now accustomed to sharing our lives. Sharing is now a part of the human instinct.

It’s fitting then, that Facebook rolled out 'Look Back,' allowing you to revisit on your time with the site. The video, highlighting your major milestones on the site (most liked posted, photos, etc.) is certainly a nostalgic way to celebrate the anniversary, but it’s right in brand with the site that’s changed so much. As we look back with Facebook, we also look forward to see what other changes the site will bring to our world.

Because if the past is any indication, we’re in for an exciting future.


posted by Will Weatherly Feb 04,2014 @ 05:37PM

Why Marketing? In one sentence.

Friends ask me. Businesses ask me. Pastors ask me. Aspiring undergrads ask me. And certainly, I’ve asked myself -- why marketing?

In response, I used to spill out an unconvincing variety of half-baked sentiments which regularly required too many compound sentences, too much industry speak, and far too many occurrences of the word “brand.” Looking back now, I assume this was mostly just missing forest for trees.

Luckily, earlier this year, The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman afforded me a new, holistic framework for my thoughts in the form of a keep-it-simple definition for business. According to Josh, a business is a repeatable process that:

1) Creates something of value

2) That other people want or need

3) At a price they're willing to pay

4) And delivers it in a way that satisfies expectations

5) While generating enough profit to make repeating the process worthwhile

Upon reading this, I recognized that all my scattered ideas of marketing, which had previously floated about unintelligibly, were settling quickly and comfortably into the space between elements 1 and 2.

What’s more, as my newfound marketing clarity emerged, I noticed it held together nicely when applied to the context of non-profit, personal, or any other type of marketing.

So, why marketing? (Here it comes...)

Marketing creates a connection between things of great value and the entities that will value them greatly.


posted by Kelly Davis Feb 03,2014 @ 10:22AM

Full Circle Moments and Life-Changing Conversations

It was just about a year ago that Teresa Coles casually asked me if I could stop by the WECO so she could run an idea past me. As we settled into the cozy comfort of the green room, I was a bit bowled over when she asked if – after nine years of owning my own public relations consulting firm – I would consider joining the team at Riggs Partners. And not just joining the team, but heading up a new division to add public relations to the agency’s already impressive suite of services.

To fully understand the shock, surprise and overwhelming sense of “Me? They want me?” I have to take you back to 1998. I was in my second job out of college, working as the Community Events Coordinator at Carolina Children’s Home, a residential treatment facility for abused and neglected children. As with most nonprofits, the children’s home often struggled with having the resources to produce the kind of materials that we needed to help us solicit community support. We heard that a local marketing firm was going to offer free services to area nonprofits, and applied to see if they would develop a brochure for the Home.

As you may have guessed, we were selected as one of the first nonprofits ever served by Riggs’ signature program, CreateAthon. What they probably saw as a small, simple, 8-page brochure was like gold to us. When we went to speak to civic organizations and potential corporate sponsors, we now had an attractive, professional piece that beautifully described our work and explained how our community could help us give our kids a better life.

Over the years, I had numerous opportunities to observe Riggs through our shared professional associations and connections. I attended open houses and parties in their old office on Lady Street. I dropped off snack foods and supplies one year for CreateAthon, just because. I cheered for them at industry awards shows, because it’s great to see good people do well. I even got a chance to be their client when I worked for another nonprofit in the early 2000s.

In 2011, I reached out to ask if I could volunteer at CreateAthon, and received a very enthusiastic call from Teresa inviting me to work alongside her as an account manager for two clients. Of course, I was hooked and again volunteered for CreateAthon in 2012, this time serving as a lead account manager. It was a true full circle moment to go from CreateAthon client to CreateAthon volunteer.

I loved being my own boss for nearly a decade. Some of the proudest work of my (gulp) 20-year career came during that time. I was fortunate to work with amazing clients and meaningful causes. But just as I felt the pull in 2004 to venture out on my own, in early 2013 I was feeling the pull that it was time for a change. I just wasn’t sure what it was.

Thankfully, Teresa did. To say that I’m grateful to be a part of this team is an understatement. I have the best of both worlds – the opportunity to develop our public relations department with the same entrepreneurial spirit that I used to build my own company, and to be a part of an incredibly talented and generous team.

So, the next time someone invites you for a casual conversation, keep your ears, your heart and your mind open. That conversation just might change your life.

posted by Teresa Coles Feb 03,2014 @ 04:30AM

In Pursuit of Purpose

We had to see it coming: Aaron Hurst, founder of Taproot Foundation and the guru of the pro bono movement, has moved beyond inspiring us to share our professional skills as a means to social good to building an entire economic sector around doing work that matters.

Aaron’s new gig is CEO of Imperative, a cadre of social entrepreneurs, product developers, economists and all-around brilliant creative minds. They’re on a mission to create a fully functioning Purpose Economy by 2020. The bottom line? Helping people and organizations uncover, activate, and monetize work that leaves a mark on this world — and making a good living doing it.

I got a preview of this big fat idea last winter, when I attended the first-ever Global Pro Bono Summit, hosted in NYC by Taproot. Our last exercise was to figure out – in 15 minutes, no less — how to transform the pro bono marketplace into a $20 billion economy by 2020. We burned up some post-it notes on that, let me tell you.

Those close to Aaron knew he was already at work on the Purpose Economy, writing a book while making the transition to Imperative. Ever watchful for news of the book release, I noted the announcement by Imperative just this past week of the Purpose 100, a compilation of people throughout the world who are deemed to be “transforming our innate need for meaning into the organizing principle for innovation and growth in the American economy.”

In a culture obsessed with the “awards season,” it’s refreshing to see people recognized for their bravery, creativity and tenacity in pursuing something larger than themselves.

I encourage you to spend a few moments with this list and consider the ways in which these remarkable human beings have channeled the talents, experiences and relationships they’ve cultivated in their lives into a force for good.

Then get out a sheet of paper and start looking for your purpose. It’s there, just under the surface, waiting for you.




By the numbers

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