Monday, September 28, 2009

6 Ways to Get on Google's First Page

Screen shot of google search of Makovsky+CompanyThere’s nothing more Darwinian than the world of search engine results. If you can get on the first page, you’ll get the majority of the traffic. If you don’t, you won’t. Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do, even with an existing website, to improve your chances of appearing on that all-important first page.

To tell you what they are and how to accomplish them, I have asked our resident expert, Tim Kane, executive vice president and head of our Branding + Interactive Practice, to give you 6 ways that work. Here they are:

1. Define your position with keywords.
Too many companies define their brands with vague generalities like "trust" or "quality" or "results." They're nice thoughts, but you'll get much better results if you write a positioning line that incorporates terms that people might actually use to find you.

2. Post a site map.
Chances are, you've never really studied a site map; most people don't. But for a search engine, it's an important tool - one of the quickest ways to find content. So make sure your site has an up-to-date, test-based map that's directly linked to your Home page.

3. Learn how to add content yourself.
Search engines love new content. But if you have to rely on a web shop or your IT team to make updates, your content will never be as current as it needs to be. Learn how to work with your site's content management system; if you don't have one, get one.

4. Avoid Flashturbation.
You know those fancy Flash-animated intros? To a search engine, they’re just a jumble of code. Make sure your web designer incorporates text into your site’s flash elements. Or better still, use your precious online real estate for something more motivating.

5. Alt tag your pictures.
Drag your cursor over an image on a website. The text box that appears is called an “alt tag.” Search engines can’t read pictures, but they can read alt tags. So for every image on your site, generate an alt tag that describes it. Using key search terms, of course.

6. Track your traffic.
You need to track how many people are coming to your site and which pages they visit most often. Then you can expand the portion of your site that receives the most traffic. And attract even more attention. There are a lot of services that you can use, but start with Google Analytics; it's free.

Technorati Tags: Tim Kane, Google Analytics, Alt tag, President Obama, Alt tag, search engine, site map, keywords, Facebook, LinkedIn

Thursday, September 24, 2009

To Voicemail or Email?

voice mail graphicWe are such an email society these days that it is refreshing to get a voicemail. The sound of a nice, warm human voice can be downright motivational.

I used to get 20 to 30 voicemails a day, and now I only get 3 or 4, if I am lucky. My email load, on the other hand, is huge. Some are quick. Some are wordy. Some are curt. Some are overly polite. But the zigzagging from headline to message and then reply, forward or delete is monotonous and annoying. Some emails are confusing – and you think to yourself, “Why didn’t they either walk into my office and say it straight away or leave me an explanatory voicemail?” A particularly confusing email is one that skips thoughts and is a cryptic progression of unrelated sentences.

I still like email for quick messages or sending long documents and programs. But if you need to express gratitude, offer compliments or the message is complex and even a little sensitive, voicemails can often make you feel that the person is right there.

Strategically, think of what the mission is and then choose the medium. As an alternative to either voicemail or email, in-person still works wonders. Videoconferencing and webcam are second best – and very effective.

Technorati Tags: e-mail, voicemail, videoconferencing, webcam

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lessons from the Recession

Our firm recently surveyed a number of leading financial services companies to see how they’ve handled this year’s market turmoil and what they’ve done to protect their reputations. What we found was a broad spectrum of responses. Some financial services firms have tried to close down communications, while others have created new opportunities to promote candor and transparency. What’s more, the leading firms are going beyond transparency to offer opinions and insights on the larger impact of the recession.

Among the companies that are “doing it right”: Citigroup and Wells Fargo.
  • In answer to a barrage of questions about its lending practices, Citigroup has begun issuing a clear and persuasive quarterly TARP Progress Report that details how the bank is employing government bailout funds to expand the flow of credit, support homeowners and help the U.S. economy.

  • For many years, Wells Fargo has been conducting a Small Business Confidence Index. Typically optimistic, the results took a sharp downturn last month and included unfavorable comments from some participants about the scarcity of credit. Yet the bank published the results — warts and all.

As a top executive at Bank of America (another financial services firm with a preemptive approach to transparency) said recently, “When times are tough we have the greatest chance to make an impact.”

Organizations can not only survive the economic downturn but even use it to create opportunity if they are committed to: transparency, finding creative ways to reach out to stakeholders, expressing their opinions on vital issues of the day and avoiding anything that might leave them vulnerable to accusations of “spin.”

A new white paper — “Lessons from the Recession’s Front Lines: How America’s Leading Financial Institutions are Using Communications to Preserve their Reputations,” by Makovsky’s Financial Services practice is now available on our website.

Technorati Tags: financial services company, Citigroup, Small Business Confidence Index, recognition, Bank of America, Lessons from the Recession’s Front Lines

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Addicted to Achievement

It is one employee’s fifth anniversary. Another employee had a record number of achievements in the past month. The third young professional delivered a truly amazing result to a delighted client. Employee #1 receives a certificate acknowledging the anniversary. Employee #2, the exceptional achiever, is given an American Express Gift Certificate. And employee #3 — the extraordinary young professional — is presented with a pin acknowledging the stupendous client outcome and a personal note from the president.

Is anything missing here? Well, all of these physical rewards are wonderful accolades for employees. Longevity, overall achievements and marvelous client results are all among categories that every firm should salute … though some, sadly, do not. Fewer than one in three American workers strongly agree that they have received any praise from a supervisor in the last seven days, according to Gallup research.

Nevertheless, my favorite kind of reward or recognition and the one that I believe has the biggest impact — more than money or any certificate — is an in-person verbal compliment given by a leader before the honoree’s colleagues or the entire staff of the firm. Why? Because being singled out by a leader in front of your peers says to all that you have done something that most others have not. It is ego-satisfying like little else, and generally motivates one to achieve still greater heights — so that the powerful moment can happen once again. Second best is a memo citing the achievement that goes to the entire firm.

Praise is actually addictive. A public pat on the back releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter, in the brain, creating feelings of pride and pleasure. People work hard to accomplish big long-term goals — building billings, for instance, or increasing profitability — little by little. The dopamine high is the short-term payoff that keeps them going.

Continue to provide physical rewards … but capitalize on achievement by adding verbal recognition in front of the teammates and associates and you send a message that they, too, can merit heroic mention before the “masses.”

Technorati Tags: achievement, Gallup research, compliment, recognition, praise

Monday, September 14, 2009

Joe Wilson: PR 101

Joe Wilson Heckles the President

Joe, the PR principle—or call it a life principle—is this: when you are impolite, you apologize.

As President Obama spoke to both Houses of Congress about healthcare the other night, and Obama said that his suggested plan would not cover illegal immigrants, Congressman Joe Wilson yelled out in front of this nationally televised august body: “You lie!”

No one objects to the Congressman having a different point of view, but since we were children we have been taught that common courtesy allows a speaker to complete his or her talk before interrupting. Indeed, this was not a political rally. Moreover, this was not just any speaker; it was the President of the United States who, at a minimum, is owed the respect of his office.

Not long after the speech ended, Wilson issued an apology, extending his “sincere apologies to the President for this lack of civility." He also called the White House to apologize. I urge Joe Wilson to stand up before the House and publically apologize. I urge him to have a brief press conference where he announces to the public at large that he is sorry for his insulting action.

Mr. Wilson’s constituency may be joyous that he opposes the President, and no one is denying them that right or the right to promote his point of view, but isn’t there something called the loyal opposition?

Today Mr. Wilson and his son defended what he did. You have to wonder what in our society could produce an attitude that such action is courageous rather than rude. Could it be the internet culture, which savors individualism and enables even bizarre statements and actions to gain prominent recognition? If that is the case, it’s definitely one of the downsides of the internet.

Technorati Tags: healthcare, Joe+Wilson, White House, President Obama, Congress, education, business, Public Relations, Makovsky

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Full Tilt, Full Time

By Kristie Coneys Kuhl

New England is mourning another Tedy. The Patriots’ most loved player, Tedy Bruschi, retired after spending his entire professional career on the team. Mr. Bruschi was a rare athlete who is a family man, gentleman, professional, and, yes, role model. He made such an impact, that his normally stoic coach choked up when discussing Mr. Bruschi’s departure. Coach Belichick called Mr. Bruschi “a perfect player.”

He wasn’t the biggest or fastest linebacker. What made Mr. Bruschi perfect was his “full tilt, full time” philosophy. That meant that he gave 100% of himself to the current activity. He focused on the task at hand, found opportunities for his team to thrive and gave everything he had. When something bothered him, he addressed it with colleagues and management rather than jump ship to another team. That allowed him to grow professionally and not repeat the same mistakes in new locations.

Mr. Bruschi’s career provides lessons for all of us in the public relations and public policy space. We need to give our all to our clients, colleagues, and personal lives by staying focused on finding and creating opportunities for success.

Makovsky boasts an unusually high client retention rate, and as chairman of our quality commitment program, I’ve analyzed how we have achieved it. You might as well slap a number 54 on our backs, because it’s clear from the work product and feedback from our clients that we, too, live the “full tilt, full time” philosophy.

Technorati Tags: New England Patriots, Tedy Bruschi, Belichick, client retention, Makovsky + Company, business, public relations

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Obama “Lesson”

School days. School days. Good old golden rule days.

Well, the rules have changed. Now even things that don’t seem like a crisis indeed can turn into one. So get your Crisis Communications Plan prepared…even if it involves something that hasn’t been released yet...even something as innocent as kids being encouraged by the President of the U.S. to work hard and get good grades in schools--to take personal responsibility for their education because that is the foundation of our economy.

Word has it that the White House was blindsided by the fire storm over Obama giving a speech to the nation’s children. Accusations of spreading “socialist ideology,” encouraging “community activism” (what’s wrong with that?), and suggesting that “our republic is under attack” have been all over the media. Some actually advocated kids staying home from school to avoid the talk. And all of this happened before the speech was delivered, supposedly based on publicity suggesting that the president would ask kids at the end of the talk how each of them could help him achieve the goals cited in the speech. The latter has now been changed and clarified to asking children what their own educational goals should be (e.g., doing your homework nightly).

So this was a “pre-emptive” strike by Obama opponents, a point effectively made by David Carr of The New York Times on September 6. It was pre-emptive because no content had been made available. Carr says, “…the White House has opted for transparency, but when you decide to engage in the democratic process, you’d better be ready for some unintended consequences.”

All of this rage undoubtedly encouraged the White House to release the speech on Monday, the day before it was to be given, so that, hopefully, all who read it would see that it was nothing more than what Arne Duncan, U.S. Education Secretary said Sunday on the TV show, “Face the Nation”: “The [President’s] whole message is about personal responsibility and challenging students to take their education very, very seriously.”

With Congress approving a record $100 billion put into education, the President is striving for more high performing schools, better academic achievements from students, better teachers and textbooks, national standards, more kids going to college, and more graduating from high school. According to the Secretary, we have a drop-out rate of 30%, or 1.2 million students per year. “This is about global competitiveness…if you are dropping out of high school, there is nothing out there for you.” He noted that a recent international comparison of 15-year-olds’ math results had the U.S. ranked 31st in the world. So our President will be telling kids to stay in school.

As Carr points out, we are in a media environment, spurred by the internet but sustained by the starved mainstream media, that “prizes engagement and conflict” wherever it can be found and regardless of the validity of the charge. Whether one unknown person said it, a celebrity or a cast of thousands doesn’t really matter. It makes compelling copy. And the public might believe a charge has wide support, true or not.

Whether corporate or political, it doesn’t matter. When you do your Crisis Planning, bring your creative stars into the meeting, and come up with every idea possible. Look at everything in the universe that could be fodder for comment in your organization, innocent or not, and rank the vulnerability of each. Plan for trouble on every one of them and plan exactly how you will handle it, because being on the offense is the only defense in today’s world.

Technorati Tags: school, Crisis Communications, White House, President Obama, socialist ideology, education, business, Public Relations, Makovsky

Thursday, September 03, 2009

It's About Time

alarm clock graphic There has always been a perception among many that public relations professionals are tied to the media … that they have, in effect, undue influence. While it’s true that many reporters and editors accept the news angles we craft, use us to reach corporate leadership for key stories and listen to our advocacy on behalf of our clients when there’s controversy, the best journalists evaluate our input and objectively formulate their final product.

The reality is that our business is a science. We understand a journalist’s need for content that builds readership, ratings or viewers and that professional presentations are standard fare. We support journalists’ efforts with research, information and strategic approaches. But that’s just part of our toolkit. Despite the fact that our profession has grown into a significant marketing discipline availing itself of multiple techniques — well beyond just traditional media relations — the aforementioned perception persists.

Here is just one example of it. During my career, most of the times when a public relations executive is pitched to the major media for a potential profile or as a columnist or commentator, editors responded, “We don’t profile PR executives or use them as commentators unless the story is about public relations.” I have never received a straight answer as to why, but the obvious implication is conflict-of-interest. We are always compromised by our clients’ positions, the mainstream media believes, and featuring a PR executive may appear as favor-trading.

That is why the headline in Friday’s New York Times, “Wall St. Journal Gives an Ethics Green Light to a P.R. Executive’s Column,” hit with such a bang! It was instant recognition by our resistant “partner” that our business has arrived as a professional service with the same standing as law, architecture, accounting or any other.

Some journalists disapproved of the Wall Street Journal’s hiring Mark Penn, president of global public relations firm Burson-Marsteller, to write a column called “Microtrends.” WSJ deputy managing editor, Alan Murray, responded that “we have increased our number of guest contributors [and] we have very strict conflict-of-interest agreements with each of them.” Further, he noted, “I can’t imagine any Wall Street Journal reporter has any problem blowing off any Burson-Marsteller call [on a story pitch that has no potential].”

Hopefully, this move will put to bed the notion that PR folks have editors in the palms of their hands — or vice-versa.

In this blog-dominated world, where anyone can be a publisher, there is as much merit in a public relations executive writing for the Wall Street Journal as writing a blog. Admittedly, the very fact that he will have the imprimatur of the Wall Street Journal on his column could indeed be an attraction to a potential client. But there is an absolute duty to be transparent: if one is writing about a client or a position that will benefit a client that is paying for your services, then it should be so stated. To violate your ethical obligations and side-step transparency and full disclosure today is to set yourself up for a reputational crisis of truly epic proportions.

Technorati Tags: pr professional, journalist, Wall St. Journal Gives Ethics Green Light to a P.R. Executive's Column, Mark Penn, Burson-Marsteller, microtrends