How to use the TogetherQC Message Support Center

How to use the TogetherQC Message Support Center

It’s rare that we – as professional PR people, news people, internal comms specialists and public information officers – are able to band together to work on a common project for the common good. But that time is here. Now.

I’m pleased to have played a small role in helping the community find its voice when it comes to talking about coronavirus and what we can all do to help slow its spread and give our healthcare workers the time and space they need to treat our residents when they become sick and injured. The microsite we’ve built and host is a free and open resource to all communicators in the Quad Cities – and the more everyone uses it (and shares their thoughts, ideas and work) – the better it will become.


What You Can Do

Here are a few recommendations on how you can use the site and why your personal engagement with it is vital to our long-term success: 

•   Be sure to check out the message matrix created to help give professional communicators a framework for your content development and messaging. This document doesn’t provide hard-and-fast talking points, but rather helps create a foundation on which you can build your own messaging and know that it will find support in the broader community. This helps build credibility in our key messages and, as a result, some of that glow will shine on your messages too. Because when we reinforce the most important points from dozens of different angles, we all grow stronger as a result.

•  Become part of the broader community and let us know what you’re doing. By sending us a brief update for our Community Activity Diary, we’ll be able to share your achievements, questions and requests with our news and communications colleagues. Whether you’re a reporter looking for a new angle or a volunteer coordinator in search of a new mission – this online resource should provide a decent snapshot of local activity for you.  

•  We’ve made plenty of bandwidth available to share images, graphics, audio and video files and much more in through an online gallery. And if you’ve got something you’d like to share (or see it go viral), you can upload into our online inbasket so we can post it to the site. Just make sure you send me an email to let me know it’s there.

•  Not sure who to call for answers? We’re building an online directory of professional communicators. Be sure your information is on the list – and if it is, make sure your name, email address and phone number are correct. Please!

•  Finally, we know we don’t have all the answers on the website. But we know who to turn to when we’re stumped. If you’ve got a question or a need, use our Inquiry Form to let us know.


Your Participation Is Essential

Mike Bawden

It’s vitally important you join with us and contribute your thoughts, ideas, reports and content so others can see it and continue to leverage off of it to keep the conversation going. By working together, we can succeed in making people aware of the role they play in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in the community and giving our healthcare resources the time they need to be successful.

There’s never been a time of greater need.

I hope you’ll join me in answering the call today.

– Mike Bawden; Partner, BLPR


Visit the Message Support Center Now
Taking customer engagement to the next level

Taking customer engagement to the next level

by Mike Bawden, partner, Bawden & Lareau Public Relations, LLC


“People no longer go online. They live online.”

That was the sentence in last month’s article by Sebastian Jespersen – appearing on the ANA website in mid-Decmeber – that caught my attention. It’s a simple truth, but an all-so-accurate description of the fundamental change unhinging the marketing communications profession today. There is multiple ways companies do this, a common use of a bot now is having a 24/7 live chat to answer any simple customer queries using a bot framework.

“We no longer just search, browse or buy online; we live and breathe in a digital ecosystem.”

Jespersen’s point is that marketers worried only about a their share of a customer’s mind are missing the point. Instead of share of mind, he posits, marketers should be positioning themselves either vertically (focusing on “share of passion”) or horizontally (focusing on “share of life”).

The examples he uses are Nike (vertical, share of passion positioning) who are constantly innovating and entagling customers within their interests in fitness and fashion (go to a Nike Store and you can see this strategy manifest itself beautifully in a real-world example); and Amazon (horizontal, share of life positioning) who have expanded their e-commerce offering beyond books and other media to now include groceries and more.

Jepsersen’s agency, Vertic, promises to pursue a “client entanglement” strategies for Fortune 500 clients that fosters mutually-rewarding relationship between brands and their customers.

Client entanglement on the micro-level

But how does that work for the other 2.5 million business that fall outside the Fortune 500?

An essential component for such a program to work for clients (and it’s not really mentioned in the article), is customer research. Before a marketer can pursue a serious program of “brand entanglement”, he/she has to have a more complete understanding of the customer’s values and how their brand compliments or conflicts with those values.

In 2018, BLPR completed a signficant research project for a client that involved a series of online panels with our client’s customers in order to develop a deeper understanding of what was important to them and how they evaluated products like our client’s (and the competition). The information gleaned from the panels was then used to construct a battery of questions asked via a national, omnibus survey to help us identify the geographic and demographic profile of those people who were most likely to hold similar interests and attitudes.

The result of this investment has been a highly targeted content marketing program combined with a digital and PR program that will help us “entangle” our client’s brand with both existing and potential customers on a much deeper and more meaningful level.

It doesn’t have to take millions of dollars to put this high-level, Fortune 500 thinking to work for you and your company – but it does take a willingness to listen and invest in the research neccessary to make sure you’re marketing smarter.

Not harder.

Let us know today if we can help you build more entangled relationships with customers tomorrow.

How do you create “brand energy”?

How do you create “brand energy”?

by Mike Bawden, partner, Bawden & Lareau Public Relations, LLC

We often spend time with clients talking about building brand “equity” – but there’s more to making sure the concepts of equity and growth are connected in real life. We call that brand “energy.”

So, what is “brand energy”?

It’s a term we’ve borrowed from Forrester Research. According to Forrester’s Dipanjan Chatterjee, it’s brand energy that moves the needle and generates your return on marketing investment. In short, it’s the brand’s energy that unlocks the potential in the brand equity and creates market growth.

According to Chatterjee in this article in Forbes, there are three pieces to the brand energy framework: salience, fit and emotional activation.

“Salience goes back to the classic notion of awareness – awareness but more. First and foremost, if people are not aware of you, if you’re not on the shopping list, you will not be purchased. But it’s not good enough to just be aware, you need to be familiar, you need to have knowledge of, and more than anything else, you need to make the top three of the list.”

The second piece is “fit” and relates to having both the right product or service to meet the needs of the consumer, but also presenting the brand in a way that “fits” with the consumer’s image of himself or herself. Aligning a brand’s values with the values of its customers is a way to ensure the kind of resonance necessary to convince a consumer your brand is a good fit with who they are (or want to be).
Chatterjee concludes with the final piece of the brand energy puzzle: “emotional activation.”

“Emotion is critical to building long-term relationships with customers,” he says. “This absolutely influences brand equity. Whether B2C or B2B, people ‘feel’ something about the brands in their life. It’s what keeps them coming back and telling others about their experience.”

We’ve all experienced this. When a commercial we catch on the TV captures us so deeply that we talk about it with our friends, or a story in a magazine or newspaper gets torn out and mailed off to a relative – these are examples of “emotional activation” at work.

That’s why our mantra at BLPR is “stories well told.” We strive to unlock the brand energy we see inside every client, at every opportunity.

Let us put that enthusiasm to work for you.

Have you started working on your 2020 marketing plan yet?

Have you started working on your 2020 marketing plan yet?

by Mike Bawden, partner, Bawden & Lareau Public Relations, LLC

You might just be shaking off the holiday “blahs” (it takes time to recover from the holidays which is why the first two weeks of the year are so unproductive), but you could wind up paying for your lack of productivity next year as a result.

Because while you’re focused inward on trying to get “back to work” you could be missing signs of great opportunities that pass by when you’re not looking. This isn’t so much a case of letting a new client slip through your fingers or missing a new product launch date.

No, this is more a case of creating a self-imposed blind spot on your business that will hamper your ability to plan for growth in the coming year.

Your 2019 Marketing Resolutions:

Here are a few easy resolutions for the year that can help you turn 2020 into a success before 2019 enters the fourth quarter:

Take a quick look back

Today – make notes about what’s happened so far this year (before everything just becomes part of the “fog” of everyday business). If you can make notes of business activities in December, so much the better.

Starting today and going forward

Keep track of key events at your business on a calendar. It helps if you make this a regular routine. I do this every morning when I have my first cup of coffee. My notes for the previous day usually include a quick run-down of calls (my phone keeps track of who I call and who calls me), key meetings and large blocks of time dedicated to specific proejcts.

Collect customer names and email addresses

You don’t have to start a direct email program right away, but the more names and email addresses you have when you start, the faster you’ll see a positive ROI on email marketing. It’s as easy as asking customers if they’d like to receive offers from you via email in the future, then taking their name and email address.

Giving customers a little “thank you gift” in return is a good idea, too. A free item or small, courtesy discount is a great way to seal that relationship and let the customer create a connection between that email they’ll receive at some point in the future and the permission they gave so you could send it.

Do a little dreaming – but keep track

Keep a file of events or seminars you’d like to participate in someday but can’t afford to right now. If you see ads you like or articles that are of particular interest, toss them in that file, too. Have a late-night brainstorm? Then add it to the file, there’s always room for more ideas.

So why do all this?

Because planning starts with a full understanding of where you are, where you want to be and who’s going to help get you there.

In a word: research.

And our experience with businesses of all types is that they are usually very short in real-time research – that is there may be financial and sales records we can review, but very little in the way of extemporanious notes made by the people who are actually going to have to implement the marketing communications plan we’re asked to produce.

Whether you work with a firm like BLPR or you meet with your team at the end of the year to talk about what you’re going to do in 2020, you’ll find these notes and “marketing assets” to be of tremendous value as you get ready to enter the third decade of the 21st century.

It’s never to early to start planning for success.

Understanding the value of your brand’s equity.

Understanding the value of your brand’s equity.

by Mike Bawden, partner, Bawden & Lareau Public Relations, LLC

For my entire career, I’ve had to help clients walk the line between the “warm and fuzzy” side of brand-building and the bottom line focus of sales-driven marketing. Some clients were able to see how the two were connect. Others … not so much.

So why the confusion?

I think it’s due to a general sense that marketers have to pick one or the other, when the opposite is true.

This isn’t “The Matrix” – where you’re given a choice between a red pill or a blue pill. No, this is more like “Mad Men” where we should take both pills. And then wash it down with an old fashioned.

But I digress.

In an article that recently appeared in Forbes Magazine (you’ll find it here), they took a deep dive into a Forrester Research study that indicated many “B2B CMOs (i.e. Chief Marketing Officers) may be short-sighted if they ignore building brand equity for their firms.”

According to DipanjanChatterjee, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, brand equity is the essence of the brand that defines its relationships with its customers, but it’s a hard concept for marketers to grasp: “The challenge that I’ve seen for CMOs is when they begin to talk about brand equity, especially in B2B companies, is it is an amorphous thing – important but squishy.”

Not all CMOs fail to see the connection, though. According to Dell’s SVP of Global Brand and Experiential, Liz matthews, “Building brand equity and growing the business are not mutually exclusive – they depend on one another.”

But why is that?

At BLPR, we believe brand equity is built using a very basic (some might say “fundamental”) formula: keep the promises you make (via advertising, sales calls, collateral, PR, your website, etc.) and you’ll see brand equity grow. People will believe you when you tell them something about your brand. They’ll begin to rely on your brand to deliver the goods/services/value they need.

In the end, they’ll prefer you and your brand.

That is the essence of brand equity.

And we can make that happen for you. Just let us know you want to meet so we can tell you how.