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Over 95% of press releases end up in the trash, rather than the news cycle. Why? Because those press releases were interesting, important and relevant to the people who wrote them, but not to the one group they should have been. Nope, not the reporters themselves – their audience.

All the news, all the columns, all the editorials exist to appeal to the audience. To get your story into that news cycle, it must also appeal to the audience. Here’s two ways to make it do exactly that:

  1. First, find your drama. Every classic story is built on tension. What’s yours? Are you addressing the plight of the poor? Succeeding after years of struggle? Taking on the big boys? While most press releases are written as announcements, the successful ones are stories that capture interest.
  2. Secondly, highlight your benefit. Audiences are, made up of humans – and humans are notoriously self-centered. Knowing this, media outlets love to lear with storires that play to their audience’s self-interest. That’s why news anchors use teasers like “After this break: Does the government owe you money?”. or “Next up: How can you loose 14 pounds by the end of this broadcast”. What benefit are you offering to the audience? Do you have new information, a better offer, an opportunity to have fun or help others? Make sure your benefit is clear.

Your story is interesting to you, but to get it published, your story must be interesting to the audience. Take the time to add drama and benefit to your next press release and catch a report’s eye.

Category : PR
Building a Powerful Brand
by Andrew Szabo

So what is marketing?

Marketing is not sales, although marketing supports sales by generating qualified leads and effectively communicating who you are, what you do in the minds of customers, prospective customers and other stakeholders.

Marketing is not advertising, although advertising is only one of the 100 weapons in the marketing arsenal. Your marketing strategy will dictate whether or not it is an appropriate for your business.

Marketing is not your brand, although branding is key to your marketing success.

Marketing is EVERYTHING you do. Everything you do, (and don’t do), sends a message to the marketplace. Although these messages vary in their communications impact, your brand is the assimilation of these varied messages in the mind of the audience.

A key essential of the marketing process is to build a brand in the mind of your target audience. Wouldn’t it be wise to decide what the message should be and ensure that all communications reflect this message?

So what is a brand?

A brand is not your logo or tagline. A brand is more than a mere label and more than the product itself. It is the combination of values, promises and guarantees that frames the relationship between you and your (prospective) customers. A brand is the expectation of certain benefits between you and your (potential) customers.

According to Regis McKenna, famed consultant to Apple, Intel and others and the author of Relationship Marketing“a successful brand is nothing more than a special relationship.”

Where’s the proof in the above quote? Ask any competitor, and they will tell you that customer bias, or loyalty to an established brand, is one of the biggest obstacles they face in increasing their share of market.

But what makes a brand powerful is the effectiveness of your branding strategy, your ability to create a mood, thought, feeling, and definition for that brand in the mind of your target audience. The power of a brand lies in its ability to influence purchasing behavior.

Since a brand exists within the mind of the customer, it can be affected positively or negatively by intentional and unintentional messages from you. Also, it cannot be arbitrarily changed, improved or “managed” without the participation of the customer.

Highly effective branding can be so impactful that consumer sees the brand synonymously with the product … tissues have “become” Kleenex, antiseptic first aid bandages “are” Band-Aids, Coke “is” cola. Branding can be so effective that the name itself is unnecessary, Nike’s swoosh logo is often unaccompanied by the company name. And yet, we all know exactly what is being advertised. Nike clearly conveys “action,” with powerful emotional appeal. Other brands have also become indistinguishable from their emotional appeal: Volvo with “safety”, Ivory with “pure and gentle.”

So if the perception of your brand is the assimilation of any received message that you send (or are not sending), wouldn’t it be wise to first plan what is the message you want to send and then ensure everything you communicate supports the key messaging?

All too often companies relegate the importance of branding and thereby lose the opportunity to give clients and customers a frame of reference when making purchasing decisions. People will buy brands they recognize, regardless of whether or not they know or believe the claims, simply because there is comfort in that which is known.

How powerful can a brand be? The most powerful brands of all are those that create a need in the mind of a purchaser that was not there before. Take for example, bottled water. American tap water is clean and drinkable, yet Evian is worth millions today. A 1.5 liter bottle of Evian sells for 20% more per liter than Budweiser, 40% more than Borden’s milk, and 80% more than Coca-Cola. That’s the power of a brand.

Strategic Branding

Since you cannot be all things to all people, effectively addressing customers’ needs, which are then re p resented by your brand, will require differentiating yourself from your competitors and identifying your target market segment.

Marketing Symphony utilizes a three-step process to develop brand  strategy:

  • brand positioning,
  • brand personality and
  • core proposition

Each element requires choices. This in turn results in a number of tactical branding communications vehicles, addressing both your target audience needs and enable you to achieve your objectives. Strategically controlling your branding messaging and vehicles can raise your offering beyond the mundane, to give your brand ‘wings’ and an enduring ability to stand out from the competition. In addition, your brand must be sustained through consistent communication to internal and external audiences and stakeholders and allowed to evolve as your target audience needs develop.

Category : Informational
Discontinuous Change or Incremental Change?
by Andrew Szabo

(Originally authored in September 2000)

Alvin Toffler, in his introduction to Future Shock, said, “Change is the progress by which the future invades our lives.” September is often a month of change, the future is invading our lives a little … our children are back in school a new year – new teachers – a new grade. You may find the rhythm of business changes, and of course, we have all been hoping that the weather would change!

Well we finally got a brief respite this week with our first
rain in 70+ days! But then it went back to 90-degree heat and no rain – unfortunately that was only an incremental change – we went from the 100s to 90s. No inspiration on change there. A perusal through my collection of business and marketing books was a little disconcerting. The problem with books on change: books are static; change, by definition, is dynamic. There is, then, almost always a lack of synchronicity between what the reader knows of change in life, and what he or she experiences on the page. It does not help that the topic seems to attract writers who–in many instances–never oversaw any change efforts at all. Thus, most books on change are stern little sermons about pulling up your socks and looking for opportunities in adversity, peppered with snake-oil aphorisms, mantras of dubious efficacy (“Reframe, restructure, revitalize, renew,” comes to mind).

Another popular approach is anecdotal: a story of how people did–or didn’t–survive whatever grisly processes a particular company was going through. Many strategic leaders at companies, abetted by a sense of urgency and bevies of willing consultants, have convinced themselves that all they need to do to change is to decide to do it and then tell the troops, in the manner of “Star Trek’s Captain Picard, to “make it so.”

But isn’t the urge and the ability to “make it so” two separate things? Any kind of change is an organic process composed of many competing elements, an inevitable, unavoidable force with a life of its own. “Discontinuous,” as opposed to incremental, change is especially so. It is shaped by external forces–technological, competitive and regulatory innovation or the decline and rise of whole industries and regional economies–that engineer a radical break with the past. I have found that my strategic work in the last five years increasingly deals with clients facing discontinuous change brought on by external forces. Naturally, the commercial applications of the Internet have been a pervasive driver to change.

Why are we so resistant to change? Is it the fear of moving from that which is known to that which is unknown? I have seen many companies go through: “rational” resistance to change; the search for people to blame; increased informal communication, faction formation; the emergence of informal leadership; realignment of relationships, etc. However, the radical redirect that discontinuous change heralds, often requires a transformation of the culture in an organization. It means changing the values and worldviews of its people. People don’t come by their values lightly and they don’t check them at the company door, so they surely don’t give them up easily.

Psychologists argue that people experience change as loss — even if they accept the need or inevitability of it. Change, like loss, requires time to repair.

An interesting collection of essays: “Discontinuous Change: Leading Organizational Transformation” was compiled by consultants from the Delta Consulting Group in New York. No one will be surprised to learn that C.E.O.’s loom large as change agents, though they might be surprised that the authors zero in on senior management, rather than the much- maligned middle management, as a major source of resistance to change. In addition, to believe they have a stake in the future and in not being an obstacle to change, middle-level employees must feel that the discomfort is being spread around equitably and that the company is willing to help them gain skills and opportunities they can use to move forward in their careers, wherever they end up.

In counseling our clients in branding and marketing matters, a quote from an esteemed colleague often comes to mind: “it’s like trying to ask a goldfish describe the water they are swimming in.” Discontinuous innovation compounds the problem in that they are often no longer in the gentle creek they knew so well, but they are about to merge into the perils of the Amazon River! Bon voyage — the future is about to invade your life!

Category : Informational
Building Relationships with Customers
by Andrew Szabo

The nineties heralded the shift from product-centricity (selling what a company has) to customer-centricity (fulfilling customer wants and needs). This has allowed firms to not only serve large market segments but also small niches and thus increase their target market universe.

What does this take? A new value-exchange proposition, the development and management of customer relationships and loyalty, and marketing to the individual  potentially on a mass scale. To succeed in this new environment of constant change and instability requires new information, a new level of customer knowledge. Knowledge that is generated expressly for the decision at hand, not information created for another purpose entirely and then massaged on a “best can do” basis.

At Marketing Strategy 1 we are strong proponents of relationship management and the role of strategic marketing communications to effectively support our clients’ marketing goals. In the last six years much has been written on the subject. From Peppers & Rodgers seminal work: “The One to One Future”, first published in 1993 to Bain & Co’s Frederick Reichheld business classic: “The Loyalty Effect”, and from the relationship marketing guru of Silicon Valley, Regis McKenna’s “Relationship Marketing” to greatHBR articles by Professor Len Schlesinger: “Realize your customers’ fullprofit potential”, and W. Earl Sasser’s “Why satisfied customers defect”.

I know it’s hard to keep up in this day and age, so here is a good primerthat I came across that summarizes several of the aforementioned authors’work. It is located on a German Website at the University of Mannheim:

Category : Informational

DALLAS, TEXAS (SEPTEMBER 2008) – Marketing Symphony is pleased to announce the addition of David Miner to its existing Partner roster.  Miner joins the existing Marketing Symphony team of Partners; Founder and Chief Strategist Andrew Szabo, Chief Operating Officer Melissa Szabo and Executive Vice President & General Manager, Public Relations Susan Morrow, APR.

“I am pleased to have joined an already strong marketing team, said Miner.  “I look forward to contributing creative direction and leadership to future projects.”

Miner currently serves as Creative Director at Marketing Symphony after a long and diverse career in the entertainment field.  Miner spent three decades in Los Angeles as a record producer, and musician working with artists ranging from Bread to Ray Charles; Elvis Costello, Leon Russell, and many years with T Bone Burnett – to name a few.  In the 1990’s, he branched out into other forms of media, scoring five independent films.  Miner also spent nearly two years developing multi media projects for the Disney Company including video production.  For the past two years, he’s been writing, directing and producing weekly media and video presentations for a church here in the DFW area.

Category : Partners | PR

Partnership combines public relations and marketing veteran expertise into single strategic firm

DALLAS, TEXAS (JANUARY 2008) – Marketing Symphony is pleased to announce the addition of Susan Morrow, APR and the resources of Morrow & Associates, Inc. Public Relations.  Marketing Symphony now offers full-service Public Relations capabilities with the addition of Morrow to the Marketing Symphony team.  In addition to serving as Partner in the firm, Morrow will also serve as Executive Vice President & General Manager, Public Relations.

“Morrow & Associates, as well as Marketing Symphony, clients have been asking for combined public relations and marketing services for some time now. The partnership of capabilities is really an extension of continuing to listen to our valued customers,” said Morrow.

“I look forward to adding value to the Marketing Symphony team,” added Morrow

Susan Morrow, APR brings 20+ years of experience in PR/communications management to Marketing Symphony.  Susan Morrow has planned and implemented programs for emerging and large business in diversified industries. In addition, Morrow manages public relations/marketing services for companies that are establishing business in Mexico, Central and South America. Key clients have included BNSF Railway, Exelon Corporation, Amerisource Companies, Smith Barney, Law Offices of Shelly West, Masergy Communications, EyeNX, Verizon Wireless, Sabre Holdings Travel Network, EDS and others.

Category : Partners | PR | Uncategorized

Account combines public relations and marketing veteran expertise into single strategic firm

DALLAS, TEXAS (DECEMBER 2007) – Marketing Symphony is pleased to announce the addition of Resource One Credit Union to its client roster.  Resource One Credit Union is a member-owned, not for profit, financial institution that has eight branches in the Dallas and Houston areas that offer low-interest loans, a variety of checking accounts for all ages, and high interest savings accounts to its members.

“Resource One has entrusted us with handling its marketing efforts and we take that very seriously,” said Marketing Symphony Founder and Chief Strategist Andrew Szabo.

“Marketing Symphony completed a thorough strategic marketing assessment and we’re truly excited about implementing our findings,” added Szabo.

Per the agreement, Marketing Symphony will handle all of Resource One’s marketing efforts including strategy, videos production, direct marketing, web development, web optimization, email marketing, event planning and integrated marketing campaigns.

Category : Outsourced Marketing | SEO | Strategy | Video Production | Web Development