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What can marketing managers learn from Kim Kardashian?
07/04/2015 01:48 PM
From an outsider’s point of view, Kim Kardashian’s domination of the world’s media is a mystery, probably an irritation and very often dismissed.  But being ‘famous for nothing’ is harder than you think.  Although I can’t call myself a fan, I don’t like the monochrome kiddie clothes and haven’t even watched the reality TV show, as a PR professional I have to take my hat off to Mrs West for how she captures so much editorial attention.  So, if there’s something you want to share – you might actually have done something amazing that it’s worth being famous for – then you too can learn from Kim’s campaign:

1.     Produce shareable content– It’s not just social media that is hungry for videos and pictures that people can comment on and share.  More media outlets than ever seem to be snapping up the snaps from paparazzi, members of the public and Instagram.  Have you got a way of showing off that can be recorded quickly, is entertaining, and might be shared by strangers?  Don’t make it difficult to understand – the first glance has to say it all.  Don’t expect to be an internet sensation from the first attempt.  Short, frequent, popular content will help move you up the social media hierarchy.

2.     Always on brand – Whether she’s stepping out in Paris, pottering around in LA or home with her family, Kim’s clothes seem to be a very strict uniform of black or white – perhaps a beige colour but always monochrome.  It’s like she has some pretty serious brand guidelines and is committed to a small handful of Pantone colours. It means that her ‘look’ is recognisable and sparks debate. Does every piece of marketing you share have your own ‘look’? If what you’re sharing is very similar to other brands in your market then your lack of originality isn’t doing you any favours. 

3.     If a strategy isn’t working – change it.  According to my hairdresser, Kim Kardashian had her blonde hair for a total of three weeks.  Not every strategy works.  And it can be difficult if you’ve spent time working on a year-long marketing plan and securing senior management buy in, to admit that you’re not getting the results you wanted and need to revert to an old method.  Think Kim.  Take a good hard look at the evidence and go back to the drawing board.

4.     Whatever you have flaunt it.  Don’t be shy.  Really.  I mean it. We sometimes get informed by potential clients that they are nervous ‘putting their head above the parapet’ in case their ideas get stolen, they get criticised in their industry or their own staff object.  I'm afraid in any one of these cases the company is not ready for PR and should probably spend a little more time sorting out their internal communications and market relevance before worrying about fame.  However, if you have a business you’re proud of, if you are connected to your industry in a way that means you have a view on its future success, and if your staff are right behind you, then start speaking.  We’re living in a show off society and those that can’t ‘pull a Kim’ now and again to get noticed and stir things up a little, won’t just lose their reputation, they’ll lose their market share.

by Lucy George - Mayor of Wordville (not shown in this picture)

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Brand ambassador or brand agitator?
11/07/2014 01:25 PM

It’s no surprise that 888poker reviewed its relationship with Luis Suarez after his latest, questionable behaviour at this year’s World Cup. Endless memes have graced our screens over the last month, including McDonald’s and Snickers (above) jumping on the bandwagon to make light of the situation. But with so much risk attached to a famous brand ambassador, how can brands tell if the famous face they are about to attach to their name to is going to deliver?

Over the last few years there have been many ambassadors I’m sure brands would like to forget. Tiger Woods’ personal affairs led to him being dropped by AT&T and Accenture, whilst Kate Moss’ drug allegations ended up in H&M dropping the model from its ad campaigns.

In my opinion, there are some that seem the perfect match. Angelina Jolie’s work with the UN over the last ten years has been inspiring and nothing but beneficial to the brand. Earlier this week, the UN
appointed Emma Watson as a Goodwill Ambassador for women’s equality. It’s an exciting and positive move that I think will see more young people interested in the work the UN does and, in the process, skyrocket the actress’ career and popularity.

When it comes to consumer-facing brands such as Coca-Cola or L’Oreal, it’s unlikely the celebrity has any involvement in the product development but choosing an ambassador that fits with the brand’s values is desirable. However, it’s a constant battle between what a brand pays for a celebrity endorsement and the return on investment. If your ambassador’s behaviour – good or bad – increases sales it seems money trumps saving face. 

By Stephanie Rock 
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Who needs a business mentor?
02/06/2014 09:08 AM

Everyone should have a mentor – someone who is not too close to your day to day working situation, with the experience to offer insight and counsel, who can support you with an outsider’s view.  And the higher up the corporate ladder you climb, the more you need a behind-the-scenes business sensei.  But finding the right mentor isn’t straight forward.  Where one mentor can inspire and motivate, another can treat you like a disappointing pupil.  If your mentor is sharing their words of wisdom for the love of doing it – and the occasional cup of coffee – then they obviously have an instinctive urge to teach.  But, dangerously, they might just have an instinctive urge to hear the sound of their own voice.  Opening up about your working issues and ideas is a revealing exercise and unless you trust that your mentor is genuinely motivated to help, a mentor session can feel more like a TV crime drama grilling than a supportive catch up.

My own mentors found me.  Two are ex-clients who I advised on PR, corporate positioning and communications.  Things changed and we all moved jobs but we stayed in touch.  And our informal meetings changed from chit chats into in-depth discussions about business, management, finance and life.  The focus switched from a two way catch up to a focussed assessment of my business and ‘therapy session’ into my working challenges.  I relish the opportunity to run things by them and often do make decisions with a nod to ‘what would my mentors do’. 

I’d say ‘what’s in it for them?’ if I wasn’t also a mentor myself.  I recognise the satisfaction and reward of sharing knowledge and the feel-good factor of helping someone with some of the lessons you’ve learned along the way.

So if you haven’t got a mentor, then keep your eyes open and try to cultivate one.  The perfect mentor doesn’t prescribe the solution to your business challenges, puff you up in a sycophantic way or reprimand you for getting in tricky situations.  They encourage, advise and illuminate opportunities.  They hold a mirror up and help keep the focus clear.  After a good meeting with a mentor you look in the mirror and like what you see.   

By Lucy George
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Please don’t pull me out of my shell, I’m busy
02/06/2014 09:07 AM

Shy, sensitive, serious. These are all words perceived as, generally, negative attributes. But these are also words people associate with introverts. One in three people are introverts and society makes us believe that if you’re anything other than an extrovert you’re made to think something is wrong with you.

I've recently read Quiet by Susan Cain, a book about the power of introverts in a world dominated by extroverts.  It's an insightful read and one that has taught me that the environment we live in is not suited for introverts.

Take our schooling system, for example. From a young age we are taught to work in groups. Now you could argue that this is teaching us to communicate with others and build confidence, but for those introverted children it's incredibly daunting. 

Introverts are typically very intelligent but feel more at ease working individually or in pairs, and are more productive knowing they have a particular role – taking the notes in a group discussion, or feeding back their findings to the class.  In bigger groups there are always kids who have no problem taking charge and contributing ideas but, for those overwhelmed by the pressure to contribute, many introverted kids feel their views are insufficient.

Some people believe that introversion is something we grow out of when we get older, that it’s just a phase or a confidence thing. But the reality is it’s the environment we’re in that makes a difference. Once we can chose our environment, whether that’s our work or home environment, we come into our own.

Steve Wozniak, inventor and co-founder of Apple, was incredibly shy at school and hated small talk. He wasn’t a popular kid at school but was fascinated by engineering and electronics from a very young age. He spent most days working alone, even when he worked at Hewlett Packard, and believes this approach led him to creating the Apple I and Apple II.

“Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me – they’re shy and they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone – best outside of corporate environments, best where they can control an invention’s design without a lot of other people designing it for marketing or some other committee. I don’t believe anything really revolutionary has ever been invented by committee...”

Whether you agree with Wozniak’s way of working or not, it’s interesting to note that in the same way school is not adapted for introverts, neither is brainstorming. In the workplace, brainstorming is a widely used creative tool. However, psychological research shows that enforced teamwork – like we experience at school – signals a fear of rejection in people (not just introverts) and discourages potentially valuable contributions.

In fact, brainstorming is guilty of three things; social loafing where people sit back and let the others do the work, production blocking by letting only one person speak at any one time and evaluation apprehension, the fear of looking stupid. Teamwork is, of course, a necessary part of business life but employers shouldn’t underestimate the creativity harvested by those who work individually – especially as a third of employees will be introverts.

So the next time someone calls you shy or quiet, just remember – without introverts the world would be missing the theory of relativity, the Civil Rights movement and Google. 

By Stephanie Rock   
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