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I hear this time and again. It’s not right. It’s not fair.

I really get upset when I hear about businesses and organizations getting taken advantage of when it comes to spending their hard-earned money on one or two advertising options. Check out my latest point of interest enews. Pretty important points to ponder >

Cheers, Laura

Medical Sales Booklet

BIHC Medical Booklet

Dr. Matt @BIHC – Belleville Integrative Health Centre is excited about his new medical sales booklet!

Thanks for being such a great ‘Sport’ Matt! SEO (search engine optimization), eNews System coming next. Stay tuned!

Physically Represent your Brand

As we say on our website “a brand is a powerful collection of perceptions in the mind of a consumer.” Although your brand image depends on what your consumer thinks, you can do many things to help foster a positive brand image.

A relatively easy way is to start from where you do business. Whether you are a manufacturer, small business, multinational or creative business, your location can make a lasting impression. A great location will convince people of your mission and your passion.

A great example is the BMW headquarters (seen in the YouTube video). The tower was designed in the shape of four-cylinders, which alludes to a four-cylinder car engine.

Also, as I begin interning here at Engine, the first thing I noticed is that they take their mission to heart. Positioned at a railway station, the constant rumbling, horn-blasting and bell-ringing remind me that we are here to drive businesses toward success.

It really makes a lasting and great first impression on both consumers and employees. Take a look at your business, or your place of employment. Does the location reflect your mission?

Troy is currently interning at Engine Communications as part of his Loyalist Post-Grad PR Program.  He likes anything to do with PR, social media and technology.  A UWO graduate, he is always looking at new ways of doing things. His blog can be found at:

Social Media for Small Business

Thanks to the team at Hastings County for inviting me to speak to a group of entrepreneurs, from all over the region, about Social Media for Small Business. Despite some technical difficulties with the internet (which ended up being a good illustration for the technology gap business owners face in rural Ontario), the day was really successful.

We introduced the group to the basics of social media, explaining how it could benefit their businesses. There was so much more I would have liked to accomplish, but we covered quite a lot with limited internet access. However, I did promise that I would make my slideshow for the workshop accessible. (We didn’t make it past the fourth slide, but we did have some lively conversation!)

For those in the group who were able to sign up for Twitter, here are a few people you’ll want to follow:

Daryl Kramp, MP Prince Edward-Hastings – @darylkramp

Mayor Neil Ellis – @MayorNeilEllis

Councillor Bob Dolan – @Councillorbob

Hastings County – @HastingsCounty

Bill Glisky – @BillGlisky

Dan Taylor – @CreativeDanT

You can find a list of local folks on Twitter, HERE.

This is also a great resource: Time Magazine’s list of Eight Big Ideas for Small Business.

Thanks to those of you who were able to join us, and to Hastings County, and the Marmora Town Hall for their hospitality!

Tweet Up Outtakes

Thursday’s Tweet Up, at the Boathouse Restaurant, was a huge success! We had lots of fun, gave out a tonne of prizes and we were able to raise some money for a good cause. What better combination could you ask for?

We here at Engine wanted to take a moment to thank the students from Loyalist PR, who partnered with us to put together this evening of networking and fun. Special thanks to Marina, Jeremy, Michael, Jordan, and Eri for all of their hard work! Thanks to Kerry Ramsay, co-ordinator of the Loyalist PR program, for her direction and guidance.

Another huge thank you goes out to Winding Violets, for taking the time out of their busy schedules to photograph our event. They also donated our grand prize: A private portrait session! (So cool!) Despite poor (very poor) lighting, they took a bunch of great photos, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the results. Make sure you follow Lucas on Twitter, and check out their Facebook Fan Page for an album of pictures from the event.

Thanks also to all of the vendors who donated door prizes: The Boathouse Restaurant, Classic Hits 95.5 & Cool 100.1 FM, Polish Day Spa & Salon, Essential Relaxation, Capers Restaurant, L’Auberge de France, The Organic Underground, The Empire Theatre, Chumleighs, Kernels Popcorn, Sweet Escape Dessert & Coffee Lounge, Belleville Art Association, Symphony Boutique, Stephen License Ltd., The Bull & Boar, and Foxy Hair Salon. Wow – that’s a lot of amazing donations!

You can take a look at our Facebook Fan Page for more pictures from the evening, but here are some outtakes that you won’t find anywhere else.

@brynajones (Me) having a great chat with some tweet up guests

@brynajones (Me) having a great chat with @KerryRamsay and some tweet up guests

@ariel_54 (Ariel) signing in with the help of @TweeterBird82 (Jeremy)

@ariel_54 signing in with the help of @TweeterBird82

What do you call a whole group of Tweeters? A flock? A gaggle?

What do you call a whole group of Tweeters? A flock? A gaggle?

@youresovanilla chatting it up

@youresovanilla chatting it up

@quinterecycles enjoying the company of @SaraHamil

@quinterecycles enjoying the company of @SaraHamil

@QuintePR and @jerikabradford

@QuintePR and @jerikabradford





@jayzeb deep in conversation with @ariel_54

@jayzeb deep in conversation with @ariel_54

@dantruman and @brynajones having some fun with @maltesefalcon behind the lens

@dantruman and @brynajones having some fun with @maltesefalcon behind the lens

Thanks again to everyone for a successful evening! My only question: Who’s hosting the next Tweet Up?!

Toronto Works for Haiti

torontoforhaitiToday is one of those days when I’m amazed by the connections, and opportunities for community building and business, that social media allows. I’m even more awestruck by being surrounded by so many people working passionately for the cause of Haiti.

Why focus on Haiti on a business blog? Because it’s the perfect example of how so many elements that we’ve been discussing in this forum (ie. social media, cause marketing, corporate social responsibility) come together to make a measurable impact on society.

Today my friend and colleague in the social media space, Sophie Bifield, introduced me to her friend and colleague, Elliot Ng. Elliot is the founder of Toronto Works for Haiti, a group of volunteers in Toronto offering professional services in exchange for donations to Haiti.

Their goal is to raise $5,000 for relief efforts before March 18, 2010.

Currently they stand at 20 volunteers with skills ranging from administrative services to professional editing,
social media marketing, and realty. There are no overhead costs, and they’re asking that all donation go directly to the organizations they support, namely the Humanitarian Coalition, the Canadian Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. All the recipients of the goods and services have to do is let them know how much they’re donating so they can keep track of their efforts.

Founder of Toronto Works for Haiti, Elliot Ng

Founder of Toronto Works for Haiti, Elliot Ng

Here’s Elliot’s take:

After hearing about the earthquake, I felt that it would not be enough to for me to just make a donation to the charities. I asked myself, “What can I do to offer more? How can I help people in Haiti even though I am in Toronto?” On top of that, my professional background helped me put my own spin on it: coming from the business background, I understand the need for businesses, and naturally I started connecting the dots. Why don’t I try to find other like-minded individuals who are compassionate and want to mobilize our skills for this great cause? So I picked up the phone and pitched to my friends: Roxanne Chow, Katherine Lee, Kilim Park, and Mark Savel. They liked it! Roxanne gave the group the name we are using now. Katherine started creating the structure of the organization. Kilim started writing on our blog. Mark suggested ideas on how to make this idea bigger. It snowballed and the rest is history.

There are a few things I love about this idea:

  1. It raises money for a great cause.
  2. It allows small business owners to make an impact on a global scale.
  3. It creates awareness for small business, and is a great PR opportunity.
  4. It creates opportunity for collaboration, and networking.
  5. It’s a simple idea that your business could easily adopt for any cause you’re passionate about.

What do I want you to do?

  • Take some of the ideas we’ve dissected and apply them to your own business strategy. The bottom line for you is increased awareness, networking and sales.
  • Get involved with Toronto Works for Haiti or another local group like New Mercy Ministries, both to help with relief efforts, and to network with some brilliant, talented people.
  • Join the Toronto Works for Haiti Facebook group, and voice your support. Put their logo on your profile to spread awareness.

Whatever you do, make sure you act now. If not for Haiti, then for the cause you care about. Everybody wins! And you know I love a good win-win.

Are You Connected?

Maasai warriors on their cell phones, in rural Kenya. Are they more connected than your small business?

Maasai warriors on their cell phones, in rural Kenya. Are they more connected than your small business?

I have to admit, after the earthquake hit Haiti, I was having trouble writing new blog posts. I was having trouble writing anything. When the world is rocked by tragedy, our collective heart goes out to others in extraordinary ways. Already having a passion for this nation and its people, I was happy to see the world community reach out.

Non-profits, government, military, and citizens put their creativity to the test to mobilize and act to help Haiti. I was blown away by the level to which new technologies assisted not only relief efforts, but also rescue efforts. We saw an iPhone app save a man’s life. Tweets from Haiti were sent, and picked up by CNN, moments after the quake. I was able to follow the Canada for Haiti telethon unfold on Facebook, while watching the American efforts live via the Hope for Haiti iPhone app. Both the American Red Cross and World Vision Canada initiated text campaigns to raise funds.

All of these efforts have raised millions of dollars. Millions. And those are just a few examples of the ways that social media has united people for the cause of Haiti.

So what’s the lesson that your business can take away from this?

It’s that social media works, and it isn’t going anywhere. Let me repeat: Social media is not simply a trend. It’s not a fad. It’ll change–that’s guaranteed. Next year we might not be talking Facebook. We might not be using Twitter in the same ways we do now. But I can promise you, social media tools aren’t going anywhere.

When the tsunami hit Thailand on Dec 26, 2004, we didn’t have the iPhone. There was no “app for that.” The term “app” wasn’t even in our lexicon. That was only five years ago. Imagine how our communications will change in the next five years?

With technology being accessible to the masses, whether through free online platforms, websites, or smart phones, it’s time that small business owners sit up and take note. Your target market is donating millions of dollars online. They’re creating movements via text campaigns. They’re looking at your website, judging your expertise based on your content. Your audience is connected. Are you?

Cause Marketing

Spread the word! Cause marketing is good for your business.

Spread the word! Cause marketing is good for your business.

It’s hard to bring things back to business as usual when the world is suffering in such plain view. There are always causes to support, funds to be raised, and people who will be in need. But this morning Haiti was rocked again by aftershocks, and the rest feels small to me again.

I mentioned  last week that I had planned to be on a plane to Haiti for two weeks of humanitarian relief work, as of January 27. That trip has since been cancelled. I’m not going to talk a lot about me here, but since I had told you last week, I thought I would update the status of said venture.

But let’s bring this back to you. Why should your business care about Haiti, or any cause for that matter? Because it’s good marketing strategy.

Wikipedia says:

Cause marketing differs from corporate giving (philanthropy) as the latter generally involves a specific donation that is tax deductible, while cause marketing is a marketing relationship generally not based on a donation.

Yesterday, Kerry gave a great example of cause marketing (although you might argue that because a donation was involved it wasn’t pure CM). Lou’s Cozy Grill in Belleville, Ontario ran a promotion to raise money for Haiti relief. The benefit is two-fold: money raised for a good cause and great PR for Lou’s. Who doesn’t like a win-win?

I’m loosely classifying this under “cause marketing” because even though it wasn’t strategically executed, I love the fact that they gave it a shot. I don’t know how much money they raised, but I’ll remember their effort, and I’ll swing by to grab a coffee. While I’m there, I might buy a sandwich, or grab breakfast–whatever. The point is that consumers want to know that the brands they align themselves with support a vision beyond their own bottomline.

A clearer example is found in the actions McDonald’s restaurants implemented to support and promote the World Wildlife Fund’s Earth Hour initiatives. For example, all Canadian McDonald’s restaurants turned off their roadside pole signs and roof beam lighting to conserve energy for Earth Hour. The support wasn’t monetary–it was action driven. McDonald’s was trying to build a reputation as  a socially responsible organization, and both McDonald’s and WWF benefited from increased awareness. That awareness translates into dollars. It’s an indirect root to acquire sales and revenue, but it’s good business.

And that’s where you step in. Does your marketing plan allow for cause marketing initiatives? What organizations do you align yourself with? Are you maximizing these low-cost opportunities for PR?

If not, we can help. Contact Engine Communications today to shift your marketing plan into high gear.

Website Accessibility

42-15645269There’s this one women’s washroom in a restaurant (which shall remain nameless) here in Belleville that really irks me. I’m a pretty small woman, but the narrow L-turn in the hallway leading into it, bookended by two doors which open in the wrong directions, makes it really difficult to maneuver. Everytime I go through this obstacle course I think, “What would I do if I were in a wheelchair?” It’s ridiculous.

But it illustrates a good point: How easy is it for people with disabilities to access your business?

As you may, or may not know, January ushered in the dawn of a new era of Accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities. Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, the government has taken it upon themselves to develop standards of accessibility, and to enforce them.

It’s about time. It boggles the mind that in 2010, people with disabilities still do not have equal access to services, employment, transportation, and information. But all of that is about to change, and the first target for reformation is the world of customer service.

As of January 10, 2010, all public service sector organizations (ie. government, hospitals, school boards) must be in compliance with these standards. By January 2012, everyone else has to be on board.

The standards include things like enacting policies and procedures for providing goods and services to people with disabilities. It also encompasses training staff and volunteers in accessibility issues. Another key element of these standards is in regard to communication: website accessibility.

What is website accessibility?

Many people with disabilities rely on computers and the internet as sources of communication. Assistive devices, such as screen readers, speech input systems, and others operate with their software to provide an optimal experience. Making your website accessible means that it is built to be compatible with these tools.

There are different levels of accessiblity for the web. Most businesses with be able to stop at the ‘A’ level, but others, like our awesome clients, Pathways to Independence, will want to take it a step further. It all depends on what your site is doing, who it’s reaching, and how accessible you feel you need to be (it would be pretty cool if everyone was at ‘AAA,’ but maybe someday.)

We here at Engine have been talking about website accessibility for awhile. You can check out a quick slideshow presentation we did on the topic on our Slideshare site.

In the meantime, consider the implications for your business. Check out the following resources:

Ministry of Community and Social Services, Ontario – AccessON

WorldWideWeb Consortium – Web Accessibility Initiative

Wikipedia – Web Accessibility

Feel free to call, email, tweet or Facebook us with any questions you might have. We’d be happy to help!

The Rules of Engagement

This post is part of the Guest Blog Grand Tour over at Life Without Pants – an epic two-month journey of over 50 guest posts. Want to learn more about Matt Cheuvront & see how far the rabbit hole goes? Subscribe to the Life Without Pants RSS feed & follow him on Twitter to keep in touch!

You don’t need me to tell you, but the world of marketing and advertising has seen some pretty dramatic shifts over the past few years. Social Media is changing the face of the way companies do marketing. How? With the emphasis on B2C communication – tools like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are making it easier than ever for businesses to give and receive instant feedback from their customers.

But just because the tools are readily available, doesn’t mean businesses are using them to their maximum potential. The approach to Social Media has to be taken from a different angle than more “traditional” marketing mediums. Where selling, generating leads, and landing clients may be the end result – the approach with Social Media has to be to engage and build relationships first, before focusing on the sales pitch.

One thing that everyone can take a lesson in, and something I continue to work on myself – is the power of listening. Listen to what your customers are saying, pay attention to their conversations, and take note of their ideas. Becoming a good listener and eavesdropping at the right time and place is priority number one for Social Media marketing.

You’ll hear everyone tell you that listening is important – but that’s only the first step. The follow up, and most important element of communication is knowing WHEN to communicate. Those who are “doing it right” spend a considerable about of time listening, and when the time is right, take it to the next step and get involved.

What does “get involved” mean? At the end of the day, it’s about being a person first, a human representative and voice of your company. People don’t want to talk to a business – they want to talk to a person, they want a connection, a human on the other end of the line who genuinely cares about their wants and needs. If you’re that person on the other end, be yourself, be funny, share interesting and relevant information, become a resource for your community. Social Media works best when the line between personal and professional is blurred.

Once you’ve built a rapport with the members of your community, they’ll be more willing and accepting of your “sales” pitches. Engage first, sell second – A simple formula that’s often forgotten, but is the recipe of success for any business integrating Social Media into their marketing mix.

What examples do you have of businesses that are doing it right (or wrong) with Social Media?