Thursday, June 28, 2012

Damage Control - How to Save Your Company's Reputation

A few months ago, I was interviewed by the Redding Record Searchlight for a social media/online rep management article. In the article, I discuss my favorite topics - social media and online reputation management.

Yesterday I read an article about (touted as the #1 women's site on the internet). Unfortunately, is in hot water and I am certain their #1 ranking has slipped considerably.

According to the Adweek article, the editors sent out emails encouraging their writers to repeatedly click on Panera's ads, which is known as click fraud. When Panera found out what they did, they immediately pulled their ads. Click fraud is punishable by law and is considered a felony in some states. issued a statement that the editors were "disciplined" and the editors violated their ad policies. My question to management: did these actually editors read an employee handbook that clearly states their ad policies? And did these editors sign off that they read and understood their ad policies? If they signed on the dotted line, then they definitely have good reason to fire these editors. If no such handbook exists, then the responsibility falls on the shoulders of management/HR.
I dug around online, and I did not see ANY comments from directly responding to people's comments - most were unfavorable comments against the site. A negative article in Adweek is not the kind of 'bad' publicity you want. There is a huge lesson to be learned from their mistake. And click fraud is more than just an "oops"!

Hopefully, you won't EVER experience this kind of PR nightmare, but it could happen. If you find your company faced with a crisis situation that could seriously damage your reputation, keep these tips in mind. Be proactive and NOT reactive!

#1 If there are legal implications involved, seek legal advice/counsel immediately.

#2 Take immediate disciplinary action against employees who were involved. It's important to get all the facts first. Dependent upon what policies were violated, you may have to fire employees.

#3 Appoint your marketing/communications director (who understands media relations) to handle ALL media inquiries. If you don't have a designated marketing person, appoint your CEO or owner to take the lead. Do not allow staff to answer questions or talk to media. Issue a formal statement to the media and don't waiver in your statements. Remain calm. Don't become reactionary or defensive when answering questions. Don't forget to respond directly to "negative "comments on your website, blog, and social media channels. Use online rep management software or Google alerts to track your brand/company name.

#4 Right the wrong. If the "mistake" involves another company, customer client, or vendor (in this case, Panera), how can you make it up to them? Keep the communications channels open and don't shut your door in their face.

#5  Take a good, hard look at your employees and policies. Do your research. Why did this happen? How can you improve your policies and operations? A company should never become complacent and static. Communicate with your employees and see where the break-down happened.

I'm a stickler for business ethics and I realize that mistakes happen, but this is one mistake that could be very costly for  And no one wants to buy ads from a company who engages in fraudulent online activity. Ads equal revenue and without ads, their bottom-line will be seriously impacted.

Have you experienced a crisis situation within your company or business? How did you handle it? What were your results?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Kendall-Jackson Winery: Customer Service That Goes the Extra Mile

I recently wrote a post about my fantastic food-wine pairing at Kendall-Jackson Winery. But Kendall-Jackson went the extra mile for me, and they are now bumped up to my #1 favorite customer service story/experience. As a copywriter who writes for the hospitality and food/restaurant industry, I'm more than impressed with KJ.

When I was visiting their Wine Center, I purchased these really cool frozen wine bottle coolers for myself and to give away as gifts. Unfortunately, I got a dud and the cooler leaked red gunk all over the place (after I put it inside the freezer). I called the Wine Center at Kendall-Jackson and explained what happened. He apologized profusely, and gave me the option of a refund or he would send me another cooler. I really wanted another cooler, so I asked him to ship me another one (which he was more than happy to do - at their expense). But he took it one step further and asked me what kind of wine I liked. I tasted their Avant while I was there, so I told him I really liked their Avant. He threw in a free bottle of wine to make it up to me. Now that is my idea of awesome customer service. He wanted to make up for "my" inconvenience by sending me a bottle of wine.

So now I have a new wine bottle cooler AND a complimentary bottle of their delicious Avant Chardonnay headed my way. A HUGE thanks to the Kendall-Jackson Wine Center. Thanks for treating your customers with courtesy and going the extra mile to ensure my customer satisfaction. Word-of-mouth travels fast and I know lots of wine drinkers. I plan to sing KJ's praises as an example of fantastic customer service! 

It's really easy to complain about the businesses who treat customers poorly, but it's even more important to commend those businesses who treat their customers well.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Restaurant & Food Trends Look to Eco-Eats

I am lucky to live in northern California and I have lots of healthy restaurant choices at my disposal. As a copywriter for the food and restaurant industry, I like to stay on top of the industry trends. Not to mention, I'm a foodie and love to cook with fresh, local ingredients and produce.

I read a positive article this morning in QSR Magazine that shows how the restaurant/food industry is moving towards a more "eco-friendly" trend. 

"Epic Burger’s website stakes out a strong claim to purity. “Our menu is all about what is NOT on it,” the site says. It explains what’s missing: “hormones, antibiotics, trans fats, food coloring, preservatives, nitrates, and yellow mustard."

Consumers have moved (and are moving) towards a health-conscious lifestyle, and they care about what they put into their bodies. And the restaurant industry is responding to this growing and popular need. You only have to watch Supersize Me to know that greasy, fatty fast-food is dangerous and how it can damage our bodies.

And the industry is taking a page from fruits and veggies. Although, you do have to be careful of high sugar content in some juices, it's nice to know that the industry is giving consumers a healthy alternative (and non-dairy choices)  - fresh, natural juices. 

"Jamba Juice is currently the strongest player in the juice space, but there are other up-and-coming brands as well. Roxberry Juice, which has eight stores in two states, was recently added to Beautiful Brands International’s portfolio, and the recently founded Daily Kitchen & Wellness Bar also offers fresh juice blends. One key element of the new juice craze will be to-go offerings. Ready-to-go drinks and foods like those offered by Evolution Fresh will continue to gain in popularity, even in locations not traditionally associated with healthy eating."

According to the American Diabetes Assocation, there are 25.8 million children and adults in the United States. And out of those people, 8.3% of the U.S. population have diabetes. So it's promising news that the restaurant and food industries are offering eco-friendly and healthier choices for consumers.

And don't forget to shop locally at Farmer's Markets and your local farms - home is where the healthy heart is at!

Friday, June 15, 2012

How to Write a Bio That Sizzles

Wow, it's been a crazy week packed with deadlines. I just turned in an article that included bios of the lovely editors I interviewed. I jazzed up their bios as I realized that they didn't give themselves enough credit. They both loved the extra OOMPH I added to their bios.

As we approach the long days of summer, it might be a good time to crank the AC, and sit down and revise your bio. As you read through your bio, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Does your bio reflect your true personality and brand?

2. Is your bio basically a regurgitation of your resume? 

3. Is it creative and makes people want to learn MORE about you?

4. Does your bio read like boring corporate-speak? 

5. Would you hire or interview yourself after reading your bio? 

Ask a colleague or friend to review your bio, or hire a copywriter or editor to spruce up your bio. A bio is a highly effective marketing tool that gives people an authentic glimpse behind the curtain. 

For more ideas, check out my branding/storytelling tips!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Why California Wineries Know How to Market

I visited Sonoma County's wine country for a belated birthday getaway last week. My mom was gifted a food-wine pairing at the beautiful Kendall-Jackson Winery in Sonoma County.

What did I learn from my food-wine pairing experience? California wineries definitely know how to market and appeal to their wine drinking and foodie demographic. The food-wine pairing featured a personal history and explanation of each tasting in our wine flight. Our friendly sommelier/host, Roberto, knew his wine and answered my questions. As a restaurant/food-specific copywriter, I was in food and wine lingo heaven. He tantalized my wine tastebuds with exotic words such as "leathery tannins" and "smoky tones."  Our personable chef greeted us and explained each course/pairing while we sipped our wine and sampled the gourmet eats. My favorite was the homemade caramel corn - who knew that wine and caramel corn would make such a palatable combination? The best caramel corn I've ever had! Delicious! 

This was my first gourmet food-wine pairing at a well-known winery. I've experienced food-wine pairings at local wineries, but the Kendall-Jackson experience was unforgettable. And that's why California wineries know a few things about marketing. They create an experience that leaves an unforgettable and memorable impression on their guests. They personalize it and focus their full attention on you, the wine drinker.

Just another reason why I love living in northern California...a foodie and wine lover's paradise!

Friday, June 1, 2012

How to Avoid Writing Content That Sounds Canned

I am in the midst of writing email campaign copy, and I like to browse through other email campaigns to see what's out there. It seems that most emails I read lately are one big canned sales pitch. The in-your-face "buy my awesome new product" gets old. What happened to the good stuff? Where are the complimentary white paper downloads? Why aren't people including links to a helpful blog or article? Unfortunately, I've been hitting the unsubscribe button a LOT this week.

Canned content doesn't send a good message to your audience, and you come across sounding fake. I don't understand why marketers write five page emails. No one has the time to read long-winded emails that leave the reader feeling confused and bored.

When creating your content - whether it's an email campaign, social media update, or blog post - keep the following tips in mind:

1. Write with your "real" audience in mind. Obviously, you want to create content that people find interesting but create a tone within your content that your targeted reader understands. Write for real people and use language people will understand and appreciate. As a busy professional, I don't have the time to read a five page email. However, I can easily scan through three to four paragraphs...and if there is a free white paper or article download, you definitely have my attention! It's easy to download the information and then read it at my leisure. 

2. Don't copy your favorite blogger's writing style. You don't have to reinvent the wheel, but don't take on another blogger's persona. I am a big fan of  marketer Seth Godin. One of the reasons I like his content is that he has his own style and doesn't try to be someone he's not. His emails/blog posts are short and get right to the point. His content always teaches a "real-world" marketing and business lesson. I can relate to his tips and usually have an "a-hahhh!" moment when I read his content. As much as I like Seth Godin, he has his own style and I wouldn't think of copying it. Seth's writing style is what sets him apart from the millions of high-profile marketers out there, and brands him as "Seth Godin". 

3. Ditch the pitch. As a copywriter, I can write calls to action in my sleep. But there is a time and a place for the sales pitch. You don't have to pitch in EVERY piece of content you publish. Create a happy medium. Offer people informative, valuable content. You don't have to write ten page white papers to capture people's attention either - short blog posts can be just as informative. It goes back to the sales funnel. People won't buy your product or service if they don't know, trust, or like you. Give them a chance to get a feel for your brand and what you have to offer. A 24,7 sales pitch will turn people off and they will probably unsubscribe from your lists. Check out more content tips -- The Ego Turn-Off: Why Your Email Lists Unsubscribe. 

4. Don't be a pesky content blaster. Don't blow up your social media, mobile marketing and/or email campaigns with content-around-the-clock. This is a HUGE annoyance for the person on the other end. It's tacky and makes you look like a spammer. Enthusiasm is great, but channel your marketing enthusiasm accordingly. Set up an editorial calendar and space out your content throughout the days, weeks, and months. You don't have to share everything you know in one email or blog post. 

And don't have to be a prolific writer to create and share good content. Be yourself and find your own voice! 

Therese Pope, Copywriter/Content Developer & Digital Buzz-icist

Content Writing & Marketing Tips ** Online Buzz Branding

** Digital & Social Media Strategies