Perspective from Double Forte Public Relations and Marketing



Throwing a Theme Party: 5 Steps to Take Your Event From Basic to Basically Fabulous


Some people theme, some people don’t. If you want to plan a theme party but don’t know where to start, here are five steps to help you theme your way to a successful celebration. These steps are fairly simple, but require a little bit of leg work. No good theme party ever came easy, people…Sav Blog photo Pumpkin Dinner Party

  1. List it- Don’t just head to your neighborhood craft store with an idea and start grabbing silly nick knacks off the shelf. This leads to a discombobulated presentation, and even worse, a lot of money wasted. Create a list of musts (based off of hours of endless Pinterest browsing), get those first, and grab three extra items that work with the theme, but weren’t on your list (you can have a little fun with this).
  2. Craft it- Now, don’t go too crazy with this one. Simple crafts are often the cutest, and less can be more if you do it right. Bedazzling an entire mason jar is probably not the best use of your time. And if it is, we have bigger problems. Mason jars wrapped in ribbon and stuffed with flower arrangements, glitter wine bottles for centerpieces, cute chalkboard signs… These are inexpensive and easy crafts that can take your party from tacky to classy in a jiff.
  3. Browse it- Online shopping is a great way to get party supplies on sale, and if you order in bulk, shipping is often free. Convenient, less expensive, and you don’t have to get out of your sweatpants… ummm, yes please.
  4. Reuse and Repurpose- This. Is. Clutch. Reusing theme party staples can save a ton of time and money. This can be antique picture frames you use for fun signs, mason jars for a cocktail bar or as table arrangements, artificial flower arrangements to add a pop of color. Keep a storage bin with all of these reusable items and add to it as you go!
  5. Hit the thrift- Don’t be scared, it’s actually pretty fun to find bargains and unexpected party items at a quarter of the cost. Linens, fancy antique serving dishes, wine glasses, table clothes, frames…the possibilities are endless, and this is a sure way to guarantee your party is unique and your own.

So there you have it, the five steps to take your party from basic to basically fabulous. Happy theming! – Savannah McBride


Meet Savannah

Q. What does your life say about you? A. Looking at my life, I think one quote describes the gist of it, “Stop wishing. Start doing.” I’ve never been one to wait on fulfilling my dreams and goals, or hold out on taking chances and adventures. Once I have my mind set on something, I’m focused on it (some may even call it obsessed). So far, living by this motto has done me well. I’ve earned, learned and experienced many amazing things.

Q. What has been your career highlight, so far? A. Landing a top 5 finalist spot on Good Morning America in its “5-Alarm Firefighter Contest”. It was a random, last-minute entry of a music video with a client at the time, the Las Vegas Firefighters. It was awesome to see work that I was a part of on national. Plus it was a super fun video shoot, followed by an after-party in downtown Vegas. PR life at its finest!

Q. What’s your favorite thing about San Francisco (so far)? A. My favorite thing is that there is always something different to do here. Whether it’s a festival, outdoor adventure, checking out a new restaurant/bar, sporting event, or enjoying the city culture. I don’t think you could ever get bored living in a place like this. The city life is definitely challenging at times, but the rewards of the environment are worth a million muni mishaps. 😉

Q. Favorite thing to do in San Francisco. A. My favorite thing to do is explore. I love checking out new hidden city gems, outside cities and the bar/restaurant scene. Second to that is Giants games – the bleachers, beer, friends and a ballgame. It doesn’t get much better, that is until football season starts.

Build a Business Blogging Strategy: 9 Tips

3D rendering of a forming puzzle with the word Blog

A company’s blog, hosted on a its own website, is the heart of all its content marketing efforts. Publishing an article is one of the most cost-effective ways to promote your business leading to more sales, establishing you as a leading authority in the industry and giving you a chance to broaden your reach. Plus, it’s great for search engine optimization (SEO). Below are 9 recommendations for developing a business blogging strategy:

1) Look at the big picture.

Your customers (and potential customers) are your readers, so write for them. Your blog posts should focus on solving their business problems – what information are they searching for, what frustrations do they have, what are they struggling with?

Create interesting content that isn’t directly related to your product, but craft articles that provide real value for your readers, gives them new, useful knowledge and help them take action. This will help you be seen as an expert in your industry and it’s a really simple way to attract traffic through social media and SEO. If your content is valuable, your readers will share it and Google will rank it at the top of its search results.

2) Choose a catchy headline.

Out of all the people who read your headline, only 20 percent will read your post. A modern online article headline is tricky – it needs to be SEO keyword friendly, but also should be unique and creative. The end result needs to be a super clickable, irresistible headline. To get you started on a hit title, here are a few go-to templates:

  • How to
  • X Ways to
  • Little Known Ways to
  • X Reasons You Should
  • Here’s the Quick and Simple Way to
  • The Secret of
  • What Everybody Should Know About
  • Do You Wish                        ?
  • The Most Effective Way to Get

Here are some keywords to get you started:

  • Reasons
  • Ways
  • Tips
  • Ideas
  • Tricks
  • Secrets
  • Statistics
  • Methods
  • Techniques
  • Strategies
  • Facts

If you want your headline to look appealing in Google and prevent it from being cut off, make sure your headline stays under 70 characters.

Finally, address readers in second person. While writing in second person is awkward, it’s the perfect form for headline writing and immediately grabs the attention of readers by calling them out.

3) Write an intro (and make it captivating).

If you lose the reader in the first paragraph, they’ll stop reading even before they’ve given your post a fair shake. You can do this in a number of ways:

  • Tell a story or a joke.
  • Share an interesting industry fact or statistic.
  • Empathize with your reader and tell him/her that he/she is not the only one struggling with a specific problem.
  • Promise your reader your advice will make his/her life better.
  • Reassure your reader that your tips are easy—everyone loves shortcuts, simple tricks and straightforward formulas.
  • Then focus on equipping your target market with useful content. That’s how you build a relevant following—and it’s key to creating a community of new customers.

4) Remember, content is king/context is queen!

To create a must-read blog, you need to stand for something. You need to become an inspiring and motivating authority in your field. Write about what you already know, and if necessary, do additional research to gather more information, examples and data to back up your points. The key to a successful business blog is to provide your readers with valuable content and problem-solving ideas. It’s a way of establishing your business website as a leading authority in your industry. A few additional recommendations:

  • Quote industry experts in your posts. It shows you know your field.
  • Avoid jargon. Explain your ideas in simple words.
  • Use examples and case studies. This will show your in-depth understanding of a topic, and they liven up your content. 
  • What is the ideal length for a blog post? It’s about 6-7 minutes of reading, which is equivalent to 1,000- 1,500 words.

5) Show, and tell.

As social networks treat content with images more prominently, visuals are now more responsible than ever for the success of your business blog. Make sure you choose a visually appealing and relevant image for your post. Photos, graphs, infographics and videos have the power to communicate in a different, more instant, way than words. Images draw an audience in and provide an additional point of interest to your posts.

6) Declare a call-to-action.

Inspire your readers with your final paragraph. At the end of every blog post, you should have a “Call-to-Action” (CTA) that indicates what you want the reader to do next – implement your ideas, subscribe to your blog, download an ebook, register for a webinar or event, read a related article, etc.

Typically, you think about the CTA being beneficial for the marketer. Your visitors read your blog post, they click on the CTA, and eventually you generate a lead. However, the CTA is also a valuable resource for the person reading your content — use your CTAs to offer more content similar to the subject of the post they just finished reading.

7) Grow your audience.

Links are the lifeblood of the internet, so make it easy for your readers to share your blog. The easiest way to do this is by using share icons. These are social networking icons that make it easy for people to share your post and consequently, drive traffic and potential sales to your website. Hook up your blog with your social networks so that people can easily share your content.

The below tactics can additionally help increase your readership:

  • Start an email list. Over time, your email list will probably drive the most traffic to your blog.
  • Optimize your content for SEO discovery and conversion.
  • Invite guest bloggers to help grow your audience. This is the quickest way to raise your profile and gain an audience.
  • Invite employees to read and interact with you in your blog comments section. It’s a great way to increase your blog engagement and also helps empower employees to share ideas that they might not have otherwise.

8) Build an editorial calendar.

Develop and stick to a publishing schedule. An editorial calendar will help you stay focused. Be sure to plan it so that it works for you and for your readers. Don’t overstretch yourself. You don’t have to publish daily.

When scheduling posts, be sure to balance out your topics to make it more varied and interesting for your audience. It can take months to build a loyal base of readers when you create a blog. Plan to make business blogging a regular part of your communication strategy for at least a year.

9) Stick with it.

Blog audiences don’t grow overnight. Consistency, quality and volume are the name of the game. Commit to your blog for the long term and you will see the rewards.

Ready to start blogging? Ask us about our business blogging program.

Are Buyer Personas Really Useful?

Funny_disguise_maskSo often we are asked if buyer personas are really useful. The answer is yes, and no.

Developing a useful buyer persona is critical to an effective marketing program. After all, if you don’t know who your customer is then how in the world can you connect with them? But when your buyer personas are poorly developed, or they are carefully developed but never used, then no, they are of little value.

Here are the dos and don’ts of developing a highly effective buyer persona – one you will use every day.

Do focus on what matters. Details matter when developing a buying persona, but don’t be ridiculous. Don’t waste precious time arguing over whether or not to name your persona Audrey vs. Aubrey. Don’t worry about whether or not Aubrey owns a dog (unless you’re marketing pet-related products or services, in which case that information is critical). Do think about what Aubrey’s goals are – at work if you’re marketing business products, and at home if you’re marketing consumer products.

Don’t stop at the description. Ineffective buyer personas are those that end with the description of the target customer. It’s not enough to know that Aubrey is a woman in her mid-30s, working in middle management, married with 2.5 kids and living in Florida. Effective personas go beyond the who, what and where and answer the how and the why. How can your brand help Aubrey and why would Aubrey choose you? Effective buyer personas get inside your customer’s head.

Don’t fabricate your personas. Not every brand has budget set aside for market research and some brands are hindered in persona development by a lack of existing clients from which they can create personas. If that’s the case, reallocate some marketing dollars toward customer research. It will be more effective to do less marketing to the right targets rather than more marketing to the wrong audience. No customers? No problem. Hold focus groups. Sponsor surveys. Whether you have an extensive customer database or you’re just starting out, you have to talk to real people in order to develop an effective buyer persona.

But do start somewhere. If all you have to start with is a handful of family and friends who believe in your product and mission, that’s where you should begin. Find out what those people like, what their needs are, what their objections will be, and start building your persona one potential customer at a time.

A buyer persona, like your marketing plan, should get smarter as your business grows.

How to Tell Your Startup Story

Old book on wooden tableBefore a startup has a product, customers, revenue, or funding, it needs to have a story. Why does the company exist? What problem is it solving? What motivates the founder?

Even after the first round of funding and the first sale, a story is a key asset for any new company. This week Double Forte cosponsored the SheStarts event  “How To Tell Your Startup Story.” Our East Coast General Manager Liz O’Donnell moderated a great panel of Boston-based journalists including Kyle Alspach from Streetwise Media, Shelagh Braley from FoundersWire, Sara Castellanos from the Boston Business Journal, Shirley Leung from the Boston Globe and Dan Primackfrom Fortune and author of the newsletter Term Sheet. Here’s are five takeaways from the event:

  • Yes you need to hone your story, but don’t rehearse it and control it to the point it becomes boring. Human sells.
  • Speaking of human, don’t be afraid to share your failures as well as your successes. Most startups struggle on the way to success. That’s what makes you interesting.
  • Metrics matter. Share customer numbers, staff numbers, growth goals. And if you’re confident enough, share revenue.
  • Use analogies to provide context. Are you similar to another company? Do you share a business model? How are you alike and how are you different?
  • And along those same lines, remember it’s good to be part of a trend; you don’t need to stand alone. You just need to stand out.

For more on the event, read this post on BostInno.

Own It: 5 Tips for a Smart Owned Media Strategy

Own ItA recent Harvard Business Review article states, “If you want to truly be disruptive, it’s time to rethink owned media and make it a more strategic part of your marketing mix.” We couldn’t agree more.

Unlike earned or paid media, or social (which many confuse with owned), owned media gives a brand control over its message and unfiltered access to its constituents. Examples of owned media include your website, blog, newsletter, app and products.

Owned media is the ideal place to build a community, because unlike on social media, you control the “algoritihm” – you decide how your content is served up and how your customers connect to you and each other.

Here are 5 tips to remember when planning your owned media strategy:

  1. You own it but don’t try to control it. Yes, you control the message, but a smart owned strategy encourages customer involvement. Solicit feedback, guest posts and questions.
  2. Map your content to the channel. Your website should answer questions; your blog should raise them.
  3. Seek balance. Audit your owned content; is it mostly marketing messages or do you share a fair amount of editorial? People react to stories differently than they do straight facts. Make sure you have a mix.
  4. Gain influence through influencers. When you interact with industry influencers, you become more influential. Send them your content and share theirs.
  5. Watch your mouth. Find an effective voice and stick to it. Make sure customers know what to expect when they interact with you.

Infobesity Is Bad For Your Health (A Content Strategy Is the Remedy)

TurkeyIn this content-rich media world we now live in, it’s more important than ever for companies to create their own content and share it to relevant sources and influencers; this is how you deliver your message, reach your target customers, share your unique offerings and POV, and improve your search results. Content is how you control your message.

But there’s a dark side to a content-rich world: infobesity. Macmillan Dictionary describes infobesity as, “the condition of continually consuming large amounts of information, especially when this has a negative effect on a person’s well-being and ability to concentrate.”

So how does a company dish out the right amount of content? Simple, build a content strategy. Delivering content without a strategy is like serving empty calories.

A content strategy organizes your content assets so that they reach the right stakeholders at the right time – and maps the content to where those stakeholders are in the buying cycle – awareness, consideration, decision or loyalty. A smart content strategy creates a blueprint for content distribution through multiple channels (website, blog, direct marketing, sales materials, media relations, social media, etc.) so that you are always delivering the right content, at the right time, on the right channel.

Have you thought about your 2015 content strategy? What will you be serving?

Uber Doesn’t Have a PR Problem

Spin Doctor

Uber has a values problem.

Headlines abound today about Uber’s public relations problem following a BuzzFeed report that a senior executive at the ride sharing app company suggested Uber staffers should dig up dirt on journalists. Characterizations of the aftermath range from PR storm, to PR misstep, to PR disaster. CNBC called the executive’s comments a PR gaffe. We respectfully disagree. What’s playing out across traditional and social media is a reflection of what’s happening inside the company.

According to Ben Smith at BuzzFeed, “Over dinner, (Emil Michael, senior vice president of business for Uber) outlined the notion of spending ‘a million dollars’ to hire four top opposition researchers and four journalists. That team could, he said, help Uber fight back against the press — they’d look into ‘your personal lives, your families,’ and give the media a taste of its own medicine.” That’s not a gaffe. A PR gaffe is sending the wrong version of a press release over the wire. A PR gaffe is forgetting your feature/benefit set during an interview. Outlining a smear campaign is not a gaffe.

Clearly, Uber’s values problem turned into a media relations problem. Going on the offensive against journalists, is no way to build relationships with the media. But let’s tell it like it is – Uber and its leadership team are under fire for bad business decisions and practices.

PR can do many things. PR can amplify. PR can highlight. PR can obfuscate and yes, PR can spin. But ultimately, PR tells a story – a story based on facts. When Uber decides to own up to its mistakes and rethink its values from the top to the bottom, then we can start talking about PR.

photo credit: dasmart via photopin cc

Have You Diversified Your (Marketing) Portfolio?

If you invest money, you’ve probably heard you should diversify your portfolio. Diversification helps you reduce risk, avoid expensive mistakes, maximize returns, and best meet your investment goals. Your marketing portfolio is no different.

The best marketing and communications strategies are diversified. After all, aren’t you making an investment in PR, marketing, and lead generation? Don’t you want to protect those investments? Here’s how.

  1.  Slice up your content by channel. In today’s multichannel, multitasking world, people get different types of news from different mediums. They might read world news on Circa, turn to Twitter for conversation, Facebook for celebrity gossip, the newspaper for local news, and NPR for think pieces. It’s not enough to tell one story, one time. For maximum impact, tell you story multiple ways in order to appeal to many different people across multiple channels.
  2. Remember that everyone consumes media differently, so plan accordingly. Yes, people still read (I think) but visual mediums are the fastest growing forms of communication. Citizen journalists are taking eyewitness reports straight to YouTube. Fashion designers are forgoing the tents in Paris and at Bryant Park for Vine and Instagram. Researchers are taking their reports straight to infographics. In order to maximize your marketing investment, you need to produce content in multiple formats and amplify it across both owned and earned channels.
  3. Audit your efforts. Take inventory of your current marketing and communication programs. Which audiences are you reaching? Where are you spending and how are you reaching your buyers? Where are the gaps? Now fill them in.

When it comes to marketing, just like with money, you never want all your eggs in one basket.

photo credit: 401(K) 2013 via photopin cc

Is PR Worth It?

newspapersA few months ago we blogged about how startups should choose a PR firm and we talked about the abundance of advice entrepreneurs often hear from other entrepreneurs. We wrote, “For every story of the startup turned overnight success following a Mashable mention, there is a horror story about the startup that burned cash on PR and saw no uplift.” We cautioned founders to put the advice they receive from other founders and funders through a filter and make sure to start a PR program for the right reasons

Well we found a VC and former founder who passes the filter. Mark Suster, a General Partner at Upfront Ventures, recently blogged about, “The Silent Benefits of PR.” It’s worth a read.

Suster starts out by stating, “PR is an insanely valuable activity in early-stage companies.” But he points out that, “PR is often not tangibly measurable and for quant-oriented people this is hard to accept.”

Read the post here and learn how PR can support:

  • Recruiting
  • Business Development
  • Fund Raising: “No self respecting VC would admit (even to themselves) that they are influenced by what they read about you in the press. But human psychology can’t be ignored – we are all influenced by what we read.”
  • Staff Morale: “…employees love seeing their company get positive press.”
  • Enterprise Sales and Future PR: Suster understands that prospective clients and journalists considering featuring your startup are going to Google you. And the stronger the mentions, the better you show. At Double Forte we call that “Google juice.”
  • M&A

And for more on the benefits of a solid PR program, contact us. We could go on all day.

photo credit: Locator via photopin cc

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