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Monday, April 6, 2009

Rebranding lessons from the Carson Daly show

.As a student, I'm usually awake at random hours of the night writing papers and what not. As a result I watch alot of late-night talk shows, my favorite being Conan of course! Generally, I would always switch channels whenever Last Call with Carson Daly came on. Not because I dislike Carson or anything, I actually grew up enjoying Carson on MTV. But honestly, Last Call just sucked. From Carson's lame attempts at stand-up comedy type jokes to the awkward half-way scripted interviews to the generic Men in Black suit, it was painful for me and I'm sure for him :-)

But a few weeks ago, Last Call debuted a brand new format of the show...and surprise, surprise it's actually quite decent. It features Carson on the road at concerts, back-stage at shows and interviewing his guests in a much cozier and personal setting. The editing makes the show seem edgy and Carson looks comfortable in jeans and tees most times. I actually find myself enjoying the show now.

Folks in the Twittosphere seem to agree with me too:
"Last Call with Carson Daly is now a respectable show. He ditched the typical late-night format. The show's new focus plays to his strengths"

"love the new carson daly format. worth a tivo. lots of debut performances and sit down chats. way less douchey"

"Carson Daly's new format is so much better for him. He was terrible as a formal talk show host."

"I don't watch Last Call w Carson Daly due to its douchiness but must admit the newformat aces."

All in all I probably came across one person that disagreed with this sentiment. It would be interesting to see if his ratings improve with the new format. But I think that this is a great example of how rebranding should work. I still don't know if this format is permanent but it really does play to his strengths as an interviewer and is how I think all organizations should approach a brand overhaul. A new look and feel does nothing if it doesn't play up the brand's strengths. In addition, why do companies try to be something they're not? They try to force their square brand into a round peg just to be edgy. I'm not saying companies shouldn't try new things in marketing their brands but sometimes a complete 180-turnaround fails miserably. So what works for Skittles may not work for a computer company. And by the same token, the image that worked for singer Beyonce may not have worked for singer Rihanna. So yes, I think Carson's new and improved looks is a good little lesson for companies that try to force their change down consumers' throats.
That's my little rant for today.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Balancing school, work and my Caribbean passion

It's 8:40 a.m. and I'm awake...it's a minor miracle. I'm still groggy but thought I should crank out a post as it's been a while since I've blogged. Why did I think that balancing 3 days of grad. school a week, working part-time four days a week and volunteering for several projects would be a good idea?
But anyhoo, life in the Big City is definitely moving at top speed. In about six weeks I'll be done with my first year of grad. school (Go me!) and hopefully I'll be interning somewhere. So while I'm looking forward to summer, I know that the work won't be over anytime soon. I'm reminded here of a post by author Seth Godin. In it he talks about sprinting, not in the literal sense of the word but as it relates to getting projects done. It struck a chord with me because sometimes we do need to sprint to get papers done, to get projects completed and when you're doing it, your fears really do fall away and your creativity and resourcefulness come into play. But I've come to realize that I've been doing a lot of sprinting lately and that can quickly lead to burnout. So as exciting as the Big City is right now, I know I have to pace myself if I intend to accomplish everything I'd like to. So that's that.
In other Island Girl news, I've been doing a lot of research lately on Caribbean events taking place in North America as I hope to get involved through volunteering and such. What I've discovered is an appalling lack of information on so many of the events and happenings that have been billed as big Caribbean hapenings. Granted I've been doing my research via the internet and not by phone, this is the way that most people research events these days! If there is a web presence, it is not as polished as it should be in order to attract sponsors and attendees. Without naming organizations, (and I know I've harped on this before) the Internet is the cheapest and easiest way to garner publicity, so use it to your advantage! That goes for every organization and that concludes my post for today. Hopefully I get around to posting more often even as the semester starts closing in around me :-)
Also, I'm thinking about moving the blog to Wordpress, so stay tuned.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The two-step flow in developing marketing strategies

As marketers and PR professionals, an understanding of how people acquire information from the media is necessary for developing successful strategies. One popular academic theory is the Two Step Flow Theory (Katz & Lazarsfeld). It basically posits that in general, people are more influenced by personal contacts rather than news sources when they have to make a decision. It's a two-step flow because opinion leaders first receive the information from the mass media and they in turn pass on the news content along with their own interpretations. This theory can explain why some media campaigns fail...they simply aren't targeting the right publics, the opinion leaders. Just something to keep in mind as strategies are developed.

Think about Twitter and alot of other social media. The early adopters are generally the ones who influence others to use. You didn't sign up for Facebook because you saw an ad..you did it because the influencers in your circle may have mentioned how and why they use it and then you subsequently adopted. Will this approach work for your product? Thinking about this may save alot of marketing dollars.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Caribbean brands: Leveraging the Internet

It is rapidly becoming clear that in order to obtain worldwide relevance as a brand, organizations and individuals need to leverage the Internet effectively. It's a simple statement but in relation to Caribbean businesses and products I think it needs to be articulated. Within the region itself where internet penetration is still relatively low, businesses typically use traditional modes of promotion like advertisements, event sponsorships and celebrity spokespersons. But if Caribbean companies seek to take their products further than the region, it is imperative that they leverage the Internet. West Indian expats are a large community in the U.S. and often go to the web to seek out information on their favorite foods, artistes, events and news. It is an audience that is often ignored by companies from the region but which has the potential to increase revenue for these companies.

A web presence is necessary if Caribbean companies intend to increase their market share and I'm often amazed at how many companies don't get this. This doesn't apply to companies only, events and artistes would also benefit tremendously from good online exposure. Having worked in the Caribbean, I know that it can be difficult to see the big picture when you're on the ground, but if our islands intend to remain competitive in this economy then we need to take advantage of the tools available. It's not as if the talent isn't there.

How are small locally-owned villas along our coasts supposed to compete with large world renowned hotels if they don't even have a website which caters to tourist intending to visit the region? The same can be said for many other Caribbean businesses. If Caribbean businesses intend to thrive, their marketing strategies need to be revamped to keep up with the changing way information is sourced. And of course this does not just apply to Caribbean businesses. In another post I'll take a look at ways in which individuals typically obtain information and examine which of these modes influence their decisions the most.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Combine what you love with what you're good at

Everyone with Caribbean heritage or Caribbean friends knows of the Caribbean Carnival festivals which take place around the world each year. In North America, perhaps the most popular ones are Caribana or Toronto carnival, Washington DC carnival, Miami carnival and New York's carnival. But almost every state holds a version of these street parades which mimic those that take place in the West Indies. As much of a Carnival baby that I am, I have only been to DC Carnival and Philadelphia Carnival and both have left me wanting so much more. Both festivals end waaay too early (6.p.m) but I guess that that probably can't be negotiated with the respective cities. In terms of overall organization, Washington DC's carnival is definitely the better event and as such it is better attended, which makes me sad as I live in Philadelphia. So one of the things I intend to do while I live here in the City of Brotherly love is to approach the Philadelphia carnival planning committee about ways in which my skill set can be useful to them.

I firmly believe that people enjoy life the most when they combine what they're good at with what they love. So if you're good at cooking but love writing then find some way to merge the two. If you love sports and are good at art then combine those two passions. For me, I love my Caribbean culture and am good at integrated marketing communication, so ideally I would love to work somewhere that I can do both. Life really is too short to not enjoy the things you love.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tips for interns on how to pimp your online resume.

I've come to realize that academia is world unto itself. I have so little time to get to all my assigned weekly readings that I've developed a newfound respect for my professors who have to correct assignments, keep up with the latest research and do their own research! All that to say that academia is the reason I'm finally getting around to writing a post at 3 a.m.

Something else that's been taking up my time is updating my online resume at Visual CV. Visual CV is a website I learned of via one of my Twitter peeps. For a while I've been searching for an easy to use and easy on the eyes online portfolio and I think I may have found it. Visual CV allows users to upload basically anything they've ever worked on including video, podcasts, powerpoint presentations and more (Check out President Obama's visual CV in the pic). I've spent the last few days pulling together some of the writing samples and marketing pieces that I've worked on and uploading them to my visual cv. You can see it here: www.visualcv.com/khailaedward. It's still a work in progress. But as I've been doing this, it has become apparent that I may have missed many good opportunities to collect the things I worked on at my internships. So below are a few things I wish I had done at ALL my internships.

  • Ask for a letter of recommendation. This is becoming increasingly important with social media sites like LinkedIn and now Visual CV. Now you can take excerpts from those letters and use them in your social media profiles. Also, if you need an excuse to reach out to someone who provided you with a recommendation but who you've been neglecting, you can send them a link to your online resume letting them know that you included quotes from their letter.
  • Keep a journal of what you did. Ideally you should do this at the end of every day but if you can't, then at least every week. We do so much in one work week that at the end of an internship it's hard to identify everything worked on.
  • Keep copies of any non-proprietary work. Please don't go taking documents from an internship that are clearly not for outside circulation, but once you've worked on it and it's fairly public or non-objectionable then try to obtain an electronic version of it. If in doubt, definitely ask your supervisor. If you can't get your hands on an electronic version before you leave, then get the hard copy, you can always scan it into your PC at a later date. For PR interns this is really important when you've pitched a story that's gotten press.
  • An addendum to the last point. As a PR intern I got several great broadcast news hits for stories I'd pitched which I now wish I had as video to upload to my online resumes. At the end of an internship you should request a CD with any broadcast clips you may have gotten (most agencies have services which monitor these). If that fails, you can always TiVo! :-)
So what's worth including in your online portfolio you're asking? Well it goes without saying that it should be what you consider your best work. But if you're a student with little experience or a younger student, then you can get really creative. If you worked on an Excel spreadsheet for the first time, then use the file itself in your online portfolio OR you can take a screenshot and go into more detail about what you did with Excel in the comments sections many of these websites have. Although I prefer not to use self-photos in my online resumes, you can use photos creatively and conservatively if you feel the need to or if you really have little else. If you work an event for example, you can have someone take action shots of you performing a task which you can explain in the visual CV. But be conservative. These are just a few things I thought of while working on my visual CV, hopefully it helps some intern out there to stand out in the crowd. Are there any other things an intern can take away from the job which can be used in an online resume?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Face-to-face networking, not quite the bane of my existence.

As the name of my blog states, I'm an island girl, i.e. I hail from one of those gorgeous gems in the Caribbean sea: Trinidad & Tobago. For those who live in the Caribbean and who've visited the C'bbean before, you probably know that the differences between U.S. culture and C'bbean culture can be quite jarring at times. The work culture back home, for instance, makes for an interesting U.S./T&T contrast. I bring this up because as I've been using social media more and more for career networking purposes I realize that I've been avoiding face-to-face networking. In trying to reflect upon why this might be, I've concluded that part of it is cultural.

On my island of approximately 1.2 million people, the way we communicate is in many ways different than in the U.S. Finding a job back home for instance, while heavily reliant on traditional resume/cover letter applications has ALOT to do with who you know, where you went to school, where your parents are from, whether or not you and the potential employer's families know each other etc. All of these things, give you a foot in the door on a relatively small island.

So now that I'm semi-permanent fixture in the city of brotherly love, I do sometimes find it a little difficult to connect on more meaningful levels with people without those links I just mentioned. Social media for the most part can level the playing field because you get to read people's blogs, know what they're about etc. before connecting. But in face-to-face networking situations they dynamics are changed a bit. I am by no means a shy person but if you see me at one of these networking type function thingys you would definitely think so. The problem is I don't know how to begin! If someone else begins the conversation, then fine, I can go with that flow. But initiating contact with a totally random stranger at an event can be downright intimidating. Here are a few categories of the networkers I've encountered:

  1. The social butterfly. This networker already knows everyone in the room and you wonder why they even bothered to come. But the social butterfly will also seek out people standing alone at events and have great success at including them in other conversations, further widening their circle. They come across as very genuine although widely popular and you sometimes experience mild envy of their networking skill. But because the social butterfly is so adept at flitting around, they know little of substance about everyone in their network which can be a downside.
  2. The guy who loves his business cards. This type of networker came to the event specifically to give out his business card, or so it would seem. He doesn't discriminate, giving it to everybody he's engaged in coversation with. He enjoys telling people what he does but really doesn't grasp the idea of the reciprocal relationship.
  3. The relationship people. These are the people you really want to meet. They know it's impossible to connect with everyone so while they may be gracious with everyone, they came in with a plan and they stick to the plan, doggedly continuing the convo with the person they came to meet. These types follow up reaaaally well and pursue the long-term mutually beneficial relationships. (I never meet these folks, but I'm just a lowly student after all LOL)
  4. The wallpaper/drink stirrers. I would probably put myself in here sadly enough. These folks blend in with the crowd really well but they aren't networking. They stand around stirring their drinks waiting for someone to approach them and really are clueless about how to begin. These networkers can sometimes provide the most engaging conversations, but because they don't put themselves out there they miss out on meeting some great people.

In an effort to find some tips on networking for the inexperienced networker, I happened across a post entitled '13 Tips For Your First Networking Event' by David Spinks who I've started following on Twitter. I find the tips to be extremely helpful, especially the one about being creative.
Be creative. Think of something creative that will make you stand out and help break the ice, commencing conversation. The best example I saw was Arthur Bouie representing We Are Nom who carried around a basket of cookies to give out. They were a hit…and delicious.

Next month I'll be attending a Careers 101 session put on by the PPRA, so I will most definitely try to utilize these tips and of course I'll be sure to blog about it!