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Spruce up company brand to draw top recruits

Does your business have curb appeal?

Brandon, an engineering student graduating from All American University, is choosing between two job offers:  one from a little-known automotive supplier; the other, a popular carmaker.

While the supplier job pays more and is a better fit for Brandon, he just can’t shake the allure of the OEM’s “cool” brand.

While branding is often considered a sales and marketing discipline, brands have a significant influence on attracting top talent. Companies searching for new recruits can help themselves by first polishing their brands.

The Quell Group’s Mike Niederquell counsels clients on the importance of brand image as it pertains to drawing in talent. The CEO knows firsthand just how hard it is to catch the eye of a prospective candidate without the aid of a recognized brand.

“Well-established brands like Google, Mercedes-Benz USA, Intel and Quicken Loans have job seekers lined up with pedigreed resumes in hand,” says Niederquell. “These companies have little need for headhunters. Their logo is all they need.”

But not all companies are household names. For firms flying under the radar, filling jobs can be an expensive battle. Niederquell explains even these companies can get their pick of the litter, if they practice a few techniques to promote brand awareness.

The millennial generation is looking for more than just salary, Niederquell says. Today’s job seeker wants the whole package:  a company that is socially responsible, environmentally kind and offers a culture that is inclusive, flexible and nurturing. While a small business can never compete with the resources of a Fortune 100 company, it can target a desired audience with specific brand initiatives.

“It’s the story of David and Goliath,” says Niederquell. “But doing battle against the big guys doesn’t have to end in defeat. We’ve helped small companies land the best recruits just by leveraging the power of their brand.”

Niederquell offers four tips to companies searching for the market’s best and brightest:

1. Get your CEO involved.  The CEO must champion the cause, and drive brand awareness and promotion across the company.

2.  Define your brand. Does your company know what it really stands for? If not, no one will. Neiderquell says market research and branding exercises are helpful in defining the brand’s position, value proposition and what makes it special.

3.  Marry marketing and HR. Cross-functional teams are best suited to crack the code for winning new recruits. Use market outreach together with HR initiatives to find the best candidates.

4.  Curb appeal wins. It’s just like real estate; candidates are attracted to the external package. In branding terms, that means a perception of being smart, strong, unique and passionate. Recruits are looking for the “IT” factor. Share yours via websites, social media, community outreach and corporate activism.

A candidate’s employment decision will be based on a number of elements, Niederquell says. With a powerful brand, any company can increase its odds of attracting the best recruits regardless of its competition.

“It’s a business of people,” he says. “If your brand appeals to a person on an emotional level, your company will receive the consideration it deserves.”

Spring 2014 Industry Trends

The Quell Group. Brand innovation, Market motivation. Since 1994.
In The Market

Spring Industry Trends

1.

Websites must be responsive –
whether you have an app or not.

By 2017, 87 percent of connected devices will be tablets or smartphones, replacing laptops and desktop computers. The new 2014 Google algorithm has a significant impact on SEO through mobile devices – it now accounts for the mobile “friendliness” when determining search rankings.

2.

Social media for B2B –
an external form of internal communication.

Build a positive, connected culture for employees and use social media as a platform to demonstrate why your company is the best place to work.

of companies say candidate quality improved when socially recruited

of employees are friends with managers and co-workers on Facebook

people in the U.S. have used social media to search for a job

3.

Integrated advertising across multiple mediums reinforces your message and reaches the greatest audience.

Similar to print, digital ads should have quality, useful information and striking visuals to grab reader attention. Also, the more places someone sees the ad – on Google, on Facebook, on the side of a bus, in a magazine – the higher probability it’s remembered.

4.

Instagram is the up and coming social platform for branding and reaching customers.

With no links and limited written content, Instagram has still become an ideal platform for telling your company’s story. Brands can show potential customers what lifestyle experience its products or services can make possible through creative and symbolic visuals.

28% 14% 100 Million

U.S. aged 18-29 use Instagram

U.S. aged 30-49 use Instagram

monthly users

Bold and Flat
5.

Design should be simple, bold and flat.

Two-dimensional, flat, saturated colors that are abstract and bold are trending. Creative typographies alone are now distinct brands and logos.

6.

The best media relationship you can have is with social media.

Social media sites are increasingly people’s first point of contact with news content, following links to stories posted by their social connections. Beyond posting your company’s media hits, mix “newsworthy” information into your content as well.

of adults in the U.S. report using Facebook as a source of news

think that social media is an important way to get news

report clicking on links to news stories through Facebook posts

report “liking” or commenting on news stories posted on Facebook

The Quell Group

The Quell Group

2282 Livernois Rd.
Troy, Michigan 48083
248.649.8900
quell.com

 

To post, or not to post: that is not the question

Finding balance in social media strategy

A friend who works at the Wall Street Journal was recently tipped off to a scandal involving bogus bibs faked for this month’s Boston Marathon. Apparently, a female runner posted a photo of her official race bib on Instagram prior to the race. That photo was hijacked, manipulated, printed on Tyvek and sold on Craigslist as counterfeit. The incident is sending shockwaves through the running community for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the breach of race security in light of last year’s tragic bombings.

This situation leads one to rethink the popular debate, “What should be publicly available online?”

The sides are drawn. One school, we’ll call it the new school, subscribes to the “more the merrier” philosophy. Using primarily social media, these modern-day town criers advocate bombarding the public with information of all types – written comments, photos, video, audio of private conversations with Donald Sterling – you name it. As PR practitioners, they believe all publicity is good publicity. Opening the fire hose of content increases the likelihood that a client or cause will go viral. By flooding the virtual airwaves with words and pictures, they bet – on average – the results will ultimately turn out in their favor.

The old-school thinkers use more caution. They are selective about what is posted, fearing the kind of outcome experienced with the Boston bib bandits. They err on the side of secrecy and are often faulted for lack of transparency. At the extreme, these old-timers can be delusional, thinking they can contain information and hide a story from playing out in real time on the Web

There is, of course, a middle ground that should be considered. And maybe the folks at the NYPD were trying for just that in their recent social hit and miss.

The NYPD stubbed its toe in a recent Twitter invitation for New Yorkers to share feel-good photos of themselves posing with the city’s finest. What resulted instead, according to the AP, was the posting of feel-bad images: photos of baton-wielding cops arresting protesters, pulling suspects by the hair, unleashing pepper spray and taking down a bloodied 84-year-old man for jaywalking.

Unintended consequences, for sure.

Police Commissioner William Bratton acknowledged that the Twitter campaign to rebrand the department might not have been fully thought through. D’uh.

Does, as one academic rationalized, our eagerness to embrace social media tools overshadow our common sense?

Maybe it’s too convenient to try to lump all of these social media foibles into one neat pile. A social media strategy is much more than a Shakespearean muse, “To post or not to post?” And, there are big differences between what “I” the individual, versus what “we” the company, would share with the Web world.

Personally, I’m a member of the R-party – the party of restraint. No selfies, no shocking revelations about my personal life, no hidden treasure that should remain ever hidden. I don’t take photos of my lobster bisque and post them on Facebook, no matter how delicious it looks

Professionally, I’m also a bit of a Nervous Nellie. I’m the gal who starts every sentence with, “Why?” While assuredly annoying, it helps to frame a discussion about strategy. Which, from all accounts, appears sorely needed. Especially when even the best of the best, companies like McDonald’s, Home Depot and British Airways, are missing the mark by a country mile.

Like members of a rowing team, every salvo into the digital space must be synchronized. You would no more throw an oar into the water or start paddling backward than you would launch a digital campaign that is not consistent with an integrated marketing strategy. Developing strategies, while always the right way to proceed, rarely provide instant gratification. Perhaps the pull to be trendy and sit at the cool kid’s social media table is just too tempting for some to pass up.

Whatever the case, balancing restraint against the holy grail of “going viral” will be an ongoing challenge for the foreseeable future. That’s why the guidance and counsel of a trusted social media adviser has never been more important. Just like a sense of humor and decorating skills, not everyone is social media savvy. Most of us are not born with an innate understanding of social media, its powers of good and evil, and what its future holds.

Find a trusted firm that knows from experience how to navigate the digital currents. Ask for success stories and case studies. Whether you are managing a personal brand or marketing a Fortune 50 company, you never want to be the “bad” example. For every brilliant Kmart “Ship My Pants” campaign, there is another that’s gone horribly wrong. I’m sure there were many folks at Ford who chortled over drawings of Kardashian-like characters gagged in the trunk of a cartoon Figo. No one harder, perhaps, than the quasi-celebrities’ legal team. If it’s your campaign, always make sure you get the last laugh.

Unknot your company’s true value

The Quell Group specializes in helping companies unlock the true power of their brand with its Unknot. Align. Market.® method.

 Using this rigorous process, Quell helps businesses unknot their value, align with constituents and more effectively market to those they depend on for success. While deceptively simple, Quell’s method is decidedly effective and distinctly unique.

 Unknotting helps companies recapture their essential passion, purpose and value proposition. It is the first, hardest and most critical step in the process.

Objective assessment equals competitive advantage

Assessment is part of our everyday world, though not generally recognized by that term.

Yearly physicals, portfolio reviews, report cards and performance appraisals are pervasive in today’s society. We even conduct wardrobe assessments to keep pace with fashion trends. After all, who would be caught dead in last year’s pastel pumps or peak lapels?

Assessment in business is also critical; however, many companies fail to assess the seemingly intangible elements that are key to its success. Therefore, Quell assesses the elements that define a company’s passion, its relevance and the imprint it is making – or not making – in the marketplace.

This first step is called “Unknotting” – a technique of determining a company’s distinct marketable value. Quell forces top executives to focus on why they got into business in the first place. While most clients want to jump directly to ad campaigns and flashy websites, none of that can be accomplished without first unknotting a company’s true purpose.

Companies – like people – can get lost

We’ve all seen it: a preeminent company begins to fall out of favor. Its once-compelling value and unique selling proposition are lost. Leaders are out of touch. Employees forget the firm’s purpose. The business becomes irrelevant to customers, and its products lose their aim. It can take years or happen seemingly overnight, as in the loss of an iconic founder or exodus of intellectual capital. While it seems unthinkable, even the most robust companies can lose their way.

Unknotting sounds a wake-up call. It helps companies recapture their unique core and competitive position. Using a variety of research techniques, Quell returns a company’s singular focus. It creates a value proposition that no other competitor can claim. This is how Quell moves companies from being lost, to liked, to loved.

Consider this example: Pepsi can no sooner claim to be Coke than Coke can claim to be Red Bull. Each is defined by attributes intrinsically unique to their brand. Without claiming a value position, a company is destined for failure.

Unknotting starts with Quell’s MarketSight™, an in-depth immersion interview with a firm’s leaders and critical thinkers. During this interview, Quell uncovers a company’s view of its strengths, weaknesses and position in the marketplace. Does the company want to be a market leader like Coke? A niche player like Mr. PiBB? Do they define a new category like Red Bull? Or are they repositioning themselves like V8 Splash?

Following MarketSight™, Quell conducts external interviews with customers, journalists and industry thought leaders. A company’s marketing, public relations, media coverage and advertising placements are also reviewed. The same measures are taken of top competitors in the segment, and then compared.

MarketSight™ and the external audits do not measure trends or fads. They are unbiased environmental assessments to determine a company’s perceived place in the market.

The results of these surveys are compiled and analyzed. Perhaps a company believes it is known for quality, but media perceive it to be a value leader. A business might think it is forward thinking, but the market may say otherwise.

With all of this unknotting information, Quell can begin phase two – Align. There, Quell aligns a company’s unique position in terms that resonate and that help it achieve its business objectives.

Assessment sustains business growth and increases relevancy

The complexities of today’s business require regular assessment, analysis and review. MarketSight™ and Quell’s other measurement tools help start-up businesses and mature companies alike conduct reality checks. They provide an objective way to see a company as others do and help businesses create a genuine connection in the marketplace. Quell’s Unknot. Align. Market.® process is invaluable in helping a company develop a distinct voice, reach critical audiences and move customers into positive action.

Everything I thought I knew has changed, and everything else I have forgotten

According to the 2013 edition of The Associated Press Stylebook, I have officially become irrelevant.  To those 30 years old and younger, that statement is hardly news.  I’m the one in the office whose references are lost on most of the staff – the nods to ‘80s music and movies, to Hollywood stars long dead and politicians long ousted from office. I fight the desire to tease my hair and wear MC Hammer pants to work, and not just on casual Fridays. I long for the days of mix tapes, waterbeds and music videos that made sense to me.

Nostalgia aside, I’m not resistant to all change, so long as it’s logical and well presented.  I’m afraid updates to the 2013 Stylebook are neither. I’m not so much alarmed by what the new edition writing bible has chosen to include.  It does not surprise me that cultural references like red carpet, hot spot, stem cell, WikiLeaks, DVR and Breathalyzer are now listed. Nor am I troubled by the 30 pages devoted to Social Media guidelines. I applaud any attempt to reign in all the nonsensical Tweeting and Skyping and texting. To those born post 1981, LOL is not a real word.

I’m not certain in which edition the AP began including sport identification codes, food and fashion guidelines, and a section on info graphics, but I say, “Welcome aboard.” I’m a gal who believes in structure—the more the better.

But I do start to cringe at the rephrasing of words, perhaps in an attempt to become politically correct or, worse yet, to be cool. I never thought of anyone working at the AP, especially the folks whose job it is to flyspeck copy for jots and tittles, to be concerned about their “popular” status.

According to the AP, we are now required to call a large container of trash a dumpster. A doughnut is no longer a donut, under any circumstance. Global warming or climate change? The good people of AP say use the terms with aplomb, and interchangeably if the spirit moves you.  Disabled or handicapped? Don’t even bring them up. And avoid such terms as afflicted, confided, suffering and (God forbid) cripple.  For the record, the AP also bans the terms illegal immigrant, Smokey ”the” Bear, high blood pressure and asylum.

I knew that life for me would never be the same after Pluto was stripped of its planet status and Steve Jobs unveiled the iEverything. But changing the stylebook is akin to changing the Constitution or disputing the irrefutable Laws of Physics. When people start playing with the placement of punctuation marks, abbreviations, capitalization and other grammatical rules, for me the fight is on.

The fact is, I’ve forgotten more than I ever leaned in my four years studying journalism. But some things did stick. I know how to spell under way and work force. And that mike is short for microphone.  That a province name follows a Canadian city in news reports and that state names are abbreviated in ways other than postal codes.  Eskimos live in Alaska and Hawaiians are residents of Hawaii.

That much I know.

Or I should say used to know? We now live in an underway, workforce, mic, Inuit and Hawaii resident universe.  A universe where Canada is not divided by provinces in news articles, where we no longer abbreviate and parenthesize the names of organizations on first reference, and where the pope and president are lower case p’s and Internet stands proud with a capital I.

I guess it all makes sense, since this same universe has supplanted Washington’s Birthday with Presidents Day (no possessive). Here, homophobics no longer exist but flash mobs (two words) do.

I’ve lost my way, a wordsmith without her familiar words.

Now I’m just a writer without a roadmap.  And a woman who still loves Duran Duran.

Quell is just a Niederquell with a capital Q

While a rose by any other name might smell just as sweet, a company or product name can likely dictate its eventual success or failure in the marketplace. Consider the following: Would Buffalo Wild Wings be a popular national chain if its name were Aunt Erma’s Tasty Cluckers? How about an athletic apparel company named Strong Skivvies? Or a computer firm named Kumquat?

Naming a company, like naming a child, is no small task. A name can define a business, shaping everything from the employees it hires to creating buzz in the market. Every company wants to be distinctive, memorable and recognized — and in a good way. A great name can help make that happen.

For the past two decades, The Quell Group has had the privilege of naming several companies and products. This is a full team effort. Not only must names carry the burden of the brand, today’s names often double as a company’s URL. To create brand awareness and consistency in our Web-based marketplace, we recommend that a company name also serve as its Web address. Really, who would look up Coca-Cola with the URL www.brownsugarbubbles.com?

Companies can spend millions on a naming strategy, including securing a URL and developing a logo design. Creative directors, Web designers, patent lawyers, research firms, market analysts, focus groups and an army of account executives can quickly turn a naming exercise into an Olympic event. Given the magnitude of the task, naming can take months — even years — to get right; even then it can boil down to luck and timing.

Quell uses a proven approach to company naming that is research based. It includes thorough research on the business itself, the products it makes, its goals, market, competitors and the customers it wants to reach.

There are generally three types of names:

  • Descriptive names tell what a company does. Think Five Guys Burgers & Fries or Designer Shoe Warehouse.
  • Suggestive names hint at what a company does, like Molly Maids or Geek Squad. Names like Puma (fast cat), Zappos (modified spelling of the Spanish word for shoes) and Reebok (Afrikaans spelling of rhebok, a type of gazelle) have some link to the company. Even IKEA means something — it’s an acronym for Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd, the founder, and the name of his hometown and farm.
  • Arbitrary names are just that. They generally have nothing to do with the nature of the company or product. Bahama Breeze may be a great place to eat, but without the word restaurant attached, it might be an air freshener. A “red bull” is literally an intact ginger cow. How does that give you wings?

The Quell Group offers several suggestions when beginning a naming exercise. The first: Start with a strong cup of coffee. Then check for available URLs and search the USPTO to see what clears. This only serves as a base search and is not a substitute for a more diligent clearance and registration investigation by an IP firm.

Upwards of 75 percent of all consumer purchases are made because of a company’s name. A successful name/brand can command a 30 percent premium in the market. Since a company’s name is its No. 1 asset, we suggest you do as the Grail Knight (from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) suggests, and “choose wisely.” Your company’s life might depend on it.

Maximizing Event Exposure: Connecting with Media

By Rick Bourgoise

No matter what industry you’re in, there are numerous events and conferences for speaking, exhibiting, sponsoring, attending and networking. When media members are present, there is also the opportunity to get your story told and build editorial relationships.

All major events typically have some kind of media component, whether it is a dedicated press session or reporters in attendance. However, media relations is often overlooked among those who are not wired for generating media exposure at an event. Attending media can present powerful opportunities, even if you’re only attending and not investing in a formal presence at the event.

Prep spokespeople. At every event you attend, look to prepare and put company spokespeople in front of media, especially if your company’s experts are speaking and have presentation content that could be turned into news. An immediate story may not result, but establishing contact helps build familiarity and relationships for future outreach.

Plan for media encounters. In advance, find out which reporters are attending, and develop a plan for a meet-and-greet or more formal sit-down interview. To find out which media to pursue, ask if the event organizers will provide a list of registered media. They may not, but it’s always worth asking.

Build your target media list. Most likely, you’ll need to build your own target media list. First, look to see if there are media partners or sponsors. Those media that have committed marketing dollars generally put reporter resources behind covering the event and would be looking for story angles. Next, research to see which media outlets/reporters have covered the event in the past since they’re most likely to be repeat attendees. Once you have a solid list, you can investigate who is attending and see if they have time to meet.

Have a reason to contact the reporter. Publication staffs are very lean, so each solicitation for a meeting should be based on substance – meeting a key executive, sharing news, having an opinion on an industry issue, etc. Connecting on the fly at the event can be effective, but is less certain.

Homework does pay off. Just a few weeks ago, Quell had several clients in Traverse City for the Center for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Seminars. We lined up several reporter meetings for our clients who were either presenting or simply attending. This returned a number of dividends. One client was included in a Wall Street Journal article, and another is now on the ground floor as a key speaker as a major media outlet plans a high-profile national conference.

The next time you or a member of your company plans to attend an event, remember to maximize your participation by weaving media relations into the strategy.

Sink or Swim: Mentor Relationships Make All the Difference

By Rebecca Amboy

men·tor noun \ˈmen-ˌtȯr, –Raising Handstər\ : a trusted counselor or guide

Let’s rewind. Whether you are a new college graduate or a seasoned professional, do you remember when you thought you knew exactly what your career would entail? Most of us likely held an inaccurate view of the working world. That’s where a mentor or a trusted counselor comes into play.

A mentor can help navigate and clarify your career path. I’ve been fortunate to serve as a mentor twice through formal programs and have also provided guidance to younger professionals through more casual settings. With only a few years of experience under my belt, I was still able to help undergraduate students and young professionals kick-start their careers by teaching them about day-to-day office life, networking, improving their resumes and cover letters, and marketing themselves in the digital space. Similarly, I’ve benefited from sitting on the other side of casual mentor relationships, where I learned about being more proactive in the workplace, exceeding expectations and efficiently managing others.

If you are a young professional, I recommend finding a role model who can serve as your mentor. From simple pointers, such as dress code recommendations, to larger-scale discussions, like career and education diversity, these conversations will help you develop a strong path for success.

And no matter your career level, there are always younger, fresh faces that can benefit from your knowledge. Use your experiences, both positive and negative, to help guide and inspire them. For example, impress the importance of body language or sharpening writing skills. Things that may seem obvious and natural to you may be new territory for a younger professional or college student.

Most professional associations, alumni groups and even some companies have formal mentorship programs. Informal coffee breaks or lunches can also serve as casual ways to share your industry knowledge.

What’s the most beneficial advice you’ve received from a mentor?

Media 101: Thought Leadership Drives Market Positioning

By Mike Niederquell

A powerful tool that Quell deftly deploys to build market preference for our clients is media relations. Being part of — if not leading — an ongoing industry dialogue through the media credibly puts our clients at the forefront of thought leadership.

Plunkett Cooney, one of Michigan’s largest law firms, partners with The Quell Group to increase visibility for its growing and high-margin areas of practice, including banking/bankruptcy law, health care law, and labor and employment law. Quell recognized the unique expertise of the firm’s attorneys and saw an opportunity to position Plunkett Cooney counsel as expert commentators on the day’s prevailing and topical issues.

Quell conducted extensive research to determine which local and regional media outlets were covering these issues regularly or as breaking news warranted. The team then researched new and pending legislation, regulatory changes, business/industry trends and ongoing news coverage to determine the issues and story concepts that would most likely be well-received by media members. Quell also assessed what issues were being “under-covered” or even ignored by the media that warranted reporting.

The willingness of Plunkett Cooney attorneys to be spokespersons and participate in news cycles was crucial to establishing firm leadership and educating journalists. Through webinars, media roundtables and editorial boards organized and executed by Quell, Plunkett Cooney attorneys forged relationships with reporters, demonstrating their knowledge and ability to provide needed information on deadline.

Quell also positioned the firm through direct contact with reporters on the topics that matter, using its expertise to anticipate the news rather than react to it.

Quell more than quadrupled the number of media hits year-over-year in key outlets including Crain’s Detroit Business, Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, The Associated Press, MLive, WXYZ-TV, WDIV-TV, WJR-AM, WWJ-AM, The Huffington Post and Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

These efforts also resulted in Plunkett Cooney being named a finalist for the prestigious Legal Marketing Association’s Your Honor Award for the organization’s Midwest chapter.

Say What?

By Brian Bleau

How many times have you text messaged a friend or significant other and jumped to an irrational conclusion after reading their response? You write something like, “What do you want to do for dinner?” They reply with something like, “Whatever, it doesn’t matter.”

Before you know it, you’re wondering why the person on the other end is being short with you, you suspect something is wrong and begin feverishly drafting your retort, and things escalate from there.

Communicating through keystrokes and characters, most times 140 or less, extracts the inflection and tonality from conversation, sometimes leaving your point of view unclear to the recipient ─ even if you use emoticons. I can think of instances in my personal and professional life where picking up the phone and calling the other person would’ve prevented a barrage of text messages or emails trying to clarify a prior question or comment.

The key to communicating messages effectively is clarity. Ensuring that your recipient interprets the message as intended, with the shortest possible distance between transmission and comprehension, is paramount. What better way to ensure clarity (and build rapport) than to pick up the phone and engage in back-and-forth dialogue, asking and answering questions?

Relationships are the foundation of our personal and professional lives. Help your audience, whoever it may be, build a relationship with you, not the virtual you on their laptop or phone screen.