How To Keep Your Marketing “Voice” Relevant As Your Industry Evolves

Terri Waters
Director of Public Relations

How To Keep Your Marketing “Voice” Relevant As Your Industry Evolves

As a brand manager or CMO, you know all the key points to sell your product or service. You know how to phrase the benefits, whether it’s “time-saving,” “faster response,” “best in class,” “energy efficient” or other descriptive terms. You know how to find the benefits and separate them from the features. Marketing 101.

While you focus on the key selling points and your creative may look incredible and the product looks sexy in just the right lighting and background, you may be missing an important ingredient in the marketing mix. We see it all the time: ad copy, press releases, social posts and videos that don’t reflect important changes happening in their industry.

I recently purchased a new HVAC system and was astonished to find that none of the contractor websites or the contractors I met with talked about the two things I care most about: energy efficiency and indoor air quality (IAQ for short). Instead, they focused on price, how fast they could get the system installed, product warranties, and a broad term many use: “indoor comfort.”

All those things are important, but many in the contracting industry are not addressing a consumer audience that is increasingly concerned about climate change and looking for eco-friendly systems. The public is also more aware than ever of health issues that arise due to viruses, bacteria, and allergens that circulate in their homes through the HVAC system. They want a system that delivers cleaner, healthier indoor air.

Get to know your audience

It’s incumbent on marketing professionals to deeply know and understand their audience and how global issues of today impact the buying decision. Otherwise, like with the HVAC example, they’ll miss the mark in addressing what the customer really cares about.

The major HVAC and appliance manufacturers do seem to understand this. They’re offering high efficiency units and moving to the electrification of water heaters, dryers and stoves.  Their pulse is on the industry and on what consumers want – and they leverage it in their communications.

In our client work, we know we can’t write about irrigation equipment without mentioning the water crisis in Western states, because that’s what keeps farmers and municipal water folks up at night.

We can’t write about products and equipment targeted to HVAC engineers without mentioning IAQ (indoor air quality), Department of Energy regulations, “decarbonization” (moving away from gas-fired equipment and replacing with electric) and new, eco-friendly refrigerants.

For these engineering audiences, we weave key phrases into press releases, and for bylined articles we dive deep into energy regulations. These tactics illustrate the client’s deep investment in and knowledge of a changing industry, positioning them as experts and a trusted source of information.

Know the Trends

Architectural and construction firms are well aware of industry trends like remote work, the need for safer school facilities, an increasing desire for connection to nature, and building decarbonization. It’s important that their marketing reflect what they’re doing or how they’re thinking about these trending issues.

We also have a mental health crisis in our country. If your organization is doing anything to address this for their clients or themselves, such as facility renovations or interior design that prioritizes employee mental health – this could be a key talking point in your communications as it illustrates your company is invested in solutions to an important societal issue.

We could go on with more examples, but hopefully this article will spark some ideas on how your marketing/PR team can position your organization to stay relevant.

If you want to better understand your target audiences and how to uncover their key concerns as it relates to trending issues in your industry, give us a shout. We can help you find your relevant marketing voice!

Creating buzz-worthy PR

Terri Waters
Director of Public Relations

Creating buzz-worthy PR

Great Rivers Greenway, the public agency connecting the St. Louis region with paved walking and cycling paths, challenged Geile/Leon to generate publicity for its second annual Greenway Quest. This fun competition encourages people to get out on the greenways and hunt for hundreds of painted “bee” rocks hidden along the 135 miles of trails with a smaller number hidden at the iconic City Museum, a co-sponsor of the event.

 

For the media outreach, we got creative with wordplay (you can’t bee-lieve how many puns we found!). The press release featured this honey of a headline: 250 bees have escaped the hive at City Museum; search parties are needed to bring them home. 

 

After we buzzed the media, reporters and talk show hosts made a bee-line to Dallas Adams, spokesperson for GRG. We set up interviews, did minimal coaching (she is experienced at interviews) and watched her spread her wings like a true queen bee and nail every interview. We could drone on and on about it, but here’s a quick re-cap: Local media is abuzz about The Greenway Quest, it’s listed on all the major event calendars, and people are heading to the greenways like flies to honey to claim their rock and register to win prizes. Operation Honeypot (our internal name for the project) has landed!

 

Here’s a sampling of the media coverage:

St. Louis Post Dispatch
https://www.stltoday.com/pr/entertainment/st-louis-greenways-are-buzzing-with-2nd-annual-scavenger-hunt/article_f679c4b2-4137-11ee-bfeb-ef4120631fae.html

St. Louis Parent
http://3.129.246.20/story/your-familys-late-summer-adventure-2023-greenway-quest

Webster-Kirkwood Times
https://www.timesnewspapers.com/webster-kirkwoodtimes/greenway-quest/article_a48b04ac-3789-11ee-ace4-0f6a71294cf6.html

St. Louis Sprout and About
https://www.stlsprout.com/calendar/todays-events/eventdetail/260072/-/greenway-quest

KTRS 550AM interview with Dallas
https://ktrs.com/jenniferwendy/

Call Newspapers
https://callnewspapers.com/second-annual-greenway-quest-underway/

Fun4StlKids
https://fun4stlkids.com/component/jevents/eventdetail/0/-/-?Itemid=0&lang=en&rp_id=243683

Terrain
 https://terrain-mag.com/great-rivers-greenway-city-museum-greenway-quest/?mc_cid=4870910d00&mc_eid=47eaecd2e7 

Patch
https://patch.com/missouri/stlouis/calendar/event/20230826/0f03ba72-400b-4693-bbb4-ec624376fe46/the-greenway-quest-search-for-painted-bee-rocks?edited=1692999666332

Find out more about Greenway Quest at www.GreenwayQuest.com

PR: The budget-friendly option for driving brand awareness

Terri Waters
Director of Public Relations

PR: The budget-friendly option for driving brand awareness

When planning budgets, marketing professionals sometimes overlook an important piece of the marketing pie, not realizing that it offers multiple advantages and can often be done for a fraction of the cost of print and digital advertising.

What is this secret bullet that deserves your attention? Drumroll, please…it’s public relations, or PR for short. However you want to label it, it’s about getting your brand in front of your target audiences, whether through trade and business publications or consumer outlets like TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. It’s truly an awareness medium when budget doesn’t allow for paid print and digital media campaigns.

If you’re looking to elevate your brand but not sure you can afford a full-blown advertising campaign, a public relations program can achieve many of the same goals with less impact on your budget. And it’s an effective way to strengthen your thought leadership in a particular category.

Case Study #1: Revving up an electric motor brand

A client of ours that manufactures electric motors had limited dollars to reach the 10-plus industries they target. It’s challenging to narrow down publications in which to advertise, and equally challenging to divvy up an already lean budget to go to various media outlets.

To stretch their budget dollars, the client invests in a PR program that reaches five or six industries, with targeted messages to each. Whether technical articles, “how-to” pieces, or key employee announcements, the company is in the news every month in multiple publications, giving them high visibility to potential customers. This exposure positions the company as active, on the move and innovative. The repetition of the brand through story-telling and a focus on the people behind the brand has led to new customers and helped retain existing customers in this highly competitive space.

From a budget standpoint, if the client had to purchase ad space that is equivalent in size to the stories that we pitched and secured, they would be spending triple the amount of their annual PR budget.

During the last year, our agency generated for this client a total of 49 stories, with 2.3 million impressions among highly relevant audiences.

Not only is the PR cost-effective, but it’s also reaching the right people with the right messages.

Case Study #2: Attracting visitors and revenue with PR

A family attraction venue struggled to draw the number of visitors they had prior to the pandemic. They needed to boost awareness, letting people know that the venue was fully open and ready to welcome the public.

With limited client resources for ad spends, we focused heavily on PR, pitching stories on the new special events and offerings families could enjoy together. We took advantage of every story angle possible, whether related to a season, a holiday, food and beverage pairings, or a musical act.

Providing TV producers and print/digital editors with a relentless stream of story ideas, we drummed up an average of 12 stories every month, reaching millions of viewers, listeners and readers. In the end, the venue achieved attendance and budget goals.

And as a bonus: our PR stories that focused on hiring helped the client recruit more than 200 seasonal workers over several weeks at a time when finding talent is not easy.

Key Takeaway
Not every client can afford a paid media campaign to cover multiple industries or multiple media markets. When that is the case, PR is a great tool for exposure at a fraction of the cost, reaching numerous media outlets that matter to your audience.

Got questions about how it works? Just give us a call or shoot an email to [email protected].

Trend: Promoting successful female leaders for PR stories

Terri Waters
Director of Public Relations

Trend: Promoting successful female leaders for PR stories

Although many women have successfully integrated into positions of power in the business world in recent decades, they’re still sorely underrepresented in management in certain industries. This lack of diversity is particularly noticeable in male-dominated fields like engineering, manufacturing, and skilled trades. 

The good news is that we’re seeing a growing trend in trade publications looking to feature female leaders and professionals. The story angle is often about what it’s like to be a woman in a predominantly male profession and how they make it work. 

We recently earned media coverage for two clients on this topic. Check out their stories!

  • Cheryl Marcum, VP of Marketing at Nidec Motor Corporation, reflects on her career and management philosophies in this feature story in Pumps and Systems 
  • Three women from Harris Products Group – Nancy Jo Loebker, Christen Foltz and Ira Copeland – talked to The ACHR News about how you can’t be timid in the HVAC field!

This type of PR effort not only promotes the client and their products but can also be leveraged in recruitment and hiring to show female prospects that women can and do succeed at their organization.

2023 Marketing Trends: The Geile/Leon List

Terri Waters
Director of Public Relations

2023 Marketing Trends: The Geile/Leon List

After a couple of years of tumult and chaos in the business world and the world at large, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to settle in and rely on some predictable outcomes in 2023?

For instance, knowing that a targeted digital ad campaign is going to draw the right prospects to you? That a PR story will give prospects a better sense of your organization’s values and goals?  That a motion-graphics video will inspire confidence in your products?

Tried-and-true marketing tools like these examples will continue to be an important piece of the marketing pie in 2023. Phew.

But what are some of the bigger picture trends that we can expect to see?

We certainly hope this year is going to be a bit more stable, offering a calmer environment in which to conduct business and grow your organization. While we don’t have a crystal ball, we do see that organizations have become more nimble as a result of navigating the pandemic, supply chain issues, worker shortages and inflation. People are using creativity and hard work to make things happen for their stakeholders, whether they’re customers, students, donors, government or the public. Bottom line: the resiliency many organizations have built over the past several years will serve them well no matter what comes their way.

But challenges still dominate because people are still unsettled. We’re all still figuring out if the world is in a “new normal” or back to “the way things used to be.” Or someplace in between.

What does this have to do with marketing? Well, successful brands have evolved with the times, and are tweaking or reimagining their messaging, tone, and visuals in order to meet customers where they are, letting them know, “We hear you and understand you.”

These marketers are keeping their brands relevant by refreshing their messaging, look and feel. They’re aware that we’re operating in a very different marketplace than the one from a few years ago.

 

This focus on rebranding and refreshing to stay relevant is our top pick for trends to expect in 2023.

What else is new for 2023 in marketing?  Here are our predictions, based on our experiences with clients and watching major brands evolve in a post-pandemic world.

 

More Brand Building

Along with the need to rebrand, many organizations are pivoting to marketing tactics that focus on the overall brand rather than a specific product or offering. This strategy helps communicate values like trust, reliability and customer focus, all of which are important in retaining clients during times of upheaval.

Brand-focused messaging also helps lure new prospects who want to know what you stand for and what they can expect if they buy from you or hire you.

 

Authentic Videos

Not surprisingly, using high-performing videos as conversion ads will continue to trend in 2023. Short-form videos, particularly when they have an authentic rather than a produced vibe, will engage social media followers at a much higher level than other content.

TikTok, as well as Reel ads on Facebook or Instagram, are the place to be, allowing marketers to demonstrate how their products meet customer needs – whether it’s about making life easier, providing better results, or delivering great value.

Social media algorithms love video content, so keep it going!

 

Conversational Marketing

If you’ve ever been to a comedy club or had the good fortune of sitting in the audience for a late-night show, you’ll know that someone comes out first to “warm up” the audience with jokes and questions. Producers know that it’s better to send out the headliner when the audience is already receptive to having a good time.

We also know that good salespeople always establish rapport before launching into a pitch.

In a similar way, conversational marketing softens “the sell” by engaging with people on a personal level. In a live chat or phone call, for example, reps are trained to be personable and warm. Even chatbots have good manners.

Conversational marketing also includes live events on social media. Responding to queries and comments in real time allows you to deepen relationships with people interested in your brand. Direct messaging in response to complaints offers a chance to mend and strengthen ties with customers.

Be sure to review transcripts of two-way conversations with customers, including conversations via your chatbots. You’ll get great insights to help you understand your audience better and can even use their phrasing in your marketing outreach.

 

Competition for Google Search

Google should be worried as we launch into 2023. TikTok, Amazon, SnapChat and other platforms are becoming increasingly popular search tools, particularly among young people. Gen Z is now using TikTok more than Google as a search engine, not only to look for restaurants, stores and products, but also to figure out how to fix things and research the meanings of words and phrases.

Snap Maps on SnapChat direct people to find local businesses, and Instagram keeps followers up-to-date on trends. Both are increasingly being used as a search tool.

For marketers, this means more opportunities to provide content. It’s important to keep the focus on creating engaging content that is helpful and educational for consumers, without overselling.

Now that you’ve made it through our list, what’s your priority for 2023?

If you’re curious about a brand refresh, how to leverage video in your social presence, or anything else in the marketing toolbox, then give us a call or shoot us an email. Or message us on our social media channels. We’re listening!

Are your sustainability claims sustainable?

Terri Waters
Director of Public Relations

Are your sustainability claims sustainable?

As brands look to gain a competitive advantage, they may be tempted to jump on the sustainability bandwagon. It seems more and more organizations, from manufacturers to banks to sports teams and everything in-between, claim they are committed to sustainable practices or that their products are eco-friendly. 

While embracing sustainability is no doubt a good thing for the planet, it’s important to avoid overstating the activities your organization is undertaking or the resulting benefits. The last thing you want for your brand’s reputation is to be accused of “greenwashing.” 

Greenwashing is essentially painting a rosier picture than what is true regarding your sustainability initiatives. And customers aren’t having it. Especially Gen Z’ers. 

These post-millennials have high expectations for the brands they support. That includes wanting to see a commitment to and evidence of environmentally safe and eco-friendly practices. 

Adweek recently wrote that Gen Z consumers are “emboldened with the idea that they can and will make a difference, no matter the scale of the mountain in front of them, and they’ve been taught to believe that their voice and values deserve to be heard by the many, including the brands that serve them.”

TikTok calls out greenwashing

The hashtag “greenwashing” has almost 20 million views on TikTok, which caters heavily to a Gen Z audience. The highest trending #greenwashing posts include an influencer testing a supposedly compostable plastic spoon and finding it had not broken down at all after five months in a compost bin. “They claim these plastics are compostable and then this happens,” the young woman in the video says.

Another popular TikTok’er calls out two brands that sell reusable products wrapped in plastic and another one that dyes their product green to convey an eco-friendly message. 

A young man on TikTok criticizes McDonald’s for tearing down one of its restaurants, built in the 1980s, to make way for a brand new, “sustainable building” with rooftop solar panels. “This McDonald’s gets me so mad. This is a textbook example of corporate greenwashing… Completely gutting and destroying a building is not sustainable, unless you perfectly find a way to recycle all the building materials which none of these (media) articles mention they’re doing.”

He then tags the chain’s TikTok account: “@McDonald’s show me the data that this was the only way.”

Frustrated consumers

Concern for the environment isn’t limited to Gen Z, of course. In a recent Adweek-Morning Consult survey, consumers of various ages expressed frustration with greenwashing campaigns. Half said that brands and agencies should share legal responsibility for misleading claims related to the environment. 

Some European countries are proactively cracking down on greenwashing. For example, a French court found Adidas guilty of misleading consumers in ads about the recycled content of its athletic shoes. The copy didn’t state whether the materials used to make the shoe are recycled or if they can be recycled and if so, how. 

Adidas was also dinged for their “End plastic waste” logo which the court said is misleading. “Buying a product made partially with recycled plastic will not put an end to plastic waste,” the court said in its ruling.

It’s likely we’ll start to see these types of cases in U.S. courts at some point. 

Meanwhile, we recommend staying the course and double-checking any sustainability claims your organization is making. Unless you can back them up, it’s better to stay clear of phrases or statements that could raise eyebrows, or worse — get you tagged in a #greenwashing post. 

A proactive step a brand can take is to focus on one specific action the organization is taking to reduce its impact on climate change, and explain it in detail. If you’re working on further initiatives to become more sustainable – it’s fine to say that. Just don’t overstate it. Building and maintaining trust with your audience has never been more important.

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