Posts by Kels

The Shape of the Juice – A Marketing Nightmare

Posted by on Dec 23, 2013 in Kel's Corner | 0 comments

While reading Cramer’s blog post Collaborative Writing – The Shape of the Juice, I felt a small ball of stress developing in my lungs. I really liked the article. He had great points for helping other writers who might need to collaborate and I was having a smooth and happy day prior to reading – so where was this ball of stress coming from?

As I reflected, it dawned on me that I’ve experienced the dreaded “Shape of the Juice” more times than I’d like to discuss. Just the very thought of it gave me anxiety. The difference from a marketing standpoint was that in most cases this ridiculous request came from a paying client. And this was typically a client who very strongly wanted to sell their product, service, or institution in the most nonsensical way possible. Eep! What to do?

This type of dreaded nemesis client should have a different name. In fact, I’m just going to call them nemesis clients. They’re the type of client whose emails cause your computer itself to shudder in fear. Just setting eyes on their name causes the lights in your room to dim. And even though they initially appear quite pleasant, you swear there’s a little bit of demon in their voice. You are fairly certain they were put on this earth to ruin your day. This is the type of person that makes you want to do flips of joy when you actually get a client who says something like, “You’re the expert, what do you think would be the best plan of action?” But I digress.

After years of dealing with nemesis clients, I’ve learned a few tricks you can use to help your project turn out well, ensure the client’s happiness, and actually keep yourself sane. Say for example your client comes at you with this little nugget of joy…

“Kel, we really feel that the biggest selling point of our juice is its shape. The flavor is like a five-star meal exploded onto your palette. It basically heals your cells from the inside out ensuring you’ll never develop any type of cancer and after you drink it for a week, you’ll actually become bilingual in the language of your choice. But never mind all that. What we feel really sets us apart from our competition is the SHAPE of our juice.”

1) Listen.

“Ok, I hear you. Sounds like your product has a lot to offer. Tell me more.”

During your first meeting or phone call, do as much listening as you can with as little negativity toward their idea as possible. In fact, be excited – not about their idea exactly, but about what you are helping them try to sell. The more you listen, the more you will start to understand what they should actually be doing to sell their product. With this information you can start to nudge them and their campaign in the right direction.

2) Ask Why.
“So with all those incredible benefits, it’s really interesting to me that you want to focus on the shape. Especially since your product is a liquid. What makes you feel this is the direction you want to go?”

There are two types of responses you’re going to get here. One is going to be something just as absurd as their original pitch and will make you want to die a little inside. It will start out with the nemesis client saying “I saw” or “I heard about” or something along those lines. In this case you’re dealing with a client who was most likely out drinking with their coworkers when they saw a random infomercial or hilarious YouTube video. “Oh man, our product (service/institution) would work perfectly in this exact scenario! We’ll go viral! People will love us! We’ll make MILLIONS!”

The second type of response will be more along the lines of, “After doing some market research we found customers really care most about the shape of juice rather than the benefits of the product itself,” or “Our biggest competitor launched a campaign about their juice shape and it doubled their sales.”

Both responses will give you valuable information about your client, what they want, and how far you’ll be able to push them toward a better idea.

3) Never initially tell them that their idea is awful or impossible (even if you make it sound really nice).
“There are definitely some things we can work with here.”

At this point in your meeting you’d love to say, “This is a really fun idea, but from a customer standpoint, I’m just not sure it’s the best direction for your product.” With certain nemesis clients, this is also the point where you’ll want to flat out call them a moron. But instead, hold your damn tongue and bitch about them at happy hour. Unfortunately, the only thing that will come of you outright telling them their idea is lame is that they will hold onto it even harder and likely make it worse.

4) Adjust.
“The headline will read, Shape Up Your Life With Juice!
“We’ll start the video with a close up of the juice, panning up to show it in all its shapely glory.”
“Your spokeswoman will have the same blob-like shape as the juice.”
“We’ll run a Show Us Your Favorite Juice Shape Facebook game.”

Thankfully bad ideas from nemesis clients are often quite vague. This will give you the latitude to get creative. Rather than trying to make the entire project about the juice’s shape, use it as an element within the whole. When explaining the idea to your client, focus on this element in small ways throughout your pitch. It will help the client feel like they were heard and that they’ve added something essential. Hopefully they will be so blown away by the overall awesomeness of your idea that they won’t even notice that the “shape” is not the central focus of the campaign and may, at this point, suggest dropping it all together.

5) Make your ideas their ideas.
“When we spoke on the phone last week what you said about your dog now being bilingual really got me thinking…”

And then go on to give your pitch. This is where you will use all the information you gathered in the first two steps. Somewhere in your conversation with your client, they likely gave you some really incredible information about their product. While you may not be bringing them exactly what they requested, you’re still bringing them something that they can feel was their idea.

Remember that a lot of nemesis clients who are paying you to do something creative for their company have hired you for a reason. It’s because they lack those creative genes themselves. Many of them simply want to feel like they’re a part of all the great creative action. Remember this as you work with them. It’s likely just a job for you, but for them it’s time away from the mundane everydayness of what they do for a living.

6) If all else fails make the best of it.
“So the Shape of the Juice it is then! Forward march!”

Occasionally there will be a client who can’t see past the outright stupidity of their idea. OR you might just be too jaded to see the potential of the idea itself. Yes, I said it. The stupid one might be YOU! Just because the idea sounds crazy, looks crazy, and feels crazy doesn’t mean it is. It truly might be the next big thing. It might even turn out to be one of your favorite projects because you get to venture outside your comfort zone in an attempt to make something work that has absolutely no business being a success. You actually get to be CHALLENGED! Eep!!! How exciting!

Then again it really might just be an awful idea. If this is the case do the best you can. In the end, as long as your client is happy, it doesn’t really matter. You’ve given them options, you’ve shown them better ideas, and if they reject them all, they still give you money when it’s all done. End of transaction.

I hope these few tips help you with your own nemesis clients. In the end you’ll end up with one of two things- a project that ended up being really fun and challenging, or a ridiculous story to use in your own blog someday.

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Submitting A Press Release

Posted by on Sep 23, 2013 in Business Writing | 0 comments

After spending about ten years as a video producer for a private company, I had a lot of experience in what I considered to be the “media” world. I then branched out and became the Marketing Director of a small start-up company selling a hot new product and managing a local celebrity spokesperson. The difference between these two jobs was that in video production, I had clients and at the start-up company I was a client. The difference in these two worlds was much greater than I expected.

When the owner of the start-up company asked me to do things like write press releases and negotiate print advertising rates, I smiled and said, “No problem!” This showed a confidence I did not really feel. My first year at the company was filled with lots of extra time at home spent searching Google, reading blogs, WikiHow, and asking lots of questions to people in other marketing and PR positions. My marketing experience was all learned hands-on through lots of advice, information, and mostly by trying things out to see what worked and what didn’t.

So, how do you submit a press release? First of all, make sure you’ve read Cramer’s article, Writing A Press Release. If you want to have your press release even given a cursory glance, you need to make sure you have it in the proper format with a catchy title. But back to business:


  1. Do your research – What media outlets?

This may seem self-explanatory but make sure you submit your press release to places that will care about what you’re promoting. Your local running and fitness magazine may care if your company is the headline sponsor for a new 5K, but if you’ve already bugged them with press releases announcing new products that don’t appeal to runners, they may ignore the release you send promoting an event that actually does line up with their audience.

Also, you likely don’t know all the magazines, newspapers, and media outlets in your area or in the area you are promoting. Many communities have at least a small newsletter that goes out to local residents. Do not overlook these smaller publications. Smaller publications are more likely to bite on the story and thus get more people out to your event.


  1. Do your research – Who & How?

OK, you have your list of places that you plan to send your press release. Now what? Now you need to find the right person to send the press release and in what format they prefer to receive what you’re sending. Unless you are spending a lot of money on a PR Firm to send these out for the company, you need to know what to do next.

First, determine if what you are selling or promoting would likely have a specific department. At larger media companies, you should be able to find the person in charge of that department and their email address on the company’s website. Some places will even tell you which person to contact to submit stories. (Although this isn’t typical as they do not want an inbox full of spammy press).

If looking up the information doesn’t work, call and ask. I realize we live in a world of text messages, social media and emails but a phone call and conversation with an actual human being can be your best friend. I’ve also found that admitting you don’t completely know what you are doing can occasionally make people even nicer to you and sometimes can get you all types of extra valuable information. Calling the media outlet or specific department and saying something like…

“Hi, my name is so and so from Company X, I’d like to submit a press release about such and such. I’m really new at this and want to make sure I’m getting the press release to the right person, in the format they prefer so I’m not causing you or them any extra hassle. Could you please help me or direct me to the right person?”

In my experience, humble will take you places. It’s very likely you will be talking to someone’s assistant or receptionist. The person with whom your are speaking has very likely been answering frustrating and pushy emails and phone calls all day and may relish a few minutes to get to talk to a nice sounding person. At worst they will be extremely busy and will be annoyed that you are wasting their time but will give you the information you requested anyway. At best you’ll spend five minutes listening to this person tell you a random story about their day, which will open up the conversation for a few more questions (gossip) about which reporters are best to work with, what type of stories they typically run with, etc. A simple “How is your day going?” and a friendly demeanor while they look up information can sometimes get you worlds of information you didn’t even know you needed.


  1. Do your research – Format

Make sure to find out how that particular person likes to receive their press releases. If they prefer it to be faxed, don’t email it anyway because you’re worried it will somehow fly off the fax machine and they will never see it. If they prefer you to email the press release, copy and paste the document into the body of the email. Do not bother attaching it (unless otherwise specified by the person receiving it). There can be a tendency to simply delete emails containing attachments, especially since they’ll be receiving this email from an address they probably won’t recognize.


  1. Exclusives

Exclusives relate especially to TV News outlets. Watch the news. It’s their absolute favorite thing to say, “Only on Channel 6!” The reason I bring this up is because it is not always best to send your press release to everyone right away if you have a bit of time.


  1. Follow Up

Once you’ve done all the research and you’ve successfully sent out your press release, make sure to pick up your phone again. This time call the person you sent the release to. Most of the time you will get their voice mail or an assistant. That’s fine. If you get an assistant, they may be able to tell you whether or not the press release was received and you can ask them any follow up questions. They may or may not be able to help you, but again, it’s worth a shot if you get to talk to an actual person. If you get their voice mail, then your message serves as a way to bring your press release to the top of their mind or it may pique their interest. You message will also quickly give them your contact information if they do indeed have any questions or want to follow up.


The bottom line to successfully sending out your press release is that you want to do most of your work up front. You want to do lots of research so you’re actually getting your release out to the right people at the right places in the right format. After that, follow up with a phone call and hope you wrote your press release well enough (or have a product or event interesting enough) that these very busy reporters will care enough to cover the information that you have worked so hard to send out.

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