The following is a guest blog post by  ETSU associate professor in the Department of Communication and MarketingMel board member, Dr. Stephen Marshall. 

Delivering value to clients is the ultimate brand challenge.

Delivering value to clients is the ultimate brand challenge.

As an Associate Professor at East Tennessee State University I am blessed to teach some of the best and brightest in our region. In the professional and academic world, learning is a continuous process. The speed of communication technology demands constant learning and adapting.

Part of my continuous learning formula is to engage with clients and organizations; applying my knowledge and skills to stay sharp while providing value. I do this because I strive to deliver value to my students and professionally grow. My work with professionals moves me from academic armchair quarterbacking directly into the game. Working at Creative Energy as well as with great professionals like MarketingMel keeps me fresh and keeps ideas flowing. Whether it is in the classroom or in the boardroom, I am always focused on delivering value. But what is value?

Merriam-Webster defines value in numerous ways but the particularly applicable Merriam-Webster value definition states value is “relative worth, utility, or importance.” In marketing terms, there are numerous theories supported by hundreds of analyses of value. (I won’t bore you with them.) The most basic theme in marketing is value = benefit/cost.

Benefit examples = information, entertainment, utility, status

Cost examples = time, effort, financial

In terms of interpersonal communication, we deliver value during conversation quite naturally. (In fact, value is the sole reason you engage in any exchange!) For example, when you have a conversation with someone, you want to engage her or him in the discussion. You do so by finding the voice and content that will create the right engaging message. The right choices enable you to deliver communication value in the exchange. To illustrate… would you speak with your mother the same way you speak with your best friend? Further, the more value exchanged, the longer the conversation. Conversations end when the cost of continuing is higher than the benefit.

The key to any successful communication is to deliver value to the receiver. My students know “create value with your communication” as my classroom mantra. Successful businesses create value for their customers through their products or services. The center of any brand (product, service, idea or individual as you have learned from Marketing Mel) is the value promise of the brand. In today’s digital communication space, brands are able to deliver additional value (continuing the value promise) in their communication and measure impact more accurately.

For businesses, defining value in communication can be complex. Strategy is the key to defining, creating and evaluating. Creating value strategy means significantly understanding objectives, audience(s) and creating content that will deliver value. Delivering value should be the core of your communication strategy. How does this happen for a brand?

  1. Know your business goal and objectives
  2. Understand your audience (know your key influencers)
  3. Create digital content that will deliver on the brand promise (extend brand value)
  4. Define key performance indicators (KPIs) enabling evaluation of progress

The key to swimming in “big data” is to define the KPIs in your planning. This allows you to benchmark, set goals, understand audience flow, evaluate, and optimize. From an organizational standpoint, determining the influential KPIs aligned with organizational outcomes is the only way to move from descriptive data to data providing inference.

Extending brand value in communication efforts often means utilizing social media. All too often I hear folks, even professionals say, “let’s make a Facebook page.” While social media is important, it is often used inappropriately. Social media efforts must be aligned with brand value.

This means the social channel and content must match the proper audience. Further, content and channel must be maintained appropriately. Huge mistakes will be made if you think of media without considering all the other previously discussed steps.

In summary, knowing your audience and delivering brand value on a continuous basis is the key to brand loyalty. The digital space allows brands to extend their value into their communication. Brands should use the digital space to extend and measure their brand value.

About the Author:

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Stephen W. Marshall PhD, was educated at the University of Florida. He is a former employee of Nielsen. Dr. Marshall focuses on opportunities bridging academics and industry. His research interests include qualitative and quantitative audience measurement, branding and mass communication in a digital space. He is an Associate Professor at East Tennessee State University, a Research Analyst at Creative Energy and a member of MarketingMel’s board of advisors. Connect with him via Linkedin or by email at marshalls [at} etsu.edu.





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The following is a guest blog post from Ed Jenkins of Confab Marketing. I first met Ed at SocialSlam in 2012 and we’ve kept in touch via twitter. You can find Ed @ConfabMarketing.



Athletes are engaging in social media at a record pace. While leagues like the National Football League, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association are taking steps to monitor use of social media by athletes, there are no rules, policies or otherwise prohibiting such activity. Like A-List Hollywood celebrities, athletes feel empowered to share or express personal feelings and often times don’t think about how it will dilute their brand. Here are five rules of engagement athletes can use to build their brand through social media.

  1. Be a “cause” Champion: Advocate for a cause that’s close to your heart either through personal experience or something close to your situation. Pro football Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden spent his entire playing career with the Baltimore Ravens, but his passion is the Jonathan Ogden Foundation established in 1996 to help youth gain self confidence through education and athletics. Ogden is effectively spreading his message using twitter as the primary social media platform to champion his cause.
  2. If you need to think about it, it’s not a good idea: Mama always said if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all (and she was right!) Also, if you need to think about whether or not a tweet may be appropriate, IT’S NOT! These age old lessons hold true in the world of social media too! One mistake or misguided tweet by an athlete can completely destroy what they’ve spent years working to create.
  3. Be content conscious: Have a content plan that is current, relevant and action driven. Meaningless tweets are a turn off to fans and make it more difficult to maintain an effective following. Those who make best use of twitter call followers to action and create synergy among their overall digital profile. A good example may be…”It’s game day, stop by my website wxyz.com to catch my interview live from the locker room at 11 am.” This call to action influences fans to stay within your digital brand web and provides a teaser for exciting content.
  4. Post positively: Nobody likes negativity…stay positive in your post. Followers and fans look forward to reading tweets or Facebook posts that are helpful, informative and inspirational in nature. Constant negative posts will characterize your brand and ultimately define your brand attitude.
  5. Don’t dilute the brand: NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson once said, “As long as your brand is strong, you’ll always be able to make money.” Athletes must be brand conscious at all times. Be careful of the pictures you post, what you say and who of course you say it to. Simply put…don’t do anything to dilute the brand.As athletes strive to understand brand value, many search for effective ways to build and promote that brand through social media. Developing an action oriented plan for twitter and Facebook will keep athletes focused and out of harm’s way when it comes to brand integrity.

Jenkins[1]Ed Jenkins is a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania based social media strategist and managing partner of Confab Marketing & Design, a boutique style marketing agency focusing on brand building for small to mid-sized businesses and individuals. After attending Johnson & Wales University (Providence, RI) where he studied marketing and advertising, Jenkins went to work in the advertising sales industry. Jenkins has spend the past decade in marketing working with for profit education institutions and non-profits including the United Way of Southeastern New England and NEED, a Pittsburgh based educational non-profit. Jenkins also has an extensive background in sports management and administration having served as a general manager with sports franchises including the Roanoke Steam (Roanoke, VA) of the Arena Football League. 



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Editor’s Note: This post is by guest blogger and friend, Cathy Rodgers of 7wavesmarketing.

Everywhere I look, it seems the same message is being told: “invest in content,” “know who you are trying to reach,” and “the story is important.” Telling the story of what goes on behind the front door of a business is something we’ve been saying since the beginning of 7Waves. There is something unique about each and every business and there is a story that needs to be told. I invite you to take a fresh look at your business from the outside and ask yourself, “what would people want to know about my products, my place in the community, or the dedication of the founders and work team”?

Here are a few points of inspiration to help you further your brand or that of your client, along with a few suggestions for experimentation.

1. Nourish your brand: Have a brainstorming session with your team on how to boost the level of visibility and awareness in your community.

2. Find the story: Go back to the beginning and find the reason for the start of the business. This can be the foundation of a new press release or a blog article.

3. It’s more than a logo: A business continually creates and lives their brand. It’s more than a strategy or plan, it’s even beyond a vision statement – it’s about articulating passion for your own products and services.

4. Form a Partnership: One of the best examples for a partnership between a non-profit and for profit business I’ve seen was formed during a local political campaign. A local business already sponsoring a non-profit organization chose to enhance their visibility at a scheduled walk which included a table where most companies set out flyers, banners, and giveaways. In this case, the table was occupied by a political candidate, and the sponsoring company got two for one.

5. Tell your story with photos: It’s been proven that entries or posts which get the most comments on Facebook have photos. Photos create enthusiasm for a brand, make others want to be at an event, or desire the benefits of a product.

6. Promote others: Success stories not only promote your clients, but can attract future business partners, while creating good will for your business.

7. Social media: The story should be told in different ways across all researched mediums (and choosing your channels depends on the audience). For instance, if your audience is on Facebook, then you need to be there. – If you think your audience is on Twitter, then do an experiment for a set period of time and see if developing relationships there is worth your time. – No matter what method is chosen for brand promotion, it’s important to have the website and blog as the home base of operations.

So what’s your story?

Cathy Rodgers is the owner of Seven Waves Marketing, a social media, public relations, and online marketing company. She focuses on website content and Facebook strategies, and has more than 20 years of freelance writing experience for prominent newspapers, business publications, websites and nonprofit organizations.  Visit Seven Waves Marketing or look for @7wavescathy on Twitter

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Each spring I can hardly wait for the day when I get to peel the heavy, leather shoes off my feet and toss them in the back of the closet. It’s officially spring when I don a pair of flip-flops, wriggle my toes and feel the air rush through them. This season I selected a pair of Nike brand flip-flops at Dick’s Sporting Goods. So far they’ve been worth every penny of their $27.99.  Unlike the no-name-hurt-your-feet variety of cheap sandals, these flip-flops are soft and cushioney– the next best thing to walking on sand. I really didn’t think anyone would notice a pair of simple flip-flops but I was wrong. Just today the Vietnamese man giving me a pedicure commented on the color and the cushion of my sandals. Several other people who aren’t that close to my feet have also remarked on the flip-flops’ look and feel. My question is…is it the swoosh?  Is it Nike’s powerhouse brand drawing attention to my feet? Or is it the pedicure? What are your thoughts?

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