Tag Archives: neuromarketing

One year later: blogging tips for beginners

In his 2009 book How We Decide, Jonah Lehrer tells us: “Unless you experience the unpleasant symptoms of being wrong, your brain will never revise its models. Before your neurons can succeed, they must repeatedly fail. There are no shortcuts for this painstaking process.”

Along the same lines, a friend at a PR firm told me once that it took about a year for her job to click 100%, for her to fully get into the groove of working with and understanding her specific clients. There’s also the theory in the advertising world that it takes seven interactions before we start remembering something.

Then there’s that age-old philosophy that’s actually scientific fact Lehrer explores: you have to learn from your own mistakes, no matter how many “how to” articles you absorb.

All of this applies to blogging. This month marks the one-year anniversary of this blog, and to celebrate, here are some blogging tips for beginners. I know, I know: we all have to make our own mistakes, I just said that. But that doesn’t mean I can’t offer some tips in hopes that even just one will stick with a beginner blogger.

If you’re a beginner blogger, feel free to send me a link to your new blog. I’d love to check it out! And good luck.

What exactly is your blog about? Choose a topic and stick with it.
I blog about public relations, which includes a lot of other marketing niches under the PR umbrella. If you check out my early blog posts, though, you might not realize that. I talk about recycling and clipping coupons; all great topics, but they don’t belong in the public relations area of expertise. But I’ve learned and adjusted accordingly.

If there’s something you really want to write about, see if you can fit it into your blog topic area. For example, I wanted to do an Earth Day blog, so I wrote about volunteering at a local Earth Day celebration and discussed the importance of community relations. The more you blog, the better you’ll get at coming up with ideas. In fact, by the end of your first year, you should have an ongoing list of blog post ideas because it’ll come so naturally.

Blog consistently and frequently.
Don’t get lazy with your blog and only toss up content once a month. No matter the reason for creating a blog (establishing expertise, career growth, personal endeavor, whatever), it gives us our online identity. And lazy isn’t a characteristic you want associated with your identity when someone Googles you. Here’s where the mantra “under promise, over deliver” comes in handy: don’t publicly announce that you’re going to blog once a day. That’s potentially a promise many of us can’t deliver on. But force yourself to blog at least once a week. Even if you have only two readers, you don’t want to disappoint them.

Always include an image with your blog post. Always.
We all love looking at pretty pictures that correspond with the text we’re reading. Always jazz up a blog post with an image that fits nicely into the aesthetics of your blogging platform. My blog posts contain an image that goes along with the topic of the post. It’s always located in the same spot and is the same size, for consistency and even branding purposes.

What if you’re six months into your blog, and you haven’t published photos with your entries? You’re not screwed. Go back and put photos in there. Blogs aren’t like magazines, where all decisions are final. All blog posts are (hopefully) going to keep popping up in search engines, so there’s no time like right now to go back and make sure each look as sleek as possible. That said, don’t go and rewrite a blog entry, or delete one you’re ashamed of. But do learn from your mistakes.

Don’t let an initially small readership get you down.
This is an important lesson: unless you have thousands of individuals awaiting the launch of your blog, readership will increase slowly. Be patient. To begin, promote your blog posts on Facebook, Twitter, Technorati, and other online tools. The secret to increasing readership goes back to our second tip: don’t get lazy with the frequency of your blogging. The more content you have posted, the likelier it is search engines will turn up your content when someone uses a term or word associated with your post.

And this idea leads to tagging: tag the hell out of your blog posts. Tags are keywords that help folks find your blog posts when they look for something in search engines. Tags also help you connected with those you’re blogging about, especially if she or he has online alerts on their name or works, which can lead to new readership.

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Must-read PR books for the summer (or really anytime)

I recently Googled “must-read PR books” and found some good lists. Since PR and marketing is refined and updated quite a bit, in addition to incorporating constantly changing consumer trends and figures, I don’t read many books about the subject that have been out for more than two or three years. So, without further ado, here’s a list of five books that are on rotation with me right now: four I’ve read, one I’m currently reading, and all my versions of good “beach reads!”

How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer (2010, Mariner Books): In order to be effective and successful PR and marketing specialists, we need to understand the psychology behind why people buy, what’s important to them at each life stage, and how they come to conclusions in general. Lehrer explains the use of our rational and emotional sides of the brain, and how each factors into how we decide. The single-most important factor in building better decision-making skills, he says, is making mistakes: the best decision makers are “students of error.” That is, making mistakes is a good, necessary thing: it allows us to reconfigure our brains so that the next time, we get closer to making the right decision. Or the more correct decision. Your brain’s neurons actually think about what they could have done differently so that next time they know what to do. The brain always learns the same way, accumulating wisdom through error. The really fascinating part of about this book is the author’s stories of folks whose brains lack the ability to learn from their mistakes: sociopaths, gamblers, and others on the fringes of society.


Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy by Martin Lindstrom (2008, Doubleday): I first listened to this book about a year ago and fell in love with it and Lindstrom. Since then, I’ve listened to it at least three times and have passed it onto friends. Lindstrom is a pioneer in “neuromarketing,” first incorporating lessons like the ones offered by Lehrer (above) to figure out what makes the brain tick when it comes to consumerism. Lindstrom takes his research a step further in actually examining the human brain as it reacts to certain stimuli, like advertising and product placement. Guess what? His research has concluded that, among other such messages, anti-tobacco messages not only do not work, but actually encourage more tobacco use. If you’re a smoker or have ever smoked, this really isn’t so surprising. Think about it.

Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior by Geoffrey Miller (2009, Viking): I’ve purposely put these books in the top three because they share a common thread: exploring the psychology behind consumerism. Miller applies evolutionary psychology to modern-day consumerism. I’m just 100 pages into the 300+ page book, but his message is becoming clearer: Why have we lowered ourselves to purchasing symbols of wealth, intelligence, and strength when evolution has given us ways of doing this without going into debt? Furthermore, if we go into debt purchasing symbols of wealth, these symbols are rendered false and therefore potentially misleading and dangerous when it comes to mate selection.

Here’s a thoughtful quote I’ve highlighted and underlined: “If we buy products primarily as signals of our underlying biological strengths, their signal effectiveness—especially as carried by brand recognition—is, logically, paramount, while their efficiency in serving their normal purpose (as a garment, appliance, or vehicle) is only of secondary concern.” He then says, “The fact is perfectly clear to every marketing professional, but it must remain perfectly obscure to most consumers” (85).

Manager’s Guide to Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations by Barry Callen (2010, McGraw Hill): This is a textbook and guidebook for any PR pro. Its initial messages are basic, and so it’s a good source for beginning professionals. However, we all need refreshers from time-to-time, and this is a fabulous place to get them. Tip: for more seasoned PR pros, start in the back. The more advanced, “hard” marketing is there.



The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott (2009, Wiley): I’ve saved the best for last. Scott’s book is my Bible, and just like every other person who loves the book, my copy is covered in highlights, ink and Post-It notes (see to the left?). Much like the Manager’s Guide above, The New Rules covers basic techniques in marketing and PR; again, good for beginnings and great for refreshers. It does, however, go a step forward to offer case studies and examples of the lessons he provides. In addition, the origin of the book shows that Scott doesn’t just speak from a textbook: the man knows his business. The book began as posts on his blog, and he actively sought input from readers. Combining his experience with input from outsiders, he created this book. Which is always either in the backseat of my car or in my bag. Thanks, David, for such a great book, in case you’re reading this. And I think you just might be!

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Shameless publicity post: Why I’m glad I finally went to a dollhouse museum

“Isnt this just absolutely a-mazing?” a woman asks me as she leisurely strolls by. She’s like a botanist in a greenhouse, inspecting each plant and flower, deciphering expertly flora and species. Gazing into the Versailles Hunting Lodge, France, circa 1900, I respond, “I know! You’d have to spend all day in here just to notice everything.”

” Yes…yes…,” she says, walking away, in a wandering daze, toward The Pink House, America, circa 1970. She and I were the only visitors of the village of Copper Hollow, a fictional land of 100 years ago. We were currently at Mansion Avenue, where nannies push strollers, men pot plants and boys fidget and misbehave inside Miss Ida Strombeckers Preparatory School for Boys. There’s actually a kid wailing underneath the piano.

“It’s so beautiful,” she says and asks me where I’m from. I tell her I live here in town. She’s from Michigan. “Do you do miniatures?” she asks.

“Oh no,” I laughed. “I dont.” I’m not even sure 45 minutes earlier I would have had any idea what a question like that might have meant. Or implied. I didn’t think to ask her if she “did miniatures” before she exited Copper Hollow to find someone I think was her friend, a woman around her age I’d seen earlier, wandering thoughtfully by the 1800s Mexican village.

Later on we’d talk more: she was on a two-week road trip with her friend. Her friend did all the driving, which is the only way she’d been able to go on the trip. They’d stopped at Lori Kagan-Moore’s Great American Dollhouse Museum in Danville, Ky., on their way to Florida. I could tell from their excitement at the cash register and the small purchases in their hands that they both “did miniatures.”

I’d never been in a dollhouse museum until that Friday afternoon, taking what would turn out to be a nearly two-hour lunch. What I kept thinking, walking through the displays of stories and lives, is that this was way better than a movie. If I had a friend with me, I could point things out, laugh, gasp, and make comments without pausing the film or annoying the friend. And I could make up dialogue for the characters, which, as I soon realized, is more fun when you’re not by yourself.

It was like being inside a non-fiction story book. Or a scrapbook of days gone by. It was fun. Who would’ve thought?

As I examined the British colonial houses, the Underground Railroad and the Shaker villages, I realized what a great method this was of sneaking history and anthropology lessons into our lives. Farming methods, the mother role in the Old South, family values in an 1800s Mexican village. What kind of beverages upper-middle-class 1970s Americans drank outside by the pool. (It was a cloudy day; I spent a lot of time gazing at that pool and those martini glasses.)

Looking to do something outside your ordinary? Go to Lori’s Dollhouse Museum. Or go to some dollhouse musuem. Humans love being a part of a group, an exclusive club based on interests, passions, expertise. Marketers realize this, at least the smart ones who’ve read up on neuromarketing.

I don’t “do miniatures.” Unless you count Hershey’s. But I thoroughly enjoyed being around Lori and my two new friends from Michigan who belong to this niche of collector.

How else would I have learned how resiliant Miss Ida is, playing that piano, with all those naughty boys misbehaving around her? And I will confess: once, I leaned forward to look more closely inside a mansion, and I hit my head on the plastic display. Luckily, the misses of Michigan were exploring elsewhere, oblivious to my novice faux pas.

Visit The Great American Dollhouse Museum web site for directions, exhibit details and artist information.

P.S.: For the sake of full disclosure, Lori and I are going to work on some publicity together for the museum. But I totally wouldn’t have written this if it weren’t true!

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