Five Things Marketers Could Learn from Ashton Kutcher

December 11, 2009

I try to keep up on news in my industry, so it was with great interest that I read the latest cover story in Fast Company about fellow Twitter lover, Ashton Kutcher and his production company, Katalyst.

The cover provocatively asks if Kutcher could be “a new kind of media mogul.”

My answer?

Unequivocally.

As a strategist, I can recognize a solid and smart marketing process when I see one – and Kutcher’s is watertight:

  1. Be hot, famous and prolific in some key social media channels.
  2. Watch as step 1 generates a large following of gawkers and fans.
  3. Watch as steps 1 and 2 attract large corporate brands who want to sell stuff to hordes of gawkers and fans.
  4. Let those brands piggyback on, or co-opt the content within, the aforementioned channels.
  5. Monetize participation, release co-opted content to the aforementioned hordes and make beaucoup money.

As the article states, Kutcher intends to become, “the first next-generation media mogul,” using his own brand as a springboard and syndication system.

And, I have no doubt he’ll be successful at it.

But his strategy (heck, his whole company) is uniquely suited to capitalize on Kutcher’s stature, connections and lifestyle.

So where does this leave the rest of us whose personal brands aren’t so much springboards as they are teeny planks?

Me? I was never on a TV show. I’m not married to a celebrity. I have no pre-existing corporate endorsements. I’ve never punk’d Justin Timberlake so bad that he nearly cried (btw…that was a great episode, AK).

And yet, I’m working this space just as aggressively as Kutcher and his posse. And, I’m looking to magazines like Fast Company for ideas and inspiration on how to be successful in my own right.

Is there anything a regular lady from the Midwest like me can learn from “team Ashton?”

While the consensus online seems to be that Fast Company took a gigantic jump over a very attractive shark in writing this article, I still think the answer is “yes.”

1. Find your hook

I’ve got two words for you: trucker hat. Kutcher knows the value of a gimmick, a prank or a well-positioned must-have accessory, and he works that sucker for all its worth.

Do you have a “trucker hat” idea for your business?

  • Is your value prop that you “do good work?” (Congrats, that’s true for every other company in America too. What else you got?) Are you the “first,” the “best,” the “only,” or the “award-winning” anything?
  • Is your hook easy to identify, ubiquitous and a key player in every facet of your overall marketing strategy?
  • Will your hook translate well across multiple platforms and media spaces?

2. Mix the mediums

Social is not the end-all, be-all of marketing. Part of the key to the success of Kutcher’s company is that they are integrating content across multiple platforms, and seeding projects in television, movies and the Web.

Are you thinking outside of the social media box, too?

  • Are you creating marketing content that is snackable, portable and customizable across a range of platforms?
  • Are all your marketing channels designed to work together symbiotically?
  • Are you keeping an eye on emerging technologies so you can be the first to identify the new places where your clients or customers might want to play?

3. Pretty it up

Yeah, Kutcher’s good looks are doing him some favors in his race to “mogul-ness.” But, “be hotter” isn’t a real practical strategy for the rest of us to pursue. Perhaps a more tangible lesson we can learn from this former model is that working your looks is just as important as having them.

Is your company ready for its close-up?

  • Do you have a consistent and appealing visual identity across all your marketing platforms and spaces?
  • How is that headshot of yours holding up? (Is it reinforcing your brand, or is it just a so-so pic you shot with your laptop cam?)
  • Are you striking some awesome, “blue steel” marketing “poses” via your podcasts, video and writing?

4. Keep an eye on the Benjamins

Kutcher knows Hollywood, and he’s cannibalizing that world to build his new business model. One lesson we can learn from him (and that world), is that everything costs money. (In Hollywood, it takes a village to raise a celebrity…and all those villagers need to get paid.)

Are you ready to capitalize on your new media investments?

  • Are you approaching your contacts and pitching unique marketing partnerships where you can share the work and the wealth?
  • Do you have clear strategies in place for ensuring that the content you give away will come back to you as revenue down the road?
  • Have you identified some companies who are doing this well? Are you tracking their every move and taking copious notes?

5. Enjoy yourself

For all we know, Ashton Kutcher could be reading Ayn Rand books in his spare time. But in public, the AK brand is all about having fun. And you know what? People loooove to have fun, and they are attracted to other people having fun. Marketing doesn’t get any more simple than that.

Are you having any fun?

  • Do people enjoy reading/watching/listening to your marketing? (Um…do you?) Is it interesting? Provocative? Funny?
  • Are you enthusiastic about what you do? Are you letting that enthusiasm bleed into and invigorate your brand?
  • Are you remembering to break a few rules now and again?

Ultimately, Ashton is an anomaly…

So it doesn’t really matter if he’s the “first next-generation media mogul,” or not.

Really, the more interesting question is…

…who will be the second?




The Top Five Essentials for a Successful Company Twitterfeed.

November 4, 2009

It’s started.

Companies everywhere seem to have received the “We gotta be on Twitter!” memo and are swarming to the application to fire up a feed.

But does anyone care?

Since I’m a “heavy tweeter” and follow a lot of people, I seem to be on the radar of many of these corporate feeds.

The number of corporate followers I get seems to double each week. While the amount of time I have to vet each follower is growing smaller.

As result, I’ve developed a Twitter litmus test to help me decide which companies I should follow back.

Corporate marketers? Take note:

1. Is Your Company’s Twitter Profile Complete?

Your Twitter profile is your company’s online business card. Make it an effective one.

  • Include a picture. It’s O.K. if that picture is your company’s logo. Just make sure it’s a version of the logo that looks good on multiple color backgrounds. I view my Twitter stream in Tweetdeck against a black background. If you use a gray logo with a transparent background as your avatar, I will literally never see your tweets going by.
  • Tell us where you’re located. I make it a point to follow local companies. Leave off your locale and you could be missing the opportunity to transfer the Twitter conversation to a face-to-face forum.
  • Write a keyword-rich, informative company description. Don’t waste this valuable (and searchable) real estate with dippy slogans like, “We work hard, but have fun too!” or obtuse mission statements like,  “Creating authentic experiences for consumers.” I want to know, in a glance, what you do and if it’s relevant to my business.
  • Include a URL. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a link to your corporate website. But it does have to be a link to a location that will provide me with more detailed information on what it is that your company does.

2. Does Your Twitter Profile Show Your Company Having Conversations with Actual People?

When I’m vetting a company, the Twitter profile page is an invaluable research tool.

  • Do you have hundreds of followers, but follow none of your clients or customers back? (My first impression? You don’t seem like a very nice person to do business with.)
  • Do you follow a ton of people, but have no followers in return? (My first impression? You probably post some pretty boring tweets.)
  • Is your feed full of posts, but includes no @ replies? (My first impression? You like to talk…just not to us.)
  • Is your feed full of @ replies, but no posts? (My first impression? You don’t have much to say, so you use gratuitous, “Me too!” and “LOL” comments to make your company appear “engaged.”)
  • Is your feed full of retweets? (My first impression? You have nothing original to say, so you repeat others’ tweets so you can appear relevant in the space.)

3. Is There a Sense of Human Voice in Your Twitterfeed’s Content?

Nearly all the companies that I see jumping on the Twitter bandwagon are under the mistaken impression that it’s the world’s cheapest and fastest broadcast medium.

Couldn’t be further from the truth, my friends.

If I want to know all about your company’s news and hear how awesome you are, I will go look at your website. If I want to engage with you and learn more about why your business may be relevant to mine, I will go to Twitter.

You need to have something interesting to share with me when I arrive.

You wouldn’t just walk around a cocktail party distributing promotional flyers and call that effective networking. Treat your twitterfeed the same way.

Ask questions. Be helpful. Throw your two cents into conversations. And most importantly, give me a sense that there’s a person behind the Twitter curtain.

I don’t care if that person works in marketing, PR, or the C-suite. I just need to know that they are a human.

4. Does Your Company Use Twitter to “Sell” or to “Brand?”

What is your social media content strategy? If you don’t have one, don’t be surprised if you don’t see a big return on your Twitter investment.

Write your tweets so they sound like the sponsorship messages you hear on public radio, not the ads you hear on a Clear Channel station.

Go ahead and mention your company. Share with us what you do and how you feel about the work, (Feelings? In business communications? Why yes!) and ask people questions about their businesses in return.

Structure your content so that the process of sharing and “telling” your story also serves as the “selling” of your company.

5. Does Your Company Respond to Followers and Follow Backs in a Genuine Manner?

I met a really great business contact recently and had some lovely face-to-face discussions with him. Shortly thereafter, I looked him up on Twitter and started following his company (he manages their feed).

In response to my follow, I received an auto-generated direct message with a generic “thanks for the follow” and an offer for me to download “an exclusive whitepaper which could help me double my follower count overnight!

Needless to say, this person is no longer one of my business contacts.

If I meet you, and you know my name, but you treat me like an anonymous cog when you reach out to me through social media channels, I will treat your business like an anonymous cog in return.

Treat your clients and customers like you’ve had a dirty one-night stand with them, and you’ll see a whole other side of Twitter’s power – a side that has the ability to break your company’s reputation just as easily as make it.


Building a social media list starts with using the right tools

February 20, 2009

For years, PR professionals have relied on a variety of helpful tools to build media lists for clients. The coveted list, then, consists of traditional print editors and reporters, to whom the diligent PR pro will send press releases and pitches, hoping the process will result in great coverage for the client.

Enter online publications, eZines, eNewsletters and blogs. The content is changing, and so must the “media list.” It’s time to expand the toolbox.

If you haven’t already, you’ll want to think about stocking your toolbox with these basic tools:

RSS feeds of online publications and blogs.

The vast majority of print publications are publishing some sort of online content. Take a look at how online versions differs from print, and see who is responsible for the content. If they have a blog, subscribe to the RSS feed and read it often.

Media coverage alerts.

PR pros are notorious for tracking down every last bit of media coverage that mentions their client, but how actively are you monitoring mentions of your clients’ competition or the industry as a whole? There are so many free tools that make this process very simple – there’s really no good reason not to use them. For starters, set up keywords in Google Alerts and TweetBeep. If you’re looking for more options, subscription-based services like Radian 6, or if you’re a customer of Vocus, Cision or PRNewswire, check out options for adding online keywords to your current monitoring subscriptions.

Twitter.

If you got an invitation to join hundreds of reporters and editors at a big dinner party, with the promise that you could have some one-on-one face time with whomever you choose, would you accept? If so, tell me you’re on Twitter, right? Now, I’m not saying to use Twitter as a delivery mechanism for your press releases or pitches (maybe I’ll cover that in a future post) but Twitter can be very valuable tool for getting to know the reporters you may want to pitch. You’ll soon find that you’re saying to yourself things like, “Wow, Joe’s getting on a plane for China this week; probably not a good time to give him a call.” Or, “I didn’t know Jane also blogged about knitting! I should see if she’d be interested in talking with my client who is launching a Web site with pattern downloads.” Heck, like at a dinner party, you may find yourself in conversation with a reporter about family, industry trends, or personal pet peeves – it’s all about building the relationship. And, the next time Jane is writing about your client’s gadgets, she’s going to remember you.

How do you find these folks on Twitter, you ask? First, take a look at existing compilations. Whether you want to admit it or not, social media has been around for a while, and some generous pros like Sara Evans (@PRsarahevans) have started the work for us. Check out her MediaOnTwitter wikki.

Social media networks.

Profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn also may lend helpful glimpses into an editor or reporter’s interests and preferences, and if they have open security settings, go ahead and take a look, but I don’t suggest “friending” or “linking” unless you’ve really built a strong relationship.

After immersing yourself in all of this online content for a while, narrow down the key players. Attempting to reach everyone online could very well drive you insane. Identify the blogs that generate fresh content, have a dedicated readership or that spark insightful comments (these posts often become story leads for traditional journalists). Make a note of the Web sites that accept submissions, guest blog posts or bylined articles. Keep track or your interactions on Twitter and the bloggers/reporters who seem most approachable and interested in your subject matter.

Now, you’ll want to add some names to your media list. Check to make sure your database is ready for new media contacts. For instance, is your intern still tracking down mailing addresses and fax numbers? When’s the last time you mailed or faxed anything? Consider updating your fields to contain things like twitter ID, blog URL, LinkedIn Profile, Faceook URL, etc.

So – open up the toolbox, toss out anything that’s broken, adjust those that need a tweek, and start stocking up on some of these tools!