Why commenting on blogs might be your most effective D-I-Y PR task.

Blogger reviewing comments on her laptop

by Mike Bawden, President & CEO

I’m often asked what one thing a person can do to raise their visibility or the visibility of their brand. Usually, these questions are asked by people looking for free advice and I preface my comment by explaining my tip is worth everything they’re paying for it … but the tip is good and the advice valuable.

It’s just not always easy to follow.

That’s because the essence of good brand-building is engagement. And engagement takes work (a blend of time, patience, persistence and effort).

Engagement, on a brand level, requires those in charge of managing the brand to be informed, interested and willing to share their opinion (or take a stand) whenever the opportunity presents itself. Historically, those opportunities have been at trade events, community meetings and press tours. These were the places where you could build your professional network (and be seen doing so publicly), thereby enhancing both your personal and brand value in the process.

But now, more and more, those opportunities are online.

And here’s the crazy part … no matter your reputation in your respective field, you probably have not been invited to participate in those new conversations. You have to take matters into your own hands.

Battle of the Blogs

Journalists, experts, brands, policy makers, reviewers and just regular consumers, all write and publish online journals (blogs). Some folks are “citizen journalists” and publish on a regular basis. Most are not.

What are the “hot blogs” on a particular subject or in a particular industry? There are a few resources you can check (most notably Google, any one of about a dozen SEO/SEM databases and other sites, like Bloggeries).

Make a list of the names that seem to appear most often and then do yourself a favor: check out their relative web traffic (again, using a tool like Hypestat or SimilarWeb) and then identify a “prospect list” of blogs and bloggers to contact.

Thinking Strategically

When we talk about “engagement” on blog posts, we’re talking about more than just leaving a brief, canned comment with a link to your brand’s website or online product page. That’s the kind of behavior that gets you banned from websites as a “spammer.”

No, instead you need to make sure your comment on a blog post is relevant to the topic of the post. Remember, keeping your message “on target” shows respect to the blogger hosting the conversation and positions your brand as worthy of consideration by all who want to participate.

This means you need to follow some simple steps for commenting on a blog post in order to make sure it’s effective:

1. First, take some time out to actually read the post.

2. Then consider where the stated opinions in that post sit in relation to your brand.

3. Then write your post and include a link to a relevant page in your post (ideally a post you’ve written about the same or related topic).

4. Then read your comment a second time to make sure you don’t sound “overtly promotional” (which could get your comment bounced and you blacklisted).

5. Then click “post” and, if possible, tick the box that will send you notices via email if anyone responds.

Side Benefits

If you dedicate some time every day to this strategy, before long you will have posted hundreds of comments to dozens of blogs – all of which lead back to your website. Better yet, if you comments are relevant and thoughtful, it’s likely you’ll not only see an increase in traffic back to your site, you’ll start to see people trying to engage you there as well.

So why is all this worth the effort? Two reasons.

First, and foremost, sensible blog commenting can give you an opportunity to earn a little “shared spotlight” in places other than on your own website. By lending your voice to an active discussion – and possibly helping to inform that discussion in the process – you continue to build positive equity in your brand and enahnce your own reputation in the process.

Both of those things are good for business.

Secondly, after a month or two, you should see an impact in your website’s search results. The more backlinks that lead to your website from other websites, the more “authority” your website has in the eyes of earch engines like Google.

How Does this Benefit Creators and Small Businesses?

Large businesses and brands can afford to either build the talent to do this in-house or hire a marketing “expert” to handle it for them as a contractor. But small businesses, non-profit organizations and independent creators often don’t have the resources to do so.

That means serious consideration of the cost-benefit of this strategy needs to be given.

Blog commenting is an essential building block when it comes to estabishing a brand’s equity among those people who will matter most to its long-term survival and perceived value. Ignoring the importance of that can lead, in the long-term, to frustration and dozens of missed opportunities.

While regular blogging is an important part of the online marketing mix, sharing those thoughts and opinions through a regular, blog-commenting program is just as important. Brands and creators really shouldn’t consider taking up the former without making a decision to support the later.

Additional reading assignment

Finally, one last article I’d recommend reading is “How  To Find Bloggers In Your Industry – And Interact With Them!” by Oren Smith on the Precision Marketing blog. It’s an older article, but very practical and breaks this strategy down into bite-sized chunks.

Will COVID-19 give KFC the chance to drop its slogan and “do the right thing”?

by Mike Bawden, President & CEO

Late last month, venerable fast-food chain, KFC, announced it would temporarily drop “It’s Finger Lickin’ Good” slogan which it has used for the past six decades. The move comes as a company-wide response to the coronavirus health crisis. This made international news and was clearly calculated to garner the kind of press attention it did.

According to a KFC’s spokesperson, global chief marketing officer Catherine Tan-Gillespie, the plan is for the return of the slogan “when the time is right.”

“We find ourselves in a unique situation – having an iconic slogan that doesn’t quite fit in the current environment.”

According to an Associated Press story, KFC called its tagline “the most inappropriate slogan for 2020.” In fact, the finger-lickin’ slogan has caused concern since the pandemic began.

Complaints have flowed in to regulatory agencies – both in the US and abroad – because the slogan encouraged behavior that might increase the chances of COVID-19 spreading.

But while the slogan is dropped from ads, it still appears on the company’s packaging, restaurant signage and website.

This isn’t the first time KFC dropped the “finger lickin’ good” slogan. The company moved away from the tag line in the late 1990s but brought it back in 2008.

Fried Chicken and Racism

But does the latest decision by KFC give it an opportunity to reconsider their geriatric slogan in a whole new way?

This year, we’ve seen major brands abandoning iconic marks as a reaction to increased racial sensativities stemming from political movements like Black Lives Matter and social unrest following incidents of police brutality.

So I have to ask if “finger lickin’ good” suffer a similar fate?

In fact, the entire business of selling fried chicken and other fast foods we associate with the south is steeped in racial stereotypes. It may not be as overt as a Brooklyn, NY restaurant named “Obama Fried Chicken” – but fried chicken franchises seem to hold a special place in the world of culinary racism.

As SLATE points out in the referenced article, fried chicken invokes images of poverty, ignorance, sloth and other racist associations:

“… fried chicken dishes were popular in slave homes on Southern plantations. In many cases, chickens were the only livestock animals that slaves were permitted to raise on their own.”

That may be, in part, why I think KFC’s decision to suspend their cliche (and, yes, racially stereotypical) slogan for public health reasons may give it an opportunity to permanently move on. KFC needs to create another catchphrase that evokes the benefit (great taste) without the cultural baggage.

In 1991, the chain changed their brand from “Kentucky Fried Chicken” to “KFC” – the reasons for which make for a fascinating read on its own. So maybe all KFC really needs to do is just create an abreviated version of their old slogan?

From my perspective, the result could be something more appropriate for a year filled with cultural and natural disasters:

KFC … “It’s F’n Good.”

You’re welcome, Colonel.

KFC has over 22,000 outlets worldwide and is owned by Yum! Brands which also owns Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

Crafting a Brand

Marketing Education Diagram

by Mike Bawden, President & CEO

I’ve written quite a bit about how to create brand equity. But in reviewing all of those missives, I find I continue to come back to the one essential truth on which I’ve built my professional career:

“Brand equity is built through a series of promises made and promises kept.”

It’s that simple. Really.

It’s the same rule that applies to any relationship whether between parent and child, spouses, or employer and employee. Human beings tend to infuse life and meaning into everything they interact with, and that includes brands. So people really do have relationships with brands – and how those brands are handled by their stewards makes a difference in how much those relationships mean to the people who use them.

On Brand Crafting

So the first part of the process is easy to understand. It’s the “promise making” part. What we tell people. The images we evoke. The jingles. The jokes. The jeers.

Crafting a brand shouldn’t happen by accident. If you own and have responsibility for a brand, you need to be deliberate in how you position that brand and can clearly identify what kind of valuable contribution that brand brings to the people who matter most to it.

Think about it as having a “point of view” and a “proposition” for your brand.

This is your quest for “relevance” in the eyes of the customers, employees and partners you’re trying to form relationships with. If you can’t understand how or why your brand should matter to them, don’t even think of wasting money on the “shouting from the rooftops” part of this job.

For many brands, a “point of view” reflects the culture and values of the organization. It’s your approach to solving a problem, distilled down into a bottle, a service, a platform or a “mission” that drives your enterprise. Sometimes, a brand’s point of view doesn’t appeal to a prospective customer – and that’s okay. It’s all part of the social selection process people go through when they try to sift through the millions of messages and impressions that come at them relentlessly every day.

But you’re missing opportunities (and business) if the way you communicate your point of view is muddled in the messaging. Simply put, people will skip over messages delivered from a point of view they don’t understand.

You won’t even get a hearing, let alone a fair trial.

Once you’ve got a clear point of view on your brand, though, you’re work isn’t through. Understanding who you are and what you stand for is only part of the job. You need to do even more work getting to know and understand the people who are most important to your brand’s success: your customers, employees and business partners.

That takes time and effort (and usually money), but it can yield insights into the needs, aspirations, fears and concerns of those people with whom you want to do business.

And that’s a good thing.

You can use that information to identify opportunities where your interests and point of view overlaps with their needs and wants. With a little creative thought, you should be able to spot opportunities for making promises that will really mean something. Promises with real value.

Those are your brand’s propositions – and they need to be clearly and concisely explained, expertly packaged and delivered right to the people who need to hear them.