5 Ways to Add Voice Optimization to Your Digital Strategy

Here’s a love story brought to you by your favorite voice assistants.

“Alexa, find me the best first-date restaurants in my area."  

“Okay, Google, play a podcast that will tell me something about successful relationships.”

“Siri, what are the top honeymoon spots in Hawaii?”

This little romantic tale offers just one example of how pervasive voice-activated search and virtual assistants have become. They’re on our smart speakers, phones, tablets, and laptops. We ask them about everything from the weather, local business hours, and available parking to operating instructions, song titles, and trivia. Regardless of how you use yours, voice search is everywhere – and with their growing Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities, they’re becoming more accurate and omnipresent all the time. In 2022, 62% of Americans 18+ were using voice assistants, with more than half of them using the technology daily. And worldwide usage is expected to skyrocket to 8.4 billion. In other words, no matter what industry you’re in, it’s not enough to be Googleable. You need voice search optimization.

Don’t all searches use the same tech? Not exactly.

Voice searches do tap into standard search engines like Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go, and Yahoo. But they also use longer, often more complex conversational syntax. And, their algorithms try to glean the underlying meaning behind any given query.

Optimizing your digital presence for voice search results doesn't mean you have to completely redo your SEO strategy. On the contrary, voice search optimization efforts can help improve the way general search engines see your content, raising your position in all kinds of search results. That's why we've identified five key ways in which every business should engage in voice optimization.

  1. Use conversational keywords.
    Conversational keywords should feel authentic and natural – how people really talk — while still keeping an eye on spelling, grammar, and clarity. Consider using personal pronouns ("I," "you," "we," etc.) in your blog posts. And don't be afraid to be entertaining (maybe your opening lines might tell a little story ;~)). This less formal style will help your content feel more authentic and approachable. Equally important, it also will be interpreted as more relevant to voice queries.
  2. Use question keywords.
    Question keywords include “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “why,” and “how.” Use these question words on your web pages and follow them with quick, satisfying answers. FAQ pages are great for this. You can – and should – provide more detail further down on the page, but these quick-hit matches go a long way toward supporting voice searchability.
  3. Use Long-tail keywords.
    Long-tail keywords consist of three or more words, and they are necessary for voice search success because conversational queries are longer than most typed search engine queries. For instance, our voice searcher above says, “Play a podcast that will tell me something about successful relationships.” The same search on a standard search would simply be "relationship podcasts.” Make sure your SEO strategy and tactics allow for both approaches.
  4. Use schema markup.
    Schema markup is HTML code that helps search engines provide specific details about your business in their search results listings. We're talking about things like contact information, pricing, and reviews, as well as your address and business hours. Human visitors to your site will never see this code – but the indexing bots will, which helps search engines see your content as more relevant.
  5. If you have a brick-and-mortar business, think locally.
    Voice searches often include location-specific requests – so you want to make yours easy to find. That said, it's not enough to just set up Google, Yahoo, and other aggregator business profiles, which will include your address. Location-oriented voice requests often seek places according to local landmarks and major streets. So, consider including language like "Just off Main Street" and "Right near the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Be sure that both your website and any aggregate business pages include your hours of operation, too. After all, people will likely ask, "Find me a [TYPE OF BUSINESS] near me that’s open right now.”

Beyond these valuable voice search optimization enhancements, you should continue to pay attention to standard SEO best practices. Improve your page speed. Create SEO-friendly links. And create a great user experience.

If adding voice optimization to your SEO strategy feels overwhelming, we get it.

Whether you want to handle these efforts on your own, engage a professional partner like Relish Marketing, or share responsibility, we’re always eager to hear about your challenges, offer the benefit of our experience, and help you achieve the search results you need, both now and in the future.


target market research

Research Can Save Your Marketing From This Common Blind Spot

We see it all the time.

Many executives are so immersed in the day-to-day running of their organizations that they cannot see how other people perceive them.

It's a natural and very common blind spot. Most companies are founded because someone recognizes a need that isn’t being met, a solution that nobody else is providing. And at that point, the business and its executives know their target market very well. Over time, however, so many things can change – from market conditions and competitive pressures to technology and how people work and live. Most of these changes happen gradually. So, it’s hard to recognize when they may impact the target audience and how the target audience may change over time.

Denial of this blind spot can quickly lead to strategies and tactics built on suppositions and biases that may or may not align with reality. And that can shrivel brand awareness, market share, sales, and even talent attraction.

Research can reveal the big picture you need to see

When organizations develop beyond their beginnings, when the market landscape shifts, when customer needs evolve and any time the company wants to change its direction or messages, it’s easy to make assumptions about business implications. It can even seem reasonable to apply incomplete information (such as one or two people mentioning that they didn’t see your emailed newsletter) to published opinions (like an editorial about the success of one company’s texted newsletters) and believe this suggests that you should change your newsletter distribution to mobile texts – especially if the idea’s been ticking in your head for a while, anyway.

Your new idea could turn out to be successful. But if you base it more on a gut feeling than on viable data and trends, it’s just as likely, if not more so, that you could undercut progress. Equally important, if you don't measure new programs against measured benchmarks, you will have no idea how they perform. And poor performance will be more expensive than the costs of any research.

In other words, before you make big decisions about your brand direction, sales approach, marketing, and communications, you owe it to your business to inform your decisions with unbiased information and insights into your historical and current performance, as well as likely expectations for the future.

“Qualitative and quantitative research … can be a powerful combination. In many instances,  qualitative research identified unique brand perceptions that no one expected. Then, a follow-up survey validated higher than expected prevalence of this attitude among the broader target audience.”

Kip Creel, Principal
StandPoint, Atlanta Research Consultancy

What kind of research are we talking about?

There are basically two kinds of research – quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative research measures data or information that can be viewed as usable statistics. For instance, what percentage of our customers visit our website, what percentage use our mobile app, and what percentage prefer to call on the phone? Or, how common are certain views among our audience? These kinds of research studies are usually conducted via surveys and questionnaires, and require a representative sample size – that is, a relatively large number of respondents – to keep margins of error low.

Qualitative research seeks to understand perspectives and motivations. What makes our target audience think and act the way they do? How do they perceive our brand – and why? This type of research typically engages fewer respondents in a more in-depth setting, such as a focus group or one-on-one interview.

It is essential to design questions in a way that limits bias. For instance, you probably wouldn't ask, "On a scale of one through five, with one signifying 'somewhat' and five signifying 'completely,' how much do you love this product?" A better-worded question would be, “On a scale of one through five, with one signifying ‘I hate it,’ and five signifying ‘I love it,’ how do you feel about this product?”  Likewise, in both qualitative and quantitative research, it is important to always ask questions in the same way to avoid skewing responses in ways the respondent thinks the interviewer wants.

Sure, but how does it work in the real world?

Here at Relish Marketing, we recognize these two types of research as complementary, often coming together to reveal trends and provide the basis for insights. For instance, TEPHINET, the global network of field epidemiology training programs, was looking ahead to its 25th anniversary. The organization, which aims to ensure that every country in the world has the capacity needed to protect and promote the health of its population, had evolved significantly over its history. Especially as the global COVID-19 pandemic was shining a public light on the essential value of field epidemiology, TEPHINET’s leaders sought ways to increase awareness and improve engagement among key audiences.

Our three-pronged approach included:

  • Quantitative research, surveying approximately 300 field epidemiology training program students, graduates, and staff, as well as representatives of partner organizations and staff members. The research was aimed at evaluating current brand awareness and communications effectiveness to establish a baseline for annual improvement.
  • Qualitative research, involving 12 one-on-one, in-depth interviews of field epidemiology training program representatives, partners, and internal organization staff, who represented multiple geographic areas and roles. This research aimed to generate deeper visibility into perceptions of the organization and its communications approach, as well as challenges and opportunities for improvement.
  • A communications workshop with key stakeholders, during which we explored communications goals and messages in light of the research findings.

Together, the research and workshop informed both immediate and long-term creative and strategic communications recommendations, with key tactics supporting the insights and strategic goals identified in the study. Equally important, the workshop reinforced awareness of communications needs, challenges, and opportunities among critical stakeholders, encouraging their involvement and participation as new communications plans were rolled out.

Why guess and assume when you can know?

Above all, research provides a tremendous opportunity to gain visibility into the experiences and perspectives of key individuals – be they customers, partners, employees, or other stakeholders. Our clients have told us that having Relish conduct their research tends to yield the most open and authentic results possible since people may be more likely to share issues with a third party than the people they engage with on a day-to-day basis. Wherever you are in your communications journey, the path toward better marketing strategy and creative communications is almost always better paved with research.


Typography and brand identity

Five Questions About Typography: How Typography Makes a Strategic Difference to Communications

Creating typography seems simple enough. You choose an attractive font for your text, and you're done, right? Of course not. For experienced designers, typography is a powerful tool, influencing brand identity and personality, creating a sense of cohesion and continuity, drawing focus to specific areas of a page – the list goes on and on. So, we sat down with Creative Director Michael Palermo and Art Director Paul Marquardt to ask five questions about this essential design element.

  1. Give us a quick primer on what we mean when we talk about typography. Many people think that typography means typefaces and fonts. Talk a bit about why that’s only part of the picture.PAUL MARQUARDT: Typography encompasses much more than simply choosing a typeface. Within any given font set, you have specific ascenders and descenders, curves, angles, serifs – and they all come together to give the typeface a recognizable look. But typography also includes things like size and scale – how the typeface looks on, say, a business card versus how it looks on a brochure versus how it looks on a billboard. There's the question of weights – how light or bold a typeface might be in standard and italic applications.MICHAEL PALERMO: There are also ligatures – certain letter combinations that look best close together and are combined to form a single character. Typography is how you use those typefaces to communicate. That includes kerning, leading, justification, proportion, placement, and even color – all of which contribute to look, feel, and legibility, which is so important. It also includes the relationship of the type to other elements on the page. For instance, how you format the type and combine it with a graphic – as a caption, as an overlay, in a bold color or shade of grey – can make a big difference in how the typography supports the overall message.

    One common ligature
  1. What makes typography a powerful design element? What does it do for communications?MICHAEL: The primary goal of any communications component is to get a message across. Typography carries those messages because it’s a vehicle for copy. So, we make very deliberate choices about the best way for a given typeface to express the words we’re communicating. But typography can be a powerful tool outside of specific text. Every typeface has specific combinations of straight lines, curves, angles, and points, which can be design elements on their own – or they can suggest and align with other graphics.PAUL:  Different typefaces can evoke different kinds of energy, establishing personality and emotion. Likewise, type placement can draw focus to specific areas on a page or support ease of navigation on a screen.
  1. Let's talk about typography as part of brand identity. How does typography help define a brand?PAUL: The best-known brands have made certain typefaces iconic – think the script of Coca-Cola or the block letters in FedEx. Those typefaces are defining points for those brands.MICHAEL: The ability of typography to define a brand has evolved a lot. It started with sign painting and hand lettering. Now we have endless options, which can be great. But it also makes the process complicated.

    Font selection gives a unique emotional response.
  1. What are the top things you consider when choosing typography for a client or project?MICHAEL: It depends on the message we’re trying to communicate. Legibility is critical. But so is personality. It also depends on its application. Will this piece appear in print? On mobile devices? On the exterior of a building? How does the typeface underscore key messages? And which fonts will work better as headlines, subheads, body copy, and captions?PAUL: We also think about how a typeface will make people feel when they look at it. Even many simple typefaces can evoke an emotional response. You just have to make sure it's the response you want.
  1. With today’s tools – especially AI – anyone can be a “designer.” But of course, not everyone can be a good designer. What kinds of typography mistakes do you see untrained people make?PAUL: Where do we begin? I’ve seen a lot of people trying to fill up all the space with type – not allowing space to be its own graphic element.MICHAEL: I’ve seen attempts at creating “unique” letters by breaking apart a letter shape or inserting a shape into the type. Type design requires a very precise and technical balance between character shape, how the angles start and finish, and how they scale in weight. Breaking any one of those elements can destroy its integrity.PAUL: Unless you know what you’re doing.

    MICHAEL: Exactly. You have to be intentional about your choices. I recently saw an outdoor sign on a restaurant with an "Old English" font, and it was hard to see, let alone read. You have to think about legibility and visibility – as well as what the typeface does and doesn't evoke.

    PAUL: How about spacing between paragraphs? Inexperienced designers will use an extra return even though there are line and paragraph spacing tools that make the copy feel much more cohesive and consistent. It's like the way we still see overuse of full justification. Straight margins on both sides of a paragraph can look great – but if you rely on automatic settings, you get big spaces between words, excessive hyphenations, and letters unnaturally crunched together. With some manual care and attention, you can eliminate those awkward issues.

    MICHAEL: Overenthusiastic use of fonts is another big one. Just because you have thousands of fonts to choose from doesn’t mean you should try to use them all. You don't want to evoke ten moods in one piece.

Bonus Question: What else should people understand about typography that they often miss?

MICHAEL: We all have our personal preferences, but we have to think like the target audience. When you look at any design, you have to step back and consider how other people will see it – and see it for the first time. What jumps out? What's harder to notice?

PAUL: If you have infinite time for trial and error, you can learn how to make strong typography choices over time. But in business communications, you rarely have infinite time. That’s where professional design makes a difference. What you save in time and frustration is worth what you’ll spend in dollars.


Should Ted Lasso Refresh the AFC Richmond Brand?

A few months ago, we explored some fictional brands from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Arrested Development, and The Simpsons. The story was fun for us and popular among our followers, which inspired us to do it again. This time we’re looking at AFC Richmond, the team at the center of the Apple TV+ hit, Ted Lasso.

At first glance, the Richmond logo seems outdated, which may have actually been the designers' intent. The logo’s greyhound mascot – a breed known for speed and grace – is simply standing there, looking over his shoulder. It's an apt symbol for the team at the start of the series – once full of potential, but stuck in a rut and wondering why. That said, two and a half seasons later, the team wins matches and has been promoted to the Premier League. So, it could be a great time for a brand refresh, but –

"That's a big but. I don't like big buts, and I cannot lie."

— Right Wing Sam Obisanya, season 2, episode 10

At Relish Marketing, we recognize that the decision to update a brand hinges on more than aesthetics alone. For instance, a close look at the Richmond logo shows that the team is supposed to go back to 1897. Relish Creative Director Michael Palermo explains, “When you’ve got a team with that much history, fans will cling to tradition and reject any attempts to change it.” At the same time, Nike’s recent sponsorship of the fictitious team’s kit could open the door to a brand refresh. So, with that as our backdrop, Michael and I entertained the question of how we would respond if AFC Richmond Owner Rebecca Welton and Manager Ted Lasso came to us for advice.

“Same thing I’d say if Diane Sawyer asked me on a date. Yes, please.”

— Team manager, Ted Lasso, season 2, episode 1

After I finished fangirling over the idea of working with Ted and the team, we took our charge seriously. “We’re not rebranding a typical business,” Michael observed. “There will be emotions and investment in a longstanding, beloved brand. You won’t make everyone happy no matter what you do. So, the question is how to honor the past as you put a new foot forward.”

 “I shouldn’t bring an umbrella to a brainstorm.”

— Ted Lasso, season 2, episode 1

The ability to be open-minded is, of course, critical to refreshing a brand. It's also on-brand since Ted has infused the team with his characteristic open-minded, optimistic perspectives.

“We’re Richmond ‘til we die! We know we are, we’re sure we are, we’re Richmond ‘til we die!”

— Team fans chanting, every season in every episode with a game

A town full of loyal fans could be an asset or a detriment to a brand refresh. That’s why Michael would tell Ted and Rebecca, “Bring your fans into the process early. Listen to them – and pay attention to what they love. If they feel vested in the process, they're more likely to welcome its results.” He’d also caution, "Avoid the black hole of design-by-committee. Keep the focus on what makes the team the team.”

Michael agreed with my suggestion that reimagining the greyhound in motion could reflect both the team’s new vitality and its history. “Done right,” he says, “a greyhound with movement could add new energy while still respecting the brand's legacy."

“I think things come into our lives to help us get from one place to a better one.”

— Ted Lasso, season 2, episode 1

There’s no question that change can be daunting. But Ted gets it – persevering through thoughtful changes can help carry a brand forward to a better future. Or, as the team’s affable Director of Football Operations, Leslie Higgins, says in season 2, episode 5, “I suppose the best brand is just being yourself.”


April fools

Relish Marketing Announces Plan to Replace Team Members with AI

The Future is Here - Relish Marketing Goes All-In on AI
Attention all Relish Marketing fans and clients! We have some exciting news to share with you today. As part of our ongoing commitment to innovation and cutting-edge technology, we are thrilled to announce that we will be replacing all of our talented and hardworking team members with AI.

Say Goodbye to Human Errors and Workplace Drama
That's right, you heard it here first! No more human errors, no more workplace drama, and definitely no more need for coffee breaks or vacations. With our new AI team members, you can rest assured that your marketing campaigns will be executed flawlessly and without any emotional baggage.

The Power of AI - CreativityBot to the Rescue
Our AI-powered CreativityBot can generate hundreds of ad campaign ideas in seconds, all tailored to your specific needs and preferences. Whether you need a catchy tagline or a fresh design concept, our CreativityBot has got you covered.

Save Money, Save Time, Save Hassle
And the best part? Our AI team members come with a lifetime warranty, so you never have to worry about sick days, maternity leave, or retirement plans. Plus, they never ask for a raise or a promotion, so you can save all that money for yourself. Say goodbye to HR headaches and hello to a stress-free workplace with Relish Marketing's AI team members.

What Happens to Our Team Members?
We know that you may be wondering what will happen to our team members. Don't worry, we're not leaving them out in the cold! All of our human employees will be given a generous severance package and a robot buddy to take home with them. We know that our team members have contributed greatly to Relish Marketing's success, and we wish them all the best in their future endeavors. Who knows, they may even find their next job working alongside our new AI team members!

 

 

All in Jest


 

Happy April Fools’ Day!

We wouldn't dream of replacing our team with computers. It's true that Artificial Intelligence can offer some interesting benefits, and AI engines aren't going anywhere. But the advantages that Relish Marketing provides come specifically from our creative, insightful, and highly valued people. AI engines can acquire and process virtually any content based on what's already been done. But they struggle with humor. They don’t build meaningful relationships and partnerships. And the human brain is still better at innovation, interpretation, intuition and the creative leaps of logic that take us and our clients from “how it’s always been done” to powerful new strategies and fresh creativity.

In fact, the joke announcement above was written entirely by the ChatGPT AI engine, although it required some creative querying. You see, when I first asked the engine to write a Relish Marketing blog post announcing that the company is replacing all of its team members with AI, it refused, saying, “I'm sorry, but as an AI language model, it goes against my programming to create content that promotes or suggests any kind of harmful or unethical actions, such as replacing human employees with AI.”  So, I told it to write an April Fools post about the same topic. It refused again, instead recommending that we “wish readers a happy and lighthearted April Fools’ day." Finally, I told it to write a parody post, and after another disclaimer about the dangers of taking such things seriously, it wrote the fake announcement at the top of this page. Much as we wanted to edit it to make it better and even funnier, we kept it in its original form to illustrate our point.

While taking a break from our usual newsletter stories was fun, we realized that this is also a great time to ask a serious question: What do you want to see and hear from us? We'd love it if you'd take five minutes to tell us about it. After all, if AI can grow with machine learning, we want to grow with human learning – from our trusted clients, friends, and readers like you.


Messaging Platform

Why Messaging Matters (and All That Jazz)

Messaging is a big part of your brand.

When we talk about all the components of brand development, we often hear some version of, "We understand our company so well — why do we need messaging?" Indeed, most people who know their businesses well can write and talk about it — going on and on and on. And that's the problem. They can share everything there is to know about the company in 20 paragraphs or more. But they need to get the most important idea across in 15 words or less.

Let me put it another way. In the 2002 award-winning movie-musical Chicago, there's a scene in which murderess Roxie Hart is preparing for a press conference. She has all kinds of ideas about what she wants to say — but her lawyer, Billy Flynn, keeps telling her to repeatedly tell the reporters, “We both reached for the gun.” The reason? “We can only sell them one idea at a time.”

One idea? But we have so many!

Mr. Flynn gets it partially right. You can sell people multiple related ideas if your audience is primed and ready for them. This simple step is where many marketers, execs, and sales representatives go wrong. They assume their audience already understands the most important thing they should know about their business, product or service. For them, a complex web of ideas is easy to grasp because they live and breathe that content every day. So, they jump in, confidently spouting features and benefits. Then, they wonder why all that information doesn’t sink in.

Then, there’s this situation: You're engaged in a discussion with a customer or prospect who latches onto a peripheral train of thought. If you respond without an intentional effort to bring the conversation back to where you want it, you allow the other party to control your narrative. The focus of the engagement veers away from the main points you wanted to make. And sometimes, you get dragged so far out into the weeds that it's difficult to return to your original line of communication.

You’ve probably seen communications go supremely right, too. Regardless of the situation or audience, everything goes smoothly, and everyone understands, feels, and believes what they should about the company.

Messaging makes the difference.

The people in that last scenario don’t have superpowers. It’s possible that they got lucky. But more likely, they have a strong messaging platform and know how to use it.

A messaging platform starts with the most important thing anyone needs to know about your organization, product or service. And that number one thing has to be simple — ideally, only 10-15 words, uncomplicated by multiple supporting points (those come later). That top-line message doesn't have to be a tagline (although it can be). But it does have to finish the sentence, "If people walk away from any point of engagement with us knowing only one thing, it has to be ________."

If people understand that one thing, chances are they’ll wonder, “How do you do that?” or “What does that look like?” That’s when you can bring in those supporting points, which we refer to as "support pillars." These single words or short phrases identify discrete things that make your organization, product, or service unique and special.

 

Messaging Platform

 

Then, under each of those support pillars, you'll have proof points. These are pieces of essential content and information that reinforce each pillar. They can be as simple as key statistics or as complex as a case study. But each one enables you to demonstrate that you're not just claiming certain qualities — you can back them up with proof.

The advantages of a powerful messaging platform.

Even though a good messaging platform should fit on a single page, it isn’t the kind of thing you publish or share externally. Instead, you should think of the messaging platform as a communications guide and metric. For instance, as a guide, the platform can help you:

  • See how and where the key points you communicate reinforce one or more proof points, as well as the top-line message.
  • Inform all communications — formal, informal, electronic, on paper, and in-person.
  • Address any challenges or concerns while keeping the narrative from veering into the weeds.

Likewise, as a metric, your messaging platform should help you:

  • Maintain consistency across multiple communications media and situations.
  • Evaluate how well your communications help audiences focus on your top-line message.
  • Adjust communications when necessary to ensure alignment with your overall brand.

The development process is exciting – but that’s only the beginning.

The power of a great messaging platform is often apparent before the platform is ever put into use. Indeed, when we develop one for a client, we often conduct internal workshops, external interviews, and an in-depth review of written communications. The result is a compelling and revealing experience that delivers value in and of itself. However, businesses that stop at this point risk turning the platform into shelfware. That is, everyone looks at it, agrees that it captures the essence of the company, and then disappears onto a shelf.

The messaging platform shouldn’t function as a script that changes natural communications into something akin to a repeated recording. Even when the top-line and supporting messages are crisp and concise, you want them to feel natural. After all, different people communicate in different ways. And individuals express themselves differently in person, online, and in print material.

In other words, it takes training and practice to feel comfortable using the platform on a day-to-day basis. But, as the messaging platform becomes a natural support tool for your communications, remarkable results become possible. No matter how or where people engage with your company, they'll find consistency. They'll grasp the most crucial things they need to know about your business. They will be primed and ready to eagerly absorb everything you want to share. And that paves the way for you to improve the solutions you offer, strengthen relationships, drive sales and take your business forward.


Come Together: Collaborative Creativity Advice from The Beatles

When people talk about the most successful creative collaborations of all time, The Beatles almost always make the list. With 10 Grammys, 11 number one albums, and innovations that revolutionized rock music, it's no wonder musicians, historians, and fans alike have been seeking insights from Peter Jackson's multi-part documentary series, Get Back. In The New York Times, The City editor Jere Hester wrote about creativity lessons gleaned from the Fab Four. But, I couldn’t help but take away a master class in collaborative creativity – featuring these essential takeaways:

Say You Want a Revolution

At the start of a creative project, it’s easy to limit your ideas with constraints surrounding budget, biases, and worst of all, "the way it's always been done." When Paul McCartney cheerfully insisted that the group could write 14 new songs in two weeks to record them for a television show, George Harrison found the idea so impossible that he (temporarily) quit. Don’t be like George. With creative work, it’s always easier to start big and pare back than to start small and build up. And when you come up with the ideas that tickle your brain and make you think, “Oh… we can’t get away with THAT, can we?” pay attention.

All Together Now

When creative people work together, conflicts can happen. Even when you agree on great ideas, it’s easy to clash over how to bring them to life. And, when you’ve got multiple creative minds at odds with each other, frustrations can run high. At one point, the Beatles could hardly speak to one another, let alone be in the same room together. But in the documentary, we see them realize that they can still riff off each other’s ideas, playing and singing together. Remember that you’re a team of individuals with the same overall objectives. Even when you get frustrated with each other's style, personality, or other quirks, you can – and should – rely on each other’s talents to make the work better.

Picture Yourself in a Boat on a River…

Of course, the real world doesn’t have marmalade skies or girls with kaleidoscope eyes. But John Lennon and Paul McCartney made the dreamlike world of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” easy for the band to bring to life – and easy for any listener to envision. If you can sell fresh ideas to each other, you can bring them to life for external audiences, too.

Help! (I need somebody)

It's happened to all of us: You work together for so long that your ideas start to feel similar or stale. Don’t be afraid to mix things up with a new voice or two. When keyboardist Billy Preston joined The Beatles to record the rooftop sessions that ultimately became hits on the album, Let It Be, he revitalized the fraying dynamic between the bandmates. Yoko Ono added impromptu vocals. Ringo Starr stepped away from his drum set to write “Octopus’ Garden.” Maybe, it’s a new hire who isn’t even part of the official creative team. Or, you could bring in a “guest creative participant” for initial brainstorming. Either way, sometimes, a fresh perspective may be all you need to invigorate a tired process.

We Can Work it Out

In both times of joyful play and, later, frustrating conflict, The Beatles were always disciplined about the work. In Get Back, we see them honing lyrics and rethinking arrangements until they get them right. And this was intentional. Paul McCartney had two words for a lack of focus and work ethic: “Un-swinging. Unhip.” He’s right. When success feels distant, persistence and a shared commitment to your creative process can pull a struggling collaborative process forward.

The Long and Winding Road

Even as a group remains committed to the business at hand, conversations and attention spans can wander and brainstorms can take unexpected turns. Let them. Sometimes, the most exciting ideas come when the pressure of a specific task is broken by an offhand comment, an unusual connection, or even just something that makes everyone laugh. Other times, you can return to thoughts that didn't resonate the first time but whose merits you can’t ignore. It's great when a brilliant bolt of inspiration emerges, fully formed. But when it doesn't, you have to be willing to find brilliance in unexpected places.

Who’s Your Favorite Beatle?

A quick poll of our Relish team revealed a complete diversity of opinion. Pam Willoughby said that in her teen years, she liked John, but now she’s more interested in the underplayed but talented George, who is also the favorite of Michael Palermo and Leigh Flemister. Paul Marquardt recalls that as a kid, he gravitated toward Paul because their names were similar (“I thought of myself as Paul Marquardtney – maybe we were related somewhere!"). Noah Chen admitted to being a "Post-Beatles" listener but says he admires the solo work of John Lennon. Mia Johnson told us she didn’t have a favorite – that the band’s value was in what its members accomplished together. And me? As a serious kid, I was fascinated by George. But I've increasingly embraced the lighter side of things, which brought me back to Paul, and lately, the fun-loving Ringo.

In short, we’re as diverse as the Fab Four, which works with the lessons above to fuel our success together. How about you? We’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences, concerns, and questions about collaborative creativity – or even just your favorite Beatle or song. I’ve Got a Feeling we can Come Together with you to create Something spectacular.


communications authenticity

Five Things Authentic Communicators Have in Common

Everyone wants to come across as an authentic communicator. Authenticity generates trust and welcomes engagement. It encourages loyalty. And, it guides people along the sales journey, often improving sales. At the same time, authentic communications are harder than ever to create. In a world of Facebook groups, message boards, and public servers, consumers have so many ways to become immersed in the things that interest them – which means they are more savvy and aware than ever. They can spot insincerity, vagueness, and stretched truths in an instant.

As marketers and brand strategists, we’ve got to take the hint. When it comes to communicating about everything from our products and services to our value propositions and work environments, authenticity is essential. So, our Relish team set out to discover what differentiates authentic communicators from everyone else. And our findings identified five qualities of our clients whose communications consistently radiate authenticity.

  1. PASSION

If you’re bringing products or services to consumers, you better believe in their ability to improve the lives of others. If you don’t, your communications will feel fake, especially to consumers who may genuinely care about your product. The more knowledgeable and passionate they are about your industry or where it touches their business, the more they will want to see the same kind of passion in your communications.

For instance, when Mueller & Associates commissioned us to create a series of videos highlighting their services and culture, company President and Founder Brian Mueller was adamant about expressing an authentically passionate tone. Specifically, the videos would have to project the same confident, high-end experience that his successful, entrepreneurial clients enjoy when working with the firm.

  1. ENGAGEMENT

An informed audience can tell when you're faking it, talking at them instead of with them. That's why authentic communicators put themselves in the position of their customers and prospects.

"Mueller & Associates was built by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs," declares Brian Mueller at the start of one of his company's videos. It's a simple statement that immediately establishes a sense of connection and engagement. It also encourages clients to trust that Mueller will do the best possible work because they're all similar leaders engaged in similar efforts.

  1. LISTENING

When most people talk about communicating a brand, they think about how a company displays itself to its customers. However, anyone who’s ever had a partner can tell you that communication is a two-way street. And, in marketing as in life, getting to know your audience is just as valuable as getting them to know you.

Authentic communicators are as concerned about what their audiences have to say as they are about being heard. For example, marketers at the Lenbrook senior living community in Atlanta frequently talk to residents about what they like best about living there and where they see opportunities for improvement. These conversations generate insights that enable us to craft genuine, engaging marketing material for them.

  1. TRUE STORIES

If you want to stand out in 2022, find ways to show the human side of your organization. After all, as your customers interact more with your product and brand, it’s only natural that they want to know more about the people behind it.

Financial requests run the risk of seeming cold or cloying. However, when Relish worked with Columbia Theological Seminary to promote annual giving opportunities, we avoided those pitfalls by focusing on real-world stories. Throughout the copy, anecdotes showed how Columbia has impacted the lives of its students, graduates, and donors, conveying the myriad ways in which this vibrant, humanistic organization has made a tangible difference to many. The result was a meaningful connection between donor contributions and their lasting impact.

  1. CONCISE CLARITY

When you’re passionate about something, you can talk about it in great detail and with a high degree of accuracy. But, the most authentic communicators know how to draw audiences in with a clear, simple language that anyone can understand. Too many communicators make the mistake of sharing big chunks of knowledge all at once. This is the marketing equivalent of over-sharing in a personal conversation. The most authentic communicators communicate expertise while also leaving room for audiences to want more and engage further with the brand.

The days of casting a wide net are waning, if not already over. The key to flourishing in this new age is the ability to connect with passionate, knowledgeable, primarily digital communities whose members want more than sales pitches. Pursue that kind of connection, and you open the door to fresh, creative communication that rings true and pays off in the form of better customer relationships, loyalty, and sales.

If you want to catapult your company into the era of authentic communicators, give us a call. We would love to help your brand find its authentic voice.


Employee attraction, employee retention

The Employee Attraction/Retention Crisis:
Lessons Learned from Senior Living Successes

“Do people just not want to work?”

It’s a question high on the minds of many business leaders – particularly those in the healthcare, hospitality, and retail sectors, where public-facing jobs are more challenging than ever to fill and keep filled. People need to work. Jobs are available. So, what's the problem with employee attraction and retention? Is it an employer branding issue? Or something else entirely?

The initial challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic drove creative responses to workforce challenges – many of which addressed the untapped potential of virtual media. But, organizations whose business require in-person engagement with customers and co-workers can’t take advantage of Cloud-based capabilities. Combine that with everything from vaccine and mask-resistance to the additional challenges of compensating for an understaffed workforce, and it's easy to see: These businesses will need to identify and implement new workforce attraction and retention solutions.

The Senior Living Sector Shows How it's Done.

Fortunately, our research has identified trends led by innovative senior living and senior serving organizations changing how they’ve “always done things” to drive employee retention and attraction. Some of these changes are borderline revolutionary, while others are pretty simple:

  • Raise and equalize wages. Raising minimum wages to $15/hour is a good starting point to demonstrate good faith. And, as workers take on additional responsibilities to compensate for understaffed organizations, they should also earn extra compensation and bonuses for their loyalty.
  • Prioritize and improve benefits. Beyond basic healthcare, senior communities are gaining traction by expanding benefits such as adding vision and dental coverage, matching 401K contributions, and assuming a larger share of benefits expenses. Periodic rewards in the form of gift cards for groceries and other necessities are also highly appreciated by staff members.
  • Support and encourage growth. Communities that make it easy for team members to add new certifications and earn college degrees by providing tuition assistance are seeing improvements in employee retention. Additionally, short-term “microlearning” opportunities significantly improve staff confidence. And, programs geared toward improving relationships between employees, contractors, administrators, residents, and their families also help improve morale.
  • Help overcome biases. Programs and facilitated discussions with both staff and residents designed to acknowledge and address biases about age and race improve attitudes and engagement.
  • Welcome employee talents. While staff members must provide a consistent experience, job enthusiasm rises when management offers opportunities for staff to suggest and implement fresh ideas (e.g., making music videos with residents) or bring artistry to their work (e.g., making desserts that are as beautiful as they are tasty).
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. Whatever innovations you offer to your staff members, the keys to enthusiastic acceptance are framing your offerings in the context of their value. Communicate them clearly to build awareness, encourage adoption, and celebrate successes. Full disclosure: We at Relish Marketing can be a big help in this area – from strategic direction to creative ideas and implementation support.

Can it Work In Other Public-Facing Sectors? (Short answer: Yes)

Ultimately, these employee attraction and retention changes all come down to taking meaningful steps that demonstrate genuine understanding and appreciation. These steps all can be adapted and applied to many healthcare, hospitality, and retail organizations. Of course, everyone hopes that we are moving closer and closer to putting the pandemic behind us. However, the issues driving worker dissatisfaction and frustration in public-facing sectors offer an excellent opportunity for leaders to make changes that will improve talent attraction and retention for many years to come.


How Did They DO That? Medal-worthy Marketing at the Tokyo Olympics

One of the best things about summer (at least every four years) is the Olympic Games. Watching top athletes is part of it, of course. But the Olympics also provide a forum for strategic marketing communications that can be just as thrilling.

This year in Tokyo, some powerful athletic moments and compelling advertising came together in a commercial aired early in the games by Comcast. The ad, titled The Sportsmanship Effect, paid homage to how seeing elite athletes treat each other with kindness and respect motivates kids to do the same. The implication is that we’re inspiring a new generation to play to win without making enemies of their opponents. It’s so full of feel-good vibes that viewers might almost miss something else that makes this advertisement such an exceptional bit of storytelling. Almost.

Like many of the media giant’s Olympic commercials this year, the ad interspersed its imagery of kids with moments of powerful sportsmanship that viewers will have just seen – in some cases, only moments earlier. According to Comcast Senior Vice President of Brand Marketing Todd Arata, the goal is to make people wonder, "How did that happen? I literally just watched that!’”

Since Comcast owns NBCUniversal, which owns the Games' broadcast rights, the company has unprecedented logistical opportunities. Even so, this ad represents the kind of strategic and creative fusion that we're all about at Relish Marketing.