Blog Archives

For Your Editorial Calendar: March Engagement Themes PLUS Hashtags

Mark these events on your March editorial calendar — there’s lots to tweet here!  Folks are already tweeting about this content, so when appropriate, use these themes in your Facebook updates and blogs, tying to your branded content in ways that make sense.

Using popular themes and topics that people are talking about can help increase your Facebook Page’s Edge Rank, get more views for blog posts, and score more retweets.  Contact us if you’d like help you with your social media outreach.

Thursday, March 1: The National Park Service makes their highly anticipated Cherry Blossom “Bloom Watch” predictions today.  Follow them on Twitter @NatlParkService and use Hashtag: #blossompic or #bloomwatch

Saturday, March 3: The St. Patrick’s Day Parade takes place in Old Town Alexandria, VA today.  Lots of dogs, lots of step dancers, and LOTS of bag pipes!  King Street will be closed until 12 noon.  Follow the parade organizers, the Ballyshaners, on Facebook.

Thanks for following Fletcher Prince on Facebook

Friday, March 9: Today is the first day of the Washington Home and Garden Show, taking place at the Walter E. Washington Convention CenterFollow the organizers @HomeShows

Sunday, March 11: The St. Patrick’s Day Parade takes place in downtown DC today.  It’s a hoot!

Sunday, March 11: The 67 games of March Madness begin with Selection Sunday today.  Follow the official NCAA basketball Twitter account @marchmadness

Sunday, March 11: Daylight Savings Time begins — “Spring forward.”  This is a good time to remind people to change the batteries in their home smoke detectors.

Wednesday, March 15: Elephants, horses, cowboys, and clowns from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will parade through downtown DC near the National Mall this afternoon.  Follow @RinglingTweets on Twitter.

Thursday, March 15: The DC Ad Club presents the ADDY Awards tonight.  At this event, you’ll see a display of the best advertising examples in DC.  This is a good night for networking and maybe even finding an advertising agency for your business or nonprofit organization.  Follow @dcadclub – Hashtag: #DCADDYS

Friday, March 16: It’s my birthday!  Wish me a happy birthday on Twitter – follow @MaryFletchJones – Hashtag: #HBMaryFletcher (hey, why not? 😉 )

Saturday, March 17: It’s St. Patrick’s Day and everyone is Irish today.  Talk about how your business is going green while wearing green!  Video and photo opportunities abound today — post them on your company Facebook Page.

Tuesday, March 20: Today is the first day of the Cherry Blossom Festival, a very special time for DC.  The festival runs through April 27.  Follow the official Twitter account @CherryBlossFest and use Hashtag: #blossompic

Tuesday, March 20: Today is the first day of Spring.  Check out Free Digital Photos Net for free spring images for blog posts and Facebook Page updates.

Monday, March 26:  College students will be coming home for Spring Break soon.  Schedule interviews with potential summer interns to help you with your marketing efforts.

Tuesday, March 27: Network-and-Lunch at Teaism with Fletcher Prince.  The March event is sold out but please join us for the April event at Jaleo in Bethesda.  Follow @FletcherPrince and use Hashtag: #networkandlunch

Did you like this content?  Do me a favor and retweet and Google + it.  Thanks!

Your Marketing Strategy for 2012: A Calendar Full of Opportunities

2011 is winding down and it’s time to plan for 2012.  You can start by identifying important 2012 event dates for your marketing efforts.

Sometimes all you need to create an actionable plan are the right tools.  I like to use a large erasable wall calendar that shows the year at a glance, myself.

Marketing Calendar Templates

Here’s a monthly marketing calendar template to download.  Here’s another version:  marketing_calendar.  This marketing calendar is more detailed and in a spreadsheet format.

Fletcher Prince Helpers

Monthly marketing ideas will be featured throughout 2012 on the Fletcher Prince Blog.  We’ll publish ideas for creating marketing content that your company can produce and distribute online, via email, and in print.

As you plan now for 2012, be sure to add your company’s milestones, special events, and conferences.

Share your yearly marketing planning strategies in the comments.

Check out These Resources

I stand by my words, not your feelings

Mary Fletcher Jones

Today I received a call from Brigitte Johnson, PRSA-NCC President, about my recent commentary in Examiner.com suggesting changes for Thoth, based on my experience with the DC Ad Club’s ADDY awards.  The commentary also appeared on this blog.

First of all, I would like to present the two comments I have received on this article:

Excellent post Mary. It’s a yearly challenge figuring out which award competition (if any) makes sense to enter. This was a previous lunch crew topic, and you’ve done a great job vocalizing many of the concerns and question marks that came up in our discussions. Well done!

And this:

I agree with you completely – local judges with a vested interest in their work and those of others they work with, should not be the judges of awards competitions. The tendency towards bias is just to strong. My experience with the Thoth awards has been that it’s expensive, and we have entered work that literally built new brands and markets, and not even made it past the first cut. We were given the judges remarks, anonymously of course, which was useful.

But to me, the biggest problem with the Thoth awards is that everything has to be submitted on paper which seems completely archaic in today’s PR world. When your entire program was conducted online, how can you fairly judge work that is then printed out and put in a binder?

The Addy’s are prestigious and their judging is a much more sophisticated system. As for IABC, I have judged their national awards programs and found the judging to be systematic and very professional. Entrants can submit either on paper or electronically or both, which is a much better way to showcase work. IABC has a multi-tiered system as well. There is a first layer of judging that wades through all the submissions, and then there is another round to pick the winners with a second group of judges. I’ve seen judges opt out when they have a vested interest or bias against an organization submitting work.

I don’t know if I have an answer to your bigger question, but at this point, we’d rather satisfy clients than judges. There’s no better recommendation than someone you’ve done great work for.

I want to summarize the content of this call for three reasons: first I want to clarify any misinformation that may be alleged about my article and its claims.  Secondly, I like hearing other people’s opinions, but I don’t like getting calls like this one.  Thirdly, I want to again invite comments on my blog or my article.  If you have something to say, go public!

So, the purpose of the call to me was this: she wanted to express to me that there were inaccuracies in the article.

I was ready to listen to her.  I am not infallible.  I can be wrong about things.  I was curious to know what she had to say.  I also pointed out that anyone is welcome to comment on the article, or on my blog, and that I had contacted the Thoth chairs with questions prior to writing this article, but had not received responses to my questions.

Brigitte’s first issue had to do with my discussion of transparency in my article.  In comparing the competitions, I noted that the Ad Club identifies the judges.  The PRSA-NCC does not, nor does it state how the judges are selected, or which categories they judge.  I said that in comparison, that disclosure was not transparent.  I did not say: the PRSA-NCC was trying to hide something.  Brigitte thought I was insinuating that in my article.

Saying something is not disclosed is not the same as saying someone is trying to hide something.  I didn’t say that and I didn’t allege it.  I can only stand by what I write, not what others suppose I may be implying.  That is entirely subjective.  I don’t have any control of other people’s opinions.

If I’m going to say something, I will say it.  I don’t mince words or beat around the bush.

Which brings me to the next issue of impartiality. I stated that the PRSA-NCC way of judging the competition with local judges did not ensure impartiality in the same way the DC Ad Club competition, which is judged by non-local judges.  It would be hard to argue with that statement. She felt it was inaccurate.

I did not say the Thoth judges were partial.  I don’t have the information to make that claim, and frankly, I would be loathe to make a claim like that even if I knew for a fact they were.  I don’t have an issue with the Thoth competition as an entity.  I stated the system of judging could be improved, to ensure impartiality.

However, it would be truly hard to support the assertion that the PRSA-NCC way of selecting judges is truly better than the DC Ad Club way.  I think it would be really difficult to say it would be impossible for the judges to be partial with this current approach.  And that was my point.  As much as I support the PRSA-NCC, the chapter has to be open at least to the idea of discussion of improvements.  Personally, I don’t feel I could impartially judge entries from PRSA-NCC members myself, as much as I would try to, because I know so many members so very well. And if I won a Thoth award, and then discovered that two of the judges on the panel were my friends or clients — which in my case would not be a far stretch — I think I would always wonder (even just a little) if that had anything to do with it.  That’s why I don’t enter!

Why not just eliminate that worry and go with non-local judges?

I don’t have that worry with the DC Ad Club.  So I think it’s better.  I wish PRSA-NCC did it in a similar way.  Argue with that, if you will, but first support your opinion with why the PRSA-NCC way is in fact better.  Because so far, I don’t see it.

What was interesting is that she shared that in the past, some Thoth judges didn’t want to be identified publicly, because they were afraid of members contacting them, or walking up to them at the ceremony, and saying “Why didn’t I win?” I felt that only point only reinforced my suggestion of using non-local judges for the competition.  That only served to illustrate the possibility that using local judges may create a situation that is too close for comfort.

The third way my article was inaccurate, Brigitte wanted me to know, was in implying that the judges were, or had been in the past, unethical in some way.

I will confess, this is where I lost my temper with her, and asked her to stick to the statements made in my article.

I have not implied the judges were unethical.  I have not alleged it.  I have not stated it to be so.  And I do not believe it to be so.  No form of the word ethical is included in my article. I resent this very, very much.

All I can stand by are my own words.  I can’t control what someone else feels I am implying, especially if they are an interested party.  If anything, I am candid to a fault.  If I think something’s unethical, I will say so.  But I didn’t say it, I didn’t suggest it, and I didn’t write it, and again, I can’t control what she thinks of me.  I ask to be judged only on what I write.

The fourth issue where she said there was inaccuracy was my assertion that Thoth brought in revenues for the chapter.  Now, here, she might have a leg to stand on.  I’m not privy to chapter financials.  I’m willing to present that Thoth loses money, provided with that evidence.

But I did not claim Thoth makes or loses money.

I stated Thoth brings in revenues for the chapter.  The definition of revenues is income received from activities, services, or products, and the chapter charges for those entries.  I have also heard leaders in board meetings talk about the importance of bringing in revenues from Thoth entries.  It is inarguable that Thoth brings in revenues.

It is also indisputable that it costs 50% + more to enter Thoth than the ADDYs.  And in my opinion, the ADDYs delivers more value because it is a tiered competition, the work is judged by non-local notables in the field, and the winning entries are displayed, gallery-style, and publicized.  I believe that value is something PRSA-NCC and PRSA should emulate.

Hey, I knew I was going out on a limb with this one.  Politically, sure, it doesn’t make sense to voice your opinion about these kinds of things.  After all, some of the people involved with Thoth are my acquaintances and my friends.  They want to promote Thoth, and I want to promote Thoth, too.  I just want it to be better.  I knew it was possible they would get defensive, or take it personally, instead of recognizing that I am suggesting changes that would benefit all members.

So, I am open to criticism of my own opinions.  Just, please, support your own opinions with facts, as I have tried to do.

Try to keep an open mind about changes that may benefit the chapter.

And please! Take my words for what they are, and not what you imagine them to be.

Mary Fletcher Jones is a member of the PRSA-NCC and has volunteered for PRSA-NCC in past years.  She has also volunteered for the DC Ad Club and worked on the ADDY awards.

To Thoth…or Not?

Getting an award for your communications work is a real feather in your cap, second in value to your business, I would think, only to landing a great client recommendation or testimonial.

Area communications organizations know this, and capitalize on this.  The annual awards programs are major revenue-builders, as the leadership will readily admit.  That’s one reason why there are so many categories!  More entries, more chances to win, and more revenues.

That’s not to say awards programs are not valuable endeavors, even to those communicators who don’t win awards.  I enjoy the awards programs because I like to see what kinds of approaches are being used by communicators — when that observation is provided for.

Locally, DC communicators have a variety of awards from which to select — PRSA-NCC has the Thoth Awards, The DC Ad Club offers the ADDYs, and IABC-DC has the Silver Inkwell Awards.

Honestly, I don’t know much about the IABC-DC awards.  I’m not a member.  But I do know about the PRSA-NCC and DC Ad Club award programs.  I have worked to promote both in past years.

But I have only entered one of these competitions.  Can you guess which one?

Nope.  Not that one.

Although I identify primarily with the public relations community in the DC area, the awards competition I care about enough to enter is the ADDYs.

Why?  Well, for several reasons.  I thought I would take a look at that today, because I think the Thoth Awards can learn a thing or two from the ADDYs.  If the Thoth Awards were structured more like the ADDYs, I would enter my work. Until then, I think I’ll just observe and clap politely 🙂

Reason #1: Significance of Award

The Thoth Award is a great award to have.  But the ADDY Award carries more prestige, for this reason: once you win the DC-based Thoth, that’s it.  You do not go on to win regional or national recognition for your work.  The ADDYs, by contrast, are a tiered competition. DC area winners go on to compete in the regionals.  Regional winners go on to compete for the national awards.  Winning a national award is a big deal. Winning a DC-based competition, not so much.

I believe the PRSA should implement a tiered competition, as does the American Advertising Federation.  The current system is more than a little confusing, and not tied to the local chapters at all.  It would make for a more meaningful and exciting competition, and would also promote national standards of excellence for the profession.

Reason #2: Impartiality of Judges

The primary reason why I have not entered the Thoth competition is because of the way the judges are selected.  I am not alleging that the judges are prejudiced one way or another, and I appreciate the volunteer service of past judges.  I’m sure they strive to be as impartial as possible.  The problem is, the way the judges are selected for Thoth does not ensure impartiality in the way that the ADDYs do, and impartiality is a critical aspect of any awards competition, particularly a local one.

In a nutshell,

Thoth Awards: Local judges.  No transparency.

ADDY Awards: Non-local judges.  Full transparency.

The judges for the ADDYs are selected for their expertise in each category.  Many are known nationally for their work, and no judges within the Washington metropolitan area are included on the judging panel.  An effort is made to create diversity among the judges.  And, while it is a volunteer gig, their expenses are reimbursed, which is important for out-of-area travel and makes the impartial nature of the judging process feasible.  Also the names and backgrounds of the judges are released beforehand.  Walking into it, you know your work is going to be assessed by some pretty incredible folks.  Even if you don’t win, that carries value for the entrant.  But importantly, they’re evaluating the work.  Not you.

The Thoth Awards, by contrast, are judged by members of the PRSA-NCC, usually the prominent ones.  There are only about 1200 of us.  If you’re active in PRSA-NCC, chances are, you will personally know the judges, and they will know you, to some degree.  Possibly a higher degree of acquaintance than name only, if you have created work worthy of an entry.  Not that you know who they are, because the identities are not made public.  But they know who you are.  And just that fact, I think, makes it really hard for them to be impartial judges of the work.  They’re just too close to it.  Also there doesn’t seem to be any established way of selecting judges.  I know people volunteer and I know people are asked.  But what criteria is used?  They appear to be hand-selected by whoever is in charge of Thoth that year.  There is no clear criteria for judge selection for the Thoth awards (at least, none that is publicly available or disclosed) the way there is for the ADDY Awards.

The anonymous nature of Thoth judges presents a problem for many entrants.  You know your work will be judged by your peers, but you don’t know if those peers actually have any expertise for your category.  You’re not assured, for example, that they have experience in, or even an understanding of, the category they are judging.

Honestly, you don’t even know if the judges are entering the competition themselves that year.  (Of course, I don’t think they should, and I don’t think Thoth committee members should enter the competition for the year they serve, either.)  None of that is clear to the entrant.

These factors make their assessment difficult to value, as an entrant.

Reason #3: Presentation of the Work

As I mentioned, communications organizations load competitions with plenty of categories because awards programs generate big revenues.  It gets a bit challenging, actually, when it comes time to actually distribute all those awards on awards night.

Because space and time are at a premium for awards ceremonies, the Thoth Awards tend not to display the work in a way that is meaningful to the awards ceremony attendees.  So you can attend the Thoth Awards, either as an entrant or just as a spectator, and walk away with a bunch of names that evening, but no real demonstration of why their work was considered excellent.  You don’t know why they won.  The learning piece is not there. The award winners are not even displayed on the PRSA-NCC website.

The ADDY Awards, in comparison, is a whole different affair.  Visit the DC Ad Club website and you will see the winners, not just for the most recent year, but for several recent years.  Think what a marketing benefit that is for the award-winner!

But more importantly, display of the winning entries (at the various levels) is an integral part of the ADDYs.  There is ample time to peruse the gallery of entrants, both before and after the awards ceremony.  And during the ceremony, care is given to display the entries, as time allots (for example, videos are shown, and screen grabs of websites and logos are displayed).

Not only does this make for a more interesting evening, but you actually learn something about what constitutes excellence in this area, and for that category.

Reason #4: Cost of Entry

The cost of entering the Thoth Awards has not prevented me from entering.  What has discouraged me from entering is the judging approach.  But I think it’s worth pointing out the Thoth Awards is a pricey endeavor, in comparison to other awards programs.

This would prevent some firms from competing to the same degree as other, more well-heeled firms.  I imagine if you were submitting 10 entries, cost could be a factor.  And there is a marked difference in entry fees between the ADDYs and the Thoth Awards that I can’t see as justified.

Last year, a DC Ad Club member could enter the ADDYs for $100 per entry.  That is the one time fee.  The local winners would not have to resubmit entry fees to compete at the regional and national levels. That is included, if you win.

And let’s face it, the time to assemble the entry costs money, too.  With the ADDYs, you do that just once.

Contrast this to the PRSA-NCC’s Thoth awards.  Not a tiered competition.  Not flying in and hosting judges, like the ADDYs does.  Not renting a space sufficiently large to display award winning entries, like the ADDYs also does.

But in excess of 50% more expensive, per cost per entry: $160, for PRSA-NCC members. How is that justified?

So, thinking about entering the national PRSA Bronze Anvil or Silver Anvil competitions?  You’ll have to enter those competitions separately, and pay separately, too.  In addition to the time you’ll spend preparing your entry, get ready to write a check for $300 per entry for the Silver Anvil, or $175 for the Bronze. But don’t forget to tack on $25 extra if you pay your entry fee by check!

And, tough luck, there are no regional categories for the Bronze Anvil or Silver Anvil Awards.  Nor are there Student Awards (with suitable discounts), as there are for the ADDYs.

Should You Thoth?  Or Not?

The truth is, the Thoth Awards are not the only game in town.  Communicators do have options.  As much as I support the PRSA-NCC in other ways,  I think the awards program requires serious restructuring, from the top down.

It’s time for the PRSA to emulate the American Advertising Federation, and for its chapters to do likewise.

January 2011 marketing events and get-togethers in DC area

Did you resolve to market smart in 2011?  Me, too!  I plan to attend a number of marketing events in 2011.  Join me and learn new techniques and approaches, and find inspiration.  (The events in green are Fletcher Prince-sponsored events).

Check back each month for new event announcements, and send your event information to mary@fletcherprince.com

January

January 11

Need a once-over of your marketing plan?  Need some quick advice as you get started with social media?  If you are a Fletcher Prince Facebook Fan, you can join me for lunch to discuss your year’s marketing plan at Tuesday, January 11. Click here for details.

January 15

Interested in audio or video podcasting? The DC Podcaster Alliance is having their kick-off meeting for 2011 on Saturday, January 15 at 2:00 p.m.  This is a free group that meets almost monthly in Falls Church; friendly bunch of folks.

January 19

Got the night off on Wednesday, January 19?  Join Ad 2 DC and the DC Ad Club at CDIA-BU for a presentation on tips and tricks for being the best creative professional you can be.  Down the hall, you’ll find the folks from TIVA-DC talking about what it takes to win a video competition.

January 20

Then sign up to have lunch with Washington Women in Public Relations on January 20 to hear Shashi Bellamkonda speak on social media. I would love to have you sit with me at lunch!

January 26

Wednesday, January 26 is the first “Watercooler Wednesday” sponsored by Ad2DC and the DC Ad Club.  The networking event (geared toward younger advertising professionals, but all ages welcome) is free and is held each month at a different location.

The same night, the Social Media Club (DC chapter) is having a free event in Arlington about how social media and technology is used in the entertainment industry.  Starts at 6 p.m.

January 28

Have a drink with some amazing creative professionals in advertising who are traveling here to judge the DC ADDYs on Friday, January 28.  More details forthcoming from the DC Ad Club.

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