20 January 2021
Author: Daniel Lally
Reputation management is key to defending the brand you’ve worked so hard to build. The most visible aspect of reputation management is how customers see you respond to negative reviews and comments. Responding to negative online reviews is one of the more nuanced and, at times, nerve-racking challenges of a successful social media program. Your brand, whether you’re selling confections or construction equipment, ultimately serves customers. Customers are people. And sometimes people are disappointed, unreasonable or just want to get some attention for being the squeaky wheel. It comes with the territory. In fact, online reputation management was one of the greatest obstacles to traditional companies adopting branded social media as much as a dozen years ago. One high-profile CEO with an expression of horror asked me, “You mean anybody can say anything they want, even if it makes us look bad?!” As reassuringly as I could, I told her, “Yes. They can. And they will.” Fast forward a few years and having a social media presence is not an option anymore. Even if you don’t own a smartphone or have an Instagram account, your customers do. And platforms like Google, Yelp and TripAdvisor are incentivizing them to share their opinions. If you’re not engaged in reputation management, somebody will do it for you. Accepting the inevitability of negative online reviews is a great first step in preparing to respond to Google reviews, Yelp comments or Facebook and Twitter posts that may be less than admiring of your product, service or brand. Over the past few years, some brands even have become quite popular for their skill at online reputation management, with some even clapping back at online detractors. Local bars and restaurants have taken to displaying some of their more outrageous reviews ironically as a way to demonstrate their bona fides. Even well-known national brands have gotten into the act. Wendy’s Twitter account, for example, has developed an enthusiastic following for their funny and sometimes brutal roasts in response to unfair attacks. This works for these brands because it’s both in keeping with their brand character AND they have the talent and resources—especially time—to commit to responding. In general, unless you have a very specific clientele that is attracted to wit and snark, it’s not usually a good idea for your reputation management effort to include aggressive banter with dissatisfied customers. Some are trolls, yes, and while it’s tempting, it’s never a great idea to feed them. The most successful brands in the social space respond to negative online reviews and comments with sincere empathy. They demonstrate a genuine concern for consumers while making it clear to their customers and others who may be following along that a single bad experience is not typical and not acceptable. How do smart brands approach online reputation management? The most important best practice is to respond to all negative reviews. Responding will, all by itself, earn you credit in the community. Imagine you’re out there in the real world and somebody is making a complaint to the manager at some business you patronize. You may have no idea whether the customer is right in the case or not. You may even be inclined to feel that the complaints are valid. But as an experienced consumer, you also know that even in the best run organizations, there can be mistakes and disappointments. Demonstrating your openness to listening to your customers and responding to their comments—positive or negative—builds trust in your brand. Take the detailed discussion offline. More than anything, people who post negative online reviews usually just want to be heard. They were looking forward to a pleasant experience and something went wrong. They’re disappointed. Hear them out, but not in the public space of an online back-and-forth if it’s at all possible. Invite them to send a direct message with details and their contact information. Or, offer them a dedicated email address or phone number to open up a personal exchange. Most important, respond quickly. Online and social media interactions are conversations and your brand needs to be present to hold up your end of the dialogue. That means devoting enough resources so that your reputation management team can monitor and quickly respond to questions or comments, positive and negative. It’s OK to say you’re sorry, even if it’s not your fault. Assume best intentions on the part of negative reviewers. At least until demonstrated otherwise. Maybe they were just expecting something else. Maybe they have your place confused with another business. Showing sympathy for the misunderstanding shows a commitment to service and can only enhance your brand reputation. For a customizable toolkit for responding to negative online reviews, subscribe to our email list!
15 November 2020
As a designer, you know the phrase, “make it pretty,” all too well. You’re often asked to work your magic on a variety of projects—and it’s not always limited to websites or brochures. In fact, sometimes things are a bit more … shall we say … environmental. Take vehicle wraps, for example. These moving billboards are a creative way to get your advertisement in front of eyes you otherwise wouldn’t get if it was static. But developing an eye-catching wrap takes some Photoshop skills—lucky for you, we’re breaking down the steps to create your own, compliments of Cincinnati’s very own beloved hippo, Fiona. And, while you may not need a Fiona vehicle wrap necessarily, we’ve outlined the steps so you can practice in Photoshop and swap the images for your own needs. Let’s get started—and enjoy some Photoshop tips along the way! Step 1 Make a 37.5″x 16.5″ comp at 300 dpi (you can get those measurements going off of vehicle blueprint size). We can’t build to scale since our source assets aren’t large enough, but you want the aspect ratio to be similar to the car. It doesn’t have to be perfect—just close. Since you’ll ultimately be printing the wrap, make sure it’s in the CMYK color space. Step 2 Next, add water. It needs to be longer than the photo is. Let’s duplicate it and Edit > Flip Horizontally. Then, line them up. This should make the seam seamless. Trim the transparent pixels via Layer > Trim. Save your water out as a .PSD. Step 3 Find a hippo picture and cut it out with the pen tool. Once you close the path, go to the pen toolbar at the top and Make > Selection. Then, click on the layer mask button to “cut out” the hippo. Trim the transparent pixels via Layer > Trim. Save your hippo as a .PSD. Photoshop Tip: Use Layer Masks Layer masks allow you to show or not show parts of a layer using white or black luma mattes. Simple way to remember: black = don’t show; white = show. The key capability of layer mattes is to be able to work non-destructively (i.e. you can revert any part of composing your scene). Using the eraser tool for example is “destructive”; it can’t be targeted or reverted easily. You can use layer masks on practically any layer—smart objects, linked smart objects, folders and even raster layers. The functionality of adjustment layers and smart filters include a layer mask for you to dictate where you want an adjustment or filter to happen. Step 4 Bring your hippo .PSD in as a linked object (File > Place Linked). Put it where you think you want it in relation to the car and save. Photoshop Tip: Linked Smart Object A linked smart object lets Photoshop reference an externally-hosted asset. It’s great if you need to use an asset in multiple projects or multiple times in a project without having to try and recreate it over and over again. Do your art up and save it out. Then, in your master composition, select File > Place Linked. You can also make an existing smart object into a linked object by right-clicking on the smart object and selecting “Convert to Linked.” Step 5 Next, go to the car template and File > Place Linked your underwater scene with Fiona—now you can see where the image is landing in relation to the car. Double-click on the linked underwater Fiona layer to open it as a .PSD tab. Now, adjust the hippo. Save and repeat until Fiona is where you want her. Step 6 This part is important: We need to make it look like Fiona is underwater. To make the hippo’s head look like it is above water, create a new layer mask and then select it in the layers palette. Use an 1800-pixel feathered brush at 40% opacity to fully paint the Hippo’s body underwater. Then, use a brush with a hardness of 40% at 100% opacity and paint her head back in. Now for finishing touches … use that same brush at 90% opacity and paint the water edge back in around the neck. Step 7 The picture we chose is somewhat flat compared to the water. Let’s create a curves adjustment layer to crush the shadows and bring out the highlights (commonly referred to as an “S” curve). Photoshop Tip: Adjustment Layers When making color edits to your art like curves and levels, you want to use layer masks to do it non-destructively. Layer masks let you turn on/off, change in real-time and mask out many different changes to a layer(s) utilizing a built-in layer mask. Step 8 Ready to add some fishies? Cut fish out, save and place them into your underwater Fiona comp. Fish need some blue to match the water—so drop the opacity. To soften it up, add some Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Now duplicate the fish and change size and rotation for variation. Step 9 Place your logos as embedded smart objects so that you can resize easily without changing the quality. Photoshop Tip: Embedded Smart Objects Use an embedded smart object to scale and resize vector or raster art without changing quality. You can also work smarter by editing your assets inside the embedded smart object and then saving it—then it will update in your main composition: right click > convert to smart object. Smart objects will also allow you to apply Filters to layer(s). Step 10 Yay! We’ve all been there—you get stuck in a creative rut and don’t know how to dig out. Sometimes it just takes getting out of your comfort zone, trying something new and putting your skills to the test. Whether it’s trying out a Photoshop tip from the post above or diving deep into the vehicle wrap step-by-step, practicing your craft will only make you that much better … and allow for more creativity in the future. If you find yourself needing a hand with any kind of design work or your own vehicle wrap, St. Gregory is here to help. Reach out to us today to schedule a free consult.
06 January 2020
There’s no denying that we live in a review culture now. Social media started it, and online retailers made it the norm. Often overlooked, this element of word-of-mouth marketing has become one of the most powerful drivers of sales, particularly in the “decision” phase of the buyer’s journey.
23 October 2019
The hand that rocks the cradle, they say … Our mothers’ opinions become ours from a young age and when we’re old enough to have our own opinions, we often still trust that mother knows best. Or, at least she sets the starting point. So, where do today’s Millennial moms go when they need an expert opinion in these hyper-connected days? Where they’ve always gone: Other moms. For millennial moms, using social media as a way to reach out to other moms is second nature. What’s different is that instead of having just a close-knit group of mom friends in the family or the neighborhood, there are now thousands of online groups moms can join based on geography, age, special needs, interests … you name it. Every day, these groups are filled with posts by members, seeking and offering up recommendations on the best service providers, baby products, family-friendly entertainment, travel destinations and more. Millennial moms are particularly likely to trust recommendations of other parents on social media. One survey cited in Forbes showed them significantly more inclined to online referrals than even their Gen X older siblings. And these Millennial Moms control a lot of spending power, with mothers making the purchase decisions in four out of every five dollars spent on household products and services. So, as marketers, how can we make sure these uber-consumers know (and share) the advantages of what we’re offering? We need to be part of their communities, both online and in real life. That means building relationships that foster dialogue, not shouting slogans. That means listening more than you speak. We start by identifying the influencers in the market and reaching out personally to offer them something of value in their own lives. This can be a sample for trial, an experience that they can share with their own network, or even an offer they can share with their online followers and offline communities. It’s important that these interactions are conversations, not monologues. Aside from the opportunity to tell the community about your latest offering or enhancement, it’s a great opportunity to learn more about your customer and their lives. Join their communities by participating in online conversations. Your company and your brand have access to experiences from other consumers and other families that members will find useful. And when it comes to your own product, there can be no better source for how it’s best used or enjoyed. Influencers have a responsibility to their audience. The community gives them a platform. In return, members of that community rely on them to test products, try services and to share information they can use to simplify their own lives. Companies and brands that become trusted members of the community – that contribute more than just self-promotion – are gaining an advantage in earning the business of this Millennial generation. And the next one.
04 September 2019
Amidst these days of digital dominance, it’s rare to find a business that doesn’t understand—and try to capitalize on—the importance of good SEO. In fact, you’ll find that most organizations, regardless of size, agree it’s among the most vital factors for long-term success. And yet there are still some that are missing the mark on having a solid SEO strategy in place. Some without a targeted plan at all. Others who’ve just let it slide a little (or a lot). There are countless experts and articles underlining the tactics, trends and tools that still matter—and more important, that still work. SEO is alive and well, so why would any business push it to the back burner? Or worse, ignore it or table it entirely? It’s a long-term strategy. SEO takes commitment, especially from key stakeholders within a company. When it comes to digital tactics, oftentimes the mindset is to simply deliver instant traffic and hit all the desired key performance indicators. *brushing off hands* “Mission accomplished,” they think. In reality, a strong digital media strategy is more complex than that. Of course, all the paid methods such as Facebook ads, Display and Search provide instant gratification. But the critical connection is the one between your SEO strategy and your marketing efforts—meaning, are they working in conjunction? There’s a wealth of keyword information to be had from just one search campaign … including deeper insight into which keywords are actually driving conversions. It lacks a tangible objective. Crazy as it sounds, there are businesses out there that don’t know what their goals are—or have trouble articulating them in a way that can be capitalized upon. Maybe those goals have changed. Just like with paid campaigns, a business needs to have clear KPIs attached to their SEO efforts. Think about what you want to accomplish from your SEO: Generate more organic leads? Increase the number of people reading your content? Create a better user experience? Secure higher placements? Once those details are identified, a clear SEO strategy can be crafted (or adjusted). It’s overwhelming. Many times, companies just don’t know where to start. They know their business objectives, but maybe not how to translate them into SEO objectives. Or an established business has an old SEO plan that doesn’t seem to be delivering the way it once did. Regardless of SEO experience or history, the best thing to do in these situations is to run a comprehensive SEO site audit. This in-depth assessment can uncover items that need to be addressed, added or fixed in order to ensure your site ranks well in a search—presumably, higher than it was before the audit. It can also improve your site’s overall user experience and increase conversions from other sources of traffic such as Google Ads or social media. Getting Started: The place to start often is with a site audit. Through this process, you and your team will identify opportunities to better align your online presence with your business objectives. Then you can track the metrics you’ll use to measure success. SEO is never a one-off project. It’s a continuing process of responding to your customer preferences and user behavior, and adjusting to changes in both the online and competitive environments.
05 August 2019
Ask most business owners who their customer is and they’ll likely point to demographic characteristics or the different types of media they consume to support their answer. While these data points always are important, they’re just that—data points—without a more intimate understanding of what drives your customer to make a purchase decision, and more important, when she or he is likely to make it. It’s true … we live in a brave new data-driven world that is stunningly (frighteningly?) easy for both ecommerce companies and mass retailers to collect granular details about shopper habits. Data that they can then use to generate insights on their customers’ habits and behavioral attributes. How do you compete with that technology if you’re in one of those businesses where you can’t obtain a deep customer profiles? Or simply don’t have access to that level of in-depth detail? We encounter this data disconnect particularly with consumer or in-home services brands. Accurate information is even harder to come by in categories where the sales cycle is longer or more considered, or when purchases are driven by a specific, perhaps acute, need. This is key—because if you don’t truly know who this customer is, if you’re not targeting the type of customer appropriate for your brand, you risk losing them to a competitor who is. So are these companies destined to be left behind in the data revolution? Not if they use data for what it does best, and trust themselves to continue doing what they’ve already proved they do best. While it’s not easy to create the perfect data model of your customers, there are still ways to better understand them. The right answers start with asking the right questions: • What problem is your customer trying to solve? • What other solutions have they considered (or will they consider)? • What information do they need before choosing? • Where do they get that information? • Do they do their own research, or do they rely on referrals from family, friends or social networks? • Do they simply follow the brand they perceive to be the market leader? • Which customers are selecting your competitors over you, and why are some leaving you altogether? By answering these questions, marketers in less data-rich categories can build a better understanding of their specific customers. Even better, that puts them in a position to target the right customer with the right message—at the right time.
17 February 2017
"Flow" is the mental state creative people when they feel like time flies by while they're effortlessly creating. And it's not just for artists. Interviews with engineers, scientists and even CEOs report that their most successful innovations have happened during a flow state. So how can companies set up their employees to make flow more
26 October 2015
04 June 2014