How Fixing Failed Payments Can Improve Customer Retention (INFOGRAPHIC)

Brian Wallace, Founder & President, NowSourcing

Most business owners know how much revenue is coming in at the top, but how many know the cost of failed payments? For subscription services, more than two thirds of businesses lose 17% of their profits to churn, often involuntary churn. The #1 cause of involuntary churn? Failed payments. The main causes of failed payments are, in order: insufficient funds, credit card limits, and credit card changes. 

One factor that increases the risk of failed payments is auto-renewal. 35% of subscriptions automatically renew, but auto-renewal increases the likelihood of failed payments by 47%. Many customers don’t know a payment failed until they lose service, so failed payments drive up customer service contacts, which 43% of businesses say drives up costs. If the customer service they receive is poor, said customer is unlikely to manually renew after a failed payment. 32% of people will stop doing business with a brand or company after just one bad experience, turning failed payments into a failure of customer retention. Seeing as 65% of a company’s business comes from existing customers, this could spell long term trouble for a company.

How can companies recover failed payments? One thing they shouldn’t do is send automated emails. Such forms of contact lack empathy, they put the onus on the customer to act, and they cannot replace traditional customer service. Only 15% of customers respond to emails prompting them to update payment information. Meanwhile, 69% of customers want to shop with retailers who offer consistent and quality customer service. 

Instead, companies should employ some combination of direct debit, which allows bank-to-bank transactions; digital wallets, which are more likely to be up-to-date and include backup payment methods; and a payment processor who accepts a wide variety of credit card brands. Reducing card declines can bring down payment failure rates to as low as 0.5%. That would be a 70% reduction in involuntary churn.

Other ways to prevent failed payments include employing an automated card updater, which checks card networks to update payment information behind the scenes, adding sophisticated retry logic capable of selecting the optimal time to rerun transactions based on error type, and integrating more personalization into the process, which allows human interaction to recover failed payments and boost customer loyalty.

It’s time for customer churn to stop costing US businesses $136 billion a year. It’s time to recover your company’s lost payments today with Gravy Solutions.

 

How Legendary Companies Make Money
Source: GravySolutions.io


Brian WallaceAbout the Author: Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian runs #LinkedInLocal events, hosts the Next Action Podcast, and has been named a Google Small Business Adviser for 2016-present. Follow Brian Wallace on LinkedIn as well as Twitter.




Looking For A Job When You Don’t Need One – The Passive Search

 

 

Marie Raperto, The Hiring Hub

Looking for a job when you don’t need one is extremely important. You want to be prepared if that ‘perfect’ job that you’ve always wanted turns up or, due to unforeseen events, your current job ends. While you don’t want to be overtly looking, here are some ways to be seen as a great candidate:

  1. Keep your resume up-to-date. You may not be sharing your resume but keeping it current is important. If you need it, you won’t have to delay sending it to someone and you won’t forget anything that you have done.
  2. Online profiles should be kept current also. This is where hiring managers and recruiters will find you.
  3. Networking is very important for your career. Building personal/business relationships can help in every step of your career.
  4. Stay active. Share and write content when possible. Posting on online sites will help demonstrate your knowledge of the field. You want to show that you are an expert in your field.

You never know, so be ready.




Creating a Marketing Strategy: Do’s and Don’ts

Samantha Higgins

It is important to have a good marketing strategy. It will help you achieve your business goals. But what is it, and how is it created? It is a business’s overall plan for reaching potential customers and turning them into active customers. It should contain the business’s brand message, what the business will deliver to its customers, and the target audience’s details. Creating it is not hard, but there are things that you should do and others that you should not do during the creation. Below is a discussion on these things.

Focus On The Needs Of Your Customers 

The golden rule in marketing is that customers’ needs matter. Therefore, when creating a marketing strategy, focus on the needs of your customers. Anyway, your aim should be to offer products or services that will fulfill these needs.

To identify these needs, you need to understand your customer’s pains, features, and preferences. Be specific when outlining these things in your marketing strategy. Facebook’s audience insights and Google analytics can help you get more information about your potential customers’ persona.

If these research tools do not help you, look at the marketing strategies that other companies are using. For instance, if you own an IT company, you can check some of the effective marketing strategies used by IT companies. The JumpFactor’s IT marketing strategy is one of the best strategies that will help you know more about the customers’ needs in the IT industry.

Choose an effective Positioning Strategy 

A positioning strategy will help you influence your potential customer’s perception of the products or services that you offer. It will help you build a good image of your business in the minds of these customers. It may focus on quality, speed, cost, or flexibility.

When deciding on positioning, think about the areas in which your company excels and beats your competitors. Identifying the weaknesses and strengths of your business will help you to identify these areas correctly. You should also consider the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and the needs of your customers.

If your products are low-priced, focus on cost positioning strategy when creating your marketing strategy. However, if you often change the products and services you offer based on your customers’ needs, focus on the flexibility positioning strategy.

Establish Goals Before Creating A Marketing Strategy 

It is no lie that some business owners create marketing strategies without stating their marketing goals. Doing this is wrong and will make you lose track when undertaking your marketing journey. To avoid this, establish your marketing goals before creating your marketing plan.

Your marketing goals should be specific, measurable, relevant, attainable, and time-bound. They should also be appreciable, modifiable, limited, and collaborative. Such goals will help you acquire and keep customers.

Your marketing goals will depend on the current state of your business. You can market your business to increase brand awareness or generate quality leads. Your goal can also be to increase the value of your customers or empower your employees.

Do Not Focus on Tactics, Instead Focus on Your Goals

You have probably come across business people who focus too much on tactics and forget about their marketing goals. For instance, you may hear them say that they need new websites. When you ask them why they need these websites, they do not have an answer. It is clear that they know that their websites are not effective, but they do not know why they need effective websites.

If you follow the same path as these business people, you will not achieve your marketing goals. Therefore, when creating a marketing strategy, focus on your marketing goals rather than focusing on particular tactics. Anyway, you will not have problems identifying the tactics that will help you when you already know your goals.

Do Not Target a Large Audience 

Many people think that they will get many customers when they create a marketing strategy that targets a large audience. Well, this is not always the case because marketplaces have become too differentiated. Potential customers are of different ages, gender, and their lifestyles are different.

Attempting to serve all these people will reward you nothing but failure. Therefore, you should identify a small target audience that you will serve and focus on it. You will not have a hard time managing such an audience.

A good marketing strategy will help your business achieve its goals. To create such a strategy, you need to identify a small target audience, understand your customers’ needs, and choose an effective positioning strategy. You should also focus on your business goals more than the tactics that can help you achieve these goals.


About the Author: Samantha Higgins is a professional writer with a passion for research, observation, and innovation. She is nurturing a growing family of twin boys in Portland, Oregon with her husband. She loves kayaking and reading creative non-fiction. 




5 Things You Must Do to Grow Your Small Business

Image Source: Pexels.com

Audrey Evans

Are you planning to open a small business? You need to stock up on a few very crucial items. These are the things that you will need to make your venture a success. They are very easy to acquire and even easier to make use of. Here are the 5 most important things that you must do in order to grow your small business into a dominant player.

1. Use the Latest Modern Business Software

The efficiency of your business will play a major part in helping it to become a success. You want to be sure that you have all of the latest modern software that can improve your productivity as well as your ultimate level of profit.

You will need to use software to handle such areas as accounting, security, keeping track of customer interactions, and a wide range of other activities. The more up-to-date you keep your software, the better. This is an area where change happens on a frequent basis. Keeping up to date will help you grow.

2. Make an Account on Google My Business

One of the best places to make an account for your business will be on Google My Business. This is a place where you can market in a big way to your local audience. It’s especially useful if you have an actual brick-and-mortar physical address. Even if you don’t, it’s still a great way to pick up local customers.

Google My Business allows you to literally place your business on the map. When people click on your listing, you can show them your contact info, a few photos, and a capsule description of what you can do for them. It’s a great way to connect with people in your local area whether or not you have an actual physical location.

3. Get Your Business on Social Media

Another absolute must will be to get your business on all of the major social media network pages. This includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and the like. If you can put up a page with descriptive content, photos, and videos, you need an account there. The more social media exposure you have, the faster you will grow.

Social media is the place where people can get all of the info they need to decide if they want to do business with you. It’s also a great place to hook their interest and then send them straight to your official website. You can also use your social media pages to interact directly with customers and answer all of their various questions.

4. Keep Your Cyber Security Up to Date

One of the most important things that you will need to do to keep your business up to date is keeping tabs on your cybersecurity. This is an area where you can benefit from the expert aid and counsel of a professional network monitoring and security service. This will keep you safe from hackers, phishers, and other cybercriminals.

5. Make Use of Modern CRM Software

Another area where you will need expert help is in the matter of customer relations. In order to grow your business in the proper manner, you’ll need to build a firm base of trust with the public. One of the best ways for your business to do so is to make use of the latest modern Customer Relations Management (CRM) software.

This is software that will cover a wide range of applications. It will keep track of customer requests, complaints, and every other level of interaction that you have with them. It can also be used to make plans for your next major sales or marketing campaign. It’s the info you will need to keep your credibility high with your public.

It’s Time to Grow Your Small Business

The life of your small business is now in its infancy. This means that the time is now for you to plan for your growth and expansion. You can do this by making sure that you have all of the elements that you will need to make your business a success. The sooner you gather these elements, the sooner you can begin to grow.

 




Measurement is Everything

Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR

Whatever the industry may be, whether it’s baking, construction, clothing, digital PR, airlines or sports, accurate measurement makes all the difference. Whether it’s a delectable cake, perfect bay window, tailored apparel, an on-time arrival, or a first down, measurement can create a champion or an also-ran. So why should marketing be any different?

As Alexei Orlov of MTM notes, “Measuring content and strategically acting on the results can also spell the difference between success or failure.

How to Maximize the Value of Forward-Looking PR MeasurementA study conducted this February by Ascend2 and Research Partners sought to learn more about what marketers were using and doing with content marketing. Nearly half (46%) of the 318 marketers polled reported having major challenges measuring their content. The reasons cited were the lack of a budget and/or other inadequate resources, the top challenge out of a total of eight that were identified.

Determining ROI was the second major challenge named by 44% of respondents. The next four were the lack of sufficient data (39%), the absence of a unified strategy (28%), an inadequate attribution model (24%), and the need for a unified dashboard (22%).

Marketers know that what’s critical to optimization is the ability to assess the proficiency and success of a content strategy. Yet, an overwhelming majority said it was either extremely or moderately difficult to measure the performance of their content marketing. 71% of those polled indicated this.

The results contradict the 9% who admitted they were unsuccessful. Was it luck or happenstance that 91% reported their efforts at measuring content performance as being somewhat successful? Of that number, only 26% said they were very successful or the best in class.

What can marketers who aren’t among the leaders do to measure their content more effectively? Seven areas were identified. The top five were setting up a reliable strategy (55%), identifying the brand’s goals (40%), acquiring high functioning staff and resources (36%), better mapping of the customer journey (34%), and merging data (33%).

Having the right tools to do this work is important. Not surprisingly, 44% said analytics tools were most important to measure content marketing performance. Also thought to be important were CRM systems (37%), marketing automation tools (30%), and social sharing tools (29%). Dashboard, data visualization and SEO tools were next at 25%.

Four others made the important tool list. 22% cited a CMS system, followed by email service providers (18%), interactive content tools (14%), and ABM tools (6%). About 20% of the marketers revealed that they utilize six or more tools to measure content effectiveness.

What’s most important to track? Respondents tied at 44% on conversion rate and website traffic. Social media engagement was close behind at 43%, followed by email engagement (31%) and downloads (26%). Source/acquisition and search-related metrics tied at 26% trailed by paid campaign analytics (23%).

As indicated earlier, budget and ROI determination were the top two challenges marketers cited. This makes it imperative for marketers to tie revenue to their content marketing actions. Successfully demonstrating important connections will make it easier to justify a larger budget to do an even better job measuring results. Nearly half (48%) agreed on that important correlation.


Is the NFL Ready for Kaepernick’s Return? - Ronn TorossianAbout the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, and author of just released For Immediate Release, a leading PR book.  The book is available on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Immediate-Release-Deliver-Game-Changing-Relations/dp/1953295096/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr




Edelman Announces Major Leadership Changes: Promotes Russell Dubner & Lisa Osborne Ross

CommPRO Editorial Staff

Edelman has named Russell Dubner global vice chairman and chair of the Edelman Trust Institute and Lisa Osborne Ross CEO of Edelman’s U.S. operation.

In a new role for the firm, Dubner will lead three key planks of the firm’s global agenda: corporate development, encompassing M&A and venture investments, alliances and partnerships, and the newly formed Edelman Trust Institute. He will report to Richard Edelman, Edelman CEO. Dubner will chair the firm’s Global Investment and Innovation Committees, continue to lead DJE Holdings’ sector-specialist agencies, Revere, Salutem, Edifi and Edible, and retain a portfolio of key client relationships.

“Edelman’s post-Covid agenda will be marked by reinvention, focused investment and bold entrepreneurialism. This is the perfect moment to elevate Russell’s talents as an innovator, leader and natural investor,” said Edelman. “Russell will play a pivotal role in this transformative chapter for the firm as we leapfrog forward in data and analytics and advance trust as a key lever for businesses, brands and leaders.”

Dubner also will launch and oversee Edelman’s Trust Institute, a center for the study of trust and a learning laboratory for trust building between companies, institutions, brands and people. In this capacity, Dubner will oversee the evolution of Edelman’s suite of trust advisory and data service offerings.

“Edelman is poised to take an assertive and disruptive stance,” said Dubner. “We are on the move, and we will fuel our momentum with acquisitions, inventive partnerships, investments in talent and technology. I am hugely energized by the opportunity to redefine what it means to be a global communications agency and fully embrace our leadership mantle in trust.”

Dubner, who served as U.S. President and CEO for the past six years, has long been at the forefront of agency-shaping moves. He pushed the U.S. business into both advisory services for the C-suite and integrated marketing work for brands. Dubner directed moves into CommsTech, influencer marketing, performance and business marketing, as well as a reformulation of Edelman Financial. Under his tenure, Edelman was recognized by the Ad Age A-list for Creativity in 2019.

Dubner serves on the board of directors of SprintRay and The Center for an Urban Future. He is a member of YPO’s Gotham Chapter, a founding member of PTTOW, GenNext and on the advisory committee of CEO Action for Racial Equity.

Lisa Osborne Ross Named U.S. CEO of Edelman

Ross, who is currently U.S. COO, will succeed Dubner as the U.S. CEO, overseeing the firm’s largest region comprised of 2,360 people in 13 offices. She will report to Global President and COO Matthew Harrington. She was named PRWeek’s Agency Professional of the Year last month and was inducted into the publication’s Hall of Femme in 2020.

“In the four years since Lisa joined Edelman, she has made an incredible impact on the firm, particularly through her empathetic leadership during Covid and the tragic aftermath of George Floyd’s murder,” said Harrington. “She is a champion of our people, and expansive in her ability to provide senior counsel to clients and drive operations. Lisa is an exemplary leader for extraordinary times, and her many talents will take the U.S. business forward from a position of strength.”

As COO of the U.S., Ross led Edelman’s Covid Task Force and was a highly sought-after client counselor and speaker regarding high-performance workplaces and operating through Covid. Ross was instrumental in establishing Edelman’s Racial Justice Task Force after George Floyd’s murder last May. The Task Force has since counseled more than 400 clients on DEI and multicultural outreach engagements that are helping to dismantle systemic racism and drive equity. She also helped develop several Edelman Trust Barometer special reports on the role brands must play in combatting racial injustice in America. Ross has been a leading voice in public affairs within the agency, continued to specialize in issues management, and has become a favored counsel to the C-suite.

“The complexity of issues at this time in our world requires a diverse, thoughtful, culturally competent team to deliver counsel. That is what I’ve found at Edelman and what I hope to drive more of as CEO,” said Ross. “Edelman’s belief that it can create movements that impact the world is what inspires me and draws me to this position. The opportunity to lead with that belief is the culmination of what has been a really fortunate and blessed career for me.”

An industry, government and White House veteran, Ross joined Edelman as president of the D.C. office. In that role she helped advance Edelman’s prominence in public affairs, crisis, brand, digital and multicultural.

In 2019, she was named one of the Most Influential Women in Corporate America by Savoy Magazine. Ross was also an honoree for Washington Women Who Mean Business (2018) and a Diversity Champion by the PR Council (2017). She co-founded and led the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, which has raised hundreds of millions of dollars to fund grassroots organizations addressing the critical needs of women and young girls through essential services and training throughout the Washington metropolitan area. Ross serves on numerous boards, including the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Meridian International Center and PRSA Foundation. She is also a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.




The Art of the Pitch and More: What Journalists Really Want (Ragan Media Relations & Measurement Conference Session)

April 7 @ 1:40 pm EST

Register

Join Aaron Kwittken (he/him) at the Ragan Communications and PR Daily Virtual Conference: Media Relations & Measurement to hear Brianne Garrett, Marcus Riley, and Ilana Kaplan weigh in on the art of the pitch.

 

 

 

In this panel, ask questions and gain valuable insights into what reporters really want, so your next pitch can reach its target—and everyone wins.

You’ll learn:

  • How to pitch in a shifting and uncertain landscape dominated by crises including COVID-19, social unrest and more
  • Ways to build lasting relationships with reporters and position yourself as a trusted partner for stories
  • The story hooks that get journalists interested—and email subject lines that entice clicks
  • The types of content and information reporters are looking for—and the best channels and times to get those resources to them



A Conversation with Ron Brownstein, Senior Editor at The Atlantic, Senior Political Analyst for CNN & Author of “Rock Me on the Water”

Join Michael Zeldin in his conversation with Ron Brownstein, Senior Editor at the Atlantic and CNN senior political analyst, as they discuss his new book, Rock Me on the Water which examines how politics and culture intertwined to reshape American life in the transition from the optimism of the 1960s to the reality of the early 1970s.

Ron Brownstein is a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of presidential campaigns and national politics.

Guest

Ron Brownstein

Senior Editor at The Atlantic, Senior Political Analyst for CNN & Author of “Rock Me on the Water”

Part journalist, part historian, and all shrewd political observer, Ron Brownstein explains the complexities of American politics with lucid precision. As a senior editor for The Atlantic, a Contributing Editor for National Journal, and a senior political analyst for CNN, he produces sharp analysis on politics, policy, the electorate, media, healthcare, and the range of issues informed by his strong sense of American political and national history.

Twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Brownstein was cited for “the clarity, consistency, and quality of his political reporting.” He writes weekly columns for both the Atlantic and CNN.com and also appears regularly in National Journal. A prolific and penetrating columnist, Brownstein is, as the Economist said, “one of America’s best political journalists,” and the Washington Post called him “one of the gold-plated names of political journalism who can still shape big-pictures conventional wisdom.” Exclusively represented by Leading Authorities speakers bureau, his speeches reflect the depth of his knowledge, making him one of the most trustworthy predictors of America’s future.

Getting It Right, Time After Time. Before taking over the political coverage for Atlantic Media Company, Brownstein served as the national political correspondent and a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. In his years at the Times, he earned two finalist nods from the Pulitzer Prize Board for his coverage of the 1996 and 2004 presidential elections. His track record led former President Bill Clinton to cite Brownstein as the “one journalist who generally gets it right, explaining what the issues are and what’s going on in the country.” In addition, Brownstein served as chief political correspondent and columnist for U.S. News and World Report for seven months in 1998. He also has appeared frequently on Meet the Press, This Week with George Stephanopolous, Face the Nation, the Newshour with Jim Lehrer, and Washington Week in Review. He has also served as an election analyst for ABC.

Brownstein is the author or editor of seven books, including Rock Me on the Water 1974 -The Year Los Angeles Transformed Movies, Music, Television, and Politics, The Power and The Glitter: The Hollywood-Washington Connection, and Storming the Gates: Protest Politics and the Republican Revival. His previous book, Reagan’s Ruling Class: Portraits of the President’s Top 100 Officials, was a Washington Post best-seller for five weeks. He was editor and co-author of Selecting a President and Who’s Poisoning America, and his sixth book, The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship Has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America, was named one of the “10 books to curl up with” by the New York Times. .

His articles on politics, public policy, books and culture have also appeared in a number of newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Vanity Fair, the New Republic, the Financial Times, the Washington Monthly, the Wall Street Journal, the Times of London, the Times Literary Supplement, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Sun-Times, Newsday, and the Miami Herald.

Host

Michael Zeldin

Michael Zeldin is a well-known and highly-regarded TV and radio analyst/commentator.

He has covered many high-profile matters, including the Clinton impeachment proceedings, the Gore v. Bush court challenges, Special Counsel Robert Muller’s investigation of interference in the 2016 presidential election, and the Trump impeachment proceedings. 

In 2019, Michael was a Resident Fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School, where he taught a study group on Independent Investigations of Presidents.

Previously, Michael was a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice. He also served as Deputy Independent/ Independent Counsel, investigating allegations of tampering with presidential candidate Bill Clinton’s passport files, and as Deputy Chief Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives, Foreign Affairs Committee, October Surprise Task Force, investigating the handling of the American hostage situation in Iran.

Michael is a prolific writer and has published Op-ed pieces for CNN.com, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Hill, The Washington Times, and The Washington Post.




Disrupting Marketing and Communications for Cause-Based Nonprofits, Like Our Lives Depend on It

Dwayne Flinchum, President, ScientificBrandsTM

We are in the midst of an historic age of scientific discovery and innovation. We read and hear about breakthroughs in climate science, space exploration, medical discoveries to fight outbreaks of disease, solutions to harness and distribute energy efficiently, or ways to prevent food insecurity and water scarcity. Among other social issues like human rights and inequality, these research missions are without a doubt the most important and urgent quests of our time.

Yet there is much work to do to build awareness for these causes. We must educate the public about the consequences of these threats and how critical it is that we accelerate advancements to meet them. We must communicate the need for funding and new public policies and we must do a better job of marketing these research-led solutions to consumers. Perhaps most concerning is the current anti-science, conspiracy-driven movement. We cannot afford to allow a growing public sentiment that is propelled by a lack of education or the loss of reason.

Sadly, in many cases the actual science is outpacing the ability to tell these stories. Nonprofit organizations — those who are actually leading the science — are often not positioned to meet these formidable marketing and communications needs. They are sometimes not funded well, and they simply cannot provide the data-guided, outcome-focused marketing required to match the contemporary best practices of their corporate counterparts in communicating their own story. And it’s not just the compelling creative, design, or storytelling. Typically, they lack the audience, distribution and reach that is required to build broad awareness.

This is why I founded ScientificBrandsTM. The need for scientific progress deserves an elite agency-partner dedicated to accelerating the growth and success of organizations leading the charge. With this new mission, I am committed to outperforming the rest of the field and elevating science. We aim to help organizations positioned in research and technology — those seeking to expand our knowledge, change the world, save lives, and improve the quality of life for millions. We recruit and engage top talent that research, strategize and plan, and deliver powerful brands, campaigns and signature marketing assets designed to yield a much higher ROI, tying everything directly to business goals.

This work is imperative. We must deploy all of the new tools at our disposal. We must be bolder and more disruptive with our messaging. Knowing the risks of not succeeding, we must apply a new approach that aims for maximum yield with minimal investment. We must expect transformation through more ambitious, high-impact outcomes. We can target new goals and work to quadruple your annual aggregated impressions through an evaluation of your business and brand. We can strategize a better plan of press, deploy programmatic advertising, and we can co-opt the audiences of influencers to carry the message.

We can apply the same data-approach to your marketing that is used in your science mission. We can rethink the tired, traditional media mix of paid, owned, and earned media. We can find creative ways to strike content-sharing deals to game the system and extend reach. We can do all these things because lives, and humanity itself, depend on it.

As we face the most serious threats of our generation, I hope you will join me. Let’s see this work with a new determination and tenacity. Let’s raise broad awareness for these environmental, health, medical and social causes. Let’s elevate the marketing efforts of the organizations that are best positioned to deliver solutions. As the president of ScientificBrandsTM, I pledge to work tirelessly to tell their stories with powerful impact and effectiveness.


About the Author: Dwayne Flinchum is the President of ScientificBrandsTM. With 30+ years of experience, he has worked in the strategic planning and development of brand identity, media, marketing and communications initiatives, leading image-defining engagements for global companies and nonprofit organizations. Flinchum founded IridiumGroup and led the firm to success as a brand consultancy for global clients by managing strategic and creative consulting for preeminent private foundations, professional associations, and national cause-based member organizations. For 18 years, he played a significant role in differentiating and building the Accenture brand worldwide. In 2016, Flinchum became a member of the Leadership Team and the Director of Marketing and Communications at the Child Mind Institute and in just three years, achieved accelerated growth of 300-400% across KPIs to dramatically grow audience, build brand awareness, and extend the reach of the public education program and its online resources.

 

 

 

 




Why Does Bitcoin Have Such A Big Influence On Other Cryptocurrencies

Financial Experts Share Their Opinions on Bitcoin

Julia Beyers

By entering the current bull run, the cryptocurrency market has shown investors all over the globe that it can stand the test of time. People have regained their trust in crypto and are seeking to buy bitcoin with credit card to participate in the financial revolution. 

Investors are often looking at alternate cryptocurrencies to make considerable profits by trading in and out of them. However, aspiring traders and investors should always be aware that the market heavily depends on one cryptocurrency – Bitcoin. 

In this article, we will explain why Bitcoin has so much influence on other cryptos. To achieve this we explore its basics and some major events that helped it reach a value over 1 trillion dollars in just over a decade. 

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin was launched way back in 2009, by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto. To this day, the identity of its creator remains unknown. 

Nakomoto created Bitcoin with the purpose to provide humanity with a universal digital currency, where users could exchange value without the need of any intermediary. 

He considered our current financial system to be doomed to fail, mainly because of its dependency on governments and central banks. His answer was Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer digital currency with a limited supply, that would provide a hedge against inflation and open the internet economy to anyone on the globe. 

Thanks to this vision, the niche project with just a dozen of miners and users has evolved into a trillion-dollar financial system that spawned an entire industry. Bitcoin revolutionized finances, providing an alternative away from banks and governments. 

Top 4 reasons why Bitcoin can influence the entire crypto market

If you have been following the cryptocurrency market, you might have noticed by now that every time Bitcoin’s price goes down, alternative cryptocurrency prices (commonly called altcoins) follow. The opposite is equally true – when the price of bitcoin rallies, we expect altcoins to go up in price shortly after. 

But why does this happen? What makes Bitcoin so important that an entire industry follows it so closely? If we made the parallel to stock markets, it would be ludicrous to think that all of the Nasdaq would crash just because of Microsoft stocks, for instance. 

Bitcoin was the first

Being the pioneer in this new industry has put a lot of weight on Bitcoin’s shoulders over the years. However, this has also allowed the original cryptocurrency to cement itself as a sure store of value, increasing its popularity to astronomical levels. 

No matter what anyone says, Bitcoin was the coin that put cryptocurrencies into the mainstream. The seemingly simple concept behind Bitcoin caught on with the general public, driving its price to the coveted $50k+ levels we are seeing today. 

It paved the way for an entire industry, and today, almost anyone involved in crypto owns at least some bitcoin. Worth noting is that, to this day, Bitcoin is the only crypto whose creator has remained completely anonymous. 

Many altcoins are just Bitcoin clones

As a direct result of its increasing popularity and value, we saw a proliferation of Bitcoin clones during the years after its release. 

For instance, the first altcoin to see mainstream adoption, Litecoin, uses a copy of the Bitcoin code with the goal to become a lighter and faster version of the original. Many other such clones exist such as Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Gold, Bitcoin Diamond, and dozens more. 

While each one tries to become a better version of Bitcoin, most of the time, they just follow its lead. 

Bitcoin has the most secure network

Bitcoin is based on a proof-of-work mechanism that is ensured by more than 18 million miners participating in Bitcoin’s decentralized network, the blockchain. 

This volume of participants has an effect of a high level of decentralization of the network, ensuring flawless security of the Bitcoin payments system. 

Many investors regard it as a reserve currency for cryptocurrencies 

Because of its pioneering status, investors often consider Bitcoin as the reserve currency of the cryptocurrency market, similar to the USD in the global stock markets. 

Furthermore, many cryptocurrency trading platforms do not propose crypto to fiat trading due to compliance and regulatory measures of their countries. As such, a large number of investors initially invest in Bitcoin to trade it for altcoins and try to make profits thereafter. 

Most pure crypto traders never even compare altcoins’ prices to fiat currencies. Instead, they compare their value to BTC, as it’s the market pair that matters the most to them. 

As such it’s completely understandable to see the entire market prices drop when Bitcoin’s market sentiment plummets. 

Conclusion

Bitcoin is the original cryptocurrency that jumpstarted the entire industry. This pioneering status has enabled it with a multi-billion userbase which in turn helped skyrocket its price and provide the most secure network in the ecosystem. 

It’s important to understand that Bitcoin often has the final word when it comes to market sentiment. Experienced traders and investors always check Bitcoin before bing or selling their altcoin position. Hopefully, our article managed to give some light on the reasons behind this phenomenon. 


About the Author: Being in love with communications and human relations I found myself in Journalism. Another passion of mine is the crypto world and I believe in the crypto future. So I have spent the past 8 years studying as much as I can and sharing my own experiences with people. I am writing now about new trends – how crypto keeps changing the world, businesses and our future.




How to Cultivate Productivity in a Remote Team

Remote Teams - 10 Tips To Manage Them Effectively

Nicole Garrison

Even before COVID-19 forced teams out of centralized offices, remote work was becoming increasingly popular. It’s easy to see why. This option gives workers flexibility and convenience. It also allows employers to save money on the costs of office space, and to recruit workers based on talent, not geography.

Still, many team leaders find working with remote teams to be an adjustment. One of the key challenges they face is maintaining or even increasing productivity. Perhaps you’ve faced this challenge yourself. If so, check out these strategies for cultivating productivity in a remote team.

Create Systems That Work

Sometimes, redundancy is a good thing. When there is a prescribed way of doing something that guarantees the task will always be executed smoothly and without error, your team has more time to deal with mission critical stuff. 

Identify tasks that are completed over and over again. The, create a document of best practices and procedures for these. This will ensure that these become as close to automated as possible.

Set Clear Metrics And Milestones

It’s quite difficult to measure productivity without some concrete definitions. That’s why it’s important to determine what your metrics will be for a given product, and to set due dates and milestones. Then, good productivity can be recognized as meeting or exceeding those goals.

Facilitate Productive Communication

When a team works in a centralized location, communication is much less complex. Someone can simply walk over to another office or cubicle to ask a quick question. Face to face interactions also make it easier to read emotion and tone. Even then, miscommunications can happen. Imagine the potential for failure with a remote team.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. You simply have to find ways to compensate for what may be lost in communication with a remote team. 

Start with setting an example of clear communication. Everyone on the team should be aware of their roles and responsibilities, along with everyone else’s. Identify key areas of responsibility, and name a contact person for each. Next identify the means of communication. This ensures that everyone is on the same page, and using compatible technologies. It’s also helpful to establish a regular schedule for team meetings, sub-team breakout sessions, and status updates. Be sure that everyone knows when and how they are expected to participate, and that they know the deliverables they are expected to have prepared.

Finally, be flexible. As projects evolve, you will likely find that your communication schedule will need to change. Be prepared to step back and adjust as needed.

Check in More Often

Many workers relish the opportunity to work remotely. They enjoy the flexibility and lack of commute. However, it’s important to recognize there are a few pitfalls. It’s possible that some of your team may be struggling. Their lack of wellbeing can negatively impact productivity. 

One thing to be aware of is presenteeism. This occurs when workers make themselves excessively available for work to the point that it impacts their health and ability to function well. This includes:

  • Making themselves available to clients outside normal hours.
  • Signing in late at night or early in the morning because they don’t feel productive enough.
  • Working while sick or ignoring family emergencies in order to be present at work.

Some team members may struggle with presenteeism because they find it difficult to set limits outside a regulated schedule that they experience in a normal office environment. Others may feel guilty about disruptions as they work from home.”

Encourage workers to maintain a healthy balance. Remind them that self-care and time off are important, and that these things ensure that they are as productive as possible when they are on the clock.

Be Flexible But Not Too Flexible

Remote workers enjoy the flexibility of controlling their schedules, even taking time to deal with personal business during the day. They know they may be able to do these things, because there simply aren’t as many constraints on them. 

To some extent, this is great. Your team is likely to appreciate this flexibility and autonomy. On the other hand, you may find there are some boundary issues. For example, flexible schedules are great, until nobody wants to provide early morning coverage, or a few team members miss important deadlines.

Of course, it’s no fun being a scold, and micromanaging team members who take their new-found control a bit far. So, the best approach is to get ahead of things. Set clear boundaries and guidelines from the beginning. This might include:

  • Establishing a business casual dress code for team meetings.
  • Setting rotating schedules to cover on-call needs.
  • Designating a process for checking in and out of the office.
  • Creating a consistent set of rules for taking personal time.

Consider using a paper writing services review company to pair you with a writer who can help you create employee documents for remote workers.

Find Tech Tools to Improve Collaboration

Fortunately, many of the productivity deficits created by remote work can be resolved through technology to improve communication. Work with your team to identify needs and requirements. Then, look for tools, or a suite of tools that will meet those needs. Keep in mind that most remote teams will need to:

  • Use instant messaging to contact one another directly.
  • Meet via video conference.
  • Share documents.
  • Enhance their use of email as a communication tool.
  • Assign project tasks and track progress.
  • Share screens.

Final Thoughts

Remote teams thrive under good leadership. They need tools that work with them not against them, and to be able to communicate in ways that work for them. Try applying these strategies to your own team, and you will be impressed with the results.


About the Author: Nicole Garrison is a talented writer with skills that include blogging for small business owners, penning dissertation writing service reviews, and writing content to help people boost their productivity. She has been in this field for nearly ten years, and has earned high praise. 

 




How a Financial-Services Firm Built DE&I Accountability Into Its DNA

For Synchrony, the result was new programming that was fast-tracked and produced results.

 

 

Kathie Harris  

After the social-justice protests of 2020, Synchrony Financial, which already had a foundational commitment to diversity and inclusion, and one of the most diverse workforces in its sector, knew it needed to do more. The company had a variety of DE&I efforts in place, but they were workplace-culture oriented, and in some instances provided only the appearance of progress.

So Synchrony, a $15 billion consumer-financial services firm based in Stamford, Connecticut, with 16,500 employees, decided it needed to strengthen its DE&I accountability across the board. “To succeed at driving progress over the long term, we recognized we need to treat DE&I no differently than we would any other critical business challenge,” CEO Margaret Keane told Fortune Magazine. “We elevated DE&I to one of our eight corporate strategic imperatives, with board-level accountability.”

Keane, now the outgoing CEO, was one of the few female chief executives running a top financial firm. She’ll be replaced next month by the current president, Brian Doubles.

Accountability, the company learned, is the critical ingredient in advancing DE&I efforts in any organization. Then measurement can be linked seamlessly to various initiatives and can be used, for example, in strategic reviews and leadership bonuses. Synchrony has done some of this, including creating a career-development program that’s been effective enough to spawn similar internal hiring initiatives.

Continue reading here…




5 Ways to Improve Customer Service

Photo by picjumbo.com from Pexels

Victoria Smith

The lifeblood of every successful business is customer service. Without good customer service, you can forget about ever trying to retain customers for the long term. Instead, excellent customer service should be the centerpiece of your business model. Sadly, many companies fail at this important task. If you are lacking in this department, there are strategies you can implement to greatly improve your business’s customer service. Below are five.

Vet and Train Your Employees

Customer service is essentially a people service. It all hinges on exactly how your employees interact with customers in a variety of different contexts. It’s no secret that excellent customer service seems to be much rarer today. You have probably experienced plenty of very unhelpful employees in retail stores and elsewhere that simply could care less about what you want. Overall, customer service begins on this personal level as a one-to-one relationship between the customer and the employee. If you hire the wrong people with the wrong attitude, that will reflect poorly on your company as a whole. Employees must also be trained well on how to help customers with what they need. Without this training, you can really only blame mismanagement when your reputation as a business sours.

Consider Outsourcing Some of Your Customer Service Needs

Customer service can also become a problem when your business’s customer base expands beyond the capabilities of your own in-house staff. You may, for example, feel swamped with customer phone calls all day long. If that is the case, you should consider outsourcing that area of customer service to inbound call centers. However, make sure to take an active hand in developing the customer service protocols that will be used when your customers call into those call center employees. You know your products best, and it is your job to help train outsiders on how to properly provide service for your own products.

Track Online Reviews and Social Media Mentions

96 percent of consumers say that customer service is an integral part of their brand loyalty. One way you can track people’s customer service experiences is by reading online reviews and social media mentions. Doing so is extremely important. The experiences of individual customers can determine whether or not they come back to your business. However, the fact that those experiences remain online where people can see them means they can influence scores of other people as well. Negative online reviews can certainly affect a business’s revenue for months or even years into the future. Adjust to what is said about your service and reach out to those individuals with poor experiences so you can fix their issues.

Integrate Customer Feedback

A lot can be said about a company’s brand and products online. There are certain times when you should ignore negative feedback. Twitter, for example, tends to whip up “outrage mobs” of people who have never purchased a company’s products and only join in with negative scorn due to the social aspect of agreeing with one another. The feedback you should listen to and integrate, though, is the feedback you receive from honest individuals trying your service for the first time or longtime customers that are trying to give you constructive criticism. If they had a genuinely negative experience with your products or service, try to see what you can change to prevent such a negative experience from happening again. There is always room for improvement.

Institute a Customer Loyalty Program

Everything you do as a business should be about building long-term customer loyalty. It is that loyalty that will give your business the revenue it needs to survive far into the future. Without that loyalty, changing trends could wipe out your business overnight. One way you can build customer loyalty is by launching a program specifically to foster it. A customer loyalty program that allows consumers to accrue points, freebies, discounts, gifts and more is an excellent choice. This will give those customers an incentive to continue choosing your business over your competitors, and they will feel like the organization truly values their loyalty as a result.

Customer service is the cornerstone of every successful business. There is of course no business without customers. Keep that in mind when you hire and train employees. Consider new ways to improve customer services such as using loyalty programs or outsourcing. Never ignore the experiences customers have with your services and products as expressed through feedback both online and offline.


About the Author: Victoria Smith is a freelance writer who specialized in business and finance, with a passion for cooking and wellness. She lives in Austin, TX where she is currently working towards her MBA.

 




Fighting Against Home Title Fraud (INFOGRAPHIC)

Brian Wallace, Founder & President, NowSourcing

For most Americans, equity in their home is their greatest asset.  Unfortunately, not all homeowners are taking the necessary precautions to protect their asset from being stolen.  Locking the door and installing an alarm system won’t keep scammers from stealing a home’s title.  Thieves can take ownership of a house without ever breaking in.  This sort of theft is becoming more common, as well; from 2015 to 2019, real estate and rental fraud grew at 2.6x the rate of credit card fraud.  It can happen to any homeowner too.  In one heartbreaking case, an elderly couple learned that their own grandson had mortgaged their home and attempted to sell it without their knowledge.

How do scammers steal properties they don’t own? First, they create forged deeds using easily accessible online property data from public records.  Next, they file paperwork in the county of the residence falsely claiming ownership of the home.  Most often, they do this to take out loans against the property, sell it using a quitclaim deed, or inherit the property after its true owners’ death.  Once an honest homeowner is made aware of the scam, it is often too late.  Proving fraud runs from difficult to impossible, law enforcement may not be able to intervene, and going to court is expensive and takes more time than many people have.  Most vulnerable to home title fraud are elderly homeowners and those who own more than one property (think vacation homes, investment properties, and the like).

Luckily, there are several steps homeowners can take to prevent title fraud.  Title insurance protects homebuyers from past title discrepancies when purchasing a home.  While this is useful at the point of sale, it does not offer protection against new fraud attempts.  Instead, homeowners must stay vigilant. They must keep personal information private, review bank accounts and credit reports regularly, and watch for unexpected bills or mortgage statements.  Also useful is checking county records to confirm correct homeownership information.

One service that does all the above tasks for their customers is Home Title Lock. Home Title Lock offers 24/7 protection by keeping watch over a home’s online mortgage and title, alerting homeowners of tampering, and mobilizing resources to shut down illicit activity when it happens.  Protecting a home’s title is vital because many would have nowhere to go once it’s gone. 

So don’t let strangers in. Keep your home’s title locked.

Latest cyberthreat is stealing your home equity
Source: HomeTitleLock.com


Brian WallaceAbout the Author: Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian runs #LinkedInLocal events, hosts the Next Action Podcast, and has been named a Google Small Business Adviser for 2016-present. Follow Brian Wallace on LinkedIn as well as Twitter.




Why A Buyer’s Vision Must Align With A Seller’s Vision

Art Stevens, Managing Partner, The Stevens Group

In a number of articles I’ve written for PRSA over the years, one of the recurring themes is the importance of chemistry when reviewing the merits of combining two agencies.

I don’t mean to sound naïve. On the contrary, it’s more than a decade of real-life experience in the PR agency mergers and acquisitions world that has taught me to place chemistry a couple of notches above purchase price, which conventional wisdom mistakenly considers to be the Holy Grail for a successful merger.

In fact, I don’t even put purchase price in the “place” position, given all of the changes occurring in the PR agency mergers and acquisitions marketplace these days.

In my opinion, vision and the buyer’s strategic direction ranks right alongside a good rapport as a vital criterion for joining forces with a buyer.

Here’s why:

Strategic collaboration

There are more buyers out there than ever before. And their agencies’ substance and shape change as often as an amoeba’s does.

There are still the major holding companies, of course — Publicis, IPG, WPP, Omnicom and Havas, and there are also overseas buyers. Mid-sized ad agencies are adding PR services as another strategic arrow in their quiver, and smaller PR agencies are acquiring even smaller shops. More private equity firms are turning to public relations and digital/interactive sectors as promising growth categories. And a series of “rollup” firms have now come onto the scene as well.

To be sure, there’s nothing new about rollups. Peter Gummer pioneered the initiative when he founded Shandwick in the ‘70s and made about 20 independent agency acquisitions. All kept their own names for a period of time, until Gummer proclaimed that all Shandwick-acquired firms would lose their existing monikers and simply be called “Shandwick.” Gummer then sold Shandwick to Interpublic, where it subsequently merged with Weber to become Weber Shandwick. Today, all of the rollup companies I’m aware of allow their acquisitions to retain their names, following the Shandwick model.

Why A Buyer's Vision Must Align With A Seller's VisionRenewed energy

In almost every situation where The Stevens Group is involved — plus every scenario that I’m aware of where we’re not involved — the rollup company’s game plan is to reach a certain size and then have a liquidity event, where it sells to a larger company or goes public.

The seller usually gets the opportunity to double-dip by reaping the benefits of an initial purchase price, while also in line to capitalize on the liquidity event down the road.

This takes us to the current mergers and acquisitions marketplace. Most current sellers don’t want to sell and walk away; they want to stay. They want to jumpstart their careers and play an integral role in the new parent company by bringing all of their experience as agency founders and owners to the big stage. Successful entrepreneurs can continue their careers with renewed energy when a buyer of their choice acquires them.

Earnest discussions

My team and I always advise sellers to have earnest discussions with the buyer about the goals, direction and aspirations of his or her organization. If a seller is looking for a plain-and-simple exit strategy, and his or her deal is based on an earnout, then it’s important for the seller to be certain that the buyer’s organization has the financial resources to stick to the terms of the agreement.

But if the seller still loves the business and has the fire in him or her to continue working indefinitely (as most sellers are now doing), then the two sides need to agree on strategic direction for future growth, which can be the most important consideration for both.

A seller who is ambitious and wants to become part of senior management in an acquiring company is better off joining an organization that has demonstrated an ability to grow and manage its development through strategic hires, other acquisitions and expertise in the niches that it serves.

A buyer who is expanding his or her bandwidth by acquiring your firm for its special niche and capabilities could be in a position to help a seller grow more rapidly. Remember that the seller’s future must be tied to the buyer’s future. That principle will help determine which route a seller should take when considering a buyer.

This is the future of PR agency mergers and acquisitions. The seller’s continuing role has become just as important as purchase price, chemistry and culture.

As originally published on PRSA Public Relations Tactics.




Is Leonard Pitts Jr., A Sort of Modern-Day Messiah of Journalism?

Thomas J. Madden, Chairman and CEO, Transmedia Group

Do you ever come upon an article in one of those relics we call newspapers and it pounds your mind into attention and elicits your respect?

Well, one written by nationally-syndicated, Pulitzer-Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. yanked me into reading every word, and then into rereading what stood out so powerfully last week in the Miami Herald.

Here was the headline that brought my attention to its knees: Americans still have faith in God, but more of us have lost our faith in religion.

Less than half of Americans polled say that they belong to a religious organization, hence churches are shrinking.

Not only congregants in churches, but in mosques and synagogues, too, are dwindling and recently the decline hit a milestone.

Pitts reported that for the first time since Gallup began tracking religious membership back in 1937, it has dropped below half.  While then, 73 percent of us belonged to some house of worship, today it’s down to 48 percent.

Pitts’ article pointed to multiple reasons for the slippage, including the Catholic Church’s sex scandals, and “growing distrust of institutions in general and a modern disinclination to be pigeonholed into any single theological tradition.”

Then Pitts asks rhetorically could there also be another reason?  “Could they have been driven away” specifically, where the white, evangelical church is concerned?

Pitts asks us to consider it a byproduct of the rise, a little over 40 years ago, of the so-called religious right as a political force. Suddenly, Jesus of Nazareth, the itinerant rabbi whose life and death have inspired believers for two millennia, was adopted as “a mascot of Republican conservatism.”

It was not the first time that happened.  Pitts pointed out that in 1980s people allowed their politics to be informed by their faith. The progressive left did the same thing as the lives and ministries of Jim Wallis, Jeremiah Wright, William Barber II and Martin Luther King, Jr. amply attest.

No, 40 years ago Pitts says we went from “feed my sheep” to cutbacks in school lunch programs. From “love ye one another” to ignoring AIDS because it was “only” killing gays. From “woe unto you who are rich” to tax cuts for the wealthy and trickle-down leftovers for everyone else. From compassion for “the least of these” to condemnation of mythical welfare queens and other lazy and undeserving poor.

“It was a faith less of joy than of perpetual outrage, less of hope than of abiding fear. Which means that ultimately, it was not faith at all, only the degradation thereof.”

Yet, even when they feel let down by the church, people don’t stop seeking truth.  Gallup also reports that, depending upon how you word the question, as many as 87 percent of us still profess belief in God.

Yes, faith can shape politics, but when politics start shaping faith, maybe we’ve lost our way.

“When you find yourself preaching exclusion and rejection in the name of Him who said, “Come unto me,” maybe it’s time to recalibrate,” says Pitts.

Thankfully articles such as this occasionally appear and strike a needed chord in our lives.

 




Peter Woolfolk – Venerated Communicator Shares Hard-won Wisdom from a Remarkable Career

 

Robby Brumberg

When it comes to comms, Peter Woolfolk has done it all.

Before founding Communications Strategies in 2004, Woolfolk served as a Clinton White House appointee in the U.S. Department of Education and as a press secretary for three members of Congress. He’s been a comms and PR VP for a university, a radio (and now podcast) host and producer, a columnist and a public speaker. He was the “voice” of Nashville Airport. Oh, he’s also an accomplished tennis player and a licensed private pilot.

He’s the kind of person you want to seek out for career advice—and probably just for life wisdom in general. We asked him to give his best tips for helping communicators blaze a successful career path. Here’s what he had to say.

Peter Woolfolk

Media relations insights from an industry icon

Regardless of your specific communication focus, Woolfolk touts the importance of nurturing genuine relationships with those who cover your industry. Building relationships—and anticipating needs—are still the name of the game for media relations.

“My very first tip for media relations success is, when possible, develop a relationship with the reporter—before you ask for something,” he says.

It’s fine to proactively introduce yourself and to clarify how you might be of service, but always be brief. “You might also inquire about their deadlines, a preferred method of receiving information and more specifics on their beat.”

Do not pitch stories outside their beat or purview, Woolfolk says, and “do not waste their time.”

Woolfolk also says that bonus points go to those who share supplementary news and views journalists can use. Provide complementary artwork, quotes and data, and distill the gist of your findings into tidy bullet points. Saving the reporter time and effort is an easy way to secure a spot on the “good PR person” list.

 

Continue reading here…




The Reincarnation of Blogs

RONN TOROSSIAN - HOW MANY FOLLOWERS DO YOU NEED ON INSTAGRAM TO GET PAID?Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR

Although there may be disagreement about when blogging was born, one thing is clear. Blogging has been reincarnated and the pandemic deserves a lot of credit for it. The best guess is that blogging got its name in the early to mid-1990s.

The 7th Annual Survey of Bloggers last August and September by Orbit Media reported that nearly a quarter (24.7%) of the 1,279 bloggers they surveyed said their blogs delivered “strong marketing success” while another 54.2% responded with “some results.” Only 8.4% felt their blogs delivered “disappointing results” while 12.7% had no clue if their blogs delivered any value at all. Although the measurements are self-reported, it gives strong support for the continuance of good industry blogs.

In January, OptinMonster reported that more than 20 billion blog pages are read by about 409 consumers each month. 

The pandemic has accelerated use of digital platforms. Blogs, and the brands they represented were the beneficiaries. SEO Tribunal reported that companies that blog garner 97% more links to their websites and that 57% of marketers credit blogs for bringing in new customers. A recent Data Box survey confirmed the power of today’s blogs by showing that 68% of marketers found blogging more effective than two years ago.

Of all the industries using blogs, WPBeginner, a WordPress resource site, indicated that the top five most popular blogs are fashion, followed by food, travel, music and lifestyle. Fitness, DIY, sports, finance and politics rounded out the top ten in that order. 11th was parenting, followed by business, personal, movie, auto, new, pet, and gaming.

Ready to blog? Blogging is more about quality than quantity. It’s about building relationships in much the same manner as micro and nano influencers. Bloggers who maintain and build conversations of high quality and content with their readers establish and keep a loyal following that fosters trust and credibility.

Of the bloggers who reported strong results to Orbit Media, most wrote articles of 3,000 or more words. However, this may be changing because of shortened attention spans. Some reports say that more people now prefer to skim through reports and blogs. One way to maintain attention among skimmers while delivering information is by keeping sentences short and segregating content into well-thought-out headers. Lists also help make content easier to understand.

Blogs that set a brand apart as a leader should contain refreshing new content. Nothing turns off and discourages a reader from ever returning than blogs with information they already knew. Content must be unique. Throwing in a tip or two adds even more spice.

Well-written blogs are only half the target. The other half is conversations. Inviting comments as well as responding to them makes it personal and seals the relationship with consumers. OptinMonster reported that new comments by 77 million readers are generated monthly. Successful blogs are an important two-way street.

And although it sounds counter-productive, direct consumers to other blogs related to their area(s) of interest. This further instills trust and confidence. Just be sure to make these other bloggers aware of this as well as it would likely result in reciprocity.

Finally, go deep into content as doing so may likely improve search engine rankings. And by coming at the topic from different angles, it allows readers to appreciate that the brand understands that there’s more than one side or approach to an issue or challenge.


About the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, one of America’s leading PR firms.




A Conversation with Jennifer Ho, President of the Association for Asian American Studies (Podcast & On-Demand Video)

Watch On-Demand Video

 

Watch On-Demand Video

Throughout their history, Asians in America have faced massive racial discrimination from indentured servitude to exclusion laws through internment during World War II. Asian Americans continue to face ongoing discrimination in myriad ways. The Atlanta spa murders, while a grotesque manifestation of this history, is sadly not an isolated event.

Join Michael Zeldin in his conversation with Jennifer Ho, President of the Association for Asian American Studies, Director of the Center for Humanities & the Arts and Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder in a discussion of what it means to be an Asian American and especially an Asian American woman.

Guest

Jennifer Ho

Professor, Ethnic Studies

Director, Center for Humanities & the Arts

University of Colorado Boulder

President, Association for Asian American Studies

The daughter of a refugee father from China and an immigrant mother from Jamaica, Jennifer Ho is a professor in the department of Ethnic Studies and the director of the Center for Humanities and the Arts (CHA) at the University of Colorado Boulder. Ho received her BA in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara (1992) and her PhD in English from Boston University (2003) and had a faculty appointment at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 2004-2019, where she taught courses in Asian American literature, contemporary multiethnic American literature, critical race studies, and intersectionality.

Ho is the author of three books: Consumption and Identity in Asian American Coming-of-Age Novels (Routledge Press, 2005), Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Culture (Rutgers University Press, 2015), which won the 2016 South Atlantic Modern Languages Association award for best monograph, and Understanding Gish Jen (University of South Carolina Press, 2015). She is co-editor of a collection of essays on race and narratology, Race, Ethnicity, and Narrative in the United States (OSU Press, 2017) and a series of teaching essays on Asian American literature, Teaching Approaches to Asian American Literature (forthcoming MLA). She has published in journals such as Modern Fiction StudiesJournal for Asian American StudiesAmerasia Journal, The Global South and has also presented at conferences such as the International Society for the Study of Narrative, American Studies Association, Modern Language Association, American Literature Association, and the Association of Asian American Studies, where she has just been elected as the incoming President, effective April 2020. Two of her current book projects are a breast cancer memoir and a family autobiography that will consider Asian Americans in the global south through the narrative of her maternal family’s immigration from Hong Kong to Jamaica to North America. In addition to her academic work, Ho is active in community engagement around issues of race and intersectionality, leading workshops on anti-racism and how to talk about race in our current political climate.

Books

Narrative, Race, and Ethnicity in the United StatesEdited along with James Donahue (SUNY Potsdam) & Shaun Morgan (Tennessee Wesleyan College). Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2017.

Understanding Gish Jen. Columbia, SC: The University of South Carolina Press, 2015.

Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Culture. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2015.

Consumption and Identity in Asian American Coming-of-Age Novels. New York: Routledge Press, 2005.

 

Host

Michael Zeldin

Michael Zeldin is a well-known and highly-regarded TV and radio analyst/commentator.

He has covered many high-profile matters, including the Clinton impeachment proceedings, the Gore v. Bush court challenges, Special Counsel Robert Muller’s investigation of interference in the 2016 presidential election, and the Trump impeachment proceedings. 

In 2019, Michael was a Resident Fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School, where he taught a study group on Independent Investigations of Presidents.

Previously, Michael was a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice. He also served as Deputy Independent/ Independent Counsel, investigating allegations of tampering with presidential candidate Bill Clinton’s passport files, and as Deputy Chief Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives, Foreign Affairs Committee, October Surprise Task Force, investigating the handling of the American hostage situation in Iran.

Michael is a prolific writer and has published Op-ed pieces for CNN.com, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Hill, The Washington Times, and The Washington Post.




What is a Man’s Magazine in 2021?

Esquire’s Editor In Chief, Michael Sebastian To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “When It Comes To Creating That Print Magazine, I Want Something That Is Going To Really Lean Into The Printy-ness Of It.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

“I think the print experience should be its own experience. The website, the YouTube channel, the Instagram page; these things and the print magazine should all talk to each other. They should all be part of the same Esquire universe.” Michael Sebastian…

 

Listening to the reader, an amazing part of the media publishing process. For without your reader, your user, your viewer, your audience, you have nothing to publish. Esquire magazine has been around for over 85 years, definitely a legacy brand that knows a thing or two about thee fine art of publishing. Its editor in chief in its current form today is Michael Sebastian, who knows a thing or two about listening to his audience.

Michael was named editor in chief of Esquire in June 2019 and he oversees print and digital content, strategy and operations. He comes to the job as the former digital director of Esquire since 2017 where, during his tenure, he expanded Esquire’s digital content to include more in-depth feature reporting and writing, exclusive interviews, ambitious political coverage and a new fashion vertical. He spearheaded the launch of the “Politics With Charles P. Pierce” membership program, and says it’s one of the most successful membership programs at Hearst Magazines.

I spoke with Michael recently and we talked about the rejuvenation that has been going on at Esquire under his careful eye. The new front of the book look and new franchises within. Keeping it fresh and current is important to Michael and when it comes to listening to the audience, Michael believes it’s crucial to do just that. In fact, not long ago he received an email from Seasons Hospice Foundation, reaching out on behalf of a longtime Esquire reader, Scott LaPointe. Scott loves Esquire and had a few thoughts on personal style, ideas he wanted to leave his son as a legacy.

Not only  did Michael read Scott’s email, he personally called and spoke with him about his thoughts and his own personal style and how important Scott felt it was. And Michael decided that there should be a section in the upcoming issue of Esquire dedicated to personal style. And so there was.

Now I’m not saying that Michael has time to personally call every reader who writes into him, but he does read the emails and he does listen. And I feel sure that for Scott LaPointe, that’s what Esquire is all about and why he reads it. And that’s what it’s about for its editor in chief too: listening to your audience and giving them what they want.

So, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Michael Sebastian, editor in chief, Esquire.

But first the sound-bites:

On how listening to his audience impacts his decisions as editor in chief of a major brand like Esquire: Obviously we’re listening to readers on the website just by the data that we have from them all of the time, there’s no question about that. And I think to some extent that informs the print magazine. But from the perspective of what we’re putting in the print magazine, that is still guided pretty strictly by editors and by what we think is important for our readers.

On whether he feels his audience is platform specific or there is a cross-platform taking place: Well, both. And I know that’s not a very satisfying answer, but I think that we have readers who only bump into us on certain platforms. There are people who only read us in print; there are people who only read us online; there are casual readers who follow us on Twitter and read a story every once and a while from us. But then we have the super-users and those are the people who subscribe to the magazine, they read us online, they follow us on social media and they watch our videos on YouTube.

On how he is handling as editor in chief the social awakening of diversity, inclusion and equity in the nation: If you go back to things that I said, interviews that I had done, as soon as I was named editor in chief, one of my main priorities was to diversify who is an Esquire man, who is an Esquire writer, and who is an Esquire photographer. And I don’t just mean diversify racially, although I did. I meant in terms of age, geographic diversity, the life experience people bring to the table.

On how he would define Esquire with a new tagline for the men of today: It’s a very good question because it’s an existential question about the brand. And it’s one that we talk about internally every day. I think that there is still room for, in the media landscape, a magazine that is essentially about what it means to be a modern man nowadays. That’s not the tagline by the way. But that’s what Esquire is: what it means to be a modern man today.

On why the magazine is only sold every other month: There are now monthly magazines that are piling up on my bedside table. It goes back to the idea that there is so much media out there, and we have a contact point with our reader on a daily, practically minute-by-minute, basis already, so I’m not worried about them losing sight of us because we publish a dozen good stories a day. So, I think the every other month is a really good cadence for our reader.

On where he sees Esquire in 2022: I think that we want to make sure that if I’m talking to you in one year this voice of the new Esquire is synthesized in a way where it’s unmistakable. I do think that’s something that we’re still in the process of honing. It’s really about zeroing in on what that voice is. I want to make sure that it’s unmistakable.

On the major challenge he’s faced: When I came into the job, the thing that I said, and I would say this to advertising clients, to people at  Hearst, is that it was an evolution, not a revolution. I didn’t want to come in and do that and suddenly you have a brand that nobody recognizes. I wanted to evolve the brand so that it felt very current and very fresh, but not leave traditional readers behind, I wanted to bring them along with us. And I think a challenge has been when to slow down the pace of that evolution and then when to hit the gas on it. I’m still figuring that out.

On Esquire’s cover of the band BTS: The other thing we publish is era-defining covers and stories and I would put BTS in that category. To be honest, when this was first pitched to me, I was like I don’t know about that. But the more that I thought about it and the more I talked to people, I realized that this is the biggest band in the world. They’re huge. And the fact that we would get to put them on our cover and tell their story and relate them to our reader was great. I also love their message around masculinity too, the way that they were challenging the  norms of masculinity and things like that. I thought it was a really good message to send.

On anything he’d like to add: We’re on this path right now to really redefine who the Esquire man is. And it’s not going to happen overnight, but I think that we’re making really good progress when it comes to that. From a business perspective, I’d love to get across that the membership program that we’ve introduced has been more successful than we had anticipated. And that is so heartening to know. That after years of putting our content out online for free, people want to pay us for it. And that feels really encouraging.

On what makes him tick and click: My answer to that is the promise of what we’re going to be able to do that day. And what I mean by that is that when I wake up in the morning, it kind of goes back to my referendum on relevance. When I wake up in the morning it’s a clean slate. And I’m thinking about all of the cool things that I can do with my job. So, all of the fun stories that I’m going to get to edit, the great people I’m going to be able to talk to, the awesome photographs I’m going to get to look at and help edit. It’s the potential of being able to do that every day that gets me out of bed. I’m still excited about my job.

On how he unwinds in the evenings: A little bourbon or wine, maybe reading a book, but really the things is I have two daughters, a five-year-old and a two-year-old, and when I go into the office, which is about once a week, they’re literally waiting at the front door for me when I come home.

On what keeps him up at night: Probably going back to what we’ve talked about, I’m at the helm of an 88-year-old brand. An iconic, American brand. One of the most iconic media brands that still exists. And the people who have sat in the seat before me paid into the equity of that brand during their time. So that when I got here we’ve had a lot of brand equity. And I want to make sure that I’m paying back into that so that whoever comes after me can reap the fruits of our labor. And this amazing brand can live on for another 88 years. And that keeps me up at night.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Michael Sebastian, editor in chief, Esquire. 

Samir Husni: I’ve read hundreds if not thousands of letters from the editor over the years in magazines, but I have never seen anything as personal as what you wrote in the March issue introducing a new section in the magazine, based on a letter you received from one reader. Tell me more about how listening to your audience is impacting your decisions as editor in chief of a major brand like Esquire.

Michael Sebastian: I’m so glad you brought up that letter from the editor because getting that note about Scott (Scott LaPointe, a reader diagnosed with ALS, who is now in home hospice care) and then talking to him on the phone was one of the most affecting experiences I’ve ever had. I don’t know if it was the weight of this pandemic; we’re doing so much figuring out right now. How do we make a magazine when we’re all remote? What do our readers want? And then to be reminded of the impact that we make in our readers’ lives. It’s not just entertainment or service, it’s formative and it’s something that this guy was wanting to hand off to his son. And that was so important.

Interesting, I’ve gotten a lot of notes about that editor’s letter including from my own staff, which essentially said “I needed that.” I needed that to remind me of the importance of what we do.

But to your question, obviously we’re listening to readers on the website just by the data that we have from them all of the time, there’s no question about that. And I think to some extent that informs the print magazine. But from the perspective of what we’re putting in the print magazine, that is still guided pretty strictly by editors and by what we think is important for our readers.

And to me, that cracks open a bigger question, which I’ve thought a lot about. I was the digital director at Esquire prior to becoming the editor in chief. And during my time there the audience basically exploded, we grew the audience by three or four times across multiple platforms. And we even brought the age down, which was also interesting to see the age of the reader, at least online.

So when I got into the editor in chief’s seat, I thought that what we could do was create a print magazine that was going to really appeal to that readership that we had attracted online. And so there were some decisions that we made and I’ll point you to a very specific one which was we redesigned the front of the book.

I wanted the front of the book experience to kind of mimic or mirror the experience that people had when they were scrolling on their phones, scrolling on Instagram. And by that I mean we created a fairly broad rubric called the short stories and within that rubric you would have fashion, culture, food & drink, politics; the whole thing. Because to me it wasn’t very jarring for a reader who’s used to scrolling through Instagram and seeing a post from The New York Times or a post from wherever. And so we basically did that for a year.

And we would have a lot of internal conversations about it, because there was one faction of people who were like no, that’s all wrong, we shouldn’t be doing that. And there was another faction of people who said right on, you’re making the right decision. And I have to say that after a year of doing that, I’m now eating crow on that decision, because I think it was the wrong one.

And so we’re pivoting from that, because I think the print experience should be its own experience. The website, the YouTube channel, the Instagram page; these things and the print magazine should all talk to each other. They should all be part of the same Esquire universe. There’s no question about that. But when it comes to creating that print magazine, I want something that is going to really lean into the printy-ness of it. By that I mean a certain curation that makes sense to the print reader.

Scott certainly inspired it, but the broader impetus behind doing that was essentially saying let’s create a front of book experience and a middle of book experience that is really leaning into that print magazine experience.

We have a YouTube channel and the growth of that is really off the charts right now and that’s because for a time we thought we could adapt digital stories, print stories into kind of YouTube videos. And they failed miserably. Then we realized that if we lean into what YouTube viewers want we’ll have better success and that’s what we did. And that’s what has led to the growth there.

And I think the same thing can be said about print. We’re not going to take lessons from YouTube and put them into print; we’re going to do what print does best essentially and hope and know that is going to appeal to our readers.

Samir Husni: Being platform agnostic now, do you feel your readers, users, viewers and listeners are platform specific or there’s a cross-platform taking place?

Michael Sebastian: Well, both. And I know that’s not a very satisfying answer, but I think that we have readers who only bump into us on certain platforms. There are people who only read us in print; there are people who only read us online; there are casual readers who follow us on Twitter and read a story every once and a while from us. But then we have the super-users and those are the people who subscribe to the magazine, they read us online, they follow us on social media and they watch our videos on YouTube.

We’ve actually created a membership program that is tailored to all of the things that I talked about. It’s called “Esquire Select.” We’ve had an interesting journey with asking people to pay for our content, particularly online. In 2018, we introduced a membership program specific to our politics columnist Charles. P. Pierce. It basically said we were going to put a metered paywall in front of him and we’re going to ask you to pay if you’re going to read more than three articles.

And I was really nervous about that when we introduced it in 2018, because for years people could read him for free. And as soon as we introduced that, we got this outpouring of people who said take my money, I’ll happily pay for Charlie. And I have to tell you that was such a relief. I was up nights thinking about that because I was afraid we would fall on our face. But it was very successful.

Then last year we introduced what we call “Esquire Select” and it’s similar to what you see with a lot of other media companies. Essentially, we give people options. For $40 you can get the whole thing. And the whole thing is the print magazine, access to almost 90 years of archives, Esquire every day without having to worry about a pay meter, exclusive deals from friends of the brand; you get newsletters, access to Charlie, just the whole thing.

Or maybe you just want the print magazine, you can subscribe for that. Or maybe you just want Charlie, you can do that. Or just the website. It’s basically giving readers a menu to choose from. We’re about three or four months into this experiment and so far, knock on wood, it’s one of the most successful membership programs at Hearst Magazines.

 

Samir Husni: You’re background is in journalism, you started as a newspaper reporter. After the killing of George Floyd, there was a big awakening about social injustice throughout the country, in newspapers and magazines as well. And the politics, the diversity and the inclusion topics also appeared in Esquire more than ever. As an editor, how are you dealing with this new social awakening? Are you moving too far to the left, to the right? What are you doing with your audience who may or may not agree with you?

Michael Sebastian: That’s a great question. If you go back to things that I said, interviews that I had done, as soon as I was named editor in chief, one of my main priorities was to diversify who is an Esquire man, who is an Esquire writer, and who is an Esquire photographer. And I don’t just mean diversify racially, although I did. I meant in terms of age, geographic diversity, the life experience people bring to the table.

We published a story in our last summer issue from a transgender person about their difficulty in the transitioning process. And I don’t think anything like that has ever run in Esquire before. So we’ve had a commitment since day one to this.

To your question when it comes to politics, I have a very strong point of view when it comes to my politics and the way that I feel about the topics that you brought up. And I’m not going to shy away from that in service of this soft, both-side dualism that we’ve seen. I think that there are readers who probably agree with me and want to go along for that ride. And I think there are readers who are open to a broad swath of ideas and who also want to see what we’re doing when it comes to that. And then there are probably readers who don’t like what we’re doing there and there are other magazines for them, is what I would say.

We’re at a time right now where I don’t want to be muddy about this. Again, I don’t want to be in that squishy middle ground. The point of view that we have is very progressive, but that also doesn’t mean that we’re not going to put voices in the magazine or the website, which we do frequently, that might not necessarily agree with my own personal politics. And I think that’s really important, because I do want to hear from people who have different perspectives as well.

Samir Husni: From Esquire’s beginning in the 1930s, it has been the man’s magazine. And after Playboy came it was still the man’s magazine, but a little bit more on the modest side. What would you tell men today that Esquire is? There is no tagline under it anymore; if you were to tagline the magazine for men today, what would you tell them?

Michael Sebastian: You bring up a big question here, asking for a tagline, which by the way we talk about a lot. A new tagline for Esquire. It’s not ready for primetime yet, but a good question though. (Laughs)

It’s a very good question because it’s an existential question about the brand. And it’s one that we talk about internally every day. I think that there is still room for, in the media landscape, a magazine that is essentially about what it means to be a modern man nowadays. That’s not the tagline by the way. But that’s what Esquire is: what it means to be a modern man today.

Over the course of the last year, I’ve thought about this a lot. And one of the reasons is, I guess by nature of the pandemic, I have spent a lot of time talking to male friends of mine who are not in media and don’t live in New York City, some do, but the majority do not. And finding out what they want when they have time to consume media. And I have gotten some very clear takeaways from them.

First of all, they have limited time. Obviously, that goes for everyone, but what I would say is that they have jobs and familial responsibilities. And Netflix that they want to watch, sports that they want to watch. So, when we have their attention, we can’t bore them. So we need to create a magazine that is never boring; it’s always going to be entertaining. Because once they look at us, we need to prove to them why they’re giving us their time.

The other thing too is we need to talk to men on this eye-to-eye level, like if you pulled up a barstool next to them or something. There are a lot of places that are talking to men right now. And I think a lot of those conversations are toxic, or at least don’t point them in the right direction.

So that’s very much what we want to do, but we also don’t want to go to the other side and preach to them, because I don’t think anyone wants to be preached to either. It’s basically having a conversation between you and I about what does it mean to be a modern man right now.

I can give you an example of a middle of the book franchise that we’re introducing starting in our next issue, April/May, which is called “How Did I Get Here?” And it dispatches from the new middle age. I’m basing this partly on my own experience, but then also experience of men that I’ve spoken with, which is that yesterday it felt like I was 27 and today I woke up and I’m 40-years-old with two kids. It’s like how did I get here? And I don’t mean that in a bad way. I don’t mean that I’m going to go buy a Corvette and grow a ponytail and leave my family behind. (Laughs) I just mean that these are things that we need to reckon with.

So, we’re introducing this two-page franchise and the aim is to have writers from different perspectives weigh in each time. That way we get a really broad swath of writers so that it can be people from all kinds of backgrounds. My dream is to have a dozen of these under our belt and then have a book out. So when you’re browsing through the bookstore or on Amazon, then you see a book from Esquire that’s tackling the new middle age.

And I’m very intent on talking direct to this reader and saying look, there’s a lot going on in your life and you can come to us and be entertained and informed, and there’s a lot of great stuff like fashion, how you can dress, but there’s also a lot of things that relates to where you are in your life.

Samir Husni: These conversations are evident in the magazine, you’ve even changed the table of contents. Instead of reading Table of Contents, it reads Welcome to Esquire, Mr. Holland Will See You In. There is an invite for that conversation to start. So why am I having to wait two months now to get this invite? Why did you go bimonthly? 

Michael Sebastian: I like the bimonthly cadence. The joke before used to be that issues of The New Yorker would pile up on your bedside table. And now I read The New Yorker on The New Yorker app, I don’t get the magazine anymore. It’s a great magazine and they publish great stuff every week, but that’s how I like to experience it.

And there are now monthly magazines that are piling up on my bedside table. It goes back to the idea that there is so much media out there, and we have a contact point with our reader on a daily, practically minute-by-minute, basis already, so I’m not worried about them losing sight of us because we publish a dozen good stories a day. So, I think the every other month is a really good cadence for our reader.

The idea is that we have the lasting power of a coffee table book with the urgency of a magazine that really seeks to meet you right now. So there’s a little bit of both in there. The term coffee table book is actually kind of thrown around a lot in the magazine world. I have a lot of coffee table books and I never look at them. And that’s the thing about coffee table books, they’re set pieces that are meant to decorate your house.

That’s not what I want Esquire to be. I don’t want it to be something that you put on your coffee table and never look at. I do want it to be on your coffee table and I want you every time you put your feet up, look down and grab it to read.

Samir Husni: Hopefully, beyond the pandemic, where do you see Esquire in 2022?

Michael Sebastian: I think that we want to make sure that if I’m talking to you in one year this voice of the new Esquire is synthesized in a way where it’s unmistakable. I do think that’s something that we’re still in the process of honing. It’s really about zeroing in on what that voice is. I want to make sure that it’s unmistakable.

As we come out of the pandemic and we’re allowed to do things that we haven’t been able to do in a year, I think that you’re going to hopefully see an explosion in different touchpoints of Esquire. With the various touchpoints, what I mean is we are a media brand first and foremost. We publish stories that are meant to have impact, but at the same time we’re talking about different ways that we can license the brand in really smart ways, in partnerships with brands that we love.

I’ll give you an example, one that we just did. Our creative director, Nick Sullivan, who is a legend in the fashion world, worked with the brand Anderson & Sheppard to design a field jacket that we are selling on the side and they’re selling in the store. It’s these sort of smart brand extensions that I think you’ll see in 2022.

And again, it all revolves around that print magazine and the content that we publish, in these stories that we publish, in the celebrities that we put on the cover and so on, but ultimately it branches out in all of these different smart ways.

Samir Husni: What has been the major challenge you’ve faced with the changes to Esquire and how did you overcome it?

Michael Sebastian: When I came into the job, the thing that I said, and I would say this to advertising clients, to people at Hearst, is that it was an evolution, not a revolution. I didn’t want to come in and do that and suddenly you have a brand that nobody recognizes. I wanted to evolve the brand so that it felt very current and very fresh, but not leave traditional readers behind, I wanted to bring them along with us. And I think a challenge has been when to slow down the pace of that evolution and then when to hit the gas on it. I’m still figuring that out.

There have been times when you’ve probably seen a great leap forward with a redesign of the print magazine and so on, and then other times when we’ve been a little slower to progress. So controlling the pace of that is a challenge. There are people who have read us for decades that are coming along for the ride and new readers who are coming onboard as we continue to evolve.

There is something that I think about a lot, which is Esquire has this almost 90-year legacy. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote for us,  Ernest Hemingway wrote for us; how would I get out of bed in the morning if I woke up thinking well. Hemingway was writing for us, so what can we do to match that? I don’t want to think about that too much because it would just be too overwhelming.

But at the same time, the thing about Esquire is that people loved to point to Esquire in the sixties. Of course, the stuff that they were doing was legendary, no question about that. But that wasn’t the magazine’s only Golden Era. There have been multiple golden eras throughout the years.

And the inspiration that I take from those golden eras of the brand is that those editors were never looking backward. The editors of the sixties weren’t looking at the editors of the thirties for inspiration, they were looking at right now. They were trying to meet the moment right now with this urgency that all great media brands have. The same could be said of the eighties or any other great period in Esquire’s history.

And that’s the inspiration that I want to take from it, the idea that we are meeting the moment with an urgency that’s undeniable. And I think my experience as a digital director actually helps with that because my mantra to myself and my staff and to my bosses, from the moment I became a digital director, was that every day on the Internet is a referendum on your relevance.

So when you wake up in the morning, you have to fight for that relevance. You have to be publishing stories that people are going to be talking about. Sometimes you succeed, sometimes you fail; the terrible part about this is that it never ends. And it’s exhausting because every day you’re fighting for people’s attention.

The good news about it though is if we fail today, we wake up tomorrow and we get to go at it again. And I think that’s true of the website, true of the magazine; it’s true of all extensions of the brand right now.

Samir Husni: How many letters have you received form people after you put BTS on the cover asking who are they? (Laughs)

Michael Sebastian: (Laughs too) I’m glad you brought up the BTS cover, I think of the well, the Esquire well and the well doesn’t just exist in print, it’s also the feature stories we publish online. So you have stories that make a social impact and the public service stories. We just published a story last week from Scott Raab as a matter of fact about the sexual abuse scandal at Ohio State. It’s a really powerful story and if you haven’t read it, you should. It’s incredible. We published a story last year about teen suicide and there has been an unfortunate uptick in that. Those are very important to the mix.

We also publish what I call adventure stories and I’m very keen on publishing them. I don’t just mean guy-climbs-a-mountain-almost-dies-but-doesn’t, I mean like these pulse-quickening reads that are tailor-made for Hollywood. And from the first issue I edited until the most recent one we had; we’ve had stories of heist and stories of prison breaks and stories about feuds in weird small communities.

And the other thing we publish is era-defining covers and stories and I would put BTS in that category. To be honest, when this was first pitched to me, I was like I don’t know about that. But the more that I thought about it and the more I talked to people, I realized that this is the biggest band in the world. They’re huge. And the fact that we would get to put them on our cover and tell their story and relate them to our reader was great. I also love their message around masculinity too, the way that they were challenging the  norms of masculinity and things like that. I thought it was a really good message to send.

I did get a couple of letters asking who they were, but the amount of fan mail on all platforms that we received was overwhelming. And I would do it all over again.

Samir Husni: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Michael Sebastian: We’re on this path right now to really redefine who the Esquire man is. And it’s not going to happen overnight, but I think that we’re making really good progress when it comes to that. From a business perspective, I’d love to get across that the membership program that we’ve introduced has been more successful than we had anticipated. And that is so heartening to know. That after years of putting our content out online for free, people want to pay us for it. And that feels really encouraging.

Samir Husni: What makes you tick and click and motivates you to get out of bed in the mornings?

Michael Sebastian: My answer to that is the promise of what we’re going to be able to do that day. And what I mean by that is that when I wake up in the morning, it kind of goes back to my referendum on relevance. When I wake up in the morning it’s a clean slate. And I’m thinking about all of the cool things that I can do with my job. So, all of the fun stories that I’m going to get to edit, the great people I’m going to be able to talk to, the awesome photographs I’m going to get to look at and help edit. It’s the potential of being able to do that every day that gets me out of bed. I’m still excited about my job.

Of course, by the end of the day I’m exhausted because there are a number of things that have gotten in the way. Administrative stuff, bureaucratic stuff, emails, all of that. By the end of the day I may have lost a little momentum. But when I wake up in the morning I’m full of it.

Samir Husni: How do you unwind then in the evenings?

Michael Sebastian: A little bourbon or wine, maybe reading a book, but really the things is I have two daughters, a five-year-old and a two-year-old, and when I go into the office, which is about once a week, they’re literally waiting at the front door for me when I come home.

And when I’m here working from home, I’m upstairs and they’re downstairs and I walk down the stairs and they’re at the bottom of the stairs yelling daddy. And that is the thing that I close my computer, leave my phone in the other room and I spend as much time as I can talking and playing with them. It’s amazing how all the stress from the day can just melt away at that point.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Michael Sebastian: Probably going back to what we’ve talked about, I’m at the helm of an 88-year-old brand. An iconic, American brand. One of the most iconic media brands that still exists. And the people who have sat in the seat before me paid into the equity of that brand during their time. So that when I got here we’ve had a lot of brand equity. And I want to make sure that I’m paying back into that so that whoever comes after me can reap the fruits of our labor. And this amazing brand can live on for another 88 years. And that keeps me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.