We’ve Got A Spark!

IMG_5129Summerville’s Guinness World Record-breaking sweet tea event last summer netted the town more than 70 million media impressions, thousands of event participants, and real revenue from post-event sales. And as a result of their support, we earned a Spark Award from the Charleston American Marketing Association in the category of Best Event Marketing.

We provided national, regional, local and social media support for the event, which was the brainchild of town staff. While Guinness record breaks have become relatively common activities, the Summerville sweet tea event harnessed numerous special features: it paid homage to the town’s claim as birthplace of sweet tea, enveloped a number of local vendors to help break the record, and engaged thousands of attendees.

We were thrilled to help the Town of Summerville gain national recognition for this record-breaking attempt. We are also honored to be recognized by the marketing community for this work.

Bone Up On What is Essential

During a general session at this week’s SC Governor’s Conference on Tourism, flash artist and motivational speaker Erik Wahl did some amazing work. He painted portraits in moments, got the audience squirming, and elicited some very teary eyes.

But what really struck us was this: when approaching a new painting, Erik focuses on the most basic lines of the drawing. He eliminates all the excess “noise” right from the start, and only then builds up with color and texture. The result is something beautiful: the essential truth of the painting.

It reminded us of a landscape architect we know, who once shared that the best gardens start with bricks and concrete. Hard-scaping comes first. Showy plants come last.

After all, a living being cannot be fully healthy if its skeletal system is weak. The same is true for a garden. Or a communications program.

Getting at the essential truth of any pursuit is, ultimately, a key to success. Erik knows that – and it’s why he preaches this notion of essentiality to corporate audiences.

We happen to also believe that every great campaign, event, press release or blog post (!) has to start with a solid skeletal structure. Strip all the other noise away before you begin to work. And then, build from there.

One of our client/pals, Jennifer Howard, is a master of this technique. She is great at addressing a large group of super smart people with the most basic – and often challenging – question imaginable: what problem are we trying to solve here?

Focusing on the essential deliverable has a way of getting everybody at the table rowing in unison toward a goal.

Likewise, we recently organized a pretty complex event in one location. In reality, it was two events, held concurrently, in one fluid space. By asking ourselves what the client ultimately wanted to achieve, we were able to conjure a winning answer. (By the way, what they wanted was to connect people to one another in distinctly different yet warm, welcoming ways. That was a great strategy brief from which we could do meaningful work).

And one final proof point speaks to general public relations. We believe we’re pretty good storytellers. So we often begin a PR assignment as an effort to pare down before we build up. What is the key message we want our readers to embrace? Knowing that answer makes the work efficient, and effective.

So the challenge we’d lay down to others is this: on any given day, what is it you’re trying to achieve? What are the bones of your story?

Using Competition to Boost Creativity

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 1.08.46 PMWhen it comes to landing media placements, winning industry awards or even ordering lunch, we are pretty cutthroat around here. Our competitive streak really picked up after the umpteenth time somebody walked in all self-satisfied with her morning workout.

So we came up with a way to encourage healthy competition: Every time we exercise, mark it on the calendar. At the end of the month, the person with the most stars earns a little prize, and most importantly, bragging rights.

Nothing motivates us like some competition, so our contest keeps us healthy and gives us something to chat about (not that any of us need help in that department!).

It also encourages a workplace philosophy where it’s OK to step away from the computer and go for a quick walk down King Street to clear the mind and reignite creativity.

We all know the physical benefits of exercise, and most are aware that working out can help reduce brain clutter. But, it also boosts creative thinking.

A study by Stanford University found that a person’s creative output (divergent thinking) increased by an average of 60 percent when walking. The “working memory” focuses on walking while a person’s thought process gets some free time to roam.

Now that we know a morning spin class or even a quick stroll will stimulate our creativity, it gives us another reason to reach for the title of monthly exercise calendar winner at Touchpoint.

We are always brainstorming new and exciting ways to tell our clients’ stories, but being able to say “So the best idea came to me during my morning workout” at internal meetings is an easy way to brag a little while providing better service to our clients.

Reinforcing Our Resolutions

The New Year brings a great time to sit back and conjure ideas that lead to continuous success, and ways to bring enjoyment to every workday. After all, work doesn’t have to be boring and shouldn’t be – especially in a business like ours!

From reorganizing our workspaces to amping up networking efforts and volunteer service, we have big plans for 2016. How are you planning to make ’16 sweeter than the years before?

Here are ways that we are starting new this year on the right foot:

Switch It Up. On average, Americans spend 40 hours a week at the office. Whether or not you are fond of your coworkers (we are!), it’s smart to use a portion of that time together to connect and collaborate.

Our shared office space naturally fosters a collaborative environment. And it also allows us the luxury of switching up where we sit.  Whether we sit at our desks, kitchen table or “diner,” we are able to mix it up.

These seemingly small changes in location or team connection often trigger creative thinking. Flexible space gives us time away from others when we need it. Meanwhile, an “open door policy” allows us to tap into the minds of our talented coworkers.

ad2d864da1624485dffd9b14bed55b6cKeep the clutter in check. Before the holidays, we neatened our desks and decluttered the office, so we would return to tidy workspaces in the New Year. We stemmed the spread of magazines, newspapers and loose papers containing client media clips before it got out of hand by taking just a few minutes to reorganize.

Now our recent media placements live in a much less conspicuous area, hiding them from our line of sight. The ongoing challenge, and our resolution, is to keep up with the filing with the help of our incoming intern so these items don’t begin distracting us typically tidy Touchpointers again.

Get Out There. Writers for Inc. Magazine agree that “going to networking events every few months can help keep you active in your industry, help you make valuable connections and learn new things, and help you improve your skills as a professional.”

As PR professionals, it’s important to network to maintain existing relationships and build new ones. We are always eager to meet fellow industry professionals, writers, bloggers and potential clients. We make it a point to establish new relationships by attending events held by the American Marketing Association and Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, in addition to other industry and professional development events.

We volunteer for organizations close to our heart. Every team member gives back to the community we love in some way. We lend our expertise to young professionals, nonprofits and creative organizations, and are always happy to help friends and acquaintances who could benefit from our professional know-how.

As our founder likes to say, “If it’s community-building and it matters to us, we want to work on it.”

So those are our simple business resolutions for the new year. We’ll be tracking how well we adhere to them in the months to come. And we would love to know yours!

Get Out There!

For lots of businesses, the year is winding down. For us, not so much.

We’re wrapping up projects, finalizing 2016 plans, and on-boarding new clients. A long winter’s nap is not in the immediate cards.

If you’d happened into our office yesterday, you’d have found it empty. Some of us were out grabbing video content for two clients’ social media channels. Others were in Summerville, experiencing the town as visitors do, so we can channel those insights into our new marketing plans.

Previous days found us on site visits at the Charleston Tea Plantation, Cannonborough Soda Company and elsewhere. And before that, our media planner flew to Colorado for a number of meetings with a partner there. Sprinkle in a number of other field trips, hours spent embedded at client offices, on photo shoots, at media meetings and tours, and we start to understand why we’re so tired at the end of the week. And why we’re so energized every day.

Today we have great technology that makes distance irrelevant. But sometimes it is good to sit across from a client or vendor and look them in the eye when discussing strategy or future plans.

Having that kind of interaction builds a stronger relationship. You learn more about the person than you would through email or a phone conference. Here are three reasons why face-to-face time matters, courtesy of, Words from Y-M, Marketing Matters blog.

Meanwhile, many of us got into this communication business because we like to – well – communicate. We like to experience new places.

Sure, it would be easier to just stay in the office, posting and texting and poking people with call-backs and re-emails. It’s easy to feel the pull of one’s desk – of inertia – and fill our hours with the work immediately before us.

But staying put wouldn’t be as effective – or fun – as getting out there. We believe that boots-on-the-ground is just as powerful a strategy as nose-to-the-grindstone, when it comes to understanding the stories we’ll tell.

A new year beckons. Tell us what adventures await, and where you want to meet up!

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Giving Can Boost Your Health – And Make You Feel Good

We’ve all heard the saying “giving is better than receiving,” but did you know that giving might also deliver health benefits?

We’re not the only ones saying it. Researchers agree that volunteering provides individual health benefits and social benefits. A study by The Corporation of National & Community Service found a strong relationship between volunteering and health: those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.

This holiday season, we’re gearing up to give back and we hope you’ll join!turkey-20-one80-place-70

One of our favorite non-profits (and clients) is set to host its annual Thanksgiving donation drive. One-Eighty Place, formerly Crisis Ministries is inviting the community to give back in a fun, unique way. “Turkey and a $20” is an all-day giving event where supporters drive by the downtown shelter to deliver none other than a turkey and a $20 (or other protein source). Your donation will help feed hungry people this Thanksgiving and for the year to come.

No matter how you give back this holiday season, know that you are making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.

We hope to see you this Tuesday, November 24 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. at One-Eighty Place!

One Degree Makes All the Difference

“At 211 degrees, water is hot. At 212 degrees, it boils. And with boiling water, comes steam…and with steam, you can power a train.”  – 212º The Extra Degree by Sam Parker

One degree makes all the difference.

The idea is simple: work hard and you will produce good work. Push even harder and you will generate results worth bragging about.

Experts agree that leaders must be readers and we agree.

trainAs PR professionals, we’re big on reading and are always looking for tidbits of motivation from colleagues, clients, books, popular media, etc. That’s how we discovered 212º. A client raved about it, so we knew we had to get on board. Now, all “Touchpointers” have read it cover to cover, multiple times.

The author draws readers in right away with real life statistics and quotes that inspire people to achieve results beyond their wildest expectations.

It takes hard work. It means taking action. It demands responsibility.

This book can motivate all – colleagues, managers, friends, spouses, students – to take their lives into their own hands and achieve results.

We recognize that pushing ourselves one extra degree can be the difference between good and great – and even better when “turning up the heat’ gets our client noticed.

How has your organization “gone 212?” What have you done to reward them?

“Visual” and “Instant” Features Rule Social Media Trends

#IndySMBWe live in a time when you have about three seconds to get someone’s attention. Most people will abandon a webpage if it takes more than three seconds to load, they skim through social media feeds as fast as their fingers can swipe, and engage in different ways with numerous social media platforms every day.

The recent news that Twitter laid off 8 percent of its total workforce in an effort to cut costs and streamline its engineering team, along with varying reports on which demographics are most active on Facebook, and Instagram’s ever-expanding ad offerings for businesses all demonstrate how rapidly the social media landscape is changing. It’s challenging for business owners and social media strategists to plan their next step, or even determine where to begin.

Instead of having people wait around for seconds upon seconds (the horror!) while waiting for their phones or computers to navigate from Facebook to the article source, Facebook just rolled out an ‘Instant Articles’ feature.

This saves precious seconds of load time. In fact, these pages are supposed to load ‘ten times faster than a standard mobile web article.’

This feature boasts autoplay videos that load seamlessly as you read, and the ability to zoom-in on a photo just by tilting your phone. Facebook is losing popularity among younger millennials who reportedly like to spend their social media time on more inherently visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

Yet, Facebook’s instant access to articles and the more efficient visual features may give users what they want, and make it easier for businesses and their media consultants to grab consumers’ attention.

So what’s the bottom line? Capturing the attention of your customers is harder than ever. And that’s funny, because people believe social media channels make it easier than ever. It takes good strategy and communication savvy to understand how each channel works – and especially, how to make it work for you.

The Secret Behind Female Entrepreneurs’ Success

woman-690036_1280A recent article in Inc. has us thinking. They covered research that shows women-owned firms are outperforming male-owned counterparts in creating jobs and contributing to the economy.

First a bit of full disclosure: Touchpoint doesn’t make the “middle market” definition as described by the research. (But hey, we can dream!)

But, we do share some of the characteristics of these little “engines that can.”

Researchers have long cited women leaders as being more collaborative and open to diversity than men, and we like to believe we are, too. (Please note: we’ve worked with amazingly open, collaborative guys, and more than a few hard-charging, take-no-prisoners women. So gender buckets aren’t always helpful.).

And that’s what has us thinking. No matter the gender of the person at the helm, we wonder if these are the qualities that drive today’s up-and-comers to grow and prosper:

Noticing: Yep, paying attention to the needs of employees, clients and the community can go a long way to building success. Women may more often be wired to notice what’s happening with members of their teams and tribes.

Acting: Once you notice something, you may need to take action. We saw recent CofC research that indicates corporate boards dominated by women are more efficient and effective than male-dominated boards. And that’s because women identify a problem and seek a solution with real timelines. They mean business.

Pivoting: Sometimes, the best strategy in the world goes South. Do you ride that death train to its end, or do you change course? We think that women are often pre-disposed to flexing in the face of unexpected realities. And this – we maintain – can be a very good thing.

Feeling: Now here’s where we get to float a notion that may be anathema to many – including women. But it’s something we (or, well, I) believe is a difference maker. Women are more inclined to lead from a place of love and compassion. Not all women. And not at all times. But strong female leaders learn that there is space in the office for empathy AND grit; light AND tensile strength.

And at the end of the day, the reason they may be contributing more to the economy is that people are choosing to work with them. Um, make that us.

What do you think?

Three, Two, One … Lift Off

One of our greatest thrills comes from helping reveal something new to the world. Whether it’s a restaurant, a product, or an entire community, the act of helping birth a new entity is beyond exciting.

We’re uber proud to be helping launch Summers Corner, a special “community in a garden” growing in Summerville, SC. On September 19, years of careful thinking and cultivation will give way to the first public glimpse of this special place.

We have appreciated an insider look at the crisp strategy and sumptuous creative by Colorado-based Strada. And we extend warm thanks to the dozens of partners who’ve helped make the media launch plan so richly rewarding. We highly recommend keeping an eye on the SC Facebook and Instagram feeds to see this place bloom.

Meanwhile, we’re also having lots of fun with the team at The Darling, a restaurant set to open in downtown Charleston later this fall. For us, the joy is in being a part of people’s dreams, and conjuring new ways to make a difference. We’ll welcome you telling us how we did, a few months from now!

So what principals apply to launching entities diverse as a restaurant and a community? From our perspective, these are the constants:

  • Take time to think, collaborate, play devil’s advocate and benchmark. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. So front-load your thinking and anticipate – as best you can – what the public will want and need.
  • Be ready to flex. All the pre-thinking in the world won’t necessarily accommodate every response. Be ready to test your pre-thinking in real time. Listen, tweak, repeat.
  • Think big. While small, daily wins drive business, we like to think big. By setting high reach goals, we find ourselves pushing hard. Really hard. And that seems only fair, since our clients are working day and night on the same launch.

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