Sprint: The Slow Network- How Your Eye Impacts Your Messages

Today I saw a bus advertising Sprint as “The Slow Network.”


It actually read “The Now Network,” but part of the N was hidden by a mirror or other part of the bus, and my mind saw the “low” and filled in the rest, resulting in the message that Sprint was a Slow Network. The mind does that; you can read about how what the eye really sees is not necessarily what our brains interpret it as here.

After I spotted this bus and processed the information, I did a double take, and realized what the ad was supposed to say. But if I had processed this information on a more subconscious level, would I have thought of Sprint as a slow network, not realizing why? The answer to this question isn’t quite clear, and would most likely vary from person to person. But this question should affect how we shape our advertising messages.

What does this mean for you?

I’m not saying that the word “Now” should not be used because it has two letters in common with “Slow,” a word no cellular network wants to be associated with. But similarity between the two words should be acknowledged and considered slightly when designing ads, especially for outdoor ads such as buses, when more factors may be out of your control. Could have the word “Now” been more centered in the design?

When considering wording for your advertising and marketing messages, recognize rhyming and similarly spelled words that could alter the meaning of your message if seen or heard incorrectly. Unfortunate placement of ads could significantly influence the success of a campaign, so take small factors such as this into consideration.


Admit When You Are Wrong: The Netflix Story

The Netflix Story and My Take

Netflix Makes PR Mistakes, But Admits When It's WrongI’ve been a huge fan of Netflix for about a year and a half. Although I was slow to discover Netflix, its unlimited media streaming found me and had me captivated. I used the streaming service often in the beginning, but found myself utilizing the mail delivery DVD service more. Since this was pre-price change, I was paying about $9 a month for unlimited movie streaming and DVDs by mail.

Legitimate Increase: Then they increased the price by $1 (November 2010).  Fine. I was paying 9.99 I wasn’t happy, but it was a dollar.

PR Mistake #1: Less than a year later, they nearly doubled my cost, separating the unlimited movie streaming from the DVD delivery service.

Since I’m price sensitive and I didn’t use my streaming enough or send my movies back soon enough to justify the cost, I rode out my existing membership until the price increase would take effect (September 1st for current subscribers), and cancelled my membership.

 I wasn’t alone.

TDG, The Diffusion Group, estimated that between 2 to 2.5 million (12-15% of dual service subscribers), would cancel their subscriptions all together, while many more would eliminate one of the two services available. But, both on Facebook and Twitter, tens of thousands expressed that their dissatisfaction was more towards how the company spun the price increase (as beneficial towards the customer), and not the increase itself.

Then, after much of the negativity resulting from the price increase had subsided, Netflix announced that they were spinning their DVD delivery service off into a company called Qwikster. Twitter and Facebook exploded with disapproval and negative reactions.

This time, less than a month after the initial announcement, CEO Reed Hastings acknowledged its customers disapproval and declared that plans for Qwikster were cancelled.

Lessons Learned from Netflix

1. Handle price Increases with care. They are inevitable; costs go up and inflation exists. Customers will not be happy, but if handled delicately with understanding, price increases will be accepted with little backlash.  Netflix’s $1 increase in 2010 was accepted, reflected by the steadily increasing stock prices, appearing unaffected by the price increase. Its second price increase was not gradual at all, and, in my opinion, too much at one time.

2. Be honest and spin moderately. Don’t try to overspin things. Yes, it is Public Relation’s job to make bad news sound like good news, but don’t overdo it. As Netflix customer Greg Heitzmann stated in a comment to the official announcement on the Netflix blog,

“…Jessie Becker’s presentation of this upcharge–as an added choice for my own benefit–insults my intelligence and reveals the breadth of your arrogance. Had I been treated like an adult and informed of these changes in a straightforward, honest manner, perhaps we could rekindle our spark. Unfortunately, this course of action is no longer available; your condescending and manipulative tone has irreparably ruined our relationship.”

3. Listen to Your Customers and Admit when you’re wrong. Less than a month after the announcement of Qwikster, Netflix cancelled its plans, stating on the Netflix blog,  “It is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult.”

Netflix’s Future

Netflix has plenty of ground to make up. As of September 12, Netflix’s stock was trading at $213. Shortly after its announcement that its DVD mailing service would be separated from Netflix, its stock plummeted to $113 less than a month later.

Despite all the negativity around it lately, I love and believe in Netflix. Company’s management could have handled their announcements better, but the services they provide are still an excellent value for many. I hope to return as a member when their offerings and benefits match my justification for the still reasonable price of $8 per month for each service.

Netflix's Stock Prices in relation to its recent announcements

Share Your Thoughts

What are your thoughts on the Netflix Story? What is your take on the Future of Netflix? Are its competitors going to gain from Netflix’s recent decisions? Is there a company that can take over where Netflix has disappointed its customers?

Feel free to share your experiences with the company, or contribute your own ideas on how we can learn PR or Marketing lessons from Netflix’s recent actions.

15 SEO Tools That Will Save You Time

This is a guest post from Michael Tomlinson of A Small Orange, a web hosting company.

Here are 15 quick pointers on SEO that will save headaches down the road. Whether your site is with a Ruby on Rails hosting provider or PHP-based, these tactics are proven to enhance visitor experience. Matt Cutts of Google agrees.

Easy Tasks

1: Make sure title tags reflect appropriate page topics to the search engines. Set the title of the homepage to the company name and related company data, such as location and business type. Avoid being wordy or too descriptive. Each page with a unique title tag stands out as distinct to search engines.

2: Some absorb written information fine without visual aids, while others benefit markedly from visual stimulation. An estimated 55% of the population constitutes the primarily visually-oriented, so embed pictures for context where possible, but not to excess.

3: Easy to read URL structure. Lengthy addresses containing unreadable stretches of characters are an eyesore. Using human readable addresses tells search engines what a page is about. It helps to maintain a directory structure that is easy to remember, in case a 301 redirect is ever needed.

4: Search engines and visitors require sound site navigation. Categorize your site so it will be easy for everyone to find exactly what they need right away. Employ “breadcrumbs,” a line of links to meta topics, to simplify navigating the site. Favor text over JavaScript and Flash for navigation links.

5: Use a static HTML sitemap to direct visitors to the most important destinations on your site, and use an XML Sitemap to appease the search engines.

Intermediate Tasks

6: Tweak the robots.txt file to disallow search result-type pages from being read by search engines. Disallow search engines to crawl URLs established by proxy services.

7: Good products and services generate their own buzz. Offer compelling content and your traffic is sure to increase. Employ synonyms and keyword variations on pages.

8: Image optimization is critical, and can reduce the size of a webpage by as much as 50% or more in some cases. Do not use a photo that is larger than what is called for; this results in the higher resolution image appearing smaller, scaling to fit its defined space. Use the ‘alt’ attribute for internal and external image files. This displays text describing the image in case a visitor cannot display it.

9: Tailor page content for users, not search engines. Visitors who read a passage of keyword-stuffed text that makes little or no sense will leave and probably not return. Deceptive tactics, like coloring keyword text the same as the color of the page background is discouraged, are discouraged.

10: Link to pages using anchor text. Clicking a link whose content is relevant to a topic, while reading, results in a better visitor experience than scrolling to the bottom of the page to find the links. Search engines benefit from anchor text, so anchor internal links as well. Make sure link color stands out from surrounding text.

Advanced Tasks

11: Categorize directories in such a way that they are memorable. Avoid having image files scattered over twenty folders; keeping the directory tree short and organized translates to friendlier URLs.

12: Use the ‘description’ meta tag. Its content ranges from a couple of sentences to a paragraph, and ideally gives a page summary. Google states it is good practice.

13: An image sitemap is of value. It can tell search engine spiders what images are at your website. This works similar to an XML sitemap for web pages.

14: A nonexistent or unhelpful 404 page contributes to negative user experience. Eliminate that by taking time to setup a 404 page that directs visitors back to the home page, and to other areas of interest.

15: For comment pages, set the ‘rel’ attribute to “no follow” so that search engines ignore link spam.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Michael for his guest post! These are some great tips to keep in mind when conducting our search engine optimization! If you are interested in writing a guest post to appear on the eMarketing & New Media Blog, feel free to send an email to me, Erica, so we can discuss a potential topic. Thanks again, Michael!

An Alternative to Search Engines: StumbleUpon

In previous posts, An Alternative to Search Engines: Delicious, and An Alternative to Search Engines: Twitter, I discussed how today’s social media sites offer us an alternative to search engines when searching for information or resources. In those posts I also explained, in detail, how both Twitter and Delicious can be used for this purpose. StumbleUpon is also a site that can be used effectively for this purpose.


I like Stumbleupon because it’s more than just a social bookmarking site- it actually recommends pages to you based on your interests.  There are times I have lost track of time while discovering numerous sites about e-marketing or other search terms.  It has somewhat of an addictive nature to it.

Introduced in 2001, Stumbleupon is a “discovery engine” that uses your interests (determined by topics or tags you have said that you liked), and the pages you have already “liked” (or bookmarked using the thumbs up [ ] icon) or “disliked” (marked using the thumbs down [ ] icon) to find pages that you may find interesting. You can “discover” these sites by categories (i.e. “marketing”), by search term, and even by what your friends have liked. For more on how Stumbleupon works, see its about page.

Use StumbleUpon for Search

Search from the StumbleUpon Website. There are a few different ways to use StumbleUpon to find resources. The first is to visit their web site and sign in. Once signed in, enter the keyword or tag in the “Search Favorites” box in the upper right hand corner.

In this example, I’m using “photoshop tutorials.”

You’ll see a page revealing results for the search terms from pages that only your friends liked.

To expand your search, choose “everyone’s favorites” from the drop down menu beside your search term and click search.

Now, your results will include all pages on StumbleUpon that match your search term. Notice how your search results have increased by over 30,000 results.

In order to find the best result, I generally use the number of views, the number of reviews associated with the page, and if any of my friends have liked the page. These aspects have been highlighted in the above picture for easy recognition. I try those with the most views and/or reviews first, until I find what I am looking for.

Search through the StumbleUpon Toolbar. Another way to use StumbleUpon to find resources is through its toolbar within Google (The StumbleUpon toolbar for different web browsers may differ than the one I am using here).

Beside the Stumble button, click “All.” A menu will appear with all of the categories you can stumble in. For example, stumbling in “Advertising” will allow you to only stumble through pages that were discovered and placed in the “Advertising” category.  Choose “Search,” which will allow you to stumble through a query.

In the window that appears, type your search term and click okay to proceed.

You will see that you are automatically brought to a page that matches your search, as it has been tagged by others. Continue clicking the “stumble” button in the toolbar to stumble through more pages that match your search.

Other Posts in This Series: Delicious and Twitter

Other social media sites that can be used in a similar way to find some great resources include Delicious and Twitter. You can read about how I use Delicious to find resources in my post, An Alternative to Search Engines: Delicious,  and discover how Twitter is used in a similar way in my post, An Alternative to Search Engines: Twitter.

Share Your Search Methods

How do you find your resources? Do you rely on search engines? Are there other social media sites that you use to find things? Please feel free to share your experiences and tips in the comments section.

Six Creative Ways to Use Google Alerts

In many prior posts, I emphasized how everyone should be using Google Alerts to monitor the online presence of his or her name AND company’s name. Monitoring these will alert you whenever any site is talking about you, revealing both potential reputation management issues, and opportunities for outreach and growth.

In my last post, Step by Step Guide to Setup Your Google Alerts, I gave easy step by step instructions for how to use and setup Google Alerts for your name and company name. Today, I wanted to share with you some additional unique and creative ways to use Google Alerts to help you gain customers, keep up with your competition, and other purposes.

1. Identify your Competition.

Create a Google Alert for a few different popular keywords in your niche. If a single domain name keeps appearing, then there is a very good chance that it is a competitor, and you should set up an alert to spy on its domain (see tip #2).

2. Keep Track of and Spy on Your Competition.

Create a Google Alert for your competitor’s site, which will allow you to keep an eye on how and what your competition is doing. For example, the search term: link:www.competition.com would allow you to be alerted each time somebody links to your competition For example, if you are PetSmart, you may want to try the search term link:www.petco.com.

To focus on a more specific aspect of your competitor’s site, try the search term: “keyword” site:www.competition.com. For example, if you are a company specializing in organic dog food, you may want to try “organic dog food” site:www.petco.com. This would allow you to identify whenever Petco begins offering or talking about a type of organic dog food on its site.

3. Find Jobs through Google Alerts.

Create a Google Alert with keywords for specific organizations and positions you are looking for. For example, the search term: “job” and “marketing” and “Google” would be appropriate when keeping an eye out for marketing jobs at Google.

4. Find New Leads and Potential Customers.

If you know what your customers may be looking for, set up a few alerts with questions as the search term to capture those who are actively asking those questions on sites such as Yahoo! Answers. You can then visit the site and answer the question and/or follow up with that individual directly in an email to address their question and offer your product or service as a solution.

For example, using the search term: “how do I improve my website?” I can find individuals interested in improving their website, and contact them to suggest purchasing the web site evaluation that I offer in order to identify areas of the site that can be enhanced to increase conversion and sales.

You can try setting up several variations of the questions to capture as many potential leads as possible. Because you use quotes and are looking for a very specific combination of keywords, your inbox will not be inundated with a countless number of results even if you setup 20+ alerts.

5. Answer Your Questions and Gather Opinions.

Using a * in a Google search is a little-known, but powerful search operator. The * in a Google search is used as a wildcard, meaning that the * can represent any word. For example, if you want to know what the blogosphere thinks is the most valuable social media tool, set up a Google Alert for the search term: * is the most valuable social media tool, or to be more generic, use the search term: * is the best social media tool.

6. Gather Data.

Set a Google alert for new statistics or studies about certain topics to get the most up to date data available. For example, to be notified when studies or statistics are released for childhood obesity, use the search term: childhood obesity statistics, or search term: childhood obesity research study.

Be Creative!

Take a look at Google’s Search Operators for more inspiration on how you can use Google Alerts in some interesting and different ways. How do YOU use Google Alerts? Feel free to share your creative renditions on how to use Google Alerts in the comments section.

Related Posts You May Be Interested In

Step by Step Guide to Setup Your Google Alerts

In many prior posts, I have stressed how everyone should be using Google Alerts for their own personal reputation management, and companies should be using it for their company’s reputation management. In less than five minutes, you can sign up to be notified whenever your name, company name, or any other selected keywords appear on the web. You can read more about the importance of using Google Alerts for reputation management and other uses in my prior posts, “Using RSS Feeds to Your Advantage,” and “Social Media Tools Should be Used for PR.”

Since many of my clients have still not utilized this great tool, I’ve put together a step by step visual guide to help you or your company sign up to receive Google alerts.

How to Use Google Alerts, Step by Step

1. Visit www.google.com/alerts.

Step by Step Google Alerts

2. Enter your preferences in the fields available.

Search terms: enter your name, company name, or any other search term you would like to keep an eye on.
Type: Select whether you would like to be notified when your search term appears in blog search results, news search results, etc. Choose “everything” if you would like to be notified when your search term appears anywhere.
Volume*: Choose “All results” to receive a notification whenever your search term appears, even if Google thinks that it is “less relevant” or “low quality.
Your email: enter the email you would like to receive alerts at. If you would like results to be delivered to an RSS feed, log in to Google and choose the “feed” option, as shown.

How to Use Google Alerts

3.       Click the “Create Alert” button.

Your alerts are now set. From now on, each time your search term appears in the Google search engine, you will be notified. If you chose the email option, you will receive an email similar to the one below each time your search term appears.

Using Google Alerts

*Note: Google explains here that

“The volume setting determines how many results you see in each alert. In the default setting, “Only the best results,” Google Alerts tries to filter the results so that they are relevant to your query and high quality. If you select “All results,” you’ll receive all the results that Google Alerts finds for your search terms, without any filtering to remove results which are low quality or less relevant.”

I would still recommend using the “all results” setting in order to be able to fully monitor your key words.

For more on the importance of Google Alerts in reference to reputation management, remember to revisit my prior posts, “Using RSS Feeds to Your Advantage,” and “Social Media Tools Should be Used for PR.”

If you would prefer a professional to create a reputation management plan customized to monitor your company within your specific industry, feel free to contact me, Erica, to discuss pricing and options. With the right reputation management plan, your company will remain ahead of the competition and address potential reputation issues before they become issues or problems. Contact Erica for more details.

An Alternative to Search Engines: Twitter

In a previous post, An Alternative to Search Engines: Delicious, I discussed how Delicious and other social media sites could be used as an alternative to search engines when looking for online resources. The great thing about these social media resources is that people have already ranked or tagged them as helpful. Results in the search engines are ranked in order of relevance, generally, so results are not necessarily going to be helpful. Other users have already “approved” resources you find through social media sites as being useful. This ensures you that the material you find will help you, even if its search engine optimization is not as good as others.



Twitter is a social media site that can be used for this purpose of finding valuable content. Twitter made a huge splash in 2007 and 2008, during which you couldn’t visit new media or technology sites without hearing about it. I’ve found Twitter to be a great way to find some great articles or statistics. Twitter is especially useful for finding data in real time, as everything appears instantly.

To use Twitter’s search engine, type your keyword in the search bar at the top of the page, as shown below.

Twitter Search

Your results will appear, and seem to be sorted in order of both relevancy and most recent. In order to find the most recent posts, you can type your keyword followed by since:today’s date.  For example, marketing since: 2011-02-21 will provide you with all tweets containing the keyword “marketing” since February 21, 2011.

Other Posts in This Series: Delicious and StumbleUpon

Other social media sites that can be used in a similar way to find some great resources include Delicious and Twitter. You can read about how I use Delicious to find resources in my post, An Alternative to Search Engines: Delicious,  and discover how StumbleUpon is used in a similar way in my upcoming post, An Alternative to Search Engines: StumbleUpon.

Do You Have Alternatives for Search Engines?

Other social media sites that I mentioned could be valuable in searching for advantageous resources include Delicious, as mentioned in the previous post in this series, and StumbleUpon.

How do you find your resources? Do you rely on search engines or are there other social media sites that you use to find things? I look forward to hearing your experiences and tips in the comments section.