This interview was made possible by our friends at Guidant Financial:
The leader in alternative startup, franchise and small business financing.
Dennis Erokan brings some 25 years of marketing strategy and information industry experience to The Placemaking Group. There he is a lead strategist in the development of big ideas and is always available should any client need his help.
The Placemaking Group is a full service marketing communications agency providing integrated branding, public relations, social media and web site development services. The company positions your product, destination, idea or business — communicates what sets it apart, and inspires the right people to take the right action.
MO: What are some easy ways that companies can start to improve their online presence? What are some more long term approaches?
Dennis: Companies can improve their online presence by making sure that their website is up-to-date and search optimized. You have only a few seconds to get someone’s attention, so you want to also be sure that the site is well designed. You would be surprised at how many businesses do not have a good website. To keep the website current and help it to rank high in the search engines, it needs to be regularly updated and one way to do that is to have a blog on your site. Long-term, the website can be supported by building links to it. These can be through things such as press releases, email marketing and social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.
MO: Does your approach in marketing a place differ to the approach you use when marketing a person or a brand?
Dennis: A place, such as a city, town or destination has its own brand in much the same way as a person or a product does. A place needs to attract visitors. A person or a product also needs to attract its target audiences. The marketing communication tools used are quite often the same, but the target audiences they are directed at may be different. While many might think that establishing a signature event, such as a food or art type festival is something that only a place might do to establish its brand and build awareness, it’s also true that a person can build success from an event. I established a music awards show, the Bammies (Bay Area Music Awards) in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it built my brand and helped me to “get famous” in my industry sector.
MO: In your Get Famous speech, you tell audiences how to become known in their specific industries. What’s the first step a person should take to increase their professional profile and visibility?
Dennis: If you want to get famous in your industry sector, the first thing to do is to clearly define and build your brand. This is done by defining what makes you different from your competition, who you need to be talking to (your target audience), and what your vision is for the future (so that you have goals and have defined what you are trying to achieve). In addition, you need to create your key brand message, which is the most important thing that you want people to remember about you. This key brand message needs to be communicated through your website and additional marketing communication tools.
MO: What’s the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken and how did it turn out?
Dennis: You might call it a risk, but to me it was a must do. When I started my first magazine there was already Guitar Player, the number one magazine for musicians, and Rolling Stone, the number one magazine for music fans. So, I saw the opportunity to have a new market niche– local music. I started BAM which became the number one magazine for California musicians and fans. Next, I saw the opportunity for a local music awards show. The Grammy Awards already existed and owned the market. My version, the Bay Area Music Awards Show, was a fabulous party and awards recognition for San Francisco Bay Area musicians. It became so well known that the Grammy’s production team and board of directors bought tickets to the Bammies to see how they could make their show better. In the early 80’s I realized that again there was a local opportunity in the new field of computers. I started MicroTimes as the California computer magazine and we had only people on the cover to differentiate ourselves from all the magazines with machines on the cover. The week that we launched MicroTimes a story was in the press that there were over 100 computer magazines on the newsstands. Because we were number one in our new category, we eventually became the 8th largest computer magazine in America. So, it sounds like a risk, but starting a new, more defined market niche can be very effective.
MO: Can you provide some tips for a new business interested in developing a social media marketing strategy but uncertain of where to begin?
Dennis: The first thing a business needs to do to develop a social media marketing program is to understand its brand, because that is what needs to be communicated through social media. Don’t do social media unless you are clear on your brand and the key messages that surround it. We have a program to help a business to uncover its brand. We develop a Branding Blueprint that defines a company’s key messages, its target audience, goals for the future, how your audience feels about you, your position in the marketplace and much more. Once the brand is defined, start with one social media outlet at a time. LinkedIn is a good place for businesses to start. Your LinkedIn page reflects your brand so be sure to completely develop your page in order that it communicates your expertise as well as what you can do for your target audience.
MO: If you could market any town or city in the world which one would you choose and why?
Dennis: Years ago, through a LinkedIn connection, The Placemaking Group was asked to consider a rebranding project for Jerusalem. My advice was that Jerusalem is one of the most famous cities and brands in the world. It doesn’t need rebranding, it needs effective marketing, much as I’ve described above.