What’s your story? And why you should use video to tell it!

Lee Rothenflue Cut to BlackEvery one loves a great story. In the business world, it’s the difference between a lead and a completed sale, between a bid and a contract, between the kind of advertisement that works and the kind that people immediately ignore. When we talk about STORYTELLING , we often confine it to the realm of the fantastical and the artistic––to books, movies, music and everything in between. But storytelling goes far beyond those mediums. The craving for narrative is a fundamental, almost primal human impulse, the basic way in which we interpret the material world.

Effectively crafting the story of your business is of the utmost importance to obtaining and retaining clients. That does not mean a simple listing of what your services and benefits are or who consists your client list. That’s sort of like the plot summary. The story of your business is not just what you do, but WHY you do what you do––what makes your company unique. What is working with you going to feel like? How to suggest the vibe of your company effectively can feel like quite a tall order, because, as you already know, it’s hard to translate your business’ internal ethos into a story that makes sense to the outside world.

The medium of video is arguably the most accessible storytelling format, and the rise of internet streaming gives companies of all shades and stripes an opportunity to craft their story just the way they want it to be told. It is no longer enough to just maintain a website––streaming video is the standard, almost ubiquitous form of communicating. Think about it: how many times do you pause from working to watch a short video? If you’re a superhuman, maybe none. But mere mortals love watching videos on the internet, and we strongly advise you to take advantage of that kind of compulsion to tell your company’s story.

Whether you work with an internal video department, an ad agency, or with a video production company, embark on telling the visual story of your company by hiring seasoned professionals. Your creative partner will know exactly how to translate your core narrative into an incredible, consumable format for your audience.  Your potential clients might not notice technical mistakes or discrepancies, but they’ll notice if it doesn’t feel right––and will stop watching, or forget it immediately after they watched. The flip side to the popularity of online video is the problem of white noise, of forget-ability.

But that challenge is also an opportunity to blow people out of the water with a great visual story. If you capture the unique ethos and quality of your company and it’s people, your audience will remember. And with video you have complete control over the narrative in a way that feels more authentic than the text on the “About” section of your company’s website.  Aspects like tone, inflection, excitement and passion can all come through far more powerfully in a video that text on screen just cannot compete.  As you dive into this year, keep thinking about your unique “WHY” story and collaborate with those who can help you tell it well.

Lee Rothenflue, owner of “Cut to Black”



“Cut to Black” is a production company focused on storytelling through film. Lee has over 13 years experience overseeing the production and post production of many different types of film and video projects. From feature films, documentaries, corporate promos and commercials, they productions emphasize the heart of the story.


Three of the Best Business Tips Margaret Thatcher Taught Me

I had always been taught that one’s political viewpoints were to be discussed at home and not in the workplace. No easy feat considering that I spent three years at the onset of my career working in part to recognize world leaders aboard the moored USS Intrepid in New York City.  Indeed, I do believe in peaceful co-existence and honoring the men and women who have helped to defend my freedoms.

So, almost twenty years ago when my boss tasked me with a leading role in planning an event to honor The Right Honorable Baroness Margaret Thatcher, I put aside any preconceived notions. After all, I was an impressionable 23 year old who spent portions of her childhood practicing cold war ‘drills’ under her desk in school and remembers vividly the “Argoesque” era of tying yellow ribbons around my family’s oak tree in solidarity for the U.S. hostages in Tehran.

I watched with wide eyes and ears that could only detect silence in the room other than the voice of one person, Thatcher delivering remarks to 15 people at a luncheon.

When an opportunity presented itself for me to introduce myself to the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, I did so as “Jenny.”  Thatcher asked my age and my job responsibilities. I was surprised when she pursed her lips in the middle of my explanation. I paused, she complimented my ‘interesting necklace’ and took my hand asking me to start again with my formal name. From that moment on, I realized that I needed to deliver messages with the same level of conviction that the world leader in front of me did so.

Tip #1:Own your pitch. One of Thatcher’s own mantras of “If you set out to be liked, you will accomplish nothing” should resonate strongly with those who are not currently speaking up during discussions. Whether you are a manager or aspiring to be one, the most effective way to get your messaging across is to deliver it with conviction. When you convey a message with purpose, you are almost certainly increasing your chances of being heard and your ideas considered.

Tip #2: Collaborate but Expect Discourse. In the world of international relations, Thatcher certainly collaborated. Whether with Reagan or Gorbachev, much has been written about her reign to help end the Cold War. But, not every position she took was populist and sometimes isolated her. How does this translate to business? A friend who is a marketing executive expressed her concern that she is spending too much time ‘monitoring in her own silo.’ Monitoring doesn’t mean being a follower instead of a leader; it does mean you need to recognize you do not need to glam onto every trend.

How can you collaborate? You need to make the time to meet with others. You can plan and organize your own thoughts but do not lose sight that the path to creativity involves working together to achieve your set goals. Try to set a weekly meeting about one potential project. If the potential project is in its nascent state, your collaboration can save you time in the long run. You can define milestones on research and analysis and determine that the project is/is not a worthwhile endeavor.

Tip #3 Contemplate. Margaret Thatcher was a strong, disciplined leader not unlike a college roommate I had who was an artist. Sometimes, the rest of us would be in the living room reading our various school books and she would have her sketch book and a piece of charcoal. An hour or two would pass and she would never move from her spot, sometimes drawing and other times just deep in thought.

How do you take time to contemplate?

Leaders take time to tune out the rest of the ‘noise,’ and just simply think. Remember, contemplating does not involve being fast and furious but rather thinking through an issue with limited distractions.

Finally, in partial jest, I was honored to have met such a powerful leader whose statement pins and hats matched my statement necklaces.  And, note to those who know me well, especially from the Upper West Side of Manhattan where I resided for many years, I’ll always be Jenny from the Block except this month it just happens that my family and I moved 1,700 miles away to Austin, Texas.

bankston_imageJennifer S. Bankston is the former Chief Marketing Officer of law firm Labaton Sucharow LLP in New York, NY.

Marketer Spotlight: Scott Creamer, Founder Screamer Co.

Interview by Angela Brutsche.

Scott Creamer

Screamer Co. founder Scott Creamer made a name for himself as a creative director in Chicago, but the talent didn’t stop there. He founded Screamer Co. in Austin, TX in 2006, and has continued to grow his company’s in-house talent and services to accommodate client needs. An award-winning, full service advertising agency known for brand development, storytelling, and positioning strategies, Screamer Co. also offers a wide range of services from market research to media planning/placement.


What prompted you to found Screamer Co.?

Prior to starting Screamer in 2006, I worked as a freelance creative director in Chicago. Before that, I worked at BBDO as a creative director. My passion has always been in creative direction and initiating big ideas. After moving back to Texas, my plate of small projects quickly grew into larger projects. Before long, my partner Tim Lee and I were building plans to scale and accommodate these larger projects. We founded the company on one client account – one very strong relationship built on a lot of trust and a mutual understanding of goals. Branding, positioning, communicating are our key competencies and strong points. Our promise at Screamer is to help clients “find their voice.”

Were you ever nervous about starting your own company?

The biggest question I asked myself when starting out was “Can I really do this?”  I had no background running a company. I had never even taken a business class. That fear was also my biggest motivating factor. This work continues to feel like a great challenge. We’re constantly learning how to build new and different programs and expand our services. We try to invest in people who have very diverse backgrounds.  I have attempted to identify employees for the agency that expand our talent base and can help grow the company.

As a leader, what skill has been most important to your success?

Moving from being an independent contractor to running an agency, I had to shift my focus from being tactical to being strategic. I had to learn how to mentor and train people instead of actually doing the work. In addition, any new skills I’ve developed are possible because of the various business coaches in my life.

What advice would you give to professionals new to the marketing profession?

You have to love this business or it will eat you up. Projects and schedules can be crazy. Campaigns are developed in a matter of days. That sounds like a tight deadline, but it’s not unusual. You must be dedicated.

 What do the most successful marketing strategies involve?

The most successful marketing strategies involve planning and great creative. We believe in doing a ton of research and getting as much info as possible. Then, we sift through the kernels to find the pieces that really matter.

Are there any common misperceptions about marketing that you’d like to set straight?

There are no rules to this game. You can use some resources as guidelines, but this business is not cookie-cutter. Each project is completely different. Each problem must be considered individually. Following a “never do this” or an “always do this” methodology will inevitably tie hands instead of solve problems.

What is your favorite resource for staying current on marketing trends?

My team. Most of my team members are under 30 years old. They are on top of everything that is going on. I rely on them. I have three or four information news feeds I refer to daily, but about 90 percent of my awareness of trends comes from my team.

 What compelled you to join the American Marketing Association (AMA)?

I’m very active in Austin AdFed. It’s a great experience; there, I can connect with my peers. AMA membership is geared more toward businesses and marketing professionals. We joined AMA to expand Screamer’s exposure to a new community.

Screamer Co. holds a group membership in Austin AMA. We thank Scott and his team for their time and support. To learn more about AMA group membership, visit https://austinama.org/membership or contact our VP of Membership Recruitment at membership@ascendmarketingtesting.site.

Kara Marshall

Starbucks and Pizza Hut Take the Lead in the Social Media Industry

Established companies are turning to online social sites to build brand communities and boost sales. This past year, companies have transformed these networking sites into a means for marketing and advertising to potential consumers. Recently Starbucks and Pizza Hut have proven to be top competitors in the social media marketing world.

Starbucks is now the top brand on Facebook. They have surpassed Coca-Cola in popularity, acquiring over 3.6 million followers on their fan page. They contribute their success to an aggressive social media marketing strategy and the construction of an online coffee community where Starbucks’ coworkers and customers can exchange stories and company ideas, connecting Starbucks fans worldwide. In addition they are using the social site to promote new products including the Via instant coffee. Last month Starbucks offered their Facebook followers a free cup of coffee for taking the Via instant coffee taste test at local stores.

Pizza Hut is also expanding their company with the help of iPhones. After downloading the Pizza Hut application, users are able to create and customize their pizza using the iPhone’s touch screen features. Similar to Starbucks’ strategy, Pizza Hut hopes customers will enjoy the interactive ordering experience, connect with the brand, and become loyal customers.

This demo video on the new iPhone application demonstrates how Pizza Hut is revamping the pizza industry.

The future for these social sites and devices is uncertain. Will they sustain popularity with users as more businesses utilize them for marketing purposes or will this just be another technology trend that will be replaced by something bigger and better?

Kara Marshall
Kara Marshall is currently interning with Steel Advertising and Interactive, Inc. Recently she graduated from Texas State University with a degree in Mass Communication. She has a passion for marketing, public relations, and all things media related. She can be reached by e-mail at karaemarshall@gmail.com.
Bill Cutshall

Recycling: Marketing’s Way to Help the Company Conserve and Grow.

The economy has slowed and for many companies shrinking revenue means much smaller marketing budgets.  Shrinking marketing budgets can shrink results as well so what is the savvy marketer to do when looking for more results with drastically smaller budgets?  They recycle.

Five ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle:

  1. Don’t throw out advertising too early – Redefine “worn out”.  Extend the schedules on which you would normally rotate your creative.  This turbulent economic climate leaves your customers and prospects seeking familiarity and stability.  When you find the effectiveness of your current creative waning, evolve what you have by introducing a new element rather than going completely back to the drawing board. For example, a sticker can take care of a change of address on a brochure. And when you do new things, plan with longer life and “refreshability” in mind.
  2. Do something with that old bridesmaid’s dress you’re keeping – Reuse favorite advertising campaigns and direct mail pieces that worked well in the past.  Sure, a few things will have changed over the three years or so since you last ran an ad but editing is always less expensive than creating a new piece.  A few updated touches will create something new from something that might be old to you but thanks to audience turnover and poor long-term viewer retention, plenty of people will be enjoying for the first time.   For those that remember it, showing an old campaign can be a way to demonstrate that you are stable and give them a feeling of security.  Many large traditional brands have begun getting back to their roots and re-airing old campaigns for that reason alone.
  3. Look in the trash pile – If you hired an ad agency for a project, chances are that they provided you with multiple concepts for earlier projects. Perhaps you can make use of one of the alternatives. There may be a charge to finish the piece, but it’s usually less expensive than starting over.
  4. Car pool – See if anyone in your organization has unused seats.  Many organizations are siloed, especially around the area of technology.  Your IT department may have implemented a tool for Operations that might have marketing capabilities which are going unused.  A good example of a tool like this is Microsoft’s SharePoint. While your organization might be using it for internal collaboration, it is also an excellent tool to make external websites, secure micro-sites, promotional pages, and even to manage an electronic prospect dialogue strategy.
  5. Switch to electric power – Marketers are still struggling to find ROI from broad use of the newest social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter but one thing is clear already.  The cost of reaching an audience using these tools is extremely low.  While they are not yet (and may never be) ready to carry the weight of a large portion of your marketing strategy this is a perfect time to replace some of the poorest performing media channels you pay for and add some inexpensive social media to your mix.

All of these ideas will be much more effective when used by a company with a well developed brand identity, and if yours doesn’t, there is no better time to focus on building your brand and taking bold brand actions.

About the Authors

Bill CutshallBill Cutshall
Bill founded Steel Adverting & Interactive in 1999. His role at Steel involves producing unique and unheard of ideas as a copywriter and he continues to serve as one of Steel’s Technical Solutions Architect. His expertise lies in designing strategic solutions. Additionally, large or complex projects benefit from his excellent team building and communication skills allowing him to work on accounts such as Dell, Microsoft, HP and PlainsCapital Corporations.
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/billcutshall
Kirsten CutshallKirsten Cutshall
Kirsten is the President of Steel Advertising & Interactive. Kirsten provides strategic direction and account planning. Her passion lies in establishing methodologies that ensure a superior experience with the agency and get measurable results for our clients. Kirsten’s past experience includes work for a broad base of Fortune 500 clients as Principal at Tocquigny Advertising, Interactive + Marketing, and prior to that, at DDB Worldwide. Her clients have included recognized industry leaders from a wide range of industries such as Dell Inc., Embassy Suites Hotels, Keepsake Fine Jewelry, and Abbott Laboratories.
Steel Advertising & Interactive http://www.steelstudios.com/
Lindsey in plane suit on computer

Southwest Airlines: Coming of Age in the Blogosphere

From Paula Berg, Manager of Emerging Media for Southwest Airlines.  Paula will speak at the Austin AMA’s Keynote Luncheon, part of the Power Lunch Series, on Thursday, May 21.  This month’s luncheon will be held in association with the Online Marketing Summit, a national educational event for marketing professionals.

April marked our third full year in the blogosphere, and I think the following photo sums up our experience.

Lindsey in plane suit on computer

Whether on a plane, in a plane, or in a plane costume, we’ve been completely consumed with social media.  I often joke that we haven’t slept in three years – which would be funny if it weren’t true – but I think we’ve finally turned a corner.

First, we’ve grown.  What began with two passionate Employees pursuing social media in addition to their day jobs has become an “Emerging Media Team,” with six of the most talented, creative, and passionate people I know.  We can now take vacations without taking our blackberries (gasp!).  Not that we would, but theoretically, we could!

Second, after all of the blood, sweat and tears, the sleepless nights, the blunders and the triumphs, I think our social media efforts may have finally “come of age.”

If one blog year is equal to 10 human years, that would make us about 30.  And, if you look at our evolution, that seems about right.

Our first year, we were learning to crawl, figuring out how it all worked, and finding our voice.  Our second year, we found our stride, we discovered our rhythm, and we gained some confidence.   By year three, we were fearless, we took risks, and pushed the envelope.

And, now, as we enter our fourth year in the blogosphere, we’ve matured a bit, we know who we are and what we need to do.  Today, we’re focused on doing it all better.

While we’ve learned from our past mistakes, we know there will be more to come.  We named our team Emerging Media rather than social media, because we want to continue to grow and evolve.  And, if we want to stay ahead of the curve, we’ll have to continue to forge through unchartered territory.  But that’s what makes it exciting.

We’re ready to mount that corporate blogging horse, and as we say in the airline industry.getting there is half the fun!

At next week’s meeting, I’ll share where we’ve been, where we’re going, our biggest successes, our biggest failures, and every lesson we’ve learned along the way.  I hope you will join me.

In the meantime, feel free to share your successes or failures, lessons you’ve learned along the way, your fears moving forward, or anything you’d like to discuss when we meet next week.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Paula’s presentation at the April Keynote Luncheon will be held in association with the Online Marketing Summit on Thursday, May 21, 2009.  This national educational event for marketing professionals offers the opportunity to learn and share with hundreds of peers and experts in Social Media, Search, Email, Analytics, Behavioral Targeting, and Website Strategy.  You can register for the full event or for the luncheon only.  Join us!

Paula Berg

Paula Berg is the Manager of Emerging Media for Southwest Airlines, the nation’s leading low-fare air carrier and the largest domestic airline in terms of Customers carried. Over the last three years, Paula has managed and developed the Company’s corporate blog, “Nuts About Southwest.” In 2007 and 2008, “Nuts” was named Best Blog by PR News and has been recognized in major publications ranging from Wired Magazine to The Wall Street Journal. In addition to managing the Company blog, Paula leads Southwest’s online communication and social media efforts.

Michael Romanies' Headshot

Recessionary Marketing and Public Relations

Recent studies have again shown that inbound marketing is a cheaper lead generation tool than outbound marketing.

While inbound marketing (which includes: blogging, social media, search engine optimization [SEO], and search engine pay-per-click advertising [SEM]), may reach smaller audiences than outbound marketing (direct mail, telemarketing, trade show, and trade and consumer advertising), the cost per lead and cost per sale are typically significantly lower for inbound. While it may be impossible to generate all of your sales leads requirements through these inbound efforts you should certainly maximize and allocate your dollars and efforts to attain the lowest cost per lead and/or cost per sale.

I am often asked by clients and prospective clients, “How much should I spend on Search Engine Marketing aka pay-per-click?” The answer is as much as your budget per lead allows until you can convert the leads to sales and validate the lead source via a cost per sale. Typically, I am accused of double talk after the response. The simple fact is that most companies know how much it costs to produce a product or provide a service, but many do not know what their customer or sales acquisition costs are.

Without knowing your costs of acquisition you have to focus on your cost per lead until you can track leads to sales. You’ll need to know your typical “time to close,” “closing ratio,” “percentage of closure rate per sales process step,” and more. All should be tied back to your lead acquisition source to make an educated judgment on how to spend your resources by source.

As the internet has evolved and the economy has gotten worse, prospective buyers research more than ever before making their list of products and vendors of consideration for purchase. The most prevalent research medium is the internet and articles, white papers and media coverage are all reference points for prospect research. A solid internet strategy is more than SEM and SEO, it’s also getting the references, back links, chatter on blogs, reviews, etc. Public and Media relations are critical to a successful internet presence. While many trade publications are “controlled circulation and access”, which is not indexed, or at least the articles are not readily available via an internet search, many trade, consumer, and news sites, blogs and archives are widely indexed.

Like any investor with your lead generation and marketing you need to “spread the risk, invest in the highest probability returns to the lowest, and monitor them constantly.”

If your PR firm is focused on paper – you better augment them with online efforts or replace them with a firm that can integrate the online and offline editorial opportunities. 

Share your thoughts or questions by leaving me a comment.


About the Author

Michael Romanies' Headshot
Michael Romanies

Michael Romanies has more than twenty-three years’ experience in P&L management, marketing, sales, business development, product management, and operations. Michael has held executive positions in technology and publishing companies and has extensive experience in business-to-business (B to B), business-to-consumer (B to C), and business-to-government (B to G) product development, marketing, and sales.