Creeped Out By Ads Following You After a Search?

Your Browser Is Watching You

Your Browser is Watching You

It gets a little creepy.

You check out some airline prices online. Next thing you know, ads for hotels and flights to that destination are popping up everywhere you go.

Called “retargeting” the information from your searches helps companies to get more mileage out of their marketing dollar, as their ads are then targeted to folks who at some point actually expressed an interest in a related service or product.

Retargeting has been around for about four years, although its earliest iterations were nowhere near as sophisticated as they are now.

Realize that advertisers can’t do this without the data collected and made available by companies whose browser you’re probably using.  Since 67.5 percent of search is done using Google, it’s their retargeting protocols (data mining) relied on in this article, although other search engines collect the same information.

That’s the annoying, but more innocuous side of data mining.

Then there’s the not-so-innocuous aspect which includes the fact that nothing you search for in the privacy of your own home is private any longer. Search engines have your information and it could and has gotten out, notwithstanding the best of intentions. And this information (your search history) can be pretty personal – even if you’ve enabled “private browsing” mode. “…it doesn’t matter if you have private browsing enabled, you’re going to have all your information exposed,” says Danny Quist, a computer security expert and founder of Offensive Computing, LLC. Private browsing was intended to shield your browsing activity from others accessing your actual computer.

Use a Mac? You may be shown higher hotel prices at Orbitz than those using non Mac computers.
Applying for health insurance? Some companies considering using your searches.
With only the timestamp and computer information, your searches can often be traced directly to you. With the additional account information, they are associated directly with you.

Stop being followed after search: get off the grid!

Stop being followed after search: get off the grid!

If you just want to eliminate the annoying retargeting ads, you can check out truly private browsing such as Tor, which needs to be downloaded onto your computer. Or, check out DuckDuckGo.


What Colors Are Right for Your Brand?

Your Colors Should Be Congruent With Your Words

Wondering what colors attract your desired audience?

Pamela Wilson, founder of BIG BRAND SYSTEM offers a simple chart to help you select your TWO STARTER COLORS for your logo and brand. She says this about color:


Colors can support your message or conflict with it. An online store selling clothing made from organic cottons would risk turning off prospective customers with fluorescent colors.

Likewise, a dental office would opt for colors that soothe or are more conservative, such as blues and whites.

Pamela’s chart is a great start to getting a sense of the colors that represent you and attract the customers you want.

Pamela Wilson of BIG BRAND SYSTEM offers this chart to help simplify color selection

Does Your Branding Show Your Core Values?

The most successful campaigns I’ve been involved in were marked by a VISION.

The Vision is The Brand.

It’s intrinsic to who your company is.

Think of it as your Authenticity, what you’re about, your passion.

It’s not about the technical aspects of what you do, your product or your service.

It’s about what you want your customer to feel, experience and take away from doing business with you.

Once you identify that, the rest of your marketing, PR and promotion flows from that.

Steve Jobs’ explanation here of Apple’s most successful campaign describes it beautifully.

As to Jobs’ role in the now legendary “Think Different” campaign, an interesting first-hand account by Rob Siltanen, published by Forbes Magazine acknowledges Jobs’ brilliance, but clarifies the true creative genius behind what is perhaps one of the most memorable commercials in history.

Siltanen says:

People ask me what Steve Jobs was like, and I often describe him as a mix between Michelangelo, Mies van der Rohe and Henry Ford—with some John McEnroe and Machiavelli thrown in. Steve was fiercely driven, and there’s no way Apple could have possibly gone from laughingstock to “the stock you dream of owning” so swiftly without a relentless, self-confident genius at the helm. But Steve Jobs didn’t turn Apple around by himself. Many talented and dedicated people played key roles, and that turnaround first began with an advertising campaign called “Think different.”

Here’s the story.

Warren Buffet on Reputation and 5 Ways Small Business Can Improve Theirs

Losing money is not as important to Warren Buffet as losing reputation.

From Motley Fool August 30: David Sokol was once an heir apparent and arguably Buffett’s most trusted operations guy. But when Sokolgate erupted, Buffett stayed true to his word: “We can afford to lose money — even a lot of money. But we can’t afford to lose reputation — even a shred of reputation.”

More recently a CEO quoted Buffet on the same day one of his executives stepped down for bringing disrepute on the company.




The quote reads:

“If you lose money for the company, I’ll be understanding. If you lose a shred of the company’s reputation, I’ll be ruthless.” Buffet

5 Ways Small Business Can Improve Reputation

  1. One of the most compelling factors in winning over customers is your staff. Make sure that each person who works foryou represents you well. Don’t allow disgruntled staff to hang on and sour your customers.
  2. Personally oversee or have someone you trust review everything that is sent out from your company, online or offline. Make sure its professional and represents your message. An excellent service can tarnish its reputation by a poorly written communication.
  3. Set the tone. If you’re grouchy to your staff, that will come through to your customers. Be upbeat and set the example of leaving your troubles at the threshold of your business.
  4. Practice good manners. Customers can leave your business forever simply from a poor display of manners. A misplaced comment, failure to acknowledge them, discourteousness, etc. Make your customer the most important person you’re talking to.
  5. Monitor your online reputation. Check to see what folks are saying about you, especially if you’re local. Make sure you address any posted negative reviews with a response that clears the air, but is professional and respectful of the poster.


How a $7100 PR Strategy Drove 80,000 Unique Visitors to a New Site in Six Months


Image courtesy of gilmorec

When Audrey Melnick got the idea to create a website about dating experiences gone wrong, she didn’t want to invest in SEO or Online Advertising. Her reasoning was that there were no competitors in her space and people weren’t searching for topics to lead them to such a site.

Oh .. and WotWentWrong, Melanie’s site, had no social media presence.

Melanie opted to invest her promotion budget in PR. In six months, the site went from 30 beta testers to 80,000 unique visitors. It garnered 143 stories in outlets such as Huffington Post, AP, Reuter’s and ABC News. Audrey was contacted by a literary agent about a book deal.

Not bad for $7100! Kudos to The Cline Group that executed the campaign.

Read the full story at PR Week.




As of May 30: The Most Important Social Media Site for Local Business Owners

Attention local business owners wanting to increase online visibilty: if you want to concentrate your efforts on the one social media site most likely to provide the highest return on  investment, read on.

On May 30, about 80 million Google Place pages transformed into Google+ Local pages. If you have a Google Places page that gives your local business visibility, you already know how vital this tool is to your online promotion and you’ll most definitely want to continue benefiting from it.

If you have a local business and have not yet claimed your page and fleshed it out with info and pictures, now is the time. You can no longer ignore it and expect to stay relevant in your local business space. You may be ok today, but as time passes, having no visibility in this space will cost you in lost revenue.

If I had to advise as to The Single Most Important Social Media Site for Local Business to invest in, it would be their Places-turned-Google+ Local-Business page.

When Places first came on the scene in 2005 under a different name, I noticed only a few local businesses taking advantage of what stood out to me as a gift horse for local merchants. Up until then searchers seeking a local vendor had to use geographically targeted keywords. For clients who claimed their pages and built them out, the boost in visibility for their business and website has resulted in better PR (more credibility) as well as generating more business for free.

With the May 30 change from Google Places to Google + Local pages we’ve noticed:

1. Placements/rankings haven’t changed. That said, with Google’s ongoing integration of features, I highly recommend you set up a Google Plus for Local business page and spend the time building it out with photos, contacts etc. If you’re going to build a community, my prediction is this will become more relevant than your Facebook Fan page. As far as local business, this is the primary social media tool you want to focus on.

2. Your customers can no longer post a review without having a Google Plus account. I consider this an advancement, as it puts an end to anonymous reviewers who often come across like online hecklers. Personally, I’m big on consulting reviews before I use a local merchant, but get annoyed when I see a local business or service provider being quartered and hung in public by someone who doesn’t have to give their name. Reviewers will now link to their Google+ accounts, revealing their identity.

3. Google+ seeks to become an alternate search destination for local business, in addition to As searchers looking for a local merchant become more familiar with it, it could very well become the primary tool for local search.

Here are the steps I recommend for local business owners:

1. If you have a Places page, set up a Google Plus page for your business. If you haven’t claimed your Places page, do that right away and set up your Google+ Local page.

2. Familiarize yourself with Places/Google+ Local. A good article is here.


How to Overcome Not Knowing Your Market

Just offer your perspective and it will resonate with a segment


This is a great approach for when you’re not sure exactly who your market is. I’ve talked in earlier posts about attracting the clientele that’s right for you by simply being authentic.

Andy Jenkins – internet marketing extraordinaire and co-founder and former partner of one of the more established internet marketing education groups, Stompernet  — articulates it differently and I found it insightful enough to pass on.

First, a little context of where this fits into your marketing/PR/promotion strategy. If you’ve been servicing your clientele long enough to know who they are and what they want and need, then this isn’t necessarily for you.

However, if you’re an established company launching a new service or product or an entrepreneur just starting out, and unsure who your market really is, try this:

Talk about your perspective.

Surveys and market research are great but unless you’re a large corporation you’re probably not going to spend the money to discover the exact demographic for your service or product.

I like the way Andy says it:

“If you talk about your perspective you don’t have to decide which segment you want to speak to. You just have to offer your perspective and chances are it’s going to resonate with a segment. More importantly, it’s going to resonate with the people that you want it to resonate with; the people who will become your fans.”

How to do this? Get a newsletter out. Get on local radio or television. Speak at events. Write a free report or giveaway. Open up. Provide your background on why you view things as you do.



How to Talk to the Publics In Your Niche

"Publics" and "Niches" Are Different Terms

By understanding the old PR term of “publics” you’ll be able to better identify the various groups within your niche and hone your marketing better.

One caveat to remember is that niching is not for everyone. But everyone has “publics,” which I’ll go into in a bit.

In Public Relations, there’s a term called “publics.” It describes “who are you talking to?” and it groups people you interact with into recognizable categories by common interest. It helps when you’re speaking or writing to be able to envision who you’re talking to. Hence, “publics” help to hone your message.

An individual or group has various publics. For example, your Facebook public might be limited to your friends and family with whom you share views on politics, religion and personal matters. Your Linked In public, being strictly business contacts that you know, would receive communications from you relevant to your skill set, ongoing work projects, etc. Your Twitter account public might be followers who found you for professional reasons, most of whom you don’t know.

Your blog may speak to a more general public – ie anyone interested in reading your musings on a variety of subjects.

When marketing your services or deciding on a product/service to offer, you want to see if there’s a “niche” for it.  Your “publics” may have certain attributes that help you to define how you speak to them. A common marketing technique is to create your own niche, if what you do doesn’t fall into any common niche.

For example, if you’re an attorney with a niche in asset protection for  high net worth individuals with assets over $1 million, your marketing plan will focus on how to attract the attention of those individuals. As “publics” however, they may break down into different groups. One group might be retired medical professionals, while another may be professional athletes in their prime earning years. Each of these “publics” would be addressed differently  in  your speech and writing in order to connect with their reality. Although the service you provide would go through nearly identical steps, each public needs assurance their concerns are understood.

Your strategy for attracting new clientele is your niche marketing plan. Recognizing the publics within your niche is part of that plan.

To Niche or Not to Niche

One one hand, narrowing your niche has become vital in marketing online, primarily because the online marketing funnel starts with search terms.

If you’re an importer of exotic chocolates and coffees and live in a small city, you’d probably stick with an online store as there may not be enough of a demand to have a brick and mortar store. However, if you live in a major city, you’d most likely do well also to have a brick and mortar boutique shop.

If you’re in a mid sized market you may have to keep your niche broader so as to not limit your clientele. In that case, you can niche yourself by showcasing your authenticity. For example, let’s say you’re a dentist and your town has an oversupply of dentists. Since most people choose dentists by proximity to their work or home and whether the dentist takes their insurance, they don’t really have any other criteria, unless they’re looking for specific cosmetic services. Therefore, the best way to niche is to get a lot of exposure to the people in your area to attract them to the practice, but retain them by demonstrating your authenticity, such as exemplary service, being on the cutting edge of technology, etc.

The trend toward niching has a lot of merit. Get too trendy, and you might build a brand that’ll be passe before you can reap your rewards. As one of my brothers who’s an Assistant District Attorney puts it “the truth is usually found somewhere in the middle.” After nearly 25 years in PR and marketing, I’m hesitant to grab onto any fad as the “next big thing.”

The bottom line is simply this: you have to take all the elements that comprise your business, your wants, your customers’ wants, the direction you want to go in, your assets, etc – and come up with a unique message and marketing plan that incorporates it all. Your PR plan should factor in facets of your business such as how you choose to interact with your public, your manners, the way you address people, etc. Organically these create an image.

I covered a lot of bases in this article. If you have specific questions about your service and/or business, please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll respond.



Steve Jobs: Leadership vs Marketing

Steve Jobs: “It’s Not the Consumer’s Job to Know What They Want”

In a brilliant post about Steve Jobs and the US Government, NY Times blogger Matt Bai points out the difference between true leadership and it’s antithesis: relying on focus groups and polls instead of taking risks.

In other words, while Mr. Jobs tried to understand the problems that technology could solve for his buyer, he wasn’t going to rely on the buyer to demand specific solutions, just so he could avoid ever having to take a risk. This is what’s commonly known as leading.

Were it not for Jobs’ brilliance and insight, would we have the sleek, user-friendly yet sophisticated tools that Jobs introduced through MAC? In the 1980s when computers were in ugly tan boxes, would the average “public” person surveyed en masse have provided the sheer genius of Steve Jobs?

My opinion is no. Jobs’ approach defies today’s marketing and political metrics that dictate a near- compulsive consultation with “the market” via polls and surveys. I will admit, these are valuable. But do they stifle genius?

Mat Bai also points out how Jobs merged community with individuality. While his devices provided an unprecedented autonomy and personalized computer experience, he recognized as well the importance of community and created tools to facilitate that. Yet government, Bai points out, still lives in the world of polarities:

Either we’re being told that centralized, 20th century systems can never be changed to accommodate more individual flexibility (like say, decoupling health care from employment), or we’re being told that all federal programs are wasteful and that everyone American should basically fend for himself. Either we’re supposed to rely entirely on large institutions, or we’re supposed to rely only on ourselves.

Will the Steve Jobs leadership example be emulated in Washington? The founding fathers drafted a document that created the freest country on earth when the average citizen had no interest in waging a war with England. Had they had polls at the time, we might have a different country.

There are, no doubt, many Steve Jobs’ in the world in different industries. Let his vision, kindness, toughness and indomitable spirit inspire us all.

Thank you, Steve Jobs.


Doug Casey on The Future of Corporate Media and Small Business

“The Greater Depression is just going to be a period of readjustment on the way up.” Doug Casey

This post excerpts  paragraphs in random order from an interview with NY Times best-selling author Doug Casey on March 2, 2011 in his free e-newsletter. My first PR firm worked with Doug’s publisher on his last book and I’ve remained an avid reader of his since. Doug is founder of Casey Research, is a financial newsletter writer, speaker, and world traveler and investor. His world-view of the economy, finance and politics derives from personal experience with nearly every region on the globe. Click HERE to subscribe.

The Future of Corporate Media

“Big broadcast TV is disappearing too, for the same reasons we’ve been discussing. When some kid with a webcam in Egypt, Libya, or even Belarus, can produce a live documentary that’s more riveting and costs nothing compared to professional TV news coverage, you know that the business model of major news networks is on its way out. Anyway, kids today don’t watch TV, where you just absorb what you’re fed. They watch a million channels on YouTube, and get what they individually want and need on millions of websites. Broadcast, network, TV – with its arrogant executives, and feather-bedding union workers – is on its way out.”

Small Business vs. Politically-Connected Corporate Giants

“In a true free-market society you could only get big by making a product the consumers love. In a fascist society you get big through political favors.”

“The world is changing. Trying to use the coercive power of the state to maintain the status quo is a doomed effort. It’s like trying to carry water in your hands for an entire marathon.”

“Small, swift, new competitors are going to devour the big old dinosaurs, like a school of piranhas – and any new business that gets too big and bureaucratic, as well. The whole world is in the early stages of downsizing.”

After the Greater Depression – aka After The World Economy Resets

“The good news is that the post-industrial world will be one of true marvels. Bringing production down to the individual level, at very low cost, will create the most prosperous society the world has ever seen. The same forces are advancing medicine, and that will make our descendants the healthiest and most long-lived people the world has ever seen. And the individual nature of value creation should make it the freest culture the world has ever seen. That’s why I’m an optimist; I’m looking forward to a true renaissance, a golden age.”

‘You can’t regiment and standardize creativity. And there is no such thing as “job security,” which was always a stupid and parasitic notion. Your job is secure as long as you’re productive and creative – and your company is profitable.”

Want more? Click HERE to subscribe to Doug’s free e-newsletter. (For more information on the Greater Depression, read the best-selling book “Aftershock,” or an interview with Doug Casey from June 2010.)