Communication Strategy Group, Simbrom Creative Forge Strategic Partnership, Expand into New Offices, Make New Hires

Brand Storytelling Agency and Visual Design Firm Open New Long Island Location to Better Serve both Local and National Clients

Smithtown, NY – April 8, 2014 – Long-time collaborators Arthur Germain, principal and chief Brandteller of brand marketing and public relations agency Communication Strategy Group, and Michael Simbrom, president of visual design firm Simbrom Creative, have opened the doors to a new, shared agency location at 1020 West Jericho Turnpike, Suite 210, in Smithtown, NY, to better serve regional Long Island businesses while acting as a base of operations for national and international clients.

Germain and Simbrom, frequently collaborated from separate East Northport offices. The decision to forge a strategic partnership and open a new office together was an easy one. “We felt there was a strong connection between our brands with Communication Strategy Group providing brand strategy, public relations and content marketing and Simbrom Creative providing visual strategy and creative development,” says Germain. “We each bring a valuable perspective to client engagements, and those perspectives have created award-winning marketing programs for our respective clients.”

The new Smithtown offices include a reception area, private executive offices, a large customer collaboration room, as well as a smaller conference room for private meetings. “It’s in a central location for Hauppauge Industrial Park and other Long Island-based clients, and is a convenient location, accessible by plane, train or car for our NYC and other national clientele,” says Simbrom.

New Hires
In addition to the new offices, Communication Strategy Group is expanding its staff, adding two new employees to its growing roster of contributing writers, media relations experts,  content marketers and demand generation specialists.

Lisa Hazen joins the team as a Client Account Manager responsible for establishing and implementing strategic and tactical communications plans for agency clients. She brings more than a dozen years of B2B and B2C marketing experience in industries that include software, security and lifestyle goods and services.

Valerie Zeman joins the agency as Administrative Marketing Assistant responsible for assisting with executive, agency and office operations. Zeman brings insight from her experience managing daily operations at large non-profits and professional services firms.

About Simbrom Creative
Simbrom Creative is a visual design studio run by creative director and branding professional Michael Simbrom. The studio has an extensive record of boosting market penetration and brand awareness for high-profile clients by designing exceptional campaigns and delivering measurable results. Simbrom is an award-winning creative director who assembles and motivates cross-functional teams to build successful branding and marketing strategies for an array of commercial product lines. For more information, visit msimbrom.com

About Communication Strategy Group
Communication Strategy Group, a brand storytelling agency, helps clients develop brand stories that are remembered, repeated and rewarded through a strategic Brandtelling® approach. We focus on building and supporting a strategic plan for client communications in order to create strong, consistent messages and presentations that have the greatest impact. The Communication Strategy Group team is comprised of senior-level communications professionals who work directly on client accounts to achieve results. Our clients include both Fortune 1000 and growing companies in technology, media and professional services industries. For more information, please call 1-866-997-2424 or visit us at www.communicationstrategygroup.com

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Media Contact
Lisa Hazen
Communication Strategy Group
lhazen@gocsg.com
631-239-6335 x103

We’ve Moved!

Communication Strategy Group is proud to announce that it has recently expanded its operations and relocated to new offices at 1020 West Jericho Turnpike, Suite 210, Smithtown, NY 11787.

CSG Principal tells Newsday how to Locate, Link to Industry Influencers

Arthur Germain, CSG Principal & Chief Brandteller, recently discussed how to locate and link with industry influencers using social media and good, old-fashioned email. According to Germain, before reaching out to an influencer, get to know what he or she likes. Start by following the influencers you want to reach on social media.

Subscribe to their blog or newsletter; ask a question or make a comment on their blog or even send them an email. When Germain started his business in 2005, he emailed social media guru Chris Brogan asking if he had any recommendations for people Germain should follow on Twitter. Brogan responded instantly, he says.

Germain says he’s used LinkedIn Today to find influencers. The tool is free; based on your profile, it shows you posts and news from thought leaders that may be of interest to you, he explains.
Read the article

Arthur Germain discusses his Brandtelling approach to thought leadership – Part 1

[A note from Arthur: Freelance writer Jeff Vance has contributed feature articles and editorials to publications including Forbes.comNetwork WorldCIO,DatamationWi-Fi PlanetCloudbook and many others. Jeff blogs at Sandstorm Media. Recently Jeff interviewed me about our agency and our Brandtelling approach. I asked Jeff's permission to share the interview with our site visitors.]

Q & A with Arthur Germain – Part I

Arthur Germain, Principal & Chief Brandteller, Communication Strategy Group

Arthur Germain, Principal & Chief Brandteller, Communication Strategy Group

By Jeff Vance

I recently had the chance to talk with Arthur Germain, Principal & Chief Brandteller at Communication Strategy Group. Arthur originally ended up on my radar because account execs at CSG consistently send me good pitches. Later, a few CSG-generated press releases caught my eye. They didn’t read like press releases. Rather, they read like stories. I wanted to find out what they were doing differently that made them stand out from other PR agencies.

In our recent conversation we talked about the disappearance of media tours, what’s replaced them, how brand marketing differs from traditional PR and plenty more.

JV: How do you think PR-press relations have changed in the past 10 years or so?

AG: Many traditional PR practices have disappeared or are disappearing. For instance, in 2000 it was common for us to take clients on media tours. That meant the client came to town (I’m in New York), and we’d go to Business WeekTime and the New York Times. We’d set them up “desk side.” We just don’t do that anymore.

JV: Definitely. In the early 2000’s I lived in Boston, where I edited a couple high-tech magazines. I could have spent pretty much all day, every day on media tours or dinners with vendors. Today, I live in L.A., and while L.A. isn’t as much on the tech circuit as Boston, it’s not far off, especially with Silicon Valley so close, yet I rarely get the kind of in-person meeting requests I used to get pretty much every day.

With so many journalists, editors and analysts working either remotely or as freelancers, a media tour would have to log a heck of a lot more miles to have the kind of reach you used to get from just visiting a few major cities.

AG: Right, and then there are bloggers outside of major cities and just overall media fragmentation. So, today the media tour is replaced by phone interviews or web conferences. What that means is we have to work with clients to train them to speak with media on the phone. We have to teach them not to give “yes” or “no” answers. We have to remind them not to start reading bullet points. These are mistakes they’d be less likely to make in person. Over the phone, though, visual cues are all lost, and that can be a tough transition for executives who thrive on those face-to-face interactions.

You have to introduce a whole new set of skills in media training now. If I have three bullet points I want to get across to you, I have to state up front: “okay, Jeff, I have three things I want to talk about. The first is this; the second is this; the third is this.” Talking in person, I could tap my fingers on the desk, or when I say “my second point is,” I could reinforce that by holding up two fingers. The gestures and body language that we all rely on in face-to-face interactions are useless over the phone, so you have to find ways to replace them, and those replacements should sound natural to listeners.

JV: Judging from my discussions with PR pros and other journalists, the press-PR status quo isn’t really working for anyone. Ideally, how do you see the role of PR evolving and how can PR better work with the press – or is it better to lessen the emphasis on the press in favor of speaking directly to potential customers?

AG: It’s true that PR is changing greatly. However, I classify CSG more as a brand marketing agency than a PR firm.

JV: What’s the difference?

AG: We’re as likely to get tapped to write a feature article or a case study as a news release. This changes how we approach things. Even when we end up writing a more traditional news release, we ask, “What’s the call to action?” We’re always looking for ways to get customers and the media engaged. So, we’ll do things like offer editors slideshows, rather than just bombarding them with pitches and press releases.

JV: So, is the press release dead?

AG: The printed press release certainly is. I remember when I was a journalist I used to have press releases and press packets piled up around the office. That’s not the case anymore.

JV: Even at trade shows, smart companies don’t leave stacks of packets and folders in the press room. No one wants to lug them around. The smart ones leave USB drives, which will disappear quickly.

AG: Sure, and you can reuse them.

JV: Whether the info stored on them is ever looked at or just deleted is another matter . . .

AG: Another thing to consider is the rise of search and inbound marketing, both of which deemphasize traditional press releases. Inbound marketing targets content to customers and potential customers, not journalists. That’s part of why we think of our releases as “news” releases, not “press” releases. There has to be some real news within, and it’s not necessarily targeted only to the press.

This approach also gives us an opportunity to do something that press releases don’t usually do. We use our releases as thought-leadership tools. That is where we feel that we’ve really made a difference. It’s changed how we think of ourselves.

Today, we help companies tell brand stories. And we offer some PR services as well.

JV: Besides writing “news” releases and not “press” releases, what’s the difference between traditional PR and brand storytelling? The cynic in me would say that it sounds like a nifty euphemism. Is there more to it? Does your emphasis on stories mean that you’ll pass on potential clients who really don’t have compelling stories? As you know, all PR agents have experienced a few of those clients in their careers, the ones who just don’t have anything interesting to say, and what they do have to say is in no way newsworthy.

AG: Good question. Let’s look again at press releases. We focus on two categories of news release: the first is a “milestone and momentum release”. For instance, we’ll put out a release if our client just achieved some sort of Cisco certification. Or we’ll write something up if our client has a new customer in the financial services industry.

These are important because they make a statement to your customer base. We’re out there getting key certifications and we have customers. This news validates what the company is doing. It’s hard to make a sale these days if you haven’t done it before, so it makes sense to publicize those milestones.

On the other hand, if our client wants us to publicize something that we can’t classify, we’ll push back. We won’t distribute a press release for some small local event. We may alert local press, but why would you distribute that release globally?

JV: Yet, you see plenty of those releases out there.

AG: Right, or you see releases that say “we have a new version of our software under development.” Who cares? Is it available? Why are you telling me this?

JV: Half of my communication with PR is spent saying “that’s not news,” or “there is no story here.”

AG: Now, some of those releases are news, but to a very specific audience. If you’ve moved your offices, that matters on a local level, but not to a wider audience. Rather than using a shotgun approach of distributing a press release for that kind of news, we set our sights on the right audience for the news.

The second category of news release, and the one we prefer, is the “thought leadership release.” This type of release allows our clients to really showcase what makes them special, their approach or process.

Click Here to read part 2 of this interview, Arthur discusses surprising ways to package content for specific publications, how services like HARO are changing press-PR interactions and what he believes is the number-one challenge for PR.

Communication Strategy Group Sponsors 19th Annual HIA-lI Business Achievement Awards

On Thursday, September 12, 2013 at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, NY, Communication Strategy Group was among the sponsors for one of Long Island’s largest annual business recognition events. Hosted by HIA-LI, the recognized voice for business on Long Island, the event recognized five organizations as recipients of its prestigious HIA-LI 19th Annual Business Achievement Awards competition. The award recipients represent a diverse group of outstanding organizations from five different business categories: large businesses, small businesses, rookie of the year, non-profits and industry partnership. Representatives from each of the winning organizations received a plaque bearing the HIA-LI logo during a gala luncheon event held at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, NY. This gala event included business leaders from all across Long Island making it one of the best places to conduct business and build relationships. Chintu Patel, CEO of Amneal Pharmaceuticals, provided the keynote address on economic initiatives and what it takes to be a great company on Long Island.

 

Make your website sound like you

Expert Tips for Marketers and Web Designers to Make Corporate Web Sites Tell a Better Sounding Story

Your company website has just gone through a major overhaul. You’ve refreshed the 80s –era logo that the founder’s wife loved, updated colors and typeface (who knew there was something more than Times Roman?) and your web design team has integrated some WordPress plugins to enable interactive features for site visitors. All in all, your web site now reflects the corporate image you want to portray – it looks like you.

But does your web site sound like you?

What I mean is, does the content on your web site reflect your brand story today? Or is it just a reflowed version of the content that existed on your old brochures? Are you greeting your site visitors with a tone that reflects your corporate personality? Are you using terms that are “in-house” or your-department-lingo?

It may be that content was not the top priority during your branding initiative. And when visitors come to your site, chances are they’ll discover content that hasn’t been updated to reflect the real you.

So here are a few Expert Tips for Marketers and Web Designers to Make Corporate Web Sites Tell a Better Sounding Story:

  1. Sell it the way your customer wants to buy it. You may like calling your product an “air and brush-driven consumer cleaning technology” but your customers call it a vacuum. Use terms your customers expect to see when they come to your web site. Ask a customer what they think about your content. Better yet, conduct a focus group of customers or potential customers and don’t tell the participants who your company is, just provide them with copy to review. You may be surprised at the results.
  2. Skip the jargon. Technology companies are notorious for using TLAs (three letter acronyms), industry terms and jargon when describing their products and services. Other industries aren’t much better – especially non-profits and government agencies. They love to spend time thinking up words whose initials form a longer term – SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), OPAL (in NY state, Online Permit Assistance and Licensing). No one is immune to jargon – I call our brand story telling services Brand telling What to do? Use terms that your customers understand and can remember. Need to use a term? Explain it. An acronym? Spell it out the first time you use it.
  3. Use your voice to show you care. If your organization makes a product for executives, make sure your site copy reflects the professional language that you would use in a corporate office setting. If you’re building a site for teens, you might want to skip what you think are some “kewl wordz, yo.” My daughter just loves when I ask her if she needs me to pick up her posse after school. Eye rolling is probably not the reaction you want your site to create.
  4. Show, don’t Tell. Brand Identity Attributes are adjectives and other descriptive language that help creatively articulate all the ways you express your brand – through content, graphics, interactive and physical (like your building and the big logo thing in front of it). These attributes can help you express that intangible, yet unmistakable, character of your brand’s persona. Make a list of the words that reflect your company’s brand and see how to best use these words – and avoid using others – in your site copy.

Try these tips and you’ll be building a better sounding site in no time!

Make your brand story consistent

There’s always quite a bit of talk about community and conversations which inevitably turns into a discussion about social media platforms. But these platforms –whether blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest or some other social media sharing tool (Tumblr, I’m looking at you) –are all just vehicles for your brand story. It’s the brand story itself that needs to be genuine, interesting and relevant. Perhaps most importantly, you need to stick to your story.

We like the messages we receive to be consistent – and we have all kinds of sayings when something is inconsistent. You’ll find this is especially true if you speak with a variety of audiences and you your message changes. People might say that you’re “all over the map” or “don’t have your story straight.” If they really don’t like what they’ve heard, they may say you’re “not telling the whole truth,” or worse, that you’re a “flip-flopper.” What’s clear is that a consistent story, well told, is a powerful tool for how a brand (company, product or politician) will be received. As an added bonus, you’ll find that a consistent story is also a sticky story – it stays with your audience and leaves an impression.

When I say “consistent story,” I don’t mean that you will only have a single story that you tell all the time. No, your product story will change as you introduce new products. Your company story will change as you refocus your market strategies. But once you’ve set a direction, your core or central messages must be consistent, reliable and repeatable. And a consistent story doesn’t mean simply saying the same thing over and over again. A consistent story needs to tell the same basic story in a way that allows it to be directly connected with your company and your customers.

Here are a few guidelines that will not only help you develop and deliver more consistent messages, but will also make your messages more powerful and memorable:

Stick to Your Story (and make your story stick)

Make it Simple – Your messages must be simple to say, simple to understand and simple to repeat. Everyone in your organization must be able to repeat the same messages in the same way as you. It’s easier to repeat a message that uses simple themes. The more complex you make your story, the more difficult you make it for your audience to follow and receive your message. Ever listen to a fourth grader tell a story? Enough said.

Make it Bold – Look, if you’re going to tell your company stories, you need to make bold statements. Bold statements become easy to associate with your brand. Consider strong company taglines as an example. Remember the old Apple campaign? Think Different. It’s a perfect tagline for its forward-thinking brand. How consistent would the company’s brand image be if its tagline was We Make the Second or Third Most Popular Computers? Please. “We make widgets” is completely forgettable and is probably not consistent with what your company really does either. Think about your message and say it out loud.

Make it Colorful – There’s no point in telling a boring story. You need to color in the details for your story to stick. Is your story about how your customers love your products? Then describe the way they demonstrate that love. Tell the story of how your customers use your products, where they take them, what they do with them that wasn’t in the instruction manual.

Keep these guidelines in mind when you’re developing your next product launch news release, writing a speech or creating customer communications and you’ll find that there is amazing clarity in consistency. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Use customer personas to improve your marketing outreach

When you’re telling a story, it’s a good idea to know who your audience is. OK, it’s a GREAT idea to know who your audience is. Back when I was an editor at technology business magazines, I used to keep copies of the articles that interviewed our readers and discussed their business so I had some target when I was writing a product review or recommending a service. As a marketer, I use Customer Personas.

Customer Personas are profiles or stand-ins for “people” that you create to represent the actual users, prospects and customers within your targeted audience.

Here are just a few of the benefits of using personas:

  • Creating a better understanding of your customers (Their desires and concerns, and the way they may use your product)
  • Developing a customer-centric focus (Your persona becomes a stand-in for your customers)
  • Designing for customers’ actual needs (It’s much easier to build a product if you can “see” who will use it)
  • Improved product and service quality and usability (Does it fit? Can everyone use it?)

Your personas are actually based on the aggregate data that you discover (or research) about your audience. If you’ve got a web site that targets 20-30 year old women you might develop two or three different types of personas depending on the different demographics you’re trying to reach within that broad audience (race, ethnicity, marital status, level of education, area of country, etc.). You can get very complex with your personas – or you can develop simple personas that you refine over time.

When I build personas I like to give them names, locations and even pictures (funny, all my personas are good looking people). Usability.gov has a terrific site filled with information about building personas, including tips on creating surveys and even a great example. Try it out for yourself and see how much more meaningful your marketing message becomes when you use customer personas.

Road rules for working with your PR and marketing agency

Working with a Public Relations or Marketing Agency should be a collaboration. You are paying the agency to provide you with advice, guidance, strategies and recommendations — in addition to the tactics we usually associate with agency activities. But, collaboration means working with the agency and actually taking its advice to heart. Here are a few Road Rules for Working with Your PR and Marketing Agency:

  1. Do something that makes you feel uncomfortable (JUMP!)
  2. Always have an agenda for our meetings.
  3. Let us develop the first draft of the quotes for your press releases.
  4. Remember: PR actually doesn’t stand for Press Release.
  5. Don’t ask us to “Just call a few editors and get them to write a story.”
  6. Believe us: We’ve been pitching your story all week.
  7. Don’t ask us to call to see if they received the release.
  8. Trust us: The media is ALWAYS on deadline. It’s kinda their thing.