Author Archives: siouxology

6 Best Tips for Creating Evergreen Content

At some point during your research to find better ways to improve the performance of your content, whether it is for a blog, company website, or as part of your overall marketing strategy, you have likely encountered the term “evergreen content.” This is not a new term and has been used for over half a decade to describe content that stays relevant over time. The more staying power your content has in terms of relevance to searchers, the more evergreen it is.

To expand the explanation a bit more, evergreen content is engaging, useful, and topically relevant for an extended period of time. If someone uses a search engine to find information about a specific subject today and a year from now and both receive the same result, that content is evergreen. The longer your content can stay visible in search results and relevant to search queries, the more evergreen it is.

As the internet becomes increasingly saturated with a variety of content pertaining to similar topics, it becomes more important for marketers and content creators to produce content that has the most potential for long-term importance to online searchers and surfers.

Create content for beginners. You might be tempted to think that technically advanced, in-depth content would be more appropriate as a candidate for being evergreen. In reality, the opposite is true. Most of the people who use search engines to find information are relatively new to a particular subject and are expanding their knowledge. The individuals who seek out technical content usually have a source location in mind, and they often avoid search engines unless they are performing a cursory search without a specific data acquisition goal in mind. There are also far more people new to a certain subject using search engines on a regular and recurring basis than there are people who want material on advanced subject matter.

Avoid making assumptions with your phrasing and terminology. Because the majority of your readers will be those who are only now familiarizing themselves with a specific topic, you should anticipate their lack of in-depth knowledge and write accordingly. Technical jargon or industry-specific phrasing should be left out unless absolutely necessary and, if it is necessary, make sure the average reader understands what the words or phrases mean.

Use outbound links cautiously. Many writers who provide online content, especially bloggers, are often tempted to include outbound links to reference and source material. This is usually done to give the reader more information about a subject or establish more authority for facts, figures, and other data provided in the content. Problems can arise, however, when you have included links to external web pages that have shuffled off their mortal (internet) coil and been removed or disabled for one reason or another. A “page not found” error is much worse than not including a link at all.

Strive to be the only source of information for your topic. If competition exists for your content that prevents you from being the only source of information about your subject, you need to make sure your content is the definitive source. One of the key factors in creating evergreen content is that you are publishing something that people will want to read today, tomorrow, and years from now (if possible). This means your content should be the most complete, authoritative, and definitive resource for those who want to know more about the subject.

Focus on one specific subject. The more singular your subject, the more definitive your content can be in terms of delivering the most useful information to your readers. When you try to cover several subjects in one piece of content, the end result is usually a disjointed jumble of thoughts that lack a cohesive connection or strong purpose. When choosing your subject, narrow it down to as finite a point as possible. For example, rather than writing about divorce, you could write about divorce and child custody. Rather than writing about divorce and child custody, you could write about how to help children cope with the divorce and custody process. If your topic is as specific as it can be, this gives you a limited range within which you can write, which means your content will have the best opportunity to become a definitive source of material.

Avoid including information that can “date” your content. Dated content automatically creates a shelf life for the material, meaning it will expire when more updated content becomes available. This includes “top ten” lists of any information for a specific year, data relating to current trends (which are called “current” trends because they, too, have a shelf life), breaking news, future speculation that can be proven wrong, or event-specific content. Undated content remains viable and useful when the following year rolls around or the newest batch of trends makes an appearance.

Now that you know several key tips regarding what makes (or breaks) evergreen content, you may be wondering what type of content performs best in the evergreen arena. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules for the type of content that will always find relevance to a significant audience regardless of the passage of time. Some content formats, however, do tend to find themselves staying relevant and useful long after their author has clicked the “publish” button. This includes:

  • Tutorials and how-to content
  • Historical information and “origin” content
  • Curated resource lists (“top ten” content with long-term relevance)
  • Informational posts or encyclopedic content (“ultimate resource” or “complete guide”)
  • Single FAQ industry-specific content (pick one frequently asked question and thoroughly answer it)

Once you have become more adept at creating content that is designed to be evergreen, you will find it easier to adjust attributes of your writing more toward longevity and relevance over time. As you move forward with the creation of evergreen content, you can even go back over old material to see if anything can be re-purposed and turned into content that can stand the test of time.

The development and growth of a portfolio filled with evergreen content only ensures that your material will continue to appear in search results, providing more traffic, visibility, and popularity for your blog or other online content.


27 SEO Strategies to Keep Your Content Competitive

Many things can be measured in terms of days, weeks, months, or even years.  The constantly evolving nature of the Internet, however, demands a more accelerated time frame, where things are measured in seconds, minutes, and hours.  What may be popular, trending, or successful right now could become a distant memory tomorrow.

This continual ebb and flow in the online world requires that online marketers and website designers perform site optimization in a way that ensures as much longevity as possible – despite the fact that all too often, the words “longevity” and “online” generally don’t complement each other very well.

For the most part, SEO has consisted of three primary methods: (1) continuing to use SEO that has worked in the past (“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”), (2) integrating strategies that are overlooked and underutilized in an attempt to create a fresh perspective with content that is rarely seen, and (3) leaping ahead of the herd by employing innovative techniques that have not been time-tested or vetted through other means.

With all that in mind, how do you know which SEO methods to use on your own website to drive traffic, generate interest, and cultivate a base of prospects (readers, visitors, customers, etc.) that will keep coming back?  You really don’t know, and the best way to implement SEO strategies into your website design, online marketing, content writing, or other Internet-based activity is by finding out what’s out there and giving it a try.  What works for someone else may not work for you, and what has failed miserably for another site could propel yours into an unheard of dimension of popularity and success.

Here are 27 SEO strategies and techniques for you to examine, contemplate, and integrate into your website to increase your exposure and attract more interest in what you are offering, whether it’s information, ideas, products, or services:

  1. Be creative.  Never follow someone else’s lead, because you’ll always be in second place, at best.
  2. Include ALT text for every image or graphic that is contained on your site.  Images are part of the site’s content, so a description like “Luftwanstelbadtt, Germany’s oldest castle” is much more search engine pleasing than “001_39023.JPG,” and it also lets visitors know what the image is supposed to be if they have a slower-loading internet connection or the image becomes broken for some reason.
  3. Use long-tail keywords as often as you can.  By using a more specific keyword (long-tail), you are ensuring that visitors with both general and specific search terms can find your site.  (An example of a long-tail keyword would be “living on a budget as a single mother” rather than “living on a budget” or “budget living.”)
  4. Do not use deceptive anchor text with links to your site.  Google deciphers linkage and attempts to determine if the landing page a user reached is actually the one they wanted (based on the link they clicked), and if it was not, the website can be penalized.
  5. Determine your keywords, research them thoroughly, and place them naturally.  Don’t stuff keywords, don’t use keywords that aren’t relevant to the page’s data, and don’t include them in content where they don’t seem to fit.
  6. Stay away from selling links on your site.  If you do, make sure you nofollow them.  And it’s probably just a better idea not to sell them in the first place, because Google will likely change their mind on the nofollow and make it noselling.
  7. Blog often, and promote your posts through your website, social media pages, and other online outlets.  Make sure your blogs are relevant to your industry and link to pages on your site where appropriate.
  8. Do not employ page coding strategies that prevent a user from clicking/using the BACK button.  Google’s Webmaster Central Blog has an article on this and specifically refers to performing this underhanded tactic, where an advertisement-laden page is displayed instead of the previous page the user had been viewing.
  9. Establish a valuable linkfolio (“link portfolio”) by placing links back to your site on popular, reputable, and authoritative online locations.  These can be your social media sites, industry-specific directories (not “free for all” directories), through the use of affiliate marketing, and cataloging sites.
  10. Optimize your above-the-fold content for quick loading and minimal advertising.  Site visitors want their information “right now,” and if they have to wait to see it, they’ll go somewhere else in a hurry.  This tip is especially critical for mobile versions of your website (because Google seems to think that, based on user data, mobile phones can deliver information faster than the speed of NOW).
  11. Provide high quality, in-depth content.  This is straight from the search engine’s mouth.  According to Google, users are turning to search engines more often for information on a much broader scale than before, and they are seeking bigger quantities of data.
  12. Create a sitemap.  Both users and search engines like sitemaps.
  13. Don’t embed links in JavaScript and Flash plug-ins.  Search engine crawlers cannot find these links, and embedding links into a plug-in that a user may have disabled for security reasons may prevent them from finding your content.
  14. Make sure your website’s pages load quickly and accurately.  Nothing is more frustrating than waiting (and waiting and waiting) for a page to load, and when it does – it’s only half there.
  15. Avoid faulty redirects and smartphone-only errors on mobile versions of your site.  Again, from Google, regarding misdirection of links that provide a generic or main page result rather than the intended page when a mobile user clicks a specific link.
  16. Make use of keywords that are phrased in a way that real people would use them.  Don’t use “Denver residential sanitation repurposing facility” if you are a “trash recycling business for homes in Denver.”  People search for things in the way they would be said in a spoken conversation, not in a way that uses technical jargon, buzzwords, and officious-sounding titles.
  17. Make use of page titles and Meta descriptions in ways that emphasize your specific focus (via keyword insertion).  If someone is searching for “rare cat breeds” they won’t find you if your titles and descriptions say “exotic feline genus and species.”  (This is part of the “real world phrasing of keywords” tip.)
  18. Find, read, and use as many free SEO tools and resources as you can.  While a great deal of the “expert” SEO advice out there may not truly be expert, it can still be useful.  Learn all you can about SEO and use what sounds logical.
  19. Avoid duplicate content, period.  Google’s Penguin update targeted sameness in website content, and that could be anything from copying text from another site or even duplicating your own content from page to page.  Don’t do it.  You will be punished.
  20. Develop and publish resource and information-only pages on your website about industry or niche specific data.  Create something that WANTS to be shared and linked to.  Not only can this boost your status as an expert or authority figure, it can also help generate popularity via linking.
  21. Don’t include an internal link (to another page on the site) on any page on your website unless it’s important to do so.  Just because your site has 10,000 pages doesn’t mean links to all of them have to be on every page of your site.
  22. Create content for people.  The ultimate judge, jury, and executioner for your website’s content is the person who visits it, not the search engine that crawls it.  If you hold the #1 spot on Google and your content sucks, people will visit #2 or #10 or #1,000 because they are providing what the USER wants to see.
  23. Observe what your competitors are doing and learn from them.  Whether your competitors are wildly successful or flaming failures, you can learn something from what they are doing.
  24. Develop a unique and creative branding scheme to set yourself apart from the pack.  If your brand, company, content, or site is plain Jane, who is going to remember you five seconds after they leave your site?
  25. Create hyper-local content wherever possible.  If you have a target audience that is geographically restricted, capitalize on that in every way possible.
  26. Create longer content, blog posts, articles, etc.  Longer content is ranking better on Google than shorter content on the same subjects, so write more (and make sure it’s quality stuff).
  27. Make use of social signals within your site’s content.  Google is looking more and more at how users respond to a site and are taking that into consideration when it comes time to rank a site in search results.

Search engine optimization is not some mythical concept that gets bandied about by attendees at technology conventions.  It is a method of making your website as attractive to potential visitors as possible, getting them interested in what you have to offer, engaged in your content, and coming back for more.  The secondary goal of SEO is to make Google happy.  No website will likely ever reach THAT goal.

Making Branding Work: 27 Top Tips

Now that we have defined what a brand is, let’s move on to how to make a brand work for you and how to market your business in such a way that capitalizes on your brand, improves your branding capabilities, and increases your market exposure and visibility.

Here are 27 tips for making branding work for you and your company:

  1. Cater to your target market’s wants, not their needs.  Wants establish an emotional connection that goes beyond simple need, and it is how you can create a personal relationship with your customers and keep them coming back time and again.
  2. Create a mission statement that puts in words what the focus, aim, goal, or future direction of your company is, and the value your business can provide to consumers.
  3. Purchase your own domain name (if you haven’t already), and make sure the domain name has something to do with your company.  Make sure the name is as short as possible, easy to spell, and doesn’t have punctuation in the name (i.e., hyphens, underscores, etc.).
  4. If your company participates in local or regional events, trade shows, exhibits, fairs, or similar public activities, make sure you include a calendar on your website that tells people where you will be and when.  Invite the public to attend and visit you at the event.
  5. Create a periodic newsletter available via e-mail and distribute it to subscribers.  Make sure you included ample information about your company, products, services, or other industry information specific to your brand.
  6. Create an opportunity for human connection by telling your company’s story, thus making it become a tangible construct rather than a vague concept in your prospects’ minds.
  7. Create a memorable tagline that conveys what your company does in as few words as possible.
  8. Make sure your company has a great name.  Also make sure your company name doesn’t invoke images of other companies or have any negative associations with the word or words used for the name.  (You wouldn’t want to call a luxury cruise ship – or a communications company – the Titanic, would you?)
  9. Provide content on your primary website that is strictly informational – no marketing, promoting, or selling involved.  Do this on a regular (at least once a week) basis.
  10. Put your customers first.  Yes, you are here to make money but without your client base, you have no income.
  11. Ask for help when (if) you need it.  Tackling branding and marketing schemes on your own can be daunting and you may not be up to the task simply due to lack of knowledge or experience.  This can be a fatal mistake, so if you find yourself treading water to stay afloat, make use of the variety of diverse professional services out there that can help you position your brand, market your company, and increase your revenue.
  12. When you provide informational material on your primary website (see #9), make sure it demonstrates your authority and expertise in your industry or niche.
  13. Establish a blog and make regular posts that focus on your company’s industry, products, or services.  (Make sure you add a new entry to your blog at least 3 times a week, if not more.)
  14. Do not follow the crowd.  Be different and stand out from your competitors.
  15. Develop a great logo for your company, and make sure it doesn’t resemble anyone else’s in any way that could cause brand confusion.
  16. Put your company’s logo, brand name, products, and services on as many social networking sites as possible.  Make sure you update your social media sites regularly and keep your content changing to reach out to different types of consumers.
  17. Be consistent with how you advertise and market your brand image.  If you have a dozen different logos, taglines, slogans, and other means of associating with your company, that only creates confusion.  Find one and stick with it.
  18. Make sure your promotional efforts don’t appear to be “used car salesman slick-pitches.”  You want your marketing to demonstrate your value, not emphasize your greed.
  19. Be accessible.  Provide your company’s physical address, and include a phone number where the phone is answered by a living human rather than a recorded message.  Not being able to connect with a company is extremely frustrating and has turned many customers away from businesses that are stand-offish.
  20. Offer something for free.  Whether you offer a “gift with purchase” or free do-it-yourself instructions, make sure you give something to your target market at no cost at all.  (This is a great way to get otherwise uninterested people to sample what your company does.)
  21. Determine what you are REALLY selling to your target market.  Someone once said that people don’t buy drill bits, they buy holes.  What are your customers buying from you?  Figure that out and then determine how to reinforce your brand by tying in what you sell with what you are.
  22. Be committed to your company, products, services, ideas, goals, and mission.  If your heart isn’t in your business, you’ve already failed.
  23. If you have a restricted target audience (elderly, female, geographically limited, truck-driving, married, cat-loving, etc.), make sure your company’s image and marketing efforts specifically focus on that audience.
  24. Know your competition.  Study what your competitors do and how well they do it.  “Out of sight, out of mind” is  not a phrase you want to apply to your competition because what you don’t know CAN hurt you through their successful efforts versus your failure to be aware of their strategies.
  25. Make every customer feel like they are receiving VIP treatment.  By giving them a “special” or “exclusive” experience, you’ve turned them into a customer for life.
  26. If you are changing your branding scheme, do not implement it in pieces.  This creates confusion.  Roll out your new branding package when you are able to do so for all aspects of your business.
  27. Make sure your company, logo, and brand are associated with a “face.”  This can be you, another employee, your pet, a mascot, a fictional creation, or whatever you choose – but develop a visual personality to go with your branding package.

Above all else when you are marketing your company to the public, never – ever – settle for “good enough.”  Once you decide that your efforts are “good enough,” you’ve committed your company to the grave and are just waiting for it to expire.  Aim high – higher than you think you can go – and then constantly and consistently do everything you can to achieve those aims.

33 Top-Notch Content Writing Tips

When it comes to writing, the content itself can span the bridge from paper to digital without much modification.  A writer is really no different than a content writer, copywriter, online writer, or any other person who puts the proverbial pen to page and creates something with words.

That being said, here are 33 content writing tips to help improve the quality or quantity of your written work:

  1. Know what you are writing about and the key points you want to make before you actually start writing.
  2. Avoid using technical jargon, industry buzzwords, and other “catchy” lingo that most people don’t really understand.  It may sound cool, but if your reader doesn’t get it, you might as well be speaking an alien language.
  3. Determine what response you want from the reader and write with achieving that response in mind.
  4. Begin your content with your conclusion first.  (“Here’s the point!”  And all the other writing is just showing how that point was reached.)
  5. KNOW how people read internet-based content.  It’s much different than reading a book; online readers skim and scan content more than they actually read it.
  6. People make decisions more on emotion than logic, so evoke emotional responses with your writing.
  7. Keep sentences and paragraphs short, and don’t include more than one central concept in each paragraph.
  8. All your writing should be directed at people – your audience.  (Google’s crawlers are NOT your audience.)  You can handle the SEO tasks separately.
  9. Add wit and humor to your writing (where appropriate).  If you can engage your readers by eliciting a response from them (i.e., a chuckle or a laugh), they are more likely to remember you.
  10. Write longer, higher quality pieces rather than short-and-sweet summaries.  Try to aim for 600 to 1,000 words for articles and up to 600 words for blog posts.
  11. Include graphics, embedded videos, and images in your content.
  12. The purpose of most content writing is to answer a question – so make sure your writing is informative and responds to a particular (unspoken) inquiry.
  13. Don’t string together sentences and paragraphs that take up half a page without a break.  Many people speed-skim and they need some kind of visual cue to pull their attention like bullets, lists, sub-headings, etc.
  14. Find YOUR voice and put it into what you’re writing.  No one remembers the writers who had the same, tired tone as a dozen others.  Be as original with your writing as you are in real life.
  15. If you are offering information that is allegedly factual, make sure it is before publishing it.  Include source links where appropriate.
  16. If it isn’t meaningful, don’t write it.  Site visitors dislike fluff as much as marketers, search engines, and analysts do.
  17. Avoid using multimedia at all unless it completely enhances your content and does not detract or distract whatsoever.
  18. Know who your competition is with regard to what you’re writing, and make sure your content is unique from theirs.
  19. Create a headline that screams “read me!”
  20. PROOFREAD YOUR WRITING!  Nothing, seriously, is more annoying to a person searching for authoritative information to come to a site and try to read through content that is littered with spelling, syntax, formatting, and grammatical errors.  How can you be recognized as an “expert” on anything if you don’t even comprehend or communicate with basic English?
  21. Never copy and paste other content, even if it is your own.  If you are borrowing from someone else’s ideas, at least have the decency to rephrase the subject matter so it isn’t an overt piece of plagiarism.
  22. Stay on topic with each piece of content.  Nothing is more frustrating than to try to read something about a particular topic only to have the writing jump all over the board (and be largely useless).
  23. Your content should deliver value and information that is relevant to your readers’ interests.  Don’t create an online brochure…create an online experience.
  24. Don’t make your writing about you, your company, your products, etc.  You are writing FOR your audience so the content should be ABOUT your audience.
  25. Put keywords out of your mind.  If you are actually writing quality content about specific subjects, the keywords will create themselves and get added where they need to be without making a job out of it.
  26. Don’t sit down and start writing unless you are ready to write.  If you are feeling lackluster about writing, it will show through in the quality (or lack thereof) of your content.
  27. If you are planning to be a niche writer, make sure you choose a niche that isn’t already over-saturated with writers of every type imaginable.
  28. Make sure your content is presented in a professional way.  This includes your blog site, website, or other online location where you publish your work.  Keep it clean and crisp, and make sure it looks like something done by someone who knows what they are doing.
  29. Don’t make people’s minds up for them with your content (i.e., telling them what is best for them).  Give examples of why something would be beneficial and let people make up their own minds if they “have” to have it or not.
  30. Write something that “needs” to be shared.
  31. Don’t use “big words” when little ones work just fine.  (This falls in line with the tip to avoid technical jargon, buzzwords, and other vague phrasing.)
  32. Avoid writing about things that you are not very knowledgeable about.  People want information from experts, not random thoughts from the Average Joe.
  33. Make it personal by including a question, scenario, or situation where your reader could insert themselves.

Writing quality web content is so much more than reading a Wikipedia page to familiarize yourself with a topic and then rephrasing it to avoid duplication.  Too many people tout themselves as “professional writers” when they actually are not, and just because someone has a blog doesn’t mean they know what they are talking about (myself included!).

17 Tips for Writing a Mission Statement

Nearly everyone has seen the movie, Jerry McGuire, and remembers the beginning when Jerry pens his mission statement, only to have everyone refer to it as a memo.  Memos are usually less than a page in length, and Jerry’s manifesto was well over two dozen pages – clearly it was more than a memo.  But was it really a mission statement?

What is a mission statement?

We will forego the Wikipedia definition and take from more reputable sources to find out what, exactly, a mission statement is.  According to Entrepreneur Magazine’s online encyclopedia of business knowledge:

A mission statement defines what an organization is, why it exists, its reason for being. At a minimum, your mission statement should define who your primary customers are, identify the products and services you produce, and describe the geographical location in which you operate.

Kinesis provides a thorough article regarding mission statement composition that says, in part, “[a] well-crafted mission statement can provide the focus and motivation you need to take your business to the next level. These are the values that drive your business personality, customer service, and marketing messages. In fact, your mission is the soul of your brand. It is your Why. It is the very reason that your company does what it does.”

Before you can develop a mission statement, your company has to have a primary purpose.  This can be an industry-specific product or service, or it can be the delivery of ideas and concepts on a more general scale.  Regardless of what your company does, you have to know what it was created to accomplish before you can compose a statement of it’s mission, values, and beliefs.

Here are 17 tips for writing a mission statement for your company:

  1. Keep it simple, stupid.  The “K.I.S.S.” principle applies to a lot of things, especially those involving the composition of written content.  As stated in an Inc. article, it is a mission statement, not a mission essay.
  2. Make the creation of a mission statement a joint effort among everyone on your staff.  By giving them the ability to contribute to the end result, you are empowering them to be more deeply invested in the company.
  3. Your company will evolve over time so make sure your mission statement does, too (especially if it was written during the company’s infancy).
  4. A mission statement is an overall sense of your company’s identity, so it should receive as much professional attention, deference, and adherence as your personal identity does.
  5. If your mission statement is being revised or recreated from a previous version, don’t toss it in your employees’ laps without allowing them to have some input or giving them the opportunity to test the statement through real-world application.
  6. Decide whether you want your mission statement to reflect your company’s short-term or long-term goals, especially if your goals may be more dynamic than static.  Keep in mind that short-term statements need to be revised as the company’s goals, accomplishments, and plans change.
  7. Try to be as succinct and concise as possible,because the perfect mission statement should also be able to double as your company’s slogan.
  8. Include the four key elements of an effective mission statement (according to Inc.).  Those elements are value, specificity, plausibility, and inspiration.
  9. Avoid vague phrasing and conceptual generalities.  A mission statement that says your company aims to be an industry leader of quality products, outstanding customer service, and cutting edge innovation for tomorrow’s consumer today might as well have been written on toilet paper and flushed.  EVERY company has that mission, but your mission statement should be much more exacting, precise, and specific.
  10. Examine the mission statements of other companies, especially those with whom you compete for customers or sales.  Reading what others have written can fuel your creativity when it comes to writing your own statement.
  11. Be specific with regard to what you can do for your customers, why your company’s products or services are superior to your competition, what makes your customer service extraordinary, and why your company exists in the first place (the “why” behind the creation of your company).
  12. After you have written an initial statement, don’t think that you are finished and it’s ready for framing.  Read it, revise it, read it again, revise it again.  It is not complete until it encapsulates everything about your company’s purpose in all aspects of business, and until you are 100% satisfied with every word, phrase, sentence, and piece of punctuation contained in the statement.
  13. Use descriptive words that convey a dynamic, visual impression of your company’s mission to readers of the statement, but don’t use any words or phrases that are unnecessary to the overall statement.
  14. Keep sales pitches out of your mission statement.  For example, Microsoft’s old mission statement used to say, “A computer on every desk and in every home, running Microsoft software,” which sounds like nothing more than corporate greed.  Microsoft’s new mission statement is equally crappy, however (“to enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential“).
  15. Write your mission statement around what makes your company stand out from the crowd.  If you’re no different from your competition, why should customers come to you instead of them?
  16. Don’t say that your company is “the best” at this or “the world leader” of that or the “undisputed, undefeated heavyweight champion” of anything, really.  Pompous terminology is a turn-off and customers tend to avoid overtly arrogant people and businesses.
  17. Apply the “front page” guideline to your statement.  Would you be proud to have your company’s mission statement printed boldly on the front page of the newspaper?  If not, go back to the drawing board.

Once created, your mission statement should be expressed to all your employees so they will know their reason for being where they are.  Everything undertaken should be done in such a way as to reflect the core principles of the company and to fulfill the purpose(s) of your mission statement.

After creating a mission statement, the last thing you want to do is have it attractively framed and nailed to a wall to be forgotten.  The statement should be reviewed periodically to make sure of two things – one, that your company’s purpose and goals are still in line with the statement, and two, that the statement still accurately reflects what your company’s intentions and direction are.

Today’s Marketing: What Is a Brand?

With regard to internet marketing, the word “brand” is used quite frequently – certainly much more so than in years past (as it would pertain to traditional marketing and promotional methods).  The most common references have to do with brand exposure, brand recognition, brand visibility, and so forth.

What, really, is a brand?

According to the Tronvig Group, ‘branding’ is what you are (as opposed to ‘marketing’ being what you do).  Forbes, on the other hand, states that a brand is what your prospect thinks of when he/she hears your business name; it is everything the public thinks they know about your name brand offering, both factual and emotional.

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) of the United Kingdom has a more extensive definition of what a brand is, as follows:  A brand can be a trade name, a sign, symbol, slogan or anything that is used to identify and distinguish a specific product, service or business. But a brand is much more than this; it can also be a ‘promise of an experience’ and conveys to consumers a certain assurance as to the nature of the product or service they will receive and also the standards the supplier or manufacturer seeks to maintain. For example, a ‘brand’ might focus on exclusivity of design; or perhaps excellence of customer service or maybe high moral standards in its dealings with suppliers; or perhaps a combination of these and other values. This guaranteeing function is not created overnight; it is usually hard won in the marketplace and develops over time.

The Marketing Blog provides a thorough definition of a brand, saying (in part): It is the emotional and psychological relationship you have with your customers. Strong brands elicit opinions, emotions, and sometimes physiological responses from customers.

The Marketing Blog’s post also goes on to provide a quote from a book by Daryl Travis that says, “a brand isn’t a brand until it develops an emotional connection with you.”  The blog clarifies further by stating that logos are not brands, they are merely representations of brands.

Again quoting The Marketing Blog because I really enjoyed their post about what a brand is, they go on to say that a brand is the cornerstone.  All other “stones” set in the process of constructing your business will be placed in direct reference to that cornerstone, and that your brand determines the position and strength of your entire marketing framework.

In most cases, a company’s logo (visual representation of their company’s name, purpose, products, etc.) evokes emotional responses in prospects and customers.  This means that the logo (or brand name) has established a brand in the minds of consumers.  For example:

  • A small, cartoonish Roman with a spear stuck through two pizzas can cause you to hear “Pizza! Pizza!” in your head (Little Caesar’s).
  • The name AFLAC, especially when displayed alongside a white duck, brings to mind “AHH-FLACK!!” commercials.
  • For the older crowd, FedEx’s name and image conjure up their old slogan, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”
  • A somewhat weak example on the negative side would be the fact that many, many vehicle owners will never purchase Firestone tires for their cars (myself included), simply because the manufacturer had a bad batch that infrequently blew out or shredded off the rim at high speeds.

If you look at a company’s name or logo and feel or think anything at all, that company has created a brand name or brand logo that has established itself in the branding world, and the way you think and feel about that name or logo is the company’s brand (on your mind or heart).

Armchair Explorer: Pripyat, Ukraine

Today I visited Pripyat, Ukraine, also known as one of the most interesting places on the planet – simply because it is largely off-limits to unrestricted exploration.  The reason for taboo travel in and around Pripyat is, of course, because it was located in the fallout zone near Chernobyl, the Ukranian nuclear power plant that experienced a meltdown (allegedly due to flawed reactor design and poorly trained staff) in 1986.

When I say I ‘visited’ Pripyat, I actually mean that I played the role of Armchair Explorer and traveled the streets and examined the sights courtesy of Google Street View I love abandoned places populated by the shells of society and devoid of humanity.  There is something both eerie and peaceful about being in a place once well-populated and now totally deserted.

While I was meandering through the streets of Pripyat, I noticed something unusual.  At latitude/longitude 51.4004125,30.0526197, there are some structures that are intentionally blacked out at street level.  See the image below:

If you move slightly to the right (when facing this blacked-out structure), the image comes back into view unobstructed and looks like this:

An aerial satellite image of the area reveal nothing unusual or seemingly secretive – just more abandoned buildings that look like every other abandoned building in the area.  What is covered by the black box and why?



There are several large apartment buildings in Pripyat, and most of the windows are either wide open or have been broken out.  Since the town was evacuated right after the Chernobyl accident and was not fully secured for some time afterward, it may be likely that vandals and looters opened or broke the windows while scavenging around the modern ruins.


Most people who explore Pripyat want to go straight to the amusement park and the Ferris wheel.  It has become the most photographed object within the city limits of Pripyat, leaving a large part of the city and surrounding area neglected and ignored in favor of popular media.


Along the outskirts of town, the rusted hulks of power line support structures jut up above the overgrown trees, grass, and other plant life.  With no human presence in the area for 30 years, the landscape is slowly taking over once more and creeping onto and over the concrete and metal buildings scattered here and there.  Time will continue its slow march onward and eventually these structures, no matter how sturdy, will succumb to decay unless they are manually demolished before being reclaimed by the land.


Pripyat has become a tourist attraction over the past several years, with visitors being allowed to explore with a guide.  Visits to the area are time-restricted due to the possibility of contamination from the radiation fallout of Chernobyl.  While the risk is minimal, government officials and designated tour guides elect not to take risks with the health and safety of visitors and tourists.


Studies of the area have shown that proximity to the fallout has had little long-term impact on the flora and fauna in the area; plant life is obviously abundant, and the wild and feral animals observed and studied have shown little to no signs of permanent damage from exposure to radiation.  Long-term effects on humans is another matter entirely, however.


Despite guards around the area and the fact that Pripyat is a forbidden zone, urban explorers still find their way – unescorted – to the city to wander through the silent ghost town.  The advantage they have over an Armchair Explorer using Google Street View is that urban explorers can wander in and out of the buildings and through areas that are not accessible to vehicles.


Google is, unfortunately, restricted to streets, trails, paths, and other vehicle tracks – at least until such time that they manage to install Google mapping cameras on wildlife or miniature, self-guided exploratory drones.  You can go where guides don’t usually take you, however, when you explore with Street View.  The Pripyat guided tours often visit the most popular destinations – Ferris wheel, amusement park, shopping mall, school, etc.


Even though I am unable to explore inside the buildings to see how life essentially stood still (at least what remains now after scavengers and looters have laid claim to quite a bit of it) when the people of Pripyat were told to drop what they were doing and leave – basically with little more than the clothes on their backs – it is still enjoyable to explore the streets via Street View.  It’s a place I may never get to explore in person, so Google Street View is certainly the next best thing (until they create a virtual reality street simulator!).

The image above is a roof-top view of the city of Pripyat.  The silver dome-shaped object on the horizon just to the left of center is the containment dome for the #4 reactor at Chernobyl, which is the reactor that experienced a malfunction.  While this image captures just one direction of view from a roof in Pripyat, it gives you a sense of just how big the city itself was.  Thousands of people lost their homes and livelihoods when the Chernobyl accident occurred.


There is so much more to see at Pripyat than the Ferris wheel and bumper cars….


…places you simply don’t get to see on a guided tour, not even from a distance.

And if you aren’t able to make the trip yourself, whether you plan on having a guide or guiding yourself, you can always explore via Google Street View.  It might not be the same as being there, but it’s better than never getting to ‘see’ it at all (or trying to see it by looking at someone else’s photographs while blocking out their ‘fascinating’ commentary for every picture).


If you visit Pripyat in person, you can also visit Chernobyl itself and view the power plant, reactors, and containment dome used to cover the failed reactor until the irradiated contaminants can be safely disposed of.



If you have an hour or two to kill and you’d like to see more of the world without spending a dime, check out Google Street View and visit those far-away destinations you have always wanted to go to.  You can also add your own photos to Google’s Street View ‘library’ – just check out the application information and help file to find out how.  That way, you can contribute to the experiences of other explorers and give them more than just a bird’s eye view of a destination they have only dreamed about!