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Digital Velocity Podcast Hosted by Tim Curtis and Erik Martinez

19 Maximizing the Use of Marketing Content - Carol Morgan

This week on the Digital Velocity Podcast, Carol Morgan of Denim Marketing joins Erik and Tim to discuss how to maximize the use of marketing content.

Marketing content can often be underutilized by businesses. Carol explains, “That's the biggest piece most people miss, whether they're home builders or retailers, is that content. Looking at each piece of content for how can I use this piece of content for its greater good if you want to look at it that way. Where will it fit best, and then how can I cross-promote it?”

Figuring out to reuse and repurpose content adds value to any marketing strategy. Carol says, “It takes 13 or more touchpoints for somebody to make a decision. You want them to see it everywhere. Maybe it's more than that. You want them to see it on your social. You want them to see it in your blogs. You want them to see it on their ads. You want them to see it everywhere, and then connecting all that together too is something that I don't feel like necessarily everyone does well…”

It is important to begin with a plan when it comes to using content. Carol says, “Really start with a plan, look at what that piece of content is and how you can get the most play out of it. You know, not everything is a press release. So, I actually love the fact that we've got all these different ways to put content out now. So, thinking about that content and putting it out and putting a plan in place for where it goes and why, and then executing that plan.”

Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about how to take full advantage of marketing content.

About the Guest:

Carol Morgan, founder and president of Denim Marketing, is one of those women who seems to do a million things effortlessly: she runs her own successful marketing firm; she has an award-winning radio show; she’s written four books; she’s served as chair of the National Home Builders Association’s Professional Women in Building Council; and she’s won multiple professional awards. She also manages a 20-acre farm; rides dressage; and is a mom. And she makes it look easy!

Day to day Carol focuses on marketing strategy and integrating public relations, social media, content and creative to tell engaging stories for clients that garner measurable traffic and show ROI.

Carol is the author of four books, including her latest “Social Media Marketing for Your Business,” published by Builder Books.  She is the creator of the nationally-ranked and award-winning, Atlanta’s most popular real estate news blog. Her Atlanta Real Estate Forum Radio podcast launched in 2011 and has more than 1,000 published episodes. It features the movers and shakers in the Atlanta real estate industry, as well as nonprofits, attractions and things to do on the Around Atlanta edition.

Carol served as one of NAHB Chair Greg Ugalde’s advisors in 2019. She is Chair of the Associates Council, Vice Chair of Public Affairs and past Membership Chair and past chair of NAHB’s Professional Women in Building Council; Carol was inducted into the prestigious Society of Honored Associates earlier this year. She is the recipient of the 2016 Woman of the Year from the Professional Women in Building. She is a graduate of Oglethorpe University and the recipient of the 2008 Spirit of Oglethorpe Award, PRSA Georgia Chapter’s George Goodwin Award, the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association’s 2008 Associate of the Year and 2012 Council Chair of the Year. Carol holds the MIRM (Masters in Residential Marketing), CAPS (Certified Aging in Place Specialist) and CSP (Certified Sales Professional) designations from NAHB.


Tim Curtis: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to this edition of the Digital Velocity Podcast. I'm Tim Curtis from CohereOne,

Erik Martinez: and I'm Erik Martinez from Blue Tangerine.

Tim Curtis: And this week on the podcast, we welcome Carol Morgan. Carol is the President and Founder of Denim Marketing. She's built a career on listening to clients and personalizing plans to the client's needs. She's known for being reliable, creative, and authentic, but she also creates this sort of a big picture marketing strategy, and she utilizes PR, advertising, social media content, creative, and reputation management to send traffic to clients' websites and [00:01:00] gain measurable results. Carol has been particularly attuned to trends in marketing and social media throughout her career and she's a very sought-after speaker.

When she isn't in the office, she can be found in the barn with horses and Carol likes to ride and compete in dressage. She also volunteers with canine pet rescue. Carol also enjoys cooking and gardening. Well, Carol, you sound like a very well-rounded individual. Welcome to the show.

Carol Morgan: Thank you. It's great to be here.

Tim Curtis: It's nice to have you. Kind of to kick off here a little bit. We're sort of getting into now a little bit of what we like to call cross-industry insights, and so you have a very deep domain expertise in the home building industry, and a lot of our listeners are on the retail side. So, we're going to be talking a little bit about things today, you know, insights that can be gained from what you're seeing on the home builder side and how that could potentially apply to the retail side, but why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself? Give us a little bit of your background.

Carol Morgan: Well, I have a very interesting background, I think. So, out of college, I started out in attraction [00:02:00] marketing. I worked for the High Museum at Georgia Pacific Center, worked for the Atlanta Botanical Garden, and then I worked for Zoo Atlanta, all in PR. So, I was the director of PR at Zoo Atlanta from 1994 through 1998, which was a lot of fun.

The Olympics worked during that period, and, you know, really known for, you know, heavy-hitting PR scores for the zoo. When we moved Ivan, the shopping mall gorilla, some of our listeners may remember Ivan, from the Seattle Tacoma area to Atlanta, we had 22 crews on grounds that morning. So, it was about seven national, seven from Seattle Tacoma, and about seven Atlanta specific. So, kind of broke down to a third, third, and third. But a lot of fun, a really fun job, and that's really where, you know, my first, you know, eight, nine years out of college is where I really, really focused on PR and media relations and scoring really heavy-hitting placements for my clients at the local, regional, and national level, and in the case of Ivan, [00:03:00] we actually even got some international press, which is pretty cool.

From there I went to a small marketing company and started their PR division. They, at the time, focused on retail and Real estate. So, that's where I kind of got my first exposure from that perspective at the real estate level, and at the time was married to a home builder. So, I've kind of gotten a lot of, a lot of real estate experience, and home building experience through the years.

About a year after joining that boutique marketing agency, I had a baby, a very fussy baby. Probably the best thing he could have ever done for me is to be a fussy baby because it caused me to go out on my own. You know, a leap I probably would not have taken without a little bit of encouragement from him.

That was the beginning of what at the time was Flammer Relations, now, Denim Marketing, which I started in 1999. Focused at the time, again, we're talking 1999, so we barely have email, so we were focused very heavily on public relations, and you know, what we'd now call [00:04:00] content marketing. Started focusing on digital marketing in the early two-thousands. Which again, was called new media back in the day.

We started blogging in about 05, 06, and then as the world kind of started to change, and at that time we saw a contraction in the number of printed publications. So, we started looking for ways to get our clients online and started posting press releases online and blogging more, and then, as I say, along came face. So, you know, we were in the digital space when Facebook, you know, ramped up and started attracting not just college students to it, but also corporations.

So, as each new social media site cropped up, we found ways to use it in a proactive often, you know, really focused on SEO for our clients because, you know, again, that was kind of in the dark ages, back in the day. So, that's a little bit about my background. It's kind of been interesting. So, often focused on residential real estate since 1998, and prior to that have a kind of interesting, you know, consumer [00:05:00] marketing attraction background.

Tim Curtis: Well, it's interesting, you know, there's been a common thread. Individuals that I've met that have a PR background usually tend to be some of the most fascinating individuals and they are extremely well-positioned, I would say, for the new economy because so much of what's happening and it doesn't really matter if we're talking about the home builder side or if you're talking about the retail side, it's that content and that strategic placement of content.

I think, you know, oftentimes we think about PR in the older traditional sense, the madmen type sense of, you know, trying to get a headline and that's certainly still part of it, you know, the earned media, but there's so much more now involved with that.

So, I think, what a great place for you to be, too, you know, have all of those things sort of in the middle of your career, sort of come to fruition. What's one thing that maybe people might not know about you that people might find interesting?

Carol Morgan: Golly, in real estate you don't have these opportunities, but you know, going back to my Zoo and Atlanta Botanical Garden days, we had a lot of big-name [00:06:00] stars come through those facilities. So, I've done some crazy things like orchestrating how to land Joan London's helicopter in the front parking lot of Zoo Atlanta so that she can come do, you know, Good Morning America on-site, and I've met Isabella Rossellini and C. Z. Guest, and Jason Priestley, the star a Beverly Hills 90210 at the time. So, you know, orchestrated media tours for a lot of those folks. People don't know that cause that's not what I do today. Just some fun stuff. I probably could still tell the satellite truck where to park at Zoo Atlanta to get a signal. The zoo was kind of in a hole and it was always interesting to you know, figure out where to put that truck so that they could beam out.

Erik Martinez: Carol, are you a celebrity chaser? Is that what I just heard?

Carol Morgan: No, not at all. In fact, my friends tease me because they'll say, you know, so-and-so, that was in such and such movie and I often don't know who so-and-so or such-and-such is. In fact, I'm going to draw a complete blank on his name, but lots of people laugh at me for this one, too. I was on a flight to LA one day sitting by this [00:07:00] very cute young man who looked a lot like Matt Damon and I kept thinking, I should know who this is, and in fact, he switched seats with me or offered to switch seats with me so that I could have the window.

Sat there and ate salad for breakfast at seven in the morning, and when we land, I kept thinking, golly, I should know who this is. When we landed, all these kids just swarmed him all the way through the airport. So, I finally stopped one of them and I said, who is that, and they're like, oh, that's Ian Somerhalder, you know, the star of Vampire Diaries. I'm like, well, no wonder he offered me the window seat. He didn't want to melt. I had no idea who he was. You know, they filmed that here in Atlanta, but can't say that I'm a celebrity stalker or chaser. Sorry about that one, Erik.

Erik Martinez: That's too funny. So, Carol, as we get into this idea of cross-industry learning. You know, I know we've worked with you over the past couple of years on a variety of different types of products, both in the home builder industry and in Ecommerce, what are the top couple things that you see [00:08:00] today that you think retailers could learn from the home building industry,? Or go back to your zoo marketing days, what are you seeing out there that they're not doing today that they should be?

Carol Morgan: Golly, it's almost a case-by-case basis if you look at different companies. You know, the one thing overall I see is just having a plan and sticking with it and then figuring out how to interconnect at all. That's the biggest piece most people miss, whether they're home builders or retailers, is that content. Looking at each piece of content for how can I use this piece of content for its greater good if you want to look at it that way. Where will it fit best, and then how can I cross-promote it?

So, for example, if you've got a big press release, you know, a big media release, then you know that shouldn't just go to the media. It probably should be repurposed and be more consumer-facing for your blog. If, you know, again, if you're selling B2C and then, you know, for your social media, you [00:09:00] should be promoting that big press release, you know, when you land it, let's just say you land it in The Wall Street Journal. So, promote that Wall Street Journal story on your social media and push it out everywhere, and then cross-promoted it in email as well.

That's the biggest thing I see that people miss is that they just don't have a plan for their content and they don't have a plan for getting testimonials and reviews. That's something you and I have talked about, Erik, is they just miss that boat completely.

Erik Martinez: I've been working on a new project with a long-time client and one of the challenges this particular client has had is they've got retail stores, they've got direct to consumer marketing, they've got B2B, they've got a wholesale division. They own their own import-export company to tie all these knots together, and the one thing I've noticed over the years of working with them is that all the marketing efforts were in slightly different departments, and the most common one that I see over the years and [00:10:00] people still struggle as to where to put the Ecommerce department? Where do you put the web department? Is it in one department? Is it multiple departments working together?

You know, everybody struggles with that particular idea, but the one thing that seems to be true in the digital age is that there's still a bit of a silo mentality. Even if you're coordinating your page search with some of your other paid media, you don't coordinate your paid search with your SEO or you don't coordinate your paid search with your PR releases. You don't coordinate it with your email campaigns. The whole campaign mentality is siloed, and I'm seeing that with just a handful of clients. I imagine you're seeing this all the time. This is what you're driving at, right?

Carol Morgan: Yeah, we see it all the time, and you know, the other thing that I think is going to, and maybe this is good, it's going to, I think, bring it to a head as you really start thinking about that buy online and think back to pre-pandemic, even the big box stores they had if you bought from, we'll [00:11:00] just take Belk, if you bought from Belk online, you were going through one system. If you bought through Belk in the store, it was like a completely different system. There was no connectivity there, and then along comes a pandemic, right?

So, now people want to buy online and pick it up at the store. So, they figured out how to start cross-connecting that sale structure and I think that's one of the good things that has come out of the pandemic is that people are now starting to think about that, and I think home builders are starting to think about it more like the retailers do because now they've got this buy online mentality, and how do you get that person through the sales funnel that started online? Maybe they put a deposit on a lot online, but now they're going to come to the sale center, and how do you keep that information all cohesively and have a cohesive process of walking them through that? I think that's something that home builders are going to be able to learn a little bit from retail on because retail is a little bit ahead of home builders in that space.

Erik Martinez: Do you think some of this stuff starts with [00:12:00] systems? Do we get siloed because our systems are siloed? Is that really what's happening as opposed to thinking globally and going, this is what we want to do so our systems need to be able to do this, and once our systems are able to do it, then we put our marketing because if we go the other direction, isn't the fear that if we start with the marketing and make the systems try to do it, that the experience is going to be less than desirable?

Carol Morgan: Maybe. I think another fear is, and again, I think this crosses from retail to home builders. There's this fear that marketing is going to take over sales, and maybe it is, but there's a lot of bleeding there too, between marketing and sales. Where does marketing stop and where does sales start? Especially if you've got a product that you're selling online through marketing that they're picking up in the store. Yeah, I think you're right though. It's all different systems.

You know, sometimes one hand really doesn't know what the other one's doing and they don't take time, even if it was just once a month, to say, okay, marketing team, [00:13:00] what are you pushing out there in your promotions this month? Okay, SEO team, you know, we've got these two great new products. Can you focus on those in your Google ads?

What are they saying now? It takes 13 or more touchpoints for somebody to make a decision. You want them to see it everywhere. Maybe it's more than that. You want them to see it on your social. You want them to see it in your blogs. You want them to see it on their ads. You want them to see it everywhere, and then connecting all that together too is something that I don't feel like necessarily everyone does well, but what I mean by that is let's just say you've got this fantastic email marketing list. Well, have you taken that email marketing list and fired it up in Facebook ads? If not, why not? It's a great way to retarget people.

Erik Martinez: Do you think that some of that is it's just too small to matter?

Carol Morgan: Maybe too small to matter, or you know, the economy has been so good for the last couple of years, you know, for some of these different companies. Maybe they're stretched too thin with people.

Erik Martinez: That's an [00:14:00] interesting question. I think people are afraid of trying things sometimes. If there's anything that's happened with the pandemic that mentality has had the shed the way because we've had to be innovative to one figure out what was going to happen at the beginning of this thing, and then when it took off like a rocket ship, right? Then we had to figure out how to deal with that.

Now we're dealing with supply chain issues, right? Plus, there's all this other stuff going on in the background between regulations and privacy requirements and lawsuits on ADA compliance. There's all these things that are evolving, and I think you hit on a really important point about where does marketing stop because marketing has to be worried about all those things, but is it their direct responsibility? Tim, in the companies that you work with, what are you seeing on these topics?

Tim Curtis: So, the first thing, I want to jump back just a bit to talk about, whether something is too [00:15:00] small to do and why clients or brands, whether you're a home builder or whether you're retail, why sometimes those small steps aren't taken. One of the things that I always work with clients on when I'm in consulting gigs with clients, I talk about profit is really a function of incremental gains. It's really profit equals incrementality.

So, profit is unlocked when you take multiple little steps to improve profit. I think of it as the rings of a tree, and each little bit you add each year there's a new ring of the tree. That's the incremental growth. It's small, it's steady, but you have to take those steps. You have to be intentional about the small steps and really, really great leaders understand that and take that. Now, the majority of people do not, and that's why we're here is to help people understand and to take those steps.

You know, as far as you know, the pandemic and how things have changed, I think one of the things that's probably the [00:16:00] largest and everything is now a derivative of that is, when we had the shutdown and all of the brick and mortars essentially shut down and Carol, to your point earlier, you know, you had the Belk example, and maybe Belk wasn't one of these, but you know, a retailer who their online and their store POS systems were not really working well in communications that they were at a supreme disadvantage, but the biggest point here is, this goes across industry.

During the pandemic, or pre-pandemic, there was a fierce debate in boardrooms about going direct to the consumer or continuing to maintain this brick and mortar as the flagship. Let me tell you, there's no longer any debate in those circles. That was settled, and so now with a new mindset, people are working a little bit more hand in hand to try to understand, okay, so it's going to be direct to consumer. Now the brick and mortar [00:17:00] is almost like a regional outpost that can fulfill those orders, both coming into the store or actually shipping out.

So, there's a lot of things that are changing, and I think the brands that have embraced that and are rolling forward with it, they're the ones that we're seeing that they leaned in. They did not allow the COVID shutdown to stop their momentum. They felt as if they stopped the momentum, they wouldn't regain it.

Carol, in your case, you know, Denim services, you've got a lot of services, which I think to me, speaks to taking that piece of content, and you've got different areas of the practice where you're pushing those things out. To me, that's a form of incrementality related to content. Like you said, it's taking that and pushing those things all the way out, but it is lacking unfortunately it really is severely lacking on the brand side. I just don't see it to the degree that I think we need to see it. That's [00:18:00] unfortunate because that really is, I think one of the catalysts that's holding brands back.

Erik Martinez: I'm going to add to that. Let's just talk search engines for a second. I'm seeing a lot more push from Google in terms of originality of content because we've been living in this environment where people repurpose other people's content all the time, and I'll just give you one simple example. I was doing a client review of some SEO practices and I was noticing that none of their images were named well. None of their images had content written around it. There were no captions. There were no alt tags that were descriptive.

Then I went into my browser. If you're in Chrome, you can go right-click on your browser and there's a little feature that allows you to highlight an image, click it, and Google will go search that image, and guess what I found for this particular client? I found twenty exact copies of the [00:19:00] exact same image across twenty brands.

Carol Morgan: Wow.

Erik Martinez: So, you knew that particular image was a stock photo, and I'm sitting here and going, oh man, if I'm a Google engineer and I'm working on my algorithm, do I raise the value of that particular page for that element on the page or not? Just a simple, little thing, right? Talk about incremental things versus going out and taking a real image of your own and writing some content around that image to promote it. Carol, do you have examples like that too or thoughts on that?

Carol Morgan: Golly, you know, so you talk SEO and you talk content and then you throw ADA in there. You know, the biggest boat we see people missing and it's hurting them in the search engine rankings, and it's gonna hurt them with ADA compliance is images with no alt text, video with no description, floor plans with no description.[00:20:00] I guess for retailers, it's going to be, you know, whatever that product is with no description. You've got to be able to mouse over it and know what it is.

Erik Martinez: And there's many, many, many sites, big retailers and small alike. By the way, big retailers do this too, where there's very thin content on their sites. Go look at what Amazon is doing on their product detail pages. I personally feel it's a little overwhelming some days, but there is a lot of content, and when you go compare Amazon's rankings for those particular types of items versus your rankings, there's a clear reason why they beat you.

Carol Morgan: Right. Yeah, absolutely. Just content in general, you go to a lot of websites, and you know, let's not even talk SEO, let's just talk user experience. You know, you go to a website and you're looking to read content and sometimes you're on that homepage and you can't figure out where they are, or what they do, or who they're selling to, or [00:21:00] anything about the company because there's so little content there and we see it all the time.

We see it on home builders' sites. We see it on retailer sites. You know, maybe they've got a lot of pretty images, but there's no content on the site. So, you know, sometimes I feel like that the buyer is left to their own demise to try to figure out what they want to buy from that person, which probably means they make the decision to go to a different website.

Tim Curtis: You've started working now both on Ecommerce and of course, you're still in the home building industry. You know, beyond that example, what are you seeing, challenges and opportunities prevalent both?

Carol Morgan: Yeah. I think there's some great opportunities for more video and more interactivity in both. I think there's great opportunities for user-generated content. Something that Erik and I like to talk a lot about, creating those raving fans, finding those raving fans, and getting them to do the heavy lifting for you. I think we're going to see more micro-influencers in both spaces, at least we should. I think those are some of the [00:22:00] really low-hanging fruit opportunities.

Erik Martinez: Before you finish that thought. What do you mean by micro-influencers? What's an example?

Carol Morgan: Yeah. So, an example would be, you know, somebody that has a lot of influence in a specific smaller space. So, maybe not a big name influencer that's going to cost you a ton of money that's got a broad reach, but somebody that can reach exactly that one industry you're looking to reach.

So, I guess one of the examples we use when we're trying to explain that to clients is in Atlanta, we did a marketing upright Atlanta Real Estate Forum. So, in some ways, Atlanta Real Estate Forum is a micro-influencer. So, using that site to get your content out. You know that you can hit the entire industry with one email that goes out every single morning.

So, if you're looking to influence the industry, that's a great way to do it. You know, if you're looking to reach consumers, it's also a great way to do it. You're just going to be pulling them in through SEO. That becomes a little trickier cause you gotta have those right keywords and that right [00:23:00] information, but looking for sites like that and people that are connected, who can really help you with your niche versus paying a big name that is a big name and really expensive. It's kind of, I guess, it's the difference between a shotgun approach in that rifle approach?

Erik Martinez: You said more video, UGC, micro-influencers.

Carol Morgan: You know, also just being more specific for each site. So, people miss the boat because they're so focused on Instagram. They post everything to Instagram and whatever's on Instagram ends up on Facebook too. Well, on Facebook, I'm not looking for nor do I want to see 20 hashtags. Nobody does. So, when that content flows through, from Instagram to Facebook, it doesn't quite meet the mark, and then the same applies for Instagram. People are really looking for that pretty grid, that really nice photo content. Photos that are sized correctly for Instagram. So, if you think Facebook first and you're really creating everything for Facebook and just [00:24:00] flopping it on Instagram, you're missing the mark too.

So, I think really picking what sites do you want to do well and do those sites well, and maybe not everything goes everywhere. So, you could have a strategy for Facebook that pushes out, you know, news, news, news, news, news, and some of that when it's sized correctly and you have time to do it, goes on Instagram, but on Instagram you can do things like set up your grid so that maybe your first thing people see on your grid is one photo that's been chopped up into the little bitty pieces, you know, the window panes as you call it.

Then, you know, under that, maybe you've got, you know, some nice pattern where you've got testimonials going down the center of the grid. You know, yes, people look at these things, and I think a lot of times retailers and home builders don't pay any attention to it, but creating that pretty grid could be the difference of attracting somebody who follows you and not attracting them.

Erik Martinez: So, to expand on that, let's take this back to the comment you made earlier about having a plan. How do we start that plan? Because I think when [00:25:00] I think of content and my clients think of content, they get overwhelmed, the variety of content, or they get myopic and like, I need to write a blog, and they just think about that blog in terms of one blog post this month. Whew. I got that project done and now I'm onto the next one, and it's what do I do this month, right. So, how do you recommend to your clients, whether they're a retail client or a home builder client how do you recommend that they start? What's the process?

Carol Morgan: I mean, I think the first process is sitting down just to a brainstorming meeting. What do we want to promote each quarter? So, however, you can look at it and really plan for your business, if you can plan quarterly. So, maybe it's like first quarter we're going to promote this. So, maybe you just start bigger picture, and then you dive into it deeper. Second-quarter, we're going to promote these types of products. Once you know what you're going to promote, then you start figuring out what your content is and where it's going to go. [00:26:00]

So, let's just say you're promoting the new hotline of, I don't know, dresses cause you're a dress company and you've got this great spring line of dresses. You back into that, you know, what images do we have, because sometimes what you have on hand versus what you need to create is going to help dictate where it goes. If everything you have is a long horizontal or long vertical photo, then it's not going to play well on Instagram.

Erik Martinez: So, what I just heard you say was do a gap analysis on your content that you do have

Carol Morgan: Yep.

Erik Martinez: And what you need to accomplish your goals.

Carol Morgan: Yeah.

Erik Martinez: So, what other elements of a plan?

Carol Morgan: I think another element is, what do you want to be where? You know this is true for retailers and for home builders because you sometimes have two audiences. So, sometimes you're B2B in one place, and you're B2C in another, or you might want to be. So, maybe you're [00:27:00] a lawn and garden shop that sells online, and in one aspect you're selling to landscapers, and the other aspect you're selling to consumers.

So, figuring out where you want to be. Maybe you want to focus all of your Facebook and Instagram content to consumers, and then you're going to turn around and write a completely different set of content for LinkedIn that's going to focus on B2B content. I think that's something that we can all get much smarter about and much better about because then you're being a lot more strategic versus just we're going to talk to consumers everywhere, which is what I see a lot.

Tim Curtis: Yeah.

Erik Martinez: Makes perfect sense.

Tim Curtis: So, one of the areas of your practice that I keyed in on right away is reputation management. One of the reasons that I keyed in on that is, to me, that is probably one of the highest risk areas, highest risk exposures for brands, yet it's also an area where I see [00:28:00] truly little to no focus, that little to no effort put into online reputation management. Now, that obviously can be a lot of different things. I've worked with a number of reputation management groups over the years, firms, and there's been some interesting advice.

Some, for example, LinkedIn, it was don't just grow your LinkedIn connections to grow your LinkedIn connections. Make sure you have a connection with that individual because if someone's coming to you and saying, hey, I see you're connected to so-and-so, and if you don't know that person, your network's not very valuable. Obviously, it can take a lot of different things, but talk a little bit about reputation management. What are you seeing there? That, to me, is the area I wish people would make an emphasis of starting at least in 2022.

Carol Morgan: Yeah. No, and I think starting it is really the message we want to get out there. A lot of people wait until they have a major problem to launch a reputation management campaign, and then I hate to tell you, you're really behind the eight ball at that point.

Tim Curtis: Right.

Carol Morgan: Reputation management, to me, it depends on[00:29:00] what it is and where it is on how you handle it, but I think having a strategy, to begin with. So, maybe your strategy is, and again, this is something that I think retailers probably do better than home builders, right?

So, somebody buys a product, and Amazon is good at this. They send you out a product review. Did you love it? Did you hate it? Did you what? So, that's a little bit of that reputation management right there cause they're actively, proactively seeking those testimonials and reviews, which is a huge part of it.

So, having that system set up once somebody buys something to ask them to post what you bought online with this hashtag or send us a positive rating and review on such and such site, but some sort of system that has a trigger so that it happens all the time, not just some of the time. That way you can get out there in front of it. If it's not something that you can do internally, there's lots of third-party services that will help you with it. You don't have to do it [00:30:00] all yourself.

Tim Curtis: Yeah, and that's the key. You can find, and very quickly make a judgment, on a company. We talked a little bit earlier about, whether it's sales or marketing. Well, now, you know, the research says that it's 70 to 75% of the buying journey is completed before they ever engage anyone in sales.

Carol Morgan: Correct.

Tim Curtis: I think people are answering that debate for themselves that they're utilizing marketing resources to get to a certain point, and so when you're talking about reputation management, as an example, you can go to a brand's Facebook page and you can see literally all of the screaming customers who are wondering where their order is, why they haven't heard from customer service, why are we continuing to have stock-outs. You can see those things, but yet brands take no steps towards alleviating that, and I'm not even sure they know how to do it, but you're right. You know, a Google search would go a long way to at least starting that process, but it is a huge vulnerability and we hear it and we see [00:31:00] it tangibly in results.

Carol Morgan: You make a great point and it's unfortunate because the consumer has started using Facebook and Twitter and Instagram as their process of handling any frustration, all frustrations. It's their customer service mechanism, especially if they don't get an answer that they like from customer service, and maybe it's just easier to reach back out on Facebook.

You can go to some pretty horrible pages on Facebook and see that everything on there is somebody saying something negative on that post, and to me, the opportunity that's missed is that really proactive push out there to try to get people to use a hashtag or you know, have a contest. Do something that incentivizes these people to go out there, the happy ones, cause you know, if you're happy, you're not going to go out there and post necessarily. It's the people who are unhappy, who are always the vocal minority for the most part for these companies.

Tim Curtis: Did you see a complaint on Facebook that took off [00:32:00] related to Carol burning the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie and she blamed Marie Callendar. Entire Facebook groups were started by this and it became this enormous sensation. People were following it all over the globe, and the memes that came out of it. Unbelievable, and it's just an example of one little post, one little ill-advised post by an individual.

Now, in this case, it worked out to Marie Callendar's advantage because basically, users jumped in to defend Marie Callendar's. So, they came out looking great. but you know, that could have easily had the wrong answer that could have easily gone the other direction. Facebook, Twitter, any of those social platforms, they are essentially an online call center and you have to treat it with the respect and the resources that you would your own call center.

You would never allow that to happen in your call center. So, if you're not putting the emphasis and support mechanisms in place for the [00:33:00] online, you know, man, you're really missing it. What would you say that the home builders are doing really well, that you would like to see more of the Ecommerce retail industry sort of embrace?

Carol Morgan: Well, home builders, probably, for the most part, have it a little easier as far as reputation management. They don't tend to get beat up as much as the retailers do.

You know, I think, for the most part, home builders are doing a pretty good job of promoting products. I'm always astounded that retailers, sometimes I go to their site, and I was actually looking at a couple yesterday that were just 20% discount, 20% discount, 20% discount, but really nothing informative, nothing about their new spring line, nothing about why I should buy from them. Nothing really branding-related. You know, kind of that same promotion about one particular sale and not much depth to it.

So, I think, homebuilders do depth pretty well. You know, we talk about our new home communities [00:34:00] and what's in them and what you're going to get, and what that unique selling proposition is. Retail could learn something from that.

The other thing that I see that retail sometimes misses is that education component. Not all retailers. One of my favorite retailers and I have to go back to an equestrian example, is this little company called SmartPak, which is taking the world by storm. Basically, they started as a place that you could go and order your supplements for your horses and they came catered to your horse. They come in these little teeny containers, you know, you just like zip off the lid and you dump it in the feed bucket of whatever horse they go to. The big barns love them because they don't have to sit there and have all these buckets of stuff.

But smart pack figured out that in addition to selling all these supplements to individual horses, they could sell warmers and they can sell clothes and they can sell tack and they have this just great, you know, system of doing it, but you go and you look at their Facebook page and in addition to promoting their 20% off sale, they're also promoting, oh, [00:35:00] hey, we've got these color-coordinated outfits for you and your horse, and then they have an educational component as well. you know? Oh, you know, this is the time of year that flies are bad. Here are some things you can do about flies. To me, they've got that nice product promotion education going that I think a lot of retailers miss. A lot of retailers, it seems to just be promote, not so much about the product and nothing about the education.

Erik Martinez: Well, it goes back to that intentionality, right, having a game plan. I've worked in a fair number of these retailers and I know Tim has as well. The day-to-day grind of the jobs and the pace at which retailers move. I think one of the defining characteristics of a home builder is when I go build a community of homes I'm in there for a year to five years in some of the larger neighborhoods or communities that they build.

Whereas my new line of whatever in the retail world, what's [00:36:00] the shelf life of some of these products, right? So, it's this constant churn and burn cycle, but yet I think you're absolutely right, even though it is churn and burn, slowing it down and being intentional about, hey, this is what I'm selling overall. The products may change, but the needs of my customers don't change dramatically overnight unless something really catastrophic or amazing happens.

Carol Morgan: Like we have COVID and women no longer need high-heeled shoes, you know, cause no one's going anywhere.

Erik Martinez: Are you thrilled about that, Carol? Are you excited about that?

Carol Morgan: I did clean out my closet recently and I'm like, I probably got rid of 12 pairs of shoes and I'm like, I haven't worn these in two or three years. I don't see myself ever wearing them again. Bye-bye.

Erik Martinez: So Carol, you talked about SmartPak. Are there any other really great retail examples in your mind of really well constructed social media campaigns or [00:37:00] reputation management campaigns? What else are you seeing out there that's fun and innovative or these guys get it?

Carol Morgan: Yeah, I'll tell you. It's actually interesting. So, I quizzed my staff just to see what they thought too, and two mattress companies were mentioned, Purple Mattress and Avocado Mattress, as doing it really well, and then just a small local business here in Roswell, Georgia called Linen and Flax that combines selling and influencing in one account. that one's a home goods store and a clothing boutique. You know, they sell in person, they sell online, they ship all the way across the US and their owner uses kind of an influencer style on her page, and it's worked really well because you get to know her, as well as the products and the business. So, again, that's something that I think smaller retailers could learn from, is make it more about them and getting to know them, not just this kind of esoteric brand.

Erik Martinez: Well, I mean, I think there's this whole debate of [00:38:00] how does the little guy compete against the Amazons and the Walmarts of the world, and what you're telling me and what I'm hearing from you is, hey, there's all these great things that you guys can do to compete in these markets and carve out a niche. Some of those niches may be bigger or smaller depending on the market and the type of products that you're selling, but you have the opportunity to compete in a way that some of these larger brands can't.

Now, what's interesting about Amazon, to me, is that's a compilation of a lot of retailers, and they make the retailers do all the work. Amazon has figured out how to make the retailers do all the work of promoting Amazon within the Amazon platform. It's a brilliant strategy, but yet at the same time, some of those same strategies that they're employing within the marketplace can be taken outside the marketplace and applied to your general business environment. I think that's a pretty fantastic thing.[00:39:00]

Carol Morgan: Yeah. Another small retailer that I love, it's an Ecommerce online only is called Grubbly Farms, and if you've heard me speak before, I really like them from their branding perspective. So, worth checking out because it's literally two, I want to say they were Georgia Tech college students that started this company.

They started out making fancy mealworms for chickens targeted on those backyard chicken farmers. It's gone so well they're now making a line of dog food. They're targeting the bigger chicken houses, but for me, they nail brand at the level that Progressive and All State and some of these big insurance companies are able to create this image that flows across everything and do it so well.

Grubbly, the way they interconnect their social and their email marketing and their snail mail, and even when you get the package, the materials in it, some of the best branding and the best interconnectivity that I have ever [00:40:00] seen. Worth it to go order something for your dog just to find out and to get on their email list and to see how they do it cause I think that they're a company that all of us can learn from.

Erik Martinez: What's more boring than dog food. If you can make dog food exciting, you know you've got something special.

Tim Curtis: But, you know, isn't that the magic of branding. When you're looking at even down to an evaluation or valuation of a business it's very difficult to put a number on brand, but yet when we sit back and we watch examples of brands that are flourishing, you find that brand plays a significant part because it can make dog food sexy. It goes without saying the ultimate example of brand is Apple. What Apple's done, they will talk about for perhaps centuries in books, but brand plays such an important part, and yet it's an area that sometimes people are reluctant to spend because they don't know that they can tie the return back to something. Wow. What a clean miss.[00:41:00]

Erik Martinez: Going back to one of the things we talked about earlier, right? Originality is what's going to get rewarded in the future.

Carol Morgan: Oh, absolutely.

Erik Martinez: And branding is an element of originality. That's your positioning to the world and how you express yourself. So, I think that's a critical point that you make Tim. Carol, let's get to the brass tax. We talked about some really cool things and how to get started, and I think there's always in the minds of our listeners two things, right?

One, how much is it going to cost me, and two, how much time do I dedicate to doing this? So, I'd like to get your perspective on what you're advising your clients. I know you, and I've had this conversation a lot about budget, and too small is still too small. So, if I'm budget-constrained and I want to get started and make some strides here, what's the best way? Or [00:42:00] if I'm not budget constrained, do I go out and plow a million dollars into the social media and it'll magically work for me? What do I do?

Carol Morgan: Wow. That is an open-ended question, and it really is, you know, kind of a matter of budget to where you start and do you hire in-house. If you hire in-house, do you have somebody to supervise that person? You know, you and I both know marketing, social media, PR, everybody in this space has gotten really expensive, and if you're hiring somebody at that retail or corporate level, you're probably looking at 40,000 for an entry-level, maybe 50,000 for that mid-level, you know, up to a hundred thousand dollars person, and then you've got to have somebody to supervise them that can help them and steer them and grow them and guide them.

So, I think a lot of times for smaller retailers, it makes more sense to go agency just because you've already got that base knowledge. They know about the tools and tactics available at an agency. So, you're just helping to teach them about your specific situation, your brand, your [00:43:00] company, your perspective, and then they can go out and promote that. I could probably argue that either way.

You know, often bigger companies, retail, and home builders are going to build a giant marketing company inside and market from within, and there's certainly power in that because you get all of that knowledge in one place. You asked the budget question. I would say it's really a question of hours. You know, I'd start off with 20 hours a month if you're outsourcing it or bringing it in and start there for your social media and build from there. I mean, you could certainly spend 40 hours a week on just social media alone.

Erik Martinez: So, 20 hours a month. What types of activities would you recommend within that 20 hours?

Carol Morgan: Yeah, 20 hours a month is kind of our basic starter package, and it's going to include a social media calendar. So, typically three, maybe four posts a week that are catered towards, you know, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram. It depends on where the company is and where they want to [00:44:00] be, and then maybe a blog post or two. So, you know, writing all that content, developing the graphics for that content, loading and posting all that content.

I would also recommend spending you know, a few hours a month on Facebook and Instagram ads or promoted posts to pitch that content out there. You know, obviously, the approvals in the back and forth on the social media calendar and the blogs, and then everything getting posted, and then you know, a report. If you're outsourcing this or if you're doing it in-house, you want a report, what did I get for my time and money and how to move the needle, in terms of friends, fans, followers, likes. You want to track that.

What's going on the individual platforms, what's going on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, but then also, what is this traffic doing on your website? What are your most popular blog posts? And you want to look at that every single month. Where's the traffic coming from? What's it doing? You know, how much traffic is Facebook sending? How much traffic is Instagram sending and what do they do when you [00:45:00] get to your website? So, that's really where the rubber meets the road is that monthly report that you trend month over month and probably more importantly year over year.

Erik Martinez: So, Carol, that's how to kind of get the process started, but if somebody wanted to start and say, Carol, you told me I need to do a plan, and I don't know how to do that plan. Isn't that the first part of the engagement? And that could probably be a month or two worth of time to come up with a really, really good plan that you can execute over the course of a year.

Carol Morgan: Absolutely. Yeah. Coming up with that plan, detailing what's in that plan, mapping it all out, looking at what are those products you want to promote. What are those keywords and phrases and things that you want people to think of when they think of you or if they're searching for, they find you? All of that should be part of that initial plan.

Erik Martinez: That's fantastic. One last question from me and then Tim can start the wrap-up. Your firm has a social media practice [00:46:00] and you do a lot of other things too. Every time I talked to you, I learn about something else you do, and I'm like, what? I didn't know you did that. Even though I can go to your website and look at all the words and phrases, you know, we interact in a very specific way. So, it's always fun to learn more about what you guys do, but you know, as your a firm that's in this social media practice and it's constantly evolving, how do you stay on top of it?

Carol Morgan: Well, you know, Facebook really helps us a lot as far as Facebook goes. We always laugh because I can tell you Facebook's just pushed out another huge update and we're all like, okay, did you see this? Did you see that? And of course, I guess we're supposed to call them Meta now, but a lot of how we stay up to speed on what's going on is we're on the platforms daily. So, as changes happen, we see them, and then we figure out, what does it mean? Cause none of these platforms tell you what they're going to do anymore. They just make changes. So, that's one aspect of it is just the day-to-day things move around, especially on Facebook. They're by far the worst.

But lots of reading. You know, following different blogs sites. We like to attend, there's a great conference [00:47:00] called Pubcon. We haven't been in the last couple of years. In fact, I'm not sure that they've really had it with everything going on with COVID, but Pubcon is a great place to learn and stay in tune with what's going on with the social media and publishing space and you know, SEO as well. They have a whole SEO track. So, we try to at least stay in up to date on SEO as it relates to content, and you know, what we're writing and making sure we're doing it right, but I would say just conferences, reading, and using the sites daily.

Tim Curtis: Yeah, a good reminder about the fluidity of these platforms and Facebook, I guess now Meta, how they are making changes, and some of those changes are not changes that they are taking, because they would like to take. Facebook has been well-documented here in the last month. They've got some real trouble. They have been hit disproportionately hard by the updated privacy legislation and with Apple shutting down the sharing of data and the intelligent tracking prevention, and then of course with Google announcing they're going to do that in 2023. It's [00:48:00] really putting Facebook in a place where they're facing challenges that they may not have answers for.

The Wall Street Journal, earlier in the month, article about inside Facebook's $10 billion breakup with advertisers and we've talked about that a little bit on the show. Those privacy changes, those are particularly hitting Facebook's business much, much harder because it's removing or severely limiting their ability to target ads at users with precision and to be able to understand what they're doing based off of known behaviors. They're losing all that visibility.

It is an incredibly fluid place and it's important why you must be diversified in your strategic PR, your use of social, how you're going to accomplish that because there's entire businesses that built their business on Facebook. Just like there's entire businesses that have built their business on Amazon, and they are somewhat shocked or surprised when something happens with one of those platforms and all of a [00:49:00] sudden, you know, their business is in real jeopardy. There's not necessarily easy answers. What are you communicating to your clients about what's on the horizon?

Carol Morgan: Wow. Well, we're trying to position our clients such that those privacy changes don't impact them as much. In fact, in the home building space, we have not really seen a hit in ads since all those changes rolled out last fall, which we're very surprised about. The ads are still performing very well. So, that's good.

Which makes you wonder how many people are actually opting in versus opting out to those ads. You know, just as far as how we're coaching clients and working with clients, I mean, I think the biggest thing is just having your visual assets in order, and we've talked about that a little bit, top of the show, but having those videos, getting interactive, in the case of home builders, interactive floor plans, having photos of product, making sure that is a main focus in 2022 and going into 2023, because all of these platforms [00:50:00] are becoming more and more visual. So, that focus on visual is going to continue, and a lot of people still just are not geared up and thinking that way.

Tim Curtis: No, they're not, and it's kind of surprising they're not. What's one piece of advice that you would leave for the listeners today?

Carol Morgan: Golly. Really start with a plan, look at what that piece of content is, and how you can get the most play out of it. You know, not everything is a press release. So, I actually love the fact that we've got all these different ways to put content out now. So, thinking about that content and putting it out and putting a plan in place for where it goes and why, and then executing that plan.

Tim Curtis: This is certainly been great. I really appreciate you taking the time today to walk us through, you know, everything. I know I've learned a lot.

Carol Morgan: Thank you.

Erik Martinez: Yeah, no, I've definitely learned a lot and I think it highlights the point that look, regardless of what industry you're in, some of the challenges are exactly the same, but you can look to other [00:51:00] industries for some inspiration and little things that they do that you can bring back to your industry and apply successfully. So, thank you very much for your time today, Carol. It was a lot of fun. I think that wraps up this episode of the Digital Velocity Podcast. I'm Erik Martinez from Blue Tangerine,

Tim Curtis: and I'm Tim Curtis from CohereOne.

Erik Martinez: Have a great day.

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