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Opportunity in flexibility

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This year I resolved to become more flexible. No, you won't find me sweating in a room with a group of strangers doing hot yoga, but I am trying to make time for an unexpected meeting or a conversation that goes a little longer than planned. Why? Like many marketing professionals, I tend to live by the next Outlook meeting reminder instead of padding time for the unexpected, like an impromptu brainstorming session.

Too often our marketing plans too closely mirror our personal scheduling habits. We schedule distribution dates for press releases, digital ads or e-newsletters, and don't allow for the opportunity to capitalize on the unexpected, like a national story making headlines. And in doing so, we may be missing a big opportunity. Today's media reacts in real time, and we need to make ourselves available—and visible—so we can participate in these discussions and capitalize on the chance for local, regional or national exposure.

Let's take the current flu epidemic as an example. Journalists throughout the country are looking for fresh angles on how the flu is impacting people and businesses. Are you a supplier of hand sanitizer or a human resources software company? Do you provide resources for telecommuters to work remotely? There's an angle for you to participate in the discussion if you can be flexible and relevant.

Being relevant means framing the conversation in a way that benefits your business. For example, if you provide first aid or cleaning supplies to businesses, you'll want to focus on the business impact of sick workers. Third-party research such as Harris Polls can be particularly helpful in providing relevant data that may be of interest to the media covering the story. Internal experts can also be good spokespersons to position with journalists and become a part of the dialogue.

Beyond mainstream media, you can also leverage these opportunities with targeted campaigns. Take a regional flood or hurricane as another example. If you provide disaster restoration or document-destruction services, offer victims complimentary services to help assist with restoration efforts. Outside of impacted areas, consider sponsoring seminars or lunch-and-learns about proper steps in disaster planning. Provide key customers or prospects with "disaster planning toolkits" that offer checklists and resources to reference should an event happen to them.

Of course I'm not advocating ambulance chasing, but there's a way to skillfully engage in national dialogue to generate awareness of your organization if you're flexible and can react quickly. As Robert F. Kennedy once said, "All of us might wish at times that we lived in a more tranquil world, but we don't. And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity."

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