RE: APR Critics: Down With Education!

RE: APR Critics: Down With Education!

There are so many public relations and marketing professionals who criticize the APR.

Yet, here I am, studying for the APR exam and hoping to achieve this monumental credential before the year is out.  I am not fazed.

I don’t mind the chatter and I don’t let other people’s definition of the APR persuade my decision to go for the credential. Getting the APR for me is showing my commitment to public relations. That’s it! I love the aspect of striving for a higher standard – this is much needed in PR due to those in the profession who give it a bad name. Even when I was a news reporter I didn’t mind PR people or give them names like “flack,” but I understand they were just doing their job. And on some days, I needed them to help me with my stories, give me access to the CEO or official, or help me round out my perspective.

I appreciate PRSA recognizing that it was time to update the credential and do better. This is a positive step in diversifying the types of people who obtain the APR, and give it more meaning to those who already possess it.

Email Marketing: A Discussion on Email Subject Lines

I love being sold to, I really do. Especially at the mall, where commission-based salespeople kindly ask if they can “Ask me a question” or if they’re bold enough, just walk up to me and lather the lotion they’re trying to sell me on my hand so I can experience it (yes it has happened).

But that’s face-to-face sales and that’s not what this blog is about.

Let’s talk about e-mail subject lines.

I read a lot of my email via my mobile phone. I get a lot of emails from retailers, because I love to shop and can’t resist coupons. So when I received an email from the other day, I was intrigued. The email subject was VERY long. I think every nearly product they were trying to showcase was mentioned in the email.

Is this the best way to do it? Depends on the strategy. Give them everything at once so you’ve built their awareness and then sell VS. lure them in with something clever and win them over with your great “brand.” There are so many people who really don’t read their email that I don’t blame for just getting to the point.

Consider how other retailers design their emails:

Some keep it short, others embellish a little, but gets it ALL in. And I kind of like it! It is certainly breaking the status quo, but isn’t that the point? You notice it and you want to read it.

But is’s rambling subject line habit good for you to try? Here’s a few resources to help you think about as you curate your own:

Open Rates and Effectives: MailChimp’s tips and Subject Line Researcher project

Hubspot’s Secret Sauce for Awesome email Subject Lines:

Have you seen any email subject lines you liked or absolutely despised? Share your stories!

Media Coaching – The Power of Just Being Yourself

Ah, gotta love last minute media coaching! Just counseled the director of a senior living community in O’Fallon who will be on the radio tomorrow morning.

Yes, I did give her a page of talking points so she would feel comfortable, but the most important thing I told her?

Just be yourself … PEOPLE RELATE TO PEOPLE, not a building, not a service, but another person who can convey credibility and trust.

No matter what you plan to say if the delivery is not sincere, the media placement is not valuable. The old saying, “it’s not what you say, but how you say it, really holds true in this regard.”


Great Marketing With Car Accessories


Being at the park with the pooch became an unexpected novelty once I noticed his car.

A man had not only wrapped his car in a pleasing and colorful design to advertise his car tinting business, he took his message one step further: he installed a business card holder box on the back of the trunk.

He’s awesome. And I took a card just to find out who the mastermind was.

Silly Signage – June 1 edition (Cemetery)

I was driving by a cemetery in the St. Louis area this week and I noticed they had a sign out front near the entrance that read “Celebrating 100 years.”  That’s right. Let’s celebrate … SOMETHING.

OK. What exactly are we celebrating? The fact that there are more dead people? That the cemetery has been around for a really long time?

Maybe they should have been more specific with a tagline of some sort to clarify. Just saying!

Moral of the story: Your signage should be clear and communicate more than just a vague message. Otherwise you may miss an opportunity to score a home run with your audience.

For example, the cemetery could had something under the “Celebrating 100 years” like “In your community” or “Family-owned and operated since 19XX.”

Am I overthinking this? Let me know.  And if you’ve seen some silly signage, pass it along so I can share the sign for a future post.



The Evolution of Branding : Q&A with “Brand Zeitgeist” author Chris Houchens

There are people in this world who go with the flow. And then there are people like Chris Houchens, who are progressive, trend-sensitive and always “on to something” and remain a step ahead. He’s someone to watch.

As an online and multimedia enthusiast while working as a biz reporter at the Bowling Green Daily News I had a routine of visiting Houchens, the Webmaster and online guru for the paper.

Beyond his role at the Daily News, Chris Houchens continues his professional career working in both media and marketing. His resume has great range, from managing operations of a radio group to publishing the online edition of a daily newspaper and from directing the marketing of a healthcare organization to operating his own marketing consulting and speaking business.

Above: “Brand Zeitgeist” author Chris Houchens.

His newest venture is “Brand Zeitgeist,” a book that looks at integrating brands into culture. You can find reviews, excerpts, links to the book’s social media sites, and more at

Ameerah: Why did you decide to write Brand Zeitgeist?

Chris: I wanted to write a book that encompassed my entire marketing philosophy. The foundation and core of all marketing activities is built on the brand so that seemed a good guide to use.

Also, as I go and speak to groups, I find that people don’t understand what a brand is. I wanted to write a simple and common sense explanation of branding.

Ameerah: What has the response been so far?

Chris: The people who have read it have loved it. The feedback that I have gotten reveals that readers really enjoy the stories and case studies. I tried to use examples that haven’t really been used before in branding books so we get some unique stories ranging from Santa Claus to how Hawaiians eat SPAM as illustrations of brand strategy.
I attempted to write the book in a way so that anyone, even if they’re not a marketer, would enjoy it. But I also think that seasoned brand pros will enjoy the fresh perspective of branding that the book brings.

Ameerah: Branding has become a puffed up word that almost doesn’t have meaning to everyday business people. How does your book seek to reinvent the premise for businesspeople?

Chris: Many businesspeople have gotten caught in one of two brand traps. The first is that many think of a brand just as the logo and nothing more. While the logo and other visual aspects of the brand are important (I devote an entire chapter of the book to them), the true meaning of brand runs much deeper.

The second brand trap is that for people who have tried to understand the deeper implications of brand, they have gotten bogged down in meaningless buzzwords and theory that don’t work in the real world.

I wrote Brand Zeitgeist to get past both those. The book teaches that a brand is nothing more than a relationship between a customer and the business. The question is how do you nurture that relationship and develop other relationships with new customers? Businesses can tap into the power of the zeitgeist to spread their marketing messages by bringing their brand to the forefront of customers’ minds. Businesses can also use the zeitgeist to provide those customers the tools to spread their message through word-of-mouth and other viral channels.

Ameerah: Tapping into the zeitgeist effectively seems to be an intuitive part of marketing – good or bad. How did you choose the term zeitgeist and why did you choose to focus on it?

Chris: The Zeitgeist is an abstract concept to describe the evolving collective consciousness of society. It’s what’s on people’s minds, what they’re talking about in their social circles, and it shapes how trends are developed. Branding is also an abstract idea to describe the relationship between consumers and a company.

It struck me that the two concepts could be used together. Brands need to get into the zeitgeist to have any level of brand awareness. They need to be aware of the current zeitgeist to craft effective marketing messages (PR, advertising, etc).

Ameerah: What is your advice to small businesses searching to tap into the zeitgeist to promote what they’re doing and make a connection with people?

Chris: You have to get inside your customers’ heads. The mistake many small businesses make is that they approach their marketing from their own perspective. You have to market from the mindset of the customer.

Ameerah: How have you seen social media change the marketing field in the last two years?

Chris: Social media and other aspects of the online zeitgeist have completely turned marketing on its head. Marketing has stopped being a one-way bullhorn and now more akin to a two-way telephone. In Brand Zeitgeist, I talk about how customers now have partial control of the brand and are developing conversations about the brand online. Smart companies will help guide those customers in online spaces like Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Ameerah: What are some other trends in marketing affecting the way business owner tell their stories?

Chris: Marketers have abused their trust. People used to believe the information that advertisers told them. Now all marketing is treated with a skeptical eye. Marketers need to stop talking AT customers and start working WITH them.

Ameerah: What is the best way for people to find the book and how can they reach you directly?

Chris: The easiest way to find and get Brand Zeitgeist is probably through your favorite online retailer like or B& or

It’s also available at independent booksellers and national chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble. You can always find me and more info at