The Matchbox.

Aug. 21

Corporate Case Studies: Telling the Right Story


We often hear people say that products and services sell themselves with customer stories, but it isn’t that simple. The way the story is told matters greatly, as a company’s offerings continuously evolve and usage as well as results may not be cut-and-dry or even impressive in raw form.

The key to a great case study is making it relatable to an organization’s target buyer, as well as compelling for a decision maker trying to address key challenges quickly and effectively.

Following are three keys to getting the story right and leveraging the full power of customer case studies for marketing success and increased leads.

1) Align With Your Buyer Profile – Your potential customers need to feel connected to the issue addressed in the case study, so take the time to outline the problem through the lens of your target buyers. Interview current customers to identify patterns of why they chose your company, and weave these messages into the case study. And, if you’re showcasing a particular vertical market, include angles and points that showcase your knowledge of the marketplace – these are competitive differentiators.

2) Address Business Challenges – While the nuts and bolts of technology offerings may drive the results, it’s important to tell the story on a business level, which can then be supported by more technical details. Why? Explaining how the technology solution or services helped solve the business problem will help your potential customer make a business case to their C-suite for using your solution. Then, depending on whether your target buyer holds a business or technical role, tailor the remainder of the case study story and results accordingly.

3) Include Succint Customer Quotes – The story of a successful customer’s experience goes a long way, but be sure to include actual to-the-point quotes from executives who worked directly with your company and can offer a first-hand account of the stellar work you delivered. Sharing these types of details provides a higher level of validation for your company and shows that customers have been truly satisfied with the results as well as the technology solutions and resources who performed the work.

Once your customer case study is ready for prime time, share it across multiple marketing vehicles. This may include promoting it for media opportunities, hosting a webinar with the customer’s participation, or executing an email marketing campaign with the case study as a driver for setting up an introductory call. Either way, telling the right story will help bring forth prospects who are interested in engaging your company to help them achieve similar successes.

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Jul. 11

Social Media Lessons from the Commander in Tweet

TwitterThe top executive of the United States has been called the first Commander in Tweet. He has a penchant for tweeting – sometimes multiple times a day and at all hours – giving the media, US citizens and the world plenty of fodder to analyze and dissect. Regardless of where you stand politically, there are good social media lessons herein. Just recently, President Trump’s press secretary said the President’s tweets should be considered official statements.

For all intents and purposes corporate social media channels and executive social media profiles – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more – are a communications stream that should be treated with care and consideration. Executive posts should be thoughtful and genuine not boastful, reactionary or emotional. Posts should be human, not robotic, not a sales pitch and not jargon laden. Executives should consider the audience and community – don’t forget to monitor for @ replies. And please use spell check.

For the communications and PR teams tasked with managing the social streams for the company, monitor your executive social profiles – there could be good repost opportunities or it could be an opportunity to respectfully offer some social media counsel and improve the social program overall.


* A version of this post also appeared in the June 2017 issue of The Spark newsletter.

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May. 22

It’s Summer Break, But Don’t Put Your Media Relations Strategy on Hiatus

With the Memorial Day holiday right around the corner, now is a good time to ensure your PR program is on the right course for the summer season.Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 11.23.27 AM

Although the summer might not be the best time to launch an aggressive PR campaign, it is beneficial to have a good stream of news to show prospects, investors and other key stakeholders that your organization has momentum. Review your pipeline of news announcements and keep a schedule for the summer months to stay on track. This can include new customer wins, new hires, award honors, etc.

While some might anticipate a slow down in media opportunities from June through August due to reporter’s schedules, e.g., summer Fridays, vacation, it is important to maintain a pulse on key contacts and keep a steady PR pace going. It is true that it might be more challenging to reach media, but if other organizations choose to quiet down during the summer months, this can be an optimal time to reconnect with a key reporter or make a new contact. Touch base with priority reporters each month during the summer to ensure you are offering them any necessary resources, research or quotes that will support stories – especially as their other resources may be hard to reach.

Finally, summer months mark the time to plan PR activities for fall/winter and get that big campaign ready. Think ahead as you are talking to reporters over the summer months, as it might be appropriate to prepare them for something coming down the pike in September.

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Apr. 13

United Airlines: #PRfail

UnitedThe United Airlines incident involving a passenger being dragged off an overbooked flight has drawn a monumental amount of attention and viral social sharing this week. Undeniably disturbing to watch, videos recorded by other passengers show an Asian man being forcibly removed from his seat by a member of airport security, bleeding from his mouth, and being dragged off the airplane after he refused to give up his seat for off-duty crew members on a full flight.

To make matters worse, United’s CEO, Oscar Munoz, botched his initial statement – only apologizing for “having to re-accommodate these customers” – and didn’t offer any admission of wrongdoing until several days after the incident.

The cliche cannot be avoided – this was truly a PR nightmare. United’s stock tanked, people called for boycotts, and social media backlash was overwhelming (and frankly, still is). However, United could have responded differently to the crisis and likely averted the severity of current outcomes.

Namely, Munoz, along with his leadership and crisis communications team, should have concluded much earlier that the passenger in question should never have been treated in such a manner and the company should have offered an apology immediately. Regardless of the person’s resistance to get off the flight, or the details surrounding their personal or professional background, resorting to violence is not something any brand wants on their record.

While Munoz’s subsequent statement was much more appropriate, apologetic in nature, and included an announcement of an internal investigation into the incident, it was much too late. Companies must quickly take stock of the situation when crises strike and be prepared to act swiftly – including taking responsibility for their actions and announcing plans to investigate further. It’s important to note that this move doesn’t absolve other parties involved from their role (the passenger should have complied with verbal requests to leave the plane), but it clearly communicates a brand’s intent to conduct itself with professionalism and respect. This approach goes a long way to earn back the public’s trust and respect, not to mention re-stablilizing the company’s financial footing and overall reputation before excessive damage has been done.


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Mar. 20

A Tribute to Jean Young

In January, we received heartbreaking news that Jean Young, founder of Young & Associates, had passed away unexpectedly. A cherished friend and mentor, we considered Jean family for her unwavering strength and love, fierce loyalty, toughness, support and a little bit of crazy. Jean was a guiding force in so many lives – both personal and professional. She helped many find, nurture and promote their talents, and most of all, love what they do.

A single mother of two sons, Jean came to Washington, DC in the late 70’Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 10.39.36 AMs after working as the American Lung Association’s Public Relations Manager, to serve as Senior VP for John Adams Associates, a public affairs firm. After nearly five years at the firm, Jean left to establish Young & Associates in 1982, with the love and blessing of John Adams.

Forming Young & Associates as a technology-focused agency from the start, Jean was a trailblazer, serving as a female CEO in a male-dominated industry. Jean was not afraid to voice her strong opinions or take on a leader’s point of view when she knew her strategy was right. Throughout the nearly 30 years she led and was involved in the agency, Jean touched so many lives and remained close to countless former employees, clients and friends of the agency.

A ferocious protector, Jean had a heart of gold and for most of us that were lucky enough to know her, there will never be anyone like her again. Love you forever, Jean.

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Mar. 07

Upstate New York Giraffe April Achieves “It Girl” Status

I was pleasantly surprised when April showed up in my Facebook feed, on my TV and in conversations with friends over the last few weeks. Who is the latest “it girl”? April is the very pregnant giraffe at Animal Adventure Park in Upstate New York. So, how did a small zoo grab so much attention with its live video feedScreen Shot 2017-03-07 at 9.43.13 AM reaching more than 1 billion views?

Operating without a communications staff, the park’s owner began using Facebook to live-stream April’s pregnancy as a way to promote the park, but also to educate the public about giraffes, which are currently on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Viewers steadily increased over the last month with April making headlines across the country. Today, there is coverage across national news outlets, in local media markets and of course a major social media blitz. It is clear that the public is in need of a positive, hopeful story given the attention.

However, when animal rights activists labeled Animal Adventure Park’s live-feed as sexually explicit last week it was briefly removed from YouTube. Via a Facebook Live video, the park owner successfully combatted any criticism with a heartfelt, but straightforward message about the park’s goal to create enjoyment for those interested in April, while also educating the public about giraffes. His honesty has been key to captivating a far-reaching audience and his ability to handle negativity will surely help the zoo achieve future success.

Now, while the world is watching, let’s hope April has a speedy and smooth delivery.



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Feb. 17

Does Your Corporate Identity Need a Refresher?

As most industries evolve over the year – particularly in certain sectors of technology – and customers’ needs change, revisiting your overall corporate positioning and messaging is a Blogpicssmart strategy. While some executives may downplay the need for this exercise, overall corporate messaging can:

• Concisely articulate your company’s value propositions
• Shape and narrow core differentiators and eliminate out-of-date messaging
• Provide consistent positioning throughout company-wide communications (sales, marketing, product development, professional services)
• Highlight differentiation without slamming the competition or giving them a voice
• Enable success measurement of marketing/communication initiatives

A refresher messaging exercise should review how your brand is perceived in the market based on industry evolution, current focus, etc. Take time to interview key stakeholders within the organization for their viewpoints and to identify future marketplace trends that may shift current positioning. Also, take stock in industry analyst reports and media coverage that may forecast a change in business challenges and demands.

The messaging refresh doesn’t mean a complete overhaul. Rather, nuanced ­­­– but important ­– changes to the brand can make a huge impact in connecting with key audiences.

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Jan. 24

4 Tips for Leveraging Hot-Button Media Issues

When hot-button issues arise in the media, should your company offer to comment? While we don’t advise taking political sides, if your spokesperson has relevant non-partisan industry insight, advice or analysis to offer, it can be a great opportunity for timely though leadership opportunities.

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 2.05.22 PMThe agency has been working with client Pace Harmon, a business transformation and outsourcing advisory firm, to provide input for articles surrounding impacts of President-elect and now President Trump’s tech and outsourcing-related policies and Executive Orders. The strategies for leveraging mainstream news stories, however, can be applied universally.

  • Follow the story. You or your spokesperson can’t be a valuable resource or expert on an issue if you haven’t read the latest documents and/or articles about the topic.
  • When reading these stories, take note of the reporter and editor names that are covering the issue. Often times, if the story is big enough – as it has been lately – new reporters will be assigned the beat, often providing more opportunities for education and basic insights on the topic.
  • Make yourself available but agree how far you want to take the opportunity. Timing is everything but time is also precious. Talk to your spokesperson about availability, frequency and priorities for interview opportunities. It can be 24×7 but it also can be managed.
  • Be concise and non-partisan. No matter which side of an issue you or your spokesperson is on, recognize you both are representing the company as whole.
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Dec. 14

Multi-Pronged PR Strategies for 2017

gearsAs the year comes to a close, it’s helpful for marketing teams to evaluate what has worked well and what could use improvement in the new year.

While some companies implement PR as a single stream strategy, a perennial lesson learned is the need for an integrated and cohesive PR program. Ultimately, multi-pronged momentum is a key for long-term media relations and thought leadership success.

Whether you’re kicking off a new PR initiative in 2017 or looking to liven up an already-established program, here are a few tips for getting on track with an integrated PR approach:

1) Track Priority Media Consistently – Just as your industry changes, so does the focus of journalists’ media coverage. Rather than only reaching out to media when you have a press announcement, update your priority media list quarterly and keep tabs on how their coverage evolves. By monitoring articles and beat shifts on an ongoing basis, you’ll likely identify more timely and relevant opportunities for your organization’s spokespeople to comment on.

2) Get In Sync with Marketing Programs – Are there specific marketing campaigns or webinars planned for the new year? Will upcoming product announcements focus on mitigating critical customer pain points? Gather your organization’s main marketing messages – at least for Q1 2017 – and align them with PR initiatives – such as offering on-point advice via contributed articles, quoting opportunities, blog posts and speaking engagements.

3) Elevate Case Studies – Do your customer success stories reflect your organization’s value proposition and speak to your core buyer? If you’re selling to a business user but your case study is focused on a technical audience, you may be missing the mark. Think about the story you want to tell and choose customers with recent examples that align. Then take the time to interview them (if they’re willing to participate, of course) and ask the same questions that you’re typical buyers are interested in. Relatable case studies can serve as a goldmine for generating media opportunities and marketing campaigns alike.

However your PR program is shaping up for 2017, take the time to evaluate how your plans tie into your overall corporate strategy and where improvements can be made to strengthen key media relationships and offer solid thought leadership advice to the marketplace.

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