Where Small Businesses Should Spend Their Marketing Dollars in a Pandemic

Photo by Alexander Mils


It isn’t an exaggeration to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way Americans normally work, shop and spend their leisure time. Since consumers as a whole have decreased their overall spending, companies in turn have decreased their marketing budgets. However, businesses shouldn’t make the mistake of slashing and burning their marketing budgets completely. McDonald’s did this during the 1990-1991 recession and saw sales drop by 28%. Fast food competitors Pizza Hut and Taco Bell strengthened their advertising budgets, and increased sales by 61% and 40% respectively.

So, where should small businesses spend their marketing dollars in the most cost-effective way right now? Social media advertising (also called paid social), content marketing, and market research are the best ways companies can maximize their budgets right now. 

Social Media Advertising

Photo by William Iven

Compared to pay per click advertising models like Google Adwords, paid social is still more affordable for advertisers. Average CPC (cost per click) for Google Adwords is between $1-2 on the search network, while for Facebook ads, it’s about $0.35 globally and about $0.28 in the U.S. Advertisers can choose to either run an ongoing campaign with a minimum daily budget of $5 or boost a post (usually a one-time cost) for $10 to reach a certain percentage of their Facebook page’s followers.

Interesting facts you should know:

  • The pandemic actually caused a drop in Facebook advertising prices when you compare CPC (cost per click) and CPM (cost per mille impressions) prices from Q12019 to Q12020. Check the charts below from Revealbot.

  • Ad prices did tick back up in April & May 2020, likely due to advertisers returning to the platform. Advertisers should focus campaign objectives on Reach+App Install, which saw the biggest increases in CPM. (source: Revealbot)
  • Social media platforms saw solid growth in their monthly active users, with Facebook,Youtube, and Whatsapp seeing the most growth in April 2020. (source: Next Web)
  • Advertisers can now reach more than 2 billion people on Facebook. (source: Next Web)  

Bottom line: Facebook advertising and paid social advertising in general are the best ways to reach a captive audience, since many people are turning to social media for connection, entertainment, and information. 

Potential cost: $5- $$ (depends on your ad budget and campaign length)

Content Marketing

Photo by Florian Klauer

Even though most internet users have increased their time spent online, brands still need to consider whether the content they publish is relevant, interesting, and valuable. People are more likely to pay attention if your content hits these points:

  • Craft content that’s both informational and entertaining. If your content can both alleviate pain points and do so in a humorous or light-hearted way, you’re more likely to convince your readers to perform an action- whether that’s signing up for an email list, buying a product, listening to a webinar, or visiting a website. 
  • Efficiency and DIY topics are likely to be a huge hit with employees who have had to shoulder an extra workload because of downsizing while still needing to make deadlines. 
  • Tune into the thoughts, emotions, and challenges people are feeling with working remotely during this pandemic and what your brand can do for them.

Bottom line: Whitepapers, webinars, blog articles and Facebook/Instagram Live videos don’t require much overhead but do need the involvement of content writers, designers and social media managers. 

Potential cost: $$ Time and manpower from key internal + possibly external stakeholders. 

Market Research

Are your customers’ values and behavior still the same, prior to COVID-19? Chances are, probably not. Consumer purchasing behaviors change in a down economy. 

Confirm what products, software, and services your customers still deem essential. Market research in the form of feedback forms, surveys, and email campaigns can help determine whether customers will remain with a premium product line, downgrade to a basic package, or switch to a cheaper substitute/competitor.

Learning your customers’ priorities during this time will help you figure out if and where to reallocate funds and manpower. It is more important than ever to be responsive to what your customers are saying and doing, and adjusting expectations as necessary. 

Bottom line: Verify your core customer needs in order to make critical decisions about product roll out and existing services. 

Potential cost: $$ Internal stakeholder labor plus additional low-cost and free tools such as Survey Monkey, JotForm, and Hubspot Make My Persona which help you create surveys and generate buyer personas. 

Post by Courtney L.

3 Ways To Authentically Celebrate #PrideMonth On Social Media

Photo by Mercedes Mehling

As brands either dip their toe or jump right in to the Pride Month pool on social media, it’s quickly becoming a lesson in authenticity.

Many companies are taking June to share proceeds with a trusted LGBTQ-friendly foundation, or celebrating their diverse employee base.

Others see Pride Month as a cash grab, adding the colors of the rainbow to their logo or selling colorful merchandise without a charitable effort.

The LGBTQ market is a strong one — growing in influence and spending power, so it’s natural that many companies would do what they can to sell to this demographic.

The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce cites the community’s spending power at $917 billion. As cultural attitudes shift, brands are learning how to market to the LGBTQ demographic and embracing the rainbow more than ever.

Whether you’re a mom-and-pop shop or a Fortune 500 brand, you need to be transparent and authentic when marketing to LGBTQ consumers on social media. Here’s how you can improve your current strategy or be prepared for next year.

1) Donate to an LGBTQ-friendly foundation

This is one of the simplest, most effective ways to authentically market your business on social for Pride Month. If you’re a small business, find a local charity or foundation that helps the LGBTQ community. There are also several nationally recognized foundations (such as The Trevor Project) that you could donate to.

You can promote that proceeds from a specific item will go to that charity. In general, it helps to say how much of the proceeds will go to the foundation, whether it’s a percentage or set dollar amount per sale. This gives your fans trust that the money is going to a good place, rather than just a vague promise.


As with any other demographic, LGBTQ consumers want to see that they’re not just being sold to as part of a trend.


2) Foster an inclusive culture

Another way to be authentic during Pride Month is to highlight your company’s efforts in fostering an inclusive culture and being a destination that’s welcoming for employees of all backgrounds. 

Using social media to showcase your business as a welcoming space for talented, dynamic LGBTQ employees makes your company much more versatile and diverse. Potential employees who might not have considered you otherwise may now check out your careers page, putting your business on the radar of more people.

While it’s good to show that your company is inclusive and accepting, don’t single out your LGBTQ and ally employees, but let them share their stories, if they volunteer. It has to be more than empty platitudes or photos of employees at the local Pride parade.

Ensuring that you have an inclusive culture (not just putting up a front on social) signals to the LGBTQ community that you actually care about them beyond sales and subscriptions.

3) Don’t just slap a rainbow on & call it good

If you’re not able to designate an item to sell, with defined proceeds going to a foundation, and you don’t have an LGBTQ story ready to share, it’s okay. You can still share a photo or graphic sharing your support of Pride Month without some kind of hard sell.

Where some companies err is thinking that Pride Month is the time to make money off rainbow-themed merchandise or check a box after they’ve added rainbow colors to their profile logo.

On social media, the clap back against companies who simply see the LGBTQ community as another customer has been strong. Much like how many brands commercialize pink items with vague support of “breast cancer awareness,” yet don’t explain how the proceeds help, companies can commit a terrible error by selling the rainbow without the support.


An important part of marketing to LGBTQ consumers is to show that you’re supportive all year long, not just in June, when #PrideMonth is trending. 

By Justin L. 

3 Ways Small Businesses Can Be Heard on Social This Holiday Season

Photo courtesy of Freestocks.org


Now that we’ve passed Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, social feeds will be filled with ads and marketing messages enticing shoppers to buy the perfect gift.

But when everyone from your cousin’s Etsy page to Fortune 500 brands are competing for eyeballs, clicks and dollars, how can a small business stand out among the noise?

Here are some ways you can meet your KPIs as the calendar turns to December.

1) Instagram Stories

Photo by Hans Vivek

Move over, Snapchat. The hottest time-bomb messaging program is baked right into Instagram. Boasting 300 million daily active users, Instagram Stories are becoming the go-to platform for brands big and small.

Users love watching Instagram Stories, and brands are able to include a Call to Action, such as directly linking to a landing page. Now you can even upload photos to your Instagram Stories that are older than 24 hours, allowing your marketing team to plan.

Instagram Stories allows companies to show off a fun, playful side — but the short life of posts means you can create immediate demand with limited-time-only sales.

For instance, Black Sheep Cycling used Instagram Stories to promote a new cycling kit. They announced the promotion in a traditional Instagram post, then used Instagram Stories to showcase the outfit — with a one-hour sale. They sold out in 30 minutes. You can also post coupons to drive in-store traffic, such as announcing a 50 percent off sale of a certain product or showcasing a hot new item.

Not only does this create immediate desire, it lets your customers feel like they’re in a special club with access to this discount. You can promote the Instagram Story sale on Facebook, or wherever your fan base is, to drive traffic there.

2) Be a Mobile MVP

By Jonas Leupe

It feels like old advice at this point, but it still needs to be said. Just having a great website or Facebook page isn’t enough. Increasingly, shoppers are checking mobile first, even if they convert on desktop or in store.

If you’re using Instagram Stories to drive customers to a dedicated landing page, make sure the mobile experience is top-notch. If you’re linking out to blog posts from Twitter, those pages need to load quickly, or else eyes will wander.

Adobe has predicted that nearly half of all retail website visits this holiday season will come via mobile (45 percent), nearly eclipsing desktop (46 percent). The percentage of mobile visits has grown considerably, up from 33 percent in 2015.

Unless you already have a dedicated userbase, don’t place too much importance on a mobile app. Adobe found that while 64 percent of shoppers have a retail app on their phone, only 32 percent would download an app specifically for holiday shopping. You’re better off driving traffic to your mobile-friendly website.

3) Charitable Efforts


By Nina Strehl


More and more, people want to make sure they’re spending responsibly. As companies come under fire for derogatory statements by leadership or wasteful business practices, today’s consumer wants their dollar to go somewhere worthwhile.

The uptick in cause marketing and the success of cause-based for-profit companies like TOMs shows how critical it is for brands to do good and be good.

This doesn’t mean you need to donate all of your profits to world peace or pivot to becoming a charitable nonprofit. You can tie sales goals to a cause that your customers care about, such as announcing via Facebook that you’ll give a percent of profits on a certain item to a local homeless shelter or posting an Instagram coupon saying customers can get 25 percent off by donating school supplies.

Holidays are the time to make an emotional appeal, whether that’s laughter or tears. Brands all over the world have put away the schtick this holiday season to connect with their customers emotionally. You can do that on a local scale, by showcasing yourself as a charitable neighbor.

Bay Area clothing retailer Oaklandish has this down to a science. The company embraces its standing, partnering with local organizations and giving back. They know they’re not just a business in Oakland, but a member of the community.

Find ways that you can emotionally connect with your customers by getting involved with causes close to them, and to you — and tell that story responsibly on social.

Written by Justin L.


3 Things Small Businesses Should Consider For Influencer Marketing Campaigns

Photo of Montreal’s Clark Street Mercantile

If you’re a small business owner, you’ve heard how influencer marketing has helped brands big and small, using trusted content creators to share their messaging.

Studies have even shown that each dollar spent on influencer marketing generates $6.50 in revenue. Consumers follow recommendations from their favorite content creators, as 92 percent of people surveyed said they trust an influencer more than an ad or endorsement from a celebrity.


Photo by Eaters Collective

But is partnering with an influencer the right move for your small business? Budgets for influencer marketing continue to increase, especially as top YouTubers and Snapchatters command top dollar for their services. The costs for influencer marketing are overwhelming, and can dominate your entire marketing budget.

Small businesses can still reap major benefits from influencer marketing, though they have to be more careful than Fortune 500 companies when partnering with a popular content creator. We’ve heard of businesses spending thousands of dollars to partner with an influencer, only to see little to no ROI from the campaign, as no relevancy was in place.

Here are three things small businesses should consider before partnering with an influencer, based on our own experiences:

1) Is the influencer relevant to your company?

The first mistake many companies make is getting seduced by follower counts. While it might look cool to have a well-followed influencer talking about your product in their podcast or vlog, the cost to get that conversation going often heavily outweighs the ROI.

You need to find an influencer who is relevant to what your company is trying to accomplish. If your company sells life insurance, trying to woo a beauty vlogger with a million followers could be a costly mistake.

The most important currency to influencers isn’t money, it’s trust. They’ve built a community on a solid foundation of trust and authenticity. While some lesser-known influencers might take the money and share your message with a disinterested audience, others will turn you down because your product has nothing to do with their messaging.

At the most basic level, find a content creator who shares similar messaging to your company. For instance, if you’re a hardware store, partnering with a popular DIY builder on YouTube would be a natural fit.

2) Is the audience relevant to your company?

This is the other big question you need to ask before starting an influencer marketing campaign. Look at the audience that the personality speaks to on a daily basis. Is it the same demographic you’re trying to reach? Unless these goals are in perfect alliance, it would be unwise to move forward.

If you’re trying to reach affluent Millennials (and have a product they would be interested in), working with a vlogger whose primary audience is tween girls could be a waste of time and money. Do some homework and study the audiences.

Audiences follow influencers not because they’re really great at reading ad copy, but because there is an authentic connection. These influencers know this, and usually only work with brands who have a message that resonates with their audience. An influencer marketing campaign absolutely has to tie into your main business objective, or it runs the substantial risk of not delivering ROI.

The trust between the content creator and their audience is crucial, but lucrative. Google found that 6 out of 10 YouTube subscribers would follow purchasing advice from their favorite content creator over their favorite TV or movie personality.

3) Is there a local influencer?

For most small businesses, the best pairing won’t come from an international superstar YouTube personality with a massive cache of followers. It will come from someone the local community trusts.

Hyperlocal influencer messaging is on the rise, as small businesses look for ways to break into new levels of conversation. Businesses are partnering with Yelp reviewers, popular local bloggers and podcasters, amateur athletes, creating relevant content specifically targeted toward local customers.

The major risk of influencer marketing is the lack of sustainable ROI. If you spend your entire marketing budget on a high-priced influencer just because they’re followed by throngs of subscribers, you’ll likely receive a temporary spike. Once that influencer moves on, so will their followers.

But by asking customers where they go to learn more about their community — whether that’s a blog, a podcast, a YouTube channel, etc. — you’re able to see where they voluntarily go for content.
The winning influencer for your company might be just footsteps from your storefront.

By Justin L.

The Surprising Demise Of Vine



I first realized that Vine was a thing when I visited my friend and her 13-year old daughter was doubled over on the couch in laughter. She was completely engrossed by what I thought were bizarre 6-second clips. When she showed me what had her in hysterics, I’ll admit, I shook my fist at the cloud and yelled “Get off my (digital) lawn!”

Vine was not for me, but it was undoubtedly a powerful, creative platform for millions of people. After it was acquired by Twitter, many thought it would become the YouTube to Twitter’s Google. Alas, Twitter’s woes befell Vine, and the platform was never able to monetize its own services, despite the fact that Vine “stars” were making hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Then Snapchat came along, and Instagram released their video functionality.

And Vine never recovered.

Despite all of that, I never expected Vine to be the service that Twitter offs, but sure enough, yesterday, Twitter announced that it was shipping Vine off to the digital graveyard (say hello to MySpace for us, Vine!) and thousands lamented its loss (including their founder, who, to be fair, can weep into his millions).

All of this is a long way of saying: You should read Maya Kosoff’s behind-the-scenes look at how Vine went from the talk of the town to the digital graveyard in SUCH a short amount of time (seriously, just 2 years??).

There’s a lot to learn from Kosoff’s article. But in the meantime, we’ll just keep watching this.

Rock on, little puppy!

By Katy L.

How To Capture Your Trolls: The Art of Social Media Customer Service

It’s every social media manager’s worst nightmare: the hate tweet. The “you suck,” Facebook comment. The “you’ve lost a customer,” response.

Unless your business consists solely of cat GIF distribution, you’ll probably encounter someone who can’t stand your brand.

So what are you supposed to do? Let’s go through some options.

DON’T: Ignore the complaint (unless…)

This is immediately the most tempting option, as it requires no effort on your part and doesn’t call attention to the situation. There’s also a slim chance that the person (or their friends) ever considers you again.

Sadly, a lion’s share of companies take this route. According to Sprout Social, nearly 25 percent of customers surveyed said they got annoyed with a lack of response on social. Sprout Social also found that only 1 in 10 messages on social media generate a brand response.

Even if you don’t have the time or staff to respond to every single comment, Tweet or Snap your company gets, make an effort to reply more often. Responding to an unhappy person on social can mitigate the hate or even make that person into a lifelong customer.

Even just a quick “contact us” response can make someone’s day.



But what if the response comes from a real troll and not just a dissatisfied fan? Then you’ve got a new set of rules. While you can respond with kindness or facts, the goal for a brand in this situation is to not get dragged down into the mud.

If you feel the situation can be helped with a humorous or factual response, go for it, but don’t get sucked into an argument. If the troll is just spewing vitriol in an effort to get you to play along, don’t. It’s OK to use the block button in these situations.

DO: Snark it up (if appropriate)

If you’re a San Francisco Bay Area commuter, you’ve probably laughed at tweets from Caltrain and BART. In between service announcements and news about safety, these public utilities squeeze in some chuckles.

If you come at the king (of public transportation Twitter), you best not miss.

A discussion has to happen before your brand responds like this, though. If you’re a social media manager for a more buttoned-up brand and decide to go rogue without approval, you might find yourself building your resumé instead of your portfolio.

But if your brand is more whimsical — say a party-favorite alcohol, snack food or sports team — your fans might respond well to snark. If the company you’re managing has a more serious face, a well-timed light-hearted response could go a long way. In this case, we just don’t recommend punchlines for every response. Knowing your audience is the ultimate factor.

DON’T: Go full Trump

The Republican presidential nominee has some of the itchiest Twitter fingers in the game. As tempting as it might be to respond to critics with fire and brimstone as he does, it can only make your brand look worse.

Keeping with the mentality that everything you post online is both public and permanent, going with hateful rhetoric in the face of a complaint or troll attack can only harm your company’s reputation.

Remember the case of Amy’s Baking Company in 2013? After an embarrassing performance on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, the owners came under heavy derision on social media.

Instead of laughing it off or letting it blow over, co-owners Samy and Amy Bouzaglo struck back on the company Facebook page. Soon, their issues spread to Yelp and Reddit.


You want your brand to get international recognition. This is an easy way to do it, but an idea better left in the draft folder.

DO: Respond mindfully

We know how tempting it can be to punch back at angry commenters. It’s something nearly ever social media manager deals with. Instead of taking this route, take five minutes to cool off. Watch a funny YouTube video. Listen to some Enya. Clear your head and come back with a more proper response — one that won’t get shared on Reddit for all the wrong reasons.

Many times on social media, the best offense is a good defense. Have a plan in place for handling trolls and know when to respond and when to deny satisfaction. Make sure there are standards in place for responding (quickly) to unhappy customers, many of whom crave either a response or resolution to their issue.

As Jay Baer preaches, don’t be afraid to hug your haters.

I think you should answer everybody, even trolls,” Baer said in a Salesforce Marketing Cloudcast. “That may sound bizarre, but let’s remember that ultimately you are not really talking to that person, you’re talking to everybody. The crazier the trolls or crazy complainers are, the more rational you should be—because it makes them seem even crazier in context. Then the whole community understands that you actually care.”

Written by Justin Lafferty



Guide to Social Media Marketing For Startups & Small Businesses – Part I

Which social media platform is right for you?

This blog post is part of a series focusing on emerging brands, startups and small businesses that are just beginning their marketing/PR efforts. 

How are we defining a small business? Although the Small Business Administration typically defines a small business as less than 500 employees, this series focuses on businesses that are even smaller than that.

Photo by Mike Petrucci
Photo by Mike Petrucci


By now, social media is so ubiquitous that it feels like an everyday part of one’s life, no different than email (which, umm, why has no one disrupted this yet??). Yet the majority of small businesses (or even Small to Medium Business – SMBs) still lack basic social media strategy, with some lacking even a presence.

This series will focus on which social media platforms are optimal for a small business brand. This is NOT for social media advertising (which will come later) but for organic marketing on social media. We’ll discuss content, advertising and integration in later blog posts.

This particular series will focus on U.S.-based small businesses/startups that caters to consumers (not B2B), and that don’t have the budget to hire folks like us. They’ll have to start scrappy and do it for themselves.

With all of that out of the way, which social media platforms should a brand new small business catering to consumers focus on? Given that the small brand will have to DIY their social media marketing, and resources are extremely tight, only one or two platforms can be tackled for optimal ROI.


Photo by William Iven
Photo by William Iven


Facebook is still the #1 platform in the U.S. and will likely remain at that top spot for a while. There are few businesses and brands that Facebook doesn’t make sense for. However, Facebook is now pay-to-play (gotta justify that stock price!) so if you aren’t routinely “boosting” posts, then you’re SOL. Even spending $5 on one post per month will see your engagement skyrocket, compared to not spending any money at all. Does this suck for brands with extremely limited budgets? Absolutely. But we all knew that the free ride wouldn’t last, especially when Facebook went public.

While $5 for, say, a weekly post won’t break any budgets, it can add up. Unfortunately, depending on organic reach is a thing of the past. How can a small business get around having to pay-to-play? Hashtags have become as critical to audience growth on Facebook as it has on Twitter and Instagram. So #hashtag the #shiz out of that #ish (<–don’t actually do that – that’s really dumb). Another way to grow an audience is to tag/mention other pages.

But ultimately, content is still king. Videos can still “go viral” without plugging in your credit card number. And sometimes, a brand can just get plain lucky. Look at the Kohl’s Chewbacca mom video for proof of that. Treat your customers well and you might be surprised how they will reward your brand on social media.


Photo courtesy of FreeStocks.org
Photo courtesy of FreeStocks.org


For many B2C brands, Twitter will be as important as Facebook. We have found Twitter to be the best platform for local brick & mortar businesses, in particular. The best businesses that thrive on Twitter are still ones like Kogi taco truck (the brand that revolutionized local social marketing on Twitter), that can tweet out a location, or a special deal, for customers who might be wandering nearby.

Be warned, however. Twitter has become a customer service platform, with customers routinely tweeting complaints to brands. B2C brands in particular bear the brunt of Twitter complaints. If you don’t have a way to address customer service complaints on Twitter, you’ll be digging yourself a hole that will be difficult to crawl out of. Even before you set up your Twitter page (or Facebook, for that matter), make sure you have customer service response plan in place. Whether it’s merely responding to a tweet with an email address to contact, or actually addressing issues directly, have a plan and don’t be caught unaware. Unlike Facebook, you can’t delete or hide criticisms on Twitter. It’s the most transparent of platforms.


Photo courtesy of Toronto Eaters
Photo courtesy of Toronto Eaters


If you have even a somewhat visually appealing store or product, then Instagram is your best option. The engagement on Instagram is significantly higher than any of the other platforms; however, that doesn’t mean it translates into sales. If you’re suddenly rewarded with hundreds of likes for your photo, don’t get *too* excited. Instagram is not great at driving sales or traffic, primarily because it doesn’t easily allow for links. But what it’s great for is showcasing your brand in a visually compelling way.

The businesses that it’s particular great for: Consumer products, especially fashion brands; entertainment brands; stores such as bookstores and consumer goods; travel and luxury brands; restaurants/food brands.

Because so many Instagram users will take photos of your business, it’s important to acknowledge them (favoriting/liking their photo, via the heart icon, is a good start), and then engage and occasionally reward them (we’ll talk about engagement and rewards later).

When regramming a user’s photo/video, be sure to tag them and credit them (better yet, ask for permission first. Most users are more than happy to see their photos be picked up).

There are so many ways to be creative on Instagram. Leverage the layout, for instance, with a photo collage. Use the video function to drive traffic outside of the app, etc. It’s one of the best marketing platforms for any brand that can take a simple photo.

We’ll discuss the other social media platforms in part II of our series. Check back on bethechangepr.com/news. Hit us up on Facebook or Twitter as well. 

Drink It In: 3 Alcohol Brands With Winning Marketing Tactics


Photo courtesy of Toronto Eaters
Photo courtesy of Toronto Eaters

It’s not easy launching an alcohol brand. We’ve experienced the rigors of alcohol brand marketing and PR ourselves with our previous alcohol clients like Pinky Vodka. In addition to the need for serious marketing and sales costs, alcohol brands have hurdles to jump through for marketing that others don’t. In the U.S., alcohol brands’ customer base has a hard minimum age of 21 and they have to warn about the dangers of overindulgence of their product. There’s also more and more competition each day, as small and craft products emerge and become local favorites, and behemoth conglomerate brands leverage big budgets to overwhelm startups.

Where some companies might see walls, these brands saw opportunity. Here’s a look at some of the more interesting alcohol brands today and how they offer cool refreshment through marketing.


Though Budweiser is owned by Belgian conglomerate Anheuser-Busch InBev, the flagship beer brand knows how to best use the stars & stripes. In time for the presidential election, Budweiser scrapped its own branding on cans and bottles in favor of America.


Cheesy? Sure, but this is a savvy move for Budweiser. Who wouldn’t want to take a big, cold swig of America? This bold decision is the latest in a bigger marketing campaign that thumbs its nose at the rise of trendy microbreweries. Budweiser is a brand that knows what it is and who drinks it — people who don’t want something small-batch or artisanal, but truly heartland American.

Bud Light has also gotten into the discussion this election season. They’ve formed the satirical Bud Light Party, chaired by comedians Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen. Much like the Democrats and Republicans, the Bud Light Party is going on the road to meet with constituents.

Takeaway: Know your customers. Budweiser knows that the people who drink their beer didn’t mistake it for your local pumpkin spice craft summer IPA. They also tapped into the sentiment of unease with a two-party political system by creating a fictional third party. It’s a smart way to latch on to what’s shaping out to be a historic election for our nation.

Stone Brewing Co.

This San Diego-based craft brewery excels at social marketing — without a Budweiser budget.

At the onset, Stone took pride in having a non-existent marketing budget. Their fans are more than happy to spread the word without much prompting. While Stone has a marketing team, most of the influence comes from those who drink the product.

Stone, which has produced popular brews such as Arrogant Bastard, created a social marketing hit with their Enjoy By IPA. The beer’s label is adorned with a date, telling the customer when the beer should be consumed for maximum freshness.

This created immediacy (instead of letting a couple of bottles languish in the back of the fridge, customers know they need to drink the beer soon) and gave consumers a cool subject for Instagram posts.


The posts seem to perk up around the time of landmark dates, such as April 20 or July 4.

Takeaway: You don’t need a social media guru or a huge advertising budget to grow your company. With smart labeling and clever marketing, Stone Brewing Co. has become one of the biggest craft breweries, thanks to plenty of word-of-mouth.

Pappy Van Winkle

Haven’t heard of this brand? You’re not alone. This bourbon made by the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery doesn’t have a verified presence on Facebook or Twitter.

It is the anti-Fireball. Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, with a full-on marketing blitz, Pappy Van Winkle knows that its customers are hardcore whiskey fans. That’s good enough for them.

More importantly, they’re whiskey fans who will tell their friends. Pappy’s been described as a “cult” liquor. It’s probably not available at your local watering hole, but the scarcity of the product has only led to overwhelming demand.

Since it’s such a small batch bourbon, it’s very hard to find. Bottles sometimes hit the secondary market, commanding thousands of dollars. People are even forging bottles of Pappy Van Winkle.

Pappy’s appeals to lovers of quality bourbon, and the lack of availability only helps it grow more popular. They know they’re not in the same market as mass-produced brands such as Jim Beam.

Takeaway: Be authentic. As the Ron Swanson chair of the liquor market, Pappy Van Winkle excels at being a premium and exclusive brand. They don’t try to compete with the Jack Daniel’s and Fireballs of the world, since they know they have a different customer base. Less is more.

As many alcohol customers look for price point or quality, these brands have found a way to stand out among the crowd. Even if you don’t have the instant name recognition of Budweiser or cult following of Pappy Van Winkle, you can use creativity to get fans on board — and sharing with friends.

Need help with your alcohol brand’s PR? We love to drink and we do it well! Contact us today.


What Twitter’s Changes Mean For Your Business

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 11.32.40 AM

Don’t be afraid of Twitter’s latest changes — they actually help you say more in a tweet.

Twitter recently updated how it counts out the 140-character maximum within a tweet. Now, @names and media attachments will not count against the limit. This is a huge help for businesses, who can now respond to questions on Twitter more efficiently.

These changes are rolling out over the next few months, so if that cat GIF still takes away from your character limit today, try again later.

Twitter will also allow you to re-tweet yourself and the company has simplified the way in which a reply can be seen more publicly, but the changes to the 140-character limit are the most relevant to marketing.

Twitter has been working to provide more value within the 140-character frame. Earlier this year, rumors swirled about Twitter bumping the character limit all the way up 10,000 — possibly as a way to combat blogging platforms like Medium and WordPress. CEO Jack Dorsey even entertained the possibility of making 140-character tweets a thing of the past.

Why is this an issue? Try reaching out to your (least) favorite airline, especially if you have a longer username.

Odds are, if your query is more advanced, you’ll get a multi-tweet reply or a response filled with abbreviations, making it look like a text message from your Gen Z intern.


Shortening words like “please” and “flights” were necessary to get that tweet out, but it looks weird coming from an established brand like Delta.

While these changes don’t solve the problem completely (and to be fair, many companies use direct messages for longer interactions), it allows the 140 characters you choose to matter more.

If you’re still looking for a way to get the most out of those 140 characters, try using Twitter’s video feature to add a personal response to a customer question. While you can still respond via text, the 30-second video allotment is a way to surprise and delight customers while humanizing your brand.

Even better, once these changes go into effect, the video won’t eat up characters.

This is something that change evangelist Brian Fanzo does occasionally, as a way to enhance responses.

Soon, when you respond to someone like @NoahSyndergaard or @KimKardashian (or one of your well-named customers), the character count will start with your first letter, not their handle.

By Justin Lafferty

5 Ways PR is Easier Than Ever For Small Business

Small businesses like our favorite neighborhood bookstore, The Green Arcade, have more PR opportunities than ever before
Small businesses like our favorite neighborhood bookstore, The Green Arcade, have more PR opportunities than ever before. Photo: Change Communications

We PR pros like to kvetch about how media relations has become infinitely more difficult, thanks to the digital age (and it really has, given that the ratio of PR pros to journalists sometimes feels like 1,000 to 5 – no, really, it’s bad). But for small business brands and SMBs, digital media has ushered in a significantly easier PR landscape. Now, more than ever, PR has gotten easier, cheaper and more effective, for small businesses to leverage.

No More Gatekeepers                          

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You don’t need to spend big bucks to wine and dine media, or even try to figure out how to get a hold of them. Now, anyone who discovers you can spread the word about you. Brand ambassadors abound, and are more than eager to share how great your business is. Media used to be the gatekeepers to the precious social currency of knowing what the hot new businesses were. In today’s world, social media has broken down those exclusive gates and anyone can discover you and share the good news.

Free Crowdsourcing Makes You Better
Online critics make it imperative for your product to be great  – this is a good thing! While many businesses complain about companies like TripAdvisor or Yelp (and many of the criticisms are very valid), the silver lining is that online reviews can force businesses to just plain be better. Doing business better and creating better products (whether that’s a physical product or a service) can turn haters into fans. Bonus: you have free, built-in crowdsourcing and virtual survey results! You no longer need to pay a market research firm to do this for you – just read your

online reviews and see where the pain points are.

Can’t Get the Media’s Attention? Write it Yourself

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Content marketing has always existed in PR – it’s just been christened with an annoying new term. If you can’t get a reporter to tell your story for you, do it for yourself. Blog posts and social media postings can help you explain your business, tell a great story and are often an easier way to get a reporter’s attention. Creativity is your currency and clever viral posts or memes can have a life of their own that draw even more attention.

Who Needs Billboards When You Have Facebook?

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While it’s true that you have to have a certain ad budget for social media, which no longer offers brands a free ride, you don’t need to break the bank anymore like you used to when you had to take out television or bus stop ads or billboards. You can spend as little as $100 on a Facebook promotion and get it amplified. Our client, Tiger Pistol, has seen small businesses generate massive ROI on budgets under $500 for entire campaigns (this handy dandy report from BIA/Kelsey that uses small biz case studies from Tiger Pistol is worth a read). Plus, you get access to insightful data on your customers that you wouldn’t get from a magazine ad. Analytics still have a long way to go to compete with SEO analytics but it’s improving.

Social media has created options on the ad spend front. Google AdWords is incredibly costly, though certainly still very effective for many businesses. Social media advertising has emerged as an equally effective, and less expensive, option.

Proliferation of PR Means Lower Costs

PR costs have gotten less expensive as the industry saturates. While this isn’t necessarily a good thing for firms like ours, it definitely helps small businesses reach out to more people who can help them market their brand. From solo freelancers to boutique shops to specialists, there’s a plethora of affordable PR options for small businesses.

While social media is no longer the level playing field for brands that some thought it might be (given that it’s the new advertising), digital media has created many more affordable options for small businesses to better market themselves and generate great PR. There’s no excuse anymore. Go do it.

Don’t want to do it for yourself? We’re here to help, and we love small businesses. Contact us today.