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Stephanie Miller

CSuite800Sometimes the most difficult part of strategic planning is getting buy off and approval from the C-suite and busy marketing directors so you can get going.

As communicators, we understand and appreciate the heavy lifting of developing a comprehensive plan and need the target profiles, the messaging by audience and the calendared details for our day to day. But, while those 20-pages of prose and the color-coded calendars hit the mark for you and your communication team, they may miss the mark for the audience we’re trying to reach and persuade to action.

We all know this audience is short on time and wants the thumbnail version that hits on the what, when, cost and the anticipated ROI.

Getting away from the traditional thud-factor way of presenting our thinking to execs. Suggesting some new ways to ideas, approaches and their anticipated return with the goal of getting that a nod of approval.

As you’re getting started with your 2015 plan – or putting on the finishing touches, spend some time strategizing the best way to fast track to a yes so you can get them underway. Some ideas:

  1. An infographic. Illustrates the targets and corresponding campaign messages/promotions/communications, when they will be executed and the corresponding costs and ROI.
  1. A Gantt chart. With this type of chart you can still organize by target audience and provide the execution highlights calendared by month with line item budgets.
  1. A Slideshare. Highlight your most original and visual ideas in a Slideshare format and include a list of supporting ideas as an addendum.
  1. An executive summary. Granted, this is not a new idea by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a familiar format for this audience. A one-page document that outlines the key items and their relationships to meeting business goals may be just the thing to get you that go ahead.

What presentation styles and approaches have worked best for you?

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Bow down because, at an ad agency, the deadline is king. You can either resent it or make friends. Making friends with your deadline builds innovation and creativity, calms stress, improves relationships with your team and makes for a better product. Here are a few ideas to help.

Don’t Do It Overnight

We’ve all heard that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time so, before you start any project, write down the steps and how long each step will take. What is the logical order for the steps? Who needs to review this? How often? How long will review take? Run the steps by your team if needed.

Know Your Deadline 

Deadlines breathe reality into your ideas, so they need to be clearly defined. This requires strategy. When is the best time for your audience to see the final product? When does your client prefer to see it? Do you need to make adjustments to the idea or the timeline in order to make it happen in the best way possible? Discuss this with your client and team.

Don’t Do it Alone

Once you have a good understanding of your final deadline and the steps to get there, meet with your team to discuss assignments.

Make Time for Your Deadline

Committing your deadline to a calendar helps you decrease stress and look at your project one day at a time. Write in your final deadline and then go backwards writing in the steps as to-dos with the team member who is responsible. A shared, online calendar is best for this. If you are worried that other projects will keep you from completing a step, block out time on your calendar for it.

Be Flexible with Your Deadline

While good planning is necessary, no plan works out perfectly. There may be unforeseen problems that require discussion. If anything changes make sure to communicate changes with your team and client.

These are some of my ideas. Do you have anything add?


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Halloween is the by far the most celebrated holiday at Penna Powers. During the month of October, there is a constant reel of scary movies playing in the basement and you are more likely than not, going to stumble upon daily Halloween costume brainstorming sessions.

Since we are in the full Halloween spirit here at the office, why not take this opportunity to look at some of our favorite Halloween-themed ads so far this year.

Last year in the advertising world, we saw a huge push on Vine from brands like, Oreo and Tide, which we are unfortunately not seeing much of so far this year (there is still time!). But other brands are taking their TV spots to the next level with some comical and spooky Halloween-themed story lines.

Here are a few of our top picks:

Crest – Halloween Treats Gone Wrong: You would think that the adorable, hilarious kid ads would get old but they never do. This one from Crest is just plain cute.


IKEA – Halloween: We love this ad because it does a great job of creeping you out, and unlike most horror movies, has a pretty great ending.


Snickers – Twisted: This spot is in Spanish, but is the creepiest spot we have seen this year.


Skittles – Friends or Food?: Skittles never disappoints with their strange, dry comedy.–yxvfI&list=UUr5X1GkJDgziekBtAkZWjXQ


Geico – It’s What You Do: Geico makes us laugh by poking fun at the terrible decisions made by horror movie characters.

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DigitalMarketing800Digital marketers have it tough. The industry is changing every day and often the most authoritative documents are whitepapers or Tweets. However, there are four certifications that are well worth the professional marketers’ time and gained expertise. Here they are, specifically ranked in order of importance.

1. Google Analytics Academy. Digital marketers need to measure the effectiveness of their efforts, and a proper understanding of Google Analytics empowers decision-making. Even if you’ve been using Google Analytics for years there’s still plenty to learn in these courses.

Google offers four courses – one for analytics fundamentals and the other three for its more advanced capabilities. Each course takes 2-3 hours to complete and has videos with little quizzes at the end.

Link to Google’s Analytics Academy –

2. Google AdWords Certification. Most companies have paid search ads, and a solid understanding of bidding models and campaign structure translates over to nearly every other online advertising medium. When you become AdWords certified you get a certification and an official link to put on your website.

There are two tests you must pass – first the fundamentals test and then one advanced test (search, display or video). The tests are hard and honestly feel like you’re taking a college test on measuring ROI. Each test requires 10-20 hours of study and a 70-85% score, depending on the test.

Link to Google’s AdWords Certification –

3. Bing/Yahoo Ads Accreditation. A lot of companies overlook paid search ads on Bing and Yahoo, but shouldn’t considering together they make up a 28.7% share of all searches. The structure of Bing/Yahoo ads is nearly identical to AdWords.

There’s only one test to take and it’s very similar to the AdWords tests. You should study for 5-10 hours and have already passed the AdWords certification tests before taking this one. The test requires a score of 80% or higher and you get a printable certification and customized link for your website.

Link to Bing’s Ads Accreditation –

4. Programmatic Trade Desk. Currently over 60% of all US display ad spending is done programmatically, and is expected to hit 83% by 2017. Odds are you’re using a trade desk. Are you certified in it? Give your programmatic media partner a call and see what you can do to get certified.

eMarketer Programmatic Advertising Percentage

Source: eMarketer









Other honorable mentions that aren’t certifications per se but you should be trained in Facebook Power Editor, Google Tag Manager and ComScore.

Having these platforms under your marketing belt will ensure better results for your clients and impressive resume bullet points. Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments.

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Technology has come a long way over the last several years. People say it’s changing all the time and it seems like that new computer I bought yesterday is already outdated. Now, I’m the kind of person who likes to stay on top of everything tech related. When friends want advice on what tablet they should buy, they come to me. I have to have the latest and greatest tech as soon as it’s available. I haven’t owned a smartphone for longer than six months since I got my first one back in 2008. I think you get the picture. I’ve always had the mindset that unless you have the best technology available, you’re missing out on life.

That is, until recently. You see a month or so ago I experienced every tech aficionado’s worst nightmare when my personal smart phone got a little too wet and would no longer function. To make matters worse, I was somewhat lacking in funds at the time and my replacement phone wouldn’t arrive for four weeks. So, what did I do? I went to my local Walmart, found the cheapest non-flip phone available, and $40 later, I had a brand new working smartphone. A 4-year-old tech smartphone.


Meet the ZTE Concord. With a gigantic 3.5” capacitive touch screen, an 832 MHz processor, 1500 mAh battery, 512MB of RAM  and a 2.0 megapixel rear facing camera, the ZTE Concord is everything you could ever want in a phone. That is, if you purchased your phone 6 years ago. To put these numbers into perspective, let’s compare these specs to the iPhone 3G S, which released in 2009. Both phones have a 3.5” screen, but the iPhone actually has a more impressive camera at 3.0 mega pixels. When it comes to processor power, my ZTE does have a slight edge as the 3G S only has 256MB of RAM and a 600MHz processor. Still, despite these minor differences and the fact that one uses Android while the other uses iOS, they are remarkably similar phones.

On paper, my new Concord seemed years behind the curve and was a spectacular dud. When I first powered it on I expected the worst. I was stuck with this thing for the next few weeks while my phone was getting replaced, and so I set myself up for disappointment. To my surprise however, what I found was anything but that.

While my phone certainly left a lot to be desired, it actually succeeded to do most everything I needed it to. I could make and receive phone calls. I could send text messages. I could read and send e-mails. I could update my social media feeds. I could browse the internet and purchase products from online retailers. I could watch YouTube videos. I could stream music from my phone and I could even play a couple of casual games. After a few weeks with the device, I realized something: You don’t need the newest phone to experience having a smart phone.


While I would never go back, I came to understand that being connected online is no longer an exclusive experience as it may have once been. Smartphones are so readily, and inexpensively, available that nearly all groups of people can afford it. And even if they buy the $50 Walmart special, they are hardly missing out.

Now you might be wondering, what does this have to do anything? I’m here to tell you that it has to do with everything. There’s one thing I’ve neglected to mention thus far about my experience with the ZTE Concord. Ads worked flawlessly.

With smartphones being as accessible as they are, the entire world can connect to your brand. No matter what phone they’re using, they can watch a short YouTube commercial. No matter what operating system they are running, they can view a mobile banner ad without issue. My point is this: There has never been a better time to start focusing on mobile. During my four weeks with four year old tech, if there’s one thing that I’ve come to understand it’s that, like I said in the beginning of this piece, technology has come a long way. Specifically, mobile technology. Don’t wait to get started. With the release of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus seeing over 10 million smartphones sold within a week, I think it’s time we all stepped back and accepted that mobile marketing might be the future. And whether you’ve got the next big thing in your pocket or some 4-year-old bargain bin phone, you’re a part of it.


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Strategy and Kissing

Those of you who follow the Penna Powers blog know that the secrets we’re divulging this month focus on strategic planning. While the planning process comes naturally to us, actually writing about it is another thing.

I think trying to write about strategic planning is like trying to write about kissing:

o   No one needs to be convinced of its benefits.
o   Everyone thinks they know how to do it.
o   Describing the mechanics of the process is much less interesting than experiencing its results.

Let’s explore each of these assertions:

No one needs to be convinced of its benefits.
I think this is the case most of the time, but sometimes we do have to start a project by teaching people the importance of establishing goals, measurable objectives and other key elements of a strategic plan. A lot of people want to just jump to the tactical part of the plan, because that’s where the fun really begins. Our advice: don’t skip the planning process. While most people get it, sometimes we do need to convince people of the benefits of a strategic plan.

Everyone thinks they know how to do it.
We’re happy that you know what a SWOT analysis is, but a strategic plan is so much more than that. What does success look like one, two or three years into a campaign? You’ll only be able to properly answer that if you’ve set up the campaign with proper research—it’s the foundation of a solid strategic plan. Conducting PR, advertising and media campaigns without research is like shooting an arrow into the air, then looking for a target to catch it.

Describing the mechanics of the process is much less interesting than experiencing its results.
It’s hard to get excited about a plan. But it’s what that plan can create that brings excitement. My father was an architect. Throughout my life, I became very familiar with the technical drawings and blueprints he created. Those blueprints became the key documents for so many builders and contractors, as they relied upon them to create structures that stood strong, looked great and met the needs of the companies who hired him. While I don’t think I could ever fully appreciate the blood, sweat and tears he put into those drawings, I could get a glimpse of his labors when we would walk through or drive by these buildings when they were finished. I knew that those massive, impressive buildings all began with the drawings he spent hours creating. I’ll admit that I didn’t always find his drawings interesting, but I did enjoy seeing the final results of what his plans helped create.

Yes, the results of a well-organized plan can be quite moving. But I’ve spent enough time writing and reading about it. Now, just get out there and do it.

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Strategy and Planning

Here at Penna Powers, we know that every successful campaign has a solid strategic plan to back it up. And October is the perfect time to get ahead on next year’s planning. Take some time to look at where you are now, which direction you need to go and the goals you want to achieve with next year’s marketing.

Throughout this month, we will share some tips to help you get started on next year’s planning and execute that plan with ease. So stay tuned to the Penna Powers Conversation Starter this month!

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We previously called those who truly belong at Penna Powers “PPBHers”. What does PPBHer mean, you ask? I don’t know where the term started, who started it or if it will change now that our name is simpler (PPer?) but I do know that it’s a common greeting for all-staff emails and that when someone says that someone else is one, people just know what that means.

It’s definitely a title we try to earn. So based on some responses to an email I sent out and a few personal observations, here’s a long-winded, 30-bulleted stab at the meaning. You know you’re a PPBHer when:

  1. You understand that the best idea wins.
  2. You find a way to solve a problem without someone holding your hand all the time.
  3. You can’t sing “Happy Birthday” with any kind of tune.
  4. You never say, “That’s not my job.”
  5. You check your ego at the door, work as a team and respect your team.
  6. You understand the inside jokes about the photo room downstairs, the conference room table downstairs, etc.
  7. You don’t say, “Hey everybody, look what I did.” It’s all about, “Look what we did.” You’re more interested in solving the problem than getting the credit.
  8. You worry more about producing results for the client than producing results for the agency.
  9. Your key to the building still works.
  10. You listen to and are interested in your clients.
  11. You consider working at Penna Powers a career, not a job.
  12. You stand up for yourself when you get teased, because you will get teased.
  13. You don’t get wrapped up in titles or separate disciplines; you are focused first on being a team member and doing the best work for the client.
  14. You own your work and want to be proud of it.
  15. You’re not a lazy schmuck who rests on past successes. You are only as good as your most recent work.
  16. You lose your game of pool by scratching on the 8 ball and you “Mitch” your turn frequently.
  17. You know a good strategy can save a lot of money and time.
  18. You’re part of the family.
  19. Your co-workers start to feel like you could be their sibling.
  20. You’re committed to the right communication solution for the right audience.
  21. You can laugh.
  22. You like parties and non-work activities: staff meeting, BBQs, races, birthday parties, office Olympics, etc.
  23. You’re not afraid to work hard.
  24. You’ve been given a nickname.
  25. You’ve left for other employment and then came back, aka, you’re in the “boomerang club.”
  26. You notice that Dave and Justin are dressed the same.
  27. You tell a short joke in front of Mike and still keep your job.
  28. You get made fun of at staff meeting.
  29. You sacrifice something (like your time) not just for your client but because you don’t want to let your team down.
  30. You have a conversation with Chuck while sipping from your new “I Chatted with Chuck” mug.

Did I miss anything?

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