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Our Newest Client: KIOTI Tractor

KIOTI Tractor Logo

We are pleased to announce that we’ve been selected by KIOTI Tractor to be their agency of record. HM&P is providing a fully integrated communications campaign for the US and Canada.

Operating in North America since 1985, KIOTI focuses on compact tractors and UTVs, which is the fastest growing segment of an industry that retails nearly 200,000 units annually. KIOTI is well established in North America, with a network of over 300 dealers, but desires to take its current success to the next level. That is why they have contracted with us. The compact tractor marketplace, particularly in the US, is aggressive, with more marketing communications being leveled at consumers than in any other region of the world. Seeking an integrated marketing and communications partner, KIOTI carefully selected HM&P to help drive sales and capture market share.

As a first step, we worked with KIOTI to create a tighter definition of the KIOTI brand and targeted audiences, developed a new brand platform (which is a unique tool created by HM&P) and implemented a fully integrated marketing plan, complete with advertising, interactive, media planning and buying, as well as public relations services.

A cornerstone of the plan is an engaging and dynamic KIOTI website – – which we both designed and built. KIOTI’s target is the “rural lifestyle farmer”, folks that farm as a lifestyle choice not a vocation. Knowing that the target audience is well-educated and web savvy, we designed the website to adapt to every type of web technology – tablets, smartphones, desktops, iPads and more – and employ the ease of navigation based on VOC (voice-of-the consumer) knowledge that makes the web most effective.

As agency of record, HM&P is in the process of designing a new creative look and tone, one with personality and distinction that will cut through the clutter of the marketplace. The far-reaching media plan leverages a limited budget for maximum efficiency, effectiveness, and a surprising amount of value-add. The PR campaign efforts entail strategic media relations, tradeshow publicity and thought leadership efforts.

Perhaps KIOTI’s CEO Peter Kim provides the best summary of HM&P’s role with the company:

We intend to achieve significant growth in the next two years. To do that we need an advertising and PR partner that is capable of vision, dedicated to excellence and committed to cost effective options. HM&P is the perfect choice for us.

For more information about the HM&P-KIOTI relationship, check out the press release.

Leveraging Opportunities at Tradeshows

As my colleague wrote in an earlier post, most marketers have a love-hate relationship with tradeshows. They surely have a purpose, but can be a drain on time, money and resources if a company does not take full advantage of the opportunity. What’s the opportunity? Your customers, partners, prospects, media, bloggers and other key influencers are all there.

So, what should your company consider doing at a tradeshow in addition to buying booth space and staffing it every hour of a show? Here are some ideas:

Tradeshow booths are great places to network, but make sure you venture out to get the most benefit from a tradeshow investment.

Face-to-Face Meetings – Schedule meetings with media and bloggers just like you would with customers and partners. These meetings are a great way for influencers interact with key spokespeople, see products and show off your booth. Don’t forget to leverage any local media opportunities – you may not be in this market for another year.

Press Kits – Bring press kits to put in the press room. Press kits should contain information about your company as well as current news.

Press Conferences or Press Breakfast – Have something to announce and/or showcase? Media and bloggers from all over the country gather at tradeshows. Much better odds to get them together at a tradeshow than at a standalone event.

Videos – Since many of your customers, partners and other influencers will have gathered at the tradeshow, consider scheduling time to video them – videos can be used for sales meetings, in internal communication

vehicles, on your website, and/or for social media.

Research – Take advantage of the captive audience. Conduct research right on the tradeshow floor. You can then use the research for social media, PR and/or internal development.

Speaking – Many tradeshows have educational sessions where attendees can learn about trends, hear points of view on issues and even get a sneak peak at a new technology. It’s worth checking out if there are any speaking opportunities you or your colleagues could pursue.

Sponsorships – Look into sponsorship opportunities at the show. There may be an opportunity too good to pass up.

Other opportunities to consider? Advertising, signage, parties, guerilla marketing, and much more.

Searching for: Associate Account Executive

Are you a strong writer, good communicator and team player? Have you conducted media and blogger relations as well as managed social media activities? If so, we’d like to see your resume.

We are searching for an Associate Account Executive to coordinate public relations and social media campaigns for agency clients. Candidates must be able to multi-task and work with all disciplines within the agency. Bachelor’s degree and up to two years of professional experience (post graduation) required.

For more information about this open position, click here.

Your products don’t “speak for themselves”

At trade shows, media are looking for the hot new item. If you’re attending as a PR professional on behalf of a client, it’s important to think beyond the media kits and pitches and develop something more: a tableau of your product in its intended environment.

This February, I was onsite to support The Step2 Company at Toy Fair 2013. In showcasing Step2′s brand new Easy Turn Coupe, my team members and I described how during testing, moms noticed that the unique transparent sunroof—designed to help parents keep an eye on their little ones—also gives kids the opportunity to look up and connect with mom or dad.

This offers added play value for families. Now it’s not just a coupe: it’s a way of building parent-child relationships. Details such as these help tell the story to your media, who now have an angle to sell your product to their audience.

Painting a scenario for media is essential. In Step2’s case, this shows that their products offer mom-approved details that enhance creative play. It’s what the product can do for its customers above and beyond the storage capacity or (admittedly impressive) cup holder count.

Your client’s products can’t “speak for themselves.” That’s where you come in. Find the storytellers for your audience and paint them a picture. See how one of our media contacts told the Easy Turn Coupe story on WBAL:

Are Tradeshows Paying You Back?

Tradeshows. Most marketers have a love-hate relationship with them. Often times a company needs to participate to show industry engagement and support. On the other hand they are expensive and a true time suck.

If you are required to attend a show, how can you take advantage of the opportunity beyond “working the show floor”?  Tradeshows have the potential to offer huge payoffs – in a variety of ways. Here’s a few ideas to get you thinking about maximizing your next tradeshow experience:

1. Attend Seminars
Take the opportunity to scan the program offerings and identify those that could help your brand. Take notes and share your insights with your teams. Find a key point and use your own knowledge to develop a company blog post or tweet. Connect with the presenter to build new relationships. There is everything to be gained from building your industry knowledge and contact list.

2. Be Personable
Tradeshows are all about making connections—with the partners, with media, with customers—know your audience and reach out to them. If someone you want to meet with is too busy to stop by, offer to come to them. Even if it’s just 5 minutes, every chance you get to put a face behind your brand is worth the time investment and will pay dividends for future opportunities.

3. Be Critical
Take a look around. How are visitors interacting with your company’s booth; what catches their attention? Are visitors or media greeted? Take notes on how things can be improved. Notice how other companies are presenting themselves and get ideas from their approaches. For example: giveways. Is a company providing a promotional item just to get people to stop by or are they using the giveaway to further their customer or knowledge base? One booth I recently visited at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market required each person to fill out a short questionnaire about their purchasing behavior on an iPad before collecting a high-end pair of socks. And it worked—there was a line to fill out the survey!


Maria Martinat Earns Promotion

Maria Martinat, Account Executive PR & Social MediaCongratulations to Maria for her recent promotion to account executive, PR and social media.

Since joining our family in 2010, Maria has helped drive successful public relations and social media efforts for clients including Barton College, Butterball, LLC, Case Farms, Georgia-Pacific Professional, House-Autry Mills, INVISTA’s CORDURA® brand, Precise Pet Products and The Candy Cottage. She’s a great asset to our team.

Read more about Maria in the full press release.

Organizations that Speak Out Stand Out

Most organizations have numerous executives who hold remarkable insight that could shake the industry and inspire deeper customer trust and loyalty. After all – these are the vital leaders who have played an instrumental role in bringing a product, vision or service to life within the marketplace.

Companies that offer this expertise to knowledge-seeking target audiences can realize a positive impact on their bottom line and customer loyalty. From online presence, to speaking engagements to award recognitions, building a professional reputation is essential for any organization looking to stand out. We call this executive visibility or thought leadership, and the value of a carefully crafted executive visibility program is endless.

One of our clients, Solair® Shade Solutions, recently spoke at Professional Builder magazine’s Builder Breakfast in front of the Homebuilding Association of Raleigh. In addition to showcasing Solair as a shade expert, the Solair executives had the opportunity to engage with a key target audience, learn about market challenges/opportunities and generate leads.

Here’s a rundown of just a few benefits an executive visibility campaign can offer:

  • Competitive edge
  • Spokesperson equity
  • Credibility
  • Brand recognition
  • Reputation development
  • Lead generation
  • Relationship building

And the list goes on…

It can be challenging for organizations to find the time to commit to an executive visibility program. That’s where an expert public relations team comes in. We help executives mine and seek the most relevant speaking engagements, award and writing opportunities to showcase their insights and assist with everything from strategy to speech writing to abstract development, depending on their needs. In this era of globalization, technology innovation and social influence, it is still important to connect with key audiences in human, personable way – and share insights for greater industry good – which can help build credibility, loyalty and brand equity.

The Candy Cottage Sponsors Gingerbread Jamboree at Marbles Kids Museum


On Sat., Dec. 15, Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh, N.C. hosted their first annual Gingerbread Jamboree. At the center of the sold out holiday event was Howard, Merrell & Partners’ client, The Candy Cottage. We proposed the idea to Marbles Kids Museum and helped coordinate the event to ensure The Candy Cottage received maximum exposure. The Jamboree was promoted through public relations, social media and other marketing efforts. As the event’s official sponsor, The Candy Cottage was promoted before, during and after the event.

Attended by more than 60 families, the event scored great visibility among consumers and helped to create sweet memories at the same time. Families who attended the event were given a Candy Cottage to decorate and take home. With a plethora of decorating goodies from candy canes to frosted cereals and even pretzels, the kids and parents had a blast creating their own keepsake Candy Cottage.

Following the Jamboree, attendees gave very positive feedback:

“I just wanted to tell you how wonderful the event was today! The cottages were so easy to decorate, the selection of decorations was incredible and creative and the staff was so helpful and friendly. My kids and I had an absolutely wonderful time and I am sure we will use the house again and again. I hope you have the event again next year…”

“I am writing to say that the day was a wonderful success for my family and we were very impressed with how well it was organized. We could hardly believe the room was full of excited families. It was fun and we hope to enjoy this event for many years to come. Thank you for your efforts.”

If You Build It, They May Not Come

Wondering why customers aren’t flocking to your company’s blog, Facebook page or Twitter profile? Why should they? What are you giving them?

Social EngagmentAs Stanford Smith points out in his blog post What the $200 Million Tweet Can Teach You About Personal Influence, if we have a social media presence, we have influence. But, we must understand our influence – no matter how large or small – and harness it by being relevant.

This means all of your company’s on-and-offline efforts must be strategic and consistent – reaching your potential customers with smart, diverse and interesting messages.  This is a basic branding concept, and it strongly applies to social engagement, because every person connected to your organization is part of your brand – whether you like it or not.

If you’re working to grow your company’s influence online, here are some important steps to building a loyal and engaging audience:

  • Seek & Find – Do your due diligence and know where your audience engages online. To manage a profile on any platform takes time and resources. Don’t waste them by going down an empty rabbit hole. If you sell a technology product and your customers are men ages 28 – 50 in IT, then Pinterest
    probably isn’t the place for you. And, be sure to look outside the top five social networks – many organizations are creating their own communities. While they may be small, if that’s where your audience is you should be there too.
  • Content Is King – Think quality, not quantity. Delivering educational and engaging content is key. And, it should all connect via a hub – much like a web. Maybe this is your website, a blog, or online community.  Write blog posts. Tweet about them. Post them to Facebook and reference them on forums and in blog comments. Be transparent. And don’t just promote your own musings. Rather, offer a mix of your own content and content created by other experts. Make it fun and keep it quick.
  • Listen – Your customers have something to say. It’s likely relevant to your business. Listen to them. Glean relevant insights from them, then interact. Remember, social media is a two-way communication vehicle its important to engage with your users with a human touch.
  • Bring Old School to The New School – Don’t forget traditional advertising and communications tactics. They can deliver your message to a broader audience and help build your company’s relevance.

How is your company building influence online? Is this part of your 2013 planning? Share your thoughts with us below. 


Looking Ahead to 2013

As each year draws to a close, we as communicators naturally start to reflect on the news we saw unfold, the trends that came to fruition and how these all impact our daily lives. More importantly, we try to look ahead, identify emerging trends and brace ourselves for change and evolution.

2012 was packed with events and advancements that will add color to marketing history: the U.S. Presidential election, the Lance Armstrong scandal, the continued growth of mobile apps, Facebook’s IPO and subsequent stock plummeting  — just to name a few. Mainstream media had its hands full covering all of the above. But 2012 was really no different than any other year. No year will ever be dull when it comes to news and technological advancements with far-reaching implications.

What will 2013 bring? We’ll see many of the same trends that emerged in 2012 really take shape in the New Year. I think it’s safe to say that we’ll see an increase in the use of visuals to communicate with one another. Even with all the existing technology that makes work and life more efficient, we still long for the human touch. Visual images draw us in and force us to feel a deeper connection. For this reason, we’ll start to see more business applications of Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and infographics to reach a broader audience. These new visual communications tools are enabling modern society to more easily digest, interpret and act on information.

In 2013, mobile will continue to impact the way marketers think about messaging and consumption. The concept of “social, local, mobile” (SoLoMo) has demonstrated how consumers want to consume content. As marketers continue to take their websites and apps mobile, their content must address all three dimensions in order to meet users’ needs and desires.

In 2011, eMarketer predicted that U.S. online video ad spend would grow 52.1 percent to $2.16 billion in 2011, before reaching $7.11 billion in 2015. Without a doubt, YouTube and other video channels will play a major role in brand communications. Often underestimated, video – when used properly – can be highly engaging, drive brand loyalty and keep customers coming back for more. Marketers should explore ways to leverage video, even with limited budgets.

What other trends do you expect to emerge? How will your company use new social media, mobile or video applications to reach existing and new audiences? We’d love to hear!