Insights from a group of Ann Arbor Marketers that will help you and your business #MOVEahead.

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MOVE Communications is doing something different to bring together Ann Arbor and Detroit.

I grew up in Detroit and went to grad school in Ann Arbor at U of M. That’s where I met my wife, Carol, and we ended up raising our family. So I have roots in both places. More recently, some of our family members have been living and working in Detroit, and it seemed like a natural to reach out and bring people from both places together. So we're creating an event through our company to make that happen. We call it #MoveAhead.

It’s based on a core belief at MOVE Communications, that everyone should be able to move ahead in their life and their work. To express this we're shooting a video based on the idea of the “first follower.” The video story goes like this:

“There's a man dancing, wildly, in a park. On his own, he looks like a crazy person… until someone joins in. Suddenly, the dancing man doesn't look so crazy anymore. And then it catches on—as the thing to do. More join in, each adding their touch, as they come together. That's a movement.

Start yours.

You've got the moves. Let us help you grow your movement. #MOVEahead.”

Well, we needed a crowd for the last scene—because moving ahead really means doing it together. So we're inviting everyone to come to Roosevelt Park in historic downtown Detroit at 6 PM, Thursday, July 20. They'll first enjoy a free, delicious meal from Cordwood Barbecue, live music from the Daylites, and then choreographer Gina Danene Thompson, break dancer Maurice Archer, and director Jim Pinard will lead our crowd of 100 to 200 people to start moving together. As a group in motion, we'll be creating the end shot of the video where the drone camera pulls up to see all the people with the city of Detroit in the background.

We decided to shoot the video in Roosevelt Park near the former Michigan Central train station because it sets us in the Corktown neighborhood and gives a great opportunity for people from the neighborhood to join us along with others from Detroit and Ann Arbor.

No one can really go it alone. And we're all aware of how many barriers get put up between people that prevent us from moving ahead together. This event is one small expression of getting us to move together, and just maybe will create a small ripple effect for good.

We hope you can join us. #MOVEahead

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The Power of Purpose: Advancing Senior Care through Knowledge and Advocacy

Do you know who your state representative and senator are—not federal, but state?

Do you know how many votes it takes in Michigan for a bill to pass in the senate? In the house?

Is Michigan’s legislative body called a congress or a legislature?

These were all questions posed to me and about 400 attendees recently at the beginning of the LeadingAge of Michigan annual conference. Why these questions…especially at a conference focused on helping non-profit continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) and in-home service providers address the needs of seniors?

Because they showed us that, to best serve our senior citizens, we need to advocate on their behalf.

1. Become an influencer.

Our work as professionals in this industry requires that we find ways to advocate for the specific health and wellness needs of seniors. To do that we need to be aware of the issues in local and state government and how to make connection with those representing us. When these questions were asked of the room, the majority of us, to our chagrin, did not know the answers. Our civic involvement was discovered to be lacking, both as individuals and as organizations. Low involvement means low influence.

2. Know your stuff.

These questions were not the only questions posed at the conference. Great interaction regarding policy, employee engagement, stress management, training, infrastructure, finance, future trends and marketing were posed at the general sessions as well as in some 30 workshops.

3. Don’t get too comfortable.

Timothy Skubick was our gadfly in the opening session on Monday. With unapologetic directness, he probed into our knowledge of all things happening in Lansing, the state capital of Michigan. Skubick hosts “Off the Record” on WKAR PBS, the longest running Michigan political affairs and analysis program on television. He made it uncomfortable—for our good—as he went from person to person around the room digging away with tough questions about the industry and our connection to the legislative process. Of course, as a Michigan State University Spartan his first question was, “Could everyone who is a University of Michigan fan stand?” And once they did, he asked them to leave the room!

4. Hold yourselves and others to account.

Kasia Roelant, Director of Member Relations, LeadingAge Michigan, did an excellent job with her team putting together a breadth of content and presenters. One that I found particularly interesting was a presentation by President and CEO of Affirmant Health Partners, Dr. William Mayer. Affirmant is what is known as a super-CIN, a Clinically Integrated Network. CIN’s allow smaller systems, hospitals, and physician organizations to leverage infrastructure costs, governance and health management as well as financial risk while retaining their independence. Affirmant has been approved as one of the six new Medicare-accountable care organizations (ACOs) in Michigan. Dr. Mayer’s point was that current rate of increase in health care is unsustainable. It will bankrupt us. So a different solution must be developed. How do we hold one another accountable to achieve this? Affirmant’s approach is to require financial risk on the part of the CIN but within an arrangement with health systems that guarantees a scale of patients to make significant change possible, makes big data sharing possible and allows for participation in a financial up side. Keep an eye on their progress.

5. Live with purpose.

The theme of this year’s conference was The Power of Purpose. Dave Herbel, President and CEO of LeadingAge Michigan gave this perspective: “This theme speaks to mission-based providers in terms of how we collaborate, share our vision, make a difference in the lives of those we serve and collectively transform the aging experience. Purpose is one of our defining characteristics as human beings and it’s a fundamental component of a fulfilling life. We all crave purpose…it helps us find meaning and live longer. Studies show that people who seek meaning beyond themselves are healthier, happier, and live longer. Together, with purpose in our lives, we can accomplish more than each of us can alone.” As we live with purpose, we will find ourselves growing. And that is one of our greatest gifts in life to ourselves and to others.

6. Leverage the power of collaboration.

As I attended, I felt a real sense of camaraderie and a spirit of collaboration. The attendees are all trying to deliver, or support the delivery of compassionate human care. Those on the frontlines have the daily challenge of servicing individual clients whose situations require attention to detail and a commitment to continually find ways to enrich their lives even if certain capabilities are waning. I witnessed at the conference a level of honest conversation and encouragement that reassured me of the value of meeting together and reaching out to find help during the year.

7. Be tenacious.

The workshop I led was on Deepening Brand Engagement through Storytelling. I started my session by retelling the Aesop fable of The Tortoise and the Hare. You remember the plot—the busy rabbit, full of himself, challenges the slow turtle to a race. Interestingly, after all of these years, the tortoise still wins the race. I encouraged my audience that marketing and really service to seniors is not a sprint but a distance race that takes commitment, patience and tenacity. But if you follow through, you will see winning outcomes.

So, after gaining insight at the conference, I came home to my family and, around the dinner table, we looked up the answers to Skubick’s questions:

  • Jim Hune is the state senator representing the 22nd State District where my family lives. He is one of 38 senators.
  • Donna Lisinski is the state representative of House District 52. Donna is one of 110 state representatives.
  • Michigan’s legislative body is referred to as a legislature. Congress is the federal legislature.

OK. A few questions for you.

  • Do you know your state senator and representative?
  • Check me on this one and email me to let me know if I’m right or wrong: It takes 20 votes in the Michigan Senate and 56 votes in the House to pass a bill.

Be a Tortoise. Go deep. Stay Involved!

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We hear a lot these days about how we are an image-driven society. Selfies on Facebook, pins on Pinterest, YouTube videos. There’s no question that visuals have attraction. And yes, a picture can be worth more than a thousand words in its ability to imprint an image on the mind. But let’s flip this for a moment. Go counter to current conventional wisdom. What about the power of words to ignite the imagination and stir the heart?

“Government of the people, for the people, by the people shall not perish from the earth.” —Abraham Lincoln

“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” —John F Kennedy

“I have a dream…” —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“E = MC2” —Albert Einstein

“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” —Mother Teresa

“You can imprison a man, but not an idea. You can exile a man, but not an idea. You can kill a man, but not an idea.” —Benazir Bhutto

Words can sink deep into the psyche and when they do, they change the course of history by stirring women and men to action. They inspire courage when all around seems hopeless. They paint a vision of what could be. They remind us of what is important and what should be sacrificed for.

Likewise, in business, words can change the playing field by framing an idea.

The world is flat.

Seven Habits of…

From Good to Great.

Lean in.

Start with Why.

And you have access to this power, to the power of words, as you market your business. It is the words of your story and the ideas you communicate that ultimately determine how well you connect in the market. Because words carry your clarion call to action and catapult your brand out of the clutter.

“Just Do It.”

“When You Care Enough to Send the Very Best.”

“Finger Lickin’ Good.”

“Melts In Your Mouth, Not In Your Hand.”

“The World On Time.”

“Zoom Zoom.”

“Think Different.”

What will you ignite in the minds of your customers about you? Sure, show some pictures—especially since they are now part of your searchable content by Google and contribute to your SEO strength—but don’t forget to capture some places in the heart, then go deep into the soul, through the power of words. That’s not just searchable, it will get people talking then returning to your brand.

If you feel you need some word work, consider getting in touch with our wordsmithing team.

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I heard a great story recently. Many of you may have heard it already if you love the outdoors.

It's about REI. Their point of view as a company is that a life well spent is a life spent outdoors. This became real in the lives of its staff and customers in a new way on Black Friday 2015.

We know that Black Friday is traditionally a major shopping day and retailers count on large crowds to help make their sales numbers for the holiday season. REI took a different approach. They decided to close their 143 stores on the day after Thanksgiving and pay their 14,000 employees for the day off so they would get out and enjoy the outdoors…and they encouraged their customers to do the same.

Time outdoors makes you healthier and happier. And there are so many ways to get out. No need to be extreme. Just find a place near you, then open the door and head outside.

Seemed like a risk to go counter to the retail trend. But what happened is that REI customers, when they heard about it through a video announcement and social media, were inspired that this brand was behaving in a fashion that was congruent with its values. And perhaps more powerfully, congruent with the values of these customers—with what was inside them. And that was—to get outside.

Millions of supporters chose to #OptOutside.


“What began as a group of 23 mountain climbing buddies is now the nation's largest consumer cooperative. But no matter how large we grow, our roots remain firmly planted in the outdoors…Our core purpose guides everything we do: we all work to inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.”

What happened? Loyalty grew and along with it, sales. These customers in support of REI came back the next week and the company sales went beyond what they would have on a normal Black Friday. Why? Because it was authentic. It wasn't a trick to fool the customer into coming in later. It was an authentic statement about why REI exists and what they believe in. It gave a unique opportunity for REI’s staff and customers to live into those values in a new and unique way and create their own stories outdoors.

Marketing is about building relationships with people—your customers, your staff and your community. Telling your story is one of the most powerful ways to connect with an audience, draw them into the experience of your brand, and ultimately build relationship with them. As REI did, you can shape the future for good by the stories you tell today. The story doesn’t have to be totally unique. It just has to be true to who you are as a company. It could be a story about a member of your team going beyond what was expected in service to a customer. A story of persistence on the part of a team member to strengthen stability in your organization through an improvement in your IT systems. A story about your company’s involvement in a community cause. A story about a product you're rolling out and how this fulfills your promise in a new way. Whatever the story, let it be authentic to who you are as a firm—something that expresses your values and how you live out your mission.

As a leader in your firm, you have to decide each day how you will allocate your time. At first, telling a story may not seem like a wise use of that time or a critical business function. Try it. You might be surprised. Just like it happened for REI, it could change the narrative of your bottom line for the better. It’s not rocket science. But it can have rocket power to take you places you’ve never been before. Like outside.

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Looking Toward the Future of Senior Care Marketing

As MOVE Communications looks back at the past year, one event that stood out for us was LeadingAge’s Annual Meeting and Expo in Indianapolis over Halloween weekend. There’s no better way to immerse yourself in the non-profit senior living field than to attend the Annual Meeting and Expo!

The 2016 edition featured keynote presentations by national and international figures ranging from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charles Duhigg (author of Smarter Faster Better) to Angela Duckworth (author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance) to neurosurgeon and medical journalist Sanjay Gupta (author of Chasing Life) plus a raft of education breakout sessions, plus, of course, vendor booths.

But what I remember most is conversations at LeadingAge Michigan’s “Michigan Night Out,” held at the NCAA Hall of Champions that Monday night. Amid colorful exhibits featuring college athletes in pursuit of excellence and victory, representatives of Michigan’s leading senior services organizations chatted informally, sharing perspectives on where the field has been and where they see it going as they pursue excellence and victory serving the growing senior population.

I felt privileged to be part of multiple conversations about improving and expanding care options. Here are just three samples.


Presbyterian Villages of Michigan is the state’s largest non-profit provider of senior care services, with 29 senior living communities across the state, including 8 in Detroit alone (and another under construction there).

The organization focuses on increasing the availability of quality senior services in the state, especially to financially challenged populations. PVM has invested more than $67 million in six low-income senior communities in the city of Detroit, significantly contributing to revitalization in each of the neighborhoods. According to its website, PVM is ranked 75th nationwide by LeadingAge based on total senior living units, and 9th based on affordable housing units.

I met several PVM leaders, and was struck by their broad experience, professionalism and commitment. In the course of conversation, Board Chair George Millush, Jr., expressed resolutely that serving the financially challenged is central to PVM’s  mission—and that if that ever changed, he would no longer have personal interest in participating in the work! This kind of dedication to core values is key to the senior care field, whatever niche you or your organization fills.

UNIDINE: Fresh Food, Fresh Thinking

We also spoke with Susan McGinley, VP of Operations at Unidine’s Senior Living Culinary Group. Unidine’s focus is on improving the physical health of CRCC residents—and the financial health of CRCCs themselves—by improving the nutritional quality, taste, and presentation of foods using fresh, natural ingredients, cooked from scratch in-house.

It’s no secret that pre-packaged foods are rife with unhealthy ingredients. Susan was shocked to find the daily intake of salt at one client site to be 12,000 mg—nearly 5 times the government’s RDA of 2,300 mg! Of course, that has health ramifications, especially for older people, such as increased risk of swelling and altering the effectiveness of medications. Susan’s team is changing that site’s menu, carefully weaning residents off of the high-salt diet.

Unidine’s “Lead with Dining” approach integrates restaurant-style dining into a CRCC’s care model, not only to promote happier residents, but to increase occupancy, improve clinical outcomes, reduce hospital readmissions and control costs. The program includes training for dining and nutrition staff to help them recognize changes in a resident’s condition that may signal trouble.

Susan’s dedication to the health of her client’s residents was clear and inspiring.

FELICIAN SISTERS: Industry Perspective

Based in Chicago, David Ward is Senior Ministry Advisor and Executive VP of Senior Living & Healthcare for Felician Services, which operates nine residential senior care centers nationwide, including three in Livonia: Angela Hospice, Senior Clergy Village, and Marywood Nursing Center.

What struck me most about David was his joy—despite decades in the trenches of healthcare and senior care planning and administration. I was also impressed by his long-range perspective (and his command of the numbers!), drawn from experience in both the public and private sectors.

One observation particularly hit me. When David was working at CMS back in the ’70s, it was already planning ahead for the demographic shift from baby boomers to senior boomers. But the changes envisioned then, he said, are only now truly being implemented in the industry.

Looking Ahead

It’s exciting to see innovations in senior care. As David’s reflections indicate, we have to make up for lost time. Thanks is due to LeadingAge (and LeadingAge Michigan!) for their work supporting and linking senior care providers with each other and with organizations providing them services. We at MOVE Communications were honored to be welcomed among such a dedicated group of folks, and look forward to working with you as the new year unfolds.

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Staying on top of developing treatments can help differentiate your senior care organization.

Some of us at MOVE recently attended the Leading Age conference for senior care organizations. One of our key takeaways was how staying abreast of industry knowledge can help senior care organizations differentiate themselves in a competitive market. By demonstrating an awareness of the latest treatments, these organizations can show that they are working to provide the best care for their residents. As an example, we’d like to share some of what we learned from the conference regarding Alzheimer’s treatments.

Alternatives to Drug-based Alzheimer’s Interventions

The big disappointment in senior health news last October was the failure of Eli Lilly’s experimental Alzheimer’s drug, solanezumab, to yield results any better than a placebo in their latest clinical trial. “It’s not going to be disease-modifying therapy for mild patients, so that’s heartbreaking,” said Lilly’s incoming president, Dave Ricks. In fact, the company announced it no longer plans to seek regulatory approval for use of the drug in treating symptomatic patients.

While the search for a medication that can stall or reverse Alzheimer’s continues, non-pharmaceutical approaches have already shown promise not only for symptom relief, but for dementia prevention.

Symptom Relief and Reduction of Dementia Onset

At their 2016 Annual Meeting in Indianapolis in November, keynote speaker Sanjay Gupta highlighted an NIH-funded, longitudinal study called Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE). This study of over 2800 seniors showed cognitive improvements—processing speed and reasoning abilities—in subjects who participated in ten, 1- to 2-hour cognitive training sessions over a 5-week period. Remarkably, the improvements persisted for 10 years after the original training sessions. Even more encouraging was the 33% reduction in dementia onset over the 10-year period for those who participated in the processing speed portion of the training, compared with a control group. The reduction was even more significant (45%) for those who took “booster” training. The processing speed training software used in the study is now commercially available for individual use at www.BrainHQ.com.

Symptom Relief and Reduced Medication

Also at the LeadingAge meeting, LeadingAge conferred their 2016 National Excellence in Research and Education Award on a recent study called the Birdsong Initiative. This six-month study showed statistically significant improvements in symptoms both for dementia patients and for their care-givers when the patients regularly used touch-screen computers to interact with “enriching content customized to their personal interests and cognitive ability.” In addition to improved ratings on the Affect Balance Scale (measuring psychological well-being), 40% of patients in the study were able to have their antipsychotic drug doses reduced, with the potential for lessening or avoiding the side-effects associated with these medications. The study also resulted in reduction of systolic blood pressure—a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease for people over 50—for residents using the computers. Plus, caregivers experienced reduced stress based on the Perceived Stress Scale.

“We can improve lives of those suffering with dementia through creative, non-pharmaceutical approaches,” said J. Benjamin Unkle, Jr., CEO of Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay, the senior care facility whose Foundation Board Member Susan Birdsong, proposed and funded the touch-screen computer study. The research was conducted at Westminster-Canterbury’s Hoy Nursing Care Center in 2015 in conjunction with the Eastern Virginia Medical School.

Sharing the News

As prospects in your market consider various senior care services, they want to find organizations that they trust and that offer exceptional value. One way to achieve this is by providing insights on emerging therapy breakthroughs. Your organization can distinguish itself as a reliable destination for relevant and authoritative content, which you can share on your website, or in an email campaign or monthly newsletter. Or, like Westminster-Caterbury, you can even serve as a research collaborator and let your community know about your involvement.


Eli Lilly and Solanezumab

Alzheimer’s drug fails in large trial.

Experimental Alzheimer's drug Solanezumab fails in large trial.


Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease: What Do We Know?

Training improves cognitive abilities of older adults

Cognitive training shows staying power


Birdsong Initiative

Study Shows Computer Engagement Improves Life for Those with Dementia, Reduces Caregiver Stress

Birdsong initiative shows success with reducing antipsychotics

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Senior Care Storytelling Lessons from LeadingAge 2016

A 75-year-old man visits his doctor. After giving the man a physical and running a series of tests, the doctor declares the man healthy. “What does that mean, doc? I mean, am I going to live to 85?” “Well,” the doctor asks, “do you drink much alcohol?” “No,” the man replies. “Do you eat many fatty or high-sugar foods?” “No.” “Do you participate in any risky sports?” “No.” The questions continue and, each time, the man answers, “No.” Finally, the doctor asks, “Then why would you want to live to be 85?”

Dr. Sanjay Gupta used this story (paraphrased here) in his keynote address at LeadingAge’s 2016 Annual Meeting and Expo in Indianapolis last week to illustrate his theme: Looking at Longevity.

His talk asked the question: Why do we want to live longer? What makes living meaningful for us? Spanning topics ranging from nutrition to technology, the upshot of Gupta’s presentation was that the person’s individual story matters. The Individual’s perspective and sense of purpose should be the driving forces behind our decisions and behaviors. Senior living organizations can play an important role in helping individuals live that out intentionally.

The Brain Story

Of course, as a neurosurgeon, Gupta talked about the brain, but less about surgery than about the relationship between aging and memory, reasoning, processing speed, motivation, and dementia. He pointed to a ten-year study which indicated that spending 10 hours over 5 weeks playing an Internet-based game designed to increase brain processing speed dramatically reduces the likelihood of developing dementia.

The Nutrition Story

Gupta also talked about nutrition: About balanced meals (eat 7 colors of food per day, and you probably won’t need vitamin and mineral supplements). About how the low-fat craze in American culture led to the damage of a high-sugar food diet (cut sugar in half for 10 days, he said, and you can significantly reduce your likelihood of getting diabetes). Despite nutrition’s importance to health, Gupta pointed out that most doctors aren’t trained in it. The medical world, he explained, is often geared more toward “disaster mitigation” rather than wellness optimization.

The Attitude Story

So much of our approach to aging boils down to how we view aging in ourselves and others. Studies confirm what we know anecdotally: our views change as we age. The older we are, for example, the less we tend to identify as feeling our age. Gupta urged that we keep our minds active by doing new things. Continuing to take on challenges that are meaningful to us matters. Making an impact on other people’s lives matters. “When was the last time you did something for the first time? Do something every day that is new, that feels risky. It will stimulate your brain and promote health.”

Marketing Success in senior care is a matter of connecting your story with your customers’ stories.

While Gupta’s work spans medicine and journalism, senior care organizations’ work spans an even broader range of fields: medicine, social services, housing... and marketing.

What stories drive you and your customers? What makes life meaningful for them? How does context affect their desires and choices? What makes serving them meaningful for you? What successes encourage you? What challenges inspire you to do things differently? These are the stories you must tell and as you do, you will attract those who believe there’s good reason to live longer.

Gupta is one of a handful of doctors who have successfully spanned the fields of medicine and journalism. A practicing neurosurgeon, Gupta is also an Emmy-award winning correspondent for CNN and CBS, a Time magazine columnist, and the author of several New York Times bestselling books, including a novel that was adapted into a television series. View Dr. Gupta’s CNN bio and some of his broadcast reports here.

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Living your brand story

Your marketing materials tell a story about your organization. Does your organization live that story?

Marna has just moved into a newly refurbished apartment in at SCF Senior Care Facility. On her second day, she notices a large puddle of water on the bathroom floor between the toilet and shower, and calls building services. Within 5 minutes, an engineer has arrived to investigate.

Steve is cheerful and polite. He checks out the toilet—no problems there—and then discovers that the new shower door wasn’t hung properly. Water easily splashes around the door frame and onto the floor.

In another 5 minutes, he has adjusted the door so it hangs square and blocks splashed water. Marna thanks him for coming so quickly. “We have 5 engineers on staff,” explains Steve. “If it were a weekend, you might have had to wait a little longer, but usually we’re able to take care of things right away.”

Brand engagement one story at at time

Marna has cheerfully told this story to both family and friends. Her experience speaks volumes about SCF’s care for its residents. Their response was immediate. The solution was quick. The repair rep was kind. The building supervisor even stopped by later to make sure everything was OK.

Creating your brand engagement stories

Does your facility have a story like this to tell? If so, tell it! If not, start reshaping your organization’s internal narrative (including your policies and practices) so you do have stories like this to tell.

Stories are how customers engage with your brand. The stories you tell about yourself set their expectations—and the expectations of your staff. The stories they tell about you confirm or refute your brand claims.

Your brand engagement is effective only when your customer experience matches the story you tell.

Tell it!

Live it!

Tell it again!

Have questions about how to increase your brand engagement through storytelling? We’re ready to help. Contact us at dhart@movecommunications.com.

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Brand engagement through stories

The goal of marketing is for customers and employees to engage with your brand—not just to recognize your name or logo or tag line, but to experience the value of the brand that these represent. This happens (or fails to) each time a customer interacts with your organization, whether on site, by phone, via the Internet, at a community seminar presentation, or in any other way.

A tale of two brand stories

Lillian is 95. She just moved into Snappy Senior Living. Now, she is standing in front of an elevator, gripping her walker as she navigates her new home for the first time without her daughter’s help. On the wall are four buttons, arranged vertically. The two on the bottom are plain white. The next one has a red metallic ring around it. The top one has a black ring. Nothing is marked ”UP” or “DOWN.”

Lillian hesitates. She finally pushes the bottom button – an educated guess, but still a guess – and the elevator doors open. As Lillian turns her walker, the doors shut and she is left still standing outside. She pauses, reaches back to press the button again, readies herself, and rushes inside when the doors open. Then she turns and searches the dimly lit panel for the correct button to take her down to the dining hall.

Across town, Elizabeth is standing in front of the elevator at her new home, Care Counts Senior Campus. The two buttons on the wall are clearly labeled “UP” and “DOWN.” Without a second thought, Elizabeth presses the one marked “UP” and, when the doors open, slowly and carefully enters the elevator. The doors remain open long enough for her to take her time. Once inside the cheerfully lit space, Elizabeth quickly finds the button to take her up to her second floor apartment.

Which story can your organization own?

If the first brand story is yours, it’s time to change it. It’s an example of failing to care for your residents and visitors. Like Lillian, you’re heading down. But if the second brand story is yours, tell it! It’s part of the way you subtly but effectively care for your residents and visitors. It is one of the many little scenes that contribute to the story of who you are as an organization and where you are headed. And, like Elizabeth, you’re going up!

Brand engagement success

Successful brand engagement occurs when the sum of your customers’ and employees’ interactions form a consistent and coherent, positive story. This happens when you carefully develop and disseminate not only your tag lines and vision statements, but when you implement and repeatedly tell the story organization-wide.


If you have questions about brand engagement, or would like help telling your story, contact us at dhart@movecommunications.com.

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Branding is more than just a logo.

We talk a lot about branding: brand awareness, brand reputation, brand storytelling… But what is a brand to begin with? A logo? A product? A font set and some fancy style guides?

All of these things make a brand, but a brand itself is more than the sum of its parts.

What does your company stand for?

Does your company hold transparency and efficiency as core values? Is environmental sustainability an intrinsic part of your organization? Maybe you believe in giving back to the local community, or lowering technological barriers through open-source software.

Whatever your values are, they should form a key part of your brand. But they won’t if they aren’t embraced by your company, because your customers need to see these values to believe in them.

In other words, you may say you’re an honest person. You may even care very much about honesty. But if you don’t behave in a honest fashion, then no one will perceive you as being honest. If your company says it values transparency, but isn’t actually transparent, then transparency isn’t part of its brand.

Your relationship with your customer defines your brand.

At the end of the day, you can’t define your brand as any single, concrete element of your company. It’s more of an abstract concept: anytime anyone interacts with your company, they experience your brand. That means they experience your brand when they:

  • look up your website
  • receive an email from a member of your company
  • enter your office building or brick-and-mortar store
  • make a customer service call
  • see you on social media
  • hear about your business from a friend

So if you want to build your brand and incorporate into it the values you hold dear, then those values have to be present in each of those interactions:

  • If you value transparency, your customer has to be able to find the information they need when they look at your website.
  • If you value efficiency, your emails should be clear and to the point without leaving out crucial information.
  • If you value environmental sustainability, your customers should be able to find recycling bins when they walk into your location.

Your brand is defined by how a customer feels whenever they interact with your company. Have you made that relationship a positive one?

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"A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person." —Jeff Bezos

How well do you guard your reputation? If you're like most of us, you care what people say about you. You want to leave a positive impression, and you want to be remembered for your good qualities.

Your brand represents your company in the same way your reputation stands for you as an individual. How well do you care for it?



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What is Your Brand Story?

If a reporter were to tell the story of your company or organization, what would she say? What vignettes would she include to illustrate what you do, how you do it, and why you do it?

Don’t wait for a reporter. Tell the story yourself!

Stories define who we are--individually, as families, as organizations, as societies. They tell who we are and where we have been. They tell where we are headed, and they determine whether or not we will get there.

Your Story Matters for Brand Engagement

Stories are the best way for people—employees and customers alike—to engage with your brand.

Our brains process stories differently from individual facts and statistics. We forget lists. We forget bullet points. But we remember stories. They create connections and emotions that mere facts often don’t. Your constituents are much more likely to remember you if you present your strengths in the form of stories.

The Best Brand Stories are Human Stories

The best brand stories are stories about people, about how your services, products, or staff have improved their lives.

So, choose a scene from your organization’s story that illustrates who you are and where you are headed. Then tell your story.

Tell it to your staff.

Tell it to prospective employees.

Tell it to customers.

Tell it to prospective customers.

Tell it to yourself.

Tell it to the world.


Let MOVE Communications help you tell your story to increase your brand engagement. Contact us at dhart@movecommunications.com.

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How to make an advertisement into a podcast feature

My brother recently introduced me to a new podcast, Mystery Show, which, if you haven’t listened it it already, you should. The premise is simple: if you have a mystery in your life which needs solving, Starlee Kine will be your sleuth. The only rule is it can’t be solved via the Internet.

Starlee narrates her investigation with all the intimate, disarming charm inherent to the podcast genre. However, as endearing as the show is itself, it also features my newest favorite advertisement—for Kind Snacks.

Starlee’s advert on her podcast begins in the standard manner: she reads off some scripted ad copy leading up to one of Kind’s taglines: “ingredients you can see and pronounce.” This is where genius strikes: The Ingredient List.

Get the cast involved

The Ingredient List is a show within the show. In my favorite installment, “Cinnamon,” one of the cast members explains, “Kind snacks are made from ingredients you can see and pronounce, except: little kids can’t pronounce cinnamon. So can we just have kids trying to say cinnamon for 30 seconds?”

And then follows 30 seconds of the host of the show and other cast members trying to coax little kids to say cinnamon. It is cute, funny, memorable.

What’s impressive here is that the ad is new every time. The Ingredient List features a new ingredient from a Kind snack each week, and then it plays around with that ingredient. “Quinoa,” for instance, which you can’t pronounce when your mouth is full. Or “Mixed nuts,” which you can see, pronounce, and use to prank your friends.

And much like the “MailKimp” ad from Serial, the success of this ad hinges on authenticity. Because we can hear the cast having fun with the ad, we believe them when they promote the product. And from their side of things, they get a chance to run an ad that stays in keeping with the spirit of their show.

Turn your ad into a segment of the show

Mystery Show’s Kind advertisement does something that very few advertising campaigns are able to accomplish: it advertises the show as much as the product. It’s kind of like how half the Super Bowl audience tunes in for the legendary commercials rather than the game itself. The advertising entertains so well that we want more of it. We look forward to it coming on. When it starts, we ask others to be quiet so that we can listen.

So if you’re looking for a podcast to sponsor, here are our top takeaways:

  • Don’t just pick a podcast based on its audience size. Think about who they are, and if they fit in with your brand. Do the hosts like and use your product? Will a promo from them feel authentic?
  • Involve the cast in the writing of your ad as much as possible. Have them work with your writers so that they have something that feels as much a part of their podcast’s brand as your own. Think about the ad spot as if you are promoting each other.
  • Podcasts are a more intimate, casual genre than other mediums, so don’t be afraid to do something that sounds more off the cuff.

Do you run a podcast? What kind of relationship do you like to build with your sponsors?


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Which numbers matter on social media?

Social media is full of metrics: How many impressions did your advertisement have? How many likes, shares, retweets, and faves did your post generate? How many people clicked through to your website? How many followers do you have?

All of these mean different things depending on the channel you’re on, but the question is, which of these numbers are the most important? The metrics can largely be broken into three groups: audience size, views, and engagement. Here’s a breakdown of what they mean and how you should value them in relation to your sales efforts.

How big is your audience?

On Facebook, your audience size is determined by the number of people who like your page, while on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, your followers are your audience. Different nomenclature, same concept. These are the folk who have asked to hear from you, specifically, and your posts will appear on their feed. You don’t have to pay anything to speak to these people, so the larger you grow this number the lower the cost of getting your message out.

As we said previously, you want to give your fans a lot of love, but don’t push a sale too hard or you’ll push them away.

Who’s seeing your content?

When you make a post, you want to know how far it goes. This is usually measured by the number of impressions the post received, or by how many people the post reached. The difference between the two is that while reach measures the number of people who saw your post, impressions measure how many times it was seen (even if it was seen by the same person multiple times).

The number of impressions can get quite high, particularly if you’re putting money into an advertising campaign. However, their value is limited. Imagine you’ve put up a billboard on the side of the highway: the number of people driving by who see your billboard are equivalent to your impressions. But you don’t know if “seeing your billboard” means if they responded to it, or even if they read it fully.

This doesn’t mean impressions are worthless. They do help build awareness for your brand, meaning that if someone sees your advertising repeatedly they may become more familiar with who you are. It is, however, important not to be too focused on them simply because they are a large number.

What is your engagement rate?

Engagement is measured as your cumulative likes, shares, retweets, clicks, comments, etc. In short, any time someone interacts with your content in a meaningful way, it counts toward engagement. These numbers will always be significantly smaller than your impressions, but they carry much more weight because they express interest. Track your engagement numbers month-to-month and compare them against averages in your industry to get an idea of how you’re doing.

Will these numbers help me build sales?

When you get down to the brass tacks, marketing efforts that don’t lead to sales at a certain point waste your time and money. Selling on social media can be fast for some (online retailers) and slow for others (B2B services), but only dedicated effort will get you there.

With all the excitement and publicity viral videos bring, there can be an illusion that social media is a fast track for success. In the real word, social media is much more like a workout: show up every day, put in your best effort, and over time you’ll build your brand and see the result in sales.

Just don’t expect it to happen overnight.

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Building a fan base for your brand on social media

For decades, traditional advertising appeared as an interruption to daily life. Television and radio, billboards and magazine inserts were all about grabbing your attention during otherwise routine activities: the ad itself was never the destination.

Until the Internet.

Today, social media channels, while not ads per say, have provided a venue for advertising that audiences have voluntarily chosen to be a part of. Consumers have adopted brands as part of their identity. They have become fans.

This is not to say disruptive advertising is a thing of the past: most advertising is still an interruption (and it probably always will be). If you’re new on the scene and trying to get people to know who you are, you have to say “hello” somehow. But once people have shaken your hand (i.e. opted-in to your social media channel), you’re no longer working with a cold audience. You’re speaking to people who have chosen to listen to you.

You have to prove your value to them. And that means NOT treating your social media like an advertising feed.

Avoiding the hard sell on social media

In order to have an effective presence on social media, you must stay focused on your audience. They are not interested in a relentless stream of sales pitches.

Imagine you are a tire company. You could waste a lot of time (and money) on social media pushing a lot of coupons and sales that will get exactly zero people excited. Why? Because no one buys tires on impulse. They are in the market maybe about once a year or so (per vehicle they own), or seasonally depending on your climate. If you’re trying to convince them to go buy tires TODAY, you’re wasting your breath.

Instead, you want to be sure that on the day they choose to go buy tires, you are the first company that comes to mind. And you do this by establishing trust and providing value up front. For instance: You could put out tips for how to check your tire pressure, advice about which tires will work best for your climate, and safety infographics about how keeping your tires in good order will help prevent accidents.

And then, when Fall rolls around and the opportune moment arrives, you can promote a special sale on winter tires. Because by then, not only do you have their trust, you’ve earned it as well.

Respect your audience

Cultivating a fan base is about putting them first. It’s about showing them you’re worth their time by giving them value and not asking too much in return. It’s about the relationship you’ve built with your customer, about dialog, and about being a good listener more than just a good talker.

Because in the end, social media is about people. As in: real human beings on the other end of that Internet connection who will be liking, sharing, and retweeting your brand pro bono, simply because they love you and they want other people to love you as well.

Treat them well.

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Is there such a thing as efficient procrastination?

One thing the team over here at MOVE loves doing (maybe too much) is talking about how to be better:

How to be more efficient, more fun, more dynamic.

How to build a process as a team without stifling the workflows of individuals.

How to tell a better story—for ourselves and for our clients.

Recently, I’ve been advocating for a “working ahead” strategy to take some of the stress off of approaching deadlines and allow more time for the approval process. Anxiety is like carbon monoxide in a work environment—an odorless, stifling killer—so anything to take the pressure off seemed like a winning strategy.

And then I read this article in the New York Times on the virtues of procrastination. It connected with a few other things jangling around in my head and shook loose some of my assumptions regarding time management and creativity. If procrastination can lead to more creative thinking, could there be a way to procrastinate efficiently?

Is that as oxymoronic as it sounds?

Surprisingly, I think not.

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When we think of creativity as something mysterious and magical, we put it out of our own reach. Creativity is for everyone, not just the chosen few.

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Fear of failure raises our inhibitions and keeps us from being able to make the creative leaps we need to produce extraordinary work.

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If you’re familiar with content marketing, you know it’s a valuable way both to serve your community and to reach potential customers. But how does a content marketer actually disseminate marketing content? What venues and formats are most effective?

To answer that question, I called my mother. Here’s her top 5 list.

  1. E-newsletters. “I love e-newsletters. They can hold lots of info, and I can save them without cluttering my coffee table. Click, click, click, and I’ve filed it on my computer.”
  2. In-Person Events. “We seniors like to get out, you know. Speaking of which, you should do a presentation at my senior center. I could recommend you. Or you could try the Rotary Club, the ‘Y,’ religious groups, the public library, and such. Be sure they have coffee and donuts, honey. I don’t learn well when I’m hungry.”
  3. Photos and Illustrations. “That ol’ adage, ‘a picture’s worth a thousand words,’ is still true, though I hear they’re calling them ‘memes’ now. A good illustration will catch my attention every time!”
  4. Social media. “Some of us seniors are pretty tech savvy, you know. We use Twitter, Facebook, Google, Instagram! And Pinterest! I heard that the biggest growth segment among Pinterest users is senior women! And there’s LinkedIn’s SlideShare. Of course, that’s mostly for your business types, but I’ve picked up some great info there, too.”
  5. Infographics. “I love infographics! They get so much across in such an easy-to-understand format.”

OK, I didn’t really contact my mother. This list is based on research by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. They asked active content marketers what their most effective B2C content marketing formats were, and came up with the above ranking. (See B2C Content Marketing 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America).

The results were different for B2B marketers, with In-Person Events ranked first, followed by Webinars, Case Studies, White Papers, and Videos. (See B2B Content Marketing 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America.)

Other formats mentioned in the two surveys included blogs, direct mail, mobile aps, and website articles. Formats not mentioned include newspaper articles and radio and TV appearances.

And, of course, word of mouth! As my grandmother said, “Call me anytime, honey. I’m a great networker. I’ll spread the word. But I’ve got to hang up now. I’m meeting my friend Mitzy to go to the Swinging Seniors Dance down at the ‘Y.’”

Please contact me at dhart@movecommunications.com with your questions about leveraging your Brand to achieve your sales and marketing goals.

Don Hart is President of MOVE Communications, a brand engagement company, specializing in the Senior Care market.

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The MailChimp ad.

Do you know the one I’m talking about?

The one from Serial?

For those of you who don't know, in the fall of 2014, Serial took the podcasting world by storm in a way no one could have predicted given the largely niche appeal of the genre at that time. With admirable compassion, it told a tragic, compelling, and immensely complicated story which captured the attention of millions and, in the process, made Serial the first podcast to break into mainstream popular culture.

Taking, along with it, the MailChimp ad.

If you’re a fan of Serial, you know the one. It’s such an ingrained part of the show that it’s almost a second theme song—impressive, given how iconic the actual Serial opening is. The audience connected with it to such a degree that, among the lists of crazy “who did it” conspiracy theories, the “Mail …Kimp?” girl made it on the list. Somehow, Serial wouldn’t be the same without it.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the MailChimp ad became almost as much of a phenomenon as the show itself. People care about this ad. They’re fond of it. They miss it when it’s not there. And as achieving that level of cultural identification is every marketer’s dream, we thought we’d take some time to look at the ad and share some of our insights into why it is so beloved.

1. It sounds like Serial.

Over the course of the show, Serial interviewed a wide range of speakers in a variety of settings. So hearing the successive voices saying “MailChimp” at the beginning of the ad didn’t feel like an interruption. This makes sense, since apparently Serial produced the ad themselves (with copy provided by MailChimp). 

2. “Mail… Kimp?”

The mispronunciation is endearing, but the long pause that precedes it is what really grabs your attention. You know what she’s supposed to say, and you’re hanging in suspense for the word to finish. “Kimp” hits you like an elusive punch line at the end of a rambling joke. And those two things, operating in conjunction, are what make the ad memorable.

3. The imperative tagline.

I love imperatives. I try to use them as much as possible, because it cuts down on the number of synapses that have to fire in the brain in order to transmit ad copy into actionable information. There’s nothing to decode or interpret, just a command to follow: “Send better email.” Why yes, I will, thank you. 

4. Social Proof.

“I use MailChimp.” “You do!” “Yes!” The little line at the end seals the deal. It’s that tiny bit of serendipitous dialogue caught, almost by chance, after the ad seems to have actually ended. No one wrote that line—it wasn’t part of the script—but it’s the part that convinces more thoroughly than any other that MailChimp is a product you want to use, because other people use it, and love it so much that they volunteer that information with no ulterior motives.


So, if you’re feeling inspired to try an ad in the Podcasting world, here are a few lessons you can draw from MailChimp:

  • Know your audience. Podcasts are a much more intimate medium than other forms of entertainment, so sponsor a show you have a good relationship with, and see if there’s a way you can work together to create your spot.
  • Be memorable. You probably won’t have to find someone to mispronounce your name, but you will want to make sure something stands out.
  • Be concise. The MailChimp ad is only about twenty seconds and thirty words long, but nothing’s missing.
  • Get someone else to back your product. You’re not cool if you say you’re cool. If someone else says you’re cool, you’re cool.

You want to create an ad your audience is willing to invest in, emotionally. There’s no magic formula, but starting here will put you well on your way. 

And, for the record… 

I use MailChimp.

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