Hats Off to Our Clients!

We’re proud to announce that 15 of our clients won 29 awards at the 51st Annual American Advertising Federation – Houston ADDY Awards.

We congratulate FairfieldNodal, Gatlin’s BBQ, Forum Energy Technologies, Schlumberger, Bristow Group Inc., United Way of Greater Houston, Houston International Festival, Petrofac/Raytheon, BP, Opera in the Heights, Rimkus Consulting Group, Jewish Federation of Houston, Powell Industries, MidSouth BankCorp Inc. and Friends for Life on a star-studded performance.

The ADDY Awards represent the true spirit of creative excellence by recognizing all forms of advertising from media of all types, creative by all sizes and entrants of all levels from anywhere in the world. We want to say thank you for the distinct honor of being recognized for the hard work and creativity of our partnerships.

Our hats are off!

Measuring Marketing Results

Measuring the effectiveness of marketing/communications campaigns is not an easy task, given the increasing complexity of channels, tactics and methodologies available to reach customers today. In addition, companies are faced with a geographically far-reaching and fractured customer base from which information must be gathered.

Step One.

Prior to launching any marketing initiative, it is important to establish goals with the client, both qualitative and quantitative. Some goals will be more measurable than others. An example is “percentage increase in gross sales” vs. “increased name recognition.” Goals and objectives should include:

  • What will success look like?
  • What are the company’s short-term and long-term objectives for the campaign (or item)?
  • What are the qualitative goals? (e.g., increase community awareness, be perceived as the leading provider of xyz service, etc.)
  • What are the quantitative goals? ( e.g., increase sales by __%, increase number of inquiries by ___%, increase gross revenues by ___%.)

Step Two.

Again, prior to launching the campaign, one should establish the baseline measurement. This is particularly true with respect to qualitative, more esoteric objectives. The following are examples of methods to establish baseline measurements:

  • Customer/Employee interviews
  • Online, written surveys
  • Documenting current revenues, number of sales inquiries per month, web traffic, and other quantitative data.

Step Three.

Develop a spreadsheet or database for each tactic, channel and timeline utilized in the marketing campaign. Each of these may require a different type of response mechanism and measurement tool. For example, a website has its own programmable source of user analytics. An on-line or print ad may direct the viewer to a unique landing page via QC, or it may reference a unique phone number. Measuring the success of a trade show might be by documenting the number of business cards collected, or by new business appointments made. An e-blast campaign can identify the number of click-through prospects, and one can track the conversion rate. Social media can be evaluated by number of subscribers and comments. Are sales ahead of the same time in the prior year? Each tactic should be assigned a specific, unique measurement tool.

Step Four.

Track and tabulate results (assign an owner for this task) on an ongoing basis, and make modifications where warranted. Some tactics and channels may be more effective than others, and re-allocations should be made accordingly.

Step Five.

At the end of the designated time period (quarterly, annually), measure results and compare to baseline. Conduct a follow-up survey. Was the ROI significant? (Did the revenue gained from the initiative greatly exceed the cost? For example. Company A spends $24,000/year on a Google Ad words campaign. In the same year, the Ad Words campaign generates a 58% increase in their web traffic (general awareness), and $400,000 increase in gross sales is directly attributable to the campaign.)

Step Six.

On an ongoing basis, solicit feedback from clients and prospects. Capture the informal, qualitative conversations about the campaign. What are they observing in the marketplace, and in their business as a result of the campaign?

Despite the increased complexity of marketing avenues today, the ability to measure results is stronger than ever. If your marketing/communications initiative does not have a measurable outcome, then don’t do it. There is surely a better strategy available.

CONGRADS to all 2012 ADDY Winners

Thanks to our clients, Pennebaker was anything but empty-handed after the 2012 Houston Advertising Federation Awards Ceremony, held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Saturday, February 25, 2012.

We took home 21 ADDY Awards, including 3 Gold, 7 Silver and 11 Citations of Excellence.

But we couldn’t have done it without our clients.

Thanks to United Way of Greater Houston, MidSouth Bancorp, Susan G. Komen for the Cure Houston, Schlumberger, Tuff Breed, BP, Houston Grand Opera, Bristow Group, HCC Insurance Holdings, Inc., Powell Industries, TAM International and Opera in the Heights for making us all look good!


Does Effective Internal Communications = Better Financial Performance?

Does how we communicate with employees affect our financial performance? According to a recent, worldwide study by Towers Watson, the answer is yes.

The study suggests that “organizations that are highly effective in internal communication and change management are over two and a half times as likely to report better financial performance as organizations that are not highly effective at either communication or change management (34% versus 13%).”

So, what constitutes “highly effective communication?” A good question.

Pennebaker would argue that the definition of “highly effective communication” is to convey knowledge or information that provides actionable intelligence, motivates behavior and brings about measurable results.

So, in thinking about communications, a company must start with basic information gathering – who, what, when, where, why and how – taking into account the target audiences’ level of interest and need to know. If the answers to their anticipated questions are clearly stated in the communication, it will help motivate the audience to perform the desired behavior. The outcome is that a company is one step closer to highly effective communications.

How a company delivers the communication adds the “highly” to “effective communication.” How employees will respond to a letter sent via interoffice mail versus how employees will respond to a kick-off party with video communications can, and will, be dramatically different. When thinking about communications, one should not forget to consider the impact the type of media has on the results.

So the next time your organization needs to communicate internally, take a step back and think about how the communication can impact financial performance. But, you don’t have to take our word for it. Read the report, and if you feel compelled to improve your internal communications, give us a call.

Herding Cats: Adventures in the Schlumberger-Smith Brand Integration

HerdingCats_blogHow do you best merge two distinct brand strategies, cultures and business models into the world’s largest oilfield services company?

Charlie Cosad, Schlumberger’s Paris-based Director of Marketing Communications, joined Ward Pennebaker in presenting “Herding Cats: Adventures in the Schlumberger-Smith Brand Integration” at a recent AIGA Houston business lunch.


The merger was announced…the decision was made…now about those brands? Pennebaker and Cosad recounted the approach:

Examine the existing brand strategies for each company.

Schlumberger embraced a monolithic and highly centralized brand strategy, while Smith possessed a decentralized brand strategy with minimal corporate endorsement often limited to their green color. What should the brand strategy be for the combined entities?

Scratch your head.

There were several business factors that played into the final brand strategy decision – existing brand value in the marketplace, if and where the Schlumberger brand could bring extra value and the company’s geographic reach. Based on those criteria, it was decided that some of the Smith companies would retain their names and brand colors. Some would subsume under the Schlumberger brand. The remainder would go through a transition process whereby eventually they would subsume under the Schlumberger brand. Ultimately, the existing brand equity played heavily into the final brand strategy.

Set deadlines.

To throw another cat into the equation, the rebrand had to be accomplished and launched, internally and externally, in 100 days.

The herding begins.

Two central elements enabled setting an aggressive schedule and driving management’s decisions: 1) developing optional business card layouts that represented how each manager would be presented in the marketplace on the day of that first client visit ‘post close’, and 2) how clients around the world would see the brands on company websites.

Determine how decisions affect business functions.

Adding complexity to the merger were the IT challenges of integrating Smith’s numerous web and email domains, so that on the launch date, every employee in the combined company had a Schlumberger ‘IT address’. At the same time, every website had to be incorporated into the Schlumberger online ‘look and feel’, with common navigation and user experience. Because those changes could be happening in the background, on the launch day, it was only necessary to “flip a switch” (ok, a big switch on a weekend night…) to make the changes live.

Communicate. Then communicate again.

Cosad and Pennebaker explained in detail the steps the integration team undertook to ensure that employees understood not only what the changes would be, but more importantly, the business reasons for the decisions – ‘the why’.

The results? Thanks to the coordinated efforts of the brand development and integration teams, the combined company successfully launched the new brands, internally and externally, on schedule in 100 days – at close.

A true miracle in herding cats.

Branding Strategy For Those Who Like to Live Dangerously: 9 Ways to Get It All Wrong

Sure, there are people who know the right ways to build a strong brand, test it, communicate it, and build the kind of brand value that might be the best investment you ever make.

But methodology is for sissies, right? Mavericks in branding, as in everything else, can always do things their own way — and reap the rewards!

If you’re not one for the tried-and-tested, here are nine guiding principles — focused exclusively on the negative — that will help make 2012 full of…um…excitement?

1. Don’t talk to your customers. After all, what do they know? You have dreams, and letting your customers wants and needs get in the way of those would be sheer nonsense. Forge ahead!

2. Don’t get senior management in alignment. Teams are for weaklings. It’s much better to hire bright, capable people and then keep them guessing what the plan is. Or better yet, working against each other on their own independent ideas. Feel the excitement building?

3. Don’t communicate to your employees. Why would an employee want or need to know what your brand stands for? These are simply the people who interact with the customers and represent the company on a day-to-day basis. Don’t confuse them with ideology!

4. Don’t develop the business case. Working out the most profitable areas for your business amounts to a lot of monkey-motion. Just pick what you stand for out of thin air and then spend a fortune promoting it to all the wrong people. That’s the ticket!

5. Don’t develop a launch plan. Better to leak your new logo and concepts sporadically and confuse your customers and employees. Plus, this gives you the opportunity to second-guess the decisions and leaves everyone free to go off in their own directions. Chaos rules!

6. Don’t speak with one voice. Again, unity is for eggheads. Having lots of different messages in the marketplace gives you got lots of ways to play your hand. Integrity not working for you? Try Innovation. Because we’re not worrying about authenticity, you can indeed be everything to all people.

7. Don’t develop graphic standards. After all, who wants to be recognized? Who wants to seem consistent? It’s so much more clever to keep the people guessing, and it keeps you on your toes.

8. Don’t measure and re-evaluate. Why would you start listening now? Really, the best idea is just to keep throwing money around — and sticking to your own opinion. After all, what could go wrong with a good brand? Look at Sears! Oh…right.

9. Don’t develop a brand that’s authentic to you. HUGE waste of time. If another company is doing well with their brand, just copy it — that’ll work. Nobody can tell the difference, right?

If this approach doesn’t appeal to you, we might have one that does. Call Pennebaker to hear what the pros do. We’ll keep you out of the danger zone.
713-963-8607; susan@pennebaker.com or www.pennebaker.com

Shale Gas: Not Dissipating Anytime Soon

Shale gas is an unconventional source of natural gas gathered from shale. Breaking news, I know. But, what happens when the unconventional becomes the conventional? That is the necessary question to be asked by the energy industry about the future role of shale gas. Increasingly important, estimates point to shale gas accounting for nearly half the natural gas production in North America within the next three decades. As the industry trends toward this cleaner fossil fuel, individual companies will need to understand the difference between shale gas and traditional oil plays and how to access this resource.

Simply put, exploration and production is more difficult in a shale gas play. Rock formations with low permeability require a new technique to open the valve to these natural gas reserves. And there are reserves. Abundant, in fact. So how do you tap into shale that cannot be accessed by a traditional well bore? The answer: frac it. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracing,” is a technique that blasts a special water-based cocktail into rock formations to crack and to release trapped natural gas.

So why isn’t everyone fracing outside of the eighteen current states with shale plays? Unfortunately, there are multiple reasons. For one, the results are finicky. Not all wells will produce the same, nor will they necessarily yield the volume they were estimated to hold. There is little correlation between the initial production readings and what is ultimately recovered. Steady performance can abruptly disappear early into the production cycle.

Additionally, there are environmental issues. That water-based cocktail necessary for hydraulic fracturing mentioned earlier? Its list of ingredients includes chemicals, more chemicals, sand, and water. Furthermore, this water must be transported to and from the resource plays by trucks and stored in silos or man made lakes. Naturally, the reuse and storage of treated water brings concern of its impact on drinking water. Not to mention those trucks wearing down the roads between the storage and drill site.

Finally, there are government regulations. Currently, there is no indication that hydraulic fracturing would be outlawed, but a disclosure of the mystery chemicals in the fracturing fluid could lead to trouble with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), depending on the information. Companies must be proactive in their public relations. Opening up could disarm and prevent alarmist sound bites from driving up costs.

Regardless, oil and gas companies face obstacles entering the field. The economic, environmental, and political issues call for changes to technology and organizational structure. But by having the vital information, you can be positioned to transform your company when the evolution of this unconventional gas becomes the conventional. Don’t frac it up.

MAKING IT POSSIBLE: Creating the 2010-11 United Way of Greater Houston campaign

The Power of Possible

In April 2010, we were, once again, standing in front of a blank canvas. The United Way of Greater Houston was about to launch their annual campaign, and it was time to refresh the organization’s look.

To be fair, the canvas was not completely blank.

We have worked with United Way for years, and we know not dwell on the negative. Yes, the statistics about Houston’s social needs are grim, but the results of United Way’s work are equally strong. It has been our task to relate the success stories to our community – to inspire, to show what can be done, and to hope that we can touch even more of those in need.

So, the brainstorming began.

We poured over case studies… Teenager about to graduate thanks to a caring mentor… Mother who is able to work because her son attends affordable, quality childcare… Senior who stays connected, thanks to a community center. Story after story, we saw how seemingly simple acts of help can turn a person’s life around.

In the end, it was our writer, Diana Hickerson, who saw the common thread … ‘How about “Possibilities?”’ Possibilities indeed! We know that everybody wants a good life, families dream of stability, children wish for happy childhoods – but often they need a bridge to turn their dreams into possibilities. And, for the last 88 years, United Way has been that bridge for millions in Houston.

How would you illustrate “possibilities”? We chose to capture people’s hopes and passion in chalk board drawings. Next step: photography.

While the photographer, Felix Sanchez, was building a chalkboard wall in his studio, the United Way team of Anne Neeson, Krista Heide, Ed Davis and others were busy making arrangements with their clients. On June 14, we were ready to start. What followed were two intense, but very rewarding weeks.

We got to meet children in summer programs; seniors rejoicing in their independence; families benefiting from child care services or parenting classes; people in recovery… all excited to participate and eager to share their stories.

We learned that nothing will stand between a child and a chalkboard. Pressing themselves against the board, the kids would swiftly create images of their dreams and passions. We saw rainbows and musical notes, swimming pools and star-filled skies, mathematical formulas and hand-holding families. A woman drew a house – her very own, a dream come true. A senior “held” an apple – grateful for the meal assistance that allows her to continue living independently. Fifteen photo sessions later; we had enough material to move on.


In the next weeks, we would revisit these stories, as they became the fiber of this year’s campaign: present in brochures, posters, ads, website and video.

We were excited to work with Locke Bryan Productions on an inspiring campaign video. Carrying forward the “Possibilities“ theme, Locke Bryan brought the chalkboard drawings to life through animated segments supporting the stories of several beneficiaries. You can view the result at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bk6JqM0Bm_w

The campaign materials can be seen in the download section of the United Way website.


Campaign credits:

Client: United Way of Greater Houston
Writer: Diana Hickerson
Photography: Felix Sanchez
Creative team: Susan Pennebaker (strategy); Halina Dodd (creative direction); Jeffrey McKay (artistic direction); Thomas Moczygemba (design); Ana Cristina Fry (design)

Social Media’s Changing Role in PR

We were really interested in understanding the different ways business are using social media in their communications and public relations efforts, so we conducted an audit of several recent issues of PRSA’s monthly newspaper, Public Relations Tactics, to get a better understanding of the social media phenomenon and how to apply it into our work.

Following are the highlights/best practices:

> Manage your online presence carefully! Watch how your company is being positioned and written about in blogs and on social media sites. If there is a problem, deal with it quickly. Use your social networks to resolve common issues and deliver common messages.

> Organize an online newsroom for media that is easy to navigate and includes such items as press releases available via an RSS feed, media contact info, company history, management roster along with respective bios, Q&A, photography, company stats, graphs and charts, company timeline, links to financial filings, videos and logos. Offer such resources as links to blogs, searchable archives and an event calendar.

> Regularly monitor blogs and social media sites in order to gather the latest news on your company or clients.

> Build social media into your crisis plan. Embrace blogs, Twitter and other mechanisms to get the word out quickly, and expect others to do the same.

> If you blog or tweet, whether on your own time or company time, be careful. The two lines are almost impossible to draw. Don’t say anything that you wouldn’t want your employer or a client to read – because more than likely, they will.

> Recognize the increasing relevance of bloggers in the news cycle – be prepared to treat bloggers like reporters and offer them comparable access. Read their blogs and post intelligent, non- confrontational questions.

> Conduct research on proposed initiatives and use direct pitching and social media to spread the word about workable solutions.

> Incorporate social media into PR efforts, including company profiles/bios, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and others.

> Pitch Web sites as often as you pitch mainstream outlets, because readership of online news sites is skyrocketing while print sources are dwindling.

> Use social bookmarks to share knowledge and create awareness by saving and organizing articles, videos, blog posts or any Web link of interest just as you would bookmark them in a Web browser, only you do this publicly using a tool like Diigo or Digg.

> Create a “World Wide Rave” by creating triggers that get millions of people to tell your story and spread your ideas.

Social Media for Law Professionals: Friend or Foe?

Social media marketing is not widely accepted in the legal world, at least, not when compared to other professional services. Last month, we conducted a short survey of Texas lawyers in firms and in-house counsel, and the results were not surprising. More than 60% stated that their firms didn’t utilize social media in marketing to clients, and more than 40% reported that their firm policy prohibited office use of most social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter. Firms may have good reason to block these sites, because many legal professionals have experienced negative consequences from participating in social media sites. The New York Times reports that some legal professionals have been reprimanded by the Bar, and some have lost their jobs as a direct result.

Not to say that all social media should be written off. A good way to utilize these sites does exist. That is according to an ABA online article about how lawyers can benefit from social media if they find the right way, professionally, to do it. For example, there are approximately 142 blogs by Texas Lawyers on legal-related topics. Even the State Bar of Texas has a blog.

Of course, lawyers and law firms are subject to more scrutiny than most, and thus should proceed with caution on the social media front. While law firms aren’t totally jumping on the bandwagon of social media just yet, and with good reason, it’s an area that’s likely here to stay.