Do You Work for a Fee, or for Free? We Need to Consistently Put a Price Tag on Our Expertise

Do You Work for a Fee, or for Free?

We Need to Consistently Put a Price Tag on Our Expertise

Is it me, or is there a growing trend in people seeking free ideas from those of us in the business? I’m not referring to spec pitches; I’m speaking about a phrase that I hear more and more: “I’d like to pick your brain.” Am I right? Have you been getting the same request?

For whatever reason, in my world, there are more brain pickers out there than ever before. My assistant even has a code for it when people call and ask to meet me for coffee to run something past me: “Another ‘Brain Picker,’ Marc. Want to take the call?” So who are these people, what do they really want? How can we make them pay for what we do for a living?
Brain Pickers come in all shapes and sizes. They are relatives. Friends of relatives. Close friends. Friends of friends. Relatives of clients. Friends of clients. Industry veterans. And industry rookies. Some want an hour of your time. Others just a quick call.
To be fair, I have empathy for several of these types — especially the young ones just entering the business. And the veterans who’ve come into hard times and are in transition. I will always help out a close relative or friend. And if you’ve been referred by a client of mine, you’ll certainly get my attention. I guess that doesn’t leave too many Brain Pickers unspoken for. I want to help others; my struggle is time (I don’t have much to spare) and fairness of the request.
What’s fair:

  • Career advice
  • Networking
  • Validation of an idea
  • Providing a reference

What’s unfair:

  • Seeking strategic or creative advice to help solve a marketing problem
  • Asking for an opinion of a new name of a product or company — and then seeking any names I might think of (as if I just pull them out of a hat)
  • Setting up a meeting under the guise of networking, and then asking for any marketing ideas for the new business you are starting
  • Requesting free work when I hardly know you. Just because you work for a non-profit doesn’t mean you are entitled.

What we do in our industry is really hard — especially when done well. I wish more lay people would realize just how valuable and rare it is to have the ability to come up with brilliant, conceptual ideas that move the sales/reputation needle in the right direction. I don’t ask my lawyer for free thinking. I don’t ask my accountant to do my audit and tax work for nothing. I would never ask my doctor to treat me for no fee. So why the recent surge in requests for free branding advice? Maybe it’s the economy. Or just more people with nerve.

The expertise I have accumulated over many years is valuable. So, I am going to set up a new fee schedule. Next time someone wants to meet me at Starbucks to pick my brain, I will tell them my hourly rate; I’m happy to buy my own coffee.

Marc Brownstein is President & CEO of Brownstein Group, headquartered in Philadelphia. Follow Marc on Twitter: @MarcBrownstein.

Report highlights surge in Hispanic buying power

Report highlights surge in Hispanic buying power

By: Sarah Pringle/Cronkite News Service
Originally published: Sep 25, 2012 – 6:51 am

PHOENIX — As the state’s fastest-growing demographic group, Hispanics also are the fastest-growing market for Arizona businesses.

A new report sheds light on how fast that growth may be in coming years.

DATOS: Tucson, released last week by the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, forecasts that Hispanics will account for $40 billion of Arizona’s consumer spending during 2012. That figure will rise to $50 billion by 2015, the report said.

While focused primarily on Pima County, the report points to statewide figures and trends on the Hispanic market’s growth.

“It’s not a prophecy; it’s about mathematics,” said Loui Olivas, a professor emeritus at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business who led the research.

Hispanics account for about 30 percent of Arizona’s population at present and have a fertility rate almost twice that of white non-Hispanics.

“When a corporation or company is looking to see who is spending more, it’s the Hispanic market,” said Olivas, who also is vice president of education partnerships at ASU.

That market is younger and has more people per household. The median age of Hispanics in Arizona is 25.8 as opposed to 45.1 for non-white Hispanics, Olivas said.

And Hispanics as a group have larger families, the report found. Sixty-nine percent of Latinas, for example, live in households with four or more people, compared to 32 percent among non-Hispanics.

The report said Latino purchasing power in Pima County will reach $8 billion by 2015. Meanwhile, it said, Hispanics will account for almost two-thirds of Tucson’s new homeowners between now and 2017.

“If you’re a realtor in southern Arizona and you haven’t been considering how to reach the Hispanic market, you might want to think about doing so,” said Lea Márquez-Peterson, president and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Márquez-Peterson said she hopes the findings will encourage businesses, nonprofits and political parties to recognize the importance of Hispanic consumers and businesses, which she said are often overlooked.

“Population growth trends are something that we want them to remember and consider as they make decisions,” she said. “There’s so much more to having a bi-cultural experience in business.”

Hispanics accounted for 16.7 percent of Arizona’s buying power in 2010, up from 9.8 percent in 1990, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business. Buying power refers to disposable income available for spending after taxes.

James Garcia, director of strategic communication and policy at the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said advertising aimed at the Hispanic community is still disproportionately small compared to that market’s size.

As businesses look to tap into this market, they’ll have to consider Hispanic culture, he said.

“Do they have people that are bilingual? Are they aware of the fact that on average a Hispanic family tends to be larger?” Garcia said. “Do they know what the average income level is?”

Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, associate professor in the UCLA Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies, said Hispanics in the U.S. illegally also are important to Arizona’s economic health.

He conducted a study, released in August by the Center for American Progress, suggesting that legalizing Arizona’s illegal immigrants would result in an extra $540 million in state tax revenue.

“People working are highly repressed in their ability to work,” Hinojosa-Ojeda said. “[Legalization] directly results in greater consumption, economic activity, tax revenue.”

WASHINGTON: Home prices rose in July in 20 major US cities – National Business –

WASHINGTON: Home prices rose in July in 20 major US cities – National Business –

AP ECONOMICS WRITER – Posted on Tuesday, 09.25.12

Home prices kept rising in July across the United States, buoyed by greater sales and fewer foreclosures.

National home prices increased 1.2 percent in July, compared to the same month last year, according to the Standard & Poor’s/Case Shiller index released Tuesday. That’s the second straight year-over-year gain after two years without one.

The report also says prices rose in July from June in all 20 cities tracked by the index. That’s the third straight month in which prices rose in every city.

Steady price increases and record-low mortgage rates are helping drive a housing recovery.

In the 12 months ending in July, prices have risen in 16 of 20 cities. In Phoenix, one of the cities hardest hit by the housing bust, prices are up 16.6 percent in that stretch. Prices in Minneapolis and Detroit have risen more than 6 percent.

“We are more optimistic about housing,” David Blitzer, chairman of the S&P’s index committee. “Stronger housing numbers are a positive factor for other measures, including consumer confidence.”

Prices fell from a year earlier in Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Las Vegas.

The S&P/Case-Shiller index covers roughly half of U.S. homes. It measures prices compared with those in January 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The July figures are the latest available.

Home prices are still 30 percent below their peak in June 2006, according to Case-Shiller. That was the height of the housing boom.

Other measures of home prices are also showing steady gains. CoreLogic, a private real estate data provider, said earlier this month that prices rose in July from a year earlier by the most in six years. And a federal government housing agency has also reported annual increases.

Rising home prices are one of many signs that the housing market is slowly recovering.

Sales of previously occupied homes jumped in August to the highest level since May 2010. Builder confidence is at a six-year high and construction of single-family homes rose last month to the fastest annual rate in more than two years. Even with the gains, home sales and construction remain well below healthy levels.

The broader economy is likely to benefit from rising home prices. When home prices rise, people typically feel wealthier and spend more. And more Americans are likely to put their houses up for sale, which could further energize the market.

Home sales have been bolstered by the lowest mortgage rates on record. The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage touched a record low of 3.49 percent last week and has been below 4 percent all year. A limited supply of homes has also helped drive prices higher.

Prices are also rising because of a decline in foreclosures and sales of other deeply discounted homes. Many homes in the foreclosure process will likely come on the market in the coming months, which could drag on prices.

Still, many Americans, particularly first-time homebuyers, are unable to qualify for a mortgage or can’t afford larger down payments required by banks. That’s holding back sales.

Home sales could get a further boost from the Federal Reserve. The Fed said two weeks ago that it would purchase $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities each month until the economy and hiring improve substantially. That’s likely to keep mortgage rates at record-low rates for some time.


Facebook vs. Google: It’s on! (Again)

Facebook vs. Google: It’s on! (Again)

By  September 24, 2012: 7:02 AM ET

Facebook’s IPO woes have taken the spotlight off its rivalry with search giant Google. That’s changing. Here’s why.

By Kevin Kelleher, contributor

FORTUNE — 2011 was a good year for Facebook. The social network was adding 100 million users every few months. It was on track for an IPO valued as high as $100 billion — despite a dispirited stock market. And, perhaps most impressively, it had its archrival Google on the run.

Facebook (FB) was hiring Google’s (GOOG) top engineers and threatening to siphon off its ad revenue. Significantly, Facebook was forcing Google to redesign its sites to be more social — that is, more Facebook-like. There is no clearer sign you’re eating your rival’s lunch than the sight of them emulating you.

Of course, 2012 has been far crueller to Facebook. User growth stalled in its home market, and revenue growth disappointed as well. Its IPO was, by one measure, the biggest flop in Wall Street history. And last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg indicated that the company might introduce a search engine to drive new revenue.

MORE: HP and IBM: Two paths, one future

It’s Silicon Valley’s version of Freaky Friday: the aging web giant with touches of grey and the cocky upstart have reversed roles. The company adding 100 million users to its social network is Google. The company with the sagging market cap is Facebook. (Its $48 billion valuation is a fifth of Google’s.) Both companies have even started to talk like each other. Larry Page describes Google as “a social destination” and Zuckerberg says things like, “Search engines are really evolving towards giving you a set of answers… like, I have a specific question, answer this question for me.”

What gives? One answer is that corporate rivals inevitably bloat their ways into each other’s turf, even to the point of copying each other. For a clear illustration of this, look no further than the patent lawsuits that have become a staple of the smartphone industry. (Plus, as Fortunechronicled in its 2011 cover story, the battle has been a long time coming.)

More importantly, neither search nor social networking is an inherently superior business model. People flocked to social sites like Facebook and Twitter because they were a great way to discover new diversions through their friends and contacts. But it didn’t make search less popular. It just added to the flow of content people get from the web. So it was inevitable that Google and Facebook would move into each other’s core businesses.

MORE: News Corp doesn’t have much to show for its boldness

In fact, the notion that search was dying and that the future of the web lay in social networks is itself starting to look outdated. Yes, people may spend many more hours on a social network than in a search box, but they also spend much less time bothering to click ads. We go to social networks to find people. We go to search boxes to find answers. So search ads — despite warnings of the demise of search — have continued to do very well.

In light of the rivalry that has emerged between the two companies, Facebook’s plans to push harder into search may appear like an embarrassing capitulation. But just as Page was intent on moving into social to strengthen its overall offerings, Zuckerberg sees search as one more revenue stream to feed into its future growth. And given Facebook’s lackluster stock performance so far, it seems not a bad.

Nor would adding a search engine be the only move that Facebook has copied from traditional web advertising. Several months ago, Facebook Exchange launched, letting ad networks use the browsing histories of users to target display ads next to their Facebook news feeds. Facebook Exchange, which works a lot like Google’s Ad Exchange, showed early signs of improving ad-click rates in its beta program.

MORE: Google’s audacious bet on fiber — and why it could work

Facebook and Google also compete in several other areas, with Facebook Photos taking on Google’s Picasa and Facebook Messaging aping GTalk. And both have made heavy moves into an even more archaic form of web advertising — the hoary old display ad, introduced nearly two decades ago.

According to a recent report from eMarketer, both Facebook and Google will see display-ad revenue grow this year, although Google will grow faster to 15.4% of the display-ad market from 13.5% last year. Facebook will grow to 14.4% of the market from 14.1% last year. By 2014, eMarketer estimates, Google will control 21.2% of the market and Facebook 15.5%.

But efforts like Facebook Exchange and the mobile ad network the company began testing last week could give Facebook a bigger piece of the pie. And now it’s getting serious about search ads as well. Taken together, these initiatives help support the Facebook bulls who say the stock is attractively priced right now. But turning its stock price around will mean moving deeper into Google’s home turf.

MORE: In mobile, it’s now a three-way race

So the Google-Facebook rivalry isn’t going away. As Facebook puts its not-so-stellar year behind it — its bruising IPO with it — the most interesting story in the Valley may be this renewed rivalry.

Chick-fil-A back in public relations fryer

Chick-fil-A is once again in the public relations fryer. The controversy flared up this week when a Chicago politician said the company was no longer giving to groups that oppose same-sex marriage,…

via Chick-fil-A back in public relations fryer.

Chick-fil-A back in public relations fryer
by Bill Barrow, Associated Press Writer
September 21, 2012 01:36 AM | 951 views | 1 1 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Gay marriage supporters, from left, Emmie Hesley, Cathy Dear and Amy Paffenroth hold signs in front of a Chick-fil-A in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., on Thursday in protest of the chicken eatery s stance on gay marriage.<br>The Associated Press

Gay marriage supporters, from left, Emmie Hesley, Cathy Dear and Amy Paffenroth hold signs in front of a Chick-fil-A in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., on Thursday in protest of the chicken eatery’s stance on gay marriage.
The Associated Press

ATLANTA — Chick-fil-A is once again in the public relations fryer.

The controversy flared up this week when a Chicago politician said the company was no longer giving to groups that oppose same-sex marriage, angering Christian conservatives who supported Chick-fil-A this summer when its president reaffirmed his opposition to gay marriage. Civil rights groups hailed the turnabout, yet the company never confirmed it and instead released two public statements, neither of which made Chick-fil-A’s position any clearer.

The events suggest the Southern franchise may be trying to steer clear of hot-button social issues while it expands in other, less conservative regions of the country. In its statement Thursday, the Georgia-based company said its corporate giving had for many months been mischaracterized.

“Part of our corporate commitment is to be responsible stewards of all that God has entrusted to us,” the statement said. “Chick-fil-A’s giving heritage is focused on programs that educate youth, strengthen families and enrich marriages, and support communities. We will continue to focus our giving in those areas. Our intent is not to support political or social agendas.”

The three-page statement did not say whether that included gay marriages.

The company’s response, its second in as many days, was posted on its website after Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno announced the alleged policy change. Moreno said the change followed extended negotiations, and as a result, he would no longer try to block a Chick-fil-A restaurant from opening in his district.

Social networking sites lit up following Moreno’s remarks, with many people saying Chick-fil-A had caved to pressure from gay rights organizations.

The Cathy family has always been public about its faith. Since Dan Cathy’s father, Truett, opened the first Chick-fil-A in 1967, the restaurants have been closed on Sundays. The company refused to reconsider the policy during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, sacrificing even more profit.

University of Georgia marketing professor Sundar Bharadwaj said the company is risking alienating its customers.

“You can change your position, but you have to have a rational reason for the change and be consistent and communicate that to your customers,” he said. “Two different brands cannot be visible to the customer. Your authenticity is questioned after that, and your brand loses equity.”

The company has declined to take any questions from the media.

Earlier this week, before the statements, Dan Cathy tweeted to celebrate a fundraiser by Chick-fil-A’s primary charitable arm, the WinShape Foundation. The beneficiary? The Marriage and Family Foundation, which was among organizations cited by gay rights groups as opposing same-sex marriage.

When The Advocate, a leading gay rights publication, called attention to Cathy’s tweet, some civil rights groups quickly reassumed the critical posture they had abandoned only a day earlier.

“Chick-fil-A can’t claim to be turning over a new leaf while simultaneously funneling thousands of dollars towards a group that does not acknowledge the dignity and respect of LGBT people,” said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for The Human Rights Campaign.

In recent years, civil rights advocates have also publicized at least $3 million in contributions the WinShape Foundation has made to conservative organizations such as the Family Research Council. The group’s headquarters was the site of a shooting last month when authorities said a gunman and gay rights supporter, carrying a backpack full of Chick-fil-A sandwiches, opened fired on a security guard.

The younger Cathy became a flashpoint this summer when he told the Baptist Press that the company was “guilty as charged” for backing “the biblical definition of a family.” In a later radio interview, he ratcheted up the rhetoric: “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.”‘

When gay rights groups protested, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee started a social media campaign for “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.” It drew hundreds of thousands of supporters and the company later announced that the occasion set a single-day sales record.

Chick-fil-A posted more than $4.1 billion in sales last year, most of it below the Mason-Dixon Line. Just 14 of its restaurants are in the six states and the District of Columbia where gay marriage is legal. Massachusetts has just two locations, both more than 10 miles from Boston.

The company reports that its sales figures have increased annually each year of operation.

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Chick fil A back in public relations fryer 

How Pinterest can boost your press release results

How Pinterest can boost your press release results

By Carrie Morgan | Posted: September 21, 2012
Pinterest is taking over social media. Why not? It’s fun, highly addictive and newly announced as the third-most-popular social network in the world. It’s creeping up on Facebook with 11-plus million users.How can you use that popularity to expand the reach of your press releases? Try these tactics:

1. Add an infographic to your release, then pin it.

Including a relevant infographic with your press release is a fantastic way to give media and news outlets a visual to go with your story, plus it takes advantage of one of the most popular ways to share data.

For inspiration, try searching wire service websites like or PRNewswire.comusing the keyword “infographic.” It turns up examples like these: Kronos, PayAsUGymEbates, andBackPainRelief.

This may seem obvious, but don’t just run the infographic with your wire release, nor embed it in your email. Be sure to upload it on Pinterest, then add a hyperlink to the full release with a short summary and a few keyword hashtags.

2. Create a Pinterest newsroom

If you are pinning one press release, why not create a corporate newsroom pinboard to showcase it, along with your other media/news assets? It can mirror your website’s newsroom, or enhance it with fresh material. Here is a great example from Cisco.

In addition to press releases and infographics, your newsroom pinboard can include news clips, company blog posts, short pitches or expert opinion comments, video—even executive headshots and logos. Just make sure that anything pinned to your newsroom is legible enough to entice clicks, properly trademarked, and approved for public use.

Another powerful media tool is an executive staff pinboard, which links headshot photos to biographies, bylined articles, and other content that demonstrates their credibility as an expert resource.

When you quote them in a press release, try linking their name directly to their pinboard for added oomph.

3. Create a pinboard that fits your infographic or news topic.

This capitalizes on search traffic and creates a natural platform for your news and/or infographic.

For example, if your press release is about a fabulous new bridal store, or a new wedding reception service offered by a local resort, create a pinboard relevant to brides-to-be. Many look online for inspiration, so a pinboard on “Most Popular Wedding Dress Styles” or “The Perfect Table Centerpiece for your Reception” might target your audience nicely and complement the topic of your release/infographic.

If your press release launches a new software product, then pinning screen captures and packaging photography might be a great start to your board.

4. Optimize the pin using the same keywords optimized in your press release.

SEO is your best friend on Pinterest. I’ve had boards rank highly in Google within 48 hours, even for keywords that have been difficult to rank using traditional methods. Including keywords can magically propel your pin visibility—and thus your press release—so it’s well worth the minor time investment.

Amplify your news results when you optimize your pins for the same keywords used in your release. How? Just include the same primary keyword in the title of your pinboard, wrap them into the description of each pin, then add them as a hashtag.

5. Use Pinterest for free market research.

Not only is Pinterest valuable as a post-distribution strategy, but it can spark great ideas for trend releases and bylined article topics. First, use Pinterest to identify what is being repinned and liked. Create a pinboard around a popular topic, optimize it for search, then support it with a trends or expert opinion press release that links right back to your Pinterest board. Voila—newsworthy content on a very hot topic!

PR Consultant Carrie Morgan is a 20-plus-year veteran of marketing and public relations in Phoenix. A version of this post first appeared on Convince and Convert.

When greeting others, ditch the ‘unpleasant pleasantries’

When greeting others, ditch the ‘unpleasant pleasantries’

By Michelle Baca | Posted: September 23, 2012
One of the best pieces of speaking advice that I’ve ever heard came from a world champion speaker and speaking coach named Craig Valentine. He tells his coaching clients to resist the temptation to begin their speeches with what he terms “unpleasant pleasantries.”Many people will start their speeches by saying things such as, “Good morning, thank you for having me here,” “It is an honor to be here,” “What a privilege to be in the company of so many fabulous people,” “It is a lovely day here in sunny California,” blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. People hear these types of openings all the time.

When you begin a speech in one of these extremely common ways, people do not tune in—at least not right away. Instead of grabbing their attention, you are saying to them, “This is just another typical speech, we’re just warming up, it’s not time to start listening yet.” And they go ahead and check their phones one last time or finish the conversation with their neighbor.

The biggest problem with “unpleasant pleasantries” is that they are everywhere. Not just at the beginning of presentations. Many everyday personal and professional conversational exchanges are filled with “unpleasant pleasantries” and they do nothing to establish connections, build rapport, build trust, show concern, exchange information, solve problems, or generate growth and improvement.

When asked, “How are you?” most people respond with “Fine, how are you?” or, “Good, how are you?” or something similar. For most people, this is simply small talk. The average person is usually asking this question to be nice or because they don’t know what else to say, not because they are genuinely interested in how the other person is doing. It is so common that when people hear you ask it, they don’t think you really want to know how they’re doing.

If you truly care about your team members, employees, clients, prospective clients, and other people in your life, consider changing the words you use in your everyday exchanges.

Instead of saying, “Hi, how are you?” you could say, “How are you feeling today?” This causes people to put more thought into their response. They are more likely to give you some information that may give you some insight into how better to manage or work with them if they are a co-worker, or how you can better serve them if they are a client or prospective client. They are also more likely to feel like you have a genuine concern for their well-being.

You can also replace “How are you?” with an inquiry question based on something that you have talked to that person about in a prior conversation (to show that you were listening and that you remember.) For example, you could say, “How’s that remodeling project you were working on?” or, “How’s that big project coming along?” or even, “Have you been back to karate practice lately?

You also could ask, “What’s your latest news?” These types of questions are more engaging and catch people’s attention, endearing them to you and most importantly allowing them to feel important and heard, which is one of the greatest gifts you can give other people.

For extra credit, also try answering the question “How are you?” differently from the way you normally do. Resist saying, “good,” or, “fine,” and give a more thoughtful answer. And be honest: If you’re not fine or good, don’t say that. Try instead “harried,” “focused,” or “discombobulated.” You don’t have to be negative, but be authentic. It’s refreshing to hear something unexpected, even more so if it is a particularly optimistic response.

Instead of wasting your precious time and that of your co-workers, clients, and acquaintances by engaging in unpleasant pleasantries—start engaging in meaningful conversations that improve your relationships and ability to connect with and positively affect people.

Do you have other questions that you use when greeting and conversing with others to show that you’re interested and to build rapport? We would love to hear what ideas you have.

Michelle Baca is speaker, consultant and career coach at ConvergenceCoaching, LLC, where a version of this article originally appeared.