Banning Social Bad for Business

By Kristy Bonner, Digital Strategist, Foster Marketing

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Human beings are hardwired to be social — both culturally and physiologically. We Tweet and text. We Like and link up. We blog and banter. Researchers have proven that craving attachment is written into our DNA. So, it is no wonder more people are reaching out to others online.

Just this week, SmartBrief on Social Media noted that Facebook now has 800 million members. Twitter boasts 1 billion Tweets per week. As of August, LinkedIn had more than 120 million registered users in more than 200 locales worldwide.

Of all these connections, not all of them are purely social. According to a study by BtoB Magazine, 93 percent of business-to-business marketers are engaged in social media marketing. (Most of us support “The Big 3” strategy of targeting LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.)

Many companies are becoming more open to the idea of using social media at work, according to a study by PRNewswire. As social media invades the business world, the energy industry is rallying its troops.

Two recent events focusing on social media, a Business Marketing Association forum on social media and World Oil’s Marketing in the Oilfield Conference, offered a fleet of energy industry professionals to share their social marketing experiences. Many in attendance were on fact-finding missions on how to get started or build their networks.

However, there was another hot topic on the minds of many. Although social media bans in the workplace weren’t discussed center stage, it was definitely the buzz in the back of the room.

A recent Robert Half Technology survey found that 51 percent of companies surveyed said they permit employees to use social media for business purposes (up from 19 percent in 2009), more than 1-in-3 companies still prohibit social media at the office.

Put your manager’s hat on and consider the possible arguments for such bans:

  • Safeguarding company computers and servers. Maybe.
  • Social media decreases productivity. Maybe not.
  • Fear of unprofessional online interactions and leaking company secrets. Admittedly, it has happened to a few.
  • If we ignore it, this social media craze will just go away. Not a chance. Not even if you hold your breath until you turn Facebook blue. (But if you try this, I can almost guarantee someone will post a video or picture of you online before you regain consciousness).

Let’s look at the individual concerns:

Safeguarding Company Computers

Although there are many offenders out there looking to do damage wherever possible, email seems to be a more likely target for these attacks … and no one is banning that.

Productivity Will Drop

Sadly, there will always be employees who abuse such privileges at work, but these are likely the same people you are talking to about taking too many breaks, not showing up for work and spending all day on personal phone calls — so just add spending hours on YouTube to your list.

On the other hand, according to an AT&T study on social networking technologies, access to social networking sites at work actually increases productivity and efficiency. In the study, employees said access to the rich sources of information on social networks often provided them solutions to problems and inspired them creatively.

Other noteworthy benefits to allowing social media access include:

  • Sharing knowledge and information between employees, suppliers and customers.
  • Better team building and internal structure in the workplace.

Here’s another issue to consider: A Nielsen survey shows that some younger workers said they were willing to quit their jobs if they were not allowed to access Facebook at work. (Surprising for some of us, but if you are hoping to hire the hottest tech-savvy young graduates, this may be something you will eventually have to consider.)

Still another school of thought says employees allowed to occasionally relax a bit at work will be even more focused and refreshed when they do get back to the job at hand.

Fear of over sharing and inappropriate posting

Admittedly, trust is required when it comes to social media. You must trust your staff to act like adults and use social media at work for business purposes instead of just catching up with friends. You must also be sure employees understand what content is acceptable to be shared and appropriate for your company’s culture.

Having a social media policy — in writing — sets the standard for employees to follow and ensures management and employees are on the same page. A social media policy should include:

  • The company’s policy on accessing social media — and other web surfing — at work. Is it only allowed for business use
  • What’s the policy on using the company’s name and information in social posts?
  • How often are employees expected to contribute to company social media networks?
  • If a negative post does pop up, who will respond? Who will decide IF you respond at all?

Social Media Is Here To Stay

Here’s another crazy idea: One energy company presenting at the Marketing in the Oilfield Conference said they actually asked its customers how they should be using social media. Based on customer feedback, the company is planning to use Twitter to send updates when usual forms of communication are down. That’s a powerful social media impact.

The bottom line is that social media usage will continue to expand (you can even get a degree in social media now). And as social media marketing becomes a more vital way to reach customers and prospects, companies will need to consider if they can afford to ban social media in the workplace. At many companies, there are people ready to promote their products and services online, interact with customers, seek out public relations opportunities through industry media and be thought leaders in their fields … if only they had access.

It’s time to banish the bans, embrace social media and start managing it.


Foster Marketing can help you launch and create a plan to maintain your social media presence. We’ll help you determine what content is right for your organization and work with you to create social media policies for your organization.

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Fostering Ideas: The Pursuit of ‘Happyness’

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By George Foster, CEO, Foster Marketing

The Pursuit of Happyness is a 2006 film and true story about a struggling, on-again, off-again homeless salesman who takes care of his 5-year-old son while trying to make something of himself as a stockbroker. In the movie, Will Smith played Christopher Gardner, now a successful stockbroker and entrepreneur.

In a voice over, Gardner describes some of his more troubling times as: “This part of my life … this part right here? This part is called ‘being stupid’.” Later he says, “This part of my life is called ‘internship’ as he learned the investment business; and finally as he succeeded,” he said, “This part of my life … this part right here? This is called ‘happyness’.” In the film, “happiness” is misspelled as “happyness” outside the daycare facility Gardner’s son attends.

Happiness a Hot Topic

These days happiness and its pursuit are hot topics. It seems like every day I see an article on happiness. Titles include: “Surprising Secrets from the World’s Happiest People”, “6 Ways to Feel Happier, Be Healthier”, “Can You Learn to Be Happy?” or, just, “Are You Happy?” And, at church recently, the pastor announced an upcoming series of sermons titled Happy People. Happiness is hot!

How does being happy affect us as marketers, business owners and employees? I’ve always told employees that we want happy campers working for Foster Marketing. Additionally, we want happy clients. Ultimately, however, we can’t make clients and employees happy. We can satisfy them or please them, but happiness comes from within — an inherent quality in ones’ being. It is actually the pursuit of happiness that unconsciously implies that we are not happy and so dissatisfaction with ones’ perceived sense of unhappiness arises.

Research conducted by Harvard professor Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar showed that “happiness largely depends on our state of mind, not on our status or the state of our bank account. It depends upon what we choose to focus on (the full or empty part of the glass) and on our interpretation of external events. For example, do we view failure as catastrophic or do we see it as a learning opportunity?”

He goes on to say that, “one of the most common barriers to happiness is the false expectation that one thing — a promotion at work, a prize, a revelation — will bring us external bliss.” Pursuing a list of things/desires that you think will make you happy (something you already are, regardless of whether or not it’s realized) will only provide you with a very temporary sense of pleasure or happiness.

So, What Makes Us Happy?

Dr. Ben-Shahar says “we must first accept that this is it! All there is to life is the day-to-day, the ordinary, the details of the mosaic. We are living a happy life when we derive pleasure and meaning from spending time with our loved ones or learning something new.

“The other significant component of happiness is that helping oneself and helping others are intertwined. The more we help others, the happier we become … and the happier we become, the more inclined we are to help others.”

Don’t Worry, Be Happy!

While happiness comes from within, there are many common things a person can do to improve his or her state of happiness according to the experts:

  • Simplify. We try to squeeze more and more activities into less time, says Dr. Ben-Shahar. Dan Buettner, who wrote the book Thrive, spent five years talking to people in areas identified as the world leaders in happiness — Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula; Singapore; Nuevo Leon, Mexico; and San Luis Obispo, Calif. His advice: own one TV, no more; and, stop shopping as the satisfaction we get from buying things wears off in 14 months.
  • Get involved. Spend time with family and friends. Make new friends. Each new friend that you make (assuming that they’re upbeat) increases your chance of being happy by 9%, Buettner says. Volunteer and help others as mentioned earlier. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, men and women who volunteer report greater life satisfaction and better physical health than non-volunteers.
  • Appreciate life. Head for the great outdoors. Physical exercise and increased stamina associated with being outdoors yield important benefits as people get more sedentary. People in sunnier climates are consistently happier than those who live in northern countries. Finally, keep the faith. Religious people tend to be happier than those without faith.
  • Get a pet. Pets provide more than companionship and a warm welcome home. They lend a willing and helpful ear — even if they have fins or feathers instead of fur. An astonishing 97% of dog and cat owners reported they talk to their pets, notes Alan Beck, director of the Center of the Human Animal Bond at Purdue University. “The other 3% lied,” he quips. I can attest to that as I run my newsletters past Billy Ray Cyrus, the Cairn terrier that I rescued last December.

The ideas above can help make the world look better. Add them to your life, and odds are you’ll feel both happier and healthier.


Foster Marketing can help you simplify your life by taking the weight of your marketing efforts off your shoulders. We work as proactive partners with our clients to meet all deadlines and achieve results.

Building Trust is an Investment

A Guide to Kick Start Your Community Relations Efforts

By Leah Martinez, Public Relations Account Executive for Foster Marketing

 

With cutting costs and bolstering the bottom line topping the agenda for most companies, the idea of launching a community relations campaign may not be greeted with a flood of enthusiasm at the corporate level. Just the mention of community relations could trigger visions of dollars flying out the door to top executives and financial types.

Mentioned in many mission statements, there is often something about making a difference or serving the community. But how do you make this goal a reality when money is tight?

Investments of the non-monetary variety can help create and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship between a company and its community. Investing time in the communities where you do business builds trust and establishes a reputation of reliability. Plus, it’s just human nature to want to work with those who are doing good things for others.

So, if you could put a price tag on the value of trust, how much would you pay for it? If you are a company that depends on relationship building to make a sale (who doesn’t — particularly in the energy sector), of course you’d pay top dollar.

How you choose to support the community, whether individually or corporately, tells your community and future customers something about the culture and values of your company. Considering this list of questions will help you pinpoint a cause and give you a starting point.

 

1. What is important to your employees?

Ask employees what matters to them. Choosing a cause that employees want to be a part of can help build a sense of camaraderie and jump start teamwork in the office. If the cause strikes a chord with employees, they will take a vested interest and the initiative to become actively involved.

 

2. What is important in your community?

Take the time to scope out your local community calendar to get familiar with what is happening around you. Take note of what’s being done and what’s not. Jumping on an already busy bandwagon often leaves other truly needy groups in the dust. Be cognizant that some charities or causes might need your help more than others.

 

3. How much time can you give?

Create a list of potential local charities and causes and make some calls. Determining how much time you are able to give and the demands of the schedule can help narrow the list.

 

4. Is this in the budget?

Even if a limited budget doesn’t allow for big donations, use your time and talents to help in the community. Remember, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Consider organizing a drive to collect school supplies, winter coats, items for soldiers or host a blood drive. Don’t rule out the possibility of partnering with other local businesses or a community group. Call your favorite local restaurant or a cooking group. They could share your desire to help and offer to cater an event. If you have a hefty budget set aside for sponsoring community events, hosting a celebrity golf tournament for a charity might be more up your alley.

 

No stress, just long-term gains

Don’t stress yourself out! Keep in mind why you are getting involved and just have fun! Community service is all about giving back to increase the quality of life for those around you. Investing in your community is like investing in a long-term relationship; the longer you are involved, the more history you create and trust is built.

Beyond feeling good about having an impact in your community, long-term gains in teamwork and employee morale can be realized. Working together to reach goals in a stress-free environment can do wonders for a company’s sense of teamwork.

Volunteering is contagious and volunteers tend to travel in packs. Once a core group of involved employees is in place, you can focus on making the effort enjoyable. Add an element of fun by incorporating a friendly competition. For example, who can collect the most donations or rack up the most volunteer hours? Salute the winner with recognition or a gift card to a local restaurant.

Opportunities to get involved are pretty much limitless and include supporting community cultural efforts; helping the needy; sharing your time with children; providing educational supplies; and much, much more. Now, how you will choose to impact your community?

Through the years Foster Marketing has worked with several companies and organizations to make their community relations efforts a success by providing research, planning, creative resources, event coordination and public relations support to help them succeed.

Foster Marketing employees are networked in all types of organizations, from endowing scholarships to helping kids to supporting athletic programs. The key is to get going. As someone once said, “if you’re going to hunt with the big dogs, you have to get off the porch.”

The Agency Retreat: Get Out of Dodge or Get Your Act Together…or both.

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By George Foster, CEO of Foster Marketing

In June, Foster Marketing employees participated in our 14th Annual Foster Fest summer retreat in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Through the years we’ve taken our staff and significant others to some pretty nice locales. From our first retreat at a plantation home in St. Francisville, La., we’ve now met in Niagara Falls, Chicago, Cozumel, New Orleans and taken numerous cruises out of New Orleans and Galveston.

As our team has grown it has become more expensive for this enterprise and a budget challenge for our President, Tiffany Harris, who plans these meetings. However, I wouldn’t trade these four-day events for anything.

We always talk about spending 50 weeks working in the business, i.e. working on helping our clients grow, but we only spend a couple of weeks working on the business, i.e. helping Foster Marketing get better. On a retreat, you actually work on your business.

Many firms take just their management-level staff on a retreat. I’m a strong believer in taking all the staff – it’s a team. Additionally, we ask every staff member to make a presentation on something of importance to the agency.

To Retreat or Not to Retreatoffsite retreat, planning retreat

Melissa Laughon in a recent blog on www.catchyourlimit.com addressed this very topic To Retreat or Not to Retreat? That is the Question. She listed the top five reasons why firms are not retreating in 2011 and five on why they are. It’s a lengthy post. You can visit her lists, but here would be mine. First, some reasons not to have a retreat:

•We’re too busy.

•They’re too expensive.

•The follow-up is lacking after the retreat.

And then why retreats are essential:

•We need to pause and work on the business.

•It gets everyone involved in the success of the business.

•Great for team building.

•Great spouse/significant other interaction.

•Great recruiting/employee benefit tool.

Laughon says at a retreat the future is in your hands and quotes Peter Drucker, the famous management consultant: “The only way to predict the future is to create it.” My rationale for having a retreat also is based on a Drucker quote: “Adequacy is the enemy of excellence.”

Planning the Retreat

There are many things to think about when planning a retreat, but basically there are five key things to consider – know your purpose, pick a date, select an off-site location, develop an agenda and use what you learn.

At Foster Marketing, we have several goals for our retreats – basically those indicated above on why we have a retreat. To pick one goal in particular, I’d say getting everyone involved in presenting solutions is most important to me. Getting the Office Administrator to discuss HR or our Controller to discuss finances or our Trade Show Coordinator and Public Relations Account Executive to discuss their specialties is exciting.

In addition to our summer retreat, we have quarterly meetings at Foster Marketing, usually at our office in Lafayette and basically with the same goals. However, our summer meeting, or Foster Fest, has historically been off-site and we’ve been blessed to be able to afford taking our staff out of town. It is an expense, but Tiffany Harris does a great job of finding affordable deals whether by land, sea or air. We’ve done ’em all. The ideal meeting spot should provide a comfortable and unique experience, the necessary working space and equipment, facilities and meal options.

For the agenda, we try to have every staff member (now numbering 13) take 30 minutes to present and discuss a pre-determined subject of interest. This is usually a PowerPoint presentation with lots of give and take (many times mine). Invariably, we come out with great ideas.

At Foster Fest in Playa del Carmen, we implemented a concept we had used successfully at a prior Foster Fest. We solicited topics/issues from employees to discuss using the Creative Whack Pack by Roger von Oech. The Creative Whack Pack consists of 64 cards, each featuring a different strategy. Some highlight places to find new information. Others provide techniques to generate new ideas. Some lend decision-making advice. And many give you the “kick” you need to get your ideas into action. We used the cards on each topic/issue. It was a great exercise and we came out with an exceptionally large number of ideas.

Now, the kicker: A retreat can only be effective if you apply what you’ve learned. Our list from our last Foster Fest is long. The proof of the retreat’s success will be in the pudding of results.

Foster Marketing is ready to help energize your marketing programs. Email Jamie Efurd or call 281-448-3435 or 337-235-1848 to schedule a meeting with Foster Marketing to discuss how we can help integrate and enhance your marketing efforts.

Don’t Overlook ROI Opportunity at Trade Shows

By Megan Hebert, Trade Show Coordinator for Foster Marketing

Another one in the books! For me, wrapping up another successful Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) can be compared to that feeling of liberation in school just after completing your last exam of the semester. With this year’s OTC having the highest attendance and largest exhibition since 1982 — 78,150 attendees and 603,000 square feet of exhibit space, there is no doubt the hard work of many people paid off. Yet there is little rest for the weary as the slew of international trade show events is on the horizon.

With 2011 full of large, international events — the aforementioned OTC, along with Offshore Europe, Brasil Offshore, OTC Brasil and Oil & Gas Asia…to name a few — the conscientious exhibitor is always seeking ways to ensure a successful event with measurable benefits. One group of attendees who can considerably boost a company’s ROI (but who are often overlooked) is … journalists.

Recently I stumbled across an article by Lena Valenty of EXHIBITOR Magazine in which she creatively compares exhibiting at a trade show to a blind date (stay with me here). She explains how an exhibitor has mere minutes to make a lasting first impression. An exhibitor has “carefully accessorized with graphics and key messages that accentuates its best features.” We want to appear interesting, but not overeager…confident, but not pompous, she says.

Our potential matches almost always are the most attractive customers and prospects, but Valenty encourages us not to overlook the person who may not appear to be your type on first glance…the journalist. Though perhaps not as glamorous, media representatives have the ability to spread your message in a big way. This group, tasked with delivering news and information on the industry, new products, trends and the key players, is always on the hunt for information to share with readers and viewers. Consider these steps as you aim for Press Success at your next show:

  1. Find your audience: This legwork includes researching media representatives that will be attending the show, determining who the proper contacts are and if your products and services align properly.

  2. Craft your message: How will you entice the journalists…and concisely? Your message should have clear positioning, product differentiation and provide compelling interest.

  3. Book interviews: Be proactive and start booking media appointments several weeks in advance of a show…and ensure the proper executive is available to be interviewed.

  4. Assemble your kit: Press kits are expected.

  5. Get involved: Become involved outside of the exhibit hall. What conference components could you participate in, or what award programs could you enter? These are valuable, exhibit-marketing opportunities.

  6. Train your staff: What role should your exhibit staff play when interacting with the media? Decide what actions they are to take, have a plan in place and share it. If they are to interact with media, there are media-training basics to follow.

  7. Prepare your exhibit: Incorporate into your booth a quiet meeting space, if possible. Offsite meetings are often a welcomed alternative, and utilizing the press room may also be an option for conducting interviews.

  8. Continue the conversation: Follow up with each journalist who visited your booth. Keep the conversation going and show that you are accessible. The long-term goal is to position yourself and your company as an industry expert who can serve as a source for information.

  9. Measure the results: Hard metrics can be obtained through tracking media impressions and the number of original articles, as well as through web analytics. Also, include an overview of all media activity at the show. These reports will prove that your efforts were worth the investment.

Foster Marketing can help navigate the coordination side of your exhibit, and with our proprietary database of energy publications and established relationships, we can guide your quest for Press Success, too. Together, we can navigate through the blind dates to connect with those looking to woo us and share our company’s stories.

Let us help you improve your trade show ROI — whether you are exhibiting at a regional or international show. Email Jamie Efurd or call 281-448-3435 or 337-235-1848 to schedule a meeting with Foster Marketing to discuss how we can help integrate and enhance your marketing efforts.

What is the Energy Future?

READING TIME: Gain perspective on the future of the energy industry in under 2 minutes. (Part Three of a Three-Part Series on the Future.)

By George Foster, CEO of Foster Marketing

The first week in May is always reserved for the Offshore Technology Conference or OTC, the biggest event in the oil and gas industry. Unlike last year when OTC followed the Macondo disaster, this year’s show was full of enthusiasm. Attendance reached a 29-year high with more than 78,000 and the exhibition space of 603,000 square feet was sold out.

And, with oil futures passing $110 per barrel and the government now issuing permits in the Gulf of Mexico, things look promising for the energy industry.

In its latest monthly oil market report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) revised downward its forecast for the 2011 global oil product demand growth as a result of persistent high prices and weaker projections for economic growth in the developed countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. And, global events shape the future of energy. In fact, oil futures dropped immediately following the death of Osama bin Laden.

So “What is the Energy Future?” Or, maybe more importantly, “Which Energy Future?” That was the title of a presentation given by Andy Hines, lecturer and executive-in-residence for the Graduate Program in Future Studies at the University of Houston, last November.

Andy (http://www.andyhinesight.com) was the featured speaker at a meeting I hosted in Lafayette last month on “Thinking [Better] About the Future: A Hands-on Approach to Applying Foresight” (see Part Two of the Future Series).

In his energy presentation, he laid out four energy scenario archetypes: Continuation, New Equilibrium, Transformation and Collapse. Here’s an overview of the first three; don’t want to imagine the latter.

Continuation: The system moves forward along its current trajectory. This is the “official future” and usually considered most likely. Hines forecasts this is less and less likely, and uses “The Long Boom” by Peter Schwartz (http://www.amazon.com/Long-Boom-Peter-Schwartz/dp/0738200743) as a go-by, suggesting that the recession is just a blip in the 25-year boom. Assumptions:

• Recession ends and things “go back to normal”

• Developing markets are more “markets” than competitors

• Global shipping costs manageable

• Resource costs manageable

• Technology continues to advance rapidly

• Mix of modern and post-modern values

New Equilibrium: The system reaches a balance among competing forces that is significantly different from the current balance. In the “double-dip” or “our-turn” scenario, emerging markets rewrite the rules. Assumptions:

• Emerging markets lead the way out of “double dip”

• Reverse “brain drain” helps build emerging market knowledge work force

• Relations with developed world “manageable” to avoid trade wars

• Required sources can be acquired cost-effectively

• Environmental issues “tabled” until later

• Spread of modern values

Transformation: The system is discarded in favor of a new one with a new set of rules, such as the soft energy path as described by Amory Lovins in his 1977 book “Soft Energy Paths: Toward a Durable Peace” (http://www.amazon.com/Soft-Energy-Paths-Towards-Colophon/dp/0060906537/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1304354600&sr=8-1). The soft energy path describes an alternative future where energy efficiency and appropriate renewable energy sources steadily replace a centralized energy system based on fossil and nuclear fuels. Assumptions:

• Recession causes people to “re-think” their consumption

• Grassroots movements and social entrepreneurship flourish

• New measure of government success at all levels of government go beyond the “Triple Bottom Line” of becoming more sustainable

• Alternative energy investment grows and leads to significant breakthroughs

• Local products and services flourish

• Licenses to operate granted by some communities that require organizations to give back to the community

• Rise of post-modern and integral values

Implications of the Scenarios: What do these scenarios mean to those in the energy industry?

Implications Long Boom Soft Path Our Turn
Economic prospects Developed world economies lead the way More balanced economic prospects Emerging markets lead the way
Globalization Continue to increase Globalization slows with shift to local emphasis Potential “trade wars” as emerging markets assert power
Energy usage Up steadily and globally Significantly reduced growth Huge growth in emerging markets
Energy mix Conventional with some alternative Alternatives gain significant share All possible sources exploited, including nuclear push
Work force Knowledgeable worker boom in developed world drives shortages Shift in energy mix requires new skills Improving global reach, skills and capabilities

In conclusion, the Hines presentation provides thought-provoking situations and implications to help energy companies forecast the future. The heavy lifting comes inside the company to evaluate its own future prospects.

Let us help you plan for 2011 and beyond. Email Jamie Efurd or call 281-448-3435 or 337-235-1848 to schedule a meeting with Foster Marketing to discuss how we can help integrate and enhance your marketing efforts.

Blow the Trumpet … Warn the People

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By George Foster, CEO of Foster Marketing

On my way to OTC from Lafayette, I passed a billboard on I-10 that proclaimed that the Day of Judgment is near. The billboard paraphrased Ezekiel 33:3: “Blow the trumpet…warn the people.”

Save the date: May 21, 2011. Save the time: 6 p.m.

If preacher Harold Camping, founder of Family Radio (www.familyradio.com), is right, that’s the exact date Jesus will return. Camping determined the exact day, May 21st, through a series of Biblical calculations. This isn’t the first time he’s predicted Jesus’ return. Originally, he proclaimed that the End Time would come on Sept. 4, 1994. When the Rapture failed to occur on the appointed day, Camping said he had made a mathematical error.

Camping is not the first to proclaim the return and there have been more than two dozen predictions on the Second Coming (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Coming_of_Christ). However, no one knows the exact time of Christ’s return – not even Christ himself as proclaimed in Mark 13:32:

But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.

Our fixation with the future, whether it be religious, economic (the price of oil and gas and healthcare reform) or even our communities (“the future is where our children live” one person told me), consumes our thoughts.

Recently, Andy Hines, a lecturer and executive-in-residence at the University of Houston’s Graduate Program in Futures Studies, spoke to a group of advertising agency principals at a meeting I hosted in Lafayette.

Andy heads Hinesight (http://www.andyhinesight.com) and has written several books on the future – or maybe more accurately forecasting the future. He doesn’t try to predict the future but attempts, through a process, to help companies better forecast their futures.

His topic was “Thinking [Better] About the Future: A Hands-on Approach to Applying Foresight”. Download a PDF of the presentation.

Why foresight? Companies can apply foresight to:

• Uncover new opportunities

• Detect threats

• Craft strategy

• Guide policy

• Understand emerging customer needs

• Explore new offerings, markets, products or services

This is applied through a thought-provoking process that’s broken down into a framework — framing, scanning, forecasting, visioning, planning and acting.

Framing: As Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” First, you need to know your audience, map the landscape and set a time horizon for completion. For example, the life cycle of a computer chip is 18 months; an offshore oil platform 30 years. Finally, determine your degree of stretch. In other words, a competitor introduces an innovative new product in your space. How do you respond?

Scanning: Collect information. Find opportunities before the competition does. Look for changes “outside,” talk to people, explore unfamiliar territory, capture insights and create a trend inventory.

Forecasting: What are the attractive spaces? Cluster potential trends into drivers; identify “insights” around which to build opportunity spaces; identify key uncertainties; challenge assumptions (a vital part of the process); look for potential discontinuities; create scenarios; and summarize the opportunity spaces.

Visioning, Planning & Acting: Develop a Futures Wheel, placing your “most interesting” assumption reversal in the middle. Visioning and planning make up 17 percent of the foresight planning process. Acting represents 23 percent and consists of catalyzing action and change; building alignment, commitment and confidence; and building a learning organization.

This is just part of the foresight process. I would encourage any company who wants to look into the future to consider working with Andy. It would be well worth the effort.

Now, if you believe Camping, that’s a moot point. The end is a short few days away and counting down on his website. To that I say, I don’t know what my future holds, but I know Who holds my future.

Let us help you plan for 2011 and beyond. Email Jamie Efurd or call 281-448-3435 or 337-235-1848 to schedule a meeting with Foster Marketing to discuss how we can help integrate and enhance your marketing efforts.

The Future is Now!

The Future is Now!

By George Foster, CEO of Foster Marketing

Since 1985, I’ve been a member of a small group of ad agency principals who meet twice a year to discuss their individual businesses. It’s called the Innisbrook Group, after Innisbrook, Fla., where the first meeting was held in 1982. We share financials (balance sheets and income statements), operational and personnel issues, creative and personal stuff and usually have several speakers.

I’m hosting this spring’s meeting in Lafayette and the theme of the April meeting is “Looking to the Future.” For this meeting we’ll have a CPA discussing financial planning; a senior intelligence analyst for Blue Cross discussing healthcare (our biggest business unknown); and Andy Hines, a Lecturer and Executive-in-Residence at the University of Houston’s Graduate Program in Futures Studies, and a Futurist.

He heads Hinesight (great name for a Futurist) and has written several books on the future. His website is www.andyhinesight.com (more about Andy and the April meeting in the March Fostering Ideas newsletter.

I’ve always looked to the future and never been one to dwell on the past. However, I have a healthy respect for history. As the Spanish American philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

My first awareness that there were people who would predict the future, or “Futurists”, was in the early ’90s when I discovered Faith Popcorn’s book, The Popcorn Report. First published in 1991, some of her predictions are rather remarkable now 20 years later.

Ms. Popcorn (www.faithpopcorn.com) very presciently describes email and e-commerce, calling them “screenmail” and “infobuying” though neither had yet been invented and it would be three years after her book was published before anyone was even talking about “The Information Super-Highway.”

Her predictions for 2011 are interesting as well as she predicts that we will enter an unprecedented period marked by the end of our traditional gender divide, or as she calls it EN-GEN.

Women are becoming more influential, powerful and in control of the culture. And, men are becoming more sensitive, collaborative and connected. As Mars becomes more Venus like — and Venus-versa — we’re far less combat ready.

Consider some of the numbers about women:

• Women hold 51% of managerial and professional jobs

• Four in 10 mothers are primary breadwinners; working wives are coming close to bringing in half of household income

• Single, childless women under 30 earn 8% more than their male peers

• The number of women earning six figure salaries has increased 14% in the last two years

This is certainly true in the marketing communication industry where women are growing in numbers and responsibility. Bright, talented and tenacious young women have been vital to Foster Marketing’s success.

And, how about these male patterns (in my case, not baldness):

• The emergence of the stay-at-home-dad, which according to the most recent U.S. Census (2008), had increased by 62% from 2003

• 40% increase in male time devoted to household chores

• A three-fold increase in average male time devoted to cooking

I can relate to all of the above. Although the sad state of male employment is well-known, what haven’t been analyzed are the gender impacts of this “forced feminization.” Economic pressures are acting as an accelerator to the En-Gendering of America.

There’s a lot more. For the whole picture, go to Ms. Popcorn’s website for not only this year’s predictions but also previous efforts (www.faithpopcorn.com/ContentFiles/PDF/FPBR_2011 Predictions.pdf). More next month.

Let us help you plan for 2011 and beyond. Email Jamie Efurd or call 281-448-3435 or 337-235-1848 to schedule a meeting with Foster Marketing to discuss how we can help integrate and enhance your marketing efforts.

New Year, New Plan of Attack

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Move Making the Most of Your Marketing Efforts to the Top of the To-Do List for 2011

By Tiffany Harris, President of Foster Marketing

Whether you are a deepwater drilling company or a wind turbine manufacturer, no energy company supplier starts the year saying, “We did well enough last year; we can let our competitors increase their market share this year.” … At least, not if they plan to still be in business in the future.

Acknowledge that the status quo is, in fact, losing ground and create a clear vision of the possibilities ahead for your company by improving your marketing efforts. As you develop your plan for 2011, add making the most of your marketing efforts to the agenda. Here are some tried-and-true methods that can increase market share, build brand awareness and ultimately bolster your bottom line.

• Set objectives. Would you start running a race without knowing the distance or location of the finish line? To get to your finish line and truly see a return on your time and financial investment for marketing, you must set mile markers so you can ensure you’re on the right track. Common objectives for businesses could include entering new geographic markets, increasing awareness or developing new sales tools, such as a brochure or website.

• Identify key target markets. Along with setting marketing objectives, identifying your key target markets helps guide your path. Key targets can be geographic, demographic or product/service specific.

• Develop a budget. Keep in mind, lofty objectives require a monetary commitment. So, plan accordingly. Having a spending plan also can help you define how much you can accomplish this year and what will become a priority next year.

• Develop a plan. An effective marketing communications plan should pull your objectives, targets and budget together into a single plan of attack. This can also include a timeline to help keep your efforts focused because a project without a deadline can easily turn into a wish.

• Work the plan. With the prize in your sights, you can begin integrating your efforts to maximize the return on your time and monetary investment. Using a mix of marketing tactics such as branding, public relations, research, advertising (print and digital) and trade shows is an effective way to reach your goals. Identify and push your positioning statement and hone your message as you work your plan.

• Monitor. Be sure to check the pulse of your efforts along the way to determine if you need to push harder or adjust your plan. Building tracking methods into your marketing efforts allows you to track your progress.

Using these tactics in your marketing efforts can mean great gains for your company and lend support to a 2012 plan of attack that is even bigger and better.

Let us help you plan your 2011 marketing budget. Email Jamie Efurd or call 281-448-3435 or 337-235-1848 to schedule a meeting with Foster Marketing to discuss how we can help integrate and enhance your marketing program.

Season’s Greeting!

As we near the time when families and friends gather and seasonal celebrations will begin, Foster Marketing wishes you the gifts of joy, health and prosperity in the coming year!

Gifts from Foster Marketing

We hope you enjoy this holiday season celebrating with family and friends. If you need some inspirational music to count your blessings then click here as Foster Marketing CEO George Foster counts his blessings in this video message from November.

As we finish our 30th year, we wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, remembering that Jesus is the reason for the season! As always, the Foster Marketing team is here as your partner in all your marketing, advertising, public relations, digital, trade show and event endeavors. Here’s hoping 2011 will bring bright and prosperous times!

— From the Foster Marketing Family