ß May 2018 – MHD Group

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MHD Group adds talent, experience of Martino Graphic Design to serve regional market

MHD Group adds talent, experience of Martino Graphic Design to serve regional market

At MHD Group, we have collaborated with our clients for more than three decades to create visual communications strategies that stand the test of time. What began as a one-woman graphic design studio in Marcia Herrmann’s home now features 10 employees with the expertise to meet the sophisticated expectations of today’s business leaders.

Our clients have shown us that business success today is more than a function of simple hard work. It requires the determination and nimbleness to constantly innovate, the courage to take on appropriate risk, and the vision to recognize and adapt to emerging trends in the marketplace. With that in mind, MHD Group is proud to announce that as of July 1, 2017, we will welcome into our firm another leading Modesto company – Martino Graphic Design.

Marian and Paul Martino collectively bring more than 60 years of proven ability and success to MHD Group. Their diverse graphic design and communications portfolio includes some of the region’s leading companies and organizations. The Martinos have earned respect for their creativity, integrity and commitment to improving the level of professional design in the area.

MHD Group’s comprehensive offering of services will benefit the Martinos’ established client base and allow MHD Group to respond efficiently to marketplace dynamics.

MHD Group works with clients in these areas:

  • Brand strategy
  • Graphic design
  • Web development
  • Package design
  • Marketing strategy
  • Advertising
  • Social media
  • Digital marketing
  • Public relations, including crisis and reputation management
“We believe that the Modesto area and the greater San Joaquin Valley offer incredible opportunity for those who choose, as we do, to live and work here,” said Marcia Herrmann, owner and creative director of MHD Group. “We are proud that in the past 30 years, like the Martinos, we have partnered with hundreds of clients to help them elevate their brands, enhance their message and ensure customer loyalty. We appreciate their trust and their confidence. Many companies are repositioning themselves to respond to rapidly changing market trends. By adding Marian and Paul to our talented team of next-generation thought leaders, we increase our depth, experience and ability to provide businesses with the tools they need to plan and execute in this challenging marketplace.” “We are delighted to join the MHD Group,” said Marian Martino. “This is a great fit for us and a fantastic opportunity to blend our experience and creativity with this highly talented and dedicated team.”

Have questions? MHD Group can help answer them.

9 Tips to a Successful Media Interview

9 Tips to a Successful Media Interview

Having spent more than 30 years in newsrooms as a reporter and an editor, I have a pretty good sense of how journalists think. They’re not all alike, of course, but there are some shared habits and processes – whether they work for a newspaper, television station or, more and more today, produce content for a media website.

If you’re like most people, you might be equal parts anxious, nervous, concerned or curious when a reporter calls or an email from one lands in your inbox.Conversely, if it’s a reporter you’ve had a positive experience with before and trust, you may even look forward to the next interaction.

Whatever your impulse, dealing with the media doesn’t have to be a cringe-inducing experience – especially if you understand the reporter’s needs, her deadlines and her intended audience. It’s entirely possible to turn the opportunity into a powerful tool to connect in a positive way to your clients, customers and the general public – without spending a dime.

Here are nine tips to help you control the interview:

  1. Don’t assume the worst
    Some reporters will call with questions about topics you’d rather not discuss or ask you provocative questions. But sometimes the call will be about a product or service you’ve introduced, an employee or friend, or a local cause you feel strongly about. The trick is to not become immediately defensive. The best reporters have a strong sense of when someone is being evasive or outright lying, and only become more aggressive if they think someone is trying to hide something.

  2. Respond promptly
    Don’t naively think that if you don’t return the phone call or email, the reporter won’t write his story. He likely will – and if you blow him off, it might not include your side. If you don’t know or can’t answer a particular question, tell them that and ask if you can get back to them as soon as possible.

  3. Find out more about the story and its timing
    It’s appropriate to ask what kind of deadline a reporter has, what day it may publish or appear on air, and why she is writing the story.

  4. Remembering that photographers and camera operators are journalists too
    Treat them with the same courtesy and respect; in some cases, they may also ask questions. Whatever you say to them is likely to find its way back to a reporter.

  5. Understand what’s already public.
    Property, business and personal information all are accessible not just by the media, but by anyone with access to a computer. For instance, if a lawsuit has been filed the information is public. Don’t waste precious time debating how or why reporters have it, even if it’s not flattering to you or your company.

  6. Leverage your expertise, your brand or your product to become a source for breaking news stories
    Local media – newspapers, in particular – love to add local voices to a state, national or even international story. Positioning yourself as an expert on a particular subject or situation can do wonders for your image within the community.

  7. Quickly provide facts sheets about your company or organization
    The more basic information you can offer a reporter, the easier you’ll make her life and the better you may look in her story. Reporters juggle many assignments every day. Like you, they are very busy people. Don’t make them go hunting for things they should know about your business or agency.

  8. Dealing with television
    It’s important to chat with the reporter before you go on camera to get a sense of what will be asked. Unless you’re being interviewed on live TV, you can always ask a reporter to start over if you flub an answer.

  9. If asked “do you want to add anything,” always say yes.
    This is especially true if you’ve had a chance to prepare and haven’t covered one or more of your key points during the interview. It’s also an opportunity to re-emphasize an important fact.

Have questions? MHD Group can help answer them.

No business or organization welcomes a crisis. But all should expect them

No business or organization welcomes a crisis. But all should expect them

No business or organization welcomes a crisis. But all should expect them. A crisis can take many forms. It could be a fire or natural disaster that dramatically affects operations. It could be a legal dispute involving a lawsuit or charges against an employee. It could be a recall of a product or an accident, regardless of who’s at fault, or confidential data being hacked or compromised. It could be public perception that a company or its leaders have not responded appropriately to any of the above scenarios.

Whatever the circumstances, the threat to the firm’s integrity, reputation and even future will be immediate. Almost invariably, there will be media attention – in the traditional sense from newspapers and TV, and more and more from social media and individuals who share and attack in that form. In a perfect world, the company will have thought about what to do in a crisis situation before it actually happens. It’s much easier to plan and prepare when emotions are normal and anxiety is low.

One of the first decisions to make is to identify a company spokesman. Ideally, this will be the CEO or, in the case of a family business, the owner. It must be someone with authority and credibility. Being smooth and articulate in media interactions certainly are important, but honesty and contrition (if appropriate) are even more critical.

Let’s take a look at couple of the examples

Say a company has a product – food or otherwise – that’s been recalled because of potential harm to customers. Or maybe it got hacked and personal information is suddenly available to ID thieves.

The public will not want to hear about excuses or rationalizations. A real leader in a crisis situation will acknowledge what has happened, will offer genuine empathy to those affected and will talk about what is being done to ensure it doesn’t happen again. There will be no dodging of tough questions or outward displays of defensiveness. Projecting a calm, serious demeanor in the midst of the storm can go a long way to effectively navigating a crisis. That’s a difficult challenge, I realize – especially for business leaders unaccustomed to the glare of media scrutiny or public criticism. It also might run counter to well-intentioned advice given by a company’s legal team, whose important goals don’t always include reputation management in a crisis. Believe me: A tone-deaf response will do far more long-term harm to a company than the opposite. A leader demonstrating true concern and compassion will generate far more goodwill than one coming off as cold and calculating.

A crisis requires message consistency and coordination

A crisis plan is like insurance – businesses need it, even if they hope they never have to use it. Companies should devote quality time to planning ahead to identify the crisis team and the roles each of those people will play. Think of it like a playbook in football, where each teammate must understand and execute a specific assignment for the group to succeed.

A statement should be drafted as soon as possible when a crisis hits and circulated not just to traditional and social media, but also to employees, vendors, customers and others who likely are affected. The release should briefly summarize the facts as known at the time and describe the company’s response. As more facts emerge, updated statements should be released.

If there is a press conference or media interview and a question is asked that the spokesman doesn’t know the answer to, admit it and promise to get back to the reporter in a timely manner. Don’t guess or speculate. Responses should be based on verifiable data, not gut feelings. Again – telling the truth and telling it fast is by far the most effective way of managing public opinion during a crisis. It’s better for the audience to hear what happened from the company than learn it from a blogger or reporter. How long will a crisis last?

The duration of a crisis depends on the unique circumstances in each case. Every situation is different. Some will generate more public attention than others. It may take months for internal and external impacts to completely play out. But a company judged as honestly and skillfully responding to a crisis almost always will emerge on the other side in better shape than one that becomes defensive or withholds important facts. One last suggestion: Once a crisis has passed, convene the crisis team and evaluate what went right and what went wrong. Learn from what happened and apply those lessons next time.

Have questions? MHD Group can help answer them.

How Much is Your Company’s Reputation Worth?

How Much is Your Company’s Reputation Worth?

No business or organization welcomes a crisis.

But all should expect them. A crisis can take many forms. It could be a fire or natural disaster that dramatically affects operations. It could be a legal dispute involving a lawsuit or charges against an employee. It could be a recall of a product or an accident, regardless of who’s at fault, or confidential data being hacked or compromised. It could be public perception that a company or its leaders have not responded appropriately to any of the above scenarios.

Buffett is recognized as one of the smartest investors in the world. He’s also one of the richest. His opinions can move markets. His investment recommendations are gold-plated. He’s called the “Oracle of Omaha” for good reason. So when Warren Buffett offers advice about the value of a reputation – personal, professional or institutional – it pays to listen.

The truth, however, is that many business leaders devote far less time to the potential economic harm caused by a sudden crisis than they do to day-to-day operations. In many ways, that’s understandable. The tyranny of the urgent can easily overtake hypothetical scenarios on any leader’s priority list. But that lack of preparation can exact a high cost when something unexpected happens. In an age when social media allows bad news to travel at the speed of light, failing to plan is a recipe for reputational disaster.

Just ask Target, Chipotle or Volkswagen.

All are national or international companies whose brands – and bottom lines – suffered in the past few years because of widespread attention to embarrassing or unhealthy situations.

  • Target’s computers were hacked and the credit card data of an estimated 40 million shoppers was exposed in an attack in November 2013. The Wall Street Journal estimates the incident cost Target and credit card companies at least $200 million to replace the affected cards, and that doesn’t even count the value of the fraudulent shopping. Minneapolis-based Target took a huge hit at the busiest time of the Christmas shopping season. Worse, it was an online blogger – and not the company itself – who publicly announced the hack.

  • Chipotle Mexican Grill, based in Denver, temporarily closed 43 restaurants in Washington and Oregon in November 2015 after 22 cases of coli were linked to its food. Later, 141 students contracted norovirus after eating in a Chipotle in Massachusetts. Sales fell 30% in December, the company’s stock plunged and a criminal investigation began in California. In late January, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said it was safe to eat at Chipotle again. Still, the company announced it would close all its restaurants Feb. 8 to conduct a massive training on food preparation for its staff.

  • Volkswagen’s reputation took a heavy hit after the world’s No. 2 carmaker admitted its German engineers had found a way to cheat on U.S. diesel emissions tests. As many as 11 million cars worldwide were affected. The company faces fines in the U.S. of as much as $18 billion – and billions more in costs to fix the vehicles. A survey by Autolist found U.S. car owners’ trust in the company dropped and that they were 28% less likely to buy a Volkswagen than before the scandal.

Most companies won’t face an equivalent crisis. But think about the business concerns that keep you up at night. What would you do if one of them happened? What if you’re hacked and your clients’ financial information is stolen, like Target? What if someone – an employee or customer – is sickened or injured because of your product, like Chipotle? What if your organization knowingly violates government standards, like Volkswagen?

A well thought out reputation management plan — created with the help of an experienced professional before a crisis hits – won’t completely eliminate negative attention. But it can provide critical guidance and structure when the worst happens. It is valuable investment in your company, just like business insurance.

The risk, as Warren Buffett suggests, is to watch decades of hard work and responsible behavior get washed away because of one critical mistake, intentional or not.

Have questions? MHD Group can help answer them.

How to write content for your website

How to write content for your website

Business owners and company leaders have many critical responsibilities.

Most are not trained writers. Creating a website with high-quality content that strategically attracts potential customers and accurately represents your company takes thought and intention. It doesn’t happen accidentally. Creating quality content on your website is a critical factor for being relevant in the search engines and in SEO. It’s not enough to have a beautiful web page full of impressive graphics, photos and videos. It must also include well-written text that satisfies the viewer’s intent so there is no need to go back for other search results.

Most people have heard the term Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. It’s a strategy to maximize visitors to your website by making sure it is high on the list of results returned by a search engine. It is important when writing content for your website that you are taking SEO into consideration in order to maximize the chance your website is a match for someone’s search query.

For instance, geography. It may seem simple, but too many companies fail to include something as basic as the city or region they do business in within the text of the website. Having an address and city in the footer isn’t enough anymore for Google’s search algorithms. To get recognized, that information should be contained as part of real sentences on the website.

If you sell tires in Sacramento, your site clearly needs to state that. If you do business in multiple locations, that also should be reflected as well. You must make your site relevant locally. When someone searches for “tires” and “Sacramento,” you want them to find you. Most users don’t randomly search the web. They’re looking for something specific. The more you can anticipate and answer their questions, the better the chances are that their search will start and end with you.

Think of your website as the front door to your business.

If yesterday’s shoppers spent hours window shopping before deciding whether to enter a store, today’s tech-savvy consumers literally have the world at their fingertips. With a few quick keystrokes, they can find you – or your competitors – in seconds.

Have questions? MHD Group can help answer them.

MHD Group provides results driven solutions that elevate brand awareness above the competition, motivate buyers and ensure customer loyalty by effectively integrating branding strategy, graphic and web design, marketing, digital media and public relations.