GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

January 24, 2009

Get your message out online

By Tracey Rauh Solomon

Lu Ann Reeb is president of Skyways Communications, a new media marketing firm in Norwood.

Prior to founding her company 10 years ago, Reeb was an Emmy award-winning executive producer who worked in television news for more than 20 years.

As a TV journalist, she produced nightly news programs and documentaries and covered a wide range of news stories. With Skyways Communications, she uses that experience to help businesses tell their stories.

Q: It's no secret that this is a challenging economy — for any sized business. What are some of the ways you counsel people to get their message out and not only survive, but thrive?

A: What I tell my clients, what I ask my clients, is really simple: What is your audience? What is your message? And once we have identified this, then, where are they? ... Are they on the Internet? Are they on iTunes? Are they on Facebook? Are they searching through Google and various search engines?

Once we define the audience, the message — story, and how you reach that audience, then we are able to develop a strategy. It's the same strategy for any size business.

Q: To be clear, you do not create Web sites, but rather content to go along with?

A: Right. Just about every business has a Web site and the problem is that people think because I have a Web site I'm all set. Well, not necessarily so. ... You have to work at technology that will allow your business to be found. And not necessarily spending thousands and thousands of dollars. There are lots of strategies that don't cost a lot of money.

Q: Can you give an example?

A: You can write a blog that's associated with your Web site ... If you write a blog, you become the expert. And people like to listen to experts when they are looking for a product.

If the Web site is your foundation, you have to think peripherally. How can I drive people to my Web site — just like you would try and drive people to your brick and mortar, to your store.

Q: So I am a small businessperson. I own three convenience stores in the Merrimack Valley. I have a Web site. I want to compete better. I want to know how to spend my advertising dollars. What advice would you give to me?

A: You look at how you have marketed and advertised in the past. Maybe you have purchased an ad in a newspaper and that has worked very successfully. ... I would say to that client, don't stop buying that ad in the newspaper because it has worked for you. Rather, you want to add prospective clients. Maybe you do a media buy online with that paper ...

You can also be creative about how you use that ad. I am a big fan of re-purposing content. Let's say that store has an ad in the paper and online with the newspaper. Well, maybe you add a new media piece. So online you can have a click-through to a coupon, to an audio message, a 30-second commercial. ... You look at what you have and build on it incrementally in the most economical way.

Q: Is it more important or less important in an economy like this to continue to budget ad dollars?

A: I would say to any business owner of any size that a down economy is the time when you need to advertise, market and promote even more. Your clients and your customers are cutting back, too. So you really need to try harder to reach them.