Sarah Giesler joins Meridian Group in newly established role

(Virginia Beach, Va.) – Meridian Group, a full-service marketing communications firm, welcomes Sarah Giesler as director of hospitality. Giesler has more than seven years of experience in the service and hospitality industry. In her new position, she will manage client relations, coordinate meetings and conferences for the agency and clients, and assist with public relations and social marketing efforts.

“Sarah’s ability to provide our clients with exceptional hospitality is another extension of our culture of service,” said Joseph Takach, CEO of Meridian Group. “She anticipates our client’s needs before they realize what those needs are and that is what makes her the perfect fit for this position.”

Giesler graduated from Old Dominion University with a bachelor’s degree in communication.

About Meridian Group and Launch Interactive
Meridian Group is a full-service marketing communications firm that specializes in building top brands through a patented Why ProcessTM and integrated marketing programs. Headquartered in Virginia Beach, the agency has served more than 225 clients including STIHL Inc., Wounded Warrior Project, Cox Communications Hampton Roads, Disney Imagineering, and
the Virginia Zoo. For more information, visit themeridiangroup.com.

Launch Interactive, a division of Meridian Group, is an interactive marketing firm that specializes in building branded user experiences on the Internet for businesses. Launch builds engaging, results oriented websites, landing pages, email-marketing programs, online advertising campaigns, search engine-marketing strategies and social marketing programs that help its clients meet their business goals. For more information, visit launchint.com.

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Meridian Group and Launch Interactive to provide strategic marketing initiatives

(Virginia Beach, VA) – Meridian Group, a full service marketing communications firm, and their interactive division, Launch Interactive, were recently hired as agency of record to develop strategic marketing and social media initiatives for luxury properties Stoneleigh Hotel and Spa in Dallas and Bishop’s Lodge Ranch Resort and Spa in Santa Fe, N.M. “We are excited to begin working with these well‐known properties and we look forward to helping solidify them as the top destinations in their respective markets,” said Joseph Takach, CEO.

Meridian Group and Launch Interactive will work together on marketing initiatives for Stoneleigh Hotel and Spa to develop and launch a fully integrated strategic plan that includes a positioning campaign, media and social marketing plans, hotel signage and collateral, and social media strategy.

Launch Interactive will also work with Bishop’s Lodge Ranch Resort and Spa to provide a comprehensive social marketing program. Social activation will include creating and maintaining company pages on social media platforms as well as developing and providing content for customized blogs.

About Meridian Group and Launch Interactive
Meridian Group is a full‐service marketing communications firm that specializes in building top brands through a patented Why Process™ and integrated marketing programs.

Headquartered in Virginia Beach, the agency has served more than 225 clients including STIHL Inc., Wounded Warrior Project, Cox Communications Hampton Roads, Disney Imagineering, and the Virginia Zoo. For more information, visit www.themeridiangroup.com.

Launch Interactive, a division of Meridian Group, is an interactive marketing firm that specializes in building branded user experiences on the Internet for businesses. Launch builds engaging, results oriented websites, landing pages, email‐marketing programs, online advertising campaigns, search engine‐marketing strategies and social marketing programs that help its clients meet their business goals. For more information, visit launchint.com.

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The Meridian Group picked up two Awards of Merit from the Virginia State PRSA Awards last week in Richmond. This adds to the three Pinnacle Awards won at the Hampton Roads Chapter the week prior.

Once again, our client STIHL was recognized for the Lithium-Ion product Launch and Meridian was awarded for their Independent We Stand cause marketing initiative which has recently topped over 56,000 pledges.

It’s one thing to have your client praise you for your work and very rewarding to have our peers recognize the efforts we put forth.

One of our award-winning programs will visit Virginia Beach this year when the STIHL Tour de Trees kicks off at STIHL headquarters on October 2nd. The ride will benefit the Tree Fund research which has raised over a half-million dollars since STIHL has come aboard as the title sponsor.

For more information check out www.stihltourdestrees.org.

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On Wednesday night at the PRSA Hampton Roads Pinnacle Awards Gala, Meridian Group was honored with two Pinnacle awards for work on the campaigns, Independent We Stand and the STIHL Tour des Trees to benefit the TREE Fund!

Independent We Stand, a movement of independently-owned local businesses across the country dedicated to educating their communities about the importance — and the benefits — of ‘buying local’, won for Community Relations and STIHL Tour des Trees, a weeklong, 500-mile cycling event to benefit the TREE Fund won for Public Relations Programs: Special Events.

Congrats to the team! Also, wish us luck as we head to the 2011 PRSA Commonwealth Awards next week in Richmond!

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Airlift Research Foundation, a national not-for-profit organization based in Pittsburgh, dedicated to funding critical research for extremity injuries, has selected the Meridian Group to manage their public relations campaigns and raise awareness for their mission to improve the care of military and civilian survivors of traumatic injuries.

Airlift Research Foundation invests in the work of top clinical scientists, conducting critical research that restores lost limbs or limb function to those who are severely wounded. This is in response to a growing number of orthopedic limb injuries sustained during the wars to active duty military in Iraq and Afghanistan, but such research extends to civilian and peacetime needs as well.

 “Airlift Research Foundation has a proven history of funding incredible breakthroughs in trauma research,” said Terry Kelley, vice president of Meridian Group. “We look forward to elevating the awareness of their important work to a national audience.”

Meridian Group will work to expand awareness of Airlift Research Foundation and its experts, many of whom are national authorities on traumatic extremity research, in order to increase their fundraising and donor support.

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Meridian Group has been contracted by Hypertherm to handle their national public relations program. Hypertherm, headquartered in Hanover, N.H., is a  lead manufacturer of the world’s most advanced plasma cutting systems.

Meridian Group’s success in gaining national media attention for their clients drew our attention,” said Michelle Avila, director of public relations of Hypertherm, which designs and produces plasma and laser cutting systems for use in a variety of industries such as shipbuilding, manufacturing, and automotive repair. Their product line includes handheld and mechanized plasma systems and consumables, as well as CNC motion and height controls.

“We are incredibly proud to add Hypertherm to our client roster,” said Joseph Takach, CEO of Meridian Group. “They are a leader in their industry, and we look forward to bringing their products the recognition they deserve.”

For more information, visit http://hypertherm.com/

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Keep an eye out for wounded warriors at this weekend’s Final Four games and Monday night’s championship: Butler University donated tickets to both games to Wounded Warrior Project.

Thanks to Butler’s generosity, 16 warriors from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will have a chance to attend this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Meridian Group has worked with Wounded Warrior Project on their partnership with the National Association of Collegiate Athletic Directors (NACDA) for several years – learn more about this great warrior opportunity in today’s USA Today “Campus Rivalry” post.

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PR 101 classes teach us that in all cases of adverse news, practice maximum disclosure, minimum delay.  In other words, address the issue as quickly and succinctly as possible with what you know, as soon as all the facts have been verified. 

But sometimes the word “crisis” is not the correct terminology to use in the case of an event that could affect a company.  Sometimes we may be dealing with an “emergency” or “issue.”  A crisis is any event, revelation, allegation or other set of circumstances that threatens the integrity, reputation and/or the financial security of an organization.  A crisis often results from a poorly managed emergency or issue.

Let’s look at a case that was called a crisis but was more of an issue.  Recently, Apple was dealing with what the media termed as “Antennagate.”  After the iPhone 4 was released, people began to notice they were losing reception when they held their new phones a certain way. 

The Wall Street Journal reported that the brouhaha reached a crescendo when Consumer Reports said it couldn’t recommend buying the phone and that its tests showed a hardware defect related to the lost reception.

James O’Rourke a professor of management at the University of Notre Dame said, “Apple tried to minimize the problem which is always a mistake.  Always listen to your customer, say thank you and offer to fix the problem immediately.”

Cleary, this issue did not reach crisis mode.  No one was injured, nor was their loss of life.  When faced with issues, the worst thing you can do is go into a corner and say nothing.  Nonetheless, you need to respond quickly and concisely.  When confronted by other members of your company who may want to ignore the issue, remind them of these simple facts:

  • Bad news will not go away just because you refuse to comment on it.
  • Lack of cooperation with the media and delay in responding will expand the story and make it last longer.
  • The public will forgive and forget accidents, but it won’t forgive deception.

Also, be mindful of how an issue can turn into a crisis.  There are telltale signs you are heading that way if you notice that more rumors abound than fact, your critics are more vocal than usual, and your friends seem to be suddenly invisible.

To better prepare your company, convene a communications committee now and discuss scenarios in your own business so you can prepare to activate responses before adverse news issues strike.

Terry Kelley, Vice President of Public Relations and Corporate Communications

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The Wall Street Journal recently called out some PR mistakes in their “Year of Crisis Management” piece on December 30.  It called out the BP Oil Spill, Apple’s antenna issues and the Toyota acceleration problems to name a few.  Sure there were PR gaffes and in most cases they were preventable.

Let’s take a look at the BP crisis.  Arguably, the most repeated off-quote was CEO Tony Hayward’s, “I want my life back.”

Some argue that it’s not wise to put a CEO on camera to answer questions about a crisis.  The rule of thumb is whomever goes in front of the camera at the highest corporate level has to stay there, hence the constant TV time for Mr. Hayward. 

The face of CEO as being contrite, in Hayward’s case, played well until he made it personal.  This is where proper preparation was lost for what was looked at as “just another interview.” 

It reminds public relations professionals that there must always be a briefing every time a company spokesperson steps in front of the cameras or before a reporter where they need to be reminded of a few basics.

  1.  Don’t make it personal.  A nudge to keep on track would have helped keep the message at the forefront instead of putting Hayward on the point.
  2. You are talking to the world about the disaster, not about yourself.  Sure you may get a scolding but you are also paid to make sure “the boss” presents the message without straying from first -person plural to first-person singular.
  3. Remind them to understand the passion involved by people affected by the crisis.  Again, this brings home who the boss is addressing.
  4. When the CEO is asked, “How are you personally handling the crisis?”  Advice given beforehand will mitigate any off hand reaction.  The answer should be from the first-person plural as in, “We are all deeply concerned for those involved.”

Sound and bites and video clips live forever and posted to viral sites before the entire interview is over. 

The two-minute reminder of how to react to questions asked by a reporter and getting the, “I know what to say” answer, is worth the pain of having to follow a stray quote for the following year in every interview.  Public relations professionals, don’t take anything for granted in a crisis.  Keeping the boss on point by a simple reminder of the rules will show strength and credibility in getting the issue solved to large audiences.

Terry Kelley, Vice President of Public Relations and Corporate Communications

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As we enter a new year, here are a few tips you might want to consider to improve your marketing effectiveness in 2011.

1) Stay true to your brand. Don’t allow short-lived trends or a dip in the economy to distract you from staying true to your brand and everything it stands for. If you are unsure of your brand’s core value or have others in your company taking it in another direction then gather the troops and get 100% buy-in before you invest the first dollar in marketing.

2) Focus on a single message. You cannot be all things to all people all the time. We are seeing marketers throwing everything including the proverbial kitchen sink at consumers to see what penetrates only to daze and confuse them into submission.

3) Get mobile. Smart phones are not a fad and if you are not accessible from a mobile device then your customers will find your competition – very quickly.

4) Listen. Listen. Listen. Your current and prospective customers are out there talking about you. Listen to what they are saying and create a dialogue with them. Social networks can be your friend. They can also be your enemy if you are not listening and responding appropriately.

5) PR baby! An investment in a strategically sound public relations plan will provide you more exposure than paid advertising program. But make sure they work in tandem by integrating all your messaging to sing the same tune. And it’s not just media relations, it’s community, industry and social relations as well.

6) Be bold. Don’t be afraid of doing something bold and different while staying true to your brand. “Purple Cows” get a lot more attention than the black and brown cows…so do pink llamas.

7) Shake it up. Shake up your media plan. If you have been using the same outlets with the same message for the past few years, mix it to reach new audiences who may have not even heard of you.

8) Go viral. Not every viral strategy takes off like a rocket but when they do they take on a life of their own. Don’t give up after one try. Keep at it but be willing to take some risk and look at all the possible scenarios before you blast into cyberspace.

9) Not dead yet. People are still consuming traditional media. Some old folks like me (52) still read traditional newspapers and magazines and we actually watch “live” television. It all depends on who your audience is.

10) Don’t quit. Fight through “the dip” as Seth Godin calls it. If you have a solid business plan and you’re willing to invest time, energy and dollars, you will see that on the other side of the mountain there is a sunny day.

11) Have fun! This is not brain surgery, it’s marketing. Happy New Year!

Joseph Takach, CEO

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