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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the November 6, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Being Heard Above the Noise

New York City is currently in a struggle with companies

that have taken to pasting enormous ads directly onto its sidewalks.

Meanwhile computer users are so irked at hideous, computer-freezing

pop-up ads that even revenue-minded AOL has said it will ban most

from its network. And at the lunch counter, McDonald’s has just

installed

flat-screen monitors — one for nearly every diner — in some

of its restaurants, so that one can learn all about the company’s

products and history while consuming a Big Mac.

"There is just so much noise," says Lisa Hines,

co-founder

of the Acadia, a marketing company with offices at 179 Nassau Street.

In a world full of popcorn bags shilling for blue jeans, taxi cabs

carrying digital screens advertising breath mints, and magazines

published

by home improvement and cigarette companies, how on earth can a

company

get its message across?

Hines points the way when she speaks on "Cutting Edge

Marketing"

at a meeting of the Middlesex and Mercer County NJAWBO chapters on

Thursday, November 14, at 6 p.m. at the Merrill Lynch Conference

Center.

Mark Feffer, president of Tramp Steamer Media, also speaks.

Cost: $35. Call 609-924-7975.

Hines, a native of Ohio and a graduate of Bowling Green (Class of

1984), where she studied biology, co-founded Acadia in 1997 with

Dale

Schierholt. She came to the industry, and to her partnership, in

a slightly round-about way.

"I was all set to pursue my Ph.D. in biology," she says,

"but

I decided to take a year off." During that year, she worked at

the Michigan State Medical School. A friend was taking business

courses,

and told her how much she enjoyed them. Tuition was free, so Hines

decided to try a couple of business courses herself. "I totally

fell in love with business," she says. So, she changed course

and studied for an MBA.

At about that time, her husband, Dan Hines, a physicist, accepted

a job in New Jersey, and she moved here with him. The couple have

two children, 13 and 9.

Hines spent a number of years doing in-house marketing. When she was

vice president of marketing for Crest Ultrasonics, Schierholt was

art director of the agency that company used. She thoroughly enjoyed

working for him, and the two kept in touch after she left the

corporate

world to start her own strategic planning and business planning

company.

In business for herself, Hines needed a creative person for a project

and called Schierholt. "It was so much fun. We had such good

chemistry,"

she says. The two decided to go into business together. "It was

a surprise to both of us," she says.

Acadia, the company they founded, specializes in marketing for small

to mid-size companies, and many of its clients are contract research

organizations (CROs), non-profits, and educational institutions. All

face the challenge of getting a message through the constant buzz

of advertising noise — and many need to do so with a small

advertising

budget. Is the task doable? Absolutely, says Hines, giving this

advice:

Know who you are. Before a single piece of direct mail

goes out or the first billboard message goes up, an organization must

know what it is, what it does, and who its customers or clients are.

While this sounds basic, it is a step many organizations skip.

Hines offers the example of a non-profit that had changed the way

it did its work. In a full day of meetings with the agency’s staff,

clients, management, and members of its board, she discovered that

the change had never been communicated. "We were finding a

misconception

about what they were doing," she says. "There was a disconnect

between what people inside and outside thought the agency did. Even

board members did not know about the shift in philosophy."

Crystallize your message. Having established exactly the

value the organization brings, that value has to be stated in concise

words or phrases that describe the work in a clear way. Remember all

the noise; only the sharpest missiles will penetrate it.

When the message reflects the essence of the organization, and it

is stated clearly, employees and customers can spread the word.

Deliver your message in a number of ways. Asked whether

any one medium is especially effective now, Hines says the medium

— radio, Internet, billboard, direct mail, newspaper — does

not matter as much as the fact that it is never a good idea to use

just one. In the recent past, some companies thought that putting

up a website meant their marketing effort was complete. Not at all,

says Hines. It is always necessary to use more than one advertising

medium.

Co-ordinate your message. Here is where technology really

kicks in. A direct mail campaign can be used to feed customers to

a website. An E-mail campaign can have a website addresses embedded

into it.

Diversify your goals. Many people think marketing is only

about finding more clients, but Hines says there are situations where

the most important use of marketing may be to keep existing clients.

"If you take out a full page ad in a trade magazine," she

says, "it establishes your company as solid." Seeing the ad,

customers may well feel reassured about their choice. Keeping these

existing customers can be far easier — and less expensive —

than going after new customers.

Take advantage of printing advances. Not too long ago,

brochures, fliers, and newsletters had to be printed in large

quantities,

especially if they were four-color pieces. Now, with digital printing,

it is easy and cost effective to get 100 items run off at a time.

In the end, making more noise may not help a CRO land a

pharmaceutical

contract or help a non-profit pull in donations. It’s the clarity

of the message that counts. "Saying the same thing over and over

doesn’t help if it’s the wrong thing," says Hines.


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