Building an “umbrella” social media brand for your business outreach

Develop your umbrella brand. Start with a strong image.

Key West Realtor Brenda Donnelly owns two business brands: Island Homes Key West and Historic Key West Vacation Rentals. They serve different target markets, but the information needs of both clients often overlap. Donnelly sells homes, inns, bed-and-breakfasts and guesthouses. She also markets and manages high-end vacation rental properties. Her home buyers often start as vacation home renters. She also maintains a companion blog.

Although the two businesses are separate, it’s easy to see the ways in which a vacation rental can turn into a home purchase — a home that may return to the vacation rental market under Donnelly’s management. Each business feeds the other.

The challenge is establishing an “umbrella” social brand that allows Donnelly to connect with both target audiences. She needs to speak to the specific needs of each target audience while easing them between renting and owning — all without duplicating information or draining her time and resources.

So, we are creating an umbrella brand that she can use across both companies. We’re starting with one, highly identifiable icon coupled with a strong branding statement: Stay a week. Stay a month. Stay a lifetime. We’ll add streamlined social media accounts that can “push-pull” friends and members across both businesses’ websites. Next step: Creating customized, original website and social media content for both target audiences.

Don’t let social media kill your business

Six tips to grow, not kill, your business

You opened your business to make money and serve your customers. You’re not in business to “do” social media. But…. These days no business does business without a significant commitment to social media connections. So, you “get” a website. You “get” a blog. You “get” accounts for LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Klout, Instagram, and the ubiquitous Facebook.

Social media management becomes a major time drain and you who always hated writing term papers in school find yourself scrambling to write blog posts. For every minute you’re managing social media, your clients are waiting for your return phone call. And, you’ve begun to swear.

If that sounds familiar, here are six tips to ensure social media helps you grow business, not kill it:

  1. Clarify what you want to do
  2. Consolidate. Organize your web work
  3. Do it once; use it twice
  4. Put it on your calendar
  5. Outsource the writing
  6. Keep it simple. Invest a little; learn a lot



McCormick Foundation recognizes Key West Watch biz plan

Key West Watch was named one of three runners-up in the annual McCormick Foundation New Media Women Entrepreneurs Initiative. The program, which awards grants to start-up companies owned by women, this week recognized four winners and three runners-up from a field of 227 applications.

Being a runner-up on this list is a very big deal. Competition for the grant program is fierce. To make it to that final round is pretty darn sweet. I’ve worked on the Key West business plan since 2007, when it was nothing more than a napkin and some scribbles. I’ve believed in it, and to have that plan recognized as one that’s got the legs to make it, is, well, way cool.

The top four projects split $56,000 in grants; we remaining three get bragging rights, and clearly, I am taking advantage.

This puts Key West Watch in amazing company with six other women-owned projects Projects like these demonstrate the diversity, power and effectiveness of women in business. It is a humbling experience to share a list with them. (And, I’ve invited them all to Key West next year for an anniversary celebration.”

Read more about the awards and the winners.

Here’s the list of winners from yesterday’s news release:

The winners are:

  •, an ambitious effort launched by former New York Times editor Jeanne Pinder to do what many thought couldn’t be done: bring transparency to health-care costs by helping consumers compare significant variations in local prices for the same medical procedures.
  • Symbolia, a tablet magazine spearheaded by media strategist Erin Polgreen that will blend investigative journalism with comics and illustration.
  • Carolina Public Press, a non-profit, in-depth, investigative news site for western North Carolina, launched by journalist Angie Newsome.
  • The Seattle Lesbian, a daily news site started by two journalists, Sarah Toce and Charlene Strong, who aspire to roll their initial success with news and traffic to a national network of sites.

Runners-up included:

  • Florida Voices, a digital opinion and commentary project to capture the conversations on state issues.
  • Key West Watch, a web, print and social media initiative to connect off-island Key West homeowners to news and public policy decisions that affect island life.
  • The FilAm, an online magazine for Filipinos in New York.

Know a good ad rep for Key West Watch?

A final Midwest Winter: The view from our deck is beautiful in every season.

More on the ad rep in just a minute…

I bet half of my friends and acquaintances think we’re already in Key West. Wish we were, but we’re spending one more snow-and-wind-chill winter in Rockford, IL, though there’s been (thankfully) precious little of both this season.

We’re winding up two decades of “stuff,” from getting the house sold to disentangling from jobs and projects. I’ve been working on the back-end of the business plans, ensuring Key West Watch has the architecture it needs.

I’m also looking for an advertising/marketing sales rep to join me for the start-up. The successful candidate for this contract position will (1) embrace the possibilities of the web world and its digital offspring and still believe that print works; (2) be a news and information junkie; (3) be able to close the deal; and (4) believe that credibility in news, advertising, marketing and services is the foundation of a profitable operation.

If that be you or someone you know, email your cover letter, resume and contact info ( If you’re the right candidate, you’ll know how to tell the tale.

We’ll make a quick trip to Key West in March, come back here to pack it up — and assuming we get this house sold, we’ll arrive with the moving van this summer. Key West Watch goes soft launch in third quarter and will be live with the arrival of season.

Who needs “real” journalists when there’s all that free stuff?

It started with letters to the editor — missives from newspaper readers that are equal parts tinfoil hat and insightful commentary. Letters to the editor were the first “user generated content.”

Add in a couple pounds of the ubiquitous “press release,” a tablespoon of original poetry, a cup of weddings, engagements, anniversaries and obituaries and a handful of dead deer and big fish photos and newspapers had a ready-made recipe of content provided by their readers.

Oh, and from the really olden days, pick up a pinch of the “local correspondent’s three-dot column” that included such closely followed items as “Mr. and Mrs. Smith and their four children returned this week from their summer vacation in the north woods.”

There’s nothing new about what we today call “user generated content” or UGC for short. Newspaper readers have always been happy to send along items for publication, proud to see their efforts rewarded with a bit of newsprint and ink. Or, in the case of those far-flung local correspondents (also known as housewives back in the day), 10 cents an inch or a penny a word.

I like that stuff. It connects a community and reflects its collective life. Weave it together with the work of the professional journalists and one has a strong partnership that serves the First Amendment well.

Here’s the rub. User generated content is replacing professional reporting. What worked well as a partnership is morphing into a “well, if we can get it for free, why the heck do we need to pay professionals” strategy for saving money. No news organization these days escapes the spreadsheet directive to lop off professionals and replace them with free UGC.

Stephen Colbert does a most excellent riff on the expense cutting addiction to user generated content in his video commentary on the layoffs of 50 CNN editors and photojournalists. As always, Colbert’s hilarious until he smacks you like a two-by-four to the head.

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