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DMers Need to Project Positive Image

NEW ORLEANS — Direct marketers must focus on presenting a positive brand image to the public, according to Charlotte Beers, the former chair/CEO at Ogilvy & Mather and former chair at J. Walter Thompson. She gave a keynote presentation yesterday at the Direct Marketing Association's 87th Annual Conference and Exhibition here.

DMers need to concentrate specifically on some of the language used in the DM industry that works against them.

“You've got some very bad words operating against you: privacy act, do-not-call, spam, spyware. You cannot accept the fact that this summarizes who you are,” she said.

While direct marketers must be aggressive and defensive in their lobbying, Beers said, “in your other world, you have to tell positive stories about what direct marketing is about.”

Beers suggested that DMers “define what you do for a living, drop your insider industry language, try to speak with one voice and then think about what's the nature of the message.”

Beers also spoke about how her communication and marketing skills served her in her role as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs at the U.S. Department of State from October 2001 through spring 2003.

She discussed how at the State Department, she and her team prepared mini-documentaries for Muslims in other countries about Muslim life in the United States in an effort to say, “we understand and care about you.” After the documentaries were shown, Muslims were given a three- or four-page survey in which they could write about how they felt. Many said they wanted to know more.

“Without that we would have had no dialogue, and without that I could have never shown the State Department that such things worked,” she said.

Beers also covered the difficulty of being a communicator in a government agency. In her opening statement she said, “it's really nice to be with my own kind. I didn't know how much I missed you until I went to the State Department. They really love secrecy.”

When she left the State Department, Beers had a feeling that “these people need more of us on the front line, and now there are more private organizations working in the same area … communicating the totality of our story to the rest of the world.”

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