Anita Brightman

Often in life, we spend so much time working on the next project we forget to stop and take stock of our achievements. A 20th anniversary seems a good time to take pause and reflect. As I look around me, I see the walls of my Bel Air office and the hallways of the building covered in the national, regional and local awards we’ve won at A. Bright Idea. More important to me, however, remains the continued trust clients freely offer us to help them continue to succeed. I take pride in the achievements of A. Bright Idea over the past 20 years and the bright future ahead. I started alone.

In August 1996, I began A. Bright Idea with the simple desire to use my talents creatively and to their fullest potential. I decided to leave the corporate world behind and create my own business. It was not the safe choice with a newborn daughter, an uncertain economic situation and no prior experience as an entrepreneur.

With confidence in my abilities and a desire to approach things differently than in the corporate world, I flipped their contracting business model. Instead of hiring people to meet contract requirements only to eliminate positions when contracts ended, I decided to build a talented team and find multiple clients we could support.

During this journey, several key people played a role in building our success. My thankfulness to them remains everlasting. Here are just a few who helped along the way:

  • TJ, my husband, for planting the seed of starting my own business and always serving as my biggest supporter and cheerleader. He brought considerable marketing and management experience (as well as his best friend, Chad Mitchell, as our CFO) when they joined the team a decade ago.
  • Gary McCormick, APR, Fellow PRSA, for hiring me out of college, exposing me to the Public Relations Society of America, and the government contracting arena and the PageMaker design software.
  • Dan Simmons, owner of Continental Search and Outplacement Inc., trusted me to help his business, and as I know from personal experience, a business represents more than just where we work – it represents our dreams and our time. Twenty years later, I still appreciate the trust and advice he bestowed.
  • The late Miguel “Mickey” Morales, then the public affairs officer for the former Soldier Biological Chemical Defense Command, pushed me to apply for the federal 8(a) certification program. I listened and was accepted into the business development program in 2006 and graduated last year.
  • John O’Brien and Jacob Cheiffo from the Office of Small Business Programs at Aberdeen Proving Ground for helping us get in front of government clients and demonstrate our capabilities.
  • Rosita Carosella, small business program associate director for the Defense Logistics Agency, for supporting us in the transition from a subcontractor to a prime contractor, which helped propel us in the right direction at the right time to allow us to grow at a sustainable rate.

This list above doesn’t even begin to capture the level of support I’ve received throughout the years from numerous professionals, clients, partners and friends.

The spark that began in my spare-bedroom-turned-office now serves as a beacon to draw others eager to perform to their fullest potential as creative verbal and visual communicators.

Nearly 40 people – Bright Lights as we call them – make up the A. Bright Idea team today. A. Bright Idea operates with team members in three states and maintains offices on the East and West Coast. I take pride in creating a space where they can do good work and find creative solutions for our clients. The Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.” As we mark the 20th anniversary milestone of A. Bright Idea, our team uplifts each other and uplifts me. We work closely together, taking advantage of the diversity of our talents and experience to push our work to the next level. We’re supportive. We provide assistance to our clients and to each other, offering help, guidance and advice in areas critical to their success. We’re proactive. We take risks and look for opportunities to support the end goal, solving problems and building creative solutions without fear.

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I look forward to the next 20 years with the same excitement and desire as I did that August morning in 1996 when the future lay brightly before me.

 

Katie MacNichol

Whether you are a small business, nonprofit or large entity, developing a creative campaign can be a challenge. You may be thinking: How can I stand out among the competition? How can I make sure my brand is represented well? Will the campaign effectively support my goals? How can I get my audience to respond? What do I want them to know about my business?

Let us break down the elements that go into making a strong, strategic and measurable communication campaign.

Based on the Dragonfly Model, we categorize campaign elements into four sections:

  1. Focus
  2. Grab attention
  3. Engage
  4. Take action

When you consider all four pieces (or wings) of the model, your campaign will come together to work at peak efficiency and remain rooted in meeting your end goal. Like when a dragonfly flies – it needs all four wings to work in tandem in order to get where it aims to go.

To start, we focus your campaign on a single concrete, measurable goal. This will ensure tools and tactics implemented through the campaign remain grounded and focused on one thing. So – what do you want to accomplish?

Next, we grab the attention of your audience. To do this, we make sure to incorporate a personal and visual call-to-action to engage your audience and make them focus on your brand.

Take Whirlpool for example. The brand’s most recent advertising campaign organically grabs the attention of their target audience by making a personal appeal, visually.

(PS – If you’re not on the verge of happy tears right now, you should be.)

Now, time to engage. When planning tools and tactics to most effectively engage your audience, empathy toward your audience helps to increase engagement – so long, of course, as the empathetic message doesn’t appear forced. (Faking empathy can make your audience feel betrayed, so, if you’re going to use empathy as an engagement tactic, always make sure to come by it naturally!)

And finally, it’s time to take action. One of the best tips for getting your audience to take action – less is more. Keep your messaging obvious but clever, telling your audience exactly how, when and why to take action toward what you want them to do. Make it easy for them!

When you’re ready to embark on your next creative campaign, A. Bright Idea is ready to help you fly to new heights!

Staying trendy in social media

abimaster | November 12, 2014

At A. Bright Idea, social media trends, statistics, best practices and innovative ideas are part of our daily operations, and staying on top of these industry changes prove crucial for our clients’ impact across multiple social media platforms. Social media serves as a free networking and outreach tool to build awareness and rapport with an audience. Businesses can build interest in their brands by posting relevant industry articles, news, events, photos, products and more – but how do you stay relevant and compete in this growing competitive environment? Social media offers the ability for businesses to segment and specifically target audiences with offers or messaging based on user profiles. If used strategically, social media provides the opportunity to elevate awareness, generate and sustain loyalty and reach new audiences.

Here are some quick, recent facts about social media:

  • 72% of all internet users are now active on social media
  • 89% of 18-29 year olds use social media
  • On average, Americans spend 16 minutes per hour on social media
  • 71% of users access social media from a mobile device
  • One million websites are accessed using the “Login with Facebook”
  • 23% of Facebook users login at least 5 times per day
  • 47% of Americans say Facebook is their #1 influencer of purchases

StayingTrendyInSM

With not only more social media platforms than ever, each social media outlet is changing every day, from the way you can advertise, to the layout of your brand’s page, to the best tips for engaging your audience. Keeping your social media active and fresh requires your due diligence, so here are some tips to engage your audience across many social platforms:

  • Photos, photos, photos.
    • Studies show posts get 85% higher engagement on Facebook and 35% more retweets.
  • Utilize Facebook advertising, but target your audience, even just a little goes a long way
  • Engage with other profiles and users, comment/reply to posts
  • Ask questions, offer facts/tips and utilize contests or giveaways
  • Repurpose content across platforms and website
  • Show a brand personality
  • Utilize your analytics data to capture audiences, posting times and more

A. Bright Idea’s expertise in social media continues to engage audiences for our clients, either through social media strategies implemented by our clients, or allowing A. Bright Idea to implement a strategy for you.
Email info@abrightideaonline.com or call 410-836-7180 | 707-935-1377 for questions.

 

Remember when media was as simple as TV, radio and the newspaper? Today, it’s no longer just a few platforms in competition. In fact, here are some of the top media platforms competing for audience attention:

  • Television – 85 percent of American’s watch TV
  • Laptop/computer – 68 percent of American’s use a computer
  • Radio – 65 percent of American’s listen to the radio
  • Print (papers/magazines) – 61 percent of American’s read print media
  • Mobile – 55 percent of American’s consume media on their mobile device
  • Tablet – 28 percent of American’s consume media on their tablet device

* Source: http://www.americanpressinstitute.org/publications/reports/survey-research/personal-news-cycle/

That’s just a glimpse of what forms of media advertising are available. Now consider cable, satellite radio, Internet radio, online and website advertising, social media and more. It’s enough to make you cringe when thinking of the numerous methods available today to reach your audience. It’s also very easy for organizations to lose sight of their strategic focus when facing this increasingly fragmented advertising world. A business’ strategic approach needs to focus on their goals, their target audience and their methods of consumption, as well as a specific call-to-action that will impact that audience.

Developing an integrated and strategic communications approach, including multiple media touch points, as well as incorporating other forms of marketing and public relations allows businesses to create an impression with the audience by using fragmentation as an advantage. By focusing on the underlying goals and creating a specific and strategic approach, unique and targeted advertising opportunities exist to brand an organization and still maintain a reasonable budget.

In the instance of advertising, the point you should always consider before implementing a campaign – it’s better to buy 100 ads spread across five platforms reaching 50 percent of your audience if the total is 500,000 impressions than 100 ads on one platform reaching 75 percent of your audience if the total is 10,000 impressions. Taking into consideration consumer habits and consumption, having your campaign run in multiple forms of media may give the impression of a larger spend, hit the consumer on multiple platforms, and build the brand confidence by being included on media that the consumer already values or is loyal to.

Because of fragmentation, programmatic media buying driven by data continues to change media buying, pushes pricing and limits availability. We specifically combat this for clients by finding unique ways to break through that clutter while maximizing your budget, targeting the right audience for your goals and driving your key messages and calls-to-action for results.

If it’s time to evaluate your approach and ensure you’re using fragmentation to your advantage, call us for a marketing audit and analysis!

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http://www.americanpressinstitute.org/publications/reports/survey-research/personal-news-cycle/

 

Jimmie Cummings, Director of Government Services
Jimmie Cummings, Director of Government Services

In response to its growing government business, A. Bright Idea Advertising and Public Relations announced that Jimmie Cummings, has been hired to fill a newly created position within the firm as its Director of Government Services.

Cummings’, a former Army lieutenant colonel and public affairs officer, just recently retired after over 22 years of military service that included serving in positions at Fort George G. Meade, the Pentagon and numerous deployments to both Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Jimmie is an experienced leader and strategic communicator with a great deal of public affairs, crisis communication and media relations expertise in and around the military and government realm,” says T.J. Brightman, Principal/Vice President of Client Relations of A. Bright Idea.  “Strong and diverse talent is just one of the things we pride ourselves on at A. Bright Idea.  Jimmie will be another tremendous addition to our staff here and he was the ideal fit for our new position.”

Cummings’ most recent public affairs assignments included stops at Fort George G. Meade as the Executive Officer and Integration Chief of the Army Public Affairs Center, and a deployment to Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was a spokesman and press desk chief for both the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and U.S. Army Forces-Afghanistan.  While deployed to Afghanistan for a year he provided public affairs support to numerous high profile and cultural sensitive incidents with global implications.  Cummings advised U.S. and ISAF senior leaders on public affairs strategies, crisis communication and media relations in a cultural diverse and sensitive environment as well as coordinated public affairs operations with the U.S. Embassy staff in Kabul.

Cummings was also previously posted at the Pentagon in the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs (OCPA) as an Army spokesman and public affairs advisor on issues regarding operations, weapons, environment, and technology to include acquisition and force modernization.  He is a native of Fairhope, Ala., and now resides in Catonsville, Md.

An award-winning advertising and public relations agency with locations in Bel Air, Md. and Sonoma, Calif. A. Bright Idea excels at identifying opportunities, generating ideas and executing customized solutions that deliver results for government, commercial and nonprofit clients including: U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, U.S. Economic Development Administration, Department of Defense Joint Program Manager – Elimination (APG); National Institute of Corrections; DuPont; Stella Maris; Courtland Hearth and Hardware; Kenwood Kitchens; The John Carroll School; Yountville Chamber of Commerce; St. Francis Winery & Vineyards; Sonoma Valley Teen Services; Slavie Federal Savings Bank; Sonoma Valley Education Foundation; and Sonoma Valley Community Health Center among many others. For more information on A. Bright Idea and its services, visit www.abrightideaonline.com or email info@abrightideaonline.com.

 

Client News – Summer 2013

abimaster | September 24, 2013
  • This fall, look for A. Bright Idea’s new creative and production for Stella Maris’ Anniversary Campaign. Highlighting the remarkable service of a leader in elder care, A. Bright Idea offers strategic marketing support in celebration of Stella Maris’ 60 years of long term care and 30 years of hospice care in Maryland. The anniversary campaign includes a custom anniversary logo, strategic marketing and communications plan, media campaign and video production, as well as marketing collateral and event support.
  • The John Carroll School launches its 50th anniversary year with a custom logo and timeline-style brochure, including vintage photos and milestone dates, designed by A. Bright Idea.
  • Grapevine Catering is moving into a new space in Santa Rosa, CA where both the catering company will operate and their Earth’s Bounty Fine Foods products will be sold. The new storefront, Earth’s Bounty Kitchen & Wine Bar will have a take away menu and artisan produced products along with a full-service café and wine bar. A. Bright Idea supports the businesses with branding, signage, marketing, website, collateral design, email marketing and more.
  • Flavor Cupcakery supports wounded veterans and boasts community spirit with “It’s a Flavorful Life” – a week of promotions and special offers from the cupcakery and fellow small businesses in Bel Air and Cockeysville, MD. A. Bright Idea provided a custom event mark, collateral and PR support for the campaign.
  • A. Bright Idea designed the collateral and promotional materials for the Sonoma Valley Teen Services annual fundraising event, Cowboy Cab. Held at Larson Family Winery, the event sold out this year with over 200 guests in attendance. Check out a photo from the event here.
  • A. Bright Idea positions Synergy Integration Advisors for growth with a brand refresh, custom information graphic and icons, capabilities statement, brochure, document templates and stationery.
  • Celebrating 40 years in business, A. Bright Idea develops the Kenwood Kitchens Dream Kitchen contest, including advertising creative, print collateral and web page design, where one lucky winner will receive a $40,000 dream kitchen! Have you entered?

Creative ‘cross America

abimaster | February 26, 2013

By: David Wells

A few things immediately evident as I travel across the U.S., hoping to take advantage of the best dining our country has to offer:

1. Smart phones and Google are the best invention ever
2. Not everything you read on the internet is true
3. Nothing beats the eye 

Making my way from one coast to the other in a good, old-fashioned road trip, I can’t help but notice the branding and signage along the route. Before I hit the road, I made a rule of no ‘chain’ restaurants – I wanted local, unique and creative. I’m not sure if I’ve been blessed with good luck at picking out great places to stop, or if I simply know how to use the information available to me, but every stop fulfills my need for not only good food, but a great and memorable brand experience.

Queen City CreameryThe first stop, although not too far from A. Bright Idea headquarters in Bel Air, was in Cumberland Md., at the Queen City Creamery. A simple Google search on my smart phone for “best places to eat in Cumberland” provided me with a plethora of rating websites, Yelp reviews, locations and more. After seeing the Creamery appear on several sites, I decided to check out their website. You notice a historical feel to the logo, which matches their historical building on the main street. When we pulled off the highway and onto the street, the building, signage and quaint nature of the place caught my eye, and I know it would be what I expected and wanted. The creamery is known for its homemade ice cream, but the deli sandwiches were a treat. You can tell it’s a local favorite by the number of groups of people laughing at the diner-style tables and talking with the staff like they were friends. I indulged in one of their well-known milkshakes as headed West. For me, a restaurant brand is not just about the outside looks and website, but from the moment I visited their website, I formed an expectation and the physical restaurant, atmosphere, service and fare didn’t disappoint!

Another stop along the way, thanks to another Google search and Trip Advisor recommendation landed me at Wild Eggs in Louisville, Kentucky. From the reviews, to the social media, to the website, I knew we were Wild Eggsin for something special when I decided to stop at this breakfast spot. Like some of the reviews proclaimed, we got to the restaurant and had to wait almost an hour for a table. However, from the time you walk in until the time you walk out, guests wait in the lobby and even outside in the cold to eat at this restaurant, so you know they must be doing something right. This family-owned restaurant has a great history and photographs of their delicious food on the walls, and a somewhat ‘wild’ appearance from the outside with bright colors. The Wild Eggs ‘story’ hangs on a poster in the lobby, providing something to read and learn. The Wild Eggs brand is all about tradition, history and comfort. With signature dishes and favorites, the waiter had no problem steering us in a direction he thought would please our palette. Their specialty strawberry tall stack, Eggs Bennie, grits and cinnamon roll did not disappoint, and looked just like the photographs on the website, foursquare photos and on the restaurant walls. For locals and tourists alike, the Wild Eggs brand is set for success.

For great views of downtown St. Louis, those who are 21 and over should stop here to view the city from St. Louisabove at 360 Rooftop Bar. With some of the best views of City Hall, the Gateway Arch and Busch Stadium, the 360 Bar is an upscale tapas restaurant and bar with modern amenities. Cool fireplace features on the outdoor patio and outdoor TVs to watch sporting events, the 360 degree glass walls allow you to see any feature of St. Louis, even a Cardinals game from above. The 360 brand is modern and speaks to a certain crowd, and features DJs at night for this crowd. The modern website and logo pair with the created brand and atmosphere of the business. The tagline, Sip See Savor, captured my attention – I’m a sucker for three word taglines – and spoke true to the 360 mission and brand.

A final brand on the road trip thus far included Andolini’s Pizza in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Deciding where to stop and eat on the way to Oklahoma City was a challenge, but my smart phone and Google helped out yet again. Two local places sat next to each other and had favorable reviews, so we decided to check them out from the outside before making the final selection. One review for Andolini’s said, “If you’re looking for something with an ambiance, Ando’s is not your place, but if you want fresh ingredients and great food, this is your stop.” Well, as soon as we saw the place, it screamed ambiance. The outdoor fireplaces and brick walls welcome visitors. The chefs tossing pizza in the air in the windows was the final seller. The menu was designed well and included a great selection of signature pizzas, local craft beers and more. I’m not sure what the reviewer meant when he said the place had no ‘ambiance,’ but I’m glad we chose Ando’s, and the waitress even provided me with my very own Ando’s glass as a souvenir.

From experience, I know many local joints depend on their loyal customer base and word-of-mouth, but an investment in a solid brand is never wasted. For those businesses looking to grab the attention of a traveler, hope you have good reviews, have a website and be true to your brand in all aspects of your business, and you’re bound to earn a stop from this guy.

Recognizing minority-owned and women-owned firms for business achievement and efforts in strengthening minority business development, A. Bright Idea was named one of only 16 2012 Bridging the Gap award winners at a ceremony on October 23.

The Greater Baltimore Committee selects Bridging the Gap award winners based on nominations submitted by businesses, civic organizations, employees, customers, elected officials and government agencies. A. Bright Idea’s nomination came from the Harford County Office of Economic Development on the heels of A. Bright Idea winning its third consecutive acknowledgement as a Top 100 MBE in Maryland.

 

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Cause Marketing still makes sense

abimaster | October 9, 2012

Marketing strategy abounds today as brands, family-owned small business and even the PTO from the elementary school down the street compete for attention. If you’re marketing budget doesn’t allow for promoted tweets or primetime TV spots during election night, there is hope for breaking through the clutter.

People pay attention to issues that matter to them. They also have good intuition about truly genuine motives. As we hear many cause-related messages during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, as championed by one of the pioneers in cause marketing – Susan G. Komen for the Cure – consider the following related to cause marketing:

Make a natural connection

Your cause should make sense to your business or to your audience. For example, Scott’s current campaign plants trees for every box of tissues sold, and Pepsi promotes “refreshing” ideas for community programs and projects. These causes are extensions of the brands and natural connections for customers. The more obscure and complicated the issue or cause, the more difficult to effectively make the connection for the audience.

Make community sponsorships charitable, not marketing

First, recognize the difference between being a good neighbor and cause marketing. Supporting your local school district or fire department through charitable donations is a good way to give back to your community. It is not a form of marketing or a cause that your customers can get behind and use to spread the word about your brand.

Make it easy

Even the most passionate supporters need to know what you want them to do. Tell them! Plan the promotion so the call-to-action (pledge, awareness message, event) is at the forefront of all messaging and is easy for the audience to do and to share. Providing discounts for wearing a pink ribbon, pledging a donation for each sale, etc. will make the cause and what you plan to give back clear.

Make it social

When customers feel good about supporting a cause, they tell others. Provide them with an easy way to do it, while controlling the message through social media pages and promotions specific to the cause marketing campaign. Promote social media on all communications and actively maintain by providing updates and building excitement about the progress as goals are reached.

Use cause marketing to build a stronger relationship between your customers and your brand. Overall, just make sure the cause matches your own goals as an organization and it’s not just the next big thing in effort to generate a buzz.

Agency earns honors for the fourth consecutive time

Bel Air, Md. – A. Bright Idea Advertising and Public Relations, an award-winning agency servicing the Baltimore Metropolitan region, recently received acknowledgement as one of the Top 100 Minority Business Enterprises in the State of Maryland. This marks the fourth win since the program’s establishment, reflecting the agency’s continued stature among trusted MBEs during every year of eligibility within the recognition program.

Honoring exceptional minority and women entrepreneurs, the Top 100 Minority Business Enterprise Award recognizes business owners for innovation, contributions to the business community, and inspirational impact on clients, professionals and other businesses. The awards ceremony took place at the University of Maryland, University College in Adelphi, Maryland in May.

Nominated by the region’s chambers of commerce, professional organizations, business community and general public, A. Bright Idea counts among one of 5,000 nominees from businesses in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. Sharon R. Pinder, founder of the Top 100 MBE Awards Ceremony stated “The winners of this year’s Top 100 MBE Award exemplifies excellence and stability especially during these turbulent economic times.” A. Bright Idea epitomizes achievements in entrepreneurship, professionalism, and contributions to the community.

“It remains an incredible honor to be recognized by the state again as one of the Top 100 MBE’s of the region,” says Anita A. Brightman, President and Founder of A. Bright Idea. “This award showcases the tremendous small business community here in Maryland and I am proud that A. Bright Idea is counted among the top echelon.”

An award-winning advertising and public relations agency with locations in Bel Air, Md. and Sonoma, Calif., A. Bright Idea excels at identifying opportunities, generating ideas and executing customized solutions that deliver results for government, commercial and non-profit clients. Based in Bel Air, we serve large and small clients including Science Applications International Corporation, U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency, U.S. Economic Development Administration, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Defense Logistics Agency, DuPont, Baltimore County Savings Bank, Slavie Federal Savings Bank and Bel Air Center for Addictions, among many others.

For more information on A. Bright Idea, please visit www.abrightideaonline.com.