Thursday, March 19, 2009

Diane Chehab on the new trends of marketing

Photo credit: F. Candelaria (New York City Transit) Diane Chehab has studied at the City University of New York/Zicklin School of Business, at the Ecole Nationale SupĂ©rieure des Beaux-Arts in France, and at the Lebanese University. She is a multilingual professional with experience in a large range of areas (architecture, marketing, social media, retail and wholesale, transportation, technology management and strategy) and in several regions (US, Europe, Africa, Middle East). She has managed business development (architectural projects, marketing partnerships), Internet marketing, and social media projects. Diane Chehab is bilingual French-English, fluent in German, knows spoken Arabic, and basic Duala (an African language). She is currently a marketing manager at New York City Transit, and she spoke about the new trends in marketing. How come social media has taken up so much space in marketing and how does one emerge from the competition and the clutter found on the net? "Social Media" is an old concept, pre-Internet: it was called networking and socializing. With the new applications on the Web, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Flickr, Twitter, etc., these activities are brought into the Internet age. For marketing goals, social media is invaluable, because it engages marketers and consumers in conversations: consumers can have more influence on products, and marketers often obtain immediate feedback. In my opinion, social media needs to be used judiciously, and in conjunction with “traditional” media, like print ads, websites, TV and radio, and direct marketing. You need to know your consumers and decide the best ways to reach them. The language in social media is different than traditional marketing: marketing is not a one-way street anymore. There is no easy answer as to how to emerge from the clutter. It is important to remain honest and provide the public with information or products that meet their needs. Another issue is synergy: in order for your website or blog to show up in searches, there need to be other sites linking to it, and vice-versa, you want to link to other sites, too. Social media is about generousity and sharing. How does the marketing of a government institution differ from the marketing of any other product or private company? Government institutions are at least partially beholden to taxpayer funds, so they are much more under media scrutiny. Also, even though they often have large budgets, these budgets are for operating expenses rather than marketing, so they have to be creative and financially prudent in their marketing campaigns. You are part of the board of LOMA, the Lower Manhattan Marketing Association, which was founded in 1987 and whose mission is to focus > attention to the features, attractions and cultural components that make up this key New York City community. What special programs did the Association undertake in the wake of the event? Right after September11, 2001, many streets were closed, and information was not being circulated at first. The Lower Manhattan Marketing Association helped in conveying information about the streets being gradually re-opened to the public, and also made efforts to bring people from other neighborhoods or even from outside the city back to Lower Manhattan, with special discount programs in retail stores and restaurants. As a Lebanese expat, how do you feel about being away, and marketing-wise, what is the current image Lebanon is projecting of itself abroad? As a member of the Lebanese diaspora, I am continually torn between wishing I was in Lebanon and the realization that it just didn’t happen. I was born in the United States, but I lived in Lebanon for 8 years; I thought I’d spend the rest of my life there. As noted above, I even attended the Lebanese University’s Institut National des Beaux Arts (and I am very proud of it!). Unfortunately, the war changed those plans and my life went in a very different direction. Lebanon has a very mixed image in the United States. The image here cannot be compared to the image in France, for example. France has historical ties to Lebanon; they have been accustomed to Lebanese food and culture since a very long time. In the United States, the original Lebanese immigration wave (around 1900) integrated into American society, and they do not have a strong public identity. Nowadays Lebanon is often identified with war, bombs, militias, and other such mayhem. We who are of Lebanese descent know there is so much more, and try to convey it: the incredibly accomplished people of Lebanese descent (A Japanese friend told me recently that Carlos Ghosn was a national hero in Japan; how many non-Japanese can this be said of?); the food, the wine, the beauty of the land, the incredible bounty of fruits and vegetables, and most important, the indomitable spirit of the Lebanese people.
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