If you're a big brand like Skittles, Arizona Ice Tea, or even a manufacturer of hoodies, how do you respond when your brand is thrust in the media spotlight in the wake of the Trayvon Martin tragedy? Do you sit back as your brand sort of becomes this iconic symbol and watch as your brand be broadcasted across national media outlets or do you allow corporate social responsibility to take over and do something, perhaps, publicly show sympathy for the grieving family? That's what Skittles did.

In just the blink of an eye, 2011 will be behind us and 2012 will be staring us dead in the face. Besides the normal challenges that come with planning for a new year, many companies simply struggle to maintain top of mind awareness and this eventually has a negative impact on brand positioning, public perception, and ultimately, sales. What other challenges is your company faced with? Is it generating media visibility, deepening brand visibility, remaining competitive, making the leap into social media, being more creative with your customer engagement tactics, or is your company simply faced with typical growing pains? Below are 7 tips to accomplishing your marketing goals in 2011.

A recent discussion on the Twitter non-profit chat #nptalk moderated by @SocialNicole prompted the beginning of a series of posts targeted specifically to non-profit organizations. After engaging in a series of interesting discussions with a few of the chat's participants, I found that many non-profits suffer not because of budgetary reasons or staffing constraints but suffer as a result of a weak approach to branding and positioning their non-profit. Since one of the reoccurring themes in the #nptalk chat was about how to effectively brand a non-profit so that its mission, messages, and core values are well communicated to stakeholders, the next few posts will do just that- teach non-profits the importance of designing a multi-layered marketing strategy that effectively brands and positions their organization. Though targeted to non-profits, this information is useful and applicable to any type of organization whether non-profit or for-profit. Since the definition of a brand is often times blurred, we'll start this series here. What is a brand?

Let's face it. Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh (Notice the Miami Heat connection?) are all great players, but without Eric Spoelstra as head coach the dynamic trio are essentially useless as a team. Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple, but without his Board of Directors, CFO, and other executives, Apple couldn't become the giant that it is today. Likewise, President Obama is our president whom we put our trust in to effectively run our country, but without his team of advisors and economists, he's useless alone. Get my drift? No man is an island. We all need coaches to guide, direct, navigate, and check us. Even the best of the best needs a team of coaches or advisors or economists, if you will. Otherwise, the man as an island becomes ineffective. The same logic applies in business, but it's startling to see the number of small to mid-size businesses and organizations who go at it alone. They spend the time developing the business, painting the picture of how the vision is to be carried out and what it will look like, yet are not equipped with the tools (coaches) who will provide the color to paint with.