Taking a cue from the 2008 presidential campaign, New York-based Deloitte Consulting this week offered tips on how small-business brands can gain from strong social networking and marketing strategies -- whether the brand is Barack Obama or Apple.

"From John F. Kennedy's use of TV to Ronald Reagan's use of telemarketing to Howard Dean's use of the Internet, history offers an abundance of examples," according to David Smith, a manager at Deloitte. He said this year's presidential campaigns are no exception. "Candidates are being marketed as new products and campaign managers are rapidly adopting and adapting the latest communications techniques to promote and protect their candidate's personal brand advantage," he said.

To maintain control of a message, Deloitte suggests engaging your critics, labeling them advocates, neutrals or hostiles. It also warns to act fast when your brand is attacked, since the speed and frequency of those attacks has increased in the online era.

Managing Talent

Good talent management is the key to recruiting and keeping top employees. Avilar, a Columbia, Md.-based skills inventory firm, will be hosting a Webinar next week called "Updated Competency Management Pitfalls: How to Avoid Detours on the Road to Talent Management".

Participants will learn to identify skills gaps and monitor improvements, while continuing to make training employees a priority.

The one-hour discussion will be held on March 25 at 1 p.m. EST. To register, go to www1.gotomeeting.com/register/404611322.

Training Grants

Thanks to a series of Massachusetts state grants, employee training is no longer beyond the reach of smaller employers. The Workforce Training Grants, which are funded by local businesses, became law in July 1998 and can be as high as $3,000 per trainee.

Next month, small employers, human resource managers and training professionals will be gathering at Bunker Hill Community College in Charleston, Mass., to discuss how to obtain the grants. Guest speakers will include Michael Corcoran, the head of the Massachusetts Department of Workforce Development.

The event takes place on April 11 at 11:30 a.m. For more information, visit www.bhcc.mass.edu/workforce-events.