Posts Tagged PR

Part and Parcel of the Firm Voice

An article that appeared in The Firm Voice today states that PR may be more insulated from the recession and economic malaise than many other businesses.  It goes on to quote CMOs including long-time client Tideway‘s CMO Kelly Wenzel to back up the point and highlight areas within the PR mix that CMOs are spending their budgets on.

Kelly mentions that even though she’s had to cut the monthly retainer, she is able to supplement it with a project budget to make up for the fewer in-house resources she now has.  Our experience with Tideway has told us that this approach works well if the client and agency take a partnership approach to resourcing, results and remuneration.

Paul King, CEO of Herculese Networks points out that savvy PR agencies that take the time to get ahead of the measurement curve now will be a prime position now and post recession.

Applying science to PR measurement doesn’t work.  We all know this.  Companies and their PR partners need to get around the table regularly to assess the actual outcomes of the PR results (mainly visibility in influential media both social and traditional).  And as part of any customer advisory board a company has put together, measuring the marketing (PR in this instance) output/outcome should be discussed and verified.  This brings measurement down to planet eath.

And is social media the saving grace for PR budgets?  If you visit our site, March Communications, you will see that we do not list “social media relations” on our list of services. Instead, we incorporate social media principles and tools into our client’s campaigns, at both a strategic and tactical level. That way, social media becomes part of what we do for every client, on every campaign.  So, its not only the saving grace, it’s the ticket to PR today.  It’s just part and parcel of PR, so measuring it should involve the same process mentioned above.

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In Defense of Ghost-Tweeting… with Caveats

Friday’s PR Week features an op-ed by Amy Dean titled “Five reasons why ghost Tweeting will come back to haunt you” [subscription required]. Dean makes a reasonable case against letting someone else use Twitter to speak for you and your brand: it’s misleading to customers, it destroys credibility with reporters, and it can cause you to lose followers in an instant.

But the heart of the issue is here:

Twitter is a new opportunity to have an engaging, ongoing dialogue with customers that breeds collaboration that leads to enhanced customer satisfaction. But that can only happen if there is an honest exchange.

There are lots of reasons it makes sense to put someone else in charge of maintaining your presence online – a ghost-tweeter may have more social media expertise than you do, an especially engaging writing style, or the superb organizational skills it takes to maintain a dialogue with your followers. This is certainly not a case for lying – if you’re going to have someone else tweet on your behalf, you’d better be ready to be completely transparent about that (see @RyanSeacrest for a great demonstration of transparency).

But the biggest drawback of bringing on a ghost-tweeter is that you’re depriving yourself of the benefits of one-on-one interaction with your audience, especially the opportunities you can discover and the business insight you can glean from those conversations. One of the most exciting aspects of social media is that it allows brands to remove a layer of mediation and affect consumers more personally. The more you’re able to participate personally, the more you’ll get out of it.

Besides, it can be quite a kick just to be yourself on Twitter. Who could have adequately imitated Shaq‘s reaction to experiencing a hailstorm for the first time?

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PR Is to Marketing …

This morning, while perusing LinkedIn, I came across an interesting post to the Answers section from Jennifer Lindsay.  She asked for thoughts on the analogy of “PR is to marketing as, _____ is to _____.

The LinkedIn community (and those involved in PR and technology) certainly responded with interesting ideas.  Some of the thoughts that most resounded with me are:

  • A spoke is to a wheel

Public relations is one essential component of a marketing program.  It impacts a company’s objective and helps to get the wheel turning in lead generation.

  • Peanut butter is to jelly

Both PR and marketing are two good, yet different ingredients but are more effective when combined.  The techniques complement each other to achieve many of the same goals.

How would you fill in the analogy?

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Thursday Twitter Tips

It’s not just Ashton Kutcher / CNN / Oprah on Twitter.  Despite the celebrity hype winding down, it seems that more businesses and PR pros are getting into the spirit.  For some tweeting guidance, here are a few (of the many) helpful articles and posts on Twitter best practices:

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Wolfram Alpha Search Engine Unveiled

There’s been a ton of media coverage over the past week around Wolfram Alpha, a new “Computational Knowledge Engine” developed by mathematician, scientist and entrepreneur Stephen Wolfram.  Wolfram demonstrated this soon-to-be-launched Web service (something of a cross between a graphing calculator, repositories of scientific data and a system to interpret questions posed in human terms, according to CNET) during a talk at Harvard Law School.  Some interesting screenshots and videos of the search engine, which is being hailed as “an invention that could change the Internet forever,” a “Google killer” and a “Web 3.0 pioneer,” have been posted on ReadWriteWeb and ZDNet.

With all of the focus on Wolfram Alpha, there hasn’t seemed to be many discussions around its impact on search engine optimization (SEO).  Will it even be possible to employ SEO tactics (especially for PR-based efforts) with this new technology?  Will it complement Google rather than compete against it?  I look forward to testing it out upon the official launch.

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Another Indicator of the Changing Agency Landscape…

A recent article in Advertising Age discusses Coca-Cola’s industry-wide push to a “value-based” compensation model.  Under the model agencies only reap profits if they perform to Coke’s standards.  If the agencies’ work meets or exceeds those standards, they can generate as much as 30 percent profit margins – otherwise they only get recouped costs.  Coke plans to implement this model across all of its ad and media agencies by 2011.

Several questions around this model immediately come to mind– two of which have been heatedly debated for some time; how do you define value?, and how do you determine ROI?  Additionally, if a company is only being paid on results, are companies less likely to be creative and go down a safer route that they know will generate targeted results?

According to the article, Sarah Armstrong, Coke’s director of worldwide media and communication operations and the driver behind the company’s move, that’s not a concern.  However, I’d have to think that an agency faced with the decision of doing something radically new and innovative with the possibility of delivering mediocre results, over a pretty creative idea that promises more targeted results, might go with the safer path – especially in this economy.  One poor showing could not only cost them a large client like Coke, but also give them a bad rep for potential future clients.  Under a traditional retainer model, agencies have more leeway to take those creative risks.

Coke’s move is just another indicator of a trend we’ve been seeing for some time now:  PR and advertising are no longer what they used to be – and I don’t mean that in a bad way – merely just the fundamentals of them have changed.  Between the groundswell of social media applications and their rapid adoption, the decline of print journalism and the demise of traditional advertising, we’re seeing them change every day before our eyes.

Despite my questions about the model, I can definitely see the benefits.  For one, it would force agencies and their clients to design more targeted campaigns.  Additionally, as the economic downturn continues, it gives companies a way to guarantee their “bang for their buck.”  What’s more, it would make competition between agencies much hotter, quickly identifying the agencies and individual employees that can’t cut it.

It’ll be interesting to see how this model plays out, as well as the continually changing landscapes in these industries.  Regardless, I think compensation models are – and will continue to be – different for each client and each agency depending on the objective, resources and company awareness.  It’s all about setting expectations appropriately and defining beforehand what constitutes as value.

More thoughts on the topic from my colleague Liz Caradonna here.

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PR Pick-Up Lines

Steve Slaunwhite‘s latest newsletter about scripts used to turn prospects into clients got me thinking about the various “pick-up lines” we PR professionals use to engage someone.  And no, I’m not talking about the usual pick-up lines like “if being beautiful was a crime, you’d be guilty as charged” or “you must be exhausted because you’ve been running through my mind all day.”  But whether they are prospective clients, journalists, or analysts, we all use some kind of introduction that we hope sparks their interest.

Over email, we usually try to make the subject line short and to the point without making the email look like a marketing message or spam, but on the phone, it’s a whole other story.  People can read emails at their leisure, but a phone call needs to be more direct since people seem to have gotten busier and busier over the years and you never know what you’re interrupting.

If you’ve sent them an email initially and are following up by phone, a short reminder of what your email was about should trigger their memory.  However, if it doesn’t, you can either offer to describe it in greater detail or ask if it’d be more useful for you to resend the email.

For a prospective client, Steve Slaunwhite‘s advice would be to ask them if they’re locked in with their current agency, or if they can explore other options – and since no one likes to be “locked in,” they’ll usually be more receptive to listening to what you have to offer.  A final question of something like “is this something you’re looking for?” generally tells you all you need to know if they’re interested in working with you or having you follow up with them a few months down the road.

But the best advice I’ve ever gotten is to K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple Stupid!  Describing your pitch or business proposal briefly, or better yet, asking if it’d be helpful if you described it to them in the first place, will hopefully spark their interest long enough for them to ask a question and keep the conversation going.  And while “pick-up lines” or scripts can be useful, a conversational tone usual holds people’s attention better and keeps you more relaxed… after all, getting them on the phone in the first place is the real battle, so why stress about the call!

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