June 23rd, 2012 · Public Relations
I’m a big believer that whenever you get the chance to look at how PR and Marketing is executed in a different industry you should jump at it. I’ve always enjoyed viewing my profession from different perspectives, you always come away with some new ideas.
Last weekend I had the incredible opportunity to travel to France for the 24 Heures Du Mans, one of the world’s most famous motor races. I was there to support my brother’s team who were having their first crack at this toughest of all endurance events. While I was there I made it my business to meet and swop war stories with a number of people who spend their working lives in motorsport PR and Marketing.
From a marketing perspective the event had two major manufacturers competing to own Le Mans and each took a different approach – though both clearly spent a lot of budget.
|On the other hand you had Nissan taking a different approach (at least it seemed that way to me). They were everywhere at the event and seemed to be targeting consumers and businesses in equal measure. From a racing perspective they were providing engines to a range of different teams and had probably the biggest media draw outside the race itself with the Nissan Delta Wing which drove global media coverage before, during and after the race.
It was hard to call the winner, but perhaps trackside it was Nissan.
At the other end of the spectrum was my brother’s team – Murphy Prototypes. Established earlier this year, working on a fraction (if even) of a budget, they’ve focused on PR and social media to build awareness and, albeit on a tiny scale compared to the industry titans, they’ve made outstanding progress.
After the car retired nearly 14 hours into the race – and after leading their class for nearly 3 hours and running as high as 6th overall – I took a walk around the track at about 5am and the number of fans (there are over 350,000 spectators each day over the weekend, many camping around the circuit) wearing Murphy Prototypes merchandise was astonishing.
The team worked incredibly hard during the week of Le Mans to give the fans as much access as they could and it was clearly appreciated.
Like other industries, motorsport is increasingly using social media for engagement and sharing news and information, but media (print, online and broadcast) and traditional marketing remain front and center.
One thing I did notice was the thoroughness and creativity in preparation and execution across the marketing and PR activities at the venue.
|They’ve thought of everything from having their own photographers bringing the latest photos from around the track to the media center (and driving media photographers to any part of the track where there’s an incident), to creating subtle photo opportunities – such as the parking spot for the Delta Wing – everywhere.|
From a professional perspective, the most illuminating part of the event (beyond the racing) was the opportunity to meet and talk with a number of motorsport PR and marketing folks. There were many interesting discussions about the changes they’re seeing in their sport, the emergence of social media and the differences between an endurance event like Le Mans and the high church of motorsport, Formula 1. Where Formula 1 is about access, exclusivity and control, endurance racing is about creating a bond between the teams and the fans, giving them better access and insight, perhaps how Formula 1 was in the 80s and 90s – with more marketing.
The 24 Heures Du Mans is an incredible experience. I highly recommend it and I’ll be back.
March 7th, 2012 · Marketing
I first heard about the Dollar Shave Club through a tweet:
Well I had to click didn’t I?
Needless to say I wasn’t disappointed.
It’s the combination of a clever business idea and a clever creative marketing execution. It’s well scripted, well targeted and a great example of effective (and humorous) storytelling.
The website draws on the same humor:
Will it be successful? Who knows? Success will depend on a wide range of factors, including the business model. But over 700,000 views of the launch video is a good start.
Regardless, it’s a good illustration that creativity doesn’t necessarily have to cost a lot of money, and great storytelling that’s relevant to your audience is a winner.
And the answer to the question you’re asking yourself right now?
March 7th, 2012 · Public Relations
For all the talk about the death of media, mainstream media, traditional media, broadcast media, print media and online media, since the turn of the century, they’re still hanging on. Sure circulations are down, many traditional papers have closed down, slimmed down or moved online. But thankfully we still have the media, we still have journalists.
Social media has been great giving people a platform to share their opinions, but it doesn’t negate the need for journalists.
This isn’t a post about bloggers not being journalists by the way.
The world isn’t that simple anymore.
Some bloggers are journalists, some are not. Regardless everyone has opinions and thanks to social media they can share those opinions. On the whole, and in view of the alternative, that’s a good thing.
However, after twenty years in the Public Relations business, I remain more convinced than ever that journalists are an essential and valuable asset that we must support and protect.
Their cause hasn’t been helped by the confusion surrounding business models in a world that has a cacophony of often free content. But the value of free content is often tied to the cost.
If you catch my drift.
As I’ve often said before the great thing about opinions is that everyone has one, and the downside is the same.
We need journalism because we need someone to be looking at our world in an objective manner. Yes I know there are sometimes issues, as I already mentioned, I’ve worked in PR for over twenty years. I know the issues.
However, in a world of vested interest, give me traditional journalism any day.
I read a lot of blogs. I read them with a filter. We know that people (present author included) write blogs for a reason, and it’s not often to do with the finding the truth. People want to showcase their knowledge, share insight, push an agenda, sell their wares. There’s nothing wrong with any of these motivations, but let’s not pretend that it’s a replacement for journalism, it’s an adjunct – at best.
The bottom line is that society needs journalism regardless of your views or leanings. The medium may indeed be the message, but it doesn’t matter if journalism is in print, video, audio or online. What matters is that we have people involved in looking at our world with an objective lens.
Blogs are a tool, they aren’t a replacement for the practice of journalism.
We should all try and remember that.
As the old song goes, all god’s creatures have a place in the choir.
February 17th, 2012 · Public Relations
I blame my grandmother. She loved providing real-time feedback on my grammar and her favorite was the difference between ‘off’ and ‘from’.
If I innocently reported to her that I had received something off someone, she would immediately respond that “you get fleas off people, but you get things from them”.
However, there is a happy medium.
Today well written, simple, plain English is the exception. Too often we descend to the lowest common denominator where we all proactively leverage robust, strategic solutions to global world-leading paradigm shifts.
Worse, in a deluge of meetings and conference calls we are routinely subjected to a verbal assault of meaningless phrases and buzzwords. This unscientific blog survey captured a few of the more common ones, although some of my personal favorites like ‘grok’ and ‘running it up the flagpole’ didn’t make the list.
Dan Pallotta put this very well in a post he published on the Harvard Business Review in December:
I’d say that in about half of my business conversations, I have almost no idea what other people are saying to me. The language of internet business models has made the problem even worse. When I was younger, if I didn’t understand what people were saying, I thought I was stupid. Now I realize that if it’s to people’s benefit that I understand them but I don’t, then they’re the ones who are stupid.
So, what is the point of this post?
I want to promote a balanced approach to language. Let’s encourage each other to speak and write in plain, simple English and avoid the buzz word madness.
In that spirit here are two bonus links:
February 15th, 2012 · Public Relations
So I’ve been trawling through my PR RSS feeds and I’m including some interesting posts below, but before I get to that indulge me for a moment…
Mini rant: What was interesting in reviewing these posts is the fact that the ‘PR 2.0’ moniker continues to live. What is PR 2.0? Should my business card say that I’m a PR 1.0 practitioner, or a PR 1.7.5 practitioner or maybe I can get ahead and say I’m a PR 3.1 practitioner? Here’s a secret truth. There’s no PR 2.0. There’s just PR. PR practice is either good (using the right tools and channels to reach, inform and engage the right audience in the right place at the right time) or bad (not using the right tools and channels etc. etc.). There’s no 2.0. Stop trying to make yourself sound more interesting.
|The award for the most obvious statement(s) of the week goes to John Bell at Ogilvy in this PR Week story. I was going to include a quote, but there’s too many. Far too many. Lord.|
|Andrew Bruce Smith has an interesting post on whether PR really is about reputation management.|
|Aven Hames has a report on Paul Holmes’ predictions for PR in 2012 – there are some hardy annuals in there (e.g. PR in the executive suite).|
|Paul Seaman shares some interesting thoughts on the Edelman Trust Barometer. You can find more news and views on the Trust Barometer here.|
|Heather Yaxley has kicked off and interesting discussion “Are you too smart to work in PR”. David Reich also chimes in. I’m not|
|Illustrating just how far behind I am with my RSS feeds here are 10 PR predictions for 2012 from Beth Monaghan.|
Finally a nice post by Ariel Kouvaras on three things to keep in mind as the tools and channels of PR change and evolve.
February 7th, 2012 · Public Relations
|Shakespeare wrote that when words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain.
It’s not a problem we typically encounter these days. In fact verbal flatulence is everywhere.
Back in olden times (early and mid 1990s) one of the favorite journalist tricks was the pregnant pause. Sit and look at your interviewee. Peer over your spectacles. Say nothing. Watch them squirm at the uncomfortable silence, until hopefully they break and in a vain attempt at appearing interesting and relevant they fill the silence with some nice juicy morsel of previously unreleased information. Having seen this trick work at first hand, I now think its time may have passed. Today the likelihood of a pregnant pause is unlikely.
Silence may indeed be a virtue, but it’s a seldom used virtue. Instead we try our very best to inject noise and volume into everything.
I speak in general terms here, no specifics, just an observation.
It appears the marketing response to the increasing noise of our always-on world is, ironically, more noise.
Shout more often.
That’s not to say frequency isn’t important. It is. But the big question is the frequency of what. Not to over indulge my Shakespearian theme, but 400 years ago he wrote:
Where every something, being blent together turns to a wild of nothing.
That could be a motto for communications today.
Too often we just decide we need a blog post, with little thought about what we’re trying to achieve, what we’re trying to communicate and how we’ll make the information relevant, interesting, or memorable.
Too often we just write, proof, hit publish and move on.
It’s not just a social media phenomenon. Going back to olden times there were many proponents of getting a press release out regardless of whether there was any actual news. I imagine they’re still asking for press releases and now their poor downtrodden communicators will try and palm them off with a blog post or a tweet. Something that will be dispatched into the cloud - more in hope than expectation – never to be seen, read or thought of again.
So, the alternative is to take a strategic approach to communications. Get an understanding of your audience, where they are, what they’re reading and sharing and invest the time and energy into creating something memorable. Not once a year for a special occasion or the one time you have some real news, but as part of your daily routine.
So next time you’re asked to ‘create’ a blog post about something no one cares about, remember:
This above all; to thine own self be true.
November 26th, 2011 · CSR, Public Relations
I’ve been reading a variety of stories (links below) recently about Marketing, PR and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the one thing that became very apparent is that there’s a lot of disagreement and perhaps no little confusion about the intersection of Marketing/PR and CSR. In fact I found myself agreeing and disagreeing in equal measure with many of the opinions voiced in these stories.
This post isn’t an attempt to provide a complete view of these issues but I hope it outlines a number of things to consider when you’re thinking about CSR and how it fits with Marketing and PR.
CSR is a strategic business commitment
First off, let’s be really clear. CSR is not a marketing program or a campaign. CSR is a strategic commitment a company makes recognizing its role and responsibilities. You could think of this commitment in two major buckets – and this taxonomy is influenced by my employer’s view of CSR but is no less relevant because of that.
1) Working responsibly – a commitment by an organization to operate within the legal and social regulations as an integrated part of doing business. This encompasses adhering to legal requirements, being a great employer, enforcing strong corporate governance, and taking responsibility for working towards creating a sustainable enterprise.
2) Serving communities – a recognition that companies are made of up real people who live in local communities and that corporations can bring their resources to bear for positive social impact. This includes but is not limited to philanthropy and employee giving.
A CSR commitment requires resources, commitment and transparency. It must permeate the business and it must be both encouraged and enforced. It’s a long term commitment. Don’t make the mistake of dressing up a cause marketing campaign (see below) as “CSR”. It’s a sure fire way to damage your brand, your business and your goodwill.
PR is not CSR and vice versa
I am frankly alarmed when I see people increasingly equating PR and CSR as one. This is a fallacy. PR is about how a company reaches, communicates and informs its audiences from staff, to media, to customers, partners, stockholders and communities. That’s not to say that PR people can’t bring value to CSR. They can. The PR function has an inherent understanding of the perception challenges facing an organization, they can advise and support. When appropriate PR can help organizations communicate to their stakeholders about CSR. But the two aren’t the same. If CSR is done solely for the purpose of PR, it’s not CSR.
Cause marketing is not CSR
Cause marketing is a form of marketing where for profit and nonprofit organizations come together for mutual benefit. For example a company provides a donation to a nonprofit for each order made by a customer. The key thing to remember here is that it’s a type of marketing. It’s not CSR. It can be part of a CSR program, but not the whole.
Philanthropy is not CSR
Presenting a large cardboard check (or cheque) to a local nonprofit is not CSR. It’s philanthropy. As per my outline above, when it’s done effectively it’s part of CSR, but that doesn’t make it CSR. The most effective philanthropy is strategic. It ties back to the organization’s core business strategy. It is focused on creating positive, real, sustained change over time. It’s not a quick, one off check to the local animal refuge.
Organizations should promote their CSR commitment
Many organizations remain reticent about promoting their CSR efforts. Many worry about the potential negative backlash. I don’t agree. Increasingly customers and stakeholders will demand more information about how organizations are being responsible, not less. As long as CSR is a strategic, real, long-term commitment, then organizations shouldn’t be concerned about appropriate communication of that work. If you’re interested in a great introduction to this subject, I’d recommend Kellie McElhaney’s book Just Good Business.
- The-Global-Social-Media-and-CSR-Report-2011 [Scribd]
- Should Companies Market their CSR? [Network for Good]
- CSR: more than meets the eye [Platform Online magazine]
- Debating the future of CSR [Paul Seaman]
- PR and CSR: symbiotic, inseparable and synonymous [Holmes Report]
- Let’s call a sale, a sale [Ethical Corporation]
- Marketing your company’s commitment to shared value [Shared Purpose]