Another Book Rec

Following up on my last post, here is another book recommendation, courtesy of the Counselors Academy 2008 Book Club.  Enjoy!

Reviewed by Lisa Simon
President, Simon Public Relations Group

Book name, title, author, publisher
Full Frontal PR; Building Buzz About Your Business, Your Product, or You, Richard Laermer, Bloomberg Press, 2003

What is the book about?
Full Frontal PR is a practical primer on media relations.  It’s a tactical “how to” on placing stories in traditional mass media print and broadcast outlets with some surface treatment of the online arena.

Why did you pick this book?
Our primary deliverable as an agency is media placements.  We spend a lot of time training our staff on the art and science of media relations.  The pressure is on!  The idea of an agency “book club” was something I picked up at last year’s Counselors Academy in Cabo. (Thank you Tracy Weise from Denver.)  Full Frontal PR was a title emailed to me by based on other purchases I’ve made.  We ordered each staffer his own book and built a lunch bunch book club program beginning with this title.

What the key take-aways?
Richard Laermer focuses on tried and trued media relations approaches that are second nature to old salts but unchartered waters to junior pros who don’t have a lot of time to ease in to delivering big.  Included are fully reviewing and knowing the work of journalists you’re pitching, preparing the necessary tools to pitch and becoming a reliable media resource.

One radical or unexpected idea you really liked.
Full Frontal PR opens with a chapter on creating “word of mouth buzz.”  Laermer recaps a tactic Vespa scooters used in LA.  They dispatched beautiful models to zip around town and pull up to outdoor cafes.  The models hung outside near the scooters creating buzz.  It’s not radical but it’s a stunt you can truly appreciate, especially for its buzz factor.

One thing you disagreed with.
My disagreements with the book content were only minor and always in regard to tactics. For instance, Richard Laermer recommends never leaving a reporter a voicemail message.  We believe a short, enthusiastic voicemail message is a good way to set the stage for a future conversation or email correspondence.

Thumbs up/thumbs down:  Do you recommend it?
Thumbs up.  We definitely recommend Full Frontal PR; Building Buzz About Your Business, Your Product, or You to supplement an Agency’s staff media relations training program.  It’s one thing if they hear it from you and your managers and another to read it in a book.  We believe the discussions inspired by this book have led to stronger media placements for our clients.

Time To Get Your ‘Summer Read’ On

Now that Memorial Day is behind us and we have a summer full of vacations and weekend getaways to look forward to (well, not so much me, but hopefully all of you), it’s time to start contemplating your summer reading list. Thanks to the Counselors Academy, which prepared a 2008 Book Club at its recent Spring Conference, a few of your peers come bearing book recommendations. Below is one of four (two more to come, but also check out this one). Feel free to leave your own recommendations in the comments section.

Reviewed by Jason Anthoine, APR
President, The Cohesion Group

Book name, title, author, publisher:
Meatball Sundae: Is Your Marketing Out of Sync? by Seth Godin, Highbridge Audiobook Publishers

What is the book about?
Meatball Sundae is the definitive guide to the fourteen trends no marketer can afford to ignore. It explains what to do about the increasing power of stories, not facts; about shorter and shorter attention spans; and about the new math that says five thousand people who want to hear your message are more valuable than five million who don’t. Godin doesn’t pretend that it’s easy to get your products, marketing messages, and internal systems in sync. But he’ll convince you that it’s worth the effort.

Why did you pick this book?
Seth Godin is a prolific blogger and one of my favorite authors. His clarity of message about how to (and how not to) market products, services and firms in a crowded marketplace is spot-on. He doesn’t mince words about what to do, how to do it and the difference it will make. Reading his work makes a thousand tiny light bulbs go off, providing energy and direction for taking your marketing efforts in a completely new direction.

What are the key take-aways?
All the new technology and social media tools are great, but they are like toppings at an ice cream parlor. If you start with ice cream, adding these delicious new toppings will make it taste great. But if you’re starting with meatballs, they’ll only make things yucky. Get the basics right (the product, the service, the firm) before expanding into the irresistible world of new media, which isn’t necessarily appropriate for everyone.

One radical or unexpected idea you really liked:
I was fascinated by his study of Anheuser-Busch and its attempts at online media in BudTV. He makes the case that a $40 million BudTV effort hasn’t led to any new Budweiser drinkers simply because the brand is a meatball that doesn’t automatically benefit from sundae toppings like an online TV presence. His second point is that spending millions to create an online presence is considerably different from having that presence created for you by millions of your customers, which is incredibly more valuable. Facilitate the conversation and the brand building, don’t dominate it.

One thing you disagreed with:
On the flip side of that coin, though, I disagreed with his total dismissal of Budweiser (and beer in general) as a meatball, saying that it can’t value from the new media tools. There are ways to promote that brand online that can help establish, build and maintain a conversation and a relationship with both current and new customers through new media. What about a photo site where people can upload a photo of a Bud bottle in unusual places around the world, a sort of Where’s My Bud? contest? What about a site that allows you to design your own bottle coozie or bottle top? Maybe a discussion board where people share stories of their Best Bud? Or an online virtual game with people searching in the real world for a Budweiser can with a check for a million dollars in it? It’s more their lack of creativity about how to use social media with the brand that Godin has a problem with, I think.

Thumbs up/thumbs down: Do you recommend it?
Thumbs up. Though it’s not my favorite book of his many volumes, just like the rest it has great kernels of insight that I can apply to both my clients’ businesses and my own.

Naples Goes Anti-24/7

Just a quick update after the SAGE Luncheon at the Counselors Academy Spring Conference, during which some of the industry’s foremost thought leaders waxed poetic about various issues facing business and communications.  The best quote (and, in my opinion, the most unexpected), can from Tom Hoog, former CEO of Hill & Knowlton, and current “public speaker/tennis player,” who said:

“The 24/7 news cycle is one of the worst things that’s ever happened to our profession.”

Zing!  His rational was quite valid, though.  He went on to say that there isn’t 24 hours of meaningful news every day, so the media has reduced itself to “chatter,” thus diluting the credibility of content and fueling cynicism among consumers.  It was definitely an interesting perspective, and one worth further consideration.  Thoughts?

By Courtney Barnes

Getting Credible in Naples

Pete Blackshaw, EVP of Nielsen Online Strategic Solutions, is currently delivering the keynote speech at the Counselors Academy Spring Conference, and his word of the day is credibility. It’s certainly not a novel concept in this industry (and he was the first to admit it), but he was quick to emphasize that credibility, especially in the context of Web 2.0, is PR’s big opportunity to “own it,” so to speak.

“Credibility should be the new strategic plank for PR firms,” he says.  “The one thing you can take to the bank is, if consumers are having positive or negative experiences  with your brand, that it is going to show up in online conversations.”

He is currently outlining what he calls “The 6 Drivers of Brand Credibility.” They are as follows:

1. Trust: confidence, consistency, integrity, authority. “Where we fail on the trust factor, customers leave a trail of venom,” he says.

2. Authenticity: as advertised, real and sincere, real people, informal

3. Transparency: easy to learn, easy to discover, no secrets

4. Affirmation: playback, reinforcement, search results, community, accountability

5. Listening: empathy, humility, absorbing feedback

6. Responsiveness: follow-up, invitational marketing, solidifying the solution, dignifying the solution

Stay tuned …

By Courtney Barnes

Getting Passionate in Naples, Florida

I’m sitting pool side in Naples, Florida, right now (tough life, I know) at the Counselors Academy Spring Conference and listening to George Rosenberg, principal of The Rosenberg Group, talk to his peers about how to prepare for and manage the growth of their own PR firms.   The topic in and of itself  it worthy of a full article (stay tuned), but there are a handful of noteworthy nuggets, courtesy of George:

1. The three most important things for growing your business are a clarity of vision (which is NOT a mission statement; rather, it’s directional–a plan of where you want to go and what you want to achieve); a strategy/roadmap to guide growth (which maps out the first three or four years and is revisited every few months to benchmark); and a commitment to greatness. “If you don’t have that passion, it’s not going to happen.”

2. It’s all about relationships and networking.

3. You need to take more time to hire the star–not the ego.  One of the best strategies for growth is to hire the best people.

4. Businesses most often fail when it comes to identifying their ideal clients and going after them, as opposed to just sitting back and waiting for the phone to ring.

I’ll be updating the blog frequently during the next two days based on what I learn in the sessions, but hopefully this whets your appetite.  With that, consider these parting words from George:

“If you don’t know where you want to wind up, how the hell are you going to get there?”

By Courtney Barnes

Feeding an Ailing Economy

This past Saturday, the New York Times ran an article about how some retailers, such as Supervalu and Domino’s Pizza are launching aggressive campaigns targeting consumers who are about to receive their federal stimulus rebate checks (individuals are getting $600 on the average while, couples are getting $1,200). What is making some raise their brows is that retailers are offering special 10% bonus gift cards and other special inducements provided that consumers spend their entire windfall on their products.

Yet not all retailers are falling in line. Wal-Mart, for instance, feels that stores that are engaging in this type of behavior are being “irresponsible”–certainly indicative of the fact that, at least in the corporate world, “irresponsible” is all in the eye of the beholder.

Is the marketing ploy creative or just plain desperate?  And, is any marketing campaign ever really “responsible” if it aims to convince consumers of something that, in theory, they wouldn’t do without seeing the ad? It’s hard to say, but one thing is for sure: Anyone who spends $600 at Domino’s has even bigger health problems than our economy …

Dell’s Perpetual Purgatory?

Dell has been to Hell and back in recent years for its monumental crisis management missteps, especially in the realm of digital communications. Blogger Jeff Jarvis single-handedly damned the company for its poor customer service record a few years back and, despite moderately successful attempts to rebound its reputation by finally participating in the blogosphere, consumer spite has reared its ugly head again.

On May 2, a U.K. customer posted a rant in a chat room informing fellow Dell users of a glaring error on select models of Vostro laptop keyboards—that is, a much-too-long shift key threw an entire row of keys out of whack, making it nearly impossible to type properly.  The real rub, though, is that the faux pas spawned a diatribe on Flickr, complete with a picture of the faulty keyboard and frequent updates by one user.

This is just one more example of how crisis can spin out of control when angry consumers are at the helm.  Granted, if anyone was trying to post with one of those Dell machines, their message wouldn’t be as easy to decipher. Perhaps that was all part of the plan?

By Courtney Barnes

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