Monday, August 27, 2012

Setting yourself apart with Simple PR tactics

Forget the exhibitions, advertising, even direct marketing - the best bet for the corporate marketing dough is public relations, but only if you know what you're doing. Unfortunately, most companies don't have the secret PR juju and, frankly, the same is true of far too many agencies. We all flock our media partners like sheep with the same story pitches, ‘plastic’ press release and vague press invites were anything you launch is revolutionary.

I recently spent some time analyzing my success stories and failures in PR. I will start with the failures. I once sent out a press invite to the news room and one media friend (now in PR) called me and told me that he was not sending a reporter to my ‘revolutionary’ product launch simply because the previous time I had called him for a ‘revolutionary’ launch we ended up announcing a three-months promotional offer on free calls at night.

Another silly go-getting mistake is when I once decided that because I had seen a reporter’s byline in the newspaper I decided to write to him a personalized pitch for a device I was trying to publicize. Thanks to the many modern unisex names my very masculine salutation had been directed to female reporter who was not amused with my antics. No need to guess. She never responded.

All in all I have also had my success stories with a number of brands. Though it may be difficult to name the different brands and campaigns because of my day job, I will share pointers that have helped me all through.
In order to succeed in PR the organization should create a personality who will lead the campaign.  A top executive mostly product manager must  be willing to stick his neck out, sell up, fight for resources, and take the heat as the product is going through its ups and downs. This person should be willing to sit with the media and give details about the product beyond what the CEO spoke during the press conference. While this person may not necessarily be mentioned in the media because of our agrarian media policies (I call them Agrarian because I have never understood why a product manager cannot speak about the product he developed to the media its ONLY the CEO who speaks that’s a story for another day), he should be able to give industry comparisons, success stories from other markets etc.
Instead of complaining about the lightweight budget, let necessity be the mother of invention I prefer an agency or a PRO who takes risks and deviates from the norm. For instance with one of my brands I clearly knew  we were a second tier player who wanted first tier visibility and thus I knew traditional strategies and tactics would not add any value to the brand. I thought about visibility for our products and discovered that we had several bloggers who had more following than two of the much known daily publications. Instead of spiking the every busy editor with my press releases I encouraged the brand to engage the bloggers and within three months we had more darlings online unlike our previous above the line media tactic.
But from the online family that we had developed a relationship with, I discovered that on many occasions executives breathe their own fumes and expect the media to just rollover and write big stories about their products. That reporter who comes to your press conference has to get substance from your event/communiqué, that’s why when you are launching a simple promo; he/she will want to ask you if it is related to the recently launched CCK report. Just like you, the reporters have an understanding of the market environment and thus when he see the promotion he automatically knows that it is not that the Telco is feeling philanthropic.
You also need to let customers and analysts tell the story, this is very important especially for tech products or services. They will easily bring credibility to your product than yourself. After all your main objective is to sell even if the product is substandard. Unless you have used the phone for two years, a tech writer will easily have a better review of the phone than your jargon filled press release and a branded t-shirt.
All said and done, Young PR Kenya thinks, successful PR requires executive commitment to drive internal strategy and planning so as to build both conventional & new media relationships even if it means dropping everything and be a resource when that few-minutes-to-deadline phone call comes through.

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