Strategic Public Relations
Focused on public relations strategy within the integrated marketing communications mix.

Thursday, October 31, 2002  

E-Mail "Marketing"

Spam bombards us on a daily basis. You learn to delete it, ignore it, filter it and even laugh at it. But in the past week, I have received two e-mail messages from unsolicited sources that stand out and simply must be mentioned.

The distinction these two messages share? The salutations are to NAME. The notes *literally* read: Dear NAME. And one of these notes are from a high-tech clearly advanced enough and saavy enough to know better.

As far as Spam goes, I'm much more into discussing the lunch meat in a can. But please people, if you are doing e-mail marketing, spend more money than you think you can afford on good, opt-in lists and customize the heck out of the messages. Or just do not do it at all.

Halloween is meant to be scary, just for completely different reasons. BOO!

posted by Kevin Dugan | 12:53:00 PM

Tuesday, October 29, 2002  

Expectation Management

It's always helpful to "walk a mile in your clients' shoes" to be reminded of how important the fundamentals of account management are to success.

Specifically, this weekend we moved into a new home (new to us anyway). Upon his arrival, the leader of our moving team informed me they would come in under the estimated time for the move. Translation: the Dugan's are going to save money. In turn, I began thinking of what we might do with this money. Translation: pay bills. So my expectations around how fast they would move us were raised beyond the initial estimate we were provided.

Once it was all said and done, instead of coming in under the initial estimate, they exceeded it by almost an hour (we negotiated this down to 15 minutes over the initial estimate). So I went from paying one amount to assuming I would pay less to actually paying more than the estimate.

Needless to say, I was not happy with the outcome of this experience. Thankfully I do not plan on moving anytime in the coming decade. But it drove home an important point about expectation management.

Far too often, we manage expectations to cover ourselves. And while this is a valuable practice, there is a better reason to under promise and over deliver that has little to do with you or your agency.

Once expectations are set, your clients plan accordingly on their end. From planning other internal projects around your specific deadline to creating strategies that are dependent on your deliverables, your client has a much bigger plate than just YOUR work. Keep in mind that well set expectations help cover the client as much as it covers you.

As far as how the above experience applies to bringing projects in on budget...I will once again note I am not a numbers person.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 12:28:00 PM

Wednesday, October 23, 2002  

Marketing’s Expanding Role

By applying the broken window theory to Corporate America, marketers are required to don more hats than ever. Our roles and responsibilities have always expanded past the typical—advertising, public relations, direct mail and the Internet.

But now more than ever, customer service and financial reporting are moving from a secondary focus to a top responsibility to which we’re being held accountable. Creativity is no longer enough.

Customer Service: PlanetFeedback just released a white paper encapsulating the need for companies to listen to its customers "in the age of WorldCom and Enron." The piece is written from a business to consumer perspective. However I think it applies to a business to business audience as well (merely substitute the word consumer with customer). The bottom line is that companies must look at customer service as much more than a cost center. It must be used as an antenna that tracks and impacts customers’ perceptions of your company. "Corporate America must nurture cultures based on consumer listening, external sensing, respect and in turn they must respond and communicate with integrity and honesty." Customer service is crucial for doing this.

SPRreaders with a high-tech background should find the above edict all too familiar. Even before Palm incorrectly promoted its m130 PDA, we had Intel.

Several years ago, newsgroups were less a niche tool and more a component of the Internet that actually competed with Web sites and e-mail. One newsgroup that focused on advanced mathematics had some issues with one of Intel’s chips. On certain high-level math problems, the chip would hit an error. One member of the newsgroup reported the error to Intel and was promptly ignored. What’s one disgruntled customer after all? Well, this one disgruntled customer reported back to the hundreds of members belonging to this newsgroup. One of those members was a reporter that wound up breaking the Intel chip story. Today Intel involves customers in beta tests of its products and provides a shining example of how to learn and profit from customer input.

Financial Reporting: Public Relations pros are word people and not number people. I’m Exhibit A when it comes to this statement. But we all need to take crash courses in accounting from our friends in investor relations. Changes are afoot in corporate accounting with as many as seven issues pending with the Federal Accounting Standards Board (FASB), the Emerging Issue Task Force (EITF), New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

One of the biggest financial reporting changes that impacts marketing? Companies will be required to subtract promotion expenses directly from a company’s top line revenue. Most advertising can still be expensed, but co-op advertising, market development funds and rebates or discounts of any kind must ALL be subtracted from revenue. The result of this new approach has already been reflected in sharply lower sales figures. In the consumer packaged goods category alone, one company’s sales have been lowered as much as $4.6 billion.

The goal is to make it easier to see how a company is really doing. The impact on marketing forces us to become less budget stewards and more yield managers responsible for tracking the return from the marketing investment. Marketing budgets will be subjected to increased scrutiny under just this one ruling. Marketers will be forced to rethink their strategies. In addition to HOW you are doing something, the first question you’ll have to answer is WHY you are doing it in the first place.

This should always be the first question. Now the answer is merely more expensive.

note: the financial reporting piece of the above post was based on an article in the Grocery Manufacturers of America member publication-FORUM. It was written by Ronald Lunde.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 12:10:00 PM

Monday, October 21, 2002  

The business of, er, business to business marketing

Attended a client's user conference last week. It was well done with good speakers. I learned a heck of a lot. In a nutshell, my client's product allows companies to automate their customer communications and track their marketing operations. The end result allows companies like HP, Pfizer, AutoDesk and Bank of America to track marketing performance and to tie it directly to company performance.

Just think if a client asked you to slash your proposed marketing budget for them by 30% and you could tell them *exactly* how much that reduction would in turn reduce their sales? We're all clamoring for measurement of, and ROI statistics on, what we do for a living. This product allows companies to do it.

Segue from commercial...

At the event, one of HP's marketing vps reviewed the companies recent merger into an $87 billion company. She also reviewed how marketing has changed from the four P's—product, price, place and promotion. Now we have the four c's:
    *customer wants and needs: informed customers want their needs anticipated

    *cost to satisfy: more than price, the total cost of ownership for a customer

    *convenience to buy: give your customers easy access to their product

    *communication: from a one-way to a two-way discipline.

There is no huge news in the above. However if you are reading this and currently in school, I hope you're being taught the c's and not the p's.

The keynote was from the Organic Institute, Futurist Dr. Jim Taylor. Taylor was a great presenter. This was in part because he could back up his assertions with his own professional experiences. He helped create the Gateway "cow spot" campaign and the DeBeers Diamond "shadows" campaign. He also had a wicked cool PowerPoint that was heavy on images, light on text.

Taylor discussed the "broken window theory" as it applies to marketing. Then Mayor Rudolph Giuliani realized that broken windows, graffiti and trash promoted crime. By cleaning up New York, and focusing on street crimes, crime rates fell by 65 percent.

Now Corporate America suffers from the broken window theory due to several companies. According to Taylor,
"Brands must be fixed to reflect the substantive merits of what we do. Brands cannot afford to focus on a cosmetic value or advantage.

To succeed in its category, a brand must offer distinction instead of differentiation."

Far too often, brands merely focus on being different. Instead they should focus on being the best at one particular thing. Focus on the distinction your brand brings to the table and reinforce it in every element of your marketing program to become the best in your category.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 11:42:00 PM

Friday, October 11, 2002  

Beating a Dead Horse?

Honest, I do not have it out for Martha Stewart. However it looks like an avalanche is starting to fall around her. Just read this news story.

The most telling quote: "Nine months ago, we were wondering if Martha Stewart was ruining her reputation by being associated with Kmart. Now it could be the other way around."

posted by Kevin Dugan | 1:33:00 PM

Thursday, October 10, 2002  

More on Martha

Martha's plight is continuing to develop. Now they are looking into whether or not she has committed securities fraud.

You may recall the House turned over its investigation to the Justice Department after Stewart's attorneys said she would refuse to testify.

If silence is golden, Martha will keep her millionaire status no matter what happens. But, perhaps she should have hired an investor relations firm instead of a crisis communications firm to help her through this debacle?

posted by Kevin Dugan | 2:47:00 PM

Silence as a Strategy

Martha Stewart's stall tactics around her recent insider-trading debacle provide good examples of the danger of being silent. Lying low to "focus on your salad" and stonewalling media did not help Martha's case. Particularly as it relates to media relations, "no comment" is the kiss of death. Silence gives the perception of guilt.

However, this week I was faced with a small crisis situation and realized silence was the perfect strategy for my client. Essentially, a picket line of 75 people formed outside of the hotel where we were holding a client-sponsored event.

The protest was aimed at my client, but the protestors were demonstrating over an issue completely unrelated to the event itself. The protestors were interjecting themselves into our space to force their issue into the forefront and to try and make things uncomfortable for my client. As the protest was completely unrelated, we focused on making sure the attendees' experience at the event was not impacted by the demonstration. Working closely with hotel security and local law enforcement this was not a problem.

Otherwise we did not make any efforts to communicate to the media or the attendees about the demonstration—unless we were asked about it. To comment on their demonstration was to give it credibility AND it would bring their unrelated issue directly into my event.

The event was well attended by our target audience, which included existing customers, potential customers and trade media. Based on its success, we're even looking at holding a second annual event. Crisis averted.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 1:11:00 PM

Tuesday, October 01, 2002  

The Art of Strategic Neglect

One of my mentors always told me about the art of strategic neglect. He took the concept from the book "On Becoming a Servant-Leader."

It is a fancy way to talk about basic time management and effectively managing your work.

Basically your customers are an infinite vessel. You could work 24/7 on their requests and never be "DONE" with your work. As a result, you must practice the art of strategic neglect. Strategic neglect realizes that there is typically more work to be done than there is time and energy to do.

Therefore it becomes just as important to know what to neglect as it is to know what to do. Prioritize your projects, focus on the most important item and neglect those less important items until they become a priority. You will be more effective.

This basic thought is thrown out here for two reasons. I am not making any progress on the book I am reading, Clients for Life. As a result I thought I could provide some basic client service concepts here in lieu of the bigger picture.

Secondly, this blog will be the victim of strategic neglect for the next two weeks.

A peak in client work requires that I spend more time on paying public relations projects. The good news here is that I will have more interesting content after two weeks time. Until then, you can see one of the projects that I will be focused on in the list of links on the right. Click on "My Latest Project" to see how I will be fighting mold and bacteria by bringing an added measure of cleanliness to Chicago...or something like that.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 10:02:00 PM