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

Tuesday, November 25, 2003  

Defending Premium Brands

The larger the brand, the more audiences a company must consider. Marketing communication challenges for Fortune 250 companies are more complex than merely cutting through the noise to get awareness of your carefully crafted message. You have more than just customers and competitors with which to contend.

Take McDonald’s. One would think landing your company in Webster’s Dictionary would be a brand coup—firmly cementing your company into America’s lexicon. But in this case, the accomplishment is having the opposite effect.

The 11th edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines McJob as a low-paying job with few prospects for future benefits or promotions. McDonald’s CEO has gone on the defensive, but Webster folks stand by its standards for adding words to the "best-selling hardcover dictionary on the market."

Another example…Boeing fired its CFO recently. The action makes perfect sense. But the extensive headlines this has garnered shows us the heightened attention being given to corporate behavior. A few years ago, Boeing doing the right thing would not have made so much national news.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 9:26:00 AM

Web Page as Spokesperson

Michael Jackson unveiled a Web site to issue official statements regarding his case. The media circus following him makes this an easy choice over holding press conferences. But the site is not helping his case.

My personal feelings on this case aside, a one-way communication approach is a step above no-comment and silence strategies—a barely discernable step. The site has no e-mail link and no method of contact listed for fans to show their support—a critical error. This eliminates Jackson’s ability to promote the support he might receive. Look at Martha Stewart’s Web page as spokesperson strategy. In less than six months Martha’s site has received 15 million hits and nearly 70,000 e-mails from supportive fans.

Jackson’s absence of contact information connotes guilt and that he does not care what his fans think.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 9:22:00 AM

Friday, November 21, 2003  

Influencer Fan Mail

Stopped by Barnes & Noble to soak up the periodical rack—nothing like a sea of mastheads and cover shots to get your media relations adrenaline pumping.

Of note is Popular Science. December's issue features Pop Sci's annual Best of What's New feature.

Blogging's impact became quickly apparent as I started reading through the colorful, glossy pages. Pop Sci now searches the Web for blogs linking to its Web site. It reads through them and posts content from a select few. Imagine running a blog on career management, linking to Fast Company and finding your thoughts published in Fast Co's print version.

What a great way to acknowledge a key influencer group. In the process, Pop Sci quickly generates relevant content. It is great to stumble across "Blog meets World" examples like this in publishing. I'm sure there are plenty of others.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 3:41:00 PM

Wednesday, November 19, 2003  

Marketing vs. Engineering

One of the many classifications you can slap on a business to business client is whether their company is marketing-driven or engineering-driven. Marketing-driven companies cull sales and customer service input, analyze sales trends and conduct research to identify new product opportunities. Engineering-driven companies also do this. Occasionally they also introduce a product less because the company “should” (new product meets unmet market need), but more because the company “can” (new product brings latest innovation with it).

Both types of companies have their benefits. If I find a company with a perfect blend of each focus, I will have found the perfect client.

You could take a similar approach to business to business media outlets. Are they advertising-driven or editorially-driven? This is most discernable with the trade media. I’ve had editors cross the lines separating church and state to discuss advertising opportunities alongside editorial opportunities. Others are so blunt as to outline their pay for play rules. And at the bottom of this list are editors who express dismay when you pitch them news and have no intention of buying ad space. At best, we call these third-tier publications. They might make your mailing list, but you do not try and build a relationship with them.

These trade media anecdotes help build the case for creating a custom publication—a topic for which I could create an entirely separate blog.

National media rarely, if ever, have these issues. Segue to some new looks for national news outlets…Washington Post’s Web site has a simpler, more effective design. Steve Outing notes it is a good move for the paper to help its online readers consume content and more easily access the site’s value add—interactive content.

CNN, on the other hand, made a minor tweak to its home page that simply tweaks me. As you can see, the headline and image for the home page’s top story have traded places. The change was made to accommodate the banner at the top of the page. More than an inch tall, this billboard promotes CNN’s offline programming. The flip-flop took place to ensure the increased ad space did not bump the headline from first view. Hey, my home page defaults to CNN. This minor change was major for me.

So CNN was looking out for me with this decision. But clearly demonstrates that less is more. Mega sites like news outlets undergo an evolution where the site gets bigger and clunkier as content competes for precious first-view real estate. Then a new look and feel unveils a cleaner, simpler design. Hopefully CNN’s advertising-driven move, albeit trivial, will give way to a new design somewhere down the road.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 8:35:00 AM

Tuesday, November 18, 2003  

Sweeps and Martha Stewart Updates

Here are some updates to previous posts at Strategic Public Relations.

Nielsen Under Fire: Network execs are not seeing the results they expect and are questioning Nielsen’s credibility. Nielsen’s relationship with the networks and its lock on measuring their programs makes for a touchy situation. Of interest in the article is the question of whether Nielsen can keep up with the proliferation of new networks, channels and alternative media. A valid point, but this reads as a tactic to call Nielsen further into question more than to solve the issue at hand.

Stewart Wins Battle: But what about the war? Washington Post dissects the ABC interview and reinforces Martha’s high and low points in it. It supports what we’ve seen all along. Hopefully the onset of the Christmas shopping season and Martha Stewart’s January trial will make for an interesting mix of K-Mart ads and pre-trial communications strategy. Will she end things on a high note with the Barbara Walters interview or will we see something else?

My last sweeps note below talked about the Jessica Lynch and Elizabeth Smart overkill. It even made news when Smart pulled in more viewers than Lynch. So it was good to see a lead on ProfNet from the Associated Press on marketing tragedy. The AP wonders if we should put victims into the spotlight. And I have to wonder along with them.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 8:51:00 AM

Tuesday, November 11, 2003  

Technology Marketing

When I started reading Adweek's Technology Marketing (TM), it was still called Marketing Computers. Good times. IMHO, TM is a great read focusing more on marketing's big picture, using tech examples to illustrate their assertions. So I was disappointed to read the print edition is being folded into Brandweek.

It's not a surprise based on the technology publishing carnage we've witnessed. This might even be a good fit considering TM's focus. Not to mention, Brandweek, Mediaweek and Adweek look as similar as their titles sound. Lay the three publications side by side. The ad buys and insertions are nearly identical. This publication meld will be a good way to differentiate Brandweek.

From Strategic Public Relations' Google file: BusinessWeek, reports $10 million in VC funds invested in Google in 1999 is now worth $2 billion. That same $10 million invested a scant 12 months later is now worth $300 million. Wow.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 7:53:00 AM

Monday, November 10, 2003  

It’s Not a Good Thing

The Martha Interview kicked off sweeps this weekend. It was a masterpiece of the Martha Stewart public relations efforts to date. Even the Save Martha and Martha Talks Web sites were mentioned prominently. Hopefully potential jurors saw it—her trial begins on January 12.

Martha was on strategy, distancing herself from MSLO. In fact, the interview went to great lengths to show Martha Stewart as a person.

If you are going to be perceived as a victim, you must first be perceived as accessible, normal, less than perfect—real. The interview did just that. It took place at her home, it included a tour of her hometown and it included plenty of childhood pictures.

The interview brought up some excellent points, from the fact that she has already lost half of her $1 billion fortune to the fact that she could be innocent. Editor’s Note: The public relations strategy around the Martha Stewart crisis is my focus—not her guilt or innocence.

She ended the piece with an adaptation of her trademark phrase and noted "it’s not a good thing." Well done.

Regarding her K-Mart ads that had me thrown for a loop, I was looking at the ads from the wrong standpoint. At the end of the day, K-Mart and Martha Stewart need each other to sell products and make money. K-Mart’s decision to use Martha in its ads, and Martha’s decision to appear in them, are both business decisions. And in business, "it’s all about the benjamins."

posted by Kevin Dugan | 1:40:00 PM

THE New Product Introduction

If The United States Department of the Treasury is hiring, count me in. It all started back in 1999 when The United States Mint unveiled a 10 year plan to introduce new 50 State Quarters into our pockets and piggy banks.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing got into the action last month when it unveiled new $20 bills. Bills bring more public relations issues with them then coins, but so far they seem to be widely accepted.

And now, the Mint is back with a new nickel design. This is the first, er, change to the nickel in 65 years. So it should be interesting to see how this money news, um, unfolds.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 12:25:00 PM

State of the Blog

Some pointers to content on our favorite topic. Blogs and Ads? It reads like DoubleClick for blogs is coming soon to a banner near you. Will this grassroots medium sell out?!

Ad: Tech, or should I say, Blog: Tech went down recently and guess which topic was one of the hottest?

posted by Kevin Dugan | 12:24:00 PM

Wednesday, November 05, 2003  

Trick Questions

Strategic Public Relations is trying out a new polling mechanism. It's below the archive on your right. After discussing how sites are using polls as content, I thought it might be an interesting addition. So be sure and vote.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 9:51:00 PM

Tuesday, November 04, 2003  

Brand Commoditization

iMedia details the Web’s influence on consumer brand perceptions. Nothing shocking in the results. The Web also impacts business to business purchases—despite the differences between consumer and b to b purchase decision cycles. Even a considered purchase like an ERP software platform can be influenced and commoditized by the Web.

Hard to believe companies can narrow a field of manufacturers with a few clicks, but it’s true. The key is making sure your brand speaks louder than a performance specification. Does your brand capture the value your product/service brings to the table?

Brandchannel offers some great resources on our favorite topic. It even allows you to vote for your favorite brand. Check it out.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 9:58:00 AM