. The Transom .

Monday, April 30, 2007

Are you creating Bubbas or Tigers?

I wrote an article for PR News last week on how managers need to do a better job of developing their staff. It was edited slightly for publishing, but here is the full version.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

B2B always isn't

You have probably read a lot lately about the A380 aircraft from Airbus. This double decker airplane can haul up to 853 passengers and is the largest commercial aircraft ever built. Airbus calls it the future of their company and the future of air travel. Designed to help move large amounts of people through congested airports, it is aiming to reduce airport 'clutter' at the gates and in the skies.

Boeing, on the other hand, has come out with the 787 Dreamliner. It's a smaller craft than the A380, but can carry more passengers in a more fuel efficient manner than previous planes. Boeing is betting its future customers want something more like an affordable Dreamliner than a giant A380.

Something else is interesting in the approach of the two companies. Boeing won the marketing game. Boeing called its new plane the Dreamliner. Airbus called it an A380. Which would you rather fly? Boeing set up a highly interactive, informative and entertaining microsite for the Dreamliner (www.newairplane.com). Airbus didn't. Boeing is promoting the craft to consumers as well as airlines and governments. Airbus is only marketing to the potential buyers.

This difference of approach can translate to many other kinds of businesses. For example, in the commercial playground industry, the vast majority of companies market only to the buyers - landscape architects, park directors, hotels, etc. However, recently some of these companies have started to recognize the value of marketing their products to the end consumers. While not directly engaged in the buying process, they are stakeholders and influencers of the buying decision, as well as more loyal customers down the road.

Many so-called B2B companies could benefit from studying Boeing's approach to marketing the Dreamliner and remember the entire scope of stakeholders and influencers, not just the direct buyers.

The evolution of advertising

I have been hearing a lot lately about the so-called evolution of advertising. More and more ad agency CEOs are beginning to describe their businesses as marketing communications, new marketing, etc. What they are really saying is, advertising isn't working for our clients, so we're going into something else. It used to be that ad agencies didn't have any in-house public relations staff. All 'earned media' was handled by someone on the account team that usually amounted to a poorly written news release about the latest and greatest ad campaign. But now, these same ad agencies are seeing their budgets cut and the dollars flowing to agencies that can show credibility and a connection with stakeholders. And that would be PR firms and online specialty shops. I won't say the day of the 30-second TV spot is dead, but it certainly is dying.

What does this mean for those of us who have been performing in this area all along? Opportunity. We will see agencies come into competition for the same business and absolutely fall flat on their face because they don't know PR like we do. It would be like me trying to sell Tiger Woods a golf lesson. However, there is also great risk. Advertising is loud, PR is quiet, so to speak. If we as a profession allow these ad agencies to come in and define PR in a way that benefits them, we are in trouble. Historically, we haven't been great at generating an understanding of what we do. Advertising has done that well. If they successfully define us in the minds of our clients, we're dead.

Now is the time for PR to shine. The market is ready and willing to listen. We have to be the ones talking.