. The Transom .

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Using the tools at hand

Guest post by Stephanie Flynn, director at Cushman/Amberg

How do you reach an audience today? Is it through YouTube? Facebook? MySpace? Or simply your website?

With the continued public interest in YouTube and online mediums (ex: the CNN YouTube debates), I am curious…How do you reach an audience?

From a playground manufacturer and a nozzle distributor, to a cooking school and a ritzy hotel, our company has not only utilized blogging, MySpace, and Facebook, but we have also worked in YouTube, putting the site to work, and our clients are having a blast with it!

Yesterday, we had a “new media” opportunity with a local television station, KSDK-TV (NBC 5). They arranged a live-chat session online with local financial experts to discuss the threat of a recession and what that means locally. One of our clients, a bank, was able to be a part of this chat, additionally conducting a taped interview of which the video clips were posted on the website and used on the 10 p.m. news. Talk about great cross promotion!

As our industry moves forward online, we as public relations consultants have a duty to learn how to use these tools and implement them strategically in our communications planning. Not only do we have a duty, we have an opportunity to formulate various ways to use tools in the industry for future PR consultants.

As an agency, we have been utilizing these tools when it makes the most sense, and see the future only getting more 'online happy.'

Will you use the online world for your practice?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Possibly the worst TV ad ever

I've seen it so many times now that I have to say something. It's possibly the worst, but definitely the most annoying, TV ad I've seen in a long, long time. It's for Yellow Book. It starts out with three idiots sitting in a room saying, "How are are we going to improve sales this quarter?" One of them suggests asking the 'Ad Guru' who happens to be washed out actor David Carradine, apparently still trying to grasp the last shred of Kung Fu-ness that he can. It derails into dialogue that goes like this:

David C. - The first path, Yellow Book.
Hack Actor 1 - Of course, Yellow Book! What about the internet?
David C. - The second path. Yellow Book .com.
Hack Actor 1 - What about those search engines?
David C. - The third path. Trust Yellow Book to put your ads on powerful search engines across the internet.

It then shows the three idiots dancing to a graph showing sales are off the charts over the next quarter.

So many things are wrong with this ad. First of all, "trust yellow book" is about the worst expression I would use in an ad. It's already begging for credibility and now you're asking me to trust that something will get done. Nuh-uh.

Finally, 'powerful search engines across the internet?' Are we all stupid or something? Can't they come up with something better than that?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What would happen in a PR strike?

Everyone seems pretty intently focused on the writers strike that has caused our favorite shows to be delayed or pushed off for a year or more. We thought this mess would go away in a few weeks, but now it looks like the end is nowhere in sight. So that got me thinking… what if every PR professional went on strike?

For starters, you’d have a lot of journalists scared shitless. Who would provide them with roughly 70% of their story leads, facts, background information, interview access, or exclusive information? What would they do if all of a sudden, gasp, they had to do all the background work themselves? We’d have a lot of speculative stories or coverage of pretty boring events that news media are invited to (read: grand openings, news conference, book signing, etc).

Next you’d have the financial investors that wouldn’t have a lot of information to go on because all the analysts would actually have to do research themselves. Jim Cramer’s producers would have a lot more work to do finding information on pressing companies and stocks.

Let’s not forget the corporations that, when faced with a product release, crisis, community relations event, or sales push would be pretty much left out to dry. I guess they could try to advertise their way out of a crisis. I can see the CEO of a major company whose product just inadvertently poisoned thousands of innocent babies going on TV and saying, “Our product doesn’t suck. Really! You can trust me!” Brilliant.

Whether you want to believe it or not, public relations influences things you do and think every day of your life. It is one of the most underappreciated, yet incredibly effective marketing functions. I’m not suggesting we go on strike (our union isn’t quite as well organized), and I hate to equate us to the waste management industry, but without us, your life would get a lot more rotten. And it probably would start to stink after a few days.

The electric slide

The one factor facing most companies as both the greatest opportunity and greatest threat is the online world. I speak with so many companies that don't truly understand both sides of this equation but believe they are doing 'enough.' Those that don't feel they are doing enough either don't have a sense of urgency to capitalize on opportunities or don't see the threats as real.

Mostly, I think companies fail to see what can be done. The opportunities to reach very specific groups of people are so abundant that it seems silly not to embrace it. Simultaneously, erroneous material or speculation can spread like wildfire. But here's the catch that most companies don't realize. Not being engaged or involved actively does not mean it won't bite you in the ass. You just won't realize it until it's too late, and then you're farther behind the 8-ball.

I've seen company after company stick their head in the sand and try to 'wait it out' or ignore problems that spread online. This is just disaster. I equate it to them being the last kid to break down and buy a DVD player because they thought VHS would survive and DVD was a fringe market. Well the online world is today's DVD player. Don't get stuck with VHS.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Starbucks for the rest of us

So McDonald's decided to open up coffee bars inside its stores to compete with Starbucks for high end coffee experiences.

Pause for laughter, I mean reflection.

On the surface this looks like a pretty bonehead move by Ronald and Co. Big Mac's and Caffe Latte's go together about as well as democrats and republicans. Technically they are both digestible, but you wouldn't consume too many, and certainly not at the same time. And they both can give you upset stomach.

But back to the food products. On the surface, I equate this to Tiffany's putting in a drive-thru window in their stores. Ritz-Carlton putting a sign out front that says 'Buses Welcome.' Maybe even Nike changing their slogan to "Just Try a Little Harder." You just won't see it.

However, when you dig a little deeper it isn't a completely ridiculous play on the part of McDonald's. While I doubt McD's will steal a substantial number of regular Starbuckers, they might attract the Starwannabes. We might not be able to play golf like Tiger Woods, but we can wear the same Nike shirt. Same concept for McDonald's. They will attract the emulators.

I happen to think this move will go over as well as the Hula Burger, but I've been wrong once or twice before. It's just a hard fight when you try to mix apples and oranges. Or the sophisticated coffee shop with the dirty kid infested playgrounds serving wafer-thin burgers. But who knows. Maybe we'll see the turtleneck wearing sophisticates planting themselves in McD's sipping a latte and wolfing down a Big Mac while they search for the WiFi.