Is your client ‘world leading’? – 10 other words/phrases brands should avoid

There used to a blog called World Leading that poked fun at the PR industry.  Its title was of course a reminder of how stupid it is to make false statements about a client’s products or business.  Yet a quick scan of the latest press releases shows that all too many companies think they are the world’s leading something or other.  In the era of social media such statements seem silly and counter productive.  Customers can easily find out if a product or company is a world leader, or if it is in fact a laggard.  Yet, as I say, companies still do it.  Here’s a recent example by Ford: “Ford Motor Company, the police vehicle market leader for 15 years, has done it again.”  Sadly companies use all sorts of other rubbish in their materials.  Here are some words and expressions large companies have in their materials right now, that I would love to see them eliminate:

  1. Synergy – I don’t need to explain why this word should not be used do I?
  2. Platform – this is rapidly becomming an overused term in technology with just about every company creating a platform for other technologies
  3. Open – again this is a word that is over used by technology companies and is often untrue in its application
  4. “Enduring commitment” – phrases like these makes my blood boil.  Either you are committed or you are not.  The ‘Enduring’ part simply makes no sense.
  5. Convergence – there just has to be a better word or phrase.
  6. “Integrated applications” – the use of phrases that sound intelligent but tell you nothing about what is actually going on, drives me nuts.
  7. “Go to market” – marketing speak… do real people use such expressions?
  8. “all new” – this implies that the other versions you announced weren’t really new at all.
  9. “active dialog” – I think I know what they meant to say… sadly they didn’t
  10. Revolutionary – really?  The product really is revolutionary?  Would customers call it revolutionary?  I doubt it.

Now I genuinely took these words and expressions from press releases issued by large companies in the last 30 days.  These are brands you would definitely have heard of.  Despite their prominence they still feel it necessary to use language that is at best confusing and at worst obvious exaggeration.  PR PROs, please do your part to make materials an honest and sensible reflection of the brands you represent.  Blatant over statement stands out like a sore thumb and makes us all look stupid.

 


Facebook – the numbers you need to know

Facebook is growing like a weed is hardly news.  That Facebook has overtaken Google as a source for news maybe.  Beyond has just posted the results of a survey they ran about Facebook on YouTube.  It provides some great data for all you PR and marketing people that are trying to figure out how to make best use of Facebook and how to counsel your clients.  For example, did you know that the brands that are liked most on Facebook are all cars and the brands that are liked least are all computers?  There are also facts like 30 billion pieces of content are shared every month.  That’s because the average user creates 90 pieces of content a month.  The survey also reveals that the largest age group using social networking sites are ages 35 to 44.  So much for this being a youth movement.  Anyway, if Facebook facts are important to you, check out the survey.


How much should you spend on PR?

I was asked by someone this week how much they should spend on PR in the US for 2011 (yes it’s that time of year again).  They’re a small business with a small budget and they feel they’ve not been getting the results they want.  My answer was that they were spending too little with the wrong agency.  Now you’d expect me to say that given Next Fifteen is parent to a bunch of PR agencies.  But this common question got me thinking and so in order to help prospective marketing heads, here’s a simple scorecard that you could use to try and figure out what you need to spend:

1.  Are you:

A.  A start-up

B.  A mid sized

C.  A very large company that has an atrium at its head office big enough to house five startups

2.  Is your business:

A.  Doing really well

B.  Making it but not flying

C.  Struggling.  I know my friends wonder why I stay at the company.

3.  Is your senior management:

A.  Really engaged in PR

B.  Does it when asked

C.  Too busy talking to customers/playing golf

4.  Is your management:

A.  Good at talking to the media and always gives great perspective and quotes

B.  OK at talking to the media but sometimes over complicates things

C.  They’re too busy playing golf – they don’t give interviews

5.  Is your company:

A.  The market leader in a recognized space

B.  The business that is trying to catch the market leader

C.  A business trying to create a new category so that it doesn’t have to compare itself with the market leader

6.  If someone reviewed your product would they give it:

A. 5 stars (out of five)

B. 3.5 stars

C.  We definitely wouldn’t let them review it but we’d direct them to a real cool demo on our web site

7.  Does your CEO:

A.  Have a really great blog that everyone reads

B.  Have a blog but they are poor about maintaining it

C.  Think blogging is just a fad and that newspapers will rise again to push them out of existence

8.  Does your business have something genuinely interesting to say/announce:

A.   Every few days

B.  Every month

C.  Interesting to say?  Can you give me a bit more detail on what you mean by interesting?

9.  Does your company:

A. Put out news, links etc on Twitter every day

B. Put out news and links etc on Twitter every week

C.  What’s Twitter?

Now, for every question you answered A to give yourself 10 points.  For B’s score zero and C’s score -10.  When you have the answer you are then ready to calculate your spend.  So, if you answered all As, then you would have scored 80.  In this instance you would be a startup and should spend $15,000 per month plus 90%.  In other words you should spend $28,500 a month.  If you answered A to question one and Cs for the rest, then you’d have a score of -70.  This means you should spend $4.5k a month.  Given this is a stupidly small amount to spend with an agency you shouldn’t bother.  If you answered B to everything you would be a mid sized business that turns the handle.  In this instance your PR spend should be around 5% of revenues.  If you answered C to the first question and all the rest, then you are about become a B company.  You are probably looking for a new job so I suspect PR spend is pretty low on your list of priorities.  If, by some miracle, you are interested in PR spend, you should be aware that your company doesn’t care about PR and it seems highly likely PR isn’t going to solve the issues it faces (note your CEO is too busy playing golf to worry about PR, so you should be too busy interviewing to worry about the PR budget).

As I hope you can tell, the point I’m trying to make here (somewhat lightheartedly), is that there are some normal amounts that companies should spend on PR and that they relate to their revenues AND their ability to fully leverage what PR is capable of doing for them.  Spokespeople that aren’t willing to commit the time, crappy products and a business that is struggling don’t make for a great PR campaign.  Struggling companies can make a great story IF the management is seen to be engaged and has a plan etc.  but they also need to believe that PR is a key part of the plan to get the business going and invest in it properly both with time and money.  Some of you might feel that you need to spend more if you have an average company with average products etc.  You can but in this instance, you need to demonstrate PR’s potential and get management to embrace it before asking for more money.  If they believe, you’ll get every dollar you need.  You may also question, why companies that believe in PR and use it well, need to spend more.  I’d argue that when a company makes full use of PR and is getting good results, it should spend all it can and then some.

Good luck with the budget games for 2011!


Should PR be a part of sales or marketing?

Social commerce is where eCommerce and Social Networks meet.  Effectively it’s an approach to eCommerce that embraces all the benefits of social marketing.  It creates a way for people to see what their friends like and don’t like, what the influencers they trust think.  More importantly it enables them to decide if they trust the business they are buying from.  PR plays a huge role in social commerce.  We create, influence and share content that buyers and sellers want access to.  Yet, rarely do we get involved in understanding how PR fits in the social commerce sales cycle.  We tend to analyze brands based on the online media and social media coverage around them and devise plans based on that analysis.  What if we analyzed the conversations taking place in social commerce situations?  If we learned what buyers were saying about our brands, what issues they were raising and what issues they weren’t paying attention to?  To do this effectively, we need to be prepared to isolate the conversations in social commerce from the rest of the noise around the brand.  Having done that we can see how these conversations are influenced by the conversations taking place in other forums such as the media, social networks etc.  Put another way, PR has a real chance to become a key player in the sales process thanks to social commerce.  It is not something we take on lightly but if we do grab hold of it, it could make a significant change to the role PR plays in business overall.


Time to plan how you use Twitter and Facebook?

It used be that you had to be in the news to be important.  Now you have to have a huge Twitter following and hundreds of thousands of fans on Facebook.  Indeed if you can get tens of thousands of people to follow you on Twitter then you have the publishing power of the New York Times or a lifestyle publication such as GQ.  In short, with the right following your pages become the media you’ve always wanted.  Of course, if you are already famous getting that following is far simpler than if nobody has ever heard of you.  So ironically, to get a large following on Twitter (so that you can rely less on the media), you are probably best getting some great media exposure.  But if you do that then you will need to pay attention to your media profile and that will dilute your ability to manage your online profile (unless you have unlimited resources).  Regardless of how you build your following on Facebook or Twitter, what you cannot avoid is creating content of at least 140 characters in length that people want.  Computer programmers like to say: garbage in, garbage out.  This is essentially the law of social media and networks.  If you don’t participate by creating a point of view that is entertaining, interesting or educational, you are likely to find your following dwindle and your profile plummet.  Yet so many companies plan what they are going to say to the media with military like precision and then tweet and give Facebook updates as an after thought.  Is it time that got reversed?  Perhaps not but it is time that brands mapped out the conversations they want to have with their social networks in ways that made gave those conversations real depth and value.  Random tweets are all well and good but they do little to build the brand and could even do more harm than good.  What’s more you can use these networks as central part of your comms plans, not as bolt-ons.  In other words you can create communications activities that were DESIGNED for Facebook and or Twitter, rather than comms that were designed for the media and then simply echoed by these social networks.  Why am I making this plea?  Quite simply because I’ve realized I now spend far more time reading comments on Twitter and Facebook than I do with the media.  Sure I often get directed to the media by these networks but more often than not, if it’s not on Twitter or Facebook it’s not getting anywhere near as much of my attention as it could and I’m sure I’m not alone.


Is Digital PR different for B2B than B2C?

The short answer is: yes and no.  Very helpful I know.  Before I explain, let me first say I am an unashamed fan of digital.  I think the way that it has transformed all forms of marketing is exciting.  After all, it offers brands a whole new way to create markets and sell products.  But I fear that little attention has been paid to differentiating the use of digital for reaching consumers versus business decision makers (BDMs).  Indeed it’s as if digital makes everyone a consumer and therefore regardless of whether you marketing shampoo or web servers, you should offer customers the same broad strategies and the same types of tactics.  I take issue with this.  Consumers have different reasons for buying your products and or services than BDMs.  When you market to consumers you are trying to get them to buy your products and feel good about your brand.  When you market to BDMs you are, more often than not, trying to convince them that your products will help them sell more products.  Perhaps the best way to help people think about this divide is to imagine a consumer campaign and then a B2B campaign.  If you were doing digital comms for a consumer brand such as a car you might:

1.  Monitor the conversations taking place around that type of car and decide if you wanted to join these conversations or start your own.

2.  You would create content (blogs, podcasts, videos etc) that created an emotional and or intellectual connection between your brand and consumers

3.  You would build car enthusiast communities that connected your consumers to each other and to your brand (you would also join existing communities).  This is where Facebook and Twitter etc come in.

4.  You would optimize all the content you’d already produced and were producing so that it was easy for consumers to find and so that it helped you drive people towards a place where they can purchase the car that was after all at the center of the campaign.

In a B2B world all of the above apply.  However, if you now imagine that the product you were trying market was headlights that go into that car, then you create very different content, join radically different conversations, build different communities and so on.  This is partly because the communities you are dealing with are a lot smaller but also because, quite clearly, the people you are trying to reach are interested in very different things.  Of course good B2B campaigns also try and reach the end consumer to create some pull for their products through the channel.  This is called ingredient branding and is an approach Intel has used for years, with its Intel inside campaign.  Companies that run these kids of campaigns can easily utilize digital as a channel and people like Intel do just that.  I guess the difference that digital makes is that it’s actually possible for people to run ingredient branding campaigns using digital at far lower costs than they would have in the old world.  Intel has spent many millions (many, many in fact) on this campaign over the years.  This helped them lock out competitors and build market share.  But they were/are a rich company with a lot of cash to throw at this challenge.  Small companies can’t afford Intel-like ad budgets but they can afford to create their own podcasts, content for the web, YouTube video and host a Facebook community aimed at the end-consumers.  Put another way, they are less budget constrained and more ‘make it interesting’ constrained.  After all, if you are  a maker of car headlights, you may need to get pretty creative to make consumers love your brand or your products.  But if creativity is the only challenge, I know plenty of PR agencies who’d say:  “bring it on.”