Sean Callahan of BtoB Magazine interviewed me last week about how companies should conduct PR in a recession. The resulting article can be read here*.
A recession is an interesting time for marketers. Companies often view marketing as an easy place to cut, yet those companies that maintain or increase spend can pick up market share. Witness Apple.
When thinking about PR in a recession the first thing companies need is an understanding of public relations. Everyone understands advertising. Advertising is something you buy. You can buy more, or less, depending on a variety of factors.
PR, however, is something you do. It is the marketing discipline most concerned with how a company communicates to its various constituencies (customers, vendors, employees, partners, media, analysts and other influencers). No company stops doing this; they just stop doing it well.
So what should companies be focused on doing well in a recession? Here’s my list:
*My comments may suggest an (attitudinal) resemblance to Alec Baldwin** in Glengarry Glen Ross***. This is (mostly) inadvertent.
**No physical resemblance, except, perhaps, with late-model pudgy Baldwin.
***No link. This is a family blog.
It seems Amazon is launching the second version of the Kindle today at 10am. See here for information and watch this link for live blogging at Engadget. I find the Kindle fascinating from a consumer perspective (I’ve been a proud owner for about 2 months now).
It is also, however, a great case study for marketers. Think of how it was launched: rumors, secrecy and hints for months, and then a splashy launch with distinguished authors lining up to endorse. Amazon followed the initial introduction with only the most fleeting and oblique referrences to the product’s success, thereby encouraging speculation as to sales figures, devices shipped, etc.
I also find it interesting that in it’s top-line messaging Amazon refers to the Kindle as a ‘wireless reading device’, not an eBook reader. It sounds both more technically advanced and more user friendly at the same time. It seems this time around Amazon is taking a page from Apple and including an exclusive work from Steven King. It will be interesting to see what else they have in store for us . . .
A great piece quoting our very own Paul Sherer. This takes a look at how we’re helping clients like SunPower enter the discussion thread on Obama’s clean energy stimulus plan.
Over at his Influential Marketing Blog Rohit has posts on what PR people should know about journalists, and vice versa. The information is good and worth reading, but most publicists won’t find any surprises.
But if most publicists know this information, why does it seem as though it’s rarely put into practice? There are, after all, countless posts from publicists offering similar advice, frequent cases of journalists complaining about publicists and even a blog dedicated to exposing the industry’s most thoughtless pitches.
Rohit’s readers offer some explanations, and I encourage everyone to read the comment threads. While I see many culprits (the economic model of PR firms, client pressure and so forth) the first cause is surely this: PR is an industry with absolutely no barrier to entry. Qualifications and training are not a prerequisite for any aspect of the work that we do, nor are they required by (most) clients.
So where do we go from here? PR is still a relatively young industry. It seems likely that, with experience, clients will become increasingly sophisticated in how they provision and evaluate firms. Evolution, however, takes time.
In the short term maybe PR people should get to know something else about journalists: they are exposed to constant feedback. This feedback exposes flaws, raises new ideas, angles and topics to be explored and – when necessary – punishes the most egregious cases of journalistic misconduct. Ultimately feedback refines journalism, making it more dynamic and vital.
Today, publicists are exposed to only a small amount of feedback from journalists. Perhaps it’s time we took a page out the old media playbook and invited more. A few years ago the New York Times created a ‘Public Editor’ or ombudsmen to investigate reader concerns and report their findings; perhaps it’s time PR firms did the same.
So we’ve all been hearing and reading a lot about “The Best Job in the World”, the destination marketing campaign by Tourism Queensland. In short, Tourism Queensland put out a worldwide call for candidates to apply for a Great Barrier Reef-based job paying $150,000. This has played out quite nicely in social media - in particular on video aggregator sites such as YouTube.
The winner will need to become friendly with the locals and explore the Great Barrier Reef and indulge in activities that make up the island experience - swimming, diving, snorkelling and hanging out on the beach. As part of the ‘dream’ job, the successful applicant will also need to post their adventures on a blog, regularly updating it with the latest photos and video footage.
In order to apply, the candidates have been asked to create and submit a 60-second video of themselves. Part of a $1.7 million global marketing strategy and, according to a report in The Australian, the campaign is expected to generate more than $70 million worth of publicity for Queensland.
This is a great feat given the current financial crisis and particularly now that the heat has turned up in Australia. It was announced yesterday that NSW is officially in recession and this is expected to spread throughout Australia, according to the Access Economics’ Business Outlook for December 2008 (although there are still mixed reports about this). This campaign is raising the profile of this holiday destination at a time where people are less inclined to travel. This campaign is putting Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef on the global map.
Although this campaign is attracting widespread attention both locally and across the globe, there has also been a recent flurry of backlash. Yesterday, Tourism Queensland admitted to seeding a fake video of a candidate applying for the ‘dream’ job. The video is of a girl getting an advertisement for the Great Barrier Reef tattooed on her arm. The spoof video was uncovered by YouTube frequenters who acknowledged the video as a fake as there was no red on her arm immediately after getting the tattoo.
It was reported in The Sydney Morning Herald that this video was intended as an“…example of the creativity Tourism Queensland expected from applicants, and to spur people to post their own videos”.
This comes at a time where there has been a fair bit of scepticism around the use of video sites such as YouTube to promote a cause. The most recent example of self-promotion is the video of Heidi Clarke, a girl who posted a YouTube video about a man that she briefly met and spoke to at a CBD cafe.
The apparent man had left his jacket behind and because she insists she felt a ‘connection’ with him, she wanted to use the video site to try and find him. Not only did we see widespread coverage of this on YouTube and online news sites but this extended to traditional news outlets including TV. We are still yet to uncover whether in fact the girl and her cause is genuine but it is widely believed that this, too, is a fake.
Despite the furore of using social media and covert marketing to promote a cause, this has still been a unique and innovative destination marketing campaign. We are still seeing other applicants upload their own 60-second videos to YouTube.
The main point though – will it serve the purpose of attracting tourism, adding Queensland to peoples’ lists of holiday hot spots or at least getting people excited? I say ‘yes’.
There’s never any shortage of articles on the troubles facing the newspaper industry, but the New Year has brought a handful of thought-provoking pieces that are well worth reading.
I can’t predict the future of media (and the PR industry) any better than anyone else, but I do think some answers can be found in these pieces. The articles also remind me of a recent conversation I had with a recently laid off tech journalist. He (I’ll leave him anonymous), believes PR firms will increasingly look like custom publishing houses. Given the trends and developments outlined in these (and other) articles, I tend to agree.
One final thought before the links: If Clay Shirky is right (see #3) and the last print pub left standing is Brides Magazine, what will we say to all those clients who insist on print coverage?
“End Times”, Michael Hirschorn, The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200901/new-york-times
“Why the New York Times Won’t Cease Printing”, Felix Salmon, Conde Nast Portfolio: http://www.portfolio.com/views/blogs/market-movers/2009/01/07/why-the-new-york-times-wont-cease-printing?tid=true
“The Shape of things to come”, Tom Teodorczuk/Clay Shirky, The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/jan/05/clay-shirky-future-newspapers-digital-media
“Let’s Invent an iTunes for News”, David Carr, New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/12/business/media/12carr.html?em
“The Future of News”, Joel Mathis, Philadelphia Weekly: http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/?inc=article&id=984&x=the-future-of-news&_c=news
“The New Journalism: Goosing the Grey Lady”, Emily Nussbaum, New York Magazine: http://nymag.com/news/features/all-new/53344/
Not a bad way to start 2009
More at http://podcasts.prweek.com/
Happy New Year to everyone!!!
I met with Richard Jalichandra, CEO of Technorati, at the Ogilvy PR offices in San Francisco. He shared with me his thoughts about what’s new in the blogosphere in 2009.
It’s been really interesting to see how the terrorist attacks in India, Mumbai, have played out using social media - Twitter and blogging in particular. In fact, I am led to believe that social media even beat traditional media to the punch with the announcement of this news.
Some Twitter users used the micro-blogging platform to send out calls for blood donors to make their way to Mumbai hospital where existing and anticipated casualties were being sent. It was also used to get news out fast on those that had been injured and killed and information regarding support numbers for those that had friends and family involved in the attacks were also posted on Twitter.
Although this has been a great tool to get information out on what those on the ground were experiencing in instantaneous nature, it has also fuelled a rumour-mill. There are accounts of Twitter users publishing posts exaggerating the number of casualties and generally sensationalising the situation of the attacks.
CNN reported in the article I cite above: “What is clear that although Twitter remains a useful tool for mobilizing efforts and gaining eyewitness accounts during a disaster, the sourcing of most of the news cannot be trusted.”
People caught up in the Mumbai attacks, including the hotel hostages, were also using their blogs as a news medium to disseminate information on the situation on the ground in India. Bloggers posted their accounts of the tragedy when it unfolded, as it unfolded.
This is indeed a strong reminder of how powerful social media can be as a disseminator of news - whether this news is entirely factually correct or not. Social media has the power to beat traditional media to the punch due to its instantaneous nature and a force to be reckoned with. It’s an online tour de force for distributing instant information to the masses.
I’m interested to get your thoughts on this. Do you think social media played too large a part to play in telling the stories surrounding these tragic circumstances? Do you think it levels the playing field between traditional media and citizen journalists and social media? Feel free to contribute other parts of the discussion that are missing in this post.
According to a new book released by the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, journalists face “two years of carnage”.
Titled “A report, Life in the Clickstream: The Future of Journalism”, the book also revealed it’s very possible that the biggest media companies in the US will come crashing down due to cost-cutting and reduced quality, while five in 11 newspapers will vanish in Britain. After all, more than 12,000 journalists around the world lost their jobs this year.
Media Alliance federal secretary Christopher Warren said that usually, journalism has traditionally “thrived on the emergence of disruptive technologies even as economic models have changed”. The Australian newspaper spoke to Christopher and filed a story yesterday.
In the article Warren says: “Like all crises, the challenges journalism faces are rewriting everything we thought we knew about the news media and causing us to question the basis on which the industry has survived and flourished.” Whilst journalists are using technology to find new and progressive ways to keep the public informed, in the report 70 per cent revealed they’re now experiencing increased workloads due to a shrinking of the workforce.
As to the future, 19 per cent said they were excited about the future of journalism, but 35 per cent said they were pessimistic about their prospects.
Just like the PR industry has to modify the rule book in terms of how it uses social media and the Internet to help its clients participate in conversations and reach new influencers outside heritage media; by the same token journalists and publishers face even tougher challenges to retain relevance, especially as audiences continue to fragment the world over and chose multiple sources for information. Add to this the financial crisis now sweeping the world and further cost pressures will only amplify the speed of change.
The Australian article looks at what might evolve if mainstream news organisations collapse, citing research from the City University of New York. That says an organic news organisation could evolve - based on bloggers, video shooters and photographers, it would be augmented by community managers, program developers artists and run by just a handful of editors, all on an annual budget of $2.1 million.
On a brighter note, and to update on my last post about PC Magazine’s decision to cull its print title, Roy Morgan has just released circulation figures in Australia for the last 12 months. The good news is that PC magazines did remarkably well. PC User’s readership climbed from 281,000 to 313,000 while APC went up from 275,000 to 280,000. PC Authority went up from 154,000 to 158,000, and PC Powerplay up from 111,000 to 115,000. Netguide was the only tech title to record a fall, dipping from 106,000 to 99,000. For even more analysis, check out last year’s results to compare.
Some good news to end on.
David Carlson: Social Media and Traditional PR