I have found that corporate communications briefs for technology companies tend to have one thing in common. “Make people see the amazing innovation we have here” they say. Sometimes that innovation is easy to find, sometimes not. The motivation for wanting that innovation brand association however can be murky but often has an undercurrent of ‘we want our brand to be more respected, valued, get us out of commodity positioning’.
So when real commitment to market- and economy-moving innovation comes along, you have to applaud it.
In this economy, you need to scream your sincere appreciation for it, because it shows a commitment to be stronger tomorrow than you are today.
Example: Intel announcing this week a $7B investment over the next two years as they upgrade their facilities for 32nm technology used for the production of new faster, smaller, energy efficient chips. (Note: Intel is a client).
Intel CEO Paul Otellini said it so well this week on NPR. http://tiny.cc/4FLW7 “New technology is what pulls companies in technology out of recession,” he said.
And when asked what feedback he gave President Obama on the stimulus package, he did not hesitate to support plans to spend on much needed infrastructure investments, with the National Science Foundation, quality of classroom infrastructure, and tackling long-overdue problems that technology can solve, like electronic medical records. “My God,” Otellini said. “How long have we talked about that (Health IT)”?
How long indeed.
And just how long have we applauded brands for ‘innovation’ when there was little substance beyond an island in second life?
Intel has set a bar. And the best thing about that bar is if you really listen to what they are saying, they want more companies to meet and beat that bar. A rising tide raises all ships.
Lets not get amnesia about that bar on innovation when things get better, OK? Who else do you see raising the bar? I’d love to applaud them.
I’m doing an interview this afternoon (4PM ET) about best practices in PR during the current economic environment – the topic of my last post. Here’s the link. There’s a call-in number if you want to join the conversation.
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!!!