Archive | December, 2009

Was 2009 a good year for marketing communications?

28 Dec

As the last year in the first decade of 21st century, 2009 was certainly a year of flux. We saw lots of changes in media. Many magazines were shuttered, and some newspapers became online only.  The Internet, in the Web 2.0 format was king. Twitter flourished, as did Facebook. Blogs continued to pop up everywhere.  All the mainstream newscasts routinely place more information, video, interviews  online. The divide between haves and have-nots is certainly growing.

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Some trends that I personally disliked:

  • The rise of personal branding to the level of ridiculous self-promotion.
  • The failure of old guard public relations/advertising practitioners to embrace new media
  • The idea that new media/social networks are THE solution (they are not)
  • Social media “experts” (having a Twitter account and a blog does not make anyone an expert)
  • Endless self-promotion on multiple platforms of social media
  • Linking every Tweet to Facebook and LinkedIn and everything in between
  • Feeling the need to tweet everything, have hashtags for everything and  “follow Friday”
  • Rise in sexist images in advertising
  • Decline in thoughtful public relations campaigns
  • Decline in traditional media, especially print journalism
  • Endless hype/hysteria about the supposed big story of the minute (Tiger Woods, Octomom, Balloon Boy, etc.)

But on the bright side

  • Social media has presented great opportunities for small businesses
  • The new PBS NewsHour
  • Increased desire for measurement and return on investment
  • Twitter, in spite of the above problems, has allowed for new relationships and allegiances, not to mention new parlance (tweetup, tweetsgiving, etc)
  • Acceptance of blogs as legitimate journalistic outlets
  • Citizen journalism and subsequent empowerment

What are your best/worst for the year?

Taking things for granted

15 Dec

When you are surrounded by something, you assume everyone else is as well. You are taking for granted that everyone has the same experience. But, this is simply not so. And taking things for granted results in bad communication, for sure.

How many times have you tried to talk to a real tech-y person? Chances are you ended up nodding your head because it was easier than asking what each word meant or gadget or program did. This happens whenever you try to communicate with someone who is immersed in a world, and does not realize you aren’t.

On Saturday, I was at a talk about research on the Internet. Some terms came up like “delicious” or “brand reputation,” which did not strike a chord amongst the attendees.  You have to know who your audience is and adjust your explanations accordingly. If you are tweeting on Twitter,  you don’t have to explain what a tweet up is. If you are in a room where people feel very cutting edge because they finally put up a picture of their dog on Facebook, you will have to explain, and it will not be as obvious as you think.

A rule for good communication is not to take things for granted. Explain what you mean using common terms. Avoid jargon. Jargon is the ultimate insider language, and it takes for granted that you understand it.  Remember, just because it is obvious to you does not mean it is obvious to everyone else.

Lack of communication may cost you a sale

14 Dec

Prescriptives:  One Customer’s Quest for Makeup

Today, I went to the mall in search of a replacement for my dwindling bottle of Prescriptives foundation, which I love. First I went to Nordstrom, where I originally found it. The Prescriptives counter was very small, and a salesperson from a different counter “helped” me.  She was not very familiar with the brand and she said they were out of what I needed. Next stop, Bloomingdales. I looked everywhere and no Prescriptives counter. I asked someone who answered me with a look as if I had just asked for Cover Girl, that Prescriptives does not have a counter at Bloomingdale’s. I walked out.

Next stop was Macy’s. A young sales guy informs me that Prescriptives is being discontinued. This is news to me. I ask whether I can purchase the foundation online. He tells me no, but that he can custom blend some foundation from me at exactly double the price. I asked if I could find a similar foundation with the parent company, Estee Lauder. He says probably, and walks me over to the Estee Lauder counter, where he explains what I need to a saleswoman who then proceeds to ignore me. No joke. I walk out.

Finally, I get to Lord & Taylor. I find their Prescriptives counter and the salesperson tells me they are sold out of that particular foundation. She shows me a couple of others,  which I don’t like. She assures me I can find something similar at Estee Lauder. We go over there, and the Estee Lauder looks up in her sales book and yes, she finds the “equivalent” to my foundation in the Estee Lauder lineup. OK. She is a good salesperson. She is nice and helpful and I buy the Estee Lauder offering.

I get home. I check on the Internet and guess what? I can buy my exact foundation online. I do it.

What is the moral of this makeup quest? A company must communicate with its associates and the public just a wee bit better.

  • First, I did not know Prescriptives was being phased out. It is probably buried in some news somewhere but a large ad would have made that clear to me.
  • Second, the counter people did not know enough to say the following: Prescriptives is being phased out. You can still purchase our existence here or check online until X date. One of these sales people even had the wrong information. Not helpful.
  • Third, the physical displays/counters at the stores did not have any of the above information.

Prescriptives is part of Estee Lauder. It is in EL’s best interest to make sure that Prescriptives customers migrate to one of their brands, and be happy about it. In order to do this, the company needs to communicate better. Period. End of story.

Have you ever had to deal with a brand that was being discontinued? What did you do?

Editor & Publisher to shut down

11 Dec

What does it say about the publishing industry when the venerable, 108-year-old trade journal covering the industry is folding?Read the story here.

It seems inevitable that we will see continued downturn in the magazine market. More and more, people are turning to digital media for all their news and information. And why not? It is there, at your fingertips. It is continually updated and often, you don’t have to pay for it.

Magazines are starting to seem as quaint as LPs (vinyl records for those who don’t remember).

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The price is right!

10 Dec

It is too bad that marketing people often are  not involved in the pricing process within a company. Because as you probably know, price is one of the four “Ps” (product, placement, price, promotion) involved in marketing. Often, especially if you are in a  public relations/advertising agency, you had absolutely no input on price. None. And yet, you are being asked to promote a product/service that may not be priced correctly.

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What is the correct price? The one the public will pay for that product or service.

For instance, say you see a great ad campaign for a product. You go look for it, but it is priced too high. You don’t buy it. Of course, perhaps you are not the target audience. Perhaps the target is people with higher household incomes than you. That is possible.

However, I often see pricing that is more reflexive of a small committee of people who decide the price than of market research or a target audience strategy.

Prices can be too high and they can be too low. If something is too cheap, you may doubt its value.

In any case, if as a marketing communications person you can participate in talks about price, do so. If you can get market research to back up price decisions, do so.  The right price can sell a product more readily than any campaign, press release or social media blitz.

Your thoughts?

Be consistent!

8 Dec

Check out my guest post: “The Golden Rule of Marketing: 4 Actions your Company Should Take” at the Green Buzz Agency blog.

Let me know what you think!

Social media has changed PR

5 Dec

This is not or should not be a newsflash, but social media has changed public relations.  Yet many people are resisting.

Yesterday, I was fortunate to have attended a presentation on social media strategy given by Sally Falkow, and hosted by the PRSA-NCC, here in Washington DC. Ms. Falkow presented a case for social media (newspapers in decline, people looking for new sources of information) and gave some advice on how to use social media to achieve public relations/marketing goals. You can access this valuable presentation here:

Although her presentation gave me lots of new perspectives and ideas, what fascinated me the most was the audience reaction. Specifically three or four people, who are decidedly old school, immediately started questioning Ms. Falkow. One person in particular, who claimed she had been a White House reporter, was quite acid about new media, saying “no one has time to watch video news releases” and “blogs are not credible.”  Obviously, this woman is not keen on social media, and thinks it just is not up to snuff,  certainly not comparable to old media.

These questioners actually were quite disruptive, but mostly, they were a sad reminder that some people will fight change. This is why so many organizations are having a difficult time communicating these days. Sure, I know that getting a clip in a major newspaper or coverage from a major broadcaster felt good and was the result of good media relations. But that is not where the majority of the audience is these days. Newspapers are dying, major news broadcasts are losing ground, and more importantly, legions of people have embraced social media.  Although you could ignore this situation, you would be doing it at your own peril.

If you practice PR, or advertising, or marketing, you MUST consider social media. It is not optional any more. It is not just a way to get young people or techies. It is where a large majority of people are getting their news and information.  Railing against it, questioning its legitimacy and refusing to change your ways will only result in your public relations efforts going to waste. You will be left out in the cold.