Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

I’m not your best friend. I’m a prospect. UPDATED

Like everyone else, I get inundated with marketing outreach all the time. Ads before YouTube videos. Newspapers. TV. Radio. Website banner ads. And on and on. And the phone. Which brings me to this.

Got this yesterday, on our landline. (Yes, we have a landline, we’re dinosaurs, ha ha ha) A little context: We leased a Hyundai. In 2002. At the end of the lease, we returned it, and since that time, to my knowledge, we’ve got a flyer about once a year from the dealership. We haven’t had any interaction for eight years. And then we get this voicemail. I eagerly await this mysterious letter.

“Oooh, you’re getting this special offer, it’s not going out to just any customers of ours, you’re very special and important.” Really? Someone who hasn’t had a moment of interaction in eight years is in some way deserving of a special offer from you? What does the customer who’s been loyal to you for multiple purchases get?

I know I’m a prospect. You know I’m a prospect. That’s why I’m in your CRM system. Why pretend that I’m any more than that? Be honest about your intentions, and I’ll likely be honest about mine.

UPDATE, August 11:

I got the letter from the car dealership. Here’s the envelope:

The more astute of you may notice it’s addressed to “Campbell LeDrew.” That’s my middle name. Which I never use. The letter suggests that I exchange my 2002 Hyundai Elantra on the purchase or lease of a new car. There’s a problem, though. I gave them back that car in 2006 when the lease ended. Haven’t seen it since. You’d think they’d know that, wouldn’t you?

So perhaps I can summarize their pitch this way:

Hey, person whose name we don’t know? Would you like to trade in the car you returned to us eight years ago on another car? We wouldn’t ask, except you’re a really special person to us and we care. 

If PR isn’t about substance, why bother?

I saw a very disappointing infographic this morning, via Dave Forde’s PR in Canada site. Produced by the Max Borges Agency, it chronicles the history of public relations. I was interested to scan it. And so I did. I invite you to do the same:


Okay. Notice something?

We have

  • Ben Franklin.
  • Tom Paine.
  • Ivy Lee advising John D. Rockefeller.
  • Edward Bernays advising Coolidge on foreign affairs.

And what do we have representing the last 13 years, the 2000s?

As entertaining as these entries are, are they telling us something? I think they are. PR practitioners should look at this and ask themselves on what side they fall. Are they contributing substance, or are they simply carrying out stunts? Are they using the tools of communication at their disposal (obviously including the suite of tools that make up “social media”) to make change, to influence people on important issues, or is it about a cookie or a taco?

And if we’re seeking to summarize our contributions to society, are those the best examples we can find?  What about the role of Twitter in the Iranian demonstrations? What about the ability of people to organize using social media to create events like Twestival? What about the Tylenol crisis? I could go on.

If public relations is to be considered a serious discipline, doesn’t it makes sense that we take on serious work, and talk about serious issues? And talk about them in public? Sometimes I think I oughtta find a new career.

Gobbling up social media research? Caveat lector.

Not so long ago, my friend Dennis posted an infographic about the misuse (accidential or wilful) of data in infographics. In a handy infographic format. I’m going to take the opportunity to embed it below. It’s worth keeping.

But Dennis’s nifty graphic only tells us about one place where we can be led into temptation — the infographic.

I happened upon a newsletter today that made me think of how easy it is to make marketing and communication decisions or take action based on information that should be questioned.

Mobile Commerce Daily reported on May 29 that “44pc of shoppers will never return to sites that are not mobile friendly: report.” The story is based entirely on a survey carried out by US software company Kentico, which makes content management systems. Kentico issued a news release about the survey on May 28, but it could be that the newsletter had an embargoed copy of the release.

The information is interesting. For example, it says that nearly 9 in 10 people with smartphones use them to compare products to competitors. And 45% do it right in the store, underlining the practice of “showrooming.”

But… in the newsletter story, there’s no information at all about the survey data. Even more frustrating is the lack of a link to the source data. I tracked down Kentico, then hit their press centre, where the news release about the survey sits. If you go to the Kentico site, you discover that the data-gathering part of this survey consisted of “More than 300 US residents 18 years old and over participated in the Kentico Mobile Experience Survey, conducted online during the month of April, 2013.”

Now, a survey sample is neither good nor bad. The point is to understand that sample. Was it a random sample? Did the participants selfselect? I couldn’t tell anything more than what I just said, because Kentico didn’t link to the survey itself or a more detailed report of its findings.

I contacted Kentico’s PR company, and Chris Blake of MSR Communications was prompt, open and detailed in his responses to my questions. He gave me demographic information that SurveyMonkey, the tool they used to do the research, provided, and a copy of the questionnaire. After a brief perusal of some USA census data, I learned that their sample of 300 people skewed only slightly more male, somewhat older, and way more educated than the US general population, for one thing. And the data provided on their sample gives me a sense of the potential sampling error rate (while Chris Blake suggests a ±5% margin of error, I’m thinking more like ±10%).

I don’t think there’s ANYTHING bogus about the survey results here. But I needed to take a fair amount of time to convince myself of that. And there are many occasions on which I find the data or survey results so problematic that I forget about using them.

There’s a flood of survey results and other materials that get published by the originators of the information, by newsletters, and by people like me every minute of every day. It’s easy to take everything at face value. But think twice. As a teacher of social media, I’m constantly looking for good data to share with students. As a consultant, I’m looking for information that I can use to help clients make sound decisions. But it is dangerous to see a newsletter article and use it to tell students or clients to base their actions on the data it contains.

Back in the days when ink and paper cost money, I understand the need for brevity and concision. But these newsletters are electronic. Pixels don’t cost anything but the time to write. And if you’re not going to disclose proprietary or competitive information, why not make as much information as you can readily available?

The more easily people like me can peruse your research, the more likely we’ll be to accept its conclusions. The more difficulty we have understanding the process behind the numbers, the more skeptical we become (or at least the more skeptical we SHOULD become).

And if you’re in business and trying to grapple with the challenges of communicating using social media, either desktop-style or mobile, make sure to ask questions EVERY time you see statistics and survey results. You don’t want to have to explain to your boss why you made a bad marketing or sales decision based on data you found in a press release and didn’t vet.

It’s too generous to assume that just because someone writes a newsletter, they’re doing your due diligence for you.

Here’s Dennis’s great graphic:

After this release I need a drink

I’m a major lover of whisky. In fact, for part of this weekend, I was rhapsodizing about the interesting whisky selection at a new LCBO store in my neighbourhood to all and sundry.

However, as a PR guy, this news release from giant whisky brand Johnnie Walker put me in need of a drink.


by Pat Roberts

Where Flavour Is King’ showcases products’ credentials rooted in the big, bold flavours of Johnnie Walker whisky

Johnnie Walker, the world’s number one Blended Scotch Whisky, is this week launching a new global advertising campaign. Entitled ‘Where Flavour Is King’, the campaign focuses on the array of rich and intense flavours that are found in each blend of Johnnie Walker whisky.

From its origins in 1820, the Johnnie Walker label has always been committed to its quest to blend whiskies of exceptional flavour, refusing to compromise on quality. This dedicated attitude to finding exotic and exciting tastes takes the product on a special journey of distillation, maturation and blending, to produce the ultimate, unrivalled blend. The flavours, derived solely from the simplest ingredients of barley, water and peat, are mythically transformed through distillation and years of maturation in charred wood casks before being unleashed through the craft of the master blender.” 

You can’t be serious. I don’t give a *@#%@# that you are doing a new advertising campaign.

Make good booze. Tell me about that. This is a far cry from the amazing short film that JW did a few years ago with the wonderful Robert Carlyle:

Now THAT makes me REALLY want a whisky.

Fish where the Socialfish are.

I’ve been more and more interested in smaller organizations lately. Many small businesses and associations are using social media very well. But many others — among them people who I’ve worked with or who I’ve taught social media courses at Algonquin College — find social media to be a perplexing challenge.

Maddie Grant

Maddie Grant, series creator

I think one of the biggest parts of the social media challenge for small businesses and not-for-profits is to create a strategy that allows them to be confident they can meet the demands that social media place on an organization. I think it’s crucial that organizations without giant budgets or staff have a chance to create and maintain an effective social media presence.

You’ll have a chance to learn how to create a content strategy as part of a small organization from… well, me, this August. I will be part of the Summer Think Tank Series presented by SocialFish and CommPartners. This series of webinars is bound to be useful for people working in associations, not-for-profits, or any small organization. Maddie Grant has led the development of this series of webinars, and she has done a pretty impressive job.

Check out this lineup:

Each of the webinars costs $129 US, and the whole series can be purchased for $499 US. And if you drop me an email, I might even have a discount code for you.

It’s a real honour to be in the lineup with these talented communicators who I like and respect. And I’m looking forward to finishing the presentation and doing it online, hopefully with you in attendance.

FIR Book Club with Gini Dietrich TOMORROW

One thing that really gets me going is conversation with smart people. I’m very lucky to know some that I get to see face to face, and then there are the people who I don’t know personally but get to hear speak or converse with.

And tomorrow, I get to speak with Gini Dietrich, co-author with Geoff Livingston of Marketing in the Round as part of the FIR Book Club. If you’re not familiar with FIR, it’s “For Immediate Release.” I do book reviews for that must-listen podcast, and I host these online talks as well.

Gini Dietrich is smart, funny, and prolific. She’s the founding CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based communications company that describes itself as a firm that started as “a very traditional public relations firm” and is now “a company that helps clients monitor and measure online efforts against business goals…providing an alternative to their traditional marketing efforts.”

In addition to their many clients, Arment Dietrich is responsible for the cheeky blog Spin Sucks and the PR resource site Spin Sucks Pro. And Gini became a first-time author with the publication of Marketing in the Round, a highly useful book on integrated marketing and communications in a social media age.

I’m excited to have 60 minutes to talk with Gini about her book and the ideas she and Geoff brought to it, and to offer listeners the chance to join that conversation.

If you want a primer on the book, you could listen to my review of the book on the FIR site. Then, join us on Talkshoe as a listener or a caller at 2 Eastern time tomorrow, won’t you?

SMB 101 Post #7: Thinking about shelf-life

There are as many different social media tools out there as you can imagine. If you don’t believe me, check out the “conversation prism” that Brian Solis created:

The Conversation prism (Brian Solis)

Confused yet? Good. That’s what keeps people like me in business!

When you’re engaging with your audiences using one or more of these tools, one thing to keep in mind is the timeframe for your message. I was reminded of this recently when I was listening to a podcast (WTF with Marc Maron, if you must know). The podcast was great, but there was a sponsor who was pushing a  Christmas special. (I’m writing this in June).

Different social media have different shelf lives. Twitter is (arguably) ephemeral. It’s here, then it’s gone. Facebook pages, less so. Blogs, semi-permanent. Things like podcasts live on forever; despite the fact that my Stephen King podcast is currently on hiatus, I still see thousands of downloads each month.

So when you’re working out strategies for social media, keep in mind that each tool will have its own sense of time. Why advertise for Mother’s Day when people will still be hitting that note in November? Key your messages to take into account the shelf life of the medium.

Dick's country store, Churubusco, NY

Dick's country store, Churubusco, NY. I would have taken some pictures inside, but I was afraid someone would shoot me.

(This is post number seven in an ongoing series of posts aimed at providing practical advice for small businesspeople in the areas of public relations, communications and social media. If you ever need help with your small business… why not get in touch?)

(PS: Sorry for the late post; I should have pre-written for the Friday, but I didn’t, and I was driving to Boston yesterday. With a quick stop here.)

Nothing is universal

Ryder Hesjedal kisses the Giro trophy (Reuters)

Ryder Hesjedal kisses the Giro trophy (photo:

Yesterday was an uncharacteristically big day for me in terms of keeping an eye on sports.

Here in Ottawa, some friends were running in the Ottawa Marathon, so I wanted to know how they did (PS: WOO Karen!) In Indianapolis, one of my favorite drivers, Dario Franchitti, won a thrilling Indianapolis 500 victory. In Monte Carlo, the classic Monaco Grand Prix was won by Mark Webber.

But most important of all for me: young Ryder Hesjedal of Victoria, BC, won the Giro d’Italia. Ryder is the first Canadian cyclist to win a “Grand Tour”, as races like the Giro are called. Ever. To this cyclist, the accomplishment is superhuman. In three weeks, riders travel the equivalent of Vancouver to Sault Ste. Marie (or, if you’re an American, from the TransAmerica Tower in San Francisco to Harpo Studios in Chicago.) Along the way, they ride some incredibly difficult climbs, with gradients that can average over 10% and peak over 20% (think bicycling up flights of stairs). At the end of each day, the sprinters push their bikes up to over 40 mph and jostle their way to the ribbon.





And cyclists do this day after day (in the Giro and the Tour de France, there are two rest days in the three weeks of riding), sometimes after falling. Remember this from last year’s Tour de France?

The second rider falling was named Johnny Hoogeland. He went upside-down into barbed wire. He got 33 stitches. After he finished the day’s race! And then he finished the tour – 12 more days of riding. With 33 stitches.

My point is: cycling is a tough sport, an incredible feat of athleticism. In Europe, it’s also a massive sporting event. The budget for the Tour de France in 2009 was $140M US. 15 million spectators see the Tour pass by them, and it’s estimated that spectators spend more than $50M US. It’s broadcast worldwide, and there are 3.5 BILLION television watchers.

But in North America, it’s an extremely niche sport, even after Lance Armstrong. Most of my friends are casual observers of cycling at best. When I went to my local pasta shop yesterday, I suggested they do a Ryder special to celebrate the victory. I might as well have suggested a “Red Planet” special to celebrate the existence of Mars.

What’s all this cycling crap mean, anyway? What’s my point? Well, I have two.

  1. Context. 
  2. Culture.

When you’re doing social media work for your business, you need to have an intimate knowledge of your context, and your culture. If you’re selling baby clothes online, then don’t talk about Maxim magazine. If your chosen community is marathoners, don’t talk about swimming.

How do you figure out what to talk about? What matters?

Step one: LISTEN. To understand your audience, your community, your market, LISTEN to them before your start talking.

Step two: CONVERSE. Don’t pitch. Don’t sell. CONVERSE. Talk to people about what they do, talk to people about what’s happening in the interest that you share.

Just because you care deeply about something doesn’t mean your friends, your customers, or your community automatically does. Test the waters. Understand the culture of your community. Understand the context of your business. You don’t make the rules. The community does.

Except in this case, where I got to talk about Ryder Hesjedal. :-)

SMB 101 Post #6: Making moving pictures.

It’s not hard to find evidence that video is a huge part of social media life, and that it can have massive impact on businesses. There are tons of case studies, from Caine’s Arcade to “Will it Blend?” to Dynomighty to “The man your man could smell like.”

All this buzz may have you thinking you need to use video for your small business. I don’t want to tell you NOT to, but video is a tough nut to crack at the best of times. So before you go and buy a camera or hire the local Cecil B. deMille, think about the following. First, before you start a video initiative:

  • Where does this fit into your overall marketing and communications strategy? (If you have one. You DO have one, right?)
  • Sure, everything in the world has a camera in it that can be used to shoot video, and computers come with free video editing programs. But that doesn’t mean that your smartphone and off-the-shelf computer will make quality images and videos.
  • Whether you’re hiring someone to do production or going full DIY, ALLOW FOR TIME. Yes, it takes only a few minutes to upload a video to Youtube. But it’s all the steps BEFORE the upload that take time.
  • The tools don’t help you tell stories. Telling stories via video is not always easy, and it takes a particular kind of thinking. If you can’t afford someone to help you with the process of prepping for a video production, then practice on your own time. Turn your vacation videos into development opportunities before you do a business video.

Once you’ve made a video, your work is done? NO WAY. You still have lots of work left to do.

  • Tag and categorize your videos on YouTube or on whatever video host you use.
Screencap of a typical Youtube video
  • Track your stats. See that little icon next to the view count? If you click on that for any Youtube video, you’ll see lots of statistical information. USE IT.
  • Share your videos and integrate them into your other marketing and communications work. See that Share button in the screenshot? USE IT to embed your video on your website, and encourage others to do the same. Have a promotional strategy in place for your video BEFORE you upload it.
Video is great. There’s no doubt it can be a tremendous tool for business. But if you don’t do it with a strategy, a set of foals, er, goals, and a clear understanding of what kind of resources it will take to accomplish, you’re going to end up with a lot of time spent on something that languishes on a dusty server, somewhere in the bowels of the Googleplex.
And finally, why not take a look at my friend Dan Perez’s site? Dan is an awardwinning filmmaker in South Florida, and he’s got tons of great content on his site.

(This is post number six in an ongoing series of posts aimed at providing practical advice for small businesspeople in the areas of public relations, communications and social media. If you ever need help with your small business… why not get in touch?)

SMB101 Post #2: The myth of engagement.

SMB101 logoIt’s a real pleasure to get a request for a post. So when I got one asking for one called “The Myth of Engagement,” how could I not respond? The crux of the request was:

 I am so tired of hearing about how people who Tweet are engaging their audiences. In fact, many don’t actually engage but just push out info in a one-way channel. And how do they deal with anyone who challenges them? Easy, they just use that trusty block feature. In my book, you take the good with the bad and that’s the way actual Twitter engagement happens. 

My esteemed correspondent was talking about Twitter, but his point can be made for any social media tool that you choose to use in your business, and it’s a valid one. My advice goes like this:

  • You can use social media tools in a one-way, push-information-out fashion. There’s no “Ten Commandments”, no matter who tells you there are. You can do it. It might even be the right thing to do for your business.Even social media leaders like Seth Godin push out material without offering people the opportunity to engage in conversation. If you visit his blog, you’ll see lots of Facebook “likes”, lots of “plusses” on Google Plus, but … no comments. He doesn’t allow ‘em. Look at Godin’s Twitter page. It’s simply a retweet of his blog posts. He follows nobody, he doesn’t engage.
    La la la, I can't hear you

    Photo CC licenced by Flickr user:

    I could argue he’s doing it wrong. But he’s an award-winning, New York Times-bestselling author, with 170,000 people following his Twitter feed. And I’m … me.

  • You can also choose to use social media tools such as Twitter in a more conversational way. That implies that you listen to other people’s conversations about your company or organization, and you engage where appropriate. For example, look at Southwest Airlines on Twitter. Their corporate account chats with customers, commiserates, solves problems, and runs contests.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both strategies. And perhaps unfortunately, I’m not able to give you a magic formula that tells you whether your organization should go one-way or two-way when it comes to online communication.

What I would argue is that if you’re going to use a social media tool, you should make clear HOW you’re using it. If people expect responses, then you need to respond. If you aren’t prepared to respond, then set out some ground rules and make people aware of them. Don’t tell people you’re “engaging” with them if you’re really just shouting at them.

My correspondent described one of one of the worst ways of dealing with negative voices in social media: blocking all challengers or critics. Next week, I’ll describe how to triage comments your organization receives and decide when and how to respond.


If your small business needs some help choosing from the nearly infinite set of social media options, get in touch. I’d be happy to help. I love finding ways of helping small business that are affordable and effective for you and profitable and rewarding for me.