The technological wizardry, the 'back-end', is the engine. Very important because without it, there is no action, no forward momentum.
The seats and the bodywork represent the 'look and feel' of the website, blog, podcast, online social community, Twitter page. Once again, vitally important. People want to drive around in cars that not only look good but are functional and intuitive. From an ownership point of view, how a car looks is representative of who we are.
So that leaves...
Content is the 'fuel' that gets the motor running. Without it, the car is useless. It might look good, but it ain't doing what it's supposed and is a waste of space.
What about your 'car'?
Is it full of fuel and powering along the information superhighway, or spluttering along on the smell of an oily rag?
What's caught the PR Warrior's eye this week? PLENTY!
There's so much great stuff floating around the moment in the broad arena of public relations, marketing communications, brand reputation, social media and customer engagement.
If you're working in this space and not taking advantage of the plethora of insights, knowledge and ideas that are freely available, let's just say you're missing out big time!
Here are a number of blogs I've been reading of late which are well worth having on your radar, if not in your Google Reader!
First up we have Mumbrella. This is a staple diet of the PR Warrior. Mumbrella is the blog of Tim Burrowes, former editor of B&T magazine and he's built a strong following in a short space of time. If you're into media and marketing news and views Australian-style, be sure to check out Mumbrella, and/or follow Tim on Twitter (@mumbrella).
Duncan Riley's Blogging is Not a Spectator Sport is another local product worth having on your radar. Here he gets stuck into Aussie PR practitioners who don't get the blogosphere.
Lois Kelly always provides plenty of food for thought on her Foghound blog. Kelly, author of the excellent book Beyond Buzz, is an expert in word of mouth and conversational marketing. A recent post that caught my eye was 'Finding 8 Patterns in Social Media EcoSystems' - according to Kelly: "My conclusion after reading thousands of posts/tweets last week: most marketing and PR content hasn't evolved for a social media world".
Olivier Blanchard's Brand Builder Blog is about "building strong brands through passion, innovation, creativity and common sense. In this excellent post ('Grassroots Vs The Volcano'), Blanchard advises marketers not to fall into the 'new marketing vs old marketing' trap. He says: "You can't afford to limit yourself to being a supporter of either one camp of the other".
David Armano's excellent Logic+Emotion blog falls into the 'must-read' category. His latest post ('Battle of the Brands') looks at the emerging trend of people building and managing their reputations online, and the potential downside of this activity as it can relate to your full-time position. He uses as an example Scott Monty, a high-profile social media expert who now works for Ford (see Monty being interviewed by Fox Business below).
PR firm Edelman has just released the Australian results of its 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual study that takes the pulse of consumers' views of government and big business (My previous post on this subject looked at the Trust Barometer's global findings).
Here are some interesting (scary?) snapshots of the Australian data, along with some PR Warrior commentary:
Trust in business
in Australia is in decline with 74% of survey respondents indicating they trust
business less than they did last year. PR WARRIOR: WTF? If these were sales figures, whole departments would be sacked - in fact, it would be too late, the company would already be out of business. Given the level of trust in a company has a considerable effect on whether a person will buy goods and services from them, this has got to be high on the agenda of marketing, PR and C-suite executives of large companies, surely?
Trust in government
is high - 56% - trust in business is low - 43%. This is the largest gap in
trust between government and business in the developed world. For example, in
the U.S., trust in government is at 30%, and trust in business is at 36%. PR WARRIOR: This is an interesting stat. Maybe having a government that's still quite new and hasn't worn out its welcome yet might be a factor. If anything, it underscores the fact that trust in business is very low (anecdotally, you'd think governments would tend not to rate well in the trust stakes, so this is indeed a positive for Rudd & Co).
companies and insurance companies are the least trusted in Australia -
significantly less than in China where banks are among the most trusted. Technology, biotech
and the food are the most trusted in Australia. PR WARRIOR: No surprises here given the global economic meltdown; interesting that technology rates high in trust. Maybe iPod-driven?
CEOs are the
least trusted source of information when forming an opinion of a company.
Eighty-one per cent of respondents do not trust the CEO as a source in
Australia, the US and Europe. PR WARRIOR: This is a damning statistic and given we live in a hyper-connected world where openness, transparency, accountability and corporate social responsibility are expected of CEOs and corporations, you would think - hope - that Australia's business leaders see the light and start ditching the over-rehearsed, jargon-laden corporate speak and start communicating in a more 'humanistic' way with the public, indeed all stakeholders. As Barack Obama's 'digital kingmaker' Ben Self urged Australian leaders recently - it's time to drop the corporate speak and start dealing with your supporters, customers and partners like human beings.
drives trust: 70% of respondents trust academic or expert opinions – this number rises to 82% among respondents aged 25-34. PR WARRIOR: No surprises here - it'sa main reason public relations experts either hire, or attempt to influence, key opinion leaders within industry, academia and the community so they in turn can spread the word and reinforce credibility.
HERE'S THE KICKER ROCK STARS:
cent of Australians would refuse to buy from a company they do not trust, and
93% said they chose to buy product or services from companies they trust. PR WARRIOR: If corporate Australia continues to waste money blasting one-way messages at people (advertising) at the expense of rebuilding their declining reputations, not only will their advertising become increasingly less effective but consumers will continue to drift away, preferring to give their business to companies they perceive to be more open in their communications, more transparent in their dealings and more community-minded in their actions - indeed, more 'trustworthy'.
For the record, Rachel Getting Married is about a young woman (played by Hathaway) who has been in and out of rehab for the past 10 years and returns home for her sister's wedding - there's nothing 'rom-com' about it.
A cursory glance at some new release movies (on the Apple Movie Trailers site) shows the producers/studios who understand the importance of having an interesting film's title:
Zack & Miri Make a Porno
Owl and the Sparrow
To balance things up, Hollywood continues to serve up movies with boring titles. It continues to amaze me that with everything at stake (big bucks, star reputation) plus the fact there's considerable noise and clutter surrounding movie releases, the least you could do is give your film a decent handle.
Here are some unimaginative ones:
All About Steve
17 Again (I'm sorry, how often has this film been done?)
Apart from being a powerful film, I was mesmermized by Eastwood - here is a man who, at 78, is still at the top of his game.
In terms of personal branding, Eastwood has few peers. Given his longevity in an industry that chews up people and spits them out in a heartbeat, Eastwood's journey is truly amazing.
In a communications sense, everything about Clint Eastwood is brief, sharp, to the point and exemplifies impeccable clarity.
The scripts he works with, the films he stars in and/or directs, the interviews he gives. BAM! Right between the eyes. And the audience loves him for it.
He knows his brand intimately; he follows his instincts and will take a calculated risk but is also reasonably sure that his audience, who he knows very well, will follow him along the journey.
Okay, what can communication professionals learn from the Clintmeister?
EXAMPLE #1:Less is More
Eastwood plays a prisoner in the jail-break 'Escape From Alcatraz'. Another prisoner asks Eastwood's character what his childhood was like. Eastwood replies: "Short". In script-writing classes, this is hailed as brilliant writing. One word and you get the full picture.
Eastwood's film direction similarly is, like the man himself, taut and muscular. You'd be hard-pressed to come up with an Eastwood-directed (or starred in) film that waffles on to the point of irrelevance.
The Lesson? Keep your copy, ideas and concepts tight and free of padding; don't add fluff to press releases, email pitches, documents and reports, blog posts, PowerPoint presentations etc. Don't over-produce events and videos, don't waffle on in podcasts or speeches. You get the idea :)
EXAMPLE #2 Know Your Audience
Eastwood has produced a varied output over the years but he's never strayed too far from what people expect of Clint Eastwood, the brand. You're unlikely to ever see Clint starring in a film like 'Priscilla Queen of the Desert' for instance.
But you will see him as the hard-nosed cop ('Dirty Harry', 'Tightrope' 'The Gauntlet'), the hard-bitten soldier ('Where Eagles Dare', 'Heartbreak Ridge'), the hardened criminal ('Thunderbolt & Lightfoot', 'Absolute Power', 'Escape From Alcatraz') and the hard-riding cowboy ('The Outlaw Josey Wales', 'Unforgiven', 'High Plains Drifter') - all well-known characters from the Clint Eastwood portfolio.
Even when he first veered into comedy ('Every Which Way But Loose') after a long stint in action films, Eastwood broadened his appeal and enhanced his reputation as a box office drawcard (see Example #3).
The Lesson? Always keep your audience in mind whether you're pitching a journalist, writing a media backgrounder, producing a vodcast, giving a presentation or creating an event or publicity stunt.
EXAMPLE #3Push the Boundaries
With 30+ movies under his belt as a director and at an age where simply getting out of bed can be difficult, Eastwood keeps pushing boundaries. For Gran Torino, according to the Huffington Post, Eastwood didn't just choose a group of people making their film debut, he went with a group of unknown, untrained actors - and a screenplay by with a first-time scriptwriter.
The Lesson? Go with your gut and continue to challenge the 'normal way' of doing things.
EXAMPLE #4Persistence Pays
Looking over Eastwood's portfolio of films as an actor, it's interesting to note he acted in 17 films and TV shows (plus 217 episodes of 'Rawhide') between 1955 and 1964-5 before making a name for himself in the famous spaghetti western movie, 'A Fistful of Dollars'.
The Lesson? Never give up! Continue to work at your craft and improve the way you do things.
EXAMPLE #5 Learn New Skills
Multi-skilling has been one of the keys to Clint Eastwood's enduring success. Starting off as an actor, he's also a talented director, a seasoned producer and even a highly competent soundtrack composer. Being successful in any of these fields is a great achievement. Nailing all four is remarkable and has helped to fortify his reputation in Hollywood as he's been able to exert considerable influence over the productions he's been involved in.
The Lesson?Never stop learning! Writing is the best skill you can have as a communications professional, like acting is for Eastwood. Perfect it, then leverage it into other areas such as blogging. Understanding and being able to pitch the media is incredibly powerful for a PR practitioner - so too is getting a handle on social networks, podcasting, Twitter, video production, events and brand experience etc. Broaden your skills and knowledge - learn how to 'connect the dots' and you'll become a more effective and impactful communications professional.
EXAMPLE #6The 'Title' Sets the Tone
Take a look at Eastwood's filmography - there are some beauties there! But what stands out is the consistent use of interesting (and generally 'sharp') names for his movies e.g.
- Gran Torino
- Million Dollar Baby
- The Gauntlet
- Dirty Harry/Magnum Force/The Dead Pool
- White Hunter Black Heart
- Pale Rider
The Lesson? Whether you're naming a communications initiative or an event or writing a press release headline or a pitch heading in the email subject line, make sure it's interesting, intriguing, relevant and where possible, brief.
As the name suggests, it's an annual survey that, in essence, takes the pulse of consumers' views in terms of their perception of government and big business.
Needless to say, without even looking at the report, after such a tumultuous year you could intuitively take a stab at its findings - and that is the public's trust in business and government is at an all-time low.
That would be my gut feel anyway. And I know I wouldn't be alone.
Okay. I'll have a quick scan of the report.
(Coffee break while I digest the document).
Yep. Pretty much spot on. A BIG thumbs down to business and government worldwide (although Western countries fare worse than their emerging counterparts). And the media also took a hit, with levels of trust in television, newspapers and business magazines all being well down on previous years.
All this obviously begs the question: Why do government and business continue to alienate and marginalize the general public? Their audience. Their stakeholders. Their bread-and-butter. It's a worrying trend, particularly at a time when consumers are becoming more and more empowered with each passing day, thanks to the internet and social media.
The disconnect is currently chasm-like. Will it get even bigger (a scary thought) or will government and business wake up and start taking measures - bold measures - to mend their fractured reputations and their frayed stakeholder relationships?
"This year, the world had more reasons than ever before to suspend its trust— and for the most part, our data reflect this. Nearly two in three informed publics—62% of 25-to-64-year-olds surveyed in 20 countries—say they trust corporations less now than they did a year ago. When it comes to being distrusted, business is not alone. Globally, trust in business, media, and government is half-empty; and trust in government scores even lower than trust in business" - 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer.
In his blog, Edelman head honcho Richard Edelman provides a well-rounded summary of the report.
I was going to go through his points one-by-one and provide a few crisp and salient PR Warrior comments along the way, but who needs all that negativity? And that's what it is. Negativity. Gloom. Black clouds.
Bottom line, the general punter (referred to in the survey as 'informed people', whatever that means) is fast losing trust in the people that matter.
What's needed on the part of government and business?
Following are some suggestions from a communications perspective (N.B. I say 'communications' because the way a company communicates with its publics is highly reflective of its attitude, philosophy and convictions i.e. an open and transparent company will/should communicate in a manner that's open and transparent; likewise, an organisation that is 'closed' and controlling is likely to be somewhat of an uncommunicative beast):
A genuine sense of inclusiveness.
Honesty, transparency and authenticity in dealings and communications.
An ability and willingness to join the conversation and engage in two-way dialogue with consumers and stakeholders.
A desire to listen (with an empathetic ear).
Equally, a desire to eat 'humble pie' and act (when necessary).
Communicate with spirit and conviction...believe in what you say...become involved...tell a story...have a point of view...make an impact!
If large organisations don't change the way they act and communicate, these levels of trust will continue to drag at unacceptable levels, eventually becoming a millstone around the necks of those brands and organisations that simply don't 'get it'.
There's always a flipside :-)
But of course those companies that do grasp the new market realities - and subsequently do something about it from an organisational point of view and are open and proactive in their marketing and communication efforts - they're going to get such a kick-along it's not funny.
The time is ripe for brands to take advantage of the general malaise and apathy in the community to stand out from the herd (and by 'brands', that could mean an individual - hello? Barack Obama - NFP, government authority or corporation, large or small).
Companies are always trying to stand out, to be different. Their main weapon of choice has often been advertising. Unfortunately, as trust in advertising (not to mention interest) continues to erode, new and bold strategies and tactics are required.
Some fantastic opportunities lie ahead for those smart-thinking brands, organisations and individuals that have built a solid and genuine bedrock of goodwill and trust.
Discovered Charlene Li's Social Media Resources wiki - excellent (and growing) repository of information re consultants in the field of social and emerging technologies.
Checked out Nancy Marmolejo's Viva Visibility blog about social networking and online PR.
Enjoyed reading Naomi Dunford's Ittybiz.com, especially in the post promoting her anniversary sale: "It's my anniversary, for God's sake. I don't have time. I should be having sex in a pile of money right now." She cracks me up!
Watched Seth Godin explaining 'remarkable marketing' video via Perry Belcher's blog. Excellent stuff!
I read a case study this week about a supposed successful television commercial that not only reportedly resonated with TV viewers but was also a hit on YouTube and created strong word-of-mouth blah blah blah.
Then the 'kicker' - the TVC also generated 'high levels of PR coverage'.
Unfortunately you hear this and similar terms ad nauseum in the marketing and advertising industry. Worse, you also hear it from some public relations practitioners themselves.
I've posted on this issue before: There is no such thing as 'PR coverage'...you can't 'do' PR, get 'free PR', nor is anything 'PR-able'. You can't have 'good PR' or 'bad PR'. And don't get me started on 'PR stunt' ("isn't that a stunt to get some free PR?"), or increasing 'PR potential'.
In all of these instances, feel free to insert the word 'publicity', 'press' or 'media'. Simple.
Why do I continue to bang on about this issue? Am I being too pedantic? Well, maybe a tad :-)
Constant and gross misuse of the phrase 'PR' in effect reduces what is a critically important, powerful and complex professional discipline to simply the generation of media coverage. Now, as I stress constantly, publicity and media relations is absolutely vital for most brands and organisations, but it's still just one element of the broader public relations arsenal. The problem with just looking at media in isolation is you risk missing optimum value from public relations as a whole.
When companies and organisations intuitively 'get' PR (and hence use it effectively), invariably they are all the stronger for it.
Their brands are powerful and respected, their corporate reputations remain intact (or at worst, are a more bullet-proof than the next guy), people want to work for the them, partners want to do business with them, investors want to buy their shares, and brand advocates come out of the woodwork to help spread the word in a positive way. And, as a general rule, these companies probably end up not needing to spend as much on costly advertising. Not bad, huh?
So you tell me: what company or organisation wouldn't want to maximise the benefits of a well thought-out, well-orchestrated strategic PR program?
The take-out from all this is:
Develop an understanding of the PR discipline. Respect it. Work it hard and cleverly. Ensure it serves as the cornerstone for your entire organisation's marketing and corporate communications. Then, and only then, will you reap the enormous rewards public relations can deliver.
Oh, and don't start talking about getting PR coverage!
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