After a Penn Railroad train ran off the rails, PR pioneer Ivy Lee gained the upper hand over reporters covering the story with a subtle account of the accident that minimized the reputational damage to his client.
Public Relations Born When A Train Derails
The modern era of managed information began with a succinct press release written by a former newsman on behalf of his industrial client, a northeastern railroad that had just suffered a derailment resulting in multiple deaths. To be sure, ten eyewitnesses if asked to describe the accident would have ten different accounts of the exact same facts. But the one that made it into the New York Times that day is the only one that counts.
The first press release of the modern era was crafted in 1906 by Ivy Lee, one of public relation’s original founders, for his client the Pennsylvania Railroad. Following a derailment that resulted in multiple deaths, Lee arranged for reporters to be transported to the accident scene – under his watchful eye – and at the same time released an account of what happened, complete with asides, misinformation, and human interest.
The Power of The Press Release Is Established
What ran in the paper that day wasn’t Fake News, but it wasn’t a totally objective, unbiased account of what actually happened either. It was a subjective report presented as an objective story on behalf of a client in exchange for income.
#FakeNews isn’t a new concept. Public relations is, among other things, an extension of the psychology of people, and towards that end is best known as a communications tool that can shift public opinion from Point A to Point B while operating beneath the radar.
How You Interpret News Isn’t Always Transparent
Like any profession its goals aren’t always in everyone’s best interest. Lowlights include the extensive campaigns, often presented as news, that promoted smoking, especially when the marketing goal was to convert women’s attitudes towards the habit.
All news is not created equally, and the modern concept of so-called Fake News is somewhat of an oxymoron. News that’s fake by definition isn’t news at all — it’s propaganda.
In a consumer culture we seldom come to a conclusion strictly on merit, as opposed to being nudged in ways subtle enough as to escape detection as a motivating factor for any particular decision that is made. Ford? Or Chevy? What’s your choice?
While listing the usual suspects – controlled messaging, precise targeting, detailed facts and contact information – the article also makes the very good point that press releases are first and foremost an announcement, not to be confused with the offhanded SEO role far too many assign them.
SEO – Yes and No
Stuffing a press release with nothing but keywords – a practice Google has for some time now disavowed as effective, and in some cases of overuse even destructive when it comes to SERP rank – is attractive only if you’re a bot, as opposed to a real person looking for relevant info.
While many make the case for text only press releases, utilizing the same information as part of a properly prepared PDF can pay lasting dividends well into the future.
Knowing how to optimize a document as a PDF file is underappreciated and an enormously powerful part of SEO and SMM. When a press release is processed using Acrobat Pro, the amount of metadata a PDF is capable of storing is like getting free money at the bank.
The article concludes with the observation that traditional press releases should work with, and not be excluded from, a client’s social media marketing plan. I agree with this approach, as well as the opportunity it presents for a well-designed release to be launched strategically for years of lasting benefit.
In the 1920’s Bernays took on the Beech-Nut Packing Company as a client, tasked to salvage their tanking bacon sales as Americans switched their eating preferences in favor of Kellogg’s heavily promoted (as healthier, and more convenient) dry breakfast cereals, toast, and juice.
Cue Homer Simpson.
Bernays was a nephew of Sigmund Freud, and his remarkable marketing insight, gained in large part by studying his uncle’s ground-breaking methodology, allowed him to successfully pitch cigarette smoking to American women as their patriotic duty.
Later, at the height of the Cold War, his campaign on behalf of the CIA influenced United Fruit Company’s banana empire led to the overthrow of the democratically elected Guatemalan government. By then the innovative marketing techniques he’d developed promoting bacon for breakfast were an irresistible force, once that consumers to this day are powerless to resist.
In a modern consumer driven economy, free will isn’t as long as there are marketeers willing and capable of opinion shifting strategies. Pass the pork.
Designer, CEO Team Up to Deliver A Powerful Political Statement to Nation
In today’s hypercharged political atmosphere there’s a lot of talk, often uninformed, about the Constitution’s Bill of Rights and what the First Amendment means, depending on the point being conveyed.
One citizen’s bold response to the Republican’s damaged nominee for President.
This is an example of civics and citizenship that combines freedom of speech and freedom of the press in an elegantly crafted statement regarding the Republican party’s 2016 nominee for President of the United States. An important component in the process was the cleanly Spartan design of the full page advertorial.
Agree or not, this private citizen took the time, and wrote a very sizeable check, to participate in a thoughtful, non-commercial attempt to influence public opinion.
The first public inkling that something was amiss came when the company’s letter to dealers popped up on the brand’s product online forum. That was January 16, less than a year out from the 2014 official public launch and just a few months into production of the reverse sit-in trike designed to take on BRP’s sit-on Spyder.
slingshot parked for safety repairs
Considering the daily barrage at the time of global and constant publicity concerning GM’s failure to clearly and promptly address their otherwise miniscule ignition switch fatal defect, or the ongoing problems of Japan’s Takata Corporation, supplier of proven lethal airbags to the automotive industry, the approach taken by at least two powersport dealer website management firms to allow Polaris’ fledgling Slingshot to remain in their dealer client’s main banner rotator is puzzling to say the least.
Those dealership content management contractors are well paid on the their promise of providing vigilant oversight, facilitating manufacturer communications, and lightning quick content updates to franchisees usually ill-equipped to oversee the day-to-day front end needs of online marketing. Or not.
crisis management – crucial for credibility
Taken together with the lack of transparency by the manufacturer, Polaris, and it’s a perfect example of a communications misfire from the top down that’s disappointing at the very least, lending further credence to the industry’s ongoing need for professional communication managers with the knowledge, skill, and authority to manage the occasional crisis. Consumers deserve better for a three-wheeled product that tops out at nearly $30,000.
Like every other area of corporate communications, from PR to advertising, the social in social media is the leading influencer effecting the creative upgrade.
finding new media outlets
For GE, that means taking advantage of previously untapped platforms like late night talk, boosting “Fallonventions” on the Jimmy Fallon Show to demonstrate the brand’s human side.
Others describe the new approach as moving from data to gut, and doing what connects emotionally. United States Gypsum (USG), hardly a warm and fuzzy candidate for storytelling, did just that in their “It’s Your World” ad series.
With user experience driving this new approach, the goal is to connect potential buyers using content that explains a brand’s product in an engaging and educational manner. How well that will work with traditional buyers used to making dollars and cents decisions based on bottom line performance will determine B-to-B creative in a way that could be hugely transformative.
And if its proven effective in the long run over traditional methods, the need for involving creative direction that’s familiar with social media will be paramount.
Small businesses can benefit from creating a unique online newsroom.
Invest In Online Assets For Longterm Dividends
As whats left of print media transitions into a hybrid that blends traditional content with digital distribution, private industry is likewise developing answers for inventing new channels of promotion and publicity. Read about how Coca-Cola is a leader in setting up and stocking unique content for both consumer and b2b consumption.
The need for effective strategies is best seen in the use of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) as essential marketing disciplines. Both focus on the power of search to direct audiences inbound to content, and those same procedures are being successfully refined and funneled in the establishment of online newsrooms.
Online newsrooms are also a total departure from the commonly used and outdated drop down menu method of accessing company news and resources, which requires multiple steps before even reaching a starting point and focuses solely on archiving content, not repurposing.
Biggest Difference? An Adventure, Not An Archive
The contemporary onliine newsroom is designed as a visual destination separate from the main website. It’s a unique container offering an assortment of video, audio, text, visuals, and ready-to-wear social content – all delivered in an easy to use User Experience (UX) layout that puts a premium on interesting and engaging presentation to serve various forms of content that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Online Newsroom – Think Investment, Not Expense
Today’s news resource – and that includes all that PR brings to the mix – must deliver solid content quickly and easily to a wide audience with unique needs. Design, creative, IT, and marketing all have a part to play in the successful implentation of a modern online newsroom.
Design your online newsroom to make maximum use of visual breadcrumbs and cues to guide editors, researchers, writers, and curators in finding not just what they’re looking for, but what they need to accurately inform their audience about XYZ Company. Need help? Lets explore a solution custom tailered to fit your needs.
Mismanaged content meant the wrong kind of reach for this dealership.
Your Business On Social – It’s Really Not Personal
A six-month social media marketing consultation for a multi-line powersports dealership that reps several metric makes, a domestic brand, and PWC and OHV inventory was the inspiration for this post. Located in a large Southeastern market, a neglected social media program wasn’t producing the growth one might expect given their footprint.
Management depended on traditional automotive push marketing techniques based largely on motivational training and consisting largely of clichéd slogans and a steady diet of overwrought memes. Making matters worse was content posted by employees, one in particular, who didn’t understand that the approach required for a business page had nothing to do with their personal life online.
A Waste of Their Money and My Time
When I got involved the CMS vendor hired for site design and management had set up an incomplete Google+ page and a lamentable blog that immediately failed. These “assets” joined a struggling Facebook timeline and an abandoned Twitter feed that, together with a local weekly bike night, made up a dysfunctional marketing strategy that defied the concept of content coordination.
The social goal was easily defined: increase organic growth, reach, and engagement using proven social media business techniques. In the end it was a waste of their money and my time. Based on my direct experience with this dealer, I emerged with a Five-Step Program for improving your social media marketing assets.
Here are my Top Five Social Marketing Essentials: the minimum elements a social media marketing program needs in order to have any chance of success.
5) Management Engagement
This ad for snowmobiles in Florida stayed up for months.
When management is “too busy” to monitor their own content, they deserve the worst result from a dysfunctional effort. Would you expect to see snowmobiles sold in Florida? In July? This embarrassing post by the client’s CMS vendor and web site IT, a well known powersports service provider, stayed up for weeks because management refused to look at their own channels. I won’t comment on the use of transparent background PNGs against a lime green <IMG> tag background color.
Lesson? Stay engaged or risk the consequences.
4) Coordinate Activities
Social didn’t have a seat at the table when sales, promos, or events were planned by the sales manager. OEM marketing opportunities came and went without generating earned publicity. Result: a failure to connect using basic tools like page event apps to promote engagement and activity.
Further muddying the waters — multiple managers had independent control of multiple channels. Result? A total lack of content direction and coordination.
Lesson? Assign one manager as point-of-contact, with authority for all content and the option to grant multiple contributors access to team functions.
3) Understand Social Stats
Personal friends list used by greeter to prop up skewed reach.
Stats can inform or mislead. When they’re manipulated, the result can be deceptive and misleading.
Despite a favorable (chart at top) 68% male-31% female fan mix, the reach skewed heavily towards women, not men. This disconnect is traceable to flawed post content by the lobby greeter’s attempt to pad metrics by polling her personal Facebook male friends for likes. This shifted the ratio alright, but only by creating a false positive that distorts the desired organic results and won’t fool Facebook.
Lesson? Manipulated stats disguise reality, lead to bad decisions based on false facts.
2) Understand How Social Media Works
Social marketing is about pull, not push. Understanding the general strengths and weaknesses is essential.
It’s a unique medium that requires regular care and feeding in the form of professional attention. Audience engagement can’t be forced; only quality content of interest will attract interaction. Google knows this, and you should also.
Lesson? Quality content continues to be the prime ingredient in a successful social campaign.
1) Speak With One Voice
The number one requirement for a successful social marketing program? Speak professionally, using one knowledgeable voice.
The dealership’s in-house voice, a former barista turned lobby greeter with zero motorcycle knowledge and a dysfunctional writing “style”, was allowed to post disconnected content online, without review, like the incoherent example below.
“Off-roading enthusiasts love the adventures and the risks and adrenaline associated with it. Speaking with the novice portion of this crowd, one of the most commonly inquiries is, “Do you know where I can ride these?” It’s a very just question. Now a great place to cross off your bucket list is the Apalachicola National Forest. Located in the panhandle, there is 195,000 acres worth of lush, loamy nature. They conveniently have about 80% of their trails marked very well. However, it is also rumored to have many undiscovered trails with very little traffic. Yeah it’s a bit of a trip, but do ya really plan on staying at home for the rest of your life?”
I rest my case. Lesson? Social programs too often see Nike’s success selling shoes as an easily copied meme. Reality? Without professional creative talent efforts aren’t just wasted, they’re counterproductive.
Growing Your Social Channel – A Job for Professionals
Don’t be this dealer. Commit to using the power and prestige of social media. Make it count. Engage your qualified market, enjoy the benefits of a comfortable public relationship.
I’ve enjoyed many industry events in Vegas, Indy, Cincy before and after, and in Orlando – in both the West Building hosting AIME’s inaugural outing and the massive North South venue across the street. Considering Orlando’s in my back yard – midway between where I grew up on Merritt Island an hour south of Daytona and where I now live on the Gulf shores – it’s with some amount of satisfaction that the move I’ve long recommended to the powersports industry has now come to pass.
“We Don’t Serve Their Kind Here!”
I’m proud to identify myself as an advertising and PR professional who attended his first powersports industry event in the lobby of a long forgotten Daytona Beach hotel while studying Journalism and Communications as a PR major at the University of Florida in the late ’60s.
So yes, it comes as somewhat of a rude shock to discover that the critically important marketing professions have been explicitly excluded from the B2B portion of the event by way of a regressive, considered, exorbitant admission fee. In my own home state no less.
“Non-exhibiting manufacturers and service providers can obtain credentials to attend AIMExpo during the exclusive trade-only days on October 16, 17, & 18, 2013 by paying a mandatory $400 registration fee per person.” (Emphasis added)
This, despite the occupations’ marquee status as a major advertised component of the event’s announced educational sessions. Well that’s just stupid. Nothing like slamming the door in the face of an industry you’re only too happy to promote from a short list of insider presenters.
Unfortunately, AIME management seems content to continue to fail to grasp the critical role pr and marketing communicators play in the age of global social media or the technical nuances that go with. Note to organizers: the hot topic in mar-com these days is the merging of journo and pr as creators of much coveted retail content.
Exhibit A: Google “AIME” – discover why product and event naming is an art, not a commodity, in an SEO ruled universe.
Exhibit B: a Facebook invitation to this pr pro to “like” the event’s Spanish language page. Uh, yo no hablo español.
“Please note: Media credentials will be provided to reporters, writers, editors, videographers, photographers and producers. Advertising, sales & marketing and administrative staff are not considered working media and will not be provided with media credentials.” Ok, got it. Marketers are pariahs. Insult to injury, message received, message understood.
In the all important social media promoted message sweepstakes (including blogs), organizers have said no and no again to any WOM publicity on behalf of their aftermarket and OEM clients – the exhibitors.
For – lets say the scooter crowd, who are arguably in need of whatever exposure they can garner – this is a major missed opportunity.
As a content manager for a powersports dealer and other aftermarket clients, say so long to any professional mar-com generated event coverage or mentions. For – lets say the scooter crowd, who are arguably in need of whatever exposure they can garner – this is a major missed opportunity.
So with that not so slight slight out of the way, here’s some of what you might expect, might need to know, and might want to discover if you make the trip.
One Booth You’ve Got To Visit
For first time – and nearly all will be – powersports visitors to the massive OCCC facilities on International Drive, here’s a little insight into what you can expect compared to Indy’s mid-winter experience.
Weatherwise, October comes in as our second most active month for major storms, including hurricanes, behind September – which right now is pretty soggy. Just saying, come prepared for the occasional raindrop and although it’s early Fall for us it may still seem like the height of Summer, depending. Here’s what else you might want to know.
GoPro is an announced exhibitor, and based on past experience not only is their booth a blast, it’s the best chance you’ll (probably) have to score an on-the-house camera. They always bring game, and theirs is one of the hippest and smartest booth marketing efforts you’ll see. Free beer’s a definite possibility, but even if it weren’t the show and tell theme makes this big dog and pony a must see.
Where Ya’ At?
When it comes to a place to stay, the sky’s the limit. Metro Orlando is second only to NYC in lodging. One of Indy’s major draws was the ease of pedestrian access between downtown lodging and the convention center. OCCC? Eh, not so much.
Odds are you’ll want to stay reasonably close by on International Drive, and there’re plenty of options to choose from, from lux to how many can we cram in a room.
Nobody drove to and fro in Indy. Make that virtually nobody, as downtown parking was a sparse commodity. Whether you were holed up out by the airport or in more recent years downtown, private show shuttles and the connected airwalks were the way folks got around.
Orlando’s different. Unless you’re staying across the street from the West Building in either of the Rosen properties or the Peabody, best bring your hiking boots.
In fact, even if you did snatch a room at one of those facilities, the walking distance still might come as a shock compared to, say, Indy’s Hyatt.
If you’ve got a car, you’re in good shape. Parking’s plentiful at the OCCC – $15 at the venue lot. On street? No and no. Otherwise, you’re likely marooned and will have to depend on public transport and private taxis to get around.
What’s For Dinner?
Unlike Indy – very unlike – you won’t find a dense downtown collection of closely connected destinations reachable – weather permitting – within easy walking distance. And also unlike the business oriented downtown Indy vibe, Orlando – make that Florida – is mostly indifferent, what with close to 70 million annual visitors tracking up the front hall.
If there’s going to be one major complaint, it will be the lack of memorable and/or quick dining options. Forget anything like St. Elmo or Palomino, although Tommy Bahama offers an interesting menu – the crab bisque in particular. Orlando is home to the Darden (Olive Garden, Red Lobster) Group, and that means you’ll most likely end up at a theme inspired franchise, take a number, and wait for your server to hustle up touristy drinks and mostly mediocre fare.
If over the years spent at Indy you’d grown accustomed to making a dash, quick or otherwise, outside Expo to grab a burger at Steak and Shake, a Happy Meal at Mickey D’s or one of Palomino’s fabo pizzas, well hang on to those memories. You wish.
I can say this without equivocation: OCCC food is nothing if not expensive, considering it’s mediocrity. You’re pretty much a captive audience while at the event – $15 for the cardboard inspired All American Cheeseburger, fries and a soda may have you begging for mercy after a couple of days.
What To Do Besides
Wellllll, besides Biketoberfest, there’s Disney some miles west or Universal just up the street – where you can grab a Duff beer at the brand new Simpsons’ Springfield attraction. Just around the corner there’s Sea World and dicey off-road adventure can always be had on S. Orange Blossom Trail (not on any tourist map or ticket kiosk). Or you could head 45 minutes east and spend some time hanging out at the Lone Cabbage Fish Camp for a taste of the kind of food I grew up on, finishing up with an airboat ride around the St. John’s River fed Lake Poinsett.
Then, if you haven’t been yet, continue your journey up to NASA’s excellent Kennedy Space Center (KSC), then out to Cocoa Beach and a run through home boy Ron Jon’s original Surf Shop for a memorable dude experience before heading home.
And with that sponsored tweet, Mountain Dew defused the latest in an embarassingly numerous string of downright stupid ad hoc ads by major consumer brands in recent weeks/months.
Crisis PR? Sometimes it really is that simple: recognize the problem, acknowledge responsibility, resolve offense. Please notice the refreshing lack of any weasel wordy qualifier, i.e., “…if we’ve offended anyone.” There, done with that.