Category Archives: public relations

it’s all about the buzz

lululemon, cvs fumble crisis responses

cvs, lululemon battle for negative headlines

lululemon and cvs compete for negative headlines

Alternative fitness clothing manufacturer Lululemon’s troubles multiplied following one of the more colorful product glitches to make headlines. The Vancouver lifestyle darling’s line of yoga pants was revealed – yes – to have a manufacturing defect apparant only during down dog, a position that due to the fabric stretching across the wearer’s butt caused a sheer effect that revealed everything to whoever was behind the owner of said pants.

Meanwhile, drugstore chain giant CVS suffered major shots across the bow as a result of a particularly heavy-handed employee health policy that went viral. In order to access the company’s health insurance lowest rates, workers have to submit to a screening for obesity, hypertension, glucose, and several other tags that can signal problems.

problems of their own making

Both companies stumbled right out of the gate. Their failure to either forsee or immediately correct course is unfortunately all too typical of a corporate culture that continues to ignore how brand reputation is affected in the age of social media.

Despite increasingly common examples of how the medium can be leveraged for a positive result regardless of whether news is good or bad, simply ignoring the problem or trying to hammer an alternative outcome despite popular sentiment doesn’t work.

flash pants and worker shame linked to brands reps

For CVS, by far the more effective approach would be to offer employees free or discounted membership in a fitness facility, rather than exacting a two-bit nickel and dime penalty forcing workers to wear the “unhealthy” cone of shame. How does that motivate? If you’re obese, it’s usually no surprise.

For Lululemon, whose corporate rep is usually massaged by a themematic yoga chant as opposed to any heavy lifting, they stuttered and stammered before finally issuing a recall of the pricey flash pants with wording that bore an uncomfortable resemblance to the lame not-an-apology that begins with, “If we’ve offended anyone…”. But not until after the horse had floated over the dam trying to clean up the milk spilt.

3 steps to social management

  1. Be Prepared – have a team in place and empowered
  2. Be Alert – to what’s happening in real time
  3. Be Responsive – to the message that is, not the message you want

social top source for mainstream media

social networks drive mainstream media

for the first time, social channels drove mainstream reporting

For the first time, social channels drove the broadcast, cable and print news cycles and were repeatedly sourced for content and tone. Big brands soared to the top of mainstream media reporting in February as a combination of unrelated events underscored the importance and immediacy of social engagement.

Consumer brands Oreo cookies and Maker’s Mark bourbon both got a thumbs up for their conversation handling. Oreo’s reaped a whirlwind of p.r. goodwill for their initiative during the Super Bowl partial blackout, while MM parent Beam quickly did an about face after announcing a change in the whiskey’s formulation.

Those examples contrasted with Carnival Cruise’s headlines for a different reason, and who knew that President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address and the Republican response would offer a gold-plated opportunity to score huge headlines. Unfortunately, not everyone is up to the task of monitoring, let alone responding, to social media’s powerful audiences. Read more here.

animated gifs enjoying comeback

animated GIFs have been around for awhile

baby cha cha and spinning globes

GIFs, or Graphic Interchange Format, was an early graphic format (dot-GIF) that demonstrated how different digital media was from print by offering flip-book like animation. One of my first attempts at the medium (READS, above) was constructed in Photoshop, while another early effort (HEADLINE!, below) was built with Fireworks.

My first recollection of the wow factor was of Baby Cha Cha, which easily holds the distinction of being the first viral internet/web sensation.

The GIF file was used extensively by the bulletin board ancestors to the web like CompuServe, which originated the format. When you see a GIF it’s most often in animated form (although there’s nothing in the file suffix to differentiate between animation and still), delivering economic motion characteristics in a sparse, somewhat choppy loop.

panic

gifs aren’t all cats blinking or presidents winking

GIFs definitely have their place as a banner ad upgrade. Unlike Flash movies, GIFs are perfectly compatible with Apple iOS mobile devices and easily jump email barriers that often stymie attempts to pass along Javascript effects. (How can you tell whether an image is a Flash movie or an animated GIF? GIFs can be selected and saved directly from your browser.) Because of its small footprint (depends entirely on complexity – large authoring files will generate large .gif output) and quick creation, GIFs are finding renewed popularity.

Programs used to render animation include imaging applications like Photoshop (top) and Fireworks (above) at the high end, freeware by the truckload directly off the net at the other. Production is easiest with the latter, more complex – and versatile – in the former. They’re often (and perhaps unfairly) thought of as the poor cousins of Flash (SWF) movie elements.

Awarded the distinction of being the 2012 US Word of the Year by the Oxford American Dictionaries, GIFs are enjoying a resurgence as a unique art form. There’s even talk by global PR firm Burson-Marsteller of resurrecting the medium as an actual tool for business communications. As if it ever went away.

I’ve put together a  vintage collection of animated GIFs over on my web site that shows how effective the medium is at maximizing a small space with a big message. No mischievous cats allowed.

sema merges pri, imis – returns to indy

this…

not this

update: feature coverage added 12/12/12

News from the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) last month raised eyebrows across the motorsports racing landscape. Not only would the Performance Racing Industry show, just purchased from event founder Steve Lewis in March, merge with upstart competitor International Motorsports Industry Show (IMIS) but rather than remain in Orlando Continue reading

parts, drag specialties don life vests

dealer expo fights image problem

traditional event partners vote with their feet

One thing the troubled world of powersports trade events can’t survive and still maintain a credible industry presence is the abandonment of anchored floor space by major distributors.

The increasingly anemic dealer turnout that’s plagued Expo in recent years takes another hit as the persistent rumor of Parts Unlimited and Drag Specialties departing Indy in favor of building their own corporate footprint apparently has legs.

move will affect dealer attendance, manufacturer exhibits

LeMans is expected to announce a budget reallocation that shifts marketing funds from Dealer Expo to expand their own self-hosted Showcase dealer show to include bi-coastal (CA and PA) additions, each with up to 200 vendor slots, in a move that further suppresses aftermarket manufacturer participation in traditional venues.

five ways to tune your event marketing

This month’s announcement by Advanstar that the International Motorcycle Show added Indianapolis to their circuit to coincide with the annual Dealernews Dealer Expo trade only show offers a buffet of engagement oriented marketing opportunities from which to pick and choose. Here’s a short list to get the ideas flowing.

event marketing strategies engagement starter list

  1. QR Code: if you’re going to include one be sure to test first before committing to collateral or digital. Smaller isn’t better – just less likely to be read by apps, resulting in potential customers unhappy with their smartphone, scanner, or your code when nothing happens.
  2. Event Web Page: update and include consumer and dealer side engagement. Why? Live feeds and updates, repost to fb, twitter, etc. all deliver credibility.
  3. POP/POS: Show your dealers a little love, which by the way works to increase your bottom line. How? Fresh kit of high ROI poster, counter mat, floor talker.
  4. Engagement: Connect with consumers and dealers at the same level with the goal of bringing them together for the sale. How? #hashtag
  5. Social: Think irresistible booth situations to encourage photography/video by new to you customers/dealers. Make sure posting tags are suggested so all roads lead to you. How? If appropriate, make sure product display is camera friendly.

The list of resources to leverage both the existing customer base and a brand new Indy market is long, while budgets to carry out event activities can be contentious. The trick is figuring out which are affordable and offer the best opportunity for  continuing the conversation.

dealer expo makes big news, adds ims

languishing event nails two birds with one well thrown stone

Answering the challenge posed by upstart promoter American International Motorcycle Expo’s rival show launch, scheduled for Orlando in 2013, Advanstar’s Dealernews Dealer Expo threw down on the new kids by dropping a bombshell that goes a long way towards restoring lost luster to the long-running event.

Dealernews announced today that the co-promoted International Motorcycle Show has added Indianapolis to their popular coast-to-coast tour. The public event, to run concurrently during February’s Dealer Expo, elegantly solves the thorny question of whether or not troubled trade-only industry events should host separate consumer access to the same exhibits as a survival strategy in the face of dwindling attendance.

IMS, backed by the considerable resources of Progressive Insurance in the role as title sponsor, has long been a popular destination for tens of thousands of consumers during 12 stops annually. Next year, with top of the line venues Lucas Oil Stadium and the freshly expanded Indianapolis Convention Center hosting their respective events, the opportunities for powersports marketeers are substantial, with both B2B and B2C reach available at the same time, in non-competing, comfortable, and convenient environments. For both established lines and just out of the gate startups, it’s a golden moment to engage and promote.

competing venues outstrip marketeers resources

Even as the ink on SEMA’s (Specialty Equipment Marketing Association) takeover of PRI (Performance Racing Industry) is still drying, that event’s tepid courtship of the two-wheeled trade has so far failed to make hearts beat faster. Meanwhile the Easyriders branded V-Twin Expo mostly Harley weekend get-together in Cincinnati two weeks pre-Indy limps along to shrinking attendance and mixed reviews.

Can Dealer Expo slam the brakes on their downward trend by convincing a reticent powersports aftermarket manufacturing community to reinvest in what has become an auction and Pan-Asian agri-scooter free trade zone? At a time when industry trade shows in general continue to time out, thanks mainly to a sluggish economy and the power of the internet, the proof may well lie in imaginative promotion. This is a great start.

See past coverage of Dealer Expo, SEMA, V-Twin Expo and PRI here.

powersports pays price for poor pr

 

the slippery slope to silliness

Several years ago I put together an easy to follow guide that offers solutions for three of the most common errors made by DIY publicists. Since then I’ve noticed a significant increase in the number of powersports announcements distributed under the hi-jacked heading of FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE! So poorly constructed they’re cause to wonder if a Kazakhstan goat herder isn’t ghost writing for the crowd source marketplace, they neither inform nor promote. No offense to my herder friends.

There’s a phrase common enough to pr practitioners (hack) that’s either a label of shame or badge of some distinction, if only among peers. Without naming names – and, sadly, you probably don’t know who you are – I’m gobsmacked at what the aftermarket seems willing to accept under the guise of published, presumed to be positive, information about products, services, and events by the former.

This isn’t about the errant comma, occasional misplaced modifier, or missing apostrophe. I’m raising the alarm over the wholesale abandonment of fundamental principles of grammar, any notion of style, and the essentials of literacy. Who needs complete sentences when an odd lot assortment of disjointed words strung randomly together into incoherent phrases passes as sense.

“air quotes” run amok amid out of control malaprops

I’m usually not a hard-core stickler for AP style, but. The increasingly sloppy gibberish masquerading as product praise not only offends my professional eye, but to the point does serious damage to a manufacturer’s online reputation and in-store brand. Unless, that is, the brands footing the bill think LOL ridicule is a desirable goal.

And it’s permanent. Once published to the web, these unintentional examples of no-talent hilarity circle the internet forever, ghost ships of puff piece silliness showing up on Google search “doh!” in perpetuity.

If you can’t hire a pro – and by that I mean someone possessed of a) basic writing skills and, b) a fundamental understanding that English, not Farsi, is North America’s marketing lingua franca – please take advantage of my basic tips for improving reputation and readership.

pri to sema move signals big change

pri announces sale of event to motorsports giant sema

The Performance Racing Industry racing aftermarket manufacturers event announced the sale of their popular mid-winter event, held in recent years in Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center, to event competitor Specialty Equipment Market Association, known internationally for their hugely entertaining Las Vegas mega-show.

For event background and photos read my coverage of SEMA here, and my PRI experiences here. Both shows offer numerous educational and motivational opportunities.

According to the press release, PRI staff will remain in Laguna Beach, while the long-running event will remain in Orlando.

Both venues are extremely popular with their respective audiences, and enjoy a fair amount of crossover attendance from other segments, including powersports. SEMA’s profile skews more towards automotive and, by extension, motorcycle customizing, with emphasis on paint, accessories, and electronics.

PRI, on the other hand, is a big tent. This cross channel, hard core racing and performance venue aters to racing organizations, their fans and members. Representing everything from entry level karting to NASCAR Cup competition to ALMS to NHRA, if it uses an engine – whether tractor pulling, boat racing, a road circuit or speedway event – PRI is the marketplace for manufacturers. Notably absent: powersports, although this is prime territory for exploitation and well worth the investment.

What this might mean in the long run is unknown. At the very least, I’d expect SEMA to leverage the PRI venue as some kind of enhanced exhibitor bonus. Having attended SEMA seminars at PRI in the past, they’re no strangers to the racing market profile specific to PRI.

barnes and nobles says opt out is ok

like official government mail, only different

Important Information Regarding Your Borders Account

I’m not going to the mat on this one, but if you want to send me an email after you’ve bought up the physical and intellectual assets of your former competitor, please try to keep from insulting my assumed by you parochial view of online reality at the same time.

Non-breaking news: Borders Book Stores are no more. Bulletin: Chain declares bankruptcy. Bulletin: Assets bought by competitor.

My good friend William Lynch, CEO of Barnes & Noble, wrote me the other day on behalf of the entire B&N team to make sure I was aware of important information regarding my (former) and seldom used Borders account.

Skip down to fourth paragraph: “It’s important for you to understand however you have the absolute right to opt-out of having your customer data transferred to Barnes & Noble.” (Bold theirs.)

Then follow a couple more graphs of boilerplate and schmooze, but basically the message seems to be driven by B&N’s attempt to spin this in their favor by offering me the option of bailing by a date certain, after which they’ll just go ahead and act on the info as if no opinion equals okey-dokey.

In fact, they could have, and would have, curried a lot more favor by allowing me to opt in to their marketing plan. This would have had the added benefit to solicit more personal choices, including genres, platforms, frequency, etc. All presumeably valuable, driven by the coupon with sign-up bribe good for something or other, coffee maybe, MP3 download possibly, after a short survey.

On the other hand, they’ve got a probably outdated windfall list of – well, a bunch of – email addresses just ready to be acted on if they don’t hear back! Opportunity knocked. No one answered.

My guess is they’ll never know what they didn’t know.