The Role of PR in the Marketing Mix

What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear the words: “PR”? For some it’s Press Release. For others it’s Public Relations. But for all companies, PR is a Marketing necessity.

Consider what PR can deliver for you that advertising can’t.

  1. Credibility: That’s right. I don’t mean that you should go hog-wild and issue press releases every other day. What I mean is that, done properly, the relations you build with journalists, bloggers, editors and analysts can ultimately propel your brand/company/product to the front lines. Nothing says credibility like a good review, a headline in a newspaper, or a positive nod from a blogger
  2. Messaging: PR people spend more time working with words than just about anyone. Well, I’m not counting the folks who write documentation, or legal contracts. I’m talking about the words that get into the public eye. Who better to help finesse your messaging than the folks whose livelihood it is to get the attention of the media?
  3. Media and Analyst relations: PR folks are known for their rolodexes and for their ability to network, schmooze, and develop the right relationships with the right people. They can quickly ascertain who you need to be in front of, and how to make it happen.
  4. Pitching: I’m not talking about baseballs. I’m talking about pitching tightly crafted article outlines (know as abstracts) to a target list of media, journalists, bloggers and analysts. The result is INK. That is what you want: ink on paper (or pixels on a screen). You want someone to write an article, comment on a press release, ask for an interview and basically put your name in front of the world.
  5. Media Database: This ties into #3 & #4. Your PR team/person will develop a database of the publications and contacts relevant to your target market and product/service. This becomes your go-to resource for pitching media and analysts.
  6. Editorial Calendar: Think of all the publications in which you would love to be published. Well, the majority publish an annual calendar of topics being covered. Your PR person will take all the calendars, decide which articles are relevant, which abstracts meet the criteria, marry that to the proper media contact and pitch away. If they’re successful, you get ink, which enhances your credibility and increases brand awareness. You see, it all comes full circle.

So, before you dismiss PR as “just a press release”, take a step back and look at the whole cycle.

Tradeshows – 6 tips for a successful event

I admit it…I have a love/hate relationship when it comes to Tradeshows. On one hand, I know that it’s important to attend, at some level, if you want to make your presence known in the market and, more importantly, if you are an established brand and “can’t afford” to not be seen. However, like all marketing arsenal, there is a time and a place.

The Tradeshow “hey day” of the 90’s is long gone. Yes, we all mourned the loss of Comdex. But lately, I’ve noticed a resurgence, dare I say a renewed excitement, for the tradeshows of today.

If you’re a B2B company, here are 7 tips I will share with you, coveted over nearly 20 years of attending shows as either a delegate or an exhibitor. So, even if you got stuck with a 10×10 booth in the bowels of the show floor, or your neighbours are lacklustre and unimaginative, you can still be successful if you bear the following in mind: 

1 – Know Why You’re There
Are you a new company or is this the first time attending the event? If so, you are probably looking to fill your pipeline with contacts (notice I didn’t say “leads”). Tradeshows are great places to fill your database with a multitude of potential prospects. Marketing will want to nurture the contacts; Sales will want to build pipeline. Both can be accomplished with patience and an understanding of what constitutes a lead. (see point #2) But be warned, some really did just come for the t-shirt. Are you an established company? (more than 5 years of consistent participation at the show). Then you are likely looking to connect with prospects already in your pipeline to move them along the sales cycle. Tradeshows are a great opportunity to meet with customers and prospects and grow the relationship.

2 – Make Sure Sales and Marketing are Aligned
When it comes to whether or not a show is successful, ensure you have established the criteria BEFORE you commit to the event. What marketing considers a “lead” and what sales does can often rival the Venus vs Mars analogy. As far as I’m concerned, Marketing’s job is to nurture any and all contacts for viability. If there is a real opportunity, intent to purchase, and budget allocation, then the “lead” can be handed off to Sales. Otherwise, let it stay in Marketing’s capable hands! Marketing will nurture that contact, provide them with information, content such as whitepapers and case studies, invitations to webinars, etc. Sales need not waste their valuable time on the “t-shirt” grabbers. When agreeing on your success criteria, establish whether participation in the event is to: foster existing relationships, generate leads (assign a number), strategic presence, competitive research. And when the show is over, do a post-mortem and document the results. I often find sending a simple feedback form to the folks who worked the booth is a terrific gauge. And it will make next year’s decision to participate much easier. Finally, agree on who shoul work the booth. In my opinion the ideal mix is 1 salesperson, 1 product/marketing person, 1 technical pre-sales person (depending on the audience, of course).

3 – Drive Traffic
If you don’t make a memorable impression, then all your efforts will be for naught. Are you doing a draw at your booth for a large ticket item (i.e. an iPad)? Are you giving away 200 “tchachkes” (i.e. pens, stress balls, etc.)? Are you running a contest? Do you have dynamic presentations and presenters? Are you issuing a press release? Most importantly, are you communicating this well in advance to your prospects? Find out if there’s an official #hashtag for the event and use it in your social media efforts. (see #5 for more)

4 – Integrate Your Messaging
If you have an Events section on your website (and really, who doesn’t these days), post your participation in the event as soon as possible. Make it prominent in your newsletter. Add it to the front page of your site the week before the event. If you’re issuing a press release, get the show’s media list and notify them in advance. Share the release under embargo if you can. Do an email blast to last year’s attendee list. If your budget permits, do a print campaign (yes….people open envelopes if the message is compelling). Run a contest. Use Social Media. Assign someone to tweet while at the show, take pictures, post them to your company page on LinkedIn and Facebook. Engage your prospects!

5 – Be prepared
I am amazed at how many companies spend tens of thousands of dollars on events, that don’t bother to spend the time ensuring that their presentation is clean, free of typos, and has been well rehearsed by the person delivering it. When you ship all the materials down, allow room for mishaps (see my post on “what can go wrong will go wrong” for more tradeshow pitfalls). Ensure your booth staff have time for bio breaks, competitive research, etc. Take the time to give them the show agenda so they know when to expect heavy traffic on the event floor. Arm them with breath mints and water. Invest in a lead scanner (or be prepared to scan/hand-enter potentially hundreds of business cards). Give them all the return shipping way-bills in advance. Make it easy for them to focus on a successful show, not all the minutae best suited to your events co-ordinator. And for goodness sakes, check the booth BEFORE you ship it. Are all the panels in tact? Do you need light bulbs? Is the messaging still accurate?

6 – Follow Up
After you’ve spent all the time, money and energy preparing for the show, marketing it, developing materials and presentations, don’t lose sight of your valuable “contacts”. Get them into your CRM database (or whatever you use to manage leads) ASAP. Yes…even the business cards that the salesperson insisted be put into their pocket for follow up (just be sure to return them to said salesperson!) Ensure the lead source is listed as the tradeshow. Have a follow up email ready to go, with a piece of content that was not available at the event, sent to them within 72 hours of the last day of the event.

So there you have it….my top six tips. To thank you for getting this far, I will now offer a bonus tip: Do more than exhibit. Are there speaking opportunities? Sponsorship opportunities? Can you partner with the Event Organizer to produce a webinar in advance of the event and get yourself in front of their attendees? All of these should factor into your decision to exhibit.

Good luck! And if you ever find yourself overwhelmed with upcoming events, if you need help implementing some of these tips, or if you simply want to bounce some ideas, please contact me at: joannegore@rogers.com

What happens when you don’t KISS?

So Tim Horton’s is adding a new size to its cup lineup (http://www.timhortons.com/ca/en/about/new-cup-sizes.html). But here’s the funny thing; while they are introducing a new larger 24oz cup, they’re still calling it XL! Huh? Instead of taking this new larger cup and calling it XXL, they have instead decided to rename ALL of their other sizes. small becomes XS, medium becomes small, etc. If you look at the actual graphic they provide (http://dam-img.rfdcontent.com/cms/323/323_original.jpg) they go ahead and explain the following: “…a large double-double is now a medium double-double”. Again…Huh?

Let me get this straight. You pull up to the drive through and order your standard, large coffee double-double. But in reality, a large is now the old XL. What does that do to the cream/sugar ratio? And what about the poor sucker who orders an XL and gets this new monstrosity?

Why am I going on and on about this? Personally I drink my coffee black so it doesn’t affect me as it will others. But believe me, it will affect others. On one hand, everyone has to now remember their old size and convert it to the new size (to some that might be as confusing as converting pounds to grams). Then factor in the whole cream/sugar thing. But the thing that irks me the most is the motivation behind it all.

Is it a ploy to raise prices? Again, Tim Horton’s states that the new sizes won’t affect the prices…but what does that mean exactly? Is an XS (an old small) less expensive…or is it the same price as what a small was? Is a large the same price as a large or the old XL? This is all making  my head hurt.

Now…back to the point at hand. Why am I lamenting this so much? Because I see this sort of confusion all the time on websites, landing pages, marketing collateral, etc.

I was introduced to a book several years ago called: “Don’t make me think” by Steve Krug.  It has become my go-to resource. Basically, if you give someone too many choices, they get confused and eventually abandon your site. If you want them to go to a specific page then send them there. Don’t make them wade through pages and pages of your content…it will only piss them off. 3 clicks should be the MOST that it takes to get someone to their desired location. And if they don’t know why they’re on your site and what’s in it for them….HELP them. Direct them very smoothly to the page you want them to visit. The page that will get you the most bang for your buck.

But for many that is a difficult and daunting task. I’ve sat through many messaging sessions and website reviews. How can you succinctly convert your core message into a one or two-sentence overview, that explains why what you do is important to to your customer? Everyone is so focused on how it works. Who their repertoire of customers is. What awards they’ve won. The “buzzwords” they love.

But is that going to get your potential customers to click? To download more information? To attend a webinar? To “follow” or “like” you?

Nobody wants to admit this, but at the end of the day, the customer doesn’t give a rat’s ass about how you are the number one provider of state-of-the-art technology that will revolutionize the way they do business. Because EVERYONE says that!

Take a step back. Decide who you’re talking to. Determine their biggest challenges. And then, clearly state how you can help them beat those challenges. Don’t make them think; rather help them realize that what you offer is what they need.

As for coffee? Maybe I’ll go to McDonald’s McCafe. The coffee’s actually quite good and I don’t have to think about what size I’m going to get when I place my order.

What can go wrong WILL go wrong… welcome to the world of tradeshows

It never ceases to amaze me how, with all the technological advances that have been made in the last 2 decades some things NEVER change.

  1. The printer will always jam minutes before an important meeting, keeping in its grasps the document you  need for your presentation
  2. After double and triple checking your email to some very important people, you realize you forgot the attachment the second you hit the “send” button
  3. No matter how far in advance you ship your order, customs will somehow manage to keep the one box that is critical to the success of your booth

Now, let’s examine that 3rd point. I have been doing this shtick long enough to know a few basic facts when shipping items for a tradeshow or large event, particularly if they are being shipped over the border between Canada and the US. Have all your paperwork in pristine order. NEVER ship anything chocolate. In fact, food of any kind is dicey these days, but chocolate is the worst. If you do ship anything edible make sure it’s shipped separately in case it gets held up at customs. Same goes for pens. Yes, pens. Because they are filled with ink. And we need proof of where the pen was manufactured and where the ink came from. If at all possible don’t ship monitors; either buy cheap ones when you get there or rent them from show services. Label all your boxes clearly, 1 of x, 2 of x, etc. Send a “toolkit” that contains all the emergency things that you may need, including masking tape, pens, stapler, staples, scissors, business card holders, notepads, etc. I used to include gum and mints but I’ve learned my lesson (see above).

But somehow, no matter how well everything is prepared, something always goes amiss. I recall doing Interop in Vegas several years back. We had a huge booth. We had everything prepared. We were giving away a car! We had models hired to sit outside with the car (a BMW Z5 convertible no less) as well as to help out at the booth. Suffice it to say we had produced a LOT of collateral (in those days we weren’t very green…nothing was handed out on USB stick cuz they were still a premium giveaway). We had t-shirts. The whole nine yards. So of course as we’re setting up the booth and getting it ready it hits. None of our collateral arrived. NONE. None of 4-coulour postcards we were planning to hand out directing traffic to our booth. None of our datasheets. None of our entry forms.

So we did what any respectable marketing team would do (once we stopped hyperventilating). We went to Kinkos and had it all reproduced. It cost us $5000 US dollars to do that, but we had no idea when our material would arrive. We were up until the wee hours of the morning, but we got it done. It didn’t look as nice as what we had originally produced, and of course it was double the cost. But we’re marketing. We have to do whatever it takes to ensure a successful event.

The end result: We generated nearly 1500 contacts at that show, and it was the most successful event in the company’s history. And yes, our shipement finally arrived 2 days later, completely destroyed.

There will always be a scramble to track down a shipment, a late-night run to Kinkos, or a run to WalMart for pens, power cords and anything else that mysteriously never arrives. All we can do is make sure we’ve done our best to ensure a successful show. Because in the end…it’s Marketing’s fault 🙂

What about you? Do you have any Tradeshow horror stories to share or advice to give? Post your comments please.