MaryLee Sachs' Collective Conversation Blog » public relations Sat, 08 Jan 2011 16:58:40 +0000 en hourly 1 Trending in 2011 – Part 4 Wed, 08 Dec 2010 20:49:17 +0000 MaryLee Sachs

As marketers are increasingly challenged to innovate and make more with less, the will continue to expand their remit and absorb additional functions as new audiences and new routes to market become key, and “reputational intelligence” becomes absolutely critical.  Topping the list of the marketing group’s new responsibilities will be public relations, employee communications and corporate social responsibility because all of these disciplines provide the opportunity to participate and engage with key audiences–from consumers to employees to influencers of all types

As a result, marketers will need to adopt a longer term view on key performance indicators in addition to the quarter-by-quarter KPIs such as sales, brand preference and consideration rates.  And, in-house communications functions will need to understand traditional marketing metrics so that they can deliver above and beyond earned media output and share of voice-type measurement.

In the more innovative organizations, a new discipline will be borne which will be “mash-up” of the individual specialisms as we know them, making for interesting times for traditionalists versus new world thinkers.

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Trending into 2011 Fri, 03 Dec 2010 04:04:00 +0000 MaryLee Sachs

With the ANA conference only a couple of short months ago, I am reminded how prevalent the subject of “purpose” has become in the latter half of 2010.  Is that phenomenon driven by the economic situation we face and a burning need to have a higher purpose?  Or are brands taking more seriously the role they can and should play in the greater community?

I don’t have the answer, but I feel certain that we can expect to see a growing presence of purpose-inspired brands as marketers look to provide a higher-order benefit rooted in the brand’s heritage.  The aim will be to improve the quality of people’s lives while at the same time creating a meaningful alignment between the employees and organization behind the brand and the consumers the brand serves.

In 2011, purpose-inspired brand building will set a higher bar for brand development and communication by elevating the emotional appeal and shifting the mindset for marketers to a more service-oriented platform. 

 In some cases, measuring and affecting social capital that creates a common good will become important aspects as brand marketers aspire to contribute to the well-being of society.  Short-term business success will continue to reign – of course, but longer-term brand-building and brand reputation goals will begin to become just as important.

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Data Proves PR is on the Rise Tue, 02 Nov 2010 15:23:42 +0000 MaryLee Sachs

I took a swipe at the PR industry last week for not stepping up to meet the marketing challenge and be the sort of serious partners CMOs want or need.  I do not refute that PR is  gaining broader acceptance and respect amongst CMOs, and indeed the C-suite in general.  There are studies that prove the point – from the USC School of Annenberg’s GAP studies to the survey we did earlier this year with the CMO Club, and from Forrester white papers on the “power of three” (earned media combined with paid and owned media) to my anecdotal conversations with fellow Marketing 50 members.  But the fact remains that those of us who are truly connecting with CMOs, able to speak the marketing language, understand the marketing KPIs and “get” the notion of truly big ideas that transcend pure media play are  not supported by the necessary critical mass.

I’ve been back in the US for nearly nine years now, and I continue to be surprised at how siloed we are.  When I worked in Europe, most of our consumer marketing clients were CMOs, marketing directors and brand managers.  Corp comms clients led corp comms and public affairs assignments.  We spoke the language of marketing, marketing disciplines were more blurred, and integration was more prevalent.

 The topic of silos arose at the recent ANA conference in a panel with Brian Perkins of J&J, Lisa Cochrane of Allstate, Eduardo Modrado of Motorola and three senior agency folks – Chuck Porter of Crispin Porter, Andrew Robertson of BBDO and Bill Tucker of Mediavest.  One of the explanations for more silos in than outside the US was size of corporation.  US companies tend to be larger so silos proliferate.  I would add that I think risk adverseness, tradition and historical “baggage” help perpetuate silos.  But I digress.

 Back to the business of PR.  While PR is elevated in organizations and CMOs are inheriting and in fact seeking ownership of PR, I would question how much of the relationship is built on true partnership, trust and collaboration.  The data suggests a state of symbiotic relations, but dig deeper and you find that everything is not as integrated as it should or could be.  We PR types approach a problem or challenge from a different perspective than traditional marketers, but we need be able to translate what we do into language (and KPIs) that our marketing brethren will understand and appreciate.  And we need to more firmly establish PR as offering a unique point of view and a valuable skills set that is not readily available in any other type of agency.  One of the real points I was making in last week’s blog was that agencies specializing in other disciplines are trying to eat our lunch, claiming that they can do big PR ideas, and in some cases delivering success (though not in all!).

I still maintain that we need to step up – as a profession.

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The Perfect Storm for PR? Thu, 28 Oct 2010 18:48:17 +0000 MaryLee Sachs

Closing the perfect storm of conferences including the ANA, the PRSA international conference and the Council for Public Relations Firms Critical Issues Forum, I’m wondering about the health of my profession.  P&G global marketing and brand building officer Marc Pritchard talked about purpose-inspired brand building at both the ANA conference and Critical Issues Forum, which became a theme of the former and elaborated on in the latter as he extolled the power of public relations.  But he also said that PR has to step up and make it clear what PR can do, and in order to do so, we need to get brand-building expertise, stake our claim in digital, and create and be adept at delivering big ideas. 

In a Socratic debate panel at the Critical Issues Forum, Heineken USA CMO Christian McMahan claimed that he was “shocked that the ATL agencies are coming to me to do the community management online, and not the PR firms.”  IKEA USA CMO Leontyne Green said that PR firms are passive when we need to be the experts, coming to the table prepared to bring the big idea.  And Monster Worldwide CMO Ted Gilvar claimed that PR hasn’t done a good enough job at connecting what we do to ROI. 

We’re clearly missing a trick here.  If this is PR’s time, as Pritchard reflected, why aren’t we stepping up?

Long ago, PR executives fought for a seat at the top table, and reporting directly to the CEO remains a coveted position.  I know that PR, together with HR, finance and operations, can play a broader role than contributing to the marketing mix.  And I realize that it’s akin to blasphemy to many PR folks to suggest that PR should report to marketing.  But there’s a middle ground to be found where integration and collaboration are key to the success of a brand, the company and indeed the health of the overall business.  And I worry that PR practitioners may be getting so wrapped up in historical theory and turf protection that they are losing sight of the practicality currently required to grow business.

Most if not all of the ANA presentations from CMOs featured PR-inspired activations and amplification by earned media and word-of-mouth.  But the presence of PR folks there was scarce.  Are we surrendering our claim on what is becoming the most important aspect of marketing to other disciplines?  Digital agencies are hiring the odd PR expert to build legs around their campaigns, and likewise advertising agencies.  Ad agencies are entering PR campaigns at Cannes – and winning.

So, are we just going to roll over like lapdogs and let “our” time pass us by?  Or are we going to rise to the occasion and bask in the glory?

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Good Old-Fashioned Male Dominance Mon, 08 Feb 2010 14:39:00 +0000 MaryLee Sachs

There was a nasty rumor going around that this year’s Super Bowl ads would be far more targeted to men than last year’s rise of female-targeted commercials.  You can’t get much more macho than kicking off the first ad break with Rogaine, Callaway, Bud Light and Nike Basketball.  Well, maybe “macho” is the wrong word – more “new man”. 

It was all there last night:  man cave humor, gorgeous girls, cheesy drama, adultery (E*Trade’s Girlfriend), and, for the more tender chap, Dove’s Manthem.  Even the animals were more suitable to a male audience – less of the cuddly variety that appeal so well to women, and more robust animals featured by Bridgestone in its Whale of a Tale, and in Coke’s Sleepwalker.  The only cutesy animal was Monster’s Fiddling Beaver, and he got the girl in the end.  And let’s not forget the parade of the tighty-whities featured by both Career Builder’s Casual Fridays and Dockers’ Men Without Pants with a call to action that it’s “Time to wear the pants”. 

Why is that women were virtually ignored this year… when women have more purchasing power than ever before?  Did advertisers think women would take a bye on this year’s Super Bowl (perhaps working over the weekend)?  Or have marketers realized that it takes more than the traditional push-marketing approach to appeal to the feminine senses?  Women are much more “surround sound”  – they want to hear about brands and products from their friends, they want to have conversations about them, to touch and feel them, try and sample them, and generally engage more.  That can still be sparked by a Super Bowl ad, but needs to be followed up by more participative marketing engagement.

I will look forward to next year when perhaps we’ll see more of a mix.  For the time being, I’ll console myself with my favorite ads of the evening – Doritos’ Underdog - because the dog wins over man, and I love dogs!…and the short Late Night ad featuring David Letterman, Oprah and Jay Leno all sitting together on a couch.  You won’t find that one featured by Advertising Age, but all of the others are there.

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The next 6 months?… Mon, 17 Aug 2009 22:26:03 +0000 MaryLee Sachs

AdAge reported last week that the advertising industry won’t recover in the second half of the year.  It’s not shocking news given the recent article in The New York Times reporting that while consumers spent more in June, they did so because prices of food and energy were rising, and not because they were ready to spend freely again.  Personal incomes continued to sag as employers continued to cut wages and reduce working hours.  And the personal saving rate, which had been rising, dropped sharply from a month earlier as one-time transfer payments from the government stopped arriving in people’s bank accounts.

I personally don’t think the business will be considerably better – or worse for that matter – in the second half of the year.  It’s likely to be fairly flat, and all indications are that retail will remain in the doldrums through the back-to-school season and the holidays.

What does that mean for the agency business?  There probably won’t be a significant up-tick in agency spend in Q3-4 since consumer spending won’t be fuelling investment.  That said, hope still exists for 2010, and some CMOs will understand that they need to start planning (and spending) now in order to leverage change when it happens.  And they will continue to look for new avenues and means with which to connect with their core consumers most cost-effectively.  This puts digital, earned media opportunities, and niche-targeted initiatives at the forefront of some marketers’ thinking. While we’ve heard a lot of talk about “switch spending”, we haven’t see much action yet, but I believe that will change in the coming months because even if the economy does begin to turn around, continued pressure on budgets will encourage marketers to explore alternative routes.  Additionally, some consumer values and buying habits may have changed irrevocably, so it will become increasingly important to foster brand relationships – ideally loyalty and advocacy – and this is more difficult to achieve through traditional TV push marketing.

In Jon Fine’s Media Centric column in last week’s Business Week, he commented on the marketing discipline’s shift away from media (he’s talking paid media) and an increased attraction to “below-the-line” channels.  Why not?!  “Below-the-line” channels – some of which are still media-based by the way (it’s just not paid media) can provide a far greater opportunity to really connect and “participate” with the consumer in a way that no mainstream advertising route can.

Fine also points out that “experimenting decouples the success of the marketer from the success of the media they once relied on more exclusively.”  I don’t see a problem with that – we can’t be held to a traditional model when our environment has completely changed.  Besides, it’s healthy to change and to be challenged.  After all, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result!

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PR Blackout? Sun, 02 Aug 2009 14:04:36 +0000 MaryLee Sachs

Will it really happen in a week’s time?  It’s scheduled for August 10-16, but there has been little written about the call for a PR Blackout since the middle of July when MomDot issued the challenge to mom bloggers across America, which also seems to be echoed by certain mummy bloggers in Great Britain.

The issue? Apparently mom bloggers have gotten a bit carried away with the allure of give-aways, reviews and blog trips.  The challenge?  Get back to basics and “talk about your kids, your marriage, your college, your hopes, your dreams, your house and whatever you can come up with for one week”.

BlogHer, the leading participatory news, entertainment and information network for women online, seems to be taking a more practical and balanced view in “The good, the bad, and the completely puzzling”.

Is this about having a go at PR folks who don’t approach the blogosphere professionally and intelligently?  They are probably the same PR people who don’t earn the trust of traditional journalists either, and whose PR prose ends up in the trash bin countless times.  It’s no different – just a group of PR hacks who don’t take the time to learn about the people doing the writing, the media channel they write for, and the interests of their readers.

Or is this about a group of bloggers who got carried away with the freebies and/or pay-for-play that the PR profession can offer the blogosphere?

When I heard Jory Des Jardins, co-founder and president of strategic alliances for BlogHer, speak at the CMO Club’s May summit, I was encouraged to hear how BlogHer has put some structure around how bloggers can work more effectively with brands and their partners.  There are ethics and guidelines; there is transparency; and there is a a publishing network of more than 2,500 qualified, contextually targeted blog affiliates.

BlogHer just completed its 5th annual conference last weekend.  Nearly 1,500 women bloggers descended on Chicago to attend meet-ups, sponsored sessions, events, and more.  One of my colleagues who attended suggested that there is a clear break between a small group of top bloggers, “purists”, who are creating guidelines and dealing with sponsors in a very professional manner, and a middle group that is willing to cross lines for sponsorship or some free products.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the Blackout and how the community may morph over the coming months.  Monetization will undoubtedly continue to be a contentious issue, as well as the Federal Trade Commission’s targeting of parenting bloggers’ informal product endorsements.

With an active US female Internet population hovering around 42 million – 43 percent of whom visiting blogs for advice or recommendations, there’s a lot at play.

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The demise of the purchase funnel Mon, 20 Jul 2009 11:16:49 +0000 MaryLee Sachs

I guess since the Cannes Lions closed three weeks ago, it’s ancient history. But there are still so many lessons to learn from the experience and the winning campaigns. Most of the commentary surrounding the awarding of PR Lions and the PR Grand Prix centered around the blurring of disciplines. Are any of us surprised?

My major take-away was the participatory nature of the winning campaigns – across more than just the PR category. They all had one thing in common – engaging and participating with audiences, harnessing influence and advocacy and, in some cases, evangelism.

This isn’t new to any of us in public relations. We’ve always been focused on two-way communications and engagement, and navigating the less controllable area of “earned” media.  It’s in our DNA.

As a result, when social media really started to get traction, a group of us from the UK and the US started working on a new model which effectively replaces the purchase funnel – since we believe that the process is no longer linear and instead is far more fluid and dynamic. It was both comforting and rewarding to see the McKinsey Quarterly recently validate our thinking in its article “The consumer decision journey” which was based on an examination of the purchase decisions of almost 20,000 consumers across five industries and three continents.

I couldn’t have said it better. According to co-authors David Court, Dave Elzinga, Susan Mulder and Ole Jorgen Vetvik, “today, the funnel concept fails to capture all the touch points and key buying factors resulting from the explosion of product choices and digital channels, coupled with the emergence of an increasingly discerning, well-informed consumer. A more sophisticated approach is required to help marketers navigate this environment, which is less linear and more complicated than the funnel suggests.”

This is no longer a profound view, but marketers still struggle to address the evolution in terms of spend and media mix in this broader remit. It seems to me that whilst the CMO is the most natural candidate to forge new pathways to success in the new marketing eco-system, it may be difficult for them to fully grasp the broad spectrum of skills required to do so and break down the internal silos still creating barriers to truly holistic thinking.

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