Is the Future of Advertising Public Relations?

I know, it’s a strong statement, right?

I’ve always been a firm believer that it takes more than just one discipline to move a product, get your message across, create interest, ring the cash register, or more importantly, engage your audience. As things continue to evolve, smart marketers are looking at newer, more exciting and engaging ways to reach their audiences that will offer the best possible return on investment, right? There it is again. That “E” word: engage.
I stumbled upon an interesting blog entry the other day from Social Media Explorer, and also borrowed the title. It’s loaded with some pretty good stuff and certainly gets you thinking. The entry is about how bloggers are a great medium for product launches and obtaining exposure. It later touches upon the ways brands reach out to bloggers- be it a little pay for play, a.k.a. advertising, or traditional editorial coverage, better known as public relations. The article touches upon some very important points:

1. Why advertising dollars are not being spent on blogs, but public relations initiatives are. Remember, bloggers can be very influential because their audience tends to be very focused and defined. That, however, hurts them for getting advertisers. See point two below…

2. Bloggers often complain that they get the PR pitch, but can’t get them to spend money to advertise on their blog. Why? Well, for starters, bloggers can help put themselves in contention for advertising dollars by quantifying their audience numbers, including traffic, demographics, reach, etc.

Interesting, right?

As a result, some creativity and a little ingenuity has been born: the sponsored post. Is it wrong? You decide. But what’s important to learn from this is that when it comes to the future of social media, it’s about communicating and engaging your audience. It’s not about one-way messaging or simply blanketing the world with a marketing gimmick on Facebook, Twitter and the like. That’s just obnoxious and people will see right through it. It’s about engaging, communicating, being informative and connecting with your audience — aka Facebook friends, Twitter “tweets” and so on. As the Social Media Explorer blog entry says:

“…whatever the future of advertising is, it will be centered on content and engagement which is what good public relations has been doing for years.

I couldn’t agree more! Some food for thought. What do you think?


All Things Green On St. Patrick’s Day!

The sounds of U2 rocking it out. Shepard’s pie with corned beef and cabbage. A delicious green beer. Donning your best green outfit. Dancing and smiling leprechauns. Ahh, St. Patrick’s Day. We’re all a little Irish on March 17th, aren’t we?

St. Patrick’s Day is one of those holidays that offers brands endless possibilities for various promotions and publicity opportunities. Here are two fun facts for you on this day of green.

First, U.S. News & Report published a list of the top 5 things that are green on St. Patrick’s Day. They are:

1. Beer
2. Food
3. Transit
4. Rivers
5. Parades

Second, here’s something that made me chuckle and I think many of us can relate. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Stocks Plummet on Sesame Street Today… Layoffs Expected

So here we are, Friday. Another work week coming to a halt and the weekend is finally here. T.G.I.F. As we head into the weekend, I figure I’d post something that I thought was rather amusing.

The economy has certainly rocked Wall Street, affecting the lives of millions. Now, it’s made it’s way to shaking things up on Sesame Street. Yes, you heard right. Sesame Street. The show plans to let 20% of it’s work force go any day now. When I sit back and think about it, it’s not fun to poke fun of real people losing their jobs during these difficult times, but puppets are fair game, right?

So who should go? The San Francisco Chronicle had a rather light-hearted take on this and I thought I’d share…

The following was taken from the San Francisco Chronicle blog The Poop: The Chronicle Baby Blog. Enjoy and have a good weekend all!!

Telly Monster: I’m actually a little concerned about what would happen to the depressed Telly if he got laid off. Assuming he can even get out of bed, can you imagine him in a job interview? Still, he’s essentially duplicating the work of Oscar the Grouch. And Oscar isn’t going anywhere …

Abby Cadabby: This relatively new character barely made it past her probationary period anyway. With several characters living on Sesame Street for nearly four decades, her three years of seniority aren’t going to count for much.

Mr. Snuffleupagus: As much as I love him, imaginary characters seem like the type of thing you could outsource really easily.

Slimey: He’s a worm. Not much job market for that. I’m guessing they fire him, and then hire him back as a contractor without benefits. He doesn’t have much backbone.

Mr. Noodle: Or is it Mr. Noodle’s brother, Mr. Noodle? Either way, he’s gone. Clowns are creepy, even when they’re played by good actors with ties to the Bay Area. I’m guessing Mr. Noodle takes the buyout and runs — and still gets plenty of work. He was excellent in “Rachel Getting Married.”

Ernie: This is bound to be a controversial move, but I’m guessing that dumping Ernie’s huge salary will save the entire Grouch family, plus Baby Bear. I also like the idea of the cynical, slightly unhinged Bert continuing without the balancing effect of the cheerier Ernie. Sesame Street will never be the same.

Then Turn Left at Willis Tower. Wait! Where is that?

I’m all for sponsorships, naming rights and what not, but when something has become a part of American pop-culture, why mess it up?

To me, the Chevrolet Theatre will always be the Oakdale Thatre. The New England Dodge Music Center– wait? Isn’t that the Meadows? You get the idea and I’m sure many of my fellow Connecticut residents can relate with me. It takes a LONG time – even years – to rename something and get your target audience to remember it. Sometimes, it just never works. Maybe I’m just clinging onto the past, who knows 😉

With that said, the Willis Holdings Group, a Chicago-based insurance brokerage firm, will be renaming the Sears Tower the Willis Tower. The firm announced this earlier this week and it’s bound to irk a lot of Chicagoans. Bold move!

Sears held onto the naming rights until it expired in 2003. Enter the Willis Group who not only plan to move 500+ employees into the building, but they plan to rename it to show their “commitment” to the city of Chicago.

Commitment? The Sears Tower is an iconic, American building that shouldn’t be meddled with. In the PR world, one of the things we often face is the challenge of changing people’s perceptions and, ultimately, people’s behavior. Will renaming the Sears Tower make people get insurance from the Willis Group? I think not. Try renaming the Empire State Building and imagine where New Yorkers would tell you to go. My vote, and advice, is to leave the Sears Tower alone. It’s fine just the way

Peanuts! Getch’er Peanuts Here!

Imagine a world without peanuts. No more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. No more peanuts at the ball game. No more Reese’s peanut butter cups. No more peanuts at the local bar. I know, it’s a big stretch, but the recent peanut salmonella scare made me go without peanut butter for a couple of weeks. Nine deaths and 677 sick people is a very serious crisis.

To convince the public that peanuts are safe to eat, the National Peanut Board hit the streets of New York City last week to sample peanuts with the major event taking place at Grand Central Station.

The strategy here was smart. The peanut board aligned themselves with farmers, chefs, peanut companies and anyone and everyone with a vested interest in peanuts. These were the people out on the streets handing out samples of peanuts, peanut butter smeared on fresh apples, Snickers bars, you name it. Grand Central Station’s main lobby was turned into a exhibition hall with tables of samples and peanut mascots. There’s no better way to get people to buy into your product than sampling – especially in the food biz. This was a gutsy move, but if you can convince New York that peanuts are safe, well… then maybe the rest of us will follow.

Take this into consideration. One of the things any brand should be prepared for is a crisis. Whether you’re in retail, manufacturing, health care, or especially the food industry, there is a need to have a crisis communications plan. It takes years to build up a brand, and only mere seconds to topple it. A poorly managed crisis can ruin your brand’s reputation and it can take years to build consumer confidence back up. Kudos to the “peanut people”.

“Peanuts! Fresh hot peanuts! Get’cher peanuts!!”

Hard Times for Aspiring Broadcasters

More sad news in the world of Connecticut media as the Connecticut School of Broadcasting (CSB) has closed it’s doors. The abrupt closing came as a surprise to students who found out via text message or by showing up to classes only to find locked doors.

From a PR perspective, I think the school could have handled it in a more personal manner. I’m all for new mediums of communication, but isn’t a text message a little informal or cold? Especially one that informs you that the university you are attending and are paying for is closed? Trying to seek more information, as I’m sure many students have, I surfed on over to their website and there’s nothing.

As I looked further, today’s Hartford Courant has some commentary from the president through a press release saying that the reason for the closing was due to changes in the private student loan market. This may be true, but one thing I never like to read in any sort of crisis is “couldn’t be reached for comment” or “PNC Bank declined to comment”.

In my book of practice, that’ s not good. State the facts, be receptive and responsive to the media and you will be thanked in the long run.