Monthly ArchiveJuly 2007

Marketing &Media &Social Media 25 Jul 2007 09:20 am

The star-making power of grassroots marketing

We’ve recently entered an era of new media techniques and nontraditional marketing. It is now possible for anyone to exhibit the most creative and out-of-the-ballpark promotion and marketing strategies that would have easily been shot down five years ago. With these creative advancements in our marketing world, anyone can get the word spread about their product, company, television show or even themselves.

New media plays a major role in the e-world—be it podcasts, blogs and social networking sites. Take a look at this article by Stephanie Kang and Suzanne Vranica of The Wall Street Journal about year-old online forum Twitter MTV used Twitter as a promotional tactic to talk up the Music Awards show on June 3rd and they also plan on using it for the upcoming Video Music Awards in September.

Nontraditional marketing is all about two-way communication these days. Crest is asking consumers to choose the next flavor of toothpaste. Recently, MTV asked viewers to vote for the final roommate on the upcoming season of The Real World. Companies are getting consumers involved in the planning stages in hopes of increasing their loyalty.

The same is true for self-promotion. MySpace and YouTube allow users to upload videos, music files and photos, which has proved highly advantageous for aspiring musicians, comedians and models. Having an agent, label or recording contract doesn’t mean much these days—you can join a social network and get potentially just as many people to listen to your music, see your work or hear your stand up routine as you would after being “discovered.”

Above is a great example of how these new media promotional efforts work — Mia Rose. Up until December 2006, only locals had heard of Mia, and then she decided to post videos on YouTube of herself singing her own music. After 20,000 viewers subscribed to her music channel, Mia Rose now has a solo career and a strong international following.

OK Go, an alternative rock band from Chicago, is a second example of YouTube leading the way to their success. The band formed in 1998 and did not have much of a following until the above video was filmed and uploaded to YouTube about a year ago. To date, the video has been viewed over 20 million times. OK Go earned the Grammy award for “Best Short-Form Music Video” in 2007 and the YouTube 2006 Video Award for “Most Creative Video”.

My favorite nontraditional tactic would be The Simpson’s Movie craze that has been occurring lately. Actress Archives and The Seattle Times mention several of the tactics 20th Century Fox Film Corp. is using to market the July 27th opening. We still have all week to find out if the marketing hype was successful with box office sales or not.

Take Snakes on a Plane, which opened last summer, for example. By going to the Snakes on a Plane website, you could send voicemail messages from Samuel L. Jackson to yourself and friends reminding them of the upcoming release. The movie was hyped up all summer long leading to the mid-August big screen release, turns out Snakes on a Plane was number one at the box office through August even though the movie was continually getting low ratings. Just like the promotional rage for Snakes on a Plane release last summer, it will not matter if the movie is rated ten stars or one star, The Simpson’s will probably be number one this upcoming weekend and weekends to follow.

Nontraditional marketing is making vast advances by involving the audience in the promotion. Creative and nontraditional strategies will help keep you one step ahead and generate a whole new following.

Posted by Danielle

Code of behavior &Media 20 Jul 2007 03:27 pm

Harry Potter and the early book reviews: the gray area of press embargoes

Unless you try to stay uninformed, you are aware of the mania surrounding the release of the latest and last book in the worshipped Harry Potter series. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows will be released to lines of people in wizard costumes at 12:01 am on Saturday (another blog post entirely).

The final fate of Harry and his posse has been speculated ad nauseum by fans and media, and an uber-strict publisher’s embargo on the books has only fueled the frenzy to find out how it all ends. Booksellers and reviewers worldwide have respectfully agreed to follow the rules of the official release date, but those crazy kids the New York Times and Baltimore Sun skipped class to smoke in the bathroom. Reviewers Michiko Kakutani and Mary Carole McCauley, respectively, not only obtained copies but also published reviews days in advance of the release.

The backlash was almost immediate, from media, readers and J.K. Rowling herself, who was quoted via her U.K. publisher, Bloomsbury, as being “. . .staggered that some American newspapers have decided to publish purported spoilers in the form of reviews in complete disregard of the wishes of literally millions of readers, particularly children, who wanted to reach Harry’s final destination by themselves, in their own time. I am incredibly grateful to all those newspapers, booksellers and others who have chosen not to attempt to spoil Harry’s last adventure for fans.”

Bloomsbury and U.S. publisher Scholastic, Inc. have both slammed the Times and Sun for running the reviews and revealing so much of the plot. Scholastic has taken legal action against two sources of “leaked” books, reports the Detroit News.

From a journalistic and PR perspective, this is an interesting case study in embargoes. Some background: an embargo is a request by a source that the news it provides not be published until a certain date and/or condition has been met. They most often accompany a product launch or government announcement, the purpose being to allow journalists enough time to draft their stories so they can publish at the same time the announcement happens—not before. The obvious reason anyone would ignore an embargo is to “scoop” competition and be the first to report on a story.

Embargoes rely completely on the honor system, but it is generally understood by students in both Journalism and Public Relations 101 that a broken embargo is bad form and a violation of trust. Some sources respond to broken embargoes by limiting offending journalists’ access to future information.

In this case, the only embargo with legal ramifications is the one between the publisher and the bookseller. While this is hardly a matter of national security, and journalists apparently did not enter into any agreements of their own, the vast majority of them were clearly obeying the spirit of the law by waiting to review the book until publicly available.

Nothing will happen to either newspaper, unless you count the angry outcry from Team Gryffindor and the court of public opinion. Here are some sound bites from the Baltimore Sun letters to the editor:

“I wanted to send a quick note about how terrible it is that The Sun allowed one of its reporters, Mary Carole McCauley, to give a review of a book that is so highly anticipated and whose secrets are so closely guarded just days before the book is released . . . Not only does the reporter not mention how she received an early copy of the book, but she also gives away two major plot points in her review. While the rest of us were breathlessly awaiting the book’s Saturday morning arrival and wondering what “Deathly Hallows” are and whether Harry lives or dies, The Sun’s reporter neatly summed it up for us. It’s despicable that The Sun would allow such a thing.”

“I’m utterly appalled that The Sun published a review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows two days before the book’s release, one that revealed some plot points and spoiled the conclusion of 10 years of wonderful reading experience for children and adults alike . . .This is incredibly irresponsible.”

And my favorite, I think, from Kelly McBride, ethics group leader of journalism’s Poynter Institute, as quoted in the Detroit News article:

“I think this comes down to, ‘who are you loyal to?’ As a journalist, you’re loyal to your audience. You have made no agreement with (book publisher) Scholastic to embargo information, should you get hold of it. So the information is out there, what do you do with it? You have to make decisions based on how you best serve your audience.” For that very reason, McBride doesn’t think revealing details of the plot serves the audience. “Do you ruin the ending? Well, of course not. You don’t do that when the book is released, either, because that is a disservice to your audience.”

There is definitely some gray area, but I’m siding with Gryffindor on this one.

Posted by: Rebecca

Media &Public Relations Tools 13 Jul 2007 01:14 pm

National coverage for local organizations

The following inquiry was sent to The Byline by one of our regular readers at SOS Community Services here in Ann Arbor. She has allowed us to copy her remarks and use examples relevant to SOS to answer her questions. We’re always pleased to provide PR insights by directly addressing our readers’ questions and comments. Inquiries are always welcome!

Q: What are the best places to look for national press? I know this is sort of a large question, so let me use an example.

I have done a pretty good job of getting SOS Community Services exposure in the local market. I know who to talk to at the Ann Arbor News, WEUM, 107.1, The Ypsi Courier, The Business Review, etc.

But let’s say I want to go bigger. Let’s say I have a story that I think will appeal to a larger audience (like the fact that we are trying to start a social enterprise with homeless families). Where does one begin to look when trying to get more exposure? How does one reach out to large publications? Any thoughts you have would be much appreciated!

A: Obviously, national or multi-national organizations have an easier time obtaining national media coverage than smaller, local organizations. But smaller organizations can and do obtain national coverage. The trick is to tell your story in a way that shows national media you’re worth writing about.

First, it’s important to realize what journalists are looking for. The criteria for newsworthiness are timeliness, proximity, impact or relevance, prominence (is someone well-known or famous involved?), conflict and novelty. The more criteria met by your story, the better your chances of being written about. That being said, there are a few tricks of the PR trade that can help you fit within the editorial scope of your target national publications:

1. Increase your chances by choosing your outlets wisely

Many organizations want to be on the front page of the Wall Street Journal because it’s a widely-read publication. But, it’s not the best fit for every organization. Often it’s the type of audience, not the size that counts. You’re better off reaching an audience that knows and cares about the specifics of your industry. You can build a reputation of thought leadership and expertise among your peers. The added bonuses—the more you reach out to these trade publications, the better relationship you’ll have with trade media, the folks who set industry perceptions, and national reporters, who are reading these trade publications to stay abreast of trends.

SOS’s target media might include publications like Child and Youth Services, a biannual, national trade journal that focuses on the development and treatment of children and adolescents, specifically covering topics like homelessness, foster care, etc.

Every organization knows its top industry publications. As you read up on your industry, keep track of the reporters; monitor what they’re writing about to increase your chances of choosing the best media outreach contact for your story.

SOS might also consider getting attention for its programs in other parts of the country. Nearly all major U.S. cities have publications that address local homelessness efforts, Real Change in Seattle, Spare Change News in Boston, StreetWise in Chicago, etc. SOS could share it’s own efforts to gain visibility and a leadership position among other similar groups.

2. Connect your story to a national trend

National media outlets, especially trade- or industry-specific publications, tend to focus more on trends and current events than specific examples. They want to demonstrate broader impact, making their stories relevant to most, if not all readers. Connecting your organization’s efforts with larger trends is one way to get noticed. SOS might position its news in relation to national homelessness statistics, an increase (or decrease) in community relief programs around the country, etc.

National media outlets use seasonal trends, major industry events (trade shows, etc.) and other timeliness factors to raise awareness. Homelessness makes news more in the winter months, when its effects become more pronounced. National homeless awareness week takes place every November, so national consumer media will likely touch on the issue by raising awareness of plights and highlighting the groups and programs that provide assistance.

3. Fit into the editorial calendar
Most national media outlets have editorial calendars that outline intended story topics for the year. These calendars can typically be found on the publications’ Web sites, most often associated with the “advertise with us” content pages. Once you’ve chosen target publications, check their editorial calendars for subjects that could fit your organization and offer yourself as an expert resource by writing a brief, clearly defined pitch to the contact and letting him/her know you’re available for interviews.

SOS might offer to speak about its programs with the editors of Affordable Housing Finance magazine, who will be writing a piece about “homeless families, the cost to society and how to correct a national disgrace,” called The American Nightmare in January.

Educational Leadership magazine will cover the effects of poverty on learning in its April, 2008 issue; a great place for SOS to showcase its Early Risers program that provides reading, writing and math help as well as conflict resolution, social and problem-solving skill development to homeless children.

For additional insights into the mechanics of dealing with reporters, see Rebecca’s post about understanding media.

Good luck, SOS! Opportunities abound out there. Here’s hoping you go after some of them.

Posted by Nicole

Business and Economy &Michigan Positive 05 Jul 2007 02:12 pm

“Google effect” ties to Ann Arbor’s #1 rank in knowledge worker metros

The new term “Google Effect” will come to have a very precise and good meaning for the Ann Arbor Region, and Michigan, as we move forward with economic development. Coined last week by SPARK CEO Mike Finney in an interview with Tom Henderson of Crain’s Detroit Business, it referred to the new move to Ann Arbor of Barracuda Networks, a Silicon Valley based anti-spam, anti-virus software firm.

“Google Effect” refers to Google’s moving here last year and the positive flow of interest in our region due to our number one position in the recent Knowledge Worker Quotient survey by Expansion Management magazine.

Top 10 Knowledge Worker Metros

  1. Ann Arbor, Mich. MSA
  2. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Md.-Va.-W.Va. MSA
  3. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif.
  4. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Mass.-N.H. MSA
  5. Durham, N.C. MSA (tie) San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. MSA (tie)
  6. Boulder, Colo. MSA
  7. Madison, Wis. MSA
  8. Iowa City, Iowa MSA
  9. Ithaca, N.Y. MSA (tie) Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash. MSA (tie).

It is good to have some positive news to report so let’s all be aware that economic recovery takes time and will occur periodically.

Larry Eiler

About Eiler Communications &Marketing &Public Relations Tools 05 Jul 2007 12:59 pm

What is PR?

“There’s no accepted definition of PR these days but we think firms could define themselves by what they do.” Jack O’Dwyer’s Newsletter, The authoritative source for the PR field, February 15, 2006.

“As advertising struggles, PR steps into the breach.” The Economist. January 21, 2005.

The credibility, believability of PR, is high and has been rising for some years.

But what is it?

We define it now in terms of deliverables, our products. Go over this visual of our products for three minutes. We think you will no longer wonder what PR is.

Please double click on the grid for easier read.

Larry Eiler