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The Ideal World PR Measurement Program

3 Dec

The PR budget is based on what is often an unspoken assumption: that getting the word ‘out there’ through web content and the media will help sell whatever it is you have to sell.  But does it? Now that I’ve seen it from both the agency and corporate side, here’s what I’ve learned.

The good news is that it really does seem like PR works.  More and more, I’m hearing anecdotes about sales that resulted from PR placements and campaigns.  This is really cool – that is to say, it’s gratifying that my work and the work of our agency is paying off. But those are just anecdotes, after all.  The measurement that really gets me excited is…

You can correlate PR campaigns with web traffic.  I’ve had the opportunity lately see something simple that not many PR folks do: correlate web traffic data to press releases.  For the most part, PR works – you actually do see a spike in web traffic when you put out a press release.  But what you don’t necessarily see is a big spike that you can attribute directly to what we spend the most time seeking: feature placement in a major medi a outlet.  What’s the deal with that? Should we not bother?  Um, no… because when you think about it, you realize that…

Your goal is more than web traffic.  Or maybe it wasn’t web traffic at all.  Maybe it was awareness. A VP of Marketing at a startup once told a colleague of mine that his goal for PR was knowing recognition of the new company by whoever sat next to him on the airplane. Perhaps fortunes are made of such awareness. Another tech executive recounted that it was always clear to prospects that their technology was a superior solution – but only after an hour-long PowerPoint.  How do you measure when PR raises awareness, or tells a story that accelerates time to sale?

Unfortunately, measurement tends to be expensive and time consuming.  You’ve got so much time in the day, only so many people to do the work. You have to make choices: should I do the work, or measure it?

Here’s my Ideal World PR measurement program:

Audience target and reach: I hate PR measurement that simply counts clips — which really only measures your success at generating clips … extent of reach into target market audience is much, much better.

Awareness: aided and unaided awareness of PR-driven messages, pre-and post campaign, or simply 2X per year. Answer is based on direct surveys of selected target market.

Web traffic:  If the web traffic increases following an announcement or campaign, it means something in the message caused someone to take action.  Action is good.

Inquiries: Correlate number of sales inquiries to PR campaigns, however those inquiries arrive.

Time to sale: OK, so it’d be hard for PR to take credit for this, but what if you could measure average time to sale across the business, then up the ante on your awareness and thought leadership campaigns, and then see if you had an impact on time to sale. Wouldn’t that be cool…as in really, really valuable?

Sales: Maybe you can only measure this by anecdote. Maybe there’s a way code PR related referrals that lead to sales into salesforce automation systems.

Let’s discuss:

We don’t live in an ideal world, of course, so here’s the study question:

What should you measure to get the most bang for the buck – to know the program is working and help you make better decisions for next time?

 

The Coming B2B Bad Service Social Media PR Nightmare

3 Feb

Jeremiah Owyang offers yet another case study of how a consumer brand was engulfed in — and then escaped from — a PR crisis caused by the unfortunate  (for the company) combination of poor customer service to a customer who happens to have significant influence on social media — and wielded her million-plus Twitter followers to great effect.  Add it to the growing list along with DellMotrin and Dominos.

Image copyright HowStuffWorks.com

Owyang’s point is worth heeding — that customer service departments need to gauge the relative power and influence of their customers as they serve them — and social media influence — like celebrity and loyalty and wealth — should be a factor that shunts a customer toward a different set of rules.

It got me thinking about the B2B market, and how I can find little of this online barking intended to break service log jams (beyond telecom and wireless — anyone and everyone feels free to complain about internet, mobile and phone service). We have a business culture that shuns allowing employees to call out their frustrations with their companies’ vendors online … with good reason — such behavior could damage large scale contracts and business relationships, and potentially give the complaining business itself a bad name in its industry or community.

Rest assured, there is plenty going on in the back channel. Poor media reviews and frustrated industry analysts absolutely slow sales.  Chatter at industry conferences manages to get around at the speed of gossip.  The many tech folks in IT have no problem telling the world what they think of, say, the quality of their backup system, on online forums.  And a vendor’s poor reputation is usually played out in sales and inside their own niche.

But, so as far as I can tell, B2B based complaints in social media have yet to create a big PR nightmare case study.*

So no worries?  Think again.  It’s not going out on much of a limb to predict that this will happen.  First, businesses are designed to compete — if social media will solve a problem that traditional channels won’t, it will be used.  Second, our world is getting more social, and our business is getting more personal, not less.  In other words, people will talk, even in B2B.   Let’s make sure we’re listening.**

*Am I wrong?  Let’s talk about some examples?  Telecom, cable companies and mobile devices don’t count!

**Which is a clever way to finish the post, but let’s really end with some advice:

1. If you’re delivering great service, keep doing so.

2. Listen to what business and their employees are saying about you online. Use free tools like RSS,  Google Alerts and, say, TweetDeck to start; monitor relevant Facebook and LinkedIn Groups.  Move to paid services to manage higher volumes, get better dashboards, monitor competitors.

3. Be in social media. Establish ‘outposts’ in key social networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and…especially…key forums in your industry.  Participate.

4.  If you identify a problem, escalate it quickly and solve it.

5. If it becomes a broader “PR nightmare” before you knew about it, address it in social media as well as traditional media — your website and those social outposs.   go overboard to solve not just the problem, but the root causes…tell people how you’re going to do it…then do it.




6 Essential Public Relations Projects for Corporate Communications and Marketing

17 Nov

Rumor has it that the economic recovery has begun, so it’s time for another edition of “Invest in the Upswing”.  I know, I know –when a marketer tells you to start marketing more, hold onto your wallet.

On the other hand, who in corporate communications and marketing doesn’t want to raise the bar in PR and marketing? Perhaps more urgently, who doesn’t want to have an answer when an executive reads an in-flight magazine article about ‘the next big thing’…and wonders what you’re doing about it?

So here’s my list of 6 essential PR projects for corporate communications and marketing. If you have time, put them on your list; if you don’t, this is what I do, and I’m happy to help.

  1. Make web analytics part of your PR and marketing ROI reporting. I recently spoke to an industry association and asked the group, “who here watches web traffic stats?” Not a single hand went up.  This may be the single biggest missed opportunity for PR and marketing professionals. Track communications activity to web traffic and you’ve started a link in the chain toward sales leads, sales and truly meaningful ROI measures.   (Or, you’ll find out that your programs aren’t working – and change your strategy).
  2. Start a Competitive Intelligence Report. What are people saying about you and the competition in the media? On blogs and comments? On Twitter? On industry forums?  Set up a daily monitoring and a daily or weekly digest – less if there’s not much out there.  Share it online with the people who need to know.  For free, I’d start with Google Reader and news alerts, or set up a custom, shareable homepage with feeds from multiple sources.  Or you can pay folks like Radian6 for all the bells and whistles.
  3. Establish a Social Media Policy. Two reasons.  First, you need to protect company interests.  Second, you’re missing an opportunity to unleash your employees into their own networks to get the word out about what you do.  More thoughts on this here.
  4. Meet the Media. Get on the phone or on a plane and get to know better the folks who buy ink (and pixels) by the barrel. Traditional media relations is far from dead – even if you don’t care if your company sees print, media coverage gets you an online audience, contributes to SEO, and gives you a link to share with personal and sales contacts, on the corporate website and blog, and across social networks – all of which deepens awareness and relationships.
  5. Add Sharing to Your Website. You put the time into writing, formatting and designing web content.  Don’t you want people to share it? Don’t you want RSS users to get your updates in their reader? Or offer email and text alerts? Don’t you want to make it easy for bloggers to bookmark, vote up or share your news releases, video, customer story, new promotion or photo essay?  Here’s a list to get you started…add: RSS, Digg, ShareThis.
  6. Be the Media. Once you’ve added sharing, you need something to share. “Be the media” means building awareness, interest, loyalty and word-of-mouth (or pixel) by creating content online that people want to read, view and share. It means “pulling” people to you via strategies that connect what you put online with the people you want to reach.  And it means thinking every day about what you want your “audience to do” and how you can help get them there.  More thoughts on this here.

As always, we never do these things just to do them  — we do them because they move our organizations toward their goals.

Have more? What’s on your list? As always, I’m here to help

What We Can Learn About Tech and B2B Marketing from Comic Books

3 Sep

My  deep, dark secret is that I like comic books.  I was hooked on super heroes the day my 5th grade teacher gave away his comic collection to his class, and though I stopped collecting years ago, I never stopped being a fan. I still follow the industry, and even pick up a title or two (or three) for escape or inspiration.

So with the planned acquisition of Marvel Comics by Disney making the news, I can’t resist the opportunity to combine my vocation with avocation.  And I’ve thought for a long time that corporate communications and marketing — especially B2B and technology marketing — has something to learn from an entertainment business like Marvel Comics.

The comics industry is fun to watch, and they do a number of things that translate into B2B and technology marketing.  To wit:

1. They remember that it’s about people. In comics, Marvel’s breakthrough was superheroes like Peter Parker and the Fantastic Four, who acted like real people with real problems.  It’s all about real people doing extraordinary things.

Beyond the product, your people vital are characters in the company story — from the visionary technologist to the insightful marketer (hopefully) to the customer service rep who goes above and beyond, businesses can grow awareness and loyalty by pulling back the veil and making the corporate more personal…and real.

2. They know that the customer owns the product. At a company like Marvel that has shared the soap opera of its character’s lives for nearly 50 years, the editors and creators clearly recognize that the characters and stories live in the hearts of the fans.  They are stewards of the story, responsible both to respect what came before, and to innovate in ways that keep the stories vital and break new ground.

There’s a parallel in B2B and technology — every purchase impacts the livelihood of the purchaser. It may be a part of their day to day business, or fuels productivity.  The customer, in other words, is invested in your success. So it’s only natural that they want to be respected and heard.  It’s why users groups and conferences are so important for many tech businesses, and why companies that are socially engaged in their markets tend to be more successful.

3. They know that being social gets results. Comic books are largely sold in specialty stores and online rather than through mass market retail.  Comic publishers like Marvel deal constantly with the push and pull of B2B channel marketing — their audience is store owners as much as the comics fan — often simultaneously.  Their channel to the audience is an often bewildering array of online and traditional magazines, national and regional cons, fan blogs, gossip columns, discussion forums, social networks and even a couple national newspapers.

The result is an industry where the channel, fans and media are incredibly close to the creators, editors and publishers. You get weekly interviews with the Marvel editor-in-chief, a teriffic ‘inside baseball’ blog by their executive editor, Q&A’s with writers on major storylines via podcasts and text, individual creator websites and forums, writers’ Twitter feeds…et cetera.  They produce news themselves, and participate in the hurly burly of the media market.

Of course, not every business generates the kind of passion that comics do.  The point is, they’re out there participating. And they are out there producing.  As a media business, they recognize that they have something to say every day, their customers have something to say every day, and they use all the tools available to say it.

Any other secret or not-so-secret comics fan/marketers out there?  What say you?

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