Thursday, October 23, 2008

Public relations and marketing tips to navigate by...

Nearly a year ago, during a moment when I felt pressed to convey to my clients and the world-at-large the value that I can bring to businesses, I posted a piece entitled "Roger D's tips for superior public and media relations: Getting started." Today, I count myself among many people who feel pretty well blind-sided by this burgeoning economic crisis. Even while many of us continue to experience life as usual, the reality is that there is a shake-up occurring and none of us are sure when things will settle down, or where we'll be when they do. Nonetheless, I am strongly favoring the cool heads will prevail theory, I firmly believe that regardless of who "wins" the White House on Nov. 4 that Americans will industriously apply themselves to addressing whatever lies ahead, and I am also confident that I -- and others like me -- will play valuable roles in the better days I feel certain are ahead of us. To provide you with some actionable information to take away from this rather general upbeat discussion, I looked around for inspiring articles that provide tips on the specific ways in which marketing and public relations (and for Tip #5, common sense) can help solve problems during economic downturns. Some are mine and some are from other, perhaps more recognizable authorities. Bottom line, I hope the strategies and ideas discussed here will help you build success in the days ahead.

Tip #1: Focus on relationships
Source: Pesach "Pace" Lattin of Vizi
Just before launching a new email newsletter entitled "The IndustryPace," Mr. Lattin, the CEO of professional interactive advertising company Vizi, sent a very personal (and somewhat politically incorrect) message to subscribers to his company's newsletter. After first acknowledging that many people in business are suddenly facing very real problems, he pointed out this solution: "First, diversify your client base, and don’t depend on a few clients to pay their bills. Secondly, don’t depend on "technology" and cool phrases and terms to pay your bills. Focus on something that people have ignored in the last 4 years: relationships. Please read that word again: RELATIONSHIPS. Technology, new ad serving platforms, better ways to target mean nothing without RELATIONSHIPS. All these new technologies have attempted to replace relationships, and they have failed. We have been so caught up in this glut off complete bullshit that we;ve all forgotten the essential key to business that we should have learned when we started our businesses." For more of Mr. Lattin's refreshingly frank wisdom, consider subscribing to The IndustryPace.

Tip #2: Communicate well
Source: Yours Truly
To build upon Mr. Lattin's idea, to me, as in real life, the key to solid business relationships lies in good communication. The ability to effectively communicate separates businesses as much as it does presidential candidates, and not every business has the ability to do great work in the current climate while also maintaining and reinforcing its client relationships, dealing with the nuances of team efforts or handling the myriad other facets of operations. For that reason, having a trusted communications staff-member and/or partner involved to ensure the consistency and integrity of communications, while also assessing, organizing and facilitating sound promotional efforts, offers you a clear competitive advantage. For that reason, communications professionals are extremely valuable to your business, and we can make the difference between failure and success. In my professional opinion, the quality and quantity of your communications reflects much more about your company than your D&B rating.

Tip #3: Rely more on public relations practices and professionals...
Sources: Todd Defren of, Lance Weatherby of Force of Good, and Tony Perkins of AlwaysOn/GoingOn
A week ago I found Todd's 10/13 blog posting labeled "Cut the PR Agency? Are You *Sure* About That?" Having just heard from a client who was asking to be let out of his contract with Todd's employer due to real or anticipated economic fallout, Todd's exasperation shined through -- as did his confidence in how PR professionals offer legitimate solutions which should not be taken for granted. Todd builds an extremely interesting case with several excellent sources (so be sure to read his full entry), including these tips compiled by Atlanta-based venture capitalist Lance Weatherby from this month's highly publicized CEO meeting held by Sequoia Capital:
. Nail your Sales and Marketing message.
. Pound your competitors shortcomings. They’re hurting and they will be quiet. Take the offensive.
. In a downturn, aggressive PR and Communications strategy is key.

Alwayson/GoingOn CEO Tony Perkins, the former publisher of the venerable Red Herring magazine, shares similar clarifying thoughts in his 10/13 piece entitled "What Sequoia Really Meant."

Tip #4: Navigate effectively as you manage your strategic communications
Sources: Google's Eric Schmidt, Edelman Digital's Steve Rubel, Advertising Age/Ries Report's Al Ries, Jason Baer of Convince&Convert
In an October 8 Advertising Age story, journalist Nat Ives reports on a presentation Google's CEO Eric Schmidt gave to attendees of this year's American Magazine Conference. According to the story, Schmidt positioned magazine brands as sources of quality information which represent solutions for people baffled by the proliferation of unreliable information on the internet. In a time when many newspapers are struggling to adapt to changing behaviours and market conditions, the story helps distill the value that continues to be inherent in magazines, which most public relations professionals diligently focus on in trying to get their clients' stories told. In the world of blogs, which of course can be independent, parts of established media outlets or some variation on those themes, Edelman Digital's Steve Rubel goes on record with Lori Luechtefeld of iMediaConnection in an Oct. 7 article, wherein he effectively counsels marketers to focus on their messages more than their chosen media. For another very enlightening analysis of holistic messaging, check out Al Ries' Oct. 1 Advertising Age column, "Take a Holistic Approach to Your Messaging." From there, if we are steering to reach out to audiences through respected brands and also delivering the right messages there and through the blogosphere, how else does digital marketing factor in? Of course there are tons of excellent sources of information to choose from on that subject, but I like this recent digital-marketing-wayfinding article entitled "5 Reasons Why Digital Marketing Will Thrive in the Recession" from Jason Baer, who publishes a lot of bright information on his Convince&Convert blog.

Tip #5: Reality-check yourself
Source: Garage Technology Ventures' Guy Kawasaki
Amidst the chaos that finds us from the news and other sources, it's pretty easy to buy into the idea that things have already gone to hell -- but at the same time, everyone who's still breathing needs to realize that things may not be as bad as they seem, so that we can continue in our group- and personal-trajectories onward and upward as much and as quickly as possible. This not-too-serious AlwaysOn Network post from Garage Technology Ventures' managing director Guy Kawasaki entitled "Guy's Index of Absurdity" is a great example of how we can all use our own realms of experience to evaluate the extent to which we should trust anything other than what we can sense ourselves. Despite what you might see or hear, if things seem to be okay for you personally, buoy your confidence and press on!