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Archive for September, 2009

Calendar woes

In the PR world, September and October are two of the busiest months of the year. There’s any number of reasons for this, most of which aren’t terribly interesting, so I mention this only to explain why we’ve been a little quiet of late.

I have, however, been busy reviewing soup over on my other blog, so if that sounds good, check me out over there…

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Ok, so this came out at the end of last week but it remains one of the most popular technology stories on the Telegraph website so thought it might be worth a post. The article looks at things that are being killed by the internet – anything from polite disagreement to Sarah Palin to dogging. It is pretty funny and well worth a read.  I particularly miss Ceefax and page 302 for football news.

Speaking of popular articles on the Telegraph, this is proving popular – how 20 of the most popular websites in the world looked when originally launched. Interesting to see how they have developed.

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Great spoof video from The Onion News Network Gloria Bianco explains how she uses Facebook and Twitter to keep tabs her son Jeffrey while he’s away at university.  Bianco tells parents how to set up a Facebook profile so they can keep track on their children: “I look through all my son’s photos every day” .

(Via Revolution)

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Someone once said to me that technology is what you call something that doesn’t quite work properly yet. Many of products we now take for granted were once referred to as technology in their infancy – fridges, showers, cars, planes – are now simply called by their monikers. Presumably a chair was once considered technology but maybe that is pushing the argument too far!

Outside the bosses in the technology-oriented industries, do the c-suites buy ‘technology’? Or do they wait until it is in such common usage amongst their peers that it is no longer perceived as risky in any way? Moreover, how can suppliers of technology products and services accelerate this process?

Many of the companies we talk to stress the importance of reaching the c-suite but it is an extremely hard task to accomplish. A few years back we held a seminar where the Deputy Chairman of Goldman Sachs, who dealt with CEOs every day, came to talk to us and our clients about the key c-suite issues. Technology hardly rated a mention in his view! Although we now have a generation of CEOs who started work with a PC on their desk and who use technology everyday so one would guess this is rapidly changing.

The best way to accelerate the transition from ‘early adopter’ to ‘majority’ is to get as many existing customers as possible to talk about their usage of the product and its benefits. There isn’t a company around that wouldn’t buy that statement but it is far too rare that they really focus on this requirement.  The Brands2Life client that, in my view, did this best in recent years, in my view, had a dedicated customer relationship manager within the marketing team who managed the key clients day-to-day from a PR perspective and ran an annual customer excellence awards scheme that culminated in the winning customers receiving their award from a member of the English Rugby World Cup team at the Natural History Museum. Needless to say these customers were always available to endorse the company!

I reckon that, far too often, the request to get customers involved in PR comes from the sales manager at the end of the meeting as a throwaway comment. The customer contact probably recoils in horror at the prospect of their name in lights proclaiming huge investment and/or cost-cutting and the subject is quickly dropped. It doesn’t have to be that way.

So here are some key tips on how to maximise your chances of getting customers to participate in PR:

  • Get the CEO to champion the programme, ideally get customer endorsements into their KPIs
  • If possible get a member of the marketing or PR team to have some dedicated (and ring-fenced) time to focus solely on clients
  • Brief the sales team properly on the process and the benefits – show them how other companies have implemented these programmes to their financial benefit
  • Pick the customers that have a corporate goal to communicate their innovation, collaboration or operational excellence – and map your proposal to that goal and language – this can often be found in the Chairman’s Statement in the Annual Report or in the Year-End Analyst presentation
  • Pick the individuals within those customers, who want to raise their profile for some reason – we had great success with the procurement team of a large bank once who needed to promote their role in a successful post-acquisition integration and were being ignored by their in-house PR team
  • Make sure that the customer understand their potential role in the PR process in its entirety – we have a document we use with clients for this and it invariably helps to avoid mis-understandings
  • If resources allow, allocate a PR person to look after each client and hand-hold them through the process. This will avoid any doubts entering their minds and de-railing the process
  • Make sure that any resulting coverage and/or results are quickly fed back with accompanying information on the audience – this will help them to position their role in a positive light before anyone else in their organisation sees it
  • If at all possible get the CEO of the vendor to thank the customer personally for their involvement by phone, email or letter

It is a substantial investment to put all these things in place but, if the money and resource can be made available, I think it will make a considerable impact on the speed of the journey from Moore’s early adopter to ‘majority’.

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