Tuesday, November 26, 2013

PR in Your iPad

This year, I've collaborated with a colleague on a public relations guide that we've intended from day one to be an e-book. Turns out, it's harder to get an agent to bite on an e-book than a real book.

I've read and used my share of textbooks about PR. The one that works best for me is Fraser Seitel's The Practice of Public Relations, now in its 12th edition. I've used it when teaching college PR classes. It's readable, full of short case studies and executive interviews, comprehensive and doesn't go out-of-date too quickly.

But if you're in crash-course mode, Seitel's book and other texts are a bit heavy. If your boss told you yesterday that, in addition to your other duties, you had to write news releases and promote the business through social media, our little e-book would be easier to use. And it would leave less of a dent on your debit card than Seitel's $143 textbook.
E.B. White

My co-author and I believe there's a place for a smart little e-book -- about the size and heft of E.B. White's The Elements of Style -- that PR newbies could download and digest, and go about incorporating our ideas into their PR projects.

The agent, however, said our e-book wasn't hefty enough. She wanted twice as much content, and told us to charge twice as much.

Truth is: to fully cover all the content in Seitel's book would take two semesters. It's more than all but the most PR-obsessed need to read. As in most cases, "TLDR" means Too Long, Didn't Read. And we didn't want our e-book to be TLDR.

So, instead of adding 100 percent more stuff to the book, we subtracted 100 percent of the agent. And we'll look for another one. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Diversity, One Beer at a Time

Aside from the minor tedious nature of a 6-plus minute slide show, there's plenty to like about MillerCoors posting scenes from its 2011 diversity summit on YouTube.

I like linking diversity to the fundamental goals of the business: "Diversity Sells Beer." Or a clear focus on "regular employees" from different backgrounds, not executives in $1000 suits. (Although diversity initiatives really catch fire only when senior leaders actively champion such change.) Capturing key points on whiteboards, and chronicling them in stills (and video) isn't a bad way to keep these learnings close at hand.

It's not a Joe Sedelmeier film, but it works.

The disappointment, however: MillerCoors' video has had a stunning 116 views as of this blog post. MillerCoors' parent, SABMiller.plc, has 70,000 employees worldwide. If only 10 percent are MillerCoors employees, that still leaves a stunning gap between the number of views and MillerCoors' workforce. And it says they aren't leveraging this video in recruitment of new candidates, either.

Where's the disconnect? MillerCoors is a company that's committed to diversity and inclusion -- but not telling people about that commitment. Either on its own website or via social media.

Rule No. One of PR: do the right thing and get credit for it.

Friday, November 8, 2013

What Were They Thinking: Nov. 8, 2013

Home Depot, like many large companies, outsourced the running of its Twitter feed to a nameless marketing "agency." When the agency posted a racially offensive tweet, HD acted swiftly to sever its relationship with the agency. Read about it here: http://atlanta.cbslocal.com/2013/11/07/home-depot-tweets-alleged-racist-photo/

Brad Shaw of Home Depot, via Ad Age
Maybe the practice of entrusting your brand presence to an outside contractor isn't as disastrous as it sounds. But someone, somewhere needs to have a broader perspective. With Twitter's huge IPO taking place this week, all eyes were focused on the micro-blogging site. Brands can live or die on Twitter.

The irony: two years ago, Ad Age lauded Home Depot for its internal team's social media acumen.Why did this strategy go off the rails?

So cheers to Home Depot for cutting its ties with an insensitive agency. But who the heck thought placing HD's online brand in the hands of a non-employee was a good idea to begin with?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Driven to Distraction

Which Rochester ad agency didn't get the message about distracted driving?

The Rochester Advertising Council's 2013 campaign "Yeah, You're that Distracting" has helped make motorists aware that texting while driving can have fatal results. It convinced me that multitasking behind the wheel was a great way to wreck a car, and likely injure someone.

But their great campaign doesn't stop outdoor advertising initiatives like this one:

The photo isn't mine. Someone -- perhaps a local TV journalist -- grabbed this image with a smartphone and posted it to a social media feed.

I'm betting many other motorists did the same thing, and maybe even added a snarky comment.

Free publicity? Sure. And Twitter users' tendency to repost and add their own comments are likely to give the athletic club's modest two-billboard campaign a broader reach than they'd have earned if they'd purchased 10 normal billboards.

However: campaigns like this PROMOTE distracted driving. When I first saw the billboard above a local highway, I slowed down to decode what it said, neglecting other cars that might have followed me. I didn't grab my smartphone, but I'm sure other drivers will.

Side point: upside-down billboards are a tired advertising strategy, akin to writing "L@@K" atop a classified ad. Creatively speaking, the agency behind this effort needs an internal creative audit.

But the lesson here is: the Rochester Ad Council's campaign should include outreach to every local ad agency, asking them to eschew outdoor campaigns that promote distracted driving behaviors. The athletic club may have a great value proposition, but neither the club nor its agency partners should engage in a campaign that tempts drivers to play with their smartphones at 60 MPH.