Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Back to Basics: Three Things a Marketer Should Never Forget

Toward his honorable discharge from service and in pursuit of his second career, a colonel is interviewed for a CEO job in a large corporation.

"Why do you think you fit the job?" he is asked.

"I have all the relevant experience because running this company is just like commanding my brigade: You have employees, I had soldiers; you call it a stock room - we called it logistics; your HR is just another name for our adjutancy; we compete with the other units in the command just as you deal with your competitors!"

"OK,” says the interviewer, "How about the customer?"

"The customer?" retorts the colonel after three seconds of thinking, "he's the enemy!"


A discussion on LinkedIn’s Marketing Executives Group), started by Dr. Brian Monger, CEO at Marketing Association of ANZ in Melbourne, Australia, addresses this and other core marketing issues that sometimes we forget.

Monger posed the question: “How do you know when someone really doesn’t understand marketing?” What are the primary indicators - in your experience?” That discussion has drawn more than 300 comments to date. I’ve taken some of the best answers and turned them into three questions marketers should ask themselves on a regular basis.

1. When was the last time I listened to my customers?
People who’ve worked in the same industry for several years, often start to take it for granted. They’ve done the focus groups, the talking to members and customers and conducted satisfaction survey and needs analysis just the way they are supposed to. But are you really on top of what your customer needs. Let’s do a little self-examination here:
• Do you dislike visiting plants, stores, meetings or talking to customers?
• Do you talk with all the different departments in your organization that are connected to marketing on a regular basis – advertising, member services, web developers, social media experts, etc?
• Do you listen to what internal employees are telling you and act on their feedback?
• Do you read discussions on your LinkedIn, Face book and other social media pages, as well as tweets on your industry, and bring important information to your attention?

2. Is my marketing plan integrated across all the different parts of the mix?
There’s a big difference between marketing that creates opportunities, and sales which transform those opportunities into making money for the organization.
In my experience, marketing often begins before advertising, public relations and outreach. Many organizations decide to hire a communications or marketing firm after they’ve just redone their web site. This is a clear indicator that they don’t understand integrated marketing.

While many companies have a marketing plan, it does not account for every as Ogilvy & Mather puts it “touch point” by which an organization reaches its customers. As a result, branding is fragmented across different target audiences, and cohesive messages on what a company stands for and the value of its products or services aren’t always delivered.

The MEG members pointed out many times, that they know immediately that someone doesn’t understand marketing when they start talking about elements of the mix, without an overall strategy that drives the work.

Some of the comments on lack of integration and branding were:
• Marketers need to go back sometimes and remember the brand we have tried to build. A brand is a promise. To foster loyalty, it always has to deliver on the promise.
• Elements of marketing work together – it’s a unique blend of art and science.
• So many marketing departments continue to not connect a marketing activity to metrics and not tie it to a business goal.
• When they use words interchangeably such as marketing, sales, promotion, PR, publicity, etc ... without regard to context.

3. Do we have a clearly articulated marketing strategy and a flexible plan?
I’ve worked for marketers who had a clearly articulated marketing plan – and didn’t want to pay to develop one. But the plan resided in their heads which doesn’t leave much for those who are expected to implement it. Basically it was this is what we need to do, and this is how we’re going to do it. Then the rest was about sales, sales, sales.

Perhaps the best purpose of a clearly articulated strategy and plan is involving everyone who must implement it during development, and obtaining buy-in as you go.

One marketer reports, he used to have a sign hanging on his door that said, Just because you have always done it that way doesn't mean it is right (pictured underneath was a man getting run over by a bull at the running of the bulls in Spain). He reports, there are so many aspects to successful marketing: knowing what works and applying it, knowing when a practice doesn't apply anymore and being open-minded enough to look for new approaches to getting in front of your target audience.

(A version of this article was published by ASAE's Marketing Insights, March 2011, written by yours truly).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

6 Warning Signs a PR Firm is Not What it Seems

There are a lot of bad PR people out there, as there are in any industry. If you are trying to hire a PR agency and notice any of these issues run like hell.

1. A Room with a beautiful view – I had a colleague who was convinced PR agencies used the same tactic as pharmaceuticals - hire a lot of young, beautiful women to sell their products and services, because let's face it the majority of doctors are still men. There are some extremely bright and attractive young people in the PR business. But PR is also famous for bait and switch. If the agency gray hairs do all the talking in a room and you have a handful of young, very attractive people who only say a few scripted remarks, chances are those are your new account executives. Ask how many vice presidents the PR agency has who are under 30? That’s a good way to check what’s really going on.

2. That’s a brilliant idea – You’re not hiring a PR agency to tell you what you want to hear. If your ideas are so great you would just implement them yourself, right. I had a boss once who would sit in a room with our CEO and repeat back exactly what he’d said a few minutes earlier in different words, and glow when he praised her. She had grown up in a Fortune 500 company, and was very good at it, but if you were paying attention you would notice she had nothing to say.

3. We know him, her and every journalist in your field and they take our calls This person is lying. Media has gone through so many upheavals in the past few years that no one knows everyone anymore. Name dropping in my opinion, is just obnoxious, unless it is done very sparingly and only to emphasize something you are already saying. Fortunately we live in the age of easy search – get a client list and Google recent stories about some of their biggest clients. Ask for the Today Show or evening news clips, articles about their clients by the famous columnist they know well, and that NPR story they are so proud of.

4. An outdated web site – If the PR company you are talking too has case studies from 10 years ago, no video or visuals, inactive social media spaces, no blog or a just plain outdated web site run like the wind. I've heard the excuse I'm too busy to redo my site many times but you know what, we're in an image business. Your web site is your image as are your social media spaces. What matters is the quality and currency of the information they put out there. We live in a very fast moving world and if the PR company hasn’t updated their look, materials, etc. they don’t live in it. What kind of message does old stuff send to a potential client?

5. You don’t need media training – Everyone needs media training before starting a campaign, no matter how big their ego or how many interviews they’ve done. I had a client once who used the exact same quote in every interview he did, and thought he sounded young, hip and brilliant. There are benefits to sticking to your messages but he came off as having only one thing to say which when you searched his interviews didn’t make him look very smart. The media training doesn’t have to be a full-blown, multi-tiered, many thousands of dollars deal, but at the very least – no matter how small the budget is – new messaging and mock interviews are really important.

6. Our expertise and role in the formation and dissemination of messages to all stakeholders is of value across the spectrum of traditional media as well as increasingly called upon by numerous new media options. English please? This lovely sentence came off the web site of one of the biggest PR agencies in the world. There are just way too many people out there that hide behind big empty words that don’t tell you anything about them. Many people are comfortable with that, it sounds like they write I guess. But the fact is if you can’t tell me your point of difference, then you don’t have one.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Women Still Earning 75% of What Men Do - This is about PR

When I was in my mid-20s, I worked with a guy who is now a big shot writer. I can't remember how, but I learned that he was making substantially more than I was doing the same job. At that time, I thought it was because he was a much better negotiator. His strategy was to walk in and tell them what salary he expected to earn, then let them negotiate him down. I had taken what they gave me and negotiated that up slightly.

This happened at another company too and it was done because the men were supporting families and the women were considered secondary wage earners. Well when I got divorced I was no longer a secondary anything. I am raising the kids, paying a pretty hefty mortgage and still getting underpaid.

The bottom line is the workplace still doesn't value women the way it does men. We also need to push harder for equal wages and know what the disparities are before we start talking about salary.

Right now, no one wants to push too hard because the line behind them stretches so far back that the organization will find someone else male or female who will take less.

But we still shouldn't let people take advantage of us when it comes to fees and salaries. And we still do.

All of this leads up to some new data that documents over the past 20 years women have still not reached parity with what their male counterparts earn for the same positions. This information is for PR people - which should put all of us females on notice.

Bey-Ling Sha, Ph.D. chairs PRSA’s National Committee on Work, Life & Gender and she published this article recently on LinkedIn. I thought it was important enough for all of us to give it more distribution.

The White House this month released a report showing that women still only earn about 75 percent of what men earn on the job. I feel disgusted but unsurprised.

Women have earned less than men since the government began tracking these numbers. In 1979, a woman earned 62 cents for every dollar earned by a man. In 2005 and 2006, women made 81 cents for every dollar men made. That was the all-time high!

In the last half decade, we’ve not only failed to make progress on the issue of gendered income inequity—we’ve increased the wage gap between men and women.

The public relations profession is not immune to this larger societal problem.

Preliminary data from the Public Relations Society of America’s 2010 Work, Life & Gender Survey indicated that the average annual income for men in public relations was about $120K; that figure for women was about $72K. In our 2006 survey, the average annual income for men was $98,188.82; the average for women was $67,853.08.

This income disparity is a problem for the public relations profession. Here’s why:

1. The problem appears to be getting worse. In 2006, the average income for women in public relations was 69 percent of men’s average earnings. In 2010, the figure was down to 60 percent. This widening wage gap is discouraging, not only for women practitioners, but also for the increasing number of households that rely on women as the primary wage-earner.

2. The percentage of women practitioners in public relations is increasing, not decreasing. This means that, as more women enter public relations with their lower annual earnings, the average incomes for the profession as a whole will decrease. This is a simple issue of math.

3. The profession may lose talent. As average incomes for the public relations profession decline, we may see talented practitioners move to other, related fields with higher salary offerings. This is a more complicated issue of competitiveness for our profession as a whole.

Of course, preliminary data are just that—preliminary.

This year, members of the Work, Life & Gender Committee will be doing some detailed analysis of the survey data. Perhaps the income differential is due to differences between men and women in years of experience or education levels. Perhaps it’s because more women than men are working part-time. Perhaps it’s because women’s careers get interrupted by child bearing and other family responsibilities. Perhaps.

Of course, past research has indicated that—even with all these possible explanations controlled and accounted for—women in public relations still earn less than men. But perhaps this will be the year the data show us a different picture.

If so, I will be totally surprised, but totally not disgusted.