The amount of money spent by companies trying to capture the attention of the tens of thousands of people visiting SXSW this year will run in to many millions of dollars. The return they are likely to get on it is questionable. Part of the problem is that most will have set no clear goals; part is that even those that did will not have any way to measure whether or not they have been achieved, let alone quantify the value delivered as a result of their investment.
Let’s take Yahoo! as an example. I use it because it is one of the bigger names and it had a huge presence at the event, taking over one of Austin’s premier event and live music venues [according to its website], Brazos Hall. Other similar examples include GE, IBM and VISA.
I visited the Yahoo ‘Yodel’ House a couple of times during my trip to SXSW and they had spared no expense. There were the standard free drinks, lavish decoration in brand colours [which was changed on a regular basis], an AV set up that most local television stations would be envious of, venue managers, security, bar staff… you get the idea. On both occasions it was buzzing.
My question is what was the point? What did Yahoo! get out of it? The lounge was busy. People had a good time. They were able to recharge their devices. They had a few [more] free drinks. My question to them is, SO WHAT? What’s the tangible benefit? The return on investment?
My peers would claim that visitors were engaging with the brand. They’ll say the Yodel House created buzz; pictures were shared on Instagram; people were Meerkat-ing [sic]; tweeting; hashtagging… This is often called ’brand awareness’ or brand marketing [it might be awareness, but it’s not marketing] and that’s great, but it is also unquantifiable! It has no tangible value.
I use this not to single out Yahoo! but to illustrate a growing trend. Companies through huge amounts of money at making on awareness but without considering whether it makes financial sense to do so. Often there is little thought about what the long-term return will be, let alone the short-term one.
It’s a dangerous trend. Sure, companies like Yahoo! and their ilk can afford it. They have deep pockets. Some smaller companies have VC money they can “invest”, but the majority don’t. And, if there is no tangible value then surely the money could be better invested in other things? Things that are likely to deliver a return. Things that are likely to support the growth of the business – not just brand awareness for its own sake.
How many people that visited the Yahoo! lounge at SXSW will have gone home and changed their default search engine from Google to Yahoo!? I think you know the answer to that.
Startup and SmallBiz Marketing tip: understand what action you want people to take and focus your time, energy and money on achieving it. Successful marketing begins with strong relationships built via public relations.
I received an email today from a partner agency that proclaimed, ‘company X is disappointed they don’t have any coverage yet’. I replied that I suspected they’d be equally disappointed if they had had coverage but it had had limited commercial impact.
I’d previously asked what the desired outcome was from the coverage. I got no response. I had asked about the commercial impact of the last set of coverage the company had received [via their work with another agency]. I was told that it was likely minimal. I’ve tried to offer advice on how to ensure that this time the coverage actually delivers tangible results. But I keep getting the same response – they just want coverage!
I’ve also suggested that rather than simply sending out a press release, or blind product samples – the samples are the most expensive piece of their current activity [more than the cost of services provided by my company] and asked them to record short videos to personalize their company and the product; to show they care more than simply emailing a promotional press release. But, I’m told, they don’t have time or money for it.
They don’t have 60 seconds to sit in front of a cell phone and record a short video – yet they have money to send product samples to journalists in the hope that they’ll write about them. There’s no review guide, no demonstration video, no attempt to stand out. But, worst of all, there has been no thought given to why they want the coverage – and, as a result, they’ll likely be no commercial value even if they get the coverage they appear to so desperately want.
I wrote about this because its current, but it isn’t an isolated situation. It was one of the main reasons why I started THINK DIFFERENT [LY] – to help entrepreneurs realize that coverage for its own sake is valueless. That the tired PR sausage machine doesn’t work any more. That they should expect more just coverage from their public relations activities than a piece of coverage that, nine times out of 10, has no commercial benefit. It drains money from their bank accounts – but does little to help refill them.
Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: When you’re reviewing your public relations activities over the coming weeks and trying to understand why it didn’t deliver the desired commercial value, consider that it is probably because coverage was the only goal.
To find out how to make public relations affordable, accountable and effective for your business contact email@example.com or call 1. 647.773.2677 today.
BlackBerry wants you to think that it has changed. Its Black Friday deal demonstrates it hasn’t. It’s bad news for the Waterloo, Ontario based company and is yet another example of how the company continues to get its PR and marketing wrong – to the detriment of the company.
The company is offering iPhone users up to $550 if they switch to a Passport on of after December 1. The chances of persuading many to ‘trade up’ is slim. iPhone users are unlikely to switch – and $550 incentives is not going to be enough to persuade those that could be swayed to give up their shiny i device.
If BlackBerry had a clear business and communications strategy designed to bring users back to its devices, it would realize that iPhone users are not their target audience. The company should, instead, be offering entrepreneurs and small businesses incentives to choose the BlackBerry passport. These are the people who will get most value from the companies devices. They are also customers that, once captured, are likely to be long-term and loyal.
Until BlackBerry figures out who its customer is, understands the value it delivers to them, develops a long-term strategic plan to communicate this to them, and build long-term mutually beneficial relationship with them the company will continue to flounder.
Ask most PR professionals and they’ll tell you that measuring the value of public relations is hard to express. As a result, they’ll say, it’s hard to be specific about the value they deliver. The return on your investment is affected by so many variables it is hard to be able to give you tangible outcomes.
It’s all a lie. Here’s how to measure the success of public relations. It’s all in the strength of the relationships build or maintained as a result of your PR activities. We do it every day in our private lives, so why do we find it so difficult to do it in our businesses?
Think about the most important people to your business right now. Do you have relationships with them at all? If not, they score a zero.
Of the people you have relationships with how strong are those connections? Would they drop everything to help you if you asked them to? Would they willingly do everything within their power to help your business overcome its current challenge? Will they go to bat for you if you needed them to? Will they introduce you to people within their network that may have a need for your product or service? Will they testify to your credibility or vouch for the quality of your work?
If they would then score those relationships a 10.
If they’re not a 10 then you need to figure out where on the scale they are currently.
Perhaps they’re a new connection that will help you with advice, or will provide feedback on your product development. They might be willing to introduce you to people that are potential customers or partners, but won’t provide a reference or testimonial. They will help if they can, but you can’t guarantee they’ll come rushing in an emergency. Would they help if they really were your last hope? What incentive would you need to offer in order to get them to help your business if you needed them to? Do you have direct access to them? Who are the people that you rely on to give you the access you need? Do you loose access to these people without the intermediary?
Make a list of the top ten people your business needs relationships with and score them, between 0 and 10, based on these criteria. Having benchmarked the relationships that are most important to your business achieving its next milestone you can develop a PR programme designed to build, strengthen, or maintain these relationships.
Measuring the success of your PR activities can then be tracked, based on whether these relationships strengthen, weaken or whether you are able to maintain them until you have achieved your desired outcome. If you reevaluate each of your ten most important relationships every 30 days you can quickly see the impact that public relations is having on your business.
Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: benchmark relationship strength and build a plan to ensure you have the ones you need in place.
The BlackBerry Passport launches tomorrow. The question is will anybody care?
The company has, yet again, failed to build the relationships it needed to change the perception of the company, and its marketing around the launch of the new handset has been woeful. Again.
I wrote 18 months ago about my launch plan for the company’s BB10 devices and have been reflecting on what I would do differently for Passport. In reality, much of my BB10 remains unimplemented and would have give the company a better chance of success than anything I’ve seen to date.
The only thing I would change from my original plan would be the device cost. Announced yesterday, $599 dollars off contract is too much. A 50 dollar difference between the Passport and the iPhone 6 won’t persuade people to give BlackBerry another chance. Many wouldn’t switch if the price differential was $500. It’s not so much about the handset, although the Passport is an acquired style choice, but about the brand image.
There are those that have claimed, ‘market share is not BlackBerry’s game’. Some have said it’s about margin. Some who say the company is focused on Enterprise, not consumers.
So why even mention the price differential to the competitors? Why mention the comparative size of the screen? Make a clear statement that you’re focused on a different market.
Lastly, and most importantly, BlackBerry has failed to communicate these clearly via PR and marketing to build relationships and get people to take the action you want them to. BlackBerry has failed on all counts and it’s running out of runway.
Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: Don’t get distracted by the competition. Don’t be scared to sell on differentiators. Be prepared to trade on the value you deliver in the eyes of your customers and prospects – and if that doesn’t work… it’s over.
If the response to the BlackBerry Passport, which launches next Tuesday in Toronto, Dubai and London, is the same as the one that met the company’s BlackBerry 10 announcement the company’s turnaround will likely fail. Over recent weeks I’ve been analyzing the communications portions of the Passport pre-launch, as well as following the rumours and speculation to see what the company has learned from its recent failures.
While there have been some improvements – there can be no doubt that John Chen has done an amazing job stabilizing a critically ill patient: cutting costs and reducing headcount has been the easy part. Now, the company must show it can overcome the more difficult part of the turnaround – repairing the company’s brand and reputation, as well as selling the device in large volumes.
There are still some worrying signs that tell me BlackBerry will struggle – and it has just seven days to fix them. Here’s my take on the PR and marketing efforts to date, and what I believe the company needs to do on Tuesday. If it fails, the turnaround will be fail.
Let’s start with the advert BlackBerry ran in the Globe and Mail last week.
With the headline, “Canadians Love A Good Comeback” the body copy reads, “At BlackBerry we’re proud of our Canadian Heritage. It’s what pushes us to continuously push security and productivity boundaries, allowing those with unstoppable energy to work smarter, collaborate better and accomplish more. The soon-to-be-released BlackBerry Passport is further proof of our commitment to serious mobility for serious business.”
It’s wordy. It also doesn’t make a lot of sense. Being Canadian pushes the company to push security and productivity boundaries? I don’t see the link – or why it matters. While it’s in a Canadian newspaper [the company playing to a home audience], the advert has been shared globally. Perhaps I’m nit-picking! Given the obvious associations with travel something more global would perhaps have played better.
The company says the upcoming Passport is further proof of its commitment to serious mobility for serious business… again, I’m not sure that there’s been much proof of that lately.
Serious mobility for serious business appears to be the strapline under which the Passport will be launched. It’s not bad. But it’s not great. It’s something that would have worked had it been the company’s strapline back in 2006 – differentiating itself from consumer-chasing handsets like the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S-Series. Now it seems more like a defensive tool to protect from competitors that, having captured consumers have now focused their attentions on BlackBerry’s supposed core market. BlackBerry is back-peddling.
Then there’s the web form used to sign up for more information on the Passport, which has been circulating in recent weeks.
The subhead reads “Don’t limit yourself to the narrow world of today’s phones. See the bigger picture.”, followed by three bullets [the power of three!] focusing on a large, square touch screen, an innovative touch keyboard and a day-long battery life.
That’s it BlackBerry? That’s the best you’ve got? The reasons for buying a PassPort over a competitor handset is a square screen, an innovative touch keyboard and a day-long battery life?!
Let’s look at the launch invite. Save The Date. See the Bigger Picture. OK. What about references, either explicitly, to a Passport? I didn’t receive an invite, so perhaps they sent invites that were passport-like? The biggest issue for me here is that there is no US launch which, many, have interpreted as meaning the handset will not be available there at launch. We know about T-Mobile [the obvious partner for BlackBerry] and the delays in persuading US carriers to carry BB10 devices 18 months ago, but if true this is a major blow to the launch.
The map on the invoice is slightly strange. Most recipients will likely know where London, Dubai and Toronto are. The plane’s route on invite is also bizarre. Is it recognition that the company’s journey has been less than direct?
Now on to the real problem. The price. Many have rumoured it to be around $ 800 and GBP 500 [I can’t find a Dirham price]. If this is accurate, the company will be pricing it alongside some very popular and established devices. This could prove to be the biggest sticking point for the company whose handsets are, let’s say, less than fashionable right now. That may not – and, I’d argue, should not matter – but it will. Perhaps not to BlackBerry’s core market – the loyal ones that have kept faith with the company and are not worried about the stigma that has been attached to being a BlackBerry user in recent years. But, it matters if the company is to attract some of the defectors back; they are the people who the company needs to be targeting if it is to turn around its long-term fortunes.
BlackBerry needs to show that it is taking care of business. It needs to show that, in addition to operational and cost-savings it can sell devices. That requires it to rebuild relationships with customers that chose competitor devices; it requires the communication of a clear value proposition; it requires the company to inspire potential customers; it needs clear and effective marketing. Come to think of it the recent Globe and Mail advert should simply have said, “BlackBerry Passport: Taking Care of Business” or “BlackBerry Passport: Business Class”.
To date, I’ve seen none of this. BlackBerry has just seven days to turn things around or its turnaround could be taking on water within the week.
Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: experiment using small test groups of customers, prospects and those that buy from your competition until you find a value proposition and message that works.
Hyped more than any Apple event that I can remember. Dubbed a ‘Historic Announcement’ by the media. Apple’s iPhone 6/Apple Pay/Apple Watch keynote will do untold damage to the company. Here’s why.
First, the live stream was a disaster. I failed to stream from the start; frequently displayed the test page; had simultaneous translation that competed with Tim Cook [on an already quiet audio stream]; returned to the start… This is not the slick, composed and seamless company with an abnormal attention-to-detail that we’ve become accustomed to.
Second, the announcements. A new iPhone that had been ‘leaked’ by just about every technology publication in the last month. Apple Pay, a contactless payment application [NFC and contactless payment have both been around for more than a decade] and the much anticipated Apple Watch that, well, let’s just say, it’s not pretty and, while it has some nice design tweaks and technology, it’s not exactly historic. None of the announcements were exactly new [remember Galaxy Gear, Pebble, Android Wear?!]
Three all of the announcements were positioned as being Apple innovations. Apple’s credibility starts to wear a little thin on this one. It had a six and a half minute pseudo intellectual video about the iWatch and another [shorter] video about its Activity app.
But, and here is the real problem… Apple hyped this event to the point of calling it historic. I’ll say it again… Apple claimed the event would include a historic announcement. While it delivered some nice products to add to its portfolio it failed to deliver anything that could realistically be considered historic. Not even close.
It’s not the first time. Apple has, in recent years, has been expected to deliver revolutionary new products but has failed. It’s lost ground to the competition and, given its notoriously strict and predictable release cycle looks set to lose further ground. This is not good news for the company or its investors. It does not bode well for future events… how long will people believe the hype? How long will the fanboys and the media supporters be prepared to continue to support a company turning out what are “me-too” products [nice ones, admittedly] but not industry leading or historic.
This could do serious long-term damage to the relationships that Apple has built over the last decade with customers around the world as part of a relentless and meticulous public relations program. Apple has built relationships with customers based on trust – and over-hyping events like it did for today’s keynote will quickly erode it. Why does this matter? It is these relationships that have resulted in hundreds of millions of sales and record share prices. Today’s event could be the first – and a major – backward step Apple has made in the last decade – likely undermining the trust the company has built in the its claims.
Once this process starts, it’s almost impossible to recover.
The degree to which Apple is, I’d suggest, as much a victim of the reality distortion field as its loyal customers ever were, was Tim Cook’s claim, ‘Isn’t that the best single you’ve ever heard’ as U2 played. It was alright, but not that good! Certainly not the best I’ve ever heard. I suspect I wasn’t the only one.
[…and before you accuse me of being anti-Apple, this post was written on a Mac!]
Startup and PR marketing and PR tip: when you’re streaming video make sure you have the infrastructure that scales.
Blackberry’s stock has rallied in recent days. Buoyed by John Chen’s announcement that the restructuring of the company is over, many people have started to talk about turnaround and of better days ahead. The reality is that the restructure was the easy bit. The hard part – selling devices and in increasing volumes than in recent years – may yet consign the company to the mobile telecommunications history books. It’s a part of the jigsaw puzzle that the company has been notably poor at in recent years.
The nadir being had to be the company’s Super Bowl advert that left many scratching their heads at what they had witnessed.
The Blackberry YouTube account shows more than 1.2 million views – some would claim this to be a success because it created ‘buzz’. But when the advert served no valuable purpose it did far more damage than good.
In order for Blackberry to complete the turnaround that Chen now says he believes is 80:20 in favor of successfully being executed it needs to retain its existing customer base and start to capture those that have in recent years abandoned the company. That is going to require a PR and marketing campaign the likes of which the company hasn’t seen for at least a decade. I’d even suggest it would take a campaign to rival the one credited with turning around a failing Apple Computer in 1998. Blackberry needs to beat the master marketer, Steve Jobs, at his own game.
Before you start, I’m not suggesting that Blackberry go after iPhone customers. I think to continue down that path would be the death knell for the company. What I’m talking about is something that gives Blackberry diehards, and those that could be tempted back, a reason to buy a new Blackberry over any of an increasing number of attractive alternatives. The company needs to be clear about what it stands for – and why people should care.
In order to do this the company needs first to identify who its audience is and start to rebuild some of the burned bridges with a PR program. Its value proposition needs to be clear and its message compelling. It also needs to deliver it in a consistent way across multiple platforms, both directly and via traditional, online and social media channels. This is something that the company has struggled to do, despite it being one of the most important parts of a successful turnaround.
Unless the company can successfully rebuild relationships and deliver marketing that encourages consumers [B2B or B2C] to take action then the company is doomed, no matter what their financial position is. They’ll be consigned to the lower leagues of the mobile telecommunications marketplace – something they’ve been trying to avoid ever since Steve Jobs launched the first iPhone.
Traditional PR programs are full of things that add budget, effort and activity – but it doesn’t have to be that way. I presented at ProductCamp Toronto this weekend and a lot of the conversation was about how to avoid feature-creep – the continued addition of one thing after another for fear of missing something that will make it attractive to customers.
Simple is best, but it requires continual reviews and mental strength to avoid features or, in the case of public relations, marketing and publicity, activities creeping on to the plan that add no real value. Today’s PR Espresso explains how you can start to simplify your PR, marketing and publicity programs today.
Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: keep it simple, stupid!
The slides I used today at ProductCamp Toronto to explain the difference between PR, marketing and publicity – and how product managers and product marketing managers can better use them.
Startup and SmallBiz PR & marketing tip: public relations is an invaluable tool in product development and product marketing. It can help you identify key feature, your value propositions and marketing messages and should be an integral part, rather than a bolt-on, to every product launch.