Aug. 13, 2012

Public Relations



        When I was in business school one of the major grades was in Strategic Management and consisted of a computerized game that placed us in the role of CEO.  There were decisions concerning production, product choice, labor choices, plant development, and marketing to merely name a few. The game was really quite challenging and probably as close to realistic as it was then possible to make.  There was only one aspect that I openly challenged with the professor and we had many long discussions regarding the algorithm used for the marketing portion of the game.


        Many of you will be placed in positions where you may have the authority to approve or contract marketing plans for your business.  It doesn't matter whether you are in a profit seeking entity or a nonprofit organization or governmental department. You will have to be acutely aware of what I am about to present or you will delude yourself into believing you have an effective marketing or public relations effort.


        First, The marketing company or Public Relations Guru (or your own internal public relations executive) is interested in either their company's profit or their personal career.  Now, if they can achieve their goals while meeting yours they will gladly do so, however, they also are willing to meet their goals by deluding you regardless of the actual impact on your own objectives.


        Second, you have the best sense of what your objectives are or should be in a marketing effort and they are merely the instrument of you reaching your goals.


        Third, like all long term effective strategies the result you seek will seldom be reached through "elephant gun" marketing. You are more likely to deliver a broad based and effective marketing (public relations) by using a wide delivery of "bb gun" efforts.  So why do marketing executives and public relations guru's constantly propose and support these large visible efforts?  It's really simple.  YOU are their bread ticket. YOU can cancel their contract or promote them. If they can impress you with "smoke and mirrors" then they seem to be providing the desired effect. The result; you will renew the contract, promote the executive, or increase their budget.


        Let's take a couple of simple examples:

         When I was a recruiter for the military the marketing was all done through one of the largest marketing agencies in the U.S. I quickly noted that the same sales pitch was used in every part of the U.S. I even saw recruiting billboards outside of military bases.  Fantastic amounts of money were being spent in "large splash" marketing.  I requested $600 to place an ad in a local radio station that reached my entire recruiting area and would lead to me being invited on one of the local talk shows.  I could buy 20 - 30 second spots for that investment and could design it to reach my public.  The answer was that local advertising wasn't funded because it had to be designed and approved by the national agency.  Well, after a letter containing a spread sheet comparing the local national exposure and the potential exposure my $600 would yield I got my $600.  I also out produced every other recruiting station.


      Currently the political candidates have war chests in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  They will beat the public to death with multimillion dollar ads. I will ask you to think about this idea. Instead of buying one national ad for $32 million use the same amount to pay $400.000 each to 80 of the top party experts to spend the last three months actually visiting every town, village, and city in the swing states.  Which do you think would have a more effective result.


     I have been in three educational settings that made the same error.  One University I worked for was constantly spending a fortune touting its attributes on television and radio.  I went to the largest local mall and asked for permission to use one of their atrium display windows.  At that time Harvard Graphics and computers were a "new" thing.  We had displays and constantly "looped" Harvard Graphics presentations on PC's which we changed every two weeks with another department.  Each department surrounded the PC with discipline specific news flashes and exhibits. The cost $00.00.


       In another, a community college, money was spent for billboards etc. I finally convinced them to have the environmental science boat decorated for the yearly X-Mas parade and students and faculty marched with signs and Santa Clause hats.  Cost $00.00


      At a high school I saw them touting web pages (that were NEVER up to date), encouraging the paper to write about BIG training programs for faculty, and heralding each and every new technological adaptation in an effort to "impress" the public.  Might it not have been more effective to have an "open house" with buses picking up parents and with every department presenting examples of what they are doing for the children. Or, how about a "speakers bureau" with EVERY employee committed to presenting to a local organization, church, or activity. cost $00.00


        None of these cost money but all of them can yield enormous benefits.  So why doesn't management pursue this type of activity.  Be careful because you may, either now or later, be guilty.  Management doesn't advocate these activities because just like the marketer or public relations executive they want to do SOMETHNG BIG to impress their boss, board of directors, or school board.  It doesn't matter if it is effective as long as the powers believe that it works or at least that you are trying. The problem is that over time  you will have to answer for the ineffectiveness that "elephant gun" marketing delivers.


        Well, more questions pondered without any sure consensus.