Monthly Archives: July 2010

Pets in Marketing, A Dog’s Dinner?

The radio news carries a story this morning about the dog nicknamed “Lucky” who fell from a cliff in a British seaside resort and escaped without a scratch.

Someone in the newsroom decided this was a good yarn, maybe because we are a nation of dog lovers or maybe because dogs are having a moment right now, especially in marketing.

Have you heard about the bank, the first new bank to hit the high street in a hundred years, which not only welcomes dogs but gives them biscuits?

Or the doggy ice cream van K99 which offers gammon and chicken sorbet with biscuit sprinkles?

What about the pub chain which has put dogs dinners on the menu? With a choice of delicious liver and garden veg or chicken and beef they hope to lure dog walkers inside for a pint and maybe some lunch of their own.

As a dog owner myself I have never refused the offer of a pub lunch for fear that my dog would go hungry so I see this for the gimmick that it surely is. Strangely though, these doggy tales are reeling in the press, especially when accompanied by winsome pics of dogs making deposits at the bank (no, not that kind.) 

I think the dog-friendly ticket can be double-edged. If you push your dog-friendly credentials too hard you risk putting off people who dislike them.

I book holiday cottages that take dogs because I have to but I am always fearful that the place will be shabby and smelly. Just because I have a dog that I love doesn’t mean that I’m not sniffy about other people’s!

Actually I have always been lucky with my choices, even the dog-friendly villas in Centerparcs are smart and fresh. The only problem there is that they put you on the outskirts, miles away from the action.

When we first got our dog I was distraught because I thought we would never be able to go to a stylish luxury holiday cottage again but there are a surprising number of places that discreetly welcome your pet. This is good. I want this service.

What I don’t want is doggy ice cream, banking or lunch.

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PR: Should We Be Exclusive?

When I worked at the BBC, journalism was not nearly as grubby as you might imagine.

There was the time I was threatened by a theatrical agent and I once got hauled in front of the boss for playing tough with the Today programme over access to a radio car, but this is small change.

Stories for the daily news show I worked on came from; the world around us, what was on the newsgathering diary and other media, like newspapers. We called this “following-up”, but it was more like lifting other people’s stories. Don’t get me wrong, we would always go back to sources to check it out and take it on and give it a new spin but you get the idea. 

There was something about seeing a story already in print that made some editors feel secure, a validation that this was indeed real.* The fact that it had probably been dreamed up by a PR somewhere didn’t matter because we didn’t have to deal with them, we just worked on the ‘story’. 

On the other hand, nobody wanted something that had already been everywhere, it was a fine line.

Looking  now from a PR stand point you can see how placing a story with just one source might have a positive effect. If it’s good others will want to pile in and organisations like the BBC can follow-up without feeling they are taking the PR dollar – they don’t have to get grubby. 

So it is worth being exclusive if you think your journalist is going to bite, then sit back and let the other outlets spread the story for you.

* I would like the record to show that I also worked with some tremendous editors who had the courage to run original work.

PR v Marketing: Which Works Best For You?

I read a lot about PR and marketing departments slugging it out for influence within their company or even agency but if you run a small business you have to do it all yourself.

Newsletter ? That’s you. Press Release? That’s you again. Leaflet drop? You guessed it.

So if you have sole responsibility for getting your message out there, which activities are going to bring it home? Should you concentrate on marketing or PR? 

Getting the media to take notice can be a wonderful feeling, it is validation of what you do, but it is hard. You are unlikely to get press coverage without a really good story or a celebrity on board. Technology is hot, so companies using clever apps are getting noticed right now along with genuinely new products and services.

The quirky will always be in with a shout. I recently got @BeerBeauty onto Simon Mayo’s Radio 2 show because she was doing something which turned the normal order of things on its head.  Instead of men meeting up in a pub to talk business she promotes a women’s networking group where the members learn about Real Ale. It’s fun and it’s different which is why she got the coverage.

If you don’t have the right story you can try to create one but perhaps it would be better to push the marketing side of your brand? A well written newsletter might be more effective. A really great offer could give you the boost you need. What if you were to think now about Christmas? Spend the summer working on your list, make sure all the people you meet are on it and then go for it in September.

Flashy media coverage is one thing, but building up your profile through word of mouth could give you the solid base you need. If you ask people to share your newsletter with their friends, you’ll extend your reach even further. 

Oh and don’t forget the online world. If people like your THING then ask them to recommend you online, via social media and online reviews. Millions of us blog and lots of people produce online magazines so don’t be shy about asking for this kind of coverage. 

If you are a small business I would really love to hear what has worked for you. Do please comment! I feel sure each person has their own story to tell.

Great Writing That Sells (and a Terrible Gameshow)

Have you seen “101 Ways to Leave a Gameshow?”

It is a real shocker.

Contestants answer puerile questions like “Which one of these rude-sounding place names is made up?” They are then suspended a hundred foot above a paddling pool before the poor blighter with the wrong answer gets dumped. Sometimes they are in a supermarket trolley, other times strapped to a board; such are the ingenious variations that gives the show its name.

This is what we now do for entertainment, this is how low we have sunk. My kids love it.

I remember when we used to laugh at the Japanese for taking things too far in the name of entertainment, now we have celebrities eating bugs in the jungle and the humble talent show has become a god-vehicle for the strangely hued Simon Cowell.

Good to know then that amidst this maelstrom of dross, some people are striving for higher standards and a better way.

Surprisingly I’m talking about marketers and copywriters. There’s a  whole movement out there trying super hard to reach people in an intelligent and honest way and I’m proud to count myself among them. By reading blogs by Copyblogger  and Men with Pens I have become excited all over again about the possibilities of great writing that sells.

Journalists (that used to be me) are such a cynical self-absorbed bunch, they give very little thought to commercial writing. But of course this is the writing that makes a business fly. If your website doesn’t sound great or your promotional leaflet is all wrong then you aren’t going to get very far.

You need sharp writing that represents you and your business, while treating your customers like the intelligent people they are. The guys at Copyblogger and Men With Pens do just that and I am proud to do the same.

Write Your Way to the Top

I met an old friend at a party the other day who told me she had written her way to the top of Google.

I was impressed.

How did she do it? Well she’s an art lover with a web-based business selling limited edition prints. Starting from nothing, she decided to target certain key search terms and set about using article marketing to get her business known.

You may have heard of sites like Ezine and Squidoo which let you post informative articles in your niche which both direct readers back to your own site and give you a much-needed boost up the search-engine rankings.

You do have to work hard at it and I could see from the slightly manic look in her eye that it hadn’t always been easy to write an endless stream of articles around the subject of original art. The more pieces you put up the better the returns, so you have to be very focussed on this strategy if you want it to work for you.

On Ezine you get expert status after posting 10 articles, on other sites you get kudos from being rated by your peers, a site called Helium will even give you a cut of the advertising profit.

I take a slightly different approach, preferring to target my writing at blog swapping and guest posting, this way I connect with the people I’m collaborating with and make valuable contacts along the way.

My latest offering was published on a site called Be fabulous! an inspirational website for women just like me. I have also had some success matching clients with web magazines which are looking for great new material in return for publicity and a link, for example She plc’s Business Buzz magazine.

Fledgling magazines may not deliver the same hit as a high-profile glossy but we overlook the web-based media at out peril. So whether it’s a boost up the search engine rankings or some much-needed exposure you’re looking for, keep an eye out for new opportunities to write your way to the top.

Accentuate the Positive

I have a friend who is brilliant at everything. He is a fantastic sportsman, a keen intellect and master of puzzles, brain teasers and quizzes.

Well, he is always telling me he is and everyone seems to believe him.

The thing about my friend is that he made a conscious decision, way back down the line, to base his humour and interactions with others on how brilliant he is. The alternative was to amuse people by being crap and for him that was no alterative at all.

But it is amazing how often we are prepared to do ourselves down – it is almost part of the British character.

I recall a hideous conversation with a boss at the BBC some years ago in which I was so nervous I ended up suggesting that my knowledge of World Affairs wasn’t all it should be. Hardly surprising then that my appraisal shortly afterwards made exactly this point! The truth was, my knowledge of World News was perfectly adequate but I had blundered into self-deprecation.

He took what I said about myself to be the truth and later it was quoted back at me.

So imagine if we only ever said positive things about ourselves? There’s a good chance people would believe us. My friend who only every talks himself up may be big-headed but he also creates an image of intelligence, cleverness and success. 

This can obviously work for business too and social media is a great way to accentuate the positive.  So long as you can point to concrete examples of things you have done to make the world a better place or examples of great customer service, then you can only win.

Looking for the USP

Upstream and downstream was the title of a recent blog by Seth Godin, a wise man and business expert who uses the internet to spread interesting ideas.

In this particular blog he talks about taking a look at work that could be done before the point where  you are usually brought in and indeed after.

As someone who has been thinking about and delivering quite a lot of pr recently this strikes me as  wise advice indeed.

If a client wants publicity, the first thing a professional does is look at the product/service to see what they can shout about. How is the buying public going to benefit and what makes it unique?

If there is no story and no unique selling point, beyond the fact that there is another widget on the market, perhaps we should row up-stream a bit and develop that special something before floating back down-stream to promote it? 

Prs and marketers can pull magic tricks, their livelihoods often depend on it but life is far more transparent for everyone involved if there is simply a great, compelling reason why media should want to talk about you in the first place.