“The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness.” –Lao Tzu
I’ve always been very fond of this quote. (That’s right, I’m a quote collector.)
Coming off a big anniversary for Company B, (6 years!) it’s only natural that a sense of nostalgia is washing over HQ. For the same reason everyone loves a good #TBT, reflecting on past successes is one of our favorite things to do; as for set backs, a necessary one.
I confess. I have only caught snippets of AMC’s new show, “The Pitch,” a reality show where two advertising agencies compete for business within a one-week window. For my weekly entertainment, I’d rather enjoy the mock-pitches dreamed up by the writers of “Mad Men.” As a creative PR and social media agency, “The Pitch” cuts too close to the bone. I’m afraid my heart would race in empathy with the competitors throughout each episode.
The one snippet I did manage to catch was the end of the Subway pitch episode. I heard what I assumed to be the head creative guy bid farewell to the potential client by saying, “We had a blast working on this.” The potential client gamely replied (I’m paraphrasing) “We’re glad you had fun.”
I knew that agency was doomed. I was right.
So, after I watched all of this week’s addictive “Mad Men” content on amctv.com, curiosity got to me and I clicked on a segment featuring the CMO of Subway explaining “Why they won.”
What I learned from the two-minute web video was something that I thought I already knew but is worth keeping in mind, for those of us who spend a lot of time pitching. Even though the brand may ask for a big idea (they always ask for a big idea, right?) what they really want is a big relationship with you. They want to like your agency (consultancy, freelance singleton) a lot – and they need to like your really good idea enough that they can see its potential.
At the end of the pitch, it’s not necessarily the idea that will win you the business. A brand wants to buy your story about them — the way you tell it demonstrates your potential as a business partner.
How to do that? Start by showing how much you understand them. Their business, their competitors, their customers, their pain points. Then, before even sharing your idea, use your insights to take them to a place that they haven’t been before, but that still feels familiar to them. Color too far outside the lines and you risk them thinking that you don’t “get” them.
During the pitch, they don’t know you, so be explicit. Explain how you figured things out. Preferably, you did more than web research and got out and talked to people for insight. Share what you’ve learned.
Save those big ideas for last. You’ve got a seat at their table, so they already know about your good work. Now that they’re meeting you when you’re supposed to be at your best, they’ll also think that you’re smart. And because you’ve laid the groundwork, the insights will ensure that your big creative idea will be good and maybe even great.
Then, at the end of the hour, thank them for giving you the opportunity to think about their brand. Not because it was a blast for you, but because their brand is now already yours, too, and you will give it the fullest measure of your time and attention in your journey to tell their story.
Let me know your pitching tricks, what you think about “The Pitch,” and whether I should watch the show instead of the clips on amctv.com!
The flawless PR for Target’s Missoni launch made me proud of our profession.
Until the website crashed.
Here’s what I had to say about it in Marketing Daily. The editors titled it “Rant.” They should have been better prepared, don’t you agree?
Read my piece in the Marketing Daily commentary.
It’s a classic PR tactic – and one of the most foolproof ways to get media attention – name the top cities in the country for some oddity. These are campaigns that are devised by PR folks on a messaging mission. The wackier the category, the more likely the campaign is to drive media attention nationally, locally and socially.
This week’s entry is from snack foods brand Combos, with its second annual survey of “America’s Manliest Cities.” Cities were judged using a hilarious group of criteria. The survey asked who had the most cops and firefighter, pickup trucks, motorcycles and steakhouses, for example. Oh, and of course, salty snack-food sales. Cities lost points, called “emasculating criteria,” for having more home décor stores and sushi restaurants. In case you were wondering, Charlotte, North Carolina won, moving up one spot from last year’s survey.
This is an example of how something completely inauthentic becomes utterly real. Because the criteria are so goofy and manufactured, it’s hard not to love the results. The campaign is a great vehicle to drive local attention through social media and through old-fashioned channels, too. Everyone loves a local story; everyone wants their city to be the best at something. Even the cities that were dissed got into reporting on the news. Portland, which ranked 50th, ran a piece on KGW.com, for example.
The Combo’s campaign is terrific; but it just can’t beat my favorite bit of PR puffery, when, on July 15, 2002, New York Times reporter, Rick Bragg wrote a story about how New Orleanians felt about the findings of a study naming America’s sweatiest city. Right Guard was the sponsor. New Orleans came in at number 3, and Bragg took to the street to see how local citizens felt about winding up in the middling position. It was over 90 degrees in New Orleans on that day, the headline? “In New Orleans, Sweatiness Is All a Matter of Civic Pride.” The story made page one of the paper.
These campaigns are fun; but difficult to execute well. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Have you done a PR campaign using the “best city for XYZ” tactic? What worked? What didn’t? Do you have a favorite? Share your story here.
Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business list includes a slideshow featuring its 10 most creative women in business. I love exploring mini-resumes of the successful (the rich, the best dressed). It’s even more fun for me if they’re anointed as “Most Creative,” especially if they’re marketers. Jessica Buttimer’s bio captured my attention, not only because of what she’s done, which was to bring green cleaners improbably to Clorox , but because of what she’s charged with doing now: keeping the so-ugly-it’s-cute shoe hot.
Here is her bio, from the site:
Since introducing the first new brand for Clorox in 20 years with Green Works, Buttimer has launched into new territory: footwear. As the new vice president of marketing for Deckers Outdoor Corp, Buttimer will oversee branding initiatives for companies like Teva and UGG Australia. Simple Shoes, another under the Deckers’ umbrella, launched a Green Bomb U.S. Campus Tour on Earth Day in New York City. The initiative will travel to four college campuses through the end of May, and students can donate used, non-sustainable shoes for an eco-friendly pair by the brand. The donated shoes will go to local charities.
I was intrigued by the plug in this 100-word bio for the Simple Shoes Green Bomb campaign. Little and local, it sounds homey, and perfectly aligned with the brand. The idea is, well, simple: College kids trade in old shoes for a new pair of Simple Shoes, their old pairs are donated to the needy. College kids have no cash, lots of beat up shoes and are green-minded and action-oriented. Plus, you can never have too many clunky shoes in your closet if you’re a college kid.
I’d love to know how well the campaign is working and how many shoes have been collected so far. The brand’s Facebook page isn’t all that helpful. Even though the giveaway is happening right now at NYU (through May 28), there isn’t a call to action on the Twitter feed designed for the campaign.
Great campaigns work in the follow-through and follow-up. If I were a college kid, I’d want to get involved. It’s the right thing to do, I’d get to replenish my shoe wardrobe and it makes for a very good brand story. So Simple Shoes — I’d love to hear you tell it!
What do you think? What’s your story?
PR pros know that attaching consumer brands to charity can up the impact of and interest in a brand. And while these affiliations still drive the attention and conversation, they’re sadly suspect until proven otherwise.
So, yesterday’s New York Times story about Panera Bread’s new Pay-What-You-Want restaurant in suburban St. Louis got me thinking. What happens to the good PR if the effort fails?
Think Thomas Hobbes. The political philosopher said that without laws or rules, man will take whatever he wants because he believes that it’s all his for the taking. I hate to say it, but I think that in the case of a pay-what-you-want restaurant, Hobbes was probably right and Panera’s attempt to do good probably won’t work.
But that doesn’t mean that the effort was for naught. Even if the project doesn’t work, communicating to customers “I trust you to do the right thing” puts the company squarely in the court of the good guys. So, if the restaurant should have to return to the old-fashioned business model of charging a set price for soups and sandwiches it can still make the most out of the effort.
I hope the project works and the brand opens similar restaurants in other cities. But if it doesn’t, maybe Panera can help in other ways: create temporary day-jobs in the restaurant, host food services job training programs and hold nutrition workshops for kids and their parents in neighborhoods that need it most.
All of those efforts will likely not be as newsworthy, but they will certainly spread goodwill for the brand. And that’s the best kind of PR.