Our agency opened its doors on March 25th 1985. It’s been exactly three decades..
So I say, “Hello 30th.” It’s our day…
I think of that day back in ’85 with bewilderment as to how it was possible to open up a new business with two credit cards, one Mac, no email, no cell phones and one client with billing not sufficient in revenue to sustain the agency for one month. Back then we opened as Pollack and Setzer, Setzer being Paul Setzer, who stayed for a year and a half, at which time we became The Pollack PR Marketing Group.
Here are some fun factoids that took placed during our first 30 years…
OK, the above is two years older than we are, but I could not resist, ‘cause the change occurred within our time span…
We have come a long way in our thirty years. Take a look…
What sustained us was optimism and confidence that our concept of never wavering from senior-level involvement on a day-to-day basis with each client, would prove to be the “great differentiator.” But I am sure that along the thirty years, there were a lot more differentiating concepts that have led to the reputation we enjoy today and the respect we have garnered from our colleagues and that has contributed to our longevity in the business.
Probably most of all – determination, combined with a high level of curiosity and a resolute stance to stay on the current edge of whatever was lurking around the corner that would impact change.
We are privileged to have been a witness over our 30 years to some of the most accelerated changes in our industry – ones that have impacted the PR consciousness and subsequently changed the ‘way it was’ forward.
And it will continue to change… maybe in a less accelerated way, but still, it will be about crafting the customer experience for people “not necessarily like you, (the brand) ” – people who are generational, culturally and geographically different, in order to stand out in a “sea of sameness,” in order to foster long-term loyalty and brand preference.
It will be about getting into a customer’s head and creating programs that successfully use content to define a company, content that resonates with the customer and finding ways to give a company or brand, meaning that connects him/her with the brand in some emotional way. It will be about having your customer “liking” the experience of using your brand or service.
If you wish to add to our factoids, those not on our list, the ones that took place since 1985, please do so via: Twitter @PollackPRMktg with a #30PPMGPR hashtag, comment on the blog, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The doomsayers are out in force speaking about, or writing, “Marketing is Dead” or even “PR is Dead.” I understand. These make for good headlines. But maybe the headlines would be more real if they read, “Marketing, As We Know It Today, Is Dead.” The functions are never “dead” as long as there are companies that need to connect with their customers.
Marketing and PR are actually alive and well, but the traditional functions collided with loyalty and experiential communications programs, both of which now resonate louder among consumers today than marketing messages, which were thought up and written by the C-Suite. Both disciplines morphed into new strategic directions with changed focuses—from selling or amplifying messages that the company wants a consumer to hear, to valuing a customer’s experience of a brand or service, leading to loyalty.
The successes of Chipotle, J. Crew, Keurig and, of course, Apple, cannot be overstated. All of them have come up with programs that inspire loyalty, which requires communicating brand values that people want to be affiliated with, rather than delivering company-directed marketing messages.
Chipotle has come up with their “Cultivating Thoughts,” in which writers write short texts that appear on the company’s cups and a dedicated microsite. J. Crew has come up with a company’s blog that is a master class in cozy chic, effortlessly affluent and gently outdoorsy. Keurig’s new college program is an example of new strategies earmarked to reach future spenders. And Apple, well we know of their loyal fans by their rocketing earnings reports.
Building loyalty is much harder work. It is about crafting the customer experience for people “not necessarily like you” – people who are generational, culturally and geographically different, in order to stand out in a “sea of sameness,” that foster long-term loyalty and brand preference.
It is about getting into your customer’s head and creating programs that successfully use content to define your company, content that resonates with your customer and finding ways to give a company or brand, meaning that connects him/her with the brand in some emotional way. It is about having your customer “liking” the experience of using your brand or service. It can also be about your customer keying into or “liking” what your company stands for… It is about your company “liking” the customer.
Social media has given consumers a megaphone just as powerful as that of traditional marketers. It is time to listen and be heard…
Just as McDonald’s started to endear itself with health conscious consumers by making promises of not using chickens injected with antibiotics and taking a stance against preservatives in its ingredients, the company steps into a PR disaster – this one totally unrelated to food.
This week at the South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, McDonald’s reached out to an Indie Band, a well-respected independent label and one that has a cult following, to invite them to perform in McDonald’s showcase. But they wanted the band to perform for free.
Really? Food you have to pay for, but talent is for free?
According to McDonald’s the band’s “fee” will come in the form of “having McDonald’s global digital team on site to meet with the bands, help with cross promotion, be featured on screens throughout the event, as well as “maybe” be mentioned on McDonald’s social media accounts like Facebook — for “there isn’t a budget for an artist fee.”
And this from a $97 billion company… Arrogance. Maybe all those perks will someday pay off, but they certainly won’t put food on the table today. A fee is a fee.
The problem is that there are enough bands that will cow-tow to large corporations and accept the exchange-for-service type of payment. Most covet exposure so badly, that they will forgo payments. It is about hope and the smell of success that leads them in that direction. This is really too bad, for it only takes a band or two to accept this and for other corporations to follow suit and ask for freebies…
Well-deserved negative sentiment exploded from all corners of social-media once Brian Harding (part of the duo) took to Facebook, with consumers calling for people to stop buying the chain’s food and calling the company “greedy.” This PR disaster could not come at a worst time for McDonald’s for it comes on the heels of the company’s ‘Turnaround Summit,’ ostensibly formed in face of slumping sales.
Actually, to date, the company had started to make strides in the right direction to meet consumers’ demands given consumers’ changed preferences for healthier food. And now this…
How is that that McDonald’s team could not have foreseen the disaster that this could cause? Did they overlook the power of “going viral?” There are crisis communication plans created specifically for a situation like this, with varying scenarios and best steps to take should this or that happen… I would recommend to just take the plan off the shelf, dust it off a bit and then flip through the pages and polish up on the do’s and dont’s, for the cost of damaged public opinion can be much higher than a band’s normal artist fee.
The irony of it is that McDonald’s is having a tough time attracting millennials, which is exactly the demographic that attends SXSW and listens to bands like Ex Cops.
The expected call came in and … Yes!—another new business lead. As usual, the agency staff whirls into motion. Everyone has his or her nose to the grindstone, preparing to offer a winning presentation that informs, educates, is dynamic and entertains. The vetting of the new business prospect begins. It starts with learning and absorbing the obvious—the prospective company’s history, the company’s recent news, the individual players’ profiles, the industry landscape, the sector’s forecasts, surveys that speak to trends—all set against a company’s goals.
Fully armed, the agency then delves into building a program around the prospect’s goals. But wait a minute … what were those goals again? Were they ever expressed or defined? Are they calling us because somebody told them they need a PR agency? But they are not sure whether they want to expand their company’s footprint regionally, nationally or internationally, or whether they have new products to launch, looking to increase product sales, branding, positioning, or…?
Prospect Without a Rudder
What if the prospect does not have a clue as to what their primary communication needs are? What if they are just fishing for ideas? Or what if they have a “convince me I need a PR firm attitude?”
The prospect bears the responsibility here…
Sometimes it is not about a winning presentation at all. Often, it is in the “sell” and the closing of the divide between what the prospective company seemingly wants and what the PR agency evaluates as the next step for achieving growth; or finding the niche they can own or noting a communication crack that needs fixing or simply creating a brand that fosters loyalty. It may take a team of seasoned salespeople to find a way to bridge that gap. It may be a divide that is not always conquerable. At this point, the prospect needs to define the destination before the agency can chart the course. Know where you want to go and then buy a map.
Some will say, it doesn’t matter, “just give the prospect what he/she wants in order to get the business.” Really?
Do lawyers counsel clients based on what their client wants to hear rather than what will solve their legal problems? Do doctors diagnose patients based on what the patient wants to hear, rather than what the reality is? I think not…
Many companies searching for a PR firm suspect that there is a problem, maybe static growth or lack of innovation, but certainly something is missing, if not crystalized. But when offered programs that are out of their comfort zone, the reality of needing to make a change is just too difficult or cumbersome to comprehend.
Yet, I say, PR agencies have a responsibility to offer a solution or “cure” for a communication problem, but not just a “band aid.”
So, how best to circumvent these issues? Here are ten tips to ease the process of a prospect to on board an agency and give the relationship a chance at success:
Before going out on a search for a PR agency, prospects should have company PR goals and objectives well defined.
Prepare a document—an informal briefing letter is best, one that communicates an overview of your communication needs so as to give potential agency candidates enough information to evaluate and design a targeted program.
Ask about budget parameters for an expected scope of work.
Get educated on PR budgets—monthly retainer, versus project fees.
Prior to bringing an agency on board, get internal staff buy-in of your vision for the company.
Within the same document, outline the information you need to make your selection, while providing candidate agencies with the insights they need to best highlight their case for becoming your public relations agency.
Describe the problem, the expected solution and the available funding.
Include a request for measurement metrics of the program and expected ROI
Assume that the functional capabilities such as media relations, event management and crisis communications are in place and concentrate on critical thinking, not just skills and experience.
Expect, and promise, transparency.
Ultimately, it is the partnership model that works best. Also, of note, chemistry between people matters, as does the confidence that the agency inspires.
It’s just about that time of the year when the old nostalgia feeling wells up — for what could have been and wasn’t. It’s also the time of year that offers hope for a new and peaceful year…
It’s also a time when an abundance of Top Ten lists hit the media — the top ten anything — as in innovators, newsmakers, films, books, videos, and such. And then there are those silly ones, like the best and worst dressed people, the biggest losers, celebrity headliners as to who did what, to whom, and who got paid the most per movie, in 2014.
About five years ago, we jumped on the bandwagon and added our own list of “things” and called it the “Ten PR Defining Moments.” Considerations for making our list was not so much the PR moment itself, or a blip that made the news in 2014, but rather their implications, such as lessons learnt or their lasting impact in our industry.
And so our 2014 Ten PR Defining Moments picks are …
A challenge that swept the Internet and raised millions of dollars for research, marking a shift in fundraising
Anonymous social media apps that became ubiquitous, yet not without pitfalls
A company that “seized the moment” and turned an embarrassing World Series moment into a marketing coup
A new social media precedent that was set as the first libel case involving Twitter unfolded
A public firestorm that impacted the NFL’s downplay of domestic abuse
Data breaches that compromised millions, raising the bar for consumer data protection
Native Advertising that got adopted en masse, forcing the publishers to deal with consumer advocacy issues
A national survey that showed the first i-Gen-ers entering the workforce with a whole different attitude
Apple’s new iOS system teamed up with an iconic band for its launch, pushing a song on fans who resented the intrusion
Brands that “newsjacked” major international events to make their own brand messages go viral
There are, of course, many, many more PR defining moments, but these are our choices.