Posts Tagged ‘public relations’

Financial services marketing: expanding your customer base in uncertain times

December 2, 2015

Certainly the financial world is keeping one eye on interest rates, but regional financial institutions are more focused on keeping their customer base strong amid tight local competition. Diversified revenue streams help to protect them from over-dependence on interest income, and they must stay nimble enough to compete on a number of different fronts.

Deciding which front to watch most closely is a tough call, with a constant churn of external factors keeping the marketplace waters muddy. Some timely questions may help determine where the best routes lie:

  • Will the emphasis on fee income shift when rates increase, with some customers re-evaluating their balance of dividend-yielding stocks and insured deposits?

Just as the balance sheet benefits from a diversified approach, so too does marketing. The right mix of messages emphasizing local service and a long term view of customers’ financial stability can set a foundation that allows banks to pivot with the landscape. By leading with a value proposition focused more on partnering with account holders than pushing them product, banks can build a layer of trust that will allow them to engage customers throughout their lifecycle.

In an ideal world, that mindset translates into making direct connections with customers. Tactics like social media engagement, highly targeted digital campaigns, direct marketing, and public relations should not be planned in isolation. When financial companies coordinate these elements around a consistent message and thoughtful rollout, they are much more likely to make an impact on the market that will outlast sudden shifts in sentiment. Simply put, a well-rounded approach brings deeper, broader relationships.

Financial institutions have no shortage of challenges to choose from. Whether seeking opportunities to expand geographically, reaching out to a different customer segment, or reacting to a competitor’s new local branch, business and marketing strategies must be fluid and multifaceted. Those companies that embrace a flexible message that transcends any given moment will find their customer base is more likely to grow with them.

Thank Goodness for Public Relations

August 6, 2015

Hand to God

Even if you’re not a Broadway fan, there is some news that PR pros need to talk about.  If you haven’t heard, a desperate phone-out-of-battery audience member at a performance of the Broadway Play, Hand to God jumped on stage with his charger in hand.  The anxious theater goer was scanning the theater ready to plug his phone into a visible outlet. Before he could realize that the outlet was fake and simply a part of the set, security intervened and led him back to his seat as to not disrupt the rest of the audience.  Sounds like no big deal right? However, the entire incident only lasted seconds, but the reaction lasted weeks.

The audience member not only delayed the play and interrupted the entire performance, but he also added to the never-ending observation of how attached people are to their phones. Because of this, people were eager to tweet, post and share their opinion about society’s dependence on technology, causing a reaction from Hand to God’s publicity team.

As in any unexpected situation, the reactions go viral immediately- especially in a world where social media runs untamed. The need for thoughtful PR has increased as silly incidents like this one have become more frequent and more viral. The lesson for brands is that they can’t always control the incidents that will spark chatter on social media, but they can control their reactions- especially by using PR.

What’s more, it is exciting to see the story lines and headlines that can result from an unexpected situation. For example, this incident drew attention to the play’s craftsmanship of the set design (due to the realistic outlet). That discussion was a great way to lead to positive attention from the media.

With their own initiatives, the play’s publicity team were able to control the reactions that yielded the most results. They created a hashtag, #Chargergate, created their own video, and even forgave the audience member when he came forward and apologized on camera– right in front of the theater itself. They took advantage of this interruption, and turned it into a full-fledged PR campaign.  And to boot, the buzz encouraged people to ask how they could buy tickets to see the show!

As a PR Account Coordinator, it was interesting to me to watch this event unfold and watch the conversations in the media develop.  I believe that PR pros can make a reactive campaign that works by controlling the conversation on social media  and using the attention to reach overall marketing goals. I give Hand to God’s PR team a standing ovation- they did everything right, and used great responsive PR techniques to boost their brand.

No Matter How Corrupt FIFA Is, It Is Here To Stay

June 16, 2015
Flickr / Steven Depolo

Flickr / Steven Depolo

It’s been a bad couple of weeks for FIFA. The world’s governing body of soccer has been the subject of numerous headlines, not for the Women’s World Cup currently taking place, but for a large-scale corruption scandal.

It all started on May 26, when several top FIFA officials were arrested on corruption charges. A little over a week later, the long-standing President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, resigned. And to add fuel to the fire, FIFA recently fired its communications director after making a public joke about the organization’s legal troubles.

There’s no denying FIFA’s reputation is in shambles. The media is laser focused on scrutinizing the organization’s actions and missteps. But despite all the negative media, the criminal investigation, and widespread corruption, FIFA is still as powerful as ever. Do soccer fans even care about the FIFA scandals?

Sports organizations are hit with scandals all the time, yet the sports stay as popular as ever. Take the NFL for example. Last year, the NFL was thrown under the bus for its handling of issues concerning domestic violence. The NFL’s reputation took a hit, but did the sports suffer as a result? No. Fans continued to support their favorite teams and brands continued to spend millions of dollars in advertisement with the NFL.

When it comes to sports, fans care more about the game than the organization behind it. As a sports fan myself, I’ve seen some of my favorite sports get hit with scandals that dealt a blow to the organization’s reputation. Did the scandal stop me from watching the games? No way. As a fan, you’re part of a community that has one unifying factor: the love of the game. My loyalty is with my team, and almost nothing can shake that.

No matter how corrupt FIFA is, in the end, it is going to be fine. Soccer fans aren’t going to just turn their back on the sport that they love. For many countries, especially outside the United States, soccer is about more than just a game, it’s a religion. The team you root for is part of your identity and fans aren’t going to abandon the sport that’s so integral to their community and culture.

As long as soccer is still soccer, fans will continue to watch FIFA’s games. They will continue to attend the World Cup and brands will continue to shell out millions of dollars in advertisements. No matter how corrupt FIFA turns out to be, as long as soccer remains a powerhouse sport, FIFA will be a powerhouse as well.

John Oliver tackled this love/hate relationship with FIFA perfectly last year before the World Cup. As he says, no matter how appalling FIFA may be as an organization, a fan’s love for the sport outweighs everything else.

Apple Watch: PR Blunder or PR Perfection?

May 14, 2015

Two words can instantly spark a heated debate: Apple Watch. The device has created two schools of thought- it sucks, or it’s genius. Try to find someone on the fence and you’ll be sorely disappointed. For Apple “fanboys” like me, there’s no doubt it’s a cool device – well-designed, fills a niche no other technology I have does, and above and beyond any other wearable on the market. To everyone else it’s “Why do I need it?” “Why would I spend $800 to not look at my phone as much as I do now?” or “They’re just dumb.” Debate aside, one thing seems to escape everyone talking about it. If you’re debating the watch, Apple’s unmatched PR machine is working.

Does anyone need a smartwatch?
Apple Watch is a hard sell. It has incredible capabilities but do mainstream consumers think they need them? Probably not, but they may want them eventually and Apple has the clout to make that happen. Before Apple Watch, smartwatches were clunky, fairly ugly and nearly all were marketed to the same audience as Casio’s calculator watches from the 80s. They had no mainstream appeal and even less functionality.

On the other hand, Apple has an ecosystem of more than 3,500 apps for Apple Watch alone and 1.2 million on iOS. Developers will innovate new apps specifically for Apple Watch, leading to more coverage of the watch, more interest and more debate as the device’s appeal continues to grow.

Apple is making smartwatches cool.
Apple’s already won the battle in making a smartwatch cooler than they’ve ever been. But is that enough for a device with a price tag ranging from $349 to more than $14,000? Apple’s betting on fashion-aware celebrities and consumers to adopt the watch. And shortly before launch it was already around the wrists of Beyonce, Pharell, Drake, Sam Smith, Katy Perry and Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld. Meanwhile the Apple PR team made no small effort to make sure the watch was reviewed by fashion magazines from GQ to Vogue and the most influential watch experts in the world, making the device known as more than just a “mini-computer.”

In order for Apple Watch to be successful it needs to be seen as cool, fashionable, desired, capable and most importantly worth your money. For an item nobody truly needs, Apple’s already proven that they’re able to make people want it. In the end, that’s all that matters. The reviews have been positive (with a caveat here or there), the thousands of articles keep on coming, the debate wages on, yet the bottom line remains – Apple has already sold 3.2 million watches in just over a month.

The Apple Watch is already set to outpace the iPhone in first-year sales. It looks like their PR team is succeeding where others have failed, again.

 

Twitter’s CFO to marketers: I can do that!

May 7, 2015

Newsflash: finance and marketing do not always get along.  Some may even say the disciplines share a unique symbiotic rivalry; they support one another, yet constantly battle over how to define the value of marketing.

Twitter — itself a literal symbol of marketing in the digital era — found a novel way to end that discussion by allowing its CFO to take over the marketing discipline.  The move to appoint Anthony Noto came after months of failed attempts at finding the right CMO  for the company.  So, in a nutshell, it’s just marketing!  Give it to finance!  Even though (or perhaps because) we’re losing money!

…uh…oh…

Stranger things have worked, and maybe this will end up being more about “taking control of marketing spend.”  Or maybe the surprise ending is that Noto is the rare investment banker-turned-CFO who has keen marketing insight coursing through his veins.  But for the time being, this is playing out at the pinnacle of irony, as we see a flood of media coverage about how the floundering financial officer thinks he can do this marketing thing better.

It’s not going to get less weird anytime soon.  The Verge notes that “Noto’s first task may be figuring out how to market himself a little better at the office. [A] source told The Verge, “Twitter employees [are] asking why Noto gets $70 million, but the company can’t afford to give raises, or bring salaries closer to market rates.” Although engineers make around market rate, the source said, non-technical employees do not.”

This saga has everything the modern system is geared to despise – and everything that Twitter is famous for blasting out over the cyberwhatever.  Bloated executive pay, nosediving stock, executive hubris, belittled worker bees…

What’s missing (for starters)?  A good strategy.  A strong message. A vision. Really, anything that investors or advocates can get behind.

While that may come soon, it’s already too late to leverage the first wave of media exposure following the announcement.  I bet a sharp marketing guy could have handled that.  Ahem.

Finally, in honor of Noto’s presumably irrepressible spirit and ambition:

How your pitch can make noise- even amongst jingle bells

December 11, 2014
By Kevin Dooley

Photo: Kevin Dooley

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, or at least that’s what every holiday song leads us to believe. But in PR, the holidays can be a difficult time of the year to capture the media’s attention. Getting a reporter to bite is never an easy task, but this time of year, normal pitching challenges are on overdrive due to the magnitude of holiday angle pitches they must receive.

Contrary to popular belief, reporters do have a life when they’re not on the clock. They visit their families during the holidays, they take vacations, and they may even write “light and fluffy” stories to maintain their beats. And while a PR professional (like you) may have found the perfect reporter for your story, there’s no guarantees that they’re available and willing to take your call or email. At EZG, we like to continue our follow up longer than we normally would to ensure we’re covering our bases.

To stay relevant, and increase your chances of having your pitch be received, the material you send should be short and simple. The end of the year proves to be a time when reporters are rushed, or regularly unavailable, so make your pitch count. Media will not dig through your pitch to find the main points. Present the most newsworthy information at the forefront instead of bogging down an email pitch with flowery language and unnecessary detail.

Additionally, remember that a holiday hook isn’t a guarantee for a press placement. If you are using the holidays as the hook, just remember you’re not alone. Reporters, especially retail and consumer reporters, must receive hundreds of holiday angle pitches a day. Make sure that what you are pitching is actually relevant to the holidays; reporters want stories that fit in with the theme of the holiday season.

No matter what time of year, it’s always a challenge for PR folks to determine what the media is looking for. However, it’s important to embrace the holiday season with finesse, creativity and brevity. With a compelling angle, whether it ties into the holidays or not, your story has a chance of being covered. With a little hard work, the holidays can truly become a wonderland for pitches.

Perfect PR? A standing O and slow clap for CVS Health

September 4, 2014

We love to talk about public relations and branding missteps. What’s more fun than shuddering at Market Basket’s month-long debacle, or how the media wages war on itself over racial issues?

Thoughtful, well-executed PR isn’t as sensational, but it sure does paint a prettier picture. And CVS just dropped the mic with its name change to CVS Health.

I know, I know – Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper aren’t exactly fighting over who’ll play the lead role in the explosive blockbuster detailing the subtle CVS rebrand. To watch the ginormous brand successfully shift its model without stepping on a single PR eggshell, however, brings a tear to the eye.

The real PR execution came to light months ago, when the Company announced it would stop selling tobacco. The move was reflective of a gradual shift away from the convenience store model and closer to preventive health. As EZG client Reynders, McVeigh pointed out in this Barron’s article, CVS is “in a prime position to benefit from the ongoing revolution in American healthcare.”

The Company is aiming to become the leader in consumer-facing preventive healthcare, which is a far cry from the foundational goals inherent in the name (Consumer Value Stores).  Such a wholesale shift could have inspired a public relations backlash from both media and the Street – unless it was handled with:

  1. incredible foresight,
  2. careful alignment with corporate goals,
  3. buy-in at every level of the organization,
  4. patience, and
  5. a message that featured restraint and sensitivity to an enormous global audience.

It seems that CVS was equal to the task.  The Company went loud with its plans early in 2014 with the tobacco draw down. It was the perfect segue into the big picture, as CEO Larry Merlo noted in The New York Times that “we have about 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners helping patients manage chronic problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease, all of which are linked to smoking…We came to the decision that cigarettes and providing health care just don’t go together in the same setting.”

Did you hear that in the back, there?  It’s not about cigarettes, people.  It’s about HELPING PATIENTS MANAGE CHRONIC PROBLEMS.

Fast forward to September 2014. After absorbing the reaction to its tobacco move, CVS announced  simultaneously that it would accelerate the removal of tobacco from its stores and change its name to CVS Health.

There are a dozen ways these steps could have been mismanaged. CVS could have make smoking the issue, creating an air of judgment and a forum for debate – instead it made it clear that tobacco simply conflicted with its focus on health. Executives could have led with the name change, then eliminated tobacco – instead it made a powerful connection with consumers before changing the brand.

The way it was played out, this brand and strategy shift couldn’t seem more natural. That’s just great branding, PR, and corporate strategy working together. Well played.

As the late, great, George Peppard would say (yes, fully recognize the irony of George’s trademark cigar here):

What do reporters really want from an online press room?

August 8, 2014

In PR, we are always looking for attention- attention from our clients, attention from the media and sometimes we’re looking for simple recognition for a job well done.

To achieve the attention we so desperately crave, we develop newsworthy pitches, make valiant attempts to create viral videos and secure media opportunities that position our clients as thought leaders in their respective industries.

And with all the materials we create to attract the interest from target audiences, it would be downright foolish for us to keep those juicy pieces of content hidden behind an email inbox or a private YouTube channel. In the vast online ocean, web surfers are looking for information that is useful, informative and engaging. This is why content is still King (Neptune, if you will), but it easily drowns if it isn’t noticeable.

There’s that attention we seek again- and usually, want the content to be noticed by reporters and producers. However, reporters are no different than every day online readers- they’re looking for the most relevant information, and in a timely manner. According to a recent article in Forbes; “Online readers are a different breed and notoriously fickle. Their attention spans are short. Their modes of access to information are varied. And they are looking for real-time sound bites, not a newspaper article continued on page A17.”

As PR pros, it’s our job to appeal to this need, and we frequently recommend our clients host an interactive press/content hub on their company websites. The online press room, if used properly, can be a valuable tool used to engage new audiences. However, a press room cannot be created blindly; there are a few must-haves to consider before launching the page.
3 Things Your Online Press Room Must Have:

online-news-icon-2b
High Resolution Images: It’s no secret people are sharing stories through images these days (as noted by the popularity of Pinterest), so it’s important to ensure imagery (like head shots, infographics and event photos) are ready to be published as they are. If a journalist has to wait for a publicist to send a “web ready” file, they’ll probably move on.
Important Background Information: Reporters like to vet their sources, and if a PR pro has just sent a pitch, chances are the reporter is usually fact checking to make sure the source is reliable. It’s simple; include important information (like fact sheets, past press releases, and updated bios) in your press room so reporters know they’re dealing with a reputable industry leader.
•“Snackable” Content: Make sure your content is displayed in way that’s easily navigated and includes a quick description prompting readers to click through. It’s a content jungle out there- and to make sure your client’s content is digested by reporters and potential clients, you have to be smart. Set up the videos, articles and whitepapers so that their added value is communicated clearly and gets to the point immediately.

When building an online press room, it’s important to remember that all organizations are seeking traffic to their websites. The bottom line PR professionals must consider is, we should always be pleasing reporters by having a press page that is simplistic and efficient.

PR friends, have you seen an online press room that you’ve admired? Let us know @ebben_zall

3 Brands Winning the #WorldCup on Social Media

July 3, 2014

This year’s World Cup is officially the biggest social media event ever, and it’s not even done yet. Millions around the world are watching the matches and taking to social media to live-tweet their thoughts during games—and this is a great branding opportunity for companies.

For the brands unwilling to dedicate a large amount of their advertising budget to space during the World Cup matches, social media has acted as a great platform to gain visibility. Many brands have effectively used live-tweeting to connect to World Cup fans around the world.

There are 3 brands, which have scored on social media by creating great content and engaging hashtags during the World Cup:

Waffle House

What do waffles and soccer have in common? Very little–but that didn’t stop the Waffle House from crafting one of the most talked about Tweets during the World Cup. Before the USA vs. Belgium game, the Waffle House declared a war on Belgian Waffles by tweeting a play-on the #IBelieveThatWeWillWin chant:

Despite not actually referencing the World Cup or USA vs Belgium match, this simple tweet was a huge hit. It was retweeted nearly 24,000 times and helped the Waffle House gain coverage in the national media. The Waffle House connected to the World Cup phenomenon in an extremely clever way that drove mass engagement.

Snickers

One of the most talked about moments on social media from the World Cup was the Luis Suarez “biting incident.” Twitter exploded with people immediately making jokes about biting and twitter was buzzing.  Naturally, brands wanted to participate in the action as well. Snickers, was ready and had the perfect social post created:

The simple claim of “More satisfying than Italian” fit perfectly with their brand’s voice and capitalized on Luis Suarez’s  bizarre behavior.

By using the most popular hashtags of the week, Snickers’ post was retweeted nearly 50,000 times- resulting in one of the most popular Suarez- related tweets on social media.

Nike

As a sponsor of the World Cup, Nike spent advertising dollars in all the necessary places.  Adertising aside, they still launched the #RiskEverything campaign, using Nike’s main twitter handle and their Nike Football handle as part of the campaign. Nike’s short videos (promoted on social media) have impressive viewing statistics—upwards of 80 million views. When posted on Facebook, the video garnered over 70,000 likes and nearly 50,000 shares- Gooooooooooalllllllllllll!

Their campaign has been following the cup’s action, and has had huge user engagement with thousands of social influencers spreading the #RiskEverything hashtag. Nike’s social media campaign appears to paying off with fans around the world responding and interacting.

Of all the #WorldCup posts you’ve seen on social media, what was your favorite? Who are you rooting for? Let us know @ebben_zall!

 


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