Thursday, December 16, 2010

Interaction is key: Shrek answers your questions

Broadway in San Francisco illustrated the importance of interacting with customers via social networks today. They hosted an interactive session in which Facebook fans could ask Shrek (of Shrek the Musical) any question, and he answered. View the conversation here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Marketing vs. Public Relations

Two interesting opposing viewpoint posts over at HubSpot echo some thoughts and questions I've had for a while: Are public relations and marketing two completely different things? Or, do they contribute to one another? Or, are they becoming the same thing?

While many of my teachers and several of those I follow on the web seem to believe marketing and public relations are two separate things, I've come to think of them as integrated with the possibility of becoming one thing under the right circumstances, especially when it comes to social media.

Social media networks like Facebook and Twitter can be used to inform, to interact with publics, and to remind publics of a company's product. For example, at Sierra Repertory Theatre, one marketing person heads the social media efforts, posting links to interesting articles and interacting with customers about theatre, but also linking to ticketing systems, commenting on the success of shows, and reminding customers that they only have a few days left to see shows.

I worked for Sierra Repertory Theatre a little over the summer and found that the theatre company has a one-person marketing department that handles both marketing and public relations. The position basically involved maintaining positive relationships with theatre goers and with theatre reviewers at various area newspapers, but it also involves dealing with subscribers and maintaining subscriptions and donations.

In this case, it would seem that marketing and public relations overlap.

What do you think? Can public relations and marketing work together or become one? Are sales driven by public relations?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Shrek visits children's hospital

Just another way to earn yourself publicity: Get in the holiday spirit and do something nice for society.

The stars of Shrek the Musical visited a children's hospital during their run in San Francisco.  See photos here.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Creating a Wonderland for your customers: Simplicity and Creativity

The (so far) hit musical "Wonderland" is coming to Broadway in the spring. The modern take on the classic Alice in Wonderland is beginning to brand itself, not only with its regular website, but also with a simple, enjoyable, interactive story book that allows viewers to flip through a few pages that tell the basic premise of the show and that give viewers a preview of the show in pictures.

The show has also come up with a clever tag line: "A New Alice. A New Musical."

The story book certainly has my attention, and I look forward to seeing how the show markets itself in the future. The musical is one of the first Alice in Wonderland musicals, but Alice in Wonderland has been rehashed in film many times, so it should be interesting to see how this takes on.

Monday, November 22, 2010

How To... Play on Words

When you have an interesting title, it can be fun to do a play on words in your marketing material. The upcoming Broadway show, "How To Succeed in Business without Really Trying" has mastered this technique. They make the revival interested, not only by hiring Daniel Radcliffe to play the lead, but by using the "How To" part of the musical's title to sell the show.

The show's website features several "How To's." Viewers can learn "How To... Get Tickets," "How To... Get to the Theatre" and "How To... Tell Your Friends." Not only is this creative, but it allows users to interact with the site through social media and ticketing services. It attracts attention.

The website also features a recently released commercial for the show with "How To Succeed on Broadway."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The New Mr. Peanut: Finding Ways to Rebrand Yourself Successfully Part 1

Obviously, your brand can't stay new forever. All businesses have to change their slogan or brand at some point, even if it merely means adding something simple to it. In all cases, however, audience research is important. If you don't know what your audience wants, you won't succeed. If you don't test your new product or slogan or whatever it is on your audience, you have less of a chance of succeeding.

Research doesn't always work, as evidenced by Coca Cola's change in flavor, which tested well but didn't make it on the market. I'll write more about Coke in another post. You can't always completely depend on your research, either. Planters peanuts asked consumers what they'd like to see added to their Mr. Peanut mascot, and the number one answer was that no addition was needed. Some times the old still works. People like classics.

Planters went ahead with a major change, however, adding more clothes and a new voice to the character, as well as turning him into a computer-animated character. The voice, provided by Robert Downey Jr., may attract Downey's fans, but it doesn't fit the upper-class English accent associated with the character. The new commercial, itself, is funny, but you have to wonder how it will go over with the public. Personally, I like it, but we'll have to wait and see if it succeeds or not. and E! have more on the switch.

I'll be writing more on the successes and failures of Coca Cola and Mattel's Barbie movies in Part 2 and Part 3 of the "Rebranding Yourself" series.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Adapting to the Changing Times: Becoming like Proteus

According to a blog post by Jayblock Companies, the god Proteus was known for two things:

  1. "He was able to foretell / predict the future and…

  2. He was able to change, adapt, and acclimate himself to successfully meet and thrive in the future that he envisioned."

While the blog post focused on the application of this to the job market, I find that this has equal application to public relations and marketing. Far too many companies are reluctant to change with the times. Newspapers have gone under because of their leadership's unwillingness to adapt and use modern technology.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tis the Season: Add a Little Charity, Gain a Little Customer Loyalty

It's the holiday season, which puts customers in a cheery mood. People always love to see and hear feel good stories like those of Extreme Home Makeover, but they love these stories of charity, hope and love even more during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. And the holiday decorations give you the chance to make your little bit of charity even more unique.

For example, Disney has given one family a special treat and posted photos of it on their blog. The blog reads:
...this year we teamed up with Sylvania andCHOC Children’s to take the magic of the holiday season from the Resort to the home of one special little girl and her family. Adela Jauregui, 8, a patient at CHOC Children’s, and her family watched as their home lit up with more than 6,200 lights and Disney-themed d├ęcor.

What a great way to bless others and bring attention to yourself at the same time. The real challenge is to find a way to do this all year in unique ways that please and bring in customers.

How have you used special causes to promote your company?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Catering Your Press Release to the Receiver

A recent blog post I read by e-releases talked about things you should check before sending out a press releases (facts, links, etc). The issue that came up in comments replying to the article, however, was over whether or not a press release should be tight, newsworthy and catered to the average reporter.

The tips e-releases provided are still good for news releases sent to newspapers, but not necessarily for other outlets. Of course, any press release sent to a customer or put online for the public could be reclassified as something else entirely. In any case, it depends on who your reader is and what you want them to do with the press release. A blogger might be looking for something different in a press release than a reporter. That's why it's important to cater the release to the receiver. You should NEVER send the same release out to every media outlet, just like you should never send the same resume to every employer you apply for a job with.

What are some necessary elements of a news release for you? How do changing audiences affect how you write your press releases?

To read some sample press releases, click here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Interacting with Your Public: Disney Memories and User-Generated Content on Facebook

Many news outlets have made themselves more successful by pursuing and allowing citizen journalism. It seems Disney Resorts has had a similar idea. The company has created a Facebook page design specially for Disney fans to share their Disney parks memories in the form of text, photos and videos.

Called "Disney Memories," the application gives the average everyday person the opportunity to feel in charge, to feel special, to feel, as Mickey Mouse would put it, like they're in the "happiest place on earth."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Matt Prince on Marketing

Last Thursday, Matt Prince spoke at my college's PRSSA meeting. Prince, who is the manager of executive communications at Disneyland Resort, spoke specifically on advice for college students and recent graduates, but many of his points can apply to a wider audience. I won't borrow all of his points, but here are a few of the main pointers he gave:
  1. Things change, so be flexible and learn to adapt as your audiences, society and technology change.

  2. Network. Meet people in your profession and learn from them through informational interviews.

  3. Take some time out for yourself. Prince keeps a blog on dating, a topic that has nothing to do with his job.

  4. Be patient, but don't wait. It's good to look for jobs that you'll enjoy, so don't jump at the first job that comes around if you don't think you'll be able to enjoy it. But don't expect to get your dream job or a job that pays well right of the bat. Follow your instincts. If you think it'll work well, start your own company and work for friends and other connections on the side in addition to your regular job. Prince started his own marketing company: Prince Marketing.

  5. Brainstorm. It's essential that you think about where people need to be, what they need to be doing, who they need to be meeting with, etc. Prince said he keeps a white board in his office for brainstorming sessions. Of course, if he ever needs a quick break or needs to clear his mind, he goes for a quick ride on Space Mountain.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Web's Growing Importance in Public Relations

For a recent class assignment, I had to write a short reflection on why web is essential in any PR campaign, any marketing plan or any effective communications strategy. Unfortunately, there are many who would rather reject new technology than take advantage of it. Fortunately, I'm not one of them.

Hardly anything exists outside of the internet these days. There are very few people who don’t use email or some internet website or application to communicate with others. In such an online oriented world, it’s pretty much impossible to work in public relations without using the internet as one of your major tools. Public relations is all about communication, as is the internet. It’s only natural that the two would go together.

Due to the similar goals of public relations and the internet, it becomes essential that the public relations department of an organization play a major role in that organization’s social media strategy. Social media is about communicating with a public, about managing a company’s reputation, which is the job of public relations. In order for social media to be effective, an organization must know its public well enough to reach out to that public and interact with that public, also parts of a public relations job description. Who knows an organization’s public better than the public relations department that has researched the organization’s public and based company decisions on that public?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Branding Yourself: The Sea World Car

Never hurts to be creative. Never hurts to put your company on a product like a car. Try combining the two. Sea World has this down. The Sea World car has people staring at the company's name every day. What do you think of the Sea World car? What have you put your company name on?

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Importance of Customer Involvement

Much of journalism today is citizen-oriented, or citizen journalism, as it's often called. This means there are sites where regular people can posts stories, photos, and videos for the public to view. Often, news-sources won't be able to send out reported or photographers in time to capture an event, so they'll display user photos, instead. For example, the worst of the recent storm in NYC that many speculated to be a tornado lasted less than 30 minutes. The New York Times has a gallery of user photos for the storm and its results.

Think about how popular social media is today.  Blogs often succeed because of user interaction.  Allowing users to send in photos, comment on blog entries, and share stories on Facebook and Twitter has become essential to success.  So, think about it. What have you done to interact with your customers and keep them involved with your business?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Want more money? Write a book!

Have you ever noticed that when a movie becomes successful, a line of books come shortly after. Disney did this with Pirates of the Caribbean. They created a series of young adult books about Jack Sparrow. I remember reading book versions of The Mummy Returns and Hallmark's Arabian Nights. And today I came across a new series of books based on the hit TV show Glee. You can visit the site for the book, which FOX advertised on Facebook, here.

How successful are these knock-off books? What have you done similar to this?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Capitalizing on Your Product and Promoting it at the Same Time: Disney ElecTRONica

Disney California Adventure's summer Glow Fest didn't go over well with most Disney fans. Disney hired an outside contractor to create it. Personally I liked it, and it must have had some success because Disney is now bringing something new inspired by Glow Fest that capitalizes on its upcoming film "TRON: Legacy." You can view a preview of this light fest below, images taken from the Disney blog.

Looks like it'll be entertaining and promote TRON at the same time. Disney is very good at that. Last year, they had a Showboat Jubilee show to promote "The Princess and the Frog," which went over very well. Princess Tiana still performs near the Rivers of America every day near her conveniently placed merchandise. But, no worries, if you go to her show, you can get free Mardi Gras necklaces.

How can you take advantage of your product and give it legs through various campaigns? What have you done?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A New School Year Brings In Creative Marketing Techniques

How can your business take advantage of the new school year? Even Fuddruckers, a popular hamburger restaurant, has capitalized on the "back to school" mentality, sending out emails to subscribers reminding them that Fuddruckers should be on their supplies list.

I just started my final year of college, which makes these sort of campaigns fresh on my mind. I've always been the student who gets excited about buying things for school, and I'm sure I'm not the only one out there. So, take advantage of the young person's need for supplies.

The Container Store has Back to School and Dorm sections on its website, and the Dorm section includes a video featuring a college student's dorm room full of Container Store products. The student tells the viewer that it's parent's weekend and she has had to clean up to impress her parents, so she went to The Container Store. The store's site also includes a dorm catalogue.

My favorite example of a great marketing method taking advantage of students returning to school comes from Walmart. Walmart created a project called Project Dream Dorm. The project has its own Youtube channel with a plugin that plays videos and displays pictures of and links to products that appear in the videos. Walmart found five college students, assigned design experts to each of them, and gave them an unlimited shopping spree in their local Walmart. The entire experience for each student was recorded and put on YouTube. Once back on Walmart's dorm website, the viewer finds attractive photos of products and an easily navigated menu to help him find what he's looking for.

How can you make your products visually appealing? What have you done to cater to students going back to school?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dora Turns 10 - Marketing Lessons From Successful Children's TV Shows

I've never been a fan of Dora the Explorer, but somehow she's managed to last for 10 years now. And, much to the chagrin of those of us 10 years older, she has not aged a day. In fact, she's much the same little hispanic girl that she was when she first premiered on Nickelodeon. So what has kept her going? What makes a children's show like Dora the Explorer or Barney the dinosaur so popular?

In the case of Dora, I think there are several reasons for her popularity that we can observe and learn from:
  1. She's cute, she has cute animal friends, and she sings catchy songs. Never underestimate the power of a catchy tune.
  2. She interacts with her viewers. Kids like to talk to characters on the screen; it's part of the learning process. When Dora asks what she needs out of her backpack, the child can yell with pride and excitement, "Flash light!" And when Spiper comes around, kids can learn a lesson about stealing and simultaneous have fun yelling, "Swiper, no swiping!" Marketers can learn a thing or two from this interaction, because adults like to interact, too, especially in an age of Facebook and MySpace. Find ways to interact with your customer, and they'll come to you.
  3. She teaches her viewers in a fun way. You, too, can teach your customers without pushing your business or product. Social media provides the means to interact with customers and give them what they want. Blogging, for example, is a great way to talk about things relevant to your product, but not about your product. With links to your website, you can draw customers in without ever pushing yourself on your customer. So, find a new and fun way to teach your customers.
  4. She knows her audience. Dora the Explorer caters to hispanic children looking for a more diverse show, but it also caters to a more white audience looking for a way to teach their children Spanish. At the same time, Dora doesn't over-emphasize Spanish, so sensitive parents won't mind the show. What is your audience like and how can you cater to them without pushing your product?
  5. Lastly, she knows how to put herself out there. Her marketers have found a variety of ways to put her face on various products from backpacks to notebooks to cups to tooth brushes. Once your business is out there, you can find ways to keep it out there by putting your product on other products and selling them. What are some other products you can use to put yourself in the public sphere?
I may not be a fan of Dora the Explorer (I never grew out of Barney or Blue's Clues), but I respect the way her marketers have used different methods to keep her popular. After 10 years, she's still going strong, and she's reinvented herself by adding new characters like Diego.

How can you reinvent yourself to make yourself attractive?

What are you doing to stay strong? What have you observed from successful TV shows?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Create an Event, Attract Customers

A college acquaintance of mine is marketing a game called "Keep It Real." She arranged for it to be a part of a special event at Borders (happening tonight). I thought I'd share the event with you to spark a few ideas.

"Do You Have Game," the event taking place at the Borders in Columbus Circle, will feature a night of fun and games, games like "Keep It Real."

In your marketing, try to think of a creative event like this one, an event that can take place at a recognizable location and can involve something that will attract customers, such as a free product demonstration. In this case, anyone who goes to the well-known, well-placed Borders in Columbus Circle in NYC can play the game "Keep It Real" for free.

And always remember to put your event out for everyone to see. My friend put the game night on Facebook as an event and invited her many friends. She also created a video ad and put it on YouTube.

What are you doing to give customers a fun time? What kind of events do you plan for your business? Is it appropriate and useful to give away free products or to allow customers to experiment with products?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Lesson From Disney: When a Customer Doesn't Like a Rule, Turn It Around

When you live in SoCal, have a Disneyland season pass, and go to Disneyland as often as I do, you begin to notice things. You might have just read that book about all the hidden Mickeys, or you might just be an observant person. Either way, you notice things. For example, you might notice that Disney does not sell gum at its parks.

I'd imagine Disney's customers would not be too happy if Disney made a no bubble gum rule, a rule that would likely be impossible to enforce. So, instead of making its customers irritated, Disneyland Resort turned it around into an implied rule instead of a stated rule. Disney does not sell gum in its parks, but it doesn't make it illegal either. This keeps customers happy. It keeps the park clean, but allows customers, hopefully the more responsible customers, to bring their own gum.

How do you keep your customers happy? What do you do to sweeten the seemingly negative things?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Using Documentary to Make Your Business Stand Out

It's amazing how many people prefer video over text these days, and that's something to take advantage of. I've done behind the scenes videos for a theater company and a trailer for a book, and I recently came across another great use of video: a mini documentary.

David Meerman Scott used a documentary to promote his book, "Marketing Lessons From the Grateful Dead," and wrote a post about branding a business through video on his blog.

The great thing about his suggestion is that it allows a business to reach out to customers who enjoy video and to tell them a memorable story. People love to learn new things, and a documentary gives them things to learn. Even the person who's not a big fan of video may be more intrigued by a documentary that feels more familiar; It's like watching something on television.

People also love a good story that makes them feel good or makes them feel attached to the people in the story. A good story gives the customer something to relate to. Combine the story with content the customer can learn from, and the customer will be thrilled and intrigued, far more intrigued by the documentary than by an advertisement.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Lessons From Subway: Cater to Guest in Person and Online

Here's a lesson from your local Subway store: cater to the customer both in person and online. It's not enough to network online. You have to build your brand, your business in the physical, face-to-face world, as well.

I went to a Subway sandwich store in Southern California today. There was a clear, simple sign out where I could easily see it announcing the fact that I could leave without being charged tax if I bought a cold sandwich to go. The sign pointed out right away in bold that the customer could avoid taxes: "Buy your sandwich without paying tax." It then proceded to compare other options to the no tax option. Simple, satisfying, and helpful. It served the customer.

How do you serve your customers?

On top of the great customer service, the fast food restaurant also displayed a sign advertising its affiliation with other Southern California Subways, all of which share a Twitter page.

How simple do you keep your ads? Is it important to limit yourself enough to keep you from going overboard with advertising?

Subway's advertising, in this case, was simple, and yet it managed to draw my attention. That combined with the custmer service won me over. As John Jantsch (author of The Referral Engine) says, it's important to balance social media with in-person service. You're bound to keep customers' loyalty if you follow this rule.

Video preview of "The Referral Engine" after the jump.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Intro: 4 Types of Business Stars

Star light, star bright
First star I see tonight
I wish I may
I wish I might...
Make my business the brightest tonight!

I've been trying to think of a blog title for a while now. Last night, I went star gazing with my dad. I always do my best thinking when I'm in a relaxed state, and as I lay there looking at the stars, waiting for meteors to fly across the sky, it hit me that the marketing business is much like the Universe. There are so many stars out there, so many businesses to compete for the customer's attention.

There are 4 types of businesses/stars in this analogy:

  1. The little-known business that ignores trends, stays boring, and refuses to make itself known is like a star in the Universe that can't be seen from Earth.

  2. Some businesses are like the meteors in the sky. They come extremely bright, but go by extremely fast. The excitement doesn't last long, and in reality, the meteor is a small grain of sand.

  3. Other businesses are like one of the smaller stars in the sky, shining brightly, clearly visible, but not attracting much attention.

  4. You want your business to be the brightest star of all. Even better, you want your star to either stand out like the North Star or to be a part of a constellation that makes it more recognizable.
If you want your star business to stand out, you need to pick up on the latest marketing/PR trends and use them to your advantage. Connect to other people, network with other businesses, and create a constellation of resources that will make you last longer than any other business.

It's my hope that this blog will help you make your business into the brightest star. I know it's something I constantly aspire to. Let's learn together. Let's go stargazing!

Looking forward to getting to know you,

Harmony Wheeler