I'm a PR GITM now
Do I look like one?
What's GITM mean? Well, it's a highly valued, intensely competitive, world-class business designation that only "special" people get.
People like me.
And, intellectually, you have to be heads above a Rhodes Scholar - a deep thinker, like me - to get the professional designation.
At the end of this highly informative, spectacularly written, best practices case study (eat your hearts out New Yorker and Wall Street Journal), I'll tell you what GITM stands for.
I took a little time off the
columns to work on a freelance brand-building campaign. Well actually, that's not true. It's really a brand-building campaign using advertising instead of PR. But there really isn't too much of a difference between the two. I prefer advertising, however, just because it's more creative (like me), but strategically or tactically, there's not too much of a difference between the two.
This stuff isn't all that difficult.
I have no idea as to why companies like P & G spend gazillion billions on building and maintaining brands.
It's so simple; in fact, I can't even believe I'm writing about it. Pretty much any half-witted, kilt-wearing, mechanical-bull-riding, business-professional simpleton can figure out a brand-building campaign. (Confused? See example below)
Half-witted, kilt-wearing, mechanical-bull-riding, business-professional simpleton
I mean everyone knows why brands are important.
Just as important as roughage and drinking eight glasses of water every day. Brands are a very important staple of the business diet.
So when asked to help, I didn't want to insult the intelligence of the corporate team leaders (my prospective employers) or offend them by pointing out how any lame-brained, half-witted nattering nabob of a ninny could do a brand-building campaign. The true value of my services would be to instruct them on the benefits of Advertising vs. PR.
Advertising always wins. (Even though I am in PR now, I still remain a non-objective thoughtless leader in all types of corporate mis-communications.)
So. I took the high road.
I didn't tell them.
My prospective employers had one caveat though. I had to linearly lay out the steps I would take, then go to the biggest PR guru in the world and get his opinion.
Like what could Al Ries,
the biggest, most famous, most experienced and successful legendary PR and marketing strategist and bestselling author (or co-author) of 11 books on marketing including Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, Marketing Warfare, Focus, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR and his latest The Origin of Brands tell me about PR?
I was ready to tell my prospective employers that. I really was. But the "money" thing echoed in my head. So, once again, I took the high road and agreed. You know, just because Al Ries is all "that" and a PR G -(another professional designation ... which you'll notice doesn't have near as many letters as GITM, therefore, in my humble opinion, is of diminished value). I'm a PR GITM. I was confident in my ability to clearly lay out a brand-building campaign, step-by-step, defining the advantages of advertising over PR and execute that campaign.
Sure ... Al might have some minor differences with my grammar or spelling, but strategies or tactics?
I think not.
So, here we go.
But first ... STOP! THINK!
Don't let Al Ries fool you if he slightly disagrees with me. He's the master of good-to-great-to brilliant publicity. He uses all kinds of facts, research and real-life examples to confuse you into thinking he's right and I'm confused.
Great Thinkers and Divergence
To allow the reader to digest the similarities in how great thinkers arrive at the same conclusions but may take divergent paths, I'll lay out my step-by-step plan in conjunction with Al Ries', then let you draw your own conclusions at the end of this article.
Steve's Seven-Step Plan to Building Your Brand
Steve's Step 1: The blast!
To effectively launch a new brand, open the checkbook and get ready for ...
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This is not for the timid. That's right, time to turn them deep corporate pockets inside out, upside down, right side left.
Drop'em corporate bean counters!
Shake down your stakeholders, shareholders, customers and your grandma. You need the big bucks. Buy advertising. Splurge. Go for it. You absolutely must. Plus, it's a lotta fun blowing all that OPM (other people's money). You'll need:
Indirect mail (I specialize in this ... e-mail me for more info)
Bobboards (Bill's less-expensive brother)
Webinars, schleppinars, (I am quite versed in schleppinars. Email me for more info.) webcasts
NASA advertising sponsorship on the Space Shuttle
FOCUS those media buys on your product. Everyone MUST know the name.
Think war. Think ...
BLAST! BLAST! BLAST!
Takeaway: Everyone on this earth, and possibly the next, should know the name of your product. It should not be some deep corporate secret with a goofy code name. Come on. It's not war.
Wait a minute.
I take that back.
It is war.
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BLAST! BLAST! BLAST
Okay ... Al's turn.
Al Ries' Seven-Step Plan to Building Your Brand
Launching a brand with public relations and launching a brand with advertising are two totally different things. If you want to be successful with a PR launch of a new product or service, you have to forget much of what you learned about advertising and advertising campaigns.
You can't just replace advertising with PR. You have to change your method of introducing a new brand. Letting go of what you learned in Advertising 101 is not an easy thing to do. Advertising and marketing have been so entwined inside corporations that it's hard for many marketing managers to even consider the possibility of launching a new brand without advertising.
A PR launch invariably involves seven steps. Here is how each of these seven PR steps differs from a traditional advertising launch.
Al Ries' Step 1: The leak
"What, you're going to leak the news to the media that we are thinking of launching such and such new product? Are you crazy? We give these things code names to keep them out of the news."
This is the likely management reaction to someone proposing the classic PR tactic of leaking the new product to the media. Yet, if you give up the leak, you give up one of the most powerful ways of putting an idea into a mind.
The media loves inside stories that describe events that are going to happen especially when it's an exclusive. And, especially when it seems to come from outside the corporation. In other words, the scoop.
That's the way the Segway was launched. Almost 11 months before its formal introduction, the product was leaked to Inside.com. The website reported that a $250,000 book contract had been signed detailing a new, but secret, invention of Dean Kamen. Codenamed "Ginger" or "IT," the new product was described by John Doerr, a venture capitalist who had invested in it, as more significant than the World Wide Web.
Three days later, Mr. Kamen issued a disclaimer that stated, "We have a promising project, but nothing of the earth-shattering nature that people are conjuring up." In spite of the disclaimer, the media hyped the new invention with a mass of publicity.
The Segway was formally introduced on ABC's "Good Morning America" where Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson gave it a spin. Naturally the Segway made all the evening news shows as well as most of the nation's newspapers.
Even the formal announcement was leaked to The New York Times which carried an exclusive story on the front page of its business section.
You waste an enormous resource if you don't leak details of your new product or service to the media. What do people like to talk about? Rumors, gossip, inside information. It's the same with the media.
What did I tell you?
Al is always using facts and examples to support his conclusions and recommendations. What he lacks is that good ole "flying by the seat of your pants" gut instinct. Forget the fundamentals and the basics.
I'm hoping by the time this article is finished, some of my gut-instinctive gravitas will rub off on him.
Steve's Step 2: The fast buildup
Remember. This is like war, right? So we have to build up fast, penetrate, expand and seize more territory!
To make an impact, the campaign has to rise above the noise. The best way to do that is to take a couple million dollars, divide it into a bunch of small chunks and spend it in lots of different media.
For example, if your product has 10 different trade publications that your buyers may possibly read, BLAST away. Buy some advertising in all of them.
What better way than to spread your advertising dollars and be in tons of media outlets instead of just a few targeted ones?
Pretty simple. Common sense really. You want examples? Okay.
I recommend you launch with nation-wide (or global if your budget allows), 60-second commercials, then expand to 120-second commercials, then go for the 15-minute infomercial. And the coup de grace, the 30-minute infomercial.
Newspaper and print? Even easier. Start with double-page spreads and follow with four-page spreads.
Takeaway: The bane of your existence, a complete colossus failure, would be a slow, consistent buildup. A news item here, a mention from a friend there and pretty soon your product or service (and you) will disappear from the face of the earth.
I turn it back over to the incomparable Al Ries.
Al Ries' Step 2: The slow buildup
Advertising campaigns are invariably launched with a "big bang" and there's a good reason for doing so.
To have a chance at making an impact, an advertising campaign has to get above the "noise level." The easiest thing to hide in America is a million dollars worth of advertising. If you divide the million into small chunks and then spend the money in many different media, your messages will disappear into an advertising black hole.
That's why advertisers and their agencies often launch campaigns with 60-second TV commercials followed by 30-second, or even 15-second spots.
Newspaper and magazine campaigns often start with double-page spreads followed by single-page ads. Capture their attention and then follow up with reminder advertising is the strategy.
The "Yes. Intel" campaign was launched with four-page advertisements in management publications like The Wall Street Journal. Then Intel switched to double-page spreads. Intel finished by running single-page ads.
When you launch a brand with PR, you don't have a choice. Unless you have an earth-shattering invention, you have to start slowly and hope the media coverage will gradually expand. (If you do have an earth-shattering invention, you probably don't need PR at all. The word will get out regardless of what you do.)
Fortunately this slow buildup is consistent with the way people learn about new products and services. A news item here, a mention from a friend there, and pretty soon you are convinced you have known about the product forever.
Well, as you can see, great minds occasionally have different opinions. On to ...
Steve's Step 3:
Before you launch a brand campaign you need to be nicey-nice-nice.
Be the great conciliator.
Identify your competitors and communicate your vision, strengths and weaknesses to them. You're not really competitors ... you're peas of the same pod. Think mutually beneficial collaboration. There's enough market share for everyone. No needy to be greedy.
The number-one thing you don't need when launching a brand campaign is an enemy.
Takeaway: I'm okay, you're okay. Make nicey-nice-nice
Al Ries' Step 3: Recruitment of allies
Before you launch a PR branding program, you should ask yourself two questions:
Who is the enemy?
Who are my natural allies?
Every new product or service needs an enemy or it won't become a major brand. Some enemies are obvious. If you're selling Pepsi-Cola, your enemy is Coca-Cola. If you're selling Whoppers, your enemy is McDonald's.
Identification of an enemy will also help tell you who your allies are. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." When we wrote the book, "The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR," we asked ourselves who might be the enemy of such a book.
Our obvious enemy is the advertising conglomerate - the ones who control the bulk of advertising expenditures in the U.S. Who might be the enemy of these advertising conglomerates? It's the independent PR firm who has been losing business over the years to the PR subsidiaries of these ad conglomerates.
So we sent advance copies of our book to the 124 largest independent PR firms in the country and followed up with copies of media stories about the book. These mailings generated a lot of response along the lines of, "We'll buy copies to send to clients and prospects, we'll invite you to make speeches at industry meetings, we'll write letters to the editors of trade publications, etc."
Steve's Step 4 (which actually has 3 steps):
Dance. Strut your stuff!
I don't believe in this crawl before you walk stuff. Building momentum. I's all a bunch of sophisticated, elitist, creative marketing-speak hooey-dewey.
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Top of the Ladder
The object is to start at the top of the ladder. Real credibility comes from the top of the ladder ... not the bottom.
Don't start in small local trades and work your way up to larger publications. What a complete waste of time. Go right to the top. Shoot for national or cable TV. Why practice and work out the bugs? You have to be smarter than that. Advertising is big money. Be responsible. Don't waste it.
Al Ries' Step 4: The bottom-up rollout
You have to crawl before you walk and you have to walk before you run. The media works the same way. You need to start small, perhaps with a mention in a newsletter, and then move on to the trade press. From the trade press, you might move up the ladder to one of the general business publications. Eventually you might see your new product or service on "The NBC Nightly News."
Each rung of the ladder adds credibility to the brand. If you approach NBC directly, you might get an instant turndown. If they see your new product mentioned in Time Magazine, however, they might call you.
As you move up the media ladder, your brand creates its own momentum.
Steve's Step 5: Never modify the product
Seems simple. Seems like common sense. It is. But someone has to point it out. That's why I'm a
I show and tell.
Once you launch with a big blast, you're committed.
Don't be a potato head and mess with your investment! Stay the course. This is no time for humility. Be brazenly bragadociously courageous.
I'd give you an example but really, do you need any? If so, e-mail me and I'll think of one.
TAKEAWAY: Blast! Blast! Blast! Hype! Hype! Hype!
Al Ries' Step 5: The modification of the product
One of the major advantages of leaking the news and then rolling it out with a slow buildup is that it gives you an opportunity to modify the product.
It's hard to change a brand once you have launched it with a big-bang advertising campaign. You are pretty much committed to the product as it is.
Apple launched the Newton MessagePad, the world's first handheld computer, with a big press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago. This was Apple's first entry into what its chairman at the time, John Sculley, predicted would be a $3.5 trillion industry combining entertainment, communications and computing with digital technology.
Apple followed the press announcement with a traditional big-bang advertising campaign, including TV commercials that proclaimed with breathless prose: "Newton is digital. Newton is personal. Newton is magic. Newton is as simple as a piece of paper. Newton is intelligent. Newton learns about you, understands you. Newton is news."
Because of its flawed handwriting-recognition software, the product received scathing reviews. Especially devastating was a full week of Garry Trudeau's cartoon strip Doonesbury mocking the Newton. "I am writing a test sentence," came out "Siam fighting atomic sentry."
A prospect tested a Newton by writing, "My name is Curtis." Business Week reported the event with the headline "My Norse 15 Critics" which is how the Newton interpreted the prospect's message.
Too much hype is self-defeating. You are asking the media to take your product down a peg. Better to launch a brand in a modest way by asking friends and allies to offer their suggestions. Then modify the product to meet the needs of the marketplace.
Palm Computing took the Newton idea and simplified it. They dropped the telecommunications function and the elaborate handwriting-recognition software in favor of a stylized "all cap" system called Graffiti. The Palm Pilot went on to be an enormous success.
When dealing with the media, humility beats hype all the time. If you sincerely ask for advice and counsel, you are likely to get a wealth of ideas you can use.
Steve's Step 6: The sumptuous smorgasbord
One of my favorite steps. Mainly because it requires deep thinking and the imagery makes me think of food.
Don't be by focus
When you launch a new product, you need not focus on only one attribute. That's nonsensical. Don't handcuff your success! Come on, spend (and this is really important, take notes) hours upon hours debating how many attributes you can, by hook or crook, assign to the product. Think features and functions of features and functions of features and functions!
The more attributes, the better your chances of success.
Hence Steve's smorgasbord approach.
More Is More ... More is Better
Ask anyone in the company, from R&D to Sales, from Pre-sales to Marketing and from PR to the receptionist at the front desk, the receptionist at the back desk, the receptionist at the bottom desk ... ask everyone. More is better.
Break out the checkbook. Pay for some focus groups. Pay for real consumers to give you feedback.
I'll tell you one thing not to do though. Never ask an editor or reporter.
They're job is to reinforce your attributes. Not to question or suggest to you. Their opinions are not helpful, and are also unlikely to convince any of your prospects. They don't hold the reins of consumer opinion - you do, because you did the focus groups and the smorgasbord research!
Takeaway: Focus: Don't. More is better
Al Ries' Step 6: The modification of the message
When you launch a new product, you usually find that you have a range of attributes that you could attach to the brand.
Which one attribute should you focus on?
This is the sort of question that can stir up endless hours of debate in the boardroom. Too often the question is ducked and the brand is launched with a smorgasbord of attributes (which is what happened at Apple with the Newton.)
Or a decision is made that turns out to be totally wrong. There's a certain lack of objectivity in the boardroom.
The media can be extremely helpful. Which attribute does a reporter or editor think is most important? After all, the media looks at new products from the consumer's point of view. Their opinions are not only helpful, but are likely to prove extremely convincing to prospects. They hold the reins of consumer opinion. You cross them at your own peril.
Volvo spent years advertising the durability of Volvo automobiles. Yet the media fell in love with the safety aspects of Volvo cars. They carried stories about Volvo's invention of the three-point lap and shoulder seat belt, the collapsible steering column, front and rear crumple zones, etc.
Volvo finally threw in the durability towel and switched their advertising to focus on the safety issue. Volvo sales took off.
Forget focus groups. Why pay consumers for advice when the media will give it to you for free. Furthermore, the media will back up their advice with stories that will plant the ideas in the prospect's mind.
Should you ever go against media advice? Sure, but when you do, you better have a good reason to do so.
Steve's Step 7: Ready. Set.
Remember, think of a brand launch as war. Plan a D-day. Marshal your resources, then ... blast off! Hit the beaches with all guns firing, marketing, advertising, the works. Don't leave any gun unfired, or any gun barrel unsmoking.
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Let Them Gun Barrels Be a Smoking!
Remember, timing is everything (along with sufficient firepower). The right product with the right support (Steve's seven-step plan) is an unstoppable combination.
Onward selling soldiers! Raise your advertising campaign banners for battle!
Takeaway: Be first. Not last. To fire the big blast.
Al Ries' Step 7: The soft launch
Most marketing campaigns are planned around a D-day, the day the product hits the beach supported by advertising air power and promotional landing craft.
A military metaphor makes for a rousing speech at a sales meeting, but it lacks the flexibility to deal with the real world. No one can predict the course of a PR program. How long it will take, what new ideas and concepts will be unearthed.
Your better strategy is to plan for a soft launch. The product will be introduced when it is ready. In other words, when the media coverage runs its course. Not too soon and not too late.
The soft launch fouls up budgeting and corporate planning. It might even cause problems with manufacturing and distribution. So be it. In marketing, as in life, timing is everything.
The right product at the right time with the right PR support is an unstoppable combination.
Better late than sorry.
Well, draw your own.
Look at me
Along with the obvious thoughtless leadership insights into corporate miscommunications I provided above I also personify and project the essence of credibility through my mighty power business attire.
Look at Al Ries
So what he's published a few books like ...
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And he's the legendary creator and voice of positioning. Can he ride a mechanical bull while wearing a kilt?
I suspect not.
I mean truly ... if that doesn't require world-class understanding and insight about positioning, what does?
Oh ... almost forgot. Want to know what PR GITM and PR G means? See below.
Al is a legendary marketing strategist and the bestselling author (or co-author) of 11 books on marketing including Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, Marketing Warfare, Focus, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR and his latest The Origin of Brands.
Al was president of the Association of Industrial Advertisers (now the Business Marketing Association) and the Advertising Club of New York. He was also chairman of the Club's Andy Awards. In 1989, Sales & Marketing Executives International gave him its "Tops in Marketing" award. In 1999, PR Week magazine named him one of the 100 most influential PR people of the 20th century.
Always one for controversy, Al's book, The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR, has generated enormous interest in the marketing community. The book made both the Business Week and The Wall Street Journal bestseller lists. In addition to being reviewed by these publications, it was also reviewed by USA Today, Harvard Business Review, Boston Globe, Chicago Sun-Times and many other publications.
Al's latest release, The Origin of Brands explores "divergence," the best way to create a new brand. The concept is analogous to the creation of a new species, as pioneered by Charles Darwin in his classic book on the subject.
Al currently writes a monthly marketing column for AdAge.com and is an often quoted expert in many publications. He resides in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife, Mary Lou.
About Steve Kayser: PR GITM (PR Guru in the making)
Do you need to know anymore after that article?
Steve Kayser is an award-winning business writer that has been featured in a marketing best practices case study by MarketingSherpa, “A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing,” Innovation Quarterly, B2B Marketing Trends, and Faces of E-Content magazine. His writings have appeared in Corporate Finance Review Magazine, CEO Refresher, Entrepreneur Magazine, Business 2.0, and Fast Company Magazine, among others.
In his spare time, Steve professionally models kilts for Un-Vanity, Non-GQ and The Manly Kilt Wearing Man monthly magazines.
Steve also headlines fundraising events for his run at an Olympic Gold Medal in the kilt-wearing mechanical bull-riding competition to be held in
In addition, Steve is retained by Cincom (on a very tenuous, minute-by-minute basis) to inspire and motivate others by fulfilling a famous Mark Twain axiom,
“Let us be thankful for the fools;
but for them the rest of us could not succeed."