Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Case for PR at Trade Shows

Managing media and our clients' overall message at trade shows is one of the most impactful and cost-effective services we provide.

Any way you look at it, trade shows are expensive. But in spending all of that money to develop a booth, ship product, train and send personnel to the show, prepare collateral (etc., etc., etc!) it only makes sense to look at every way to maximize your investment so that it yields the greatest return.

Getting the most from your trade shows requires a strategic approach that will attract prospects and generate interest in your company and your products. And, since trade shows are tremendous magnets for the media that cover your particular industry, it behooves you to work with the journalists in attendance to make sure they know and understand your messages, and have the latest news on your products, so they can carry it all forth for you into the broader marketplace.

Yet, many companies simply send their salespeople to the show, and hope that the media takes notice.

Regina Ragone, food director at Family Circle Magazine hits the nail on the head: "At food trade shows, for example, we'll see sales people at booths and displays — but no PR people will be in sight. I think that's a problem. I think you really should have a media relations presence onsite and it shouldn't be relegated to sales."

R&J Public Relations has designed a three-step program that helps our clients reach both journalists and key prospects – those in attendance as well as those not in attendance - before, during and after the show.

Well in advance of the show, we work with our clients to develop messaging and strategies. We conceive and plan special promotions in and around the show booth. We schedule editorial interviews, and develop press kits and other materials. To bring it all home, we conduct media training for key spokespeople, helping them to be comfortable and to “own” the message.

At the show, we coordinate and supervise meetings with journalists. We not only distribute press kits, we “work” the press room and the show media (“daily” magazines, television, Internet and radio). We compile competitive intelligence, and see to it that our clients are nominated for show awards. And we are on-site with our clients to assist them in all aspects of their communications efforts at the show.

Following the show, we conduct intense follow-up with the press, and fulfill all editorial requests for information. We engage the press to get our clients featured in post-show editorial coverage. If it is appropriate, we will undertake a post-show media tour.

Not all trade shows require this full-blown effort. But it makes tremendous business sense to prioritize the most important shows, and focus your resources on those. A good rule of thumb is, if the top media that cover your industry are going to be at a trade show, then your PR agency should be there with you as well.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

British Guy Sees the Future of Advertising -- And It's PR!

Ben Hourahine, "Futures Editor" at the mega Leo Burnett ad agency in London put together this snappy presentation where he predicts the "advertising trends of tomorrow."

Call me crazy, but so many of these are things that we lowly PR folk -- you know, those of us who don't have silly, self-important titles like "Futures Editor," and who can make our points without the services of the black turtle neck brigade flashing bizarre pull-out quotes all over the screen -- have been saying for years. Things like "creating swells," which PR has done for decades (albeit without the snappy name), building "community connections," using social media to drive acceptance, and brands taking on a "guardian role."

So, thank you, Ben, for looking into your crystal ball and letting us know that in the future, advertising will be playing catch-up to PR. Perhaps if we PR folk had just said it with multiple camera cuts and that cool British accent.....

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Discovery Channel's New 'Time Warp' Show Makes the Invisible Visible

There is a cool new show on The Discovery Channel, called "Time Warp." The basis of this show is to use ultra high-speed video cameras to "slow down" reality, and let our eyes finally see incredible sequences and events that happen in nanoseconds. Check it out here.

We at R&J Public Relations take special pride in this show, because the cameras used to capture and show us these amazing images are manufactured by our client, Vision Research. Vision Research is the world's benchmark for high-speed digital video cameras. The company designs and manufactures high-speed digital imaging systems used in defense, automotive, engineering, scientific and medical research, industrial and commercial, sports and entertainment, and digital broadcast and cinematography.

It was a Vision Research Phantom V-10 camera, operated by production company Inertia Unlimited for FOX Sports, that captured amazing footage of David Tyree's incredible against-the-helmet catch in Super Bowl XLII.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Coming Soon to Your TV -- Commercials Selected Just for YOU!

The rub on television advertising has always been the colossal "waste circulation" that you had to buy in order to run a commercial. Sure, you knew that (most likely) a younger, predominantly male audience would be watching certain shows, like Two and a Half Men. And a more female-dominated audience could be counted on for shows like America's Next Top Model. But the ratings system, as it exists, typically counts all eyeballs, and you pay for each of them in buying a commercial.

But that could soon change.

A few companies are working on technology to deliver “addressable” commercials tailored to individual viewers, based on metrics including viewers' age, gender and location. These systems are touted as being "intuitive" in that they will "learn" about the viewers, and advertisers can then deliver their commercials directly to the eyeballs most likely to have an interest in that particular product.

Two of the companies working to roll out this technology are Packet Vision, a UK-based company that is focusing on the IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) platform, and Princeton, New Jersey-based Invidi Technologies, which is focused on cable and satellite delivery. In fact, the cable industry seems to have jumped in with both feet, funding a very secretive "Project Canoe" that will jump-start this initiative.

Either way, this new technology will be a boon to advertisers (far better targeting of their commercial messages), to TV providers (who can charge a premium to advertisers for this targeting) and to viewers, who won't have to sit through commercials that have no relevance to them whatsoever.

I expect these technologies will be the talk of the show at the upcoming National Association of Broadcasters Convention, coming up in Mid-April.

As they say in TV Land, stay tuned for more information!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sony wins big with "Thriller" guerrilla marketing stunt

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of Michael Jackson's mega-hit album "Thriller," Sony/BMG Music has staged some really cool re-creations of the iconic dance number from the title track.

A story in the March 10 issue of The New York Times reports on groups in London, Copenhagen and Sydney seeming to spontaneously break into the zombie dance in crowded settings, only to melt away and back into the crowd when the dance is over, as if nothing ever happened.

These videos have now been viewed by well over a million people, all over the world.

It is what we "old timers" used to call a publicity stunt. Only now, we are calling it guerrilla marketing, and with the advent of YouTube and social media, these events get transmitted all over the world, making millions of impressions.

I give Sony/BMG a lot of credit. What is more recognizable a dance than Michael Jackson and his "Thriller" entourage of "zombies"? And to see otherwise normal-appearing folks (they are, in fact, trained professional dancers) in everyday settings all of a sudden breaking into a choreographed routine, well, it is genius.

I love the fact that the Times saw fit to report on it. My only nit-pick of a complaint is that they ran it under a banner that read "Advertising." In fact, this is what PR agencies do for their clients every day. Advertising folk only WISH they had the power to make this much of an impression for such a relatively small amount of money.

Friday, March 7, 2008

PR Pays Big?

I had to stop and read Joan Whitlow's incredible story in today's Star-Ledger (for those of you from out of state, the Star-Ledger is the quasi-official state paper of New Jersey, and Tony Soprano's newspaper of choice).

Joan, one of New Jersey's most effective, insightful, and highly-regarded columnists, wrote a column for today's website entitled "PR Pays Big, Though Not For Public." The story it tells about sweetheart contracts to well-connected "marketing communications firms" in Newark is just heartbreaking to those of us who try very hard to run professional, buttoned-up PR firms, and who fight tooth-and-nail against perceptions that PR is somehow a "fluff" job, and that we are all just "flacks" who come in at the crack of noon, take a journalist out to lunch, then make a few phone calls before hitting the links.

Perhaps if I had a few of those $358,000 contracts from the Newark City Council, I could do just that!

The City needs a new website, and it SHOULD be communicating with its citizens far more frequently and far more aggressively and effectively than it has up until now. My suggestion? How about hiring REAL PROFESSIONALS and not some "made-up-just-to-get-this-contract" firm owned by someone's relative.

Mayor Booker: I offer my services -- FREE OF CHARGE TO THE CITY OF NEWARK -- to work with you to write a scope-of-work, to head up a selection committee, and to choose a PR firm for the City that will help you fulfill your promise of honest, effective, transparent government.

But I'm not holding my breath waiting for your call.