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VR: The Next Great Advertising Frontier

On July 1, 1941, the first television commercial aired on what is now WNBC. It was a 10-second advertisement for Bulova clocks and watches. The ad was just a graphic and live voice-over that flashed on the screen. The company paid $9.00 for the spot and commercialized TV was born.

My, how times have changed.

Virtual reality used to be the stuff of science fiction. Now, it is real, it is here, and brands better get used to it — and do it right. Jupiter Research estimates VR headset sales will reach more than 12 million by the end of 2016 and over 30 million shipped by 2020. This presents an incredible opportunity for brands to leverage this next great advertising medium. With the arrival of Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), 360-video and other forms of powerful immersive content mediums, advertisers are forging a new frontier of customer engagement.

Marketers, advertisers, and publishers have exciting new opportunities for creating immersive content for better brand story telling and seemingly, an ever-expanding audience to which to tell it. With headset manufacturers such as Samsung, Facebook’s Oculus and HTC along with Google Daydream, which turns your Android or iPhone into a state-of-the-art virtual reality headset, VR is quickly becoming accessible to the masses, which means brands need to start investing in this new medium.

So, what does this mean for advertisers? Virtual reality is all about allowing users to be granted unprecedented levels of access and interact with their environment like never before. The promise of VR is creating the “presence” — or the feeling that you have been transported somewhere else. When it comes to brands, VR gives consumers the ability to touch, feel and experience products and destinations like never before. This gives brands the opportunity to engage with their customers in more immersive and meaningful ways. It brings the viewer into the brand experience, and enables the consumer to have a deeper connection with a brand.

“VR is ripe for exploration in certain categories with travel being a big one, for example. For other categories, it is an interesting way to break through the clutter, but may not be 100 percent relevant for their brand — yet. With the fragmentation of the media landscape, there are many, many new opportunities for advertisers to engage with consumers, and brands need to be choiceful in their VR investment as it best suits their audience and their category,” stated Leesa Eichberger, head of Brand Marketing and Sponsorships at Farmers Insurance Group.

Ad agencies and brands are already testing new VR platforms and content providers are ahead of the game when it comes to VR. Fox Sports and LiveNation work closely with NextVR to create live event-based VR experiences. McDonald’s is working with HTC to bring its customers into the world inside a Happy Meal box. And Cadillac is developing virtual show rooms, which could mean the end of dealing face-to-face with the dreaded car salesman. The notion of these experiences being labeled as “advertisements” now feels quite disconnected from the immersive experiences themselves. While brands can and should be participating in this new medium, it’s a distant cry from that of a linear advertisement — it’s something much more transformative and emotionally enveloping than that.

This brings up another tried and true branding tactic: product placement. There will soon come a day when brands will place themselves into your personal immersive entertainment experience, which of course, opens a whole new Pandora’s Box: privacy concerns. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler believes that VR “shouldn’t have gatekeepers”, but expressed privacy concerns when it comes to advertising as the technology behind it can collect personal information of the users in virtual spaces. How this information is gathered and used will be fodder for many future discussions.

Which brings us to metrics. The hidden value behind all advertising efforts. Current day advertising has it down pat — from television and radio ads, print media, apps, and social networks, click-throughs, unique visitors, and page impressions — advertisers can easily track their audience demographics and engagement. With VR, brands are now challenged to measure and evaluate new forms of engagement data. With lack of industry guidelines for measurement and standards, advertisers need to figure out how to best determine customer engagement in the VR world and drive business rationale for future investments.

So, is VR advertising worth pursuing today? Proponents say yes. Along with the ability to better engage your audience and bring them into a brand’s world, it creates a focus and stirs emotions. It gives consumers a brand experience that they otherwise would have never had, connecting consumers with brands in an emotional context. That is what advertisers always strive for.

On the flip side, there are those that think VR advertising is a bit premature. The hardware is still expensive for mass consumption, which means a lack of an audience or scale for monetization. The technology could still use some improvement, and the ultimate challenge is audience expectations. With such a futuristic platform, the consumer expects to be wowed! If these expectations are not met, consumers could be turned off by the whole experience.

“The key to virtual reality is to take the consumer on a journey with your brand. The viewer has to feel like they are getting something that they cannot get anywhere else and that requires a well thought-out campaign, exciting and engaging creative, and a storyline that’s relevant to their experience, or you have wasted a tremendous opportunity and potentially lost your customer,” stated Michael Coulson, senior director of Product Marketing at NextVR.

Whether it’s VR, AR or 360-video, brands and advertisers still need to remember that the viewers are still real people who are making purchasing decisions. The key is to gain understanding on how they want to engage and create storylines that are relevant to them as people. Marketers and advertisers are optimistic about the possibilities of this promising new medium. While the format and technologies may have evolved, there is still a need for brands like Bulova to put their products in front of consumers. The new frontier of VR just makes that experience more realistic and engaging than ever before.

 

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Media Training for Newbies and Refreshers for Seasoned Vets

Media training is key to making a good company spokesperson. It helps managers and high-level spokespeople communicate a company’s key messages to the press. It also teaches spokespeople how to steer clear of problematic or contentious questions. It is important to know what to say and what not to say and to deliver your key message points in a clear, succinct manner. Here are some tips for a winning interview:

Media Ground Rules

  1. There is no such thing as “off the record”! Anything you say can and will be used against you. So, don’t say anything you wouldn’t want to read about your company or that you wouldn’t want others to read or know about you, your company or product.
  2. Best way to tell reporters about your company or product is to offer the “Why?” rather than the “What?” Why is your company/product important? Don’t just repeat the company mission statement or “About Us”.
  3. Don’t say too much. Remain focused on critical points. Avoid providing a bunch of facts. An interview is not about downloading your knowledge; it’s about prioritizing your knowledge. Remain focused on critical points and give any facts context and meaning. Also, avoid going off topic and terms such as “Oh, by the way?” or “that reminds me”… Always try to stay on point.
  4. Speak to your audience, not to the reporter. The reporter isn’t buying your product or partnering with your company. His or her audience is also your audience so make sure you communicate the key messages of which you want your audience to be aware.

Phone Interview Essentials

  1. Have notes of they key points you want to deliver.
  2. Don’t sit at your desk where you will be easily distracted by emails, visitors, phone, etc.
  3. Use a headset so you can use your hands for gesturing. It allows you to be more conversational.
  4. Stand and smile through your interview. It also helps you to remain calm and conversational.
  5. Make sure you’re using a phone with good sound quality or a mobile phone with good coverage.
  6. Feel free to ask a reporter to repeat or clarify a question, repeat what you just said back to you, or ask if your answer made sense. If you don’t know the answer to something, or if you don’t feel comfortable answering a particular question, tell the reporter that you will get back to him/her.
  7. Avoid being misquoted! Don’t let silence bother you so you feel you need to keep talking through it. The reporter is probably taking notes. Stick to your point and let them come back with questions.

Live Interviews

  1. Body language: Bring your natural gestures in an interview. When sitting, keep your hands in your lap or on your knees. When standing, keep hands clasped in front of you. Never cross your arms or stand hugging yourself. Also avoid putting your hands in your pockets. Try not to fidget.
  1. Energy: keep it upbeat and positive
  2. Eye contact: maintain it
  3. Speak clearly and articulately. Avoid slang and using “uhhhs”, “ummmms”, “you know”, “like”, and “you know what I’m sayings”. (This also applies to phone interviews.)
  4. Don’t chew gum or eat during any interview.
  5. Finally: RELAX! You’re not on trial. A reporter is not there to harm you. He or she is there to satisfy their editors and their reading or viewing audience, which is also YOUR audience. If it’s a crisis communications situation, have a script and key talking points and stick to them. Practice and repeat them several times before the interview so you are fully prepared.

Damage Control

When talking to reporters in a crisis, maintain message consistency. A reporter will ask you the same question multiple times in multiple ways in an effort to confuse you, challenge you, maybe even frustrate you in an effort to get you to stray from your message, or maybe even to get you to lose your composure. Always stick to your message regardless of how many times a reporter asks the same question or how many ways they rephrase it.

For more crisis communications tips, check out our recent post on the topic: www.klrcommunications.com/blog/2014/4/2/pr-blunders-what-not-to-do-and-how-to-recover-from-them

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PR Today: Traditional Media vs. Social Media

There is the age-old adage of there’s nothing like seeing your name in print. USA Today, Wall Street Journal, New York Times… While these outlets are “nice”, and even though blogs such as Mashable, Huffington Post, and LifeHacker are considered social media, more often than not, companies now consider them a part of traditional media and hire PR agencies that specialize in social media over traditional. They want agencies that can build a buzz through the company’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

This begs the question: is traditional media dead when it comes to an organization’s PR goals and initiatives? We all know the print media industry has suffered greatly. Yes, newspapers have gone online, their content still easily accessible from any mobile device. Everything is digital. But, what about the visibility these outlets still bring to the table? USA Today has a readership of 3.1 million; The Today Show has a viewership of over 5 million; Mashable has a monthly unique visitor rate of 42 million and 23 million social followers. Why wouldn’t a company want to hire a PR agency that has strong relationships with and the ability to gain visibility in these outlets?

On the other hand, social media is less expensive for advertisers. It moves much faster; it’s more measurable; and it allows an organization to better engage with its audience, start a conversation, and build better relationships with customers, share holders and partners. Television has been surpassed by social video: Vine, Twitter, Instagram. Millennials – a demographic with purchasing and influence power- probably wouldn’t know about a product, service or event if it wasn’t trending on Twitter.

Personally, I get all of my news from social mediums, mainly Twitter. I can get the 140 character snippet and move on to the next item.  I can follow a live blog feed on a breaking news item, read customer feedback on a product that I’m interested in purchasing, or watch a sporting event from my phone.

The problem with social media when it comes to the news is: (1) it lacks genuineness because it moves so quickly. Have sources and facts been checked?  Is the information reliable? And (2) it’s become more a form of entertainment rather than a reliable source of information.

As someone who has handled PR strategies on both sides of the table, including that for my own companies, social media is very time consuming. You have to keep the conversation going, and it can’t just be your voice. That’s like being at a party and only talking about yourself assuming people are interested in everything you have to say about yourself.

Of course, there’s more to PR than engaging with your audience via social mediums: events, social responsibility, press tours, not to mention keen writing skills that don’t always translate over social media.

So what’s the verdict? There is no clear winner here. Organizations need a hybrid approach when it comes to their marketing communications initiatives, a healthy combination of both social and traditional media methods. Hire two agencies? Most agencies now have experts on both sides of the fence, and if you’re a PR professional in this day and age, you best know social media regardless.

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PR and the Media: Help Me Help You

Dear PR folks: How many times have you received a note from a client or colleague that said: “This person just wrote about our competitor (or market, whatever). Please send them a note in response.”

Um… NO! Once a journalist has written about a topic or product, the last thing they want is for a PR person to send a note that says: “I saw your article… we do that too!”  By that time, it’s too late. 

Part of your job is to stay on top of the topics reporters cover and help them develop their story. You are a resource so be a resource!

If you’re in a particular space, you should know who your beat editors are and be in constant contact with RELEVANT information. Do not bombard them with meaningless company news that isn’t newsworthy. They do not care that you hired a new receptionist. Remember, you are helping them develop stories that are interesting to THEIR audience. Just because your company is excited about a new hire, doesn’t mean that an outlet’s audience cares. Take a step back and ask yourself: “If I didn’t work for this company/client, would I really care about this news?" If you don’t, then who would? Investors? Consumers? Verticals? Once you have your answer, then you know who to reach out to specifically.

I once heard a PR professional say to cast your net far and wide. I don’t exactly agree with that statement. Sure, if you have a product or service that appeals to a variety of audiences, then make sure you’re hitting all appropriate targets, but don’t blast everyone on your media list for quantity’s sake. You’ll only tick off the multitudes of journalists who constantly ask PR professionals to read their articles and understand their respective beats.

It’s about quality: quality of media for you and quality of information for them. Be prepared and responsive. Know your product. Keep your message clear and concise. Be a resource, not a pesky pain in the arse.

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Universal Approach to Keep the Wheels Spinning In A Difficult Economy

I recently attended a business seminar entitled “Strategies for Growth in a Recovering Economy”. It offered a variety of panelists. We had the CEO of a gardening center; a restaurant owner; a Director at the American Cancer Society and a salesman for Lexus.

Like the rest of us muddling through this economy, running their respective businesses and organizations has been riddled with challenges. Everyone has faced their ups and downs, but how did the panelists survive and thrive? The answers were relatively universal. Of course, no two businesses are alike, but there are many tactics all businesses can take to keep the wheels spinning during a difficult economy:

  1. Analyze. Who is your competition? What are the market trends? What can you do to differentiate and capitalize?
  2. Re-invent yourself. Madonna is the poster girl for reinvention, and that’s what has kept her interesting and relevant. What are you doing to keep your business interesting and relevant?
  3. Look at your strengths and weaknesses. Capitalize on the strengths; get rid of the weaknesses
  4. Enhance or expand your offerings. Diversify.
  5. Re-invest in yourself. Do you need a new store front or web site? Have you considered Facebook promotions or LinkedIn advertisements? What about joining trade organizations? Or, becoming a sponsor of a high profile charity? It’s difficult to think about spending money when you’re having to make cut-backs, but sometimes you have to spend money to make money.
  6. How’s your customer service? Customer retention is as vitally important as customer acquisition. As the restaurant owner on the panel so astutely pointed out: “the most expensive thing in business is an empty seat.”

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No Money, No Problem - Crowdfunding Your Next Big Idea

Sorry big shot venture capital companies and angel investors, but you are becoming a thing of the past like landlines and watching live TV. There is a new kid in town to fund the next multimillion-dollar idea, and its name is crowdfunding.

With individuals and companies going from having empty pockets to raising millions in less than a month to make their ideas a reality, it’s no wonder crowdfunding companies like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and RocketHub have grown so quickly over the past few years.  

Two necessary elements make crowdfunding campaigns so successful. The first element: Have a legitimately GOOD idea. Usually it’s something creative like an innovative movie idea or a cutting-edge solution the addresses some pain point in people’s everyday lives.

A recent client was a great example of this. Its flagship product had already received recognition for its ground-breaking technology, but the company needed to get the product off the ground. With a comprehensive campaign, great video, and widespread social media and PR efforts, the company exceeded its Kickstarter goal by 315%, which made it one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns, and helped the company fund product development, sourcing and marketing efforts.

Speaking of PR, the second element for a successful crowdfunding campaign is to have a well thought out public relations strategy to communicate your bright idea. Let’s face it - you can have the best idea in town, but if no one knows about it, no one is going to contribute to your campaign.  Here are some PR tips to kick your crowdfunding campaign into high gear:

·      Use social media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and blogs to create a buzz before the campaign begins. Communicate the history and the story behind your idea. Engage your audience. Tell them why you are so passionate about it and how your idea will make other everyone's lives better.

·      Reach out to and start the conversation with key media outlets in your market. Getting a write-up in a top blog or high profile media outlet will enhance your fund raising efforts by ten fold.

·      Celebrate milestones by posting updates on your crowdfunding page and through your social media networks. Turn your funders into your biggest fans so they recruit more people to contribute to the cause.

·      Don’t forget to thank to your funders with special pricing on products, stickers, T-shirts, or a personal shout out. Remember, these are the people making your idea a reality and saving you from the pains of sitting through arduous venture capital and angel investor meetings.

 

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Has Social Media Become The New Customer Support?

We’ve all been there. We weren’t happy with a company or its product. We feel horribly inconvenienced and somehow victimized by a company’s actions or its poor service quality. We want this company to pay for its unjust treatment, unethical behavior, or its fallacious product or service. So, what do we do? We take to social media to call out this evil empire publicly in front of all its followers, 'Likers', fans, customers, partners, stakeholders, and employees. It is our First Amendment right after all to say almost anything we want, voice our opinions and be heard! We hope our Tweet, Facebook post, Instagram photo, etc., is going to bring them DOWN for what they did and shame them to the nth degree!

What is a well meaning company to do? It is supposed to be using social media to proactively engage with customers and stakeholders; post fun pictures from the office party or the employee volunteer day at a local church or charity; announce its latest product or service offering; hold a contest, questionnaire, survey – all of that fun stuff.  Social media wasn’t initially designed as a customer complaint center, but it certainly is a great place for it! So how do organizations respond to those disgruntled customers who just want to be heard and let the world know how awful you are?

1.     Respond promptly!  An organization should respond within 24 hours of any customer complaint regardless of platform, be it email, Facebook, online form, or Twitter.  Delaying your response only adds insult to injury and further festers your customer’s anger and frustration. Plus, you’ve given them another reason to complain and in essence build their case against you.

2.     Be apologetic, sympathetic and informative in your response. Apologize to your customer. Let her/him know that you understand their frustration.  Give them a brief background on the situation: “We had a recent change of packing and not all of the product labels have been updated yet.” Let your customer know you care and are aware of the situation.

3.     Provide a solution and satisfaction.  “The product labels will be updated within the month. In the meantime, we would like send you a replacement product at no cost, which will include the new label and instructions.” You customer now feels you’ve catered to his or her needs. It also shows them as well as your audience that you are dedicated to customer satisfaction and loyalty.

With all that said, you can now go back to posting pictures of cute puppies wishing everyone a happy Monday and showing the world just how great you are!

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“When you’re a leader, you’re a CRO: Chief Reminder Officer"

As I was going through some notes I’ve taken from various spiritual leadership conferences, I came across notes I took on Patrick Lencioni’s speech at the Global Leadership Summit last month.  Patrick is the founder of The Table Group, where he spends his time writing books and articles and speaking on topics related to leadership and organizational life.

The first note I wrote on his speech is: “When you’re a leader, you’re a CRO: Chief Reminder Officer.”  You have to remind people why their job matters.

Patrick noted that there are many people who have dirty jobs, yet love their work, and there are plenty of CEOs who are miserable with their work.  It’s not what you do. Rather, do you like what you do?

A recent Ask.com post indicated that a person who works 40 hours per week from age18 to age 65 will have spent approximately 14% of their life working. This equates to almost 11 years of their life.

Many spend those 11 years in misery. So, how do you give your employees a more enjoyable work life? How do you get them to love their jobs? Let’s take a look at the three main components to job misery:

1.     Anonymity.  Are you interested in getting to know the people who work for you? Do people know or care about you?

As a leader, you need to care about people, especially the people who work for you. When you take the time to get to know someone, they stick with you.

We are called to love the people who work for us so take an interest in those who work for you, and if you’re in middle management, take interest in those higher up on the food chain as well. They’re people too with thoughts and feelings, and if they’re not happy; you’re not happy.

2.     Feeling irrelevant. How do you build people up and make them feel relevant? Your job as a leader is to give joy in what could be a joyless situation (like an airport job or nighttime security guard). There is a reason people work and do what they do, but people want relevance in life. They want a sense of purpose. 

Again, it’s your job to remind them why they matter. Let an admin know that he or she helps the office run more smoothly. Let the janitor know that if it weren’t for him, your office would be a mess. Your plants would be dead. Trash would be everywhere… Let people know that their job helps to make your life and your organization better, that they have a purpose and that you value their contribution.

3.     Immeasurement (for lack of a better word). People need to be able to assess that they’re doing a good job. You can always tell people what to do, but do you tell them that they’re doing it well? It is important to provide feedback to your employees or followers. And, it’s not always a number. There are qualitative ways to measure an employee’s performance in their area of relevance. Maybe pull them aside and let them know they’ve had a positive impact on operations. Or, take them out to lunch; buy a little gift, offer a bonus or promotion. Empower them with more responsibility.  However you show it, give people the opportunity to assess what they’re doing and the type of job they’re doing.  If they’re doing a good job, let them know it.

As a leader, one of the most important measures you can take is to make your employees or colleagues love their job. Reach beyond the day-to-day tasks, results and ROI. Let them know that they are an asset to the organization that makes it run and thrive. Where would you be without them? They need to feel known, and not just professionally, but personally. They need to know you care about them as human beings and not just as coworkers. They need relevance and a sense of purpose. They want to know that you value their valuable time and that it makes an overall contribution to the greater success of your organization. Management is a ministry. The happiest employees are the ones that feel known and appreciated by their leaders. And, a good leader is measured by how well he or she knows his or her employees, what drives them and ultimately, gives them a sense of purpose. Remind them why their job matters.




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Unhappy with a Vendor? Maybe It’s Time to Realize “It’s Not you; It’s me”

Are you unhappy with a vendor? Maybe they’re not getting the results you expect, or providing the support and resources you feel you need? Before you start pointing the finger at an unwitting vendor, take a look within your own organization and see how you may be hindering results. You may just be the source of your own discontent.

It's not you...jpg
    • Are you communicating effectively ? I’ve had my PR company for over 11 years. I have worked with all kinds of clients. Some have been great at communicating and including me in all aspects of their business. Others, well, not so much. It is vitally important for a company to have open, free-flowing communication with any vendor – especially because they’re a vendor. They’re not there at every moment every day to attend every meeting. Vendors depend on you to provide essential information to move the business forward. If you’re not communicating effectively, then you can’t expect certain results.
        • How available are you? Do you frequently skip weekly calls? Do you repeatedly reschedule or cancel meetings?  I’ve had clients reschedule media interviews to the point where the reporter gave up, and the client wondered why they weren’t getting much press. If you don’t make yourself available to a vendor or those it brings to the table, then you’re not doing your part to achieve results. Your lack of availability can effect the implementation of planned tactics.  It can also affect your relationships. You must assess what’s important and make it a priority. If you're not making a certain function a priority, then you shouldn’t be paying for it, and you certainly shouldn’t expect unrealistic results from it.
            • Champagne dreams with a beer budget syndrome. Say you’re a startup with the most amazing product ever. You know you deserve coverage in all the major media outlets. You want your PR firm to be at your beck and call 24 hours a day and ready to write that press release and get it out at a moment’s notice. You want 100 hours per month, but you can only afford 10. Sorry, no one is in business to operate at a loss. You need to make sure your budget and expectations are in line. If you can’t afford a certain strategy, you need to understand and accept what you can afford and see how you can leverage less expensive opportunities. You don’t need a million dollars to grow your business, but you do need to be smart about your budget and realistic about your expectations.
                • Timing is everything! Are you calling your agency and telling them you want to put a press release out tomorrow and to basically drop everything to get it done? Are you a very “hurry up and wait” type of organization? I understand those crises arise that requires unplanned damage control. But, if you’ve been sitting on a press release for weeks, then finally decided it was time to get the word out - unless you’re the likes of Apple or Google - you can’t nor should you count on significant results. You also shouldn’t expect your agency to be 100% available for you just because you decided it was time. They have other clients, and you’re probably not their biggest one. Their time is just as valuable as yours, and it's important that you respect it. I actually have fellow agency owners who charge a “last minute” fee. I don’t think that’s such a bad idea.

                  When we’re unhappy with a situation, it’s important to take a look at our own role within that situation. It is never easy to really look at ourselves and see where we may have been wrong or ineffective.  However, recognizing and admitting your weaknesses is a strength in itself. Once you take that honest look at yourself and see what needs to be fixed, you can guarantee better results and be much happier with your vendor.

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                  PR Blunders: What Not to Do and How To Recover From Them

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                  PR Blunders: What Not to Do and How To Recover From Them

                  We’ve seen our fair share of PR blunders from businesses, politicians, and celebrities – even non-profits. How about the huge faux pas by the Susan G. Komen Foundation when it decided pull funding for breast cancer screenings from Planned Parenthood? Or Chik-fil-A’s stance against gay marriage? Or the JetBlue debacle? How about Britney Spears shaving her head in public? Oops, they did it again!

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