Public Relations, Best Served With A Dash Of Magic.

Posted on May 23, 2014. Filed under: Public Relations, Public Relations Commentary | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Time was when magicians were loath to reveal their trade secrets to anyone. To do so would be akin to Coca Cola giving away its secret recipe for its eponymous soft drink. There probably isn’t enough money in the world to entice Coke to publicly expose its secret soda recipe. But the lure of television dollars broke the brotherhood of magicians. Who hasn’t watched one of those hoary TV shows in which a professional magician takes you behind the scenes to see how the magic is actually made?

Not that I don’t believe in magic still. I do, just as I believe – against all the sputterings of the stern-faced naysayers – in the Curse of the Billy Goat on the Chicago Cubs and in the theory that says Oswald didn’t do it by himself.

But most magicians are showmen and show-women, crowd pleasers who practice a learnable trade, it seems.

Let There Be Magic

Public relations people are often urged to go “do their magic” by clients. It’s a high compliment when someone – especially someone who’s footing the bill for your work – tells you that. It means they believe you as a PR person can move mountains of media coverage and publicity their way. That’s what PR people do, truth be told, especially if they’re on the agency or freelance side and must earn their way by performing magic on a routine basis.

But is there really magic involved? Public relations is certainly a learnable trade. It’s routinely taught in colleges and universities, alongside other disciplines such as accounting, public policy and law.
Sober-minded professionals will tell you that public relations is 99% hard work and 1% inspiration. Little room for magic there. But the wise public relations practitioner always keeps a little container of magic dust hidden about the office somewhere.

Because what clients, especially on the promotional side of things, want is real magic to take place. They want to see their story come to life through the media. They want to become more relevant with customers through social media. They want to see demand for their products and services soar. They believe in PR magic. And so should we, the PR practitioners. Because PR, when done well, does have an element of magic to it.

No Glory In Obscurity

How’s that, you say? (I won’t assume you’re a stern-faced naysayer if that’s what you say.)

How else to explain the sudden explosion of news coverage that occurs after a well-timed media event or well-crafted and disseminated news announcement? Yesterday, you weren’t even on the news media’s agenda. You were Mr. or Ms. News Nobody. Today, you’re in the news everywhere – or at least in all the news media outlets that mean something to you and your business. It’s a new day for you and your company. You feel good, like you just knocked in a 40-foot putt on the 18th hole at Augusta to beat a gape-faced competitor by one stroke.

Later in the week or month, as the case may be, after the excitement has died down some, you get to thinking: that was great, but what’s next? Is there any magic left in our story? How do we keep the momentum up, going forward!

Glad you asked.

This is where good PR people really earn their keep, by coming up with creative ways to keep their clients in focus with customers and prospective customers. We do it by recommending strategies and tactics that will engage and motivate customers to choose you over the competition. The selection of tools to use may vary, depending on a host of client-specific variables. Newsletters, social media, media briefings, feature story placements, new events, celebrity tie-ins, games – the PR toolbox is bigger than ever today.

The public relations world is bristling with opportunity for companies that are willing to open themselves up to it. Not all good PR ideas, it’s true, come from the outside PR experts. But a good many of them do, precisely because of that “outsider” point of view. That’s why it’s so important for clients – in my opinion – to engage with public relations agencies and freelancers (the aforesaid “outside experts”) not just on a one-time, gimme your best shot type of thing but for a longer-term engagement.

Inspiration Is Good Magic

Good PR people deliver outstanding value. There is a kind of magic in that. It’s a hard-won magic – public relations is the kind of profession where experience really counts, along with a near-rabid belief in one’s ability to make a difference in the world. Therein lies the true source of magic.

No good comes from trying to dispel the sense of magic that informs the world of public relations and marketing. True, they’re both disciplines, and in this age of big data driven marketing systems, it might seem that the scientific approach is dispelling any sense of magic that a PR practitioner might bring to the table. Can’t argue with the facts. Big data is impressive. Fixed up with a little PR magic and you might be surprised at just how impressive it can be!

So, to recap, PR is 99% hard work, 1% inspiration, leavened occasionally by a slight sprinkling of magic dust – some might call that mightily inspired thinking – by the PR practitioner who knows when and how to apply it. It all comes down to knowing what you want, knowing how to attain what you want, and then having the willingness to expend the time, effort and resources to achieve the goal.

The idea of magic might be off-putting to some. And yet, consider the Cubs and their Billy Goat problem. The last time they won a World Series was in 1908. They haven’t even been in a World Series since 1945. What’s really amazing is that Cubs fans still flock to Wrigley Field in droves, acting as if they believe every year that someone is going to wave a magic wand over the Northsiders and turn them into world-beaters.

What about you? Has the magical muse of public relations ever touched your life? Are you interested in making some PR magic for your own business endeavors? Feel free to leave comments, ask questions, even contact me directly and we could have good conversation about what type of PR magic might work best for your business.

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Target’s Foray Into Subscriptions Begs The Question: What About Your Business?

Posted on April 18, 2014. Filed under: Creative Marketing, Public Relations, Public relations practices, Retail, Small Business in Minnesota | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Probably no Twin Cities-based company is more closely watched by business locals than Target Corporation. Not that the Twin Cities is a one-horse town, corporately speaking — far from it! Rather, Target is the odds-on favorite in a multi-horse lineup of big hitters. So it’s interesting to us locally — and surely to many marketers nationally as well — when Target announces that it is pursuing more online sales by bolstering its subscription business. See Target Expands Online Subscription Sales.

Subscriptions Can Be A Sweet Addition To A Business

Subscription sales by major marketers is a hot topic at present. General Mills, for example, is building out a subscription business with a line of unique culinary treats — a healthy sweet treat a day keeps the dogs of want away, might be the underlying idea there.

Target’s idea is to motivate consumers and businesses alike to sign up for regular shipments of everyday products such as washing detergents, paper goods, cleaning products — the mundane stuff that no home or business can afford to be without. Purchase online, add them to your account, specify delivery intervals, and voila – your life simplified. It’s a good idea, not new, but good all the same. Many, many companies pursue a similar strategy of course.

But the question is, why aren’t even more companies doing it? Specifically, small to medium sized businesses — and non-profits too — with both products and services to sell? Why couldn’t a hair stylist offer to cut and beautify hair on a subscription basis – 12 sessions per year, sign on for the subscription to the service and get a 10% discount? A florist could initiate a bouquet-of-the-month club for consumers and businesses alike. Specialty food businesses are obviously ideal for this type of business development model — especially if they’re willing and able to partner with other food products marketers to provide customized food baskets.

A Little Creative Thought Can Reveal A Powerful New Marketing Niche

Even professional services companies could benefit from the subscription approach to client retention. A competitive-landscape-analysis-of-the-month club for clients of a public relations or advertising firm, for example. Or a monthly webinar providing an in-depth, value-added look at a topic of deep relevance to clients. This kind of approach could also benefit law firms, accounting firms, non-profits — the potential is limitless.

The moral of the story is, if it’s good enough for the likes of a mass merchandising giant like Target, it’s probably good enough for your business too.

Willing To Help

If you’d like to discuss such issues with an experienced marketing industry pro, feel free to get in touch with me. No fee for a brainstorming sounding out of ideas here.

Now then, Target as noted is not the only major retailer ramping up online sales. Home Depot is, by report of the Wall Street Journal, reducing its new-store openings drastically while promoting much more aggressively it’s online sales site. That’s a huge switch for the retailer, whose main growth strategy in the past has been based on new store growth. But the bricks-and-mortar segment of the business is over-crowded with competition, say Home Depot executives. And even the vastness of the Home Depot stores can only contain about 35,000 products versus the 600,000 offered on the retailer’s website.

Home Depot makes it easy for consumers to order online — and pickup goods at a local Home Depot bricks-and-mortar location. That’s called killing two birds, one virtual, one physically present, with one giant marketing stone.

 

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