Monday, November 26, 2007

Tagging Tag Lines

Appropos of my post and several comments about the "Feel the Zeel" campaign in Zeeland, you might be interested in this piece in Brandweek about how taglines are making their exit from advertising.

The article makes some good points, but I would say taglines may still be effective in some cases. However, they are not enough on their own.

As one anonymous comment says, the "Feel the Zeel" line and spraypainting are clever and might get them some name recognition. Well, Osama Bin Laden has name recognition; is it a good brand?

Until more is revealed later today, all we know is that Zeeland has a campaign to promote the city. I "recognize" that. But what MORE will they do and say that will motivate people from West Olive, Fennville and other cities in the region to engage in commercial activity in Zeeland.

This is my complaint about lots of advertising--raising awareness, cool design, clever tag lines please people in the conference room. But where are the results? What were the objectives?

If you want to be clever, congratulations. If you want to change attitudes and behaviors, show me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

GR Chamber Publicity Event

I moderated an event titled the "Power of Publicity" for the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce yesterday. Panelists included Anton Wishik of Gemini Publications, Deborahh Johnson Wood of Rapid Growth, Diane Kniowski of WOOD TV 8 (and other stations) and Kelly Smallagan Mass of Lambert Edwards and Associates.

There was a good 90-minute discussion, including a long and entertaining back-story on the return of the weather ball. But the essential reminders included the following:

  • the vast majority of press releases are emailed, and journalists prefer that;
  • photos, audio and video are appreciated and used, particularly on media Web sites;
  • press releases are not dead--well-written ones are better than short pitches because, if interested in the story, the journalist is saved the work of asking for more information;
  • include a contact or several sources for follow up, and be available;
  • journalists and PR people DO get along--it's politicians who spin. PR pros--honest ones--help journalists and are appreciated;
  • news releases only work if its news; there are other ways to reach your publics if its not. Media relations is a fraction of what PR people do these days. PR is far more than publicity.
  • getting a degree in public relations at, say, Grand Valley State University, is essential.

    OK, I added that last one. Happy Thanksgiving.
  • Feel the Zeel Reveal

    The Holland Sentinel reports (link may take you to current day's local news vs archived story) that odd "graffiti" is appearing all over Zeeland--a Z! in a circle spray painted on sidewalks and buildings.

    They report that local officials won't admit that this is a marketing campaign--yet. But c'mon, it's obvious. So much so that it seems the Sentinel is complicit in this little teaser, also known as reveal advertising for teasing people and then 'revealing' what's going on later.

    The gimmick is more obvious by the fact that the Sentinel web coverage includes a video of "clandestine" taggers adding the "Z!" all over town, as well as a "Feel the Zeel" slogan. Word is the frequently awarded, Holland-based Image Group is behind the campaign. Given the Sentinel coverage, it appears to be working so far--in terms of attention.

    But in terms of attitudes and behavior--such as more traffic in Zeeland--we have yet to see. Maybe that will happen after something more is "revealed." I mean, right now Zeeland has alcohol and a slogan, which is more than enough for some college students and rednecks. But it'll take more for other demographics to descend on the cozy suburb of the booming metropolis of Holland.

    Meanwhile, the campaign to promote Grand Rapids (remember "Keep it a Secret"?) is working very well--at last count, the evidence of the campaign for the city is still, in fact, a secret.

    Monday, November 12, 2007

    NonProfit PR

    A few weeks ago I participated on a panel discussion about nonprofits and blogging. It was part of the biennial WMPRSA NonProfit PR conference. Roberta King and Clare Wade did a great job, and I helped, providing an overview of the interesting and complicated subject of blogging and PR as it applies to nonprofits.

    If you missed that and are interested, the New York Times has a special section today on "Giving" that includes some interesting articles. Among them, the recurring subject of people expecting nonprofs to give more, and not just to collect. In other words, people are demanding accountability, transparency, and measurement of results with nonprofits the same as they are with big corporate entities and governments.

    Another good, related, piece is about blogging. In particular, it addresses the fact that more bloggers out there are blogging about nonprofits. One point I made at the workshop is that even if YOU don't blog, you need to monitor the blogosphere using Technorati and other tools to see what people are saying about your organization or your cause/issue.

    I'd encourage non-profit PR pros to read the section and have a discussion at your next staff meeting.

    Tuesday, November 06, 2007

    Journalist, Don't Quote Thyself

    Hoo-boy. I usually enjoy reading the "Street Talk" column in the Grand Rapids Business Journal for its snarky tone and quick update on local news. So I was a little shocked to read the lead item this week about the BJ forming a partnership with WZZM TV 13 (apparently ending the relationship with FOX 17).

    It's an interesting item about this new partnership that you can read for yourself. But what I found surprising and amusing were the quotes from the respective media outlets.

    Carole Valade of the BJ rattled off this ad copy: "As the region's premier source of regional business news for 25 years, Grand Rapids Business Journal is pleased to be a part of this partnership with WZZM."

    Sheesh. I need a chalkboard. First, are you only pleased as a "premier blah blah blah?" Could you not be pleased as a human, or just plain pleased? Do you insert positioning statements in all your conversations?

    And what's with being "part of a partnership." Um, duh.

    Tim Geraghty (why not Janet Mason?), WZZM news director, doesn't do much better when he steps up to the PR plate: "WZZM is excited to be part of this relationship."

    Greater words of love have been expressed at a shotgun wedding.

    Why speak in the third person as (name of organization)? What's with the pedestrian commentary that we are "pleased" and "excited?" For one, everyone says that and it sounds more like formula than feeling. Even if you do feel it, it's expected that you are excited about what you are doing.

    Here's an idea--how about contributing something meaningful with the quote. These spokespersons for WZZM and GRBJ could hold forth on why this is being done, or--gasp--why it's relevant to readers and viewers.

    I teach my media relations students the nuances of offering good quotes in news releases, and have them practice in writing drills. One thing I tell them is to avoid the "LAQ" (a high tech communication acronym that stands for..."lame ass quote"). Journalists would never use dribble in a story, I say. They'd do their own interviews, get something meaningful, conversational, genuine, I explain.

    Well, apparently that's not the case when they quote themselves. Perhaps they've read too many bad press releases, full of LAQs.

    Sunday, November 04, 2007

    Sticky Squink

    Judging from two reader comments from Chicago and DC, sites like "Squink" are making inroads in larger metro markets.

    And this morning, Grand Haven Tribune Publisher Paul Bedient tells me: "After 72 hours, we’ve served up over 16,500 pages to about 850 visitors."

    He's thinking it'll be a sticky site. Of course, 72 hours is early, but those are good stats for starters. It must help when you own a newspaper to promote your site too :)

    Friday, November 02, 2007

    From Ink to 'Squink'

    The Grand Haven Tribune unveiled an interesting Web site

    You can read the Tribune article about the site for more detail, but essentially its a newspaper providing a photo sharing, social media site for local residents.

    This is an example of a newsprint enterprise trying to be relevant in the digital, Web 2.0 world. It has some merit--the photo staff of the Tribune can share their photos, residents can upload their own, and the increasingly visually stimulated public can browse. It's a way for the Tribune to interact with readers and the community, perhaps community members who are not readers. It definitely has a local emphasis, which is what newspapers like the Tribune need to emphasize if they want to survive in an era of declining readership. In other words, it's a public relations effort to build new relationships and enhance existing ones.

    A few have already posted photos. We'll have yet to see if the site is "sticky." There are ads on the site, from Google AdSense. The publisher says they hope to attract more local advertisers for banner web ads. So there's potential revenue stream and sustainability for the site.

    There is a danger that some ill-advised business or organization will try to "colonize" the site by posting promotional photos. When this is tried on Facebook and other social sites, it doesn't work. However, it could be a good PR opprtunity if the photos follow the existing rules of Web 2.0, in other words if they are of a genuine interest that is not blatantly self serving.