Sunday, February 25, 2007

Who's Your Addy

I had to teach Thursday night and could not attend the annual Addy extravaganza. So I had to read the Grand Rapids Press article and go to the Ad Club West Michigan Web site to see the results.

Both sources tell who won, and for what. (Interesting to see that Steelcase's inhouse efforts garnered as many awards as some agencies.)

But I can't tell WHY anyone won. My problem in the past with the Addys is that, as wonderful as the work is by observation, shouldn't a winner be required to show that the ad, oh, dare I say it, accomplished something? Particularly, did it accomplish what it was supposed to, what was envisioned before the ad was created and implemented?

But we never know for sure. The industry and the academy are putting more emphasis on measurement and ROI. The various awards programs should do the same.

The PRoof Awards, given by the West Michigan Public Relations Society of America, require an evaluation and demonstration that the various PR efforts--whether media relations, advertising, or all manner of events--achieved the desired objectives. (That's why they are called the PRoof Awards). I wonder if the Press will explain that in their coverage of PRoof winners.

On another subject, we have yet to see the Press cover PRoof Awards to the extent they cover the Addy's. I guess business interests continue to win over journalistic integrity on this matter at the Press. Advertisers bring in money, so they get covered. PR folks who provide news, access to newsmakers and other less tangible efforts, don't get covered. I and other local PR pros have spoken to the Press about this in the past, to no avail.

Social Media Art

Speaking of reaching a younger market, the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts has employed social media to reach younger patrons.

Two interns are blogging about their experiences working at KIA. They also have set up social media sites at the two most popular online locations, My Space and Facebook.

Social media started as a way for individuals to network. Their phenomenal rise in popularity, particularly after the sought-after teen and 20-something set, got the attention of professionals ranging from corporate marketers to political candidates. It makes sense to use these technologies as promotional tools for the young. But it can be a two-edged sword.

For one, some young people have been cancelling their network site memberships because they don't want to be a target of PR and marketing campaigns. We always have to be careful that we adopt new media in appropriate ways that engage and don't alienate audiences.

But on the other hand, a new study from Ketchum PR and the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California found that social media is extending beyond the youthful to older demographics.

It's another example of the need for PR folks to be ever vigilant about staying current with all the rapidly unfolding media channels, and ensuring that we don't put all our communication eggs in one basket, but maintain an appropriate media mix. It's also important to think not just about reaching people, but having meaningful relationships with them. If we focus on the latter, we run less risk of using new media inappropriately.

Meanwhile, I'm not sure how successful KIA has been. It's early. But it would be interesting to know what their specific, measurable objectives are for this effort, and whether new media helps them accomplish the objectives. For example, are young people paying attention to KIA in these new media, older people, are they attending exhibits, contributing money, volunteering etc?

Another Bank Brands

As a sign of a competitive industry, Independent Bank is now working on a re-brand, coinciding with the recent announcement of the Fifth Third rebrand efforts (see earlier post).

According to an article in Business Review, the Ionia-based bank is updating the colors and design of its logo, and revising materials to stress as one that is accessible and easy to use. They also are working to appeal to younger customers, but they don't define how young that niche is.

It's good that VP of Marketing Shelby Reno says the brand appeal reflects customers' current perception. However, one wonders if that perception will automatically be shared by the new market they are trying to reach. It is also unclear if the age-specific brand effort will retain customers who mature, like bonds, and are looking for more senior services.

Friday, February 16, 2007

PR Student Knows How to Promote Her Cause

Diane Peasel, a Grand Valley State University public relations student, was frustrated with some issues in her new apartment and with the lack of response from management about the problems. So she put her PR skills to use.

She wrote a news release and consulted the media contact list she had done in a class last semester and shipped it out to area media. When she came to professor Tim's office, she expressed a little surprise at the rapid response. Professor Tim reminded her that "conflict" is one of the key criteria for news judgement.

You can see a video of the resulting coverage on Fox 17's Web site.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Zondervan Writes the Book on Branding

This morning was one of the better West Michigan PRSA events I've attended in my 10 or so years as a member of the group.

Bill Oechsler of Zondervan gave an excellent presentation on branding. It was a case study about the locally based Christian publisher's recent rebranding. Sometimes the downside of case studies is that they are so specific that there is not broad applicability, but that wasn't true in this case.

For one, Zondervan's was an interesting case. It's a West Michigan company that can show some significant success on a national stage, and thus give hope to all of us. Also, the three micro cases Bill presented had lessons that all could apply to their own company or organization. Included in these lessons are:

  • Public relations is more than publicity, it's about relationships, and thus has a major and central role to play in branding;
  • A brand is more than a logo; it must have meaning for intended publics and be about something no one else can offer;
  • You can and should use lots of creative and unique tactics to launch and perpetuate the brand.

    In addition, I like that Bill stressed they wanted to stand apart not just in their industry, but against all brands. Think about it: Coke, McDonalds, Zondervan. (I just hope they don't get together and offer Bible hero figures in Happy Meals).

    Seriously, it's encouraging to see local companies stand tall in the national and global branding game. I've said it before, I'll say it again--real innovation doesn't have to come from New York and LA.
  • Saturday, February 10, 2007

    Fifth Third's Fractional Logo

    Fifth Third Bank has announced it is updating its logo. Thank goodness it appears to be more than a visual change. The bank's news release mentions the visual aspects of the brand change LAST in the release, and focuses up top on the most important aspects of any brand--what the bank is promising and what it will DO.

    When it gets to visuals, there will be a color change and a new swooshy thingie (my words). But here, the release explains it well:

    "The new identity symbolizes a horizon, with an update of the distinctive Fifth Third shield serving as a foundation for the visual."

    The release was written by a Cincinnati based PR person who is APR, and it shows. The PR/branding savvy is most evident in the explanation of fundamental PR activities associated with this brand change:

  • They did research;
  • They clearly respond to that research by offering customers more long-term service, connecting short-term banking needs and decisions with long-term impact on a customer's life;
  • The brand slogan "promises for a better tomorrow" is not just a clever phrase, but based on research and what president Kevin Kabat calls human values;
  • The brand shows indications that it will be lived by employees, and not just be mumbo jumbo handed down by management.

    I love the quote from Larry S. Magnesen, chief marketing officer: “In many ways, our 22,000 employees and six million customers helped to create this new brand.” That should always be the case.

    My only complaint is the name. Fifth Third? I know it has tradition, but when they bought Old Kent I was troubled by the new name. Banks are funny that way. They tend to like numbers in their names. But Fifth Third is an odd fraction. At least it amounts to more than one, so it was better than say, Bank One. But then they were bought by Chase, which means they can't be number one anymore, because they name implies they are chasing someone. Fifth Third can't decide if it's fifth or third. Then again, maybe Old Kent wasn't so hot. Sounds like a guy on a park bench. So maybe Fifth Third works. Or maybe, part of the "better tomorrow" they promise will include a better name.
  • Saturday, February 03, 2007

    WSJ Moves Calvin to Minnesota

    The Wall Street Journal's February 2 "Weekend Journal" section included a lead article about U.S. colleges offering study 'abroad' programs domestically in the U.S. They called it a trend in response to increased dangers traveling overseas and other factors.

    Locally based Calvin College was mentioned in a sidebar for its semester program in the American Southwest among the Navajo. PR Director Phil DeHaan tells me they were never contacted about the story, so an enterprising reporter must have been trolling for info about such programs. It shows how we have to be ever vigilant in monitoring media--a reporter's call isn't enough of a tip about coverage.

    While DeHaan says the article is really neither positive or negative about the college, it is nice to be mentioned in national media. He only wishes they wouldn't have moved Calvin to Grand Rapids, Minnesota in the sidebar. They have asked for a correction.

    GRBJ Covers IR Well

    Nice piece about the investor relations aspect of public relations in this week's Grand Rapids Business Journal (subscription required for full content).

    The article pays particular attention to the importance of the quarterly conference calls in the corporate relations, investor relations function. Reporter Dan Schoonmaker does a fine job explaining the nuances of this work, including comments from a variety of West Michigan's PR pros, including Lambert Edwards and Assocoiates founder and managing partner Jeff Lambert, as well as PR directors at Herman Miller, Woverine World Wide and others.

    I'm of course a cheerleader for our profession and the region, but the article shows some real talent for IR, one of the newer and growing PR functions that used to be left to the CFO. In fact, Schoonmaker told me a few years ago that he called Business Week magazine to get a referral to a national expert on IR, and he was told about LEA right here in River City!

    I've always complained that local and national media cover advertising as a regular beat, but not PR. If they mention PR, it is usually as an aspect of advertising--don't get me started on that. Perhaps its because advertising gives the media money and PR gives them "merely" information.

    In any event, the GRBJ does a nice, straight, informative overview of the quarterly conference call, highlighting the role of PR and the importance of this effort to company's and investors, a primary public. It hints that PR is--gasp!--much broader than advertising and marketing in its objectives and associated publics.