Sunday, July 29, 2007

Think Strategically...PR is MORE than just Press Releases!

Building "exclusive credibility" is one of the best ways to describe the benefit of thinking strategically when it comes to Public Relations. It is about establishing a corner where your organization is the reputable representative to speak with authority on a given subject. This is no easy task to undertake, is it?

When the time has come to review how you reach your customers, audience, prospects, investors, members, or the community; an overall strategy that encompasses addressing your audience and how to reach them is essential. For example, if you are preparing a product launch aimed at youth for this Christmas, it is a known fact that their preferred media is the internet. Developing a public relations strategy with a challenge going out to youth on a MySpace account would be an advisable strategy. The thought process of being strategic produces a more effective and measurable campaign than if you were to rely on guess work.

The process of being strategic in your Public Relations thinking starts with identifying your objectives. While in my view, your most important objective should be to establish "exclusive credibility", other objectives could include building relationships, protecting reputations, and supporting marketing efforts.

From there, being "strategic" means laying your ducks in line. Where do your audiences get their information? Are they middle aged men concerned mostly with what's on the news? If so, lining your PR strategy up with a media relations campaign driven by creating a story board of stories would be the best direction to focus creative thinking. It may even be advisable to back such media relations with well-placed advertizing in these same arenas. Is your audience comprised mostly of "soccer moms"? Community outreach campaigns may be the obvious venue. Linking your organization with sponsoring junior sport or breast cancer research for example, builds a reputation of corporate social responsibility. Strategically speaking, a corporation with a reputation of helping the community will undoubtedly receive more positive feedback from its marketing efforts. The other options to public relations strategy can vary from stakeholder relations, product demonstrations in public areas, and internet PR.

After choosing the strategy, it is also crucial to develop what will measure success. Again, strategic thinking is essential. As an example, measuring a gain in positive reputation is a laudable goal. However, how is that measured? Planning ahead allows organization executives to identify milestones and benchmarks. Because no two campaigns are alike, it is essential to profoundly reflect upon expectations. Are they reasonable? Can PR alone achieve these objectives? While measuring the success of Public Relations based on the number of sales an organization achieves is a dubious endeavour, Public Relations Strategists can work with your marketing department or marketing plan to identify points where increased exposure have delivered clear and sustainable results.

Deciding which strategy to undertake requires an ability for creative and out-of-the-box thinking. Planning is your key. Public Relations strategists are experienced in creative thinking and planning. The value of PR planning becomes obvious from their experience and input.
Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Strategic Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy. Make sure to contact him for advice on reaching audiences you may or may not have yet considered in your marketing communications and PR campaigns. Drop him a line if you are looking for help in developing a public relations campaign. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

How Not to Launch a New Product

If you've built a better mousetrap and plan to introduce it into this tidalwave of new products, it is more critical than ever to carefully plan and execute your launch using a strategic approach.

Here are seven classic mistakes companies make when developing new product launch campaigns. Avoiding these pitfalls will greatly increase your odds of success:

Mistake #1: Don't plan the launch until right before the release date

Nothing is more disheartening to a PR or marketing consultant than to have a client call and say, "We have a great new product ready to launch next month. Can you develop a plan by next week?"

Sadly, this happens all too often. Companies spend months—even years—developing a new product only to think about creating the launch plan as the product is rolling off the assembly line.

In a market where over 33,000 new consumer products goods were launched last year, you need a truly outstanding launch strategy to entice consumers to buy your new product. That's not something you can create overnight, so start your launch campaign planning early. If possible, begin launch planning when the product gets the "go" sign from management. That way, you'll have the same amount of time to plan and execute your launch as your production team has to manufacture the product.

Mistake #2: Carve your launch plan in stone

Few new product introductions go exactly according to plan. Snafus occur. Distribution gets delayed. Be sure to build flexibility into your launch plan. Always ask the unpopular question, "What if the launch date gets delayed?"

Keep the launch team in daily communication with the people who are manufacturing and shipping the product so the launch campaign calendar can stay in sync with the shipping date and eventual availability of the product at retail. There is no use implementing a launch campaign touting a product that won't be on the shelves for another month due to production delays.

Mistake #3: Put the head honcho in charge of the launch

Brand managers or product managers are best suited to take primary responsibility for the launch process—not senior personnel whose multiple and competing duties can impair focus and tactical expertise. The involvement and support of the CEO, president and other senior leaders are critical to the success of a launch, but not on a daily basis.

These individuals should be kept in the loop so they can make key decisions when needed and ensure that adequate financial and human resources are being allocated to the effort. But the day-to-day leadership for the launch initiative should come from someone whose sole focus is on making the launch a success.

Mistake #4: Don't educate employees until after the news breaks elsewhere

Your employees are your most important word-of-mouth brand ambassadors. Educate them about the launch plan and prepare them to talk about the product with their family and friends so they can begin to build the buzz.

It's important to enroll these "passionistas" in your launch strategy so they can reinforce what is going to be said when the product is introduced in the trade, business and consumer press.

Mistake #5: Use the same forms of media you've always used

The number of potential media outlets that can talk about your new product grows daily. Don't just dig out the same media list you used for your last launch. There are 6,200 magazines and 240 television stations available today, with hundreds more being introduced each year. There are multiple publications and channels that cover every topic.

Get up-to-the-minute information on each media outlet to make sure its audience is your audience. Don't overlook Internet media outlets that might not have existed when you executed previous launches. And don't forget foreign-language publications and channels, especially if your product appeals to ethnic groups.

Today, the fastest growing demographic in America is the Hispanic population; take advantage of this group's love for news and programming by contacting the publications and stations that cater to this important audience.

Mistake #6: Pour all your resources into "push" strategies

According to findings in the Schneider/Boston University New Product Launch Report, a joint academic research study that examined how marketers launch new products, how you spend your launch budget is as important to success as allocating a healthy budget at the outset. Among the launches studied, those that used a "push" strategy that says "put it on the shelf and they will come" were far less effective than "pull" strategies that drove consumers into stores looking for the new product.

While trade advertising is certainly important, particularly during the sell-in phase, using a significant portion of your overall launch budget on consumer-oriented marketing initiatives will increase your odds of success.

Mistake #7: Skip the crisis plan

The number of things that can go wrong when a new product hits the market is limitless. Brainstorm all potential pitfalls to ensure your plan provides remedies for what might go wrong. Develop a crisis plan that outlines what the team would do in case of a crisis, like a recall or food contamination.

It's always better to have a crisis plan in place rather than trying to create one while facing a major issue that could tarnish your brand.

by Joan Schneider
* * *
Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Marketing Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy. Make sure to contact him for advice on reaching audiences you may or may not have yet considered in your marketing communications and PR campaigns. Drop him a line if you are looking for help in developing a public relations campaign for a product launch. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Best Practices in Selling to Government

Action Strategies' newest affiliate and Magnifier, Derrek Konrad provides a brief insight into how organizations looking to sell to government can get ahead of the curve.

This month we will deal with influencing the buying decision.

When you or your business plan to do business with the government, you enter into a highly competitive environment. The Government of Canada’s top 10 clients purchase almost 13 billion dollars worth of commodities and services annually and many suppliers and potential suppliers are competing for a piece of the action. How can you influence the decision in your favour? If you limiting your chances of success to simply responding to a Request For Proposal (RFP) you are not taking advantage of all of the tools at your disposal.

There are many factors that go into successfully competing and one of them is having an effective voice in the decision-making arena detailing the benefits of awarding a contract to your firm or organization. Your business will have unique characteristics that bring added value to the market that cannot be written into a proposal. This is where a government relations professional can help influence the decision to award a contract.

A government relations specialist will get to know the materiel managers in the target departments of interest to the client and develop an understanding of exactly what their requirements are. This will allow a client to respond more appropriately to an RFP. After a bid has been issued all contact with the department ceases and all communications must be directed to Public Works and Government Services.

Having your firm become known to a department before bids are issued can pay other dividends as well. When a department sends PWGSC a requisition for goods or services they may list suggested sources so doing a good job of promoting your business could get it named as a suggested source. Departments also have authority to do their own contracting for non-mandatory services consequently you could be short-listed for work that falls below the mandatory limit for PWGSC involvement.

Finally, a bit of advice on payment for GR services. While the use of government relations practitioners by prospective contractors is permitted, Treasury Board guidelines prohibit payment on a contingency basis. They must be compensated on a retainer or fee for service basis. If lobbyists are to be used a clause prohibiting contingency fees must be inserted in the contract.


Derrek Konrad is a former Member of Parliament living in Ottawa and practices government relations. He is the principal of Konrad Group and can be contacted by e-mail at: Derrek.konradgroup@rogers.com or by phone at 613-822-9846

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a Government Relations consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting the newsletter section of his website.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Change of address

Just a quick note for those wishing to reach Action Strategies by regular mail. As of August 1, 2007 our new Gatineau address will be:

Action Strategies
270, Champlain #3
Gatineau, QC J8X 3S3



Understanding CATSA; The Canadian Air Transport Security Agency

One of the challenges I have with keeping up with the needs of readers of this blog comes about in equitably dealing with the divergeant needs of corporation heads, association executives, and those simply looking to sell to government. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the challenge!

In meeting this challenge, I endeavor to highlight a particular federal government agency, crown corporation, or department from time to time. In this post, I'm highlighting CATSA; the Canadian Air Transport Security Agency.

CATSA's responsibilities fall into six major areas:

  • Pre-board screening of passengers and their belongings;
    Acquisition, deployment, operation and maintenance of explosives detection systems at airports;

  • Contracting for RCMP policing services on selected flights and all flights to Reagan National Airport;

  • Implementation of a restricted area identification card;

  • The screening of non-passengers entering airport restricted areas;

  • Contributions for supplemental airport policing services.

  • There are four pieces of legislation for which the agency is responsible:

    CATSA is governed by a Board of Directors composed of eleven members, including the Chair, Mr. D. Ian Glen, appointed by the Governor-in-Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Transport. Of the current eight members, two were nominated by airport representatives, and two were nominated by airline representatives.

    The creation of CATSA as a separate agency means that those looking to lobby or influence air transport policy need to understand the governing bodies involved. CATSA has the autonomy from Transport Canada necessary to implement private-sector expertise with the accountability and public confidence of a government department.
    Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & government relations consultancy. He brings a number of years of understanding of working with various government agencies and policy makers. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting the newsletter section of his website.