Target Market

Recipe to Riches serves up vital PR & Marketing lesson

Last night’s Recipe to Riches on Channel 10 provided an important reminder to any business, PR, or marketing team when it comes to developing a brand and communications plan.

The importance of defining and understanding your audience.

One of the  contestants Rose Bonfa makes gluten-free almond meringue biscuits and was discussing her product’s branding and messaging with the show’s ‘Ad man’ David ‘Nobby’ Nobay.

Nobby asked her to define the product’s target market. She gave a raft of different answers – coeliacs, health-conscious people, foodies, kids etc.   He asked again, but this time got her to prioritise the most important audience.

Her answer was foodies.  From that point on they were able to create a name, visual look and feel for the brand and packaging, plus develop the messaging. Rose went on to become the eventual winner of the show.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with a developer at a recent #SMPerth networking event. He’s invented an app and is having problems getting his product talked about. We asked who he was trying to reach – he said my target market is global.

It is great he is so ambitious but the target market needs to be clearly defined. If you know who you audience is, you’re able to:

  • Understand their pain points and how your product / service addresses these
  • Learn about their attitudes towards your product / service and what would engage them
  • Craft messages and activity that directly relates to them
  • Identify the best channels to communicate with them

Essentially when I’m defining a target audience for a client, I think about:

a)      Those who can take action for or against the company
b)      Those that can influence what the audience thinks and does

From there I go on to articulate exactly who the audience is and what we want them to know, say, or do. For more advice, here’s a good basic approach to defining your target market – http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/06/defining-your-target-market.html

On a side note, Recipes to Riches is a brilliant platform for Woolworths.  Like many people, I’ve headed there straight after a program to get a taste of the previous night’s winning recipes.  Well played Woolies marketing team.

Have agencies forgotten the basics of customer service?

It’s been 175 days since I last worked full-time for a communications agency.   Not a lot of time in the scheme of things – a mere 1% of my life to date – but enough time to give me a sense of perspective about the relationship between agencies and their clients.

Technically I’m still agency-side as I provide PR and communications advice to companies on a contract basis. However those clients treat me as part of their team so I honestly feel like I’ve gone in-house (gasp!).

I work directly with the founders of my core clients, one of which is a start-up while the other has a business that is only 5 years old. Both founders are incredibly intelligent, madly passionate about what they do and have high expectations when it comes to the people they work with. And rightly so.

The work I do with them is varied and I’m fortunate that they trust me to recommend and commission other third-parties. I’ve had to write briefs for creatives, PR agencies, web developers and designers on their behalf and act as the liaison between the client and the contractors.

Generally it’s been a good experience but there have been occasions that have caused me to pause and wonder whether agencies have forgotten the basics of customer service.

In fact, these occasions have really ticked me off and I can appreciate why clients whine about agencies.  Some of the traits I’ve come across recently include:

  • Unresponsive – don’t acknowledge emails or return phone calls, fail to respond quickly to an urgent media deadline
  • Non-committal – won’t provide a firm timeline for responding to a brief or delivering a piece of work
  • Lazy –rely solely on the client to provide every skerrick of information and don’t bother doing their own research
  • Apathetic  – just don’t care about the client or their business, even if it’s been handed to them on a plate
  • Poor communication – over promise and under deliver, fail to provide work when they said they would (that’s when they have committed to a deadline) and wait for the client to do the chasing

A lot of this should be covered in client management 101 but it seems to have been forgotten.

Now, I’ve been on the end of a client tirade where I’ve been told that I’m the servant and essentially there to do their bidding, regardless of what it is and whether I believe in it. I don’t expect that from the people I work with and I know how demanding it can be within an agency.

Instead, my advice to agencies is to try and think about it from the client’s perspective. If it’s a small business then typically you’ll be working with an owner-manager who has invested a lot of time and money in developing their organisation. They might not have much (if any) marketing experience and will be looking for a partner they can trust, someone who is excited about their business and its potential.

In larger companies, your client might be lower down the rungs but they’ll still have their own pressures, internal deadlines and stakeholders to manage. If you fail to deliver to them, they will have to handle the fall-out with their bosses. Needless to say it’s not a great way to build a good relationship.

And lastly, if you don’t want the business then please don’t take it. It’s not just your reputation that’s on the line, it’s also the person who has recommended you.

Saying no to being a pitch bitch

In marketing the common approach to appointing a new PR, advertising or digital agency is to host a pitch, inviting agencies to showcase their talent, ideas and synergy with the organisation.

An enormous amount of agency time and resources is spent on developing a campaign that will ‘’wow’’ the prospective client.

A good agency will create a dedicated team that is responsible for interrogating the brief, delving into the client’s business, researching and developing a strategy and, if required, a creative component.

They’ll spend hours psycho-analysing the client, trying to understand what will give them the edge over the competition or wondering who in the agency will have the most chemistry with the client counter-part.

All of this is done for free.

That has been the lay of the land for many years – just watch an episode of Mad Men.

Inevitably in this situation there is one winner.  If you’re on the losing team, you dust yourself off, think about what you can learn from the experience, and move on to the next one.

I accept that process and I accept that it is unlikely to change despite debates consuming the industry about whether clients should be charged for pitches.

What I don’t accept is client organisations that then proceed to pillage the pitch documents of the agencies who participated.

They take the ideas that were presented to them for free and develop the campaigns as their own, without any recognition or financial compensation for the agency that invested thousands of dollars into creating them.

Sure, they might tweak it or even claim that the ideas were generated internally but in essence they are stealing another person’s intellectual property.

Again, this has been the lay of the land for many years.  Organisations have even been known to create a fake pitch situation just to get a fresh round of ideas without having to pay for them.

Some agency heads might tell me to suck it up, to stop being a princess as there’s nothing that can be done about it.

But that’s the beauty of being a freelancer. I can say no. I can say no to being a pitch bitch and giving my ideas away for free to organisations I don’t believe deserve it.

The organisations that do deserve it are the ones that treat you with respect and like you’re a part of their team.

I love working with clients like this and I don’t mind throwing in ideas for free as it can be really rewarding (emotionally and financially) as well as mutually beneficial for all involved.

But I draw the line at working for clients that treat you like a servant, that expect something for nothing, and don’t give anything back in return.

If you’re in an agency or a freelancer like me, please think about saying no to being a pitch bitch. Respect yourself and respect your ideas.  As the L’Oréal ads say – because you’re worth it.

Your tactics are keeping me awake

At 5.30am this morning I was thinking about an email I received the other day. It contained a PR action plan that went something like this:

–          Write media release

–          Develop profile document

–          Set-up interviews

I didn’t know what the company was trying to communicate, whether there was a theme or platform it was using to engage the media, or if it was part of wider marketing activity.

Besides the fact it presupposed that media relations was the only answer, at no point was there any reference to strategy or campaign development.

For me, this is like driving around Australia without a map. You’re going to get lost.

Before you consider sending out a media release or writing a blog post or running a competition, consider this. Why?

Why are you doing it? Is it to drive traffic to your website to increase sales, or is it to establish your company as an authority in order to break into a new market?

Understanding this is key to developing your strategy and helps to define your objectives. This in turn provides the guardrails for all your PR activity and means you can measure whether you’ve been successful or not.

For example, you’re an online furniture store that has just launched and you need to generate website traffic in order to make sales. You know that women aged 25-45 are your core market and that they rely on respected authorities for advice and inspiration on what to buy.

A strategy could involve encouraging word of mouth recommendation of your website by introducing your brand to influential people in interior design.

Once this is in place you can develop a campaign. The campaign provides a theme that makes all the activity hang together.

For our online furniture store, we could create a campaign around the realities of interior design, tying into the plethora of reality TV shows about home renovation.

A campaign tactic we could use is blogger outreach and would involve contacting bloggers who write about interior design. You could challenge the bloggers to choose the pieces from your store that they would use if they were taking part in Channel 9’s The Block, and encouraging them to write a series of blogs including how-to hints and tips.

This profiles your furniture and provides them with content. You’ll be able to track traffic to your website from their blogs which means you’re able to measure whether it worked.

This is obviously a condensed version of how you develop a strategy and a basic example. There is much more involved but the underlying message is simple. Just ask why.

Rebecca

Ps – if you do need help understanding the difference between strategy and tactics, it’s worth reading Sandra Oliver’s book Public Relations Strategy.

So, you’re in business now

I received my Australian Business Number (ABN) in the post yesterday.  It was one of those moments that made me realise that I was no longer an employee. Me? The boss? Well I never.

But here we are, one week into this new adventure.

In addition to starting working on new clients (YAY), I’ve spent a lot of time on the ATO website and downloaded a tonne of guides for start-up businesses.  I’ve registered for a course at the Small Business Development Corporation and found templates galore for cashflow forecasts.

My inner Excel geek is living the dream.

And, speaking of which, I’ve started timesheets. Thanks to a recommendation from my old boss, I now use an online system called Harvest that tracks my time and produces invoices. So far, so good.

Amongst all of this I have come to appreciate how much a start-up business has to contend with in the early days.  I can totally understand why defining the newly hatched organisation’s brand doesn’t necessarily come at the top of the never-ending to-do list.

This hit home when I ran into an old client the other day. I updated her on my plans and she said, so tell me why I would hire you? What makes you different?

I’ve spent my career answering those questions for other people but, believe it or not, I get really uncomfortable when I have to promote myself.

But they are two really important questions and are at the heart of helping to define and communicate your brand. And I’m not talking about a logo.

Seth Godin neatly defined a brand as “the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”

Charles Revson, founder of Revlon, defined his brand by saying “In the factory we make cosmetics, in the store we sell hope.”

This is the promise Revlon makes to its customers and they aim to deliver it in everything they do – the product itself, the packaging, the marketing, the customer service.

So ask yourself, what do you want your customers to say, feel, believe about your brand?  Now, how are you going to deliver it?

Rebecca

PS

If you’re thinking about starting a business, here’s some resources I’ve used so far:

Australian Tax Office – http://www.ato.gov.au/

ANZ’s Small Business Hub – www.thesbhub.com.au

Small Business Development Corporation – http://www.smallbusiness.wa.gov.au/

Business Victoria – http://www.business.vic.gov.au

Build a business from your kitchen table – http://buildabusiness.notonthehighstreet.com/

Going solo

Exactly four weeks ago today I left my role as the Strategic PR Advisor at Linc Integrated. It was something I had thought about for a while. Not because I didn’t like the job or the team, indeed I have enormous respect for them, but because I was questioning what I wanted to do.

So, I left Linc without another job. It was scary but also immensely freeing.

Immediately I had friends, Linc team mates and former colleagues urging me to start-up on my own. I rejected the idea, purely on the basis that I’m not a fan of business development and I hate timesheets. Honestly, they are evil.

But rather than worrying about job-hunting, I travelled to my spiritual home of 10 years – London.

It was here that I had dinner with a former client who I’d kept in touch with. She asked me what I liked to do. Easy, I said. Writing, getting under the skin of an organisation, building connections, and helping people solve problems.   

What do you know? She offered me a job, right there over a bottle of Jamie Oliver’s finest Prosecco. It wasn’t a full-time role, it was a project that I could work on from home and it was in a sector that I enjoy working in.  

I said yes and the rest, as they say, is history. Other opportunities have sprung up since that day and it makes me truly believe that good things will happen if you’re open to new experiences.

So here I am typing the first post for my new blog – Free Agent – in my hastily configured home office. I don’t know where this road will take me but it’s certainly worth finding out. 

PR doesn’t stand for Press Release

An article in a UK newspaper last year claimed more public relations professionals (aka PRs) and fewer journalists threatens democracy.

As much as I’d love to wield that amount of power, I don’t think our profession can bring down a form of government that has been in existence for thousands of years.

The article was written by Roy Greenslade, a professor of journalism and former editor of the Daily Mirror. In it he focuses on the role of the PR to produce ‘’oven-ready’’ copy and states the 24 hour news cycle, demand for multimedia content, and fewer journalists will result in more PR driven stories.

Yet, media relations is just one aspect of PR and Greenslade’s article reveals a misunderstanding shared by many –believing the job of a PR is purely to put a spin on a story, either keeping bad news out of the media or putting a positive slant on it.

I won’t deny there is a certain truth to this, the number of ex-journalists employed by PR agencies shows there is some proof in the pudding, yet the role of a PR is much broader.

Our job is about enhancing the reputation of our employer or client to help deliver business success. This could take many forms, from sponsorship to develop community relations through to an internal communications program to motivate and engage staff.

We provide counsel to senior business leaders, encourage direct interaction with customers and, in many cases, are the driving force behind transparent communications.

For WA companies looking to hire a PR consultant, either in-house or via an agency, I urge you to consider these four things:

1. Be clear about what you want to achieve.

  • Determine your business objectives and be realistic about how PR will help achieve these.

2. Understand who you want to communicate to and what you want to say.

  • Clearly identify your target audience – general public is too broad – and have an understanding of what you would like to say to them.

3. Don’t just rely on the media to communicate with your target audience.

  • Is the media the most effective channel or could you communicate directly instead?

4. How will you measure your PR efforts?

  • A bunch of articles left in reception does not mean you were successful. Setting SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely – objectives at the outset will help determine this.

Next time you speak to your in-house PR or agency, just remember: PR doesn’t stand for Press Release.

This article was originally written by Rebecca Johnston for The West Australian.