Monday, September 22, 2008

Stone Age Campaign in a Wired World

Canberra's political parties have yet to use the Internet strategically as a campaign tool in the 2008 ACT Election.

And compared with internet marketing in the US Election our local parties are stone age when it comes to the on-line age.

The US Election is running at the same time as our local race but the approach is completely different. Obama and McCain are all over the Internet, on Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and other on-line platforms. They are cleverly using blogs, video, sound files, downloadable programs, computer games and other social media tools to reach Americans.

As the Canberra Times reported we believe there is a 1998 approach to the Internet in the local 2008 campaign. And the ACT parties are failing to reach voters through their keyboards.

A few parties have ventured into new media territory in an effort to woo younger voters. But they show they just don't get the youth-oriented culture of social media when they disable the comments section on their YouTube videos and their Facebook ads feature candidates in collar and tie.

It's a shame ACT politicians are not fully using the new internet tools. Besides being cheap to use, they would allow more two way conversations between candidates and voters beyond the traditional door knock and mall meetings on Saturday morning.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Media Spokesperson

Choosing a media spokesperson is key issue for most organisations.

Many choose the default position and select the Minister, CEO, Head of PR or another specific individual for that role. And then the curtains come down and no-one else is allowed to talk to the media. True this ensures absolute control over the message. But it often robs an organisation of the chance to get its really interesting stories out and put a more human face before
the public.

We noticed during the Olympics the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (an Australian university) had a number of academic spokespersons providing media commentary on the Games. The Institute advertised their availability to journalists and used event-specific interviews to profile its people and its brand. Check out the results here.

And on the subject of media interviews, click on this short video featuring a Fox News interview with Todd Palin, the husband of US Republican Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.

Perhaps Todd could use a little media training and the
journalist interviewing him could certainly use help in asking more substantive questions.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Not for Profit Scores Good PR for Under $100

Recently we had coffee with the ACT Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Society. The Society supports people suffering chronic fatigue syndrome and estimates around 3000 Canberra families may be impacted.

Since January the Society has attended the marketing workshops we run for community groups and has been overhauling its marketing and PR approach.

In the last three to four months it has promoted a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Awareness Day, a theatre screening to raise funds and a self help course. Along the way it has used community radio, YouTube, Facebook and email campaigns and changed the way it stages events.

Other marketing included:

* Community newspapers

* Notices in local newsletters

* Word of mouth
* Posters on community notice boards

* Online and offline community event calendars - including free notices on ABC, ACTEW AGL Switch, Canberra Times fridge door and wotzon

* Getting pro-bono support from communications professionals.

The President reports so far the Society has spent less than $100 on the new PR arrangements yet the results have been impressive.

”Our enquiries are up 400% since March! As we haven't recorded everything this is a conservative figure. As such our staff member is run off her feet trying to answer it all. I imagine our website is also receiving more hits ... our membership is (also) up approximately 10% since March”.

Lipstick: Not on my pig thank you

In the past week we saw a media storm in the US presidential election following comments by Barack Obama about the Republican Party trying to dress up its policies.

He used a colloquial term‘lipstick on a pig’ which is a colourful way of saying you can’t make something attractive if it plainly isn’t.

The Republicans took this as a criticism of their Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, who the week before had used a lipstick reference in her acceptance speech.

The media picked up on the ‘he said she said’ verbal seesawing that followed between the two parties. The air turned thick with claim and counter claim about lipstick, pigs and personal attacks.

What a waste of precious time and energy that all was. Especially when global warming, terrorism, the state of the US economy and other key issues call for immediate attention.

The Public Relations Society of America was the only group to emerge looking good. On behalf of its 32 000 members the Society called on both the Democrat and Republic campaign managers to commit to the highest standards of ethical practice in their campaign communications and forgo innuendo, incomplete information, surrogate messaging and character attacks.

It asked both campaign managers to sign pledges to this effect but have yet to hear back from either. The Society also started up a Facebook group, “Clean & Fair Campaign 2008,” as a quasi petition to support their stand on honest and open communications in the Elections.

For years I have belonged to the Public Relations Institute of Australia, the Australian Marketing Institute and the International Association of Business Communicators. Yet I can’t recall those professional bodies saying anything in public about honesty in public communications.

Well done PRSA for taking the lead.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Word of Mouth Marketing Part 2: Message Multipliers

In an information-overloaded world many of us increasingly turn to people we respect for information, advice and to help us make sense of the world.

We seek out these key influencers because they have particular skills, knowledge, experience or just wise way of looking at things. They often are at the centre of community, business, or social networks so if they support what you do, they can help you connect with people you might otherwise struggle to reach.

These ‘message multipliers’ are important whether you are in business, work in government or belong to a community group. Their value to you lies in the fact they can:
  • Give their personal credibility to your information within their networks.
  • Pass along your information in language their people understand.
  • Help you frame your issue so it makes more sense for people they know.
  • Allow you to include your information in their events, newsletters, websites etc.
You can identify key influencers among or through:
  • Your best customers.
  • Key professions associated with your cause.
  • Business and community organisations.
  • Local governments.
  • Local media.
  • Leaders of local school and parish committees, service clubs and sporting clubs.
  • Teachers and academics associated with your issue.
Even in this digital age personal contact remains the best way to approach key influencers. Invariably they are busy people and time poor but will appreciate meeting face to face.

At your initial meeting (unless they are already committed customers) your only job is to show how what you do will benefit the people they know. After all their credibility depends on the value of information they pass along to others.

Convince key influencers to support your issue and you pass a critical milestone in generating successful word of mouth marketing.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Watch Your Back on the Internet: Everything Is On The Record

In our digital age never forget everything is on the record.

This past week we had news of Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter who is pregnant. That sent people scurrying to look up the MySpace page of the daughter’s boyfriend, Levi Johnson.

On his homepage (which has been subsequently removed) Johnson declares himself “a redneck” and offers other colourful comments.(

Who would have thought the MySpace ramblings of this Alaskan teenager would be make US Election news?

Thanks to YouTube we also know the former head of the US Democratic National Committee, Don Fowler, believes the coincidence of Hurricane Gustav bearing down on New Orleans and the timing of this week’s Republican Convention “demonstrates God is on our side”.

That insight was captured by a fellow air traveller on a cell phone camera and then uploaded to Youtube (

Scary stuff. In the age of the Internet remember that your digital signature is very long and what goes out through the Internet may one day come back to haunt you.

I'm worry that people posting their party and other exploits to Facebook and such sites might one day regret how quick they hit the upload button.

So it's better to:

  • Assume every email or post to MySpace, Facebook etc may one day go public.
  • Say nothing in public you would not want your mother or your boss to see on YouTube.
  • Be particularly careful of images you post on-line.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Word of Mouth Marketing Part 1: The Zen of Word of Mouth

"The idea of word of mouth is very Zen. You put the idea out there, let it go and if people like and trust you they will spread the word." Variety Magazine 21 July 2005.

This is the first in a series of posts on word of mouth marketing (WOM) following interest generated at Canberra's first word of mouth marketing workshop.

Today WOM is more important than ever because we are increasingly weary with advertising and cynical about how the media report events. Word of mouth stands out because it is about genuine conversations between real people. That makes it the cheapest and most effective promotion an organisation can have.

The span of word of mouth is spreading. Traditionally it involved face to face encounters. You talking to me. Now new digital technologies have put WOM on steroids making our on-line conversations just as important as our off-line efforts.

Whatever the arena effective word of mouth marketing needs six key elements to work:
  • Make sure your organisation and its issue, cause, product or service have integrity and offer value. People will only spread positive word of mouth when they believe in something. So provide something worthwhile to talk about and remember word of mouth will always punish poor performance and those who lack integrity.
  • Be clear about who you want reach because WOM is all about people and their networks. Know who and where they are.
  • Identify, recruit and maintain relationships with people who can help you connect with your audiences. Often called 'key influencers', these individuals lend you their language, contacts and credibility when they carry your information into their networks.
  • Provide key influencers with simple messages, stories and pass-on tools so it is easy for them to spread the word about you. Constantly refresh your conversation with these people.
  • Use as many channels as possible to keep the conversation going. Create continual 'buzz' through face to face meetings, speaking to groups, inviting people to events and going on-line to either create your conversations or join in with others. Perhaps it is better to start with a few communications channels you are confident will work and then expand your repertoire as you see results.
  • Track the results of your conversations by encouraging feedback and using on-line and other tracking tools.
At the end of the day marketing is about doing the right thing by your customers, clients or fellow citizens and encouraging them to talk about you.