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Strength in Numbers

Strength in Numbers

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Published by Valeria Maltoni
To become relevant again, brands need to hustle and adapt, out-teaching instead of outspending the competition. One forum for this is social media.
To become relevant again, brands need to hustle and adapt, out-teaching instead of outspending the competition. One forum for this is social media.

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Published by: Valeria Maltoni on Dec 31, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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 woman sits in front of a camera. While you watch, her face goesfrom ordinary to cover-pageextraordinary with the help of professional hairstyling and make-up treat-ment—and Photoshop. The Dove “Evolu-tion” video, posted on YouTube, illustratedhow the accepted concept of “natural”beauty is in reality heavily manufactured. With the video, Dove took the false idea of unachievable beauty, which plays on thefears and insecurities of so many women,and turned it into an honest dialogue.But more than that, the video was a greatexample of the crossover between a solidcreative concept, traditionally the domainof advertising, and the relational influenceof public relations. It became part of Dove’s“Campaign for Real Beauty,” an effort thathelped move Dove, a unit of Unilever, froma traditional marketing approach (highcost, low frequency, low interaction) to the
When PR partners with advertisingand marketing online, you and youraudience can have a much more engagingand interactive experience
by Valeria Maltoni, ABC
Communication World
NovemberDecember 2009 www.iabc.com/cw
publishing approach (high volume, low cost,interactive content).The campaign had a solid impact on sales: In44 countries, consumers responded by makingDove a US$3 billion brand. In 2006, Landor Associates computed that the brand had grownby US$1.2 billion in the previous three years. It’samazing what an honest conversation with con-sumers can build. And it has been done largely  without television ads and mostly with print ads,billboards, public relations efforts and the Web.
Company-changing,not just game-changing
 We’re witnessing a shift from company-controlledmessages to outcome-driven business innovationfor those companies that are willing to go all the way to the edge to find new growth opportuni-ties. The real difference, however, occurs in theprocesses. By focusing on creating instead of allo-cating, marketing, public relations and advertis-ing can support and fund that journey.Social media are the latest tools to help youextend and share content further, either by allow-ing your community to spread it for you, or by inviting the community to co-create it with you.Building a dialogue with the community andbuilding relationships have always been part of the work of public relations professionals. Butnow they need to take a holistic view, by givingmore information, helping people understand thefull costs and benefits of their individual deci-sions, educating and illuminating rather thanobscuring, and adding context to content.Boorish marketers and arrogant advertisersturned off customers by treating them as facelessmass consumers without a personal story worthpaying attention to. This resulted in brandsbecoming commodities in a sea of sameness. Tobecome relevant again, brands need to hustleand adapt, out-teaching instead of outspendingthe competition. A new study published in
 McKinsey Quarterly,
based on consumer data from the U.S., Germany and Japan, reports that two-thirds of the touchpoints in a buyer’s active evaluation process arenow consumer-driven: user-generated reviews, word of mouth and in-store interactions. Only one-third of the touch points are still company-driven. This context changes the playing field.People may want to be entertained, have rela-tionships or just get stuff done online.Here are a few examples that can help you when creating an online campaign or program:
Marketing + social media:
Provide exclusivespecial offers to the users of a particular site. Forexample, Dell offers exclusive discounts on com-puters through a Twitter account. Scale comes when you build the network and community interested in that value proposition, a directresponse to the offer. The Twitter offers fromDell weren’t the product of one advertising cam-paign or one PR stunt. They were the result of Dell’s improved reputation thanks to the effortsof a dedicated team of communicators via blog-ger outreach and distributed conversations
the social media advantage
To become relevantagain, brands needto hustle and adapt,out-teaching insteadof outspending thecompetition.
Community building blocks
Start with who.
Decide both who will be part of your internal social media teamand who you want to connect with online and off. Add what you’re trying to accom-plish—your objectives—and then create how you will do that—your strategy. Cleardefinitions of outcomes will allow you to measure and attribute results.
Align everything you do,
no matter what tactics and tools you use. Public relations,marketing and advertising are different communication vehicles that allow you to lis-ten to and engage buyers in different ways.
Keep it real.
Be realistic and honest to stay credible and relevant, and to resonatewith your audience. Providing them with a consistent experience is one powerful wayto do that.
Test, measure, adjust, repeat.
Be open to changing what you do, depending onthe feedback you receive as you engage in micro-interactions. Learn relationship devel-opment from public relations, creativity from advertising, and presence from market-ing. Then turn the traditional on its head by including interaction in tactics, enablingcustomers and buyers to talk with each other and build communities.
Dove’s “Evolution” video on YouTube helped createan honest dialogue with customers. Watch it atwww.dove.us/#/features/videos/videogallery.aspx/.
Communication World
November–December 2009
through blogs, a company home base atDirect2Dell, and a team’s efforts on Twitter andin other social networks. The result: Dellannounced US$3 million in sales since 2007— just from Twitter.
Public relations + social media:
Monitor andbuild dialogue about your organization. If you’resmart and get to know the people in the room—and they get to know you—this will happen whenyou are not even present. And that can be evenmore powerful. A few examples: MicroPR onTwitter serves as a communication bridge formedia and bloggers when they need help fromPR. Writers looking for help with a story send atweet with their request to @micropr, where PR professionals following the MicroPR feed can seethe request and respond directly through the writer’s preferred channel.The social media release (SMR) format spear-headed by Todd Defren and the team at SHIFTCommunications integrates aspects of marketingcommunication, and allows people to interact with the parts of your content that have value tothem. Usually housed on company web sites, theSMR allows bloggers, journalists and other con-tent producers to easily extract the informationthey need for their audiences. It can include sec-tions for comments, bookmarks, RSS feeds,videos, photos, quotes and more.
Advertising + social media:
Share with peers.Now you have recognition and mindshareamong people in a network. User recommenda-tions, referral traffic and community support arethe new word of mouth. How many of you haveshared a clever ad with someone else? How about sharing in the ad itself, as happened in theT-Mobile flash mob spots? In one, a seemingly spontaneous dance party erupts in London’sLiverpool Street Station. Footage of the event, which includes people recording it on theirphones, premiered as a TV spot and was alsoposted on YouTube. The video is followed by the tagline “Life’s for sharing” and the T-Mobilelogo, and at the time of this writing had beenviewed more than 2 million times.
Branding + social media:
Provide impressionsfrom the experiences of the customer base. Thisis more about the action people take becausethey want to be associated with your organiza-tion’s purpose. Check out IKEA Hacker(http://ikeahacker.blogspot.com), where peopleactually ask blog author Jules for advice aboutcustomizing IKEA products. The great thingabout this for IKEA is that Jules drives peopleto the company’s newsletter and catalog, not tomention that he is deeply passionate about thebrand and its products. Companies can monitoronline conversations like this to understand what customers are saying to each other abouttheir products. By observing conversations andother online behaviors, companies can learnhow people use their products. Imagine a freefocus group.
Fragmentationand convergence
 All of the components in this mix are aboutmicro-interactions. Public relations is the disci-pline that gets to the single interactions, the rela-tionships, more closely. Since PR is about thedetails, the stuff your public cares about, it needsto move more decisively to building and con-stantly renewing relationships with people (not just the media) to increase goodwill toward yourorganization. When PR partners or integrates with advertising and marketing, you and youraudience can have a much more engaging andinteractive experience.Since the 2008 U.S. presidential election, many 
The MicroPR feed on Twitter serves as a commu-nication bridge for media and bloggers when theyneed help from PR professionals.
about the author
Valeria Maltoni, ABC, is directorof marketing communicationsat SunGard Availability Servicesin Wayne, Pennsylvania. Shewrites the blog ConversationAgent, and is a frequent speakeron branding, integrated market-ing and social media to servebusiness strategy.
By observingconversations andother online behaviors,companies can learnhow people use theirproducts. Imaginea free focus group.

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