Desperate marketing/PR techniques are just not clever

There are some very dumb things going on in public relations and marketing at present.  Is it a reaction to declining effectiveness of traditional marketing techniques, such as advertising, that organisations are using creative ideas without thinking through the consequences?  Or are the creatives becoming lazier in not researching their suggestions?  Or is it public relations in press agentry mode – let’s go for the press coverage/headlines regardless of whether anything strategic is achieved We have the bomb squads called to unattended packages containing electronic devices that were left around Boston to promote a cartoon show – and other buzz/viral/sneeze marketing techniques  that are questionable on ethical grounds, or leave you wondering, what was the point of that?But I don’t mind the amazing Mexican baby who weighed 14lb 8oz – which is a genuine human interest story and offers a great photo making it a news story with meme potential.  What is most amazing is that this superweight delivery isn’t claimed to be the result of global warming!  Neither is the stunt of two Southampton schoolboys who drew a phallic symbol with weed killer outside their school which has been captured on Google Earth – and has marvellous echoes of the Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset.  Mother Nature, teenage boys and ancient Britons are just so much better at stunts than many PR/marketing luvvies who are trying too hard.

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

9 thoughts on “Desperate marketing/PR techniques are just not clever”

  1. Those two school boys’ antics are hilarious!. I’m just about to investigate my local school’s new parental involvement scheme that is to replace the school board system. I think it will be good as it’s taking away the ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentailty that was evident on the candidates that did and didn’t put themselves forward for a place. I might need to be less liberal on my outlook though as my son and his partner in crime threw toilet rolls on the pitch during one of the rugby games at Murrayfield. Again, I thought it was hilarious until I discovered that the school took a different view…Oooopps!

    Anyway, is column inches a sure fire way to keep clients happy for those practitioners who don’t know how to demonstrate evaluation of their efforts beyond press cuttings? Is this a possibility?

  2. I’m going to post on column inches and advertising value equivalents etc as measures shortly – but although it may keep “ignorant” clients happy, it is short term since there are ultimately no real business benefits once the fish and chips are on the newspaper.

    Good luck with the school matters.

  3. Upon further reflection, I wonder if there may be further areas to ‘exploit’ if the cuttings are really analysed. I had to look at the angles taken by various press cuttings for Miller Homes and pick out some other angles to use in future employee publications. This was for employees sure, but if editorial isn’t adequately scrutinised isn’t there a propensity to miss out on future benefits through further coverage in different publications say?

    I’d love to dive into QuarkXpress and get my hands on the school newletter.

  4. I think there is definitely merit in content analysis of media coverage – and especially using this to reflect back on your press releases and identify how they were used, any angles developed and so on. As you indicate also, content analysis can give you ideas to develop – not just from looking at your own coverage. That is part of being a good practitioner and learning to hone your craft – but assessing the process rather than the outcome. You’ll look at that kind of reflection this term with Alexis on the Adv Cert.

    Same thing applies when publishing – as you’ve indicated something like a newsletter where there are many subtle aspects to communication that people don’t get. I saw an annual newsletter the other day produced by Solent Southampton University for their Comms/PR degree course. Talk about over-stuffed with words. I’ve been pondering the power of silence and white space in communications – and will pick up on that in another post shortly.

  5. Thanks for your great reply. And taking up your point on white space and silence, I got a big A5 sized card through the post today: “WAS IT SOMETHING WE SAID?” was all it said on one side and Bupa’s question why I hadn’t taken them up on their offer. Actually I have and they’ve not caught up with the registration department yet. Internal comms problem?

    Anyway what would you call this kind of enticement in commmnication words?

  6. My local car dealer garage does all of this Bupa-style mock sincerity crap when they are incompetent, which is reasonably frequently. I always fill in the right hand side with home truths… and never hear any follow-up. They have a freepost address and I sometimes feel tempted to parcel-tape the letter to a brick…

  7. Ian/Jill – you are both absolutely right. It is like when you are put on hold on the phone and told “your call is important to us” – but not enough to employ sufficient people to talk with you…

    With Jill’s example, the company clearly doesn’t update its database – so is wasting money on follow ups and annoying someone who is a hot prospect. And Ian is already a customer – so why do they want to ignore your valuable, free, marketing research and not improve satisfaction levels which means more business and profit?

    I’d like to think that companies would listen to our complaints, but I don’t think even sending them a brick in the post would help bad firms to listen. I worked as a consultant with a car dealership for a while, but the owner, who recognised they had a bad reputation for customer service, would never implement any of my recommendations. Frankly, he was the biggest problem and his focus on profit before customers was reflected in the organisation’s culture top to bottom. I’d like to think he’d go bust and prove that poor service doesn’t pay, but customers put up with far too much.

    Until we really take our business elsewhere – I’m afraid we’ll keep getting such bad service.

  8. I got a follow up call from, Lovefilm once I’d left them a while ago. The person asked me why I was leaving the dvd club – 10 out of 10 for trying. (I love to be able to tell folk why I’m not impressed) I said that many of their dvds jump and shudder all the way through. I gave up on it for a few years but at Christmas, low and behold, there I was well and truely sucked in by their advertsing Christmas pressie especially for me: three months free unlimited dvd/games. So here I am, a returning customer and very pleased Lovefilm have their finger on the pulse. On the return envelopes they now have a box to tick if the dvd is damaged in some way -progress!

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