Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Know Your Audience

I attended a networking lunch meeting today because the speaker's topic appealed to me. I came away from it with a reminder for those of us who speak in public to promote our products or services: Know your audience.

The speaker works for one of those brand name financial services firms. He is a long-time member of this group of small business owners who meet monthly to network and learn from a guest speaker. The fact that he's a long-time member is important -- it means that he knows this group -- or should know this group -- really, really well. He should know that they own carpet cleaning and janitorial companies, are Realtors, sell jewelry through home parties, or create Web sites for other small businesses. This information should tell him not to wear a suit when addressing an audience that only wears suits to funerals! All he needed to do was take off the jacket and tie and open his collar. Yeah, yeah, they all wear suits in his office. But he wasn't presenting to the people in his office. He was presenting to a casually dressed group of women and men.

I can forgive him for not making the effort to use his apparel to connect with the audience. But there's no excuse for using the stereotype of the shrewish wife as an anecdote -- twice -- when speaking to an audience dominated by women business owners. I was rather dumbfounded by his chauvinism, as was the woman sitting next to me. How many others in the room feel that his example showed, at best, that he didn't know his audience, or, at worst, that he is sexist? It doesn't matter if he is or isn't -- it's the perception that counts here.

It's likely that the underlying reason for his presentation was to help people get to know him and what he's capable of professionally. Those who like an ultra-conservative financial advisor with a wife who probably doesn't work outside the home might want to retain his services.

My takeaway, though, was that while I always want to look professional and successful when speaking to a group, I want to be dressed in a way that shows that I am familiar with their world. Sure, if they're all wearing nurses uniforms, I'm not going to wear a nurse's uniform. But you can bet I won't be wearing a designer suit and heels. And I'll make sure my anecdotes cause them to nod in agreement, not cross their arms over their chests and murmur "tsk tsk."

Do the research needed to know your audience. Then prepare accordingly. It will help you be certain that the buzz you've generated through your presentation is the kind of buzz you want.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Corporate Social Responsibility Awards Deadline is November 16

November 16, 2007 is the deadline for PR News' CSR (corporate social responsibility) awards program. Enter in one of 17 categories, from environmental stewardship to human rights communications. Winners will demonstrate that "goodwill, philanthropy and employee commitment to 'do good' can go a long way toward making an impact on a community and on a company's bottom line." Get the details at the PR News site. (I keep waiting for an awards program for the most socially irresponsible PR campaign but haven't seen an announcment yet....)

Get the September "Build Book Buzz" Newsletter

I've sent out the September issue of Build Book Buzz, the free book publicity e-zine. This issue offers tips on viral marketing and invites you to befriend me on Facebook. To receive a copy, subscribe at the Build Book Buzz Web site. You also receive access to back issues when you subscribe.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Do You Subscribe to The Writer?

Do you subscribe to The Writer Magazine? If so, you can read my book publicity Q&A with columnist Kay Day at http://www.writermag.com/wrt/default.aspx?c=a&id=3582.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Social Networking Sites Top Hot Digital List

With Facebook and MySpace topping AdweekMedia's Digital Hot List, social networking appears to be the hot online trend this year. Unless your target customer isn't online, you should be exploring how you can use these popular sites -- including LinkedIn -- to build buzz for your services and products. Nonprofits, in particular, have a lot to gain from these sites, which can help them identify and connect with potential volunteers and donors. Small businesses and authors can use them to build the types of relationships that lead to growth opportunities. They are hot -- and they aren't going away -- so make it a priority to learn more about them and how they can help you reach your goals.
Just remember: These sites are all about relationships. Don't use traditional marketing tactics like mass mailings to reach people on these sites. Spend time finding the people you want to get to know better and connect with each on your list one-by-one. It's time-consuming -- but so is going to a networking meeting. Your time spent getting to know people in these social networking sites -- and working to help them reach their goals -- will be productive if you approach it with a well-thought out strategy.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Honda's SoCal Street Buzz

A 2006 Gallup poll rating 23 occupations for honesty and ethical standards ranked auto salesmen at the bottom. Acknowledging this, Southern California's Honda dealers united to change their image by hiring an advertising agency to implement a marketing campaign combining street tactics with advertisements that suggest that auto salesmen aren't the bad guys you might think they are. (Ironically, ad agencies ranked just above auto salesmen in that poll, which kind of makes you wonder if this was the way to go . . . .)

The campaign involved sending teams of "dealership representatives" in blue Honda shirts to the streets to perform random acts of kindness. Here's my problem with this: With few exceptions, these reps were not auto salesmen. They were people hired by the ad agency, Secret Weapon Marketing, for the project. This campaign would have had a greater impact -- and wonderful grassroots publicity potential -- if the blue-shirted team members were actually auto salesmen rather than actors portraying auto salesmen. Pat Adams, the agency's managing director, told me in an e-mail that the salesmen needed to be in the showrooms selling cars but that in a few situations, dealers did send them out into the field.

Beyond that, changing your image long-term is pretty difficult if you're not changing the behavior that created the image in the first place. Your "new" image has to reflect reality. So what if you have nice-acting guys doing nice things in the name of Honda dealers throughout the region if the real Honda dealers aren't changing their own behaviors in the showroom to reflect the good works commited on the streets? This campaign will fail if the guys who wear the blue shirts in the dealerships every day don't display honesty and integrity. Maybe they do. Maybe they always have. But if they don't, all the costumed actors in Orange County aren't going to make a difference in what happens in the showroom.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Be Outrageous

I watched a glowing profile of Southwest Airlines on a morning news show over the weekend and thought about how nice it would be to have one of those PR jobs where you do no pitching -- you just answer the phone and schedule the interviews, which always result in positive articles or segments.

So that got me thinking...what can the rest of us learn from Southwest that we can use to keep that phone ringing with calls from producers and reporters?

Southwest is a media darling because it is exceptional in many ways. Its business model isn't airline industry cookie cutter and it has a unique personality -- one that flyers love.

If you want to stay in the news as easily and as favorably as Southwest does, be consistently outrageous. Provide outrageously good products, services and support. Be the business that people can't help but talk about. It doesn't matter if you're a sole proprietor or the largest nonprofit in town -- if you are outrageously good at what you do, people will talk because you will stand out. Perhaps you have the largest selection of a certain product category, you deliver checks to vendors personally, or you provide an incredibly generous guarantee on your services.

You've got to be doing something different to stand out -- and different is newsworthy.

How can you be outrageous (in a good way)? What's missing from your industry or field and how can you provide it? Bend the rules a little. Look beyond your accepted boundaries. You'll find a way to stand out in a way that makes customers -- and the media -- love you.