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NYT Syndicate
What I Learned From 10 Years of Doing Public Relations
I first started working for Apple on the public relations agency side at Porter Novelli in Sydney in 1997. Steve Jobs had just returned to the company and the product line was in shambles. The outlook for Apple was bleak.
Little did I know that over the next 10 years Apple would dazzle the world with its groundbreaking innovations, masterful marketing and against-the-grain approach. Public relations played an important role in that success. Here are six lessons from those days:
Keep it simple. If you ran an Apple news release from the time through a readability test it would most likely have scored at a level easily understood by the average fourth-grader. Any hint of clich` or technical jargon was edited out. Jobs personally approved every news release.
Run your own communications through a readability test, which are available free on sites like Word Count Tools and Readability Score. The easier your communications are to understand, the broader your reach.
Value reporters' time. We reserved news releases and events for only the most important products or company milestones. Reporters knew that when we contacted them we had something important to say.
Be hands on. Before we would grant interviews to top executives or send out products for review, we made sure that every reporter, influencer or analyst had a hands-on product briefing.
Stay focused. Define your key messages and stick to them. Don't dilute your social media accounts with off-subject messaging. Offer your help to journalists and industry analysts who cover your field ” even if there's not always a direct benefit to you.
Prioritize media influencers. We didn't work with long media lists. Instead, we concentrated on a relatively small number of reporters who set the tone for others to follow. We'd offer these reporters such things as exclusive interviews or the first shot at reviewing new products.
Respect your brand. That's the most important lesson of all that I learned at Apple. Your brand is your biggest asset and you have to protect it. Cameron Craig has worked with Apple, Visa, PayPal, Polycom and Yahoo.)

Three Ways to Get Your Own Digital Platform
Network businesses have always been around, from matchmakers to real estate brokers. Digital platforms like Airbnb, Pinterest, Snapchat and Uber add another dimension. They operate quite differently from traditional product and service providers. Here are three ways that a legacy organization can build a digital platform.
1. Use existing tools. Free platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all offer opportunities for two-way, collaborative communication. Camera manufacturer GoPro maintains a much-followed Instagram account where the company, and GoPro users, share photos and videos. The Instagram account engages consumers and lets GoPro know how they use its products.
2. Find a partner. General Motors recently introduced digital platforms to its portfolio with a $500 million investment in ride-sharing company Lyft. GM has rolled out a short-term car-rental product called Express Driv, through which Lyft drivers can rent GM cars. Down the line, GM intends to use Lyft and Cruise (a driverless-car startup) to help shift its business to autonomous vehicles.
3. Build it yourself. For most established players, platform development is intimidating. It can take years to close the technology and skill gaps. Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, has decided that GE needs to navigate its own digital transformation. He has led the company to create Predix, a platform for the industrial Internet, which in 2015 generated $5 billion in revenue. As Immelt has noted, GE's transformation required bringing in new talent throughout the company, with new leadership and cultural styles.
Building digital platforms also requires a deep understanding of your customer base. Most companies that go this route, including GE, are focused on better serving current customers, a group they understand well. Companies that want to use digital platforms to reach new customers are better off finding partners.

Barry Libert, OpenMatters CEO and Megan Beck, OpenMatters digital consultant.

Fix Your Social Media Strategy
To succeed with social media, marketers must modify their basic marketing concepts for this two-way, consumer-empowering form of communication. Here's a framework:
Define the status quo. Identify your business objectives and target market. Also consider your industry, the brand's recent performance and current traditional marketing promotions for the product and its competitors. Some brands need a new image, as when Starbucks' reputation fell to an all-time low a few years ago. Using social media, the coffee company launched My Starbucks Idea to crowdsource feedback and re-engage customers.
Listen to your target audience. Are you targeting millennials entering the workforce, fathers with young children or senior executives nearing retirement? What are they doing on social media, and where are they doing it? What are consumers saying about your brand, products, services and competitors?
Create content that drives engagement. What is your target consumer looking for? Social media is all about producing fresh, relevant content, whether it's"how to" articles or simply something entertaining. Select social media channels that fit your brand message, type of content and target audience.
Link marketing goals to key performance indicators. If you're driving sales online, measure digital KPIs with click-thrus from social platforms to the purchase. Google Analytics Social Reports are especially useful in breaking down social traffic and assigning monetary value to website conversions such as sales or lead generation.
How does this framework look in action? One example is the Mercedes Tweet Race to the Super Bowl. Mercedes-Benz competitors were positioning the venerable automaker as tired and stodgy. Digital agency Razorfish introduced Mercedes to a younger generation of consumers by figuring out where the target audience was active on social media.
Four two-person driving teams were recruited on Facebook to take on the challenge. Powered by online supporters' tweets, each team created social media engagement to drive real Mercedes-Benz vehicles forward, moving one mile for every four tweets. The contest's results included a 7 percent increase in scheduled test drives of Mercedes vehicles, a 6 percent increase in first-time owners and leases and 27,000 active participants who generated more than 150,000 tweets, reaching 25 million people.

Keith A Quesenberry, assistant professor at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.
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