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WarRoom bannerWhen you only have $3 million to make a movie and distribute it to movie theaters across the country, there is not much left over for promoting and marketing the film. So the Kendrick Brothers, Alex and Stephen, used word-of-mouth marketing to get the word out about their new faith-based movie War Room. They showed the movie to influential pastors and people of faith across the country and relied on them to spread the word about the movie to their congregations before its premier week. It worked! Opening weekend the movie raked in enough money to pay for itself four times. Plus War Room came in second to the popular Straight Outta Compton, even though it was playing in one-fourth of the movie theatres. The second weekend War Room took the number one spot.

Hollywood studios, that said the plot about prayer would never work, were left scratching their heads. Reviewers who didn’t like it underestimated a huge faith-based market starved for quality stories of faith on the big screen.

When I saw the movie, the audience laughed, cried and applauded … plus recited scripture with the characters on the screen. For the first time in my life I sat down and sent out an e-mail and social media letting my friends know it was a great movie and recommended that they go see it. I did this without knowing that word-of-mouth marketing was in fact the top promotional strategy of this movie.

Stocking Blue Bell  I am on Blue Bell update overload when it comes to the news. Every single day, on every single newscast, on every single TV station … there has been an update on the arrival of Blue Bell ice cream to store shelves. I was thinking, Blue Bell could not possibly be putting out a press release every single day. How are they getting all this coverage? I checked the Blue Bell website and they have put out a total of four press releases since July 14.

July 14, 2015 – Blue Bell Creameries Receives Investment from Sid Bass

August 17, 2015 – Plans for our return (that included a video statement from the vice-president)

August 31, 2015 – Blue Bell returns to stores in select areas

September 1, 2015 – Blue Bell begins production in Oklahoma

The Blue Bell social media machine, however, has been cranking out almost daily updates; usually just one post a day. The news media has been making use of the posts and turning them into daily news updates.

On August 17, they posted video of a Blue Bell truck saying “Our trucks are rolling again.” The media went crazy with speculation of where. Then, on August 24 through 27, there was a daily reveal on the flavors that would be rolling out to stores first.

This is strategic brilliance! Instead of sending out one press release revealing all flavors and netting coverage on a one-day news cycle, Blue Bell got massive daily media coverage by using social media to reveal morsel updates including just one flavor a day. The national and local media took the update tidbits and ran with them.

Of course this strategy won’t work for everyone. But it demonstrates that this can be an effective strategy if your organization is in the spotlight and the press wants constant updates. Brief updates on social media in the right situation can be just as effective as a well-crafted press release.

 

Blue BellFor a lesson in brand loyalty, just look to Blue Bell Creameries.

Even though three people died after eating the ice cream tainted with listeria, ice cream aficionados are remaining true-blue to their brand and patiently waiting for Blue Bell to reappear on store shelves.

Since I am lactose deficient and ice cream makes me sick (pills don’t help when it comes to ice cream), I don’t understand this brand loyalty. Many of my friends, young and old, are hanging in there in anticipation of Blue Bell reappearing on store shelves. They tell me no other ice cream tastes as creamy and satisfying as Blue Bell. They have confidence that Blue Bell is cleaning up their act and trust they will not be putting their life on the line to indulge in this “creamy” pleasure.

Obviously the Blue Bell brand loyalty is more than perception developed by the smoke and mirrors of a big advertising budget. The Blue Bell brand loyalty is based on a satisfying taste that has not been duplicated by their competition. Blue Bell fans have waited patiently while Blue Bell conducted massive cleanups at its four plants, implemented new procedures, invested in facility enhancements and updated employee training.

It just goes to show, if you have a superior product and your customers understand the value of the quality of your product, they will support you in good times and through bad times.

Do you have loyal customers like this? Do your customers trust you like this? Would your customers forgive you like this?

What do you need to do to develop this type of customer loyalty?

Make superior quality, that cannot be duplicated, your number one goal. It will become your competitive edge that will be spread easily by word of mouth. Simply priceless.

It is so easy to let an overreaction to a problem turn into a media crisis, when it could just as easily be used as a teachable moment.

Take for instance the reaction of actor Ben Affleck when he discovered, while taping the PBS show Finding Your Roots, that he had a slave-owning ancestor. Instead of honestly dealing with the situation, he asked the producers to keep that fact out of the story. Unfortunately, the revelation surfaced anyway and Affleck’s actions became negative headline news. Affleck issued a Facebook post saying he was embarrassed, “I regret my initial thoughts that the issue of slavery should not be included in the story. We deserve neither credit nor blame for our ancestors.” Ironically, three other celebrities had discovered slave owners in their families’ histories in earlier episodes, but they never made headlines or created a media crisis for themselves because they dealt with the news authentically as it happened.

Carrie Underwood 2 dogs

Now look at how actress Carrie Underwood handled the situation after her dogs locked themselves, her baby, and her keys in her car. Her brother-in-law rescued her child by breaking a car window. She then beat the media to the punch of reporting the incident by tweeting what happened. Later that day, I saw several news reporters use Underwood’s tweet as the foundation of stories on how to break a window to rescue a child inside a car and keep the glass from injuring the child in the process.

Instead of trying to suppress what happened in fear of negative media publicity, Carrie shared what happened. Reporters turned the incident into a teachable moment, providing valuable information for parents. In this day and age, it is hard to hide anything if you are a public figure. Taking offensive action in a situation is a whole lot better option in most cases, than playing defense with the media.

ariana grande donut licker

Every day I just shake my head at the number of professionals who get caught on camera doing and saying things they shouldn’t. This time it is singer Ariana Grande. First she was seen on video aired by TMZ appearing to lick donuts on a donut store counter. Then she is heard saying, “I hate Americans. I hate America.”

I used to tell my clients in media-training sessions that when a video camera appears in the room, consider yourself  ”live.” Don’t do or say anything you don’t want the whole world to know, even if the official interview hasn’t started or you think the official interview is over. The microphones mounted on video cameras are powerful and can pick up conversations across the room.

Now I simply tell my clients don’t ever say anything in public you don’t want the whole world to know – PERIOD. Everyone with a cell phone is now an amateur photographer. It is easy to record you and send the video to the media without you even knowing it.

Every public figure should consider themselves fair game for the paparazzi, news media and cell-phone cameras. Ariana Grande obviously did not think a video camera was anywhere near her and yet the video appeared across the national media sparking a crisis her media team had to spin and explain.

So rule number one in media training, protect the brand you have spent countless marketing hours and dollars building. Whether you are a public figure or not … in a public or private setting or not … nothing is private if someone decides to videotape your actions. Act accordingly.

Five times during the past month, potential clients have called me wanting public relations assistance for local events in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. All were great projects, but I turned every one of them down. These five projects would have given me less than three weeks (in some cases less than a week) to develop and execute plans to get media coverage before the scheduled event. Don’t get me wrong, under the right conditions in the past, when the situation was highly newsworthy, I have developed and distributed a press release – in two days or less and all of the major media outlets showed up to cover the event. But these potential projects did not meet those criteria. Plus if you want pre-coverage, it takes more than a press release to get results.
Sending out a press release does not guarantee that any media will show up.
PUBLIC RELATIONS IS NOT MAGIC- IT’S STRATEGIC.
Sometimes an exclusive pitch is better than a press release. Either way getting a client coverage can take months to set up in some situations, so a deadline of weeks or days may not be realistic.
Before I can develop a media strategy to meet the needs of a client, I need to:
  • Understand the brand of their product, service or issue.
  • Understand their target client, doing research if necessary.
  • Develop a communications and media strategy for the public relations campaign (this can include different media platforms including traditional media, social media, blogs, and videos).
  • Determine the right angle and elements to be included in the press release and pitch.
  • Identify the best reporters and editors to receive the pitch and press release.
  • Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up!
Since public relations is strategic and not magic, it is important that your public relations professional be involved in the planning stages of your event and not as an afterthought. With proper planning, where all the right players are involved upfront, we can provide insight into how to make your project an event the media will want to cover.

Two companies are making news for missing the obvious.

Newscasters were having fun demonstrating how the new, iPhone 6 Plus can bend when you carry it in your pants pocket. To make matters worse, when you try to bend it back, the glass front can crack. Now I know Apple tested the iPhone 6 Plus extensively, but no one thought to give the phone the pocket test? The bent phones started showing up Sunday, two days after the iPhone 6 Plus went on sale, so it would not have taken long for consumer tests to reveal the problem.

Newscasters were also pointing out a missing building in the newly unveiled 2015-2016 alternate jersey for the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. The Reunion Tower with its landmark observation dome was nowhere to be seen. You can leave out a lot of buildings from the Dallas skyline and no one would notice, but how do you miss the distinctive Reunion Tower?

Just goes to show how easy it is to miss the obvious when you are planning a new product or developing a new message for your organization. Make sure you get the perspective of several people so your campaign won’t be derailed by an overlooked detail.

Maverick's new alternte Jersey     Reunion Tower

 

Robin Williams’ daughter being run off of Twitter because of abusive tweeters may ultimately provide hope for millions of other people across the country that are the victims of cyber abuse and bullying by anonymous thugs on social media.

Twitter announced that it is now looking to revamp its user-protection policies after what recently happened to 25-year-old Zelda Williams. Williams, the daughter of comedian Robin Williams, sent out a final tweet saying she was abandoning her Twitter account because of abusive posts on her page following her father’s apparent suicide.

Twitter has already suspended a number of accounts related to the Williams issue for violating its rules and is in the process of evaluating how it can further improve its policies.

I have talked to teenagers who also had to shut down their social media sites to stop bullies from tormenting them. One is a kind-hearted young lady, who now helps to prevent bullying in her school by being a part of the Family Place Be program in Dallas, Texas.

It seems so unfair that the victim has to give up the opportunity to communicate with friends, while the perpetrator is still free to spew venom someplace else. I hope that Twitter develops policies with teeth so that anonymous bullies will think twice about using social media as their mouthpiece. I encourage other social media to follow suit in developing policies to protect the victims of bullying.

 

One of my most favorite commercials is the one with the silver-haired lady talking to two friends in her living room about her makeshift Facebook page where she has posted photographs to her living-room wall.  She gets aggravated when her friend tells her she is not doing it right, so she tells her friend “I de-friend you!” Her friend protests, “You can’t do that!”

 

Every time I see that commercial, I burst out laughing.  It always puts a smile on my face thinking of the irony of a senior citizen doing her version of social media and how we all struggle to keep up with the latest “in thing” when it comes to social media.

 

There is just one thing wrong with the commercial.  I cannot remember what company produced the commercial or what I am supposed to know about their product.

 

If you are going to spend money on marketing or advertising, make sure you work a memorable message into it.  While you are working so hard to make a memorable commercial, work just as hard to make sure it makes people aware of your company brand.

 

Think about the main message you want to deliver through the commercial.  Then think of the most concise, effective language that you can use to deliver that message.  If you are going to use a concept that is totally out of the scope of your product, think of ways to bring the name, product, logo or theme song into the commercial in a realistic way.

 

Don’t get so caught up in the mechanics of the commercial you are developing that you forget that your top priority is to imbed the product message.