Tag Archives: Marketing

Moneyball PR, Step 1: What is it?

 

Right brained or left, you can achieve with statistics

The Gallup organization calls them signature themes; I call them compulsions. Either way, Analytical ranks as one of my top StrengthsFinder themes, meaning I lean more heavily on data than hunches.

Now I’ve also been around long enough to know that in an agency pitch, with eye-popping creative and quick self-assured answers will woo an eager client. But, I’ve also learned that analytical strategies that deliver budget-friendly results can win budget-sensitive customers.

Advertising, marketing, and public relations attract a lot of creative people. I like to think I’m one of them. But these days I’m wired for “prove it” … “says who?” … “can that be measured?”  Bring me your creative intuition or hunch, and I’ll want to use the scientific method to test it.

I wasn’t always this way. I came into this profession as a creative with a fear of math. I was a writer with a love for publication design. I believed creative was magic. What I found was a world of subjective “likes.” If a client or boss liked my work, it was deemed good. If not, it was bad. But, let a well-liked campaign failed to achieve results, I found those who liked it were as quick to be justifiably critical.

Like the Michael Lewis book and Brad Pitt movie, Moneyball in PR is all about the analytical, the measurable, statistics, and challenging seat-of-the-pants ideas with research.  But I’m also convinced you don’t have to be a data geek … or even good at math … to find Moneyball success. Are you competitive? Willing to challenge PR norms? You could be a Moneyball PR pro waiting to happen.

Step 2: Challenge authority!
What if they’re wrong … even some of the time?

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Moneyball PR, Step 2: Challenge Authority

What if they’re wrong … even some of the time?

“You’re discounting what scouts have done for 150 years …”Moneyball

Okay, I’ll admit it. For 25 years, I’ve been faking it as an authority on strategic communication and marketing. Despite years of experience, two degrees, academic publications and international accreditation, I don’t have the answers.

We live in a business world where to be smart means you know the answers, fast. To admit that answers cannot be fished immediately from your intellect is to risk being labeled a dullard; a perception that can get you fired or keep you from being hired.

To find success as an in-house expert and as a consultant, I’ve had to play along, to speak with confidence and self-assured authority. But my dirty secret is that I surreptitiously read books and conduct science-based research.

If you are a thinker or discoverer your competition is with the self-assured authority: That individual with decades of experience who can recite the rules, like:

  • Every public relations problem has a news media solution
  • Unpaid media is invariably more credible
  • We can’t compete with a small budget
  • Communication is an art, not a science

Each of these myths can be exploded with science, but many companies keep that discipline locked safely away in the Research and Development Department. Business leaders are taught to rely on their own knowledge and the reassuring authority of consultants.

Public Relations, as a profession, is no different. We surround ourselves with comfortable rules based on the paradigms many of us brought from journalism. When we move to corporations, we find we’re expected to have immediate answers to every communication problem. And, if we’re great at sounding supremely confident in our prescriptions, we’ll go far.

But, every once in a while – particularly in times of crisis and down economies – measured results matter. Those times have great potential for the thinkers and discoverers of strategic communication. They provide the opportunity to challenge authority.

without-data

Ways of knowing

How do you know? This is a great question to ask of anyone who provides a confident prescription to a communication problem.

Authority: This can come from the power of position, the longevity in a career field, or even the number of speaking engagements and bylined trade journal articles. Self-assured authority does not make right, but it can be immensely reassuring in tough times.

Intelligence: Education does not end with grad school. If Forrest Gump was right and stupid is as stupid does, the same applies to smart. Intelligence is about making well-informed decisions and actions, and that may begin with Socrates: “I know that I know nothing.”

Intuition: Do you rely on your gut, and visceral sense of what the facts are? You may be right, but what if you’re not? How lucky are you?

Observation: Do you rely on qualitative research: The results of focus groups or even anecdotal conversations with customers? While these observations are vital to success, they are dangerous if the sole basis for business decisions. The truth is, we cannot always correctly understand what we see or hear.

Measurement: Are you a surveys, charts and graphs person? Do you live and die with Excel pivot tables and a love for descriptive statistics? This is my comfort zone, and it can be risky. What if the numbers are correct, but the questions wrong? If taken alone, measurement too is dangerous if the sole basis for business decisions.

Scientific method

Put authority and intelligence aside and hang onto observation and measurement. With a healthy dose of creativity, these form the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal. But, don’t tell your competition, they’re likely relying on big budgets and big name authorities. I’d even avoid discussing it with your boss. What goes on in the kitchen can stay in the kitchen. Serve up a great steak, and no one will ask how you did it.

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Moving from journalism to PR?

Three things that never change

Photograph of a reporter interviewing an unidentified man outside the White House on the occasion of the announcement of the Japanese surrender ending World War II. Abbie Rowe, 1905-1967, Photographer (Retrieved: Wikimedia Commons)

When I moved from the newsroom to a public relations office more than 20 years ago, I was sure it would be a natural fit. I’d simply be a journalist in residence, assisting my new employer with the news media while writing and producing company publications. Just like the newspaper biz, but with better pay. Maybe I was a bit naive.

Fortunately, I’d had a few good public relations classes in college and a professor who hooked me up with a great volunteer PR opportunity after I graduated. So, I had some idea that there may be more to public relations than newsletters, news releases, brochures and tea parties.

Leaving the newsroom, I had to learn rapidly and keep learning. My new responsibilities required that I think strategically and understand integrated marketing, including principles of advertising, direct mail, research, and data mining.

While PR has evolved at high speed, I’ve found three things never change:

1. Endless Adaptability:

Nothing much stays the same. Lifelong learning is the only way to remain effective. Communication tools change, markets evolve, and new ideas abound. The ability to adapt to change, understand trends and recognize fads will serve any PR or marketing person well. Most journalists I know are specialists at adapting.

2. Building Real Relationships:

It’s about relationships, always. There is nothing magic in a particular communication tool or practice. A story in the news media, a slick newsletter, trendy social media, or a colorful billboard are all just tools that – when strategically used – can help build stakeholder relationships.  If you trust in the magic of flashy tools, there’s a good chance you’re neglecting customer relationships.

Let’s face it; there’s nothing in Twitter that will keep my marriage healthy any more than an expensive bouquet of flowers can replace an intimate conversation with my wife. We love each other because we’ve spent years building a relationship. Your customer relationships are no different.

3. Measure Outcomes:

No matter how things evolve, listening and responding to your customer or stakeholder is the only way to be effective. This cannot be done exclusively with focus groups, or quantitative measurement. It takes both. And, measuring outputs – how many column inches you “placed” in a newspaper – is a poor substitute for measuring outcomes, such as trends in customer behaviors and attitudes.

Can a journalist successfully transition to public relations and marketing? Yes. The PR profession is full of them. In fact, there are very few reporters I trained and worked with 20 years ago who have not taken the leap.

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