I’m working on a media release (honest!), but came across this blog post from James Dickey, reporting on one of the presentations made at Blogwell on January 22, 2009. Eight organizations (Procter & Gamble, Home Depot, the Mayo Clinic, the US Coast Guard, H&R Block, Sharpie, Walmart, and Allstate) presented case studies on their use of social media in a single afternoon in Chicago.
I would have loved to attend, but Chicago’s a long way to go for an afternoon, and given the uncertainties of winter travel from YVR, I decided to live vicariously and hope the presentations were filmed for future consumption
I really like the goal-oriented approach outlined by Stan Joosten, Director of Holistic Consumer Communications for Proctor & Gamble. It’s a classic example of strategy-in-action, as opposed to a tactics-based approach to communications.
His presentation focused on three key points:
- know your brand
- empower your brand fans
- replace or augment market research.
Organizations that have been around as long as P&G have been on the branding treadmill for decades now. They’ve devoted incredible human and monetary resources to creating and promoting their brands. In fact, P&G became the US’s largest advertiser in 2005. Imagine having revenues of $4.61 billion, let alone that kind of money to spend on advertising – it’s rather mind-boggling.
Regardless of where you land on the PR versus advertising spectrum though, it’s important to recognize that traditional advertising accomplishes none of the goals Joosten has outlined. I will contend that all market research is skewed, in one way or another – and I don’t think you need to be a statistical expert to know that instinctively. I’ve done market research myself on a couple of occasions, on the phone and in person. After less than 10 hours you start to realize there’s a particular type of person who consents to participate – with or without inducements – in focus groups and surveys. (They tend to be the same sort of people who hold doors open and who still say ‘excuse me’ before pushing past people at the grocery store.) But all the folks who refuse to answer surveys and are unwilling to be part of focus groups still use soap, wash their clothes, clean their bathtubs – and make purchasing decisions each and every day.
So in order to know your brand, you have to listen not only to the branding experts who’ve created the brand and listed what they hope its attributes will be, you have to listen – and be willing to hear – what your brand really is.
That can sometimes be a painful experience when you’re in a highly competitive market. The former market leader in radios probably doesn’t want to hear the cellphones it’s poured millions into creating and marketing are considered clunky, ugly, expensive, and totally unhip – but when it ends up a distant third in the cellphone manufacturing market, not listening to the message would be a big mistake – as would failing to do some course correction so it can compete on at least one front.
But of the three goals Joosten outlined, perhaps the most revolutionary – and the most necessary – is the middle one: empower your brand fans. People listen to other people. They listen especially hard to other people they trust. Whether those people are mainstream media (who can at least be trusted to be familiar with the competition), media 2.0 (the bloggers who rarely have anything to gain by waxing enthusiastic about the products they like), or Mrs. McGillicuddy down the block who has three boys all in soccer and has a deeply vested interest in getting grass stains out of clothing, doesn’t matter. And by empowering your brand champions, you can exponentially increase the audience you reach.
How do you empower them? Connect with them. Ask for feedback. Make it easy for them to get in touch with you. Use social media as well as more traditional forms of communication. Think of Twitter, Facebook, and your corporate blog as other versions of the toll-free phone line, and be every bit as human and as genuine in your interactions via social media as your customer service reps are trained to be. And then reap the corporate rewards (including the savings in market research and advertising spend!).