Thursday, 19 November 2009

Throw a lucky man in the sea, and he will come up with a fish in his mouth

PRCA Guest Lecture

How & when to sell digital PR to a client

I've got to say, without sounding like a creepy little brown nose, that PR students at Leeds Met are lucky little buggers. We are on a weekly basis treated with talks from industry professionals all eager to give us an insight into how we can best equip ourselves as we take our first small steps in to the world of PR. We are of course paying for the privilege and I'm sure most would argue that our fees warrant such calibre of guests, however what has impressed me is the energy the speakers have exerted, they haven't used the ninety minutes to massage their egos, quite the opposite in fact. They've willingly laid bare their experiences and filled our pockets with pearls of wisdom which will enable us to hopefully follow in their footsteps. This year we have heard from Daryl Wilcox, Andy Carter, Andy Green, Carl Christopher and this week Fernando Rizo from KetchumPleon educated and entertained in his thick New York accent.

Yes we had our first American speaker and just like Jack, the kid who joined my middle school after moving from Arizona and was straight away know as "the cool American kid", Fernando had his audience hanging on his every word. He was also pretty funny, like a cool Ross Gellar, sickening. Fernando aimed to teach us "How and when to sell digital PR to a client" and after some ironic technical difficulties, resolved by Theilmann the German tech master, we were on our way.

Fernando began by talking us through the evolution of the media, he explained throughout history the dissemination of ideas to media was solely dependent on capital investment, until of course the internet was born and everyone inherited the power to publish, "even the stamp collector from Belgrade". Answer this rhetorical question Fernando then asked "Is the New York Times print based media or online?" his answer, "Who gives a crap! No traditional media worth its salt should be without an online presence" he bellowed in his Regis Philbin like tones.

Fernando went on to talk about something I have always found hard, creating an audience, he began by asking how many of us had a blog, a stupid question really as it's probably the first thing Richard Bailey told us to do, Fernando followed this up by asking how many of these blogs have a bigger following than “your mum and your room mate” or house mate for you English types. Of course a few of the smarmy students kept their hands up, but most conceded their blogs had audiences similar to that of an "Audience with John Barrowman" on the day England face Germany in the World Cup Final. Fernando's point was clear, it's very difficult, expensive and time consuming to create a brand new audience and much easier to borrow or steal from a community that already exists. The example we were shown was Open Forum, a resource for small businesses. Open Forum purchased content from influential bloggers and posted it on the website, therefore borrowing an audience which already exists.

Fernando went on to show us his favourite example of bad PR and told us "If you ever find an example of bad PR keep it and learn from it", his point being of course you are unlikely to hear about poor PR campaigns. His was from an American tuna company who had teamed up with the American Apprentice and asked people to come up with a new idea for a tuna product and pitch it to them in an online video. Fernando explained that offline to online tie-ins very rarely work and that although this campaign was opportunistic, it was neither strategic nor defined the personality of the brand in any way.

I always enjoy lectures in which we are presented with examples of campaigns that practitioners feel illustrate their point and Fernando certainly delivered in this area. Other successful campaigns that the American maestro had worked on himself included the bounty for the “Montauk Monster” on behalf of an energy drink called Venom and a campaign for Stride gum who wanted to target 18 to 24 year old computer gamers. The latter started by reading something said by Uwe Boll a German film director famous for transforming computer games in to disastrously bad films, he was quoted as saying “If the petition to stop me making films reaches 1 million signatures then I will retire”. On behalf of Stride Gum Fernando’s team jumped on this and gained as much coverage as possible for the petition using influential computer game bloggers and journalists. Needless to say the petition reached its target. The Stride Gum campaign was indeed opportunistic and incredibly topical and Fernando explained that these type of campaigns are made possible because of the “marrying up of account executives interests with what they work on” he went on to say that he himself would never be able to run a campaign for a gardening magazine “It just wouldn’t happen” he said.

Favourite quote of the guest lecture: “When Google takes over the world, I hope they eat me last”

I left the Rose Bowl inspired to make my next PR campaign innovative, cheeky and for it to be a success both in traditional and digital media. I am currently working with Leeds Carnegie Men’s Football in an attempt to improve the attendances at games. I believe this a perfect example to launch a digital media campaign as a large majority of our target audience, students, will use digital media daily. I will keep you updated.

I would also like to congratulate myself for finding £20 on the street the other day. Here I am celebrating just after the fortunate event. I did the honourable thing though and put the money back in to the local community, well I should say temporary local community as I treated myself and Gem to beers, mulled wine and Bratwurst at the German Christmas Market.

For now I bid you a fond Farewell, auf Wiedersehen, Goodnight.


1 comment:

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