PR


Warschawski

After an amazing and intense internship at Warschawski, I am BACK. But before I dive back into my marketing and PR posts, I wanted to share my great experience that helped me mature my marketing and PR skills.

A Little Background Info

Warschawski is a full service branding, PR, marketing, advertising and interactive agency in Baltimore, Maryland. It was named “U.S. Small Agency of the Year” four of the past five years and has won over 200 marketing communications awards in the last ten years. I was lucky enough to work for an agency that has been ranked one of the “20 Best U.S. Agencies to Work For” the last nine years in a row. With such an impressive track record, I knew there were high expectations joining a team of rock stars.

The W Experience

Right off the bat, I knew that every Warschawski team member was a BRAND expert and had clearly mastered the art marketing and public relations. The guru that trained his army to become these brand warriors was the main man himself, Mr. David Warschawski.

David is the simply the real deal. I recently was able to attend one of his seminars on how to successfully use social media in an integrated marketing communications strategy to help companies achieve their business goals and reinforce their brand. I will be expanding on some of the basic ideas in future posts. Stay Tuned!

Mission: Grow.

While interning at Warschawski as an Assistant Associate (AA), I played an important role working on client accounts, learned how and why strategic decisions are made, and actively participated in brainstorming sessions for clients. I worked on a variety of accounts, ranging from a tree top adventure company to a luxury high-end mattress company. One advantage of working at the W, I was able to get the experience and expertise of a large firm but have the personalized mentorship of a boutique agency.

My main focus during the AA program was to develop my media relation skills. DONE AND DONE. I was able to generate news and obtain media coverage that increased name recognition, credibility, and visibility for clients. While at the W, I established strong working relationships with key editors, producers, and reporters. I will be posting links to these placements in the near future.

BrandMaPR

When I wasn’t pitching to different media outlets, I was learning how to create communication campaigns that brings clarity to a company’s brand.  These integrated campaigns combine marketing strategies with PR, advertising, and creative and interactive design. Warschawski’s brand-centric and business goal-oriented model, BrandMaPR© (pronounced brand-mapper), helped me understand how companies can positively impact their bottom line and ultimately move their target audience to action. I’m only scratching the surface of an extremely intricate process. Visit W’s website for more information on their BrandMaPR© model.

So Was It Worth it?

Absolutely. Even though traffic was horrible at times (particularly my eight-hour commute during a snow storm), my experience at Warschawski was worth every minute. It was worth the average 3.75-hour commute each day, the $100 dollar gas bill each week, and the 2,480 miles I put on my car each month traveling.  Yes. I’m crazy… crazy about Warschawski. Thank you to everyone at the W. I will miss you all.

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Time is On Our SideThings are happening fast. I mean freaky fast. News stories are being broadcasted  to the internet via flip phones, protests are being organized on Twitter in minutes, and I’m watching it all happen right in front of me on the computer. AND let’s not get started with Google’s new speedy search tool Google Instant. By predicting your search and showing results before you finish typing, Google Instant can save 2-5 seconds per search. I guess I can’t waste time on Google anymore. Now I feel bad college kids, this will totally messed up their procrastination clock.  Kidding, this is amazing technology. A little annoying but amazing.

This new “internet time” has companies on edge. Let’s go back to Twitter, the microblogging site that allows users to send and receive 140-character-long messages services from their phones. I finally gave in to the spreading Twitter epidemic and opened an account (my only hesitation was I didn’t have a Smartphone. I know, soo 2002.). I started following Oakley, one of my favorite brands. I looked down at past entries and Oakley had responded in real-time to complaining Twitter users but more importantly, to complaining customers. Below you can see the complaints on the left and Oakley’s responds on the right.

Oakley Tweets

Speed becomes not only a competitive advantage but also a strategic necessity. The more quickly businesses can adjust to customers’ actions and desires––the more quickly they can learn from them and try to stay ahead of them–– the better business will be.

Jeff Jarvis is spot on and Oakley is the perfect example. Mobs can form in a flash and so can fans. While most companies and individuals use Twitter as an extension of their brand, some still haven’t quite nailed how to use Twitter. Ad Maverick, Josh Fleming explains the Top Ten Reasons You #Fail At Twitter. Don’t worry, I’m still working out the kinks but learning google-fast. The internet has caused us to lose control many things: brands, reviews, secrets, relationships with advertisers, price settings, and now TIME.

Pressure to respond is higher than ever. Companies feel the need to give information out to the demanding public in a seconds notice.  I see no problem with this as long as the quality of fact-checking doesn’t  decrease.  Bogus speedy responses like BP’s junk shot technique to clog the oil leak with a golf ball, rubber particles, and hair… then I think Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the House energy committee investigating the oil spill, said it perfectly to CBS’s Meet the Press interview,

I have no confidence whatsoever in BP. I think that they do not know what they are doing. They started off talking about golf balls going in as a junk shot. People thought they would be dependent on MIT or Cal Tech instead of the PGA and golf balls…

Key word in Rep. Ed Markey quote, no confidence. I hope we all just breathe, think and then respond. Even if the clock is ticking.

Negative comments Brings Bad PR and ImageBlogging. There are many advantages from blogging for people, organizations, politicians, and of course businesses. Just reading a blog is beneficial. We are all critics now. The blogosphere is at sea level. No credentials or certifications here. Granted, your average Joe neighbor blogging has its advantages and disadvantages too. However, the importance behind blogging is that every voice is heard. From the CEOs of the powerful Fortune 500 companies to the stay-at-home mom (or dad) talking about issues that others want to hear.

Strategic research analysts worship this feedback. Each forum is a focus group. Each Facebook Fan Page is a corporate message board. Every sentence typed can be represented in dollar signs. It’s raw and uncensored information for people and businesses, but only if they want to listen (See my post Gut Feelings Vs. Wikinomics Mashup: The New Traditional ways of Business on how companies can harness these Intellectual Properties for a competitive edge).

But it’s even more beneficial when we participate in the conversation.   For example, let’s take a look at my mother’s recent PR fiasco. But before we do I need to fill you  in on some background information.

My mother and step dad, Dan decided to restore Santillane, an old Greek revival historic house. With plans in turning it into a special events venue and a bed and breakfast, we had a lot of work to do.

After five years, the restoration was complete. The project was a bear to say the least.

Since then, my mother runs a successful business, booking almost every weekend with an event. Before the Santillane business, my mother worked for the local public school system in Roanoke, Virginia as Director of Public Relations and Community Relations.  Jumping back into PR work for her new business different. Retirement must have stunted her growth with new technology, the new relationship, and social media basics.

Sorry mom if your reading, but you know it’s true.

Old ways of communications were gone but thank goodness that she had a son majoring corporate communications (I think that is what she would say). With a new website, Facebook Fan Page, and becoming a part of B&B networks, I thought I set her pretty well…until I GOOGLED her business.

There it was, a negative comment and review of her business. Not too high in the PageRank search results but still on the first page:

Rotten Google Juice

OH shoot. I immediately called my mom and email her the link. I checked the Santillane Fan Page to find another bad review. Is it the same person, I don’t know? But what I do know is what Jeff Jarvis said…

Your customers are your ad agency.

This might be one occurrence or maybe the overall attitude of Santillane. Let’s not take any risks because if one customer took their time to write an review Santillane in a bad light, then think of all the others that didn’t want to waste their time that might feel the same way.  On the flip side, think about the satisfied customers that probably didn’t write a review with the  “ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude. Either way, let’s start listening to become a better business.  Here are three things I try to keep in mind when dealing with negative comments:

  1. Knowing your mistakes and flaws will make our company stronger, only if you act upon them. Let your public know you are working hard to improve troubling areas.
  2. Not responding can possibly lead to more irritation to your publics. Each situation is unique.
  3. Remember, a negative comment is still feedback so don’t get caught up in the moment and respond irrationally. Kill them with kindness; catch more bees with honey than vinegar (but not over the top).

Solving Santillane’s Image and Reputation Problem

  • Let your customers do the talking. Direct past and future customers to review sites to rate your venue and services. Astroturfing isn’t the way to fix a bad online reputation.
  • Create a survey after an event has past.  Attached PDF with radio button forms are great way to get feedback and are user-friendly.
  • Show them change. It’s one thing to listen but it’s another to act AND don’t  just talk about changing. Show them change because that’s ultimately what they want to see.
  • Monitor your connecting networks with a better eye. Google your self as if you were searching for your business. What’s being said and are you a part of the conversation?

GrouponBeing a recent college graduate, I’ve learned the tricks and trades of pinching pennies and it’s not just buying cheep beer. The new sensation that’s sweeping the online nation that has everyone’s attention (and so does my cheesy accidental rhyming) is called Groupon. Groupon is a revolutionary coupon-networking site for growing market of people that are always looking to save a buck.  The basics of this stupid-simple business plan are explained in the video bellow. If time is money then you might want to watch. It’s worth every second.

Genius right? Believe it or not, I’m not employed by Groupon. I’m just a fanatic of things that make cents. Companies like GAP have experienced the power of this piggy bank saver network.  GAP’s coupon was the first national groupon in all participating cities and the numbers were outstanding. But…is that good thing? At the end of the day, GAP had about 300,000 Groupons sold. Awesome, right? Maybe not, that’s estimated to be about $7.5 million revenue loss for one risky campaign. Was the PR and sales promo worth it?  This has done wonders for the participating businesses, giving them access to new customers while giving users bargaining power to receive unbeatable discounts. It’s a win-win situation. So who is making the money, Groupon or the companies? Listen to Andrew Mason, the new CEO of Groupon in the video bellow for a little background on how they make a buck by saving your loot.

So it works, but is it beneficial for nation-wide sales on Groupon? I want to hear your thoughts and comments.

Transparency Thickens the Skins

For years Daniel Snyder, owner of the NFL Washington Redskins team, has been absolutely loath by fans…well until recently. Seen by many as a well-off business man that knows little about football and more about ticket sales, sat down with Hogs Heaven blogger Ken Meringolo and Kevin Ewoldt for a tough Q&A. But can a Q&A restore a NFL owner’s image? Team Snyder is back in D.C.

After the first part of the interview with HH, I started asking myself: Is Dan Snyder actually like us more than we thought. Is he an average joe, Redskin lover, Sunday tailgating-griller kind of guy? The recent interview reminded Redskin fans that he is human. Not a blood sucking biz man. The Snyder-opoly that is taking place with the lots of land around the FedEx Field are being used to maximize tailgating experience, one of Dan’s precious memories when he was young Redskin fan. The interview hit Snyder with all the hard questions that needed to be answered. Sounds like Snyder’s is keeping the Skin fans at heart and not the ROI sheet.

With his new coaching staff, veteran quarter back, and rejuvenated  spirits of the other players; Snyder’s smartest business decision for Washington Redskins is his new hands-off ownership approach. Being praised by his best additions to the roster, GM Bruce Allen and head coach Mike Shanahan, Snyder gains respect from all pigskin lovers. Owners of NFL team can cripple their chance of success. The perfect example of this toxic relationship is owner Al Davis and Oakland Raiders franchise. But that’s a different story. Now Snyder is letting the football experts do what they do best, lead their team to the playoffs and brings Lombardi trophies back to the District!

With heart-felt apologies, detailed explanations of past mistakes and short sight failures, the fans might actually start forgiving Snyder for the dismal football season last year. Snyder’s interview was just what he needed. A rally of fans for Team Snyder.  Through transparency came authenticity, the basic by-product of communication that can change the attitudes of worst disgruntled hog lovers.