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Public Relations Primer

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


Not every manager will need to get involved in public relations, or PR, but, from time-to-time, many will. So it is worth knowing and understanding the basics of one of the most important aspects of marketing.

What is PR?

The definition differs from one expert to another and the emphasis is very different on the two sides of the Atlantic. I personally prefer the simplicity of the definition offered by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) on their website:

‘Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.’

The UK’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) places its emphasis on reputation, and defines PR as:

‘Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.

‘Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.’

For me, PR is about engaging with your public, so the concept of PR is relevant not just at the corporate level, but also at the level of individuals who want to strengthen their careers. The principal approaches to PR are:

  • Writing
  • Collaborating
  • Engaging the press and professional media
  • Engaging through social media
  • Direct engagement

We will take a short look at each.

Writing

Getting your message out by writing articles, blogs (like this one) and books has a very simple effect: it says ‘we know what we are talking about’. By offering your public practical or insightful content, you are enhancing your reputation and strengthening your relationships with your readers. It has traditionally been largely one-way, but with the advent of social media and bookmarking, the ability for your public to comment on your writing and engage in a dialogue about it has grown mightily. This can only be a good thing for you, if you have something valuable to say, and you say it well. Please comment below!

Collaborating

If you can collaborate with other, non-competing, organisations, you can extend the reach of your PR activities to encompass their public as well as your own. If you engage them effectively, they can become your public too. So the relationship you need with the ideal potential collaborator is one of overlapping interests, but not conflict. This is not to say that there are not some valuable collaborations to be made between competitors too, but the risks (and rewards) are substantially higher.

Engaging the Press and Professional Media

For some people, PR and issuing press releases amount to pretty much the same thing. Without a doubt, the press is continually hungry for engaging stories that will interest their audiences, so if you do this correctly, this is nothing more than an example of a good collaboration. But what the media can do is get your message out, bundled in a package of objectivity and professionalism that amplifies its effectiveness considerably. But don’t blow it: if you are asked to comment on camera, on the radio, or even in print: prepare well, because if you don’t, and you perform poorly, the media can turn your reputation into an overnight shambles.

Engaging through Social Media

With so many forms of social media around, even the so-called experts are struggling to offer coherent advice as to which to focus on and how to do it well. The two tips that seem to surface again and again from the best of them, and which make greatest sense to me, are:

  1. Focus: choose one or two social media that your audience are most likely to engage with in numbers and in depth, and focus on using them well
  2. Social: the nature of social media is that they enable social connections, so you need to be listening to conversations and engaging with them as you would in a bar, cafe or restaurant. If you just use them for announcements, then you are losing most of their value.

Direct Engagement

From meeting customers in the street, to sending them information by newsletter, direct engagement has the capacity to be the most powerful form of PR of all – and therefore the ability to do your reputation most harm as well as good. The difference between a helpful advice email, with some good offers, and a piece of unwanted junk is subtle. As with writing, above, direct engagement has to have WAM factor: ‘what about me?’ says your public.

Further Reading 

You may like The Marketing Pocketbook. There are also some great resources on the PR profession websites:

 

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The Basics of Marketing

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


Marketing is not about selling. That may sound obvious, but too many people act as if the purpose of marketing is to sell: it is not. The purpose of marketing is to raise awareness of your product or services, so that people will be motivated to investigate further, or they will be aware of what you offer, if they need it in the future.

The challenges for marketing are:

  • Knowing who your potential customers are
  • Knowing what channels of information they most actively engage with
  • Knowing what messages will resonate most strongly with them

Using the answers to these, you can design a marketing campaign that answers the three questions that a prospective customer will have:

Question 1: What are you offering me?

If I am a customer of yours, then your product or service must meet a need or satisfy a desire in me. A strong marketing message sets up that need or desire, to prequalify readers, viewers or listeners and get the attention of those who are suitable targets. It then stimulates their interest by making a promise that the product or service can meet their needs. Finally, it amplifies desire, by showing the customer what they will get (beyond the product or service itself) by buying. This bit is about benefits and you must link them to strong positive emotional states. The favourite of many advertisers is, of course, the promise of love, romance or the three-letter alternative. Now they want it, you need to answer the next question…

Question 2: Is it good value?

They want it, but how much are they prepared to pay for it. Focus on value not cost. Done well, some customers won’t even care about cost (think of the people who queue to buy the latest hi-tech, hi-cost products that simply replace things they already have – desire; not need). But if they do care about cost, you must show how the benefits you are offering outweigh this – and the ratio is a measure of the customer’s perception of value. If you can satisfy them on this too, they don’t only want it, they want to go out and get it. So now answer…

Question 3: How can I get it?

Choose a delivery strategy that is consistent with the image you want to convey for your product or service and then (in most cases) make it easy for the customer to buy. Why ‘in most cases’? Because for certain products or services at the premium end of their market, you can add to the perceived cachet of the product by making it hard for the customer to buy. This increases its sense of exclusivity and therefore of its perceived value.

Getting your message out

Promoting your product means providing prospective customers with plentiful relevant information. It needs to answer their questions about your product or service, but also about you, and why they should buy from you. There are a near infinite number of media that you can use, in combination. Here is a selection.

  • Advertising: newspapers, magazines, radio, television, online, billboards, posters, leaflets
  • Promotional: brochures, pens, apparel, stationery, bags, websites
  • Sponsorship: events, causes, awards, hospitality
  • Direct: mail, email, telemarketing, newsletters
  • Signage and branding: buildings, plant, vehicles, uniforms, products
  • Public Relations: articles, press releases, interviews
  • Events: conferences, exhibitions, hospitality and entertaining, trade fairs
  • Social media: Instagram,Twitter, blogging, Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok

Further Reading 

You may like The Marketing Pocketbook and a couple of earlier Pocketblogs:

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Four Step Negotiation

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


We all have to negotiate; whether formally, arranging rotas, or informally, looking for a little extra help. In some cultures, it is more than a way of life, it is a ritual to be savoured. Everyone is familiar with its ploys and gambits, and is comfortable with the give and take, the spirited competition, and the feigned offence. Not negotiating is what gives real offence.

In other places, negotiation can feel alien: it feels more like an argument. Consequently, many managers feel uncomfortable with the idea of negotiating.

So, how can you negotiate well, and feel confident at the same time?

Negotiating is a learnable process. There are four basic steps, that you can practise and carry out, to get a result every time. It may not always be the result you hoped for at the outset: that’s not the goal of negotiating. There are, after all, two (or more) parties to please.

Negotiation is a process of searching for an agreement that satisfies all parties

So, let’s look at the process; it has four steps.

1. Preparation

The secret of success lies in going into the formal ‘let’s negotiate’ part fully prepared. This can give you an immediate edge but, realistically, will simply prevent you from being at a disadvantage from the start. Its real importance is two-fold: to boost your confidence and to equip you to recognise and secure the best outcome available… or to know when to walk away. Perhaps the simplest useful advice is in the words of Kenny Rogers:

You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.

So, what to prepare?

  1. Know what you want, and what your option would be if you failed to reach agreement. Known as your BATNA or ‘Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement’, this tells you when to walk away. It forms your bottom line.
  2. You need to inventory all the variables in your negotiation: what you can trade, offer, concede, request, and tweak, in terms of money, goods, services, or relationships. This will give you your manoeuvring space.
  3. Find out about the other party and do your best to anticipate what they need, want and don’t want and, as a result, some likely scenarios. Play them out.
  4. Assemble a file of every relevant fact or figure so you have them to hand. Ideally, learn it all – the impact of that on your counter-party can be stunning. If not, at least be familiar with it all, so you can quickly find what you need.

2. Opening

Your first priority is to make a positive first impression. Dress right, enter confidently, and get your papers out to reveal an orderly file, smart notebook and classy pen. Show you are confident and mean business.

A few minutes of rapport-building banter recognises that negotiation is a human activity. It’s harder to be hard with someone you have rapport with, so soften up the other side. Next, establish any ground rules – above all, does the person in the room have the authority to seal the deal? If not, you will never want to make your best offer to them.

3. Bargaining

Once the give and take of the negotiation is underway, the secret is to listen hard, never respond immediately, and not to be defensive. Always move one step towards where you think agreement lies, either accepting a concession, making one, requesting one, or spelling out the next step. Anything else shows you to be focused on the wrong thing. The right thing is the big picture: progress towards an agreement that satisfies all parties.

Let any raising of emotional temperature, defensive behaviour or outrage come from the other side of the table. You will look wiser, more confident and more powerful. This is why we prepare.

4. Closing

Eventually, you will either reach a point of agreement where both of you are happy, or you will reach a point where one of you recognises that no such agreement is possible and offers to walk away – or storms out; but don’t ever let that be you.

This is where inexperienced negotiators stumble. They fear that saying they are happy and checking that the other party is too, will break the magic spell. The opposite is true: failing to declare this point will mean the magic will wear off. So go for a close. The simplest and safest approach is a trial close:

“I think we are at a point where we can both agree? Is that how you see it?”

If you get the right signals, express your pleasure and move straight into the formalities of finalising the detail: handshakes, drafting, signatures and logistics. Never, ever re-visit any of the terms. You have a deal and there is no way it can get better, so the only thing that will happen is that it gets worse. Stop.

Can it be that simple?

Yes and no. Yes, this simple process works and is the basis of all negotiation. No, because every negotiation will be different and there is one fundamental characteristic of all negotiations that militates against simplicity: they are a human endeavour. But as such, if well prepared, you are in the same position as the other party. You are a human; so are they.

Further Reading

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Customer Journey: Mapping your Relationship

Customer Journey

Customer JourneyYou can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. That’s the principle behind mapping out your customer journey. It’s a way to get an insight into how it feels for your customers to deal with you at each step along the path.

And since understanding your customer is vital to making them feel good about buying and using your product, customer journey mapping is a valuable tool to support this Big Idea.

Continue reading Customer Journey: Mapping your Relationship

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Product Manager: Strategist, Advocate, Keystone

Product Manager - Product Management

Product Manager - Product ManagementMovie stars, celebrities, and sportspeople have managers to take care of their business affairs. So, why shouldn’t a superstar product? And if every product can aim to be a superstar, then they will all need their own Product Manager.

And that’s what we’ll look at in this article; the role of a Product Manager:

  • Why we need them
  • What they do
  • The breadth of their role

So, let’s dive into the world of Product Management.

Continue reading Product Manager: Strategist, Advocate, Keystone

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Colour Psychology: Creating a Feeling

Colour Psychology

Colour PsychologyWe associate colours with brands and brands with colours. Some colours and combinations immediately evoke a brand. And others instantly trigger a feeling. This is the role of colour psychology in marketing.

Much of what people think they know about colour psychology is little more than pseudo-science. Chromatic astrology, if you will. But there is also a growing body of research evidence to fall back on.

And what that underlines is that, for whatever reason, there is some firm basis for colour psychology.

Continue reading Colour Psychology: Creating a Feeling

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Upsell: Optimise Every Sales Opportunity

Upsell, Cross-sell, Down-sell: Optimise Every Sales Opportunity

Upsell, Cross-sell, Down-sell: Optimise Every Sales OpportunityYour customers may be few or many. But you never want to let one leave without making the best sale you can. So you need to learn the art of the upsell. And, for that matter, of the cross-sell and the down-sell.

All of them take place after your customer has made their first decision to buy. So, you have done the hard work. Now you can use upselling and cross-selling to increase your revenue. And, if your customer changes their mind, there’s always the down-sell.

If you want to optimise every sales opportunity, you need to know how to apply the ideas of the upsell, cross-sell, and down-sell.

Continue reading Upsell: Optimise Every Sales Opportunity

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April Fools’ Day – April Fish

April Fools' Day

April Fools' DayI don’t suppose we’ll ever find out the origin of April Fools’ Day. But it would make the basis for a great prank!

It does seem sad to me that, in most workplaces, the tradition of harmless jokes is dying out. Yes, I do understand the need to avoid giving offence or causing disruption. So, if we’re ever to see a bit of inoffensive leg-pulling, April Fools’ Day (tomorrow) is a good time for it.

Please don’t take this post as licence to disrupt or offend. But, if you can come up with something genuinely witty, why not? Make April Fools’ Day a source of fun for your colleagues!

Continue reading April Fools’ Day – April Fish

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A/B Testing: Finding the Optimum

A/B Testing

A/B TestingWhy is Amazon so successful? A big part of the answer is A/B Testing. Unknown to most users, we are subject to thousands of A/B tests every week. It tells Amazon how to layout a page, which products to offer you, and even the font size on the buy buttons.

A/B testing is ubiquitous on the internet and it powers millions of marketing decisions a day. Yet the idea is shockingly simple. What has changed is the technology that allows marketers to carry out their A/B tests on statistically significant samples quickly and easily. That’s what the internet and web technologies have given us.

So what is this age-old idea, and what can it do for you?

Continue reading A/B Testing: Finding the Optimum

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Multi-Level Marketing (MLM): Pyramid Schemes?

Multi-Level Marketing

Multi-Level MarketingI’m sure Multi-Level Marketing has been around since ancient days. Send out street urchins to sell stuff and take a big chunk of their income. Get them to recruit other homeless kids and let them have a share of what their protegé earns.

But Multi-Level Marketing (or MLM) is big business now, with one estimate* putting it at around the US$200 billion per annum mark, worldwide.

So, we have to ask:

  • What is Multi-Level Marketing?
  • How does it work?
  • Is it a good way to earn a living (here’s a spoiler: no)?
  • And how do you spot an MLM scheme if offered one?

Continue reading Multi-Level Marketing (MLM): Pyramid Schemes?

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