Why word of mouth is still top

Yes even in this modern day I still believe that word of mouth is one of the most important tools for promoting and the sustaining of reputation for an organisation.

A lot of businesses especially those too small to warrant spending hundreds of pounds on advertising and promotion, rely on word of mouth to promote their organisation. But it’s not just these businesses who are benefiting from this age old promotional tool, even multinational corporations are reaping the rewards of the modern day word of mouth. Word of mouth marketing or WOMM as the jargon generators have labelled it, has become a fully fledged marketing tool.

Word of mouth is still effective in its traditional form. Conversations between people are incredibly powerful, especially when imparting knowledge. If a customer has had a positive experience in a shop and the next day they tell a family member or work colleague about their experience, they have instantly positively promoted this brand. The opinion of somebody you know and trust is hugely influential and best of all for the businesses it is free. Of course it works both ways, if the experience was a bad one then rather than promoting the brand it will have a negative effective, and potentially loose you customers.

Today word of mouth doesn’t just come from face to face conversations, the popularity of social media and user generated content has meant that WOMM can now be done online as well as offline. Blogs have become a very influential tool and if you break down the concept of a blog you come back to a word of mouth conversation, only in this case the conversation is done online and can be potentially heard by millions of people worldwide. For this reason bloggers are frequently targeted by PR officers to write about a product or brand, so that their word of mouth can be turned into a positive promotion. As with the traditional means of WOMM, online word of mouth can also be detrimental. If a popular blogger has a bad experience with a company and writes about it, it can do a lot of damage to that brand. It’s not just blogs that facilitate online WOMM social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter can also be used.

With the popularity of word of mouth growing, WOMMA the Word of Mouth Marketing Association was set up. An independent organisation for the ethical and effective use of word of mouth marketing, WOMMA wants to ensure that this practice isn’t misused and exploited. WOMMA’s biggest battle is the ethics of the practice and their stance is defined by their 3 principles:

  1. Honesty of Relationship: You say who you’re speaking for
  2. Honesty of Opinion: You say what you believe
  3. Honesty of Identity: You never lie about who you are

Essentially they believe in complete transparency when using word of mouth, something that other PR practices could take note of…

People love to talk it’s human nature and the conversations we have often shape our opinions of the world, word of mouth marketing has harnessed this and molded it into a marketing function. WOMM is a fantastic promotional tool and can be even better for reputation management, this of course is only true if your basic brand or product is good. It is a risky tool to rely on, as word of mouth is really down to other people’s opinion of your organisation, however if you are confident with your corporate identity and the products or services that you are offering, then this shouldn’t be a problem!

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Guerrilla Marketing

You would be forgiven for thinking that guerrilla tactics are something used when fighting the enemy, but today you are just as likely to see them being used by marketers and PRO’s as you are by soldiers.

Much like the military equivalent guerrilla marketing is usually a low cost and unconventional means of marketing. Some of the tactics used can include street art, graffiti, flash mobs and sticker bombing. The term was created by Jay Conrad Levinson in his book ‘Guerrilla Marketing’ published in 2007, where he outlines easy and inexpensive strategies for making profits for your business. The essence of guerrilla marketing is that you don’t need to shell out thousands of pounds/dollars to create an effective marketing campaign, sometimes the most effective campaigns are ones that use uniqueness over expense.

Guerrilla marketing can take all types of forms, as long as its spontaneous, inexpensive and seen by the public it’s a guerrilla tactic. They can range from QR codes being stickered on lamp posts to large scale flash mobs where hundreds of people descended on a public place. Guerrilla marketing can also be used by anybody, from small businesses to large companies like T-mobile and charities. These tactics started out by being used by smaller businesses as a cheap alternative to expensive marketing campaigns, but as their effectiveness became apparent they were adopted by large agency’s including Saatchi and Saatchi in the famous T Mobile flash mob television adverts.

So guerrilla tactics are nothing new, but why are they becoming so popular? Well as with everything, the internet has blown it out of the water. Now that internet enabled phones are as common as bank cards, when people see these guerrilla tactics out on the street they can film or photograph them, instantly upload them to YouTube, Facebook or any other social networking site and within minutes it has gone global. This has now became half of the appeal of using guerrilla marketing, most of the promotion is done free of charge by the public.

It’s not just sharing the tactics that digital technology has done for guerrilla marketing, it has also enabled new types of tactics. Augmented reality is the use of computer technology to enhance or change a real world environment. Thought to be more suited to computer game developers, the technology has now been adopted by public relations and marketing in promotional campaigns. Adidas used the technology to launch their new Scottish football shirt in a shopping center (click the picture below for the video)

Although an undoubtedly more expensive stunt, this use augmented reality technology is another form of guerrilla marketing. It spontaneously interacted with the public in a public place whilst promoting a new product, and it worked, the stunt went viral and Adidas uploaded their own footage of the stunt via YouTube.

Guerrilla marketing is a great way to break through the advertisement white noise that has been created. It’s very difficult to truly get the attention of your audience today, with so many adverts being forced upon us every minute of every day, we begin to block them out, but guerrilla marketing finds a way to penetrate this. A good guerrilla marketing campaign will catch your attention and promote an organisation without you realising it is essentially just another advert. It is truly refreshing to know that there are still traditional methods of promoting a business (even if it is helped along by digital media) that are cheap and effective.

The Rise of Celebrity Endorsement

David Beckham, Cheryl Cole, Iggy Pop and Uma Thurman are just four of the hundreds of celebrities that have endorsed a product or service. In the most part these endorsements have been successful but there are a few that don’t end so well.

Celebrity endorsements are in no way a new strategy, according to a BBC article Queen Victoria can be traced back to endorsing a medicine patent in the early 19th Century. Endorsements of any kind are an effective way for you to build trust, reputation and brand loyalty by association, but in recent years celebrity endorsement has become big business. Products can range from cars and makeup to windows and doors and often the link between product and celebrity can be rather tenuous, but never the less endorsements are here to stay.

The more popular a celebrity becomes the more ‘valuable’ they are to companies as an endorser. Today popularity is often measured in how many followers someone has on Twitter or Likes on Facebook, but good old fashioned talent like David Beckham’s football skills are still a good basis for popularity. Arguably the ‘hottest’ celebrity of the moment is Lady Gaga, she has entered into an endorsement with Polaroid to boost their image and bring the brand firmly into the future. Although a relatively new deal, rather unexpectedly there is a synergy between GaGa and Polaroid and the relationship seems to be helping Polaroid regain some market share.

Although sometimes the link between celebrity and product is hard to see, the best endorsements are when the celebrity has a strong link with the company. For example Michael Jordan and Nike an association that has lasted for nearly 30 years, is still going strong with new Jordan shoes being released each year with much anticipation. More recently Twiggy has become the face of Marks and Spencers bringing a more glamorous side to the chain and inspiring older women to dress more like the model and singer. Jamie Oliver has also boosted the image of a British chain store with his endorsement of Sainsburys, both Twiggy and Jamie have strong links to their endorsers which is why the partnerships have lasted and become valuable enhancers to the brands.

There are as expected some disasters from celebrity endorsements. Celebrities like everyone else are only human, and they too make mistakes however when they have signed a multimillion pound endorsement deal with a company, the ripples of their mistakes spread wider than just themselves. Some historic endorsement mishaps include the recent downfall of Golf’s golden boy Tiger Woods. When his multiple affairs and car crash hit the headlines Woods was immediately dropped from his deals with General Motors and Gatorade quickly followed by Gillette and Nike. His infidelity and recklessness had ruined his own reputation and his endorsers didn’t want to be tarred with the same brush. Similarly when Kate Moss was pictured on the front of The Daily Mirror taking cocaine both H&M and Channel ended their relationship with the model. Large organisations like Gillette and Channel cannot afford to be associated with celebrities’ bad behaviour. In time though both of these celebrities have ‘cleaned up’ their acts and have entered into new endorsement deals as their popularity has risen, Kate Moss may even be doing better with her own clothing range in Top Shop and Rimmel endorsement deals.

There are some do’s and don’ts to celebrity endorsements:

Do make sure there is a link between the celebrity you are associating with. If you want the endorsement to be successful and have longevity use a celebrity that fits in with your brand’s vision and reputation.

Do monitor the endorsement. If you can spot early on your celebrity wavering in popularity or any drastic changes in behaviour, it’s better to end your association before you find your celebrity on the front of the paper.

Don’t jump on the band wagon with a celebrity, try to choose a someone that doesn’t already have associations with other brands.

Don’t rely solely on celebrity endorsement. If you don’t have an already good brand identity using a celebrity isn’t going to improve that.

As long as the world is obsessed by fame and celebrity, celebrity endorsement is here to stay. This is in no way a bad thing, as long as organisations choose the right celebrities for their brands and celebrities behave themselves endorsement deals are good business. It’s a risky investment, but if you get it right the benefits can be huge on the flip side if you get it wrong it can be very detrimental especially for an established brand. Ultimately you need to make the decision whether using a celebrity is the right thing for your brand.

February’s MAG!

February’s issue of MAG is out NOW!

It is packed full of listings for the month as well as an interview with the fantastic Funeral For A Friend, a review of Rufio Summer’s new EP and a profile of local band Young Kato. As well as some helpful hints for all the men of Gloucestershire on what to get their loved one for Valentine’s day courtesy of Keziah Kurg at ByLocal.

We’re also back in print, so keep an eye out for it across the county in pubs, clubs, shops and colleges.

Audit: find out if your PR is working for you

In my last post I looked at some online programs that you can use to research prospective and current clients and I have also posted about social media auditing and the importance of keeping tabs of your social media presence. These are both important for the public relations of businesses but what about the wider opportunities of auditing?

Auditing is integral for any business and can look into every aspect of an organisation, a public relations audit will specifically look at how you are being put across to the public, your brand value and reputation and in these tough financial times can asses how effective your PR strategy really is. It is often easy to forget that there is a world outside of the online augmented reality we have created for ourselves, so I’m going to briefly look into audit measures for both on and offline PR.

In a general auditing sense there is a cycle that is often followed and in it’s simplest form follows 4 steps: Planning, Audit, Analysis & Reporting. These 4 steps are the basics when carrying out any audit and are easily applied to a PR audit whether it be on or offline.The following are brief guides to some of the points I would include in an audit, they are not every step that should be taking, but in my opinion are some of the most important.

Online

Consistency is Key: it cannot be stressed enough that all URLS, domain names, Facebook pages and groups, Twitter accounts, Google+ and LinkedIn profiles are owned and maintained by the company themselves. There are various stories of companies that have discovered their .com is being used by another person, not only is it confusing for consumers but it can be potentially damagimng to a company’s reputation. This also goes for branding across sites, make sure you have a style book that is available to all employees so any logos used are always consistent with the company branding.

Integration: with new social networking sites popping up every 5 minutes, integrating all of these with your website is a very good idea. There are programs out there including HootSuite that can do this for you, linking all of your social media profiles on one dashboard so you can update them all simultaneously. It really is becoming too easy not to do this.

SEO: search engine optimisation or SEO as the jargon junkies like to call it essentially ensures that when you type your company name or area of business in to Google (other search engines are available) that the top hit is your website, followed by your Facebook, Twitter etc etc.

Unfinished business: there is nothing worse than getting to a company’s website and discovering that there is a gaping hole on the landing page or the contact details are missing. This is the same for Facebook pages/groups, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, it is essential that your social media and websites have all the company’s information on and

Maintenance: where possible maintenance to any sites should be done at low traffic times so as not to inconvenience consumers. House of Fraser for example carry out maintenance at 4:00am to avoid loosing customers.

Measurement: In my previous post I profiled some programs that you can use to track aclients, as well as being good for research purposes they are also good ways to measure your social media, collating information including how many followers or likes you have, mentions you are receiving as well in some cases the sentiment behind these mentions.

Offline

On and off: another point of consistency is to ensure that your offline profile is the same as your online. This includes messages and branding, the last thing you want to do is confuse your customers when they are looking for you in the real world after researching you online.

Inside and out: sometimes it is easy to forget that your employees are just as important as your customers. Your employees need to be singing from the same hymn sheet so to speak as the PR campaign for the company is to ensure that the same messages are being put across.

The media and your messages: as with social media measurement and monitoring it is integral to do the same with traditional media. Look into your recent media coverage including print, television and radio and see if the messages and reputation you are trying to maintain are what are being included in the coverage.

Auditing is not a one off and it certainly isn’t a quick task, but it is something that will benefit a company in the long run. It is important to carry out PR audits to ensure that you are portraying the right image to the public as well as knowing that the money you are spending on your PR program is well spent. A lot of these auditing measures can be ongoing tasks which will ensure that you are always on top of your PR activity.

For more extensive guides to PR auditing both on and offline I found the following useful:

Cindy Kim РThe Marketing Journalist 

Kwame Boame – How to Audit Your Social Media Efforts: 20+ Questions to Ask Yourself

Client research made easy

I’ve harped on about how important I think it is to monitor your social media presence, which it is. It is also important for you to be able to collate this information on a perspective client. There are various different websites out there that offer online monitoring, which makes it incredibly easy for you to do this yourself. Depending on what exactly you want to know about a client, will narrow down the type of site you use. There are literally hundreds of websites out there offering you free and pay for services, so here are just a few examples:

Comparative: If you are looking to compare your client to a competitor and get a general day to day view of what is being said about them, a quick, easy and free service is Google Trends. All you do is type in the name of your client a comma and then the competitor and it brings up a graph of news references over the last seven years, links to recent news stories that explain the graphs troughs and peaks, and facts about the companies presence across the world. It’s a basic tool, but it provides instant results that are clear and easy to understand and it’s perfect to use if you want to see how your client is being talked about online in comparison to a competitor.

Website Analysis: If you want an in depth analysis of your client’s website including traffic, SEO and server information then you can use sites that allow you to search for information on your clients wesbite. Woorank is a website much like this, you enter your clients name and woorank provides you with a page of information on their website. The information ranges from your woorank rating to its SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Another site similar to woorank is Website Grader, this site gives you more information on a website as well as suggestions to how you can improve the way the site runs.

Everything you need to know: If you want websites that are a one stop for information on a client, then Alexa gives you everything woorank and website grader do and more. You can create your own dashboard where you can add one or more websites to receive daily information on these websites. This is great for an agency, as you can add a new clients website to your dashboard and get the information sent straight to you. Another all round website is Quarkbase, unlike Alexa Quarkbase is more basic. You are given an overview of the website, but included in this summary is information from the current CEO to the latest comments on the company on Twitter as well as contact information and site traffic.

What is integral for you to remember when using these sites, is with the ever changing landscape of the internet as quickly as these analytic sites are created, the internet is evolving and changing. The tools out there are fantastic as a general overview when researching a new or prospective client, but there are glitches to these tools. For example woorank ranks Google the world’s largest website at only 84.5, so some of the information that these sites provide will obviously need to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Festivals and Alcohol Brands: the new Sonny & Cher?

As you may have read in my previous post/plea I am currently researching and writing my dissertation “What is the affect on brand value and reputation after sponsoring a major music event” I choose the topic because I wanted to write about something I am interested in and unsurprisingly I have been sucked in by the whole thing!

Music Festivals have become BIG business, with a decline in record sales the industry has seen live music attendances rise. This has not gone unnoticed by big brands most notably the alcohol companies. In researching my dissertation I came to notice that most text available, were on how alcohol companies are taking advantage of sponsorship opportunities to target younger audiences.

Although I am not concentrating on alcohol sponsorship in my dissertation I felt the subject did need some addressing. It is no secret that alcohol companies have latched on to the music scene as a vehicle for the promotion of their brands. Carling is one of the heavyweights in this category, sponsoring or being present at 24 UK festivals and four international festivals. For festival attendees their problem is usually being restricted to Carling being the only beer available, but ‘outsiders’ concerns are that by allowing alcohol brands to sponsor popular cultural events like music festivals is the breeding ground for the UK’s binge drinking problem.

The synergy between music festivals and alcohol brands is obvious, often when you think about a festival you are immediately transported to a muddy field stood in front of a huge stage with a warm pint in your hand. For many people this epitomises their festival experience and brands such as Carling and Gaymers recognised this and developed relationships and subsequently the sponsorship of music festivals. It really is a perfect match, the Sonny and Cher of sponsorships! Although festivals are big business they are also very costly, so large sponsorship deals ensure that the festivals can keep running year on year. In turn the brands sponsoring these festivals are getting a huge amount of intense exposure to their target audience over 2-4 days. From my own research I have already found that people are able to instantly recall the major sponsor of the last festival they attended. According to IPC research 16-34yr men are so passionate about music that they view brands more favourably who sponsor live music events (64%) while women are the biggest spenders on music, “with live music and music merchandise bumping up their annual bill to ¬£803 versus men’s ¬£793.” So it really is no wonder that alcohol brands are looking to music events as a sponsorship opportunity as well as the more traditional sporting events.

There are concerns over alcohol companies sponsoring events like music festivals where a considerable amount of attendees are under the legal drinking limit. There are regulations in place into how alcohol companies are allowed to advertise, one of the regulations is that their advertising campaigns shouldn’t target under 18’s. However there is substantial evidence that the companies are actively seeking ways to target underage audiences to forge a preference to brands before they are of legal drinking age so they can create brand loyalty. One of these ways is sponsorship. Research into the affects of alcohol brands sponsoring music events by Alcohol Concern have shown that young people’s awareness of these brands is heightened after such sponsorship. This on one hand shows the alcohol companies that their sponsorship methods are working, but on the other hand has become a great concern for charities including Alcohol Concern.

Sponsorship is a great promotional tool, attaching your brand to a high profile or popular event can be hugely beneficial. Of course their are pros and cons like any other form of promotion, and these need to be weighed up before entering into it. For the alcohol brands sponsoring music festivals, they are rather cleverly getting around advertising restrictions with this sponsorship activity, however it is naive to place the blame of Britain’s binge drinking culture solely on this. It is proven that these sponsorships do work and in some cases younger audiences are recalling these brands, but studies aren’t going far enough into seeing if the brand recall is the reason behind their drinking behaviour. The blame cannot lie solely with the alcohol brands, the festivals are aware that some of their attendees are below the legal drinking limit and they are agreeing to entering into the sponsorship deals. Alcohol brands are going to continue to sponsor music festivals and I think that’s great, the more money the brands are giving the festivals the better the acts they can book and hopefully the lower the ticket prices will be, win win in my book!