Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Kindle’s Powerful Branding Strategy: Word-of-Mouth

Abbey Klaassen wrote an interesting article last month about a public relations/branding strategy that enables Kindle devotees to become ambassadors for Amazon’s wireless reading device.
This brilliant branding strategy takes social networking and consumer product reviews to a whole new level … to the real world!
None of the Kindle enthusiasts work for Amazon, nor do they receive any remuneration for their efforts.
Klaassen describes one such ambassador, Cindy Longo, who has shown off her Kindle to about 15 people in the Chicago area. She has even set up a special email address to handle requests for demos. Longo reports that she not just motivated by the urge to be of service. “I love my Kindle,’ she had said, “and if demand remains strong, authors/publishers will be motivated to make their books available in Kindle format.”
According to Drew Herdener, senior PR manager at Amazon, some Kindle owners reported that they couldn’t use their Kindles in public because strangers were asking to see it. Meanwhile, prospective Kindle buyers were asking where they could see the product. Amazon message board put the two together.

Even those of us at sophisticated, successful New York branding firms can learn a thing or two from this savvy Seattle-based online retailer.

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Election Resource for Pharma + Healthcare PR Pros

Blogger John Mack, who also publishes Pharma Marketing News, has been keeping track of information about the views of presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama with respect to healthcare and other issues of importance to the pharmaceutical industry. He’s been posting this information on a special discussion forum devoted to the presidential campaign.

If you have a vested interest in pharmaceutical public relations, healthcare PR or health crisis management, check it out. You can subscribe to the forum and receive daily or weekly email updates.

Mack invites you to post your own stories, sources of information and opinions to the forum. “Just keep it relevant to the political issues of importance to the pharmaceutical industry,” he says.

You don’t have to register in order to post your opinions, thus preserving your anonymity.

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Thought Leadership in Action

Thought leadership is an important strategy in the tool box of virtually all PR practitioners, whether they work within a corporation, or as a consultant in a public relations firm. At Makovsky + Company, we define “thought leadership” as “building and promoting the expertise and/or image of an individual regarding the issues, trends or personal qualities that key constituents are most concerned about.”

At this point in time, the issues, trends and personal qualities that most concern the American public are 1) the current financial crisis and 2) the personal qualities of the candidates for president and vice president of the United States.

If you’re a senior corporate executive, you probably want to steer away from commenting on the presidential race. (Whatever you have to say automatically runs the risk of alienating half your constituency.) But you can certainly address the upheaval in the credit markets.

Procter & Gamble Co. Chairman-CEO A.G. Lafley did precisely that, when he urged congressional passage of a financial rescue plan in his op-ed — “How [the] Financial Crisis Affects You, and Why You Should Sound Off” — which ran in the October 1 issue of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Lafley notes that “consumers are feeling the credit crunch very directly” and some P&G suppliers are “hampered by the inability to get the capital they need to run their businesses.” He calls on Washington to come up with a proposal that Americans can support and urges folks on Main Street “to let our legislators know that it’s impacting them.”

This is thought leadership at its best. It serves to underscore the fact that consumer understanding is one of Lafley’s — and, by extension, Procter & Gamble’s — core strengths.

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Monday, October 6, 2008

“Bailout”: A Failure to Communicate … Accurately

Words matter. That’s especially true for public relations professionals in industries subject to regulatory oversight, such as investment banking, financial services and insurance.

The legislation that was originally introduced under the title “Troubled Asset Relief Program” and evolved into the “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008” was more popularly referred to by the average citizen — and quite a few legislators — as the “Wall Street Bailout.”

According to Wikipedia, “bailout” is a term used to describe a situation in which “a bankrupt or nearly bankrupt entity, such as a corporation or a bank, is given a fresh injection of liquidity, in order to meet its short term obligations.” Please note: a “bailout” would not be available to a consumer swamped by debt. And that may be at the crux of the overwhelmingly adverse reaction of American citizens to the initial proposals for averting the financial crisis.

In an article entitled “Main Street's Rage at the Financial Crisis,” BusinessWeek quotes Carol Madura, a waitress in her 50s, on the topic: “I brought up my kids to work hard and save money. Now what? The rich are getting bailouts. … The government just keeps taking our money and giving it to people who don't deserve it. We should be worried about those who are really struggling.”

If you’re involved in financial services public relations, insurance PR or investment banking PR, I’m sure you’ll agree that “bailout” is an altogether inadequate way to describe a proposed solution to a complex economic problem that threatens the financial well-being of all Americans.

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