There are literally endless ways businesses, personalities, civic leaders, and others utilize marketing and public relations. By way of offering some practical and humorous advice, understand this: Everything involved in good marketing and PR can be related back to rock n' roll. To wit…
1. Play with your heart, not your head. Far too often, marketing and PR practitioners fall into the trap of over-thinking, over-analyzing, and over-just-about-everything in an attempt to implement or develop a campaign. So often, organizations and practitioners will laboriously fret (get it?) over every conceivable outcome and focus on tactical minutia, rather than looking at the big picture. Worse still, they'll fail to see something beautiful in its simplicity that would actually work.
Yes, it's important to be prepared up front, but in looking at your organization, find what will make your customers (the listening audience) passionate and want to sing along with your tune. Stop focusing inward and think outward.
2. The show must go on. Things happen: The drummer shows up late, six people and your mom are the only ones in attendance, etc. Similarly, no matter how much you plan for an event, a grand opening, publicity, or even desired outcomes, rarely does everything go exactly as planned.
Good pros aren't thrown for a loop when something outside of their control transpires. Whatever happens, have a back-up and be prepared.
3. Know when to hire a manager and outside professionals. Sometimes, being a good musician (having a great company or product) simply isn't enough. Hiring outside marketing professionals, just like hiring a lawyer or accountant, is a prudent move.
Some businesses try to do their own marketing and public relations. The result is usually unintegrated programs, poorly written and self-centered articles and press releases, and Websites that look like they were developed by your cousin Tony's teenage son. A good agency will save you money, not cost you. It will bring hard work, fresh ideas, and creativity, and also bring to bear all these nifty tools and expertise not afforded to most businesses.
And if you are an internal marketing and public relations pro, don't think hiring outside expertise makes you look bad. Quite the opposite, actually. A good producer can make a good song great, so count on the experts and let them do their job.
4. You broke a string during the song. Remember, it's only one song of an entire set, an entire show, and possibly even an entire tour. Put things into perspective and refer back to rule number two. Just grab your second guitar or replace the string while you're drummer does his solo (it's called a distraction). Rarely will one single instant or tactic that may have to be changed affect the overall outcome.
Also, keep in mind sometimes hitting the "wrong chord" or playing the "wrong note" can lead to a much better song or outcome. Never be so rigid in your thinking you believe there can't be a better way, or a serendipitous mistake can't make a program as a whole even better.
5. We've got to play these kinds of places first. It's amazing how centric most companies and CEOs see their importance in the marketplace. No matter the size of the company or the arena in which it plays, all too often they expect to be on par with the Microsofts, IBMs, or Procter & Gambles of the world. They're amazed CNN isn't interested in devoting 30 minutes to talking about how amazing and brilliant this company or this CEO are. They refuse to do interviews in the Cincinnati Enquirer because they'd rather hold out for USA Today.
You see, you have to play a lot of dirtball clubs and bars before you get to play Madison Square Garden. It takes time to build a solid following, and also takes time to develop and create programs that will be most attractive to a journalist and media outlet.
A good agency or practitioner can work with an organization to find what is most likely to pique the interest of the media and how they can most likely secure coverage—regularly.
6. Good publicity doesn't necessarily mean good attendance. A band can be on the cover of music magazines and newspapers, did live TV and radio interviews, have press kits, and do photo shoots, but none of this guarantees a packed house. You know what does? Hard work, practice, and a helluva show.
In business, nothing is going to make up for a bad experience by the customer. Call it brand operational dissonance, where the ads and smarmy PR guy say one thing, but the person behind the counter is rude and disinterested. Operations, your customer service, and honestly, the expertise of your people or the novelty of your new product is still going to be key. Find good insights. Test and retest with marketing research and secret shoppers in your specific target audience.
7. Passion can make up for talent. Just ask KISS: They've never claimed to be great musicians, but they certainly are amazing entertainers. You can feel the love for what they do, witness how hard they work, and experience the passion they have for their fans (your target audience) and their music (their product). Not so coincidentally, they're second only to The Beatles in number of gold-certified albums.
This job is a paycheck…I'm too good for that task…it's not my job. That kind of attitude is a killer in business. Again, people are smart and know when you're faking it. Not every idea will be a winner, but what's important is you practice your passion and surround yourself with talented people.
8. Practice! There is no substitute. They say amateurs practice until they get it right, but professionals practice until they can't get it wrong—i.e., it just becomes second nature. You must work with your team over and over and over again. Rehearse your speech, your movements, your key messages, and your interviews.
Marketing is not necessarily a good place for trial and error. Keep things simple, do what you know and do it better than anyone within the context of what you're trying to do. Should you shred a lead guitar solo during a slow ballad just because you can? Clearly not. Understand how you and your expertise fits in to make the whole greater than the individual parts, then work together in the many facets of your organization or your marketing program to create a comprehensive and leveraged program.
9. What comes after four? One. With marketing and public relations, it is a process that involves upfront research, assessment, strategic communications and implementation, and finally an evaluation. A good business and a good marketer will constantly find ways to make something work better, work smarter, and more efficiently. If what you're doing isn't working, don't keep doing it because "the plan" says so. If the strategy is solid but the tactics are not working as expected, don't be afraid to improve upon that process.
Constantly measure and evaluate based on set key performance indicators, such as traffic, impressions, sales, leads, and a host of other measurable objectives. Use unique URLs to track the efficacy of a given advertisement, direct mail, or publicity endeavor. Utilize your tracking services and survey programs with clients and customers. Set your benchmarks at the beginning, run the program well, evaluate, then make it better.
10. Turn it up! If life is a radio, turn it to 10. Have fun and enjoy what you do, and do your best on each program, each event, each time. Look for fresh ideas and never be afraid to get a "no" from a client, a reporter or a sales prospect. If you never give someone a chance to say "no," they'll never have an opportunity to say "yes." Take time to learn and be positively influenced and impacted by everyone around you. The number 10 is sometimes analogous to perfect, but understand everything will rarely be perfect—marketing and public relations is a process, and should be treated as such.
11. There's no 11 in music. Unless you play for Spinal Tap, that is. Rock on.
Rodger Roeser, APR, is the president of the integrated buzz marketing, social media, and public relations firm Eisen Management Group. The company is headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, with branch offices in Greater Cincinnati. For more information, visit www.eisenmanagementgroup.com.