Wednesday, 31 August 2011

PR prepares for a post-Olympic case studies tidal wave!

Anybody who has worked in PR over the last few years, particularly in B2B, has probably had a conversation with a client which has gone like this:

Client: “Fantastic case study opportunity. Very hush, hush, but we’ve been working on the Olympic site building the [insert construction project ie. velodrome, swimming pool, athletes village]”

PR company: “Well that’s terrific well done, but we won’t be able to use it.”

Client: “Why not?”

PR Company: “Well because the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) are running the whole thing like a police state and nobody is allowed to say anything about what they have supplied or are helping to build on pain of death.”

Client: “Is there any way around it? I mean it’s only [insert specific construction product]”

PR Company: “No.”

Now I must have had this conversation, or variants of, at least half a dozen times. Multiply that by the number of different construction products being used from flooring through to plumbing equipment through to hammers and nails and you get some idea of how many companies, and their PRs, that are currently sitting on case studies to do with 2012.

Of course, come the closing ceremony on Sunday 12th August 2012 all bets are off. The ODA dam, holding back this torrent of words will break!

I confidently predict an avalanche, indeed a veritable tidal wave, of case studies landing in the inboxes of trade press editors on Monday 13 August.

Gawd help them!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Here Lieth the Online Community

Last month, The Co-op announced that they were to close their online community, Hive. The reason given for the sacrifice was that they believed the majority of their customers preferred to join them on Facebook and Twitter instead, and that current Hive members would benefit from a “more established network”.

Initially this may have sounded like a rather sweeping, and alienating statement. What about all those surfers out there who believe Facebook to be the work of the devil? Or those that didn’t know their RTs from their RSS feed? However, with an impressive 20,000 Facebook likes and well on their way to 6,000 Twitter followers, one could argue The Co-op hit the nail on the head.

Whilst they have wisely chosen to keep the discussion boards on their website, The Co-op are actively encouraging users to seek out their Facebook and Twitter accounts, apparently fully aware of where their target audience are hanging out.

The Co-op are not the only ones who have embraced the power of the social network, in fact, in today’s digitally-led world, it often results in a raised eyebrow when a brand or organisation doesn’t have some sort of social network presence - I for one will usually consult Facebook or Twitter when seeking out information on a brand, (usually in between frantically un-tagging unflattering photos ), rather than heading to their official website.

Social networking has become engrained in our culture so much so that we seem to incorporate it into our lives as naturally as brushing your teeth (a study by Oxygen Media and Lightspeed research concluded that 34% of young women (18-34) check Facebook as soon as they wake up), so it is unsurprising more and more brands are turning to social networking – everyone from Primark to Porsche is in on the action.

By making the decision to put themselves out there on social networking sites, brands such as The Co-op are putting themselves right in the heart their audience’s lives. The modern man (or woman) is a busy one and anything that is going to save them time is going to be received well.

Of course there will be those that will choose to stand firm against social networks, but I will be interested to see if other brands follow suit and abandon their bespoke online communities in favour of other typical social networks.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Apple without Jobs…

What would the most visible technology brand in the world be without the most visible technology brand chief at the helm? Well, we’ll soon find out.

Steve Jobs handed in his letter of resignation to the Apple board on Wednesday and as news broke Apple shares dropped 7% as most tablet competitors went up by 3%. How could one man’s resignation have such a ripple effect upon such an enormous market?

With recognisable charisma to burn, Jobs has for some time been the only visible face of the firm for the wider public. For many, Steve Jobs is Apple and Apple is Steve Jobs. I wonder what effect the resignation of Jim Balsillie would have on the wider technology sector (feel free to look him up).

Steve Jobs has been a visionary for Apple but more importantly he has been their brand personality. In a consumer facing role he provided a touch point and a story for Apple which its customers related to. He humanised a company in a sector that is typically hard to humanise. I don’t know of any other brand that inspires such zeal and fervour for its products in the technology industry and the question now for Apple is how much of this was branding and how much of it is the actual product.

I have no doubt that Apple’s offering provides a value exchange that is often superior to its competitors and they will continue to be industry leaders for quite some time. But I am equally certain that the quality of the product is not what inspired Apple ‘groupies’ to eagerly wait outside a store opening in Covent Garden last year as if they were expecting the second coming. The frenzy on display was not rational behaviour – something I would have considered necessary when differentiating between technology products.

Whilst Steve Jobs is still the Chairman of Apple and will no doubt be involved in Apple’s direction over the future, with the abdication of his CEO roles, now to be taken up by Tim Cooper, I wonder to what extent Apple’s branding power has been weakened. Then again, I have no doubt that somewhere down the line Apple’s shares and branding will be boosted upon a return of the king.