#TheInterlocker: Just do it • LGBTQ+ • No more releases • Pitch charges
by MarkLives (@marklives) Tlhogi Ngwato shares insight into Nike’s latest campaign; Sam Swaine advocates doing away with press releases; Kevin Seturumane pushes for more authentic representation; and Michelle Cavé tackles the thorny issue of charging for PR proposals. Bond, connect, engage, involve, join — welcome to The Interlocker!
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Nike campaign: Just Do It
Why intuitive marketing is not the future — but a prerequisite to success
I have always found myself fascinated by reputation management as a science and the growing ability by companies to either get it right or so terribly wrong, especially since the advent of social media.
Numerous conversations on this topic have been had and I expect they’ll evolve over time with newer and more “woke” generations to come. However, at the moment, intuition plays a massive part in the roll out of successful communication campaigns. The finesse of our words and their benevolent intentions to garner affinity and sales will go completely unnoticed if they aren’t associated with poignant moments and/or issues in our society.
This finesse lies in how to make something taboo devilishly good and difficult to ignore, and this is what “intuitive marketing” is about and how reputations are birthed.
Over the years, there’ve been some brilliant campaigns by brands (Nando’s and Adv Thuli Mandonsela; OMO South Africa and reimagining gender roles; and Spurs and The Flag Bearer) but never one that holds so much meaning in a time where brands and the bloodline of these brands are required to be vulnerable and affected by the times in order to address contentious societal issues such as racism, gender politics and transformation.
Much like its Colin Kaepernick campaign slogan, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing it all. Just do it.” Nike just did it and, before we could even catch our breath, it went out with an extraordinary piece starring Caster Semenya. In that moment for many, the penny dropped because it was immediate, localised for greater resonance and aspirational!
Despite the backlash, there are some key lessons to be learnt and applied to our daily work and lives. Nike has understood the following:
- It’s all about connection: selling products and services is not a sterile and objective process. It involves people, emotions, history and luck. And, so, connection with oneself and connection to the company, client and product are key.
- There’s more that influences your sales than you can imagine — listen and respond to your environment.
- Face your fears and your fear of success!
- Be inspired by the times!
After all’s been said and done, Nike has achieved both sales and a reputation in better shape than before. In the words of Warren Buffet:
“We can afford to lose money — even a lot of money. But we can’t afford to lose reputation — even a shred of reputation.”
— Tlhogi Ngwato is PR director at On Point PR
What do you mean, no press release?
I’ve always wondered how PR functioned as a discipline before we were graced with the internet, instant mails and mobile phones. So I Googled (another modern intervention) and was directed to Wikipedia, an online resource of infinite knowledge. Here’s what the search engine threw back.
Public relations was established in the 1900s and was first practiced by religious evangelicals and Victorian reformers, specifically factions condemning the shackles of slavery. I believe its origins may be traced to ancient tribes and other touchpoints in history, eg political campaign displays have been found in the ruins of Pompeii and Arabia. Or how about the publicity stunt that was The Boston Tea Party? It made global headline news, it made history and is still referenced today.
Fast forward to the 20th century, when PR was reliant on the postal service, couriers and telegrams that were succeeded by the telex and fax machines. We may once have been hamstrung by technology but the media industry now faces far more challenging issues — audiences are losing faith in print while publishing stables are carving up editorial teams. Advertising budgets have been cut, and online and print medias have had to graciously accept all cash injections to fund their offering. It doesn’t end there; journalists have been beaten into submission and have had to compromise their editorial integrity to accommodate advertorials, purchased double-page spreads and Google Display ads. This has had a knock-on effect on PR as earned space is scarce, competition is deadly and opportunities for inclusion have slimmed; ergo, our communication strategies have to be elevated to impossible perfection. The landscape is bleak.
But we’re a resilient lot and have tailored our services to suit unpredictable climates. The most-popular and by far the most effective is the smoke and mirrors approach of ‘non-marketing’.
Fact: people want to buy into a lifestyle, not a specific product; journalists desire creative freedom, not a brand assault. The magic trifecta that pole vaults over the barriers of editorial authenticity, client satisfaction and PR success is informality, integrity and bonhomie. We’ve entered the age of the maverick — be gone, press releases — away with over-styled product shots and the dreaded follow-up call.
Some of the most-successful campaigns that aren’t afforded the luxury of a budget have resorted to more-industrious means of exposure. A genius example overheard in the locker room was an evening hosted by a brand, with the only form of communication an invite and an RSVP.
Cue the CMO milling about incognito, chatting to all and sundry apropos nothing, a couple of PR bodies peppered in the crowd and the rafters packed with journalists and select influencer custodians. Yes, guests knew who put the spread on but the motif of the evening wasn’t an education campaign; it wasn’t about brand awareness or lavish activations; it was a gathering of hardworking professionals with a common interest and relaxation in a welcoming environment, tipple and grub in hand. The agency sent out a “thanks for attending”, the guests emailed for more information and the AVEs shot the lights out.
We’ve run the traditional PR marathon and all parties are exhausted; it’s time for rule-bending and addressing communication through emotional connection, simpatico and human resonance.
— Sam Swaine (@samswaine) is the group account director of Scout PR & Social Media
The LGBTQ+ community is agonisingly under-represented in advertising. Many brands within PR choose to stay away from this space because of authentic representation vs exploitation of the minority group. Others fear they’ll lose customers by getting into ‘political territory’ and also feel that there is a big disconnect when it comes to using members of the LGBTQ+ community in influencer campaigns. Writer Greg French gives us insight around the misrepresentation:
- There has been progress in LGBTQ+ representation but clients are still falling short
- Reputational risk plays a big role in PR; clients and brands worry about associating themselves with this community because of how vocal they are with regards to equal rights
- From a crisis-communication perspective, there’s a disconnect as clients don’t believe in what the individuals who are members of this community stand for but, because of popularity, clients choose to use them in campaigns and can’t deal with whatever backlash they do get
- Representation in PR is both scarce and heavily reliant on outdated and damaging stereotypes
- Brands are still failing those who don’t conform to a binary gender concept
- PR practitioners need to push the boundaries. Fear needs to be eliminated when advertising to the LGBTQ+ community as the best work always comes from a place of openness, not from fear.
Charging for PR proposals
Should PRs hold onto our trade secrets until it’s paid for, or should we accept that providing strategic proposals is the cost of doing business?
I’ve found myself in a catch-22 situation of late. As the founder of a boutique PR agency, I manage and implement all activities of the business, and have truly come to understand the concept of “time is money” over the past three years. This has been acutely emphasised when dealing with too many prospect clients who want meeting after meeting, followed by a PR proposal, sometimes even committing to formalising the PR partnership, before taking the strategic roadmap — which could quite easily be implemented in-house, or by a cheaper or preferred competitor — and literally avoiding all future contact via phone or email.
As a new agency trying to secure a sustainable future, I’ve found it difficult to define what I should shouldn’t include in my proposals — especially when, more often than not, budgets aren’t even disclosed upfront. My dilemma is that, the less detail I provide in a proposal, the more the client might end up thinking that I don’t really know the job. In contrast, the more information I provide, the greater I’m at risk of giving away my 20+ years of knowledge and ideas for free.
But, in order to afford myself a better chance of being awarded the business, I’ve invested many hours researching, liaising with suppliers and/or relevant media and preparing detailed proposals with a strategic approach and supporting tactics. Basically, giving away my intellectual property in the hopes that the prospect would see the value and appoint me.
Following a string of proposals submitted to no avail, I sought out some advice from a mentor who is a respected key player in the telecoms sector and posed the question to a global PR industry group on LinkedIn…. [continue reading]
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