You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2009.

growing upI think we may have just grown up a little as a new communications agency.  Here’s the back story.  I would very much appreciate your thoughts.

Our company – Vehr Communications – started in early 2007.  Our focus is strategic communications and, although new and clearly in an “eat-what-you-kill” mode during our start-up, we want to be strategically engaged with our clients in figuring out how communications can help to address their business challenges and opportunities.

A week or so ago we received a Request for Proposal (RFP) from a prestigious non-profit with a great Board of Trustees and an important community mission.  We were up against some other local agencies.  Our competitive juices were flowing and we wanted to win.

As we dove into preparing our response to the RFP it became clear  to us, rightly or wrongly, that the prospective client was not really looking for a strategic partner, but a vendor to implement what they predetermined they wanted and needed. 

They sought quick answers – in about 3 weeks – to what we felt were very complex issues and the entire length of the engagement was 3 weeks.  They were clear there were prospects for additional work, but that was not a part of this RFP.

We felt in our heads and hearts that it was unwise for them to move so quickly.  We were not comfortable that the substantive advance work they had done and shared was as complete and comprehensive as was necessary to achieve the stated objectives for the program of work.

We decided to respond and we decided to tell them what we thought.  We said that their accelerated timeframe was not advisable and provided a timeframe that was still compressed but more realistic, from our perspective.

Of course, we didn’t get the account.  The money would have been great and I am certain the prospect for longer term work was real.  I am convinced, though, that we made the right decision. 

I told our team I was proud of them and the substantial work they put into the RFP response.  More importantly, I told them I was proud that we submitted what we thought was right. 

So, that’s the story.  Have you been through this professionally?  Any suggestions for a better way to deal with such situations going forward?  Should we have simply not responded and spent the time preparing the RFP response?

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William Faulkner (picture from reverendross)

William Faulkner (picture from reverendross)

This one got my attention right away. 

First, it was forwarded by Pete Blackshaw (thanks, Pete). 

Second, in the first sentence if referenced William Faulkner, one of my favorite authors.  In college, I once took a course where we read 13 Faulkner novels in one semester.  Phew!  But, it was one of my favorite courses.

Anyway, the post by Andy Dunn,CEO and Co-Founder of Bonobos, offers some very seasoned and rational suggestions for making social media work for you. 

I’ll summarize his four main points, but encourage you to read them for yourself:

  1. Ask provocative questions. If you want to have an impact in these channels, you have to be relevant. Do this by asking provocative questions.
  2. Spend as much time listening and responding as you do talking. Be a good date! Show your appreciation for your customers by listening to what they tell you through social media and then by responding to their comments.
  3. Complement self-promoting with promoting others. Re-tweet from your corporate Twitter page. It will help propagate an interesting idea, and you’ll pop up on the original tweeter’s radar. Same goes for blogs.
  4. Blend the personal and the professional. Consumers are savvy; they want a well-balanced mix of salesmanship and personality. Find a happy medium between promoting your product and bringing variety to your social media efforts. The more interesting it is for you, the more likely it will be interesting to your customers.

As professional communicators, we must understand that social media is “social” first and “media” second.  That certainly doesn’t make it any easier, just as it doesn’t make it the right for all clients.  But, it is what it is!

jeanieFascinating column in today’s NYT written by blogger Choire Sicha, co-founder of TheAwl.com regarding some new FTC regulations for online endorsements.

I don’t even know what the new regs are, but I loved this column!  Just read this line:

“That every consumer is now a retailer is capitalism’s ultimate and most logical evolution.  Regulating every last one of us in our tiny imaginary boardrooms (in my mind, mine is mahogany-paneled and has a Haagen-Dasz fountain) is as ludicrous as not skipping past the advertisements on one’s DVR.”

Creative, extremely well-written and, right on.

No libertarian, me, but a realist.  The article shares some somewhat satirical, or maybe real, examples of how impossible it would be to regulate a medium that is, almost by design, unregulatable (if that’s even a word).  It’s a must read.

Government is much too late, if they even had a role in the first place, to put this jeanie back in the bottle. 

I also can’t pass up the irony, or the ironic new reality, of a celebrity trend/fad blogger placing a column in the NYT which will undoubtedly spike his popularity in, you got it, the blogosphere.

two earsSomeone once said that having 2 ears and 1 mouth was the right ratio – we all need to listen more and talk less.

This, of course, is the key to good community relations – a critical component of any integrated, strategic, public relations strategy.

This blog post from William de Worde sums it up well:

“Public relations and community relations really work hand in hand, without one the other becomes much harder.  If you take the time to develop good relationships with your community – whoever that is – you may be able to do better public relations than any standard ‘PR Plan’ can come up with.”

From political candidates to ballot issue campaigns, from land-use plan development to major infrastructure repairs and improvements, from new capital projects to business incentive awards – good community relations can build new relationships, strengthen existing ones or repair ones that have been damaged.

Of course, community relations is more about listening (2 ears) than talking (1 mouth), if you are sincere about it.  Your target community deserves to be heard and you should listen.

mommy bloggerAn interesting post on Strategic Public Relations about marketer over-reliance on mommy bloggers.  Professional communicators – a must read.

Kevin Dugan reinforces what I have always felt – too much of anything is likely not the right choice for marketers.  Or, as he puts it:

“Mommy bloggers have become the Robitussin of marketing. Arm broken? Put some ‘tussin on it. New product? Do some mommy blog outreach.”  (You’ve got to watch this Chris Rock video excerpt!)

This blog concludes that, “the most potential lies somewhere in between paid and earned media.”  The potential refers to the opportunity to postively influence consumer behavior – choice. 

This applies to B2C or B2B programs.  The creative execution, tactics and channels may differ, the strategy does not.

Personally, I believe that earned media promises much greater potential than paid media because of its authenticity, but will admit that opportunities for earned media are more diluted than in the past.   

Of course, opportunities for paid media are challenged, as well.  As consumers segment across myriads of media options – cable v. network TV, print v. online, online v. more and more online, etc. – the need to be more creative follows.  The success of paid media can depend on its originality and integration within a broader program.

The growth in importance and influence of social media on the other hand is not the end to earned media – or good, old-fashioned media relations.  It’s just another rung on the earned media evolutionary ladder.

Enjoy the blog link.