Author Archives | sradick

About sradick

I’m Vice President, Director of Public Relations at Brunner in Pittsburgh.

Find out more about me here (http://steveradick.com/about/).

Who Will Become the Tesla or AirBnB of the Home Category?

This post originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of Hardware + Building Supply Dealer. 

Tower Records Goes Out of Business

Rethinking your relationship with your customers might be what’s needed to avoid becoming the Tower Records of the home category.

As much as I hate shoveling snow, I can’t possibly justify spending upwards of $500 on a snow blower that I might use five days a year and would take up space in my garage for the remaining 360.

According to a recent PwC study, 43% of consumers agree that “owning feels like a burden.” When you consider the cost, maintenance and storage requirements, buying things is kind of a pain. It’s no wonder, then, that the “sharing economy” is estimated to be $110 billion (and growing fast), according to a November 2014 Leo Burnett study. Whether it’s Netflix, Spotify, Zipcar, TaskRabbit, Uber or Rent the Runway, there’s another, arguably better, alternative to ownership for virtually every aspect of our lives.

In a world where people don’t aspire to own their own homes or even openly despise the idea of owning a car, where does that leave the tool, yard care and appliance markets?

Brands in the home category have responded to this seismic shift the same way media companies responded to the shift in digital music – slowly and badly. The most established brands merely did what they know best – build a better mousetrap. In truth, rethinking one’s relationship to one’s customers might be what’s needed to avoid becoming the Tower Records of the home category.

People don’t want a snow blower; they want their driveway clear of snow. People don’t want a car; they want a reliable way to get from Point A to Point B.

BMW, the ultimate driving machine, is now trying to become the ultimate carsharing service. As Richard Steinberg, CEO of DriveNow at BMW said, “we used to be the provider of premium cars, and now we’re the provider of premium mobility as well as premium cars.”

For the home category, too, there are ways to create an ecosystem around your product versus creating a product that has to earn its place in some other network.

  • Implement a program where customers can trade in used products toward the purchase of a new one. Milwaukee Tools has a program where you can trade in old tools and get $100 off new ones. This not only helps customers who are looking to declutter, but also gets them to buy a new product as well.
  • Give customers the ability to rent your products directly. Sites like RentMyItems allow people to rent recreational equipment, tools and appliances from other people. What if you were able to keep that customer within your branded ecosystem by facilitating those rentals directly?
  • Give life to used or recycled tools by creating a branded tool library. Tool libraries are popping up all over the country and will only become more popular as the trends of urbanization, sharing and downsizing continue. A branded tool library would minimize waste, introduce more people to your brand and extend the life of your products.
  • Create a platform for customers to connect and share with each other. Think about what the NFL did with its Ticket Exchange. Recognizing that people were buying and selling tickets outside of the official properties, the NFL created a safe and secure platform that engaged its customers and gave the League a cut of the profit too. What if a tool brand created a branded online community where customers were able to buy, sell and share their tools with a very targeted and engaged group of people?

Far be it from the smaller players to help usher in a seachange of this magnitude. In another PwC survey of 1,322 global CEOs, half of the U.S. CEOs surveyed believe a significant competitor is emerging, or could emerge, from the technology sector. Take one look at what Tesla is doing to the automobile market, or what AirBnB is doing to the hotel market. Small technology startups are coming in and revolutionizing entire industries of big, established brands. Ford or Hilton could have just as easily assumed these roles, but now they’re all playing catchup to the smaller guys. Viewed through that lens, these ideas not only become more realistic for brands in the home category — they’re mandatory for survival.

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More Than a Stepping Stone – the Mid-Size City Becomes a PR Career Destination

Pittsburgh Skyline

Image used under Creative Commons license

This post originally appeared on the PRSA Pittsburgh blog.

Take a look at the social media feeds for the media in any mid-size city around the country and you’ll see a ton of listicles, articles, and hype videos talking up their hometown. Thanks to the seemingly endless demand for new content, hometown pride is stronger than ever before. And based on my newsfeed, Pittsburghers seem to love their lists more than most.

Despite their love for the ‘Burgh, many young PR and marketing pros unfortunately still look at the city as a second-tier stepping stone. That to really have a PR career, they have to move to New York or Chicago or LA. However, as I wrote back in February and Shannon Baker wrote in May, it’s well past time for the PR and marketing pros here to change the conversation around our beloved city and show the country that we’re more than a stepping stone to somewhere else.

That’s why I got so excited when I saw Josh Brewster’s PRWeek article about Kansas City in July. I saw a lot of Pittsburgh (and Cleveland and Charlotte and Nashville, etc.) in Josh’s article. I reached out to Josh recently to get his take on the evolution of the mid-size city and how other cities can learn from what Kansas City has done to retain their top PR talent.

Steve: In your PRWeek article, you mention that “the city has rallied to keep Millennials and Generation Xers in Kansas City.” Can you expand on that at all? What is the city doing to try to keep those individuals there in KC?

Josh: It’s been amazingly simple, really. As a community, we’ve come together to make this happen. And it’s not like there have been community task forces, or anything choreographed like that. It’s been grassroots, real stuff that young people and the young-at-heart can latch on to and support. The most outward facing examples are events geared toward Millenials and Gen-Xers, like the Fiery Stick Open (http://fierystick.com/). It’s a day long event in the heart of Downtown KC that features awesome music (Girl Talk), hole-in-one golf contest for $1 million dollars, good beer, bocce ball, great food…who doesn’t love that? It’s not too corporate. There are other examples too. Like the “Midnight Underground Circus” (https://midnightundergroundcircus.splashthat.com). It is funded by corporate sponsorships (the same companies that need young talent to stay here), but it keeps a grassroots vibe. Surprise concerts, funky live entertainment…all the good things in life.

And all of it is geared toward catering to the next generation…to remind them they are in the right place. Right here in KC.

Steve: Pittsburgh had a bit of a “lost generation” of people who grew up in the 80s and early 90s who fled the city (myself included) for better jobs and more opportunities elsewhere. These people are now starting to boomerang back to the city and have really started to make an impact here. Does KC have a similar “boomerang generation” and if so, how are they working with the Millennials and Gen Xers?

Josh: Oh man, we are speaking the same language here. Ditto for us in KC. I was born and raised in Kansas City.  I went to college in St. Louis, and returned home a year after I graduated. But so many of my friends (and others in general) headed to Chicago, Denver, stayed in St. Louis, moved out to LA, New York…all the usual suspects. Slowly but surely they are coming back. And you know what? They aren’t shy when they return. They are getting involved, and we are welcoming them back with open arms.

And it’s not just about geographical decisions. It’s a pride standpoint too. Some folks have lived here forever, and are now beginning to jump on the KC bandwagon. And that’s a good thing. Maybe it’s all the growth we’ve experienced downtown. Maybe it’s the Royals (hell yes). Something has lit a fire in everybody’s belly to take it up a notch. And we love it.

Steve: Beyond the lower cost of living, how has your firm and other KC firms made that mid-size city attractive to talent who may have their sights set on one of those big cities? How do you get a talented 25 year-old to turn down the opportunities in The Loop in Chicago for The Loop in KC?  

Josh: I’d be lying if I said I had a perfect solution to this. But we are trying our hardest to find and keep the very best here in KC…and specifically at our agency. We don’t always win that battle, but we make it a priority. Our angle is centered on “Impact.” In Kansas City, you can make an impact. We’re not Mayberry or anything like that. We are healthy-sized metro area – 2.75 million people. But there is something about this place that makes it feel much smaller.

We tout the philanthropic community as an incredible opportunity. It is such a welcoming opportunity, and Millenials absolutely love to have the chance to make a difference in the community…outside the office. In our opinion, it’s more difficult to break into that world in a super large metro.

We also focus on the size of our company – it’s midsized (like KC on a macro level). We have 55 folks working here. We’re all entrepreneurial, and we all have an extra gear to deliver for our clients. There’s a chance to blaze your own path in our company, and as a young up-and-comer in the Kansas City community. That’s a nice position to be in. So we sell that pretty hard.

Steve: You’ve lived in KC for a long time now and seen a lot of changes in the city and in the industry out there. What advice do you have to cities like Pittsburgh that are in the midst of a similar renaissance?  

Josh: I love this question. My advice is simple: Don’t apologize for being proud of your home city. We’re all in the same boat, whether it’s Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Austin, Nashville. We all have a sense of pride. In Kansas City, we’ve come together to make the most of that pride. Whether it’s the “KC” hats everybody wears, to the Charlie Hustle t-shirts (look them up, they are awesome) we all have, it’s a constant reminder that we are part of something awesome.

It’s that collective spirit that helps us build a new convention hotel in downtown, explore a new airport, build a world-class performing arts center, sell out Kauffman Stadium for Royals games, rejuvenate historic entertainment districts…all that good stuff.

So, the short answer is: Embrace that collective spirit, and create something awesome that a new generation can enjoy and experience.

Steve: For a client looking for a new PR or marketing agency, what are the benefits to looking outside the big cities for their next agency relationship?

Josh: I don’t think it matters where your agency is located. What matters is if they understand your key audience, the competitive landscape you are facing, and are willing to hustle on your behalf until the needle is moved. So many brands – big and small – default to big-city agencies. But I can honestly say, some of the best PR and Ad work is created in cities like Kansas City, Omaha, Pittsburgh and Nashville. They work hard, leave their ego at the door, and deliver for their clients.

We’d love to hear from other PR pros in mid-size cities across the country as well. What’s the PR scene like in Indianapolis? Columbus? Chattanooga? Get in touch and let’s talk about how we can improve apply our PR brains to change the perception of these cities among the generation that’s about to enter the workforce.

Josh Brewster is a Vice President at Trozzolo Communications Group based in Kansas City, Missouri. For more on Trozzolo, visit their website at http://www.trozzolo.com/

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Integrated Marketing Is A Mindset, Not A Mandate

This post originally appeared on PRSA’s blog, ComPRhension.

"You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Hungry!"

According to a 2013 Forbes survey, 68% of CMOs and marketing executives put integrated marketing communications ahead of “effective advertising” (65%), when they were asked what the most important thing is that they want from an agency. That’s the result of years of agency specialization and the emergence of PR agencies, digital agencies, social agencies, creative agencies, etc. Managing all of these specialties became a job unto itself and brands are increasingly asking for both the expertise AND integration.

Unfortunately, this saturation has created a buzzword without any real meaning. Go to any agency’s website, any conference, any academic program, any industry publication and you’ll see the result – “integrated marketing” is everywhere. Integrated marketing has become nothing more than a bunch of boxes on an org chart – get the Director of Search, and a VP of Media, a Director of PR, a Senior Social Media Strategist, and a User Experience Czar in the same meeting and poof! you’ve got an integrated marketing team.

Here’s the thing. That doesn’t mean you’ve got an integrated marketing agency. What you’re more likely to have is an old-fashioned game of Hungry Hungry Hippos – everyone’s scratching and clawing to get more money and power for their respective discipline. By involving all of the functional experts, all you’ve done is get a bunch of hammers looking for nails in your meeting. That is, the social media guy will try to think of ways for social media to solve everything. The paid media guy wants a paid media solution. And so on and so on. You end up with a bunch of strategies and tactics that someone then has to cobble together into a deck that is probably organized by discipline vs. a single integrated, coherent strategy.

Integrated marketing isn’t about mandating that each capability gets a seat at the table. It’s about making sure that each seat at the table is filled by someone who is focused on meeting the business goals, regardless of capability. And perhaps counterintuitively, that may mean that those experts you went out and hired should give up their seat at the table. In my session at the PRSA Strategic Collaboration Conference on April 24th, I’ll discuss how to better leverage your team’s strengths to make integrated marketing a mindset that drives better results. I hope you’ll join me, but if you can’t, here are three tips to help create that integrated marketing mindset in your organization.

Make your org chart a little fuzzy. Functional experts, by definition, have gone deep into one particular area. Integrated marketers, on the other hand, have to be more of a jack-of-all-trades and they don’t always fit nicely into your existing org chart. Don’t force these people into a box. They’ll more valuable if they’re encouraged to flow in and out of those boxes.

Stop rewarding fiefdoms. If I’m judged solely by how much PR business I have or by how many clients I can upsell PR to, that’s where my focus is going to be. Rather than using all of our capabilities, I’m going to try to wedge PR in there whatever way I can. Truly integrated agencies reward integrated thinking, not empire-building.

Stop organizing your deliverables according to your org chart. Rather than creating different deliverables/sections/budgets for each discipline, consider organizing things based on the customer journey. This requires getting all of the disciplines working together on the same slides, not just copying and pasting their respective sections into a deck. Integrated marketing is a new way of working together to create new thinking, not a new way of organizing what we’ve always done.

I’m presenting “Improved Decision-Making: Leveraging Your Team’s Strengths and Filling in the Gaps” at the PRSA Strategic Collaboration Conference on Friday, April 24. Register to attend the conference to learn more about Steve’s topic.

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31 ‘New Clues’ for PR Practitioners

This post originally appeared on PR Daily

book-midFifteen years ago, “The Cluetrain Manifesto,” one of the most important business books of the Internet generation, took the world by storm.

Last month, two of that book’s authors, Doc Searls and David Weinberger, created the “New Clues,” an updated perspective on how the Internet affects marketing, PR and technology.

As I read over the “New Clues,” I thought about the original “Cluetrain” and reflected on how uneducated so many marketers remain to this day. I was wrong to look at the original “Cluetrain” as predictions of what was to come. They were, as the “New Clues” are today, a rallying cry for how things could and should be. These clues challenge readers to stop and consider the world-changing potential the Internet continues to have rather than defaulting to what we’ve always done.

Today’s public relations pros require their own rallying cry. Since the original “Cluetrain” came out, we’ve watched the journalism industry crumble, allowed social media to be taken over by marketers, and seen the rise of native advertising.

It’s do or die time for PR. We have to stop pining for how things used to be and instead take advantage of the opportunities right in front of us.

Maybe these 31 clues will help kickstart your brain and get you thinking bigger. Maybe they’ll be something you share with your teams as I did with the original Cluetrain. At a minimum, I hope they help replace some cynicism with a bit of optimism.

  1. Let’s say it together: PR does not equal media relations.
  2. Impressions, Advertising Value Equivalencies (AVE), hits, clips, reach, and engagement statistics can be manipulated (or even made up) to say anything we want. Clients are starting to understand this, too.
  3. We become what we measure. And what we’re measuring is garbage.
  4. That segment you secured on “The Rachael Ray Show” is great, but how exactly does that reach the target demographic of 45-year-old, single, male truck drivers?
  5. Bragging about the number of media placements and impressions you got is like bragging about the number of hours you worked. Neither number necessarily means you accomplished anything for the organization.
  6. Just because we can measure and optimize something doesn’t always mean we should.
  7. If you’re tired of your client continually asking you for more hits, impressions, or “likes,” show him the metrics that he should be paying attention to, maybe even metrics that are tied to his business goals.
  8. If we aren’t going to educate our clients on how they should measure PR success, who will?
  9. When trust in the media is at its lowest point in history, talking up “third-party credibility” doesn’t exactly conjure up images of Cronkite or Woodward and Bernstein.
  10. If we showed half as much interest in our client’s sales figures as we did to our last media placement, we’d be more likely to get that seat at the table we’re always asking about.
  11. Thanks for running through your comprehensive PR plan. Since you included every last detail, I can tell you put in a lot of work, but by slide 79, I needed a second cup of coffee just to make it through the presentation.
  12. If you’re going to talk about the value of one-on-one relationships in your proposal, try to wait at least a few days before you send the same press release to a thousand people on behalf of that client you just won.
  13. If relationships are so important, why do I only hear from PR people when they’re trying to sell me on something?
  14. Let’s put our money where our mouth is and require our teams to cultivate and maintain those relationships, even if it’s not during billable time.
  15. Given the choice between native advertising content, where impressions, message, and calls to action are guaranteed, what’s the incentive to allocating dollars to PR where not only do these guarantees not exist, the brand is opening itself up to substantial risk?
  16. Media placements in The New York Times or Time magazine don’t mean nearly as much to cost-focused clients when they can cut a check and get the same coverage with more control.
  17. Integrated marketing involves a lot more than simply bringing the SEO guy to the meeting.
  18. You do know that “writing” means more than just copying and pasting lines from a variety of previously approved materials, right?
  19. Writing in AP style and using the inverted pyramid is great, but you know what’s even better? Writing something that someone will want to read and maybe even share.
  20. Stop taking yourself so seriously. You’re managing Facebook and Instagram, not performing brain surgery. Stop thinking your customers are waiting with bated breath for your content. They’re not.
  21. Act as though you actually care about what your customers need and want rather than what will get the most “likes.”
  22. If you’re afraid of what customers might say about your brand if you ask them, you’ve got bigger problems than what to put on your content calendar.
  23. The most powerful phrase for a PR pro, in any medium, to anyone, is simply, “How can I help you?”
  24. Unfortunately, that won’t help our metrics so instead we’ll upload an image of a cat holding a sign that says “I haz help for you” with a search-optimized caption for our brand.
  25. Before you talk about your organization needing to be more “authentic” and “transparent,”you might want to take a peek behind the curtain. What’s authentic about your organization might be greed, scandal and obliviousness.
  26. On your next list of target audiences, include “employees.” Things will go much easier if you consider them before they learn what’s happening to their jobs from the local news anchor.
  27. PR had the opportunity to take the lead with social media and fundamentally change the way organizations communicate with people. Instead, we let marketers take control and turn it into an arms race for “likes,” fans, and followers.
  28. You’ve probably already told the guys writing the checks that if they took half the money they’re spending on banner ads and put it toward providing better customer service, they’d make their money back ten-fold. Keep telling them.
  29. And no, the customer doesn’t care that customer service is handled by another department with a separate budget. They’ll happily take their business elsewhere, and drop you a #fail tweet before they go.
  30. Is this why you really got into PR? Haggling with mommy bloggers over sponsored posts and creating Facebook meme photos?
  31. Even when “big data” becomes “huge data” and “mega data,” and our cars are driving themselves, PR will still be more art than science. It will still be about human-to-human interaction.
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