JWA Blog

JWA's Managing Director, Jo Weaver, writes a regular blog on issues relating to PR and marketing, running a PR agency and other similar topics. You can read a selection of these blogs here.

Building a Brand

In the very early 90s, when I was first in Prague, the few expatriates working here were a very close knit community and as we all spent so much time together outside of work, we felt that we knew each other very well. Imagine our surprise, therefore, when one of our group suddenly disappeared and nothing more was heard from him until I received a letter from him from one of Her Majesty’s Prisons in the UK, and it transpired that he was someone else completely and had been on the run for several years….!!

In those days, we used to say that anyone could come to this part of the world and completely reinvent themselves, as it was a bit of a lawless society at that time. If asked today, though, I would have said that things were very different then and now it is much more like a normal western world. Except that in the past year or so, I have heard about two more people that, to all intents and purposes, are clearly not who they say they are!!

Now I would have thought that if someone wanted to reinvent themselves, they would do it pretty discreetly – the world being a pretty small place – but neither of these two people have done that; in fact both of them have gone out of their way to become ‘out there’ figures amongst the business community (completely independent of each other… I am not sure if they know each other, but they have followed a similar route). And, in a funny sort of way, I quite admire the way that they have fooled everyone, as of course, it has all been done by very clever marketing.

First of all, they have taken a name and decided what that name stands for, who they want to sell it to and how. And then they have single-mindedly built their brand by following a set course – meeting with the right people, being seen in the right places, doing their own advertising and publicity and so on – to the point where they probably believe what they are saying themselves. And to be a successful salesman, which they clearly are, you really have to believe in what you are selling, as then it is much easier to persuade someone else to buy.

The moral of this story is (well, maybe moral is not the right word…!) – that with any marketing campaign, whatever the product or service, you need to really know what your product/service stands for, work out who you want to sell it to, believe in it yourself, and go about your promotion in a well-executed and single-minded manner, and you wont go far wrong…

Just remember, though, shoddy products/services/people get found out sooner or later… and to build a good brand on a long-term basis, it needs to really stand the test of time.

Jo

Keeping It Simple

One of the reasons why working in an agency can be so interesting is that we get the chance to meet and work with people from all sorts of different industries; my day today, for example, includes meetings with a law firm, a construction company, an ice hockey player and a charity, and so it will continue through the week.

This job is not for everyone, however, as many people find the need to flip from one thing to another at speed, and, of course, the ability to learn a lot about a company in a very short amount of time, very stressful.   Not least because so many of the company representatives that we meet find it very hard to express in simple terms, exactly what it is that they do and, therefore, what they are actually trying to market!

I have worked for companies where I have had to attend whole day ‘induction courses’ in order, they feel, for me to understand enough about the company to be able to work with them, but despite their best intentions, I have often come away from one of these courses with very little that is useful in regard to the company’s marketing and/or PR.  And this then leads me to the crunch; if senior marketing people in the company, who live and breathe it all day long, cannot tell me what exactly they sell and why someone should buy from them, then however do they manage to sell anything at all!

The thing is, when you work inside a company, especially in a senior position, you and the people working with you know so much about it, that you sometimes forget what the key things are that the outside world should know.   I have talked (a lot!) in the past about the need to know who you are targeting with your marketing, but you must also know why someone might buy your products or services – i.e. what makes you/your product so much more suitable for a particular customer than someone/something else.

Usually, when we first meet a potential client, we will go through various standard questions about their business, and these include, of course, ‘why you’.  And we really don’t want to hear ‘because we are the best’ (let’s face it, you are unlikely to say you are rubbish).   What we hope to hear is something akin to an ‘elevator pitch’ – i.e. imagine you have got into a lift on the ground floor and in steps the person that you have identified as the perfect customer for your company – so you have just a few seconds to sell to him/her, before you reach the right floor and he/she steps out, what you do and why he should buy from you – if you have a good and appropriate elevator pitch, you are most of the way towards saying ‘why you’.

Then, If you know exactly the market you are targeting, and you know exactly why you have a product/service that your potential target really ought to buy, then preparing your marketing to attract such a customer is really not that difficult.  Or is it….?

Jo

Where does Sponsorship fit in with your Marketing Campaign?

Partly due to our having been involved in a lot of large scale events over the years, and partly as one of our main specialties is sport communications and marketing, we have often been involved in sponsorship; sometimes working on the side of the sponsor, and sometimes the sponsored party. Recently, too, we are meeting with a lot of companies that have plans to organize events or other activities and need a sponsor in order to get going….. It doesn’t matter where we are involved, however, there is no doubt that there is an awful lot of confusion out there regarding ‘sponsorship’ and what it all means.

First of all, if you are a company/individual, that has been asked to sponsor an event or similar, there are a few things to think about – although, if you want to do it because you like the event/project and/or your friend is organizing it, then go right ahead! But if you are thinking that such a sponsorship would add to your marketing effort, then you really need to approach it in the same way as you approach everything else relating to marketing; first of all, by asking yourself who is the target audience and does it match with my target customer?

For example, years ago I was very involved in the sponsorship of one of the beer companies here of ice hockey: who was the beer company’s main target audience? Men between the ages of 18 and 45 (give or take a few years!). And what do Czech men of this age like to do? Watch ice hockey. Go figure, as my American colleague would say. So think about your own sponsorship in the same way.

Assuming that the target audience of the event/project IS your target group, then you need to ask what you are going to get in return for the sponsorship (and, if you are on the other side and are looking for sponsors, you need to think about this too!). Is it enough to just have your logo on the materials (I was told by the sponsorship boss of a large company recently that everyone in the country knows them anyway, so what possible value is there for them in having their logo on a few billboards and so on…)? Probably not.

Of course you need to be reasonable – if you are only paying a small amount, you can’t expect too much… but then is it worth it at all? If the likely results of the sponsorship are better than they would be if you spent the same amount on, say, advertising – then OK, that probably works. But if you are paying a reasonable amount, then you need to be given more than just a bit of branding… Will you be mentioned in the PR campaign (attend the press conference, have your name in the press releases, etc), will you be able to invite people of your own (free tickets), will the organisers do anything to assist with getting you in front of their key guests, media, etc? I know this all sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how often I have been met by blank looks when I have asked companies that are looking for sponsors what we will get in return… !

Right now, there are not so many companies willing to sponsor things – the smaller companies are watching every penny and sponsorship is a long way from their minds (if they are doing marketing at all) and the bigger companies are being approached all the time and have very clear strategies on sponsorship – if their strategy is, for example, to sponsor football, then they are not going to sponsor tennis – plus some of them can take so long to agree on doing the sponsorship in the first place that the event/project is over before they have made a decision!

Finally, if you are thinking to try and get a sponsor for an event or project, think very carefully – over the last twenty or so years, we have been involved in the organization of hundreds of events and we have yet to find the secret to actually making money on them! If you need a sponsor in order to organize something, I would say, just now, don’t bother! And if you don’t, but the sponsor will be the icing on the cake, then make sure that you offer them as much as you can in return – sponsors are a very rare breed and need to be nurtured!

Jo

Event Management – Can anyone really do it?!

18th March, 2013

Up until a few years ago, we considered ‘event management’ to be a key part of our business, something that we regarded as our ‘bread and butter’. With the onset of the financial crisis, however, the majority of large scale corporate events became a thing of the past

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Social Media – how to make it work for you!

18th February, 2013

I recently wrote a blog about my lack of enthusiasm for social media, which prompted quite a few people asking me how I, someone that works as a communications professional, could possible by against it.  My response was that it was exactly because I work as a communications professional that I had my reservations

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