Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Up in the Air: Social Media and the Launch of the PiperSport

How social media helped sell a $140K airplane

When Piper Aircraft decided to launch the PiperSport – its entry into the light sport aircraft (LSA) category – the company took a traditional approach. It planned to announce the new plane at the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo 2010 at Sebring, Florida, with demonstrations, a press conference, and press rides. But Piper Marketing Director Jackie Carlon also invested in an integrated social media campaign, commissioning Michael Kolowich and his video production firm DigiNovations. The campaign included a YouTube channel, a Facebook fan page, and a Twitter feed.

Michael Kolowich, DigiNovations president and executive producer (and a pilot himself), created and managed the campaign. With only one week to prepare, he assembled and coordinated the efforts of a virtual team of micro-bloggers that included Piper staff (on the ground at the expo) and my company, Janice Brown & Associates (in cyberspace).

Michael, in this article and video, tells exactly how and why the campaign worked.

The campaign reached out to pilots, flying enthusiasts, journalists and bloggers around the world – quickly extending the excitement far beyond Sebring and creating fans all over the world.

And generating demand for the plane. The first plane sold on site, the second day of the show. (The sale was, of course, immediately reported on Facebook and Twitter, with a picture of the lucky buyers.)

The campaign of course started with a phenomenal product. But it was successful because of several strategies:

Authenticity and empathy– the right tone and content dramatized the PiperSport experience for the online audience

Engaging multimedia content, created by informed people (Piper and its fans/followers)

Emphasis on interactive conversation instead of just publication

Tight integration of the three social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) and integration with the marketing goals and overall marketing campaign

Careful timing and pacing

Marketers can learn from this case study, even if they aren’t selling a $140K consumer product.

(And yes, you can buy a PiperSport over the Internet, using PayPal. Click here.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Are You Making These Common Mistakes in PR Management? - Part 3

Three Mistakes That Can Make Your PR Less Effective – and How to Avoid Them

In my last two articles, I talked about two common and costly mistakes that businesses make in managing their public relations: leave the PR firm alone and treat PR as an afterthought.

In this final article in the series, I talk about a third common mistake that businesses make – treating your PR firm like an adversary, not a partner – and how to fix this mistake.

The Mistake

PR firms make money by selling you time and expertise, right? So, their main goal is to sell you as much time and expertise as possible, right? So, you shouldn’t do anything to help them sell you more time and expertise – particularly if you don’t think you need it, right? Wrong.

Good PR firms know their job is to make you wildly successful in meeting your marketing goals. First, they get paid for this. Second, they usually get “paid overtime” with customer loyalty from you and more business from your referrals. So, good PR firms act as your partner and invest themselves in your success – including investing some of their own time in learning your industry and business at the outset.

The Fix

Level with your PR firm. If you have a big need but think you don’t have the budget, present the problem and ask for their advice – you will often be pleasantly surprised. Remember, creativity is the hallmark of good PR people, and this creativity should extend to business and client relationships. PR is a relationship business: good PR people are experts at negotiation, compromise, and reaching consensus such that everyone involved feels good at the end of the process – and that they achieve the desired result.

The best results can’t happen if you treat your PR firm like an adversary.

Here’s a story. I once had client who routinely came to me at the last minute when he needed a news release written. By “last-minute,” I mean 6 PM, when he needed a draft by 10 AM the next morning. Until I figured out the game, I usually ended up staying up until midnight to produce a quality draft, so it could go through our editing/fact-checking/QA process first thing in the morning. My job was to produce something of sufficient quality that it would be of interest to journalists and get picked up (this was in the days before the Internet, direct-to-consumer news releases, and SEO). I was usually successful, but at a cost: aside from lost sleep, there was always the chance that the product would not be high-quality.

My detective work eventually identified the problem. The client feared that if he gave me a more reasonable lead time – say, three days – I would “use up” more hours and therefore charge him more dollars. If the client had just leveled with me in the beginning – “we can only spend XX dollars on this news release” – I would have promptly identified a solution that worked for both of us – thereby removing the risk of a poor product. I eventually did this, but look at the time we wasted. (The client stayed with me for many years, so all’s well that ends well.)

If you’re treating your PR firm as an adversary, ask yourself why. Unless it is because you really don’t trust your PR firm – and for legitimate not hypothetical reasons – talk to your PR firm. Working together, you can almost always come to a meeting of the minds – or at least know that you can’t. An adversarial relationship wastes everyone’s time, wastes your money and jeopardizes good results.

If your PR firm doesn’t rise to the occasion, get another firm.

Businesses continue to make three common mistakes when managing their PR firms. They leave their firms alone too much. They think of PR as an afterthought. And they treat their firms as adversaries instead of partners.

All of these problems can be solved, usually with easy fixes – by working with your PR firm and by taking advantage of their creativity, relationship skills and can-do attitudes.