7 ways to create the publicity tide Wednesday, October 11, 2006
The Daily Telegraph in the UK today carried a story about Icesave , which is a new internet bank offering from the Icelandic Banking Group, Landsbanki. The Group, which also owns Teather & Greenwood Stockbrokers in the UK, is guaranteeing to offer 0.25% (25bp) over base rate under Oct 2009. Min deposit is £250.
This is the best rate available on a no-notice deposit account. So, you can expect a flood of price sensitive investors to quickly switch across to this account. However, rather than be ready for this wave of fickle money that will react to this news, the website simply says "coming soon". and equally funnily is that they have employed 15 people who they think will be able to cope. Bearing in mind that when ING launched their UK internet bank they had several hundred staff who got completely swamped.
Usually the hardest thing is generating the damn publicity in the first place. And not just a one-off story/comment, but a wave of news that "floats your boat" on the tide - [ok, I'm struggling to keep the theme going]. Obviously you could just do lavish advertising, but that's hellishly expensively.
So how do you do it
- Pricing - Undercut the market so dramatically that you upset the market equilibrium. Other success stories include "Talk Talk", the Carphone Warehouse venture that promise "Free Broadband Forever". Sadly, they have been too successful in attracting new customers and were unable to service them, with the result they've had to publicly apologise and release clients from contracts
- Controversy - say unconventional and outrageous things about people or products. Mark Benioff at Salesforce is a master of this, usually targeting Microsoft and Oracle. Journalists love this because it gives the some headlines, a back story and future potential for ripostes. People always remember you if you had an opinion - they may not remember what you said, just that you were someone that held strong views and who therefore may have provided them with a wry smile/entertainment OR just had the balls to say what everyone is thinking.
In some ways, Dead2.0 's blog fell into this latter category. Highly sceptical of the web 2.0 hype, the author was usually insightful and plainspoken, albeit behind a veil of anonymity. Sadly, when the person's identity was about to be revealed, Dead 2.0 went off the air, presumably because of the embarrassment that might have been caused to their employer. Most companies are fearful of causing offence to anyone - "better to be grey than to say!"
- Expert - Journalists love someone that is available at the drop of a hat to be an expert. Justin Urqhart-Stewart at fund manager "7" is superb at this role and regularly features on Sky News, Radio and the like. Fitting the stereotype of a stockbroker by wearing big red braces and a pin stripe suit, he talks just above the layman level, evidencing his superior market knowledge!
- Hitchhiker - Commenting on stories about a bigger brand will usually cause readers to look at you out of curiosity. This is different from Expert as you are declaring a subject interest, usually with a spin about what's missing/needed and which of course you silently could resolve, but without being acknowledged as an expert.
Another approach under this heading is to get a bigger company to "commission" you to do some research or work on a subject. In this scenario, big company is persuaded to allow you to do some free research about which you produce a short report/ press release which they then publish. The big company gets "independent" confirmation that its a) services are required; or b) a good company seeking to further the "discussion about the big issues". You get an endorsement from the big company who must have chosen you because of your "expertise" and skills. Their PR machine does the hard work, and your only stipulation is that the news says "Research from XXXXX, commissioned by big company today reveals......"
- Mentor - A stronger relationship than Hitchhiker is having a big company take you under its wing and apply its marketing machine for your benefit is a big result. Companies such as Microsoft will often help smaller software houses that use their technology. They do it because a) it showcases their technology b) they are seen to be nice guys helping out small companies for the benefit of mankind [sickbag please]. The news story is usually create by the big company's interest in you e.g. why did they pick you over others
- Parasite - If you can offer a service on the back of a bigger player, that provide features that otherwise wouldn't be available [hacks on an X-box or Pandora], this will often generate interest, partly out of naughty interest. "OOOhhh, they're doing something that should be possible bt the bigger player didn't provide it. Its even better if the bigger company either condemns your offering or grudgingly acknowledges its usefulness.
- Inside Buddy - If you can be best friends with some journalists and always buy them drinks in the pub, you may have a chance of getting some column inches. However, if you lack a story this tends to not be anything other than a rare blip and usually only warrants a name mention - still, thanks for the drink mate
You can't just rely on one of these strategies. In fact you must mix them up and use them at different intervals. Using one can often open up another e.g. Hitchhikers can quickly turn you into Expert. Expert can quickly become Controversy.
More importantly, all bar the pricing strategy, these usually don't cost you anything in actually dollars!