PR

Going The Extra Mile (or 23.5 Miles!)

There are customers that come into a store, buy a product, and leave… no questions asked. Then there are those kooky characters who make some of the most bizarre requests you’re likely to hear. But sometimes, the most amazing thing about a customer request isn’t the request itself, but a company’s response.

“GOING THE EXTRA MILE… LITERALLY”

Take this business consultant in the United States, who before departing on the last leg of a particularly tiresome series of work trips, tweeted at his favourite steakhouse “Hey @Morton’s – can you meet me at Newark airport with a porterhouse when I land in two hours? K, thanks. :-)” Whether he was being serious or not is beside the point.

Going The Extra Mile

The point is that Morton’s turned this tweet into a PR extravaganza. When the tired businessman reached the arrivals terminal, imagine his face when a tuxedoed Morton’s waiter greeted him with a 24-ounce Porterhouse, shrimp, potatoes, bread, napkins and silverware. This extraordinary response to a mere social media post demonstrates a few things about Morton’s, and paints a picture of a business that thrives on going the extra mile, or speaking literally, the extra 23.5 miles!

“THE SITUATION STARTED TRENDING WITHIN HOURS”

A team member was monitoring social media – that’s a given. Up the chain, superiors were willing to approve the idea, then a cook had to make the food and time it for the traveller’s arrival, someone needed to track down flight information to ensure the waiter was at the right location, and the food had to be driven, you guessed it, 23.5 miles. Needless to say, the situation started trending within hours, giving Morton’s a huge amount of exposure for relatively little expenditure.

Next time a customer asks you something strange, don’t fall back on policies or common sense. See if you can take advantage, surprise someone and see where it takes you. Never be afraid of going the extra mile!

– Magnus

How To Engage With Your Audience – Presidential Style

So the President of the United States knows what Between Two Ferns is. Big deal. Well, actually it is.

Quick update: Between Two Ferns is an online series hosted by Zach Galifianakis in which he interviews celebrities in a hilariously awkward fashion. Last week he interviewed none other than US President Barack Obama.

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As you can imagine, the internet went berserk.

The video notched up impressively fast views and became the Funny Or Die network’s fastest growing production yet.

Now if you only watch the first minute or so, you probably only see the barb- slinging between Galifianakis and Obama. Which ain’t bad. But if you watch it the whole way through you see the actual point of the video.

Rather than, as some commentators have suggested, appearing on BTF as a time-wasting exercise, Obama appeared on Between Two Ferns to efficiently engage with a younger audience. Why? Well in short, to spruik his healthcare package to younger Americans and encourage them to sign up before the March 31 deadline. Reading between the lines, it was a PR stunt.

And therein lies what I absolutely love about the internet.

A Lesson in How to Engage with Your Audience

I’m all about politicians using social media and viral videos to engage with a younger audience. It’s a smart decision. And believe me there are lessons to be learned.

The decision for the President to appear on Between Two Ferns was a considered one, made after months of discussions between the White House and Funny Or Die. The White House was well aware that appealing to young Americans meant grabbing their attention in a space they trusted – and young voters are savvy. They don’t trust or relate to political speak. So why not use a celebrity they like to endorse something that benefits them?

The results in this exercise speak for themselves. The video drove thousands of visitors to the healthcare.gov website, with the White House confirming the video was the website’s top referrer.

So what can we learn from Between Two Ferns vs Obama? Know your audience- it will lead you to knowing how to engage with your audience. Find out what they like, engage with them on their level and take a risk. If the most powerful administration in the world is prepared to do it, you really don’t have any excuses.

– Sophie

One Giant Tweet For Mankind

Full disclosure, I’m a massive Twitter fan. Twitter lets me say what I want to say, when I want to say it, to who I want to say it to and lets me feel like someone is listening. I’ve had problems as simple as ‘what to have for dinner’ answered, I’ve interacted with famous people I admire and will never meet and I’ve connected with people I have never met in a meaningful way, all within 140 characters.

One of the most powerful examples of the influence Twitter can have is that of Barack Obama’s political team and their use of the social media. Having successfully experimented with social media in the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama began personally contributing to the @BarackObama account signing personally written tweets with BO. You, the follower, can now read direct communication from the President of the United States! At last check, the account had a cool 30 million followers and in December of 2012 Obama made history by tweeting a photo of him and his wife embracing along with the text “Four More Years”…. which was re-tweeted 769,000 times in 22 minutes. Just the sheer number of people he was able to reach, with nothing more than a Smartphone, is astonishing. In no other format can such a simple, unchanged message reach so many people with so little effort.

Four More Years...

Four More Years…

Specific brands have caught on to the Twitter juggernaut as well and used it to fantastic effect. Not with never-once-clicked-on, spend-your-money-somewhere-else ‘sponsored’ tweets, but with real-life, personal and communicative tweets. While there’s always the risk of consumers taking to Twitter to vent horror stories, there’s also the option for consumers to take to Twitter to share positive experiences with a brand or company.  Not to mention the great customer service you can display when you get back to your consumers with their Twitter feedback with a timely and helpful response. Remember that old saying where one person has a good experience and they tell two friends? Well now they’re not just telling two friends, they’re tweeting to thousands of followers all across the world.

Companies and brands like Kodak, Starbucks, NASA and WWE use their Twitter pages to great effect. They ask their millions of followers questions, they find out why their customers choose their brand and best of all they have fun with their customers.

It’s all well and good relishing what there is to gain from Twitter, but like any good footballer will tell you, it’s important to know your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Errant tweets can not only impact your business but the flow on effect from re-tweets are only just being discovered. On Tuesday 23 April hackers took over the Associated Press Twitter account. They used the account to tweet there had been explosions at the White House and President Obama was hurt. In the few minutes the tweet was available before it was deleted and the account taken offline it was re-tweeted 3000 times. Although the news was confirmed as untrue it was online long enough to send a shudder through the stock market which plunged 143 points before it recovered.

Even tweets from companies themselves have the capacity to be major PR blunders. Just looking at some of the top corporate disasters of 2012 makes it blatantly clear that each tweet needs to be thought about both in the context of the business it comes from, but as part of the greater Twittersphere as well. A misplaced or mistimed hashtag can have a massive impact on a brand’s image and even one re-tweet of a terrible tweet is one you’re not going to get back.

But let’s not dwell on the risks – we love taking risks! Be aware of them, but embrace them and use them to your advantage as well. Messages On Hold has just dived into the world of Twitter as well and we’d love for you to follow us as we explore just how  much we can achieve… in 140 characters or less.

– Sophie

Coming Back For MOH

Targa events are full of thrills and spills – I should know! I misread a corner during Targa Tasmania at 190km/hr and flew 35 meters into a paddock and copped a slap on the wrist for some colourful decals. Both of these events made for some great PR and set tongues wagging.

Despite not finishing Targa Tasmania and torturing the poor Messages On Hold Evo, the paddock crash was by far the most successful. At least in terms of brand awareness it was. To date, the video of the crash has had 130,000+ views! It also boosted the number of subscribers to my YouTube Channel.

kymTarga West, I hope to achieve the same success. Obviously I can’t keep crashing out and wrecking the Evo – that’d be lunacy! So what I have planned is something very special for subscribers to my YouTube Channel… something that will keep them coming back. Curious? Well, I can’t tell you much about it because I’ve been sworn to secrecy but what I can say is that it’ll happen in the first 8 seconds of each video and the first one will involve a distinct lack of clothing.

Why am I doing this? To increase sales at Messages On Hold. It’s small ideas like this that cost next to nothing to do but keep our company name at the forefront of people’s minds and that always translates into dollars.

I’ll be uploading footage onto our YouTube Channel after each day of Targa West. Click here to subscribe – even if it’s only to view the first 8 seconds of each video – the fun part.

Expose Yourself

The more exposure you get through the media, the more familiar your company becomes to the punter. And the more familiar you are to your audience, the greater the chance of securing their business.

The sporting world has long known the power of getting their sponsors’ logos in the media. Take F1 motor racing. Companies pay millions to have their logo associated with F1 teams, both on the cars and the drivers.

Take this shot of a post-race press conference for example. Look closely and you’ll notice the logos on the arms of the driver on the right are clearly visible, it’s as if someone has stuck a piece of board down the suit to square up the logos to the camera.

So vital is that international exposure that media savvy teams have a PR person intercept the driver and help him dress for the waiting media. The driver unzips his suit and drops the top, tying it around around his waist. The PR person then helps the driver into a race jacket in the same design as the suit. The thing about this jacket is that it has stiff panels sewn down on both the upper arms and sometimes in the chest panel, all designed to present sponsor logos flat and square to the camera. You’ll note also that almost all of them wear a watch at the press conference, once again, presented to them by the PR person.

When a company is paying a minimum of 6 figures (right up to 8 figures even!), TV exposure of this magnitude is crucial. If the big boys leave nothing to chance, neither should you. Plan for media exposure and make sure your logo is presented in the best possible light.

A Peek Behind The Scenes

We recognised Shane Warne’s star qualities in early 2006 when we pursued him to be an ambassador for Messages On Hold. After some nine months of negotiations with his brother and manager at the time, Jason Warne, we agreed to a sponsorship package that worked for both of us.

We launched our association at a press conference in Melbourne on October 2006. With every Australian media outlet (and a number of overseas TV crews) assembled, the reporters were eating up the story. Some were distracted by the “ironic” link between Messages On Hold’s recorded promotional messages and Shane’s text messaging. The fact was, we don’t do text messaging, but various media chose to ignore that fact as it would have ruined their “angle”.

Shane “padded away” the stupid and insolent questions and chose, like a true professional, to steer the focus back to the business association. He was a focus machine – I guess that’s what separates the good players from the great ones.

During that same conference, Shane mentioned confidentially to a well-known Channel 9 journalist, that he was separating from Simone. After the press conference, that journalist (who was also a friend of Shane’s) ambushed him, shoving a microphone in his face asking questions about the split. PR whiz, Max Markson, had to jump in and shepherd Shane from the zealous reporter.

Unfortunately that didn’t stop Channel 9 Melbourne from leading off their bulletin with a story about “Shane’s Split”. Interestingly enough, they were the only ones to run with that story. Fortunately for us (and of course, Shane), the launch was a huge success.