The Ad Men of Mad Men Turn to PR?

AMC’s Mad Men returns to television tomorrow night. Looks like the ad guys of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce need some PR help!

No, I haven’t seen an advance script of tomorrow night’s season premiere of Mad Men, but I’m going to make some educated prognostications based on the brief description of the episode and its title, “Public Relations.”

Back in the ’60s, PR was much less “developed” as a profession. Today, nearly 50 years later, Public Relations is still less defined than I’d like, based on the fact that its practitioners come from a myriad of backgrounds and are asked by their organizations to practice in a myriad of manners. Typically, however, communicating with public audiences with a heavy emphasis on earned media are part of the profession. Also, there is that tendency to turn to PR when a crisis strikes (as opposed to using good PR practices to all along to earn trust and goodwill).

AMC's Mad Men returns for a fourth season tomorrow night. Draper and crew turn to Public Relations in this new episode.
AMC's Mad Men returns for a fourth season tomorrow night. Draper and crew turn to Public Relations in this new episode.

SO, how are Don Draper and cohorts going to use Public Relations? Sounds like the agency of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is in some trouble after a Draper gaffe and, just guessing, they need some PR help.  I’m hoping the agency actually hires a new PR person (need some new characters!) and they start to demonstrate integrated marketing campaigns. That would be novel (and way ahead of the times)! 

I’m guessing, however, that the firm has a “public relations crisis” that affects client confidence and Don and crew fix it themselves. There’s nothing those ad guys can’t do, right?

Publicity, Advertising and Results

RV Show benefits from publicity and advertising, resulting in foot traffic and, hopefully, sales.

For the past few months I’ve been working with ShowSpan to publicize their Grand Rapids Camper, Travel & RV Show, which opened yesterday.  I have been very impressed with ShowSpan’s “behind-the-scenes” operations supporting the show, which is one of many they produce (they also do the auto show, the home & garden show, the golf show, and others).  ShowSpan works with an ad agency as well, of course, to place ads on TV, radio, print and billboards. They have a good online presence.  And they have me.

For the past few weeks, I’ve helped keep ShowSpan spokespeople pretty busy.  This morning we had Fox17 out here between 6 and 9 a.m. which also meant that the show manager was here as well as a few of the vendors we were featuring.  Later this morning the RV show will be featured in an EightWest segment on WOOD TV8, the result of a taping yesterday with Rachel Ruiz.  Last night the show was on Fox17’s evening news and was featured as part of WGVU TV’s “Ask The Expert” with Shelley Irwin.   WZZM13 also has been here and that show appeared yesterday. 

Last Sunday The Grand Rapids Press featured the show on the back cover of the sports section and John Gonzalez made the RV Show one of Gonzo’s Top Five picks for the week. Add in all the radio interviews and the media interest the show will continue to generate (NASCAR favorite Johnny Benson’s here tomorrow … that’ll bring a crowd), and it all equals a lot of exposure for the RV industry.  One result of that was record crowds arriving for the Thursday open of the show, now in its fourth year.

The exposure increases  interest which generates traffic which, hopefully, results in sales for the RV industry. Talking to some of the RV dealers who are showing their wares at the show, interest is high among show attendees to buy.  That’s a good sign, because the RV industry is a leading indicator for the overall economy.  It’s the first to decline when the economy softens, and it’s among the first to rebound when confidence rises.

SO, I’m not a trained expert in this field, but I do sense a strengthening economy and hope that my role supporting one show in one city for one industry is a part of the solution.  As for you, it’s time to plan your vacation, and you should at least explore RVs as an option. Benefits include family bonding, flexibility, cost benefits, and more. I’ll send you the news releases if you’d like.  :-)

Brave New World

When it comes to social media, PR is in charge. Now let’s get to work.

I was reading a Miami Herald article about the Ad and PR industries both scrambling to master social media. As budgets shrink, both the ad men and their PR cousins are scrambling to master social media. At Amway I oversaw advertising, sponsorships and public relations.

Advertising has a big role to play in the online space. Indeed, advertising online provides many benefits, including lower costs and  higher measurability than traditional media outlets. Not as broad a reach, but not all campaigns require that.  Meanwhile, search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) efforts ensure what you’re saying online will be seen by those interested in what you have to say, whether they know who you are or not.   

But when it comes to the dialog fostered by platforms like Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube, there is no profession equipped to represent clients effectively other than Public Relations. PR always has been the function that handles dialog for a company, whether that be through speeches, media interviews, press materials, or FAQs.  Advertising has mastered the art of telling a story in a way that elicits a response, but has not traditionally been there to answer the follow-up questions.

Social media, meanwhile, is about the entire dialog, not just the 30-second ad or the 10-word tagline. It’s about listening as much as it is about talking.  In fact, it’s about listening far more than you talk.  It’s about sharing the messages from your organization to your key audiences, but it’s also about taking their responses back to the organization and recommending responses.  Not just spoken or written responses … but responses in the form of actions. 

An example? Your product has been tampered with and people are getting sick.  At this point, it’s not just what you say that matters.  It’s what you do.  A recall is a start.  An investigation and sharing the results of that with the public is another.  Providing your customers with some incentive to stick with you even though they may have lost some trust in you is another.  These are not just words.  They’re actions and they might cost the company in the short run (but in the long run it might not only save their business, but earn them even greater support).

Integrated marketing, by the way, is more necessary than ever. What you say in advertising needs to be reflected in the dialog your public relations group is supporting.  It should be reflected in the types of sponsorships in which you engage. All of these marketing services are more effective for the company when they work together.

As long as there are internal battles and squabbles about who does what, however, there is little chance for integrated messages. The silos need to come down inside large organizations.  Strategies need to be shared.  Broader plans need to be fleshed out together and not in separate conference rooms. 

That’s my vision for what integrated marketing should involve.  I don’t think many marketers are well-equipped yet to work across all the media, and as long as they continue to favor one discipline over another, they will not achieve the full benefits of a truly integrated marketing plan that involves advertising, sponsorships, public relations AND the correspondingly appropriate uses of the digital space.