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By Jennifer Peterson, Marketing Director, Galaxy Bright::

During an interview I had with Kim Lichtenstein of kimistry101 she mentioned that Public Relations includes anything to help elevate our client’s brand. It should be used to increase their brand awareness, change or enhance their image, communicate a message to the public and media, and generally promote themselves. Smart Public Relations is knowing your audience, clearly identifying your goals and not being afraid to try some non-traditional approaches. When there is a small budget, you just have to get creative, really work your relationships. For larger companies it’s equally exciting because the budget is available to really go big and take advantage of all your resources. A company can get the most for their money by spreading their PR budget out over a couple of months, allow for follow up and cultivate those media relationships. I agree with Kim and have found some excellent examples companies of all sizes can learn from.

Southwest is a lesson in 1) knowing your audience 2) clearly identifying your goals and 3) not being afraid to try some non-traditional approaches. In a recent Advertising Age article, Matthew Creamer explores how Southwest reached success with their Ding application. “To be sure, the idea that birthed Ding was made possible by a strong foundation-Southwest’s large base of loyal customers…Ding, an application that delivers live fare information direct to customers’ computer desktop, making Southwest the first airline to crack that sacred marketing territory… It was first marketed to Rapid Rewards members, who received credits in exchange for downloading and keeping the application for 30 days.” Mr. Creamer also quotes Kevin Drone. “To date, the program is responsible for more then $20 million worth of fares.”

On a small PR budget, nothing beats word of mouth. Lucas Conley, in the August 2005 Fast Company book review on Buzzmarketing brings out a number of that books word of mouth success stories. “Some of the best buzz coups of all time - Apple’s 1984 ad, Ford’s original Mustang debut, Fox’s American Idol, and even the story of Rit Dye powder in the late 1960s, which bested its rival Tintex by tapping into tie-dye-loving hippies…Ben & Jerry’s protesting at Haagen-Dazs headquarters in the early 1980s to win grocery-store shelf space” is another great entrepreneurial inspiration to get creative with the PR budget.

Earl Jeans follows up their word of mouth efforts with some other very clever ideas. “Like with any premium fashion brand, underground, word-of-mouth marketing is key. ‘We’re an exclusive brand with a following that likes us because we’re not an in-your-face, over-marketing brand,’ Mr. Birkhold said. That said, Earl is eschewing its modest print budget of recent years in favor of ‘a lot of street work pushing word of mouth about the product and design,’ Mr. Lawrence said. Such efforts include a major public-relations push to fashion editors and unpaid product placement on ‘the right people and in the right environments,’ Mr. Lawrence said, as well as in-store materials that reflect the breezy, unintimidating nature of the brand, postcard mailings to key customers and in-store events and limited-edition products centered around the 10th anniversary.” Stephanie Thompson, “Earl looks to stand out in crowd of jean genies.”, Advertising Age, May 16, 2005, p.20

Large PR budgets do not guarantee there will be no obstacles. Take for example the movie industry. Product placements inside of movies are followed up with all kinds of moneymaking ventures. However, the actors involved “will do what’s right for the movie promotionally, but they aren’t prepared to become ad spokesmen.” TL Stanley. At times they will be seen with a product, but only in character. What is the company with a big PR budget to do about this dilemma? In the movie Bewitched, “to get around the talent issue, the chain [Robek’s Corp] is using an image of a man and woman (presumably the movie’s Samantha and Darren) riding on a broomstick suspended in air. It’s similar to artwork being used to tout the film, but the Robek’s shots show the man and woman only from the waist down. It looks enough like the movie’s ads that an observer would assume it’s Ms. Kidman and Mr. Ferrell.” T.L. Stanley, “’Bewitched’, a case study in creative promotion.”, Advertising Age, June 27, 2005, p.10

Whatever the budget or brand there are a few musts in successful Public Relations. Knowing the audience from an inside perspective. Clearly defining the “Win” and finding a way to connect to that audience so that they are emotionally attached to that “Win”. This is the part that will involve the clever thinking the aforementioned companies and their PR agencies successfully executed.