Tagged: public relations

Fifty (i)

I’d ask Marcus (COO) about the learn-to-cook-to-learn campaign and he’d shrugged. He hadn’t had anything to do with it, and couldn’t really recall much about it in detail. Speak to Yvonne, he said.

Sarah (CFO), Michelle (Marketing) and Yvonne (PR) were meeting about some budgeting issues, and I asked them to buzz me when they were done. I had thought to chat with Michelle and Yvonne about the old PR campaign but in our new spirit of inter-disciplinary discussions I decided I might as well include Sarah if she had the time.

“Learn to cook to learn. Tell me about it.”

The campaign pre-dated Michelle, so the question was aimed at Yvonne.

“What do you want to know?” she asked.

“Everything I guess. How did it start? What did it entail? What happened? How did it end?”

“Well it spanned 2005 to 2007 I think. I wasn’t in the PR team back then. I’d moved from HR to marketing in 2004, and didn’t move over to PR until 2010. But while Steve – the guy in charge of PR in those days – led the campaign, it required quite a bit of marketing support and I got involved in some of it.

“I recall one of the partners at Lorenz Capital being a big fan of corporate social responsibility and he’d urged us to do something. I remember that clearly because there was some surprise that a ‘money guy’ was so keen on doing stuff that wasn’t directly sales led.”

Yvonne paused to see if I had any questions, and continued when I didn’t.

“Fundamentally, we wanted to ‘give back’,” Yvonne did the quotes sign in the air as she has the habit of doing, “and make the company look like it cared about our customers, about their children and their futures. If I remember rightly, Steve’s kid was really enjoying cookery classes at school but we found out that only a fraction of kids get taught how to cook. And then the brouhaha about kids’ diets and nutrition was just kicking off, so we linked cooking and nutrition to the fuel for kids to learn anything effectively. Hence learn-to-cook and cook-to-learn, neatly condensed into learn-to-cook-to-learn.”

I nodded.

“We identified around a couple of dozen schools and equipped them with fund raising materials so that we could supply kitchen equipment at cost. Actually, I think we matched the monies raised too.

Thirty (ii)

“Public relations theory has moved on, particularly following what was known as the Excellence study twenty odd years ago. And the theory is translating into practice, at least where and when it’s encouraged. In this instance we’re not talking ‘spin’. We’re talking about…”, she looked down at her laptop to read something verbatim, “the planned and sustained effort to influence opinion and behavior, and to be influenced similarly, in order to build mutual understanding and goodwill.”

Yvonne looked around the room to make sure we got that. “So good public relations tries to get the organization to understand the people out there as much as we try to get them to understand us. It’s open, transparent, honest.”

Michelle had tapped something into her Macbook and now jumped in again. “Well that’s marketing’s job,” she asserted. “If we’re making academic references here,” (ouch), “I have the definition for marketing: the process by which companies create value for customers and build strong customer relationships in order to capture value from customers in return.

“That’s from ‘Principles of Marketing’,” she continued, “we can’t create value without understanding customers, and a relationship can’t be one-way. So that’s why market research and PR come under this definition.”

“PR is different from marketing.”

“No it isn’t.”

“Oh yes, PR is quite separate.”

“Of course it isn’t. PR is a sub-discipline of marketing.”

“Are you for real?! And besides customers are just one public…”

I blew my whistle, figuratively speaking: “Could we stop there please. My gut tells me this isn’t a productive line of argument.”

There was probably only four or five seconds of silence, but it felt a bit longer, and I was thankful when Saket piped up.

“If I may suggest a way in which all the topics you raised Eli are connected, and that encompasses definitions of marketing and PR come to that.”

We were all ears.

“No organization is an island. Rather, it must interact with all those parties around it in order to pursue and achieve its objectives. There is interaction. Movement. Flow. But flows of what?”

The question appeared rhetorical, but at the same time we wanted to answer it.

“Product”, said John.

“And services”, said Michelle.

“And materials to build the products”, John added.

“And flows of money, when we buy materials, and sell products”, I said. “And when we buy services, including employing people, and when we sell services.”

“And reputation? No. Reputation doesn’t flow, does it? Well not all which ways.” Yvonne was challenging her own contribution.

Saket responded but had moved too far from his mic. I asked him to repeat what he was saying.

Thirty (i)

A theme for the management away day was forming in my mind, yet I felt I needed to explore further first. Saket was out of the country, but he was good enough to find an hour in his schedule to join John (IT), Michelle (Marketing), Yvonne (PR) and me, via Skype.

I set the tenor of the call by explaining that I didn’t have hard objectives but simply felt we needed to revisit some of the conversations in recent weeks and take them further. I apologized for the vagueness, but perhaps our guts could guide us as much as our minds on this call.

I referenced the conversation with John where we’d knocked the ‘T’ out of ‘IT’ and then substituted ‘Influence’ for ‘Information’ for the ‘I’. If you’re in IT, you’re actually in the business of influence.

I defined influence. You have been influenced when you do something you wouldn’t otherwise have done, or think something you wouldn’t otherwise have thought.

“I don’t remember us getting as far as describing IT like that Eli”. John looked quizzical.

“Hmm. Perhaps you’re right. I think I’ve digested it some more since”, I replied.

I recalled the conversations about measurement. I told everyone how fascinating I’d found the discussion about communication. And recounted the thread with Yvonne about the radical transparency of the social Web. And that was my intro done.

Yvonne was first to jump in.

“I wear a public relations hat as you know, but what does that mean? PR has a PR problem. It seems there are two camps. The first interpretation, and perhaps oldest, is so-called ‘spin’ where I’m supposed to spin a line, persuade people however I can, adjust presentation of the facts to suit our needs.” She put her hands in the air to do the double quotes sign as she said “adjust”.

“Over the past decade or so this way of looking at it has appeared to both gain momentum in some areas of practice and become increasingly frowned upon at the same time.”

Michelle interrupted. “What’s this got to do with what Eli said?”

Unflustered, Yvonne replied, “I’m trusting my gut Michelle, and my mind come to that. Give me a minute to explain.”

She continued.