Friday, July 30, 2010

3 Steps to Telling Your Story

It’s not enough, we often say, to have a competitive edge. You’ve got to exploit your advantage at every opportunity.

In other words, tell your story, as this BizTimes column puts it. And there’s no more powerful or cost-effective way to do that than through strategic public and media relations.

Columnist Cary Silverstein consulted our own Mary Scheibel for some advice on promoting a competitive advantage through the media. It boils down to three basic steps:

  1. Identify the story you want to tell and the audiences you need to reach, based on your business goals and your value proposition.
  2. Clearly, consistently share relevant case studies, news, knowledge, etc. with media read by your target audiences. Don’t forget emerging online channels, of course.
  3. Whenever you get a win, give your customers and prospects every opportunity to see it. Email a link, put it in a status update, buy reprints for sales calls and so on.

If you hadn’t noticed, we’re practicing a little of #3 with this blog post.

OK, your turn. No time like the present. Go tweet your latest success or something.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

MLB’s Unforeseen All-Star Distractions

Tuesday, the National League won the Major League Baseball All-Star game for the first time since 1993.

But you easily might have missed that detail, as the showcase game was forced to compete for attention against, respectively, an unforeseen event and unrelated controversy:

n The death of larger-than-life Yankees owner George Steinbrenner

n A possible player boycott of next year’s All-Star game in Phoenix, AZ

On the first count, MLB and Fox, which broadcast the game, seized the opportunity to deliver a variety of glowing tributes to The Boss, a man who hasn’t always been good publicity for the game, but has always made a big business and marketing impact, since the 1970s.

As for the other issue, MLB finds itself in a tough public relations spot. Many Latin American ballplayers are voicing concerns about playing the midsummer classic next year in Arizona, in light of that state’s controversial new immigration enforcement law.

Polls show plenty of public support for the measure. And the 2011 All-Star event is probably well into the planning at this point. So ditching the desert location doesn’t appear likely, controversy or no.

Even so, Bud Selig and the MLB owners can’t simply disregard the views of their many Latin American employees, especially as a new collective bargaining agreement will be needed by the end of next year.

MLB couldn’t have seen these developments coming from too far away, and it’s hard to say how it will play out. So stay tuned …

And let it be a reminder that, from a public relations perspective, you’ve got to be prepared to roll with whatever may come. Are you ready?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cavaliers Owner’s LeBron Letter Way out of Bounds

After last night’s ridiculous LeBron James announcement special, I can certainly sympathize with Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.

But the open letter Gilbert posted on the Cavs’ website last night was far too, ahem, cavalier. He missed a great opportunity for his organization to really score some points.

Gilbert’s defiant championship prediction is a decent touch (the all-caps shouting notwithstanding). But the rest of the letter is full of childish, petty name-calling.

Guess he’s playing to the fan base, including one Esquire writer. And that makes sense—to a degree.

The only problem? Fans in the immediate north-central Ohio region aren’t the Cavs’ only target audience.

Millions of people worldwide have been following this silly, sorry saga. Talented players Gilbert will need to deliver on his championship pledge are paying attention, too.

In that respect, he comes across as a bad boss with a serious credibility issue. What would he say to loyal players he’s traded in the past? Should those guys be crying “betrayal,” too?

Gilbert and the Cavaliers could have come away looking much better than the “narcissistic, self-promotional” man (Gilbert’s words) who spurned them. It was a chance to show some class and capture the admiration of a wide swath of the American public.

We love a noble underdog. Sponsors do, too.

But thanks to Gilbert’s letter, the Cavs appear less like the lovable little guy than an angry also-ran.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Community Push Saves Bucyrus Jobs

We’ve talked before about the need for manufacturers and the larger business community to band together and fight for the future of manufacturing.

Well, here’s a great example of companies in our region doing just that.

The back story is a little complicated and involves a decision by a government lending agency that threatened as many as 1,000 jobs at mining equipment maker Bucyrus International Inc.

The decision came just last weekend. But quickly, loudly, business and political leaders came forward to push the U.S. Export-Import Bank to reconsider.

n The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce led the charge, taking out a full-page ad in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – a compelling, direct, but respectful piece signed by numerous suppliers and other companies.

n Both Republicans and Democrats spoke out on the issue.

n A major PR push and some well-prepared research bolstered the case.

Then, with President Obama rolling into Racine yesterday, officials reversed the decision to deny funding.

It was an impressive, effective display of community cooperation. Now let’s continue in this spirit, applying it toward more proactive efforts to boost the region’s vital manufacturing base.