Earlier this year, Twitter drew the attention of many by teasing that its character limit would rise by over 7000% to 10,000 – a major change for a platform centred around being brief. For now, though, it seems this idea has been put on the back-burner, with Twitter execs deciding to instead focus efforts on providing users with more characters without impacting the unique experience offered by the platform.
Three months to go until the 2016 Summer Olympics take the world by storm starting on 5th August.
To put the event’s popularity in perspective, according to a report by the London 2012 Olympic Games, a projected 3.6 billion viewers saw at least one minute of London 2012 coverage on television – that’s more than half of the world’s population!
Who ever said a bit of competition and debate wasn’t a good thing?
Over the past two months, there have been two major news stories centred around big companies going head-to-head with one another in public.
Just this week, Amazon and The New York Times have locked horns over an article written by The Times in August about the online retailer’s work culture. The story, which was a large piece in the daily paper, resulted in an Amazon VP drafting a 1300-word essay on Medium.com, refuting the article and claims made in it. From there, The Times Executive Editor responded with an equally long post to Medium and so on.
And less than two months ago, McDonalds and Burger King had a bit of a public tiff, which began when Burger King extended the olive branch in hopes of putting their ‘burger war’ aside and creating a McWhopper to celebrate Peace Day on 21st September. It all started when Burger King launched www.mcwhopper.com that included this:
What was the response from McDonald’s, you ask?
Kind of gruff, no?
So what can local businesses learn from Amazon vs New York Times and McDonalds vs Burger King. It’s that a bit of competition and debate can lead to some tremendous exposure. By making things public, all of the businesses involved were not only widely seen on Facebook and Twitter, but news stories flooded the internet from sources like Forbes, BBC Business Insider and dozens of other national outlets.
As a marketing expert, I think a bit of friendly competition and debate is great. Not only does it keep things fresh and interesting, but it also offers a new way of getting into the public eye.
For example, in 2012, after working with SO Festival – an East Lindsey / Skegness arts & culture event – for the previous two years, we knew that putting Skegness on the national news agenda would take a bold move. We recognised that we needed to do something that would provoke a reaction, capture media’s attention and bring other seaside towns into the debate about the need for coastal resorts to market themselves.
As Brighton and Blackpool both sit above Skegness in the tourism league tables, we decided to place these controversial advertisements in their local newspapers, the Brighton Argus and Blackpool Gazette.
As expected, the newspapers refused to run the ads, but ran editorials on the campaign that showed pictures of the shocking ads. The ads also spread via social media and the story escalated from a regional news item into national story, which ran for over a week, giving SO Festival organisers, East Lindsey District Council, numerous opportunities to explain the rationale behind the ads and to discuss the issues facing traditional seaside towns, whilst also promoting SO Festival 2012.
In the end, the campaign reached over 23 million people and contributed to a 15% increase in SO Festival visitors year-on-year as a result of print and online media coverage with The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express and Observer, as well as radio and TV coverage in the south, north east and Lincolnshire as well as national exposure on The Million Pound Drop, This Morning and The Wright Show.
So how can a bit of competition give your business a boost? Well it can help you:
• Generate press coverage you may not have otherwise received
• Boost your social media following if the campaign spreads or goes viral
• Get some word-of-mouth going about your business
But, wait! Before you step into the ring with a competitor or other public figure, here are some very important things to consider first:
1) Have a reason behind your campaign Slagging off your competition just for the sake of it is an extremely terrible idea. You’ll only make yourself look like an antagonist and bully. Make sure you have a deeper underlying reason for what you’re doing. Our SO Festival campaign wasn’t just created to boost awareness for an event; it helped broach the topic of talking about the issues facing traditional seaside towns.
2) Be light-hearted in your approach The more serious you are, the less people will relate to your campaign. The general public always love a bit of banter and competition in their personal lives – whether it’s with partners, family or friends – so they can relate when the companies they love do the same. But if you’re downright mean or rude in what you’re saying, you again risk earning yourself the reputation of being a bad guy and bully. Be clever and witty – but not malicious.
3) Don’t start a battle if you’re not prepared for war Some public tiffs fizzle out before the second party has time to rebut, but, in the case of Amazon and New York Times, both parties have gone back and forth numerous times over the course of a week – turning a small battle into a small war.
4) Plan your approach Think ahead and ensure you’ve ran through all the responses you might receive once you’ve launched your campaign. Do the positives outweigh the negatives? If so, crack on and go for it you’re comfortable. But if you can’t justify the campaign or if the negative consequences are far more than the positives, it’s best to leave the idea as just that – an idea.
So there you go. A bit of friendly competition can be good for business, but don’t take it too seriously and definitely think before you speak – or else you may have some serious PR firefighting to do!
Studying advertising and marketing at university got me interested in the communication between businesses and consumers, and I was interested in interning with Lava because I didn’t have any prior experience in marketing. I particularly enjoy writing, researching and anything creative, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity.
We’re currently working with the team behind, Festival800, an artistic response to Magna Carta. The sealing of that document 800 years ago is what provides us with the amazing powers of freedom of speech which we enjoy today. But in a marketing context, are we really free to say what we want about our company, products or services?
The short answer is no.
Advertising With regards to advertising, the law says that you must give an accurate description of your product and that your advertising must be legal, decent, truthful, honest and socially responsible.
So, how do you ensure your advert is legal? First of all, don’t lie, miss out any vital information or be aggressive in your advertising.
You need to be crystal clear about pricing too. If you quote a price that excludes VAT, then this needs to be clear. You also need to make sure you can prove any claims you make with solid evidence. If you say something is the best, then make sure you can qualify your claim. This is why you see all the small print at the bottom of adverts promoting beauty products. You know the bit where it says the product was tested on 20 ladies and 17 said it was amazing!
Talking of beauty products, that industry is covered by specific set regulations as are adverts are aimed at children or promoting food, alcohol, environmentally friendly products, medicines, political parties and tobacco.
If you’re unsure about what the law says then you should read the Committee of Advertising Practice code, which cover non-broadcast advertising (eg print, online), sales promotion and direct marketing. TV and radio adverts are governed by Ofcom’s broadcast rules.
If you are advertising to consumers then you should also read the consumer protection from unfair trading regulations.
Advertising to businesses? Don’t feature a competitors’ logo or trademark; don’t compare your product with a competing one that isn’t the same and don’t make any misleading comparisons between the two. You can find a wealth of information in within Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations
Data Protection Don’t’ forget if you’re gathering, storing or using information about potential or current customers then there’s also data protection to consider and this applies not just to printed direct mail but also e-mail marketing.
Direct Marketing If you’re sending promotional faxes to individuals, then you’ll need their permission to do so before sending the fax. Using telemarketing, make sure the people you’re contacting haven’t registered with the Telephone Preference Service. If they have, then phoning them is illegal and could result in a £5,000 fine.
For traditional, posted, direct mail, make sure your mailing list doesn’t include people who’ve registered with the Mail Preference Service.
Email marketing and text messages I suspect you get lots of unsolicited emails every day but you shouldn’t. Companies are only allowed to send marketing emails to people if they have permission to do so. If you’re using email marketing and have a bought a list from a data company, then check you have the right to use it for email marketing and make sure that in every email you send, you tell people who you are, that you’re selling and if you’re including a promotion, make sure the conditions are easily available.
PR Activity Promoting yourself by sending out press releases? Then you still need to make sure you’re legal.
Avoid saying anything that’s misleading. Just like advertising, don’t say anything you cannot substantiate. Journalists won’t believe you’re the best without proof. That’s why many companies describe themselves as ‘the leading’, whatever that means.
You also need be aware of The Defamation Act 2013.
There are several definitions of defamation of character. One widely used definition is: “A statement which tends to lower the claimant in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally, and in particular cause him to be regarded with feeling of hatred, contempt, ridicule, fear or disesteem.”
The Act requires the claimant to show how exactly they have suffered serious harm or are likely to suffer serious harm as a result of the statement. Whether the statement will be considered libel or slander, depends on how the statement was made.
If it was said or is in a ‘transitory’ form then it will be considered slander, unless it was broadcast on television, radio or made in a public performance of a play.
A statement will be libellous, if it has been has been published; seen by a third party; and be easy for readers to identify the claimant even if it does not explicitly state his or her name.
Online And Social Media Using Facebook and Twitter to promote your business? Blogging? Then remember, once you’ve published something online you, as the author are legally responsible for the content. That means you need to make sure you can substantiate your claims, that you’re not slandering someone or infringing copyright – do you have permission to use all of the images on your website?
And don’t forget the internet is global. Publishing on the worldwide web means the content can be challenged in other countries, and the laws governing defamation do vary from country to country.
Be Transparent When it comes to Twitter and Facebook, transparency is essential. Don’t create content that appears to come from other people. Don’t involve celebrities or pay others to post nice things about you. What is and is not allowable in social media marketing is a grey area, so I’d recommend airing on the side of caution as anything promotional that’s posted on social media needs to comply with the Committee of Advertising Code.
As you can see there are many factors and areas of the law that cover marketing activity, so perhaps whilst Magna Carta gave us freedom of speech to an extent, not all of its privileges extend to marketing.
Hopefully this short overview will help you stay within the boundaries of what is acceptable. And, if you’re unsure, remember this simple saying – “if in doubt, leave it out’.
As marketing communications specialists, we’re tasked with raising awareness of our clients’ products and services. Public relations activity, therefore, features heavily in the majority of our campaigns.
Reaching the right people at the right time with a targeted message is key, and we believe a media campaign can be the perfect way to increase brand awareness, engage audiences and build great relationships.
Whether it’s announcing the latest company news, launching a brand new product or revealing an innovative programme, keeping front of mind and reaching out to customers is all down to great media coverage.
People often ask me the secret to publicity and PR – how to take a press release and encourage top news outlets to feature the content.
The answer is simple – the perfect PR phone pitch.
Long gone are the days of emailing a press release to hundreds of reporters in a vague effort to achieve a few small news stories. Instead, you need a surefire way to get your news noticed and your company remembered.
To give you a helping hand, here’s some top tips to making the perfect PR pitch:
Cut the small talk It’s no surprise that the typical reporter receives hundreds of PR phone calls every day. Unfortunately there’s a limit on how many times they can discuss the weather without collapsing into boredom – so keep your call concise and clear.
If you can, be sure to get the key facts across in the first 15 seconds – most importantly the who, what, where, when, why and how.
If a journalist is interested in your story, they’ll have made a decision almost straightaway. Follow this up with a well-written press release and you’re on the right track to great media coverage.
Keep it simple, stupid! Although you may be an expert on your company, product or service, don’t expect a journalist to share the same specialist knowledge.
Just as you would write a press release, keep your pitch simple. A long speech about the latest technology or technical specifications is more likely to confuse and deter, rather than engage and entice.
Stick to the basics and focus on the benefits so that you engage with reporters, increasing the chance of seeing your news printed.
Believe in your story There’s nothing worse than talking to a salesperson who doesn’t have any passion for their product, and it’s the same with PR – if you don’t believe in your story, neither will an editor.
However, if you show interest, enthusiasm and can demonstrate how relevant your story or idea is for readers, you’re more likely to find yourself featured in the press.
Timing With more and more publications moving to a weekly, quarterly or annual print basis, it’s becoming ever more important to pick the perfect time to pitch.
Research the publications you want to target and know their deadlines. If the outlet goes to print on a Thursday, pitching a front-page splash on Wednesday afternoon is unlikely to be worth your while.
Planning is key, so don’t leave it to the last minute.
Don’t fall at the last hurdle Even if you have the perfect pitch, a sloppy email or press release can be the difference between a lead story and missing out on being featured.
Grammar, spelling and syntax are essential. Proof your release, take time to send a follow-up email and make sure the publication has everything needed for a story to go to print.