Friday, March 20, 2009

Vans PR Director Chris Overholser On PR 101

"Right now is a great time to re-visit public relations. In many cases, we're facing shrinking marketing budgets, but with the same demands for marketing results. PR, while not inexpensive in terms of time investment, is a relatively cheap marketing endeavor. At Vans, our biggest single PR expense is product.

At the Group Y event, we had a broad spectrum of experience in public relations; some didn't have a clear understanding of what PR is and some work in it on a daily basis. Nearly everyone at a brand, distributor or retailer is involved in PR whether they know it or not. At its simplest, PR is the relating of information about your brand or products to a target audience - usually your customers or potential customers. This usually involves utilizing media outlets – print, Web and broadcast - but can also include product seeding to influencers or product placement in film and television

There are a variety of opportunities when PR should be utilized, including the release of new products, store grand openings, special promotions and/or events, seasonal offerings, athlete news, unique employee stories, and ongoing community relations activities.

When developing a simple product PR program, there are three important steps that you need to keep in mind before you even begin to pitch your product to media:

1. Define your audience. Is it trade or consumer? For a single product, you are likely going to have a different message for retailers than you will for the end consumer.
2. Create your message. Is it appropriate for your defined audience? Is it clear and concise? Does it encompass the unique selling points that your product has?
3. Develop a set of tactics. What materials such as informational one-sheets, news releases or product photos will help you convey your product's features? What deadlines must you meet to publicize your product in the proper time frame?

Now that I've spent a little time "selling" Public Relations, a few words of caution. With PR, you cannot entirely control your message. The biggest difference between PR and advertising is that in an ad, you pay for that space and you can communicate exactly what you want in that space. In PR, we're dealing with "earned" media which means that you are earning that space in editorial through your PR efforts. You trade control of the message in return for a third party endorsement by the media outlet. The benefit is that media outlet, if respected, will provide more credible brand or product messaging than advertising can deliver."

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  1. A good product p.r. primer, Stacie.

    These days, though, even advertising can't totally control the message. With all the technology that's easily and affordably available to everyone, people can take an ad -- print, broadcast, digital -- and manipulate it or parody it in a way that can be harmful to your brand. It doesn't happen often, but it can and does happen.
    -- David Reich

  2. These tips are helpful, especially for female entrepreneurs in the fashion/beauty space with a lean marketing budget. Thank you.

    -- Maxine Tatlonghari