Monthly Archives: June 2014

Top Marketing Challenge: Finding the Signal Amid the Noise

poltergeist-originalThere’s a famous scene in the movie Poltergeist, where a little girl kneels, transfixed by a static-emitting television. As spirits emerge from the static, she sing-songs: “They’re he-ere.” It was a critical plot development, the inflection point between what came before and what was to come. It was, quite literally, the signal amid the noise.

In marketing, it’s easy to get lost in the noise and spend a lot of time staring into the static, overwhelmed by the volume and variety of information coming at us from all directions. Customers want, and deserve, metrics. Too often, however, I think there’s a tendency to elevate form over function—checking the box without really analyzing the results for relevancy and actionable information.

In public relations, for example, it is still common practice for agencies to report “ad equivalency,” toting up the value of earned media coverage based on the advertising rates of the publications where the stories appeared and multiplying by the number of column inches, typically with a multiplier, on the assumption that credible editorial is worth more than an equivalent amount of paid advertising—that, despite the fact that the Public Relations Society of America has repudiated the practice. (The good news here is that many PR awards judges now summarily reject applications that still use this particular campaign performance metric).

So too, as digital marketing has evolved, many have come to recognize the limited value of impressions and clicks, as opposed to conversions and engagement.

Finding fault is much easier than finding solutions—particularly affordable solutions—the Grail quest on which I find myself now. The sheer volume of information out there is daunting, and the challenge of attaining new knowledge in addition to the responsibilities of running a fast-growing agency, is, at times, crazy-making.

Witness the new Oracle Marketing Suite, a superextrahetradyne marketing analytics tool that costs thousands of dollars a month and is about as intuitive as Oracle’s technically elegant but user-intimidating Creative Cloud products.

The truth is out there, and I know I’ll find my answer—just as I recently found a free and extremely easy path to foreign language fluency through the duoLingo mobile app after years of slogging through academically-derived Berlitz tapes, books, and CDs. It’s just a matter of time and persistence.

International (Public) Relations

International PRAs I write this, I just finished a global survey for one client and am preparing to moderate a webinar on global electronic invoicing mandates for another, trying to pull together experts from Denmark, Germany, and the United States to talk about a movement currently being led by Latin America. It’s an important story, with global impact, and yet, it’s a story that has been hard for me to sell to the mainstream financial press.

Six of my clients are global, three actually have “International” in their name. One of my local clients, I met in Ireland. Another client, a startup, recently got photoshop help from a designer in Serbia, who outbid an eLance rival in Jakarta.

Welcome to the networked economy, where even the smallest local business has to think and act globally.

In public relations, thinking globally can be as simple as keeping track of the time difference between the United States and Europe, or making sure that you have your client’s Skype phone data before they get on a plane for Africa or China.

It also means keeping abreast of world news, via Al Jazeera, the BBC World Service, CNN, or Reuters.

On the other hand, sometimes International Public Relations can mean helping global companies acculturate to the U.S. market. Such was the case with a client that had to reboot its marketing message after decades of sticking to its Euro-centric marketing playbook resulted in minimal market penetration—despite market-leading technology.

Whatever business your client is in, they are, no doubt, part of a global supply chain or sourcing network. I can remember, back in 1984, having to learn about Belize, because of a freeze in Florida that resulted in Minute Maid, a division of Coca Cola, moving much of it’s citrus acreage to the warmer climate. I’m sure many of you can share similar stories.

As PR and marketing specialists, it is our job to professionally increase our clients’ visibility. We typically do so locally, regionally, or perhaps nationally. International PR and marketing ability is today’s “It” factor.

So what are the necessary skills? The easy answer is the one you often read, or hear about in business schools: understanding cultures, global issues and maintaining ethics within cross-cultural communication.

That’s easy to say, but much harder to apply consistently in practice. This is an issue I’m struggling with myself. I’d love to start a conversation. What do you think?