Service is Free

October 30, 2008

by Kimberly Taylor

Times are tough, the economy is frail and credit is tight. How do you keep the focus on your customers when resources to do so are shrinking? Create Raving Fans.

A week ago, I attended an industry workshop where one of the keynotes mentioned Ken Blanchard’s 15-year-old book, Raving Fans. The speaker’s topic wasn’t customer service, but he’d read the book years ago and obviously Blanchard created a raving fan in him.

It’s a quick read at 130 pages, but here’s an even quicker summation.

Raving Fans

No matter your service, product or industry, here’s how Blanchard creates raving fans:

1. Decide what you want.
Create a vision of perfection centered on the customer.
This is easy; just visualize what would make your company ‘ideal’ for the end-user of your service/product.

2. Discover what the Customer wants. Read between the lines.
What people want and say aren’t always the same.
Sometimes silence is more important than screaming. Most customers have a focus.
Find it and mine it for info.

3. Deliver Plus One. Deliver the vision you’ve created, plus one percent. Consistency is critical. Consistency creates credibility.
Think about it, when was the last time you went to the same restaurant twice, each time receiving different service? Did you go back a third time?

Other Blanchard nuggets:

  • Creating a raving fan is a fragile process.  They’ve been burned before and expect you to fail.
  • Offering more than you can handle sets you up for failure.  Don’t drive promises down, drive delivery up.  Meet first, exceed second.
  • Create systems, not rules.  Rules create robots.  Systems are predetermined ways to achieve a result.  Systems give you a floor, not a ceiling.
  • Having an up-to-the-minute vision creates Raving Fans. 
  • Customers’ needs and wants change all the time, be flexible!

There are few functions in business that create such lasting results. 

Are your customers Raving Fans?

Shredding the Concept of the Morning “Paper”

October 29, 2008

by Dan Ward

The writing has been on the proverbial wall for some time, and now the wall is starting to crack. The Christian Science Monitor has announced that it will become the first major daily newspaper to forego a print edition, moving all daily news online.

Is it a harbinger of things to come in Florida? It certainly wouldn’t surprise me. Daily newspapers in Florida have been cutting staff and cutting copy for some time now, choosing to compete in the online environment rather than focusing on their core product. Think of the savings the Sam Zells of the world will achieve by eliminating production, distribution and real estate costs.

If other papers, such as the Orlando Sentinel, follow this model, it will force a serious change in habits for people like me, who enjoy thumbing through a “real” newspaper every morning.

More importantly, it will also force a major change in how retailers market their products and services. Spending on circulars and print advertising, for instance, will have to be directed to other areas. Will it simply be a transfer of spending to online advertising, or will it represent an opportunity for public relations to play a larger role in product marketing through targeted publicity and promotion, direct communications techniques, social networking, etc.?

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and which newspapers will be the next to jump headfirst into Web-only distribution.

What is More Important, Being Right or First?

October 28, 2008

by Dean Hybl

In the media world, the answer to the question “Is it more important to be right or be first?” is usually a resounding “Both.” However, sometimes you have to make a choice.

The history of the media is dotted with memorable examples of media jumping the gun and reporting incorrect information simply because they want to be the “glory” of breaking a story. As technology has made access to news instantaneous and the number of media members trying to “break” a story has multiplied, it has become increasingly more frequent for “Breaking News” to end up with only partial accuracy.

As the Presidential Election looms just a week away, one bi-monthly newspaper in Santa Fe, the New Mexico Sun News, decided that the benefit of being first was far more significant than the drawback if they end up being wrong.

The headline for their October 26-November 8 edition, which is now on newsstands in the Santa Fe area boldly splashes the headline “Obama Wins!” They even go the next step and call it their “special collector’s edition.”

While the decision by their liberal leaning editorial staff may not see a significant increase in their regular circulation of 10,000, it has already yielded them significant notoriety. CNN and YAHOO! News have already posted the story on their web sites and I imagine the editor will receive additional national coverage in the coming days.

So, this increased publicity should really be a boom for the New Mexico Sun News, right? Well, the editor will certainly get his 15-minutes of fame, but the paper will probably not get as much “bang for the buck” as it might have had if the editor had the foresight to work with a public relations agency before embarking on this effort.

In trying to learn more about the newspaper, I went to the Web site listed for the New Mexico Sun News on several media lists, but instead of finding out more about the New Mexico Sun News, the link took me to a site for Global Aviation Inc., which claims to be “Taking the Future to New Heights.” But alas, they won’t benefit much from this media blitz either because their site “is still under construction.”

Bad Times or Good?

October 23, 2008

by Roger Pynn

After 25 years as an agency owner – and corporate and agency assignments before that dating back to 1974 – one thing sticks in my mind about down economies: they have great potential for public relations. In the end, there is no such thing as “agency pr,” only agencies doing work for corporate clients. It is all public relations, and today that is a broader field than ever before.

Recession after recession, I’ve seen companies trim ad expenses and turn to their public relations team because of the real and perceived ability to produce more focused, interactive, results-oriented and cost-effective communication that is far more likely to reach its target. We can aim.

Yes, Internet-based marketing will change some of that, but I believe only that which is tied to the ability to track far more than just clicks. And public relations people using the Internet will have to make efficient and ever-more-targeted decisions. The Internet is just another publication, unless public relations people seize it for the potential of user-generated content to engage those most likely to produce the results they want for their organization.

The real issue is whether you stay focused on your client and what keeps them awake at night.

Never before were the words of legendary archer Howard Hill – who successfully hunted even elephant with a bow and arrow – more true: “Unless you know your prey’s eating, sleeping and daily habits, unless you plan your hunt in great detail and follow your plan with precision, you’re not really hunting at all … you’re just walking in the woods.”

Cast in Digital Stone

October 20, 2008

by Roger Pynn

Good advice to clients has always been “never say anything publicly you don’t want to read in tomorrow’s paper.”

Author Mark Stevens, CEO of marketing, sales training and management for consulting firm MSCO, reminds readers in a blog post at PRNews Online that this Internet age greatly expands the impact of following or ignoring that advice.

But his post titled “The Internet Is A Creature Of The Past” also points out that the Internet has become the link between past and present, history and news. He’s right.

What you say today, how you formulate and deliver key messages, how and where you choose to make a statement – no matter how important or insigificant – will be available for the ages and may well frame how you are remembered, for they will exist online in some Google-able database forever.

More important for the moment is to remember that while the concept of mass media had also become a thing of the past in the minds of many theorists as print and broadcast outlets became more and more specialized over the past quarter century, the Internet is mass media.

So take careful aim at your target audience, but remember everyone is listening.

Effective Tweeting

October 20, 2008

by Kimberly Taylor

By now, most of you have probably heard of the increasingly popular micro-blogging site, Twitter.

A year ago, you couldn’t have convinced me to adapt this newfangled technology, let alone convince me I’d become addicted.

Many avid users of Twitter have used it to promote their brand, their blog, etc. Others have used it as a news source, while journalists have even been known to seek out expert sources for stories by soliciting their followers on Twitter.

Well, I’ve seen the light, and have enjoyed “following” many different people and companies—my most recent addition … Popeyes Chicken (@PopeyesChicken).

You may be wondering how Popeyes Chicken could possibly use Twitter to engage its customers.

Last Wednesday night during the final presidential debate, Popeyes “tweeted”—interjecting humorous chicken messages into their tweets—to correspond with each candidate’s message.

Here are a few examples, starting with the first pre-debate tweet:

“Biden my time, waiting for the debate to start. Both Palin comparison to ME! Popeyes for President!”

“I’m very much a breast of the economic issues and I have a plan. It’s called the Big Deals! Only $1.49.”

“Is either one a breast of the issues? I think they are winging it. Both seem to be pulling my leg.”


Word has it the person behind the @PopeyesChicken persona is from their Technology team, not from marketing or PR as you may’ve thought.

In a sea of messages streaming into my Twitter account, I can tell you these messages were standing out—an effective use of Twitter!

Follow me: KLT_CandP

Fear Factor Benefit?

October 13, 2008

by Roger Pynn

Could the economic crisis be bringing a wave of thoughtful news on a complex situation … writing that aims to educate rather than irritate?

An exceptional column by local Orlando Sentinel Columnist Mike Thomas landed on the driveway about 6 a.m. yesterday. It pointed to what you have to hope will be a trend … in-depth writing on this frightening picture that simplifies and goes beyond the fear it naturally has caused.

Thomas took the scholarly approach and turned to history to accurately explain what’s up, who shares the blame, etc. He did a great job of explaining in Joe Six Pack terms what things like “swaps” are and why they are driving the fear factor. There are – brace yourself – up to $62 trillion in swaps circulating out there.”

Take a look at this Wikipedia entry and you’ll see Thomas did a public service with this simplified description: “Basically swaps are like insurance policies on corporate bonds and securities except they are completely unregulated. So the companies issuing them aren’t required to keep enough money in the bank to pay them off in case of default.”

Deeper in the Sentinel were two stories of uncommon insight.

1. An “A” Section piece from AP’s Eric Carvin headlined “Where Did All “Your” Money Go?”explaining that what you think you’ve lost is actually something you never had. Trillions in market value may be gone, Carvin wrote, but “While the money in your pocket is unlikely to just vanish into thin air, the money you could have had, if only you’d sold your house or drained your stock-heavy mutual funds a year ago, most certainly can.”

2. A Bloomberg News piece by Matthew Benjamin and Michael McKee that reminded us, “Consumer spending is two-thirds of gross domestic product. If Americans close their wallets, recession – or worse – is all but certain.” Even more pointedly, it concluded “It’s simply going to take time for investors’ fears to subside. With asset prices plunging, greed will eventually make a comeback.”

But, by the time the Sunday “Today” show was on, CNBC’s Trish Regan did a fair job of trying to explain that the situation may be more about fear than crisis … a crisis of confidence, she said, but by pointing out that consumers read headlines she left little doubt that the fear gets a lot of fuel from the media.

However, to be fair, “Today” show Financial Editor Jean Chatzky has an uncommonly calming article on the show’s Web site that almost screams “don’t watch us and conclude that the sky is falling!”

In these times, media consumers would be well advised to search for and listen carefully to balanced and accurate reporting … especially those that include the insight of someone other than Chicken Little .

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