The times are changing in the world of marketing and public relations—and fast—where advances in technology and shifts in consumer attitudes are turning tradition on its outdated ear. We talked to five top Southwest Florida pros to find out what they’re doing.
Pushing the Envelope, Fort Myers
Years in business: 9.5
Now more than ever, companies need to think about creating customer-centric messages and tying them all together in an authentic way, explains Samantha Scott.
“This is so important for businesses to understand,” she says. “It used to be this spray-and-pray method. You put the message out there and hoped that people saw it and responded.”
In today’s era of complex digital data gathering, marketers and PR pros can—and do—pay big money to gain deeper insights about the audience they are reaching. With that understanding can potentially come more reward, but so does more responsibility. Clients increasingly expect their messages to be tailored specifically to them, and marketers ignore those expectations at their own peril.
For example, an audience that sits behind the leather-trimmed wheel of a luxury sedan doesn’t see the benefit in receiving information about a rough-and-tough pick-up truck. Sending them a barrage of emails about truck accessories only reveals that you don’t know or care about that audience. For that reason, Scott considers the days of mass, one-size-fits-all messages to be essentially over, unless it is for the purpose of general awareness.
She takes that idea one step further, adding that today’s consumers want to feel a true relationship to the brand or company that is trying to reach them, citing the growing movement away from big box stores toward small, locally owned vendors. That hunger for connection even extends to online recommendations and testimonials, where many consumers are more likely to purchase or avoid a product based on the reviews, even if they don’t know the reviewers.
Scott likens modern-day marketing to getting together with a friend for coffee. If all your friend did were prattle on about a product he or she were selling, you would soon start making excuses to skip your coffee date. “Market and communicate to your customers as you would want to be communicated with,” she says. “What resonates with you?”
Phyllis K. Ershowsky
PKE Marketing & PR Solutions, Naples
Years in business: 7
Not using social media? Not good. Facebook, Twitter and blogging have all become essential to the PR and marketing world, Phyllis K. Ershowsky explains. But using them is a constant evolution, an ongoing exploration of what works and why, and communications professionals are always finding new best practices. For Ershowsky, that has meant putting social media together with more traditional PR techniques, such as client events.
“Rather than just blogging or asking writers to blog about them, we’ve been having blogger events,” she says. In these events, bloggers are invited to come to a client’s business or property, tour it and try their products. “They’re having a first-hand experience.”
Ershowsky also recently organized a live Twitter event for a client, where numerous experts from around the country met on Twitter to hold a conversation about their industry. As a tie-in, several members of that industry also met locally to have their own on-site conversation as the Twitter event was taking place, exchanging ideas in person while simultaneously using social media.
Ershowsky hasn’t abandoned some of the most familiar advertising avenues, though, such as direct mail. But instead of emblazoning these pieces with a hardcore call to action— as was often customary in the past—she’s likely to feature a contented family having a pleasant moment, which she believes will resonate more with modern-day consumers.
“It’s more about taking some of these tools, the social media plus the traditional, to create more engagement with the consumer and help them share an experience,” she says.
IMA Creative, Naples
Years in business: 10
Take what’s proven, then add something new. That’s what works in Southwest Florida’s marketing and PR arena, Gail Webster says. The traditional mediums for reaching an audience—print, TV and radio—are still grabbing eyes and ears, because Southwest Florida has a population that enjoys and appreciates those mediums. And when Webster meets with clients, she always counsels them to add those to their communication strategy. But as the reach of digital technology continues to grow, those who don’t consider its importance will find themselves struggling to keep up.
Webster is especially keen on geotargeting, which allows marketers to target consumers based on their computer’s IP addresses, such as sending banner ads about local restaurants to a nearby neighborhood or about luxury vehicles to an affluent ZIP code.
“It allows us to truly target individuals much more than you could with direct mail,” Webster says.
Once, Webster recalls how marketers would be “dancing in the street” with a 1 percent return on their digital marketing campaigns. Now, with the increasing selectivity and targeting that’s available, she is seeing returns of up to 30 percent.
“It really is incredible,” she says. “The results are amazing.” Still, the digital world is not without its blind spots and dark corners for marketing and PR pros. With the rise of online review sites, managing a brand’s reputation has become even thornier than before, as reviewers can leave negative, unverified and anonymous reviews that tarnish a client’s image. Webster’s company makes it a point to follow up on these reviews and try to make them right.
“I think the Internet and the ability to review is fabulous, but it has opened up this whole underworld of people being able to say anything anonymously, which just takes away common courtesy and good manners,” Webster notes.
Spiro & Associates, Fort Myers
Years in business: 27
Think about your day. You wake up, reach for your phone, check your email and check the weather. You buy a double skim macchiato with a swipe of your credit card. Maybe you roll across one of Southwest Florida’s beautiful toll bridges, and maybe while you’re waiting in line, you tune into Pandora and do a quick Google search for a new boat or plastic surgeon.
And all of it leaves a digital trail, and all of it benefits today’s marketing and PR pros, who are quietly compiling digital records on all you do.
“Your behavior is how you’re going to be marketed to,” says Chris Spiro. “We’re mining data every day all day.” For some, this might feel a touch Orwellian. But the upside is that marketers and PR pros are using those digital breadcrumbs to streamline the process by which they reach their clients.
Spiro describes how this might work for a homebuilder: Say a would-be client in Michigan enters “luxury homes SWFL” into his or her computer’s search window and hits enter. As that client continues to search for homes, his or her computer will be building an intimate profile of what he or she’s looking at—perhaps riverfront or beachfront—and soon the client might start to see other targeted banner ads that feature couples walking on the beach or relaxing on a boat, even when he or she’s not searching for a home.
“We’re talking to them in the language they want to be spoken to,” Spiro says.
By language, he means figuratively and literally. With a list of clients that includes homebuilders, plastics surgeons and biofuel companies, Spiro’s company is using targeted ads in Spanish, French and Creole, the languages that are spoken by Southwest Florida’s significant Hispanic and Haitian populations.
“We have a tremendous amount of Spanish influence, Argentinean as well,” he says. “And we want to be able to speak at their comfort level.”
Print Page, Naples
Years in Business: 12
Mollie Page reveals that there is a powerful marketing tool in your purse or pocket—your cell phone video camera.
That’s because in the age of YouTube and Facebook, putting together a simple, easily accessible video about what’s going on at your business can be one of the best pieces of marketing and PR you can do.
“That’s what’s hot and what’s in,” she says.
Page has been doing what she calls “man-on-the-street”-style videos for a client with a bakery, showcasing what goes on behind the scenes as the sweet treats are being made. Calling the promotion “Fresh from the Oven” and with a bit of music and narration, she’s tagged and uploaded the videos to the client’s social media sites and sent them out via email. Created with a minimum of money or time, what mattered to consumers was the story behind the video, Page explains.
“They’re not fancy. They’re not Hollywood-style movies. They don’t need to be. People appreciate seeing the message. It doesn’t have to be all wrapped up in Michael Bay effects,” she says.
She’s also turning to the magic of Google and Facebook advertising to help target customers by age, interests, geographic area and other criteria. She counsels anyone who is serious about reaching his or her customers to not undervalue the potential of Internet marketing and admits that she is increasingly shying away from the more time-honored methods of public relations, such as press releases.
Rather than send a conventional press release, she would prefer to reach out to a reporter via text or Twitter, knowing that’s more likely to earn a response.
“I like working with reporters to develop stories,” she says. GB