THE COCONUT WIRELESS STRIKES AGAIN

By Jenny Fujita and Joy K. Miura, Fujita & Miura Public Relations

Last month was full of technology changeovers, with AT&T acquiring all of Cingular’s Kaua`i business and Oceanic Time Warner’s channel expansion. Though many agree that the changes were positive ones, they were also wrought with a bit of confusion, as all changes are.

Were AT&T and Oceanic negligent in communicating with their publics about the changes? Of course not. They both initiated communication through customer mail outs, online explanations, as well as face-to-face and phone consultations. However, many consumers threw away or didn’t read their instructional mailings, or didn’t have the time or motivation to seek a personal consultation. What many of us chose to do instead was ask a friend. Dinner table conversations were abuzz with questions like, “What channel is public access on? How do I get rid of ‘roam’ on my cell phone display? How do I answer my voicemail again?”

What is fascinating about these technology transformations is how the coconut wireless assisted. While one friend stood in line to learn about all the new cell phone plans, the rest of us carried on with our daily routine. That friend then returned home armed with information and told ten friends who told ten more friends and so on. This process is a good reminder for any company of how powerful informal communications can be. It’s also important to consider how to harness the coconut wireless and use it to your best advantage: offer incentives to those who send business your way or train all your employees, not only customer service representatives, to be 24-hour community ambassadors.

The coconut wireless works. Here we are a few weeks later and everyone is happily “remoting” to the Food Network, Travel Channel, OC16, etc. and enjoying their free long distance on nights and weekends, thanks to two proactive companies, a few great friends, and a little whisper down the lane, over the chain-link fence, through the papaya trees, from car to car, at the beach…

WAR, FRENCH FRIES SPUR PR PLOY

By Jenny Fujita and Joy K. Miura, Fujita & Miura Public Relations

“Freedom fries to go please.” That’s what customers of Cubbie’s in Beaufort, North Carolina are ordering these days. According to CNN.com’s February 19 news, at Cubbie’s “You can get fries with your burger…but just don’t ask for French fries. Neal Rowland, the owner of Cubbie’s, now only sells his fried potato strips as ‘freedom fries’ — a decision that comes as Americans watch French officials back away from support for possible war in Iraq.”

This was a brilliant PR strategy especially given that “Rowland said his intent is not to slight the French people…’It’s our way of showing our patriotic pride,’ noting that his business has a lot of local military troops as customers.”

This is an example of taking a current event relevant to your customers and making it work for you. In this time when businesses have heightened anxieties about the looming war, Rowland framed a negative situation creatively and got more exposure out of it than a costly advertising campaign.

Obviously, this tactic would have been a bad move if his customer base was comprised of war opponents. To apply this tactic in your own business, consider what your customers are concerned about or interested in today. Do your products or services relate to these interests or concerns? If so, great! If not, get creative. After all, Rowland linked fried potatoes to patriotism. You can do it too.

Once you’ve figured out the link, communicate it to your customers. They’ll know you understand them and acknowledge the things they care about. Customers will feel your products or services were made specifically for them and will recommend your business to their friends with similar interests.

What is your freedom fry?

COMPETITORS OGLE GOOGLE’S FROOGLE

By Jenny Fujita and Joy K. Miura, Fujita & Miura Public Relations

On December 13, Reuters news service announced “The popular search engine Google has added an online shopping site called Froogle to its bag of tricks.” While this new service gives Google a competitive edge, it also has the potential to alienate it from both competitors and customers. Yet the “ever-friendly” Google has managed to take a bigger slice of the search engine pie, now “running neck and neck with Yahoo,” and keep its customer-competitors happy.

How? “…they’re being creative on how to monetize their site,” said Salomon Smith Barney analyst Lanny Baker. Even though Google’s Froogle is in direct competition with MySimon and BizRate, they provide links to those sites, as well as Amazon.com and eBay, at the bottom of each search results page. Everyone wins with this arrangement – customers see more shopping choices in their search, competitors get a plug, and Froogle charges ahead.

What a clever PR move: serve your competitor. To apply this tactic to your business, think first about what you have that your competitors don’t have – but want. Consider not only the obvious, like your services and products, but also how you carry out your business. Perhaps you use a progressive, new accounting procedure that you could teach your competitors; maybe you have a supplier for a hard-to-find item that would be cheaper with a bulk buy; or possibly you use a piece of machinery only once a week that your competitors could rent the rest of the time. Whatever it is, you have it and they very well might want it.

From there, it’s all in the offering. Approach your competitor in a humble and gracious manner with something they want (and only you have). It will set you apart as the leader in your field and provide them with something valuable in a way that only a colleague could. Moreover, customers notice when you collaborate for their benefit, and truly appreciate these efforts.

AMERICAN IDOL SINGS PUBLIC RELATIONS

By Jenny Fujita and Joy K. Miura, Fujita & Miura Public Relations

Were you as obsessed with the TV show American Idol as we were? C’mon, be honest. We took the phone off the hook when the program was on. Unabashedly, we cried with Paula Abdul when Tamyra was voted off. And we voted (one of us regretfully, only after Tamyra lost her seat).

PR tactics, including commanding a wide appeal and measuring your efforts, sang expertly (pardon the pun) as the show reaped remarkable attention. If you think only teenyboppers were interested in American Idol, think again. Commercials during the show targeted young families, children, teenagers, generation X members, and baby boomers. You don’t get much broader than that. Regarding media coverage, MTV wasn’t alone in reporting on the show. Even CNN.com featured Tamyra’s oust as one of its headliner stories.

Why did American Idol create such mass appeal? Its theme of an American dream come true was something that all generations could relate to, and the element of viewer participation, which influenced that dream, increased the fascination. Next time you embark on a PR effort, think not only about targeting your primary public, but how you can reach a wider audience and get people involved.

As for measuring the results of PR efforts, Jack Bergen, President of the Council of Public Relations Firms, suggests analyzing business outcomes versus PR outputs. Meaning, rather than counting how many news releases you send out, consider how PR can tie into, and favorably impact, your business goals such as sales, employee retention, liability prevention, and customer loyalty.

And for heaven’s sake, when you’re asked to put your two cents in so someone can measure their efforts, help them out. Vote. It counts. It’s American.

This month’s column is dedicated to those who gave their lives, knowingly and unknowingly, for our freedoms. Mahalo, aloha, and a hui hou.

CASE STUDY: HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD

By Jenny Fujita and Joy K. Miura, Fujita & Miura Public Relations, LLC.

In this season of awards and events – the Emmy’s, the Grammy’s, the Oscars – we can take a public relations technique clue from designers in the fashion world. When those famous celebrities come strolling down the red carpet, the media always asks, “Who are you wearing?” “My dress is a so and so, my shoes are done by X, and my jewelry is custom-made by blah blah.” comes the reply.

What can we learn from this? We might not have such high profile events to attend here on Kauai, but the idea is the same. If there’s a local event, especially one in which some of your constituencies might attend, consider not only attending but donating your products or services to the affair. Your donation need not be a $200,000 yellow diamond necklace or a sequined gown. Paper to print the dinner programs, sashes for the chairs, door prize bumper stickers — almost anything will do.

As a “mahalo” to those who provide these gifts in kind, event planners will often give donors credit in the program, on the invitations, or by announcing their business names at the event. Even better, if your donated item is especially unique or useful, you might be able to start a word-of-mouth buzz about your product and provoke the question, “Who made this?” or “What is this?” or “Where can I get more of these?” This buzz could increase your profile and income at the same time.

CASE STUDY: COLORED KETCHUP

By Jenny Fujita and Joy K. Miura, Fujita & Miura Public Relations, LLC.
Last June, according to the July 9, 2001 issue of PR Week, “Heinz announced it would disclose the new (ketchup) color in ‘a few weeks.'” Notice that the real news, Heinz’s next ketchup color, hadn’t been communicated. Still, this pre-announcement release resulted in more than 100 media placements all over the nation leaving the public waiting in baited breath until the new color was made known. And when it was, the PR frenzy began all over again. (more…)

The Right PR Slice

RightSliceWe “like” The Right Slice. On Facebook. And otherwise.  The company makes deep dish pies with hand-rolled butter crusts filled to the brim with local Kaua`i ingredients. They’ve got a nice website and are astute in their social media interaction. Recently, they placed an offer on their Facebook page asking for “volunteers” to test a bake-at-home pie and provide feedback about their experience. (more…)

Orchestra Bankruptcy Could Have Been Avoided with Marketing

orchestraRecently the Philadelphia Orchestra, an institution in the City of Brotherly Love, announced that it was declaring bankruptcy.

According to Newsworks.com, orchestra president Allison Vulgamore said, “We actually have not marketed our concerts very well, and not spent sufficient funds on marketing.” The article continued to say that “Insufficient marketing is one of many elements causing the orchestra to come up short” and that “…organizations such as the orchestra tend to focus their marketing dollars on subscription sales because it’s more efficient, but they will have to change with consumer patterns.” (more…)

Social Media at Kukui Grove

kukuigroveThis post is brought to you by guest columnist Jonell Kaohelaulii, Marketing Manager at Kukui Grove Center. Located in Lihue, Kauai.  Kukui Grove Center offers more than 60 shops and restaurants.

Social networking has been a part of the customer service and shopping experience at Kukui Grove Center for over a year.  Our presence on Twitter, Facebook, Posterous, and other social media sites has allowed us to expand our online reach, beyond traditional website capabilities, to build relationships and communicate with our customers about services, sales, merchants, and community events.

We utilize social media to increase Kukui Grove’s advertising exposure at every opportunity.  After a year of creating a database of online followers and fans, we decided to test Kukui Grove’s social media reach initially by promoting a new Toddler Thursday event via our Twitter and Facebook pages. The results were amazing!  Attendance increased each week.  Recently, we garnered our largest turnout of more than 81 toddlers thus, providing valuable entertainment for our weekday consumers and increasing pedestrian traffic for our merchants. (more…)

ET Out-of-Line for Publishing Last MJ Photo

I was sickened and appalled by Entertainment Tonight publishing what they refer to as the “exclusive last photo” of Michael Jackson.  The graphic photo shows Jackson lying down with his eyes closed as paramedics worked on him. The photo appears to be taken through a window and leads one to speculate that it was taken when he was in the ambulance. Horrible! This is totally inappropriate and unethical reporting. There is no reason why anyone needed to see this photo, and especially no reason for Jackson, or any individual, to have their privacy and dignity violated in this way.  Today’s media has become increasingly aggressive and overbearing on the lives of public people. It’s just become too much.  Sure, there will be the audience member that wants more information, more gory details, more, more, more about every hot topic. But, the media has a responsibility to our community to put out quality information and to restrain themselves when appropriate.  We all need to consider the big picture.  These celebrities have families and the repercussions of pervasive reporting affects them as well.  No matter what anyone has to say about Jackson, good or bad, he has three children that will have this photo out there forever. Why? For what reason? Would any of us want to see our father or any relative or friend photographed in type of situation, on their deathbed? I condemn ET for such an unnecessary, cruel act, and strongly suggest that they remove the photo from their website and any future reporting.