musings on marketing, media, public relations....and life, by David Reich
Reich Communications, Inc.
Reich Communications, Inc. is a boutique public relations agency in New York City offering full service in a variety of areas, with specializations in business-to-business; advertising, marketing and media firms; transportation safety; non-profits, and select consumer products and services.
For more info, call us at (212) 573-6000, email to david@reichcommunications or text to 914-325-9997.
We are located at 228 East 45th Street, Suite 11-South, New York City 10017
Here I am, writing this at LaGuardia Airport. I've been here since 9:30 this morning. It's now 3:55 p.m. on Thursday.
I'm trying to get to Charlotte, N.C. to represent my client The National Road Safety Foundation at the National PTA Conference, which begins tonight at 6:30. I'm supposed to be manning the client's exhibit.
My flight on Delta was supposed to depart at 11:10. When I got through security, the monitors said the flight was departing from gate C29. I went there, but the sign at the gate was for a different flight. I saw I had received a text from Delta, which said the flight was at a different gate in another wing of the terminal. When I got there, the sign at that gate was for a flight to Kansas City, leaving 5 minutes before my flight. There was no one from Delta at the counter. There were many passengers milling around, and none knew anything about the flight.
I walked back and found the Delta customer service center. The agent there had absolutely no information except that the flight was on time to leave from gate c21, where the Kansas City flight was about to board. So I waited there, just to have a place to sit
At the Delta terminal at LGA, they now have iPads at the seats, so I went on one and looked up flight info. The Delta site said the flight was departing on time from yet another gate. I knew this couldn't be accurate, since it was already close to 11:20 and the sign at gate c21 now did say Charlotte.
At about 11:45, some people were saying the flight was delayed till 1. I went to customer service, where they made some calls and learned the rumor was right...the flight was going out at 1:43. Gate still unknown.
I asked for a lunch voucher. The agent, a supervisor, said they only give vouchers if the delay is more than 3 hours. I said, you're going to let a difference of 30 minutes stand in the way of satisfying an upset customer? Its our policy, she said.
We did finally board for the 1:43 flight, after I received 3 different texts from Delta, each 2-5 minutes apart, saying the 1:43 would depart from three different gates. Got settled in, they closed the door and... we waited. After a few minutes, the pilot came on the P.A. and said they had discovered a dent on the wing, and the plane would need to be checked further. So we got off the plane, as they canceled the flight.
Of course, it was a madhouse at the customer service desk, although I was impressed with how calm the agents were. But then again, their travel plans hadn't been disrupted. One woman I spoke with was on the verge of tears because she was supposed to be in Charlotte for her niece's 6:30 wedding.
Delta told me I could be on their next flight out at 9... tomorrow morning. "Unacceptable," I said. "You will get me to Charlotte tonight."
The agent found a seat for me on a U.S. Air flight, going out from the same terminal at 6 tonight. So all is working out, at least so far.
My issue is not with the delays. Stuff happens. Planes break and need repair, weather makes a messs of things, computers go down. My issue is with Delta's total failure to communicate with passengers No one, even after I asked, got on the P.A. to tell us anything, even if just to say there were delays and that they had no further information. They told us nothing.
Some basic information and maybe some small niceties like offering everyone coffee or bottled water would have gone a long way in showing they really do care. A small and inexpensive gesture, along with some information, could have saved the day. Right now I'm looking at a bunch of people who, if they have the choice, will not choose Delta again.
Oh by the way, I am about to have dinner on Delta, using the voucher the airline ended up giving me.
That's an old saying that refers to the law of gravity. It certainly does not seem to apply to the major airlines when it comes to pricing.
When the airlines were hit with rising fuel costs, we certainly understood when they hiked up their prices. After all, fuel accounts for about a third of airline operating expenses. And we stood by as they used other means to offset the cost of fuel -- baggage fees, payment for food inflight ... even, in some cases, a charge for a pillow or blanket.
Now, as the price of oil is plummeting, the airlines are seeing a windfall that will result in record profits. But there's no talk of trimming fares. Instead, some carriers are talking about reconfiguring planes so they have more room for "premium" seats that give a few inches more legroom -- for a higher price, of course. That will also mean fewer coach seats, which will kick in another law -- the law of supply and demand -- resulting in higher fares for coach.
Delta, says a story in The New York Times, is predicting a profit of $5 billion next year, pushed up by an estimated fuel savings of $1.5 billion. The industry overall forecasts profits of $25 billion next year, up $5 billion from this year.
I don't hear Delta or anyone in the airline business talking about dropping the baggage fees. And they still have the nerve to charge from $100 to $200 to make a change in travel plans once you've purchased a ticket, even though you're not using the time of an airline employee as you make the changes yourself online. What a racket.
A price break in airfares or dropping the baggage fees would go a long way in building customer trust in the industry, which has fallen almost as fast as the price of oil. I'm not going to hold my breath on this one, though.
Unless you happen to be a telemarketer, you’ll probably agree with me on this … I hate telemarketing calls. I must get several a week at the office, selling printing, electric power, copier service, moving services – you name it.
What really bugs me is when the caller realizes he or she isn’t going to make a sale, and click, they just hang up. No parting words like, “ok, thanks” or “sorry we can’t help you now, but please keep us in mind” or even a simple “Thanks for your time, Goodbye.” Just Click! Like their time is more valuable than mine and they’re onto the next call rather than an extra two seconds to say “Ok, thank you.”
It burns me up.
So just imagine how furious I was the other day. I had received a call from a woman from an office supply company, saying she had good prices on toner. I told her I didn’t buy much, but if she wanted to send an email with her prices on the cartridges I use, I’d consider it. She thanked me so much, saying she’d had a tough day and my willingness to consider her offer made her afternoon.
Sure enough, I got an email from her, but the prices were just about the same as what I pay at the Staples down the street. And with Staples, I get points toward money-back coupons. So I deleted the email.
A few days later, Eleni (that’s her name) called to follow-up. She was very nice on the phone until I told her that her prices were no better than Staples’ prices. Then, with no further words from her, the phone went dead -- Click.
I can’t begin to tell you how mad I was. I went down the hall to tell my co-worker Jeanne, who writes a blog about customer service, and as I told the story I got more and more pissed off. This was someone who I had spoken with for a few minutes, and then we had further interaction when she sent her prices. But as soon as she saw I was not going to buy, she hung up. How dare she! I even looked for her email to send a nasty note, but I had already deleted it.
About ten minutes later the phone rang. I recognized the voice. It was Eleni. Before I could rip into her, she began to apologize, saying she didn’t know what happened, but the phone had gone dead. She was calling to tell me she had not rudely hung up on me, and that even if I didn’t buy now, she hoped I’d keep her info on hand for the future. But mainly, she said, she wanted to apologize for hanging up on me, even though it had been an accident.
I was so stunned and pleasantly surprised that I placed an order with Eleni for a couple of ink cartridges. And I sat there at my desk, slowly shook my head and smiled.
. . . .
P.S. If you're looking for office supplies and furnishings, Eleni can help and get you a good price. She's at 718-392-0615 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She promises she won't hang up on you.
Here's something to add to the continuing discussion regarding where responsibility for social media should lie in the corporate
organization chart. It's been an ongoing battle between marketing, PR and advertising, with some adding customer relations into the mix.
A survey by The Creative Group, reported in MediaPost a few days ago, adds some fuel to the fire. The survey of marketing and ad executives shows that 39 percent of them feel social media outreach belongs under the purview of the communications/PR department. Thirty-five percent say it should reside in the marketing dept., and 15 percent feel it should be assigned to the customer relations dept. Five percent felt it should be a direct responsibility of the CEO.
MediaPost writer Erik Sass adds his own opinion that social media should be the responsibility of all the departments mentioned above.
In theory, he's right. But in real-world practice, one person or one department needs to have day-to-day responsibility for the organization's social media outreach and dialogue.
My vote is for the PR department.
The PR discipline is supposed to be sensitive to the impact and tone of communications. The PR person or PR department is supposed to be most adept at putting ideas into words that explain, motivate or convince an intended audience. If that audience happens to be reached via social media, the tool that is utilized is still words, or in some cases words and pictures or video. But it's all based on the written word, which is what we in Public Relations are supposed to best at.
The PR person can't -- and shouldn't -- work in a vacuum, though. That's where all the other departments come in. Guidelines should be established based on input from the marketing and advertising folks, the customer service people, the lawyers (ugh) and possibly even the CEO as well. But implementation and day-to-day dialogue via social media should be under the guidance of the PR people.
There should be protocols established so predetermined actions can be taken if a problem or firestorm erupts online, as we've seen happen. That's when it might be necessary to have group decisions made regarding content and wording.
But everyday communications via social media should be, in my opinion, handled and overseen by the PR people. They're the ones who should be most adept at a company's communications with the world beyond the boardroom.
Maybe the better question should be... Were they thinking at all?
Automotive News reports on a thoughtless move by General Motors' ad people when they approved a spot that uses racial stereotypes offensive to Chinese people. As bad as it is anywhere, anytime, it's especially dumb for a company that's looking to sell more product in China.
Automotive News says "GM wants to expand sales in China and plans to spend $11 billion through
2016 on new plants and products in the country. GM is targeting 5
million deliveries in China by 2015. Sales of GM and its Chinese joint
ventures increased 11 percent to a record 2.84 million last year. The
company already sells more vehicles in China than its home market."
So creating an ad that calls China "the land of Fu Manchu" where all of the girls sing "ching, ching, chop-suey" is a perfect way to endear your brand with the people of the world's most populous nation, right?
The problem lay in someone's choice of music, since the offending references are part of a song that is used in the ad. The ad's theme is a throwback to the 1920's era, but surely the creatives at the agency could have found appropriate music without offensive lyrics.
The ad for Chevrolet didn't run in China. It ran in Canada and also was used online in Europe. But these days, anything can be seen worldwide and we need to be sensitive to everyone's feelings. The South China Morning Post saw it and yesterday reported on the ad, calling it "racist" in the story headline.
"Our intent was not to offend anyone and we're deeply sorry if anyone
was offended," a GM spokesperson told Automotive News. "We're reviewing our advertising approval processes to make
sure this doesn't happen again."
Someone was asleep at the switch, that's for sure.
We open our pages periodically to others who want to add their
voice to the blogosphere.
Our guest blogger is Aileen Galsim, a graphic and print
design enthusiast in the U.K.
who blogs for Showcase Creative,a UK based printing company
that provides Custom Presentation folders, calendars, and other printed
presentation products. Aileen asks that you check outhttp://www.showcasecreative.com
to see their range of products.
Many people believe that a great marketing plan is the most
important part of getting your products or services out into the mainstream. After
all, a company can have the best product in the world, but if nobody knows
about it, then it’s a waste, right?
But a marketing plan can be completely useless to a
company’s bottom line if its products or services are not up to industry
If you have a budding business and feel like you are ready
to take the next step by investing in a marketing plan, the first action that
you should take—and it may be one that saves
you money in the long run—is to make sure that your products and services are
good enough to handle close scrutiny from the general public.
Being a small- or medium-sized business can often keep your
products or services insulated from truthful advice or constructive criticism
from customers. One of the smartest things a company can do before embarking on
a large-scale marketing plan is to invest money into improving its products and
There is no advertising campaign in the world that can cover
up for a bad product or a company that provides poor service. Defects that may
not have been an issue with hundreds of customers may become apparent when you
have thousands of customers. And your customer service people may be stellar,
but are they prepared to handle the sudden surge in sales?
If not, the consumer will catch on very quickly in these times
of social media, and your company will lose sales, customers, and its overall
Start from the Bottom
It's natural to want to start from the top and work down.
The mindset of trying to get as many customers as possible first, and then
focusing on your products or services, can bring a quick, short-term boost to
your sales, but it could be little more than a mirage. Exposing your products
to a large market prematurely can do more harm than good.
What can you do to ensure you’re providing earnest service?
Conduct thorough product testing
Re-train your service employees
Make sure your customer service is scalable to
Use surveys and questionnaires to get feedback
from current clients
Speak with a lawyer about potential liabilities
Even after your marketing plan launches, you'll want to
ensure you’re staying on top of what the customer is thinking. Newsletters and
social media can provide ways to communicate with customers, to be sure you are
addressing their needs and staying on top of any potential issues.
Word-of-mouth is still one of the most powerful marketing tools
available. In fact, the internet has only made it stronger, since one person’s
opinion can be heard by hundreds, if not thousands, through blogs and social
media. Remember, you want long-term growth, not just a blip.
The key is to build a solid foundation by providing a great
produce or service first, and then embark on a large-scale marketing plan
later. Everything starts with your reputation, and once that is in place, your
marketing, advertising, and sales will begin to take care of themselves.
I had a customer service experience the other day that I just had to share, it was so stupid. Jeanne put it up on her blog, and I'm also sharing it with my readers here. But do check out Jeanne's blog. Twice a week she gives examples of customer service, both good and bad. It's fun reading.
I get The Wall Street Journal delivered to my office every
I frankly don't remember how much I pay for the
subscription or when it expires. I do
recall that when I ordered it, it was a good deal – maybe something like
$9.95/mo. But it's just not one of those
things I normally give much thought to.
I had a call last Friday morning from The Journal offering me
"their best deal" of $29.95/mo and I'd get two months free. So that comes to about what I seem to recall
I've been paying per month.
At that moment, I didn't remember what I've been
paying. So I asked the nice man on the
phone how much I'm now paying. He said
he didn't have that information.
I then asked him when my subscription expires. He said he didn't have that information.
He then asked to confirm my address, and he gave me the
address that I moved away from two months ago.
I told him my new address and also told him I've been getting the
Journal here at the new place since we moved.
He had no information on the new address.
I then asked him how he expected me to make a purchase
decision without key information that he should have – like how much I've been
paying and how much longer is my subscription paid. He started to tell me I could call the
Journal's subscription number – 1-800 something.
But we didn't get that far, because I politely told the guy
I didn't have time to call to get information about my account that they should
have. The call wasted about four minutes of my
valuable time, and it also wasted the time of the person who's getting paid at
the Journal's call center.
Customer service? No,
more like service of stupidity. And shame on the Journal's customer service or marketing folks for putting their employee in such a stupid position.
Many companies work hard to create and maintain visibility. That's what keeps those of us ion advertising and public relations busy.
But how much effort do those companies put into building and maintaining a good reputation? Some, like American Express and McDonald's, put heavy emphasis on PR, community relations and customer service as a way to secure a good reputation with customers and potential customers.
A survey just released by Mediabistro makes interesting reading. The poll, by Harris, got feedback from about 19,000 people at random.
The most trusted brand, the poll says, is Amazon. I know they work hard to keep their payment site safe and secure, and they are good about accepting returns on things if there's a problem.
Second is Apple, thanks to their innovation and customer service.
Disney is third. How can you not trust Mickey, right?
Google ranked fourth. We must trust them, because Google is where we all go when we want to find something out. Google it, right?
Johnson & Johnson is fifth on the list. We all have J&J products in our home, and they've done a good job with PR damage control when they''ve run into quality control problems.
Coca-Cola is #6. Maybe it's because the company's been around for close to 100 years and they spend and spend to keep their name in front of us, often using ads that tug at the heartstrings. So we trust them, even though Mayor Bloomberg is after them and other soft drink makers for causing childhood obesity.
Seventh is Whole Foods. We love their stores because they have great stuff niucely presented. Sometimes a little pricey, but tastes good. We trust them to have good-tasting, interesting foods.
Sony, Procter & Gamble and Costco round out the top ten in that order. Sony's products are quality, and they have a good reputation for customer service. Like J&J, P&G has products in every American home, it seems. From familiarity comes trust. Last is Costco. I don't know much about them. I've tried my best to avoid their stores, but my wife says their prices are great. I guess low prices creates trust... I guess.
I'm a bit surprised not to see American Express on this list. To me, they are among the best at customer service.
Perhaps less surprising is the absence of banks, insurance companies, pharma companies and electric companies on this list. Also, other than Disney, no media companies either.
A new survey from my friends at MarketingProfs, where I'm a contributing writer, shows most B2C marketers now use content marketing, even as they continue to be challenged by determining the effectiveness of their efforts.
Eighty-six percent said they are now using various forms of content marketing to reach consumers.
Social media and websites are the most commonly-used platforms, with 84% of respondents saying they utilize them. E-newsletters follow close behind, with 78% and online videos and blogs round out the top five at 70% and 69% respectively.
Content marketing is here to stay, but the biggest challenge, after "lack of sufficient budget," is producing enough content and creating content that engages the target audience. Just having content out there doesn't do much good if it doesn't get read or doesn't move people to take some form of action.
That's where good PR people (note, I said "good") should be utilized by marketers. It's always been a role of PR practitioners to take marketing messages and craft them into engaging content. That's what we do when we draft a news release or a feature article or a speech. When we pitch a story or segment idea, or when we script a video or write a blog post or newsletter, we've got to make it interesting enough to get read or viewed and compelling enough to help create a desired response -- buying a product or service, understanding or agreeing with a position on a issue.
PR people are trained or learn from experience to walk the fine line between the blatant, hardcore sales messages of advertising and informative unbiased journalism. It's that combination, leaning a bit toward the unbiased journalism part of the equation, that enables PR results to have a credibility that advertising usually just doesn't achieve.
So it makes sense that the PR function should be involved in the content marketing task. It should, of course, be a collaborative effort, coordinating with marketing, advertising and sales. But PR should be given a very strong, if not decisive, voice in the process to ensure the content in content marketing doesn't get diluted to the point of ineffectiveness by the other marketing and management disciplines.
It will take an enlightened and trusting top management to put such a structure into place and enforce it, but it should pay off in terms of producing and disseminating solid content that attracts attention and engages in an effective way.
I've asked this question before and I've suggested in previous posts here that excellent customer service may be the way for some companies to stand out from their competition.
marketing still have the greatest impact on brand perception? Or in
this digital age, is creating a high level of customer service a
better investment? How can public relations fit into this picture?
Next week -- November 28th -- Software Advice will
host a live Google+ debate with industry
thought-leaders discussing just this. Panelists will dive into whether
or not investing in customer service makes more sense in a world of
social media, customer reviews and diminishing return on traditional
Denis Pombriant - Beagle Research CEO, author, thought-leader
Jon Miller - Marketo cofounder, thought-leader
program will begin at 2 p.m. Eastern time on November 28 in a Google+ Hangout.
Questions and comments will be taken from the audience. You can attend the event
by adding CRM Market Analyst Ashley Furness in your Google+ circle and she'll send you an invite to participate.
I hope to have a follow-up post on the discussion a day or so after it takes place.