Straight product and use publicity has attended every big marketing explosion in our modern history: automobiles, appliances, frozen foods, antibiotics, the electronic marvels and aviation's globe shrinking story. Inevitably, PR has shifted its power toward general management: it works to help get the expansion money, to quiet the work force and to attract the college talent to be competitive.
Women spend considerable time reading about home innovations; but very little time once they know what's new: then they read the ads to see where to get it at a bargain.
Marketing PR in industry and in dealers' stores often does its biggest jobs cooperatively, working for both at once. Although both business and media editorial tend to ignore that advertising is a publicity wedge, marketing PR and advertising executives often wear both hats, and on the tall hat it says advertising.
Programming Marketing PR
The two hatter is not as common as he once was, but it is the underlying pattern in a majority of companies where marketing is the top priority. Combining advertising and PR for planning, along with other services, is almost essential in multi level marketing. Historically, big retailing put its PR under advertising. In most big stores today the general manager shuttles the PR woman or man between personnel and merchandising: personnel may not be a profit center, but it is a cost control area.
Meanwhile advertising costs in retail are soaring: merchants are squeezing in spot TV in multiple store markets. Straight consumer publicity on products or even on operations has become of marginal value, regardless of acceptance; but dramatized and tied in merchandising coordinated events and displays along with publicity combine to make today's best value for merchandisers. There is nothing new in the store executive's attitude on products: he has always asked: What promotion is the manufacturer planning?
Getting in at the Project/Product Start
In the two brief examples to follow we shall outline the PR steps as planned to support a product for a manufacturer; then show a typical retail method of applying PR to promote it locally. Our example will be an electric steam iron. Rather than use an example of a manufacturer entering the electric iron industry, our specimen will be concerned with a new model of an established brand.
The electric iron is one of many household convenience items that lend themselves to mass production more easily than to mass distribution. As a result, most iron manufacturers produce their own brands, but also in a larger volume for the brand names and distribution of other appliance manufacturers, or for store "private brands." That may make a manufacturer his competitor. Of course, the advertising and publicity is not the same.
To plan distribution for a new model, the marketing director marshals his marketing resources shortly after he is given a production date. He may have discussed it continuously from its inception as an idea, or in a large company, in advance engineering. We shall start when he announces that first shipments are planned for February, one year from the current date. Obviously, these products do not have yearly models.
In the first meeting all basic data is passed along to a group that may include a product engineer and executives representing such functions as market research, packaging and nomenclature, advertising and collateral services, PR and product/brand management. After the first definitive meetings the director of marketing will withdraw and the project will be taken over by the product/brand manager. On this project everyone involved will be responsible to the product manager. In fact, he may also have four or five other functions. That applies to every function: one executive may represent all communications coming under advertising and PR.
The Product/Market Write Ups
Women who purchase house wares do not necessarily "dream about them" in a romantic sense: they become exasperated with one, and they see a neighbor who has another brand, or see one demonstrated. That is a marketing fact all members of marketing who work on defining and positioning products must be aware of. PR may not participate in those and dozens of other contributing marketing factors: the product manager (who may be the marketing director and advertising manager also) usually reports on research findings and model opportunity. The PR practitioner knows that he is going to be responsible for the write ups i.e., all non advertising material that must be written to the interested marketing levels: the company's field selling group; distributors or manufacturing agents; the dealers and possibly strategic publics such as the electric service companies.
There are no hard fixed rules that are applicable industry wide in any industry, but the patterns are remarkably similar. Usually the product manager goes over the market research and its conclusions; he may sidestep to tell of a long term advance engineering research effort concurrent with market research.
The marketing director may have advance engineering research (it is always research) and he always has market research under his wing. He defines the new model:
"This meets the need of women whose children's garments are of newer fiber materials that require minimum ironing. The feature that achieves that is our patented steam projector that dampens the surface ahead of, instead of under, the iron. Normally the market for this design innovation would be above the present high end. As we know, there is no room at the top: our problem now is that volume shrinks so sharply above $15 that it is our only loss position. That is an industry situation, and we have the records of eight or ten failures among competition to substantiate it.
"The best position opportunity is in the just under $10 spot: we have been weak there for several years because we have placed our innovations on the high end. We are not giving up on the high end, but you will be pleased, and so will the dealers, to hear that the new Jet Pro (that is our planning name at least until we can improve it) will be the $9.85 spot. That will give us terrific power where we are weakest, and tend to have the least dilution effect upon our strength in the higher low end and at the top."
All considerations for new consumer items hinge upon the consumer's attitude, taste, desire, economic and on other factors that can be and are measured with varying degrees of accuracy. Within the same decade the managers, executives and engineers of Ford Motor Company brought out the Edsel, the classic flop, and the Mustang, the classic ultimate answer to the youth market. In the post mortems everybody picks the winners and the losers. We are in the model introduction meeting.
Chronologically, the field organization is the first public that must be given the completed story of the innovation. They are captive, but there is no substitute for genuine enthusiasm. Those people literally dream about another Adolph's Meat Tenderizer or another Mustang.
As we observed often, as a communications link PR must adjust its language and nomenclature, as well as the burden of its message to various audiences, to the language of its target. In preparing definitive material for the company's field salesmen the language is strictly geared to our own marketing viewpoint, including short cut jargon.
In the meeting PR lists the several publics that must be reached to achieve consumer acceptance for the innovation. Broadly considering a four level process field, distributors, dealers and consumers we define everything in its profit potential through the channels. Realistically, those who sell merchandise view product service use inversely: after they consider the profit potential. We adhere closely to that in shaping up our steam iron program.
Ordinarily the marketing managers relate only pertinent facts regarding the product's characteristics, its market position and how much the company is budgeting for the introduction and subsequent support. Costs, prices, profits, nomenclature and, very importantly, "firsts" are included in the more basic facts of the product story.
As the meeting ends, another meeting is scheduled. The product manager tells each specialist what he wants next. Of PR he may ask: "We should get a look at some trade material for our field organization meetings planned for November." PR will have to work with engineering and the agency (advertising) on what kind of artwork it needs until they get some prototypes in about mid June. The next meeting may be set for 30 days later.
Pin pointing the Profit Potential
The electric iron is in the home laundry category of products. Each new model in this family has some meaning for the others. After the first meeting, PR will start a work project in which its first entries may be others who have an interest in the new model. Also interested may be the makers of textile fibers affected by the "jet" feature of the new model, and the trade association that works on standards and other matters of related interests for manufacturers. Those two would stand out.
Normally, letters are the accepted means of communication for insider exchanges of confidential information. Textile people have day to day relations among laundry and garment manufacturers. Also, they conduct retail store activities on behalf of their customers in their trades, or for consumer research and acceptance. In working among competitive interests they are highly trustworthy on unannounced projects: they may know of numerous future events whose plans are highly secret.
Among other targets that go into the PR aspect of launching a model are electric utilities, detergent and other cleaning agent makers and distributors, national and local home laundry complete workroom planners, major project and apartment builders, and financial interests such as banks, mortgagers and finance companies.
When PR starts its plan for the model, it is best to consider it on a full year from date basis. In February the first meeting discloses the project dimensions and timing. The first PR calendar showing 12 months would be filled by the end of nine months. Soon thereafter the first active step, the field meetings, would require showing an outline through distributors, dealers and the homes.
That plan might include specific consumer level projects such as home economics tie ups with schools or others in the promotional or learning end of home management. While "use education" is currently a low factor in items such as irons, family women will hastily say that both textiles and care equipment must be geared to the type of related products they prefer. Originally, in 1910, the original iron maker, Hotpoint, sold its products direct from the factory in Ontario, California, to housewives. They first tried the state of Washington where electricity was more easily available than in most places. But even then, it required ten years to persuade homemakers that the electric iron was a practical household item.
Let us consider a promotion involving a new model house ware item. When the distributors' salesman or direct factory representative offers this promotion on an introductory basis to big stores and chains, or to regular appliance dealers who have been carrying their line, he calls in their merchandising staffs including the PR and advertising executives. Because chain or local branch setups are dominant everywhere, the top PR operations are attached to the corporate office. Practitioners usually work directly with merchandising on promotions.
Most new model deals are accompanied by mat services for inclusion in newspaper advertising, some tape footage for the store's local programs, a small kit of photos and stories for the store's publicity. Special materials may be available if the event coincides with a key date such as "home laundry" or "clean up" week.
Working with Retailers
Although trade regulations limit some types of advertising allowances by factories for dealers, most new model introduction programs have some form of factory distributor support, either in volume allowances or plans and materials to dramatize the innovation.
When store PR takes on the new product /model assignment they should have everything the factory and distributor have developed for its promotion in front of them. The schedule of factory advertising is essential: however weak it may appear, it is bound to be the timing control. Because all factories time launchings for peak seasons, an added tail wind on items at $20 and up is industry wide simultaneous announcements, planned or unwitting.
PR has its basic functions. Two must be used in every project: publicity and events. The practitioner's resourcefulness will determine how many forms these take for a given promotion.
Elemental, but all program/projects should start as follows:
Product: Good kind new "Jet Pro" ejection spray steam iron
Theme: "touch up grooming for no iron wearables"
Time: April 7 14 (National home laundry week)
Non PR aspects:
- 36 radio spots (2 stations)
- 60 inches journal space 4/5 (Sunday) 4/7-4/9
- Market St! window (12)
- Mass display demo. Market at entry
- p.o.p. materials & distributor demonstrator
- Good Housekeeping 1/2 page ad. 4 col (April)
- Parents' 4 color page April
- Fabric Color Charts from Tex Do Inc. display
- Product folder bill enclosure (April) Checklist: Tentative PR events:
Radio commentator 150 words WVIL & WEEB discuss for "home show" etc. "History of Weaving" 1,000 word story from NHLA (assn) Home Ec. Hall (store) homemaker's lecture (slides) "Care &: repair of synthetic fabrics" Miss Hall (utility home economist) Letters to area utility heads on "home laundry week" (they are prime promoters) Letters to dry cleaners and commercial laundries re:
As consumers, clothing handling specialists such as the above are only other families: but as experts on the care of wearables they discuss fabrics with many families. The card would offer a choice of hours (not the same as for homemakers) that are for "professionals only." The implied recognition in itself is good PR, but it also stamps in their minds the name of the store that leads in consumer services on new materials that concern them greatly.
Newspaper Publicity from Educational Events
Women's pages or regular news pages are interested in all educational affairs for women. In the years that the opportunity for straight product publicity has shrunk, most newspapers have intensified home management news.
Department and chain store PR has its roots in the media departments that talk to their customers. When a local and an out of town expert appear on the same show, it gives PR several angles not available for the local expert. Using the lectures as a lead, the type of home and use research in stores and manufacturers' home economics departments is often a good woman's page story.
In addition to notifying education sources, PR should consider sponsoring a "business leader" luncheon at which the merchandising chief would outline the economics of new model merchandise.
Radio interviewers tend to prefer out of town guests, but where good relations exist, any local authority with a new story is welcome. Good preparation is the soul of these events.
Informing the Schools
Home economics teachers are under some restraints in commercial tie ins in most places. But teachers are flooded with "educational" matter by trade associations and manufacturers. It often occurs that a store "lecture" may be the missing link in special courses on subjects of education need such as new fabrics.
Letters of invitation should invite the teacher to come, and suggest that if she can use an "appearance," a local or factory sponsored speaker can visit the class or arrange a special lecture at the store.
Insuring Product Availability
While all PR material should be written in the future tense, none of its activities are exposed until the practitioner knows that the store will have full displays, ready for delivery on his specified date. Other types of promotion may kick dates around, but the entire idea of using PR techniques is "timing." The PR man never gives anything to a home editor that is not in the store, in quantities, for sale and delivery.
Regardless of its potential for general publicity results, after the fact publicity is vcrboten. PR in promotion is valuable to attract the crowd, to identify the new leading executive, or to tell of a planned action of the company. The subjects involved should be ready to go: the event is happening immediately, but never send anything after it has happened. In trade or other business publicity the postmortem story is bread and butter as: How to do it. But with consumers, tell only what's in store, and when it is.
In all product introduction campaigns PR should follow the marketing plan and product information from the start perhaps a year before the actual introduction of the product.
Media stories and events are timed, if possible, to coincide with a general national "week" or industry wide breakthrough. All interested audiences must be considered and used.
Who is the first "public" to get the story of an impending product innovation?
What other services or industries would be interested in a tie in with electric iron innovation?