Marketing & PR

I’ve been fortunate to do communications and marketing work for some great companies and people at Kodak, Xerox, eBay Inc., LinkedIn as well as GSI Commerce. And most recently, I recently served as Senior Vice President of Marketing and PR at the Savannah College of Art and design where I over saw all reputation and demand generation marketing for the school’s four campuses and online.

Prior to that I was CEO at Tweetalicious and am starting to do some PR/social media consulting. I also served on the board of directors of iFoster.org and was working closely with the founding management team there to develop a longer-range integrated communications program to help build awareness about the company and its mission to help foster families in the United States.

iFoster.org iFoster launched in October 2010 and has already begun to help more than 150,000 children in foster care in this country.  While management has been building and executing on the strategic plan, the team has also started its PR and social media program to  spread the word of its very worthy cause. In the very early days of its media relations program, we’ve been able to increase daily member acquisition 3x. Some of the things I’ve done in previous roles at LinkedIn, eBay and Ketchum Public Relations lend themselves well to the non-profits namely integrated programs that use social media tactics combined with traditional PR and marketing.

An integrated program allows small teams with small budgets to reach wider audiences with more efficiencies. The communications program will be based initially on traditional media relations tactics, but over time I will work with the team to start phasing in approaches to using LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter as awareness and engagement channels for joining and leading the dialog about the economic and personal needs for taking care of a child as a foster parent.

Starting a company in the age of social media

Organizations like iFoster and Tweetalicious (Tweetalicious Fact Sheet) that have started after the dawn of social media have a unique approach to companies that established themselves in our pre-Facebook world. Older companies use these networks to extend their brands and engage with existing audiences. Newer organizations need to build their brand reputations through these networks almost at the same time as doing all the other offline tactics to establish the business. Today’s consumers build relationships with brands through these social networks and absence is a liability to credibility.

For enterprise or business focused brands LinkedIn is one of the best ways to build a brand using both personal profiles and company pages.  What most people don’t recognize is that with a strong personal profile on LinkedIn — which allows for three degrees of connections — you can regularly reach more people than the Wall Street Journal.  The total number of subscribers for the WSJ is just over 2.1 million.  Meanwhile, a single status update on my LinkedIn profile can reach up to 9 million people based on my connections.  It takes elbow grease and regular management, but has strong ROI for organizations with limited budgets.

LinkedIn has done a lot to improve its company and university pages offering over the couple of years.  It used to be very difficult to manage the content on these pages, but with the addition of news feeds and a new products and services tab this area of the site can be a compelling area for organizations to build awareness and engagement — for free.

It’s intimidating. It’s new.  But once management teams get their bearings on how social media work hand-in-hand with PR and direct marketing, the approach to building a brand through engagement is not so different strategically than it was in the old days when ‘new media’ meant adding search marketing to the budget.

You put the organization through the same Problem, Solution and Desired Results exercise PR professionals have been using forever and hopefully build a case study like below over time:

Problem

  • By 2008, eBay Inc. built the largest, most diverse group of online classifieds businesses in the world (~800 employees world wide and ~4x the size of Craigslist in terms of revenues) but struggled with recruiting top talent into its organization due to lack of awareness and cache – despite being the fastest growing business unit inside the company.
  • Re-branding the unit had to be done in concert with the dominant eBay brand in mind without connoting its primarily auction-focused heritage.
  • Each brand within the unit (e.g. Marktplaats, Gumtree, LoQUo, Mobile.de) are dominant businesses and brands in their respective countries – customers of which new very little of their American parent company.
  • eBay Inc. was embroiled in a lawsuit with Craigslist in the U.S. – creating a halo of negativity around the segment.

Solution

  • Re-organized the PR teams supporting the 6 classifieds brands around the world into a single unit.
  • Created a brand positioning analysis in each of our priority markets (internal and external stakeholders on 3 continents).
  • Focused on a single objective for the re-branding of the unit – recruiting top engineering and operations talent to a fun, contemporary, fast growing organization with a career path broader than working within Marktplaats.nl or Mobile.de.
  • Channel the management and internal teams’ vision and passion for the business into a representative brand.

Results

Before:

  • No real unified name. No Web site or search engine presence except for the individual classifieds ad sites.
  • No recruitment appeal to come to the organization.
  • A brand driven by a Bain-like approach to PowerPoint and communications.

After:

  • eBay Classifieds Group.com corporate Web site http://www.ebayclassifiedsgroup.com/with a heightened emphasis on recruitment and culture.
  • More contemporary unifying look and feel to the brand — which was supported with messaging, story telling and integrated PR programs that would communicate how eBay Classifieds Group is related to the other brands within it.
  • Collaborative PR teams and programs — which kicked off with a media tour with Mobile.de in Germany.

Is there a there there?

This was one of the headiest and most fun communications programs I’ve ever been involved in. And I am proud to have been part of it and to see how the existing PR and marketing teams have strengthened this effort over the last couple of years.  I believe it provides a great model for how any organization can approach a business problem with an integrated communications solution.  At the outset we asked the only question that mattered:  Is there a there there?

The great and lasting brands answer that question across all their communications. Why? Because within the answer to that question is the rationale for why that company matters and how the world would be a lesser place without it. Getting to that story isn’t a creative challenge. Ideas are a dime a dozen. If ideation alone were the magic bullet to PR, writers and industry analysts would run communications teams. They don’t because challenge Number 1 to answering the question is creating the organizational design through which to drive that story – repeatedly, from many angles and in any language or region.

Special thanks to Text 100 and Sisu Media for your great work. Love Sisu’s positioning: “Small but mighty.”

– Jose Mallabo


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