Public Relations. Communications. Marketing.
Guerrilla Marketing
Millennials are all about digital media. Companies are clamoring for their piece of the pie on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. However, sometimes what you need is a little bit of guerrilla marketing. Now, not every PR-pro has the grit or the intuition for this sort of thinking outside the box, but I believe those who do have a distinct advantage to their counterparts who only work in the digital or traditional medium.

Some of the best campaigns have been grassroots movements that utilize traffic patterns or public spaces to advertise their message. Some of the first of these clever campaigns simply used bed sheets hung at dawn on overpasses to catch the L.A. traffic rush that often sees hundreds of thousands of commuters.

A few years ago, I served as editor and chief on a local forum that used guerrilla marketing techniques to reach our audience. One of these techniques was borrowed from a hobby called Car Casting whereby you basically created a tiny pirate radio station. It involved modifying a small FM transmitter that you could buy at any electronics store to broadcast your I-pod on to your car radio. I started looking a local laws to make sure I knew I was in compliance with the FCC (the signal had to be under 200 feet) and then I went to work soldering a much larger antenna and power source to the electronics. I was able to gain about 30% more range with a device that could fit in my pocket.

The result was I now had a device that could broadcast to the area around me. Effectively, with less than $50 in parts I could now broadcast whatever message I like to other cars, in a place of business or at sporting events. Today one could even mount the transmitter to a drone or a nearby building to gain further exposure.

Imagine sitting at a long red light in your car. Attached to the telephone pole is a cardboard sign that says, "Tune to 88.5 or Else!" (We can come up with the hook later). Curiosity gets the best of you and you do. On that same telephone pole is such a radio transmitter operated on a few batteries, broadcasting whatever message you want. Now imagine a very busy intersection and the thousands of people being reached inside their cars. That's pretty effective outreach.

Today, it's even easier as you can purchase ready made FM transmitters for Christmas displays.It's all completely legal too, as long as you don't broadcast too far.

This isn't unheard of either. Companies today are tying into technology such as wifi and celluar signals, especially at events gathering data and promoting their messages. That free-wifi you just connected to is a perfect opportunity for people like myself to advertise to you on a splash page and/or track your web surfing habits. Just remember that the next time you walk into Walmart (or the London Underground for my British audience) and agree to their terms of service for their wifi, that this is why they're doing it. It's a marketing platform that is also driving huge amounts of data for them to use in future marketing efforts.

While there's always a place for direct relationships on social media, sometimes what gives a campaign a creative advantage is the ability to think outside the box and build a broader set of tools where you're in control of the data instead of these large social media companies.

Yesterday I went out to eat at a restaurant. On the table was a bottle of Heinz Ketchup. The label read, "Take a Selfie for Good". By posting a picture online with your Heinz bottle, Heinz would donate up to $200,000 to Stop Hunger Now.

Did anyone else feel awkwardly uncomfortable after reading that?

That's right.... while you shovel your face full of food, you can relieve some of your middle-class burden by snapping a selfie on your mobile phone (likely quite expensive in itself) and Heinz will help those out who are too starving to afford their own meal at the restaurant (or even a bottle of ketchup). Don't do it and you're letting the poor people starve.

While I'm certain such campaigns are effective on some people, I suddenly lost all respect for Ketchup (and Heinz's public relations team) in that moment and grabbed a bottle of A1 instead (unfortunately Kraft owns them too). I know someone in marketing at their corporate office thought this was a good idea. I can imagine someone got their ideas right out of Coca-Cola's playbook. Remember all the Coke selfies people were taking with their personalized names on them? "Brilliant!", someone thought. Except, the difference was their campaign wasn't contrived. It didn't guilt people into taking the pictures, people wanted to do it. That's a big difference.

When I got home, I decided to Google the campaign. It has now finished, of course, but doing a quick Google image search for "Selfie for Good", yielded almost no results for Heinz. Googling "Heinz Selfie for Good", yielded about two dozen images. That's not much of a response for so large and expensive a campaign.  So did it work?

Well I took notice but didn't like the feeling of the campaign. I was forced to contemplate starvation and America's socio-economic crisis while eating a lemon and rosemary sirloin. No body wants to do that! I go out to eat to relax!  Also, I would have felt quite stupid posting a picture of ketchup to my Instagram and I'm guessing others would too. The bigger question you have to ask of a corporation as large as Heinz, why wouldn't you donate the money anyways (they probably would for tax purposes)? So, I think the lesson here is, innovate your campaigns, don't copy them, and when appealing to your audience's emotions, guilt is not one in which you should use unless you're certain how people will respond to it.

Should we share our salary with co-workers?

Information Asymmetry is a bit like playing poker. It's the ability to keep a straight face, and withhold information to your strategic advantage until which point you leverage the information against the other party. Blogging has done a lot in recent years to create more transparent communications for organizations but, often, especially with internal communications such practices of information asymmetry are embedded into the culture of the work environment.

One particular video takes on a humorous look at what would happen if we all shared our salaries and provides a general explanation of the practice of asymmetry with regards to internal communications.

If we understand that information has an inherent economic value and communications professionals are the guardians of such wealth, then we must ask is it truly more beneficial to exploit such imbalances or do organizations who practice such techniques, actually do themselves harm?

The answer is actually really simply. If an organization has sufficient trust  (reputation) with it's stakeholders, then asymmetrical communications can provide a competitive advantage for the firm. If this trust cannot be transferred, perceived or understood, then quite often we find that symmetrical communications, both internally and externally, are favorably with regards to the economics of information.

Why? Well, without a feedback loop for communicators to quantify their communications, it's quite possible that such practices could become antiquated in their effectiveness and result in long-term disadvantages as a consequence of not completely understanding the effects of such communication styles towards their audience. In the above example, this could relate to the long-term retention of talent or with external audiences, brand reputation and loss of trust.

Of course that still doesn't make any of us more likely to share our salary.

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