Keeping up with the Kardashian Brand

Kardashian. Even if you don’t want to, you know the name. You may watch the slew of reality television shows associated with the name (Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kourtney & Kim Kardashian Take New York, Khloe & Lamar). Or perhaps you shop at Dash (the Kardashian boutique) or Sears (the Kardashian Kollection clothing line). Or maybe you’ve read and weighed in about Kim Kardashian’s scandalous divorce with basketball pro Kris Humphries. Was it real? Was it fake? Was it all for money? Regardless, the name is everywhere (perfumes, weight loss supplements, jewelry, fitness videos, credit cards, cosmetics, Barbie dolls, etc). Hate it or love it, talent or no talent— no matter what you may think of the brand itself, it does have a powerful recognition — worth an estimated $65 million.

While a public divorce and paternity scandal (it’s rumored that the late Robert Kardashian isn’t the birth father of Khloe Kardashian) has kept the Kardashian name in the news, another PR and branding crisis may be looming. In recent news, the NY Post reported that the Kardashian brand is tarnishing — and fast. According to the article, “Ratings for the family’s reality show have plummeted, sales of magazines with Kim Kardashian’s mug go unsold, and her products are unmarketable, insiders say.” In fact the article continues to share some startling statistics that may just prove that the Kardashian brand is in trouble.

These include:

· E!’s Kardashian TV franchise — “Keeping up with the Kardashians” — suffered a 14 percent dip in Nielsen ratings, from 3.5 million viewers per episode last season to 3 million this season.

· Circulation at Us Weekly, In Touch, Life & Style and OK! dropped about 18 percent when a Kardashian was on the cover in December, publishers said.

· Skechers ditched Kim as the face of the company in 2011 — they’ve replaced her with a French bulldog.

In fact, 500,000 consumers have signed an online petition to boycott companies that partner with Kim Kardashian at BoycottKim.com. The site claims Kardashian has “made a mockery of American culture.” And while I can’t disagree, I also can’t stop watching.

This begs the question—what can be done to help save the seemingly toxic Kardashian brand? The answer may lay within the successful mastermind behind the brand, Kardashian mother, Kris Jenner. Kris manages all of her daughters’ careers and is president of her own production company, Jenner Communications. She’s proven that she’s a marketing and branding genius. From controlling the news to making sure consumers are left wanting more, Jenner has positively and continually exposed the Kardashian brand.

It will be interesting to see if the Kardashian brand is sustainable— where will it be in three years? What creative marketing tactics will be used to salvage the brand? Will the Kardashian brand find news way to connect with its audience, fans, and customers? What do you think? Are you ready for the Kardashian brand to retire? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

PR Definition

We work in PR – and soon we’ll be able to tell you exactly what that means

A while back I jokingly joined a Facebook group called, “I Work in PR and My family and Friends Have No Idea What I Do,” partly out of curiosity, but mostly because it’s true. Chances are the description will strike a chord if you work in the industry:

“They know we spend all day at an office and that we are very busy, but no one we know understands what it is we do all day. We are equally unable to explain it to them.”

But that’s all about to change, hopefully.

It’s no secret that public relations has a PR problem. Forget the tension with the media (it’s high time to declare a truce and move on…but that’s another post); I’m talking about the fact that – while a myriad of definitions are floating around – existing descriptions are neither intuitive nor able to encompass PR’s ever-evolving scope of work.

PRSA’s definition of public relations was last updated in 1982. Over the course of the past 10 years, the organization has assembled two special committees to explore modernizing the definition of public relations, but recent discussions, blog posts, tweets and mainstream articles have called for more decisive action. Public relations professionals, having grown tired of lack a de facto industry definition and unhappy with current descriptions, want to both modernize the definition and increase its value.

So late last year the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) decided to tackle this conundrum with its “Public Relations Defined” initiative, setting out to answer the question, “What is public relations?” After collaborating with partners in allied associations and calling for open submissions, PRSA unveiled its three definition possibilities this past week:

1. Public relations is the management function of researching, engaging, communicating, and collaborating with stakeholders in an ethical manner to build mutually beneficial relationships and achieve results.
2. Public relations is a strategic communication process that develops and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their key publics.
3. Public relations is the engagement between organizations and individuals to achieve mutual understanding and realize strategic goals.

We’ve got until January 23 to review, react and comment, and then the collective feedback will be aggregated and analyzed for use in a second “Definition of PR” summit. The goal of that meeting will be to produce three final definitions, on which the profession will be invited to vote, and then the final definition is slated to be announced at the end of February. For more information, annotated versions of the definitions and to leave your thoughts for consideration in the process, click here.

Do you think the definitions above are on track? If not, how would you better define PR? We’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

A “Win-Win PR Situation” for Abercrombie & Fitch

The SituationApparel retailer, Abercromie and Fitch issued a statement on Tuesday titled “A Win-Win Situation,” in which it stated a “deep concern” over the association between Mr. Sorrentino and the brand. A&F offered up a “substantial payment” to Mr. Sorrentino “to wear an alternate brand.” For those of you that live under a rock, the above mentioned, Mr. Sorrentino aka ‘The Situation’ found instant stardom as one of the notorious cast members of MTV’s hit reality series Jersey Shore.

Apparently, following last week’s episode of the Jersey Shore, A&F executives thought it was “terrible, terrible news” that The Situation was sporting a pair of A&F sweatpants. Execs were so distraught that they immediately asked “What are we going to do it about this?”

Of course the most obvious solution would be to compensate Mr. Sorrentino (as well as other cast members) for NOT wearing their brand of clothing and to issue a public statement about the request. OF course! Oh and coincidentally, the timing of the statement resulted in its reference during yesterday’s A&F earnings call during which the retailer’s Chief Executive Mike Jeffries chuckled, “Is no one going to ask about the Situation?” Hmm….

This PR flack thinks this was pure brilliance. Issuing a public statement requesting that perhaps one of THE most well-known reality casts stop wearing their brand has only drawn increased attention to their label of preference. This strategy had their story leading off all the national morning shows, including The Today Show, feature coverage in the Wall Street Journal, and all the top national dailies, as well as features in all the celebrity rags and fashion trades. On top of that, The Situation, and A&F are also nationally trending topics on Twitter today!

Well played, Abercrombie. It will be interesting to see if these reality stars bite and if so, what other brands will jump on the anti-Jersey Shore bandwagon. I guess the old adage holds true – any publicity is good publicity…???

What do you think about this PR strategy? Share your comments below.

Stressed PR pros should stress the pros of PR

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire public relations officers.” -Daniel J. Boorstin, historian

Stressed PR ProWhen CareerCast posted a list of the top ten most stressful jobs this week, listing “Public Relations Officer” as the second most pressure-filled career (behind commercial airline pilots), it certainly sparked conversation in the social media sphere. From shout-outs of appreciation by those who made the list to cries of indignation from those who were excluded, there’s no doubt that the list had a polarizing effect on people from every professional path.

With a sluggish economy and an all-too-high level of unemployment, it’s no surprise that job stress is a hot topic. And yes, although I am biased, I do agree that a 24/7 news cycle, infinite avenues of information, smaller budgets, higher stakes and intense deadlines all contribute to PR’s virtual rollercoaster of thrills, chills and spills from one minute to the next. But – while lists such as these do provide a certain sense of validation – they also seem to miss the point.

Any job, regardless of field, is inherently stressful. Why? Because stress is subjective. For every person who shudders at the thought of getting up and giving a presentation, there’s a natural performer who lives for the chance to take to the stage. Sure, CareerCast cites high levels of responsibility for protecting a client’s image, public speaking opportunities, competitiveness and super-tight deadlines as the reasoning behind PR’s #2 ranking on the list. But for people who thrive on a fast-paced environment and who have a propensity for thinking quickly on their feet, it can be a career that is as rewarding as it is challenging.

So what are the pros, according to us PR pros? Check out this list of our top five reasons why PR, as a career path, is still worth considering:

  1. Variety is the spice of PR life: It can vary day-to-day and hour-to-hour (heck, even minute-to-minute), so if you’re looking for a career that will ward off boredom, PR may be a great fit. Particularly for us agency folks, we get exposure to a number of different companies, industries and challenges, bringing something new and exciting every day.
  2. Ability to go both broad and deep: From high-level strategy to media relations, drafting a press release to representing a company at a conference, PR pros have the opportunity to flex numerous mental muscles. But as with every team, you’re only as successful as the sum of your parts, so each member plays a vital role leveraging his or her natural “sweet spots.” For example, one person might be a big-picture thinking and a fountain of ideas during creative brainstorms, while another loves getting into the nitty-gritty of tactical elements of a campaign.
  3. There’s room for everyone: Yes, we are known for being master communicators and bringers of creative ideas, brainstorms and attention-grabbing antics, yet the most successful PR pros also know how to put their money where their mouth is and measure success in the form of analytics and metrics. Because what some dismiss as “fluff,” actually contributes to the bottom line, and we can prove it
  4. Access/interaction with execs: Regardless of where you’re at on the career totem pole, PR pros get excellent exposure to and opportunities to collaborate with senior executives as client companies when, normally, it requires years, if not decades, to secure a spot amongst the C-levels. We not only get the chance to be active participants in shaping the communications strategy of a company, but also get the added gift of learning firsthand about leadership
  5. High risks can translate into great rewards: Sometimes a solid communications strategy can be the determining factor in bringing a company back from the brink when its reputation is at stake. And while, yes, these crisis situations can certainly be stressful, there’s nothing more rewarding than being able to play a sometimes-critical role in helping to save or shape the future of an organization

But enough from us; we’d love to hear from you – what are your favorite parts of the PR gig?

How to be a Good PR Client

In the client/service business, there’s always a lot of discussion about how the vendor can treat the client well, what constitutes good client service and how to yield valuable results. But it’s also important to think about what it takes to be a good client – like any relationship, it takes two. As the economy picks up and marketing budgets return, PR, marketing and social media agencies are adding to their rosters again – so it’s a good time to take a look at what it means to be a good client, in order to get the most out of your agency investment.

First, it’s important to understand why being a good client matters. Being a good client means you’re taking your investment seriously and that you’ve thought about your ROI. It also means that you understand a PR firm can’t work in a vacuum – you have a responsibility as a client to work with your agency as a partner – to provide resources and information, to participate in the process, to ensure decisions are pushed through in a timely manner, and to give thoughtful and productive feedback.

Make the Right Investments

Too often, companies want to invest as little as possible into PR – and yet have great expectations. They compare themselves to other companies who invest 10x what they do into PR and marketing, and expect the same level of awareness, which is unrealistic. The bottom line is that you get in what you put out – both financially and from a time perspective. PR is not only about good communication and strategy, but it’s about the time available to execute on that strategy. Promoting something in one place or only one time is much less effective than a continual stream of information – and having an agency get information out in a consistent manner means they need the time – and the budget – to do so. Yes, good – even great – things can happen on smaller budgets. Just be sure you aren’t expecting $35,000 results on a $5,000 budget.

Check Your Expectations

This is especially important for companies that want “quick hits” – that is, they expect an agency to quickly place really big feature media hits or social media campaigns that drive action – such as buying a product or downloading an app – and don’t want to “waste time” on trend pieces, market overviews that include competitors, product reviews, social media campaigns or other “less important” outlets like blogs. They don’t want to listen to the agency’s counsel on why other elements of PR matter just as much as media relations.

The truth is, a big part of PR is helping to establish, build and promote a brand – not just your product, but a credible and likable entity that people want to do business with and that they trust. This doesn’t happen overnight, or even in one week. Many companies don’t think about brand credibility as it relates to PR – or they don’t really care. They just want to launch a product or service, get media coverage and expect the world to want to buy from them. But for long-term success, it’s necessary to understand PR’s valuable role in building thought leadership alongside product promotion, and to stop comparing yourself to the 500 pound Gorillas in your industry. Unless you’re Apple, Twitter, Microsoft or Facebook, stop expecting your PR agency to get feature articles about you on the cover of Fast Company or Wired when you just launched a week ago (even Twitter, founded in 2006, didn’t land there for a couple of years). In 99% of cases, it’s not realistic. And when your agency gets you in a trend piece that also features those 500 pound Gorillas, respect the process – it’s all a part of building your industry credibility.

Be Respectful

Like any good relationship, an agency/client one is best when there is mutual respect, open communication and a sense of equality. Remember you hired a PR agency to help your business succeed, and you must trust that they are going to do that – understanding they are there as a helpful partner, not an adversary. If you talk openly and frankly with your agency, tell them the real story – including the fact that you do indeed have competitors, or when something goes wrong with the product or service that you offer – and bring them into planning early, they can do a better job. Withholding information, berating your account team when something goes awry, or never taking the agency’s counsel does not make a good, trusting partnership. Even the best PR teams can run into situations where a strategy didn’t work – and was out of their control – like your broadcast coverage being canceled because war broke out and dominated the news.

In the end, any good investment is worth protecting, and that includes the relationship with your PR firm. Make it a positive one and you’ll get more positive results.