Robinett Marketing

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

McGwire Speaks Out - A Careful PR Orchestration

I'll preface this post with a disclaimer about my Cardinals and McGwire bias: I became a die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan in 1997 after moving to one of the best baseball towns in America. My husband proposed to me before a surprise trip to Spring Training 2001, where we witnessed the debut of El Hombre, Albert Pujols. I own a #25 t-shirt, though it hasn't seen a game at Busch Stadium in recent years. I actually gave a speech wearing that red t-shirt for a master's communication course - the topic was "passion." I used to defend McGwire vehemently to others who claimed he used steroids, secretly telling myself that it wasn't normal for a first baseman to have 17" forearms - larger than the average man's neck circumference.

That being said, it was very clear that Mark McGwire sought the counsel of a communications professional (or team of professionals) for his national evening news-leading announcement yesterday. The carefully orchestrated timeline of Mark's communication with multiple key audiences was more than just coincidence.

  • Sunday Evening - McGwire calls Pat Maris, Roger Maris' widow, to apologize

  • Monday Morning - Informs family; Calls Tony LaRussa & Bud Selig

  • Monday Afternoon - Statement released to the Associated Press; Conducted one-on-one interviews with several news outlets, including The New York Times.

  • Monday Evening - Gives first televised interview on the subject to St. Louis' own Bob Costas on MLB Network.
McGwire's announcement was more than a blanket apology - he provided details about the decade-long steroid use, his rationale for using PEDs to combat years of ongoing injuries, the legal advice he received prior to the 2005 Congressional hearings, and most importantly, he appeared contrite and sincere about what the situation has done to damage his reputation and hurt his family and friends who stood by him for years.

The announcement and subsequent responses from sports media and fans have trended on Twitter in the last 24 hours. The feedback, as with that on local sports call-in shows in St. Louis and even among former Cardinal players, has been divided. It was critical for McGwire to address the steroid issue far enough in advance of reporting to 2010 Spring Training in Jupiter for his new job as the Cardinals' hitting coach that it wouldn't become a distraction for the team.

The Cardinals commented on McGwire's admission, praising him for his "profuse" and "repeated" apology regarding his actions. While that may be the expected stance of a new employer defending a team legend, the statement was important to eliminate any doubt that the Cardinals' organization is having second thoughts about their choice of candidates.

Regardless of whether or not the Baseball Writers' Association will ever grace McGwire with a 75 percent vote necessary for the Hall of Fame, the announcement was necessary for McGwire to ensure a future as a coach in the game of baseball.

Friday, November 13, 2009

How Word-Of-Mouth Marketing Changed Black Friday Forever

As marketers, we tell our clients - "Don't create a Web site or a blog if you don't have a plan to maintain it." Practice what you preach, right? Apparently life seems to get in the way of great blogging intentions, and we'd wager a guess that we're not alone in that. Please pardon our lengthy blogging hiatus.

Back to today's post...Black Friday, the most sacred of bargain shopping days and the official kick-off to the traditional holiday shopping season, used to be the highlight of opening the Thanksgiving Day newspaper. It was so stuffed with advertisements that you felt sorry for the neighborhood kids stuck with paper routes that day, lugging around bags full of newspapers 10X the size of a Sunday paper. Newspaper and TV ads promoting "lowest prices of the year" and "doorbuster specials" were the media of choice for retailers. And consumers were limited to a 24-hour sneak peek at those great bargains.

In the last few years, either employees of the printing companies responsible for the ads or store employees looking to share the inside scoop with friends and family, discovered that scanning the ads and e-mailing copies of the circulars could make them instant heroes. That inside information was power. Not only could you find out where all the great deals were a few days before the Shopping Holy Day, but you could map out your shopping strategy for the morning in hopes of knocking out your entire Christmas shopping list in a matter of hours.

Oh, has technology changed that. There are now e-mail lists, Web sites, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages dedicated to Black Friday (BF). If you're a dedicated bargain hunter looking for BF deals, you're on the prowl more than a month in advance. Retailers recognize the increased sales potential and are likely leaking copies of the ads to prominent bloggers and Web sites to encourage the hype. Poor-quality scans of the circulars are making their way online already in late October. Sites like and have loyal fans and subscribers to their e-mail alerts and more than 64,000 followers on Facebook. While those sites go quiet in the shopping "off season," the fans and followers remain loyal - hoping to be the first to hear of leaked ads and this year's great deals. Shoppers are resourceful and willing to help other bargin hunters, sharing secrets and shopping tips to find the best deals.

The economy has undoubtedly played a role in increased store hours and earlier openings on BF, but we'd like to think that consumer demand for discounts and deals, and now having weeks to plan the perfect BF shopping day, have also contributed significantly to the changes.

You know where we'll be on Friday, November 27!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Your Polling Location Is...

We live in St. Louis, Missouri, the hotbed of presidential (and vice presdential) campaign activity in recent months. No exaggeration, we received seven phone calls yesterday about the election. That's in addition to the 18 direct mail pieces and 15 "Dear Sarah" e-mails in the last week.

What I found very interesting was the microtargeting used in one particular phone call. Whatever your party preference, there was a marked difference between the McCain and Obama phone calls. The robocalls from the RNC instructed me to log on to to find my polling place. Instead of assuming I had internet access, the pre-recorded message from Obama himself was microtargeting our household, providing us with our exact polling location.

The geotargeting of phone calls and online ads, including those within Facebook, show a strategic marketing courtship of voters. On the local level, proponents, or opponents, of Propositions in St. Louis and across the state are using banner and Pay-Per-Click ads to raise awareness of the issues.

While our decision for next Tuesday was not swayed by the calls, multimedia ads or direct mail, there was a clear difference in how we were being marketed. There was a shift in this campaign from traditional radio, TV and direct mail to new media and the customization it can accomodate. Politicians are incorporating creative ways to target voters, just as many B2C companies have been doing for years. Politics is big business and to think otherwise is missing the microtargeting boat.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Getting Married, Girls? Say Goodbye to Brand Equity

I have a wedding coming up next week that I've been looking forward to for a long time. I'm really happy for my friend, Kara, and excited to see her all dolled up on her big day.

Getting married, at least the formal paperwork part of the life change, is a bit of a lop-sided experience. It may be the best decision of a new bride's life, but the necessary forms to make it, and "the merger" official, can cause more than a few headaches. Social security card, driver's license, bank accounts, e-mail addresses, car title, you name it. If only everything could be as easy as updating your name on your Facebook profile. The groom, on the other hand, may need to take a trip to the bank to sign some paperwork, or the DMV to change the name(s) on a car title. The bulk of the hassle, though, is on the glowing new bride.

I look at most of life a little differently through my marketing communications filter. To me, the whole idea of suddenly changing your name is a bit nuts. (That said, I'm guilty of doing it without giving it much thought. It must've been love.) You build brand equity with your name over more than 25 years, in most cases. Without hyphenating your last name, that brand equity can be lost with your "I do." For those of us in the PR profession, your name can be the key to landing an interview or saving yourself a 5-minute introduction. I, and many of my female friends, opted for the "interim rebranding," using both maiden name and new last name during the transition. When corporations combine forces or acquire a new company, they set up a 18- to 24-month merger or acquisition plan. Brides in the business world may want to consider a similar abbreviated version of this strategy. It probably doesn't require temporary business cards, but updating your e-mail signature, voicemail, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles to include both names for at least 3-4 months may save you time and confusion. Your coworkers and business contacts will become familiar with your new name and will barely notice when your maiden name is no longer included. And, for those social networking sites where you may connect with friends and coworkers from your college days, you may want to reference your maiden name indefinitely.
I guess when it comes down to it...there has to be something to offset the cost of that diamond, right?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

All Aboard the Customer Experience

A few weeks ago, we took a much-anticipated vacation out West. We'd made our reservations months before and couldn't wait for the best part of the trip - a train ride to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Before our Google search, we'd never heard of the Grand Canyon Railway...but now it's a company that'll be tough to forget.
The Grand Canyon Railway has figured out the secret to a successful customer experience. The brand is everywhere - the artwork in the hotel and on-site restaurant, the train tickets and meal vouchers, the Wild West shootout before the train ride, the photo opp for all passengers with the historic steam engine (available for purchase, of course, on your return trip), the period musicians that perform during the ride, the labeled water bottles handed out to each passenger before disembarking the train, the champage toast and even the "robbery" on the return trip to Williams, AZ. The company had thought of every possible brand touchpoint.
And the best part of it all, we're now blogging about it - with a word of mouth recommendation for you to consider the Grand Canyon Railway for your next family vacation.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Intranet - A Key Component in Employee Communications

An effective intranet can serve as a central source of news and information for your medium- or large-sized organization. Incorporating forums and message boards enable your employees to provide you with real time feedback to let you know what you're doing well...and what needs improvement.
Are you looking for ways to increase the communications potential of your existing intranet? E-mail us for more information.

UPDATE - We were on to something a year ago. Still true today -