Archive | January, 2012

How Research Can Impact a Public Relations Campaign

23 Jan

At my current internship at Maier & Warner PR, a boutique agency that specializes in real estate, I am developing a situational analysis to help build a public relations/marketing strategy for a new mixed-use community, Crown Farm. Maier & Warner’s client is in the planning process of developing Crown, which encompasses 182 acres and will include 2,250 homes and 350,000 square feet of retail. Located under a mile away from Shady Grove Metro Station and situated along a major highway, Crown will attract residents from around the D.C. metro area.

There are countless factors that play into the PR/marketing campaign for Crown. In order to develop the right tactics and implement a successful strategy, it is vital to consider all aspects surrounding the development. Since Crown is located in the heart of Montgomery County, and within commuting distance from Washington, D.C., it is important to know how the community can appeal to potential residents, in a competitive market.

S.W.O.T. Analysis:  Part of my research involved developing a S.W.O.T. analysis, to highlight the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that Crown encompasses. In order to successfully pinpoint these areas, I researched the economic and residential real estate conditions in the area, growth predictions for the future of Montgomery County (including jobs, population and new homes needed), demographics/psychographics, and the surrounding competition. Based on this research I found that Crown has multiple strengths, for example, its location and access to key aspects of the region and the appeal of a smart growth community. These factors will be important to highlight when marketing Crown. On the other hand, certain threats, like the economic recession, will also be a factor to consider.

Demographics: Demographic information is vital when considering who your target audience will be. One important aspect of Montgomery County’s demographics that largely affects Crown is the convergence of two major generations in American history: the Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and the Millennials (born between 1979 and 1996), which today represent half of the total population. Boomers, who are now empty nesters, want to live in a walkable urban downtown or a suburban town center according to a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors. The Millennials, just beginning to emerge from the nest, also favor urban downtowns and suburban town centers — for lifestyle reasons and the convenience of not having to own cars. This means Crown will target empty nesters as well as up and coming young professionals who prefer the urban sense of a mixed-use community.

Another demographic trend in Montgomery County is the rise of minority and foreign born residents, with the Asian ethnicity being the greatest proportion of minority growth. Also, the number of Montgomery County Asians living in homes they own increased from 55 percent to 70.9 percent, the largest shift of any racial group in the last decade (U.S. Census 2010). These statistics show that marketing to the Asian population will be important in Crown’s strategy. One way Maier & Warner plans to do this is through advertisements on AsianFortune.com, an English newspaper that targets over 800,000 Asian Americans in the Metropolitan Washington Area.

Psychographics: Besides knowing the demographics of our target audience like age, race and income, psychographics can help us understand the audience’s values, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles.  According to a recent survey of Internet usage commissioned by Prudential Fox & Roach, almost two-thirds of home buyers said they used the internet to identify potential homes, and thirty-five percent said they used recommendations found on social-media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter. Therefore, a key aspect of the marketing strategy will be utilizing social media to draw potential buyers to Crown.   Since Crown will be targeting an older generation, it is also important to know if they can be reached through social media.  According to research from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, social media usage amount adults 50-64 has doubled since 2009, and among adults 65 and up, social media usage has increased 150%. Along with other supportive statistics, evidence shows that social media can impact a broad range of homebuyers, and should be an aspect of Crown’s marketing and public relations strategy.


 

The goal of a public relations campaign is to break through any barrier that stands between an audience and a product, idea or service.  The goal of Crown is to develop a successful community in which residents live happily among thriving retail and in close proximity to jobs and resources. The barriers that exist in this campaign, for example the economic recession or the competitive communities in Montgomery County, can be addressed and defeated with the right strategy. Through my research I was able to help Maier & Warner develop this strategy and create a PR/ marketing campaign that will impact the success of Crown. Now, only time will tell if our strategy works!

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Pinterest Captures Visual Learners: New Marketing Tool for Businesses

17 Jan

Pinterest, a hot-new social networking site that everyone is talking about (and many have spent hours fawning over), has cracked the current list of top 10 social networks, according to Mashable. An invitation only site, Pinterest takes social sharing to another level,  acting as a platform to organize and post interesting or inspiring online images. The images are referred to as Pins, which users assign to specifically themed Boards. Popular themes for the 4 million users on Pinterest are interior decorating, wedding planning, and recipes. Thus, a bride-to-be may have a Wedding Board, and post pins of her dream dress, ring, flowers, decorations, etc. As simple as this may sound, there are a few key factors of Pinterest that have determined its success and make it a viable candidate for business marketing.

Viral Sharing: Pinterest encourages users to connect their accounts to their Twitter and Facebook pages, along with personal websites. Account widgets for these sites appear below a user’s profile bio, and individual Pins can be shared through each network. An important feature of Pinterest is the “Pin It” button, which can be added to a user’s “bookmarks bar” on their computer, allowing them to pin interesting images they find anywhere online to their Pinterest Boards.  Businesses can also add a “Pin It” button to their websites, allowing visitors to share something they find to their respective networks.  All of this online connectivity makes Pinterest convenient and relevant to already developed social networks, allowing companies to further increase their reach through new and exciting content. One example of marketing used through Pinterest is a “Pin It” contest that Samuel Gordon Jewelers did.  In order to win Honora Pearls, Samuel Gordon encouraged people to visit their website, pin photos of the jewelry to their personal boards, and share with their networks. The viral effect of this contest was huge, because of its simplicity and incentive.

Valuable Tool: Besides the fact that pinning random cool pictures all day can be very entertaining (cough, all I did yesterday: www.pinterest.com/swight), Pinterest can actually be a very valuable tool for someone with a specific purpose in mind. For example, some people create a Board for each room in their house and then pin decorating ideas for that room. Cooks can keep an online recipe box and students might create a shopping list of things they need to buy for school. Therefore, because people can create a variety of purposes for the site, and it’s geared towards actual online images that can potentially lead to product purchases, it is a key marketing tool for businesses to pursue.  Even though I created my profile for fun, it has prompted me to buy ingredients for multiple recipes, including a honey facial, day dream about my future honey moon in Bora Bora, check out the spring line of Stella & Dot jewelry and shop online at Nordstrom.com. Oh and not to mention the idea I found about putting a dollar in a jar every time I work out so I can splurge on a manicure every now and then. Talk about a call to action!

Visual Branding: According to a blog post on SpinSucks.com, a professional development website for PR pros, 84% of people are visual learners. Pinterest heavily feeds into this and creates a simple way to connect and group images to portray a sense of who you are. For example, let’s say I am developing my personal brand through Pinterest. I have chosen to emphasize my desire to travel, my sophisticated appetite, my appreciation for humor and romance and my dedication to fitness and appearance.  My Pinterest is a very clear and quick way for me to show potential friends, employers, in-laws, etc. what I encompass as a person. A company can market themselves on Pinterest in a very similar way. Not only can they post images of their products (with witty descriptions), they can personalize their brand by interacting with other users, and revealing their interests and ideals.  A really good example of this is Whole Foods Market– they don’t just market their products and they paint a picture of everything they stand for.

Image from their “Edible Art” Board

People use social networks to stay connected with friends, keep informed and engage with others. They don’t go on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn to read a bunch of advertisements and buy products. Pinterest is a space where people can create a virtual wish list, without any pressure to buy products or services or a time share in Thailand (although a girl can dream). It’s simply a place to post your cravings, goals and ideas that define who you are or wish to be. Meanwhile, it’s a subtle way for companies to display products that line up with your desires, without pushing a sale. Seems pretty perfect to me!

(*Side note: the use of V’s was a coincidence but I guess now I can call it the 3 V’s of Pinterest!)

The Reality of Senior Year

8 Jan

For me, and many other soon-to-be graduates that I’ve talked to, senior year has turned out to be way more stressful and less “college” than expected. When catching up with an old friend recently, I said I wished I had prepared more for this year and paid more attention to my career goals, etc. throughout college. However, she said she’s glad she was able to live her underclassman years with a carefree attitude and certain oblivion that has begun to disappear as graduation approaches. I completely agree; last year when I thought about graduation, I looked at it as a faraway place I wanted to avoid for as long as possible. I thought senior year would be full of reminiscing, having fun and dreading my life after. Although the stress that comes with entering the real world is unpleasant at times, I feel ready for it, and am looking forward to the next stage of my life.  My advice to the underclassmen who are still living in the somewhat carefree oblivion of college- enjoy it while it lasts. To those who feel the wave of maturity beginning to hit- doesn’t it feel surprisingly nice?

Applying to jobs takes a lot of time, hard work and planning, but setting goals for yourself and recognizing the rewards of your actions is very satisfying. Working on my resume, cover letter or researching different PR firms is actually enjoyable to me now. Every time I post something on Twitter that’s career related I feel a sense of accomplishment. What’s even more revealing of my growth as a soon-to-be PR professional is that I truly enjoy my internship projects.  When I interned during the summer after my freshman year, and even after my sophomore year, I avoided working extra hours and probably did the minimum of what was expected. Now, interning at Maier & Warner PR/Marketing, I like going into the office, accomplishing tasks, taking on challenging projects and learning from the experienced professionals I’m surrounded by. Thankfully, I know I chose a career path that is going to suit me well.

To summarize, I’d rather spend the day getting my life together (aka meeting PR professionals, editing my writing samples, or beefing up my resume) than sitting around watching Teen Mom. I’m assuming this means reality has set in and the façade of college is wearing off- just on time. It is honestly a relief that my natural ambition has set in, and I’m looking forward to life after college.

Unfortunately, it’s a little late in the game to have just started a blog, but writing for The Black Sheep publication kind of delayed my Word Press creation. However, as my job search continues, and I take on spring semester and an interesting digital internship before graduation, I hope to blog about relevant topics that will reveal my passions as I enter the real world.