Monday, February 9

Measuring Communication, Intent Part 3 (ROC)

According to Julia Hyde, people expect a "real" company to have printed sales literature (even online companies). Specifically, she says, every company needs a brochure if you want people to "know you mean business."

She then goes on to define twelve steps needed to produce the most effective brochure possible. Some points are better than others, but one key question is missing. What is the intent of the brochure? Since Hyde only provides one answer — to be credible — it seems she never really asked the question.

Most people never ask that question. It's apparent because most brochures start and end the same way — the presentation of a formulaic template, starting with "about us," following with "products" or "services," and concluding with "clients" or maybe "contact" information. Right on. Most Web sites read the same way.

If you want the right outcomes, ask the right questions.

Don't misunderstand me. Brochures, sales collateral, and Web sites can all be extremely useful. However, the better question is "what is the intent of the brochure?" as opposed to "what size brochure?" In fact, in asking this, the company might even decide there is a better communication tactic or tool for the intent of the communication.

The same can be said about the basic news release. The better question is "what is the intent of releasing this news?" as opposed to "what can we get in the news this week?" Or online, the question might be "what is the intent of the Web site?" as opposed to "how many search terms can we capture?" or "how cool can we make it look?"

While all communication tactics might be useful to companies, defining the purpose of the communication or campaign needs to be tied to the outcomes you hope to achieve. And, at the same time, whatever tactics are decided upon must still meet the objectives of the company, its communication strategy, and reinforce its brand equity in the short term.

If there is no intent, then any outcomes are nothing but luck.

For example, I often wondered what the intent of Burger King's Whopper Sacrifice gimmick was before it was disabled by Facebook.

If it was to give away free burgers, then maybe it worked. If it was to generate "online buzz" about Burger King, then I suppose it worked (except for the 233,906 people de-friended.) If it was to demonstrate the company's philosophical differences with Facebook, there is no question it worked. But other than meaningless intent, did it sell more burgers?

Did the free burger campaign only capture Burger King fans that would have bought one anyway? Did all the buzz drive McDonald's diehards to Burger King instead or make someone who eats one Whopper a week buy two the next week? Do anti-social campaigns reinforce the Burger King brand?

And for that matter, do people want to eat angry burgers? Take a look at the logic, and then maybe you can tell me. Or better yet, tell them. It's clear there was no intent whatsoever.

Defining the purpose of communication helps make it measurable

If your intent is to engage customers, then maybe a brochure can wait. If you want to establish an expert position in a market, then maybe a mass blast to journalists on the set schedule of eight releases per month (or whatever) contradicts that goal. If you want to attract prospects toward a sales funnel, then simply owning top searches (YahooBuzz, yesterday: Stimulus Package, Obama, and Jessica Simpson) that attracts everybody doesn't make much sense. (It might even make some of them mad.)

On the contrary, most companies simply need to connect with people who are looking to purchase a product or service that they offer (eg., Southwest Airlines vs. major airlines). Some companies have to change people's behavior to get them to purchase their product over another (e.g., iPhone vs. smart phones). A few companies need to sway public opinion so potential customers ask questions that will eventually lead them to the company (e.g., Subway vs. burger chains).

Can a brochure do this? Can scads of news releases? Can online buzz?

Maybe it can and maybe it can't. Or, to answer Karen Somerville's question "do micro sites work effectively in raising brand awareness and allowing content to be spread virally?" with some questions ... does the micro site even convey Burger King's brand? I see a logo, but the brand? And what is the intent anyway? Is it supposed to motivate people to do something related to the objectives of the company?

Sure, the original angry onion commercial made sense in terms of product branding. It was a new spicy burger. Got it. Nice creative too.

The micro site, on the other hand, had a flawed intent. The intent was to go viral. And that basically means the intent was to make noise. Right on, but making noise and buying a burger are different. Unless, of course, someone is counting this post among earned column inches. (Don't laugh. Someone is counting column inches on this blog and others. I assure you.)

More often than not, the "why" you need to communicate and the "what" you communicate, will dictate the "how" you communicate. So if the intent is to introduce something new (which the micro site does not), then that intent is different than than the objectives of increasing sales or capturing market share (which is what Burger King really wants to do).

Or, going back to the original example, when the intent of communication is to engage customers, then a brochure might not be the most effective communication tactic. And, if you really do need a brochure, then you might consider what outcomes you expect it to achieve. (To educate prospects about your products or services is not an answer.)

Maybe. But if you want to know the truth, most people who accept formulaic template brochures do so for one of four reasons: to show to the real decision maker (which means they need it for their credibility and not yours), to compare you to your competition (because you didn't close the deal), to remind them to visit your Web site (because they already know they won't remember you), or because it's a polite way to conclude the conversation. If you hope it does more, you need a better intent.

Next week, we'll begin exploring intent realization. There are other considerations to ensure intent measures up.

Download The Abstract: Measure: I | O = ROC

The ROC is an abstract method of measuring the value of business communication by recognizing that the return on communication — advertising, marketing, public relations, internal communication, and social media — is related to the intent of the communication and the outcome it produces. Every Monday, the ROC series explores portions of the abstract.


Unknown on 2/9/09, 1:32 PM said...

Very true, there are a variety of ridiculous decisions made in PR without any consideration for any type of intent.

It seems resources are spread so thin across all PR efforts in hopes that one may stick. It's the old quantity over quality debate.

You should write a book themed around the ineffectiveness of macro PR.

A lot of money is wasted, not to mention lots of time and energy!

Rich on 2/9/09, 4:34 PM said...


Great tactics come from great strategies. It does not happen the other way around. And if it does, it's just dumb luck that will eventually run out.

I agree with you too. The real challenge is to recognize when the intent of an agency or firm becomes to sell as many products as possible with almost no concern for developing the right plan with the right mix. Eventually, the client suffers.

That would be a good topic to write about for a book. However, I promised myself not to not keep swapping out the order of those books on deck.

The first one has to remain first — the hobbit version of my lord of the rings fragile brand theory.


All my best,


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