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Putin, Pussy Riot, and PR

by Bruce Wiseman

Will Pussy Riot get their man?

The Russian, feminist punk rock group with the shock-jock name, Pussy Riot, has given Vladimir Putin a PR black eye.

More accurately, he’s given himself one.

Putin, the former KGB spook, who seems to think the Russian public love to see him bare-chested like a Playboy centerfold, has pictures of himself plastered across the media with his shirt off, hunting tigers, riding horseback and even fishing.

But the Vlad Man, it turns out, is not the sharpest PR knife in the drawer.

On February 12, 2012, five members of Pussy Riot adorned in strikingly colored balaclavas, entered the cathedral of Christ the Savior Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. They ran up to the empty altar, jumped around and sang what they called a supplicatory prayer, asking the Mother of God to “Drive Putin Away.”

It’s hard to elevate this incident above the level of a punk rock prank. But based on complaints from the church, three of the girls were subsequently arrested for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred. The other two fled the country.

Vladimir, the bare-chested beefcake, had a PR choice here. He could take the high road, side with the young women, laugh it off, bring the power of his office to their defense and become a hero to Russian youth positioning himself with freedom of artistic expression, and the defense of Russian motherhood (two of the charged were mothers of small children).

Or…he could take the path of an intolerant bully.

To wit:

Of the three that were arrested, one got out on appeal, the other two (the mothers of the small children) are serving two-year prison sentences in labor camps in Siberia where temperatures can get below -58 Fahrenheit.

The backlash from human rights groups and several of the world’s leading musicians has deluged the Macho Man and Alexi II, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox church, positioning them as despots and oppressors of artistic expression.

Sting, Peter Gabriel, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Paul McCartney among many other artists have actively voiced their support for Pussy Riot. Not to be outdone, at a recent concert in Moscow, Madonna stripped off her blouse and performed in her black bra revealing the words Pussy Riot stenciled across her back in large black letters.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/video/2012/aug/08/madonna-pussy-riot-moscow-video

In the last several months, Putin’s approval rating has dropped to the lowest level in 13 years. We don’t know that the Pussy Riot incident is responsible for all of the decline, but it is date co-incident with their trial and subsequent imprisonment in Siberia.

It’s a PR world today, and while you may not be the President of a country with 11 times zones, if you are an owner, manager or marketing executive, it is vital to understand and use PR.

A common omission I find with many new clients is a complete omission of PR in their marketing mix when it should be leading the way and driving the brand into the mind of their public.

Listen to Al Ries, the author of Positioning The Battle for Your Mind, the book voted as the best marketing book of the twentieth century by the readers of Advertising Age, the industry’s bible.

“Advertising doesn’t build brands, publicity does. Advertising can only maintain brands that have been created by publicity.

“The truth is, advertising cannot start a fire. It can only fan a fire after it has been started. To get something going from nothing, you need the validity that only third-party endorsements can bring. The first stage of any new campaign ought to be public relations.”

This quote comes from his more recent, The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR, a brilliant read, which he wrote with his daughter – and partner – Laura Ries.

The most rudimentary form of third party endorsement, of course, is testimonials. But some folks bury those so deep on their websites it takes a bomb squad to dig them out. I was on a client’s website recently and it took three different clicks to reach several outstanding client video interviews.

Who knew?

Put those right out there where visitors to your site see them immediately.

In referencing PR here, however, I am talking more about getting articles placed in your industry’s magazines, doing radio and television interviews – telling your story to lots of people.

These days, the Internet also enables you to send out “optimized” press releases. In addition to using “key words” in the release, these can also include embedded video clips, links to relevant Web pages, and options for sharing the release on social networks. I had Tom Jacoby of Number One on the List (www.numberoneonthelist.com) do this for me a few months ago promoting one of my books, and the press release was picked up by 6,000 sites.

Still, third party endorsement has even more credibility.

A client of ours got an article placed in one of the leading magazines of the industry in which he operates. The article carried the story of one of our client’s customers raving about our client’s service. Sales screamed for months.

As some of you know, in addition to my marketing company, I write books – fiction and non-fiction (www.johntrumanwolfe.com – my pen name).

I had retained a friend of mine, Laurie Jessup, a professional PR (http://prestigeleader.com/laurie-jessup/), to see if she could book me for a local television interview so I could promote a detective thriller I had written. Booking fiction authors is much more difficult than non-fiction authors. Unless you are John Grisham or someone of his stature, it’s a hard sell, but she was working on it.

Then she called me with a surprise. She had booked me on Fox & Friends, the Fox News Channel’s nationally syndicated morning show, for a live in-studio interview in New York – but for my non-fiction book on the Global Financial Crisis, not the detective thriller.

The booking was going to cost me a few bucks and so was the trip, but Fox & Friends is the most watched morning cable news station in the country, and my book on the financial crisis was just coming off the press.

Besides, she said, the producer told her the interview would be 5 minutes long. That’s a lot of time on national television. So I flew to New York, was picked up by a studio limo at my hotel the morning of the interview and made it to the Fox studios in plenty of time.

It turned out the interview was only two minutes and forty-five seconds, and the studio had misplaced a copy of the book, Crisis by Design.

When I left the studio, I was bummed out – two minutes and change and no image of the book shown.

But here’s the power of PR, of being on national television; by the time I got back to my hotel 30 minutes later, the book was already a best seller on Amazon!

Unless you are a national concern, you don’t have to try to get booked on national television. But getting on the local network affiliates isn’t that difficult, nor is getting an article placed in the paper or an industry magazine. These actions will drive sales.

It’s just not that difficult. But you need a professional PR to pitch you and your story to the media.

And no, I have not turned into a PR agency. But I have been on hundreds of radio and television programs, and know what makes a good PR firm. So I do offer a service in this regard: if you are considering hiring a professional public relations firm, I do the search and screening for you for a modest fee.

I can also help you craft your message, if you would like.

Many local PR firms have specialties. They focus in a particular area or industry: health care, technology, financial services, real estate, hospitality, etc. It doesn’t matter what you do, there is almost certainly a firm that can get articles about your company placed in newspapers and magazines, and book you or your spokesperson on radio and or television.

Yes, public relations firms cost money. But then how much are you spending on your marketing as it is?

“You can’t launch a new brand with advertising because advertising has no credibility. It’s the self-serving voice of a company anxious to make a sale.

“PR allows you to tell your story indirectly through third-party outlets, primarily the media.

“PR has credibility. Advertising does not. PR provides the positive perceptions that an advertising campaign, if properly directed, can exploit.” Al and Laura Ries,The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR.

While your company may not be new, it may well be “new” to your public.

Here’s my one-line commercial:

If you want to increase your sales and income call me.

I can assess your current marketing and PR strategy, help you develop a “news hook” for a PR use, and of course we can help you create a unique position with surveys for all of your PR and marketing needs.

Best,

Bruce

Bruce Wiseman
President & CEO
On Target Research
www.ontargetresearch.com
818-397-1401

“Thanks for all of the input you and your staff provided during our reorganization of marketing strategies. The data provided afforded us the opportunity to …develop commercials that really hit home….We originally thought that our commercials would require 6 months to have any impact; within 3 weeks …we have experienced about a 20% increase in production.” RJN, Glendale Heights, Illinois