Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Best university websites?

Ok disclosure upfront: I am a massive Pixar fan. And before that I was already a massive Disney fan. When I was at university I seriously considered writing for Disney as one of my top job options (and I wrote a screenplay and music for a "Jason and the Golden Fleece" Disney movie for my A-Levels...).

So, with that disclosure out of the way, I have been loving the promotions for the new Monsters University movie.


How far do you go to make a campaign feel real? With Monsters U, there is so much more than the average movie promotion. They have created a whole brand that mimics a real world university, including university website and twitter feed. Neither is about the movie or writes about the movie. Instead it's immersive, writing as if Monsters U is a real institution, and you might really be reaching out to students or faculty with these channels.

As the Chronicle commented in this article, the website is so good it might generate some serious envy from real world institutions! It has everything from admissions information to staff notices, school course listings and of course the university news room. The videos are slick and the whole thing is incredibly realistic.

Now bearing in mind that for Monsters Inc, Pixar generated $62,577,067 at the box office in its first weekend, you can imagine that the marketing and PR budget for the film is pretty large, which enables a campaign of this nature which requires a lengthy content plan, a large number of man hours, not to mention the upfront costs of designing and hosting all this multimedia. I still vividly remember sitting at the ALPSP annual conference back in 2010 where Grace Baynes of Nature commented that they spent several hours each day updating a single Facebook page. So how can a campaign of this nature be replicated on a smaller scale?

To create something that has a real brand, outside of the publisher brand, would need careful planning to consider the time that could be invested, and over what period. I'm curious as to Monsters U's exit strategy too. Now that the movie has hit the cinema, how long will these channels be maintained?

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Blurring lines between Marketing and PR

A few weeks ago I saw an offer on one of Amazon's local deals emails for an E-Careers e-Marketing and SEO course, so decided to sign up. It was around five hours of learning in total, all delivered online, so I finally managed to squeeze it in this week.

I'd expected there to be a lot of 'new' in this course for me. I wanted to find out more about what the key differences in the Marketing approach to digital would be from the PR. I didn't get that. Instead what I found was that a good portion of this 'e-Marketing' course was about PR.

On reflection, I'm not sure that I should have been surprised about this. The more I think about it, the more blurred the lines between Marketing and PR have become now, thanks to the internet. A large chunk of the course looked at how the two disciplines now work in partnership rather than Marketing being 'advertising' and PR being 'Media'. Neither have this neat categorisation any more. Instead both groups share responsibility for engaging in a dialogue with stakeholders.

Both Marketing and PR are engaging much more in two-way dialogue. It's much less about a broadcast (although the traditional techniques of catalogues, DM etc haven't disappeared entirely, and nor should they) and much more about listening to customers, finding out what they need, and how to respond to them. I've been learning about this in PR since I first joined the CIPR back in the mid 2000s. So it was interesting and relieving to hear the same from a Marketing perspective.

It was also interesting to see how much emphasis was put on content marketing. The course pushed hard on the importance of delivering great content to stakeholders that is segmented to support their particular need. With my PR hat on, corporate blogging, thought leadership, good content and a company news room all sit within corporate communications. But this course was calling all of this 'Marketing'. So really where does the difference lie?

I found myself wondering if the biggest gap is in how businesses split up their PR and Marketing teams by stakeholder. PR remain the gatekeepers for the media and that's undisputed. They also often own what is classed as 'corporate': so news that crosses all stakeholders. But within Marketing, the stakeholders being owned by a specific Marketing team is perhaps more specific. For example within academic publishing the group that support libraries will be a Library Marketing team. And the group that support researchers will be a separate team. Or often they will be split by the type of product that they are selling. Either way, is that really the only division between a PR and Marketeer now? I'm curious for additional views on this.

A few comments on the course itself:

As I've blogged in the past about how highly I rate my MOOC experiences so far, I have to say this online course delivery was somewhat irritating in parts. The functionality was on the whole comparable: you listened to online lectures, took multiple choice quizzes, and got the option to link to further reading. Yet you couldn't pause, rewind or fast-forward through the video material. You couldn't even work out how long each segment was, you had to just wait for it to stop then click to move on.

I also couldn't quite believe that the resources being pointed to in the social media marketing section were dated from 2008. Twitter didn't even get a mention! E-Careers really ought to review how relevant their materials are.

I hate to be nit-picky, but I also fail to see how a half-day's worth of learning equates to 'mastery'. That wording on the certificates is more than a little cringey...

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Gail was leaning in

Gail Rebuck (Photo credit: Random House)
I haven't read the book yet, but when the publicity first began around Sheryl Sandberg's new book, Lean In, I immediately signed up to the website. Similarly, as soon as the Guardian announced their new Women in Leadership network, I signed up straight away. Both set out to inspire, embolden, and fire up women to step up and take a seat at the top table.

I've blogged in the past about what I believe stop women from doing this (stepping up/leaning in). I write this blog just after two of the publishing industry's top female executives leave their posts: it's almost shocking that this news in itself is shocking; would it have been such a big story if they were not female? It's the fact that there are so few women at the top table that makes it such a big deal, and that is incredibly...well, shocking!

I wouldn't say I'm an all-out feminist. But I would say I want to know I've got just as much chance of reaching my potential as any male colleague would. There was a fantastic article with Gail Rebuck in the Times at the weekend, which is now pinned up on my fridge and will stay there for the foreseeable future. At just 38, she was made CEO at Random House. Whilst I can say with complete honesty that I don't see a CEO position in my future, I do see a long and exciting career ahead, and this article was a good reminder of what is possible for a woman in publishing. Gail managed to balance a home life and a successful career. It doesn't have to be one or the other. It's a shame there are not many more examples of successes like this within publishing; there just aren't enough role models.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

New projects are go

It's week two of the "post-show-post-holiday" world. It's amazing how much you can squeeze out of your evenings when you're not spending four nights a week in rehearsals! I'm filling my new-found time with a wide array of things I haven't had any space for in the past six months: some more challenging than others:

  1. I'm getting fit. Standing around watching other people dance for the last six months has meant I have had neither the time nor the energy to look after my own body! It's good to finally make this a priority again.My mum wasn't lying when she told me I'd start creaking. Sure enough, a daily stretch is a necessity, not luxury, these days. There are no goals being set here, other than to ensure I'm feeling good about myself.
  2. I've started a new Coursera module. I enjoyed the last one so much I've already signed up for three more. This time it's on Competitive Strategy with Tobias Kretschmer of LMU Munich. I was particularly interested in this one as a chance to think much more widely about markets, and how businesses consider positioning in them. The course will look at competition, collaboration, R&D and product launching amongst other things. On discussing the week-one course content with Dan, he laughed and pointed out that this is stuff he was learning in the fourth year of his Maths degree. Yes that's right, Masters level Mathematics. Man alive is it ever making me think hard. You'll therefore understand why I was chuffed with 9/10 on the first homework quiz. I've no doubt at all that it's going to get harder so expect some more blogs about this in the weeks to come.
  3. I'm working my way through a strategy for the CIPR's Education and Skills Group online presence. I took on the role of Digital Resources Officer at the last AGM and haven't given it the time it deserves. I've written a new post on using Storify for Higher Education PR this week.
  4. I'm also getting my own online presence back in order. Hence this list post.
  5. I'm sorting out our pigsty of a house. No more needs to be said publicly about this.